To Dance Or Not To Dance by PatriciaG.

Part Three of the Dance Trilogy

Beta: Raian.
Thank you to my good friend Sheri. I love all the hours we spend in coffee shops working on writing. You keep me focused and have sound advice and helpful directions.

Word count: 7,855

Chapter One

The day started much the same as any other since freed from his incarceration. From the minute he rode off from the hacienda his spirits had lifted a little bit more each day over the past two weeks. His memories of Winifred Harrison were starting to fade.

How could I have fallen for her trap? It’s not the first time I’ve been fooled by a woman, but hopefully it’ll be the last.

Once he’d participated in her sanitarium intake hearing, Scott wouldn’t have to think about the whole horrible situation ever again.

Unfortunately, the storm just heading over the mountains was trying to dampen his good mood. At least he’d grabbed his slicker before leaving home.

By the mid-day meal, Scott was soaked to the skin. He looked over at his brother’s muddy face and smiled. Johnny wasn’t any drier than he was.

“What are you grinnin’ at, Boston? I’d think you’d be gripin’ about this weather.”

“Just glad to be working out here with you, brother.”

Johnny shrugged. “I guess it’s not gonna let up.” He glanced up into the rain, used his bandanna to wipe some of the mud off his face, and smiled back at Scott. “Ya ready?”

Scott nodded and strolled over to the horses with Johnny.

“Dammit!” Johnny noticed that several cows were making an all-out run toward the only opening in the fence line.

Scott saw his brother take off at a full gallop. He shook his head. “One of these days, Johnny’s going to  get hurt riding like that in these muddy conditions.” No sooner had the words left Scott’s mouth than Barranca slid down. How Johnny managed to stay on, Scott didn’t know. The blond continued to watch, suddenly realizing that his brother wasn’t on the horse. Spurred into action, he raced Charlie to the last place he’d seen his brother. Scott, focusing on finding Johnny, jumped from his horse, but didn’t notice the gopher hole right in his way. The Bostonian collapsed in a heap as he screamed out in pain, grabbing his right leg. Johnny’s head popped up from the ravine he had tumbled into. He scrambled over to Scott, who was writhing in pain.

“Scott… Scott! What can I do?” Johnny was at his brother’s side. “Scott, let me look.” He reached down to take his brother’s boot off. He stopped when Scott screamed again while batting Johnny’s hands away from his leg. “Walt, go get a wagon. Ted, go to town and get Sam.”

Scott had curled into a ball, drawing his knee toward his chest to protect his hurt ankle. The rain continued to fall. Johnny placed Scott’s head in his lap, protecting him from the rain with his hat. One of the hired hands brought over a bedroll to put over Scott’s body. Johnny’s back began to ache from sitting arched over, but he wouldn’t think of moving.

It felt like hours had passed before the wagon, driven by Jelly, finally arrived. Scott had stilled, but the pain lines around his eyes told of his discomfort.

Jelly took control of the situation. “OK, men, let’s get Scott settled in the wagon. Johnny, you need to back up.” Several men carefully loaded the blond onto some hay spread out in the back of the wagon, covering him with a bedroll to try to keep him dry.

Johnny continued sitting, trying to get the feeling back into his legs. “Jelly, you head on out! I’ll grab Charlie and probably beat ya back to the house.”


Chapter Two

Johnny was right. He did make it there before the wagon returned. Murdoch and Johnny rushed out to meet the wagon as it pulled up. The process was repeated in reverse as the men carried Scott up to his room. The blond tried to muffle his moan of pain by biting his lips. He succeeded as they removed him from the wagon, but let out a yell when one of the hired hands tried to help by taking his boots off.

“Let’s just leave Scott’s boot alone until Sam gets here to check him over.” Murdoch motioned for everyone to leave the room after he placed his son’s foot on a pillow.

“I’m gonna stay here for a while,” Johnny informed his father. “Scott, do you want some water?”

Scott shook his head as he closed his eyes in spasm of pain.

“What were ya doin’ runnin’ ’round out there?”

“I was looking for my fool brother that I thought needed some help.” Scott gritted his teeth in response to another wave of pain.

Johnny sighed, “Well, thanks anyway, brother.”

Teresa came in carrying some heated blankets. “Are you going to get him out of his wet clothes?”

“We didn’t want to jostle his foot.” They turned toward each other and rethought their idea since Teresa brought it up. “We’ll cut his pants off as soon as you leave. Just put the blankets down in the chair.”

“Scott, do you want some hot coffee?”

“Thank you, Teresa, that would be nice.” Scott tried to smile, but it looked more like a grimace.

Staying still had lessened the throbbing down to a dull ache in Scott’s ankle. Johnny helped lean his brother up so Murdoch could remove the shirt. Then they took his left boot off. They split the injured Lancer’s right pant leg from the ankle to his hip, trying not to move his injured ankle. A hiss escaped Scott’s lips as his ankle was unintentionally moved as the pants were finally removed. Then a sigh was heard when the warm blankets were placed over his shivering body.

