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The Lion and the Lamb -WHN by Olley

Word Count 988

Written for the Lancer Writers January 2023 Challenge – ‘Betrayal’

Episode Tag The Lion and The Lamb

Murdoch POV

My six o’clock evening meal deadline was well past, and I stood, simply staring out towards the arch willing my boys to ride home.

It had been ten days since Lucy died and the sheepman and his flock moved on. Ten days during which I had watched Johnny Lancer slowly fade away and Johnny Madrid resurface. Scott and I had allowed Johnny time and space to grieve for a girl he had loved, perhaps too much time.

I became aware of Maria stood at my side. “Ah Patron, Juanito is finding it difficult to understand why he was betrayed by one he thought a friend, or his heart broken by the young senorita Lucy.” She shook her head, hands wringing her apron betraying her own worry. “He thought he had left such pain behind.”

“Maria pack some food it looks like I’ll be camping out with my sons tonight.”  My housekeeper of so many years certainly knew when to push me into action.

Cipriano nodded knowingly at my asking of the boys’ whereabouts and confirmed Johnny was in the small gully he used when practising his gun skills.

At the entrance to the gully I sat and tried to read the situation.  Scott was grooming the horses, Johnny was reloading his gun, gunsmoke hung in the still air.  Of course, he knew I was there, even I could see his shoulders tense but he didn’t turn around. He relaxed and five shots hit the innocent already mangled cans.

I rode in and dismounted, I tried to keep my voice soft. “I think you will be needing new cans, those poor things can not take much more.”

Scott took my horse as I removed my saddle bags, I saw his face was set in the stubborn frown I’m told looks like mine. I smiled at him hoping to reassure him I had not come to bellow orders.

Johnny turned, “You got something to say, old man?”

“Only I have fetched food and drink. I miss eating and drinking with my sons.” I knew I had to tread carefully.

I saw him chew his bottom lip and for a moment his Madrid mask slipped. His eyes gave it away and he knows it because his head goes down and he hugs himself. Between us we make a camp and eat in silence, not that he eats much; but when I produce a bottle of tequila for him and scotch for Scott and myself plus three tin mugs they both smile.

Johnny sips his drink, he is a sensible drinker he has learned along the way that drunks and guns are not a good mix. I take a good mouthful, I need a little dutch courage and dive straight in. “Right now Johnny, I suspect you are as angry and disappointed with yourself as you are with Gabe and Lucy.”

Scott reached over and topped up my drink, we both stayed quiet waiting for Johnny to react.

He was on his feet pacing up and down pushing his hat off to hang down his back and rubbing his left hand through his hair, his right hand resting on his gun grip. “Damn right I’m angry; like a fool, I forgot my own rule about not giving anyone too much credit. Hell, John Madrid wouldn’t have let that smooth-talking sheepman buffalo him into pushing woollies onto cattleman land.”

I watched him kick the dirt in frustration. “Johnny Lancer has a kind and generous heart and as I told you I was proud you were keeping your promise to him.  Johnny, it’s that side of your character that kept your soul safe during your border town years.”

Johnny waved his hand, his voice hard. “Phooey, you keep telling yourself that Murdoch.”

“No son, it’s true, each of us has different sides to our personalities. I’ve seen your brother use his Garrett skills negotiating at cattleman meetings and politely fighting off mothers with marriageable daughters. I’m not talking about Harlan’s ruthless business techniques, I’m talking about his mother’s expertise at talking most everybody round to her point of view, including me at times.” I raised an eyebrow in Scott’s direction. “And me, the brawling young Scot, is still there but buried under layers of the Californian rancher. One day Johnny your Madrid personality will not be so close to the surface.”

My son stood there his bottom lip pushed out, his fingers playing on his gun belt.

It was Scott who spoke. “Gabe knew running his flock on our land would cause trouble; he shouldn’t have asked that of you. He betrayed your good nature and you shouldn’t blame yourself for offering help, after all, brother you do have a habit of putting yourself on the side of the underdog.”

Johnny sat and drank his tequila. “Damn it Scott I trusted him and with Lucy and she died!”

There it was, the real reason for his pain and anger; my boy blaming himself for Lucy’s death. I could feel my own anger rise. “She made a choice, I know it hurts, but don’t let her betrayal of your trust in her break your heart.”

Scott nudged him. “She chose the bad boy over the local boy, how about that Johnny?”

Johnny sniffed but glanced over at me; the look that passed between us told me he understood I had been talking from experience. “Been disappointed by pretty faces before, guess Lucy wanted more than I could offer. Just never saw it coming.”

I nodded at him and cleared a lump from my throat at his unspoken sympathy for me. “Johnny you are not a fool for looking for the good in people, this time it led to disappointment and heartache, but there will be a next time and your trust will be rewarded.”

January 2023


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14 thoughts on “The Lion and the Lamb -WHN by Olley

  1. Thank you for writing. This I enjoyed reading Murduch’s thoughts.
    It would have been nice if we had heard more of Johnny’s thoughts at the end of the episode, this fills the gap nicely

    Liked by 1 person

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