I don’t own them. I’m just taking them out for a Saturday afternoon ride. Any and all characters from the television show Lancer belong to the rightful owner. I am making no money from this. Just having fun and adventure with the boys.
Word count: 63,525
“ Who is my father?” Johnny asked his mother.
“ He is a worthless gringo that threw us out of his house when you were only two. I told you that. Now don’t ask me about him again!” Maria ordered.
“ But maybe he wants us back now? Maybe he misses me?” Johnny asked.
“ I will have no more talk of your gringo father. I have someone coming here for the night, so you will have to go sleep in the goat pen out back.” she snapped back.
“ But it is raining and cold.” Johnny said. “ You should not let those men touch you like they do. They grunt like the pigs that they are when they are on top of you.”
Maria slapped Johnny hard across the face. “ You shut your mouth and do as your told.”
Johnny stood there glaring at his mother. “ One day I will be big enough that you will not hit me anymore mama. And when I am, I will find out who my gringo father is.” he said before turning and running out of the shanty shack they lived in.
Every few months, sometimes only a few weeks they moved. Always leaving in the middle of the night, staying in the shadows. Now in Agua Prieta, Johnny once again found himself out in the cold of winter as his mother entertained a man. At twelve years of age, he knew what his mother was doing now with these men so she would get a few pesos for tortillas and beans. Meat was a rarity for them unless he trapped a rabbit or got a pheasant with a rock. Cold, wet and hungry, Johnny snuck back to their shack and opened the door cautiously. The moon shined in the window enough he could see without stumbling over something. Hunger brought him into the shack when he was told not to come back until after the sun rose like before. This shack had a bedroom, so as long as he was quiet, he figured he could get warm and eat some beans and tortillas. Walking over to the fire to warm up as he eagerly ate, Johnny didn’t hear the bedroom door open.
“ What the hell you think you’re doing boy?” the man yelled as he grabbed Johnny by the neck. “ You sneak in here and steal her food. You little bastard. I’ll teach you to steal.” he said as he started slapping Johnny hard across the face, splitting his lip.
“ Stop it, Stop……..he’s my son……..Te ruego que pares. Por favor no le pegues.” Maria begged as she tried to get the man to let go of her son. ( I beg of you to stop. Please don’t hit him.)
Angry the man threw Johnny into the table and turned on Maria. “ You have a gringo’s bastard child. You lying bitch.” he said as he grabbed her and started hitting her. “ I’ll teach you to lie to me.” he said as he repeatedly hit Maria hard in the face with his fist until she went limp in his hand. Shoving her to the floor, he kicked her several times hard in the chest before turning and kicking Johnny in the back as he grabbed his gun of the floor and put it on. “ She should have thrown you in the river when you were born half-breed bastard kid.” he spat before walking out of the shack.
Johnny woke up and hurt all over. Dried blood caked his face from a cut by his left eye and a split lip. His back hurt as he moved. Looking around he seen his mother lying motionless on the floor by the fire.
“ Mama.” he said as he crawled to her side. “ Despierta mamá, por favor despierta.” ( Wake up mama, please wake up.) Johnny said as tears ran down his face. His mothers face was covered in blood and her head was twisted in a way, he knew her neck was broke.
“ Encontraréa ese hombre mamáy haréque pague por lastimarte. Mataréa ese hombre. Te lo prometo.” ( I’ll find that man mama and make him pay for hurting you. I will kill that man. This I promise you.) Johnny said as the door opened and the priest, two men and a woman came into the shack.
“ Ella es una niña muerta. No hay nada más que puedas hacer por ella.” ( She is dead child. There is nothing more you can do for her.)
“ El es un mestizo. Problemas desde que vino a nuestro pueblo. Roba y pelea con los otros niños.”( He is a mestizo. Trouble since he come to our village. He steals and fights with the other children.)
“ Tengo una solución para evitar que haga eso. Este niño necesita disciplina. Ven conmigo al chico del orfanato. Te limpiaréy te enseñarémodales.”( I have a solution to stop him from doing that. This child needs disciplined. Come with me to the orphanage boy. I will clean you up and teach you manners.)
Johnny struggled to get away, but hurt to much and the padre was just to strong. “ Let me go. I want to stay with my mother. Let go of me.”
“ La puta estámuerta. Probablemente por tu culpa.” (The whore is dead. Probably because of you.) the woman spat.
“ Mi madre no era una puta.” ( Don’t you call her that. My mother was not a whore.) Johnny said as he kicked the woman in the shin as hard as he could.
Johnny learned real quick in the orphanage how he would be treated. The other kids beat him up almost every day. At night and sometimes during the hot of the day he would be locked in a small closet with only the light from under the door. A stale piece of bread and a cup of water was mostly what he got to eat. Now at thirteen, he’d had enough and made his break from the orphanage in the middle of the night. He had a promise to keep to his mother, and he fully intended on doing that, regardless of how long it took him, he would hunt down and kill the man in black. He knew he would need a gun and that was something only the gringos who came across the border had. Men where being killed all the time, almost every night around Juarez, Johnny knew that all he had to do was wait and he would get a gun.
Three years, that’s how long it took him. Three years and a fast growing reputation with a pistol, and Johnny found the man who killed his mother. Sitting in the corner of the saloon with his back to the wall, Johnny watch the man walk in and over to a table where some men were playing poker. El Paso was a rough town, especially in certain areas after dark. Finishing his beer, Johnny stood up and slowly walked over to the table and stood there watching the man play his first, and last hand of poker.
“ I don’t much care for a half-breed watching me play poker boy. Take a walk before I teach you some manners.” the man in black ordered.
Johnny didn’t move. He just stood there glaring at the man.
“ Maybe you didn’t hear me the first time, so I’ll say it again. Take a walk boy.” the man ordered.
“ Tell me something, how many women and kids have you beat in the last four years?” Johnny asked coldly.
“ What the hell business is that of yours boy? Get out of here before I get angry and put a hole in you for the hell of it.” the man ordered.
“ You got a name mister?” Johnny asked.
“ Yeah, I got a name boy, It’s Fisher. Why?” the man demanded.
“ So they know what to put on your headstone, not that you deserve one you sonofabitch.” Johnny responded.
“ Am I supposed to know you Mex?” Fisher asked.
“ I guess you don’t remember those you beat. I was just twelve then, but I remember you real good. Took me three years to find you, but that’s okay. I made a promise to my mother I would hunt you down and kill you.” Johnny said coldly as others in the saloon got up and moved away from the table.
“ You’re that half-breed little shit that was stealing food that night I was fucking that whore.” Fisher responded.
“ She wasn’t a whore. She was my mother.” Johnny said. “ And you beat her to death.”
“ One less Mexican the way I see it.” Fisher said laughing. “ You got a name kid?” he asked.
“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.” he responded.
“ I’ve heard of a gunfighter named Madrid. They say he’s deadly fast with a gun. Taking another mans name to try and seem important is going to cost you boy.” Fisher said as he stood up. “ I’m tired of you bothering me. It’s time for you to die.” he said as he went for his gun.
Johnny drew and fired his colt before Fisher could clear leather, hitting the man between the eyes. Sliding the colt back in the holster, Johnny turned, tossed a coin to the bartender and walked out of the saloon.
Two years after killing Fisher for killing his mother, Johnny Madrid rode north into the town of Socorro, New Mexico. He’d heard miners in Colorado were willing to pay a good mount of money for anyone who would guard their gold shipments from the mine down to the bank. Not easy money to make, but worth it to him. The last two years he had spent building his reputation to where people hearing his name crossed the street to get away from him. Countless times men had been foolish enough to call him out, and every time he got faster and faster at beating them to the draw. Nobody could figure out how he could do it. Nobody knew that when a man is about to do something suddenly, their eyes changed, and that was his tall tail sign of beating them every time. Winter was just starting to set in, so he had until spring to get to Leadville, Colorado. The man at the assay office needed someone from the outside to figure out how the thieves knew when the shipments were being sent down. Easy enough job. Somebody on the inside had to be in with the bandits, telling them when a shipment was going down off the mountain.
Hungry, tired and cold, Johnny rode up to the livery stable and got down. After removing his rifle and saddlebags, he paid the man and headed to the hotel where the livery owner said he could get everything he needed for the night. Looking around, he wondered if the town would have any women for the night. Riding up from El Paso, he often thought about what his mother had said about his gringo father and wondered if there was any truth to it at all. Did he kicked them out of his house in the middle of the night. Wondering that made him start to wonder about why his mother always wanted to leave a village or town after a short time, and always in the middle of the night. Whenever he asked her, she would get angry and order him to never ask again. Finding him would be the biggest challenge since he didn’t even know the mans last name, let alone what he looked like. He did hear his mother tell a padre once in a village church about a man named Murdoch, and that he had a cattle ranch somewhere in California in the San Joaquin valley.
“ Yes sir. Can I help you?” the hotel clerk asked.
“ Need a bed, bath and hot meal. Man at the livery said you were the best place in town to come to.” Johnny responded.
“ Yes sir. How long will you be staying with us here at The Windsor?” the man asked
“ A day or two, depends on how bad that storm brewing up out there gets.” Johnny said.
“ Yes sir. Fall weather has come early this year for here. Some places in the mountains higher up have already gotten snow. Let’s see now, will you be wanting a room with a private bath?” the man asked.
“ That will be fine if you have one.” Johnny responded.
“ Okay. I happen to have several on the top floor, you look tired and the noise is less heard up there. I have on the backside corner. It cost three dollars a night. Will that be alright?” he asked.
“ Okay.” Johnny said as he took out his money to pay the man. “ How’s the food in this place?”
“ The best in town. Everybody comes here to eat dinner. You can eat in your room if you like. A waitress can bring a tray up for you. Just let me know what you want and I’ll have it brought up after your bath.”
“ Okay. I just need you to sign the register if you can. If not then make your mark for me please.” the clerk requested.
Johnny signed the register Johnny Madrid and watched to see if the clerk recognized the name. When he apparently didn’t and handed him his room key, Johnny smiled. “ Much obliged.” he said as he picked up his saddlebags and started for the stairs.
“ Oh, someone will be up directly to start your bath for you sir.” the clerk said.
“ Thanks.” Johnny responded as he headed on up to his room.
Johnny lay on the bed without a shirt on relaxing when a knock on the door got him up. Opening it he found a girl, not much older than him standing there holding a tray of food for him.
“ Hi, I brought you your supper sir. May I come in?” the girl asked.
Johnny stepped aside so the girl could enter the room. Leaving the door open, he stepped over and grabbed his clean shirt and slipped it on.
“ I hope you like your supper. I brought a piece of cake for desert also. I hope you don’t mind?” the girl asked.
Johnny walked over and lifted the napkin so he could see the food. “ Looks right good enough to eat. Thank you.”
“ Is there anything else I can get you?” she asked.
Johnny thought about that innocent question and knew this was an innocent girl, so he thought better of saying what he thought.
“ No, this will do.” he responded.
“ Okay, well if you need anything else tonight, I work until the food parlor closes at eleven.” she said as she walked to the door. “ Anyone ever tell you you have the prettiest blue eyes?”
“ You got a name?” Johnny asked.
“ Sally. My pa is the hotel clerk and my ma is one of the cooks in the kitchen here.” Sally said.
“ I’m Johnny. Maybe I’ll see you again before I leave.”
“ You will if you eat up here. I’m the only one who brings food to the rooms. Everybody else is too busy downstairs. The restaurant is always busy.” Sally said as she stepped out of the room. “ Enjoy your food.” Sally said as she closed the door.
“ Madrid, you have got to find a woman.” Johnny said as he sat down to eat.
“ I’m sorry Scott couldn’t come with you Murdoch. Maybe next year we can have the annual in San Francisco and he can come along with you?” Angus said.
“ Perhaps, but I need somebody reliable to stay and monitor spring round-up and branding.” Murdoch Lancer responded.
“ So when does your train leave?” Angus asked.
“ I’ll catch the stage in Salina.” Murdoch responded.
“ Does Scott know you’re going to ride across those mountains?” Angus asked.
“ Scott knows I can take care of myself. He knows I’m riding to Salina from Central City where I’ll catch the stage .” Murdoch replied.
“ There’s a lot of robbers in those mountains Murdoch. They’ve been stealing the big gold shipments that come from Oro City to Leadville to be loaded on the train and shipped to the Denver Mint.” Angus said.
“ Why doesn’t the army do anything about it?” Murdoch asked.
“ The army. Hell those blue coats are to damn busy with the Indians and trying to keep the miners and settlers from being scalped. The Arapaho, Ute, and Kiowa are the worst of them savages.” Angus said. “ The Cheyenne and Arapaho, they’re not real happy settlers are moving in on their land. The miners are raping the land they say with all the dynamiting and digging for gold and silver.”
“ Well I can see their point. One fool man finds gold and everybody comes running. I’ve seen the land destroyed from mining. That’s why I will not allow it on Lancer land.” Murdoch responded.
“ Times are changing Murdoch. People are moving west. You have a fortune in your timber alone.” Angus said.
“ As long as I’m alive, there will be no mining or cutting of timber on Lancer land.” Murdoch said firmly. “ I’ll see ya Angus.”
Johnny rode into Leadville and stopped at the Assay office. Looking around he seen quit a few new buildings that had been built as recent as last year. Miners tents sat at the west end of town. Several saloons could be seen up and down the street on both sides. Supply stores for those looking to get rich panning for gold. Hard work for anyone foolish enough to stand the elements and risk being killed by Indians. His job he figured wouldn’t last all that long. Two months maybe, if that long he thought as he stepped inside the assay office and closed the door.
“ Can I help you?” a man asked sitting at a desk behind the counter.
“ Madrid, Johnny Madrid.”
“ Yes, I’ve been expecting you. I’m sorry, but I hired someone else to do the job.” the man said as he stood up. “ I’m sorry you rode all this way for nothing Madrid.” the man said. “ Oh I might as well tell you, in case you plan on staying in town a day or so. This town is expensive. A room with a door and lock is twenty a night. A bath cost five dollars. Just to give you an idea Madrid.” the assay man said.
“ Prices like that, no wonder your gold gets stole.” Johnny said as he turned to leave the office.
“ People have to make a living. Nothing is for free around here Madrid.” the man responded.
“ Kindness to your fellow man and neighbor is, but I guess that don’t apply to you rich folks who like to rob the poor. I’ve dealt with men like you my whole life mister and the way I see it, I would rather drink turpentine and piss on a brush fire than spend a dime of my money in this town.” Johnny said before opening the door to leave.
“ We don’t allow vagrants around town Madrid, so do yourself a favor and ride out. Your kind isn’t wanted here.” the man ordered
Johnny turned around. “ My kind huh? I was good enough for you when you asked me to come here to save your precious gold from being stolen.” Johnny said before leaving the office and slamming the door.
“ It’s been real good seeing you again Murdoch.” Jake McClellan said.
“ And you Jake. Stop in and visit if you ever make it out to California.” Murdoch said as he shook the mans hand.
“ I just might do that. Gettin’ to be too many people around here. The mountains are getting crowded. A man can’t trap without someone coming along and stealing what he catches. Maybe next year I’ll come out there and buy a place.” Jake said.
“ Well I better get going. I want to be in Rifle tomorrow.”
“ Johnny Madrid.” a man yelled from down the street. “ Where you going Madrid? Let’s have some fun.”
“ That’s the man the assay office hired to find out who is stealing their gold shipments. He’s been a real nuisance to the folks around here since he showed up.” Jake told Murdoch as the two men watched the man stroll out into the middle of the street and stop.
“ I’ve heard of Madrid. He’s just a kid.” Murdoch said.
“ He may be a kid, but he’s the fastest and deadliest. He usually works down around the border in Texas and Mexico. I wonder why he’s clear up here in Colorado?” Jake said.
“ You coming up here is your mistake Madrid. You should have stayed in Mexico where a half-breed like you belongs.”
Johnny stepped away from his horse to the middle of the street to face the man. “ I don’t know you mister. I’m just riding through. I don’t want no trouble.”
“ Too bad, you got trouble the minute you rode into Leadville.” the man said.
Murdoch couldn’t help but think about his Johnny, and wonder if he ever seen this Madrid in Mexico. He would be about the same age.
“ Bogan, I hired you to guard my gold, not get in a gunfight with Johnny Madrid.” the assayer yelled.
“ Killing Madrid is personal.” Bogan yelled. “ Let’s dance Madrid.”
Johnny knew there was no walking away from this. The man was dead set on facing him. He could hear the whispers from the people on both sides of the street. Some making bets against him.
Bogan walked to within fifty feet of Madrid and stopped. “ I’m gonna put a bullet right between your eyes half-breed.”
Johnny just stood there watching for the sign he knew would come. When it did, he drew and fired, hitting Bogan in the heart as a bullet sliced into his left side. Keeping his gun leveled, Johnny backed toward his horse, mounted up and galloped west out of town.
“ See what I mean Murdoch. That boy is fast and deadly. Bogan was dead before he ever drew his gun. I ain’t ever seen anyone as fast as Madrid is.” Jake said.
“ I’ll see you Jake.” Murdoch said as he mounted up and headed west.
Madrid rode west ignoring the pain as blood soaked his side and started seeping down his pants leg. He knew the bullet passed clean through and more blood was leaking out the back than the entrance. Not knowing the territory, he kept his horse moving up in the mountains as he looked for a secluded spot to tend his wound.
“ You never should have come to Colorado Madrid.” he said aloud as a sharp pain hit causing him to double over and pass out.
Murdoch stopped his horse. Ahead he could see a rider slumped over the neck of his horse. Riding up slow he seen it was Madrid. Getting down he went to the boy and pulled him from his horse. His left side soaked with blood. He didn’t know why, but for some reason Murdoch felt compelled to help the boy.
Johnny struggled to open his eyes. He could smell smoke and hear someone moving around. Fluttering his eyes open, he could see a man knelt down at the fire doing something. Reaching for his gun and finding it not there, he looked around and seen it laying just out of his reach next to the mans bedroll.
“ You better lay still. You’ll get that wound bleeding again.” Murdoch said as he walked over and picked up the canteen. “ Here, drink some water.”
Johnny sat up a little so he could drink the water. “ Thanks.” he said as he lay his head back and passed out again.
For three days Johnny ran a fever and rambled in Spanish in his sleep. Murdoch knew enough to understand the boy was pleading at times to not be hit anymore. Other times he was begging for food or a drink. The scars he seen on the boys back, Murdoch could only assume were given to the boy as a child. He counted four old bullet wounds, three knife wounds and countless cuts from knives. It was his back that bothered him the most. Somebody had beaten the boy with what he could only assume was a whip. A scar above his right eye another ran along his chin on the left side, clearly made with a knife. Shaking his head in disbelief at the abuse this boy has had made him wonder if his own son had been abused if he was still alive. Mexico was a hard country to live in, especially for an innocent child with a Mexican mother and gringo father. He’d witnessed first hand the abuse a mixed child can get when he was in Matamoros where he met his sons mother.
“ You always watch someone when they sleep?” Johnny asked.
“ Only those I think need watching. How do you feel?” Murdoch asked as he stood up.
“ Been better. Had worse too.” Johnny responded. “ Much obliged to you for helping me. You didn’t have too do it.”
“ I wasn’t about to ride on and leave you to die. What kind of man would I be if I had done that?” Murdoch asked as he walked over and knelt down. “ Her, drink some water. You’ve been running a fever and been in and out of it for three days now.”
“ Got anything stronger?” Johnny asked.
“ Just coffee. Think you can handle a cup? I have some venison and beans also if you think you could eat a little meat?” Murdoch responded and asked.
“ Sounds good. I think I can handle some.” Johnny said as he tried to sit up more.
“ Here, let me help you. I don;t want you tearing those stitches out. You lost a lot of blood. Drink some water while I get you a cup of coffee and some meat.” Murdoch said as he handed him the canteen and went to get the coffee and a plate of meat and beans.
“ Thanks. I seen you in Leadville. You were with that mountain man watching what happened.” Johnny said.
“ Here, eat slow so your stomach can handle it.” Murdoch said as he handed him a plate of food. “ Yes, I seen you kill that man, and then ride out of town. Why didn’t you go see the doctor while there?”
“ I don’t like killing people that call me out mister. You heard what I said to him. I give every one stupid enough to try a chance to walk away and forget about it.” Johnny said gruffly. “ As for not going to the doctor. I went to Leadville for a job. The job that man Bogan was hired to do. The man at the assay office made it clear my kind isn’t welcome in that town. I was leaving when he called me out to dance.”
“ To dance, your kind. I’m afraid I don’t understand. What do you mean?” Murdoch asked.
“ You heard what he called me, a half-breed. Mexican mother, gringo father. I’m not welcome in most places because of that. The only way they know is my blue eyes. I guess I got them from my old man cause my mothers eyes where brown.” Johnny said before he took a bite of meat. “ You’re a pretty good cook. What did you use to season it with?”
“ Thank you. Wild onions and a little gunpowder to tenderize and season it.” Murdoch responded.
“ Up here I imagine there’s a lot of stuff growing wild you can eat. Not like down in the desert.” Johnny said as he set hi
s empty plate down.
“ There’s a few plants in the mountains you can eat to survive if you know what to look for.” Murdoch said. “ Can I ask how old you are?”
“ Seventeen, why?” Johnny responded.
“ I was just wondering why someone so young chooses to live by a gun is all.” Murdoch responded.
“ It was Sam Colt or die. Life ain’t easy in Mexico for my kind.” Johnny said. “ I killed my first man when I was sixteen. Took me three years to find him, but I kept my promise. After that, I just got better and started hiring out to range wars and people needing my gun.”
“ What promise could make someone want to kill another man at sixteen?” Murdoch asked.
“ A promise I made to my mother that I would find the sonofabitch that beat her to death and send him to hell.” Johnny said as he sat up. “ I ain’t wanted by the law if that’s what you’re worried about. I never killed a man unless he asked for it. Fisher asked for it when he beat me and killed my mother.”
“ What was your mothers name?” Murdoch asked.
“ Why you so interested in my life and what my mothers name was?” Johnny demanded.
“ I’m just passing the time. Making conversation is all. There’s no need for hostilities.” Murdoch responded.
“ Alright, since we’re just making conversation as you say. What about you? Where’s your family?” Johnny asked.
“ My family is back in Scotland. I came here twenty six years ago and married a beautiful woman in Boston. Unfortunately she died giving birth to my first son.” Murdoch said as he poured them both a cup of coffee.
“ Your first son? So what, you married again?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes I did. I married a beautiful Mexican woman I met and fell in love with a couple years later down in Matamoros. She was my world. I took her back to California with me, to my ranch where I thought we would spend the rest of our lives together raising our son.” Murdoch explained.
“ What happened to your first son?” Johnny asked.
“ Scott, he’s at home running the ranch while I attended a cattleman’s conference in Denver.” Murdoch responded.
“ And your second son. Where’s he at?” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t know exactly. I’ve been searching for him going on fifteen years now. His mother took him and left me in the middle of the night. I awoke one morning and found her and my youngest son gone. I’ve had Pinkerton’s searching for them, but every time they got close, she would disappear. They’ve had no luck at all the last five years searching every village and town in Mexico. I can only pray that one day I get to see my son again. I missed him growing up. I’d like to know what kind of man he’s growing up to be.”
Johnny stood up. “ I need to take a walk.” he said as he turned to walk off into the trees.
“ Alright. If you need help, I’m here.” Murdoch said.
Fifteen minutes later Murdoch went looking for Johnny. He didn’t have to go far, finding the boy braced against a tree, trembling as he threw up. Walking up to the boy, he placed a hand on his back, only to have Johnny step away from him. “ Don’t touch me. Just get away from me.” Johnny ordered.
“ I can’t do that son. You’re sick. Look at you……your shaking like a leaf. What did I say to make you be like this?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny spun around. “ What’s wrong…….You ask me what’s wrong…….My whole life has been a lie mister……..That’s what’s wrong.” Johnny spat.
“ Look, if you ant to talk about it………”
“ What were their names?” Johnny cut in demanding. “ Your wife who ran off. What were her and the kids name?”
“ Maria Lancer, and my sons name is Johnny.” Murdoch said.
“ What was her last name?” Johnny asked.
“ I told you, Lancer.” Murdoch responded.
“ Before you married her, what was her last name?”
“ Maria Della Vega. I met her in a cantina in Matamoros in eighteen fifty five.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ What’s your name?” Johnny asked as he spit and wiped his mouth.
“ I told you Lancer, Murdoch Lancer.”
Johnny turned around and faced him. “ She said you threw us out because you didn’t want a half-breed kid tarnishing the good Lancer name.”
Murdoch stood there unable to speak or move. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard Johnny say.
“ You married her in a little chapel in Matamoros. The padre, a nun and two other people where there as a witness. That’s all she ever told me about you. I overheard her speaking to someone once and knew only your first name and that you had a ranch in California somewhere.”
Murdoch started to shake. Clenching his hands into fist to try and stop it as he took a couple deep breaths. Standing right in front of him was the son he never got a chance to know. The son he searched so many years for. Could it really be his Johnny?
“ Do…….Do you have a picture of her?” he finally asked with a trembling voice.
“ In my saddlebags, wrapped up in leather.” Johnny responded as he stood there starring at the man.
“ May I see it please?” Murdoch requested.
Johnny walked past Murdoch to his saddle and slowly bent down and picked up his saddlebags. Opening the left one, he reached inside and pulled out an object wrapped in leather and handed it to him.
Murdoch took the piece of leather and carefully unwrapped it. Inside was a beautiful silver picture frame with a picture of a beautiful Mexican woman holding a baby in her arms. A tear ran down Murdoch’s face as he looked at the picture. I was his Maria and their son Johnny as a baby. The same baby who stood before him now seventeen years later.
“ I had this taken when you were only six months old. She’s standing in the rose garden at the ranch just outside the kitchen.” Murdoch said.
“ Why………why did she lie to me all these years? Why did she leave you?” Johnny said as he reached into his other saddlebag and pulled out a bottle of tequila.
“ I don’t know. I’ve been asking myself that question for a long time son.” Murdoch responded. “ As to why she lied to you, I don’t have an answer, and I guess neither one of us will ever know.”
“ So what do we do now?” Johnny asked before opening the bottle and taking a long drink.
“ Do you really think you should be drinking that?” Murdoch asked.
“ Considering what’s happened, yeah I do.” Johnny said as he offered the bottle to his father.
“ I see your point.” Murdoch responded as he took the bottle and took a drink. “ I never could get a taste for that stuff.
“ Goes better with a lime and some salt.” Johnny said as he took another drink and then put the bottle back in his saddlebag. “ That picture and this medallion are all I have that was hers.” he said as he pulled the medallion out of his shirt to show him.
“ Father Micheal gave her that when you were Christened in the church in Morro Coyo when you were three months old. You were born December twenty third and she didn’t want to take you out in the winter for fear of you getting sick riding twenty miles to town in the buggy.” Murdoch explained.
“ You never answered my question. What now?” Johnny asked again.
“ We need to get you to Rifle so the doctor there can check your wound and we can get more bandages. I was planning on riding to Salina and catching the stage there on up to Holden and another on over to California, instead of the long ride on horseback across the desert.” Murdoch responded. “ I would like you to come home with me son. Lancer is your home. It’s where you belong. Not out here living by a gun.”
“ There’s something you need to understand old man. You know who I am. Men will come looking for me to kill me for the reputation I have built up the last five years as being the best at my trade. Now that may not sit to well with all your fancy friends and that other son of yours.” Johnny explained
“ I have two things to say, well one to ask you, the other to say son. Could you show me some respect and call me Murdoch as opposed to old man. And two, Lancer takes care of its own. Nobody who works for me is going to allow anyone to come gunning for either of my sons. And if you think I’m just going to stand by and not try and stop it, you are sorely wrong. Fate brought us together. I will be damned if I’m going to let someone come gunning for you just because they want your reputation. I lost you once, I can’t handle losing you again, not at my age.”
Johnny and Murdoch rode into Rifle, Colorado late the next day. Murdoch couldn’t help but notice the change in his son when they got closer to town. How even though his head hardly moved, his eyes were watching every person on the street and looking up at the rooftops. It saddened him knowing the abuse his son had been dealt growing up, and how now as a gunfighter, others would come and try and kill him, just so they can take his reputation as the best and make the highest money when they hired their gun out during a range war.
Sooner or later somebody faster will come along and kill me is what Johnny told him as they rode along. It goes with the profession he had said. He also told him that all he ever wanted was to be good at his trade when he started, not knowing that doing so would make him a target for every other gunfighter out there wanting to be better. Who thought they were faster.
Stopping outside a building at the end of town with a sign that said Mark Powell, M.D. on a sign hanging from a post.
“ Are you doing alright son?” Murdoch asked before getting down.
“ Been worse.” Johnny said as he slowly got down. “ Recon we can find a hot bath in this town?” he asked as he tied up his horse.
“ I’m sure we can. I think a hot bath and some sleep in a bed will do you a lot of good.” Murdoch responded as he stepped up to the door and knocked.
A an in his forties opened the door. “ Can I help you?” he asked.
“ My son was shot ten days ago. I was wondering if you could take a look at the wound?” Murdoch asked.
“ Certainly, come on in. Go in the second room on the left.” the man requested as he closed his door.
Johnny hated doctors. Hell most of his life he had been his own doctor, Digging out bullets, stitching cuts, and bullet wounds, bracing and setting broken bones. The life of a gunfighter was a lonely one. Very rarely did a gunfighter have a friend they could trust their life with, especially when shot.
“I’m Doctor Mark Powell, why don’t you get that shirt off so I can see the wound. You can wait out in the parlor while I exam your son.” the doctor suggested.
Thirty minutes later Johnny and the doctor came out into the parlor. “ His wound is a little red. He really shouldn’t be riding a horse so soon after being shot. He told me you stitched him up!”
“ Yes. I cleaned the wound the best I could and used a mud poultice on it. He had a fever for a few days.” Murdoch responded.
“ Well, your stitches were very good. Small and close together. I told him it would be alright to soak in a hot bath. It would help with the redness and soreness. What your son needs is a couple days rest in a bed if possible Mister Lancer.” the doctor instructed.
Murdoch looked at Johnny. “ he will doctor. Thank you. How much do I owe you?”
“ Two dollars is my normal fee.”
Murdoch paid the man as Johnny walked outside.
“ I couldn’t help but notice the scars on your sons back and that he’s been shot before.” the doctor stated.
“ I’ve only just recently found my son doctor. I assure you, had he been with me growing up, he wouldn’t have those scars. Thanks again for what you did.” Murdoch said before walking out.
“ You look like you feel better son.” Murdoch said as Johnny sat down on the bed.
“ Yeah I do. Hated to get out of the water.” Johnny responded as he dried his hair.
“ There’s a restaurant downstairs. Want to go get something to eat?” he asked.
“ I’m starved.” Johnny responded. “ Just let me finish getting dressed.”
“ Alright. Why don’t you finish getting dressed and I’ll meet you there? I need to go send a wire to your brother letting him know I’ve been delayed.”
“ You gonna tell him about me?” Johnny asked.
“ No. I’ll tell him I have a surprise is all.” Murdoch responded as he walked to the door.
“ Little more than a surprise don’t you think? Does he know about me?” Johnny asked as he put on a clean pair of socks.
“ Yes, he knows about you. He was raised at Lancer and knows I’ve been searching for you. I’ll see you downstairs son.”
Johnny watched his father walk out and close the door. Laying back on the bed, he reflected on everything that’s happened to him in the past two weeks. The chances of finding his father like he did were beyond luck. If he hadn’t rode to Colorado, got called out and shot, they never would have met. Now he’s headed to a whole new life he’s not to sure about having, and a brother he’s never met. A brother. All his life he had wished he had a big brother. Someone to protect him from the abuse he received. Someone to go fishing with, to talk to and learn from. Clearly his mother knew about Scott, and never said a word about him. Why? How could she keep something like that from him. What could make her hate the man she married so much, that she would lie to her own son and keep secrets from him like she did?
“ Guess it’s like the old man said, we will never know the answers to why you did what you mamma. I don’t hate you for it, but I will never forgive you.” Johnny said aloud as he put on his shirt.
Scott Lancer walked out of the barn and tried dusting off some of the dirt before he walked in the house. Tonight after supper, he would have to go over the books and enter expenses. He wanted to keep everything caught up for when his father came home. The last month had been an exhausting one. Roping, branding and castrating seven hundred calves, a good spring production he thought. More calves than they had figured. Having five bulls helped. Tomorrow they would separate the cows that didn’t have calves and put them in a separate pasture with two bulls to hopefully be bred for spring calves next year.
“ Ah, senor Scott, supper will be ready in about half an hour if you wish to clean up.” Maria said.
“ Thank you. I believe I will. I think I have half of Lancer dirt on me tonight.” Scott responded.
“ There is a wire for you on the desk. I hope it is from senor Murdoch.” Maria said.
Scott walked over and picked up the wire, opening it, he read it and sighed. “ It’s from father. It seems he’s been delayed by something and says it will be a surprise for me when he gets home. He’s in Rifle, Colorado and will ride up and catch the train in Salt Lake. He will let me know when he gets closer when he will be arriving.”
“ Oh that’s good news. Now you go and clean up.” Maria ordered.
“ What’s this other envelope Maria?” Scott asked.
“ The Pinkerton’s monthly report I believe. Senor Murdoch, he would get one every month about them looking for your hermano.” she responded before walking back to the kitchen.
Scott opened the letter. He knew he shouldn’t, but he wanted to know if they had found his brother yet. He wanted him home at Lancer where he belonged as bad, if not more than his father did. Reading the report he sighed. Still no sign of him.
“ Your seventeen now brother. If you are still alive, where are you?” Scott asked an empty room as he put the letter back in the envelope and headed out to take a bath.
“ So what’s he like?” Johnny asked as they ate their meal.
“ Scott. He’s almost as tall as me. Blonde hair, lean. He went back east for four years and stayed with his grandfather while he went to college at Harvard. He’s a hard worker. It takes that to run a ranch the size of Lancer.” Murdoch responded.
“ How big is this ranch?” Johnny asked.
“ Lancer is one hundred thousand acres with a thousand head of cattle and some of the finest Capanero De Palominos in the San Joaquin.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s a fair piece of land. How many men you have working for you?” Johnny asked.
“ I have a hundred and fifty vaqueros. Some with families that live in small houses I had built on Lancer for them.” Murdoch responded.
“ Backbreaking dangerous work for a dollar a day.” Johnny said.
“ Yes, but when I started Lancer, when I bought it back in fifty two, it was in dire need of repairs. The barn roof was all but gone. The house roof needed repaired in numerous places, and the fencing was down. It took three years to get all the streams cleared out so water could flow and fill the waterholes. I’ve had a line-shack built at both Black Mesa and South Mesa for spring and fall round-ups.”
“ I’ve worked on a few ranches. The biggest one was King Ranch. Now that’s a big ass ranch. He has eight hundred and twenty five thousand acres. Worked there two summers ago.” Johnny said.
“ I’ve heard of that ranch. I didn’t know it was quit that big.” Murdoch said.
“ Takes a lot of land in Texas to feed cattle. Grazing isn’t the best, but those Longhorns are a pretty tough breed of cattle.” Johnny said as he set his fork down and wiped his mouth.
“ We can stay here a day or two and let you rest up before we head on up to Salt lake. That’s if you want to?” Murdoch suggested.
“ Sleep in a real bed for a couple day. That does sound good.” Johnny said as he sat back in his chair.
Murdoch and Johnny rode into Salt Lake City two weeks after leaving Rifle, Colorado. Talking and getting to know each other as father and son as they rode along.
“ So what now?” Johnny asked.
“ Now we sell the horses and saddles and I purchase two train tickets to Sacramento.” Murdoch responded. “ Have you ever rode on a train before son?” he asked.
“ No. Can’t be much different than riding a stage-coach can it?” Johnny responded.
“ A lot different. I’ll get us both tickets for the dining car and a private berth we can ride and sleep in.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Can I help you?” a boy asked as he walked out of the livery barn.
“ We need to sell these horses because we’re taking the train to Sacramento. Is your pa around?” Murdoch asked.
“ Hey pa, two men out here want to sell their horses!”the boy yelled. “ This one is good looking. You sure you want to get rid of him?” the boy asked.
“ Yeah, got to. He can’t ride on the train with me.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ You the two selling?” a man asked as he walked up and started checking the horses over real good. “ You got a bill a sale for them?”
“ Yes we do.” Murdoch responded.
“ Saddles also?” he asked.
“ Just one saddle. My son will be taking his.”
“ Let me see those bill a sales and then we can talk price.” the man said.
