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Lancer Takes Care Of Its Own by SandySha

Word Count 55,065

*The usual disclaimer.  I don’t own the Lancers.  Wish I did.  
**A/R – My Johnny is 19 and Scott is 23
**Thanks to Alice Marie Joralemon-Strong, Susan Kindred, Diana Littner, and Rosey Moreno-Jones for helping with the beta.
**There are references to previous stories in the series especially Running Gun. 
**Finally, my usual warning: If you don’t like to see Johnny larger than life then step away now.

7th in the Riding The River Series


Lancer Ranch, May 1871
(Two months after the end of the story “The Charade”)

Nine hot, tired, and hungry men sat on the ridge overlooking the Lancer hacienda. The building’s white stucco and red mission tiled roof looked grey under the smoky haze hanging over the valley. The usually quiet and beautiful scene was now marred by the sound of rifle fire and the acrid scent of gun smoke.

The work crew of cowhands and vaqueros had been in the North pasture for the past week rounding up strays and fixing fences. They’d expected to return to warm beds, hot food, and a few days of rest. What they found when they topped the ridge, looked and sounded like a war being waged.

“What the hell,” Johnny cursed as he looked down to where he knew his family was. His worried look mirrored on the faces of the men with him.

Multiple muzzle flashes told Johnny that every available hand was returning fire to an invisible enemy. There were flashes of light and puffs of smoke coming from the barn, the bunkhouse, and the main house.

Johnny turned to his men, knowing they were waiting for him to decide what to do next. Glancing once more at the hacienda, Johnny took a deep breath before speaking.

“Joe, ride into town and get Val and Sam,” Johnny ordered, still watching the firefight going on below them. Gone was the voice of Johnny Lancer; Madrid had taken his place. “Tell Val to bring help. Jake, we’ll take the rest of the men around and see if we can come in from the rear. Everyone get to the house if you can.”

Joe was already turning toward town before Johnny finished speaking.

Just as Johnny and the men started to go back the way they’d come; five mounted cowboys could be seen crossing the open field to their left. The riders were yelling something, and Johnny could have sworn he heard the word ‘Madrid.’

“Jake, take the men,” Johnny ordered as he looked toward the advancing riders. “I’ll draw fire to give you time to get in.”

“Johnny,” Jake protested, shaking his head, “you can’t go riding straight in.”

“Just do it,” Johnny shouted, waving an arm. “GO!”

Jake and the remainder of the work crew turned back the way they’d come and would make a wide circle coming in behind the house.

Johnny waited anxiously for a moment, judging what was happening below. Patience wasn’t one of his qualities, and worry for his family was mounting.

The morning he’d left for the North pasture there had been another argument with his father. He couldn’t even remember what it was about now. All he knew was the last words they’d shared had been ones of anger on both sides.

Barranca’s ears laid back and started to prance. Johnny looked to his left, seeing the five riders were getting closer. Pulling his Colt, Johnny spurred Barranca into a gallop.

Johnny leaned low across the horse’s neck as it sped down the hill toward the road. The ride reminding him of one he’d taken the year before when he’d barely stayed one step ahead of Pardee and his men. He just hoped the outcome this time would be different than the last.

The five riders changed direction, moving at an angle, trying to cut him off. Thankfully, they were leaving the work crew alone.

Leaning low over Barranca’s neck, a few words were all he had to say before the horse added more speed to his gait. There was no doubt in Johnny’s mind he was going to outdistance the riders.

Johnny turned in the saddle and fired. One of the oncoming riders fell.

The road loomed closer as the remaining four riders started to return fire.

The rifle fire directed toward the main house abruptly stopped. There was a brief moment when Johnny was relieved until he realized everyone was now shooting at him.


“What’s happening?” Scott asked as he ran through the French doors onto the veranda. Looking out over the yard, he could see the gunfire directed toward the house had stopped.

Murdoch pointed toward the horse racing toward the house.

“It’s your brother,” Murdoch answered, the exasperation in his voice was evident.

Scott shook his head, silently cursing. “I’m going to strangle him.”

“You’re going to have to stand in line,” Murdoch growled. His heart was in his throat as he watched his youngest son speeding toward the house.

“Why is he my brother when he does something foolish or reckless, and he’s your son the rest of the time?” Scott asked, raising his rifle.

Murdoch didn’t answer. His breath hitched realizing the gunfire was now directed at his youngest son.

“It’s Johnny!” Murdoch yelled out. “Cover him!”


As Johnny made his way down the hill, the four remaining riders edged closer. Reaching the road leading to the arch, he was able to see men hiding behind trees and fences on his right. Firing at the closest of them, Johnny saw the man fall forward.

Suddenly, fire resumed from the house. Johnny smiled knowing his family was trying to provide covering fire for him.


Henry McLean was behind a fencerow firing toward the main house when one of his brothers yelled out, “That’s Madrid.”

McLean turned to see a man on horseback racing toward the house.

“Get him,” McLean yelled out as a palomino streaked by him. McLean cursed as he saw the rider fire a shot and one of his brothers fell dead at his feet.

As Johnny rode under the arch, he turned once again, firing at the riders who were gaining ground. Another man toppled from his horse.

The sound of bullets whistling past him made him lean even further over Barranca’s neck so that now it was hard to tell where one ended, and the other began.

McLean raised his rifle, aiming, he fired.

Johnny felt a deep burn in his side that almost threw him out of the saddle. He pushed the pain away as he continued his headlong ride.

Just for a moment, he felt Barranca hesitate. He knew the horse had been hit, but still, Barranca continued to run full out.

As they entered the yard and neared the house, Johnny kicked his right foot out of the stirrup and swung his leg over the saddle horn. Throwing himself from Barranca’s back, he did a tuck and roll before coming to his feet. Stumbling forward toward the veranda, he found himself falling into the strong arms of his father while Barranca continued toward the barn.

Murdoch pulled Johnny close to his chest and hustled him behind one of the pillars lining the veranda. He held Johnny for a few moments before pushing him back at arm’s length.

“My God, John, what were you thinking?”

“It’s good to see you, too,” Johnny answered with a grin. “I was worried about you,” a serious look crossed his face.

Turning, Johnny could see through the open French doors, into the Great Room, where wounded men lay on the floor.

Looking to his left, Johnny saw his brother smiling at him.

“Welcome home, Little Brother,” Scott yelled as he fired off a round.

“Just thought you could use some help,” Johnny responded with a smile of his own.

“That we can,” Scott answered, flinching as a bullet ricocheted off the stucco pillar he was behind.

“Jake and the others get in alright?” Johnny asked as he chanced a look across the yard.

“Yes, they came through the back. You know what you just did was a damn fool thing to do?” Scott said as he darted to Johnny’s side.

Scott threw an arm around his brother’s shoulder and pulled him closer.

“Damn, Johnny. You scared the hell out of us.”

Johnny leaned into his brother a moment before Scott released him.

“Murdoch?” Johnny blurted out, seeing the bandage on his father’s arm for the first time.

“I’m alright, son. It’s just a graze.”

Johnny closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Opening his eyes, he glanced around the pillar.

“I sent Joe into town to get Val and Sam. He should be bringing some help. Any idea what these fellows want?”

When Scott didn’t answer right away, Johnny guessed why someone was threatening his family.

“Spit it out, Scott,” Johnny snapped, already seeing the answer in his brother’s eyes.

“They rode in this morning shortly after orders, wanting Madrid… wanting you. They wouldn’t believe us when we told them you weren’t here,” Scott answered. “We thought they were leaving. They took us by surprise when they spread out and started firing. Thank goodness, not all the work crews had gone out.”

Johnny took a deep breath before asking, “Who have we lost?”

“No one yet,” Scott replied, watching the guilt spread across his brother’s face, “and only a few wounded.”

Closing his eyes, Johnny leaned his head back against the pillar.

“Teresa?” Johnny’s head shot up, looking back toward the Great Room.

“Helping Maria with the wounded,” Murdoch answered, seeing relief flood across Johnny’s face. “She’s alright.”

“Hold your fire,” a man’s gruff voice called out from across the yard. “Everyone, hold your fire.”

The sound of gunfire faded away.

“Lancer!” the same man called out. “Send Madrid out and we’ll leave. No one else needs to die today.”

Cipriano edged his way out of the protection of the barn and then skirted the yard until he was able to dash onto the veranda.

“Juanito?” Cipriano came to stand in front of his nephew.

“Tio,” Johnny acknowledged his uncle. His next thought was of his horse, “Barranca? Is he alright?”

“Si, he has a graze on his right flank. It is not bad,” Cipriano answered, looking closely at his nephew. It had been Jose who had noticed the blood on Barranca’s saddle and pointed it out to Cipriano.

Before Cipriano could question Johnny, he heard Murdoch call out.

“Why do you want him?” Murdoch asked, never took his eyes away from Johnny’s.

“Ask him if he remembers Billy McLean in Tucson? Ask him if he remembers murdering him?”

Murdoch looked at Johnny, “Do you remember Billy McLean, son?”

Johnny nodded. “I remember the face of every man I ever went up against, Murdoch. Didn’t always know their names, but I remember the faces. I remember McLean in Tucson. It was almost three years ago.”

Johnny turned his head and yelled out, “I remember Billy McLean! I didn’t murder him. The kid called me out. It was a fair fight.”

“He was 17 years old, and you knew he was no match for you,” the man’s anguished voice replied. “You didn’t have to kill him.”

“McLean left me no choice. I tried to get him to back down. You his kin?”

“We’re his kin,” the answer came. “My name’s Henry McLean; Billy was my son. These men are my other sons, his uncles and his cousins.”

“Johnny, you said you remember Billy McLean? What happened?” Murdoch stood in front of Johnny, seeing the pain of remembrance in his eyes.

“Yeah, I remember. I remember it like it was yesterday,” Johnny closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Just like it was yesterday….


Tucson, Arizona Territory, 1868

“Johnny-boy,” a grating, sing-song voice carried across the crowded Tucson saloon.

Johnny looked up to see a tall skinny gunfighter, grinning ear from ear, making his way across the room. His oversized spurs were making an annoying, overly loud ringing sound.

“Isham,” Johnny greeted the man with a faint smile and a nod. Kicking out a chair to his left, he motioned the other man to sit down.

“Johnny, Val,” Isham responded, grinning at the two men at the table. Val Crawford was in his usual place sitting to Johnny’s left. Isham couldn’t remember a time when he’d ever seen Madrid without Crawford nearby.

Val didn’t say anything, just dipped his head and watched Isham reach across the table and pick up the bottle of tequila sitting in front of Johnny. Smiling, Val looked sideways at Johnny. There weren’t many men who dared to take a drink from Johnny’s bottle without first asking permission.

Val knew Johnny counted Isham as a friend. Val, on the other hand, could never bring himself to like or trust the 17-year-old gunfighter. He might have been a year older than Johnny, but more often than not, he acted like a 10-year-old.

Val felt Isham was a bad influence on Johnny. Sometimes he had to chuckle. Thinking of Johnny Madrid influenced by anyone was laughable.

“Heard you and Jasper McClellan faced off over in El Paso a while back. Bet you showed him, didn’t you, Johnny?” Isham asked with a grin on his face. “Funny thing, no one’s seen hide nor hair of the McClellan brothers lately. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

“Nope,” Johnny answered, looking down at the drink in his hand.

Johnny glanced at Val seeing him hide a grin. Neither Johnny nor Val wanted word to get out that Johnny had killed all but one of the six brothers, while Val had taken out the last one.

“Just sayin’, folks in El Paso said the brothers were hot on your tail when you left there. Figured you and them might have met up somewhere?” Isham persisted, like a dog with a bone.

Johnny didn’t say anything, and Isham figured it was time to change the subject.

“It’s been awhile, Johnny. Where you two been hiding? Heard you were in that Worthington fracas down near Nogales a couple of months ago,” Isham asked as he downed the glass of tequila.

“Oh, we’ve been around. Just thought we’d take a little vacation,” Johnny answered, as he kept his eyes on the glass of tequila in front of him. He’d nursed the same drink for over an hour now. Visiting the saloon was more for show and need of a job than for the need of a drink.
Johnny wasn’t going to tell Isham he and Val were wounded on the last job. Val had caught one in the shoulder. Johnny’s chest wound had been worse. As a result, they’d spent a few weeks at the Worthington Ranch outside Nogales where Joe and Molly Worthington had saved both of their lives.

Isham looked at Val as if expecting him to speak up. Not surprised when he didn’t. Val seldom spoke to Isham.

Val kept quiet. God, he hated this piss ant, grinning boy. If it weren’t for Johnny, he would have shot Isham a long time ago. He’d come close to doing just that a year earlier in Texas.

Val knew Johnny wasn’t back to his full strength and he didn’t want Isham pushing him into something he wasn’t ready for. In Val’s opinion, Johnny was still a little pale and underweight.
“I’m heading out in the morning,” Isham announced as he reached for the bottle again.

“Where to?” Johnny drawled, wishing Isham were already gone. Johnny considered Isham a friend; he didn’t have many of those. However, he knew Val didn’t like the young gunfighter, and he didn’t want to piss Val off.

“Signing on with Day again,” Isham announced proudly, as he downed a second drink. “He said something about going to back to Texas. Why don’t the two of you sign on, too? It would be like old times.”

Johnny shook his head.

“Naw, don’t think so. We’ll find something around here.”

Johnny’s eyes cut to Val seeing he agreed with him. He knew neither he nor Val would ever ride with Day Pardee again. They didn’t like the way Pardee did business.

Isham looked from Johnny to Val. “Day’s paying real good. Day….,” he started to say as a man walked up to the table.

Johnny had spotted the man when he’d entered the saloon. There wasn’t much Johnny didn’t notice once he was seated in a room, especially a saloon.

The man seemed to be in his early thirties, nicely dressed with a rugged look to him. Johnny judged him to be a rancher.

“Mr. Madrid?” the man asked as he stood in front of the table.

Johnny’s raised his eyes to look at the man. “I know you, Mister?”

“No, but I have been looking for you. I want to hire you. My name is Ben Conner,” the man introduced himself, his voice showing no sign he was intimidated by the famous gunfighter.

“That so? Why don’t you sit down?” Johnny gave Isham a hard look. “Be seeing you, Isham. Take care and watch your back.”

Isham knew when he was being dismissed but took no offense. It was never a wise move to disagree with a man like Madrid. He stood up and tipped his hat, “You too, Johnny. See you around.”

Isham held the chair and waved for the rancher to sit.

Connor sat down, feeling a little nervous for the first time.

Johnny held up the bottle and looked at the man. “Drink?”

“Thank you, but I prefer whiskey,” Conner answered placing his hat on the table in front of him.

Johnny raised his hand, and the bartender brought a glass of whiskey to the rancher. He also sat a glass of the same in front of Val.

Johnny was starting to like Connor. Most men would have taken the offered tequila whether they wanted it or not.

“So, what’s the job?” Johnny asked looking directly into Conner’s eyes.

Connor didn’t flinch or look away. He picked up his drink and took a sip. Sitting the glass down he relaxed in the chair before speaking.

“I represent a group of ranchers. We’re having problems with rustlers and bandits. We want to hire you to help us get rid of them,” Connor answered, taking another sip.

“How many rustlers and bandits?” Johnny asked cautiously.

“We’re not sure. At least ten bandits are terrorizing the town. We think they’re also the ones who are rustling our cattle,” Connor replied as he leaned back.

“Why me, Mr. Connor?” Johnny asked, leaning back matching Connor’s movement.

“I’ve been told you’re the best. Word of what you did for the Worthington’s in Nogales has spread. I believe you’re the man we need.”

Connor looked at the boy sitting across from him. He couldn’t believe this boy was the legendary Johnny Madrid. He’d first seen the boy on the street the day before, hesitating approach him until he was sure he had the right person. It hadn’t taken long to confirm he’d found THE Johnny Madrid.

“How much?” Val asked as Johnny thought about the situation. He figured Johnny was thinking two against ten. Val knew they could always hire on another man if needed.

Connor hesitated. He didn’t know who the other man was.

“Mr. Connor, this is my partner, Val Crawford. You hire me, you hire him,” Johnny firmly declared.

Connor nodded his understanding. “I’ve been authorized to give you a $200 retainer and $1000 when the job’s done.”

“Where’s your ranch?” Val asked, impressed with the amount and thinking how $1200 would tide them over for some time.

“Temecula,” Connor stated, taking another sip of his drink.

Val saw Johnny tense, even if Connor didn’t.

“California?” Johnny tried not to show his discomfort at knowing the job was in California. He didn’t work in California unless he had to. Just thinking about being in the same state as his father made his blood run cold.

“Amigo?” Val looked at Johnny knowing what he was thinking but passing up on $1200…well; that was something he didn’t want to do.

Johnny took a deep breath and looked at Val. Val’s face told him his friend was thinking about the money. He also knew Val was going to point out Temecula was a long way from Morro Coyo and Lancer.

Johnny had known for years who his father was and where to find him. He also knew the day would come when he’d ride into Lancer and face the man who’d kicked him and his mother out.

Making up his mind, Johnny picked up his glass of tequila and downed it in one gulp.

“You’ve got a deal, Mr. Conner,” Johnny answered. “We can leave in the morning. Got some things to wrap up here first.”

“Fine,” Conner replied with a smile, putting out a hand to shake on the agreement. When Johnny’s hand wasn’t forthcoming, Val hastily leaned across the table, shaking Conner’s hand. Val knew Johnny didn’t give his gun hand to any man.

Conner cleared his throat as he shook Val’s hand, “When you get to Temecula just ask for the Circle C Ranch. I’ll be expecting you.” Reaching into his wallet, Conner took out $200, placing it in the middle of the table.

Connor then tossed a twenty-dollar gold piece on the table.

“Drinks are on me, Mr. Madrid.”

Finishing his drink, Connor was about to stand when a high-pitched voice rang out across the room.


Johnny looked up to see a man standing at the other end of the bar. The man was backlit by the window so Johnny couldn’t get a good look at him.

Johnny pushed his hat back on his head. “Yeah? Do I know you?”

“Name’s McLean. Billy McLean. I’m calling you out, Madrid,” the man said as he took several steps forward.

For the first time, Johnny could see the man was actually a boy about his own age.

Johnny shook his head. “Got no quarrel with you, McLean. Why don’t you sit down and let me buy you a drink?”

“So, the famous Johnny Madrid’s a coward,” the boy answered with a laugh.

Johnny sighed and ground out, “Don’t want to kill you, boy.”

“It ain’t me that’s gonna’ be dead, Madrid. It’s you they’re gonna’ bury,” the boy replied.

Johnny sighed and looked at Val.

“Val, you better get our gear and horses. I’ll meet you out front in a few minutes.”

“Johnny…” Val took a deep breath, knowing there was nothing he could say. He’d seen this scenario play out too many times. Picking up the $200 on the table, he slid his chair back and raised his hands away from his sides.

“Mr. Connor, I think you’d better be moving out of the way,” Val advised as he stepped back.

Connor pushed his chair back and also raised his hands. He moved away from the table and closer to the bar. He was about to see just how fast Johnny Madrid was.

“Don’t worry, Mr. Connor,” Johnny said with a smile, “if the kid kills me, Val will take care of your problem for you.”

“Thanks, amigo,” Val growled. He wanted nothing more than to grab hold of his friend and get him out the door but knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Val resigned himself to waiting and watching. He never doubted Johnny could take the kid, but he hated what it would do to him. He figured this would add to the ghosts already plaguing the young man’s nightmares.

“Alright, you wanta’ dance,” Johnny relented, as he pushed back from the table, his hand clear of his gun, “let’s go outside where no one else can get hurt.”

Reaching out, Johnny picked up the twenty-dollar gold piece, flipped it once in the air before tossing it to the bartender as he made his way out the door. “Harry, give Val a bottle of whiskey and one of tequila. Keep the change.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Madrid,” the bartender answered as he put two bottles on the bar top and slid them to Val. “See you the next time you’re in Tucson.”

Word of the gunfight quickly spread throughout Tucson. Saloons and cantinas emptied onto the boardwalk as Johnny Madrid and Billy McLean walked onto the sun-baked street.

Johnny waited for the boy to take his position. Once McLean was in place, Johnny took his time. He was giving Val time to get their things together. He’d learned long ago you didn’t hang around after a gunfight regardless of who had started it.

“McLean, you sure you want to do this?” Johnny asked as he stood sideways in the street, not yet turning to face the boy.

“Real sure.”

Johnny turned slowly squaring his hat.

For the first time, Johnny got a good look at the man who had called him out. Billy McLean’s red hair could be seen under his hat. The boy’s pale skin and red freckles made him look even younger than Johnny had initially thought.

Johnny’s heart sank. He knew the kid was going to be dead in a few minutes and wanted to give him one last chance to walk away.

“McLean, go home,” Johnny almost pleaded with the kid.

“Not until I take you down, Madrid,” McLean answered, staring at the dark-haired gunfighter.

“McLean, you can’t take me. I’m trying to save your life. Let’s go inside and have a drink and forget this.”

Johnny didn’t want to have to kill this kid. He’d killed more men in his 16 years than some men did in three lifetimes.

Finally, Johnny sighed, “I’m not drawing on you. You want this ‘dance’ you’ll have to start it.”

Johnny was watching McLean’s eyes. He’d seen eyes like those before and knew McLean wasn’t going to back down. He also knew that no matter what he said, this boy was going to kill or be killed.

Ben Connor watched from the boardwalk as the two men… no boys… faced each other.
Movement down the street caught his attention. Val Crawford was sitting on his horse, arm crossed over the saddle horn, and holding the reins of another horse. Connor remembered hearing Madrid tell Crawford to get their gear and horses.

The gunfight was over in seconds.

Connor had tried to watch both men. When it looked like McLean was going to draw, Connor’s eyes went to Madrid. The movement of Madrid’s hand was nothing more than a blur, followed by the sound of a shot.

Billy McLean’s gun was still in his holster when he fell face down in the street.

Johnny slowly walked to McLean. Kneeling, he turned the boy over. Life had already faded out of Billy McLean’s green eyes. Shaking his head, Johnny holstered his gun.

Johnny heard voices from the crowd, “Fair fight. McLean made the first move. Never saw Madrid even draw. Faster than lightning.”

Johnny looked up to see Sheriff Carl Wilson walking toward him.

“It was a fair fight, Madrid, but you may want to ride out. McLean has a family. I don’t see this setting too well with them.”

Johnny nodded and watched Val lead his horse down the middle of the street. When the horse was next to him, Johnny took the reins and swung into the saddle in one fluid motion.

Johnny took a last look at Connor and nodded.

As the two riders turned to head out of town, people filed back into the saloons and cantinas. Johnny knew business would go on as usual. Gunfights in Tucson were an everyday occurrence.

A young boy darted out of a building further along the street. As the boy ran past, Johnny could see tears in the boy’s eyes.

Glancing over his shoulder, Johnny saw the boy fall to his knees next to McLean. The boy could have been a smaller version of Billy McLean.

Johnny looked straight ahead and rode on. The sound of mission bells filled the air as he and Val rode out of town.


Once the story was told, Johnny looked at his father, expecting disappointment in the eyes staring at him. What he saw was understanding.

Murdoch put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder and gently squeezed, feeling the tight muscles under his hand. Before Murdoch could say anything, the sound of Henry McLean’s voice rebounded off the hacienda walls and filled the yard.

“We aren’t waiting much longer.”

“How many were there when they rode in, Murdoch?” Johnny asked trying to push down the lingering memory of Billy McLean and at the same time control the pain in his side. There were some memories Johnny would never be able to forget and killing the red-headed boy was one of them.

“Twelve that we saw,” Scott answered before Murdoch could.

“I got three of them coming in,” Johnny said as he started to push off the pillar. “There can’t be that many left.”

Realizing what Johnny planned, Murdoch took hold of the boy’s arm.

“No, you are not going out there.”

“Madrid,” McLean called out again. “Come out and face me. Let’s see how you do against a man instead of a boy.”
Murdoch and Scott turned to look at Johnny at the same time.

Johnny lowered his head, his mind already made up.

“Absolutely not! You are not going out there,” Murdoch firmly stated again still holding Johnny’s arm.

Ignoring Murdoch, Johnny took a breath and blew it out. Pulling his arm free of Murdoch’s hold, he called out, “McLean, I’m coming out. Meet me half way. We’re ending this now.”

Johnny flipped the cylinder of his Colt open and emptied the used cartridges. Once reloaded, he snapped the cylinder into place and slid the Colt back into his holster.

Johnny looked once more at his family. Stepping out from behind the stucco pillar, Johnny showed himself. No one noticed the blood smear where Johnny had been leaning.

Johnny squared his hat and pulled it down over his eyes. Pushing all emotion aside he began to walk. Murdoch, Scott, and Cipriano followed. As they walked out, the Lancer’s hands started to stand, rifles still at the ready.

Across the yard, Henry McLean and what remained of his family showed themselves.

McLean walked forward, coming to a stop 30 feet from Johnny.

Murdoch stood a few feet behind and to the side of his son, with Scott beside him.

“You’re Johnny Madrid?” McLean asked, his forehead knotted getting a good look at the boy in front of him.

McLean hadn’t expected this. For three years he’d hated the man who had killed his boy. This wasn’t a man; it was a boy not much older than his Billy had been.

“I’m Madrid,” came the low soft voice.

“How old are you, boy?” McLean asked.

“Not a boy. Haven’t been for a long time,” Johnny answered, seeing the doubt in the man’s eyes and hearing it in his voice. “Does it matter how old I am?”

“Billy was 17 when you gunned him down,” McLean stated. “How old were you?”

For the first time since this had begun, since Billy died, Henry McLean doubted the stories he’d heard the day of Billy’s death. People had told him how the cold-blooded killer had sneered as he gunned his son down. Now, looking at the boy in front of him, Madrid didn’t look like he thought he would.

Johnny hesitated. “Don’t know for sure. Sixteen, I guess. I remember him, clear as day. He had red hair and freckles. He called me out. I tried to get him to back down, but all he could see was my name. He wanted to be the next Johnny Madrid, and nothing was gonna’ stop him.

“There have been a lot of boys and grown men over the years who’ve wanted to take my reputation. It was either him or me that day. I could have wounded him, but that wouldn’t have stopped him. I saw it in his eyes. If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else. He thought he was fast… he wasn’t.”

“He was my kin, my son,” McLean hissed. “Can’t let it pass.”

“Guess not,” Johnny replied, never taking his eyes off of McLean. “You lost some more kin today. You want to do this, then what’s left of your family will be burying you today.”

“No, these folks are going to be burying you. You’ve killed your last boy.” McLean glanced at Murdoch. “What’s Madrid to you, Lancer?”

Murdoch stepped forward to stand beside Johnny.

“Johnny’s my son, Mr. McLean. This is my other son,” Murdoch replied as he nodded toward Scott who had also moved closer, “and these men are Johnny’s family.”

Murdoch finished answering as Cipriano and the hands moved closer. “I’m sorry for your loss, but drawing against John isn’t going to bring back your son any more than it’ll bring back those of your family who died today.”

Scott spoke up, “Have you ever seen my brother in a gunfight, Mr. McLean? I have, and I can assure you that you will regret your actions if you pursue this.”

“Never figured on anyone helping him or standing up for him when we rode in here. You surprised me, Lancer.” McLean looked around at the men now standing behind Madrid. For just a moment he let the hate for Madrid slip away. Just as quickly, the memory of his dead son brought back the anger and hatred.

“Johnny’s a Lancer and a rancher now. He’s not a gunfighter anymore,” Murdoch replied.

McLean huffed, “Sounds like you’re proud of having a murderer as blood kin. You’re proud of having Madrid as a son.”

“I am proud of my son, McLean. Whether he goes by Madrid or Lancer, I’m proud to call him my son.” Murdoch pulled himself up to his full height. “The one certainty I know about my son is he’s not a murderer. If Johnny faced your son, it was a fair fight.”

Johnny almost smiled. He could hear the pride in his father’s voice; pride he hoped wasn’t misplaced.

McLean shook his head; his eyes narrowed again on Johnny. “Can’t let it pass,” McLean hissed.

“Pa,” one of the men behind McLean spoke up. “Let it be. We lost Uncle Bill today. Uncle Jack’s hurt, and so are Davy, Frank, and Sam. I don’t want to lose you, too.”

“Listen to your kid, Mr. McLean,” Johnny advised, trying to avoid the gunfight he knew was coming.

Johnny knew something needed to happen and soon. He could feel the pain in his side intensifying.

“The law is on its way. I sent a man to town before riding in,” Johnny stated as he watched McLean’s eyes. “Ride out now and don’t look back. I don’t want to kill you any more than I wanted to kill your son.” He knew no amount of talking was going to change this man’s mind.

“Can’t let it pass. Billy was my son,” McLean resolved.

“Then let’s get this done. Your dime, your dance, McLean. Any time you’re ready. I won’t start the dance, but I will finish it.”

McLean watched the face of the young man in front him transform. Gone now were the youthful features and gentle eyes. The man who stood in front of him now had dark, cold eyes; eyes that were boring into him. He realized these were the same eyes Billy had looked into three years earlier.

McLean reached for his gun.

Johnny drew and fired in a fluid motion. McLean’s hand wasn’t even close to his gun when Johnny’s bullet caught the older man in the right arm.

McLean spun to the side, staggering and grabbing his arm.

“Why didn’t you kill me?” McLean questioned, confused. “I would have killed you.”

“I told you. I didn’t want to kill you. I didn’t want to kill your son. He gave me no choice,” Johnny answered in an icy voice. “I don’t care what you’ve heard about me, McLean. I don’t like killing. I only kill when I have to. Don’t make me regret not killing you just now.”

“Mr. McLean, take your dead and wounded and get off our land,” Murdoch ordered, walking forward to stand next to Johnny.

“Hold on,” Johnny drawled. “Is this over, McLean?” Johnny hesitated holstering his gun. “If it’s not, we need to get it finished now. I’ll not have you coming after me again. You put a lot of people in danger today. These people had nothing to do with your son and me.”

“No. We’re done here,” McLean said aloud. “For now, anyway,” he said to himself.

McLean turned and looked at his kin, a fleeting smile on his face. They all knew this wasn’t over and wouldn’t be until Johnny Madrid was dead.

The Lancers watched as McLean and his family turned to go. They hadn’t made it out of the yard when Val, Joe, and a dozen men rode under the arch, racing toward the house. Behind Val, a wall of dust signaled Sam’s buggy wasn’t far behind.
Johnny hadn’t moved.

Val rode into the yard, stepping out of the saddle, he walked straight to Johnny.

“Joe said you had some trouble.” Val turned to look at the McLeans. “That them?”

“Yeah, that’s them. Let them go, Val. They’re done,” Johnny said as he watched Sam’s buggy come to a stop in the yard.

Cipriano walked out to meet Sam.

“We have wounded inside, Doctor Sam. Those men also have wounded.” Cipriano nodded toward the McLeans.

Sam looked around before taking his bag from his buggy and starting into the house.

“Are you sure you want to let them go, amigo? Who are they?” Val asked.

“I’m sure. Remember Tucson; kid by the name of Billy McLean?” Johnny answered.

Val looked at Henry McLean. He remembered the kid Johnny had killed in Tucson and how hard the young gunfighter had tried to get the kid to back down.

“Murdoch, you agreed to let them go?” Val questioned with a frown.

Murdoch nodded. “Once their wounded are tended to, they can ride away. Val, can you and your men help bring the wounded inside so Sam can tend them?”

Val nodded but had a bad feeling about this. It wasn’t like Johnny to leave an enemy standing. Letting McLean go wasn’t a good idea.

Murdoch’s attention was directed to the men now coming from the barn and bunkhouse. Scott turned to see what his father was looking at. Together, the two men went to help bring the wounded from into the house.

Val looked at Johnny, “You alright, hijo?”

Johnny looked at his friend and nodded. “I’m fine.”

Val frowned but didn’t argue. He went to talk to the men he’d brought with him.

Johnny turned and walked toward the house. He made it as far as the veranda when a wave of dizziness hit him. Johnny put out his left arm, bracing himself against one of the pillars. Finally, the dizziness passing, Johnny walked through the French doors.

He had every intention of finding Sam, until the moment he stepped in the Great Room and looked around. The gravity of what had happened hit him like a fist to his stomach.

Teresa and Maria were tending the men who were sitting or lying on the floor. He knew these men had been hurt because of him. Hurt because of who he was and what he’d done three years earlier. Outside were the dead relatives of the young boy he’d killed. Slowly, he shook his head.

No one was watching as he passed the wounded men. Walking into the kitchen, he took the back stairs to the second floor.

Once on the second floor, Johnny slowly walked to his room. Pushing the door open, he stepped into the room and then kicked the door closed.

The image of Billy McLean jumped out at him. The red-headed kid with freckles was standing in front of him again. In his mind, he replayed every moment of that ‘dance.’ He told himself again there wasn’t anything he could have done differently.

Johnny stepped forward and crawled onto the bed. Closing his eyes, he let exhaustion and blood loose claimed him.

Walt walked into the Great Room and looked around. Seeing his boss, he hurried across the crowded room.

“Mr. Lancer?” Walt took off his hat as he came to a stop next to the tall rancher.

“Walt?” Murdoch answered, turning to the young man.

“Mr. Lancer, it may not be my place to say, but…,” Walt started to say and then hesitated.

“Go ahead, Walt,” Murdoch urged, cocking his head.

“Well, I know you said to let those men stay until they were able to move on, but I don’t trust them; none of the men do. It don’t set right with any of us that they’re still here, especially with what they had in mind for Johnny,” Walt answered as his hands worked the brim of his hat.

Murdoch thought for a minute.

“Walt put a guard on them. Make sure they stay where they are now. I agree I don’t feel comfortable with them still being here either. I know what Henry McLean said, but I’ll feel better when they’re gone. We’re just damn lucky none of our men were killed.”

