Word Count 5,840
WM Birthday Story 2004
Johnny Lancer slowed Barranca to a brisk walk as he neared the group of strangers. It looked like there were three of them moving about; he guessed they’d spent the night in this spot, and were breaking camp. A bit late in the morning for anyone who had a ways to travel, but it was a fine spot, a nice clump of trees for cover and a good water supply nearby. He could tell from their movements that the men had spotted him, had discussed it a bit and had decided to just keep going about their business. Johnny wasn’t trying to come up on them all of a sudden— that was never a good idea, surprising folks you didn’t know. Anyway, it was a clear day and he realized that his brightly colored shirt and the silver conchos down his pants legs were distinctive spots of color amongst the mostly greens and tans of the surrounding landscape. They were probably just passing through. Even though he didn’t expect trouble, the skilled shootist reflexively shifted the reins into his left hand, freeing up his right, just in case.
No one offered up a greeting as Johnny approached. There were two older men with dark hair and trimmed beards. Both of them were fairly tall, probably about Scott’s height, but broader in the shoulders, one more so than the other. By the time that Johnny actually rode up to the campsite, one of the men was sitting down by the fire pit, holding a carbine, while the other was busy over by their string of horses. A younger man, with a touch of reddish color in his hair and clean-shaven– a kid really– stood off to one side, rolling up some blankets.
Johnny noted that all three of them were wearing gun belts, but cinched at the waist, so they weren’t professionals. There was nothing special about their clothes, except that the two bearded men were wearing a couple of faded wool caps that Johnny recognized as—
“Mornin’,” one of the older men called out, his tone neutral, his expression unreadable even to Johnny’s practiced eye. The man lifted up the brim of his wool cap just a bit, then gave the animal he was loading up with gear a pat before taking a few steps towards Johnny.
“Mornin’,” Johnny replied in a friendly tone. As he glanced around, he slid his hat off the back of his head to let it hang by its cord.
The kid stood there staring at him, a blanket in each hand, but the third man barely glanced up, just kept working on readying the Sharps he held across his lap, a breechloader that had, apparently, been converted to take metal cartridges. Judging from the dulled surface of the wooden stock, the gun had seen its share of use.
Johnny reined Barranca to a halt, then adjusted his horse’s position so that he could keep all three men in his line of sight. When he met the kid’s eyes, Johnny flashed a smile, then skimmed his gaze over the man with the gun once more before turning his attention—–most of it—-back to the one who had spoken. “Looks like you boys are packin’ up,” he observed easily.
“That’s right.” It was the man handling the weapon who answered, a hint of a challenge in his voice, although he still didn’t look up. Johnny had the two men wearing the faded Army caps pegged as brothers; the resemblance between them was pretty clear. The first man, probably the elder by a couple of years, stepped nearer still, a mildly concerned expression on his face. “Is there a reason why that’s of interest to you, Friend?” he asked. “Is there a problem?”
“No,” Johnny replied slowly. “No problem. But, just so you know, you’re on Lancer land.”
Even if Johnny had missed the look that passed between the two older men at the mention of the name “Lancer”, the boy’s reaction would have alerted him. The kid bundled those grey blankets he was holding up in both arms so he could come closer without dragging them or tripping over them.
Though his relaxed posture gave nothing away, Johnny Lancer eased his gun hand to the side of his leg, just in case.
The man with the carbine stood up then and looked Johnny right in the face. The fellow had piercing, light colored eyes. They weren’t blue, but more of a smoky color, staring out from a weathered visage under a furrowed brow. “We’re lookin’ for a Lancer,” he announced, cradling the Sharps in one arm. “Just so you know.”
“That a fact?” Johnny responded in a purely conversational tone. “And just who might you boys be?”
The older one fielded that question. “I’m Ambrose Bowen and this here’s my brother Ben.”
“I’m Johnny.” He decided to leave the “Lancer” off for now, and watched to see if there was any reaction to his given name. Seeing none, other than a simple nod of acknowledgment, Johnny moved his own head in the boy’s direction and gave Ambrose a questioning look.
“That there’s Daniel, our kid brother.”
“Looks like there’s a few years between ya.”
Ambrose hesitated, disconcerted perhaps by the personal nature of the observation, then he reluctantly explained. “Well, we had a coupla sisters in between . . . and another brother.”
