Word count 67,026
I don’t own them. I’m just borrowing them and taking them out for some fun and adventure they much deserve. No money is being made from this story.
THIS STORY WILL HAVE AN R RATING DUE TO SOME LANGUAGE AND HINT OF ADULT CONTENT.
This is part three to “ The Man Behind the Badge ” and “ A Father’s Greatest Challenge ”
It would help if you have read those two stories before reading this one. Otherwise you might be somewhat lost. Anything written in Spanish will have what’s said in parenthesis below it. Any actual facts I put in the story will be noted at end of story. All characters belong to me except Scott, Murdoch, Johnny, Teresa and Val Crawford.
The frontier environment is at first to strong for the man. He must accept the conditions which it furnishes or perish.
Frederick Jackson Turner
“ Why……..What the hell is wrong with you? Do you want to die?” Johnny demanded as his anger grew. “ I want to know right now.”
“ I don’t have to answer you………I don’t have to tell you anything!” Miguel yelled before turning to walk away.
“ Don’t you dare talk to me like that……..I’m your father and you will show me the respect I deserve.”
“ Respect…….The only respect you ever got, you said you got when you started using a gun…..I’m just doing what you did at my age.”
“ Johnny!” Murdoch yelled as he stood up.
“ Stay out of this Murdoch……..This is between me and my son!” Johnny ordered as he grabbed Miguel by the arm and started toward the stairs. “ Get up to your room now!” He ordered. “ I don’t want to see you until it’s time for supper. While you’re up there, you better do some serious thinking about what you did today……..Do you understand me?” Johnny said with firmness.
“ Yeah, whatever.” Miguel smarted back as he started up the stairs.
“ Miguel.” Murdoch yell before Johnny could respond. “ Young man, one thing I will not tolerate is you disrespecting your father, me, your uncle Scott or any other adult……..I didn’t allow your father to do it………I will not allow you to either!”
“¿ Estás poniendo de su lado a esteabuelo?” Miguel said with anger.
( you’re taking his side on this grandpa?)
“ Si, estoy…….hasta cierto punto…….¡ No permitir? que nadie sea irrespetuoso con otro en esta casa! Murdoch responded.
( yes I am…..to a point….I won’t have anyone being disrespectful to another in this house )
Angry, Miguel ran upstairs and slammed his bedroom door shut.
“ Please tell me you weren’t like that son?” Murdoch asked with a grin.
“ No…..Look Murdoch.” Johnny started as he headed over to the sideboard to pour a drink. “ I’m sorry I snapped at you. I just don’t know what to do with him anymore. I don’t understand why he’s so hell bent on wearing a gun.”
“ Johnny, I’d be more concerned with where Miguel got the gun from!” Scott said as he walked over to them.
“ I fully intend on finding that out Scott. One way or another he’s going to tell me who he got that pistol from.”
“ Son………I’m not trying to overstep your authority on this matter, But as your father may I make a suggestion?”
Johnny poured Scott a drink and handed it to him. “ Pa….I’m about ready to beat that boys ass………But I don’t want that. I was beaten and all it did was make me angrier………So If you got an idea, I’m all ears.”
“ Let’s go out on the veranda.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Son…….why don’t you let this go for a few days then when you’re not so upset the two of you can sit down and have a reasonable father, son discussion.”
“ Or maybe let Murdoch or me talk to him Johnny?” Scott added. “ He might be more willing to talk to one of us instead!”
Johnny chuckled. “ You mean you brother? He thinks you’re on my side remember Murdoch? He’s not going to talk to you.”
“ Maybe……….maybe he won’t talk to any of us?”
“ Yeah, he does have that Lancer stubbornness that’s for sure.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ When I was his age I had lived by my gun for several years, been shot a few times and killed.” Johnny said suddenly, catching both his father and brother off guard. “ I don’t want him following in my footsteps and I’ll do whatever I have to do to keep that boy from using a gun to make a living like I did.”
“ I’m sorry Johnny…..I know this is a serious problem for you.” Scott said.
“ For all of us.” Murdoch added. “ Son…..I know your childhood wasn’t easy for you. The scars you have shows that. The nightmares you used to have when you first came here. A part of me would give anything if I could take all that away……..yet a part of me is glad because it made you who you are today…….it made you grow up way to soon, but at the same time that gun you lived by saved your life and allowed you to find your way home to us, and for that I will always be grateful……..Does what I’m saying make sense to you son?”
“ Yeah it does Murdoch.” Johnny said as he walked over and put an arm around his father. “ I know it wasn’t easy at first when I came here, but I’m glad I stuck around.”
“ So are we little brother…….So are we.” Scott said. “ I do believe we have time for a game of chess before supper.” he added as he headed to the door.
“ Hey Scott. We’ll give your way a try and if that don’t work I don’t know what to do.”
“ Well………you could always send him off to boarding school little brother.”
“ Don’t tempt me Boston.” Johnny said as the three of them headed back inside.
A couple hours later Scott scratched his head in disbelief.
“ You might as well give up Boston, cause the way I see it, my next move will finish you off.”
Just then Maria came into the room. “ El Patron, supper is served.”
“ Thank you Maria.” Murdoch said as he stood up from his desk.
“ Little brother……….one of these days I’m going to beat you.” Scott said with a laugh as he tipped his king over and stood up.
Johnny stood up and stepped over to his brother and put an arm around his shoulder. “ I’d be more than glad to give you lessons Boston!”
“ No………no I don’t need lessons from you Johnny…..It would seem I need luck when I play chess with you.” Scott said as the three of them sat down at the table. “ I just don’t get it Murdoch. I can beat him at checkers, but not a chess.”
“ Maybe you should think about your brothers offer son?”
“ ¡Tu hijo aún no ha llegado! ¿Quieres que vaya a buscarlo, Juanito?”
( Your son is not down here yet! Do you want me to go get him Juanito?)
“ No Maria! ¡El sabe a qué hora se sirve la cena!”
( No Maria! He knows what time supper is served.)
“ Tal vez se durmió?”
( Perhaps he fell asleep?)
“ ¡No importa Maria! ?l no está aqui, no come.”
( No matter Maria! He’s not here, he don’t eat.)
“Le salvaré algo para cuadndo se deespierte.”
( I will save him something for when he wakes up.)
“No,no lo harás! Maria, Miguel necesita comenzar a mostrar respeto por la gente de esta casa, incluyéndote a ti.”
( No you won’t! Maria, Miguel needs to start showing respect for the people in this house, including you.)
“Olvidas que te di de comer muchas veces después de que El Patr?n se fue para no irte a la cama con hambre.”
( You forget I fed you many times after El Patron had gone so you would not go to bed hungry?)
“ Si, lo hiciste, Pero nunca te mostré falta de respeto.”
( Yes you did, but I never showed you disrespect.)
“ ?l es un buen chico Juanito. ¿Quizás deberias pasar m?s tiempo con ?l? ¡?l esta creciendo tan rapido! ¡Dentro de poco tendra edad suficientepara queno puedas retenerlo aquí!”
( He is a good boy Juanito. Perhaps you should spend more time with him? He is growing up so fast! Before long he will be old enough you cannot keep him here.)
“ Maria!” Murdoch said with firmness in his voice.
Angry, Maria set the water pitcher down hard enough water splashed out. Mumbling she headed back to the kitchen, a few minutes later the back door could be heard being slammed shut.
“ Little brother……..Somehow I don’t think you will be getting any of your tamales or sweets for a spell. Maria was pretty upset.”
“ Yeah. I’ll try and talk to her tomorrow.”
“ I wouldn’t worry about it son. Maria loves you. She knows how Miguel’s been acting lately.”
Johnny came downstairs whistling. “ Morning Murdoch, Scott.”
“ Has Miguel been down yet?”
“ No, we haven’t seen him yet son.”
Johnny poured a cup of coffee, and took a sip. “Guess I’ll go wake him up.” he said before heading up the back stairs.
“ Miguel…….Time to get up son.” Johnny said as he knocked and opened Miguel’s door.
“ I’m up.” Miguel answered as he stepped to the door and stopped. “ Am I allowed to eat anything this morning, Or do I have to work all day without eating?”
“ I never said you couldn’t eat supper last night. You know what time it’s served.”
“ You told me to go to my room and stay and that’s what I did!” Miguel sniped as he started past his father.
Johnny grabbed Miguel’s left arm. “ Boy……..I don’t know why you’re acting like this toward me, but it better stop.” Johnny ordered. “ What I told you yesterday afternoon was to go to your room, that I didn’t want to see you until supper time.”
Miguel jerked his arm free. “ Yeah, whatever.” he said before heading downstairs.
“ Tio mañana, abuelo.” Miguel said as he sat down.
( Morning uncle and grandfather.)
“ Morning Miguel.” Scott answered.
“ Where’s your father?” Murdoch asked.
“How should I know!” Miguel answered before picking up his glass of milk and taking a drink.
“ You might want to think about dropping your attitude boy!” Murdoch ordered just as Maria came back in the back door.
“ ¡No bajaste a cenar anoche,Miguel! Debes estar muerto de hambre? ”
( You did not come down to supper last night Miguel! You must be starved?)
“ Si, Maria, tengo hambre de comer una vaca entera.”
(Yes Maria, I’m hungry enough to eat a whole cow.)
“ Tu padre no me deja ir abuscarte, O mantener algo caliente para ti.”
( Your father would not let me come get you, or keep something warm for you.)
“ Si, de alguna manera eso no me sorprende ninguno.”
( Yeah,somehow that don’t surprise me none.)
“ Parece que ya no puede hacer nada bien com él.”
( It seems like I can’t do anything right for him anymore.)
“ Quizás deberías respetar a tu padre más? Él te ama mucho.”
( Maybe you should respect your father more? He loves you dearly.)
“ Maria.” Johnny said as he came down the stairs. “ I appreciate what you’re saying, but I’m afraid it’s falling on deaf ears.” Johnny added as he sat down and looked at his son across from him.
“ Ustedes dos son muy parecidos!”
( You two are so much alike )
“ Solía pensar así. Ahora no estoy tan seguro de Maria.”
( I used to think so. Now I’m not so sure Maria.)
“ ¿Tal vez El Patron debería sacarlos a los das detr?s del granero y remar a sus espaldas?” Maria said before leaving the kitchen.
( Maybe El Patron should take both of you out behind the barn and paddle your backsides?)
“ Uh Murdoch.” Scott said after a minute of silence. “ Me and Johnny figured we would check the fencing in the far north pasture today.”
“ Yeah, we’re gonna be moving the spring calves up there soon. So we figured we’d ride up there and take a look and see how much wire and post we’ll need.” Johnny added.
“ Alright boys…….Why don’t you take Miguel with you?”
“ Nope.” Johnny said firmly. “ I got just the job to fit his attitude.”
“ And just what would that be son?”
“ Well, the chicken coop needs fixed and the fencing around the hog pen needs replaced……I figure Miguel and a hand could do that today.”
“ I ain’t doing no dang hog pen or chicken coop……..Let one of the hands do them.” Miguel stated as he stood up.
Johnny stood up so fast his chair fell backwards. “ Boy……you were given a choir to do…..Now if you think you’re to big to follow orders around here………”
“ John……….Why don’t you and Scott head out now?” Murdoch cut in.
“ I want him doing what I said Murdoch!”
“ Let’s go Johnny.” Scott said as he stood up and headed toward the front door to grab his gun and hat.
“ You know, It’s gonna be a long day brother!” Johnny said with a little anger.
“ How’s that? It’s a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky.” Scott answered.
“ I ain’t talking about the weather brother……See you was in such a hurry to leave this morning, neither one of us grabbed any grub to eat, and we should get there about noon time.”
“ We can go by the north line shack and get something to eat Johnny.” Scott responded. “ It was stocked last month.”
“ I’m not riding to the line shack to get something to eat and then back Scott. It’s gonna take us some time checking all the post and fence up there. That pasture’s big remember?”
“Yes Johnny, I remember.” Scott answered, sensing his brothers irritation.
“ Look Johnny, I know you’re under a lot of stress lately from the way Miguel’s been acting. “ There’s got to be a reason for it!”
“ I’m fine Scott.” Johnny snapped before spurring his horse into a run.
Scott caught up to his brother a short time later, standing under an oak tree.
“ How the hell am I supposed to know Scott.” Johnny asked. “ I used to be able to read people pretty damn good when I was Madrid……..Now, hell now I can’t even read my own son.”
“ Maybe because you’re not Madrid anymore.” Scott said as he dismounted. “ Johnny, I’m pretty sure as a parent, trying to figure out what’s going on in your child’s mind is the hardest thing a parent can do. At least that’s what I remember grandfather telling me once a long time ago.”
“ I thought being a parent got easier when the kid got older. Guess I was wrong.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle. “ Come on Boston, let’s get this pasture checked.
Sheriff Evans rode into the Lancer yard at a slow gallop. Spotting the man he sought the sheriff dismounted and tied his horse at the water trough before walking over.
“ Ben……….what brings you all the way out here?” Murdoch asked as he stuck out his hand.
Noticing Miguel was near Ben didn’t want to alarm the boy“ Murdoch, Is there someplace we can talk in private?” he asked as they shook hands.
“ Uh sure Ben, why don’t you come on in the house and we can talk there.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Can I offer you a drink Ben?” Murdoch asked as they entered the grand room.
“ Yeah, I’ll have a shot of that fine scotch of yours if you don’t mind?”
“ Not at all.”Murdoch answered as he headed to the sideboard and poured them both a shot. “ So what’s going on? What made you ride all the way out here?” Murdoch asked as he handed Been his drink.
“ Is Johnny here?” Ben asked as he took the drink.
“ Johnny………No. Him and Scott won’t be back till late this evening why?”
“ A couple of strangers rode into town last night. They were asking around for Johnny Madrid. Said they heard he was living around here. I asked what they wanted with him. They said they had unfinished business with him…..I asked what unfinished business and they said killing. Said Madrid caused them both to spend twenty years in a Texas prison and when they got out, they heard he was still alive and living outside Moro Coyo.”
“ Damn it.” Murdoch said as he slammed his glass down.
“ I told them two to get out of town and leave my jurisdiction. I warned them about any trouble.”
“ Those two don’t plan on making trouble Ben. They plan on killing Johnny.”
“ How long’s it been since he was called out Murdoch?”
“ That I know of, almost ten years now.” Murdoch answered. “ Johnny’s done everything he can to put Madrid behind him Ben. He’s been living a normal life as Johnny Lancer.”
“ The people in town these two men talked to………they weren’t in no hurry to tell ’em what they wanted to know.”
“ You know, I remember when Johnny first came to Lancer, the town folks didn’t want my son here after he helped end the land pirates ordeal.” Murdoch stated as he walked over and poured another drink. “ Fifteen years Ben, for fifteen years I searched for Johnny. The Pinkerton agent found him just seconds away from a Mexican firing squad. His mother had told him I had kicked them out when he was only two…….Can you believe that, his own mother lied to him about me.”
“ How long has Johnny been home?” Ben asked.
“ Almost eighteen years now.”
“ Well,I don’t know much about the Madrid part of him, and something tells me it’s a side of him I don’t want to see, but I do know the Lancer side I’ve seen, Johnny is one hell of a good man Murdoch. You should be proud of him.”
“ I am Ben, I am.”
“ Well I need to head back to town. Thanks or the drink.” Ben said as he adjusted his hat and headed to the door. “Oh hey, the names of those two fellows was Jack and Frank Benson. I sent a wire out this morning to the US marshal asking about them.”
“ Thanks Ben. You’re a good man.”
Murdoch stood and watched the sheriff ride under the Lancer arch before heading over to check on Miguel’s progress.
“ Can I ask you something Johnny?”
“ As long as It’s not about Miguel, yeah. What’s on your mind Boston?”
Scott smiled. A part of him once hated being called ‘ Boston ‘ but soon after almost never hearing it again, he came to love being called that. It was by far better than being called an Eastern Dandy.
“ You……….What I mean is………did you ever think you would still be alive seventeen years after coming home to Lancer?”
Johnny stopped his horse, letting the reins loose so the stallion could graze. “ To be honest Scott……..No I didn’t. I thought when I felt Pardee’s bullet in my back that was the end. I sure didn’t expect the old man to hold true to his offer of making us third owners of the biggest spread in the San Joaquin.” Johnny stated. “ Hell, even when he put my birth name on the agreement I was shocked.”
“ The look on your face was priceless little brother.”
“ Yeah…..You know, I haven’t been called out in almost ten years now.”
“ Does that bother you?”
“ No………you should know that Scott. I never took pride in killing another man. It does something to you deep down inside. Makes ya sick. Once you kill a man, you can never bring him back to life.”
“ Johnny, I didn’t mean to stir up bad feelings. I’m sorry.”
“ It’s fine Scott……….You know I’ve got a feeling deep down that something is going to happen.”
“ What do you mean Johnny?……..What’s going to happen?”
“I don’t know Scott, but it’s not going to be good.” Johnny answered. “ Let’s go home.”
A couple hours later the brothers stopped on the hill looking down at the most beautifulest place on earth.
“ Scott, remember when I went to Montana and had you take care of my son for me?”
“ Yes I do. That was a long time ago Johnny, why?”
“ I want you to raise him if anything happens to me. Murdoch is getting up there in age, though he won’t admit it………I want Miguel to grow up right and I know he will with you guiding him.”
“ Little brother, it would be an honor, but nothing is going to happen to you. You’re doing a great job raising Miguel.”
“ Just promise me Scott.”
“ Alright. I promise.”
“ Don’t say anything to Murdoch Scott.” Johnny said as he started to head down the hill.
“ Johnny wait!”
“ Look, this is me you’re talking to, not Murdoch. What’s going to happen to you?”
“ Live by the gun. Die by the gun Scott. That’s something I’ve always known from the time I started living by a gun.” Johnny stated before kicking his horse into a gallop.
“ You don’t live by a gun anymore though.” Scott yelled as his horse pranced around wanting to take off after his friend.
Scott caught up to Johnny just outside the back corrals.
“ Took you long enough to catch up.” Johnny teased as they rode into the yard. “ Well will you look at that! Looks like Miguel did what he was told!”
“ Yeah. Looks like he replaced all the fence around the hogs……….And look over there at the chicken coop Johnny, why it’s got a new roof on it!”
“ I’m staved Scott, lets go eat.” Johnny said as he wrapped an arm around Scott after handing his horse off to a hand and headed to the house.
“ Johnny, Scott I didn’t think you would be back until after dark!” Murdoch said as he came out on the veranda.
“ It would seem sir, that we were in such a hurry to leave here this morning, we forgot to take something for lunch and I’m afraid little brother is a tad bit hungry.”
Murdoch chuckled as the three of them entered the house. “ So how bad is it?”
“ Looks good sir. Doesn’t it Johnny?”
“ Yeah, Where’s Miguel?”
“ He’s out in the washroom cleaning up for supper!”
Johnny headed to the sideboard and poured a drink. “ Scott?”
“ Yeah, thanks.”
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. Just hungry. We gotta replace almost all the fence and post on the north side of that pasture. Spring rains did a lot of damage with runoff.”
“ Sir, Johnny has a pretty good solution that just might work.”
“ Oh yeah………What’s that son?”
“ How about we put longer post in? Sink ’em down twice as deep.” Johnny suggested.
“ Won’t it be hard digging that many holes that deep son?”
“ No. You don’t do all the post Murdoch, just say one every five post. That way the wire will still be up.”
“ That just might work son. I’ll have a couple of hands take some wire and some twelve foot poles up there tomorrow morning and get started on it. Those should be long enough. They can stay at the line shack until it’s done.” Murdoch stated. “ Oh a Johnny, I need to speak to you after supper, after Miguel goes to bed!”
Johnny’s stomach suddenly did a flop hearing his fathers words. “ Something wrong?”
“ Later.” Murdoch said as Miguel entered the room.
“ Hey you, come here to me.” Johnny said to Miguel as he held his arms out.
Hesitant Miguel walked over and stopped just shy of his fathers open arms.
Miguel stood there refusing to come closer. “ I seen the chicken coop and hog pen……….Son, you did a mighty fine job on them both. I’m very proud of you.”
“ Really?……I’m surprised you noticed!” Miguel said snidely before walking past his father to the dinner table.
“ Boys!…….Let’s eat.” Murdoch suggested trying to avoid a fight between a father and son.
“ Juanito, deberias estar orgulloso de tu hijo. Él trabajó duro hoy. ?l arregló mis pollos para que se mantengan secos y los coyotes no puedan atra parlos ahora. Deberias estar orgulloso.”
( Johnny, you should be proud of your son. He worked hard today. He fixed my chickens so they stay dry and coyotes can’t get them now. You should be proud!)
“ ¡Ya le dije que hizo un excelente trabajo con ambos y estaba muy orgulloso de él!
( I already told him he did a mighty fine job on them both and that I was very proud of him!)
Maria walked over and patted Johnny on the right shoulder before going back to the the kitchen.
“ Son, I don’t much care for your attitude towards me lately. Murdoch, after spring roundup is done, me and Miguel are going to take some time away from Lancer.”
Three hours later Miguel yawned. “ I think I’ll go to bed now uncle Scott…… grandpa. That is if that’s alright with you?” Miguel said before heading toward the stairs.
“ Miguel!………You’re restricted to the house until roundup is over!” Johnny said firmly as he walked over to his son. “ Do I make myself clear?………..I said do I make myself clear?”
“ You got no call to keep me here at the house for that long!”
“ Oh don’t I?……….If you don’t like the way you’re being treated then maybe you should show a little more respect!”
“ Why?……..You don’t give me any respect. Always bossin’ me around!”
“ Respect is earned boy.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Whatever!” Miguel snapped back before going upstairs.
Johnny stood with an aching heart at the bottom of the stairs. The slamming of his son’s bedroom door brought him out of his trance. Turning he grabbed his gun and hat and went outside.
Scott and Murdoch stood there, neither one liking what they just witnessed again.
“ Why?……………Why is he being so disrespectful to his father?”
“ I don’t know son……….I wish I did, but I don’t.” Murdoch answered.
Johnny came back inside an hour later.“ You said you had something to say to me?” Johnny asked.
“ Let’s get a drink and sit down.” Murdoch suggested.
A few minutes later the three Lancer men sat saying nothing. Murdoch and Scott on the couch and Johnny in a chair.
“ Let’s have it………What’s going on old man?”
“ Sheriff Evans came by this morning.”
“ What did Ben want?” Scott asked as he remembered what his brother had said earlier in the day about something happening.
“ He said there were two men rode into town. Said they were asking about you son.” Murdoch stated, looking at Johnny.
“ Lancer or Madrid?” Johnny asked.
“ Madrid son.” Murdoch answered.
Johnny glanced at Scott. “ Spill it!”
“ Ben said nobody told them anything about you son. So they don’t know you’re here at Lancer.”
“ And just how long do you think that will last before someone does tell them?”
“ Ben sent the US marshal a telegram asking about them.”
“ So he knows who they are?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes……..a Frank and Jack Benson!………….Said they told him because of you they served twenty years in a Texas prison.!”
“ What names did you say?” Johnny asked as he stepped away from the corral.
“ Frank and Jack Benson.” Murdoch said.
“ You know them Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I know them.” Johnny said with anger as he started toward the house.
“ Johnny.” Murdoch said as he grabbed his son’s right arm and stopped him. “ Don’t shut us out on this son, please?” Murdoch pleaded.
“ Johnny, we both know it’s not easy for you to talk about your past. That some things you don’t want us to know you did, and that’s fine, but this time I think you need to tell us little brother!”
Johnny sat in the chair across from his father and brother playing with the spur on his right foot as he listened to his father and brother. Finally dropping his foot to the floor and sitting back in the chair he took a deep breath. “ I was in a small Texas town called Sierra Blanca. I hired out to help this rancher. Seems he was losing cattle across the border and was going to lose his ranch if he couldn’t get the rustling stopped. Frank and Jack were the ones stealing the cattle. Two brothers who never did an honest day’s work in their lives. About a week after I took the job they got caught by me in the early morning hours. They weren’t to happy they got caught. I guess I made it worse by taking them to the sheriff in that town to stand trial for rustling cattle.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the fireplace. “ Most of my life I’ve been hated for being a mestizo. Every day wondering if a bullet would kill me today. Every call out wondering if I would be fast enough. I’ve heard so many men say they were going to kill me, mostly it’s just angry words said. I guess with Frank and Jack, it wasn’t.”
Johnny added as he wrapped his arms around himself.
Scott stood up and walked over to his brother. “ Johnny………..These two men will not get the chance to kill you. As your brother, I promise you.”
“ That goes for me too son. Lancer takes care of their own. There isn’t a man on this ranch who wouldn’t fight for you.”
Johnny turned and faced his brother. “ Thanks Scott, but remember what I asked you to do this afternoon!”
“ I do, and nothing is going to happen to you Johnny.” Scott stated firmly.
“ You sure about that Scott, Murdoch? I haven’t killed a man in over ten years now because of who I’ve been trying to be. Hell even when I went to Montana, I couldn’t get away from who I was. You both know it. I’ve gotten people I care about, people I’ve loved killed and all because of my past.”
“ Son, that’s not true and you know it.”
“ Don’t try sugarcoating the truth pa……….You know damn well what happens when I get called out…..And don’t even think of asking me to stay close to the house or hide because that ain’t happening.” Johnny stated firmly. “ There’s too much work to be done on this ranch with cattle needing moved or rounded up, fences fixed. Besides, you ain’t getting no younger. I don’t need you getting shot and killed because of something I did years ago!”
“ I’m not to old to protect my family son and don’t you forget it. You have a son to think about.”
“ That’s right Johnny, what about Miguel?”
“ They won’t know I have a son………”
“ Unless someone tells them.” Scott cut in.
“ I think we should all turn in and talk about this more tomorrow!” Murdoch suggested.
“ Ain’t nothing more to talk about.” Johnny said before heading outside.
“ Scott, let him go…….He needs time to think……..He’ll come back in when he cools down!”
“ How we going to keep this from Miguel sir?”
“ It’s up to Johnny to tell him, not us son!”
“ How you know he’s even around here Frank? Hell nobody in that town would tell us anything.” Jack asked as he filled his canteen.
“ He’s close……..Remember what those Rurales said in Sonora?” Frank asked.
“ Yeah, so……..That don’t mean Madrid is still around.”
“ They said a Pinkerton man came up and bought his freedom from that firing squad. Said Madrid was seen getting on a stage headed to Moro Coyo. Said he threw in with Day Pardee and his men to take over ranches here in the San Joaquin.”
“ Yeah, ‘cept that was some fifteen years ago, so how do we know he ain’t been gunned down?”
“ Because there ain’t no news of Madrid being killed.” Frank added as he mounted his horse.
“ So where we go now?”
“ Green River. I figure somebody around there will know something about him. ‘cept this time we’re gonna go about askin’ differently.”
“ Differently how Frank?”
“ Well we’re gonna ask about Madrid by sayin’ we’re old friends with him from Mexico. We’ll tell ’em we was in prison in Mexico and wanted to look him up…….Let’s get goin’.”
Johnny lay in bed just staring at the ceiling. A light tap at his door brought him out of his stupor. Sighing Johnny sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up. Noticing the sun was already above the mountains. He couldn’t help but wonder why nobody woke him sooner. Heading down to the kitchen, finding it empty, Johnny snatched a biscuit from the stove and poured a cup of coffee. Taking a bite of biscuit as he headed into the great room.
“ Hey Murdoch!……..Why’d you let me sleep so long?” Johnny asked as he glanced at the clock.
“ Good morning son, or should I say afternoon?” Murdoch said looking up from the ledger he was working on. “ We let you sleep because you needed it. Johnny, you have a lot on your mind right now. A lot you’re trying to deal with by yourself…We just thought you could use some extra rest.”
“ Thanks…….Where’s Miguel?” Johnny asked as he finished the biscuit.
“ He’s with your brother out in the barn.” Murdoch answered. “ About last night son…………..Do you think it’s a good decision to restrict Miguel to here at the house?”
Johnny snapped his head up. “ If you got a better solution to his attitude towards me Murdoch, let’s hear it, otherwise he stays here!”
“ I’m not trying to tell you what to do son……I think what you suggested last night just might work. Believe me son, me and your brother are at a loss to end this.”
“ I just don’t get it……….We were getting along great until about a month ago…..You remember, when he came down for breakfast and was rude to Maria?”
“ Yes, I remember………Johnny…….can you remember, did anything happen between you two, say a week or so before that morning?”
Johnny sat on the edge of his fathers big desk and took a sip of coffee. “ Only thing I can remember is that little disagreement we had because he want’s to go to……..He wants to lay with a whore on his sixteenth birthday and I told him no.”
“ How’d he take that?” Murdoch asked with a smile.
“ Mad as hell. Mainly because I told him…………………..” Johnny stood up and walked over to the fireplace and wrapped his arms around himself.
Murdoch stood and walked over to him, placing a hand on his right shoulder he could feel Johnny trembling. “ What is it son?”
“ It’s what……….I know what’s wrong with Miguel…….Why he’s treating me like he is.”
“ Do you want to tell me about it son?”
“ I told Miguel I didn’t want him with a whore or any woman because he’s so young. I said I didn’t want him making the stupid mistake I did when I was thirteen and bed a whore!”
Murdoch cringed a little at hearing his son sleeping with a woman at such a young age. “ So you think that because you said that, Miguel thinks………”
“ My son thinks he is a mistake……….God Murdoch, that’s not how I meant it at all.” Johnny said with sadness. “ I know getting Teresa pregnant was wrong, Hell I didn’t even know she was when she left here……..How he came to be doesn’t change how much I love that boy. He should know that?”
“ Johnny, maybe if you tell him about your mother and me! Maybe he’ll understand what you really meant son?”
“ You mean tell him you loved my mother and married her because she was pregnant so I wouldn’t be a bastard child?”
Murdoch jerked Johnny around to face him. “ I don’t ever want to hear you say that again………Is that clear?” Murdoch ordered. “ Yes I got your mother pregnant with you. Yes I did the right thing and married her. I had planned on marrying her, it’s just we had to do it sooner was all. I loved your mother dearly Johnny. Yes we should have waited. It was my fault, not hers.”
“ Yeah…….I guess it’s like Scott said once, the apple don’t fall to far from the tree……..Look I know you loved my mother, I’m sorry I said that….I didn’t mean it.”
“ Son………Let him help us with the roundup and branding……..He’s old enough to be doing work like that on this ranch now!”
“ Yeah. Guess it would be a little hard to keep an eye on him here at the house if we’re out there rounding up cows!”
Frank and Jack rode out of Green River after spending a day drinking and asking around about Madrid.
“ Lancer………Hey Frank, that’s the biggest spread in the San Joaquin. How we gonna find Madrid and kill him?”
“ We’re gonna find us a place to hide and wait for Madrid to come to us!”
“ And what if a hired hand finds us?”
“ We kill him!”
Johnny worked with his father that afternoon on the books, something he hated doing when he first came home to Lancer, but as the years past he found a system that worked real easy for him. A system that even surprised Murdoch and Scott. After a quiet supper all three Lancer men retired to the coolness of the veranda with a drink
“ Scott, why don’t you and Johnny ride into Moro Coyo in the morning and check the mail and pick up a few things for me!”
“ You sure about that sir?” Scott asked, not wanting to say to much in front of Miguel.
“ Scott!………I’ll be fine. In fact I think I’m gonna let Miguel ride in with us. He needs some stuff if he’s gonna help us with the roundup and branding.”
Miguel looked up at his father. “ ¿Qué quieres decir con que te ayudo con el rodeo de primavera? Pensé que queriás que me quedara aquí en la estancia.
( What do you mean, help you with the spring roundup? I thought you wanted me staying here at the estancia?)
“ Cambié de opinión. No tienes que ir ssi no quieres.”
( I changed my mind. You don’t have to go if you don’t want to.)
“ ¡No! Iré contigo.
( No! I’ll go with you.)
“ Quiero entender una cosa, hijo. Bajo ninguna circunstancia irás al salón. ¿ Ha quedado claro?”
( I want to get one thing straight son. Under any circumstances are you going in the saloon. Do I make myself clear?)
“Si, te haces claro.¡Lo que está bien para ti en México a mi edad, no está bien que lo haga en Moro Coyo!”
( Yes, you make yourself clear. What was okay for you to do in Mexico at my age, isn’t okay for me to do in Moro Coyo.) Miguel said with anger before heading to the stairs.
“ ¿ Quizás tú y el tío Scott también deberían pensar en quadarse fuera del salón?”
( Maybe you and uncle Scott should think about staying out of the saloon too) Miguel added.
Johnny,Scott and Miguel rode into Moro Coyo mid-morning. Scott could tell without even looking, that his little brother had become Madrid again at the edge of town. He also noticed what gun Johnny was wearing.
“ Johnny, I’ll go see if we have any mail and meet you two at Baldomero’s.” Scott suggested. “ Maybe eat some lunch in the diner after?”
“ Okay!” Johnny answered as he turned his horse toward the store.
Johnny stood at the counter waiting with Miguel as the store keeper wrapped their purchase in plain brown paper and tied it with twine. “ You want something sweet son?” he asked, noticing his son looking at all the jars of different candies on the counter.
Miguel shrugged his shoulders. “ Don’t know what most of them are!”
“ What you got for sweets here Jake?” Johnny asked. Jake, the son of Baldomero, took over the store when his father died seven years back peacefully in his sleep of a heart attack.
“Ah, well Johnny, Miguel, I have all kinds of sweets.” Jake stated as he walked over with their purchases wrapped. “ Sweet wise we got Black Jack sticks, made from black strap molasses. We got Hard Tack sweet candy, Licorice, Jawbreakers, Jelly Beans, Molasses Pulls, Peanut Brittle,Wilbur Buds in dark or milk chocolate. We even got all chocolate chocolate bars, called Bittersweet, comes all the way from Paris, France.”
“ I think we’ll take some of that there licorice Jake.” Johnny stated as he pulled some money out of his pocket. “ Anything in the mail for me?” Johnny asked as he paid for their purchases.
“No, just a letter for Murdoch, from the cattlemen’ association” Scott answered.
Johnny picked up the package and headed toward the door. “ Let’s go get some lunch before we head back!”
Johnny never seen the man watching him closely from across the street. A gun in a well used holster sat low on his hip. Sitting at a table so he could see who came and went from the cafe across the street. Tapping his empty beer glass on the table hard enough for the bartender to hear.
The bartender, a man who considered Johnny a friend, noticed how this stranger wore his gun. How he kept his back to the wall, sitting so he could both see what happened outside, but also who came into the bar. Walking over with a fresh glass of beer and setting it down.
“ That’ll be two bits mister!”
The stranger never looked up, just took the coin from his pocket and tossed it to the bartender.
“ Look mister, I don’t know who you are, but I know what you are……..You finish that beer and leave. I don’t want you in my saloon. Your kind ain’t welcome in Moro Coyo.”
“ My kind huh……….and just what kind is that?” the stranger asked, looking up at the bartender now with a stare as cold as ice. “ You don’t know me or anything about me.”
“ Gunfighter…….This is a peaceful town and we want it to stay that way……….So drink up and get out!” the bartender ordered before turning and walking back to take care of his other customers.
Johnny ate the last piece of apple pie, looking at his son sitting across from him. Pretty sure now what was bothering his son, Johnny knew how to fix the problem between the two, he hoped.
Scott couldn’t help but notice the mood his brother was in. About halfway though their meal, he noticed the change.
“ You okay Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ It’s getting late……Let’s start back!” he suggested as he stood and avoided answering his brothers question directly.
“ Okay……..Uh Miguel, you ready?” Scott asked as he stood.
“ Yeah.” Miguel answered.
“ You two go ahead and get the horses.” Johnny suggested. “ I’ll take care of the bill!”
“ Johnny, I can pay for it. Scott stated as he pulled his billfold out. “ You paid for the stuff at the store.
“ Let’s go outside son!”
Scott stepped outside the diner and found his brother and nephew waiting. “ Johnny, what’s wrong?”
Scott knew something was wrong by the way his brother was acting.
Johnny, Scott and Miguel rode in silence most of the way back to Lancer. Stopping his horse, Johnny got down.
“ What’s wrong?” Scott asked.
“ We’re being followed.” Johnny answered.
“ Followed, by who?” Scott asked.
“ How should I know Scott.” Johnny snapped back. “ Take the horses up behind those rocks and keep them quiet.” Johnny ordered as he handed his reins to Scott. “ Go with him Miguel, and do as you’re told!”
Miguel jumped off his horse and followed Scott up behind the rocks. “ Will he be okay uncle Scott?”
“ He’ll be fine Miguel.” Scott answered as he watched his brother hide behind a big oak tree across from them. A minute later he seen Johnny indicate there was only one rider following them.
Johnny watched as the lone rider came into view, a small smile appeared on his face. Letting the rider past, Johnny stepped out from behind the oak tree.
“ Clay Nelson!” Johnny yelled.
“ Don’t shoot, Johnny Madrid!” Clay stated as he stopped his horse and raised his hands.
Scott watched, rifle in hand as his brother called out this man following them, but never drew his gun.
“ Step down off that horse mister!” Johnny ordered.
“ You know, I think I’ll do just that Madrid. I know you got a rifle on me from behind those rocks over there!” Clay stated as he got off his horse. “ I see, you still like to give orders!”
“ And I see your still a lousy tracker!” Johnny responded back as he stepped forward. “ How the hell are ya Clay?” he asked as the two men embraced.
“ You gonna call that rifle off me? I really don’t want to get shot!”
“ Scott…..Miguel, come on out, it’s alright!” Johnny yelled.
“ What the hell you doing here Clay?”
“ I was headed back to Texas and seen you in town and couldn’t believe my eyes. I heard you got killed years ago down in Mexico Madrid.”
“ It’s Lancer….My father doesn’t go by Madrid anymore!” Miguel cut in.
“ Yeah, a lots happened since we seen each other last Clay.”
“ Johnny, we should be getting back!” Scott added as he handed Johnny his horses reins.
“ Hey Clay, this here’s my big brother Scott………and my son Miguel!”
“ Boy have we got some catching up to do.” Clay said with a laugh as he grabbed up his horses reins and swung up in the saddle.
“Yeah, come on with us Clay, You can meet my old man. Clean up and eat a good meal and sleep in a nice soft bed.”
“ This the same old man who kicked you and your mamma out?” Clay asked.
“ Yeah, only he didn’t kick us out. My mother left him……….Look you coming or not?” Johnny asked as he swung up in the saddle.