“ This bay is real good looking pa. He’s what old man Gunther’s been looking for.”
“ Tell ya what, I’ll give you thirty for the sorrel and fifty for the bay and another twenty for the saddle. Hundred dollars. Is all I’ll pay.”
“ You must think I’m stupid or something mister. Anybody with eyes can see that bay is young, four years old to be exact and got more sense in one foot than you do in your whole brain. The bay don’t go for less than one hundred dollars and my fathers horse for fifty, and you can have the saddles.” Johnny said firmly. “ Look, we both know you’re going to sell the bay to this Gunther’s fella for probably twice that amount, so think real hard, because I can just as easily put a bullet in his head and we’re both out money.”
“ Hundred and fifty for both and I’ll give ya fifty for both saddles. Two hundred dollars sound fair?” the man asked.
“ Sounds real good.” Murdoch said as he removed his saddlebags.
“ Come on in the office and I’ll pay ya and you can sign the paperwork. Son, take them two inside and strip the saddles off them.”
“ Yes sir.” the boy said as he took the reins and led the horses inside.
“ Train leaves at ten in the morning. You should arrive in Sacramento Saturday evening. The conductor will show you to your private quarters once boarded. The private sleeping berth quarters are just in front of the dining car. Will you have any luggage?” the clerk asked.
“ No, just our saddlebags and rifles that will stay with us.” Murdoch said.
“ Alright, that will be three hundred dollars for both of you.” the clerk said.
Murdoch paid the man and handed Johnny his ticket. “ We might as well go get a room for the night son.”
“ I’ll pay for the room since you bought the train tickets.” Johnny said as they walked toward a big Hotel.
“ You don’t have to do that son. This is a business trip with one hell of a good bonus.” Murdoch responded.
“ Bonus huh. What bonus?” Johnny asked.
“ Alright young man, you know perfectly well what I’m talking about.” Murdoch said with a slight laugh.
“ Yeah, I guess my going to Colorado and getting shot was luck.” Johnny said. “ So how long will it take us to get to Sacramento?”
“ About three days. We should be in there Saturday evening the clerk said.
“ Three days and two nights on a train. Sure will be somethin’.” Johnny said.
“ I need to send a wire to Scott letting him know.” Murdoch said.
“ Hey Scott, you being in town saved me a ride out to your ranch. I got a wire from Murdoch for you.” Harvey said.
“ I hope it says he’s coming home soon.” Scott said as he took the telegram and opened it. “ Great, he’ll arrive in Sacramento Saturday evening by train and take the stage to Morro Coyo from there. So I guess he’ll be here Sunday afternoon then. Says to bring two horses with me.”
“ He must have someone with him then. Can’t be a lady cause otherwise he would’ve asked for the buggy.” Harvey said.
“ Yeah. Thanks. I’ll see ya Harvey.”
Scott watched as the stage came into Morro Coyo and stopped in front of Baldanero’s store. Stepping down into the dusty street, he walked over just as his father emerged from the stage after another man and helped a woman and her young daughter down.
“ Oh boy, I think that road gets rougher every time I ride it Stan.” Murdoch said as he stretched his back.
“ Those hard spring rains didn’t help it any Mister Lancer.” Stan said as he handed down the saddlebags. “ We’ll be leaving in about thirty minutes ma’am, after I switch out the teams.”
“ Thank you, and I want to thank the two of you for stopping that man from bothering us. It’s nice to know chivalry can be found out here in such a desolate place.” the woman said before starting to walk away with her daughter, only to be stopped by the man.
“ You sure you don’t want to get acquainted better lady.” he asked
“ I most certainly do not. Now leave us alone.” the lady ordered.
Johnny stepped off the stage and seen the man once again bothering the lady. Walking over and stopping behind the woman.
“ The lady told you to leave her alone.” Johnny said as he stepped in front of the lady as Murdoch came up behind him.
“ You got any idea who you’re messing with half-breed?” he demanded.
“ Looks to be someone who wallows in a pig pen for a bath.” Johnny said.
“ I’m Clodovio Chavez of the Vasquez Gang. If you weren’t a half-breed, I might have forgotten what you just said and let you walk away, but since you have gringo blue eyes, I will not.” Chavez said as he went for his gun, only to be stopped by the barrel of a colt against his neck.
“ Go ahead and draw that hog-leg. It’ll be the last mistake you ever do.” Johnny said coldly.
Scott just stood there watching what was happening in front of him. He couldn’t believe the speed the kid had drawing his gun.
Murdoch had the woman and her daughter step back behind him as he knew to not interfere with his son.
“ My friends will be riding in here half-breed.” Chavez said.
“ You think I care about a piece of shit like you or your friends, you thought wrong.” Johnny said coldly as he lowered his colt. “ I suggest you leave Morro Coyo if you want to keep breathing.
Chavez stepped away from Johnny and wiped the sweat from his brow. “ We’ll meet again boy.”
“ I’m not hard to find. Just ask for Johnny Madrid.”
“ You’re not Johnny Madrid…….He runs down in Sonora.” Chavez said.
“ Try me and find out.” Johnny said coldly.
“ I can personally say that he is the gunfighter Johnny Madrid. So I suggest you leave if you want to continue breathing.” Murdoch cut in.
“ I won’t forget this half-breed. You either gringo.” Chavez said before walking away.
“ Murdoch, you got guts, I’ll say that. So do you boy. There’s a fifteen thousand dollar bounty on that gangs head. Especially the leader Tiburcio Vasquez.” Stan said. “ I’ll send a wire letting the Sheriff of Green River know they are in the area. You ready to board now ma’am?”
“ Young man, I’ve heard of you and I must say that what I have heard about Johnny Madrid is true. You are the patron saint they call you in Mexico. Go with God my child..” the lady said before getting back on the stage.
Scott waited until the stage left before walking up to his father. “ Welcome home sir.”
“ Scott. It’s good to see you son.” Murdoch said as they shook hands. “ Did you bring an extra horse like I asked?”
“ Yes sir. I have them across the street. Though I’m a bit confused why you wanted an extra horse sir.” Scott responded.
“ For me Boston.” Johnny said.
Scott looked at Johnny. “ Excuse me, but I’m speaking to my father, so if you don’t mind.”
“ Thought you said he has manners Murdoch?” Johnny asked.
Murdoch already knew Johnny wanted to have a little fun with his newly found big brother, and it took everything he had to keep from busting out laughing.
Scott was totally confused now. Why would this gunfighter be calling his father by name? “ Would someone care to explain to me what is going on?”
“ I guess he didn’t learn to well at that college you said he went to back in Boston, Harvard wasn’t it?” Johnny jokingly asked. “ The extra horse is for me brother. Unless you want me to ride double with you?” Johnny said.
“ You, I……….” Scott looked at his father. “ Are you saying……..”
“ Yes son, I am. Say hello to your little brother Johnny.” Murdoch responded. “ Let’s get home shall we. I’ll explain everything there.” Murdoch instructed as they started across the street to the horses.
Scott had a million questions running through his mind on the quiet ride home. The only sound heard was that of their horses feet on the hard ground. He kept glancing over at his brother riding on his left and then at his father on his right. The latest Pinkerton report said they didn’t know where his brother was. That they would keep searching until his father said not too.
“ How did the roundup and branding go son?” Murdoch asked to break the deafening silence.
“ It went good. One hand broke his arm when a cow charged him when he roped her calf. She hit his horse and knocked it down before anyone could stop her. Sam said he was lucky. It was a clean break and should heal up alright. He was worried you would fire him when you got back. I told him to not worry. It was an accident and he still has a job when his arm heals up. I have him helping with repairs that he can do. We had a good calving this year. We branded seven hundred calves and castrated four hundred of them. The three hundred cows that don’t have calves I had separated and put in the south pasture with two bulls to be bred.”
“ That’s good son. Did you have any other problems?” Murdoch asked.
“ Killed a cat. A big male. His teeth were worn down so I think he found our cattle easier to kill than a deer.” Scott responded.
“ How many did he kill?”
“ Two yearlings. Walt shot him right after he brought down the second one up at the north pasture. Probably the same cat we’ve been seeing the tracks of around the water hole and in the stream bed up there.” Scott responded. “ The foot bridge is almost done and the south mesa line shack needs repairs on the roof before the rains. I figured to send a couple men to do that next week once the supplies come in.”
“ Sounds like you handled running the ranch real good son. Thank you. When everything settles down, I’d like you to show Johnny around so he gets the feel of the ranch.” Murdoch said as they stopped on the hill and he dismounted. “ So what do you think of Lancer Johnny?” he asked.
Johnny got down and looked at the valley below.
“ From here all the way to those mountains off in the distance. One hundred thousand acres.” Murdoch said.
Johnny stepped forward and could see hands breaking a horse in the corral below and others in another corral with a herd of horses.
“ Lancer just acquired a contract with the army to supply horses to them. Lancer has more wild horses on it than you could break in a lifetime son.” Murdoch explained.
“ It’s those Capanero De Palomino’s you told me about that I’m interested in.” Johnny responded.
“ Let’s go down so you can meet your aunt and uncle.” Murdoch said as he went to his horse to mount up.
“ I have a Tio and Tia here?” ( Uncle and Aunt ) Johnny asked.
“ Yes. Cipriano is your mothers brother and my cook Maria is his wife. She helped Sam deliver you.” Murdoch responded.
“ She never said I had any relatives. Hell she never told me I had a brother either.” Johnny said as they rode down the hill to the house.
Cipriano walked out of the barn and seen Scott and Murdoch with another man riding under the Lancer arch. He started saying a prayer as the riders got closer.
“ Reconocería esos en cualquier lugar. Aun estas vivo. Bienvenido a casa sobrino. Tu tia estarámuy feliz de verte de nuevo, toda crecida.” ( I would recognize those eyes anywhere. You are still alive. Welcome home nephew. Your aunt will be so happy to see you again, all grown up.)
Johnny rode into the yard and stayed on his horse as Murdoch and Scott got down.
“ It is good to see you again Jefe. I see by a miracle you bring my lost nephew home with you.” ( Boss ) Cipriano said as he looked at Johnny.
“ You can get down Johnny. Nobody here will hurt you son.” Murdoch said.
Johnny got down and removed his saddlebags and rifle, letting a hand take his horse.
“ This is your uncle, Cipriano.” Murdoch said.
Cipriano stepped closer and held out his hand. “ Es bueno verte de nuevo sobrino. Durante muchos años, tu tía y yo rezamos para que encontraras el camino de regresoa nosotros, y nuetras oraciones finalmente fueron respondidas.” (It is good to see you again nephew. For many years your aunt and I prayed you would find your way back to us, and our prayers were finally answered.)
“ Ella nunca me dijo que tenía un hermano.” Johnny said as he shook the mans hand.( She never told me she had a brother.)
Cipriano looked at Murdoch with confusion in his eyes. “ No entiendo. ¿ Ella nunca te dijo que tenías familia?”( I do not understand. She never told you you had family?)
“ No. Ni siquiera sabía que tenía un hermano mayor hasta que Murdoch me lo dijo.” ( No. I didn’t even know I had an older brother until Murdoch told me.)
“ It’s been a long journey and Johnny isn’t healed up all the way yet, so lets go inside where it’s cooler so he can sit down and rest.”
“ Jefe, I do not think he will be allowed to until Maria is finished with him.” Cipriano said. “ I will see you tomorrow nephew.”
Johnny followed Murdoch and Scott into the big house. “ We usually remove our guns and hang them here by the front door son when we come in, but I know how you are, so I won’t pressure you to not wear it in the house.” Murdoch said as he removed his gun. “ There’s a gun cabinet in the grand room you can put your rifle in.” he added.
Johnny stepped down into the huge room and looked around. In the far right corner was a huge fireplace with the Lancer L in a circle and a map of Lancer above the mantle. To his right was a row of shelves almost to the ceiling full of more books than he had ever seen in his lifetime. In front of it was a huge table, he assumed was the dining table with high backed chairs all around it. A couch with a small table in front of it and two overstuffed chairs sat in the middle of the room. A table right behind the couch had a model of a ship sitting on it. Walking over he looked at the ship.
“ That’s the ship I sailed from Scotland to the east coast on son.” Murdoch said.
“ How long were you on it?” Johnny asked.
“ Three very long months. I was never so glad as I was when I stepped on solid ground again.” Murdoch said with a laugh.
Johnny continued to wonder around the room looking at everything. “ Nice desk.” he said as he admired the solid oak desk his father used.
“ Thank you. That was a gift from Scott’s mother Catherine. She had it shipped out here when I was gone buying cattle. If you will excuse me for a minute.” Murdoch said before leaving the room.
“ Get it said brother.” Johnny said as he walked over and put his rifle in the gun rack by the big bay window behind his fathers desk.
“ Alright, I think I will…..brother. It’s what you said in town to Chavez. Are you the gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Scott asked as he walked over closer to him.
“ Since I was thirteen.” Johnny responded. “ Let me guess, you heard wild stories about me being a ruthless cold-blooded killer?”
“ Some yes. I just don’t want my father……..Our father getting hurt. You don’t know what it was like for him searching for you and every month a Pinkerton report would come telling him the same thing.” Scott said.
“ I have no intention of hurting him. I owe him my life. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be dead back in Colorado from a bullet hole in my left side.” Johnny responded.
“ You were shot?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, I’ve been shot several times, cut, stabbed and beaten with a whip.” Johnny responded. “ I’ve dug bullets out of myself and stitched myself up. I’ve also cauterized one of my wounds once. That hurt like hell.” he added as Murdoch walked into the room with Maria.
“ Es cierto, mi pequeño sobrino de ojos azules ha vuelto a mí.” ( It is true, my little blue eyed nephew has come back to me.) Maria said with tears as she walked up to Johnny and placed a hand on each side of his face.
“ Murdoch me dice que me ayudaste a liberarme.” ( Murdoch tells me you helped deliver me.) Johnny said.
“ Sí, ayudé al médico a entregarte y ayudé a tu madre a cuidarte. Eras un buen bebé.” ( Yes, I helped the doctor deliver you and I helped your mother take care of you. You were such a good baby.) Maria said as she wrapped her arms around him.
“ Ella nunca me dijo que tenía familia. Ni siquiera sabía dónde nacío viví.” ( She never told me I had family. I didn’t even know where I was born or lived.) Johnny said as he hugged his aunt.
“Ahora estás en casa, a salvo, y eso es todo lo que importa. Eres muy flaco. Te prepararéun festín. Mañana or la noche comerás bien.” ( You are home now, safe, and that’s all that matters. You are to skinny. I will fix a feast for you. Tomorrow night you will eat good.) Maria said before heading back into the kitchen.
“ You can believe she will be fixing a feast for supper tonight son.” Murdoch said. “ Did we interrupt something between you two when we walked into the room?” he asked.
“ Nope. Was just telling Boston there about my medical. I’d like to rest up if it’s alright?” Johnny responded and asked.
“ Certainly. Scott, would you show your brother to his room and where things are upstairs while I go through this stack of mail?” Murdoch requested.
“ Yes sir. Follow me” Scott said as he started to the stairs.
“ Oh John, breakfast and supper are served at six except on Sundays.” Murdoch said as he sat down at his desk.
Johnny woke to the sun shining in his window, which meant he had slept right through supper and probably breakfast too. His wound though four weeks old was still tender to the touch and hurt when he stretched. He knew he missed both supper and breakfast and wondered how long until lunch, or had he slept through that also. Getting up, he got dressed and headed downstairs to the kitchen where he found Maria preparing a meal.
“Te perdiste la cena y el desayuno. Mantuve un plato de tocino y galletas calientes para ti. El almuerzo seráen dos horas.” ( You missed supper and breakfast. I kept a plate of bacon and biscuits warm for you. Lunch will be in two hours.) Maria said.
“Si, losiento.Creo que estaba más cansado de lo que pensaba.”( Yeah, I’m sorry. I guess I was more tired than I thought.) Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Señor Lancer, dijo que se estárecuperando de un disparo. Necesitas el resto. Hace que el médico salga para revisar tu herida.” (Mister Lancer, he said you are healing up from being shot. You need rest. He has the doctor coming out to check on your wound.) Maria said as she set a plate of bacon and biscuits down in front of him.
“ Gracias, Maria. Esto huele bien.” ( Thank you Maria. This smells good.) Johnny said as he started to eat a biscuit with some bacon on it.
“ Nice to see you awake brother.” Scott said as he walked into the kitchen. “ I wouldn’t make it a habit of sleeping in once your able to work. Murdoch likes to keep a tight schedule. Breakfast at six, work from seven till noon, eat lunch and then back to work until five to be home and cleaned up for supper at six.”
“ I’ll try and remember that Boston.” Johnny said as he put bacon on another biscuit.
“ My name is Scott, not Boston. I would appreciate it if you would try and remember that.” Scott requested.
“ Sure thing……..Boston…….I mean Scott.” Johnny said with a smile.
Scott shook his head. “ Maria, a hand is going into town to get supplies. Do you needed anything for tonight’s supper?”
“ No senor Scott. I have everything I need. Gracias.” Maria responded.
“ De nada.” Scott said before turning to leave. “ When your done eating, Murdoch would like to see you down at the corrals.” he said before walking out.
“ No creo que mi hermano mayor estémuy feliz porque estoy aquí.”( I don’t think big brother is too happy I’m here.) Johnny said as he finished the last biscuit and bacon.
“ Él es feliz. Sólo tomarátiempo. Los dos necesitan conocerse, eso es todo. Scott es un buen chico.”( He is happy. It will just take time. The two of you need to get to know each other is all. Scott is a good boy.) Maria responded.
“ Sí, no un pistolero con una reputación como yo. Es educado y tiene modales.”( Yeah, not a gunfighter with a reputation like me. He’s educated and has manners.) Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to put the plate in the sink.
“ La educación y los modales no hacen al hombre. Es lo que estádentro de tu corazón lo que hace al hombre. Esta reputación de la que hablas,¿ la quieres?”(Education and manners does not make the man. It is what’s inside your heart than makes the man. This reputation you speak of, do you want it? ) Maria responded and asked.
“ Pasécinco años haciéndolo tía. En México me conocen como Johnny Madrid.”( I spent five years getting it aunt. In Mexico, I am known as Johnny Madrid.)
“ Sí, pero ahora serás conocido como Johnny Lancer, so quieres. Tienes que hacer lo que tu corazón dice, no lo que otros dicen.”( Yes, but now you will be known as Johnny Lancer, if you want to. You have to do what your heart says, not what others say.) Maria responded
“ Eres una persona muy sabia María. Gracias.”( You are a very wise person Maria. Thank you.) Johnny said before giving her a kiss on the cheek and leaving the kitchen.
Johnny could hear yelling and a horse squealing as he walked to the corrals. Not seeing his father, he walked over to the fence and put his right foot up on the bottom rail to watch a kid not much older than him in the corral trying to break a beautiful golden Palomino stallion with a mane as white as silver that hung down well past both sides of his neck. His tail almost touching the ground. His foretop came almost down to his nose. Johnny couldn’t remember ever seeing a stallion as beautiful as this on. When his father told him Lancer had some of the finest Capanero De Palomino’s in the San Joaquin valley, he had no idea one could be as beautiful as this on. He reminded him of the ground color in a canyon in Mexico he rode through once. A Barranca with steep sides to prevent escape once inside it’s domain.
“ Carl, leave the stallion. We’re not going to try and break him today.”Cipriano yelled.
Johnny watched as the kid got angry and threw the saddle over the fence, turning his back on the stallion. A mistake he would never do again as the stallion lashed out and kicked the kid, knocking him down.
“ Kick me you lousy bag of bones. I’ll teach you some manners.” Carl said as he retrieved a whip from the fence and started to hit the stallion with it before a bullet whizzed past, hitting the fence post next to him. Turning he seen a man walking toward him.
“ Drop the whip now, or the next one goes in you.” Johnny said as he walked toward the kid.
“ I don’t know who the hell you think you are mister, but I break the horses around here, and I’m going to teach this stallion some damn manners.” Carl said as he started to raise the whip again.
Johnny fired, creasing Carl’s right arm as Murdoch came out of the barn and hurried down to the corral. Cipriano and the other hands stayed where they were, watching to see what would happen.
“ What the hell is going on here?” Murdoch demanded.
“ That half-breed just tried to kill me Mister Lancer.” Carl said as he held his left hand over his lower right arm.
“ If I wanted to kill you, I would have.” Johnny said.
“ What’s this all about?” Murdoch demanded.
“ He was trying to tell me how to break that stallion. The damn thing kicked me so I was hitting him.” Carl responded.
“ You ever hit a horse with a whip ever again and I see it, you’ll learn what it feels like real quick kid.” Johnny said as he lowered his colt.
“ Is that true Carl? Did you take a whip to that stallion?” Murdoch asked.
“ I always whip a horse I break. You have to show them you’re the boss.” Carl said. “ That half-breed bastard had no right interfering.”
“ That half-breed bastard as you called him happens to be my son Johnny. Walt, Frank, make sure he gets that arm tended and pay him what he has coming in wages. Your fired Carl. I don;t ever want to see you on Lancer land again. Nobody works for me that will take a whip to a defenseless animal.” Murdoch ordered.
Cipriano and another hand helped Carl up and escorted him out of the corral.
Murdoch turned to talk to Johnny and was shocked to see his son rubbing the stallions neck as the magnificent animal pressed his head into Johnny’s chest.
“ I have never seen anything like it before Senor Lancer. He has a gift.” Cipriano said as he watched Johnny and the stallion. “ In Mexico, they call someone with that gift a horse whisperer. He speaks to the animal through thoughts. It’s like they can read each others mind.”
“ That stallion has tried to kick and bite every hand who has gotten near him.” Murdoch said.
“ I think the stallion has made his choice senor. He is Johnny’s horse now.” Cipriano said as they watched the stallion follow Johnny around the corral for a few minutes.
“ John, can I have a word with you?” Murdoch asked as Johnny walked over close to them.
“ Yeah sure.Te veréde nuevo mi amigo. Te llamaréBarranca, porque me recuerdas a una Barranca en la que montéuna vez en México.” ( I’ll see you again my friend. I will call you Barranca, because you remind me of a Barranca I rode in once down in Mexico.) Johnny said as he walked to the gate and opened it.
“Encantador de caballos.” ( Horse whisperer ) Cipriano said.
Johnny just glanced at him as he walked out the gate and closed it.
“ Did you sleep good son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, sorry. I guess I was more tired than I thought I was.” Johnny responded.
“ Your not healed up yet. You need the rest. I have Sam coming out to look at you and tell me what he thinks you can do for work.” Murdoch responded.
“ Get it said. I know you want to talk to me about what just happened, so get it said.” Johnny ordered.
“ Alright, I will. Cipriano, would you leave us alone for a minute please?” Murdoch asked. When his segundo had walked far enough away, he spoke. “ When a hand is doing something wrong, you don’t shoot them son. You go to Cipriano or me and we will handle it.” Murdoch instructed.
“ Am I not a Lancer?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, and I know what you are going to say son.”
“ I gave him a warning to not hit that horse again. You don’t take a whip to a defenseless animal when your the one stupid enough to turn your back on a stallion that’s not broke. Cipriano and the others seen him hit that horse and they just stood there. When he was told to leave the stallion alone, he threw the saddle over the fence and that’s when he got kicked. I fired a warning shot because nobody else was stopping him. He went to hit the horse again, so I creased him. I’ll do it again to if I see anyone beating a defenseless animal Murdoch.” Johnny said firmly before walking back to the house leaving his father standing there.
“ Yes patron.”
“ Did you and the other men stand there and do nothing when Carl hit that stallion before Johnny fired a warning shot?” he asked.
“ I did not see, but Walt and Frank may have. They were watching him after I ordered him to leave the stallion alone. I told him we were not going to try and break him today.” Cipriano responded.
“ Did you see and hear what happened after the first shot?” Murdoch asked.
“ Si. He called my nephew a half-breed and told him to mind his own business. That he was the horse breaker here and he was going to show the stallion who was boss. When he raised the whip to hit the horse again, that’s when Johnny shot him in the arm.”
“ Alright. If Johnny is going to work this ranch, he has to learn he can’t use his gun to solve problems.” Murdoch said before heading to the house.
Johnny stood at the sideboard pouring a shot of tequila when his father walked in through the french doors.
“ Look, It’s pretty clear Scott doesn’t want e here, and I’m not going to work out after what happened out there. I break that stallion, I’m leaving.” Johnny said.
“ No your not. I just got you back son. What happened out there was handled wrong to an extent, but it doesn’t warrant you leaving your home. I talked to Cipriano. He told me that after he told Carl to leave the stallion alone, he didn’t see what happened next until after you fired the first shot. Walt and Frank seen what happened and I will be having a serious talk with them later about not stopping it.”
“ So if Cipriano hadn’t said anything to you, you wouldn’t have believed what I said?” Johnny asked.
“ No, that’s not it at all son. There’s two sides to every story Johnny. Clearly Carl wasn’t telling me everything, so I needed to find out from others that where there what happened. Any good boss would do that. It has nothing to do with whether I believed what you said or not.” Murdoch responded. “ It’s your first day here. The men haven’t even met you yet. Cipriano was the only one who knew you are my son, and nobody knows about you being Madrid.”
Johnny shot his head up and looked hard at his father. “ Why, you ashamed of that?”
“ I most certainly am not. I figured the less people who knew about that, the better it would be for you.” Murdoch responded. “ Now if you are finished with your attitude, I would like to have a more serious father son talk with you.”
“ About what?” Johnny asked a little harsher than he had intended.
“ I have a business proposition for you. I want you to think about what I am going to offer you. I don’t expect you to answer me right away on it son.” Murdoch said.
“ Sounds serious.” Johnny said.
“ Let’s go sit down.” Murdoch said as he started toward the couch.
Johnny walked over and sat down. “ Fall back and let er buck.”
Murdoch smiled. “ As you know Lancer is one hundred thousand acres and roughly a thousand head of cattle and more mustangs than you could break in a lifetime. Now I discussed this with Scott this morning and he’s all for it. What I proposed is this. I would like you to be a third owner of Lancer with your brother and me. Now I would still call the tune and any and all decisions to be made we discuss together and I have the final say in if we do it or not.” Murdoch said.
Johnny sat there and just stared at his father. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Standing up, he walked over to the fireplace and just stared at the ash.
Murdoch thought maybe he had done wrong so he walked over and put a hand on Johnny’s left shoulder. He could feel Johnny trembling.
“ Are you alright?” he asked softly.
“ A month ago I thought I was. Now I don’t know. Everything has changed for me so fast. I find my father, learn I have an older brother, and aunt and uncle and now you want me to be a part owner in the biggest cattle ranch in the San Joaquin. Why?”
“ Because you are my son and Lancer is your birthright. I built this ranch for you and Scott and your families to have one day.” Murdoch responded. “ Take you time. I know it’s not an easy decision for you to make son. I don’t expect you to answer me right away on it. You haven’t even seen the ranch yet.”
“ Am I interrupting?” Sam asked as he stepped into the grand room.
Murdoch turned and looked at his longtime friend. “ Can you give us a few minutes Sam?”
“ Certainly. I think I smell coffee in the kitchen. Come in there when you are done.” Sam said before walking out of the room.
“ I don’t want to lose you again Johnny, but if you do decide to not accept this offer and leave Lancer, just promise me you won’t do it in the middle of the night. Tell me to my face you are leaving.” Murdoch said.
Johnny turned around and faced his father. “ Thanks.”
“ Your welcome. How about we go see Sam now to see what kind of work you can safely do?” Murdoch suggested.
Scott walked in the house and found his father sitting at his desk. “ Where’s Johnny?”
“ He’s upstairs with Sam.” Murdoch responded.
“ Did you present him with the offer?” Scott asked.
“ Yes, and I have to say your brother was a little overwhelmed by it. He’s had nothing his whole life and now he has a family and a stable life where he doesn’t have to live by that damn gun anymore.” Murdoch said as he stood up and walked over to the sideboard and poured two drinks. “ He thinks you don;t want him here. We had some trouble earlier and he was ready to leave. Mainly because of the way you are making him feel son. Do you have a problem with Johnny being here now?”
“ I most certainly do not. I’m just concerned for you and the people on this ranch if someone comes gunning for Madrid. I also have a problem with him calling me Boston instead of by my name. He seems to take pleasure in knowing it irks me when he does it.”
“ You have to remember, he’s had no family and now he has a big brother. He’s going to tease you Scott. The two of you need to get to know each other.” Murdoch said as Johnny and Sam walked downstairs and into the grand room.
“ How about pouring two more of those and we all have a toast to both Lancer sons being home?” Sam suggested.
“ That sounds like a good idea Sam.” Scott said as he went to pour two more shots.
“ The wound looks real good. It;s still a little tender, but he can work. It’s up to him on what he feels like doing. Now by that I mean, I don;t want him breaking horses just yet. Give that wound a couple more weeks to heal up. He can clear brush and mend fences and ride.” Sam instructed.
Scott handed a drink to Sam and Johnny. “ To my long lost little brother and hopeful business partner. Welcome home.”
Johnny worked with Barranca, building their trust for two weeks without trying to put a saddle on him.
“ He’s coming along good.” Scott said.
“ Yes he is. I think when your brother is healed up, we have a new horse breaker.” Murdoch responded as they watched Johnny work the stallion.
“ I was thinking that since it’s Saturday, I would see if my little brother would like to go to town and play some poker and have a few beers with me, Frank and Walt.” Scott suggested.
“ He might. Ever since Sam said what work he can do, he’s stayed pretty close to the house. Has he sen any of the ranch with you yet?” Murdoch asked.
“ Not with me, no. I wonder why he hasn’t yet?” Scott asked.
“ I think he’s still overwhelmed by our offer son. He’s been without for so long.” Murdoch responded.
“ Did he ever tell you what happened to his mother?” Scott asked.
“ Yes.” Murdoch said as he turned around. “ She was beaten to death by a man. Johnny was also beaten. He told me he was twelve when it happened. He also told me three years later he found that man and killed him.”
“ In cold blood?” Scott asked.
“ He said he found the man in a saloon. I don’t think he killed him in cold blood. I don’t think…….no I know your brother is not a cold blooded killer.” Murdoch told him as he turned back to watch Johnny work the stallion.
“ Have you seen him kill a man?”
“ Yes I did. In Leadville. He gave that man every chance to walk away from it. He was leaving town when the man seen him and called him out. It was luck I found him when I did, because he would be dead if I hadn’t.”
“ What about the man on the stage, Chavez. He rides with the Vasquez gang. The law has been trying to catch them for a long time. Do you think they will do anything?” Scott asked.
“ You mean come looking for him. I don’t know son. Your brother was right in standing up for that lady and her daughter. I don’t think it was smart telling him he was Johnny Madrid though.” Murdoch responded.
“ Maybe he did it in the hopes of his name alone scaring the man off.” Scott said.
“ Maybe.” Murdoch responded as Johnny walked over to them. “ He’s coming along real good son.”
“ Yeah. He’s going to be a good horse.” Johnny responded.
“ You going to cut some of that hair off him?” Scott asked.
“ Nope. He’s a magnificent animal and his hair stays.” Johnny responded as he watched the stallion run and buck in the corral.
“ You going to leave him a stud son?” Murdoch asked as Johnny came out of the corral.
“ Yeah. He’ll produce good foals. Hes got a lot of muscle and he’s the right size for working a ranch. Once I have him broke to ride, I’m going to teach him a few things.” Johnny responded.
“ Such as?” Scott asked.
There was a man at the Kings ranch. I watched him train their cow ponies. He taught them to cut a cow out of a herd and keep that cow from getting back in the herd. He called it cutting and I gotta say, when you sit on a good cutter, you better hang on, because that horse moves fast. He keeps his front end down and, feet planted firmly, head low, and he never takes his eyes off that cow.”
“ How do you get him to rein during all this?” Murdoch asked.
“ That’s the beauty of it, you don’t. You use long reins and drop them down, giving him plenty of slack, yet you still have control. The horse works off the reins. You point him at the cow you want, drop the reins and hang on.” Johnny explained.
“ What else you plan on teaching, Barranca is it?” Scott asked.
“ To come when called, ground tie, buck anyone off that isn’t me, not be gun shy. Watching that man I learned a lot of things I’ll be teaching Barranca Scott.”
Why that name son? It seems to have meaning to you.”
“ I was in Mexico and I rode into the canyon. It was narrow and winding with steep walls on both sides. The color of the ground with the sun on it was like his coat, gold sandstone instead of red.” Johnny explained.
“ It’s a fitting name for a beautiful horse brother.” Scott said. “ Me, Frank and Walt are going in town after supper to have a few beers and play some poker and I was wondering if you would like to come along?”
“ That sounds good.” Johnny said as they walked toward the house. “ Why don’t you come with us Murdoch?”
“ No, no. You boys go. I’ll be alright. I have a good book I’ll be reading tonight.” Murdoch responded.
“ Then I guess it’s settled.” Scott said as they walked into the house.
“ I’ll see your two bits and raise you four more.” Johnny said as he put his bet on the pot.
“ I’m out.” Frank said.
“ Me too.” added Walt.
“ Looks like it’s you and me brother.” Scott said. “ I’ll see your four and raise you………six bits more.”
Johnny looked at his cards. He was holding four aces. “ Okay brother, I’ll see your six and raise you a dollar.”
Scott tried to read his brothers face to see if he was just bluffing, or had that good of a hand. Unable too, he looked at his four kings and matched his brothers bet. “ Call.” he said as he put the dollar on the pot.
“ Four aces.” Johnny said as he laid his cards down.
“ Beats my four kings.” Scott said as he laid his cards down.
“ And to think I only had a pair. Glad I got out when I did.” Frank said.
“ So am I.” Walt added.
“ You play a mean hand brother.” Scott said.
Johnny pulled the pot to him and stopped. Carl was standing with two other men just inside the saloon bat-wing doors looking right at him.
“ How about I get us all another beer and we play another round?” Scott suggested.
“ Sure. I’ll come with you.” Walt said as he stood up.
Frank and Walt both knew what happened between Johnny and Carl the day he was fired. They heard the words said and seen Johnny shoot the kid. Frank watched as Carl walked over to their table and stopped. Just standing there glaring at Johnny, who ignored him and shuffled the cards.
“ I thought you had better taste than to play cards with a half-breed Frank?” Carl asked.
“ We’re having a friendly game Carl. We don’t want no trouble, so just go on about your business.” Frank ordered.
“ I don’t work for Lancer anymore, so none of you have a right to tell me what I can and can’t do. I bet you think you’re real smart huh half-breed. Your rich daddy having the biggest ranch in the valley. Everything was fine until you came along. Now I can’t find work because of you and your old man firing me.” Carl spat as Scott and Walt walked back over to the table.
“ Carl, I suggest you walk away from this table now while you still can.” Scott said as he set Johnny’s beer down in front of him.
“ I thought you were a good person Scott. Guess I thought wrong since you’re taking sides with a half-breed …..what’s the other word they call you………..Mestizo Yeah that’s it, Mestizo. Your old man couldn’t find a white woman, so he bed a Mexican whore and got her pregnant with you. That’s the only reason he married her. So’s he wouldn’t have a bastard half-breed kid running around.”
Johnny sat back in his chair and looked at Carl. It was clear to him that Carl was feeling confident with talking the way he was because of his friends with him.
“ Reno, been a long time.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny. Been three years I think.” Reno said.
“ How you doin Tom?” Johnny asked.
“ You know me Johnny, always looking for a good game of poker, some good whiskey and a good woman to bed.” Tom responded.
“ He a friend of yours?” Johnny asked.
“ Not really. We just met a couple days ago on the trail. Me and Reno felt sorry for him, so we let him tag along with us.” Tom responded.
“ You two are welcome to stay, but he has to leave.” Frank cut in.
“ I’ll leave when I’m damn good and ready.” Carl said firmly.
“ I take it he doesn’t know who you are?” Reno asked.
“ No. You can tell him if you like.” Johnny responded.
“ You ever hear of Johnny Madrid kid?” Tom asked.
“ Yeah I’ve heard of him. So what.” Carl said.
“ I suggest if you want to keep breathing, you leave, because Johnny just might get angry.” Reno said.
“ He ain’t Madrid.” Carl insisted.
“ They never listen do they?” Tom said.
“ Carl, my brother is Johnny Madrid. So I suggest you turn around and leave. Go to another saloon, because you’re not welcome in this one.”
Carl just stood there staring hard at Johnny.
“ Who’s deal is it?” Frank asked.
“ Yours I believe. You two want in the game?” Walt asked.
“ Why not. It’s what we came to town for.” Reno said as he pulled out some money. “ Maybe I’ll win back what I lost from you in Laredo.”
