Word Count – 26,371
I don’t own them. I’m just borrowing them for some fun and adventure. Any and all original characters of Lancer belong to their rightful owners. All others belong to me, and may not be used without my permission. This story will be rated R for possible language and romance.
Captain Noble – Cavalry
Sergeant Rowley – Cavalry
Lieutenant Lafferty – Cavalry
Jim Henry/ Tom McCauley
Charles G. Rudd
Marshal James Caldwell
Candy walked over to a table in the back corner carrying a tray with mugs of beer.“ You boys want another cold beer?” Candy asked.
“ Sure.” Johnny said as she picked up their empty mugs.
“ You gonna be around later tonight Johnny?” Candy asked as she set two cold beers down for them.
“ I’ll be here playing poker later.” Johnny responded as he paid her for the two beers.
Candy gave him a smile before walking back to the bar.
“ Boy you feeling okay?” Val asked.
“ I feel fine.”
“ Coulda fooled me. That gal is all but asking ya ta go upstairs with her tonight and ya tell her yur gonna be here playin poker tonight!”
“ You go upstairs with her!”
“ It ain’t me she wants ya damn fool!”
“ What’s wrong with playing poker instead of upstairs poking her?”
“ Boy….ya need ta rearrange yur priorities.” Val said with a smile. “ We leave here, it may be a while before the next town with any decent women.”
Johnny smiled. “ My priorities are just fine.”
“ We going to get him out of jail?” Tom Hawkins asked.
“ That’s the plan.” John Mason said. “ I told the damn fool not to go into Visalia.”
“ It’s just one old lawman keeping him in that jail.” Bill Kelsey said.
“ That one old man sheriff might have people in that town to back him up.” Mason suggested. “ We’re going to get him out, but we’re going to do it the right way. Jack, I want you to ride into Visalia and check things out. Don’t draw attention to yourself, and watch who you talk to. See if he has any deputies.”
“ Don’t worry, I’ll learn the layout of that town.” Jack Gordon said before going to his horse. “
Johnny sat watching the man across from him. For the past two hours he’d been sitting, playing poker with a minimum ante of ten dollars to open. About an hour after joining the game, the newest player started bidding higher, bluffing several hands in his favor. Now the pot was steeper. Six hundred dollars lay on the table for the best hand.
“ I’ll see your fifty and raise you……..another fifty.” the man said.
“ Too steep for me. I’m out.” one player said.
“ Me too.” said two more players.
“ Guess that leaves me and you.” the man said as he stared at Johnny.
Johnny knew the man was bluffing this time. In his hand he held four aces with a king. Without taking his eyes off the man, Johnny put fifty in the pot and raised the ante. “ I’ll see your fifty, and raise you another five hundred.” he said as he put the money in the pot.
“ That’s thirteen hundred dollars on the table.” the man said.
“ Eighteen hundred if you match my raise.” Johnny said softly.
“ I think you’re bluffing.” the main said as he put another five hundred in the pot. “ Call.”
Johnny knew the man would be angry when he found out he lost all that money. Never taking his eyes off the man, he laid down his four aces.
The man sat there looking at the four aces on the table in front of Johnny. Throwing his cards on the table, he stood up so fast, his chair fell over backwards. The room became deathly quiet as Johnny slowly stood up.
“ You have a problem?” he asked softly.
“ You cheating sonofabitch!” the man spat out.
“ There’s no way Madrid cheated mister. You dealt the damn cards.” one of the players said.
“ Madrid……You’re Johnny Madrid?” he asked.
Johnny just sat there and smiled.
“ We’ll meet again Madrid.” he said before leaving the saloon.
Johnny gathered up his winnings and walked over to Val. “ And you didn’t want me playing poker tonight.”
“ Buy me a damn beer and shut up.”
“ Give him a beer and me a shot of tequila Matt.” Johnny said as Candy walked over to them. “Thanks Matt. That offer still good?”
“ For you….always.” Candy said.
“ I’ll see you in the morning.” Johnny said before downing his shot, and heading upstairs with Candy.
Jack rode into Visalia and dismounted at the saloon. Walking inside he looked around to find a handful of people in the saloon sitting around talking as they sipped on a cold beer.
“ What’ll it be stranger?” Matt asked.
“ Beer and a shot.” Jack said. “ This town always so dead?”
“ Friday and Saturday nights we do pretty good when the hands from the neighboring ranches come into town.” Matt said.
“ Gets pretty rowdy huh?” he asked.
“ It can, but our sheriff usually calms it down.”
“ Town don’t seem big enough to have a lawman.” Jack said before taking a sip of his beer.
“ Visalia is growing. We got the Butterfield, Overland stage stopping here on it’s way to San Francisco from St. Louis now, and more families are settling in the area. We just hired a school teacher and the town’s thinking of having an election to get us a mayor and some deputies for the sheriff.”
“ Small towns are what I like. Less people on the streets.” Jack said.
“ What brings you to town?” Matt asked.
“ Just passing thru, and thought I would stop for a beer, and maybe some female company later.”
“ We’ll stay the night here and catch the stage out in the morning.” Murdoch Lancer said as they stepped off the stage in Visalia.
“ Sounds good to me. I could use a hot bath and a soft bed.” Scott said as they walked into the hotel.
“ Yes sir, what can I do for you?” the hotel manager asked.
“ Need a room for me and my son for the night.” Murdoch said as he set his saddlebags and rifle down.
“ I have a room with a full size bed and single bed available for three dollars with bath.”
“ That will be fine.” Murdoch said as he signed the register and paid the man.
“ The restaurant is open until ten. We start serving breakfast at five Mister Lancer.” the man said as he looked at the register.
“ Can you tell me when the stage leaves in the morning?” he asked.
“ Northbound will leave at ten.” the manager said as he handed him the key. “ Up the stairs to the second hallway on the left, fourth room on the right.”
“ Thank you.” Murdoch said before heading upstairs.
“ You have a good time last night?” Val asked.
“ I did all evening. Candy was the icing on the cake.”
“ You lucky sonofabitch. I can’t believe you won eighteen hundred dollars last night.”
“ You could have won money last night too.”
“ You know poker isn’t my thing kid.” Val said. “ Damn, here comes the law.”
“ Can I talk to you?” Sheriff Stevens asked.
“ This about last night sheriff?” Val asked.
“ Last night….I wasn’t aware there was any trouble last night.” the sheriff said.
“ It was nothing.” Johnny said as he gave Val a look that clearly said to shut his mouth about it.
“ You’re Val Crawford ain’t you?” he asked.
“I am. Why?”
“ You used to be a lawman?”
“ I was.”
“ I need your help. I have a prisoner in my jail that needs to be taken to Folsom state prison.”
“ Just who is this prisoner?” Val asked.
“ He’s been going by the name of Jim Henry, but his real name is Tom McCauley.”
“ Jim Henry of the Mason, Henry gang?” Johnny asked. “ If your prisoner is Jim Henry of the Mason, Henry gang. His gang isn’t going to be happy about him being in jail. They will try and bust him out.”
“ I know. I got a telegram this morning telling me to take him to Folsom.” the sheriff said. “ Look…Crawford I’m an old man. I have no deputies, and nobody is coming to get him.”
“ So what do you want?” Val asked.
“ I want to hire you to take him to Folsom.”
“ You willing to hire more than me to do the job?”
“ Who do you have in mind?” the sheriff asked.
“ Only the best there is, and the only one I would trust to do a job like that with.”
“ Can I ask who that is?”
“ Johnny Madrid.”
“ Madrid was killed by the Rurales down in Mexico two years ago.”
“ You’d do best to not believe everything you hear sheriff.” Johnny said.
The sheriff took a long hard look at Johnny. “ I guess I should……I’m sorry. Will you two take the job?”
“ Let us think on it and we’ll come see you later and let you know.” Val said.
“ Fair enough.” the sheriff said as he stood up. “ If you decide to not do it….maybe you can recommend someone who would.”
Johnny sat there looking at Val as the sheriff walked away. He knew of the the Mason, Henry gang and the brutal killings they had done before, and during the war to rid southern California of anyone who opposed slavery.
“ Okay kid…spill it. What do you know about this Mason, Henry gang?”
“ They’re butchers. They ride around killing anyone who opposes slavery. We do this, the trouble we’ll most likely be facing will be worse than that range war we took part in in Texas.” Johnny said.
“ Sheriff seems a little worried and afraid.” Val said.
“ You can bet if Mason knows Henry is in jail he’s had someone scoping out the town.” Johnny suggested.
“ If that’s true, there will be a lot of innocent people in this town killed.” Val said. “ Stage leaves at eight in the morning.”
“ Let’s make sure we have plenty of ammunition just in case we have trouble.” Johnny said.“ We need to sell our horses. We can put our saddles up top of the stage.”
“ Cold beer taste good. Thank you son.” Murdoch said as he watched two men walk into the saloon and go to the bar. Seeing the younger one made him start thinking about his own youngest son. “ He’d be nineteen now.”
“ Johnny?” Scott asked as he looked toward the bar.
“ The Pinkerton’s not being able to find him after seventeen years of looking, he has to be dead.” Murdoch said.
“ I don’t believe that and you shouldn’t either sir.”
“ Mexico is a big country son. A boy like your brother could be lost down there…….or god forbid………killed because he’s a mestizo.”
“ I know inside my brother is still alive and we will find him some day.”
“ I would love for him to be a third owner of Lancer.” Murdoch said. “ My god. He has blue eyes just like your brother.”
Scott looked at the man standing at the bar. His breath catching when he seen the eyes. “ You think?”
“ No, that one is a gunfighter son. My Johnny would never do that. A gunfighter is nothing more than a killer.”
“ Turn around you cheating bastard!” a man said firmly from the door.
Johnny slowly turned around to find the gambler he’d beat in poker standing there. “ What do you want?”
“ I want the money you cheated me out of. Now hand it over.” the man ordered.
“ Go away mister. You lost and I’m not giving you anything.”
“ What’s your name mister?” Val asked.
“ Charlie Anderson. Your friend cheated and I want my money back!”
“ I didn’t cheat mister. My four aces beat your hand. You were bluffing with almost every hand you played. There were plenty of witnesses……”
“ Shut up!” Anderson yelled.
“ Boy…are you that eager to die?” Val asked. He knew Johnny didn’t like having to kill a man, and killing this man would only make him have one more ghost to haunt his sleep. “ Do you even know or care who it is you’re facing?”
“ He’s the one going to die.” Anderson spat. “ He’s nothing more than a half-breed cheater.”
“ Does the name Johnny Madrid mean anything to you?” Val asked with anger. “ That’s who you’ve called a cheater……That’s who you’re facing right now!”
Johnny watched the color drain from the mans face, and then he seen it. He seen the one sign he watched for. The sign that gave him an edge and allowed him to beat his opponent.
Anderson went for his gun, but his hand never touched the butt as a bullet slammed into his chest. Standing there glaring at Madrid before his legs buckled, he dropped to his knees as a red stain spread across his chest.
“ I’ve never seen anyone so fast.” Scott said.
“ Like I said earlier son…….Men like him are killers.” Murdoch said.
Johnny holstered his colt, walked over to the table and glared at the man sitting there. “ It’s easy for you to sit there and judge another man when you don’t know anything about that person isn’t it old man?”
“ My father meant no harm.” Scott said.
Johnny looked at the younger man and noticed his Grey-blue eyes.
“ What’s going on here?” the sheriff demanded as he walked into the saloon. “ Madrid…Crawford…what happened? Who killed this man?”
Johnny turned around. “ I did. I gave him every chance to walk away.”
“ Who is he?”
“ Names Charlie Anderson. He’s the gambler Johnny beat last night at poker.” Val said.
“ Madrid gave him a chance to walk away sheriff.” Candy said.
“ Alright. Couple of you men get him over to the undertaker for me.” Sheriff Stevens ordered. “ You two make a decision yet?”
“ We did.” Val said.
“ Have him ready to go when the stage gets here in the morning.” Johnny said before taking Candy by the hand and going upstairs.
“ I’ll have him ready. Thank you.” the sheriff said before leaving.
“ Have you ever seen anyone that fast?” Scott asked the next morning as they sat eating breakfast.
“ No I haven’t son.”
“ His eyes sent a chill down my spine when I looked in them.” Scott said.
“ That young man is a danger to everyone around him son. Mark my words, a man like Johnny Madrid has death following him.”
“ Maybe…….He doesn’t seem like a cold-blooded killer sir. He gave that man a chance to walk away.”
“ Yes, but he didn’t have to kill him.” Murdoch said.
“ I can’t help but wonder what makes someone so young become a gunfighter?” Scott asked.
“ Men like that don’t need a reason son. It’s a choice they make to live by a gun.” Murdoch said. “ One thing I learned when I was a lawman, men like that like the fear they put in people. Madrid is no different.”
“ Well, I guess we better get going. The stage will be coming soon.” Scott said.
“ Stand up McCauley.” sheriff Stevens ordered.
“ You’re not putting those leg irons on me.” Jim Henry said as he stood up.
“ You can put them on or be hogtied and ride up top of the stage.” Val said.
Sheriff Stevens put the leg irons on and then handcuffs. “ Lets go.”
Jim Henry walked out to the office to find another man with a rifle waiting. “ Attach the ankle chain to his handcuffs.
“ He can’t go anywhere.” the sheriff said.
“ He’s our prisoner and I want it attached.” Johnny said firmly.
“ Just who the hell do you think you are boy?” Henry demanded. “ I’ve done nothing wrong to deserve to be treated like this.”
“ Names Madrid…..Johnny Madrid, that there is Val Crawford. As far as doing nothing wrong….You’ve done plenty wrong.” Johnny said as he walked over to him. “ I know all about you Tom McCauley. You ride with that scum John Mason, riding around slaughtering innocent people you feel are against slavery. You’re going to prison where you belong you sonofabitch.”
“ Let’s go.” Val said.
“ Hold on fellas. I have papers I need you to sign and papers for you to take and give the guards at the prison.” Sheriff Stevens said.
Val and Johnny sighed the papers and took the keys to the shackles.
“ Let’s go.” Val ordered as he yanked Jim Henry by the arm toward the door.
Johnny walked across the street to the stage and handed up his and Val’s saddles. “No weapons allowed inside the coach. Take them off and the driver can keep them up top with him.” Johnny said firmly.
“ Now see he boy.” Murdoch said.
“ Mister…..I don’t like repeating myself. Either you remove the gun belts or take tomorrows stage.” Johnny said as Val brought Jim Henry over to board the stage.”
“ Jim Henry!” Murdoch said.
“ Who is he?” Scott asked as he handed his gun belt up to the driver.
“ One of the leaders of the Mason, Henry gang. They like to ride around and slaughter innocent people they feel are opposed to slavery.” Murdoch said. “ The cavalry has been looking for him since before the war.” Murdoch explained.
“ And we get to ride with this butcher all the way.”
“ Get your ass on the stage Henry.”
“ And jut how an I supposed to do that…….deputy?” he asked with sarcasm.
Johnny turned the man around and shoved him backwards. “ Slide across on your ass to the other side. You’re riding on the floor.”
“ Let’s go. Get aboard. I have a schedule to keep.” the driver said.
Johnny boarded the stage last and shut the door as the driver slapped the reins and the stage lurched forward. None of them where aware a man watched from across the street.
“ Jack’s back.” Hawkins said.
