Word count: 6,600
San Francisco was cold damp and foggy; in Johnny’s opinion, the train couldn’t arrive soon enough. He wanted to go home and sit in front of a large roaring fire to fall asleep listening to Murdoch and Scott discussing whatever book Scott was reading.
Stamping his feet he shrugged further into his jacket, adjusting the saddlebag on his shoulder. He smiled as he patted his wallet; the reason he was in the city had been to represent Lancer at a Cattlemen’s meeting. The ol’e man had called his tune: “I have a son who has a reputation for being able to read a man. It’s time you put that talent to good use and find out who stands with Lancer over the proposed legislation that will affect our water rights.”
Of course, he put up a fight, it was expected of him, pointing out Scott was far better at those kinds of meetings; secretly, though, he was pleased Murdoch trusted him.
It had gone better than he could hope, keeping quiet and listening closely to the arguments, doing what he was good at, reading a man. He had soon identified those who were of the same opinion as the Lancers and now he had in his wallet signed letters supporting Murdoch.
Even through foggy air, he could hear the train was approaching and he breathed a sigh of relief.
The carriage door directly in front of him opened and he had to take a step back as a small boy leapt out.
Johnny caught hold of the child. “Whoa there young ‘un, is there a reason to dismount like a wild Indian?”
A fair blue-eyed boy probably 7 or 8 years old looked up at him and blinked. “Beg’in your pardon, sir, I just had to stretch my legs after being sat still for so long.”
It was his turn to blink. “I know just how that feels. Now, are your folks somewhere among this crowd?”
Johnny kept his hand on the boy’s shoulder and scanned the people getting out of the carriages.
“Samuel Hugh Garrett, where are you?” A woman’s voice edged with panic attracted his attention.
The boy stood on tiptoe and waved. “Here, Mammy, here.” He turned to face Johnny. “There’s my Mammy; she might be bit cross with me.”
All he could think was ‘Garrett!’ as the boy’s mother stood in front of him. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes wide.
“What have I told you, Samuel, about running about? I am sorry, sir if he has caused you any distress.”
“No, Ma’am.” Johnny took a breath. “Mrs Garrett.” He took his hand off the boy’s shoulder and raised his hat, looking fully at the young woman. She was wearing a bonnet from which fair hair was escaping and in a heart-shaped face blue eyes looked from him down to her son.
“Name’s Johnny, Ma’am, Johnny Lancer.”
There was no reaction from her to his introduction. “Thank you, Mr Lancer, for keeping my son safe; we shouldn’t keep you.” She took the child’s hand.
He noticed she had a large carpet bag in her other hand. At that moment he made a decision. “Can I help you with that, Ma’am?” he said and pointed at the bag. “Seems like you have your hands full with young Samuel.”
“That is most kind, but shouldn’t you be boarding this train?”
Johnny smiled. “They’ll be another one day after tomorrow; I have the time.” Time, he thought, to find out if this pretty lady was related to Scott and Harlan. “So Mrs Garrett, if you hand me that carpet bag and lead the way I will escort you and the boy home.”
He could see she was thinking: would it be seemly to accept this offer from a stranger?
“Let me introduce myself properly. Like I said I’m Johnny Lancer, part owner of a ranch with my father and brother down in the San Joaquin Valley. I’ve been here in San Francisco for a cattlemen’s meeting.”
The boy grinned “Are you a cowboy, sir?”
Johnny bent down pushed his hat back and looked Samuel Hugh Garrett face to face. “You could say that but I prefer horses to cows.”
He straightened up adjusted his hat and reached over to take the carpetbag. “Ma’am?”
Mrs Garrett sighed. “I am to take a position as a governess but that is not for another two days. My plan was to find a respectable boarding house for the two days and take the time to get to know the city.”
Johnny nodded – he had guessed when no one had met her she was a stranger to San Francisco. “Well, the hotel I was in was a mite too big and fancy but I know of a nice respectable boarding house. It’s about a ten-minute walk but I could hail a cab if you prefer?”