“ Don’t count on it. My brother seems to be having just about all the luck tonight.” Scott said.
Tom stood up and faced Carl. “ You don’t hear to well I guess so let me make it more clear for you kid. That man is a friend of me and Reno, and you were told to leave. Now if you want to die from a bullet from Johnny Madrid’s gun, that’s your choice, but it’s not your choice to ruin a Saturday night on the town for me, Reno and everybody else in this saloon looking at you right now.”
Carl looked around and seen every man and woman in the saloon staring right at him. “ This ain’t over. Not by a long shot is this over.” he said before storming out of the saloon.
Chavez rode into camp dismounted and walked over to the fire.
“ What the hell you doing here? We were supposed to meet in Morro Coyo tomorrow.” Vasquez asked.
“ I was run out of town by a half-breed and another man I rode on the stage with.”
“ Knowing you there was probably a woman involved.” Soto said with a laugh.
“ Yeah. Probably one on the stage and she shunned him.” Redondo added.
“ Shut up.” Chavez said as he kicked at Soto’s feet. “ I found out that the gringo owns the biggest ranch in the valley. Much horses and cattle.
“ When are we going to go to Tres Pinos?” Soto asked.
“ Hey what does that Trace…Pinos mean anyway?” Redondo asked.
“ It’s pronounced Tres Pinos stupid, and it means Three Pines.” Chavez said.
Redondo stood up fast. “ Who the hell you calling stupid?’ he demanded as he shoved Chavez.
“ Knock it it. We hit Tres Pinos when I say. Now what else do you know about this gringo that were on the stage?” Vasquez asked as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ His ranch is one hundred thousand acres and he has at least a thousand head of cattle. I don’t know how many horses for sure. The kid I talked to said they are mostly wild mustangs not broke yet. He has about three hundred broke. They keep most of them in a pasture close to the estancia because they’re selling them to the army.” Chavez responded. “ This kid said he has about a hundred and fifty vaqueros working for him.”
“ Vaqueros, that’s Mexicans right?” Soto asked.
“ Yeah.” Chavez said.
“ How many gringos?” Vasquez asked.
“ Thirty to forty. The kid said Lancer treats his Mexicans better than he does the gringos.” Chavez stated.
“ Who’s this kid you keep mentioning and why is he giving you so much information about this estancia?” Vasquez asked.
“ He worked for him as a bronc buster until the gringos half-breed son got him fired. He didn’t like the way he was breaking the horses. Hitting them with a whip to show them who is boss. I guess the son shot this kid, just a crease in his right arm and the old man fired him.”
“ Where’s this kid at now?” Vasquez asked.
“ And does he have a name besides kid?” Soto added.
“ He’s still hanging around Morro Coyo. Seems he can’t find work because of Lancer, and he really wants to even the score with the son for getting him fired and shooting him.” Chavez responded. “ As for his name, I never got it.”
“ He’s lucky, because if I had seen him taking a whip to a horse, I would have shot him dead on the spot.” Vasquez said. “ We’ll do some checking around while we wait for the others to show up for the Tres Pinos. Job.”
“ Morning. You two came home late last night. You must have had a good time in town with Frank and Walt?” Murdoch asked as he sipped his coffee.
“ Yes we did. In fact, Johnny ran into two good friends of his and the six of us played poker and I learned a little about my brother from them.” Scott said.
“ Is your brother still sleeping?” Murdoch asked.
“ I imagine he will sleep most of the day. He got pretty drunk last night with Reno and Tom.” Scott said as he sat down and poured a cup of coffee.
“ You say these two men are friends of his?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, funny thing is, they came into the saloon with Carl. He talked all tough thinking with two guys with him, he was safe. He didn’t know the two of them knew Johnny.” Scott said before taking a sip.
“ So he knows about Johnny then?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes he knows. Johnny didn’t tell him. His friend Tom did.” Scott responded.
“ Please tell me Carl is still alive.”
“ He is for now, but he made it very clear he won’t rest until he faces Johnny.” Scott responded. “ I never seen anything like it. It was like he was a whole different person last night Murdoch.”
“ Johnny has two sides to him son. The Madrid side is deadly and all business. Believe me, I seen it. He wants to be a Lancer more than anything and I’m prepared to do whatever I have to do so my son can live as normal a life as possible.” Murdoch said.
“ Has he said anything about our offer?” Scott asked.
“ No. I really hope he accepts it son, I really do. I don’t think I can handle losing him again, you either.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny stood on the stairs to the kitchen listening to what his brother and father were saying. Figuring it was safe, he headed down the stairs into the kitchen. “ Anymore coffee?” he asked.
“ Good morning son. Scott says you two had a good time last night. I’m glad.” Murdoch said as he poured his son a cup of coffee.
“ I was thinking while I got dressed.” Johnny started.
“ That can be dangerous.” Scott said.
Johnny smiled at his brother. “ That depends on what I’m thinking about Brother.”
“ Okay, what were you thinking?” Murdoch asked.
“ Well, since it’s such a beautiful day, and Sunday. Why don’t the three of us go fishing?” Johnny asked.
“ Fishing?” Murdoch said.
“ Yeah, fishing. You do know what fishing is don’t ya?” Johnny said as he looked from Scott to his father. “ I mean, you must have a good fishing hole on the ranch somewhere we can go.”
“ I know of a pond that has some good sized trout in it yes.” Murdoch responded. “ It’s just………You know what, let’s do it.” Murdoch responded. “ Oh if you are wanting breakfast, you are on your own. I give Maria Sundays off.”
“ That’s fine. A couple biscuits and I’m good until we catch some fish.” Johnny said.
“ So you want to go fishing and catch our lunch or I should say Supper and cook it over a campfire?” Scott asked.
“ Why not?” Johnny asked.
“ Sounds good to me.” Scott said.
“ Me too.” Murdoch added.
“ I think he cheated Scott.” Johnny said.
“ You just might be right.” Scott responded.
‘ I’ll have you both know, I never cheat. I caught these fish fare and square. It’s not my fault you two couldn’t catch any.” Murdoch said.
“ Catch…Hell I didn’t even get a nibble.” Johnny responded.
“ Looks like we have company coming.” Scott said. “ Looks like Frank and Walt, and it looks like your two friends Reno and Tom are with them.” Scott said.
“ Yeah, I guess your secret fishing spot ain’t such a secret after all Murdoch.” Johnny said.
“ Frank, Walt, is anything wrong?” Murdoch asked as he gave his youngest a look.
“ Nope. These two showed up at the ranch and wanted to see Johnny, so since we knew you would be fishing here we brought them out.” Frank said.
“ Get down. We were just about to eat lunch.” Johnny said.
“ Thanks, but we don’t want to impose.” Reno said.
“ Nonsense, we have plenty.” Murdoch said.
“ Yeah, the old……..Murdoch has had all the luck catching fish today.” Johnny added.
“ My pa was like that when we would go fishing back in Texas.” Tom said. “ I remember he told me once, Boy, your not holding your mouth right.” he said with a laugh. “ You remember that Johnny?”
“ Sure do. I also remember he never told us just how it was we were supposed to hold our mouth.” Johnny responded.
“ Who made the coffee?” Reno asked.
“ I did.” Johnny responded.
“ Thought so. It has your taste to it. Been a long time amigo. Glad you ain’t lost your touch.” Reno said.
“ Reno, Tom this is my father, Murdoch Lancer.” Johnny said.
“ Your pa huh. Well how do you like that. And here me and Reno thought you were working a job up here and thought we would see if we could get in and maybe earn an honest dollar.” Tom said. “ It’s pleased to meet you Mister Lancer.”
“ Same here sir.” Reno added as he shook Murdoch’s hand.
“ How long you two known Johnny?” Murdoch asked.
“ Lets see, we met this scrawny kid during a range war over water rights. Two ranchers couldn’t get along and the one hired guns. Course all it took was Madrid showing up and the dispute was settled real fast. That was three years ago I think.” Tom said.
“ Yeah, all you had to do was just mention Madrid was hired and the one who was usually in the wrong, well he backed down.”
“ That would mean you were only fourteen at the time.” Scott said.
“ It don’t take long to build a reputation as being good…….”
“ Or the best.” Reno cut in.
“ Or the best down along the border. There’s always someone needing a hired gun somewhere and the one who’s the best usually gets the most money.”
“ Yeah, but remember, Madrid, he don’t play by the rules.” Reno said with a laugh.
“ What do you mean?” Scott asked.
“ Usually when someone needs guns, they don’t tell the truth. Johnny, he likes to scout around and ask questions, and he always hires out to the one in the right.” Tom explained. “ Keeps him on the right side of the law he said once.”
“ You talk to much Tom.” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the water.
“ Excuse me gents.” Tom said as he stood up and walked over to Johnny. “ What’s up kid?”
“ My old man doesn’t know about a lot of my past. I’m only just getting to know him the last two months or so Tom.” Johnny responded.
“ And you’re afraid that if he knows anything about your past, he won’t want you as his son?” Tom asked.
“ He offered me a third of this ranch to stay here.” Johnny said.
“ Hell kid, that’s a good offer. So what’s the problem?” Tom asked.
“ My past. You know as well as I do, the past has a way of showing up. I could get either one of them killed if I stay here and someone comes calling.” Johnny said.
“ I’m sure they know the risk Johnny. Hey, don’t walk away from this for the wrong reasons. Think of it like a range war, you always check things out before you hire out to the right side. This is the right side Johnny. There isn’t a gunfighter out there that wouldn’t want what you have offered to you. To be able to get out of the game kid. Give it some time.” Tom said.
Johnny turned around when a rifle shot rang out, and his father went down. Seeing the shooter on a horse next to a thicket of trees, Johnny drew his pistol and started firing as he went to his horse and swung up in the saddle.
Scott, Frank, Walt, and Reno all drew their guns looking for the shooter. “ Where is he?” Reno asked.
“ That thicket of trees over there.” Tom responded as he went to his horse.
“ Frank, go to town and get Sam. Walt, go get a wagon so we can get him home.” Scott ordered as he watched Tom, Reno and Johnny gallop off after whoever the shooter was.
Johnny hurried in through the french doors followed by Reno and Tom. “ How is he?”
“ Sam is still up there.” Scott responded. “ Did you get the shooter?”
“ No, we lost him.” Johnny said as he started toward the stairs.
“ Johnny wait, Sam doesn’t want us up there. Maria is with him.” Scott said.
“ I never was good at taking orders.” Johnny said before going up the stairs.
“ I’m afraid that once his mind is set on something, there’s no changing it Scott.” Tom said.
“ You know, all three of us have tracked before, but none of us have ever had someone just up and disappear like the shooter did. His tracks just stopped.” Reno said.
Scott walked over to the sideboard and poured three drinks. How far from where Murdoch was shot until you lost those tracks?”
“ They went north over a mixture of ground, I’d say four miles, maybe five.” Tom said.
“ So off Lancer land. Four or five miles would put him up around the old simpleton place. It’s been abandoned for years. If you had rode a little farther you would have seen the place.” Scott said.
“ How come Johnny didn’t know that?” Reno asked.
“ Because my brother hasn’t rode the ranch yet. He doesn’t know all the places a person could hide, or where they can come and go on Lancer land without being seen.” Scott responded as he handed them both a drink. “ We’ll leave at first light and go up there. I doubt they will still be there, but maybe we will find something to tell us who it was.”
“ Johnny already knows who it was Scott. He was looking right at him when your father was shot.” Tom said.
“ Are you sure about that?” Scott asked.
“ I’d bet my life on it.” Tom responded.
“ He won’t be taken alive. I hope you know that. I’ve seen it before with Johnny. He will kill that kid, and none of us can stop him.” Reno said.
“ Are you saying Carl is the one who shot our father?” Scott asked as Sam came downstairs.
“ Yeah, it was him.” Tom responded.
“ Sam, how is he?” Scott asked.
“ Lucky. An inch to the right and that bullet would have paralyzed him for life. I’ll stay the night to keep an eye on him. The bullet didn’t enter very far into the Trapezius muscle. He won’t be riding or doing very much of anything with that left arm for quit some time. I don’t want him out of bed for at least a week, and when he wakes up, I will be sure to make sure he understands that too.”
“ Would you care for a little brandy Sam?” Scott asked.
“ Just a little.” Sam said as he walked over to the sideboard.
“ Sam, this is Tom and Reno, they are good friends of my brothers.” Scott said as he poured some brandy for him. “ Sam here delivered Johnny.”
“ You delivered him huh. Well I’ll be. It sure is a pleasure to meet you doc. Just sorry it had to be under these circumstances.” Tom said.
“ You realize we are going to have a battle on our hands?” Sam asked.
“ Johnny! I told him to not go up there, he told me he wasn’t very good at taking orders.” Scott said.
“ It’s going to bother him Scott.” Tom said.
“ What do you mean?” Sam asked.
“ Johnny is very protective of his friends, his good friends. With someone in his family having been shot, he’s going to blame himself for it.” Tom explained.
“ It wasn’t his fault Murdoch was shot. Carl could have done it because Murdoch fired him.” Scott responded
“ True, but Johnny will see it as a failure. He failed to keep his family safe. It would be the same if it was anyone else standing here.” Tom responded.
“ Your brother is a good person. He cares……a lot. And when someone he cares about gets hurt.” Reno added as Maria came downstairs.
“ Your father is a strong man. He will be alright.” she said. “ I am worried about your brother though. What I see in his eyes is not good.” Maria said before heading to the kitchen.
“ Why don’t you go on up Scott and be with Johnny. I have a feeling he’s gonna need you tonight.” Sam suggested.
“ I think I will. Oh, Tom, Reno, I’ll have a couple rooms fixed up for you to sleep in tonight so we can get an early start in the morning. Sam I’ll have the room next to Murdoch’s fixed up for you.” Scott said before heading upstairs.
“ Hey doc, we know how Johnny will be because we seen it before. You got anything you can maybe knock him out with for say twenty four hours? Just until Scott and us catch Carl and bring him back to stand trial. Otherwise Johnny will kill him.” Tom asked.
“ You honestly think I am going to give that boy something so he can’t go after the man who shot his father. I’m sorry, but no. Both those boys have every right to pursue whoever shot Murdoch and I pity any man who tries to stop them.” Sam responded. “ Your intentions are good, and I thank you for caring about Johnny enough to ask me to do that, but if he’s anything like his father, and I believe he is, Johnny will do the right thing. Besides he will have Scott and two good friends with him to make sure he does the right thing.”
“ You know, you’re nothing like what I had figured for a doctor.” Tom said.
“ Well thank you. I’ve known Murdoch Lancer for twenty five years. I had been in Spanish Wells just six months when I first met him. He has two good sons.” Sam responded.
“ What happened to Scott’s mother? I mean, did they divorce or did he have an affair with Johnny’s mother?” Reno asked.
“ Scott’s mother died giving birth to him. He met Johnny’s mother, Maria a couple years later down in Matamoros.” Sam explained.
Scott opened the door to his fathers bedroom and quietly stepped inside. He could see Johnny sitting next to the bed holding Murdoch’s hand with his head down.
“ How’s he doing?” he asked as he walked over and put a hand on his brothers shoulder for comfort.
“ He’s a little warm, but Sam said it’s normal.” Johnny said with a quiver to his voice.
“ He’s going to be alright Johnny. Murdoch is as tough as leather.” Scott said.
Johnny raised up and wiped his face. “ I find him tomorrow, I’ll kill the sonofabitch Scott.”
“ Johnny, I’d like nothing better than to kill Carl too, but you know as well as I do, murdering him isn’t the answer. If Murdoch was awake he would tell you the same thing. Though your reasons are good, you know it’s not the right thing to do.” Scott said.
“ So what, we just let him get away with it?” Johnny said as he stood up and walked over to the window.
“ No, we catch Carl and take him to the sheriff in Green River. Let the law handle it.” Scott responded. “ I know you’re blaming yourself for this happening, but it’s not your fault Johnny.”
“ It’s my fault he was fired by Murdoch. I’m the one who wounded him. If I had have killed the sonofabitch, Murdoch wouldn’t be laying in that bed with a hole in his back.” Johnny responded as he walked over and wet the cloth to place on his fathers forehead.
“ I know where he might be hold up. The old Simpleton place is about a mile on from where you stopped. It’s been empty for a couple years now. The barn is still sound. We ride out at first light we just might get lucky and find him hiding there still.” Scott said.
“ Listen to your brother son. Please.” Murdoch said softly as he opened his eyes.
“ I’ll go get Sam.” Scott said.
“ You gave us a good scare old man.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ Promise me you will take him alive and to the sheriff in Spanish Wells son?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny dipped the cloth and started wiping off the sweat from his fathers face. “ It’s up to Carl if he wants to be taken alive.”
“ Promise me.” Murdoch said.
Johnny sat down on the bed next to him. “ Only of you promise not to scare me like that again.” he said as Sam walked into the room.
“ Let me in there Johnny.” Sam ordered. “ Why don’t you two go downstairs and get something to eat. He needs rest right now.”
“Come on Johnny. You can come back up and sit with him later.” Scott suggested.
“ I’ll bring him up some chicken broth later.” Johnny said as he walked to the door with Scott. “ You do as Sam says or I’ll hogtie you to that bed.” he added before walking out and closing the door.
“ He was crying Sam.” Murdoch said.
“ He was very worried about you. Now I’m going to stay the night, just to be safe for if that fever gets any worse, and I’ll leave a bottle of laudanum next to the bed. I want you to take some if you need it.”
Johnny walked out of the barn leading four horses up to the house as Scott, Reno and Tom walked out with their saddlebags and rifles. Scott handed Johnny his as Cipriano walked over to them.
“ Frank is going with you also. I will keep an eye on your father while you are gone.” the segundo said.
“ Thanks.” Scott said as he slid his rifle into the scabbard. “ Hopefully we have him by tonight.”
“ No dejas que la ira se apodere de tu corazón sobrino. Haz lo correcto para tu padre.” Cipriano said. ( Do not let anger take hold of your heart nephew. Do what is right for your father.)
“ Harélo que tengo que hacer tío. Depende de Carl cómo termina esto. No volveréhasta que estémuerto o en la cárcel.” Johnny said as he swung up in the saddle. ( I’ll do what I have to do uncle. It’s up to Carl how this ends. I’m not coming back until he’s either dead, or in jail.)
“ Sam, you take care of him.” Scott said.
“ I will. You boys be careful and make sure you come back in one piece.” Sam responded.
“ Let’s go brother.” Johnny ordered.
“ There’s a horse in the corral on the side. It looks like the one from yesterday.” Tom said.
“ Okay, we need to find out if he’s in the house, or the barn.” Scott said.
“ Horse is saddled, so I say he’s in the barn.” Tom responded.
“ Tom, you and Reno go around the left. Frank watch that side door while me and Scott work our way around the barn. Once we’re in place, yell out to Carl to give himself up.” Johnny ordered.
Frank watched as Tom and Reno went to the left side of the barn and stopped behind the broken wagon. He couldn’t see Johnny and Scott anymore, but guessed they would be where they wanted to be.
“ Carl, come on out with your hands up. The barn is surrounded and you got no way out.”Frank yelled. “ Come on out Carl. There’s five rifles out here. We have your horse, so you can’t get away…….Come out now and you’ll live.”
“ To go to jail and hang for murder. I don’t think so. Besides I still have one person left to kill.”Carl yelled. “ That half-breed out there with you?”he asked.
“ I’m right here.” Johnny said from behind him.
“ Don’t do anything stupid Carl.” Scott said. “ I have a rifle aimed right at you…..Unbuckle your gun belt and toss it away.”
Carl just stood there. “ How do I know the minute I do that that half-breed don’t gun me down?”
Johnny walked up behind Carl and busted him over the head with his rifle butt causing him to go down. “ You don’t. I’m gonna let you hang for what you did.” Johnny added as he removed his pistol. “ Tie him up. Hands in front Frank.”
“ You bet.” Tom responded with a laugh.
“ I seen a man hanged once. It’s a ghastly sight. If you’re lucky your neck snaps when you drop. If not, well you thrash around as the air is choked out of you. Oh you piss and shit your pants too right in front of everybody that’s watching.” Reno said.
“ Reno, would you go get our horses?” Johnny asked as he led Carl’s horse out of the corral. “ You are going to love this Carl. Get up there and lay across that saddle.” Johnny ordered.
“ What, I can’t ride like that.” Carl said.
“ I’d love nothing more than to kill you right now.” Johnny said right before he hit Carl hard in the mouth. “ That’s for shooting my old man. Now get your ass up across that saddle.” Johnny ordered as he removed the rope from Carl’s saddle.
Once Carl was secured laying across his saddle, Johnny removed his kerchief and tied it around Carl’s mouth. “ I don;t want to hear him piss and whine the whole trip to Spanish Wells.”
Juan Soto watched as the the five riders rode into Spanish wells at Sundown and stopped in front of the sheriff’s office. A sixth man was secured across the saddle of a sixth horse. Towns folk started to gather as the sheriff came outside with a deputy.
“ Cut him loose, and get him down.” the sheriff ordered. “ Who’s idea was it to bring him in like that?”
“ Mine.” Johnny said. “ He’s lucky he made it here alive sheriff.”
“ And you are?” the sheriff asked.
“ Murdoch Lancer’s son, Johnny Lancer.” Johnny responded.
“ He’s a liar sheriff. His name is Johnny Madrid, a no good half-breed. He’s not Murdoch Lancer’s son.” Carl said when he was down of the horse and his gag removed.
“ Scott, so the old man finally found your long lost brother huh. There any truth to any of what he’s rambling about?” the sheriff asked.
“ I was sheriff. Now I just want to be the son of a rancher. I don’t want no trouble. Carl ambushed our father yesterday and shot him in the back when we were fishing.”
“ We tracked him to the old Simpleton place. He was hold up in the barn. Zeke.” Scott added.
“ How’s your father doing?” Zeke asked as they walked into his office.
“ He’s asking for a doctor. Says you busted him over the head with your rifle butt and then hit him in the mouth after he was tied up.” the deputy said as he came out and hung the cell keys up.
“ Yeah I hit him. A small price for him to pay considering he shot my old man in the back.” Johnny responded.
“ Alright. I need everyone who witnessed the shooting to fill out a report. I’ll present it to Judge Wilkes when he gets here next week and have him charged with attempted murder.” Zeke said as he handed out some paper and pencils. “ If any of you can’t write, tell Scott what you seen then make your mark after he writes it out and I’ll witness it.”
Juan stood listening outside the sheriff’s office to what was being said. Hearing enough, he went to his horse and rode out of Spanish Wells. He knew Vasquez would want to hear what he just learned.
Vasquez stopped his horse as Juan galloped toward him. “ What are you doing here?” he demanded.
“ That kid you were getting the information from about the Lancer spread, his name Carl?” Juan asked Chavez.
“ I told you, I never got his name. He’s about eighteen or so, sandy blonde hair, brown eyes and a big mouth.” Chavez said.
“ Why, what happened in Spanish Wells Juan?” Vasquez asked.
“ That half-breed that gave you a hard time on the stage. Do you know who he is?” Juan asked.
Chavez just sat on his horse looking at Juan.
“ I’ll tell you. He’s Johnny Madrid, you idiot.” Juan said firmly.
“ Are you certain of this?” Vasquez demanded.
“ I’m certain. Him and the gringo son along with three others just brought that kid in to jail for shooting old man Lancer in the back yesterday.”
“ You think maybe Lancer got wind of us and hired Madrid?” Redondo asked.
“ He was on the stage with him. He’s one of Lancer’s sons.” Red-Handed Dick said.
“ Two of the men with him are also gunfighters. They go by the names Reno and Tom. I’ve seen them both before. If they’re here, it means Madrid knows and he can get a lot more guns to help him than we can Vasquez.” Juan said.
“ I am disappointed in you Chavez. You are supposed to be my loyal lieutenant. You should have known who he was, or maybe you did and figured to not tell me.” Vasquez said.
“ Lets go rob Tres Pinos and forget about that Lancer ranch.” Chavez suggested.
“ We forget about the Lancer ranch when I say we do, not you. I am the leader of this gang. Now, we shall go have some fun in Tres Pinos and then come back here and have even more fun.” Vasquez ordered.
Johnny carried a tray of food to his fathers room and opened the door. His father was sitting in a chair reading a book.
“ Sam say you could get out of bed?” he asked as he closed the door.
“ Yes he did. What’s this?” Murdoch responded.
“ I thought we could eat supper together. Scott’s not back from Modesto until tomorrow afternoon and I’ve had more than my share of eating alone.” Johnny responded as he set the tray down on the bed.
“ I don’t doubt that one bit son.” Murdoch said. “ So how’s it coming with Barranca?”
“ Good. He’s been under saddle for two days now and taking to it better than I thought he would.” Johnny said as he set his fathers plate of food in front of him. “ I figured I would put a hundred pound grain sack on the saddle tomorrow and see what he does with weight on his back.”
“ I’ve heard of men doing that, they just keep adding weight up to two hundred pounds and then one day they actually climb in the saddle and the horse is fine. Doesn’t buck or anything.” Murdoch responded. “ This is good son.”
“ Thanks. I wasn’t sure what to fix so I just threw some stuff together in a skillet.” Johnny said.
“ You did this?”
“ Yeah, I do know how to cook.”
“ No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that. Son, this is very good. The biscuits are too. So what do you call this?”
“ Poor mans skillet stew.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ Well you will have to make this again when your brother is here.” Murdoch said.
“ So, you think my putting weight on his back is a good idea?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes I do. It helps to gentle the animal and tha grain sack distributes the weight about like a man in the saddle.”
“ All but the legs.” Johnny added. “ He’s such a magnificent animal, I just don’t want to break his spirit. You do that and it’s all over for the horse. He’s got to want to let you ride him and serve you without being forced.”
Murdoch leaned back in his chair and looked at his youngest. Shaking his head, he couldn’t believe for only seventeen years old, just how grown up his son was.
“ Something wrong?” Johnny asked.
“ No, not at all. I was just sitting here thinking how grown up you are for only seventeen.” Murdoch said. “ Can I ask if you’ve given any thought to the offer?”
Johnny finished his meal and stood up, taking the plate over and setting it on the tray. “ I’ll go get us some more coffee.” Johnny said
“ Damn.” Murdoch said after the door closed.
Johnny came back five minutes later with a pot of coffee. “ Your serious about this aren’t you?” he asked as he poured them both a cup of coffee.
“ Yes I am son. I wouldn’t have made the offer if I wasn’t.” Murdoch responded. “ Thank you.”
“ You know what can happen don’t you?” Johnny asked.
“ If you mean about the chance of someone coming here to call you out, yes, and as I told you before, I will not stand by and let someone come and kill my son just for something as stupid as a reputation.” Murdoch said. “ Now I’m not saying you’re stupid son. So please don’t think that.”
“ I know what you’re saying pa. I want nothing more than to live a normal life. I’m tired of bleeding.” Johnny responded.
Murdoch cringed at the thought of his son so young being shot at even a younger age. “ I wish I was in your life when you were younger to protect you like a father is supposed to do.”
“ It’s not your fault, it’s hers. A part of me hates her for taking me away from you and lying to me for all those years.” Johnny responded. “ If she was still alive and came back here wanting back in your life, what would you do?”
Murdoch took a sip of his coffee. “ I don’t know son. I loved your mother very much. She was such a beautiful woman. I thought I loved her enough and gave her everything she could possibly ever want, but I guess it was never enough.” Murdoch said softly. “ If she walked in this house today, I don’t know what I would do, or what I would say.” Murdoch responded. “ What was she like?” he asked.
Looking at his father, Johnny could tell he still loved his mother. “ You want the truth?”
“ She aged. At first she kept herself nice, or as nice as she could, but then she just stopped caring what she looked like. She stopped mending her dress and would bath only when she felt like it. I would take and wash and mend her dress at night when she was passed out trying to keep it clean. One morning she woke up and I had sewn and washed it, and she got angry with me and tore it up. After that, she only went out at night in her undergarments to find a man and bottle.” Johnny said as he put his left hand on the table.
“ If you’re not comfortable telling me son, it’s alright.” Murdoch said as he reached across the table and placed his hand on Johnny’s.
“ I didn’t understand at first what she was doing with all these different men at night letting them lay on top of her, grunting, but when I got older I learned what they were doing and usually left until morning. The morning she was killed was my fault. If I hadn’t come back while he was still there, she would still be alive maybe.” Johnny said.
“ Son, please don’t blame yourself for what happened. I know I wasn’t there, but from what you have told me, it was nobody’s fault but that man.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny stood up and walked over to the window and looked out for a few minutes before turning around. “ I’ll do it. I’ll be a partner with you and Scott.”
Murdoch stood up and walked over to his son. “ You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear you say that son. When I’m healed up, the three of us will ride into Green River and see Randall and have it made official.”
“ How much gold you figure we got?” Red-Handed Dick asked.
“ I’d say about two hundred dollars worth.” Chavez said.
“ Hey, three men are dead back there. The law is going to be hunting us for sure now.” Redondo said.
“ So, makes no difference to me.” Chavez said.
“ I’d expect that from you. Look, up until now it’s been stealing horses and cattle from gringos who mistreat Mexicans. Murder is a whole different thing Vasquez. They hang you for murder.” Red-Handed Dick said.
“ Yeah. I ain’t swinging from no gallows Vasquez.” Redondo added.
“ Sounds to me like you two ain’t got the stomach for doing this anymore.” Soto said.
“ That’s enough. He’s right. Those men should not have been killed Soto. We had the gold and were leaving town. I know two of those men where unarmed. I seen you shot them anyway when all they were doing was trying to get out of the way.” Vasquez said firmly. “ One more screw up from you, and you’re out. Do you understand me?”
“ Maybe now they will fear us better.” Soto said snidely.
“ One more screw up from you Soto, and you’re out. Do you understand me?” Vasquez demanded.
“ Yeah, sure I hear ya.” Soto responded.
“ So what now?” Chavez asked.
“ Now we go back to Morro Coyo. I want to pay a visit to that huge estancia called Lancer.” Vasquez responded.
“ So we’re going to hit Lancer?” Chavez asked.
“ I did not say we were going to hit Lancer. I said I want to visit Lancer.” Vasquez said.
“ You mean you’re going to ride up to that ranch and talk to that high and mighty rich man? You forget, he knows me?” Chavez asked.
“ That’s why you will not be going with me. Red and Redondo will go with me.” Vasquez responded.
“ Wait a minute, don’t you think we should lay low for a week or so? The law is going to be looking for us.” Redondo asked.
“ We will in Morro Coyo. There is no law there.” Vasquez responded.
Murdoch stood watching Johnny work the stallion, his left arm in a sling. “ That boy has a way with horses.” he said to Reno.
“ He does at that. I don;t think I’ve ever seen anyone as good as he is.” Reno responded.
“ The way he’s breaking that horse is allowing his spirit to not be broken. The Indians do that. Except they do it in water when they can. That’s why an Indians pony is so loyal to him and nobody else can ride it.” Tom added as Scott rode up to the corral.
“ Welcome back son.” Murdoch said.
“ It;s good to be back.” Scott said as he dismounted and removed his saddlebags and rifle.
“ I’ll take care of your horse for you.” Frank said as he took the reins.
“ How did it go in Modesto?” Murdoch asked.
“ Good. Do you remember the man Johnny had an altercation with on the stage when you arrived?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. Why?” Murdoch asked as Johnny walked over to the fence.
“ Welcome home Boston.”
“ Thanks. Do you remember who he said he rode with?” Scott asked.
“ No.” Murdoch said.
“ Vasquez wasn’t it?” Johnny said.
“ Yes. Three days ago the robbed the bank in Tres Pinos. Three unarmed men were gunned down. They got away with roughly two hundred dollars in gold dust. The law is combing the valley looking for them. They put a thousand dollar bounty on them.” Scott responded. “ I ran into Zeke with a posse. They’re pretty sure they will be coming this way. They’ve been stealing horses and cattle in southern California for a while. It would seem that some people deem them as heroes because they only steal from gringo ranchers who mistreat or have done Mexicans wrong.”
“ Lancer doesn’t do that.” Murdoch said. “ I treat every one of my hands like family.”
“ Zeke said Carl told him that a big ranch in the valley is going to be hit. That this ranch has many horses and cattle and that the owner, I’m sorry for saying this Johnny, the owner has a half-breed son who must die.” Scott said.
“ How many men is Vasquez’s gang?” Reno asked.
“ Counting him….five. Juan Soto is a blood thirsty killer, Tomas Redondo, Red-Handed Dick, Tiburcio Vasquez and his very loyal Lieutenant Clodovio Chavez. He’s the one you had an altercation with.” Scott responded.
“ I’ll have the men alerted to keep an eye out, and post extra hands with the herds.” Murdoch said.
“ That herd of broke mustangs in the lower paddock is a prime target for them to steal.” Johnny said.
“ I’ll have them moved up to the big corral until we’re ready to make delivery to the army at Fort Point.” Murdoch responded.
“ Speaking of Fort Point. It would seem they are no longer interested in purchasing horses from us for there. They would like them delivered to Fort Yuma instead along with a hundred and fifty head of cattle.” Scott said.
“ At what price?” Johnny asked before his father could speak.
“ Twenty five dollars a head for the cattle, and thirty five dollars a head for the horses if they are broke to saddle.” Scott responded as he pulled out the contract and handed it to his father.
“ That’s thirty seven hundred and fifty dollars for the cattle, and another thirty five hundred for the horses.” Johnny said.
“ That’s very good brother. I don’t think I could have added it up that fast.” Scott said with a smile.
Johnny came out of the corral and started looking at the contract with his father. “ When do they want them delivered by?”
“ It says here before winter, so I’m assuming the fall, so in about a month.” Murdoch responded. “ Well, as part owners you both have a say in this. Is the price alright?”
“ You mean?” Scott said.
“ Yeah, if you can handle having me as a third owner?” Johnny asked.
“ Your brother has decided to accept our offer. I told him we would ride to Green River and have Randall make it official when I’m cleared to ride.” Murdoch said.
Scott grabbed Johnny around the neck and pulled him into a playful hug. “ Hearing that makes me happy more than you will ever know little brother.”
“ I think the hardest part will be me learning how to keep the books. I mean, I can do math and such.” Johnny said.
“ Don’t worry about it. I will gladly help you in any way you need. You know, that’s one of many responsibilities of being a big brother, helping little brother with reading, writing and arithmetic, but only if he needs it.” Scott suggested.
“ I think tomorrow you two better start rounding up those steers.” Murdoch suggested.
“ You want them from the north pasture herd?” Scott asked.
“ I think those will be good to take. Check them over good and make sure none of them are sick.” Murdoch requested.
“ Yeah we don’t need no screw worm disease.” Johnny said.
“ Screw worm?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, open wounds on cattle that have blowflies lay their larvae in. It can be deadly.” Johnny responded.
“ I know what it is. Lancer has never had a case of it.” Scott said.
“ Then Lancer has been lucky. I’ve seen ranchers lose herds from anthrax, arsenic, Texas fever. Young and old healthy cows drop dead from it. Especially arsenic.”
“ Arsenic. Now where would cattle get arsenic from?” Reno asked.
“ Peach pit prunes. You be surprised what a cow with chew on to clean it’s teeth when your not watching!” Murdoch responded.
“ But we don’t have any fruit trees on Lancer other than a few wild crab apple trees and berry plants.” Scott said.
“ Reno, Tom, you two interested in hiring on for the drive?” Johnny asked. “ Drive two hundred and fifty horses and cattle to Fort Yuma at about twenty five miles a day should take roughly a month to get there.”
“ What’s the pay?” Tom asked.
“ Good hot food, long dirty, dusty hours in the saddle and other hazards that come with a cattle drive. I don’t care about the pay, I’m in.” Reno said.
“ So am I. I was just wondering what the pay was?” Tom said.
“ Sixty dollars.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s double what you would make as a hired hand in a month at a dollar a day. That’s right kind of you Mister Lancer. Thank you.” Tom said. “ Only, if we work for you now, I don’t think we should be staying in the house. I think me and Reno should stay in the bunkhouse with the other hands.”
“ You don’t have too, but if that’s what you want to do, that’s fine.” Murdoch said.
“ Word has it Lancer is getting ready to drive a herd of cattle and horses down to Fort Yuma.” Red-Handed Dick said.. as he sat down with a new bottle of tequila.
“ How many?” Vasquez asked.
“ About two hundred and fifty total.” Red responded.