“ That’s the best offer I’ve had in a long time Johnny. I’d have to be a fool to turn that down.
Murdoch stepped out onto the foyer and noticed four riders riding under the Lancer arch. Three of them he recognized, the fourth man however, he did not. Relaxing a bit when they got closer and he could see his youngest son riding easy and smiling.
“ Hey Murdoch!” Johnny yelled as they rode into the yard. “ I want you to meet a good friend of mine from way back!” Johnny said as he swung off his horse. “ Clay Nelson, I’d like you to meet my father, Murdoch Lancer!”
Clay dismounted and stepped over to the big man and held his hand out.
Murdoch noticed how low the man wore his gun and noticed his son was wearing his gunfighter gun again too. “ Clay.” I’m afraid my son has never mentioned you to us.”
“ Me and Clay go way back Murdoch.” Johnny said as he undid his saddlebags and handed his horse off to a hand. “ I told Clay he could stay with us a while………Come on inside. I’ll show you where you can clean up and rest if you want before supper.”
Scott dismounted and untied his saddlebags. “ Miguel, why don’t you take our horses into the barn and take care of them?”
“ Okay uncle Scott.” Miguel answered as he grabbed the reins and walked away.
“ You got a letter from the cattlemen’ association sir!” Scott said, handing him the letter.
“ Thank you son.” Murdoch said as he took the letter.
“ I know what you’re thinking sir. We’re just gonna have to trust Johnny on this.”
“ Yeah……How about a cold glass of lemonade?” Murdoch suggested.
“ That sounds good.” Scott said as the two Lancer men walked over under the veranda and sat down in the shade.
“ Did Johnny get what he needed for Miguel son?” Murdoch asked as he poured Scott a glass of lemonade.
“ Yes he did. We had lunch at the diner and came back!” Scott said as he removed his gloves and tossed them on the table before sitting down.
“ And where did you guys run into his friend?”
“ On the way back, about three miles out, Johnny had a feeling we were being followed.”
“ You know son, I don’t have a problem with friends from your brothers past. It’s just that when those friends wear their gun like he did……”
“ You worry.” Scott cut in.
“ Yes son I do………I guess it would be the same if it was you too!”
“ Yeah, I remember when my friend Dan Cassidy came here……….Look, Clay seems like a nice guy. I’m sure Johnny will tell us about him at supper tonight.”
“ Grandpa,……..you want a piece of licorice?” Miguel asked as he walked over.
“ You get the horses took care of?” Murdoch asked as he took a piece of licorice.
“ Yes sir………..Is that man from my fathers past when he was a gunfighter?”
“ Yes he is……Why don’t you go get cleaned up for supper?”
Scott waited until Miguel was inside before speaking. “ You thinking Johnny’s friend is with those other two somehow and here to try and kill him?”
“ I don’t know son. I hope not because from what me and you have learned about your brothers past, friends were something he didn’t have very many of.”
“ No I didn’t old man.” Johnny said as he stepped outside. “ Still don’t in fact.” He added, looking at his father. “ Let me guess, you don’t like Clay because he’s a gunfighter!”
“ That’s not true son.” Murdoch stated. “ It’s just a little odd that he shows up here the same time those other two men are here to kill you.”
“ We’re just worried brother. That’s all!” Scott added.
“ Look, I appreciate you two being worried, really I do, but Clay is the real deal. He’s right up there with Val on loyalty Murdoch. He would take a bullet for me without hesitation as I would for him.”
“ Alright son….You can’t blame an old man for being worried.”
“ Not at all……..In fact, I’ve gotten pretty used to it.”
“ You think maybe you and Clay could share some of that past you two shared son?”
“ Maybe.” Johnny answered as he turned and went back inside.
“ So……..how did you meet my little brother Clay?” Scott asked.
Clay looked from Johnny to Scott back to Johnny and laughed. “ You know, hearing him call you brother is a little hard to absorb. You told me about your old……your father, but you never said anything about a brother.”
“ That’s because we didn’t know anything about each other. I mean Boston knew about having a little brother, but he didn’t know who I was!”
“ Boston?” Clay asked.
“ Yeah, Scott lived with his grandfather back in Boston. He even went to Harvard and then fought in the war before coming home to Lancer.”Johnny stated with pride in his voice. “ I couldn’t ask for better big brother.”
“ Wow, I’m happy for you Johnny. You got out of the game. Not many in our profession get the chance to hang up their guns.” Clay stated. He could tell his friend hasn’t been able to hang up his gun yet. “ I’m sorry Johnny.”
“ It’s been good. I mean I haven’t been called out in over ten years. The people here in the San Joaquin have accepted who I once was and who I am now.” Johnny stated.
“ Hasn’t been easy for you though has it? I mean, leaving your past behind?” Clay asked.
“ No, but you of all people know there’s always someone gonna try to take your reputation away from you!”
“ Reputation…………..now there’s a word that’s a gunfighters worst enemy.” Clay stated.
“To get back to your question there Scott……..Me and Johnny met the first time in Sonora, at an orphanage there.” Clay started. “ Johnny being a half, well he was beat up and picked on some………some hell, a day didn’t go by that he wasn’t beat up by the other kids or by the priest. Anyhow, I wasn’t liked either, what with being an orphaned American kid in Mexico, I kinda took Johnny under my wing and well, the two of us made a pretty damn good force to be reckoned with. Not to many kids bothered us for the next what……..two years Johnny?”
“ Yeah.” Johnny responded as he looked from his son to his father, neither of which he wanted to know about some of his past, but could only keep one from knowing.
“ Miguel……..son it’s getting late. Time for you to turn in.”
“ Yes sir.” Miguel answered.
Miguel bid everyone a goodnight and headed upstairs.
“ That’s quite a boy you got there Johnny!” Clay stated as he took a sip of coffee.
“ You want something a little stronger than coffee mister Nelson?” Murdoch asked. “ I have some very nice brandy or even scotch.”
“ You got any tequila?” Clay asked.
“ Why yes we do.” Scott stated as he stood up. “ I’ll get them sir!” he added as he headed to the sideboard.
“ Where was I?………..Oh yeah, yeah nobody bothered this skinny ass kid while I was around.” Clay continued. “ They did get him one time though….beat him up pretty good…….He fixed them though in the end. The priest too.”
“ The padre?” Scott said as he came back over to the table with a bottle of tequila, brandy, glasses and set to pouring everyone a drink.
Clay laughed. “ You want to tell them what you did Johnny?”
“ No………you’re doing just fine!” Johnny stated as he downed his tequila.
“ Okay, well your son somehow got a hold of some very hot chili peppers and put them in the beef soup they served that night. Now he knew he would be locked away and wouldn’t get any of it.”
“ How did you manage to not eat any?” Scott asked.
“ My amigo, he told me what he did.” Clay answered as he laughed. “ Those kids and that priest got what was coming to them. They couldn’t drink enough water to put that fire out………and they didn’t have any bread or milk to help either.”
Johnny glanced at his father and was a little relieved to see he showed not anger, but sadness in his eyes.
“ Can I ask what it was they did to you son?”
“ Beat me and locked me in a small dark closet for three days with nothing more than half a cup of stale dirty water a day.”
“ We broke out of there and went north across the border into Texas and stayed together a couple more years, then drifted apart because Johnny there wanted to go back down below the border and I wanted to stay in Texas………Imagine my shock when a few years later, I start hearing about this kid building up a reputation with a gun back across the border!……….Seems there was this half-breed kid who’d become deadly with a pistol making the Rurales very mad. So mad in fact they put a bounty on his head.”
“ How did you two get back together?” Scott inquired.
“ We both ended up on opposite sides of a water rights war between a rancher and a farmer……..It seems Johnny did his research and hired out to the winning side.”
“ Research son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, Johnny was fast becoming the most expensive gun for hire, but with a guarantee win……….It seems I was on the losing side and when I found out who the hired gun was on the other side, I did the only thing I could………I switched sides.” Clay said with a slight laugh. “ I mean, from what I was hearing, you had to be a fool to go up against Johnny Madrid.”
“ You seemed to have had a wild life below the border little brother?” Scott stated.
“ It was okay.”
“ Especially with the women or helping out the little guys huh Johnny?” Clay asked.
“ Well……….it’s getting late.” Scott stated. “ If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll turn in.”
“ Alright son!”
“ Scott, good to meet you. I’m glad Johnny has himself a good man for a big brother. God knows he deserves one!”
“ Why thank you Clay…….I’ll see you all in the morning…………Johnny!”
“ I think I’ll turn in too son. Let you and your friend catch up on old times. You don’t need your old man listening in.”
Johnny waited until his father was upstairs and he heard the bedroom door close. “ You gonna cut to the chase and tell me why you’re really here Clay?”
“ I see you haven’t lost your touch in being able to read people!”
“ Nope. Drives the old man crazy sometimes.”
“ Well I wasn’t totally honest with you this afternoon Johnny. By that I mean about just passing through headed back to Texas. The job I just finished was over in Reno.”
“ Yeah, okay!”
“ I was getting ready to leave and I heard Jack and Frank Benson were released from prison and remembering how they threatened to kill you when the got out, I thought I’d ride out here and see If I could find you!”
“ How’d you know I was still alive?”
“ Easy, when someone’s lucky enough to beat the best……I can assure you that that news will be front page!” Clay stated.
“ I’m real happy for you Johnny. I’m happy you got the chance to hang up your gun.”
“ Yeah. It took me a bit to get used to this. Hell I even left once, but found my way back and realized what someone once told me, there’s no place more beautiful than Lancer.”
“ Maybe you can show me around some while I’m here?” Clay suggested.
“ Yeah, sure, but right now I better get some sleep or the old man will be on me if I’m to tired to work tomorrow.”
“ Yeah, I could use some shuteye too I guess.”
The two friends headed upstairs side by side, stopping outside Clay’s room.
“ I hope you can stay a while Clay!” Johnny asked.
“ As long as you want me too or your old man tells me to leave.” Clay stated as he opened his bedroom door.
“ Oh hey, I almost forgot……You gonna be able to sleep with a roof over your head and clean sheets on a bed Clay?” Johnny asked with a smile as he walked to his room and opened the door.
“ I think I can manage Johnny……..See you In the morning buddy!”
“ I didn’t think you would be up this early Mister Nelson.” Murdoch stated.
“ I never was one for sleeping in to much………Is that hot coffee I smell?”
“ Why yes it is. Help yourself.”
“ Johnny still sleeping?” Clay asked as he sat down.
“ I expect he’ll sleep a little late this morning.”
“ That’s like him.” Clay said with a laugh.
“ No, usually Johnny and Scott are good at being up early for work during the week. It’s Sunday mornings that Johnny doesn’t get up early.”
“ That because he goes to town Saturday nights?”
“ No, no……..him and Scott go into town once in a while to play some cards, gamble a little and have some beers, but usually Johnny stays here to be with his son Miguel.”
“ Now that’s something I never thought Johnny would have!…….Do I get to meet his wife?”
“ Uh no. Johnny’s raising his son.”
“ I get a feeling you want to ask me something mister Lancer, am I right?”
“ Maria, Johnny will probably be late this morning.”
“ Ah, bueno. Voy a mantener algo caliente para él en el horno!
( Ah good. I will keep something warm for him in the oven!)
“ You feel like taking a walk with me outside mister Nelson?”
“ Sure, but call me Clay please! Mister makes me feel old.” Clay said as he stood up. “No disrespect meant by that either sir.”
“ Non taken.”
“ Johnny seems to think highly of you!” Murdoch stated as the two walked down to the corral.
“ Well you know mister Lancer, me and Johnny, we kinda became what you’d call blood brothers when we were kids. Me I wanted a little brother, and Johnny always wanted a big brother. I think that’s why I became so protective of him.” Clay stated.
“ My son didn’t deserve the hard life he had growing up.” Murdoch stated. “ It took me a while to accept the fact that if he hadn’t picked that gun up, he wouldn’t be here with us now.”
“ Mister Lancer, one thing I’ve learned in my life, and trust me, Johnny has learned this too, there comes a time in your life when you have to choose between right and wrong, living or dying……..even if it means picking up a gun and living by that gun to stay alive by no fault of your own. People are real quick to judge someone they know nothing about, just by that persons appearance.” Clay stated firmly. “ Hell yesterday the bartender ordered me out of his saloon and all I was doing was sitting in a corner watching for Johnny to come out of the cafe to make sure it was him I seen………….That bartender said he knew what kind of man I was, and that my kind wasn’t welcome in your town. Just from my looks.”
Murdoch sighed as he remembered it being the same way for his son when he first started going to town. “ You know, even with his brother, Johnny was treated the same way Clay……….Hell even when he was with me people said he wasn’t welcome. Cattlemen association were the worst of them until they needed his gun.”
“ Yeah, people need you, they forget how they treated you and once they don’t need you anymore, they either go right back to treating you bad or accept you.” Clay added.
“ If you don’t mind my asking, do you have any plans?” Murdoch asked.
“ Nope. I just go where I feel like going. Work when I need to. Why?”
“ We have spring roundup and branding starting, we could use another good hand.”
“ I appreciate the offer mister Lancer, but ranch work, especially anything to do with cows has never been a good line of work for me.” Clay answered.
“ I know Johnny would like you to stay here for a spell. We have plenty of room.!”
“ Mister Lancer, I’m used to working for my keep. Big fancy place like this, well I just wouldn’t feel right staying here and not earning my keep……..So I’ll tell you what……you let me stay here until you or Johnny get tired of me and I’ll do any kind of work you want, as long as it’s not working with cows.”
“ Alright. I pay a dollar a day. And work is from sunup to sundown six days a week. Food for both you and your horse.”
“ That’s more than fair sir.”
“ Good…….lets go in and see if Maria has breakfast ready?” Murdoch suggested.
“ Oh mister Lancer, there’s something else. I wouldn’t feel right staying in your house. I’ll stay with the hands in the bunkhouse if that’s alright with you sir?”
“ You don’t have too. The hands won’t say anything, but Johnny might!”
“ I can handle Johnny!” Clay responded with a laugh.
“ Morning sir, Clay.” Scott said as he sat down with a cup of coffee. “ I didn’t think you would be up yet!”
“ Morning Scott……….I’m not much of a sleeper.”
“ It’s not from the bed I hope?” Scott asked
“ No. That beds mighty fine…….Softest bed I’ve slept in in a long time. I just have trouble sleeping.”
“ Johnny was the same way at first.” Murdoch stated.
“ Was the same way at what?” Johnny asked as he walked in the kitchen.
“ Morning son……..I was telling Clay about how you had trouble sleeping in your bed at first too.” Murdoch said.
“ Yeah, Clay was saying he was having trouble sleeping.”
“ You still having that dream?” Johnny asked as he took a sip of coffee.
“ Yeah. Just not as often.” Clay answered.
“ Smells delicious Ma’am.” Clay said as Maria set breakfast on the table.
“¡ Estás despierto! El Patrón dijo que podriás dormir hasta tarde esta maňana.”
( You are awake! El Patron said you might sleep late this morning.)
“ I figured I better get up, or you would come get me up with a wooden spoon.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ No lo haría si está cansado del trabajo…..o debido a una visita nocturna con un amigo de hace mucho tiempo.”
( I would not if you are tired from work….or because of a late night visit with a friend from long ago.)
“ Do not worry senor Scott. I will fix something for you and El Patron that is not spicy.” Maria added before returning o the kitchen.
“ Hey Murdoch. I was thinking, since we got spring roundup starting in a couple days we could hire Clay to help out.” Johnny stated. “ I mean, he’s no good with cows, but we could put him to work doing other stuff while we do roundup and branding couldn’t we?”
Clay couldn’t help but start laughing. “ You know, I do believe you two are just alike mister Lancer!”
“ I think you’re right.”
“ You get the feeling we missed something Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, but not you so much as me……..Alright, give it up you two.”
“ Son, me and Clay had a real nice talk this morning and I asked him if he had no definite plans, would he consider working here.”
“ I told him sure, as long as I don’t have to do anything with cows.” Clay said. “ I also told him that if I was going to be working here, I’m not staying in this big fancy house. A hired hand don’t stay in the main house.”
“ A hired hand don’t, but a friend does.” Johnny stated. “ You’re not staying in the bunkhouse.”
“ Johnny, I don’t want to cause trouble with your hands!” Clay declared.
“ You won’t. You’re staying in the house and that’s final!” Johnny said firmly.
“ Hey Murdoch!………..We’re almost done with the branding. We should be done in the next day or so.” Johnny said as he walked into the house and walked over to his father at his desk. “ We’re finishing up almost a week sooner than we thought.”
“ How many calves do you have?”
“ Eighty calves which isn’t bad considering how hard winter was. We have maybe thirty cows that didn’t get bred, least wise they don’t have a calf with ’em.”
“ Why don’t you put those calves and their mothers in that south pasture and the cows that don’t have calves up in the north pasture?” Murdoch suggested.
“ So you want those thirty head in with the two year old’s we were going to put in that pasture?” Johnny asked as his brother walked in.
“ Yes. They’ll be okay in there with them. Then this fall we can put two bulls in with them!”
“ Two bulls sir?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. There’s a bull auction coming up in Modesto the end of next month.”
“ It wouldn’t hurt to bring in new bloodline for the fall breeding.” Scott added.
“ You still taking Miguel camping Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, even though he made it very clear to me during roundup, he wasn’t going!” Johnny stated. “ Clay come in yet?”
“ No. I don’t believe he has yet son!” Murdoch answered.
“ Maybe I’ll take a ride out and see how he’s doing.” Johnny said.
“ He’s clearing the stream up by the north pasture!”
“ Hey, look what I see!” Jack Benson said to himself. Out checking a rabbit trap Jack couldn’t believe his eyes. Going back to his horse, he pulled his rifle from the scabbard and went over behind an oak tree and took aim.” Just a little closer!” he said softly as he watched the unsuspecting rider coming up the small wash.
Johnny rode up the small wash deep in thought about his son and how he could get their relationship back when he heard the sound and felt the bullet slam into his lower right side, Falling off his horse, pulling his pistol as he did, Johnny lay on his stomach, keeping his arms under him just enough so whoever shot him wouldn’t see his gun and waited.
“ I got ’em!” Jack yelled as he hurried down the wash to the body on the ground. “ I knew I could kill you Madrid. I knew my brothers way was wrong.” Jack said as he started walking up to the body. “ Big bad dangerous Johnny Madrid, I told you I’d get you, and I did.” Jack said as he pulled his pistol and cocked it.
Johnny rolled onto his left side and brought his colt up firing, two bullets hitting Jack square in the chest as a fire burned in his lower right side. Pushing himself up gasping a little as he checked the wound in his side and found the bullet had passed clean through. Standing up, Johnny picked up his hat and went to his horse. Mounting up, he looked down at the dead body of Jack Benson.
“ Number one rule Jack, never walk up on a man you shot unless you’re sure he’s dead.” Johnny stated before turning his horse and riding away.
Frank Benson rode to were his brother should have been and found only his horse. Still tied to a branch, grazing. Dismounting Frank looked around and noticed his brothers rifle laying on the ground. Walking over he drew his pistol as he picked the rifle up. “ Jack!” he called out as he stepped over and looked down into the wash. “ Oh no!” Frank said as he noticed his brother laying on his back in the wash with a red stain on his chest. Climbing down, Frank dropped to his knees at his dead brothers side. “ You stupid fool…… I told you to wait little brother.” Jack said. “ I’ll make him pay for killing you!” Frank said as he stood up and noticed the blood on the ground away from his brother. “ You got him, but not enough to kill him……….Don’t worry little brother, I’ll get him for you!” Frank said before going to get the horses so he could take his brother someplace and bury him.
Clay finished clearing the stream and was almost back to the house when he noticed a lone horse in the distance about a mile from the house just standing there. Riding over Clay seen the rider was slumped over, covered in blood on his right side. Pulling his pistol, Clay remembered what Johnny told him if he needed help to fire three shots.
“ Johnny…….Oh man….whoever shot you will pay amigo.” Clay said as he removed his kerchief and applied pressure to the wound. Pounding hooves approaching made him look up. “ Scott, it’s Johnny. He’s been shot!” Clay stated as Scott jumped off his horse.
“ Cipriano, send someone for the doctor!” Scott ordered as he climbed up behind his brother and wrapped his arms around him to keep him on the horse.
“ Le avisaré a El patron para que pueda tener todo listo e ir por el médico yo mismo.
(I will let El patron know so he can have everything ready and go for the doctor myself)
Scott rode up to the front door of the house and got down as Clay and Murdoch grabbed Johnny and pulled him down.
“ Papa!” Miguel yelled as he ran outside.
“ Miguel, go back inside and help Maria!” Murdoch ordered as him and Clay carried Johnny inside. “ Scott, go up and get his bed turned down for us.”
Scott bolted up the stairs and into his brothers room, turning down the bed and pouring water in the basin on the table next to the bed.
Clay and Murdoch carried Johnny into the room and laid him down on the bed. “ Clay, go to the water closet and bring me some towels.”
Clay hurried out of the room as Scott started to remove Johnny’ shirt. “ Looks like the bullet went clean through his side.” Scott stated as Clay came back in with towels.
“ How long will it take the doctor to get here?” Clay asked with concern in his voice.
“ If he’s in town, two hours.”
“ Two hours……Mister Lancer, that wound is bleeding something fierce. Johnny could bleed to death before the doc gets here.”
“ We’ll clean and pack the wound and wrap it up tight. That should stop the bleeding, or slow it down until Sam gets here.”
“ Look, I know how to sew a wound up.” Clay offered.
“ So do I.” Murdoch retorted. “ Sam needs to make sure that bullet didn’t do any damage inside and make sure he has no internal bleeding and remove all the small pieces of fiber so he doesn’t get an infection.” Murdoch stated firmly.
Clay went and removed Johnny’ gun from the holster and checked the cylinder. “ He fired one shot.” he said as he put the gun back in the holster.
“ I hope he killed whoever shot him.” Scott said.
“ If he didn’t. I will.” Clay said with ice in his voice. “ Nobody hurts my amigo…….Nobody.”
“ Clay, why don’t you go downstairs and wait for Sam to get here.” Scott suggested.
“ Doc’s been up there a long time!” Clay stated.
“ Where he was shot and by who is what I want to know!” Scott stated.
“ The who is simple. One of those brothers Johnny put in prison twenty years ago.” Clay stated
“ He was riding out to you Clay! Did you hear any shots at all?” Murdoch asked.
“ No. I didn’t hear any shots!” Clay said with anger. “ There won’t be anyplace those two can hide……..They’re going to pay for this Mister Lancer!” he added. “ As soon as I know how Johnny is. I’ll be riding out there and find them.”
“ We’ll leave at first light!” Scott said.
“ I want to come with you uncle Scott!” Miguel said. “ Don’t tell me I can’t either…..He’s my father and someone ambushed him.”
“ I know that Miguel, but you are not going with us. If something happened to you I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself and it would destroy your father.” Scott stated firmly.
“ You cannot stop me from going!”
“ I can and I will.” Murdoch stated firmly. “ Your father is going to need our help healing Miguel. Worrying about you will not be good for him.”
“ No it won’t.” A voice said behind them. “ Johnny is in bad shape Murdoch. The last thing he’s going to need is worrying about his son.”
“ How bad is he Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ He’s lost a lot of blood from the wound in his side. He has a cracked rib. I cleaned it out and stitched it up and wrapped his chest up tight. He’s going to hurt bad when he breathes from it. It would have been better if the bullet had broken the rib.” Sam stated. “ I know what you’re worried about………both of you. I’m going to stay here the night given it’s so late and I want to get a jump on any infection or fever that might start. I don’t want him left alone. The next day or two will tell. We all know how Johnny is prone to fevers. Scott, why don’t you go stay with him for a few hours then one of us will relieve you.” Sam stated.
“ If you don’t mind, I’ll go sit with him Scott!” Clay said as he headed to the stairs.
“ Alright, I’ll bring you up something to eat in a bit.” Scott answered
“ Just some hot coffee will be fine.” Clay said over his shoulder as he headed upstairs.
“ One of you mind telling me who that man is?” Sam asked as he sat down at the big dark oak kitchen table.
“ He’s a friend of Johnny’ from his past!” Murdoch answered.
“ A gunfighter?” Sam asked.
“ Ex gunfighter Sam!” Scott added as he pour the doctor some coffee.
“ I see. Mind if I ask why he is here?”
“ He seen me and Johnny in town and followed us, but Johnny being Johnny, knew we were being followed.”
“ He came home with the boys and being a friend of Johnny’……I decided to give him a chance and asked if he wanted to work here helping out during round-up and branding.”
“ You hired him Murdoch?” Sam asked, a little shocked. “ How do you know he’s not the one who shot Johnny?”
“ Because my son knows him……..They were in the orphanage together in Mexico……..One thing I’ve learned from my son is everybody deserves a second chance. Even a gunfighter.” Murdoch stated.
“ It seems Johnny and Clay rode together when my brother was………..”
“ When your brother was starting to live by that damn gun!” Murdoch cut in.
“That gun has kept my brother alive all these years.” Scott snapped back.
“ It’s because of that gun your brother is laying upstairs fighting for his life!”
“ Excuse me but if Johnny hadn’t picked up a gun, he would be dead!” Scott said angrily.
“ Murdoch, sometimes you can be such a…….You just said Johnny taught you that everyone deserves a second chance……Why the hell can’t you forget what Johnny used to be and accept the man he has become?” Sam demanded.
Murdoch stood there, anger on his face. “ Because he never should have been put in that position Sam. My son……….my son should never have had to pick up a gun just to stay alive.” Murdoch stated. “ His mother should never have taken him from me……..She should have never let him be hurt like he’s been!”
“ Johnny told you his mother died when he was only ten…….You’ve seen the scars on his back……Picking up a gun stopped those scars from happening anymore to him……. and I for one and damn proud of the man he has become, especially since he came home!” Sam stated.
Clay sat with his back to the door in a chair next to the bed running through his mind what he planned to do to the person responsible for ambushing his friend. “ I promise whoever shot you will die a slow death Johnny…….It’s one thing for us to be called out, but to ambush a man, to shoot him down in cold blood……..that’s just wrong. Even we didn’t do that!” Clay said softly.
Scott stopped outside his brothers room and listened to the words Clay said. Hearing the last brought a smile to his face, because he knew his brother could never be a cold blooded killer.
“ You make it a habit to stand outside a door and eves drop on a mans conversation?” Clay asked.
Scott stepped into the room. “ I’m sorry…….I didn’t mean to……….”
“ It’s alright.” Clay told him as he stood up. “ You got a problem with what you heard me say?” he asked.
“ About making whoever did this pay?……..No, but killing someone instead of letting the law handle it……..” Scott said, leaving the last unfinished.
Clay turned and faced him. “ I don’t know you………and I don’t know your old man……Who I do know is laying in that bed fighting for his life because some sonofabitch ambushed him and that’s not alright with me. So yeah Scott, when I catch ’em, and believe me, I will, they will die a slow painful death and to hell with your law.”
“ I figure we could leave at first light. There’s several washes in the area Johnny rode headed to you that someone could ambush from without being seen.” Scott told him.
“ Why don’t you go get something to eat in the kitchen and then some sleep. The room you used before is still made up.
Pain crept into his mind. Pain with every breath he took. Opening his eyes, blinking several times, Johnny realized he was in a room, laying in bed, his bed, his room.
Moaning as he tried to move brought a voice and slowly a face into view. “ Scott!”
“ Take it easy Johnny, take it easy.” Scott said as he gently place a hand on his brothers chest to keep him from moving.
“ How long?” Johnny asked, barely above a whisper.
“ It’s around midnight now. You’ve been out for about ten hours now since Clay found you.” Scott told him as he stood up and poured a glass of water. “ Here drink this. You lost a lot of blood.” Scott stated as he sat on the edge of the bed and placed an arm behind his brothers head to help him drink.
“ Don’t want no Laudanum!” Johnny said as he tried to turn his head away.
“ It’s just water Johnny, honest.”
“ Johnny, do you know who sot you?”
“ Yeah, Jack Benson.”
“ Me and Clay will be riding out at first light looking for him……..and his brother!” Scott stated.
“ His brother maybe, but not Jack…….he’s dead.” Johnny said, then told his brother where he was ambushed and what happened to Jack.
“ We’ll find his brother, and when we do……..”
“ No………I don’t want Clay going after him. I know what he’ll do Scott. I don’t want him taking that route. Listen to me, Clay is a good man, but sometimes he can let emotions get in his way……I seen it once.” Johnny stated firmly.
“ Okay, how do I stop him Johnny? Because last night I came up here when he was sitting with you and what I heard him say!”
“ When he wakes up, tell him what I said Scott!” Johnny said as pain racked his chest.
“ Hold on Johnny, I’ll go get Sam!” Scott said as he got up and hurried to the door
Every breath hurt worst than the last as Johnny lay there struggling to breath when his bedroom door opened again and Sam came in.
“ How long has he been awake Scott?” Sam demanded.
“ Not long doc, maybe ten minutes.” Scott answered.
“ Ten minutes?”
“ Yes Sam……..He woke up in pain, but nothing like this! I sat talking to him and got him to drink some water once he knew there wasn’t any laudanum in it.”
“ Hurts….. to……….. breath……… Sam!” Johnny stammered.
“ I know John, listen to me. I want you to take some laudanum………..the bullet cracked a rib and you know how bad that is from last year.”
“ Damn….You know I don’t like……….”
“ I know Johnny, listen to me, you’re safe. Nobody is going to get you. Scott, Murdoch and your friend Clay will see to that.” Sam assured him.
Scott and Clay rode the better part of the day searching every ravine and gully for any sign of the Benson brothers. Late afternoon Scott stopped.
“ No tracks, nothing.” Scot stated. “ Not even a grave for the one Johnny said he killed. It’s like they disappeared.”
“ Would that be the one that shot him that he killed?” Clay asked.
“ Johnny said he killed him.” Scott answered. “ It’s getting late. We better head back.”
“ The surviving brother Frank, if he’s smart, left the valley and never returns since his brother’s dead.”
“ Let’s go. I want to check on Johnny before it gets to late.” Clay stated.
“ Okay.” Scott said as he scanned the ground.
“ Johnny ever tell you how I saved his life?” Clay asked as they rode back to the house.
“ Johnny doesn’t like talking about his past much.”
“ Especially around the old man right?” Clay asked.
“ Yeah. Our father has a hard time sometimes accepting what Johnny had to do to stay alive before he came home.”
“ I can understand that I guess..anyway, we took this job and the rancher got real mad at Johnny because he wouldn’t kill this other rancher because he found out that man was in the right and not the one Johnny and I went to work for. A couple of his men ambushed Johnny and tied him to a tree and whipped him. They left him tied to that tree to die. Probably would have if I hadn’t found him.” Clay said. “ I nursed him back and when he was well enough to talk, I found out who did it and I paid them a visit. I did to them what they did to Johnny, only I didn’t use a leather strap. When I was done, gagged them and poured a bucket of brine on their backs.”
Scott cringed at the thought of a man being whipped with anything and then having salt water poured on open wounds. The pain would be unbearable to even the strongest man. He knew now what his brother meant when he begged him to not let Clay hunt the remaining brother down.
“ I’m grateful to you for saving my brothers life. Thank you.” Scott said.
“ Johnny’ like a little brother to me. I’ll kill anyone who hurts him. He’s had enough of that in his life.” Clay stated.
Four weeks passed and Johnny was getting more agitated, mostly with himself, but also with his son. Every day Miguel would start an argument with his father about being forced to stay around the house. Every day he would tell his father he is not a child, that he could take care of himself. Sitting on the veranda, watching Clay and his brother with some hands work a horse in the corral.
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked as he stepped outside to join him.
“ Yeah, I guess………Can I ask you something?”
“ You know you can ask me anything!”
“ It’s about Miguel……….He’s getting worse the older he gets. Lately all he wants to do is fight with me.”
“ Yes, I’ve noticed that. These past few weeks he’s even been disrespectful to the hired help.”
“ I want to send him back east to one of those reform schools Scott was talking about….. but I’m afraid if I do, it will further strengthen his thinking I don’t love him.”
“ Johnny, we both know that’s not true. If you think sending Miguel away to a reform school will help, then I’ll support your decision son, but give it some serious thought before you do!”
“ I have. I don’t want him growing up with a gun on his hip like I did……..I mean, I had no choice, he does.”
“ How’s your rib feeling?”
“ Don’t hurt as much as it has, as long as I don’t cough.”
“ You know, I was thinking about something. You and Scott have been working pretty hard and I think the two of you deserve a vacation from the ranch.”
“ A vacation huh?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes son. It would do you good to get away.” Murdoch answered.
“ Getting a chance to get away with my brother for a week or two of no work, I could go for that……..That is if Sam says I can!”
“ Alright then. When Sam says you can go. Does that sound good to you Scott?”
“ Yes sir…..Johnny, is Miguel going with us?” Scott asked.
“You think him going with us might maybe bring us closer?”
“ It just might……..Look Johnny, we all know something is bothering Miguel, something he don’t want to talk about for whatever reason.” Scott said. “ Maybe getting him out away from the ranch will help……….or maybe it won’t.” he added.
“ Murdoch, you remember when I was in Montana and you and Miguel came up?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes I do……Why?”
“ You remember how hateful he was to me then?”
“ Yes I do son. I remember he was until you got hurt.”
“ I’m thinking maybe, if he’s angry when we go, maybe I’ll teach him a little lesson.”
“ A lesson John?”
“ He needs………what did you call it Scott?”
“ A reality check!” Scott responded.
“ Yeah, a reality check………Look I don’t want to send my son away to some school. I want him to be here with us.” Johnny stated. “ I had a pretty rough childhood as you both know. I want my son to grow up the right way. I don’t want him trying to live by a damn gun like I had to do.” Johnny stated as he looked at his father. “ I’m not blaming you in any way for my childhood Murdoch. So please don’t think I am.”
“ I would never think that John. I know you didn’t have a good childhood son, and me and Scott both agree, Miguel does need a reality check. He’s gotten a little out of hand lately with his behavior.”
“ That’s why I think this hunting trip will help him see the errors of his way so to speak.”
“ I think I know what you’re getting at son. You think if Miguel shoots and kills say a deer or elk, that maybe he will stop this wanting to wear a gun. Looking death right in the eye is something not easy to do Murdoch.”
“ Johnny, have you asked Clay to come along?” Scott asked.
“ He’s pulling out, heading back to Texas next week.” Johnny said. “ Said something about a range war brewing and he wanted to cash in on it.”
“ We’ll he’s a good, hard worker son. I’m glad I got the chance to meet a friend of yours.” Murdoch told Johnny.
“ This place is beautiful.” Scott said as they cleared some tree’s and looked out at a meadow surrounded by oak and eucalyptus trees.
“ There’s a real nice lake at the far end I figured we could set up camp at.” Scott stated. “ What do you think Miguel?”
“ What do I care.” he answered snidely.
“ Miguel……..I don’t ever want to hear you speak that way to your uncle again….Do you understand me?”
Miguel ignored his father and kicked his horse into a gallop out into the meadow toward the lake.
“ Johnny, it’s alright.” Scott said.
“ No it’s not Scott.” Johnny said. “ He’s going to respect you or else.” Johnny said before taking off after his son.
Miguel kicked his horse into a run when he seen his father coming after him.
“ Miguel stop……….Stop that horse now.” Johnny yelled as dropped the lead rope of the pack horse he had and urged his horse faster.
Miguel ignored his father and almost reached the lake when his father rode up and grabbed his reins, stopping the horse. Johnny jumped down.
“ Get off that horse now.” he ordered.
“ No.” Miguel responded.
Johnny reached up and yanked his son off the horse. “ I’ve had about all I’m going to take from you boy. Get those britches down now.” Johnny ordered as he pulled a switch from a bush. “ Get them off now, or I’ll do it for you.” he ordered.
“ You can’t hit me with that.” Miguel said.
“ I can and I am……..You are going to start respecting your uncle Scott and grandfather and any other adults who work on Lancer or when you’re in school or in town.”
Por qué…ninguno de ustedes me respeta….No te preocupas por mí…..Eres como ella….Ella no me quería y tú tampoco.” Miguel snapped back, tears running down his cheeks. “ Soy como tú….Un error en la naturaleza.”
( Why……….none of you respect me……….You don’t care about me…..You’re just like her………..She didn’t want me and you don’t either.” Miguel snapped back, tears running down his face. “ I’m just like you…….a mistake in nature.)
Johnny stood there in total shock at the words his son spat at him. Dropping the switch he grabbed his son and pulled him to his chest.
“ ¿Por qué me secuestró y trató de matarte? ( Why did she kidnap me, and try to kill you?)
“ Oh Miguel…..¿ Cómo puedes pensar que no te quiero? ( Oh Miguel….How could you think I don’t want you?) Johnny asked as he held his son tight against his chest. “ Tú eres mi hijo. Te quiero con todo mi corazón. No quiero oerderte nunca.” ( You are my son. I love you with all my heart. I don’t ever want to lose you. )
“ Pero ¿ por qué no me quiera? Por qué no me quiere?” ( But why didn’t she love me?…Why didn’t she want me?)
“ Miguel, look at me son.” Johnny asked as he gently put his hand under his sons chin. “ I don’t know why son. I wish I did. But I don’t. What I do know and I swear this is the truth. When your mother brought you to Lancer and left you for me to raise, I became the luckiest man alive. You know why?”
“ No.” Miguel said as he wiped at his tears.
“ Because she gave me the chance to do what Murdoch didn’t get the chance to do, raise my son.” Johnny said as he heard Murdoch and Scott ride up.
“ Is everything alright?” Scott asked as he got down from his horse.
“ Yeah, everything’s fine.” Johnny answered.
“ Uncle Scott……I’m sorry I’ve been so disrespectful to you. It won’t happen again, I promise.” Miguel told them.
Scott could tell his nephew had been crying. Looking at his brother, he could see a kind of hurt in his eyes he had never seen before. “ Miguel, I was a kid once too. I can remember a few times back in Boston I gave my grandfather trouble too.”
“ How about we start getting camp set up before dark while you go find some firewood son?” Johnny suggested.
“ Yes sir.” Miguel answered.
Frank Benson rode into Moro Coyo and stopped at the saloon to get a cold beer.
“ So did Johnny leave yet for that hunting trip Josh?” the bartender asked.
“ Yeah. They left early yesterday morning.” Josh stated as he paid for his beer. “ Gonna be gone two weeks.”