Teresa’s timing was perfect. She reentered the room carrying the hot drinks just as they were putting pillows behind Scott to help him sit up in bed. Teresa placed the tray on the dresser for everyone to reach, but brought the blond his hot mug of coffee.

Teresa had added some cream and sugar to his coffee. Scott took a sip. “Ahhh. That’s so good.”

“Scott, you didn’t need to hurt yourself just to get out of going to the dance,” Teresa admonished.

Scott grinned at his sister. “Didn’t plan it, but it is an added bonus.”

“Well…it looks like my patient has been well taken care off. What do you need me for?” Sam asked as he entered the room. They all turned to thank the good doctor for his speedy arrival. “All right, everyone out. I need to see to Scott.”

Sam asked Scott about what happened. While Scott was talking, Sam mixed some laudanum into a glass of water. The blond drank it down before he scowled at the bitter taste.

“It looks like you’re going to need a new pair of boots.”

“Ah, Sam, I just got those broken in good.” Scott’s grin faded into a grimace as Sam began cutting his boot down the side from the top to the instep. The doctor carefully inspected the foot and ankle.

“Well, Scott, it looks like it’s just sprained, not broken. But it’s a bad sprain.” Sam wrapped the ankle and foot in a snug bandage. “Keep your foot elevated and stay off it ’til the swelling goes down. Keep the bandage clean and dry. I’ll be back to see you in a couple of days. Then, if it’s healing nicely, you can use a crutch or cane to get around.”

Scott, with heavy eyes, nodded that he understood.

Sam helped the blond get settled back down in his bed by taking some of the pillows from behind him. Scott let out a sigh of contentment as the quilt was brought up around his shoulders. He was asleep before Sam had left the room.

The doctor joined the rest of the Lancer clan in the Great Room who were waiting ‘patiently.’ Before anyone could start the questions, Sam volunteered the information. “Just a bad ankle sprain. He needs to stay in bed with his foot elevated until I return, by then the swelling should be down. Then, he can get around with a crutch or cane. Any questions I haven’t answered?”

Murdoch smiled at his friend. “Do you want to stay for dinner and the night?”

Sam grinned and nodded his acceptance.

After several days, Sam returned to find that Scott had followed his instructions, but wanted to get out of bed. Johnny brought his brother the pair of moccasins he had purchased from Val Crawford. Sam thought that would be a good idea since Scott couldn’t get a boot over his wrapped ankle.

It was the Thursday before the Spanish Wells Founders Day celebration on Saturday and Scott made it down to the couch for the day. Before Murdoch left to go into town, he gave Scott the books to work on. Johnny returned to the hacienda at the end of the day to find Scott asleep on the couch surrounded by the books.

Johnny leaned in over Scott and whispered, “Hey, brother, wake up.” 

Scott slowly roused himself and sat up. “Johnny, how was your day?”

“Got a lot taken care of. How ’bout you?”

“Productive, brother. Very productive.”

“Ah, how’s your ankle feelin’?”

“It lets me know it’s still there, but better each day.”

“What’re you gonna do while we go to the Founders Day celebration? You’re gonna have to fend for yourself till we get back Sunday afternoon.”

“Ah, Johnny, are you worried about me? I can take care of myself for a couple of days. But if you’re going into the kitchen, I could use a glass of lemonade and some of Teresa’s cookies.”

Johnny backhanded his brother in the stomach as he left, chuckling to himself in route to the kitchen.

Two days went by quickly. Johnny saddled Barranca, while Jelly harnessed two horses to the spring carriage.

Teresa was busy giving last minute instructions to Scott. “Now, there is fresh lemonade in the cooler. I left a roast and some potatoes in the warming tray. There are bread and cookies in the pantry. Is there anything else that you might need? Is there a book you need?”

“Sweetheart, I’ll be fine. You’re not going to be gone that long and I can take care of myself. Trust me.”

Murdoch tried not to smile at Teresa and Scott’s conversation. “Come on, Teresa. It’s time to go. Scott, we’ll see you tomorrow afternoon.”

“Have fun!”

Scott spent the remainder of Friday afternoon lounging on the front patio drinking lemonade and eating cookies that Jelly had brought to him. Jelly stopped by two more times to check on the blond, but was sent on his way both times.

As the sun started to set, Scott went to lie down on the couch. He dozed until his stomach began to grumble. The Bostonian used his cane to make his way into the kitchen. He felt very accomplished after he managed to make a roast beef sandwich all on his own. Scott hobbled back into the Great Room, carrying his prized sandwich.

He only made it as far as the massive dining room table. “What the devil are you doing here? What’s that gun for?” Scott was staring at Thomas Harrison standing in the middle of the Great Room with a gun in his hand.


Chapter Three

“I’m here to keep you from testifying against my sister.”

Scott took an aggressive step toward the man with the gun, but stopped when he heard the click of another weapon. He turned his head to see Alfred Harrison standing in front of the couch with his gun drawn.

