Wrongly Convicted by Nancy Marie

Word Count

I don’t own them. I’m just taking them out for a little fun. All original characters belong to their rightful owners, any others belong to me, and may not be used without my permission.

This story will be rated R for language, and adult situations.

Johnny Madrid Lancer
Scott Lancer
Murdoch Lancer
Val Crawford
Mission San Pedro, Sonora, Mexico
Padre Manuel González García
Father Francisco Antonio Mourelle
Fernando José Rodríguez – Captain, Mexican Army
Reyes- General, Mexican Army
Daniel Fortea – Rurale
Antonio – Rurale
Armondo – Rurale
Marcelo – Rurale
Raul – Rurale


“ Casi todos los combatientes rebeldes han sido capturados por el General Reyes.”  ( Almost all the rebel fighters have been captured General Reyes.) Captain Rodríguez said.

“ Bueno. Les mostraremos a estos camesinos que no pueden desobedecer las órdenes del Presidente Díaz.”  (Good. We will show these peasants they cannot disobey President Diaz’ orders.) the general said. “ ¿Quién queda?”  (Who is left?)

“ Solo un señor. El mestizo, Johnny Madrid.”   (Only one sir. The mestizo, Johnny Madrid.) the captain said.

“ Encuentra ese cerdo. Ha matado a mchos buenos soldados.”  ( Find that swine. He has killed many good soldiers.) he ordered.

“  Hemos estado buscando señor. Parecería que Madrid ya no está en México o en su frontera. Está en California, en una estancia llmada Lancer.”  ( We have been looking sir. It would seem Madrid is no longer in Mexico, or along it’s border. He is in California, at an estancia called Lancer.) Captain Rodríguez responded.

“ Quizás no me expresé claro capitán. Quiero al Madrid quiero que lo capturen ahora. Toma unos hombres y ve a esta estancia llamada Lancer y arrestalo por asesinato.”  (Perhaps I did not make myself clear Captain. I want Madrid, and I want him captured now. Take some men, go to this estancia called Lancer, and arrest him for murder.) General Reyes ordered.

“ Pero no tenemos jutisdicción señor. ¿Cómoarresto a unhimbre en California por asesinatos que cometió en México?”    (But we have no jurisdiction sir. How do I arrest a man in California for Murders he committed in Mexico?) he asked.

“  Por eso usted es sólo un capitán y yo soy un general. No me importa lo que tengas que hacer. Quiero que metraigan ese cerdo.”  (That is why you are only a captain, and I am a general. I do not care what you have to do. I want that swine brought back to me.)the general explained.


“Pick him up!” Johnny yelled as he chased a steer down toward the herd they were rounding up. Turning Barranca, he went up the hill to gather three more steers, and drive them down to the herd when Frank galloped up to him.

“ Johnny, your father wants you back at the house right away.” Frank said.

“ He say why?” Johnny asked.

“ No. There is a man rode up to the house a short time before he sent me out to fetch ya.” Frank responded.

“ Alright. Take over for me.” Johnny ordered before galloping off.

“ The only reason I sent for my son is because he has mentioned you to me a couple times, and your name is in the Pinkerton reports I have on Johnny.” Murdoch said. “ Why are you here?”

“ I’m here to see Johnny. My business with him is private.” Val responded.

“ If you’ve come here to try and kill my son, I have a hundred and fifty vaquero’s working for me. There won’t be a rock small enough for you to crawl under to hide.” Murdoch said firmly.

“ I assure you, I have no intention of trying to kill Johnny. Me and the kid go way back.” Val said. “ Can I ask how long he’s been home?”

“  How long has it been since you seen him?” Murdoch asked.

“ Near on six years. We worked a range war in Texas together. When it were over, he went to Mexico to fight in some kind of revolution against the Mexican Army, and the Rurales. About a year later I heard the kid got himself caught, and put in a Mexican prison where they executed him.” Val explained.

“ He was seconds away from being executed when the Pinkerton man I hired found him, and got him out.” Murdoch said. “ Johnny’s been home four years now.”

“ Four years. He spoke very little of you, but what he did tell me, wasn’t nice. Said his pappy threw him and his ma out when he was a baby.” Val said as a tall blonde haired man walked into the house.

“ We finished with that section of the north fence.” Scott said. “ Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know we had a visitor.”

“ Scott, this is Val Crawford.” Murdoch said.

“ Crawford………..Johnny’s told me about you.” Scott said.

“ You friends with Johnny?” Val asked.

“ Scott is my oldest son, Johnny’s brother.” Murdoch said.

“ Brother, well I will be damned. The kids done alright for himself. This big ol’ ranch, his pappy, and an older brother to boot.”  Val said.

“ Murdoch, you wanted to…………….Val, what are you doing here?” Johnny asked as he walked over, and extended his right hand.

“ Hello kid.” Val said as the two shook hands. “ I’m here to see you.”

“ How’d ya know where I was at?” Johnny asked as he sat on the back of the couch.

“ Is there a place we can talk alone?” Val asked.

“ Me and your brother will leave so you two can talk son.” Murdoch said.

“Thanks. You want a drink?” Johnny asked as he walked over to the sideboard.

“ As long as it’s not that poison you like ta drink.” Val said.

Johnny laughed as he poured two shot of rye, and handed him one. “ I see your just as charming as ever. So what’s brought you here?”

“ It’s been six years since we seen each other. Last I heard you were executed in a Mexican prison. Your pappy told me how a Pinkerton man saved your sorry ass.” Val said.

“ Yeah, I was seconds away from a firing squads bullets.” Johnny said. “ You didn’t ride all the way from the border to reminisce about my past.”

“  No I didn’t.” Val said.

“ So why you here Val?” Johnny asked.

Val downed his shot. “  You know a man named Reyes?” Val asked.

“ General Reyes, yeah I know him. He’s the man I fought against in the Mexican Revolution.” Johnny said as he poured another shot and downed it. “ I was in a small village called La Pasión, in the Battle of Llanos de Ures.” Johnny said.

“He’s been a busy man the last three years. I was in Cordova, and heard he’s pretty pissed about you escaping execution.” Val said. “

“ There was a war going on Val, why the hell is he doing that?” Johnny demanded.

“ Like I would know. Look, you need to think on this kid.”

“ It’s a part of my past I would rather they not know Val. What happened in La Pasión, isn’t in the Pinkerton reports Murdoch has in his desk drawer.” Johnny said.

“ I know you want things kept in the past kid. I’ve seen some of them things you done. Especially with that knife you carry on the inside of yur left boot.”

Scott opened Johnny’s door, stepped inside. “ You alright?” he asked as he walked over, and sat down at the table next to the window.

“I’m fine.” Johnny said.

“ How long can your friend stay for a visit?” Scott asked. He could tell something was troubling him, something from his past, a past he refused to talk about.

“ He didn’t say.” Johnny said.

“ Johnny, I know seeing your friend again has brought back memories you would rather forget. I could see it in your eyes during supper, especially when he started talking about Mexico. I know you don’t like talking about your past, and I’ve never pushed you about it, but I need to know. What did you do in Mexico?” Scott asked.

Johnny stood up, walked over to his dresser, and grabbed the bottle of tequila he had sitting on top. “I told you that day I fought in the Mexican war.” he said as he sat down, and poured two glasses half full of the golden liquid. “ I was with a bunch of men in La Pasión, in the Battle of Llanos de Ures, fighting against General Patoni Pesqueira. There were thirty of us, when it started, and only five of us still alive when it was over. They took us to  Puerto Peñasco prison, were I spent six months in hell before that Pinkerton agent came barreling up in a wagon, and got me free seconds away from being executed..” Johnny explained. “ Those six months were pure hell. The cell was filthy. I was dragged out, and beaten every day. What food and water I got had maggots in it, and stale. General Reyes is a very religious man, so on Sundays, I was left alone.”

Johnny came downstairs the next morning, and found his father sitting at the table. “ Morning.”

“ Morning son. Sleep well?” his father asked.

“ I always sleep well.” Johnny responded as he sat down, and poured a cup of coffee. “ So what am I doing today?” he asked as Scott came into the room.

“ I thought you would want to spend some time with your friend, so I didn’t plan on assigning you any chores son.” Murdoch said.

“ Why, just because Val’s here doesn’t mean ranch work stops.” he responded.

“ No, I just thought you would like to spend some time catching up. You haven’t seen each other for six years.” Murdoch said.

“ I figured on riding into town tonight, and catching up with him.” Johnny said.

“ He could help you clear that stream where it fork before the rains come.” Scott suggested.

“ Clearing stream beds isn’t something Val will do Scott.” he said.

“ Why don’t you and Val do my job today? The two of you can work together fixing the fence and replacing post along the salt slough.”  Scott suggested. “ That is if it’s alright with you?”

“ If your brother wants to do that, I don’t have a problem with it.” Murdoch said.

“ So you got out of the game, and hung it up. Just up and quite?” Val asked as they sat drinking a cold beer that night in Green River.

Johnny sat back in his chair. “ Yeah, I don’t think I would still be alive today if I hadn’t.”

“ How many have called you out since?” Val asked.

“ Three since I’ve been here.” Johnny said.

“ Looks like someone has their eyes on you kid.” Val said as he looked at the woman standing at the bar, looking at them.

“ That’s Carrie.” Johnny said with a smile.

“ From the way she’s looking at ya, I’d say you two have had some fun together?” he asked.

“ Every Saturday night.” he responded.

“ Johnny usually comes back to Lancer Sunday morning.” Scott said.

“  Damn kid, you stay with her all night?” Val asked.

“ A few hours………I’ll get us another beer.” Johnny said as he stood up, and walked to the bar.

Val watched as the woman walked over to Johnny, and started talking to him.

“ How did you and Johnny meet?” Scott asked.

“ I met him in Nogales. I was sitting in a saloon with two other men when he walked in. I’d heard about him, but never seen him before that afternoon.” Val responded. “ I remember thinking to myself, there’s no way this kid, all of fifteen could be the infamous gunfighter I’d heard so much about. Boy was I ever wrong. Let me tell you something Scott, your brother is deadly with that gun. Those two I was with decided they were gonna see just how good he was. They called him out. Your brother walked out into the street, he tried talking them out of it, but they wouldn’t listen. I stood there and watched your brother gun them both down so fast, neither one of them cleared leather.” Val said as he glanced at Johnny standing at the bar, talking to the girl still. “ Let me tell you something Scott, Johnny carries a knife on the inside of his left boot. He’s just as deadly with that damn knife, as he is with that gun on his hip.”