Reluctant or not, Ambrose had said enough to confirm to Johnny’s ears that the three men weren’t locals. “You boys from back East?”
“That’s right.” From the set of ol’Ben’s jaw, and the way he was gripping that short-barreled rifle in two hands now, Johnny could see that the man had maybe had just about enough questions. But of course Johnny had to know one more thing, even if he didn’t exactly make it into a question.
“So, you said you’re lookin’ for a Lancer.” The ex-gunslinger’s flat tone made his negative opinion known.
“That’s right.” Ambrose folded his arms across his chest and locked onto Johnny with a pair of those same smoke-colored eyes. He paused long enough to let Johnny know how little his opinion mattered. “We’re lookin’ for Lieutenant Scott Lancer. Our brother Cal served with ‘im during the War. . . they were prisoners together.”
Prisoners. Johnny didn’t know a great many details about the year that his older brother had spent confined in a Confederate prison camp during the War, but he knew about the failed escape attempt, that Scott had been in charge. And lost a lot of men.
“Sixteen men, every last man killed.” That’s what that Cassidy woman said.
That fool Dan Cassidy had decided that just because he’d been the sole survivor, Scott must have been a traitor. So Cassidy had come clear across the country, gunning for Scott, even bringing a couple of men along with him, including one who’d had a brother die in the escape attempt. Now maybe this Cal Bowen had been another one of those sixteen. And there was a good chance that his brothers didn’t know the real story.
Ambrose Bowen seemed a bit uncomfortable about the fact that Johnny was just sitting there on his palomino horse, looking down thoughtfully at them and not saying anything. The other brother, Ben, was staring pretty hard too, but Johnny still kept quiet, waiting to see what more they might tell him.
Finally Ambrose broke the silence. “We’d heard he’d come out here to California.”
“Now how’d ya hear that?” Johnny asked softly.
Ambrose started to answer, “Well, it was quite a while back, we had a long letter from a Lt. Cassidy—” when Ben Bowen interrupted him. “That’s enough questions, Friend,” he said, putting a bit more emphasis on the word “Friend” than his brother had earlier. “Our business is personal, with Lt. Lancer. So now why don’t you just tell us where we can find him?”
Ambrose jumped in with “We’d be obliged” and then before Johnny could respond, the kid spoke up.
“There’s somebody else comin’.”
Without turning, Johnny knew that the “somebody else” would have to be his brother, the former lieutenant. The two of them had ridden out bright and early to hunt down strays, round them up and try to send them back towards the main herd. Sure enough, when Johnny looked back over his shoulder, there was Scott coming along astride Brunswick, the chestnut’s white ankles flashing. He might be wearing a plain pair of dark trousers and a tan work shirt instead of a fancy uniform, but to Johnny’s eye, even now, so many years after his War had ended, Scott still sat a horse with the bearing that clearly called out “Cavalry”.
He wondered if the Bowens thought so too. Now the ex-gunfighter figured that if it came to it, he could try to take down all three of them—–Ben, the one with the carbine, would be first, then Ambrose. The kid, who was still holding an armload of blankets, he could be left for last. Johnny knew he wouldn’t have time to be too careful so there’d be a good chance at least one of the Bowen brothers might die.
“That wouldn’t be Scott Lancer coming now, would it?”
“Nope. Just another one a the hands; we’re out here rounding up strays.” Maybe these men didn’t know what Scott looked like; after all, they’d said it’d been their brother who’d served with him.
Ben still had a good grip on the Sharps, but the other two didn’t seem to be making any move for their guns. Unwilling to risk Scott turning into a target, Johnny waited until he was sure his brother was within earshot, then called out to him. “Hey, Hank, c’mon over here.”
Even at this distance, Johnny could see Scott tilt his head a bit, as he reined Brunswick in, listening until Johnny repeated his shouted invitation. Now on full alert, the former Army officer’s posture became even more erect as he kneed his horse back into motion, prudently transferring the reins from one gloved hand to the other.
Slowing Brunswick to a walk, Scott eased his mount up to the campsite, stopping alongside Barranca. He looked carefully at each of the three strangers, before letting his eyes come to rest on his brother, searching for some sign, some explanation as to why the younger man had decided to choose this morning for a rechristening. Uncertain as to how to address him, Scott patiently waited for Johnny to speak first.