The young lady shook her head. “Oh, I think a walk is just what we need after sitting on that train, isn’t it, Samuel?”
Samuel gave a little jump. “Yes please, Mammy.”
“Good that’s settled.” Johnny looked down at the boy. “You just mind you keep a hold of your mother’s hand. The streets are crowded and we don’t want to lose you.”
It was a little more than ten minutes walking through the early lunchtime crowds but Johnny slowed his pace to match his companions and pointed out things he thought would be of interest. The boarding house was run by the widow of a rancher he had once worked for. It was clean and respectable and the landlady Dottie McFarlane was old enough to be his grandmother.
Johnny made the introductions, suffering a good-natured hug and kiss from Dottie. In addition to a room for Mrs Garrett and Samuel, he took a room for himself.
Dottie returned from showing the mother and son their room and raised her eyebrows at Johnny. “Mrs Garrett?”
“I know, when I heard the name, talk about surprised. She doesn’t know the name Lancer and I’m guessing she is a widow.”
Dottie opened a cupboard took out two glasses and a bottle of whiskey. “That’s a British accent she has, but you’re wondering if she is related to your brother Scott?”
Johnny sipped his drink. “Gotta be curious.” He put his arm around Dottie. “But how are you doing, Dottie?”
He had been about sixteen when he worked for Rueben McFarlane, hiring on as protection driving cattle through bandit country outside El Paso, Texas. A year later he went back that way and Rueben had passed away and Dottie was packing up. He had asked what her plans were and she had shrugged and waved at the land.
“Can’t work this without him and no kids to leave it to. Sold out to the Kane outfit for a fair price.” She had looked sad but shrugged that off as well. “Reckon I need some life and company – I have a fancy to see San Francisco.”
Now Dottie patted Johnny on his cheek. “I’m doing just fine. Respectable guests and made friends hereabouts. And my favourite cowboy calls by.”
Johnny ducked his head down.
At that moment Mrs Garrett and Samuel appeared. Dottie took charge. “Well young man, can you come and help me make a pot of tea and slice up some cake?”
Samuel looked at his mother for approval before nodding and following the landlady out to the kitchen.
Johnny quickly finished his drink and put the glass down, no time for beating about the bush. “Mrs Garrett, I have a confession.”
She was stood by a chair and suddenly looked pale.
“No Ma’am, please don’t be scared, sit please.” Johnny kept his distance so as to cause her any concern. Once she was seated he continued. “You see Ma’am I know the name, Garrett.”
She let out a small gasp and clutched her hands together.
Johnny took a chance and hunkered down in front of her. “My brother Scott, he is Scott Garrett Lancer.” He watched her face, there was no flicker of recognition, no tell. “His grandfather is Harlan Garrett of Boston.”
Still no tell. “You don’t know him or have been to Boston?” Johnny waited as she shook her head.
She composed herself. “No, we landed in New York to be met by relatives of my uncle who has a shipping business in Liverpool. I am not aware of any relatives in Boston.”
Johnny smiled “I guess you’re not aware of all your husband’s family.”
She gave a huff and straightened her shoulders. “Garrett is my family name. I do not use my husband’s.”
Johnny made a small “Oh” and blinked. Memories of his own childhood and more recently Jessamie and Grady sprang into his mind. “Ma’am it’s okay. California is a place where folks can change their name and make new starts. I understand that.”
She smiled at him. “Perhaps a small drink of that whiskey to settle my nerves and I will tell you a tale.”
Johnny did as he was bid and waited while her she sipped a little of the whiskey. “I met and fell in love with a man, who said his name was Ned Wilson. He was a travelling salesman; we courted and married and took lodgings in a nice place close to my family. We were happy and then Samuel came along. But two years ago he didn’t come home from his business trip; there was no word from him. My brothers – I have four brothers – became concerned and enquires were made.”
