#1 in the Wanted: Dead Or Alive series
I don’t own them. I’m just borrowing them to have some fun. No money is being made from this story. CBS put them out to pasture, all I’m doing is taking them out for a midnight ride.
This story will mostly be a Johnny Madrid story. He is not known as Johnny Lancer yet but can and most likely will change before end of story. It depends on my muses mood. ( evil laugh ).
Any and all characters listed below belong to CBS and I just borrowed them. Any other character names not affiliated with any Lancer episode belongs to me only and may not be borrowed without my permission.
Johnny Madrid ( gunfighter ) ( CBS )
Murdoch Lancer ( rancher ) ( CBS )
Scott Lancer( ranchers son ) ( CBS )
Teresa O’Brian ( Murdoch’ ward ) ( CBS )
Cipriano ( Lancer’ segundo ) ( CBS )
Sexton Joe ( gunfighter ) ( CBS )
Isham ( gunfighter ) ( CBS )
Jim Colton ( rancher, Double T, president of California Cattle Growers Association ) ( Mine )
Toby Jenks ( rancher – Bar Cross ) ( CBS )
Dan Marvin ( rancher – M Brand ) ( CBS )
Buck Addison ( railroad builder ) ( CBS )
Charlie ( surveyor ) ( Mine )
Seth ( surveyor ) ( Mine )
Hank ( Lancer hand ) ( Mine )
Carl ( Lancer hand ) ( Mine )
Lancer ( CBS )
Bar Cross ( CBS )
Double T ( Mine )
M Brand ( CBS )
This story has an R rating.
“ You want to get a beer before we head back to the ranch son?” Murdoch Lancer asked.
“ That sounds good.” Scott responded as he put an arm around his father and the two started toward the saloon.
“ Lancer………I need a word with you.” Jim Colton yelled as he hurried across the busy street of Green River.
Murdoch and Scott stopped just outside the saloon and waited.
Jim stepped up on the the boardwalk. “ Murdoch, Scott, We have that meeting coming up in a week out at your spread.” Jim started.
“ Yes. What about it?” Murdoch asked.
“ I wanted to throw something at you that I’m going to bring up at the meeting.” Jim stated.
“ Okay. Me and Scott were headed into the saloon to have a cold beer. Why don’t you join us and you can tell us what it is?” Murdoch suggested.
“ Alright.” Jim answered as the three men headed into the saloon.
None of the men noticed a man sitting in the corner of the saloon, back to the wall in the corner watching and listening intently. Blue eyes just below his hat rim scanning every move made, noting every person coming and going.
“ Hank, bring the Lancer’ and me a cold beer.” Jim called out to the bartender as the three sat down a a table not far from the lone figure in the corner.
“ Murdoch, as you know, it’s getting harder and harder to feed our cattle through the winter…..especially when it’s as bad as the winter two years ago?”
“ Yes. Lancer lost about one hundred head that winter.” Murdoch stated.
“ Right….and the Bar Cross lost all but twenty head.”
“ Mr Colton, me and my father also lost cattle that winter.” Scott stated. “ As matter of fact, a lot of ranches in the valley lost cattle.” Scott added.
“ Well as you know the railroad has a man named Buck Addison scouting to build a spur from Green River here to Stockton to get the cattle to market easier?”
“ No. I wasn’t aware of this.” Murdoch responded.
“ That spur could save us from losing cattle, all of us ranchers.”
“ How so Mr Colton?” Scott asked.
“ We would be able to get them to the feedlot pens in late fall, before the snow and since they would already be at the tracks in the spring, we could ship them to market easier.”
“ Ship them to market every year?” Murdoch asked.
“ Why not?” Jim responded.
“ Jim, none of the ranchers, Lancer included can afford to ship the cattle to market every spring.” Murdoch stated. “ We’ve been doing good shipping them to market every three or four years.”
“ That’s because you’re the biggest ranch in the San Juaquin valley……Not everybody in this valley is a s lucky as you are Murdoch.” Jim said with a little anger. “ Hell you have one hundred thousand acres of land to graze your cattle on and water all year long. You can afford to grow your own feed and grain to get you through the winter……The rest of us don’t and can’t.”
Scott noticed the man in the corner watching them. Something about his blue eyes and appearance gave his gut a feeling he couldn’t explain. Scot nodded his head slightly at the man and swallowed hard as his gut got tighter when the man smiled at him before putting his head back down just enough so nobody could see his face.
“ Just what is it you want from Lancer, Jim?” Murdoch asked as he picked up his beer and took a drink.
“All the ranchers will have to contribute to that spur coming through in both money and land.”
“ I see……and since Lancer is the biggest spread, we should pay the most, is that it?”
“ I was thinking more in the lines of Lancer funding that spur Murdoch….. You have enough land, you could get a loan at the bank to fund it.”
“ Mr Colton.” Scot cut in before his father could respond. “ Just because my father has the biggest spread does not mean he has the most money.”
“ I’m sorry Jim, but Lancer will not take out a loan on something that isn’t definite yet. Besides, we don’t even know if what you say is true.”
“ Are you calling me a liar?” Jim said as he stood up so fast his chair fell backwards.
“ No I’m not. But Lancer can’t afford to take out a loan like that Jim. I’m sorry but we just can’t do it.”
“ You’re making a big mistake Murdoch, and when I bring this before the board, you’ll see.” Jim stated before turning and walking out.
“ Let’s go home son.” Murdoch said as he stood up.
Scott stood as well and glanced over at the man in the corner. For some reason he didn’t understand, he felt like he knew the man. Turning Scott walked outside with his father when both Lancer men stopped cold in their tracks.
“ MADRID…….JOHNNY MADRID…….I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL COME ON OUT AND PLAY.”
Madrid watched the two Lancer men leave, emotions running deep inside. ‘ A brother ‘ His mother had told him nothing about having an older brother. Clearly this must be one of the reasons he and his mother were run off Lancer land. Johnny decided a little more digging would be required before he carried out what he came so far north to do.
Standing, Johnny poured a shot of tequila and downed it before heading to the bat winged doors of the saloon. Pushing them open slowly as he scanned the rooftops across the street.
“ I’m calling you out Madrid……. Come on out and die like the bastard half breed you are…… Come on out and let all these good folks see the infamous Johnny Madrid get what’s coming to you”
Johnny stepped out onto the boardwalk and down the two steps to the dirt street. “ Do I know you friend?” Johnny asked as he stepped out into the street.
“ My god, he’s just a boy.” Murdoch said softly.“ I’ve heard about him, but never seen him.”
“ No…….You don’t know me, but I know you.” the kid said as he faced Madrid.
“ Why you in such a hurry to die today?” Madrid asked.
“ I ain’t the one gonna die…..YOU are.” the kid responded. “ As long as you’re alive…..I can’t get no decent work. I tried hiring my gun during that fracas in McCall’s Crossing, but because of you, I couldn’t because you beat me to it……I’m tired of going hungry because of you Madrid. I’m tired of people laughing at me, thinking I’m not good enough, but I’ll show them. I’ll show them all just how wrong they were about me when I kill you.”
“ You ever been shot kid?” Johnny asked. “ Cause if you ain’t, let me tell you it’s not pretty. It hurts like hell. A bullet tears through your skin, making a big ‘ole hole, but that bullets the east of your worries boy……You see, if you survive, infection can set in and if the fever don’t kill ya, that infection will.”
“ STOP YOUR YAKIN’ AND DRAW MADRID.”
“You called me out boy…..I was just tryin’ to tell you what’s gonna happen to you……Your choice to die, not mine.”
“ That don’t seem like the cold blooded killer everybody says Madrid is.” Scott said softly to his father. “ It would appear Madrid doesn’t want to kill this kid.” he added.
“ If he didn’t want to kill him son, he shouldn’t have come out of the saloon.” Murdoch stated. “ He can walk away.”
“ From what I’ve heard about gunfights….when it’s gone to this level, you can’t walk away..You’ll most likely get a bullet in the back” Scott stated.
Johnny heard the two Lancer men and smiled deep down inside. ‘ got that right blonde’ he said to himself.
“ Walk away kid.” someone yelled.
“ Yeah, walk away. Madrid will kill you boy…..I seen him gun down two of the best down in Nogales a few years ago.” another man yelled.
“ Shut up….Madrid gave him a chance to leave.” someone else yelled.
Both men stood facing each other. Neither one moving. Johnny never took his eyes off the boy, waiting for the sign that would signal him to draw.
“ Can I at least know your name?” Johnny asked. “ So they know what to put on your marker.”
“ Ain’t gonna have a marker Madrid, you are.”
Johnny seen it then. The sign he was waiting for. His colt jumped into his hand and he fired one shot, hitting the kid square in the chest. Standing there, Johnny watched as the kid slowly dropped to his knees and fell forward dead. Sliding his colt into the holster, Johnny turned and walked over to the Lancer’.
“ It’s not always possible to walk away from trouble old man.” Johnny said coldly. Deep down inside he had a hate stronger than anything for this man standing before him. Turning he Faced Scott. “ I’m not a cold blooded killer. Every man I’ve killed, I killed in a fair fight.”
Blue eyes stared at blue eyes. Both lost in the moment for just a brief second before Johnny turned, went to his horse and rode out.
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m fine. Let’s go home.” Scott said as he turned and walked down the street to his horse, followed by his father.
“ You’ve been awful quiet son since we left town. Something on your mind?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m not sure I can explain it sir.” Scott responded.
“ About what Madrid did, killing that boy?”
“ No…..I mean it’s about Madrid yes, but not about what he did.”
“ Then what is it son?”
“ I don’t know….It’s just that…..In the saloon before we left and then outside before he left…….It’s like…..It’s like I know him.”
“ Know him. Scott that boy is nothing more than a killer.” Murdoch stated firmly.
“ Do you ever think about him?”
“ My brother, Johnny?”
“ Son, I think about your brother all the time. I wonder if he’s still alive. What he looks like now. What he’s doing.”
“ He had blue eyes.”
“ Yes son, Your brother had the deepest blue eyes. Like his grandfather did.”
“ I meant Madrid. His eyes, when I looked into them before he left. It was like I knew him.” Scott stated. “ Madrid is about Johnny’ age.”
Murdoch stopped his horse. “ What are you saying son?”
“ I’m saying, we don’t know about our Johnny. What if this Johnny is our Johnny?”
“ There is no way your brother would be that killer.”
“ You don’t know that for sure sir. I’m just suggesting we have the Pinkerton’ check him out. They say Madrid comes from Mexico. You yourself said Johnny’ mother ran off to Mexico with that gambler.”
“ Yes she did and I’ve been searching for him ever since to no avail.”
“ What could it hurt to have them check sir?”
“ Does it mean that much to you son?”
“ Yes it does.”
“ Alright. I’ll contact the Pinkerton’ and have them do some checking, but I promise you Scott, Johnny Madrid is not our Johnny Lancer, I don’t want this mentioned to Teresa. I want this to be between us only son, until we know for sure.”
“ And if he is my brother?”
“ We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it son.”
Johnny watched from the hill as the two Lancer men rode past him. Rifle in hand, Johnny took aim, but for some unforeseen
reason he couldn’t pull the trigger. A brother. Why hadn’t his mother ever mentioned it to him/ Why hadn’t she told him old man Lancer was married before? Is it possible that everything his mother told him about his father was a lie? Questions were all he had now. Questions he need to know the answers to, but wouldn’t since his mother was dead. For eight anguishing hard years Johnny fought to stay alive after his mother died. Eight years, seven of which he honed his gun fighting skills, building a reputation that every gunfighter who thought he was any good tried to take away. More times than he cared to remember. The few friends he thought he had had turned on him and tried to kill him. Men he rode the range with. Men he fought side by side with. The last one cost him two months of hiding out like a wild animal in a cave outside Sonora. The only true friend he had that he could count on day and night was the Modoc stallion he’s been riding for the past four years. Found badly injured from a mountain lion attack, the stallion showed no fear of Johnny that hot summer night. For five days Johnny treated the wounds, deep gashes on the stallions chest. Sewing the wounds up to were hardly any scars showed thanks to plenty of practice sewing his own wounds up. Since that night, Johnny and the stallion became friends like no other. Not a horse around could catch the stallion when Johnny gave him his neck and let him run. The Rurales had tried countless times to catch him, only to be left with exhausted horses and dust on their faces. Waiting until the Lancer’ were out of sight, Johnny went back to the stallion and slid the rifle back in the scabbard and swung up in the saddle. Having been in the area for over a week now, Johnny decided to go to the one spot he knew he could watch the big estancia without being spotted during the day, not far from a small shack, he assumed was an old run down, no longer in use line shack he’d heard big ranchers had for the hands to stay in. Fixing the roof on both the shack and the lean too for his horse.
For three weeks Johnny watched the comings and goings at the ranch. Watching the old man come out of the house in the mornings and talked to an older Mexican before going back inside. Johnny also noticed a girl. Slender built,long black hair almost always in pants and a shirt except on Sunday. Sunday she would come out wearing a dress and climb up in the buggy that was always waiting out front and leave with the old man and Scott and head to town and come back that afternoon. This time though, Johnny would do some snooping around in the house if he could while they were at church. One thing he’d learned watching was all but a few necessary hands would leave the ranch early Saturday evening and head to town and Sunday morning most of those hands were sleeping it off in the bunkhouse or in town. Making a mental note of everyone who stayed in the house during the day and night, Johnny learned the help was given Sunday off to attend church or spend time with their family.
Using the shadows to hide him, Johnny worked his way down to the back door of the hacienda and slowly opened the door and stepped inside, gun in hand ready just in case someone was still inside. Making his way through the kitchen into the big room with a huge fireplace with the Lancer L above the fireplace on the wall, Johnny walked over to the desk and tried all the drawers, finding all but one unlocked. Taking out his knife he carefully worked the lock until the drawer opened. Reaching in he pulled out a bunch of papers and glanced through them. Nothing really but receipts of purchases made for the ranch. No reason Madrid thought for keeping the drawer locked. Picking them up to put back in the drawer he noticed two folders in the very bottom of the draw. Setting the receipts down, Johnny took the files out and noticed each one had a name on it. Scott Garrett Lancer on the top one and Johnny Lancer on the other file. Curious Johnny opened the one with Scott’ name on it and learned that he too didn’t grow up a Lancer. “ An eastern dandy.” Johnny said aloud as he read the file. Raised in Boston by his grandfather, his mother died in childbirth it would seem and during a land pirate feud with the ranchers twenty four years ago. What appeared to be memory book with the date 1849 to present written on the front of it, Johnny picked it up, opened it and began to read what was written inside.
( 1854 )
I seen Scott today in Boston. It was his fifth birthday and Harlan Garrett was generous enough to let me see him for just a moment.
( 1867 )
It’s been thirteen years since I last seen my oldest son. My heart aches for both my sons. Knowing were one is and not the other is wearing thin on my heart. Having neither here with me to share in what I have worked so hard to build for them.
( 1869 )
I would give anything to hold my youngest in my arms again. To look into his sapphire blue eyes and see his smile, a smile that could light up a room. I still find myself after all these years still wondering what It was I did to make Maria fall out of love with me and leave in the middle of the night, taking my precious little boy with her.
I can’t have both my sons with me, maybe I can have one of them. I’ve written Scott before and never heard back from him so this time I will have a Pinkerton agent deliver the message to him.
( 1870 )
I’m so excited, Scott wrote back saying he would come to Lancer.
( 1871 )
Scott has been here almost a year now and seems to be settling in real good. The hands like him as do most of the people in Moro Coyo and Green River that he’s met so far. My ward Teresa took him to town shortly after arriving to get him the proper clothes to wear on a working cattle ranch. I must say, seeing my oldest wearing plaid pants that first day, I almost busted out laughing. Ruffled shirts, Darby hats, plaid pants and other clothes of the like that Scott wore back in Boston will not work out here.
( 1872 )
If only the Pinkertons could find my youngest and he came home. Until that happens or I know he is dead, I will not give up my search for him till the day I die.
A lump formed in Johnny’ throat as he read what was written again.
“So that’s why we moved around so much. The old man had Pinkerton’ looking for me and every time they got close to finding me my mother would move.”
She always came up with an excuse that usually put the blame on him. Usually most of the time it wasn’t his fault. Hell reading what he just did, it was his fault. The Pinkerton’ looking for him made it his fault. Putting the book and files back in the drawer and shutting it, Johnny decided to go upstairs and investigate when a picture on the desk caught his attention. Picking it up, he swallowed hard as he looked at the portrait of his mother. There was another picture on the desk of a beautiful woman with blonde hair, he assumed was the first wife and mother of Scott. Setting the picture down, Johnny headed upstairs and explored each room, making sure to put anything back exactly like it was if he picked it up. Having seen enough, Johnny headed back downstairs and into the kitchen to leave. Spotting a plate of cookies on the stove he grabbed a couple and slipped out the back door and back to his horse without being seen.
“ I think I will turn in now.” Scott said as he closed his book and stood up.
“ Alright son. I want you to get an early start on that foot bridge tomorrow. Hank already took all the supplies out there.”
“ Alright. Teresa.”
“ Good night Scott.” Teresa said as she put her sewing away. “ I think I’ll turn in to Murdoch.” she added.
“ Alright honey. I’ll be turning in shortly myself.” Murdoch stated as he unlocked the desk drawer.
“ Don’t stay up to late.” Teresa said as she headed upstairs.
“ I won’t.” Murdoch answered with a smile. Opening the drawer Murdoch noticed the files were on the top instead of the bottom of the drawer. That his memory book was under the files, instead of on top of them. Closing the drawer, Murdoch inspected the lock closely and found nothing wrong.
“ Morning.” Scott said as he entered the kitchen the next morning and sat down at the table.
“ Good morning son.” Murdoch answered.
“ Breakfast is almost ready Scott.” Teresa said as she brought him a cup of coffee.
“ Thank you.” Scott responded.
“ Something wrong son?”
“ I don’t know. It’s probably just my imagination, but last night when I went to bed, I could have sworn somebody had been in my room.”
“ What do you mean? Was something taken?” Murdoch asked, remembering his desk.
“ Not that I could tell. It’s just a feeling more than anything.”
Scott rode into the yard early afternoon and tied his horse to the hitch rail in front of the house. Walking in through the veranda doors he found his father standing in front of the big bay windows looking out at the hills.
“ Is something wrong sir?” Scott asked as he walked over to the sideboard and poured a drink.
Murdoch turned around. “ What are you doing back so early?” he asked.
“ The foot bridge is already done.” Scott responded. “ Is something wrong sir?”
“ What do you mean it’s already done? I didn’t tell anyone else to fix it.”
“ Well somebody did. They did a real good job on it too.” Scott stated. “ You going to tell me what’s wrong?”
Murdoch walked over to his desk and picked up a file. “ This is the report on Johnny Madrid. Everything the Pinkerton’ were able to find out son.” Murdoch stated as he handed it to Scott to read. “ You might want to sit down to read that son.”
Scott took the file and walked over to the couch and sat down. Opening it he began to read.
A few weeks ago you requested the help of the Pinkerton Detective Agency to do a thorough background check on one Johnny Madrid. Most of what we learned about him we learned from across the border in Mexico were Madrid is from. What we have been able to learn in some parts is shocking. Madrid, they say came to be at a very young age of ten or so when he killed his first man in Sonora. Before that Madrid spent about a year in an orphanage . During this time Madrid was picked on by the other children and Padre’s just because he was of mixed heritage. He was a Mexican with blue eyes. Numerous times he would run away from the orphanage, only to be brought back and beaten until one day they couldn’t find him and stopped looking. People say that in most of the gunfights Madrid gave the other person the chance to back out which sadly they almost always opted to not do, so they died by Madrid’ gun. One thing we learned that numerous people told, is that Madrid almost always worked below the border not for money, but for a place to sleep and food. Madrid always stayed within the law, never once breaking it and always hiring out to the less fortunate.
We did some checking on the man that Madrid killed when only ten years old. It would seem that this man was a gambler from California who beat his mother to death one night in a drunken rage in a town called Matamoros. Sadly Madrid witnessed this beating and was nearly beaten to death himself. It was after this that he was sent to the orphanage until the final time of his running away. After that Madrid disappeared until he showed up in Sonora, where he found the gambler and gunned him down in a fair fight. Witness accounts say Madrid had been looking for this man and found him dealing cards in Sonora. They say he walked into the Cantina and up to the table were the gambler was. It would seem the gambler brushed the kid off as a joke until Madrid reminded him of what he had done a year prior in Matamoros. The gambler started to stand, went for his gun and before he could even half clear leather, Madrid’ bullet found it’s mark right between the mans eyes.
To be thorough in our report we checked out Madrid’ mothers name and learned it wasn’t Madrid. Her name it would seem was Maria Delavega Alvarez who a few years prior to her death was Maria Delavega Alvarez Lancer, making her son Johnny Madrid your missing son Johnny Lancer.
Further investigating we have learned that four months ago, Madrid rode out of Mexico and headed to California, Moro Coyo, Green River area to be precise sir.
On a side note Mr Lancer, we have learned that because of all Madrid has done to help the pen farmers stand up against the Rurales he is wanted by the Rurales dead. That they will hunt him down and kill him if he is ever found south of the border again
Lead investigator Pinkerton Detective Agency, Southwest Division.
Scott sat there for several minutes before he stood up and walked back over to his fathers and placed the file on the desk.
“ What are you going to do sir?” he asked.
“ I don’t know son.” Murdoch responded. “ I guess I’m a little shocked like you are.”
“ I’m sorry you had to find out like that about his mother and how she died.”
“ I can’t imagine a child that young witnessing something so brutal. And then to gun that man down……My god….My youngest has become a killer.”
“ You read the report sir..If it were you wouldn’t you do the same thing?” Scott said with a hint of anger to his voice.
“ I don’t know son. The laws pretty scarce south of the border except for the Rurales. They should have handled it. They should have put that man in prison for what he did to her. My son should have never been put in that position. Johnny should have never tracked that man down and killed him………Why they hell didn’t he find a way of coming home to me, To Lancer?”
“ I guess the only one who can answer that is Johnny sir.” Scott stated. “ We need to find him sir.”
“ Find him how Scott. He rode out of Green River that day and nobody has seen him since.”
“ My gut tells me he’s still around. Why else would he leave Mexico and come here if it wasn’t to come home to Lancer?”
“ God only knows son, but you may be right.” Murdoch said as he sat down at his desk. “ Yesterday while we were at church I think someone was in the house. That that someone opened the drawer I always keep locked in my desk and went through what I keep in there.”
“ How do you know?” Scot asked.
“ Because the files I have on you and Johnny were on top and I always keep them at the bottom of the drawer……I think it was Johnny.”
“ I think I’ll have the hands keep an eye out when out working, for any sign of him. Lancer is pretty big, a lot of places he could hide if he is on Lancer land.”
“ We don’t know why he’s here, so make sure the men don’t try to approach him. Just report back to you or me if they see him. I’ll check in Moro Coyo tomorrow when I take Teresa in and see if he’s been around there.”
Johnny woke Monday morning and stepped outside the shack. After taking care of business he went and checked on the stallion and gave him what little grain he had left.
“ Looks like we need to go to town and buy you some grain boy.” Johnny said as he rubbed the stallions face. “ I could use some more supplies, a nice piece of meat would taste good right about now so would a bath.” Johnny stated before heading back inside to brew some coffee.
Siting on the steps sipping a hot cup of coffee a little while later Johnny thought back to what he’d learned at the Lancer ranch. The girl was neither the old mans daughter or wife to the son. She was his ward. He found himself wondering if this girl had grown up on Lancer or was a part of the old mans past he knew nothing about. Why, why had his mother lied to him, telling him his old man had run them off Lancer because he didn’t want a mestizo for a son. If that were true, then why for so many years did the old man have the Pinkerton’ looking for him? That’s a lot of money to spend over the years looking for someone he didn’t want around. A brother. All his life he had wished he’d had a big brother, the whole time his mother knew, yet said nothing. An eastern dandy, he had a big brother all this time. A brother who it would seem didn’t grow up at Lancer. Raised in Boston by his grandfather. He didn’t look like much, but Johnny found himself admiring the man because of what he did in Green River when Madrid walked up to him. Clearly not one to back down or show fear, especially when facing someone like Johnny Madrid. That fact alone made Johnny admire his brother in more ways than one. Answers are what he needed most. Answers that since his mother was gone, he could only get from the man he had grown up despising all his life.
Putting a plan together, Johnny stood up and went inside to finish dressing. Coming back out a short time later with his rifle in hand he stepped down to the stallion and slid the rifle into the scabbard and swung up on the stallion.
“ Let’s go to town boy.” he said as he turn the stallion and headed out. Coming and going at night would be best, less likely to be spotted by a hand.
Murdoch stopped the wagon in front of Baldanero’s Mercantile in Moro Coyo and set the brake. I have some business to take care of in town sweetheart. I should be back in an hour or so.”
“ Alright.” Teresa answered as she got down from the wagon. “ Murdoch, is everything alright?” she asked.
“ Yes, why do you ask?”
“ It’s just that this morning at breakfast you and Scott seemed like you both had something on your minds, and well, I couldn’t help but notice how the two of you looked at each other at times. You hardly spoke……You two didn’t have a fight did you?”
“ No Teresa. I assure you me and Scott did not have a fight. We both learned some news yesterday that took us totally by surprise. When I know more, I’ll tell you.”
“ Yes I promise. Now why don’t you go do some shopping and get yourself some material to make a pretty dress for that church social next month!”
“ Alright. I’ll see you in an hour or so.”
“ Maybe we’ll eat lunch before we head back to Lancer.” Murdoch suggested as he released the brake on the wagon.
Johnny came out of the livery stable and watched as old man Lancer stopped his wagon in front of the mercantile. Smiling as the girl climbed down and a few minutes later the old man headed on up the street. Walking over to the mercantile, Johnny stepped inside and let his eyes adjust, spotting the girl with an older woman looking at fabric.
“ May I help you senor?” Baldanero ask.
“ Yeah. I’m needing a few things.” Johnny stated as he took a small list out of his pocket and handed it to him never taking his eyes off the girl. “ Who’s that girl?”
“ That’s Miss Teresa O’Brian. She’s Mr Lancer’ ward.” the old man answered as he glanced at the list Johnny handed him.
“ His ward?”
“ Yes. Her father was his foreman for many years, but was murdered a couple years ago by some horse thieves stealing one of Mr Lancer’ prized stallions.”
“ So he’s her guardian?”
“ Yes, I guess you could say that. He took on the responsibility when her father died.” Baldanero stated. “ I don’t think I’ve ever sen you around here before. Just passing through?”
“ Maybe. Haven’t decided yet.”
“ Well, feel free to look around while I put your list together.” Baldanero stated before going over behind the counter.
“ I just don’t know. I like this color.”
“ Personally I think the blue fabric would make a better dress. It would show just how pretty you are.” Johnny said as he walked closer to them.
Teresa turned to face him and was greeted by blue eyes and a nice smile.
“ Young man….I don’t kw who you are, but this young lady does not consort with the likes of you.” Mrs Baldanero said firmly.
“ Didn’t mean no disrespect ma’am and I certainly didn’t mean to offend the young lady. Miss Teresa, would you please accept my sincere apology for stating the truth?”
“ How do you know my name?” Teresa asked. “ I’ll take three yards of this one Mrs Baldanero.”
“ Very well. I’ll just go get what you request and wrap it up for you.”
“ Thank you…..You didn’t answer my question.”
“ Her husband told me your name. Said you was Murdoch Lancer’ ward.” Johnny stated as he stepped closer.
“ You’re not from around here are you?” Teresa asked.
“ Nope. I might be staying though.”
“ Well I have to be going now. It was nice talking to you……….?”
“ Madrid…… Johnny Madrid ma’am.”
“ There’s a church social in Green River next month, maybe I’ll see you there?”
“ You never know.”
Teresa walked out of the store just as Murdoch stopped the wagon.
“ Did you get what you needed?” he asked.
“ Yes I did. I even bought a beautiful blue fabric for my dress next month.” Teresa stated as she climbed in the wagon.