“Hey Hank, this here’s Ambrose and Ben . . . . . Seems they’re lookin’ for Lt. Lancer.”
His expression carefully neutral, shaded beneath the brim of his hat, Scott studied the men once more, taking in every detail of their appearance and attire. “Is that right?” he asked Johnny, trying to convey with his eyes that he didn’t recognize any of them.
Ambrose pressed the issue. “So would we find him out here working the herd, or. . “
Johnny snorted derisively. “Nope, not Ol’Scott. He’s a city boy. You won’t find him out here workin’. He don’t like t’get his hands dirty.”
Scott bowed his head slightly so that there would be no chance of anyone seeing a reaction to his brother’s words. His gaze falling upon his leather work-gloves, he decided to remove them, freeing up the right hand first. He was still careful to keep half an eye on the man holding the weapon; the one now suggesting that if someone would just point them in the direction of the ranch house, they would like to pay “Lt. Lancer” a call.
“You won’t find him there,” Johnny assured them. “He probably took off for San Francisco, or Sacramento or some other place.”
Scott started methodically removing the glove from his left hand, tugging at each finger in turn. He could see that Ambrose looked disappointed. “Folks in town seemed to think we’d find him at home.”
“Not likely. But then, he’s a hard one to keep track of. Fellas call `im the `Boston Butterfly’.”
At that last remark, Scott Lancer couldn’t help but turn and raise a disbelieving eyebrow in Johnny’s direction.
A dry “Do they?” slipped out before Scott could stop himself.
He’d otherwise kept his face a mask as he continued to regard the strangers in the campsite, wondering who they were and what they wanted. Scott absently tucked his gloves up under his belt while he continued to consider those questions. Johnny hadn’t mentioned a surname, hadn’t identified the third man at all, and the names “Ambrose” and “Ben” simply hadn’t triggered anything. Scott didn’t recognize the corps insignia on Ben’s forage cap, but the wool kepis with the leather visors worn by the two older men marked them as ex-soldiers, the embroidered bugles further identifying them as having served in the infantry. The faded navy color of the hats at least provided assurance that the brothers were Union veterans as opposed to former Rebel soldiers.
Scott’s first impulse had been to simply introduce himself, but clearly, if he was taking such pains to conceal Scott’s identity, Johnny had reason to believe the three posed a danger. Scott felt that he had no choice but to trust his brother’s instincts on this and go along with the ruse for the time being.
Ben stared hard at Scott, then fired a skeptical question. “So your name’s Hank?”
Scott’s calm “That’s right” was overridden by Johnny’s colder “That’s what I said.”
The bearded man continued to study Scott, but he directed his next words at Johnny. “Description we heard in town kinda fits ya friend here is all.”
“Well, Scott and Hank, they ain’t got all that much in common, `cept for both being from back East—–just like you boys.”
Quickly seizing the opportunity to try to glean some possibly helpful information, Scott ventured to interject a question of his own. “So where are you from, exactly?”
Ambrose supplied the answer. “Pennsylvania. What `bout yourself?”
Keeping his gaze fixed upon the two bearded brothers, Scott bought himself some time by reaching up to grasp his hat by the crown, lifting it slightly off of his head and then resettling it on the crown of his head. The Bostonian could, of course, have easily selected one of any number of Eastern hometowns for his fictional alter ego, but was uncertain as to what his brother might have said about “Hank” in prior conversation with the Pennsylvanians.
Just as the pause started to lengthen uncomfortably, Johnny finally drawled out an answer. “Hank here, he’s from . . Maine, though he don’t like to brag on it.”
Again, Johnny watched for a reaction. The truth was, he didn’t have a real clear idea of where “Maine” was, exactly, but Scott had mentioned spending time there as a kid, so Johnny figured it must be somewhere near Boston. Which meant it certainly had to be “Back East”. Ambrose seemed pleased enough with the answer; Johnny couldn’t tell if Scott was happy or not.
“That a fact? Well, it’s been a while since we heard a Maine accent, that’s fer sure. What part of Maine are you from, Hank?”
“I’m from Bangoa,” Scott said slowly, making an effort to pronounce the name of the city the way many of its natives would. Fortunately, the reference to a “Maine accent” had conjured up childhood memories of time spent in the woods with old Ned “Smudgy” Pierce, but now Scott struggled to recall the specific features of the crusty Maine guide’s speech patterns.