“ There’s so much I don’t know about him, and I feel I never will know.” Scott said as his brother returned with three beers.

“ So have you told Boston yet how we met?” Johnny asked as he sat down.

“ How come he calls you Boston?” Val asked.

“ I was raised by my grandfather in Boston.” Scott said. “ My mother died giving birth to me.”

“ Jesus, I’m sorry Scott, I didn’t mean ta bring up……..”

“ It’s alright.” Scott cut in.

“ Me and Boston met on the stage. After the Pinkerton man freed me, I rode north to get out of Mexico. I stopped the stage ten mile outside Morro Coyo. They gave me a ride into town where I learned he was my hermano. The old man was married to her a couple years before he met my mother down in Matamoros.” Johnny explained.

“ So was there any truth to what yur mother said about him throwing the two of you out?” he asked.

“ Nope. She left with some gambler man in the middle of the nigh. He didn’t know till the next morning she was gone. He’d been paying a Pinkerton man to search for me for fifteen years.” Johnny responded. “ It seems every time a Pinkerton man got close to finding me, we would pack up, and move, always in the middle of the night.”

“ How’d ya feel when ya seen him for the first time?” Val asked.

“ Angry. I wanted to kill him for so long.” he said.

“  She never said anything to you about having a brother?” he asked.

“ No. If it wasn’t for Scott, I would have killed him.” Johnny said.

“ I remember you telling me once that you had wished you had a big brother when growing up.”  Val said.

“ Well, it’s getting late. I think I’ll head back to the ranch.” Scott said as he finished his beer, and stood up. “ You riding back with me?”

“ Yeah, might’s well since the kid has other plans for the night.” Val said as he stood up. “ Have a good time kid.”

Johnny stood up. “ I plan too. I’ll see ya in the morning. “ We’ll go fishing.”

“  Sounds good.” Val said before walking out with Scott.

Johnny walked over to the bar, and ordered a shot of tequila. He knew Carrier would be upstairs waiting for him. Taking out a coin, he tossed it to the bartender, and headed upstairs. Opening the door to Carrie’s room, he stepped inside, and was greeted by the unmistakable clicking sound of a hammer being pulled back.

“ I’m sorry Johnny. They were in my room when I came up. I couldn’t warn you.” Carrie said.

“ Shut up whore!” James Vasquez ordered as he slapped Carrie hard across the face.

“ You sonofabitch!  What do you want?” Johnny demanded as he struggled to get free from the two men holding him.

“ We got what we want.” the man said as he walked over, removed Johnny’s gun, and hit him up side the head with the barrel before beating him.

“ Stop it!……..Stop, you’re going to kill him!” Carrier yelled as she went to Madrid’s side.

“ I won’t kill him. He’s worth too much money to us alive. I’m just making sure he knows who is in charge, and don’t try to get away.” the man said before kicking Johnny hard in the ribs. “ Stand him up.”

Johnny was jerked to his feet. Blood ran down his face from a cut on his forehead by his left eye. His bottom lip was cut and swelling up. Every blow inflicting pain. His ribs hurt as he tried to breath.

“ Someone in Mexico is very eager to see you Madrid. So eager in fact, he’s paying us very good money to bring you to him.” the man said. “ We were told to deliver you alive, but they didn’t say in what condition.”

“ I thought we had to take him too………..” Harry White started to say.

“ Shut up!” James ordered.

“ James, what about her?” Roy Perez asked.

“ I don’t kill women, even if they are a whore. Tie her up on the bed, and gag her.” James ordered.

Scott, and Val rode into Green River mid-morning the next day, and stopped at the saloon.

“ Johnny would never leave Barranca like that all night.” Scott said as he dismounted.

“ If he’s still with that woman.” Val said as they walked inside.

Scott walked up to the bar. “ Where’s Carrie?”

“ Kind of early to be with a whore ain’t it?” the man asked.

“ Don’t make me ask you again.” Scott said.

“ I don’t know. She hasn’t come downstairs yet. Last I seen her was last night going upstairs with your brother.” he said.

“ Which room is hers?” Val asked.

“ End of hall, on the right.” the bartender responded before walking away.

Scott, and Val hurried upstairs, and stopped outside the last door on the right. Knocking on the door, they got no response. Hearing something break inside the room, Scott kicked the door in, and found Carrie tied up on the bed. Hurrying over to her, he removed the gag, and untied her hands.

“ Where’s Johnny?” he demanded.

“ They took him last night.” Carrie said.

“ Who?” Val demanded.

“ Three men. I came up a couple minutes before Johnny, and they were in my room. I couldn’t warn him.” she said. “ Those bastards beat him bad.”

“ Who were they? What did they say?” Scott demanded.

“ I told you, there were three of them. They wanted Johnny. Said they were being paid good money to deliver him to someone in Mexico, the one who gave the orders was called James. The other two are Harry, and Roy.” she said as she poured a shot of tequila, and downed it.  “ I don’t know if this means anything, but the one called Harry, he said something that seemed to piss James off. He started to say, I thought we had to take him too, and James ordered him to shut up.”

“ Describe them.” Val ordered.

“ The leader was about your height Scott, a little heavier, dirty black curly hair. I think he was like Johnny.” she said.

“ Like Johnny, you mean a mestizo?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah, I’ve been with a few men, he may speak English, but I could detect Spanish.

“ The second one, Roy, he was a little shorter, and had a limp when he walked. Shoulder length brown hair. The third guy was Harry, he has a scar across his face on the right side. It looked like someone gave it to him from a knife. He was also missing two fingers on his left hand.” Carrie explained.

Scott noticed the bruise on her face.

“ Johnny got angry, and that’s when the one beat him.” she said. “ You find him, you tell him I’m sorry I couldn’t warn him.”

“ James, we need to stop.” Harry said one week later.

“ I agree. We’ve been riding damn near nonstop since we took Madrid.” Roy said.

“ Where’s a place we can camp without anyone coming along Madrid?” James asked.

“ Cãnada de las Uvas.” Johnny said. “  Hay mucha leña para el fuego,pasto para los caballos y agua.”

“ What’d he say?” Roy asked.

“ Grapevine Canyon, and that there’s plenty of wood for a fire, grass for the horses, and water.” James responded.

“ When are you gonna take the time to learn Spanish Roy?” Harry asked.

“ Don’t need to as long as I have you two around to tell me what’s said.” he responded. “ Besides, we ain’t in Mexico, so next time you’re asked something Madrid, speak English.”

“ Maldito hombrecito tratando de ser un gran hombre.” Johnny responded. ( Fucking little man trying to be a big man,)

James started laughing as he stopped his horse. “ Las mujeres han dicho lo mismo,” ( The women have said the same thing.)

“ Knock it off. You better not have said something about me.” Roy  said with anger.

“ He said you’re a fucking little man trying to be a big man..” Harry said as he started to laugh also.

“ You sonofabitch, I’ll teach you.” Roy said as he removed his knife.

“ Knock it off.” James ordered.

“ They’re not going into towns, so how we going to find them?” Val asked as they sat drinking coffee.

“ I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about what Carrie said the one guy started to say, but was shut up by the leader.” Scott responded.

“ You thinking maybe they’ll turn east somewhere, and not go to Yuma to cross?” Val asked.

Scott looked at him sitting across the fire. “ Johnny told me once that you make the best skillet coffee around.”

Val chuckled. “ He always complained about my coffee bein too weak.”

“ He told me once when we took a herd to sell that a rusty horseshoe would improve weak coffee.” Scott said.

“ You care about him now, but how did you feel about him when you first met him?” Val asked.

Scott leaned forward, and poured some coffee. “ To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think about him on the way to the ranch. The next morning I’m in my room getting dressed, and my door opens, no knocking or anything. He just opened the door, and came right on in. I asked him if he slept well, and he said, he always sleeps well.” Scott said. “ He then walked over and picked up a picture I had, sat down on my bed, and asked me who this other fella was all snazzied up standing next to me. When I told him, he said you’re very pretty, I told him I photograph well.”

“ Who was the fella in the picture with you?” Val asked.

“ General Phil Sheridan, I was in his unit during the war.” Scott said.

“ Let me ask ya, his pappy, how’d he take to learning who his son was?” Val asked.

“ Not too good at first. Johnny was wild, as I am sure you know from being unsupervised most of his life. When we walked into the grand room, Murdoch asked me if I wanted a drink, I said no thank you, he then said to Johnny, you drink don’t you, and Johnny removed his hat, took a couple steps toward him, and said, when I know the man I’m drinking with.” he explained.

“ I bet your pappy didn’t like that too much.” he said.

“No he didn’t. He responded back with telling Johnny he had his mothers temper. A son he has not seen since he was a baby, and he tells him he has his mothers temper. Sometimes I feel Johnny still wants to run. That he wants to go back to living by his gun.” Scott said.

“ Listen, I haven’t been around you much, but I can tell you this. Johnny isn’t going to leave Lancer, and go back to living by his gun. Talking to him, and listening to him talk about you, it’s pretty obvious that boy is happy, and loves you. Now his pappy is another story. I can see those two havin’ some good disagreements, or buttin’ heads. If, and I say if Johnny did leave, it would be because of his pappy.” Val said.

“General, lo tienen y lo llevan a la frontera.” Captain Rodriguez said.    ( General, they have him, and are bringing him to the border. )

“ Bueno. Espero con ansias el día en que pueda vengarme.” General Reyes said.  ( Good. I look forward to the day I can have my revenge.)

¿Cuántos hombres desea que el detalle lo traiga aquí?” the captain asked.   ( How many men do you wish for the detail to bring him here? )

“ Quiero que elija personalmente a cinco hombres que crea que serán leales para esta asignación, Capitán.” the general ordered.  ( I want you to personally pick five men you feel will be loyal for this assignment Captain. )

Sí, señor.” ( Yes sir. )

“¿Y todavía desea que lo traigan aquí a pie, señor?” ( And  do you still wish him brought here on foot sir?)