“So, what are your plans? Are you here to kill me?”

“No! No, we’re just gonna keep you out of sight until after her hearing. She don’t need to be in that place. She just needs to be with us where we can help her. You wanna lock Winnie away.” Thomas waved his gun in Scott’s direction and pointed it at the door. “Now, come on. Nice and easy. No fighting.” Thomas took the sandwich out of the blond’s hands, leaving the plate behind on the table.

Alfred came up behind Scott and gave him a shove, almost causing him to fall as he dropped his cane by the couch. He pushed Scott again as they walked through the door. Thomas went into the barn to bring Charlie out to the hitching post. They had already saddled Scott’s horse before they entered the hacienda. Scott hobbled over to his horse. After mounting Charlie, the Harrison boys tied his legs to the stirrups. Then, they tied Scott’s hands to the saddle horn. Finally, Alfred gagged him with his bandanna. Scott looked around to see if there was anyone who could come to his aid. Out of the corner of his eye he spied Jelly, bound and gagged in the barn, as Alfred pulled the handy man into the tack room. He realized that no help was coming. If he was going to get out of this, he would need to do it himself. Thomas took Charlie’s reins and they left Lancer.

The trio rode a few miles before stopping at the road to Modesto to split up. Alfred veered off toward town. His plan was to take a stage out of Modesto to San Francisco. Thomas led Scott into the hills to his hideout, an abandoned mine in the hills outside of Modesto. Scott’s ankle throbbed, he felt chilled with no jacket on, and he was nauseated from the nasty bandanna in his mouth.

Thomas untied Scott’s legs to help get him off his horse. The blond took his legs out of the stirrups and stretched to get feeling back into them. As Thomas untied Scott’s hands, Scott tried to push him away. Harrison grabbed Scott, pulling him off Charlie’s back and slamming him to the ground. He grabbed his gun and put it to the blond’s head. “Try that again and I’ll rethink keeping you alive.” He pointed toward the mine. “Get in there.” Scott had barely hobbled into the mine when he tripped over a downed beam in the dark. Thomas lit a lantern and helped the Bostonian to his feet. Together they made it back away from the entrance of the mine.

Scott looked around the place that would be his home for the foreseeable future. The Harrisons had stocked the mine. There were cans of food, chopped wood, and bedrolls laid out around a fire circle. He hoped they would start a fire soon, as he felt a shiver go down his spine.

Johnny rode next to the buggy carrying Murdoch and Teresa as they arrived back home later than they expected. All were lost in conversation as they arrived at the hacienda.

“I can’t wait to tell Scott about all the ladies that missed him at the dance.” Teresa smiled with this announcement as she and Murdoch strolled into the house.

“I’ll be happy to brag about all the ladies I made happy dancing with me!” Johnny exclaimed over his shoulder as he led Barranca into the barn. Entering the barn, he heard a commotion from the tack room. He was shocked to see Jelly with bloody hands bound behind his back and a gag in his mouth. “Jelly!” Johnny rushed over to help the old man that he considered a good friend.

Teresa found the empty plate on the dining table and figured Scott had taken care of his hunger needs. She headed back to the kitchen to work on fixing dinner. Murdoch picked up all the ledgers that were scattered around the couch and brought them to his desk. He also picked up the cane and leaned it against the couch. He was disappointed that Scott wasn’t using the cane to get around like the doctor instructed him to do.

“Murdoch!” Johnny hollered as he helped Jelly stumble into the Great Room.

“What happened?” Murdoch questioned as he helped get Jelly situated on the couch. “Teresa, bring some soap, hot water, and bandages.” Murdoch looked to Johnny and Jelly for some answers.

“The Harrison boys attacked me.” Jelly rubbed the back of his head. “They knocked me out and stuffed me in the tack room.”

“Why would they – ?” Murdoch started.

Johnny jumped up and ran out of the room. He pushed open Scott’s bedroom door and wasn’t surprised to find the room empty. He hollered, “They took Scott!”

Murdoch slammed his fist down on the massive desk by the window. Teresa entered, carrying the basin of soapy water and bandages that had been requested.

“We need to get a posse together,” Johnny stated as he turned toward the front door.

“Wait, Johnny. They’ve got a day’s head start on us. We can’t do anything until tomorrow morning. Let’s get Jelly fixed up, eat dinner, then get some rest. We’ll leave at first light,” Murdoch ordered.

Johnny nodded his head in acceptance. He slowly walked out to the barn to brush down Barranca. One of the hands had already unsaddled his horse and unharnessed the buggy.

At sunup Monday morning, Murdoch, Johnny, Ciprano, and a few hands were saddled and ready to ride. Jelly wanted to go along, but they needed him to stay with Teresa.

Just outside of the arch, Cipriano found the horseshoe prints from three horses. They followed them as far as the main road to Modesto where they couldn’t detect the prints from any others in the road.

“Now what?” Johnny queried.