After sipping some more whiskey she looked at Johnny and took a deep breath. “Ned had another family.”
Johnny kept still and quiet, knowing there was more she needed to tell.
“The man I married, the father of my son, was a bigamist. It is a crime and what it makes Samuel …” she shuddered. “But the shame it brought on my family – I could not stay, I had to leave to make a new life.”
“Ma’am, the shame isn’t yours; you didn’t know so there is no blame.” He reached out and held her hand.
“Even so, well, I come from a large close family, Mr Lancer, and my Uncle, my Aunt Florence’s husband, has relatives in New York; arrangements were made for Samuel and I to make that new life here in California.”
“Mrs Garrett, take my word for it as I said before, California is just the place for new starts with whatever name you choose.”
At that moment Dottie came through from the kitchen carrying a tray with cake and tea. Samuel followed carefully carrying plates. As they sat at the table Johnny looked over at the boy. “I have a friend called Sam, do you get called that?”
“Yes sir, Mr Lancer, I’m named after my grandfather Garrett.”
“Well, Sam Garrett, my name is Johnny, Mr Lancer is my father. He was originally from a place in Scotland called Inverness; do you know of it?” Johnny looked from the boy to his mother.
It was Mrs Garrett who replied, “Inverness is far to the northeast; we are from just outside Preston in the county of Lancashire.”
“Sorry Ma’am, can’t say I have heard of it.”
“There is no reason for you to have but I am curious – you say you have Garrett relatives in Boston?”
Johnny wiped cake crumbs from his chin. “Well, my brother Scott has. His grandfather is Harlan Garrett, a big shot businessman there.”
Mrs Garrett frowned and shook her head. “I cannot recall that name being mentioned in my family. I am the youngest of nine and my father was in a family of eight.”
“Whoa, Ma’am, that’s a lot of family.”
“It is. My father has a brewery and two of my brothers’ work with him. Two have a coal merchant business; Samuel found the method of propulsion on the steamship and the train journey most interesting, didn’t you?”
Samuel grinned through cake. “Oh my, Mr Lancer – Johnny – the amount of coal needed, why it gives you a headache thinking of it, but it is a dirty business. I prefer the horses we use to move the beer and coal about.”
Johnny laughed – a boy who likes horses and cake.
“I was thinking, Mrs Garrett, I could take your Sam here out to get some fresh air and use up some energy while you recover from the train journey?”
“That would be kind of you Johnny, and please call me Alice.” She turned to the boy. “Now Samuel, you be on your best behaviour.”
Away from the busy streets and crowded together buildings, the park had the wide open spaces that Johnny preferred and the room for Sam to run around.
After a game of catch ball, Johnny got the boy to sit down on a bench and he took the opportunity to talk to him.
“You need to be brave Sam, for your Ma; it is a big thing moving so far, ain’t it?”
All his own memories of his own childhood of moving on and being a stranger in a strange place were there reflected in the boy’s face.
“I’m going to try my very best, but it is a worry; Mama will be a governess and I will have to be on my best behaviour with people who are in society and we are trade.” Sam shook his head. “And I will miss my cousins.” He turned away from Johnny and his shoulders went up and a big sigh escaped.
Johnny reached over and put his hand on Sam’s shoulder giving him a few minutes to compose himself. “Tell me about these cousins of yours?”
Sam wiped his arm across his eyes and sniffed. “Well, there is Bertie and Henry and their sister Kitty. Kitty is the same age as me and even though she is a girl she can run fast and plays football with us. She is good at spelling and reading but I’m better at sums so we help each other. Bertie and Henry are her older brothers and are great fun and watch out for us.”
Sam paused and frowned. “Johnny, you said your brother’s Grandfather is a Garrett – are you one?”
“No, I’m not a Garrett. When my brother Scott was born his mother died and then later our father got married again, to my Mama.
He could see the boy think on this information. “Oh, doesn’t that mean Mr Harlan Garrett is your step-grandfather?”