“ Si. Quiero que lo mantengas tan cansado que no intente escapar. Lo quiero bien asegurado por la noche, y capitán,si logra escapar, recuerde, quiero que me traigan el Madrid vivo.” General Reyes said firmly.( Yes. I want you to keep him so tired, he will not try and escape. I want him tightly secured at night, and Captain, if he does manage to  escape, remember, I want Madrid brought to me alive.)

“ Si, General Reyes, me aseguraré de que los hombres entiendan completamente.” Captain Rodriguez said before turning to leave. (  Yes General Reyes, I will make sure the men understand completely.)

“ Capitán, asegúrese de que sus hombres sepan que quiero que los maten una vez que tengan Madrid.” the general ordered.( Captain, make sure your men know I want those men killed once they have Madrid.)

Roy sat up, and looked over at Madrid, sleeping, his arms tied around a small oak tree, his chin on his chest. Standing up, he walked over, and knelt down next to him as he removed his knife, and cut the rope. Putting the blade against Johnny’s throat, just under his chin.

“  Stand up, and don’t say a word.” Roy ordered.

Johnny stood up, and let his arms drop to his sides.

“ We’re going to take a little walk. Move.” Roy ordered as he jabbed the knife into Johnny’s back.

Johnny glanced over at the other two sleeping across the fire, before he started walking off into the darkness. Deep down his gut told him only one would be walking back.

“ That’s far enough.” Roy said as he slid his knife back in the sheath.

“ You kill me, and your friends back there won’t be too happy.” Johnny said.

“ I’m going to make you die a slow death.” Roy said as he held the knife in his right hand, and lunged at him.

Johnny swung, hitting Roy in the jaw as the knife sliced flesh in his lower left arm. Spinning around as Roy went to stab him. Grabbing the right arm as they both went down, and rolling around.

Roy managed to get on top of Madrid and tried to plunge the knife into Johnny’s chest.

Johnny tried to keep the knife from entering him. Seeing the blade slowly come down lower, he struggled as his arms started to shake, and sweat from the exertion.

Roy rose up above Johnny, and used his body weight to bring the knife down into Madrid’s left shoulder.

Johnny knew he couldn’t stop the blade from entering him, letting go with his right hand, he reached down and pulled his knife from the inside of his left boot, and buried it in Roy’s right side, twisting the blade to do more damage as Roy’s knife plunged into his left shoulder.

Roy pulled his knife out, and sliced Madrid again across his chest as he fell to his right side.

Johnny rolled away from him, and stood up. Blood ran down his lower left arm, and dripped off his fingers as he stood there glaring down at the man.

“ Hold it Madrid!” James yelled.

Harry ran to Roy’s side, and knelt down.“ He’s dead. That bastard killed him.” Harry spat.

“ Drop the knife.” James ordered.

“ He left me no choice.” Johnny said before dropping the knife.

“ You sonofabitch. He caught you trying to escape, and you murdered him.” Harry spat.

“ And just how was I supposed to get free? Look at the rope, it was cut by him. He made me walk out here, and said he was going to kill me.” Johnny spat.

“ Harry, go stoke up the fire, and get some water heating.” James ordered.

“ He killed Roy, and you’re going to help him?” Harry demanded.

“ We don’t get paid if he’s dead! Now go do as I fucking said!” James ordered.

“  What about Roy? We can’t just leave him here.” Harry said.

“ You want to take the time to bury him, go ahead.” James said as he picked up the knife.

“ Capitán, he decidido que iré con usted y sus hombres.” General Reyes said.( Captain, I have decided I will go with you, and your men.)

“ ¿Cree que es sabio señor?” Captain Rodriquez asked.( Do you think that is wise sir?)

“ Lo he pensado mucho. Quiero ver la expresión de ese cerdocuando me ve.” the general responded.( I have given it much thought. I want to see the look on that swines face when he sees me.)

“ Sí, señor.” the captain said before turning to leave.( Yes sir.)

Johnny opened his eyes and looked up at a blue sky above him. Slowly sitting up, he found James sitting at the fire, watching him.

“ I was wondering when you would wake up. I cleaned your wounds out the best I could, and wrapped them up. The one across your chest, and left arm are deep.” James said as he stood up, and walked over to Madrid. “ You’re going to need a doctor. I’ll take you to Victorville. It’s about ten miles. You think you can ride that far?”

“ I can make it.” Johnny said softly.

 “ I know he cut you loose, and intended on killing you. Regardless of what you think of me, I’m no murderer. I may be a lot of things Madrid, but I’ve never killed an unarmed man.”

“ No, you just kidnap them, and take them to someone else to do the murdering.” Johnny said. “ I know you’re taking me to a man named General Reyes. Do you even know why he wants to kill me, or do you not care?”

“ He said you committed murder in Mexico, escaped from a firing squad, killing several of his prison guards. He offered us a nice sum of money if we brought you to the border, so his men could take you back to him.” James responded.

“ I fought against him in the Mexican Revolution. Yeah I killed his men. They were slaughtering innocent farmers, and raping women in in the village of La Pasión, Sonora. I spent six moths in Puerto Peñasco prison, being beaten every day.” Johnny responded.

“ I’ve heard your name mentioned a few times ending range wars.” James said.

“  He’ll have you killed once his men have me.” Johnny said. “ He won’t pay you. His men will gun you down.”

“ That’s why I’m going to make them pay before they have you.” he said.

“ He’s still going to kill you. You won’t live to enjoy spending that money.” Johnny said. “ The man is ruthless.”

James walked over, and sat down across from the fire again. “ Why do you care if he kills us?”

“  Listen, you want to get killed, then go ahead.” Johnny said.

                                                                                                 Chapter 2

“ Murdoch!” Sam called out as he crossed the street.

“ Sam, it’s good to see you.” Murdoch said.

“ Any word from Scott yet?” he asked.

“No, nothing yet.” Murdoch responded.

“ Can I ask why you didn’t go with him to find your son, and bring him home?” Sam asked.

“  I wanted too Sam, but one of us needed to stay home, just in case Johnny came back.” he said.

“ Don’t you mean to run the ranch?”  he stated.

“  Look, I don’t need persecuted by you of all people Sam. Scott, and Val will bring him home.” Murdoch snapped back. “ I need to get back to the ranch, and pay the hands.”

“ Murdoch, ask yourself this. How do you think Johnny will feel when Scott finds him, and he learns you chose to stay at Lancer, and not try and help him?” Sam asked before walking away.

“  Sheriff, I need a word with you.” Alex said.

“  It better be important for you to be interrupting my supper.” Sheriff Curry grumbled.

“ It is. I just had three men check in. They took one room.” Alex said.

“ Okay, why is that important?” the sheriff asked.

“ One of them is hurt, and looked feverish. They asked if we had a doctor, and I told them we did, and that I would go get him.” Alex said.

“ Hurt how?” the sheriff asked as he stood up.

“ I think shot. I could see blood on his right shoulder, chest, and left arm.” he said.

“ Alright, you go fetch the doc. I’ll go see who these men are.” Sheriff Curry ordered as he started toward the door.

“  Why the hell we here?” Harry demanded.

“ We’re here because he needs a doctor.” James snapped back. “ Now go sit down, and shut up. Let’s get that shirt off you.”

Johnny sat on the bed, and undid his shirt so James could take it off. His chest hurt with every breath he took. His right shoulder screamed in pain, as did his left arm.

“ Go ahead and lay back. I don’t want to take those bandages off and have you bleeding bad before the doc gets here to sew you up.” James said.

Johnny laid back on the bed, and closed his eyes as someone knocked on the door.

James opened the door, and found himself looking at three men wearing a badges. “Sheriff, what can I do for you?”

Sheriff Curry, and his deputies stepped into the room. “ I want the two of you to keep your hands away from those guns.”

“ Sure thing sheriff.” James said.

“ Who’s that?” the sheriff asked as he picked up their guns.

“ Our prisoner.” James responded.

“ You two bounty hunters?” he asked as he walked over to look at the man laying on the bed.

“ Not really. We hire out privately you could say.” James responded.

“ So then you can explain his injuries, and produce a dodger on him.” the sheriff asked as the door opened, and Alex walked in with the doctor.

“ We don’t have a dodger on him. He’s wanted in Mexico, for murder. We caught him in Spanish Wells, and are taking him to the border to hand over to the Rurales.” James responded.

“  Well this isn’t Mexico. Therefore, you two are going to be detained until that man can talk to me.” the sheriff said. “ Take care of him doc. I’ll be back.”

“ You got no call to arrest us sheriff.” Harry said.

“ I didn’t say I was arresting you. I said you two are detained until I talk to him. Let’s go.”

“  We should ride into Victorville, and see if anyone has seen them. I know the sheriff there.” Val suggested. ‘ He’s pretty good about noticing who comes and goes in his town.”

“ You sound like you’ve known him a long time.” Scott said.

“ He rode with me and the kid till he fell for some dang filly, and got himself hitched.” Val said. “ He’s been the sheriff of Victorville for three years now.”

“ It seems my brother’s prestigious past becomes more of a mystery to me.” Scott said.

“ You said you were in the war. I’m sure you did things in that war you wouldn’t want yur pappy, or Johnny knowing about.” Val said. “ Yur brother is the same way. If you want to know things about his past, don’t ask him. Let him tell you what he wants, when he wants. You do that, and you’ll learn more about him.”

“ He’s been home four years, and hardly said anything about his past.” Scott said.

“ Maybe that’s because you or your pappy have pressured him about it.” Val responded. “ How you think this is going to affect Johnny when he learns his pappy didn’t come with us.”

“ Even after four years, Murdoch, and Johnny’s relationship is still rocky at times.” Scott said.

“ And why ya think that is?” he asked.

“ His past. Between me and you, our father has a problem with accepting what Johnny did in his past to stay alive.” Scott said.

“ By that you mean his becoming Johnny Madrid. Damn fool should be happy he has his son back, and that Johnny got the chance to get out of the game.” Val said with disgust in his voice.

“ How far is it to Victorville?” Scott asked.

“ We can be there late tomorrow morning.” he said.