“ Yeah, Johnny and Scott stopped in the other day before heading back. Johnny said he was gonna teach his brother how to hunt.”
“ So were’d they go hunting at?” the bartender asked.
“ Some place called Strawberry. Used to be an old mining town, played out years ago. Said to have a big lake fed by mountain spring water. Said it’s an awful pretty place.” Josh said. “ Said there’s trout in that lake big enough to fill a wagon.” Josh added with a laugh.
Frank couldn’t believe his luck hearing what he was hearing. Downing his beer, he walked out of the saloon and mounted up heading east out of town. Having been to Strawberry with his brother once, Frank knew the area somewhat and knew Madrid wouldn’t be hard to find.
“ You okay Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. I’m fine.” Johnny responded. “ I know now what’s been bothering Miguel.” he said softly.
“ Let’s go down by the waters edge to talk.” Scott suggested.
A few minutes later, he watched his brother throw rocks into the calm lake.
“ I now know what’s been bothering Miguel all this time. Why he’s been acting the way he has toward me.”
“ Is it something we can fix?”
“ Nope.” Johnny said then proceeded to tell Scott what his son had said to him this afternoon. Scott just stood there speechless after Johnny finished.
“ My god Johnny. “ he finally managed to say. “ I never even gave that a thought.”
“ I know, neither did I……..Hell all this time I’ve been thinking it was me, and the whole time it’s his mother Miguel is angry with.”
“ And since Teresa isn’t here……He took his anger out on you and us.”
“ Yeah. You know, I don’t know why my mother took me from Murdoch, or lied to me about him, But one thing I do know……my son will never grow up fatherless like I did.” Johnny stated.
“ Johnny, I’ve been watching you with Miguel, and I have to say, I think you are doing a remarkable job raising your son.”
“ You know, I was ready to take a switch to him when he told me….The one thing I swore I would never do to my son, I almost did today.”
“ It took greater courage not to.”
“ I guess we should turn in. Not sure what Miguel will want to do tomorrow.” Johnny said.
“ Yeah, just look at that sky.” Scott said. “ Now I know why Murdoch recommended coming here.”
“ Yeah. I wonder how he found it?” Johnny asked as they walked back to camp and climbed into their bedrolls.
Frank Benson rode into the now almost empty town of Strawberry four days later. Looking around he seen a horse tied outside what appeared to be a saloon. Riding up, he dismounted and walked inside.
“ Come on in stranger.” a man behind the counter said.
Frank walked up to the bar.
“ What’s your pleasure friend?” the burly man asked.
“ Whiskey and some information.”
“ Ain’t got no whiskey, but we do have beer. Don’t know about the information.”
“ Looking’ for someone.” Frank stated as the man set a cold beer on the bar for him.
“ Ain’t been no strangers in these parts for a long time. Strawberry is all but a ghost town now ever since the gold played out some years ago.”
“ Said he was coming up here to do some hunting. Something about a lake at the end of a meadow.”
“ End of a meadow…….You must mean Lake Alpine. That’s the only lake around here that hasn’t dried up.” the burly man said. “ Your friends right about them trout. Caught one myself last summer. Biggest damn trout I ever caught.”
“ How do I get to this lake?” Frank asked as he paid for his beer.
“ That;s easy. You take the road north out of town till you come to a big rock, turn east there and just follow the trail. It’ll take you right to that meadow.”
“ Much obliged.”
Johnny woke to the smell of coffee.
“ Morning.” Miguel said.
“ Morning.” he said as he got up and stretched.
“ Want some hot coffee?”
“ Sure.” Johnny said as he walked over. “ What are you doing up so early?”
“ I couldn’t sleep. I laid there looking at the stars for a long time and just figured I’d get up and make you and uncle Scott some coffee.”
“ That was nice of you son. Thank you.”
“ So what are we doing today?” Miguel asked as he added some wood to the fire.
“ Oh I don’t know. Relax and do some fishing. It’s gonna be hot today. Maybe do some swimming?”
“ I’d like that.” Miguel responded.
Frank rode to the edge of a meadow and stopped his horse. He could smell smoke and looking around the meadow he finally spotted the camp. Turning his horse he stayed well inside the tree line and rode around the opposite end of the meadow, looking for the perfect place to watch Madrid, without him knowing and plan how he was going to kill him for killing his brother. Finding the right spot,Frank dismounted and looked around. Plenty of shelter from the trees if it happened to rain. A small campfire wouldn’t be noticed. Tying his horse to a young sapling, Frank went to unsaddling the horse and setting up camp. Tomorrow he would creep down closer to Madrid and watch. The trees on the backside of their camp were thicker, so he could almost go to the edge of the meadow to watch and not be seen.
“ I wish we didn’t have to leave here.” Miguel said as him and Johnny walked along the stream tha ran at the base of the trees.
“ It was pretty nice of your grandfather to let us do this.” Johnny said as he looked for tracks.
“ Maybe…….maybe we could do something nice for grandfather when we get back.” Miguel asked.
“ We could. What would you like to do?”
“ Maybe get him something nice.”
“ Okay. What would you want to get him?”
“ Maybe a new rifle with the Lancer L on it?” Miguel suggested.
“ The Lancer L. Made out of say silver?” Johnny asked.
“ I know a new rifle cost money, but I’ve been saving up the money I earn doing chores.”
Johnny stopped and looked across the stream. “ Yes they do son, but if that’s what you want to do. I think we can. I’ll tell you what, when we get back, me and you will ride into Stockton and see what we can find.”
“ Yeah….Stay here.” Johnny said as he walked across the stream to the other bank.
“ Something wrong papa?”
Johnny knelt down and looked at the tracks. Definitely a boot. Looking up the hill in the direction the tracks went.
‘ No.” Johnny answered as he came back across the stream. “ Let’s head back to camp.”
“ Do you think she wonders about me?” Miguel asked as they walked back to the camp.
“ I don’t know son. I don’t even know where she’s at.” Johnny said.
“ I wish I could see her again, to tell her I’m glad she didn’t want me. That leaving me with you…………” Miguel started as tears started down his cheeks.
Johnny stopped. “ Hey, look at me son.”
Miguel wiped away the tears and looked up at his father.
“ I had a lot of hate for my father as I grew up. Hate because of lies my mother told me…….What I’m saying son is, don’t hate your mother for the wrong reasons. Scott said she brought you to Lancer because her new husband and his family didn’t want you. She didn’t say she didn’t want you…..Do you understand the difference?”
“ I think so.” Miguel answered. “ It’s just that, she tried to kidnap me and kill you . What kind of mother does that?”
“ Someone who is maybe sick and needs help. Scott told me once that sometimes a person will do something just to get attention. Or sometimes that’s the only way that person knows how to ask for help.”
“ Do you still love her?” Miguel asked.
Johnny sighed. “ A part of me will always love her son, because without her, I wouldn’t have you. I loved your mother very much. I would have married her, but she turned on me and left.”
“ Would you have still married her if she had stayed and wasn’t pregnant with me?”
“ Yes I would have married her. Your mother was beautiful. Not like the women I was used to seeing.”
“ You mean women like those at the saloon in Green River, the women you don’t want me going to see?”
Johnny laughed. “ Yeah, those kind of women son.”
“ I’m almost sixteen, when can I go see those women papa?”
“ When you’re older son.” Johnny responded. “ There’s a couple of nice looking young ladies your age in Moro Coyo. How come you don’t ask their father for permission to see them?”
“ I have asked one, but her father told me he would never let his daughter be seen with me because of you.” Miguel said.
“ Me, who did you ask so?”
“ Millicent Alvarez. Her papa said he would never let his daughter see the son of a gunfighter.”
“ Miguel, how many people have been this way toward you?”
“ A few. I don’t mind. They don’t know you, so I figure they are not worth talking to, if they are so quick to judge a man they know nothing about.”
“ So because of me, you have no friends your own age……Son, I’m sorry.”
“ It’s okay. I have friends at the ranch and uncle Scott and grandfather.”
“ Why don’t you go down and see if you can catch a fish for supper. I need to talk to Scott for a minute and then I’ll be down to fish with you.”
Murdoch came out of the bank in Moro Coyo, and stepped down to his horse when a female voice stopped him.
“ Hello Murdoch.”
Looking up he couldn’t believe who was standing there wearing a beautiful blue dress trimmed in white lace.
“ How are you?” Teresa asked as she stepped over to the steps and looked down at the man who was like a second father to her.
“ I…….I’m good.” Murdoch answered. “ I didn’t know you were out. What are you doing here?” he asked as he stepped up onto the boardwalk.
“I was only sentenced to three years. I had some business to tend to in Stockton, so I thought I would come and see how much Moro Coyo had changed.” Teresa said. “ Are you in town alone?” she asked.
“ Yes I am.” Murdoch stated.
“ Can……Can we go someplace more private and talk?” she asked.
“ I don’t have time to talk Teresa. We have nothing to talk about.”
“ I just want to talk. Can’t you at least give me that?”
“ Give you that. After you tried to kill my son you expect to come back here and everything would be alright?”
“ I won’t debate this here in the street Murdoch. I just want to talk to you.”
“ Fine…….come out to the ranch tomorrow.” Murdoch said before mounting his horse and riding away.
You two have any luck?” Scott asked.
“ No, didn’t see any tracks that were animal.” Johnny stated as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Is something wrong Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ I found tracks, but of a human nature at the other end of the meadow. Man, I’d say about one eighty.”
“ Maybe it’s another hunter?”
“ Maybe……..I just find it odd that someone else is that close and they don’t come around.”
“ Maybe they don’t know we’re here.” Scott suggested.
“ They know. Their tracks went up the hill toward this direction. Somebody is up there above us on that ridge, watching us.”
“ Well, this is an old mining town area. Maybe it’s somebody still mining.” Scott suggested.
“ Yeah……..You’re probably right. Think I’ll go down and see if I can catch a fish with my son.”
“ I have biscuits cooking, so I hope one of you catches supper.”
Johnny waved a hand as he headed down to the lake.
“ Maybe tomorrow you’ll have some luck hunting.” Scott stated as he turned and looked up the hill behind them. Why would anyone just sit up there and watch them camping below, just made no sense. “ Making something out of nothing little brother.” Scott said to himself as he picked up the book he was reading and went over by the fire.
Scott woke early the next morning and started the coffee brewing. Today would be their last day in the meadow, tomorrow they would start back to Lancer. Looking east as the sun cleared the mountains, Scott couldn’t believe what he seen, a herd of elk were grazing not a half mile from their camp. Walking over, he quietly woke Johnny up and told him what he seen.
Johnny stood up and went to Miguel, waking the boy up. “ Be real quiet son, get dressed.” he instructed.
A few minutes later, Johnny and Miguel walked just inside the tree line, headed east, so they could get closer to the herd of elk. Once close enough, Johnny whispered to Miguel.
“ See that big bull son. You don’t want to kill him. He’s in his prime for breeding those cows. Take the rifle and aim at that smaller bull behind to his right.”
Miguel took the rifle and got next to a tree, using a branch as a brace, he aimed at the bull.
“ Just behind the shoulder son about halfway down his side, you should be able to drop him with one shot to the heart.” Johnny said softly.
Miguel stared at the bull, unable to pull the trigger. Lowering the rifle finally. “ I can’t do it. I can’t shoot it.”
“ Yes you can. You wanted to be so dead set on killing like I did when I was your age. Killing that bull is no different than killing a man.
“ Miguel dropped the rifle and stood up. “ I won’t do it.”
Johnny picked up the rifle, took aim and fired, dropping the bull were it stood. One shot straight through the heart. Grabbing Miguel by the arm he dragged the boy down through the stream and over to the bull laying in the grass dead. The rest of the herd running into the trees across the meadow.
“ Look at him……..look at him son.” Johnny ordered.
Miguel looked at the bull as steam came from the warm blood that flowed from the hole in it’s chest.
“ That bull was a living, breathing creature……..just like the men you’re so eager to go up against. When I was your age, I had killed ten men because of the reputation I had. Those men called me out and tried to kill me. Every man I ever faced and gunned down haunts me Miguel.”
“ Why?……….they called you out.” Miguel snapped back.
“ Because they were living human beings son. I didn’t have to face them, I could have walked away and let them live. Every man who has ever called me out, I gave that chance too, every one of them.”
Johnny reached down and removed the knife he carried in his right boot. “ I’m going to go get the pack horse and Scott. You start gutting and skinning this elk out.” Johnny instructed as he handed the knife to his son.
Miguel looked at the knife, turned and ran back to camp, away from his father.
Johnny stood there watching his son run away from him. A part of him wanted to go after the boy and comfort him, but deep down inside he knew that what he had just said, had to be said. That Miguel had to learn what it meant to pull the trigger and kill, whether it was a man or an animal.
Teresa rode up to the Lancer arch and stopped her horse. Memories came flooding back to her, memories of her childhood, her fathers death and Johnny. The memories of the day she left Lancer and the harsh words she had said to Johnny, and how he had told her he was a Lancer, and she would never be. Slapping him hard across the face as he spat hateful words to her. All the hate from that day she wished she could take back. Wiping away the tears, Teresa rode on into the yard and dismounted just as Murdoch walked out of the house.
“ Frank,would you see to the young ladies horse.” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes sir.” Frank said as he took the horse from her.
“ I see you’ve built more corrals and two more big barns.” Teresa noted as she looked around.
“ Yes, Johnny’ horse breeding has done real good.” Murdoch answered. “ Care to come inside?”
Teresa hesitated a moment, looking around. The rose garden she so loved was still there, full of big beautiful roses still she noticed as she started walking toward the front door with Murdoch. Stepping inside, she stopped and looked up the stairs she had climbed so many times, both good and bad times.
“ Maria, has made some lemonade, we can sit and talk out on the veranda if you would like?”
“ In here is fine.” Teresa suggested.
“ Alright. Go ahead and sit down and I’ll let Maria know to bring some refreshments in.” Murdoch stated.
Teresa stepped down into the grand room and looked around. “ Nothing has changed.” she said aloud as she stepped toward the chair she sat in every evening darning many socks, or doing her needle point sewing.
Murdoch came back to the great room and watched as Teresa slowly made her way around the room, touching some things, looking at others. He knew she was having memories of her time here.
“ Memories?” he asked as he stepped down into the room.
Teresa looked at him and nodded as she walked over to his desk and picked up a picture.
“ Johnny had that taken last year and surprised me with it on my birthday.” Murdoch stated.
“ He looks so much like his father.” she stated.
“ He has Johnny’ temper sometimes.”
Teresa looked up at him and smiled. “ I didn’t want to………I couldn’t bare for Miguel to grow up in an orphanage, not with him having a family I knew would love and raise him.”
“ Senor Lancer.” Maria said as she came in carrying a tray of cookies and lemonade.
“ Go ahead and set it on the table over there in front of the couch Maria.” Murdoch said. “ Maria, you remember Teresa don’t you?”
“Si, la recuerdo ella lastimó a mi Johnny ese día que se fue, diciéndole esas cosas horribles.” Maria said with hatred.
( Yes, I remember her. She hurt my Johnny that day she left, saying those awful things to him ) “ Luego regresas aquí y tiras a tu hijo porque no te molestan con él. Tú no eres la joven que el patrón crió. ( Then you come back here and throw away your son because you couldn’t be bothered with him ) Maria added.
“ Maria, that will be enough.” Murdoch ordered.
“ I did what I thought was right Maria. Would you rather I took Miguel to an orphanage?” Teresa spat back.
Maria looked at Murdoch, then turned and walked away.
“ You weren’t here when I left Miguel. Scott said you were in Mexico with Johnny.”
“ Yes. His grandfather asked him to come see him.”
“ His grandfather?” Teresa asked.
“ Yes, Maria’ father. He sold his estancia in Mexico and moved here to be closer to Johnny until he passed away a year later.”
“ Johnny must have been devastated?” Teresa asked.
“ He was when he got back from Montana.”
“ Montana? That’s a long ways off. He go there to sell his horses?”
“ What is it you want Teresa?” Murdoch asked abruptly.
Teresa sighed and went over to the couch and sat down. “ My husband died two years ago. I’m living in a place in Green River and working at the dress shop there.” Teresa told him. “ I would like to see them Murdoch, Johnny and Miguel.”
“ Teresa, The last time where here you kidnapped Miguel, and tried to kill Johnny. What makes you think you have a right to come here and see them? You said some horrible things to my son, I will never forgive you for.”
“ I know……I said some horrible things to him. I don’t care if you forgive me or not Murdoch. This isn’t about you, it’s about me seeing my son, and the kidnapping charge was dropped. It’s not kidnapping when it’s your own child. I guess maybe you all should have come to the trial. I was only sentenced to three years for attempted murder……You know, I knew I was with child when I left here and I didn’t say anything because I was afraid of what you would do.”
“ What I would do?”
“ Yes. I was afraid you would be angry at Johnny and cause him to leave Lancer……..Murdoch, every day I watched you when you were searching for him. Every day I seen the hurt and pain in your eyes from not knowing. I didn’t want to cause you any more hurt, so I left Lancer.”
“ Just what is it you want really?”
“ I told you. I just want to see them again. To talk to Johnny….to see my son. Is that to much to ask?”
“ I don’t have a say in it, but if I did, I wouldn’t let you.”
“ I was forced to give him up because he was a mestizo.”
“ He was your son. Don’t you dare come in this house and call him that. A mother is supposed to care for and love her child above all else.”
“ Like Maria loved Johnny, taking him away from here? Letting him grow up in Mexico, being abused?” Teresa snapped back as she stood up.
“ I think you better leave now.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Tell Johnny when he gets back, he can find me in Green River.” Teresa said.
Scott lead the pack horse out to were his brother was cleaning the elk. “ I take it, you made your point to Miguel about killing?”
Johnny looked up at him. “ Yeah, I hope I did.” he said as he walked over to the stream and washed the blood off his hands.
“ I didn’t want to do that to him Scott, but I had to do something to get it through his thick head.”
“ I’m not disagreeing with you Johnny. I just hope it doesn’t take away what you seem to have gained with him since we got here.”
“ Yeah, so do I.” Johnny said as he walked back over to the elk. “ Help me load these hind quarters up, would ya?”
“ Sure, since all the hard parts done.” Scott said with a grin.
“ How was he when he got back to camp?”
“ Upset. He went down to the lake and was throwing rocks in the water.” Scott said as he secured a hind quarter to the pack.
“ I think we should pack up and head to Strawberry. There’s a storm coming in.” Johnny suggested.
“ I noticed the clouds building. Temperature seems to be dropping too. I think heading to Strawberry to wait it out is a good idea little brother.” Scott said as they started back to camp.
Frank woke to rain hitting his face, throwing his blanket back as lightening flashed in the distance. Getting up, he walked over to the fire and found no hot embers. Walking over to the ledge he looked down at the meadow and found it empty. “Damn it.” he said as he spun around and went back and grabbed his saddle and saddled up, grabbing his stuff and shoving it in his saddlebags. “ Must have left at first light.” he said aloud as he threw the saddlebags on and secured them. Grabbing his rifle, he slid it in the scabbard and mounted up. Once in the meadow, Frank spurred his horse into a gallop heading over to the camp. Stopping his horse he got down and felt the embers of the fire and found them cold. “ Damn, if they’d left at dawn, those embers would still be warm. They must have pulled out last night because of this storm.” he said as the sky opened up and the rain came down hard as the wind picked up. “ Damn it, this rain, I’m going to lose their tracks.” he said as he rode out of the meadow.
Johnny, Scott and Miguel rode into Strawberry and dismounted at the old livery, leading the horses inside.
“ At least the roof is still good.” Scott stated.
“ Yeah. Miguel, see if there’s any hay in that loft.”
An hour later the Lancer’ walked into the saloon. Johnny scanned the room and found four people. A burly heavy set man behind the bar, a woman in a dress, torn and ragged, two men sat at a table playing cards.
“ Come on in out of the storm fellas.” the bartender said.
Scott and Johnny waked up to the bar.
“What do you have?” Scott asked.
“ Ain’t got no whiskey, got beer though.”
“ Two beers then.” Scott said as glanced around.
“ Don’t have anything really for the boy to drink ‘cept maybe coffee.”
“ He can have a beer if he wants.” Johnny said as he stepped up to the bar.
“ We were under the impression Strawberry was a ghost town” Scott stated.
“ Might as well be. Only four of us left.” the bartender stated as he poured a beer for Miguel.
“ You got anything to eat?” Johnny asked.
“ Meat wise, ain’t had any since…….Hell I can’t even remember when the last time was we had some meat.”
Scott leaned over closer to Johnny. “ Johnny.”
“ Miguel, go bring the pack horse here son.”
“ We killed an elk this morning. You’re more than welcome to the meat.”
“ Why that’s right nice of you mister……”
“ Lancer, Scott Lancer, this is my brother Johnny and his son Miguel.”
“ We have a couple rooms upstairs you fellas are more than welcome to stay the night in.”
Johnny walked into the barn with Scott the next morning and started saddling the horses.
“ You ever notice how the air smells after a good rain Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, I noticed.” Johnny answered as Miguel walked into the barn. “ How you feeling son?”
“ I’m okay.” Miguel answered.
“ Johnny Madrid……….come on out here you murdering bastard.” Frank yelled.
“ Papa?” Miguel said.
Johnny knew who it was calling him out. A man from his past, he had hoped would stay in his past.
“ Keep Miguel inside Scott.” Johnny instructed as he started toward the door.
“ Papa, I want to help you.” Miguel said as he started toward his father, only to be stopped by Scott.
“ You can’t. You go out there and you could get your father killed.” Scott said as he held the boys arm.
“ I’ll be alright son.” Johnny said before walking outside.
“ Come on out here and die you half-breed killer…………You murdered my brother and now I’m going to kill you.” Frank yelled.
“ Your brother was a fool. He ambushed me and paid the price for it.” Johnny said.
“ You cost us ten years in prison Madrid.”
“ You can ride out now, or join your brother in hell.” Johnny stated.
Miguel stood just outside the barn door watching his father become the man he so desperately wanted to forget.
“ Uncle Scott, Papa hasn’t been called out in many years. Help him.” Miguel pleaded.
Scott grabbed his Henry rifle and came over to the barn door, aiming it at Frank.
“ You’re the one going to hell Madrid.” Frank yelled as he drew as a bullet slammed into his chest.
Johnny stood there, gun still aimed at Frank Benson, watching the man slowly drop to his knees and fall forward dead. Holstering his gun, Johnny turned and seen his brother standing at the barn entrance, rifle in his hand, Miguel standing there also. He had always hoped his son would never see him called out. The inevitable bound to happen. Walking back to the barn, Johnny stopped and looked at his son.
“ Let’s go home.” he said
Murdoch walked out of the house and watched as his two sons and grandson rode under the Lancer arch. He had firmly instructed Maria to not to say anything to Johnny about Teresa coming to the ranch. Telling his son what she said, would be a talk he’d been dreading to have ever since she left a week ago.
“ You look tired boys.” he said.
“ All I want right now is a nice hot bath and a soft bed to sleep in.” Scott stated as he dismounted.
“ Hey Murdoch.” Johnny said as he dismounted.
“ And how are you doing young man?” Murdoch asked Miguel.
“ I’m tired grandfather.” Miguel stated as he dismounted and went to Murdoch and gave the man a big hug.
“Listen, get cleaned up and get some rest. You can tell me all about your vacation at supper.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Miguel, go ahead and go get cleaned up. I’ll take care of your horse.” Johnny suggested.
“ Yes sir.” Miguel answered before heading into the house.
Murdoch followed his sons into the barn. “ Everything alright?” he asked.
Johnny glanced at him and then Scott. “ Yeah. Got you an elk, but ended up giving it to the people still living in Strawberry.” he said.
Scott knew his brother didn’t want to tell his father about Benson calling him out. Talking about killing a man was something he never anted to do.
“ I’m gonna go get cleaned up.” Johnny said as he closed the gate to his horses stall and walked out.
“ You want to talk about it son?” Murdoch asked.
“ We left early because of a storm coming in. We held up in Strawberry. There’s still four people living there. They haven’t had meat for a long time, so we gave them the elk.” Scott told his father as he brushed his horse.
“ That’s fine. So I take it his plan to teach Miguel about killing didn’t work?” Murdoch asked.
“ It worked. Johnny shot the elk, Miguel couldn’t do it.” Scott said.
“ Miguel seems better.”
“ Yes sir. Johnny found out what’s been bothering him.” Scott said.
“ And what is that son?”
“ You’ll have to ask Johnny about that sir.” Scott stated as he put his horse in his stall.
“What are you not telling me son?” Murdoch asked, knowing something happened. Something involving his youngest.
Scott closed the stall gate and hung the halter up. “ It would seem that Frank Benson followed us. He called Johnny out in Strawberry. Miguel seen it all.”
“ My god. Johnny wasn’t hit was he?”
“ No. I think he’s more hurt about his son seeing him kill a man.”
“ Well, he wanted to teach Miguel. I’m just sorry he had to do it that way.” Murdoch stated.
“ So am I sir.”
“ I know it’s hard on your brother every time someone calls him out. I thought it was over. It had been so long.”
“ Until the Benson brothers showed up.” Scott added.
Maria will be glad you boys are back. She’s missed cooking for you.” Murdoch said as he put an arm around his sons shoulder and the two started walking to the house.
“ Cooking for us, or do you mean cooking for Johnny.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ Esa fue una buena comida Maria.” ( That was a fine meal Maria ) Johnny said.
“ No comiste lo suficiente cuando te fuiste. Eres flaco.” Maria stated ( You did not eat enough when you were gone. You are skinny )
“ Comí todos los dias momacita, preqúntale a Scott si no crees.” ( I ate every day momacita, ask Scott if you don’t believe me ) Johnny told her.
“ It’s true Maria. We caught some really nice fish every day. Me and Miguel had to fight Johnny off for some.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ Hey now……Who caught the most fish brother?” Johnny asked.
“ Okay, you did, But Miguel caught the biggest one.”
“ Es bueno tenerte tres en casa. Ha sido mucho para calmer por aquí.” Maria said before going back to the kitchen. ( It is good to have you three home. It has been much to quiet around here )
“ So you caught the biggest fish huh?” Murdoch asked Miguel.
“ Yes sir. Papa and uncle Scott said it was the biggest trout they had ever seen.”
“ Well I’m glad you had a good time.” Murdoch said.
“ So what happened around here while we were gone?” Johnny asked as he poured another glass of milk.
“ Uh..Uh we had a visitor last week.” Murdoch stated.
“ Oh yeah, who was that?” Johnny asked.
“ I’ll tell you about it later.” Murdoch replied, not wanting to say anything in front of Miguel.
“ Grandfather, would you like to play some checkers with me?” Miguel asked.
“ Why I would love to young man.” Murdoch answered.
“ Remember son, he’s a sore loser.” Johnny said with a laugh.
“ I think I’m gonna turn in now.” Miguel said with a yawn and hour later.
“ Alright young man. You played a good game.” Murdoch said. “ I think somebodies been giving you pointers.” he added, looking at his son.
“ Hey, don’t look at me.” Johnny said. “ Talk to Scott about that. I didn’t teach him anything about checkers or chess.”
“ Goodnight grandfather.” Miguel said as he stood up and gave Murdoch a hug.
“ Goodnight uncle Scott. I had a great time camping with you.”
“ Goodnight Miguel, I had a good time with you too.” Scott said as he hugged his nephew.
“ Goodnight father.”
“ Hey, you need to talk to me about anything son?” Johnny asked as he hugged him.
“ I think I’ll be okay. I understand what you said that day now.” Miguel stated before heading up to bed.
Murdoch walked over to the sideboard and poured three drinks. “ Join me outside boys?”
Johnny and Scott walked over and picked up their drinks and followed their father outside.
“ Okay Johnny, you got the floor.”
“ What do you want to know?” Johnny asked.
“ Miguel.” Murdoch said. “ What’s been bothering him?”
“ You’re not gonna believe it.” Johnny started as he looked at Scott. “ Teresa. He’s been angry with her for not wanting him. He doesn’t understand how she could just throw him away like she did……….I told him I was glad she did, because it gave me the greatest gift I could ever have….being a father……..He asked me if I thought that maybe she even wondered about him…..I told him I don’t know……He wants to see her Murdoch, I told him I don’t know were she’s even at or if she’s even still alive.” Johnny said.
“ Why does he want to see her Johnny?” Scott asked.
‘ He deserves answers. He has questions I can’t answer Scott. I’m not going to lie to my son like my mother did to me about you.” Johnny said, noticing a strange look on his fathers face. “ Something wrong Murdoch?”
“ She was here.” he said.
“ Who was here?” Johnny asked.
“ Last week, I was in Moro Coyo doing some bank business and there she was.” Murdoch responded.
“ There who was sir?” Scott asked.
“ Teresa.” Murdoch answered. “ She came out here the next day to talk. She wanted to talk to you son, but I told her you were gone.”
“ I thought she was in prison for almost killing you?” Scott stated. “ What does she want to talk about?” Scott asked.
“ She said she wants to see you and Miguel. She said she’s living in Green River, working at the dress shop there.”
“ I don’t trust her. She tried to kill you and kidnapped Miguel.” Scott said.
“ She said she served three years in prison for that.”
Johnny just stood there staring at his father, unable to move or speak.
Johnny turned away from them. Hurt and anger was what he was feeling, and he didn’t want them to see it.
“ John, are you alright?”
Johnny just nodded as he wrapped his arms around himself. He could sense his father walk up behind him and lay a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“ You don’t have to go see her son. But if you do, me or Scott can go with you.” Murdoch suggested.
“ No…….I appreciate that Murdoch, but this is something I have to do. She has a lot of questions to answer before I let her see Miguel.”
“ Alright son. We won’t say anything to Miguel. I’ve instructed Maria not to say anything.”
“ It’s getting pretty late. Why don’t we all turn in and we can discuss this further tomorrow when you’re not so tired son?” Murdoch suggested.
“ You two go on ahead. I’ll be up later. I don’t think I could go to sleep right now anyway.”Johnny said
“ You’re not going to take off and go to Green River tonight are you son?”
“ No…..No., I need to think about this before I go see her.”
Johnny came downstairs late the following day. “ Sorry I slept so late Murdoch.” he said as he walked into the great room and found his father sitting at his desk.
“ That’s alright son. You were tired.” Murdoch responded. “ Your brother and Miguel are out looking at the bull I purchased while you were gone.”
“ Oh yeah. You bought a new bull huh?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. I figured we could use some new blood.”
“ Yeah……Hey Murdoch, you think maybe Teresa is up to something?” Johnny asked as he picked up the picture he had taken of him and Miguel the year before.
“ Like what son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t know…… She did try and kill me once. Don’t you think it’s a little odd for her to show up here after thirteen years?” Johnny asked. “ I mean, no letters, nothing on his birthday, and now all the sudden she wants to see him.”
“ Trust me son, I’ve been wondering that myself ever since she was here. Don’t forget, she wants to see you also.”
“So how’s the books looking?” Johnny asked.
“ Good. If we sell the herd for top dollar this fall, we’ll have a nice little profit in the bank for next year.” Murdoch answered.
“ Don’t forget I have that hundred head I sold to the army at sixty five dollars each.”
“ That’s your money son.” Murdoch stated.
“ It’s Lancer money.” Johnny stated. “ I remember when I wanted to start a horse business, boy you were against it, said it would be a failure.”
“Well, I’m not to proud to admit I’m glad I was wrong about it son. You’ve turned it into a real fine business.”
“ Yeah, horses are easier to manage through the winter than cows.”
“ Well, I was beginning to think you were going to sleep all day brother.” Scott teased as he walked into the room.
“ Thought about it.” Johnny responded. “ Where’s Miguel?”
“ He’s down watching a mare he likes that came in with that new band brought in this morning. She looks like she’s with foal.” Scott stated.
“ Maybe I’ll take a walk down there and see what he’s liking.” Johnny said as he grabbed his gun.
“ Son, when were you planning on riding into Green River?”
“ Don’t know yet. I’ve got things to do around here. I’ve still got work to do with some of those horses before I deliver them to the army.” Johnny said as he walked out the door.
“ I don’t think he should go alone sir. I don’t trust her.” Scott stated after his brother walked out.
“ I don’t either son, but this is his call, not ours.”
“ I could ride in with him and stay at the saloon while he meets her.”
“ You can suggest that to Johnny, but we don’t know when he’s going.”
“ Did she give a deadline to meet with her?” Scott asked.
“ No, she just said to tell him she would be in Green River were she now lives.”
“ Why did she come back here?” Scott asked. “ She could have gone anywhere, why here?”
“ I wish I knew son.”
Johnny walked down to the corral and stood next to his son. “ You see any good ones in that bunch son?”
“ Yes sir. That mare with the four white socks.” Miguel answered.
“ You mean the one with the bald face, and as black as a crows wing in the sun?”
“I think she’s beautiful.” Miguel said.
“ Hank, cut that bald faced mare out with the four white socks. Put her in the round pen.”
Hank and two other hands cut the mare out and got her into the round pen.
“ Let’s see what she’s like. You wanna go in?”
“ Me?” Miguel asked.
“ Yeah. If she’s gonna be your horse, you need to start getting her to trust you. Remember what I do?”
“ Yes sir.” Miguel answered as he climbed over the fence and slowly walked out to the middle of the corral.
The mare ran around, snorting and tossing her head back and forth for a few minutes as Miguel just stood there. Stopping at the far end of the pen, she turned and faced him, stretching her head out toward him.
“ Put your hand out and see what she does.” Johnny suggested. He noticed Hank watched at the gate, rope ready for if the mare charged threateningly.
The mare walked to within a few feet of Miguel and stopped, head still stretched out, nostrils working, trying to see if she was facing a friend or enemy. Stomping her right front foot at a fly biting her, the mare walked up to Miguel and stuck her nose to his chest, taking in his smell.
“ Slowly reach up and touch her on the neck son.”
Miguel did and the mare raised her head up over his shoulder and pulled him back into her chest.
“ Looks like he’s got the touch like you do Johnny.” Hank stated.
“ Yeah, maybe. Son, see if she’ll follow you around the pen.” Johnny couldn’t be happier as he watched the mare follow his son around the pen like a lost puppy. “ Looks like you got yourself a new friend.”
Miguel stopped at the fence where his father stood. “ Is she with foal?” he asked.
“ Yeah son, she is. I’d say she’s gonna have a foal in a month or so.” Johnny said. “ Come on out of there and lets see what she does.”
Miguel came out of the pen and the mare tried to follow him out, but stopped when Johnny came to the gate.
“ She’s got good strong legs on her, a deep chest and a big rear. She’s gonna be a good horse for you son. You won’t be able to break her until next summer when the foal is weaned, but you can work her a little each day on trusting you.”
“ I’d like that. So is she mine?”
“ She is if you want her and you do exactly as I say in gentling her down and breaking her. Don’t think she’s not wild son, just because she let you touch her and she followed you around.”
“ No sir. I think that and she could hurt me or kill me.” Miguel responded.
“ That’s right. Why don’t you go get cleaned up for supper, you can tell Scott and your grandfather what you did.”
“ She needs a special name.” Miguel said.
“ Watch her for a spell, maybe she’ll do something that will give her a name all it’s own son.”
Miguel worked the mare, listening to what his father said. Every day the mare followed him around stopped when he stopped, trotted and pranced around. Johnny was amazed at how well the mare took to a halter and lead.
“ Let’s see how she takes to a bridle son.” Johnny said as he walked up to the mare and let her sniff the bridle and bit. Johnny had no trouble getting her to open her mouth and accept the cold metal. “ Walk her around with it and see what she does. If she pulls back on it, talk and reassure her. If she pulls to hard, let go of the reins, I don’t want her dragging you.”
“ Okay.” Miguel answered as he started walking the mare around.
“ She looks like she’s coming along real good son.” Murdoch said as he walked up.
“ Yeah, she’s responding to him real good. I’ve never seen a mare like her before.” Johnny stated.
“ Son, your brother is going to Green River to pick up some supplies. He was wondering if you wanted to ride in with him?”
Johnny sighed. When’s he going?
“ Tomorrow.” Murdoch answered.
“ Guess I can’t really keep putting it off. I don’t want her riding back out here and Miguel seeing her.”
“ I don’t think he would know who she is if she showed up here son. He was just a baby when she left him here.”
“ He’s seen her picture Murdoch.” Johnny stated. “ That’s good son. Now drop the reins and see what she does…..Tell Scott I’ll ride in with him, but I want to meet her alone, so I’ll help him load the supplies up and then he can come on back here.”
“ Alright son.” Murdoch said.
“ I have a name for her now father, grandfather.” Miguel said as he walked the mare over to the fence.
“ What is it son?” Johnny asked.
“ Bella, uncle Scott said it means beautiful in Italian or Latin.”
“ Well leave it to Scott to know that. I think Bella is a beautiful name and fits her perfectly son.”
“ So do I.” Murdoch added. “ I think you’re doing a really good job with her. You have your fathers way with horses.”
Scott stopped the wagon outside Carters Hardware store and set the brake as Johnny jumped down and went to the back to untie his horse.
“ Scott, Johnny, I got almost all your father ordered. The hinges wont be in till next week, but all the other is here, ready to be loaded up.” Carter told them.
“ That’s fine. I’ll back the wagon around to the dock to load it up.” Scott said as Johnny walked his horse around the team and tied him to the hitch rail away from the dock.
Two hours later Johnny and Scott finished loading all the supplies. “ Want to get a cold beer before I head back?” Scott asked.
“ Sure, you buying?” Johnny asked as he went and untied his horse.
“ Don’t I usually little brother.” Scott asked jokingly as he climbed into the wagon.
“ You’re the oldest, you’re supposed to.” Johnny answered as he swung up in the saddle.
“ Well, I guess I’ll head back to the ranch.” Scott said as he finished his beer. “ Unless you want me to stay in town.”
Johnny stood up. “ No, I’ll be alright. Have Maria keep a plate warm for me.”
“ Sure. What do I tell Miguel if he ask were you’re at?” Scott asked as the brothers headed out the door.
“ Tell him I had some business to take care of and I’ll see him in the morning.”
Scott climbed up in the wagon and released the brake. “ You sure you don’t want me to stay?”
“ No. Get on out of here before it gets to late and you miss supper.” Johnny ordered as he slapped his brothers stomach playfully.
“ Teresa, this is so beautiful. I can’t believe you got it done for me so quickly.”
“ It was really simple, I just worked on it at night. I’m glad you are pleased.” Teresa answered as she heard the shop door open and looked to see Johnny standing there.