“ Do you want to each lunch in town or head home?” Murdoch asked.
“ Let’s head home. I want to get started on my new dress.”
Johnny stepped out of the mercantile with his supplies and watched Murdoch Lancer leave town. Heading over to the livery Johnny put his stuff in the stall with the stallion, knowing that any fool who went into that stall without him there, wouldn’t be coming out of it alive. He had warned the owner and taken the last stall on the far end.
“ I’ll be back in the morning boy. You enjoy that hay and grain.” Johnny said to the stallion as he closed the gate to the stall and left.
“ You sure seemed happy when you came out of the store Teresa.” Murdoch stated a mile from the ranch.
“ I did?” she asked.
“ Yes. In fact, if I didn’t know better I would say you maybe met someone.”
“ As a matter of fact I did meet a young man. He helped me make my decision on the fabric I chose. I told him about the church social coming up and he said he might come to it. He’s new to the valley, but doesn’t know if he’s going to stay here yet.”
“ I see. Does this young man have a name?”
“ Yes. He said his name was Johnny Madrid.” Teresa told him as they pulled up in the yard and Murdoch stopped the wagon.
“ His name is what?” Murdoch said with shock.
“ His last name?”
“ Madrid, why?”
“ Teresa, I forbid you from talking to that young man again. Do I make myself clear?”
“ Murdoch, he didn’t do anything wrong. He was a perfect gentleman to me.”
“ Johnny Madrid is…….Look, I don’t want you leaving this ranch by yourself and I don’t want you talking to Madrid. I forbid it. Do I make myself clear?”
Teresa didn’t understand the sudden anger toward her. “ Why? Why can I not talk to him if he comes to the church social or I see him again in town?” she demanded.
“Go inside now young lady. I’ll explain it to you tonight after supper.”
Scott came out of the house. “ Is everything alright Teresa?”
Teresa walked past him into the house.
“ Is something wrong sir?”
“ Johnny Madrid is what’s wrong. He was in town and I didn’t know it. He talked to Teresa while she was in Baldanero’s.” Murdoch answered with anger.
“ Johnny’ in Moro Coyo?” Scott asked.
“ He was. I don’t know if he’s still there or not son.”
“ I think I’ll take a ride into Moro Coyo.”
“ No you will not son. Not without me. It’s late. We need to talk to Teresa after supper. Explain to her what we learned.”
“ Why don’t you just let her read the report from the Pinkerton’?”
“ Absolutely not. There is stuff in that file she has no business reading son. Stuff not appropriate for an innocent child to read.”
“ You know, I don’t know if you realize, Teresa isn’t a child anymore.” Scott stated.
“ Until she’s twenty one she is.”
“ With all due respect sir, you’re wrong about Teresa. She’s grown up on a cattle ranch and she is not a child anymore. Teresa is a beautiful young lady.”
Later that evening Teresa listened to what Murdoch told her with tears in her eyes. “ There has to be a mistake. Johnny, the Johnny Madrid I talked to in town was not a cold blooded killer Murdoch. His eyes were so kind and like I told you, he was a perfect gentleman to me. I was talking to Mrs Baldanero about which fabric to purchase and he said the blue one would make me look much prettier. That a beautiful young lady should show off her beauty wearing the right colored dress.”
Murdoch rubbed his forehead. “ Teresa, the Johnny I knew is no longer alive.”
“ Excuse me sir, But the Johnny you knew was only two years old when he was taken from you. Just like me, when you met me when I was five, I too have changed as I grew up.” Scott cut in.
“ Yes, but you didn’t pick up a gun and become a gunfighter son.” Murdoch snapped back.
“ Johnny had no choice. If he hadn’t done what he did, he could be dead.” Scott fired back.
“ I’m not finished sir.” Scott said. Cutting his father off. “ A professor once told me, never judge a book by it’s cover. When I came here……I didn’t know what to expect from you. My grandfather had told me you didn’t want me. I came here to learn the truth about you, and I did…..Isn’t it possible Johnny’ mother could have lied to him about you?……You told me that you believed every man deserves a second chance. To right what once was wrong. Does that not apply to my brother also sir?”
Murdoch sat down and looked at his oldest then Teresa. “ Yes son, he does. But until we know for sure, I don’t want Teresa alone with him. We don’t know yet why he has come here.”
“And If he wants to stay?” Teresa asked.
“ If Johnny chooses to stay at Lancer and be a part of is birth right, then he will have to stop being a gunfighter. I will not have it.” Murdoch stated firmly.
“ I agree, but you seen that kid in Green River that called him out. He wanted Johnny’ reputation. What if Johnny stays and more men come gunning for him for his reputation…What then?”
“ Lancer protects it’s own son. If he stays and shows me he truly doesn’t want to be a gunfighter any longer, then Lancer will back him up all the way.”
Johnny sat on the edge of the bed rubbing his eyes. It had been a long time since he’d had the company of a woman and the girl sure knew how to please him. Standing up, he walked over and looked out the window, guessing it to be early evening. A hot bath, shave and good meal followed by the company of a good woman made him feel all that much better. Walking over to the door he checked the lock and climbed back in bed for a good nights sleep.
“ I don’t think Lancer is going to go for it. I tried talking to him about it last week and he wasn’t interested.” Jim Colton stated.
“ I have men starting to survey and that spur has to come right thru a north section of Lancer land before it will turn and go through the Bar Cross and Double T ranches. If you can’t get Lancer to agree to this, then I’m afraid we will both be out of a lot of money.”
“ I know but Lancer………” Jim started.
“ Look, every man has a price. There isn’t anything that can’t be bought. Maybe with a little persuasion Lancer will see it our way. If not, then I’m prepared to make him see it our way.”
“ Look…….Let me bring it up at the meeting, that way if Lancer refuses again, the other ranchers will see how he’s keeping them from making a profit.”
“ Alright. I’ll give you till the end of summer to change Lancer’ mind. If he hasn’t by then.”
“ Don’t worry Mr Addison, Lancer will.”
Johnny smiled at what he was hearing the two men say. Glad he had come down to breakfast early Johnny waited till the men left before paying for his meal and leaving. He wasn’t sure how this would go. Hell he could end up shot, but waiting was no longer an option.
Teresa got up early the next morning and started the coffee brewing before starting breakfast. Last nights conversation about Johnny running through her mind.
“ You alright?” Murdoch asked, startling her.
“ I’m fine. Just wondering if you really want Johnny home or not now that you know he’s alive after all those years of having the Pinkerton’ searching for him.”
“ Teresa, we went over this last night. I told you and Scott both last night that if Johnny wants to stay here, he has got to stop living by his gun.”
“ When you and my father were lawmen, you did what was necessary sometimes to stay alive didn’t you? And when those men stole your stallion and killed my father, didn’t you kill them?”
“ Teresa, what me and your father did was not the same as what Johnny has done.” Murdoch explained. “ As for killing those men who killed your father, I have no regrets for killing them. They chose their path and horse stealing is a crime punishable by death.”
“ Chose????? How do you know Johnny didn’t have any choice but to pick up a gun to stay alive?”
“ Good Morning Teresa, Murdoch.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen.
“ Morning Scott.”
“ Good morning son……Teresa as I stated last night……”
“ I know….It’s up to Johnny. Remember this Murdoch, Johnny spent most of his life without his mother and grown up without a father to guide him. Don’t expect him to just change overnight like Scott did when he came here.”
“ I didn’t exactly change overnight Teresa. In fact, I find myself still learning all the ways of the west.”
“ He knows what I mean Scott.” Teresa stated as she sat breakfast on the table.
Johnny rode to the top of the hill, looking down at Lancer just as the sun was breaking over the San Bonitos mountains. Stopping the stallion who immediately started to paw at the ground and snort. His stomach was flip flopping the more he got closer to the ranch. What he had heard this morning in the cafe was enough o tell him Lancer was by the end of summer possibly going to have a fight on it’s hands and all because of a railroad spur. Having fought for less, Johnny figured knowing this just might give him an edge over the old man. Course that depended on how the old man handled him just walking into his house uninvited.
“ You know boy, down there I have an old man who threw me and my mother out, so she said, a brother I never knew I had and a darn pretty little lady I wouldn’t mind seeing again.” Johnny said as the stallion started fidgeting around more and pulling at the reins.
“ Well boy, should we just ride on down there or should we come in the back like before?” Johnny asked the stallion. When the horse snorted loudly and turned, heading away from the edge and around toward the back of the house, Johnny laughed. “ Guess it’s the back way in then.” Johnny said with a laugh.
“ We need to discuss that area to the north son.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ Thank you for breakfast Teresa.”
“ Your welcome. If either of you need me I’ll be in my room sewing.”
“ Alright darling.” Murdoch said as he headed to the great room.
Johnny slowly opened the door to the kitchen, colt in hand, he slowly stepped inside. Finding nobody in the room, he cautiously headed toward the big room with the fireplace. Hearing voices, Johnny stopped until he identified them as being those of the old man and eastern dandy. Walking on down the hallway Johnny stopped in the foyer and listened to the two men talking.
“ I can have a couple of hands go up and see what condition that north range is in today if you like. To see If the fence needs repaired or replaced.” Scott stated.
“ Alright. The cows should start dropping end of the month.”
“ I can have the men start rounding them up. We can hold them in that smaller pasture just south of there until the fence is done.”
“ Those hills should be good and green from all the rain we got in the spring. Good to graze the cows with calves on.” Murdoch stated.
“ Can I ask why you never grazed the cattle on the part of the north section before sir?” Scott asked.
“ After Paul was murdered, I guess I just never gave it any thought son.” Murdoch stated as he walked over to the big bay windows and looked out. “ I’d give anything if she had never taken him away from me.”
“ It’s not to late sir……We can find Johnny, and the two of you can start over.” Scott said.
“ You read that report son. I’m afraid it might be to late. I’m afraid your little brother might be lost to us forever.”
“ I didn’t know I was lost old man.” Johnny said softly.
Murdoch and Scott both spun around and found themselves looking at the subject of their conversation.
“ Johnny.” Murdoch said softly.
Scott walked over. “ Johnny, we were just talking about you brother.”
“ I heard what you said. What he said.” Johnny responded as he stepped down into the great room. “ What makes you think I’m your brother?”
Scott looked at him surprised at what he heard. “ My gut, from that day in Green River when you walked up to me……..There was something about you I couldn’t explain Johnny.”
Johnny walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila.
“ A little early for that isn’t it Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Nope.” Johnny answered. “ You gonna say anything old man? Or are you just gonna stand there with that stupid look on your face?”
Murdoch cleared his throat and walked over to him. “ You keep a civil tongue in your unprepossessing mouth boy……I’ll not have you speaking to me like that.”
“ Uh maybe we should all sit down?” Scott suggested.
“ That’s real rich of you old man. Considering how you talked about me in Green River and just now.” Johnny responded. “ See, the way I figure it……You don’t have any right to tell me how to talk.” Johnny stated firmly before pouring another shot and downing it. “ So where’s that pretty little lady, your ward I believe the man at the store said……Teresa I believe?”
“ She’s in……” Scott started.
“ You stay away from her.” Murdoch cut in. “ I’ll not have an innocent young girl like Teresa around the likes of you.”
“ The likes of me huh? Hell old man…..you know nothing about me.”
“ I know enough to know Teresa doesn’t need to be around you.”
“ Like I said, you know nothing about me old man.”
“ Johnny, I’m afraid you’re wrong little brother. We received a Pinkerton report yesterday about you.”
“ Ah, let me guess….It told you about Johnny Madrid, the cold blooded killer right?”
“ Not exactly.”
“ I don’t care what that report says about me. I came here for one reason only.”
“ And that is?”
“ I want to know why you threw my mother and me out?” Johnny demanded. He’d read what the old man had written in his little book he kept locked up in the drawer. Now he wanted to know the truth. He needed to know if what his mother had told him for so long was true or not. He had to know. “ And don’t even think about lying to me old man, because I’m real good at reading people.”
Buck Addison had a job to do and he wasn’t about to let Murdoch Lancer and his son stop him from putting a spur through for the railroad. The land in the northwest region of Lancer was perfect. Only three small bridges would have to be built, but the rest of the track would lay perfect. Bringing the spur straight down from just east of Stockton would be a perfect setup for the ranchers. They would no longer have to drive their cattle to market risking injury from a stampede or rustlers. The short miles to Green River could be done in a day at most for almost all the ranchers in the area. His insurance against Lancer would be coming in from El Paso next month ready to protect the rail and stop anyone who tried to stop the tracks from being laid.
When the Central Pacific Railroad hired him it was because of his reputation for getting the job done regardless of the means. Sometimes his methods were unorthodox to say the least but always within the law. When approached in Sacramento by the president of CPRR, Theodore Judah, Buck Addison knew the name all to well. Almost anyone who traveled by train knew the man was responsible for building a railroad that when finished in Promontory, Utah on May 10th, 1869 when the Golden Spike was hammered in, pretty much ended the long and dangerous travel by wagon from east to west. No more would people have to face the hardship and dangers of the plains or mountains in the winter or the blistering heat of the summer. No more would people have to endure months aboard a ship to get from the east coast to the west. He himself had traveled by train from Sacramento to Omaha, Nebraska, finding it only too three days and was quite comfortable. It was on that trip that he struck up a conversation with a man named Charles Crocker, the man responsible for the construction of the railroad. When Crocker suggested he come to work for the Central Pacific, Buck became interested, not because of the money he would be paid, but for the money he himself could make on the side. The plan was he was told by Crocker, to build a spur for the cattlemen that ran from just east of Sacramento down to Green River and back up so the cattlemen could get their cattle to market easier. The two gunfighters he knew the railroad would not approve him hiring, so he paid for them out of his own pocket.
Buck made it a habit to know everything about his adversary, which almost always gave him the upper hand. Murdoch Lancer, he had learned, came from Scotland, arriving on the east coast, found a wife and came out west were he purchased one hundred thousand acres of prime land in the San Joaquin valley, turning it into the biggest cattle ranch in California. His wife, Catherine Garrett Lancer had died in childbirth during a raid by land pirates trying to take over the valley. The child went to Boston to be raised by his grandfather. He learned the boy, Scott Garrett Lancer went to Harvard University, a prestigious college,served in the army during the civil war with General Sherman, captured and spent a year in Andersonville prison, what a lot of men called a hell hole, went back to Boston for a few years to work with his grandfather and came out west to be with his father. He didn’t reckon the boy would be any serious trouble to his plans. Then he learned Murdoch Lancer met and married a Mexican woman he met down in Matamoros just a year after losing his first wife, only to have this woman run off in the middle of the night, taking his child, a son with her, For years Lancer had the Pinkerton’ looking for his son and for years they came up empty handed. One son, no wife, Murdoch Lancer just might put up the best fight he’s ever faced. Hiring the two gunfighters, the second best in the business. He wanted the best and the best was some half-breed named Johnny Madrid who mostly worked south of the border. Having no luck finding Madrid gave him no choice but to hire the two he had, a man called Isham and another man with him called Sexton Joe, who seemed to like quoting the bible in his work.
Murdoch glared at his insubordinate son standing in front of him. Glancing at his oldest son before turning and walking over to a chair across from the couch and sitting down. Scott joined his father, sitting in the other chair, both men waiting for Johnny to join them and sit on the couch facing them.
Johnny poured another shot of tequila and walked over and sat down on the couch facing them.
“ You going to answer my question or not old man?” Johnny asked before downing the shot and setting the glass on the table between them.
Murdoch cleared his throat, glanced at Scott, then looked back at his youngest.
“ First thing I want from you young man is for you to show me some respect.” Murdoch demanded. “ I won’t have you talking to me like that anymore. Do I make myself clear?”
Johnny smiled and stood up and walked over to the fireplace, looking at the Lancer L on the wall. “ You got yourself a real nice ranch here. I reckon plenty of people have tried taking it away from you. Taking away what you worked so hard to build up. Guess a half-breed kid and his Mexican mother didn’t fit in to those plans.”
“ I don’t know what she told you Johnny, but I never kicked you or your mother out of this house. I woke up one morning and found her gone, you with her. No note, no explanation why, just gone. I’ve spent your whole life having the Pinkerton’ looking for you. I only learned yesterday who you had become as to why they couldn’t find you son. Believe me Johnny, I tried.” Murdoch said as he stood up and walked over to Johnny. “ I don’t know why she told you those lies about me son. I thought she was happy here. I guess I was wrong.”
Johnny turned and faced him. The pain he could see in his fathers eyes told him his father was telling the truth. No man could have that much pain and be lying.
“ I was on a lawman for a short time and was down in Matamoros looking for a man when I first seen your mother. She walked out of a Cantina and was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen since your brothers mother Catherine. We spent some time together and not long after I married Maria and brought her back here to Lancer.”
“ So you got my mother pregnant and married her because you felt obligated?” Johnny asked coldly.
“ No son I didn’t. I married your mother because I loved her. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Like I said, I woke one morning, you were about two years old and found she had left in the middle of the night with some gambler man she met in town. The same gambler man you killed son.”
Johnny’ head shot up. “ How’d you know that?”
Murdoch turned and walked over to his desk and picked up the Pinkerton report. Turning around he offered that report to Johnny to read.
“ Before you read this son. There’s something I need to know and I want the truth.”
“ I always tell the truth Old…..Murdoch.” Johnny stated firmly as he walked over to his father and took the file.
“ I need to know, were you in this house Sunday?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny smiled. “ Yeah, I was here. I waited until you all left and came in through the kitchen.” Johnny answered.
“ So you were watching us?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, been watching you for about a month now.”
“ And how is it that none of the hands seen you Johnny?” Scott asked as he stood up and walked over to him.
“ Because I only let myself be seen when I want to be sen Boston.” Johnny answered with a smile.
“ My name is Scott…..Not Boston, Johnny.”
“ A little touchy are ya?……I meant nothing by it. Your file said you were raised by your grandfather in Boston. Also said you served in the army during the civil war. What’d ya do in the army?”
“ I was in the infantry.” Scott responded.
“ A horse soldier huh. File also said you served a year in Andersonville prison. I heard of that place. Heard it was a real hell hole. That a lot of men put in there didn’t come out alive.”
Scott stood there as memories of that hell hole came back. “ Yes I did and yes it was Johnny.” he finally answered.
“ Almost sounds as bad as a Mexican prison I was in once.” Johnny responded.
“ You were in a Mexican prison son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. What that report not tell you that?”
“ No it didn’t Johnny.” Murdoch answered. “ Look I think me and Scott will leave you alone while you read that file. We’ll be outside when you’re done.”
Johnny didn’t answer as he walked over to the desk and sat down and opened the file and began reading.
An hour later, Johnny set the file down on the desk and looked around the room. One section of wall behind the long dining table were shelves of books from the floor to the ceiling. Next to the glass doors that opened to the veranda stood a grandfather clock like no other he had ever seen before. Beautifully carved with intricate detail to the face of the clock and hands. Behind the couch sat a ship also beautifully carved sitting on two braces carved out of the same wood as the ship. The chair at his fathers desk was big and comfortable. Made of leather with arms wide and strong. The backing and sitting part both fastened to the wood with what looked to be brass nails. Johnny had seen a chair similar to this only once in his life long ago. Walking over to the desk, he picked up the picture of his mother and stared at it. He loved her so much. He believed what she had told him about his father for so many years. Why did she have to lie to him? Why did she take him away from a secure life only to live a life of squalor? A life, until he picked up a gun of hunger. A life of barely being clothed. A life of going to bed at night cold and hungry because they had no roof over their head, a bed to sleep in or a blanket to cover up with. Sighing, Johnny put the picture down and headed to the kitchen and out the back door to bring his stallion around to the front.
“ Sir.” Scott said as he gestured with his head toward Johnny walking toward them leading the magnificent stallion. “ That’s a horse.” he added.
“ Yes it is son.” Murdoch responded. “ You can put him in a paddock to graze if you would like son.”
“ A stall will be good enough for him.” Johnny responded. “ Wouldn’t want him getting to any of your mares.”
“ He’s a Modoc isn’t he son?” Murdoch asked as he looked at the stallion.
“ Yeah, he’s a Modoc…..Best damn horse in a thousand miles.” Johnny answered. “ Best horse I ever had.” he added.
“ You can put him in a stall in the barn if you prefer son. Scott, why don’t you help him?” Murdoch suggested. Sensing his youngest didn’t want to be around him right now.
“ Alright. Follow me Johnny, and I will show you where you can find what you will need.”
Murdoch headed back inside. He wanted to tell Teresa that Johnny was there.
“ So, How did you end up with such a fine horse Johnny?” Scott asked as he walked into the barn just ahead of Johnny.
“ I didn’t steal him if that’s what you’re thinking?”
Scott stopped and turned to face him. “ No, I wasn’t thinking that at all. I’m sorry if my question made you think I was implying that Johnny. It’s just that he’s a magnificent animal and from what I have been told, a hard breed to tame.”
“ He ain’t tame Scott. We have an agreement me and him. I saved his life down in Mexico when he got attacked by a mountain lion a couple years ago. Been friends ever since. He takes care of me and I take care of him.” Johnny stated as he led the stallion into the end stall and started stripping his gear off the horse.
“ Would you like him to have some hay and grain?” Scot asked.
“ I got grain for him in my saddlebags. He’ll sure eat some hay, won’t ya boy?” Johnny asked as he removed the bridle.
Scot watched as the stallion responded to Johnny with soft nickers or snorts.
“ I’ll get him a bucket of fresh water.” Scott stated as he picked up a bucket and went outside, returning a few minutes later with it full of cold water.
“ So……What’s the old man like?” Johnny asked as he began to brush the horse.
“ If you are referring to our father, he’s is a good man. There are a lot of people in the valley that respect him. The hands respect him and so do I.”
“ Yeah, well Scott, funny thing about respect. See I figure respect has to be earned, not given. You want my respect then you’re gonna have to earn it just like him. Look……I may not have a fancy education like you Scott, But I can read and write and do my sums. I’m damn good at what I do and I make no qualms about it either. I didn’t get to be the best by failing.”
“ You mean killing don’t you?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah killing. I ain’t no cold hearted murderer. I only kill when someone else is trying to kill me, and that’s only as a last resort. You seen me that day In Green River, I tried talking that kid out of drawing on me.”
“ You could have wounded him Johnny.”
“ Well you see brother, the last one I did that too came back and shot me in an ambush. Put a bullet in my back.”
“ I guess…..I’m sorry Johnny. I didn’t know.”
“ There’s a lot you don’t know about me Scott. One thing I will tell you something, so make sure you don’t forget it. Johnny said firmly as he came out of the stall and got some hay for his horse. “ I don’t lie and I won’t be lied too and I take pride in my job. I’ve never broken the law or shot a man down in cold blood. I’ve been shot a few times by bushwhackers or the Rurales. I’ve been beaten and stabbed. Hell I was cut once just because they wanted to see what color a mestizo’s blood was.”
“ I’m sorry a what Johnny?”
“ Huh, a what, what?”
“ What you said, why they cut you?”
“ Oh a mestizo…..It means a half-breed Scott. They don’t like half-breeds that much in Mexico.”
“ What a mans heritage is Johnny, gives no man a right to abuse that man just because he might be different.”
“ You learn that in the war did ya?” Johnny asked. “ I mean, fightin’ ta free all those slaves and such.”
“ The war was about more than freeing the slaves Johnny.”
“ Yeah okay. If you say so, but to me it sounds just like the Mexican revolutionary war I fought in.”
Scott listened to what his brother said as he silently made note of everything said that wasn’t in the report.
“ You don’t mind my saying Johnny, but you don’t seem old enough to have been in a war.” Scott stated.
“ Yeah well, you read that report. I’ve been on my own since I was ten Scott. Been taking care of myself and haven’t depended on anyone for anything. I’ve always gotten what I needed by this.” Johnny said as he pulled the colt. “ And I don’t mean by stealing.”
“ Are you going to stay here Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Don’t know. Maybe. Haven’t thought about it. Never stayed in one place to long.”
“ You would be welcome here Johnny. I know our father would like you to stay. So would I.”
“ Yeah why?”
“ Because Lancer is your home. It’s your birthright Johnny.”
“ And just how do you think the old man’s gonna feel about me the first time someone comes gunning for me Scott?”
“ Nobody will come gunning for you Johnny.”
“ Yeah, well you’re wrong Scott. I got me a reputation that a lot of men out there want and the only way they will get it is if they kill me.”
“ Well I’m not going to let that happen.”
“ You don’t get it do you?……Look, if I do decide to stay and someone comes and calls me out, there’s nothing you or the old man can do to stop it. All you can do is stay out of the way and let me handle it.”
“ And if we don’t?”
“ If you don’t Scott, you and the old man will get me killed……When I face a man down, I have to be able to focus on that man and that man only. I can’t be worrying about anyone else. If I do, then I’m a dead man. Is that plain enough for ya?”
“ Yes. I suppose so. It’s getting on to lunch time. Are you hungry?”
“ Hell I’m always hungry Scott.” Johnny said as he leaned the pitchfork up against a post and started toward the door followed by Scott.
Murdoch watched as both his sons walked out of the barn and headed toward the house. His wayward lost little boy was home, hopefully for good.
“ It’s so good to have you home Johnny.” Teresa said as she brought a plate of biscuits and set them down on the table.
Johnny glanced at his brother across from him as he reached for a biscuit. “ This is a real fine stew Teresa. Best I ever ate. These biscuits are sure better than any I ever made.”
“ Why thank you Johnny.”
“ Johnny.” Murdoch cut in. “ Have you given any thought as to what you’re going to do son?”
“ Oh I don’t know. I figured I’d stay around here for the summer, at least until the troubles over.”
“ Trouble…….What trouble?” Scott asked.
“ The trouble Lancer has with the railroad Scott. Heard me a nice little conversation in town between two men. One of them was they guy you were talking to in Green River in the saloon. Don’t know who the other fella was, but they both are not happy with you.” Johnny stated before he dished himself some more stew.
Scott found himself wondering how someone as skinny as his brother was, could eat so much. That thought bringing a smile to his face.
“ Jim Colton and I’d wager the other man he was talking would be Buck Addison.”
“ Jim Colton, the president of the California Cattle Growers Association sir?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. He’s determined to bring that spur into Green River and wants me to pay for it since Lancer is the biggest spread in the valley.”
“ Don’t you mean the biggest spread in the state?” Johnny asked.
Murdoch looked at him. “ We have a meeting coming up soon and he’s supposed to bring it up to the other ranchers to put it to a vote I think.”
“ From what I heard, he’s gonna play dirty and if you refuse, he’s gonna have you removed.” Johnny stated. “ He’s even got two gunfighters coming in. He’s gonna play real dirty.”
“ Two gunfighters Johnny?…..Who?” Scott asked.
“ Sexton Joe and Isham.” Johnny responded.
“ You know these men son?”
“ Yeah, I know ’em. Sexton Joe likes to quote the bible. Told me once that we’re fallen angels, brought down to hell. Men beyond redemption. The other one, I did a couple jobs with him. Range war stuff mostly.”
“ Are they any good?” Scott asked.
“ Second best. They’d be the best If I was dead.”
Scott cringed inside at the words his brother spoke.
“ You got yourself an edge though.”
“ An edge Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“ They don’t know about me. They only know you got one son here and a bunch of vaqueros.”
“ Just what are you suggesting Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Well, this Addison has two gunfighters coming in. What if I showed up also. I heard he was looking for me about the time I left Sonora.”
“ I don’t know son. If Buck found out you were my son…..”
“ He’s not gonna find out Murdoch. Isham and Sexton Joe don’t know who’s pup I am.”
“ I don’t like it.”
“ Why?…..You afraid I’ll have to use my gun?”
“ No I’m not……….I’m afraid of losing you again Johnny.”
Murdoch saying that caught Johnny off guard. “ Yeah well I don’t plan on dying any time soon.”
“ What about this…….What about if Johnny works here at Lancer. We could introduce him at the meeting, maybe that would deter Colton and Addison from starting any trouble?” Scott suggested.
“ And what if they ask why he’s here son?”
“ We could tell them you heard there could be a raid on Lancer and Johnny is here as insurance sir?” Scott suggested.