Sheriff Curry closed the door to the hotel room. “ How’s he doing doc?’

“ He has a fever from infection. He’s been stabbed in his left shoulder. He has a deep cut in his left forearm, and across his chest. If I had to guess, I would say this boy was in a knife fight for his life.” the doctor said. “ Look at this JC, he’s been tied up. See these rope burn marks on his wrist? He also has other injuries. Serious bruising on his ribs from being beaten. Though they’re not fresh, I’d be willing to bet one of them beat him while he was tied up, or unable to fight back.”

“ When you think he’ll wake up?” the sheriff asked.

“ That I don’t know.” Taylor said. “ One thing I do know, this boy has had more than his share of abuse. I’ve never seen so many old wounds and scars on a mans body before sheriff.”

Sheriff Curry walked over, and looked down at the man laying in the bed. “ Well I will be damned.”

“ You know him?” the doctor asked.

“ I sure do doc. This is Johnny Madrid.” he said. “ I didn’t really look at him before. I rode with him, and Val Crawford, a few years back when I met my wife.”

“ You mean he’s……….I thought he was killed in a Mexican prison four, or five years ago?” the doctor asked.

“ So did I doc.” he said. “ I know I don’t believe what those two in my jail are saying about him being a murderer. Hell would have ta freeze over before this boy became a murderer.”

“ You sure about that JC?” Taylor asked.

“ As sure as this badge I’m wearing.” the sheriff said.

“ I’ll ask Shari to come up, and sit with him.” Doc Taylor said. “ He has a lot of stitches in him right now, and shouldn’t be moving around.”

“What about his right arm doc?” he asked.

“ I don’t know. If he could move it, and use it when he came into town, he has a chance on it healing up alright.” doc said as he closed his bag.

“ I was wondering when you would wake up kid.” Sheriff Curry said.

“ JC Curry, what are you doing here?’ Johnny asked hoarsely.

“ Wondering what the hell happened too you.” he said as he poured a glass of water. “ Here, drink some of this.”

Johnny welcomed the coolness of the water on his dry throat. “ Thanks.”

“ You feel up to answering some questions?” the sheriff asked.

Johnny noticed the badge and smiled. “ You still married?”

“ I am, Sheri’s been helping to take care of your sorry ass.” the sheriff said.

“ She needs to work on your bedside manner.” Johnny said as he tried to sit up.

“ Here, let me help you. You have a lot of stitches in your chest. Doc won’t be too happy if you tear them out.” JC said as he helped Johnny sit up more.

“ Thanks…….About three weeks ago, I was taken by three men while I was in Spanish Wells. They said they were taking me to Mexico. That someone there was paying them a nice sum of money to bring me to him.” Johnny said.

“ You say three men took you, yet only two brought you here. The third man the one did that too you?” the sheriff asked.

Johnny nodded. “ How long I been here?”

“  You were brought in yesterday morning.”  he said. “ What happened to the third man?”

“ He’s dead. He left me no choice JC, it was him or me.” Johnny said.

“ Bruises, and marks on your wrist shows you were roughed up while tied up. Doc said some of the bruising was about three weeks old, and your beating had to be severe for them to still be visible.” the sheriff said. “ I did some checking on you. I see that look, hear me out. There’s no wanted posters on you here, in Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas. The reason I did that kid is so I can charge those two I have in jail with kidnapping, assault, unlawful imprisonment, and attempted murder.”

“  Won’t stop others if General Reyes has a bounty out on me, but thanks.” Johnny said.

You get some rest, I’ll send Shari up with some food for ya., and check in on ya later.” JC aid as he started toward the door.

Scott, and Val rode into Victorville around ten the next morning, stopping in front of the sheriff’s office and dismounted.

“ Doesn’t look like much of a town.” Scott said.

“ It’s grown some since he became sheriff.” Val said as he opened the door, and they stepped inside.

“ Well as I live and breath, Val Crawford.” Sheriff Curry said as he stood up, and walked over to shake hands.

“ How the hell are ya JC?” Val asked as they shook hands.

“ Good. What brings you to Victorville?” he asked.

“ This is Scott Lancer, we’re looking for four men. One of them you know. We thought maybe you’d a seen them.” Val said.

“ Haven’t had four men come into town. Had three men come into town two days ago.” the sheriff said. “ You say I know one of them?”

“ Yeah, Johnny Madrid.” Val said.

“ Lancer, Johnny Lancer.” Scott cut in.

Sheriff Curry looked at Scott. “ Madrid’s here. He was brought in by the two men I have locked up in the back.”

“ Where is he?” Scott asked.

“ He’s over at the hotel. He’s been beaten, and cut up pretty bad.” the sheriff said.

“ How bad?’ Scott asked.

“He’d been in a knife fight.” the sheriff explained.

“ You say you have two of them locked up in the back?’ Val asked.

“ Yeah, James Vasquez, and Harry White. Said they were taking him to Mexico to turn over to the Rurales. Said he’s wanted down there for murder.” he said.

“ His name is Lancer sheriff.” Scott said firmly. “ There were three of them when they took my brother in Spanish Wells.”

“ I’ll take you to see him.” the sheriff said.

Johnny was sitting up in bed trying to eat left handed when the door opened, and Sheriff Curry walked into the room. “ You feel up to having a visitor kid?”

“  Not really JC.” he said.

“ Not even me?” Scott asked as he stepped into the room, followed by Val.

Johnny couldn’t believe his eyes. He couldn’t believe he was seeing his brother standing just feet away from him. “ Scott.” he said barely above a whisper. “ You……..how did you find me?”

“ I’ll leave you three to catch up.” JC said.

“ Actually, I’ll go with you. These two got some talking to do.” Val said as he walked over and placed a hand on Johnny’s right leg. “ I’m glad you’re still alive buddy.”

Scott waited until the door closed before he let his emotions go. With shaky hands, he walked over, and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“ Little brother………..you have any idea how worried I have been?” he asked.

“ Not my fault, but yeah, it shows on your face. The old man didn’t come with you huh?”

“ No. He left it to me and Val to find you.” Scott said.

“ Figures. I knew it would be too good to be true.” Johnny said softly.

“ What’s that brother?”

“ Our old man would actually………………….just forget it Scott.” Johnny said. “  Was Carrie okay?”

“ Angry, but yes. She gave us a description of the three men, and told us what happened.” Scott said. “ She said to tell you she was sorry, that she had no way of warning you.”

“ I never figured her to be involved in it. She’s always been good to me the two years I’ve been seeing her.” Johnny said.

“ You want to tell me why they did it?” Scott asked.

“ Why else, my past. There’s a General Reyes, who wasn’t happy I escaped execution.” Johnny said.

“ You talking about when the Pinkerton man found you?” Scott asked.

“ Yeah. That and me killing some of his men in La Pasión, Sonora in what they call the Battle of Llanos de Ures. General Patoni Pesqueira brought men into the village with orders from Reyes to kill all peasants. I seen innocent men, women, and children shot down just for being there Scott. They weren’t a threat to them. Hell they didn’t have anything but pitchforks, picks, and shovels.” Johnny explained.

“  When I was in Libby prison, I seen men die horrible deaths. To this day it still haunts me. I still hear their screams.” Scott said. “ I guess in a way, we both fought for the same cause brother.”

“ Han pasado tres días. ¿Dónde están esos hombres que dices que traen al Capitán del Madrid?” General Reyes asked.( It has been three days. Where are these men you say are bringing Madrid Captain?)

“ Excuse, I hear you are looking for the infamous gunfighter, Johnny Madrid?” a man asked.

“ Why do you ask?” General Reyes demanded.

“ I seen Madrid ride into Victorville. He was injured, and is still there.”

“ How long ago was this?”

“A week. From what I heard, Madrid is at the hotel. He’ll be there some time healing up.” the man said.

“ How many men brought him to this town?” Captain Rodriquez asked.

“ Two men brought him in. The sheriff has both of them locked up in jail.” he said.

“ Why do you tell us this?” the general asked.

“ Because Madrid killed my brother a few years back. I’m no match against his gun, and would love to see him get what he deserves.” the man said before walking away.

“ Cabalgaremos hasta Victorville y encontraremos a ese cerdo.” the general ordered. ( We shall ride to this Victorville, and find that swine.)

“ Tienen ley en ese pueblo general. ¿Cómo llegamos a Madrid?” the captain asked. ( They have law in that town General. How do we get Madrid?)

“ Adquiriremos habitaciones en este hotel en el que se encuentra, y cuando llegue el momento adecuado, lo llevaremos. Un legislador campesino no me impedirá tener mi capitán de venganza.” the general said before stepping down to his horse, mounting up, and headed to Victorville.. ( We will acquire rooms at this hotel he is at, and when the time presents itself, we will take him. One peasant lawman will not stop me from having my revenge captain.)

“ You look like you are feeling better.” Scott said.

“ Yeah, some. The doc is pretty strict. Won’t let me have a damn bath yet.” Johnny said.

“ You know the rules brother. He’s just making sure that cut across your chest is closed up to prevent infection.” Scott said.

“ His bedside manner is about like Sam’s back home.” Johnny said as he stood up.

“ Then there shouldn’t be a problem.” Scott said.

“ You tell the old man yet?” Johnny asked as he walked over to sit by the window.

“ Not yet. I was going to let that be your decision.” he said.

“ He’ll never fully accept who I am Scott. We both know that as long as I’m alive, I’ll never be able to live the life I want to live. As long as I have to rely on Madrid, our old man will see me as a killer, and not as his son.” he said softly.

“ Johnny, please, make sure whatever you decide is the right decision. Don’t let our father chase you away from your home.” Scott said. “ The two of you have been getting along. Don’t throw the last four years away.”

“ I don’t want to leave Scott. It’s just that sometimes he makes me feel like I’m nothing more than a hired hand, and not a third owner.”

“ I feel the same way too sometimes brother. Especially when all final decisions are his, and sometimes he won’t even let us explain why something would be better for the ranch in the future, than what we do now.” Scott said.

“ All he hears is the cost Boston. He don’t figure what a change would save the ranch down the line.” Johnny said. “ Those two still in jail?”

Scott walked over, and sat down. “ They are. Your sheriff friend said they’re pretty angry.”