“ Vásquez,¿por quéno nos vamos? Sabemos que irán hacia el sur. Hay muchos lugares donde podemos robar el rebaño antes de que lleguen a Yuma. Podemos quedarnos con Abdon Leia, él tiene un lugar en las colinas al sur de Los Ángeles. La ley no nos encontraráallí.” Chavez suggested. ( Vasquez, why don’t we leave? We know they will be going south. There are plenty of places we can steal the herd from before they get to Yuma. We can stay with Abdon Leia, he has a place in the hills south of Los Angeles. The law will not find us there.)
“ What he says makes sense. There’s a lot of law around here looking for us.” Soto added.
“ Is that how all of you feel?” Vasquez asked.
Redondo, Red and Soto all agreed that heading south would be for the best.
“ Alright, we will go to Spanish Wells first, then head south and wait.” Vasquez responded.
“ How’s he ride son?” Murdoch asked.
“ He’s like sitting on a cloud his gate is so smooth.” Johnny said.
“ He learned how to rein right fast. I’d say you got yourself a real good one man horse Johnny.” Scott said.
“ A one man horse Scott?” Johnny asked as he got down from the saddle and handed the reins to Scott.
“ I really don;t feel like being thrown today brother.” Scott said.
“ He’s not going to throw you off unless I call him and whistle.” Johnny said.
“ I’ll ride him son.” Murdoch said.
“ Have at it.” Johnny said before whispering something in Barranca’s ear.
Murdoch got on and rode the golden stallion around the corral with ease as he reined him left, then right and barely pulled on the reins and the horse stopped.
“ What did you say to him?” Scott asked.
“ I told him to go easy on the old man.” Johnny responded as Murdoch rode back over and dismounted.
“ He’s a fine animal son. Thank you.” Murdoch said as he handed the reins back to Johnny.
Johnny swung back up in the saddle. “ I think I’ll take him out and see how Tom and Reno are doing with the herd.” Johnny said.
“ I think I’ll go with you son. I want to take a look at the herd.” Murdoch said as he walked to his horse.
“ Hey Frank, that steer isn’t walking to good on that right hind leg. It looks like it has a pretty deep open wound on it’s right flank.” Tom said.
“ Cut him out of the herd so we can take a look and doctor the wound.” Frank responded as he rode over.
Tom threw his rope and caught the steer, dragging it bawling away from the herd.
“ Get a rope on his hind feet and stretch him out. I got salve in my saddlebags.”
Reno threw his rope and caught the steers hind feet, backing his horse up so the steer would drop to the ground unable to kick as Frank doctored the wound.
“ Damn blowflies are all over this wound. It’s pretty badly infected.” Frank said as Murdoch and Johnny rode up.
“ Nice looking cow pony.” Tom said with a smile.
“ Thanks. Thought I would see how he does around cows.” Johnny responded.
“ This one has a pretty bad infection Mister Lancer.” Frank said. “ It’s full of fly larvae.”
“ You think we can save it?” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s pretty deep. Down in the muscle and full of rotting flesh. I can see bone also.”
“ Alright, drag it away from the herd and shoot it.” Murdoch said.
“ Got another one with a wound on it’s neck.” Walt said.
Johnny removed his rope and took Barranca over to the steer. When the steer bolted, Barranca stayed on it’s heels and stopped when Johnny threw his rope around it’s neck, jerking the animal around.
“ This is a fresh wound. The flies haven’t gotten in it yet.” Frank said as he dabbed salve on the cut. “ Looks like he may have done this on the wire.”
“ Probably stretching his neck through to eat the grass on the other side.” Tom said.
“ I think he’ll be alright to stay with the herd and go to Yuma.” Frank said as he wiped his hands off.
“ Tom, Reno, I want you two to go into Spanish Wells with Scott and Johnny and the cook tomorrow and help get the supplies we will need for the chuck wagon.” Murdoch ordered.
“ Sure thing. How many hands are going on this drive?” Tom asked.
“ There will be ten of us not counting the cook.” Murdoch responded.
“ The cook any good?” Reno asked.
“ I’ve used him before.” Murdoch replied. “ We took a herd to Fort Bowie and the man knows how to cook. I would have to say his cooking is right up there with Maria’s.”
“ You mean you got Pedro to come back?” Frank asked. “ Now there’s a man who knows how to cook a mean stewed apples and biscuits for breakfast. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.”
Deputy Rawlins carried a tray back to the cell and unlocked the door. Carl stood over by the window when the door opened.
“ I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to be fed today.” he said snidely.
“ Just stay over there while I set this on the chair.” Rawlins ordered as he stepped inside, walked over and set the tray on the chair. “ Circuit Judge will be here any time so this will be the last meal you get from us.” Rawlins said as he turned to leave. When he reached the cell door, he heard a noise and started to turn around when he was grabbed around the neck by Carl.
“ You really shouldn’t take your eyes off a prisoner deputy.” Carl said before slamming Rawlins head into the bars.
Opening the door slowly, Carl peered outside. “ Well I do believe today is my lucky day.” he said as he watched Johnny in front of the mercantile hand a sack up to someone in a wagon. Checking his gun, Carl stepped down into the street.
“ This is the last of it.” Johnny said as he carried a sack of flour out and handed it to Pedro. “ How about a cold beer before we head back?” Johnny asked.
“ That sounds good to me.” Tom said.
“ Me too. How about you Pedro, Scott?” Reno asked.
“ As long as your father does not get mad. I will have a beer with you.” Pedro said. “ But you have to promise not to tell my wife.”
“ Not a word.” Johnny said as they headed to the saloon.
“ I didn’t know your wife was here also.” Scott said.
“ She isn’t, but that woman always seems to know.” Pedro said with a laugh.
“ Johnny Madrid!” Carl yelled.“ Come on out and face me. I owe you a bullet!”
“ It’s Carl.” Scott said.“ How the hell did he get out of jail?”
“ Zeke is out with a posse looking for Vasquez. He must have overpowered Rawlins somehow.” Johnny said.
“ Maybe one of us should go see?” Reno asked.
“ After.” Johnny said as he pulled his colt and checked the cylinder.
“ I’m waiting Madrid. Are you afraid to face me?”Carl yelled.
People on the street stopped and watched as Carl walked out to the middle of the street. Some stepping inside a door, but peering out to see what would happen.
“ Don’t do it Johnny. He’s not worth it. You know he’s no match for you.” Scott said.
“ I don’t run away from a fight Scott, never have. He called me out.” Johnny said as he walked around the wagon and into the street. “ How’d you get out of jail?”
“ Easy, I just waited for that stupid deputy to turn his back on me when he brought me my breakfast. He never seen it coming. Course I was a little surprised when I walked outside and seen you. I have a scar because of you.” Carl responded.
“ I could have killed you. I won’t be as nice this time.” Johnny said.
“ I see you’re riding that worthless stallion. That’s good, because after I kill you, I’m going to put a bullet right between his eyes.”
“ He killed Deputy Rawlins!” somebody yelled.
“ Let’s get a rope and string the sonofabitch up!” somebody else yelled.
“ Let Madrid kill him. Nobody can beat him.”another man yelled.
Johnny ignored all the voices as he focused on Carl. He knew this one would be an easy kill. He could tell by the way Carl wore his gun he would never clear leather before Johnny shot him.
“ The circuit Judge will be here any time on the stage. Let him sentence him to hang. Walk away Madrid. Let the law kill him.” the mercantile owner said.
“ I ain’t swinging from no rope.” Carl said as he went for his gun.
Johnny drew and fired, hitting Carl in his right arm. “ Drop the gun.” he ordered.
Carl ignored Johnny, and raised his gun up to fire as another bullet hit his his right arm, shattering the bone, his pistol falling to the ground. “ You sonofabitch, kill me.” Carl begged as Johnny walked over and kicked the pistol away.
“ I remember what my friend Reno said happens to a man when he’s hanged. I think that’s perfect for a bastard like you.” Johnny said as he grabbed Carl by his left arm and jerked him up off the ground as Sam came toward him.
“ You alright Johnny?” Sam asked.
“ Yeah, don’t waste to much time on this piece of shit Sam. He killed Rawlins and is going to hang.” Johnny said as Scott, Tom, and Reno walked over.
“ Here comes Zeke and the posse now.” Scott said.
Murdoch walked out of the house when the wagon pulled up. “ Was you able to get everything for the drive Pedro?”
“ Si, senor Lancer. We have everything on the list. I will park the wagon in the barn.” Pedro said as he turned the team toward the barn.
“ What happened?” Murdoch asked.
“ Johnny, Scott, we’re gonna ride out and see if Frank and Walt need any help with the herd. We’ll see you later.” Tom said.
“ Let’s go inside.” Scott suggested as him and Johnny dismounted.
“ Are you alright?” Murdoch asked as they walked inside.
“ Rawlins is dead. Carl bashed his head against the cell bars.” Scott said as he went to the sideboard and poured three shots of whiskey.
“ Oh my god. Did Zeke catch him?” Murdoch asked.
“ No. The Circuit Judge arrive and after he was told what happened, he sentenced Carl to hang tomorrow morning.” Scott explained.
“ Son, what happened?” Murdoch asked looking right at Johnny.
“ He called me out and lost. I shattered his right arm. Sam fixed him up enough until he hangs tomorrow.” Johnny responded as he walked to the sideboard and poured another shot.
“ He begged Johnny to kill him. When we caught him at the Simpleton place, Reno told him what happens when a man is hung. He didn’t want that happening. Zeke is pretty upset.”
“ How in gods name did this happen?” Murdoch asked.
“ According to Carl, he waited until Rawlins turned his back to leave after bringing him breakfast and attacked him from behind.” Scott responded.
Murdoch walked over to Johnny. “ I’m proud of you son. It took greater courage for you to not kill him.”
Johnny looked up at his father. “ Don’t think I didn’t want to do it. The only reason he is still alive is because I want to watch him swing from a rope for shooting you in the back.”
Johnny walked into the house late afternoon the next day and found his father and brother looking at a map.
“ We were just trying to figure out the best way to take the herd to Yuma.” Scott said.
“ There’s plenty of grazing if we take them south toward Bakersfield and then cut southeast toward Barstow and down. That way we stay away from the Los Angeles area and miss those mountains.” Johnny said.
“ That’s just what we were thinking also son.” Murdoch responded. He knew his son had been in town watching Carl hang.
“ I’ve rode that area up to Modesto. The will be plenty of grass for them to graze and we can rest them a day before we take them up over the mountains to Barstow. I know a good easy pass they can go over.” Johnny suggested.
“ I’m glad you know the area brother.” Scott said.
“ I thought we would ride in tomorrow and sign the papers at the lawyers office son. Is that alright?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, we can do that. Probably best before we leave with the herd in a few days. I need to start a bank account anyways. I’ve got over a thousand dollars I need to stop carrying around. I’m gonna go get cleaned up before supper. Maybe we can play a game of chess after brother?” Johnny said as he headed to the stairs.
“ I’d like that.” Scott responded.
“ Are you alright?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny stopped. “ I’m fine. It was just like Reno said. Ghastly.” he said before heading upstairs.
“ Reno told Carl what happens when a man is hanged.” Scott said.
“ I’ve seen a few men hanged when I was a lawman. Ghastly is a good way to describe it I guess.” Murdoch responded.
“ I thought for sure he was going to kill him. The look he had in his eyes was like nothing I ever seen before.” Scott explained.
“ When he became Madrid?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes. When I was in the war, I seen a lot of innocent men change right before my eyes. I was one of them, but what I seen Johnny do yesterday was scary. You said he tried to talk that man out of a gunfight in Leadville. Not yesterday. I think yesterday, Johnny wanted to kill Carl, but didn’t at the last minute because of what Reno said happens to a man when he’s hanged.” Scott said.
“ Your brother is a good person and like I told him last night, it took greater courage for him to not kill Carl.” Murdoch responded.
“ I don’t think I ever want to be on the wrong end of his gun.” Scott said.
The next day Murdoch, Scott and Johnny walked out of the lawyers office in Green River. “ How about we celebrate? That is if the two of you don’t mind and would allow your old man to buy you a cold beer before we ride back?” Murdoch asked.
“ A cold beer sounds good.” Scott said.
“ Yeah sure.” Johnny added.
Three days later Lancer headed south with two hundred and fifty head of horses and cattle for Fort Yuma. Pedro took the chuck wagon pulled by four mules ahead of the herd. With fall in the air and the days shorter, they figured about twenty five miles a day at the right pace would be making good time. Murdoch wired the fort telling them they were headed out and roughly when they would arrive so they would have plenty of time to get ready.
“ I don’t mind telling ya, I’m sick of this cold damp rain.” Tom said as he sat down with a cup of coffee and a plate of food.
“ I’ll second that.” Reno said. “ We’ve been gone what…..two weeks and it’s rained almost straight since we left.”
“ You boys gotta remember the time of year.” Scott said. “ It will probably rain on us most of the way down and back.”
“ At least it’s not snow.” Murdoch added with a smile.
“ Hey Johnny, you remember that job we did in Texas? It rained for over a month straight. And I don’t mean a gentle rain like this, it came down in buckets.” Tom said.
“ Sometimes you couldn’t see your horses head it was raining so hard.” Reno added.
“ I think we better be hoping these storms don’t get so bad we end up with a stampede from lightening.” Frank said.
“ Maybe we should keep them bunched closer during the night?” Johnny suggested.
“ Yeah, have four guards instead of three, that way they can work around the herd easier keeping them closer together.” Reno suggested.
“ Four guards or three, it won’t matter if they decide to stampede.” Frank said.
“ Yeah you’re right. A cow ain’t nothing more than trouble all tied up in a leather bag.” Reno said.
“ True, but they sure do taste good.” Scott added.
“ Listen, Johnny, Tom, Reno, and Frank, I want you to take the two till dawn guard.” Murdoch ordered.
Johnny finished his meal, set his plate down and stood up, looking hard at Tom before turning and walking off toward his horse.
“ What’s eating him?” Scott asked.
“ Me.” Tom responded.
“ You, why?” Scott asked.
“ Your brother doesn’t like to talk about his past. I think he feels that if we hear about things he did in his past, it will change how we feel about him son.” Murdoch responded.
“ That’s crazy. Nothing he’s ever done in his past could make me not love him.” Scott said.
“ You know that, and I know that, but your brother has been on his own a better part of his life and now in just a few short months he has a family and is a third owner of the biggest ranch in the San Joaquin.” Murdoch responded.
“ The life Johnny chose Scott, living by his gun to stay alive, it’s not an easy life.” Tom explained. “ Your brother is what I would call a rarity for a gunfighter. He cares and he always stays on the side of the law. Most gunfighters don’t care as long as they make money.”
“ Just like some lawmen son. They wear a badge and take an oath to uphold the law, but some work both sides.” Murdoch added.
“ Bad lawmen?” Scott asked.
“ Yes. When I was a lawman, do you remember me telling you about an Arizona Ranger named James B. Hume son?” Murdoch asked.
“ No.” Scott responded.
“ He worked both sides of the law. Once a month a large shipment of gold would be deposited in the Prescott bank for shipment out. His gang robbed that bank in Prescott. Four good men where killed that day. Men he knew. Men he had shared a drink with and went to church with. The town knew it was an inside job on when the gold would be in the bank because only three people knew about it. The bank manager, Hume and his deputy.” Murdoch explained.
“ How’d they know he was the one?” Reno asked.
“ When they caught the gang, one of the members testified against him to keep from hanging. Hume exploded in the courtroom and tried to kill the man. He was found guilty and hanged.”
“ Reno, you remember Jeff Kidder?” Tom asked.
“ How can I forget a lawman like him. That man had guts. He’d chase you all the way to hell and back.” Reno said. “ Isn’t he the one who stopped the cattle rustling along the border down by Nogales?”
“ The same. A lot of cattle were being stolen and Kidder along with Billy Old, Fred Rankin and Bill Sparks put a stop to it. Kidder liked to work alone but couldn’t this one. The Governor of Sonora, Mexican General Luis Emeterio Torres authorized them to enter Mexico if need be in pursuit of the outlaws. Kidder and Rankin also stopped gunrunners. The governor was so grateful for what they had done, he gave all four of them commissions of gratitude. There’s some who say Kidder and Rankin were in on it with the gunrunners, that Kidder worked both sides of the law, but nothing was ever proven.” Tom explained.
“ Was Johnny there?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, he was working for this huge ranch called……..oh what the hell was the name of that ranch he was working for Reno?” Tom asked.
“ Kings ranch.” Johnny said as he walked back over and sat down. “ I was thinking, since Chavez runs with Vasquez, they just might try and take the herd, or some of it when we get farther south before we cross over Tehachapi mountains.” Johnny said. “ He’s probably gonna figure on us going east around Los Angeles out of Bakersfield.”
“ What are you suggesting brother?”
“ That we turn east tomorrow and cross at Porterville.” Johnny responded.
“ I don’t know son. Those mountains are pretty rough going.” Murdoch responded. “ Not to mention mountain lions and grizzlies up there.”
“ Not if we head southeast at the base of those mountains.” Johnny said. “ Look, we need to get this herd to Fort Yuma, and Vasquez and his men are between us and there. Now it makes more sense to add a little miles than risk losing the herd and men’s lives.”
“ I think Johnny has a good point sir.” Frank said.
“ So do I.” Scott added.
“ We do also.” Tom said.
Murdoch looked around at the men. “ I appreciate what you are suggesting son, but there could be snow up there where it’s rain down here. I can’t risk that. I’m sorry.” Murdoch said.
“ I think we better turn in now Reno.” Tom said as he noticed the look on Johnny’s face.
“ I think I will too.” Frank added.
Johnny waited until it was just him, Scott, and his father at the fire. “ Are we not part owners of this herd?” he asked.
“ Yes, and I know where you are going with this son. The snow could be deep up there or we could get snowed in.” Murdoch responded.
“ I understand that, but are you willing to risk every man on this drive, including yourself for this herd?” Johnny asked. “ I’m just saying take the herd east and then south along the base of the mountains.”
“ Alright, we’ll do it your way son.” Murdoch responded.
“ Did you find them?” Vasquez asked as Redondo rode up.
“ Not a sign of that herd. I rode all the way back to Kettleman City and there’s no sign of that herd.” Redondo responded.
“ Maybe they turned east to come down along the base of the mountains to miss Los Angeles, on the east side of Bakersfield.” Chavez suggested.
“ Alright. We leave in the morning. I want that herd of horses.” Vasquez said.
“ What about the cattle?” Juan asked.
“ The cattle will slow us down. We can make o good amount of money from those horses though.” Vasquez responded.
“ I don’t know about this Vasquez. Lancer knows. Why else would he go the way he is. We don’t know how many men he has with him and we are just five men.” Chavez said.
“ He’s right. We could be riding right into a trap. There’s plenty of ranches we haven’t hit where we can get horses.” Redondo added.
“ You forget what that half-breed did to you?” Vasquez asked.
“ No I ain’t forgot, but that has nothing to do with stealing a hundred head of horses not knowing how many men we are going up against.” Chavez responded.
“ So what do you suggest we do, forget about them?” Vasquez asked.
“ You do what you want. I’m riding to Yuma and waiting for Madrid there. I’m not trying to steal a herd of horses that can’t be stole.” Chavez said.
“ So you will not ride with me to Bakersfield my old friend?” Vasquez asked.
“ I am sorry, I cannot.” Chavez responded before going to his horse and mounting up. “ The law will catch you my friend, and you will hang.” he added before riding out of camp.
Vasquez stood there watching his longtime friend ride away. He knew the three men murdered in Tres Pinos would bring the law after them harder than before. Turning around he faced his other men. “ What do you wish to do?” he asked.
“ I’ll stay with you to Bakersfield.” Redondo responded.
“ I’m out. I think I’ll head to the coast.” Red-Handed Dick said.
“ You have all been like a family to me, but I cannot do this anymore. I don’t want to swing from a rope.” Juan Soto responded before going to his horse and mounting up. “ I think I will ride with Red and see the ocean.”
“ It has been fun my amigo’s. Adiós.” Vasquez said before turning his back on them.
“ Scott, I want you and Frank to go with me and Pedro into Victorville to get supplies. Johnny, just keep the herd moving at the pace we’ve been going. We should catch up to you before dark.” Murdoch ordered.
“ I thought Frank was the ramrod?” Johnny asked.
“ He is, but I’m leaving you in charge while we are gone. Is that a problem son?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, I’m just surprised you trust me enough is all.” Johnny responded.
“ You’re my son, why shouldn’t I trust you. Besides, you know what you’re doing.” Murdoch said as he went to his horse and mounted up. “ We’ll see you tonight.” Murdoch added before heading out to catch up with the wagon.
Johnny walked over to his brother. “ You have anything to do with this?” Johnny asked.
“ Nope.” Scott responded as he mounted up.
“ How about you bring back a bottle of tequila for me?” Johnny suggested.
“ Alright. I’ll try, but I don’t think our father will go for that.” Scott responded.
“ So don’t let him know.” Johnny said as Scott started to ride away.
“ Well ramrod, what you wanna do?” Tom asked.
“ Get the herd moving to Yuma.” Johnny said.
“ You heard him boys. Let’s break camp!” Tom said with a smile as he dumped the last of the coffee on the fire.
Late afternoon Johnny rode at the front of the herd when Reno rode up to him.
“ We got trouble Johnny.” Reno said as he stopped his horse and pointed to the east.
“ What do you think they want?” Walt asked.
“ The herd most likely.” Johnny responded.
“ Herd cutters?” Tom asked.
“ All it will take is one shot and this herd will stampede. What do you want to do?” Tom asked.
“ Walt, ride back and spread the word to the men what’s going on and to make sure their rifles are ready.” Johnny ordered.
“ What are you going to do?” Walt asked.
“ Me, Reno and Tom are going to take a little ride out and meet these fellas, and try and keep any shooting away from the herd.” Johnny responded.
“ I think you should take a couple more men with you, just to be safe!” Walt suggested.
“ Tom and Reno will be enough.” Johnny said as he pulled his rifle and checked it. “ You’re going to need every man you got If the cattle stampede.”
“ Johnny look.” Reno said as he pointed to a dust cloud to the northeast. “ You think that’s more of them?”
“ You with that herd headed south?” a man asked as he walked up to Murdoch.
“ Yes we are. I’m Murdoch Lancer and this is my son Scott.
“ I’m sheriff Parker. How many men you have with that herd?”
“ Twelve men are with the herd. Why?” Murdoch responded.
“ Herd cutters. My deputy heard them talking last night about a herd headed this way when they were in the saloon.” Sheriff Parker responded. “ I believe these are the same men who hit a herd just across the border in Arizona a couple months ago, and killed five of the hands.”
“ We need to get back with the herd.” Scott said. “ Johnny will need our help.”
“ I have a posse of ten men ready and waiting right now. Your wagon will have to go alone.”
“ Frank, you stay with Pedro.” Murdoch ordered as he went to his horse. “ Get the rest of the supplies loaded and catch up when you can.”
“ Yes sir. Be careful.” Frank responded.
“ That’s your father, and it looks like the one man is wearing a badge.” Tom said.
Johnny looked over where the seven riders were last seen riding parallel with the herd, and then back at his father and brother galloping up with eleven other men. “ Any reason you run those horses as hard as you did?” he asked as he dismounted as the men rode up and stopped.
“ Yes there is son. This is Sheriff Parker from Victorville. He has reason to believe our herd will be hit before dark by herd cutters.” Murdoch responded as he got down.
“ There about a mile east of us. Been paralleling us all afternoon.” Johnny said.
“ Do you know how many?” Scott asked.
“ Counted seven about thirty minutes ago.” Johnny responded. “ They’ve been paralleling us all afternoon.”
“ Sheriff Parker, this is my other son John Lancer.” Murdoch said.
Johnny glared hard at the man.
“ Those men stole a herd a couple months ago just across the border in Arizona. They killed five men. It’s believed they’re the ones who have been stealing cattle and horses in Arizona and New Mexico for a couple years now. They hit at night when there were less hands with the herd, stampeding the cattle if they have too.” Sheriff Parker explained.
“ And what, drive them across the border to Mexico and sell them?” Walt asked.
“ Depending on where the cattle are from as to what state they sell them in after they change the brand with a running iron.” Johnny responded.
“ So they could hit us tonight?” Scott asked.
“ Most likely since the moon is almost full and there’s no clouds.” Johnny said.
“ What if they just want us to think that’s what they will do to keep us on guard with little sleep, and then try and take the herd?” Reno asked.
“ That’s a possibility. I can’t do anything until they make a move. I have to have proof they are after your herd.” Sheriff Parker said.
“ The way you all rode in here, they probably know and won’t try anything now due to there being way more guns.” Johnny said sarcastically. “ I guess wearing that badge gives you the right to be stupid among other things.”
“ It was my idea to get back to the herd fast brother. We thought you might need some help.” Scott said.
“ We don’t need help from the likes of him. Go on back to your town……sheriff.” Johnny said before turning to walk away.
Murdoch grabbed Johnny by the arm and spun him around. “ We got back here to keep those men over there from stealing the herd. You being rude like you are is uncalled for. You own Sheriff Parker an apology.”
Johnny jerked his arm free and glared at his father a few seconds before turning and walking up to the sheriff. “ Don’t think I’ve forgot what you did in Las Cruces five years ago you sonofabitch.” Johnny said with coldness before turning and walking away.
“ Mister Lancer, I think instead of treating Johnny like you just did, you should be more concerned for why he acted the way he just did toward the sheriff.” Tom said before walking away.
“ What was my brother talking about when he said what happened in Las Cruces five years ago?” Scott asked.
“ It’s none of your concern what happened five years ago. Your brother has me confused with someone else is all.” Sheriff Parker responded firmly.
Scott waited until the sheriff and his men were gone before speaking to his father. “ Johnny’s not confused. Something happened five years ago in Las Cruces, and I’m guessing it was bad for him to threaten a lawman like that.”
“ Your brother has always respected, and stayed on the right side of the law. Sheriff Parker didn’t say anything when Johnny threatened him. Something that could have gotten him arrested.” Murdoch said. “ Five years ago he would have been twelve or so.” Murdoch added.
“ Not to mention he said it’s none of our concern what happened five years ago.” Scott responded.
“ I think I’ll go find your brother and ask him what happened five years ago.” Murdoch said.
“ Try and keep your temper down when you do. You were out of line talking to him the way you did. Johnny don’t respond to threats very well.” Scott said before leading his horse away.
Tom found Johnny looking off to the west. “ You want to talk about it?” Tom asked. “ What happened three years ago in Las Cruces to make you threaten a lawman Johnny?”
Johnny turned and faced his friend. “ There was a sheriff in Las Cruces named Mariano Barcela, he extorted money from shop owners for protection. Anyone who didn’t pay got run out.”
“ What does that have to do with Sheriff Parker son?” Murdoch asked as he walked up.
“ His name isn’t Parker. It’s Mariano Barcela. He was the sheriff in Las Cruces until they ran him out of town.” Johnny responded.
“ Run him out why?” Tom asked.
“ Murder. A shop owner everybody knew didn’t carry a gun. His store was robbed and Barcela shot him down to cover it up. He planted the gun in the mans hand.” Johnny said with anger.
“ Are you sure of this?” Murdoch asked.
“ Sure enough I’d stake my life on it. The man was sixty two years old. I knew him and his wife for five years. They were one of the few people I could trust.” Johnny said.
“ Where were you when this happened?” Tom asked.
“ El Paso. When I came back his wife Clara told me what happened as well as several other people. I wanted to track him down and kill the sonofabitch, but she wouldn’t let me. She didn’t want me crossing the line and committing murder.” Johnny responded.
“ Would you have?” Tom asked.
“ Killing him I would have had no regrets about doing.” Johnny said firmly.
“ And now” Murdoch asked.
“ Clara got me to realize something. Killing a man is the easy part, living with it isn’t. Don’t think for one minute I like killing people because I don’t. I chose to live by the gun for survival. Being the best at what I do was my choice. Any man who comes calling me out has the same choice I had to walk away from it.” Johnny said as Scott and Reno walked up to them.
“ Sheriff Parker and his men left. They went after the herd cutters.” Walt said.
Murdoch looked at his youngest. “ We still have a few hours of daylight left. Let’s start the herd moving.” he ordered.
“ You’re not going to help them?” Walt asked.
“My primary concern is for the men who work for me and the herd.” Murdoch responded as shots rang out to the east.“ Let’s get going. I want everyone on the ready for if these cows stampede.”
Pedro and Frank caught up with the herd early evening as they started bedding down for the night. Pedro went about setting up to cook supper.
“ We seen the sheriff. He caught four of the herd cutters and lost three deputies.” Frank said.
“ What about the other three?” Scott asked.
“ Dead I reckon. They were leading six horses with bodies draped over the saddles.” Frank responded.
“ Too bad the sheriff wasn’t one of the dead men.” Johnny said sarcastically.
“ How far are we from Fort Yuma?” Scott asked.
“ Roughly seven days if we don’t get a bad rain storm. These washes and gullies can become a raging torrent. Especially if it rains good up in the hills.” Murdoch responded.
“ Like at Lancer when it rains and washes out the footbridge almost every year.” Scott added.
“ Sheriff Parker, I’ve been your deputy ever since you started this job almost five years ago.” Deputy Colson said.
“ Yeah, and a damn good one too.” Sheriff Parker responded. “ What’s on your mind?” he asked as he sat down at his desk.
“ It’s what that Lancer son said to you the other day. He the same as threatened you about what happened five years ago in Las Cruces, and you did nothing about it. Why? What happened five years ago? Why did you leave that job?”
“ His names not Lancer. It’s Johnny Madrid. Five years ago I ran him out of Las Cruces. He didn’t like me doing that. Telling him his kind wasn’t welcome in town. He’s had a grudge over it ever since.” Sheriff Parker responded.
Deputy Colson could tell something wasn’t right with what the sheriff told him. Never had he heard of someone holding such a deep angry grudge just for being run out of a town. He seen the look in the mans face. How his blue eyes were stone cold when he told the sheriff how he remembered whatever it was that really happened in Las Cruces.
“ Why don’t you take a few days off and go see your sister in San Bernardino for a couple days. Didn’t you say she just had a baby?” Sheriff Parker asked.
“ Yeah. I think maybe I will go see my new niece.” Deputy Colton responded as he removed his badge and set it on the desk, turned and walked to the door and opened it. “ I’ll see ya.” Colton said before walking out. Standing outside the sheriff’s office, Josh decided he would find out what he could about what happened in Las Cruces five years ago. Heading to the livery, he knew he could catch up with the one person with the real answer.
“ Those are fine looking horses Mister Lancer. The cattle are a blessing to the people here. We usually get our supplies from the gulf, but lately beef has been hard to keep from spoiling.” Colonel Rigg said.
“ Lancer is glad to help Colonel.” Murdoch responded.
“ Is that one for sale?” Colonel Rigg asked as he pointed to a beautiful palomino.
“ No, I’m afraid not Colonel. That’s my sons horse. He broke him and is training him.”
“ That’s one fine looking horse. Your son knows good horse flesh.” the Colonel said as a Sergeant walked up to them.
“ Begging your pardon Colonel sir. There’s a man here to see Johnny Lancer. Says his name is Josh Colton, Deputy Sheriff of Victorville.” the Sergeant said.
“ Deputy Sheriff, you have some trouble coming down Murdoch?” the Colonel asked.
“ Herd cutters tried, but the sheriff of Victorville stopped them before they tried. Where is this man?” Murdoch said and asked.
“ He said he would be in town cleaning up and to meet him at the diner for supper.” the Sergeant responded.
Josh watched as the man he came to see walked to his table. He noticed how he wore his gun low on his hip. He’d heard of Johnny Madrid a couple times, but everything he heard said the gunfighter lived below the border. Standing up, Josh extended his hand to first Murdoch, and then Johnny. “ Please, won’t you have a seat and join me for supper?”
“ Thank you.” Murdoch responded as he and Johnny sat down.
“ I imagine you’re wondering what I want to talk to you about?” Josh asked.
“ Your good Sheriff Parker!” Johnny said harshly.
“ Yeah. You were ready to kill him. I seen it in your eyes. Why?”
“ Deputy Colson, how long have you known Sheriff Parker?” Murdoch asked.
“ Call me Josh. I’ve known him since he came to Victorville almost five years ago and became sheriff. He hired me as his deputy a couple weeks after being elected.”
“ Parker isn’t his real name.” Johnny said.
“ What do you mean?” Josh asked as their food was brought to them.
Johnny waited until the waiter left before speaking. “ He was the sheriff in Las Cruces, only his name wasn’t Parker. It was Mariano Barela. He murdered a good friend of mine. An old man who ran a store there with his wife. They were well respected, good people. One night his store was robbed and your good Sheriff Parker gunned him down and planted the gun on him. Said Carl drew on him. His wife Clara seen it all happen and there’s a lot of people in Las Cruces who believe her. I came back from El Paso and learned what happened. Clara said Carl chased one of the robbers out the back door and stopped. He was shot right in front of her. She watched Barela take a handgun out of his coat and place it in Carl’s hand after he fired off a shot.” Johnny explained.
“ Can I ask why you’re asking about this?” Murdoch asked.
“ You, what you said to the sheriff and how he responded to it the other day when you threatened him.” Josh responded. “ I asked him about it a couple days ago and he told me something totally different than what you just said.”
“ I’m not a liar. You can ask anyone in Las Cruces about Carl. He never owned a gun. The only reason he chased the man into the alley was because the man pushed Clara down.” Johnny stated.
“ I never said you were lying to me. I watched your eyes when you were telling me. You looked right at me as you spoke. If you were lying, you would have looked to your right instead.” Josh said.
Johnny nodded. He knew this deputy was no fool.“ What did he tell you?” he asked.
“ That you were still sore because he ran you out of town. Said your kind wasn’t welcome in Las Cruces and it rubbed you wrong. I don’t buy it for a second. Sure men get upset when run out of town.” Josh said. “ Why do you think he did it? Killed your friend?” Josh asked.
Johnny set his fork down and leaned back in his chair. “ Why you wanting to know all this?”
“ Because I take wearing a badge serious, and I don’t want to work for a man if he’s a killer. Do you think there’s a dodger on him for this?” Josh responded and asked.
“ He left town the day before I got there. From what the towns folk said, he left during the night because of the talk of getting a U. S. Marshal to come and investigate.” Johnny responded. “ The only reason he’s still alive is because Clara made me promise not to hunt him down and kill him.”
“ Sounds like she she gave Johnny Madrid good advice.” Josh said. “ I’m glad you listened to her.”
“ You know who my son used to be?” Murdoch asked.
“ I knew when I seen you who you are. Or I should say who you were. Not many men get the chance to get out of the game like you. I take it your father had something to do with that?” Josh asked.
“ Yeah, he did.” Johnny responded. “ Look, what are you going to do about your Sheriff Parker?”
“ You mean Sheriff Barela? I’m going to get the evidence I need and put him behind bars for murder. Can I count on you coming to the trial if needed?” Josh asked.
“ You can find me at Morro Coyo. Our ranch is there.” Johnny said.
“ Your son is a good man Mister Lancer. You should be proud of him.” Josh said.
“ Very proud.” Murdoch said with a smile. “ I don’t understand why you would need Johnny at the trial if there is one though. He didn’t see what happened.”
“ No he didn’t, but he can corroborate the widows testimony. That is if she’s still alive.” Josh said.
“ She’s not there. She moved back east to live with her daughter. Philadelphia I think.” Johnny responded.
“ Well, it’s getting late and we have a long ride back ahead of us. You’re welcome to ride along. We’ll be leaving in the morning.” Murdoch suggested.
“ I have a sister in San Bernardino, and a new niece I’m supposed to be with. I’ll ride back with you and send a wire to Las Cruces from there. That way Sheriff Parker doesn’t know.” Josh said.
“ Well, I guess we will see you in the morning.” Murdoch said as they walked to the door.
“ You boys ready to head home?” Murdoch asked as he mounted up.
“ You bet we are.” Scott said as Josh walked out of the barn with Johnny.
“ This is Deputy Josh Colson from Victorville.” Murdoch told the hands. “ He’s riding with us as far as San Bernardino.”
“ Call me Josh fellas.” Josh said as he mounted up.
“ Why you down here?” Tom asked.
“ I had personal business I needed to take care of.” Josh said.
“ Why the man is here is of no concern of yours Tom. Or anybody else’.” Johnny said firmly as he mounted his horse.
“ Let’s go home.” Murdoch said.
Four men walked out of the saloon and watched as twelve men rode out of Fort Yuma headed north.
“ How you want to do this” Juan asked.
“ I know they are heading back to a town in California called Morro Coyo. So we will ride there and wait. Madrid will show himself and when he does, we will gun him down like the swine he is.” Chavez responded.
“ Why not just ambush the sonofabitch on the trail” Billy demanded.
“ Patience little brother. We’ll kill him soon enough.” Ben said. “ He’ll pay with a bullet from each of us for our pa’s death.”