“What are you talking about?” Scott asked, trying to listen to the conversation.

Murdoch turned to Scott, “The McLeans. The men aren’t happy that they’re still here.”

“I’m not happy they’re here either. I don’t trust anyone who tries to kill my brother and hurts my family,” Scott fumed, the anger evident in his voice.

“Walt, when their wounded can be moved take them to town,” Murdoch ordered. He wanted this over with and Henry McLean and his family gone.

“Will do, Mr. Lancer.” Walt nodded before turning to leave.

“Oh, and, Walt,” Scott spoke up, “put a couple of men to guard the house. Just in case some of them aren’t willing to give up as easily as Henry McLean.”

Scott knew he was getting his meaning across to Walt as well as his father. He didn’t want anyone getting near his brother.


“Where’s your brother?”

An exhausted Murdoch slumped into his chair behind his desk. He and Scott had helped bring the last of Lancer’s eight wounded men into the house and then helped Sam tend them. McLean had lost his brother and had four men wounded, one seriously.

Scott rubbed his face with both hands and collapsed in a chair across from the desk.

“He was with Val the last time I saw him. I’ll go see if I can find him.”

Both men looked around. Not seeing Val, Scott stood and walked onto the veranda. Looking toward the barn and corral, he realized that the last of the work crews had returned. When Scott saw Val come out of the barn, he suspected Val had been with his brother checking on Barranca.

Val started toward the house, and Scott walked out to meet him. “How’s Barranca doing?” Scott asked, meeting Val in the yard.

“Looks like he’s gonna’ be fine. I heard what that darn fool brother of yours did. Can’t believe he came riding in here like that,” Val huffed, shaking his head. “I’m gonna’ strangle him.”

Scott chuckled, “You are in a long line to do that.”

Cipriano walked up to join them. The Segundo looked tired. “I was on my way to see how Juanito was doing. What did the doctor say?”

Scott gave Cipriano a questioning look, “Was Johnny hurt?”

“Si, he was wounded when he rode in earlier. There was blood on his saddle,” Cipriano hesitated. “He didn’t tell you?”

“No, he didn’t tell us……” Scott’s voice trailed off as he turned and ran toward the house with Val and Cipriano behind him.

The three men tore through the French doors.

Scott looked at his father. The panic in his eyes brought Murdoch to his feet. “What’s wrong?”

“Did you know Johnny was wounded?” Scott asked, looking around the Great Room. “Where’s Sam?”

Frank spoke up as he helped one of the hands to his feet to move him to the bunkhouse, “Doc’s in the kitchen.”

Scott ran to the kitchen, followed by the others. Sam was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee in his hand.

“Sam, have you seen Johnny?” Scott asked already knowing the answer.

“No,” Sam sputtered, putting the cup down. “Should I have?”

“Oh, God,” Murdoch groaned, looking up and started up the back stairs.

“Scott?” Sam asked as he stood and grabbed his bag.

Scott didn’t answer as he followed his father up the stairs.

The five men moved quickly down the hall toward Johnny’s room. Murdoch opened the door and stepped into the room.

“Sam,” the distraught father yelled.

Sam entered the room and took in the site. A pale Johnny lay sprawled on his stomach on the bed. Blood covered his back as well as the bedding under him. Sam pushed the others out of the way as he moved to the young man’s side.

Pulling Johnny’s shirttail from his pants, Sam lifted the shirt. A quick examination told the doctor what he feared; there was no exit wound.

“I need hot water and bandages. The bullet’s still in there. I need Johnny downstairs on the table,” Sam said as he leaned back. “No, wait,” Sam stopped them, “he’s lost to much blood; he shouldn’t be moved. Scott get Maria and give her my instruments to boil. Murdoch, Val help me get his clothes off.”

“He never said anything. I didn’t know,” Val said as he helped get Johnny’s shirt and pants off.

“It’s my fault. I should have known he couldn’t have made it through without being hit,” Murdoch shook his head.

“Will you two stop!” Sam clipped. “You both know it’s not the fault of either of you or Scott. We need to concentrate on helping him right now.”

Scott came back into the room followed by Maria.

“Now all of you out,” Sam commanded as he took his instruments from Maria.

“Sam…,” Murdoch started to say.

“You know my rules, Murdoch. No family but I need Maria to help me. Now out, all of you. That includes you, Val,” Sam insisted looking at Val.

“I’ve been with him more times than I want to count when he’s been shot up or sick,” Val argued. “Took a fair share of bullets out of him, too.”

“Not this time. Go on, Val, I need to see to him. I’ll be down as soon as I can,” Sam said as he turned back to his patient. Sam, like Murdoch and Scott, knew Val’s relationship with Johnny and considered the man family.

“Maria, can you start cleaning him up?” Sam said as he shook his head, he would never understand this boy.


Cipriano cleared the Great Room of all of the injured; moving everyone to their homes or the bunkhouse. Henry McLean asked if his family could stay a little longer. One of his brothers was badly wounded and couldn’t be taken into town. Murdoch told Cipriano to move McLean and his family into the guardhouse.

Now, only Murdoch, Scott, Val, and Cipriano remained in the Great Room. Each of them silently blaming themselves for not making sure Johnny was alright, and each wondering why Johnny hadn’t gone directly to Sam.

Two long hours passed before they saw Sam coming down the main stairs. All four men were on their feet.

“Sam?” Murdoch asked even before the doctor reached the last step.

“I need a drink first, old friend,” Sam said, making his way to the drink cart. He poured himself a tall whiskey, downing half of it before turning back to the four anxious faces.

“I heard the men talking about his ride in and the gunfight. I have no idea how he was able to stand out there as long as he did. The bullet was deep in his side. There was some internal bleeding; he’s lost a lot of blood. I got the bullet out and repaired the damage. We need to wait to see if there is any other internal bleeding,” Sam said as he slumped into a chair.

“Will he be alright?” Scott asked, noting Sam had not led off with those words.

Sam shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve done all I can. You know your brother, he’s a fighter. I’ll stay the night. He’s already starting a fever, and I imagine it won’t take long to get worse.”

“Can we see him?” Murdoch was already moving toward the stairs.

“Yes…,” Sam said to the backs of the men who were already halfway up the stairs. He wearily pushed himself out of the chair and followed.

Murdoch pushed Johnny’s door open to see Maria still cleaning up after the surgery. “He sleeps, Patron,” she smiled as she took the blood-soaked linens out.

Johnny, face flushed, was bare-chested with bandages wrapped around his mid-section, a sheet pulled up over his hips.

Murdoch and Val wasted no time pulling a chair to either side of the bed. Each man took one of Johnny’s hands. Unashamed, Murdoch kissed the hand he held. Scott and Cipriano stood back letting the two men have their time with Johnny.

When Sam entered, he went straight to Johnny’s side. Leaning forward, Sam placed a hand on Johnny’s forehead then took Johnny’s hand from Murdoch, feeling for a pulse.

“As I feared, the fever is getting worse, and his pulse is too rapid. Scott, would you ask Maria to bring in several pitchers of cool water? We need to cool him down.”

Scott nodded. Before leaving the room, he asked, “Do you need anything else, Sam?”

Sam smiled, “Not right now.”

Turning back to the bed, Sam sighed. Did he need anything else? “Yes,” he thought, “I need a miracle.”

The next several hours were spent trying to bring down the fever that seemed to have a life of its own.


Johnny’s fever broke in the early hours of the morning much to everyone’s relief. Shortly afterward Murdoch and Sam took to their beds, leaving Scott to watch over his brother.

Scott was dozing in a chair next to the bed when a low groan brought him fully awake and onto his feet.

“Johnny,” Scott said, leaned over the bed, “open your eyes.”

Johnny’s eyes fluttered open and then closed again. A moan escaped his throat, “Scott?”

“I’m here. Can you open your eyes and look at me?” Scott asked, taking a cold cloth and bathing Johnny’s face.

“Feels good,” Johnny weakly smiled as his eyes opened. He put his hand to his side. “What did Sam do to me? Feels like I’ve been gutted.”

“It was a little more than just taking the bullet out; there was some internal bleeding. Sam had to open you up to do the repairs,” Scott explained as he reached for a glass of water laced with laudanum. “Here drink this.”

“No laudanum,” Johnny protested, trying to pull his head away from the glass now at his lips.

“Johnny, you’re in pain and don’t you dare tell me you’ve had worse,” Scott said as he held his brother’s head and pushed the glass to the pale lips again.

“Bossy, aren’t you?” Johnny mumbled as he opened his lips to accept the bitter tasting water.

“Yes. Now go back to sleep,” Scott answered as he put the glass down. He brushed his hand across Johnny’s forehead.

“Sorry,” Johnny murmured he tried to fight the sleep that was coming.

“Nothing to be sorry for, Little Brother.”

“My fault…,” the words were nothing more than a whisper as he drifted off.

Scott closed his eyes and lowered his head onto his chest. He knew his brother was going to blame himself for all that had happened.


It had been three days since the end of the siege against Lancer. Jamie McLean had watched as his father faced Madrid and lost. Thankful his father wasn’t dead; he wondered what was going to happen next. He, like the rest of his family, knew it was a lie when his father said his vendetta against Madrid was over.

Billy had been his big brother. Jamie thought the sun rose and set on him. It had almost destroyed him when Billy was killed. As he’d knelt in the dirt next to his dead brother and watched Madrid ride away, he’d vowed revenge.

No, he wasn’t happy with Madrid being alive. He also knew his family would rectify that shortly.


Maria hummed as she hurried around the kitchen preparing lunch. Johnny was getting better and that made her happy. She knew of only one other thing that would add to her happiness, and that was for Henry McLean and his family to leave Lancer. She, like the Lancers, didn’t like having the men who had hurt her nino so close to him.

Maria stepped into the pantry, letting the door close behind her. She was still humming when she heard the back door to the kitchen open. Peeking out of the pantry, Maria’s heart skipped a beat seeing a man with a gun silently move into the kitchen. Maria shrank back into the dark room, pulling the door closed behind her.

Larry McLean stepped into the kitchen, carefully looking around. Seeing no one, he made his way toward the Great Room. Peering into the large room he saw Murdoch Lancer and the Sheriff sitting near the fireplace.

Larry didn’t bother the two men; they weren’t his mission. Larry knew his Uncle Henry would handle them. Satisfied there would be no one to interfere, Larry made his way back to the kitchen. Once back in the kitchen Larry motioned for his cousins Zak and Jamie to follow him up the back stairs to the second floor.

No one checked the pantry. If they had, they would have found a frightened Maria crouching in the back corner.

Teresa came out of Johnny’s room and moved toward the back stairs. It wasn’t until she got to the top of the stairs that she realized three men were standing in front of her.

Eyes wide, Teresa started to scream. Larry grabbed her, putting a hand over her mouth as Zak pointed a gun at her head.

Larry McLean didn’t say a word; he just shook his head warning her to remain quiet.

Teresa understood and nodded.

Larry released Teresa, turning her around, he pushed her back down the hallway. When they got to Johnny’s room, Zak pulled Teresa aside and kicked the door open.

Scott propelled himself out of the chair he was in and turned to see Zak McLean leveling a gun at him.

“Don’t move, Lancer. One move and I’ll kill the girl,” Zak sneered as he moved into the room. His cousin, Larry, and brother Jamie followed him into the room. Larry held a gun to Teresa’s side.

Zak McLean walked over to the bed and looked down at Johnny. He put his gun to the sleeping man’s chest, nudging him. When Johnny didn’t move, he turned back to Scott.

“Wake him up,” Zak demanded as he moved away from the bed.

Scott stood his ground.

“You wake him or I will,” Zak hissed, taking a step toward the bed.

“Leave him alone!” Scott moved to place himself between Zak and his brother. The next thing he knew Zak’s balled fist was slamming into his stomach. He staggered back against the tall chest in the room.

“You or me Lancer,” Zak spat the words out and started toward the bed again.

It didn’t take more than a few moments for Scott to realize he was on the losing end of the battle. There was going to be only one way to keep Zak from harming Johnny, and that was to cooperate.

“I’ll do it,” Scott conceded defeat. “Just leave him alone.”

Scott turned to the bed.
“Johnny,” Scott started shaking Johnny’s shoulder. “Johnny, wake up.”

Johnny moaned but didn’t wake.

“Johnny, wake up,” Scott called out, this time shaking his brother more forcefully.

“Get out of the way,” Zak barked as he grabbed Scott’s shoulder, pulling him away from the bed and throwing him toward the door into Larry’s grasp.

Zak leaned over the bed, backhanding Johnny across the face. The dark-haired man jerked awake with a deep groan.

Scott started to spring toward Zak, when the barrel of Larry’s gun, pressed into his chest, stopped him.

“Now get him dressed,” Zak ordered with a smirk on his face. “Jamie, take the girl downstairs.”

Larry prodded Scott toward Johnny as Jamie took Teresa’s arm, pushing her ahead of him out of the room.


Henry McLean was more than satisfied. He and his family had taken Lancer by surprise, without firing a shot, and without McLean himself ever having to put a gun in his hand.

An hour earlier he’d watched the big Mexican Segundo rush into the hacienda. He knew the man was telling Lancer there had been a stampede on their East range. As predicted Lancer had instructed the Segundo to send most of the hands to round up the cattle.

McLean calculated that only ten men were left behind to watch the house; he’d been right. He also predicted it wouldn’t take long to overpower the men left behind; he’d been right again.

When McLean walked into the Great Room with his brother Jerry and two of his nephews, he could see the surprise on the faces of Lancer and the Sheriff. When Jerry pointed a gun at the two men, he knew he’d won. They surrendered without a fight.

Murdoch and Val found themselves pushed out the French doors and into the yard. Looking around, it appeared all the hands who hadn’t gone with Cipriano were now standing in front of the house with their hands behind their heads. Before Murdoch could say anything, Teresa was forced to join them.

Murdoch let his worst fears show on his face. He wondered where his sons were. Taking his eyes off the French doors, he glared at McLean. It was a stifled cry from Teresa that brought his attention back to the doors.

“Johnny!” Teresa’s screamed, drawing everyone’s attention.

Scott came out of the house with his hands in the air. Behind Scott were Zak and Larry McLean half carrying, half dragging Johnny. As soon as they were in the yard, they lowered the injured man to his knees.

Murdoch cringed at the sight of Johnny’s unbuttoned shirt showing a tinge of red on the white bandages around his waist. He started toward his son when McLean stopped him.

“Hold it,” Henry McLean warned, shaking his head. “Leave him, Lancer.”

McLean turned to Zak and Jamie, “Get him on a horse.”

Jerry McLean led a horse to the front of the house, as Zak and Larry picked Johnny up before shoving him onto the saddle.

“We got what we came for,” Henry McLean said looking at Murdoch. “We’re leaving now.” McLean motioned for his brother and nephews, “Lock them up in the guardhouse. By the time they get out, we’ll have all of our business done and be on the way home.”

“What are you going to do with him?” Scott asked watching his brother bend over the horse’s neck.

Zak McLean walked up to Scott and looked him in the eyes. “Each of us McLeans is going to take turns dusting him up a bit. Don’t you worry none though, we’ll make sure he’s wide awake when we hang him.”

“You’ll never get away with this, McLean!” Murdoch shouted out, turning on Henry McLean.

Val was watching Johnny barely hanging onto the saddle. He looked at the eldest McLean with fury in his eyes.

“You hang him and its murder, McLean,” Val said with a threat in his voice. “You’ll all hang. I’ll make sure of it.”

Murdoch could see Val’s words have an instant effect on the rest of the McLean family. His only hope was if he could convince Henry McLean’s family to let his son go.

“You really didn’t think you could ride in here, kidnap my son, hang him, and get away with it. You’ll all be murderers. You’ll be hunted down and hanged yourselves.” Murdoch prayed his words would make a difference.

“Johnny has a lot of friends both as Lancer and Madrid,” Val quickly added. “You have to have heard what happened last year in Nogales? Do you know how many gunfighters came to help him? There won’t be any place you can hide.”

“Both of you, shut up. No, it won’t be murder. It’ll be justice. Justice for my Billy,” McLean said as he turned and walked toward his horse. “Get them locked up.”

Jerry McLean looked at his brother. “Henry, I’ve almost lost Davy. I’m not taking the chance of another son being hurt or killed. We aren’t murderers.”

“We all agreed to do this for Billy,” Henry spat as he turned to face his family.

“Billy’s dead Henry. My boys are alive. You heard what the man said. We all heard about what happened in Nogales. Madrid must have had more than fifty gunfighters helping him get across the border. I don’t want to have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. I can’t ask my sons to do it either,” Jerry argued.

“You still have a chance,” Murdoch spoke up in a last desperate plea. “Leave Johnny here and ride away. I promise you no one will come after you.”

“Lock them up!” Henry snapped.

“I’m riding out, Henry,” Jerry McLean stated. “I’m taking Jack and the other boys with me. I don’t want any part of this anymore.” He turned and looked at his nephews. “Any of you want to come with us, come now.”

Jerry McLean looked at his sons, “Come on, we’re leaving now.”

As Jerry McLean started to ride away, he stopped long enough to talk to Murdoch. “I’m sorry, Mr. Lancer. There’s nothing I can do. I can’t stop my brother, but I won’t be part of hanging your son.”

Murdoch looked over his shoulder as Henry McLean and his sons rode by with Johnny.

As the McLeans led him away, Johnny looked at his father and brother. Seeing the hurt and pain in his father’s face, he lowered his head and took a deep breath.

“Johnny,” Murdoch called out as the door to the guardhouse was closed and locked.

“Murdoch,” Johnny choked out as the speed of his horse picked up. He leaned over in the saddle and gritted his teeth against the pain.


Maria stayed hidden in the pantry until she was sure everyone was gone from the house. Slowly, she opened the pantry door and peeked out. Seeing no one in the kitchen, she made her way out the kitchen door and around the side of the house.

Maria watched the men put Johnny on a horse, knowing there was nothing she could do. Waiting where she was, she chanced only quick looks as the Patron, and the rest of her family were shoved toward the guardhouse.

Once the McLeans were gone, Maria looked around the yard. Seeing no one, she ran toward the guardhouse.

Murdoch was standing at one of the windows of the old adobe building, craning his neck, as the McLeans disappeared. He turned to see Teresa clinging to Scott.

Val stood with his hands clenched and his face red with anger. “There ain’t nowhere they can hide. I’ll kill every one of them with my bare hands if I have to.”

“You won’t be alone,” Walt raged as he turned to look at the faces of the other Lancer hands in the guardhouse. He could see he was right. They would all be there to watch the McLeans die.

Walt had been looking out a side window when he saw Maria running across the yard. “Boss, it’s Maria.”

Murdoch pushed his way through the men until he was at the barred window.

“Maria!” Murdoch called out. “Hurry! Open the door.”

Maria pulled on the door. Realizing it was locked, she looked around until she saw the key lying on the ground several feet away. Retrieved the key, Maria quickly opened the door. Before she knew what was happening, the Patron’s arms were around her.

“Thank you, Maria,” Murdoch breathed the words as he kissed the woman on her cheek.

Releasing Maria, Murdoch looked around and started shouting orders.

“Get the horses saddled. Mateo, ride out and get Cipriano and the men with him. Tell him to forget about the cattle and head toward Morro Coyo. Jose, go to Green River and get Sam. Johnny’s going to need him.”

Mateo and Jose ran toward the corral to get their horses.

“Teresa, I want you and Maria get in the house and lock the doors. Don’t let anyone but us in. Scott, get our rifles,” Murdoch finished, watching the flurry of activity around him. “Hurry men! We don’t have much time.”

Murdoch stalked toward the house to get his hat and gun.

Val joined the others in saddling the horses. By the time the horses were ready, Murdoch and Scott were back.

Murdoch took the reins of his horse and mounted. He looked around at the men who were with him, making sure everyone was armed.

“Val, you’re out best tracker, lead the way.”

Val nodded and rode toward the arch.

Scott looked at the panic on his father’s face. He knew Murdoch was thinking the same thing he was. They had to find Johnny before it was too late.


Johnny held his right arm close to his side. He knew he was bleeding again. He’d felt the stitches start to pull the moment Zak and Larry began to drag him from his bedroom.

He didn’t think he was going to be able to stay in the saddle for very long and sure enough, it was the last thing he remembered before hitting the ground.

The next conscious thought Johnny had was that he was cold. Opening his eyes, he looked around, knowing it had to be mid-day. He realized he was sitting upright against a small tree with a rope tied around his shoulders, holding his arms to his sides.

Looking around, Johnny watched as Henry McLean pointed to a limb in a large oak tree. Larry threw a rope over the limb, catching it as it came down again. Both men had satisfying smiles on their faces.

Johnny looked at the boy standing guard on him. When the boy turned around Johnny thought for a split second it was Billy McLean looking at him.

He tried to straighten up against the tree trunk, pain shooting through his side. Looking down, he could see the bandage around his waist saturated with blood.

Johnny looked back at the boy.

“What’s your name?” Johnny asked, stifling a groan.

“Jamie. Jamie McLean,” the boy answered. Johnny could see the hate in the boy’s eyes.

“You look like your brother,” Johnny said softly. “Just like him, everything except the eyes.”

“What are you talking about? Billy and me have the same color eyes,” Jamie answered.

“Color? Yeah, I guess you do have the same color. No, it’s … well, your brother’s eyes were cold. The only thing I saw in his eyes was killing. That’s all he wanted that day.”

“Shut up!” Jamie yelled, pointing his gun at Johnny’s chest. “Just shut up. You know nothing about my brother. You murdered him. You knew he didn’t have a chance against you, but you didn’t care. All you wanted was another notch on your gun. What’s another dead man to Johnny Madrid?”

“Yeah, what’s another dead man to Johnny Madrid?” Johnny repeated the words. “So, go ahead, kid, pull the trigger.”

“No, you’re gonna’ hang just like any murderer should,” Jamie ground out the words.

“Yeah? Then you’ll be hanging yourself soon enough. I shot your brother in front of a town full of people. He called me out. He drew first, but I was faster. At least he had the guts to face me like a man,” Johnny drawled, watching the emotions play over the face of the boy.

Zak McLean heard his brother’s raised voice.

“Madrid giving you trouble, Jamie?” Zak walked over to test the ropes holding Johnny.

“No,” Jamie snapped. He looked around at his father and the rope now dangling from the tree limb. “Are you sure about this, Zak? Is Pa?”

“We’re sure, Jamie. We make him pay for Billy then we can go home. We can go on with our lives,” Zak answered putting a hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“But what if he’s telling the truth? What if the law comes after us?” Jamie asked.

Jamie and his entire family had spent almost three years living with the thought of making Madrid pay for Billy. The doubt the Lancers and Madrid had planted was growing inside him.

“Stop it, Jamie!” Zak snapped. “He’s gonna’ hang.”

Jamie turned to look at Johnny again. He watched as the injured man slowly shook his head.

Henry McLean glowered at Madrid. He was finally going to get his justice. Madrid had cost him and his family too much not to pay. He had buried Billy in Tucson, a few days ago, he’d buried a brother, and today the rest of his family had abandoned him. All of it because of Johnny Madrid. The fury inside him burned hot.

He walked over to his sons. “Zak, get him up. It’s time.”

Zak and Jamie untied their prisoner from the tree; lifting him to his feet. They left the rope wrapped around his chest, holding his arms to his side.

“Get him on that horse,” McLean ordered. Looking at his sons, he smiled and said the words he’d been wanting to say for a long time, “We’re heading home today.”

Johnny couldn’t hold back the groan when they lifted him to his feet. His side was burning with every breath.

“I should have killed you, McLean,” Johnny clipped as Zak pushed him toward the horse.

Zak turned and delivered a punch to Johnny’s stomach, doubling him over and sending him to his knees.

“Yeah, you should have,” McLean answered with a smile. “That’s where you made your second mistake with my family.”

Zak lifted Johnny into the saddle and guided the horse to the tree where a rope was swinging in the soft breeze.

Henry McLean mounted his horse and guided it closer to Johnny. Picking the noose out of the air, he held it in his hand and rubbed a thumb over the rough hemp, caressing it. Slipping the rope over the young man’s dark head, he let it settle around the boy’s neck before jerking it tight. McLean smiled when Johnny flinched.

As the rope tightened, a feeling of total helplessness settled over Johnny. He closed his eyes and said a silent prayer, “Please, Dios, let it be quick.”

A stiff breeze caused the limbs of the giant oak to sway and the horse under him to shift.

“Hold him still, Billy,” McLean ordered. “I’m not ready yet.”

“Billy?” Johnny looked down at the boy holding the horse’s bridle and for a moment he saw Billy McLean glaring at him. Blinking he looked again and Jamie McLean’s frightened face had replaced Billy’s.
“Look at me, you piece of filth,” McLean snarled as he steadied his horse and then leaned in close. “I’m making sure you never murder anyone again. This is one ‘dance’ I’m going to enjoy watching. You got anything to say, Madrid?”

Straining to turn his head, Johnny looked at McLean. The man was changing before his eyes. The sneer on McLean’s face and the wild look in his eyes left no doubt in Johnny’s mind he was looking into the face of a mad man.
There was no way Johnny was going to let this man see fear in his eyes. Drawing on everything he could, he brought Madrid to the surface. His eyes steeled as they fixed on McLean, “Would it do any good?”


McLean took a braided riding quirt from his saddle horn and raised it in his hand.


Murdoch said Val was their best tracker, but they didn’t need their best for this job. Even a half blind man could follow the signs the McLeans were leaving behind. They were moving fast and not taking time to cover their tracks.

Val figured they would head toward Morro Coyo, but with what Henry McLean had planned he knew they wouldn’t go all the way into town. Ten minutes after leaving the hacienda, the trail broke away from the main road and started cross country.

“This way,” Val called out as he spurred his horse forward. Val didn’t look back; he knew the others were following.

“There!” Val pulled up and pointing to a clearing ahead.

The scene seemed surreal. The clearing had a small grove of trees surround on three sides by rock outcroppings. In the center of the grove stood a large oak tree, limbs spreading out in all directions, throwing dark shadows on the ground.

Two men on horseback stood like statues under the oak. One rider slumped in the saddle, head down with a noose around his neck. The other rider, hovering alongside the first with his hand poised in the air.

Murdoch paled, not waiting another second, he raced toward his youngest son.

Val was about to tell the older man to hold back and not spook the horse with Johnny on it. Too late Murdoch spurred his horse forward. All Val could do was follow.

“McLean!” Murdoch yelled out as he stormed forward. “Stop!”

Henry McLean heard the sound of riders coming toward him. Turning in the saddle, he saw Murdoch Lancer calling out to him. McLean wasn’t going to be cheated out of this, not now.


Johnny took a deep breath and looked up. Overhead the sun played off of green leaves dancing in the soft breeze now blowing. Filtering through the branches, a single warm ray of light fell on his face as an overpowering calm enveloped him.

Of all the ways he’d expected to go, this wasn’t it. He’d always thought it would be in a street somewhere with a bullet in his heart. He’d been prepared for that kind of death.

Steeling himself, just as he’d done with the firing squad, Johnny tried to block out all sound and feeling. Closing his eyes, he was ready now.

Henry McLean took one more look at the man who had killed his son. With a smile on his face, he looked back toward Murdoch and then lowered his hand. The sound of the riding quirt resounded in the air.

Johnny heard the crack of the quirt and the cry of the startled horse. When he felt the horse under him start to shift forward, he tried to hold on with his knees. Suddenly, the horse was gone, and the ever-tightening rope on his neck caused a brief moment of panic. His world was fading to black as the sensation of falling swept through him and he waited for the sudden stop he knew was coming.

Johnny faintly heard the shot that sliced through the rope holding him suspended in midair. Thankfully, he would never remember hitting the ground or know if he’d passed out because of the loss of blood, the events of the day, or due to lack of oxygen. He only knew he’d welcomed the lack of feeling and darkness that overtook him.


 “No,” Scott gasped as he pulled his rifle from it’s his sheath, vaulting off his horse. Kneeling on one knee, he prayed, knowing he had one shot; only one, to save his brother.

Scott fired, watching in horror as Johnny slipped from the back of the horse, his legs flailing, searching for purchase. The rope severed the moment it went taught.

Scott let out a sob and covered his face realizing his brother had fallen as if the life was already drained out of him.

“Scott,” he heard his name. “Take cover, son. Val and Walt have him.”

He looked around to see his father calling to him.

“Scott!” he heard his name again.

Murdoch grabbed Scott’s arm; pulling him to safety.


“NO!” McLean’s scream filled the air as the rope holding Madrid snapped, and the man fell to the ground.

He spurred his horse, heading for Madrid when he saw two men riding toward him. McLean changed direction and waved for the three boys with him to follow.

McLean, his son’s Zak and Jamie, and his nephew Larry found cover behind rocks on one side of the clearing. Screaming again, McLean opened fire on the riders. He was determined he wasn’t going to lose Madrid now that he was so close to having his justice.


Val and Walt were off their horses and on the ground running before either of them had time to think about what they were doing. Each taking an arm, they lifted Johnny, dragging him out of the line of fire.

Finding cover behind rocks on the opposite of the clearing, Walt placed a hand on Johnny’s chest, “He’s not breathing.”

The sound of Murdoch’s voice could be heard calling him, “Val?”

Val didn’t answer.

Again, Murdoch called out this time to both of them, “Val? Walt?”

Walt yelled back, “Boss, give us a minute!”

Val quickly removed the rope from around Johnny’s neck. With the noose removed, he cut the rope holding the boy’s arms to his sides. He began to repeatedly raise and lower Johnny’s arms over his head, pumping air into the young man’s lungs.

On the third try, Johnny gasped for air; his body convulsed. Val put his hand on the side of the boy’s face and gently rubbed his cheek. Once it looked like Johnny was going to settle down, Val sat back on his heels. With tears in his eyes, he quietly repeated, “Thank God,” over and over.

“Val?” It was Scott’s turn to call out. “Is he alright!?” the voice was demanding.

Val looked skyward, taking a deep breath before he answered. “He’s breathing. We need to get him to Sam.”

Walt collapsed with his back against the rocks as he watched Johnny’s chest rise and fall.

Henry McLean screamed in rage when he heard the gunfighter was alive. Cursing he started firing at the rocks the two men had taken cover behind. In his mind, he thought that if he could keep the men pinned down long enough, Madrid would bleed to death. One way or another, Madrid was going to die.

Val yelled out, “McLean, it’s over. Throw out your guns and give up.”

“It won’t be over until Madrid’s dead!” McLean screamed.

“Well, that ain’t happening today. Johnny’s alive, and he’s gonna’ stay that way,” Val called back.

Val glanced down at his friend who was awake and had his right arm pressed against his wound.

“McLean,” Murdoch called out. “There are men are all around you. There is no way out.”

“There may be no way out, but I won’t let you take him to a doctor. I know he’s bleeding out. We just have to wait a little while longer. Anyone tries to move Madrid, and I’ll kill them,” McLean ranted, before firing another round at Val’s position.

Zak, Larry, and Jamie McLean looked at each other. They knew they’d lost.

Jamie McLean didn’t know exactly when it had happened, but it had. His father had been on the edge of insanity for some time. Now, he was sure his father’s mind had snapped. He’d seen the look on his father’s face as he put the rope around Madrid’s neck and the look frightened him.

Jamie watched as Zak and Larry joined his father in firing on the men who had Madrid.

Jamie McLean didn’t know if the gunfighter was dead or alive and knew he really didn’t care anymore. He’d seen what hate had done to his family over the last three years. He wished he’d gone with his Uncle Jerry when he’d ridden away from Lancer earlier in the day.

“Pa,” Jamie was looking at the crazed look in his father’s eyes. “I don’t want to die, Pa. Zak and Larry don’t want to die. Let him go, Pa.”

“No, Billy, I’m not going to let him go. He’s gotta’ pay, son. He’s gotta’ pay,” Henry McLean hadn’t even realized he had called Jamie by his dead brother’s name.


“Val, help me sit up,” Johnny barely whispered and then coughed, holding his arm close to his side.

“You’re bleeding. You need to stay still,” Val replied, trying to push his friend back down.

“Can’t breathe too good laying here. Help me sit up,” Johnny tried to push himself up. “Walt, give me a hand.”

Walt reached down, helping Johnny to sit up and lay back against the rocks.

Johnny closed his eyes and tried to will the pain away. He hurt all over. His throat ached, and he could feel the rope burns on his neck. His ribs hurt where Zak McLean hit him. His side hurt where the old wound had reopened. His entire body hurt from the fall he’d taken when the rope snapped.

Listening to Henry McLean’s ravings, it was obvious the man was insane. Johnny had seen it in the man’s eyes earlier. He tried to think of a way to defuse the situation. At this point, he was helpless to figure one out. The only way Henry McLean was going to give up was when Johnny Madrid was dead.

Johnny looked down at the blood-soaked bandage around his waist. The way he was bleeding it didn’t look like McLean was going to have to wait much longer.

Val was watching Johnny’s face. He could see he was in trouble. He put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder and felt him shudder.

“You cold?” Val asked.

Johnny didn’t answer, only nodded.

Val looked around. There was nothing they could use to cover Johnny except the shirts on their backs. Val glanced behind them and saw his and Walt’s horses with a bedroll on Walt’s. Was there a way, he could get to them without getting shot? He figured if he stayed close to the ground, he could make it.

Walt knew what Val was thinking.

“I’ll get it.” Walt laid his rifle down and started crawling straight out, away from the rocks toward the horses.

Murdoch and Scott saw Walt moving toward the horses. Murdoch didn’t know what Walt was doing, but he knew the rest of them needed to lay down covering fire. Murdoch and Scott started firing on McLean; soon joined by the other men from Lancer.

Walt got to his horse and untied the bedroll. Once he had it, he dropped to the ground and crawled back to Val and Johnny.

Val gratefully took the bedroll from Walt and laid it over Johnny.

