Church Dance by PatriciaG

Word Count – 11,987

Part Two of the Dance Trilogy

Beta by Raian. This story is a stand alone story, but it continues where Barn Dance left off. There will be another story to follow in the “Dance” trilogy.

Chapter 1

The Lancer brothers were finally back to full strength after they’d been shot about two months ago while leaving a neighbor’s barn dance. Well, according to Johnny and Scott they felt back to normal and were ready to go back to work. They had spent the beginning of the week moving a herd of cattle from the East pasture to the South one.

Thursday morning at the breakfast table found Murdoch observing his sons over his steaming cup of coffee. Johnny ate rather slowly, slumped over his plate of pancakes. Scott didn’t have his usual good table manners. He leaned an elbow on the table as he ate his breakfast. Both brothers looked ‘rode hard’ and the day hadn’t even started yet.

“Boys,” Murdoch announced, “I’d like the two of you to do the weekly supply trip to town today. Don’t push it. You’re just getting over your injuries and you look worn out, so take the whole day.”

Johnny sat up with a sly grin on his face. Scott looked across the table at his brother, “I think we can handle that.”

“I’ll give you the list when you’re ready to leave,” Teresa jumped into the conversation.

“As long as there’s nothing involving the dress shop,” laughed Scott.

“All I need is another roll of blue ribbon to finish my dress for the church dance on Friday. You wouldn’t want me to wear an old dress when my new dress is almost finished, would you?”

“Scott will be happy to get your ribbon for you, won’t you, son?” Murdoch chimed in.

Scott looked at his family’s faces, shrugged his shoulders, and smiled. “I feel out-numbered. All right,” he sighed deeply, “bring me a sample of the ribbon.” Teresa hugged Scott’s neck and then rushed to her room to fulfill his request.

*****

Scott drove the wagon to town with a firm hand on the reins. Johnny slouched in the wagon seat with his hat pulled down over his eyes. It had been a quiet trip. As they approached town, Johnny sat up and pushed his hat more securely onto his head. He’d been doing a lot of thinking on the way to town and wanted to get something said that had been weighing on his mind. “Scott, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for getting ya shot, again.”

The brothers had already discussed the incident with the Strykers and Scott thought that it had all been settled. “Johnny, you know I don’t blame you. Listen, neither run-in with the Strykers was your fault. So, let’s just put it behind us.” Johnny listened to his brother and nodded his head. He still felt guilty, though, but decided to drop it since he’d said his piece.

“Well, big brother, do you want to start with the mail or the supplies first?”

Scott thought for a moment. “Let’s drop the list off at the Mercantile and leave the wagon out back. We can go get the mail and pick up the ribbon – ”

“Oh no. You go get the ribbon for Teresa at the dress shop while I pick up the mail. We can meet up at the saloon for a nice cool beer while our order’s being filled.” Johnny chuckled as he saw Scott’s efforts to get out of going to the dress shop fail.

“OK, then.” Scott grinned at his brother’s back as Johnny jumped down from the wagon and headed to the post office. The blond dropped off the supply list to be filled before he strolled over to the dress shop.

Scott felt in his pocket for the blue ribbon Teresa had given him. He straighten to his full 6’1” height, pulled his shoulders back, and removed his hat as he opened the dress shop door. The little bell over the door tinkled announcing his arrival.

Every lady turned to stare at the handsome blond gentleman in the doorway.

“Oh, Scott, you look so much better than the last time I saw you.” Winifred rushed into his arms.

The tall blond accepted her hug and politely extricated himself from her grip.

“Yes, ma’am, I’m feeling much better.” He looked over to the dressmaker as he pulled the ribbon out of his pocket. “Teresa sent me to get another roll of ribbon for her new dress.” Scott handed the sample to the dressmaker and waited uncomfortably in the middle of the small shop.

“Scott, I’m so looking forward to seeing you at the church dance on Friday. I have a new green dress. Do you like green? By the way, what is your favorite color?” Winifred stared up into his beautiful blue eyes as she put her hands on his arm waiting for him to join her in a conversation.

“Miss Harrison, I’m sure your new green dress will be lovely.” He hoped to escape from her clutches without causing a scene.

“But, Scott…” She waited impatiently. “I really want to know what your favorite color is. And please call me Winnie.”

“I don’t really have a favorite color.” Scott carefully pried her hands off his arm.

“Everyone has a favorite color.” She batted her eyelashes at the Bostonian.

The dressmaker came from the backroom with Teresa’s blue ribbon in her hand. Scott was grateful for her timely interruption.

“Here you go, Mr. Lancer. Is there anything else I can help you with?” Scott shook his head and smiled, “No, but thank you, Mrs. Smith.”

The tall blond turned to go, but Winifred grabbed his arm to stop him. “Scott, I simply must know what your favorite color is!”

Scott was surprised by Miss Harrison’s outburst. He decided to answer, hoping to calm the situation. “Well, if I had to choose, I’d pick blue. Ladies,” Scott nodded at the customers, turned toward the door, and settled his hat back on his head. He breathed a sigh of relief as he was happy to have made it out of the dress shop alive.

Johnny was already enjoying his beer when Scott entered the Saloon. The blond stopped by the bar to get his mug of beer before joining Johnny at a table. The mail and a telegram were sitting on the table courtesy of Johnny.

“How was the dress shop, brother?” Johnny needled Scott.

“Brutal. There were five ladies in there, including Winifred Harrison.”

“Well, you look like you made it out in one piece.” Johnny chuckled.

Scott slugged back his glass of beer and motioned to the bartender for another round for each of them. After they finished this round, the brothers figured it was probably time to load the supplies into the wagon.

It took longer than usual to load the wagon as both men felt twinges of pain from their earlier gun shot wounds. Actually it took less than an hour to get the wagon fully loaded before they could start their journey home, it just felt like it took a lot longer.

Scott was happy to let Johnny drive the team on their return trip. He mirrored his brother’s earlier posture by slouching in the seat with his hat covering his eyes. The journey into town had taken a lot out of them and they were ready for this long day to be over.

*****

Teresa came into the Great Room wearing her latest creation. She twirled in a circle showing off her blue dress with cap sleeves, ribbon around the bodice and waist, with lace around the neck. Murdoch, Scott and Johnny were enjoying a drink before they were to leave for the Church dance.

“You look lovely, sweetheart,” Murdoch smiled at his ward as he took her in his arms and planted a kiss on her cheek. Murdoch cleared his throat, looked at his sons and nodded his head toward Teresa.

“Teresa, your dress is splendid. I agree with Murdoch. You look quite lovely.” Scott smiled at his sister. He was wearing his traditional white shirt, string tie and tan corduroy jacket.

“Oh, yeah, you look really nice, Teresa.” Johnny also smiled at the young lady. He was dressed in his favorite salmon shirt and calzoneras.

Jelly entered the hacienda talking to himself. “I got the Spring carriage all harnessed up. My, Teresa, you sure look pretty tonight. I even saddled Barranca and Charlie for you boys, not that you’d appreciate it none.”

“Why, thank you, Jelly.” All murmured their appreciation of the handyman’s work. Murdoch put his arm around Teresa as he ushered her out the door, followed by his sons.

