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Another Legacy by RonD

Word count 16,518

#4 in the Another series

“I’m going to Boston for a few weeks,” Scott declared.

Murdoch looked up from the newspaper he was reading. The last thing he needed after this Buck Addison debacle was for Scott to go back to Boston…and Harlan Garrett. He would never trust his father-in-law where Scott was concerned. “Now’s not a good time,” he responded.

“There’s nothing pressing here. The dam is being torn down, it’s been raining for two days, and the heat wave has ended. I need to see some people back there,” Scott continued.

“Your arm isn’t healed completely yet,” Murdoch countered.

“It shouldn’t be a problem. Most of the way is sitting on a train. I think my arm can withstand that.” He instinctively brought his right hand up to touch his left forearm. He’d discarded the sling this morning. Miraculously, despite being pinned under rock, his left arm had only suffered deep bruises. Sam had said that he thought the bone was bruised. An inflow of fresh air had revived him sufficiently for him to hear men’s voices speaking Chinese. “Here!” he had croaked out. “We’re in here!” The voices disappeared and Scott feared they hadn’t heard him and left. What seemed like hours later, there were more voices. By then Scott was breathing more easily. “We’re here! Help! Help us!” he shouted more loudly. More time leaked away, but the sound of pickaxes on rock could be plainly heard. Finally, the light from a lantern appeared from a bigger hole and a canteen was thrown in. No water had ever tasted as sweet. There was no point in sharing it; he was sure Addison was dead. Finally, the rock and debris were cleared away enough for a small man to crawl in—Aggie’s new hand, who they had nicknamed Little Al. It took more time to free Scott’s arm and widen the hole enough for him. Scott slithered out of the hole, the injunction in his pocket and the name of Johnny’s tormentor indelibly etched in his mind. It was time to go to Boston and confront Harlan Garrett.

“We don’t have the money to send you to Boston.”

Scott was prepared for this objection. “I’m using my own funds. It won’t cost Lancer a penny.”

Murdoch threw the paper down. “Damn it, Scott. You’re not going and I call the tune. You agreed to that when we signed the papers,” Murdoch said sternly. That should end this unpleasant conversation.

Scott set his mouth in a thin line. “I think you misunderstand,” he said calmly. “I’m simply informing you of my plans. I’ll be leaving the day after tomorrow regardless of your views on the matter.” He executed a tight military turn and left the room, knowing that Murdoch was fuming behind him. Tomorrow was Sunday, and he’d be staying over at Aggie’s until he left, if she let him.

Aggie was now a widow. Buck Addison’s death had left her inconsolable. Despite their strained relationship, she had let Scott stay in her house after they had rescued him from the mine. It had been dark out when he’d finally emerged from the shaft. Scott had tried to soften the blow by telling her that her husband’s death had been swift and painless. Even so, she had made him feel like he was responsible for it. While he had daydreamed of Addison’s demise ever since he’d been thrown out of the Double C house, he certainly wasn’t responsible for an earthquake. Aggie hardly spoke to him. He was still uneasy around her. Her choosing Addison over him continued to wound him deeply. It felt as if his own mother had turned her back on him. He wasn’t sure he could forgive her for that. And she was grieving too much to give him any real attention.

Joe had collected him back to Lancer the following morning. The hacienda had withstood the tremors impressively. Only a few of the outlying sheds had collapsed and there was a hairline crack in one of the courtyard half-walls. All in all, they’d weathered the earthquake in very good shape. The Double C had suffered more damage, but Aggie’s house seemed sound.

He stopped by Johnny’s room. His brother had developed a fever. It wasn’t dangerously high, but it was enough to keep Johnny bedbound while his gunshot wounds continued to heal. Scott knocked as he opened the door. “Johnny, you awake?”


“Just wanted to tell you that I‘ll be gone for a little while.”


“Yeah. I‘m going back to Boston.”

“Why?” Johnny licked his dry lips and Scott bought a cup of water to his mouth. Johnny drank thirstily.

“I’m going to put a stop to this bounty that’s on your head.” He took the cup away.

“In Boston?”

“Yeah. You just get better. Murdoch’s worried.”

Johnny tried not to laugh. “Yeah, sure,” he panted.

Scott reached out his hand. Johnny grasped his wrist. “Trust me?”

Johnny nodded, too tired to speak.

Scott squeezed Johnny’s wrist. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

Eyes closed, Johnny nodded again, and Scott slipped out of the room.


Scott had traversed the width of the country and still had no clear idea how he was going to approach his grandfather. Confronting him directly was out of the question, and it would only alert him to get rid of any evidence linking him to the bounty. He scratched his beard in thought. He was getting used to the beard. It was going on two weeks and starting to fill in nicely. After Libby, he’d promised himself to stay clean-shaven, but that promise was easy to break where Johnny’s safety was concerned. He’d be less likely to be recognized wearing a beard and shabbier clothes. He couldn’t risk Grandfather knowing he was in Boston until he was ready to confront him. He’d buy lower class clothing in New York and stay at a moderately priced hotel in Boston. Aunt Cora would never forgive him for that, but it couldn’t be helped. Then he’d contact Matthew.

Matthew Bannister was an acquaintance from Harvard. They had both served in the War, although not in the same regiment. Scott knew the man was quite intelligent. Now he sat nervously waiting for the door to his office to open. Would Matthew remember him as kindly as he remembered Matthew?

Finally the door opened and Scott couldn’t fail to notice Matthew’s double take.

“Scott Lancer,” he said extending his hand. “I would hardly recognize you these days.”

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Scott replied, shaking the man’s hand.


“Yes. That’s what I’ve come here to discuss–in private, preferably.”

Bannister ushered him inside the office. It was nicely appointed, befitting a well-respected and successful lawyer. It reminded Scott of Grandfather’s study, with its mahogany walls and leather chairs. Bannister sat behind his desk, which was quite similar to Harlan’s as well. Scott wondered if it had similar inlaid designs on the top.

“How can I help you, Scott? I assume this isn’t a social call.”

“It’s not,” Scott said, “although it is good to see you again. I need to know my legal options for a very strange situation I’ve found myself in.”

“I’m intrigued.” Bannister leaned forward in his chair. “Tell me about it.”

Scott tried to keep it to the bare minimum, but that was hard to do. He talked about the land grab, Addison, and the bounty placed on Johnny. He ended with the earthquake and Addison’s confession of Harlan’s role in all of it.

Matthew had listened intently, asking a few questions, until Scott had finished. “What kind of legal advice are you looking for, Scott?”

“Somewhere in his study I know Grandfather has a ledger that will link him to the bounty on Johnny. Is there any way for the courts to order him to turn it over?”

Matthew frowned. “You think there’s a record of his payouts? If they’re for illegal activities, the man wouldn’t keep a record of them if he had any sense,” he said skeptically.

“Ah, but you don’t know my grandfather! He’s a master accountant and a miserly one at that. He keeps track of every penny earned and spent. He’s got that ledger,” Scott said confidently.

“So what’s your plan? I know you, Scott, and I know you can think rings around me on your worst days. What do you want me to do?”

“Get a warrant that forces my grandfather to turn over the ledger.”

Matthew blew out a long and loud breath. “That’s not going to happen, I’m afraid.”

“Why not?” Scott had feared this, but it still was disheartening to hear it from Matt.

“Because you don’t have any evidence to back up your accusation.”

“I have Addison’s dying words.”

“And did anyone else hear them?” Matthew pressed.

“Of course not! We were the only ones trapped in that space.” The memory of those long hours trapped in the mine made him shiver.

“Then the court will consider it as hearsay and rule it inadmissible,” Bannister explained.

“Hearsay…they’ll think I’m lying?”

“Think about it, Scott. Say you had a grudge against this Addison. You could say he was a horse thief or any number of things, but without additional proof, it’s just your word against his. The court won’t issue a warrant just based on one man’s say so, even when that man is a bona fide, decorated war hero.”

Scott blushed. “Don’t spread that around,” he jokingly ordered, even though he knew practically everyone in Boston knew how he earned that “decoration.” It was one of the reasons he’d gone back to California as soon as he graduated from Harvard. It was embarrassing to have strangers stop him on the street to congratulate him on his bravery and gush over him. After a year in Libby, he didn’t feel much like a hero. He sighed.  “Are there any other options?” He was grateful Matthew took some minutes to consider the matter.

“Unless you can get this Crocker fellow to corroborate Addison’s accusation, I don’t think there’s much we can do legally.”

“There’s no chance of that. He’d be implicating himself if he confessed.” Scott sighed. “I’ll have to rethink this.”

Matthew chuckled. “You’re not rethinking anything. The Scott Lancer I knew at Harvard would already have thought of an alternative plan or three. And if you can’t get that ledger legally, there’s only one other way to get it.”

Scott stood up and offered his hand. “Thanks for taking the time to hear me out, Matt.”

Matt shook his friend’s hand slowly. “Now I know what the beard and the shabby clothes are for: going incognito. As your lawyer it’s my duty to tell you not to do anything unlawful. As your friend, it’s my duty to wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. It’s good to see you again, Scott.”

Scott smiled warmly. “Perhaps we can see each other in less formal circumstances before I go back to California.”

“Yes, seeing you in jail would definitely be in less formal circumstances,” Bannister said wryly.

Scott laughed at that. “But not in a less professional one.” Matt laughed at that. “Jail is not in the plan, Matt.” He headed for the door.

“Remember Burns’ ‘Best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,'” Matt called after him.

Scott closed the door behind him and scowled. It was as he’d feared: he’d have to get that ledger himself.


Murdoch sat on the train and scowled. How Johnny ever got him to follow Scott, he’d never know. Yes, he did. Johnny threatened to go himself if Murdoch didn’t.

Johnny’s fever had finally broken the day after Scott left for Boston. Murdoch had brought lunch up for his son, who was itching to get out of bed. Sam had counseled another two days. Halfway through the meal Johnny said, “Did I hear Scott right? He’s gone to Boston?”

“You heard right,” Murdoch groused.

“Said he had to fix something.”

“He only told me he had to see some people, but it didn’t sound like a social trip. With you hurt and his arm still healing, what could be more important than staying here until everyone is well?”