“We split up,” Murdoch answered. “Johnny, you go to Green River. See if Val has heard or seen anything. I’ll go to Modesto to see what I can find. Since the trail is cold, Cipriano, why don’t you take the hands back to the ranch. Son, I’ll send you a telegram if I find out anything. You contact me if you learn anything.” Johnny turned his horse toward town and took off at a full gallop. 

Murdoch looked at all the ranch hands who had volunteered to help. “Thank you for all your help. Now I need you to keep the ranch running in our absence.” The men nodded before they turned to follow Ciprano back to Lancer.

Johnny made good time getting to Green River. He went directly to the sheriff’s office. Val hadn’t heard any talk around town about Scott’s abduction. Val and Johnny decided to visit all the saloons to ask questions.

Meanwhile, Murdoch arrived in Modesto close to sundown. His first stop was the sheriff’s office, just like Johnny. The Sheriff was surprised, but had no information to share. Then, Murdoch went into two saloons, but left with nothing. His next stop was the telegraph office to check for any messages from Johnny, but the stage depot was next door, so Murdoch decided to go there first.

“Hey, Mr Lancer. What brings you to Modesto?”

“Pete, I’m looking for my wayward son.”

“Uh-oh. Which son is missing?”

“Scott. You haven’t seen him, have you?”

“Nope. Sorry.”

“That’s all right, Pete.” Murdoch turned to leave, but thought of another question. “Have you seen either of the Harrison boys lately?”

“Funny ya should say that. I ain’t seen ’em in a while, but just last night Alfred bought a ticket on the morning stage to Cross Creek. It left at seven this morning.”

“I wonder why he’d want to go to Cross Creek?” Murdoch mumbled out loud.

“Oh, he said he was gonna catch that afternoon train to San Francisco.” Pete answered.

“When’s the next stage to Cross Creek that will get me to the San Francisco train?”

“Well, not ’til tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you, Pete. I’ll see you in the morning.” Murdoch strode out of the depot and straight to the telegraph office.

Johnny –
Heading to San Francisco – STOP –  Go back to ranch – STOP   

Scott ached all over. His sprained ankle. His head and shoulder from being pulled off the horse and thrown to the ground. His hands were bound behind him, so his wrists hurt as well. And, to top it all off, he was chained to a beam away from the fire. He shivered as he felt the cold through his thin shirt.

Thomas decided to take pity on his hostage. He brought a bedroll over for Scott to lie on. Then a blanket was laid across his legs.

“Thank you, Thomas.” Scott thought he would try kindness to get on his captor’s good side.

Thomas smiled at Scott as he walked near him. “Would you like a cup of hot coffee?” The blond nodded appreciatively. As Thomas turned to approach the fire, Scott moved his feet to try to be at a more vertical sitting position. Unfortunately, their feet got tangled and Thomas’ forearm fell into the fire. His shirt sleeve quickly became a blaze. Thomas rolled around in the sand and put the flames out, but his flames of anger had been fanned.

“Lancer! You did that on purpose!” Thomas lunged at his defenseless captive. Scott tried to avoid the vicious blows to his face and chest by rolling onto his left side. This angered Thomas even more. He started to kick Scott in the side, catching him in the ribs and arm.

“Stop it! Thomas, it was an accident.” Scott tried to get the young man to hear him and stop the assault. As Thomas tired, he gave the blond one final kick in the arm before moving away from him. Scott couldn’t tell if anything was broken, he just knew that he didn’t need any more pain. The blond tried his best to keep his moans inside. He didn’t want to attract any unwanted attention.

Thomas crawled to the other side of the mine. He tore his shirt sleeve off, so he could clean his burns. He poured cold water over them, but hadn’t planned ahead to have any medicine or bandages on hand. He wrapped his injured arm with the tattered sleeve he’d torn off. He finally turned his attention back toward Scott. “You try anything like that again and you’re dead!” Spittle flew from the angry young man’s mouth before he stormed from the mine. Thomas found a shady spot to collapse down on as he rocked back and forth in pain.


Chapter Four

The early morning stage ride felt longer than the two-and-a-half hours it took to get to Cross Creek, and then the two hour layover waiting for the train wore out Murdoch. He hoped he could find a comfortable place to stretch out on the train, but doubted it. His thoughts kept going back to Scott. This wasn’t the first time his son had been taken. Murdoch hoped he’d be able to find him uninjured. Scott had had a terrible last few months. He knew this had to end if Scott was going to survive.

It was an exhausted Lancer patriarch that finally arrived in San Francisco. Too late to search for the Harrison family, he found a hotel room instead. Tomorrow morning he would start a hotel search for the senior Harrison, but tonight he would sleep.

It was mid-morning at the fifth hotel he’d checked. He started looking at the finest hotels and worked his way down. Finally… pay dirt. There was a Franklin Harrison registered in room 204 at a comfortable but ‘affordable’ hotel. Murdoch knocked on the door. After a few moments, it was answered by his prey.

“Mr. Lancer, what are you doing here? I didn’t think you were coming. Scott wasn’t supposed to arrive until tomorrow.”