Johnny laughed out loud at the thought of Harlan accepting that relationship. “I ain’t sure either me or Mr Garrett think of ourselves as family, but me an’ Scott, we’re true brothers.”
Sam put his head to one side. “It would be nice for Mammy and me to think there was Garrett family here in America. It wouldn’t be quite so …..”
Johnny let out a breath, as the memory of having a talk with Grady Lancer, another boy with an assumed name who needed to be brave for his Mama came back to him.
As the boy’s voice broke Johnny reached out and held him close. “What I am going to do is ask your Mama if it will be okay for us to write to each other; I will tell you all about the ranch and our horses and you can write to me and tell me how you are getting along. I got to tell you though I’m not such a good letter writer and may have to use some Spanish words, so you may have to visit Miz McFarlane who can translate for you.”
Johnny waited for Sam to relax before he released him.
“That’s a good idea Johnny, and I have already started a letter to Kitty telling of our train journey, though I’m not too sure how long it will take for a letter to get back home.”
Johnny stood and adjusted his hat. “Come on Sam, let’s see if Miz McFarlane has rustled us up some supper.”
After Sam had gone to bed for the evening Johnny, who had taken a seat by the fire, looked over at Alice. “I hope it was okay for me to suggest your boy write to me.”
“It was very kind of you to suggest that to Sam; he has read about cowboys and the Wild West so it will be good to have a real cowboy write to him.” She smiled and her eyes twinkled in the lamplight.
“Ma’am, I do hope you tell young Sam not to believe what he reads in those dime magazines; they sure can paint the wrong picture.” Johnny’s gun finger traced a pattern on the chair arm; stories about Madrid were still about and although he didn’t ever deny his past, explaining that to this nice lady was not what he wanted, at least not yet. He would have a word with Dottie.
“Sam is right, it is going to be difficult settling in when we have been so used to our family being close by.” The sadness in her voice touched him and again memories of his own Mama and more recently Jessamie Lancer sprang to mind.
“Alice, would it be okay for me to tell Scott about you? He would probably be mighty interested in knowing if your family is related somehow to his.”
“Your brother will not be disturbed by my use of the name Garrett or the reason?”
“No, like I keep saying, California is a place where a person can make a new life with a new name; he understands that. He is a good man Alice, real smart and kind – heck I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t find a reason to jump on a train and come and visit you in person if you said it was okay.” Johnny grinned at her.
“If you don’t mind me saying, Johnny, you seem to be an expert on making a new life with a new name?” Alice gave him a searching look.
He shrugged and ducked his head down. “I didn’t always grow up with the name Lancer, that’s a long story, but you and Sam remind me of a real nice lady and her son that I came across only a few months back. She had taken a new name and was living way out in the middle of nowhere.” Johnny looked up smiling as he remembered calling Jessamie, a little lady with a big gun. “She’s a real feisty lady and Grady, that’s her boy, they’re good people.” He felt a blush on his cheeks and quickly looked down.
Alice smiled at him. “It sounds like you admire her; do you write to her and Grady, Johnny?”
He shook his head.
“I think you should.”
He looked up smiling. “Yep, I think I should.”
Chapter Two – 2 months later.
Johnny found Scott sat at Murdoch’s desk, his head bent down reading something. “Hey, Scott that don’t look like the ledgers.” He perched at the edge of the desk and bent his head to try to read the letter in front of his brother.
“We have had mail – you have your own from San Francisco.” Scott handed him an envelope; he didn’t recognise the handwriting and turned it over and over as he listened to Scott. “I have heard from my Aunt Margaret, who can trace a branch of my Garrett family back to Liverpool; they may very well be cousins of Alice’s family. It seems remarkable that most of my life I have been a Garrett in Boston and now I may have distant relatives I knew nothing of here in California.”