“Thanks,” Johnny breathed the word through clenched teeth.

“We gotta’ get him out of here,” Val said turning to Walt.

Both Val and Walt turned to look toward where Murdoch. He needed a way to tell him what he had planned without McLean hearing him. Two shots hitting the rocks above their heads discouraged either Val or Walt from trying to crawl out again.


It had been thirty minutes since Scott’s bullet had saved his brother’s life and they were no closer to getting Johnny to Sam now than they were then.

Every time Val and Walt tried anything, the McLeans would start firing.

The sound of horses caused Murdoch and Scott to swing around and take aim at the approaching riders. To their relief, it was Cipriano arriving with more men.

Cipriano ran to kneel beside Murdoch.

“Patron?” the Segundo said as he looked out across the clearing trying to determine what the situation was. He saw the severed end of the rope hanging from the tree limb and crossed himself.

“Val and Walt are over there,” Murdoch pointed toward the rocks closer to the clearing. “They have Johnny with them. They’re being pinned down by the McLeans over there.” He pointed to the far side of the clearing.

“We need to get John out of here and home to Sam,” Murdoch summed up the situation.

“We have enough men to surround them, Patron. If everyone fires at the same time, we could keep Senor McLean from firing at Val and Walt while they carry Juanito out. We have a wagon coming.”

“They need more men to help carry him and to give covering fire,” Murdoch responded as he thought about the plan.

Scott had been listening. “I’ll take Frank and Jose with me. We’ll get to Johnny. That will give us enough men to carry him out and still provide cover for him.”

Murdoch nodded his approval.

Scott looked around, “Frank. Jose, come with me.”

Scott, Frank, and Jose moved away from the clearing and began to circle until they were in a direct line with the rocks Val, Walt, and Johnny were behind. Hopefully, they would be in McLean’s blind spot. Lying on their stomachs, they started crawling.

Val smiled when he saw what Scott had in mind. He and Walt were both holding their breath as Scott, Frank, and Jose made their way to them.

Cipriano began to position the hands around the clearing, surrounding the McLeans. Now they waited for the order to fire and prayed the plan worked.


Scott was the first to get to the safety of the rocks. The sight of Johnny caused his heart to sink. The rope mark around Johnny’s neck was fiery red against his pale complexion. Scott fell to his knees beside his brother.

“He’s gotta’ fever,” Val said as he helped the others find a place behind the rocks. “He’s still bleeding, too.”

“Johnny,” Scott spoke softly, as he put a hand on his brother’s face. He could feel the heat radiating off the boy.

Johnny’s eyes opened hearing his name. His breath hitched and tears formed in his eyes. He never thought he was going to see his brother again. He felt like a little boy, wanting his big brother to tell him everything was going to be alright.

“Hey, little brother. How are you doing?” Scott asked as his thumb stroked his brother’s cheek.

Putting his hand over Scott’s, Johnny smiled, his lower lip quivered.

“Your throat hurting?” Scott asked as he wiped a tear off of Johnny’s cheek.

Johnny nodded. He closed his eyes; tears filled them.

“Shush now. It’s going to be alright,” Scott said as he wiped another tear away.

“I was scared, Scott,” Johnny choked out in no more than a whisper. “I was real scared.” His voice so low Scott had to lean in to hear him.

Scott put his forehead against his brother’s.

“I was too,” Scott said as he wiped the tears from his own eyes. “You about ready to go home?”

Johnny gave a slight nod, his hand going to his throat.

Scott looked over at Val. He noticed tears in Val’s eyes as well.

Scott moved the bedroll covering his brother and looked at the blood-stained bandages around his waist. He swallowed hard and looked back into his brother’s eyes.

“You figure a way to get us out of here?” Val asked wiping the tears from his eyes. “Too much dang dust here for my liking.”

Scott nodded, as he wiped his face with a sleeve.

“There does seem to be a lot of dust in the air,” Scott answered and took a deep breath. “Val, we’ve come up with a plan. Cipriano and the rest of the men have surrounded the area. When we’re ready to move, I’ll fire a signal shot. The men are going to open fire on the McLeans. Frank and Walt will carry Johnny out while you, Jose, and I cover them. Murdoch has a wagon waiting to take him home.
Scott looked down at his brother, “Do you think you can make it?”

Johnny took a deep breath, wincing. “I can make it,” he whispered. “Just want to go home.”

“Frank. Walt, carry him straight out. We’ll cover you. Get him to the wagon and then home. Don’t wait for us,” Scott said.

A loud whistle suddenly broke the still air.

“That’s Cipriano,” Scott said, as he looked at his brother once more. “Everyone ready.”

“Let’s get it done,” Val said as he rested his rifle barrel on top of the rocks behind him.

Scott turned and aimed his rifle at the McLeans. One shot set everything into motion.

Walt and Frank reached down and picked Johnny up. A strangled cry of pain caused them to hesitate.

“Go,” Johnny groaned in a weak voice.

The two men started carrying their friend as the others provided cover.

Henry McLean realized what was happening. Bullets started flying over his head. He got as low as he could and found an opening in the rocks. He began firing as he saw two men carrying Madrid away.

Frank went down as he caught a bullet in the leg, taking Johnny to the ground with him.

“Walt, take him and go,” Frank gasped in a strangled voice as he lay flat on the ground.

Another bullet dug into the ground at Johnny’s feet. Walt reached down and picked up an unconscious Johnny in his arms and started moving as fast as he could.

Scott looked around to see what progress Frank and Walt were making. Seeing both men and his brother on the ground, he tapped Val’s arm.

“I’m going after them,” Scott said as he kept low, making his way toward his brother.

Val turned to see what was happening. He looked back at the rocks the McLeans were behind. Seeing a puff of smoke coming from a place lower to the ground, he nudged Jose’s arm and pointed to the spot. Both men started firing.

Murdoch was waiting near the wagon. When he saw Frank hit and Walt fall with Johnny, he couldn’t wait. He made his way toward his youngest son.

“Walt, help Frank,” Murdoch called out as he scooped Johnny in his arms and headed back to the wagon.

Walt helped Frank to the wagon while Scott provided covering fire. Once they were safely at the wagon, Murdoch called out for everyone to stop firing. The smell of gun smoke filled the air, and a grey haze clung to the ground as silence quickly fell over the area.

Johnny, Walt, and Frank were loaded into the wagon. Murdoch climbed in with them. Scott tied their horses to the rear of the wagon and joined his father. Juan jumped into the driver’s seat, and with a snap of the reins, the wagon jerked forward.

“Cipriano, send ten men with the wagon,” Val yelled out. “The rest of you hold your fire. We’re gonna’ make sure they get out of here alright.”

It wasn’t long before the men caught up with the wagon. Coming alongside, they could see Murdoch holding Johnny in his arms while Scott and Walt tended to Franks’ leg.

Murdoch looked up at the men who had joined them.

“Slim, ride ahead and let them know we’re coming. Tell Sam Johnny’s bleeding and Frank’s wounded.

Slim nodded and spurred his horse toward the ranch.


Teresa, Maria, and Sam watched as the wagon rolled down the road and under the arch. It didn’t slow down until it entered the yard.

Juan stopped the wagon as close to the front of the house as possible. The Lancer hands who had ridden escort dismounted and started helping Frank and Johnny.

“Get them both inside,” Murdoch said, as he climbed out of the wagon.

Murdoch looked down at his shirt. It was covered in blood, as were his pants.

“We have everything ready in the kitchen. Take Johnny straight there,” Sam told the men as he looked at the expression on his friend’s face and the blood on his clothes. “Murdoch tell me what’s happened.”

Murdoch began telling Sam what had happened since they’d found Johnny. Sam listened as he started his examination of the unconscious man.


From the doorway of the kitchen, Scott found himself watching Sam and his father hovering over Johnny. He looked around and saw Maria tending Frank. Everything that had happened seemed like a dream, no, a nightmare; he prayed he would wake up from.

Jacobs came through the French doors and went straight to Scott.

“Scott, you want me to post the men around the house?”

Scott looked at the man and then blinked, “What did you say?”

“You want me to post guards around the house?” Jacobs repeated himself, putting a hand on Scott’s shoulder.

“Yes, thank you. Post the men around the house. Put two of them in here. The McLeans who left earlier may decide to come back. I don’t want them getting anywhere near Johnny again.”

Jacobs nodded and went out to give the orders.

Sam looked at Murdoch, “Alright, you go now. Maria, Teresa, and I can handle this.”

“Sam….,” a worried father started to say.

“No, Murdoch. Get cleaned up.” Sam looked to the doorway where Scott was standing. Sam could see the younger man was in shock. “You see to Scott, while I take care of John.”

Murdoch nodded. He ran his hand over Johnny’s forehead, turning before turning to leave.

Murdoch crossed the room to stand in front of his oldest. Scott’s light blue eyes had tears in them. Murdoch put a hand on his son’s shoulder and pulled him closer.

Scott didn’t resist the contact. It was something they both needed.


Val waited a few minutes after the wagon disappeared.

“McLean, it’s over now,” Val called out, hoping the man would finally see reason. “Come out with your hands in the air.”

There was no answer.


“Don’t shoot, I’m coming out,” a young voice called out.

“Throw your guns out,” Val ordered.

A rifle sailed over the top of the rocks and landed in the dirt.

“Come on out, now. Keep your hands up.”

Val cautiously made his way toward the middle of the clearing.

Jamie McLean stood up, putting his hands over his head and stepped out. He slowly walked forward, stopping in front of Val.

The teary-eyed boy looked back over his shoulder, “I tried to talk Pa out of hanging Madrid, but he wouldn’t listen. Pa’s lost his mind. He’s just sitting over there rocking back and forth. Zak and Larry are dead.” With tears streaming down his face, Jamie pleaded, “Please don’t kill him.”

Val looked toward where Henry McLean was still hiding. With gun drawn, he walked around the rock outcropping finding Henry McLean just as Jamie had described. McLean had his rifle clutched to his chest, rocking back and forth.

Val motioned for Cipriano to move in. Once Cipriano was directly behind McLean, Val leaned in and effortlessly lifted the rifle from the man’s grasp. Cipriano checked Zak and Larry McLean; both were dead.

Val pulled McLean to his feet.

Henry McLean looked at his son and smiled, “See I told you, Billy. I made sure Madrid would pay. He’s dead and never going to hurt anyone again. We can go home now.”

“Pa,” Jamie moved closer to his father, “I’m Jamie, Pa. Billy’s dead, remember?”

“No, son, you’re not dead, Madrid’s dead. I put a bullet in him myself. We can go home now,” McLean turned to Val smiling. “You thought you could get him away from me, didn’t you?”

Val looked at the man and shook his head.

“Cipriano, can you send three men into town with these two and lock them up for me? I want to get to Lancer and see about Johnny,” Val said as he put handcuffs on the last two remaining McLeans.


The sun had set by the time Val, Cipriano, and the others rode back into the yard. Dismounting he handed his reins off to one of the vaqueros and walked into the house. Inside the Great Room, he found Murdoch and Scott, pacing the floor.

They looked up as Val walked in. Looking toward the kitchen, Val could see the closed door.

Murdoch shook his head.

“Sam hasn’t told us anything yet,” Scott said as he looked toward the kitchen once again.

When Scott couldn’t handle waiting any longer, he edged his way toward the kitchen. Pushing the door open his breath caught seeing his brother on the table. He could tell Johnny was paler than he had been when they brought him home. He could hear Sam mumbling something to Maria, as she rushed around the room. Scott backed out and let the door close behind him.

Finally, after two hours Sam straightened up and wiped his hands on a clean towel. He was tired, more tired than he could remember being in a long time.

Sam walked into the Great Room to be met by Murdoch holding a glass of whiskey out to him. The doctor took the glass and a long drink before turning to the waiting men.

Sam sighed, “Thank you, I needed that.”

“Sam?” Scott anxiously asked.

“There was some minor internal bleeding from the original wound. I’ve put a drain in, which I’ll take out in a couple of days. His neck is raw from the rope burns; however, I don’t believe there will be permanent damage to either his neck muscles or throat. I found a cracked rib, and he’s covered with bruises. He has a fever I expect to get worse before the night’s over.”

“But he will be alright?” Murdoch voiced the question they all had.

“I can’t imagine what he’s been through today. Physically he’ll heal. Mentally, emotionally…” Sam shook his head. “From what little Slim told us, John was already…” Sam stopped himself.

“Don’t go counting him out yet, Doc. He’s come close to dying a lot of times,” Val’s spoke up. “Johnny’s faced death almost every day of his life. Every time he faced down a man in a gunfight, he knew it could be his last. The boy’s been prepared to die for years. From what he told me about the firing squad down in Mexico he wasn’t only prepared to die; he was welcoming it.”

There was silence in the room. Murdoch turned away from the others and poured himself another drink. He thought that before this night was over, he might have several more.

“Murdoch, if you can get some of the men to take him to his room, I’ll make sure he’s comfortable, and then I am going to get some sleep,” Sam downed the drink in his hand.

Sam walked back into the kitchen and looked at his patient. All he could think was maybe more than one angel was sitting on the young man’s shoulders.


It had been exactly one week since Sam had confined him to bed. He’d been a model patient during that week and had done everything anyone had asked of him. Of course, he didn’t remember the first three days.

A fever had torn into Johnny the first night, and he’d been semi-conscious for the following three days. Once the fever broke, it was as if something inside him had also broken.

Johnny hadn’t felt like this since the days he’d spent at Tyson’s Well. A lethargic depression set in he couldn’t shake. Guilt was tearing him up inside. He blamed himself for the pain and danger his family and the men at the ranch had gone through.

Now, it seemed like all he wanted to do was sleep. Sam said it was to be expected; he’d been through a lot in the last two weeks.

Val had come by the day before to let everyone know the trial of Henry and Jamie McLean would start in eight days. Johnny wasn’t sure he was up to facing Henry McLean again, but he wasn’t going to tell Val.

Johnny heard a knock on his door and knew it was Teresa with his breakfast. Breakfast… pffft. They had him on a soft diet which meant oatmeal for breakfast. He hated the stuff, always had, but he wasn’t going to complain. He’d eat the damn stuff and smile as he did.

“Good morning.” Teresa smiled as she entered the room with a tray.

“Morning.” Johnny smiled back and tried to push himself up in the bed.

Murdoch was right behind Teresa and next to the bed in two steps.

“Here, let me help you.”

Murdoch was smiling too. It seemed everyone was smiling lately.

“Thanks,” Johnny said as Murdoch arranged the pillows behind his back.

“That’s better,” Murdoch said as he handed Johnny a washcloth for his face and hands.

Johnny finished with the cloth and handed it back.

“Sam said you could get up and sit in a chair today if you feel like it,” Murdoch said as Teresa fussed with the tray.

Johnny nodded. “That’s what he told me. I’d like that.” Truthfully, he was looking forward to it.

There was another tap on the door, and Scott walked into the room.

“You’re looking better today,” Scott said as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Johnny’s going to sit in a chair today,” Teresa beamed as she handed a cup of willow bark tea to her brother.

Johnny took the tea with a frown and looked at the girl. He didn’t complain as he started drinking the bitter brew. He never could figure how something that tasted so bad was supposed to make you feel better. Johnny knew the tea tore his stomach up and he would be using the chamber pot in another half hour.

“Well, I’ll be back for the tray in a little while. You eat every bite now. Sam said you could have anything you want after this morning,” Teresa was humming as she kissed him on his cheek and waltzed out of the room.

“She’s in a good mood,” Johnny commented as he picked up his spoon and started to eat.

“Yes, she is.” Scott smiled and patted his brother’s leg. “I’m going down to breakfast myself. I’ll see you later.”

“I’ll be right down, son,” Murdoch told Scott as he watched Johnny eat. “Is there anything I can get you, son?”

“No, I’m fine,” Johnny answered as he took another small bite of the oatmeal.

“Well, I’ll be back up in a little while to help you clean up.”

Murdoch walked out of the room, leaving the door open.

Johnny sighed, putting the spoon down. He leaned his head back and took a deep breath. His ribs hurt and his side burned. He didn’t dare tell his family about either for fear they’d make him stay in bed longer.

Looking back at the tray in his lap he figured he had better eat the nasty stuff. As for the tea he reached under the edge of the bed and slid the chamber pot out. Carefully, he lifted the lid and poured out the foul-tasting liquid. Smiling, he pushed the chamber pot back under the bed.

Teresa and Maria were in the kitchen when Scott came down. Scott sat down and noticed both Teresa and Maria were humming.

Maria put a plate of steak and eggs in front of Scott and poured his coffee. He’d just taken his first sip when Murdoch joined him.

“He’s looking better,” Scott said watching his father sit down.

Accepting a cup of coffee from Maria, Murdoch answered, “Yes, he is.”

Teresa sat a plate in front of Murdoch and stood back with her hands on her hips. Both men looked at her.

“What?” Scott asked as he watched Maria move to stand next to Teresa.

“Do either of you think Johnny is acting a little strange?” she asked, first looking at Murdoch and then at Scott.

When neither Murdoch nor Scott said anything, Teresa pulled out a chair and sat down.

“Maria and I have been talking. The man lying in that bed up there is not acting like the Johnny Lancer we know,” Teresa stated.

“Si, Juanito is acting very strange,” Maria joined in as she also sat down.

“He seems to be feeling better and he’s eating,” Murdoch was confused. “Is he causing you any trouble?”

“That’s exactly the problem,” Teresa huffed. “He’s not causing any trouble. He’s not complained once about the food. Johnny’s not complained once about being in bed. He’s not complained at all about any pain… well that isn’t unusual. He’d never tell us if he was in pain or not. The point is he has done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s also done everything Sam told him to do.”

“So, what is the problem?” Scott questioned, looking at one woman and then the other.

“Scott, you know as well as I do Johnny doesn’t like to be inside. You know he doesn’t like to stay in bed. Has he asked either of you about Barranca? Has he asked about the ranch?” Teresa leaned forward, putting both hands on the table. “Has he asked either of you for his gun?”

The two men looked at each other.

“He’s been tired at night; we haven’t really talked. I’ve read to him every night, but he’s usually asleep before I get through two pages,” Scott answered. “And no, he hasn’t asked for his gun.”

For the first time, both men realized Johnny’s gun wasn’t hanging on the bedpost. They also knew there wasn’t a gun under his pillow.

Scott sighed. He had been so happy his brother had survived and was safe at home he hadn’t thought of anything else. Now, he realized Teresa and Maria were right. His little brother wasn’t acting like himself.

“I’ll talk to him tonight after dinner,” Scott sighed.

“I’m going back up in a few minutes,” Murdoch spoke up. “I’ll see if I can figure out what’s wrong… if anything is wrong.”

Both Teresa and Maria were frowning.

“Let us know when he’s out of bed and sitting up. We’ll come and change his bed linens,” Teresa pushed herself up and went back to the stove.

Maria mumbled something in Spanish and went back to the stove as well.

Murdoch and Scott looked at each other and then at the plates in front of them. Both had lost their appetites.


Murdoch stepped through the open door of Johnny’s room and smiled. His son was leaning back against the pillows, sound asleep.

He looked at the breakfast tray sitting on the bed and frowned. Johnny had eaten only a few bites of his breakfast. He did notice; however, the teacup was empty.

Murdoch put a hand on Johnny’s forehead. He was a little warm, but nothing to be alarmed about.

“John,” Murdoch gently touched Johnny’s shoulder.

Johnny woke with a jerk, his hand going to his hip for the gun that wasn’t there

Murdoch put a hand on Johnny’s right arm, “It’s me, son.”

Johnny nodded and pushed himself up.

“Do you want to clean up?” Murdoch asked as he moved the tray away.

“Sure,” Johnny answered rubbing his face, trying to wake up.

“You didn’t eat very much,” Murdoch commented as he turned back to the bed.

“Not real hungry this morning. Guess I was more tired than hungry.”

“Well, let’s get you cleaned up. Do you need to use the chamber pot?” Murdoch asked as he went to the chest of drawers to find a fresh nightshirt.

“Yeah, I do. I can manage it myself,” Johnny blushed, as he remembered the tea he’d poured in the pot.

“Alright. I’ll get some hot water and be right back,” Murdoch smiled as he watched the blush spread across Johnny’s face.

Johnny threw his legs off the side of the bed and pulled out the pot. He looked toward the closed door before taking care of his needs. He had just finished and was sitting on the side of the bed when a knock at the door told him Murdoch was back.

“Come in,” Johnny said straightening the nightshirt around his hips.

Murdoch moved across the room and put a pitcher of hot water on the table.

The bath didn’t take long, but by the time it was done, Johnny was exhausted. All he wanted to do was lay back down and sleep. Knowing his father was watching him, he put on a fresh nightshirt and sat waiting to be helped into the chair next to the window.

The moment he settled in the chair, there was a knock at the door. Murdoch put a blanket over Johnny’s legs and then opened the door. A whirlwind of women rushed in.

Maria walked over to Johnny and patted his cheek and then kissed his forehead. She looked at the breakfast tray and frowned.

“You are too thin, nino. You must eat to become strong again.”

“Just not hungry this morning, Mamacita. I’ll make up for it at lunch,” Johnny answered as he grasped the older woman’s hand. “You’ll fix me something good for lunch, Si?”

“Si, nino,” she smiled at him.

It was all he could do to stay awake as the women changed his bed and cleaned his room. He felt a momentary pang of guilt as he watched the chamber pot, with the tea in it, taken out to be emptied.

“Now then,” Teresa said as she smoothed the sheets down. “We’ll be back in thirty minutes to help you back to bed.”

“Thanks, Teresa.” Johnny returned her smile.

“Son, I’m going outside. Do you need anything else?” Murdoch asked. He’d been watching Johnny. It had not occurred to him before Teresa said something that morning, but he now could see Johnny wasn’t acting like they had come to expect. The spark was gone. All he saw in Johnny’s blue eyes was pain and sadness.

“John, are you having any pain?” Murdoch asked.

“Nothing I can’t handle,” Johnny answered. “Mostly sore.”

“Well, don’t try to get back to bed without help.”

“I’ll be good,” Johnny mumbled as Murdoch walked out of the room, leaving the door open.

Johnny sat in the chair, sighing. He was finally alone. Looking out the window, he watched the activity in the yard and corral.

A breeze caused the curtains in his room to billow inward. He took another deep breath. The smells of the ranch flooded in. He closed his eyes and leaned back into the chair. Pulling the blanket up to his chest, he fought against the emotions building inside him.

Murdoch had gone down the hall and started down the stairs when he decided to peek in one more time. He looked around the door frame to see Johnny with his eyes closed and the blanket pulled up over him.

Murdoch smiled and started to turn back when the light from the window reflected off of something on his son’s cheek. A single tear ran down his face.

Alarmed, Murdoch started to go in but decided against it. He needed to talk to Scott. There was more going on with his youngest than they knew. A worried father wondered what the boy was thinking.


Two days later Johnny had graduated from sitting in a chair in his room to going downstairs; with help. Once downstairs, he convinced the family to let him sit outside in the sun.

Hearing a scuffling sound, Johnny looked up to see Frank limping toward him. He was using crutches to get around.

“Good to see you up.” Frank smiled as he came to a stop at the edge of the veranda.

“Come sit, Frank. Get the weight off that leg,” Johnny greeted the man who had saved his life.

Frank sat down and stretched his leg out in front of him.

Teresa saw Frank sit down and brought out a pitcher of lemonade and two glasses.

“Thanks, Miss Teresa,” Frank said, taking a glass from her.

“Thanks, Querida,” Johnny nodded, taking a glass.

Neither Frank nor Teresa missed Johnny’s slightly shaking hand.

They sat quietly enjoying the lemonade and the sunshine for several minutes. Finally, Frank broke the silence.

“Val came by the other day. Told us the trial is gonna’ be next week. Said I was gonna’ have to testify.” Frank frowned. “Never been in a courtroom. Not sure what to do.”

“Frank, I’ve been in plenty of courtrooms,” Johnny laughed. “They swear you in on a Bible, so you answer truthfully, then you just answer their questions. Can’t imagine it being a long trial.”

“Don’t feel bad about old man McLean,” Frank lamented. “Kinda’ feel bad about that boy, Jamie. Think they’ll hang him, too.”

Johnny hadn’t given any thought to Jamie McLean since the day he was tied to the tree waiting to be hanged. Closing his eyes, he could see Jamie was the spitting image of his brother Billy. If he hadn’t killed Billy McLean all those years ago, none of this would have happened.

Johnny opened his eyes, “Frank, what do you say we talk to Val and see what can be done about the boy. I’m responsible for his brother’s death. Don’t want to be responsible for his, too.”

“You think Val can do something?” Frank leaned over looking at the ground. The movement caused his leg to ache. He rubbed it to ease the pain.

Johnny watched his friend’s pain and sighed.

“Frank, I haven’t thanked you for saving my hide out there that day. It shouldn’t have been you taking the bullet, should have been me. I’m sorry you were hurt, sorry anyone was hurt.”

“Johnny, you aren’t responsible for me gettin’ hurt. The blame for everything that happened lays at Henry McLean’s doorstep. From what I’ve heard the man is just plain loco. He thinks you’re dead, you know.”

Johnny smiled, “Gonna’ be a hell of a surprise when he sees me in the courtroom, ain’t it.” The smile left his face, “No, Frank, it was my fault. If my bullet hadn’t killed Billy McLean, then his father wouldn’t have been here. A whole lot of people were hurt or threatened because of what I did. I’m gonna’ make sure it won’t happen again.”

Frank looked at Johnny. He noticed his friend was pale and his breathing was hard. He looked over his shoulder to see Murdoch standing in the doorway. The look on Frank’s face put the older Lancer in motion.

Murdoch walked up and put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

“Are you ready to go back in?” Murdoch asked seeing the same thing Frank had.

Johnny looked up at his father’s smiling face. “Sure, Murdoch. Guess I’m not as ready to be up and about as I thought I was.”

Murdoch helped Johnny to his feet.

“Thanks for keeping me company, Frank,” Johnny said as he turned toward the door. “Maybe we can play some checkers tomorrow.”

“Sure, Johnny,” Frank answered watching Murdoch help Johnny into the house.

Frank wondered what Johnny meant about not letting anyone hurt or threaten them again.


Three days before the trial the prosecuting attorney came to the ranch with Val. Johnny hadn’t been looking forward to the visit.

As the tall, clean-shaven man stepped down from the buggy, Murdoch met him with an extended hand.

“Mr. Lancer, I’m Adam Sloan,” the man said as he shook Murdoch’s hand. “I’ll be prosecuting the case against the McLeans.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Sloan,” Murdoch replied as he turned to see Scott walking up beside him. “This is my oldest son, Scott.”

“Mister Lancer,” Sloan shook Scott’s hand.

“The name’s Scott, Mr. Sloan,” Scott returned the handshake with a smile. “Mr. Lancer is Murdoch; otherwise it gets confusing.”

“Scott, then,” Sloan smiled back.

“Please come inside,” Murdoch waved his hand toward the door. “We were about to sit down for lunch. I know Val’s hungry, I hope you are also.”

“That’s very nice of you, Mr. Lancer. I am hungry,” Sloan answered as he followed Murdoch into the house.

“Murdoch, Johnny upstairs?” Val asked as they entered the Great Room.

“Yes, Val. Maria was about to take a tray up to him. Why don’t you take it up and let him know Mr. Sloan is here, then come back down to eat.”

Val walked into the kitchen to see Maria putting the finishing touches to the tray. She looked up at Val with a smile, “Hola, Senor Val. You will stay for lunch?”

“Si, Maria. I wouldn’t pass up one of your meals,” Val answered with a smile of his own.

“You will take this up to Juanito?” Maria picked the tray up and handed it to Val.

“Sure will. I’ll be back down in a few minutes. Make sure they save me something,” Val grinned as he took the back stairs to the second floor. Val walked down the hall to Johnny’s room, not bothering to knock; he pushed the door open. Johnny was sitting up in bed.

“Hey, Val,” Johnny greeted his friend with a smile.

“Hey, yourself. I brought up your lunch. It looks like Maria’s trying real hard to fatten you up.”

Johnny looked at the plate on the tray as Val sat it across his legs. He shook his head. “I can’t eat all this, and she knows it,” he grumbled.

Val looked at the food on the plate and frowned. It was about half of what Johnny would usually have eaten.

“The prosecuting attorney’s here. Name’s Sloan. He’ll be wanting to talk to you in a while. You go ahead and eat. I’m going back down and eat with the others,” Val hesitated as he watched Johnny pushing the food around on his plate.

“You alright, hijo? You hurtin’?”

“Naw, I’m fine, Val. You get something to eat. Tell the attorney I’m ready to talk when he is,” Johnny answered and took a bite of his lunch.

Once Val left the room, Johnny sighed and put down his fork. He wasn’t hungry. There was too much on his mind. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the headboard, wishing the trial was over.


 “Mr. Lancer,” Adam Sloan said as he lifted his water glass to his lips, “I need to get all the facts from you and your sons about what happened the day the McLeans came here. I know your son wasn’t the only person injured by the McLeans. I’ll need to talk to those men as well.”

“We had several men injured, on two separate occasions. What are the charges against the McLeans?” Murdoch asked as Val came to the table.

“Henry McLean is being charged with attempted murder, assault, resisting arrest, and kidnapping. The charges against Jamie McLean are assault, attempted murder, and kidnapping. If convicted both will hang,” Sloan answered.

The men at the table let the information sink in. None of them gave a second thought to Henry McLean hanging for what he did to Johnny, but having the 16-year-old boy hang was another matter.

Johnny had spoken to Val about the situation with the younger McLean. Val knew Johnny would want to talk to the attorney as well.

As they finished lunch, Murdoch asked which of the wounded men the attorney wanted to see today. Sloan said he needed to speak to all of them.

Scott excused himself to find Cipriano. He’d let Cipriano bring the injured men to the house.

“While we wait on your men Mr. Lancer, I’d like to speak to your youngest son. I understand he’s still recovering from his injuries. Do you feel he is up to talking to me?” Sloan asked as he pushed back from the table and stood up.

“I’m sure he is,” Murdoch stood, looking at Val. “Val, how did he look when you took him his tray?”

“He looked alright; still a little pale,” Val answered also standing. “Didn’t seem to have much of an appetite.”

“Let me go up and check on him. Val, if you’ll bring Mr. Sloan up in a few minutes,” Murdoch turned to the front stairs.

As Murdoch left the room, Sloan picked up his briefcase and waited with Val. It wasn’t long before Scott came back into the room.

“I’ve asked our Segundo to bring the men in,” Scott told Sloan.

“Murdoch’s gone up to see if Johnny is ready to see Mr. Sloan,” Val told Scott as the three men waited.

Scott looked at Val. He needed to talk to Val, though now wasn’t the time.

Shortly, Murdoch came to the top of the stairs. He motioned for the three waiting men to come up.

Murdoch led the way into Johnny’s room. The lunch tray had been set aside, and Johnny sat at a chair near the window. Val noticed Johnny was now dressed. He smiled knowing Johnny wouldn’t have wanted to have a conversation with the attorney wearing a nightshirt.

After everyone was in the room, Murdoch motioned for Sloan to sit down in the chair opposite Johnny with a small table between them. Murdoch and Scott sat on the side of the bed, and Val stood, leaning against the wall.

“Mr. Lancer, it is nice to meet you,” Sloan shook Johnny’s hand before sitting down.

“Mr. Sloan, the name’s Johnny. The old….my father is the only Mr. Lancer around here,” Johnny answered.

“Of course, Johnny,” Sloan responded with a smile, remembering Scott had said almost the same thing. “Now, I need to know what happened and when it happened. I’ve spoken to Doctor Jenkins, and he’s explained your injuries.”

Sloan shifted in his chair and scanned his notes.

“I’ll tell you what I can. There’s a lot I can’t remember,” Johnny looked up at Val.

The news Johnny couldn’t remember wasn’t news to Murdoch and Scott. They were sure there were memories Johnny had blocked and never wanted to be reminded of.

“Well, then let’s see what you can remember,” Sloan looked around the room. He could see
understanding on the faces of the young man’s father and brother. The Sheriff had his head down, staring at the floor.

For the next half-hour, the four men went over the events as they had occurred, starting with the day the McLeans rode into Lancer looking for Johnny. It became evident to everyone Johnny wasn’t in any condition to be sitting up for long periods.

Finally, Sloan looked at his notes and frowned.

“Johnny…,” Sloan hesitated. “There is no doubt in my mind Henry McLean’s attorney is going to claim insanity on McLean’s part in the events that occurred. To substantiate his claim, they are going to attempt to discredit you.”

“You mean their gonna’ turn this whole thing around and make it my fault?” Johnny knew exactly what Sloan was saying. He already felt it was his fault.

“Are you saying McLean’s attorney is going to say that, because of who my brother once was, Henry McLean was justified in what he did?” Scott was on his feet.

“Not who he was, Scott, who he still is. The events in Nogales were only a few months ago and are still fresh in the public’s mind,” Sloan leaning forward. “Johnny Madrid isn’t a thing of the past. Madrid is flesh and blood, and he’s here and now.”

Johnny dipped his head and took a deep breath. Sloan was saying everything he’d tried to tell Murdoch and Scott for over a year. Hearing someone else say the words slammed into him like Zak McLean’s fist in his gut.

Scott started to say something, but Val cut him off.

“Now, calm down, Scott,” Val pushed off the wall.

Scott looked at Val and then at his brother. He could see both had expected this. Scott sat back down.

“So, it won’t be Henry McLean on trial next week; it’ll be John. Won’t it?” Murdoch asked watching his youngest son.

“I’m going to do everything I can to keep it from happening. However, I must tell you that Johnny’s…,” Sloan was cut off by Johnny himself.

“You mean Madrid is gonna’ to be on trial. I figured,” Johnny huffed bitterly. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

“John?” Murdoch was up and at Johnny’s side. “Mr. Sloan, I think John needs rest. Can we go back downstairs? Do you have any more questions for him?”