“Your sons have changed the plans. Can I come in?” Murdoch answer rather brusquely.

“Certainly. Come in.” Murdoch was ushered into the small room. “Would you like something to drink?”

Murdoch shook his head and got right to the point. “Your sons have taken Scott hostage.”

“Why?” Then Harrison realized why. “Do you think they’re here?”

“Alfred is. I followed him here from Modesto and I think he knows where Scott is being held.”

“He’s not here,” argued Harrison. “Maybe he’s visiting his sister. Or at least she might know if he’s been there.”

The fathers shared a cab to the sanitarium that was temporarily holding Winifred. They were greeted at the door by an anxious director. “You got here quickly. We are so sorry for your loss – ”

Harrison interrupted. “My daughter is dead?!”

“Oh, no, no, no. She’s… missing. I just sent a messenger to notify you. How did you – ”

Murdoch interrupted this time. “Did she have any visitors recently?”

“Her twin brother was here early this morning. You don’t think he would’ve taken her?”

Both fathers nodded.

“Where do you think they’d go?” Murdoch asked. “We’ll have to find them to locate where Scott is being held.”

“Alfred used to have a girlfriend here, but I think they burned their ties when we moved to the ranch. Wait, they have a good friend that lives in San Diego.” Mr. Harrison turned to the director. “Did you hear them mention any place they might go?”

“Since she’s not allowed to be alone, maybe the orderly overheard something, but he’s in the infirmary right now because they knocked him out when they escaped. Gentlemen, let’s go talk to him and see how he’s doing.” The director led the way.

The orderly wasn’t feeling up to a long conversation, but did confirm that he overheard the twins talking about having friends in San Diego.

Murdoch took his gold watch out of his pant’s pocket. They could probably make it to San Diego by evening. He didn’t want another day to go by with Scott missing. He turned to suggest they go, but he was interrupted by Mr. Harrison.

“Time’s a’wasting. If we leave now, we’ll be there before night fall.”

Murdoch smiled. “My thoughts exactly. I need to send Johnny a telegram to let him know where we’re going.”

Harrison waved his arm at a passing cab. “The telegraph office is on the way to the train station.”

When Thomas returned to the mine, he was noticeably calmer, but still in pain. Scott’s whole body was aching from the beating earlier, but he decided that now was the time to take action. “How’s your arm?” Scott asked, hoping to gain some rapport with Thomas. “I’m sorry that you’ve been injured.”

“It hurts!” Thomas screamed, but then took a breath, “Scott, I’m sorry that I beat you. Guess I lost control.”

“Thomas, could you untie my hands? I can’t feel them and my arm is really hurting.” Scott could see that the young man was on the verge of considering it. “I … I promise I won’t try anything.”

Thomas relented. “I’ll tie them in front of you… but I’m still gonna keep you chained to the beam.”

“I really need to relieve myself while my hands are untied,” Scott requested. After Thomas freed his hands, Scott rubbed them together, trying to get the feeling back into them.

Thomas took Scott by the arm and led him back further into the mine. He even turned his back to give the blond some privacy. When Scott was finished, he was brought back to his bedroll, hands tied in front and re-chained to the beam.

Thomas went out to gather some more wood for the fire. Scott tried to rotate his right shoulder, but stopped when the movement caused too much pain. Thomas returned with an armful of sticks and small branches. He stoked the fire and started the evening meal. Beans, jerky, biscuits and coffee. Scott’s pain dulled his hunger, but he knew he needed to eat to keep his strength up.

After supper, Scott noticed Thomas was holding his arm to his chest, grimacing and trembling.

“Thomas, do you have any salve or medicine for your arm?”

“What do you care, Lancer? You’re just being nice to me so I’ll let you go. Well, it’s not gonna work.”

“No, I’ve been noticing you look like you’re in pain. You really should get a doctor to look at that burn. It could get infected and you could lose your arm…or your life.”

“Shut up! You’re just trying to scare me.” Thomas strode angrily outside.

Scott realized that he may have pushed too hard. The tired blond rolled over onto his left side and tried to sleep. His throbbing arm kept him awake. He eventually heard Thomas return to the mine and proceed to clean up the dirty dishes. The young man wrapped a fresh wet cloth on his arm.

Thomas noticed that the redness on his arm had blistered. He started to shake from the pain which seemed to ebb and flow in waves. The mine finally quieted down when Thomas laid down on his bedroll.

All Scott heard was Thomas’ quiet sobs. Scott listened, wondering how much farther Thomas could be pushed.

Scott wondered if he’d be rescued soon. What were Murdoch and Johnny doing? He was sure someone was looking for him, but would they find him in time. Scott looked over at Thomas again. The kid was in bad shape. The Bostonian knew he couldn’t wait to be rescued by his family. No, if he was going to get out of this situation, he’d have to handle it himself … still, he wouldn’t mind a little help from his brother or father, either.


