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Legends Never Die by SandySha

Word count 50,320

 * I don’t own them, others do.  No money was made from the writing of this story.
** A/R Johnny is 18, and Scott is 22.
** Thanks to Alice Marie and Susan for help with the beta and thanks go to Cathie for helping with the picture at the end of the story. 
**Finally, my usual warning: If you don’t like to see Johnny larger than life, then step away now.


3rd in the Pistolero series


‘When legends die, the dream ends; there is no more greatness.’


Shirtless and barefoot, standing at his bedroom window, Johnny’s eyes were fixed on the distant mountain range.  As the sun crested the highest peak, his breath hitched.  Like a crown of gold, it hovered for a moment, then started to slowly rise. 

Patiently, he waited; waited for those first rays of light to creep down the mountainside and settle on the valley floor.  As the green pastures and fields took on the glow of morning and the ranch sprang to life, he softly said the words aloud.  The same words Teresa had spoken that first day as they sat on the ridge overlooking the hacienda.

“There it is, as far as the eye can see. The most beautiful place in the whole wide world; Lancer.” 

Every time Johnny looked out over the land, his land, he was reminded of those words, and it left him breathless.  Lancer was as much a part of him now as the blood coursing through his veins.   For the first time in his life, he had a home and a family and was happy.

Yes, he was happy, so why the hell couldn’t he get a decent night’s sleep.

It was the same every night.  Ghosts of his past walked through his dreams and turned them to nightmares.  Every morning he woke long before dawn, covered in sweat, and unable to catch his breath.

It was the same nightmare he’d had for months, always starting with someone calling his name.  Then the ghosts would come, always with a different face and in a different town.  The only constant was the same sound of gunfire and bullets hissing by him as he stood motionless in the street.   Only when a bullet found it’s mark and he felt the pain in his chest did he wake, sweating, and most nights screaming.

The morning breeze picked up, and the room grew colder. Closing his eyes, Johnny breathed deeply and licked his lips.   He felt a shiver as the cold crisp air danced across the moisture on his bare chest. 

Memories of the past few months flooded in as his right hand absentmindedly found the matching scars on his left side, less than an inch apart.  The first scar was complements of Jake Benton, the fasted gun in Texas until he’d met someone faster; until he’d met Johnny Madrid.  The second scar had been left by Matt Wilson, the man who’d hired Benton.  

Johnny took solace in the fact that both men were dead and buried; however, he still saw them from time to time, walking in his dreams and dying over and over again in his nightmares.

Gently rubbing the scars, Johnny wondered when they’d stop aching.  When would they stop being a constant reminder of the pain Benton and Wilson had brought with them and stopped reminding him of the man who had hired them?  He feared the memories, like the scars, would be with him the rest of his life.

Johnny shook himself as another breeze caused the curtains to move, and for the first time that morning, the sun reached inside the bedroom.  He felt its warmth as the light surrounded him, taking the chill away.   

Turning away from the window, Johnny began his morning routine, putting the memories of his nightmares away to be dealt with some other time. 


Stepping over to the dresser, Johnny picked up a thin paperback book he’d found at the Mercantile in Green River.  One of those dime novels written about him that he hated so much.  He didn’t know why he’d bought it.  Maybe because it was his image on the cover.

Johnny snorted at the title: ‘The Pistolero:  Johnny Madrid in Legends Never Die.

As far as he was concerned, the only thing the title had right was that Johnny Madrid was a pistolero.  It was wrong though on another account; legends can and do die, and the way he was going, it wouldn’t be long in coming. 

He opened the top dresser drawer and shoved the book to the back.  He didn’t want to know what the book said about him.  He’d read other dime novels and had a pretty good idea this one wasn’t going to be any different.

Johnny pulled out a shirt from the same draw and dressed quickly.  He began to think about the day ahead and his plans to work a string of mustangs rounded up the week before.

Making his way down the back stairs to the kitchen, Johnny was smiling.  It was a new day and with any luck a quiet one.  He could hear Murdoch’s booming voice long before he got to the bottom of the stairs. 

“Are you sure about this, Scott?”

“Yes, sir.  We discussed it last night, and I haven’t changed my mind.”

‘Well, hell, so much for quiet.  At least it was a new day.’ 

Johnny didn’t need to see his father’s face to know he was shaking his head.  He remembered the night before and the discussion with his brother.

“Scott, you’re not used to breaking horses.  Don’t you think you should leave that to your brother?”

“Sir, I can understand your concerns; however, Johnny isn’t the only son you have who is good with horses.  Admittedly, I’ve never climbed onto the back of an unbroken mustang, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do it.    I have to learn sometime, and tomorrow is as good a time as any.”

Scott turned to look at Johnny for support.   Johnny hesitated but knew better than to go against his brother.

“Murdoch, he’s right.  He has to learn sometime.  There’s a bay gelding out there that should be easy on him.”

“Just how easy?”  Murdoch leaned back in his chair; arms folded over his chest. 

Johnny smiled.  “Well, let’s just say he’s not going to be as bad as the stallion I’m gonna be working.”

“We start the roundup day after tomorrow.  I need both of you in one piece.”

Johnny laughed. “Don’t worry, old man; he will be.”

Murdoch shook his head and threw his hands in the air.   His attempts at protecting his oldest son ended in a worried father begrudgingly relenting and letting his son do what he wanted.
Sliding into his seat at the kitchen table, Johnny could see Scott was still determined to ride one of the horses today, and Murdoch was still firmly against it.

“Morning.”  Johnny reached for the plate of biscuits as Maria place his breakfast in front of him.

While Scott was all smiles, Murdoch was still brooding.  Johnny didn’t let either of them distract him from his meal.   He’d made up his mind the night before he’d do whatever he could to keep Scott safe.  

Finishing with breakfast, Johnny stood up.


Scott nodded, pushed back from the table and followed his brother toward the front door, leaving Murdoch sitting alone. 

As they walked to the corral, Scott glanced at Johnny, noting how tired his little brother looked.

“You didn’t sleep again last night, did you?”

Johnny slowed his stride.

“Sorry I woke you.”

“You didn’t.  You just look tired.”

Johnny stopped and turned to look at his brother.   Taking a deep breath, he shook his head. 

“Damn, nightmares are never gonna’ go away.  I want just one night…one night when I could sleep all night and not wake up sweating.”

“The gunfighters have stopped coming.  Give it some more time.  The nightmares will pass.  You’ll see.”

“Yeah, they’ll pass.”  Johnny gave Scott a warm smile.  “But right now, I want to see my big brother break a horse.  Come on; I gotta’ get my bets down.”

Scott, mouth open, watched Johnny stroll away.  Hurrying to catch up, Scott called out, “Are you betting for or against me?”


Hoots and cheers could be heard coming from the corral.   Men sat atop the fence rails, waving their hats and yelling encouragement.  One voice yelled louder than the others.

“Stay with him!  That’s it!  Stay with him.”

Murdoch watched from the doorway of the house, holding his breath, as the horse bucked and twisted his way around the enclosure. 

“Keep your arm up!  Stay with him.”

The rider followed instructions, and his left arm shot up over his head, helping him keep his balance. 

Murdoch walked across the yard, drawn to the still cheering men.  The rider was doing a good job of staying on the horse.

“You’ve got him now!”

“How’s he doing?”  Murdoch asked, leaning on the top rail of the corral, watching Scott attempt to break the mustang.

“Good… he’s doing good.  Watch him, Scott… damn!” 

Murdoch cringed as the horse spun to the right, and the rider went flying in the opposite direction.  

Frank and Slim jumped into the corral to catch the still bucking gelding while everyone else went to the downed rider.  The cheers and yelling stopped as men waited to see if the rider was hurt.

Looking down at his sons, Murdoch smiled.   One was on the ground, the other kneeling beside him with a grin on his face.

“You done real good, Boston.”  

Scott pushed himself into a sitting position and shook his head.   

Groaning, he said, “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Done what, brother, shake your head, or get tossed on it?”

 “Both,” Scott laughed.  “Now, give me a hand.”

Johnny stood.  Reaching down, he offered Scott a hand and pulled him to his feet.

“Take your time.” 

Scott glanced at his brother, remembering another time when it was he who had said the same words to Johnny.

Johnny laughed. “Wonder what old man Garrett would have said if he’d seen you do that?”

Scott’s eyes widened, and then he grinned.  “I’m sure Grandfather would have been appalled.”
Scott grunted as he stood.  Looking at Johnny, he asked, “Well, did you win or lose?”

Johnny chuckled.

Scott got his answer when Walt walked up, handing Johnny his winnings.  

“I take it you bet for me?”

“Yep, and thank you for staying on him.”  Johnny shoved the money in his pocket.

Murdoch shook his head.  “Betting, John?  You were betting?”

“Sure did.” Johnny kept smiling.

Walt had started to turn away and then turned back.

“Oh, Mr. Lancer, I forgot to give you your winnings.”  Walt counted out some bills and handed them to Murdoch. 

Scott and Johnny looked at each other and then at the blushing face of their father.  Both men started to laugh.

Ignoring the laughter, Murdoch accepted the money.

“Thank you, Walt.”

His attention back on Scott, Murdoch put a hand on the man’s shoulder and looked him over, head to toe.

Satisfied, his oldest didn’t look hurt, he asked, “Are you alright, son?” 

“Yes, Sir.   A little sore already, but nothing seems broken.”

Murdoch sighed in relief.  He was used to his youngest son breaking horses and getting thrown, but Scott… no, he wasn’t used to seeing Scott flying through the air and landing on the hard-packed ground. 

Now it was over.  Scott rode the gelding, ended up in the dirt, and was still in one piece.  The only thing injured was his pride, and even that didn’t seem to be badly bruised.  Murdoch could see how proud Scott was of his attempt at breaking the horse.

“Alright, both of you, in the house and get cleaned up.  Teresa will have a hot tub ready for you, Scott.”   Murdoch threw an arm around Scott’s shoulders.  “I’m proud of you, Son.  You did well.”

Scott lowered his head, hiding the blush on his face.   Praise from Murdoch Lancer wasn’t given lightly or often enough. 

Johnny was a step behind and to the right of Scott and Murdoch.  He heard what Murdoch said to Scott and felt a fleeting pang of jealously shoot through him. 

Johnny couldn’t remember the last time he’d received praise from his father and never for breaking a horse.  He knew, in his case, there was little his father had to be proud of; still, when Murdoch did say the words, it was like throwing a bone to a dog, and Johnny ate it up.

Letting the feeling slide away, Johnny joined Murdoch and Scott.  Putting an arm around his brother’s shoulder, he gave him a brilliant smile. 

“Boston, you did so good, I think you need to be out here helping me more often.  I’ll make a professional out of you in no time.”

Scott returned the smile.  Murdoch didn’t.

“I hardly think your brother needs to become a professional, John.”

Murdoch’s gruff voice gave both Scott and Johnny pause.

Johnny stiffened.  “I was talking about busting broncs, old man.  What did you think I meant?”

Murdoch cleared his throat.  “I thought…., well, it’s nothing.”

Murdoch saw Johnny’s shoulders slump and a fleeting glimpse of pain in his son.  He’d hurt Johnny without meaning to, but before he could say more, a shrill whistle broke the air. 

Everyone turned to see Joe pointing toward the arch.   Following Joe’s line of sight, Murdoch’s breath caught.   Looking back at Johnny, he sighed and shook his head.

‘When will it end?

“Is that…?”  Scott took a step away from his brother.

Johnny watched the rider moving closer. 

“Yeah, that’s Leon.  It’s been a while since he’s ridden out here.” 

Pushing his anger over Murdoch’s words away, Johnny glanced at his father.  As Leon got closer, he could see the anxiety building in the tall man and wished he could find a way to make it go away.  Right now, however, he had more important things to worry about now.

Cipriano was coming from the barn when he heard Joe’s whistle.  He moved closer to the corral and waited, knowing, like everyone else, what Leon’s presence meant.   The sight of Leon Fergus usually meant trouble.

It had been almost a month since Leon last rode onto Lancer land to tell them of a gunfighter looking for Johnny Madrid.   

Walt, Jose, Frank, Joe, and Juan moved to stand together, waiting for orders.  When Johnny had been wounded some months earlier, Cipriano chose five men he could trust to help care for and protect the then defensively man.

Cipriano had dubbed them ‘The Chosen.’  It had been their job to protect Murdoch Lancer’s youngest son, whether he wanted their protection or not.  Even after the wounds were healed and Johnny was back on his feet, the ‘chosen’ were always prepared to watch the boy’s back.

All three Lancers breathed a sigh of relief when they saw the expression on Leon’s face.  The boy stopped in the yard and grinned at them.

“Mister Lancer got a telegram for you.”    

Seeing Leon smiling, Cipriano waved his hand.  Everyone relaxed, and the ‘chosen’ went about their business. It was clear Leon wasn’t there for Johnny.  

Murdoch started to reach for the telegram.  The boy shook his head, pulling his outstretched hand back.

“No, sir, it’s for Mister Scott Lancer,” Leon grinned.  “Burt at the telegraph office said to deliver it to Mister Scott Lancer, and that’s what I mean to do.”

“Is that so?” Scott smiled, stepped forward, and reached for the envelope.  “Well, hand it over.”

Scott took the telegram and started to turn away.  When Leon’s hand remained out, Scott chuckled.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a silver dollar and slapped it into the outstretched hand.

“Golly, thanks, Scott.”   Leon’s smile got bigger.   “Hey, Johnny, how you doing?”

Johnny smiled up at the boy who had a major case of hero-worship.  

“Doing better now.  Thought Val sent you out here.”

Leon shook his head.

“Nope.  Kinda glad too.  It’s been a while since we’ve had any problems in town.  Maybe all those men have forgotten about you.  I hope so.  I sure didn’t like coming out here with messages from Val.” 

Johnny didn’t want to shatter the boy’s illusions, but he knew he hadn’t been forgotten, not by a long shot.  It had been nice, though, not having to use his gun in the last month.

Johnny remembered the last time Val sent Leon to the ranch with word of a pistolero looking for Madrid. 


A month earlier, Johnny rode into town with Murdoch on one side of him and Scott on the other.  Cipriano and the ‘chosen’ rode a short distance behind. 

When Johnny reached the edge of town, he’d sent the others ahead, wanting to ride in alone.  He gave them enough time to get into town and spread out.  It wasn’t what he wanted, but there was no arguing with Murdoch Lancer when he was trying to protect his wolf cub. 

Johnny hadn’t read the note Val sent, nor had Scott. It didn’t matter how many were waiting for him.  He’d face them as he always did, one at a time or all at once. 

When enough time had passed, Johnny made his slow ride down the middle of the street; hat pulled down over his eyes, his right hand resting on the butt of his Colt.

The people of Green River were now used to gunfighters in their town and the gunfights that came with them.  They cleared the street and the boardwalks, moving inside to peer out windows and around door frames.

Val was waiting when he pulled up in front of the Saloon.   Johnny nodded and watched as Val started to turn toward the Saloon doors and then stopped.  Val looked back at him.  They didn’t need words.  Johnny knew what Val wanted to say.  Instead, he gave Johnny a slight smile.

“Drink later?”

“Sure, Val, you buying?”

Val huffed and shook his head.  “I bought the last time.  It’s your turn.”

“What do you say we make Scott buy?”

Val grinned.  “Now, that’s one hell of an idea.”

Val glanced across the street to where Murdoch and Scott were standing with worried looks on their faces.  Val turned to look at Johnny again. 

“You want me to ….?”

Johnny nodded.

“Be right back.”

Val walked into the Saloon.    A few minutes later, he came out with the gunhawk following behind.

The young gunfighter stopped on the boardwalk and looked at Johnny with a lopsided grin on his face.  


Johnny nodded.   “I’m Madrid.  You sure about this?”

The boy looked at Johnny and smiled.  “They said you’d try to talk me out of the dance.  You’re not losing your edge, are you?”

Johnny didn’t let the goading get to him. There was something in the way the boy said, ‘they said you’d try to talk me out of the dance’ that caused the hairs on the back of Johnny’s neck to stand up.

“They did, did they?   So, who is… they?”

“Friends.”  The boy stopped smiling as if he’d given something away; he shouldn’t have.  “Just some friends.”

Cipriano was watching Johnny.  When he saw his Sobrino glance up at the surrounding rooftops, Cip motioned with his hand and quickly pointed up.  The ‘chosen’ spread out further along the street, craning their necks to watch the roofs.

“What’s your name?” Johnny gave the boy a faint smile.  He’d done this long enough to answer the kid’s next question before it was asked.

“I need to know what name to put on your tombstone.”

The boy smiled again.  “Ned Parks.”

“How old are you, kid?”   The boy didn’t look older than sixteen, maybe seventeen.

“Old enough, old man,” Parks answered.  “You know, Madrid, your day as a top gun is over.  It’s time for the legend to die; time for someone younger and faster to take over, and you’re looking at him.”  

Johnny gave the kid a faint smile.  He was eighteen years old and an old man in the boy’s eyes.  He wondered if that was the way he’d looked at the older men he’d faced when he was that age.  Funny, he couldn’t remember.

“You know Parks, if you live long enough, you find out there are some things that aren’t so easy to kill; I’m one of them.  If you want to go through with this, then you aren’t ever gonna’ learn that lesson.  You want to try and kill me, then let’s get this over.  Show me how fast you are.”

Parks stepped off the boardwalk, taking his position in the street.

Spurs jingling, Johnny sidestepped into the street, keeping his eyes on Parks the entire time.   He’d let Val, Cipriano, and the other men watch his back.

Parks set his feet part, loosened his shoulders, and flexed the fingers on his right hand. 

Johnny was watching Parks.  He’d already guessed there was another shooter somewhere, but the way the boy’s eyes darted to the roofline of the Saloon, confirmed it.  The boy wasn’t alone.  

“Parks, in a few minutes, you and whoever you’ve got with you are gonna be dead.  You can still call this off.”

“What do you mean, whoever I have with me?” Parks nervously licked his lips.

“Don’t take me for a fool.  I know you’re not alone, but you see, I’m not either.  See those men along the street with rifles?  They’re watching my back.  I’ll take you down, and they’ll take down your partner.”

Parks looked up and down the street.  He quickly counted the men with rifles and then looked back at Johnny.

“Is that how it is?  I take you out, and they kill me?  I heard you did your own killing.”

“They ain’t here for you, kid.  You win; you walk away.  They’re here to make sure no one else tries to join the dance.” 

Johnny could see the younger man was thinking over the offer.  Just when he thought Parks was going to back down, Johnny heard a rifle shot and at the same time, felt the burn in his left arm.

Ned Parks made his move; Johnny was faster.

As the boy crumpled to the ground, gun still in his holster, Johnny rolled to the right.  A second shot rang out, the bullet hitting the ground next to his left boot.  Throwing himself onto his right side, he raised his gun, aiming at the rooftop.

Hearing the sound of two pistol shots followed by a scream, Johnny knew he didn’t have to worry any longer. 

Seconds later, he watched as a man toppled from the roof of the Saloon.  The body landed in the dusty street with a loud thud.  

Johnny pushed himself to his feet.  Turning his head to the left, he saw Val and Walt give him a sharp nod and lower their weapons.  

Murdoch and Scott stayed where they were until they knew it was safe to move.   When they saw Johnny holster his gun, they didn’t hesitate another moment.   Moving quicker than anyone thought possible, Murdoch outdistanced Scott getting to Johnny’s side.   By the time they got to Johnny, blood was freely flowing down his arm and dripping from his fingertips.

“Let me see.”  Murdoch’s large hand lifted Johnny’s arm as he began examining it. 

“It’s not bad,” Johnny laughed, looking at the wound.  “The guy was a poor shot.  Hell, he had me dead to rights.”

When he looked up, he saw the others glaring at him.  No one was laughing.

“Johnny, you could have been killed.  I see little to laugh at.”  The anger in Scott’s voice was unmistakable. 

Val stood back, watching Johnny laugh off the wound and the gunfight.  The boy could laugh all he wanted, but Val knew him better than any of them.  He knew Johnny was well aware of how close it had been and what should have happened. 

“Let’s get you to Sam’s office.”  Val stepped forward.  “The undertaker will get those two.”

Later, Scott rode beside Johnny as they made their way back to Lancer.  The wound hadn’t been bad.  It hurt some, but it didn’t hurt half as bad as having Scott mad at him. 


Scott kept his eyes forward, not answering.

“Come on, Scott, talk to me.”

Again, silence.

“Aw, hell, Boston…”

Scott reined his horse to a stop and turned in the saddle.

“Brother, I’m too angry to talk to you. It’s best I don’t say anything right now, or I may say something I’ll regret later.  So, if you don’t mind, I’m riding ahead.  I’ll see you at home.”

With that, Scott spurred his horse and galloped ahead of the group.

Johnny watched Scott quickly disappear.  Looking around, he could see the same look that had been on Scott’s face, on the faces of everyone with him.

“What?” Johnny snapped.

“Sobrino, your hermano will calm himself.”  Cipriano moved closer to Johnny.  “He was afraid for you.  He needs time.”  Cipriano looked at Murdoch and the ‘chosen.’  “We all need time.  You may laugh at death, Sobrino, but we…we …”  

Cipriano couldn’t find the words to finish the sentence.

Johnny dropped his head.  He knew the gunfights were taking their toll on his family and friends.  Yes, he knew how close it had been.  The pain in his arm reminded him of just how close. 

Murdoch could see his son was hurting; in more ways than one.    He pulled up beside Johnny, putting a hand on his arm.

“Let’s go home, John.”

“Murdoch,” Johnny sighed, “I’m sorry.”

“I know, son.  I know.  Your brother will get over it.”

Johnny shook his head.

“It’s never going to end.  They’ll keep coming, and I’ll keep taking bullets.”

“And you’ll keep laughing it off, just as you always do.  Isn’t that right?  Johnny, you may be able to do it, but the rest of us can’t.”

“I laugh it off because the alternative is… well, let just say it’s the way I’ve learned to live with it.”

Johnny kicked Barranca’s side and started for home again. 

When they rode into the yard, Murdoch and Johnny dismounted in front of the house. 

“We’ll take care of the horses, Patron,” Juan said as he and Jose took the reins of both horses.

“Thank you, Juan.” 

Murdoch led the way into the house.  They could hear the voices of excited women as they entered the Great Room.  Both Teresa and Maria were talking at once.

“You’re back.  Thank God.” Teresa made her way across the room and threw her arms around Johnny before he could speak.  When Johnny flinched, she backed away.  Her eyes fell on the bandage on his arm. “Oh, you’re hurt.  Maria, he’s hurt.”

Maria was beside him before he knew it.  “Juanito?” 

“It’s alright.  Sam took care of it in town.”  Johnny looked around the room.  “Scott upstairs?”

Teresa shook her head.  “No, he hasn’t come in yet.  I saw him ride to the barn earlier.  Is he alright?”

“Yeah, he’s alright,” Johnny answered, turning back toward the door.  “I’m gonna’ go out and take care of Barranca.”

Before Johnny reached the door, Scott walked in.   He stopped at the sight of his brother.

“Your arm… does it hurt?”

Johnny shrugged.

“Some, but nothing I can’t handle.”   Johnny shuffled his feet, trying to think of what to say next.  “Look, Scott…”

At the same time, Scott spoke, “Johnny….”

The two stopped and then laughed. 

“Scott, I’m sorry …”

“No, Johnny, it was me.  We … well, I should have covered you better.”

“Boston, you and the fellows did a good job covering me.  I knew there was someone up on the roof.  I saw it in Parks’ eyes.  I didn’t figure on him trying to take me out before Parks got his chance.” 

“Still, it could have been worse.  That man could have killed you before Val and Walt got him.”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, but he didn’t.  Like I said, he was a lousy shot.  I’m sorry I scared you.”

“You did, you know.  You scared me.  You scare me every time you go up against someone.”

“I wish I could make it stop.  I wish…,” Johnny stopped and let out a breath.  “I wish a lot of things, but right now, I want me and you to be alright.”

Scott smiled and moved across the room. 

“We’re alright, little brother.  You are going to have to practice ducking, though.”

Johnny dipped his head as Scott threw an arm around his shoulder.

The two looked around.  Murdoch, Teresa, and Maria were standing quietly near the kitchen door. 

Taking a deep breath and feeling relief for the first time since that morning, Johnny spoke up,
“I’m hungry.”

“Johnny, you’re always hungry.”  Teresa started smiling.  “Come on in the kitchen.  Maria and I will find something to hold you over until dinner.”
As Teresa and Maria went back into the kitchen, Murdoch waited for his sons.  There was no need for him to say anything.  Scott and Johnny would work it out the way they always did.  His only prayer was that there would be some time to relax before the next man came looking for Johnny Madrid.


Now, it had been a month, a month of peace and quiet in which no one had come for Madrid.  A month in which Johnny had started to relax and enjoy the life he was meant to have. 
“So, what’s in the telegram?” Johnny strained to see what was on the paper.

“Hold on.” Scott held a hand in the air to quiet his brother.  “Give me time to read it.”

Scott opened the envelope and started reading.  The expression on his face was unreadable.  When Scott closed his eyes and sighed, they knew it wasn’t good news.

“Well, son?” Murdoch also wanted to know what was in the telegram.

Scott cleared his throat and looked at Murdoch.

“Grandfather is coming back.”  There he’d said it. 

Murdoch closed his eyes, balled his fist, and counted to ten. It had been six weeks since Scott’s grandfather left the ranch to travel to San Francisco.  Except for the gunfight with Ned Parks, it had been quiet.  Johnny was more relaxed than he’d ever seen him.  Surprisingly, the gunfighters had stopped coming.  They didn’t know why and weren’t questioning it.

There was a groan heard from behind them.  Murdoch and Scott turned to see Johnny with his back to them.  He’d wrapped his arms around the top rail of the corral, and buried his head.

Murdoch took a step toward his son.

“Are you alright?”

Johnny shook his head ‘no’ without raising it from his arms.

“Johnny?”  Scott moved to Johnny’s side.  “What’s wrong?”

Johnny raised his head and looked at Scott with sad eyes before turning to look at Murdoch.


“Murdoch, can I go up to the north line shack for a few….”  Johnny stopped and turned to Scott.  “Boston, how long’s your Abuelo gonna’ be here?”

Scott shrugged.  “I don’t know, a few weeks, I suppose.”

Johnny looked at Murdoch with the same sad puppy dog eyes. 

“Pa, can I go up to the north line shack for a few weeks?”

Murdoch’s shoulders relaxed, and he burst out laughing. 

“No, son.  If I have to deal with Harlan Garrett, so do you.  If I sent you away, I’d have to go with you.  That would leave your brother alone to deal with his grandfather.”

Frowning, Scott looked at both men. 

“Funny.  You two are very funny,” Scott snorted.  “There is no way I’m staying here to deal with Grandfather alone.  If you two go, I go.”

“I suppose we’ll all have to stay, then.  When does Harlan get here?”   Murdoch laughed, watching Johnny’s face drop.

Scott reread the telegram, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.

“Next week.”

“Next week?  Well, at least the old goat gave us a little warning.  We’ll have the roundup done by then.” Johnny pushed himself off the corral fence and looked toward Green River. 

Usually, the roundup and cattle drive would have been in the spring, but this year Lancer and the valley were occupied with trying to survive Pardee’s raids.  Even though it was late in the year, this was the first opportunity any of the ranchers had to roundup and brand their calves.   The drive this year would be in October when the weather cooled down.

“I’m going into town for a drink.”  Johnny turned to look at Murdoch and Scott.  “You two want to come with me?”

“You do know I have a fully stocked bar inside?  You could get a drink here, and save yourself a trip to town.”  Murdoch cocked his head, smiling at Johnny.

“Not the same.  Don’t ask me why, but it just ain’t the same.  So, who’s going with me?”
“I can’t, son.  I have some paperwork to finish.  Scott can go with you if he wants.”

“You hear anything from Driscoll or Santee?” Johnny asked before Murdoch turned to go into the house.

“Santee is sending three men, and Driscoll says he can spare two.  They’ll help with our round-up, and next week, we’ll send men to help each of them.”

The three of them had talked about the roundup and how each year, all the ranchers helped the others.  This year, however, it had taken longer than usual for the other ranchers to decide on how many men they were sending.  In the end, only two ranches had committed men to help Lancer.

Scott looked at Johnny, wondering what he was thinking.  Knowing he needed to watch his brother’s back, Scott made a decision.

“Alright, I’ll go with you, but we have to make it an early night.  We have a lot to do tomorrow to get ready for the roundup.”

As they mounted up to go to town, Murdoch watched for a moment and then moved to Johnny.  Putting a hand on the young man’s leg, he said, “Be careful, son.”

Smiling, Johnny answered, “I’m always careful.”  

Reining Barranca around, he started for the arch. 

“Don’t worry, Sir, I’ll watch his back.” 

Murdoch nodded.  “I’m sorry, Scott.  I worry…”

“I know you do, Murdoch.  We’ll be home early.”  

Scott pulled Remmie around and followed his brother.


Johnny stopped in front of the Saloon but didn’t dismount.  Leaning forward in the saddle, he stretched, pushed his hat back, and looked down the street.

Dismounting, Scott tied his horse off at the hitching rail and peered up at his brother. 

“Are you coming in?”

“You go ahead and get me a beer.  I’m going over to the Sheriff’s office and see if Val wants to join us.”

“Alright, but hurry up.  I told you I want to get back early tonight.”

Johnny didn’t reply as he rode away.   He’d been thinking about Garrett since leaving the ranch.  Johnny needed more than a drink; he needed to talk to Val without Scott around.

Stopping in front of Val’s office and starting to dismount, Johnny’s foot had just touched the ground when the door to the office opened.

Val stepped out, hat in hand, and stopped. 

“What are you doing in town in the middle of the week?”

“It’s good to see you, too, grumpy.”

“I ain’t grumpy.  It’s been nice and quiet lately, and I want to keep it that way.  So, you didn’t answer me.  Why are you in town?”

Johnny laughed.  “Yes, you are grumpy, and to answer your question, I’m in town with Scott.  We came in for a beer.  Thought you’d like to join us, but ….”    Johnny turned and started walking away.

“Hold on,” Val called out and hurried after Johnny.  “You saying you came to ask me if I wanted a beer?  You buying?”

“Me?  Hell, no.” Johnny grinned.  “Boston’s buying.”

Val caught up with Johnny. 

“Does he know he’s buying?” 

Johnny gave him a broader grin.

“Not yet, but figure he’ll have the beers bought and paid for by the time we get to the Saloon.”

Val watched Johnny scanning the street as they walked.

Chuckling, Val shook his head. 

“Scott’s not gonna’ like it, but I do. You celebrating something?” 

“Yeah.  We’re celebrating Scott’s Granddaddy coming next week.”

Stopping mid-step, Val reached out and grabbed Johnny’s arm, spinning him around.

“Garrett’s coming back?”  Val’s brow furrowed.

Johnny nodded.

Val lowered his voice.  “I don’t like it, Johnny.  We know he was behind Wilson and Belcher.  If you’re right, he’s behind a lot of things that have happened to Murdoch over the years.”

“I know, Val, but he’s Scott’s Abuelo.  I …”    Johnny didn’t get to finish.

“Yeah, I know, but you’re my hijo, mine and Murdoch’s.  I ain’t gonna’ let that man hurt you.  I don’t care who’s Abuelo he is.”

Johnny lowered his head, not being able to find the words to respond.

“You say he’s coming in next week, after the roundup?  Maybe, I should stay out at the ranch while he’s here; keep an eye on him.  You have any objection to that?”

Johnny raised his head, smiling.

“No, Papi, I don’t mind, but we better clear it with my other Papa first.  I’m sure he’d like having another friendly face around while Garrett’s here, but I’ll check anyway.  Now, come on before Scott drinks our beers, too.”

Val entered the Saloon, smiling when he saw Scott seated at the back-corner table.  The chair on the far side of the table was empty, waiting for Johnny to occupy it. 

“Val,” Scott called out when he saw the older man headed his way. 


Val moved across the room.  Throwing his hat on the table, he sat to the right of where Johnny would sit. 

When the batwing doors opened, and Johnny stepped in, all conversation in the room stopped.
Johnny scanned the room before starting toward the table.  Val and Scott couldn’t help but smile as Johnny sauntered across the room.  The sound spurs jingling marking time with his steps. 

