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WHI for The High Riders by Sharon

WordCount 15,920

An episode tag for The High Riders
One of the things that we love about the pilot episode is the concept of the two Lancer brothers being entirely unaware of each other until they arrive on the same stage . Quite a coincidence!!  And very plausible right?? 

Seated on the uncomfortably rumbling stage, Scott Lancer looked out the window to see a sign that read “Morro Coyo 10 Miles”. This was the town closest to his father’s ranch. He had wired ahead, to let Murdoch Lancer know the day of his expected arrival, but since he was actually early, Scott knew that there wouldn’t be anyone be waiting to greet him at the stage depot. After several weeks of mostly bad connections and time-consuming delays, Scott had expected to arrive a day later; once he had realized that he was actually ahead of schedule, the young man had opted not to correct the information with another wire. Scott had decided that it might be interesting to look around the town, and ask a few questions about Murdoch Lancer, before proceeding to the ranch.

Slowly, and rather stiffly, easing his lean, well-dressed body out of the stage, Scott turned to assist the middle-aged woman who had been one of his fellow passengers for the last stretch of the journey. She had identified herself as “Mrs. Anderson”, and had said that she had been visiting with her sister in Stockton. She had been more than willing to answer Scott’s questions about the surrounding countryside, but he had hesitated to reveal his real name–identifying himself as “Scott Garrett”– or his true reason for traveling in the area. Not that Mrs. Anderson hadn’t seemed pleasant enough, but early in his westward journey he had learned how awkward it could be to respond the questions that fellow travelers would inevitably ask once they had learned of his “situation”: an adult en route to meet his father for the very first time. Seeing that Mr. Anderson was there waiting to greet her, the woman wished Scott “good bye” and “good luck“, after first pointing out the saloon which she had previously told him also rented rooms for the night. She had assured the Easterner that despite its appearance, this was the best that Morro Coyo had to offer, and had urged him to stay away from the northern end of town.

The other passengers–an older couple, the Hughes’ and a Jesuit priest, Brother Tomas, quickly departed the area, leaving Scott alone. Having accepted the valises being lifted down to him by the stage driver, he stood in the dusty street and surveyed the “town”–he could see most of it from his current vantage point, and was not especially eager to spend the night there. His initial impression was that Morro Coyo was even less developed than the last several stagecoach stops. Scott decided that it was still early enough in the day to hire a cart to carry his bags out to the Lancer ranch and alert his father to his impending arrival. He estimated that he could devote an hour or so to investigating the town, such as it was, talk to a few of the inhabitants and still have ample time to ride out to the ranch before sunset. After several weeks of traveling across the country on sooty trains and in dusty coaches, the prospect of riding a horse in the open air was very appealing.

Scott carried his heavy cases to the wooden sidewalk in front of the establishment labeled “Saloon”, set them down and then went inside. He paused just beyond the swinging doors to allow his eyes to adjust to the interior, which was very dim in comparison to the bright sunshine in the dusty street. There was a man behind the bar, who nodded at him, and a few scattered tables, each with several chairs around it. Although it was the middle of the afternoon, there were a few men seated alone at different tables, each nursing a mug of beer. One grizzled older man, sitting near by, looked up disinterestedly at Scott and then went back to his beer. The other patron was a younger, dark haired man, seated at the farthest table, with his back to the wall, watching the door.

Scott tucked his hat under his arm and began removing his gloves as he approached the bar, responding to the barman‘s “Howdy“ with his own “Hello.”

Johnny Madrid watched with some curiosity as the stranger entered. From what he could tell, Morro Coyo didn’t draw many travelers, especially not all dressed up like this blonde gringo. The “dude” looked like a city fella, maybe even from somewhere back East, judging from the suit he was wearing. Johnny grinned to himself and shook his head–he’d only been in Morro Coyo for a few weeks himself, and he never would have expected to end up here.