The Lancers always made a grand entry at any event. Heads turned to stare at the striking family. Johnny immediately went to talk to his friends who were gathered around the food table. Winifred and Alfred rushed over to stand by the remaining Lancers. Polite conversation was made before Alfred asked Teresa to dance. Murdoch wandered over to a group of cattlemen who were gathered near the punch bowl, leaving Scott standing alone with Winifred.

“Your blue dress looks very lovely, Miss Harrison. I thought you were going to wear a green dress.”

“Winnie,” she reminded him. “I decided to wear a blue dress, since it’s your favorite color. I think you look very handsome tonight, Scott.” Winnie stood waiting for Scott to ask her to dance.

Scott finally decided to ask her to dance so he could ‘get it over with.’ Winifred gushed her acceptance and took the blond’s arm as he led her out onto the dance floor.

Winifred just knew that every eye was on her. She was dancing with Scott Lancer. The most handsome man in the room. The song ended much too soon for her tastes. She hoped that he would sweep her into  another dance. But instead he delivered her back to where she had been standing before.

“Thank you for the delightful dance, Miss Harrison.” Scott smiled, then found his way to the punch. Teresa and Alfred came over from the dance floor to join Scott in getting something cool to drink. The blond turned back toward the dance floor and saw a stunning young woman in pink. Their eyes met as Scott asked the beauty to dance. They danced two dances before he returned her to her family. He then turned to ask an auburn haired beauty in a green dress to dance. They also enjoyed two dances before he returned her to her family. Before he could turn to find his own family, Scott felt Winifred’s arm attached to his.

“Scott, it’s quite warm in here, could you get me a glass of punch?”

The tall blond wondered why she had ask him, but felt his strict Boston society manners kick in. “Certainly, Miss Harrison. I’d be happy to.” He turned to go, but realized she hadn’t released his arm and had instead intended to accompany him.

“Oh, that is so refreshing, Scott. Thank you so much. You are such a gentleman.”

Winifred leaned against his arm as she gazed up at him. He was beginning to feel the need to escape again.

“Miss Harrison…”

“Winnie,” she interrupted him.

“Winnie, I need to find my brother. So, if you’ll excuse me, please.” Again, Scott turned to look for his brother. Thank goodness, Johnny was across the room talking with Murdoch. The blond stayed with his family long enough to make his excuses to Winnie ring true, before he ventured forth to find other willing dance partners.

Near the end of the evening, Scott was enjoying another glass of punch, wishing it were a cool beer, when he felt a small hand caress his arm.

“Scott, I know in polite society women are not to ask gentlemen to dance, but this is the last dance of the evening, so, would you dance with me again, please?” The handsome blond smiled, nodded his head, and led her out to the dance floor for one final dance.

When he went to escort her to her brother, they saw a hub-bub in the corner by his family. Teresa was very upset and Johnny was helping Alfred stay vertical. It seemed Alfred and some of the young men had been partaking of some whiskey that had been sneaked into the dance. Alfred in his inebriated state had tried to kiss Teresa and Johnny had come to her rescue. Winifred, still attached to Scott’s arm was embarrassed by her twin brother’s actions.

Murdoch decided to take charge and solve the problem. “Well, we don’t want to spoil this nice evening, so let’s just get everyone home safely. Miss Harrison, how did you get to the dance?”

“Alfred brought me because my older brother and father decided not to come. I don’t feel safe riding home with Alfred driving the buggy.” She looked up at Scott and started to tear up.

“Johnny, why don’t your get young Mr. Harrison sobered up before you deliver him home. Scott, you can drive Miss Harrison home in her buggy, just tie Charlie on the back.” Decisions made, Murdoch looked down at his ward, took her by the arm and strode out to the Lancer carriage.

Johnny smirked at his brother, who had a ‘why me?’ look on his face. Scott looked at his brother and started to suggest a swap of jobs, but Johnny was already leading Alfred to the horse trough.

Winifred was delighted at the turn of events. She silently thanked her brother, for his misfortune was her good fortune.

The couple strolled out to the Harrison buggy. As Scott was helping Winnie up into the it, her dress got caught on the wheel and ripped. The seam connecting the skirt to the bodice pulled apart.

“Oh, Winnie, I’m so sorry to ruin your lovely dress.”

“It’s all right, Scott. It can be repaired. I’m glad you think it’s lovely and that you called me Winnie.”

Scott ran around to the other side of the buggy and climbed in. “Scott, I’m a little chilled, could I wear your jacket.” He dutifully took his jacket off and placed it on her shoulders. As soon as they were under way, Winnie scooted closer to Scott, put her arm through his, and leaned her head onto his shoulder.

The blond just sighed in frustration. He could not wait for this night to be over. Winnie spent the ride talking about how nice the dance was. How welcoming the townspeople had been to her and her brother. What a graceful dancer Scott was. How sorry she was that Alfred had to spoil the evening, but how glad she was to have Scott drive her home. All during her constant prattle, the blond just nodded his head and answered “uh huh.” He had tuned her out. Unfortunately, he missed the part when she commented “what a handsome couple they made and how she was looking forward to their next outing.” Finally, Winnie stopped talking and fell asleep, to Scott’s relief.

When they arrived at the Harrison’s ranch, Scott turned to Winnie and put his hands on her shoulders to wake her up. Winnie opened her eyes and leaned up to kiss the Bostonian. Scott jerked back away from the young woman.

“Oh, Scott, it’s all right. You can kiss me. We were meant to be together.”

“Miss Harrison, I think you misunderstood my actions. I was merely trying to awaken you since we’ve  arrived at your ranch.”

“I love you, Scott. I’ve know it from the moment I first saw you. It was love at first sight.” Winifred tried to lean in for another kiss.

Scott hopped down from his side of the buggy and ran around to the other side to help her down. “If I’ve done anything to mislead you, I apologize. But I have no feelings for you, Miss Harrison.”

“No, you must have feelings for me. You held me in your arms and danced with me. Brought me punch. You drove me home like a gentleman would do.” The pitch of her voice was getting higher with each word as she started to sob. “You said your were happy to see me when I brought you cookies. You must care about me!”

Scott reach down to calm the distraught girl. Winifred slapped his hands away, clawed at his face in anger, then turned to run to her front door. She tripped on her torn skirt, ripping it even more. As she stood up, she turned to look at Scott with anger in her eyes. Winnie intentionally tore the top of her dress exposing her undergarment and some of her bosom.

“Pa, help me! Help me!” Winifred screamed over and over as she reached the front door. Mr. Harrison opened the door to the sight of his daughter collapsed on the ground pointing back at Scott.

“I didn’t. It’s not what you think. Her dress got caught in the wheel.” Scott knew he sounded like a blithering idiot.

Mr. Harrison gathered his daughter into his arms. “Get off my property, Lancer!” he bellowed.

Scott knew the angry father wouldn’t listen or be reasoned with right now, so he simply turned to his horse, mounted, and rode home. He figured it could all be sorted out in the light of day. By the time he got back to the hacienda, the house was quiet. Scott decided it could wait until morning to inform his family about what had happened and quietly trudged off to bed.

Chapter 2

The next morning, Johnny barged into Scott’s room as he was shaving. Well, actually, he did knock as he walked in. Scott could never break him of that bad habit of not waiting to be invited into a room. I guess maybe Johnny has finally broken me of asking people to knock before entering.

“Oh my, what happened to your face, brother?”

Scott finished shaving and wiped the cream off his face. “Winifred happened. Did you get Alfred home safely?”