“ I want to talk to them.” Johnny said.

“ Alright. We can go see them, but do you think it’s wise for you to go out with your right arm unusable?” Scott asked.

“ When you gonna let us go sheriff? We’ve broke no laws, and you got no right keeping us locked up.” James said as the sheriff brought them their supper.

“  This badge I’m wearing gives me the right. So shut up, and eat your supper.” the sheriff said.

“ That badge don’t give you the right.” Harry spat back.

“ Kidnapping, assault, wrongful imprisonment, attempted murder. He has every right to keep you two locked up.” Johnny said softly.

“ You shouldn’t be out of bed yet kid.” JC said.

“ I need a word with those two.” Johnny said.

“ Alright, just as long as you leave the door open, and let me have that gun you have tucked in your waist there.” the sheriff said.

Johnny pulled the colt from his waist, and handed it to JC. “ Stay out here Scott.”

“ What the hell do you want?” Harry demanded.

Johnny glanced at him, then looked at James. ‘ Your life hangs on whether I press charges against you, so I suggest you think real hard on how you answer my question.”

“ I done told you everything.” James said.

“ I don’t think so. I think you know more than you’re saying, and I want to know.” Johnny said. “ What’s the real reason General Reyes wants me?”

James walked over to the bars, and placed his hands thru them. “ Like I told you, he wants you for murder. Only it’s not  what you did during the war, or escaping execution. Word along the border is you killed his son two years ago in Laredo. Gunned him down in a hotel room. Several people said you made it sure everyone knew it was you who did it.”

“ Two years ago you say. Two years ago I was on a cattle drive to Fort Bowie, and have thirty hands and the U.S. Army as proof. I haven’t been in Texas, or Mexico for over four years.” Johnny said.

“ I swear Madrid, that’s the truth. That’s why he wants you.” James said.

“ So then I have a wanted poster on me in Texas, for a murder I didn’t commit?” Johnny asked.

“ No, it was supposed to have happened on the Mexican side of Laredo. The Texas Rangers said they couldn’t do anything about it, except turn you over to the Rurales if you got arrested in Texas.” James responded.

“ He told you what you wanted to know, now tell the sheriff to let us go.” Harry demanded.

“ Harry, shut up!” James ordered.

“ You’re not in a position to be giving orders.” Johnny said with coldness.

“ You sonofabitch, I should have killed you that day you killed Roy.” Harry spat. “ So help me………if I ever get a chance I will.”

“ Where you two are going, you won’t get a chance to.” the sheriff said.

“ Can I help you?” Alex asked.

“ We need four rooms, three with two beds, and a single bed room.” Captain Rodriguez said.

“ Very well. I have what you are looking for. That will be a dollar a night per room. Where are you gentlemen from?” Alex asked.

“ I see it as none of your business where your guest are from.” Reyes said.

“ I meant no harm.” Alex said. “ If you gentlemen would like a bath, I can have them started for you.” he suggested.

“ Thank you. The cantina down the street, does it serve good food?” General Reyes asked.

“ Yes sir. The best in town.” Alex said. “ Here are your keys to the double bedded rooms, and this one I hope you find suitable for your stay. The single room will have a private bath, while the rest of you will have to bath in the two water closets at the end of the hall.”

“ We are looking for a man we were told would be staying here.” General Reyes said. “ His name is Johnny Madrid.”

Alex looked at the general. “ Johnny Madrid?”

“ That is the man. What room is he in?” the captain demanded.

“ I’m not at liberty to tell you what room our guest are in.” Alex said.

Rodriguez grabbed Alex by his shirt, and yanked him up over the counter. “ Do not make the general ask you again.”

“ He’s not here. He left four days ago.” Alex said.

“ Left for where?” Rodriguez demanded.

“ He………I heard him say they were headed home.”  Alex said.

“ Where’s home?” General Reyes asked.

“ Morro Coyo, it’s about three hundred miles north of here. There’s a ranch there called Lancer.” Alex said.

“  Capitán, saldremos alamanecer.”  (Captain, we will ride out at first light.) General Reyes said. “ Quiero que los hombres regresen a México.” ( I want the men to go back to Mexico.)

“ Señor de vuelta?” Rodriguez asked. ( Back sir?)

“ Sí, de vuelta. No quiero llamar la atnció sobre nosotros cuando lleguemos a este pueblo llamado Morro Coyo.” Reyes responded.  ( Yes back. I do not want to draw attention to us when we arrive in this town called Morro Coyo.)

“ Perdóneme por preguntarle al General Reyes, pero ¿por qué?” he asked.( Forgive me for asking General Reyes, but why?)

“ Has estado conmigo muchos años. No confío en nadie más que en ti para ayudarme a llevar a cabo esta tarea.” General Reyes said.  ( You have been with me many years. I trust no one but you to help me carry out this task.)

“  So what plans you got when we get back to Lancer?” Johnny asked.

“ I don’t rightly know, aside from tryin ta keep yur mangy butt out a trouble.” Val responded.

“ Johnny, what about this General Reyes?” Scott asked.

“ What about him?” Johnny asked as he poured a cup of coffee.

“  Have you forgot what that man has done?” Scott asked.

“ No I haven’t Scott, and I won’t for the rest of my life.” Johnny snapped back. “ I’ll remember that bastard for the rest of my life because of the scars my body.”

“ Will he come here?” Val cut in, and asked.

“ No, he’s a fucking General in the Mexican army. He has no jurisdiction here Val.” Johnny said.

“ Boy, you’ve had a chip on your shoulder since we left Victorville. You best lose it, or start talking about what the hell is bothering you before I take a notion to knock that chip off.” Val said as he stood up.

Johnny stood up, and glared at Val. “ Any time you want to try, go ahead.”

Scott stood up. “ I think you two need to cool off.”

“ Stay out of this Scott.” Johnny ordered. “ You want a piece of me old man?”

Scott walked over to his brother, and grabbed him by his shirt. “ I’ve about had it with your attitude brother. We’re not the enemy.” he said before shoving him back.

Johnny glared at his brother before turning, and walking off into the darkness.

“ Damn it.” Scott said.

“ He’s got something eatin away at him.” Val said.

“ He’s afraid our father will not be pleased this all happened because of his past.” Scott said.

“ Maybe Johnny, and his pappy need to come to blows, get it all said.” Val suggested.

“  That’s what scares me.” Scott said. “ Johnny, and Murdoch are cut from the same mold, all pride, and not one ounce of give.”

“ Have you ever seen your brother’s temper?” Val asked.

“ No, and something tells me I don’t want to.” Scott said.

“ No………you don’t want to. I seen him kill a man once with that knife he carries inside his left boot. We tracked a man who raped a girl, and left her almost dead. Johnny knew the girl, and her family. She wasn’t all there in the head. An innocent, sweet little lady. We tracked him to this canyon, and split up. Johnny found him, and by the time I got there, that man was cut wide open. Your brother gutted him like a fish. He cut him from his pecker to his chin.” Val explained. “ Now, I’m not saying he would do that to yur pappy if they butt heads. I’m just letting you know your brother is not just dangerous with that gun. See, there’s three things yur brother won’t stand for, abusing a woman, child, or animal. He sees any of those three being done, and I promise you, the only thing to stop him will be to shoot him.”

Murdoch walked out of the house with a smile on his face. “ Welcome home boys.” he said.

“  It’s good to be back home sir.” Scott said as he dismounted and shook the mans hand.

Johnny dismounted, and stood next to his horse. Feelings of uncertainty flooding him.

“ Son, are you alright?” Murdoch asked as he walked over to him.

“  I’m fine.” Johnny said before walking inside.

“ What happened?” Murdoch asked.

“ I don’t think now is the time sir.” Scott said. “ Let Johnny tell you if he wants to.”

“ Alright. I’ll give him some time.” Murdoch responded. “ Can you tell me how bad he was hurt?”

“ I could, but again, I will let my brother tell you if he wants you to know that.” Scott said.

“ Son………….I appreciate your loyalty to your brother, and can respect it, but I  would like you to answer my question.” Murdoch said.

“ All I will say is, Johnny was in a fight for his life, and injured during that fight.” Scott said.

“ Pasado mañana debemos llegar a este Morro CoyoGeneral Reyes.”  ( We should reach this Morro Coyo day after tomorrow General Reyes.)

“ Bueno. Cuando lleguemos nos recostaremos, descansaremos y sin llamar la atención, preguntaremos por esta estancia que se  llama Lancer. Quiero aprender sus hábitos.”  ( Good. When we get there, we shall clean up, rest, and without drawing attention to ourselves, ask about this estancia called Lancer. I want to learn his habits.)

“ ¿Sus hábitos señor?” ( His habits sir?)

“ Si, todo hombre las tiene. El Madrid querrá beber, apostar e incluso estar con una puta.”( Yes, every man has them. Madrid, will want to drink, gamble, and even be with a whore.)

¿Y si no viene al Morro Coyo por estas cosas?”( What if he does not come to Morro Coyo for these things?)

“ Por eso preguntaremos discretamente y escucharemos.”  ( That is why we will discretely ask, and listen.)

“ ¿Quizás Madrid tiene una mujer normal a la que podríamos usar para llegar a él?” Captain Rodriguez asked. ( Perhaps Madrid has a regular woman we could use to get to him?)

“ Veramos.” ( We shall see.)

“ You get that stream cleared out son?” Murdoch asked.

“ No, I’ll get it finished tomorrow.” Johnny responded as he poured a shot of tequila, and downed it.

“ Why did you come back so early?” Murdoch asked.

“ Came back cause I’m done for the day.” he said as he poured another shot to down.

“  I pay a days wages, I expect a full days work.” Murdoch said.

“ I don’t really care what you expect old man.” Johnny said as Scott walked into the house.

“ As a third owner of this ranch, I expect you to do your share of the work.” Murdoch said.

“ As a third owner………………I’m nothing more than a hired hand to you, and that’s all I will ever be.” Johnny snapped back before turning to leave.

Murdoch grabbed his son by the arm, spinning him around. “  Don’t walk away from me.”

Johnny jerked his arm free. “ Tell me I’m wrong.”