John Mason stood up. “ What are you doing back already?”
“ They took him.” Hawkins said.
“ Took him where?” Mason demanded.
“ Two deputies left on the stage yesterday morning. I would have been here sooner but my horse broke a leg and I had to steal one after walking half a day.” he said.
“ Took him where?” Mason demanded.
“ I don’t know. All I know is the stage headed north with Henry, the two deputies and two other men on board.”
“ And you didn’t think to find out?” Rudd asked.
“ And get myself locked up. That wouldn’t have done any of us any good.”
“ Alright, that stage has to make stops. Staying overnight at places.” Mason said. “ Get mounted.”
“ One hour stop to change horses folks.” the driver said as he opened the stage door.
“ Where are we?” Val asked as he helped Henry out of the stage.
“ Firebaugh’s Ferry.” the driver said. “ There’s hot food inside if you’re hungry. I gotta switch out the teams.”
“ Go on over there and sit down.” Val ordered as Johnny climbed out of the stage.
“ Do I get something to eat?” Henry asked.
“ Go ahead and get him and you a plate Val. I’ll stay out here with him.” Johnny said.
“ Alright. I’ll be back in a few.”
“ You know Madrid, you’re just like me.” Henry said.
Johnny looked at the man. “ I’m nothing like you.”
“ Oh sure you are. You kill with that gun on your hip. Like that man you killed back in Visalia.” he said. “ I remember there was this family opposed to slavery. They had a daughter…..seventeen I think she was….I taught her what it was like to have a man. Had me a real good time raping her right there in front of her old man. When I was finished I slit her throat from ear to ear just deep enough she would die a slow death right in front of him. Then the boys had a go at the woman, course she wasn’t as sweet as that little girl was. Let him watch that too before I gutted him from his dick to his throat.”
Johnny walked over to Henry and hit him in the mouth as hard as he could, knocking him backwards. Grabbing him by his shirt, he yanked the man up and hit him again before Val came out. “ You sick sonofabitch……you keep you mouth shut!”
“ Problem?” Val asked as he came out.
“ Not anymore.” Johnny said before walking a short distance away.
“ I’m going to enjoy killing that half-breed bastard.” Henry said before spitting blood.
“ Eat your food and shut up.” Val ordered.
“ And how am I supposed to do that wearing these?”
“ Figure it out because they ain’t coming off.”
Scott walked over to Johnny with a plate of food. “ I figured you were hungry.”
Johnny turned around to face him. For some unknown reason he felt at ease around this man. “ Thanks.” he said as he took the plate.
“ Do you think Mason will attack the stage?” Scott asked.
“ He will. He’ll most likely pick a spot when we get into the hills.”
“ What made you become a gunfighter?” Scott asked. “ You don’t look old enough…..and…..last night I’ve never seen someone so fast.”
“ Where you from?” Johnny asked.
“ Morro Coyo is where I live with my father. We have a ranch there called Lancer in the San Joaquin valley.”
“ You born and raised there?” Johnny asked.
“ No, my mother died giving birth to me. I was raised by my grandfather back in Boston. Went to college there, served in the army spent a year in Libby prison and then came home.” Scott explained.
“ I started using a gun when I was twelve. My mother was murdered when I was ten. Never knew my father. She said he was some gringo passing thru Matamoros. Got her pregnant with me and left.” Johnny said. “ Growing up below the border being a mestizo times are rough. You’re not liked. I got tired of being picked on so I got me a gun, learned how to use it and kept practicing until I was good enough to find the man who killed my mother.”
“ How old were you?”
“ Fourteen. I sent him to hell where he belonged.” Johnny said. “ After that I decided to put my talent to good use. Regardless of what your old man thinks of me, I’ve never hit rock bottom. I’ve never killed a man who wasn’t trying to kill me first.”
“ Got bad news fellas.” the stage driver said. “ Just got a telegram from the office in Gilroy. Pacheco Pass is out. Rains brought down half the hillside. Won’t be open for at least a week.”
“ A week. Damn.” Val said.
“ There’s a livery that has horses for sale.” the driver said. “ I’m afraid this is as far as I go.”
Twenty minutes later Johnny led his horse out of the livery stable and slid his rifle in the scabbard.
“ I can’t ride like this. What if my horse stumbles and falls?” Henry said.
“ Guess you better pray he don’t stumble then.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle. “ You ready Val?”
“ I’m ready.”
Mason and his men rode up to the stage station at Elkhorn Springs as a man came out of the barn.
“ What can I do for you gents?”
“ Water our horses?” Mason asked.
“ Help yourself. Looks like you fellas have been riding pretty hard.”
“ Can you tell me…has the northbound stage been thru?”
“ Water your horses and leave. I got work to do.”
Mason grabbed the man as he pulled his gun. “ That’s not very friendly old man. I asked you a question, and I want an answer. Northbound stage with five men aboard, one of them in handcuffs been thru here?” he asked as he cocked the pistol.
“ Yes…it was here. It was here this morning.” the man said.
“ What’s it’s schedule?” he asked.
“ It will change horses at Firebaugh’s Ferry before it goes on and crosses Pacheco Pass.”
“ Now that wasn’t so hard was it?” Mason asked as he let the man go and walked to his horse and mounted up. “ Sorry, but I can’t leave you alive to warn anyone.” he said before shooting the man dead.
“ Looks like a storm coming at us?” Val said.
“ Yeah. We need to find a place to wait it out.” Johnny said.
“ Got any ideas?”
“ If it’s still standing, there’s an abandoned farm house about three miles up. The roof was good last time I was there, but that was about five years ago.”
“ Worth a shot.”
Two hours later Johnny walked into the abandoned house as lightening flashed. “ Starting to rain pretty hard out there.”
“ Yeah, I was thinking the river will be too high for Mason to cross.” Val said.
“ One good thing about this storm is his men won’t be riding in it either.” Johnny said as he looked over at Henry shackled to the stair post.
“ Why don’t you get some sleep and I’ll wake you up around midnight.” Val suggested.
“ How am I supposed to sleep chained up like I am?” Henry asked.
“ Figure it out.” Johnny said in a snidely way as he grabbed his rifle and sleeping bag and headed into another room to sleep.
“ I’m going to make that half-breed pay.” Henry said as he glared at Johnny.
Val pulled a kerchief out of his pocket and walked over to Henry. “ I like it quiet.” he said before tying the kerchief around Henry’s mouth. “ Now go to sleep.”
Scott stood looking out the window of the hotel room in Merced as lightening flashed in the distance. His mind drifting back to what Johnny told him.
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I was standing here thinking about something Johnny told me yesterday.” Scott said. “ He said his mother was murdered when he was ten. He said he was being abused so he started using a gun to stop it, and that he kept practicing until he was good enough to find and kill the man who murdered his mother. He was fourteen when he found the man and killed him.”
“ I told you it’s not good for mixed heritage kids below the border.”
“ Where did you meet Maria?”
“ At a cantina in Matamoros. Why?”
“ Johnny told me his mother met a gringo in Matamoros who got her pregnant and then left her.”
“ That happens sometimes son.”
“ What if she lied to him? What if Maria told Johnny a lie so he wouldn’t go looking for his father?”
“ Scott…..are you suggesting Johnny Madrid is our Johnny?”
“ The age is right, and so is the look.” Scott said. “ Have the Pinkerton’s check him out. It can’t hurt anything.”
“ And if he is, what then?”
“ Then we bring my little brother home.”
“ Son….do you really think that boy is going to want to give up the life he has now. He lives by his gun. Probably has no education, we know he has no manners.” Murdoch said.
“ We could teach him, but something tells me he’s smarter than you think sir.”
“ The thought of him being our Johnny is ludicrous.”
“ Why? He was taken from you when he was two. You’ve searched for him all these years. She would know you would be looking for her, so maybe she changed her name.” Scott suggested.
“ Madrid was not her last name son. It was Ortega, Maria Consuela Ortega.”
The Mason Henry Gang were bandits operating in Central and Southern California in 1864–1865. As the Civil War was in progress, they were able to pose as Confederate Partisan Rangers, and their original mission was to rid the area of (anti-slavery) Republicans. But when it became clear that the Confederate cause was lost, they turned to outlawry, plundering and killing without mercy.
The two leaders were John Mason, an alleged murderer, and Tom McCauley, a California Gold Rush criminal using the alias Jim Henry. The gang may have numbered up to sixteen at its peak. McCauley was shot dead in September 1865 by the San Bernardino County Sheriff Benjamin Franklin Mathews’s posse, and Mason killed in April 1866 by a miner, Ben Mayfield, whom he had tried to kidnap.
“ This damn rain won’t stop.” Val said with disgust. “ Makes me want to go back south.”
“ Could be worse, it could be snow.” Johnny said before yawning and stretching his arms and back. “ How’s our prisoner?”
“ Been nice and quiet. I got coffee and hot beans on the stove for ya.”
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he stood up and looked over at their prisoner. “ Something said last night?”
“ I like it quiet. He started running his mouth so I shut him up.” Val said.
“ Let me guess, he started talking about how I’m a dead man?”
“ Do you like making enemies kid? Because it sure seems like it to me.”
“ Being Johnny Madrid makes me have enemies.” Johnny said.
“ Besides that. Why you gotta goad them on like you are with him?”
Johnny told Val what Henry said he did to the girl. His voice quivering at the end.
“ They’re a bad bunch.” Val said. “ You gotta let it go kid. Whatever it is that’s eating at you….let it go.”
“ Nothing is eating at me.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ We been riding together a long time. I know when something is bothering ya kid, and ever since we left Visalia, ya changed. Talk ta me.”
“ When we met…..you remember what you said to me about three months later?” Johnny asked.
“ Now how the hell would I remember what I said to you that many years ago?”
“ You said we were meant to ride together. That you thought of me like a son……There’s been times when if you hadn’t been with me…….I think I would have crossed that fine line. I almost did with him when he told me that.”
“ Instead of putting a bullet in him….ya backhanded him. Personally I would have busted a few teeth out. What else is bothering you.”
“ Jesus Val….what are you a priest and this is confession time?” Johnny snapped back.
“ If I have to be yeah……Talk to me damn it.”
“ You think he ever wonders about me?” Johnny asked.
“ The gringo who…..”
“ Yur pappy…..Damn kid…….he’d have ta be a damn fool ta not be wondering about his son. He missed seeing you grow up and become the man you are.”
“ My mother said when she told him she was pregnant, he got angry….hit her….called her a whore, and left Matamoros.” Johnny said.
“ Let me ask you something I should have asked you a long time ago. I mean no disrespect toward yur mother….but have ya ever doubted what she said about yur old man?”
“ Until I talked to Scott I didn’t.” Johnny said softly.
“ Scott………You mean that………What the hell did you two talk about kid?”
“ You know how private I am………How I don’t like talking about my past…….yet for some reason I can’t explain………I felt like I’ve known him my whole life and told him things I’ve only told you.” Johnny said. “ I felt comfortable around him. Something I’ve never done with someone I’ve only known two days. Hell I’m not even that comfortable around a whore Val.”
“ Okay, what are you asking me? You want me to answer your question kid, I can’t until I know what it is.”
“ Hell Val….I don’t even know that myself.” Johnny said. “ Go get some sleep.”
John Mason and four other men rode up to the stage stop at Firebaugh’s Ferry.
“ You fellas looking to go toward Gilroy, you won’t make it.” the stage manager said. “ Half the hillside came down a couple days ago and Pacheco Pass won’t be open again for a week or longer.”
“ You have anyone get off the stage and continue by horse?” Mason asked.
“ Had a few, but most have turned around and went back. Rains have the river so high the ferry can’t run due to all the trees and such coming down it.” the man said.
“ We’re interested in three men. One of them wearing leg irons.” Mason said. “ Where did they go?”
“ Mister, where that man went with is none of your damn business.” he snapped back.
“ Jack, Bill, go check at the livery, make sure the man answers your questions and then burn it down.” Mason ordered. “ Charlie…you cold?”
“ This rain has me a little chilled.”
“ I think a good fire would warm us up don’t you?”
“ I sure do.” Charlie said as he dismounted and grabbed a lantern hanging on a post. Lighting the wick he threw the lantern into the barn, igniting the hay and straw inside.
John Mason lit another lantern and threw it inside the stage stop. When the stage manager tried to run inside to put out the fire, he shot him in the back before mounting up and watched the place burn before riding to the livery where Jack and Bill had also set the building on fire.
“ He left out mid day yesterday with the two deputies.” Jack said.
“ How we gonna get across that river?” Bill asked.
“ We’ll ride back to White’s Bridge and cross there.” Mason said.
“ We can be there this afternoon, early evening.” Val said.
“ The sooner, the better.” Johnny said as he walked over to Henry.
Henry waited until Johnny unlocked the right shackle so he could mount up and walk around to the right side of the horse before he lashed out and kicked Madrid in the left side of the head with his boot, knocking him down. Kicking the horse, he took off as Val drew his gun.
“ Don’t shoot him!” Johnny yelled as he swung up in the saddle and took off after him.
“ Damn it!” Val said as he mounted up and took off after them.
Johnny caught up to Henry’s horse and grabbed the reins, stopping it. Jumping off his horse, he yanked Henry down and hit him as hard as he could in the face, knocking him to the ground.
Henry came up and threw sand in Johnny’s eyes so he couldn’t see and wrapped his handcuff chain around his throat.
Johnny reached up and clawed at the chain around his throat as it tightened even more and his body started to grow weak.
“ Killing you this way is better than a bullet Madrid!” Henry spat. “ I hung a man once and watched as he pissed his pants and shit himself as he hung from the tree kicking.”
Johnny brought his right elbow back into Henry’s ribs as hard as he could, then reached up around the mans neck and pulled him over his shoulder, both men going to the ground hard. Coughing as he rose up on his knees, Johnny felt a blow to his ribs from Henry’s boot. Reaching out, he grabbed the mans foot and twisted his leg, knocking him to the ground. His energy about spent, Johnny rose up and started coughing as he sucked in air.
Henry grabbed a rock and was bringing it up to hit Johnny in the head when a shot rang out making him drop it as a bullet sliced thru his upper right arm.
“ Get away from him now or I’ll blow your head clean off!” Val yelled.
Henry moved away from Madrid and grabbed his arm. “ You shot me you sonofabitch!”
“ Shut up and don’t you dare move.” Val ordered as he went to Johnny. “ You alright kid?”
Johnny went down on his hands and continued to cough as Val rubbed his back.
“ Take shallow breaths buddy, shallow breaths.”
After ten minutes Johnny was able to stand up.
“ Stay there.” Val ordered before going to get his canteen.
Johnny took a swig of water and swirled it around in his mouth before spitting it out. “ Thanks.” he said hoarsely before taking a drink.
“ Let me take a look at your neck.” Val said.
“ I’m alright.” Johnny said as he pushed his hand away and handed him the canteen. Glaring at Henry standing ten feet away, holding his bleeding arm.
“ Let it go kid.” Val said as he placed a hand on his shoulder noticing Johnny’s eyes went ice cold.
Johnny shoved Val’s hand off his shoulder and walked over to Henry and hit him as hard as he could, knocking him down and then kicking him twice in his ribs on the left side.
“ Johnny stop!” Val yelled as he went over and grabbed him.
“ Get your sorry ass across that saddle!” Johnny ordered.