“ No…….Look, I don’t care who knows it. I don’t want my son hiding. I don’t want him pretending to be someone else.”
“ Oh really. Well let me tell you something old man. I’ve never hidden from anyone unless I was healing up from being shot……and I sure as hell don’t go around pretending to be someone I’m not…….. I’m Johnny Madrid and always will be as long as I live. If you can’t accept that…..Then we’re gonna have a serious problem and I see no reason to stay here……Teresa, thank you for a good lunch.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked out the back door.
Teresa stood up and turned to follow Johnny outside.
“ Teresa.” Murdoch said firmly. “ I don’t want you alone with him. Let him be.” he ordered.
“ Why are you pushing him away?” she asked.
“ I’m not pushing him away. Johnny needs to learn that he can’t just go riding off and settle things with that damn gun.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ He wasn’t. Johnny suggested a way of helping you. Of helping Lancer………You’re treating him like a child……. After all the time and money you spent trying to find him. Now that he’s here, it seems like you don’t want him here.” Teresa stated firmly. “Johnny is a kind and caring person and he would never hurt me.” she said before going out the back door.
“ She’s right sir. Johnny’ not a child anymore and you are pushing him away. He’s lived on his own for all these years with no one to take care of him. Surely you don’t expect him to change overnight?”
“ If he’s going to live here, then he’s going to learn that I call the tune, not him. I say what happens on this ranch.”
Scott started laughing.
“ What’s so damn funny?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Oh……nothing really sir……I was just thinking of how much alike you and Johnny are is all.”
“ Me and Johnny are nothing alike Scott.”
“ You don’t give at all do you? All pride and Johnny’ cut from the same mold, not one inch of give.” Scott said as he stood up and left the room.
Murdoch just sat there, the words both his sons and ward said to him ringing in his mind. Was he pushing his son away? The son he had searched for for so many years? Deep down inside he knew it wasn’t his sons fault becoming a gunfighter, doing what he had to do just to survive. Was he like Scott said, ‘ All pride and not one inch of give’?
Teresa found Johnny sitting in the rose garden, leaning back against the wall with his legs stretched out in front of him, chewing on a piece of grass. “ May I join you?” she asked.
Johnny swung his legs around and planted his feet on the ground. “ The old man finds you out here, he won’t like it much.”
Teresa walked over and sat down. “ He knows I’m out here with you.”
Johnny laughed. “ He warned me to stay away from you ya know.” Johnny stated. “ Said he don’t want you around my kind.”
Teresa shook her head. How could a father say something like that about his own son she would never understand.
“ I know you’re not a dangerous man Johnny.”
“ I am.”
“ Not to me……..Listen Johnny, I’ve grown up here at Lancer. I’ve seen the hurt in his eyes whenever he would get a Pinkerton report or telegram telling him they hadn’t found you. He’s wanted you home for so long.”
“ Sure has a funny way of showing it.”
“ I know. You should have seen him with Scott when he first came here. Scott left a section of fencing unfinished and fifty head of steers got out and stuck in the sand. Murdoch was fuming. I thought Scott was going to leave and go back to Boston that night, Murdoch chewed him out so bad……But he didn’t. He stayed…..just like we’re hoping you will stay too.”
“ You mean mister educated screwed up and got chewed out by the old man?”
“ Yes. Johnny, this is all new to Murdoch….Won’t you give it a chance?”
“ I never was good at taking orders Teresa…….I don’t know if I can change….I mean I’d like to, I’m tired of hiring my gun out. I’m tired of waking up every morning wondering if today will be the day I die.”
“ Then stay here at Lancer Johnny. Stay here and get to know your father. Let him get to know you.” Teresa pleaded.
“ He already knows me from those Pinkerton reports.”
“ No he doesn’t Johnny. He doesn’t know the Johnny I met that day in Moro Coyo. He doesn’t know the Johnny who promised me a dance at the church social.”
“ There’s no way he would let me dance with you Teresa.”
“ You don’t know that for sure. Murdoch can be pretty stubborn at times, but so can I……Please say you’ll stay?”
“ Alright. How could any man with half a sense say no to those brown eyes of yours.”
“ Great. I’ll go get your room ready for you.” Teresa said as she stood up and headed inside.
Johnny walked around to the front of the house and found Scott sitting in a chair on the veranda.
“ Feel like taking a ride with me Johnny?” Scott asked as he stood up.
“ Sure.” Johnny responded.
Fifteen minutes later the brothers rode out of the yard headed to the north range.
Johnny stopped his horse. “ There’s someone up ahead.” Johnny said in a whisper.
“ How do you know that Johnny?” Scott asked softly.
“ His ears are forward. He hears something or someone.” Johnny stated as he dismounted and removed his rifle, followed by Scott. “ You don’t have any cows up here yet do you?”
“ No. We haven’t checked the fence yet.” Scott answered as he too removed his rifle and followed Johnny.
A short distance later they spotted what the stallion heard. Two men were on Lancer land hammering stakes into the ground and measuring.
“ Looks like a survey crew.” Scott whispered.
“ It’s your land. How do you want to handle this?” Johnny asked.
“ It’s your land also little brother and I know Murdoch will not stand for any surveying or building on his land unless he orders it.”
“ Good enough for me. Let’s go back and get our horses and come in on them in different directions. You any good with that?” Johnny asked, indicating the rifle Scott held.
“ Dead on little brother, dead on.” Scott responded.
“ Go around behind them. I’ll give you time. Just keep your eyes peeled in case there are more than those two up here.”
“ And just what is it you will be doing may I ask?”
“ Being Madrid and nothing more. I’m gonna ride right on up to them fellers and ask ’em nicely to leave Lancer land.”
“ Be careful Johnny. Somehow I don’t think Teresa would forgive me if you got hurt.”
Johnny laughed softly. “ Nice to know someone cares.” he said as he checked his cinch and swung up into the saddle.
“ Watch your back Johnny.” Scot said before riding out.
“ Hurry up Charlie. I don’t want one of Lancer’ hands to catch us.”
“ I’m hurrying. We got one more mile and this section is done and we’ll be off Lancer land.”
“ I don’t know why this Addison feller wants us surveying and marking off Lancer land. This is no where near were that spur is gonna come down.”
“ Because he pays us to do what we’re told. That’s why. If’n you was smart you’d keep your mouth shut and do as your told and stop worrying about why so much.”
Both men stopped when they heard the unmistakable sound of a rifle being cocked. “ Nice and easy boys.” Johnny said.
“ Who the hell are you?” Charlie demanded.
“ You got no call to ride up on us mister and point that rifle at us.” Charlie said.
“ I got every right. See, you boys are trespassing on Lancer land.”
“ You ain’t no Lancer, so what do you care?” Seth said.
“ Just who the hell are you mister?” Charlie demanded.
“ Names Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” Johnny said as he watched the color drain from the mans face. “ It may be nothing to me, but it might to that man with a rifle behind you.”
“ And who are you?” Seth asked.
“ Scott Lancer and like Johnny said, You men are trespassing on Lancer land. I want you to take all your stuff and get off Lancer land now.”
“ Tell your boss Buck Addison, that If I ever see any surveyors on Lancer land again, I won’t be so generous.”
Scott rode down next to Johnny and watched as the two men saddled their horses and mounted up.
“ Hold on a sec…How come you’re surveying this far off track from were that spur will come down? What’s here that Addison want’s?” Johnny asked.
“ How should we know Madrid…..Hell we just do what we’re told.”
“ Make sure you tell your boss what I said.” Johnny stated as the two men rode past.
“ Where do you think they went?” Teresa asked.
“ I don’t know honey. All Scott said was they were going to ride up to the north range and would be back in time for supper.” Murdoch stated.
“ I hope Johnny likes what I fixed for his first supper at home.”
“ Teresa, I’m sure Johnny will like whatever you cook.” Murdoch said as he walked over and hugged her.
“ Murdoch, can I ask you something?”
“ Tonight, when we are eating supper, can you not……Can you keep it pleasant?”
“Oh Teresa, I’ve been doing some serious thinking this afternoon, and I guess I have been a little hard on him.”
“ You searched so long for him and now that he’s home I would think you would be happy?”
“ You know, young lady…….Paul would be proud of you and the beautiful young lady you’ve grown up to be…..I know I am.”
“ I miss him…….sometimes when I go up to his grave and visit him, I start crying.” Teresa stated. “ Murdoch…..not having my father here these past few years has been really hard……..but having you has really helped. The pain I feel, missing my father…..I can’t begin to imagine what Johnny felt like growing up without you and then losing his mother…….Maybe you should concentrate more on being the father Johnny never had, instead of hating him for what he became?”
“ I don’t hate him Teresa…….Not Johnny himself. I hate what Johnny had to do to stay alive. What he had to become.”
“ You mean Johnny Madrid the gunfighter……..Murdoch, It’s not to late for Johnny to become Johnny Lancer….Everybody deserves a second chance….That’s what you told Scott and me.”
“It would seem young lady, that both you and Scott have a very good memory of what I have told you.”
“ You’re a good man, Murdoch, and a good father to Scott. I just hope you can find it in your heart to to forgive Johnny.” Teresa said before turning and going back into the kitchen.
Murdoch sighed and walked over to his desk and took out the Pinkerton report, sat down and started reading it again. Hoping to find something he possibly missed about his son to help know him better.
“ So what do you think Addison is really after Scott?” Johnny asked as the brothers rode along.
“ I don’t know Johnny. Murdoch told me he hasn’t run cattle up here since the land pirates tried taking the ranch.”
“ That the same land Pirates that killed Teresa’ father?”
“ Unfortunately yes.” Scott answered.
“ Does the old man do any mining on Lancer?” Johnny asked.
“ Absolutely not. Murdoch wants the land to stay like it was when he bought the ranch. Mining would pollute the water and destroy the land.” Scott answered.
“ I can’t blame him……I seen strip mining once. They used this big ol’ thing that shot water out of it real fast. It took that mountain down to nothing in less than a month.”
“ I know. I seen it happen back in Boston.” Scott told Johnny. “ Let’s head back to the ranch and let Murdoch know what we found. Maybe he will have some idea as to what Addison wants.”
“ Did the two of you have a nice ride?” Murdoch asked, looking at his oldest.
“ Yes sir we did.” Scott answered. “ We rode up to that north section you want to put the cows and calves in.”
“ This taste right good Teresa.” Johnny said. “ Fact is old man, we found out something pretty interesting up there.”
Murdoch cleared his throat and started to speak, but was cut of by Scott.
“ What do you know of that area sir?” he asked.
Murdoch glared at his youngest for a minute before turning his attention to Scott. “ What do you mean son?”
“ Pretty simple question he asked.” Johnny cut in.
“ Young man……I will have no more rudeness from you at this table. You will not call me old man again. Do I make myself clear?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Yeah sure……Just don’t expect me to call you Pa or father, cause that ain’t happening.”
Murdoch shook his head and sighed.
“ Sir, what I mean is, do you know anything about that area before you bought it?” Scott said.
“ There used to be an old mine up there, but it played out a couple years before I purchased Lancer, Why?”
“ Because we found two men up there surveying for Buck Addison.”
“ Couldn’t get any more out of them except that Addison told them to survey that section of Lancer.” Johnny added. “ Fact is, they was real surprised when I rode up on them.”
“ I see. And just how may I ask did you know they were there?” Murdoch inquired.
“ Johnny’ stallion told us they were there sir. If he had not, we might have missed them.”
“ Your horse Johnny?” Teresa asked.
“ Yeah. A horse will let you know if somethings not right up ahead by his ears. He heard them talking so me and Scott dismounted and walked quietly through the brush close enough to see them. Then Scott rode around behind them and I rode up to ’em. Fact is, they was right testy about me when I asked ’em what they were doing. They said since I wasn’t a Lancer their boss or a Lancer, it was none of my business what they was doin’ there.”
“ Since it was getting late, me and Johnny rode back here to let you know what we seen.” Scott added.
“ It seems Addison’ done his homework on you. He knows you only have one son and apparently what he looked like, because they knew I wasn’t him.”
“ And just who did you tell them you were?” Murdoch asked Johnny.
“ Easy, Johnny Madrid.” He answered with a smile. “ You know Scott, I know you couldn’t see their faces, what with you being behind them and all, but man, when I told ’em who I was, you should have seen the color drain from those faces. They were white as a ghost almost.”
“ You say that like you’re proud of having that effect on people Johnny.”
“ That’s one of the perks of having a reputation Old…Murdoch, even this far north of the border, the name Johnny Madrid puts the fear in people.”
“ I highly find that funny Johnny. There are a lot of good, decent people in this valley.”
“ You know what your problem is Murdoch?……….You need to lighten up a little and not take everything so seriously.” Johnny said before standing and tossing his napkin down on his plate. “ Thank you for a very nice meal Teresa. If you’ll excuse me, I need some air.”
Scott dabbed his napkin at the corner of his mouth and stood up. “ Teresa.” he said before heading to the front door.
“ Murdoch, you promised.” Teresa said with anger to her voice.
Murdoch sat there a few seconds before throwing his napkin on his plate and standing up. “ Yes I did.” he said softly before heading outside.
“ Johnny.” Scott said softly as he walked over to him at the corral.
“ He ain’t ever gonna accept me Scott.”
“ Yes he will. It will take time Johnny. Murdoch wants you here, we both do.”
Johnny glanced at him. “ No he won’t. He will never accept that Johnny Madrid and Johnny Lancer are one in the same Scott.”
“ It’s only been a day. Miracles don’t just happen overnight Johnny. Both of you have just started getting to know each other. Give him some time little brother. I’ve been here just over a year and I’m still learning both ranching and…. our father.”
“ Tell me something Scott. You read that report. What’d ya feel like after you read it?”
“ What do you mean?”
“ About me. How did you feel when you found out your little brother was a killer?”
“ Well Johnny, to be honest, I was a little shocked at first.” Scott started. “ I read that report twice and after the second time, I could understand why you did what you did to survive. I think the hardest part accepting, and maybe still is, is the fact that you were put in that situation in the first place. I hate it Johnny.”
“ Hate it Scott?” Johnny asked. “ Hate it or hate me?” he added.
“ I most certainly do not hate you. What I meant was, I hate that while I was living a life of luxury with my grandfather back in Boston, I had a little brother struggling to survive day to day. I used to think that worrying about what to wear to a party or who to ask to a party were the hardest things I would ever deal with……..But when I came out west, I quickly learned that a man can be shot down just for offending someone. That the code of the west seems to not apply.”
“ Well Scott, if you want to live by the code of the west, you gotta do it to them before they do it to you.” Johnny said with a slight laugh. “ Don’t feel sorry for me Boston. Hell I’m not worth feeling sorry over…….You know, when I was growing up, especially around Christmas time, I would wish I had me a big brother to protect me and do things with.”
“ You never wished for a father Johnny?”
“ Nope, because I already had one that didn’t want me. At first I thought, maybe what my mother said was true……Maybe a mestizo kid isn’t worth the love of a father……I never knew about you until that day in Green River.”
“ Well I assure you Johnny, if I had known about you, you would not have grown up in Mexico.”
“ And just where would I have grown up Scott?”
“ In Boston with me. Maybe some time we can take a trip back there. Let you see the life I used to live.”
“ I don’t think I would fit in very well back in Boston Scott. Somethin’ tells me they don’t wear the kind of clothes I like to wear.”
“ Well, your taste in shirts is somewhat colorful, that’s for sure.” Scott said as he playfully slapped Johnny’ stomach. “ I don’t think I’ve ever sen a man wear a pink shirt before Johnny.”
“ Hey now….This shirt is not pink. It’s red.” Johnny answered back. “ Seriously Scott…I don’t know if I can stay here. I mean…..I’ve never stayed in one place longer than it took to do a job. I’ve never had a roof over my head. Not one that didn’t leak that is.”
“ Johnny, you said your a man of your word. That you don’t lie correct?”
“ Yeah Scott, I’m a man of my word……..I tell it straight up. Why?”
“ Okay, I want you to promise me right here, right now, that you will give it one year.”
“ Now hear me out. If at the end of that one year, you still feel like you should leave, then I promise you I won’t try and talk you out of it.”
“ One year huh?”
“ Yes, one year. Can you make that promise?”
Johnny stood there, looking up at the stars. “ It’s so beautiful here.” he said softly. “ I don’t think it will work, but I’ll give it a try….But I’m gonna tell ya Scott, I’m not very good at taking orders from someone else.”
“ Meaning our father?”
“ Yeah. I won’t be treated like a kid, because I grew up a long time ago Scott, I learned my lessons the hard way.”
“ Fair enough. How about we go back inside? I have it on good authority that Teresa made a chocolate cake.”
“ What’s the deal with Teresa?” Johnny asked as the two started walking toward the house.
“ What do you mean?” Scott asked.
“ Well, I think it would kinda be nice having a little sister and a big brother.” Johnny responded.
“ Well little brother, I do believe that would make Teresa very happy.”
“ She sure can cook.” Johnny added.
“ Yes she can. Which from the looks of it, is a good thing. You little brother are skinny.” Scott said with a laugh.
A lone figure stood in the shadows, listening. What Murdoch was hearing his youngest say, tore at his heart. He was glad his two sons were getting along. ‘ A year ‘ that’s what he heard Johnny promise Scott. That he would stay a year and try living at Lancer.
“ What the devil are you two doing here? I told you to survey that north section of Lancer.” Buck demanded.
“ We were Mr Addison, until that Lancer kid and Madrid stopped us.” Charlie stated.
“ Madrid? You sure it was Madrid and not one of Lancer’ hands?”
“ Half Mex with blue eyes. Said his name was Johnny Madrid.” Charlie responded.
“ Yeah, Madrid said to tell you that if he catches any man on Lancer land that don’t work there……He’d shoot ’em dead.” Seth added.
“ Did they ask why you were there?” Buck demanded. Anger showing on his face.
“ Yeah. Madrid said we was a bit far east of where that spur is supposed to come down to Green River. He demanded to know why we was on Lancer land.” Charlie stated.
“ And just what did you tell him?”
“ We told him we were just following orders Mr Addison, that we were told to survey that section, so we was.” Charlie said.
“ Yeah, we told him we didn’t know why you wanted us to survey it. We just do what we’re told.” Seth told him.
“ I want you both to go back out there tomorrow, bright and early and finish with that surveying. Do I make myself clear?”
“ No sir.” Charlie said. “ You didn’t say anything about going up against Johnny Madrid. I’m not about to go up against that killer for no amount of money.”
“ That goes for me too Mr Addison.” Seth added. “ I ain’t going back out there and risk Madrid or that Lancer kid showing up again.”
“ You go back out there tomorrow morning. I’ll send five guns with you to make sure Madrid don’t interfere.”
Murdoch sat watching his two sons playing a game of chess. He found himself marveling when Johnny captured Scott’ queen for the second time that evening.
“ Okay little brother. It’s getting late. I think I will turn in.” Scott stated as he stood up and stretched. “ I’ll see you in the morning.”
“ Okay Scott. You play a good game.” Johnny said as he too stood up.
“ I think I’ll turn in now too. Goodnight Scott, Murdoch, Johnny, your room is all ready for you. Second door on the left.” Teresa said.
“ Goodnight darling.” Murdoch said.
“ Thanks Teresa. And thanks for the chocolate cake too. It was real good.” Johnny said as he walked over and poured a shot of tequila.
“ You’re welcome Johnny.” Teresa said before disappearing down the hall to her room.
Johnny’ defenses went on high alert. He was now alone with his father and didn’t really know what to say. Playing chess with his brother, Johnny glanced at his father a couple times and received a smile. No bitterness or anger showed in the big mans eyes.
“ Can I ask, were you learned to play chess so?” Murdoch asked, breaking the uneasy silence in the room.
“ I hired out to this rancher once.” Johnny began. “ He was older than you. Really nice guy. Had a nice spread down in Texas close to the border and he was losing cattle to rustlers until I stopped them. Sometimes during the day we would sit in the shade because it was too dang hot and he taught me……He tried teaching his own son, but he could never learn.”
“ You play very well. So was his son there also when you were helping him?” Murdoch asked as he went to the sideboard and poured two shots of brandy and offered his son one. “ Let’s go sit out on the veranda shall we?”
Johnny took the shot and followed his father outside.
“ Nice night.” Murdoch said as he sat down. “ I have a confession to make to you son. Earlier I walked outside to look for you. I’m afraid I overheard your conversation with Scott.”
“ I knew you were there Murdoch. You don’t live as long as I have and not be aware of what’s around you.” Johnny stated.
“ Son, I’m sorry, but I must confess, what I heard you say to Scott tore at my heart.” Murdoch said before taking a sip of brandy. “ Johnny, I want you to stay here at Lancer, It’s your home, your birthright, But like Scott, I am going to promise you that one year from now, if you feel you don’t want to stay here, I won’t try and stop you.”
Johnny leaned back against the wall. “ So you heard everything I said to Scott then?”
“ Yes son I did…….Johnny, I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re not wanted here…..especially by me son. I know we will butt heads and have our disagreements, but not matter what, I want you to always feel like Lancer is your home. I can’t do anything about what your mother told you son, except tell you she was wrong. I have always wanted you here with me, and I still do.”
“ What about Madrid?” Johnny asked as he polished off the brandy.
“ If having Madrid here means I can also have my son John Lancer here, then yes, by all means I will accept Madrid.”
Johnny laughed and pushed off away from the wall. “ You don’t get it do you? You don’t understand the danger I could be bringing here if I stay here Murdoch. Men will come to this valley to hunt me down and try and kill me, and they won’t stop until Johnny Madrid is dead.”
“ Son…..I do understand the risk…….Lancer takes care of it’s own, and nobody is going to come here and kill my son. I won’t let it happen. Anyone who is foolish enough to try will have to get past every hand on this ranch, me and Scott…..I lost you once son……I don’t want to lose you again.” Murdoch said with sincerity. “ Listen, It’s getting pretty late. I’m going to go into Green River tomorrow. Why don’t you and Scott do some more checking up around that north section, but be careful?”
“ Sure. We had already planned on going back up there in the morning.” Johnny answered.
“ Alright son. I’ll see you tomorrow then. Goodnight.”
“ Night Murdoch.”
“ I don’t like it Charlie. I don’t like it one damn bit.” Seth said.
“ Let’s just get this damn surveying done and get the hell out of here.” Charlie responded. “ Besides we’re not out here alone this time. If Lancer or that Johnny Madrid shows up again, they’ll protect us.”
“ You really believe those five idiots can stop Johnny Madrid?…..I heard tell he gunned down two of the best down in Nogales once. The man knows no fear Charlie. You seen his eyes, as cold as ice. He’ll kill us and not lose a minutes sleep over it.”
“ Look, the longer we stand around here yakking, the longer it will take us to finish with this surveying.”
“ You think those men know who they’re protecting us from?” Seth asked.
“ Probably not.”
“ I’d much rather be surveying for that spur, than surveying this.” Seth said as he took out another stake from the satchel.
“ Hey, you men, Did Addison tell you just who it is you’re protecting us from?” Seth asked.
“Seth, let it go. We got a job to do, so let’s get it done and get out of here.”
“ Just who is it?” one of the gunmen asked.
“ Johnny Madrid, that’s who.” Seth stated. “ Lancer has Johnny Madrid working for him. That’s who you will most likely be facing.”
“ The gunfighter Johnny Madrid?”
“ The one and only. He was here with the Lancer kid yesterday. Said he’ll kill anyone he catches on Lancer land again that doesn’t work for Lancer.”
“ To hell with that. I ain’t getting’ killed by no gunfighter for protecting you two’s sorry asses.”
“ Damn it Seth, why couldn’t you just keep your mouth shut? Now we only got two men protecting us.”
“ You think two rifles will keep us safe from Madrid, Charlie?”
“ Just shut the hell up and do your job Seth.” Charlie said with anger. “ Addison isn’t gonna be happy you went and shot your mouth off talkin’ about Madrid.
“ Good morning son.” Murdoch said to his oldest.
“ Morning.” Scott responded.
Teresa set a cup of hot coffee down in front of Scott and went back to fixing breakfast.
“ Johnny’ not up yet?” Scott asked just as the back door opened and Johnny walked in.
“ I was wonderin’ when you two would get up.” Johnny said as he sat down. “ I’m starved Teresa, that sure does smell good little sister.”
“ It’ll be ready in a few minutes Johnny.” Teresa stated as she gave him a cup of coffee.
“ I got our horses saddled and ready to go Scott.” Johnny said as he reached for a biscuit when Teresa set them on the table.
“ I didn’t think you would be up yet son.” Murdoch said.
“ I told you last night, me and Scott was ridin’ back out there to take a better look.”
Teresa set a plate full of eggs and ham down in front of Johnny. “ I want you to eat all of that Johnny. You’re to skinny.”
“ Can’t help being skinny Teresa. Never was one for putting on weight.” Johnny told her as he dug into the plate of food.
“ I want you boys to be careful out there today.” Murdoch said.
“ What will you be doing today sir?” Scott asked.
“ I’m going to ride into Green River and wire an old friend in Sacramento and have him do some digging into that old gold mine that was up there forty years ago. If that’s what Addison is after I want to have all the proof I can when I take him to court over it.”
“ Court ol……..Murdoch?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes court. I believe in doing things the legal way Johnny.” Murdoch responded.
“ I know what legal means Murdoch……I may not have the schoolin’ Scott has, but I never crossed the line.” Johnny stated as he stood up. “ I’ll be outside when you’re ready Scott.”
“ Johnny, I didn’t mean to imply that son. If I did, I’m sorry.”
Johnny glanced at him before heading to the front door.
“ It’s going to take time sir. Trust me, Johnny wants to stay here. He’s just not used to having family.”
“ Scott’ right, Murdoch. Johnny has wanted a family his whole life. He’s not going to leave.” Teresa added.
“ I know. The last thing I want to do is drive that boy away from me.”
Scott stood up. “ Well, then may I suggest that you refrain from bringing up his past so much sir?” he said before turning and heading to the front door.
Johnny stopped and dismounted and checked his cinch. Removing his canteen, he took a swig and handed it to Scott before swinging back up on his horse.
“ You really think Addison will resort to hiring gunfighters Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I do Scott. I’ve dealt with men like Addison my whole life. Men like him don’t go away.” Johnny stated. “ I’ve seen it before. Men like him don’t care who they hurt as long as they get what they want.”
“ Is that what you did? Hire your gun out to men like him?” Scot asked.
“ At first….Then I seen what money and power does to a man Scott. Murdoch’ no different.”
“ Our father doesn’t hire gunfighters to take what’s not his Johnny. He fights to keep what’s his. There’s a difference brother.”
“ Not to me there isn’t Scott. The old man will kill just as quick as the next man, and in this case that man happens to be Buck Addison.” Johnny stated as he reined his horse to the right. “ Rich or poor Scott. It makes no difference. Every man thinks he’s in the right. That he has a right to take something that belongs to someone else. Hell men want to take my reputation.”
“ That….. is something I will never understand about the west Johnny. How can men find it so easy to kill another just because of what that person said or had?”
“ You live out here log enough Scott, you’ll catch on, because it could happen to you.” Johnny stated as they rode. “ I wouldn’t be surprised if your grandfather hasn’t killed or had someone killed. Didn’t you say he has a big business back in Boston?”
“ Johnny, I assure you, my grandfather is not the kind of person to go around having people killed.” Scott responded just as two riders approached.
“ Hank, what are you doing here?” Scott asked.
“ Your father asked me to come help you and Madrid check the north section out.” Hank stated.“ You thee Johnny Madrid?” he asked.
“ Unless there’s another I am.” Johnny answered. “ Scott, why don’t you and cow pusher check to the east, I’ll check to the west and north.”
“ You think It’s wise Johnny, you going by yourself and all?” Scott asked.
“ I can take care of myself. Besides, if anyone is up here it’s best we not be bunched up. Didn’t they teach you that in the army?” Johnny asked.
“ They did. Alright. Keep your eyes peeled and watch your back.” Scott stated before heading east with Hank.
Murdoch came out of the telegraph office and stepped down to his horse.