“ Just because you’re my son, doesn’t mean you don’t pull your weight around here. Do your share of the chores.” Murdoch responded.

“ I do my share six days a week old man. I bust my ass for you and this ranch from sunup to sundown. So don’t tell me I don’t do my fare share of the work.” Johnny snapped back.

“ What’s the matter with you son?” Murdoch asked. “ Ever since you came home, you have been distant to me. Why? What have I done to make you so angry at me?”

Johnny looked at his brother, then back at his father. “ If you have to ask that, then I guess you’re not as smart as you think you are.” he said before heading upstairs.

“ I want to know what happened, and I want to know now.” Murdoch demanded.

“ I told you, it’s not my place to tell you, and it’s not my place to tell you what is bothering him.” Scott responded.

“ Damn it son. I feel like I’m losing him. I can’t lose him again.” Murdoch said as he walked over and sat down at his desk. “ Ever since you boys came home, I’ve been trying to think of what I said, or did to make him so angry with me.”

“ And?” Scott said.

“ And what?” his father asked.

“ Was it worth it?” Scott demanded.

“ What the hell are you talking about?” Murdoch snapped back.

“ Staying here, and not going after your son is what I’m talking about. You care more about this damn ranch than you do your own son.” Scott snapped back. “ You wanted to know what’s bothering him, now you do.”

“ Your brother is treating me like he is because I didn’t go with you?” he asked.

“ Among other things, yes sir.” Scott said.

“ Among what other things?” he asked with anger.

“ Johnny is afraid you will lash out at him because of what happened. Because of his past.” Scott snapped back. “ He’s lived here four years without any trouble. The three men who took him, did it because of a man named General Reyes. When your Pinkerton man found Johnny, and got him away from being executed, it angered the man.”

“ Angered him so much, he rounded up everyone he could find who fought against him in the Mexican Revolution, and has had  every one of them executed.” Johnny said as he came down the stairs, and walked into the room. “ I’m the only one left. He hired three men to capture me, and take me back to Mexico, to  Puerto Peñasco prison.”

“  You’re telling me this General Reyes is responsible for you being taken because you escaped execution?” Murdoch asked.

“ I was captured in La Pasión, Sonora, during the battle of Llanos de Ures. A General Patoni Pesqueira caught me. He was real nice, made me walk over two hundred miles to  Puerto Peñasco. I spent six months in that hell hole being beaten, and tortured every day.” Johnny explained.

Murdoch walked over to his son, and placed a hand on his left shoulder. “ All I can say is I’m sorry son. You have every right to be angry at me. I should have went with your brother, and Val to get you back. I want you to know this………..Yes I’m angry this happened because of your past. I’m angry because you have every right to live a life as my son. That man had no right doing what he did.”

“ Why didn’t you come?” Johnny asked softly.

“ Scott, could you leave us alone?” Murdoch asked.

“ No, he stays. I want him to hear what you say.” Johnny said firmly.

“ Alright. I wanted to, and was going to go with him. I didn’t because a part of me thought you would get away from them, and come home. Every day I would wait, and watch for you to ride under that arch. Every night I would go to bed, and just lay there praying you were still alive. Pray that you would come back home to me…………alive.” Murdoch said. “ Did they hurt you son?” he asked with a quiver to his voice.

“ I killed one of them. He had it in for me from the start. One night while I was tied to a small oak tree, he cut me loose in the middle of the night, walked me out away from camp, and decided he wanted to play with knives. He lost, but not before he cut me up, and stabbed me.” Johnny explained. “ Vasquez took me to Victorville, where Scott found me.”

“ How bad did he hurt you?” Murdoch asked.

Johnny removed his shirt and showed his father the cut across his chest, and lower arm. “ I killed him with the knife I carry in my boot. They didn’t know it was there. He was burying his knife in my right shoulder when I stabbed him.”

“ Oh my god.” Murdoch said.

“ It’s just another dead man to add to my ghost.” Johnny said as he walked over to the sideboard.

“ It should never have happened to you son, none of it should have happened to you.” Murdoch said. “ I often wish your mother had never taken you away from here. That your life would have been so much different had you grown up here at Lancer, and not in Mexico.”

“ Didn’t happen that way though, and one thing I learned that you seem to not want to do is let dead dogs lie. What’s in the past, is just that old man, in the past.” Johnny said.

“ I would appreciate you not calling me that son, and I think I have done a pretty good job of not bringing up your past.” Murdoch said.

“ Only because nothing has happened to bring it up until now.” Johnny responded.

“ You seem to have forgotten something son.” Murdoch said.

“  Yeah, what’s that?”  he asked.

“ Lancer takes care of it’s own.” his father said.

                                                                                                   Chapter 3 ( Final Chapter )

“ Llevamos aquí una semana y él no ha estado en la ciudad.” Captain Rodriguez said.  (  We have been here a week, and he has not been to town.)

“ He estado pensando que la mayoría de los hombres estarán trabajando. Cabalgaremos hasta este Lancer y esperaremos a que vuelva a casa.” General Reyes said.  ( I have been thinking, most of the men will be out working. We shall ride to this Lancer, and wait for him to come home.)

“  Habrá hombres cerca de la casa. ¿Cómo entramos?” the captain said, and asked.   ( There will be men close to the house. How do we get inside?)

“ Entraremos y su padre será nuestro boleto para matarlo.” General Reyes responded.  ( We will get inside, and his father will be our ticket to killing him.)

“ Learning Madrid es un Lancer, y ha estado aquí desde que escapó de la ejecución.” Captain Rodriguez said. ( Learning Madrid is a Lancer, and been here since escaping execution.)

“  Esta vez no excapará de la ejecución y su padre lo verá morir.” the general said. ( He will not escape execution this time, and his father will watch him die.)

“ Johnny, come on down here. I need you to take supplies to the north mesa line shack for Frank, and Walt. The wagon is already loaded, and ready to go.” Murdoch said.

“ I’m not finished with this job. Let Scott or one of the other hands do it.” Johnny said as he continued to remove a bad board from the barn roof.

“ Your brother had to take care of business for me, Seth will finish it. Now come on down.” Murdoch ordered.

Johnny stood up, glared down at his father before tossing the hammer down, and climbing down the ladder. “ Of course, god forbid you let your youngest son handle that kind of business……..Seth doesn’t know a damn thing about fixing a roof. Send him with the supplies.”

“ I call the tune around here, therefore you will do as you’re told!” Murdoch ordered. “ I sent your brother to negotiate a contract because Lancer needs this contract.”

“ Yeah, Scott has a college education, and I don’t. I’m nothing more than a hired hand, and that’s all I will ever be to you.” Johnny said as he climbed into the wagon, slapped reins, and took off.

Murdoch turned and headed back to the house. He couldn’t help but wonder if he had been wrong in sending Scott instead. Had he ever given Johnny the chance to negotiate a contract? Walking inside the house, Murdoch froze in his tracks. “ What the hell do you want?” he demanded.

“ When is your son, the one called Johnny coming back?” General Reyes asked as he walked over to him.

“ He won’t be back.” Murdoch responded.

Captain Rodriguez hit Murdoch in the head, knocking him down. “ You lie. We seen him leave in a wagon.”

“ Señor Lancer, I do not wish to harm you, but I will not allow you to lie to me again. We seen your other son ride away earlier. Now I will ask you one last time, when will that mestizo be back?” General Reyes said, and asked.

“ He took supplies to the north mesa line shack. He won’t be back until late.” Murdoch responded.

“ Tie him up. We will wait.” the general ordered.

“ Just who the hell are you?” Murdoch demanded as he was shoved into a chair, and tied up.

“  You are that filthy swine’s father?” Reyes asked.

“ Johnny is my son. Why are you here?” Murdoch demanded.

“ My name is General Reyes, and I am here to kill your son. He will not escape execution again. Your son must be made to pay for his crimes.” the general said as he slowly walked around the room, looking at everything.

“ My son has committed no crimes.” Murdoch said.

“ Oh but he did. He committed murder of my soldiers in La Pasión, Sonora during the Battle of  Llanos de Ures. General Patoni Pesqueira was attacked by Madrid and his men. He was captured, and brought to Puerto Peñasco prison where he was scheduled to be executed for his crimes when he escaped.”

“ There was a war going on general. You captured my son, and you had him tortured for six months in that prison. What you did to him, you had no right doing.” Murdoch snapped back.

“ I had every right, and I did what I did to that swine with the blessings of President Diaz. It was his orders I was following when I captured every man who fought against us in that war. I enjoyed watching them be executed. Madrid is the last one, and I will take great pride in killing him slowly.” General Reyes said. “ Gag him. I don’t want him calling out to warn Madrid.”

Johnny pulled the team to a stop next to the barn, and climbed down. “ You get the roof done?’ he asked Seth.

“ Just finished it. I was fixin to ride out and help finish the fence at south mesa.” Seth said as he mounted up.

Thirty minutes later, Johnny had the team in their stalls, and headed to the house wondering what his father wanted him to do next since there was still plenty of daylight left to work. Walking into the grand room thru the veranda doors. “ Murdoch, I got………..” he started to say when he seen two men with their guns to his fathers head. “ Reyes!”

“ You so much as move for that gun, and I will kill your father.” General Reyes said. “ Captain, go relieve our guest of his pistol. I am glad you remember me.”

“ What the hell do you want?” Johnny demanded as Rodriguez removed his colt from the holster.

“ I would think what I want would be obvious to you mestizo.” the general said as he stepped away from Murdoch. “ I am here to finish what should have happened five years ago. But before I kill you, I want to know how you escaped being executed?”

“ You go to hell.” Johnny said.

Rodriguez slammed his fist hard into Johnny’s right side, knocking him down. “ You will answer the generals questions.” he ordered as he yanked Johnny back to his feet.

“ You always were disobedient. Captain, remind this swine what we do to disobedient prisoners.” Reyes ordered.

Before Johnny could react, Rodriguez slammed the pistol barrel upside his head, knocking him to the floor again. Dazed, he tried to get up when the captain kicked him hard in the ribs, causing him to roll away from the man, and stagger to his feet.

“ I like that your father can watch you die.” the general said with a laugh as he watched the captain beat Johnny.