As Johnny took his seat in the corner, the men in the Saloon relaxed and started talking again.

The bartender brought Scott a fresh beer and sat a glass each on the table in front of Val and Johnny.

“Thanks for the beer, Scott.”  Val lifted his glass with a toast.

“Yeah, thanks for the beer, Boston.”  Johnny mimicked Val.

Scott, who had his glass almost to his lips, sat it down and scowled at both men.   

“Who said I was paying for the beers?   Little brother, if I remember right, it was you who asked me to come to town.”

“Yeah, but Scott, we thought since we’re gonna’ have to put up with your Abuelo for… oh, I don’t know… three or four weeks, you owed us a round or two.”

Scott retorted, “Johnny, I should…”

“Scott, I hear he’s coming in next week.”  Val cut him off, trying not to laugh at the brother’s banter.  

Scott’s eyes narrowed, but he kept them on Johnny while he answered Val, “Yes, apparently he is.  Leon brought a telegram out to us this afternoon.”

“Bet you were glad it wasn’t me sending him out there.”

“You can say that again.  Thought the old man was gonna’ faint away when he saw Leon coming.”

Johnny was joking, but Val knew how seeing Leon would have affected Murdoch.   He and Murdoch had talked about it often enough.

“You comin’ to town to pick him up?”  Val looked at Scott, who was still glaring at his brother.

Scott turned his eyes to Val.  

“Yes, I’m going to pick him up.”

“Gonna have any company?”  Val took a long drink of his beer while his eyes cut left to Johnny.

“I don’t know…am I?”   Scott took another sip of his beer and looked at Johnny again. 

Johnny smiled.  “Yeah, Brother, you’re gonna’ have company.  Wouldn’t want you riding in alone.  I’m even thinking about bringing a few of the men along.”

“Why bring the men?  We haven’t had any trouble in almost a month.  Come to think of it…”   Scott leaned forward, putting his arms on the table.  “Val, why haven’t we had any trouble lately?” 

Val shook his head.  “Don’t rightly know why they stopped coming.  Don’t know that they won’t start up again now that…”   Val caught himself before he said now that Harlan Garrett was coming back. 

“Now that… what, Val?”  Scott cocked his head.

“Nothing. Don’t know why they stopped coming.  My guess is Johnny’s taken out all the up and coming gunhawks.  It’ll take time for more to earn their reps, maybe by the time they do, coming after Johnny Madrid might not mean as much to them.”

Johnny gave Val a knowing nod.  “Won’t hurt my feelings none.  Kinda’ like it being quiet.”

“Amen to that,” Scott laughed and finished off his beer.   Pushing back from the table, Scott stood up. “Come on, little brother.  We have to get back.  I need my beauty sleep.”

Scott walked towards the door.

“Alright.”  Johnny drained his glass and also pushed back from the table.  “See you later, Val.   The roundup should take four or five days.  You still planning on staying at the ranch while Garrett’s here?”

 Val nodded.

“I’ll talk to Murdoch.  Don’t think he’s gonna’ say no.” 

Johnny slapped Val’s arm and headed for the Saloon doors.


“Here, they come!”

There was no need to make the announcement.   At the sound of three horses racing across the land, men stopped what they were doing and looked up.  

With the sun rising over the mountains, the first light made the riders look larger than they were.   Cipriano smiled.  The Patron and his sons made a formidable sight.

The center horse was big, bigger and broader than the other two with a white-blazed face.  The horse had to be larger to carry the man seated on his back.   Murdoch Lancer’s six foot five inches filled the saddle and seemed to dominate the land he was racing across.  He was the Patron; the boss, their leader, master of this land.  The vaqueros and ranch hands owed their livelihood to this man.

To the Patron’s left, riding a bay with black mane and tail, was his oldest son, Scott, sitting straight and tall in the saddle. His head held high, with his hat sitting squarely on his head; his military bearing evident. 

To the man’s right rode the younger son, Johnny.  The dark-haired man rode low in the saddle, seamlessly moving as one with the palomino.  An air of confidence surrounded him. The Colt he wore on his right hip spoke more than words as to the kind of man he was. 

Murdoch Lancer and his sons slowed their horse as they drew closer to the campsite.

“Patron,” Cipriano called out, “Buenos dias.”

“Good morning, Cipriano,” Murdoch answered.  Coming to a stop, he looked around the area.  “Everyone here?”

“Si, Patron.  Did you have trouble getting these two out of bed this morning?”   Cipriano laughed as he looked from Scott to Johnny.  Getting his first real look at the two younger men, he could see they weren’t fully awake even after the morning ride. 

Murdoch stepped down from the saddle, handing the reins to his horse to a waiting vaquero.   Turning, he looked at his sons.  He’d hoped the ride would have woken them up; he’d been wrong. 

“Yes, it took both Maria and me to get them moving.  Maybe some more coffee would help.”

With his head down and his eyes closed, Johnny was starting to drift off to sleep in his saddle when he heard the booming voice.

 “Scott!  John!” 

Jerking his head up, Johnny considered the merits of shooting his father.  He and Scott had been rousted in the middle of the night and threatened with bodily harm if they didn’t get out of bed.   He was already dreading the roundup and the cattle drive that would soon follow.

Glancing to his left, he saw Scott was fairing no better than he was.

Throwing his leg over the pommel, Johnny slid out of the saddle.  Dropping Barranca’s reins, Johnny smiled when he saw Cookie holding a cup out to him, knowing it was coffee. 

“Here, boy, you’d better drink this.” 

Gratefully, Johnny took it.

Cookie turned back to the chuckwagon to get another cup.  Filling it from the pot sitting near the campfire, he held it out to Scott, who was now standing next to his brother.

“Thank you, Cookie.  You’re worth your weight in gold this morning.”  Scott accepted the cup and smelled the aroma of the brew before taking a sip.  “Yes, I’d say that whatever our father is paying you is not enough.”

Cookie laughed.  “Kind words like that will get you another cup when that one’s gone, but you better hurry and drink it.  The Boss and Cipriano are over there with their heads together.  That means you two are going to start work soon.”

Scott turned his head in the direction Cookie pointed.  Yes, Murdoch and Cipriano were very much in roundup mode.

All too soon, Murdoch walked across the campsite, accepting a cup of coffee from Cookie, and announcing it was time to get moving.

Murdoch looked at his sons and smiled.  He was proud to have them by his side this year.  It was the first time since they’d come home, they would all be together on the roundup, and he was anxious to see how they fared. 

Scott stood to one side of the camp, drinking his coffee and talking with Walt and Joe.  His Boston raised son was comfortable speaking with anyone on any subject.  While Murdoch resented Harlan Garrett, he had to admit Scott’s education and manners were a credit to Harlan.

Johnny was on the other side of the camp.  Squatting, he was talking to the vaqueros.  Something must have been said that was funny because Johnny threw his head back and laughed.   Murdoch’s breath hitched. Johnny’s laugh and smile could stop a man’s heart and light up a room.   

Murdoch watched as Johnny stood up, straightening his gun belt.   Suddenly, Murdoch felt anger.  He hated that gun, hated what it meant, and hated the reason his youngest son could never take it off.  It was those feelings that often surfaced when he least expected them, causing him to lash out at the boy.

His anger quickly changed to sadness.  The reason Johnny could never be without that damn gun made him want to cry.  It was his fault, his and the boy’s mother.  The unforeseen consequences of their love had created a son who would always walk the invisible line between two cultures, never really belonging to either.

Johnny’s dark complexion and hair marked him as Mexican.  His vivid blue eyes told the world he was white.  Together they made him both, and to some, neither.

Watching his dark-haired son yawn, Murdoch smiled.   He may hate the gun and what it represented, but he did love the boy who wore it. 

“Time to mount up, men.”

Murdoch tossed the remains of his coffee and handed the cup to Cookie.

“Cip has your assignments.  Before we get started, I want to tell all of you how much I appreciate your hard work.  If it weren’t for all of you, there wouldn’t be a Lancer.”

“Gracias, Patron,” Cipriano answered for the men.  “Vayamos, hombres.  We start on the east side and run the herd south.  The branding crews will be waiting for the calves.    Those who are herding the cattle, you will change horses at noon.   Pedro will have remounts ready for you.”

With that, the men mounted their horses and started moving east.

It was noon before Murdoch talked to either of his sons again.  He’d watched them off and on all morning.  To say he was proud of the way they handled themselves was an understatement.  A few times he’d seen Cipriano watching the boys as well.  There was always a smile on the Segundo’s face.  

A clanging sound drew everyone’s attention.  Cookie was ringing the dinner bell, letting everyone know chow was ready.    Slowly, men made their way back to camp.  

Taking their plates, Johnny and Scott looked around to see Murdoch sitting on a fallen tree with a plate on his lap.   The brothers sat on either side of him.

“How are things going?”  Johnny managed to ask between bites.

Murdoch nodded.  “We’ll have these rounded up by sundown.  The branding crews are moving right along.  I want you two to take your turn with the branding.   Scott, I know you’ve never done that type of work.  Johnny, how about you?  Have you ever branded before?”

Johnny nodded.  “Once or twice, when I was younger.”

Both Murdoch and Scott stopped eating and stared at Johnny. 

“How much younger, son?”  Murdoch was always amazed when he found some new piece of information about his youngest son.

Johnny kept his head down and continued to eat.  He didn’t like giving too much information.  He could always see the sadness in Murdoch’s face when he talked about his life before Lancer.

“I don’t know for sure, maybe 12 or 13.  Val and I worked on a ranch in Texas, between jobs to make ends meet.  I think it was north of San Antonio, a place called San Marcos.” 

Murdoch went back to his lunch, reminding himself to talk to Val.  There were so many questions he had for the man and so few answers Val was willing to give.  Val tried not to talk about the time he and Johnny had ridden together, wandering from one range war to the next, one gunfight to another.

After some lengthy discussions, he and Val had come to an understanding of sorts.   Johnny considered both men as father figures.  Both were in his life.  They had come to terms with the fact that they either accepted each other or Johnny would walk away from them both.  They’d never make him chose between them.

The three ate in silence for a few minutes when Murdoch stopped and looked at Johnny.

“You went to school in San Marcos, didn’t you?”

Johnny almost dropped his plate. 

“Yeah, for about a minute.  How’d you know?”

“The Pinkertons found a record of a John Lancer attending school in San Marcos, Texas, about five years ago.  The school records said you attended for a week and then disappeared.  It was the only reference they had to John Lancer in Texas.”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, I guess I was at the school for about a week.  Like I said, Val and I were working a ranch near there.  Val thought I needed educating, so I went to school.  It didn’t work out, so I didn’t go back.”

Scott looked between Murdoch and Johnny.  He wondered if Murdoch was thinking the same thing he was, that he would have given anything to see his Johnny Madrid in a schoolroom. 

He knew Murdoch wanted to ask why Johnny used the name Lancer versus Madrid.  When Murdoch didn’t ask, Scott did.

“You were using the name Madrid at the time.  Why did you attend as Lancer?”

Johnny bowed his head.  He didn’t want to talk about this with either Murdoch or Scott.

Shrugging, he answered, “They wanted a last name.  Just ‘John’ wasn’t good enough for them, so I gave them the only name I knew they wouldn’t connect with Madrid.  I told them my name was John Lancer.”

Murdoch nodded.  “That makes sense.  I know at the time no one connected you to the name Madrid.”

Scott smiled.  “Did you learn anything in that week, brother?”

Johnny smirked.  “Yeah, I learned that gunfighters and school rooms don’t mix.”

Scott knew the conversation was over.  As they finished eating, Scott decided to breach the subject of the help they seemed to be missing.

“Are Santee and Driscoll’s men here.  I didn’t see them.”

Murdoch shook his head and put his fork down. “No, I need to go check on them.  Their men were supposed to be here at sunrise.”

“What if they don’t send any men?”  Scott could see Murdoch wasn’t happy that he was going to have to leave the roundup to see the two ranchers.

“If they don’t send men to help us, I’ll have to think long and hard on whether to help them next week.  It’s a double-edged sword, son.”

“You mean ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’?   I can see that.  Would there be a reason their men haven’t arrived yet?”

“There could be, and it had better be a damn good one.”

Murdoch had felt the other rancher’s unease during the last few months. At the last meeting of the Cattle Growers Association, neither Driscoll nor Santee had spoken to him about helping until Murdoch had brought up the subject. 

“I think I’ll ride over now and see Santee.  I’ll be back in a few hours.”  Murdoch stood up and stretched.  Sitting a saddle all morning hadn’t helped his back. 

“Don’t forget, check with Cipriano and see when he wants to rotate you into the branding crews.”

“Yes, Sir,” Scott answered, taking the last bite of his lunch.

“John?”   Murdoch looked at Johnny, expecting a reply.

“I heard.  I’ll check with Tio.”

Murdoch turned and walked away with a slight limp.

Johnny watched Murdoch until he mounted up and rode away.

“Why do you think Santee and Driscoll haven’t sent their men?”  Johnny’s question wasn’t a surprise to Scott.

“I’m not sure.  Perhaps, something happened to delay them.”   Scott stood up, hoping that would be the end of it but somehow knew it wouldn’t.

“Scott, you ever wonder why none of them ranchers come around the hacienda anymore.  From what Teresa and Maria tell me, they used to be over there all the time.”

Scott sighed and sat back down.  “I don’t know, Johnny.”

“You think they’re staying away because of me?”   Not looking at Scott, Johnny pushed the last of his food around the plate. 

When Scott didn’t answer right away, Johnny stood up and walked toward the chuck wagon.

‘Yeah, because of me.’

“Hold up, brother.”  Scott was beside him before he made it to the wagon.  “Johnny, if Driscoll or Santee or anyone else has a problem with you, they have it with all of us.”


“No, little brother.  There may be a good reason they’re not here yet.  Did you ever think of that?”

Johnny smiled, one that didn’t reach his eyes.  “Sure, Scott, sure.”

As they went back to work, Johnny kept thinking about it.  He knew the reason Murdoch had lost friends and business connections.  It was because of him and the gunfighters who kept coming after him. 


Murdoch rode back to camp three hours later with three of Santee’s men.  Driscoll’s men showed up the next morning.  There was never a reason given why they were late coming, and Murdoch never told them about his discussion with Santee.

On the second morning of the roundup, Cipriano assigned both Scott and Johnny to manning a branding pit. 

Johnny decided he hated branding as much as herding cattle.  It was hot, smelly, dirty work.   He glanced over to where Scott stood with a hot branding iron in his hand.  Cipriano was standing with him. 

A vaquero brought the calf in bawling his head off.   Two men held it down while Scott stood ready with the iron.

Scott hesitantly stood over the animal’s left flank; iron poised in the air.

“Just do it, for God’s sake, Scott.  It ain’t easy holding this critter.”  Slim growled from the ground, fighting to hold the calf in place. “Jose, give us a hand here, while Scott makes up his mind if he’s gonna’ brand it or kiss it.”

Jose laughed as he threw himself over the bawling calf.
Scott’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Slim and then lowered the iron.

“Push harder, boy,” Slim growled again, fighting the animal that was now screaming for his mother.

Scott pushed harder, then pulled the iron back.  The calf’s scream of pain was unnerving.

Cipriano leaned over and looked at the brand and shook his head.

“Senor Scott, you are to put your mark; the Lancer mark on the animal.  Is that” he pointed to the brand, “a brand to be proud of?”

Scott looked at the brand and cocked his head, thinking, ‘Doesn’t look too bad to me.’

“Well…,” Scott started.

“No, Senor Scott, it is not the brand you want.  This is the brand you want.”

Cipriano picked up a fresh hot iron, placed the burning end of it over the light mark Scott made.  The calf bellowed again, and the men let him go.

“The brand you want on your cattle, Senor Scott, will last many winters as the animal grows.  It is there for all to see as belonging to Lancer; to you and you hermano and the Patron.”

Scott nodded his understanding as another calf appeared to replace the one Slim and Jose had let go. This time Scott picked up the branding iron and quickly, efficiently pressed it firmly into the animal’s hindquarter.   When the men let the animal go, they gave Scott a broad smile and a pat on the back. 

Johnny was proud of his brother.  Scott Garrett Lancer had learned to brand an animal.

Turning back to his own branding pit, Johnny waited for the men to drag a calf into place.

The men from Tom Santee’s ranch, Yancy, Carlson, and Dale, worked hard, but none of them had said a word to Johnny since they arrived.

Johnny reached for the heated iron when he heard Yancy yell at him, “Get it done, Madrid.”

Johnny gave the man a scathing glare before firmly branding the calf. 

“Well, will you look at that Carlton, Madrid can do more than use that gun of his!”

Johnny threw the iron on the fire and turned back to the two men.  “Yeah, I can do a lot of things.  You got a problem with me; we’ll settle up when the roundup’s over.”

Yancy stood up and came face to face with Johnny.  “You don’t scare me, gunhawk.”

Johnny’s eyes fixed on the man. “Then you’re a fool, Yancy.”  

Walt and Jose were standing close enough to hear the exchange.  Neither moved until Johnny yelled, “Get another calf in here!”

Nothing more was said between Johnny and Santee’s men the rest of the day. 


When evening came, Scott dragged himself back to camp and collapsed next to the chuck wagon.  He couldn’t remember ever being so tired.

Looking around, he frowned when he didn’t see his brother.  He’d started to push himself up when he heard yelling coming from the other side of the wagon.

Hurrying toward the noise, Scott pushed through the gathered men to see Johnny and Ben Yancy throwing punches at each other.  Scott’s first instinct was to wade in and break it up or at least give his brother a hand, but he knew Johnny wouldn’t appreciate either.  Besides, it looked like Johnny was handling himself well enough and wouldn’t appreciate the help.

The ranch hands and vaqueros parted like the red sea upon seeing Murdoch and Cipriano arrive.  Murdoch grabbed Johnny by his belt and pulled him up. Cipriano dragged Yancy to his feet.

“What’s going on here?”  Murdoch’s bellowing voice startled the men standing around.  “Who started it?”

Glaring at Yancy, Johnny wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth.  He didn’t answer.

“I asked a question and expect an answer.”  Murdoch turned to Yancy.  “Well?”

“It was just a little disagreement, Mr. Lancer.”

“What about?”  Murdoch looked from Ben Yancy to Johnny.  “John?”

“Nothing that concerns you.  It’s between him and me.”

“Well, now it concerns me.  You two have to work together for the next two days.  Both of you get cleaned up.  If the work today didn’t wear you out, I believe riding night herd will.”

Johnny kept his eyes on Yancy as Santee’s other men, Dale and Carlson, came to help him.  Yancy’s soft, muttered words caught Johnny’s ears.  “This ain’t over, Madrid.”

When Yancy’s friends pulled him away, Johnny turned to see Scott waiting for him.

“What happened?”  Scott moved forward.

“Nothing, Scott, leave it.”


“I said, leave it.”

Johnny pushed passed Scott and headed for the nearby stream.

Scott turned back to the Lancer men.  “What started it?”

Walt spoke up, “Yancy was ragging Johnny earlier, calling him Madrid.  He said he wasn’t afraid of Johnny.  When we came back to camp, Yancy went toe to toe with him.  Johnny kept his temper even when Yancy called him mestizo.  It was when Yancy said something about his Mama that Johnny took a swing at him.”

“What did Yancy say?”

Walt faltered, looking at Jose.

“Well, …go on.”

“He called her a Mexican whore.  Said some other things, but no need to repeat them.”   

Scott started toward the stream. 

“Scott, there’s something else.  Check Johnny’s right hand.”

“His hand?  Did he hurt it in the fight?”

“Not sure, but Yancy bent Johnny’s wrist back.”

“Thanks, Walt.”  Scott took a deep breath and headed off to find his brother.

Johnny knelt next to the slow-moving stream, splashing water on his face.  Raising his right hand in front of his face, he flexed his fingers and made a fist, flinching when pain shot through his wrist and arm.

Johnny knew he should never have let Yancy get to him.   He’d taken taunting before and let it slid off his back like water.  It was when Yancy started in on his Mama, that Johnny’s blood began to boil.  

It’s not like it wasn’t the truth.  His mother was a whore, but that was his business, not anyone else’s.  

“How’s your hand?” 

Scott’s voice caused Johnny to jump around, reaching for his gun.  He hadn’t heard his brother walk up.  Relaxing, he turned back to the water.  Putting his right hand in the cold water, Johnny sighed.

“I said….”

“I heard you.”  Johnny kept his hand in the water.

Scott squatted next to Johnny.  Reaching out, he pulled Johnny’s right arm towards him and lifted the injured hand to examine it.

Johnny tried to pull his hand away.  “Leave it, Scott.”

“Let me see it, John.”

Scott’s firm, no non-sense voice caused Johnny to stop protesting.  

“Make a fist.”

Johnny complied, wincing as he did.

Scott exhaled.   “You need to see Sam.”

Johnny jerked his hand back.  “I don’t need to see Sam.  It’ll be alright.”

“Johnny, it’s your gun hand.”

“Really, Scott, you don’t think I know that.”

“I’m sorry, Johnny.  Walt told me what Yancy said.”

“No one is going to talk like that about my Mama, no one.”

“You need to tell Murdoch.”

“No.  The old man washed his hands of my Mama sixteen years ago.  No, she’s my business.” 

Scott was at a loss for words.   

“Alright, I’ll leave it for now, but you do need to have that hand seen to.”

“It’ll be alright.”

“What will?” 

Johnny cursed under his breath.  He hadn’t heard Murdoch coming.   He and Scott turned to face their father.

“What will be alright, John?”

Johnny resigned himself to the fact he was going to have to tell Murdoch about his hand.

“My hand.  I hurt my hand, but it’s gonna’ be alright.”

Murdoch quickly moved forward.  “Which …; not your right hand?”

Reaching out, Murdoch gently took the injured hand.  Looking at it closely, his eyes went from the hand to Johnny’s face. 

“Make a fist.”

Johnny rolled his eyes. 

“Don’t roll your eyes at me, young man.  Now, make a fist.”

Johnny balled his fist, trying not to wince. 

Murdoch shook his head.  He felt Johnny tense when he made the fist.  He knew the hand was painful, and Sam needed to look at it. 

“Scott, wrap your brother’s hand.  Johnny, I want you to ride into town and have Sam look at this.”   When Johnny started to protest, Murdoch raised a hand.  “No, son, if you can’t use that hand, you can’t work.”   Murdoch paused.  “Why did you get into a fight with Yancy?”

Johnny didn’t answer. 

“Alright, have one of the men saddle your horse.  There is still enough light for you to ride into Green River and see Sam.  Stay the night and come back tomorrow.”

Johnny nodded.  “Alright.”

Murdoch lowered Johnny’s hand.  Placing a hand on his son’s shoulder, he gave it a gentle squeeze.

After Johnny rode toward Green River, Murdoch found Scott and pulled him aside.

“Scott, why were Johnny and Yancy fighting?  You know, don’t you?”

Scott took his time in answering.  “Yancy disparaged Johnny’s mother.  That’s all you need to know, Sir.  Johnny was defending her honor.”

“Her honor?  God, Scott, the woman didn’t have any honor to defend.  I’ll never understand that boy.”

“She was his mother, Murdoch.  Right or wrong, good or bad, she was his mother.  He can say or think what he wants about her, but no one else can.  Surely, you understand that.”

Murdoch closed his eyes and nodded.   “Yes, I understand.”

The sound of Cookie ringing the dinner bell made both of them turn and start to walk back to camp.

Cipriano was waiting for them.  “Patron?  Juanito?”

“He’ll be back in the morning.  I’ve sent him to town to see Sam.”

“Por que?”

“He hurt his hand in the fight; his right hand.” 

Cipriano’s chin came up, and his shoulders straightened.

“Should someone go with him to town?”

“Things have been quiet.  He’ll be alright.  Now, old friend, let’s get something to eat and some rest.  We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.

Cipriano nodded.    “Si, Patron, a very busy day.”

Murdoch sighed, gazing off into the distance before turning to follow his Segundo.


Sam glanced at the expression on Johnny’s face as he bandaged the boy’s hand.  He knew it hurt, but he knew Johnny wasn’t thinking about the pain.  Sam wondered what he was thinking.

“You’re awful quiet, John.”

When Johnny didn’t respond, Sam looked back at the hand. 

“An injury like this is going to slow you down.”

Johnny frowned and took a deep breath.

“Want to tell me about it?”

Johnny shook his head.  “Nothing to tell.”

Sam finished and stood back.


“Look, Sam, I appreciate you fixing me up, but there’s nothing to tell.  I got into a fight and hurt my hand.  That’s all there is to it.”

“You hurt your gun hand.”

Johnny stared at Sam. 

“You’re the third person in the last two hours to remind me of that.  Don’t you think I know it’s my gun hand?  It’ll be alright.  Now, I’m going over to the Saloon.  Murdoch told me to stay in town tonight.”

“You can stay here if you want.”

Johnny smiled and shook his head.

“Thanks anyway, Sam, but I got other plans.”

Johnny scooted off the examination table he’d been sitting on and picked up his hat.  When he went to straighten his gun belt, he frowned at the wrapped hand.

“Johnny, you have a bad sprain.  Limit its use for a few days, better yet don’t use it at all.” Seeing the expression on Johnny’s face, he continued.  “I mean it, John.  Let it heal properly; don’t force it.”

Johnny nodded.  “Thanks, Sam.  I’ll be seeing you.”

Making his way to the Saloon, Johnny played some poker and found a warm bed upstairs for the night with one of the working girls to keep him company.  He was coming down the stairs the next morning when Val came through the batwing doors.

“Heard you were in town. You’re supposed to be out at Lancer, rounding up them steers of yours.”

Johnny grinned.

“Don’t grin at me, boy.  So…” Val stopped and looked at the bandage on Johnny’s right hand.  “You hurt?”

“It ain’t bad.”

Taking a deep breath, Val shook his head.  “It’s your gun hand!”

“Why does everyone keep saying that?  Hell, I know it’s my gun hand.”

“Don’t take that tone with me, boy!”

“Stop calling me, boy!”  Johnny lowered his head.  He knew he was getting close to crossing the line with Val.    “I’m sorry, Val.”

In a softer voice, Val questioned, “How’d you hurt your hand?”

“Got into a fight with one of Santee’s men.”

“Santee’s men. Why?”

Johnny hesitated.

“Why, John?”

Johnny huffed.  Val sounded a lot like Murdoch when he said he called him John.

“Ben Yancy said some things about Mama I couldn’t let stand.”  Johnny shrugged. “So, I hit him.”

“You hit him?  Just like that, you hit him…with your gun hand?  Damn, boy!”

Johnny chuckled. 

“I gotta’ get back to the ranch.  The old man told me to be back this morning.”

Val put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder, guiding him toward the front door.  “You got time for breakfast?”

Johnny shook his head.  “No, I’ll eat back at camp.  If I get a move on, I’ll get back by the time everyone starts stirring.” 

As they walked along the boardwalk, Val kept his hand at Johnny’s back.

“You talk to Murdoch about me coming to stay while Garrett is here?”

“Not yet, but I will.  Just plan on coming out.  If the old man doesn’t want you, I do.  Not looking forward to old man Garrett being here.”

After helping Johnny saddle Barranca, Val watched the younger man ride out of town.  As he turned back toward his office, Val’s mind went to Harlan Garrett.  He had a bad feeling about the old man’s return to Lancer. 

It had been a long time since Val Crawford had been part of a family, a real family. Johnny had been the only family he’d had for a long time.  Now, both of them had found a family and a home, at Lancer.  There was no way in hell he was going to let Garrett hurt Johnny nor the Lancers.

Val stopped his musings and turned, looking toward Lancer.  No, Harlan Garrett wouldn’t be hurting his family again.

There was a slight morning fog clinging to the ground when Johnny rode into camp.  As he dismounted, he saw Scott standing next to the campfire with a cup in his hand.

“How’s the hand?”  Scott held out the cup to his brother. “It’s still hot, be careful.”

“It’s alright.”  Johnny took the cup of coffee with his left hand and flexed his unbandaged right hand.  He’d removed the wrapping before riding in.

“Are you going to be able to work today?”

Johnny didn’t answer right away.  He finished the coffee and handed the empty cup back to Scott.

“I can work,” Johnny answered and slapped Scott’s stomach with his left hand.  “Now, let’s get something to eat. I’m starving.”

“Nothing new there.”

The brothers were laughing when they saw Murdoch step from behind the chuckwagon.

Johnny stopped and looked at his father, trying to get a feel for how things were going to go today. 

Murdoch had seen Johnny coming in and relaxed for the first time since the boy had ridden out the day before.  When Scott and Johnny started toward the chuckwagon, he showed himself.  His eyes met the dark blue of his youngest son.

Murdoch smiled and then nodded.  He was rewarded with a smile in return. Everything was alright between them.  

Johnny walked straight to him. 

Murdoch glanced down to see Johnny resting his hand on the butt of his Colt.

“What did Sam say?”

Johnny raised the hand in question and flexing his stiff fingers.

“He said it wasn’t broke, only sprained.  I’ll be sore for a few days, but it’s gonna’ be alright.”

“Good.  Good.  I was worried.”

“Well, there’s no need to worry.”

“Father’s prerogative.”  Murdoch cleared his throat.  “Now, get some breakfast and get to work, young man.  And Johnny no more fights with Yancey.”

Johnny hesitated and then nodded.

“Yes, sir.” 

“Oh, and John one more thing.  Take it easy today.  Don’t overwork that hand.”

“Yes, sir.”

As Johnny turned, he felt Murdoch’s hand gently brush the back of his neck, then settle on his shoulder.  Glancing up, he saw a warm smile on his father’s face.

Johnny closed his eyes and sighed.  Everything was alright.


As expected, the roundup took another two days.  When it was over, they were all tired and ready to go home. Thankfully, there hadn’t been any more trouble between Johnny and Santee’s men.  The tension was still there, but Yancy kept his distance after the fight.

After four days of eating Cookie’s chuckwagon beans and bacon, Murdoch was ready for a decent meal.

“Maria, that was excellent.”  Murdoch pushed his plate away and leaned back from the table, patting his stomach.  

Maria smiled as she reached around Murdoch, picking up his plate.

“Gracias, Patron.” 

“Muy buen, Mamacita.  Gracias.”  Johnny gave Maria a peck on her cheek as she leaned over to get Johnny’s plate.

Maria’s smile broadened.  “De nada, Juanito.”

As Maria and Teresa carried the dishes to the kitchen, Murdoch, Scott, and Johnny made their way to the Great Room.  

“Anyone want a drink?” Murdoch strolled to the drink cart and looked over his shoulder at his two sons.

“Please, Scotch,” Scott responded and sat on one end of the sofa.

“Tequila,” Johnny replied and took the other end of the sofa. 

Murdoch poured the drinks and handed a glass to first Scott and then Johnny.

“Murdoch, you remember when you went to Santee’s ranch during the roundup?”

“I do.”   Murdoch took a sip of his drink.  He’d been expecting this discussion and was surprised Johnny had waited this long.

“Why didn’t Santee send his men like he said he would?”

“There were…some problems Santee had to clear up at the ranch before he could spare the men,” Murdoch answered.  “As for Driscoll, he had a man hurt the day before and couldn’t spare the men when they were supposed to come.  He said he’d have two men there the next day, and he did.”

It was a half-truth.  What he’d said about Driscoll was the truth.  The problem at Santee’s ranch, however, was Santee.

Murdoch’s still cringed at the conversation he’d had with Santee and the words the man had used to describe Johnny. 
Tom Santee had made himself clear when Murdoch confronted him that he didn’t want his men working alongside a half-breed killer.   

After Murdoch had punched the man in the jaw, he made himself clear. Santee would never again refer to his son as a half-breed or a killer, and he would send his men as promised. 

It paid off being the top dog in the valley.  A few threats and ten minutes later, Murdoch was riding back to the roundup with three of Santee’s men.

Murdoch saw the uncertainty in Johnny’s eyes, but he seemed to accept the answer and didn’t push.  

Quickly turning his attention to Scott, Murdoch sat in the large chair near the fireplace.

“What time is Harlan’s stage tomorrow?”

“12:30, Sir.”

“John, are you going with your brother?”

Murdoch sipped his drink and eyed his youngest.  He knew Johnny wasn’t looking forward to Harlan’s visit, but that he would support his brother when needed.

“Thought I would.  Thinking about taking a few of the men along with us.”

