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Skirmish by Sharon

Word count 500

“Lieutenant Lansah . . . so we meet ag’in.”

The words, uttered in a soft southern drawl, brought the upward motion of the beer mug to an abrupt halt. Gently placing the glass on the polished surface of the bar, Scott Lancer bowed his blonde head as he tried unsuccessfully to place that voice. Flicking his eyes to the right, he saw Johnny drain the last of his own beer, slap his mug down and then deliberately swipe his chin with his left hand.

How many times, Scott wondered, had they stood like this, side by side at the bar of a small town hotel, or, more often, in a dim saloon in some dusty little crossroads? How often had they come to attention at the sound of someone behind them grinding out a name, some variation of “Johnny Madrid”? Typically, it was simply a one-word growl: “Madrid.” Or, if the speaker was especially articulate, a lengthier address: “Well, if it ain’t John Madrid,” accompanied by chillingly mirthless laughter. How many times, he wondered, had they turned in tandem to face a figure from his brother’s notorious past?

Now, for the first time, it was the long arm of Scott’s own past stretching forward to tap him on the shoulder. Being saluted by a Southerner as “Lieutenant Lancer” was in itself unsettling; it also raised the question of which incarnation of that Union officer had been recognized—- the idealistically determined soldier, all youthful spit and polish or the wearily pragmatic prisoner, clad in the dirty remnants of a once proud uniform. Clearly displeased by the lack of response, the interlocutor spoke again, stating Scott’s former rank a bit more insistently this time.

With a sigh, he reluctantly pushed himself away from the bar. Johnny shot him a questioning glance, but Scott had no new intelligence to offer. Slowly, the brothers rotated towards each other as they turned to confront the newcomer. Johnny’s posture was relaxed, although the former gunfighter’s right hand dropped reflexively towards his weapon as he eased forward.

“Scott Lansah.” The name was caressed by a voice accented with magnolia, accompanied by the sunniest of smiles. Now taking command of the situation, a confident Scott Lancer swiftly advanced to seize the pretty young woman’s hands in his own. “Miss Colefax! What are you doing in California?” He smiled disarmingly down at her. “ . . .. Hello.”

“Hullo?!—-Now that cain’t be awl you have ta say, suh!” the petite brunette fired back at him, one small hand escaping to reach up around Scott’s neck, drawing him nearer.

Retreating, Johnny Madrid Lancer watched in amusement as his startled older brother surrendered to the enticing stranger’s embrace. Recovering quickly, Scott straightened and then gently tilted Miss Colefax’ chin upwards with one hand before closing in to capture her pouting lips. Johnny shook his head and resumed his stance at the bar, grinning broadly as he took charge of the mug of beer so utterly deserted by “Lieutenant Lancer”.




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