Chapter Five

Johnny galloped up to the hacienda. He knew he should walk Barranca after their long, fast ride, but he was angry. How could Murdoch send me back to cool my heels? I need to be doing something. Johnny strolled into the kitchen to grab a snack.

“Johnny, you’re back! Where’s Murdoch? What’s the latest with Scott?” Teresa peppered Johnny with questions.

“Teresa, could I have some lemonade and cookies first? Then we’ll sit down and I’ll tell you everything  I know.”

Teresa placed the cookies, pitcher of lemonade and two glasses on the table. Johnny proceeded to enlighten his sister on what he knew, which wasn’t much.

“So how long are we supposed to wait?” Teresa asked.

“I don’t know?”

“Is there something we should be doing, while we wait?”

“I don’t know. I mean, there’s no trail to follow. Hopefully Murdoch can find out something while he’s in Frisco. I asked Val to send some telegrams to see if anybody has seen anything.” Johnny sighed. “I wanna do something, but what?” 

“Johnny, do you think Scott is … all right?”

Johnny reached over and hugged Teresa. “As Murdoch would say, Scott’s a big boy. He can take care of himself. He’s probably working on getting back to us right now.”

Teresa nodded and hoped he was right.

“I can’t sit around here and wait. I’m gonna find a creek to clear.” Johnny grinned. “I’ll be back before dark.”

Johnny had been gone for only a few minutes when Bobby, the telegraph operator’s son, rode in. He dismounted and went directly to the front door. Teresa met him at the door before he even knocked.

“Good afternoon, Teresa. I’ve got a telegram for Johnny.”

“Good to see you, Bobby. I’ll give it to him since he’s out on the range. Would you like something cool to drink?”

The young man nodded and followed Teresa into the kitchen. After Bobby left, Teresa opened the telegram.

Twins in San Diego – STOP – heading there – STOP – message soon – STOP

There was nothing she or Johnny could do, but wait and pray.

The train pulled into San Diego later than they expected. Murdoch looked to Franklin Harrison to decide the next directions they should take.

“Let’s rent a buggy. The place is only a few miles outside of town.” Within thirty minutes the fathers were on the road and in another thirty minutes they arrived at their destination.

Murdoch tried to remain calm as Harrison knocked on the front door of the small ranch house.

Winifred answered the door. “Pa! What are you – ?”

“Where’s your brother?” Mr. Harrison interrupted.

Alfred walked up behind his sister. “Alfred, what have you done?” Harrison enunciated every word.

Before Alfred could answer, Murdoch grabbed the young man by his collar and shook him. “Where’s my son?”

Franklin separated the two. Alfred was shaking and tearing up.

“Murdoch let’s go inside, sit down, and straighten this all out!” Murdoch begrudgingly agreed.

“What are you doing here? Why did you break your sister out?” Harrison had his agenda and Murdoch had his.

“I don’t care what your children are up to! Where is Scott?!” demanded Murdoch.

“I don’t know … exactly. Thomas said that he found an old mine outside of town. Pa, we don’t want Winnie in that place. So, we thought if Scott wasn’t there to testify, she’d be let go.”

Murdoch stood to leave. “I’m going back to town. I need to let Johnny know where to start searching.”


Chapter Six

They had fallen into a routine. Thomas unchained Scott to relieve himself and let him hobble around to get the kinks out. Then, they ate a meal together.

Scott noticed that Thomas’ arm was oozing and turning dark. “Thomas, your arm is getting infected. You really need to see a doctor. If you’ll let me go, I can help get you to the doctor. This has gone on long enough.” The blond waited for a reaction to his words.

Thomas looked at his captive. “We thought we were doing what was best for our sister. Do you promise you won’t testify against us?”

Scott thought about it and nodded. “You have my word. Now, let’s get you to a doctor.”

Johnny arrived home around a couple of hours before dusk. Teresa met him in the barn with the latest message from Murdoch. Johnny read it and sighed. Wait. Again.

Teresa left him cooling down and brushing Barranca. She had almost made it back to the kitchen when she heard a rider coming in. She saw Johnny greeting Bobby. She was surprised to see him again today, but hoped that he had some good news.

Johnny opened the telegram, then handed it to Teresa.

Scott in abandoned mine near Modesto – STOP – Getting train home – STOP

Johnny rushed back to saddle another horse, while Teresa gave Bobby a glass of lemonade before she sent him on his way. Teresa packed a saddlebag with medicine, bandages, and food. She carried it out to the barn just as Johnny was leaving.

“Thanks, Teresa.” He looked at his sister before mounting. She was standing with her arms crossed in front of her hugging herself. Johnny grinned because he and Scott stood that exact same way. “Scott’ll be fine. I’ll find him and bring him home.” With that said, Johnny rode off at a full gallop to bring his brother back home where he belonged.

Thomas and Scott arrived at Dr. Johnson’s house in Modesto after sundown. Scott wanted to leave, but the doctor wanted to look him over as well. They both agree to spend the night with the doctor. Scott would leave for home at first light, while Thomas would take the morning stage to San Francisco.