“Yeah, almost like Mexico where we are all distantly related. Young Sam will find it a comfort knowing he has kin here.” Johnny grinned. Scott had been fascinated by the idea of tracing his family history to see if it linked to the young lady Johnny had met. “What does ol’e Harlan have to say?”
Scott frowned and blew out a breath. His Grandfather had been clear in his disapproval of attempting to link them, in his words, to “working class”. Harlan Garrett was proud of the Boston Garrett’s; they may not have been on the Mayflower but his ancestors were in the second wave of British immigration and he expected Scott as his sole heir to accept his legacy and uphold the tradition of being a leader in society.
“Grandfather has declared there is no possibility the Boston Garrett’s are related to this family.”
That didn’t surprise Johnny and he gave Scott a searching look, hearing the disappointment in his voice. “Still, your Tia is interested in the possibility of tracing British Garrett’s.”
“My Aunt Margret is as proud of the Garrett name as Grandfather but she is not a snob, after all as she has pointed out he started out as an accountant which on the social scale is only just above the position of governess.”
Johnny hopped off the desk and went to sit on the sofa, turning the letter in his hand over and over. The handwriting wasn’t known to him. The fact was he hardly ever got letters; recently there had been a few letters from Alice addressed to Scott with a letter enclosed to Johnny from Sam and occasionally there was still a letter from Tallie who was back east, but this one was from San Francisco and it set his instinct on edge.
It was from Dottie and it wasn’t good news. He quickly read then re-read the letter:
You need to know this even though Alice is trying to deal with the situation herself. Mr Beaumont her employer is making unwanted advances on her even though he has his wife under the same roof. Young Sam has had a beating from the butler – from what Sam has told me he spoke up in defence of a comment made about his mother. I have enclosed a letter to you from Sam who knows his mother is unhappy but not I think of the reason.
They visit me when Alice has time off and I have suggested she hand in her notice but she says she cannot as she will not have a reference for a new position and I suspect has been told her name will be the subject of gossip.
Your friend Dottie
Can you tell me what to do? Grandad Garrett and my uncles are so far away and I need a grownup to tell me what I can do to make Mammy happy.
I am trying to be brave like I said I would but I keep getting into trouble.
I don’t like it here, I don’t like how Mr Beaumont looks at Mammy and Mr Godfry the butler has a bad temper.
Samuel Hugh Garrett
Johnny felt rage run through his entire body and practically shouted at Scott as he advanced to the desk, “Do you know anything about the Beaumont family Alice and Sam are with?”
Scott looked up and knew immediately that Madrid was about to take over. “Only what Alice has told us in her letters. George Beaumont made his fortune in the gold fields selling supplies to the miners and then investing in property in San Francisco. He and his wife appear in the social columns of the newspapers. Why what was in your letter?”
Johnny scowled and flung the letters on the desk: “Read those – I’m going to San Francisco.” Without waiting for a reply he spun around and was going up the stairs two at a time.
Scott read both letters and followed Johnny upstairs to find his brother cramming a spare shirt along with his spare gun and ammunition in his saddle bag. “Hold on Johnny, I’m going to come with you.”
Johnny paused and looked at Scott. “With Murdoch and Jelly away you need to stay here.”
“No, I’m going to San Francisco with you. Cipriano can take care of Lancer; he did it often enough when Murdoch went off looking for you and your mother, or when he tried to get me from Boston. Alice and Sam are Garretts and although I have not yet met them I feel I know them.”
“And you want to keep me from doing something stupid?”
“Yes, that as well.”
They had made good time to the train station at Cross Creek and had stabled their horses in the livery for Cipriano to collect.
The entire ride had been in silence; now as they waited for the train with only another couple on the platform Scott stepped close and spoke quietly to his brother. “Johnny, I know you told me it was for Alice to tell me her full story and I appreciate you keeping her confidence but it would be helpful to understand what exactly I am stepping into.”