Clodovio Chavez now rode with Juan Cortina, and brothers Ben and Billy Thompson. Every one of them good with a gun.
Ben and Billy were only seventeen and nineteen years old. Both had seen their father die in a range war two years ago. A range war over property and water rights started outside Douglas, Arizona between their father and longtime local rancher Dan Logan. Madrid had hired his gun out to the rancher after checking with the locals and law. Something a lot of gunfighters never bothered to do. They just hired out to the highest payer. Even though Madrid didn’t personally shoot and kill their father, Ben and Billy blamed him for their fathers death and swore they would one day have revenge.
Juan Cortina, barely twenty one and looking to make a name for himself with a gun. His reputation growing fast with every man he guns down, Juan had his sights set on killing the one everybody says is the best, Johnny Madrid. Having heard the Thompson brothers talking one night in Nogales, he decided to ride along with them hunting for Madrid.
“ How come you want Madrid dead Chavez?” Billy asked.
“Because he spoiled my fun a few months back. I don’t take kindly to someone doing that to me.” Chavez responded.
“ Well lets stop standing around here and get going.” Juan said as he stepped down to his horse.
“ Well I guess this is where we part ways Mister Lancer. Johnny, I’ll send a wire to Morro Coyo letting you know what happens.” Josh said.
“ You be careful. Men like Barela are worse than a rattlesnake.” Johnny said as he shook the mans hand. “ If you’re ever around Morro Coyo, you’re always welcome at Lancer.”
“ I’ll remember that. You take care also. You’re a good man, and I’m proud to know you.” Josh said. “ It’s been a pleasure fellas. I’ll see ya.” Josh said before turning his horse northeast.
“ I knew I’d seen that man before.” Tom said.
“ Who?” Reno asked.
“ That Sheriff Parker. His real name is………Mariano Barela. He was the sheriff of Las Cruces until the town ran him out of town murdering an innocent old man.” Tom responded.
“ What do you know of it?” Johnny asked.
“ Just what the towns folks were saying a couple weeks after it happened when I rode in there. Said this old man was supposed to have tried to kill the sheriff or something after he was robbed.” Tom said.
“ That old man was a good friend of mine and he never carried a gun. His wife seen the sheriff kill him and plant the gun. Most every person in town knew Carl Johnson and they knew he never used or even had a gun.” Johnny said firmly.
“ So that’s why you were like that to the sheriff. I knew there had to be a good reason for you to be like that to a lawman.” Tom said.
“ Yeah well don’t think I didn’t want to kill the sonofabitch right then and there.” Johnny said before riding away.
“ So this is Spanish Wells. Seems like a nice little town.” Ben said.
“ Yeah, real nice. Even has the law here.” Billy said as he pointed to the sheriffs office down the street from the saloon.
“ So, gun-fighting ain’t against the law.” Ben responded.
“ Just mind your business. That sheriff is a bad hombre. He hung a kid who called Madrid out right here on this street not that long ago. Madrid didn’t kill the kid. People said he wanted the kid to hang for what he did. Hell he even told the kid what happens to a man whose hung.” Chavez said. “ Look, I don’t want no trouble from the law. So keep your mouths shut about why we are here. I don’t want Madrid tipped off. Understand?” Chavez ordered.
“ They got any good whore in this town?” Billy asked.
“ There’s a place at the other end of town called Mollies. She’s got anything you want in there and not to expensive either.” Chavez responded.
“ Lets get cleaned up first after we stable the horses.” Ben suggested.
“ You boys going to Spanish Wells tonight?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. Thought I would relieve Boston of some of his money.” Johnny said with a smile. “ You want to come along and have a cold beer?”
“ No son. I think I’ll stay here and read.” Murdoch responded.
“ You still reading that book?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, It’s not one you want to finish. Listen to this, Like leaves on trees, the race of man is found. Now green with youth, now withered on the ground. Twenty five centuries and not a particle of dust has settled on those words.” Murdoch said as he walked over to the side board and poured a brandy.
“ What the hell does that even mean?” Johnny asked.
“ Come along little brother, and I will explain it to you on the way to town.” Scott said with a smile as he wrapped an arm around Johnny’s neck and turned toward the door.
Murdoch smiled as he watched his boys leave. It did him good seeing how they got along so well. Almost like they grew up together instead of apart in separate worlds.
“ Well little brother, I think it’s about time we head back.” Scott suggested.
“ We got time for one last cold beer Scott.” Johnny said.
“ Alright, but you’re buying.” Scott teased.
“ I guess I can do that since I just about cleaned you out.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ I’ll be right back.”
“ He sure was lucky tonight.” Tom said.
“ Yeah. One of these days I’m going to learn when to quit.” Scott said with a laugh.
Juan Cortina watched from the corner as Madrid played cards all evening. Standing up, he walked over by the door and stopped. Only a handful of people were still in the saloon. Taking out his pistol he aimed and fired.
“ Let me have three more cold ones Al.” Johnny said as he set the empty mugs on the bar.
“ You clean Scott out again Johnny?” Al asked with a smile.
“ It;s not my fault he’s a lousy poker player.” Johnny responded right before he was slammed into the bar and felt a white hot pain in his back.
Scott looked in horror as his brother fell to the floor, a red stain spreading across his back.
Tom and Reno both drew their gun and fired, killing Juan.
“ Someone go get Sam!” he yelled as he went to his brother.
“ He’s still alive. Looks like the bullet is lodged in his shoulder.” Al said.
“ Let’s turn him over and see if it went all the way through.” Scott said.
“ What the hell happened?” the sheriff asked as he came into the saloon.
“ That man by the door shot my brother in the back and was going to shoot him again when I killed him Zeke.” Scott said.
“ Someone go for Sam?” Zeke asked
“ Yeah. He should be here any minute now” Al responded.
Sam entered the saloon and hurried over to where Johnny was laying on the floor.
“ The bullets still in there Sam.” Scott said.
“ Alright, lets get him over to my office. The sooner I remove that bullet, the better his chances of surviving.” Sam instructed.
“ Tom, I need you to ride to Lancer and tell Murdoch what’s happened.” Scott said as they put Johnny on the table gently.
“ Alright I’ll get him back here as soon as I can.” Tom said as he headed to the door and stopped. “ Doc, don’t you go letting him die.”
“ Juan is dead.” Billy said as he entered the hotel room. “ He shot Madrid. They just took him to the doctors.” Billy said.
“ He’s still alive?” Ben asked.
“ That’s what I heard.” Billy responded.
“ Stupid damn kid just couldn’t wait.” Chavez said with anger.
“ Madrid survives, we’ll still get our chance at killing him.” Ben said.
“ How? If he lives, he’ll be laid up and won’t be coming into town for a long time. Hell he might not ever leave that fancy ranch. Juan shot him in the back. The bullet hit him in his right shoulder. That’s his gun arm.”
“ Then he’ll be a lot easier for us to kill then won’t he.” Chavez said before turning and going back to his room.
“ Where you going?” Ben asked.
“ Back to my whore.” Chavez responded.
“ Lets get some sleep Billy. We’ll find out from someone in the morning if Madrid lives or not.” Ben said.
“ Yeah, okay.” Billy responded as the brothers headed down the hall to their shared room.
Murdoch woke to someone banging on the front door. Turing up the flame on his lantern by the bed, he seen it was three o’clock in the morning. Slipping on his boots he hurried downstairs and opened the front door. “ Tom, what’s wrong?”
“ Johnny’s been shot Mister Lancer.” Tom responded.
“ Oh my god. How bad?” Murdoch asked.
“ In the back Scott’s with him at the doctors. It’s bad.” Tom responded
“ I’ll go saddle your horse and me a fresh one while you get dressed.” Tom said before turning and walking out.
“ How is he?” Scott asked as Sam walked out of the room his brother lay in.
“ Not good. The bullet fractured his scapula. Johnny won’t be able to use his right arm for anything for a long time I’m afraid.” Sam said.
“ To tell you the truth Scott, I’m a little apprehensive about telling him when he wakes up.”
“ You and me both Sam. If it was his left arm, I don’t think it would bother him so much.” Scott said. “ Can I see him?”
“ Of course. He won’t be waking up for a few hours yet.” Sam said as they entered the room. “ That arm is going to have to stay absolutely still. He can’t move it at all. He does, and he could damage his scapula. The pain he’s going to be feeling, laudanum won’t help with. He’s going to have to have opium or morphine.”
“ Opium, isn’t that habit forming Sam?” Scott asked.
“ Yes it is if used wrong. The pain Johnny will be feeling will be excruciating. He’ll sweat, shake, and be very irritable toward anyone around him. He may refuse to even take the pain medication, but I know with you and Murdoch, when he can go home, he’ll be in good hands.”
“ How would you give it to him?” Scott asked.
“ There is only one way I can administer morphine, and that is with a hypodermic syringe. Opium I can administer in powder form. I would mix a small amount in some water and have him drink it.” Sam explained.
“ How long would Johnny have to be given this?” Scott asked.
“ A month at least. Then we can give him laudanum for the pain. There is a serious risk of him becoming addicted to it Scott, and once he doesn’t need it for the pain anymore, the with-drawl symptoms won’t be pleasant to say the least.” Sam said.
“ I dealt with a soldier friend addicted to laudanum during the war, and your right, it’s not pleasant.” Scott said.
“ Johnny could become agitated or even depressed when the with-drawl symptoms start. Shakes, sweating, diarrhea,fever, chills, stomach pain, aching muscles, throwing up. It affects people differently, so there’s no way of knowing for sure what will happen.” Sam responded.
“ How long after he stops getting the opium, will the symptoms start?” Scott asked.
“ Anywhere from six to ten hours after the final dose. Three days after will be the worst.” Sam responded. “ We are going to have to make sure he stays hydrated. His muscles will ache so hot baths will help with that. Anything to help keep his mind off the withdraw symptoms like walking or playing chess or checkers.”
“ Regardless of how bad it gets Sam, my brother will have help getting through this.” Scott said.
Murdoch stopped his horse in front of Sam’ office just as the sun was coming up over the San Bonito mountains. Getting down he hurried inside, followed by Tom and Reno. “ Sam!” he called out.
Sam walked out of the kitchen, drying his hands. “ Murdoch, why don’t the three of you come with me to the kitchen and have some coffee, and I’ll explain Johnny’s condition.” Sam suggested.
“ Is he alive?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes. Scott is with him. They’re both sleeping. Now come on back. You need to know how bad it is before you see him.” Sam said before turning and walking back to his kitchen.
Thirty minutes later Murdoch sat starring at the floor. He couldn’t believe how close his son had come to being killed last night by someone not much older than him. Why was the biggest question he had. Both Tom and Reno said they didn’t know the kid, had never seen him before.
“ Johnny’s going to be more vulnerable than he’s ever been before until he gets his gun arm back.” Tom said, breaking the silence.
“ I want to see him Sam.” Murdoch said as he stood up.
Scott opened his eyes as the sun shined in the window on his face. Raising up, he looked at his brother still sleeping. Feeling his forehead, he felt no fever and let out a sigh of relief. Standing up, he walked over to the window and looked out.
“ Son.” Murdoch said softly.
Scott wiped his face and turned around. “ He hasn’t woke up yet.” he said.
“ Sam told me. Your brother is strong. He’ll get through this. He’s going to be alright.” Murdoch said as he walked over and looked down at his youngest laying on the bed.
“ Will he……He can’t use his gun arm Murdoch. You know how that’s going to make him feel.” Scott responded.
“ Yes I do. That’s why we will do everything we can to keep him safe.” Murdoch said.
Sam stepped into the room. “ Murdoch, Scott, the sheriff is here. He wants to talk to the two of you, and I need to change Johnny’s bandage.”
“ Mister Lancer, Scott. Sam told me how bad Johnny’s wound is. I’m sorry.” Zeke said.
“ Sam said you wanted to talk to us.” Scott said.
“ It’s about the kid who shot Johnny. He rode into town about a week ago with three other men. They’ve been staying at the hotel. The other three are still in town as far as I know.” Zeke explained.
“ You think those men are here to kill my son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t know.” Zeke responded.
“ Do you know who they are?” Tom asked.
“ Chavez, and brothers Billy and Ben Thompson. All three have dodgers on them in other states. Chavez is wanted here for riding with Vasquez stealing livestock and murder. ” Zeke responded.
“ Chavez. That’s the man from the stage Johnny accosted when you two came home!” Scott said.
“ He rides with Vasquez’s gang. They’ve been raiding ranchers in the southwest for several years now. Stealing stock and killing.” Zeke said. “ Vasquez was just captured in Los Angeles. They’re planning on moving him to San Francisco so he can stand trial in San Jose for the murder of those three innocent bystanders. He may not have pulled the trigger, but he’s just as guilty as the others. They stole twenty two hundred dollars from Snyder’s store in Tres Pinos.”
“ Who caught him?” Reno asked.
“ Sheriff William R. Rowland with a posse. His own family turned him in because he seduced and impregnated his own niece. They caught him at Rancho La Brea.” Zeke responded. “ He’ll hang for what he’s done.”
“ Billy and Ben Thompson, me and Reno have heard talk of. There was a range war a couple years ago your son hired out too. It was over property and water rights. Billy and Ben’s father was killed, not by Johnny, but they blamed him for it. Johnny worked for the rancher along with some other guns.” Tom said.
“ From what we heard, Johnny wasn’t there the night their father was killed, but they blamed him for it.” Reno added.
“ How did they know Johnny is here?” Scott asked.
“ They had to have seen him in Yuma. It’s the only way.” Murdoch suggested.
“ And Chavez must have learned Johnny is living here.” Tom said.
“ My son has a right to live a normal life. Why can’t they just leave him alone!” Murdoch said with anger.
“ I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way for a gunfighter like Johnny. Being the best has it’s price.” Tom responded.
Johnny could feel hands touching him ever so lightly and hear voices on the distance.
“ I know you’re waking up Johnny. Open your eyes for me.” Sam requested.
Johnny fluttered his eyes open finally and blinked several times trying to focus them on the familiar face before him.
“ Here, sip some water.” Sam said as he poured some water in a glass and held it so he could take a drink. “ Not to much. I don’t want you getting sick.”
Johnny welcomed the cool water on his parched throat. “ Wha….appened?” he asked as he pressed his head back into the pillows as pain wracked his back.
Sam set the glass down and stood up. “ You were shot in the back last night.”
“ H..o…w bad?” Johnny asked.
“ The bullet hit your scapula and broke it. I have you bound up along with your arm so you can’t move. It’s going to take time for the bone to set and heal.” Sam responded. “ John……….it’s your right arm.”
Johnny looked at Sam a minute before closing his eyes, and letting it sink in what Sam just said. “ Scott?” he asked. Remembering his brother was with him last night.
“ Scott is fine. He wasn’t shot. He’s in the other room with your father talking to the sheriff.” Sam responded. “ Do you want to see him?”
Johnny nodded. “ Will I be able to use my arm again Sam?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. If you do exactly as I say and let that bone mend. I’ll go get them.” Sam said as he started to the door.
“ Just Scott.” Johnny said.
“ Alright.” Sam said as he opened the door and stepped out.
“ Any of you ever see the kid who shot Johnny before?” Zeke asked.
“ Now that you mention it, I did see him in Yuma when we left. He was standing outside the saloon with three other men.” Reno said as Sam came out into the office.
“ He’s awake and asking to see you only Scott.” Sam said.
“ Why just Scott?” Murdoch asked.
“ He knows about his injury Murdoch. How bad it is. I know you want to see him too, but for right now it’s imperative that he stays still and calm.” Sam ordered.
“ How long before he can be moved to the ranch?” Murdoch asked.
“ There’s no way he will be able to stand the ride in a wagon for some time. I’ afraid he will have to stay at the hotel once I feel safe he can be moved over to there.” Sam responded.
“ Alright. I’ll go get the best room they have for him.” Murdoch said. “ You go see your brother.”
“ Me and Reno will go with the sheriff here and see if those other three are in town still.” Tom said.
“ I need to find out the name of the kid killed last night. I have no dodgers on him that fit his description.” Zeke said.
“ Chavez will know his name.” Reno said as they followed Murdoch out of the doctors office.
“ Mister Lancer, don’t take it too personally with Johnny wanting to only see Scott right now.” Tom said.
“ I think I can understand his reasons for it Tom. You and Reno are good friends to my son, and I thank you for that.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny heard the door open and close, and soft footsteps come over to his left side. The chair squeaking when the person sat down. He could tell by the feel when a hand touched his left one, that it was his brother. Opening his eyes, he turned his head to see blue-gray eyes looking back at him.
“ Hey brother.” Johnny said softly.
“ Hey……You sure have a funny way of getting out of work little brother.”
“ Thought I’d let you handle the fall round-up and branding.” Johnny said.
“ You’re all heart brother.” Scott said as he leaned forward, and picked up Johnny’s left hand. “ Sam said you know how bad your wound is.”
“ Had worse.” Johnny said as white hot pain wracked his shoulder.
“ Let me get Sam.” Scott said as he stood up and started around the bed when the door opened and Sam walked in.
“ I figured you would be feeling some pretty good pain about now.” Sam said as he walked over with a small bottle and spoon in his hand.
“ What’s that?” Johnny asked.
“ Opium. It will ease the pain so you can sleep.” Sam said as he put a small amount in a glass and poured some water in and mixed it up.
“ That’s habit forming Sam.” Johnny said.
“ Yes it is, but you have only two choices. You can either take the opium or I can administer some morphine with a hypodermic syringe.” Sam responded.
“ I don’t need it.” Johnny said.
“ I’m afraid you don’t have a choice little brother. Not this time.” Scott said.
“ John, you will need this for the pain. Trust me, it will only get worse before it gets better.” Sam said as he sat down on the bed.
“ Johnny, I’ll be here with you. I won’t let anyone hurt you.” Scott said.
“ For how long?” he asked.
“ About a month. Then I can give you laudanum.” Sam said as he held the glass closer. “ It’s bitter, so drink as much of it down as fast as you can.” Sam instructed as he put the glass to Johnny’s lips.
“ You should be at the ranch running it, and not here babysitting me old man.” Johnny said a week later from his bed at the hotel.
“ The ranch is in good hands. Your brother and I are staying here to take care of you, and that’s final young man.” Murdoch responded firmly as Scott entered the room carrying a tray of food.
“ Lunch is served little brother.” Scott said as he set the tray down on the table.
“ How long are the two of you going to keep lying to me?” Johnny asked bluntly.
Scott turned and walked over to the bed. “ Let me help you up.”
“ What makes you think we’ve been lying to you son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Neither one of you have said a thing about the shooting. I think I have a right to know what is going on?” Johnny responded. “ There’s more than the one who shot me in town isn’t there?” he asked as they helped him stand up and walk over to the table.
“ There were three others, but they left town the day after you were shot.” Murdoch said as he helped Johnny sit down.
“ Who?” he asked.
Murdoch looked at Scott. “ Chavez and two brothers named Billy and Ben Thompson. They road into town about a week before we got back with Juan Cortina, the one who shot you in the back.”
“ Chavez from the stage?” he asked.
“ Yes.” Murdoch answered as he sat down.“ The other two, do you know them son?”
“ What names did you say?” Johnny asked.
“ Billy and Ben Thompson.” Scott said.
Johnny sat there just starring at his plate.
“ I know them. A couple years ago I signed on to a rancher during a water and property rights dispute. Their father was killed, but not by me. The rancher, Dan Bogan sent me over to try and reason with the man one last time the night before. When I told Dan what his final answer was, he rode over there the next day to settle it once and for all. Another gun hawk is the one who shot and killed their father.”
“ I believe you son, and that’s what Tom said he heard also.”
Johnny shoved his food away and stood up fast, losing his balance, but stopped by his brother from falling forward into the table.
“ Johnny, it’s not your fault.” Scott said as he helped his brother back over to the bed.
“ Like hell it’s not Scott. It became my fault the minute I started using a gun. All I ever wanted was to be the best at my trade…..I got what I wanted, and now that I don’t want it any longer, others won’t let me walk away from it, and want to kill me to take it.” Johnny said with sadness in his voice.
“ How long we gonna stay here Ben?” Billy asked.
“ Chavez don’t want us going anywhere near Spanish Wells. They’ll have to move Madrid back to Lancer, and when they do, that’s when we will get him little brother.” Ben responded.
“ Why the hell we letting Chavez run the show? We don’t need him to kill Madrid!” Billy said softly as he watched Chavez playing cards at another table.
“ We’re not. Listen, I figure he’s gonna get drunk tonight and sleep with a whore. When he does, we leave.” Ben responded.
“ And go where?” Billy asked.
“ There’s a town called Morro Coyo. It’s a lot closer to Lancer than Spanish Wells, and there ain’t no law there.” Ben responded. “ Madrid will probably be traveling back in a wagon and have several people guarding him. Getting a shot at him won’t be easy.”
“ Why don’t we just ride up to that fancy ranch and call him out? He never refuses when called out people say.”
“ I’ve been giving that some serious thought too. Lets go play some poker, and whatever you do, don’t open your mouth to tip Chavez off about us leaving tonight.” Ben ordered.
“ I’ll take you off the opium after your home Johnny. Scott and Murdoch know what to expect from you when I do.”
“ Yeah I know, Scott told me it ain’t gonna be no picnic for me.” Johnny responded. “ Sometimes I used to think I never got enough sleep, now sleep is just about all I do.”
“ Believe it or not Johnny, sleep is the best thing for you. It’s allowing that bone to mend.” Sam responded.
“ When can I have a bath Sam? I smell like I did an all niter with a couple of whores.”
“ The wound is healed up enough. I think you can once we get you home and settled.” Sam responded.
“ You’re not kidding me are you Sam, I can go home?” Johnny asked.
“ Only of you promise to not try and move or use that right arm while it’s unwrapped for your bath?” Sam asked.
“ As long as someone helps me.” Johnny responded.
“ I’ll help you son. That’s if you don’t mind your father helping you take a bath?” Murdoch asked.
“ You did when I was a baby didn’t you?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes, I was allowed to a couple times.” Murdoch said.
“ Only difference is I ain’t no baby now.” Johnny said with a smile and wink to his brother.
“ Son, I will only wash where you want. I know you want to keep your dignity.” Murdoch responded.
“ Is tomorrow soon enough young man?” Sam asked.
“ Tomorrow sounds good to me Sam.” Johnny responded.
“ Under no circumstances are you to go near horses or try and ride until I say. Is that clear?” Sam ordered and asked.
“ Don’t worry Sam, I’ll be good. I need my right arm working good again. I’ll do what you say. I promise.” Johnny responded.
“ Hey Walt, how’s Johnny doing?” Al asked.
“ They brought him home a week ago. He’s slowly healing up.” Walt responded.
“ I heard it was bad.” Al said.
“ Yeah. The bullet fractured his shoulder blade. I don’t think he cares for having his arm bound up like it is, but Sam says it has to be so it won’t move any.”
“ I can’t imagine the pain he must be feeling.” Al said as he poured a beer.
“ Docs got him on opium, so he’s not feeling any pain and sleeps a lot so the bone can mend.” Walt responded.
“ I heard that opium is habit forming?” Al asked.
“ The Chinese, they smoke it. I seen people in San Francisco, in the not so good part of town, they were in the alleys and streets using that stuff. It’s pretty sad actually what it can do to a person. Hell most of them I seen were women.” Walt explained.
“ Women……why in the world would women use that stuff?” Al asked.
“ They say city doctors prescribe it to them for pains women get that men don’t and they get addicted to it. Who knows. Those city people are a strange bunch anyways. Doctors there, they ain’t nothing like Sam. He’s a real good doc. He cares about his patients., I better get back. I’ll see ya Al.” Walt said before downing his beer.
“ You give Johnny my best.” Al said as he picked up the empty glass.
“ You hear that?” Billy said softly to his brother.
“ I heard what he said.” Ben responded.
“ What are we gonna do know Ben. There’s no way Madrid will face us now. Not with his gun arm all bound up.” Billy said with anger.
“ Keep your voice down. Let me think on it a bit. Let’s finish our beers and leave.” Ben ordered.
Murdoch walked into his sons room carrying a tray with coffee and cookies, and found him on his left side shaking and sweating. Walking over to the bed, he could see Johnny was dreaming. It angered him at what he was hearing his son saying in Spanish.
“ Por favor no me pegues. No lo hice. Madre por favor haz que se detenga. No lo hice.” ( Please don’t hit me. I didn’t do it. Mother please make him stop. I didn’t do it.)
Clearly his son was being beaten for something he didn’t do. The scars on his back showed his childhood had not been the way it should have been for him. He would never understand how a woman he loved so much could allow another man to beat a child, his child.
“ No tomé el pan. Por favor deje de. Madre, me estáhaciendo daño. Madre haz que se detenga. Estoy sangrando.” ( I didn’t take the bread. Please stop. Mother he’s hurting me. Mother make him stop. I’m bleeding.)
“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said softly as he set the tray on the table and listened to his son pleading with his mother. Sitting down on the side of the bed, he gently placed a hand on his youngest right hip to try and wake him up without startling him. Two days ago, during the worst of Johnny’s withdraw symptoms, Scott had tried to wake him up from a bad dream and now has a black eye from it. Johnny, totally lost in the dream, struck out hitting his brother with his left fist, never waking up until later that afternoon.“ John, son wake up.”
Johnny’s eyes fluttered open finally as tears ran down his cheeks. “ Lo siento.” ( I’m sorry.)
“ It’s alright son. You’re safe now. Nobody will beat you ever again.” Murdoch said. “ Let me help you sit up.”
“ How bad have I been?” Johnny asked.
“ What do you remember?” Murdoch asked as he poured two cups of coffee.
“ Not much really. What day is it?” Johnny responded.
“ Tuesday. Sam took you off the opium five days ago. I think the worst part is behind you now.” Murdoch said as he handed him a cup of coffee. “ Maria made some cookies and I thought maybe you might like some with your old man.”
“ When can I go downstairs? I would really like to sit outside in the sun. Maybe play some checkers with you or Scott on the veranda.” Johnny asked.
“ I don’t see why you can’t. Sam will be here in the morning. You can ask him then.” Murdoch responded.
“ Can I talk to you about something?” Johnny asked.
“ Standing up, or sitting down?” Murdoch responded.
“ It’s personal. It’s about my mother.” Johnny said.
“ Ask away son.”
“ I was wondering how long it was before you married her?” Johnny asked.
“ Not long, very short time.” Murdoch responded.
“ Weeks maybe?” Johnny asked.
“ I think the expression is a whirlwind courtship. Why do you ask?” Murdoch responded.
“ I was just wondering. She never talked about you and her when you were together.” Johnny said.
“ I met your mother down in Matamoros a few years after Catherine died. It was love at first sight for me. Now don’t get me wrong son, I love Scott’s mother dearly, and she was a beautiful woman, but Maria, I had never seen a woman as beautiful as she was.” Murdoch explained.
“ Was she already pregnant with me when you married her?” Johnny asked as he set his cup down and picked up a cookie.
Murdoch sighed. “ Yes, but that’s not why I married her son. We just had to do it sooner was all.” Murdoch responded.
“ How do you feel about me now?” Johnny asked as Scott walked into the room.
“ I don’t understand what you’re asking son. I love you. When I found you in Colorado and learned that you were my missing blue eyed baby boy I had lost all those years ago, I couldn’t have been happier. I know it hasn’t been easy on you giving up the only life you ever knew, but I’m damn proud of you John.”
“ That makes two of us little brother.” Scott said as he walked over and snatched a cookie from the plate. “ We got all the fencing done in the north pasture.”
“ Good. You can move the herd into it tomorrow.” Murdoch said.
“ Did you get to close to one of those cows brother?” Johnny asked.
“ No, more like I got to close to a certain somebody’s fist.” Scott replied with a smile.
“ I gave you that shiner?” Johnny asked.
“ Two days ago. You were having a pretty bad dream or something and I tried waking you up. I’m just glad it wasn’t your gun.”
“ I’m sorry Scott. I……..”
“ Forget it. You weren’t exactly yourself then.” Scott said. “ I think I will go get cleaned up. How about a game of chess later?”
“ Sure.” Johnny responded.
“ Feel like taking a ride with your brother?” Murdoch asked.
“ Where too?” Johnny asked.
“ The Conway ranch. I bought a couple of cutting horses from her and told her I would pick them up today. I can’t get away because Angus McGovern is coming by today.” Murdoch responded.
“ What does he want? Johnny asked.
“ Angus McGovern wants Lancer. He’s probably coming by to see if Murdoch will sell.” Scott said.
“ Actually I am going to sell our joint holdings in Nevada Silver. We’re losing money we can’t afford. We need to sell off some mineral and mining to cover commodities.” Murdoch said.
“ We have a fortune in timber alone. You know he wants it.” Scott said.
“ I am more concerned with saving this land than progress. I would rather see every cow on this land dead before I sell Lancer for progress. I’ll leave that to my grandchildren.” Murdoch responded.
“ Or your great grandchildren for that matter.” Scott added as he stood up. “ You ready brother?”
“ Yeah, I’ll be out in a minute.” Johnny said.
“ Something on your mind son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I was wondering if in the spring after roundup if you would take a ride with me to Agua Prieta?” Johnny asked.
“ Agua Prieta, why?” Murdoch asked.
“ To see her grave.” Johnny said.
“ Alright son, but do you think that’s wise with the Rurales looking for you?” Murdoch asked.
“ It’s only a couple miles below the border where she’s buried. We can ride in after dark. They’ll never know I’m there.” Johnny responded as he stood up.
“ Alright son. I’d like to see her grave.” Murdoch said.
“ Johnny, what a nice surprise. I didn’t know you were coming with Scott.” Agatha Conway said.
“ Yeah Scott can’t handle two horses alone so I had to come along and show him how to do it.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ Well come on inside and have a cup of coffee while my hand gets the horses for you.” Aggie said. “ I heard about what happened to you. I had intended on stopping by to visit, but running a ranch is a never ending job as you both know.”
“ Yes ma’am.” Johnny responded as they walked inside and sat down I the parlor.
“ Murdoch said the drive went well.” Aggie said as she poured three cups of coffee. “ Do either of you know a Billy and Ben Thompson?”
“ Yeah I know them. Why do you ask?” Johnny responded.
“ They came by here last week asking for a job. I told them I wasn’t hiring and that they should go see if Lancer was. I was just wondering if they did?” Aggie said and asked.
“ Not that we know of. We have a full crew also.” Scott said, looking at his brother.
“ How are you boys and Murdoch getting along?” Aggie asked.
“ Good.” Scott responded.
“ It’s been a struggle these last couple months for him with me being shot, but we’re all doing good.” Johnny said.
“ I know he’s a changed man now that he has both his boys home.” Aggie said as she stood up. “ That’s a good looking horse you’re riding Johnny.”
“ Barranca is like no horse I’ve ever had.” Johnny said as they stood up and walked outside.
“ I have a couple of good palomino mares I’d like to breed him to. That’s if you’re interested.” Aggie said as she stepped down and started looking Barranca over. “ He’s like no stallion I’ve ever seen. Is he from the Capanero De Palomino’s that run on Lancer?”
“ Yes ma’am. He came in with the bunch we sold to the army. Johnny’s the only one who could break him.” Scott said. “ My brother has a gift for breaking and training horses.” he added.
“ I’ll tell you what Johnny. You breed Barranca to my two mares, and I will give you one of the foals.” Aggie suggested.
“ You don’t have to do that Mrs Conway. You just let me know when, and I’ll bring him over.” Johnny said as a hand brought the two cutting horses over.
“Then decide on a price Johnny, I have a feeling any foals Barranca sirs will be as good as him.” Aggie said. “ Here’s the bill of sales for those two. They’re both broke completely to saddle, they both have a sweet gentle disposition. My hand started them on reining and working cows in the pen.” Aggie explained.
“ Well, we better get back. It was real good seeing you Mrs Conway.” Scott said as he mounted up and took one of the leads.
“ You boys take care, and give Murdoch my best.” Aggie said as she handed the other lead rope to Johnny. “ It was real good seeing you Johnny.”
“ You too Mrs Conway.” Johnny responded before turning Barranca and riding away.
“ So what brings you to Lancer, Angus?” Murdoch asked.
“ Can’t I visit an old friend without having a reason?” Angus asked. “ They last time I seen you was in Denver. I was just wondering how you and Scott are doing?”
“ Both boys are doing good. Him and Johnny went to the Conway ranch to pix up a couple horses I purchased.” Murdoch responded.
“ Both boys?” Angus said.
“ That’s right, you don’t know what happened after Denver. I found my youngest son Johnny.” Murdoch responded, and then proceeded to tell Angus how he found his son.
“ You mean to tell me that your youngest son is the infamous gunfighter Johnny Madrid?” Angus asked.
“ Was. He’s given it up and is my son, Scott’s brother, and a third owner of Lancer.” Murdoch responded.
“ Murdoch, are you absolutely certain this man is your son?” Angus asked.
“ Yes. A photo he has and a birthmark. He became a gunfighter to stay alive in Mexico after his mother was murdered when he was twelve. He seen it happen.” Murdoch responded. “ We find ourselves in a temporary bind.”
“ Most everybody is right now.” Angus said.
“ See we have to sell some of our joint holdings in mineral and mining to cover commodities.” Murdoch said.
“ I’d hate to see you unload anything just now.” Angus responded.
“ Would you be willing to sell our joint holdings in Nevada silver?” Murdoch asked.
“ Murdoch, that’s got to go up! Naturally I’d go along with you, but……I’ll tell you what, I’ll put it before the bank board tomorrow and we’ll see…….If you’re really in that tight of a squeeze, maybe it’s my chance? I’ll give you twice again what the spread is worth Murdoch.” Angus responded. “ I’ve always been excited in your high country. In your ore, and there’s a fortune in your timber alone.”
“ No, you’d turn Lancer into another Virginia City with a rail head running right through this kitchen.” Murdoch said.
“ You can bet your last dollar I would. Now look…….this is a serious offer.” Angus responded.
“ No, I’m sorry Angus. I’ll save that kind of progress, if it is progress for my grandchildren.” Murdoch said.
“ Murdoch, you don’t have to take a licking.” Angus said as he stood up.
“ Angus I just can’t seem to get through to you. I am not interested in saving money. I am interested in saving this land, this home, and I would see every dollar, every stock and bond, every steer go down before I throw in.” Murdoch responded.
You’re a fool Murdoch Lancer……Maybe I can’t understand you because nothing has ever meant that much to me. I’ll tell you one thing.” Angus said as he stood up. “ I’m a stubborn man, and some day I’m going to buy this land. Probably on the public auction block.” He said before storming out.
“ Murdoch stood up and walked into the grand room. “ I love this land more than anything on gods green earth.” he said as he walked over to the big bay window behind his desk and looked out at the empire he had carved out. An empire he would leave for his two sons. All he could do is hope and pray they felt the same way he does about keeping Lancer as it is.
“ So how did it go with Angus McGovern today?” Scott asked.
“ Not well. I’m afraid he left rather angry with me because I will not sell Lancer to him at double the asking price.” Murdoch responded.
“ You know he only wants this land for the ore and timber up in the high country.” Scott said.
“ Yes. How is Aggie?” Murdoch asked.
“ She’s good. She said to tell you she sends her best and was sorry you didn’t come.” Scott responded. “ She even offered Johnny a business proposition.”
“ A business proposition son?” Murdoch asked.
“She likes Barranca and has two mares she wants me to breed him too.” Johnny said modestly.
“ Johnny Madrid……we know you’re in there. Come on out.” Billy Thompson yelled.
“ What the devil?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny went to the veranda doors and looked outside. “ It’s Billy and Ben Thompson.”
“ We’re calling you out Madrid.” Ben yelled. “ Come on out and face us.”
Johnny went to the front door and strapped on his colt.
“ You’re not going out there and facing them son.” Murdoch ordered.
“ They called me out old man. Stay out of this.”
Murdoch walked swiftly over to his son and grabbed his arms. “ I will not let you walk out there and face those two. I told you in Colorado that I would do whatever I have to do to protect my son and keep him from being killed. You just healed up from being shot in the back.”
“ Let go of me.” Johnny ordered. “ Look, I can take them without killing them.”
“ How can you be so sure of that Johnny?” Scott asked as he loaded a rifle.
“ Because they’re not gunfighters. The younger one Ben, he won’t draw on me. I can tell from here he’s afraid.” Johnny responded.
“ You’re willing to risk your life on that son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Look they’re both wearing their gun to high on their hip to make a fast draw.” Johnny responded. “ I promise you I’ll be alright.”
“ Come on out Madrid.” Billy yelled as Johnny opened the front door and stepped outside.