“Yeah. We only had to stop twice for him to throw up. Thank goodness he gave me fair warning so he could get down. I would’ve hated for him to spew all over Barranca or me.”

“Well, I can’t decide who had it rougher with those twins.” Both brothers chuckled. Scott finished buttoning his shirt and tucking it in as they descended to the kitchen for breakfast.

Last night’s dance was the main topic of conversation at breakfast. They wondered what Alfred’s consequences would be. Before Scott could inform them about his disastrous night, Murdoch changed the subject to the day’s work assignments. The brothers would be doing the same job, looking for strays before they moved the herds, but with different groups of vaqueros. Since everyone had quit working early yesterday, to go to the dance, today they had some extra work to complete. It was going to be a long day.

*****

Johnny arrived back at the hacienda around five o’clock. Jose came out from the barn and offered to take care of Barranca. Johnny happily accepted the offer. “Has Scott gotten back yet, Jose?”

“Not yet.” Jose answered as he lead Barranca into his stall.

Johnny smiled. He’d gotten to the bath house first this time and planned on soaking in a long hot bath. He loved to razz his brother by making him wait for his turn. He knew how Scott enjoyed cleaning up at the end of the day.

Scott returned home about thirty minutes after Johnny. He brought Charlie into the barn before Jose came to take care of the horse. Scott looked over to see that Barranca was already in his stall. The blond knew that his brother would be in the bath house enjoying a long hot soak. He wouldn’t have time for a bath before dinner, so he decided to just take a quick wash down in his room. He could take a long steamy soak tomorrow morning while Murdoch and Teresa were at church. His first stop after entering the hacienda was the Great Room for a quick drink.

Murdoch looked Scott up and down. “Son, you look quite disheveled. Anything happen that I should know about?”

“There were a few cows that tried to make an escape. Five made it into a gully.” Scott held up his gloved hand to stop his father’s interruption. “Don’t worry. We got them all out safely.” Scott began to remove his gloves one finger at a time, before he poured himself a drink.

Murdoch smiled at his responsible oldest son. He thought that both boys had come so far since they arrived two years ago. They were true ranchers now.

And then Johnny strolled into the room. “Oh, sorry Boston. I think I used up all the hot water.”

Scott smirked at his mischievous little brother. There would be consequences for this behavior. He’d started to think of the repercussions, when they heard a horse arriving outside. Johnny stepped out the French doors to see who it might be.

“Val? What are you doing here so late? Coming to mooch a good meal?” Johnny ushered his friend into the Great Room.

“Sheriff, what brings you out so late? You know you’re welcome to join us for dinner and to spend the night.” Murdoch questioned Val in a non-hostile way, even though he always worried when Val showed up so late at night. It couldn’t be a social call.

“Mr. Lancer, I need to speak to Scott… in private.” Scott looked shocked, but motioned toward Murdoch’s study. Scott led the way with Val closing the study door behind them. “Scott, you might want to sit down for this.” The blond did as Val requested, but his interest was definitely piqued. “I don’t know how to say it so I’m just gonna say it. Mr. Harrison has pressed charges against you for attacking his daughter.”

Scott shot out of his chair. “What?” Murdoch and Johnny heard that remark loud and clear from the Great Room.

“Now, just hold on a minute. I know this will probably just turn out to be some kinda misunderstanding. She said that you ripped her dress trying to make bold with her and that she scratched your face to get you to stop.” Val watched Scott reached up to the side of his face to touch the scratches that were still visible. “You wanna tell me your side of the story?”

Scott sighed, ran his fingers through his hair as he collected his thoughts. “When I helped her into the carriage, her dress got caught on the wheel and tore. We had a disagreement when we arrived at the Harrison’s ranch and she became hysterical. I tried to calm her down and she scratched my face in the process. I never tried to … I’m not interested in … she’s too young.” Scott stopped talking, but started thinking the situation didn’t look good.

“What was your argument about that made her so upset?”

Scott felt a little embarrassed. “Well, she … well, she wanted to … be a couple. She said she had feelings for me. I let her know that I wasn’t interested. At all!”

“She wanted ya to be a couple? Like she wanted to court ya?”

“Val, she said she loved me.”

“What?!” This time Murdoch’s and Johnny’s heads turned when they heard Val’s raised voice. “You barely know the girl!”

“I know! That’s why it’s so crazy.”

“Scott, Mr. Harrison brought his daughter’s ripped up dress in to show me. And with her saying she fought you off by scratching ya, well it don’t look good. He wanted to have you locked up right away until the circuit judge comes at the end of the month.”

“What?!” After hearing Scott’s exclamation, Murdoch and Johnny stood up ready to burst into the study, but when the silence returned they sat back down to wait a little longer.

“Now, Scott, you don’t need to worry. I told him I didn’t wanna keep you locked up that long. So he agreed that if you were to stay on Lancer, ya know under house arrest, you didn’t need to be put in jail. Do you think you can handle that? I mean until the Judge gets here and we can get it all straightened out.”

Scott took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He nodded his head at Val. “Thanks Val. You’re a good friend.” The two shook hands before opening the door to the study.

Val and Scott saw the two worried faces standing on the men by the sofa. “We’ll talk about it after dinner. I’m going to go get cleaned up.” The blond strode purposely across the room, before Murdoch and Johnny turned on Val.

“Now, you heard Scott, we’ll talk about it after dinner. Hmm, something smells good. I think I’ll go get washed up too.”

Dinner was a strained affair. Teresa didn’t have a clue why everyone was so quiet. At the end of the meal, Murdoch asked his ward to leave them to discuss some private business in the Great Room. She agreed, but was even more curious than she was at dinner.

Val explained about the charges. Scott denied that anything happened. Murdoch thought about the Pinkerton’s report that detailed some of  Scott’s behaviors in Boston, but quickly banished those thoughts. He would stand by his son. Johnny was angry with Winifred and Mr. Harrison. He knew his brother was a gentleman and would never take advantage of a … a girl. He would back up Scott however he wanted to handle it, or at least until he could come up with a better plan to help his brother out of this mess.

*****

More than a week went by. No one spoke of the litigation hanging over Scott’s head. It was on everyone’s mind, but was not spoken of aloud. It was the ‘elephant in the room’ that everyone wanted to ignore.

About mid-morning, Johnny and Scott were working on repairing a fence line not far from the boundary between Lancer and the Harrison’s property. They looked up to see Winifred riding toward them. She waved towards Scott.

“Johnny, I need to go see her. Maybe she’s changed her mind.”

“I don’t know, Scott. I don’t think this is such a good idea. Didn’t Val say you’re supposed to stay on Lancer?”

“She’s waving me over. I’m tired of having this unsettled. Just stay here. I’ll be right back.” Scott jumped on his horse and rode through the downed section of fence onto the Harrison’s property. Winnie met him at the property line.

“Scott. I’m so happy to see you.” Winnie looked at Scott’s sweat soaked shirt and smiled. Yes, Scott Lancer was a handsome man. She stared at his muscular arms and chest, well what she could see with only three buttons undone. Both Winnie and Scott remained on their horses while they talked.

“Miss Harrison. What are you doing out here?”

“I came to see you and to say … I’m sorry. Things got so out of hand and my father misunderstood and … oh Scott, could we get down and talk about it?”