“No, he said why. Let me think. I was half asleep when he talked to me.” Johnny furrowed his brow in thought for a minute. Then he looked up at Murdoch in alarm. “He said he was going to stop the bounty on my head.”

Murdoch was more puzzled than alarmed. “What? How’s he going to do that in Boston?”

“I don’t know,” Johnny answered slowly. “I thought it was someone here. Addison probably.”

Murdoch nodded. “Or Charles Crocker.” Scott had at least told them about his findings in Sacramento and Crocker’s involvement in Acme Land and the bank. “But he’s in Sacramento…or sometimes San Francisco. There’s nobody in Boston connected with the Southern Pacific Railroad.”

“‘Sides, nobody in Boston even knows I exist,” Johnny mused aloud. “Nobody who’d want to see me dead.”

Johnny and Murdoch stared at one another as they both tried to figure out Scott’s reasoning. Finally, Murdoch said, “Anyone who Scott has written to in Boston knows of your existence. I imagine he wrote to everyone there about how he’d been reunited with you and perhaps about Pardee.”

They stared at each other again as they each reached the same conclusion. “His grandfather,” Johnny said at the same time Murdoch said, “Harlan Garrett.”

A look of panic crossed Johnny’s face. “You have to go after him! Help him!”

“I’m not going back all the way to Boston,” Murdoch growled. “You boys have to get it through your thick skulls that we have a ranch to run. You can’t just leave whenever you get the notion.”

Johnny pushed his lunch tray to the side and threw back the covers. “Then I’ll go.”

Murdoch put a hand on Johnny’s chest, stopping him. “Oh no, you don’t! You’re not yet recovered from your gunshot wounds.”

“Well, it’s either you or me, Old Man. Scott’s gonna need someone to watch his back against that wily old goat, if Scott’s tales are true.”

Murdoch gave Johnny his fiercest glare. Johnny returned it with the Madrid stare. They stayed like that for several long seconds.

“All right, I’m going,” Johnny said and started to leave his bed again.

Murdoch pushed him back down, surprised at how easily Johnny succumbed. Yes, his younger son wasn’t strong enough to make the trip. “No, I’ll go.”

“You gotta find him and help him, Murdoch. Something bad’s gonna happen. I just know it.”

“I’ll find him,” Murdoch promised. And then I’m going to throttle him, he thought. He was so tired of Scott keeping things from him. Why couldn’t he have told them of how he came to suspect his grandfather and of his plans?

“He’s gonna have a three-day head start on you. You gotta go now.”

“I will. I need to talk to Cipriano and Jelly…”

“I’ll do that,” Johnny volunteered. “We’ll make sure everything is all right here. You just go. If you miss that train at Cross Creek, there won’t be another for two days. That’ll be too late. Get going!”

“All right, I’m going!” And here he was about to enter the Nebraska plains as night was falling. He had to admit, he, too, felt a sense of dread about what might happen in Boston. Harlan Garrett was a tough old turkey and it had been a few years since Scott had dealt with him. If he really was behind the bounty on Johnny, Scott could be in danger even if he was the old man’s dearly beloved grandson.


Scott’s alternate plan centered on him breaking into his grandfather’s safe. Not an easy task, but he had several things going for him. First, he knew where the safe was in Grandfather’s study. He’d once idly commented that the picture of his mother on the wall behind the desk seemed too small for the space. It was an oddity and one compounded by the fact that his grandfather was rather obsessed with his mother, so he thought the picture would have been grander in size. His Great Aunt Cora, Grandfather’s sister, had just as idly responded that it was that size because it hid a specially made safe that had been installed into the wall. That had piqued his curiosity, although he was rarely allowed in the study and couldn’t verify her claim. He would find out soon enough. Second, he had been incarcerated with Sergeant O’Neill, a wily Irishman, who possessed all kinds of skills, most of them for illegal activities. He’d spent a dismal, rainy day listening to Jimmy tell him how to break into a safe. It had been fascinating, and Scott had paid close attention. It had been an interesting way to spend some hours during those seemingly endless, boring days.

Breaking into a safe required extra sensitive hearing. There were tumblers inside the lock that had to align correctly for the safe to open. There was only one combination that would work, and the permutations were daunting. There were two helpful hints. The first was that sometimes, moving the dial very slowly, you could hear the tumbler fall into a gap. It might also feel easier to turn the dial at that point. The second was that most people wanted a combination that they could remember, and so they would ask the locksmith to set the lock on a meaningful date: a birthday, wedding day, death day, or such. If you knew something of the owner’s background, you could try these numbers first.

Scott didn’t know anything about his grandfather’s dates. As far as Scott knew, Harlan didn’t celebrate his birthday or any other day except Christmas. Appearances had to be maintained, after all. Grandfather wouldn’t want the staff to start gossiping to others about the strange practices at the Garrett manor if Christmas went unobserved. If the patriarch of the house didn’t celebrate his own birthday, it was no wonder why his grandson’s was also ignored. Scott’s saving grace, he hoped, was the large family Bible sitting in one of the bookcases that flanked the fireplace. He had inspected his grandfather’s collection of books while he waited for him in the study before he started Harvard. His grandfather had wanted to speak to him privately. It turned out that he wanted to tell Scott he wouldn’t be staying at his childhood home while in college and that Harlan had arranged for him to live on campus—to enjoy the true university experience. He hadn’t thought anything of it at the time, but now he was beginning to suspect it was more for Harlan’s convenience than his own. The Bible was easy to spot, clearly the largest tome in the bookcase. Scott hoped that there would be a list of important dates inside the cover, as many family Bibles contained.

Scott acknowledged that there needed to be a lot of things that had to go right in order for his plan to work. If they didn’t, he needed to think of a story to tell Harlan of why he was in Boston and had not informed his grandfather of his arrival and why he needed to be in the study. That shouldn’t be too difficult. The one thing a lonely and isolated childhood, both in Boston and in California before he’d met the Conways, had developed in him was a keen imagination. Thinking up stories was rather a specialty of his. He only wished Stevens was still at the house. The beloved manservant might even had helped him. But Stevens had been on the elderly side when he’d been a young boy. By the time Scott returned to go to Harvard, he’d been replaced by a much younger man named Mayfield, who made Scott feel unwelcome whenever he called upon his grandfather. The man was husky and muscular, reminding Scott of a back-alley ruffian more than a personal valet. Stevens would have had no qualms about leaving Scott alone in Grandfather’s study. This Mayfield character would no doubt be extremely reluctant to do so. He’d send for Grandfather the moment Scott closed and locked the study door. That would give Scott twenty to thirty minutes to open the safe before Harlan would be knocking on the door and demanding entrance. Not much time, but worth the try, Scott thought.

If this plan didn’t work, he’d engage a professional safecracker. But he wouldn’t plan out how to obtain one and get him surreptitiously into Harlan’s study at the moment. That could wait until after this plan failed. He left the hotel in search of a stethoscope to help him hear the tumblers better. Tomorrow he would put this outlandish plan into action. It was so crazy, so risky, but it was for Johnny, and he could not fail. As Virgil said: Fortune favors the bold.


Mayfield opened the door at Scott’s knock.

“Good morning, Mayfield,” Scott said imperiously as he moved to get inside.

Mayfield blocked his entry. “Just a minute! Who…?” He peered intently at the uninvited visitor. “Oh, Master Scott. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

“Please inform my grandfather that I’m here.”

Mayfield frowned at him. “Here’s not here. He’s at the office at this time of day. Perhaps you should go there.”

“This isn’t a business call,” Scott said, trying to sound authoritative. His heart wanted to beat out of his chest. He gave Mayfield his bowler and overcoat. “I’ll just wait in the study until he returns for lunch. I’d rather not be disturbed, thank you.” Scott strode as confidently as he could into the study and closed the door behind him. He reached above the door trim, found the key, and locked the door.

He’d made it inside the study! He took a deep breath to steady himself. Scanning the bookcases, he spotted the Bible in its usual place. He grabbed it as he walked around the massive desk. Opening the first few pages, he was delighted to find a list of important dates in various handwritings, the earliest ones faded and sometimes a bit smeared. There was his own date of birth right after his mother’s record of death on the same day. He placed the open Bible on the desk and turned to the painting on the wall.

He tried lifting it off the wall as one would take down any painting, but the picture wouldn’t budge. He searched the frame for any odd indentation that might indicate a place to push. The frame looked the same all around. Then he tried to pry it open from the right side like a book. He ran his fingers up and down the right side of the frame trying to get his fingers beneath it as much as he could. Nothing! It was frustrating knowing there was a safe behind the picture and not knowing how to get to it. Plus, there was the time factor. He ran his fingers all over the frame. Nothing. Then, as he slowed down and tried again, his fingers found a small bit of metal behind the middle of the bottom of the frame. He’d skimmed over it the first time. He tried to maneuver the metal piece and finally, by pressing it to the right, he heard the latch open. The painting did indeed open like a book and swung out to reveal a safe mounted in the wall behind it.

Scott was very pleased with himself, but the hardest part of his plan remained. He took out the binaural stethoscope from his pants pocket and pressed the bell up to the mechanism. The medical instrument had been expensive but having it in both ears would hopefully allow him to hear the tumblers better. He spun the dial around a few times to clear the lock and then started the painstakingly slow task of turning the dial to each number. He went through all the numbers during his first pass. This was so frustrating! O’Neill said he could hear the tumbler fall with just his bare ear to the safe. Scott tried again with no success. Now he was almost panicking at how much time was passing by. Perhaps Harlan would be in a very important meeting from which he couldn’t leave, but he couldn’t count on that. In frustration, he found Grandfather’s birth date in the Bible and spun the dial. That combination didn’t open the safe. Taking another deep breath, he once again stuck the stethoscope onto the safe and very, very slowly turned the dial.