“ You want something?” Johnny asked calmly as he walked out.
“ You killed our pa and now we are going to kill you.” Ben said.
“ I didn’t kill your pa. Dan Bogan’ foreman shot him.” Johnny responded.
“ You’re a liar.” Ben said. “ You stay out of this. It’s between Madrid and us.”
“ My son has no reason to lie to you.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ You sonofabitch.” Billy said when he went for his gun. A bullet creasing his upper right arm.
“ Billy.”Ben yelled as he went to his brothers side.
“ I’m alright.” Billy said as he held his left hand over the wound.
“ I could have killed you both, but I didn’t.” Johnny said as he walked over to them. “ I didn’t kill your pa and I’m not going to kill you.”
“ Take your brother and get off Lancer land now. If you are ever seen around here again, I’ll have you both arrested.” Murdoch ordered.
Johnny watched the brothers get on their horses and leave. When they rode under the Lancer arch, he turned around and walked up to his father. “ Thanks Murdoch.”
“I will do whatever I have to do to keep my son, both my sons safe. Lancer takes care of their own.” Murdoch responded.
“ That just leaves Chavez. You think he’s still around?” Scott asked.
“ He is. A man like him don’t run away. When I face him, only one of us will walk away.” Johnny said before walking inside.
“ I swear, you got no brains at all.” Johnny said with frustration as he tried to untangle a calf from the fence. “ Hold still you stupid thing before I put a bullet in you and end both our misery.”
Scott and Murdoch topped the rise and looked down at a golden stallion keeping an angry cow away from her bawling calf. “ I don’t believe I have ever seen a horse do that before.” Scott said.
“ Me either son. Either your brother has trained that horse very well, or they have a strong unbreakable friendship.” Murdoch said. “ Let’s go see if he can use any help.”
“Aw quit bawling I almost got you free if you would just hold still.” Johnny said as barbed wire cut into his hand. “ Damn you.”
“ You need some help there little brother?” Scott asked as he rode up and dismounted.
“ Yeah. This damn calf won’t hold still.” Johnny responded.
Scott grabbed the calf’s front legs and pinned it to the ground as Johnny worked feverishly to free it’s remaining back leg from the wire.
Murdoch watched Barranca continuously stay between the calf and mother. Every move she made, he made blocking her. Never had he seen a horse display such cutting skills, especially without a rider on his back.
“ Got it. Don’t let go of him. Some of those cuts are deep. I’ve got salve in my saddlebags we can put on them.
“ Why don’t we bring him back to the ranch so we can doctor him for a couple days?” Scott asked.
“ You doctor him Scott. I’ve about had my fill of this calf. Been trying to free him for over an hour.” Johnny responded.
“ Throw him up on my horse son. Cipriano can doctor him.” Murdoch said.
“ A cow is nothing more than trouble in a leather bag.” Johnny said as he grabbed the calf and carried it to his fathers horse. “ I recon she’ll follow.” he said as he put the calf across his fathers saddle in front of him.
“ Did you teach Barranca to do that son?” Murdoch asked as he adjusted the calf so it wouldn’t fall off. “ Hold still now.”
“ Nope. She charged me and he cut her off. I hadn’t gotten a chance to work him like that yet.” Johnny responded as he called the beautiful golden stallion over to him. “ You’re a good boy. You earned a nice ration of oats tonight buddy. I owe ya.” Johnny said as he mounted up. “ This fence needs repaired tonight or more cows and calves will get through or tangled in it.”
“ What do you think brought it down son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Didn’t you work this section last fall Scott?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes I did.” Scott replied. “ With Tom and Frank.”
“ It was cut, and not that long ago. Somebody wanted our cows to get out.” Johnny responded.
“ How do you know son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because of the tracks on the other side are still there. Which means whoever cut our fence did it after the storm.” Johnny responded.
“ I’ll go have some men from the crew over the hill come fix this.” Scott said as he mounted up.
“ Alright son. We’ll meet you at home.” Murdoch said.
“ How deep are those cuts?” Murdoch asked.
“ They’re nothing. I’ll clean them up good when I take a bath.” Johnny responded.
“ I want to make you a proposition son. How would you like to be the one who trains our horses to work cattle?” Murdoch asked.
“ The only day I have free is Sundays to do it.” Johnny responded.
“ What if I let you do it on the weekends? I think Lancer horses trained by you would fetch a nice price at auctions. Ranchers are always wanting a good stock horse, and I think you can give them what they are looking for.” Murdoch responded.
“ And what if people want me to train their horses?” Johnny asked.
“ We would deal with that when the time comes. So, will you do it?”
Johnny stopped Barranca, and looked at his father. “ You mean it?”
“ Yes I do son. You have a gift like no other. I’ve never seen anyone with a horse the way you are.” Murdoch replied.
“ How’s the calf?” Scott asked as he walked into the kitchen.
“ Cipriano said the calf will be fine and they can go back with the herd in a couple days.” Murdoch responded.
“ We got the fence all repaired. Tomorrow some hands will replace it.” Scott said as he took off his gloves. “ Did you make him the offer?” Scott asked as he walked over and poured a cup of coffee.
“ Yes I did. Your brother accepted the offer. Can I ask why you don’t want him to know it was your idea for him to do this?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because it will mean a lot to Johnny if he thinks it came from you.” Scott said as he sat down at the table.
“ And if he finds out otherwise, have you thought about that son?” Murdoch asked.
“ No, but he won’t. We’re the only two who know.” Scott said.
Josh Colson rode up to the big house and stopped his horse. Looking around he smiled. He had heard in Morro Coyo how big the place was, but hearing and seeing it were two different things. “ The mans done alright for himself.” he said aloud.
“ Can I help……..Deputy Colson isn’t it?” Murdoch asked as he walked out of the house.
“ Mister Lancer. I sure had no idea your home was this big.” Josh said as he dismounted.
“ Yes, and someday I’m hoping the boys will fill it with grandchildren. So what brings you here?” Murdoch responded.
“ I’m on my way back to Victorville and thought I would stop and see you and your sons. That’s if it’s alright?” Josh responded.
“ Of course. The boys will be back soon. Can you stay the night?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t want to put you out or be any trouble.” Josh said.
“ Nonsense. We have plenty of room. Walt, would you take care of Josh’ horse. He’s going to be spending the night.” Murdoch requested.
“ Come on inside and have a drink while we wait for Johnny and Scott.”
Josh followed Murdoch in through the french doors and stopped. He’d never seen a room so big, with so many things, yet still plenty of room to move around. “ I gotta say, you have a beautiful home here Mister Lancer. I’ve never seen the likes.”
“ Thank you. Brandy or whiskey?”
“ Whiskey will be fine.” Josh said as he walked over and looked at the model ship. “ You’re not from here?” Josh asked.
“ No, I came from Inverness, Scotland.” Murdoch responded as he handed Josh his drink. “ I met Scott’s mother Catherine not a month off the boat in Boston. We came out here to make a living.”
“ Thank you, and Johnny?”
“ I met his mother down in Matamoros, Mexico. She took him away from me in the middle of the night when he was two years old. Until last year, I searched for him everywhere. I hired Pinkerton’s, but they couldn’t find them. When I found Johnny purely by chance in Colorado last year, I learned why.” Murdoch explained.
“ He became Johnny Madrid!”
“ Yes.” Murdoch said as the front door opened and Johnny and Scott walked in.
“ We had another section of fence cut up at the high grass.” Johnny said as they walked into the grand room. “ What are you doing here?”
“ Johnny, Scott, I thought I would stop by on my way back to Victorville and see you.” Josh responded.
“ I about all but gave up on hearing from you about Barela.” Johnny said.
“ That’s why I’m here. Parker, or I should say Barela is in San Quentin. I escorted him there with a U.S Marshal.” Josh explained. “ When I got back with the evidence I needed to arrest him, he was already in jail. It seems he killed two men in town. One being the son of an important rancher.”
“ So what are you going to do now Josh?” Scott asked.
“ I was offered the job of Sheriff, but don’t know if I’m going to accept it or not.”
“ How come?” Johnny asked as he sat down.
“ Barstow is growing. I like smaller towns…..like your Morro Coyo. That seems like a real nice town. Everybody I talked to seemed real nice.”
“ So Victorville is getting to be to big for your liking. Is it a rough town on Friday or Saturday nights?” Murdoch asked.
“ No it’s just the opposite. We get a few cowboys in to play poker and drink, but it’s mostly peaceful with the occasional drunk.” Josh responded.
“ Well, even though it’s getting bigger, I think a good lawman can keep it a peaceful town.” Murdoch said.
“ True, but how do I work in a town where the sheriff before me was………”
“ By not being that man.” Johnny cut in. “ You’re afraid the people, or some of the people will think you will be like he was. All my life everywhere I’ve went, people who don’t know me, judge me because of my past. I’d be either dead or in prison if I let what others think bother me. Don’t let what others think make you change who you are Josh, the likes of which will make you sick.”
“ Thanks Johnny, all of you. Victorville is close to my family, and the people there must believe in me to offer me the job.” Josh said.
“ Johnny, me and Reno will be leaving end of the month.” Tom said.
“ Leaving, why?” Johnny asked.
“ There’s been a lot of trouble in Wyoming between big ranchers and smaller ones. Some say it could turn into a full fledged range war. Me and Reno want to take a ride there and check things out.” Tom explained.
“ Well, I can’t says I blame ya. You ever come back this way, you’re always welcome.” Johnny said.
“ I appreciate that Johnny. Me and Reno are real happy for ya. For what ya got now.” Tom responded as Scott, and Reno rode up.
“ You two about finished here?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah, we’re done.” Johnny said.
“ Since it’s Saturday, and you’re done, how about we all go into town early tonight?” Scott asked.
“ You guys go ahead. I’m gonna stay here and play some chess with the old man tonight.” Johnny said as he put the tools in the wagon.
“ Something wrong Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Nope, everything is just fine brother.” Johnny said as he tied Barranca to the back of the wagon. “ Go on ahead. I’ll take the wagon back.” he added as he climbed up in the wagon.
“ Johnny.” Tom said
“ I’ll see ya tomorrow.” Johnny said before slapping the reins and leaving.
“ I take it you told him?” Reno asked.
“ Yeah.. I didn’t think he would take it this hard though.” Tom responded.
“ Would one of you care to fill me in on why my brother just turned down a night in town?” Scott asked.
“ Me and Reno are leaving the end of the month and going to Wyoming.” Tom said.
“ I see. We’ll be sorry to see you go.” Scott said.
“ How come you didn’t go into town with your brother tonight?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because I wanted to stay here and play chess with you.” Johnny responded.
“ Son, I may be getting old, but I’m no fool. I know your hurt because Tom and Reno are leaving. I’m sorry.” Murdoch said.
“ No big deal……I just thought they would like to quit too. Guess I was wrong.” Johnny said.
“ John, do you still want to go to Agua Prieta, Mexico?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah. Why you having second thoughts about going with me?” Johnny asked.
“ No I’m not. It’s just that I haven’t mentioned this trip to your brother, and I think maybe we should let him know.”
“ This is something I need to do, and I want you to go with me. She was your wife.” Johnny responded. “ Look, if it’s going to be a problem, I’ll go alone.”
“ You most certainly will not.” Murdoch responded. “ What if Scott goes with us?”
“ And whose gonna run the ranch while we are gone?” Johnny asked.
“ Cipriano, Frank and Walt will run the ranch for us.” Murdoch responded.
“ You talk to him tomorrow about it. I’m gonna ride out and look at a herd I seen the other day up by Black Mesa……Check mate.” Johnny said as he captured his fathers queen.
“ Can I ask where you learned to play chess so well son?”
“ There was a padre at the orphanage taught me. He was the only one nice to me. He was there about six months and then had to leave.” Johnny responded.
“ Well young man, you are very good. I’ve been playing since I was a boy. Your grandfather taught me.” Murdoch said.
“ What did the two of you do?” Johnny asked.
“ Who, me and your mother?” Murdoch asked. “ When I brought her back here to Lancer, she was overwhelmed I think at first with the size of the house. She quickly settled in and started making it her home, or so I thought.” Murdoch responded. “ She decorated most of the upstairs rooms………….I always thought she was happy here son. I wish I had seen the signs that she wasn’t. If I had, then…………”
“ You had no way of knowing. Even if you had, I don’t think it would have stopped her from leaving………I’m just sorry she took me away from you.” Johnny said when his father became quiet. “ Did she leave anything here……..Murdoch?”
“ I’m sorry son, what?” Murdoch said.
“ My mother, did she leave anything here from when I was a baby?”
“ There’s a big trunk up in the attic with your baby clothes and some other things I believe son.” Murdoch responded. “ To be honest, I had forgotten all about that trunk until just now.”
“ Maybe the two of us can go up there some time and see what’s in it. I’d like to hear about the stuff if you can remember and don’t mind.”
“ I don’t mind at all son. I’d like that.” Murdoch responded. “ You know, I’ve really enjoyed this evening with you. I’m glad you decided to stay home tonight.”
“ I think I’m gonna turn in. It’s almost midnight and I want to ride out to Black Mesa tomorrow.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Oh, I know some people down there that we can trust.”
“ Alright son. I’ll see you in the morning.” Murdoch said as he too stood up. “ I think I’m going to take a book and retire to my room for the night too.”
Scott walked into the kitchen and found his father sitting alone at the table.“ Did you have a good time last night?” he asked.
“ Yes we did son. Did you?” Murdoch responded.
“ Yes I did. I wish Johnny had come along.” Scott responded as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ There’s something I need to talk to you about son.” Murdoch said as Scott sat down.
“ Sounds serious.” Scott said before taking a sip of coffee.
“ Your brother is going back to Mexico. Agua Prieta to be exact and want’s me to come with him.” Murdoch said.
“ Mexico, why? Isn’t he wanted by the Rurales in Mexico?” Scott asked.
“ Yes, but Agua Prieta is just across the border from Douglas. He wants to take me to Maria’s grave. I need to see it son, and your brother needs to also now that he knows the truth. He asked me to ask you to come with us.” Murdoch responded.
“ It’s crazy. How is he going to do this without the Rurales finding out?” Scott demanded.
“ He knows a place we can cross at night to get the where she is buried.” Murdoch responded.
“ We just got him back. I don’t want to lose my brother again Murdoch.” Scott said with anger as he stood up.
“ Scott, please try and understand this from your brothers point of view. His whole life has been a lie. I don’t want to lose him again either, but if we don’t go with him, he will go alone, and I am not going to let that happen.”
“ What if he’s seen before we get there? What if someone in Douglas recognizes him?” Scott asked.
“ I understand your concerns son. Your brother said he knows some people down there that we can trust.” Murdoch responded.
“ Is he still sleeping?” Scott asked.
“ No, he left at sunrise to go out to Black Mesa and check on a herd of mustangs he seen there.” Murdoch responded.
“ I think I’ll take a ride out there.” Scott said.
“ Son, your brother needs to do this. Please don’t try and talk him out of it.” Murdoch suggested. “ I would rather we go with him, than him go alone.”
Johnny sat atop Black Mesa hill looking down at a herd of mustangs. The lead mare just off to his right, grazing contently as the rest of the herd, some with a foal, grazed or lay basking in the sun. Looking around, he finally spotted the stallion on a rise about a quarter mile away, head held high, his mane flowing in the wind. Johnny smiled as he looked at the magnificent stallion.
“ Looks almost like you Barranca.” he said as he patted his friends neck. “ He’s got some good looking mares down there that don’t have foals, but I think we’ll leave this herd alone. Too many young ones to risk injuring on roundup.” he added as he heard a rider approaching. “ Guess the old man told him about our trip amigo.” he dded as Scott rode up. “ Hey brother.”
“ How they look?” Scott asked as he stopped his horse.
“ I don’t think I’ll bother this herd. Too many foals.” Johnny responded. “ Thought you had work to do today?”
“ I did, but I decided to take a ride and talk to my brother instead.” Scott said.
“ Save your breath Scott. This is something I need to do, and I think Murdoch needs this too. He needs to see her grave so he can put her to rest.” Johnny responded.
“ You know the risk you’re taking going into Mexico Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ Yeah I do Scott. I gave it some serious thought when I was laid up. All he has is memories Scott. He needs to see where she died and rest now.” Johnny said.
“ This wouldn’t have anything to do with Tom and Reno leaving would it little brother?” Scott asked, keeping his voice calm.
“ No Scott, it doesn’t……..Look, I need you to respect my decision to do this brother. It’s the last time I will cross the border. You have my word on that.” Johnny said as he turned Barranca.
“ It’s not your word that concerns me Johnny. It’s the chance of someone seeing you and telling the Rurales.” Scott responded.
Johnny couldn’t help but laugh hearing what his brother said.
“ Something funny?” Scott asked.
“ A year ago nobody cared about me unless they needed my gun. I guess I’m still getting used to having people who do.” Johnny responded.
“ You’re not careful little brother, you just might lose that tough guy image Madrid has.” Scott said with a smile.
“ Suits me fine. Ride with me over to another meadow where I know there’s a herd?” Johnny asked.
“ Love too brother.” Scott said as he turned his horse and the brothers galloped off.
Two months later Murdoch, Scott and Johnny stopped in the small mining town of Bisbee, Arizona to rest.
“ You think this is wise us stopping here?” Scott asked
“ Yeah I do Scott. We’ll cross the border tomorrow night, so I want Murdoch well rested, and I’m tired of eating out of a can.” Johnny said as he dismounted and started to lead his horse into the barn.
“ Hombrecito con una gran pistola, ¿eres tú?” ( Little man with a big gun, is that you?) a voice yelled from the back.
Johnny stopped dead in his tracks and let his reins fall to the floor, took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“ No puede ser mi hijo de ojos azules quien me dejóhace años sin decir nada,¿ verdad?” ( It cannot be my blue-eyed son who left me years ago with no word could it?) the man said as he walked up to Johnny and stopped.
“ Merecia algo mejor de ti, Johnny. Te acogícomo mi propio hijo.”( I deserved better from you Johnny. I took you in as my own son.) “ Debería dispararte si estuvieras por preocuparme tanto.”( I should shoot you where you stand for worrying me so.)
“ Mi verdadero padre o hermano te matarási lo haces.”( My real father or brother will kill you if you do.) Johnny said as he suddenly pulled the man into a hug.
“ Tu real…?” ( Your real…..?) the man said as he hugged Johnny.
“ Quiero que conozcas a mi verdadero padre, Murdoch Lancer, y mi hermano Scott Lancer.” ( I want you to meet my real father, Murdoch Lancer, and my brother Scott Lancer.)
“ ¿Tu papá que te echó?”( Your papa who threw you out?)
“ Ella me mintio. Él nunca nos echó.” ( She lied to me. He never threw us out.) “ Murdoch, Scott, this is Greg Douglas, a very dear friend who I owe a lot too after my mother died.”
“ Mister Douglas!” Murdoch said as he shook the mans hand.
“ You have some serious explaining to do Johnny!” Greg said. “ But first lets get your horses settled and then you can come with me to my home. They will both be so surprised to see you.”
“ They, who they?” Murdoch asked.
“ My wife, and daughter.” Greg responded. “ You know she cried when you left Juanito. You did not leave her a note or anything.” Greg said as he put hay in the stalls. “ Sabes que habría dado mi bendición.” ( You know I would have gave my blessing. ) Greg said.
“ Inglés.” ( English.) Johnny said. “ You know the life I was leading then was no life for Jenny. I talked to her mother before I left. She agreed that my leaving when I did was for the best. Especially for Jenny.”
“ She told me of this, and I too agree. You were building quit the reputation and name.” Greg said as he walked over to Johnny. “ Why did you come back here?”
“ I need to go to her grave.” Johnny responded.
“ Agua Prieta, you are going to her grave? It is very risky. The Rurales have been patrolling the town a lot since the railroad was completed. It runs from Douglas across the border into Agua Prieta and on down to Nacozari, Sonora, Mexico. It’s not the same town anymore Johnny.” Greg explained. “ Not since Diaz became president and head of the Mexican Army.”
“ The mission and graveyard are still there?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes. Jenny has gone several times and put flowers on her grave for you. I only recently stopped her from going when the Rurales made it clear they would kill you upon sight and severely punish anyone who helps you.”
“ I thought the Rurales couldn’t come across the border though!” Scott said.
“ True, but Captain Madero is a brutal man. I think even Diaz is afraid of him. Come, lets go see Martha and Jenny.” Greg said as he wrapped an arm around Johnny and led him out of the barn followed by Murdoch and Scott.
“ If you do not do this Padre, I am afraid I will not be forced to charge you with stealing.” Captain Modero said.
“ How do you know he will even be coming here? He has not been back here since he ran away after she died.” Padre Alvarez said.
“ Because he was seen riding this way with two gringos last week. I know that swine will come, and when he does, I will take great pleasure in killing him.”
“ This is a house of God. I do not care how you threaten me. If he does come here, I will not tell you.” the Padre said.
Madero grabbed the Padre by his cassock just as Father Martin walked into the church.
“ Captain Modero, is there a problem?” the Father asked.
“ I was telling Padre Alvarez of a very bad man who might be coming here. I will leave a couple of my men here to keep you and the church safe.” Madero responded.
“ We do not need your soldiers hanging around our church. If you want this so called bad man, you will have to take him somewhere else. I will not permit you to use the church to kill.” Padre Alvarez said firmly.
“ Is this true Captain? Do you wish to use the church to commit murder?” Father Martin asked.
“ I will do whatever I have to do to catch that swine. He will come here, and when he does I will kill him.” Captain Modero responded.
“ I’m afraid I will have to ask you to leave Captain. I will not permit you to commit sin on holy ground. If this bad man as you call him does show up here, you will not be permitted to harm him. If you do, I assure you, President Diaz will not be happy to learn how you desecrated holy ground.” Father Martin said.
Captain Modero glared at the father a minute before turning and walking out.
“ We have to protect him if he comes here.” Padre Alvarez said.
“ I am aware of how he was treated as a child at this church by Father Pogo. He was orphaned at just ten and wronged by the church and people who should have helped him.” Father Martin said. “ What I learned was done by Father Pogo to that child in the short time he was here, made me sick to my stomach. If he does come, I will do everything in my power to protect him as long as he is on holy ground.”
Greg opened the backdoor to his house and stepped inside. His wife was at the sink cleaning potato’s. “ Hello my lovely.” he said as he walked up behind her, and gave her a kiss on the neck. “ You will never guess who I ran into this evening.”
“ Since I have been here preparing supper I have no idea who you ran into.” Martha said as she turned to face her husband. “ You smell like manure. Please go clean up.”
“ I will, but don’t you want to say hello to an old friend?” Greg asked. “ Come on in.”
Johnny stepped inside the back door and stopped to remove his hat. “ You gonna just stand there, or do I get a hug?”
Martha walked over and put her hands on each side of Johnny’s face “ You’re alive.” she said with tears as she pulled him into a hug.
“ It would seem our son has found his real family Martha.” Greg said.
Johnny knew he had some explaining to do. “ I want you to meet my father Murdoch Lancer, and my big brother Scott Lancer.”
“ The last time we seen you was four years ago, and you come back telling us you found the man who threw you and your mother out.” Martha said.
“ She lied to me. He never threw us out. My whole life until just over a year ago has been a lie. Madre, por favor no te enojes conmigo.” ( Mother, please don’t be upset at me.)
“ I am not upset at you. I am happy for you Johnny. Why are you here?” Martha responded and asked.
“ I need to take Murdoch to Agua Prieta. I couldn’t come here and not see the two people I love more than anything.” Johnny responded.
“ What about Jenny, have you thought about her at all, and how she will take you being here again?” Martha asked.
“ Been thinking about Jenny ever since we left Phoenix.” Johnny said. “ Is she here?”
“ No. She’s helping a friend who just had a baby last week. She will be back in the morning. She still loves you Johnny. I know because she has refused several good suitors who have come calling.” Martha said as she went back to peeling potato’s. “ Greg, why don’t you show them to their rooms so they can clean up some before supper.”
“ That’s alright ma’am. We don’t want to put you out. We can get a room at the hotel.” Murdoch said.
“ I won’t hear of it. We have plenty of room here. It’s the slow season right now. It will be nice to have guest in this big old house.” Martha said firmly.
“ You better not argue with her Murdoch. Once she makes up her mind, she’s more stubborn than you could ever be.” Johnny said with a laugh.
“ Mother…..where are you?” Jenny Douglas asked as she came in the front door and removed her coat.
“ Stop your yelling girl. We have guest.” Martha said as she walked into the living room.
“ I’m sorry. Oh mother, you should see the baby. She’s so cute, and hair. That baby has so much hair on her head, you could almost braid it now…..Where’s father?”
“ Your father is upstairs showing our guest their rooms and cleaning up.” Martha responded.
“ Guests. You mean we have more than one guest staying the night?” Jenny asked.
“ Yes, we have three. A father and his two sons. Wash your hands and set the table please.” Martha requested.
“ I seen young Will Anderson yesterday.” Jenny said as she set plates on the table.
“ What did he want?” Martha asked as she took biscuits from the oven.
“ To ask me to the spring social.” Jenny said.
“ A might early for that. What did you tell him?” Martha asked.
“ The same thing I told him the last three years, I’m not interested in him.” Jenny responded. “ My heart belongs to one man and I seriously doubt I will love another.”
“ You’re young. Another man may come along and you will forget all about Johnny.” Martha said.
“ I don’t think so.” Jenny said
“ What would you say to Johnny if you seen him again?” Martha asked, knowing Johnny was standing with his father and brother at the bottom of the stairs.
“ Easy, I would ask him why he left without so much as a goodbye.” Jenny responded.
“ Because saying goodbye is forever.” Johnny said softly.
Jenny turned around in shock at the man standing before her.
“ Saying goodbye to you is something I could never do Jenny.” Johnny said as he walked up to her.
“ Am I dreaming?” she asked.
Johnny put a hand on each side of her face and gently kissed her soft trembling lips lightly. “ Does that feel like a dream?” he asked as he hugged her.
“ Not anymore. When did you get here?” Jenny asked.
“ This evening. I have a couple people I would like you to meet.” Johnny said as he let go and turned to face his father. “ Jenny, this is my father Murdoch Lancer, and my older brother Scott Lancer. Murdoch, Scott, this is Jenny Douglas. The only girl I have ever really loved.” Johnny said.
“ It’s a pleasure to meet you young lady.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m afraid my brother has said nothing to us about you or your family.” Scott said.
“ Johnny always has been a private person.” Martha said. “ Lets sit down and eat supper.
Two hours later, Johnny sat on the front porch steps looking up at the stars as a coyote yapped in the distance.
“ You alright brother?” Scott asked as he came out and sat down next to Johnny.
“ I’m fine. Just………”
“ Dealing with memories amongst other things?” Scott cut in
“ Yeah……..Been a long time for these memories.” Johnny responded.
“ I know you don’t like to talk about your past, and that’s okay, but when or if you ever do, it will go no farther than me.” Scott said as the screen door opened.
“ Thanks Scott, that means a lot to me.” Johnny said.
Jenny stepped down and stood in front of Johnny. “ Take a walk with me?”
“ I think I’ll turn in. It was nice meeting you Jenny.” Scott said as he stood up and went back inside.
Murdoch stood looking out the window, watching his son walk into the darkness with a young lady he learned only a couple hours ago, his son was still in love with. During supper he learned a few things about Johnny and how he came to be with the Douglas family four years ago. The thought of his son so young being shot made him cringe inside. He’d seen the horrible scars his son had, scars that no man or child should ever have.
“ I can’t help but wonder just how serious he is about loving her.” Scott said.
“ I don’t know son. He never even mentioned her to us.” Murdoch responded.
“ We’re beholdin’ to them for saving his life.” Scott said.
Johnny held Jenny’s hand as they walked out along the side of the barn. His heart beating so hard he swore he could hear it.
“ So all this time you believed a lie?” Jenny asked.
“ It would seem so.” Johnny responded.
“ Why, I mean, how can a mother do that to her own child?” she asked.
“ I ask myself that question just about every day. I’ll never get an answer though, not with her being dead.”
Jenny stopped. “ How long are you here for?”
“ A few days. As I said, tomorrow night I’m taking Murdoch over to see her grave.” Johnny responded.
“ You’re the only one I love and want to be with.” Jenny said.
Johnny stopped walking. “ It never would have worked between us back then Jenny. The path I was on was headed one way, with only one outcome, and I didn’t want that for you. I think………no…..I know the only reason I’m still alive is because of them.”
“ By them you mean your father and brother?” Jenny asked.
Johnny stepped closer to her. “ Murdoch found me in Colorado last year……..Jenny, if he hadn’t found me, I would probably be dead by now. Learning the truth and finding out I have an older brother and being a third owner in the largest ranch in California gave me a reason to live. Something I never really had until a year ago.”
“ So you’re going to ride out of my life again?” Jenny asked as a tear ran down her cheek.
“ That depends on your parents when I get back from Mexico, but there’s something you need to think about Jenny. Even though I’m out of the game, men still look for me to kill and they will continue to until I’m dead. I know there’s someone out there faster than me. It’s just a matter of time before we meet. I want you to think about that, because I live with that fear every day, especially now that I have a real reason to live.”
“ Love me.” Jenny said as she wrapped her arms around Johnny’s neck.
“ Good morning. Coffee is fresh, would you care for a cup Mister Lancer?” Greg asked.
“ Thank you yes.” he responded as he sat down.
“ Johnny, he is a good person. His heart is true. I’m afraid that when he leaves this time, my daughter will be leaving also.” Greg said as he handed Murdoch a cup of coffee and then sat down across from him. “ Will you forbid it?”
“ Will you stop her?” Murdoch asked.
“ I seen what losing him once did to her heart. She is old enough to make her own decisions now. All me and her mother want is for Jenny to be happy. To be in love and marry a man who would treat her right and love her.” Greg said.
“ And you feel Johnny could do that?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes. I can see how much he has changed since I seen him last. He has grown up. He’s a man, and a good one. I know Johnny would never hurt my Jenny.”
“ And what about the risk and worry me and Scott face every day of someone coming along and killing him? Doesn’t that worry you?”
“ The chances are less now that he is not selling his gun arm. He has settled down. If my daughter wishes to leave here with Johnny when he does, and he permits it, I will not stop her from being happy.” Greg responded firmly. “ Johnny deserves to have a woman to love him and give him children.”
“ And I want that for my son more than anything, but I don’t think you and your daughter fully understands the risk.” Murdoch said.
“ What if I allowed you to be her ward. Let her go back with you to Lancer and live until she reaches her majority? She can learn and see a lot in three years.” Greg suggested.
“ If I agree to this, I assure you that I will not permit them to be together in any inappropriate manner.” Murdoch responded.
“ Mister Lancer, I know Johnny has been a perfect gentleman around my Jenny. He has not shamed her.” Greg said as Scott walked into the kitchen.
“Good morning Scott. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go tend to the horses at the livery.” Greg said as he stood up. “ Please think about what I said Mister Lancer.” he said before walking out the back door.
“ I take it the two of you were discussing Johnny and Jenny?” Scott asked.
“ Sit down son, we need to talk.” Murdoch said.
“ Father Martin.” Johnny said softly as he stepped from the shadows.
Father Martin turned around and let a smile come to his face as he held out his hands. “ I see a man before me who was just a boy the last time I seen him.”
“ It’s good to see you Father. I have someone I want you to meet.” Johnny said as Murdoch stepped out.
“ Can it be…….You are Johnny’s father?” Father Martin asked.
“ Hello Father. I never thought I would see you again.” Murdoch said as the two men shook hands.
“ You two know each other?” Johnny asked
“ Son, this is the man who married me and your mother in Matamoros.” Murdoch responded.
“ I had no idea he was your son. That………I’m sorry old friend. I did not know.” Father Martin said. “ Johnny, it is not safe for you to be here. Captain Modero knows you are coming and wants to kill you. Just yesterday he was telling me and Padre Alvarez how he wanted to kill you here at the church, but I forbid it. I will not permit killing on holy ground.”
“ I know I took a great risk coming here Father, but I had to bring him to see her grave.” Johnny said.
“ Very well. I will be here when you are finished if you want to talk.” Father Martin said.
Johnny led his father to a door at the back of the church that opened to the small cemetery in the back. “ Her grave is the last one on the right at the front.” Johnny said as he took a step and stopped. “ You want to be alone, I can wait inside.”
“ No son. I think the both of us should go see her.” Murdoch suggested.
Father Martin watched from the window in his office as the two men walked to the corner grave and stopped. Never would he have imagined the boy who grew to be a man was the son of the man who saved his life all those years ago.
Scott sat on the front porch steps fiddling with a small strap of leather when the front door opened and Jenny walked out.
“ Mind if I sit with you?” she asked.
“ Not at all.” Scott responded.
“ You’re worried about them aren’t you?” Jenny asked.
Scott let out a sigh and stretched his long legs out. “ It seems to be an every day occurrence since Johnny came home.” he responded.
“ Is it for Johnny Lancer the brother, or because he’s Johnny Madrid the gunfighter?” Jenny asked.
“ He’s both and I don’t want to lose Johnny Lancer because of Johnny Madrid.” Scott said.
“ It angers you doesn’t it?” she asked.
“ What angers me?” Scott asked.
“ The fact that you grew up obviously not wanting or needing anything and Johnny grew up fighting to just stay alive and stop the abuse he was getting.” Jenny responded.
Scott stood up. “ How long have you known him?”
“ You didn’t answer my question.” Jenny said. “ I met Johnny four years ago when my father brought him home with a gunshot wound to his chest.”
“Our father looked for him and never stopped until he found him by luck last year.” Scott said.
“ So where were you raised?” she asked.
“ I grew up at Lancer.” Scott explained.
“ You sound like an educated man. Where’d you go to school at?” Jenny asked.
“ Boston. I attended Harvard for four years.” Scott responded.
“ Four years. Wasn’t that hard being away from your family that long?”
“ Not really. My grandfather lives in Boston, so I stayed with him while I went to school……..Look, I don’t like the fact that I grew up not wanting anything okay. As for needing, I needed my little brother and would have given anything for him to have not had to live the life he did. So don’t sit there and think you have a right to judge me because my life was better than Johnny’s growing up.”
“ I wasn’t judging you Scott. I’m just trying to get a feel for you is all.” Jenny snapped back.
“ A feel for me?”
“ To see if you are the real deal. I’ve known a few big brothers who could care less about their younger sibling. Clearly that’s not you. I’m sorry if I angered you. I didn’t mean to. I care about Johnny and don’t want him hurt anymore.”
“ So do I, and I have no intention of hurting my little brother.” Scott said.
“ I’m happy for him. You know, that he found you and his father and is able to stop living by his gun.” Jenny said as she stood up. “ Sun will be up soon. I better go gather some eggs for breakfast.”
“ I knew if I was patient, you would come back here mestizo.” Captain Modero said as he stepped from the shadows with a pistol aimed right at Johnny. “ Step away from him gringo. He won’t be able to help you anymore.”
“ Do as he says Mister Lancer.” Johnny said.
Hearing Johnny say that told told him the man had no idea who he really was. Stepping away from Johnny to his left.
“ Why are you with him gringo?” Captain Modero asked.
“ I hired him to escort me to a ranch to purchase a couple of bulls from.” Murdoch responded. “ What’s the problem captain?”
“ This mestizo is the problem. He has killed many Rurales, and pitted the peasants against us. I knew that if I was patient enough I would catch you. Watching you die in front of a firing squad is going to be a pleasure. Go back across the border gringo. There’s nothing for you here. Leave now while I am feeling generous.” Captain Modero ordered.
Johnny watched his father slowly step into the shadows and walk behind Captain Modero.
“ Captain, I suggest if you want to continue to live, you drop your pistol right now!” Murdoch ordered.
“ You will hang for this gringo.” Captain Modero said as he dropped his pistol. “ What is this mestizo to you?” he demanded.
Murdoch stepped around to face the captain. “ He happens to be my son.” he said as Johnny walked up to them.
“ So you are the gringo who bed the whore and got her with child. She should have drown you in the river. You are the devils child.” the captain spewed.
Johnny pulled his colt and aimed it right at the captains head. “ And what the hell are you. How many innocent peasants have you and your men slaughtered captain? Oh wait, that’s right. I almost forgot, you do your killing under the orders of Porfirio Diaz, and that makes it okay.”
“ In the name of all that’s holy, I beg of you to not kill this man on church grounds Johnny.” Father Martin pleaded.
“ This isn’t who you are Johnny. You’re not a cold blooded killer.” Murdoch said.