“ Young man, this is a ladies dress shop. Men’s clothing you will find down the street.” the old lady said.
“ It’s alright Mrs. Carver.” Teresa said as she walked her customer to the door.
“ Why, I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was you Johnny Lancer. Please forgive me. Tell your father I look forward to seeing him at the fall dance.”
“ Yes ma’am.” Johnny answered.
“ I was just about to go home and eat some lunch.” Teresa stated.
A short time later Johnny found himself on the front porch of the little house at the end of town.
“ Come on in. I have some cold lemonade I made up this morning if you would like some.” Teresa suggested.
“ No thank you.” Johnny said as he stepped just inside the door. “ Murdoch said you were back.”
“ Yeah. I imagine it came to a surprise to you when he told you I was here…..You probably thought I was still in prison.”
“ Why are you here Teresa?” Johnny demanded, more than asked.
“ I told Murdoch why I didn’t tell you Johnny.” Teresa said as she walked into the room carrying a tray she set down on the table.
“ That may be Teresa, but why did you come back here. What do you want?” Johnny demanded.
Teresa walked over to him. “ Simple, now that my husband is dead, I want to see my son. I have a right as his mother to see him.”
“ You were married when you tried to kidnap Miguel and kill me?”
“ Yes. My husband was in Europe at that time.” Teresa stated. “ I want to see my son.”
“ You gave that right up the day you dumped him at Lancer.”
“ I did what was right for my son…………If I had known Doug and his family weren’t going to accept Miguel, I never would have married him Johnny. I was young, pregnant and all alone.”
“ So you chose your rich way of life and highfalutin husband and his family over your own flesh and blood. So don’t stand there and tell me you were young, alone and afraid. You wouldn’t have been if you had done the right thing and stayed at Lancer.. We would have took care of you. You never cared about Miguel, because if you did, you would have chose him over all that bullshit.”
“ I guess you forgot that Murdoch was sending me away back east to keep us apart?” Teresa said.
“ I would have married you……I loved you Teresa. It took me a long time to get over the hurt you caused me when you left.”
“ Oh I just bet you were hurt Johnny. Tell me, how many whores have you been with since I left?…….Or better yet, how long after I left did you go to a whore?” Teresa demanded. “ No wait, you solved that by going to Montana?…….I bet that rancher just loved you bedding his daughter.” Teresa stated.
“ How did you know I went to Montana? You were in prison for trying to kill me.” Johnny responded.
“ It doesn’t matter.” Teresa said. “ Come sit down with me.”
Johnny walked over and sat down on the couch. “ So how’d your husband die?” Johnny asked, still wondering how she knew about Montana and Beth.
Teresa sat down on the couch and poured two glasses of lemonade, and offered Johnny one. “ Cholera. He got sick on the ship when he come home from Europe. There was nothing the doctors could do.”
“ Where were you living?” Johnny asked.
“ New Orleans. Doug was very successful in growing sugarcane. He had the second largest plantation in New Orleans.”
Teresa said with a touch of sadness. “ I know Scott fought in the civil war to free slaves, but the blacks that worked for Doug, they loved their job. He treated them almost like family, kind of like the way Murdoch treats his workers.”
“ Can’t see you giving up that life to come back here and live in a place like Green River.”
“ Why…….Scott lived in Boston, and he gave that up to come live out here. It’s no different.” Teresa said. “ Tell me about Miguel, whats he like? Does he have a girlfriend?”
Johnny rubbed his forehead. “ He’s like me I guess. He’s turning into a fine man and becoming real good with horses………….Look, Teresa, I don’t know if Miguel will want to see you again. The last time he seen you, you kidnapped him and tried to kill me right in front of him…….He has a lot of anger toward you.”
“ Let me guess, you haven’t said anything to him about me have you?” Teresa suggested.
“ Yes……. He has a lot of anger toward you for what you did to him. He hates you for abandoning him.” Johnny said. “ I won’t let you hurt him anymore than you already have.”
Teresa moved closer to him. “ Johnny, I have no intention of hurting him. I have no intention of trying to kidnap him again, and I sure as hell have no intention of trying to kill you. Miguel can ask me anything he wants…….I just want to see him. See how much he’s grown, how much he looks like you. That’s all.” she said as she stepped closer. “ I never stopped thinking about you, for the longest time. When Doug would make love to me, it was you I was seeing.” she said as she put her arms around Johnny’ neck.
Johnny took in the smell of the perfume Teresa was wearing, the beauty of her face, the firmness of her breast as they rose and fell with every breath she took. How the gold necklace with a diamond pendant lay ever so gently between those breast. “ Teresa.” was all he could say before her lips touched his.
“ For old times sake, kiss me like you used to Johnny.” Teresa asked softly as she pressed into him.
“ God I loved you.” Johnny said as he kissed her.
“ Stay with me Johnny.” Teresa panted.
Johnny hadn’t felt the fire and passion he was feeling now, in a long time. The women at the saloon he visited on occasion, did nothing to him like this. What he was feeling now brought back memories of that first time he took her all those years ago. Reaching up, he cupped her breast in his hands and moaned as he continued to kiss her passionately.
Teresa moaned loudly as she slid her hand down lower.
Johnny responded to her touch, totally lost in the passion, wanting so badly to give in and let go. Looking into her eyes before he grabbed her hand and removed it.
“ I can’t do this.” Johnny said as he desperately to get his feelings and breathing under control. “ This isn’t right Teresa.”
“ Nobody has to know. You don’t even have to stay all night if you don’t want to Johnny. Please, it’s been so long since I was loved and touched. Doug could never make me feel the way you did.” Teresa said.
“ I’m not doing this Teresa……….. What we had was in the past.” Johnny said. “ I’ll talk to Miguel and see if he wants to see you……If he does, it will be at Lancer, not here. I don’t want you coming anywhere near him unless he does.” Johnny said before turning and walking to the door. “ I did want you Teresa, at one time. I would have spent the rest of my life with you…….a long time ago.” Johnny said before walking out the door.
Johnny rode into the Lancer yard and dismounted a little after midnight. Going to the saloon after and getting his need taken care of by one of the girls didn’t make his mood any better like he’d hoped it would. Glancing at the house, he seen a light still shining and knew it would be his father waiting up.
Murdoch heard his son ride in just after midnight as he sat at his desk. A million thoughts ran through his mind, wondering if his youngest was alright. When Johnny came in the doors off the veranda, he could tell his mood wasn’t good.
“ What are you doing still up?” Johnny asked as he went to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila and downed it.
“ I was just about to go to bed when you rode up son. I was working on the books.” Murdoch responded. “ Are you okay?”
“ Yeah, I’m just fine.” Johnny answered as he poured another shot and downed it. “ Guess I lost track of the time.” he said as he walked over to the couch and sat down.
Murdoch walked over and sat down across from him. “ Care to talk about it son?”
“ She want’s to see Miguel.” he stated as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He could still feel her, still smell her perfume, still feel her lips on his.
“ What are you going to do?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny sighed. “ I told her I would talk to Miguel, and that it has to be up to him. That if he decides he wants to see her, it would have to be here, not in Green River.”
“ That seems like the logical thing to do son. Or is there another reason you don’t want her seeing him in town?”
“ No……I don’t know.” Johnny said with frustration. “ She claims that’s why she came back here. To see Miguel.”
“ But you don’t believe that?” Murdoch asked.
“ No. She was living in New Orleans. It doesn’t make any sense why she would give up a life of luxury to come back here just to work in a dress shop. She said her husband Doug died from cholera……….That he had the second biggest sugarcane plantation in New Orleans. Why would she give all that up, to come back here to see a son she didn’t want?”
“ I don’t know son. I believe she wants to see Miguel, but I like you, think she has an ulterior motive. She’s wanting something. We just have to figure out what that is.”
She tried to get me to stay the night with her.” Johnny stated as he stood up. “ Damn it, Murdoch. I loved her so much. I would have married her and gave her everything I could.”
Murdoch knew what his son was feeling, he felt the same way for a long time, knowing if Maria had come back to Lancer, he would give in to her seduction.
“ Son, I know it wasn’t easy seeing her today. That it brought back memories you wanted to forget. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, there’s a slight chance you still love her?”
Johnny walked over to the fireplace and wrapped his arms around himself. “ I know I do. I didn’t know it until I seen her today. When she kissed me, I almost lost it.” Johnny said. “ Hell Murdoch, she kidnapped Miguel and tried to kill me…How can I still have feelings for her after all these years?”
“ I can’t answer that for you son. Only you can.” Murdoch stated. “ You have to reach in your heart and see if it really is love, or is it lust you’re feeling toward her?”
“ There’s a difference?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. When you and Teresa were together, that was love. When you’re with a whore in town, that’s lust.” Murdoch explained.
“ Seems to me they both get a man what he wants.”
“ Love gives you so much more than that son. You pay a whore to get what you want. Did you pay Teresa?”
Johnny sighed and shook his head. “ No……I guess I see what you’re saying……..Damn it…..I wish I’d never fell in love with her. The only good to come from this is my son.”
“ And If Miguel decides he want s to see her, spend some time with her here at Lancer, can you control your feelings?”
“ I told her she could only meet Miguel here at Lancer.”
“ Is that because if you were alone with her again, you wouldn’t be able to refuse her advances son?”
“ I know I wouldn’t.”
“ You’re a grown man. You’re doing a remarkable job raising your son. There’s nothing wrong with still loving his mother.”
“ What about you?” Johnny asked.
“ What about me son?”
“ If my mother walked in that front door right now, could you still love her the way you did before she took me away from here? Could you still love her knowing she told me lies about you?”
“ Yes….Your mother was a very beautiful woman. It was hard to refuse her. Her beauty was an addiction I guess you could say.” Murdoch answered. “ Listen, get some rest and think about how you’re going to tell Miguel. Think about what you want to do Johnny, no matter what you decide, I will support you son.”
Scott opened his brothers bedroom door and found him sitting in the chair, looking out the window. “ Morning.”
Johnny glanced at him, then went to looking back out the window.
“ You look like you haven’t got any sleep.” Scott said as he walked over to him. “ That bad?”
Johnny sighed, then proceeded to tell him what happened.
“ Johnny, no matter what you decide, make sure it’s for the right reasons brother.” Scott suggested.
“ What’s that supposed to mean?” Johnny asked as he stood up and went over to the bed and sat down.
“ What I mean is, Miguel.” Scott started as he sat down next to his brother. “ You’re a good person and I’m proud to have you as my brother. I’ll help you in any way I can with this, but in the end, the decision is yours. All me and Murdoch can do is offer you advice and support.”
“ I told her he’s angry with her for leaving him. That he has a lot of anger inside for her.”
“ Yes he does. If he decides he wants to see her, it can only go one of two ways brother.”
“ You know what worries me Scott?” Johnny asked.
“ No, what little brother?”
“ I don’t want you saying anything to Murdoch about this” Johnny ordered. “ It scares me that she’s going to try and take Miguel away from me.”
“ Johnny, there is no way Teresa will get Miguel away from you. We won’t allow it.” Scott said.
“ Even if she uses Madrid against me to get him?” Johnny asked.
“ You haven’t been Madrid for the better part of ten years now Johnny.”
“ It was Madrid that the Benson brothers came gunning for.”
“ True, but in how many years? Johnny, I think people have forgotten about Johnny Madrid. People in this valley know you as Johnny Lancer, the son of Murdoch Lancer, a hard working good, decent, and caring person.”
Johnny walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila and downed it, pouring another he walked over and sat down, watching his son and brother play checkers.
“ He’s got you beat Scott.” he said.
“ Not yet he doesn’t.”
“ He will in two more moves.” Johnny said with a laugh.
Scott studied the board and didn’t see what his brother seen until too late.
Miguel and Johnny both busted a gut laughing. “ I…….I told you Scott.”
“ Want to play another game uncle Scott?” Miguel asked.
“ No, I know when I’ve been played. You young man, have been taking lessons from your father.”
“ Nope. I just watch the two of you play.” Miguel said as he put the checkers away.
“ Come on over here and sit down son. I need to have a talk with you…….Murdoch, Scott would you join us please?”
Murdoch and Scott sat down in the chairs across from the couch, both knowing what was about to happen.
“ Miguel, you remember the other night your grandfather saying there was a visitor here while we were gone?”
“ Son, that visitor was your mother.” Johnny said.
“ My…….my mother was here?”
“ Yes. I ran into her in Moro Coyo when I came out of the bank.” Murdoch stated.
“ What did she want?” Miguel asked.
“ Son, she wanted to talk to me.” Johnny told him.
“ She didn’t ask about me?”
“ Yes she did. She’s here son, because she wants to see you.” Johnny explained.
“ I……….I hate her……..Why is she here?…..Why now?…She didn’t care about me enough to keep me….Why does she want to see me now?” Miguel demanded as tears began to roll down his cheeks.
“ Listen to me son……I told her you were angry with her, and that you may not want to see her……….She said that if you decide to, you can ask her anything you want.”
“ But why now?”
“ Her husband died two years ago from cholera. She said it was his family that made her give you up.”
“ Because I am a mestizo, a half-breed like you………I have blue eyes like you……..She didn’t want me because I reminded her of you.” Miguel said angrily as he stood up.
Johnny stood up also. “ I don’t know if that’s the real reason she did it son. I asked her and she said what I just told you, that her husbands family made her give you up.”
“ Miguel, I also asked her when she was here, and she told me the same thing.” Murdoch stated.
“ Miguel, listen to me son…….If you decide you want to see her…..I will have her come here, to Lancer, I don’t want you meeting her alone. I don’t trust her.”
“ I……..I don’t know what to do papa……….A part of me wants to see her…..To ask her how she could just throw me away like she did……..But I don’t know her…..How do I know that what she tells me is the truth?”
“ Because I will be right there with you son……..I’m not going to leave you alone with her.”
“ Where is she?”
“ She’s living in Green River. She opened a dress shop there and bought a little house on the end of town.”
“ Where was she before?”
“ Living in New Orleans, she said. I guess her late husband had the second largest sugarcane plantation there and she sold it when he died.”
“ When she left here….Did you know she was pregnant with me?”
“ No I didn’t son. She knew she was, but she never said anything to me. If I had known, I would have married her…….Miguel, listen to me, I loved her very much. You can ask Scott or Murdoch..It tore me up inside when she left me and the hateful words she spoke that day.”
Miguel stepped over to Johnny and wrapped his arms around him. “ She won’t try and take me away from you will she?”
“ No way…..If she tries son, she better be ready for a fight, because nobody is taking my son away from me.”
“ I love you papa.”
“ And I love you son………Look at me.” Johnny said as he put his left hand under Miguel’ chin. “ This is your decision son. I can’t make you see her. I can only be there with you and support you if you do.” Johnny told him. “ I want you to promise me something.”
“ Promise me you won’t take off and go to Green River to see her alone. Can you do that?”
“ I promise father.” Miguel answered. “ I think I’ll go to bed now.”
“ Alright…..I’ll see you in the morning.” Johnny said as he hugged his son.
“ Goodnight uncle Scott….grandfather.”
“ Goodnight Miguel.” Scott and Murdoch said as they stood up.
Johnny watched his son head upstairs before walking over to the sideboard and pouring three drinks.
“ I know that wasn’t easy for you to do son.” Murdoch said as he walked over.
“ He handled it better than I thought he would.” Scott stated.
Miguel walked into the kitchen and found Maria preparing lunch a few days later. “ ¿Puedo hablar contigo?” ( Can I talk to you?)
“ Si pequeño¿ De qué quieres hablarme?” ( Yes little one. What is it you wish to speak to me about?) Maria asked as she chopped up carrots.
“ Mi madre.” ( My mother )
“ ¿Qué es lo que deseas saber?” ( What is it you wish to know?)
“¿ Cómo era ella cuando estaba aqui? Antes de que ella y mi padre estuvieran juntos? ( What was she like when she was here? Before her and my father were together?)
Maria added the carrots to the stew, and walked over and sat down next to Miguel. “¿ Tu abuelo o tío Scott no te han contado nada de ella?” ( Your grandfather or uncle Scott have not told you anything about her?)
Miguel just shook his head.
“ El jefe la crió cuando su padre fue asasinado. Le enseñéñé a ser una dama, pero…..cuando tu padre vino aquí. Era joven y vulnerable y Johnny se aprovechó de eso.” ( The boss raised her when her father was killed. I taught her how to be a lady, but…..when your father came here. She was young and vulnerable and Johnny took advantage of that.)
“ ¿Quieres decir que la dejó embarazada conmigo?” ( You mean he got her pregnant with me?)
Maria shook her head.
“ ¿ Era hermosa?” ( Was she beautiful?)
“ Sí, como una rosa.” ( Yes, like a rose.)
“¿ Y cuando ella vino aquí cuando nos fuimos?” ( And when she came here when we were gone?) Miguel asked.
“ Ella sique siendo hermosa.” ( She is still beautiful.) she said. “ Usted está preocupado si?” ( You are troubled yes?)
“ Ella quiere verme El padre dijo que dependía de mí, pero no me dejaba veria sola.” ( She wants to see me. Father said it was up to me, but he wouldn’t let me see her alone.)
“ Tal vez sea tu padre guien no la vea sola. Ella es muy seductora.” ( Perhaps it is your father who should not see her alone? She is very seductive.)
“ Creo que todavía la ama.” ( I think he still loves her.) Miguel said.
“ No es mi lugar decirlo, y sé que tu padre te quiere mucho, pero mientras tu madre estuvo aquí, fue violada por un hombre del pasado de tu padre. El patrón, culpó a Johnny por esto durante mucho tiempo. Fue tu abuelo quien la despidió.” Maria said as she stood up and walked over to stir the stew. ( It is not my place to say, and I know your father loves you dearly, but while your mother was here, she was raped by a man from your fathers past. El Patron, he blamed Johnny for this for a very long time. It was your grandfather who sent her away.)
“ No entiendo.” ( I don’t understand.)
“ Tu padre era Johnny Madrid, era salvaje y peligroso. Tu madre lo encontró baleado y lo trajo a casa cuando El Patron y el padre Scott se habian ido. El Patron quería que lo echaran cuando supo que era Johnny Madrid, pero la señora Teresa no lo dejó. Fue mientras se estaba arreglando, se aprovecho de la señora. ?l estuvo aquí solo con ella esa noche por las costillas rotas. Ese hombre casi mata a tu padre.”
( Your father was Johnny Madrid, he was wild and dangerous. Your mother found him shot and brought him home when El Patron and senor Scott were gone. El Patron wanted him thrown out when he learned he was Johnny Madrid, but senora Teresa wouldn’t let him. It was while he was mending he took advantage of the senora. He was here alone with her that night because of broken ribs. That man, he almost killed your father.)
“ Is everything alright in here?” Scott asked when he walked into the kitchen.
Miguel stood up, glanced at Scott and headed for the back door, stopping, and facing Maria. “ Gracias.” he said before walking out of the kitchen.
Johnny, Scott and Murdoch stood at the table, looking over a section of Lancer on a map when Miguel walked in.
“ Did a man come here and rape my mother?” Miguel yelled.
All three Lancer men raised their heads, shocked by the outburst they just heard.
“ Answer me.” Miguel yelled.
“ What are you talking about Miguel?” Johnny asked. “ Son, I don’t like the way you’re speaking to me. You better lose the attitude right now.” Johnny demanded firmly.
“ She was raped because of your past. You never wanted me, just like she never wanted me.” Miguel said before turning and running upstairs, slamming his door.
“ What the hell was that all about?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t know, but I fully intend on finding out.” Johnny said as he started toward the stairs.
“ Johnny wait.” Scott yelled. “ I think I might know.”
Johnny walked over to him. “ What?”
“ This afternoon I walked into the kitchen, my Spanish isn’t that good, I interrupted Miguel and Maria, they were having a pretty serious discussion. Miguel looked like he was pretty angry.”
“ Why the hell would she tell him about that?” Johnny asked.
“ You go talk to your son……I’ll go have a discussion with Maria. We’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Johnny went up to his sons room and knocked on the door and slowly opened it. “ Can I come in?”
Miguel looked away from him as tears ran down his face.
Johnny walked over and sat down next to his son on the bed. “ Hey, look at me…….Look at me Miguel, please.”
Miguel slowly raised his head up, tears filled his eyes.
“ She told me.” Miguel blurted out. “ That my mother found you injured and brought you back here and while she nursed you back, you took advantage of her and got her pregnant and that a man from your past showed up here when you were hurt and raped her and almost killed you.”.
“ What……..son……….. yes a man from my past showed up here when I was hurt and raped your mother. I was tied in a chair and couldn’t help her. Who told you this?”
“ Why did Maria tell you this?”
“ I asked her to tell me about my mother before you met her. She said it wasn’t her place to tell me, but did.”
“ Son..I’m sorry. I never told you about your mother because you never asked me anything until we were camping. It wasn’t Maria’ place to say anything to you. You should have come to me, Scott or Murdoch and asked us.”
“ She said grandfather blamed you for what happened and that it was grandfather who sent her away. That you lied to me.”
“ I have never lied to you Miguel, yes I would have told you the truth, just like I’m telling you the truth now.”
Murdoch walked into the kitchen and demanded to know what Maria said to Miguel to set him off. When she finished telling him what was said, his anger boiled.
“ It wasn’t your place to tell him those things about Johnny and Teresa. Especially telling him about his mother being raped…..Why would you do that?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because he asked me, and I will not lie to him.” Maria responded.
“ Not lying to him is fine, but you viciously attacked Johnny in what you did tell Miguel.”
“ She is evil. She will do nothing but hurt Miguel and Johnny.”
“ It’s not your place to decide or say anything concerning Johnny and Teresa. What happens between them is none of our business. Unless Johnny asks us for help……..You keep your opinions to yourself. I will not have anymore hateful things said. Do I make myself clear?”
“ Si Patron. You will see. She is evil and she brings pain to this family.”
“ Yo might want to think about the hurt you just cost Johnny.” Murdoch said before walking out of the kitchen.
“ What did she say?” Scott asked when Murdoch walked back into the great room.
Murdoch went over and poured a drink and downed it. “ I wish she had never come back here.”
“ Who…..Teresa?” Scott asked.
“ Yes.” Murdoch responded, then told Scott what was said to Miguel.
Johnny came downstairs and walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila.
“ Is he alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t know. I told him everything I knew about his mother. How we met…..How I fell in love with her……Everything.” Johnny answered as he walked over to the couch and sat down. “ He said he asked Maria about Teresa, before we met. He wanted to know what she was like. He said that since neither of you spoke about her, and I didn’t speak about her, that it was forbidden.”
“ I spoke to Maria, and she told me what she said to him.” Murdoch said as he walked over and sat down next to Johnny on the couch.
“ I guess if I had just told him about his mother, none of this would have happened.”
“ You can’t blame yourself for what Maria said to him son…….She was out of line.”
“ Was she?………..Telling him about his mother being raped was wrong, but I should have talked to him about her after she tried to kill me.”
Miguel hardly spoke to anyone for several days. He either worked with the mare, did his chores or stayed in his room.
“ How long are you going to keep giving me the silent treatment son?” Johnny asked.
Miguel looked at him. “ I want to see her.” he said.
“ Alright. Are you sure son?”
“ Yes. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these past few days, and I know I haven’t spoken to any of you much, and I’m sorry. I need to see her. I need her to answer questions that only she can answer.”
“ Alright. Tomorrow is Sunday. I’ll ride into Green River and tell her.” Johnny said. “ When do you want her to come out here son?”
“ When she can.” Miguel answered.
“ You want me to go with you Johnny?” Scott asked.
Johnny knew why his brother asked and thought about him going along. “ No Scott. I’ll handle it.” he said as he silently prayed it wasn’t a mistake after their last meeting.
Johnny rode into Green River and stopped at the little white house on the edge of town, finding a horse tied to the hitching rail, he dismounted and tied his horse to the rail next to the other horse, and walked up the steps to the door and knocked, wondering if she had someone visiting her. Teresa opened the door wearing a light blue shirt and snug fitting pants and boots.
“ Johnny……I wasn’t expecting you today. I just got back from taking a morning ride. Come on in.” Teresa stated.
Johnny stood there, taking in the way her shirt fit snugly to her. Unbuttoned one to many, showing the crevice between her breast, and also showing she wasn’t wearing anything under the shirt. Her pants fitting snugly to her lower body just like when he first met her.
“ I can come back another time.” Johnny said.
“ Don’t be silly. Come on in.” Teresa said as she sat down on the couch and removed her boots.
Johnny stepped into the house and removed his hat as his eyes adjusted to the light inside.
“ I always did love going for an early morning ride. Listening to the birds as they start to sing as the sun comes up.” Teresa stated as she walked into the kitchen. “ I was just about to fix me some lunch. Why don’t you come on in the kitchen with me while I do?” she suggested.
Johnny hesitantly walked into the kitchen, wondering if this meeting would go like the last one, because if it did, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to stop himself this time.
“ You being here can only mean one of two things.” Teresa stated.
“ Yeah. Miguel said he wants to see you.” Johnny told her as he sat down at the table.
“ I was beginning to think that maybe he wouldn’t.” Teresa said as she walked over with a glass of lemonade for him, and set it down on the table.
Johnny took a sip of the lemonade. “ You always did make good lemonade.” he told her.
“ Thank you.” Teresa said. “ Want a sandwich? I have plenty of ham left and I made the bread last night.”
“ Thanks, but no thanks.”
Teresa walked over and sat down at the table. “ I must say Johnny, after our last meeting, I was afraid you wouldn’t come back.”
“ I almost didn’t.” Johnny stated. “ I almost had Scott ride in and tell you.”
“ How is Scott?” Teresa asked.
“ He’s good.” Johnny said.
“ Is he married yet?” Teresa asked.
“ No.” Johnny told her.
“ So did you ever find someone to make you happy and give you more children?”
“ No, guess I just never wanted to get in a serious relationship. Been pretty busy with the ranch and all.”
“ What about the daughter of that rancher you worked for in Montana, Beth wasn’t it?”
Johnny wondered how she knew about Beth.
“ What about you. You ever have any kids with Doug?”
“ No….. Miguel is the only child I’ve had. You were the only one who got me pregnant. Must be because you were so aggressive when you made love to me.”
Johnny cleared his throat. “ You were pretty demanding and aggressive yourself.” Johnny stated, feeling uncomfortable.
“ You still visit the whorehouses though on Saturday nights though. I bet the women working there love it when you come in.” Teresa stated.
“ So, you’re still living as Johnny Madrid I see.” Teresa asked as she stood up and took her plate to the sink.
“ No, I go by Lancer now and have for a long time.” Johnny responded.
“ Really…..Then why you still wear that gun?………..No wait, you got called out by the Benson brothers.”
“ How’d you know about Benson brothers?” Johnny asked.
“ A girl has ways of knowing.” Teresa said as she turned around and stood there facing him. “ Besides, they were asking around about Johnny Madrid here in Green River.”
Johnny stood up and walked over to her. “ You talk to them?” he asked.
“ No, not directly. I overheard them asking about you on the street.” Teresa answered.
“ What do you want?” Johnny asked.
“ I think you know what I want Johnny.” Teresa stated as she licked her lips.
“ You sure you can handle it?” Johnny asked as he stepped closer.
“ Oh trust me, I know I can handle anything you do to me. I did before, only I’m not a little girl now.”
“ No you’re not.” Johnny said as he ran his left thumb over her bottom lip, seeing it quiver as he touched her ever so softly. “ You still like to play dangerous games I see.”
“ I’m not playing any games Johnny.” Teresa responded as she put her arms around his neck.
“ Yeah you are. You come back here and expect me to just take you to bed, like nothing ever happened.” Johnny said, just inches from her face.
“ You think he’s alright?” Scott asked.
“ I hope so son. If he’s not, Teresa will find herself back in prison.” Murdoch said.
“ What if she tries to seduce him again?”
Murdoch looked at his oldest. “ There’s nothing we can if she does. All we can do is hope your brother uses good judgment.”
“ I wonder why she came back here. I mean, she went to prison for trying to kill him. She gave Miguel up, yet she comes back here. I find it a little odd is all.”
“ So do I son, but your brother has always been good at reading people. Maybe he’ll find out today.”
“ For all our sake’s, I hope so.”
Late afternoon,Johnny slowly got out of bed and picked up his clothes and walked out into the living room to get dressed. Teresa never moved. He knew by her breathing that she was sound asleep. Hell he was surprised he was even awake after their vigorous lovemaking. Sitting on the couch as he put his boots on and stood up. Glancing around he noticed a file sitting on a small desk in the corner. Walking over, he recognized the emblem on the front of the file, picking it up, he opened it. It was a Pinkerton report on him. Only this one was different from the one his father had. Glancing through the report, he seen how Teresa knew about Beth and Montana and just about everything else that had happened after she tried to kill him. Finding a letter inside, he learned it wasn’t Teresa having the Pinkerton’ keep an eye on him, it was her late husband Doug. Then he noticed another paper addressed to Teresa O’Brian, which he thought odd since she had only been widowed a short time. The date clearly showed the letter was only six months ago received.
“ Now why would he be checking me out?” Johnny asked himself. Putting the file back, he grabbed his gun and quietly left the house and headed home.
“ What happened today?” Murdoch asked.
“ She has a Pinkerton report on me.” Johnny said.
“ A Pinkerton report….Why?” Murdoch asked.
“ From what I could see, her late husband is the one who had them checking me out. It had everything in it from just before she tried to kill me to now.”
“ That makes no sense.” Scott stated.
“ It makes perfect sense Scott.” Johnny said. “ She said a couple things that just didn’t make sense to me, and when I found that file, it made more sense.”
“ Said what son?” Murdoch asked.
“She was married to Doug, when she tried to kill me. Said he was in Europe on business. She asked about you Scott, and if you were married yet. Then she asked if I had found someone. When I told her no. She asked about Beth……She also knew about the Benson brothers looking for me. I asked her about that and she said she knew because they were in Green River asking about me and she overheard them.”
“ Overheard…..or told them where you were.” Scott stated.
“ Son, where was Teresa when you were looking at this file?”
“ In bed sleeping.” Johnny answered, not looking at his father. “ Why would a woman, who’s supposed to have married a rich man from New Orleans and only been widowed a short time, be using O’Brian for a last name?”
Scott raised an eyebrow. “ A lot of women go back to their maiden name after a divorce Johnny.” Scott said.
“ Yeah, after a divorce, But Teresa wasn’t divorced, she’s a widow. Or at least that’s what she says.” Johnny stated as he went and poured a shot of tequila and downed it. “ Murdoch, can you have your Pinkerton agent check her out. I don’t know her supposed to be dead husbands last name. There wasn’t one in the file, all I know is his name was Doug and he was supposed to have died from cholera almost two years ago. She said he had the second largest sugarcane plantation in New Orleans.”
“ That’s not much information, but I’ll contact them and see what they can find out.”
“ When is she supposed to come out here to see Miguel?” Scott asked.
“ Tuesday.” Johnny answered. “ I don’t want her knowing I seen that report or that we suspect anything.”
“ You think she’s going to try something again don’t you son?”
“ She kidnapped Miguel and tried to kill me and only served three years for that. Said they didn’t consider it kidnapping when Miguel is her own son.”
Murdoch walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of scotch. “ Scott, would you excuse us please? I need to talk to your brother alone.”
“ Yes sir.” Scott said. “ Johnny, if Teresa is going to try something, we won’t let her.” he stated before going upstairs.
Johnny opened the veranda door and walked outside. He knew what his father wanted to talk to him about
Murdoch walked outside.
“ Beautiful night.” Johnny stated.
“ Yes it is……You slept with her didn’t you?” he asked.
“ You remember telling me the difference between love and lust Murdoch?”
“ Well I still love her. What happened today wasn’t lust. I’m sure of that.” Johnny said as he leaned against the wall and looked up at the stars as a coyote yapped in the distance.
“ Are you sure son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m sure. As soon as I seen her and walked into her house…….I can’t explain it Murdoch……I know it’s love because when I walk in a room to bed a whore, I don’t have the feelings I had today with Teresa.” Johnny sighed and dropped his head. “ Most of my life I was alone, getting my needs took care of by a whore. Hell I still do, but today……..today I wasn’t with a whore Murdoch, I was with the mother of my child….. the same woman who kidnapped my son and tried to kill me…..damn it.”
Murdoch’ heart sank as he remembered how Johnny and Teresa were together all those years ago. How he smiled and laughed with her. Memories of his own time with Maria and even Scott’ mother Catherine came back making him smile.
“ It’s hard I know son. I have wonderful memories with both your mother and Scott’. I know what you’re going through. It can only go one way, and I hope you don’t get hurt in the end. You deserve a woman to love and be loved by.” Murdoch said as he put a hand on Johnny’ shoulder. “ Is that why you’ve never tried to find someone else? Because you still love Teresa?”
“ I wish I knew…………Why does love have to be so complicated?”
“ I guess it is so we know for sure it is love son.”
“ You know, up until a couple weeks ago, my life was pretty simple. I knew what I wanted…..Hell I had everything I wanted…..Or so I thought.”
“ Until Teresa came back here?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah……I don’t know how Miguel is going to take this.”
“ You don’t have to tell him son……There are some things a father never tells his children.”
Johnny looked at him. “ Yeah, I guess you’re real good at doing that.” Johnny said before turning to go inside. “ Mrs Carver said to tell you hello and she looks forward to seeing you at the fall dance.” Johnny added with a smile and laugh as he headed upstairs to bed.
Murdoch stood there stunned. Mrs Carver was merely an acquaintance and nothing more. Shaking his head, Murdoch decided to go to bed and not even try to figure out what his son meant by his remark.
Johnny placed the saddle on Bella and tightened the cinch down. For the past week he had been putting it on her, letting her get used to it. “ Mount up and lead her around the pen son.” Johnny said.
Miguel mounted his horse and took the lead rope from his father. “ Do a few laps at a walk, then trot a few. If she does okay, I’ll have you lope her around.”
“ When do I get to ride her?” Miguel asked.
“ Not till after she foals son. I told you that. If you want her to be a good horse. You have to be patient with her. Training takes time.”
“ When will she be here?” Miguel asked.
“ I don’t know son. She said she would come out today.” Johnny said. “ Now go do what I asked.
Teresa rode into the Lancer yard late morning and stopped her horse just as Scott came out of the house.
“ Scott Lancer, it’s good to see you again.” she said as she got down. “ How are you?”
Scott walked over to her. “ I’m just fine Teresa.” Scott answered. “ I wish I could say it’s good to see you, but I can’t. You do anything to hurt either one of them, and you’ll answer to me.” he said before walking away.
Murdoch came out of the house. “ Teresa.” Murdoch said. “ You’ll find Johnny and Miguel down at the corral working a horse. You can leave your horse here. I’ll walk you down to were they’re at.”
“ Alright.” Teresa said as she tied her horse up and followed Murdoch down to the corrals.
Scott walked over to were his brother was standing, watching Miguel lead the mare around. “ She’s doing good.” he said as he walked up.
“ Yeah, she’s coming along real nice.” Johnny stated.
“ She’s here.” Scott said.
Johnny turned and seen Teresa walking toward them with Murdoch. “ Stay here. Keep an eye on Miguel for a few minutes would ya?” Johnny asked as he walked toward them.
“ Sure.” Scott responded.
“ Teresa, Murdoch I need to talk to her alone for a minute.” Johnny said.
“ Alright son. I’ll just be over there with your brother if you need me.” Murdoch said before walking away.
“Boy, they’ve become real protective of you. “ Teresa stated. “ I don’t think I’ve ever had Scott be rude to me before.”
“ Yeah well, they have good reason to be.” Johnny stated.
“ I was a little hurt to wake up and find you had left Sunday.” Teresa said as she stepped closer. “ I had a wonderful time Johnny. Thank you.”
“ Look…..I’m not going to leave you alone with him okay? He wants to go for a ride with you to talk. Just the three of us.” Johnny told her. “ You screw this up, and I’ll make sure you never see him again as long as I live.”
“ A ride sounds nice. Maybe we could take a picnic?” Teresa suggested. “ I have no intentions of screwing this up Johnny. I assure you. I would love to be alone with you again though.”
“ Knock it off. We’re not taking a picnic.” Johnny stated firmly. “ When he’s finished working the mare, we can go.” Johnny ordered before turning and walking back to the corral were three sets of eyes watched him.
Teresa stood next to Johnny, watching Miguel ride around the pen leading the mare. “ She looks pregnant.” she stated.
“ She is.” Johnny said. “ She came in with the last herd and Miguel picked her out to be his to train.”
“ She’s a beautiful horse.” Teresa said.
Johnny ignored her. “ Miguel, what are you doing son? You’re letting her lead you.” Johnny said as he climbed into the pen.
“ You never let a horse you’re leading get ahead of you.” Johnny stated as he took the mares lead rope.
“ I’m sorry…….It’s…….That’s her isn’t it?” he asked as he dismounted.
“ Yes…….Hank, would you take Bella back to the barn for me?” Johnny said as he opened the gate so Miguel could lead his horse out.
“ Sure thing Johnny.” Hank answered.
Miguel walked past Teresa, to Scott and Murdoch.
“ That’s no way to be to your mother Miguel!” Teresa said as she walked over to him. “ Can’t you at least be cordial to me and say hello? I am your mother.”
“ No eres mi madre! ” Miguel yelled. ( You’re not my mother )
“ Miguel!” Johnny yelled. “ You will have manners son when you speak to her. If you don’t want to call her your mother, that’s fine, but you will be nice. Understand me?”
“ Yes.” Miguel answered. “ Lo Siento.”
“ I’m afraid my Spanish is very rusty. What did you say to me?” Teresa asked.
Miguel looked at his father, unsure if he should answer.
“ Go ahead son.” Johnny said.
“ I said You’re not my mother.” Miguel stated.
“ Miguel, like it or not, I am your mother. I carried you for nine months and I gave birth to you.”
“ Son, why don’t you go saddle my horse for me.” Johnny suggested.
“ Yes sir.”
Johnny waited until Miguel was out of ear shot before turning on Teresa and speaking. “ Don’t you ever……ever correct him again, AND don’t think you have a right to have him call you mother, because you don’t…….You have to earn that right again, and only if he wants too. Do I make myself clear?”
“ Oh I hear you Johnny. You’ve done a real nice job of turning my son against me and having him hate me.”
“ Johnny didn’t turn Miguel against you Teresa.” Scott cut in. “ You did that all by yourself when you kidnapped him and tried to kill his father.”