“It’s been a while since I’ve bin back they-ah,” he added carefully, trying not to lay too much emphasis upon the “ah” that he so deliberately tacked onto the word “there”.
“Heard General Chamberlain’s in charge up there now.”
Scott nodded in the affirmative. He had actually met Joshua Chamberlain in Brunswick, Maine, many years before the War, when his aunt had introduced him to then professor of rhetoric. One of the heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg, General Chamberlain, had been tapped by the Union commander, General Grant, to accept the surrender of the Confederate troops at Appomattox Courthouse. Belatedly recalling his grandfather’s most recent letter, Scott remembered that the older man had mentioned that Chamberlain had completed his term as Maine governor. Knowing of his grandson’s admiration for the man, Harlan Garrett had updated Scott on the next phase of the storied general’s career.
Doubting that these men would know of such a relatively recent development, Scott refrained from relaying the information, believing it best not to put his “Maine accent” on display more than necessary. But he sensed that he was perhaps being tested when Ben asked his next question, even though the man’s tone was deceptively casual. “Now I forget, what’s the capital up there, anyway?”
“Auguster.” Scott smiled inwardly, knowing he’d hit the pronunciation, and feeling confident enough to even set the score straight as to the General’s present occupation. “Chamberlain was ow- ah guv’nuh for fohr yeers. Now he’s the president . . . of Bowdoin Cawlege.” Scott stopped there, certain it would be overdoing things if he threw in an “Ayuh” or “Mistah Man” or another one of old Smudgy’s expressions. As it was, Scott could feel Johnny’s eyes on him and knew that he didn’t dare look over at his brother.
“Now, you wouldn’t have served with the 20th?” Ambrose asked slowly, a reference to the famed Maine infantry company led by Chamberlain.
“Didn’t think so. When I first saw you ride up, I took you fer cavalry—“
Johnny cut the man off. “So you boys have come a long ways lookin’ for Scott,” he stated flatly.
“The `Boston Buttahfly’,” Scott couldn’t refrain from adding.
Johnny ignored the comment, finally seeing a way to let Scott know what was going on. “And you said you’re here `cause of a letter you got from someone named . . .Cassidy?”
Hearing the words “letter” and “Cassidy” made Scott feel as if he’d been punched hard in the stomach. He knew that Dan had believed the worst, right from the very start, and he now guessed that these men must be friends or relatives of one of those who had died in the escape attempt. He tried not to react as he studied the two brothers once more.
But Ambrose shook his head. “No, it ain’t quite like that. You see, we’re from coal country; we just decided to come out here and try our hand lookin’ for gold instead of minin’ coal.”
Ben took up the tale. “So seeing as we were out here in California anyway, we thought we’d look out for a chance to pay a call on Lieutenant Lancer. Especially after—”
Looking at Scott quizzically, the bearded veteran stopped speaking in mid-sentence, and turned to look over his shoulder. Scott quickly dropped his gaze, realizing that he’d been staring, transfixed, at the youngest of the three strangers.
The as yet un-named adolescent had remained in the background during the conversation, rolling up some blankets. That task completed, he’d tied the bedrolls onto the saddled horses. But what had attracted Scott’s attention was when the clean-shaven youth had picked up a hat from somewhere, a dark colored slouch hat, and slapped it on his head. When the boy had turned back towards the Lancers, Scott had immediately recognized the cavalry cord and insignia on the headgear and then suddenly been overwhelmed by a strong sensation of déjà vu. Now, as he looked downwards past his stirruped left foot to study the hard, dusty, ground below, the name came to him immediately.
Cal. Closing his eyes, Scott could see Cal Bowen’s face.
Cal had been a few years older than Scott, and, yes, he’d been from eastern Pennsylvania, Scott remembered that now. He’d had a wife back home; though the two men hadn’t been very friendly at first, later on Scott had heard a great deal about Grace. That Cal’s wife back home had been expecting their first child had been a fact known by every man in the company. Then . . . they’d been captured.
A religious man, Cal had spent a great deal of time praying that all was well, and waiting, hoping to hear from his family. Scraps of news had sometimes found their way to the prisoners during those miserable months of confinement, but nothing from coal country, no news had ever arrived for Lt. Cal Bowen. So he’d died never knowing if his wife had been delivered of a son or a daughter. He’d died `that night’. He’d been one of the sixteen.