“ My arms bleeding and I’m not riding laying across the saddle.” Henry spat back.
Johnny drew his colt and busted Henry on the left side of his head, knocking him out.
“ Damn kid, I sure as hell don’t want you mad at me.” Val said as they tied Henry across the saddle.
“ Sonofabitch had it coming.” Johnny said hoarsely.
“ You let me look at your neck now?”
“ I’m fine. Let’s get going.”
Sergeant Rowley, knocked on the door of Captain Herman Noble.
Opening the door the sergeant stepped inside. “ Captain……Mason attacked Firebaugh’s Ferry and burned it down.”
“ When?” the captain asked as he stood up.
“ Not five hours ago sir.” the sergeant said.
“ How many killed?” he asked.
“ The stage manager and livery owner. A witness said they were asking about three men who got off the stage and bought horses to continue north.” the sergeant said. “ Captain, one of the men is Jim Henry, Mason’s partner. He’s being escorted by two deputies. It seems he was captured in Visalia and the sheriff there hired two men named Val Crawford and Johnny Madrid to escort him to Folsom.”
“ Madrid…the gunfighter?” the captain asked.
“ Yes sir.”
“ Have Lieutenant Lafferty come see me immediately.” the captain ordered.
“ Yes sir.” the sergeant said before leaving.
Captain Noble walked over and looked at the map on the wall. Knowing Pacheco Pass was closed due to a land slide, and the river to high for them to cross. He noted the only possible place they could try to cross the river would be at White’s Bridge.
“ You wanted to see me Captain Noble?”
“ Yes. John Mason attacked Firebaugh’s Ferry and burned it down. He’s tracking Jim Henry who is being escorted to Folsom by two men the sheriff in Visalia deputized, Val Crawford and Johnny Madrid.”
“ Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter sir?” he asked.
“ Yes. Looking at the map, there’s only one place they might be foolish enough to try and get across the river at.”
“ White’s Bridge.”
“ Yes. I want you to take five men, find that man, and stop him.” the captain ordered.
“ I’ll leave right away sir.” the lieutenant said before leaving.
It’s good to finally be home.” Scott said as they dismounted.
“ Yes it is son.”
“ Welcome back patrón.” Cipriano said as he walked over to take their horses.
“ Thank you Cipriano. It’s good to be home. It’s been a long trip.” Murdoch said.
“ Too long.” Scott said. “ And too much rain.”
“ It rained here too. You were at Firbaugh’s Ferry when you sent the wire?” Cipriano asked.
“ Yes, why?” Murdoch asked.
“ John Mason burned it to the ground and killed two people.” Cipriano said. “ The army killed four of the gang members and wounded Mason, but he managed to escape. They found him again and chased him out of California.”
“ Johnny.” Scott said.
“ Who?” Cipriano asked.
“ Jim Henry was caught in Visalia when we were there. We had to ride the stage to Firebaughs Ferry with him.” Murdoch said. “there were two deputies escorting him to Folsom. Val Crawford and the gunfighter Johnny Madrid.”
“ The Patron Saint of Mexico.” Cipriano said. ‘ Johnny Madrid is worshiped by many of my people in Mexico. He fights for a lost cause of justice for the peasants against the rich and the Rurales.”
“ The what?” Murdoch asked with shock.
“ A fighter of lost causes.” Scott said. “ What else do you know about Johnny Madrid?”
“ He fought with El Presidente Benito Júarez against General Porfirio Diaz and the Rurales.” Cipriano said.
“ Scott has it in his head that this……..Madrid is our missing Johnny.” Murdoch said.
“ The age is right and I told you what he said.” Scott said.
Johnny and Val rode up to the gate at Folsom and stopped.
“ What’s your business here?” the guard demanded.
“ Got a prisoner for you.” Val said as he dismounted and took the papers out of his saddlebag.
The guard took the papers and read them as the warden came out.
“ Val Crawford?” he asked. “ I was told you and Madrid were bringing me Jim Henry, alias Tom McCauley, one of the two leaders of the Mason Henry gang.”
“ Yes sir. Here’s the key to his shackles.” Val said as he handed him the keys. “ We were slowed down by Pacheco pass being closed so we had to buy horses at Firebaugh’s Ferry to get him here.”
“ You were at Firebaugh’s Ferry?” the warden asked.
“ Yeah, that’s as far as the stage was going. Why?” Val asked.
“ It was burned to the ground by his friend John Mason and his gang. They killed the stage stop manager and livery man.” the warden explained. “ Seems they were looking for you, but with the river so high they couldn’t get across it. Sixth California Infantry caught up to them at White’s Bridge, gave chase and killed four of them. They shot Mason but he got away and was headed south. It’s a matter of time before they catch him too.”
“ The man is a butcher, just like this one.” Val said.
“ He has been injured.” the warden said.
“ We had a little trouble with him this morning.” Val said.
“ There is a doctor inside if you wish your injuries to be looked at Madrid.”
“ I’ll keep.” Johnny said.
“ I picked up the mail while in town.” Scott said as he walked over to his fathers desk. “ There’s a letter from the Pinkerton’s.”
Murdoch took the mail and placed it on his desk before standing up and walking over to the sideboard to pour two drinks.
“ I always fear it’s going to say he was found and is dead.”
“ Would you like me to open it?”
“ No, I’ll….go ahead son.”
Scott picked up the letter, opened it and began reading.
I did as you requested in your telegram. It hasn’t been hard to learn anything about the gunfighter Johnny Madrid, the man and name are well known all along the border. Basically Mister Lancer, from what I have learned Johnny Madrid is your Johnny. It would seem his mother went back to Matamoros and was able to elude us the numerous times we searched the town and surrounding area for her. Sadly Maria was murdered when Johnny was ten, he then spent two years in an orphanage, ran away, and disappeared until he emerged at the age of fourteen as Johnny Madrid and killed the man who murdered his mother. After that he became very active all along the border, in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. I will be composing a complete file and sending it to you at a later date.
Pinkerton Detective Agency
El Paso, Texas
Scott let the letter slowly fall to his side and looked at his father standing there with a shocked look on his face. “ We have to find him and bring him home.”
“ Son, I want Johnny home as much as you do. But do you really think he’s going to give up the life he lives to come live here?” he asked.
“ The only way we will get that answer is to find him, and ask him.” Scott responded.
“ It’s been almost two weeks since he left Firebaugh’s Ferry. He could be anywhere now.” Murdoch said as he poured a shot of scotch and downed it.
“ I’m going to go look for him, and when I find him, I will bring him home.” Scott said firmly.
“ What’s on your mind kid?” Val asked as they sat drinking a cold beer in Spanish Wells.
“ We just took a killer to prison and the only thing we got for doing it is some cuts and bruises.” Johnny said.
“ What we got was the satisfaction of knowing that killer can never slaughter another family again. The army will take care of John Mason.” Val said.
“ When you want to head back south?” Johnny asked.
“ I’m not going south.” he said. “ I’m going to accept that job I was offered some time back.”
“ So you’re going to Kansas?” Johnny asked.
“ The money is too good to pass up kid. Why don’t you come with me?”
“ And be a lawman in a cattle trail town. No thanks. I’ll see ya Val.” Johnny said before heading upstairs with a girl.
Val stood there a little hurt his friend would refuse to go with him. “ I’ll see ya kid.” he said before leaving.
Johnny walked out of the livery as the sun started to show the first rays of light the next morning. The livery owner told him Val had left last night. Swinging up in the saddle he headed east.
About ten miles out of town Johnny fell forward in the saddle when a bullet slammed into his back. Hanging on he spurred his horse into a run.
Scott headed to Spanish Wells after breakfast. He figured he would check the towns around the valley just to see if his brother was still around when he seen a lone horse standing in the rode ahead with a ride slumped over it’s neck. Riding closer he could see a red stain on the horses left shoulder. Riding up to the horse slowly to not spook it, his heart sank when he seen it was Johnny, and he had been shot in the back. When he touched his left shoulder he heard a soft moan.
“ Hang on little brother. I’ll get you back to the house and get Sam out to help you.” he said as he pulled Johnny over onto his horse in front of him. Grabbing the reins of Johnny’s horse he started for home.
“ Mister Lancer!” Walt yelled.
Murdoch hurried outside and seen his son riding toward the house with someone in front of him. “ What on earth happened?”
“ It’s Johnny, he’s been shot in the back. Walt send someone for Sam.” Scott said.
Murdoch reached up and pulled Johnny down from the horse and carried him inside followed by Scott.
“ Let me carry him upstairs sir.” Scott said as he took Johnny and carried him upstairs.
“ Maria, bring hot water and bandages upstairs.” Murdoch ordered before hurrying upstairs to find Scott trying to remove Johnny’s shirt so they could see just how bad the wound was in his back. “ Let’s get his clothes off so we can get him in bed and start doing what we can until Sam gets here.”
“ My god, look at the scars on his back sir.” Scott said as he removed the shirt.
“ We can’t worry about them right now.” Murdoch said as he removed Johnny’s boots.
“ Look at his neck. Those bruises are fresh.” Scott said.
“ It looks like he was strangled.” Murdoch said as he pulled Johnny’s pants off and covered him up. “ Sit him up so I can start cleaning those wounds.”
“ Murdoch!” Sam called from the hallway.
“ In here Sam.”
“ What do we have?” Sam asked as he walked in.
“ He’s been shot in the back Sam.” Scott said. “ I found him on the road slumped over his horses neck.”
“ Alright, downstairs you two.” Sam ordered. “ Maria will help me.”
Sam came downstairs five hours later. “ What in gods name happened to that boy up there?”
“ We don’t know who shot him Sam.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m not talking about those wounds. That boy has been shot, stabbed, and whipped countless times from the scars on his back.” Sam said as he wiped his glasses. “ The bruises around his neck says he was strangled recently with a chain.”
“ Let me pour you a brandy Sam. We have a lot to tell you about that young man.” Murdoch said.
Scott walked over to the desk and picked up the letter. “ Reading this will help explain a lot Sam.” he said as he walked over and handed the letter to him.
Murdoch walked over and handed Sam a brandy.
“ Oh……my…..god!” Sam said as he walked over and sat down.
“ Will he live Sam?” Scott asked.
“ He will, but he won’t be able to use his left arm for some time. He’ll need to stay in bed until he gains some strength back.” he explained. “ How in the world?”
Murdoch and Scott explained how they met Johnny in Visalia and ended up riding the stage with him until Firebaugh’s Ferry.
“ I just read where John Mason escaped the army, but they’re still searching for him.” Sam said.
“ I just can’t believe it. You have searched for that boy for seventeen years. Does he know?” he asked.
“Not yet.” Murdoch said. “ Scott seems to think he will want to give up his wild life and live here.”
“ Why do you sound so doubtful?” Sam asked.
“ He’s been living his life as a gunfighter Sam. That boy won’t give up that life.”
“ You don’t know that.” Scott cut in and said firmly. “ That is my little brother laying up there fighting for his life. I will do whatever I have to do to keep him here. I don’t want him going back to living his life as a gunfighter.”
“ Neither do I son. I just……….”
“ Scott, I think what your father is trying to say is to proceed with caution. This will be a huge shock to him. You can’t force him to stay here.” Sam explained.
“ It has to be his decision Son…..Not ours.”
For three days and nights Scott and Murdoch sat with Johnny, trying to keep his body cool from the fever he developed the morning after Sam removed the bullet. Murdoch seen the proof he needed to verify the boy laying in the bed was indeed his long lost son on the second day when he seen a scar on the palm of Johnny’s right hand. Closing his eyes, he remembered back to how Johnny got that scar from a nail in the barn. Never once crying when Sam put the stitches in. Murdoch couldn’t help but wonder about the scars he had on his body now. Scars that clearly said someone had used a whip on him. Sam had counted seven bullet wounds and five knife wounds from being stabbed. A scar on his right side ran down his ribs, clearly made from a knife. One scar bothered him deeply because it clearly showed it had been cauterized by something very hot being placed on it to stop the bleeding.
“ He awake yet?” Scott asked as he walked into the room.
“ What….no…not yet son.”
“ Are you alright?”
“ I was just sitting here wondering about the terrible scars he has on his body.” his father said. “ About three months before Maria left me, he got this scar from a nail in the barn. He never once cried when Sam put the stitches in it.”
“ I have a feeling my little brother has had to be tougher than he needed to be many times over.”
“ Did you see the scar on his right thigh. It was cauterized to stop the bleeding.”
“ And you think Johnny did it?”
“ I do, as well as removing some of the bullets himself.”
“ I think I should be the one to tell him. He seemed to be able to talk to me.”
“ Alright son. Given what you said he told you before, I think that’s a wise decision.” Murdoch said.
Val sat at a table drinking a cold beer thinking about how him and Johnny had parted ways when a conversation at the bar caught his attention. Two men were talking to the bartender about a man being ambushed outside Spanish Wells. When he heard the name he felt like he had been kicked in the gut. Standing up, he walked over to the men.
“ Who did you say was ambushed?” he asked.
“The gunfighter Johnny Madrid. Someone ambushed him on the road and put a bullet in his back.” one of the men said.
“ Is he still alive?” he asked.
“ Why you so interested in it mister?” the man asked.
“ Names Val Crawford and Johnny Madrid is a good friend of mine.”
“ I thought you looked familiar. He was ambushed about a week ago.”
“ Much obliged.” Val said before leaving the saloon.
Johnny opened his eyes and looked around the room, wondering where he was. He could tell he wasn’t in a hotel room. Trying to move he was hit by a sharp pain in his left shoulder.. Closing his eyes he was waiting for the pain to subside when a voice made him open his eyes.
“ What the hell……where am I?” he demanded.
“ Good morning to you too.” Scott said as he walked around the bed.
“ Where am I?” Johnny asked again.
“ You’re at Lancer. I found you a week ago in the middle of the road slumped over your horses neck with a bullet in your back. I brought you here because it was closer than town.” Scott explained as he poured a glass of water. “ Sam will be out this afternoon to change your bandage and check the wound. Let’s get you sitting up a little so you can drink some water.”
“ No laudanum.” Johnny said.
“ Just water.” Scott said as he handed the glass to him.
“ Thanks. I uh….”
Scott stood up. “ I’ll go get you something to eat. You’ll find what you need next to the bed.”
Johnny waited until Scott left the room before flipping the covers off him and throwing his legs over the side. Fifteen minutes later he sat at the small table next to the window looking out at the morning sun when Scott came back in with a tray.
“ Sam may not be too happy you’re out of bed.”
“ Don’t much care what he thinks. I know my body and what I can do.” Johnny said.
“ I don’t doubt that.” Scott said as he poured Johnny a cup of coffee and handed it to him.
“ Thanks. So where’s your old man?”
“ Our….Murdoch went into town earlier.” Scott said.
Johnny gave Scott a questioning look. “ You got something on your mind?”
“ I do, but it can wait until you are stronger.” Scott said. “ Maria fixed you some beef broth and biscuits.”
“ She got something against meat?”
“ No. You haven’t had any solid food in a week, so she wanted you to eat something that would be easy on your stomach.”
“ I’ve went longer without eating.” Johnny said as he broke a biscuit up in the broth. “ I guess I owe you for saving my life.”
“ Do you remember what happened?” Scott asked.
Johnny finished the broth and biscuits off before sitting back in his chair and looking out the window. “ Someone who wanted me dead, but didn’t have the guts to face me.”