“ My, my. You used to be so polite Scott. It was Johnny who had the temper.” Teresa stated
“ Oh I’m polite….To those who deserve it.” Scott snapped back.
“ And to think I thought of you as a brother.”
Scott stepped closer to her. “ And I used to think of you as my little sister. We all know what a mistake that was don’t we?”
Johnny just stood there listening to his brother. In a way he was shocked to hear Scott talk to the woman he once thought of as a little sister. He had always been polite to women.
“ I know what happened between you and Johnny Sunday Teresa. I can’t do anything about that, but I will tell you this and you better listen…….If you try to hurt either one of them, I will not rest until you spend the rest of your life behind bars.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Seems to me, Johnny is a grown man, and he doesn’t need you, or Scott fighting his battles for him. I know he still loves me, he told me so.” Teresa said before walking away to get her horse.
“ Why did you give me up?” Miguel asked as they rode along.
Teresa stopped her horse. “ I had no choice Miguel. I didn’t want you growing up like your father did, not having clothes or food to eat.”
“ You lie………You didn’t want me because your gringo husband and his family didn’t want a mestizo around.”
“ I am not lying to you Miguel. They told me they would not permit you to stay in their home. That you……..That I had to take you to an orphanage. I brought you here to Lancer to be raised by your father. I didn’t have too.”
“ You cared more about your gringo husband and his money, than your own son………you were supposed to raise me…..not throw me away.” Miguel said with tears in his eyes.
Teresa looked at Johnny. “ You going to let him speak to me like that?” she demanded.
“ You said he could say anything he wanted to you, ask you anything he wanted and you would answer him.”
“ Miguel, son, I swear I did want you. Don’t you remember? I came back for you before, but your father wouldn’t let me have you.”
“ You kidnapped me and tried to kill papa……That’s not the love of a mother. That’s hate and nothing more.”
“ I didn’t shoot your father, Dirk did.” Teresa said.
“ Because of you.”
“ Miguel, I love you. Maybe when you’re older, you will understand, a parent sometimes has to do what’s right for their child to protect them.”
“ You keep saying you love me, but you never wrote to me. You never sent me anything on my birthday or Christmas.”
“ I couldn’t. They wouldn’t let me.”
“ Yes you could, if you wanted to bad enough. You just didn’t want to.”
“ You don’t know what they were like. Doug was a very controlling person Miguel. He had me watched if I went out. The servants told him everything I did when he was away. His parents only spoke to me if he was there…….I lived like that for many years.”
“ You could have left him. You just didn’t want to.” Miguel said.
“ Miguel, I’m here now. I came back here hoping we could patch up what’s been wrong. To make amends. I know I’ve made mistakes in my past, but I came back here, hoping we could at least be friends. Won’t you at least give me a chance?”
“ Papa taught me that everyone deserves a second chance, if they really wanted it. I don’t believe you really want one. I think you’re an evil person who cares only about herself. You don’t care about me or papa.” Miguel stated. “ I will never call you mother…..and you will not call me your son.”
“ Does this mean you will give me a chance to redeem myself?”
“ What about papa?” Miguel asked. “ He still loves you.”
Teresa looked at Johnny and smiles. “ That’s between me and him. Why?….Would you like us to get back together?”
Miguel looked at his father, then back at her. “ He is a grown man. I know he will do what is right. What his heart tells him, But don’t you ever hurt him.”
Johnny stood there listening to his son stand up to his mother and it made him proud inside. He silently prayed that Teresa didn’t tell him that they were together Sunday.
“ Looks like we have a storm brewing. We better head on back.” Johnny said as the wind picked up.
“ Looks like we could be in for some hard rain.” Scott said as he came in the house. “ You think they’re okay?”
“ Storm that comes up this fast could bring flash floods and trouble. We could end up with fences down, and cattle scattered by the time it passes.” Murdoch stated. “ I’m sure they’re alright. Probably headed back now.”
“ What about Teresa sir?”
“ What about her?”
“ Well, this storm will most likely last all night. We can’t have her riding back to Green River in it.”
“ No we can’t. I’ll go let Maria know.” Murdoch said as he headed toward the kitchen.
“ She won’t be happy when she learns it’s Teresa. There could be trouble.” Scott suggested.
“ I’ll have a talk with her.” Murdoch said as he walked away.
Scott walked over to the big window and looked out at the darkening sky. It had been a long time since a storm like this one blew in suddenly.
“ Little brother, I hope you make it back.”
“ Miguel, you go on inside before the rain starts. I’ll take care of your horse.” Johnny said as they rode up to the barn. “ Let Murdoch and Scott know we’re back and I’ll be in after I take care of the horses.”
“ I can take care of mine papa.” Miguel said.
“ No, you go on inside so you don’t get wet. I don’t need Maria mad at me if you come down sick.”
Miguel headed to the house as lightening flashed in the distance.
Johnny led the horses into the barn and closed the door. “ Looks like this storm is here for all night.” Johnny stated. “ You won’t be riding back to Green River tonight.”
Teresa started unsaddling her horse as thunder boomed and lightening flashed. “ I didn’t know this was going to happen Johnny.” Teresa said as she led her horse into a stall and removed the bridle.
“ Go ahead and give her a good brushing.” Johnny said as he led Miguel’ horse into his stall and went back to unsaddle his horse.
“ Do you think Miguel will ever forgive me for my mistakes Johnny?” Teresa asked as she brushed her horse down.
“ That’s up to him. I’m not going to force him to like you.” Johnny said as he put his saddle on the rail and led his horse into his stall. “ He’s a good kid Teresa. Give him time okay, but no matter what he decides, don’t be angry with him.”
Teresa walked out of her stall and closed the gate, and walked over to the stall Johnny was in. “ You’ve done a remarkable job raising him.” she stated. “ I must say, it was a shock having him talk to me like he did, but I could tell you brought him up to tell the truth and be independent.”
“ Is that so bad?” Johnny asked.
“ No. Back in New Orleans, I would see kids born to wealth be so disrespectful to their parents sometimes. Never wanting for anything. Always getting whatever they wanted given to them.” she said.
“ Kids like that don’t know how to appreciate what they have if the parents always give them what they want.” Johnny stated as he brushed his horse. “ I’ve done my best to teach Miguel, that if he wants something, he needs to earn it or earn the money to buy it. That way he appreciates it more.”
Teresa stepped inside the stall with him. “ I guess it’s kinda like you when you came back here and Murdoch offered you part ownership in Lancer. You had to work your butt off to appreciate what you have.”
“ I still do, only harder now with my horse business.”
“ Like Miguel is with that mare?”
“ Yep. Bella will be a good horse for him once she foals and can be broke to ride.” Johnny said as he brushed his horse down.
“ Johnny.” Teresa said as she reached out and grabbed his right arm and turned him to face her. “ Remember the time you made love to me right here in this barn?” she asked as she put her arms around his neck.
“ Yeah. I remember.” Johnny said.
“ It’s nice and dark back behind the stacked hay, and nobody will be coming out here in this weather.” Teresa said as she brought her lips to his.
Johnny kissed her back. “ Tonight, come to my room.” he said as he moved his lips down and kissed her neck.
“ Why not now? I need you Johnny. Please.” Teresa begged.
Johnny closed the stall gate and took her hand, leading her back into the darkness behind the stacked hay.
Murdoch looked out the window toward the barn. “ They’re back.” he said to Scott as Miguel opened the front door and came inside.
“ Papa said he would be in when he was done taking care of the horses. He wanted me to come in and tell you, so you wouldn’t be worried.”
“ Thank you Miguel.” Murdoch said. “ You go on up and get cleaned up for supper.”
“ Maybe I should go out and help him?” Scott suggested just as the rain started to come down hard.
“ No son. I’m sure Johnny and Teresa can handle it.” Murdoch stated.
Johnny and Teresa came into the house some time later, soaked. “ Man that rain is coming down hard.” Johnny stated.
“ I thought maybe you two would have to swim to the house little brother.” Scott said with a laugh.
“ Oh very funny Scott.” Johnny said back. “ There’s a water closet upstairs between Miguel and Scott’ room. You can go up there and clean up.”
“ Thank you.” Teresa said before heading upstairs as Miguel came down.
“ Hey, Teresa is spending the night because of this storm. Is that alright with you son?” Johnny asked.
“ She can’t go home in this, it is to dangerous.” Miguel stated.
Johnny walked over to the fire. “ No she can’t.” he said as he stood warming his hands. “ Is Maria going to keep a civil tongue while Teresa is here?”
“ I spoke to her about it.” Murdoch stated.
Supper was mainly quiet. Teresa spoke some about New Orleans and asked about Johnny’ adventure to Montana and Mexico. Every time Maria came into the room, she would give hard looks at Teresa. This didn’t go unnoticed by Johnny.
“ The Tamales were delicious Maria. In New Orleans, they eat food that is so spicy. They call it Cajun. Maybe I could show you sometime Maria? ” Teresa said. Trying to be nice to the woman who once taught her everything she knew. “ I can help you clean up if you’d like?”
Maria ignored her and spoke to Johnny directly. “ Ella no es bienvenida en mi cocina.” ( she is not welcomed in my kitchen)
“ Ella es mi invitada y bienvenida en cuaquier parte de casa Maria. Todo lo que ella hizo fue ofrecerte para ayudarte a limpiar.” ( She is my guest and welcomed in any part of this house Maria, All she did was offer to help you clean up.)
“ I didn’t mean to make you angry or upset you Maria. I’m sorry.” Teresa said.
Maria mumbled something under her breath as she picked up the dirty dishes and left the room.
Johnny stood up. “ Excuse me.” he said before heading to the kitchen.
Johnny walked into the kitchen. “ Maria, no volveré a hacer que seas irrespetuosa con un invitado en esta casa.”
( Maria, I won’t have you being disrespectful to a guest in this house ever again.)
“ Ella es el diablo. Ella no hará nada más que lastimarte. Ya verás.” ( She is the devil. She will do nothing but hurt you. You will see.)
“ Ella es la madre de mi hijo. No te dejaré a ti, Scott o Murdoch siendo irrespetuosos con ella mientras esté aqui. Ella se queda la noche a causa de la tormenta.” ( She is the mother of my son. I won’t have you, Scott or Murdoch being disrespectful to her while she is here. She is staying the night because of the storm.)
“ Llevarás a esa mujer diabólica a tu cama.” ( You will take that devil woman in your bed.)
“ Si la llevo a mi cama, no es asunto de nadie más que mío.” ( If I take her to my bed, that is nobody’s business but mine.)
“ Ella te atrapará con otro niño.” ( She will trap you with another child.)
“ Eso no puede pasar.” ( That can’t happen.) Johnny said before leaving the kitchen and walking back into the great room and over to the sideboard and pouring himself a shot of tequila.
Teresa stood up and walked over to him. “ I’m sorry Johnny. I didn’t mean to cause a problem. I was just trying to be helpful.”
“ I know…..Want a drink?” he asked.
“ Brandy please. If it’s alright with Murdoch?”
“ I see no harm in having one.” Murdoch stated as he walked over. “ Why don’t you pour us all a drink son?” he suggested.
Johnny poured the drinks and everybody went to the chairs and couch and sat down. The uneasiness could be felt in the room.
“ Grandfather, you want to play some checkers with me?”
“ I think I can do that. As long as you don’t beat me to bad.”
“ You must be good like Johnny at checkers?” Teresa asked.
“ I let him win. He just doesn’t remember. He gets old and forgets.” Miguel said before laughing.
Johnny and Scott joined him in laughing at Murdoch. “ Remember a couple weeks ago, how you tried your damnedest to beat him and he got you on every move you made?” Johnny asked as he laughed.
“ So Teresa, tell us more about this Cajun food they have in New Orleans.” Murdoch asked, wanting to change the subject.
“ They eat a lot of corn, shrimp and crawfish boiled.” Teresa told them. “ I remember one meal, it was called Jambalaya, I guess it’s a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. It’s kind of like a Spanish dish paella. It’s very spicy. It’s a shellfish, celery and rice stew.”
“ I’ve had shellfish and crawfish back in Boston. They are quite tasty.” Scott stated.
“ What the heck are crawfish?” Johnny asked.
“ They are like very small lobsters. Except they are found in fresh water, were lobster is found in the ocean.” Scott answered. “ Lobster is actually very good Johnny.”
“ They also eat alligator, something I didn’t really care for the taste of.” Teresa added.
“ I seen one of those alligator things once. Huge mouth full of teeth and a long tail. Lives in ponds and rivers.” Johnny said.
“ The alligator goes back to the dinosaur Johnny. It is what my professor called, a prehistoric animal still living today.”
“ I don’t know about that, but I do know, my horse sure didn’t like it when it opened that big mouth and hissed at us.”
“ Do they only eat hot, spicy food there? Or do they eat anything sweet?” Miguel asked.
“ Yes, they have some very nice desserts. Bread pudding, I think you would like. It’s made with leftover bread soaked in a custard mixture and you can have raisins or other fruit mixed into it. To spoon a nice warm bourbon sauce over it. It’s quite tasty. Peach cobbler is an excellent dessert.”
“ I believe they have a cake they eat called pound cake?” Scott asked.
“ Yes they do. It’s a very rich, dense, buttery cake made from sugar, eggs and flour. I’m surprised you know about it Scott.”
“ I had some once when I was in the war.” Scott stated.
Three hours later Murdoch gave up. He had managed to win one game, though he thought his grandson let him win.
“ Son, it’s getting late. I think you should head on up to bed now. We’re going to have a lot of work to do tomorrow once this storm passes.” Johnny said.
“ Alright.” he said as he bid everyone a goodnight and headed upstairs.
Johnny waited until Miguel was upstairs before he stood up and walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot. “ I told Maria, I won’t have anyone speaking disrespectful to Teresa while she’s here. I’m telling both of you the same thing. She’s my guest.”
“ We won’t be having any problems son. As long as she knows her place when she is here.” Murdoch stated.
“ Yeah.” Johnny answered as flashes from earlier in the barn came to him. “ I guess kind of like me knowing my place here, huh?” Johnny retorted.
Murdoch didn’t like the attitude his youngest seemed to be having with Teresa around. “ Try to get some sleep son. We have a lot of fence and livestock to check tomorrow.”
Johnny lay in bed, unable to sleep, when he heard his door open slowly. Looking he smiled when he seen who it was.
“ I couldn’t sleep, and I knew you would be awake.” Teresa said as she walked over to his bed and dropped the robe she was wearing.
Johnny reached out and took her hand, pulling her down onto the bed with him.“ God, you’re so beautiful Teresa.” he said before claiming her as his.
Johnny lay in bed on his left side, just staring at Teresa in the early hours of dawn. The storm had finally passed.
“ What are you thinking about?” Teresa asked as she raised up on her right elbow.
“ You, and how beautiful you are. How easy you can turn me on.”
Teresa rolled over and straddled him. “ Seventeen years ago, you taught me what love is. What it feels like to have a man.” she said as she moved her hips. “ You made me feel like a woman instead of a little girl. Are you going to tell Miguel we’re together?”
Johnny flipped her over onto her back. “ We’re not together and probably never will be.” he said.
“ We could be Johnny, if you give it a chance.” Teresa stated.
“ We’re not.” Johnny said flatly before claiming her body as his one last time before the sun came up.
“ You look like you didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night brother.” Scott said as he picked up a stretch of downed wire.
“ Didn’t get any. Damn lightening and thunder was so loud and bright.” Johnny answered.
“ I couldn’t help but notice you weren’t alone.”
“ Nope, I wasn’t. Why?” Johnny asked.
“ You going to get serious with her?” Scott asked.
“ Serious how……Marriage?” Johnny asked.
“ Thought did cross my mind.” Scott stated.
“ No. She asked me last night if I was going to tell Miguel that we were together. I told her flat out that we’re not together and probably never will be.”
“ So, let me get this straight little brother, because I’m having a hard time understanding what you just said. You told her you’re not together, yet you take her to bed at her house, and now here at Lancer. Just what the hell do you call it then brother if you’re not together?” Scott asked as he grabbed the hammer to fasten the wire to the post.
“ Giving her what she wants. She came to me last night Scott. Why’s it such a big deal to you if I take her to my bed?” Johnny demanded as he picked up the next strand of downed wire and jerked on it. “ Son of a bitch.” he yelled as he dropped the wire and grabbed his left hand.
“ Let me see it.” Scott said as he dropped the hammer and reached for his brothers hand.
Johnny struggled to get the glove off, cussing as he did. Blood oozed from the deep cut in the side of his hand.
“ That’s deep. You better ride into town and have Sam look at that.” Scott suggested as he wrapped his bandanna around it and tied it off.
“ It’ll keep. We got to much work to do.” Johnny said as he went to his horse and pulled out another pair of gloves. “ It was my own damn fault for yanking on it.”
“ Why’d you yank on it?” Scott asked.
“ I was mad at you for what you said.” Johnny responded. “ I don’t trust her. Little things she says just don’t add up.” Johnny said.
“ Like what?” Scott asked.
Johnny told him what Teresa said to Miguel on their ride, about supposedly being watched and how the servants even spied on her for her late husband. “ None of it makes any sense Scott.”
“ Okay brother. I know you. “ Scott said as he stopped working the wire. “ Spill it.”
Johnny smiled. “ Teresa said she’s a widow right?”
“ What if she came back here to hide? What if she had her husband killed for all his money?” Johnny suggested.
“ And you think, that if she killed her husband and came back here, they wouldn’t follow her and she would be free to spend that money.”
“ Exactly. How do we know there isn’t a wanted poster out on her or something?”
“ Well, New Orleans is a long ways away. Maybe the Pinkerton’ will find out for us?” Scott suggested.
“ I don’t know if I can handle getting hurt by her again. If Miguel opens up to her, how’s it going to affect him?”
“ I don’t know Johnny.”
“Listen, I think I will ride into Moro Coyo and see Sam about this hand. You let Murdoch know?”
“ Sure. I can finish up what needs to be done here.”
Sam heard the bell on his door ring and walked out of the back room. “ Johnny, what can I do for you?”
Johnny held his left hand up. “ Got in a fight with some barbed wire and lost.”
“ Come on in the back and take that glove off so I can see it.”
Johnny followed Sam in the back and struggled trying to get the glove off. “ Guess my hand swelled up Sam. It won’t come off.”
“ Sit up on the table and I’ll cut it so it comes off.” Sam instructed.
Thirty minutes later Johnny walked out of the back room with a bandage around his hand. Sam had to put four stitches in the cut to close it up.
“ I want you to keep that clean and as dry as possible for at least a week Johnny. It would be better if you didn’t use that hand at all to give it time to heal.”
“ I can do that Sam. How much do I owe you?” he asked.
“ Well, let’s see. I was about to go get some lunch at the cafe when you came in. Join me and we’ll call it even. Sound fair.
“ Only if you let me buy?” Johnny said as the two headed out the door.
“ I just might let you do that.” Sam said.
A few minutes later, Johnny sat at a table with Sam drinking coffee as they waited for their food.
“ You know, I don’t like to bring up bad memories Johnny, but are you aware that Teresa is living in Green River?” Sam asked.
“ Yeah, I know she is. She came back here hoping to get to know Miguel. So she says.” Johnny told him.
“ So you’ve seen her?” Sam asked.
“ Yeah. She spent the night at the ranch last night because of the storm. She was there to see Miguel when the storm came in.”
“ I bet that didn’t sit to well with Murdoch or Scott, knowing she tried to kill you once.”
Johnny and Sam visited for the better part of an hour. Talking as they ate their meal. Sam was one person Johnny could always talk to and not have to worry about it getting back to his father or brother.
“ Well, I have a couple of patients I need to see. If that starts hurting bad or starts getting red and infected, you send for me.”
“ I will Sam. Thanks.” Johnny said as the two men walked outside.
“ Thank you for lunch…..I’ll see you Johnny.”
Johnny walked into the house and found his father doing the books at his desk.
“ Scott said you cut your hand on Barbed wire. How bad is it son?”
Johnny held his hand up. “ Four stitches. Sam said not to use it for at least a week so it can heal up. Wants me to keep it clean and dry.”
“ Scott said you rode in this morning.” Murdoch said as he looked at the clock.
“ Yeah. Sam was headed to get some lunch, so I figured the least I could do was pay for it. Anyway I visited with him while we ate. He asked me if I knew Teresa was back and I told him yeah and we just sat talking about the old times mostly.”
“ Johnny, I hope you know what you’re doing son.” Murdoch said.
“ You mean sleeping with her?”
“ That’s not what I mean and you know it young man.”
“ I know. Look, like I told Scott, I’m only doing it to find out what she wants. That’s all. But I will tell you something.” Johnny said as he walked over to the sideboard and poured two shots and walked back over to his father and handed him one. “ I’ve been paying real close attention to what Teresa says, and yesterday she told Miguel one of the reasons she never wrote to him was because she was being watched by the servants and watched when she would go out without her husband. That’s been bothering me.”
“ Bothering you why son?”
“ Because she was married to him when she tried to kill me for one. Why would her husband have her watched? I think she killed her husband to get his money. I mean, why stay married if you knew your wife was being unfaithful to you while you were gone? I think Teresa came back here hoping they wouldn’t find her. Maybe that’s why she’s using her maiden name now.”
“Hopefully I hear something back from the Pinkerton’ soon, and until I do, I want you to be very careful around her son.”
Miguel stood on the fence watching his father break one of the mustangs. Amazed at the ease his father always seemed to have when breaking a horse.
“ Hi.” Teresa said as she walked up.
“ Hi.” Miguel said.
Teresa watched as the stallion Johnny was breaking stopped bucking and stood completely still, breathing hard, head slightly lowered, eyes wide.
Johnny knew the stallion wasn’t done yet. He could feel the tension in the horses sides and how he planted his feet and had his head down.
“ He’s going to rear up on him.” Miguel said just as the stallion did just that.
Johnny dug in with his knees and held on as he turned the stallions head to the left, making him spin around, and go in a circle until Johnny eased up on the rein. Pulling hard on the right rein, Johnny got the stallion to spin to the right before finally stopping and relaxing. Both ears forward as Johnny nudged him to walk.
“ Hey Johnny…..Bella is in labor.” Hank yelled as he came out of the barn.
Johnny got off the stallion and handed him off to a hand and headed to the barn, followed by Miguel and Teresa.
Scott walked into the house and found his father sitting at his desk. “ Got a letter here from the Pinkerton’.” he said as he walked over and handed it to Murdoch. “ Where’s Johnny?”
“ Down at the corrals breaking that stallion.” Murdoch said as he took the letter addressed to him.
“ I think I will go watch.” Scott said.
“ Scott, don’t say anything to Johnny about this. Tell him I want him to go to the south mesa line shack today so he can get a start on those repairs. I’ll have you and Miguel take supplies to him tomorrow.” Murdoch stated.
“ Yes sir. Is Teresa here?” he asked as he headed to the door.
“ I believe she is down there.” Murdoch answered.
Scott seen his brother head into the barn with Hank, followed by Teresa and Miguel. Walking into the barn he found Teresa and Hank standing outside the stall, watching Johnny inside as he softly spoke to Bella. Miguel was at her head, comforting and talking to her softly, as he caressed her face.
“ Easy girl……..You can do it…….Just a couple more pushes and you’ll be done.” Johnny said as he wiped the now protruding face and feet off with a burlap sack. Bella moaned as she pushed, revealing even more of the precious new life. “ Hank, get me some more burlap’s would ya?” Johnny asked as he wiped the foals face, nose and ears clean. Hank stepped into the stall and set the burlap’s down next to Johnny.
Bella gave one last hard push before putting her front legs out in front of her and standing up, letting her new baby enter the world. Turning around she started licking her new baby dry as Johnny rubbed it down vigorously with burlap to help get the blood flowing easier.
“ What is it?” Scott asked.
“ It’s a colt.” Johnny said as he wiped the legs down. Coal black with white up to the knees and a white face.
“ How’s that possible Johnny? He’s identical in markings to his mother.” Scott asked.
“ Must be from the stud that got her. Remember that black we seen last year.” Johnny said and asked as he stood up.
“ Yeah, we haven’t seen him around Lancer since.” Scott said. “ He was all black. They both have white on them.”
“ Come on out son. Let’s give her room and let the foal stand up when he’s ready so he can nurse.” Johnny suggested as he stepped out of the stall, followed by Miguel and Scott. “ Never seen one with white legs and black hooves. Most have white hooves with white legs.”
“ What’s the difference?” Miguel asked.
“ White hooves are softer son. Black hooves hold a shoe better.” Johnny told him.
“ That foal is special Johnny.” Hank said.
“ We’ll see.” Johnny said as he smiled at his son. “ You did a good job. I’m proud of you.” Johnny told Miguel as he put an arm around him.
“ Is she okay?” Miguel asked.
“ She’s fine son. Why don’t you go get some of hay and put it in there for her and some grain. She’s gonna need extra food so she doesn’t drop weight while nursing her foal.” Johnny stated.
“ Miguel, congratulations.” Teresa said. “ The foal is beautiful.”
“ Well would you look at that.” Hank said.
Johnny turned and seen the foal standing on wobbly legs.
“ I’ve seen my share of foals born, But I have never seen one get up that fast. Have you Johnny?”
“ Nope. Never have.”
“ Okay, Miguel, I believe you have a lot of chores to get done now don’t you?”
“ Yes sir.” Miguel said as he stepped into the stall and rubbed Bella on the face. “ Lo hiciste bien, Bella. Tu bebé, él es hermoso como tú. Los apreciaré a ambos.” ( You did good Bella. Your baby, he is beautiful like you. I shall cherish you both.)
“ He has chores he needs to get finished.” Johnny said. “ Hank, take a couple men and go check that foot bridge and the fence along that creek. We don’t need to lose any calves.”
“ Yes sir.” Hank said as he left the barn.
Johnny waited until he knew he was alone with Teresa before walking up to her and claiming her mouth.
Teresa moaned as she kissed him back with just as much passion as she felt his right hand wander lower.
“ Johnny.” Scott said as he walked back into the barn and stopped. “ Sorry to interrupt you two, but Murdoch wants you to go to south mesa line shack today. It’s only a week away from round-up and branding. He wants all the supplies there and repairs done before we start.”
“ After the storms we’ve had lately, It just might take me a week to get all the repairs done.” Johnny said as he walked toward Scott.
“ I’ll be out tomorrow with shingles for the roof and some supplies.” Scott stated.
“ Teresa, care to come with me?” Johnny asked.
“ I would love to Johnny.” she answered as she stepped over to them.
“ Johnny, do you think that’s wise, having Teresa go with you?” Scott asked. “ You do realize our father will be quite upset if those repairs are not done by the time we start round-up?”
“ Relax Scott. I’ll work during the day, and save my playing for at night.”
Scott sighed as he turned to leave. “ I hope so brother.” he mumbled as he walked away.
“ Hey, take care of Miguel for me while I’m gone, and keep an eye on the foal.”
Scott just raised his arm in the air to acknowledge he heard his brother.
Scott walked back in the house and tossed his gloves on the table.
“ Did you tell your brother?” Murdoch asked.
“ I did. It would seem he has invited Teresa to go with him.” Scott informed him as he walked over to the sideboard and poured a drink.
“ When you take the supplies up tomorrow, take Miguel with you. It’s about time he knows what is going on between them.”
“ Do you think that’s wise sir?” Scott asked.
“ Where’s Miguel now?”
“ He’s doing the chores he didn’t get done this morning…..Did you read the report?”
“ No, I’ll read it tonight after Miguel goes to bed. I locked it up in my desk so nobody but me and you know about it.”
“ Well, I guess I’ll go start loading the wagon for Johnny.” Scott said as he grabbed his gloves and headed out the door.
Johnny and Teresa rode up to the line shack and dismounted. “ Looking around the outside, Johnny could see a tree took out the back wall of the lean-to.
“ I’ll get started clearing that tree away. Why don’t you go inside and check it out?” Johnny suggested.
“ Okay. I’ll see if I can find anything to fix us for supper tonight.” Teresa said as she tied her horse to the porch railing.
“ Hey.” Johnny said as he reached for her arm and stopped her, pulling her to him. “ You sure you want to stay here with me?”
Teresa stepped closer and put her arms around his neck. “ I’m dead sure.” she said as she started running her hands up and down his chest.
“ Damn girl. It’s going to be hard to get any work done around here with you around.” he said as his body started to respond to her touching him.
“ So come inside with me and worry about the tree later.” Teresa suggested as she claimed his mouth.
“ I’d love to, but these horses will need a place in out of the weather tonight, and I don’t really want to be messing with that tree in the dark.” Johnny said as he forced himself to back away from her.
“ Okay…..I guess I can wait.” Teresa said before heading into the shack.
Johnny wanted to get some work done before dark. The tree would be easy enough to pull away, using his horse. There were enough branches laying around big enough he could use them tied together until his brother came up tomorrow with the lumber he would need to fix the back wall.
Teresa found a broom and swept the dirt out the front door. Looking toward the horse shed, she seen Johnny pulling the tree away from the back corner with his horse. Smiling, she turned and went back inside the shack and set about starting a fire in the stove so she could make coffee and then set about finding something to fix for supper. The pantry had hardtack, canned fruits, potatoes, onions, canned condensed milk, vegetables and dried beef. Two small burlap sacks full of coffee beans. Several small barrels sat in the corner of the pantry, one with flour, one with cornmeal and another with sugar. Shelves on the opposite side had blankets, a few pillows and sheets. Lamp oil sat on the floor in a small barrel.
Grabbing a sack of coffee beans, Teresa went back into the kitchen part of the line shack, she set the coffee beans and pot on the table, picked up the bucket and went outside to get some water from the stream in the back. Glancing over to were Johnny was, she could see he had the tree removed and was now trying to fix the wall with what he could for the night. Walking back inside the shack, getting the coffee brewing, Teresa sat down at the table as a memory came flooding back. Her father told her once as a child, that Murdoch had this line shack built to last a hundred years. That the spot was perfect for fall round-up. She loved to listen to the stories her father would tell her when growing up.
Johnny finished the wall and brought the horses in and unsaddled them. Tomorrow morning he would put up a crude pole fence so they could graze on the lush grass next to the shed along the stream.
“ That’ll have to do for the night for you guys.” he said as he closed the gate and headed to the shack as the sun was starting to set behind the mountain. Stopping, he looked at the stream out back and found himself wondering why when it rained hard, that stream never flooded the line shack. “ Old man knew a good spot to build it.” he said aloud before stepping up on the porch and opening the door, stepping inside, he found Teresa sitting at the table, tears running down her face as she stared at the window above the counter.
“ Hey, you okay?” he asked as he closed the door.
Teresa stood up and wiped away the tears. “ I’m fine.” she said as she turned away from him.
Johnny walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “ No you’re not. What’s wrong?”
“ Nothing….Coffee is just about done. I’ll get something started for supper.” she said as she started to walk away from him.
Johnny reached out and turned her to face him. “ Then why are you crying?” he asked as he wiped at a tear.
“ It’s nothing really.”
“ I don’t believe you. Talk to me Teresa. Something has upset you.”
“ I was just remembering what my father told me about this place when he helped Murdoch build it. I was just a small child then.” she said as tears ran down her face. “ Sometimes I wonder if he would be ashamed of me if he was still alive? Or if things would be different?”
“ I never knew your father, at least I don’t remember him when I was here as a baby.” Johnny said as he removed his hat. “ Come sit down. Supper will wait.”
Teresa sat back down and wiped her face.
“ Teresa, your father would never be disappointed in you….Yes you’ve made some bad decisions, I have. So have Murdoch and Scott, and we learn from those bad decisions.”
“ If he was still alive and you came back, he never would have let us be together.” she said.
“ The old man didn’t want us together either, but he couldn’t stop us.” Johnny said. “ Teresa, I didn’t go about it the right way back then. I should have done it proper. Asked Murdoch if I could court you, but I didn’t. I was wild and dangerous, always getting what I wanted, especially from a woman. That first time I talked to you when I was laid up, I knew you were innocent. I could tell you wanted to become a woman that first time I kissed you. I knew you didn’t know better really, and I sure as hell knew what I was doing to you, to your feelings, feelings an innocent girl like you would know nothing about. Hell I counted on that happening to you……What I didn’t count on, was falling in love with you. That day you came to me and undressed in front of me, giving yourself to me, was the best day of my life Teresa, but it was wrong. I should have made you ride away.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over and poured two cups of coffee. “ When…….when Nash raped you in front of me and I couldn’t stop him…….I knew then that if we both survived that night, that it would be over between us. I had to end it between us. You were brutalized and almost died because of me. The day you left Lancer……that day was just as hard as the night of that attack. For a long time I would hear your screams as he attacked you. I couldn’t get them out of my mind.”
“ Johnny, we were both young. I was more at fault than you. I’m the one who came to you that day and offered myself to you……….I don’t blame you for what happened to me that night Nash attacked us.”
“ My past hurt the people I cared about the most. It cost me you…….If that night had never happened, we would have got married and maybe had another child.”
Teresa removed her boots, and stood up, and walked over to the bed and removed her clothes. “ Love me.” she asked.
Johnny removed his boots also, and walked over to her and reached up and put a hand on each side of her face and claimed her mouth as he lay her down on the bed.
Scott walked over to the sideboard and poured two shots of rye and walked over to his father sitting at the desk and offered him one.
“ Thank you son.” Murdoch said.
“ So what does it say?” Scot asked.
Murdoch stood up and handed him the letter. “ I can’t believe that’s the same Teresa I watched grow up. That I helped raise.”
Scott took the letter and walked over to the fireplace and read it.
You requested me to check out a Teresa O’Brian after her release from prison. You specifically asked for me to check out her living in New Orleans. I have learned she did live in New Orleans from about a year after she left Lancer. She met and married a man named Doug Bennett, a very wealthy man, who owned the second largest sugarcane plantation in New Orleans while she was in San Fransisco. Upon my investigation I learned Mrs O’Brian had an affair with a Dave Poulson who happened to own the largest sugarcane plantation in New Orleans. It seems Mr Poulson, had wanted Mr Bennett’s plantation, which was adjacent to his, for quite some time, that for years he had offered to buy it from the Bennett family, but failed until about a week after Mr Bennett’s death when Mrs O’Brian sold the plantation to him for two hundred thousand dollars cash. The late Mr Bennett’s family was shocked to find this out, and even more shocked when they learned from the doctor how Mr Bennett died. The likely suspect being his wife who fled in the middle of the night after selling her late husbands business and hasn’t been seen since in over two years. There is a separate liberal reward to be paid leading to the return of the money she got in the sale. I have included a copy of the arrest warrant issued for her as well as a copy of the wanted poster made up. The family of the late Mr Bennett is offering the rewards.
The family has a man coming to Moro Coyo. He will be coming there to arrest her and extradite her back to New Orleans. I feel I should warn you, this man’s methods are somewhat unorthodox to say the least. He is very good at his job, but is not afraid to bring his prisoner back dead. His name is Jack Dalton, don’t let his appearance fool you sir. He’s a killer.
J. Daggett Pinkerton Detective.
“ Five thousand dollar reward.” Scott said as he looked at the warrant and wanted poster. “ Looks like Johnny was right.” he said as he walked back over to his father and handed the papers back to him.
“ Right about what?” Murdoch asked as he put the letter in the bottom drawer and locked it.
“ Right about Teresa, sir. He told me a short time ago, he had a feeling she killed he husband.” Scott stated.
“ And just how did he come to that conclusion?” Murdoch demanded.
“ His instincts told him. That and things Teresa has said that made no sense.” Scott snapped back. “ You would think that after all these years of Johnny being here, you would trust his instincts.”
“ Then why is he sleeping with her if his so called instincts are telling him she killed her husband?……..She tried to kill him too remember? Yet he takes her to his bed in this house, and now he has her with him at the line shack.”
“ I don’t approve of his method, by no means sir, but Johnny is trying to find out what the hell it is she wants.” Scott said with anger. “ He’s tried talking to you, but I guess what he says only falls on deaf ears when it has to do with Teresa.”
“ I’ve talked to him about Teresa. Sleeping with her will only get him killed.” Murdoch yelled as he slammed his fist down on the desk.
“ Is it Johnny Lancer you’re afraid of being killed…..or Johnny Madrid?”
Murdoch glared at his oldest before walking over to the sideboard and pouring a shot of rye. “ Both.” he said finally before downing the shot.
“ Both, even though they’re the same person.?”
“ Yes damn it. Sometimes I wish he had never come back here………. I wish he had been killed in Mexico.” Murdoch said with anger. “ What kind of father wishes that of their own child?”
“ I can’t answer that sir, but I will say this………You ever get angry enough at Johnny, like you just did with me and say that to him…….You will never see him again. I don’t know what would make you ever feel that way about your own son, and to tell the truth, Murdoch, I don’t think I want to. You just don’t get how lucky you are to have a son like Johnny……..We both are.” Scott said before turning and heading upstairs to bed.
Scott stopped the wagon outside the line shack and climbed down. Looking around, he didn’t see his brother anywhere around.
“ Why is there two horses in the lean-to?” Miguel asked as he got down and tied his horse to the rail.
Scott stepped up on the porch, opened the door, and stepped inside, followed by Miguel, and found Johnny sitting at the table eating breakfast.
“ Hey brother.”
“ Miguel, what are you doing here?” Johnny asked as he stood up.
“ I came to help you make the repairs.” Miguel said as Teresa came in the door behind him. “ Why is she here?” he asked.
Johnny walked over to his brother, anger in his eyes. “ Miguel, Teresa, would you excuse me for a minute. I need to have a talk with my brother.” Johnny said as he walked outside.
Scott followed his brother outside and over to the lean-to. “ Something wrong Johnny?” he asked.
Johnny spun around and grabbed Scott by his coat. “ Why the hell did you bring Miguel up here with you?”
Scott grabbed Johnny’ arms and pushed him away. “ Murdoch wanted him to to come up here and help you.” Scott said with anger.
“ He has a responsibility at the ranch with that mare and foal, and chores to do there.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Look…….you have a more serious problem to worry about.”
“ Like what?” Johnny demanded.
“ Like the fact that your gut instinct was right. We got a letter from the Pinkerton’. Teresa killed her husband. She is wanted…..There’s a five thousand dollar price on her head, being paid by Doug’ family.”
Johnny walked over to the lean-to. “ I guess I shouldn’t be surprised…She did try to kill me.”
“ Johnny.” Scott said as he walked over. “ She murdered her husband and sold his business for five hundred thousand dollars a week after he died. She skipped out in the middle of the night and nobody has seen her since.”