Johnny sighed and reined in his anger and frustration. “Alice is a nice lady but she made a bad marriage. She’s moved all the way from her family to save her reputation and give her son a chance in life. It ain’t right, Scott, that she could be railroaded into losing it by someone using his position of power over her.” He looked away from Scott, afraid his brother would read him and see long hidden emotions the situation had woken in him.
He felt Scott put a hand gently on his shoulder and some of the tension was eased. He blew out a breath. “After my step-father died the Don on the estancia where we lived, well, he thought he could take advantage of Mama. She didn’t want to be his mistress and he took offence at the rejection and we were thrown out of our home. Life got difficult for her after that.”
Scott’s hand tightened on his shoulder; Johnny leaned into his brother knowing he understood.
Dottie had received a wire from Cipriano warning her to expect the Lancer brothers so a meal was ready for them with a bottle of tequila, a dish of lime segments and salt for Johnny; she brought out her best whiskey for herself and Scott.
“It’s a shame, Scott, to be meeting you for the first time under these circumstances.” She sat in her chair by the fire while Johnny and Scott stayed sat at the table. “Have you boys a plan that doesn’t involve getting yourselves into any trouble?”
Both she and Scott looked at Johnny. He scowled. “As much as I want to plant my fist in Beaumont’s face I know he’s a big shot businessman in this city an’ that might not be the best plan. But we do need to get Alice and Sam out’ta there as soon as possible.”
Scott sipped his drink. “It’s not just Alice who wants to protect her reputation. Men like Beaumont made a fortune by taking advantage of the gold miners; now they want to clean up their reputation and become respected leaders of the community.” He looked at the other two and raised his eyebrow.
“You have a sneaky plan, brother?” Johnny leaned forward.
“On my last visit here I made the acquaintance of a person who supplies stories for the social column in the San Francisco Chronicle; the last thing Mr Beaumont will want is his name appearing in what is, in fact, a gossip column.” Scott kept a straight face, but Dottie laughed.
Scott had the good manners to blush.
Johnny shook his head at him. “If we have this man weighed up right he most likely will threaten to hand Alice’s name up and she has more to lose than him. Madrid could visit him.”
This time it was Dottie who interrupted. “No, Johnny, as much as it may put the fear of God into him it might cause the city constables to get involved. From what I found out the Beaumonts are social climbers; he is not averse to using strong negotiating tactics and buying his way into the best gentlemen’s clubs. Mrs Beaumont tends to turn a blind eye to his visits to the less respectable establishments.”
After a few minutes and another sip of his whiskey, Scott spoke up. “I suggest I present my calling card to the Beaumont house as Scott Garrett Lancer of Boston and California who understands his cousin Alice from Britain has taken a position as a governess.”
Johnny pushed his bottom lip out as he gave that suggestion some thought his fingers tapping on his thigh. “Yeah, but how will doing that get Alice and Sam away?”
Scott pushed his glass of whiskey around in his fingers. “I shall time my visit so as to call on both Mr and Mrs Beaumont and simply tell them that news of Alice’s arrival in California has only just reached me. I will appeal to Mrs Beaumont, who I am betting is not unaware of her husband’s behaviour, pointing out that it is only appropriate for my relatives to come to live at Lancer under my protection. After all, I will tell Mrs Beaumont, a young widow could so easily fall prey to all manner of danger.”
Johnny sat back. “That kind of thing go on in Boston high society?”
Scott looked over at Johnny. “Unfortunately yes; rank and power all over the world hold sway over those with no one to turn to.”
“Ain’t that the truth. I still aim to have a word with that butler who beat on young Sam and there ain’t nothing you can say to stop me.”
“No gunplay, Johnny, that’s all I ask.”
Johnny snorted out a laugh: even now Scott was turning all big brother. “We had better go scout out the house up there on Nob Hill and be ready for a quick getaway.”
Following Dottie’s instructions, they found themselves across the road from the Beaumont residence. It was by this time early evening.
“Whoa, Scott. how come climbing up this hill is harder than climbing the cliffs back home?” Johnny bent over his hands on his knees and blew out a breath.