Scott’s head snapped up, opening his eyes to the welcome daylight that blessedly served to ward off those darker images. Brunswick shifted beneath him, and he tightened his grip on the reins, all the while intently regarding the young stranger. Scott shook his head as he realized that, young as he was, the boy was still much too old to be Cal’s son. A nephew, or a younger brother, perhaps. Which meant the two bearded veterans were likely Cal Bowen’s brothers as well.
After Dan’s visit, Scott hadn’t been able to avoid wondering how many friends and relatives of the men who had died that night believed, as Cassidy had believed, that his own survival had come at the price of sixteen lives. But he had never, until now, considered that Dan would actually have written letters to that effect.
Scott had tried to write letters of his own after the War was over and he’d returned home to Boston. Thin, weak, sickly, his mind filled with ugly memories and heavily burdened with self doubt, he’d told himself that it was his responsibility to make contact with the families of his fellow prisoners who had not survived Libby, and particularly with the relatives of the soldiers who had died in the escape attempt. The stack of envelopes and stationary arrayed upon his writing desk had seemed like a mountain he was too weary to climb and he hadn’t been able to force himself to take the first step. But he had paid a dutiful call upon the parents of one man, Joseph Fox. Not a soldier Scott had known especially well, but a fellow Bostonian and a Harvard graduate.
Now for one brief moment he was back there, in a darkened drawing room in Boston, awkwardly balancing a saucer and teacup on his knee, talking to a somber-faced woman in black.
Mr. and Mrs. Fox had been polite, but distant, the conversation stilted and Scott had wondered why they had even allowed him to come. It was only when he was leaving that he had realized to what extent they resented him, hated him even, because he was alive and sitting on their sofa, sipping their tea and talking about their son, who lay in an unmarked grave in a prison cemetery. Upon his departure, as he’d once more offered his condolences for their loss, Mrs. Fox had lightly grasped his hand and regarded Scott coldly. “We all have to live with the consequences of our decisions, Lt. Lancer,” she’d said. That had been his first and last attempt to assuage his own guilt by communicating with the relatives of the fallen men.
The moment passed, the painful memory faded, and he was here astride his horse once more, looking down at the two bearded veterans. With a sinking feeling, Scott considered that, unlike the other families, the Bowen brothers would have double the reason to hate him, if they only knew it.
Ambrose Bowen had been giving the boy some detailed directions, telling him to do something with the horses. Scott had missed the instructions, but he was well aware of Ben’s penetrating look.
“He does favor Cal, don’t he, Lieutenant?”
Scott Lancer met that piercing gaze forthrightly. “Yes. He does.”
Almost before his brother had finished speaking, Johnny had his gun drawn and pointed at Ben Bowen. “You know, I’m thinkin’ we’d all feel a whole lot better if you’d just put that gun down, real slowly now. And all of you—- just keep your hands where I can see `em.”
“Hey, Amby. .. ” the kid said.
“Quiet now, Dan’l. You just do like the man says.”
Ben Bowen obediently set his carbine down on the ground at his feet, but it was Scott that he kept his gaze locked upon.
Johnny watched too, out of the corner of his eye, as, in one swift, fluid, motion, Scott dismounted, easing the reins over Brunswick’s head so that he could step in front of his horse with his own weapon drawn. The white faced chestnut nudged his brother’s shoulder, leaving a damp spot on the beige fabric, but Scott wasn’t distracted, he simply pulled the reins downward with his left hand while he kept the gun in his right trained on the man standing in front of him. When he spoke, he took in all three of the Bowen brothers.
“Now.. . I’m going to tell you what really happened. And you’re going to listen,” Scott said firmly.
“We already know,” Ben stated quietly. “Wouldn’t have come here otherwise.”
“That Lt. Cassidy, he wrote another letter and our Ma sent it on to us,” Ambrose explained. “In fact, we just got it a coupla weeks ago. Said he was writin’ to everyone, to tell the truth and let us all know how wrong he was about you.”
Johnny had to admit to himself that he was surprised; he sure wouldn’t have thought that Cassidy fella had it in him, to own up to the truth. Both of the bearded men must have realized that Scott had been expecting to have to defend himself, and were giving him knowing looks; behind them, Johnny noticed the younger brother was wiping his hands across his face and sitting down. To Johnny’s eyes, his own brother’s expression was one of a man who didn’t quite dare believe what he was hearing.