“Lancer.” Buck Addison called out as he crossed the street. “ I want a word with you.”
“ I have nothing to say to you Buck.” Murdoch responded as he got on his horse.
“ You have a known killer working for you named Johnny Madrid. He threatened two of my workers yesterday Lancer.”
“ Your workers were trespassing on my land. Scott told me all about it.”
“ I’m not going to stand by and let that half-breed killer threaten my employees Lancer. That goes for your son Scott too.”
“ You don’t want your men threatened, then tell them to stay of Lancer property.”
“ My men are surveying for the railroad spur.” Buck said with anger.
“ That spur is to run from just east of Sacramento down to Green River, Buck. By no means should that spur come anywhere near Lancer property.”
“ It does if I say it does Murdoch.” Buck stated firmly. “ It’s called The Eminent Domain Law. Any property within a public project can be taken from said property owner if said property is deemed necessary. “
“ I am very familiar with Eminent Domain Laws.” Murdoch stated. I also know that you have to have that property appraised by an independent accredited appraiser familiar with local property values. Now you listen to me, and you listen good Buck, because I’m only going to say this once. There is no part of Lancer for sale for no amount of money and no reasons. Do I make myself clear?” Murdoch stated firmly.
“ Then I suggest you get ready for a fight Lancer, because I always get what I want, and I will get that section of Lancer.” Buck said before turning and walking away.
“ Damn that man. Damn him.” Murdoch said before turning his horse and heading home.
Johnny eased the stallion along, an uneasy feeling coming over him, he stopped the stallion and started to dismount when a a shot rang out.
“ That’s far enough Madrid.” a man yelled.
The stallion never moved as Johnny dove for cover as more bullets hit the ground around him. Laying on his left side, Johnny drew his colt and fired in the direction the shots came from.
“ I don’t know who you are, but this is private property mister. You’re trespassing.” Johnny yelled back. A bullet kicking up dirt near his head was the response he got.
“ I ain’t up here alone Madrid.”
“ Guess it’s now or never Madrid.” Johnny said as he stood up and fired hearing his bullet hit it’s mark as he dove for cover behind a downed tree just as another shot rang out and he felt the all to familiar white hot pain in his lower right side.
“ You’re all alone now.” Johnny yelled as the sound of horses approaching got his attention.
“ Johnny.” Scott yelled as he jumped off his horse.
Scott spotted where his brother was hiding.
“ How many are there?” he asked.
“ There were two. The one who started shooting at me said he wasn’t up here alone” Johnny answered. “ I hit one, don’t know if he’s dead though. The other one is behind that big rock.”
“ You alright?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah.” Johnny responded, not wanting his brother to know he was hit.
“ You go around to the left, I’ll go right. Hank you stay here and shoot him if you get the chance.”
“ Yes sir.” Hank said as he cocked the rifle.
Scott moved around and found the man taking aim at Johnny. “ Drop it.” he ordered as he cocked his rifle.
The man dropped his rifle and turned to face Scott.
“ What you wanna do with these two Scott?” Hank asked as he walked over, rifle trained on the two surveyors.
“ You were told to stay off Lancer, yet here you are, the very next day and now a man is dead because you couldn’t do as you were told.” Johnny said as he walked up to the man who shot at him. “ I don’t much care for men who try to ambush me.” Johnny said as he took out his pistol and aimed it at the mans head.
“ Johnny!” Scott said softly.
Johnny stood there, pistol never wavering as he watched the fear in the mans eyes. “ Who told you to ambush me?”
“ Our boss, Buck Addison. We told him what you said and he ordered us back out here.” Seth said.
“ We……we told him what you said, but he ordered us back out here…..Had five men come with us, but when Seth told them who they was goin’ up against, three of them rode out.” Charlie said.
“ We’ll take them back to Lancer. There’s a cell in the barn we can lock them up in and wire the federal marshal to come.” Scott suggested.
Johnny lowered his gun just a little, then brought it back up and hit the man in his left temple knocking him to the ground.
“ He won’t be giving us any trouble now.” Johnny said before walking back to his horse and mounting up. He could feel the blood oozing from his wound.
Murdoch rode into the yard and dismounted, handing his horse off to a hand as he walked toward the house.
“ Mr Lancer……look.” Carl said.
Murdoch looked and seen his sons and Hank and a man he didn’t know riding in. Walking over to them as they came into the yard.
“ Who is this?” he asked.
“ One of two Bushwhackers.” Johnny said as he stopped the stallion, but didn’t dismount.
“ We brought him back here to lock up until we can take him in to jail in Green River in the morning.” Scott said as he dismounted. “Hank, lock him up in the cell….Post a guard.”
“ Yes sir Mr Lancer.” Hank responded as he got down.
“ You gonna just sit there Johnny?” Scott asked.
Johnny swayed in the saddle before falling to the ground.
Murdoch hurried to his fallen sons side seeing the blood. “ He’s been shot……Why didn’t you treat him?” he demanded.
“ He never said he was injured sir. I asked him.” Scott said as he helped his father pick Johnny up and carry him into the house.
“ Pablo……ride to Moro Coyo and get the doctor.” Murdoch yelled.
“ Teresa…..Get hot water and bandages.” Scott yelled as they entered the house and carried Johnny upstairs to his room.
“ Why didn’t he tell you he was shot?” Murdoch asked.
“ We have to remember Johnny’ been on his own for so many years. He’s had nobody to care about him until now.” Scott stated.
“ That boy needs to realize he’s not alone anymore.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ The doctor’ been up there a long time. Do you think he’s okay?” Scott asked.
“ He lost a lot of blood son. The bullet past clean through.” Murdoch said as he went to the sideboard and poured two shots, handing one to his son.
“ That man we brought back told us Addison ordered him to kill Johnny. The surveyors said there were five men, but three of them rode out when they found out it was Madrid they were going up against sir.” Scott said as he took the shot and downed it.
“ I’ll see he hangs for this if Johnny dies.” Murdoch said with anger. “ We’ll take him in when we know Johnny is out of danger.”
“ Addison has two gunfighters coming in sir. Johnny knows them. He told me they’re good. Second best to him.” Scott stated as the doctor came down the stairs.
“ How is he Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ He’s lost a lot of blood…..I cleaned the wound out the best I can and stitched him up. Luckily it didn’t hit any vital organs.” Sam told them. “ Given he doesn’t get an infection, he should recover alright……….Teresa said that’s Johnny Madrid…. would one of you mind telling me what that gunfighter is doing here?”
“ It’s Johnny, Sam.” Murdoch stated. “ My Johnny.”
“ Your Johnny?” Sam asked.
“ It’s a long story Sam. Come on in the kitchen and I’ll explain it to you.” Murdoch told Sam as he started toward the kitchen.
“ Scott, why don’t you go up and relieve Teresa. If he wakes up, keep him from moving around and call me.”
Scott opened the door to his brothers room and stepped inside. Teresa was siting in a chair next to the bed, placing a cool cloth on Johnny’ forehead.
“ How is he?” Scott asked as he walked in.
“ He’s still unconscious. Sam left a bottle of laudanum to add to some water if he wakes up and is in pain.” Teresa told him as she stood up.
Scott noticed she had been crying. “ He’s going to be alright Teresa. Johnny’ strong. He’ll pull through this in no time.”
“ I know. It’s just that…….Scott, you should have seen the scars……When Sam turned him on his side to clean the exit wound, the scars on his back are horrible.” she said as tears began to fall.
Scott took her into his arms and held her tight, letting her cry. “ Why don’t you go downstairs and get some rest. I’ll stay with him.”
“ I’m okay.” Teresa responded. “ I’ll go fix you something to eat.” she said as she headed to the door as Scott sat down in the chair next to the bed.
Murdoch poured two cups of coffee and sat down across from Sam. He could see the shock in the mans face when he finished telling him what the Pinkerton’ had learned and all that had happened since Johnny came back.
“ My god, Murdoch……..That explains a lot of what I found.”
“ What you found…..What do you mean Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ Murdoch, when I turned Johnny over to clean and stitch up the exit wound……his back had horrible scars on it…..some old and some not so old. That boy’s been shot at least seven times and cut and or stabbed numerous times. Johnny’ been whipped too.”
Murdoch ran a hand over his face. “ My god. The reports said nothing of abuse like that.”
“ Murdoch, are you absolutely positive that that boy laying in that bed upstairs is your lost son, Johnny Lancer and not some impostor?” Sam asked.
“ Sam, I’ve never been more sure about anything before in my life. That is my Johnny.” Murdoch said just as Teresa came down the back stairs.
“ Scott’ with him. I thought I would come down and fix supper.”
“ Teresa, are you alright?” Sam asked.
“ I’m alright Sam…..It was a shock, but I’m alright.”
Murdoch knew now, Teresa had seen the scars. “ Teresa, I’m sorry you had to see that.”
“ I don’t understand Murdoch. What could drive another person to do those horrible things to Johnny?” she asked.
“ Mexico is a hard country to grow up in, and with Johnny being an orphan and a………….. It can be rough on even a grown man.” Murdoch told her. Unable to say the word he knew his youngest had heard many times said to him out of pure hate.
“ I know. It’s just that….After all the horrible things that have been done to Johnny…..He can still be so kind and gentle.”
“ Some people just can’t be like that Teresa.” Sam said. “ In fact, I’m surprised Johnny doesn’t have hatred inside him for what’s been done to him.”
“ What do you mean Sam?” she asked.
“ Well in all my years of practice, I’ve learned a lot about the people I’ve treated, both good and bad…….And one thing I’ve learned is that even though a person may seem good on the outside……Inside they could be just waiting to explode. Especially someone who’s been mistreated badly.”
“ Sam, are you saying Johnny could turn on us?” Murdoch asked with concern.
“ Murdoch, how could you even ask that? Johnny would never hurt us.” Teresa stated.
“ I’ve seen it happen Teresa. I’m by no means saying Johnny will, but just keep it in mind, that it is a possibility.” Sam said.
“ It’s getting late Sam, stay the night?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes, I think I will. I want to be close just in case Johnny starts running a fever.”
“ I’ll go make up the guest room across the hall from Johnny’ room for you Sam after supper.” Teresa said as she took a pan of biscuits out of the oven.
“ I think I’ll go see how he’s doing.” Murdoch said as he stood up.
Scott sat watching his brothers sleep, holding his hand. “ Don’t you leave me Johnny. I just found you, I don’t want to lose you now. We have to much to do together.” he said as a tear ran down his cheek. “ I’d give anything if I could take away all the bad that’s ever been done to you little brother.”
Murdoch stood outside Johnny’ room listening to his oldest, and hearing the pain in his voice. Opening the door he stepped inside the room.
Scott glanced at his father, then looked back at Johnny. “ He’s still unconscious.”
“ Sam said he might not come too till morning.” Murdoch stated as he walked over and placed a hand on his oldest’ shoulder.
“ I can’t lose him sir.”
“ I know son. Neither can I…….We just got him back.”
Voices, first one and now two, but who? Johnny couldn’t get his mind to focus. Why did they sound so sad? Why were they talking about losing someone? Was it him? A slight moan escaped his lips as he tried to focus more on the voices.
“ That’s it Johnny, Open your eyes little brother.”
“ I’ll go get Sam. You keep talking to him.” Murdoch said as he headed out the door and downstairs.
“ Open your eyes Johnny…….I know you can do it.”
Pain……..why did his right side hurt so much…..Shot……now he remembered. He was shot……Scott….was his brother okay
“Scott.” Johnny said as he suddenly bolted upright in bed.
“ Easy Johnny…..I’m right here.” Scott said as he put his hands on Johnny’ shoulders. “ You were shot. You need to lay still.”
“ Scott?” Johnny asked as his eyes fluttered open and his vision began to clear. “ You okay?” he asked.
“ I’m fine brother, but you won’t be if you tear open your wound.”
Sam and Murdoch came back in the room. “ Let me in there Scott.” Sam said
“ He bolted upright in bed calling for me Sam.”
“ Johnny, Johnny look at me.”
“ Who….who are you?” Johnny asked.
“ Well son, I’m what some people call a doctor in these parts. I’m Sam Jenkins……..Do you remember what happened to you?”
“ Yeah, I was bushwhacked……..thirsty.”
Scott poured a glass of water and handed it to Sam.
“ Johnny, I need to know how much pain you’re feeling?” Sam said as he held the glass so Johnny could drink.
“ I’m alright doc.” Johnny said between drinks. “ Had worse.”
“ Johnny, I don’t doubt that. I seen the scars. Listen to me. I’m going to give you some laudanum, it will help with the pain okay?”
“ No, no drugs Sam. I don’t need it.”
“ Now listen here young man. I’m the doctor and you will do as I say.”
Johnny became upset and tried to push Sam away. “ No laudanum.” he said more sternly.
“ Alright, It goes against my better judgment, but if you want to feel the pain, that’s up to you. I’ll just leave the bottle here for if you want it.” Sam stated as he stood up. “ I want you to stay in bed for at least a week young man. You could still get a fever or infection.”
Johnny started to drift off asleep again. “ Scott…….stay with me.” he said softly as his eyes closed and his breathing became more even.
“ I’ll have Teresa bring you up something to eat son.” Murdoch said as he and Sam headed back downstairs.
“ Those two have become quite close in just the short time Johnny’ been back here.” Sam noted.
“ Yes they have Sam. Almost inseparable.” Murdoch added. “ Oh, I almost forgot. The man who ambushed Johnny is locked up in the cell out in the barn. He might need your attention. It seems Johnny’ pistol found the mans head.”
“ Alright, I’ll go out and take a look at him now.” Sam said.
“ I’ll go out there with you.” Murdoch stated.
Sam cleaned the dried blood from the mans wound. “ It’s not deep enough for stitches. You might have a headache for a bit, but you’ll live.” Sam stated as he closed his bag and walked out of the cell.
“ Why’d you ambush Johnny?” Murdoch demanded.
“ Because I was ordered to and I do what I’m told Lancer. Addison wanted Johnny Madrid dead.”
“ Why……..hell that’s easy. Addison don’t like being double crossed. He sent out a wire, hiring Madrid to come here and take care of you so he could get that section of land. He figured with Madrid dead, he could have you killed and your son wouldn’t be no problem stopping him.”
“ Why the hell does Buck want that section of Lancer so bad?” Murdoch demanded.
“ I don’t know, except that spur coming through. He’s been making cattle deals with some big shot back in Nebraska or somewhere. Told me and a couple other men that if we did what we were told and didn’t ask any questions, he would make us all very wealthy.”
“ How do I know you’re telling me the truth.” Murdoch asked.
“ I got no reason to lie to you Lancer……Look, ambushing Madrid was wrong. I know that now. I’ll plead guilty to that and do my time.”
“ You shot Madrid. You’re lucky he didn’t die, because if he had, you’d hand for murder.” Murdoch said before walking out of the barn.
“ You need a marshal here it sounds like Murdoch.” Sam said as the two walked back to the house.
“ The closest marshal is in Sacramento……I’ll send a wire for him to come when we take that man into Green River.”
Buck Addison was furious. Three of the five men he sent to kill Madrid took off, wanting nothing to do with facing the gunfighter. One man was shot dead by Madrid, the other now sat in the Green River jail waiting for the judge to sentence him. Addison warned the man to keep his mouth shut, but when he was told what was said to Lancer, he stormed out of the jail furious. Two weeks and he would have two men more than willing and capable of killing Madrid. Knowing a bullet did find it’s mark and Lancer had the gunfighter laid up in his house gave Buck an idea. With Madrid temporarily out of the game, why not make it a little hard and costly to his employer. Cattle were easy to stampede,even fencing was easy enough to cut.
“ Mr Addison, I thought you might want to know, Lancer wired for the marshal to come here.” Charlie said.
“ I’m perfectly aware of what Murdoch Lancer did. He just doesn’t know that that marshal isn’t coming. He’s busy with something else and can’t come for at least a month. Plenty of time for me to do what needs to be done.” Buck told Charlie. “ Oh, you and Seth are fired.” he added before walking away.
“ Suits me fine, working for you is a danger and I’m right sure the railroad will be real interested in what you’re doing.” Charlie said softly as he headed to the saloon.
Johnny had had enough. Enough of being made to stay in bed. A man can lay on his back for only so long before he starts to go crazy. Once he knew it was safe, he slipped his pants on and went over and sat in front of the window, soaking up some much needed sunshine. The cool breeze felt great on his face as he leaned his head back and closed his eyes.
“ What the devil do you think you’re doing out of bed young man?” Murdoch demanded.
“ What’s it look like I’m doing Murdoch. I’m tired of staying in that bed all day long. It’s not like I came downstairs. I just wanted to get some sun.” Johnny said without opening his eyes.
“ Did Sam say you could get out of bed yet?”
“ No, but I don’t need his permission or yours.” Johnny said.
“ I believe Sam said you were to stay in bed for a week young man.” Murdoch stated as he walked over to his son.
“ Yeah well, he don’t know my body like I do okay.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Been taking care of myself pretty much my whole life.”
“ Son…you’re not alone anymore. You have people who care about you. We don’t want to lose you……..I can’t lose you again.”
Johnny looked at his father and could see the sincerity in his eyes. Walking back over to the bed, Johnny sat down.
“ I’m sorry…..I guess I’m not used to having people care about me.” he said softly as he lay back down.
Murdoch walked over and sat on the edge of the bed. “ Sam is supposed to come out tomorrow and check your wound. If I ask him if you can come downstairs…..with me or Scot’ help…..”
“ I don’t need any help Murdoch……I can make it on my own.”
“ Would you stop being so damn stubborn!” Murdoch yelled as he stood up. “ As long as Sam says you are to stay in that bed, you will do as you’re told……Do I make myself clear?”
Johnny ignored his father and looked out the window.
“ I asked you a question John, you better answer me.”
“ Yeah I hear ya old man.” Johnny said softly, never looking at his father.
Murdoch stepped out into the hallway and slammed the bedroom door closed. Shacking his head before heading downstairs.
“ Something wrong sir?” Scott asked. Noticing his fathers mood.
Murdoch went and sat down at his desk. “ Your brother is what’s wrong. I go up there to see him and I found him sitting in a chair at the window.”
“ He was out of bed?” Scott asked.
“ Yes…..Sam told him to stay in bed for a week at least and it would seem, your brother has a problem following orders.”
“ Sir, you have to remember, Johnny’ had nobody to care about him until now.”
“ I know all that son.”
“ Do you? Because it seems to me sir, you’re the one always getting upset. You can’t expect johnny to just drop his old habits in the first few days he’s come home.” Scott stated. “ It’s going to take time……If you push him to far, Johnny will leave this ranch and you will never see him again. Is that what you want?”
“ No.” Murdoch snapped back. “ What I want is for that boy to show me some respect, especially in my own home.”
“ Isn’t this Johnny’ home also?”
“ You know what I mean.”
“ Do I…..Because it seems to me every time you are around Johnny, you get upset or try and order him around…….You know, when I was in the army, one thing I learned that helped me to survive……If I wanted my men’s respect, I had to earn their trust……….Maybe you should start trying to earn Johnny’ trust if you want him to respect you. Oh, one more thing….Respect has to be earned, it’s never given….You told me that.” Scott said before turning to leave.
“ Scott…I watch the two of you together. You get along so well with him…….Why?”
“ Because we’re brothers. I treat Johnny as I would want him to treat me, as an equal.” Scott stated. “ Is it the fact that your Johnny Lancer is also Johnny Madrid? Is that what you’re having trouble accepting?”
“ I don’t know that boy upstairs at all, except for what those damn Pinkerton reports say.”
“ Then may I suggest you forget about what those reports say sir and try getting to know Johnny, because like it or not, Johnny Madrid and Johnny Lancer are one in the same.” Scott said before picking up his hat and gloves and going outside.
Murdoch sat back in his chair. Scott was right. If he wanted Johnny to respect him, he was going to have to start trusting his youngest….and respecting his decisions also.
Sam came downstairs. “ He’s been out of bed hasn’t he.” he asked Murdoch and Scott.
“ Yes. I caught him sitting in the chair by the window yesterday.” Murdoch responded. “ He seems to now want to follow your instructions Sam.”
“ I see. I asked him how he was feeling, and he told me he was fine. That he was having just a little pain when he bends over.”
“ It’s not easy for Johnny doc. My brother isn’t used to having people tell him what he can and can’t do when he gets shot.”
“ I can respect that, to a certain degree I guess.”
“ Well I can’t. That boy is going to start listening and doing what he’s told. Especially when it’s for his own good.”
“ Murdoch, Johnny is my patient.”
“ And he’s my son.”
“ If you would let me finish you old fool…….I’ve seen the horrible scars on that boys body. Some of those wounds I could tell by looking at them, he was the one who dug the bullets out. Johnny was the one who stopped the bleeding by cauterization. Johnny’ the one who stitched his wounds up. Some of those wounds should have killed him, but they didn’t. I have to be fair to Johnny as my patient Murdoch.”
“ Just what are you saying Sam?” Scott asked.
“ What I’m trying to get through your stubborn fathers thick skull is that even though it’s against my orders, Johnny seems to know what’s best for him. He’s endured this whole thing without a drop of Laudanum in him. His wound is a little red around the stitches, but that’s to be expected. He hasn’t pulled them out. I told him he could get out of bed and move around now.” Sam told them as the three men walked outside. “ He’s by no means to do any lifting and I don’t want him on a horse for at least another week or longer.” Sam instructed. “ Now, I have other patients to see too. Murdoch, I suggest you tread lightly with that boy. You push him to far and well, remember what I said.” Sam stated as he climbed up in his buggy and drove off.
“ What did Sam mean when he said, remember what he said?” Scott asked.
Murdoch turned and looked at his oldest. “ Sam thinks that maybe Johnny might turn on us. That with all the bad that has happened to him, all the scars he has, that he might snap and……….”
“ Surely you jest sir? You don’t really believe Johnny would hurt any of us do you?”
“ I don’t want to believe it could happen, but Sam said he’s seen it happen before with patients of his that have been abused.”
“ Well not Johnny. He may have been a gunfighter in the past, but he is most certainly not a killer and he is not going to hurt anyone in this family.” Scott said with anger.
“ I know that son……Look, we have that cattleman’s meeting in two days. I need you to talk to Johnny about staying out of sight while those men are here. Can you do that for me son?”
“ Why……Are you afraid they would find out that your Johnny Lancer is the infamous Johnny Madrid?”
“ I just don’t want any trouble at that meeting Scott. Jim Colton will use any excuse he can to try and get Lancer removed from the cattleman’s association.”
“ I see, so once again this ranch is more important than your own flesh and blood.” Scott snapped back. “ No wonder Johnny doesn’t respect you sir…….You won’t even be bothered to acknowledge him as your son to the other ranchers.”
“ That will be enough out of you young man. I am not ashamed of either of my sons.”
“ You sure could have fooled me when it comes to my little brother.” Scot stated before walking away.
“ I think that about concludes everything we needed to discuss.” Toby Jenks said.
“ Not quite.” Jim Colton cut in. “ I have two things I want to bring before the members. One of which will benefit all of us ranchers.”
“ Ah Scott, you’re just in time. I want you to hear this.”
Scott sat down in the chair on his fathers right.
“ Now, as I was saying, you all are aware of the Central Pacific Railroad wanting to run a spur from Sacramento down to Green River. What I have here is a proposed plan to have all the ranchers pull together and fund this spur, which I believe
will be very crucial in getting our cattle to market easier.” Jim stated as he handed out copies of the proposal.
“ It says here that we should pay for the cost based on how many cattle we have.” Dan Marvin asked.
“ Yes. It may seem like a lot, but I assure you gentlemen, this spur will be very beneficial.”
“ It doesn’t say how much that cost would be.” Toby Jenks said.
“ No it doesn’t. The cost would reflect on the fair market value of cattle t the time.”
“ That’s preposterous as I told you before when you brought this up to me in Green River Jim. Lancer will not pay you, the railroad or anyone else outrageous money to ship our cattle to the feedlot in Sacramento.” Murdoch cut in as he tossed the papers on the table. “ No rancher in this valley can afford to pay fair market value to have their cattle shipped.”
“ You have at least twenty head to everyone else’ herd Murdoch. If you don’t want to participate in this and want to keep the others from benefiting from it…….Then I move to have Murdoch Lancer and the Lancer ranch removed from the association.”
“ I have a better idea.” Toby Jenks said. “ How about we take a vote on having Jim Colton removed as president?”
“ Me…….removed…..why?” Jim demanded.
“ Because ever since the railroad has mentioned putting in that spur, YOU have went out of your way looking for ways to hurt your fellow ranchers. Especially Lancer.”
“ That’s right. Murdoch, Dan Marvin and me are the three oldest ranchers in the valley. We’ve all been driving our cattle to market for many years without trouble. I recon the Bar Cross can keep driving it’s cattle to market.” Toby Jenks said.
“ That goes for the M Brand too.” Dan Marvin added.“ As for removing you as president, I’m for it.”
“ So am I…….In fact, I vote that we make Murdoch Lancer president.” Toby said.
“ Gentlemen please.” Murdoch said.
“ You put them up to this Lancer……You, your son and that gunfighter you have working for you.” Jim said with anger.
“ I don’t have a gunfighter working for me Colton.”
“ Johnny Madrid is. Buck Addison told me so himself. Said two of his surveyors were run off Lancer land by that half-breed killer. Said Madrid shot and killed one of his men and the other one is in jail for ambushing Madrid.”
“ That’s because they were trespassing on Lancer land.” Scott stated. “ And my brother acted in self defense.”
“ So you’re not denying that killer works for you?”
“ Look, there’s something you all need to know……..Johnny Madrid is my son Johnny Lancer.”
“ What?……Why that’s absurd.”
“ I’m afraid my father is telling the truth gentlemen. The Pinkerton’ found this out just last month.” Scott stated.
“ What are you going to do about this Murdoch?” Toby asked.
“ What do you mean, what am I going to do about this?……Johnny is my son and I don’t care what any of you think about him. Johnny has just as much right to live in this valley as anyone else.” Murdoch said firmly. “ Look, the man in jail said that Buck Addison had him and four others go out there specifically to kill Johnny. If you think I’m going to allow that to happen, then you gentlemen can leave, because nobody is going to hurt my son ever again………..and as far as your proposition for that spur Colton, Lancer doesn’t need it or you to get our cattle to market.”
None of the men were aware of the lone figure standing in the foyer, just around the corner, listening to everything being said. Having heard enough, Johnny stepped around the corner.
“ Johnny.” Scott said as he stood up and went to his brother.
“ I’m fine Scott.” Johnny said as he walked past him and walked up to Jim Colton, eyes as cold as ice. “ You seem to have a problem with me being here with my old man. I heard what you said. Let me set you straight on something, all of you…..I’ve never killed a man who wasn’t trying to kill me first. Yeah I killed one of Addison’ men, but only because he bushwhacked me. You see, regardless of what you may think of me, any of you, I’m not a cold blooded killer. I have a reputation to uphold. You can wire any federal marshal anywhere in the southwest and they’ll all tell you the same thing….Johnny Madrid isn’t wanted by the law…and he isn’t a ruthless cold blooded killer.”
“ I’m not going to stand here and listen to this half-breed killer…….Murdoch Lancer, you are no longer a member of the California Cattle Growers Association.” Jim said as he picked his stuff up and stormed out.
“ How about you gentlemen? You have a problem with me being here?”
Toby and Dan, both shook their heads.
“ Murdoch, Jim needs two votes to have you removed, he won’t get it from me.” Toby said as he stood up.
“ Me either Murdoch…….Johnny, I’m sorry if we gave the wrong impression. It was to say the least, somewhat of a shock hearing Murdoch say that Johnny Madrid is his long lost son Johnny Lancer…..Please forgive us?”
“ I think you both better leave now.” Murdoch suggested.
“ No, they don’t have to leave Murdoch.” Johnny said.
“ No, I think your father is right. It’s pretty clear you don’t feel good young man. Perhaps we can come and visit you another time?” Dan Marvin asked.
“ That would be fine.” Murdoch answered.
“ You Buck Addison?” a man dressed in black asked.
Buck looked up at the man. “ And who might you two be?”