There. He thought he heard it–a very faint click. He looked at the dial. It was on the number eight.  August? He searched the Bible page again. August…and found the date of his grandfather’s marriage to his grandmother. Scott was skeptical. He’d heard Harlan speak of his wife only once. It was quite fondly, but would his grandfather be so sentimental about his wedding? Scott looked at the Bible again and almost laughed out loud. He went back to the safe and put in the remaining two numbers, remembering to go past the previous number before landing on the new one. He didn’t need the stethoscope to hear the latch pull back. The steel door opened with a whisper. 8/12/24: the date of his mother’s birth. Of course! Why hadn’t he thought of that before? It seemed so obvious now.

1824. She’d been only a little over twenty-one years old when she died. So young, and he had been the cause of it. Scott couldn’t dwell on that tragedy at the moment. The safe was filled with papers and folders and one black ledger. This was it! He opened the ledger at the back. The payout for Johnny’s bounty would have been a fairly recent entry. There it was: C. Crocker/SPR/JML for five hundred dollars. He’d done it! With this ledger in his possession, he could blackmail Grandfather into doing what he wanted. Blackmail was a tactic that his grandfather understood very well. He prayed the old man would call off the bounty on Johnny’s head. He stuffed the rest of the papers inside the safe, closed it, and returned the painting back over it. There was a commotion in the front hall. He’d run out of time. He managed to stuff the ledger in his back waistband and the stethoscope back into his pants pocket and ran to unlock the door. At the last second, he saw the Bible lying open on the desk. Knowing he didn’t have time to put the Bible back in the bookcase, he grabbed it and sat down heavily in the wing-backed chair facing the desk.

Harlan Garrett burst through the door, red-faced and panting. Scott immediately rose to his feet. Harlan dismissed Mayfield and shut the door behind him.

“What’s the meaning of this, boy?” Garrett demanded, his blue-gray eyes blazing. This was the first time Scott noticed that his grandfather’s eyes were the same color as his own. The same color as his mother’s if Murdoch was right.

“Good day to you, too, sir,” was Scott’s mild reply. He tried to gain control over his rapid heartbeat, but it still made his voice come out raspy.

Harlan peered at him. “Good God, what’s that on your face and where are your proper clothes? Why, you look like a common street peddler in that outfit.”

“I apologize for dropping in on you unannounced, sir,” Scott began his carefully rehearsed speech, “but at the last minute I was able to secure travel here, so I took it, as it has been some years since I last saw you.”

“Stop that nonsense!” Harlan commanded. “A telegram would have sufficed.”

“Circumstances prevented me…” Scott mumbled.

“State your business here, and why do you have the family Bible?” Harlan went around the desk, examined the items on top of it quickly and, seeing nothing amiss, sat down in the desk chair.

“It was simply to pass the time while I waited for you, Grandfather,” Scott explained as he returned the tome to its proper place. He sat back down in his chair across from his grandfather, the large desk between them.

Garrett seemed dissatisfied with his explanation. “Is that what they’re wearing in California these days? Last decade’s haberdashery? Or is there another reason you don’t want to be recognized in Boston?”

Damn but the old man was canny. How had he determined that Scott didn’t want to be recognized? This encounter was going nothing like he’d imagined it would. He threw his scripted speech aside and hoped his mind and tongue were clever enough to get out of the room with the ledger. “There are a number of young ladies I wish to avoid…”

Garrett harrumphed at that. “I don’t doubt that. I had enough fathers knocking on my door before you settled down with Julie. And what went wrong there?”

“As I wrote you, she was unwilling to live at the ranch.”

Harlan interrupted him before he needed to say anything further. “And who could blame her? Out in the middle of nowhere with barbarians. It was most sensible of her. Now, why are you here? Mayfield said you forced your way in here and locked the door.”

Scott hadn’t heard Mayfield try to open the locked door. No wonder the servant had hurried to fetch his boss. “I didn’t want to be disturbed.”

“So you could read the Bible?” It was clear he didn’t believe Scott.

“I just needed some peace and quiet. Ranch life has been wearing thin lately.”

“That’s the first thing you’ve said that I believe,” Garrett said. “Now stop lying through your teeth, boy, and tell me why you’re here.”

Scott tried to plaster a smile on his face. “Isn’t it sufficient to see you?”


Scott took a deep breath and tossed all his lies aside. “All right. I’ve come to get you to take back your bounty on Johnny’s head.” Sometimes the direct approach was the best.

“Johnny who?”

Scott had to hand it to the man. He didn’t even flinch at Johnny’s name or betray any knowledge of a bounty. Scott leaned back in the chair, feeling the ledger in his back. “My brother, Johnny, the one you so lovingly refer to as ‘the half-breed.'”

Harlan made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “I have no time nor money to spend on him. You’ve wasted your time coming here. What did you hope to gain?”

Scott’s smile disappeared and he turned a hard glare at his grandfather. “Your solemn promise to leave him alone. And not just him. Leave all of Lancer alone.”

Harlan glared back. “As long as your father draws breath, I’ll never leave Lancer alone. He took my Catherine away from me, and for that, he has to pay.”

“She left willingly,” Scott defended Murdoch.

“You don’t know anything about it, boy!” Garrett thundered. “You weren’t here. I was. I know what happened!”

“Tell Crocker to call off the bounty,” Scott thundered back. That did it. His knowing Crocker’s name had stunned his grandfather, but he regained his composure quickly.

“And if I don’t?” Garrett smiled a nasty smile and his right hand slowly reached for the upper right drawer of the desk. “Haven’t I taught you better than to make empty threats?” He’d make Scotty show his hand.

“You haven’t taught me a damn thing,” Scott spat back. He reached behind his back to grasp the ledger. “But I have proof. I have this.” He pulled out the ledger and brandished it in front of Garrett.

Harlan glanced back at his daughter’s portrait and pulled the drawer out farther. The gun was visible to him now. “Well, I see you’ve turned into a criminal while you’ve been away,” he sneered. “I’ll have you arrested for stealing.”

“Yes, do that, so I can show the courtroom the contents of this,” he tapped the accounting book, “and every dirty deal you’ve ever done and everyone you’ve blackmailed, extorted, or burned down their business. Your reputation in this town will be over.”

Garrett grabbed the gun and pointed it at his grandson. “Hand over the ledger and maybe you’ll walk out of this room alive.”

Scott stood up. “Doing your own dirty work, Grandfather? That’s not like you.”

“Damn you, boy! Give me that ledger!”

“And what are you going to do if I don’t, shoot me?” Scott took a step toward the desk and was rewarded with a searing pain in his side. He’d been shot! His grandfather had shot him! He fell to the floor on the ornate, hand-woven Persian rug. A splotch of blue dye was the last thing he saw as he felt his blood drain out of him.

Harlan Garrett was amazed at how easy it was to shoot a person. This was the first time he’d done it and his aim had been true. Why had he paid all that money to those shootists? He’d certainly be reducing his payouts to thugs for future assassinations. Now he needed to get his hands on the ledger.


The train pulled into the Boston station in the morning. Murdoch had to admit he didn’t have much of a plan. Even though he and Johnny suspected that Scott had gone to Boston on the suspicion that Garrett was behind the bounty, Murdoch had no other option than to go to the Garrett house. He couldn’t wander the streets of the big city hoping to run into Scott. If Scott wasn’t there, maybe a servant might know where he was. He hoped Harlan Garrett would be at work and he wouldn’t have to face him. Murdoch wasn’t quite ready for that yet. He needed to find Scott first and find out what was happening. What did Scott have planned? Or worse, what if Scott already attempted his plan and failed?

The hansom driver was familiar with the address. Murdoch had never forgotten it. He remembered his last ride to the Garrett house. That time he had come from the docks with his wedding license in his hand to win custody of his elder son. He’d been so hopeful that day. He’d finally meet his first-born son and take him back to live happily with Maria and Johnny. It hadn’t turned out the way he’d hoped. It turned out nothing like he had hoped. It turned out to be a nightmare for him and his sons, and that nightmare was continuing.

He had no idea how Scott would view his coming to Boston. The boy rarely reacted to things the way Murdoch predicted. The littlest thing could upset him and the biggest problems would roll off his back like water off the roof tiles. And then there was Addison’s suspicion. Murdoch hated to admit that it had gotten under his skin. Now he was looking at the least little indication that Addison was right and Scott preferred men over women. It had him overthinking everything Scott did. He took a deep breath and pushed that thought aside as his anxiety about Garrett blossomed with every street nearer he came. Finally, the imposing mansion came into view, and a feeling of dread washed over him. Good or bad, it was time for some answers.

Mayfield was just opening the door in response to Murdoch’s knock when they heard the shot. Mayfield tried to block entry to the Californian, but he was no match for Murdoch’s size even with the valet’s muscle. Murdoch pushed inside and they both rushed to the closed door of the study. Murdoch burst in to find Scott lying prone on the floor in front of the desk, a black bound journal inches away from his outstretched hand. Harlan Garrett stood beside his massive desk with a Smith-Wesson in his hand. The smell of cordite hung heavy in the air.

“Why you…” Murdoch growled and took a menacing step forward.

“Stop right there!” Garrett ordered, leveling the gun at Murdoch’s chest. Murdoch stood still. “Mayfield, go find a constable and close the door behind you.”

The servant did as he was asked.

“You shot Scott?” Murdoch asked incredulously. “He’s your heir, your legacy.”

Harlan let out a harsh laugh. “Him? He means nothing to me.”

Murdoch couldn’t believe it. All through the years he thought the man doted on Scott. “He’s your grandson.”

Garrett didn’t even give Scott a glance. “He’s the thing that killed my Catherine, my dear Catherine.”

Garrett wasn’t making any sense to Murdoch. “Then why take him from me?”

“To cause you pain because you took her,” Garrett explained.  “You took her away from me, and for that you had to suffer. And taking your son away from you made you suffer.”

“You tried to stop me from getting him back any way you could, even when you didn’t want him?”

Garrett almost laughed. “Yes, you sounded so desperate to get him back. The threatening letters you sent, the lawyers. I knew I was hurting you.” He smiled smugly.

“But you gave him up easily enough when he was eight.”