Scott slowly lowered his gun hand until the weapon was pointing at the ground. He bowed his head a bit too, thinking about what the man had just said. It hit Johnny that of course his brother must have wondered all this time how many other people had blamed him for what had happened, and how many others besides Cassidy’d believed he’d been a traitor. Something like that would have been a pretty heavy burden weighing on a man like Scott, a burden that was now finally lifted.
“‘Course, our Ma, she knew right along you couldn’t have been a betrayer, Lieutenant. She always said that the reason you weren’t killed was thanks to the power of prayer.”
Scott looked up at Ambrose, not making any attempt to hide his confusion at what the man had just said.
“See, Cal’d sent her a letter one time tellin’ all about how some fancy kid lieutenant from Boston saved his skin. Well, after that, Ma always added your name to the list of folks she was askin’ the Good Lord to keep watch over. So, according to her, that’s why you lived.”
A small smile flitted across Ben Bowen’s face while his brother told this story, but Scott’s expression remained solemn. “She could be right.”
There was a silence, during which no one said anything. Johnny knew what he was thinking, that there’d been others that woman must have prayed for, like her own dead son.
“Amby. . .”
Over near the fire pit, the kid stood up and then he said his older brother’s name again. “Amby . . .” This time there was something in the kid’s tone of voice that made both of his brothers turn and start towards him. Then, right before Johnny’s startled eyes, Daniel dropped, slumped to the ground as if he’d been shot or something.
“Fit,” Ben ground out and both of the Bowen brothers hurried over; Scott, holstering his weapon, followed not too far behind. No one touched the kid; instead, the three men circled the boy on the ground, almost like a human fence, giving him space to thrash around, but making sure he wouldn’t end up in the fire pit or on some rocks. The painful-looking convulsions probably lasted less than a minute. Then Daniel just lay there, staring unseeingly up at the tops of the trees and breathing hard, with his brothers crouched down on either side of him, telling him everything was all right. Scott took a bedroll off of the nearest packhorse and passed it to Ambrose, who tucked it under his younger brother’s head. Then Scott unrolled a second blanket that he handed to Ben, who placed it over the kid lying on the ground.
Johnny holstered his weapon and slid down off of Barranca, as Scott, having done what he could to help, started walking towards him. Looking past his brother, Johnny watched warily as Ben slowly stood up and turned towards them.
“Cal’s weren’t quite so bad,” Bowen said quietly, to Scott’s back. “But then you knew that, didn’t you, Lieutenant?”
Johnny watched with concern as Scott stopped in his tracks, staring at the ground for a moment before slowly turning back to face Ben, looking for all the world as if every ounce of that weight had fallen right back onto his shoulders.
“Yes, I knew. And . .. I’m sorry,” he said. “I . . I don’t know what more I can say.” Then he turned back around and, staring straight ahead, continued walking towards his horse.
Ben Bowen followed him, and Johnny slid his six-shooter out of the holster again. He wasn’t exactly sure what Scott had to be sorry about, but Johnny was ready if Bowen’s hand drifted anywhere near his own gun.
“Sorry for what—–that you didn’t report him? Thought you promised you wouldn’t.”
Ambrose rose now, stepping carefully over Daniel’s still form to stand beside his brother. “They’d have sent him back home for sure.”
Scott, looking angry now, pulled the reins back over Brunswick’s head before he answered. “And he’d still be alive.”
Ben Bowen folded his arms across his chest and considered that. “Most likely,” he conceded. “Now, Cal, he was real proud of being an officer, and in the cavalry. Real proud.” Unexpectedly, Ben grinned at his older brother. “You see, it kinda gave him something to lord over the two of us.”
Scott wasn’t looking at them, he seemed to be staring at a spot on his horse’s neck instead. Ambrose crossed the campsite. “We don’t hold that against you, Lieutenant, keeping Cal’s secret for him. We came here to shake your hand —- and talk about our brother.”
The one word was uttered bitterly, then Scott was silent. For a moment, Johnny thought that his brother could have been a thousand miles away. Then Scott seemed to come to a decision.