Murdoch worked feverishly to loosen the ropes that bound his hands behind his back as he helplessly watch as his son was viciously kicked, and beaten.

Rodriguez pulled Johnny up by his shirt to his knees, laughed, and slammed his fist into his face, splitting his bottom lip, and putting a deep cut next to his left eye, and on his cheek. Shoving him backwards, he once again kicked Johnny in his ribs.

“ That is just a taste of what we are going to do to you mestizo. Stand him up.” Reyes said as he walked over to stand in front of him.

Johnny was jerked to his feet as blood ran down his face, and chin as he glanced at his father before glaring at the general.

“ You will be begging me to kill you before we are done with you.” Reyes said as he stepped closer, and tore Johnny’s shirt open.

Johnny spit blood all over the generals face. “ Maldito bastardo!” ( Fucking bastard!)

Rodriguez hit Johnny hard in his ribs again, dropping him to his knees.

General Reyes removed a kerchief from his coat, and wiped the blood from his face. “ That will cost you mestizo.” he said. “ Stand him up, and hold him.”

Captain Rodriguez pulled Johnny to his feet, and held him from behind by his arms.

I see you have a new one across your chest.” Reyes said as he pulled a knife from the inside of his coat, and removed the sheath. Placing the blade just above Johnny’s pants. “ This knife is razor sharp.” he said as he started to slowly cut from left to right, across Johnny’s abdomen.

Johnny summoned Madrid from deep down inside to ignore the pain as the knife sliced thru his flesh. Glaring at Reyes thru stone cold blue eyes as blood ran down, and started soaking his pants.

“ You think you are tough, that is good, but I will have you screaming, begging me to kill you before I leave here.” Reyes said. “ I have done some serious wondering as we rode here, and the week we spent waiting for you to ride into Morro Coyo. We learned a lot about you from others. You can imagine the shock when we learned from a whore that you no longer go by Madrid, but have taken your gringo fathers last name of Lancer. A name you started going by shortly after you escaped my firing squad. I want to know how you escaped, and I want to know who helped you escape, and kill my guards?”

“ Why don’t you ask your Captain Morales?” Johnny asked with coldness. “ Oh that’s right, you can’t because I killed that worthless piece of shit.”

Reyes walked closer to Johnny, the knife still in his hand. “ Captain Morales was a good loyal soldier………..He was my wife’s nephew, and you gunned him down.” he said with anger as he buried the knife in Johnny’s left thigh.

“ You fucking sonofabitch………..I swear I’m going to kill you!” Johnny yelled.

Reyes pulled the knife out, walked around behind Johnny, and sliced him across his back.

Johnny looked over, and seen his father was working his hands, trying to get free of the ropes that bound him. Hoping he would, Johnny grabbed the letter opener his father kept on his desk, and buried it in the side of Rodriguez throat. Spinning around, as Reyes lunged, and stuck the knife in his side. 

Johnny grabbed Reyes right arm and tried to push the blade out as Reyes pushed it in deeper.

Murdoch worked feverishly to loosen the ropes on his wrist. He could feel the stinging from sweat as he finally got his right hand free, reached down, and untied his feet. Once free, he hurried to his desk, opened the top drawer, and pulled out the pistol he kept there.

Murdoch felt the rope finally loosen enough so he could slid one hand out. Quickly he untied his feet, stood up, went to his desk, and opened the top drawer, pulling a pistol out.

 “ Get off my son!” Murdoch yelled as he cocked the pistol, and fired.

Reyes stood up, anger showing in his eyes as he looked at Johnny getting up from the floor. “ You are only delaying the inevitable. If not me, then someone else will kill him.”

“ I’m going to see you punished for what you did to my son.”

Johnny  stood up, reached down, and pulled the blade out of his side.

Murdoch watched as his son, covered in blood, step in front of Reyes.” Dije que te mataría.” ( I said I would kill you.)  Johnny said before he plunged the knife deep in the mans gut, and forced the blade up.

“ Johnny no!” Murdoch yelled.

Johnny staggered as he yanked the knife out, and again plunged it deep into Reyes gut, as they both fell to the floor.

“ Son, that’s enough.” Murdoch said as he pulled his bloody son off Reyes. “ It’s over, he’s dead…..He can’t hurt you anymore.”

“ Mur……..pa……..I……….I’m sorry.” Johnny said before blackness claimed him.

“ I’m glad you’re here señor Sam, he is hurt very badly.” Cipriano said.

“ Who is hurt?” Sam asked as he climbed down from his buggy.

“ Señor Johnny.” Cipriano responded.

Sam hurried upstairs, totally unprepared for what he seen. “ My god, how many times was he shot?” he asked as he hurried around the bed.

“ He was shot in the leg Sam. The rest are deep cuts from a knife, and he’s been stabbed.” Murdoch responded.

“ Let me in there Murdoch, have Maria get me plenty of bandages, sheets if she has to. We have to slow this bleeding until I can get the wounds cleaned and sewn up.” Sam ordered.

“ Maria is already doing that, and has plenty of water heating.” Murdoch said. “ Please Sam, don’t let him die. I can’t lose my son again.”

“ I’ll do all I can.” Sam said as he started cleaning the cut across Johnny’s abdomen.  “ All of this blood can’t be from this cut across his abdomen.”  Sam said.

“ He was sliced across his back also Sam.” Murdoch said. “ He was also viciously kicked in his ribs.”

“ Alright, I’ll get this wound in his side, and leg cleaned and stitched up before I stitch his back, and abdomen up.” Sam said.

An hour later Murdoch, and Sam carefully rolled Johnny onto his left side. “ Oh my god. What kind of man can do this to another human being?”

“ He was no man.” Murdoch said.

“ Pull his right arm out from under him so he’s laying as flat as possible.” Sam said as he noticed his wrist. “ I’ll clean those up for you when I’m done.”

“ My wrist will keep. I’ve never felt so helpless in my life Sam. The one man, he just kept kicking him as hard as he could.” he said with a quiver to his voice.

“ I see no defensive wounds on his hands, or knuckles. Didn’t he try and fight back?” he asked.

“ I think he didn’t because of me. He had a gun on me while the other one beat him. Johnny took the punishment for fear of them hurting, or killing me.” Murdoch explained. “ Sam, what I seen my son do to that man……….I was scared to death of him. The look in his eyes was like none I have ever seen before. He was Madrid, but he was also something more when he walked up to him, and gutted him.”

“ Is what he did, going to be something you will hold against him later?” he asked.

“ I don’t know. I……….”

“ Murdoch, from what I see has been done to Johnny, I say he gave that man exactly what he deserved.” Sam said firmly.

“ He murdered that man in cold blood Sam. He wasn’t a threat to him any longer. I had a gun on him, yet Johnny walked up to him, and gutted him like an animal.” Murdoch said as he walked over, and looked out the window.

Scott rode into the yard two days later, dismounted, and went into the house. He found his father sitting at his desk. “  Why is Sam here?” he asked.

“ Did you get the contract signed?” Murdoch asked as he wondered how to tell his oldest what happened.

“ I did. Mister Peterson said you owe him a good bottle of Scotch. Now why is Sam here?” Scott responded, and asked again.

“ It’s your brother. He’s been hurt.” Murdoch said.

Scott went upstairs, and into his brothers room. “ Sam?”

“ Scott, I’m glad you finally came home.” Sam said.

“ How bad is it?” Scott asked as he walked around the bed, and looked at his brother.

“ Murdoch didn’t tell you?” Sam asked.

“ He just said he’s been hurt. What the hell happened to him?” Scott asked.

“ Sam pulled the sheet down so Scott could see the deep bruises covering the right side of Johnny’s chest. “ He has bruising on the left also, but nothing like this. He has over a hundred stitches between the deep, long cut across his back, and this one across his abdomen, he was stabbed in his right side, and left thigh. Multiple broken, and fractured ribs, and a concussion.”  Sam explained.

Scott walked around the bed.“ Jesus…….what……………who did this to him?”

“ I don’t know son. Your father hasn’t said much of anything since this happened two days ago.” Sam  responded.

“ I never should have left. I should have been here for him Sam.” he said.

“ Now you listen to me young man. I don’t want you to go blaming yourself for what happened to your brother. Johnny wouldn’t want you blaming yourself either.” Sam said firmly. “ We both know how stubborn he can be, and he is not going to be happy when he wakes up, and I tell him how long he is to remain in bed.”

“ He’ll do as told, or I’ll tie him to the bed.” Scott said. “ Why so long though?”

“ His ribs will take a long time to heal up. If he goes trying to work, ride a horse, or do anything strenuous. He falls wrong, or moves wrong, he could put a broken rib into his heart, or lungs.” Sam explained. “ So far he doesn’t have a fever, so I’m hoping none of the wounds are infected.”

“  Why didn’t he send for me? I had a right to know. He sat down there and said………….he just said he was hurt.” Scott stammered.

“ He’s in denial, or possibly shock of what he seen your brother do. How he killed the man.” Sam said.

“ You hang on brother. I’ll be back.” Scott said as he started to the door.

“ Scott, now isn’t the time son.” he pleaded.

“ Take care of him doc.” Scott said before heading downstairs.

Murdoch stood at the big bay window, looking out at the setting sun, when he heard his son come back downstairs. Sighing, he turned around to face what he already knew would be coming.

“ How dare you lie to me sir? How dare you tell me he’s been hurt, and act like it’s nothing serious? You should have sent for me to come back sooner.” Scott said with anger.

“ And what good would that have done son?” Murdoch demanded.

“ My brother is laying up there fighting for his life. Do you even care about what he is facing for the next year?” Scott snapped back.

“  Yes I care about your brother. So don’t you dare stand there and ask me if I do.” Murdoch snapped back. “ His damn past did this to him.”

“ You bastard, how dare you put the blame on Johnny for this.” Scott said with anger.

“ You didn’t see what he did. You didn’t see him kill that man…………I did.” Murdoch bellowed.

“ What man? Who did this to my brother?” he demanded.

“ He said his name was General Reyes, the other man was a Captain Rodriguez.” Murdoch responded. “ He said he came here to kill Johnny for what he did in the war,……….and for escaping his firing squad.”