“ Sexton Joe and Isham. You wanted to hire us to do a job for you?”
“ Yes. Why don’t you two get cleaned up and meet me in the hotel room later and we can talk?”
“ Sure.” Sexton said as he turned his horse toward the livery.
“ Room eight, end of the hall.” Buck said as the two men rode away. “ Let’s see just how good you are Madrid.” he said softly as he went inside the hotel.
“ Think this guy will be straight with us?” Isham asked as the two entered the hotel lobby.
“ He will if he knows what’s good for him.” Sexton Joe said as they started up the stairs.
Buck Addison heard the knock and opened his door. “Come on in gentlemen.”
“ Whew…..would you look at this fancy room.” Isham said as he glanced around the posh room.
“ Sit down please…..Can I offer you men a drink of whiskey?”
“ Sure.” Isham said.
“ I’m sure you want to know why I need men with your skills?”
“ Don’t matter to us why, We just need to know the particulars of what it is you want done.”
“ Well……I’m working for the Central Pacific Railroad. I was hired to run a spur from Sacramento down to Green River here for the ranchers, so they can get their cattle to market easier.” Buck began as he poured the drinks and handed them to the men and sat down at the table across from them. “ I have run into a problem that is preventing me from doing my job. A problem I have tried to take care of, but my men are not capable of handling this problem.”
“ And just what kind of problem are we talking about here.” Sexton Joe asked.
“ A rancher named Murdoch Lancer. I need a section of the spur to go through a part of his north section land and well…..he just isn’t seeing it my way.”
“ Have you talked to him about Eminent Domain?” Sexton Joe asked.
“ Why yes I have.” Buck answered, surprised this man knew about such a law. “ Would you be offended if I asked how you know about Eminent Domain?”
“ Worked a job once in Texas.” Sexton responded. “ Laws a little tricky when using that.”
“ I’m aware of the laws…..and it would seem that Murdoch Lancer is also.”
“ So just what is it you want me and Sexton Joe to do?” Isham asked.
Buck stood up and walked over to the sidebar and picked up the bottle of whiskey, walking back to the table, he set it down.
“ I want you to make Lancer’ life hell. Cut his fences, stampede his cattle. I don’t care.” Buck told them.
“ Heck, your own men could do that…….Why’d you hire us for really?” Isham asked as he picked up the bottle and poured him and Sexton Joe another shot.
“ Well perhaps there is one serious problem I didn’t tell you about.” Buck said as he walked over to the window and looked out at the busy street below.
“ What serious problem is that?” Isham asked.
“ Before I contacted you to hire, I requested another gunfighter, who I learned showed up here and went to work for Lancer.”
“ So Lancer requested this gunfighter before you?” Sexton Joe asked.
“ No, Lancer wouldn’t do that. It would ruin his reputation if people learned he hired a gunfighter.”
“ Just who is this gunfighter?” Isham asked.
“ Does the name Johnny Madrid mean anything to either of you?”
Sexton Joe stood up and walked over to Addison at the window. “ You want us to go up against Madrid……that’s gonna cost you plenty mister.”
“ Wait a minute…..You said Lancer didn’t hire Johnny………I may know why Madrid is here……A couple years ago I ran into Johnny in El Paso, we got drunk and he started talking about how he wanted to kill his old man for throwing him and his mother out, some gringo named………Lancer, Murdoch Lancer.” Isham said as he stood up. “ Johnny Madrid is Murdoch Lancer’ pup. Maybe he’s just fronting working for Lancer…….You know, waiting for the right time to kill him?”
“ Johnny Madrid is Lancer’ kid?……….Are you sure about that?” Buck demanded.
“ As sure as I’m standing here.” Isham responded.
“ Madrid killed one of my men, and the other is in jail for attempted murder. I want him dead. If you think you can’t do what I ask, tell me know and I’ll find men who can.”
“ Oh we can kill Madrid, that won’t be a problem.” Isham said.
“ You just make sure your men stay out of our way.” sexton Joe said as he started to toward the door.“ How many men does Lancer have working for him?”
“ About fifty, mostly vaquero’s.” Buck answered.
“ Killing Madrid will cost you a thousand dollars.” Sexton stated.
“ Alright, to show you I’m serious, I’ll pay you half now, and the other half when Madrid is dead.” Buck said as he too his billfold out and took out five hundred dollars and handed it to Sexton Joe.
Sexton Joe took the money and walked to the door. “ We’ll be in touch.” Sexton said as he opened the door and left.
Johnny sat in a chair on the veranda, drinking a glass of lemonade two days after the cattleman’s meeting. The last two months running through his head. Could Johnny Madrid have all this? A place to call home? A brother and a father who his mother lied about not wanting him? Could a gunfighter, who only knew how to live by his gun, stop living by that gun and become the son of the biggest rancher in the San Joaquin valley? Did he have a right to any of what he had wanted his whole life to have?
“ Mind if I join you son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Sure.” Johnny answered.
“ You looked like you were deep in thought son. Want to talk about it?”
“ Just thinking.” Johnny said as he took a drink of lemonade.
Murdoch could tell Johnny didn’t want to discuss whatever it was his son had been so deep in thought about.
“ Johnny, I want to ask you something.”
Johnny set his glass down. “ So ask.”
“ Son, I’ve worked almost my whole life on this ranch. Lancer is one hundred thousand acres with one thousand head of cattle and the finest Capanero De’ Palomino’s in the San Joaquin running loose on this ranch.”
“ Yeah, I’ve seen them horses. Mighty pretty.” Johnny said softly.
“ Son, what I would like to do is this. I know I promised I’d give you a year here and not try and stop you if at the end of that year you decided you wanted to leave. I built this ranch and have fought to keep it so my sons would have something. I want to offer you a share of Lancer. You and Scott would each own a third of the biggest ranch in the state.”
Johnny stood up and walked over to the wall and leaned against it. “ Murdoch…….You realize that if I stay, men will come gunning for me. They won’t stop until I’m dead.”
Murdoch walked over to his son. “ Johnny, I will not let anyone take you away from me again. Any man who comes here gunning for you will have to get through me.”
“ My staying here will put all of you in danger. What about Teresa? What if something happened to her because of me?”
“ Nothing will happen to Teresa, Johnny.” Murdoch said. “ Look, you don’t have to give me an answer now. Think about what I’m offering you son. That’s all I ask.”
“ All my life I wanted what you have. A roof over m head, three square meals a day. Not having to live by my gun anymore. To have a brother and………..and a father who wanted me……..who would love me.”
“ You have that now son. If you want it.”
Johnny looked at his father. He could see the sincerity in the mans eyes. “ You know that a part of me will always be Johnny Madrid……..That I can’t just make him go away.”
“ I know that son, and I accept that. It’s Johnny Madrid that kept my son Johnny Lancer alive all these years and brought him home to me.” Murdoch told him. “ I may have been a little hard on you at first son, but I know now how wrong I was.”
“ I wasn’t exactly a model son either……Look, I don’t know if I can change, but I’m willing to try….I don’t know if I can accept your offer, but if you want me to stay, you have to accept Madrid….and if I do get called out and you or Scott are with me, it’s imperative that both of you stay out of it. If you don’t, it will get me killed.”
“ I mean it Murdoch……I have to be totally focused on the person who called me out. I can’t afford to worry about you or Scott, not if you want me to live.”
“ Murdoch sighed. “ Alright son. I’ll make sure your brother knows.”
“ He already does.”
“ Did Sam say how long till you can do any work or ride?”
“ I don’t need Sam to tell me that. I can ride now. Don’t know about doing any hard work yet, but I can do some. Why?”
“ I was just wondering. I’ve been watching you and to me, you seem to be a little bored.”
“ Not used to sittin’ around doin’ nothing.”
“ Why don’t you go down to the corrals and watch the hands and your brother. They brought some of those wild horses in and are going to start breaking them tomorrow. Scott’ looking them over.”
“ Maybe I will after I go check on my horse.”
“ Johnny, have you given any thought to breeding that stallion of yours?”
“ Breeding him to what?”
“ To some of the mares in that herd your brother has in the corral.”
“ No. I’ll think about it and see if any mares down there are worth it.”
“ Alright. I need to get back to the books. I’ll see you for supper son.”
Johnny watched the mustangs move around the corral as two riders swung their ropes in the air. Watching how they moved and how they were built.
“ See any you like Johnny?” Scott asked as he walked over to his brother.
“ A couple of them are real good mares. That golden stallion is not one to be reckoned with. He has a lot of fire in him.” Johnny stated as he watched the stallion challenge Frank.
“ Hank, you and Carl cut that stallion out. Put him in the other corral.” Scott yelled. “ Did Murdoch talk to you about breeding that stallion of yours to some of these mares?” he asked.
“ He mentioned it. Told him I’d look at what you have. Have that big chestnut mare and the black separated also”
“ You know your horses little brother. That chestnut has some nice long legs on her.” Scott stated. “ Hank, after you get that stallion cut out, separate the chestnut and black mares also.”
“ Yes sir Scott.” Hank said as he and Carl roped the stallion and led him through the gate to the adjoining corral.
“ So, who does the breaking around here?” Johnny asked.
“ Carl does most of it. Why?”
“ Just wondering how good he is with a horse.” Johnny answered.
“ He gets them broke. I’m not to sure he’ll be able to break that stallion though. He looks pretty mean.”
“ Any horse can be broke Scott. It’s just a matter of how you do it.” Johnny told him.
“ I wasn’t aware there was more than one way to break a horse Johnny.”
“ There is. It just depends on if you want that horse broke in spirit as well as saddle or just saddle and still have his spirit.”
Johnny said as he moved over to the corral the golden palomino was now in.
“ Tell Carl to leave him alone.”
“ Why don’t you tell him brother. You have a say in this ranch too.”
“ You want any others cut out Scot?” Carl asked as he rode over to the fence.
“ Leave that stallion alone.” Johnny said. “ I’ll break him.”
“ I do the horse breaking here Johnny, but if you want to tangle with that crazy horse. I’ll gladly let you.”
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he turned to leave.
“ Are you really the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Carl asked.
Johnny stopped and turned to face the man. “ Yeah I am. You have a problem with that?”
“ Not at all. Mister Lancer told us how he’d found his long lost son, and that he was you.”
“ As long as you don’t have a problem with who I am.” Johnny said as he noticed spur gouges on the side of Carl’ horse’ flank. “ You break that horse your riding?”
“ Yeah. Broke him last month. He’s coming along as a cow pony. Why?”
“ You use spurs on every horse you break Carl?” Johnny asked coldly.
“ Yeah. It helps show them who’s boss.”
“ You can use spurs, but not that kind.” Johnny said as he looked up at the man. “ If I ever see you breaking another horse on this ranch with those Mexican spurs, I’ll use them on you and see how you like it. Ain’t no need to be cruel to a horse when breaking it.”
Carl swallowed a lump in his throat. “ Until Mr Lancer or Scott here says otherwise, I recon I’ll break these horses any way I want.”
“ Carl……..I believe my brother told you not to. Now since you work for Lancer, and Johnny is a Lancer, you and the other men will do as your told by him. Is that understood?” Scott said with firmness.
“ Yeah, I hear ya.” Carl answered.
“ Good, now go unsaddle that horse and put some salve on those wounds. I don’t want you riding him again until he’s healed up.” Johnny ordered before walking away.
“ He’s a good hand Johnny. Works hard.” Scott said as the two walked to the house.
“ Don’t doubt it. I just don’t approve of how he breaks a horse, or how he treats that horse.”
“ Johnny had some really good mares cut out of that herd.” Scott said as they ate their supper.
“ That’s good. I want you to send a work crew up to start repairing the roof on the south mesa line shack. It needs to be done before the rains come.”
“ It’s already fixed, as is the lean too.” Johnny stated.
“ I don’t remember having anyone go up there to fix it son.”
“ That’s because I did. That’s were I was staying while I was watching you those four weeks. I was watching you and learning the layout of this ranch.” Johnny answered. “ That footbridge is gonna get washed away though if you don’t get some men to clear the brush out where the creek bends just below it.”
“ Alright son. I’ll have a couple men go check it out and do what’s needed. We can’t afford to lose that footbridge again.”
“ It wash out on you before?” Johnny inquired.
“ Last year it did.”
“ Why don’t you move it upstream to where those big rocks are. It would be a lot more stable and less likely to wash out. The rocks would prevent that.” Johnny suggested.
“ Maybe you and Scott could ride up there and see what all it would take to do that tomorrow.” Murdoch suggested when a loud knock on the front door interrupted them. Scott got up and opened the door.
“ Mr Lancer, I’m Toby Jenks foreman Jess.”
“ Yes, I remember. What can I do for you Jess?”
“ Well sir, about fifty head of your cows and calves are in our pasture.” Jess said. “ It seems the fence has been cut.”
“ Cut…….Alright, I’ll have a couple hands come by first thing in the morning and get them. Tell Toby I’m sorry.”
“ Not a problem sir. We have them hold up in a corral. They can stay there until you get that fence fixed.”
“ Thank you Jess.”
“ No problem sir. Sorry I interrupted your meal.”
“ I know that fence was good when we put those cows in there last month to finish calving sir.” Scott said.
“ I don’t doubt that son.” Murdoch stated. “ Go out and let Hank know to take some men out and fix that fence first thing in the morning.”
“ Yes sir.” Scott answered.
“ Scott wait.” Johnny called. “ Murdoch, I’ve had experience with this sort of thing. I’ve…………I’ve done it myself during a range war. Let me ride out there in the morning and check it out before you send the hands. It could be a trap.”
“ A trap for you Johnny.” Scott stated.
“ Maybe, but still I want to ride out there and check that fence out myself.”
“ Not by yourself son. The three of us will ride out there and look at it in the morning, ahead of the hands.”
“ You think that will bring Madrid out?” Isham asked.
“ I don’t want Madrid coming out yet. We don’t kill him until I decide we do. Is that clear?” Sexton Joe said.
“ Sure, but if you’re not gonna use what we did, then how you gonna get Madrid?”
“ By having him come looking for us, when I’m ready.”
“ I must be missing something. How?”
“ Easy……Bait.” Sexton Joe said.
“ Bait….what bait?” Isham asked.
“ The human kind……..Let’s go back to town.” Sexton Joe said as he turned his horse to leave.
Murdoch, Scott and Johnny rode out just as the first light showed in the eastern sky. Four hands were sent to retrieve the cows and calves and bring them down to the paddock close to the house until all the calves were born.
Johnny stopped his horse and slowly dismounted.
“ You alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah.” he answered as he walked over to the fence and picked up the end. “ It’s been cut.” he stated a she looked around on the ground. Ducking under the top strand of fence still intact. Looking around on the ground, he found what he was looking for. “ Two riders. They came in from the north.”
“ Nobody owns that section of land.” Murdoch stated “ Not since old man Harper passed away five years ago. The taxes alone are to much.” he added.
“ If someone did but it sir, it would have to be someone with enough money to pay those back taxes.”
“ Buck Addison.” Murdoch stated. “ Which way did they ride out son?”
“ Same way. Grounds pretty good to track them.” Johnny said as he crossed back under the fence and got on his horse.
“ The hands will be here shortly to repair the fence. Let’s see where those tracks go.” the big man said as he kicked his horse. “ There’s a gate we can go thru on the other side and come back and pick up the tracks.
Three hours later Johnny stopped and dismounted, looking at the ground.
“ It looks like whoever it is, headed to Moro Coyo.” Scott said.
“ Yeah, they were headed north, but turned west.” Murdoch stated.
“ That’s because one of them is riding a horse with a loose shoe.” Johnny stated as he mounted back up. “ Be easy to follow now.”
“ Well, there’s not that many people in Moro Coyo. We can check at the livery and see if anyone new has rode into town this morning on a horse with a loose shoe.” Scott suggested.
“ Hey, Madrid just rode in with those two Lancers.” Isham said.
Sexton Joe never looked up from the bible he was reading. “ If he comes in here…….Just play it cool.”
“ Yeah, sure.” Isham responded. “ You don’t think Johnny would turn on his own kind do ya?” he asked.
“ Doesn’t matter. His days are numbered.”
“ It’s just that……We rode together, me and Johnny……I…….I don’t know if I can kill him.” Isham stated.
Sexton Joe looked up from his book. “ We took this job together…..You try backing out now and you won’t have to worry about facing Madrid.” Sexton Joe said with coldness in his voice.
“ Can I help you gentlemen?” a short burly man asked as the three Lancer men stopped in front of the livery. “ Oh mister Lancer, I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell it was you from back there.”
“ That’s alright Gabe. Has anyone rode in earlier ridin’ a horse with a loose shoe?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, two men rode in a couple hours ago. One of the horse’s had a loose shoe. I told him to leave it here and I’d fix it for ‘im.”
“ Do you happen to know where they are Gabe?”
“ Where else.” Gabe answered as he pointed to the saloon.
Johnny turned his horse and started down the street followed by Murdoch and Scott.
“ They most likely know we’re here.” Johnny said as he dismounted.
“ You think it’s those two gunfighters Addison hired Johnny?” Scott asked.
Murdoch seen it. Seen his son Johnny Lancer wasn’t the man standing before him. Standing in front of him now was Johnny Madrid. The change happened so fast, he never seen it happen.
Johnny walked past his father and brother and up to the bat-wing doors of the saloon and looked inside before pushing them open and walking in. Seeing a table empty in the corner, Johnny walked over and sat down with his back to the wall and removed his hat, hanging it by the stampede strap off the back of the chair.
Murdoch came over and sat to Johnny’ right, a moment later Scott came with three beers and sat on his left.
Scott noticed his brother was looking at someone. Looking around he found who Johnny was looking at. “ Is that them?” he asked.
“ Well as I live and breathe. If it isn’t Johnny Madrid.” Isham said as he stood up and walked over to their table. “ How ya doin’ Johnny?”
Johnny looked up at him. “ Oh you know, just trying to stay alive.” Johnny stated a she picked up his beer. “ You?”
“ The same. Me and Sexton Joe over there taking jobs here and there.” Isham stated. “ You working?”
“ Yeah. Got a real sweet job Isham.”
“ Who’s this, your new partner?”
Johnny knew Isham was fishing for information on why he was here, so he thought he’d play along, a little. “ No, I work better alone. You know that.”
“ Oh, right. So is this who you’re working for then?”
“ What if it is?”
“ Whoa…….easy Johnny Madrid. I was just askin’. Hey, you remember that night you got falling down drunk in El Paso?”
“ Yeah, I remember. What about it?”
“ You remember what you said to me?”
Johnny just sat there looking at him.
“ You said you were gonna find that worthless old man of yours and kill him for kicking you and your mamma of his house. I was just wondering if you found him, because you said he lived around here.”
Johnny stood up. “ Yeah, I found ‘im. I also learned my mother lied to me about him.”
“ What was his name……….Lancer…..yeah that’s it, Murdoch Lancer, has a spread around here don’t he?”
Johnny stepped around his father and stepped up to Isham. “ Yeah, he does. As a matter of fact, this is my father and brother Murdoch and Scott Lancer. I work for them.”
“ Is that so…..You work for your old man huh?…….That’s interesting Johnny.”
“ I know why you and Sexton Joe over there are here and I’m gonna tell you just once Isham……..Stay…….Off……Lancer land. I know it was you two that cut the fence. I tracked you to here. Either of you come onto Lancer property again…..I’ll forget we were friends.”
“ Can’t do that Johnny……You know me…..I take a job, I finish that job.”
“ This job isn’t worth you dying for Isham.”
Sexton Joe stood up as did Murdoch and Scott. “ Your time on this earth is limited Madrid. I don’t care who’s pup you are. We’re being paid nicely to kill you, and that’s exactly what we will do. You won’t see it coming, you won’t know when, but you will die.” Sexton stated firmly before turning and walking out of the saloon, leaving Isham alone.
“ Johnny, I didn’t know it was you I’d be going up against. I swear. Addison never said anything about you being here, being the one he wanted killed, until we met him the other night in Green River.” Isham said before turning to leave. “ One more thing Johnny Madrid…….I’m not a back shooter.” he said before walking out.
“ Let’s go.” Johnny said as he headed to the door.
“ Johnny wait….How do you know they’re not waiting outside to ambush you?” Scott asked.
“ Because Isham doesn’t work that way.”
“ Because you used to ride together.” Murdoch said as he walked past.
Johnny sighed and walked outside. “ You got a problem with my past old man…..say it…..otherwise don’t pass judgment on what I did in my past and who I rode with……..THAT isn’t a right you have.” Johnny said firmly as he swung up on the stallion and headed out of town.
Johnny was gone every morning before the sun came up. Sometimes at night he would come in well past supper and just go to his room and not even speak to his father. He would spot Scott out with the hands moving cattle or fixing fence, but never ride up and talk. He knew what was bothering him, and deep down inside he knew what the inevitable outcome would be. Once again, Johnny Madrid would face down another gunfighter and either kill or be killed. Gunfighters didn’t have friends. It just wasn’t in the rules. Once a man puts on a gun and makes the choice to live by that gun, to become the fastest and the best at his trade, and that’s all gun fighting was, a trade, that man couldn’t afford to have friends, because sometimes those friends would turn o you just for a few dollars and kill you. In his case, men he had worked with, rode with and some he didn’t even know, wanted to kill him because of his reputation and nothing more. Funny thing about a reputation, once a man had it, it was hard to get rid of, and in his case, his reputation was worth killing to get.
Would his father ever be able to really accept him for who he is? This question, Johnny found himself asking more and more the longer he stayed at Lancer. That and did he even have a right to be a part owner in the biggest ranch in California? Hearing a horse approaching, Johnny drew his colt as he turned the stallion.
“ Damn it Scott!” he yelled. “ You trying to get yourself shot?…….Don’t sneak up on me like that.” Johnny said as he holstered the colt.
“ I wasn’t sneaking Johnny. You were so lost in thought, you just didn’t hear me brother.” Scott responded. “ I figured since I haven’t seen you all week, I’d find you out here and see what’s wrong?”
“ Nothing’s wrong Scott.”
“ Then how come you’re avoiding us?”
“ I’m not avoiding you.”
“ Really, could have fooled me little brother. Teresa thinks maybe you’re mad at her.”
“ You don’t get it………None of you get it.”
“ Get what johnny?…….Talk to me, please.”
“ The other day in Moro Coyo…….I used to ride with Isham, we were friends. Now he’s here to try and kill me.”
“ Johnny, I’m sorry. I never………Maybe you won;t have. Maybe Isham will leave.”
“ No he won’t Scott……..Don’t you see, when a gunfighter takes a job, he has to finish that job or be branded a coward and never be able to take another job.”
“ And when you live by the gun, like you had to do, a job is your way of surviving right?”
“ Yeah…….All I ever wanted was to be good at my trade. Be the best because that’s what I thought was important Scott.”
“ Something tells me you don’t feel that way anymore.”
“ To tell you the truth Scott, I don’t know what I feel anymore.”
“ Look Johnny, you haven’t been eating much, you look like you haven’t slept in a week. Come home, eat a good hot meal and get some much needed rest. You’ll wake up in the morning feeling much better and be able to see things more clearly.”
“ I see what I need to see Scott…..But I could use a good meal from Teresa.” Johnny said as he turned his horse and the brothers headed home.
Buck Addison was mad. Lancer had more pull in the state than he figured the man to have. Standing there, he read the letter, crumpled it up in his hand and stormed out of the hotel lobby and upstairs to his hotel room. Pouring a shot of whiskey, he downed it and sat down on the bed and read the letter again.
It has been brought to our attention that you are trying to have a part of the spur from Stockton to Green River run across part of a ranched called Lancer. It has been brought to my attention from the governor of the state, who is a very good friend of both mine and Mister Lancer. The governor wishes this to not happen. I have been told that you have threatened Mister Lancer with Eminent Domain to run the track across his land. I assure you that the CPRR has no intention of ever using Eminent Domain against any property owners to get this spur laid. We find that it is our best interest that you cease and diciest any and all surveying as the CPRR has determined it would not be beneficial to the ranchers of the valley due to it being just too costly to build and maintain. As of the time of my writing this letter to you my investors and I believe it in our best interest to terminate any and all involvement with you effective immediately. Any and all actions you choose to do from this date forward are of your own choosing and will not by no means reflect back on the CPRR or its share holders.
Founder and President of CPRR
How the hell did he know what he was doing. Buck wondered, then it hit him. Those two worthless surveyors, Seth and Charlie, they had to be the ones to tell him. Fired, he had never in his life been let go from a job. Never had he ever not completed what he set out to do, and he wasn’t about to start now. Now, because of those two imbeciles and Murdoch Lancer, he could lose it all, but he still had an ace up his sleeve, Sexton Joe and Isham, the two gunfighters. They would take care of Madrid and once he was dead, Murdoch Lancer would be an easy target.
Toby Jenks road under the Lancer arch at an easy lope, slowing to a trot when he came into the yard.
“ Scott, Johnny, is Murdoch here?” Toby asked as he dismounted.
“ He’s inside.” Scott told him as he glanced at Johnny.
Toby followed the boys through the veranda doors into the Grand room.
“ Murdoch, you have a visitor.” Johnny said.
“ Toby, what are you doing here?” Murdoch asked as he closed the ledger he was working on and stood up.
“ It’s over.” Toby said bluntly.
“ What’s over?” Murdoch asked.
“ The CPRR, they pulled out. They’re not going to build a spur from Stockton to Green River.”
“ How do you know this?” Johnny asked.
“ Here, read it for yourself. It’s front page news.” Toby said as he took out a newsletter from the Cattleman’s association and handed it to Murdoch to read.
“ Says here that due to cost.” Murdoch stated.
“ Yeah, that and the governor.” Toby added.
“ The governor………..What’s he have to do with it?” Scott asked as he took the paper from his father and started reading it.
“ Your father and the governor are good friends.”
“ Yes, but I still don’t understand how the governor could stop this.”
“ I sent out a couple of wires, one of them just happened to be to the governor asking him about the spur and Eminent Domain.”
“ Well it worked Murdoch.” Toby said.
“ Who else knows about this?” Murdoch asked.
“ Just about all the ranchers. Jim isn’t to happy about it, I can tell ya.”
“ No, I expect he wouldn’t be. Money out of his pocket.” Murdoch said as he went and poured a drink.
“ Listen, I gotta get back to my ranch. I just wanted you to know.”
“ Thank you for riding out here Toby. I appreciate it.”
“ Johnny, Scott……I’ll see ya Murdoch.”
“ Maybe this will put a stop to Buck Addison?” Scott said.
“ Maybe to him.” Johnny responded.
“ You don’t sound to happy son.”
“ Did you forget that Addison hired two gunfighters old man?”
“ No I haven’t forgotten about that Johnny.” Murdoch snapped back. “ There’s no reason for them to stay here. What he hired them for is finished. There’s no need for them to stay here.”
Johnny laughed. “ You don’t get it do you?” he asked. “ Do you really think this is over Murdoch? Because if you do, you’re a fool old man.”
“ Stop calling me an old man Johnny, I’m your father and you will treat me as such.”
“ Would you two stop it.” Scott demanded. “ Johnny has a point Murdoch. It’s not over.”
“ What the devil are you talking about?” Murdoch demanded.
“You’re a real piece of work Murdoch. Sexton Joe and Isham won’t leave here until I’m dead.”
“ Or they are.” Scott added.
“ Right. Addison hired them to kill me. Men like that don’t just go away Murdoch.” Johnny stated before heading out the door to the veranda.
“ Are you ever going to start seeing things the way Johnny does sir?” Scott asked.
“ I didn’t think they would stay son.”
“ Johnny told you that men like that don’t stop until the job they were hired to do is finished.” Scott said firmly before heading out the door.
Murdoch ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “ Johnny…..Scott…I need to talk to you both. Would you please come back inside?”
“ At least he said please. That’s more than he usually does.” Johnny said with a slight smile.
“ I completely forgot about the other telegram I sent to my friend asking him to check out that old mine that used to be up there.” Murdoch said as the boys walked back inside. “ I haven’t heard anything back from him yet.”
“ You think Addison will still try something?” Scott asked.