“ Wanted you dead……why?”
“ The why is easy. I’m Johnny Madrid, the best in my trade.”
“ I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“ Growing up rich I wouldn’t expect you too understand.” Johnny said. “ There are two types of Gunfighters. My type have morals. We don’t cross the line….or hit rock bottom. Th other kind end up like Mason and Henry. I’ve worked hard at building my reputation as the best. There’s men who want my reputation and the only way they can get it is by killing me. I’ve been ambushed before, still have a bullet in my lower back from one.”
“ I didn’t grow up rich Johnny.”
“ You had food in your belly every night, clothes on your back and a roof over your head.” Johnny snapped back. “ Rich people like you have no idea what it’s like…………Get out………Just leave me alone and get out.”
“Alright.” Scott said as he stood up. “ I’m not the enemy Johnny. It’s not my fault you had to grow up the way you did. If I could have traded places with you…..I would have.” he said before walking out.
“ Val Crawford isn’t it?” Murdoch asked.
“ Lancer. Where is he?” Val asked.
“ I’m assuming you are asking about Johnny?”
“ I was in Mariposa when I heard he was shot.” Val said. “ How bad is he hurt?”
“ Someone shot him in the back. Scott found him slumped over his horses neck in the middle of the road. Sam said he should be alright, but he won’t be able to use his left arm for a while.” Murdoch said. “ Can I ask why you weren’t with him?”
“ I was headed to Kansas to take a job that would last a year. The kid didn’t want to go with me. How long ago was he shot?”
“ Five days ago we believe.” Murdoch said. “ I was just heading back to the ranch. Why don’t you come with me. I’m sure Johnny would like to see you when he wakes up.”
“ That’s why I rode back here.” Val said.
Scott sat on the veranda wondering how he was going to tell Johnny he was his brother when Johnny came out the front door.
“ What are you doing?” he asked.
“ Where’s my horse?” Johnny asked.
“ Johnny….look at you, you can barely stand up. You can’t leave here.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ Look….I’m grateful you saved my life, but that don’t give you the right to nag me.” Johnny said.
Scott hated telling him like he was, but he needed to know. “ Come inside with me. I want to show you something.”
Johnny followed Scott back inside and watched as Scott walked over to the big desk and took out a paper from the top drawer.
“ Are you a man of your word?”
“ Why?” Johnny asked.
“ Are you a man of your word?”
“ Yes. Now tell me what the hell this is all about?”
“ I want you to make me a promise. I want you to promise me you won’t run away or get angry after you read this letter.”
“ I don’t know you well enough to do that.”
“ You owe me.” Scott said firmly.
“ I always pay my debts.” Johnny said. “ Give me the damn letter.”
“ Come over to the table and sit down please.” Scott said.
Johnny walked over to the table, sat down and took the letter from Scott.
I did as you requested in your telegram. It hasn’t been hard to learn anything about the gunfighter Johnny Madrid, the man and name are well known all along the border. Basically Mister Lancer, from what I have learned Johnny Madrid is your Johnny. It would seem his mother went back to Matamoros and was able to elude us the numerous times we searched the town and surrounding area for her. Sadly Maria was murdered when Johnny was ten, he then spent two years in an orphanage, ran away, and disappeared until he emerged at the age of fourteen as Johnny Madrid and killed the man who murdered his mother. After that he became very active all along the border, in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. I will be composing a complete file and sending it to you at a later date.
Pinkerton Detective Agency
El Paso, Texas
Johnny’s hands and then his body began to shake as he read the letter. When finished, he let the letter fall to the table and stood up. Walking over to the sideboard he poured a shot of tequila, downed it and poured another one as Sam walked into the house.
“ I don’t recall giving you permission to get out of bed yet young man.”
“ Not now Sam.” Scott said firmly.
Sam looked at Johnny and could see the boy was shaking. Walking over to Scott. “ I take it he knows the truth?”
“ He does, but I don’t know if he’s going to accept it or not.”
Johnny walked past them and went back upstairs to the room he was in. Closing the door, he locked it, and walked over to sit on the bed.
“ Why did you tell him before he’s healed up?’ Sam demanded.
“ I had to Sam. He was going to leave.” Scott said.
“ That boy could run now because of what you did. He could run, tear open his wound and die.” Sam said with anger.
“ He won’t run. He owes me for saving his life and gave me his word he wouldn’t run.”
“ What’s going on?” Murdoch asked as he walked into the grand room with Val.
“ Johnny knows. He was going to leave and I had no choice but to show him the letter. He read it and then went back upstairs to his room. I didn’t want to do it this way, but he gave me no choice.”
“ Would someone please tell me what the devil you are talking about?”
Murdoch explained everything to Val and had him read the letter that was still on the table.
“ Oh my…….which room is he in?”
“ Second door on the left.” Scott said.
Johnny sat on his bed and remembered the one time he had asked his mother about who his father was and why they weren’t with him. It was a mistake he would never make again. When he asked, his mother became very angry at him. Telling him he was a gringo rancher who didn’t want anything to do with either one of them, and would never acknowledge him as his son because he was a mestizo. The only thing he knew was they had met in Matamoros in a cantina where she worked. Had his mother lied to him? Had his whole life been a lie?
A hard knock on his door brought him back to the present. Ignoring the knock, Johnny stood up and walked over to sit down at the table to look out the window.
“ Boy….you either unlock this door…or I’m gonna kick it in!” a familiar voice said.
Johnny walked over, unlocked the door and opened it. “ What the hell you doing here?”
“ I can’t leave you alone for even a week.” Val gruffed as he walked into the room.
“ I thought you had a job to get to in Kansas?” Johnny asked as he closed the door and walked back over to sit down at the table.
“ There’s some things more important than a job.”
“ How’d you find out I’d been shot?”
“ I was in Mariposa. A man in the saloon there was talking about it. I left and came back here. I ran in to Mister Lancer……in Spanish Wells. He told me you were here.”
“ He tell you anything else?”
“ If you mean that he’s your father……yeah. He showed me the letter.” Val said. “ I imagine it’s a shock to ya and yur full of confusion?”
“ I asked her one time who my father was and she told me my father was a gringo rancher who wanted nothing to do with me. That he didn’t want a mestizo son.” Johnny said. “ She forbid me to ever ask about him again. Then proceeded to beat me so I would get the message.”
“ Why don’t you go downstairs and talk to them? I don’t have ta tell ya there’s two sides to every story kid.”
“ Go down and send that doctor up here first would ya?” Johnny asked.
“ Alright.” Val said as he walked to the door. “ Listen kid….I’ll be right there for y if ya wants me to be?”
“ Thanks Val.”
“ He’ll run.” Murdoch said.
“ He gave me his word he wouldn’t sir. He owes me for saving his life.”
“ Johnny always pays his debts.” Val said as he walked into the room. “ You the doc?”
“ I am.”
“ Johnny would like to see ya.”
“ Alright.” Sam said before piking up his bag and heading upstairs.
“ How come you never found him before now?” Val asked.
“ I have searched for my son for seventeen years Mister Crawford. I couldn’t find him until now because he changed his last name.” Murdoch responded.
“ I had him write to the Pinkerton’s after the two of you left us at Firebaugh’s Ferry. Johnny told me his mother met a gringo while in Matamoros. That the gringo got her pregnant but didn’t want a mestizo for a son.”
“ That’s preposterous. I met Maria………Look, if that boy would come downstairs….we can talk and he will learn the truth.” Murdoch said. “ It’s clear to me his mother lied to him about me.”
“ I’ve known Johnny since he was fourteen. I met him the day he killed the man who murdered his mother.” Val explained.
“ Johnny seen his mother murdered?” Murdoch asked.
“ He did and it made the boy bitter for a spell. We’ve been thru a lot together.” Val said. “ Let me tell you both something about that boy up there. I would gladly give my life for him, and he would me. That’s how good a friends we are. I have heard hi when he’s stricken with fever rambling in his sleep about wanting a big brother…..or a father who loved him. I’ve seen the hurt in his eyes at Christmas time when he sees a family together. I’m gonna warn ya……….don’t drill the boy about seeing his mother killed. That’s something he has buried and don’t want to talk about.”
Sam walked into the room to find Johnny sitting on the bed with his shirt off.
“ So you’re the doc?”
“ That’s what they call me. Names Sam Jenkins.”
“ So you took the bullet out of my back?”
“ I did, and stitched you up.” Sam said.
“ So how long you gonna keep me trussed up like this?”
“ Will you do as I say?” Sam asked.
“ I know you’ve seen my scars doc. Most of those scars I have doctored myself. I’ve stitched myself up and even cauterized my leg with a red hot knife. My side I used gun powder.”
“ I’ve seen the scars. I must say, some of your stitching is very good. Small and tight.” Sam said. “ Can I ask who taught you?”
“ Thanks. I taught myself.” Johnny said. “ I’ve done a couple shirts too.”
“ I delivered you in this very room nineteen years ago this December.”
“ I was born in Matamoros, Mexico doc.” Johnny said.
“ If that is what your mother told you, she lied to you young man. I delivered you and I have no reason to lie about it.” Sam said. “ Johnny…your father searched for you for seventeen years. Every time he got a Pinkerton report telling him they had not found you yet, a piece of his heart broke.”
“ What’s he like?”
“ Hard….but fare. He has a lot of men, some with families working for him and he cares about every one of them. He built Lancer up as the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin valley to leave a legacy for his sons.” Sam said.
“ I may be his son by blood, but that’s all I am. I don’t know him….and he knows nothing about me.” Johnny said.
“ Will you give him and Scott a chance to get to know you?”
“ I told Scott I wouldn’t leave. I owe him that for saving my life.”
“ Well young man. You have a man downstairs who would really like to get to know you. Are you willing to give it a try?” Sam asked. “ Let me take care of that wound.”
“ He’s not going to want me as a son doc.”
“ Why do you say that?”
“ Because of who I am.”
“ Who you are is the youngest son of Murdoch Lancer.”
“ Who I am is Johnny Madrid, the best at my trade, and the most wanted.” Johnny said. “ The first time a man calls me out, he’s not going to want me around.”
“ Calls you out?”
“ There are men out there who want my reputation doc, and the only way they can get it is by killing me.”
“ May I suggest you let him decide.”
“ Let me ask you something Mister Lancer…….Are you prepared to have Johnny Madrid as your son?” Val asked.
“ His name is Lancer…….Not Madrid.” Murdoch said.
“ He may have been born a Lancer…..but he didn’t grow up as one. If he stays here, it comes with risk.”
“ Risk?” Scott asked.
“ Men will come and call him out.” Val said. “ They want his reputation…..and the only way to get it is to kill him.”
“ You think that’s why he was shot in the back?” Murdoch asked.
“ No. Whoever shot him in the back has a grudge against Johnny and will most likely try again once they learn he’s still alive.”
“ Mister Crawford, there’s something you need to know. Lancer takes care of it’s own. I am not going to allow any man gun my son down over something so frivolous.”
“ Frivolous old man.” Johnny said from the bottom of the stairs. “ There’s nothing frivolous about being a gunfighter.”
“ Boy, show yur pappy some respect. Don’t be calling him an old man.” Val ordered.
“ He want’s my respect….he’s got to earn it from me.” Johnny said as he walked into the room.
“ Boy, just cause ya got a hole in yur back don’t mean I can’t tan yur backside.” Val said gruffly.
“ Look…….I don’t know you…..either of you……..and you don’t know me.” Johnny said as he walked over and poured a shot of tequila and downed it. “ That letter Boston showed me, your Pinkerton man said he would be composing a file on me to send you. Ya already know my mother was murdered when I was ten.. I was sent to an orphanage where I was beaten, starved and locked away for days at a time in a dark room. I ran away several times, but they would find me and drag me back. One day I ran away and they never found me.”
“ Are you saying the orphanage abused you?” Sam asked.
“ When you’re a half-breed you get abused a lot more. Especially by the priest when you want something to eat and get caught stealing some stale bread.” Johnny said. “ I came across this dead man. I took his gun and horse and I went someplace to practice using that gun. I did that for two years. Then one day I was in a cantina when he walked in, he didn’t walk out. He’s the only man I ever called out. From that day on I got better and faster with my gun.”
“ Val said he’s known you since you were fourteen. How did the two of you meet?”
“ He was in the cantina also.” Johnny said.
“ What the kids not telling you is he was shot and rode out of that town with a bullet in him. I seen him get shot and followed him. He eventually passed out. I dug the bullet out of him and we been together ever since.” Val said.
“ And he’s been a pain in my backside ever since.” Johnny said with a wink.
“ I could say the same about you too.” Val said.
“ Johnny……what did your mother tell you?”
“ About you….I asked her once and right before she beat me so I wouldn’t ask ever again, she said she met a gringo rancher in Matamoros. He got her pregnant and told her he didn’t want a half-breed kid and left.” Johnny said.
“ I did met your mother in Matamoros a couple years after Scott’s mother died giving birth to him. Your mother was a woman of beauty. We had a whirlwind courtship, got married. Two years after that I awoke one morning and found her gone, you along with her.”
“ That ain’t the way I heard it!” Johnny said.
“ I don’t care what you heard. It’s past. Bad or good, right or wrong, it’s past and gone.” Murdoch said firmly. “ I want to make you an offer.”
“ What kind of offer?”
“ I love this ground more than anything god ever created. I’ve got a Gray hair for every good blade of grass you see out there.” Murdoch said. “ I want your arms, legs and guts if you have any.”
“ Alright, say I come up with all these arms, legs and guts you’re talking about. What do you come up with?” Johnny asked.
“ One third.”
“ Of what?”
“ Everything you see out there. One hundred thousand acres, twenty thousand head of beef, and the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin.”
Johnny walked over and looked out the big bay window behind his fathers desk. Never in his wildest dreams would he have ever expected to be offered something such as this. “ You do realize if I stay here….it will come at a cost.”
“ Val said something about men could possibly come and try to kill you for your reputation.” Scott said.
“ Johnny…..there is something I hold firm on for anyone who works for me. Lancer takes care of it’s own. I have a hundred and fifty vaquero’s working for me. Every man will fight for this ranch…..and my family.”
“ Look……….if I get called out…….I can’t have you or anyone interfering. You do and it will get me killed.”
“ If you think I’m not going to do anything…….you are mistaken young man.” Murdoch said. “ I just found you……I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose you again.”
“ Johnny…….do you know who shot you?” Scott asked.
“ Nope, never saw them. Felt the bullet hit me, fell forward over my horses neck, and spurred him out of there.”
“ It was a rifle cartridge I removed from your back.” Sam said.
“ Probably someone with a grudge against me.”
“ How do you know that?” Scott asked.
“ Because if it was someone wanting my reputation, they would have faced me. Only a coward shoots a man in the back.” Johnny said.
“ A coward….or someone who knew they couldn’t beat you.” Val added.
George Marlowe sat at a table in a saloon in Carson City, Nevada. Three weeks ago five thousand dollars slipped away from him when he shot a man in the back, hoping to kill him. Seeing the man in Spanish Wells, he waited until the right time came. Knowing he could never beat him face to face he followed him at a safe distance until the right opportunity. Shooting the man in the back, he was sure he had killed him. He seen the bullet enter his back and knock him forward in the saddle as his horse bolted. Not wanting to be seen, he waited a short time before riding northeast.