His face impassive, he turned and gestured towards Daniel. “When he’s ready to sit a horse, ride two miles due east. You’ll see an arch—our ranch house isn’t much beyond that. We’ll have baths for you, and beds for the night. And . . . after supper . . . we can talk.”
The Bowens nodded appreciatively. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“It’s not `Lieutenant’ any more.” Scott started to gather himself to mount Brunswick, but in mid motion he stopped. “Which regiment were you men with?”
“At Little Round Top?”
Shaking his head, Scott gestured towards the red Maltese Cross on Ben Bowen’s cap. “I should have recognized it.” S tepping back over to the men, he offered his hand to each in turn, stating his name and repeating, “It’s not `Lieutenant’ any more.”
The Bowen brothers stated their names as well. The introductions apparently over, Johnny holstered his gun for good and swung up into the saddle.
Scott cast a glance in his sibling’s direction, then faced the Bowens again. “This is my brother, Johnny Lancer. And I apologize for the . . . deception—–though I guess you weren’t really fooled.”
Ben smiled. “Well, him we knew on sight, based on how the folks in town described him.”
“Now you, we weren’t altogether sure about,” Ambrose assured Scott, looking to Ben for confirmation. “You did yourself proud with that Maine accent.”
“Sure did,” Ben agreed. “But Johnny here, well, even if they hadn’t told us how he dressed, we coulda guessed from the things he said about ya, —- he sounded just like a brother.”
Scott reached up to readjust his hat, setting it squarely on his head and shielding his eyes once more. Then he pulled his gloves from beneath his belt, slapping the leather against one palm before drawing them on. “I wouldn’t want to get my hands dirty,” he explained wryly.
Johnny watched warily as Scott mounted Brunswick, turned the horse and finally addressed him. “Well, I think I’ll `fly’ back to the ranch now, get things ready for our guests. . . . I’ll talk to you later, Johnny,” he added pointedly, then wheeled his mount and cantered off.
The Bowens chuckled, Ben throwing his arm over his older brother’s shoulder. “I’d sure like t’be a fly on the wall for that conversation, wouldn’t you, Amby?” Ambrose nodded his assent. With one last laugh in Johnny’s direction, the two men made their way back over to Daniel.
Figuring he might as well get their `talk’ over with, Johnny Lancer bowed his head and rode reluctantly off after his big brother.
Once he’d caught up with him, Johnny didn’t waste any time. “Guess I was wrong about those fellas,” he offered.
Scott reined up, and Johnny brought Barranca to a stop alongside him. “I appreciate you always being there for me, Brother. I mean that. Thank you.”
Johnny shifted uncomfortably. “Look, Scott, about. . . I made that up, about the men callin’ you a Butterfly.”
“You made that up? The *Boston* Butterfly? So,. .. .tell me, Johnny, what do they call me?”
“Nothin’ like that. Just Scott. `Mr. Lancer’ sometimes.”
“Hmm.” Scott pursed his lips and looked away. “That surprises me. After all, they do have some pretty . . . colorful. . .monikers for you.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“Oh, . . . I’d rather not say. Though you might ask . . . .Jelly.” Scott spurred Brunswick into motion once more. “After all, he did make most of them up,” he said over his shoulder.
Despite the burden of knowing that the upcoming conversation with the Bowens was going to be a difficult one, Scott still managed a grin when he heard Johnny’s exclamation of disbelief. He was confident that once back at the ranch, his brother would hasten to interrogate the grizzled horse wrangler and that an irritated Jelly would be more than up to the task of inventing nicknames for Johnny that would make “Butterfly” seem like a compliment.
Scott’s horse “Brunswick” is named in honor of Wayne Maunder’s birthplace, the province of New Brunswick in Canada. He was raised in Bangor, Maine.
Mr. Maunder himself dubbed his character “the Boston Butterfly” in a TV Guide interview following the cancellation of Lancer.
Scott Lancer spending a year in a Confederate prison camp, and being the leader and the sole survivor of a escape attempt is canon, from the episode entitled “The Escape”. Scott spending time in Maine and meeting General Chamberlain is strictly fanon.
The surnames of Scott’s fellow prisoners, Bowen and Fox, are taken from the list of soldiers given in Sherri’s 2003 story “Roll Call”, which can be found in the WM Birthday story folder on the Lancer Writers site. A big Thank you to Sherri for multiple readings and some very helpful suggestions.
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