“ Two hundred thousand………..That’s more money than that gold shipment I guarded.” Johnny said.
“ That much money isn’t easy to hide.” Scott stated. “ It’s close, you can bet on that. She’s not going to let that much money go unattended. Hell she could have it right there in that house or the dress shop she has.”
“ I say the house. Someone buying it and moving stuff in, wouldn’t look to conspicuous to anyone.” Johnny said. “ Look. I’m sorry I lost my temper earlier with you……I need to come clean with Miguel about his mother and me.”
“ I think it’s a little to late for that brother. He’s in there right now with her and well, with only one bed having been slept in, he’s gonna know.” Scott suggested.
“ I know.” Johnny said as he headed toward the line shack.
“ Johnny wait……..What about Teresa?” Scott asked.
“ What about her?”
“ She finds out we know and she’ll run and we won’t ever find that money.” Scott suggested.
“ We’ll just have to figure out a way of getting her to show us were it’s at.” Johnny said.
A tall man, dressed in a black suit stepped of the stage in Moro Coyo early afternoon. “ Excuse me driver, could you tell me if there is any law in this town?”
“ The closest law around these parts is in Stockton,about twenty miles from here mister.” the stage driver said as he handed the man his bag.
“ What about a man named Murdoch Lancer?”
“ Heard of him. He has a huge ranch in these parts. The hotel can tell ya how to get to his estancia.”
“ Thank you. You’ve been most generous.” the man said before heading to the hotel.
“ I will go back with you uncle Scott…..I do not wish to stay with her here.” Miguel said as Scott and Johnny walked back into the shack.
“ Your grandfather told you to come here and help Johnny fix this place up for the fall branding..” Scott stated. “ You come back with me and he will be upset at you.”
“ You’re staying here son.” Johnny cut in. “ Grandfather told you to do something, and you’re going to do it.”
“ Not if she is here I won’t.” Miguel snapped back.
“ Teresa is leaving today.” Johnny said firmly.
“ I have to get back to the dress shop Miguel.” Teresa said.
“ Miguel, why don’t we go start unloading the wagon while your father finishes getting dressed.” Scott suggested.
“ You are evil, I know you will hurt my papa. You should go back to New Orleans.” Miguel said before storming out of the shack.
Miguel, Scott and Johnny finished unloading the wagon and started fixing the corral they would use to brand and castrate the calves in.
“ Why do you sleep with her papa?” Miguel asked as he wiped the seat from his brow. “ She cannot be trusted.”
Johnny stopped working and looked from Scott to his son. “ I have my reasons son.”
“ Are you going to marry her?”
“ No, I have no intention of marrying Teresa.” Johnny answered. “ I learned a long time ago to not go from the fire into the oven.”
“ Yet you take her to bed……Isn’t that the same thing?”
“ No It’s not…..I said I have my reasons and when I can, I’ll tell you, but right now son, I need you to be nice to her and trust me okay?”
“ I do trust you papa, I would never trust her, even if she is my mother.” Miguel said before walking away.
“ He’s a pretty smart kid Johnny.” Scott said.
“ Yeah. Reminds me of me when I was his age.” Johnny said as Teresa walked over to them.
“ I should probably get going so I get back to Green River before dark.” she suggested.
Johnny walked her back to her horse he had saddled and waiting.
“ Will I see you next weekend?” Teresa asked.
“ Probably not. We have to much work needs done.” he said as he untied her horse and handed her the rein.
“ Maybe I’ll come out and watch.” she stated.
“ Not a good idea Teresa. Look, you need to stay away for a while. Let Miguel adjust to you being back here. You coming around so much…..He needs time to think.”
“ Sounds to me like Murdoch wants me to stay away, not you or Miguel.” Teresa responded as she mounted up.
“ Look, if you want to be around him more, then respect what he needs. This is a working ranch Teresa, not a playground for whatever game you’re trying to play.” Johnny said firmly before walking away.
Jack Dalton rode into the Lancer yard and looked around. “ Very impressive.” he said as he looked around.
“ Can I help you?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m looking for a Murdoch Lancer…..Would you be him?” Jack asked.
“ I’m Murdoch Lancer, what can I do for you?”
“ My name is Jack Dalton……..I’m from………….”
“ I know who you are. I know all about you and your methods.” Murdoch cut in. “ You’re not welcome here.”
“ If I could just have a minute or two of your time sir?” Jack asked.
“ I said you’re not welcome here. Get off my land now.” Murdoch ordered.
“ I’m sorry you feel that way Mister Lancer. I did hope we could work together on this.” Jack said as a rifle cocked to his left.
“ Mister lancer said to get off his land now………you got two ways of leaving here mister.” Hank said.
“ You have no idea who you’re messing with Mister Lancer. I don’t deter very easily.” Jack said before turning his horse and riding away.
“ Hank, saddle my horse for me, would you?” Murdoch asked.
“ Right away sir.” Hank responded as he turned to do what Murdoch asked.
“ Two more poles and the corral is all done.” Scott said as he reached for the canteen to get a drink.
“ Yeah, then we can start on the roof.” Johnny said.
“ No……YOU…….. can start on the roof. I’m going back to the house.” Scott stated firmly.
“ Oh come on Scott, we’re working so good together, the three of us.”
“ I was only supposed to bring the supplies up here Johnny, not get bamboozled into helping you do the corral.”
“ Grandfather is coming up the road.” Miguel stated.
“ See. Our father has come looking for me, wondering why I’m not back yet.”
“ Maybe not. Maybe he missed my company.” Johnny said with a grin.
“ Boys.” Murdoch said as he stopped his horse and got down.
“ Sir, I had planned on coming back when the wagon was empty, but a certain little brother bamboozled me into helping him do the corral.” Scott stated.
“ That’s fine son. It looks good.” Murdoch said. “ I need to talk to you boys. Miguel, why don’t you go saddle your horse while I talk to Johnny and Scott?”
“ Yes sir.” Miguel said.
Johnny could sense something wasn’t right. “ Let’s go inside.” he suggested.
“ What’s going on?” Scott asked as they walked into the shack.
“ You remember the man mentioned in the Pinkerton report son?”
“ If you mean the one with the unorthodox methods, yes sir. I do. Why?”
“ He showed up at the ranch this afternoon. I told him I knew who he was and to get off my land. Hank encouraged him to leave with a rifle.” Murdoch told them.
“ Who is this man you’re talking about Murdoch?” Johnny asked.
“ You didn’t tell him?”
“ Not all of it. I couldn’t with Teresa and Miguel here.” Scott answered.
“ He’s a bounty hunter, hired by the family of Doug Bennett, Teresa’ late husband.” Murdoch told Johnny.
“ This bounty hunter have a name?” Johnny asked.
“ Jack Dalton.”
Johnny stepped back. “ You sure that’s his name?” he asked as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee.
“ You know him son?”
“ I know of him…..and what I’ve heard about him isn’t good.” Johnny answered. “ You can bet, if he’s here, he won’t leave until he has Teresa, alive or dead…..he don’t care.” Johnny told them.
“ What all do you know about this man Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Not much Scott. He mainly worked south Texas. I had heard he was in Louisiana working, but never crossed paths with him or kept tabs on his whereabouts.”
“ There has to be something son. Something your missing.”
“ I don’t know what it would be Murdoch. I don’t know him.”
“ Well, I want you coming back with me.”
“ We got branding and castrating that starts next week. The hands are all doing other jobs. I’m not leaving here until this is finished.” Johnny retorted.
“ You’ll do as you’re told.” Murdoch yelled just as Miguel walked into the shack.
“ Is everything alright papa?” he asked.
“ Yeah son. Everything is fine. You’re going back with Murdoch. Scott, and me are going to finish the roof tomorrow and then come on home.”
“ I can stay and help you.” Miguel suggested.
“ No…..you go on home with them. You need to do your chores there and check on Bella and her baby. I’ll be home day after tomorrow.”
“ Something is wrong. Grandfather was yelling at you.”
“ Yeah he was. The old man likes to do that sometimes. Makes him feel good to yell at me.”
“ Is that why you yell at me sometimes?” Miguel asked.
“ No. I only yell at you when you make me mad and don’t do what I ask son.”
Jack had no luck finding out anything about a Teresa Bennett. Nobody he talked to had ever heard of her, or seen her in or around Moro Coyo. If only he could have seen the letter Murdoch Lancer had sent to the Pinkerton’, he would know her name…….her name. That was it. What was Teresa Bennett’ name before she married Doug Bennett. Finishing his breakfast, Jack paid for his meal and walked over to the telegraph office and sent a wire to his employer, asking if they could recall that last name. He knew she was in the valley, he just had to find her.
“ I find you Teresa Bennett, and collect all that money you took and I’ll be sitting pretty for the rest of my life.” he said to himself as he walked to the telegraph office.
“ I need to know as soon as a response comes back.” he said firmly. “ Think you can do that?”
“ You’re staying over at the hotel. I’ll get the response to you right away.” Davy said.
“ See that you do boy, and keep your mouth shut about what’s in that wire if you know what’s good for you.”
“ You got no call to threaten me Mister Dalton. I said I would, and I will.”
Jack left the telegraph office and went back to the hotel.
Johnny and Scott finished up the roof and put what shingles were left next to the shack on the side.
“ You want to tell me what’s bothering you little brother?” Scott asked as he took his gloves off.
“ I wonder why this place never floods out in the spring?” Johnny asked as he walked around the shack to the stream that ran in the back.
“ Everyplace else does, but this stream.”
Scott walked over next to him. “ I don’t know. It is built in a good spot.” Scott stated. “ I know that’s not what’s bothering you.”
Johnny turned and went into the shack and just stood there looking around. He heard Scott step inside the door.
“ She was crying.” Johnny said softly.
“ Who was crying?”
“ Teresa. I came in from fixing the lean-to and found her staring off at nothing, crying………When I asked her what was wrong, she said she was just remembering her father and the stories he would tell her when she was a kid. How Paul and the old man built this place to last……….She said she wondered if her father would be ashamed of her for the mistakes she’s made.” Johnny said as he walked over to the table and sat down. “ My old man is still alive, and he can’t seem to let go of my past like I have after all these years being back here. It seems like every time someone comes to town wearing a gun, he thinks It’s because of me, that I should know them.”
Scott walked over and sat down across from his brother. The words his father said the night before flashing through his mind.
“ I think some people have a harder time letting go of the past Johnny. I don’t think it’s anything against you directly.” Scott said as he removed his hat and hung it on the chair back next to him. “ Johnny, I think Murdoch is afraid someone is going to come along and………”
“ Be faster than me right?” Johnny said sarcastically. “ Sometimes the way he looks at me, I feel like he wishes I had died in Mexico and never come back here.”
Scott leaned back in his chair and stared at his brother. The hurt he seen in his eyes, tore at his heart.
“ You not saying anything tells me the old man has said that to you hasn’t he?”
“ It’s alright Scott. I’m used to it. I know he will never fully accept me as his son because of my past……hell every time I would start to think that just maybe he was, my past would come back to haunt me.”
“ Maybe you and Murdoch need to sit down and have a real father, son conversation about this Johnny. Tell Murdoch how you feel. It’s not right. You deserve to be happy.”
“ I thought that with Teresa and look how that ended. Miguel is the only thing good that came out of that relationship.” Johnny stated.
Scott got up and went to the stove and retrieved the still warm pot of coffee from morning. Walking back over he poured a cup for himself and Johnny before sitting back down.
“ What can drive a person to kill their husband?……..Money couldn’t be that important to her.”
“ The letter said she was having an affair with the man she sold it to. A Dave Poulson, I guess he had the biggest sugarcane plantation and wanted Teresa’ husbands for some time.” Scott told him.
“ I can’t believe I’ve been so stupid Scott. From the moment I seen her. Me Johnny Madrid, played by a woman, and not just any woman, a fucking murderer.” Johnny said with anger as he stood up. “ I kept wanting it to not be true. I kept hoping my gut instinct was wrong.”
“ Johnny, I’m sorry. Really I am.” Scott said as he stood up. “ Listen, lets head back to the ranch, you can soak in a nice hot bath, lord knows you need one, and we’ll figure this out.”
“ You don’t exactly smell like no bed of roses yourself brother.” Johnny said. “ I want Miguel to read that letter tonight. He needs to know about his mother.”
“ Do you think that’s wise?” Scott asked.
“ Maybe not wise, but necessary.” Johnny responded as he went out the door.
Miguel read the letter his father handed him. Tears running down his face when he handed it back and went to the couch and sat down.
“ Ella mató a su marido?” Miguel asked. ( She killed her husband?)
“ Si hijo ella lo hizo.” Johnny responded as he walked over and sat down next to him. ( Yes son she did.)
“ Ella tratara de mayarte papa.” ( She will try to kill you papa.) Miguel said.
“ Listen to me son. She’s not going to kill me.” Johnny said.
“ ¿Qué pasa con este hombre que viene tras ella? ¿Y si él viene aqui a buscarla?” ( What about this man who comes after her? What if he comes here looking for her?)
“ He has already been here Miguel. “ Murdoch stated. “ I ran him off the property.”
“ And if he comes back, he won’t be asked nicely.” Johnny said.
“ ¿ Conoces a este hombre?” ( Do you know of this man ) Miguel asked.
“ No son I don’t. I’ve only heard things about him down around the border.
“ Miguel, we know this is hard for you to understand.” Scott said.
“ I don’t want him hurting her. I may be mad at her for abandoning me, but I wish her no harm.”
“ I don’t want her hurt either, but she has to pay for what she did. His family deserves to know their sons killer is in prison were they should be don’t they? ” Johnny asked.
“ I guess so….It’s just hard. I never thought my mother would actually kill someone and then come here and act like she did nothing wrong. What about all that money she took? Doesn’t that belong to her husbands family and not her?” Miguel asked.
“ Yes it does son. If we can get her to show us were she hid it. We can get that money back to the family.”
“ Que hay de ti papa? Sé que la amas. Lo he visto en tus ojos cuando la ves.” ( What about you papa. I know you love her. I have seen it in your eyes when you see her.) Miguel asked.
“ I’ll be fine son. I’ve been hurt before. I’ll be hurt again. It’s all part of life.” Johnny said. “ Sometimes we have to hurt the ones we love or be hurt by the ones we love, either by what they do or say. It’s just a part of life, and for you, it’s a part of growing up.” he added as he looked at his father.
Scott looked at his father, knowing that what Johnny had just said, was directed more toward him than Miguel.
Jack Dalton sat at the table in his room, reading a book when a knock at the door disturbed him. Getting up, he walked over and opened the door and found the hotel clerk standing there.
“ I’m sorry to disturb you Mister Dalton, but this letter was just given to me by the stage driver.”
Only one person knew he was here. He thought as he took the letter. “ Thank you.” he said as he took the letter and closed the door.
I am sorry I didn’t answer you back in wire, but there are a few things I have learned, I didn’t want to say in a telegraph.
I found my sons wedding certificate and the maiden name given is Teresa O’Brian. I have learned that Teresa was a ward of this Murdoch Lancer after her father was killed years ago and she was to young to be on her own. It would seem her whole life, she has lied to us about. I was willing to overlook her being pregnant, when my son met and married her, as long as she gave the child up. It would seem that when my son and I were away in Europe on business, Teresa went to California and tried to kidnap her illegitimate child. She also tried to kill the father of this child, a man named Johnny Madrid. Teresa served three years for this. I begged my son to divorce her when we got back and learned of this, but he would not. She may be trying to get her son who I have learned a Murdoch Lancer has at his ranch outside Moro Coyo. I hope this letter helps you and you are able to find this woman and bring her back here so I can watch her die for killing my son. My health is starting to fail me and I fear I will not have the satisfaction of this.
Now he had a maiden name and a bit more information to work with. “ So now all I have to do is find out what this Madrid looks like.” Jack said as he poured a shot of brandy and walked back over to the table and set the letter down. “ Surely people around here know what he looks like and I’ll finally be able to kill that sonofabitch.” he said angrily as he downed the brandy.
“ Man am I glad that’s done.” Johnny said as he took the rope off the last calf and swatted it on the butt to get back to it’s mother.
“ I thought you liked castrating calves Johnny?” Hank asked with a laugh.
“ That don’t bother me. I hate the smell of burnt hide.” he said.
“ Yeah, I’ll have to agree with you on that one. I don’t think you can ever get used to that smell.” Hank said.
“ You men did a good job. Let’s pack up and head back.” Murdoch said.
“ Where you want these cattle put Mister Lancer, now that we’re done?” Hank asked.
“ Go ahead and move them into that south pasture. The grass is waist high and green. It’ll do them good.” Murdoch answered.
“ Yeah, the water hole is full up again thanks to that storm we had last.” Scott stated.
‘ Miguel, you did real good. You’re going to be a good vaquero.” Johnny said.
“ Thank you papa.” Miguel said. “ Does it hurt them, you know, when you brand them?” he asked.
“ They might feel a little pain son, but nothing bad..”
“A cows hide is pretty tough. That’s why they can stand cold winters.” Murdoch added.
“ I don’t know about you guys, but me, I’m ready for a hot bath and some of Maria’ cooking.” Scott said.
Jack rode out of Moro Coyo, headed to Lancer. Last night he had decided to go into the saloon in town and strike up a conversation with a burly man who was more than generous in talking about the Lancer’ and describing Madrid perfectly for him. Telling him he would be the only one wearing a gun low on his hips, dark haired with ice cold blue eyes. The man had called him a half-breed. It would seem Lancer married a Mexican woman years ago, then run off with the child two years later. That the child grew up in Mexico, until about sixteen years ago when that child, going by the name of Johnny Madrid, came back to Lancer.
Johnny and Scott watched as Miguel tried to get the colt to start leading. “ Son, put the rope behind his butt and put a light pressure on it as you lead him. See if that works.” Johnny suggested as a rider galloped under the Lancer arch.
“ Who’s that?” Scott asked.
“ Don’t know.” Johnny replied.
“ That’s that same man that was here before. The one your father ordered off the property.” Hank said.
“ Stay here Miguel. Hank you stay with him.” Johnny ordered as he and Scott started toward the house just as Murdoch walked out.
“ What are you doing back here?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Well Mister Lancer, I thought I would give you one more chance to listen to what I have to say.” Jack said.
“ I told you before. I have nothing to say to you………NOW GET OFF MY LAND.” Murdoch said with force.
Johnny and Scott walked up to their father.
“There’s only one person who wears their gun like that. Blue eyes and half Mex, you’d be Johnny Madrid.” Jack said as he looked at Johnny.
“ Do I know you mister?” Johnny asked.
“ Me personally, no, but I know you and I’m real glad to see you’re still alive.”
“ My father told you to get off our land mister. I suggest you do it now while you can.” Johnny stated as his right hand dropped down to his side.
“ Just think Laredo. Maybe it will come back to you. Eighteen years ago last spring.” Jack said.
“ Our father told you to get off our land.” Scott cut in.
“ I know Teresa Bennett, or should I say O’Brian, was your ward. I also know she had a kid by you Madrid. I’m not leaving this valley until I do two things.” Jack said as he glared at Johnny. “ I know she’s around somewhere. It’s a big valley, I’ll find her.” Jack stated. “And I’ll take great pleasure in killing you, you sonofabitch.” Jack spat at Johnny. “ You think about what I said. I’ll see you again real soon Madrid.” Jack said as he turned his horse and rode away.
Murdoch turned and glared at Johnny with anger before he turned and went inside.
“ Go help Miguel with the colt Scott.” Johnny ordered as he started toward the house.
“ This has got to stop Scott. You seen the look he gave me.” Johnny said, cutting his brother off.
“ Johnny…think about it……Please? Think about what that man said to you before you go in there and get in another fight with Murdoch. He said Laredo, eighteen years ago. Try and remember back then. I know you don’t like to talk about your past, but clearly you did something to affect this man, that all these years later he want s to kill you.”
Johnny stood there, looking at his brother. He knew Scott was once again playing the middle man, the peace keeper between his father and him.
“ Yeah I was in Laredo eighteen years ago Scott. Hell I was in a lot of border towns eighteen years ago.” Johnny said with anger. “ I can’t remember every man I’ve killed.”
“ Jack Dalton would have been just a kid back then. Do you remember killing a man who maybe had a kid with him?” Scott asked.
“ No damn it……I never killed a man that had a kid with him Scott.” Johnny yelled.
“ You don’t remember killing a man by the name of Dalton in Laredo back then?”
“ No Scott I don’t.”
“ Do you think maybe he changed his last name?”
“ He could have……Hell I……..”
“ Look, lets go inside and talk about this. I’ll help you in any way I can to remember this Dalton, or whatever his name is.” Scott suggested as he walked up to his brother.
“ No……I need to finish helping Miguel with the colt.” Johnny said.
Teresa opened the small trunk she had in her attic and smiled. Opening it, she took out a beautifully hand carved wooden box and opened it. Inside was a skinning knife with a bone handle. Tomorrow she would take the gift she had bought her son and ride out to Lancer. It had been almost two weeks since she was there last. With his sixteenth birthday approaching, she hoped he would like the very expensive knife she had bought him years before back in New Orleans. The engraver had done a wonderful job engraving his name into the bone handle and inlaying it with gold. Setting it aside she reached into the trunk and removed a small blanket, under it were several stacks of money at the bottom. Careful not to spend any more than absolutely necessary the past two years so nobody would get suspicious. Some wondered were she got the money from, especially those who knew her before she left the valley all those years ago. She would tell them her late husband had left her the money. Mrs Carver remembered how well she could sew, and was please when she learned she was back and opened a dress shop. Most of the older women in Green River and Moro Coyo, she learned had either passed away or moved away to Stockton, were lady things were more readily available. Laying at the bottom of the trunk with the money was a small pistol she kept that her late husband Doug had given her not long after they were married. Small and easy to hide or carry in her bag for protection he had told her upon giving it to her. Checking the gun to make sure it was loaded.
Murdoch glared at his youngest when he sat down at the table to eat supper. A part of him deep down inside said to let it go and not saying anything, but the other part, the Scottish part of him wouldn’t, couldn’t let it go because of the lives at stake. He would wait till after supper to confront his son about what the man had said about Laredo eighteen years ago. Once again he would hear how his son, just a boy that many years ago, apparently gunned down another man and now, eighteen years later someone else came to Lancer, looking for revenge because of that killing.
Finishing his dinner, Murdoch stood up and walked into the great room and sat down at his desk, looking at his youngest still sitting at the table with Scott and Miguel.
“ Johnny…….come here.”
Johnny knew what was about to happen between him and his father. Once again his past was going to put a strain on their relationship. Standing up, he walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of rye.
“ Johnny, you told me you didn’t know this Jack Dalton, yet he rides in here this afternoon and specifically addressed you and referred to Laredo, eighteen years ago.” Murdoch stated.
“ How many times do I have to say it……… I don’t know him Murdoch.” Johnny said flatly.
“ Don’t you dare stand there and lie to me boy…That man knows about Teresa…….Hell he knows you have a son. Who the hell did you kill in Laredo eighteen years ago that would bring that man here to my ranch wanting revenge?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Your ranch……..Funny, I remember signing a piece of paper sixteen years ago allowing me and Scott to be third owners of Lancer, and you calling the tune.” Johnny said coldly as he stepped closer to his father. “ I have never lied to you old man. I told you, I don’t know this Jack Dalton, and I’ve never killed anyone named Dalton in Laredo.”
“ Sir…….It’s possible this man changed his name.” Scott cut in as he walked over, followed by Miguel.
“ It’s possible yes.” Murdoch answered.
“ Tell me something old man…….How do you really feel about me? Are you sorry I didn’t die in Mexico?” Johnny demanded.
“ I’m not going to lie to you, a part of me wishes it every time you get called out……..because if you had, then I wouldn’t have to watch you die.” Murdoch answered. “ What kind of father wishes that of his own son?”
Scott couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Stepping up next to the two men, he could see the hurt in his brothers eyes, a hurt like no other.
“ Sir I think you both need to calm down. Johnny said he doesn’t know the man, and I believe him.” Scott said.
“ At least now I don’t have to wonder.” Johnny said with sadness in his voice. “ At least now I know how my being Johnny Madrid when someone calls me out, really makes you feel about me.” Johnny added before turning to go upstairs.
Murdoch grabbed his arm and spun him back around.
“ What the fuck do you want me to say Murdoch? I told you, I don’t know Jack Dalton.” Johnny yelled as he stood there glaring at his father. “ All I’ve ever been to you is a hired hand and nothing more.”
“ No you’re not. You’re my son damn it……….I’m tired of men coming here wanting to kill you………I want you to be able to live in peace.”
“ You think I like facing someone, knowing that it could be my last time. That I might not get the chance to see my son grow up. I wish I had died all those years ago in Mexico, but I didn’t.” Johnny said firmly as he jerked his arm free. “ Every day I wonder if it will be the day I get gunned down. Every single day.”
“ And you shouldn’t have to worry about that damn it.” Murdoch said firmly. “ My son has a right to live.”
“ You mean so I can be just another ranch hand?” Johnny asked.
“ I told you you’re not…………….Look, this man clearly knows you son. I’m guessing by his age, he wasn’t more than a child eighteen years ago. Maybe Scott’ right. Maybe this man did change his name. The only way we’re going to figure this out is if you can remember.”
“ He said eighteen years ago last spring Johnny.” Scott stated.
Johnny walked over and grabbed the bottle of tequila and a glass and walked over to the couch and sat down. “ Most times I stayed away from the bigger towns because of the reputation I was getting.” Johnny said as his father came over and sat down across from him. “ I was there for some……..” Johnny poured a shot of tequila and downed it. “ I was there for some company and food. My horse needed a good feed and shoes, so I rode into Laredo. I rode in early afternoon and was there for the night only. I was sitting in the saloon, minding my own business when this man started roughing up one of the girls. Nobody would stop him, and I don’t take cotton to a man beating on a woman….. I seen my mother beaten enough by men like him. He told me to mind my own business, that he would do what he wanted because she was just a whore. I told him not while I was there. He hit her again and I stood up, walked over to him and hit him right in the mouth knocking him out cold. The next morning this same man see’s me coming out of the livery and draws on me……. hitting me in the lower left side. I swung up in the saddle and shot him dead as I left………There wasn’t a kid with him.”
“ Somebody must have told him who killed his father.” Scott suggested.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said.
“ That man was wrong in beating that woman. What you did was right papa.” Miguel said. “ I’m proud that you stood up for her.”
“ You never knew the mans name?” Murdoch asked
“ Yeah, but it wasn’t Dalton……It was…….Dawson.” Johnny answered. “ I heard about this a couple years later.”
“ Can I ask how old you were son?”
“ Thirteen.” Johnny answered.
“ Papa, how old were you when you started being Johnny Madrid?” Miguel asked.
“ Being Madrid, or using a gun son?” Johnny asked back.
Murdoch looked at his oldest, shocked at what he just heard his son ask.
“ They are not the same?” Miguel asked.
“ Nope.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I was ten when I killed the man that killed your grandmother. After that, I became Johnny Madrid.”
“ You killed the man who killed your mother?”
“ Yes I did son. When I was well enough to, I tracked him down and killed him. He thought he had killed me also, until I walked into the cantina in Sonora and shot him dead.”
“ Listen Johnny, I don’t want you facing this Dalton, Dawson, or whatever his name is.” Murdoch cut in.
“ He’s already called me out Murdoch. It’s just a matter of time when he wants to dance.”
“ I will not allow you to do this. This isn’t a dance you’re talking about. It’s two men fully intent on killing each other.”
“ I know perfectly well what it is. You think I want to kill him? You don’t get it Murdoch. He called me out this afternoon.”
“ Johnny, what if you ignored him? What would happen then?” Scott asked.
“ He would go after one of you, to get me to face him, so you see old man, he called me out, I have to face him.” Johnny said as he walked over to the sideboard and put the bottle of tequila away. “ Miguel, it’s time for you to go to bed son.”
“ Yes sir…..Goodnight.” Miguel said as he headed upstairs.
Johnny waited until he heard his sons door close, before turning to face his father. “ You have two choices Murdoch, so you better think real hard about what I’m going to ask you.” Johnny said flatly. “ Scott, this concerns you too.”
“ Alright brother.” Scott responded.
“ Son, I know what…….”
“ Shut up and sit down Murdoch.” Johnny ordered. “ You don’t know what I’m going to say.”
“ I suggest you watch your tone young man and remember who it is you’re talking to.” Murdoch stated firmly as he sat down.
“ That’s rich coming from you.” Johnny stated. “ Sixteen years ago I became a third owner of this ranch, just like Scott. Yet we both after all these years don’t get equal treatment. Now I can’t speak for Scott, but I’m pretty sure he feels the same way as I do about this. So I’m going to ask you this……..are we or are we not equal partners in this ranch?”
Murdoch looked from Johnny to Scott, back to Johnny. “ You have always been equal partners in Lancer.”
“ No sir we have not. At least not my brother.” Scott cut in. “ You seem to find fault in almost everything he does at times. You yell at him if he doesn’t get something done, regardless of the reason.”
“ Because everybody else on this ranch manages to get what I assign them done……..And I do not find fault in everything your brother does. Johnny has done damn good work. The men respect him, and he’s a hard worker.” Murdoch stated.
“ Every day I bust my ass doing what you want done, plus break mustangs for the army.” Johnny said.
“ Those horses are not this ranch. This is a cattle ranch. We’re not in the business of breaking horses.”
“ That’s funny. It seems to me if I remember right….Those horses I break have saved this ranch a few times. They’ve kept you from having to get a loan at the bank.”
“ Yes they have, but this is still a cattle ranch and always will be.”
“ Let me ask you this then…….Why is it so hard after all these years for you to accept that a part of me will always be Johnny Madrid?”
Murdoch stood there looking at his son. “ Because it’s the Lancer part of you I want.”
“ You want my arms, guts and legs, that’s what you said once. Well I have always given you that, and more, but until you can fully accept that your wayward son is both Johnny Lancer and Johnny Madrid, I guess we will continue to disagree.” Johnny said before turning and going upstairs.
Jack Dalton rode into Stockton and stopped at the sheriffs office. Dismounting, he tied his horse and stepped up and opened the door.
“ Can I help you with something?”
“ You the sheriff?”
“ I’m the sheriff. Names John Meager, what can I do for you?”
“ Names Jack Dalton, from New Orleans. I was hired by the Bennett family to bring in a Teresa Bennett for murder.” Jack said as he reached inside his coat and removed the paper and handed it to the sheriff. “ She’s using her maiden name now of O’Brian.”
“ Says here she’s wanted for the murder of her husband Doug Bennett. What makes you think she’s here in Stockton?” Sheriff Meager asked.
“ You have any jurisdiction around Moro Coyo sheriff?”
“ Nope, not in my jurisdiction. Why?”
“ Because I believe her to be in that area sheriff. She grew up at a ranch called Lancer.”
“ I’ve heard of it. They say Lancer’ the biggest spread in the San Joaquin valley.”
“ I believe Lancer, especially his one son knows were she is sheriff.” Jack stated. “ Now I’ve been out there twice and Lancer won’t cooperate.”
“ What do you want from me?”
“ I want you to do your job and arrest him for harboring a fugitive sheriff.”
“ The laws may be different in New Orleans, but out here, unless a person breaks the law, I’m not going to go and arrest them.”
“ Even if one of his sons is Johnny Madrid?”
“ The gunfighter………..Mister, If you plan on going up against Madrid, you’re a fool. I seen him gun down three of the best in Nogales once. He’s still alive because he’s the best with that gun.” sheriff Meager said. “Now if I see this woman, I’ll lock her up.”
“ So you’re refusing to do your job?” Jack asked.
“ Mister Dalton, the people of Stockton elected me sheriff because I maintain the peace. If you want help finding this woman, then you need a marshal, they have jurisdiction over me. They can help you get this woman if she’s on Lancer land, not me.”
“ You’re the only law closest to Moro Coyo sheriff.”
“ Don’t matter. It’s not in my jurisdiction……..Now if you’ll excuse me, I was about to go eat some lunch.”.”
Jack stared at the sheriff a few seconds before turning and walking out followed by the sheriff.
“ Look, this is just some friendly advice. I wouldn’t try going up against Madrid alone, because unless you’re damn fast with that gun you’re wearing………”
“ I fully intend on killing Johnny Madrid, sheriff, after I find this woman.”
“ Gunfights ain’t illegal. You go up against Madrid, you make damn sure you go about it the legal way, otherwise it could be you on that wanted poster..” Sheriff Meager stated before walking away.
Teresa rode out to Lancer and was met by Murdoch as she dismounted. “ Hello Murdoch.”
“ Teresa, Miguel is gone with Johnny and Scott to Stockton.” he stated.
“ I have a gift for Miguel, I bought him in New Orleans.” she said as she tied her horse up. “ Will they be back soon?”
“ They should be back by supper time.”
Teresa took the small wooden box out of her saddlebag and handed it to him. “ Do you think he will like it?” she asked.
Murdoch took the small box and opened it. “ It’s very nice. I don’t know if he will want it Teresa.” Murdoch said as he handed it back to her. “ Look Teresa, I don’t want you coming around here anymore.”
“ I only come out here to see my son.” Teresa said as she too the box back. “ Can I ask why?”
“ I know you’re playing games with my son and I don’t like it. You tried to kill him once. I won’t have you hurting Johnny or Miguel. Do I make myself clear?”
“ I told you before Murdoch, I have no intention of hurting them. I only want to get to know my son.”
“ So you say……You are no longer welcome on Lancer land….Don’t come back.” Murdoch stated firmly before turning and going back inside.
Teresa put the box back in her saddlebag and mounted up. “ You can’t keep me from seeing Miguel, or Johnny, Murdoch.” she said as she rode away.
Johnny Scott and Miguel walked into the gunsmiths shop in Stockton.
“ Can……..Well as I live and breath. Johnny Madrid. I thought you were killed down in Mexico years ago by the Rurales.” a short, baling man said as he walked around the counter and grabbed Johnny’ hand and shook it.
“ Pedro, what are you doing in Stockton?” Johnny asked. “ You had a place in Cordova.”
“ I did, but the town was getting to be to violent and my wife, she feared for me, so I came here.” Pedro said. “ And who is this?”
“ Pedro this is my brother Scott……and my son Miguel.”
“ Hijo……..you Johnny Madrid has a son and a brother?”
“ Yeah, it’s a long story.” Johnny said.
“ I see you still have the colt I made you.” Pedro stated.
“Yeah.” Johnny said as he took the colt out and handed it to him. “ Pedro here, made this for me.” he said to Scott and Miguel. “ There isn’t a thing he can’t do with a gun.”
“ Ah, you boast to much about me. So what can I do for you?” Pedro asked as he handed the colt back to Johnny.
“ Well, my son is here to buy a rifle for the old man.”
“ Aah, your abuelo. So what kind of gun do you wish to buy?”
“ A rifle.” Miguel answered.
“ A rifle huh. Well I have a very special rifle, but it is very expensive.” Pedro said as he pulled a rifle down from the shelf. “ This is a Model 1873 Winchester. It is chambered for the 44/40 cartridge which it can hold fifteen of in the chamber and they say is the first center fire cartridge.” Pedro stated as he handed the rifle to Miguel.
“ This is the rifle I want to get grandfather papa.” Miguel said with a smile.
“ You said the rifle is expensive. How much is it?”
“ Fifty dollars. That’s a lot of money for a rifle.” Scott said.
“ Yes, but this is not just any rifle senor. This is a one of a kind Winchester.” Pedro stated.
“ How much do you have son?” Johnny asked.
“ I have only thirty dollars.”
“ Well, I can loan you the rest. You can pay me back working with the horses.” Johnny said as he pulled out some money. “ You still engrave?” he asked.
“ Si, I still engrave. What would you like on it?” Pedro asked as he took the money.
“ The Lancer L in silver please.” Miguel said.
Johnny drew it out for his friend.
“ That is simple enough. When do you need it done by?” Pedro asked.
“ It’s a Christmas present, so you got time.” Johnny responded.
“ How much is the engraving going to cost?” Scott asked.
“ For the son of my best customer, I will do it for free.” Pedro said. “ I am happy you have a family now Johnny. Your son, he looks just like you. You should be proud.”
“ I am Pedro. He’s a good kid. One of us will pick it up a week or so before Christmas.” Johnny said as he opened the door.
“ Thank you Pedro.” Miguel said as he walked out.
“ Ah bueno. Eres muy bienvenido Miguel.” (Ah good. You are most welcome Miguel )
“ Well, I don’t know about you two, but I could use some lunch.” Johnny said.
“ Lunch sounds good before we head back to Lancer.” Scott stated.
“ I hope grandfather likes the rifle.” Miguel said as the three of them walked to the cafe.
Sheriff Meager sat waiting for his lunch when he noticed two men and a boy walk into the cafe. He knew from the way the one wore his gun low on his hip, he was a gunfighter. Watching the men walk over and sit down at a table by the window. When the door opened, he looked and seen the man he had talked to earlier walk in, stop and look around.
“ So much for a peaceful lunch.” he said softly.
Jack Dalton seen the Lancer’ cross the street and go into the cafe. Stepping down into the street, he decided to follow. Walking into the cafe, he seen it was just about full with lunch patrons. Looking around, he seen Madrid talking to a lady, whom he guessed was taking their order. When she walked away, Jack walked over to the table.
“ I wonder sheriff, if the good people you say elected you would be happy to know you have a killer eating in this fine establishment with them?” Jack said aloud, causing several patrons to look. “ Me personally I wouldn’t like having the killer Johnny Madrid in my town, let alone in my business.”
Sheriff Meager stood up and walked over to Jack. “ Mister, the only people I see in here are those wanting to eat their meal in peace.”
“ You have a killer right here sheriff. Do your duty and arrest him.”
“ This man has done nothing wrong in my town. All he’s doing is trying to eat a meal without someone like you bothering him. Now you got two choices Mister Dalton, one, you can walk out of here and leave my town, cause I don’t need nor want troublemakers in my town. Two, I can arrest you for disturbing the peace. The choice is yours.”
“ I’m not disturbing the peace sheriff, he is.” Jack said as he pointed at Johnny.
“ Yeah ya are, You’re disturbing every person in here with your tirade.”
Johnny just sat there ignoring Dalton. He knew the game the man was trying to play. It wasn’t the first time he’s had someone deliberately start an outburst about him.
Jack slapped Johnny on the back of his left shoulder. “ What’s the matter Madrid, you lose your nerve killer?”
