Episode tags for The Rivals.
Word count: 2,030
– Set before the scene when Johnny has a talk with Murdoch about the gossip in town.
“Mr Scott Lancer.”
Scott closed his eyes for a moment, straightened his shoulders and turned around. “Mrs Higgis.”
Green Rivers’ most notorious gossip and wife of Mayor Higgis was bearing down the boardwalk towards him. He glanced around, Johnny who had been making his way towards him just a few moments ago was nowhere in sight. ‘Coward’ he thought.
He waited for the short stern-faced older lady to come to halt then raised his hat to her. “Good day, Mrs Higgis.”
“Mr Lancer I need to speak to you.” She emphasised her determination to speak by banging her parasol down on the wooden boardwalk.
Scott plastered his most polite smile on and waited.
Mrs Higgis took a deep breath and the feather in her hat shook in Scott’s face. “It is with regard to your father and the gossip in town. I have heard it said the widow Conway is to marry on the rebound from him to Mr Buck Addison.” Without allowing Scott to respond she continued. “Now I am sure Mr. Addison is a respectable businessman; he has, after all, in only a short while brought a good deal of new business to Green River. Although I and others are concerned at the number of orientals in his workforce and the fact some men wear their guns low, just like that wayward son of Murdoch Lancer.”
Scott raised his eyebrow and adopted his best Boston accent “Madam, firstly, I am not prepared to discuss my father’s friendship with Mrs Conway in the street; it is not becoming. Secondly, a person’s ability to bring in new business is not necessarily equal to their respectability. Thirdly, I can assure you there is no reason to be concerned about the Chinese workforce Addison has brought in to construct a rail spur.” He raised himself up into full Lieutenant Lancer mode and looked Mrs Higgis in the eye. “Johnny, my brother, is not wayward. He is a hardworking rancher and partner in the largest ranch in the San Joaquin Valley. That is more than can be said for the newcomers who wear their guns low.”
For a minute Scott waited for Mrs Higgis to respond. She pursed her lips. “Scott, it has been understood by most folks since before you returned from back east that Murdoch would eventually realise the second Mrs Lancer was out of his life. Agatha Conway has been out of mourning long enough and it would be seemly for the pair of them to seal their close friendship in marriage.”
With that pronouncement, she turned and flounced off, the feather in her hat waving with each step.
Scott sighed and turned to see Johnny watching from a nearby shop front.
“Mrs Higgis bending your ear ‘bout the gossip surrounding Murdoch and Aggie?” Johnny pulled his hat low to hide his eyes as he turned to watch her cross over the road towards the general store she and the mayor ran.
Trying to gauge his brother’s mood, Scott stepped towards him. “Oh yes, I take it you have heard the talk is that Aggie has only accepted Addison’s proposal on the rebound because our father has not been forthcoming with his own.”
“Yep, had to stop Jelly throwing a punch at a Conway hand in the saloon. Bigger problem is Higgis has suspended credit for the Lancer account, says cash only.”
Johnny spun on his heels away from watching Mrs Higgis to face Scott.
“Really, and you resolved that problem how?” Scott grinned.
Johnny grinned back, “With some well-chosen words, just some words, Scott.”
Scott laughed and patted Johnny on his shoulder. “Just words?”
“Well, I may have given him my best Madrid look.” Johnny looked down at his boots as he scuffed them and made his spurs jingle.
“And patted your gun, brother, I bet.” Scott pushed his hat to the back of his head. “I think you should go on back and tell Murdoch about this gossip.”
The flash of horror on Johnny’s face was quickly replaced “Me, tell our father? No way, Scott, that’ll be your duty as the older wiser son.”
“I have some other business to conclude; you will be fine. After all, I know you have a soft spot for Aggie.” Scott punched Johnny on his arm.
A slight blush creeped across his brother’s cheeks and his ears turned pink. “So what other business are you concluding? You sure you don’t need me to back you up?” Johnny stepped back to look Scott properly up and down.
Scott pulled his gloves on and straightened his hat. “If I can trust Johnny Madrid to keep Addison’s paid help in line without getting himself into trouble, can you trust me to put into practice lessons learned as Harlan Garrett’s grandson?”
Johnny pursed his lips and tilted his head to one side “It’s a deal; you stay out’ta trouble an’ so will I.”
Scott looked over towards the telegraph office, mentally wording various enquires he would send off.
– Set after Murdoch and Buck fight, before the tea party scene.
The narrow trail that led from Lancer to the Circle C was not suitable for pushing cattle and so only used by riders. A simple board nailed to a post had for years been the marker for the Lancer boundary.
Scott reined his horse to a halt and studied the area. There was now wire strung across the single trail and a board on the Conway side declared, “Private land. Trespassers will be shot.”
There were no Addison men around, Johnny had, during the previous night cut the wire across the public road and driven some Conway cattle onto Lancer land. All of Addison’s men and some of the regular Conway cowboys were rounding them up and repairing the fence. And Scott thought, probably keeping a look out for Johnny.