Murdoch cocked his head, giving Johnny a questioning look.  It had been two weeks since any of the ‘chosen’ had accompanied either Scott or Johnny regularly.

Johnny knew what Murdoch was thinking.

“I want to make sure Scott’s Abuelo gets back here safe and sound.  I know it’s been quiet, but can’t be too careful, can we?” Staring at his drink, Johnny added, “Oh, and by the way, Val’s gonna’ come out and stay with us for a while.  You got any problem with that?”

“Val wants to come now?” Scott leaned forward, looking between Murdoch and Johnny.

“Yeah, Val said something about getting tired of town living.  I think he misses that soft bed upstairs and Maria’s cooking.” 

Johnny sipped his drink but kept his eyes down.

Murdoch cleared his throat.  He had no idea why Val wanted to stay at Lancer while Harlan was here, but he wasn’t going to question it in front of Scott.

“You know Val is welcome anytime, son.  Next time you see him, tell him the more, the merrier.”

Johnny laughed; Scott didn’t.


“The stage is late…again.”  Scott paced the boardwalk in front of the stage depot.

“Nothing new there.” 

Johnny balanced on top of the hitching rail in front of the depot, placing one foot in front of the other, his arms straight out from his body.

“Will you get down from there before you fall,” Scott snapped.   Johnny was bored with waiting for the stage, and when Johnny got bored, everyone suffered.

Johnny jumped down and let out a deep sigh.   “Happy now?”

“Yes, thank you.  I’m nervous enough without you adding to it.” 

Pulling out his pocket watch, Scott shook his head.  It was almost 2:00.   Looking down the street, he could see the men they’d brought with them, Juan and Joe, sitting with the surrey, also looking bored.  He still wasn’t sure why Johnny insisted on bringing the two men along, but he’d learned some time ago not to question his brother’s instincts.

“Stage is later than usual.” Val joined Johnny leaning against the hitching rail.

“Yep,” Johnny responded, adding a nod and pulling his hat down over his eyes.

“Murdoch, didn’t object to me coming out to the ranch?”

“Told you he didn’t mind.  Said, what was it?  Oh yeah, the more, the merrier.”

“We supposed to have fun while old man Garrett’s here?”  Val leaned over so that only Johnny could hear.

Johnny chuckled.  “I guess so.”

Ernie Stone stepped out of the depot, looked at his watch, and then wiped his face with a handkerchief.   Looking up the street, he grinned. 

 “Stage is coming.”  

Scott looked at Johnny on hearing the depot manager say, “Not bad, only an hour and a half late today.” 

They started laughing as the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach pulled up in front of the building.

Johnny stood back with Val as Scott took a couple of steps forward. 

The depot clerk opened the coach’s door.

Scott shifted from one foot to another, anxiously awaiting his grandfather. 

A tall, broad-shouldered man was the first to step out of the coach.  Turning, he helped two women down.   Last, a young man in his twenties hopped out.

Scott strolled forward and looked inside the now empty coach.  Turning around, he looked at Johnny and shrugged.


Swinging around at the sound of his name, Scott saw Leon Fergus waving at him. 

Leon ran across the street and skidded to a stop in front of Scott.  He was holding a piece of paper.

“Scott, this just came in for you.  I was going to run it out to Lancer when I saw you.”  The boy was grinning as he held out the telegram.

Scott took the envelope in his left hand and reached for a coin with his right.  He flipped the coin to Leon.

“There you go, Leon.”

“Thanks, Scott,” Leon answered, looking at the silver dollar in his hand.

Johnny and Val moved to stand next to Scott as Leon hurried away.  They watched as the expression on Scott’s face turned from a frown to a smile.

“Well?” Johnny tried to look over Scott’s shoulder to see what was written on the paper.

Scott pulled the telegram closer to his chest.  

“Did Leon say it was for John Lancer…no.  He said it was for Scott Lancer, and the last time I looked, I’m he, not you, little brother.”

“Come on, Scott.  You know it’s got to be from your Abuelo.”

“As a matter of fact, it is.  It says…” Scott cleared his throat. “It says you don’t have to take a trip up to the north line shack.”

Johnny frowned, trying to understand what Scott was saying.  Then he smiled, remembering his request before the roundup to go up north while Scott’s grandfather was at Lancer.

“He ain’t coming?”

“That’s right.  He’s returning to Boston.”

“Well, hot dang.”  Johnny shook his head and grinned.

“Then why didn’t he let you know before you made a trip into town?” Val asked.

Scott looked at the telegram again. 

“Grandfather sent it two days ago.  It was delayed for some reason.  It doesn’t really matter.  I’m just happy I…we don’t have to deal with him.”

Scott may have missed the expression on Val’s face, but Johnny didn’t.   He needed to talk to the man privately.

“Scott, why don’t you head on back and give the old man the good news?  I want to visit with Val for a bit.  I’ll be back before …”

“You’ll be back by dinner, or you’ll have to deal with our father.  He’ll be in a good mood, and I don’t want you to change it.  Understood?”

Johnny hesitated a second too long.


“Yeah, I understand.”

“I’ll make sure he heads home in plenty of time for dinner.  I might even come with him.”

Scott smiled.  “I’m counting on you, Val.  I’ll also tell Maria to set a place for you at the table.”

Scott went to the buggy.  Stopping in front of Joe and Juan, he told them he was going back to the ranch and to stay with Johnny.  

As Johnny and Val watched Scott drive the buggy out of town, they made their way to Val’s office.   Johnny opened the office door and waved Val in ahead of him.  Val sauntered inside, plopped down in his chair and propped his feet on the corner of the desk.

“What’s on your mind?”

Johnny sat down, tossing his hat on the desk, and imitated Val’s movement by putting his feet on the opposite corner.

Val huffed.  Reaching across, he shoved Johnny’s feet off.

“My desk, boy, not yours. Keep your feet off of it.”

Johnny laughed and straightened in the chair.

“So, what’s the problem, Val?   Old man Garrett’s gone back to Boston, and things have been quiet around here.”

Val folded his hands over his stomach.  Staring at his interlocked fingers, he took a deep breath and let it out before speaking.

“After all these years, you think Garrett is giving up?”

Johnny leaned back in the chair and looked up at the ceiling.  It was too easy.  Nothing in his life had ever been easy, absolutely nothing.  Every time he thought he’d found peace, something or someone had come along and ruined it for him.

“What do you think he’s up to now?”  

Val shook his head.  “I don’t know, but I don’t like it that he’s suddenly headed back east.  He’s got something up his sleeve.”

Val watched as Johnny leaned forward, put his arms on the desk, and buried his head in them. 


Johnny’s words were muffled as he kept his head down, “Do you think they’ll ever forget about me or leave me alone?” 

Val swung his legs off the desk and planted his feet on the floor.  Leaning forward, he put a hand on the boy’s arm.

Johnny raised his head and looked at Val’s face.  He knew Val didn’t have an answer for him; no one had answers.  His fate had been sealed long ago with the decisions he’d made.  Now he had to live… or die by those same decisions.  

When Val didn’t say anything, Johnny got to his feet and grabbed his hat before turning to the door.

Val was up and across the room before Johnny reached the door.  He put a hand on Johnny’s arm, pulling him around.

 “Don’t, Val,” Johnny snapped but didn’t pull away.  In a softer voice, he said, “I know the answer as well as you do.   They’re never gonna’ forget or leave me alone.  I’ll have to deal with it like I’ve always done.”

“You’re not alone anymore, hijo.  Remember that you’re not alone.  You have more than just me looking out for you now.”

Johnny smiled. 

“Yeah, got the old man and my big brother and well, … hell, got a whole ranch full of people looking out for me.”

“That’s right, and you remember it.  Now, get on home before Murdoch comes looking for you.”

Johnny grinned.   Opening the door, he stepped out onto the boardwalk.

“See you at dinner,” he called over his shoulder as he made his way to where he’d tied Barranca.

Val watched Johnny leaving town with Joe and Juan falling in behind him.  As he turned to go back into his office, he saw three men riding in from the opposite direction.  Walking to the edge of the boardwalk, Val leaned on a post as the three horses stopped in front of the Saloon.    He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw their gun belts weren’t strapped low on their legs. 


The stranger rode into Green River from the southside.  The bay gelding, he was on took slow even strides as he made his way down the street.  

Passing the Sheriff’s office, the stranger dipped his head and casually lowered his hat over his eyes.  He’d come too far to have the law interfere now.   A few yards further along, he saw the Saloon.   The three horses, he’d been trailing for over two weeks, were tied out front.

Glancing around, the stranger decided to get a room and stay the night in town before going on to his final destination.   The last time he was in Green River, he’d stayed in a room over the Saloon.  Tonight, he chose the hotel. 

Taking his horse to the livery, he made sure the bay was bedded down before backtracking to the hotel.    The clerk didn’t give him a second look as he asked for a room facing the street, signed the register, took his key, and started to turn.

“Where can I get a bath?”

The clerk looked the stranger over and nodded, “Yes, sir, I’d say you needed one.  I can send a tub and hot water up, or you can go across the street to the bathhouse.  It’ll cost you an extra four bits if I have a bath brought up.”

The stranger reached in his vest pocket and pulled out four bits and started to toss them on the desk.

“What about a meal? Can you have something sent up?”

“For an extra two bits, yes, sir.  We have beef stew tonight.  Will that do?”

The stranger nodded.  “Can you send someone over to the Saloon for a bucket of beer?”
“Yes, sir.”

The clerk looked at the stranger again and cocked his head. 

“Something wrong?”

“No, sir, you look familiar.   Have you ever stayed with us before?”

“No, never stayed here.” 

The stranger counted out a dollar and six bits and tossed them on the desk.

“I’ll have everything sent up as soon as I can, Mr.…” The clerk spun the register around and looked at the name the stranger wrote down.  “Sims.”

The stranger nodded and made his way to the room.

Pushing the door open, he looked around.   It was small, but he didn’t care.  The only thing he cared about was a soft bed. He’d been eating trail dust and sleeping on the ground so long he’d forgotten what it felt like to sleep in a real bed.

Setting his saddlebag and rifle on the table near the window, the stranger pushed the curtains aside and peered out.    The three horses were still tied in front of the Saloon.   Smiling, he knew the three men would stay put for the night.

Movement along the street caught his eye.  He watched the Sheriff mount up and ride north out of town. 

Yes, tomorrow would be soon enough to take care of his business and to repay the debt he owed.  Then he’d be riding on to join his partner.


“That was good, Maria.  Real good.”  Val leaned back in his chair, patting his stomach.  “After that meal last night and now breakfast, I think I’d better stop eating for a day or two, or my horse won’t be able to carry me.”

“Gracias, Senor Val.”  Maria bustled around the table, picking up the breakfast plates.  “It is a pleasure to cook for you.  You always appreciate my cooking.”

“What about me, Mamacita?  You know I appreciate your cooking.”

Johnny grabbed for another biscuit from the plate Maria lifted from the table.   Maria pulled the plate away but not fast enough.

“Gotta be faster than that, Mamacita,” Johnny laughed as he took a bite out of the biscuit.

Maria shook her head and smiled before setting the dishes into the sink.

“Did you sleep well last night, Val?”  Murdoch asked as he drained the last of his coffee.

“I always sleep good when I’m here.  Funny thing about that bed upstairs.  It seems to fit me just right.  I lay down, my head hits the pillow, and that’s the last thing I know till morning.”

“Yeah, he slept good,” Johnny snorted.  “I heard him snoring loud enough to wake the dead.  With Val on one end of the hall and you on the other end, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.”

Johnny looked across the table at Scott and Teresa.  They were both laughing.

“I do not snore, young man,” Murdoch scowled.

Johnny, Scott, and Teresa tried to control their laughter, but when they heard Maria snort, they couldn’t help themselves.

“Val, it’s apparent I have no control over my children, and they have no respect for their elders.”

Val nodded.  “No, sir, I know for a fact that one there,” Val pointed to Johnny, “don’t respect his elders.  Maybe we should show them the woodshed.”

“Don’t have a woodshed,” Johnny laughed.

Val reached across the table for Johnny, who moved out of his grasp.

“Boys, that’s enough. We have work to do.”

Murdoch laid his napkin down and pushed back from the table, noting Johnny was grinning.  Then it dawned on him that he had referred to Val as one of his boys.

Val caught Murdoch’s eye and smiled, letting the older man know he appreciated being considered a part of the family. 

“Well, I’m headed back into town.” Val stood up and moved toward the Great Room.

“I’ll ride part way with you.” Johnny followed Val to the front door.  

“John, what are you doing today?”  Murdoch called out before Johnny made it out the door.

“Fence line near Needle Rock needs looking after.  Thought I’d take a few men and get it done.”

“That’s fine.”  Murdoch turned to Scott.  “And you, son?”  

“If you don’t mind, I thought I’d go with Johnny.”

Murdoch thought for a moment before nodding. After all, having Scott with his brother ensured that the younger man would stay out of trouble.

Johnny, Scott, and Val walked across the yard toward the barn.  Johnny and Scott were laughing at something Val said.  Val growled and swatted at both men with his hat.  Johnny dodged away when the crack of a rifle shattered the air, and a bullet hit the ground where he’d been standing only a second before.     

Johnny drew his Colt and rolled to the right.  Lying flat on the ground, he pushed his hat onto his back and waited.

Val moved to the left, with his gun in hand. He found cover behind a water trough, and soon, Scott joined him.

“Wish I had my rifle,” Scott ground out as he ducked down.

They looked back toward the house when they heard the front door slam open.  Murdoch darted behind one of the pillars on the veranda.

“Where’s it coming from?”  Murdoch yelled.

“Don’t know yet,” Val yelled back, scanning the area above the house.  “What about your men?”

“Most of them have already gone out.”  Murdoch looked toward the bunkhouse and barn and saw three vaqueros finding cover. 

They waited a few minutes, and nothing else happened.  When Johnny got tired of waiting, he rose up and started to move back to the house.   Another shot brought him up short, tearing through his shirt sleeve.  He tried to dart the opposite direction when yet another shot slammed next to his boot.

“Johnny, get down,” Murdoch yelled.

Val peered over the water trough and fired a shot, hoping to keep whoever was shooting distracted long enough for Johnny to get to cover.    Scott looked at Johnny and then pushed himself up, firing blindly in the direction of the gunfire.  

Johnny fell flat on the ground again.  He started inching his way back to the house when a bullet hit next to his leg, close enough that he could feel the heat from the bullet.  

“Johnny, stop moving!” Val yelled.

Johnny started to make a smart remark and thought better of it.  He lay still and waited.

“When this is over, I’m going to strangle him,” Scott hissed. 

“You’re gonna’ have to stand in line.” Val looked at Murdoch, who was shaking his head. 

The sound of gunfire echoed from the hill overlooking the hacienda.  

Johnny couldn’t see anything from where he was on the ground but was sure some of the hands had returned.

Val and Scott chanced to take a look.  They saw a lone gunman exchanging gunfire with the unknown assailants.  For almost five minutes, the sound of rifle and pistol fire filled the air.  Then it was quiet. 

Standing, Val and Scott broke cover and looked towards the hill.  The gunman they’d seen was riding down to the house. 

Scott walked over to Johnny, who was standing now and dusting off his clothes.

The rider entered the yard and swung down from the saddle.   Johnny turned to see who it was
and immediately drew his gun and went into a crouch.  The stranger did the same.

“No, Johnny, he’s on our side.”  Scott chanced to move forward but didn’t put himself between the stranger and his brother.

Johnny growled, “What are you doing here?”

“Looks like I was saving your hide, Madrid.  There were three of them.  I got two; the third got away.”

Johnny slowly straightened up but didn’t holster his gun.

“We gonna’ call a truce or you want to fight it out now?” the stranger asked with a chuckle.

Johnny twirled his gun and slid it back into his holster, then took a step forward.


As the two men shook hands, Scott got his first good look at the man who had saved their lives.

Standing side by side, Scott could see the stranger was broad-shouldered and stood a good three inches taller than Johnny.  The clean-shaven man had light blond hair and a fair complexion.  He wore a light blue shirt with a tan vest and brown pants.

As for age, Scott judged the stranger to be a year or two older than himself, 23 maybe 24 years old.

Scott’s eyes fell to the man’s holster.  The way he wore it low and tied down, left no doubt in Scott’s mind that the man was a gunfighter. 

Frowning, Scott realized he’d seen the man before, only a few months earlier in Green River.  He was one of the gunfighters hired by Matt Wilson to call Johnny out.

“What brings you back here?”  Johnny leaned over and picked up his hat.

“I have a job further north, but I’ve been trailing those fellows.  Knew where they were going, thought you’d like to know what they were up to.  Didn’t count on them moving so fast.  I figured I’d get here ahead of them.”

It was Scott’s turn to speak up. 

“You were here a few months ago in Green River.  Matt Wilson hired you.”

Both Johnny and the stranger turned to face him at the same time.  Scott could see the light green eyes of the stranger for the first time.

“That’s right.”

“Want to tell us why you were following those three?” Val stepped forward, holstering his gun.

“Sure, but can we do it inside?  It’s a long story, and I could use something to drink.”

Johnny looked toward the house to see Murdoch stalking toward them. 

Shaking his head, Johnny sighed. 

“Probably a good idea.  My old man don’t look too happy right now.  A drink might cool him down.”

“A little early for a drink, isn’t it, brother?”  Scott turned to follow Johnny and the stranger into the house.

“Depends.  After what just happened, I’m game if he is.”

As Johnny, the stranger, Val, and Scott reached Murdoch, they all stopped.

“Come on back into the house, Murdoch.  I’ll introduce you to our visitor,” Johnny said and then started walking again.

Murdoch looked at Val, who shrugged. 


The men filed into the Great Room.  The stranger looked around and gave a low whistle.  

“Nice.  Real nice.”

“We like it.”   Scott strolled passed the man and went to the drink cart.  Holding up a bottle of tequila, he looked at the stranger.

“Hell, no, I don’t drink that rotgut.  You got any whiskey?”

Scott set the tequila down and poured two fingers of whiskey before handing the glass to the newcomer.


Johnny shook his head; he’d changed his mind about the drink. 

“John, do you want to tell me who this man is?”

Johnny hesitated a moment and then turned to look at his father. 

“Murdoch, Scott, this is Charlie Sims.  Charlie, this is my father, Murdoch Lancer and my brother Scott.  Charlie and I worked together… a few times.”

Johnny smiled when he heard Val clear his throat. “Charlie, you remember Val.”

“Yeah, I remember.  Surprised me when I saw you were a Sheriff now, Val,” Charlie replied, taking a sip of the whiskey before downing it in one gulp. 

“Can’t stay in the game forever, Charlie.  Sooner or later, it catches up with you,” Val replied.

Grinning, Charlie replied. “True, but until it does, it’s one hell of a ride.” 

Val gave Charlie a stern look.  “You said you were going to explain about those men.”

Charlie sat on the arm of the sofa.  Looking down, he gathered his thoughts and decided where to start.

“After Red, you remember Red Gordon, well, after me, Red, and Bob Johnson left Green River, we headed down to the border.  Hung around Nogales for a while and then made our way over to Yuma.  That’s where we were a little over two weeks ago when a man found us in the cantina.  He said he already had three men hired and wanted to hire a fourth.”

Charlie held out his glass and gave Scott a faint smile.

“You know this is thirsty work; you got another one of those?”

Picking up the whiskey bottle, Scott refilled the empty glass.

“Your right, Mr. Sims, this is thirsty work.  I believe I want lemonade.  Does anyone else care for one?” Scott asked, looking around the room. “Murdoch?”

Irritated at the delay in hearing the story, Murdoch snapped, “Yes, Scott, bring some for everyone.”

Waiting for Scott to return, Charlie continued to look around the room.

While they waited, Murdoch looked Sims over.  He’d never cared for men who made their living with a gun and still didn’t; however, he now knew there were different types of gunfighters.  He wondered if Sims was like Pardee or more like Johnny.

“Nice set up you got here, Madrid. I can see why you want out of the game.”

Johnny didn’t respond. 
Sims gave Johnny an appraising look and continued to sip his whiskey.

Soon, Scott was back with a tray of glasses. He handed one to everyone except Sims and found a seat.

Charlie downed half his drink, then stood up, walked over to the drink cart, and poured another whiskey. 

“Alright, Charlie, you were in Yuma.  Want to finish your story?”  Johnny hissed impatiently.

Sims smiled.  “I see you haven’t changed much.  Still all business.  Alright, like I was saying, we were in the cantina when a fellow came in wanting to hire just one of us. He said the job was in California.  Since we didn’t normally ride together, it made no never mind to none of us who took the job.  Besides, we’d gotten wind of a job further north, up near Stockton.  We figured whoever finished the job with this fellow could meet up with the others later on.”

Charlie took another sip of his drink and hesitated, trying to decide how much of the story he was going to tell.  He didn’t feel comfortable talking in front of Crawford.   He was on the right side of the law, at least for now, and wanted to keep it that way.  He’d just leave out any information on the job he and Johnson were hired to do.

“After we talked it over, Red decided he was gonna’ head back into Texas.  Bob said he’d head on up to Stockton, lock in the job, and wait for me.  That left me to take the job with this fellow.  He paid in advance and told me to come back the next day for the details.”

Val huffed. “Charlie, you ever gonna’ get to the point?  What about those three that tried to put a bullet in Johnny?”

“I’m getting there, give me a minute.”   

Charlie downed the drink in his hand and started to get up again.   Johnny put a hand on his arm and shook his head.  

“Finish it, Charlie.”

“Alright, I’ll finish it.  Fool that I am, I should never have waited to get the details of the job.  By the time I found out what the man wanted me to do, Bob had already headed out. 

“Well, the more this fellow talked, the more I questioned him.  Pretty soon, he started sounding like the man who hired us to face you in Green River.”

“Matt Wilson?”  Scott was on his feet.

“That’s him.  Only this fellow’s name was Belcher, Jack Belcher.”

Johnny moved to the center of the room and wrapped his arms around his chest. 

“So, Belcher’s back?”

“Go on, Mr. Sims,” Murdoch urged the man while watching Johnny.

“When I asked Belcher who the job was, he told me straight out it was Johnny Madrid.    I didn’t waste time telling him to find someone else.  I didn’t tell him I’d worked for Wilson.

“Gotta’ tell you, it hurt handing back all that money.  He was paying good to take you out.”

 Charlie laughed and then noticed no one else found what he’d said was funny.

“The next day, I saw the three men, Belcher hired, ride out of town.  So, I followed them.  Been dogging their trail for over two weeks.  I knew where they were going, so I didn’t worry about losing them.”

Sims sat his glass on the drink cart. 

“I got into Green River yesterday.  I planned to ride out here this morning and tell you what was going on, but those three rode out before I knew they were gone.  The rest, you know.”

“Where’s Belcher now?” Johnny turned to look at Charlie.

Charlie shrugged.  “Hell, if I know. The man could still be in Yuma, but my guess is he’d like to be near the action.  So, I figure he’s close by or will be soon.”

Val glanced at Johnny before asking, “Did Belcher say who he was working for?”

Johnny’s head snapped up.  Scott couldn’t know about Garrett.

Charlie shook his head.  “He never said.”

Johnny visibly relaxed.  

“Why are you here, Charlie?  Why not let Belcher’s men finish me off?”

“You know me better than that, Johnny-boy.  Bushwhacking ain’t my style.  Face to face, yes, but never behind your back.   Besides, I owe you for saving my hide in that last fracas we were in back in Arizona.  I always pay my debts.”

“You could have wired me a warning.  You didn’t have to go out of your way.”

Charlie nodded slowly.  “I could have written a letter, or sent a wire, or maybe sent up smoke signals, but hell, would you have believed me. I was headed this way anyway, so I stopped by to tell you.” 

Charlie looked around. 

“And it looks like it’s a good thing I did.  You looked like you were scrambling out there, Madrid.”

Johnny laughed.  “Yeah, I got myself in a fix alright.”

Murdoch shook his head. “It’s not funny, John.  You could have gotten yourself killed out there.”

The smile vanished from Johnny’s face when he saw the vein pulsing in Murdoch’s temple.   Lowering his head, he nodded. 


“So, what do we do now?” Val asked, looking between Johnny and Charlie.

“I’m all for riding to Yuma,” Scott spoke up.  “It’s time we put an end to the Wilsons and Belchers and anyone else the man behind the scenes hires.  I, for one, am tired of people trying to kill my brother.”

Johnny nodded.  “I agree, but you’re not going, Scott.  I’m going to Yuma, but you’re staying here.” 

“Now wait a minute.  There is no way you’re going anywhere without me.”

“Or me,” Val barked out. 

Johnny shook his head.  “Scott…”

Murdoch decided it was time to step in.

“No one is going anywhere and, especially you, John.  I haven’t spent the last few months doing everything in my power to protect you, to let you go off on some fool’s errand.  You have no idea if Belcher is still in Yuma.  For all we know, he’s back in California now.” 


“No, John, and that’s final.” 

Murdoch gave him a look that dared him to say another word.

“Val, can you check the surrounding towns and see if anyone matching Belcher’s description has been seen.  He may not be in Green River, but there is Morro Coyo and Spanish Wells.”

Val nodded.  “I can do that.  I can also send some telegrams to Cross Creek and Stockton.  If Belcher’s around these parts, I’ll find out.”   Val looked at Johnny.  “And you, boy, better stay put if you know what’s good for you.”

Charlie Sims listened to the discussion and smiled.  He never thought he’d see anyone wrangle Johnny Madrid the way these people did.  

Charlie had worked with Madrid in a few range wars over the last three or four years, and he’d never seen the boy back down from anyone.   The last time they’d worked together was in Arizona.  After that, it seemed that Madrid just disappeared. It wasn’t until Wilson hired him that he found out Madrid was in Green River.

Johnny’s raised voice brought Charlie out of his musings. 

“We can’t sit here and wait for Belcher to hire more men.  Scott’s not the only one tired of someone trying to kill me.”

“Let Val see what he can find out.”

Johnny sighed and wrapped his arms around his chest.  Lowering his head, he thought for a moment before nodding in agreement.

Murdoch turned to Charlie.  “Mr. Sims, you’ll stay with us until this issue is resolved?”

When Charlie started to protest, Murdoch cut him off.

“No, I insist.  You saved my son’s life today.  I’ll not take no for an answer.”

“Just repaying a debt, Mr. Lancer.”

Scott cocked his head.  “That sounds like a story I’d like to hear, Mr. Sims.”

“The name’s Charlie.  There are too many Misters around here.”  

Johnny snorted.  “Ain’t that the truth?  Well, come on, Charlie.  I’ll show you to your room.”

“I’ll need to go back to town for my saddlebags.  I left them in the hotel.”

“I’ll ride back with you, Charlie,” Val said.  “I need to be getting back to town myself.”

Charlie nodded and followed Johnny up the stairs.

“Madrid, there’s no need for me to stay here. I can stay in town.” 

Charlie looked around the room.  It was the nicest bedroom he’d ever seen.

“My old man has made up his mind.  You’ll be staying here.  I’ll ride in with you and Val to make sure you don’t have any trouble with the man that got away.”

Charlie couldn’t think of anything else to say except, “Thanks.  It will be good to have a soft bed and a decent meal.” 

Johnny looked at Charlie, seeing a man who looked like he could stand some pampering for a few days.  

“Well, you’re in for a treat then.  Maria is the best cook in the valley, maybe even the entire state.”

“Sounds good.  Now, I’d better get back down there, or the Sheriff will be up here looking for me.”

“Come on.  The sooner we get to town, the sooner we get back.”

When Johnny and Charlie got to the front of the house, they found Val waiting.  With him were three of the ‘chosen,’ Walt, Jose, and Joe.  

Johnny stopped and looked around at Murdoch.  Before he could protest the other men going along, Murdoch raised a hand.

Johnny nodded his understanding, knowing not to say anything.

Charlie untied his horse from the hitching rail and looked at the three extra men.  Before he could open his mouth, Johnny said, “Don’t ask.  I’ll tell you while we ride.”

Mounting up, Johnny, Charlie, and Val reined their horses around and started towards the arch.    

Charlie turned in the saddle and looked back at the ‘chosen.’ Studying the expression on Johnny’s face, he finally asked, “You want to tell me about the extra men?”

Johnny shifted in the saddle and glanced over his shoulder.  He saw a slight grin on Walt’s face.

Looking front again, he shook his head.

“Ever since Wilson’s gunfighters started coming to town, my old man and my brother…”

“And his uncle,” Val jumped in.

“And my uncle, have been kinda’ protective.  They have some of the men ride with me when I’m away from the hacienda.”

Charlie laughed.  “Johnny Madrid has men protecting him. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  If I remember right, you didn’t need anyone looking out for you.”

Johnny frowned and started to respond when Val did it for him. 

“Charlie, there have been a lot of gunhawks sniffing around since Matt Wilson started hiring men to take Johnny down.  Murdoch Lancer doesn’t like it when his youngest son ends up with bullet holes in him.  I don’t care too much for it myself,” Val drawled, giving Johnny a quick look.

“Now, Johnny can take care of himself in a straight-on face to face fight, but the men who’ve been coming for him aren’t wantin’ to take him on face to face.  They don’t care how they take him, just like those two jaybirds you killed this morning.”

Val stopped to take a breath.

“So, if you don’t mind, we’ll just keep sending the men along to watch his back.”  

Charlie dipped his head and then turned to Johnny.  “It sounds like it’s been tough the last few months.”

“Yeah, it has.”

“Ever thought about going someplace where folks hadn’t heard about you?”

“I’ve thought about it, but you tell me, do you know of a place I could go?  Anyplace people don’t know about me, about what I’ve done?”

“I see what you mean.  You know,” Charlie turned to his saddlebags and reached in.  Pulling out a book, he held it up.  “Found this down in Yuma.”

“What is it?” Val craned his neck to see what Charlie was holding.

“A dime novel about Johnny Madrid.”

“I don’t read the damn things,” Johnny hissed, remembering the book he had in his dresser drawer.

“You’d like this one.  It’s a real good read, written by a fellow that says he knows you.”

“There you go,” Johnny sighed, “someone else trying to make a living off of my name.  Trying to leave fighting behind was hard enough before Wilson and Belcher.  Now, …well, hell, now…”

“Forget about it, Johnny,” Val grumbled.  He didn’t like to hear Johnny talk about leaving Lancer, and he sure didn’t like knowing there was another dime novel making the rounds.


The remainder of the ride into town was quiet. 

Once they reached the hotel, Charlie dismounted and started inside.

“It won’t take me long.  Only have my saddlebags.”  

“I’ll be over at the Sheriff’s office with Val.  Meet us over there when you’re ready.”

Charlie nodded and walked inside.

“Val, you gonna’ send those telegrams?”  Johnny dismounted and tied Barranca to the hitching rail outside Val’s office.

“I’ll get them out.  Gonna’ look around town and then ride over to Morro Coyo and then up to Spanish Wells.  If Belcher’s around here, I’ll know soon enough.”

“Val, I don’t want Scott getting wind of who’s behind Belcher.  It would kill him if he found out that it’s Garrett.”

“You know he’s gonna’ have to find out sooner or later.”

“Not if I can help it.   I don’t want him hurt.”

“We’ve got to do something about Garrett.  Unless he decides to give up, he’ll just keep causing a ruckus.”

“If anyone takes care of Garrett, it’ll be me.”

“Then nothing’s gonna’ happen to Garrett, cause you ain’t gonna’ do anything about him.  You’d sooner someone put a bullet in you if it meant Scott wasn’t hurt.”

“Damn right, I would!  I’d rather die than have anyone or anything hurt my brother.”  Johnny’s words were spoken with such emotion that Val flinched.

“Alright, alright, take it easy.”

Johnny took a deep breath and looked away.   Seeing Charlie riding toward them, Johnny turned back to Val.

“I’ll see you later, Papi.”

Val reached out and put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

“I’ll ride out if I hear anything.  You watch your back.”

Johnny nodded and remounted.  Reining Barranca around, he began to ride out of town.  Charlie moved beside him.  Walt, Joe, and Jose started to move when they heard a shot ring out.

Johnny threw himself to the right off Barranca while at the same time, Charlie went to the left off his horse.  Both men rolled to a crouch with their guns drawn.    Walt, Joe, and Jose wheeled their horses around, drawing their weapons as they did. 

A second shot gave the shooter away in an open window on the second floor of the hotel.  Before a third shot was fired, Johnny and Charlie returned fire.   The short gun battle was over when a man tumbled out of the window, bounced off the roof of the porch below, and then landed in the street.

Walking down the street, Johnny stopped next to the prone body.  Val, who was beside Johnny in seconds, bent down and flipped the body over.

The identity of the man surprised them both.

“You know who it is?” Charlie was next to Johnny, also looking at the face of the dead man.

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, I know who he is.”


Slowly shaking his head, Johnny answered. “No, not a gunhawk. Just someone who had a grudge that got him killed.”

Johnny turned away, leaving Ben Yancy where he fell.


Sitting at the head of the dinner table that night, Murdoch watched Johnny with worried eyes.  It seemed like he worried about the boy all the time.  Only when Johnny was within his sight did his worry lessen, but only slightly.

It was obvious the gunfights were taking their toll on his youngest son.  Murdoch could see the change in the boy after each fight.  It seemed to take longer each time for Madrid to slip away and Johnny Lancer to resurface.

Walt had reported the gun battle with Yancy as soon as he was back on the ranch, now Murdoch patiently waited for Johnny to breach the subject.    He knew Johnny would talk about it, but only when he was ready.

After the meal ended, Murdoch ushered the men into the Great Room, hoping to finally get Johnny’s side of what happened.     

“Mr. Lancer, you have a real nice place.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyplace as pretty as it is here,” Charlie commented once they were in the room.

“Thank you.  It’s taken a lot of hard work to get it the way it is now.”

“You built it up by yourself?”

“It was my vision, but I couldn’t have done it without a lot of help over the years.  I’ve had good men working for me, and now that Scott and Johnny are here, well…”  Murdoch smiled, “now I have my sons to help.”

Charlie saw the pride in Murdoch’s eyes and heard it in his voice when he spoke of Lancer and his sons. 

Murdoch moved to the drink cart and looked back at the three men. 

“Would anyone care for an after-dinner drink?”

Johnny took his seat at one end of the sofa while Scott took the other.

“Have a seat, Charlie.” Johnny motioned to one of the chairs near the fireplace.

“Would you like a drink, Mr. Sims?”

“Nothing for me, Mr. Lancer.”

“Coffee, then?”

Charlie nodded.  “Thanks”

“Maria, café, por favor!”

“Si, Patron,” Maria replied from the kitchen.

“Johnny?” Murdoch held up a bottle of tequila.   Johnny nodded and watched as Murdoch poured a drink and handed it to him.

“Scott?”  Murdoch held up the brandy.


Murdoch poured a drink for himself and Scott and sat down, just as Maria hurried into the room with a coffee tray.   Pouring a cup of the black brew, she looked around, seeing the only person who didn’t have a drink, handed the cup to Charlie.

“Gracias, Senora.”

“De nada, Senor.”

Once seated and relaxed, Murdoch looked at Johnny and waited.  It was only a few moments before Johnny spoke.

“You heard about what happened in town?”

Murdoch nodded.  “I did.  I’m sorry, son.”

“You heard who it was?”

“Yes, and I was surprised.  I assumed that after the fight you and Yancy had at the roundup, the matter was settled.”

“Yeah, so did I, but guess he didn’t feel that way.” Johnny looked at Murdoch.  “You gonna’ go talk to Santee?”

Murdoch thought for a moment. 

“I hadn’t planned on it.   There is little I can say to Tom Santee.”   Murdoch watched Johnny closely.    “John, Ben Yancy brought this upon himself.  You know that, don’t you?  The man tried to kill you.  God, he tried to shoot you in the back.  No, I have nothing to say to Santee.”

Johnny nodded.

“Did Val say when he was going to come out again?”

Johnny shook his head.  “No.  He just said he’d send those telegrams and was going to check out Spanish Wells and Morro Coyo.”

Charlie sat quietly, sipping his coffee, watching the family dynamics.  It fascinated him that Johnny Madrid had a family and that they seemed to accept who he was.

Silence fell over the room until Scott spoke up, “I believe I’m going to bed.  There’s a book I’ve wanted to read.”

Charlie sat his coffee cup down.  “If you don’t mind, I’ll call it a night too, Mr. Lancer.  I have a book I’ve been reading and want to finish it.”  Charlie looked at Johnny.   “You want to read it when I’m done, Johnny?”

Johnny looked at Charlie and laughed.  “If you’re talking about that dime novel you got about me, then no, I don’t want to read it.”

“A book about John?” Murdoch questioned with a frown.

“Yes, sir, but this one is different than the others I’ve read about Madrid.”

“I’d like to read it when you’re finished, Charlie.” Scott sat his glass down. “You say it’s different?”

“Yes, the man that wrote it says he met Johnny down in Arizona, along the border.”

“What’s the name of the book?”

“Fellow calls it, ‘The Pistolero: Johnny Madrid in Legends Never Die.’  Catchy title, isn’t it?” 

“Yes, it is.  I look forward to reading about my little brother’s exploits.”  Scott laughed and looked at the scowl on Johnny’s face.

“Sounds like the usual garbage to me.  I’m headed up.  See you in the morning.” 

Finishing off his drink, Johnny stood up.  He didn’t slow down as he made his way up the stairs and to his room.


Johnny heard his family and Charlie going to their rooms.

Getting undressed, he put on a nightshirt and crawled between the crisp sheets to wait.   He knew it wouldn’t be long before his father would be in to check on him.  Once Murdoch was gone, he planned to shed the nightshirt.

Johnny smiled.  He might grumble about the attention his family gave him, but deep down, he relished it.  A lot of things had changed in his life this year, and feeling a father’s love was one of them.

Johnny didn’t have to wait long before there was a quiet knock, and his door opened. 

Peering around the edge of the door, Murdoch saw his son waiting.

“I just wanted to see if you were alright.”

“I’m fine.”

“Of course, you are.”  Murdoch smiled as he entered the room and closed the door.  Walking to the bed, he sat on the edge and put a hand on Johnny’s leg.    “I can see you’re still upset about what happened in town.”

Johnny sighed.

“I just get tired of it, Murdoch.”   Johnny looked into his father’s light blue eyes. “I didn’t have anything against Yancy.  It was a stupid fistfight.  When it was over, I thought we were finished.”

“As did I.”  Murdoch watched Johnny lower his head. “John, this business with Belcher… well, do you know something you’re not telling me.”

Johnny looked up.  “Like what?”

Murdoch took a deep breath and let it out.  “Like who hired Belcher.  Sometimes it feels like you and Val know something and aren’t letting Scott or me know what it is.   Johnny, you can tell me anything.  You know that, don’t you?”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, I know,” Johnny said aloud and then to himself, ‘except who hired Belcher.’    

“Alright, time for you to go to sleep.  I’ll turn out the light and let you get out of that nightshirt.”

Johnny laughed. “You know about the nightshirt?”

“Yes, son, I know.  I do check on you during the night as well, you know.”

Johnny looked surprised.

“I also check on your brother.  There are times I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t help but want to see that you’re both here and that it wasn’t just a dream.”

Murdoch started to stand up when Johnny reached out.  Taking Murdoch’s arm, Johnny gave it a gentle squeeze.  


“For what, son?”

“For caring.  For taking the time to stop in and talk before you go to bed.  For checking on me during the night.”

Murdoch pulled Johnny into his arms, hugged him tightly, and placed a kiss on his head.

“It’s what father’s do, son.”

Releasing Johnny, Murdoch stood up and turned the lamp out.  Making his way across the room, he heard the bedsheets rustle, and the gentle sound he knew was the nightshirt hitting the floor.

As he closed the door, he heard a quiet voice saying, “Night, Papa.”


“A man could get used to eating like this.”  Charlie pushed back from the kitchen table and sighed.  “Best breakfast I’ve had in … well, don’t remember.”

“Gracias, Senor.”  Maria smiled and turned back to the stove. 

“I told you Maria was the best cook around.”

“And you weren’t lying.”

Maria poured Johnny another cup of coffee and patted his cheek.   Johnny grabbed her hand and kissed it.  

“Nino, you make an old woman blush.”

“You ain’t no old woman, Mamacita.” 

Charlie couldn’t help but smile.  It was good to be around a family that loved each other.  It was obvious the woman had deep feelings for Johnny.

Johnny picked up his cup and looked at Charlie.   “So, what do you want to do today?”

Charlie shook his head.  “Not sure.  Maybe I should be going.  Now that you know Belcher is still out there somewhere, there’s no need for me to stick around.”

Murdoch was entering the kitchen when he heard what Charlie said.

“Mr. Sims, there’s no need for you to leave.  You’re more than welcome to stay at Lancer.  If you’re looking for work…ranch work,” Murdoch quickly corrected himself, “we could use another hand.”

“Thanks, Mr. Lancer, but I’m not good with cattle.  I’ve worked ranches before, but cattle are the dumbest animals on the face of the earth.  I’d rather see one on a plate, cooked medium rare, than on the hoof.  No, give me horses any day.”

“Something, you and John, have in common.” Murdoch sat down, giving his son a warm smile.

“That right?”

“Yeah, I want to get Lancer into the horse business.  Will, too, one of these days.”

Murdoch cleared his throat.  “Yes, but right now, Lancer is a cattle ranch.” 

Johnny dipped his head.

“Good morning, everyone.” 

“Morning, Boston.”  Johnny smiled as Scott came down the back stairs and took his place at the table.

“Good morning, son.”

“Morning, Scott.”

“Did you sleep well, Charlie?”

Charlie nodded.  “Sure did.  That’s a right fine bed you’ve got up there.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”  Maria poured him a cup of coffee.  “Thank you, Maria.”
“Where did you get a nickname like Boston?”  Charlie looked between Johnny and Scott.

“I was raised in Boston by my grandfather.  In the beginning, it was Johnny’s way of irritating me.”

Charlie saw Murdoch tense up at the mention of Scott’s grandfather.

“You wore those frilly shirts and funny looking pants.”  Johnny laughed as he took another biscuit from the platter on the table.

“Don’t tell me you are one of them eastern dandies?”

“I’ll have you know I’m not a dandy, at least I’m not now.  I was raised to dress appropriately.  I had the best tailor in Boston to design my suits.  I was considered to be one of the best-dressed men in the city.” 

“Them pants were still funny looking.  They were plaid, Charlie.”

Scott raised an eyebrow.  “Funny looking pants?  This from a man who wears leather pants with conchos up the legs.”

“I don’t get no complaints from the ladies on my pants.”

“Neither do I.”

“Boys,” Murdoch cleared his throat.  “That’s enough.  We have company.”

“Sorry, Charlie, sometimes we get carried away, but you have to admit Murdoch they didn’t fit in around here.”

“What did they look like?”  Charlie laughed at the banter between the two men.

Before Johnny could reply, there was a knock at the back door and Cipriano stepped into the kitchen.

“Patron, Senor Santee and some of his men have been seen coming this way.”

Murdoch pushed back from the table, glancing at Johnny as he did.

“We don’t know what they want, Cipriano.  It may have nothing to do with Yancy, but to be on the safe side, post some men around the yard.”

“Si, Patron.” Cipriano looked at his nephew before leaving the way he came.

Johnny stood up.  “I’ll take care…”

“No, you’ll let me handle this.”

Johnny started to protest and then nodded.  “Alright, but I’m going out there with you.”

Charlie stood up. “If you don’t mind, Mr. Lancer, I’ll come along.  That fellow was shooting at me, too.”

“Alright, but no gunplay, Charlie.  John, you understand?”

“You don’t have to worry, Murdoch… unless they start something.”     

Murdoch led the way out of the kitchen with Scott, Johnny, and Charlie close behind.  Johnny stopped at the front door and took his gun belt from the hat tree and buckled it on.  He opened the door and stepped onto the veranda with Charlie behind him.

Johnny and Charlie walked out into the yard to stand behind Murdoch.  Johnny noticed Scott coming out of the front door and setting a rifle against one of the pillars on the veranda, before moving to stand next to Murdoch.

The riders came to a stop some twenty feet from them.

“Tom, you’re out early,” Murdoch was the first to speak.

“I’ve come about that boy of yours, Murdoch.”

“Scott?  What has Scott done?”

“Not Scott, and you know it.  I’m here about the other one.  About Madrid.”

“Tom, my son’s name is Lancer, not Madrid, and you know it.  So, why are you here?”

“You heard about him gunning down my top hand yesterday in town?”

“I heard about the shooting.  I also heard ‘your top hand’ tried to shoot John in the back.”

“Nonsense.  That’s not what I heard.”

“Then you heard wrong, Mister Santee,” Johnny drawled.  

“Johnny, I told you I’d handle this.”  Murdoch half turned to look back at Johnny.  Facing Santee again, Murdoch cleared his throat.  “As Johnny said, Tom, you heard wrong.”

“I knew you’d take the word of that…”

“That what, Tom?  I’d be careful how you talk about my son.”

Santee shifted in the saddle. 

“I told you at the roundup that he needs to go.  He’s nothing but trouble, and you know it.  We’ve had nothing but gunfights and killing in the valley since he came back.”

“The gunfights haven’t been his fault.  John is trying to give up that life if only people would let him.”

Santee looked at Charlie. 

“I see you have another gunhawk on Lancer.  Is this how it’s going to be Murdoch?  How many more are you going to let live here?”

Murdoch didn’t turn around.

“Mr. Sims is visiting for a few days.  How long he stays is between him and my son.  It’s none of your business.  Now, you’ve had your say, and it’s time to go.”

Santee shook his head.  “If he were mine, I’d disown him, not make him a partner, Murdoch.  You’re asking for trouble with him here.”

“From you, Tom?  You seem to be the only one who has spoken out against Johnny.”

“He killed Ben Yancy.”

“Yes, he did, and I would have done the same.  Everyone in Green River witnessed Yancy trying to shoot Johnny in the back, and that includes the Sheriff.  He came damn close to killing him, too.

“Now, go home, Tom, and cool off.  Be thankful Yancy didn’t hurt John or any of my men yesterday.  If he had, I would have ridden out to your place yesterday and killed the man myself.”

Santee started to rein his horse around. 

“You haven’t heard the last of this, Murdoch.  I’m calling a meeting of the Association.  We’ll see how long you stand behind that killer when the valley turns on you.”

Santee rode away with his men following him.

Murdoch looked around the yard.  Vaqueros and ranch hands stood up from where they had taken cover. 

“Cipriano, get the men back to work, but leave a few to guard the house.”

“Si, Patron.” Cipriano started to turn away but then turned back.  “Patron, I will make sure the ‘chosen’ are close today.”

Murdoch nodded.  “Thank you.”

Murdoch walked back into the house, motioning Johnny to follow.

Inside the Great Room, Johnny came to a halt.

“Well, that cuts it.”

“Cuts what, John?”

Johnny gave Murdoch a cold glare.

“You never did tell us why Santee and Driscoll didn’t send their men to the roundup right away.”

“I told you….”

“You didn’t tell me the truth, old man.  Why weren’t they there until after you went to talk to Santee and Driscoll?”

“Don’t use that tone of voice with me, young man.”

“Answer me, Murdoch.”
Murdoch took a deep breath and exhaled.

“I told you the truth about Joe Driscoll.  He did have an injured man that delayed him in sending his men.  As for Santee, his men didn’t want to work the roundup.  Santee had…”

“Santee had to force his men to work with me.  Isn’t that right?” The bitterness in Johnny’s voice was evident.  “How much did you pay him to get his men to work the roundup?”

The tone of Johnny’s voice and the use of the words ‘old man’ caused Murdoch to brace himself. 

“I didn’t pay anything.  I … I threatened Santee.  I told him to send his men, or he’d regret it.”

Johnny hung his head.

“Johnny, men like Tom Santee, are all talk.  There is nothing he can do to hurt Lancer, and I’ll be damned if I let him hurt you.”

Scott moved next to Johnny and put an arm around his shoulder.  Scott felt his brother flinch but didn’t pull away.

“Johnny, don’t worry about Santee.  We have enough to worry about with Belcher still out there.”

Johnny moved away from Scott. “I’m going for a ride.”

“I’ll come with you,” Charlie spoke up.

Johnny nodded and turned away from his father and brother.

It wasn’t long before Murdoch and Scott heard the sound of horse’s hoofs.

Murdoch walked to the French doors and looked out.   Walt and Jose were mounting their horses to following Johnny and Charlie.


Johnny let Barranca have his head as he and Charlie raced cross country.  They rode in silence for almost an hour.  When a shaded stream came into view, Johnny pulled up.  He sat in the saddle for a minute before finally dismounting.

Charlie mirrored Johnny’s movements.  Finally, Charlie had had enough of the silence and spoke up.

“Madrid, who are you mad at?”

Johnny looked at Charlie, giving him a steady glare.  Charlie didn’t look away.

“Won’t work on me, Madrid.”

“What?”  Johnny ground out.

“That look.  I’ve seen it before when you’re ready to face a man down.  You don’t want to call me out.  Now, who are you mad at?”

Johnny looked at the swiftly moving stream and shook his head.

“I’m not sure anymore.”

“Sounds like it’s been rough on you, trying to walk away from the game.”

“It has been.  Most people in the valley are willing to give me a chance, but there are a lot of them like Santee.  Sure, they smile when they see me coming, but when I turn my back, I can feel their eyes on me and hear the whispers.  They don’t want a gunhawk living anywhere near them.”

“Ever think about leaving?  Going back to the life?”

“Every day, especially when the gunhawks come for me.  I hate putting my family in the middle of it.  One of these days one of them is gonna’ get in the way of a bullet meant for me.” 
“Why don’t you leave?”

Johnny sighed. 

“This place,” Johnny looked around, “it’s gotten under my skin.”

“Don’t forget about the family.  You got them now, too.  You and Scott seem real close.”

“Yeah, we’re close.” Johnny smiled.  “It’s like when we met for the first time, we both knew… well, it’s like I knew there had been something missing all my life and he was it.  I think he felt the same way. He’s more than my brother; he’s my best friend.”  Johnny dipped his head.

“A few months ago, I was alone and now… well, Murdoch’s even looking at Val as if he’s part of the family.   If the gunhawks would leave me alone, I know I can make a go of it here.”

They were silent for a long time.

“You know who’s behind Wilson and Belcher, don’t you?”

Johnny looked at Charlie again before nodding.

“Why not just take the man out.  It sounds like a simple solution to me.”


“Can’t or won’t.”

Johnny huffed, “Both.”


“Because, if I took out the money man, I’d hurt someone I care about and … love.”

Charlie cocked his head.  He didn’t know Madrid well and had only been around his family for one day, but he knew there were only a few in the boy’s life he cared about, and even fewer, he would admit to loving.  Thinking for a moment, he knew who Madrid meant.

“Whoever it is has something to do with Scott, doesn’t he?”

Johnny looked at Charlie with a combination of surprise and hurt in his eyes.

Charlie nodded.  “I see your problem.  You can’t take out the money man because of Scott.  The only one he’s mentioned at all since I’ve been here is his grandfather.”  Charlie paused.  “Well, don’t that beat all.  How long have you known about his grandfather bankrolling Wilson and Belcher?”

“Didn’t find out until Belcher showed up a few months ago.  Val had a look-see at his room one day.  The man kept real good records.”

“But why would he want to hurt you?”

“Garrett believes Scott is staying at Lancer because of me.  He’s been after Scott to go back to Boston since he first got here.” 
Charlie’s head shot up, his full attention on Johnny.

“Garrett?  Harlan Garrett?”

 “Yeah, you’ve heard of him?”

“Yeah, I’ve heard the name before.”   Charlie laughed.  What were the chances there were two Harlan Garrett’s in Boston?

“So, what are you going to do?  You can’t let him keep sending men against you.  You know as well as I do that one of these days your luck is going to run out.”

“I know, but I’d rather take the bullet than hurt Scott.  If he ever found out about his grandfather, it would kill him.”

“I don’t think you’re giving your brother enough credit.  Sure, he’d have a hard time of it, but he’d get over it.  It would hurt him more to lose you. Even I can see how Scott feels about you.”

Johnny smiled.  “I feel the same way about him.  That’s why I can’t hurt him.”

“Is there anyone else that Garrett’s hurt?”

Again, Johnny looked at Charlie, surprised.  He didn’t know Charlie Sims outside of the range wars they’d worked, but it seemed Sims could read his mind.    

“How do you know?”

“Some things Belcher said when he came to me in Yuma.  He said he’d worked for his boss for a long time.  If Garrett is his boss, then Belchers been on Garrett’s payroll for over 20 years.”

“23 years is more like it.”

“What happened 23 years ago?”

Sighing, Johnny sat down on the bank of the stream, drew his legs up to his chest, and wrapped his arms around them.

“23 years ago, a man by the name of Judd Haney headed up some high riders and started raiding Lancer.  Murdoch sent Scott’s mother away to keep her safe, but it didn’t work out that way.  She was carrying Scott at the time.  She went into labor; Scott was born, and she died.   

“Garrett was with her when she died.  He took Scott back to Boston, and that’s where he was raised.  Murdoch tried to get him back, but Garrett blocked him at every turn.

“Garrett’s hated Murdoch all these years and now he hates me.”

“Belcher hired Haney?”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, Garrett hired Belcher; Belcher hired Haney.”

“Anything else?”

“Yeah, but I don’t have any proof.  I figure Wilson hired Day Pardee on Garrett’s orders.”

“I know about Day.  I also know about Wilson.  It was Wilson that hired me and the others to face you down in Green River that day.” 

Charlie walked away, thinking.  The sound of horses slowly riding in brought his head up.  He noticed Madrid didn’t move. 

“Just a couple of the men riding herd on me.”

“Your old man has someone with you all the time?”

Johnny nodded, not turning to see who had joined them.   “Either he or Cipriano has someone close by to watch my back.”

“Madrid, I’m sorry, but if a man ever needed killing, it’s Garrett.”

“I know, and if it weren’t for Scott, I’d make a trip back east and see to it, but as it stands…”

“As it stands, you can’t do anything.”

“No, I can’t.”  Johnny stretched his legs out and leaned back.  “Hell, of a note, isn’t it?  Me, Johnny Madrid, afraid to face a man down.”

“Being afraid to face a man and making a decision not to are two different things.”

“Yeah, guess so.”  Johnny stood up.  “Right now, I need to get to work.”

Johnny looked at Walt and Jose, who were still mounted.  “It’s alright, fellows.  I’m headed back.”

Walt nodded but didn’t move.  Johnny didn’t expect him to.

Mounting up, Johnny and Charlie started riding back toward the hacienda with Walt and Jose falling in behind them.


Riding into the yard, Miguel took Johnny and Charlie’s horses.   

Letting Johnny go in first, Charlie hung back as they entered the house.   Stopping in the Great Room, they could see Murdoch at his desk, and Scott sitting in a chair in front of it.

Murdoch stood up, noting neither Johnny or Charlie had removed their guns at the door. 


“I’m alright.  Just needed to ride it off.”

Murdoch nodded his understanding.

Scott stood up and walked over to his brother. 

“Do you want something cold to drink or something stronger?”

Johnny nodded. “Lemonade sounds good to me.  How about you, Charlie?”

“Lemonade’s fine.”

Scott left the room and was back in a matter of minutes with lemonade for everyone.

Charlie picked up his glass and took a long drink.   He had done some thinking and made up his mind.  It was time for him to move on.  Madrid didn’t need him to handle Belcher, and he had another job waiting.
“Mr. Lancer, I’ll be leaving in the morning.”

Johnny had his glass halfway to his mouth and stopped.  He didn’t say anything.

“Charlie, you know you’re more than welcome to stay on here,” Murdoch replied, glancing at Johnny.

“I know that, and I appreciate it, but I hadn’t planned on staying this long.  The only reason I came was to tell Johnny about Belcher.”

Scott looked from Charlie to Johnny.  “You don’t want to stay around and see what happens with Belcher?”

Charlie chuckled.  “I know what’s gonna’ to happen to Belcher.  Johnny doesn’t need my help.  No, I have some business to take care of, and it can’t wait any longer.”

Johnny smiled, wishing he could go with Charlie.  There were times he missed riding free.

“You’re meeting up with Johnson?”

“Bob’s waiting for me in Stockton.” Charlie nodded and then laughed.  “Just been thinkin’ how much you and Johnson look alike.”     

Johnny shook his head and laughed.  “I know we have a lot in common, but Johnson doesn’t look like he’s got a drop of Mexican blood in him.”

“You’re right there.  Bob’s coloring is slightly lighter than yours, but you both the same height and have the same color hair and eyes.  I swear when I look at Bob, I see you.   

“I mentioned the same thing to Bob once, and you know what he said?  ‘Madrid and me might look alike, but compared to Madrid, I’m just a hired hand who’s good with a gun.”    

“The resemblance between them is that close?”  Scott asked.

Charlie nodded. “Sure is.  I swear if Bob shed a few pounds and built up some muscle, you wouldn’t be able to tell which one was which.”
Murdoch thought about Charlie’s words.  He’d like to meet the man who looked like his son.

“Like I was saying, I’ll take my leave in the morning.  I’ll stop in and say ‘howdy’ when I’m in the area again and fill up on Senora Maria’s good cooking.”  

“At least you’ll get dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning.  When Maria finds out you’re leaving, she’ll load you up with enough grub to last a week.”

They were all laughing when they heard the sound of running feet.

“Patron!”  Cipriano shouted as he barreled through the French doors only to come to a halt when he saw Johnny’s gun drawn and trained on him.

“Tio, what the hell do you think you’re doing?  You know better than to …”   Johnny couldn’t finish the sentence as he lowered his head and holstered his gun.  

Turning, he looked around the Great Room.  Everyone was staring at him. 

Murdoch broke the silence.  “Cipriano, what’s wrong?”

Cipriano swallowed hard.  It wasn’t often he faced his Sobrino’s gun, but when he did, he felt his knees weaken.   Cipriano turned to Murdoch, remembering why he’d come.

“Patron, a rider is coming.  I believe it is Leon.”

Murdoch turned to look at the unreadable expression on Johnny’s face.

Johnny stalked out the French doors without looking at either Murdoch or Cipriano.  Scott wasted no time in following him.

“What’s wrong?” Teresa hurried from the kitchen.  “I heard yelling.”  Teresa looked around the room, and her eyes came to rest on Murdoch.

It was Charlie who answered, “Your Mexican foreman came in yelling.”

“What was Cipriano saying?”   

Charlie shook his head.  “Something about someone coming.  Someone named Leon.”

Teresa visibly paled.  “Oh, Murdoch, where’s Johnny?” 

“Outside, sweetheart.  I’ll go.  You stay here.”  Murdoch forced his legs to move.   Once outside, he saw Johnny and Scott standing shoulder to shoulder, waiting for Leon Fergus.

“Maybe it isn’t from Val.” Scott looked from the approaching rider to Johnny.

“Yeah, maybe it’s for you again.”  Johnny lowered his head, wrapping his arms around his chest. 

Sighing, Johnny looked up.  Leon wasn’t smiling.

“Don’t look like it’s good news.  You talk to the boy, Scott.  I’m going to get my working gun.”

“You’re going to town tonight?  Why not wait for morning?  Charlie’s going to leave tomorrow.  We can all ride into town with you.”

“Sure, why not.”  Johnny looked toward the corral.  Cipriano was leaning against the fence, his head down.  “I’m going to go talk to Tio.  Need to make things right with him.”

Scott turned to watch his brother walk away. 


Scott hadn’t realized Leon was in front of him.

“Hello, Leon.  You don’t look too happy.”

Leon shook his head and sighed.  “Didn’t want to come out here.  Val said I was the only one he trusted to get this to Johnny.”  Leon reached inside his shirt and pulled out a piece of paper.  “Val said for me to find out when…”

“Tomorrow, Leon.  Johnny will be in town tomorrow morning.  I’d say around 10:00.  Tell Val I’ll be with him, as will some of the men.”

Scott looked at the folded paper in his hand.

“Leon, maybe Val should have Sam there as well.”

“Val said he planned on it.  Tell Johnny, I’m sorry.”

Scott reached in his pocket and took out a silver dollar, tossing it to the boy.

“Thanks, Scott.  See you tomorrow.”

Leon reined his horse around and started back the way he’d come.

“What does it say?”  Murdoch’s voice caused Scott to jump.  “I know Johnny doesn’t want to know, but I do.  What does it say?”

Scott thumbed open the note in his hand and nodded.  Alright, now he knew.   Turning to Murdoch, he handed the paper to his father and followed his brother to the corral.

Murdoch looked down at the message in his hand.  It had one word; he didn’t expect more than the one.  ‘Pistolero.’ 

The one word gave him some comfort. His son would be facing only one man.  Of course, they’d thought the same thing about Parks.

Murdoch’s eyes went to Johnny standing next to Cipriano.  The Segundo had his hand on the back of Johnny’s bowed neck.  Murdock could tell Cipriano was giving his nephew comfort and probably forgiving him for drawing his Colt on him.


“Tio?” Johnny slowly walked closer to his uncle.

Cipriano turned.  He could see the anguish in his sobrino’s face.

“Lo siento, Tio.  Lo siento.”  Johnny moved closer to the older man.
 (I’m sorry, uncle.  I’m sorry)

“Lo se, Juanito.  I know you did not mean to draw on me.  I startled you.  I do know better.  Forgive me.”

Johnny huffed.  “Forgive you.  Tio, there’s nothing to forgive.  It’s me. I could have shot you.”

“No, Sobrino.  You were in control.  You saw it was me.  I would expect nothing less from Johnny Madrid.”

“Another man has come for me, Tio.  I’ll go to town tomorrow to meet him.  I thought…I thought that just maybe there was a chance they would forget me.  I know now they will never forget.”

“No, Juanito, I fear you are right.  Legends are seldom forgotten.  Perhaps, though, they will stop coming so often until one day they don’t come at all.  You…we have to be patient.”

“I’m tired of fighting, Tio.  I’m tired of taking bullets.  Sometimes I wish it would all just end.  Maybe it would be better…”

“Don’t you dare say that, Brother!  Don’t you dare say it would be better if you were dead.”  Scott had been close enough to hear most of the conversation.  


“No!  Johnny, I know you’re tired of the gunfights.  We all are, but you can’t give up.  Cipriano’s right.  The day will come when they’ll stop coming.”

Johnny didn’t respond.

“Cipriano, Johnny is riding into town tomorrow to meet the gunfighter waiting for him.  Will you see to the men?”

Cipriano smiled.  He’d already instructed the ‘chosen’ to be ready to ride in the morning.

“Si, Senor Scott, everyone will be ready.”

Johnny looked at Cipriano again.  Smiling, he reached out and put a hand on his uncle’s shoulder.

“Gracias, Tio.”

Turning to Scott, he could see the determination in his older brother’s eyes.   “Scott, I need some time to practice.  I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”

“You’ll be back in time for dinner,” Scott stated firmly.  “This is Charlie’s last night.  Murdoch will be upset if you’re not here.”   Then after a second, he let a smile slide across his face.  “I’ll be upset if you’re not here.”

Johnny laughed.  “That so?  Well, guess I better get going.  Don’t worry, Boston. I’ll be back in time.  Tio, would you have someone saddle Barranca?  I need to get my working gun.”

“Si.  I will have Barranca waiting for you.  Do you want me to send two of the ‘chosen’ with you?”

“Gracias, Tio, but no.  Don’t need them.”

Watching Johnny walk towards the house, Cipriano shook his head and then looked at Scott to see a smile on the younger man’s face. 

“Si, Senor Scott, I will send two men with him.”   They’d both been thinking the same thing.


Val sat in a chair on the boardwalk in front of his office.  He’d given the message to the gunhawk that Johnny would be in town this morning.  Now, all he could do was sit and wait, something he wasn’t good at doing, especially when it involved Johnny and gunfights.

Hearing several horses coming down the street, Val pushed himself to his feet.  Murdoch was here, and it looked like he’d brought everyone along.  He knew Johnny wouldn’t be far behind.

Val watched Scott and Charlie ride past his office before stopping.  When Murdoch pulled up in front of him, Val could see a slump to the big man’s shoulders.  Beside Murdoch, Cipriano was dismounting.  The five additional men with them did the same. 

Finally, Murdoch stepped down from the saddle.    “He’ll be here in a few minutes.” 

“Figured as much.”

“You’re sure there’s only one this time?”

Val nodded.  How could he honestly answer the question?  There was always a chance of another lurking somewhere out of sight.

“Patron.” Cipriano looked to the end of the street, where Johnny was slowly making his way into town. 

Johnny was leisurely riding towards them with his hat pulled down, covering his eyes, and his right hand resting on the butt of his Colt.  

Reining Barranca to the hitching rail, Johnny stopped next to Murdoch’s horse. Throwing his leg over the pommel, he slid effortless to the ground.  Looking around the street, Johnny saw nothing that was a threat.   As he tied Barranca off, Val stepped in front of him.

“The gunhawk is at the hotel.”

Johnny gave him a surprised look.  Most of the men he rode into town to fight waited in the Saloon, drinking enough to gather their courage to face him.

“You know his name?”

Val nodded slowly. 

“Yeah, names Parks, Nathan Parks.  It seems he’s the brother of the kid you took down in your last fight.  Guess he thinks he’s faster than his brother.”

Johnny turned and scanned the rooftops of the buildings along the street.  If Nathan Parks was like his brother, he wasn’t alone.

“I checked him out.  Didn’t see anyone ride in with him, and he ain’t spoke to no one except the hotel clerk and the bartender.”

Murdoch stood quietly by while Johnny and Val talked.  He didn’t care if Val had a life story on the gunhawk, he was going to make sure there were no surprises this time.

“Cipriano put a man on the roof of the hotel and another on the Saloon,” Murdoch ordered.   


“Madrid!” Parks’ voice carried up and down the street, echoing off the buildings.

Johnny stepped into the street, walking towards Parks.  Stopping thirty feet from the gunhawk, Johnny planted his feet apart and let his right-hand brush against his holster.

“I’m Madrid.”

“You killed my brother.”

“If you’re related to Ned Parks, then yeah, I killed him.  He called me out but had a friend up on the roof.  His friend got his shot off, then your brother drew.  I took out your brother.”

“Ned wouldn’t stoop to back shooting.”

Johnny looked into Nathan Parks’ eyes.  The man was saying one thing, but his eyes … his eyes told another story.

“Don’t know what to tell you, Parks.  You can ask anyone in town.  Most of them saw it.”

Johnny could see Parks thinking.  The problem was Parks didn’t look like he was going to back down. Johnny wondered if he was like his brother and had another man somewhere with a rifle trained on him.

Johnny’s eye caught the movement of a curtain in a window on the second floor of the hotel.  For an instant, he thought of Ben Yancy, who’d used the same window.   He fought the memory and brought his attention back to Parks.  

Yeah, Nathan Parks is just like his brother.’

“So, Parks, I’m surprised you were waiting at the hotel for me.  Your brother waited in the Saloon.  Guess he needed to work up his courage.”

Val’s eyes shot to the hotel.  Johnny was trying to tell him something.   Ned Parks had his partner on the roof of the Saloon.  Was Johnny saying Nathan Parks had a man at the hotel? 

Hearing what Johnny said, Scott’s eyes also went to the hotel.  They had a man on the roof, but what about the rooms?   Scott saw the curtain move in the corner window.  Joe and Jose had seen the same thing and were headed to the hotel before Scott could say a word.

With Juan on the hotel roof, Frank sitting atop the Saloon, Joe and Jose heading to check out the hotel room, that left Walt on the street with Murdoch, Cipriano, Scott, and Val.  

Scott shook his head as he realized nine men were watching his brother’s back.   How did his little brother survive all those years alone? There must have been a lot of angels sitting on the boy’s shoulders.

While Johnny waited for Parks to make his move, he caught a glimpse of the curtain in the corner window move again.  Only this time, the curtain was pushed aside, and Joe stuck his head out, waving.   Parks no longer had a partner.

“Well, Parks, you gonna’ do this or not.  You’ve called this dance; I’m waiting for you.  I don’t draw first.”

Parks smiled, set his hand next to his holster, and took a breath.  It was his last.   He made his move and felt Madrid’s bullet tear into his chest before his hand could grasp the gun’s butt. 

Nathan Parks crumpled to the ground, blood spreading across his shirt.

Johnny strolled forward with his gun still in his hand.  As he stood over the Nathan Parks, there was no doubt he was dead. 

Holstering his Colt, Johnny glanced to his left, as Joe shoved Parks’ partner onto the boardwalk.

Joe called out, “Johnny, what do you want to do with him?” 

Johnny glared at the man.

A few months ago, Johnny Madrid wouldn’t have left an enemy standing.  Now…well, now he was tired of fighting, tired of killing. 

“Joe, turn him loose.”  Johnny’s eye bored into the man.  “Mister, I want you out of town now.  I see you anywhere around here again, and I’ll put a bullet between your eyes and bury you next to Parks and his brother.   We have an understanding?”

The man nodded before he took off, hurrying toward the livery with a nudge from Joe.

Turning to his family and Val, Johnny could see the looks on their faces.  They were as tired as he was of having to deal with gunhawks looking for a reputation or vengeance, tired of not knowing if the next one was going to be the one to put Johnny Madrid in his grave.  

Johnny wanted to ride away; to tell them not to follow.  It wasn’t that easy anymore.  Johnny Madrid didn’t have anyone or anything.  When you’re alone, you don’t have to worry about anyone else.  Now, Johnny Lancer had people that were looking out for him.  People he wanted and needed to be there for him.

Murdoch stepped forward, putting a hand on Johnny’s arm. 

“Let’s go home, son.”

Johnny nodded.  As he went to mount, he saw a few men stepping out of the Saloon.

Ben Santee looked at Johnny with pure hate in his eyes.  Murdoch could talk all day long about Santee not being able to hurt Lancer, but Johnny knew better.   The day would come, and soon when Santee would make his move and Johnny was going to be ready.

As they made their way to the horses, Tom Santee stepped into the street to block their way.

Murdoch pulled up just short of Santee.

“What do you want, Tom?”

“It not just what I want, Murdoch.  We all want him gone.  The entire town is tired of the killing; tired of the type of men Madrid draws to Green River and the valley.”

Santee looked around the street.  People were coming out of doorways and lining the boardwalks.  

“You see what I see, don’t you?  Madrid is a cold-blooded killer. Nothing but death follows him wherever he goes.  The people of this town need to band together and run him out of town; hell, run him out of the valley.”

Murdoch’s face turned red.

“Santee, we’ve had this discussion.  Johnny is my son, and he isn’t going anywhere.  He’s not a cold-blooded killer, and you know it.”

“Are you blind, Murdoch?  Your son is Johnny Madrid.  He’s the most infamous gunfighter alive.  God only knows how many men he’s killed.”

Hearing the murmurs from the growing crowd, Santee knew the people of Green River were listening to him. 

Val stepped down from the boardwalk and placed himself between Santee and the Lancers.

“Mr. Santee, you need to go on about your business and let the Lancers go about theirs.”

Santee laughed and pointed at Val.

“And you…Sheriff… you condone what that boy does.  You do nothing when he murders men in the street.”

“Ain’t seen no one murdered, Mr. Santee.  The men who faced Johnny all drew first, and everyone in town knows it.”

“He murdered, Ben Yancy!”

Val shook his head.  “No, sir, he didn’t.  I saw it, and so did half of the town.  Yancy tried to put a bullet in Johnny’s back.  He got what was coming to him.”

“Gunned down by a gunfighter, a killer who does what he wants, while the law turns a blind eye.”

Santee turned to look at Johnny. 

“Madrid, you’re going to be sorry you ever set foot in this valley. You destroy everything you touch.  You’ll destroy the ranch Murdoch Lancer spent a lifetime building up.  Is that what you want?  You need to move on before it’s too late.”

Johnny’s blue eyes narrowed as he listened to Santee’s rant.  It took everything he had not to put a bullet between the man’s eyes.  He didn’t say a word as he mounted Barranca and turned toward Lancer. 

As he rode away, he heard Santee yelling, “Your day is coming, Madrid.  Mark my words; your day is coming.”


Charlie Sims watched the gunfight from the boardwalk.   Madrid was faster than he remembered.  He was glad he’d bowed out of the job Belcher offered to take out Madrid.  He knew he’d never take Johnny in a fair fight, and he sure wouldn’t back shoot him.

He shook his head as Johnny rode out of town, leaving Santee standing in the middle of the street, screaming at him. 

Madrid had changed. The Johnny Madrid he knew would have shot the loudmouth before listening to the threats he’d spoken.

When Johnny was gone, Charlie stepped over to stand next to Murdoch.

“Mr. Lancer, I’ll be leaving now.  I wanted to thank you again for letting me stay with you.” 

Murdoch gave the younger man an appraising look and nodded.  “You’re more than welcome to stay longer, Mr. Sims.”

“No, sir.  I don’t want to keep Johnson waiting any longer than needed.  You know, what I said about those two looking alike was the truth.  You ask Val sometime.”

Murdoch laughed, “If that’s the case, then someday I’d like to meet Bob Johnson.”

“When we finish the job up north, maybe we’ll stop by for a visit on our way back to the border.”

“I look forward to it.  Thank you again, Mr. Sims, for what you did for Johnny.”

Charlie walked back to his horse and mounted up.  He tipped his hat to Murdoch as he rode by, “I’ll be seeing you.”

Charlie glanced over his shoulder as he rode away in time to see Murdoch and his men following Madrid out of town.


“Are you alright?”  Teresa was beside Johnny before he could get his hat off his head.  

“I’m fine.  Murdoch and Scott are out at the barn.”

“The gunfight?  It’s over?”

“Yes, querida, it’s over.”

“I’m sorry, Johnny.” Teresa put a hand on his arm. 

“What do you have to be sorry about, querida?  It is what it is, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.” 

“I wish I could help.  I feel so helpless sitting here, waiting to hear if you’re alright or not.”

Johnny saw the tears forming in Teresa’s eyes; he brought her to him in a hug.  Sniffling, she buried her face in his chest.

“I forget how hard it is for you, Teresa, but I’m alright.”

Teresa sighed.  ‘Yes, he was alright…this time.’ 

 Pulling back, Teresa looked into his eyes.  There was always a change in him after a gunfight, and she could see Madrid was still with him.  It would take time, but Madrid would slowly fade, and Johnny Lancer would return.

“Are you hungry?  You didn’t eat breakfast and I’ll bet you haven’t had lunch.”

“No, I’m not hungry right now.” 

The Grandfather clock chimed three times.  

“What are you going to do until dinner?  You know you could go up and lie down.  You probably didn’t sleep much last night.”

“No, I didn’t sleep much.  I think I’ll do that.  Don’t feel much like working the horses in the corral, and it’s too late in the day to head out on the range.   You’ll wake me in time to clean up?”

“Yes, I will.  Now go on.  I’ll see if I can talk Maria into a batch of tamales for you tonight.”

Johnny kissed her cheek.  “You’re too good to me.”

Johnny went straight to his room.  It wasn’t until he closed the door that he realized he still had his gun with him.   Taking the gun belt off, he re-buckled it and hung it on the bedpost.

He was tired.  All he wanted to do was collapse and sleep for a week.   The last thing he remembered was falling face-first onto the bed.


Scott had just dozed off when he heard the first moan.  He listened for a moment and then started to snuggle back into his pillow.    An all too familiar second moan brought Scott out of his bed.    

Crossing the hall, Scott opened his brother’s door and stepped in.  The only light in the room was that of the moon shining through the window.  Clothed only in a pair of long john bottoms, Johnny’s bare chest gleamed with beads of sweat. 

When Johnny didn’t come down for dinner, he and Murdoch had discovered Johnny sound asleep.  Instead of waking him, they decided to get him undressed and into bed.  Both were amazed they were able to do it without the boy waking. 

That had been hours ago.  Now, Scott could see Johnny tossing and turning with bed covers either wrapped around his legs or thrown to the floor. 

Moving to the side of the bed, Scott sat down.  Reaching over, he gently shook his brother’s shoulder, while holding down his right hand.  Scott knew that Johnny kept a gun under his pillow, and he didn’t want to face the barrel of the Colt tonight.

Johnny was in the throes of a nightmare.  One from which he couldn’t wake.   His world was suddenly the sound of gunfire and the smell of sulfur.   Men were falling around him.  When he saw Murdoch fall, he couldn’t contain his sorrow.  When Scott fell, he screamed aloud. “NO!”

It was then that he found himself sitting straight up in bed, and his brother’s arms wrapped around him.  

“It’s alright, Johnny,” Scott whispered. “I’m here.  You’re safe.”

Johnny looked at his brother’s face.  The moonlight gave it a ghostly appearance.  The image of Scott falling dead at his feet caused Johnny’s breath to hitch.  Throwing his arms around Scott, he buried his head in the blond’s shoulder. 

Scott rocked back and forth, trying to calm his brother.  He could feel the younger man’s heart racing.   Finally, Johnny leaned back.

“Lay back down,” Scott said as he pushed Johnny’s bare shoulders down.

“You want me to stay with you for a little while?”

“You don’t have to Scott,” Johnny took a deep breath, “unless you want to.”

Scott smiled.   Picking up the covers from the floor, Scott straightened them on the bed and covered his brother.  Once the bed was in order again, Scott moved to the other side, pulled back the covers, and slid between the sheets.

Scott put his arms around his little brother and held him close while Johnny snuggled closer.

“Is that better?” Scott asked quietly.

Johnny nodded.

When Scott heard Johnny’s breathing settle and his heart calm, he started to pull away and go back to his room.  

Johnny woke instantly and shook his head.

“Want me to stay?” Scott asked.

Johnny nodded against Scott’s chest. “Please.”

“Want to tell me about your nightmare?”

Johnny shook his head.  “No.”

“You remember it?”

Johnny nodded.  Yes, he remembered it.  God, yes, he remembered it.   

“I’ll stay.  Go back to sleep,” Scott said, feeling a tremor run through the boy.

Johnny sighed and drifted off to sleep.


Murdoch walked out of his room and down the hallway.  He noticed Scott’s door open and peeked in.  The bed was slept in, but the room empty.   Crossing the hall, he pushed Johnny’s door open.

Murdoch smiled when he saw his two sons lying next to each other.  Scott’s arm was wrapped around his brother, while Johnny’s head rested on Scott’s shoulder.  

Murdoch looked down and took a deep breath.  He could figure out what happened.  Johnny must have had another nightmare.   He’d expected it after the gunfight.  It must have been a bad one for Scott to have felt the need to stay with his brother.

He didn’t disturb the two boys and started to pull the door closed when he felt someone standing next to him.

Teresa looked in at the two sleeping men and smiled.

Murdoch pulled the door closed and motioned for Teresa to follow him down the back stairs.

Once in the Kitchen, Murdoch turned to Teresa.”

“John must have had a nightmare.”

“I heard him during the night.  When I heard Scott’s door open, I knew he would take care of Johnny.   Murdoch, do you think his nightmares will ever go away.”

“I don’t know, sweetheart…I don’t know.


Scott woke slowly.  Opening his eyes, he smiled as he looked at the dark head of his brother lying on his now numb shoulder.  His brother.  It was his brother who he’d comforted in the night.   His precious brother who’d clung to him in the night and needed his help in pushing the ghosts away.  Scott knew that Johnny would never show that side of himself to another living person.   This was the part of Johnny Madrid that no one would ever see except Scott.

Johnny breathed deeply as his eyes opened.  Turning his head, he saw a smile on Scott’s face.


“Morning,” Johnny replied.   “Thanks for being there for me last night.”

“My pleasure, little brother.  That’s what big brothers are for, you know.”

“Is that so?” Johnny gave Scott a sly grin.  “I thought big brothers were for little brothers to annoy.”

“Is that so?  Well, this big brother needs to move his arm.  I think it fell asleep.”

Johnny moved his head and rolled onto his back.  

“We’d better get downstairs before the old man comes looking for us.” Johnny swung his legs off the side of the bed.   Leaning forward, he put his head in his hands.   

Scott placed a hand to the back of Johnny’s neck.  “Are you alright?”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, just tired.”

“See you downstairs.”  Scott moved to the door, opening it he stepped out of the room.

Johnny watched him go, wondering how he’d ever fought the ghosts that haunted him before Scott entered his life.

When Scott and Johnny came down to breakfast, Maria and Teresa were ready for them.  Within moments, their food was on the table in front of them, and their coffee cups were filled.

Teresa sat down and laid something on the table.

“Scott, Charlie left this in his room. It’s the book you and he talked about the other night.”

“Oh, no, you don’t.”  Johnny reached for the dime novel.

Before Johnny could snatch the book out of Teresa’s hand, Scott grabbed for it. 

“No, little brother.  This I have to see.”

Scott ignored Johnny’s glare and looked at the book, surprised when the face on the cover bore a surprising resemblance to his brother.

“What’s that?’  Murdoch asked as he took his seat.

“A book.” Scott glanced at Johnny, who had his head bowed.  “Charlie left it for me.  I’m told it’s quite entertaining.”

Scott handed the book to Murdoch.  When his father saw the cover, Scott thought he saw a slight smile on the older man’s face.  

“Good likeness,” Murdoch commented and then turned the book over and laid it face down on the table. 

Johnny found it interesting that Murdoch hadn’t commented on the title. 


Harlan Garrett sat at his desk, reading his grandson’s latest letter.  Scotty had written at length about the events of the prior weeks.  

Harlan re-read the letter and then laid it down before taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose. 

The letter had gone into great detail telling of Johnny’s latest gunfight.  Scotty had, as usual, praised his brother’s abilities with a gun and had written how relieved he was that the boy’s wound had been minor. 

Scott had ended the letter telling that it was still a mystery who was behind hiring the gunfighters that were coming after his brother.

Harlan stood up and walked to the window, hands behind his back. Shaking his head and silently cursing, he took a deep breath to calm himself.

Upon leaving Lancer, he’d had every intention of going back and disposing of Madrid himself.  He’d vowed Madrid would die by his own hand.  However, by the time he’d gotten to San Francisco, he realized that anything he did himself would only drive a wedge between Scott and him that could never be removed.  

When he arrived in San Francisco, Jack Belcher was waiting for him. Belcher meekly explained his behavior, begged for a second chance, and promised he’d see that Madrid would shortly meet his demise. 

Harlan had granted Belcher forgiveness and put him back on the payroll.  He didn’t, however, completely trust Belcher, but he would, for now, let him continue to handle the matter.

Besides, the law of averages was on his side.  Surely, at some point, someone would finally kill the boy.  

It had been three weeks since his return to Boson.  He realized immediately he’d stayed away too long.  Harlan was now faced with nothing but problems, business and personal.  In his absence, a great many financial dealings had gone sour.  Men he’d dealt with for years, kept under his thumb, were rebelling against his will.

In the last two days, two of those men had threatened him with both bodily and financial ruin.  One of them was Howard Dennison.  A man, until recently, he’d been able to coerce and control.  Now, the old fool thought he could stay in business without Garrett Enterprises; without Harlan Garrett. 

Harlan shook his head.  He’d even encouraged Scotty to wed Dennison’s daughter, Julie.  Well, it seems it was a blessing the two had not married. The thought of having Howard Dennison as part of the family sickened him.

No one threatened Harlan Garrett and got away with it.  Dennison would be sorry for his actions.

Thinking for a moment, Harlan decided to err on the side of caution and hire bodyguards this very day.

Turning, Harlan sat down.   After straightening the papers on his desk, he looked toward the office door and called out for his assistant.


A short, thin man in a three-piece suit raced into the office.

“Mr. Garrett?”

“Crenshaw, I’m going out.”

Jonathan Crenshaw had been working for Harlan Garrett for close to five years.  He’d never seen his employer more agitated than he had been since returning from California.

“Yes, Sir.  When do you expect to return?”

Harlan thought for a moment before answering.  “I’m going to the club for lunch and then for a short walk.  I’ll be back by 2:00.”

“Yes, Sir.”  Crenshaw turned and went back to his desk.

A few minutes later, Harlan walked out the door of Garrett Enterprises.   Stepping out onto the busy Boston street, he looked around and smiled.

It was a pleasant fall day and the leaves were beginning to change color.   Soon the trees would turn to the crimson and gold colors he loved.

As Harlan began to walk, his thoughts were on Scott’s letter.  

As he strolled the sidewalks of the busy financial district, Harlan was so deep in thought that he wasn’t surprised when someone bumped his arm.

“Sorry, sir,” a young man apologized in a soft voice.

“It’s quite alright, young man,” Harlan replied, giving the man only a passing glance. 

Suddenly, Harlan stopped and turned back, glaring at the man.  He’d seen this man several times in the last few days, and each time he’d gotten an unsettling feeling.  The man looked vaguely familiar.

Harlan shook himself. 

When the dark-haired man tipped his hat and began to stroll away, Harlan watched him for a few moments before resuming his walk.   Upon reaching his club, he looked back the way he’d come.  The strange young man was leaning against a light post on the corner.  There was a slight smile on his face as he tipped his hat to the older man.  A second, taller light blond-headed man, joined him and together, they strolled away.

Harlan hurried inside and was immediately seated at his usual table.  

The meal was one of Harlan’s favorites, roast chicken, but he barely touched it.   He couldn’t stop thinking about the young man, and the more he thought, the more bothered he became. 

Finally, he gave up on his food and decided to forego the walk and return to his office.

Stepping onto the sidewalk, Harlan came face to face with one of the men who had ruined his lunch.

“Good meal, Mr. Garrett?”

Harlan turned away and started to walk.  Realizing the blond-haired man had called him by name, he stopped and turned back.

“How do you know my name?  Who are you?”
“Everyone knows who you are; Harlan Garrett, Garrett Enterprises, one of the richest men in Boston.   You got that big old house on Beacon Street.  Yes, I know who you are.”   

“I asked you a question, who are you?”

The man gave him a menacing look before answering, “Me?  I’m no one, Mr. Garrett.  No one at all.”

Harlan licked his lips and looked around, trying to find a way to escape this man and the conversation.  His instincts were telling him to get back to the safety of his office.

Anxiously Harlan replied, “Yes, well…if you’ll excuse me, I have to be going.”

Harlan didn’t wait for a response before turning and rushing away.    
Pushing past people, shoving some who got in his way, Harlan felt a panic he’d never experienced before.  Who was this man; what did he want?  He knew he’d never met him before, but there was something…something about the way the man talked and looked that frightened him.

Stopping at the next intersection, Harlan peered up and down the busy street, waiting for several massive freight wagons to pass.    Nervously, he looked behind him and was relieved when he didn’t see either of the men.

Harlan crossed the street, slowing his step, but still glancing over his shoulder several times.

When he came to the next intersection, he stopped and took a deep breath knowing his office was only a block away.  Here, too, freight wagons filled the busy street. 

Harlan again glanced over his shoulder.  Not seeing the young men, he started to relax and turned his attention back to the street.

Several more wagons passed, and Harlan was becoming impatient at having to wait.    It appeared others were just as impatient as he felt someone pushing him from behind.  He’d started to turn and chastise whoever it was when he felt a light tap to his shoulder. 

Harlan turned his head and looked over his shoulder.  His eyes met those of the dark-haired man he’d talked to earlier.  Hard blue eyes, the color of sapphires, not unlike those of another he knew, bore into him. 

The shock on Harlan’s face caused the young man to smile. 

“Excuse me, Mr. Garrett, but I have a couple of messages for you.”  The man’s voice was soft and low as he leaned in closer.

“Mess…messages?” Harlan stuttered, unable to look away from the man’s eyes.  He’d seen similar colored eyes on a boy a continent away.  A boy he’d grown to hate.

“That’s right, the first one is from Jack Belcher.  He said to tell you he quit.  The second one is from Belcher’s new employer, Howard Dennison.”  The man hesitated only a split second before saying with a hiss, “Mr. Dennison said you should have stayed in California.”

Harlan’s eyes widened in terror.

Sensing someone moving close to the other side of him, Harlan turned to see the blond-haired man.

“There’s one more message, Mr. Garrett.” 

The two men smiled at each other.

Feeling a hand press firmly against his back, Harlan Garrett knew what was going to happen.
He opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out.  Terrified, he struggled to move back from the sidewalk’s edge, trying to escape his fate. 

The tall blond leaned in close to Harlan’s ear.  “This last message, Mr. Garrett, is from us.”

The man with the dark hair and blue eyes, drawled, “You should never have messed with the Lancers…any of them.”

Harlan felt his body being pushed closer and closer to the edge.   He was going to die and knew there was nothing he could do to stop it.  

The sounds of the horses and wagons in the street muffled his pitiful cry for help as with one last firm push, Harlan Garrett’s life flashed before his eyes.

His final thoughts were not of his grandson; not of Scott.  No, his thoughts were of another boy with sapphire blue eyes who should be dead but wouldn’t die; Madrid. 


People crowded around the man lying in the cobblestone street.  A police officer pushed through the crowd and bent over the crushed body.

Shaking his head, the officer looked around.

“Did anyone see what happened,” the heavy-set man with a heavy Irish accent questioned.

Two young men standing to the side stepped forward.  

“We did, Constable.  It looked like the old man got impatient and stepped into the street.  I guess he didn’t see the wagon or, if he did, thought he might get across before it was here.”

The officer looked at the dark-haired man who appeared to be around twenty, and the blond who seemed to be a few years older. 

“You’re not from here, are you, lad?  You’ve not got an eastern accent.”  
“No, sir.  I’m just visitin’, well, my friend and me,” the young man answered with a distinctive drawl.

“Here on business?”

“Yes, sir, but our business is finished now.  We’re planning to leave tomorrow.” 

“And where would home be?”

“Texas.  We’ve got a job waiting for us.”

The officer was ready to ask another question when a second man stepped out of the crowd. 

“Officer, I know this man,” the short, thin man spoke up.

“You do, do you?  So, speak up.  Who is he?”

“He’s my employer, Constable.  That’s Harlan Garrett.”

“Garrett, you say.  Harlan Garrett of Garrett Enterprises, that Harlan Garrett?”

“Yes, that Harlan Garrett,” Crenshaw replied.  “Oh, my, is he…is he dead?”

“I’m afraid so.  I’ll have the undertaker come for him.  I’ll need your name, Mister…”

“Crenshaw, Officer.  Jonathan Crenshaw.  This is going to be a shock to Mr. Garrett’s grandson.  Poor Scott.”

The two young men who had witnessed the accident smiled before turning, pushing their way through the crowd, and sauntering away.


Leon Fergus rode up to the estancia’s front door and dismounted.  He didn’t know what was in the message he carried, only that the telegraph operator said it was important.

Leon knocked on the front door and waited.   A minute passed and the door opened.  Murdoch Lancer stood like a giant in front of the short boy.

“Leon?” Murdoch looked at the sealed envelope in the boy’s hand.  Realizing it was a telegram and not a note from Val, he relaxed his shoulders.

“Mr. Lancer, I have a telegram for Scott.  I think it’s important.”

“Scott’s out on the range working.  I’ll take it.”

Leon looked at the telegram in his hand and back at Murdoch.  He was supposed to deliver the telegram only to Scott but decided it was alright to leave it with his father. 

“Alright, Mr. Lancer, I know you’ll make sure Scott gets it.”

“Thank you, Leon, for entrusting me with it.”  Murdoch smiled and pulled a dollar out of his pocket and handed it to Leon.

“Thanks, Mr. Lancer. Tell Johnny, hey for me.”

“I’ll do that, young man, and thank you for bringing this out to us.”

Leon mounted up and started to ride back the way he’d come.  He was well past the arch when he saw Scott and Johnny riding toward him.

“Scott,” Leon called out and threw a hand in the air. 

Scott and Johnny stopped and waited for Leon to get to them.

“Leon, what brings you out this way?”   Scott glanced at Johnny.

“Had a telegram for you, Scott.  Left it with your Pa.  I hope that was alright.”

“That’s fine, Leon.  I appreciate it.  Do you know where it was from?”

“No, sir.  I only know it’s important.  Got to go now, I’ll see you.  See you, Johnny.”

“See you, Leon,” Johnny replied with a smile while deep down he hoped he wouldn’t see Leon too soon.


Murdoch was sitting at his desk when Scott and Johnny walked into the house.

Striding across the Great Room, Scott spotted the telegram and the edge of the desk.

“Leon was here, Scott.  He left that for you.”  

“I know, sir.  Johnny and I saw him as we were riding in.”   Scott picked up the telegram and sat down to open and read it.

Tearing the envelope open, Scott began to read.  When he dropped his hands in his lap and inhaled sharply, Murdoch was out of his chair and by his son’s side.

“Scott, what is it?”                                                        

Scott looked up into his father’s face.

Murdoch could see tears pooling in the young man’s eyes. 

“Scott?”  Johnny moved next to his brother.

“Grandfather is dead.”

“Dead?  How?  When?”

“The telegram is from grandfather’s assistant Crenshaw.  It says grandfather was killed yesterday in an accident.  It appears he fell in front of a freight wagon while trying to cross a street.”

Scott re-read the telegram before burying his head in his hands.

“I’m so sorry, son.” Murdoch put a hand on Scott’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.  When he felt Scott move into his hand, he moved closer, pulling his son to his feet.  He put his arms around the man he’d never held as a boy, drawing him closer.

Johnny watched as his brother turned his head into their father’s chest.

“Boston… Scott, I’m real sorry about your Abuelo.”

Scott turned his head from Murdoch and looked at Johnny.  He could see the honest sorrow in his brother’s eyes.  He gave Johnny a brief nod and a weak smile.  Turning back to his father, Scott laid his head against the broad chest and felt the big man’s arms tighten around him. 

When Murdoch placed a kiss on the top of his head, Scott lost control.  The tears freely flowed.

It was some time before Scott was able to compose himself.  Being held by his father’s strong arms felt good.  It was something he’d dreamed about since he was a small boy.  Funny, he thought, it took the death of the man who had raised him for his father to show him how much he was loved.   

“Scott, what are you going to do?” Murdoch asked, fearing the answer.  “Do you need to go to Boston?” 

Johnny stiffened and then relaxed.  Garrett was dead. There was no way the old man could get Scott to stay in Boston.

Scott reluctantly moved away from Murdoch.  He turned his back and wiped his eyes before answering.  Getting control of his emotions, he looked at his family.

“I need to wire Crenshaw and my aunt to see what arrangements are being made.  My aunt Elizabeth, grandfather’s sister, will handle everything.  There is no way I can get there in time for a funeral.”

“We’ll go into town tomorrow.” Johnny took a step forward, putting a hand on Scott’s arm.

Scott smiled. 

“Thank you.  If you don’t mind, I’m going for a ride, and I’d like to be alone.”

“Of course, son,” Murdoch replied.

“Hermano, if you need me… well, just know I’m here for you.”

“Thank you, brother.”

Scott walked out of the house and went straight to the barn.  A few minutes later, they heard him ride away.


The grandfather clock struck eleven times. 

Johnny opened his bedroom door and crossed the hall.  Opening Scott’s door, he stepped inside and closed the door.

He stood quietly for a few moments, listening.  When he heard sobbing, Johnny knew what to do.  Scott had been there for him so many times, comforted him during his nightmares, that he knew he had to comfort his brother now.

Johnny moved to the bed, pulled back the covers, and crawled in behind his big brother.  He put a hand on Scott’s shoulder and felt it shake.

Johnny’s heart ached for his brother’s pain.  As much as he hated Harlan Garrett, he loved his brother more. He knew it would be this way.  It was the reason he could never take Garrett out.  He never wanted to see Scott hurting like he was now.  

“Scott, I’m sorry, so sorry.”

Scott rolled over and buried is head in Johnny’s chest. 

“I… never got to tell… him that I loved him,” Scott whispered the words between sobs.

“He knew you loved him; he knew.”

Johnny hoped his words were true.  Yes, Scott loved his grandfather.  He wondered, however, did Garrett really love Scott, or did he only want to control him.

Johnny patted the back of Scott’s head and then wrapped his arms around the quivering shoulders.  They stayed that way until Johnny heard the crying stop and Scott’s breathing level into a soft rhythm.

Quietly sliding from under the covers, Johnny made his way back to his room, thankful that Scott was finally asleep.


Val wasn’t sure how much longer he was going to wait.  Leon Fergus told him the day before that he’d taken an important telegram out to Lancer.   

Val had spoken to Bert at the telegraph office and was told in no uncertain terms he couldn’t disclose what was in the wire.  Bert did say with a sigh that it was bad news and it was from Boston. 

Making up his mind that he was going to Lancer, Val stood up, grabbed his hat, and walked out onto the boardwalk.  He’d just started toward the livery stable when he looked up to see Scott and Johnny riding down the street.

“Hey, Val.” Johnny threw a hand in the air as he drew closer.

“Just the man I want to see.” Val pushed his hat back on his head and waited for Johnny to stop in front of him.

“Johnny, I’m going to the telegraph office.  I’ll meet you back here,” Scott said and kept riding.

Johnny only nodded.

Dismounting, Johnny tied Barranca at the hitching rail and then stepped onto the boardwalk.

“You said you wanted to see me?”

“I do.  I was about to head out to Lancer.  What brings you into town so early?”   Val turned to watch Scott step into the telegraph office.

“Scott got a telegraph yesterday from Boston.”

“I heard.  I also heard it was bad news.”

Johnny nodded.  “Scott’s Abuelo is dead.  Old man Garrett was killed in a wagon accident a couple of days ago.”

Val’s immediate response was, “Well, hell, there is justice in this world.  I don’t know anyone who needed to die more than that man.”

“Scott’s really upset, Val.  He hardly slept any last night.”

Val took a deep breath, looked down and nodded.  He could hear the anguish in Johnny’s voice.

“Yeah, well, Scott would be upset.  Hell, he loved the old goat. At least you didn’t have to kill him.”

Johnny turned to see Scott coming toward him.

“I got it taken care of,” Scott said as he stopped in front of Johnny. “Val, did Johnny tell you about my grandfather?”

“Yeah, he did.  I’m sorry to hear of your loss, Scott.  If it had to happen, hopefully, it was quick.”  Val’s eyes cut quickly to Johnny.

Scott nodded.  “Thank you, Val.  There was nothing in the telegram from grandfather’s assistant to indicate otherwise.”

“Are you going to Boston?”

“Not right now.  My aunt will handle the funeral.  I’ll go back to settle his estate when things slow down here.  Now, …right now, my family needs me here and we have a cattle drive coming up.”

“I think that’s the right move, Scott.  We still have Belcher to worry about.”

“Yes, we do.”

Val put a hand on Scott’s shoulder. 

“What do you say we all go over to the Saloon and have a drink?  We can drink a toast to your Granddaddy.”

Scott smiled.  “I’d like that, Val.”

Scott put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder and turned him toward the Saloon. 

“Come on, brother; I’ll buy.” 

Johnny laughed.  “Boston, if you’re buying, I’d be glad to.”

Tom Santee watched as Scott Lancer put his arm around Madrid’s shoulder. He couldn’t understand how someone of Scott’s breeding could stand even to touch the killer. 

‘Well, it won’t be long, Madrid.  Soon, you’ll see.  Soon you’ll be gone, and Murdoch will come to his senses.’

“Mr. Lancer,” Frank called out as he pulled up in front of the house.   He’d taken the buckboard to town for supplies and collect the mail.

“Frank,” Murdoch replied as he came out the French doors, “did you get all the supplies we needed.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Lancer.  I picked up the mail, too.”  Frank leaned over and handed several envelopes and newspapers to Murdoch.  “There are some boxes for Scott, too.  It looks like they came all the way from Boston.”

Murdoch walked around to the side of the wagon and looked in the back to see three boxes. 

“Frank, would you get someone to help you unload the supplies and take the boxes up to Scott’s room?”

“Sure thing, Mr. Lancer.”  Frank jumped down from the buckboard and went to look for help.

Sighing, Murdoch looked again at the boxes.  He supposed they were some of Harlan’s things.   

It had only been two weeks since they’d gotten the news, and he was surprised the boxes had come so quickly.

Murdoch knew his son was still grieving and wished there was something he could do to lessen the pain.   Deep down, Murdoch was glad Harlan was gone, but this was his son’s grandfather, the man who had raised him.   His and Johnny’s feelings didn’t matter when it came to Harlan now.  Only Scott mattered.


Murdoch was on the sofa with a drink in his hand when the boys entered the Great Room.   Seeing both of his sons, he smiled and breathed a little easier.   It seemed that any day that ended with both of them home and safe was a good day.

“Hello, sir.” Scott strolled across the room and straight for the drink cart.  Pouring himself two fingers of scotch, Scott turned and smiled at his father.

Murdoch smiled back.  With each day that passed, Scott was getting better.

“Good day?”

“Yes, sir,” Scott answered.  “Good day, and as soon as I finish this, I’m going to take a hot bath and relax before dinner.”

“Boston, you take more bathes than anyone I’ve ever known.” Johnny laughed as he plopped down in a chair, dust from his clothes billowing up around him.

“Johnny,” Murdoch scowled, “first, Scott takes pride in his appearance and does not take excessive baths.  Second, we would all appreciate it if you would follow your brother’s example and take a bath, and I might add…as soon as possible.”  Murdoch waved a hand in front of his face to swish away the dust cloud that had come his way.

“Yes, little brother, we would both appreciate you following my example.  I’ll be out shortly, and WE expect you to bathe and change out of those clothes before dinner.” 

Johnny huffed and stood up.  Heading for the stairs, he glanced over his shoulder to see Scott laughing.  He’d accomplished what he’d set out to do.  Seeing and hearing Scott laugh made his heart feel lighter.

Scott shook his head.  “We need to start training that boy in social etiquette.”

Murdoch chuckled.  “I don’t see your brother becoming a social butterfly, Scott.  We’re lucky just to have him clean.  I swear there are times I want to check behind his ears.”

Scott laughed at the image of Murdoch Lancer checking the young gunfighter’s ears. 

“I’d like to see that, but when you do, please make sure he doesn’t have his gun handy.”

“Oh, that’s a given, son.” Murdoch laughed with Scott.

Setting his glass down, Scott started toward the stairs.

“Scott, Frank got supplies today and there was some mail for you and boxes.  I had the men put them in your room.”

“Thank you.  That was fast.  Mr. Crenshaw wired to say he was sending my Grandfather’s personal papers for me to review.  I didn’t expect them for another couple of weeks.  I’ll take a quick look before dinner.”

“Good.  Remember Val’s coming tonight as is Sam.” 

Scott stopped.  “I knew Val was coming, but why Sam?”

Murdoch smiled.  “It appears that Val told Sam of his visit, and Sam felt he needed to come along.  My guess is that both of them are looking forward to Maria’s cooking.”

Scott went to his room for clean clothes before taking his bath.  The boxes were set to one side of his room.  A brief wave of sorrow swept over him.  Three boxes; that was all that was left of his grandfather.

Scott shook himself.  He needed to get past this; needed to move on.  Scott knew what Johnny had been doing downstairs, and he appreciated it. 

After his bath, Scott wrapped a robe around himself and stared at the boxes. Finally, he moved one of the boxes to the table, pulled out a letter opener, and cut the strings holding it shut.

Scott sat down and lifted several folders from the box.  He found years of papers relating to everything in his Grandfather’s life, from invoices for purchases of clothing to letters to and from Harlan on business matters.   He placed everything back in the box and put the lid on it.

Finishing with the first box, Scott looked at the time.  He still had an hour before dinner.  Moving a second box to replace the first, Scott opened it and found a note on top from Crenshaw.

These are from Mr. Garrett’s desk.  He kept it locked.  I hope you don’t mind that I pried it open

Scott smiled.  No, he didn’t mind.

As he started to reach for the folders in this box, his hand stilled.  Scott’s eyes fell on a name on one of the tabs, Murdoch Lancer.

Scott pulled the folder and began to read.  What he found made his heart beat faster.  Looking back into the box, he found another folder; John Lancer also see Johnny Madrid.

Scott pulled the folder and then looked for the one marked ‘Johnny Madrid.

For almost an hour, Scott read.  Shaking his head, Scott looked skyward as if trying to imagine the face of the man who’d raised him, the face of the man he’d loved.

“Grandfather, what have you done?  My God, what have you done?”

As Scott started to stand, he looked one more time at the file folders he hadn’t touched as yet.  His heart sank even further when he saw one marked ‘Mark Wilson’ and then another ‘Jack Belcher.’    He grabbed the folders up and quickly scanned them.

Scott looked at the clock and sighed.  He might as well get this done.  Val and Sam would be here in case there was bloodshed.


Scott left his room and went down the back stairs to the kitchen.   Seeing Maria and Teresa near the stove, he cleared his throat.

Both women turned to look at him.  Before Teresa could speak, Scott held up a hand.

“Maria, would you mind finding Cipriano and ask him to come to the house.  I need to talk to all of you… all of the family.”

Maria smiled, but seeing the expression on Scott’s face, the smile quickly slid away.  Something was wrong.

“Si, Senor Scott.”  Maria went out of the kitchen door, leaving Teresa and Scott alone.

“Scott, what’s wrong?”  Teresa moved closer to him and put a hand on his arm.

“Teresa…. I can’t right now… I need to say this once and only once.”

Teresa nodded her understanding.

The sound of the kitchen door opening and Maria returning with Cipriano caused them both to turn.

“Would you all come into the Great Room?”

Scott turned and led the way.

Val was standing near the fireplace when he saw Scott.

“Scott, you’re gonna’ have to help us educate this boy.  From what Murdoch says, he needs some social …what did you call it Murdoch?”

“Social etiquette, Val.  It means he isn’t quite civilized as yet.”

Johnny snorted.  “Don’t want to be civilized if it means taking a bath every day and smelling all…”

Johnny stopped when he saw the expression on Scott’s face.  Looking past Scott, he saw Teresa, Maria and Cipriano enter the room.

“What’s wrong, Boston?”

Scott moved to the fireplace and looked at his family.  He considered all these people family, even Sam, and most definitely Val.

“Everyone have a seat; I have something to tell you, and it won’t be easy.”

“The telling or the hearing, Scott?” Johnny asked.


Once everyone was seated, Scott cleared his throat and then looked away.

“Get it said, Brother.”

“Alright, here it is.  I received some boxes of papers from Boston today.  Mr. Crenshaw sent Grandfather’s personal papers…even those from a locked drawer in his desk.  I’ve spent the last two hours going through two of the boxes.  What I found…”

“Scott?” Murdoch started to stand when Scott hesitated and looked away from them.  He could tell Scott was having a difficult time.

Scott held up a hand and took a deep breath.

 “Murdoch, I’ll start with you.  Grandfather had a file on you going back to when you met my mother.  He kept records of everything about you.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“I’m sure you’re not, but what you didn’t know was that all these years it was Harlan Garrett that was behind your troubles; always Harlan Garrett.  Twenty-three years ago, Jack Belcher worked for Garrett Enterprises in Boston.  Grandfather sent him west to hire someone who could help ruin you.  

“Belcher found Judd Haney.  It was Haney’s job to raid Lancer, ruin you, and make my mother realize her place was in Boston.   

“His records were detailed.  The ploy almost worked.  Mother was leaving and going back to Boston, but then she went into labor early; I was born, and she died.  When she died, Grandfather went crazy.    He blamed you for that too, did you know that?  Grandfather blamed you for her death.  That’s why he never stopped.  All he could think about was hurting you.”

“I sent her away to keep her safe, and it went terribly wrong.  You don’t know how many times I’ve relived the day she left here.  If only I could go back and change what happened.  If I’d let her stay at Lancer as she wanted, you would have been born here, and she might have lived.”

Murdoch closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  My God, it had been Catherine’s own father who caused him to send her away; send her to her death.  He wanted Scott to stop but knew there was more he needed to hear.  He was sick inside at what he would hear next.

“He kept me away from you all those years. Even after you went to Boston to bring me home, he kept me from you.  Grandfather had power, a great deal of power.  He was never going to let you have me.  That was his way of hurting you for what he thought you did to his daughter.

“Then, you married Maria and had Johnny.”  Scott hesitated and closed his eyes before speaking again.  “Murdoch, it was Grandfather who caused Maria to leave you and take Johnny with her.”

Seeing the surprise on Murdoch’s face, Scott couldn’t stop now.  It all had to be said. 

“Yes, Harlan Garrett himself came to Morro Coyo.  He and Belcher met Maria.  It didn’t take much to get her to leave you.  She wasn’t happy at Lancer.  She didn’t want to be a rancher’s wife.

“He paid a gambler he’d met in San Francisco to take Maria away.  He told her if she left with the man, he’d give her a lot of money.  She didn’t hesitate, but she didn’t want to take Johnny with her.  Grandfather paid her extra to take him.  He knew it would hurt more to lose your second son than it would your wife.”

Johnny closed his eyes.  He’d known it in his heart, but hearing the words tore at him.  

“He sent her money regularly for the first couple of years and then stopped.  He wrote in his files that he told her that…. she could make her living on her back for all he cared.”

“That’s enough!” Murdoch yelled.  “Scott, that’s enough.”

Val took a step to his right.  “Garrett was behind Pardee, too, wasn’t he?”

Scott nodded.

“Last year before you sent for me, I often talked about coming to California to meet you.    Grandfather had Matt Wilson on his payroll in Boston.  He sent Wilson west to hire Day Pardee.  

“But you see, he miscalculated.  It was Pardee’s raids and his attempt to kill you that ultimately got me away from Boston and to Lancer.  

“Grandfather was furious when you convinced me to come west and even more so when Pardee failed.  It didn’t take him long, however, to change his focus after Pardee was out of the picture.” 

Scott turned to look at Johnny.

“It wasn’t just Murdoch he hated.  He hated you too, Johnny.  Grandfather… I can’t call him that any longer.  As much as I loved him, he means nothing to me now.

“Harlan couldn’t believe that I truly wanted to stay at Lancer and be with both my father and brother.  He believed it was Johnny who was keeping me at Lancer.  That’s why he had Wilson bring the gunfighters to Green River.” 

Scott stopped.  

“What about Belcher?  Why did he show up in town after all these years?”  Val asked, needing to know it all. 

“Harlan hired him again.  He was supposed to see that Johnny died, but again, it didn’t happen.  Belcher took off with the money, Grand…Harlan gave him.  But my God, he found Belcher in San Francisco and put him back on the payroll.”

“So, all these years, it was Harlan?  All the pain, all the loss was due to his belief that I stole Catherine from him, and she died because of me!”

“He had folders on Matt Wilson and Jack Belcher as well and detailed records of his correspondence with them.”

With this, Murdoch stood up and walked around the room.  Looking at Sam, he could see his friend was at a loss for words.    Turning, he looked at Johnny.  Their eyes met, but Johnny looked away quickly.  It was at that moment he knew what Johnny and Val had been keeping from him.

Scott saw Johnny, turn away from Murdoch, and look at him.  There was no hint of surprise in his brother’s eyes.


Johnny didn’t respond; he only sighed.

“Johnny, you knew!  You knew about Wilson and Belcher.  How?  When?”

Val stood up, seeing the confrontation that was about to take place.

“I figured it out when Belcher was here.  I searched his room and found his records on who he was hiring.  He never mentioned who his employer was, but we figured it out from some telegrams he had in his room.”

“And when were you going to tell me?”  Scott yelled the words.

“And me?” Murdoch moved to stand beside Scott.

Johnny shrugged and shook his head.

“Wasn’t going to tell either of you.  The gunhawks were coming after me.  It was my business.  Besides,” Johnny looked at Scott, “I didn’t want you to know what you abuelo had done.  You didn’t need that kind of hurt.”

“Johnny, I’m a grown man, which is more than I can say for you.  It isn’t your job to protect me.  It’s my job to …”

“Protect me, Scott?”  Johnny shook his head.  “No, it’s not your job; it never was.  I took care of myself for a good long time before coming here.  I know what it’s like to be betrayed by someone I cared about, someone I loved.  My mother did it to me, and it hurt like hell.  You’ve never had that, and I didn’t want you to.”
Scott started to argue but held his tongue.  Swallowing hard, he looked at his little brother. 

“Johnny, you heard what I said?   Harlan Garrett had a hand in your mother leaving.”

Johnny huffed.  “Figured as much.  When we puzzled out who the moneyman was for Wilson and Belcher, I knew deep down he was behind everything.”

The room was quiet for a long time.

Scott walked across the room and looked out the large window behind Murdoch’s desk, trying to calm himself.  

Turning, Scott looked at the members of his family.

“So, what do we do now?  How do we move on?” 

It was Johnny who answered.  

“There’s nothing to do.  We just move on.  I came to terms with Garrett already.  The things he did changed my life, but it’s my life, and I’ll deal with it.  Each of you needs to sort it out in your own minds.”

Johnny stood and sighed.  “Right now, I’m going in there,” he pointed to the Dining Room, “and sit down with my family and have supper.  Teresa, I sure hope it’s ready because I’m hungry enough to eat my boots right now.”

Teresa had stood to the side with Cipriano and Maria, listening to everything that had been said.   She couldn’t believe the horrible things Mr. Garrett had done.  Her heart ached for Murdoch, who had lost the most from Harlan Garrett’s vendetta.   

She was startled when Johnny spoke to her.   Dinner?

“How can you think of eating at a time like this?”   

Johnny dipped his head and took a hitched breath.

“Because I’ll be damned if Harlan Garrett is going to take any more from me…from us.  The one thing we have every day is sitting down at that table… together as a family. The family he wanted to destroy.

“I know it don’t seem like much, but it’s something I never had before coming here.  All I had was a campfire or a table in a Saloon and, mostly in the last few years… I was alone.”

Johnny looked at Val before walking across the room.  Standing in front of the fireplace, he stared into the flames.

“In the beginning, when Murdoch was so set on us eating at the same time every day…well, I didn’t understand it.  Eating breakfast and dinner at a certain time and him wanting us all to be here…well, it didn’t make no sense to me.”

Johnny turned to look at his father.

“I understand now.  Sitting down with the family brings us together, even if it only for a few minutes each day.  It’s something we…I can count on; look forward to. It makes me feel like I belong here.”  

Johnny took a deep breath.   

“I was alone for too long. Right now, I don’t want to be alone.  I want my family…all my family, around me, and I think Murdoch and Scott need it too.”

Teresa nodded.  She understood.  The memories of sitting with her father and Murdoch at mealtime were warm.  They were memories of laughter, and of being loved by both men.   No, not even Harlan Garrett was going to take that from this family.  They’d get through this as a family, and if sitting down at the Dining Room table together made them feel better, then that was what they were going to do.     

“Yes, dinner is ready, and you had all better be sitting at that table when Maria and I bring it out or… or… or we’ll give it to the hands in the bunkhouse.   Cipriano, you and Maria will be eating with us tonight.”

Cipriano nodded.  “Con mucho gusto, Senorita.”

“Murdoch?”  Teresa walked across the room and stood in front of the man who had been a second father to her all her life and the only father she had now.

“Yes, darling,” Murdoch looked down into her brown eyes. 

“Murdoch, I know you’re all hurting right now, you especially, but we need each other.  We need to be a family.  If we let what we’ve learned tear us apart, then Harlan Garrett has won.  I can’t accept that.  No one is stronger than Lancer united.  No one.”

Murdoch smiled and let out a long, deep breath.

“You’re right, of course.” 

Murdoch looked at Scott and Johnny.  

“Harlan Garrett spent the better part of 23 years trying to destroy me.  I’ll be damned if I let him now that he’s dead.  Scott, thank you for telling us what you found in those files.  I don’t think we need to know anything else he conspired to do.”

Scott nodded, understanding.  He would share nothing else he found in the files with his family.

“Now, we and I mean all of us are going to sit down at that table and eat our dinner as a family.  Then tomorrow, we’ll carry on with running this ranch as we always have.”

Johnny smiled.  “That’s right; we have a cattle drive coming up, and I need to build up my strength.”

No one moved for several seconds.  It was Val who took the first step.  He walked over to Scott and placed a hand on his shoulder. 

“Come on, Scott.  You know if you don’t feed that boy soon, he’s not gonna be fit to live with.”

Scott laughed.  “No, we wouldn’t want him to starve.” Scott waved Murdoch toward the Dining Room. “Sir, will you lead the way?” 

Murdoch, with a smile on his face, took his usual place at the head of the table.  To his left, Scott sat down, and Sam moved to the chair to his left.  Across the table, Teresa sat to Murdoch’s immediate right while Johnny hurriedly scooted into the chair next to her. 

There was a contented smile on Johnny’s face as Val sat down next to him and put a hand on his arm.  Maria took the seat next to Val, and Cipriano capped off the table when he sat opposite Murdoch.

Slowly a smile formed on Scott’s face as he looked around the table at his family.  There was a feeling of strength and love in the room.  Teresa was right.  No one was stronger than Lancer united.  They’d get through this just as they’d gotten through everything else… as a family.


The early morning fog was starting to lift as Johnny led Barranca from the barn.   He took a deep breath and relaxed his shoulders.

Listening to Scott reveal his grandfather’s secrets and misdeeds the night before had been hard on everyone, especially on Murdoch.

If Garrett had only been able to see that Catherine was happy with her husband, so much would have been different.  Haney wouldn’t have raided Lancer, and Murdoch wouldn’t have sent his wife away.   Perhaps, Catherine would have had Scott and lived. 

Johnny stopped thinking and closed his eyes.  If Catherine had lived, Murdoch wouldn’t have met Maria, and there would never have been a Johnny Madrid.

‘Maybe …,” Johnny smiled. ‘No, he couldn’t think like that.  It’s past and gone; right or wrong; good or bad; it’s past and gone. What we have is now.’
The chain of events Harlan set into motion had affected the lives and changed the futures of who knows how many people.
Johnny knew Garrett never understood, and now he never would. The man never stood a chance of getting Scott to go back to Boston.  Once the family bond had begun to form, it was too late.  Harlan never learned that no one messed with a Lancer. No matter what, they were now together and were going to stay that way.

Harlan Garrett’s legacy was one of pain, suffering, and loss.  All of them would feel it for the rest of their lives.   But when it was all said and done, and the air cleared, the family was still just that…a family, his family. 


As he started to mount Barranca, Johnny saw Cipriano coming toward him.


“Juanito, you are going somewhere?”

Johnny smiled, gathered up his reins, and swung into the saddle.

 “Si, I’m going up to Cedar Canyon.  The stream up there needs checking before it storms again.”

“I will have some of the men go with you.”  Cipriano turned toward the bunkhouse.

“No.  Tio, no es necesario.  I don’t need the men with me.  I’ve got a feeling things are going to stay quiet around here, what with Garrett being gone and all.”

“Si,” Cipriano smiled, “but still Juanito, there are other dangers, and you may need help with the stream.”

“Tio, it’s time I started watching my own back again.  I can take care of myself.  As for that stream, I think I can handle it alone. Besides, it’s gonna’ feel good riding out alone for a change.  I’ll be back by dinner.”

“Juanito…,” Cipriano called out as Johnny spurred Barranca and headed for the arch.

Shaking his head, he had a bad feeling about letting his Sobrino go alone.


Johnny rode with the wind and sun on his face.  It did feel good to be alone on the range again. It had been too long since he’d been by himself.

As he rode, his thoughts went to Scott.  He felt sorry for his brother’s loss, but truth be told, he was glad the old man was gone.   He wondered, however, if Garrett had left any lingering threats behind.

Johnny wasn’t going to think about any of that today.  Today, he was riding alone for the first time in months and enjoying every minute of it.

Suddenly, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and a chill run down his spine. Something was wrong.

Johnny pulled up and looked around.   On the hill to his left sat three men on horseback.

Giving the men a hard look, he waited as they started toward him.   He relaxed some when he recognized two of them, but he’d learned the hard way never to relax completely.

Johnny rested his hand on his gun and waited. 

Murdoch was near the corral giving morning orders when Cipriano tapped his arm.  He looked at the Segundo and then to the direction he was pointing.  Two riders were coming in fast.

Murdoch stepped away from his men, straining to see who was visiting so early.  He glanced sideways and saw a number of the men reaching for their rifles and sidearms.  Since the day four gunfighters rode into Lancer and called Johnny out, the men were always prepared.

Murdoch motioned with his hand for the men to relax and lower their guns.   

Scott had just closed the front door and was mid-step when he saw Murdoch and the hands looking towards the arch.  His gaze followed theirs. 

The two men on horseback slowed as they entered the yard.

Murdoch recognized one of them as Joe Driscoll.  The other was his foreman, Ned Joiner.


“Murdoch, we came as fast as we could.  There’s trouble, and you’re not going to like it.”

“What trouble?”

“We just came from an emergency meeting of the Cattle Growers Association.”

“A meeting?  Why wasn’t I notified?”

Driscoll shook his head.  “I’m sorry Murdoch.  We didn’t know you weren’t notified until we got there.  Tom Santee called it.”

“Santee…, but…”

“Murdoch, just listen, there isn’t much time.  Santee spent the morning trying to turn the other ranchers against Lancer; against your son.”

“That’s ridiculous.  Surely the others aren’t listening to that maniac?”

“No, there weren’t, and they told him it was a crazy idea.  Santee wanted all of us to pull our herds out of the drive coming up.  He said that as long as you have Madrid on Lancer, none of us should do business with you.  I can tell you, Murdoch, you have a lot of friends.”  Driscoll smiled.  “You should have heard Aggie Conway tear into Santee.”

“I take it that none of the other ranches have sided with Santee?”

“I won’t lie to you Murdoch, there are some who feel as Santee, that Johnny shouldn’t be here, but only Santee is willing to take it to the next level.”

“What next level, Mr. Driscoll?” Scott joined in for the first time.

“Santee was furious when he left the meeting.  He said that if none of us would take care of Madrid, he’d do it himself.” Driscoll looked around the yard and at the house. “Murdoch, where’s Johnny?”

Murdoch looked around and for the first time realized Johnny wasn’t there.

“Cipriano, where’s Johnny?”

Cipriano moved forward.

“Juanito went out earlier, Patron.  He was going to check the stream near Cedar Cannon.  Along the border of your ranch, Senor Driscoll.”

“Alone?” Murdoch’s voice was rising.  “You let him ride out alone?

Cipriano straightened, bracing his shoulders.  “Juanito did not want anyone to go with him, Patron.   This one time, I respected my Sobrino’s wishes.”

Driscoll looked between Cipriano and Murdoch.  He’d always known there was something about the relationship between the Segundo and Murdoch’s youngest son, but until that moment, he hadn’t known that Cipriano was the boy’s uncle.  His next statement would make it that much harder on the Segundo.

“Murdoch,” Driscoll pulled Murdoch’s attention back to him. “Santee said he had men watching the ranch, watching Johnny.  If he rode out alone, Santee would know it.”

Murdoch ran his hand through his hair and looked around.  Shaking his head, he said, “I’ll be damned if Santee is going to hurt my boy.  Cipriano, get the men mounted up.  No, wait, leave fifteen here to watch the house.  If Johnny comes back, you have them keep him here even if they have to tie him down.”

“Si, Patron.”  Cipriano waved his hand in a swooping motion.  The men ran to the barn and corrals to get their horses.  Cipriano pulled fifteen of the men aside and gave them their orders.

“We need to send for Val,” Scott said as Murdoch turned back to the house.

“I’ve already sent a man for the Sheriff, Scott,” Driscoll replied.  “He shouldn’t be far behind us.”

As if on que, they heard a horse racing toward the house.  There was no doubt Val Crawford was wasting no time in getting to Lancer.

Val looked around the yard, taking note of everyone.  The one person he wanted to see was missing.


“Cedar Cannon… or that’s where he was supposed to have been going. Cipriano, would you get Val a fresh horse.”

Murdoch continued his trek to the house.

Val quickly changed his tack to the new horse and was mounted when he saw Murdoch come out of the house with his gun belt and rifle.   He could tell the tall rancher was mad.  Hell, he was mad.  The thought of yet another threat against Johnny made his blood boil.

Murdoch’s eyes met Val’s.  An understanding passed between them.  Two papa bears were going after their cub, and nothing was going to stand in their way.


The four men had been watching the Lancer hacienda for days.  On Tom Santee’s orders, they were to wait until Madrid was alone, follow him, and report back to Santee.   The four found out quickly their job wasn’t as easy as first thought.  Madrid always had more than one person with him when he left the house.

Today, however, for the first time, Madrid was alone, and Madrid was never alone.   The four men started following and then decided it was too easy.  They could easily take Madrid and then send for Santee.

Carlton, Dale, and Wales rode onto the hill overlooking the trail that led to Cedar Canyon.  They made sure Madrid saw them, while Devlon circled behind their prey and hid.

The three men waited until Madrid saw them before riding down to face him.

“Madrid,” Wales called out when they got closer.

“The names Lancer,” Madrid responded, letting his right hand settle on the butt of his Colt.

“Sure, Lancer.  Whatever you say.”

“I know you two.   Dale and Carlton, isn’t it?  So, fellows, what are you doing on Lancer land?”

Madrid kept his eyes and attention on the three men in front of him.  It wasn’t until he heard a gun being cocked that he knew there was a fourth man.  He’d been caught in their trap.

“Hands up, Madrid.” 

Madrid turned in the saddle to Devlon standing twenty feet from him, with a gun pointed at his back. 

“I said, hands up.”

Madrid did as he was told.

Wales stepped down from his horse and slowly walked forward.  Reaching up, he lifted the Colt from Madrid’s holster.

“Step down,” Wales ordered, moving out of Madrid’s reach while aiming his gun at his prisoner’s chest.

Madrid looked at each of the men before letting his eyes settle on Wales.

“What’s this all about?” 

“I said, down!”

Madrid swung his leg over the pommel and slid to the ground, settling next to his horse.  

“Alright, now what?” 

Madrid watched as the other men dismounted and eased their way toward him. 

Wales grinned.  “Now, we wait for Santee.  Devlon, go back to the ranch and let the boss know we have Madrid.”

Madrid didn’t look surprised.

Devlon nervously looked around. “You can’t stay out here in the open.  There’s a line shack a few miles north along the border with Driscoll’s spread.  Take him there, and I’ll get Santee.”

Mounting up again, Devlon rode north to get his boss.

Wales gave Madrid a cold smile.  “Dale, tie him up.”

Jason Dale took a length of rope from his saddle and grabbed Madrid’s left hand, pulling it behind his back.  As he reached for the right, Madrid pulled away, balling a fist and slammed it into the surprised man’s jaw.

Before Dale could react, Madrid grabbed his gun and brought it to bear.  Too late, he realized Wales had moved closer.

They saw Madrid stiffen as a cold gun barrel pressed into his neck. 

“Drop it!”

Madrid paused.  When the gun barrel was pressed harder, Madrid let the gun drop from his hand and waited.

Wales moved around Madrid, sneering.  He put the barrel of his gun against the gunfighter’s chest and thumbed the hammer back.  Looking into cold blue eyes, Wales hesitated.

Lowering the gun, Wales ordered, “Tie him up and get him on his horse.”


It didn’t take long to get to the Lancer line shack.  Once there, Dale pulled their prisoner from his horse and pushed him toward the building.

Madrid was passing Wales, shoulder to shoulder when Wales grabbed the gunfighter’s arm and swung him around.  Standing face to face, Wales grinned.

“While we wait, I think we should have a little fun. You know Madrid, Yancy was a real good friend.”

“Your ‘real’ good friend shouldn’t have tried to bushwhack me.  I didn’t have anything against Yancy.”

“Well, I have something against you.”

Carlton and Dale looked at each other.  Were they going to let Wales have his way with the boy?  The answer came when Wales gave another order, “Hold him.”

The two men hesitated only a moment before each of them took a side and held Madrid in place.  Wales smiled as he punched the young gunfighter in the stomach. 

Madrid recoiled from the blow and straightened up, showing no sign of pain.

Wales hesitated as Madrid’s eyes bored into him.  He started to back away, but changed his mind and lashed out again. 

Madrid wrestled free of the men holding him and kicked out at Wales, knocking him backward.

Wales regained his footing, reached out, and threw another bunch, this time hitting the boy’s cheek. 

Madrid staggered.   Carlton and Dale grabbed onto the struggling man.

“Hold him, damn it!”

Carlton and Dale did as they were told as Wales lashed out again and then again. 

“Not such a big man without a gun, are you Madrid?”

Wales’ punch was harder this time.

“Wales, stop…,” Dale yelled, pulling the beaten man away from Wales. “Santee’s not going to be happy.” 

Wales’ eyes narrowed, thinking about Dale’s words.  He took a step back but not before delivering one more punch, this time at the boy’s face.

Wales shifted back, breathing hard.  “Alright, let him go.”

When released, Madrid collapsed.   Wales then delivered a well-placed kick before stepping back to admire his handiwork.

“He’s unconscious.” Carlton knelt, turning Madrid’s head to get a look at the gash on his cheek.

The man who’d issued the final blow turned away.

“What do we do now?”  Brad Carlton asked, looking down at the young man on the ground.

“We wait for Santee, Devlon should be back with him soon,” Dirk Wales answered, rubbing his sore hand against his leg.  He’d hit Madrid so many times; his hand was bleeding almost as much as the boy’s face.


Johnny lay on the ground, curled into a ball, waiting for the boot to connect with his ribs.  He didn’t know how long they’d been using him as a piñata, but he did know he couldn’t take much more.

When the blow came, he heard a cracking sound and felt one of his ribs give.  Struggling for breath, he couldn’t hold on any longer.  Letting go, Johnny finally let the darkness come.

Grinning, Wales walked to his horse.  He took his canteen from the saddle horn and smiled. Taking a long cool drink, he leaned against his horse and stared at Madrid’s unconscious form. 

Brad Carlton had a bad feeling about what they were doing to Madrid.  He didn’t have anything against the boy, and if he admitted it, Madrid hadn’t started the trouble with Yancy.  But Yancy was his friend, so here he was.

When Tom Santee had offered Dale, and him and seven other men the opportunity of avenging Yancy and at the same time ridding the valley of Madrid, he’d jumped at the chance.   Now, however, he was having second thoughts. 

Did he actually believe they’d get away with hurting and running off Murdoch Lancer’s youngest son?   The answer was a resounding ‘no.’

Carlton pulled Dale aside, away from Wales.

“Dale, we need to get out of here.”

“What are you talking about?  No, we wait for Santee and then finish our business with Madrid.”

“Dale, do you really believe we are going to walk away from this?  There is no way Murdoch Lancer is going to let us go after what we’ve done to his boy.   Think about it.  You know Madrid’s reputation, and you know Madrid and the Sheriff are close.  No.  We need to get out of here before Santee gets here, and there is no way out.”

Dale thought for a moment.  He’d never considered for a moment that Santee wouldn’t protect them when they’d finished with Madrid.  For the first time, he could see the truth.  Getting revenge for Yancy wasn’t as important as saving their own hides.

Dale nodded.  “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”

As Carlton and Dale started for their horses, they heard riders coming in from the North.  Tom Santee had arrived with the rest of his men.


Dale and Carlton watched as Santee reined up in front of the line shack and looked down at the man lying on the ground.   His eyes went to his men.

“What happened to him?”

Dirk Wales stepped forward.   “We just figured we’d have a little fun with him while we waited on you, Mr. Santee.”

Santee dismounted and walked over to Madrid.  Kneeling on one knee, he pushed the boy over to get a better look at him.

“Wales, this is more than a little fun.  You fool, I should put a bullet in you myself.  I know Murdoch Lancer.  If he sees his son like this, he won’t stop until we all pay.  Now, see if you can bring him around.”

Wales took his canteen and moved to stand over Madrid.  He poured water over the boy’s face and waited.   When there was no response, he did it again.    This time, he was rewarded with a slight moan and movement of the boy’s head.

Wales bent down and slapped the young man’s bloody face.  “Come on, Madrid.  Wake up.”

Madrid’s eyes slowly opened.  Blinking, Santee could tell he was trying to focus.

“Stand him up.”

Two of the men who’d ridden in with Santee reached down and pulled the gunfighter to his feet.

“Untie his hands.  He can’t ride like that.  Once you get him in the saddle, tie him to the pommel.”

The men did as they were told and cut the ropes holding the boy’s hands behind his back. 

“Madrid.”  Santee moved to stand directly in front of the man he’d grown to hate.   “Look at me.”  Santee reached out, took Madrid’s chin in his hand, and lifted his head.

“Santee?”  Madrid’s words were slurred.  “Why?”

“Because you don’t belong here, boy.  You never did.  When Murdoch brought his Mexican whore home and said they were married, we tried to talk sense to him.  But he wouldn’t listen, he said he loved her.  What we didn’t know then that it was already too late.  You were already on her.   All we could do was hope you didn’t look like a half-breed.

“Then you were born, born with those damnable blue eyes.  There was no reasoning with Murdoch then.  He would hear nothing against Maria or you.  He took you everywhere, showing off his mistake.  God, it made me sick.

“Then lo and behold, Maria pulls up stakes one night and took you with her.  The best thing that ever happened to this valley was that day.”

Santee spat at Madrid’s feet.

“God help us, but then you came back.  You came back as a gunfighter, a hired killer.  All you’ve brought to this valley is fear and death.  You’re no better than Pardee.  At least he let everyone know what he was.  He didn’t pretend to give up his gun and move in with us.  No decent man or woman can walk the streets of any town in the valley as long as you’re here.”

Madrid raised his head, finally finding his focus.  His eyes fixed on Santee; eyes that were now as dark as night.

“You’re wrong, Santee.  I belong; I belong at Lancer.”

“You were a mistake from the beginning, Madrid.  No, you don’t belong here.”

Santee could see Madrid losing focus again.

“Nothing to say…killer.  That’s alright.  We’re going to help you move along; back to the border where you belong, Madrid.”

“Lancer.”  The words were almost a whisper. 


“Lancer,” Johnny repeated the name.  “The name’s Lancer, not Madrid.”

Santee laughed.  “Is that right?  Why don’t you tell that to the men you’ve gunned down in Green River in the last few months? Do you even know how many there have been?  No, boy, your name is Madrid, and it always will be.”

Santee turned to his men. 

“Wales, Braxton, Felton. I want the three of you to take Madrid south, back across the border.  If you run into any Rurales while you’re there, all the better.  I understand they’ve been looking for him.”

Santee turned back to Madrid.  “Madrid, don’t come back.  Don’t….”

“Mr. Santee!”

Dale pointed to a rider galloping towards them.

Santee whirled around to see one of his men headed for the line shack.  The rider raced into the clearing, trying to catch his breath.

“Mr. Santee, Lancer’s coming this way; coming fast.”

Santee looked past his man to the horizon.  Lancer wasn’t in sight yet; however, Santee could see a dust cloud moving their way.

“How many men are with him?”

“All of them.”


None of his men missed the look of surprise on Santee’s face.

“Yes, sir.”  The rider turned in the saddle to look back the way he’d come. 

“Lancer must have close to a hundred cowhands and vaqueros working for him, Mr. Santee.” Carlton pointed out something of which Santee was very much aware.

“Get him on a horse and ride out now.”

While Tom Santee turned his attention to the approaching men, Wales pushed Johnny toward his horse.

Carlton reached for the palomino.

Barranca sidestepped and nipped at the man’s hand. Reaching for the reins again, he cursed as the horse kept moving away.  

When his third attempt to catch the horse failed, Carlton gave up and panic set in.  Making a decision, he grabbed Dale’s arm and leaned in so as no one else could hear.

“Mount up; we’re getting out of here.”

Dale swallowed hard and nodded.  The two men ran to their horses.  They were riding North as Murdoch Lancer came in fast from the South.

Santee watched his men riding away and screamed, “Carlton.  Dale, come back here.   Come back or….”

Santee didn’t get to finish his sentence as the ground began to quake.  The thundering sound of approaching horses caused Santee to turn.  His breath caught.  Coming toward him was Murdoch Lancer and what appeared to be every man that worked for him.


The men from Lancer had ridden hard as they made their way to Cedar Canyon.   It was easy to follow Johnny’s tracks, and both Val and Cipriano were reading the signs as they went.   They were halfway to their destination when Val called a halt. 

“What wrong?”  Murdoch asked, impatient to keep moving.

“There were a lot of horses here.”

Val stepped down and walked around the area.  Cipriano mirrored his actions.  

When both men stopped and stared in the same direction, Scott dismounted as well.   He’d seen it. 

Scott ran twenty feet out to his right and bent down.  When he stood up, he was holding Johnny’s hat.

Val and Cipriano looked at each other, nodding agreement.

“This is where they took him, Patron.”

“How many?”  Murdoch was staring at Scott and the hat he was holding.

“Four, Patron.  Four horses were here.  Three came from the hill,” Cipriano pointed to the hill Carlton, Wales, and Dale had come down.  “One man came from there.”  He pointed in the opposite direction.  “There is no doubt.  This is where Juanito was taken prisoner.”    

“Which way?  Which way did they go?”  Murdoch stood in his stirrups, scanning the surrounding area.

Val walked out two yards and knelt. 

“This way.”  Val pointed to the northeast. 

Scott hung Johnny’s hat by the stampede string around his saddle horn.  Thumbing the small concho slide on the string, Scott closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  Shaking himself, he remounted.

“Val, how long ago?”

Val didn’t look at Scott as he answered and remounted, “An hour maybe less. We’re close.”

Murdoch’s horse pranced, feeling his rider’s emotions.   “Val. Cipriano, lead the way.” 

Val took the lead, tracking to the left and Cipriano looking for sign on the right.  Neither man was taking chances of losing the trail.

Twenty minutes later, Cipriano stopped and looked around.

“I know where they go, Patron!  The line shack near Cedar Canyon.”

Murdoch nodded.  He’d been thinking the same thing.

Thirty minutes passed before they topped a rise overlooking the line shack.  Murdoch pulled back on the reins, raising his hand, signaling everyone to hold up. 

Ahead Murdoch could see the shack as well as men gathered in front.  It wasn’t hard to pick out Tom Santee or his son’s palomino.   Murdoch eased closer, scanning the area for Johnny.

Joe Driscoll moved to Murdoch’s left.  “I’m with you, Murdoch.  Whatever you do or don’t do down there.  I’m with you and so is my foreman.”

“Thank you, Joe.  If Santee’s hurt Johnny, I won’t be responsible for my actions. I know I can say the same for Val and Scott.”

“Patron,” Cipriano spoke up, “if Senor Santee has hurt Juanito, you will not have to do anything.  Every man who rides the Lancer brand will see that he pays.” 

Murdoch’s attention was temporarily diverted by two men moving away from the line shack and riding fast toward the north. When he looked back at the shack, the men parted enough that he got a glimpse of his son being pushed toward Barranca.  

The Lancer riders, with Murdoch in the lead, moved slowly into the clearing in front of the building.  Another wave of Murdoch’s hand and the riders spread out and encircled the area so that no one else could escape. 

“I’ll kill the bastard.”  

Murdoch heard Val’s words, not knowing why he’d said them.  When he heard Cipriano say, “Madre de Dios,” Murdoch’s eyes fell on his youngest son.

The sight of Johnny’s bloodied face and torn shirt sent shivers up his spine.   He cursed under his breath.  Trying to control his temper, Murdoch dismounted and began walking forward.

“Santee!”   It was evident from Murdoch’s booming voice that he was angry.

“Murdoch.”  Tom Santee stepped forward.

“Tom, you have my boy over there. Why?”

“It’s for the best, Murdoch.  He’s no good. Surely, you can see that.  He’s nothing but trouble.  The boy’s a hired killer who’s brought nothing but death to the valley since he arrived.   I’m sending him back where he came from; back to the border towns.”

“Tom, Johnny’s my son.  I can’t … I won’t let you do that.  He’s coming home with me, and you, Tom, are going with the Sheriff.”

Santee’s expression changed from one of hope that Murdoch Lancer would see things his way, to one of rage. 

“Son?  You mean your mistake, don’t you?”

Santee looked around at the men on horseback, seeming to forget who they worked for.

“You men will stand with me, won’t you?  Together we can rid the valley of the half-breed.”

Then turning again to Murdoch.

“How could you have ever claimed him?  Knowing what he is, how can you claim him now?  He’ll be your ruin. NO! He’s leaving, leaving today.  My men are taking him south.”  

“How dare you call my son a mistake.  I’ve always wanted him with me, and now that he’s here, I’m not losing him again.” 

As if in a daze, Santee stared at Murdoch.

“I should have helped all those years ago.  I should have helped get rid of Maria and the boy.”

Santee could see the confusion on Murdoch’s face. 

“What are you talking about?  Helped?  Helped who?”

“A man came to me wanting help in getting Maria and the boy away from Lancer.  But I told him I wouldn’t help.  Murdoch, you were my friend.  I couldn’t do anything to jeopardize that friendship.

“When Maria left, I knew he’d succeeded.  I saw that same man in Green River a few weeks ago.  I wondered then if he was behind the gunfighters coming after Madrid.”

Scott took a deep breath.  His grandfather’s actions were more far-reaching than he’d imagined.

Murdoch glanced over his shoulder.  He could see the anguish in his oldest son’s face.  Shaking it off, he knew he’d have to deal with it later, right now he had to get to his youngest son.    Murdoch looked at Johnny again.  He was barely standing, even with two men holding him up.  

“Tom, order your man to drop his gun.  I’m coming over there now to get my son, and no one is going to stop me. Then you and all your men are going to Green River with the Sheriff.”

Murdoch dropped his horse’s reins and started walking forward, keeping his eyes on Johnny’s bloody face.

Dirk Wales saw things deteriorating around him.  All allusions that Santee was going to protect him were now gone.  Hell, Santee couldn’t even protect himself.  Looking around like a trapped animal, Wales searched for a way out.  He looked at Madrid, realizing he was holding the way out.

Wales pulled Johnny in front of him like a shield.  Putting the barrel of his gun to the gunfighter’s head, he thumbed back the hammer. 

“Hold it.  No one moves.”

Murdoch stopped his advance.

Santee turned and looked at his man.  A smile spread across his face when he heard Wales say, “We’re getting out of here, and Madrid’s going with us.”

“Ain’t happening, boy.”  Val strode forward, his hand resting on the butt of his gun.  “Put the gun down and let Johnny go.  There’s still a chance for you, but if you try to leave with him, you are going to die.”

“No.  Madrid’s gonna’ die if you try to stop us.”

“You shoot him, and every man here is going to put a bullet in you.”

Wales laughed.  “Yeah, I can see that, but Madrid will still be dead.  You want that, Sheriff?  How about you, Lancer?”

When he saw the look on the faces of the Sheriff and Lancer, Wales knew he did indeed have the winning hand.  

“Braxton, get Madrid’s horse.  Felton, help me get him mounted.  Mr. Santee, you want out of here, you better get mounted.”

Tom Santee nodded.  Moving towards his horse, he’d only gone two steps when he heard Murdoch’s pleading voice.

“Tom, please.”

Santee looked back. “You’ll thank me once you think about it, Murdoch.  You’ll see it’s for the best.”

Johnny stood slightly swaying.

Dios, he wanted to lay down.  There wasn’t a part of his body that wasn’t hurting.  The beating Wales had delivered, made it almost impossible for him to stay conscious, let alone on his feet. 

Johnny was trying to listen to what Murdoch and Santee were saying, but the words seemed to be nothing more than a buzz in his ears.   He did make out the words ‘You mean your mistake’ and tried to grasp his father’s answer, but started to black out. 

When Johnny felt Wales’ hand shift and a gun barrel pressed against the back of his neck, he knew he had to do something.  

Santee and his men were trying to take him away from his father and brother, away from Lancer.  He couldn’t let that happen.  He wasn’t leaving; he was going home.

As Wales started to push him forward, Johnny’s legs buckled, and he went to his knees. Wrapping his arms around his chest, trying to stop the pain from the cracked ribs, he knew he didn’t have much time. 

Looking at the gun in Wales’ hand, Johnny saw the barrel dip down as Wales tried to get him back to his feet.  It was at that moment Johnny threw his entire body at the gunman.

Wales lost his balance and went down.

The last thing Johnny remember was the sound of gunfire and an all too familiar burn on the top of his shoulder.


While Murdoch and Santee were talking, Val was watching Johnny.  He could see the boy was in trouble. 

As Wales pushed Johnny toward Barranca, Val instinctively knew Madrid would make an appearance any minute.  

When Johnny went to his knees, it was all he could do to hold back.  His hand wrapped around the butt of his gun, and he slowly lifted it from his holster.   Letting the Colt settle against his leg, he waited.

Half listening to Santee and Murdoch, Val kept his eyes on Johnny.   Then there it was, the gun barrel dropped, and Johnny reacted.

Wales’ gun went off at the same moment Val fired. 


Val was the first to react.  He tore across the clearing, letting Murdoch’s men handle Santee and his men.  Kneeling next to Johnny, he rolled him off of Wales. 

Grimacing when he saw blood spreading across Johnny’s shoulder, Val ripped the shirt open and pressed a handkerchief against the bleeding wound.

Val heard Murdoch ordering Santee not to move.   Santee started to argue, but Val didn’t have time to worry about Santee. 

Val felt a hand on his shoulder.  He glanced up to see Murdoch standing over him. 

“How is he?”

“Bullet grazed his left shoulder.  Damn Murdoch, the boy can’t catch a break.”

“I’ll have my men take Santee and his hands into Green River.  Do we need a wagon for John, or will he be able to ride with one of us?”

“I can ride.”  The sound of Johnny’s weak voice caused both men to jump.

Murdoch smiled.  “You can, can you?  I think I’ll trust Val’s judgment on that.”

Val saw the gleam in the boy’s eyes.  “Yeah, he can ride.  He’ll ride with me.”

“No, Val.  He’ll ride with me.”

The two men stared at each other.  Val reluctantly nodded his agreement.

Murdoch turned to look at Tom Santee.  He would never understand the man or his actions.  Murdoch was just going to tell Cipriano to take Santee to town when Santee drew his gun and broke away from the group.

Gun in hand, Santee looked first at Murdoch and then at his son.

‘All because of the half-breed. Everything was going to be lost because of Murdoch Lancer’s mistake.’

“Murdoch, he’s no good.  You’ll thank me.”
Santee aimed his gun at Johnny and started to pull the trigger. 

Stockton Chronicle – October 16, 1870

‘Thomas Santee, of Green River, California, died of multiple gunshot wounds last week near his ranch in the San Joaquin Valley.  The events surrounding his death are still under investigation by the Green River Sheriff, Val Crawford.  Mr. Santee was a respected member of the community and belonged to the California Cattle Growers Association.  There is no surviving family.  The disposition of Mr. Santee’s ranch is still to be determined.’


Murdoch put the paper down, shook his head and snorted.  ‘…died of multiple gunshot wounds…’.   He didn’t think there was a man there that hadn’t put a bullet in Tom Santee.  If he remembered, the next time he saw the undertaker, he’d ask how many holes the man had in him.  As for Santee’s spread, Murdoch had no problem with Driscoll’s plans to buy the property when he came up for sale.

Hearing the front door open, Murdoch watched as Scott and Val strolled into the house.

There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by that he didn’t thank God for Val being in their lives.  He was now considered a member of the family, a surrogate big brother for Scott and Teresa, and a second father to Johnny. 

Murdoch considered his family complete; that is until the boys married and filled the house with grandchildren for him to spoil.

“How’s Johnny today?”  Val moved across the room, making himself at home.

Murdoch smiled.   “Restless.  If Sam doesn’t let him out of that bed soon, I’m afraid I’m going to have to tie him down.”

“Then he’s feeling better.” Val laughed.  “That’s good.  Never could keep him down when he wasn’t knocking on the pearly gates.”

Murdoch sobered.  “There are times I believe he’s trying to rush those gates.  Damn, the boy.  Val, you and I are going to have to figure out a way to keep him out of trouble.”

It was Scott’s turn to snort.

“That I’d like to see.  Now, if you two conspirators will excuse me, I’m going up to see how my brother really is.”

Scott took the stairs two at a time.  Once upstairs, he went straight to Johnny’s room.  He could hear Johnny’s voice as well as Teresa and Maria.

“You will stay in that bed, Johnny Lancer.  Does Maria need to get Cipriano up here to sit on you?”

“Come on, Teresa, just let me sit in the chair next to the window.  I promise I won’t go any further.  All I want to do is see something besides these four walls.”

“Sobrino, you were badly hurt.  Por favor, stay in bed.  For me, nino; for your Tia.”

Scott stood in the doorway and watched Johnny’s face.   That had done it.  There was no refusing Maria when she brought family into the conversation.

“I think you’ve won, Maria.  Isn’t that right, little brother?”

Johnny huffed and glared at Scott.  “Yeah.  I’ll stay in bed, Tia, but can I have some decent food?  You know something besides broth.”

Maria was beaming.  “Si, I will make you something special, nino.  Come, Nina, we must start dinner.” 

Teresa followed Maria out the door.  Turning, she looked back and smiled.  “Thank you, Johnny.”

“Yeah… yeah, go Teresa.  I’m starving here.”

Once Teresa and Maria were gone, Scott sat on the edge of the bed.

“You’re feeling better, I take it?”

Johnny nodded.  “Some.  I only want to sit up for a while.”

“Sam will be here tonight for dinner.  You may get your wish.”

Johnny sighed.

“Something else on your mind?”

Johnny nodded, “Yeah, Santee.  Do you think he’s the only one in the valley that felt that way about me?” 

“I don’t know. I certainly hope so.”  Scott stood up and went to the window.  “I don’t know if you remember what Santee said about Belcher.  Belcher came to Santee and wanted his help in getting your mother to leave.”

Scott turned around and looked at his brother’s downturned head.

“Grandfather would have had a lot to answer for in this life.  I can only hope he’s gotten his just rewards in the afterlife.”

“You believe in an afterlife, Brother?   Heaven and Hell.”

Scott nodded.  “I do.”

“Me, too.  I sometimes wonder where I’ll be … heaven or hell.  If it’s hell, I’ll give your regards to your Abuelo.”

Scott stomped back to the bed.  “Don’t even joke about something like that, Johnny!  There is only one place you’re going, and that’s where I’ll be.”  Then in a softer voice, “Heaven wouldn’t be heaven without you.”

Johnny smiled.  “No, nothing would be the same without you, Scott.”

“I’m going to get cleaned up.  I’ll be back with your dinner tray.  Try to rest.”

Scott left Johnny to his thoughts.

Johnny looked at the empty doorway and thought, ‘No, nothing would be the same without Scott, and Scott sure wasn’t going to be in hell.’

Johnny looked skyward and took a deep breath.

“Dios mio, I know you ain’t heard from me for a long time, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t listen to a word I said.”  Johnny stopped and licked his lips.  “Dios, when the time comes, I ‘d appreciate it if you’d let me in up there.  I know I’ve done some pretty bad things, but I hope I’ve done some good, too.  The thought of spending eternity without my brother is more than my heart can bear.  Por favor, Dios, cuando llegue el momento, abre tus brazos y déjame entrar.  Amen.”    (Please, God, when the time comes, open your arms and let me in.)

Crossing himself, Johnny took another deep breath, hoping he’d said enough.

Standing outside the door, Scott had heard Johnny begin to speak.  Soon he realized it was a prayer.  He didn’t understand the Spanish words, but he did understand the sentiment.   Going to his room, Scott closed the door, leaned against it, and raised his head.

“Dear God, hear my prayer.  I wouldn’t want to be up there without him.   Whatever he said to you in Spanish, please grant him.   Oh, and God, thank you for bringing us all together.  Thank you for everything you’ve given me, especially my brother.  Amen.” 


Johnny ran through the door and straight to the stairs.  Glancing over his shoulder, he laughed and kept going.   He’d gone up three steps when he heard the long stride of his brother coming after him.  Stopping, he turned to look down on Scott

“Johnny, when I get my hands on you….”

“You’ll what?  I won fair and square.  You’re buying tonight, so get a move on.”

“You cheated, and I’m not buying.  If I remember correctly, and I do, it’s your turn to buy.”


Both younger men froze and turned to look toward the large desk.  Murdoch gave them a stern look.

“Oh, hi, Murdoch.  Didn’t mean to bother you.  Me and Scott are headed to town.  He’s gonna’ buy me a beer.”

“No, Johnny, I’m not.”  Scott narrowed his eyes, looking at Johnny, then turned to Murdoch.  “Hello, Sir.  Yes, we are going to town. However, your youngest son is buying.  Would you like to come with us?”

Scott asked out of courtesy, not expecting their father to accompany them.

Murdoch stood up, stretched, and put his hands on his hips.  It wasn’t often he received an invitation from his sons.  They hadn’t spent any quality time together since before Harlan’s visit, and then with the roundup, dealing with finding out about Harlan, Santee, and the cattle drive…well, there just hadn’t been time.

“I believe I would, and since John’s buying, I’d consider it a treat.”

While Scott grinned, Johnny shook his head.  How did he end up buying drinks for both of them?  Johnny looked at the grin on Scott’s face and the smile on Murdoch’s and sighed.  

“Sure, why not.  I just need to ask my boss for an advance on my pay.”

“I think that can be arranged.”  Murdoch laughed.  “I’ll be ready in ten minutes.”

Twenty minutes later, the three men mounted up and started to ride to town.  As they reined their horses away from the barn, Cipriano, Walt, and Frank mounted their horses.

“Where are you three going?”  Johnny asked, giving Murdoch a suspicious look.

“Sobrino, is that any way to speak to your Tio?  The Patron has invited us. He tells us you are buying the beers tonight.  We would not miss that momentous occasion for anything.  It is not often you buy.”

Johnny’s eyes got wide.  Turning to Murdoch, he said, “Guess I’ll have to ask the Patron for a larger advance than I figured on.”

“Don’t worry, son.  I’ll bankroll you.  Now, come on.  I’m like your uncle.  I want to see firsthand Johnny Lancer buying a round for everyone.”


As the six men rode toward Green River, they didn’t notice the man sitting his horse atop the ridge overlooking the hacienda.   Watching as the men rode away from the ranch house, Cory Dyer licked his lips.  He could almost taste the victory.  He’d been paid to face Johnny Madrid, a job he would have done for free. 

Seven weeks ago, Dyer had been sitting in a Saloon in Yuma when a man approached him, saying he needed a fast gun.  Well, he was a fast gun and decided to hear the man out.  When he heard the name Johnny Madrid, Dyer knew he wanted the job.  Hell, he’d have paid the man to take on Madrid.

There had been a slight delay in getting here, thanks to a Sheriff in San Diego, but now there was nothing that was going to keep him from his appointment with Madrid.

Swinging his horse around, Dyer followed the six men, knowing they were headed toward Green River.


Murdoch, Cipriano, Scott, Walt, and Frank walked into the Saloon and went to the back-corner table, pulling up two extra chairs. 

“Barney, we’ll need seven beers,” Murdoch called out as he sat down, hanging his hat on the chair back. 

“Right up, Mr. Lancer.”   Barney didn’t need to ask who the other two beers were for, he already knew.   “Who’s buying?”

“Johnny!” the five men said in one voice.

Barney laughed.  Drawing the beers, he took them to the table.  He’d just sat them down when the batwing doors opened, and Val strolled in.   

“Barney.” Val nodded as he moved passed the bar.

“Beers already over there, Val.”

Val was about to sit down when everyone’s attention went back to the doors. 

Johnny stepped into the room and then sidestepped to his left, scanning the room before starting to the table. 

“Howdy, Johnny.”

“Howdy, Barney.”

“Murdoch says you’re buying.  That right?”

Johnny answered as he continued to the table.

 “Yeah, that’s right, but only the first round, Barney.  I’d go broke if I had to buy more than one for this crew.”

Johnny moved around the table and sat in the empty chair in the corner.   Tossing his hat on the table, he looked around at six smiling faces.  Murdoch was on his left and Scott the right.

“Enjoy it.  You won’t see me buying again any time soon.”

“Oh, we know that, Johnny.  Tightest man with a dime I’ve ever met.”  Walt laughed as he picked up his glass and raised it in a toast to his benefactor.

“No, the tightest man with a dime is the old man here.”  Johnny raised his glass to Murdoch.

“Remember, son, I’m bankrolling you here.  You might want to show a little respect.”

Johnny chuckled.  “Yeah, suppose your right…Papa.”

Murdoch smiled warmly and placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder, giving a gentle squeeze.

“So, the cattle drive’s over.  You do alright in Stockton?”

“Yes, Val, as a matter of fact, we did.  It seems driving a herd into Stockton in November can be very profitable.  The price was $2 a head higher than we expected.”

Val nodded.   “So, those two greenhorns do alright on the drive?”

“Who are you calling a greenhorn?” Johnny protested.

“You ever been on a drive before?”

“Yeah, I have.  It was a long time ago, but I’ve been on a cattle drive.”  

Val started to take a sip of his beer and stopped, lowering his glass.  He gave Johnny a questioning look.

“When were you on a drive?”

Johnny lowered his head and toyed with his glass.  There wasn’t much Val didn’t know about him, but there was a time Val hadn’t been in his life.   After his mother died, Johnny was pretty much on his own.  He took any job anyone would give a blue-eyed mestizo.

“It was back before you and I hooked up, not long after Mama died.  It was just a job. I worked the remuda and got to ride night herd some, but mainly they feed me.”

No one said anything else.

“Alright, so you’re not a greenhorn when it comes to cattle drives.” 

“Before you rephrase the question, Val, they both did well.  I’m proud of both of them,” Murdoch said with pride in his voice.

Scott and Johnny looked at each other, grins spreading across their faces.  Murdoch had said the words; he was proud of them.

Val looked at Johnny.  “Your shoulder and ribs give you any problems?”

Johnny shook his head.  “Naw, I was a little sore for the first few days, but no real problems.”

Murdoch and Scott looked at each other.  They’d been worried Johnny wouldn’t be able to handle the cattle drive due to his recently healed wound and cracked ribs, but the boy had proved them wrong.

They were on their second round when the Saloon doors opened again and Joe walked in, with Juan and Jose behind him.   Seeing the men they were looking for, they went directly to the back corner.

“What are you fellows doing in town,” Walt asked, straightening up in his chair.

“One of the vaqueros saw a man near the ranch house when you rode out,” Joe answered, spinning his hat in his hands.  “Looks like he followed you to town.  We figured we’d better come in and see if you needed any help.”

Val scooted his chair back and stood up. 

“Everything’s quiet right now.  I’d better take a look around town.  Be back in a while.”   Val had only taken a few steps when he turned back.  “What’d the fellow look like?”

Joe shook his head.  “Don’t know.  All Ramon saw was a bay horse.  The rider was wearing dark clothes.” 

As Val stepped outside, the others looked at Johnny.

“What?” Johnny shrugged.  “It could be anyone.  Maybe someone looking for work.”

“Then why didn’t they ride down to the house and ask for work?”  Scott shot back.   “No.  I don’t like it. Strangers usually mean trouble.”

For the next thirty minutes, there was little talk among the men.  Barney sat another round in front of each of them.  He’d heard what Joe said.

“This rounds on the house.”

“Thanks, Barney,” Johnny responded, smiling at the bartender. 

The sound of the batwing doors opening caused heads to turn.   Val marched back to the table.

“Yeah, there’s a gunhawk just got to town.  Don’t know for sure, but….”  
Johnny sighed and lowered his head.  “Damn.  Why can’t they leave me alone?”

Murdoch put his hand on Johnny’s arm.  “Someday, son, someday.” 

“I feel like I’m running out of somedays.”

“John!” Murdoch squeezed Johnny’s arm.

“It’s the truth!”  Johnny looked around the table.  “And you all know it.  I’m one gunfight away from …”

Johnny started to push back from the table.

“Stop right there!”  Val snapped.

Johnny dropped back into his chair, shaking his head.

“Val, don’t!”

“Don’t what?  Stop you from heading out that door in the mood you’re in and find that fellow.  You might as well go out there and face him with an empty gun.”

Johnny looked at Val, his eyes pleading.     

“So, you gonna’ go feeling sorry for yourself.  Go ahead, feel sorry, …but get over it. You’ve spent most of your life building a reputation, building up the legend.  You’re the best there is with that Colt and don’t you forget it!”

“I know I’m fast, but someday…someday…”

“Yeah, maybe someday, but it sure as hell ain’t gonna’ be today.”

“You don’t think so, Papi?”   Johnny let a ghost of a smile play across his lips.

“Hell, no!  Now, if you want to meet that fellow, you pull yourself together first.   No sense giving him an edge.”  

Val reached down and pulled the glass of beer out of Johnny’s reach.  Looking over his shoulder, Val called out, “Barney, bring a cup of coffee over here.”

“Coming right up, Val.”

Barney set the coffee down and turned back to the bar.

Johnny looked at Val and then at the faces of the men sitting around the table. They cared and were there for him, no matter what happened.  There wasn’t much more a man could ask out of life than to have someone who would stand by him.

Johnny sipped the hot brew and wondered how he’d gotten so lucky.  For a boy who’d started with nothing, he now had more than he’d ever dreamed of in his short life.

Sitting the cup on the table, Johnny pushed his chair back.  He straightened his gun belt and tightened it down once more. Lifting his hat from the table, he put it on and started for the door.

“Johnny.”  One word caused Johnny to stop and turn.  His eyes met his father’s.  There was no need for words.

“I know,” Johnny answered and then looked at Scott.   Again, no need for words.


Johnny’s spurs rang as he walked across the floor.  The sound of chairs scraping on the floor filled the otherwise silent Saloon. 

Pausing at the batwing doors, Johnny peered out.  He could see the man who’d come for him.

Johnny pushed both doors open and stepped onto the boardwalk.   Behind him, the men from Lancer filed out.

Cory Dyer was leaning against the hitching rail across from the Saloon. 

Dyer already knew the Sheriff and Madrid were friends.   When he saw the Sheriff wandering the streets looking for him, all he had to do was stand back and wait.   When the Saloon doors opened, he knew his wait was over.  

Johnny stepped down into the street.  


 Johnny cocked his head.  “Do I know you?  You look… oh, yeah, Dyer, isn’t it?”

“That’s right.  Surprised, you remember me. We were on the same side, but you never gave me the time of day.”

“So, is that what this is all about?  I didn’t treat you like one of the good ole’ boys back in the day?”

“Naw,” Dyer answered, shaking his head, “I wasn’t in your league back then.”  Pausing, Dyer said menacingly, “I am now.”

Johnny nodded.

“A lot of men have thought that,” Johnny drawled. “They were wrong.” 

Dyer looked at the men standing on the boardwalk.  

“They going to be part of this?”

Johnny didn’t take his eyes off Dyer as he answered, “Only if you’ve brought someone to the dance that ain’t been invited.”

“It’s just me.”

“Then you have nothing to worry about; they know the game.”

Dyer gave a slow nod.

“Alright then, let’s get the dance started.  I need to earn my pay.”

On hearing Dyer’s words, Scott started to take a step forward.  Murdoch caught his arm, holding him in place.  Scott wanted answers.  He was sure Belcher hired Dyer, and he wanted to know where Belcher was?  Johnny beat him by asking the question.

“A job?  Want to tell me who hired you?”

Dyer laughed.  “You know better than that, Madrid.”

Dyer started moving slowly to the middle of the street.  Johnny mirrored his movements.

“You know, I’ve waited a long time for this.  In a few minutes, I’m going to have your reputation and you…well you, Madrid will be a fading memory.   In a few months, no one will remember you even existed.  How many have you faced Madrid wondering if it would be your last?  How many guns have you taken down?”

Relaxing his shoulders, Johnny exhaled.  Watching Dyer’s eyes, he waited for the ‘tell.’ He didn’t have to wait long.  

Johnny often said the difference between being the best and second-best had a lot to do with luck.  It didn’t matter if you were fast if you didn’t hit what you’re aiming at.  

Witnesses would later be hard-pressed to tell which man’s gun cleared leather first.  Both guns barked out fire at the same time, leaving the smell of gunpowder lingering in the air.

Johnny had crouched and shifted to his right while Dyer crouched.   Johnny’s bullet hit its mark as Dyer’s shot missed by a hair’s breathe, taking a piece of Johnny’s shirt with it.

Johnny closed the distance between himself and Dyer’s prone form.  Looking down, he could see Dyer staring at him.

“Who hired you, Dyer?”

Dyer’s laugh was cut short by a cough.  Blood bubbled up at the corner of his mouth.

“You were just as fast as I remember.”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, I’m just as fast, but you were fast, too bad you weren’t as accurate or smart.  You still have time.  Dyer, who…”

“Breaking …my …rule, Madrid.  Man who…,” Dyer coughed, “hired me…came to Yuma.”

“Who?”  Johnny knelt, trying to hear Dyer’s final words. 

Murdoch, Scott, Val, and Cipriano moved from the boardwalk and stood in a circle around them. 

“Belcher…seven weeks ago.”   Dyer’s eyes got wide as he struggled for breath.   Losing focus, Dyer managed one word, “Cold.”

The wet, rattling sound coming from the dying man’s throat signaled the end was near. 

Johnny had heard this ‘death rattle’ more times than he could remember.  Each time he imagined a piece of his soul being torn away with the dying man. 

Fighting for one more breath, Dyer stared deep into Johnny’s eyes.  “Madrid, I’ll be waiting for you… in hell.”

Johnny turned his head, unable to look any longer as Dyer’s eyes slowly glazed over.

Johnny stayed where he was, unable to move. 


Johnny heard the word through the fog that now engulfed his brain. Looking up, he saw Murdoch next to him, his hand extended.   He took the hand and felt it tighten on his own.

Murdoch pulled him to his feet and put his arms around him, pulling his close

“Thank God,” Murdoch said softly into Johnny’s ear.

Johnny answered, not pulling away, “God ain’t got nothing to do with it.”

“I beg to differ, John.  I beg to differ.”  Murdoch tightened his hold on his son.  “Are you hurt, son?”

Johnny leaned back and shook his head. 

“Dyer’s bullet missed me.  I don’t know how, but it did.”

“Johnny,” Scott said as he moved closer to his brother, “we need to get you home.”

Johnny nodded.  Yes, he needed to get out of the middle of the street.  He needed to be alone.

“I’m riding on ahead,” Johnny replied.  “I need some time to myself.”

Johnny walked to where Barranca was tied, swung into the saddle, and rode out of town.

Val looked down at Dyer’s body and shook his head.  Looking back up, he watched Johnny ride out.

“The undertaker can take care of Dyer.  We need to go after Johnny.”

“Val?” Murdoch could see something in Val’s eyes that alarmed him.

“The boy’s hurting, he needs us right now.  Besides,” Val lowered his voice and looked around the street, “I don’t think this is over.  You heard what Dyer said about who hired him.”

Murdoch spun around.  “Cipriano, mount up the men.  We need to follow John.”

Cipriano nodded and motioned for the others to follow.


Johnny rode hard, letting Barranca have his head.   When the horse slowed, he looked around, realizing he was on Lancer land.

Reining off the road, he found a spot next to Green Creek and dismounted.  The sound of the water seemed to soothe his tortured mind. 

Johnny found a seat on the bank of the creek and relived the gunfight.  He drew when he saw Dyer’s tell.  When he crouched and shifted to the right, Johnny could see the surprise in the other man’s face.

Dyer never expected his opponent to do anything other than stand where he was.  Johnny knew that was the reason he was alive, and Dyer was lying dead back there in the street.

When Johnny heard the sound of horses coming, he reached for his gun.  He relaxed when he saw who it was.  They had all come.

“I said I need to be alone!” Johnny barked out.

Val stepped down from the saddle.  “Not this time, hijo.  This time you need us…as much as we need you.”

Johnny lowered his head and turned to look at the fast-moving creek. 

“Today should have been my day.”

“I told you it wasn’t your time.”  Val moved closer to Johnny. 

Soon everyone was sitting on the creek bank.

Johnny raised his head.  They had to strain to hear the soft, low drawl.
“It comes to us all.  Someday the legend has to die.”

“Don’t speak like that, Sobrino,” Cipriano said.  “You’re wrong.  Even if today were your day, leyendas nunca mueren.”

Johnny looked away. 

“What was that you said, Cipriano?” Scott asked.

“I said ‘legends never die’, Senor Scott.”

Scott touched Johnny’s arm. 

“Johnny, you remember the dime novel Charlie Sims gave to me?  I read it while we were on the drive.  A man wrote it by the name of Ward Sharpton.  In the forward, he says he met you in Arizona.  He titled the book ‘Legends Never Die.’  Do you ever remember meeting him?”

Johnny huffed.  “Brother, I meet a lot of men who said they were gonna’ write about me.  I’ve read some of the trash they wrote.  All those dime novels did was make people believe I’m something I’m not.  They made me out as a cold-blooded killer, evil and meaner than the devil himself.   Kids read those books, and pretty soon, some of them were calling me out.  Do you know how many boys and men I’ve killed because of those books?”

“This book isn’t like the others, Johnny.”

Scott turned to Cipriano. 

“Cipriano, in Mexico, who is the first name people think of when their searching for someone to give them hope.”

“Madrid,” Cipriano answered firmly, with a nod looking at Johnny.  “They think of only one man, Senor Scott.  Madrid.”  

“Val, when you rode with Johnny into a town in Mexico or along the border, who did the people come looking for when they needed help?  What was the name of the man they called out to?”

“Madrid,” Val responded, looking at Johnny.  “They called out to Madrid to save them, and he did more times than I can count.”

“Johnny, that’s what the book is about.  Sharpton paints the picture of a man who will be remembered long after all of us are dead and buried. 

“Don’t you see, you’ve already captured the hearts and minds of the men, women, and children of Mexico?  And now, because of this one book, people everywhere will know the truth about you. They’ll know what the rest of us know.  The name Madrid means courage and honor.” 

Johnny shook his head.

“Scott, other men have written about me.  Those books are still out there, and they don’t paint a pretty picture.  Who’s to say this book will change anyone’s mind about me?  The only way this can end is if I die.”

Scott took a deep breath. 

“Johnny, men die.  You’ve said it yourself it comes to us all, but the legends they become never die.  If the legend dies, so would our dreams and hopes and inspirations.

“When I was in school, we learned about a Shawnee chief by the name of Tecumseh.  He’s a legend among his people.  Tecumseh said, ‘When legends die, the dream ends; there is no more greatness.’

Tecumseh knew better than anyone that people need legends; they need to know there is someone greater, better than themselves.  As the book says, ‘Someone to give them hope when there was no hope.’

“Remember when we were on the range that time and saw a meteor shower, shooting stars in the night sky.  You said they were like pistoleros, burning bright one minute and gone the next.  Some burned longer than others, like you.  Do you remember?”

Johnny nodded.

“Did you know that the moment Tecumseh was born a comet, a Shooting Star, streaked across the sky?  The Shawnee believed that anyone born under the Shooting Star was destined for greatness. 

“Johnny, Sharpton has immortalized the name Johnny Madrid within the pages of that book.  He’s insured your place in history.  The name Madrid will be remembered.  Each time the story is told or retold, the legend grows; the legend will never die.”

Johnny sat for a long time, thinking.  He’d sealed his fate and his legacy the day he took the name Madrid and started the climb to the top.  Johnny knew there was no turning back any longer.  All he wanted now was peace, but that didn’t look like it was going to happen any time soon.

“I wanna’ go home.”

Pushing himself to his feet, Murdoch took a deep breath. Turning to look at the men who stood around them.

“Mount up men.  We’re going home.”  


The flames of the dying fire were putting out little heat. The last piece of wood had been placed in the hearth over two hours ago when everyone else had gone to bed.

Johnny had feigned a good mood throughout the evening.  Now he sat on the large sofa, reliving his fight with Dyer.  He’d tried to go to bed, but every time he closed his eyes, he would see Cory Dyer’s face and hear his death rattle. 

Dyer’s final words haunted him.  “I’ll be waiting for you in hell.”  

Johnny was so absorbed with his own misery; he didn’t hear the two men standing at the top of the main staircase.

Murdoch and Val had been standing together for a few minutes.  They’d both known Johnny had been pretending he was alright during the evening.  They also knew that the boy needed time alone.  He’d had that, and now it was time for one of them to go to him.

Val knew it had to be him. This was about Madrid, and Val knew what needed to be said.  Murdoch nodded as Val started down the stairs.

“Hijo?” Val moved closer to the sofa. 

Johnny swallowed hard, fighting back the tightness in his throat.  He’d expected Val, and now that is was here, he didn’t know if he wanted him.  It had always been Val that had eased the pain of the aftermath of the violence in his life.

“You ready to talk?”

Johnny took a deep breath and nodded.

Val moved to the drink cart and poured two shots of tequila.  Moving back to the sofa, he handed a glass to Johnny.  Sitting next to the boy, he waited.

“It’s never gonna’ end, is it?”   Johnny looked at the glass in his hand as he spoke.

“It’ll end.  We need to give it some more time.”

“Time?  Dios, I’ve been here almost a year.  They keep coming.  I face the gunhawks when I’m awake and their ghosts when I try to sleep.”

Val didn’t respond right away.    Leaning forward, he placed his hand on Johnny’s leg.

“Hijo, I don’t know if I have the right words to make you feel better right now.  I do know the time will come, and soon when the gunhawks stop coming, and the nightmares will fade away. 

“There are a lot of people who care about you.  People who will do everything they can to make sure you get to live out the rest of your life as Johnny Lancer.”
“You heard what Dyer said there at the end.  Belcher’s still out there hiring guns.”

“I heard, but maybe Belcher didn’t know Garrett was dead when he hired Dyer.  Don’t worry; we’ll get Belcher.”
Johnny nodded.

“You ready for bed, hijo?  You got your Pa up there worried sick, and I ain’t doing so good myself.”

Johnny pushed off the sofa and turned to Val.  “Thanks, Papi.”

“That’s what I’m here for, hijo.” 

Val nudged Johnny toward the stairs.


Morning found the family in the kitchen eating breakfast.   They looked up to see Val strolling in from the Dining Room.

“Val?” Murdoch asked, seeing the expression on Val’s face.  When he saw the paper in their friend’s hand, Murdoch dropped his napkin and stood up.

“Leon rode out here with this.”  Val held the paper out and turned to Johnny.

Johnny stood and moved around the table.  Taking the paper from Val, he gave his friend a questioning look.

“I didn’t read it.”

Johnny nodded and turned his back on the others.  Opening the telegram, he started to read, and then his shoulders began to shake.

Scott and Teresa were on their feet, moving toward Johnny.  Murdoch held them back.


Johnny threw his head back and let out a laugh that echoed off the walls.   Johnny turned around.  Laughing so hard now that tears filled his eyes, he held the paper out to Val.

Val took the telegram and read it, shaking his head.

“Val, what does it say?”  Murdoch watched Johnny continued to laugh.

Val read aloud:
Johnny Madrid
Lancer Ranch
Green River, California
“Sorry about that.  STOP.  Didn’t know Garrett was dead.  STOP.  Glad things worked out the way they did.  STOP.  Won’t happen again.  STOP. 
Jack Belcher

“Well, hell, Belcher’s sorry about sending Dyer.  Imagine that.”  Johnny wiped the moisture from his eyes.

“Does that mean he’s not going to be sending any more men after Johnny?”  Teresa asked, looking around the room.

Scott took the telegram from Val and reread it.

“That’s what it sounds like.”  Scott started to smile.  “It’s over.  There won’t be any more men sent because of my grandfather.”

“That’s wonderful.  Johnny,” Teresa said as she threw herself in Johnny’s arms, “isn’t it wonderful?”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, querida, it’s wonderful.  Now all I have to worry about is anyone else coming after me.”

“But things were quiet for so long before Mr. Garrett came back.  Maybe, it will be again.”

“We did have a few weeks of peace and quiet,” Murdoch commented.  “Val, what do you think?”

Val nodded.  “Could be.  There will be more to come, but maybe not so many and maybe not as often.  Like I told Scott, Johnny’s pretty much taken care of the up and coming gunhawks.  It’ll take time for more to make their reputations and be ready for Johnny.”

Johnny was the first to move. 

“Where are you going, John?”  Murdoch asked.

“To work.  Last I heard this was a working ranch.  Not gonna’ get anything done standing around here.  Come on, Boston, daylight’s burning.”

Johnny sauntered out of the kitchen and moved towards the front door.  Scott smiled.

“The hefe has spoken.  I’ll see you at dinner.”

Scott started after Johnny, hearing him whistling a tune as he crossed the yard to the barn.


Scott pushed the bedroom door open and stopped in the doorway.  His eyes went from the rumpled and damp bed to his brother.

Johnny stood at the window, wearing only his pants.  Shirtless and barefoot, his back and chest gleamed with sweat in the early morning light.  

Scott knew he’d had another nightmare.  He’d heard first the moans and then a muffled scream.   By the time he got out of bed and into Johnny’s room, his brother was up and staring into the fading darkness.

“Johnny?”  Scott moved across the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “Are you alright?”

Johnny half turned, gave a weak smile, and then looked back out the window.

“I’m fine,” Johnny answered with his back to his brother.

After a few seconds, without turning, Johnny asked, “Scott, you ever watch the sun come up over those mountains?”

Scott shook his head.

“No, my rooms on the other side of the house.  I get to watch the sunsets.”

Johnny nodded, still looking at the growing tinges of pink in the eastern sky.

“Sunsets are pretty, but there’s something about a sunrise…”  Johnny took a deep breath and let it out as the sun topped the mountain peak.   “There it goes.  Come watch with me, Scott.  Come watch the sun push the darkness away.”

Scott stood up and walked to the window.  Standing next to his brother, he watched the sun crest the mountains.

“See, right there.”   Johnny pointed to the light as it tipped the peak and cascaded down the mountainside.  “That’s it.”

They stood shoulder to shoulder.  Scott could feel a slight quiver in Johnny’s bare shoulder.

“I can stand right here and watch it all. That first few seconds, when the light hits the valley floor, is when the ranch comes to life.”  He dropped his head.  “It’s like the sun is pushing the nightmares away along with the shadows.” 

“Johnny, it’s beautiful.” 

Scott looked sideways at his brother and didn’t like what he saw.

“Johnny, when was the last time you slept all night without waking up in a cold sweat?”

“Can’t remember.”

Johnny’s right hand reached across his body, and his fingers began rubbing the scars on his side.

“Do they hurt?”  Scott hesitated. “Your scars, do they hurt?  I’ve seen you rub them before.”

Johnny dropped his hand.

“Naw, they don’t hurt; aches sometimes early in the morning, but they don’t hurt. Not anymore. I guess it’s become a habit, me rubbing them.”

“We should get dressed.  We’re going to have to leave right after breakfast if we’re going to catch the train in Cross Creek.”

Johnny nodded and sighed.

“Having second thoughts… or third or fourth?”

Johnny turned around to look at Scott. 

“Not sure I want to go, but I don’t want you going alone.”

“Alright, then get dressed.  I’ll see you downstairs in half an hour.”

Scott moved to the doorway as Johnny turned back to the window.


It would be the first long trip the brothers would take together. Scott had been looking forward to having his brother alone, away from the ranch, and away from gunfights…at least for a while.

Johnny swung like a pendulum between being excited about the trip, to wanting Scott to go by himself.

The trip had been Scott’s idea, a gift to his brother on his 19th birthday.   Not for the first time, he wondered if he’d made the right decision in giving it.


Teresa had planned the party as a surprise.  Everyone on the ranch was in on it as well as Val, Sam, and Aggie Conway. 

Scott spent the day keeping Johnny busy on the range.  He had his orders not to let Johnny come home until at least 4:00.  By 1:00, he was ready to strangle his brother and save everyone the trouble of a party.

“Scott, come on.  We’ve done everything the old man wanted.  Let’s head back.  It’s Saturday, and I want to go to town tonight.”  

“Town will still be there when we get there.  I just want to check the fence along Vista Cielo, and then we can head in.”

“Vista Cielo?  Hell, Scott, it’s gonna’ take an hour to get there.  By the time we get back to the ranch and get cleaned up, all the fellows are gonna’ already be heading to town.   Let’s check out the fence on Monday.”

“No, we’re already close enough to get it done today.  We’ll be back in time to clean up and go to town.”

Johnny huffed and grumbled, “Scott, we’re only supposed to work until noon on Saturday.” 

Johnny’s words fell on deaf ears as Scott rode toward Vista Cielo.

When they finally got home, Johnny took the horses to the barn while Scott hurried into the house.   While he’d kept Johnny out on the range, everyone decorated the hacienda and set the tables.

Murdoch later told Scott he didn’t know who was more nervous about the party, him or Val.  Val voiced concerns that Johnny wouldn’t take well to the party or the surprise.  He also questioned several times if Murdoch was sure it was Johnny’s birthday.  Scott had laughed when Murdoch told him of the conversation.

“Yes, Val, I know when the boy was born.  I was there, remember?”

“You’re sure he’s 19? You know Maria never told him for sure how old he was.”

“Yes, Val, he’s 19.”

“Alright then, all we need to do is keep the boy from hightailing it out of here when he sees everyone crowding around him.”

“I’ve taken care of that too.  Cipriano plans to have some of the men watching the doors, so if he tries to leave, they’ll cut him off.”

Murdoch laughed.  “I can’t wait to see the expression on his face when we yell…  SURPRISE!”

“Yeah, well, you better make sure he ain’t wearing his gun when that happens; the boy’s just liable to shoot someone.”

“That’s Scott’s job.  We’ve already talked it over.  He’ll make sure his brother’s gun is already on the rack at the front door when we spring the surprise on him.”

Murdoch and Val looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“It ain’t funny, but just to make sure I think one of us should get to him as quick as possible and hold his arms down, in case he has his backup piece on him.”

When Johnny walked into the Great Room, his senses went on high alert.  Stopping in the middle of the room, his right hand went to his hip where his gun should have been.   Glancing over his shoulder, Johnny’s eyes took in his rig, hanging on the hat tree, where he’d put it only moments ago.

“SURPRISE!  Happy Birthday!”  

People jumped up from behind the desk, sofa, and chairs.  Others streamed into the room from the Kitchen and Dining Room. 

Val had a grin on his face as he hurried into the room and came to a stop next to Murdoch, who was himself grinning.

Both Murdoch and Val saw the panicked look on Johnny’s face and his blue eyes widen.  Everyone had expected the next move the birthday boy made.  

Johnny started to turn.  Walt and Jose stepped in front of the French doors.  Johnny shifted his attention to the front door until Frank took up guard there.    They saw the panic rise higher as Johnny took a step toward the kitchen only to be halted when he saw Cipriano and Maria move into place. 

Johnny looked around the room.  There was no escape.  He was trapped.

“Give it up, hijo, they got you corralled,” Val drawled.

Murdoch moved forward and put a hand on Johnny’s shoulder.

“It’s alright, son.  It’s just a party, and everyone here is a friend.”

“What kind of party?”

“Your birthday, little brother.”  Scott strolled forward and put an arm around Johnny’s shoulder.

“My birthday?  It ain’t my birthday…” Johnny looked up at Murdoch.  “Is it?”

“It certainly is John. December 23rd.   You’re 19 today.”

Johnny lowered his chin, hiding his eyes from this father.   Then raising his head, he looked at Val, who nodded.

“That’s right, you’re 19.”

“Never…,” Johnny started and then stopped.

“Never what, John?”  Murdoch asked, looking from Johnny to Val.   The room was deathly silent, waiting for Johnny to respond.

“Never thought I’d …never thought I’d live this long.”

“I, for one, am delighted you did, son.”

“Me, too.”  Johnny smiled. 

Val moved forward and put an arm around Johnny’s should, hugging him, and then quickly let go.

“Happy Birthday, hijo.”

“Thanks, Papi.  I never knew today was my birthday.  You didn’t either, did you?”

“No, I never knew.”

Remembering Scott’s birthday just four days earlier, Johnny looked at Murdoch and grinned.

“So, do I get presents like Scott did?”

“Yes, you get presents, but first, we want you to go upstairs and get cleaned up.  You’ll find a tub of hot water in your room, and Maria has laid out your clothes.  When you get back down here, we’ll eat, and then you can open your gifts.”

“Yes, sir!”  Johnny was already moving to the stairs when Scott started up as well.

“I’ll clean up and be back shortly, sir.”

It turned into the best party Murdoch could remember at Lancer.  The meal was eaten and dishes removed before Maria carried in a large chocolate birthday cake with nineteen candles.  Johnny ate two pieces before reluctantly saying he’d had enough.

After everyone settled in the Great Room, the birthday gifts were presented.  Grinning, Johnny tore into the packages.  He was soon overwhelmed with what he’d received.

“Thank you.”  Johnny dipped his chin to hide his emotions.  “Thank you all.”

Scott’s gift was the last.  

“Happy Birthday, baby brother.”

Johnny opened the envelope.  Narrowing his eyes and cocking his head, he looked at Scott.

“What’s this, Boston?”


“To where?”

“Boston.  You’re going with me to Boston when I go to settle my Grandfather’s estate.”

Johnny dropped the envelope and its contents on the floor, shaking his head. 

“No… no way.  I can’t go.  You don’t want me with you.”

“And why not?”

Johnny stood up and hurried out of the room.  Murdoch started to follow when Scott put a hand on his arm. 

“No.  I’ll go.” 


Scott found Johnny right where he’d expected to see him; in the barn with Barranca.   Making enough noise so as not to startle the younger man, Scott stepped into the stall.

“Johnny, what’s wrong?  I thought you’d be happy to go with me to Boston.”

Johnny didn’t answer.

“This will most probably be the last time I go back.  There’s nothing left for me there.”  Scott took a breath, knowing he wasn’t saying the right thing. 

“I don’t want to go back there by myself, Johnny.  There are too many memories, too many ghosts for me to face alone.  I need you with me; I need your strength.”

Johnny looked at Scott’s pleading eyes.

“Scott, I’d like to go, it’s just…”

“Just what?”

“I don’t want to embarrass you.  Scott, I don’t want you to be ashamed of me.”

“Ashamed of you?”  Scott moved to stand next to his brother and put a hand on his shoulder. 

Johnny turned away and lowered his head. “Johnny, why in the world, would you think such a thing?”

With his back turned to Scott and head still bowed, Johnny took a deep breath and let it out.

“You’ll be introducing me to all your friends in Boston.   They won’t see me as your brother.  All they’ll see a Mex half-breed that’s keeping you in California, just old man Garrett did.”

“Johnny, turn around and face me.”

Johnny turned but kept his head down.  Scott lifted his brother’s chin and could see tears pooling in the deep blue eyes.

“Oh, Johnny, I’ve never been ashamed of you and never will.  I’m proud to have you as my brother.”

Johnny shook his head and pulled away.

“What’s to be proud of Scott?  You think your friends in Boston are going to want to have anything to do with me when they find out you got a hired killer for a brother?  I’m nothing more than a half…”  

“Stop… stop right there.” Scott raised his voice.  “I don’t want you ever use that term again.  Johnny, my friends, and I use the term lightly, will accept you because you are my brother.  If any of them have even heard of Johnny Madrid, I’ll be astonished.  If they have heard of Madrid and don’t want to associate with you, then they won’t associate with me either.  It will be their loss.”

“But they’re your friends.”

“If they don’t accept you, then they aren’t and never were friends…true friends.”

Scott closed his eyes and prayed for the right words.

“Johnny, I’ve only got one true friend, and that’s you.  You’re the only friend I need.”

Johnny didn’t say anything; he just kept his head down.

“Johnny, I want you to go with me.  Boston is a beautiful city full of history, and it’s the home of many of our nation’s legends.  Come on, brother… go with me,” Scott begged.  Lowering his voice, “It will be fun, and I can show you where I grew up and went to college.  I can show you the harbor and all the famous sites.”  

“I don’t know, Scott.  I don’t think I’d fit in back there.”
“So, you’re afraid to face a bunch of Bostonian snobs.  You, Johnny Madrid, who has faced more men in gunfights than any man alive?  You, who has nerves of steel when it comes to standing alone in a street, facing four men down at one time; you’re afraid of people who aren’t good enough to shine your boots.”

Johnny’s head shot up.

“I ain’t afraid of anything or anyone.”

“Prove it, brother.”  Scott sighed and then pleaded.  “John, I need you.” 

“You’re sure?”

“I’m sure.  I’m proud to have you as my brother, and I’ll be proud to introduce you to the people in Boston.”

“Well, when you put it that way…” Johnny looked at Scott with a smile on his face.  “You’ll show me where all of them legends lived?”

“Yes, I’ll show you. Who knows, you may even see one or two.  You could compare notes with them…you know one legend to another.”

Johnny blushed slightly and laughed.  “Yeah, I bet they’d get a real kick out of comparing notes with me.”

After a few moments, Johnny smiled. 

“Alright, when do we leave?”

Beaming, Scott answered, “In five weeks.  We need to get there and back before spring when things get busy around here.”

“The old man alright with both of us going?”

“He is.  So, are you ready to go back in and see your party guests and tell everyone you’re going with me?”

“Yeah, I am.  Imagine me, Johnny Madrid, in Boston.”


Now the day had come for them to leave, and Scott could see it wouldn’t take much for Johnny to bolt. 

Scott laughed. 

Foreseeing that as a real possibility, there were men stationed all around the hacienda, keeping watch for the likelihood of a runaway boy.  Scott had also procured the aid of Murdoch, Val, and Cipriano to make sure Johnny didn’t’ grab a horse and head for the high country.

Dressing quickly, Scott put the last item in his bag.  Looking around the room to make sure he had everything, he started for the door.

On his nightstand was the book Charlie Sims had given him.  Scott picked it up, looking at the cover.  He’d read the dime novel three times, and each time he felt closer to Johnny.  

He put the paperback in his bag, hoping he could convince Johnny to read it as well.  Stepping into the hall, he walked toward the front staircase.

 “Johnny, get moving.   We don’t want to be late.”


Johnny heard Scott call to him and shook his head.  What the hell was he thinking when he told his brother he’d go with him to Boston?   He must have been out of his mind to think he could fit in with his brother’s friends.

But it was too late now to back out.  Scott would hogtie him and put him on the train if he tried to run for it.  Besides, he’d seen the men in front of the house from his window.  Scott wasn’t fooling him. He knew all those men were there to make sure he got into the buckboard.  He’d also bet a month’s wages the ‘chosen’ were going to ride along to make sure he got on the train.

Johnny started to put his red shirt into the valise he was going to carry and then stopped.  Teresa had already packed for him.  She’d put his best white shirts and dress pants in already, as well as the suit Murdoch bought for him.

Johnny had protested the tight-fitting suit at the time, but Murdoch said in no uncertain terms, “My son isn’t going to look like a saddle tramp when he gets to Boston. “

Johnny laughed, thinking about the suit and Murdoch’s words, but soon the smile slipped off his face. 

“Admit it, Madrid, you’re scared.”

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Johnny took several deep breaths. 

“There’s nothing to be afraid of.  You can do this.  If they don’t like you, then the hell with them.”

Johnny stood up, picked up the bag, and started for the door.  As he walked by his dresser, he opened the top drawer and reached to the back.  Feeling the dime novel, he’d put there months ago, he pulled it out, deciding he was going to take it along and finally read the damn thing.

Sitting his bag down, Johnny ran his fingers over his image on the cover and the words printed on it.

He put the book in his bag and stepped into the hall, wondering if he would actually meet any of those legends Scott talked about that day in the barn.

Who knows, they might just compare notes after all… one legend to another.

November 2019

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.


16 thoughts on “Legends Never Die by SandySha

  1. I loved reading your story. I’m hoping the spots that transitioned to another tale were left open for the possibility of expanding on the story at a later time. Scott and Johnny of course are the characters that I can’t read enough about but I love that Murdoch was a loving and understanding father. Can’t wait to read more of your work. The dime novel cover at the end of the story was just a fun surprise!


    1. Thank you Jan. When I wrote Legends Never Die I gave no thought to a 4th story in the series. However, you are not the only one to request another. I’ll have to give it some thought and come up with one. I’m glad you enjoy my stories.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing, absolutely love this series, in fact I’ve read it so many times I probably know it word by word,


  3. I love this series! It’s full of the excitement and stress we expect in Lancer fiction. My favorite aspect was the family’s unshakable love and support for Johnny. Too often Johnny is betrayed, dismissed or not wanted. I’m ready for the next story in the series. Great job!


  4. Great story, but so intense! I kept waiting for Johnny to get shot, and killed. I am very glad that he didn’t, and he got the chance to live his life with his family and friends. I would like to see Johnny Lancer as a husband, father, and grandfather. He deserves to have some really good things happen in his life for a change!
    Don’t you think it is time for Johnny to grow up, and have a family of his own, so he can see how hard Murdoch has had it being his father? WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND, JOHNNY.


  5. Lol, seems everyone wants this series to go in different directions. I have no interest in a married with children Johnny nor a Johnny in Boston. I wanted to see what happens when Lancer and friends meet Charlie’s friend who looks like Johnny.


  6. This was really a great series, and I agree with Mary Ann whole heartily, Johnny deserves a special story with a good life. I don’t think it would take away his edge, but I feel that it would make JML complete. I enjoyed reading your work You’re very talented. Thanks for sharing and keeping Lancer land alive. JML always ♥️


    1. Ruby, thank you for reading and your comment. Yes, I agree I need one more story in this series and someday I’ll have to write it, until I hope you’ll read it again and keep making suggestions.


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