“ I don’t know. What do you think Johnny?”
Johnny’ head shot up, looking at his father. “ You’re asking me?”
“ Yes son…..I’m asking what you think.”
“ I think we need to find those two surveyors, Seth and Charlie. I think they know more than they said.”
“ And just where do you suggest we look for them sir?” Scott asked. “ They could be long gone by now.”
“ I’ll wire the president of CPRR. He can find out were those two are since they work for him.”
“ Murdoch……Don’t you think if he does find them, don’t you think they’re gonna get awful suspicious if you have them come back to Lancer?” Johnny asked.
“ They do as they’re told Johnny……Remember……That’s what the one kept telling us that first time. If they’re told to come back here and do some say……private surveying for someone.”
“ Yeah, I see what you’re saying Scott. They wouldn’t know it was us. We could have them come to Moro Coyo to meet someone when it’s really use they’re meeting.”
“ Right you are little brother.”
“ You know boys….that just might work. I’ll ride into Moro Coyo tomorrow and send a wire.”
“ Not alone you won’t.” Johnny said firmly.
“ Alright son. The two of you can ride into town with me.”
Buck Addison came out of the hotel in Green River and walked to the saloon. The two men he sought were sitting at a table. A bottle of whiskey sat on the table half empty.
“ Would you two mind telling me why Madrid is still alive?” he demanded when he walked up to them.
“ Madrid will die when I decide he dies.” Sexton Joe said as he put his bible down.
“ I’ve paid you both good money to kill that half-breed and I want him dead…….Do I make myself clear?”
“ Look, I’m not gonna do it.” Isham said. “ Johnny and me rode together. I’m not gonna call him out. You can have your money back. I’m not doing it.”
“ You’ll do it or else.” Buck said, slamming his fist on the table.
“ No. You said nothing about Johnny Madrid until we got here. I never should have agreed to this. I’m out.” Isham said before standing and leaving.
“ What about you?” Buck asked.
“ When I take a job, I usually finish that job.” Sexton Joe said.
“ I want Madrid dead. I’m giving you two days…..If he’s still alive in two days. There won’t be a place you can hide. Having you killed will be no problem.” Addison stated before storming out of the saloon.
“ Live by the gun, die by the gun. Somewhere, someplace, one day you’ll face another man who’s faster than you. Your destiny is sealed the minute you pick up and gun and chose to live by that gun. Somebody will eventually find you who is faster and has a bullet with your name on it.” Isham was told that the very first job he did with Madrid. An honest gunfighter lived by a code that only they knew. Pride in my trade, Isham remembers saying to Johnny once. People could tell a gunfighter most times by how they wore there gun. Not all gunfighters wore their gun low on their hip like Madrid. Most gunfighters were left alone when they came into a town. Some loved to strike fear into the innocent people of a town when they rode in. Each having their own little secret when facing another in the street. Isham knew Johnny had learned one of these secrets when young. He remembers asking him once, but Madrid wouldn’t give it up. Give up that secret to winning a gunfight, and that gunfighter seals his fate with a bullet.
Could he face a man he considered a friend, knowing that friend could and most likely would beat him to the draw, and kill him? That is what Isham kept asking himself ever since he rode out of Moro Coyo, headed back to Green River.
“ We all gotta die sometime.” he said aloud. “ Guess it might as well be by a friend.” he added as he kicked his horse into an easy lope.
Murdoch walked out of the telegraph office and spotted his two sons across the street, outside Baldanero’s store.
“ You get the telegram sent?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. I told Caleb to send a rider to the ranch with a response as soon as it comes.” Murdoch responded. “ Is there a reason you boys are outside Baldanero’s store?”
“ Ask Johnny?” Scott said with a grin.
“ What, all I said was I think it would be nice to buy Teresa something nice. You know, to try and make up for how I made her feel last week.”
“ An apology kinda gift you mean son?”
“ Yeah, only for some reason, Scott here thinks it’s funny.” Johnny told his father.
“ I think it’s a very sweet kind gesture son. Did you have something in mind for her?”
“ That’s what I asked Scott, If he had an idea on what she might like, and that’s when he started laughing.”
“ I’m sorry Johnny. I’m not laughing at you so much as I’m laughing at how you asked me brother.”
“ And just how did your brother ask you?”
“ He asked me if I thought Teresa would like some of that smelly stuff women wear.”
“ You mean perfume?”
“ Yeah, I guess that’s what you call it.” Johnny answered.
“ Well son, I wouldn’t mind helping you find some, and if Baldanero doesn’t have any, then I’m sure we can find something else to get her.”
“ How about some fabric for making dresses?” Scott suggested. “ That church social is in two days.”
“ She already has fabric for that son.”
“ Well maybe a little trinket or maybe a good book.”
“ Scott, Murdoch has a wall full of books already she can read.” Johnny stated.
“ Well let’s go inside and see what we can find Teresa might like.” Murdoch suggested.
Johnny found Teresa in the kitchen preparing supper. “ Hey.”
“ Hi Johnny. Is there something you need?” she asked as she set a pan of biscuits on top of the stove.
“ I have something for you.” he said as he handed her a small wooden box with a ribbon tied around it. “ It’s to say I’m sorry for last week and the way I was to you.”
“ Johnny, you didn’t have to do that. I know you weren’t mad at me. You have a lot on your mind.” she said as she took the small box and sat down at the table to open it.
“ I’m not really good at picking out things like that for young ladies.”
“ Oh Johnny.” Teresa said as she removed a small music box intricately carved with mountains and trees on the lid. “ It’s beautiful. Thank you Johnny.” Teresa said as she set it down and stood up, wrapping her arms around him. “ I love it. I will cherish it forever.” she said as she hugged him
Johnny hugged her back. “ Hey, you think I can still have a dance with you at that church social?”
“ Of course you can Johnny.”
Murdoch walked into the kitchen.
“ Murdoch look what Johnny got me……Isn’t it beautiful?” Teresa asked as she showed the music box to him.
“ Yes it is honey. That was real nice of you Johnny. Can I have a word with you in the other room John?”
Johnny smiled at Teresa. “ I’m glad you like it. I’m gonna hold you to that dance.” he said as he headed to the grand room.
Murdoch stood looking out the big picture window when he walked in.
“ You wanted to talk to me?” Johnny asked as he went to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila.
“ It’s about the church social son.” Murdoch started. “ There are a lot of good people in this valley John.
“ You mean people who don’t want my kind at their social?” Johnny asked harshly.
“ Not very many people know you are back son……..What I would like to do is introduce you around as my son Johnny Lancer, if that’s alright?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny stood there speechless, just staring at his father.
“ I know you go by Madrid, but I would really like people to know who you really are son.”
Johnny turned around and poured another shot of tequila and downed it, the empty glass down hard on the sideboard.
“ You have a problem with my name?” he asked coldly.
“ No I don’t son…….Look Johnny, I’m not trying to pick a fight with you son. I’m proud of you no matter what name you go by. I would just like to know if I can introduce you as Johnny Lancer.”
“ How about Johnny Madrid Lancer, since that’s who I’ve been my whole life?” Johnny asked with sharpness.
“ Why are you being like this John? All I asked was if I could introduce you as my son Johnny Lancer. I don’t understand why you’re being so insolent to me. It was a harmless question Johnny and nothing more.”
“ You don’t get it do you?” Johnny demanded.
“ Get what?” Murdoch demanded. His temper now starting to flare.
“ The person you want to introduce me as to all your high fa-lootin’ friends doesn’t exist Murdoch. I haven’t been Johnny Lancer since I was a baby. I’ve been Johnny Madrid my whole life, and it’s being Johnny Madrid that has kept me alive……NOT Johnny Lancer.”
“ You don’t have to be Johnny Madrid anymore son. Don’t you see that? Why are you being so damn stubborn about this.”
“ Because YOU won’t accept that we’re both the same damn person.” Johnny said before turning and storming out the front door, slamming it hard enough to rattle the windows.
“ What is going on in here?” Scott asked as he walked into the room.
“ Your damn brother is being stubborn as usual.” Murdoch snapped back.
“ About what now?” Scot asked as he pulled his gloves off.
“ All I did was ask him if I could introduce him as my son Johnny Lancer at the church social, and he became upset because I won’t introduce him as Johnny Madrid……He says Johnny Lancer doesn’t exist anymore.”
“ Johnny Madrid Lancer does sir…….Maybe you should have suggested that sir?”
“ He suggested that sharply.”
“ And what did you say to that?”
“ I told him he didn’t have to be Johnny Madrid anymore.”
“ Murdoch, until you can accept that Johnny Lancer AND Johnny Madrid are the same person, you and my brother will never really get along.”
“ I thought I was doing the right thing asking him before son. I want people to know my son has come home.” Murdoch said sadly.
“ You still think of Johnny as that little boy twenty years ago. He’s a grown man now sir.” Scott stated before turning to find his brother. “ For your sake, I hope you realize that before it’s to late.” Scott added as he walked out the front door.
Sexton Joe came out of the hotel in Green River Sunday morning, and stood on the boardwalk watching people coming into town for the church and the social gathering after. Word around town was that the Lancer’ would be attending church and the social after. This he heard from two young ladies talking in the hotel lobby about a young lady living at Lancer, and how happy they would be to see her. All he had to do was wait and hope Madrid showed up with them, and the right time to call him out.
“ Today’s your last day.” Addison said as he walked out of the hotel and stopped next to Sexton Joe.
“ Madrid will be killed today, and after I kill him…..I’m coming after you……So you might want to keep that pistol you carry real close.” Sexton Joe said coldly.
“ Don’t threaten me……..You’re nothing but a cold blooded killer like Madrid.” Addison responded back.
Sexton Joe stepped closer. “ That wasn’t a threat……That was a promise.” he said coldly before turning and walking away.
“ You’re not wearing your gun to church are you Johnny?” Teresa asked as she climbed into the buggy with Murdoch.
Johnny swung up on the stallion. “ I don’t go to church or anywhere else without it Teresa.”
“ There’s no need to wear that gun in church Johnny.” Murdoch informed.
Johnny ignored him and rode out ahead of them.
“ We can’t force Johnny to do what he doesn’t want to do sir.” Scott stated. “ He doesn’t feel comfortable enough yet to not wear it.”
“ I can understand that Scott, but not in a church.” Teresa responded.
“ Have you both forgot there are still two gunfighters out there, hired to kill Johnny.”
“ That was the longest sermon I’ve ever heard father Michael give.” Scott said as he walked out of the church.
“ Scott, father Michael is a good man. He’s done a lot for the people around here.”
“ Johnny, so what did you do while we were inside?”
“ Nothing.” Johnny responded.
“ You chose to do nothing instead of attend church with us, Johnny/” Teresa asked.
“ Murdoch.” Father Michael called as he walked over. “ It was nice seeing you in church today. Miss Teresa, Scott……..I don’t believe I seen this young man in church today.” Father Michael said as he stepped closer to Johnny.
Johnny just ignored the man.
“I’m sorry Father Michael. This is my son Johnny.” Murdoch stated. “ He came back home last month.”
Johnny walked over to his horse.
“ Johnny. It’s good to see you.” Sam said as he walked up to the young man.
“ That was a real nice sermon you gave Father.” Scott cut in, sensing his brothers uneasiness.
“ Why thank you Scott…..Well if you will excuse me. Please, enjoy the beautiful day the lord has provided.”
“ Murdoch, you have a lot of nerve bringing that half-breed killer to church.” Addison said softly.
“ Buck, if you know what’s good for you, you will refrain from making derogatory remarks about my son.”
“ I wonder how the good people of this church would feel if they knew they just had a cold-blooded killer attend their church?”
Scott was standing with Teresa, talking to some lady friends of hers when he noticed the anger on his fathers face. Stepping over to him.
“ Is something wrong sir?” Scott asked.
Murdoch looked at his son. “ Where’s your brother?”
“ He’s talking to Sam.” Scott responded.
“ Buck Addison is the problem. That man is so full of hate.”
“ I would really like to know why he is so interested in that north section.”
“ Hopefully we get an answer soon.” Murdoch responded. “ Let’s go see Sam.
Addison seen Father Michael go into the church. “ I’ll fix you Lancer.” he said as he headed into the church.
“ Johnny, you doing alright?” Sam asked.
“ Yeah….I’m fine.” Johnny told him.
“ Sam, how you doing?” Murdoch asked as he walked up.
“ I’m doing good. I thought I would check on Johnny and see how he’s doing.”
“ I told you, I’m fine doc.” Johnny said.
Murdoch seen Buck walking with Father Michael toward them.
“ Father, mister Lancer.”
“ Johnny, I just had an interesting conversation with mister Addison and It has been brought to my attention that you have maybe strayed.” Father Michael stated.
“ I haven’t strayed anywhere.” Johnny answered.
“ I want you to know that I am here for you any time you wish to speak to me in private. My door is always open for you.”
“ Father Michael, didn’t you hear what I told you?………..He’s a cold blooded killer.” Buck said with anger.
“ I heard what you said mister Addison…..I also know that it is not your place, nor mine to pass judgment on a man for what he has done in his past…..Johnny is one of gods sons just like you.” Father Michael told him. “ I do not see a dangerous man standing before me. I see a man who may have had a hard childhood, but has come home to his family and deserves a second chance just like anyone else.”
Buck was furious. Turning he walked away.
Several hours later everybody was starting to pack up to go home. Murdoch and Teresa headed to the buggy. Scott and Johnny stood talking when they walked up.
“ You boys ready to go home?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah.” Johnny answered. “ Give me a second Murdoch.” Johnny said as he walked over to Father Michael and spoke to him for a few minutes. Walking back to his horse, Johnny was about to mount up when he heard it.
“ Johnny Madrid.” came the voice. “ I’m calling you out.”
Johnny looked and a sick feeling hit him. Standing just down the street was Isham.
“ Johnny.” Murdoch called.
“ Murdoch don’t.” Scott cut in.
Johnny dropped the reins. “ Stay out of this old man.” Johnny ordered as his eyes scanned for Sexton Joe.
“ There……see…..that’s what I was talking about…..Now you’ll see. Now you’ll all see, Johnny Madrid is nothing more than a ruthless cold-blooded killer.” Addison yelled.
Murdoch walked up to the man. “ Addison…….This… is…. your…. fault. YOU brought that man here.” Murdoch stammered just before hitting the man, knocking him hard to the ground. “ You better pray my son survives this, because if he doesn’t.,
Addison stood up and wiped the blood from his mouth. “ If he dies…….It will be because he;s nothing but a killer. Men like him don’t deserve to live among decent people.”
“ It is not your place to say who can live in this valley and who cannot mister Addison.” Father Michael said.
Sexton Joe heard Madrid called out. Walking over to the window of his hotel room, he looked out and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Standing in the middle of the street, Isham had called Madrid out. Looking down the street toward the church, Sexton Joe seen Madrid walking toward Isham. Grabbing his gun, he left his room and went out the back of the hotel.
“ Why are you doing this Isham?” Johnny asked.
“ You know why Johnny boy.”
“ Isham, you know you can’t beat me.”
“ You refusing to fight me?”
“ Why…..I mean it’s useless…..We were friends Isham.”
“ Sorry Johnny boy, but a jobs a job.”
“ It’s not worth dying for, Isham. I don’t want to do this.”
“ You once told me, live by the gun, die by the gun. Our fates sealed when we chose to be gunfighters Johnny. It didn’t choose us.” Isham stated. “ You told me that someone will come along one day, that’s faster, guess that day is here for me.”
“ It doesn’t have to be this way Isham.”
Murdoch stood listening to his son pleading with his friend. He could hear the pain ever so slightly in his voice. Watching Johnny face down the kid not so long ago on this very street, his son had tried talking that kid out of facing him, now he was doing it again, only this time it was with a man his son had rode with and worked beside. All he could do was pray silently his son wouldn’t die in front of him this day.
“ My god.” Sam said softly, standing at Scott’ side. “ Isn’t there something you can do Scott, to stop this?”
“ We can’t Sam. We try and it will break his concentration and could get Johnny killed.” Scott said softly. “ Where’s the other one?”
“ What other one?” Sam asked.
“ Addison hired two gunfighters to come here and kill Johnny. I don’t see the other one.” Scott said as he turned and went to his horse and pulled the rifle out of the scabbard.
Teresa stayed at the buggy with Father Michael. Toby Jenks, Dan Marvin and a few others watched, each wondering who would die. Some whispered among themselves, speculating that Madrid would die, others saying the other man, Isham would.
Sexton Joe stood just to Madrid’ left, between the hotel and Baldanero’s store. Watching Isham, he knew when Isham went for his gun, it would be his chance to kill Madrid.
“ I always knew I would get a bullet some day. I guess today’s that day Johnny.” Isham said as he went for his gun.
Johnny seen the sign he had learned a long time ago to watch for and drew his colt and fired. His bullet hitting it’s mark dead center in the chest.
Isham cleared leather, but never got a shot off as Johnny’ bullet hit him in the chest. Looking down, he seen the small red stain start spreading across his chest. Dropping his gun as he staggered a little before falling to the ground dead.
A second shot rang out, tearing through Johnny’ left leg, dropping him to the ground. Sexton Joe came into view aiming and firing, hitting Johnny in his left shoulder as two shots from a rifle sounded and Sexton Joe fell onto the boardwalk dead.
Murdoch and Scott went running to Johnny’ side, guns drawn. “ SAM.” Murdoch yelled. “ Lay still son. Sam’ coming.”
“ Take it easy Johnny. It’s over……I got you brother.” Scott said as he picked Johnny up and started carrying him to Sam’ office.
“ Take him to the room in the back and lay him on the table Scott.” Sam ordered.
“ Scott………….I didn’t see him.” Johnny said softly.
“ I know brother. I didn’t see him either. I’m sorry brother…..Just take it easy and let Sam take care of you.”
Murdoch and Teresa came into the room. “Sam, how bad is it?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t know yet……..I want you and Scott to wait out in the other room. Teresa, I could use your help.”
“ Of course Sam.” Teresa responded. “ Just tell me what you want me to do.”
“ Get out of here now Murdoch, Scott……Let me work.” Sam ordered. “ Teresa get a bandage on that leg as tight as you can to stop the bleeding. This shoulder wound won’t wait.”
“ It looks like the bullet went clean through his leg Sam.” Teresa said as she wrapped the wound tightly.
“ Johnny………..Johnny I want you to listen to me….I’m going to give you some laudanum for the pain.”
“ Don’t want none doc…….Just……Just get it out.” Johnny said between pain spasms.
“ Johnny……I can’t have you moving around while I’m digging that bullet out. You could cause more damage.”
“ Just do it Sam.”
“ Johnny, please.” Teresa pleaded. “ Take the laudanum, please.”
“ Sorry….. Teresa…..I……can’t.” Johnny stammered as darkness claimed him.
“ It’s alright Teresa, he passed out……Thank god.” Sam said as he picked up his forceps and started to remove the bullet in Johnny’ shoulder. “ This boy is so stubborn.” he said as he probed for the bullet.
“ I told him I would always have his back.” Scott said softly. “ I never seen the other man.”
“ Son, Johnny will be okay. He knows you had his back…..You killed Sexton Joe.” Murdoch said reassuringly. “ Johnny’ not going to blame you……..If anyone’s to blame for this, it’s that damn fool Buck Addison.” Murdoch said with anger as Father Michael walked in.
“ Mister Lancer, how is he?” father Michael asked.
“ We don’t know yet.” Murdoch responded.
“ What I witnessed out there…….I have to say……is not the man mister Addison said your son was……I’ve seen men die before, and it’s a sad thing to witness, but your Johnny, gave that man every opportunity to walk away.”
“ My brother is not the cold-blooded killer Addison says he is. Johnny doesn’t want to live by his gun anymore Father. He wants to stay here, and be a ranchers son, my brother, but certain people will always try and kill him.”
“ I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Father Michael said.
“ My son has built a reputation as the best gunfighter around Father. People come here like that boy a short time back and try to kill him for that damn reputation.”
“ When I came out here, I was told the west was a sometimes brutal place……..But to kill a man for something so frivolous.”
“ I’m afraid when you’re a gunfighter Father, frivolous does not apply.”
“ My son had a rough life growing up in Mexico Father Michael, he’s been abused…..He witnessed his mother being brutally murdered. The only way he could stop the abuse he was receiving was to pick up a gun to survive.”
“ Father, may I ask you what it was my brother said to you before?” Scott asked.
“ He invited me out to your estancia for a home cooked meal. He said if I came, he would talk to me.” Father Michael said. “ You seem a little surprised.”
“ No…..I’m sorry. It’s just that……Johnny was badly abused in an orphanage for almost a year after his mother was murdered. This morning, he said he would come with us to church, but he wouldn’t attend.”
“ Perhaps your son has had a change of heart…….Or perhaps he wishes someone to talk to who will not pass judgment on what he says.”
Scott looked at his father. “ I think we can both relate to that Father.”
Sam came out of the room wiping his hands.
“ Sam how is he?” Scott asked.
“ He’s unconscious. The bullet went through muscle only in his leg. He won’t be walking on it for a few weeks.” Sam said.
“ His shoulder is another story. The bullet nicked his clavicle. He’s not going to be able to move that arm for quite some time.” Sam instructed. “ Now given how we all know how Johnny feels about taking laudanum, the pain he will be experiencing from that broken bone, trust me, will be worse that the pain from his leg wound.”
“ When can he go home Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ Well he’s still unconscious. I want to keep him here over night, then we can move him to the hotel for a couple days. He really shouldn’t be moving around to much.”
“ I think I’ll go get us all a room at the hotel sir.” Scott suggested as he headed to the door.
“ See if you can find someone to ride out to the ranch and let Hank know what’s happened and that we will be staying in town a few days.” Murdoch asked.
Sam walked into the back room and found Teresa asleep in a chair next to the table Johnny was laying on. Putting his hand on her shoulder, he gave her a gentle shake. “ You need to go over to the hotel and get some rest young lady.”
“ I’m sorry, I must have dosed off.” she said as she stood up.
“ It’s quite alright.” Sam told her as he checked Johnny’ bandages.
“ He was moaning a little about four. I thought he was going to wake up.” Teresa told him.
“ He has a slight fever, that’s expected. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get worse……….Now, I want you to go over to the hotel and get something to eat and go to bed. I’m going to have Johnny moved over there this afternoon, so you will need plenty of rest.”
“ Alright Sam. I’m sure Murdoch and Scott are awake by now.”
Murdoch and Scott sat in the lobby of the hotel eating breakfast. Neither man having gotten much sleep.
“ Addison has got to be stopped sir.” Scott stated.
“ We have no proof he’s behind this Scott. We have got to find those two surveyors.” Murdoch said as Teresa walked into the lobby.
“ You know, I’m worried sir. Johnny had to gun down a friend. How’s that going to affect him sir?”
“ I don’t know son. All I know is, if he wants to talk to us about it, we need to listen.”
“ You know, Father Michael made a good point yesterday when he said Johnny invited him to the ranch to have someone to talk to that wouldn’t pass judgment on him for what he’s done in the past.”
“ I’m not passing judgment on your brother. I may not approve of what he did……Of him becoming a gunfighter son, I wasn’t there when he was growing up. Your brother did what he had to do to stay alive.”
“ There’s Teresa.” Scott stated as he stood up. “ How is he?” he asked.
“ He’s running a slight fever. Sam said that’s to be expected. I thought he was going to wake up around four this morning when he started moaning.”
“ You look tired.” Murdoch stated.
“ I am a little I guess. Sam ordered me to come get something to eat and some sleep before we move Johnny over here this afternoon.
Buck Addison came down the stairs and stopped at the desk.
“ Can I help you?” the clerk asked.
“ Yes. I’ll be checking out tomorrow. I would like you to have my bill ready when I do.”
“ Very well mister Addison.”
Buck noticed Murdoch, sitting in the lobby and walked over to his table.
“ I thought you’d like to know…… that parcel of land adjacent to your north section….well I just bought it.”
“ Stay off Lancer land, Addison.” Murdoch ordered as he stood up.
“ Now that’s not being very neighborly.”
“ We may have to be neighbors……But I don’t have to be neighborly. If you or any men that work for you touch any of my cows or do anything to my fences. I’m not going to the law Addison…….I’m coming after you.”
“ Why that sounds like a threat.”
Murdoch drew his fist back and hit Buck as hard as he could in the mouth. “ Wrong word……Fact.” Murdoch said before walking out.
“ How’s he doing Sam?” Murdoch asked.
“ His leg is looking good. I don’t think there will be any infection.” Sam responded. “ Teresa, could you get me my stethoscope?”
“ Why hasn’t he woke up yet Sam?” Teresa asked as she handed Sam the stethoscope.
“ Johnny likes to do things his own way. I expect he’ll be coming around soon.” Sam said as he listened to Johnny’ heart.
“ Sam, will he have any side effects from that wound in his shoulder?” Murdoch asked.
Sam put his stethoscope away. “ The bullet chipped his clavicle. I removed all the splinters and given he does what he’s told to do and keeps that arm bound up for as long as I say, he should make a full recovery……I’ll come back and change the bandages in the morning. I think you’ll be able to take him home tomorrow.” Sam said as he put his coat on and started to the door.
“ I need to go take care of a few things Teresa. Will you be alright with Johnny while I’m gone?”
“ I’ll be fine.”
“ Alright, Scott will be back later on this afternoon.”
“ Murdoch, I’ll be fine. I’m going to sit here and give Johnny a piece of my mind for not waking up yet.”
Murdoch laughed. “ Rest is the best thing for him sweetheart.”
“ I know, but he hasn’t come too yet from being shot. I don’t want to lose him Murdoch. You, Scott and Johnny are my family.”
Murdoch walked over to Teresa and put his arms around her. “ You’re like a daughter to me. I know your father would be proud of the young lady you have grown to become…….I’ll be back in a bit.”
“ Johnny Lancer, you better open your eyes right now.” Teresa ordered. Standing up, she walked over to the window and looked out. “ Murdoch, Scott and me need you to stay with us Johnny.” She said as she walked back over to the bed. “ Murdoch would sit in front of the fireplace at night and talk to me about you. He would wonder what you were like.”
“ Teresa?” Johnny asked softly as he struggled to open his eyes.
“ I’m here. Open your eyes Johnny.”
“ Hey.” Johnny said as he tried to move.
“ Easy, you can’t move around to much.” Teresa said as she pored some water. “ Here, drink this.”
Johnny sipped the water. “ Where am I?” he asked as he laid his head back down.
“ Sam had you moved to the hotel yesterday.”
“ How bad is it?”
“ You were shot in the leg, Sam said the bullet went through muscle only.”
“ My shoulder hurts something fierce.”
“ Johnny, you were shot in your left shoulder. Sam said the bullet nicked your clavicle. He has your arm bound up tight to keep you from moving it around.”
Johnny pushed himself up with his right arm.
“ Johnny, you need to……”
“ I need to sit up Teresa…..Where’s Scot and Murdoch?”
“ Scott rode out to the ranch. He’ll be back later this afternoon. Murdoch had some things to take care of in town and will be back shortly.”
One month later Johnny stood at the corral watching Carl work a mare he’d broke a week before.
“ She’s going to be a good horse.” Murdoch said as he walked over and stood next to his son.
“ He’s doing a good job bringing her along.” Johnny stated. “ You checking up on me?”
“ No, I came over to see if you would like to play some checkers with me on the veranda. Teresa made some lemonade and cookies.”
“ She did huh. Well I guess her cookies alone is good enough reason.”
Scott rode into the yard late afternoon and handed his horse off to Hank. “ So who’s winning?” he asked as he walked up.
“ I’m afraid your brother is having no pity on me.” Murdoch said jokingly.
“ I picked up the mail while I was in town. Johnny, you got a letter.” Scott said as he handed the letter to his brother and the rest of the mail to Murdoch.
“ Thanks.” Johnny said as he jumped his fathers last checker.
“ See what I mean.” Murdoch stated.
“ Well, I think I will get cleaned up for supper.” Scott said.
“ So when can I ride again Sam?” Johnny asked.
“ I think we can leave the arm in just a sling now. The area is still pretty tender to the touch Johnny. I know Murdoch probably wants you to get back to work.”