“ You want another beer?” a saloon girl asked.
“ You offering anything else?”
“ That depends on what you want.”
“ How much to go upstairs?”
“ You want a poke….that will cost you two dollars.”
George stood up. “ Lets go.” he said as they headed upstairs.
“ I have a crew working on the foot bridge.” Scott said as he walked into the grand room.
“ Good.” Murdoch said.
“ Where’s Johnny?”
“ I sent him out with Frank to fence off that damn sand trap so the cattle stay out of it.” Murdoch said.
“ Sam said he was to do lite work. Digging holes and stringing wire isn’t exactly easy.” Scott said.
“ I sent Walt out to tell Johnny to go check south mesa line-shack. To take inventory of what needs repaired and what supplies it needs when he’s finished.” Murdoch said.
“ Can I ask when you are going to have Johnny sign the contract?”
“ I have Randall coming out on Friday afternoon with the new contract.”
Johnny walked over to the wagon and grabbed the canteen. Pouring water over his face to cool off before taking a drink. The past two days he had been stringing wire and replacing post all along the sand trap to keep the cattle out.
“ We keep going like this, we should be done with this in a couple hours.” Frank said. “ A couple of us hands are going into Spanish Wells tonight to have some cold beers and play poker. You want to come along.”
Johnny smiled at him. “ You know Frank…..you’re the first black man I’ve known…and I have to say……you’re a good man.”
“ When I came to Lancer and asked him for a job, he didn’t hesitate in hiring me. I tried other ranches in the valley and they wouldn’t hire me because of the color of my skin. I like working here. I’ve been here ten years.” Frank said.
“ I know all to well what you’re saying about the color of your skin Frank. My downfall isn’t the color of my skin, it’s the color of my eyes.” Johnny said.
“ Can I ask you something?” Frank asked.
“ I heard in town last week that you’re a gunfighter….but not just any gunfighter….You’re the best….Johnny Madrid. Is that true?” Frank said and asked.
“ Would it bother you if I was?”
“ No, not at all. I’d like us to be friends.”
“ I don’t go looking for trouble. It finds me.” Johnny said as a rider approached.
“ Looks like Walt.” Frank said.
“ Johnny….Frank…looks like you two have been making good time.”
“ Yeah, a couple hours and we should be done.” Johnny said. “ You just out for a ride?”
“ Mister Lancer sent me. Johnny, he wants you to go check the south mesa line-shack. To make notes of what it needs done for repairs and supplies.” Walt said. “ Frank, he wants you to go help with the round-up.”
Johnny rode up to the line-shack and dismounted. Looking around he could see a small wood shed about half full of wood. Just past it he seen a shed with a corral around it. Turning he looked at the line-shack that looked like a log cabin.
“ Big ass line-shack old man.” he said as he stepped up onto the porch and opened the door. Stepping inside he found the place looked almost like a house instead of any line-shack him or Val had ever been in. This one had a cook stove and big wood stove. A table and six chairs sat in the middle of the room. A water pump and sink. A huge pantry with shelves full of different kinds of food, coffee, pots and pans. Walking over to one of three closed doors he opened it to find two single beds with the mattresses rolled up. Checking the other two rooms he found the same thing. Walking back outside he decided to walk around the line-shack checking for any damage from trees or weather. The only thing he found needing repaired was a small window in the back broken out from a tree branch. Walking over to the corral he checked all the post and found several needing replaced as well as several rails. Making a mental note of all needing done, Johnny walked back to his horse, mounted up, and headed home.
“ What do you think of getting a sheriff for Spanish Wells?” Murdoch asked.
“ We need some type of law. Did you have someone in mind?” Scott asked.
“ I did. Val Crawford was going to Kansas to take a job as a lawman for a year. I want to talk to Johnny about it and see what he thinks of the offer.” Murdoch said. “ I’ll present the offer to the Cattleman’s Association at the next meeting at the end of the month.”
“ Do you know where Crawford is at?”
“ No, but I’m sure your brother knows where he’s at.”
“ You know, that is something I have wanted to hear said for a long time.” Scott said.
“ It is nice to hear isn’t it?” Murdoch asked. “ I have noticed he flinches when I call him son though.”
“ It’s going to take time for him to get used to all this.” Scott said.
“ I’ve seen him studying the map of Lancer several times.”
“ It pays to know the lay of the land.” Johnny said as he walked into the grand room.
“ Son. Yes it does.” Murdoch said.
“ Me and Frank finished the sand trap fencing.” Johnny said as he walked over to his fathers desk and sat down. Taking out a piece of paper he began writing what he found needed done at the line-shack. When finished, he stood up and walked over to his father and handed the list to him. “ That’s a pretty nice line-shack.”
“ Thank you. Everything go alright today?”
“ Yeah. Frank is a good man to work with. We got it all done.” Johnny said.
“ Scott, when you go into town tomorrow, order the stuff John has on this list.”
“ Why doesn’t Johnny come with me. He’s going to need to meet the shop owners we do business with.” Scott suggested.
“ As long as you two make it back to do work in the afternoon.”
“ I’m gonna go take a hot bath.” Scott said.
“ Son, go sit down. I want to talk to you about something important.” Murdoch said as he walked over to the sideboard, poured two brandy’s.
Johnny walked over and sat down on the couch. “ What’s on your mind?”
“ More people are moving out west. Green River, Morro Coyo, and Spanish Wells are growing. I have a meeting here with the California Cattle Growers Association the end of the month.” Murdoch said as he walked over and handed Johnny a drink. “ I’m going to make a suggestion of hiring a sheriff for Spanish Wells.”
“ What’s that have to do with me?” Johnny asked.
“ Your friend Val was going to Kansas for a job as a lawman.”
“ You’re wanting me to talk to him about being a sheriff in Spanish Wells?” Johnny asked.
“ Do you think he would be interested in the job?” Murdoch asked. “ It will pay him forty a month.”
“ He was a lawman for a long time before we met. I’ll talk to him about it tomorrow. It’ll give him time to think about it.” Johnny said.
“ Thank you son.” Murdoch said and noticed his son cringe when he said it. “ Can I ask why you cringe whenever I call you son?”
“ I don’t really know. I guess it’s because I’ve never heard………nobody has ever said it to me before.”
“ Your mother didn’t have………….I’m sorry. She…….You got more time with her than I did.”
“ My mother……we moved around a lot. I guess now I know why. She was running from the Pinkerton’s you had looking for us.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the sideboard. “ I became a burden to her. Because of me she worked in a cantina to put a roof over my head and food in my belly. I always had to leave when she brought a man home……..Home…most of the time we lived in shacks that had a leaky roof or holes in the sides letting the cold and rain in. I remember this one man she brought home…he seen me and it angered my mother….See….I wasn’t supposed to be in the shack at night, but she brought him home during the day. He was the only man who ever was nice to me. He taught me how to snare game, build a small fire, read tracks over rocks.” Johnny said and then became quiet as he walked over to look out the window.
“ Sounds like a good man.” Murdoch said. “ How long was he with you?”
“ Just over a year. He moved us into a better place and took care of us. When I was nine I came home from hunting one day and found my mother crying. When I asked her what was wrong….she looked up at me and said he was gone. I asked what she meant gone she said he was killed. It’s his name I took after my mother was killed.” Johnny responded.
“ Son…….How did………”
“ Don’t!” Johnny cut in and said firmly. “ Don’t ask me how she was killed. You don’t want that in your head.”
“ Mister Davis, this is my little brother Johnny.” Scott said.
“ I know who he is….and I don’t want his kind in my establishment.” Davis said firmly.
“ My kind?” Johnny asked.
“ You heard me……..I don’t want killers in my business.”
“ Mister Davis you’re out of line. My brother…….”
“ Your brother is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid, and I don’t want him here. If Lancer wants to continue to do business with me that’s fine….but he is not to come in my establishment ever again.” Davis said.
“ I’m sure our father won’t be doing business with you any longer.” Scott said. “ Let’s go Johnny.”
Johnny stepped toward Davis, but was stopped by his brother.
“ Let’s go Johnny. He’s not worth it.” Scott said.
Johnny looked hard at his brother before walking out.
Scott walked outside. “ I’m sorry Johnny.”
“ I told the old man there would be consequences with me staying here.” Johnny said with anger. “ I’m just going to bring unwanted trouble being here.”
“ That’s not true. Mister Davis has butted heads with Lancer before.” Scott said. “ He’s just one.”
“ He’s just one……and what if the others feel the same way Scott? How many more businesses does Lancer have to lose before you realize my being here is a mistake?” Johnny said before swinging up in the saddle. “ I’ve dealt with men like him my whole life.”
“ And that’s wrong.” Scott said as he mounted up. “ We’ll ride back to the house and let Murdoch know what’s happened.”
“ You go back. I have something to do for Murdoch.” Johnny said.
“ You’re not going to do anything are you?” Scott asked.
“ No. You have my word. I’ll be back. Now go.” Johnny said before riding away.
George Marlowe sat sipping a beer when a conversation some men were having at the bar drew his attention. Anger boiled inside when he heard the name and that the person was still alive. Standing up he stormed out of the saloon and headed back to his room. Once inside he slammed the door.
“ Sonofabitch…….there’s no way you can still be alive. I hit you in the back.” he said with anger as he grabbed his saddlebags and started shoving his clothes into them. “ I’ll kill you this time face to face and collect that five thousand dollar bounty on your head.”
Johnny walked into the saloon, got a cold beer, and looked around. Finding Val sitting at a table, he walked over to the table.
“ What you doing in town middle of the week kid?” Val asked.
“ Looking for you.” Johnny said as he sat down.
“ Well ya found me. What ya want?”
“ To offer you a job.”
“ I ain’t working as a hand. I told ya I’m not…….”
“ It’s not that kind of job.” Johnny cut in. “ Murdoch is going to make a suggestion to the Cattle Growers Association about electing a sheriff for Spanish Wells. He wants to know if you would take the job?”
“ What’s it pay?”
“ Forty a month.”
“ There ain’t no jail in this town. Just where am I supposed to lock em up at?”
“ We’ll build a jail.” Johnny said before taking a swig of his beer. “ Murdoch will let you know after the meeting.”
“ So how’s it been going for you?”
“ Don’t sound to convincing kid.”
“ Same people different town.” Johnny said.
“ From that I take it some people in this town don’t like Johnny Madrid being here?”
“ I told him my being here would come with a price.”
“ Hey….don’t go letting these people force you to leave what you have a right to have kid.”
“ I don’t have that right Val. Look at the life I’ve led. Johnny Madrid, good at my trade. That’s all I ever wanted…….or so I thought.” Johnny said softly. “ What right do I have trying to be the son of a rancher?”
“ Kid…..you need to stop beating yourself up. Have you been happy these past couple months as the son of a rancher.?”
“ You don’t get it Val…….My being here is only going to bring trouble.”
“ You told them that, and they’re willing to accept that……..Kid, don’t throw away the second best thing to ever come to you.”
“ Second best huh……..and just what is the first?”
“ Me.” Val said.
Johnny stood up. “ I need to get back to the ranch.”
Val stood up. “ Tell yur pappy I’ll take the job, but not without a damn jail.”
Johnny smiled. “ I’ll see you Val.”
“ You’re back early. Where’s your brother?” Murdoch said and asked.
“ He said he had something to take care of for you.” Scott said.
“ Did you place the order?”
“ No, and we won’t be buying from Davis again.”
“ Why? What happened?”
“ He knows who Johnny was and ordered him out of his business.” Scott said. “ Johnny was pretty upset over it.”
“ Damn that man.” Murdoch said as he stood up.
“ Johnny said the trouble will get worse with him being here. That his being here will cost Lancer business.” Scott said.
“ His being here will not cause us business. I will do whatever I have to do to keep that boy here.” Murdoch said as he walked over to pour a drink.
“ It scares me to think of Johnny going back to that life.” Scott said.
“ It’s who I am.” Johnny said as he walked into the grand room. “ The sooner you two accept that.”
“ It’s not who you are……Not anymore young man.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Murdoch……..a part of me will always be Johnny Madrid. You’re wanting me to make a change……..and I’m trying, but I told you me being here would come with consequences.”
“ Consequences I am will to accept.”
“ As am I.” Scott added.
“ Damn it. Innocent people could get killed because of me…..I’m not worth it.”
“ Don’t you dare stand there and say that!” Murdoch ordered. “ Don’t you ever…….ever say you are not worth it.” Murdoch said with anger. “ I didn’t spend seventeen years looking for you to have you finally come home. I will do whatever I have to do to keep you here. You are my son, and I will be damned if I will let the people of this valley run you off.”
“ Murdoch………the people of this valley have every right to not want me here.” Johnny said with anger.
“ I think the two of you need to cool off. Johnny, lets ride out and see how the men are doing with the round-up.” Scott suggested.
“ Okay. That concludes….”
“ Uh Porter, I’m sorry but I have something I would like to discuss.” Murdoch cut in and said.
“ Alright.” Porter said as he sat down.
Murdoch stood up. “ We all know Spanish Wells is growing. More people are coming west. Most with families to settle, open new businesses, or farm. We also have trouble coming into town. I feel that of we want the town to grow, we need the law.”
“ I agree Murdoch, the law would make it better.” Hackett said.
“ Especially on Friday and Saturday nights at the end of the month when hands get paid and come into town to drink and gamble.” Nelson added.
“ Murdoch, do you have someone in mind to be a sheriff?” Porter asked.
“ I do. I had a Pinkerton agent do a check on the man and this is the file he sent me. The mans name is Val Crawford. He’s been a lawman in Texas, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, and in Barstow.”
“ Val Crawford….didn’t I just read about him and Johnny Madrid taking John Mason to prison?” Nelson asked.
“ Yes they did.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, you mentioned Johnny Madrid. You’re wanting to hire Val Crawford as sheriff of Spanish Wells to stop the trouble, when in fact your son Johnny Lancer, who you just found and brought home recently is non-other than the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Porter asked.
“ He was. My son came here to live a life as Johnny Lancer. He doesn’t want to live a life as a gunfighter anymore.” Murdoch said.
“ Isn’t it true Lancer can no longer do business in Spanish Wells at the hardware store and lumber yard because of your on?” Driscoll asked.
“ Electing a sheriff has nothing to do with my son. Who Lancer does business with is of no concern of yours or anyone else in this room Driscoll.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’m afraid with you as a member Murdoch, it is the concern of all of us. We are wanting to join with Wyoming Stock Growers Association. They learn a members son is a gunfighter, we will be denied.” Porter said.
“ Why do we need to join with Wyoming?” Nelson asked.
“ Because Wyoming ships the most cattle to Chicago. They are the primary setters of the price of cattle.” Porter said.
“ It seems to me you have a personal gain in this merge Porter.” Murdoch said. “ Non of us have seen anything bout a merge, only what you have said. That makes me a little suspicious.”
“ I only have the same interest the rest of you have Murdoch. As the president, it is my job.”
“ Can we get back to electing a sheriff/” Hackett asked. “ Alright, everyone who is in favor of this Val Crawford as sheriff raise your hand.”
Everyone except Porter raised their hand.
“ One more thing I want to take place at the next meeting.” Hackett said. “ I think we need to elect a new president.”
“ I’ll second that.” Nelson said. “ We need a president who genuinely has all our interest in mind.”
“ Mark my word, doing this will cost all of you.” Porter said before leaving.