“You’re lucky, son, to not lose this arm.” The doctor gave Thomas some laudanum before he started to help deaden the pain. Scott helped by applying chloroform, while the doctor cut the infected part off of the young man’s forearm. Even with the medicine, Thomas writhed in pain.

“Can you help me hold him down?” The doctor looked to Scott for help. The blond nodded and gripped Thomas by the shoulder. The doctor was very thorough. A couple of times Scott thought he was going to throw-up from the smell. It brought back some unfortunate memories of the war that would probably produce nightmares in the near future. Once Thomas regained consciousness, they escorted him back to a bedroom to get some rest. The doctor gave the young man a shot of Morphine to control and lessen the pain.

“Now, son, you’re next.” The doctor turned to Scott. “Can you tell me how this all happened?”

“Uh, we were camping and Thomas fell into the fire.”

The doctor helped Scott up onto the exam table. The blond winced when the doctor touched his side. “It looks like you have some bruised ribs. And these injuries?” The doctor was looking at Scott’s bloodied, rope-burned wrists. Scott refused to answer. He simply hung his head while the doctor applied some salve and wrapped a gauze bandage around both wrists. Scott winced when the doctor started manhandling his arm. “Your arm isn’t broken, but you’ve got a pretty nasty bruise here too.”

“What about your ankle?” The doctor didn’t wait for an answer as he unwrapped the dirty bandage encasing Scott’s leg.

“I stepped in a gopher hole a few days ago.” Scott volunteered.

“You’re very lucky it’s not broken. You need to stay off it for a few days.” The doctor paused to look Scott in the eye before he continued his interrogation. “Do I need to get the sheriff involved?”

The blond shook his head. “No. It’s been resolved. I think I could use that rest now, myself.” The doctor helped Scott to another bedroom for the night. He promised to wake them at dawn.

Johnny decided to camp out in the hills outside of Modesto. He knew there were several old mines in the area, but didn’t want to stumble around in the dark getting Barranca or himself hurt. He would start searching at first light.

Teresa stayed up late because she couldn’t sleep. It was too quiet in the house with everyone gone. She prayed that Johnny would find Scott and bring him home soon.

Murdoch just barely caught the train from San Francisco to Cross Creek. He had rushed from the San Diego train to buy a ticket on the outbound train. He should be in Cross Creek by morning and home by tomorrow afternoon.

True to his word, the doctor woke the sleeping gentlemen as the sun came up. Neither man had any money, but Scott promised to pay him next time he was in town. The doctor shook his head, thinking he’d never see either of them again.

Scott put Thomas on the stage with a promise to Pete, the stage master, that he’d return to repay him for the ticket.

“I’m sure your daddy will be happy to see you, Scott. He sure was worried last time I saw him.”

“Murdoch was here?”

“Yep, took the stage to catch a train to San Francisco. Come to think of it, he was looking for you.”

“I’ll probably make it home about the same time he does. Thanks again, Pete.” Scott turned to mount his horse. He was anxious to get home now that he was free.

It felt like the longest two hours of his life. Scott didn’t think he could sit a horse for another minute. He already hurt before the doctor got ahold of him, but now he ached all over again.

He rode up to the hitching post in front of the hacienda. The one time when he really wanted someone to take his horse and nobody was around. Scott simply uncinched the saddle and in a smooth easy motion pushed the saddle off the horse onto the fence railing. He then swatted Charlie’s rump to get him to go into the barn. Charlie was happy to find some hay, oats and water as he wandered into his own stall.

Scott leaned against the railing, the arch and the wall as he hobbled to the front door. He entered into a quiet home. He took one careful step at a time up the stairs to his bedroom. The blond laid down on his soft, comfortable bed, fully clothed, on his left side. He rolled his quilt over himself and fell fast asleep.

Jelly came riding up with the empty supply wagon. He spied the saddle sitting on the rail. “What lazy good-for-nothing cowpoke left this saddle here? It would serve whoever it is right if I left it there to get ruined. But I’m too good a hand to let something like that get spoiled.” Jelly picked up the saddle and draped it on a wooden horse in the tack room before mumbling as he went about his business of refilling the supply wagon. He stopped in to get a sack lunch from Teresa before rejoining the men out on the range.

Murdoch arrived, on a horse he’d rented in Cross Creek, right after lunch was over. Teresa bustled about making Murdoch a sandwich. The patriarch sat tiredly down at the kitchen table.

“Did you get my telegram from San Diego?”

“Yes. Johnny headed out yesterday afternoon. He must be searching the mines by now. Murdoch, you look all done in. Why don’t you lay down and rest?”

Murdoch started to shake his head and changed his mind. “I am very tired, darling. I think I’ll go rest for a while. Wake me if anything happens.”

Teresa nodded and watched Murdoch head for the stairs.

Murdoch walked by Scott’s room, but stopped when he saw the door was ajar. He stepped in to close the door and noticed the lump in the bed. He walked over to the bed and peered down at his sleeping son. Murdoch backed out the door and closed it behind him.