Sloan could see Johnny was in pain. Beads of sweat had formed on his face. “Of course, just one more question. Johnny who put the rope around your neck?”

Johnny slowly raised his head and looked at Sloan. When Sloan saw Johnny’s eyes go cold, he visibly shivered.

“You want to know what happened?” Johnny’s voice had gone low and soft.

Sloan’s eyes were fixed on Johnny. He’d witnessed the change come over the young man and didn’t know what to think. Everyone else in the room knew that Sloan was now talking to Johnny Madrid.

Eyes now cold and dark, Johnny continued to speak, “Henry McLean told me I should have killed him when I had the chance. When he put the rope around my neck, he pulled it down tight, real tight; so tight I felt it cut into my neck. You know what he said?” Johnny paused, before leaning across the table toward Sloan. “He leaned in close and said this was one ‘dance’ he was going to enjoy watching.”

Johnny fell back into his chair; the color drained from his face.

Sloan paled and looked down at his notes. Clearing his throat, “Well, I think I’ve got enough for now. I’ll see you on Monday.”

“I’ll help Johnny back to bed,” Val stated, looking at Murdoch and Scott. “I’m sure Cipriano has the other men downstairs by now.”

Murdoch placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder and gently squeezed. “I’ll be back up in a few minutes.”

Everyone left the room except Val.

“Come on, hijo, let’s get you back to bed.”

Johnny leaned forward in the chair and tried to push himself up. He didn’t have the energy. Val helped him up and to the bed. Johnny took his shirt off and tossed it across the room.

Val looked at the bandages around the boy’s waist relieved there was no blood showing.

“You gonna’ be able to do this on Monday?” Val asked as he helped Johnny into a nightshirt.

“I’ll do it. Wish the hell it was over. You gonna’ be testifying?” Johnny asked as Val helped him out of his pants and into bed.

“Yeah. Sloan’s asked me questions about the gunfight with Billy McLean. Told him it was a fair fight and Billy called you out,” Val pulled the bedcovers up to Johnny’s waist and smoothed them down.

“Yeah,” Johnny closed his eyes and laid back into his pillow. “Maybe it would have been better if I’d let Billy win that day.”

“You know you’re talking like a fool. Billy didn’t win that day, and he’s not gonna’ win on Monday. Now, lay back there and go to sleep. You look like hell,” Val growled as he picked up the lunch tray and started for the door.

“Thanks, Papi,” Johnny replied with closed eyes.

Val stepped into the hall and looked at the tray in his hands; it had barely been touched. Shaking his head, he went back downstairs.

Adam Sloan spent time with all of the wounded men before finally starting back to town. He decided only two of the seven wounded on the initial attack by McLean would be needed to testify. He started back to town leaving Val behind to talk to Murdoch and Scott.

Once Sloan was gone, Val turned to the two men, “You know this trial ain’t gonna’ be pretty. I don’t care what Sloan said. There ain’t no way he’s gonna’ keep Madrid out of this. Both of you are gonna’ hear some things you won’t be happy about, and you’re gonna’ get angry. I want you both to know that up front. You just make sure you don’t take your anger out on Johnny. He’s got enough on him right now without you two turning on him.”

“Val, we know how you feel about John. Trust me when I say we feel the same. Nothing is going to change that. Johnny is not at fault here,” Murdoch answered their friend.

“No, he ain’t at fault, but he thinks he is. He’s blaming himself for the whole mess,” Val replied. “He don’t look good, and I can see for myself he’s not eating. I don’t know what going through his head right now, but we’d better figure it out before he does something none of us are gonna’ be happy about.”

Val stepped into the saddle.

“Are you coming for Sunday dinner?” Murdoch asked, hoping Val’s presence would cheer Johnny up.

Val nodded, “Wouldn’t miss a Sunday dinner. Besides, I’ll need to give Johnny a good talking to about his appetite.”

“Maria’s trying, but nothing is getting through to him. Maybe you can,” Murdoch responded. “See you on Sunday.”

Murdoch and Scott watched as Val rode away. Cipriano had taken the wounded men back to the bunkhouse and was starting to walk back toward them.

“Patron,” Cipriano stopped next to Murdoch, “I will have the men ready on Monday to go to town.”

“Thank you, Cipriano. I want some men to ride with us as well for protection,” Murdoch answered.

“Si, Patron,” Cipriano nodded. “How is Juanito today?”

“Tired. I’m on my way up to see him now. I know he would like to see you later when you have time,” Murdoch answered.

“Si, I will come this evening after supper,” Cipriano said as he turned back toward the corral.

Scott looked at his father. “Sir, you know most of the town is going to be in the courtroom on Monday?”

“Yes, I know,” Murdoch rubbed his hands on his face. “I’m not looking forward to next week. I don’t know about you, but I could use a drink right now.”

Scott nodded his agreement.


Monday came sooner than any of them could imagine. Two surreys were readied for transporting everyone to town. Frank and two other wounded Lancer hands, Jake and Bob, were in one surrey, while Johnny rode in the other with his family.

Johnny had gotten stronger during the previous week. Though in Sam’s opinion he still wasn’t in any condition to make the long and jarring ride into Green River.

Sam waited by the surreys for the family to come out. He’d already checked on Frank and the other wounded. He wasn’t happy about any of them making the trip into town.

Sam was taking his own buggy. He was leaning against the buggy wheel when he saw the family coming.

Murdoch led the way with Teresa beside him. He helped her onto the seat and turned to watch as Scott came out with his brother. Johnny was pale and his loss of weight noticeable. His slow gait reminded a worried father that his boy was still in pain.

Johnny carried a small bag with him. As he approached the surrey, he tossed the bag behind the rear seat. Turning around, Johnny saw Sam coming toward him.

“I’m alright, Sam, don’t fuss,” Johnny frowned.

“I’m sure you are, however, if you’ll humor me, I’d appreciate it. I’ll determine just how alright you are,” a smile matched the gleam in the doctor’s eye. “Go ahead and get in.”

Scott helped Johnny into the surrey sitting directly behind Teresa. Sam waited for Johnny to get comfortable before taking his wrist and checking his pulse.

“If you have any pain, you tell me. Scott, watch your brother. I’m not happy about him making this trip.” Sam looked at Scott who nodded his understanding.
Cipriano rode up followed by nine men on horseback who would be guarding the little caravan of wagons. They were still taking no chances there were any of the McLean family around to cause problems.

They were ready to leave for town when Val rode under the arch. The look on his face told them there was trouble.

“Val?” Murdoch asked as he stopped the surrey.

“Trouble?” Johnny sat up straighter.

“Yeah, trouble,” Val growled. “Words got out about the trial. A couple of gunhawks rode in last night. Expect they’re gonna’ cause problems. We know them, Johnny, it’s Barlow and Wyatt.”

Johnny lowered his head. He’d half expected this. He and Val had talked about it a few nights earlier. Johnny had secretly practiced his draw since he was allowed out of bed.

Val looked at Johnny, knowing what he was thinking. “Well, come on, let’s get into town. Trial starts at 9:00.”

Val rode beside the surrey as they continued into town.

Scott looked at his brother. “Are you alright?”

Johnny smiled. “Yeah, I’m fine. Listen, Scott, if there is gunplay in town today, I want to make sure everyone stays out of it. Don’t want to have to worry about you or the old man. Don’t want to worry about any of the men, either.”

“You really think we’re going to let you face anyone in your condition? Little brother, you still have a lot to learn about family,” Scott answered with a smile on his face.

“And you, brother, still have a lot to learn about a gunfight,” Johnny’s reply was dead serious. “No, Scott, you make sure everyone stays clear. I have to worry about any of you, and it could get me killed.”

He could see he wasn’t making an impact on his brother.

“Murdoch,” Johnny reached forward, tapping his father’s shoulder, “stop!”

Murdoch pulled the surrey to a halt. Johnny stepped out and looked back at the men who were with them.

“You all heard what Val said about gunhawks in town. If there is gunplay today, I don’t want any of you involved. You stay out of it. No one gets hurt today because of me. Do you understand?”

Johnny looked at the faces of his friends. He couldn’t stand it if any of them were hurt again because of him. Satisfied, he’d gotten his message across he stepped back into the surrey, nodding for his father to continue.

Val looked down at his friend. He’d been with the boy long enough to know that whatever happened in town today, Johnny would take care of it himself. He would be there to make sure it was legal.

Sam’s buggy was directly behind the family’s surrey. He’d been watching Johnny closely. After a particularly rough stretch of road, he saw Johnny shifting around in the seat trying to get comfortable.

Scott reached for his brother and tried to pull him closer to him. Johnny shook his head and wrapped his arms around his waist. It was when Johnny relented and leaned into Scott that Sam knew they were in trouble.

Sam looked up at the tall rider next to his buggy. “Slim, go up and tell Murdoch to hold up I need to check Johnny.”

Slim nodded and kicked his horse’s sides.

“Boss,” Slim called out to Murdoch as he reined his horse in. “Doc says to pull up. He wants to check Johnny.”

Murdoch turned in his seat to see Scott with his arm around his brother and Johnny leaning on his shoulder.

“Whoa,” Murdoch called out as the surrey came to a stop. Murdoch turned in the seat and looked behind him, “John?”

“He’s in pain,” Scott said as Sam walked up beside the surrey with his bag in his hand. He leaned in as Scott pushed Johnny back upright.

Sam took Johnny wrist. His pulse was racing and his breathing hard.

“Is it your ribs or the incision that’s hurting?” Sam asked still holding Johnny’s wrist.

“Both,” Johnny answered after hesitating.

“Which hurts worst?” Sam was unbuttoning Johnny’s shirt so he could look at the bandages around his waist.

Johnny thought for a moment, “The bullet wound. Pain is deep down.” He put his hand over where it was hurting.

Sam frowned and brought out his stethoscope.

“Sam?” Val asked.

“I’m going to give him something for the pain. When we get to town he needs to rest,” Sam answered as he dug in his bag for the small bottle of laudanum.

Johnny was frowning.

“It is either this, or we turn around right now. I wasn’t happy about you doing this. I’m not going to risk your life, and I’m not going to see you in pain,” Sam stated firmly.

Johnny nodded as Sam handed him the bottle. Johnny looked at the bottle resigning himself to having to take the bitter medicine. He sipped a small amount and gave the bottle back to Sam.

Sam shook his head. He knew Johnny hadn’t taken enough to stop the pain completely.

“Sam, you said he needed to rest. How long?” Val asked.

Sam thought for a moment. “At least two hours. When we get into town, we’ll go to my house. All of the wounded need to lay down. Johnny and Frank need to rest the most.”

“I’ll ride on ahead and talk to the Judge and let him know what’s happening,” Val said as he stepped up into the saddle. “Meet you at your place, Doc.”

They watched as Val rode away. Once Sam was satisfied no one else needed anything for pain they started toward town again.

Johnny leaned against Scott. He hadn’t meant to take a large enough dose of the laudanum to put him to sleep. However, he soon felt his eyes closing.

Scott smiled as he heard Johnny’s breath even out and he started leaning more heavily into him.


Murdoch led the small caravan directly to Sam’s house. Johnny woke up enough to get out and into the house. Sam put Johnny and Frank to bed and checked on the other two wounded men.

Once he was satisfied everyone was resting quietly, Sam sat down. Murdoch handed him a cup of coffee and sat with him.

“Tired?” Murdoch asked his friend, already knowing the answer. The events of the last two weeks had taken its toll on everyone, especially the elderly Doctor. Murdoch knew his friend worried about Johnny as much as he did.

“Once this is over, I think I’m going to take a day off and go fishing,” Sam said as he sipped the hot coffee.

“You really think that’s going to happen?” Murdoch snorted.

Sam sighed, “No, but it does sound good, doesn’t it?”

The two sat quietly enjoying the coffee.

Murdoch looked at Sam starting to say something when the sound of the front door opening and the closing drew their attention. Val came in with a grim look on his face. Scott and Teresa were behind him.

“Well?” Murdoch asked.

“Judge said he’d postpone for an hour. Trial starts at 10:00. Sloan was willing to postpone until tomorrow. McLean’s attorney objected. Said his clients had been waiting long enough,” Val rubbed his hand over his face. “Did the best I could.”

Everyone looked at Sam.

“Frank, Jake, and Bob will be able to go over by 10:00. Johnny…,” Sam was interrupted by the sound of the door behind him opening.

“Will be ready by 10:00,” Johnny finished the sentence as he entered the room buttoning his shirt.

Val looked at Johnny knowing that look. He’d spent too many years with Madrid and knew there would be no sign of weakness today.

“John, are you sure you’re up to this?” Murdoch was on his feet walking toward Johnny.

Johnny nodded.

“There is something else,” Val spoke up. “Jamie McLean’s attorney, Frank Jordan, is trying to get the kid tried separately from his father. It seems they don’t want the boy tried as an adult.”

Scott frowned, “That means everyone is going to have to testify twice.” He wasn’t looking forward to his brother being raked over the coals more than once.

Val nodded.

Johnny sighed, “Val, I need to talk to Sloan.”

“I can make that happen. Give me a few minutes,” Val said as he turned and left the room.

A half hour later everyone was seated in the courtroom. Murdoch, Scott, Johnny, and Teresa sat behind the prosecuting table. Frank, Jake, and Bob were sitting behind them. The courtroom quickly filled.

Behind the defense table sat several men and a woman. Johnny was watching the woman. She was in her late forties, with red hair. He figured she was McLean’s wife.

Precisely at 10:00 Val brought Jamie McLean into the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles. The woman Johnny had been watching was on her feet instantly. The boy looked at his mother, giving her a weak smile.

“All stand,” Val announced and everyone stood. “Judge Jonas Wilcox presiding.”

“Be seated,” the Judge said. “Alright, what do we have today, Sheriff Crawford.”
Sloan stood.

“Adam Sloan, representing the State of California, your honor.”

The defense attorney stood.

“Frank Jordan, representing defendant Jamie McLean, your honor.”

“The defendant will stand,” Judge Wilcox said, clearing his throat.

Jamie McLean stood at the urging of his attorney.

Val moved forward and took a piece of paper from the desk next to the Judge’s bench.

“Your honor, this is the State of California versus Jamie McLean. Jamie McLean is charged with assault, attempted murder, and kidnapping.”

“How does the defendant plead?” the Judge asked.

“Mr. McLean pleads not guilty, your honor,” Jordan stated.

Adam Sloan stood up, “Your honor, if I may.”

“Mr. Sloan,” the Judge acknowledged the attorney.

“May I approach,” Sloan looked at the defense attorney and then back at the Judge.

The Judge looked at both men and waved them forward. The rest of the courtroom couldn’t hear what was said between the three men. However, the defense attorney turned and looked at his client, Jamie McLean and then at Johnny.

“Step back,” the Judge instructed.

The two attorneys went back to their places.

“Proceed, Mr. Sloan,” Wilcox said.

“Your honor, the State wishes to amend the charges against Jamie McLean.”

“How so, Mr. Sloan?” the Judge asked.

“After speaking with the injured parties in this matter, the State wishes to drop the charges of attempted murder and kidnapping as it pertains to the defendant Jamie McLean. We also wish to amend the charge of assault to one of simple assault.”

There was a murmur in the courtroom. Jamie’s mother let out a sob and sigh of relief.

“Order in the court,” Wilcox pounded his gavel. “This is very unusual, Mr. Sloan. Before I approve the amended charges, I want to hear from the injured parties,” Judge Wilcox said leaning back in his chair.

“Your honor, this is John Lancer,” Sloan said as he looked at Johnny. He motioned for Johnny to stand up.

Johnny pushed himself up from the chair keeping the look of pain or discomfort from his face as he did. Truth be told he was ready to go back to Sam’s and lay back down.

“Mr. Lancer, do you agree the charges against Jamie McLean should be amended?” the Judge asked.

“Yes, sir, I do,” Johnny answered and looked to his left at Jamie McLean.

“Very well then. You may be seated. Jamie McLean, please stand,” the Judge looked at his notes.

Jamie McLean and his attorney stood up.

“Jamie McLean, you have been charged with simple assault, how do you plead?” Judge Wilcox asked.

Jamie looked at his attorney, then over at Johnny. He couldn’t believe the man he’d hated for so many years was giving him a second chance. He turned around and looked at his mother. She had suffered more than any of them. She had lost two sons and was about to lose her husband.

“Guilty…,” Jamie’s voice broke as he said the words. “Guilty, your honor.”

“Very well, young man. We don’t need a jury for a simple assault charge. Sheriff, how many days has Mr. McLean been in jail?” the Judge looked at Val.

“He’s been in jail 15 days, your honor,” Val answered.

“Has he given you any trouble during that time, Sheriff?” Wilcox was shuffling papers around.

“No, sir. No trouble at all,” Val replied.

Judge Wilcox looked at his notes before looking at Jamie again. “Mr. McLean, I am sentencing you to thirty days in jail. However, 15 days of that will be time served, and 15 will be a suspended sentence. You are remanded to the custody of your mother. I understand your home is in Arizona. I expect you to return home as soon as possible.”

The Judge took a deep breath and took off his glasses. “Mr. McLean, I can only tell you that you are a fortunate young man. If not for the decision Mr. Lancer made today; you would most likely have been found guilty of more severe charges.”

The Judge looked around the room. “Court is adjourned. Our next case will be heard this afternoon at 2:00.”

“All rise,” Val said as the Judge stood and left the room.

The room erupted in happy voices. Mrs. McLean took her son in her arms and held him close. Val walked over to the boy and took off the handcuffs and leg shackles.

Johnny kept his seat. He wanted to wait until everyone was out of the room before standing up again.

Val made sure everyone was out of the courtroom and walked over to Murdoch.

“The trial is gonna’ be going on until at least tomorrow. You’re gonna’ have to stay in town. Since all of you are witnesses, the State is paying for your hotel rooms. I’ll go over and get them set up for you,” Val said as he looked around at Johnny.

Sam moved forward, “I want Johnny to rest now. He can lay down at my place. Frank, how do you feel?”

“I’m feelin’ pretty good, Doc. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go over to the saloon with the boys and wait there until we have to come back,” Frank answered looking around at Bob and Jake.

“Alright, however, if any of you feel tired, I need you to come to my place and rest,” Sam said as he moved to help Johnny up.

Johnny pushed himself up and waited a moment for a wave of dizziness to fade. He followed Sam, with everyone else behind them. Once outside Frank, Bob and Jake turned toward the saloon.

Outside the courthouse Murdoch found Cipriano waiting with the men who had escorted the family into town.

“Cipriano, send five of the men with Frank, Bob, and Jake. Tell them to watch out for any trouble. I want you and four men to come with us. I want someone watching Sam’s while Johnny rests. We’re going to be in town a couple of days. Get rooms for the men at the hotel,” Murdoch said as they moved off.

Cipriano split the men up, and he and four men followed Murdoch and the family to Sam’s house. Val went to the hotel to make room arrangements for everyone.

Once they were back at Sam’s, Johnny gladly took off his boots and unbuttoned his shirt. He laid down on the bed and was asleep in moments.


Sam Jenkins stood in the doorway of the bedroom, watching the sleeping man with interest. Even in sleep, Johnny Lancer was never completely still. Sam could see his young patient and friend was in pain even as he slept.

Sam walked over to the bed and put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

“John,” Sam gently shook the shoulder.

Johnny slowly woke with a moan. He blinked several times looking at the man standing over him.

“Time to go?” Johnny asked as he sighed and took a deep breath. It hurt to breathe. Then there was the deep pain in his side; a pain that never seemed to go away.

“Soon,” Sam replied. “I want to take a look at you before we go and I want you to eat something.”

Johnny nodded and tried to relax.

“Where does it hurt?” Sam said as he took Johnny’s wrist. His pulse was too fast for someone who had just woken up.

Without speaking Johnny moved his left hand and put it over the incision on his right side. “Hurts deep down; a constant pain.”

Sam palpated the area where Johnny indicated. He frowned feeling a spot that seemed harder than the surrounding area.

“I’m afraid there’s an abscess. The only way to correct it is to go back in and fix it,” Sam said as he took his stethoscope out and listened to Johnny’s heart.

“Open me up again?” Johnny asked.

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” Sam answered as he put the stethoscope away.

Johnny shook his head and started pushing himself up from the bed. “It’s gonna’ have to wait,” Johnny flinched as he threw his legs off the side of the bed.

“I know you want to wait for the trial to be over. As soon as it is and we get you back to Lancer, I’ll do the surgery,” Sam said as he stood back waiting to see what Johnny’s answer would be.

Johnny looked up at him with a smile on his face.

“Sure, Sam, whatever you say,” Johnny looked back down at the floor. He knew once the trial was over, he would be facing the two gunhawks who had ridden into town. If he was still around after that, he’d let Sam fix him up.

“Alright, let’s get you dressed and something to eat. I want you to take it easy. If you feel too tired to continue today, you let me know. I’ll get Jonas Wilcox to call a recess,” Sam said as he helped Johnny to stand.

Johnny nodded his understanding and agreement.


“All rise,” Val announced, as Judge Wilcox walked into the courtroom.

“Be seated,” Wilcox said, moving to his seat.

Wilcox cleared his throat and shuffled papers on his desk. Looking at Val, the Judge nodded before speaking.

“Sheriff Crawford, which case are we dealing with?” Wilcox asked already knowing the answer. He already knew all the aspects of the case, and he knew the testimony today was not going to be pleasant.

The jury of 12 men sat on one side of the room. Adam Sloan sat at the prosecution table. The Lancers and all the witnesses for the prosecution sat behind him.

On the other side of the room sat the defense attorney. Wilcox was surprised it was not the same attorney who had been defending Jamie McLean. Instead, sat a defense attorney Wilcox knew well.

Jerome Phillips was a clean-shaven, heavy-set man in his mid-forties. He was also well known in San Francisco as a more than competent defense attorney. Phillips was ruthless in Wilcox’s opinion. He’d witnessed Phillips win many cases he’d thought were airtight for conviction.

Val stood up, picked up the sheet with the charges listed and began to read.

“The State of California versus Henry McLean. Mr. McLean is charged with assault, four counts of attempted murder, resisting arrest, and kidnapping,” Val concluded and moved to the side.

“How does the defendant plead?” Wilcox asked.

Phillips stood and looked down at his client. Henry McLean hadn’t moved. Phillips answered, “Jerome Phillips for the defense, your honor. My client pleads not guilty.”

“Very well. I’ll hear opening arguments,” Wilcox stated and leaned back in his chair.

Adam Sloan took the floor to address the jury.

Stepping forward Sloan began, “Gentlemen of the jury, you are here today to determine the guilt of Henry McLean. The prosecution will prove without a shadow of a doubt that on the 15th of this month, under the instruction of Henry McLean, Mr. John Lancer was taken by force from his home and beaten.
“Henry McLean then tried to kill John Lancer by hanging him. When that failed, Henry McLean used lethal force to keep anyone from helping Mr. Lancer, who was injured and bleeding. Finally, Henry McLean refused to surrender to Sheriff Crawford when ordered to do so. I am confident you will find Henry McLean guilty of all charges.”

Sloan sat down.

Jerome Phillips stood up and looked at the jury.

“My client, Henry McLean, is not guilty of any of the charges presented here today. I will prove Henry McLean was driven to his actions by reason of insanity. Driven mad by the actions of John Lancer, also known as Johnny Madrid.”

A loud murmur rose up in the courtroom. Wilcox beat the gavel against the bench. “Silence…. silence in the courtroom. Continue Mr. Phillips.”

Phillips smiled, he had gotten the reaction he wanted, “Once this case is heard, I am confident you will find my client not guilty.”

Phillips sat down.

Johnny moved uncomfortably in his seat. He knew Sloan was right. It was Johnny Madrid who was going to be on trial.

“Mr. Sloan, call your first witness,” Wilcox said.

“The prosecution calls Murdoch Lancer.” Sloan looked to Murdoch.

Murdoch took the stand. His testimony covered the events of the initial raid on Lancer on the 12th of May, as well as the events on the 15th when the McLeans broke into his home and kidnaped Johnny. His testimony ended with getting Johnny home.

Jerome Phillips stood and approached the witness stand.

“Mr. Lancer, in your testimony you said that the first time you met Henry McLean was on the 12th of this month?” Phillips stated.

“That’s correct,” Murdoch answered.

“So, in your opinion, it was the events on the 12th of this month, that led up to what happened three days later?”


“Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that the events in Tucson almost three years ago finally culminated in Mr. McLean’s actions on the 15th?”

“I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t in Tucson,” Murdoch could see where the questioning was going.

“Mr. Lancer, at any time on the 15th of this month did you see a gun in the hands of the defendant?”

Murdoch hesitated. “No, I didn’t see a gun in his hand, however…”

Phillips cut him off, “A yes or no answer will suffice, Mr. Lancer.”

“Did you see the defendant strike your son at any time on the 15th?”


“In your testimony, you stated you saw the defendant put a rope around your son’s neck. Were you close enough to hear anything he said to either your son or anyone else?”


“Did you see the defendant actually fire a shot at anyone on the 15th?”

“Gunfire was coming from the rocks where he was hiding.”

“I’ll repeat the question. Mr. Lancer, did you see, with your own eyes, the defendant actually shoot at anyone?”


“No further questions.”

Murdoch stepped down from the stand. He wasn’t quite sure what had just happened.

“Mr. Sloan,” Judge Wilcox said, “call your next witness.”

“The State calls Scott Lancer to the stand,” Sloan said as he turned and watched Scott leave his brother’s side.

After Scott was sworn in, he took his seat. Sloan went over the events of the 12th and then of the 15th. Scott ended his testimony also with the arrival of his brother back at Lancer.

Phillips stood up and walked to stand in front of Scott.

“Mr. Lancer, what is your relationship to John Lancer?”

“John is my brother,” Scott answered.

“Don’t you mean your half-brother?”

“I mean my brother,” Scott answered firmly.

“Of course. Mr. Lancer, how long have you known your ‘brother’?”

“A little over a year.”

“A year. When you first met your brother did you know he had gone by another name?”

“Not at first.”

“When did you learn your ‘brother’ had gone by the name of Johnny Madrid and he was a notorious gunfighter?”

“I learned he was a gunfighter two days after meeting him. I didn’t learn he went by the name of Madrid until several days after that.”

“Were you afraid of your ‘brother’ when you found out what he did for a living?”


“Mr. Lancer, I remind you that you are under oath.”

“I was uncertain of him at first, but never afraid of him.”

“Your honor, I want to present a letter the witness wrote to his grandfather a few days after arriving in California. The letter was delivered to me this morning, and I have not had time to present it to the court.”

Phillips picked up a piece of paper from his desk and presented it to the Judge.

“Your honor, if I may,” Sloan said as he walked to the front of the room. He took the letter and read it.

“Go ahead, Mr. Phillips,” Wilcox said.

“Mr. Lancer, isn’t it true you grew up in Boston and your grandfather raised you?”

“Yes,” Scott answered.

Phillips continued, “I am going to read a letter you wrote to your grandfather last year. The letter states and I will read it to the court:

“Grand-father I have met my half-brother. I do not know what to make of him yet. I have found out he is a notorious gunfighter and goes by the name of Johnny Madrid. I have to admit he frightens me.

Phillips sat the letter down.

“So, your testimony that you were not afraid of your half-brother was inaccurate.”


Scott was watching Johnny’s face. He saw Johnny Lancer vanish and Johnny Madrid had entered the courtroom.

“Mr. Lancer, so you were frightened of you ‘brother’?”

“Yes, but …,” Scott was cut off.

“A simple, yes or no. Mr. Lancer, how good is your brother with a gun?”

“My brother is very good with a gun. I’m sure he’d be glad to give you a demonstration if you wanted him to,” Scott’s eyes were firing daggers at Phillips.

Phillips swallowed and turned away. He began to doubt his line of questioning.

“Well, yes, I’m sure he would. From what I hear he can be quite intimidating,” Phillips said turning to look at the jury.

“Is that a question?” Scott asked.

Phillips hadn’t meant it as a question, but now…, “Yes, it is.”

“Yes, my brother can be intimidating and frightening… to anyone who threatens either him or his family,” Scott answered. “Johnny is extremely protective of his family.”

Phillips glanced at Johnny. The cold, hard glare he was receiving told him he needed to move on.

Phillips walked away a few feet.

“Mr. Lancer, did Henry McLean ever enter John Lancer’s room on the 15th?”


“Did Henry McLean force John Lancer from his room?”


“Did you ever see a gun in the hands of Henry McLean on the 15th?”


“Did you see the defendant strike John Lancer at any time on the 15th?”

“I don’t know.”

“You said you saw the defendant put the rope around the neck of John Lancer. Were you close enough to hear anything that was said either to John Lancer or anyone else?”


“Did you actually see the defendant shoot anyone that day?”


“No further questions.”

“Cross-examine, Mr. Sloan?” the Judge asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Sloan answered and picked up the letter Phillips had quoted from earlier.

“Mr. Lancer, did you write this letter?” Sloan held up the letter Phillips had read from and handed it to Scott. Scott looked at the letter. It was a letter he’d sent to his grandfather three days after Pardee’s raid on the ranch. He wondered how Phillips had gotten it.

“Yes,” Scott sighed.

“How long had you known your brother when you wrote it?”

“Not more than a few days. I wrote it while Johnny was still in bed recovering from a gunshot wound.”

“How was he wounded?”

“Day Pardee shot Johnny in the back as he was drawing Pardee’s men toward the hacienda.”

“Let me read another part of this letter Mr. Phillips neglected to read. Oh yes, let’s see:

“I have to admit he frightens me. However, at the same time, I stand in awe of him. I have never met anyone like him before. I have heard the men talk about Johnny Madrid and find that my brother is a legend. I am anxious to get to know him and have him get to know me.”

“So, Mr. Lancer, have you gotten to know your brother?”

“Yes, I have,” Scott smiled looking at Johnny.

“Are you still afraid of him?”


“Do you trust him?”

“With my life.”

“How do you feel about him now?”

“I love my brother, Mr. Sloan.”

“No further questions.”

Scott stepped down never taking his eyes off of Johnny. Johnny had a slight smile on his face.

Johnny turned to Sam and whispered something in his ear. Sam tapped Sloan on the shoulder and relayed Johnny’s request for a recess.

“Your honor,” Sloan spoke up. “May we take a recess at this point?”

“Good idea, Mr. Sloan,” Wilcox had noticed Sam Jenkins and Johnny talking. He had spoken to Sam before the trial and had been told to expect delays due to Johnny’s injuries. “It’s now 4:00. I am going to stop the proceedings for today. We will resume tomorrow morning at 9:00.”

“All rise,” Val said as the Judge stood and left the room.

Val started to take McLean out of the room. As Val passed Murdoch he leaned over, “I’ll be over to the hotel as soon as I get this one settled.”


As the Lancers left the courthouse, they turned toward the hotel.

Johnny scanned the street the moment he stepped onto the boardwalk. It didn’t take him long to see the two gunhawks.

Johnny had taken his coat off in the courtroom and laid it over his left arm. As the group moved down the boardwalk, he pushed the coat it into Scott’s arms.

Scott took hold of the coat and looked at his brother. He had no idea why Johnny wanted him to have it. In the next instant, he knew.


The name resounded off the buildings along the street. Everyone on the street stopped and looked toward the man who had spoken.

Johnny was flanked on either side by Scott and Murdoch. Frank, Jake, and Bob had been walking ahead of the group while Cipriano, and a few of the hands were following behind.

Johnny turned slowly with his hands out to his side, palms up and stepped off the boardwalk into the street. He looked at the two men and realized Val was walking down the boardwalk from the jail.

“Barlow… Wyatt….” Johnny drawled as he stared the two men down.

“Damn, if it isn’t you,” Barlow said with a grin on his face. “Look who it is Wyatt. Madrid you must have more lives than a cat. We keep hearing about you getting yourself killed and you just keep turning up.”

“Yeah, lucky me. What do you want Barlow?” Johnny answered. “Why are you here?”

Johnny could see the attorneys Sloan and Phillips standing several feet away. The members of the jury were also watching.

“Just visiting. Thought we’d talk over old times. Haven’t seen you since you headed up that fracas over in Abilene, what was it three, four years ago,” Barlow answered.

“As I remember you weren’t too happy with me back then. Can’t see we have much to talk over,” Johnny never took his eyes off the men.

“Now, Madrid, you know what we want,” Wyatt said.

“I don’t hire my gun out anymore, and as you can see, I’m not carrying,” Johnny gave them a crooked smile.

Barlow frowned and nodded. “So, I see. The next time we meet you better be carrying.”

Val put himself between the two gunfighters and Johnny. “You two need to move along now. If you don’t, I might arrest you for loitering.”

Wyatt smiled, “Well, if it ain’t Val Crawford. Didn’t think you’d be too far away if Madrid was here.”

“It’s Sheriff Crawford now, and the man just told you the way it is. I don’t want any gunplay in Green River,” Val responded. He turned to Johnny, “You were headed for the hotel. Go on now.”

Johnny gave him a lingering look before slowly turning and stepping onto the boardwalk. He took his coat from Scott and led the rest of the way to the hotel.


Murdoch, Scott, Val, Sam, and Cipriano sat quietly while Johnny wore off his anger. The men in the room had watched him pace back and forth for almost twenty minutes now. They all knew it was Madrid and not Lancer in the room with them.

Sam had given Johnny a dose of laudanum when they got back to the room. He knew it was the only thing keeping him going now.

Murdoch started to say something to Johnny when Val put a hand on his arm and shook his head, giving him one of those ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you’ look. It had only taken Murdoch a second to realize Val was right.

Scott stopped watching the back and forth movements of his brother some time ago. He had started to get dizzy. Now, he was looking at a fixed point on the floor in front of him.

Finally, Johnny stopped pacing. He quickly turned and looked at everyone with a frown on his face.