“ Tonight’s your lucky night captain. I’m going to let you live, but hear me, and hear me good. Anything happens to Father Martin or this church, I’m going to come back here and take great pleasure in killing you, you hijo de puta.” ( sonofabitch ) Johnny said before hitting the captain up side the head, knocking him out cold.
“ The two of you must go before his men show up.” Father Martin pleaded.
“ I meant what I said Father. He does anything to you or this church, I will send him straight to hell.” Johnny said as he holstered his colt.
“ Viya con dios my friend.” ( go with god ) Father Martin said.
“ Thanks for what you did back there Murdoch.” Johnny said. “ I wasn’t going to shoot him.”
“ I want to thank you son for doing this for me.” Murdoch said as they left the church. “ I know you took a great risk going back into Mexico. Thank you.”
“ So father Martin is the one who married you two huh?” Johnny asked.
“ Yes he is son.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’m not a fool Murdoch, I know you knew him before you married my mother.” Johnny said.
“ I’m sorry. I never meant to imply that son. I first met Father Martin a couple months before I met your mother. Some men had robbed and beaten him, and left him for dead.” Murdoch responded.
“ Did you or the law ever catch them?” Johnny asked.
“ No. I was going to pick up a prisoner when I found him, and he wouldn’t give me a description of them. He said that God would handle them on judgment day.” Murdoch said.” Can I ask your intentions with Jenny son?”
“ Ask her parents if she can go back to Lancer with me.” Johnny responded.
“ Her father asked me if I would become her guardian and let her come back with us, with conditions.” Murdoch said.
“ Conditions. What conditions?” Johnny asked as they neared the Douglas home.
“Conditions that will be laid out for the two of you before we leave here. We will all sit down and have a discussion about this.”
“ You’ll do good to remember, I never was good at taking orders.” Johnny said before walking away toward the barn.
Murdoch rounded the corner of the house where he was met by Scott. “ Something wrong?” he asked.
“ Your brother seems to have a problem with following orders.” Murdoch replied.
“ Maybe if you asked him instead of ordering him to do something, you would get a more harmonious outcome?” Scott asked. “ You have to remember, Johnny has had no authority figure in his life really. He’s lived by his own rules.”
“ I know son. It’s just that if Jenny comes back to Lancer with us, there will be strict rules he will obey until she reaches twenty one.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ I figured I would ride with you as far as Tucson and have a lawyer draw up legal papers so if the law should happen to say anything on your return trip.” Greg said.
“ That won’t be necessary Greg. A hand written letter from you witnessed by two other people will be sufficient enough until I have Randall draw up the papers and have them sent to you to sign.” Murdoch responded.
“ Are you sure? I wouldn’t want you getting into trouble.” Greg asked.
“ Yes. Now you have stipulated your wishes for Johnny, and Jenny, and I agree with them a hundred percent, and so does Scott.” Murdoch responded.
“ Scott, what’s he got to do with this?” Johnny cut in asking.
“ As your older mature brother, I’m afraid I too will be watching the two of you obey the rules.” Scott responded.
“ Johnny, it’s not as bad as it seems. Those three years will go by so fast. The two of you will have all that time to get to know each other better and plan your wedding.” Martha said.
“ Mother, are you sure you’re okay with this?” Jenny asked.
“ Yes I’m sure. Your father was my first and only love. I know how you feel about Johnny, because I felt the same way about your father all those years ago, and I still do.” Martha responded. “ I just ask that in four or five years, we have a grandchild to come visit and spoil.”
“ We’ll see what we can do when the time comes.” Johnny said with a smile.
“ Well, I expect I better get to writing that out for you Mister Lancer since you’ll be leaving day after tomorrow.” Greg said as he stood up.
One week later the Lancer men and Jenny rode into Phoenix at dusk. All four of them unaware they were being watched from down the street.
“ Me and Johnny can take care of the horses if you want to get us a room for the night.” Scott suggested.
“ Alright son. We’ll see you both at the Jefferson hotel.” Murdoch said as he removed his saddlebags.
“ Murdoch, there’s a real nice boarding house.” Johnny tried to tell his father.
“ I’m sure there is son, but I would prefer to stay in a hotel.” Murdoch said before walking away with Jenny.
Scott and Johnny walked into the hotel lobby thirty minutes later and met their father and Jenny.
“ Was you able to get us a room?” Scott asked.
“ Just a minute sir. I’m sorry but he is not allowed to stay in this hotel.” the manager said as he offered Murdoch his money back.
“ These are my two sons I told you would also be staying here.” Murdoch replied.
“ Your one son is fine as is the young lady, but we don’t allow Mexicans or half-breeds to stay here.” the manager said firmly.
“ No see here…….” Murdoch started.
“ Murdoch don’t. It’s not worth it.” Johnny cut in before turning and walking outside.
Murdoch snatched the money from the mans hand before walking outside.
Scott walked over to the man. “ What’s your name?”
“ James Murphy, I’m the hotel manager.”
“ Well Mister Murphy, that man who just walked out of your hotel is Murdoch Lancer, President of the California Cattleman’s Association, and the owner of the biggest cattle ranch in the San Joaquin.” Scott said right before he hit the man. “ Don’t you ever call my brother that again.” he said before walking outside.
“ I tried to tell you.” Johnny said.
“ Alright son. I’m sorry. Show us where this boarding house is.” Murdoch said as he put a hand on Johnny’s back.
“ You get a lot of that?” Murdoch asked as they walked toward the livery the next morning.
“ Don’t seem so surprised old man. You think my kind are welcome in any establishment, you’re thinking wrong. What you heard last night at that hotel is pretty much what I get in every town.” Johnny said firmly.
“ Not anymore. You are my son and I’ll be damned if I will do business with anyone who treats you like that.” Murdoch responded.
“ It doesn’t bother me anymore Murdoch. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I started using a gun to stop the physical abuse I was getting. I can’t do anything about the verbal abuse I will always get.” Johnny said.
“ Bigotry abounds unfortunately almost everywhere these days it seems.” Scott said. “ During the war, I had to deal with it more than I care to mention.” he added.
“ You Boston?” Johnny said with shock.
“ Yes me. I…………….”
“ Johnny Madrid!”
“ Chavez……damn. I seen him watching us when we rode in last night.” Johnny said. “ You three go on to the barn.” he ordered.
“ Come with us Jenny.” Murdoch said as they walked to the barn.
“ I want no trouble with you Chavez. I was just fixing to ride out.” Johnny said as he stepped to the middle of the street.
“ Jenny, have you ever seen Johnny kill a man?” Murdoch asked.
“ No. Do something. Help him.” Jenny pleaded.
“ We can’t. If we distract Johnny at all, it can get him killed.” Murdoch responded.
“ Maybe she should go in the barn until this is over?” Scott asked.
“ No, she needs to know what she is facing if she really loves Johnny, and wants to spend the rest of her life with him.” Murdoch responded firmly.
“ The only place you’re going Madrid is to hell.”Chavez said as he walked closer.
Johnny knew there was no talking Chavez out of this. That the only way this would end was with one of them dead. He knew Chavez was fast, possibly as fast as him. “ You can’t beat me Chavez. Turn around and go back in the saloon.”
“ Like hell mestizo.” Chavez said as he drew his gun and fired. Two shots sounding as one.
Johnny felt the white hot pain as Chavez’s bullet creased his upper left side. Standing there, colt still aimed at Chavez, he watched as the man slowly drop to the street dead.
“ Oh my god. He was as fast as Johnny.” Murdoch said.
“ Chavez missed though.” Scott said as he started toward his brother.
Johnny felt the blood trickling down his side as he holstered his colt and turned to walk to the barn.
“ Are you alright son?” Murdoch asked.
“ I’m fine. Let’s go.” Johnny said firmly as he walked past them and into the barn to saddle Barranca.
Five hours later Murdoch stopped his horse at a stream and dismounted. “ This looks like a good place to eat some lunch and let the horses rest.” he suggested. “ John, why don’t you help me get the fire going to cook some lunch up?”
“ I’ll run a string line for the horses and loosen their cinches.” Scott said. “ Jenny, you want to help me?”
“ Sure.” Jenny responded as she dismounted. “ Johnny, are you alright?” she asked.
Johnny ignored the pain in his side and dismounted. “ I’m fine.” he snapped back as he led Barranca over to drink.
“ Jenny, something you need to remember. When Johnny faces a man and is forced to kill him, like today, he needs some time alone to deal with it in his own way.” Murdoch said.
“ My little brother still isn’t used to having people who care about him, and that includes you.” Scott added.
“ These next three years you will learn a lot about Johnny. Some you may not like, but at the end of those three years, if you still love and want to marry him, you will be welcomed to the Lancer family.” Murdoch said.
“ And if you don’t, we will understand.” Scott added as he secured a rope stretched between two trees.
“ Something’s not right.” Scott said as he looked at his brother and how he was knelt down at the stream.
Murdoch looked at his youngest. “ What do you mean son?” he asked.
“ The way he rode out of Phoenix. It’s like he’s favoring his left side.” Scott said as Johnny walked toward them.
Reaching out, Murdoch grabbed Johnny by his left arm and spun him around. “ How bad is it?” he demanded.
Johnny jerked his arm free. “ It’s nothing but a scratch.”
“ Scott, take Barranca. Jenny, would you get my saddlebags please? You young man sit down on that fallen tree right now.” Murdoch ordered.
Scott tied Barranca off and came back. “ I’ll get a fire going.”
“ Get your coat off so I can see the wound.” Murdoch ordered.
“ It’s not bleeding bad, but it isn’t going to stop either.” Scott said.
“ There’s only one way to stop it.” Johnny said as he reached inside his left boot and pulled out a skinning knife neither Scott, not Murdoch knew he had. “ Heat this up and put it on the wound.”
“ Do what?” Jenny asked.
“ The wound has to be cauterized to stop the bleeding and there’s only two ways to do that. Laying a hot metal object on the wound, or putting gunpowder on the wound and lighting it.” Murdoch explained. “ Son, is there any tequila in your saddlebags?”
“ Yeah. Left side.” Johnny answered as he let Murdoch remove his shirt.
“ I don’t get it. Why didn’t he tells us he was shot?” Jenny asked an hour later.
“ Because he’s used to taking care of himself, and was probably waiting until dark to tend to the wound.” Murdoch said.
“ A couple inches to the left, and Johnny would have been killed.” Scott said.
“ I think your brother knew how fast Chavez was. I think that’s why he didn’t try and talk him out of it like he has the others.” Murdoch said.
“ You saying he knew he could have died this morning?” Scott asked.
“ Why did this Chavez even want to kill Johnny?” Jenny asked.
Murdoch told her about the encounter he and Johnny had with Chavez on the stage last year. About the Thompson brothers Billy and Ben and how he could have easily killed them both but didn’t. About Juan Cortina and how he had shot Johnny in the back only months ago.
Scott told her about Carl and how he killed the deputy and escaped jail, and forced Johnny to try to kill him.
“ Did he kill him?” Jenny asked.
“ No. He shot him, but didn’t kill him. Johnny wanted Carl to hang for killing the deputy.” Scott responded.
“ So this Chavez, he waited all this time to try and kill Johnny, and over something so frivolous?” Jenny asked.
“ Unfortunately yes.” Murdoch responded. “ Let me ask you something, and I want to to think real hard on it. Can you accept what happened in Phoenix, and the possibility of it happening again and Johnny possibly being killed?”
“ Mister Lancer………”
“ I don’t want you to answer right away. Think about it for some time, then give me your answer.” Murdoch cut in.
“ Yes sir. How long before Johnny will be able to ride?” she asked.
“ Knowing my brother, I would say he will be ready to ride in the morning.” Scott responded. “ I think I’ll go gather enough wood to get us through the night so he doesn’t get chilled.”
“ What was his mother like?” Jenny asked.
Scott smiled as he walked over to check the horses before gathering wood. He liked Jenny, and hoped she stayed and became his sister-in-law. She was good for his brother. Someone he felt had just enough sass to tame him.
Murdoch leaned forward and poured himself another cup of coffee before he started telling Jenny about Maria. The two talked well into the night before Jenny fell asleep.
“ Smells good.” Scott said as he knelt down to pour a cup of coffee.
“ Thank you. It should be ready in about ten minutes.” Murdoch responded.
“ Where’s Jenny?” Scott asked as he stood up and stretched.
“ She’s down at the stream washing the sleep from her face I believe.” Murdoch responded.
“ How’s he doing?”
“ No fever all night so hopefully he has no infection.”
“ I wish I knew why he won’t take better care of himself.” Scott said.
“ Because I have a big brother to do it for me now.” Johnny said as he rolled over onto his right side and pushed up so he could sit up. “ That is part of being a big brother isn’t it?”Johnny asked with a wink.
“ Well that depends on the little brother and if he deserves it.” Scott responded with a smile.
“ Let me help you stand up son.” Murdoch said as he went to his side.
“ How long was I out?” Johnny asked as he stood up.
“ About eighteen hours. Let’s take a look at that wound.” Murdoch responded.
Sheriff Colson walked into the hotel and stopped, letting his eyes adjust before heading up the stairs. The hotel Manager came to his office earlier upset and rattling off about Johnny Madrid with two other men and a woman checking into his hotel. Reaching the top of the stairs, Josh walked to the end of the hall and stopped, knocking on the door.
“ What the hell brings you here?” Johnny asked.
“ I could ask the same thing about you Johnny.” Josh said as he stepped into the room and stopped.
“ Did I hear……….Josh, what a nice surprise.” Murdoch said as he walked out of his bedroom.
“ Hello Josh. I was wondering if we would see you before we left. How you been?” Scott said.
Josh removed his hat and couldn’t help but laugh.
“ Something funny?” Johnny asked.
“ Sorry….it’s just……..the hotel owner came to see me and said Johnny Madrid had just checked into his hotel with two other men and a woman. I thought for sure he was mistaken, but I see he wasn’t. So what brings you guys to Victorville?” Josh asked.
“ We’re on our way back to Lancer from a trip we made to Douglas.” Murdoch responded as Jenny walked into the room.
“ Sorry it took me so long………Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know we had a visitor.” Jenny said.
“ Jenny, this is a friend of ours, Josh Colson. He’s the sheriff of Victorville.” Murdoch explained. “ We were just fixing to go eat supper, care to join us?”
“ Sure. I think I’ll stop and have a little talk with the hotel owner before we go though. Set him straight that the man he thinks is Johnny Madrid, is really Johnny Lancer.” Josh said. “ You’re entitled to live a life of peace Johnny.”
“ So what did you tell the hotel owner?” Johnny asked.
“ That finicky old fart….. I told him that next time to make damn sure before he goes opening his mouth. He could get an innocent man killed.” Josh responded. “ I apologize for my profanity ma’am.”
“ That’s alright. No harm done sheriff.” Jenny said.
“ So the two of you are gonna be getting married in three years huh?” Josh asked.
“ Possibly.” Johnny said. “ She may change her mind by then and want nothing to do with the son of a rancher.”
“ Not likely to happen.” Jenny said.
“ Well, I’ve got rounds to do and a town to protect from wild desperado’s. It was real good seeing you all again.” Josh said as he stood up. “ Miss Douglas, it was a pleasure meeting you. Take care.”
Ten days later the Lancer men stopped on the hill and let Jenny see what would be her home forever if she chose to stay and marry Johnny at the end of the three years.
“ Is that Lancer?” Jenny asked.
“ From here, all the way to those mountains to the west. One hundred thousand acres.” Murdoch responded.
“ It’s nothing like I had pictured coming here. It’s……….it’s beautiful.” Jenny said.
“ Sounds like we’ve been spotted.” Scott said.
“ Let’s go home boys.” Murdoch said as they started down the hill.
“ Cipriano, en la colina, están en casa.” a worker yelled from the bell tower. ( Cipriano, on the hill, they are home.)
Cipriano looked and seen the four riders coming. Many nights he lay in bed worried his nephew would not come back. That the Rurales would get him.
“ I wonder who the fourth rider is with them?” Frank asked.
“ We will find out soon enough.” Cipriano responded.
“ Unless my eyes are mistaken, that fourth rider is a woman.” Walt said.
“ You know, I think he’s right Cipriano. That is a woman.” Frank said with a smile.
“ Welcome home.” Walt said as the Lancer men and Jenny rode up.
“ It’s good to be home Walt. Frank, Cipriano, how are you?” Murdoch asked after dismounting.
“ Good senor, we are all good.” Cipriano responded.
“ Who is this beautiful young lady?” Frank asked.
Johnny walked over with his arm around Jenny. “ Frank, Walt, Cipriano, this is Jenny Douglas. My future wife.”
“ Future wife……….Just what kind of trip was this?” Frank asked.
“ I’ve known Jenny and her family a few years and we’ve been close ever since.” Johnny responded.
“ Well Miss Douglas, welcome to Lancer.” Walt said.
“ Yes ma’am, welcome.” Frank added.
“ Sobrino, ¿ella sabe quién eres?” ( Nephew, does she know who you are?) Cipriano asked.
“ Si Cipriano, sé todo sobre el lado de Johnny Madrid.” ( Yes Cipriano, I know all about the Johnny Madrid side.) Jenny said.
“ Jenny grew up in Douglas, Arizona, so she knows Spanish Tio.”( uncle) Johnny said with a smile.
“ Please forgive. I am just shocked a woman as beautiful as yourself could be in love with my nephew.” Cipriano said with a laugh.
“ You’re lucky I’m tired Tio, or I would kick your……..” Johnny said as he grabbed his uncle and hugged him.
“ She is very beautiful. Like your mother was.” Cipriano said.
“ Well, I think we should go inside and get cleaned up and rest before supper.” Murdoch suggested. “ Frank, you can fill me in on what’s been going on while we were gone in the morning after breakfast.”
“ Yes sir.” Frank said as him, Cipriano, and Walt led the horses to the barn.
“ Oh my goodness.” Jenny said as she walked into the grand room.
“ There is a bedroom just down the hall you can use, or you can use one upstairs if you like.” Murdoch suggested.
“ How many rooms are there?” Jenny asked.
“ Two bedrooms downstairs, and eight bedrooms upstairs.” Scott said. “ All of which our father wants filled with grandchildren from me and Johnny some day.”
“ Well me and Johnny will do our best when the time comes Mister Lancer, I assure you.” Jenny said.
“ There’s a water closet upstairs where you can clean up and then rest. Me and Scott can use the washroom out back.” Johnny said.
“ You boys go ahead. I’ll show Jenny where everything is.” Murdoch said.
“ Have any more fences been cut while we were gone?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yes sir. A week after we replaced the fence in the north pasture, someone cut it again.” Frank said.
“ Just the north pasture, nowhere else?” Johnny asked.
“ No, fence has been cut from the High Country down to South Mesa. ” Frank responded.
“ I think I’ll take a ride out there with you and have a look around.” Johnny said.
“ I want the two of you to be careful. Whoever is doing this knows Lancer.” Murdoch said.
“ That’s what I was thinking too.” Johnny said as he poured another cup of coffee.
“ Your friend Angus McGovern was here again. He was quit angry that you weren’t here Mister Lancer.” Frank said.
“ Did he say what he wanted?” Murdoch asked.
“ No sir, but it was pretty clear he was angry when he left.” Frank responded.
“ Alright. Thank you Frank. Scott, I think me and you will ride into Spanish Wells and do some checking around. Maybe Zeke knows something.”
“ Who’s Zeke?” Jenny asked as she walked into the kitchen.
“ Good morning. Zeke is the sheriff in Spanish Wells.” Scott said.
“ I’m sorry I over slept.” Jenny said as she sat down.
“ That’s alright. Jenny, this is Maria. She is Johnny’s aunt and has been my cook for many years.” Murdoch said.
“ It’s a pleasure to meet you Maria.” Jenny said.
“ Her English isn’t that good.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ Is it mamacita?” he added before giving her a kiss on the cheek. “ You ready Frank?”
“ Entonces mi sobrino ha encontrado el amor. Estoy feliz por él. Él es un buen chico, ustedes dos serán buenos juntos.””( So my nephew has found love. I am happy for him. He is a good boy, you two will be good together.) Maria said.
“ Gracias, Maria. Espero que podamos ser buenos amigos. ¿Quizás podrías enseñarme cómo preparar algunos de sus platos favoritos antes de casarnos?”( Thank you Maria. I hope we can become good friends. Maybe you could teach me how to make some of his favorite dishes before we get married?) Jenny asked.
“ Te enseñarépara que mi Juanito no pase hambre. Él siempre es demasiado flaco.”( I will teach you so my Juanito doesn’t go hungry. He is always to skinny.) Maria responded.
“ Hey, no fair ganging up on me you two.” Johnny said as he gave Jenny a kiss on the cheek. “ See you tonight.”
“ No, I’m sorry Mister Lancer, Scott. I haven’t seen any new faces around that might want to cut your fences.” Zeke said.
“ That’s alright. It was a long shot.” Murdoch responded.
“ What about anyone buying up land? Have you heard any talk about land close to or adjacent to Lancer?” Scott asked.
“ Just Angus McGovern. He came into town and was as mad as a hornets nest. I heard him saying your name a few times as he ranted something about the public auction and couldn’t stop him.” Zeke said.
“ I had words with Angus before we left. He wants Lancer for it’s timber and mining. Keeps offering me double what it’s worth, and I keep refusing to sell to him.” Murdoch said.
“ Just between the three of us. I have no proof as of yet, but I have heard that a couple smaller ranches northeast of Lancer may possibly have been forced into selling.” Zeke said as he stood up and walked over to the stove to pour another cup of coffee.
“ You think Angus had something to do with it?” Murdoch asked.
“ I don’t know. Like I said, I have no real proof.” Zeke said.
“ Well if Angus is involved somehow, he will not be getting Lancer.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ There is something I need to discuss with the two of you. This started showing up around town in windows last week.” Zeke said as he walked over to his desk, opened the middle drawer and took out a poster and handed it to Murdoch. “ You said Angus wants Lancer, I did some checking, and he’s the one behind these circulating around. He had them printed up in Green River.”
Murdoch read the poster and anger filled his face as he handed it to Scott.
“ Why, surely he isn’t doing this to get Lancer?” Scott asked as he handed the paper back to Zeke.
“ Why not. He obviously feels that with your brother gone, he can get Lancer from me.” Murdoch responded.
“ He had twenty of them that I know of printed up, so it’s hard telling where all he sent them.” Zeke said.
“ Isn’t this against the law?” Scott demanded.
“ Unfortunately no. I asked Judge Carver and he said it falls under freedom of speech as written in the constitution.” Zeke responded.
“ What about slander or malicious intent to do bodily harm?” Scott asked.
“ That might work, but there’s no guarantee I can make that charge stick.” Zeke said.
“ What do you mean, no guarantee? He did this with the intent of my brother being murdered.” Scott said with anger.
“ Your brother is a gunfighter Scott. Everyone in this town knows that. Gun-fighting isn’t against the law. If someone comes here and calls your brother out, there’s isn’t a damn thing I can do to stop it.” Zeke snapped back.
“ Getting upset over this isn’t going to help matters any son. It’s not Zeke’s fault.” Murdoch cut in.
“ I know, I’m sorry Zeke.” Scott responded.
“ No apology needed. Look, I know Johnny is trying to get out of the business. That he wants to be the son of a rancher and a brother…..”
“ And husband.” Murdoch cut in.
“ What?” Zeke asked.
“ A young lady Johnny has known for some time came back with us. Her name is Jenny Douglas, I have a notarized paper from her father saying she can spend three years at Lancer, and become Johnny’s wife if she so chooses at the end of the three years when she is of age.” Murdoch explained.
“ Well don’t that beat all. I hope it works out for them. I know Johnny wants to give it up, and most of the people in town and in the valley are happy for him. I just hope he gets a chance.” Zeke said.
“ Well, I think I’ll stop by and see Randall, and ask him a few questions about this. I appreciate you telling us Zeke.” Murdoch said.
“ Not a problem. Let me know if I can do anything.” Zeke said as he walked with them to the door.
“ So you and that lovely little lady are going to get married in three years. I’m happy for you Johnny.” Frank said.
“ Thanks. A lot can happen in three years, but that is the plan.” Johnny responded. “ Someone purchase the Simpleton place?”
“ Not that I’ve heard.” Frank said.
“ You said the fences have been cut from the high lands down to south mesa?” Johnny asked as he stopped Barranca and got down to look around in the wash.
“ Yeah. It’s like whoever is doing it knows where we are when they do it. Johnny, I’ve even tried having hands riding the fence checking every day, but that takes away from other work.” Frank explained.
“ Where do you have the majority of the cows and calves now?” Johnny asked as he mounted back up.
“ South Mesa with the line shack there. I have a couple hands staying and keeping an eye on things.” Frank said just as a shot rang out and his horse went down with a shriek.
Johnny bailed off Barranca and dove behind a downed tree as another shot rang out. Looking over, he could see Frank laying next to his horse dead as a red stain spread across his chest. Guessing where the shot came from, he knew the shooter was on the hill above him. Judging the suns position, he knew it would be going down below the mountains in another hour. Another shot rang out splintering the wood above his head. Looking around, Johnny spotted better cover along the bank behind a big bolder with tree roots hanging out over it. Knowing there were no other hands around, all he could do is hope Franks horse went back to the barn. Barranca stood where he bailed off him at, head up, ears forward as he watched his rider.
“ Let’s see if all that training I gave you paid off amigo.” Johnny said before letting out a shrill whistle that sent the stallion bolting away down the wash as Johnny got up and ran to the bolder and dove behind it as a bullet creased his right calf.
“All states except Arizona, Missouri, and Tennessee recognize that some categories of false statements are so innately harmful that they are considered to be defamatory per se.” Randall explained. “ In the common law tradition, damages for such false statements are presumed and do not have to be proven.”
“ But isn’t this paper enough to have Angus McGovern arrested Mister Randall?” Murdoch asked.
“ Under a law that some states are not accepting just yet, this falls under malicious intent.” Randall responded. “ Now what that means is, Malicious intent refers to the intent without just cause or reason, to commit a wrongful act that will result in harm to another. It is the intent to harm or do some evil purpose.”
“ Okay, what can we do about it?” Scott asked.
“ I’ll draw up the papers and have the sheriff file charges against Angus McGovern for this. Now you’re absolutely sure it was him that had this printed up?” Randall asked.
“ The sheriff said he found out it was him. That he had them printed up in Green River.” Murdoch responded.
“ What will become of this?” Scott asked.
“ Well, like I said. I’ll draw up the papers for charges against him and have the sheriff file them. Once that is done, he will be arrested and seen by Judge Carver. It will be up to him on what happens. Unless you have a reasonable solution to this you want me to present to the judge?” Randall said.
“ Such as?” Scott asked.
“ A formal apology to Johnny, a fine, jail time. He could even receive a community service sentencing.” Randall explained.
“ Alright. We’ll explain what you said to Johnny tonight.” Murdoch said as he stood up and started to the door.
“ Oh, it would be in your best interest to be civil to McGovern and not say anything about this until he is arrested.” Randall informed as he followed them to the door.
“ Johnny come back yet?” Scott asked as he sat down to eat supper with his father.
“ Not yet son.” Murdoch responded as Walt came in the veranda door.
“ Mister Lancer, Scott, you need to come out here.” Walt said.
“What is it?” Murdoch asked as he stood up.
“ It’s Barranca, he came back without Johnny.” Walt said as they walked outside.
“ Saddle our horses!” Murdoch ordered.
“ Already doing that sir.” Walt said.
“ Where were Johnny and Frank checking fence?” Murdoch asked.
“ Frank was taking him up to the high country to see if Johnny could find any sign telling us who is cutting the fence.” Walt said.
“ There’s a full moon tonight, so we will be able to see good.” Scott said.
“ Have the men ready to ride in ten minutes.” Murdoch ordered as him and Scott went back inside to grab their coats and rifles.
“ I’m going with you.” Jenny said.
“ No. I want you to stay here just in case we miss Johnny and he comes back before we do.” Murdoch ordered.
“ But I want to help.” Jenny said.
“ I know you want to help, and you can buy staying here.” Murdoch said before walking outside.
“ We’ll find him.” Scott said before hurrying out to his horse.
Every muscle in his body ached. Spasms wracked his back from laying on the rocks unable to move more than a couple inches. The sun now set, and the full moon in the east just clearing the tops of the San Bonitos, Johnny knew that whoever the shooter was, they would most likely move across the wash to get a better shot. He just hated not knowing if they were still up there, or long gone. Making sure his gunbelt was full before he came to breakfast that morning was something Johnny was very grateful he had done. A barrel flashed a second before the silence was broke by the repeated sound of a rifle going off, and bullets singing as they ricocheted off the rocks, making Johnny hunker down as far as he could behind the boulder. He could feel the stinging from pieces of rock hitting his back, and feel the burning as sweat ran into the cuts. His eyes stung and watered so bad he could no longer see as sand pelted his face until the shooting finally stopped again. What seemed like an eternity laying there, Johnny could hear the sound of a horse galloping off in the distance above him.
Three hours later, Scott pulled his rifle and fired three shots as he looked at Franks dead body laying next to his dead horse.
Murdoch, Walt, and Cipriano rode up and found Scott in the wash, cradling his brother. “ He’s alive.”
“ How bad is he hurt?” Murdoch asked as he dismounted and ran to him.
“ Hey Murdoch, I’m alright. Just some scratches is all.” Johnny said.
“ He was behind that boulder against the bank, under that cottonwoods roots. I had to pull him out.” Scott said.
“ Only place I had for cover. Didn’t know I was gonna be in there as long as I was.” Johnny said. “ The bastard killed Frank. He didn’t have a chance.”
“ Can you ride son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, I just need someone to steady me once I stand until I can feel my legs again.” Johnny said.
We can do that.” Murdoch responded.
“ When did Barranca show up?” Johnny asked as they helped him stand up.
“ Just after sunset he came galloping into the yard.” Walt said. “ I had Pedro give him a good rubdown. He looked like he’d been running for a spell.”
“ He’s a good horse.” Johnny said as he started taking small steps.
“ Yes he is son. You trained him well.” Murdoch said. “ Let’s get you home. Walt, you and Cipriano take Franks body to Spanish Wells, and let Zeke know what’s happened.”
“ You sure you can ride brother?” Scott asked.
“ I can make it.” Johnny said as he mounted up, ignoring the pain in his back and right calf.
“ Let’s get those dirty clothes off you brother so you can get in this hot bath.” Scott suggested.
Johnny removed his shirt and sat down to remove his boots and pants when Scott noticed his back. “ Why didn’t you say anything about your back?”
“ It’s just scratches Scott. It’s no big deal.” Johnny said.
“ Why is it everything is no big deal to you brother? Those need cleaned out.” Scott responded.
“ Not as bad as this one does.” Johnny said as he dropped his pants and showed Scott the bullet wound in his right calf.
“ Johnny…………….get in the tub. I’ll be right back.” Scott ordered.
“ Can I see Johnny?” Jenny asked.
“ He’s taking a bath right now.” Murdoch said as Scott came downstairs. “ What’s wrong?”
“ It would seem Johnny has done it again. He as numerous scratches from rocks, some of them are deep. He also has a deep gouge in his right calf from a bullet.” Scott said. “ He’s in the tub now, but those wounds are going to need cleaned out.”
“ Jenny, go in the kitchen and ask Maria to prepare some willow bark tea and bring it up to Johnny’s room when it’s ready.” Murdoch ordered as he headed to the stairs.
Johnny sat with his head back, and eyes closed as the hot water soaked into his sore muscles and scrapes. He knew by the footsteps when the door opened, that it was his father.
“ I must say, murder seems a bit extreme Murdoch. Maybe it was someone after Johnny, and Frank was just an innocent victim?” Zeke asked.
“ Look, whoever it was murdered Frank, and if that person did it because of what Angus McGovern did, then that makes him an accessory sheriff.” Randall said.
“ I know that. But it just doesn’t make any sense. From where Johnny was, whoever shot Frank could have easily crossed that wash and killed Johnny. Especially after dark. Every shot was an accurate hit close to him, but not so close as to risk killing him. Johnny even thinks that.” Zeke said.
“ I haven’t told him about Angus yet.” Murdoch said.
“ Don’t you think you should?” Randall asked.
“ To tell you the truth, I’m afraid that if I do, I will lose my son again.” Murdoch responded.
“ You could lose him if you don’t.” Zeke said.
“ I don’t want him to leave Lancer. It’s his home, his birthright, and if he leaves, Scott might leave with him.” Murdoch responded.
“ Do you really think that’s what I would do old man?” Johnny asked from the entrance to the grand room. “ I’ve known what Angus McGovern did Murdoch. Frank told me the day he was killed. I guess I haven’t proved to you enough how much I want to be known as the son of a rancher, and not as a gunfighter.” Johnny said as he hobbled into the room.
“ How’s the leg doing?” Randall asked.
“ It’s getting there. So what are you going to do about Angus?” Johnny asked.
“ Arrest him as soon as I can find him. He seems to have disappeared.” Zeke responded. “ Listen, I should be heading back to Spanish Wells now.”
“ I should be heading back too.” Randall added. “ Oh, congratulations Johnny. Your future bride seems like a very nice young lady.”
“ Thanks. Speaking of Jenny, where is she Murdoch? I haven’t seen her all day.” Johnny asked.
“ She’s been out with Cipriano most of the day helping him with an orphaned foal he found next to it’s dead mother.” Murdoch responded.
“ I’ll see you out Zeke, Randall.”
Johnny walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot and downed it as his father walked back inside. “ Want one?” he asked as he poured another.
“ No thank you. I think we need to talk son.” Murdoch responded.
“ What’s there to talk about? It’s pretty plain to me. A so called friend of yours advertises where Johnny Madrid is in the hopes I get killed, and my father doesn’t think he should tell me because he’s afraid I will leave Lancer. Never mind the fact that a man I considered a friend was senselessly gunned down, possibly because of me by this so called friend of yours who will apparently stop at nothing to get his hands on Lancer. Did I forget anything, or is there something else I should know that you are not telling me?” Johnny asked with anger.
“ I can understand you’re being upset son, but losing your temper and yelling will do no good. I was wrong in not telling you, but when we found out, it was the same day you were ambushed, and Frank was killed, so I think I deserve a little………..”
“ Frank was killed four days ago Murdoch. Four days you’ve had to tell me. Four days you said not one damn word to me.” Johnny snapped back before downing his shot and throwing the glass into the fireplace to shatter. “ You can’t protect me from everything old man. The sooner you realize that, the sooner we can get along.” Johnny said.
“ I know I can’t always protect you……..or your brother. But how about you start telling us when you’ve been hurt instead of keeping it to yourself? You’re not alone any more. You have a brother who cares about you, and so do I. So stop shutting us out.” Murdoch responded.
“ I guess we both have some bad habits we need to work on.” Johnny suggested.
“ I guess we do son.” Murdoch said with a smile.
Three weeks later Johnny walked into the house well after dark and removed his gun and hat, hanging them on the hook by the front door. He knew his father wouldn’t be happy with him missing supper. The man demanded breakfast be at six every morning except Sunday, and supper at seven. No excuses. Just a few minutes late, he had felt the wrath of his fathers stern stare, sometimes given a speech about being punctual and courteous. Ever since Frank’s death, his father every day tried to keep him close to the house. This morning during breakfast, he once again tried, telling him he would be fixing the barn roof while Scott cleared brush.
“ Johnny, I want a word with you.” Murdoch said from his desk.
“ Look Murdoch, I’m dirty, tired and starved. Can it wait?” Johnny asked.
“ No it can’t.” Murdoch said firmly as he stood up.
“ Look, I know I missed supper. A cow……….”
“ I’m not interested in hearing your excuses young man. As a part owner of this ranch you are going to start showing responsibility and respect. I will not have you speak to me in the manner that you did this morning. I am your father and you will do as you are told. When I give out assignments, I expect them to be done by the person I assign to do them.”
“ What is your problem old man. So what if I switched jobs with Scott and he did the barn roof. I am sick and tired of you treating me like I’m nothing more than a hired hand to you. I’m not a little kid, and I won’t stand for you treating me like one. I grew up a long time ago Murdoch, and you better start remembering that. You better also start remembering that even though you call the tune as you so graciously keep reminding me, I am a third owner of this ranch and I deserve to be treated like you treat Scott.” Johnny snapped back before starting upstairs. “ And if you want respect from me, then you have to earn it old man, because that’s not something I give away for free. Even to you.” he added before going upstairs and slamming his bedroom door.
Scott closed the book he had been reading and stood up. “ Do you take pride in making Johnny feel less than a human being? Or maybe he’s right, he’s just another hired hand to you.”
“ How I treat your brother is no different than I would treat you if you had done what he did. I do not treat him like a hired hand.” Murdoch snapped back.