“Didn’t you ever wonder about that?” Garrett shook his head at that in a way that clearly indicated that he thought Murdoch the fool for not wondering about it. “I don’t throw good money after bad. I knew you had proof the guardianship signature was a forgery; there was no point in fighting you then. I’d let you have the boy. There were other ways to make you miserable. You see, once you took my dear Catherine away from me, my sole purpose became to make you miserable, and I’ve succeeded over the years.” He smiled as he recalled the memories. “I managed to have Haney scare her away from your mud hovel. That worked perfectly. I arrived to take her back to Boston where she belonged, but I didn’t know the baby would come early. I didn’t know we’d never make it to Yerba Bueno and that it would come early. She died in the back of a wagon because of him. I was going to abandon it there to die next to my darling, but the midwife showed up and said she would take it and see that it lived until you came. I couldn’t have that, so I took it as my prize. I knew being apart from it would be unbearable to you. He was your son, your heir and legacy. I hoped it would die in the War, but it survived.”

“You were behind Haney’s raids,” Murdoch said, finally realizing Harlan’s improbity.

“Very good. You may not be the half-wit I took you for.”

“And Pardee?” Would the man have tried the same thing again twenty years later? Was there no end to the depth of his father-in-law’s hatred of him?

Harlan nodded. “And more, much more. It was easy to lure your Mexican whore away from you. You sullied my precious Catherine’s memory by fornicating with that one. And knowing your love for your half-breed son, I made sure she took him with her. Her paramour was paid a handsome fee. Even so, if she really loved you, she wouldn’t have left you, eh? She was begging to be rid of you and that wretched son of yours. I believe the word is mestizo?”

“Shut up about Johnny!” Murdoch was purple with rage.

It only made Garrett cackle with glee.

Murdoch reined his anger in. He needed a clear mind in order to get out of this alive and take care of Scott. He’d appeal to Garrett’s pride. He tried to sound impressed. “You did all of that from Boston? How did you know what was happening in California?

”Do you think I wouldn’t have eyes on my daughter even in that God-forsaken place? There were quite a few destitute people more than willing to spy for me in exchange for a few pitiful dollars.” Harlan laughed almost maniacally. “I knew, Lancer. All those years after that whore left you, I knew where they were. And I made sure the Pinkertons never caught up with them. You don’t know how many times that half-breed almost died, but like a bad penny, he kept coming back. But as long as you couldn’t find him, that was enough for me. I knew how desperately you wanted him, and I was determined that you wouldn’t find him.”

Murdoch couldn’t keep his anger and heartache at bay. All those years he’d searched for his son, his Johnny. “You’re despicable, Garrett!”

“Am I? Or are you finally starting to realize how despondent I became when you took my Catherine? Did losing your sons give you any inkling of the pain you inflicted on me when you took my daughter from me?” Garrett’s anger was just as deep and raw.

“I didn’t take her; she wanted to leave,” Murdoch said, wanting to plunge a knife into Garrett’s heart and twist it. “She was desperate to leave you! You were killing her, smothering her with your so-called love. If she hadn’t gone with me, it would have been someone else. She never would have stayed in this house with you! She hated you!”

“That’s a lie!” Garrett shouted. “She loved me and loved Boston. She loved her life here. She had everything money could buy. I did everything I could to get her back and ruin you. But that damned baby. It ruined everything. It killed her! Still, I wanted to punish you, to ruin you. I tried to bankrupt you.”

“The loans coming due early…” Murdoch muttered.

“Yes, I never thought you’d be able to raise the money in time, damn you!”

“And this last problem with the Acme Land Management company. That was you, too.” It wasn’t a question. “You paid Buck Addison, too, to take down Lancer.”

“Not directly. I left that to Crocker. I’m a major stockholder in the Southern Pacific. The man does what I tell him to. But that turned out to be a mistake—too many people in between that I couldn’t control, although as I understand it, my bounty came close to you losing your half-breed again.”

Murdoch’s hurt and anger exploded again. “And Scott found out and confronted you.”

“Yes, but it will do you no good. The police will find that I shot Scott in self-defense, just as I intend to shoot you for the very same reason.”

“They’ll never believe you!”

“Won’t they? Don’t underestimate my influence in this town. They’ll believe me, and you’ll be too dead to contradict me.” Harlan took a step closer. “It’s time for you to join you son.”

Suddenly, Scott moaned loudly and moved to rise. Harlan instinctively turned his attention to his grandson. That was all the diversion Murdoch needed. He lunged at his father-in-law, his hand grabbing for the gun. The pistol went off, the bullet harmlessly hitting the ceiling. 

Murdoch was a huge man, but Garrett was stronger than he looked and fueled by pure hatred. His grip on the gun was tenacious and they crashed into furniture and walls as they battled for it. Another shot echoed in the room as the bullet slammed into the doorframe. Finally, Murdoch pushed Garrett into the bookcase next to the fireplace. Garrett’s head hit the mantle hard, and the old man dropped like a stone. Panting, Murdoch grabbed the gun out of Garrett’s lax fingers and rushed over to Scott’s side.

And that had been how Mayfield and the two constables had found him. Murdoch had been arrested on the spot. Scott and Harlan were taken to the hospital where Garrett was pronounced dead. The biggest scandal in years on Beacon Hill had begun, and the newspapers were full of the story. The death of the prominent Harlan Garrett was front page news.

Scott’s gunshot wound was again in the vicinity of the scars from the rustler and Pardee’s gang member, but it was a little more inward this time and so had nicked a part of his intestine. The Boston hospital was one of the nation’s finest, and the doctors were able to keep Scott alive through the surgery. Now all they had to do was stop any infection and the prognosis was hopeful.

Meanwhile, Murdoch sat in a jail cell. He told the authorities his version of the events surrounding Garrett’s death, but no one could corroborate his story except Scott, if he survived and if he were conscious of what transpired between his father and grandfather. Both were questionable at this point of the investigation.

All Murdoch could feel was rage. Garrett’s words tumbled over and over in his head. All the troubles that had beset the ranch were Garrett’s doing! The man had made Murdoch suffer, especially with the loss of his Johnny for all those years. He’d suffered, all right. His only satisfaction was that Garrett was dead. He even raged against Scott for coming out here alone, for not telling anyone what he was planning. If only he’d told them what was happening, they could have faced it as a family. What had the boy been thinking? The police weren’t talking to him about Scott’s condition. All Murdoch knew was that Scott was still alive at the moment.  

Scott drifted in and out of consciousness. He had little idea of his surroundings, and he couldn’t answer any questions, not being able to comprehend them. Unbeknownst to him, constables and newspapermen were desperate to hear what he had to say. There was nothing they could do but wait until he was weaned off the morphine and got stronger. After a week, he finally became more aware of his situation. He had been so confused about his circumstances. He was in an unfamiliar room. There were strange men and women coming and going. They spoke to him about his wound and his pain, but he couldn’t make sense of them. Eventually, he figured out that they were doctors and nurses. Sometimes, they were policemen, but he had no answers for their questions. He was having a hard time remembering what happened; all he felt was pain and confusion. He wanted all of them to go away and leave him to his misery. Where was Murdoch? He vaguely remembered his father being in Grandfather’s study. Why wasn’t he here helping him?

Finally, he awoke to a familiar face. “Aunt Cora,” he mumbled.

She sat more upright. “So you remember who I am, boy!” she said and let go of his hand. “I have a bone to pick with you, my dear. All this time you were in Boston and you didn’t tell me!”

“Sorry.” A whisper.

She stood up and kissed his forehead. “I’ll chastise you properly when you’ve recovered.” He smiled wanly at her. “Scott, the police want to know what happened. We all want to know what happened. Do you remember any of it?”

He nodded. God, it all came rushing back to him once they had started to reduce the amount of morphine they were giving him. Yes, he remembered it. He remembered every painful, hate-filled second of it. He’d regained consciousness after the shot quickly, but it took him some seconds to orient himself and realize that it truly was his father’s voice he was hearing. What was Murdoch doing in Boston? He decided to just lay there and listen.

“Sergeant O’Malley is waiting outside to take a statement from you. Do you think you can speak to him now?”

Scott nodded.

Cora went to the door to admit the sergeant into the room.

“Stay,” Scott pleaded to his great aunt, but the constable wouldn’t have it.

After she left, the policeman peppered him with questions. Scott did his best to answer them. He’d been shot by his grandfather and was lying on the floor. He hadn’t seen anything, just heard everything. He gave his account and fell asleep before Aunt Cora returned to hold his hand again.

In the following days, he did his best to rest and follow the doctors’ orders. Aunt Cora was a frequent visitor and toward the end of the week, he was glad to see Murdoch sitting by his bed. “What happened?” he asked his father. Murdoch told him a brief sketch of the events after he entered the study. For the first time, Scott learned that his grandfather was dead. The police hadn’t mentioned that fact. Drugged and exhausted, he couldn’t stop the tears that filled his eyes and spilled over onto his cheeks. He’d wanted to stop Harlan, not kill him.

Murdoch was incensed. How could Scott mourn his grandfather after all the bastard had done to their family? He didn’t understand this son. He abruptly left the room frustrated and angry.

The next day, Aunt Cora announced that Scott would be coming to her house to recuperate. He protested mildly but was secretly glad to be getting out of the hospital. Aunt Cora’s house held a special place in his memories. He knew he would get the best of care there. She had married into the Hancock family; a more prominent Boston family could hardly be found. Her husband had been John Hancock’s grandson, and Cora couldn’t be more socially and financially sound. Scott had been six when his great uncle passed away, and Scott knew Cora missed her husband terribly even now.

But there was concern over his being there, too. His Great Aunt Cora was his grandfather’s sister. And now Harlan was dead at his father’s doing. How did she feel about that? Clearly, she wasn’t blaming Scott for the tragedy, but it was a delicate and complicated situation. Nevertheless, he was grateful for her invitation and eager to accept it and put the hospital behind him.

Scott was placed in what he considered was “his room” when he visited his aunt. It was spacious and well-lit with windows on two walls. There were two large armoires and an ornately inlaid, French-style writing desk that he not so secretly coveted. It was where he had written his books. Yes, he had fond memories of this room and was happy to be back in it. Convalescing at Aunt Cora’s was almost a treat. She had a well-trained and cheerful staff. She’d hired the best nurses, and the doctor came to see him every day.

Murdoch stopped by a couple of times. His visits were awkward and strained. He scolded Scott for not telling him about his plans and coming out to Boston alone. “You would have tried harder to stop me” was Scott’s only excuse. But mainly the unease between them was because Murdoch refused to talk about the day of “the incident,” as Scott was beginning to refer to it. It was much more than an incident, but everyone seemed to brush his questions aside when he asked them, as if they were of no importance. Especially his questions about the ledger. Apparently, it had disappeared. No one could tell him what happened to it. He needed it to confront Crocker and have him spread the word that the bounty on Johnny was null and void. It wouldn’t be paid. He needed the ledger for “leverage” (Grandfather’s euphemism for blackmail) with Crocker.

Aunt Cora referred to it as “the unfortunate business” and refused to discuss it as well, as was her way. Unpleasant events were never mentioned. The War between the States was taboo. All Scott could get out of her was that Murdoch had been jailed for Harlan’s murder until Scott had recovered enough to verify his story. Satisfied that Harlan’s death had been an accident, the police released Murdoch pending a hearing. That had been yesterday, and Murdoch had been cleared of any wrong-doing, as his actions had been deemed self-defense. Aunt Cora had been busy notifying relatives and arranging for her brother’s funeral. Scott thought it best to stay as quiet and unobtrusive as possible during her mourning.

Health-wise, Scott was a bit frustrated. The damage to his intestine seemed to be taking a long time to heal. His stomach was very sensitive to what foods were put in it, and he couldn’t seem to get his strength back. He mainly slept and tried not to eat much, as that usually ended in pain as the meal traveled through his healing gut. But not eating delayed his healing. It was an unhappy situation all around. At least his arm was no longer hurting him.

The door opened and Murdoch entered. There was something about him—a nervousness—that set Scott immediately on edge. His father stopped at the end of the bed.

“How are you feeling, son?”

Murdoch asked this first every time he’d visited, although he usually left off the “son.” Warning bells began to ring in Scott’s head.

“I’m fine, sir.” This was his usual answer.

Murdoch nodded. “Good, that’s good.” He cleared his throat twice before he continued. “It’s been over three weeks since I left the ranch…”

Scott’s heart sank as he realized where this conversation was going. Murdoch had been too long from his precious ranch, from Teresa, and most of all, from Johnny. Obviously, he had decided he’d spent too much time with Scott, even though he had hardly spent any time with him at all. “You need to go back,” Scott said flatly.

Murdoch was relieved that Scott had already guessed the reason for this visit. He wouldn’t need to explain his reasoning. He’d always appreciated this boy’s adroit mind. “Yes, I’ll be gone over a month by the time I get back. And then there’s the drive. I’d like to be back before it starts.”

“I understand, sir.” He did understand. The ranch always came first with his father. At least it came before him.

“The doctor thinks your recovery is going to take some time, time I can’t really afford to lose.”

“I understand, sir. When do you leave?”

“Early tomorrow morning. I’d rather not wake you…”

“I understand.” Scott stifled a sigh and the urge to beg his father to stay, to see to his convalescence, to talk through those awful events on the day Grandfather died. “Have a safe journey, then, and give my love to Johnny and Teresa.”

“I will.” He came closer and patted Scott’s shoulder. “You take all the time you need to heal, and then come back as soon as you think you’re able.”

“Yes, sir. Good-bye, sir.”

Murdoch patted Scott’s shoulder again and left. He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat when Scott told him to give Johnny and Teresa his love. He wondered if Scott loved him, too. Perhaps not, with the number of “sirs” that had littered his replies. He probably should have told the boy he loved him before he left, but he found those words nearly impossible to say aloud, especially when Scott was acting so coldly and distantly toward him. He hated to leave his elder son, but he hated being in Boston more. He couldn’t sit idle here while there was so much work to do at Lancer. There were bad memories upon bad memories in this God-forsaken city, and this final go-round with Garrett was the worst in a lifetime of bitter encounters with the old coot.

Scott was asking questions about what happened, and he didn’t want to answer any of them. He prayed Scott hadn’t heard the terrible things Harlan had said about him. He had called Scott a “thing,” had referred to him as “it.” Dear God, he prayed that Scott would never know that. He wanted to put that awful day behind him forever. Seeing Scott lying on the floor, a pool of blood growing beneath him had terrified him. Hearing all of Garrett’s treacheries had enraged him. He was glad the blow to the man’s temple from the mantle edge had killed him. It had truly been an accident, but that didn’t mean he hadn’t wished the man dead. He’d been ready to wrap his hands around the man’s throat and choke him to death for all the misery he’d caused over the years. He’d kept him away from Johnny for fourteen years! He’d put a bounty on Johnny’s head that might still put his boy in harm’s way! No, he was getting out of Boston as quickly as he could. He needed to get back to Lancer and make sure Johnny was safe.

He knew Scott was in good hands with Cora Hancock. Scott’s great aunt was as gracious and kind as Harlan was cold and despicable. It was difficult to fathom that the two came from the same parents. Once he had told Cora a carefully edited version of what happened, she had offered to put Scott and him up at her home. Mansion, really.

Cora told him about her brother’s growing obsession with Catherine, his only child who had survived childhood. Two sons had died in infancy and one had been born stillborn. Catherine had become Harlan’s whole life, especially once his wife, Miriam, died when Catherine was twelve. Catherine had chafed under Harlan’s obsessive love and concern. Although Cora had adored her niece’s strong spirit and fierce sense of independence, she knew those traits would break her brother’s heart. What she didn’t know was what lengths her brother would go to in order to exact revenge on Murdoch Lancer, and she suspected the man hadn’t told her the half of it. She voiced a desire to atone for Harlan’s actions.

Murdoch would let her atonement commence with nursing Scott back to health. He felt extremely uncomfortable taking her hospitality after Harlan’s death. She must have seen that he wasn’t sorry about it. He was grateful she had told him about Harlan. He was certain Catherine never knew about her deceased brothers. He understood Harlan more now, but he would never forgive the man for all the misery he’d unleashed. He needed to go home and let the beauty of Lancer erase the ugliness of Boston.

Scott heard the door close behind Murdoch and turned onto his good side. Of course, Murdoch was going back to the ranch. Why had he thought that after he recovered, he could show his father his Boston and maybe Murdoch could show him his? He shouldn’t have imagined them going back to California together. They would have had a whole week, just the two of them, watching the scenery go by outside the train window and talking about anything and everything. And maybe, if Murdoch seemed interested in him, he’d tell him about what life had been like for him before his father had taken him to live in California. He’d never told anyone about that, not even Henry. But now it was not to be. He should have known that fantasy would never come to pass. Why did he allow his imagination to run wild like that? Real life was always a disappointment when compared to his daydreams. He ignored the throb of his wound as it protested its new position. He could feel the sadness wash over him again as it had five years ago in this very room. It was familiar and welcome. He let himself sink into it.


Johnny was in the tack room when Tommy rode in with the telegram. Johnny flipped him a dollar, the only coin in his pocket, which made the boy almost squeal in delight. He was in that awful stage where his voice was changing, but it was taking its own sweet time about it.

Johnny tore open the telegram. Just as he hoped, it was from Murdoch. Frustratingly, it didn’t say anything other than giving the departure date from Boston and the estimated arrival date in Sacramento. He’d take the stagecoach into Morro Coyo from there. Johnny threw the telegram to the straw-strewn dirt at his feet. What had happened in Boston? Why was there no mention of Scott? Had they been successful in dealing with Garrett? He’d get his answers when they returned home next week, but his patience would be worn to a thread by that time.

He went back to repairing Barranca’s bridle. He finally had to admit to himself that he hadn’t quite healed as much as he should have before he went back out on the range. Now his shoulder was hurting more than it should have three weeks out, and he was taking a break from the more arduous tasks at the ranch.

He heard footsteps approaching and felt a surge of energy. As far as he knew, that bounty was still on his head and his heart quickened at the sound of anyone approaching. Little Al stuck his head in the door, and Johnny sighed in relief. The Double C hand had ridden in two weeks ago and asked to work for Lancer instead of Aggie. The events surrounding Buck Addison and the Acme Land Company hadn’t set well with him, and Aggie’s foreman, Jake, had told him of Johnny’s open offer to take on any Double C hand. Johnny didn’t know him well; he hadn’t been hired at the Double C when he’d made the offer to Jake, but the kid seemed capable enough. Not as good a worker as Big Al, but few men were. Little Al’s eyes roamed around the room.

“You looking for something?” Johnny asked. He was slouched on the bench, his fingers deftly weaving some horsehair into the bridle.

Little Al stepped inside the room crowded with tack. There was a lot of it on a ranch this size. “Not something, someone…you,” Little Al said, walking boldly into the room.

Johnny thought the kid’s smile was a little forced. He seemed nervous and his right hand was behind his back. “Well, you found me,” Johnny drawled as he put the bridle down on the bench next to his gun. His hand grasped the handle. At the angle Little Al was at, he wouldn’t see the gun hidden behind Johnny’s thigh.

Little Al brought his hand out from behind his back. Johnny shot at the first glimpse of the gun. Little Al was screaming and holding his arm, while Johnny went over to him and kicked the gun away.

“You weren’t wearing your gun belt,” Little Al gasped between screams.

“Don’t mean I ain’t got a gun with me,” Johnny explained. “Why’d ya do it, kid? Why’d you try to kill me?”

“For the money. Ain’t never had five hundred dollars.”

“And now you never will,” Johnny said coldly. The bullet had hit the inside of the elbow as he intended and most likely shattered it. Little Al wouldn’t have use of that arm for the rest of his life. Dios, this bounty on his head had to die. Why hadn’t Murdoch said anything about it in his telegram? Scott would have. For a brief moment, Johnny wondered whether something had happened to his brother, but people were rushing into the room to find out about the gunshot. Johnny spotted Diego among them. He motioned the trusted hand closer.

“You all right, Johnny?” Diego asked.

“Yeah,” Johnny answered as the adrenaline started to leave his system. He felt bone weary. “Get him to the doc’s and then see that he gets on a stage to as far away as twenty dollars will take him. Come get the money when you’re ready to go.”

Diego nodded and went to hitch up the buckboard.

Johnny knelt by the kid who was still writhing on the floor holding his arm, his screams pared down to loud whimpering. Johnny figured a shattered elbow must hurt like hell. “You got off lucky this time, kid. I see your face again anywhere near here and I’ll put a bullet between your eyes. Comprende?”

Little Al just kept writhing, so Johnny stilled his head and repeated himself more loudly. The kid finally nodded his understanding. Johnny let go of his head and walked through the crowd of people to the house. Teresa met him halfway, fussing over him as she and Maria usually did. He smiled. It felt good to be fussed over. He let Teresa lead him to the kitchen and ply him with freshly baked tortillas and churned butter. Now if only he could get rid of this bounty, life would be pretty damn good. Scott said to trust him to take care of it. He trusted his brother more than anyone else, even Val, but Murdoch hadn’t said a word about his brother in the telegram. He knew his frugal father would try to save every penny he could by not adding words, but it was frustrating. A new worry began to gnaw at him.


“All right, boy, the time for lying in that bed is over,” Aunt Cora said as she pulled the heavy drapery apart from each window.

Scott groaned in anguish as sunlight poured into his room and eyes. “No,” he protested. He threw his covers over his head.

“I’m not going to go through this again with you, Scott Lancer. Now get up, get dressed, and meet me for lunch in the formal dining room.”

Scott groaned again. He’d spent days drifting in and out of sleep in complete listlessness. He was in some kind of fog where he wasn’t quite awake or asleep but in limbo. Thoughts descended and ascended with no real consciousness of them. Food appeared and disappeared; chamber pots were filled and emptied. He had no idea how long he’d been in such limbo, days upon days. He just knew that he didn’t want it to end. Not thinking about anything had been a blessing. Thinking would always lead to Grandfather’s vicious words. No, he wasn’t in limbo; he was in purgatory.

One afternoon he’d reflected on his childhood. He didn’t remember too much of it, but what he did remember was bleak. It had been a series of one nanny after another. Just as he was getting used to one, another would take her place. Now he knew why. As soon as one showed any affection for him, she would be replaced. He’d welcomed being shipped off to boarding school. The last nanny had been strict, severe, and lacking any human kindness. Of course, like any child, he considered his upbringing as normal. He hadn’t been allowed to play with other children either at his house or theirs. His world was Grandfather’s large house and the backyard garden. He’d been told that the people he saw outside the windows were mean and dangerous. Only the house was safe. It wasn’t until boarding school had he learned about children having friends and fathers and mothers; he assumed everyone was brought up by nannies hired by their grandfathers whom they hardly ever saw.

He’d learned about other things as well, like birthdays. Everyone had one and they were celebrated with gifts and sweets. Scott had no idea when his birthday was, but the headmaster did.  One day in early December, he received a card from the staff of the school and cookies with his dinner. It had been the happiest day he could remember. School had been difficult for him at first. He’d never been around other boys before and didn’t know what to say to them or how to act around them. His nannies had been right: other people were mean. The other boys took his shyness for stupidity and teased him about it constantly. That made him stay in his room and study. After grades were posted, the stupidity teasing stopped, but there were other taunts. Scott watched and learned and being the quick learner he was, he adapted. He later learned about chameleons and how they changed colors to blend in with their surroundings. Scott tried hard to become a human chameleon. He’d done the same thing when he arrived at Lancer.

After he learned about mothers and fathers, he asked Stevens whether he had any when he was home on Christmas holiday. He was told that, yes, he had parents, but his mother was dead and his father lived far away in a beautiful-sounding place called California. He fantasized about what his father was like. He longed for his father to magically appear and take him away from Boston. And then it happened! At first, he’d been startled by the sudden appearance of a giant of a man. He’d grabbed him and hauled him out of Grandfather’s house with barely a how-do-you-do. He stopped his crying before they’d reached the dock. He wanted to go to California. Unfortunately, the sea voyage had been Hell. But anything would be better than Grandfather’s house. How wrong he had been! In Boston he had been neglected, but he had every material thing he could have wished for. His punishments had been rare; he was a quick learner. But he never had to worry about his food being tampered with or the cruel punishments administered by La Señora. Johnny’s mother had tormented him relentlessly, making him long for the days of being ignored. If he hadn’t run away, if he hadn’t found the Conways, where would he be now? He finally discovered what it meant to be part of a loving family. Clinging to those happy memories was keeping him sane. Then he would remember that Henry Conway was dead and gone, and the sadness would descend again.

He didn’t want to remember his grandfather, so he needed to stop thinking. He started taking more of the awful-tasting laudanum just so it would send him into a fog and he could ignore everything. He’d done that when he’d laid in this room recovering from Libby. He’d medicated himself into oblivion so often that he’d become dependent on the medicine. He never wanted to go through withdrawal again. He’d been more careful this time around. And now Aunt Cora was sweeping about the room yelling at him. He tried to ignore her, too.

She walked over to the bed and yanked the covers off Scott’s face. “And for Pete’s sake, shave off that horrid beard!”

He left the covers down to his chin so she could see his glare. “The beard stays.”

“Will you shave it off yourself or shall I have Simmons do it for you? He’s very good at it, as I’m sure you remember from the last time you hid yourself away in this room.”

Scott did remember. Simmons had a deft hand and it felt so good to have someone else shave him. He indulged himself every so often at the barber’s shop in Green River. Johnny would always rib him about it, about him wasting his money. But it was such a pleasure, especially when he couldn’t shave for over a year because of Libby. But he wasn’t going to tell Johnny about that. No one at Lancer needed to be burdened with his War memories. “I won’t shave,” he said trying to sound as determined as his great aunt. But no one was as determined as Cora Hancock. He started to look forward to the hot towel wrapped around his face.

“Simmons, then,” Cora said decisively as she continued to loom over her great nephew. This boy had stolen her heart the first time she’d held him as a baby, then again as he kept her company while he went to Harvard, and finally when he bravely conquered his starvation and illnesses from the War. She’d get him back on his feet again as she had done that time when he’d come back so emaciated and despondent. Like now, he’d laid apathetically in bed day after day, wallowing in his memories of the horrors of that conflict. She’d seen other young men succumb to their melancholy from that unimaginable experience. She had been determined not to let her Scott fade away from ennui or lose him to suicide. She was the one who’d encouraged him to write about it or about anything at all. It had taken her months to get him to care about something, anything, again. She wasn’t going to wait months this time. “Can you at least dress yourself or will Simmons have to dress you as well?”

“Simmons,” Scott declared and gave her a devilish smile.

The imp! It gave her hope for him. Murdoch had told her of her brother’s attitude toward her beloved great nephew. She didn’t begrudge Scott the week of self-pity he indulged in, but she wasn’t going to put up with it any longer. She leaned over and gave him a kiss on his forehead. “I’ll see you in an hour.”

Clean-shaven and properly attired, Scott sat at the formal dining table while Aunt Cora finished reading her mail. Once she had, she turned her attention to him.

“We have a decision to make.”

“We do?”

“How far are we going to go on our walk today?” she asked.

“Walk?” He hadn’t been out of bed for weeks. “Did Dr. Preston say it was all right?”

“He’s been encouraging you to walk for days. You just haven’t been paying attention to the man.”

That was true. He hadn’t been paying attention to anyone lately. It took too much effort to pay attention when all you wanted to do was drift away. “I…I don’t think I can.”

“Nonsense! Certainly, you can walk!” She took a spoonful of the soup that had been laid in front of them in the exquisite bone china with the light blue rosettes pattern.

“I’m none too steady on my feet. Just ask Simmons. He had to practically carry me in here,” Scott protested.

“You can use George’s cane and I’ll be on the other side steadying you as well. You can make it.”

Using her husband’s cane, that was testament to her esteem for him. He was appropriately flattered. He couldn’t refuse that offer. “Where are we going, if I may ask?”

“You may. We’re going to the Common. After that, we’ll see how you’re feeling. You can make it to the Common and back, can’t you?” It wasn’t really a question.

Scott thought maybe he could. It was only two blocks away. “Perhaps.” The soup was delicious. How could he not have remembered how talented Aunt Cora’s cook was? He hadn’t paid attention last week. What was her name? Josette.

“Very well, then, it’s settled.” They ate the rest of their soup in silence until Aunt Cora rang the little bell and the maid came to clear the dishes. “By the way, you’re taking me to the opera this Saturday.”

Scott was glad he’d finished his soup before she made this little pronouncement. Otherwise, he would have sprayed the antique lace tablecloth with the chicken broth coming out of his nose.


Cora thought her great nephew was coming along quite nicely. Their initial, slow walk to the Common had now grown into a sedate two or three times around its perimeter. He would regale her with stories about the West, particularly about his brother. He had written to her about his brother, but there was only so much one could write in a letter. Now he could go into much more detail and embellishments.  She could hear the love he had for his sibling in his voice. She had to admit, she was very curious to meet this Johnny Madrid. She told him stories about his mother when she was a child. Of course, now they were constantly interrupted by young ladies chaperoned by their mothers eager to converse with the dashing Scott Lancer and offering their sincerest insincere condolences on the death of his grandfather.

“You’re quite the attraction,” she teased him one afternoon.

“They only think I’ve inherited Grandfather’s estate,” Scott said sourly. Then he brightened. “Perhaps we should put it in the papers that I haven’t. Then we’d be left in peace.”

“Maybe not. You’re still a quite handsome lad, I must say, even if I’m absolutely biased.” That made the boy blush charmingly. It was true, though. Harlan hadn’t left his estate to his natural heir. Instead, everything had been left to her. Her elder son, Charles, had come up from Philadelphia for the funeral and stayed almost two weeks while they sorted everything out. Her younger son, John, would move back from St. Louis to take the reins of Garrett Enterprises. Charles and her daughter, Elizabeth, would both receive very healthy monetary gifts. And they decided to add another hefty sum to Scott’s trust fund that he inherited from his mother upon her death. Cora had been the trustee of the fund, so it had been in safe hands. Knowing what she now knew about her brother, she had no doubt that Harlan would have taken all the money away from Scott if he could have.

Charles had protested that move, arguing that clearly Harlan intended that Scott receive nothing from his estate, but after Cora informed him of his uncle’s “imperfections,” he relented and agreed that Scott had more than earned the sum. Cora would discreetly add it to the already impressive trust. Scott would never have financial worries. The Hancocks and Prescotts would make sure of that.

Scott wasn’t surprised that he’d received nothing from Harlan’s estate, not after he’d heard his grandfather’s diatribe to Murdoch as he lay bleeding on the rug. Truth be told, he was rather glad he didn’t have to worry about all of Grandfather’s complicated finances. He’d been mostly blissfully unconscious in the hospital when Aunt Cora and Charles had to figure everything out. Aunt Cora had explained everything to him once he’d become himself again, and he assured her he was perfectly agreeable to her having inherited everything. She’d given him a coy smile and kissed him on the cheek.

She did that a lot as he escorted her around Boston, and he found that he enjoyed it. She was the only woman besides Agatha to give him affectionate familial kisses. At Lancer, sometimes Maria would mistake him for Johnny and give him a kiss on the cheek or the top of his head.  Once his sadness and despondency had lifted, he began to enjoy being in Boston again. The fall air was crisp and invigorating, making his step more lively. Young ladies, with their cheeks reddened by the cold, looked more alluring. He declined all their invitations to tea, knowing that he was asked in order to be interrogated about the events of his grandfather’s demise. He did accept invitations to the gentlemen’s clubs by Harvard friends or former Union army colleagues. They, too, were curious about Harlan’s death, but he could ward them off more easily and didn’t have to be as polite about it. They teased him about his books, and he silenced them by disclosing the royalties he’d made from them. He’d gone to visit his publisher, and Mr. Stearns had asked whether he was still writing. He was, but not about the War. He didn’t think his current poetry was very good, but he had left the publishing house with promises of sending Stearns his latest writings. Their wanting more of his writings had put a more confident spring in his step.

He knew he should be considering going back to Lancer. After two and a half months away, he was healthy enough to make the trip, and knowing Aunt Cora, she would probably rent an entire private coach for him to travel back to California in the most luxurious way possible. He just wasn’t ready to go back yet. There were times when he thought about staying in Boston permanently. The city was livelier than just after the War. It had seemed so oppressive then. Now, when he wasn’t escorting Aunt Cora to the opera, theater, or symphony, he was carousing with friends at clubs, going to bawdy revues, or indulging in the pleasures of the brothels. He could barely keep up with all the activity. But after another week of this exciting but pointless existence, he knew he had to go back to California, back to his immediate family, back to building something meaningful with his father and brother. He missed Johnny and Teresa terribly.

He stood tentatively in the doorway of Aunt Cora’s study and watched as her pen scratched out a letter. He knocked on the door frame. She looked up and smiled. Then she frowned as she saw his demeanor.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you,” he apologized. “May I come in?”

Cora put down her pen. “Certainly.” She saw him take a few uncertain steps into the room. “You’ve decided to go back to California, then?”

Her perceptiveness took Scott by surprise. “Yes. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, boy. We both knew this day would come.”

Scott cleared the lump from his throat. “I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am…”

“Nonsense, boy! It’s I who is grateful. You’ve brought some life and youth into this staid home. Now, when do you leave?”

“In three days.”

“Three days! That’s not much time for me to show off my handsome great nephew to Boston society.” Or to get her used to the idea that he would be gone again.

He blushed. “I’m sure Boston society has grown tired of me already, Aunt Cora.”

“But I haven’t, my dear. It’s not often I can go to the theater on the arm of such a young and good-looking man! I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” She sighed as she put down her pen. “Now we must decide how you’re going to spend your last evenings here.”

“I’m going to say good-bye to my friends tonight at McNamara’s,” he told her, “but the following two evenings are reserved for you.”

Cora blushed. “Shall we spend tomorrow evening at the theater or the symphony?”

He dithered. “What’s the symphony playing?”

“Beethoven, no doubt. It’s always Beethoven these days.” She rooted around her desk drawer and found the paper she wanted. “Yes, Beethoven. His Ninth.”

Scott’s eyebrows twitched. “I’ve always wanted to hear that one.”

“You haven’t heard Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony?” Cora was theatrically appalled. “Well, you must hear it! It’s divine! That settles it; we’ll go to the symphony. On your last night, we’ll go to my club, where we shall gamble the evening away with all my friends.”

“I haven’t much more money with me, Aunt Cora,” Scott admitted. He’d had barely enough to pay for his fare home.

“Nonsense! I’ll stake you, my boy. I’ve just inherited a rather large estate,” she said wryly. He laughed. She’d tell the boy about his trust fund when he left for California. She rather liked having him thinking he had to depend upon her largesse. “Now, run along. I have things to do.” Like upgrade his ticket, she thought. It was good to see Scott back to his former self. Yes, it was time for him to go back home. But she would miss him so.


The stagecoach was only a few miles from Morro Coyo. Scott again idly wondered who would pick him up. Dare he think his father would meet him at the station? Unlikely. It would be wonderful to see Johnny, though. Yes, there was a good chance it might be Johnny. Parting from Aunt Cora had not been easy. He cherished each moment with her, and she wasn’t getting any younger. He didn’t know when he’d return to Boston. He begged her to visit the ranch but had gotten only a vague promise of trying to do so…maybe…sometime. He hoped her curiosity about Johnny would be the impetus she’d need. Of course, he also hoped seeing him again would provide a modicum of incentive as well.

She had given him three items before he left. On was an upgraded train ticket. He’d protested that but only mildly. He was elated at having a private coach for the journey. The second item had been Grandfather’s elusive black ledger. The police had confiscated it and returned it to her as the sole beneficiary of the estate. She knew he wanted it badly. He’d studied it carefully on the train ride home. Surprisingly, it contained an entry farther down the last page that read: C. Crocker/ SPR, which Scott deciphered as Southern Pacific Railroad/SGL. He would have gainsaid that entry if he hadn’t laid there and heard all his grandfather’s vitriol against him. So, there was a bounty on his head, too. He had spent an extra day in Sacramento to hopefully end it.

He had burst unannounced into Crocker’s office and demanded to speak to the man. If he hadn’t been so used to Murdoch’s size, he might have been intimidated; the man was perhaps even bigger than his father. Crocker wasn’t intimidated. There commenced a brief exchange where Scott was careful not to make any explicit accusations and Crocker disavowed knowing anything. Scott brandished the ledger showing his grandfather’s entry and payments and for what, and Crocker continued to disavow any knowledge of the payouts, calling them specious and spurious and threatening legal action if revealed. Scott left thinking he’d made his point and Crocker understood that if there were any future attempts on their lives, he and Johnny would return for him…armed. Of course, he hadn’t come out and said so overtly, but he felt confident the word would go out that the bounties were cancelled and that he and Johnny were to be left alone. They’d have to be extra vigilant for the next few months to be sure.

The third of Aunt Cora’s items was an envelope, not to be opened until Scott was on the train. It contained a letter, a bank passbook, and his Medal of Honor. In the letter, Aunt Cora explained the existence of a trust fund that the Prescott side of the family had set up for his mother. Harlan Garrett had done very well for himself by marrying Miriam Prescott, who came from a wealthy Boston family. Aunt Cora told him his grandmother unfortunately had a slight harelip and the Prescott family was happy to see her wed at all. Harlan Garrett had been the answer to their prayers. Upon Catherine’s death, it had been decided that the trust fund was to be passed down to him. At age twenty-five, it was to become his to do with as he pleased. His twenty-fifth birthday was next month. He looked at the last entry in the passbook and couldn’t believe his eyes. Several hundreds of thousands of dollars! All his and to do with as he pleased, although Aunt Cora counseled him to simply let it be and continue to have the investments grow. He knew what he wanted to do with the money first: buy a private coach ticket from Boston to Sacramento on the Transcontinental Railroad for his Aunt Cora. He hoped he could persuade her to visit him.

As to his medal, Aunt Cora said she was awarding it to him again for exceptional bravery in battle with his grandfather. Scott had forgotten he had left the thing in the writing desk in his bedroom at her house when he had traveled West with Julie. At that point, he wanted nothing to remind him of his terrible ordeal. He would have thrown it out the train window. Now he tucked it back inside the envelope, smiling at his great aunt’s unique sense of humor. The last three years at Lancer had helped heal the gaping wound in his soul over the events of the War. It was still an open wound, but perhaps it had closed some by working the land and being with his family, especially Johnny. Aunt Cora had ended the letter by saying, “Remember how very strong you are, Scott.” That made him recall what he did to receive the medal. It had been rash, foolhardy, but astonishingly successful. His attempt to duplicate it had gone spectacularly wrong. The medal always reminded him of the triumphant and disastrous actions. Now it would remind him of his beloved Great Aunt Cora, who had nursed him back to health after both “unfortunate businesses.”

To his delight, both Johnny and Teresa had come to meet him. Teresa had bounded into his arms with a kiss on the cheek for him, telling him how much she missed him and that he should never go back to Boston again. Johnny had given him an enthusiastic handshake, which turned into some slaps on the back as well. They gathered up his bags and moved toward the buggy. Teresa got herself in the carriage while the brothers secured the luggage on the rig.

“Murdoch told me what happened,” Johnny said, keeping his voice very low. “He didn’t tell Teresa nothing.”

Scott nodded, appreciating getting the heads up.

“You all right?” Johnny asked.

Scott nodded again. “I took some extra time just to make sure. I see you avoided bounty hunters.”

Johnny acknowledged that with a short nod. He wasn’t going to tell Scott about Little Al right off the stagecoach. He motioned for Scott to sit in the back with Teresa while he jumped up front and took up the reins.

“Why, Miss Teresa, you look all grown up now,” Scott teased her. It wasn’t much of a tease. She really did look like a young woman now rather than the girl he’d left.

“You missed my sixteenth birthday,” she pouted. “You were gone an awful long time.”

“Just three months.”

“And change,” Johnny added.

“I’m sorry, Teresa. Maybe I can make it up to you.” His present for her was secure in his valise. He knew she’d forgive him once she opened it.

Teresa continued to pout. “I don’t know. You only turn sixteen once in your life!”

For most of the ride home, Teresa told Scott all about the events at the ranch while he’d been gone. She’d been warned by Johnny not to mention Little Al. Scott told her a little bit of his trip to Boston, mostly taken up with the train ride itself. When Teresa got older, he’d see to it she would get to experience it herself. The girl did so much for them that there was little time for her to indulge in treating herself. Maybe a visit to San Francisco first, though, just to whet her appetite for travel. He could certainly afford that now. “We should go to San Francisco, just the three of us,” he suddenly blurted out.

“Ooh, yes!” Teresa squealed. “That would be so much fun! I can’t wait to go!”

Johnny had his back to him, so Scott couldn’t see his reaction to the suggestion. “And you, Johnny?”

“Wouldn’t mind a change of scenery,” Johnny admitted. “The Old Man’s been keeping me on a short leash as of late.”

“That’s because you almost got killed again,” Teresa said, so matter-of-factly that it stunned Scott. Then she covered her mouth with both hands. Whoops! She wasn’t supposed to tell Scott about Little Al’s attempt on Johnny’s life.

“Teresa!” Johnny admonished between gritted teeth. She proceeded to rearrange her skirt as Scott noticed all females did when they didn’t know what to do with their hands or themselves.

“Were you hurt?” At Johnny’s shake of the head, he continued, “That bounty should change shortly, I hope. I did all I could do.”

“Then that’s enough for me,” Johnny said, making Scott smile.

“When can we go to San Francisco, Scott?” Teresa asked, wisely changing the subject.

“Not for a little bit; I just got home. I’m looking forward to Maria’s cooking and sleeping in my own bed tonight,” Scott declared.

Teresa giggled. “We have something special planned for you tonight.”

“Teresa…” The warning tone in Johnny’s voice was clear.

Scott’s ears pricked up. “What’s going on?”

“I thought it was supposed to be a surprise,” Johnny said.

“It is a surprise!” Teresa chirped. “But he can at least know it’s a surprise.”

“You know I hate surprises,” Scott protested. He put his hand up to his forehead as it began to ache.

“I tried to tell them that,” Johnny defended himself.

“Oh, Johnny, we can tell him a little bit or he’ll be mad,” Teresa pleaded. She turned toward Scott. “We’re having a fiesta tonight.”

Johnny sighed noisily.

“In your honor!” Teresa finished for him. Johnny twisted around to give her a glare. She stuck her tongue out at him and giggled again.

“My honor?” Scott said bewildered. “What did I do to deserve a fiesta?”

“You’ve been away a long time, Scott,” Teresa repeated.

“I know,” Scott conceded, “but couldn’t it have waited a day or two? I just got off the stage.”

“Well, that’s not our fault! If your train had been in on time and you hadn’t missed the connection in Sacramento, you would have had some time to rest beforehand.” She gave him a pout, then brightened. “We’re just glad you made it by today! The invitations went out as soon as you wired us when you’d be leaving Boston.”

Scott had to give her that one. His train had been delayed for four days in Laramie because of an early snowstorm in the Rockies. His missed connection was the lie his telegram told them when he needed the day to confront Charles Crocker.

“Please act happy,” Teresa entreated. “We want you to be happy you’re home.”

“I am happy to be home,” Scott assured her sincerely, “and I promise to behave myself at the fiesta tonight…if I can keep awake for it.”

Johnny chuckled and stopped the buggy at the rise above the panorama of the ranch. The three of them clambered off the carriage to stretch their legs and admire the view.

“The most beautiful place on Earth,” Teresa whispered. Johnny and Scott had to agree with her.

Preparations for the fiesta were well underway when the buggy stopped in front of the hacienda. People were busy hanging paper lanterns and setting up tables and chairs. Murdoch and Agatha came out to greet them. Scott was pleased to see Aggie there. She gave him a hug, and Murdoch shook his hand vigorously. They both seemed pleased he was home.

“I didn’t expect a fiesta for me,” Scott exclaimed.

Johnny stood by the horses and gave Murdoch a look that Scott couldn’t see. “Just for you, brother,” Johnny said. “We’re glad you’re home.”

Murdoch caught Johnny’s look and understood that their little ruse was still in play. Aggie thought it would be fun to surprise Scott, and he’d play along with it for her.

“Do I have time to wash up?” Scott asked. He was eager to get out of his traveling clothes.

“Of course,” Aggie answered. “And perhaps a brief nap if you’d like.”

“You don’t know how much I’d like!” Scott said.

He and Johnny took his bags to his room, while Murdoch, Aggie, and Teresa tittered behind them.

“You don’t know how hard it was not to tell him!” Teresa complained to them. “I told him the fiesta was for him, for him coming home.”

Aggie put her arm around the girl. “Well, it can be both, can’t it? This is going to be so much fun!”

Murdoch looked skeptical. He knew his orderly and controlled son hated surprises. He’d tried to talk the women out of it, but they wouldn’t hear of it. When they received the telegram that said that the train had been delayed, it had given him hope that Scott would miss the entire celebration, but there was no such luck. Now the best he could hope for was that Scott was in a good mood.

Freshly scrubbed and neatly groomed, Scott joined the party and was amazed at the number of people who were there. He had slept through their arrivals and now was making up for lost time. Having greeted everyone properly, he danced with Teresa before everyone headed for the food tables. Maria and her enlarged cook-staff had outdone themselves. Scott sat down in a corner to eat his meal and survey the party. It seemed everyone in the valley was there, owners as well as hired hands, the vaqueros, and their families. A truly impressive crowd. The resentment he’d felt at what he considered was his father’s too early departure from Boston was disappearing fast. He must have been missed for them to throw a party this size in his honor.

Agatha made her way over to him and sat down beside him, laying her plate down on the small table and squeezing his arm affectionately. “We’re so glad you’re finally well and home,” she told him.

“I can’t believe this is all for me,” Scott said.

Aggie laughed lightly and started to eat her ribs. “Have you found it in your heart to forgive me yet?”

Scott regarded her fondly. “Maybe, if you promise me that it’ll never happen again.”

“Oh, I think I can promise that. I know I can.” She could hardly suppress a giggle. Then she grew more serious. “Do you think we can go back to the way we used to be before Buck Addison?”

“I don’t know,” Scott answered truthfully. At her sad expression, he added, “I’d like to try.” Aggie seemed like a new person, or rather her old self before Addison had come into their lives and ruined everything. But now she acted like she was over her grief for her deceased husband and was back to treating him like her surrogate son.

A smile lit up her face and they ate in comfortable silence until Murdoch stood up and clinked his fork against his glass to get everyone’s attention.

“I just want to thank you all for being here tonight. We’re so happy you could make it, especially my son, Scott, who was almost stranded in Laramie!” This elicited some titters and murmurs. Murdoch looked over at Scott with so much love in his eyes that Scott was taken aback. He’d never seen that look directed at him before, and the depth of love there took his breath away.

“Darling?” Murdoch said.


Aggie rose and went to snuggle under Murdoch’s outstretched arm. Murdoch continued his speech. “I’m pleased to announce that I’ve asked this wonderful woman to be my wife and she has accepted!”

A collective roar went up from all those gathered with many whoops and whistles. It seemed a surprise to everyone. Heartfelt congratulations echoed all around.

And Scott’s world shattered.


November 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 Ron directly.


15 thoughts on “Another Legacy by RonD

  1. Ron, I am enjoying this series; so full of twists and turns. Now, with Murdoch and Aggie planning to tie the knot, and poor Scott shattered by the news, I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds. Great job writing this tale.


    1. Woww Ron that’s fine really!
      Great final twist!
      I am sure that the next chapter will worth the wait seems like Scott was so schocked.
      Thank you for writing.


  2. It was great. I was shocked that Scott Grandfather hate him. i want to know what happen next. it been great reading the storyline. Thank for writing it.


  3. This was really good! Had a feeling that Harlan really blamed Scott for his mother’s death. The big surprise was Murdoch and Aggie planning on getting married after everything they went through! Can’t blame Scott for feeling the way he does. How does Johnny feel about this?? Can’t wait for the next part!!


  4. Oh my, such a great series. Scott has been through the ringer. I’d be happy for Murdoch and Aggie, except for Scott. I sure hope we don’t have to wait too long for the next installment.


  5. Thanks, Sherry, Rita, and Judy. I am furiously trying to finish this story in time for Christmas. Your kind words will propel me to the end. Thank you for your support!


  6. Oh my goodness 😲 Poor Scott! After all that happened in Boston and finding out how his grandfather really felt about him, all he wanted was to get back to some form of normality at Lancer. Then they drop this bombshell. Telling him the fiesta was for him was so unfair. Looking forward to the next installment.


  7. Hi RonD, I will try to write you here, we will see if the message remains. I have finished this story of the series. You are doing a TWIST in each story ! And now … how do you dare to leave our Scott in such situation ? haaaaaa ! the power of the writers ! After to have watched Legacy, I tried not to hate Harlan, but here he finished how he deserved. I only hope Scott will know how much his father loves him. I think that he needs some comfort after his difficult growing. No words to say, I am waiting to read the next part. Adriana


  8. This is a great series! Nasty old Harlon! Hope that Murdoch can finally come to his senses and really reconcile to Scott. The boy is due some TLC! Thank you for sharing your stories.


  9. A spectacular addition to your compelling saga. Poor Scott has really been put through the ringer all his life. Now this! I can’t wait for the next segment in your series.


  10. I have never been a lover of AU stories and usually avoid them. Somehow I got drawn into this series around story 2 and became hooked. No doubt helped by the fact that I class you (RonD) as one of my all time favourite authors. Also I nearly always guess any upcoming surprise or ending and I never saw this one coming. Since we Scottlovers are in the minority when it comes to Lancer stories we are truly blessed to have such a prolific writer. Thank you and rather selfishly I hope you never lose your muse.


  11. Thank you all for writing. I’m sorry I didn’t respond to each one of you, but I have been trying so hard to complete this series. I’m 99% done now, so I have a moment to thank you all. THANK YOU!


  12. This was wondeful. So many ups and downs and surprises. I’ll make sure to look for more from you.


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