The sudden stop caused everyone to jump.

“Pretty damn funny Barlow and Wyatt showed up outside the courthouse, isn’t it?” Johnny stated looking at Val.

“I was thinking the same thing,” Val answered wishing the boy would sit down. “Especially with all the attorneys and the jury coming out about the same time.”

“You believe someone set you up?” Scott asked looking at the expression on his brother’s face. Scott could see Johnny flex his right hand and tap it against his thigh.

“Damn right I do,” Johnny snapped.

“It’s a good thing you didn’t have your gun with you,” Murdoch spoke up. The thought of what could have happened this afternoon was still causing his stomach to churn.

“I wouldn’t have let a gunfight happen this afternoon. Johnny’s still under my protection until this trial is over,” Val said.

Johnny let a smile form on his lips. “Like that would have stopped them. If I’d been carrying you couldn’t have stopped it Val, and I wouldn’t have wanted you to get into the middle of it.”

Val started to protest and then thought better of it. Johnny was right. If he had worn his gun, there was little he could have done to get between Johnny and the other two gunfighters.

“Sloan wants to meet us downstairs for dinner. I suggest we clean up and go down,” Murdoch said as he stood up.

“Cipriano, he wants you and Frank there as well. We’re using the private room at the back of the dining room.

“Si, Patron. I will get Frank. What of Jake and Bob?” Cipriano asked.

“Ask them to join us as well. Sloan didn’t mention them, but since they’re here as witnesses, I think they should know everything we know,” Murdoch answered as he went to the door.

Sam stood up and walked over to Johnny. “John, I want to check your wounds before dinner.”

Johnny nodded and looked at Murdoch, “We’ll be down as soon as Sam’s finished with me.”

Everyone cleared the room except Johnny and Sam. Johnny unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off his shoulders. Sam opened his bag and took out a pair of scissors. He started cutting the bandage around the young man’s waist.

Sam didn’t say anything until he took the final bandage from around Johnny’s ribs. “You were in pain back in the courtroom?”

Johnny nodded. “Started hurting pretty good there at the end. That’s why I needed to see you outside. Hadn’t intended the Judge to call an end to the day.”

“It was just as well,” Sam said as he started examining the wound on Johnny’s side. There was still redness at the incision point. “Are you still experiencing pain here?” Sam touched and pressed on an area at one end of the incision.

Johnny hissed and pulled back at the pressure.

“I take that as a yes.” Sam reached for fresh bandages.

“Yes,” Johnny hissed through his teeth, his body now covered in sweat.

A few minutes later Sam finished putting on new bandages and wrapping Johnny’s ribs.

“Sam, tomorrow I’m gonna’ have to testify. I want you to give me something for the pain before I get up there on the stand,” Johnny said as he lowered his arms and reached for his shirt.

“I can do that,” Sam replied as he started putting his things away.

“After the trial tomorrow when we leave the courtroom, I need you to give me some more.”

“Why?” Sam asked stopping what he was doing.

“I’m going to need to move my right arm tomorrow afternoon. Barlow and Wyatt are going to be waiting for me,” Johnny answered as he gingerly put in his shirttail.

“I suppose you want me to stay close by as well?” Sam frowned.

“May not be a bad idea, Sam. Someone is gonna’ need you. It will either be one of them or me,” Johnny’s meaning was clear.

“Do you believe you’re up to taking them?” Sam asked as he leaned against the table in the room, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Barlow and Wyatt are two-bit gunhawks. I could beat them with my eyes closed. Not sure why they think they can take me. Even with this,” he pointed to his side, “I won’t have no trouble taking them down.”

Johnny finished and sighed. “It isn’t ever gonna’ end, Sam. This trial is gonna’ bring them out like buzzards to a dead carcass.”

Sam put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “It will end someday, son. Just give it time. Eventually, Johnny Madrid will fade away.”

“Don’t know if I’ve got that much time, Sam. My reputation is too big. There are too many out there who want it. One of these days someone is gonna’ get hurt again or die because of me. I can’t let anything happen to Murdoch, Scott, Teresa, or anyone else because of Madrid.”

He didn’t say anymore even though Sam was sure there was something else Johnny wanted to tell him.

“Best we get down to dinner and get this over with. I’m about ready to call it a night right now,” Johnny said as Sam reached into his bag and brought out the small brown bottle of laudanum.

Sam took the bottle and handed it to Johnny. Johnny grimaced at the taste of the bitter medicine and followed it with a glass of water.

As he started to leave the room, Johnny reached for the bag he’d brought. He brought out his holster and gun.

Sam watched as Johnny wrapped the holster around his hips, tightened it and then pulled it even tighter. Bending over, Johnny tied the holster securely to his leg.

Sam didn’t say anything.

Once downstairs Johnny and Sam made their way to the hotel dining room. When they entered all conversation in the room stopped.

Sam looked amused. “I’m assuming they haven’t stopped talking because of me,” he said looking around the room.

“No, Sam, I’m afraid it’s because of me. Happens to me a lot,” Johnny smiled and saw Murdoch at the back of the room waving to them.

Johnny moved into the room, not letting the stares of the other diners affect him. At the same time, Johnny was aware of everyone in the room and found none of them to be a threat. He nodded to a few people he knew as he made his way to his father.

Murdoch put a hand at Johnny’s back and ushered him into the private dining room. Inside the room, the others were already seated.

“We knew you were here when everything out there got quiet,” Scott laughed. “You do have a way of silencing a room, little brother.”

Johnny laughed, “It’s a gift.”

Everyone joined in the laughter.

Adam Sloan had spent a great deal of time with the Lancers and some time alone with Johnny. He was still a little in awe. Sloan had done his research on Johnny Madrid and had been amazed at the young man’s exploits.

Sloan watched Johnny enter. It was obvious he took immediate command of the room. He also noted Johnny’s gun was now present.

Adam Sloan had realized at the onset of his preparation for the trial he was dealing with more than the injuries of this young man. He was dealing with the legend of Johnny Madrid. He’d witnessed for himself the instant transition of Johnny Lancer into Johnny Madrid. He still
wasn’t sure which was going to show up on the stand. There was no doubt the next day’s testimony was going to be the pivotal moment in the trial.

Everyone ordered dinner while the conversation steered away from the trial. Cipriano, Frank, Jake, and Bob seemed uncomfortable about being with the group. Johnny saw their discomfort and started a conversation to include them. Soon, they were all comfortably listening to a story Johnny was telling about Scott’s early days at Lancer and an incident that involved Cipriano, Frank, and Jake. By the time the story was over everyone was laughing including Sloan.

After everyone had eaten, Sloan pulled out a notepad and a pencil. He looked around the table, his eyes finally coming to rest on Johnny.

“I can see where Phillips is going with his questions today,” Sloan said.

“I can too,” Johnny spoke up.

Scott looked at Sloan questioningly.

“Phillips is going to try to get Henry McLean off by claiming he was insane at the time he kidnapped Johnny and tried to hang him,” Sloan said.

“How?” Murdoch asked looking around the table.

“His questions thus far have been aimed at Johnny as Madrid,” Sloan answered.

“So, he’s going to imply that Johnny Madrid drove McLean to insanity?” Sam asked.

“That’s precisely what he’s going to try to do,” Sloan answered.

“What about the other charges?” Val joined in.

“Henry McLean has been charged with assault, attempted murder, resisting arrest, and kidnapping. Phillips is slowly whittling away at the charges.

“The assault charge thus far, in my opinion, has been disproved. Phillips is going out of his way to imply Henry McLean did not have a gun in his hand at any time during the day or if he did, he didn’t fire it. He has shown it wasn’t Henry McLean who took Johnny from his room by force and against his will. From talking to Johnny, Henry McLean wasn’t the one who hit him. I’m sure once the testimony of Cipriano and Frank is heard the assault charges will be dismissed.

“The next hurdle Phillips will have is the attempted murder charge. He’s going to try to prove that…. well… that it was justified because…”

Johnny spoke up, “Because he thinks I murdered his son.”

“Yes, but McLean doesn’t just think you murdered Billy, he believes it,” Sloan answered, watching Johnny’s reaction. “However, Sheriff Crawford was there at the time. His testimony will show it was a fair fight, Billy McLean called you out, and he drew first. I will show it wasn’t murder.”

Johnny lowered his head and sighed. He didn’t say anything.

“What about shooting Frank that day. Surely that was at least attempted murder, if not assault,” Scott leaned forward onto the table.

“Can any of you say it was Henry McLean who pulled the trigger that put the bullet in Frank’s leg?” Sloan looked around the table.

“No, but…,” Scott shook his head. “We were all there except Jake and Bob. We know McLean was doing the talking. He’s the one who wouldn’t let us get Johnny to a doctor. He’s the one who was waiting for Johnny to bleed to death.”

Scott looked at his brother and saw him visibly pale.

“Yes, you can all testify it was McLean talking, but can you honestly say he fired a shot that day?” Sloan looked at Frank.

Frank shook his head, “I had my back to them when we were carrying Johnny out. I don’t know who shot me. My guess is whoever it was, was aiming at Johnny and not me.”

Sloan tapped the pencil on the table, “There you go.”

“What about putting a rope around my brother’s neck?” Scott was getting angry now.

Johnny pushed himself up in his chair and leaned on the table. He was ready for the evening to be over and needed to lay down.

“Face it. Henry McLean is going to walk tomorrow. The jury is going to listen to all the dirt Phillips is going to bring up about me and then look at McLean. The man lost two sons, a nephew, and a brother because of me. No one is going to care that he tried to hang a gunfighter. Hell, I’d let him go. Looking at your faces, I figure you’d let him go, too.

“By the time Phillips is through tomorrow…” Johnny shook his head. “It ain’t worth it. Mr. Sloan, I don’t want my dirty laundry hung out so that it’s gonna’ hurt Murdoch or Lancer. I don’t care if Henry McLean gets off or not.”

“Well, I do,” Scott spoke up. “He tried to kill you. McLean gave the orders that got Jake and Bob shot on the first day. For all we know he’s the one who shot you. He gave the orders for his sons to take you from your home. He almost lynched you. It was Henry McLean who kept us from getting you help right away. You almost died because of that man. I almost lost my brother because of that man.” Scott’s voice had gradually increased in volume until he was almost yelling his last words.

Johnny smiled. “Maybe you should have been on the jury, Boston. No one is gonna’ see it that way, and Mr. Sloan over here knows it. Don’t you?” Johnny looked at Sloan.

“I don’t want my son hurt more than he already has been, Adam,” Murdoch spoke up. “I know your questions tomorrow aren’t going to do that. I also know Phillips is going to do everything possible to drag Johnny through the mud.”

“We just can’t ignore what McLean did, Murdoch,” Sloan responded.

“So, who really is going to be on trial tomorrow?” Scott inquired, frustration evident in his voice. “Is it going to be Henry McLean or Johnny Madrid?”

Sloan didn’t answer. He didn’t have to. Everyone at the table knew exactly who was going to be on trial.

“What about Jake and me?” Bob asked. “Are you going to have us testify? We weren’t shot on the 15th. All we can tell anyone was what happened after we got drug out of the bunkhouse and into the yard.”

“I’m not sure I’m going to call either of you. It would just strengthen Phillips case that Henry McLean wasn’t the one who dragged you to the yard or pushed the rest of you into the guardhouse,” Sloan answered.

“At least you two got a nice room at the hotel and some free meals on the State,” Val spoke up.

Jake and Bob both smiled.

“Johnny, tomorrow isn’t going to be comfortable for you,” Sloan pointed out as he looked at the ex-gunfighter. “You were in pain this afternoon. Do you think you can sit through the questioning?”

“How long will he be on the stand?” Sam asked, speaking for the first time.

“I have no idea. I plan first to call Cipriano and then Val. I want to call Johnny after that and then you Sam, to testify as to the injuries. Johnny’s testimony may take most of the day.”

“In that case, I want to make sure he rests before he’s cross-examined,” Sam responded watching Johnny’s face.

“Don’t worry. I can do it,” Johnny spoke up and then hesitated. “You were out front this afternoon. What …?”

“The gunfighters who were waiting for you?” Sloan interrupted. “Yes, I thought it was convenient they just happened to be there. Phillips work more than likely. I see you’re wearing your gun. Do you expect trouble?”

Johnny let a crooked smile form on his lips. “I always expect trouble. Those two will leave me alone until after I testify.”

Murdoch frowned, “John, you don’t have to face them.”

“Yeah, I do,” Johnny answered. “Just like I told everyone yesterday. When the time comes, stay out of it. Cipriano, you make sure the men stay clear. No one else is going to get hurt because of me.”

Johnny looked around and pushed his chair back.

“Guess I’ll go stop the conversation out there and head to the room.” Standing, Johnny tossed his napkin onto the table and turned to the door.

Sloan and the others watched as Johnny opened the door to the private dining room. The hotel dining room became deathly quiet. Johnny looked over his shoulder and smiled.

“See you in the morning.”

Johnny sauntered across the dining room and into the hotel lobby. The level of noise in the dining room didn’t start to rise until he was heading up the stairs.

Sloan looked at the others in the private dining room. He didn’t know what to say.

“I think I’ll call it a night too,” Scott smile as he pushed his chair back. “Got to go tuck him in.”

“I’ll be up in a little while and tuck you both in,” Murdoch chuckled.

Val stood up and stretched. “I gotta’ make my rounds and then check on McLean. My deputy is gonna’ watch him tonight.”

“Patron, we will also leave you,” Cipriano said as he motioned for Frank, Jake, and Bob to follow him out.

“Adam, Sam, join me for a drink before we turn in?” Murdoch asked. Both men nodded agreement.

The waiter cleared the table and brought drinks for Murdoch, Sam, and Sloan.

As they sat quietly drinking, each man with his own thoughts, Murdoch looked up at Sloan. “Adam…?”

Sloan cut him off, “Murdoch, I know what you are going to ask. Phillips is going to do everything he can to discredit Johnny tomorrow. I have a feeling a lot of what is going to be said will be painful not only for Johnny but for the rest of you. I can’t dismiss the case. If we don’t go through with the trial, we will be encouraging vigilante justice in California. We can’t do that.”

Murdoch nodded and turned to Sam. “Is he going to be able to tolerate being on the stand that long?”

“He has already asked that I give him something for pain before the trial starts in the morning. If I need to, I will give him something at lunch. Murdoch, I think you should know he’s asked for something after the trial adjourns tomorrow afternoon.”

Murdoch looked at him and cocked his head.

“He expects to be in a gunfight tomorrow afternoon,” Sam answered the unasked question.

Murdoch hung his head.

Sloan cleared his throat. “Murdoch, does this type of thing happen often?”

“Too often, Adam. My son has tried to walk away from his past. His past, however, will not allow him to do it. Perhaps, someday, people will forget Madrid.”

“Realistically, do you think that will ever happen? Murdoch, I can tell you that Johnny Madrid is far from being forgotten,” Sloan stated as he finished his drink. “Good night, gentlemen. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Sam looked at Murdoch and sighed. He knew his old friend had been thinking the same thing.


The next morning Scott dressed and went downstairs to breakfast. Johnny told him he’d be down shortly.

As Johnny began to dress, he looked at the suit he’d been wearing. He shook his head.

“No,” he thought, “if they’re gonna’ try Johnny Madrid, then Madrid’s going to be in the courtroom.”

Johnny reached into the bag he’d brought with him and pulled out another set of clothes and dressed.

Everyone had been waiting for Johnny in the dining room. Scott started to ask Murdoch a question when the room suddenly went quiet. Scott knew right away; his brother was there. Looking up, Scott saw Johnny standing in the doorway.

Scott almost laughed as he realized Johnny Madrid was coming to breakfast.

Sloan’s mouth fell open as he watched Johnny enter the room. He wore his red shirt and dark bolero jacket. The black leather calzoneras with silver conchos on the legs shined in the light of the room.

Sloan saw Johnny stand for a moment in the doorway, giving the room a glance. There wasn’t anything about the dark-haired man that didn’t demand attention. Johnny captivated the room and held it suspended. For the first time, Sloan knew what it was like to be in the presence of a legend.

Johnny walked across the room, spurs ringing.
Stopping in front of the table, Johnny looked at Murdoch and gave him a slight smile.

Realizing he was sitting in the chair with his back to the wall, Murdoch stood up and motioned Johnny to sit down. Murdoch moved around the table and took the seat with his back to the open doorway.

Sloan was brought out of his musings by Johnny.

“Morning,” the young man greeted them with a smile.

When Sloan saw Johnny smile, it was like the room lit up.

“Good morning,” Sloan answered. “I see you’ve decided how to deal with Phillips today.”

“Yep,” Johnny answered as he picked up a cup of coffee the waiter nervously set down in front of him. “Figured Phillips is gonna’ be talking about Johnny Madrid, he might as well meet him.”

Sloan simply nodded and went back to his breakfast. As he ate, he had an idea. He pulled Johnny aside as they started to leave the dining room.


Johnny told Murdoch, Scott, Sam, and Val what Sloan had suggested. Val grinned at the idea. Johnny went back to the room and changed clothes. As Sloan had requested, he put the suit back on he’d worn the day before.

As scheduled, the trial resumed at 9:00.

Sloan called Cipriano and Frank to the stand. They testified to what had happened from their point of view.

Phillips’ questions were the same as they had been for the others. Phillips still putting forth the notion that Henry McLean hadn’t assaulted anyone and had not fired a shot that day.

Sloan called Val to the stand. Val’s deputy swore him in.

“Sheriff Crawford, you were at the Lancer ranch on the 15th of this month, were you not?” Sloan asked.

“I was,” Val answered.

“Why were you there?”

“I was visiting my friend Johnny Lancer. I wanted to see how he was doing.”

“Can you tell the court what happened that day?”

Val continued his testimony telling how the McLeans had taken everyone at the ranch prisoner and then forced Johnny onto a horse and rode away. He told them about the hanging and how he and Walt had dragged Johnny to safety. He finished his testimony for the prosecution with telling of the arrest of Henry and Jamie McLean.

“Sheriff Crawford, did you see a gun in Henry McLean’s hands?”

“Like I said, he was behind the rocks during the fighting. When I went over to him, he had a rifle.”

“No further questions, however, I would like the right to recall the witness.”

Sloan sat down.

Jerome Phillips stood up.

“Sheriff Crawford, how long have you been Sheriff of Green River?”

“Right on 13 months now.”

“And before Green River what did you do?”

“I was the Sheriff in Temecula.”

“For how long?”

“Around two years.”

“And before that?”

“I was a gunhawk.”

There was a murmur in the courtroom.

“I see. How long were you a ‘gunhawk’?”

“Right on 15 years.”

“15 years. That’s a long time in that profession, isn’t it?”

“Guess you could say so.”

“Sheriff Crawford, did you know Johnny Lancer before coming to Green River?”

“Didn’t know him as Lancer until I got here.”

“What name did you know him by before he used the name Lancer?”

Val looked at Johnny. Johnny nodded at Val with a smile.

“I knew him as Johnny Madrid.”

Again, there was a murmur. The Judge hit his gavel on the desk. The room silenced.

“Do you know if he has used any other names besides Madrid and Lancer?”

Val thought for a moment. He could honestly answer this one.

“No, never heard him with any other last name except Madrid or Lancer.”

“So, you know Johnny Lancer as Johnny Madrid. How well did you know him?”

“Well enough. Johnny and I rode together,” Val answered knowing Phillips and everyone else had heard what Barlow and Wyatt had said about Val and Johnny knowing each other years before.

“How old was Johnny Madrid when you met him?”

“I met Madrid when he was 12,” Val made sure the word Madrid was clear.

Sloan frowned a little and made a note to himself.

“What was he doing when you met him at 12 years old?” Phillips seemed to have missed the implication.

“He was in a gunfight in Nogales.”

“I take it you were not involved in the gunfight against Johnny Madrid?”

“I’m still alive and sitting here, ain’t I?” Val chuckled.

There was laughter in the courtroom.

“So, I take it from what you are saying that anyone who has gone up against Johnny Madrid is no longer among the living?”

“You could say that. There are a few like Henry McLean still walking around but not many.”

There was laughter again. The Judge hit his gavel against the desk.

“Did you start ‘riding’ with Johnny Madrid at that time?”


“How long did you ride together?”

“Four years, give or take.”

“Four years. So, Johnny Madrid would have been 16 when you stopped riding with him?”

“Sounds about right.”

“Why did you stop riding with him?”

“I took the job in Temecula as Sheriff.”

Phillips nodded.

“So, Sheriff Crawford, in the four years you were with Johnny Madrid how many men did you see him gun down?”

Val’s eyes narrowed. He looked at Johnny. He could see his friend sigh and close his eyes. Johnny looked up and nodded.

“Never saw him gun down anyone. I saw him in gunfights. I don’t rightly know how many. I’m assuming you’re asking about how many face-to-face gunfights, is that right?”

“That’s right. How many gunfights was Johnny Madrid in face-to-face in those four years?”

“I don’t know an exact number.”

“Would it be more than 10?”


“More than 20?”


“More than 30?” Phillips let his voice crack.

“Could be, I don’t know for sure.”

“In your testimony only moments ago, you said that anyone who faced Johnny Madrid in a gunfight is most probably dead. Are you saying Johnny Madrid has killed at least 30 men in gunfights and possibly more?”

Val hesitated. “Yes.”

There was an eruption of talking the in the room. Johnny glanced sideways at Murdoch. He could see color rising on his father’s neck.

“Silence in the court,” the Judge quieted the room. “Any further interruption and I’ll have the room cleared.”

“You were with Johnny Madrid in Tucson when he faced Billy McLean?”


“Do you know how many gunfights Billy McLean had been in?”


“His first gunfight was against Johnny Madrid. Since Johnny Madrid had won over 30 gunfights by the time he met Billy McLean, would you say it was a fair fight?”


“I’m curious, Sheriff Crawford, how was it fair?”

“Billy McLean called Johnny out. McLean drew first. It was a fair fight.”

“Madrid could have refused to fight Billy McLean.”

“Is that a question?” Adam Sloan asked, coming to his feet.

“Yes, it is,” Phillips responded.

“In that business, you can’t walk away from someone who is trying to gun you. Billy McLean wanted Madrid’s reputation. He wouldn’t have walked away. Johnny had no choice but to face him.”

“When you arrested Henry McLean, did he resist you?”

“Not at the time I actually arrested him. He had refused to come out earlier. He and the three others kept us pinned down so we couldn’t get Johnny any help.”

“Did you see Henry McLean fire any shots that day?”

“No, but he had the rifle when I arrested him.”

“Had the rifle been fired?”

Val thought for a moment. “Damn,” he thought.

“I didn’t check to see if it had been fired.”

“So, he didn’t resist you when you came face-to-face with him, and you have no idea if he fired a weapon that day. Is that right?”

“That’s right.”

“No further questions your honor,” Phillips said and went to sit down.


Adam Sloan stood up.

“Sheriff, going back to that day in Tucson. How did the gunfight come about?”

“Johnny and I were sitting in the saloon talking to a fellow who wanted to hire us. Billy McLean came in and started talking loud, pushing Johnny. Finally, McLean called Johnny out.

“Johnny tried to talk him out of it like he does most of the time.

“McLean wasn’t buying into it. They walked out into the street. Johnny tried again to talk the kid out of drawing, even offered to go back in and buy him a drink. McLean was set on fighting. Thought he was faster than Johnny.

“Johnny let the kid draw first. The kid never cleared leather when Johnny’s bullet hit him.
In my book that’s a fair fight.”

“Sheriff Crawford, could Johnny Madrid have wounded Billy McLean versus killing him?” Sloan asked turning away from Val, looking at the jury.

“I don’t think so, but that’s a question you’ll have to ask Johnny.”

“Sheriff on the 15th of this month when Johnny Lancer was taken from his home by force, who gave the order for him to be taken?”

“Henry McLean.”

“Who put the rope around John Lancer’s neck?”

“Henry McLean.”

“Who hit the horse that caused John Lancer to be hung?”

“Henry McLean.”

“No further questions.”

“You may step down, Sheriff,” the Judge said and looked at his pocket watch. “It’s 11:50 now. We’ll resume court at 2:00 when you can call your next witness, Mr. Sloan. Court’s adjourned,” Judge Wilcox said as he stood.

Val stood up and stretched. Tired and frustrated, he slowly walked over to stand in front of Johnny.

Johnny looked up at him, giving him a faint smile.

“Sorry, amigo,” Val growled out.

“You told the truth, Val. Nothing to be sorry about,” Johnny looked around to see that everyone had left the room except Murdoch, Scott, Sam, and Sloan.

Sloan walked over and looked at Val. In a low voice, he said, “What was that all about?”

“What?” Val questioned.

“When he asked you how long you’d known Johnny?”

“He asked me when I met Madrid. He didn’t ask me how long I’d known Johnny,” Val grinned.

Sloan cocked his head. “There is a difference?”

“Well, yeah,” Val answered, dipping his head, “there is.”

Sloan looked around the room to make sure they were alone.

“So, tell me the difference.”

Val looked at Murdoch who nodded. “Go ahead, Val. He needs to know. We don’t want him blindsided.”

“I’ve known Johnny for right at 15 years now.”

Sloan thought for a moment. He looked at Johnny. “How old are you?”

“Nineteen,” Johnny answered.

“15 years?” Sloan instantly saw the implications. “So, you knew Johnny as a child, when he was… five years old?”

Val nodded. “That’s right, but he wasn’t Madrid then. He didn’t start using the name Madrid until he was 12 years old.”

Sloan groaned. He realized the Sheriff had known Johnny’s mother, Murdoch’s wife. There was going to be enough mud-slinging in this trial without that particular piece of information being made public.

“So, where you with Johnny during his entire childhood?”

Val shook his head. “No. I only knew him for about a year until he was 6. Didn’t see him again until that day in Nogales when he was in the gunfight.”

“Alright, let’s get some lunch and, Johnny, I think Sam wants you to rest. I’ll see you all back here at 2:00. It is going to be a long afternoon,” Sloan said as he gathered his papers and left the room.
Johnny went back to the hotel and laid down. He had to admit he was exhausted. The laudanum Sam had given him that morning was starting to wear off. His ribs and side were hurting again.

Scott came in with sandwiches and coffee. Johnny didn’t want it but knew he needed to eat. He forced himself to sit on the side of the bed and took the sandwich from Scott.

Murdoch knocked at the door and then stepped into the room.

“Are you alright, son?” Murdoch asked as he sat in a chair across from Johnny, taking one of the sandwiches Scott offered.

“I’m fine. I’ll lay down as soon as I finish this,” Johnny held up the sandwich.

“Val did alright,” Scott commented as he ate his sandwich.

“I guess so,” Johnny answered not looking up. “Phillips is going to ask me how many men I’ve killed. Murdoch, I saw your reaction to Val’s answer. I don’t think you’re gonna’ like my answer any better.”

Scott had paled when Val answered the question, and he’d seen his father’s reaction.

“John, my reaction wasn’t to the answer, but that the question was asked at all. It doesn’t make any difference how many men you’ve killed. I learned a lot about you last year when we were in Mexico and on the way home. To my knowledge, you have never killed a man who didn’t draw on you first. Henry McLean tried to kill you. He tried to kill my son…and my son… is being put on trial here.

“I know the question will be asked again. I know the answer is one none of us will be comfortable hearing. I wish the entire town wasn’t listening to this trial. Johnny, I don’t want you hurt again. I know Phillips is going to hurt you, maybe not physically, but emotionally.
We’re a family, son. We stand together as a family, and we take care of each other. You answer truthfully. You don’t worry about me, or Scott, or Teresa, or anyone else.”

The determination in Murdoch’s voice caused Johnny to smile.

“Are you going to tell us or are we going to have to wait to hear with everyone else,” Scott asked quietly, sipping his coffee.

Johnny shook his head. “Scott, I don’t know.” He looked up at his father and brother. “I don’t know an exact number of face-to-face. I stopped counting a long time ago.”

“Maybe we need to discuss this with Adam before the trial resumes. Johnny lay down now and rest. We’ll come to get you at 1:30 and give you time to freshen up before we go back into the courtroom.”

Johnny nodded and handed his half-eaten sandwich to Murdoch. He took his boots off and laid down, wincing as he tried to relax.

Murdoch spread a blanket over Johnny.

“Rest now, we’ll be back,” Murdoch brushed his hand across the boy’s forehead pushing his hair back.

Johnny smiled. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. Soon he heard Scott and Murdoch leaving the room. He knew he wasn’t going to sleep. There were too many faces floating before his eyes; faces of the men he’d killed.

He was going to have to come to terms with one of those faces this afternoon. The face of Billy McLean was as fresh today as it was three years ago.


Before Johnny returned to the courtroom, Sam came to check on him. After making sure the bandages were tight on his ribs, Sam gave him a small dose of laudanum.

As the courtroom filled Johnny’s chair was conspicuously vacant. Scott looked around the room. For two days he’d sat on the front row behind Adam Sloan. Murdoch was on one side of Johnny and him on the other. Sam was sitting beside Scott. Teresa sat next to Murdoch. On the row behind sat Frank, Jake, and Bob along with Cipriano.

Once everyone was seated, Val brought Henry McLean into the courtroom. McLean had sat quietly for two days now, just staring off into space. It was as if he heard nothing that was going on in the room. Val told them McLean was the same in his jail cell.

McLean’s wife and his son Jamie occupied the seats behind the defense table. In the rows behind them sat the rest of the McLean family.

The remainder of the room soon filled with spectators from the town.

As the Judge entered, Val asked everyone in the courtroom to rise.

As Judge Wilcox sat down, he noticed the absence of John Lancer. He looked at Adam Sloan.

“Mr. Sloan, are you ready to continue?”

“Yes, your honor,” Sloan replied.

“Call your witness,” the Judge said impatiently.

“The State calls John Lancer to the stand,” Sloan said loudly, as he turned toward the double doors at the back of the courtroom.

Val moved over and opened the double doors, pulling both of them in toward him. Everyone in the courtroom turned to look at the back of the room.

Johnny was walking through the doorway. He’d changed into his red shirt, black calzoneras and was wearing his dark bolero jacket.

He stopped just inside the doorway and took his hat off, handing it to Val. He then leaned down and untied the tie down on his holster. Standing straight, he scanned the courtroom before slowly unbuckling his gun belt and handing it Val.

Val tipped his head down and hid a grin; Johnny was ever the showman.

Johnny waited a few seconds before starting down the aisle toward the front of the courtroom. The sound of spurs echoed off the wooden floors.

Judge Wilcox swallowed on reflex. He couldn’t remember ever seeing such a sight in his courtroom before.

Adam Sloan quickly hid a smile as he looked over at Jerome Phillips. Phillips’ eyes were as large as saucers, and his mouth hung open.

Val followed Johnny to the front of the courtroom after handing Johnny’s rig to his deputy. He gave Johnny’s hat to Scott as he passed him.

Johnny nodded to the Judge and turned to face the people in the courtroom. You could have heard a pin drop. Johnny looked at Jerome Phillips and gave him his best Madrid glare.

Val picked up the Bible and walked up to his friend, holding it out in front of him.

“Place your hand on the Bible,” Val said seeing the gleam in Johnny’s blue eyes.

“You swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?”

Johnny answered in a perfect drawl, “I do.”

“State your name for the court,” Val already knew what his friend was going to say

“John Ruiz Lancer,” Johnny answered as he looked at Murdoch. He could see a hint of surprise in his father’s face. He was sure Murdoch expected him to say John Madrid Lancer.

“Be seated, Mr. Lancer,” Sloan said as he made his way to the witness stand.

Sloan watched as Johnny stepped around and stood ready to sit.

Johnny took his time. He stood looking out at the courtroom and then let his eyes fall on Jerome Phillips. Phillips met his gaze but couldn’t hold it.

Johnny sat and turned his attention to Sloan.

“Mr. Lancer, what do you do for a living?”

“I’m a rancher.”

“Your ranch is close to Green River?”

“Yes. It’s called Lancer. I own a third of it along with my father and brother.”

“How long have you been a rancher?”

“A little over a year now.”

“And before that, what did you do for a living?”

“I was a gunfighter.” There was a murmur in the court. “It isn’t a secret, and I don’t try to hide it.”

“How long were you a gunfighter?”

“Six years, give or take.”

“Six years. How old are you Mr. Lancer?”

“Just turned 19 in December.”

“So, you’ve been a rancher for a year and a gunfighter for six years prior to that. You were a gunfighter at 12 years old?”

“That’s right.”

“What name did you use as a gunfighter?”

“Johnny Madrid.”

“You are somewhat famous, are you not?”

Johnny smiled, “I suppose so.”

There was laughter in the courtroom. Even the Judge tried to hide a smile.

“Mr. Lancer, before the 12th of this month, had you ever met Henry McLean?”

“No, sir.”

“Had you ever met anyone named McLean before that date?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Can you tell the court about that meeting?”

“It was in Tucson about three years ago. A boy by the name of Billy McLean called me out. I couldn’t talk him out of it. He drew first. I was faster.” Johnny didn’t feel a need to mention that the Army Doctor who had taken care of him in Arizona was Leland McLean, Billy’s uncle, and Henry McLean’s brother.

“You said Billy McLean was a boy. How old was he?”

Johnny shook his head slightly. “Guess he was around 17. At least that’s what Henry McLean said when he came gunning for me.”

“How old were you?”

“Think I’d turned 16 by then.”

“So, Billy McLean was 17, and you were 16, but you called him a boy.”

Sloan didn’t make the statement as a question.

“Tell the court about the events that occurred on the 12th of this month.”

Johnny relayed the story of the attack on Lancer by the McLean family and his gunfight with Henry McLean.

“You were wounded that day?”

“Yes, sir,” Johnny answered and winced being reminded of the pain in his side.

“How bad were your injuries?”

“You’ll have to ask Doc Jenkins. I don’t remember a lot after the fighting was over.”