“ I suggest you think about how you have treated Johnny since Frank was killed. No we don’t know who the shooter was, but keeping him restricted to work close to the house is only going to make him want to leave. Stop coddling him. You didn’t even give him a chance to explain why he was late. Or better yet, you didn’t tell him about Jenny’s father dying.” Scott said before going upstairs.
“ Is your brother awake?” Murdoch asked Scott when he walked into the kitchen.
“ I thought he was down here, his rooms empty.” Scott responded. “ Good morning Jenny.”
“ I haven’t seen him. Did you talk to him last night?” Murdoch asked.
“ No. I went to bed. It’s not my place to patch things up between you two when you want to run ramrod over Johnny instead of finding out why he was late?”
“ I’m going home tomorrow.” Jenny cut in. “ My mother is going to need me now, and I can’t stay here and watch you treat Johnny the way you do Mister Lancer. Scott would you take me to town after breakfast so I can get a room and catch the stage in the morning please?”
“ Don’t you want Johnny to take you?” Scott asked.
“ I’ll have Walt take you and he can escort you so you get there safely.” Murdoch said.
“ I don’t need an escort Mister Lancer. I asked Scott to take me to town. You know, I was happy when Johnny told me he found his father. That he was finally going to get the love he so deserves from a family. I’m really happy for you and him Scott. Watching the two of you together has been wonderful, but when I watch Johnny around you these past few weeks, it breaks my heart to see the pain in his eyes he has for the way you treat him.” Jenny said as Maria set a platter of eggs on the table. “ Not once have I heard you compliment Johnny on anything he has done around this ranch. Not once have I heard you ask him in a caring fatherly way what kept him from being on time for supper. Instead you preach to him about courtesy and respect. Respect has to be earned Mister Lancer, even between an father and son. Courtesy has to be taught, just like manners have to be taught. I wouldn’t blame Johnny if he did leave Lancer. I know if I was him, I wouldn’t stay and be treated like he has been lately. I know it’s not my place to say what I did because I’m not family, and it’s between you and him, but how you talked to him last night was wrong. He was late because he was busy helping a cow give birth. He said the calf was turned wrong and he had to help get it right so it could deliver. That is why he was late, and why he had blood on his shirt and hands. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to go pack.”
Three months now since Jenny left Lancer. Johnny had accepted her decision thinking she decided she didn’t want to marry a man like him. Now after reading the letter Jenny sent him, Johnny felt anger and hurt. It wasn’t so much him as it was his father , and how he treated him that made her decide to not return. Sitting at the table by his window, looking out at the stars he couldn’t help but wonder if he would ever be the son his father wanted him to be. Could he? Why did it seem so easy for Scott to accept him, but his father still struggled with it? Oh sure they got along, and had their disagreements, Scott saying that that is what families do sometimes. Why couldn’t he be treated as an equal partner like Scott, and not like he’s just another hired hand? Since Jenny left, he hardly spoke to his father about anything. Usually gone before daylight and back well after dark, coming in through the kitchen and grabbing what Maria would leave for him in the oven. Taking jobs away from the house or just riding fence so he wouldn’t have to risk another lecture or being chewed out by the old man.
Two years ago his life had seemed so simple. Sleep where he wanted, eat when he wanted, answer to nobody but those full enough to call him out. Hire his gun out when he wanted. Leaning back in the chair, Johnny couldn’t help but wonder if the life he had before coming to Lancer was really as good as he kept telling himself. Having an older brother, now that in itself was a shock to learn more than finding his father. Though totally opposites, Johnny couldn’t help but care about Scott. Having an older brother did have it’s attributes though. ‘ Not responsible’ that’s what the old man had said. Hell he’d been nothing but responsible since his mother died.
“ Can I come in?” Murdoch asked from the door.
Johnny folded the letter up and put it back in the envelope. “ What do you want?” he asked as he stood up and walked over to his dresser, putting the letter in the top drawer, and took out another.
“ For starters, I would like to know why you have been avoiding me?” Murdoch asked, keeping his voice calm.
“ I haven’t been avoiding you old man. I’ve been busy working. I wouldn’t want you thinking I wasn’t being a responsible partner.” Johnny said coldly as he went over and sat down on his bed.
“ I didn’t come up here to fight with you John. I would like you to start eating breakfast and supper with me and your brother again.” Murdoch suggested.
“ Why, So you can treat me like a hand and preach your sermons to me about being responsible like you did before?” Johnny asked. “ Oh let’s not forget respect.” he added as he looked at the paper in his hands.
“ I don’t understand why you are being like this son. We had a disagreement. Do you think it’s fair to everyone on this ranch that you continue to be angry over that disagreement three months later?” Murdoch asked.
“ You know, almost every night I read this paper, and every night I come to the same conclusion. There isn’t one damn word in this agreement that says you have a right to treat me like a hired hand and not as an equal partner like you do Scott.” Johnny said as he tossed the paper toward him.
“ I treat you and your brother as equal partners. Granted I might be a little harder on you, but I have my reasons son.” Murdoch responded.
“ You have your reasons.” Johnny said as he stood up. “ You said it that night old man. You think I’m not responsible and that I don’t show respect. Well let me tell you something Murdoch, that goes both ways. How about you show me some respect? How about you start being responsible for your actions?” Johnny asked as he stood up and walked over to the window.
“ I am responsible for my actions young man, and have been for many years.” Murdoch responded.
Johnny turned around and walked up to his father. “ Marrying my mother because you got her pregnant doesn’t make what you’ve done alright. You did it so you wouldn’t have a bastard child running around from a Mexican whore.”
“ I won’t have you talking like that ever again. I loved your mother. Yes I got her pregnant before we were to be married, but that has no bearing on why I married her.” Murdoch said before turning to leave the room. “ I really don’t understand this hatred you have for me suddenly.” he said as he opened the door. “ I guess all I can do is hope you come to your senses before it’s too late.” he said before walking out.
“ Zeke, what brings you here?” Scott asked as he walked out of the house.
“ It’s about Angus McGovern. Is your father here?” Zeke asked.
“ He’s in the house.” Scott responded as they headed inside.
“ Sheriff, what are you doing here?” Murdoch asked.
“ I put out some wires asking about Angus McGovern, since he hasn’t been seen. I got a wire this morning from Bill Marley, the sheriff in Carson City. It seems a man fitting his description was killed in Carson City four months ago.” Zeke said.
“ Four months ago. Then it’s someone else cutting the fence.” Scott said.
“ And somebody else who killed Frank and tried to kill your brother.” Murdoch added.
“ You still think it’s someone from his past doing this don’t you?” Scott asked.
“ At first I did, but not anymore. Whoever it is, it’s someone who wants to send us a message.” Murdoch responded.
“ Oh they’re sending a message alright old man.” Johnny said as he walked into the room and handed Scott a piece of paper. “ And the message is for you.”
“ Nathan Carter……Isn’t he the man you were tracking when you met Johnny’s mother in Matamoros?” Scott asked as he handed the note to his father.
“Nathan Carter……… Yes……… He was wanted for bank robbery.” Murdoch responded.
“ Did he have anyone with him when you captured him?” Zeke asked.
“ Yes, but he was killed.” Murdoch responded.
“ Who was it?” Johnny asked.
“ His son. He drew on me and I killed him.” Murdoch said.
“ Where did you find this note Johnny?” Scott asked.
“ On the door of the south mesa line shack where I found Cooper, with his throat cut and Charlie stabbed to death.” Johnny responded. “ I followed tracks heading south toward Bone Mountain, but stopped at our property line. I think you better start talking old man. Why the hell does this man hate you so much that he would target Lancer?”
“ I don’t care for your tone young man.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ You think I give a damn what you like right now…….Three good men are dead because of you, not me. If we plan on stopping this man before he kills anyone else on Lancer, you better start telling us everything you can remember about him.” Johnny ordered.
“ I think we should wait and let Zeke get all he can on this man from the prison and find out why he’s out?” Scott suggested.
“ I’ll go back to town and send a wire to the prison asking when and why he was released and come back out here as soon as I know.” Zeke said as he started toward the door. “ If I were you, I would post guards around the house and keep the doors locked or barricaded until he’s caught.”
“ Alright Zeke. Be careful.” Murdoch said.
Johnny walked over to the sideboard and poured a shot of tequila and downed it, slamming the glass down as his brother walked over.
“ Take it easy Johnny. Let him explain what he can.” Scott said.
“ Oh he’s going to explain this man alright and why three good hands, one a friend of mine are now dead. Tell me something Murdoch, did you maybe just once ever consider the possibility that it could be someone from your past, or did you automatically assume it was from mine because of who I was?” Johnny asked as he poured another shot and downed it.
“ I was wrong in assuming it was because of you Johnny. I know that now. I’m sorry. I had no idea a man I tracked and captured would come after me all these years later.” Murdoch responded.
“ Why?” Johnny asked. “ What happened between you two that made him want to do this?” Johnny demanded.
“ I don’t know. It was so long ago.” Murdoch responded as he picked the note up and looked at it again.
“ What does he mean it’s payback time?” Scott asked.
“ Payback for catching him probably.” Johnny said.
Nathan watched as the sheriff rode under the Lancer arch and out of sight. He watched from the trees as the youngest son, the one called Johnny found the two dead hands and the note. He wondered why a Mexican half-breed would wear his gun so low on his hip. Perhaps before this was over, he would have some fun with the boy since he liked wearing his gun like a gunfighter. Nathan wondered if this mestizo is what came of the man he was after and the Mexican whore in Matamoros. He’d seen them together two nights before his misfortune of being captured. Learning where the man lived wasn’t hard to find out once he was released from prison. A ranch as big as Lancer gave him plenty of places to stay out of sight while he had his fun. Now it was time to take the prey out of their territory, and up to where there was only one way in and one way out.
“ I’m going to make you pay for killing my son and the twenty years I had to serve in prison.” Nathan said as he stood up and walked to his horse. “ I’ve had twenty years to plan my revenge on you, and these last five months watching I’ve learned a lot about you. More in fact than I bargained for. I’m going to enjoy watching you watch one of your sons die like I had to watch my son die.” he said with anger.
“ I didn’t want to kill his son, but like I said, he drew on me. I didn’t know who it was I killed until the judge sentenced him to twenty years. I didn’t know he would actually come looking for me son. I’m sorry Frank, Cooper, and Charlie were killed. They were good men. Frank had been with me a long time.” Murdoch said.
“ You killed his son. That’s not something he’s going to forget. No man can. It’s just that some go after the one who did it, while others just make the threat to make them feel better. I’m sure you’ve had prisoners threaten you before, and they never acted on those threats. You can bet he’ll go after one of us to get to you.” Johnny said.
“ One of us, why?” Scott asked.
“ To make him hurt like he’s had to for the last twenty years.” Murdoch responded.
“ All the windows and doors both upstairs and downstairs are locked except the front door. There’s no way he can get in the house without one of us knowing.” Scott said.
“ I don’t think we should underestimate this guy Scott. He killed Cooper and Charlie, so this man knows how to use a knife.” Johnny said.
“ Johnny, I owe you an apology son. Because of the way I’ve been treating you since Frank was killed, I drove Jenny away from here. I’m sorry.”
“ I thought her father died is why she left?” Johnny asked, already knowing what happened from the letter he had gotten from her.
“ He did, but Jenny informed me she.”
“ Murdoch, I already know. I have for some time. She told me in a letter I got a while back.” Johnny cut in. When this is over, the three of us are going to sit down and have a serious talk about what each of us does that the other two doesn’t like.”
“ That could be trouble.” Scott said with smile.
“ Alright son. As long as none of us gets angry and loses our temper.” Murdoch suggested.
Zeke sent a wire to San Quentin asking about Nathan Carter as soon as he got back to Spanish Wells, receiving a response early the next morning.
To the Sheriff of Spanish Wells, California:
Prisoner Nathan Carter was released seven months ago from San Quentin, having served his full sentence. Our records show he had no visitors, and nobody picked him up on the day of his release.
Lieutenant Governor, State of California.
“ So why are you up so early this morning sheriff.” Katie said as she brought him a cup of coffee.
“ Thanks Katie. I appreciate you opening up so early for me and my deputies.” Zeke said.
“ Anyone else and I would have said no.” Katie responded. “ Three men murdered. I hope you catch him Zeke.” Katie said as the four deputies walked in. “ Sit down boys, I’ll get you all some hot coffee.” she said before turning to head back to the kitchen.
“ So…..where we going, and who am I tracking sheriff?” Deputy James Bell asked as Katie walked back into the room and started serving coffee.
Zeke waited until Katie was done pouring coffee and taking orders before he spoke.
“ Nathan Carter. He was released from San Quentin seven months ago. He served a full twenty year sentence for robbery. Since his release, he has made it a point to harass and come after the man who caught him, Murdoch Lancer.” Zeke explained.
“ Lancer, he used to be a damn good lawman I heard.” Deputy Jeff Kidder said.
“ Lancer tracked him for eight months. He finally caught the bastard outside Matamoros, Mexico, and transported him back here for trial.” Zeke added.
“ So why is he after Lancer?” Deputy Perry Owens asked. “ I mean, a lot of lawmen have caught prisoners.”
“ Yes they have. Lancer killed Carter’s son when he captured him. Lancer didn’t know who it was he killed until Carter told at the trial.” Zeke explained as Katie started bringing their food.
“ Will there be anything else I can get you fellas?” Katie asked.
“ No, I think we’re good. Thanks Katie.” Zeke responded.
“ Enjoy your breakfast.” Katie said before heading back to the kitchen.
“ Carter has killed three hands that worked at Lancer. Johnny found the two latest victims yesterday with their throats cut and a note telling who it was doing it.” Zeke continued.
“ What did the note say?” Bob Olinger asked.
“ Said it’s time for payback.” Zeke responded.
“ Zeke, you know I got no problem tracking for you. I never have, and I’m not refusing, but why do you need me when Johnny Madrid is the best there is. Hell he can track over hard ground better than an Indian can.” James asked.
“ He goes by Lancer now, not Madrid. Johnny gave up being a gunfighter to be a rancher with his family.” Zeke explained. “ He is the best tracker. Lancer will have fresh horses for us when we get there.”
“ Losing three hands, I bet Lancer wants him dead.” Perry said.
“ You look like you didn’t get any sleep at all son.” Murdoch said.
“ I got some.” Johnny said as he poured a cup of coffee.
“ Your brother is out saddling our horses.” Murdoch said. “ Might I suggest you not ride Barranca on this one son.”
“ Didn’t plan too. He stands out to easy. Besides, I wouldn’t be too happy if he was hurt.” Johnny responded. “ I think we should start searching south around Bone Mountain area. There’s a lot of canyons, gullies, and washes he could hide in.”
“ Yes there is. If I remember correctly, it splits into two big canyons and comes back together in a steep wash ten miles south of where you ride into it. That wash can’t be ridden out of for another five miles or so.” Murdoch explained.
“ Yeah, Frank told me about it once. Said Indians had caves they used to live in.” Johnny said as they walked outside and were met by Scott. “ You ready to go brother?”
“ Waiting on you brother.” Scott responded. “ I saddled the bay for you.”
“ Thanks. Looks like Zeke and his deputies coming.” Johnny said as he swung up on the bay.
Thirty minutes later nine men rode toward Bone Mountain with Rifles in hand. Johnny Lancer, and James Bell in the lead.
“ This is the only entrance to Bone Mountain on horseback.” Johnny said. “ About half a mile in it will split into two steep washes with no way out of them except on foot. They both run about ten miles and then come back together as one deep wash with caves the Indians used to live in. It will run south another five miles or so before we can get out of it.” Johnny explained.
“ It comes out just past our property line.” Scott added.
“ There’s no grazing for the cattle down there, so I haven’t had any hands ride that section for two, maybe three years.” Murdoch said.
“ Okay, lets make this legal. I need to swear the four of you in as deputies.” Zeke said as he dismounted and reached into his saddlebag. “ Murdoch, you know how this works since you were a lawman before, so you don’t need to take the oath..” Zeke said as he handed Murdoch a badge. “ Walt, Scott, and Johnny, come on down here and repeat after me.”
Johnny, Scott, and Walt dismounted and stepped up in front of Zeke.
“ Raise your right hands. I’m only going to say this once for all three of you.” Zeke said.
“ I, your names, do swear that I will faithfully execute all laws precepts, directed to the Sheriff of the United States for the Western District of California under the authority of the United States, and true returns make and in all things well and truly, and without malice or partiality, perform the duties of Deputy Sheriff of the Western District of California, so help me God.”
“ Makes for a target he can shoot at.” Walt said with a smile as he pinned his badge on.
“ There’s a full moon tonight so tracking him will be easy.” James said.
“ Let’s stay on our toes and not give him what he wants.” Zeke said as they started into Bone Canyon.
Nathan staked his horse out to graze on the little grass there was along the stream. He knew they were tracking him and being at least four hours behind him, he figured a couple hours rest would benefit him and his horse for what he had planned for tomorrow.
“ Tomorrow one of your sons is going to take a bullet. I just haven’t decided if I’m going to kill him, or let him suffer.” Nathan said as he laid back against his saddle to get some rest. “ You just keep following me like you are. I want you off your precious land when I do this.”
“ Why do you think he’s headed south?” James asked. “ I mean, seems to me he would stay close to Lancer if he wanted revenge.”
“ I wonder about that myself. You thinking he has something planned and is leading us into a trap?” Zeke asked.
“ He had plenty of times he could have got to Mister Lancer, or one of the boys. He’s not trying to hide his tracks, he even camped along the stream back there. Why?” James asked. “ What’s this way?”
“ Mumford’s Crossing, if we keep going south. It’s a freight and storage company town. There’s a hotel, saloon, livery, and cafe. James A. Mumford has a big ranch not far from there and started the freight business up some twenty years ago.” Murdoch responded.
“ About two years ago he woke up one morning and found out he was totally blind. His daughter runs the ranch now.” Scott added.
“ I remember reading how his son got drunk and got himself gunned down during some poker game about six months ago.” James said.
“ Yeah, that boy was wild. He hated his old man and when their mother died, it got worse between them. There wasn’t anything the father wouldn’t do for that boy, but nothing was ever good enough.” Perry added.
“ You think maybe Carter will hold up there for the night?” Scott asked.
“ Possible. The town just got a sheriff and jail last fall.” Murdoch said.
“ I’m out of my jurisdiction Mister Lancer.” Zeke said. “ Any town we go into, I have to tell the local law why we are there.” Zeke said.
“ And if Carter is in one of those towns?” Scott asked.
“ If he is, then we have to let the local law arrest him.” Murdoch responded.
“ We do everything by the book. I don’t want to give Carter any chance of not hanging for what he’s done.” Zeke added.
“ Somethings up!” Jeff said.
Zeke looked and noticed James and Johnny had stopped.
“ Something wrong?” Murdoch asked as they rode up.
“ He’s been heading south all this time.” James said.
“ Now he’s headed east at a faster pace from the looks of his tracks.” Johnny added.
“ East…….There’s nothing east but the badlands, and those stretch for over a hundred miles. All that’s out there is Genesis, and old abandoned mining town. There’s no water, and all but a couple buildings have collapsed.” Murdoch said.
“ What about the mine, could he access it still?” Zeke asked.
“ He can, but he can only go in about a hundred feet. The mine collapsed twenty years ago killing seventeen miners. They couldn’t get them out because the mountain was to unstable.” Murdoch responded.
“ What else is out there?” Johnny asked.
“ Nothing but sage and mesquite. You can see the mountain long before you get to Genesis. It’s the only one out there, the rest of the land around there is flat.” Murdoch responded.
“ So we would be easy targets for him if he has a good rifle?” James asked.” I’m sorry sheriff, but I’m done. I have a wife and child on the way.” Bob said as he removed his badge, and handed it to Zeke.
Perry removed his badge as well and handed it to the sheriff. “ I’m sorry.” he said before turning his horse.
“ What about you Jeff?” Zeke asked.
“ I can’t do it. A drunk now and then, or a fight is one thing, but this, this is suicide sheriff. I’m all my mother has to take care of her. I’m sorry.” Jeff responded.
“ Alright. I understand. Mind you, I expect us to still be friends and have a cold one together once in a while.” Zeke said.
“ I want to thank you men for coming this far with us.” Murdoch said.
“ You men took an oath. I guess that don’t mean nothing to you.” James said.
“ It’s alright James. Let them go. They have family to worry about.” Zeke said.
James turned his horse and headed east, mumbling about loyalty as he went, followed by Johnny and Scott.
Zeke watch Jeff, Bob, and Perry ride away. “ I never expected them to quit on me like that.”
“ You learn a lot about someone when things get tough. The five of us can cat ch him.” Murdoch said.
“ Yeah.” Zeke said with a sigh as they headed east.
Carter stopped his horse next to a thicket of mesquite, and dismounted. Removing one of four canteens he had, he took a long drink and then poured some in his hat so his horse could drink. “ I bet they’re wondering why I came this way boy.” Carter said as his horse drank. Securing the canteen again when his horse was finished, Nathan reached into his left saddlebag and pulled out a big piece of beef jerky and took a bite, putting the rest in his shirt pocket. “ Let’s see how close they are.” he said as he pulled a spyglass out of his saddlebag, and extended it out full length. “ There’s no wind, so that dust cloud must be them. I’d say they’re half a days ride behind me. Plenty of time when I get to Genesis.” Nathan said as he put the spyglass away and mounted up.
“ Genesis is located at the base of those rocks you see in the distance.” Murdoch said.
“ I thought you said it was a mountain.” Zeke responded.
“ It is. It will get bigger as we get closer to it.” Murdoch responded.
“ We won’t make it there before dark.” Scott said. “ Carter has the advantage on us. He could have a trap for us between here and town just waiting for us to ride into.” he added.
“ I don’t think so. He wants Murdoch to pay for the time he served in prison, but more than that, he wants Murdoch to suffer and feel the pain he did when Murdoch killed his son.” Johnny said.
“ He fully intends on killing one of you boys so Murdoch will feel what he felt losing his son all those years ago.” James added.
“ It’s possible he’s already made his choice on which son he will kill.” Zeke said.
“ Who?” Scott asked.
“ You.” Zeke replied as he looked at Johnny.
“ Johnny, why?” Murdoch asked.
“ Because he probably knows about the Johnny Madrid side of you, and wants to eliminate you from his plans.” Zeke responded.
“ Yeah, but he had Johnny pinned down in that wash when he killed Frank. He could have easily went to the other side and killed him.” Scott said.
“ Maybe, maybe not. Maybe he wasn’t ready to yet because of whatever he has planned in Genesis!” Zeke s aid.
“ There’s a lot of maybe’s for only one outcome.” Johnny cut in. “ Look, if he knows who I am and wants to dance, I’ll dance with him. There is no way in hell I’m going to let that sonofabitch kill my old man or brother.”
“ Why don’t we split up? Scott Johnny, and James could come into town from the north, while me and Murdoch continue into town from the west?” Zeke asked.
“ Because he has a spy glass and knows how many of us there are.” Johnny responded.
“ How do you know that?” James asked.
“ I seen the sun reflect off the glass. Judging the distance, I’d say he’s half a days ride ahead of us right now. Plenty of time to set up an ambush.” Johnny responded.
“ You have something in mind son?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah I do. We wait until dark and me and Scott ride around to the north and surprise him as you three continue from the west.” Johnny suggested.
“ He’ll still know we split up.” Zeke said.
“ We can be in Genesis long before daylight. The clouds will give us enough darkness, Carter won’t see us split up.” Johnny responded.
“ Why don’t you take James with you instead?” Zeke asked.
“ Because he’s my brother, and I trust him with my life.” Johnny said. “ No offense James.”
“ None taken. I would probably feel the same way if it was me.” James responded. “ Can I make a suggestion?”
“ Go ahead.” Johnny responded.
“ Why don’t we make camp here and leave in the morning. He’ll see the fire and not think we split up.” James suggested.
“ It’ll be getting dark in about an hour. Let’s start making camp.” Murdoch said as he dismounted.
“ Nathan robbed banks and stagecoaches right?” Johnny asked as they sat around the fire eating some beans and drinking coffee.
“ In the banks he did. Why?” Murdoch responded.
“ That might be what he has planned for us. He might have the west entrance wired to blow up once we’re inside the town.” Johnny suggested.
“ I suppose he could son. What are you suggestion?” Murdoch asked.
“ Don’t ride in. Stop about five hundred feet out and holler for him.” Johnny suggested.
“ Make him come to us?” Murdoch said.
“ Show himself.” Zeke added. “ What if he doesn’t?”
“ I’m hoping he does, or at least he shows me and Scott where he’s hold up at.” Johnny responded.
“ Johnny, just in case this doesn’t go as planned, I want you to know I’m proud to have you as my brother.” Scott said as he looked down at the main street of Genesis through a spyglass.
“ That goes for me too brother.” Johnny said softly.
“ There he is.” Scott said. “ He just came out of the barn and it looks like he’s headed to that building at the west end of town on the left.”
“ They’ll be coming in soon. We better get down there closer before the sun comes up.” Johnny suggested.
Scott aimed the spyglass and could see their father, Zeke, and James riding toward town. “ Looks like they’re about a mile out.” he said as he put the spyglass away. “ How do you want to do this?”
Johnny stopped and looked at his brother. “ By doing something Johnny Madrid isn’t known for doing.” he responded.
“ And just what would that be brother?” Scott asked with a gut feeling he wouldn’t like the answer.
“ I’m going to go down there and call Carver out. You’re gonna find a place to hide and back me up.” Johnny responded.
“ I don’t think that’s a good idea Johnny.” Scott said.
“ Look, we don’t know if he has dynamite buried out there past town. I’m not going to take a chance on our old man getting blown up. Now can I count on you to back me up?” Johnny explained and asked.
Scott removed his hat, and wiped his brow. “ Just be careful. I don’t know how I would even begin to explain to our father how I let you do this.”
Johnny laughed softly. “ Just tell him you didn’t know I was going to do it.”
“ Unfortunately little brother, if I tell him that, our father will know I am lying to him, and lying to someone is not a habit I care to start doing.” Scott responded. “ I’ll just tell him the truth and deal with the consequences……..If it comes to that.”
“ Telling him you didn’t know isn’t exactly lying to him Scott.” Johnny said. “ But I appreciate your being honest. I wouldn’t want you lying to me either. Telling the truth is something I can respect brother.”
“ I can tell it’s not something you would do either.” Scott added.
“ I do have an image to uphold even if I am trying to leave a part of that image behind me.” Johnny responded. “ Get that spyglass of yours out and see if you can see where the hell Carver is at now.”
“ You think they made it?” Zeke asked.
“ We didn’t hear any shots so I’m assuming they did. Carver probably knows by now two of us split off.” Murdoch responded.
“ He’s going to call him out.” James cut in.
“ What……..Who’s calling who out?” Zeke asked.
Murdoch stopped his horse and looked at the deputy. “ Are you telling me my son plans on calling Carver out?” he demanded.
“ As Johnny Madrid he does. He said it’s the only way we would have a chance of taking him.” James responded.
“ Why the hell didn’t you say something last night?” Zeke asked.
“ That’s why you suggested we make camp last night. You and Johnny planned this didn’t you?” Murdoch asked.
“ Mister Lancer, I seen your son as Johnny Madrid once three years ago. He’s the best I have ever seen. If Carver does know who he is, he’ll back down, and if he doesn’t, Johnny said he won’t kill him unless he has no other choice.” James responded.
“ You had no right not saying anything about this until now.” Murdoch said with anger.
“ I had every right to not say anything Mister Lancer, because I gave Johnny my word, and if a mans handshake and word can’t be valued, then he’s not a man.” James snapped back.
“ What about Scott, does he know?” Zeke asked.
“ Johnny said he would tell him when the time was right this morning. I imaging he knows by now.” James responded.
“ I know this is hard Mister Lancer, and your angry at me, and for that I’m sorry. But when I give a man my word……..I stand by it.” James said.
“ What Johnny and James agreed to do is wrong Mister Lancer, but a man of your integrity I would think can appreciate James keeping his word to your son.” Zeke added.
“ Yes I can, but there something you need to know James, my son has been alone most of his life. He’s had no sound adult to guide him in right and wrong.” Murdoch said firmly.
“ Why, you send him away or something?” James asked.
“ His mother stole him from me when he was only two years old. She ran off in the middle of the night with him. I only found Johnny last year. I won’t stand for him taking unnecessary risk with his life.” Murdoch snapped back.
“ So why didn’t he come home before last year?” James asked.
“ It’s none of our business James. Mister Lancer has said enough.” Zeke cut in.
“ No, it’s alright. Johnny obviously thinks enough of James to confide in him.” Murdoch said. “ His mother told him I threw them out, that I didn’t want a…………half-breed son.”
“ Something tells me your son has been called that a lot.” Zeke said.
“ Yes he has. My son became Johnny Madrid to put a stop to the abuse he was getting because of his heritage.” Murdoch responded. “ Did Johnny say what he was going to be having his brother do while he calls Carver out?” he asked.
“ Backing him up.” James said as they stopped about a quarter mile from Genesis town limits.
“ Go to the livery and keep your rifle on him Scott.” Johnny ordered.
“ Where are you going?” Scott asked.
“ Where else, the middle of the street to call him out.” Johnny said as he started to walk out into the street.
Neither Lancer were aware Carver figured on them coming around and into town from the back during the night. Now it was time to show his cards. Taking aim from the window, Nathan fired, hitting his target, dropping him to the ground.
“ I have a rifle aimed at your head, so you might want to come on out now!” Carver yelled.
Scott looked on in horror at his brother laying on the ground.
“ Throw that rifle away, and walk on out toward your brother now.”Nathan yelled as he stepped out into the street.
Scott tried to swallow a lump that just wouldn’t go down as he looked at his brother laying in the street dead. Then he seen it, Scott seen his brother open his eyes as his right hand slowly pulled the hammer back on the deadly colt in his hand. Laying with his back facing Carver, Scott knew Johnny would need his target closer. “ I’ll make him come to me.” he said softly.
“ You got five seconds to do what I said or I’m going to blow your head clean off boy.” Carver yelled as he started to slowly walk toward Scott. “ Don’t be looking to him to help you.”
Scott tossed his rifle away and kept his hands up as Carver walked closer. “ You won’t get away with this.”
“ Oh I think I will. Take that pistol out with your left hand, real slow like and toss it over here to me.” Carver ordered.
Scott used his thumb and index finger to remove his pistol and toss it over to Carver. “ Every lawman knows about you and what you did. Killing us only seals your fate with a rope.”
“ I doubt that boy. Start walking toward the saloon. You can watch me kill your old man……move.” Carver ordered.
“ Now Scott!” Johnny yelled as he rose up and pulled the trigger as Carver spun around, hitting him in the left leg.
Scott dove for cover behind the water trough as soon as his brother yelled.
Standing up, Johnny started walking toward Carver with his gun aimed at the man. “ Drop the pistol now.” he ordered.
Carver pulled the hammer back and fired as another bullet hit him in his right hand, knocking the pistol from his gripe.
Scott seen the ever slight jerk his brother did, and knew he’d been shot. Knowing it was safe to, he stood up, walked over and picked up his rifle.
“ You murdered a good friend of mine you worthless sonofabitch.” Johnny said as he walked up to Carver and aimed his pistol at the mans head.
“ Johnny don’t.” Scott yelled as he cautiously walked over next to his brother. “ Johnny, you’re not a murderer. Frank wouldn’t want you losing your life for killing this man. Neither would Cooper or Charlie.” Scott pleaded. “ Think about it brother. You don’t want to do this. It’s not who you are.”
“ You don’t know who I am Scott. You know nothing about me.” Johnny said as he stepped closer and put the barrel against Carver’s forehead. “ This sonofabitch was going to kill Murdoch and you.”
“ Johnny……..son, let Zeke and James take him into custody. Let him hang for killing Frank, Charlie, and Cooper.” Murdoch pleaded.
“ Please son……I don’t want to lose you again. I can’t.”
“ Johnny, you pull that trigger and it’s you I will have to take back to hang for murder.” Zeke said.
“ Go ahead, pull the trigger boy……………. Do it…………. Kill me…….. That’s all you are…….. shoot me you half-breed sonofabitch!” Carver ordered.
Johnny uncocked the colt and pulled it away from Carvers head. “ A man like you deserves to swing from a rope.” he said before swinging his right arm and hitting the man upside his head.
Scott went to his brother. “ Where are you hit?”
“ It’s just a graze .” Johnny said softly.
“ Graze or not, I want to see that wound.” Scott ordered.
“ You really are a pain in the ass brother.” Johnny said.
“ I suggest you get used to it, because that’s what big brothers are.” Scott said with a smile.
“ Get up Carver. James, get the shackles out of my saddlebags.” Zeke ordered.
“ I went and got Scott and Johnny’s horses in and unsaddled with ours in the barn.” James said. “ How’s he doing?”
“ He has a deep furrow in his left side.” Murdoch said.
“ Where’s the closest doctor?” James asked.
“ Cabot Springs, it’s about thirty miles north, but I don’t know if there’s still a doctor there.” Murdoch responded. “ The bleeding has to stop.”
“ Cauterize it.” Johnny said.
“ Son, I do that and the pain………”
“ The pain won’t be no worse than what I’ve had before. There’s a tool in my saddlebags to take a cartridge apart so you can pour the gunpowder on it.” Johnny said.
“ Is he serious? He wants you to pour gunpowder on the wound and lite it!” James said.
“ It’s the only way to stop the bleeding and infection from starting until we can get him to a doctor.” Murdoch said as Scott chambered a round from his rifle.
“ I’ve done it a few times to my men during the war.” Scott added. “ I’ll go get his saddlebags.”
“ I’ll find some wood and get a fire started in that stove.” Zeke said.
“ Hey sheriff, you gotta take care of my wounds too.” Carver demanded. “ My leg hurts something fierce, and my hand is all swollen.”
“ You can bleed to death for all I care Carver.” Murdoch spat.
“ I suggest you sit there and keep quiet. I’ll tend your wounds when we are done with Johnny. Until then, stay quiet or I’ll gag ya.” Zeke responded.
“ You probably saved your sons life cauterizing that wound. The stitching was done real good.” Sam said. “ I do suggest you take it easy for a while Johnny. Give that time to heal up before you go trying to break horses.
“ He will Sam. You have my word on that.” Scott said as James walked into the kitchen with Murdoch.
“ Well you look better.” James said.
“ I feel better.” Johnny responded. “ What brings you out here?”
“ I thought I would let you all know Carver was hung yesterday afternoon.” James responded.
“ You rode all the way from Spanish Wells to tell us that?” Scott asked.
“ That, and to ask Mister Lancer if he could use another hand. The sheriff fired me after Carver was hung.” James said.
“ Fired you, why?” Murdoch asked.
“ For allowing Johnny to do what he did and not say anything. He said that’s not how a lawman should ever be. Said I can’t be trusted anymore.” James responded.
“ Sit down, have a cup of coffee with us.” Murdoch ordered. “ We have all the hired help we need right now.”
“ Come on Murdoch, we can use one more man.” Johnny pleaded.
Murdoch gave his youngest a stern look as he set a cup of coffee down for James. “ Let me ask you something James. Did you like being a deputy?”
“ Mister Lancer, I loved being a lawman. It was a job I took pride in doing. I know I should have told you, but as I said, a mans word isn’t worth much if he can’t be trusted to keep it.”
“ What if I could get you a job as a lawman, but not as a deputy, as a sheriff, would you be interested?” Murdoch asked.
“ Yeah, I’d be interested.” James responded.
“ Good. Green River is growing and the Cattleman’s Association holds meeting there. We would like the town to be safer for the citizen as well as the cattlemen. There’s already a jail, and I have already discussed hiring a man for the job with the members. All you would have to do is attend the next meeting that happens this weekend in Green River, and let them meet you, and answer some questions they might have.” Murdoch said.
“ Alright. I can do that, but what if they ask me why I was let go as a deputy in Spanish Wells?” James asked.
“ You tell them the truth. I can assure you that every member values the word of a good man, and you more than proved that to me that day.” Murdoch responded.
“ Thank you, all of you. Your good people.” James said as he stood up. “ I guess I’ll go get a room at the hotel in Green River until this weekend.
“ That won’t be necessary. The job comes with a small cabin you can stay in, or there’s a room at the back of the jail with a cot.” Murdoch said. “ You can stay the night here, and Scott can show you tomorrow.”
“ Hey James, just remember. When those cattlemen start asking you questions. They might ask you one that will be the most important one you will ever answer. I’ve been asked it, and everyone in this room knows what my answer is.” Johnny said as he stood up.
“ What question is that Johnny?” James asked.
“ Who are you?” Johnny responded with a smile.
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