“ Murdoch, you can understand our concern about your son………but I want you to know…If he wants to try and live a normal life and give up living by a gun, then I wish him all the best.” Hackett said.
“ Davis has been a racist to many people in Spanish Wells.” Driscoll said.
“ Especially the Mexicans.” Nelson added.
“ Why don’t we have a big get together party next month to welcome Johnny to the valley, and we can discuss who our new president should be?” Santee asked.
“ We’ll see you Murdoch.” Hackett said.
Murdoch stood there watching them ride under the Lancer arch before he went back inside.
Johnny reined his horse to a stop on top of Black Mesa. Looking down in the meadow below a herd of mustangs with a beautiful black stallion, but it was another stallion who caught his eye. A younger one off to the side away from the herd. His coat shined like gold in the late afternoon sun, his mane and tail as white as a sheet.
“ What are you looking at?” Scott asked as he rode up next to him.
“ Look at him Boston. I’ve never seen a horse as beautiful as him.” Johnny said. “ He shines like gold.”
“ Murdoch said Lancer has some of the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin. I would say little brother, that he is one of them.” Scott said with a smile.
“ I want him Scott. I’ve never had a horse like him before.”
“ Lets go home.” Scott said.
“ You know, I’ve been here what…..four months now?”
“ Yes, why?” Scott asked as they started for home.
“ I still can’t adjust to that word.”
“ What word….home?”
“ Yeah. Never stayed in one place long enough to ever have one.”
“George Marlowe rode up to the saloon in Spanish Wells and dismounted. Tying his horse he listened as two men talked outside the saloon.
“ That’s gonna be one big party Lancer is having Walt.” the bartender said.
“ Yep, it’s to welcome his son Johnny home.” Walt said as he loaded the barrel of beer into the wagon. “ Johnny’s a good person. I just wish others would see past who he was.”
“ So what I’ve heard is true? He is Johnny Madrid?” the bartender asked.
“ He was, but now he’s trying to live a peaceful life as Murdoch Lancer’s son.” Walt said. “ I’ll see ya.”
“ Hey Walt…what times that party start Lancer is having?” a man asked.
“ Around four until midnight.”
George smiled as he walked into the saloon. “ Tonight Madrid, tonight you will die, and I will be five thousand dollars richer.”
“ So this is your long lost son?” Hackett asked.
“ It is. Johnny….this is Hackett and Porter.” Murdoch said. “ They have ranches southeast of ours on the way to Green River.”
“ Johnny…welcome to the valley.” Hackett said as he offered his hand to shake.
Johnny shook Hackett’s hand. “ Pleasure…..Thank you.” Johnny said. “ It’s a pleasure to meet you as well Mister Porter.”
Porter refused to shake Johnny’s hand. “ You will only get people killed being here.”
“ Porter….you’re out of line.” Murdoch said.
“ It’s alright Murdoch…….It’s not like I haven’t been told that before.” Johnny said. “ You don’t like me being here Mister Porter….that’s fine…..That’s your right……..But let me tell you something….Lancer is my home, and I’m staying whether you like it or not.”
“ I hope you like going to Modesto to get supplies Murdoch….because I will spread the word about this killer being here….and not one business in the valley will do business with you.” Porter said.
“ This is a celebration party Jim……I think you should leave.” Murdoch said.
“ Oh I’m leaving Murdoch. I’ll say this one time, and one time only. My hands have orders to shoot to kill if you ever set foot on my land boy.” Porter said before leaving.
“ Johnny….not everybody in the valley feels the same as Porter does about you.” Hackett said.
Johnny stood glaring at his father a few seconds before turning and walking away.
“ I don’t want to lose him again.” Murdoch said.
“ I seen a look in his eyes Murdoch. That boy wants to stay here.” Hackett said. “ I didn’t want to say anything yet, but I think you should know….I had a Pinkerton investigate Porter. We all know he came here from Wyoming.”
“ Yes, he said he lost his ranch there but never said how.” Murdoch said.
“ He didn’t lose his ranch. Fact is….he ran away from the ranch he had between Cheyenne and Laramie. He ran because he’s wanted by the law in Wyoming…….He’s wanted for murdering a sheep farmer and his wife. Him and a couple other cattle ranchers hung them.” Hackett explained. “ I’ve contacted the Wyoming territorial marshal about him being here. He’s sending a couple deputies to get Porter and take him back to stand trial and hang for what he did.”
“ My god. I don’t want sheep on Lancer land, but I would never……..When will they be here?”
“ They’re coming by train, so end of month I expect.”
George Marlowe watched as Madrid left the party and walked to to barn farthest from the house. Knowing Madrid wouldn’t know who he was, he had the element of surprise on his side. Stopping outside the barn, he looked around to see there was nobody close by. Pulling his gun, he stepped inside. Seeing Madrid standing next to a stall, he cocked the pistol.
“ I’ve waited a long time to kill you Madrid.” he said as he cocked the pistol.
Johnny froze at the sound of a pistol being cocked. “ Who are you? What do you want?”
“ You…..I don’t know why you’re still alive after I shot you in the back, but I’ll kill you this time.” George said. “ There will be others come too, but I’m the one going to get your reputation.”
“ By others you mean gunfighters?” Johnny asked.
“ It don’t matter, we all want the same thing…..your reputation….and I’m the one going to take it.”
Johnny knew this kid had full intentions of killing him. Stepping back away from the stall he spun, drew and fired, his bullet slamming into the kids chest. Watching the kid get knocked backwards as a red stain spread across his chest. The kids bullet sliced a deep furrow in Johnny’s left side, dropping to his knees, he fell forward as darkness claimed him.
“ Have you seen your brother?”
“ Not since he was with you talking to Hackett and Porter earlier.”
“ He’s not in his room.” Murdoch said. “ I can’t blame him for being upset after what Porter said to him tonight.”
“ He probably went off to be alone for a spell. I’m sure he’ll come back.”
“ You’re probably right son. Let’s go to bed. We’ll clean this mess up tomorrow.” Murdoch said.
Scott stopped at the top of the stairs. “ Murdoch!” he yelled as he hurried down the stairs to the lifeless body laying on the floor in the foyer.
“ What the devil!” Murdoch said as he hurried down the stairs. “ What happened?”
“ He’s been shot!” Scott said.
“ Take him up to his bed while I send a hand to get Sam.” Murdoch said before going outside.
Scott carried his brother upstairs to his room and placed him on the bed. “ Okay little brother…..I need you to wake up and tell me what happened.” he said as he wet a cloth and started wiping the blood from his face.
“ Walt..I need you to go get Sam. Johnny’s been hurt!” Murdoch ordered.
“ I was just coming to get you sir. There’s a dead man in the barn…..A kid….he’s been shot.” Walt said.
“ Alright, leave the body where it’s at and have the sheriff come out here also.” Murdoch ordered before going back inside.
“ How’s Johnny?” Val asked as he walked into the house.
“ Sam hasn’t come down yet. Any idea who the man is?” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s a kid I’d say around sixteen. Took one shot in the heart. From the looks of it, Johnny shot him.”
“ You don’t know him?” Scott asked.
“ Nope…never seen him before.” Val said.
“ He’s too young to be wanting that damn reputation Johnny said men would want.” Murdoch said. “And he’s too young to be from his past.”
“Not necessarily. He could be the son or younger brother of someone Johnny killed.” Val suggested.
“ If that’s true, how did he know Johnny was here?” Scott asked. “ He hasn’t had any trouble since he came home.”
“ Your brother will have to be the one to tell us son.” Murdoch said as Sam came downstairs.
“ He has a fractured rib and deep furrow on the left side of his ribs.” Sam said. “ How long ago was he shot?”
“ We don’t even know when he was shot. All we know is he was shot last night.” Scott said.
“ Is he awake doc?”
“ No he’s not Sheriff Crawford.” Sam said.
“ He killed a man last night…..so I need to find out why?” Val said.
“ I don’t know when he will wake up.” Sam said.
Johnny opened his eyes and sensed someone else was in his room with him, he opened them again and looked toward the window surprised to find Val sitting there.
“ Bought time ya wake up kid.” Val said.
“ Just resting my eyes.” Johnny said. “ Guess I don’t have to ask why you’re here.”
“ You remember what happened last night?” he asked.
“ Yeah.” Johnny said and then told Val what happened.
“ So he’s the one who put a bullet in your back.” Val said. “ Damn kid……How you plan on telling them downstairs?”
“ I’m not…..and I don’t want you saying anything to them either Val.” Johnny said firmly.
“ You sure you want to do that kid?”
“ You know I don’t like talking about my past.” Johnny said with anger.
“ Don’t take an attitude with me kid. I’m not the enemy.” Val said.
“ Am I interrupting?” Sam asked.
“ No…..I’m done with him doc.” Val said as he started for the door. “ You better think about what you’re going to do kid.”
“ Val….promise me!”
“ Go to hell Johnny.” Val said before walking out angry.
“ I thought you two were friends?” Sam asked.
“ We are.” Johnny said.
“ Uh huh. Didn’t sound like it to me.” Sam said. “ How are you feeling?”
“ I’m fine.”
“ You have a deep furrow in your left side that took ten stitches to close up, and a fractured rib.” Sam said. “ So I don’t want you riding a horse for at least six weeks.”
“ So how long am I stuck in bed?”
“ I want you to stay in bed at least…and I say at least a week young man.” Sam said. “ It’s going to hurt when you breath, so try taking shorter breaths. You take too deep of one and go to coughing, It’s going to hurt, and probably drop you too your knees in pain.”
Johnny stood watching the sun start to set behind the San Bonito mountains. For the past five days he did a lot of thinking about the kid in the barn and what he said about others coming. Remembering back to a night in La Mesa, New Mexico when a kid named Carl Stillwell called him out. He had rode into the town wanting nothing more than a hot meal. He’d watched the kid come into the cantina itching for trouble, trouble he found an hour later.
“ Hey half-breed…..I’m calling you out.” Carl said.
“ Go home and sleep it off kid before you get yourself hurt…..or worse.”
“ What did you say mestizo?”
Johnny stood up. “ You heard me. Go home before you end up dead.”
“ The only one going to be dead is you Madrid.” Carl said.
Johnny walked over and glared into Carl’s eyes a few seconds, smiling when he seen the fear in the kids eyes. “ You’re biting off more than you can chew kid.” he said before walking over to the bar.
“ Stillwell, leave him be.” the bartender said. “ He’ll kill you.”
“ That’s right Carl.” a man said. “ You can’t beat him!”
“ Like hell I can’t! ” Carl said as he drew his gun but never got to fire as a bullet slammed into his chest, knocking him crashing to the floor.
Johnny watched the life leave the kid gasping for air as a red stain spread across his chest.
“ We’ll tell the law how you tried to avoid killing the kid.” the bartender said. “ We all know he would have shot you in the back if you hadn’t shot him.”
That was four years ago. Now everything he had he could lose because of his reputation.
“ You’re awful quiet tonight son. Something on your mind?”
“ There is. It’s about the kid I killed in the barn.” Johnny said. “ He’s the one who shot me in the back. He did it because he wanted my reputation.” Johnny said. “ He said there will be others coming after me.”
“ Other’s? By that you mean gunfighters?” Murdoch asked.
“ I told you my being here would come with a price.” Johnny snapped back.
“ Yes you did……..but you chose to not tell us about this until now.” Murdoch said. “ You’ve had a week.”
“ Johnny, you have got to start trusting us brother. You’re not alone any longer. You have people who care about you now.”
“ You have to understand Scott, there are some things from my past I don’t want you….either of you to know about. I’ve never crossed the line or hit rock bottom, and I’m not legally wanted by the law either. But talking about some things I’ve done, been thru, or had done to me……I can’t do.” Johnny said.
“ So these other men will come here and try to kill you like that kid did……….and all because of a stupid reputation?”
“ I told you my being here would come with a price Murdoch. This isn’t going to go away.” Johnny said. “ As for being a stupid reputation
“ I know people who can make this go away son.”
“ Make it go away…….and what about the next one who comes after me Murdoch………You going to have those rich people you know make them go away too?” Johnny asked with irritation in his voice.
“ Yes by god if I have too!”
“ I think we all need to calm down and think this thru.” Scott suggested.
“ I’ve been doing nothing but think about this Scott.” Johnny said before going upstairs.
Johnny led his horse out of the barn, looking toward the house he had called home for the last four months. He knew his brother and father would be upset when they found out he left. Explaining in the letter he left on his bed, he could only hope they would understand, and not try and find him. He figured he would ride to Modesto and purchase a pack horse and supplies so he wouldn’t have to go into town so much. He had enough money saved up to last him thru the winter.
“ Take care of the old man for me Boston.” he said before turning his horse and heading southeast.
Scott knocked on his brothers door like he did every morning to wake him up. Getting no response, he opened the door to find his brother’s bed empty and made. Walking into the room he spotted the paper on the bed. Picking it up, his heart sank as he read what his brother wrote.
Scott, I’m sorry to leave in the middle of the night like I did, but I had too because I knew you and the old man wouldn’t let me. It has to be this way brother. Please don’t try and find me, stay at Lancer and be the son Murdoch deserves to have. A son without a dangerous past with men wanting to kill you for your reputation. It was good while it lasted, but we both know this is the right thing to do. I couldn’t live with myself if you or Murdoch got hurt or killed because of me. Don’t ask Val where I went because he won’t know and can’t tell you anything. Take care of Murdoch for me. Maybe one day you’ll see a lone rider on the hill and it will be me coming home to visit. Oh, just in case you were wondering, you’re everything I ever wanted in a big brother. Take care Boston.
Scott sat down on the bed as tears welled up in his eyes and flowed down his cheeks. Wiping his tears away, he stood up and headed downstairs to find his father sitting at the table sipping on a cup of coffee.
“ He left.” Scott said as he walked into the grand room.
“ What?” Murdoch asked as he set his cup down.
“ Johnny…….he left sometime last night.” he said as he handed him the letter.
Murdoch read the letter. “ Go saddle our horses son. We’ll go see if Val knows where he went.”
Val sat at his desk looking over the new wanted posters when the front door opened.
“ Lancer….What can I do for you?” he asked.
“ Johnny left last night. We want to know where he is going.” Murdoch demanded.
“ That damn fool.” Val said.
“He’s in no condition to be riding a horse. Where did he go Val?” Scott said and asked.
“ How the hell would I know where that damn fool went?” Val said.
“ Let’s go Murdoch. He doesn’t know anything.” Scott said.
“ You rode with my son for all those years, yet you can’t tell us where he might have went.” Murdoch said before walking out.
“ We are never going to find him.” Scott said.
“ All we can do is pray he comes back to us some day. Let’s go home son.”
Johnny stopped his horse and took a drink from his canteen. For three years now he drifted around staying away from the south where he knew he would be recognized and called out. Three days ago he rode out of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, with two pack horses. For the past three months he helped drive a herd of cattle to Belle Fourche. Now riding southwest along the Belle Fourche river, Johnny didn’t care if he seen another cow for a long time. Ever since he left Belle Fourche, he had a feeling he was being followed, but his gut told him whoever was following him….wasn’t any danger. Guiding his horses into a thicket of aspens, he waited until he seen the lone rider cross the stream. As they got closer he could see they had no saddle, and the horse looked like it was on it’s last leg. Dismounting, he tied his pack-horses to a tree and let his horse graze on the lush green grass. Pulling his rifle from the scabbard, he stepped out of the trees and chambered a round into the rifle.