Scott agreed since she had made the first move to end the problem, the least he could do is sit down and talk. Scott easily dismounted, but as Winifred attempted to get off her horse, her foot slipped through the stirrup. She screamed as the horse started to walk forward afraid he would drag her. Her actions did startle the horse who began to rear and snort. Scott ran to calm the horse, but the damage had been done. Winnie had hit the ground hard on the side of her face and been dragged a short distance. Scott extricated her foot from the stirrup and carried her away from the excited beast. He sat down on the ground with the young lady in his arms. After he removed his gloves, he used his hands to brush the dirt off her face. She had a bruise starting to form on her cheek. The blond quietly called her name trying to help her wake up. She turned her other cheek into Scott’s chest and started to cry. Scott heard a horse approaching from behind him. He turned to see her older brother, Thomas, riding up. Johnny decided he should ride over to back up Scott.

“What have you done to my sister?” Thomas jumped down from his horse, pulled out his colt and aimed it at Scott. “Step away from her. Now!”

Scott laid Winifred on the grass and moved away from her with his hands in the air. “Thomas, your sister was dragged by her horse when she went to dismount. Put your gun away. She’s all right.” Scott’s intention was to calm the young man down.

Thomas took a step toward his injured sister, but didn’t holster his weapon. When he saw the blood on her check and her torn sleeve, Thomas lost it. “You bastard!” He fired his gun at point blank range. Thankfully, he was a lousy shot. He just caught Scott in the upper arm spinning him to the ground.

Before Johnny could reach Scott’s side, he saw the shooting. He couldn’t believe he’d just seen his brother get gunned down. He raced the final few feet to avenge his brother’s death. By the time he got there, Scott was sitting up and hollering for Johnny to stop. “Johnny, I’m OK!” Scott took control of the situation by barking out orders. “Thomas, get on your horse. I’ll hand Winnie up to you. Take her home and get her cleaned up.”

Thomas, somewhat in shock because he’d never shot anyone before, obeyed Scott’s commands. After Scott placed his sister into his arms, the boy took off for home, holding tight to his precious cargo.

“All right, now let’s go get your arm taken care of. You can explain what happened on the ride home. I sure wouldn’t wanna be in your shoes when you have to explain this to Murdoch or Val.”

*****

Johnny doctored Scott’s ‘scratch’ and wrapped the gauze bandages around his brother’s bicep. “Well, let’s not put this off. You need to talk to Murdoch. You know I’ll be right behind you.”

“You did what?” Murdoch bellowed looking at his responsible son like he had lost his mind. The angry father stepped from around his desk to stand in front of Scott. “Didn’t Val tell you to stay on Lancer?”

“Yes, sir, but – ”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Harrison wants you locked up till the trial. That might not be a bad idea since you seem to have lost your senses.” Murdoch’s face was turning red as he clenched and unclenched his fists. He really wanted to punch something or pound on the anvil!

No one spoke, hoping the silence would help to calm the irate Scotsman down. Scott stood with his arms crossed hugging his chest and his eyes down unable to face his father. He couldn’t make eye contact. He knew he shouldn’t have left the ranch. Murdoch was right. Hell, Johnny was even right. Johnny stood by his brother with his hands on his hips rubbing the toe of his boot back and forth on the carpet by the large desk in the Great Room.

Finally, Murdoch broke the silence. He’d had time to calm down some. He looked up at his sons. “We need to get ahead of this. Johnny, I need you to ride into town and send a telegram to Jarrod Barkley. If he can’t represent you, Scott, then he can recommend someone.” Murdoch quickly jotted down the message to the lawyer. Johnny took it from his father and fled the room in a hurry. Scott looked out the French doors watching Johnny riding off.

“Scott, let’s sit down. I want to hear everything that happened. Exactly. What. Happened?!” Scott nodded his head and turned toward the sofa. He felt his father put an arm around his shoulder. The blond looked into his father’s caring eyes and felt a calmness overcome him. Murdoch and Scott talked it through, coming up with a plan of what to do next. “Scott, we need to be prepared for Val taking you into custody. If I were Mr. Harrison, I’d demand you be locked up too. Why don’t you go pack your saddlebags. I figure you’ll probably have to stay there until the trial.”

Scott let the realization sink in. He’d screwed up and now he’d have to pay the piper. He stood up, tried to smile at his father, but it came out as more of a grimace, then went to his room to pack.

*****

Johnny was exiting the telegraph office when he saw Mr. Harrison riding away from the sheriff’s office. Oh, boy. Val’s gonna be pissed. I’d better go try to calm him down before he decides to shoot that  Boston brother of mine. Johnny rubbed his hands down the sides of his pants and wandered over to the jail. Johnny quietly opened the door. “Hey, Val. How are ya?”

“Is your brother really that stupid?”

“Val, he thought she might have changed her mind. Ya know, she came up to us first.”

“He promised me not to leave Lancer. I though Scott was a man of his word.”

“Well, normally he is. This just ain’t normal. Are you coming out to bring him in or do you want him to turn himself in?”

“Well, if he wants to come in, that would save me the ride to the ranch. Tell him to come to town after breakfast tomorrow.”

Johnny nodded his head in agreement. He hated that his friend, and Scott’s friend, had been put in the middle of all this. He hoped theyd get a telegram of good news from Jarrod soon. Johnny had given the telegraph operator a nice tip to bring any messages out to Lancer as soon as they came in.

Breakfast the next morning was a somber affair as they knew they wouldn’t be seeing Scott around the ranch for at least the next two weeks. Murdoch and Johnny decided to accompany the prisoner into town. They wanted to show their support and also check to see if there was an answer to their telegram.

The Lancers dismounted in front of the jail. Mr. Harrison was standing by the door with his arms crossed over his chest. He looked over the three Lancers before he spoke. “I just wanted to make sure that son of yours got locked up like he deserves.” Mr. Harrison turned his glare toward Scott. “I’ve hired a top notch lawyer who’s going to make sure you get what you’ve got coming to you.”

Scott started to speak, but Murdoch pushed him into the jail before he could say anything. Then he motioned to his youngest to follow them into the jail. “Johnny, let’s get Scott settled in.”

With his head down, Scott walked into his cell, his home away from home for the next few weeks. He couldn’t decide if he should sit down on the cot or stand to face his father. Standing felt right. He turned toward his father, hoping to hear some caring, helpful words. Nothing. Silence. Finally Murdoch spoke.

“Scott, we’ll … you won’t need to … it’ll be over before you…” Murdoch sighed in frustration. “I’m sure Jarrod will take care of this.” Murdoch looked at Scott with concern on his face before he turned to leave. “Let’s go, Johnny.”

“You go ahead and go. I’m gonna stay with Scott for a little while.” Murdoch nodded his head and left the cell area.

Johnny waited ’til his father was out of earshot. “Man, that was painful. Murdoch sure doesn’t do the comforting thing very well, does he?”

Scott finally cracked a smile. “Thanks, brother.”

“Don’t worry, Scott. This will just be another of your many jailbird experiences.” Scott grimaced and then both brothers laughed. Johnny slapped his brother on the back as he left the cell area.

Thankfully, Val didn’t feel the need to lock the cell door. In fact, he even let Scott keep the door open.

One day at a time would be how he’d get through this confinement.

*****

“Do you think I could bring Scott some cookies or a pie or something?” Teresa questioned Johnny the next morning as he was headed out to work.