“ It’s got nothing to do with what Murdoch wants Sam.” Johnny said as he put his shirt back on. “ I got something needs doin’, and I need to be able to ride.”
Sam closed his medical bag and removed his glasses. “ Mind telling me what it is?”
Johnny just looked at him as he buttoned his shirt.
“ You know Johnny, I have a very strict policy I follow called, doctor, Patient confidentiality. What my patient tells me, goes no further, regardless of what it is.”
“ I appreciate that Sam, but there’s some things you and others are better off not knowing.”
“ Alright Johnny, I can understand that to a point. I mean, you do realize you have people who care about you now. If you’re planning on doing something that would hurt those people, do you think that would be fair to them?”
“ I’m not going to hurt anyone Sam.”
“ I don’t mean physically hurt them John. I mean heart wise hurt them. If you went and did something that got you killed, it would break those peoples heart.” Sam stated as he adjusted a sling around Johnny’ neck. “ Slide your arm in this and let me know how it feels.” Sam instructed.
Johnny carefully slid his arm into the sling.
“ How’s that feel?”
“ Feels good Sam.”
“ You know John….I’m one of those people. I don’t know if Murdoch told you or not, but I helped deliver you twenty years ago.”
Johnny looked at the man. “ I guess that’s just something else he didn’t want to tell me.”
“ You were in a hurry to be born. Murdoch sent for me when the labor pains started. I got here just when her water broke, and less than an hour later, you were born.”
“ How was he……..I mean, how was……?”
“ Murdoch?…….When I carried you downstairs and showed you to Murdoch, he took you in his arms and held you with pride John. He couldn’t have been any prouder than when he held you for that very first time.”
“ Sometimes…….” Johnny walked over to the window and looked out.
“ Sometimes what?” Sam asked as he walked over.
“ Sometimes I feel like he doesn’t want me here Sam. He’s seen me gun down two men………..I hate that he had to see that.” Johnny said softly.
“ Johnny, I know having your family see a part of you, you never wanted them to see is hard. Really I do.” Sam said with compassion. “ Have you tried talking to him about it?”
“ I want to Sam, but every time I think I can, he gives me a look or has a tone in his voice that says if I said anything he would get mad at me and we would end up fighting.”
“ The only thing I can suggest Johnny, is for you to try. What do you do in the evenings before you go to bed?”
“ I usually play a game or two of checkers with Scott. Why?”
“ May I make a suggestion?”
“ Sure Sam.”
“ When you are done playing checkers and Scott and Teresa go to bed, stay up and talk to him.”
“ How do I keep it from turning into a fight with him though, because it seems like anything to do with Madrid, he gets mad and doesn’t want to listen to me.”
“ I’ve known Murdoch for many years. He can be a pain in the ass some times, but his heart is in the right place John. Trust me when I tell you this…..Murdoch couldn’t be more proud of you regardless of what your past holds.” Sam stated firmly.
“ Did he tell you what he did the morning after you were shot?”
“ No, like I said Sam, Murdoch seems to not want to tell me a lot of things.”
“ Well I’ll tell you. He confronted Buck Addison in the hotel lobby when he was eating breakfast. He hit him so hard, he fractured his jaw. Do you know why?”
“ Because of what he called you. Murdoch’ not perfect John, but he loves you and Scott, and Teresa, he loves her like a daughter.” Sam said as he picked up his bag. “ Listen, I have a couple more patients to see. You take it easy and no lifting with that arm. You can have it out of the sling around the house and when sleeping, but no lifting or riding yet.”
“ Okay Sam. Thanks.”
Sam stepped outside Johnny’ room and found Murdoch standing there. Motioning for the man to follow him downstairs and outside.
“ How long were you standing outside the room?” Sam asked as he climbed into his buggy.
“ Long enough.” Murdoch replied.
“ Let him come to you Murdoch, and when he does, listen to what he says, don’t get angry or pass judgment on him.”
“ I will Sam. Thanks.”
“ I’ll see ya Murdoch.”
“ There’s nothing here mister Addison.” Seth said. “ All the digging we’ve done, and there just isn’t anything here worth continuing. Your assayer was wrong.”
“ What do you mean my assayer was wrong. He assured me that gold was here.” Buck said with anger.
“ I’m sorry sir, but we’ve been digging for a month now, and the amount of gold we’ve brought up, you could pan for in the stream and get……Could he have been wrong on the spot sir?”
“ You can see were he marked.”
“ What about those from the two surveyors you had here? Could the markers have been mixed up?”
“ I want you to start digging along Lancer’ property line. There was a gold mine here forty years ago and the owner died. Nobody has mined or looked for that gold since then.”
“ But what about Lancer? He’s made it clear we’re not………..”
“ I don’t give a damn about Lancer……That gold is here and I have investors breathing down my neck because we haven’t started pulling it out……..Now get on it.”
“ Yes sir.” Seth answered as Addison walked away.
“ Well little brother, I believe I will surrender to you and call it a night.” Scott said as he stood up.
“ Oh come on Scott, one more.” Johnny asked.
“ Nope. I know when I’m licked.” Scott said with a laugh. “ Goodnight Teresa, Murdoch……Johnny.”
“ Goodnight son.”
“ I think I will turn in also.” Teresa said as she put her sewing away.
“ Night Scott, Teresa.” Johnny said as he stood up and went to the sideboard and poured two shots of brandy.
Murdoch closed the ledger he was working on and put it away.
“ How’s it looking?” Johnny asked as he walked over and handed his father the drink.
“ Good. I think we’ll have a profit of twenty five hundred dollars this year when we sell the cattle.”
“ You’re keeping those with calves?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. I figured in the fall we could go buy a bull to bring in new blood.”
“ A good bull can cost money.”
“ Yes they can son. The bulls I have now have been doing a good job, but it never hurts to have a new one.”
“What was it like for you?”
“ What was what like for me son?” Murdoch asked, knowing what his son meant.
“ When I was born?…….The short time I was here……..I don’t remember anything.”
“ It’s such a nice night. Let’s go outside and sit son.”
Johnny sighed and followed his father outside.
Murdoch sat down and looked at his son.
“ When I met your mother down I Matamoros, she was a thing of beauty. I was swept of my feet I guess you could sat, by her smile, and charm. Your brothers mother Catherine had been gone only a year. I was a lawman then, and your mother…she was working in this little Cantina a the edge of town…….I guess you could say, we had a very short romance before I asked her to marry me and come live here at Lancer.”
“ Because the great Murdoch Lancer couldn’t have a bastard kid running around.”
“No Johnny, I’m not ashamed of what happened between me and your mother. I still would have married her.”
“ I’m sorry…. I shouldn’t have said that…….. How was she when she came here?” Johnny asked before taking a sip of the brandy he had.
“Everybody welcomed her…I………….I thought she was happy here. As she got further along, she stayed more in the house.” Murdoch said. “ The night you were born, Paul rode into town and got Sam. He wasn’t here an hour I don’t think and I heard you cry for that first time.”
“ Must be why I’m so fast to react to something.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ When Sam brought you downstairs, I was so happy Johnny, When I held my little blue eyed boy for te first time……I couldn’t have been prouder.”
“ What made her change?”
“ I wish I knew son. Really I do, but I…….I didn’t see that she wasn’t happy here. I spent every second I could with you. I gave you your first ride and I remember your mother came outside and was so afraid you would get hurt. After that, there was no stopping you from riding a horse. You would get out the door and be headed to the barn every chance you could to see or ride the horses. Your mother was run ragged chasing you.” Murdoch said with a smile. “ The night she left me, everything seemed fine that evening. Even you were quiet……….I never heard her leave……When I woke in the morning and found her gone and you with her……..my heart was crushed. I have looked for you ever since Johnny.”
“ I’m sorry she hurt you Murdoch.”
“ It wasn’t your fault son. I will never know why she left here, but now that you’re back, all I can do is promise you that I will never ask you to leave your home. We made quarrel sometimes, as fathers and sons do, but I will never have you leave here. Lancer will always be your home.”
“ You know, when I left Mexico, I came here to kill you because I believed what my mother told me to be true about you.” Johnny started. “ That day in Green River, when you and Scott seen me kill that kid, I was ready to kill you then. I had planned on it before you left town, But, in the saloon, when I heard you talking and I found out I had a brother, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make him go through what I went my whole life through……..Not having a father. I don’t know if I can stay here Murdoch. I said I would give it a year, but……..having you and Scott witness me killing a man again…….”
“ son, I’m still having a hard time accepting the Madrid side of you……..BUT, I am getting better at it. At least I hope I am. I know killing your friend that day wasn’t easy for you. I can’t even begin to know what you’re feeling from that, but I want you to know……….I’m here for you if you need me.”
“ He’s going to pay. One way or another, Addison will pay.” Johnny said with coldness.
“Yes he will son. We just have to get the proof we need to put him behind bars.”
“ I’m not talking about putting him behind bars Murdoch……Because of him I had to kill a friend. I’ve dealt with men like Addison before. There’s only one thing that stops a man like him.”
“ Johnny, I don’t want you doing anything to take you away from me.”
“ Funny thing Murdoch, in the ten years I’ve been Johnny Madrid, I’ve never crossed that fine line.”
“ That’s good son, because I know your brother and Teresa would be really upset and so would I.”
“ You know I am wanted in Mexico. The Rurales, especially one, wants me dead. He put a price on my head of one thousand dollars. Somebody finds out I’m here, they could come gunning for me again.”
“ Johnny, we will deal with that when and if it happens.” Murdoch said as he stood up. “ It’s getting pretty late. I think we should turn in. I still have a ranch to run.”
“ Yeah, okay……..Murdoch….Thanks.” Johnny said before heading upstairs to bed.
Murdoch closed the door to his bedroom and sat down on his bed thinking about the conversation he just had with his youngest. A conversation he was glad he was finally able to have. One thing deeply troubled him though, something Johnny said about never crossing that fine line. Would he cross it now with Addison? The man was partly to blame for Johnny having to kill his friend. Would his son commit cold-blooded murder?
Addison walked out of the assayer’s office with a smile. Thanks to a new mining law, the Lancer ranch wouldn’t be able to stop him. The assayer told him that the Chaffee law of 1869 and the Placer law of 1871 were combined just recently into the General mining law of 1872. The 1872 act also granted him extra-lateral rights to a load claim of fifteen hundred feet long and six hundred feet wide. Plenty big enough to get the gold that was under the ground on Lancer land.
Scott walked into the kitchen finding his father drinking a cup of coffee. “ Good morning sir.”
“ Morning son.”
“ You look like you didn’t get much sleep last night.” Scott said as he poured a cup of coffee and sat down. “ Johnny not up yet? He asked.
“ No. Let him sleep in. He was up late last night.”
“ Looks like you were too.”
“ Me and your brother stayed up talking last night.”
“ Yes.” Murdoch responded. “ Don’t worry son. It was mostly a good talk.”
“ Mostly……Did something happen last night between you and Johnny sir?”
“ It’s more of something your brother said to me son. It has me concerned.” Murdoch answered. Then proceeded to tell Scott what Johnny had said about never crossing the line and that Addison must pay.
“ Do you think Johnny will do something to cross that line sir?”
“ I don’t want to think he will, but…It’s not so much your brother saying it as it is how he said it.” Murdoch stated. “His voice was cold and his eyes……I’ve never seen that look before Scott, and it has me worried.”
“ I know my brother is hurt having to kill a friend, but I hardly doubt Johnny is willing to cross that line sir.”
“ He told me a Mexican Captain has put a thousand dollar bounty on him.” Murdoch said.
“ As long as Johnny stays out of Mexico sir, he’s safe.” Scott stated.
“ Not if they come here looking for him. Your brother is afraid that if men find out he’s here, they will come and try to kill him for that bounty.”
“ They’ll have to go through me first.” Scott said with firmness.
“ Morning. You two are up early.” Teresa said as she walked into the kitchen. “ I’ll get breakfast going.”
“ Good morning Teresa…..Johnny will probably sleep late this morning, so keep something warm for him.”
It had been two months now since being shot. Every day Johnny moved his arm around re-stretching the lax muscles. No more did he keep it in a sling.
“ So can I got back to work Sam?”
“ It will take time to get all your strength back in that arm. I want you to take it easy Johnny. No heavy lifting yet and no breaking horses. I don’t need you falling on that arm and re-breaking that bone. I’ll let Murdoch know you can ride and do light work.” Sam said as he closed his medical bag. “ Did you and Murdoch have that talk yet John?”
“ Yeah……we had it Sam.”
“ I take it he told you what you wanted to know?”
“ Yeah……He told me.” Johnny said with anger.
“ Want to tell me why you’re upset?”
“ He got her pregnant before they married Sam. I believe him when he says he loved her, but…….A part of me thinks the only reason he married my mother was because of me.”
“ Do you really believe that Johnny? After what he’s told you. After learning how many years he searched for you. Do you honestly believe that Murdoch only married your mother because she was pregnant?”
“ I don’t know Sam……..Hell I don’t even know why I’m letting it bother me.”
“ Johnny, have you thought about talking to Father Michael?” Sam asked.
“ Yeah….I thought about it Sam. He seems like a decent man.”
“ If you’re worried about people seeing you. Invite him to come out here.”
“ Yeah sure Sam. Ask a priest to come out here and hear the confessions of a gunfighter who’s wanted dead or alive.”
“ I’m afraid I don’t understand John.”
“ It;s simple. I’m wanted dead by every gunfighter out there wanting my reputation, and wanted alive by an old man and brother I barely know.” Johnny said with sadness.
“ John, might I suggest that you give Father Michael a try…….And stop beating yourself up. Your family loves you. It will take time to put your past behind you.”
“ That’s just it Sam, my past won’t let me…..Not as long as I’m breathing.”
“ You’ve had to deal with a lot in the three months you’ve been here. Go for a ride, get out of this house and do some serious thinking about what you really want and do you want it as Johnny Lancer, or as Johnny Madrid. I think when you can do that, a lot of your worries you will see, weren’t really necessary.”
“ Thanks Sam. I think I will go for a ride today. That stallion of mine’ getting fat and lazy.”
“ Alright. You know my door is always open if you want to just talk Johnny.” Sam said as he opened the bedroom door and left.
“ How is he?” Murdoch asked as Sam got in his buggy.
“ His arm is good. I told him he could do light work and ride, but under no circumstances was he to do any breaking of horses or heavy lifting yet.”
“ Alright. I think I can find something for him to do around here.”
“ I’ll see you at church Murdoch.” Sam said before leaving.
Johnny came outside wearing his gun, something Murdoch hadn’t seen him do since being shot.
“ You going somewhere son?” he asked.
“ Yeah, for a ride. That stallion of mine is getting fat and lazy.”
“ Want some company son?”
“ Nope……I’ll be back by supper time.”
“ Rider coming.” Scott said as he walked up to his father.
“ Al, what brings you out here?” Murdoch asked as the assayer dismounted.
“ Murdoch, Scott, It may be nothing, but I think you should know about an interesting meeting I had with Buck Addison this morning.
“ Come on inside and have a cool glass of lemonade.” Murdoch suggested.
An hour later Al left Lancer.
“ What are we going to do sir?” Scott asked.
“ First thing in the morning we are going to take some men and ride up to that north pasture and make sure Addison is not trying to mine on Lancer property.”
“ Where’s Johnny?”
“ Your brother took his stallion out for a ride. Sam cleared him to ride and do light work. He said he would be back by supper time.”
“ You don’t think he rode up there do you?” Scott asked.
“ I hope not son.”
Johnny let the stallion stretch his legs as he headed north. All the hands were working in the south with the cattle, except the few building the new line shack just east of the north pasture. Riding up to were the two surveyors had been working, Johnny dismounted and started looking around when he heard the unmistakable sound of a rifle being cocked.
“ You so much as move and I’m gonna blow a hole in you.” Seth said. “ Reach down real slow like and unbuckle that gun belt.” he ordered as he stepped into view.
Johnny slowly undid his gun belt and let it drop to the ground. “ Unless I’m mistaken, checking fence isn’t against the law mister. Especially on my own land.”
“ Shut up.” Seth ordered as he picked up Johnny’ gun. “ Got someone who wants to see you……MOVE.” Seth said as he reached for the stallions reins.
Buck Addison walked out of the farm house watching two men approaching, one riding leading a horse and the other walking.
“ Brought you a present boss.” Seth said as he got down from his horse. “ Found him snooping around.”
“ You should have left this valley Madrid. You and your old man cost me a fortune getting that spur stopped.”
“ Addison, why don’t you just cut to the chase. We both know you didn’t give a damn about that spur. It’s Lancer that you really want, or should I say, that north section in-particular. Lancer isn’t going to let you mine on his land.”
Buck walked up to Johnny. “ I’ll mine on it when I own it…..You see, I’m going to find out what’s more important to him….That section of land…..or his half-breed bastard sons life.” Buck stated with hatred in his voice as the wind picked up and lightening flashed. “ Put him in the barn. Make sure he can’t get away. I want two men guarding him at all times.” Buck ordered before walking back in the house.
“ Yes sir.” Seth answered. “ Move.” he ordered as he jabbed the rifle barrel into Johnny’ back.
“ You want me to hold supper for Johnny Murdoch?” Teresa asked.
“ No. He knows what time we eat.” Murdoch told her.
“ You want me to go look for him sir?” Scott asked.
“ Not with that storm brewing. He’s probably held up at one of the line shacks until this storm passes.” Murdoch said.
“ You’re probably right. I’ll keep a plate warm for him just in case he does come home tonight.” Teresa said as she sat down.
Lightening flashed as rain pounded the roof of the barn. Johnny’ arms were sore from being above his head, secured by a rope to a beam about five feet above his head.. His wrist were bloody and burning from the rope biting into the tender skin. When the barn door opened, Johnny could see from a flash of lightening it was Addison.
“ Hope you’re nice and comfortable Madrid.” He said snidely.
“ Could be better. Your lack of hospitality is something needs improvement.”
Buck looked at Seth. “ Is that so…Help him out Seth.”
Seth slammed the rifle butt into Johnny’ lower back, just below his ribs.
“ You go ahead and keep being a smart mouth Madrid. Seth here is real good at teaching manners……Something you obviously don’t have.”
“ If you think Murdoch is going to sign over ownership to that section of land, you’re more stupid than I thought Addison.” Johnny said just before he was hit again, this time in the gut.
“ You better hope he does, because I have no problem killing you.” Buck said right before he hit Johnny in the mouth, splitting his bottom lip open. “ He gets smart mouthed again, teach him some manners, just don’t kill him yet.” Buck told Seth before leaving the barn.
Johnny spit blood out at Seth’ feet causing him to get hit in the back again by the rifle butt.
Murdoch opened the door to Johnny’ room the next morning and found the room empty. The bed hadn’t been slept in. All night the wind howled and the rain came down hard. Only in the early hours did the storm pass, leaving everything saturated and glistening as the sun started coming up over the mountains.
“ Morning Murdoch. Johnny didn’t come home last night.” Teresa stated.
“ The storm was pretty bad last night. He probably stayed in a line shack and will be home soon.” Murdoch told her as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ I see he didn’t come home.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen.
“ No.” Murdoch responded.
“ That storm was pretty bad at times. We could have fence down and that foot bridge is probably washed away again.”
“ After you eat breakfast, go out and have the hands do a thorough check of all the fences. Send Hank up to check that foot bridge and the fence in that area. Tell them to keep an eye out for your brother.”
“ Yes sir.” Scott answered.
Addison walked into the barn the next morning. “ Saddle two horses.” he ordered. “ Sleep well Madrid?”
Johnny just glared at the man. His body really couldn’t handle anymore beatings, but not answering only got him hit again.
“ You answer mister Addison when he ask you something boy.” Seth demanded, getting no response he hit him again in the ribs.
“ That’s enough……Go saddle two horses.” Buck ordered. “ You go right ahead and act all tough Madrid, because when I have the deed to that section of land. You’re a dead man.”
Murdoch came out of the house with Scott when they heard riders approaching. “ Addison.” Murdoch said. “ You’re not welcome on Lancer land Addison. What do you want?”
“ Well Murdoch……I came to see just how bad you want to keep that north section of land. I thought I would give you one last time to sell it to me.”
“ As my father has told you before mister Addison, no part of Lancer is for sell.” Scott said vehemently.
“ Well I’m sorry to hear that Lancer.” Buck said. “ I’ll tell you what, perhaps you would trade that section of land.”
“ As we have said before, no part of Lancer is for sell or trade, especially to you…..NOW GET OFF MY LAND.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Not even for your half-breed sons life?” Addison asked. “ He didn’t come home last night, did he?”
“ Why you……” Scott started as he moved for the man.
“ Hold it…..Hold it right there.” Seth said as he aimed his pistol at Scott.
“ I swear, I will kill you if you have hurt Johnny in any way.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ He was still alive when I left him this morning. A little bruised and bloody, but alive.” Addison said. “ Now. I’ll give you two days to sign that section of land over to me. If you don’t……I promise you, I’ll take great pride in killing Madrid, and I promise you, his death will be a slow one.”
“ Addison, you’ve gone mad………What they hell is wrong with you?” Murdoch demanded.
“ I’m a business man Lancer, and I get what I want and will do whatever I have to do to get it………Now……Do we have a deal or do I get to kill that half-breed bastard son of yours?”
Murdoch ran a hand through his hair. “ Where?”
“ I knew you would see it my way. You get that deed and in two days I’ll meet you at an old abandoned mine shaft called the Lorelei. You know where that’s at?”
“ Yes I know where it’s at.”
“ Oh, don’t think about doing anything stupid, because I’ll have guns on Madrid…..I’ll see you in two days Lancer.” Addison said before riding away.
Murdoch stormed back in the house, followed by Scott.
“ You will do it won’t you sir?” Scott asked.
“ I have no choice.” Murdoch snapped.
“ Why did you let him ride out of here alone yesterday?” Scott demanded.
Murdoch spun around and glared at Scott. “ Don’t you dare try and put this on me…..I asked your brother if he wanted some company and he said no.”
“ Maybe if you acted more like his father, this never would have happened.”
“ How dare you stand there and judge me……..I’ve been trying to be a father to that boy ever since he came here.”
Teresa walked into the room. “ What is going on in here? Why are you two shouting at each other?” she asked.
“Buck Addison was just here.” Scott said. “ He has Johnny, and if Murdoch doesn’t sign over the deed to that north section of land, he’ll kill Johnny.”
“ Oh now….Murdoch you have to help him.” Teresa pleaded.
“ This doesn’t concern you Teresa.”
“ Yes it does. How could you say that to me. Johnny is like a brother to me.” Teresa said as tears started running down her face.
“ I’m sorry Teresa.” Murdoch said as he walked over and gave her a hug. “ We’ll get Johnny back.”
“ You’re damn right we will.” Scott said with anger. “ He said we have two days before you’re to meet him at the Lorelei mine…..He has to have Johnny close.”
“ I don’t think Addison would be stupid enough to keep your brother on that property he bought.” Murdoch stated.
“ Why not. It has a house and barn on it. He could even have Johnny at that mining camp.” Scott stated.
“ Son…….I know you want to find him, but lets think this out. We go riding onto that property we could get Johnny killed. He’s bound to have men watching all over his property for us to do that. He’d probably expect us to do just that.”
“ If you think I’m going to just sit around here and do nothing…….”
“ No, I’m not suggesting that at all son. Addison probably does have Johnny on his property. He’ll probably move him at night to not be seen the night before the meting.”
“ Then just what do you suggest I we do?” Scott demanded.
“ You served in the army son. How did you handle the enemy?”
“ We would find the enemy, Engage him, and destroy him.” Scott stated firmly.
“ I want you to take Frank and Carl with you, and ride to the Lorelei tomorrow night,and wait. Addison said he would have guns on Johnny. I want you to stop them if at all possible.” Murdoch instructed.
“ Won’t he find it odd that I’m not with you during the exchange?”
“ He might, but that’s a chance I’m going to have to take.”
“ A chance with my brothers life you mean.”
“ Your brothers life is at risk whether I sign that deed over or not, Addison will kill him.”
“ You know, Lancer just might try something. He might not sign that deed over to you.” Seth stated as they rode up to the barn.
Addison got off his horse. “We’ll move Madrid to the mine tomorrow afternoon. I want you to send a couple men out to that mine tomorrow morning, have them find a good spot to hide were they’ll have a clear shot of Madrid.”
“ Yes sir.” Seth answered.
Johnny heard the barn door open and knew it was Addison.
“ Your father has agreed to the trade, though reluctantly I might say.” Addison said. “ Your brother, now there was an angry young man. It seems he was more angry that I had you than your old man was. Wouldn’t you say Seth?”
“ Yes sir. Lancer was a might testy over losing his land. In fact I believe he said, You would never get the deed to that section.”
“ Why, I do believe you’re right. I imagine, having a father who cares more about his ranch, than his own sons life comes as a shock to you. Of course, you are his bastard child.” Addison said as he walked closer to Johnny. “ Let him down so he can get some water and feed him something.” he ordered. “ Keep a gun on him at all times.”
Seth went a got a bucket of water and a ladle and set it down by Johnny before he loosened the rope.
Johnny dropped to his knees when the rope was loosened. Feeling slowly came back to his arms so he could move them to hold the ladle. The cool water felt good on his parched throat. Reaching up he untied the kerchief he had around his neck and dabbed it in the water to wipe the blood away from his lip and chin.
“ How many men have you killed Madrid?” Seth asked as another hand brought in a plate of potatoes and a slice of ham.
Johnny glanced at the man as he wiped the blood from his chin “ Enough.” he answered, barely above a whisper.
“ You don’t look so tough to me.”
Johnny knew he couldn’t eat and hold the plate, and seeing there was no fork, he picked up a potato and ate it hungrily.
“ Seems you only like to talk when you got something smart to say. Or maybe my pounding on you, took some of that fire out of you boy!” Seth said with a laugh.
Johnny finished eating the potatoes and ham and took a drink of water. Looking at his wrist, he knew the rope would leave scars, something his body was all to familiar with having ever since he was a child.
“ Stand up.” Seth ordered.
Johnny non to gracefully stood up, knowing he was going to be tied up again. “ Why you doing this?” he asked as Seth tied the rope.
“ Because mister Addison is my boss and he wants it done. He’s not a bad man.”
“ He’s sure as hell not a good man. Forcing people to give up what they worked their whole life for, and for what, some precious metal in the ground. You do know you will most likely be killed at that swap?”
“ I’m not afraid to die. Are you?” Seth asked.
“ Nope.” Johnny answered coldly. “ You know, I’ve dealt with men like him before. Once they get what they want, they don’t share it with nobody. So I hope he didn’t promise you a cut in that gold that may or not be there.”
“ He promised me. Said we all get a share.” Seth responded.
“ And you believed him?”
“ I got no reason not too. He’s been real good to me.”
“ Yeah, I can see that. He has you do all his dirty work, so he doesn’t get his hands dirty. He gets caught, it will be a lesser sentence for him.” Johnny said. “ Now you…..You won’t be so lucky…Nope, you’re looking at twenty years easy. The law don’t take kindly to land pirates, and that’s all Addison is.”
“ Unless you want to experience some more pain. I suggest you keep a civil tongue in your unprepossessing mouth Madrid.” Addison said as he walked into the barn. “ Pay no attention to whatever this half-breed killer is saying. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
“ He said he’s dealt with men like you before. That once you have that deed, you’re going to cut us out of what you promised.”
Addison laughed. “ Men like me before Madrid, really…….I hardly doubt you dealt with anyone below the border like me before, since most of the people down there are peasants and nothing more…….No wait, I seem to recall a man you dealt with in Mexico before…..Yeah, a man who at just the mention of your name, becomes angry. A captain in the Rurales I believe. It would seem that you escaped him, but not before you put a bullet in his left leg that causes him to limp ever since. Yeah, it seems the Rurales have a one thousand dollar bounty on you. I believe he is sending some men who were more than eager to come here to kill you.”
Johnny just stood glaring at Addison.