Johnny stood up and faced Dalton. “ I don’t know you mister. All I’m doing is trying to eat some lunch. You got a beef with me, we can step outside and settle it right now so these people can finish their meal in peace.”
“ There ain’t gonna be no fighting in my town. Sit down and finish your meal…….You, get out and stay out. I want you out of my town by the time I finish my lunch you so graciously interrupted.”
“ You’re a dead man Madrid.” Jack said before storming out.
“ I want a word with you over in my office.” sheriff Meager said before leaving.
“ He’s trying to goad you into a fight isn’t he?” Scott asked.
“ He’s already call me out Scott.” Johnny said softly. “ It’s just a matter of when he wants to do it.”
“ So that wasn’t him trying to just now?”
Johnny ignored his brother and ate his meal in silence. He could see people glancing his way and whispering amongst themselves.
“ Let’s get going.” Johnny said as he stood up.
Scott and Miguel looked at each other before standing up. Scott paid for the meals and followed his brother outside.
“ What’s the sheriff want with you?” Scott asked.
“ Like I know.” Johnny said bitterly as he scanned the street.
Jack Dalton rode out of Stockton, headed back to Moro Coyo angry the sheriff refused to help. There were two roads a few miles out of Stockton, One led back to Moro Coyo and the other to Green River. He knew Madrid would be heading back to Moro Coyo, allowing for the first part of his plan to unfold. A plan that would get him both the woman and allow him to kill Madrid.
Johnny stepped into the sheriff’ office with Scott and Miguel. “ You wanted to see me sheriff.”
“ I had an interesting talk with that man in the cafe earlier.”
“ And you’re telling me this why sheriff?” Johnny asked.
“ He showed me a wanted poster on a woman and said you know where she’s at. Said he’s been out to your ranch a couple times and you won’t tell him were she is……..”
“ He wants my mother.” Miguel cut in.
“ Sheriff, I was there when he came back and my father told him to get off Lancer property and never come back. The woman he’s looking for is the mother of my son here.” Johnny stated.
“ So you know him?” Sheriff Meager asked.
“ Not personally no, I know of him. I’ve heard about his methods as a bounty hunter. He’s brutal, and believes in bringing his prisoners back dead than alive. Less trouble that way, some have said they heard him say.”
“ Do you know where this Teresa is?”
“ If I do, I’m not at liberty to say sheriff.” Johnny responded.
“ You do know that if you do know where she’s at and you don’t tell, you could be arrested for what they call aiding and abetting a murderer.”
Johnny looked at his brother, then back at the sheriff.
“ I’m going to ask you one last time. Do you know the whereabouts of this woman?”
“ Moro Coyo isn’t in your jurisdiction sheriff…..So therefore I don’t see it’s any of your business if I do or not.” Johnny said before walking past Scott and Miguel and going outside.
“ I hope for Madrid’ sake, he’s not lying to me, because if he is, I will have him arrested.” Sheriff Meager said flatly.
“ Yes sir.” Scott said before walking out.
“ My father goes by Lancer..Do not call him Madrid again sheriff.” Miguel stated before leaving.
Johnny stopped his horse at the split in the road outside Stockton.
“You and Miguel go on back to Lancer. I’m gonna ride into Green River.”
“ Do you think that’s wise brother?” Scott asked.
“ I want to go with you papa.” Miguel said.
“ You go with Scott. I’ll be along directly.” Johnny said before kicking his horse into a gallop, headed to Green River.
Jack Dalton heard riders coming so he leveled his rifle and waited. When the riders got close enough, he fired one shot hitting his mark and knocking the one rider off his horse.
“ Uncle Scott!” Miguel yelled as he jumped from his horse and ran to Scott’ side as he rolled over onto his back.
Jack walked up and chambered another round in the rifle. “ I would think twice about going for that gun. That is unless you want this kid dead?” Jack said as he walked up to him. “ Get up.” he ordered. “ Kid…..go get his horse……NOW.” Jack ordered.
Miguel brought Scott’ horse back over next to his. “ You, you’re the man that was at our ranch.”
“ That’s right. And now I’m the man who’s going to take you.” Jack said as he walked up to Scott.
“ Do whatever he says Miguel.” Scott said as he held his left arm.
“ You get back on that horse boy.” Jack ordered as he removed Scott’ pistol and went to his horse and removed the rifle. “ You give Madrid a message for me…….Tell him to bring the woman and money to the abandoned town of Genesis day after tomorrow and to come alone. He don’t and I’m going to start carving his kid up in small pieces.” Jack said as he kept his rifle on Scott and went to his horse and mounted up. “ I could have killed you. It’s Madrid I want. That’s why I just winged you.” Jack stated as he took the reins of Miguel’ horse and Scott’ and rode away.
Scott stood there helpless as his nephew was led away. Taking a kerchief he had in his pocket, he wrapped it around his arm and started walking toward Lancer. He prayed someone would come along soon so he could get back and find his brother.
Teresa rode along thinking about what Murdoch had said to her. “ You have another thing coming if you think you can keep me from seeing my son.” she said aloud as she spotted someone walking toward her. Recognizing who it was, she kicked her horse into a trot.
“ Scott, what are you doing on foot?” she asked as she rode up to him.
“ I need a ride to Lancer Teresa.” Scott said as he grabbed her reins.
“ Okay……You’re bleeding.” she said, noticing the blood on his left arm.
“ It’s just a graze. Will your horse carry two?” he asked.
“ I don’t know. I think so.” she said as she removed her left foot so he could get on behind her. “ What happened? Where’s Johnny?”
“ I’ll explain at the ranch.” Scott said as he kicked the horse into a gallop.
“ Mister Lancer.” Hank yelled as Scott and Teresa galloped into the yard.
Murdoch came outside. “ Scott, what the devil happened?” he demanded. “ Where’s Johnny and Miguel?”
“ Johnny went to Green River, I assume to see you. Miguel’ been taken by Jack Dalton.”
“ What? Who took my son?” Teresa demanded.
“ You’ve been shot.” Murdoch said as he noticed his sons arm.
“ It’s just a graze.” Scott said as they walked toward the house.
“ It needs cleaned out Scott.” Teresa said.
Scott sat at the dining room table telling Murdoch what was said as Teresa cleaned and bandaged his arm.
“ I don’t know what you’re talking about. What money? I didn’t kill my husband. He died from cholera.” Teresa said.
“ Stop with the lies Teresa. A man came here from New Orleans to arrest you and take you back there for murdering your husband.” Scott said with anger.
Murdoch went to his desk and pulled out the letter sent by the Pinkerton and threw it on the table at her. “ This is what we are talking about.” Murdoch said as he unfolded the wanted poster. “ Read it. I don’t know what kind of game you are trying to play, but it’s over.”
“ What’s going on?” Johnny asked as he walked into the room.
“ He has Miguel.” Murdoch said. “ He shot your brother and took him.
“ He said to meet him the day after tomorrow with Teresa and the money and to come alone.”
“ Meet him were?” Johnny asked as he glared at Teresa.
“ Genesis……Johnny, I’m sorry. I couldn’t stop him. He said if you don’t bring Teresa and the money he’ll kill Miguel.”
“ What money?” Teresa asked.
Johnny went to her and shoved her up against the wall. “ The money you stole from your dead husbands family. The two hundred thousand dollars you were paid for his sugarcane business Teresa.”
“ Stop it Johnny, you’re hurting me.”
“ I’m going to do more than hurt you if you don’t tell me were that money is………………Where is it?” Johnny demanded.
Murdoch and Scott just stood there staring at the two. Both knowing there would be no way they could stop Johnny, not with his sons life at stake.
“ Go to hell.” Teresa spat. “ That money is mine.”
Johnny grabbed her arm and jerked her hard away from the wall and around to face him. “ You better start talking now because that bounty hunter is the least of your worries if I don’t get my son back alive.”
Murdoch was watching a side of his son he never thought he would see. Never would he have thought his son would be rough with a woman. When Johnny jerked Teresa from the wall and around to face him, he had seen enough.
“ Johnny……treating her like this will get you nowhere son.”
“ Stay out of this Murdoch……….You better start talking right now.” Johnny said as he let go of her arm.
Teresa rubbed her arm as a tear rolled down her cheek. “ How dare you treat me like this.” she spat just before slapping Johnny hard on the left side of his face. “ Don’t you ever touch me like that again.”
“ I’m going to do worse to you, if you don’t tell me were the fucking money is.” Johnny said with anger.
Teresa slapped him again and turned to walk away from him, only to be grabbed by her arm and spun around again.
“ I have never hit a woman, but you’re real close to being the first……….Where’s the damn money Teresa?”
“ It’s got to be at the house she’s staying at Johnny. Let’s take her back there and look for it.”
“ You have no right to go there.” Teresa said.
“ That’s were it’s at isn’t it?…….You have it hidden somewhere in that house, and I’d be willing to bet it’s in the attic.” Johnny stated as he watched her eyes and got his answer. “ Can you ride Scott?”
“ I can ride. It’s just a graze.” Scott responded.
“ Go have Hank saddle three horses.” Johnny ordered.
“ Four. I’m coming with you.” Murdoch cut in.
Jack Dalton rode into the ghost town of Genesis and stopped at the livery. “ Get down boy and don’t try anything funny.” he ordered.
Miguel dismounted and walked his horse into the livery.
“ Leave the saddle on and put him in a stall.” Jack ordered as he did the same with his horse and Scott’.
Miguel did what he was told and walked over next to Jack and stopped. “ Why do you want to kill my father?”
“ Why?…………Because your father is nothing but a murderer. That sonofabitch killed my father in Laredo. People seen him do it. He gunned my father down in the street like a dog.” Jack stated as he shoved Miguel. “ Get going to the hotel boy.”
“ You lie. My father has never murdered anyone. Your father was beating a woman and my father stopped him. He ambushed my father the next morning when he was coming out of the livery. My father shot back in self defense.” Miguel said as they walked across the street.
“ That’s not what me and my mother were told. My father would never beat a woman.” Jack said as he pushed Miguel, making him fall down. “ Get up kid.” he said as he grabbed Miguel’ arm and yanked him up.
“ My father will kill you. He will make you die a slow painful death…….”
“ Shut up.” Jack ordered just before he slapped Miguel hard across the face. “ I got no problem beating you boy, so you better keep your mouth shut.” Jack demanded as he grabbed Miguel by the arm and jerked him around. “ That was just a taste of what I’ll do to you if you smart off to me like that again.”
Miguel spit at Jack’ feet. “ I’m not afraid of you.” he spat.
Jack hit Miguel with his fist this time, knocking him down. “ Boy, you don’t hear to well.” Jack said as he grabbed Miguel and yanked him back up and hit him again, knocking him out.
Johnny,Scott, Murdoch and Teresa rode into Green River and stopped at the house Teresa was staying at. Johnny dismounted and walked around to Teresa’ horse and reached up and yanked her down. “ Inside, now.” he ordered as he shoved her ahead of him.
Murdoch and Scott dismounted and followed them inside the house. “ Johnny, you take her up to the attic and look. Me and Scott will look down here.” Murdoch said.
Teresa walked to the stairs, remembering the small pistol in the trunk. Glad she hadn’t removed it. “ There’s a lamp just inside the door on the right.” she told him. “ All those times you fucked me, you were just using me weren’t you?” she asked coldly as they entered the dark attic.
“ Shut up and show me were it’s at.” Johnny said as he struck a match and lit the lamp.
“ I hope you die. So help me if I could, I would do it myself you half-breed bastard.” Teresa said with anger.
Johnny grabbed her by the arm and yanked her to him. “ You had plenty of chances to do it and as I recollect, you were enjoying every time I did.” he said before shoving her away. “ To think I loved you once.”
“ You never loved me you bastard. You just used me.” Teresa spat.
“ Where is it?” Johnny demanded.
Teresa walked over to the small trunk and knelt down and opened it. Reaching inside, she picked up the little blanket along with the pistol and stood up. “ It’s right there.” she said as she stepped away from it.
Johnny walked over to the trunk and shined the lamp on it so he could see inside. At the bottom lay several stacks of money. Closing the trunk, he picked it up. “ Move.” he ordered as he headed toward the door.
Teresa slipped the pistol into her coat pocket and dropped the blanket as she headed to the door.
“ I’m not finding anything.” Scott said as he walked out of the kitchen.
“ Neither am I son. It’s here though.” Murdoch stated.
“ I’ve got it.” Johnny said as he came down the stairs and set the trunk on the couch and opened it. “ Scott, go get our saddlebags. We’ll need them to carry all this money.”
“ What about her son?” Murdoch asked as Scott went outside.
“ We’ll take this back to Lancer and lock her ass up in the cell in the barn.” Johnny said as he started removing the money. “ I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much money in my whole life.” he added.
“ It is a lot, but it’s going to get Miguel back alive.” Murdoch said as Scott walked back in.
Miguel woke up and found himself alone, tied to a chair in a room in the hotel. Blood had dried to his chin and lip from were Jack had hit him, splitting it wide open. His left eye was swollen almost shut and he could tell his cheek was bruised. Trying his hands, he found them to be secured tight. He knew Jack hadn’t found the knife he kept on the inside of his left boot. Something his father had taught him, he said would or could save his life one day.
“ Bought time you came too.” Jack said as he walked into the room. “ You got anymore smart remarks to make, and I’ll bust you harder.” Jack said as he walked over and poured some water in a cup and brought it to Miguel. “ What’s your name boy?” he asked as he held the cup to Miguel’ mouth.
Miguel drank the cool water, relishing the feel on his dry throat.
“ I don’t like repeating myself boy.” Jack said as he walked back over to the table and dabbed a towel in the basin.
“ Miguel Lancer.” he answered.
“ Lancer huh…..You’re Madrid’ pup, so that would make your last name Madrid, not Lancer.” Jack stated as he walked back over and started to clean the blood off Miguel’ face. “ If he thinks he can hide and change his name, he’s wrong. Once a killer, always a killer.” Jack said. “ Imagine the shock when I received a letter from my employer, learning that that sonofabitch got Teresa pregnant and then kicked her out of that big fancy house.”
“ He didn’t kick her out. She never told my father she was pregnant with me. She left on her own and brought me back when I was a baby, because her gringo husband didn’t want me.”
“ Didn’t want you huh………If she didn’t want you, then why did she try to kidnap you and try to kill him?” Jack asked.
“ I do not know this.” Miguel responded.
“ And I bet you don’t know why she killed her husband in New Orleans and came all this way back here?…Seems like a long way to go for someone who didn’t want you.”
“ She said she came back here to get to know me, but I do not trust her. She is evil.” Miguel said.
“ He bed her?” Jack asked as he went and rinsed the towel out. “ Hell, if she’s a looker, I just might have to get me some from her before I get her back to New Orleans.” Jack said with an evil laugh. “ Now I’m gonna get me some sleep.” Jack stated as he checked Miguel’ ropes. “ I’m a real light sleeper, so don’t try nothing. I doubt you’ll be able to get them ropes loose anyhow.” Jack said as he lay down on the bed.
Johnny was restless. At first light he would be riding out, headed to Genesis. His father and brother would follow and leave him just outside town. Murdoch insisted he not do this alone. Walking over to the sideboard, Johnny grabbed a bottle of rye and two glasses.
“ Where are you going?” Murdoch asked.
“ Out to talk to Teresa.” Johnny said as he headed to the door.
“ Do you think that’s wise brother?”
“ I need answers okay. I need to know why she did what she did in New Orleans Scott.”
Walking out to the barn, Johnny had the guard step outside. Looking in the small window in the door, he seen Teresa siting up against the wall on the bed, her arms folded around her legs, her head down on her knees. Opening the door, he stepped inside.
“Thought maybe you might want to tell me now why you did it.” Johnny said as he stepped inside and closed the door.
“ You wouldn’t believe anything I tell you, so why bother.” Teresa responded.
Johnny poured two shots of rye and offered her one. “ Try me.”
Teresa brought her legs over the side of the bed and took the shot. “ How much do you want to know?” she asked.
“ Can’t sleep, so why don’t you start from when you got out of prison.” Johnny suggested as he leaned against the wall by the door.
Teresa took a sip of the rye. “ I was sent to San Quentin, the only prison that they sent women to. It also had men prisoners. You asked me if I had anymore children, I couldn’t because I was raped so many times in that hell hole, by both the guards and inmates. They didn’t keep the women in a separate area. When I got out, It took me three months of travel to get back to New Orleans.” Teresa said. “ When I got back, Doug was different to me. Course I couldn’t blame him, after all his wife just served three years in a prison. Not exactly high society social standards. He wouldn’t touch me, you know, romantically. He’d be affectionate in public, but at home his whole family shunned me.
I was followed when I went out. The servants watched me around the house.”
“ When did you start having an affair with Dave Poulson?” Johnny asked.
“ Dave…..I met Dave at a charity event in town. Doug was being his usual self toward me. I was lonely and we started talking. After that night I would get a message to him to meet up. I wasn’t proud of what I was doing Johnny, being unfaithful to my husband, but I was lonely. You know how that is. Anyways, I had been seeing Dave for almost a year when one night we started talking about how Doug was treating me. He’d seen the bruises on my face. One night, Doug beat me so bad, I had to go to the doctor. Being rich, he paid the doctor to keep his mouth shut. While I was in the hospital, I was able to steal this bottle of arsenic. Doug loved to drink wine with every meal and if he was working in his study late at night. I would bring it to him and he never knew until the night he died. It was just the two of us in the house, he was working late. Earlier that day he had decided to beat me and I’d had enough. I brought him his wine like I did every night, except this time I put twice the amount in his glass. He already had it in his system, so the amount I gave him that night, killed him. His family came home a week later and found out he was dead. I sold the business to Dave and left. Doug never changed his will, so the lawyer never questioned my selling the business. He knew Doug abused me. He’d seen the bruises.”
“ You said he died from cholera!” Johnny stated.
“ Arsenic, I learned gives the same symptoms of cholera. To someone who didn’t know, they would think it was cholera.” Teresa answered.
“ Why didn’t you divorce him?”
“ I couldn’t. It would shame his family if he divorced me. His mother would take over the business. It seems Doug could only run the business if he was married. Something his father had stipulated in his will that his son could not run the business unless he took a wife and had to keep that wife for at least ten years secure his inheritance.” Teresa stated.
“ So he only married you for money?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah. Guess you could say I was pretty stupid.” Teresa said as she wiped at the tears falling down her cheeks. “ You know what I wish more than anything at times Johnny?”
“ What?” he asked as he finished his shot and set the glass down.
“ I have no regrets about being with you. The only regret I have…….is leaving you. I wish I had never left Lancer.” Teresa said.
Johnny walked over and knelt down in front of her. Reaching up, he wiped at the tears on her face. “ We both have made mistakes Teresa. It’s just that when I’ve killed someone, it was because they called me out. You deliberately murdered your husband. You could have went to the authorities and got help or you could have just left him. That’s why I’m having such a hard time believing what you say.” Johnny said softly as he looked into her brown eyes. “ Why didn’t you just leave him?” he asked.
“ I knew you wouldn’t believe me. I never should have went back to him, but I had no place else to go. I tried to leave him and he had me brought back every time.” she said as she started to tremble and shake. “ I……..I never meant for Miguel to get hurt…….I swear.” she said between sobs.
Johnny reached out and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her, and just holding her, letting her cry.
“ Can you ever forgive me Johnny?” she asked.
Johnny put a hand under her chin and looked into her brown eyes. “ I don’t know.” he said as he gently rubbed her chin with his thumb.
Teresa reached up and took hold of his hand and leaned closer to his face. “ It’s okay if you don’t.” she said before she kissed him. “ I can’t blame you.”
Johnny stood up and pulled her up with him. Putting his arms on her shoulders. “ We leave at first light.” he said before kissing her passionately one last time, breaking it off when he heard her moan.
“ Please don’t stop.” she begged as she grabbed his right arm.
“ It’s over Teresa. I won’t risk everything I’ve struggled to build up for my son, for Lancer, for someone who can say they love or care about someone one minute, only to have that person try to kill them the next.” Johnny said before turning and opening the door. “ All those years ago, I loved you, but now, there’s no way I could ever love a person as cold hearted and deceiving as you are Teresa.” he added before walking out.
“ Son, I don’t like you riding in there alone.” Murdoch said as the three Lancer men and Teresa stopped about a mile out of Genesis.
“ I’m guessing he’ll be in either the hotel or the saloon. It will give him the best view to see me ride in.” Johnny stated.
“ If my memory serves me right, it will be about the middle of town on your left, and the saloon is directly across from it.”
“ That’s why I need you two to come in from the other way and make your way down on each side of the street to those two buildings.”
“ There’s a back door to both those places. We can ride to the back and he will never see us enter and take Miguel.” Scott suggested.
Johnny looked at his brother and just nodded. “ Which ever one of you finds Miguel, get him out of there and let me know he’s safe with a rifle shot.”
“ Alright son.”
“ What about me?” Teresa asked.
“ You go with me.” Johnny said as he cut her hands free and gave her the reins. “ Don’t get no ideas about trying to leave.”
“ Time to wake up boy.” Jack said as he got out of bed and walked over to him. “ Now I’m gonna be nice and let you loose so you can take care of business and stretch those legs. Don’t get any funny ideas about trying to escape, because I’ll kill you in a heartbeat.”
Miguel opened his eyes and started moving his head around to try and take the stiffness out of it as his hands and feet were untied.
“ Stand up.” Jack ordered.
Miguel stumbled, but was able to stand and let the blood flow to his arms and legs.
“ There’s an outhouse out back you can use. Let’s go.” Jack ordered as he picked up the rope and rifle.
A few minutes later, Jack walked Miguel into the Saloon across the street from the hotel, and over by the window in the front. “ Killing your old man is going to be a pleasure.” Jack said as he tied Miguel’ hands and shoved him down into a chair.
“ You will die today.” Miguel said.
Jack slapped Miguel hard across the face. “ Madrid will be the one who dies today boy.” Jack said as he took out a kerchief and tied it around Miguel’ mouth. “ I don’t want you yelling out.”
Teresa rode with Johnny into town. She knew the pistol was still in her coat pocket. “ I knew you wouldn’t believe me last night Johnny.” she said.
“ Shut up.” Johnny ordered.
“ I hope he kills you.” Teresa snapped. “ I hope I get to watch you die.”
Johnny stopped his horse at the livery. “ Get down.” he ordered.
Teresa dismounted and was jerked around facing Johnny. “ You like roughing women up don’t you?” she asked as her hands were bound in front of her.
Johnny glared at her as he tied her hands. “ Women no………I got no problem hurting a cold hearted bitch like you.”
“ Miguel will know just what kind of a person you are. He will see when you let that man take his mother.”
“ You’re not his mother. You haven’t been since the day you left him at Lancer……….Now start walking.” Johnny ordered.
Scott rode down to the back door of the hotel and dismounted, removing his rifle from the scabbard. Opening the back door slowly, he stepped inside and stopped, just standing there listening for any sound at all. Hearing nothing, he walked down the small hallway that led to the lobby. Finding it empty, he started up the stairs ever so cautiously, still listening for anyone who might be in the building. Reaching the top of the stairs he looked around the corner and seen a mouse scurrying along the wall to the first room, and disappearing under the door. All the doors to the rooms were open except two. The one the mouse went under and a room almost at the end of the hall. Looking down, he noticed dust on the floor and could make out two sets of footprints going and coming from the room at the end on the right. A lite breeze blew in the window at the end of the hall, it’s curtains all tattered and barely moving in the breeze. Stopping outside the last room, Scott slowly stepped inside and found the room empty. Looking around he found fresh water in the basin on the table along with a towel with blood on it, as well as a cup with blood around the rim from someone taking a drink. A chair sat in the middle of the room, away from the table, blood on the floor in front of it. Looking at the bed, he could tell someone had slept in it. Walking back out of the room he walked to the window and looked out. He could see his brother and Teresa walking down the street. Going to the room across the hall, he opened the door and found it empty, walking over to the window, Scott cautiously looked out and could see Miguel tied up in a chair in front of the window facing east in the saloon. Moving back away from the window, Scott headed back downstairs to the front door and waited, knowing his brother was Madrid, but shocked when he heard him call Jack Dalton out. Scott had a sick feeling he was going to see a part of his brother he wouldn’t like today. A part of Madrid, his brother didn’t want anyone to see or know about.
Murdoch stopped his horse at the back of the saloon and dismounted. Removing his rifle from the scabbard he cautiously walked up to the back door and found it open halfway. Stepping inside the back room he stopped and listened. Hearing a voice coming from the front, he knew his grandson was here. Stepping over to the door that led from the storage room to the saloon he could see Jack Dalton and Miguel by the window facing east. Seeing Jack slap and then gag his grandson, made Murdoch want to bust in the room, but he knew that if he did, it could get Miguel killed. All he could do was wait until his son got Jack outside, away from Miguel so he could free him. Hearing his youngest call Jack out, Murdoch knew wasn’t his way. As Johnny Madrid, it was someone else who always called him out. A sick feeling came over him as he watched his son. All the Pinkerton reports he had read about his son, every one of them said Madrid never challenged anyone. That it was always him called out. Today, Murdoch knew he was seeing a part of his son he would never want to see, A cold blooded killer.
“ Jack Dalton, come on out and face me.” Johnny yelled from the middle of the street just down from the hotel and saloon. “ Come on out if you’re man enough you sonofabitch.”
Teresa found herself shaking as she stood there in front of Johnny. “ Johnny, please don’t do this.” Teresa begged.
“ Did your husband beg you right before he died?” Johnny asked coldly.
“ I heard you never called a man out Madrid.” Jack said. “ I only see half of what you were supposed to bring. I don’t see no money.”
“ I have it. It’s in the saddlebags at the livery………Give me my son, and I’ll give you Teresa and the money and you can ride out of here.”
“ I’m riding out of here, right after I kill you you sonofabitch.”
“ I don’t think so.”
“ You know, you really should have taught your kid manners. I had to knock him around some until he got the message and started respecting me.”
“ Go over by that wagon and stand there.” Johnny ordered Teresa.
Teresa slowly walked over to the broken wagon and stopped. Bringing her wrist up to her mouth, she started undoing the knot to the rope binding her hands. She knew Scott and Murdoch were out there. Once the knot came free, she quickly undid the rope and went behind the wagon and waited.
Jack stepped out into the street more and walked closer to Madrid. “ You murdered my father.”
“ Your father was beating on a woman in the saloon. I stopped him. He tried to kill me the next morning, so I shot back in self defense.”
“ My father would never hurt a woman. He wouldn’t be with one of those whores in a saloon. He loved my mother.” Jack responded.
“ Plenty of people seen him hitting her, and plenty of people seen him ambush me when I was coming out of the livery to leave the next morning.”
“ You’re a liar.” Jack yelled.
Murdoch entered the saloon and called out softly to Miguel, so he wouldn’t startle him.
“ Don’t let him kill papa, please.” Miguel pleaded.
“ He won’t. Scott is across the street with a rifle on him.” Murdoch said as he untied Miguel’ hands. “ Let’s get you out of here and let Johnny know I have you.” Murdoch added as they headed back the way he came into the saloon.
Scott watched from across the street as Miguel and Murdoch left the saloon.
“ Johnny, Murdoch has Miguel.” he yelled.
Jack spun toward the voice and then back around facing Madrid. “ You were supposed to come alone”
“ Lancer takes care of it’s own.” Scott said as he stepped out of the hotel onto the boardwalk.
“ You sonofabitch.” Jack yelled as he drew and fired, his bullet missing it’s mark.
Johnny drew and fired, hitting Jack in the chest, knocking him backwards. Walking up to the man, stopping and looking down at him laying on the ground struggling to breath and trying to raise his gun, as a red stain slowly spread across his chest.
“ Nobody hurts my family.” Johnny said as he aimed his gun and fired, hitting Jack in the head.
Teresa seen her chance and took the pistol out of her coat and fired, hitting Johnny, dropping him to the ground.
“ Papa.” Miguel yelled as he went to his father. Picking up the colt. “ Drop it Teresa, or so help me I will kill you.” Miguel said as he walked toward her.
“ Miguel, I’m your mother. You won’t shoot me. I love you.” Teresa said as she stepped out from behind the wagon.
Miguel fired a shot, hitting the ground at her feet. “ You are an evil person.” Miguel said with anger as he cocked the pistol and walked closer to her.
Johnny got up off the ground and faced his son. “ Miguel, don’t do it son. She’s not worth it.” he said.
“ She hurt you papa. She is an evil person.”
“ Yes she is and she will pay for what she’s done son………Miguel, do you remember what I told you? Remember how I told you, it’s easy to kill a person, but It’s impossible to bring them back. Son, if you pull that trigger, it will be you going to prison for murder.”
“ She has to be stopped from hurting us anymore papa.”
“ She will be son………Miguel, you don’t want to do this. Once you cross that fine line son, there’s no going back.” Johnny said as he walked up to his son.
“ Miguel, he’s the one who should die. Shoot him.” Teresa said. “ It’s because of him, you were taken, not me. Kill him Miguel.”
Johnny stepped closer to Teresa and slapped her hard across the face. “ That’s what you wanted all along isn’t it? The real reason you came back here. You thought you could turn Miguel against me and get him to kill me didn’t you?” Johnny demanded.
“ Yes……yes I wanted him to kill you…..Yes I want you dead for what you’ve done to me. I won’t rest until you are dead.” Teresa spat back with anger.
“ You forgot one thing. You’ll be going back to New Orleans to stand trial for murdering your husband. I’m going to personally take you to the sheriff in Stockton and turn you over to him.” Johnny said before turning to his son, who stood there with the pistol still in his hand.
“ Let’s take a look at that wound brother.” Scott said as he walked up to Johnny.
“ I can make it.” Johnny said.
“ Sure you can brother. Let’s get you to a room in the hotel.”
“ Miguel, go get the horses, we’ll take her to Green River and wire the marshal in Sacramento.” Johnny said as he pushed away from his brother.
“ Son, you’ve been shot. That wound needs looked after.”
“ It’ll keep till we get her behind bars.”
Late that evening the lancers rode into Green River and stopped in front of the empty jail. Several people stopped and stared as Murdoch and Scott got Teresa down and walked her into the jail and locked her up.
“ Let;s get you into a bed brother.” Scott said as he walked out of the jail.
“ Sam.” Johnny said as he swayed a little in the saddle.
Scott turned and seen Sam Jenkins buggy headed toward them. “ You got luck little brother, I’ll say that.” Scott said as he stepped out into the street and stopped Sam and quickly told him what happened.
Sam hurried to Johnny’ side and took a quick glance at the wound. “ Let’s get him to the hotel and in a bed.” Sam instructed.
Scott came out of the telegraph office and was met by the mayor and a couple of towns people and accosted about Teresa. Telling them in a short version of what she had done and that a U.S. Marshal would be coming from Sacramento to take custody of her left some of them angry. Not wanting to believe a woman deserved to be locked up behind bars, Scott made it very clear to the mayor, what would happen if she was let out or if anyone got the inclination to interfere in any way. Walking back to the hotel, Scott found Miguel standing outside, leaning against a post.
“ You alright?” he asked as he walked up to him.
“ The doctor is taking the bullet out now.” Miguel said with worry.
“ Hey, Johnny’ tough. He’ll be fine. How about me and you take a walk?” Scott suggested.
A few minutes later, Scott stopped along the stream that ran under the big cottonwood trees on the edge of town. “ Wanna talk about what’s on your mind nephew?” Scott asked as he sat down on a log.
Miguel sat down next to him. “ I wanted to kill her.” he said softly. “ My own mother, and I wanted to kill her. When I seen her shoot papa, I thought she had killed him. I was so angry and scared.”
“ You know, so was I.” Scott said. “ My brother has had a rough life. Someone wanting to kill him all these years later just because he defended himself against a man who tried to kill him.”
“ What papa said to me, when I was standing there, ready to pull the trigger……..It makes sense now. Like that day in the meadow, when he shot that elk and later when he killed that man…….I understand what he meant when he said, it’s easier to kill a man, but impossible to bring him back.”
“ Your father has lived a rough life Miguel.” Scott told him as he reached down and picked up some pebbles and started tossing them into the creek. “ You know, when I was about your age back in Boston, I remember these boys who for some reason, didn’t like me. They always wanted to fight me.”
“ Why?” Miguel asked.
“ Because my grandfather was rich. They weren’t poor mind you, but I guess they thought I was stuck up or something because of my grandfather. They thought I had it to easy. This one day, those three boys cornered me and tried their best to get me to fight them. I told them I wouldn’t, so they started calling me a coward. Know what I did?”
Miguel shook his head.
“ I walked away from them. Know why?”
“ Because it takes greater courage not to fight someone. To walk away.” Miguel responded.
“ Yes……..You showed greater courage not killing your mother.”
“ What will happen to her?” Miguel asked.
“ She will be extradited back to New Orleans and stand trial for murdering her husband.”
“ Will she die?”
“ I don’t know. If she stood trial out here, yes, she would hang…….I’m not familiar with the laws in New Orleans, and what they do with someone who commits a murder.”
“ Did she shoot him?”
“ Johnny said she poisoned him with arsenic and that made it look like he had cholera. I guess they found out he was poisoned after she was gone.”
“ A part of me wanted to believe she had changed. That she really did want to get to know me……..but it was just a lie. She wanted me to kill my father. Uncle Scott, what makes a person have that much hate toward someone they loved once?”
Scott sat there a minute unsure how to respond. “ I really don’t know Miguel. The Teresa I knew was a fun loving girl I loved like a sister. I think she changed after she was attacked. I think deep down inside she blamed Johnny, and has had that hate and anger inside her all these years. I think she blames Johnny, because he couldn’t stop them. He was tied up and forced to watch what they did to her. He would have nightmares for a long time after, waking up in the middle of the night screaming her name and for them to stop.”
“ I heard papa one night after he killed that man in Strawberry. I think papa has had many bad dreams.”
“ I think so too Miguel. I think your father is haunted by every man he has had to kill in a gunfight.”
“ Papa is lucky to have a brother like you.” Miguel said as he stood up.
“ I think it’s me who’s the lucky one.” Scott said as he stood up also. “ Let’s go see how Sam is doing with that bullet.”
“ Johnny, I’m going to give you something for the pain before I remove that bullet.” Sam said.
“ No drugs doc. Just get it out.” Johnny responded.
An hour later, Johnny lay sleeping, his lower chest swathed in a bandage as Sam washed and dried his hands in the basin. “ He was shot in the back. An inch more to the right and he would be dead.”
“ Will he be alright Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ Given he doesn’t get an infection. I’ll leave a bottle of laudanum for him.” Sam stated as he put his glasses away. “ Would you care to tell me what happened?” Sam asked as he closed his bag.
Murdoch told Sam everything about Teresa wanted for murder, Jack Dalton threatening Johnny and kidnapping Miguel, shooting Scott in the arm. The money Teresa stole.
“ My god…..So this Jack Dalton is the one who shot Johnny in the back?” Sam asked.
“ No, Johnny killed him. Teresa shot Johnny in the back Sam.”
“ Oh my god. I can’t believe it. What pray-tell would make a woman do such a thing?”
“ Neither can I Sam. Teresa isn’t the person I knew as a child. The girl I raised for my best friend.”
“ Where is she?”
“ Locked up over in the jail. Scott sent a wire to the U.S. Marshal in Sacramento. I expect we’ll be hearing back from him tomorrow.”
“ Well, I don’t have to tell you what to do. God knows you’ve been through this with Johnny before. Change his bandage every day and try not to let him move around to much.” Sam instructed as the door opened and Scott and Miguel walked in.
“ How is he?” Scott asked.
“ He’s going to be fine.” Sam said as he noticed the bruising on Miguel’ face. “ Let’s have a look at you young man. Come over here and sit down.”
Miguel walked over to the table and sat down in a chair. “ He’s really going to be okay?” he asked.
“ Yes he is. He’s just sleeping.” Sam answered. “ Scott, you go to the store in the morning and get some willow bark tea to give him if he gets a fever. Also get some fever-few or meadow-sweet plant and make it into a poultice to apply to the wound to help stop infection.” Sam instructed. “ Now, Murdoch said you were shot in the arm.”
“ It was just a scratch Sam. It’s alright.” Scott answered.
“ Why don’t you let me check it just to be safe?”
Scott removed his shirt and let Sam check the wound and put a clean wrap on it. “ Put some of that poultice on that tomorrow. It’s a little red.” Sam instructed. “ Looks like you’re the only one to come out of this mishap unharmed.” Sam said to Murdoch.
“ Wound wise I am.” Murdoch answered.
“ I can’t prescribe anything for a broken heart my friend. All I can say is give it time. I think he will need the longest time to heal up from this. Be patient with him, all of you.” Sam said as he walked to the door.
“ How long before he can go home Sam?” Scott asked.
“ At least a week, and that’s only if he does as I say and stays in bed.” Sam instructed. “ He’s not to do any riding for a couple weeks. I want that wound to heal up.”
“ He won’t.” Scott said as he sat down on the bed next to his sleeping brother.
“ Thanks Sam.” Murdoch said as he walked to the door.
“ Walk me out.” Sam said as he stepped out into the hall.
Murdoch walked with Sam downstairs to the lobby which was all but empty.
“ I think Johnny is going to have a hard time getting over this Murdoch. You know how that boy likes to keep his emotions inside.”
“ Yes I do. Me and Scott have both tried to get him to talk about things in the past, but he won’t.”
“ This time, you may have to force him to. I know he loved Teresa, and from what you told me she’s done this time, He may bolt on you.”
“ What are you saying Sam? You think Johnny will leave Lancer because of this?” Murdoch asked.
“ I honestly don’t know. I just know what I do from a talk we had a short time back about her. I’ll see you later.”
Scott and Miguel got what was needed for Johnny and changed the bandage, making sure to put plenty of poultice on the wound before wrapping it back up. Johnny moaned a little as they rolled him back over onto his back, but didn’t wake up.
“ I’ll go take something to eat to Teresa.” Scott said.
“ Alright son. I’ll walk down with you and get us all something to eat. Miguel, would you stay here and keep an eye on your father?”
“ Si. I will stay with him.” Miguel answered.
Teresa was laying on her back on the cot in the cell when she heard the door open and seen Scott walk in with a tray of food. Opening the cell, he set the tray down on the chair in the cell and stepped back out and closed the door.
“ I hope he dies.” she said hatefully as she stood up and walked over to the bars.
“ Sorry to disappoint you, but my brother will live.”
