Missing scenes to include more of Johnny, Scott & Teresa.
Word count: 2,955
Scene 01: Breakfast, the day after Murdoch introduced Elizabeth Cramer to his family.
Scott and Teresa watched as I poured my cup of coffee. I forced my shoulders to relax as I looked up at them. “Ok, before with the questions…yes, I crossed paths with Lizzie Cramer when she was trading in the robbery business and I was trading as Madrid. Last time was probably four years ago. And no, I didn’t join her gang of bandits. Didn’t know then she knew Murdoch and seems she didn’t know then I was born Johnny Lancer.”
Scott shook his head, his eyebrows raised. “For a big country, it’s a small world.”
“Ain’t that a fact.” I looked at my coffee and pushed the cup around.
Teresa, sweet kid that she is, patted my hand. “Mrs Cramer isn’t here to cause trouble for you. She is here to make a home for herself and her daughter, and Murdoch is going to help her to settle into a new life.”
I let out a breath. “I like Lizzie Cramer and I sure do hope her new life works out for her and her daughter.”
That seemed to be what Teresa wanted to hear ‘cos she was up and fussing at the stove, beating eggs and chattering about the betrothal fiesta in Morro Coyo we were expected at that evening. Scott can read me and knew I was about to refuse to go to that fandango, so he got in quick as Teresa put his ham and eggs in front of him.
“Do you remember Jenny, Teresa?”
Teresa put her head to one side, giving it some thought. “Ten years ago the schoolhouse in Green River hadn’t been open very long. She is a little younger than me and I don’t think she was there for very long…most of my childhood friends were the other children here on the ranch, so I can’t say I remember her.”
Scott nodded, “Understandable. Anyway, I think it will be a good idea if we three attend tonight’s fiesta. It will allow Murdoch and Mrs Cramer some privacy while he becomes more…” he paused and smiled, “…acquainted with her interesting past and future plans.”
Teresa actually giggled.
That’s Scott. You can usually depend on him to be a romantic. Me, I’m more a realist with my instinct telling me Lizzie’s good intentions weren’t no guarantee against her past coming back to, as I told her, nudge her some.
We were due to stay over in Morro Coyo for two nights celebrating Senor Baldemero’s daughter getting engaged, but before we left I made sure I had a quiet word with Murdoch to let him know of my worries. “I know Lizzie said she has left her past life behind, but those men she led—they haven’t got any reason to leave that life behind. I’m thinking I should give the fiesta a miss and stay here. After all, you need to go to that meeting in Green River tonight.”
I looked down and kicked at the dust with the toe of my boot. I felt Murdoch take hold of my arms with those big gentle hands of his and I looked up.
“Son, you have taught me new beginnings are possible. If Johnny Madrid and his reputation can do it, then Elizabeth Cramer, who does not have a reputation, surely can.”
Boy, my ol man sure does look to give credit to folk. And like Scott suggested, the Lancer eye for a pretty female is still alive and well in him. “Yeah, but I remember her ‘boys’. There was one called Clayt, her second in command…he was the dangerous one. We need to keep a lookout for him showing up.”
Murdoch nodded. “It’s good of you to worry on her behalf, but I trust her when she told me she had made it clear to them she is making a new life for her daughter. Jenny is due at the end of the week. In the meantime you, Scott, and Teresa go and represent Lancer and enjoy Senor Baldermeros’ hospitality. Cipriano and the work crew should have finished the repairs at her house by then.”
I put aside my misgivings and smiled as an obedient son would.
Scene 02: Lizzie is about to leave Lancer with a wounded Mossy and her boys.
Scott and Teresa had done nothing but grumble at me for leaving Morro Coyo before daybreak. I’d told them I was going and Scott had insisted if I was going back so was he and then Teresa stamped her foot and said she wouldn’t be left behind, and I didn’t have time to argue. That feeling in the pit of my stomach I’d had ever since Lizzie had shown up was gnawing at me. At the vantage point, I stood in my stirrups to look across our land.
Scott stood in the buggy, “Trouble?”
“Probably. You and Teresa take the back road and then cover me from the stable.” I didn’t wait to listen to any arguments. I rode fast and low to the hacienda front entrance—sometimes a full-on frontal attack is a better tactic against an unsuspecting opponent. A cloud of dust rose as I pulled Barranca to a sharp halt and everyone stopped what they were doing. Murdoch didn’t seem unduly aggravated at my arrival, but my attention was focused on the one I recognised as Clayt.
Lizzie was about to drive a wagon carrying an injured kid, Murdoch stood in the doorway with a pretty young girl at his side. I let my hand rest on my colt and allowed Madrid to appear.
“Everything okay, Murdoch?”
“Yes son, it will be. Elizabeth is taking this young man to her place.”
I looked at her. “That a fact, Lizzie?”
“That’s a fact, Johnny. And these boys are coming with me, so there’s no need for any trouble.”
I gave Clayt a long hard look and as I saw recognition in his eyes I smiled at him, the smile I save for when I’m called out.
Lizzie set the wagon off and they left. The girl turned and ran inside.
“You want to tell me what’s been going on?”
Murdoch sat himself behind his desk and ran a hand through that head of grey hair of his. He took the glass of his best scotch Scott handed him. “I owe you an apology, Johnny. Elizabeth’s gang tried to rob the general store in Spanish Wells. The boy took a bullet and they came looking for her to doctor him.”
I shook my head, “So they knew she was here. Must have been keeping watch on her.” I sniffed. “That Clayt ain’t going to let her go easily. Probably as well you had the girl with you when you did show up. Lizzie wouldn’t allow for any trouble with her daughter around.”
Scott gave me a hard look. “You mean to say you think Murdoch’s life was in danger?”
“Yep, that Clayt he always acted like Lizzie was his. He has a bad streak in him that only Lizzie can keep a lid on. I’ll bet money he doesn’t want little Jenny in Lizzie’s life, either.”
Murdoch gave me one of those long sad looks of his and drank some more. “I don’t think for a moment Elizabeth will choose those men over her daughter.”
“Aw Murdoch, she already has by choosing to nurse young Mossy. The lawful thing would have been to get Val and a posse to arrest them and for Sam Jenkins to do the doctoring.”
Scott coughed. “The lawful way. Not the Madrid way?”
“Yes, Scott, I don’t want or need to tangle with those men. They know me as Madrid and the only way to get the better of me would be back shooting. Only Lizzie can put this right.”
Murdoch again ran his hand through his hair. “Perhaps Elizabeth and Jenny should go back east. Jenny has not had a good re-introduction to her mother or the west and it has unsettled her. She doesn’t want to stay but they need time to get to know one another…and Elizabeth does need to get away from her old life. We’ll let her have a few days to nurse the boy and talk some sense into those men of hers.”
I shrugged. It sounded good but that depended on Clayt agreeing to disappear from Lizzie’s life.
For the rest of the day I managed to stay away from Jenny. I found an excuse not to be at the evening meal, telling myself I wasn’t being cowardly at not wanting to answer any questions she might have. I told myself I was being thoughtful as Jenny would find me too rough, too much like those men her mother had gone off with.
The next day Scott found me checking fences and making quick repairs. It’s boring but always makes me smile knowing it’s the opposite of what I did in the past.
“Hey, Johnny, you were missed last night and at breakfast.”
I looked up at him, the golden son, my brother. “Thought I’d give Murdoch a chance to talk to Jenny without a rough cowboy causing her some more worries. You know, the black sheep son…”
He pushed his hat back and shook his head at me. “Baloney.”
I put my hands on my hips and glared. “Come on, Scott. That little Eastern girl has been frightened by Lizzie’s men and let’s face it. I’m not that much different from them.”
“Again, baloney. First you are not a rough cowboy or a black sheep. You are very different from those men. Second, you had no problems being you with Eastern girls like Miss Warburton and Melissa Harper.”
I scowled at him. “Tallie and Melissa were different.”
“How? From what I saw and heard, you were positively a knight in shining armour for them.”
“Not funny, Scott. I ain’t no storybook hero and them gals were more willing to give living out here a chance. Anyway, I reckoned you were the best one to understand how a person who appreciates the eastern way of life would think of her reunion with her mother and what is supposed to be her new home.”
“Fair point. I have tried to talk to her, telling her it took me a little time to adjust but that in my experience, having family turns a place into a home. I understand Murdoch has had a couple of fatherly talks with her and Teresa has had a girly heart to heart telling her some of our family history. I still think it would be a good idea for you to talk to her, to let her see new beginnings are possible.”
Scott let me keep my peace. He’s good at not pushing too hard. He looked up at the sky. “Is there not some small detail of your past history with Lizzie that you could share with Jenny? Let her know even good people stray off the straight and narrow, that her mother is more than just the leader of a bandit gang.”
I went to Barranca and patted his neck. Talking about my past makes me edgy. One small story will lead to another, and most are best left in the past. I mounted and we rode nice and slow along the fence line. “Okay, the first time I met Lizzie I was still new at hiring out my gun. Got myself caught in some crossfire and took a bullet. It was Lizzie who dug it out and nursed me through the fever. She wanted me to stay and become one of her boys. Said no, told her I wasn’t good at taking orders—she sure could boss her boys about! Told her I wasn’t looking to get my face on a wanted poster. She took it well. Heck that woman does like to act like a mother hen though, fussing over me before she was sure I was well enough to ride on. Last time we met was when I’d been hired as protection by a haulage business.” I looked over at Scott. “Long story short. It came to my attention there was a robbery planned, so I had a conversation with Mrs Cramer. I kept my side of a bargain and didn’t have to fight off any bandits, collected my pay and went on my way.”
Scott nodded and stayed looking straight ahead. “So Lizzie Cramer is kind and caring and you like her and let’s face it, Johnny, you are very careful who you class as a friend. You could tell Jenny that.”
Scene 03: That evening at Lancer
I let Jenny find me sitting on the bench in Teresa’s garden. It’s a quiet spot. “Hey, Jenny, guess it’s time for you and me to talk.” I used my gentle voice, the one that seems to work on nervous foals.
She looked so young and serious. “I’m told that you and my mother know each other?”
“Yes, and you’ll have been told something of my living by myself before I came home to Lancer. It was during that time our paths crossed.” I smiled, hoping to encourage her to if not like me, to at least trust me.
She stayed standing near the end of the bench. “Your father has explained those men were road agents and robbers who worked for my mother. Did you work for her, Johnny?”
“No Jenny, never did.” I shrugged. “I was a kid, no more than fourteen and your Mama nursed me back to health one time after I got hurt. Over the next few years, we came across each other a couple of times.” I looked up at her standing there frowning and wringing her hands. “Come on and sit down. I ain’t going to bite you.”
She perched like a little bitty bird at the far end of the bench. Least I wasn’t going to get a crick in my neck looking up at her. “You notice she called those men her boys”
She nodded. “She seemed to be fond of the one who had been shot.”
“Yeah, well, your Mama acts like a mother hen to all the men who work for her. She has a lot of kindness in her that she needs to share. I like her, Jenny. Mrs Elizabeth Cramer is a good person. When I was a kid in those border towns there weren’t that many of those.”
“But she was a criminal.”
I held my hand up, “I know, I know she has done some bad things but I tell you, Jenny, I’ve met lawful folk who don’t have a good bone in their bodies.”
I sighed and tried to find the right words. “I’m guessing that the life and schooling she sent you back east for cost a great deal.”
Jenny sat up straight and shot me a hard look. “You’re saying she ran a gang of robbers so she could pay for my schooling?”
“I dunno that for sure Jenny. You’ll have to ask her yourself. The Lizzie I knew didn’t live the life of a rich person so her share of the jobs went somewhere.”
“Your father has told me he tried to help after my father was sent to prison. We could have stayed here.” She sounded so lost, just like my Mama used to when times were hard.
I closed my eyes. This conversation was painful. I shook my head. “To stay would have meant living with the reputation of being the wife of Dolph Cramer, a convicted thief. A proud woman like Lizzie would have found that impossible. All I know is once she decided to make her own way, a lady like your Mama wouldn’t have had too many paths to choose to travel.”
We both sat still and quiet. The stars and the moon hadn’t fallen out of the sky. I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding and reached out to take her hand. She was trembling.
“If you and your Mama are anything like us Lancers, it won’t all be sunshine and roses. When me and Scott came home we found Murdoch had built some high walls around his heart. Me, I was full of hate, and Scott had this cold anger barely under control. It’s taken time and us rubbing the hard edges of each other to get to where we are now.”
She nodded. “Scott told me it took time to adjust.”
“Yeah, adjust. That time and your willingness to accept each other.”
“Thank you, Johnny, for telling me about my mother. I think it’s time for me to act like an adult and not a spoilt child. I’ll go to her tomorrow. Perhaps it will be possible for us to have a new beginning.
Scene 04: Next morning
Me and Scott watched as Murdoch set off in the buggy taking Jenny to Lizzie.
I pulled my hat low over my eyes. “I’m going to follow Murdoch and Jenny, just in case of any trouble.”
“I’m coming with you. Lancer looking after its own, as Murdoch would say.”
We were too late. My heart sank as I saw Murdoch storm into that burning house. Those long legs of his sure can cover a lot of ground. By the time Scott and I had got there he was out carrying a body. My heart skipped a beat, grateful it was my father leaving that building.
Scott must have felt the same as his hand clutched at my arm. “Poor Jenny, her mother lost to her before that new beginning could even start.”
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