“I guess so. You could send it with the next person going into town.” Johnny started to mount Barranca.

“Wait! Johnny, there has to be something I could do to help. I mean, more than just baking.”

“I wish we knew what was going on in that girl’s head. Maybe you could try to buddy up to her. Try to get her to confess or something,” Johnny suggested.

“Johnny, we weren’t friends before. Why would she talk to me now?”

Both thought some more. “How about cozying up to Alfred? See if he’ll let anything slip.”

“I don’t know, Johnny. I’m not really interested in him. I don’t want to give him the wrong idea.”

“You wanted to know how you could help Scott.”

“OK, but what should I tell Murdoch? He won’t want me to get involved.”

“Just wait until he leaves, then go. Do you want me to go with you?”

“How can we go together if you’re leaving now?”

“Meet me in the East pasture.” Teresa hugged Johnny then went back into the kitchen.

*****

Teresa rode up to the Harrison’s house alone. They decided it would be best if Johnny stayed hidden.

As Teresa dismounted, Alfred wandered out of the barn. “Teresa? What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you. I’m really sorry for how everything turned out after the dance. Do you think we could sit and talk?”

“Oh, yes. Teresa, I’m so glad you came over. I’ve been thinking about you and trying to figure out how I could see you again. Do you want to go in the house?”

Teresa didn’t want to be alone with Alfred in the house. “Could we just sit out here?” Alfred led Teresa to the wicker chairs on the front porch.

“Teresa, I can’t tell you how sorry I am for how I acted at the dance. I don’t usually treat ladies like that. Not like your brother, anyway.” Teresa bit her tongue to not come to Scott’s defense. She just nodded. “I just got caught up with the local boys. I was trying to make friends and I let them talk me into doing something stupid. I’m having a hard time fitting in around here.”

“I understand. I just haven’t had very many boyfriends, so I didn’t know what to expect. I’m glad that you moved here, though.” Teresa hated to lie, but wanted to get something that would help her brother. “Where did you live before you came here?”

“We lived outside of San Francisco. It was so much better than living here. I had a girlfriend that I hated to leave. I wish that we could’ve eventually gotten married, but we had to move because of my sister. My father hoped that if we moved away from a big city, things would be different.”

“Really, what happened to your sister?” Now, Teresa was getting interested.

“I don’t know all the details, she’s got it written down in her stupid journal. This is the second time we had to move because of her. I told my father that if we move again I’m going back to San Francisco!”

Alfred reach over to hold Teresa’s hand. “Do you think I could take you to the next dance?”

Teresa smiled at the conceited young man, but nodded her head. Teresa wanted to know more. “Where did you live before San Francisco?”

Alfred started to get suspicious. “Why do you want to know?”

Teresa did some quick thinking. “I’ve never lived anywhere but Lancer. I’d love to see other parts of California.”

“Oh, well we also lived down around San Diego.” Alfred decided to change the subject. “Would you like something cool to drink?”

“That’s so sweet of you to ask, but I really need to get back.” Alfred helped her to stand, then pulled her into a hug. She let him, but drew the line of accepting a kiss from him.

He walked her to her horse and she turned to wave as she rode away.

Johnny caught up with Teresa a few miles down the road. “Well, did you get anything?”

“No, not much. I found out they’ve lived outside of San Francisco and San Diego. I don’t know if that helps. Alfred also said that they had to move because of his sister. Oh, and that she keeps a journal.”

“Did he say why they had to move?”

“No. He didn’t know, just that it was Winifred’s fault.”

“You done good, Teresa. We’ll tell this to Jarrod and maybe he can use it to get Scott out of this jam.”

Johnny left Teresa close to the hacienda and went back to the East pasture to work.

Teresa was stabling her horse in the barn when she looked up to see Murdoch standing in the doorway. “Well, Teresa, I didn’t know that you’d left the ranch. Did you go for a ride?”

Teresa didn’t want to lie to him, so she did some fast thinking. Tell the truth, just not the whole truth. “Yes, I did go for a ride.” She smiled sweetly up at her guardian.

“And where, pray tell, did you go?”

“I went east of here… to clear my head.”

“Did you leave the ranch?”

Oh, he knows. Teresa thought and her confidence crumbled. “Yes. I had to do something to help. I thought if I could just talk to Alfred maybe I could find out something that would help Scott. Please don’t be mad, Murdoch.” She searched his eyes to find out what he was thinking.

“No, darling, I’m not mad. I just wish you had talked this over with me instead of sneaking off.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know if you’d let me, so Johnny and I thought – ”

“Johnny was involved?” Murdoch interrupted and worked to keep his anger down.

“Well, yes, but I think I got some valuable information.” Teresa tried to change the subject from Johnny helping her. Helping her? It was sorta his idea, after all.

Their conversation was interrupted by a rider coming in. It was Timothy with a telegram. Murdoch thanked the young man and sent him on his way.

Murdoch tore open the message, then scowled. “Jarrod can’t handle Scott’s case right now. He’s sending a colleague from his San Francisco office. The attorney’s name is Joshua Hayes and he’ll be here in a few days.” Murdoch shoved the note into his pocket, tried to smile at Teresa as he walked her into the house.

Meanwhile, Johnny mulled over the information that Teresa had told him. He wanted to talk it over with Scott. Maybe big brother would have some ideas about what to do. Johnny rode over to Walt to let the hired hand know he was heading into town, in case anybody asked for him.

*****

Johnny was surprised by what he saw as he entered the jail. Val was leaning back in his desk chair with his feet up on his desk, sound asleep. Johnny heard the back door to the jail cells open and close. That can’t be good, so Johnny drew his Colt and quietly approached the cells. He didn’t want anyone sneaking in to harm his brother.

“Stop where you are! Put your hands up!” Johnny pointed his gun at the intruder. Val heard the commotion and came running with his gun drawn.

Scott stood in the doorway to his cell with his hands in the air. He turned to see his brother and the sheriff pointing guns at his middle.

“What in the Sam Hill is goin’ on back here, Johnny?” Val didn’t know if he was more upset that his nap was interrupted or the fact that his heart was pounding out of his chest.

“I heard the back door. And you were asleep. Well, I didn’t know who’d be sneaking in. Damn it Val, I just wanted to protect Scott. Who came in the back door or who left from the back door?” Johnny stammered.

Scott put his hands down as he sat down upon his cot. “I did. I went out to use the privy.”

“What kind of jail are you running sheriff where a prisoner can come and go at will?” A tall man in a suit carrying a briefcase was standing in the doorway between the office and the cells.

“Who, may I ask, are you?” Val queried.

“I am George Pearson. I’m the prosecuting attorney sent here by the judge. I demand that prisoner be locked up securely.” The attorney stood with one fisted hand on his hip and the other pointing at Scott in the cell. “You and your deputy shouldn’t be allowing anyone to enter the cell area without the judge’s permission.”

“Who are you calling deputy?” Johnny looked at the lawyer rather indignantly.

“If you’re not the deputy, why are you back there and with a gun?”

Val jumped in before Johnny found himself in a cell beside his brother. “Why don’t we take this out to the office.” The sheriff closed Scott’s cell door before escorting everyone out.

“Sheriff, aren’t you forgetting something?” Pearson stood pointing at the cell keys.

Val quickly picked up the keys, shuffled back to lock Scott in his cell, and hoped to return before Johnny had a chance to open his mouth. Wishful thinking. Johnny and the lawyer were in the middle of a lively discussion.