“ Hold it!….Why you following me?” he asked.
“ I ain’t following you mister!” the rider said.
There was something different about the riders voice and body now that he was closer. “ Get off the horse!” Johnny ordered.
“ I got no money if you’re wanting to rob me.” the rider said as they dismounted.
“ I’m not going to rob you.” Johnny said as he walked over and pulled the hat off and stepped back as long wavy blonde hair cascaded over her shoulders. “ Damn girl……..What the hell are you doing out here all alone?”
“ How do you know I’m alone?” she asked.
“ Look….I seen you in Belle Fourche. You looked safe to me so when I seen you were leaving….I followed you.” she said.
“ You got a name?” Johnny asked as he walked over and got his horses.
“ Jessica Carver….but you can just call me Jess.” she said.
“ Well Miss Carver…..I’m not going to hurt you, so relax. You hungry?”
“ Jess please.”
“ Alright….Jess, are you hungry?”
“I could eat.”
“ It’s getting late afternoon, so lets make camp. Why don’t you gather some wood while I take care of the horses and set up camp?”
“ How long you going to do this?” Murdoch asked.
“ Until my brother comes home.” Scott said.
“ He’s been gone three years son……He’s not coming back.” Murdoch said with sadness in his voice.
“ After all the years and money you spent searching for him…..How can you write him off so easy?”
“ I haven’t wrote your brother off. He’s wrote us off.” Murdoch said. “ He’s been gone two years and not once has he wrote or sent a telegram letting us know he’s alive.”
“ I know in my heart he is still alive.” Scott said.
“ You better ride out and see how the men are doing with the round-up. I want all the cattle down from the high hills before the snow starts.” Murdoch ordered.
Scott looked at his father and sighed. “ You’re a real piece of work. You care more about this damn ranch than your own son.” he said before walking away.
“ When’s the last time you ate?” Johnny asked.
“ Four…five days ago.” Jess said. “ How old are you?”
“ Why?” Johnny asked as he poured coffee and handed her a cup.
“ Just wondering.”
“ You never told me your name.”
“ Johnny Lancer. So how is it you’re out here alone?”
Jess set her plate down and took the cup of coffee. “ I came out west with my folks and little brother from Alabama a year ago. My father wanted to get away from the changes happening since the war ended. We got attacked by these men at sunset. Pa made me and Jimmy run away to the trees. Jimmy didn’t see what happened, I kept him down, but I seen what those bastards did to my mother, how they raped her. They shot my father several times and cut his throat. The next morning Before my brother woke up, I buried them both. I found one of our wagon horses, took what we would need from the wagon, and continued west. We ended up in Belle Fourche where we slept in empty crates or the livery. I took food from the garbage for us to eat. Last spring, Jimmy got Pneumonia and died.”
Johnny knew how the girl felt. “ I was ten when my mother was murdered.”
“ Are you Mexican?”
“ My mother was Mexican, my father American.” Johnny said. “I grew up below the border in Mexico. You never said how old you are.”
“ I’m going to check the stock before I turn in. You go ahead and take the sleeping bag and get some sleep.” Johnny said as he stood up.
Jess watched Johnny walk over and check the horses. Though skinny, she found him good looking. His blue eyes pierced right thru her whenever she looked in them. Standing up, she walked over and sat down on the sleeping bag, removed her boots and coat and laid down for what she knew would be the first night in a long time she would be able to sleep and not worry.
Johnny sat sipping a cup of coffee as he watched Jess sleep. Sighing he started wondering what he was going to do with her. He knew what would happen to a girl that young and he didn’t want that to happen to her. She’d already had a rough life from what she said happened to her in the last year. Casper was still three days ride away and riding double would slow them down.
Standing up Johnny walked over to her horse and started checking him over good to see if he would make it to Casper. Looking at the hooves he found the left rear hoof was split clean thru to the canon bone.
“ Something wrong?” Jess asked as she walked over to him.
“ His hoof is split clean thru to the canon bone.” Johnny said as he untied the horse.
“ What are you doing?”
“ He needs to be put down. He can’t be rode anymore.”
“ I’ll do it. It was my horse.” Jess said as she took the rope from Johnny. “ Can I borrow your pistol?”
Johnny pulled his colt and handed it to her. “ Be careful. It has a light trigger.”
“ Thanks.” Jess said before leading the horse off into the trees more.
Johnny walked back over and sat down to finish his coffee.
“ Thanks.” Jess said as she handed his pistol back to him a few minutes later.
“ Well have to ride double to Casper. I can get you a horse there.” Johnny said.
“ I can’t ask you to do that Johnny.”
“ I didn’t say you did. You need clothes, and a horse to make it across this country. Winter is coming, have you thought about what you’re going to do?”
“ No.” Jess said. “ Where you going?”
“ I drift around seeing the country. I was headed to Casper for a few days.” Johnny responded.
“ And after that?”
“ I thought I would ride to the Oregon coast. I’ve heard it’s beautiful to see.”
“ We were headed to the Oregon coast when………..My father said there were trees along the Oregon coast so tall you can’t see the top of them. That they stretch up to the heavens and are so big you could hake a huge house out of one tree.” Jess said.
“ Then why don’t you come with me?”
“ I picked up the mail while in town.” Scott said. “ I sent a letter to the Pinkerton’s to search for Johnny a couple months ago.”
“ You did what?” Murdoch demanded.
“ I need to know my brother is still alive, so yes. I asked him to locate, but not contact.” Scott said. “ He found him.”
“ He found him?” Murdoch asked.
“ He did. Johnny was in Belle Fourche, South Dakota two months ago.” Scott said.
“ Does he know where Johnny went from there?”
“ Southwest with two pack-horses.” Scott said.
“ Probably going back down to the border to spend winter.” Murdoch said.
“ At least we know he’s still alive. Excuse me.” Scott said before heading upstairs.
“ Thank you for what you bought me in Casper Johnny.”
“ I have to say having dinner with you was a pure treat. It’s been a long time since I had the company of such a beautiful lady sitting across the table from me.” Johnny said.
“ I’ve never had such an elaborate dress before.” Jess said.
“ You didn’t have one for those fancy parties I heard tell southern people threw?”
“ We were far from that class. I had a couple nice dresses, but nothing as pretty as what you bought me. I’ll pay you back as soon as I can.”
“ Did I say you had to pay me back…No I didn’t. I want nothing from you Jess for what I’ve bought you.” Johnny said. “ It’s nice to buy for a beautiful young lady.”
“ You are what would be called a southern gentleman back in Alabama.”
“ I guess in a way I am….just from the wrong south.” Johnny said with a laugh.
“ You got a girl?” Jess asked.
Johnny stopped his horse, undid his canteen and offered her a drink. “ I have girls in saloons.”
“ I mean like a girlfriend.”
Johnny laughed. “ I tried once, but the girls father found out who I was and forbid me from ever seeing his daughter again.”
“ Why don’t you go south for winter? ” she asked.
“ Got my reasons.” Johnny said.
“ You said your name was Johnny Lancer.” Jess said.
“ It is. Lancer is my birth name. I told you my mother was murdered when I was ten. For two years after I was in an orphanage where I started being abused because I’m a half-breed. I kept running away, they would find me and drag me back. At first I was locked in a closet anywhere from a day to a week. The second year I started getting beaten. When I ran away the last time, I made sure they didn’t find me. I hide out in the hills, living like a wild animal stealing food when I could, but mainly snaring rabbits and birds. I was in this small village when I came across this man who died in an alley. I took his coat for warmth and his gun for food.” Johnny explained.
“ You did what you had to do to stay alive.” Jess said softly.
“ That’s exactly what I did Jess. I became a gunfighter. I used my gun to stay alive and stop the abuse. I’ve never crossed the line and committed murder. I’m not wanted by the law……..However I am wanted by other gunfighters and the Rurales. That’s why I stay out of the south.” he said.
“ Why do the other gunfighters and Rurales want you?” she asked.
“ The Rurales want me for fighting against them in the Mexican war. Gunfighters……they want my reputation. I’m the best there is, and as long as I’m alive, they can’t make the most money.” Johnny explained. “ See….a few years ago I went home and got out of the game. I was home about four months when a kid showed up and tried to kill me. He told me there would be others come and I decided to leave so I wouldn’t put my brother and father at risk. I left in the middle of the night so they couldn’t try and stop me. That’s why I’m going to California. I need to face them for what I did.”
“ So these men…..when they see you, they try and kill Johnny Lancer?”
“ Lancer is my birth name…..It’s not the name I am know as along the border…..Even up here I run the risk of someone calling me out. If that happens……you have got to stay away from me…..I can’t have you interfere……you do and it could get me shot or killed.”
“ What name did you go by?” she asked.
“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.”
“ I know you…….I mean…I seen your name in a store my father stopped at in Nebraska. It was called, Johnny Madrid, the Deadliest Pistolero in the west.” Jess said.
“ A dime novel…….I heard there was one out there. Don’t believe everything you read Jess. Back east reporters have no idea what it’s really like in the west. They like to exaggerate to sell their damn stories.”
“ I didn’t buy it. Father forbid us reading what he called rubbish.”
Murdoch walked out of the bank in Spanish Wells and seen Sam heading toward him.
“ Hello Sam.”
“ Murdoch, how you doing?”
“ I’m alright. I think we’re going to have an early winter.”
“ Any word yet?” Sam asked.
“ Scott got word from a Pinkerton he hired some months back. Johnny was in Belle Fourche a few months ago headed south.”
“ Well at least you know he’s still alive.” Sam said. “ I have a patient I need to get too. I’ll see you.”
“ Murdoch!” Hackett said as he hurried across the street to him. “ Did you hear about Porter?”
“ Not since they took him back to Wyoming. Why?”
“ They executed him for murder. They hanged him last month.” Hackett said.
“ He’s gotten away with it for too long.” Murdoch said. “ I need to get back to the ranch.”
“ Alright. I’ll see you.” Hackett said before walking away.
WARNING, ADULT CONTENT
“ Will that storm get over this way?” Jess asked.
“ Probably will after midnight..” Johnny said as he walked up behind her. Taking a chance he put his arms around her, and pulled her back against his chest, resting his chin on the top of her head.
Jess inhaled as she closed her eyes and placed her hands over his. Leaning back against his chest, feeling his warm breath on her neck as her stomach flopped and her own heartbeat quickened.
Johnny turned Jess around to face him. Lowering his mouth to hers, he let his lips gently brush hers. Feeling no resistance, he ran his tongue over her bottom lip as he pulled her closer.
Jess couldn’t stop the moan from escaping when Johnny ran his tongue over her bottom lip. Placing her quivering hands on his chest, with fumbling fingers she undid a couple of buttons and ran her hands in on his chest. For the past month she had started looking at Johnny in a way she knew only a man and woman should look at each other on their wedding night. At night she found herself dreaming of kissing him as he touched her in forbidden places. As his naked body lay on top of her, claiming her, making her a woman.
Johnny stopped and looked into her eyes. “ You want me to stop?”
“ No.” Jess said softly as she started unbuttoning his shirt more and pulling it out of his pants.
Johnny took her hand in his and led her over to their bedroll. Removing his gunbelt and shirt he guided her down to the sleeping bag. Claiming her left breast as he gently pushed her down onto her back. Hungry to be inside her, wanting her, he forced himself to slow down, reminding himself it washer first time and he didn’t want to hurt her anymore than the pain she would feel when he took her innocence. Running his hand down between her legs, he could the heat from her body as he started rubbing her. Covering her body with his, he kissed her gently, then slid his tongue in her mouth, moaning as he pressed his hardness into her, letting her feel him, feel his wanting.
“ It’s not to late to stop this if you don’t want me to make love to you.” he said.
“ What do you want to do Johnny?” Jess asked.
“ I think you know what I want Jess….but this isn’t about me…..it’s about you. Once this happens, there’s no going back.” Johnny explained. “ What I take from you….you can never get back.”
“ I want you Johnny……..I’ve been having dreams of us together………and….I can’t explain the feelings I have lately when I look at you.”
“ The same way I’ve been looking at you.” Johnny said as he stood up and removed his clothes.
Jess watched as Johnny removed his clothes and allowed her to see him fully naked.
“ I can’t make love to you if you don’t remove your clothes.” Johnny said.
Jess stood up and removed her shirt and slid her pants down to her knees before sitting down to remove her boots. Once naked she laid back on the sleeping bag smiling as she watched Johnny look at her body.
Johnny laid down next to Jess and let his hands start roaming all over her body. Slipping his right hand between her legs, massaging her, preparing her for his invasion. Moving on top of her, he spread her lags apart and brought his tip to her entrance and slowly pushed inside her. Moving in and out slowly until he felt her barrier, he rose up and looked down into her eyes.
“ Don’t stop Johnny……Please don’t stop.” Jess pleaded.
Johnny thrust past her barrier and stopped to allow her muscles to adjust before he started moving in and out, thrusting harder and faster as he felt his climax start. He knew Jess was close, he could feel her muscles tightening around him, and her legs start to shake. Claiming her mouth with hunger he buried himself deep inside her as her body exploded with his.
Jess clung to Johnny with both her arms and her legs as her body trembled.
Johnny started kissing her neck and sucking on her earlobe as his left hand started squeezing her breast. “ You okay?”
Jess ran her hands up and down his back. “ I’m fine, but I don’t think I can stand up or walk yet the way my legs are shaking.”
“ I’ve only just begun to make you feel pleasure.” Johnny said before he started kissing her all over her body and making slow passionate love to her well into the early hours of morning.
Scott ran into the house just as Sam came downstairs.
“ What happened?” he asked.
“ Sit down Scott.” Amanda said as Sam came downstairs.
“ I don’t want to sit down. Tell me what happened……Please!”
“ Do you know where Johnny is at?” Sam asked as he walked into the grand room.
“ Scott, Murdoch has had a stroke.” Amanda said.
“ It was a bad one Scott, and I want you to prepare yourself for when you go in his room. He’s unable to speak, the right side of his face is pulled up, he has no use of his right side, and very little of his left.”
“ Is it permanent?”
“ I’m afraid so. The only way he will be able to get around is in a wheelchair.”
“ What in gods name caused him to have a stroke Sam?”
“ Stress, high blood pressure…..We just don’t know that much about them Scott, but I would have to say it was stress that caused his….If he has another one…it could leave him totally paralyzed….or kill him. You need to have Johnny come home.”
“ I’ll do what I can to find him Sam, but he’s been gone four years now. I have no idea where he’s at now. Even the Pinkerton’s can’t seem to find him.”
“ If he’s still alive………that man lying in that bed upstairs needs to see his youngest son, and he needs to see him while he still has some of his mind.” Sam said firmly.
“We will try Sam.” Amanda said.
Johnny and Jess rode south out of Santa Rosa,California.
“ You nervous about going back home?” Jess asked.
“ I’ve been gone five years. Didn’t write any letters so I imagine they will be angry at me. Probably not want me to stay there.” Johnny responded.
“ Can I ask why you didn’t write to them?” Jess asked.
“ I didn’t want them having false hope that I would come home.”
“ But isn’t that what you’re doing now…….going him?” she asked.
“ I’ve had five years to think about it. I see now how wrong I was to leave. Murdoch told me Lancer takes care of it’s own, but I made the decision to not let them. I ran away.”