Smiling, Murdoch returned downstairs to the kitchen.

Teresa looked confused when she saw Murdoch return to the kitchen with a grin on his face.

“When were you going to tell me?” He questioned Teresa.

“Tell you what?”

“Teresa, I’m tired and not in the mood for any games.”

“Murdoch, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Teresa was starting to get nervous.

“Scott … ”

“Yes – ?” Teresa was waiting for Murdoch to continue.

“Is sleeping upstairs.”

“What?! I never saw him come in. Is he all right?”

“From the brief look I had, well, he looked all right to me. Let’s let him sleep. I’m just thankful he’s home safely.”

They heard a rider approaching. “Murdoch, you’re back.” Johnny dismounted from his horse. “I found the mine, but it was empty. I thought I’d come back and get some more men to scour the area around … why are you shaking your head? Has something happened, Ol’ Man?”

“Scott’s here. He’s sleeping in his bedroom.”

“What? How? When?” Johnny stuttered out his questions.

“We don’t know. I didn’t even know he was here until Murdoch came down and told me.” Teresa was beaming with delight. Her family was back together.

Scott slept the rest of the day and through the night. The anxious family was waiting at the kitchen table for the blond to join them for breakfast. He carefully eased himself into his usual chair and stared at all of his family.

Maria brought plates of eggs, fried potatoes, ham and biscuits to the table. She leaned over and softly said, “Welcome home, Senor Scott.”

The flood gates opened and the questions came from every direction.

“When did you get home?”

“How are you feeling?”

“What happened and where is Thomas Harrison?”

“Wait,” Scott answered. “One, I got home around noon yesterday. Two, I saw the doctor in Modesto. He said I’m bruised, but nothing is broken. I’m to rest for a few days. Three, Thomas has gone to San Francisco to be with his family.”

“What?” Johnny exclaimed incredulously. “You let him go?”

“Yes, I made a deal with him. He’d let me go and I promised to not testify against him or his sister.  And… they’ll leave us alone. Now, I’m hungry and everything looks delicious. Let’s eat.”

Scott refused to enlighten his family about his days in the mine. He wanted to put it behind him. After he ate his fill, Scott excused himself and returned to his room to follow the doctor’s orders exactly.



Scott sat on the veranda. His bruised right arm rested across his chest and his right foot placed on a pillow on a stool. He had a glass of lemonade on a table by his left arm.

Johnny came riding in from collecting the mail and telegrams from Green River and Morro Coyo. He smiled at his brother as he walked up carrying his saddlebag. “Hey there, brother. You look comfy.”

Scott smiled back at Johnny. “Yes. I am quite comfortable.”

“I got some mail here for ya.” Johnny dropped it in Scott’s lap.

Scott looked at the envelopes. He had two letters from Boston and a letter from San Francisco. The blond decided to open the Frisco letter first.

Dearest Scott,
I am so sorry for all the trouble my family has caused you. My brothers thought they were trying to help me, but they now know they were wrong. I hope we can eventually put this behind us. I am staying at the Saint Mary’s Sanitarium in San Francisco. It is very nice here. There is a lovely garden that I enjoy visiting. The doctor sees me once a week and says that I am making good progress. I would love for you to come visit me, but would understand if that isn’t possible. I hope you have it in your heart to forgive us. I look forward to corresponding with you. Until we met again.

                                                                        Yours Truly,

Scott sat with a stunned look on his face. Johnny had watched the expressions float across his brother’s face as he read the letter. Johnny took the letter from Scott’s lax fingers and scanned it. Teresa wandered out to the veranda with a tray of fresh lemonade. She looked with confusion at her brothers’ faces. Johnny simply handed her the letter to read. Once she finished, she understood the looks. Teresa looked from one brother to the other before she decided what to do with the letter. She walked inside, directly over to the fireplace, and threw it into the fire. She then returned to her brothers who were still seated outside. Teresa slapped her hands together twice.

“Well, that’s taken care of. Now, Scott, I want you to start thinking about the Fall Festival in Green River – ”

“That’s not till the end of September.” Johnny interrupted.

“I know. I just wanted Scott to start thinking about going in a few months, so he can be prepared.”

“Pfft!” Johnny snorted as he walked off to find Jelly.

“Scott, you know what they say? Once you fall off a horse, you need to get right back on.”

“What does that have to do with going to a dance?” Scott feigned ignorance. He already knew he would probably be escorting her to the next celebration.

Scott stood up to go back into the Great Room. Teresa placed her arm into the crook of his left elbow as he shuffled back into the house. She continued to extol all the reasons for Scott to consider about why he shouldn’t give up attending dances. He just smiled at his sister letting her think that he was still contemplating whether to dance or not to dance.


May 2022



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.

4 thoughts on “To Dance Or Not To Dance by PatriciaG.

  1. I’m glad your Dance Trilogy has a happy ending (for Scott!). Thank you for sharing your writing and making Lancer live on.


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