“ Reyes………he’s the man who paid those three men who took Johnny. I know what that man did to my brother every day he was in his prison for six months. Whatever my brother did to him to kill him, he deserved.” Scott said as Sam came downstairs.

“ I couldn’t protect him………I failed him as a child, and I failed to keep him safe in his own home. I had no way of warning him they were here. I failed my son when he needed me the most.” Murdoch said with a shaky voice as tears welled up in his eyes.

“ The only way you will fail Johnny, is if you blame him for this sir.” Scott said in a calmer voice.

“ Murdoch, Johnny has a long road to recovery ahead of him. I suggest you use that time when he’s strong enough to talk to him about what happened here.” Sam suggested.

“ I have a feeling what will bother my little brother more than anything will be the fact that you seen what Reyes did to him.” he said.

Pain, excruciating pain in his back, and chest, Johnny felt as the darkness started to leave him, and his eyes fluttered open four days later. Gasping for air as a sharp pain wracked his chest.

“ Take it easy brother. Take it easy.” Scott said as he placed a hand on his right shoulder. “ You have to lay still.”

“ Hurts.” Johnny said as a tear escaped, and rolled down his cheek.

“ I’ll get Sam. Stay still. I will be right back.” Scott ordered before hurrying out of the room.

Memory of what happened came flooding back to him as he tried to block out the pain. Sweat started running down his face, and showing on his chest.

“ Johnny, lay still.” Sam ordered as he hurried into the room.

“ Hurts Sam………… hurts to breath.” Johnny panted.

“ I need you to listen to me carefully John. I want you to take shallow breaths. You had numerous broken, and fractured ribs.” Sam instructed.

Johnny pressed his head back into his pillow, and did as Sam said. The pain was still there, but subsiding some in his chest.

“ I have your chest bound up as tight as I can to hold the ribs in place, but I need you to stay still. Do you understand me?” he asked.

“ Ye…..ah…..I……..it’s easing up some.” he said.

“ John, you have over a hundred stitches in you also. Your back, and your abdomen were cut pretty deep. You were also stabbed in your right side, and left thigh. I’m afraid you won’t be getting out of this bed for a long time.” Sam explained. “ You do, and you could put one of those ribs thru a lung, or even into your heart. Understand?”

“ Yeah. Can I have some water?” he asked.

“ I’ve been giving you fluids thru the tube I inserted in your nose, but I’ll let you have a little water to wet your dry throat, but not too much. I don’t want you throwing up.”

Johnny welcomed the cool feel of the water on his throat. “ Take this damn thing out Sam.” he ordered.

“ Only if you promise me you will do what me or Scott says, and not try to get out of this bed?”

“ I won’t, but I do have another problem.” Johnny said.

“ Scott, would you mind helping your brother while I go let Murdoch know he’s awake?” Sam asked.

“ Not at all.”

“ I don’t want to see him Sam. I can’t………not yet.”

“ We figured as much. He knows to wait until you are ready.” Sam said before walking out.

Johnny slowly walked down the stairs with his brother holding his right arm. It had been four months since the attack, and his ribs were still not healed all the way. Four months of being in his bed, flat on his back for most of it, had him ready for this day. The only thing he wasn’t ready for, was seeing his father sitting at the desk going over the books.

“ It’s a nice day if you want to sit out on the veranda. I can bring you some lemonade.” Scott said.

“ That sounds good. I’ve been in this house long enough.” Johnny said as he stopped and looked at the blood stain still visible on the floor..

“ You okay?” Scott asked softly. He could feel his brother trembling a little.

“ I’m fine.” Johnny said as he started toward the opened veranda door.

 “ Why don’t I bring the checker board out?” he asked.

“ I just want to sit in the sun for a while. I’m sure the old man wants you doing work somewhere.” Johnny said as he walked outside.

“ He has me doing the books with him.” Scott said as he helped Johnny sit down. “ I’ll be right back with some lemonade for you.”

Johnny leaned back, and sighed as he welcomed the warm sun on his face. All the bruising was now gone, and both stab wounds had healed up good. The one across his abdomen still bothered him, especially when he coughed. He wanted to see Barranca in the worst way,  but knew he couldn’t risk the stallion pressing his head into his chest like he always does to get loved. Simple, everyday things he realized he couldn’t do because of his broken ribs. He had seen the golden stallion from his window, whenever Scott, or Cipriano put him in the paddock to run. Scott would ride him whenever he could, especially on Sundays to exercise him, but every time, he would say it was Johnny he wanted on his back.

Scott brought a glass of lemonade out, and set it on the table before going back inside.

“ Thanks.” Johnny said without opening his eyes.

“ You’re welcome.” he responded. It always amazed him how his little brother could know who it was, or even hear them walk up to him in dead silence.

Johnny walked into the grand room a couple hours later. “ You about done with those books?”

Murdoch, and Scott looked up at him. “ We just finished.” Scott said.

“ Something on your mind son?” Murdoch asked.

“ Scott, could you leave us alone?” Johnny asked as he waked over, and slowly sat down on the couch.

Scott knew what was going to happen. Standing up, he walked around the desk, and placed a hand on his brothers left shoulder. “ I’ll be upstairs if you need me.”

Murdoch walked over to the sideboard, poured two glasses of brandy, and walked over to sit in the blue chair across from the couch.

“ We need to talk Murdoch. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since…….You seen a part of me, of Madrid, I never wanted you to see…….”

“ Johnny…….”

“ Hear me out………When I was captured in La Pasión, Sonora by General Patoni Pesqueira, during the Mexican war, I was made to walk to Puerto Peñasco prison, six days away. General Reyes was in charge of that prison……From the moment I arrived, I was beaten, and thrown in a filthy cell. Every day except Sundays, he would have me dragged out of my cell, and beat me, trying to break me, to make me scream out in pain……..He never did. Every time he tried, I would force myself to go to a dark place to block out the pain.” Johnny explained. This one day he decided to try something new, he had Rodriguez whip me, and then he threw a bucket of brine water on my back, and taken back to my cell…..He almost succeeded that day. When your Pinkerton man showed up, I was seconds away from being executed by his firing squad. You said you love this ground more than anything God had created, and that you have a gray hair for every good blade of grass out there, minus the ones I’ve gave you since I came home……….I never thought I would live to see twenty, but thanks to you I’m still alive six years later. Murdoch, I had to do what I did to Reyes. I had to send that bastard to hell. I couldn’t let them live to do to another man, what they did to me, and to others in that prison…………One thing that’s been bothering me, and I’ve tried to come to a reason why, but can’t. When Reyes was………..why didn’t you kill him that day? You said Lancer takes care of it’s own, yet you seen what he did to me, and only fired a warning shot. Did you really think the law would punish him? Where you so naive that day?”

Murdoch sat there listening to what his son said. His heart breaking as he heard how he was beaten, and tortured. Anger building deep down inside. Anger because he wasn’t there to protect him like a father is supposed to do.

“ I failed you. I failed you as a father in the worst way possible son. It’s a fathers responsibility to protect his children, even when they are grown men, and I didn’t do that. I had no way of warning you that day. I had no way of knowing your mother would leave me like she did. Was I naive, I don’t know son. I have asked myself that very same question every day since, why didn’t I kill him. If I had, then I wouldn’t have to see a part of you I never want to see again. I knew you became Madrid, that was obvious from the look in your eyes, but to see you kill him like you did terrified me. I never thought my son could be capable of doing something like that. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that what you did, I was capable of doing as well if needed. I have to live with that for the rest of my life, not killing him, just like I have had to live with not being able to be a father to you until six years ago. I think the both of us will always have what-if’s and why’s, but………I think, no I know that as long as we have each other, we can make it thru anything.” Murdoch responded. “ Johnny, you’re almost twenty six, and of those years, I have only gotten to be a father to you eight of them. I’m not perfect son, and I make mistakes, mistakes I can only learn from, just like you, and your brother. You said that day that you feel like I think of you as nothing more than a hired hand. I’ve been thinking about that, and you’re right, I have been treating you like a hand, and for that I’m sorry. I’ve put this damn ranch ahead of being a father, and that isn’t right. Granted I call the tune, but you and your brother should be allowed to have more say in what takes place on this ranch. Johnny………son I want you to know, what you did that day, I will never hold against you. You were put in that position not by your choosing, just like we both were when your mother decided to pack up and leave me in the middle of the night.”

“ I guess we both are still learning. Scott told me once that you’re never to old to teach an old dog new tricks. At first I didn’t understand what he meant saying that, but now I do.” Johnny said.

Two years later, three Lancer men sat atop the hill overlooking the home they all loved more than anything. Val became the sheriff of Spanish Wells, with the help of Johnny encouraging his father to have the Cattle Growers vote him in. Scott was seeing a woman he met on the stage coming back from San Francisco, who is now the school teacher in Spanish Wells. Johnny never went back to seeing Carrie on Saturday nights in Spanish Wells. Instead he mostly stayed at home, enjoying the night playing cards, checkers, or chess with his family.

“ Did you ever think the three of us would be sitting up here, looking down on what you built up?” Scott asked.

“ No I didn’t son. I built Lancer for the two of you, and your families. I never thought I would get the chance, and almost gave up when your mother died.” the Lancer patriarch said.

“  I asked Rachel to marry me.” Scott said. “ She accepted. We want the wedding to be at Lancer.”

“ Congratulations son. I expect grandchildren running all over the house.” Murdoch said.

“ Would you be my best man brother?” he asked.

“ Does that mean I would have to wear a tie?” Johnny asked with a smile.

“ It does, but just for the wedding ceremony brother. Who knows, you might fall in love with Rachel’s little sister. She’s as pretty as Rachel is.” Scott said.

“ I don’t know Boston, I’ll have a sure thing once you’re married.” Johnny said.

“ A sure thing huh. And just what pray-tell would that be?” he asked.

“ Well hell, with you married, I’ll be the most sought after bachelor in the San Joaquin. Women will throw themselves at me, wanting a piece of that down there. I’ll have to fight them off with a stick, or have the old man shoo them off with a scatter gun.” Johnny said with a laugh.

“ Let’s go home boys.” Murdoch said.

“ You know Murdoch, that night my mother took me away from you, we both ended up being wrongfully convicted.” Johnny said as they started down the hill to home.

April 2, 2021


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