Scott looked back down Mason Street and then upwards. “They could be even nearer the top and the Nabobs”
“Uhh, who?” Johnny stood up and he too looked upwards.
“The four men who have founded the Central Pacific Railroad are called the Nobs and this Nob Hill is called after them.” Scott stood straight, looking at the townhouse across the road from them. Steep steps leading from the paved sidewalk to an impressive porch. It was built of a combination of stone and wood cladding with a tower-like construction on the roof.
“Your Abuelo have a house like that?” Johnny pushed his hat to the back of his head and looked the house up and down.
“Well, it’s a tall townhouse, so I expect the kitchen will be in the lower level and the servant quarters will be in the attic rooms, except for that turret room.”
Johnny pursed his lips. “There will be a back entrance for deliveries and such. I reckon I’ll go have a look. You stay here and keep watch.”
“Johnny, just look, okay?”
Johnny stared at Scott who was giving him what he could only think of as the Murdoch glare. “Okay, just looking.”
He returned from his scouting expedition to find Scott pacing backwards and forwards. “What’s happened, Scott?”
“Beaumont has just left in a carriage!” Scott looked down the hill. “Probably to go to one of his clubs.”
Johnny stood tall on his toes to watch the carriage and shook his head; San Francisco was not a happy place for a carriage horse “Hard on a horse going up and down these paved hills.”
He turned to Scott who was looking at him. “Okay, I had a look; the kitchen is on the lower floor. The cook is a nice Mexican lady and has her young daughter helping. She told me Godfrey is the butler and man-servant, whatever one of those is. Young Sam is being made to work as a bootboy, whatever the hell that it is. Alice and Sam have a room in the attic like you said they would.”
“Johnny, you were just supposed to look. How did you manage to get this information?” Scott held his hand up “No, don’t tell me, you charmed the cook?” Scott had that look, the one Johnny recognised as the ‘big brother is annoyed with me’ look. He looked down to watch his boots shuffle the ground.
“Well, I heard Inez talking to her girl and I had to introduce myself and say hola.”
Scott’s eyebrows reached his hairline. “Inez! You said hello!”
Johnny took a deep breath. “Okay, Scott I was in hiding and I heard Inez, that’s the nice lady who is the cook, and she was telling her daughter Carlotta to watch out for Godfrey sending her upstairs to Mr Beaumont’s room if Mrs Beaumont wasn’t in the house. She had to be as careful as Mrs Garrett was being.”
Scott’s face changed – Johnny saw the anger.
“We are going to get her out now; you take care of that butler, just don’t kill him. We need to do this without alarming Mrs Beaumont. I shall speak to both of the Beaumont’s in the morning.”
Johnny nodded. “I’ll fetch Alice and Sam out through the kitchen and take them to Dottie. Then I’ll come back; don’t do anything until I’m back with you, no matter if Mr Beaumont returns. No heroics, Scott, ain’t that what you tell me?”
His brother stood up straight and rigid but Johnny knew he would keep his anger under control.
He again made his way to the back of the household and climbed over the wall and watched the kitchen from the shadows of the trees and shrubs, thinking how like his childhood this was, he on the outside watching families. From his vantage point, he could see Inez and Carlotta; they were sat at the table drinking what he supposed was a chocolate drink. He took his spurs off and put them in his jacket pocket and crept up to the window and hunkered down to eavesdrop.
It wasn’t long before he heard another person’s footsteps enter the room; he stretched up and risked a peek. He heard the cook say, “Mr Godfrey, would you care for a coffee or chocolate, sir?”
He silently made his way to the door and tested it; it wasn’t locked, and of course not why should it be. He smiled the wolf smile that he used when he was Madrid.
He stepped into the kitchen and without giving any warning was on the man and one punch had him down on the floor. Johnny stood over him. He looked up to the cook and the girl and in quiet Mexican apologised, “Lo siento, I am here to take my relative the Señora Garrett and her boy home.”