“ Him and that half-breed bastard son of his I hope they both rot in hell.” she spat.
“ To think we all loved you. Treated you as one of the family.” Scott said as he walked to the door to the office.
“ None of you ever loved me. My father was murdered because of your father. That bastard mestizo Johnny used me for his own pleasure and then dumped me. I was brutally raped because of him. Murdoch promised my father he would look out for me and take care of me. He’s nothing but a liar. He never protected me. He never cared about me. He’s probably sorry it wasn’t you who took advantage of me because now he has two bastard children at Lancer.”
“ Johnny didn’t force himself on you. It takes to people to create a life Teresa. You were a willing participant with my brother. It was you who used him, and when Johnny realized his mistake, it was you who got angry with him. It was you who said those hateful things to him the day you left, just like it was you who couldn’t be bothered with raising his son. You’re nothing but a mean spiteful, vindictive person full of hate over something that was nobody’s fault but your own.”
“ I didn’t ask for that man Nash to rape me. He did because of Johnny. Just like that man Dakota, remember? He kidnapped Murdoch because of Johnny. That bastard will get all of you killed.”
“ My brother is not a bastard, nor is my nephew. The Marshal will be here in a couple of days to take you to Sacramento and then transport you back to New Orleans to stand trial for murdering your husband there.”
“ I won’t rest until he’s dead.” Teresa said before turning and walking over to the window and looking out. “ I’ll let every gunfighter I can between here and New Orleans know where that bastard is and that he’s still alive.”
Scott stood there, shocked at the pure hatred he was hearing come out of Teresa’ mouth toward his little brother. “ To think my brother loved you once.” he said before walking out and locking the door.
Murdoch sat at the table with Miguel with there breakfast when Scott walked into the room.
“ Everything alright son?” he asked.
“ Yeah. I can’t believe the hate she has for Johnny.” he said as he walked over to the table. “ Got a wire from the Marshal.” he said as he handed it to his father.
Received you wire. Since prisoner is wanted in New Orleans, they will have to arrange transport of prisoner back to said state. I can come and collect prisoner and signed affidavits from all parties involved. I advise you put the money in a secure location until I get there. I should arrive in Green River in four days.
“ What did he say?” Scott asked.
Murdoch set the wire on the table. “ He’ll be here in four days to take Teresa back to Sacramento. Said he will need affidavits from all of us attesting to what happened.” Murdoch said.
Johnny lay there listening to what was being said. Nobody had noticed he was awake.
Scott picked the wire up and read it. “ Says here that New Orleans will have to arrange for her to be transported back there to stand trial. What are you going to do with the money?”
“ I’ll take it to the bank in the morning and have them keep it in the safe until the Marshal gets here..” Murdoch answered.
“ How long does Sam have me down?” Johnny asked.
Miguel stood up and went to his father. “ Papa. I was so worried about you.”
“ Hey, I’m okay.” Johnny said. “ How are you?” he asked, noticing the bruises on his face.
“ I’ll be okay.” Miguel responded.
“ How long?” Johnny asked again.
“ Sam said you can go home in a week in the back of a wagon. He doesn’t want you riding for a spell son.”
Johnny sat up in bed and swung his legs over the side. “ How long I been out?”
“ A day.” Scott told him as he poured a glass of water and handed it to him.
“ Thanks. How’s the arm?” Johnny asked as he took the glass of water.
“ It’s fine. Sam cleaned it and changed the bandage.”
“ I need to talk to my son alone.” Johnny said as he stood up.
“ Whoa, you shouldn’t be out of bed yet brother.”
Johnny ignored Scott and walked over to the table and sat down. “ Why don’t you two go get me something to eat?” he suggested.
“ Alright son. As long as you stay put in that chair. I don’t want you passing out and tearing those stitches out.” Murdoch stated as he opened the door.
Johnny waited until the door closed and he was alone with his son. “ Come sit down Miguel.”
Miguel walked over and sat down across from his father.
“ You know I love you more than anything right?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes sir.”
“ I never meant for you to get hurt because of my past. You have those bruises on your face because of me, and I’m sorry.”
“ He did not not hit me because of you papa. He hit me because I would not obey him. He said I needed to be taught manners.”
“ That may be son, but you were kidnapped because of me. If I’d have known he was going to do that, I never would have let you leave the ranch and Scott wouldn’t have been shot.”
“ It was her fault. He came here because of her. She is evil. I hope she dies for what she did. She shot you in the back………..I…..I thought you were dead.”
“ Son, regardless of what Teresa did, she is still your mother. You realize that when that Marshal gets here, it will be the last time you will see her alive?”
“ I know. I talked with uncle Scott. He told me that she would most likely be hanged, but he wasn’t sure since he did not know the laws in New Orleans.”
“ Hanging a woman for murder, is a bit extreme. I’ve heard they do it, but I don’t know if they will hang your mother.” Johnny said.
“ What if they won’t come get her, what then papa?”
“ Then she will be tried for what she has done here son.”
“ They only sentenced her to three years for the last time she tried to kill you.”
“ They will know that, and not be so easy on her this time son.”
“ I understand what you meant when you told me it’s easy to kill a man, but impossible to bring him back to life. I wanted to kill her because I didn’t want her hurting you anymore. I know now, it is better for the law to punish her.”
“ There’s something else I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, and I think you’re man enough for the responsibility.” Johnny said.
“ What?” Miguel asked.
“ I would like to make you a full partner in my horse ranch son.”
“ Yeah really. When this is all over, we can have a lawyer draw up the legal papers.”
“ But what about grandpa and uncle Scott, what will they say about this?”
“The horse part of Lancer is my business, even though it has bailed your grandfather out a few times in the winter. The horse ranch is something I have busted my ass to build up for you. You have a way with the horses like me. Now it’s a big responsibility. You have to honor contracts, negotiate new contracts and customers. Deliver the horses to the customers when they need them. Think you can do that?”
“ I’ve been watching you. I have seen how hard it is on you. I can do it.” Miguel said as the door opened.
“ Is it alright if we come back in now?” Scott asked.
“ Only if you brought me some food.”
“ Ham, eggs and potatoes do?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, where’s Murdoch?”
“ He’s talking to the Mayor. It would seem him and a few others in town are not happy we have a woman locked up in jail.”
“ Maybe we should all move to the house she was staying in, so we can keep a closer eye on her?” Johnny suggested.
“ I don’t think that’s such a good idea brother. She might have a gun hidden somewhere and try to kill you again.” Scott said.
“ Then we can move her over here. We could nail the window shut so she can’t escape that way. The door can be locked from the outside.”
“ Your serious?”
“ Yeah I am Scott. Think about it. People in this town aren’t happy she’s locked up in jail. If she’s over here with us, they can’t really do anything now can they?”
“ I think I will let you make that suggestion to our father when he comes back.”
Teresa stood at the window looking out at what she could see going on outside. How could she get free? How could she make the Lancer’ pay, especially Johnny? Hearing the door open she sat up and was surprised to see Murdoch walk in, followed by Scott, who was carrying a set of handcuffs.
“ The Marshal won’t be here for four days, so we are going to move you over to the hotel until he arrives to take you back to Sacramento were you will stay until extradited back to New Orleans for murdering your husband. .” Murdoch said as he unlocked the cell door. “ Scott is going to put these handcuffs on you. You will not be allowed anywhere near Johnny or Miguel. You will be kept locked in a room and your meals will be brought to you twice a day. The door will be locked from the outside and the window is nailed shut, so you won’t be able to escape.”
Scott stepped into the cell and put the cuffs on her. “ The Mayor and other people in town know why you’re locked up. I suggest you be on your best behavior these next few days.” Scott said.
“ Oh I’m sure you’re enjoying this.” Teresa said hatefully.
Johnny got stronger and more restless as the days passed. Neither his father or brother would allow him to go downstairs and outside. He didn’t know if they were afraid someone would see him and call him out, or a town member would see him and start to accost him.
All four Lancer’ sat eating a quiet supper, three of them glancing at one who kept picking at his food.
“ You’re not eating much son. Are you alright?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny leaned back in his chair and put his napkin on the plate. “ I need to see her.” he said.
“ Absolutely not. The Marshal will be here tomorrow sometime. You can see her then son.”
“ I’ll see her now old man.” Johnny said angrily as he stood up. “ I’m not a little kid Murdoch, you can’t tell me what to do.”
“ I know you’re not a little kid…….But that woman tried to kill you son.”
“ Johnny, what could be so important that you need to go in that room and see her?” Scott asked.
“ That’s none of your business, any of you’s business.” Johnny said as he headed to the door and picked up the key to Teresa’ room off the nightstand by the bed. “ I’m seeing her alone.”
“ No you’re not. That woman almost killed you. You want to see her fine, but not alone. I forbid it.” Murdoch said angrily as he stood up.
“ Yeah I am.” Johnny said as he opened the door and walked out.
“ Damn him. Does he want to get killed by her?”
“ Sir, she has no weapons. She can’t hurt him.”
“ He’s not healed up yet. She can hurt him.”
Teresa sat looking out the window at the people passing by below, going about their everyday business wondering how her plan could have gone so wrong. How her son could turn against her like he did. Murdoch had said the Marshal would be there in four days, that meant he would show up sometime tomorrow to take her to Sacramento, after that, she didn’t know what her life would be. New Orleans was a long ways away. Would the Bennett family have her extradited back there like Murdoch said to stand trial for murdering her abusive husband? If not, then what would the Marshal do to her. Would she stand trial in Sacramento for trying to kill Johnny, again? If she only knew. If she only had a way of getting away from the Marshal. It would be a four day ride back to Sacramento, and he was coming alone. The door unlocking brought her out of her thoughts.
“ What do you want?” she asked bitterly as she stood up.
Johnny stepped into the room and closed the door, locking it. Standing there looking at her, he couldn’t believe this was the woman he once loved so much he was ready to give it all up for. The mother of his son.
“ I have some unanswered questions.” Johnny said as he walked over and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“ I have nothing to say to you, so just leave.” Teresa said as she turned away from him.
“ The Marshal will be here tomorrow. You do realize that you will be extradited back to New Orleans to stand trial for murder and that you will either be sentenced to life in prison, or hung for that murder?”
“ What do you care………..It’s your fault I’m in this mess in the first place.” Teresa spat as she turned back around to face him. “ Harlan Garrett, was right about you all those years ago. He had Scott ready to leave Lancer, and you because of your past. I read Scott’ letters to his grandfather. I read how he wished you were killed so he could have half of Lancer, instead of a third. I read how Scott was scared his father would be shot down because of you.”
“ What the hell are you talking about? Harlan Garrett died years ago Teresa.”
“ When I left Lancer after you ruined me and my life you sonofabitch.”
Johnny stood up. “ You really are one sick bitch. I thought just maybe coming in here to talk to you, I would see some kind of remorse in your eyes, but all I see is pure hatred.” Johnny said as he walked to the door and unlocked it. “ You know the sad part in all of this Teresa, you never got to know our son. You never cared enough to find out just how great a kid he is.” Johnny said before walking out.
Marshal Coulter rode into Green River early afternoon the next day and stopped outside the hotel and dismounted, removing his saddlebags and rifle he walked inside, glancing around as he walked up to the counter.
“ Yes sir, what can I do for you?”
“ Marshal Coulter from Sacramento. I’m looking for a Murdoch Lancer, supposed to be waiting here for me with a prisoner.”
“ Yes sir. You’ll find the Lancer’ staying in room eight at the end of the hall. They have a room reserved for you, if you would just sign the register for me.”
Marshal Coulter signed the register and grabbed his saddlebags and rifle and headed upstairs.
“ You’re awful quiet today Johnny.” Scott said.
“ You’ve hardly said anything to us since you talked to Teresa yesterday son. Are you alright?” Murdoch asked.
“ How often did you write to your grandfather when Teresa was staying with him?”
Scott was taken aback a little by his brothers question. “ I don’t really remember Johnny. A few times. Why?”
“ She said he had you ready to leave Lancer because of me. That you wished I would be killed because you were afraid I would get Murdoch killed.”
“ She said what………..Johnny, I swear to you, I never thought or said that. My grandfather wrote me the last time saying things I didn’t like about you and I wrote him back telling him that if he couldn’t accept you as my brother, then we had nothing more to say to each other.”
“ Son, don’t you see, this is another plot of hers to try and ruin your life. To try and drive a wedge between us.”
“ Johnny, I am proud to have you as my brother and I always have been. There is no way in hell I would ever say something like that. Especially to a man we all know hated you.”
“ Sorry brother. I had to ask.” Johnny said as someone knocked on the door. “ I can’t believe all the hate she has for me.”
Murdoch went to the door and opened it. “ Yes.”
“ Murdoch Lancer?”
“ I’m Marshal Coulter, Ben Coulter from Sacramento.”
“ Oh, yes of course. Please come in Marshal.”Murdoch said “ Could I offer you a drink Marshal?” he asked as the Marshal came into the room.
“ Thank you. So where’s the prisoner?”
“ She’s locked in the room across the hall.” Scott said.
“ We had her in the jail, but some of the townsfolk weren’t to happy about her being locked up. She used to work at the dress shop here, and some of the people are having a hard time believing she did what she did.” Murdoch stated.
Marshal Coulter stared at Johnny. “ So it’s the four of you I need statements from?”
“ Yes. This is my oldest son Scott.”
Marshal Coulter reached out and shook Scott’ hand. “ Scott.”
“ And this is my youngest son Johnny, and his son Miguel.”
Marshal Coulter stared at Johnny a few seconds. “Do I know you?” he asked finally as he shook Johnny’ hand.
“ No.” Johnny said.
“ Marshal, my son is recovering from being shot.” Murdoch stated.
“ Listen, why don’t I clean up and meet all of you downstairs for supper in say an hour? I can get your statements then.”
“ Alright Marshal.” Murdoch answered. “ We’ll be waiting.”
“ You say you found the money and rode to this town……..Genesis where this Jack Dalton, bounty hunter had your son. How did you find out where the money was at?”
“ I made her tell me Marshal. She kept saying she didn’t know what money I was talking about, but I knew she had it. I figured it was in the house at the end of town here, and it was. She had it in the attic in a small trunk.” Johnny told the man.
“ What relationship is this woman to you?” Marshal Coulter asked.
“ She’s the mother of my son.”
“ I see. And how long had she been back here before this Dalton character took your son?”
“ I don’t know. She showed up at Lancer when I was gone with Scott and Miguel on a hunting trip.”
“ And when was that?”
“ About two months ago.” Johnny answered.
“ Marshal, what does it matter how long Teresa has been back here? She killed her husband in New Orleans, and came back here to kill my brother.”
“ I’m trying to establish a reason for all of this.” the Marshal stated. “ Were you with her?”
“ What?” Johnny asked.
“ You say she’s the mother of your son, did her coming back here stir up old memories? Did you sleep with her?”
“ Marshal, that woman killed her husband and came here to try and kill me again. Whether I slept with her or not has nothing to do with what she has done.”
“ I suggest you come clean and tell me everything Johnny. It will help put her away.”
“ Put her away. She has a wanted poster on her for murder.”
“ Yes, but without further proof, it’s just hearsay. Anyone can have a wanted poster made up. It’s not the law that does it most of the time. It’s the person or in this case, the victims family that does it and offers the reward.” Marshal Coulter explained.
Johnny told the Marshal everything that happened between him and Teresa since she came back.
“ Why’d this Jack Dalton kidnap your son? He came here to get the woman. Seems a little odd he would kidnap your son.”
“ He used my son to get me to bring Teresa and the money to him.”
“ Okay, he had the money and woman, why did you kill him.”
“ Because he tried to kill me Marshal.” Johnny answered, not wanting to mention Madrid.
“ And when I talk to Teresa, she going to tell me the same thing? “
“ I don’t know what she’s going to tell you Marshal. Ever since she came back here, she’s done nothing but lie to me.”
“ You sure you’ve told me everything I need to know about this?”
“ You have everything that happened Marshal.” Murdoch stated.
“ Okay, then I guess we’re done here. I’ll go up and talk to the prisoner and be leaving in the morning with her.” Marshal Coulter said as he stood up. “ Where is the money?”
“ It’s locked up in the bank safe.” Scott said.
“ Alright, well if I need to ask you anything else, I know were to find you.”
Marshal Coulter unlocked the door to Teresa’ room and stepped in. “ You must be the prisoner I’m to take back to Sacramento?” he asked as he closed the door.
“ Do you see anyone else in the room Marshal?” Teresa asked as she stood up and walked over to the table and set the book down.
“ You can drop the attitude Missy. I’m here to get your account of what happened. I seen the wanted poster on you. I’ll be taking you back to Sacramento with me and hold you until someone from New Orleans comes to take you back there to stand trial for murdering your husband.” Marshal Coulter stated as he noticed the bruise on her face. “ How’d you get that bruise?” he asked.
“ He hit me.” she snapped back.
“ Who hit you?”
“ That sonofabitch Johnny Madrid, that’s who. Right after he killed Jack Dalton.”
“ Madrid, the gunfighter?”
“ Yes Marshal, the gunfighter.”
“ I didn’t talk to anyone named Madrid.”
“ That’s because he goes by Lancer now.”
“ You telling me that Murdoch Lancer’ youngest son is Johnny Madrid?”
“ Yes, he shot Jack Dalton down in cold blood and raped me. He hit me when I tried to fight him off.”
“ Who shot him in the back?”
“ I did. After what he did to me. I had every right to.”
“ Law won’t see it that way. I have four people and a wanted poster telling me that you are not the victim you’re trying to tell me you are.”
“ I feared for my life Marshal. Of course they’re going to tell you different.”
“ If you feared for your life like you say, How come you kept going out to Lancer to see Johnny?”
“ I didn’t go to Lancer to see Johnny, Marshal. I went out there to see my son.”
“ And the few times you slept with Madrid, were you afraid then?”
“ He forced himself on me.”
“ So you coming to his room in the middle of the night or riding to the line shack and all the other times, you had sex with him because you were afraid for your life. You got a funny way of showing your afraid for your life gal…..Let’s go back to this bounty hunter Jack Dalton. Did he know Madrid?”
“ Johnny killed his father in Laredo years ago.” Teresa said.
“ So he gets hired by the Bennett family to hunt you down and finds out Johnny Madrid, the man who killed his father in Laredo, Texas is here and involved with you, the person he’s hunting. Kidnaps your kid and demands he bring you and the money to Genesis, only he plans on trying to kill Madrid for killing his father years before.” the Marshal stated. “ That much money, you could have gone anywhere. Why did you really come back here?”
“ I told you, I wanted to get to know my son more.”
“ Did you offer Madrid any of the money? Is that the real reason Jack Dalton is dead?”
Teresa stood there staring at the Marshal. “ What are you going to do to him? He raped me Marshal.” she finally asked and said.
“ Nothing. I don’t have any paper on Madrid. Hell I thought he was dead years ago down in Mexico. I’ll pick you up in the morning.” the Marshal said as he went to the door.
“ You might want to work on your story a little better, because if New Orleans doesn’t come get you, the Lancer’ will press charges against you for attempted murder, and I don’t think the law will give you just three years this time since you tried to kill the same man again.”
“ I was defending myself. He assaulted me.”
“ Shooting a man in the back is attempted murder in any state.” the Marshal said before walking out of the room, locking the door and going back to the Lancer’ room across the hall and knocking.
Scott opened the door. “ Marshal, come in.”
“ You weren’t fully truthful with me.” he stated, looking at Johnny.
“ I told you everything Marshal.” Johnny said.
“ You left out the fact that you’re Johnny Madrid, and that Jack Dalton knew you because you killed his father in Laredo years ago.”
“ Marshal, my son was Johnny Madrid. He’s been trying to be Johnny Lancer ever since he came home seventeen years ago. Sometimes his past shows up and forces him to be Johnny Madrid.”
“ I’m not wanted for anything Marshal. I’ve never broke the law.” Johnny stated.
“ She says you raped her, and when she tried to stop you, you hit her. She said the only reason she was with you was because she was afraid for her life.”
“ She wasn’t afraid for her life Marshal. Teresa is a vindictive person with a lot of anger inside.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m afraid I would have to agree with you on that Lancer. I could see it in her eyes, especially when she talked about you.” Marshal Coulter said. “ I told her you would be pressing charges of attempted murder if New Orleans for some reason doesn’t come get her. She swears it was self defense and that the four of you are lying.”
“ We most certainly are not lying to you Marshal.” Murdoch stated flatly.
“ Relax. I would like to know one thing though. Why did you hit her?”
“ Because I was angry about my son being beaten and she was running her mouth trying to get my son to kill me Marshal. She wouldn’t shut up.”
“ Well, I’ll be leaving in the morning. Where can you be reached if the prosecuting attorney in Sacramento decides to charge her for what she’s done here?”
“ Our ranch is outside Moro Coyo, about thirty miles from here.”
“ Good enough. I’ll see ya.” Marshal Coulter said as he opened the door and left.
Johnny woke early the next morning and got up quietly. Miguel was still asleep in the bed next to him. Walking out into the other room, he found it empty, so knew his brother and father were also asleep. Looking out the window, he seen the sun just starting to show it’s first rays of light. Going back to his room after visiting the wash closet, Johnny quietly got dressed. His side burned and he knew Sam would probably chew him out for moving around so much instead of staying in bed like he was told. Scott had said the wound was red around the stitches from him moving around without any help. Opening the door, he stepped out into the hall and headed downstairs to get an early breakfast.
“ Where’s your brother?” Murdoch asked as he came out of the bedroom.
“ I don’t know. Miguel said he was gone when he woke up.” Scott answered.
“ Let’s go see if he’s downstairs. That boy is never going to learn to listen.”
“ His stitches were a little irritated I noticed when I changed his bandage yesterday.”
“ Because he won’t do like he’s told.” Murdoch snapped back.
Johnny sat at a table, drinking coffee when the Marshal came downstairs and walked over to him.
“ Care if I join you?”
“ Not at all. You’re up early Marshal.”
“ Why don’t you call me Ben. I’ve always been an early riser.” Ben said as a woman walked over to the table. “ Uh…..let me have some coffee and a plate of steak and spuds.”
“ I’ll have the same.” Johnny added.
“ You know. I always thought a gunfighter was ruthless. A cold hearted killer, but you, you don’t look or act like one. In fact, I’d say if it wasn’t for the way you wear that gun on your hip, people wouldn’t know you were Johnny Madrid.”
“ People around the San Joaquin know who I was Marshal. I’m Johnny Lancer now and have been for a long time.”
“ You know, some years back I heard a story about a gunfighter, turned lawman that with six deputies, escorted half a million dollars in gold from Douglas, Arizona all the way to San Fransisco.”
“ What makes you think it was me Marshal?”
“ Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll not speak of it again.”
Johnny leaned back in his chair and sighed. “ You’re not wrong Marshal. It was me.”
“ Can you tell me why you did it? I mean, a gunfighter turned lawman is a little off the beaten path so to speak.”
“ Wasn’t what I had planned when I rode into Douglas, but the miners where being robbed and murdered every day just about for their gold. The town offered me a hundred dollars a week to keep the peace.” Johnny said as his family came downstairs and joined them.
“ That’s a lot of money. You ever think about being a lawman again?”
Scott looked from his father to Johnny. “ Did we interrupt something?” he asked.
“ Nope. Me and the Marshal are just talking.”
“ Did I hear you correct Marshal, did you ask my son to be a lawman?”
“ The closest law you got around here is in Stockton. Johnny could be the law for Moro Coyo. It’s just a thought. I’d give you a letter of recommendation.”
“ I appreciate that Marshal, but I have a ranch to help run with my father and brother.”
“ Well, times are changing, more people are coming out west to settle, towns will grow.”
The Mayor walked into the hotel, and over to their table. “ Excuse me gentlemen, but I was wondering when you would be leaving?”
“ I’ll be taking the prisoner out of here this morning.” Marshal Coulter said.
“ And you?” the Mayor asked, looking at Murdoch.
“ We will be leaving when the doctor says my son can.” Murdoch responded.
“ Mister Lancer, it’s nothing personal. It’s just that, we don’t want any trouble in town. Surely you can understand that?”
“ Oh I understand perfectly.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ You boys ready?” he asked.
Johnny, Miguel, Scott and the Marshal stood up. “ Tell me something Mayor. Is it the Lancer’ you want out of town, or Johnny Madrid?” Johnny asked coldly, before walking past the burly man and heading upstairs.
“ We don’t need trouble or his kind in our town.” the mayor said.
“ I believe there is a town meeting open to the public coming up next month. I believe I will be addressing the issue of electing a new Mayor. Green River doesn’t need a chauvinistic bigot for a Mayor.” Murdoch said before walking past, heading upstairs, followed by Scott and Miguel.
“ Well gentlemen, It’s been a pleasure to meet you. Especially you Johnny. You’re a good person.” Marshal Coulter said as he mounted his horse.
“ The only thing he’s good at, is killing.” Teresa spat.
“ Little lady, I suggest you keep a civil tongue in your unprepossessing mouth, because I can easily gag you.”
Teresa glared at Johnny and Miguel, standing on the boardwalk outside the hotel. Iron handcuffs on her wrist with the chain fastened to the saddle-horn, limiting her hand movement. “ Go to hell.” she said as she turned her horse.
“ I’ve already been there.” Johnny said back before turning and walking back inside the hotel.
Three months later Johnny sat in his bedroom watching the snow fall cover everything, transforming the valley into a winter wonderland. Snow gathered on the horses backs as they stood with their heads down., facing away from the wind. He could see his brother and son riding back from getting the mail and rifle. Today was Christmas eve. On his bed lay several letters his brother had given him that he acquired when his grandfather had passed away. Reading them several times, he could find nothing in them that even remotely suggested what Teresa has said to him that day. All he read was how his brother had told about the love he had for Lancer and his brother especially. How could he ever doubt the love Scott had for him was what bothered him now more than anything.
Scott walked into the house, followed by Miguel, who quickly went upstairs to hide the rifle from his grandfather.
“ Got a letter from the Pinkerton’.” he said as he walked into the great room.
Murdoch looked up from the books he was balancing. “ I’ve dreaded this.” he said.
“ You think it’s about Teresa?” Scott asked as he handed the letter to him.
Murdoch took the letter and leaned back in his chair.
“ Has he come downstairs yet?”
“ No. He just sits up there looking out the window. It’s been three months now. Ever since the snow started, Johnny has been quiet. He hardly eats anything. I don’t like how he’s been acting. It has me worried.”
“ We have to remember that Johnny has to work things out in his mind himself before he’s ready to talk to us.” Scott said.
“ And if he doesn’t?” Murdoch asked. “ I don’t want to lose him.” he added.
“ I don’t think you are going to lose him sir. Johnny has made Lancer his home now for seventeen years. It’s been rough sometimes, but he stayed.” Scott stated as he walked over to the fire to warm up. “ I guess we both have issues we need to deal with.” Scott stated.
“ Such as?” Murdoch asked.
“ You accepting he will always be Johnny Madrid, and me trying to understand why he would even think what Teresa told him in the hotel room that day would be true.”
“ Son, do you think it’s possible that just maybe you said something in one of your letters that suggested what she said?”
“ Absolutely not sir. I have loved Johnny ever since he came home. Granted we got off to a rocky start, me chasing him all the way to Ft. Sumner, New Mexico and convincing him to come back here was a challenge, but I have never said I wanted him dead. I have all the letters I wrote to grandfather, they came in that chest I received after he passed away. I gave them to Johnny to read.” Scott stated.
“ Is it possible son, that your brother is feeling a little hurt over doubting your love for him because of what Teresa said to him?”
“ That thought has crossed my mind. I’m just not sure how to address it with him.”
Murdoch opened the letter and took it out of the envelope, inside was another letter addressed directly to Johnny, setting it on the desk, Murdoch opened the letter from the Pinkerton and began reading it.
I am responding to your request to know the outcome of the trial. Teresa O’Brian Bennett was sentenced to life in prison per the request of the Bennett family. A punishment far better than death. The Bennett family was very grateful to get almost all the money back. A week after Teresa was sent away, Mrs Loraine Bennett passed away peacefully in her sleep from heart failure. She was able to hold on till the end and see justice served for her sons murder. I have included a letter from Mrs Bennett she asked be given to your son Johnny Lancer.
J. Daggett Pinkerton Detective
Murdoch handed the letter to Scott to read and then picked up the letter addressed to his son and started toward the stairs.
“ Let me sir.” Scott said as he read the letter. “ I need to talk to Johnny.”
“ Alright son.” Murdoch said as he handed the letter to Scott. “ I’m glad it’s finally over.”
“ Is it sir?” Scott asked as he set the letter from the Pinkerton down and headed upstairs.
Scott stopped outside his brothers room and knocked softly before opening the door.
“ Hey brother.” he said as he stepped inside and closed the door. Looking at the bed, he could see his brother had been reading the letters he had given him. “ You alright?” he asked as he walked over to the window and looked out at the snow, falling so hard now, you couldn’t see the barn.
“ Miguel get the rifle for Murdoch?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes he did. Your friend Pedro does exquisite work. The Lancer L is beautifully handcrafted. He ever engraved Murdoch’ name on the rifle. Said it was a gift from him to you for finding your father.”
“ You know. I’ve read those letters several times, and every time I don’t see anything that suggest what Teresa said to me that day in the hotel room.” Johnny said. “ I can’t believe I could even think you would feel that way about me brother.”
Scott sat down in the other chair. “ Johnny, it’s alright. Teresa was a manipulator. She knew you were vulnerable and she preyed on that vulnerability. I’m proud to have you as my brother, and would give my life for you.”
“ You almost did because of me. You and Miguel both almost died because of my past.”
“ That wasn’t your fault Johnny. Miguel and I both don’t blame you one bit for what Jack Dalton did.”
“ Was there a reason you came up here?”
“ As a matter of fact there is. Murdoch got a letter from the Pinkerton in New Orleans.”
“ What did he say?”
“ Teresa was sentenced to life in prison. She will never be free again.” Scott answered. “ Johnny, there was a letter from the mother of Doug Bennett with the report. It’s addressed to you.” Scott said as he handed it to Johnny.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he took the letter and looked at the writing before dropping it on the table and looked back out the window.
Scott stood up and walked over to the door. “ Johnny, I’m here anytime you need to talk.” he said before walking out.
Johnny picked the letter up and walked over to his bed and sat down. Opening it, he took a deep breath and let it out as he unfolded the pieces of paper finding the bank draft inside made out to him, Johnny Lancer, for five thousand dollars.
My name is Mrs Loraine Bennett. I am the mother of Doug Bennett, the man Teresa murdered. I am afraid I am on my death bed as my health has been failing me drastically. I am writing this to you, to tell you thank you for bringing my sons killer to justice. I know she is the mother to your son, and this must be very difficult for you. I couldn’t imagine the pain your are feeling having done what you did. Please believe me when I say I am truly sorry for you and your sons loss. Teresa it seems, deceived us all in the end. My son was a kind and loving person and I don’t believe I will ever know why she killed him. You could ask anyone in New Orleans who knew Doug, and they would all tell you how much he loved her even though I disapproved of their marrying at first when Doug was in Boston on a business trip to see a Harlan Garrett about expanding his business in the Boston area. When he came home, he was married to Teresa and had a baby with them, your son. What I’m about to tell you, you may find hard to believe but please believe me when I say it. I am a god fearing christian woman and would not lie about such a thing. Teresa was abusive to the baby. Every day she would be mean to him and say she hated him because he looked like his father. I don’t know the reasons why she left you in the beginning, all I know is I had to make her give the boy to you. It took some doing, but in the end she had finally agreed. I traveled with her to assure the baby stayed safe. My servant is the one who brought her and the baby to your ranch, while I stayed in town. Please accept the money I offered for her capture and use it for something good for your son and you. Again Thank you for giving a mother peace of mind before I pass away.
Mrs. Loraine Bennett
Johnny set the letter aside and stood up, walking over to the window he looked out at the snow. Tears ran down his face as he remembered the good times he had with Teresa. How innocent and full of life she was. How her smile and brown eyes could make him surrender to her with such ease. He knew the pain would eventually go away and had already eased some. The shock of reading that Teresa was abusive to Miguel, a small innocent baby, made him angry. Wiping the tears away, Johnny grabbed the letter and bank draft and headed downstairs.
“ Papa, me and grandpa are stringing popcorn for the tree. Do you want to help?” Miguel asked.
“ Not right now son. I need to talk to you guys.” Johnny said as he went to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila and downed it.
“ Something wrong son?” Murdoch asked as he set the bowl of popcorn on the table and got up from the couch.
Johnny held the letter out for him to read.
Murdoch took the letter and went to his desk and sat down to read it. When he was finished, he looked at his son who was now standing by the fireplace with his arms wrapped around him, like he always did when he felt insecure. Handing the letter to Scott, he walked over to Johnny and put a hand on his right shoulder.
“ I don’t know what to say son. Do you believe what she says in that letter?”
“ Why would she lie. She’s on her death bed.”
“ She passed away a week after Teresa was sentenced and taken away.”
“ That letter about my mother?” Miguel asked.
“ Yes it is son.” Johnny answered.
“ Was she killed?” Miguel asked.
“ No she wasn’t. She was sent to prison for the rest of her life.”
“ So she can never come here and hurt us again?”
“ No, she can never hurt us again Miguel.”
“ Why are you sad then?”
“ Let him read the letter Scott.”
Scott handed the letter to Miguel and walked over to Johnny. “ When she came here, I asked her if her husband had come with her and she told me he stayed in town because he wanted to kill you. She said she never told him the babies father was Johnny Madrid. Why would she lie to us like she did? I don’t understand.” Scott asked.
“ She was mean to me?” Miguel asked. “ I don’t understand.”
“ Neither do I son.”
“ I had no idea she was Johnny, when she brought Miguel here he looked fine. He didn’t have any bruises or look like he had been abused.”
“ I’m not blaming you brother.” Johnny said. “ I guess it’s like Mrs Bennett said in the letter, Teresa deceived us all, me especially.”
“ How do you really feel son, knowing what you do now?”
“ Angry……hurt…..glad it’s over.”
Miguel walked over to his father and gave him a big hug. Tomorrow is Christmas. We will be okay because Lancer takes care of it’s own.”
“ Yeah, Lancer takes care of it’s own.” Johnny said as he hugged his son back.
Johnny came downstairs Christmas morning and found his father already up, sitting at the table drinking coffee. “ Morning Murdoch.”
“ I didn’t think you would be awake yet.”
“ Didn’t really sleep last night.”Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Son, I wish I had answers for you, but I don’t. I have questions myself that will never be answered.”
“ Guess you could say I was pretty stupid huh?”
“ No. Look I know I haven’t always been a good father to you, and I still have trouble accepting the Madrid part of you, but one thing I have learned from watching you all these years is, you are a good, caring person, who would do anything to help someone if they needed it. I wish I had been in your life when you were growing up, but I wasn’t for most of it. You had to grow up fast and hard living below the border. You had to become Johnny Madrid, just to stay alive. So tell me, when you and the Marshal were talking that morning, were you considering becoming a lawman again?”
“ No……I have everything I need right here Murdoch. Being a lawman again would only put Madrid right back in the thick of things because word would spread, and I don’t need or want that.”
“ Glad to hear that brother.” Scott added as he walked into the kitchen with Miguel.
“ You always eves drop on someones conversation brother?” Johnny asked jokingly.
“ Just yours whenever I get the chance brother.” Scott said back with a grin. “ Merry Christmas Johnny, Murdoch, Miguel.”
“ Merry Christmas boys.”
“ Grandpa, I want to give you your present now, can I?” Miguel asked.
“ Alright, I guess we can go in the other room and exchange gifts.”
Miguel bolted up the back stairs to his room and came back down the front stairs into the great room.
“ This is from all of us.” he said as he handed the Winchester rifle to him. “ It’s a Winchester model 1873, one of one thousand. It shoots a 44/40 cartridge. It’s the first center fire cartridge made. I had him put the Lancer L, made of silver on the butt for you and he engraved your name on the breech. Do you like it?”
Murdoch cleared his throat and tried to swallow, but couldn’t because of a lump he now had. “ It’s……..It’s beautiful Miguel. Thank you. All of you.”
“ You know, me and Scott just couldn’t see you having that fancy new rifle in an old scabbard, so we made you a new one.” Johnny said as he reached behind the chair and brought out the beautifully carved leather scabbard and handed it to Murdoch.
“ I don’t know what to say boys. This is beautiful. Thank you. This must have taken you a long time to carve out.”
“ Johnny, little brother, I got you something I think you’re going to like. At least I hope you do.” Scott said as he reached under the tree and picked up a present and handed it to Johnny.
Johnny took the present and opened the box. Inside was a beautiful gold pocket watch with a chain. The lid had a beautiful carving of a horse running with mountains in the background. The inside had an inscription that simply read “ Brothers Always, Love Scott”
“ It’s beautiful Scott. Thank you.” Johnny said as he showed his father and Miguel the watch. “ I have your gift too, but it’s not as fancy as this.” Johnny said as he went to the tree and picked up a small rectangular box and handed it to him.
“ I’ve been wondering what was in that.” Murdoch said as he handed the watch back to Johnny.
Scott opened the box and was speechless and what he seen inside.
“ What is it son?”
A tear rolled down Scott’ left cheek as he looked at what was in the box.
“ You like it?”
“ Johnny, I…….I don’t know what to say.” Scott said as he pulled out a hand drawn picture of him and his grandfather. “ When…….How did you do this?” he asked.
“ From memory. I worked on it at night before I’d go to sleep or if I couldn’t sleep. I made the frame out of wood from that old shed we took down.”
“ Son, that is very good. You did this from memory?”
“ I have another one I did for the whole family too.” Johnny said as he went and got the other rectangular box and gave it to Murdoch to open. Inside was a beautiful portrait of all the Lancer men standing in front of the fireplace with the Lancer L behind them.
“ Johnny, you definitely have a gift son. This is a beautiful drawing.” Murdoch said with pride.
“ Miguel, I have your gift too son.” Johnny said as he went and got the last present under the tree. “ I hope you like it.” he said as he handed it to Miguel.
Miguel took the gift and opened it. Inside was a beautifully braided bridle and reins decorated in silver conchos instead of buckles.”
“ I love it. Thank you.”
“ I figured Bella deserved a new bridle since it’s a new beginning between the two of you.”
“ Thank you.”
Johnny stood there looking around at his family, and knew there was nothing more important, nothing stronger than the love of your family, because in the end, it was always your family who were there when it mattered the most, and he knew his would continue to be there for him no matter what.
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