“You’re his brother!” Pearson exclaimed before his mouth fell open. When Val returned to the office the attorney turned on him. “Sheriff, I want this man out of here! If you can’t follow legal procedures, I will be forced to send for a Federal Marshal. Do I make myself clear?”

Val begrudgingly agreed. He promised to keep the cell door locked and not allow anyone but legal counsel to have access to the prisoner. Then Val turned to Johnny and shoved him out the door.

Johnny mounted Barranca and hurried home to let Murdoch know what had happened in town. He was frustrated that he hadn’t had a chance to talk to Scott. Maybe the ol’ man would know what to do with the information Teresa had come up with.

Chapter 3

Johnny rushed into the house. Teresa and Murdoch were sitting on the couch discussing what Teresa had found out. Murdoch wrote it all down, so they’d remember to tell it to Mr. Hayes, Scott’s lawyer, when he arrived.

“Where have you been?” Murdoch stood to greet his son, but didn’t wait for him to answer. “I think Teresa’s gotten us some good information. I just wish we could get our hands on that journal.”

“Well, I went into town to talk to Scott about it, but didn’t get to. The lawyer for Harrison kicked me out. He’s making Val do everything by the book.”

“We’ll need to wait until Mr. Hayes gets here tomorrow to go over everything we’ve learned. We’re going to need to do this legally and yes, Johnny, this time legal will get the job done.” Both men laughed at Murdoch’s quoting Johnny from when they helped Scott rescue Teresa from Carl Bolton.

“I just hate to think of Scott being locked up in the jail for the next few weeks. Maybe I could go talk to Winifred to see if she’ll let me see her journal.” Teresa mused aloud.

“Let’s wait and get some legal advice. If he can’t figure out a way to get the journal, Teresa, you can try.” Murdoch smiled at Teresa. She might just be the one to get Scott out of this mess. Or, if they aren’t careful, dig him in deeper.

*****

Murdoch and Johnny met Mr. Hayes at the stage depot. They took the lawyer over to the hotel cafe for a cool drink after the long dusty ride on the stage from Cross Creek. He had ridden the train overnight from San Francisco. He wanted to get started on this case as soon as possible. If he could impress Jarrod Barkley, it would help him to move up in the legal standings of California. Mr. Hayes had political aspirations beyond being a lawyer.

Murdoch laid out the case against Scott. Mr. Hayes was already aware of most of the information. Johnny chimed in about the Harrison’s moving around a lot in California. Hayes wrote out telegrams to the Marshals around San Francisco and San Diego to see what they could tell him about the Harrisons. Murdoch informed the lawyer that there was a journal that Winifred kept that might be helpful. Mr. Hayes wrote that information down as well. Then, he sent Johnny to place the telegrams. Finally, he wanted to see his client. His bags were left at the hotel where he would be staying while he was in town. The tall Scotsman walked the lawyer over to the jail.

Murdoch made the introductions.  “Val, this is Mr. Hayes, Scott’s lawyer. Mr. Hayes, This is Sheriff Crawford – ”

“I’d like to meet with my client in private, sheriff.” Val didn’t appreciate the man’s gruffness.

“Right this way, Mr. Hayes.” Val motioned for the attorney to follow him back to Scott’s cell. Murdoch followed along behind them. He wanted to get a chance to see Scott again.

“Thank you, sheriff. I’ll let you and Mr. Lancer know when I’m finished.” Feeling dismissed, both men left the cell area to wait in the office.

Scott watched the interaction between the three men. He’d gotten a brief glimpse of Murdoch’s smile before his father and Val turned to walk back into the office. He had questions he hoped would soon be answered.

“Mr. Lancer, my name is Joshua Hayes. I have been hired as your legal representative. I’ve been briefed by your family about the case. Now, I’d like to hear your side of the story.”

They spent the next hour discussing all the evidence in the case, what Scott knew, and what Teresa had found out. Mr. Hayes felt confident that it wouldn’t even need to go to trial. He knew of attorney Pearson’s grandstanding, but wasn’t worried. His words calmed Scott’s concerns. Finally deciding there was nothing else they could discuss, Mr. Hayes left Scott with a hand shake and nod.

Murdoch had stopped pacing back and forth across the office about half an hour ago. Now he was just sitting, looking out the window. This was all such a waste of time and money. Scott would never treat a woman this way, no matter what the Pinkerton’s report had said. Doubts started to bubble up into his head. Hadn’t Scott been accused of mishandling Zee when he was an acting deputy? Nothing ever came of that false accusation. Murdoch just hoped that none of this information would come out in the trial. Maybe he better mention it to the lawyer.

Val and Murdoch both stood as Mr. Hayes entered the office. “I’ve finished with your son for today. I  think I’ll go back to the hotel and get something to eat before I retire to my room.” The lawyer nodded to the two gentlemen and took his leave.

“That lawyer sure don’t waste any time. Is he any good? Where’d he come from, anyway?”

“Jarrod Barkley highly recommended him. He practices law in San Francisco. Well, since he has everything well in hand, I’m going back to the ranch. Would you mind if I speak to Scott before I go?’

“Sure, Mr. Lancer. As long at that Mr. Pearson don’t catch ya.”

Murdoch grinned as he walked through the doorway to the cells. Scott looked up at him. “How are you doing, son?’

“Fine, sir. That lawyer seems quite thorough. He thinks that this will never even go to trial. If I get out of this, I’m swearing off dances.”

Both men chuckled at Scott’s declaration. They hoped the lawyer’s prediction would hold true.

“You take care now, Scott. This will all be over before you know it. The attorney said he’ll keep you appraised of anything he turns up. Oh, and Johnny said that you’ll owe him some time off since he’s covering your work load and his.”

Scott rolled his eyes. “Thank you for coming by and…” Scott got a lump in his throat and couldn’t continue.

Murdoch reached through the bars to put his hand on his son’s shoulder. “Take care.”

*****

“Teresa, you’ve got to get your hands on Winnie’s journal!” Johnny took out his frustration from his inability to help on his sister.

“I don’t know, Johnny. Murdoch wasn’t happy with us after the last time we sneaked over to the Harrison’s place.”

“Yeah, but he gave your information to the lawyer, just the same.”

“OK, but this time we’ll let Murdoch know what we’re planning.”

Murdoch was concerned, but agree to let them try again. On one proviso, he would be going along.

The three rode as far as the tree line nearest the Harrison’s home. Teresa continued on by herself. Unfortunately, when she arrived she was greeted by Winnie not Alfred.

“Good morning, Winnie. Is Alfred around?”

“No, they all left for town earlier this morning. Is there something I could help you with, Teresa?”

Thinking quickly, “Why yes, actually there is. Could I have a copy of your cookie recipe? Everyone loved them so much and I wanted to make some. Maybe we could even make some and I could take them to Scott.” Teresa watched the girl stiffen then she relaxed.

“Why don’t you come in. I think I have all the ingredients. Did Scott really like the cookies?”

“Yes, yes he did. I know he’d appreciated them very much.” Don’t pour it on too thick Teresa.

The ladies continued a light-hearted conversation while they worked in the kitchen. “It sure gets hot in the kitchen, doesn’t it, Winnie? Do you think I could have a glass of cool lemonade? Maybe even with some ice in it.”