He pulled Godfrey to his feet. “I understand you like to punish my nephew.” The punch to the man’s stomach would have sent him back to the floor if Johnny hadn’t caught him. He leaned in to whisper so the ladies wouldn’t hear: “You need to thank your lucky stars I have promised not to use my gun.”
Johnny turned to the cook. “Señora Inez, please is there somewhere to store this miserable excuse of a man?”
The cook took one look and nodded towards a storeroom. She took a key from the door and opened it.
Johnny grinned and pushed the semi-conscious butler into it.
The cook smiled at him, locked the door and dropped the key in the banked up range.
“Gracias Mamacita. Now if you can direct me to Señora Garrett and Sam.”
“Sí, follow me.” Without hesitation the older lady led the way up the servants’ back stairs to a plain door. She turned and smiled. “Vaya con Dios, ella es una buena mujer.”
Johnny opened the door and without him having to say a word Sam had flung himself into his arms.
“I knew you would come, Johnny, I knew it,” Sam sobbed out the words and Johnny put his arms around the boy.
“Alice, pack your belongings; you are leaving.”
Johnny had to admire her bravery, no female hysterics or tears; she was pale but he could see she would go along with him.
Johnny quietly asked Inez to keep the butler locked in until after Mr and Mrs Beaumont had received a guest tomorrow morning. She nodded her agreement and said her daughter would answer the door for the guest. He smiled and kissed the older lady on the backs of both her hands, telling her it was a good brave thing she was doing. Inez shrugged and patting him on his cheek, said she would look for another employer.
There wasn’t much time to introduce Scott before Johnny hurried Alice and Sam down into the city and delivered them to Dottie.
He took Alice by her shoulders and looked into her face. “I don’t want any arguments, Mrs Garrett, but you needed to be out’ta there. Scott, my brother, he has a plan that will protect your reputation so don’t you worry about them folk up in that big house. Tomorrow we’re going to take you to Lancer; it’s the most beautiful place in the whole world and you can breathe clean fresh air and take your time to think on what to do next with your life. Trust me, Alice, I know this on the true.”
Johnny found himself once again at the train station; he had left Alice and Sam in the waiting room, telling Sam to stay close to his Mama. It was a relief when Scott appeared and not the city law enforcers.
“You deliver your speech to Mr and Mrs Beaumont?”
Scott untied his tie – not the cattleman’s string tie but a fancy thing like he had been wearing that first time they met. “It went well; the Beaumonts recognise their social standing can so easily be undermined when those richer and more connected than they take offence at their behaviour.”
“You mean you pulled rank, mentioned us Lancers know the Governor, maybe Garrett Enterprises banking and shipping?” Johnny tilted his head to one side.
“Well, rank does have privileges” Scott folded the cravat and pushed it into a pocket. “Alice and Sam may not be Lancers but we take care of our own and we are both agreed they are ours to look after.”
Johnny studied Scott stood all straight and tall with that Lieutenant Lancer don’t mess me with look, “I take it you convinced the Beaumont’s to see the situation from your point of view?”
“Yes suffice to say the situation is resolved.”
Johnny nodded and turned to look away down the track, willing the train to arrive. “I know of some nice people I need to check up on as soon as we get Alice and Sam settled in.”
Scott looked at the back of Johnny’s head. “Anyone I know, another situation that needs to be resolved?”
“No Scott, not yet, just been thinking about them some and I’m not one for writing letters so best I visit in person.” He kept looking down the track, not wanting Scott to read him, at least not when he was unsure.
“Can I ask who these nice people are?”
He put his head down but then turned to look directly at Scott and smiled, at that moment he knew he was no longer unsure “Mrs Lancer and her son Grady.”
~ end ~
This story was inspired by this photo of my Grandfather and his family. Henry Hugh Garratt was the eldest son in this family. I know slightly different spelling but Lancer –v- Lancre !!
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