“On the 15th of the month, three days after the initial attack on Lancer, what happened?”

Johnny took a breath. He told them all he could remember about being woken up and dragged out of the house.

“Do you remember who took you from your room?”

“Zak and Larry McLean.”


“Well, they dragged me out of the house and into the yard. I remember they dropped me onto my knees. Henry McLean was there. His family was holding my family and the ranch hands at gunpoint. Then Henry McLean told them to get me on a horse. I don’t remember too much about the ride. I guess I passed out. The next thing I remember was being tied up, and Jamie McLean was standing guard over me.

I saw Henry McLean stringing a rope up on a tree. I remember Jamie trying to talk his brother Zak out of hanging me. Zak didn’t agree with his brother.”

“Did Zak McLean strike you?”

“Yeah, you could say that. He punched me in the stomach.”

“You hadn’t recovered from the initial wound when he hit you. Did that cause any additional damage?”

“Not sure about additional. Only know it took me to my knees.”

“Did it cause your wound to reopen?”

“No. I had already pulled all the stitches Doc Jenkins put in. They were ripped out when they put me on the horse before we left Lancer.”

“So, you had been bleeding the entire time?”


Johnny watched the color drain from Murdoch’s face.

“Mr. Lancer, I know reliving that day is painful, however, please tell the court what happened next.”

“Zak and Larry McLean put me back on a horse and took me over to the tree where Henry McLean had hung the rope.” Johnny was having a hard time controlling his breathing. He licked his lips. “McLean… McLean put the rope around my neck……. and pulled it tight.”

Johnny involuntarily reached up and rubbed his neck, feeling the rope burn. He didn’t know if he could do this. He didn’t want to remember that day again. He never again wanted to feel that way.

“Did the defendant say anything to you?”

Johnny licked his lips again. “Yeah, he said this was going to be one ‘dance’ he was going to enjoy.”

“What did he mean by that?”

Johnny hesitated. The events of that moment flooded back to him. He closed his eyes. “McLean meant he was going to enjoying seeing me dance at the end of the rope.”

“What happened next?”

Johnny shifted in the chair. He looked around him. He felt like he was trapped.

“I … I don’t remember a lot after that.” Johnny looked directly at Scott. “I think I heard Murdoch’s voice, and then McLean hit the horse. I felt… I remember… I remember hearing a shot just before I blacked out.”

Sloan was watching Johnny closely. He realized the young man was having difficulty.

“Mr. Lancer, do you have any doubt that had it not been for the intervention of your father and brother, you would be dead right now?”

Johnny looked down at his hands. He swallowed hard and looked up. A wave of dizziness swept over him.

“Mr. Lancer?” Sloan gave Johnny a worried look.

“If…. if my brother hadn’t been there to shoot the rope, I wouldn’t be here today. If my father and Val and the rest of men from Lancer hadn’t gotten there when they did….” Johnny’s voice broke. The mask of Madrid slid away.

Scott saw Johnny’s face go pale and knew he was reliving the moment the horse slipped out from under him. The words his brother had spoken still haunted him…I was scared, Scott. I was real scared.
Adam Sloan realized he needed to end his questioning as quickly as possible.

“No further questions, your honor, however, I reserve the right to recall the witness. I also ask for a recess.”

Judge Wilcox looked around the room. It was evident the witness wasn’t the only one who needed a break.

“We’ll take a 30-minute recess.”

Sam had been watching Johnny closely. Recognizing the signs of panic, he was on his feet the moment the Judge brought the gavel down. He made his way to Johnny’s side.

Wilcox stood up and leaned over the bench. “Mr. Sloan, is he alright?”

Sloan wasn’t looking up at the Judge when he shook his head. He didn’t know if Johnny was alright or not.

Johnny had his head lowered and was trying to control his breathing. Reliving the hanging had taken more out of him than he ever thought possible. He looked up; dizziness overwhelmed him again.

“Sam,” Johnny’s whispered, hoarse voice caught Sam’s attention, “get me out of here.”

Val went to get Henry McLean and lead him out of the room. McLean stood up and for the first time seemed to focus on the people in the room.

Sloan and Sam were helping Johnny down from the witness stand when Henry McLean seemed to come alive. He looked at Johnny, eyes wide with recognition.

“NO!” the word roared out of McLean as Johnny moved to the aisle.

The majority of the people who had been in the room had already made their way out the door. Those who remained stood frozen where they were.

Val didn’t have time to react as his prisoner lunged at Johnny taking him off guard and propelling him out of Sam’s grasp. The two men landed on the table Sloan was using for the prosecution, Johnny on his back; McLean on top of him. The loud noise of Johnny’s head hitting the wooden surface sounded like thumbing a melon.

Johnny felt his world explode into a kaleidoscope of shifting colors and pain from injured ribs tore through him as McLean pinned him down.

“You’re dead. I killed you. I killed you,” McLean screamed as his hands closed around the helpless man’s throat.

Teresa screamed as Scott jumped forward, trying to pull McLean off his brother. Val grabbed McLean’s hands, trying to pry them away from Johnny.

Johnny could hear voices starting to fade away. He passed out as McLean tightened his hold.

It wasn’t until Val slammed the butt of his gun against McLean’s head that his hands released an already unconscious Johnny.

Val pulled the prisoner back and told his deputy to shoot the man if he tried anything else.

They all watched as Sam made his way to Johnny who was still laying on his back on the desk, arms sprawled out on either side of him.

“Charlie, get him out of here,” Val told his deputy, pointing at McLean. “Don’t let no one near him.”

Murdoch was at Johnny’s side now. “Sam?”

“We need to get him to my office,” Sam answered.

“We’ll go out the back way,” Val ground out. “Too many people out front. We can’t let them see him like this.”

Sloan looked at Val, “Why?”

“Anyone finds out he’s hurt again it could get him killed. There are gunhawks out front waiting for him,” Val answered as Murdoch leaned over and picked Johnny up in his arms.

Val led the way with Murdoch following. Sam, Scott, Sloan, Cipriano, and the men from Lancer were behind them.

Once outside, Cipriano broke off and hurried around to the front of the building. He motioned for the men who had escorted the family to town to follow him. He explained what had happened as they made their way to Sam’s office.

Jerome Phillips collapsed into his chair shaking his head. He’d never expected his client to attack Madrid. Worse, the jury members witnessed McLean’s attempt to kill the famous gunfighter.

A smile crossed Phillip’s face. He’d just figured out how he was going to get his client off.


Murdoch laid Johnny down on the examination table in Sam’s office. He knew he was alive. He’d felt Johnny’s breath on his neck as he had carried him from the courtroom.

Looking down at his son, Murdoch’s heart sank. He’d told Sloan he didn’t want Johnny hurt again. Someone or something always seemed to be hurting the boy.

Sam ushered everyone out of the room. Twenty minutes later he came out and looked at the faces of the waiting men.

Sam shook his head. “I’ve sedated him. There is trauma to his neck and throat. One bruised rib is now cracked. McLean knocked the wind out of him when he hit him and pushed him onto the table. He has a mild concussion from his head hitting the table. The worst of it is, the incision point has opened up again.”

Murdoch collapsed in a chair and put his head in his hands.

Adam Sloan was trying to determine what to do.

“Doctor Jenkins, have you any idea when he will be able to continue his testimony?”

Sam shook his head. “If it were anyone else, I would say a week. Knowing that young man the way I do, I expect he will be trying to get up by tomorrow. I can talk to Judge Wilcox and explain the medical necessity of him not appearing again until he is physically able.”

“I was going to call you to the stand anyway. I’ll make a motion to hold the cross-examination of Johnny until you release him. I’ll call you to the stand this afternoon,” Sloan stated.

“Murdoch, can Teresa sit with Johnny while we go to the courthouse?” Sam looked at his friend.

“Teresa’s at the hotel. Scott, could you ask Cipriano to go get her?” Murdoch asked as he stood up and walked into the examination room. Looking at his sleeping son, he cringed when he saw the red handprints on Johnny’s neck.


Court resumed an hour later.

Adam Sloan stood and asked to approach the bench. Phillips moved forward as well. In a low voice, Sloan explained Johnny was currently under sedation and would not be able to resume his testimony today. He also told them he wanted to call his next witness and recall Johnny when he was able to return to the courtroom.

Phillips had no choice but to agree with the request.

The two attorneys retook their seats.

Judge Wilcox addressed the court.

“It’s very unusual; however, Mr. Sloan and Mr. Phillips have agreed to hold on the cross-examination of John Lancer until tomorrow. Mr. Phillips, your client has been allowed back in the courtroom. I will not tolerate any further outbursts from him. Sheriff Crawford, you will do whatever is necessary to restrain Mr. McLean.”

Val nodded. He had already put both shackles and handcuffs on the prisoner and attached them to the desk.

“Now, Mr. Sloan, it is my understanding you are going to call your next witness,” the Judge looked at Sloan.

“Yes, your honor,” Sloan responded and stood.

“The State calls Doctor Samuel Jenkins to the stand.”

Sam stood up, moving to the witness stand. After being sworn in, Sloan began questioning Sam.

“Doctor Jenkins, how long have you been a doctor in Green River?” Sloan asked as he moved to stand to the side of the stand.

“Actually, I am the only Doctor for the entire area. I have my main office in Green River. However, I travel to Morro Coyo and Spanish Wells, as well as to all of the ranches in the area. I’ve been here more than 21 years now.”

“Doctor on the 12th of this month where you called to the Lancer Ranch to treat wounded men?”

“Yes, I was.”

“Was John Lancer among those you treated?”


“Can you tell the court the extent of Mr. Lancer’s injuries?”

“Johnny had sustained a bullet wound in his right side. There was some internal bleeding. I had to operate to remove the bullet and repair the damage.”

“So, his injuries were extensive.”

“Definitely. I ordered bed rest for at least a week. He developed a fever that night which complicated the injury.”

“On the 15th of this month, three days later, were you again called out to the Lancer Ranch?”

“Yes, one of the hands came to get me and told me Johnny had been kidnapped. Murdoch, Scott, Val and the men from the ranch had gone after him. Murdoch asked me to come to the house and wait for their return.”

“How long after you arrived at the house did Murdoch Lancer return with Johnny?”
“I waited more than 2 hours.”

“What was John Lancer’s condition when Murdoch Lancer returned with him?

“Johnny was unconscious when they arrived. He was suffering from extreme blood loss, bruised ribs, and rope burns around his neck. The incision from the original operation was fully open. I had to suture the wound. He already had a fever starting which persisted well into the next day.”

“Would you say that until today he was recovering from his wounds?”

Sam’s hesitation caused Murdoch and Scott to frown.

“It has only been 12 days since the initial injury. I wanted him to remain in bed for at least another week before making the trip into town.”

“Is there anything else you can think of the court should know about Mr. Lancer’s injuries?”
Sam hesitated again. He had to word his answer in such a way that he didn’t divulge information Johnny didn’t want his family or anyone else to know.

“Barring any complications and with the proper care, time, and rest I’m sure Johnny will fully recover.”

Now it was Sloan’s moment to hesitate. He hadn’t expected that answer.

“You have treated John Lancer for injuries he sustained earlier today at the hands of the defendant?”

“Objection, your honor. This trial pertains to the events of the 15th of this month.”

“Overruled. You may answer, Doctor,” the Judge responded.

“I did treat Mr. Lancer today. Besides a mild concussion, he sustained injuries to his neck and throat, as well as re-injury to his ribs and re-injury to the incision from the original surgery.”

“Doctor, could John Lancer have died from the injuries sustained on 15th of this month?”

“Yes, he could have, and almost did. Had Murdoch not gotten him back to the house when he did that day he would have bled to death.”

“No further questions.”

“Mr. Phillips,” Judge Wilcox looked to the defense attorney.

Phillips thought for a moment. He wanted to push the Doctor further but felt any additional testimony on the subject of injuries would give more sympathy to Johnny. He did have a thought.

“Doctor Jenkins,” Phillips approached the witness stand, “did you ever treat the defendant Henry McLean?”

“Yes. I treated him for a gunshot wound to his right arm on the 12th of this month.”

“Is Mr. McLean right-handed?”

“I’m not sure. Although, I believe he is.”

“Would the wound you treated have prevented him from firing a gun?”

Sam thought for a moment.

“He may have been able to fire a weapon, but it would have been difficult, and I would imagine painful.”

“Have you treated Mr. McLean since he has been in jail?”


“Doctor, do you feel Mr. McLean is in his right mind?”

“I’m not a psychiatrist, Mr. Phillips. I can’t tell you if he is mentally disturbed or not.”

“Was Mr. McLean responsive to you when you treated him in jail?”

“No, not really. He didn’t respond to any of the questions I posed to him.”

“Doctor Jenkins, would you say, in your professional opinion, that Mr. McLean was in his right mind when he attacked Mr. Lancer in the courtroom today?”

“Objection, calls for speculation,” Sloan jumped to his feet.

“Doctor Jenkins was in the courtroom earlier today. He is a professional, and he has dealt with the defendant before,” Phillips answered.

“I’ll allow it. Go ahead, Doctor,” Judge Wilcox ruled.

“Doctor Jenkins, in your opinion was Henry McLean in his right mind when he attacked John Lancer earlier today?”

“I don’t believe he was thinking rationally,” Sam stated.

“No further questions.”

“Mr. Sloan,” the Judge looked at Adam.

“I have no further witnesses until John Lancer can continue.”

“Very well. Court’s adjourned. I will expect updates from Doctor Jenkins before resuming the trial.”

“All rise,” Val said.


Johnny woke the next morning feeling like he had been run over by a herd of cattle. Every muscle in his body hurt. His ribs were aching and his side was burning. He swallowed and felt like he was choking.

He put his hand to his throat and felt pain shoot through his neck.

Slowly he pushed himself up to sit on the side of the bed.

He let his head clear slowly and tried to remember what had happened. Johnny groaned at the memory of Henry McLean on top of him and the man’s hand around his throat.

Johnny looked around the room for his clothes. His pants lay in a chair with his shirt and jacket draped across the back of it. His holster and gun hung on the bedpost near his head.

He stood up on shaky legs and took a deep breath. It hurt to breathe. He put his hand on his ribs and felt the tight bandages around his torso.

Slowly dressing, he looked around finally spotting his boots and wondered how he was going to get them on. He accomplished his goal 15 minutes later. His reward was his entire body was now covered in sweat. Putting on his rig and picking up his hat, he started for the door.

When he found no one in Sam’s outer office, he wondered where everyone had gone.

Opening the door to the street, Johnny stepped into brilliant sunlight. He quickly put his hat on before stepping outside.

Slim and Walt stood outside the door.

“Johnny, you supposed to be up and about?” Slim asked as he looked around the street for any signs of trouble.

Johnny started to answer, and his voice faltered. Putting his hand on his throat, he responded with a croaky voice, “Where is everyone?”

“Mr. Lancer and Scott are over at the hotel dining room. Sam had to visit a patient out at the Conway Ranch. Miss Teresa stepped out about 30 minutes ago. She should have been back by now. Doc said he had given you something to make you sleep. Guess he didn’t give you enough,” Slim answered.

“Boss left Slim and me here to make sure no one bothered you,” Walt joined in.

“What about the trial?” Johnny looked down the street toward the courthouse.

“Holding off on it until you’re back on your feet. Doc’s calling the tune on when it will start up again,” Slim answered.

Johnny started to take a step forward and swayed. Walt put out a hand to steady him.

“Think you need to go back inside and lay down, Johnny. Cipriano has a couple of men nearby. I’ll have one of them go get Mr. Lancer and Scott for you,” Walt said as he tried to turn Johnny back toward the open door of Sam’s office.

Slim saw Cipriano coming out of the hotel and waved to him. He then froze when he saw Teresa walking down the middle of the street between two men.

Cipriano hesitated, also seeing the two men with Teresa. He came to a standstill waiting to see what was going to happen.


Johnny stopped and turned around.

Barlow and Wyatt stood with Teresa between them.

“Teresa,” Johnny gasped, waving Walt’s hand away. “Get out of the way, Walt.”

Cipriano didn’t wait another moment, as he started to run toward the hotel. Entering the building, he went straight to the dining room. He found Murdoch, Scott, Val, and Sloan seated at one of the tables.

“Patron,” called out, getting Murdoch’s attention. “The two pistoleros are at Doctor Sam’s. They have Senorita Teresa.”

“Johnny?” Murdoch asked as he pushed the back his chair and started for the door.

“Si, Patron, Juanito is outside,” Cipriano answered as he led the men out of the hotel.

“Damn,” Val cursed as he came to a stop just before reaching the two gunfighters.

“Stay of out of this, Val!” Johnny called out, giving Barlow and Wyatt his full attention.

“Johnny!” Teresa cried out.

Johnny could tell she was frightened.

“Teresa, Querida, go on over there to Val,” Johnny urged, as he took his place in the street.
“Leave her be, Barlow. You got my attention.”

Barlow reached out and pushed Teresa away from him. Johnny watched the girl run to Val. Once Johnny saw she was safely out of the way, he gave Barlow and Wyatt a faint smile.

“You two sure you want to do this?” Johnny’s voice had gone soft and cold.

“Yeah, Madrid,” Barlow laughed, “we’re sure.”

Johnny sighed, “Let’s get this over with then.” He felt a sharp pain in his side. He immediately pushed it aside. The world around him seemed to go into slow motion as he prepared himself for the next few moments.

Murdoch moved to stand next to Val and Teresa. Teresa turned and buried her head in Murdoch’s chest.

Val knew he couldn’t stop this now. It had gone too far. If he tried, he’d distract Johnny and probably get him killed.

Val could see people lining the street. He noticed Jerome Phillips and Henry McLean’s family watching.

“You want to do this you’ll have to get the dance started. I won’t draw first,” Johnny said as he waited for the ‘tell.’ He knew Barlow would be the first to make a move.

He hadn’t been wrong. Barlow went for his gun and then a split second after, Wyatt was reaching. Johnny’s draw was a blur. He dropped both Barlow and Wyatt before either could get a shot off.

Johnny watched as Val went to check the two men. He nodded to Johnny and then started to break up the crowd that had formed.

Johnny closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Two more men. When was it ever going to stop? He opened his eyes and felt light-headed. There was a buzzing in his ears. Knowing he had to get off the street, he turned back to Sam’s office.

Johnny nodded at Slim as Walt opened the door for him. He didn’t remember walking through the door or the floor coming up to meet him.


When Johnny came to his senses again, he could hear the murmur of voices. Slowly opening his eyes, a sliver of light came through the drawn curtains of the window.

Turning his head, Johnny looked toward the open door where the sound of voices was growing louder.

Sam was talking now, sounding mad.

Johnny pushed himself up, holding his side, and swung his legs off the bed. Standing, he waited for the room to stop spinning. Making his way to the door, he wondered why everyone was talking at once.

Adam Sloan’s voice seemed to win out, “Jerome Phillips went to Judge Wilcox. He told the Judge that if Johnny is well enough to …. his words, Murdoch, not mine…. if Johnny is well enough to gun down two men in the street, then he is well enough to continue his testimony.”

“He isn’t well enough,” Sam rebutted. “I have no idea how he managed to stay on his feet out there. You saw what happened when he got back in here.”

“Adam, will Judge Wilcox listen to Sam?” Scott said taking his eyes off the attorney and turned them to the open door where Johnny was now standing. “Johnny….”

Sam spun around, “What in God’s name are you doing out of bed?”

“Heard all the racket. Figured I’d better come see what’s happening,” Johnny answered as he leaned on the door frame.

Murdoch walked over and put an arm around his shoulder. “John, you need to lay back down.”

“What’s going on Murdoch?” Johnny leaned into his father’s shoulder.

“Phillips has gone to Judge Wilcox. He’s convinced him to resume the trial in the morning at 9:00,” Sloan answered before Murdoch could.

“Maybe I could…,” Sam started to say.

“No, Sam,” Johnny put more weight on his father, “I want this over with.” He looked at Sam, “All of it.”

Sam looked at his young friend and patient. “I’ll do what I can to keep you on your feet as long as I can Johnny, but …”

“I know, Sam. Just do what you can,” Johnny’s gaze went back to Sloan. “Mr. Sloan, how long do you figure Phillips will have me on the stand?”

Sloan shook his head. “I don’t know. It could be an hour, or it could be three hours. You already know it’s you he wants on trial here, not Henry McLean. His goal is to show that you… that Johnny Madrid drove McLean to the point of insanity.”

Johnny took a deep breath and felt his ribs pull.

“You go back and tell them I’ll be there on time and ready to testify,” Johnny replied as he turned and went back into the room to lay down.

Johnny lay for a long time looking up at the ceiling. The image of Teresa’s face kept him from falling asleep. She had been more than scared; she’d been terrified. Barlow and Wyatt had taken her to force him into a gunfight.

Just one more nail in his coffin, he figured. He closed his eyes and was more determined now than ever not to put his family and friends through this any longer. Once the trial was over, and Sam had done one last surgery, he would be on his way.

He wasn’t sure where he would go, yet. The thought of going back to making his living with his gun saddened him. However, it was the only thing he knew how to do, and he was good at it.

Johnny looked toward the window as the last light of the day faded. He closed his eyes and hoped to sleep. He was going to deal with tomorrow when it came.


The next morning found the Lancers seated in the courtroom by 9:00.

After the Judge was seated, Val motioned Johnny to the witness stand.

He gave his friend an appraising look. He and Johnny had talked the night before. Val knew that after the gunfight, Johnny would need someone with him. He hadn’t been surprised the young gunfighter had passed out the moment he was away from prying eyes.

Val had watched the fight, the whole time holding his breath. He knew Barlow and Wyatt weren’t faster than Johnny Madrid; he doubted anyone was. Johnny, however, had been distracted by Teresa’s presence and his own injuries.

Val was worried about the younger man. He’d noticed Johnny with his hand on his side almost constantly in private. He also saw pain in his eyes that had nothing to do with any of his injuries.

As Johnny sat down, his eyes met Val’s. Johnny smiled at the older man. He and Val had talked the night before about the questions Phillips was going to ask. Val told him he would have to answer whatever the attorney asked.

“Just look at me while you answer him. Hell, pretend you’re talking to me if you have to. I already know the answers,” Val grumbled.

Johnny waited for Phillips to gather his notes. He looked to the back of the room and saw the double doors open.

Phillips was walking to stand in front of Johnny, blocking his view of the man who now stood next to Val.

Val had been leaning against the back wall. Johnny saw him come off the wall and meet the newcomer. Johnny couldn’t see who it was. He saw whoever it was shaking hands with a smiling Val and then hand his gun belt to the Sheriff.

“Mr. Lancer,” Phillips was saying, “or do you prefer to be addressed as Madrid?”

“Lancer,” Johnny answered.

“May I call you Johnny?”

“No,” Johnny answered in his best Madrid drawl. The room erupted in laughter and just as suddenly quieted.

“Very well, Mr. Lancer,” Phillips continued clearing his throat. “You stated in your earlier testimony you were a gunfighter at the age of 12. By the time you met Billy McLean in Tucson how many men had you killed?”

Johnny tried to see Val, but Phillips was still blocking his view. He took a deep breath and looked Phillips in the eyes.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Mr. Lancer surely in that particular line of work you kept a record of the number of men you met in gunfights.”

“When I was younger, I did. I stopped counting after 30,” Johnny’s answer brought a murmur to the room.

Phillips turned and walked toward the jury box. Johnny got his first look at the man standing next to Val. He slightly cocked his head as his eyes met the eyes of the man against the wall.

“Mr. Madrid… I mean Mr. Lancer. So, you are saying that by the time you met Billy McLean you had killed at least 30 men?”

“That’s right.”

“So how long before you met Billy McLean had you stopped counting the gunfights you were in?”

“I’m not sure… maybe a year.”

“Remind the court how old you were when you met Billy McLean.”

“I had just turned 16.”

“So, you had stopped keeping count of your ‘kills’ at the age of 15.”


“How old were you when you shot your first man?”

Johnny looked at his father.

“Eight,” he answered and then quickly, “turns out I didn’t kill him though.”

The murmur in the courtroom was louder than it had ever been. The members of the jury shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

Adam Sloan made a note to himself.

“Mr. Lancer, counting the two men you were in a gunfight with yesterday, how many men have you killed?”

Johnny inhaled and looked directly at Val. He saw his friend straighten up and nod.

“I told you I don’t know an exact number.”

“Well… have you killed more than 40 men?”

“Yes,” Johnny didn’t hesitate.

Now it was Phillips turn to hesitate. He hadn’t expected an answer to the question.

“More than 50?”

“Objections, your honor,” Sloan stood up. “I believe Mr. Phillips has made his point.”

“I agree. Mr. Phillips, move on,” Wilcox stated looking at Murdoch. He had known Murdoch Lancer a number of years and could see how his son’s testimony was affecting him.

“So, you are good with a gun?”

Johnny knew where this was going and he would cut it off.



Johnny looked at Phillips. “I’m not good, Mr. Phillips. I’m not very good. I’m thebest, Mr. Phillips.”

“So, you are saying you’re faster with a gun than say, John Wesley Hardin or Jack Slade?”

Johnny chuckled. “Well, since the last time I saw Wes he was still breathing, I don’t know. As for Jack, you could ask him yourself. He’s standing right back there.”

The people in the room turned in their seats to see the man standing next to Val. Jack Slade pushed himself off the wall. The Judge quieted the murmurs in the room.

“Mr. Slade,” Judge Wilcox spoke with a loud firm voice, “what’s your business here today?”

“Just came to see a friend. Word in the game is someone treated him to a necktie party. Needed to come see for myself,” Jack looked at Johnny. “John,” he nodded looking at his friend.

“Jack,” Johnny responded.

“The ‘game’?” the Judge asked.

“Yeah, well you know… my profession,” Slade answered with a slight smile.

“Mr. Phillips, continue,” Wilcox said keeping a suspicious eye on Slade.

“Mr. Lancer,” Phillips continued, “it’s obvious that by the time you met Billy McLean you were so good with a gun there is no way a novice could have beaten you. Isn’t that so?”

“That’s right.”

“Do you feel it was a fair fight?”


Phillips shook his head as he turned to look at the jury.

“Mr. Lancer…,” Phillips started to say.

“Your honor,” Sloan stood up. “Neither John Lancer nor Johnny Madrid is on trial here. I’m not sure where this line of questioning is going.”

“I have to agree, Mr. Phillips,” Wilcox said. “If you have questions for the witness pertaining to the charges against your client, I suggest you get to them.”

“Very well,” Phillips turned back to Johnny.

“Mr. Lancer, on the 15th of this month, did Henry McLean ever hold a gun on you?”


“Did Henry McLean hit you at all?”


“Can you tell us, in your opinion, what Henry McLean’s state of mind was?”

“He wanted me dead.”

“Did he tell you why?”

“He said I murdered his son.”

“So, he believed he was carrying out a death sentence for the murder of Billy McLean?”


“Did you hear Henry McLean talking to his sons that day?”


“How did he refer to his son Jamie?”

Johnny thought for a minute. He suddenly remembered. “He kept calling him Billy.”

“So, Henry McLean was confused as to who his son was?”

“I suppose.”

“Mr. Lancer, you testified you remember everything up until the moment…,” Phillips hesitated not knowing how to word the question delicately.

“You mean up until the moment your client hit the horse and it went out from under me?” Johnny hissed. “Or, do you mean up to the moment I was left hanging by my neck, and I blacked out?”

“Yes,” Phillips said looking toward the jury. “Did you see Henry McLean’s face?”

“Yeah, I saw his face. He made sure I saw his face,” Johnny’s breathing had increased. “What do you want to know? You want to know if he was loco?”

“Loco?” Phillips asked.

“Yeah, loco…, crazy.”

Sloan knew Johnny was starting to lose his temper. He also knew he was about to say something Sloan didn’t want him to say.

“Objection, Mr. Phillips is badgering the witness,” Sloan stood up before Johnny could say any more.

Johnny took a deep breath. He could almost feel himself shaking. He dug deep inside himself to find some sense of calm.

“Sustained,” Wilcox said. “Mr. Phillips, where were you going with this line of questioning?”

Phillips knew he had drawn more sympathy toward Lancer. “Your honor, I wanted to know Mr. Lancer’s opinion was of the defendant’s state of mind.”

“Mr. Lancer is not a doctor,” Sloan rebutted. “I hardly think he would be an expert on the defendant’s state of mind.”

Judge Wilcox thought for a few more moments. He looked at Johnny and saw the man had significantly paled since taking the stand and he could see a visible shaking.

“I agree with Mr. Sloan, Mr. Phillips. Do you have any more questions for the witness?” Wilcox leaned back in his chair.

Phillips knew he was getting nowhere. “No, your honor. I have no further questions.”

“Mr. Sloan, do you have anything else?” the Judge asked.

Sloan stood up and walked to the front.

“Mr. Lancer the court has made it plain you are not on trial here whether you are using the name Lancer or Madrid,” Sloan looked at the jury. “There is something I think does need to be cleared up.”

Sloan had spoken to Murdoch about Johnny’s past. He knew why the young man had shot a man at the age of eight.

“You told Mr. Phillips you shot a man when you were eight years old?”

“Yeah,” Johnny answered, praying Sloan wasn’t going to ask why.


Johnny took a deep breath and lowered his head. He looked up and saw his father nod to him.

“I shot him because he was trying to kill me.”

“How did you know he was going to try to kill you?”

“He …he beat me up and stabbed me. He was coming at me again, so I shot him.”

“There was no one there to help you?”

“No,” Johnny answered. The image of his dead mother lying at his feet swept over him.

“So, you shot the man in self-defense?”


“Have you ever killed a man who wasn’t trying to kill you?”

“No. I’ve never shot anyone in the back and I’ve never hurt a woman or a child.”

“No further questions,” Sloan said as he started back to his seat.

“Very well,” Wilcox looked at the time. To his amazement, Johnny had been on the stand for 3 hours. “We will adjourn until 2:00. Mr. Phillips, will you be ready to present your witnesses at that time?”

“Yes, your honor,” Phillips answered, looking at his client. Henry McLean was still sitting as he had all morning quietly, just staring out into space.

Wilcox hit his gavel on the table and stood up. He glanced at Johnny who had not moved. He then looked out into the courtroom to see Sam moving forward.

Val had taken Henry McLean out of the room, worriedly looking back at his friend.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Val told Slade as he passed him at the door.

“Johnny?” Scott made his way to the front of the room.

Johnny was still sitting. He was exhausted. He didn’t think he had the strength to stand up let alone walk.

Finally, he pushed himself up from the chair and holding onto the railing around the witness stand and eased himself to the floor.

Looking up he saw Jack Slade walking toward him.

“Jack, it’s good to see you,” Johnny greeted his friend with an extended hand.

By the time Slade made it to the front of the room all of the Lancers and Sam were there. He took Johnny’s hand and shook it.

“Good to see you, too. I got word of all this down in El Paso. Came as soon as I could,” Slade said smiling at his friend. “You know you look like hell. Doc, what have you been doing to him?”

“It’s good to see you too, Jack,” Sam smiled at the gunfighter. “Johnny, you need to go back to the hotel and rest.”

Johnny nodded his head and looked at Slade. “Walk over with me, Jack. Doc won’t leave me alone until I’m flat on my back at the hotel.”

“Sure,” Slade answered turning to Murdoch. “Mr. Lancer, good to see you. Scott.”

Slade turned to see Teresa coming toward him. She smiled and put her arms around him, giving him a quick hug. “Mr. Slade, it is so good to see you.”

Slade smiled down at the girl returning the hug, “Miss Teresa, I swear you get prettier every day.”

Teresa blushed. She looked around the room and then back at Slade. He knew who she was looking for but wanted her to say it.

“Is… Larry with you?” she asked with a blush.

Slade smiled. “Tate and Bonner will be here in a couple of days. They had some …business to wrap up in El Paso. I rode on ahead. Tate told me to tell you he was looking forward to seeing you again.”

“He did?” she gushed.

“He did,” Slade answered with a grin.

Slade hoped the two men wouldn’t have any problems wrapping up the ‘business’ in El Paso. All he had heard from Tate for the last two months was Teresa this and Teresa that. Both he and Bonner were ready to ship the boy back to California for good.

“You’ll… all of you will be staying at the ranch, won’t you?” Teresa asked looking at Murdoch.

“Yes, darling, they’ll be staying at the ranch. Jack, we’re staying at the hotel until the trial is over,” Murdoch answered as he watched his youngest son closely.

“Come on then,” Sam took Johnny’s arm and guided him out of the courtroom.

With Scott on one side of him and Jack Slade on the other, Johnny walked back to the hotel.

Once in his room, Johnny lay down with a sigh. He knew Sam and Scott were going to fuss over him. He also knew it was no use fighting the two men. Scott helped him take off his boots while Sam was taking out his stethoscope.

“How is he, Sam?” Murdoch asked as he moved across the room and put a hand on Johnny’s forehead.

“If you two will back away and let me check him, I’ll let you know as soon as I know. In fact, why don’t all of you step outside and give us both some air?” Sam insisted as he ushered everyone out of the room.

Johnny relaxed and closed his eyes. “Thanks, Sam.”

“Unbutton your shirt, Johnny. I want to check your ribs. How’s the pain?” Sam asked as he waited for Johnny to get his shirt unbuttoned.

“Sometimes it’s sharp; mostly a constant dull pain. Sam, you sure you’re gonna’ have to open me up again?” Johnny asked as the last button was released and opened his shirt.

Sam leaned over the young man and listened to his heart. He frowned hearing it racing. He picked up Johnny’s wrist. His pulse was fast as well. Finally, he palpated the area near the incision that had been hard the last time he had checked it.

“Well?” Johnny said stifling a moan and biting his lower lip.

“The answer to your question is… yes,” he answered, “and the sooner, the better. I wish you would let me tell Murdoch and Scott.”

“As soon as this trial is over, you can tell them. How long am I gonna’ be laid up after you operate?”