“ You should have never come to this valley Madrid…..Make sure everything is ready to go before we leave.” Addison said as he turned to walk out. “ Oh, teach Madrid some manners. I don’t really care for being talked about behind my back. It’s rather rude.”
Seth hit Johnny again just left of his spine. “ You sure can take pain can’t ya breed?”
Johnny didn’t answer, instead he spit in Seth’ face, angering the man and causing him to hit Johnny hard in the face, snapping his head back.
Scott slide the Henry rifle he had into the scabbard as Hank and Carl walked over, leading their horses.
“ Scott, we want you to know, we like Johnny and we’re going to get him back alive.” Hank said.
“ Yeah, you know that day Johnny got on me about my spurs and what they do to a horse, I thought at first, he was just a ….. I don’t know…..He gained my respect after that day Scott. I figured any mane who would care more about how a horse is treated, can’t be all that bad.” Carl stated. “ And about him being Madrid, I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned he’s a Lancer and I’m proud to know him and work for him.”
“ Thank you Carl, Hank. I’m sure Johnny would like to know that you feel about him like that.” Scott said as he mounted up.
“ Be careful.” Murdoch said as he walked out. “ Try and keep that creek between you and the mine. It gives a lot of cover from a good distance off. You should be able to get real close.”
“ A riders coming.” Hank said.
“ Can I help you?” Murdoch asked as the rider rode up to them.
“ I’m looking for a Murdoch Lancer.”
“ I’m Murdoch Lancer. What can I do for you?”
“ I’m Marshal Teague. I received a telegram from Sacramento saying you need my help?” the Marshal stated.
“ Won’t you get down Marshal.” Murdoch suggested. “ Come inside and I’ll explain. Teresa, get the Marshal something cold to drink.”
“ Sure.” Teresa responded before heading inside.
Scott dismounted and followed his father and the Marshal inside.
“ Your arrival couldn’t be at a better time Marshal.” Murdoch stated.
“ I’m sorry I couldn’t get here sooner. It’s a long ride from Abilene to here.”
“ You rode all the way from Abilene, Texas?” Scott asked.
“ This is my son Scott, Marshal.”
“ Yes I did. About this help you need mister Lancer?” Marshal Teague answered. “ You say this mans name is Buck Addison?”
“ Yes.” Murdoch answered.
Marshal Teague pulled out a piece of paper and opened it. “ Is this the man?” he asked as he handed the paper to Murdoch.
Murdoch looked at the paper. “ Yes, that’s the man. It says here he’s wanted for murder.”
“ Yes. Five years ago Buck Addison killed a man in Abilene. A small rancher. Gunned him down in front of his wife and child. He was working for the railroad and claimed eminent domain. The rancher wouldn’t sell his land and move, so Addison paid him a visit in the middle of the night, gunned him down and burned them out. We’ve been looking for him ever since.”
“ Marshal, Addison has my youngest son. He came here, working for the railroad and has decided he wants a section of my land. He bought the land adjacent to it and is mining that land.” Murdoch stated.
“ Addison is a killer, make no mistake about that. Do you know how many men he has with him?”
“ We’re not sure, but at least ten.” Scott stated.
“ I take it you were headed someplace when I rode up?”
“ I’m supposed to sign over the deed to the north section of land he wants in exchange for my youngest sons release.”
“ Me and a couple of hands were just about to ride out to the exchange spot to make sure he has no surprises.”
“ Don’t……I know Addison, he’ll already have men there and you’ll be riding right into a trap.” the Marshal said.
“ Marshal, I want my brother back alive. Addison has had it in for Johnny ever since he came home.”
“ Really, why?”
“ Because my son used to go by another name before he came home.” Murdoch said. “ My sons had a run in with a couple of Addison’ men and killed one, the other is in jail.”
“ You said your other son, Johnny went by another name. Mind my asking what that name was?”
Scott looked at his father. Telling a United States Marshal, your little brother is Johnny Madrid, warrants caution. Before Scott could respond, his father spat the name out.
“ Madrid, as in Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter?” the Marshal asked.
“ My brother is trying to give up being a gunfighter sir.”
“ Easy boy. If it’s the Johnny Madrid I know, we have no problem.”
“ Marshal, you said Addison murdered this farmer five years ago. How come you haven’t caught him yet?” Murdoch asked.
“ The man is sly. Always one step ahead of me. Somehow he would learn I was closing in on him and he would disappear. I haven’t heard of him being seen until your telegram asking about him.”
“ How do you suggest we handle this Marshal?” Scott asked. still uneasy about the man since he knew his brother.
“ Do you have any law around here?” Marshal Teague asked.
“ There’s a sheriff in Stockton, but Green River and Moro Coyo doesn’t have one yet.”
“ How many men do you have that are good with a gun?” Marshal Teague asked.
“ About eighteen. Most of my men are workers.”
“ Are they all here?”
“ Some are out working various jobs on the ranch.”
“ Can you get them here by tomorrow?”
“ Yes.” Murdoch answered. “ Scott, send Hank and Carl out to bring them in, and have a hand take care of the Marshals horse.”
“ Yes sir.” Scott said before heading out the door.
“ Teresa, would you fix up a guest bedroom for the Marshal. I’m sure you’re tired and would like to clean up and rest.”
“ That’s very kind of you mister Lancer. Thank you.”
“ Bring Madrid out and get him on a horse.” Addison ordered.
Johnny stumbled out of the barn and stopped at his horse. “ Get on, and don’t try anything funny.” Seth ordered as he shoved Johnny into the side of the stallion. Johnny mounted up and waited.
“ Tie his hands to the saddle horn.” Addison ordered as he mounted up. “ You’re going to have two rifles on you at all times Madrid, so don’t try anything funny.”
Johnny looked down at his wrist, raw and bloody and cringed inside when Seth tied the rope tightly.
“ Seth, you ride just behind Madrid. Johnson, you lead his horse.” Addison ordered. “ Let’s go.”
“ How do you know my brother Marshal?” Scott asked as they rode toward the mine.
“ I was working in Abilene, and your brother ended up backing me up when a gang of cutthroats rode into town, hell bent on trouble.” the Marshal stated.
“ So my son killed for you?” Murdoch asked.
Marshal Teague stopped his horse. “ You know, I don’t like to pass judgment on a man, especially one who hasn’t broken any laws that I know of, but it seems to me, mister Lancer that you have a problem with your son being a gunfighter. Let me tell you something Lancer, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your son helping me when he did.”
“ My father and me are just getting to know Johnny sir.” Scott said.
“ I only knew Madrid about two months and I know from that two months, just how good a person he is. Your son put on a badge while I was laid up from a bullet in the back. He didn’t have to, but he did. THAT is what kind of son you have Lancer. Some people don;t have a choice in life like others.” Marshal Teague told as he started moving again. “ Like for instance, your son Scott there, I know he didn’t grow up here with you. He talks eastern and nobody out here calls an older man sir unless they were brought up that way.”
“ That’s very good Marshal. I was raised by my grandfather back in Boston. I only came out west to be with my father last year.”
“ You and Johnny have become close haven’t you? Closer than Johnny and his father?”
“ Yes sir. It’s easier for me to see the good in my little brother than the bad he’s had to do.”
“ That’s a fine looking Henry rifle you have. You serve in the war?” Marshal Teague asked.
“ Yes sir. I acquired the rifle just after my release from prison.” Scott stated.
“Prison…….Andersonville?” Marshal Teague asked.
“ I served under commander George B. Mclellan and the army of the Potomac…..You?”
“ General Phil Sheridan, Shenandoah valley and Waynesboro, Virginia.” Scott responded.
“ Well hell, you boys in Waynesboro are the reason the war ended when it did. You gave them rebs hell. I heard because of Sheridan and Custer, they couldn’t grow any foodstuff for their confederate army so they surrendered.”
Murdoch listened to his son speak of the war. Like his youngest, he realized he really didn’t know anything about either son like a father should. He silently vowed that that would change when this was over.
“ The creek’s running a little high.” Hank stated as they stopped their horses.
“ I’m not surprised, given the rain we had the other night.” Murdoch said. “ Let’s look for a place to cross downstream.” He suggested. “ I want several of you men to work your way up through the brush until you’re across from the mine, to give us cover. The rest of you come with us. Once we cross that creek, I want your rifles out and ready.” Murdoch instructed.
“ Get Madrid off his horse. .” Addison ordered as he dismounted. “ Make sure a rifle stays on him at all times.”
“ Yes sir.” Seth answered as he dismounted. “ I seen our two men about halfway up on the hill when we rode up.”
“ Let’s just hope Lancer doesn’t spot them.” Addison stated.
“ Were do you want Madrid sir?” Seth asked.
“ You’re going to take Madrid into the mine until Murdoch gets here. It’ll only be him and Scott, maybe a Mexican or two. He won’t do anything to risk his bastard son being shot.” Addison stated. “ When he gets here, I don’t want you bringing Madrid out until I say. Understand?”
“ Yes sir…….Let’s go.” Seth ordered as he jabbed the rifle barrel into Johnny’ back. “ In the mine now.”
Murdoch, Scott, the Marshal and seven hands, rifles ready, rode up to the mine and stopped.
“ I didn’t really think you would show Lancer.” Addison said as he took a step away from his horse.
“ Where’s Johnny?” Scott demanded.
“ He’s here.” Addison answered.
“ I want to see him now.” Scott demanded.
“ Seth, bring Lancer’ bastard son out.” Addison ordered.
Seth brought Johnny out, keeping the rifle pointed to Johnny’ back.
Scott noticed the bruises on his brothers face and the blood on his wrist.
“ You bring the deed with you?”
Murdoch dismounted. “ No I brought something better.” Murdoch said. “ This is United States Marshal Teague. He has a warrant for your arrest for murder in Abilene. It’s over Addison.”
“ Marshal Teague, you’re a persistent man.” Buck said. “ I suggest you all put your guns down now and give me the deed to that land. I’ve got two rifles on Madrid right now from above. All I have to do is give the word and he’s dead.”
“ You men up on the hill, I’m a United States Marshal, Throw down your guns now and you can leave here free men.” Marshal Teague ordered.
“ You said nothing about a Marshal, Addison.” Seth said as he dropped his rifle to the ground. “ I want no part in killing a Marshal.”
“ You men will do as you’re told.” Addison ordered.
“ Give it up Addison, You’re outgunned. I have several rifles aimed at you right now from across the creek. It’s over.” Murdoch said.
“ The hell it is.” Addison said as he turned to shoot Johnny. A bullet slammed into his upper left leg, dropping him as Johnny dove away from Seth.
“ You so much as move.” Scott said to Seth as he went to his brother. Taking his knife out, he carefully cut the ropes from Johnny’ wrist. “ I’m sorry brother. I know this hurts.”
“ It’s alright Boston.” Johnny said as he stared at the marshal.
“ Stand up Addison.” Marshal Teague ordered as he took a pair of shackles out of his saddlebags. “ I’ve been waiting five years to do this to you.”
“ I’ve been shot. You can’t put those on me. I need a doctor.”
“ You won’t die from that wound.. If I wanted to hit you worse I could have.” Marshal Teague informed him. “ There’s a family back in Texas that’s been waiting for me to bring you in and watch you swing from a rope.”
“ Thanks Scott.” Johnny said before walking over and picking up the rifle Seth dropped. “ You really should be more careful who you go to work for.” Johnny said with coldness before slamming the rifle butt into Seth’ gut, dropping him to the ground.
“ Johnny.” Murdoch yelled.
Johnny ignored his father and walked over to the Marshal and Addison. Handing the rifle to the Marshal, Johnny swung and hit Addison as hard as he could, knocking the man down.
“ That will be enough of that young man.” Murdoch ordered.
Johnny glared at him.
“ I see you still have a temper Madrid.” Marshal Teague stated.
“ And I see you still like to shoot them in the leg.” Johnny said as he walked up to the marshal. “ Been a long time Jake.”
“ Yeah, A long time since Abilene Johnny.”
“ Marshal, we have a cell at Lancer you can keep Addison in until he can ride.” Scott suggested.
“ Sounds good. Get on that horse Addison.” the marshal ordered.
“ Johnny, you okay to ride?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’ve had worse.” Johnny said as he whistled for the stallion.
“ Johnny, who beat on you?” the marshal asked.
“ Seth.” Johnny said as he mounted up.
“ You want to press charges against him?”
Johnny nodded before turning the stallion and heading home ahead of everyone else. All he wanted was to soak in a hot bath and sleep in his bed for a week.
“ Hank, you ride into town and have Sam come out to the ranch. Tell him he’s got a gunshot wound to treat.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Yes sir.” Hank said as he turned his horse and galloped off.
Sam drove his buggy under the Lancer arch and stopped in the yard. “ Who shot that boy now?” he demanded as he climbed down.
“ It’s not Johnny who’s been shot Sam. It’s Buck Addison. He’s locked up in the cell in the barn. Teresa has hot water and bandages all ready for you. Come on in the house when you’re done.” Murdoch stated.
Johnny stood in front of the mirror in his room and eased his shirt off and grimaced at the bruising he seen on his back, stomach and ribs. The hot bath helped ease some of the pain, but not all of it.
Scott knocked on Johnny’ door and opened it slowly. He wasn’t prepared for what he seen on his brothers back.
“ Johnny, he do that to you?” he asked.
“ Yeah, whenever Addison told him I needed to be taught manners.” Johnny answered as he slowly walked over to his bed and sat down. “ So did Jake tell you how he knew me?”
“ Yes. It seems he was also in the war.” Scott said as he walked around and sat down in the chair next to the table by the window. “ That was a really nice thing you did for him in Abilene,Johnny. The marshal said if it wasn’t for you, he would have been killed.”
“ He’s a good man. I bet Murdoch was real happy hearing about Abilene since it wasn’t in his Pinkerton report.”
“ Johnny, Murdoch was worried about you…….”
“ Addison said you were the one more worried about me and angry……Is that true?” Johnny asked, cutting his brother off.
“ Is it true Scott?…..It’s a simple yes or no question brother.”
“ No, unfortunately our father was more worried about losing a part of the ranch than he was you. I’m sorry Johnny.”
“ Thanks Scott, for telling me the truth. I’m gonna lay down now, I’ve been kinda tied up the last two days and haven’t got much sleep.”
“ Alright brother. I’ll have Sam come up and check those bruises when he’s done with Addison.” Scott said as he stood up and headed to the door and stepped out.
Sam entered the house and set his bag on the table. “ Would someone care to explain to me what is going on? Why Addison and another man are locked up in your barn?”
“ Addison is locked up, because he’s wanted for murder back in Texas Sam.” Murdoch responded. “ This is Marshal Teague. He’s been tracking Addison for five years.”
“ Murder…..I wouldn’t be surprised. That man has a lot of hate in him. Especially toward Johnny. He was telling me he should have killed him and still tried to get the deed to some land you have Murdoch.”
“ He kidnapped Johnny the other day and tried to force me to trade the deed to the north section for Johnny’ release.”
“ Kidnapped……Were is Johnny.” Sam asked.
“ He’s up in his room Sam.” Scott said as he walked into the room. “ He’s got some pretty good bruises on his back and ribs from being hit with a rifle butt.”
“ I’ll go check on him.” Sam said as he picked up his bag and headed to the stairs.
“ He was asleep when I left him Sam, but he wanted me to ask you to come up and check him over.”
“ Johnny’ hurt?” Murdoch asked. “ He said he was alright.”
Scott just glared at his father.
“ Uh doc, how long until Addison can travel.”
Sam stopped at the bottom of the stairs. “ Well, the wound was clean. I stitched it up. He shouldn’t ride for at least a week marshal.”
“ I need to get him back to Texas, to stand trial for murder.”
“ Well, I guess he can ride in a week, but that leg could bleed or get infected.”
“ Much obliged doc…….I’ll ride into town and send a wire, letting them know I got Addison.” Marshal Teague said.
Sam treated Johnny’ wrist and instructed Teresa and Scott on putting hot compresses on the bruises to help with the soreness and swelling. “ If you have any problems, you know were I am. Teresa, keep and eye on Addison’ leg wound. The bandage should be changed every day, and keep putting that salve on Johnny’ wrist and keep them wrapped up until they start healing.”
Johnny slept the better part of two days, never leaving his room. Whenever he heard come in, he would pretend to be asleep.
On the third day, Johnny came downstairs to the kitchen.
“ Morning.” Johnny said as he sat down. “ I hope you have a lot Teresa, because I’m starved.”
“ Johnny, Of course I do.” Teresa said as she got up to fix him a plate.
“ Morning Scott, Jake……What’s on the menu for work today Boston?”
“ Repairing fence and clearing brush.”
“ I don’t want you doing any work Johnny, until your wrist are healed up.” Murdoch said.
“ Whatever. You call the tune old man. Just remember…….I ain’t no hired hand.” Johnny said as he stood up, grabbed a couple biscuits and went out the back door.
“ I’m sorry for my sons rude behavior marshal. I’m afraid he hasn’t had proper upbringing.” Murdoch said. “ He lived by a gun………..”
“ And who’s fault is that?” Scott cut in. “ Marshal, It’s just hard sometimes when his own father treats him like a stranger.”
“ I’ve treated that boy right ever since he come back here.” Murdoch stated.
“ Really. Throwing it in his face almost every day about his past. He knows about what was said when Addison rode out here that day. How you were more concerned about losing a part of your precious ranch, than your own son.”
“ Why the devil did you tell him that?” Murdoch demanded.
“ It would seem that Addison told Johnny, and when he asked me if it was true…..I’m not going to lie to my brother.” Scott said as he threw his napkin down and stood up. “ For only reasons you seem to know, you hate Johnny because he was a gunfighter and not brought up like I was. I would give my right arm to have had Johnny grow up with me, instead of in Mexico. He promised me he would give it a year before he decided if he would stay here or not. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t blame him if he rode away from Lancer and never came back……Teresa…Marshal.” Scott said before walking out.
“ So you have a problem with Johnny being a gunfighter?” Jake asked.
Murdoch looked at the man before standing up and walking out.
“ I don’t understand him.” Teresa said as she sat down. “ Murdoch searched for Johnny ever since his mother took him from here all those years ago……Now it seems like he doesn’t want Johnny here because of what he did in his past. Everybody deserves a second chance.”
“ Yes ma’am they do. If you’ll excuse me. Breakfast was fine.” Jake said as he stood up and headed into the other room to have a discussion with Murdoch.
Murdoch stood looking out the big window behind his desk when Jake walked into the room.
“ I asked you a question mister Lancer. I believe you owe me an explanation as to your anger toward Johnny.”
“ Marshal Teague, I’m not in the habit of discussing my personal business with a stranger.”
“ You hate what Johnny became. You think that because he was a gunfighter, that he can’t be anything else. Well you’re wrong. You see, I wasn’t always a marshal. Oh I was in the war like I told Scott, and after that war was over, I rode west, wanting to start a new life, but I learned real fast, that the only way to make a living out here was with a gun. I was a gunfighter too Lancer, for several years, until one day I was offered this badge………See, putting on this badge taught me that if a man wants to bad enough, he can change…..This badge gave me a reason too. What you have here is reason for Johnny to want to change, but if you don’t let go of his past, he will never be able to, and that would be a waste, especially to a man who spent the better part of Johnny’ life looking for him. I’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow with Addison . I want to get across the passes before the snow flies.” Jake said before turning and walking out.
Johnny walked out of the barn leading the stallion.
“ Going somewhere?” Marshal Teague asked.
“ Take a ride with me Jake?”
A short time later Johnny stopped on top of the hill overlooking Lancer below. “ The most beautiful place in the whole wide world Jake. From here as far as the eye can see, Lancer.” Johnny said.
“ Your father has done right well for himself Johnny.”
“ I don’t belong here Jake. I never will. The old man will never accept me for who I became.”
“ Johnny, I thought the same thing once too, but when I put this badge on, that all changed for me. I guess because I wanted it to change.”
“ You think I want to live by my gun the rest of my life? You think I want to die alone on some street or in a dark alley somewhere, gunned down because of my stupid reputation?”
“ No I don’t. This ranch here is reason enough for you to change, this and that brother of yours.”
“ Scott belongs here, I don’t.”
“ Says who. Johnny a man can live where he wants, do what he wants and not answer to anyone. But a man who does that, lives a sad and lonely life. What you have offered to you here is reason enough to not live that life. Nobody said it was easy changing, hell it wasn’t for me, but if you really want it, if you really want to change and not live by that gun anymore, then I suggest you stick it out. Scott said you promised a year. Give it that, then and only then make your decision to to leave. Don’t make it on a stupid foolish old man. Make it on what you want Johnny, it’s your life.”
“ When you leaving?”
“ Tomorrow. I want to get over the passes before the snow flies. It’s a long ride back to Abilene.”
“ I want you to let Seth go. He was just following orders.”
“ Alright Johnny, if that’s what you want.”
Johnny sat at the table picking at his food more than eating it. Glancing in his fathers direction every once in a while. Putting his fork down, Johnny dabbed the corners of his mouth with his napkin.
“ Scott, do you really believe the old man is going to let us be third owners of this ranch?” he asked looking at his father.
Scott, caught off guard by the question, put down his fork and picked up his glass of water and took a drink. He knew his brother asked this because of what has happened the short time his little brother has been here.
“ I fully intend on both you boys being part owners in this ranch, Johnny. I wouldn’t have made the offer to you if I didn’t.”
“ How about it Scott?”
“ A part of me does, but a part of me doesn’t Johnny.” Scott answered.
“ A part of you don’t……Why?…..I mean, you have the perfect background. Nothing to tarnish the Lancer name. You have the proper upbringing. The proper manners…….Me, all I’ll ever be is a hired hand working for him for a dollar a day, a roof over my bed, food in my stomach and a bed to sleep in at night and nothing more.”
“ That’s not true Johnny.” Murdoch stated. “ I will make both of you part owners of this ranch, but you have to prove to me you’re man enough to be.” Murdoch stated.
“ Man enough old man…..I’ve became a man long before I should have……You hate what I became to survive in Mexico, well guess what Murdoch, I hate what you’ve become.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ You said you love this ground more than anything god created, That you have a Grey hair for every blade of grass out there. You made that clear the other day with Addison.” Johnny said with hurt in his voice. “ I’m beginning to think my mother was right about you. That you are a cold hearted sonofabitch who only cares about yourself and what you want or need. You love this ranch so much, you can have it. At ;east when I’m Madrid, I know who loves me and why those who do, hate me. What’s your excuse?” Johnny asked.
Murdoch sat back in his chair and glared at Johnny. “ I’ll not have you talking that way in front of Teresa. You keep a civil tongue in your smart mouth boy.” he ordered.
“ Or what, huh….You gonna teach me some manners old man. Teresa, I’m sorry for talking like that in front of you and I thank you for a fine dinner. Jake is leaving tomorrow to take Addison back to Abilene. I’ll be going with him. I’m not going to stay in a place were my own father refuses to love me.” Johnny said before turning and going upstairs to his room, slamming the door.
“ This is your doing.” Murdoch said to Jake as he threw his napkin down.
“ This is the first I heard Johnny wanted to leave here with me mister Lancer.”
“ What did you talk about on that ride you took this afternoon?” Scott asked.
“ I didn’t ask him to leave here with me, if that’s what you’re thinking. He asked me to let Seth go. That he doesn’t want to press charges against him.”
“ He had to have said something?” Teresa asked.
“ I told him that what his father has built here is reason enough to stay and change, but he has to want to change for the right reasons.”
“ Scott, talk to him, please. I don’t want Johnny to leave here.” Teresa pleaded.
“ It’s better he leaves now Teresa.” Murdoch said.
“ Better for who mister Lancer? Better for you? So you don’t have a gunfighter around to tarnish the Lancer name?” Jake asked as he stood up. “ You really don’t have a clue do you? You can’t see just how bad that boy is begging for you to love him, and to me, that’s worse than anything Johnny has done in his past.” Jake stated as he stood up and left the room.
“ If my little brother rides away from here in the morning with the marshal, I will be leaving with him sir.” Scott said as he stood up and left the room.
“ What did you do Murdoch, to make Johnny want to leave here?” Teresa demanded.
Murdoch looked at her. “ I honestly don’t know sweetheart……Addison said something to him and I intend to find out what that was.” the Lancer patriarch said as he stood up and left the room.
Murdoch walked out to the barn and found Jake bringing Seth out. “ I suggest you get on your horse and leave this valley. My son may forgive you for what you did to him, but I won’t.” Murdoch said angrily.
Seth walked to his horse, mounted up and rode out, headed east.
“ I want to talk to Addison alone.” Murdoch demanded.
“ I can’t allow that.” Jake said.
“ That man said something to Johnny, after he came here and I want to know what it was.”
“ Alright, but not alone.”
Murdoch walked into the barn. “ Open the door Hank. Go get you something to eat.”
“ I already ate mister Lancer, but I recon I could take a walk.”
Murdoch stepped into the cell. “ I want to know what you said to Johnny?”
“ I haven’t seen, nor spoke to that half-breed killer since I was locked up.” Addison spat.
“ That day you came here, you said something to him when you went back to wherever you had him. I want to know what it was and I want to know now.” Murdoch demanded.
“ Oh that…..I just told him how his brother was more concerned about him than you were and that you weren’t real happy about giving up a part of your precious ranch in exchange for his safe release. That your ranch means more to you than your bastard half-breed son.”
Murdoch walked over and hit Buck hard in the face, knocking him back onto the cot in the cell. Grabbing him by his coat, Murdoch jerked him up and hit him again.
“ Mister Lancer, that’s enough.” Jake said firmly as he grabbed Murdoch’ left arm. “ He’s had enough.”
“ The day you hang will be righteously justified and can’t come soon enough. If I could, I’d do it myself for what you’ve done to my son.”
“ What’s the matter Lancer…..your half-breed killer realize what kind of man you are and leave?”
This time it was Jake who hit Addison as hard as he could in the mouth. “ It’s a long ride to Abilene Addison, and we’re not making the trip alone. The man you hate so much is coming with me to make sure you get to Abilene and hang.”
Murdoch walked out of the barn and waited for Jake to come out. “ You seem to be able to talk to my son were I can’t. Scott said he was also going with you. I’d be grateful if you and Scott would talk to Johnny, get him to come back here….to his home.”
“ Mister Lancer, I’ll do what I can, But Johnny is a grown man. He has to make his own decisions, regardless of if we like that decision or not.” Jake said. “ Why don’t you go up and try talking to him.”
“ It won’t do any good, but I know something that just might. If you tell Johnny and Scott they can go with you, on one condition.”
“ That they think about coming back here, especially Johnny, right?”
“ And while they’re gone, what will you be doing?”
“ What do you mean?”
“ I mean, you want your boys, especially Johnny to think about coming back here to Lancer. What will you be doing while they’re gone to assure they stay if they come back?”
“ Marshal Teague, we have a very nice priest in Moro Coyo. I believe I will be speaking to him a lot while my sons are gone.”
The next morning Johnny and Scott brought their horses out of the barn and put their rifles in their scabbards. Teresa walked outside with Murdoch.
“ Johnny, I don’t want you to go.” she pleaded.
“ I have to Teresa. I’ll be alright.” Johnny told her as he gave her a hug. “ You’re the best little sister a guy like me could have.”
“ Sir.” Scott said as he reached out to shake his fathers hand.
“ You take care of yourself. Keep your brother out of trouble.” Murdoch said.
“ I’ll do my best…..You got a hug for me?” Scott said as he walked over to Teresa.
“ Of course I do.” she responded as she hugged him.
“ Johnny,………..I know I haven’t exactly been the model father, but I promise you this, If you come back to Lancer, I will. If I’m not, then I’ll do whatever it is I have to do to be one, even if it means selling the ranch son.”
Johnny just looked at him, confusion in his eyes as he heard what his father said. Swinging up into the saddle he reached down to shake Murdoch’ hand. “ I’ll see ya old man.”
Jake got Addison on his horse. “Just remember Addison, it’s sixteen hundred miles to Abilene and that poster said wanted dead or alive.”
Murdoch stood there with his arm around Teresa watching his two sons ride off with the marshal, not knowing if he would see either one again.
Continued in Abilene Bound
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