Scott tore down the wire and the new board and put that in his saddle bag.
The Conway house was quiet, Aggie’s beloved cutting horses milling around the corrals. Scott smiled when he saw her lead a mare and foal out of a barn; there was no sign of Addison.
He walked his horse into the yard and dismounted. “Good morning, Aggie; that is a fine looking foal.”
Aggie smiled up at him “Good morning to you, Scott Lancer. This sweet little thing is going to be a beauty. Now what fetches you here on a work day; no trouble I hope?”
Scott peeled off his gloves and patted the foal; it seemed obvious to him she was unaware of the fence line problem. “Only your cattle breaking through the new fencing over on the Mendoza road. Johnny and Cipriano are overseeing our side of things.” He smiled and kept his voice light.
Aggie frowned “New fencing; when did you put that up?”
“Lancer didn’t.” Scott waited for her to understand what he had said.
“It was Buck’s doing, wasn’t it, after he bought out Senor Mendoza? But that road through his place has always been a right of way for Lancer.” She shook her head “Buck is so very conscious of his holdings; he is still learning how we work together here in the valley. I will have a word with him.”
Scott nodded. “He does seem to have brought his city business methods with him. I came through here along the single track and found it closed with wire and this sign.” He took the board out of his saddlebag.
Aggie’s face fell. “That is unacceptable; how dare he?”
“Now Aggie, I don’t mean to upset you or cause problems with your relationship with your fiancée. In all probability, he may have done this before he and my father had that fight and then at your insistence reached an understanding.”
Scott watched as she tapped her foot. “Probably. Now help me put this mare and foal in the paddock then we can have a cold lemonade.”
They were sat on the veranda sipping a cool drink when Addison rode in. His face went dark with anger when he saw Scott.
He dismounted and tied his horse to the post. “Aggie, I didn’t know we were expecting company?”
“Now Buck, here in California, neighbours can call on each other without a prior formal invitation. You will have to get used to our more relaxed ways. Sit down and I will fetch more lemonade.” Aggie gave him a peck on the cheek and hurried off into her house.
Addison glared at Scott. “Is there something I can do for you, Lancer?”
Scott eased up from his chair. “Let us take a walk.”
When they were far enough away from the house where their voices wouldn’t be heard, Scott turned and eyed Addison. “I understand business, Addison, but when your emotions rule your head mistakes are made. Let me assure you, I have no interest in trying to break Aggie’s desire to marry you. However, you need to understand she is strong, independent and very, very capable. I made the mistake when I first came west of expecting western women to be in need of the same delicate protection from business and the world at large the woman in Boston society were given. My advice to you is, don’t expect her to appreciate being kept in the dark or treated like a china doll.”
Addison’s voice was hard. “How dare you…you young upstart, give me advice on how I conduct myself!”
Scott resisted throwing a punch as his father or brother would have done. “Did you, in your blind rush to destroy Murdoch Lancer, your rival for the fair Mrs Conway, make enquires about Johnny or myself?”
He waited for Addison’s temper to subside and as there was no immediate response, continued. “I am the sole heir to Harlan Garrett of Boston who I know you have heard of. In addition, I have my own, not inconsiderable trust fund. I invest wisely. You will not destroy Lancer through your financial dealings.”
Scott turned away to gaze into the distance. “Acme holdings and the bank which you currently head has a number of investors and the Board of Directors can be persuaded it is not in their own or the business’s best interests to be used in personal battles.”
Scott turned back to look directly at Addison; this was business, down and dirty, as learned at Harlan Garrett’s feet.
Addison gave a single nod. “I understand you.”
Scott cleared his throat, a small smile on his lips. “My brother, Johnny; have you been told of his background?”
“Aggie has explained his mother returned to Mexico with him when he was still a small child. He has only recently returned, as you did.”
A short laugh escaped Scott, “That explains why your men have been so reckless around him. You should know my brother used to go by the name Madrid; I expect your hired protection will have heard that name. Tell them they are dismissed.”
Addison looked puzzled. “Your younger brother would go against Mr Kling and his men?”
“Only if your gun hands are foolish enough to try. My brother can read a man and knows all there is to know about facing down hired guns. I, too, can read a man, especially one who is using dubious business practices. If there is any, and I mean any, gunplay or threat to my family, I will bankrupt you and destroy what little reputation you may have. Make no mistake, Mr Addison; Lancer looks after its own. Do I make myself clear?”
Addison had gone pale and looked nervous as he caught sight of Aggie Conway on the veranda waving at him.
Scott held out his hand “If you agree to be satisfied that Mrs Conway has chosen you over my father and your own men leave, I will keep my side of the bargain.”
Addison shook his hand.
Scott rode out with an invitation for the three Lancers to come for dinner the following Sunday and a promise all the fences would be removed.
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