“I would expect a few days in bed, then at least two weeks before you can or will want to do anything more than rest,” Sam answered. “No riding for at least three weeks.”

Johnny snorted.

“Johnny, as I’ve said, you’ve had a lot of trauma to your side in the last two weeks. If I could, I would keep you in bed for a week and then only allow you light movement for another month. You can button your shirt,” Sam said as he put his stethoscope away. He closed his bag, “Now I want you…” He turned back to look at Johnny and saw he was already asleep. Smiling he picked up his bag and quietly left the room.

In the hall, he met Murdoch, Scott, and Slade. “He’s asleep already. It only took him about a minute after his head hit the pillow,” he smiled at the men.


At 2:00 everyone was back in the courtroom.

Scott had gone to wake Johnny up at 1:00, hoping to get him something to eat before returning to court. Scott found his brother so sound asleep it took him almost 30 minutes to rouse him. By the time he had him up and dressed again, it was time for the court to resume.

Jerome Phillips called his first witness for the defense. “Your honor, I call Marsha McLean to the stand.”

Marsha McLean had sat quietly behind her husband during the entire proceedings. Most of the time she had wrung her hands and held back tears on hearing what her husband had done.

Johnny sat quietly looking at the woman on the witness stand. She had lost more than any of them. She had lost two of her three sons and was about to lose her husband. He couldn’t help but wonder what her feelings were toward him.

Marsha McLean looked directly at him during much of her testimony. She told of how hard it had been since Billy’s death and how her husband had changed. The once loving and happy Henry McLean had become a vindictive man whose only thought was of revenge. She had watched her family and extended family, dissolve around her since Billy’s death.

Her testimony concerning her husband’s state of mind left no room for anyone to believe anything other than he had gone mad seeking the justice he thought was due.

Adam Sloan approached the stand knowing the woman held the sympathy of the jury. He had only one question for her.

“Mrs. McLean, do you feel, like your husband, that Johnny Madrid murdered Billy?”

“Murdered, no,” she answered quickly. “Killed senselessly, yes.”


“I knew my son, where Henry didn’t. I knew he was going to get himself killed one day with the gun he carried. It hurt me deeply. Still, I wasn’t surprised when I heard Billy had died in a gunfight. I was surprised he’d chosen Johnny Madrid for his first gunfight. I will never understand that part of his death. Everyone had heard of Johnny Madrid. I suppose his reputation, for being fast with a gun is what drew Billy to him. The pain of losing a second child…. well, it is a parent’s worst nightmare to outlive their children. I can’t imagine any worse pain for a parent. I have outlived two of my children now.”

She broke down in tears.

“No further questions.”

“Mr. Phillips do you have any further questions for this witness?” Judge Wilcox asked.

“No, your honor.”

“Call your next witness.”

“The defense calls Jamie McLean to the stand.”

Jamie McLean took the stand and looked at Johnny with mixed emotions.

Since Jamie McLean couldn’t be charged in the matter, Phillips felt confident this witness would prove to the jury his client was indeed insane at the time he had tried to hang Johnny Lancer.

Jamie McLean told the jury step by step how his father had sunk deeper and deeper into depression over the years since Billy’s death. He also stated that more frequently Henry McLean had started calling him Billy.

Jamie told the court how even the mention of the name Madrid would set his father raving.

Finally, he told the court what had transpired behind the rocks the day they kept Madrid from being helped.

“He couldn’t be reasoned with. He kept calling me Billy. There was a look in his eyes I had never seen before. I don’t think he even realized when Zak and Larry were killed. All he could do was rave about keeping anyone from helping Madrid until he bled to death.”

He looked at Johnny and shook his head, with tears in his eyes, “I’m sorry, Mr. Madrid.”

Phillips next question was going to seal his case.

“Jamie, have you spoken to your father since that day?”

“Yes,” Jamie answered. “He was quiet after we got back to town and put in jail. I tried talking to him. He…,” Jamie had tears coming down his face, “he doesn’t recognize me. He calls me Billy all the time now.”

“Do you believe your father is insane?”

“Objection. Calls for speculation,” Sloan was on his feet.

“Overruled. You may answer the question,” Wilcox said.

“Yes,” Jamie answered.

“No further questions.”

“Mr. Sloan,” the Judge said.

Adam Sloan stood up. “No questions.”

“Mr. Phillips, how long will your next witness take?” the Judge was looking at his pocket watch.

“My next witness will be Henry McLean, your honor. I suspect his testimony to take at least an hour.”

“Very well then. We will adjourn for today. Court will resume at 9:00 in the morning,” the Judge declared.


Johnny joined everyone for dinner that night in the hotel dining room. They sat in the same private room off the main dining area as they had the first night.

The conversation was kept light, with no discussion of the trial until the end of dinner. Jack Slade told them a condensed version of what he, Tate, and Bonner were doing in El Paso. Because Teresa was with them, Slade left out parts of the story he would tell Johnny, Scott, and Val when they were alone.

Adam Sloan couldn’t believe he was sitting at a table eating dinner with both Jack Slade and Johnny Madrid. He had to admit neither man was like anything like he had ever heard. He found Jack Slade’s stories to be funny and Slade himself to be friendly.

Johnny spent most of the meal pushing his food around his plate and eating very little of it. The action wasn’t going unnoticed by either Murdoch or Scott. Finally, it was Johnny who brought up the subject of the trial.

“Mr. Sloan, do you think McLean is going to get off?” he asked leaning back in his chair.

Adam Sloan looked at the young man and answered truthfully. “Yes. I have no doubt the jury knows McLean is insane. What his sentence will be is up to the Judge.”

Johnny just nodded looking down at the table. He looked up to see everyone staring at him. He’d had enough for the day. Hell, he’d had enough of the trial.

“Mr. Sloan, I won’t be in the courtroom tomorrow. I’m going back to the ranch in the morning,” Johnny said as he pushed back from the table.

“Johnny, I still need you there,” Sloan said as he too pushed back.

Johnny shook his head. “Me being there isn’t going to change anything. I’m done, Mr. Sloan. Goodnight.”

They watched Johnny walk away from the table.

“I really can’t blame him,” Sloan sat back down. “McLean’s testimony tomorrow isn’t going to be pleasant. I agree with Johnny. Whether he’s there or not the outcome will be the same.”

Murdoch looked at Scott, “Scott, will you go see to him. Teresa, do you want to go back tomorrow with Johnny?”

“I’d like that, Murdoch,” Teresa answered. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn in. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“I think I’ll go over to the saloon for a while,” Slade pushed back from the table. “Val, you want to come with me?”

“Mr. Lancer?” Frank spoke up. “What about me and the rest of the boys? Can we head back tomorrow?”

Murdoch looked at Sloan, who just nodded.

“That will be fine, Frank,” Murdoch answered. “Scott and I will stay until the trial’s over. Everyone else can either stay or go back to the ranch. Cipriano will arrange for surreys in the morning.”

Sam straightened in his chair, “So, if I understand correctly the trial is over as far as Johnny is concerned?”

Sloan nodded, “Yes.”

Sam turned to Murdoch, “Murdoch, I need to talk to you.”


Scott followed his brother to their room. He opened the door to find Johnny already lying on the bed, fully clothed.

“Need help getting undressed?” Scott asked.

Johnny turned his head and looked at his brother. “Yeah. Gonna’ need help with the boots.”

Scott crossed to the bed and began pulling Johnny’s boots off, noticing Johnny kept his eyes closed. Pulling Johnny back to his feet and helped with the buttons on his shirt. Scott had just started to help with his pants when the door to the room swung open.

Johnny jumped at the sound of the door and desperately reached for his gun, before realizing it was his father standing in the doorway with Sam right behind him.

“Why, John? Why didn’t you tell us?” Murdoch advanced across the room in three easy steps and took hold of his son by both arms. “When are you going to learn we’re a family? Scott and I should have known right away.”

“Known what?” Scott was recovering from the shock of his father’s entrance.

Murdoch pulled his youngest son into his chest and holding him tightly.

Sam stepped forward. “Johnny wouldn’t let me tell either of you until the trial was over. Sloan says as far as Johnny is concerned, the trial is now over. He is going to have to have another operation. He has, what I believe to be, an abscess in his abdomen. I’ll need to operate and drain it before it can cause additional damage.”

Scott looked at his brother in disbelieve. “Do you want to explain why you didn’t tell us?”

“You were worrying enough as it was,” Johnny sighed as he pulled back from Murdoch and sat on the edge of the bed. “We needed … I needed to get this behind me before facing another surgery.”

Scott turned to Sam. “Is the abscess the reason he’s still in pain?”

“Yes,” Sam nodded as he spoke.

“When are you going to operate?” Scott asked moving to sit next to his brother.

“Tomorrow,” Sam answered. “If he goes home in the morning, then I’ll operate in the afternoon.”

Murdoch sat down on the other side of his youngest son. “Johnny, I’m sending Cipriano home with you and most of the men. When you get home, I want you to go straight to bed. I’ll make sure Cipriano tells Maria. Scott and I’ll head home after the court recess at lunch.”

Johnny nodded. He was too tired to discuss it any longer. All he wanted to do was lay down and go to sleep. Looking at the men sitting on either side of him, he could see the concern in their eyes.

“Let’s get him into bed,” Sam said, seeing the fatigue setting in. He doubted if Johnny could stay awake another minute.

Johnny smiled. He had three men putting him to bed. He hadn’t been tucked into bed since he was five years old and then it was Val who had done it.

Closing his eyes, he let sleep overtake him.


Scott sat in Teresa’s garden and leaned back in his chair.

It had been a week since they had come home from Green River. A week since Sam had operated on his brother again. Sam had found the abscess and inserted a drain. The drain had remained in for four days.                                    

Now the family was waiting to start the fight to keep the youngest Lancer in bed. Scott smiled. So far, Johnny had done everything Sam had asked of him. That in itself had Scott worried. Johnny wasn’t and never had been a good patient.

Scott and Murdoch had stayed for the trial only until it broke for lunch the day Johnny left for home. Henry McLean had taken the stand as the last witness for the defense. It was apparent from the first moment the man opened his mouth he’d lost all contact with reality. Adam Sloan didn’t even try to cross-examine the man.

It had taken the jury only twenty minutes to deliver a verdict of not guilty. They didn’t even add ‘by reason of insanity’ to the verdict.
Val told the Lancers that Marsha McLean was making arrangements for her husband to be admitted to a mental institution in Phoenix. McLean had once again escaped into his own world where Billy was alive, and Johnny Madrid was dead.

Johnny’s response when he heard was just to nod his head.

Scott heard voices as two people came into the garden. Teresa and Larry Tate were strolling around the garden hand in hand. Scott smiled at the couple.

He remembered the day Larry Tate and Jessie Bonner rode into the ranch. It was the afternoon after Johnny’s surgery. The two men had finished the job in El Paso and ridden straight through.

Teresa had run out the front door of the house and stood at the hitching rail waiting for Tate to come to a stop.

Murdoch, Scott, and Slade were right behind her.

Slade had told both men that Tate was so far over his head in love with the young girl; it was hard to keep his mind on his job. They all watched as Tate jumped from his horse and quickly walked over to Teresa, a grin on his face. He took her up in his arms and kissed her in front of all of them.

Murdoch cleared his throat, and Tate quickly released Teresa and blushed.

“Sorry, Mr. Lancer,” Tate said, with the grin still on his face.

The two young people had been completely absorbed in each other from that moment on.

Tate and Teresa both blushed as they rounded the corner of the garden and saw Scott looking at them.

“Morning, Scott,” Tate choked the words out as he released Teresa’s hand.

“Good morning, Tate,” Scott answered. “Fine morning, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” Tate responded. “Real fine morning. How’s Johnny this morning?”

“He seems to be getting stronger. Sam said he could get out of bed today and sit in a chair,” Scott answered, as he pushed himself up. “Teresa, does Maria have Johnny’s breakfast ready? I’ll take it up to him if she does.”

“Yes,” she answered, “but I can take it to him.”

“No, you stay here and enjoy the garden,” Scott smiled. “I’ll get it.”

Scott left them in the garden. He glanced over his shoulder to see Tate retake Teresa’s hand.

As he entered the kitchen, Scott saw Maria at the stove. “Maria, do you have Johnny’s tray ready? I’ll take it up.”

“Si,” she answered turning from the stove and adding scrambled eggs to the plate on the tray.

Scott looked at the finished tray. Usually, breakfast was oatmeal for his brother. This morning there was eggs, bacon, and toast. On the side was a small dish of salsa.

“Doctor Sam says he does not eat enough. Today, Juanito will eat.”

Scott took the tray up the back stairs from the kitchen. Once he got to his brother’s bedroom door, he knocked once and then pushed the door open. He found Johnny sitting up in bed waiting for him.

“Breakfast, brother,” Scott said with a smile.

He sat the tray across Johnny’s lap. Johnny looked down at the plate and his face lit up. He took the fork and started in on breakfast with gusto.

Looking at Scott, Johnny noticed a smile on his face. “Why are you so happy?”

“Just watching you eat is enough to make me happy,” Scott said as he sat down in a chair next to the bed.

“Well, glad I can make you happy,” Johnny said with his mouth full.

Scott shook his head, God; how he loved his brother.

“I just left Teresa and Tate in the garden,” Scott said as he reached across the tray and took a piece of bacon off Johnny’s plate. “I do believe we are going to have a wedding soon.”

Johnny nodded. “Has he spoken to Murdoch yet?” Johnny mumbled, putting another piece of bacon in his mouth.

Scott shook his head, “No, I believe he wants to talk to you first.”

Johnny stopped eating, “Me? Why does he want to talk to me about marrying Teresa?”

“Jack says he’s worried you won’t approve of another gunfighter in the family,” Scott answered looking at Johnny’s plate to see if there was anything else he could swipe off of it.

“He’s giving up his gun, isn’t he?” Johnny asked realizing he’d never talked to Tate about his plans.

“I don’t know. I assume he is,” Scott frowned wondering the same thing now.

“Guess we better talk to the boy,” Johnny said with a frown, as he started eating again.

Scott laughed. “The boy. Brother, the ‘boy’ is a year older than you,” he thought.


Larry Tate knocked on Johnny’s door and waited for an answer. When none came, he knocked again. Finally, he heard a faint “come in” from the room.

Tate pushed the door open and stepped in. He saw Johnny sitting in a chair near the window.

“No one around here waits to be told to come in, Tate. Usually, I get a quick knock and then the door bursts open,” Johnny smiled at the young man.

“Johnny, could I talk to you for a few minutes?” Tate asked as he moved closer.

“Sure, sit down,” Johnny answered, seeing the man was nervous.

“Johnny… well…. you know Miss Teresa and me are…. well,” Tate stammered, as he sat down.

“Get it said, Tate,” Johnny said, with his best Madrid voice.

Tate’s head shot up. He looked at the man sitting across from him. He’d seen Johnny change into Madrid before, but it still amazed him how quick the transformation could be.

“Well, I… Teresa and me want to get married. I’m going to talk to Mr. Lancer tonight after supper, but I wanted to talk to you first.”

“Why?” Johnny responded, cocking his head with a slight smile on his face.

“I need to know how you’re gonna’ feel about having another gunhawk in the family,” Tate answered, kneading the brim of his hat.

“You planning to stay a gunhawk when you marry my sister or are you going to hang up your gun?”

“Oh, I’m hanging up my gun. I want to do right by Teresa. Val says I can work for him as a deputy, but I was hoping Mr. Lancer would let me work here on the ranch. I know a lot about ranching.”

Johnny nodded. “Tate, I don’t have a problem with you marrying my sister. You just know you treat her right or you’ll have me to answer to.”

“I know, Johnny, believe me I know,” Tate swallowed hard. “So, you think Mr. Lancer will give me a job?”

Johnny smiled. “Larry, I can tell you right now he’ll give you a job. I can also tell you that you’ll work harder every day than you have ever worked in your life. Murdoch believes family should work twice as hard as anyone else on Lancer.”

Tate smiled and pushed himself up. “Thanks, Johnny. I’m gonna’ be proud to work beside you.”

Johnny’s face lost its smile knowing he wasn’t going to be staying at Lancer much longer. He knew he couldn’t stay, not after the McLeans and the gunfight in town. He still saw Teresa’s face as Barlow and Wyatt held her in front of them. He wasn’t going to put his family in that kind of danger again.

“Tate, can you ask Slade to come up when he has a chance?” Johnny asked as the young man started out the door.

“Sure, Johnny,” Tate answered and closed the door behind him.


Jack Slade knocked on the closed bedroom door. Like Larry Tate, he waited. After a few moments, he heard “come on in” from the other side of the door.

Slade pushed the door open and looked inside the room. Johnny was lying on the bed with pillows behind his back.

Seeing Slade, Johnny swung his legs off the bed and moved to the chair by the window.

“Come on in, Jack. Have a seat,” Johnny waved for the gunfighter to sit down.

“How’re you feeling, Madrid?” Slade asked. He still couldn’t get used to using the name Lancer when he talked to Johnny.

“Doing better. Doc says I’ve been a good boy. He’s gonna’ let me walk around outside this afternoon,” Johnny laughed. “I figure I should be back on a horse in another week or two.”

“Glad to hear it. Tate said you wanted to talk,” Slade stretched his legs out in front of him. “I tell you, Johnny, Tate sure in taken with Miss Teresa. I don’t think he’s planning on riding out with Bonner and me when we leave.”

“Yeah, he’s taken,” Johnny shook his head. “He came to me and asked if he could marry her. Told him he needed to talk to the old man.”

“He’s been worried you wouldn’t want him in the family,” Slade answered.

They sat quietly for a few minutes.

“How about me taking Tate’s place when you ride out?” Johnny asked as he watched for a reaction from Slade.

“Take his place? You want to ride out with us?” Slade looked confused. “Why?”

“Got my reasons,” Johnny answered looking down at his hands and taking a deep breath.

“Who’s gonna’ be riding out with us, Johnny Lancer or Johnny Madrid? I need to know the name of the man who’s gonna’ be watching my back,” Slade drawled.

Johnny looked up at Slade. He thought back a few months when he’d been asked the question, “What’s your name, boy?” At the time, he had told the men holding him captive his name was Juan Ruiz. Now he needed to tell Jack Slade who he was. No, who he was going to be.

“Madrid,” Johnny answered.

“I don’t buy it, Madrid. Why do you want to leave here? I thought you were happy here. Hell, when we rode down to Nogales to finish off Sanchez, you couldn’t get back here fast enough. You were homesick before we got a hundred miles from here,” Slade pushed for an answer.

“Things change, Slade,” Johnny answered, not wanting to look at the man.

“Things change? Wouldn’t have anything to do with Henry McLean would it?”

Johnny looked back at Slade. Why not tell him the truth?

“Yeah, it has to do with the McLeans and Barlow and Wyatt and all the others who’ve come after me since I’ve been here. It has to do with all those who are still gonna’ come. Murdoch, Scott, Teresa, and everyone on the ranch have been affected by me being here. Barlow could have hurt or even killed Teresa, just to get to me. I can’t… no, I won’t stay here and take the chance that next time someone I care about is hurt or killed.”

Slade could understand. A gunhawk doesn’t have friends or family. They don’t have anyone they care about. It could get them or the person they care about killed.

Johnny could see Slade thinking. “I should never have stayed here, Jack. Me getting hurt or killed, I can accept. If something should happen to one of those people out there,” he waved his arm toward the window, “I couldn’t live with myself.”

“How long you been here now, Johnny?” Slade leaned back.

“A little over a year. I thought, maybe, just maybe, I could bury Madrid and make a life here. That hasn’t happened. They just keep coming for me. What happened in Nogales just means they’re gonna’ keep coming.

“The only way I can protect my family is to leave. I need to get Madrid as far away from them as I can. So, do I ride out alone or with you?”

Slade shrugged. “Until a few months ago I was alone on the trail. Since I left here after the first of the year, I’ve had Tate and Bonner with me. Kinda’ felt good to have someone else watching my back. It looks like Tate is gonna’ stay here this time. Sure, why not?

“You do know together we’re gonna’ attract a lot of attention. With your reputation and mine, we won’t find peace in many places. I sure hope Bonner can handle the two of us.”

Johnny laughed and then let the smile slip away.

“When are you going to tell the family?” Slade asked, knowing what the other man was thinking.

“Soon. I think Tate is gonna’ talk to the old man about Teresa tonight. I don’t want to put a damper on the celebration when they announce the engagement. For now, this is between the two of us. Agreed?”

“Agreed. Now you need anything before I go back downstairs? I need to check on the horses, and I think Scott said he was gonna’ need some help today,” Slade stood up.

“Nope, I’m fine. You go on ahead. Keep Boston out of trouble today, if you can.”

Johnny sat quietly as Slade left his room. Shifting in the chair, he looked out the window. He loved this view.

Leaving all this behind was going to break his heart, but he knew the day was soon coming when he’d have to do just that. The reputation he’d built, and tried so hard to hold onto, had become a curse he had to live with.

A curse he couldn’t, no, wouldn’t share with his family.


The afternoon found Johnny slowly walking toward the barn with Scott by his side.

“Hola, Juanito,” a voice called out from the yard.

“Hey, Johnny,” another voice called out.

Soon greetings were coming from all the hands working in the yard and near the barn. Everyone was smiling at seeing the youngest Lancer outside for the first time in weeks.

Scott walked close to his brother, ever mindful he was still unsteady on his feet. He looked sideways at the face of the man who never ceased to amaze him.

Johnny saw Scott’s tense movements next to him. “Stop fussing, hermano,” Johnny said, while down deep he liked having his brother close to him.

“I’m not fussing, little brother,” Scott smiled. “I’m just making sure I don’t have to pick you up off the ground.”

“Not gonna’ happen,” Johnny smiled, hoping he was telling the truth.

They arrived at the barn and saw Frank leading Barranca out into the sunlight. A broad smile spread across Johnny’s face.

Barranca seeing his compadre started prancing. His head bobbed up and down as he surged forward out of Frank’s grasp.

Johnny was laughing as the horse stopped directly in front of him and pushed his head into the young man’s chest. He reached up and rubbed Barranca’s forehead. When the horse placed his head over Johnny’s shoulder, everyone in the yard was laughing.

“Miss me, boy?” Johnny said as he scratched behind the horse’s ear.

Barranca bounced his head up and down.

“I missed you, too,” Johnny whispered into Barranca’s ear. “We’ll go for a long ride soon.”

Johnny looked around the yard and then out toward the arch. He ached to get on the palomino’s back and just ride off.

Scott was watching his brother as he leaned into the neck of the horse. He couldn’t hear what he was saying to the horse, but he could tell Barranca understood every word.

Johnny patted Barranca’s neck and looked back toward the house. He was getting tired.

“Come on, brother, let’s go back. I think there is a sofa with your name on it and a tall glass of lemonade in the house,” Scott put his hand on Johnny’s elbow.

Johnny nodded. “Thanks, Frank. Would you give him a good brushing and double oats tonight?”

“Sure, Johnny,” Frank answered.

Johnny looked at the man and lowered his head. “You feeling alright, Frank? How are Bob and Jake doing?”

“We’re doing alright. I’m all healed up. Doc released all of us to go back to work a week ago.”

“Good. That’s good, Frank,” Johnny said as he started back toward the house.

Scott stood another moment and looked at Johnny walking away. There was something wrong, and that he couldn’t put his finger on.

Frank looked at Scott. “Scott, you know Johnny said something back before the trial that’s had me kinda’ worried. He told me he felt that everything that happened with the McLeans was his fault. He said he was gonna’ make sure it wasn’t gonna’ happen again. He said none of us would be hurt again because of him. Scott, you figure he’s getting ready to run?”

Scott considered what Frank was saying. The thought had crossed his mind as well.

“Frank, why don’t you turn Barranca out into the south pasture. I think he needs some green grass, don’t you?” Scott smiled at his friend.

Frank returned the smile. “Sure do. That boy ain’t going anywhere without this horse. I’d say it would take us a couple of days to round him up if Johnny decided to go for a ride.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Scott nodded with a smile and started after his brother. He knew he needed to talk to Murdoch about his conversation with Frank.


Teresa and Larry Tate stood in the garden, holding hands. Their arms swinging between them as they began to walk. There was a glow to the couple that told anyone and everyone they were in love.

Teresa had started falling in love with the tall, blond gunhawk when he came to Lancer in December with Jack Slade and the other gunfighters who had escorted her family home from Mexico.

The ten gunfighters who were with Slade weren’t like the men who had ridden with Day Pardee. She’d seen nothing but evil in Pardee’s men. The men who rode with Slade were no angels, but still, they were good men, every one of them.

Tate had found her here in the garden that first night after her family was home. She was sobbing when he’d stumbled upon her. It broke her heart to see her brother still in pain after what he’d experienced in Mexico. Tate had quietly sat beside her that night and let her cry herself out.

The two young people began to talk that night and every night after until he’d ridden out with Slade and the others right after the New Year. He promised her he’d be back.

The next time she saw Tate was when Slade, Tate, and Bonner come to Johnny’s aide in February. The three men stayed long enough for Tate and Teresa to have fallen deeply in love.

Now, he was back, and she had no intention of letting him leave her again.

Larry Tate waited until dinner was over before Teresa and he made their way to stand in front of Murdoch’s desk.

Murdoch had his head down pretending to be examining the books. He had a faint smile on his face.

Johnny was lying on the couch, hidden from view. He raised up enough to see the back of the young lovebirds. He grinned as he laid back down and looked to see if anyone else was in the room.

Finally, Murdoch looked up pretending surprise at seeing the two young people standing in front of him.

“You wanted something, Tate?” he asked with a serious face. He stood up and walked in front of the desk.

Tate had faced men before, but coming face to face with the six-foot-five-inch giant of a man made him swallow hard. He remembered facing this same man outside Tucson trying to tell him his youngest son had gone missing. He almost took a step backward until he felt Teresa’s hand in his back.

“Mr. Lancer…. sir…well,” he tried to get the words out. “Mr. Lancer…you see it’s like this.” He turned his head and looked down at Teresa. She smiled at him and nodded her head. All his fears evaporated.

“Mr. Lancer, well I’m in love with Teresa, and she’s in love with me. We want to get married. I’m asking your permission for her hand,” he took a deep breath. “I know I’ve been making a living with my gun, but I plan on hanging it up. Val said he’d give me a job as his deputy, but I really would like to work here at Lancer with you and Scott and Johnny. I’ll make her a good husband, Mr. Lancer. I’ll take care of her and treat her right. I’ve already talked to Johnny, and he said it was alright with him. So, Mr. Lancer is it alright with you. Can Teresa be my wife?”

Murdoch didn’t say anything for several seconds. He watched as Tate started to shift his weight from one foot to the next. He could see Teresa hold his hand tighter.

“So, you’ve talked to Johnny and he said it was alright for you to get married. Is there a reason you spoke to him before you spoke to me?” Murdoch had taken a step closer to the couple.

Johnny covered his head with a pillow, trying not to laugh out loud.

“Mr. Lancer, with all due respect, I wouldn’t even consider marrying Miss Teresa if Madrid… I mean Johnny didn’t cotton to the idea. I wouldn’t go against him no matter how much I loved her,” Tate stood up straighter.

“Is that so?” Murdoch put a hand over his mouth to cover the smile on his face.

“Yes, sir,” Tate responded. “I love her, Mr. Lancer. I can’t think of anyone or anything but her. I know she’s not of age yet, but…” The look he gave Murdoch almost made the tall man want to put his arm around him and tell him it was alright.

“Well, Larry,” Murdoch said, “I suppose if Johnny gave his blessing I’d better not go against his wishes.” Murdoch laughed. “I would be proud to have you as part of our family, young man.”

Tate realized it was the first time Murdoch had called him by his first name. A smile spread across his face. He looked down at Teresa and put his arm around her holding her tightly to him.

“Thank you, Mr. Lancer,” Tate blurted the words.

“The name is Murdoch, Larry. I think it’s high time you started calling me by my first name. As for working on the ranch, I think we can use a good hand,” Murdoch said. “When do you want to tell the rest of the family?”

“Can we tell them tonight?” Teresa gushed.

“I don’t see a reason you can’t,” Murdoch reached out a hand and shook hands with Tate. “Teresa, why don’t you go get Maria and ask her to get Cipriano. I’ll find Scott and Johnny. I think Slade and Bonner are in the barn. Larry, why don’t you go get them and ask them to join us.”

Johnny smiled and turned over to lay on his back. He looked up at the ceiling and sighed. He loved this family. It was going to be harder than anyone knew to leave them behind. But their love for him and his for them was the very reason he had to go.


Thirty minutes later everyone had gathered in the Great Room.

Scott sat down beside Johnny on the couch. He put an arm around his brother and smiled. They all knew why they were here. Maria and Cipriano stood near the fireplace. Slade and Bonner were standing behind the couch. Murdoch watched as Tate and Teresa made their way into the room.

Murdoch cleared his throat. “I believe Larry would like to say something?”

Tate looked down at Teresa and then at the people gathered in the Great Room.

“I just wanted everyone to know that Mr. Lancer… I mean Murdoch,” Tate looked at Murdoch, “has given his permission for Miss Teresa and me to get married.” Everyone smiled. Tate quickly looked at Johnny’s expression. “Johnny said it was alright, too.”

The room burst into laughter. Scott looked at Johnny who had lowered his head and was blushing.

“Chica, when are you to wed?” Maria had rushed forward and put her arm around the young girl.

“We haven’t decided yet. We want to wait at least until the fall,” Teresa answered putting her arm around her intended.

“Well, sure glad to hear that,” Bonner spoke up. “I don’t think the three of us could stand riding with you if you left here again without marrying this gal. Slade and I have had to listen to you talk about Miss Teresa for months now.”

Everyone laughed.

Scott felt Johnny tense next to him. He realized what Bonner had said.

“Bonner, you said the three of you. You, Slade, and who else?” Scott asked standing up.

The others paused, all looking at Bonner. Slade took his hat off and slapped Bonner’s shoulder.

Johnny pushed himself off the couch and walked over to the fireplace. He turned around to face everyone.

“It’s me,” Johnny answered the question. “I’m riding out with Slade and Bonner.”

Teresa was the first to speak. “No, Johnny, you can’t!” She ran across the room and threw her arms around him. “Please, you can’t go.”

Johnny put his arms around the young girl and hugged her. He finally pushed her back and looked at her face.

“I have to, Querida. You aren’t safe …. none of you are safe with me here. The McLeans aren’t the first to come after me, and they won’t be the last. Barlow and Wyatt could have hurt or killed you. Frank and the other men could have been killed,” Johnny replied, looking at his father and brother.

“John, don’t you think we all know what could have happened. We’re willing to accept the risk. I told you that when you first came here. You still don’t understand what being part of a family means,” Murdoch said as he moved to take Johnny’s arm.

“A gunfighter can’t have a family, old man,” Johnny said looking into his father’s eyes. “I thought I could escape who I am. I thought Madrid would be forgotten. It isn’t gonna’ happen.”

“Johnny, you aren’t a gunfighter any longer. You’re a rancher now. We’re safer with you here than without you. Don’t you realize that?” Scott spoke up.

“No, Scott, you’re wrong. I’m always gonna’ be Johnny Madrid. I’m always gonna’ be a gunfighter. You will never be safe with me here,” Johnny said as he shook his head.

“Juanito,” Cipriano stepped forward. “You cannot leave. This is your home. It has always been your home. This is… we are your familia. There is no one in this room or anyone on the ranch who would not fight or die for you. Would you do less for us? If it had been any one of us those men had come for, would you have not fought for us?”

“That’s different, Tio,” Johnny said.

“Why is it different?” Scott asked. “Why is it any different than when Cassidy came after me? You did everything you could to protect me. Why can’t we do the same for you?”

“Scott, Cassidy was one incident. There are more men like McLean out there who could come after me. There are gunhawks from here to the Mississippi River looking for me now. Ask Slade, he knows. Between what happened in Nogales and the newspaper reports on the McLean trial, I’d be surprised if we didn’t have a flood of gunhawks showing up here,” Johnny walked to the drink cart and poured himself a glass of tequila.

“Will they come for Larry, too?” Teresa walked back to Tate and put her arms around him, leaning her head against his chest.

“No, sweetheart,” Tate said holding her close. He looked at Johnny. “There won’t be anyone coming for me. As much as I once wanted to be, I’m not Johnny Madrid.”

She buried her face in his chest.

“I don’t want Johnny to go. I want all my family together, here at Lancer,” she turned back toward Johnny. “You can’t do this to us. We love you. Can’t you see that?”

Johnny sighed. “Querida, I know you love me. Don’t you see, loving me is the one thing that can hurt you the most? It’s the one thing that can hurt me.”

“Does Val know about this?” Murdoch questioned.

Johnny hadn’t told Val. He dreaded facing his friend.

“No, not yet. No one was supposed to know about it yet,” Johnny gave Bonner an angry look. “I didn’t want to ruin this night for Teresa and Tate.”

As if on cue the sound of hoof beats and a buggy caused everyone to look toward the French doors. Groaning, Johnny knew it was Val and Sam.

Val walked into the Great Room with a smile on his face. One look at everyone’s faces and his smile disappeared.

Sam followed Val in and came to a stop next to him.

“What’s going on?” Val asked taking a few steps into the room.

No one answered him.
“Hijo?” Val asked, giving Johnny a stern look.

Val looked at Murdoch.

“Murdoch, you wanta’ tell me what’s happening?”

“Val, it appears John has decided it would be safer for everyone concerned if he left Lancer. He plans to ride out with Slade and Bonner when they leave,” Murdoch answered going to the drink cart.

“That so?” Val frowned, the hurt in his voice evident. “When were you gonna’ tell me?”

“I wasn’t gonna’ tell anyone yet,” Johnny responded a little louder than he wanted to. He downed the glass of tequila in his hand. He felt the liquid burn all the way to down to his stomach.