“Oh, Teresa, that sounds refreshing. I’ll go get some lemons from the root cellar and some ice from the ice house.”

“Winnie, do you mind if I lay down in your bedroom? I’m suddenly tired from the ride and all the baking.”

“Certainly, I’ll wake you when the lemonade is ready. My room is the last one on the right at the end of the hall.”

Teresa figured she had maybe ten minutes before she’d be caught snooping. Where would I put my journal. Bedside table? Teresa opened the drawer, but there was no journal. She looked around the room. Desk? Teresa rifled through the entire desk with no luck. Time was running out. Where would I hide it so my brother’s wouldn’t find it? She looked through her dresser drawers and armoire and came back empty handed. She did find Scott’s jacket hanging in the armoire, though. She turned to look around the room one last time. The only furniture not checked was the bed. Teresa ran her hand under the mattress on one side, then went to the other side. Bingo! She pulled out a book. She opened it. It was the journal she’d been searching for. It was about the size of a small bible. Teresa went to the door and peeked out into the hall. The coast was clear. She made it out of the house and was just stuffing into her saddlebag.

“Teresa! What are you doing? I thought you were resting.” Winnie stood in the doorway watching.

“Oh, I wanted to get my saddlebag so we could fill it with cookies.”

“OK. The lemonade is ready. Come on in and we can enjoy it with some cookies.” Winnie turned back into the house.

Teresa took the journal out of the saddlebag and hid it in her bedroll behind the saddle. Another thirty minutes went by before Teresa could excuse herself to go home.

“Please, tell Scott that these cookies are from me… and tell him I’ll see him soon.” Winnie smiled her sweetest smile at her friend.

Teresa couldn’t get away from there fast enough. She knew, for sure, that Winnie wasn’t quite right in the head. She worried what would happen when Winnie found the journal missing, but decided that was a chance they’d have to take.

“I got it!” Teresa exclaimed when she met up with Murdoch and Johnny. “Should we take it directly to the lawyer?”

Murdoch thought for a moment. “We don’t know what’s in it. Maybe we should look it over before we show it to Mr. Hayes.”

*****

Teresa was fuming. She had been relegated to the kitchen while the ‘men folk’ looked over the journal. I’m the one that found the journal. I’m the one that did all the dirty work. Why can’t I be involved in when they look for evidence to clear Scott? She threw down her apron and marched into the Great Room.

Murdoch sat at his desk perched over the journal. Johnny had been banished to the sofa where he sat with his right ankle crossed over his left knee and playing with his spurs.

“Well?” Teresa stood in front of the massive desk with her fists on her hips.

Murdoch looked up to find Teresa and Johnny both standing before him. “This isn’t the first time she’s been infatuated with someone. She thought she was going to be Mrs. Scott Lancer. Winifred wrote some rather … descriptive … fantasies about Scott and the other men she wanted to marry. I think I’ll ride into town in the morning and turn this over to Mr. Hayes.”

Johnny was dying to read the journal just so he could harass his brother. Fantasies, huh? Johnny hoped that his father would put the journal in his desk. Even if it were locked in a drawer, he’d find a way to get it.

Murdoch could read Johnny’s mind. “I think I’ll take the journal up to my bedroom.” He closed the journal, smiled at his son as he headed toward his bedroom. He even chuckled as he passed his frustrated son.

Murdoch left for town right after breakfast. He wanted to meet with Mr. Hayes first thing. The sooner this problem was taken care of, the sooner Scott would be released.

Murdoch strode into the hotel and was greeted at the front desk by the clerk. “Good Morning, Mr. Lancer. How can I help you?”

“Morning. I was wondering if Mr. Hayes was still in his room?”

“No, Mr. Hayes is currently have breakfast in the dining room.”

“Oh, thank you.” Murdoch glanced around the room and found Mr. Hayes sitting to the side by the window.

“Mr. Lancer, good to see you this morning. You saved me a trip out to your ranch. I’ve received some startling telegrams that I wanted to talk over with you. Actually, I can discuss them with you and your son over at the jail.” Mr. Hayes proceeded to stand, but Murdoch motioned for him to sit back down.

“Mr. Hayes, I have some information that will be helpful for you as well. It seems Miss Harrison has pulled this same stunt with several other men. My ward took possession of Winifred’s journal and it has some very damaging evidence.”

“I won’t ask how she came into ‘possession’ of said journal, but I would be interested in looking it over before we talk to Scott.”

The two men went up to the attorney’s hotel room where Mr. Hayes looked through the journal. His expression changed from shock, to surprise, to worry, to finally calm. He felt confident that he could get his client released by the end of the day without ever going to court. Now it was time to talk to Scott, show him the evidence, and relate his plans.

When they arrived at the jail, they found the door locked. “Val must be making rounds. Let’s have a seat out front. He’ll be back soon.” Both men hated waiting and wasting time, but they didn’t have to wait long. Val returned with a breakfast tray for Scott.

“Well, morning gents. What brings you over this morning?”

“Mr. Lancer and I need to speak with Scott.”

“Val, if all goes well, you’ll have your jail back to yourself by the end of the day.”

“You know Scott’s not bad company, but I can tell ya he’s sure ’bout ready to bust outa here.”

Val led the gentlemen back to Scott’s cell, then passed the breakfast tray to his prisoner. Murdoch and Mr. Hayes sat in chairs outside of Scott’s cell. The attorney relayed his findings and showed Scott the telegrams. Then, Murdoch explained what he had found out before he handed the journal through the bars. The blond read the part that pertained to him. He was sickened by her fantasies. If he’d eaten breakfast already, he’d probably be tossing it up by now.

Scott decided to ask the question he dreaded to hear the answer to. “Will this have to be read in court?”

“Scott, I’m hoping to have a meeting with Mr. Pearson and Mr. Harrison today. Once all this evidence comes out, well, I think that the charges will be dropped. I’m hoping we can get you released before the end of the day.”

Scott visibly relaxed. That was the best news he’d heard in a long time. “Thank you, Mr. Hayes.”

“Don’t thank me yet, but don’t worry. This will all be over soon. Now, I’m going to go locate Mr. Pearson at the hotel.” The attorney left the father and son alone.

Murdoch patted Scott on the knee. “You’ll be sleeping in your own bed tonight.”

“Thank you. Thank you for believing in me and standing by me. I appreciate it so much.”

Murdoch turned to follow Mr. Hayes out the door. “Mr. Hayes! Could you wait a moment?” Murdoch caught up to the attorney in the street. “I’d like to sit in on the meeting if I could.”

“It’s highly irregular. I could ask Mr. Pearson if he would object. I’ll tell him you are representing your son. May I ask why you want to be there?”

“As a father, I’d like to be there to support Mr. Harrison. I know that his daughter is troubled and with Scott her victim, well, I just want to be involved in ending this situation. He’s been a good neighbor before all this happened and I want to help him and his daughter get the help they need.”

*****

“This is highly irregular, indeed! To request a meeting with Mr. Harrison with Mr. Lancer participating is… unheard of. As long as the sheriff and his deputy are in the room, I will allow it.”

“Mr. Pearson, we want to discuss the evidence with all parties involved and hopefully make this go away without ever going to trial. If after meeting, you still feel we need to proceed with litigation, then we will move forward. You have my word this will be a civil meeting. We would like to meet today if possible.”

