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Layers by Olley

Word Count 830

Set shortly after the High Riders.  Murdoch has organised a social at Lancer.    


Mamacita returned from the great room with a tray piled high with empty plates to find Johnny slumped at the kitchen table.  “Juanito nino you should be with the guests.”

Johnny smiled slightly as he rose to take the tray from her. “Don’t like my fun organised.” Truth was he didn’t feel like he belonged in there with Murdoch’s friends and their families.  Scott now he was in his element all smiles and polite conversation.

Maria narrowed her eyes. “Ai Ai you are the patron’s son Juanito, you should be in there not sulking in here.”

He put his arm around her, this little woman understood and loved him. With her he could relax and be himself, not be on his guard or watch his words.

“Sit we will talk.”

Johnny did as he was told, resting his head on his left hand watching as she made a mug of hot chocolate. He drew a pattern on the table with the fore-finger of his right hand and felt the tension in his body flow out.

The chocolate drink was just how he liked it, sweet with a hint of cinnamon, it reminded him the times his mama would make him hot chocolate of her telling him she loved him. “Gracias mamacita.”

Maria sat opposite him in front of her a plate a knife and an onion.  He raised his eyebrows at her.

“You are a clever boy Juanito but you need to learn to look past the outside appearances of these guests.” Using the knife she carefully peeled the skin off the onion.

“Those who do not know you only see the Mexican pistolero but……”

 “I see many layers in you, kindness, sadness a sense of justice. I see how you wish to claim your place at Lancer.

“Them out there…” Johnny waved his hand towards the door that led to the great room, “they only see Madrid or at least a mestizo that Murdoch Lancer should send on his way.”

“Your Papa and hermano they are learning to peel away your layers. It is their opinion that is of prime importance to you eh?”

Johnny had to admit to the truth of that, “Si.” He sighed.

Mamacita continued carefully peeling the onion layers. “You are not the only one with many layers. Senior Scott there is so much more to him than the eastern gringo who first arrived. If you peel away his politeness there is strength and determination. You have seen this?”

Johnny thought back to those first days, Scott not backing down to Pardee’s men, throwing that unexpected punch. Heck even saving his life when Day had the drop on him. “Yeah there sure is more to him than those pretty clothes and fine manners.”

The onion layers were still slowly peeling away, “Your papa he has many layers.”

Maria looked up from the plate into Johnny’s eyes and he felt guilt at the anger that surged through him. “He sure has; all of ‘em tough.  Always the tune caller putting Lancer first.” He pushed his chair back, the scrapping noise loud in the quiet of the kitchen.

Maria paused, the knife steady in her hand and waited.

“Lo siento mamacita I know, I know there is more to my ol’e …. “  he saw the look of disapproval of her face, “my father. I guess Scott’s mama dying and Garrett stealing Scott left a mark. Then my mama…” Johnny stared down at his hands now wrapped around the empty mug. He knew about pain and loss and how to bury it. When he looked back up Maria was looking so kindly at him it brought a lump to his throat. “Okay, okay I see he has layers of pain an’ loss.”

“Your papa has lived a full life he has many layers for you to discover.”

Johnny had to laugh, the housekeeper on the face of it a quiet efficient but unassuming woman was in fact like most strong Mexican mothers a force to be reckoned with. “And you mamacita have many layers.”

The housekeeper reached over and put her hand on his cheek, “All women have more layers than most men can imagine. It is a good man who knows this.” She smiled at Johnny, “The guests in there…” she waved towards the door like he had done. “They have layers for you to discover, you must have learnt there is a difference between friends and men who you must do business with eh?”

She sure was right there, all those no account gunhawks and greedy landowners he had hired on to in range wars. The onion layers had been peeled away and lay on the plate. He grinned at her and pointed to them. “You gonn’a make some sopa cebolla for me mamacita?”

“Shoo nino go be the patron’s son, peel away the layers.”

June 2017


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