“Johnny!?” Sam walked to the center of the room. “Please, tell me you didn’t just take a drink of alcohol.”

Johnny paled slightly. Sam had warned him about drinking anything with alcohol in it until his wound was completely healed.

“I thought so. I told you…” Sam started to say.

“Sam, don’t,” Johnny’s voice had gone Madrid.

Sam hesitated. He wasn’t intimidated by Johnny’s alternate personality. However, he was not going to continue the conversation with everyone listening. “Alright, we’ll talk in your room.”

Johnny stood his ground. His expression was unyielding.

“Now!” Sam said looking toward the stairs.

Johnny lowered his head and took a deep breath. He looked up, Madrid had disappeared, and Johnny Lancer nodded.

“Sam, we’re not done here,” Murdoch spoke up.

“It will have to wait. I’ll be back down in a few minutes,” Sam said as he followed Johnny up the stairs.

Val watched as his friend walked away. He looked around the room. “So, what brought this on?” he asked as he tossed his hat onto the table behind the sofa and stomped to the drink cart.

“I have a feeling it’s been coming on for some time. First, there was Billings and Lawson, the McLeans, and then Barlow and Wyatt brought it to a head,” Scott answered. He turned to Slade, “Jack, what did he tell you?”

Slade followed Val’s lead and poured himself a drink. “He asked if he could ride out with Bonner and me when we left. So you know, he was planning to go by himself if I’d told him no.”

Val huffed.

Teresa walked over to Val, putting her arms around him. “Val, please talk to him. He’ll listen to you. I don’t want him to leave.”

Val held the distraught woman and looked at the other people in the room. “Miss Teresa, I’ll talk to him, but he’s right. They’ll be more coming for him here. Can all of you deal with it? Murdoch, can you handle knowing someone could get killed next time? “

“Val, we’re a family. I don’t want to lose my son again. You and I have talked about this. Are you prepared to lose him?” Murdoch answered as he took a drink for himself and offered one to Scott, Bonner, and Cipriano.

“Patron, how do we convince my Sobrino to stay here where he belongs. Where will you go, Senor Slade? Juanito can no longer go into Mexico.” Cipriano asked as he accepted the drink.

Slade looked at the people in the room. Before he could answer Sam came back down the stairs alone.

“Sam?” Murdoch asked.

“He’s going to go to bed. Murdoch, do you mind if I have one of those?” Sam looked around. Everyone in the room had a drink except Teresa and Maria. “Now, what were you saying, Jack, when I interrupted?”

Slade took a sip of his drink.

“Tate, Bonner, and me have been working in Texas for the last two months. We were planning on moving on to Arizona next. Range wars are brewing all over the west now,” he took another sip of the whiskey in his hand. “I won’t lie to any of you, Johnny’s right. There will be more coming for him. Whether it’s here or somewhere else, they will be coming. I know how he feels. You folks are the closest thing I have to family, and it scares the hell out of me.”

“Jack?” Scott asked.

“No one outside this room can ever hear what I’m about to tell you,” he downed his drink. “I don’t have a family, Scott. Since the day I strapped on this gun I haven’t wanted anyone to care about, and I haven’t wanted anyone to care about me. Well, now I care. I care about all of you. That boy… man, upstairs is the closest thing I have to a brother and it scares the hell out of me.”

Murdoch looked at the famed gunfighter. “Jack, you can call this home, too.”

“Murdoch, you just don’t understand. As much as I want a home, as much as I want a place to settle down, I can’t do it. My reputation won’t let me do it. I don’t know how Madrid has been able to stay here a year.”

“He’s stood up to everyone who’s come for him. We have stood up to everyone. We will always stand up to them,” Murdoch declared.

“Is there anyone you would worry about coming after you, Jack?” Sam asked.

Slade laughed. “There are only two men, I know of, who would be even close to a match for me. Wes Hardin is one of them. The other is upstairs.”

There was a laugh from the stairs. Everyone looked around to see Johnny standing at the top.

“Yeah, old Wes, Jack, and I have an understanding of sorts. We leave each other alone.”

Slade laughed again, “Ain’t that the truth.”

“I thought you were going to bed,” Sam spoke up.

“Thought about it. Since the topic down here was me, I figured I’d like to know what was being said,” Johnny slowly walked down the steps.

Cipriano took a silent step back and went out through the kitchen.

“John, we know and understand why you feel you need to leave Lancer. What you don’t seem to understand is whether you like it or not, we are family. Everyone in this room is considered family as far as I’m concerned. I know it scares you to have someone care about you or you for them. I not sure how we solve the problem. I do know leaving Lancer isn’t the answer,” Murdoch walked over, putting a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

Johnny shook his head, “The only answer I have is to get as far away from you as I can.”

Cipriano re-entered the room through the French doors, “Patron.”

Everyone turned to look at the Segundo.

“Patron, there is something outside I think Juanito needs to see,” Cipriano said as he waved toward the yard.

Johnny walked toward the French doors and out into the yard with everyone in the room following. Just off the veranda stood the majority of Lancers’ hands. Frank and Walt walked forward.

“Mr. Lancer, Cipriano came and told us what Johnny has planned,” Walt said looking toward Johnny. “The boys and me want you to know, Johnny, we don’t want you to go.”

Johnny sighed. “Walt, every time someone comes for me here, all of you are in danger. The McLeans could have killed any one of you. I consider you, all of you, family. I can’t keep putting my family in danger.”

“Johnny,” Slim stepped forward, “don’t you think we all know that? Lancer is home, the only home most of us have ever known. You are our boss and our friend. You have pulled my irons out of the fire more than once since you’ve been here. You’ve helped all of us at one time or another. We’d face the McLeans again if we had to.”

There was a unanimous agreement among the men in the yard.

“Senor Johnny,” Juan stepped forward. “You helped my family in Mexico. You saved my village a few years ago. I have a debt to you, more than one. I will stand with you anytime, anywhere.”

“Juanito,” Cipriano moved closer to his nephew, “hay muchos tipos de familias.”

Cipriano looked around the room and repeated in English, “there are many kinds of familias. You and I are familia by blood. These men are familia by choice. Do not dishonor any of us by thinking our lives are more important than yours.”

“Tio….,” Johnny started to say.

Maria moved beside him and cut him off. “Sobrino, I love you. I have loved you since the day you were born. Your Tio and I mourned when you were taken from your Papa. We would gladly give our lives for you. Por favor, do not leave us again.”

Val cleared his throat, “Johnny, you know how I feel about you. There is nothing on this earth that would keep me from taking a bullet for you if I had to. Hell, I’ve taken a few for you. I’ve prayed for a long time for you to find a home and a place to settle down, a place where you can give up your gun. This is it, hijo. This is the place. Don’t let anyone drive you away from Lancer. It looks like you got a lot of people watching your back now, not just me.”

“More may come,” Johnny said. He just couldn’t get them to understand.

“Yes, more may come. If they do, we’ll take care of them, just like we took care of the McLeans. We’ll let you take care of anyone who calls you out. From what Slade told us there aren’t many you couldn’t take care of on your own,” Scott spoke up.

“There will be some that will try to use you, any one of you to get to me. There will be some that will hurt you to get to me. Don’t you understand that?” Johnny’s resolve was weakening.

“We understand, Johnny,” Teresa walked up next to him and put her arms around him. “Do you understand we are willing to risk it? It’s as Scott said earlier, we are safer with you here than without you. Johnny, don’t you realize how much you protect us just by being here?”

Johnny turned to look at Slade. He saw a smile on the gunfighter’s face. “Don’t look at me, Madrid. It looks like you’re outnumbered. I think Bonner and me are gonna’ be riding out of here alone when we go.”

Johnny looked around. For so many years he’d had no one. Then it was just Val. Now there were Murdoch, Scott, Teresa, Cipriano, Maria, and Sam, as well as Slade, Bonner, and Tate. Yes, and there were also all the men and woman that called Lancer home.

Johnny nodded. “I didn’t have anyone for a lot of years,” Johnny said. “I wanted it that way. As long as all of you know what you’re getting yourselves into. There will always be someone coming for me, coming for Johnny Madrid.”

Murdoch moved to put an arm around his youngest son’s shoulders. “John, as I said earlier, we are family. A rather large family as it turns out. Lancer takes care of its own, son.”


Murdoch stood on the veranda watching two men ride away. He looked toward the ridge overlooking the hacienda and smiled. Beside him, Teresa and Tate stood arm in arm; their eyes followed his.

Cipriano stood at the corral, watching the Patron. His eyes also went to the ridge.

“Patron,” Cipriano called out, “is good, si?” He nodded toward the hill. Other ranch hands were soon looking toward the ridge.

“Si, it’s very good,” Murdoch answered with a smile.

Scott made his way from the barn to the veranda. His eyes now following those of the others. Scott stopped beside his father. Murdoch put an arm around his shoulders and pulled him closer.

Scott smiled and kept watching the ridgetop.

The golden palomino and rider stood like a statue high above the house. Johnny looked down at his home. It had been almost two weeks since the family had convinced him not to leave. He still wasn’t sure the decision was the right one, but he felt at peace with himself.

He watched as the two riders made their way to the top of the hill. He was going to miss having Slade and Bonner around. He’d tried to get them to stay, but Slade was right. Having both of them at Lancer would only act as a magnet for every gunhawk looking for a reputation. It was bad enough that Johnny Madrid was here, but to have Jack Slade at Lancer would never work, at least for now.

Slade and Bonner topped the hill and came to a stop beside Johnny. They turned their horses to face the valley below. The three of them sat in silence for a few minutes, taking in the morning air and the beauty spread out in front of them.

Finally, it was Johnny who broke the silence, “Heading out?”

“Yep,” Slade answered. “We figured we’d better get going. There’s money to be made in Arizona right now.”

Johnny nodded his understanding. Deep down he wished he was riding with them. He wanted to feel that freedom again.

“You’ll be back in time for Thanksgiving, won’t you?” Johnny looked at Slade.

“We promised Miss Teresa we would be,” Slade answered. “Besides we wouldn’t miss the wedding.”

“That’s good, ‘cause I wouldn’t want to be in your boots if you weren’t here. I think Teresa would probably come to find you and drag you back,” he laughed.

“We figured we’d come and stay for a couple of months,” Slade said. “With Thanksgiving and Christmas….” He’d been at Lancer last December. He remembered the feeling of family and love he didn’t have in his own life. He wanted that feeling again.

“You’ll have to stay through the New Year, too,” Johnny quickly added.

“Yeah, we sure don’t want to miss the birthdays,” Bonner spoke up with a smile.

“Can’t forget the birthdays,” Slade grinned. “Wouldn’t miss your birthday this year. Not every day Johnny Madrid turns twenty.”

Johnny shook his head with a slight grin on his face, “Never thought I’d live to see nineteen, let alone twenty.”

“John, you might just die an old man with your children and grandchildren by your bedside,” Slade said.

“Nope,” Johnny answered, the grin fading away, “not gonna’ live that long, but maybe… just maybe, I’ll live long enough to see Teresa and Tate’s children get born. If my big brother hurries up, I might get to see his too.”

Slade and Bonner didn’t say anything. They knew the odds of someone with Madrid’s reputation living to a ripe old age were slim to none. It was a good dream though.

“Well, we’ll be going. Take care, Johnny… Lancer,” Slade put his hand out to shake Johnny’s.

“Take care, Jack,” Johnny shook the man’s hand. “If you or Bonner need anything or need help, wire me. I’ll come, no matter where or when.”

Slade nodded. “Gonna’ miss all this,” he looked out across the valley again.

“It does grow on you, doesn’t it?”

“Johnny, could I ask you a favor?” Slade straightened in the saddle, dipping his head. He’d thought about what he was going to say and now wasn’t sure how to put it in words

“Whatever you want,” Johnny answered, seeing that Slade was hesitating.

“When my time finally comes…. well, … hell, I’m not sure how to say this.”

“Just get it said, Jack,” Johnny’s voice was soft and low.

Slade took a deep breath and let it out. Looking directly into Johnny’s eyes he found his words, “When my time comes, I’d like to be laid to rest here, on Lancer. Haven’t had many places I’ve felt at home in my life. Lancer feels like home to me.” Slade dipped his head again almost afraid of the answer.

Understanding, Johnny answered without hesitation, “I can make that happen.” His eyes dropped to his hands wrapped around the saddle horn.

“Johnny,” Bonner spoke up, “I’d like that, too. I don’t have a family anywhere. I don’t have anyone who would miss me. It’s been nice being here with you and your family.”

Johnny nodded again, “This is your home too, Bonner, yours and Jack’s. I’ll make sure when the time comes…well, you know. There won’t be an unmarked grave somewhere for either of you.”

The three men didn’t say any more. Slade pulled his horse around and started south, Bonner by his side.

Johnny and Barranca stayed on the hill overlooking the valley a while longer. The panorama in front of him took his breath away. He often wondered how he’d gotten so lucky, how fate had put him here.

He turned in the saddle and watched Slade and Bonner disappear down the road. Yes, there was more to family than just blood. Thinking about Slade’s and Bonner’s request, Johnny took comfort in knowing what Murdoch had said was the truth; Lancer did take care of its own.


Johnny rode slowly down from the ridge and made his way to the corral. He noticed more men standing around than there usually would have been. Stopping just short of the corral, he swung his leg over the saddle horn and slid to the ground, seeing the smiles on everyone’s face.

Murdoch and Scott stood off to the side, their smiles as big as those of the hands.

“You look happy.” Johnny’s smile matched his families. “You two alright?”

“We’re fine, son,” Murdoch responded as he leaned back against the solid wooden posts of the corral.

“I see you got Slade and Bonner off,” Scott spoke up as he moved closer to his brother and threw an arm around the younger man’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Johnny lowered his head and kicked at the dirt with the toe of his boot.

Johnny’s sad tone caused Scott to tighten his hold on his brother. “Little Brother?”

Johnny raised his head, turning to look at Scott.
“I’m alright,” Johnny replied. “I hate to see them go, especially Slade. It was nice having someone here who…. understood.”

“And we don’t understand?” Scott asked, tightening his hold.

Johnny sighed, “No, Scott. Well, you do to a point, but you and the old man have blinders on when it comes to me.”

Murdoch had been listening and felt it was time he stepped in. “Johnny, we know you don’t believe it, but we do understand.”

He held up a hand to stop his youngest son’s protest. “No, listen to me. This family… all this family,” he waved his arm around indicating everyone on the ranch, “knows how hard it is for you to deal with the pressures of the reputation you’ve built. With everything that’s happened in the last year, we understand better than you think we do.”

“Murdoch, I just don’t want you to be disappointed in me,” Johnny cocked his head and looked at his father, a tear in the corner of his eye. The tilt of his head and the look on his face reminding Murdoch of the first day they’d met. There was still a longing in his son’s eyes, one that only he could fulfill.

“Son,” Murdoch shook his head as he walked over to Johnny, taking hold of his arms and holding him out so that they were face to face.

“Oh, God, John. Do you even know how much I love you? There is nothing you could do that would disappoint me. Do you remember when we talked at Tyson’s Well? I told you how proud I was of you. That hasn’t changed, and there is nothing on this earth that will ever change it.”

Murdoch pulled his son to his chest, holding him tight. The sound of Scott clearing his throat brought Murdoch’s head up. Looking at his oldest son, he smiled and held an arm out, inviting him in as well.

Scott didn’t hesitate.

Soon, the three men stood together as one; the two sons, like night and day, dwarfed by their giant of a father.

The hands standing around dipped their heads, smiling.

Murdoch released his boys and cleared his throat, “Well, now, I believe we have a ranch to run.”

“Hola, Juanito,” Jose called out and raised a hand in the air as he herded several wild horses into the corral.

“Hola, Jose, you round these up?” Johnny nodded toward the horses.

“Si,” the young man laughed. “Para que, mi amigo, para romper.” (For you, my friend, to break)

Johnny laughed. “Alright, and maybe you’ll help?”

“Si,” Jose responded, “tal vez.” (maybe)


The boys spent the rest of the morning working the horses Jose brought in.

Scott sat on the top rail of the corral, smiling as he watched his brother’s wet dark head bob up and down to the rhythm of the mustang’s movements.

Today, Johnny and Jose would green break the horses. While Jose worked with the horses gaining their trust, Johnny would gentle them. Johnny didn’t believe in using spurs to rake the horse or in traumatizing it. His methods let the animal retain its spirit once fully broken.

Of course, Johnny found himself thrown more times than he would have liked. The result was that mid-morning his body, already covered with sweat, was plastered with dirt.

Murdoch stood at the window behind his desk watching his youngest son. It had been a hard year for all of them, especially Johnny. The year had seen them go from one battle to another. He hoped that finally the battles were over now and the war won.

Murdoch knew or thought he knew, how Johnny felt. The boy had paid his dues, and now it was time to collect his rewards. He was hopeful that ranch life would be enough to keep his son happy and help him forget about Madrid.

Shouts and cheers went up around the edge of the corral as Johnny brought another horse under his control.

Seeing Johnny trot around the corral on his latest conquest, Murdoch decided it was time to join his boys. Taking his hat and gun belt from the rack near the front door, Murdoch stepped out onto the veranda.

Teresa was humming as she walked out the door behind Murdoch. “Murdoch, tell the boys lunch will be ready in a few minutes.” The young girl looked toward the corral, “I have cold lemonade ready now.”

“I’ll let them know,” Murdoch answered with a smile. He started to walk away and then stopped and turned back, asking, “Is Tate coming back in for lunch?”

Teresa blushed. Tate had ridden out that morning with Walt and Frank to check on the fence line west of the hacienda.

“He said he would try,” Teresa answered looking to the west, hoping to see her fiancé riding in.

Murdoch was halfway to the corral when he saw dust rising on the road near the arch. Looking toward the corral, he knew Scott and Johnny had seen the riders coming as well.

Johnny slid off the horse he was breaking and handed the reins to Jose. Climbing over the corral fence, he silently dropped to the ground on the other side. As he lifted his gun belt from the top rail, his eyes never left the advancing riders.

Scott and Johnny joined Murdoch in the middle of the yard. Johnny already knew who they were. There was no mistaking the way Val sat a horse. As for the other two riders, he’d seen them only that morning.

“Val?” Murdoch questioned, noticing Johnny wrap his gun belt around his waist and tighten it down.

Johnny nodded, “Slade and Bonner are with him.”

The three men stopped in the yard in front of the Lancers.

“You two decide to come back?” Johnny asked of Slade and Bonner, the looks on their faces telling him there was trouble.

“Got as far as town and met up with Val. Figured we’d better come back,” Slade answered with a worried look.

“What’s wrong?” Murdoch’s question was asked loud enough for everyone in the yard to hear as he watched Slade and Bonner scan their surroundings, looking for an as yet unseen enemy.

Val’s eyes fell on Johnny. His shirt was open, showing a chest covered in a sheen of sweat and caked with dirt from the morning’s work. The young man’s dark hair, wet with sweat, clung to his head. He looked so much younger than his 19 years. Val wanted to gather the boy up in his arms like he did when he was five and protect him from what he was about to tell him.

“McLeans gone missing,” Val said, watching for Johnny’s reaction. “Got a telegram from Marsha McLean. Henry McLean escaped from the mental institution in Phoenix. Killed one of the orderlies and made off with a horse and gun.”

“How long ago?” Johnny asked holding his breath.

“Long enough,” Val replied watching Johnny take a deep breath.

“And we’re just now hearing about it?” Scott questioned, disbelief in his voice. “Why did they wait so long to notify you?”

“Don’t know,” Val responded with a shake of his head.

“We’ll take precautions; set guards. McLean won’t get near you, son.”

Murdoch put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

Johnny huffed, “I took care of myself a long time before coming to Lancer. I can take care of myself now.”

“Johnny…,” Scott spoke up only to be halted by his brother.

“No, Scott, somehow in the last few months I’ve started relying on all of you to protect me. That’s not who I am. That ends now. Sooner or later, McLean is gonna’ show up and I’ll end it, just like I should have done that first day. I used to live by a hard and fast rule; never leave an enemy standing. Forgot that rule with Henry McLean. It’s not a mistake I plan to repeat.”

Murdoch saw the determination on the young man’s face. Regardless of what Johnny said, his son was going to be protected.
Suddenly, Johnny’s head snapped up, the movement caught by Slade. Slade had seen it before. In that split second, Madrid had taken the place of Lancer.

Johnny turned his head slowly looking around the yard and beyond. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing up. His right hand moved to rest on the butt of his Colt, while his thumb flipped the rawhide guard off the gun’s hammer.

Slade’s eyes dropped to Madrid’s right hand, his own instincts kicking in. The eyes of the two gunfighters met. Slade knew what Madrid was thinking; he was thinking the same thing. McLean was close.

“I’m going inside and get cleaned up,” Johnny stated as he backed away from the others and turned toward the house. As he walked away, he could feel Slade’s eyes on his back.

Murdoch looked toward the corral, “Cipriano!”

“Si, Patron,” the Segundo called back.

“Set guards and patrols around the house,” Murdoch ordered. “Henry McLean has escaped and is probably headed this way.”

Murdoch didn’t have to say anything else, nor did Cipriano. Men started toward the bunkhouse to get their guns. They all knew what to do; they’d had enough practice in the last year.

“Jose,” Murdoch called out, “would you take their horses. It looks like they’ll need a good rub down and oats.”

“Si, Patron,” Jose answered as he moved across the yard to take the reins from Val, Slade, and Bonner.

“Lunch should be ready by now,” Murdoch announced. “We can talk while we eat.”

Murdoch began to walk away with Scott by his side. They hadn’t gone more than ten feet when both men stopped and looked back. Slade and Bonner had assumed gunfighter stances, and Val had his hand on the butt of his gun.

Before Murdoch could ask, a woman’s stifled cry came from inside the house. He turned to see Henry McLean with a gun to Teresa’s head. With Teresa as a shield, McLean forced her out the French doors.

With a wild look in his eyes, McLean scanned the yard.

“Where is he?” McLean demanded. “Where’s that piece of filth?”

No one dared move. The men in the yard stood like statues, no one speaking, hardly daring to breathe.

“I asked you, Lancer, where’s Madrid? Where’s the man who murdered my son? I swear I’ll blow her head off if you don’t tell me.” The look in McLean’s eyes left no doubt that he’d do what he was threatening.

Murdoch looked past McLean to see a lone figure silently moving around the corner of the house. He swallowed hard and held his breath as Johnny, shirt still unbuttoned, silently stepped in behind McLean.

“Well?” McLean asked again.

Val, Slade, and Bonner saw what Murdoch had. Slade’s right thumb released the rawhide strap on his gun’s hammer, ready to back Madrid’s play.

“WHERE IS HE!? McLean’s agitated voice carried across the yard and seemed to echo off the buildings surrounding it.

“Behind you, McLean,” the icy voice wasn’t loud, but loud enough for everyone to hear.

McLean spun to his right, releasing Teresa as he did. The girl crumpled to the ground, tears streaming down her face.

A sadistic grin spread across McLean’s face, knowing that he finally faced the man he wanted so desperately to send to hell. The grin slid away as Mclean looked at the gunfighter’s dark features and cold, hard eyes.

Madrid’s expression left no doubt in McLean’s mind that he was looking into the face of the devil and it wasn’t Madrid, but himself who was bound for hell.

Before he realized what was happening, Madrid took one long stride forward. A right cross to McLean’s chin sent him staggering backward. Recovering quickly, he brought his gun to bear only to be met with a sharp left uppercut from Madrid’s fist.

McLean screamed as he lunged forward, the gun in his right hand momentarily forgotten. Grasping Madrid’s right wrist with his left hand, McLean raised his right hand into the air. As if suddenly remembering the gun, he slammed the weapon down hard, hitting Madrid’s shoulder in a glancing blow.

Madrid ducked sideways as McLean pressed his advantage. Raising his right hand again, he felt Madrid’s hand on his arm, stopping the downward motion. McLean’s eyes met Madrid’s.

The anger and vengeance McLean held for Madrid welled up inside him and exploded in another scream. His only thought was that he had his hands once again on the man who had killed his oldest son; the man who had ruined him and his family. If he were going to hell today, he was taking Madrid with him.

As everyone else stood frozen, the two men wrestled with the gun between them. Johnny’s leg shot out and hooked behind McLean’s. Both men toppled to the ground; starting to roll, a cloud of dust billowed up around them.

McLean tried using his left hand to push Madrid away and his right to aim his gun at the gunfighter’s chest. The struggle seemed to last an eternity when in reality it was less than a minute.

A muffled shot followed a few seconds later by another ending the battle, leaving both men motionless on the ground.


Murdoch was the first to reach Johnny’s side. Hesitating, he reached out, taking his son’s shoulder, and slowly turned him over.

“John?” Murdoch’s usually booming voice was almost a whisper as he laid a hand on his son’s face. Murdoch’s breath hitched and tears formed in his eyes when he was rewarded with the flutter of dark lashes and blue eyes.

“I’m alright,” Johnny assured his father.

Johnny turned his head to look at the still form lying next to him. There was no need to ask if McLean was dead.

Johnny raised an arm, “Help me up.”

Scott reached down and pulled his brother to his feet.

Looking back down at McLean he remembered the last few seconds of the struggle.

Johnny remembered the first shot. He didn’t know where the bullet had gone; he only knew it hadn’t hit him. Instantly, Johnny and McLean’s eyes had locked. For a fleeting moment, it wasn’t Henry McLean staring back at him; it was Billy.

Johnny felt the warmth of McLean’s hand in his own as he twisted the gun away from himself and aimed the barrel at McLean’s chest. McLean seemed resigned to his fate, as he relaxed his hand on the gun, giving up the fight, letting Madrid overpower him.

Johnny could have stopped there, but he knew this had to end and there was only one way. His soul was already damned, killing Henry McLean wouldn’t add to that damnation.

McLean’s mumbled words would stay with him for the rest of his life, “I’ll be waiting for you in hell.”
Johnny tightened his grip, pressing McLean’s finger on the trigger. Flinching when the gun fired, he felt the heat of the gun barrel against his bare chest and the burn of gun smoke in his nostrils.

McLean’s features relaxed, his eyes closing, as the second bullet found its way into the man’s heart.

The sound of Teresa’s sobs drew Johnny’s attention away from McLean’s prone body. He wanted to hold her, to tell her he was sorry.

It had happened again. Madrid’s past had brought harm to the family. He’d find out soon enough if what they’d all said was the truth. Could they accept him now that once again they’d all been put in danger?

As if reading Johnny’s mind, Murdoch reached out and put an arm around his son’s shoulder and pulled him to his side. Scott was next, laying a hand on his brother’s shoulder.

Maria helped Teresa to her feet. The young girl looked around, “Oh, Johnny,” she cried as she threw herself into his arms, “thank you.”

Johnny held her trembling body close to him, wondering how she could be thanking him after putting her life at risk again.

Teresa pulled back and looked into her brother’s eyes. She knew what he was thinking. “It wasn’t your fault, Johnny. Not everything that happens is your fault. Don’t start blaming yourself for any of this.”

Johnny didn’t say anything. He looked at the faces of his family and friends. He could see that not one of them blamed him for what had happened.

Murdoch smiled and looked around, taking a deep breath and letting it out.

“Cipriano, get McLean’s body to the ice house. Val can take him back to town tomorrow. Everyone has the rest of the day off. Tonight, I want all of my family close. Maria, get Slade and Bonner’s rooms ready for them, they’re going to stay for a couple more days.”

Slade looked at Murdoch and nodded, “Be glad to, Mr. Lancer.”

“It’s Murdoch, Jack and don’t you forget it.”

“Well, Murdoch, I don’t know about anyone else, but I need a drink,” Slade said as he took his hat off his head, wiping his brow with his sleeve.

“I second that,” Scott laughed as he put an arm around Johnny’s shoulder and started guiding him into the house.

The sound of horses entering the yard brought everyone to a stop. Larry Tate, along with Walt and Frank rode in and looked around.

“Did we miss something?” Tate asked as he pushed his hat back on his blonde head.

Teresa walked out, putting a hand on Tate’s leg, she looked up at the man she was going to marry. “Come inside, sweetheart. We have quite a story to tell.”

Johnny watched as Scott lead the way through the French doors, followed by Slade and Bonner. Teresa and Tate went inside next, Tate’s arm around her waist. Murdoch and Val stopped in the doorway and looked back. Both men smiled at him.

“Well, come on hijo,” Val drawled. “Do you need any doctoring?”

Johnny shook his head.

“He may not need doctoring, Val,” Murdoch smiled, “but he does need a bath. I’m not sitting down to dinner with him smelling like a horse.”

“He is right ripe, isn’t he?” Val laughed.

“You know I’m standing right here?” Johnny grinned and rolled his eyes.

The sound of laughter, and clinking glasses, filtered out the French doors and into the yard.

Johnny searched Murdoch’s face first and then Val’s. Smiling, he walked forward, stopping between his two Pa’s, waiting to see what would happen next. To his delight, he didn’t have to wait long before first Val and then Murdoch put an arm around him.

Walking through the doors and into the Great Room, the three men joined the celebration already in progress.


At 6:00 precisely, dinner was served. The house was filled with laughter as Scott and Johnny retold the events of the day.

It had been two weeks since Slade and Bonner’s departure for Arizona. Johnny and the entire family missed them, but both men had assured everyone, they would be back before Thanksgiving.

Johnny told Murdoch and Scott of his promise to Slade and Bonner about their request to be buried on Lancer. Murdoch had readily agreed and made sure the two gunfighters knew he would uphold his son’s promise.

There was a social in town tonight that Tate and Teresa were attending. Teresa was excited to show off her intended and Tate needed to meet the people in town and the neighbors.

After dinner, Murdoch, Scott, and Johnny settled in the Great Room in front of the fireplace. Murdoch poured drinks for himself and his sons. He gave Scott a glass of sipping whiskey and Johnny a glass of tequila, before sitting down in his favorite chair.

“This is real nice,” Johnny said as he settled on the floor with his back to the sofa.

“Yes, it is,” Murdoch agreed.

Johnny sat up quickly and looked toward the front door. Murdoch and Scott looked at Johnny knowing he had heard something. A feeling of déjà vu came over them as Johnny jumped to his feet. The memory of the night less than a year earlier when Val had come to ask for his help in Mexico came flooding back.

Murdoch and Scott were on their feet as the front door opened and Val walked in.

“Val?” Johnny hesitantly took a few steps forward. The entire scene all too familiar. “Is anything wrong?”

“Not one thing,” Val answered with a smile as he hung his hat on the hat tree at the front door and unbuckled his gun belt, adding it to those already there. He looked back to see three men staring at him.

“My deputy’s covering for me. Thought I’d come home for a few days, sleep in my own bed,” Val laughed, walking over to Johnny and putting a hand on the back of his neck, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You got any problem with that, hijo?”

“No Papi,” Johnny laughed, dipping his head, “no problem at all.”

Val pulled Johnny closer to him, rubbing his back and then smoothed the boy’s unruly hair.

“Have you had dinner yet?” Murdoch asked relieved that nothing was wrong. Walking forward, he put a hand on Val’s shoulder; urging him into the room.

“Knew I wouldn’t get here by 6:00, so I ate in town,” Val answered, starting for the drink cart only to see Scott already there, drink poured and held out to him.

Val took the drink, thanking Scott with a nod of his head. Looking around, his eyes fell on Johnny. He’d been through a lot with the boy over the years. With a sigh of pure joy, he knew that Johnny had finally found what he needed most; home and family. More importantly, it was a family that loved the boy unconditionally.

That same family now welcomed Val into its fold. It felt good to be part of a family and Val thanked his lucky star for the day Murdoch had accepted and allowed him fully into Johnny’s life.

Taking a sip of his drink, Murdoch’s eyes went from one son to the other and then to Val; he knew he was a lucky man. While Val had been Johnny’s family for many years, in just over a year, Val had become an important part of the Lancer family; someone Murdoch welcomed with open arms and heart.

After so many years of loss, Murdoch Lancer now had more family than he ever thought possible.

Raising his glass high, “A toast,” Murdoch announced. “To family… all our family.”

“No matter who they are,” Scott joined in looking at Val.

“And no matter where they’re at,” Johnny finished, looking to Murdoch for reassurance.

“Yes, son,” Murdoch smiled, “No matter who they are or where they may be. To Lancer.”

February 2019

To With This Ring


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 SandySha directly.


8 thoughts on “Lancer Takes Care Of Its Own by SandySha

  1. Thank you for this story. I particularly enjoyed the warm relationships and real affection between the main characters.


  2. A really well written story, with an excellent plot. I like the non canon characters that SandySha has created and how well they fit into to story and the way in which they link with the original characters. I also like the dialogue in SandySha’s stories – the dialogue here could easily have been in a script for the show. Thank you to SandySha for writing and posting another story in this excellent series.


  3. Thank you for writing a great story. The characters are so real and the plot just keeps getting better. I’m so glad there is more!!!


  4. After so much stress, hurt and battles, it felt so good to have Johnny fully accepted by his family. I hope Johnny and his friends are wrong about his chances of a long life and he is able to experience and enjoy the love he’s always deserved.


  5. Another great chapter in this series. I was so worried that Johnny would leave. Sandy you are a terrific writer. Once I start reading one of your stories I cannot put it down. Thank you for sharing them with us.


  6. I loved this. Great set up with the protagonists in the McLeans. The younger brother we remember seeing as Johnny rode out after the gunfeith Billy McLean. I love when stories map out like that. Great characterization, the trial was fun for me . I loved Larry asking Johnny and then Murdoch about Teresa and the way the large lancer family kept Johnny from doing something stupid. But I think my absolute favorite like was when Val came in and said he thought he’d come home and sleep in his own bed. Happy squeal.


  7. This was a really great read. With all the plots and twists from one story to the next was riveting. Great family interaction and character representation kept me reading almost nonstop. Thank you SandySha.


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