“Mr. Hayes, again I say, this is highly irregular… but I will send a messenger to request Mr. Harrison join us in my hotel room as soon as possible. I will notify you when he arrives.”

“Thank you, Mr. Pearson, for your understanding and your flexibility.”

Murdoch and Mr. Hayes spent the day discussing their strategy, eating a light lunch, but mainly… waiting. By late afternoon, Murdoch was at the end of his rope, ready to explode. Hayes on the other hand remained calm, on the outside at least. Finally, there was a knock at the door. The desk clerk said that Mr. Pearson was ready for them in his suite. They asked that someone find sheriff Crawford and tell him what room number they were meeting in and that they were ready to start as soon as he and his deputy arrived.

Mr. Hayes led the way into the room. Mr. Pearson had a round table set up with four chairs around it. Once all were seated, it turned out that the two fathers were seated across from each other. Glaring at each other. No one said anything until Val showed up.

“I must strenuously remind everyone present of my objections to having the fathers of our clients at this meeting, but since we’re here to try to eliminate taking this case to trial, I will allow it. Gentlemen you may listen, but I will not tolerate any interruptions. Do you both agree to be witnesses only to this meeting?” Mr. Pearson looked to the fathers to make sure they understood. Mr. Lancer and Mr. Harrison begrudgingly nodded their heads.

Mr. Pearson began to lay out his case. The scratches on Scott’s face, the torn dress, and Winifred’s testimony were countered by Mr. Hayes. Murdoch had to bite his tongue not to argue in Scott’s defense. Mr. Harrison’s face turned red with anger. Then, Pearson dropped the bombshell. “We have a Pinkerton’s report that states this isn’t the first time that Scott Lancer has had improper relations with a young woman. There were several angry fathers that reported his behavior, but he fled from Boston to California before any official charges could be made.”

Murdoch could not sit still any longer. “He didn’t flee Boston. I asked him to join me here to help me save my ranch… our ranch.”

“Mr. Lancer, I remind you that you have no say in this matter. Please hold your tongue. Any further outburst and you will be removed.” Pearson stated rather forcefully.

Mr. Hayes calmly spoke up, “Since no charges were filed, this will be hearsay evidence. Do you have any other evidence Mr. Pearson?”

“Not at this time.”

“As you know, Mr. Scott Lancer refutes any statements made by Miss Harrison,” Mr. Hayes began, “we’ve made some inquiries of our own about Miss Harrison.” Mr. Harrison sat up straighter in his chair. “This is not the first case where Miss Harrison has been ‘attacked’, in fact it is the third time.”

Mr. Harrison threw back his chair as he came to his feet. “My daughter is not on trial here! Your son is the deviant who attacked my innocent daughter.” Murdoch stood to face his adversary. Val and his deputy approached the table.

“Gentlemen! Sit down, shut up or get out!” With glares from both lawmen and lawyers, the fathers sat back down at the table with arms crossed and pursed lips.

Mr. Hayes continued, “Either Miss Harrison has incredibly bad luck with young men, or she has some part to play in these cases. We also have a journal that will prove that Miss Harrison became infatuated with Mr. Lancer and when he didn’t return her affection, she concocted this tale to get her revenge.”

With this statement, Mr. Harrison jumped to his feet again. Before he could utter a word, Mr. Pearson motioned toward the law enforcement officers. “Sheriff, remove Mr. Harrison and Mr. Lancer!”

Both lawmen reluctantly showed the fathers to the door. Val escorted Murdoch back to Hayes’ room while the deputy took Mr. Harrison to the lobby to await the conclusion of the meeting.

Mr. Pearson glared at Mr. Hayes. “I told you they didn’t need to be in this meeting. You knew that was going to happen. Why did you push for them to be here?”

“I wanted Mr. Harrison to realize that his daughter was responsible for this incident.” Mr. Hayes replied.

“Let me see the journal. Do I even want to know how you got your hands on this?”

Mr. Hayes shook his head. “No, but the person that retrieved the journal was invited on the premises.”

The lawyers spent the next hour reading the journal, discussing the evidence, and deciding on the outcome of their meeting. “We should meet with our respective clients before we all come back together. Mr. Pearson, do you want to show the journal to Mr. Harrison?”

“Yes, I think that would be appropriate. Shall we meet back here in… say… an hour?” The lawyers shook hands and went to find their client’s representatives.

*****

Mr. Hayes knocked on Mr. Pearson’s door. Murdoch and Hayes were invited into the room. They immediately noticed that Mr. Harrison was absent from the room.

“Gentlemen, if you would please take a seat.” Pearson waited until everyone was comfortable. “Mr. Harrison will not be joining us. After reading his daughter’s journal, he has decided to drop the charges.” The lawyer waited for reactions from Murdoch and Mr. Hayes.

“Is he going to get her some help?” Murdoch wondered aloud. Mr. Pearson realized that obviously Murdoch had read the journal.

“Yes. He didn’t know the depth of his daughter’s problems. He’ll be taking her back to San Francisco.”

Murdoch shook both the lawyers hands as he stood up to leave. “Thank you gentlemen for handling matters so discreetly. Joshua, give my regards to Jarrod. Now, I’m going to get my wayward son out of jail.”

Val looked up as Murdoch entered the jail. “Well, will Scott be hung up by his thumbs or do I get to kick his sorry butt out of here?”

Murdoch grinned. “He’s to be released. Charges have been dropped. Miss Harrison is going to get the help she needs.”

Val escorted Murdoch back to Scott’s cell. The blond stood up expectantly waiting for good news.

“It’s over. Let’s go home, son.”

Scott had many questions, but figured he could get answers from Murdoch on the ride home. He was past ready to get out of that cell.

Epilogue

Teresa and Maria had gone overboard creating a feast of all of Scott’s favorite dishes for dinner that night. They even had spiced pound cake for dessert. A very full family retired to the Great Room for after-dinner drinks.

Scott sat on the long couch while Johnny lounged on the settee by the fireplace. Teresa sat across from them both in the leather chair in the corner. Murdoch sat on the opposite end of the couch with his feet resting on the ottoman.

“Scott?” Teresa looked over at her brother who glanced up with a questioning expression. “I heard that Spanish Wells is having their Founders Day celebration at the end of the month.” Scott waited to hear her question. “They’re going to have a dance.”

“No.” Scott answered before she even asked.

“Are you and Johnny going to take me to the dance?”

“No.” The blond answered more emphatically. 

“But you’re such a wonderful dancer. And everyone is looking forward to the event.”

“No.” Scott stretched out the word.

“Oh, come on brother. What’s wrong with a little celebration with a dance at the end of the day.”

Murdoch enjoyed watching his children’s interactions. Teresa moved over to sit down on the couch besides Scott effectively cornering him. Johnny strolled over to lean on the arm of the couch on the other side of his brother. Teresa beamed her most brilliant smile at Scott. Scott looked from one sibling to the other.

“I think I feel a cold coming on at the end of the month. Goodnight all.” The blond stood, grinned at his father, and escaped from the room,

Laughter erupted as Scott retreated and Teresa said, “I’ve got a few weeks to work on him.”

.

~end~
May 2022

To To Dance Or Not To Dance –>

.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or Email Patricia directly.

3 thoughts on “Church Dance by PatriciaG

  1. Scott better watch out! No telling what will happen next…
    Thanks to you we’ll get to find out. 😊👏

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: