Word Count 3,892
This little satire is inspired by a post on Lancer Fan Fiction. Suppose you were quarantined in a house with Penny Rose from ‘Little Darling of the Sierras’ and Harlan Garrett from ‘Legacy.’ How would it play out? Only those who have seen the two Lancer episodes fully relate to Penny Rose and Harlan.
**Thanks go to Terri Derr (Doc) for help with the beta. Many thanks to Alice Marie and Diana (Buckskin) for their input. Any mistakes are mine alone.
Murdoch sat at his desk; head cradled in his hands. He’d had a pounding headache for more than a week, and there was no help for it. Not even the headache powders Sam left for him seemed to work.
Rubbing his brow, he thought back to how it started. One ludicrous event after another culminating in a situation in which he no longer controlled.
First came the unexpected visit from Harlan Garrett, Scott’s overbearing and conniving grandfather. One day they’d received a telegram he was on his way. Less than 24 hours later, Harlan stood in front of the hacienda, hat in hand, and enough luggage for a month’s stay.
Scott did his best to act as a mediator between his father and grandfather, but the fact remained Harlan didn’t like Murdoch and never had. Frankly, the feeling was mutual. The Bostonian tended to alienate most people through his self-important, egotistical, condescending ways; showing contempt for everyone, especially Murdoch and Johnny.
No sooner had they settled into a routine of sorts, than another unexpected visitor showed up on Lancer’s doorstep.
Neither visitor was welcomed, but this last one was like an irritating toothache. The kind of toothache that’s a dull throb one minute and the next has you running into the night, screaming.
When a buggy stopped in front of the hacienda, Murdoch thought nothing of it, until the sound of someone singing sparked his curiosity. Stepping outside, it took only a moment to see Lancer’s latest visitor, The Little Darling of the Sierras – Penny Rose Evans, grinning at him. The girl was the orphan daughter of a friend who had dragged her through mining camps, singing and dancing for coins thrown into a hat.
Penny Rose jumped down from the buggy, waved, and called out an enthusiastic and toothy, “Hello, Uncle Murdoch.”
Cringing at the sight of the child racing toward him, Murdoch felt his world tilt. Swaying slightly at the memory of her standing on his most expensive coffee table, singing that God-awful song, all he could think was, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’
Scott and Johnny were walking around the corner of the house, laughing and joking with each other when they saw the buggy stop. They’d only taken a few more steps when the frantic driver tossed a carpetbag at their feet and took off as if the hounds of hell were after him.
“Hey!” Johnny yelled as the buggy came close to running him down.
“She’s your problem now!” the wide-eyed driver shrieked whipping the horse and, in a cloud of dust, sped off under the arch and down the road.
When the two boys turned back to see who the man was talking about, they stopped dead in their tracks.
Johnny was the first to find his voice while at the same time, starting to back peddle.
“No. No. NO! Not happening!”
Scott stood fixed for a moment and then reached out a hand, grabbed Johnny by his shirt sleeve, and pulled his struggling brother back.
“Oh no, you don’t, little brother. If I have to deal with her, then so do you.”
“Scott, I’m already dealing with old man Garrett. I can’t take any more. Besides, she likes you better. Didn’t she say you were cute?”
Looking their way, Penny screamed, “JOHNNY! SCOTT!”
Before they could react, she tore across the yard. Wrapping her flailing arms around Johnny’s waist, hugging tightly, she looked up. “Oh, Johnny, I missed you so much.”
Wide-eyed with panic, Johnny had no words.
Letting go of the younger brother, she threw herself at Scott. “Scott, did you miss me?”
“Yes, well …of course, I…we missed you. What are you doing here?” Scott asked the question of the day. “We thought you were in New Orleans.”
The child smiled, showing a mouth full of gaping, uneven teeth.
“Oh, I was, but everyone in New Orleans is sick. Aunt Hester sent me here. I’m going to stay with Uncle Murdoch for a whole month. Isn’t it wonderful? I can’t wait for you to see my latest act. You’re just going to love the new songs I’ve learned.”
Scott looked at Johnny and paled. “A month?”
Penny gave him an exaggerated nod before turning back to Murdoch and skipping away.
Johnny was once again edging away while shaking his head and mouthing the word, ‘no.’ Scott grabbed hold of an arm, pulled him back, and held on tight.
Johnny mumbled incoherently. The only words Scott could make out were, “This ain’t happening.”
The next day the brothers were up before dawn and spent as much time as possible away from the house. Inevitably, they had to come home and when they did, they faced Harlan’s grumblings and Penny Rose’s singing.
Two days after Penny Rose arrived, life at Lancer was once again turned upside down when one of the children on the ranch came down with influenza. Within days most of the children and a few of the adults were ill.
Sam was called in. It didn’t take him long to figure out Penny Rose brought the flu virus with her from New Orleans. Sam immediately quarantined the ranch. Since Penny spent most of her time with the Lancers, he insisted everyone stay inside the main house.
Unfortunately for Val, he was visiting the ranch at the time. Now Green River’s Sheriff was in lockdown with Murdoch, Johnny, Scott, Teresa, Harlan, and Penny Rose.
Jelly and Dewdrop were in the house precisely one day. The next morning Murdoch found a downstairs window open, and Jelly and the goose were gone. From time to time, they’d see Dewdrop waddling across the yard, with Jelly chasing after him.
Murdoch tried several times to get the handyman to come back inside, but Jelly stood at the edge of the yard, shaking his head.
“Ain’t no way I’m stayin’ under the same roof with that old man and that gal. No, sir, not gonna happen.” He said a lot more, but most of it was unrepeatable.
Murdoch could have handled the quarantine if it had been only Harlan or Penny, but both of them together made life impossible. Add the dispositions of his two sons to the mix, and Murdoch began thinking maybe escaping through a window wasn’t a bad idea after all.
Harlan’s constant grumbling about most everything kept Murdoch’s nerves on edge. If the older man wasn’t criticizing everyone for not dressing for dinner, he was complaining about the food. Once he started in on the food, Maria’s mood turned foul. And if Maria was in a foul mood, Johnny was, well, he was impossible.
It seemed when Harlan tired of nitpicking Scott; he’d turn on Johnny. The worst came when he started in on Val. Val took it in stride. Johnny, on the other hand, wasn’t going to let his friend be disparaged.
At one point, Johnny and Harlan were nose to nose when Murdoch stepped in to end the hostilities. Stomping away, Johnny grabbed a bottle of tequila, glowered at Harlan, and tipped the bottle up, taking a long drink.
“Do you have to do that?” Harlan blurted. “Civilized people use a glass.”
In defiance, Johnny glared and took another long drag on the bottle. And then, for effect, belched.
Harlan threw his hands in the air and stalked from the room.
Murdoch had to admit his youngest son was drinking more than usual, and he couldn’t blame him. There were many days he wanted to grab a bottle of Glenlivet, lock himself in his room, and get drunk. Of course, he knew he couldn’t. He had to be vigilant to keep Johnny under control.
It was later that same day Maria was heard in the kitchen shouting something in Spanish. Muffled by the sound of pans banging and Penny’s singing, Murdoch didn’t catch it all. He thought he heard the words ‘little darling’ and ‘strangle her’ but couldn’t be sure.
The next morning, another window was found open, and a hastily written note lay on the kitchen table.
No mas. Senor Scott’s Abuelo does not like my cooking. Let him cook. As for Senorita ‘Little Darling’, Aye, Yi, Yi. No more singing. No more dancing. I go to stay with Senor Jelly and the goose.
A hammer and nails sealed the windows downstairs before anyone else tried to jump ship.
Three nights into the quarantine, Murdoch watched Johnny sit quietly – too quietly – in his chair in the Great Room while Penny Rose sang and danced to entertain them. He thought nothing of it until Scott tapped his arm and pointed at his brother. Johnny’s eyes were narrowed with a fiery glint as he caressed the cold barrel of the Colt in his lap.
The shootings began the next day. A single shot sent everyone scurrying to the Great Room. Johnny was lying on the sofa, looking at the ceiling, his smoking Colt in his hand. Chunks of plaster lay on the floor.
Murdoch stayed a reasonably safe distance away and asked as calmly as he could, “Son, what are you shooting at?”
Johnny grinned and pointed his gun at the ceiling. Everyone looked up to see the gaping hole.
“Got who, John?”
Murdoch prayed no one was in the room above them.
“A fly. That one ain’t gonna be buzzin’ around me no more.”
Murdoch looked to the heavens asking for strength.
“You shot a fly? John, I’ll not have you shooting in the house.” Gathering his nerve, he stepped forward and extended his hand. “Give the gun to me.”
“Better I shot the fly than…”
“Johnny!” Murdoch warned before his son voiced what could possibly put him behind bars.
Johnny’s brow furrowed. Shaking his head, he whined, “No. It’s mine. You can’t have it.”
“John, give me the gun!”
“No.” Johnny jumped up, clutching the Colt to his chest. “Can’t have it.”
“You don’t need a gun in the house.”
Johnny looked across the room at Harlan and Penny Rose. Murdoch didn’t like the spark in the boy’s eyes or the slight smile that crossed his face.
Five days after the quarantine went into effect, Murdoch felt compelled to take Johnny’s gun away from him. To be on the safe side, he took Val’s as well. He thought he’d solved the problem of either of them shooting Harlan or Penny Rose, but hadn’t taken into consideration that his youngest son had an arsenal of weapons and ammunition hidden all over the house.
No sooner had one gun been taken from Johnny than another would magically appear. More bullet holes appeared in ceilings and walls throughout the house. Murdoch finally confiscated all the weapons and ammunition in the house and tossed them out the front door for Cipriano to collect.
At the sound of gunfire, Murdoch’s head jerked up. Scott ran into the room. Father and son looked at each other; their eyes met. As one, they said, “Johnny.”
“You don’t think he….,” Scott’s eyes went wide.
“Where did he get the gun? Surely, he wouldn’t have…” Murdoch hesitated. “You don’t think he’s finally shot one of them?”
“Where are they? I know Penny Rose was in the kitchen earlier.”
“Was she singing?”
Scott swallowed hard and nodded. “Where’s Grandfather?”
“I don’t know. The last time I saw Harlan, he was in his room.”
The sound of spurs ringing drew their attention towards the stairs. Johnny was walking down the steps, a gun hanging from his right hand.
“You fired those shots?” Murdoch tried to hide the panic on his face.
“Yeah, I did.”
Scott swallowed hard. “What…what were you shooting at?”
From the kitchen, the sounds of Penny Rose’s grating voice drifted into the Great Room.
‘Well, we know it wasn’t her,’ Scott thought. ‘Grandfather!’
Just as Scott was about to ask about his grandfather, the man himself marched in the room.
“That’s the last straw, Murdoch. I’ve put up with being confined here. I’ve tried to be patient with that…that child singing, if you can call it that, at the drop of a hat. I believe I’ve shown patience when it came to the restrictions your Doctor Jenkins placed on us.”
He turned to glare at Johnny.
“What I can’t abide is that young man shooting his gun at all hours of the day and night. My nerves are frayed as it is.” Turning to Johnny, Harlan asked, “What may I ask were you shooting at this time?”
“Nothing in particular.” Johnny shrugged. “Just practicing. Shooting out my bedroom window. Walt’s been setting up targets for me.”
“Do you have to ‘practice’?” Harlan questioned.
“Bored? There are many things you can do to keep your mind occupied.”
“Like reading a book for one. You can read, can’t you?”
Scott chimed in when he saw Johnny’s hand tighten on the gun still in his hand.
“That was uncalled for, Grandfather. Of course, Johnny can read.”
“Yeah, old man, I can read. I just don’t want to.”
“Don’t pout boy. It’s unbecoming.”
“I ain’t poutin’.”
Scott looked at his brother. He almost laughed at the expression on Johnny’s face. That was definitely a pout.
“Harlan, you can’t hold it against Johnny for trying to keep his spirits up.”
“Keep his spirits up. What about my spirits?”
The conversation was cut short when Penny Rose bounced into the room to a collective groan.
“Uncle Murdoch, Teresa sent me to help you. I don’t know why. She looked like she had a lot that needed doing.”
She smiled that smile they’d all come to hate.
“So, what can I do to help?”
She looked at everyone with a smile and announced with a lisp. “You know I’m not just any nine-year-old curly-haired canary bird? I’m a special person. I have a gift. I make people happy when I sing and do recitations for them and do poems. Do you know people feel better when I sing?”
“I can do a recitation right now. Would you like that?”
“Oh, I know, I know.” Bouncing up and down, she clapped her hands together. “I can recite the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus.’ I know you’ll like that. Everyone loves when I come to the part that goes….” Skipping across the room, she leaped onto the marble-topped table, put her hand on her brow, and looked into the distance. “Oh father, I see a gleaming light. Oh, say what may it be. But the father answered never a word. A frozen corpse was he.”
Fixed blank stares greeted her performance. Undeterred, she looked at Johnny, “Do you want to hear the rest?”
There was a brief moment of panic in the boy’s eyes.
Murdoch saved his son by speaking up, “Penny, that was wonderful, but what do you say we save that for another time.”
“Alright, but what can I do now?”
“I don’t have anything for you to do right now. Why don’t you…” Murdoch looked at Johnny, who shook his head and mouthed ‘no.’ Then he looked at Scott, who started backing out of the room. His eyes finally rested on Harlan.
Harlan’s eyes widened. He sputtered, “Murdoch….”
Before he could say another word, Penny Rose jumped from the coffee table, skipped across the room, and wrapped her arms around the Bostonian.
“Uncle Harlan, would you like to hear a song?”
Four voices sounded as one as the word “NO!” echoed off the Great Room walls.
Penny’s eyes welled with tears and her lower lip quivered. Something worse than her singing was about to happen. The child was going to cry.
The first time any of them heard Penny Rose burst into tears, it sounded like the scream of a rabbit caught in a snare. The sound traveled all the way to the bunkhouse. Within minutes Cipriano and the ranch hands were standing outside, rifles at the ready.
“Patron! Patron, is everything alright?”
Murdoch went to the front door. “It’s alright. Everything is fine.”
Cipriano didn’t look convinced. “Patron, it sounds like a wild animal in pain. Do you want me to shoot it?”
Murdoch shook his head and felt movement at his side. Johnny was trying to push past him.
“Move out of the way, old man. Here’s our chance. Cipriano can take her out.”
Murdoch slapped a hand over his son’s mouth. Pulling Johnny away, he slammed the door before the boy could say another word.
No, they definitely didn’t want a repeat performance of the child crying.
Trying to save the moment – hell, save the day, Murdoch said, “Penny, darling, it’s just that if you sing now, then we wouldn’t have anything to look forward to tonight. Now would we?”
It seemed to satisfy the girl as she broke out in a wide grin.
“All right, Uncle Murdoch.” Still grinning, she tossed her long blond hair over her shoulder. “I’d better go rehearse.”
“You do that, sweetheart.”
She skipped out of the room with her head bobbing up and down. Going up the stairs, she passed Val coming down.
“Hello, Uncle Val.”
Val hadn’t intended to say anything to the girl. He always regretted talking to her because she often broke into song before he could stop her. None of them had figured out why, but… well, there it was.
“I’m going to rehearse. Just wait until you hear what I’ve got planned for tonight.”
Val closed his eyes and gulped, easing past her. “I can hardly wait.”
Entering the Great Room, Val looked at the stricken faces of Murdoch, Scott, Johnny, and Harlan. His eyes went to the gun in Johnny’s hand, then to his friend’s eyes.
“One bullet, Val. That’s all it would take, and the law turns a blind eye.”
“She’s small. It would only take….”
Val turned to look at the others in the room. He could tell they were seriously thinking about it.
Murdoch shook himself, realizing what he was thinking. “John, Val’s right. Of course, he’s right.”
“Murdoch, I can’t take it anymore.”
“Johnny, it’s been a week. No one in the house is sick. I’m sure Sam will release us from quarantine within the next few days.”
“Not soon enough.”
“Johnny…Johnny…Johnny.” Murdoch tried to appease his son. “Just give it a little more time. Sam….”
“Murdoch, I gotta get out of here. I can’t stand it another minute.”
“No, I can’t stand it. Either I get out of here or I ….” He raised his Colt to eye level and aimed it at the staircase.
Val moved across the room and pulled the gun from his friend’s hand.
“Ain’t no one gonna shoot no one. You understand? Now, you either go over there and sit down and behave yourself, or I’m gonna’….”
The high-pitched notes of Penny Rose’s voice filled the Great Room. Then a sound that could only be tap dancing echoed off the walls. Plaster dust started falling from the ceiling.
Val looked at the gun in his hand and then at Johnny.
Johnny arched an eyebrow. “Five cents, amigo.”
Before Val could respond, the noise from above abruptly stopped and Penny’s voice broke with croaking cough, followed by a sneeze.
Val’s eyes were still on Johnny, who inched his way closer to the French doors. He started to call out when he heard another sneeze and cough. Johnny had almost reached the doors when Penny Rose descended the staircase with a handkerchief in her hand.
“Uncle Murdoch, I don’t feel good.”
Murdoch took an involuntary step backward. Scott did the same. Val looked around the room, deciding Johnny’s idea wasn’t that bad after all.
Penny walked across the room and looked up at Harlan.
“Uncle Harlan, I don’t feel good.”
When she took Harlan’s hand, he panicked and tried to pull it away. Her grip tightened.
“Go away. Leave me alone. Murdoch, get this creature off of me.”
“But I don’t feel…. achoo.”
The front door opened, and Sam stepped inside.
“What’s going on here?”
Penny Rose turned a shade of green Sam had seen many times. Before he could voice a warning, the little girl leaned over, delivering the contents of her stomach onto Harlan. The vile mixture ran down his leg and pooled on the floor around his shoe.
While Harlan turned his own shade of green, the others in the room made their way to the doors and freedom.
Johnny sat on the floor with his back to the sofa, content to be alone with his family.
“Sure is quiet.”
Murdoch lit his pipe before replying, “Yes. Yes, it is.”
Scott looked in the direction of the west wing of the house.
“I wonder how Grandfather and Penny Rose are getting along?”
“I’m sure they’re fine, son. Just fine.”
“Do you believe it was wise quarantining them together?”
Murdoch took another puff, tilted his head back, and blew the smoke out with a satisfying sigh.
“What choice did we have? Sam said the rest of us could come out of quarantine and with Harlan and Penny Rose sick, it was our only option. Besides, Maria leaves plenty of food and drink for them at the entrance to that wing of the house.”
Scott looked at Johnny’s smiling face. “You seem happy, Brother.”
“I imagine Val was happy to get out of here.” Murdoch puffed away on his pipe.
“Oh, he was. Never seen him so happy.”
The expression on Johnny’s face changed.
Murdoch leaned forward. “What’s wrong, son?”
“Nothing, it’s just Val said he couldn’t find his gun when he left. I told him I’d check with Cipriano in the morning.”
“That’s strange.” Scott shifted position, stretching out his legs. “I wonder what happened to it?”
The Lancers were lost in thought when they heard a faint sound coming from the west wing.
“Oh, them golden slipper, Oh, them golden slipper, golden slippers I’m gonna wear to walk on the golden street…”
“She’s singing,” Scott stated the obvious. “She shouldn’t sing.”
“Like you’re gonna stop her. Boston, I’d like to see you try.”
“Oh, them golden slipper, Oh, them golden slipper, golden slippers I’m gonna wear cause they look so neat….”
“She really does need to stop that.”
“Relax, Scott.” Murdoch puffed away. “Harlan’s a big boy. He can handle it.”
“I’m not so sure, Sir.”
Penny Rose droned on. She was well into the third chorus, complete with tap dancing and the jingling of a tambourine when a single shot rang out.
The silence that followed lasted only a moment before they heard Harlan Garrett’s hysterical laughter.
As Scott jumped up, running to check on his grandfather, Johnny settled back into place, sighing contently.
‘Guess we know where Val’s gun ended up.’
During the COVID-19 Stay at Home Order
Comments: Email SandySha
4 thoughts on “Quarantined: Lancer Style by SandySha”
Very cute. Read it when I needed a chuckle. Really enjoyed it.
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Reminded me alot of covid quarantine. I wouldnt be as patient as jml if confined with some people I know! Delightful story
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I’m not a fan of the Penny Rose episode, but this story had me rolling 🤣😂😅
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