“ I don’t think it’s so much that you ran away as I think it was you were afraid.” Jess said. “ You’ve lived your life alone without a brother or father. You’ve been the one keeping yourself alive, facing trouble head on every time someone called you out. You’re not alone anymore.”
“ No I’m not. I have a woman I love very much in my life. A woman I want to settle down with, and have our own place.” Johnny said.
“ How far is it to Lancer?” she asked.
“ We can be there in four days.” Johnny said.
“ How you doing Scott?” Sam asked.
“ It’s hard to believe he’s been gone a year.” Scott said as he placed some roses on his fathers grave. “ Now it’s just me Sam, and I don’t know what to do.”
“ You do what your father would want you to do……..keep this ranch running. I’m sorry they couldn’t find Johnny.” Sam said.
“ I have no brother Sam. There’s only one thing that would make him not be found.”
“ Do you think he’s dead?”
“ He’s either dead….or in a Mexican prison.” Scott responded.
“ Now surely you don’t believe your brother would go back to Mexico knowing the Rurales want him?” Sam asked.
“ I don’t know what to believe anymore Sam.” Scott said. “ One thing I do know…if he does come back here….he better have a damn good reason for not writing.”
“ Have you asked the Pinkerton’s to check and see if he is in a Mexican prison….or any prison for that matter?”
“ Why bother.” Scott said with coldness as he mounted up. “ Johnny made it clear how he felt about us the day he left.”
“ Is that Lancer?” Jess asked.
“ From here all the way to those mountains in the distance. One Hundred thousand acres, ten thousand head of cattle, and the finest Capanero de Palomino’s in the San Joaquin.” Johnny explained.
“ It’s beautiful.” she said. “ From up here the house looks huge.”
“ It is. When I first seen it……..I wasn’t sure what to think. Scott’s mother helped Murdoch decorate the inside. She had good taste. Some of the stuff Murdoch brought with him when he came here from Scotland. He wasn’t a year off the boat from Inverness when he married Catherine and moved here from Boston. He’s spent over thirty years building Lancer up to be the biggest ranch in the valley.”
“ I don’t understand why your mother took you away from here……I mean….it’s so beautiful.”
“ That’s one question I will unfortunately never get an answer too.” Johnny said. “ Lets get this over with.”
Scott stood on the veranda looking up the hill like he had done for the past five years. When two riders appeared at the top of the hill, his heart skipped a beat when he recognized the one rider. For four of the past five years he had prayed his brother would come home. Now he watched as that prayer was finally answered. Part of him was happy to see his little brother was still alive, and another part was angry he never came home to see their father before he passed away. As they got closer, he could see the other rider was a woman with long flowing blonde hair.
“ Is that him?” Amanda asked.
“ Yes.” Scott said. “ Looks like he has a lady with him.”
“ Scott….have you thought about how you are going to tell him?” she asked.
“ To be honest….no I haven’t.” Scott said. “ I’m afraid of what it will do to him.”
“ From what you have told me about him…..I think he is going to need a big brother more than he has ever needed one in his life.” Amanda said as the two riders rode into the yard.
“ You going to sit on that horse all night?” Scott asked.
Johnny dismounted and walked over to his brother and extended his hand to shake.
“ Welcome back little brother.” Scott said as he shook his brothers hand.
“ You look good…..older, but good big brother.” Johnny said. “ Who’s this?”
“ Johnny….this is my wife Amanda.” Scott said as Amanda walked over to him.
“ Hello Johnny……It’s good to finally get to meet you.” Amanda said. “Scott has told me a lot about you.”
“ Your wife?”
“ Yes my wife. We got married two years ago.” Scott said as he watched the lady with his brother dismount, and noticed she wore a gun around her hip.
“ Nice meeting you Amanda.” Johnny said. “ This is my girl Jessica.”
“ Jessica, it’s nice meeting you. Welcome to Lancer.”
“ Jess please.” she said.
“ So where’s the old man?” Johnny asked.
Scott tried to swallow the lump that came to his throat. “ Johnny…..let’s go inside.”
Johnny could tell something was wrong. He could see the hurt and pain in his brothers eyes. Taking Jess’ hand in his, he followed his brother and wife into the house.
“ Drink?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah. The place hasn’t changed any I see.” Johnny said as he looked around the room.
Scott poured two tequila’s and handed his brother one.
“ Thanks. You going to tell me where the old man is?”
Scott stood staring at his brother. “ Johnny…….”
“ Why don’t I take Jess upstairs and let the two of you talk?”
Scott waited until he was alone with his brother knowing what he was about to say would hurt his brother in more ways than either would or could anticipate.
“ Come on Scott….where’s Murdoch?”
“ Murdoch is gone Johnny.”
“ When will he be back?”
“ He’s not coming back brother……he’s dead.”
Johnny stared at his brother in shock feeling like he had just been kicked in the gut. “ When?” he asked softly.
“ A year ago. He’s buried up on the hill under that big oak tree.” Scott said as he stepped closer to him.
“ Wha….what happened?”
“ Two years ago he had a stroke. I had the Pinkerton’s looking for you. He wanted to see you again before he died…..Where were you?”
“ On the coast…….in Oregon.” Johnny said with a quiver to his voice.
“ He went in his sleep.”
Johnny felt the anger building up inside. Anger like he never had before. Walking over to the sideboard with shaky hands he poured a shot of tequila and downed it. Looking at his shaking hand as tears welled up and threatened to spill over, he spun around and threw the shot glass at the fireplace. “ NO!” he yelled as his whole body started shaking and he dropped to his knees as the tears fell. “ He can’t be gone.”
Scott walked over and dropped down next to his brother. Putting an arm around him, he could feel Johnny’s body shaking. “ It’s alright. It’ll be alright Johnny.” he said as he pulled his little brother to him.
“ He can’t be gone.” Johnny sobbed as he tried to get his sobbing under control. Pushing away from Scott, he stood up. “ I….I have to go see someone….I’ll be back.” Johnny said before walking out.
Jess and Amanda came downstairs. “ Where is Johnny going?” Jess asked.
“ He’ll be back. He needs some time alone right now.” Scott said.
“ How did he take it?” Amanda asked.
“ Not good. He’s really hurting right now.” Scott said.
“ And you let him leave here!” Jess said. ‘ Where did he go?”
“ I don’t know you, or how long you and Johnny have been together, but I know my brother and what he needs right now is some time alone to deal with the loss of our father.”
“ Me and Johnny have been together two years now.” Jess said and then explained how they met.
“ Can I ask where you came here from?” Scott asked.
“ We rode to the Oregon coast and then down.” Jess responded.
“ So then you know about my brother?”
“ If you mean about him being Johnny Madrid, yes….I know he’s a gunfighter.”
“ Are you and Johnny married?” Amanda asked.
“ Married……no. To be honest I think Johnny is afraid to ask me because of his past.”
“ Do you love my brother?”
“ Yes I do Scott.”
“ Hold your horses.” Sam gruffed. “ A man can’t even eat his supper in peace. Who’s hurt now?” he said as he opened the door. “ Johnny! Oh my…..”
“ I need to talk to you Sam.”
Sam could tell the boy had been crying, and he knew why. “ Get in here.”
Johnny stepped inside and sat down at the table.
Sam went to a cupboard and took down two small glasses and a bottle of brandy. Walking over to the table, he sat down and poured two drinks. “ Here this will help calm the nerves.”
“ Tell me Sam…….Tell me what happened.” Johnny said with a quivering voice.
“ John….are you sure you want to know?”
“ Please Sam…I need to know.”
“ Alright…..he had a stroke John….It paralyzed his right side, and he had very little use of his left. He could barely speak…..He had to have help with everything for the first six months after the stroke.” Sam explained. “ He fought us….but with Scott’s determination…he was able to walk, but had to have someone steady him. His speech was just a few words, but Scott got him to write words on a slate.”
“ If he was getting better…then why did he die?”
“ He had another stroke John, two days later he passed away in his sleep.”
“Another……Sam….what caused it…….caused him to have a stroke? Murdoch was strong and healthy.”
“ There’s so much we don’t know about strokes yet…..but we have learned that stress can cause them.”Sam explained. “ You know how he was about the ranch.”
“ Stress…..he died because of me didn’t he?”
“ Absolutely not John. You are not at fault for your father dying.” Sam said as he reached across the table and took Johnny’s shaky right hand in his. “ Johnny….I know Murdoch wanted to see you one last time before he died. I also know he would not want you blaming yourself for his death.”
Johnny stood up. “ I got to go. Thanks Sam for being honest with me.”
“ Are you going to stay?” Sam asked as he stood up.
“ For awhile.” Johnny said. “ Come out to the ranch. I have someone I want you to meet.”
“ I’ll do that. You take care of yourself John.” Sam said as he shook his hand.
Johnny stepped down to his horse and started to mount up when he heard two words he hadn’t heard in a long time.
“ Johnny Madrid!……Where ya going Madrid?” a man yelled from across the street.
Johnny pressed his head into the side of his horse. Turning around, he faced the man. “ I’m not in the game anymore Bell.”
“ The way I see it….you are as long as you’re still wearing that gun….and still breathing.”
“ I got no quarrel with you Bell. Leave me alone.” Johnny said right before two shots rang out almost as one.
Bell felt a white hot pain in his chest. Looking down, he seen a red stain spreading across his chest. “ You……..” he started to say before dropping to his knees, and falling forward dead.
Johnny turned to face Sam. “ Sam, he got me.”
‘ Something is wrong.” Scott said. “ Something has happened to Johnny.”
“ What do you mean?” Amanda asked.
“ I don’t know. It’s a feeling I have.” Scott said as he stood up. “ I think I know where Johnny went.”
“ Where?” she asked.
“ To the only person who can answer his questions…..Sam.”
“ please be careful. If he’s hurting, he may not be in his right state of mind and lash out at you.” Amanda said.
“ Johnny would never hurt me.” Scott said before walking out.
“ Are you alright John?” Sam asked as he stitched his side up.
“ He beat me Sam…..If his aim had been better….I’d be dead.” Johnny said.
“ John….you’re alive and that is all that matters.” Sam said as he cleaned the wound. “ With all you are dealing with….you weren’t thinking clearly.”
“ This will need stitches John, lay down.”
“ You know…..I stayed away from the border, and haven’t been called out in five years. I rode country Johnny Madrid wasn’t known in. I come back here and my first night back……”
“ John, you can’t let what happened eat at you. I know you don’t like killing another man….but that man gave you no choice……Sit up so I can wrap this.”
“ I never really got a chance to know him. Maybe if I……”
“ If you hadn’t left he wouldn’t have had a stroke…….John, we are still learning about them. You being here or not, I don’t think it would have made a difference.”
“ Is Val still here?”
“ No, he left Spanish Wells last year. He went back to Texas.” Sam responded as Scott walked in.
“What are you doing here?” Johnny asked.
“ Johnny…….what happened?”
“ Nothing……I was called out….I got shot.”
“ He’ll be alright Scott. The bullet grazed him, but it did take six stitches to close it up.”
“ Can he ride back to the ranch?” Scott asked.
“ I’ll allow it. Keep the wound clean and dry John.”
“ Thanks Sam….for everything.” Johnny said as he put his shirt on.
Jess and Amanda came outside when Johnny and Scott rode up to the house.
“ Johnny….are you alright?” Jess asked.
“ I’m fine. I had some trouble in town, but will be alright.”
“ He was…….”
“ I got called out.” Johnny cut in and said before heading inside.
“ Our fathers death has really shaken him up. He’s blaming himself for it.” Scott said.
“ How bad was he shot?” Jess asked.
“ A graze. Sam had to put six stitches in it.” Scott said. “ Jess, I know my brother. This will be hard for him to get thru…..to accept….Just be there for him….but don’t pressure him to talk about what he’s feeling.”
“ With all due respect Scott….you don’t know Johnny like I do.” Jess said. “ I’ve spent the last two years riding with him, talking to him, being there for him. He’s a good person, and he deserves to be happy, wanted, and loved. Three things I plan to make sure he has.”
“ We want the same things for my brother.” Scott said. “ Let me ask you this, have you ever been with him when he was called out and had to kill a man?”
“ Johnny wears his heart on his sleeve. He cares about people, especially those close to him.” Scott said. “ When he gets called out and has to kill someone, it haunts him.”
“ Ghosts.” Jess said. “ I’ve heard him in his sleep sometimes. When I ask him about the dream….he won’t talk about it.”
Johnny walked up the hill and stopped under the huge oak tree, kneeling down next to the headstone, his mind went back to the first time he seen his father. The first time in Visalia when boarding the stage and he ordered the big man to remove his gun. Though not intimidated by anyone, thinking back to that first meeting brought a smile to his face.
“ You know that first time I met you in Visalia, I have to say I was a bit intimidated by you old man. Course I didn’t know at the time I was your son, but a part of me did feel something toward you. My instincts were usually right about people, and they were about you….just not in the way I thought.” Johnny said.
“ I came back here to talk to you….To tell you some things about my mother. Things I know you wanted to know about her. I guess now it’s too late.” he said. “ I’m sorry Murdoch….Sam said stress could have caused your strokes……I know my leaving caused you a lot of stress worrying about me…..I’m sorry. I should have stayed and did like you told me…..you know….Lancer takes care of it’s own. I never had anyone care about me besides Val. I was scared Murdoch. Can you believe that….me Johnny Madrid scared. I was scared I would cause you or Scott to get hurt…..or killed, and I couldn’t live with myself if that happened. So I left.”
For three weeks Johnny remained pretty quiet, walking around the house looking at things his father had brought with him from Scotland, and things he’d acquired over the years.
“ Can we have a talk brother?” Scott asked as he walked into the grand room.
“ What’s on your mind Boston?”
“ Been a long time since I heard that.” Scott said with a smile. “ Come over here and sit down.”
Johnny hesitated a little, but finally walked over and sat down in a chair in front of the huge desk his father had sat at many times.
“ Okay….I have two things I want to discuss with you.” Scott said. “ I want to show you something.” Scott said as he took a file out of the top drawer. “ This is a contract I had drawn up last year making you a half owner of Lancer. I would like you to sign it brother. Sign it and help me run this ranch.”
“ Half owner huh?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes….and in case you are wondering, Murdoch never changed the agreement we both signed before making us third owners. With him gone, I needed to protect the ranch, so I had Randall redo it.” Scott explained. “ Now I just need to know if you are man enough to take on this challenge?”
“ You said two things. What’s the other?”
“ Jess, what are your plans with her?”
“ To marry her if she will have me.” Johnny said.
“ I think she will if you ask her too.”
Johnny signed the contract and became a half owner of Lancer. The brothers running the ranch, making it the most successful ranch in all of California. Now both married, and both having sons to carry on the Lancer name, the brothers rode up to the top of the hill to look down at Lancer.
“ You think the old man is happy with what we’ve done?” Johnny asked.
“ I think he would be. Both his sons are running his beloved ranch. Building it up to be the biggest ranch in the state.” Scott said.
“ Ten years ago I made a mistake and rode away from here. Coming back wasn’t easy. Learning he was gone made it hard at first, but coming up here and talking to him and talking to you I now know where I truly belong.”
“ Ten years ago, what happened changed your life forever little brother.”
“ Yeah, at the time I never would have thought my life would change for the better from a little vengeance.”
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