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Almost exactly three weeks earlier, Johnny Madrid had been kneeling on the ground waiting to face a Mexican firing squad. One of his comrades had just been executed, and Johnny had been next—it had really been that close. He’d actually murmured one of the few Spanish prayers that he still remembered learning as a child. The night before, he’d been thinking of some of the stories he’d heard, about guardian angels, visits from the saints, tales of miracles, but he’d known in his heart that those were just stories the padres told small boys, and had no bearing on the life of a gunhawk like himself. Well, what had he expected??? He‘d tried to do something good–help out some people who really needed it, even after he‘d learned that they had no money–and look where it had gotten him. Never again, he‘d thought to himself, then remembered with grim finality that it didn‘t really matter . . .

But the next morning, the morning that was scheduled to be his last one on this earth, a miracle had taken place. His savior had turned out to be a small round man dressed in city clothes who had arrived not on angel wings but in a rattling buckboard wagon drawn by a team of strong horses. The Anglo drove up, loudly yelling “Stop” in badly accented Spanish, and the rurales had paused, waited to see what the stranger wanted. And what he had wanted was him–he had asked for “Senor Madrid”. In a halting mixture of Spanish and English, the “angel” had promised the officers money–“mucho dinero” for the life of “el Senor Madrid”. His hands untied, Johnny had climbed into the wagon and watched as the money changed hands.

The stranger smiled at Johnny as he clambered up onto the buckboard seat, saying that he had: “Finally found you . . “Johnny noted that the officers had started talking amongst themselves in Spanish, then his ears had pricked up as he realized that they were avidly discussing the rest of the cash that they had glimpsed in the man’s wallet. Johnny swiftly pulled his new friend up into the buckboard, reaching across the stranger’s slightly rotund body and removing his gun from the holster. “Drive!” Johnny yelled and his rescuer obediently whipped the team into motion. The startled Mexican officers began to put their weapons to use and Johnny reached over the back of the buckboard seat to return their fire, very effectively dispatching four of the six.

The other two paused to assist their fallen comrades, or perhaps they simply thought better of the idea of abandoning them, as well as the remaining prisoners, in order to pursue the rapidly departing wagon. As Johnny turned to face forward, his companion slumped towards him, the reins falling from his grasp. Realizing that the man had been hit, Johnny took up the reins with one hand and supported his wounded friend with the other, even though this required him to lay down the pistol for the moment. It appeared that his savior had been shot in the upper chest or shoulder, but there was no time to stop and investigate. The first priority was to put as much distance between themselves and the angry Mexican officers as possible.

Two weeks later, as he sat alone in this Morro Coyo saloon, Johnny wondered about that man, the Pinkerton agent–hoped that he had pulled through okay. Once they had traveled a suitable distance, with no pursuit in sight, Johnny had reined in the team and investigated the stranger’s wound. The gunfighter had seen much worse, but his companion had been in considerable pain, drifting in and out of consciousness. And he hadn’t been saying much that made sense, even when he was awake. Rifling through his pockets netted Johnny nothing of interest, but the man’s billfold contained a significant amount of money and a handful of cards identifying him as Randolph Thomas, an employee of the Pinkerton Agency. Johnny had tried to ask him why he’d been searching for Johnny Madrid, and who had hired him, but Thomas’ “responses” to those questions had been seemingly random thoughts that had made no sense at all. Johnny had borrowed a few small bills from the wallet–he needed to purchase some clothes to replace those he was wearing since they so clearly identified him as a prisoner–but he left the rest of the money untouched.

He’d located a sawbones in the next town, and left Thomas and his fat wallet in the doctor’s care. After buying a simple shirt and pair of pants, Johnny had driven the buckboard northward through the night. Eventually he’d arrived in a place where he had a female acquaintance, a young woman who had previously been willing to allow him to stash a change of clothes, and, most importantly, a spare gun and ammunition in her room. Although he had held onto the agent’s weapon, it had been with a sigh of relief that he strapped on his own gun belt and once again felt the familiar weight resting on his hip. He’d spent a few days in the town, enjoying his lady friend’s company and conversing with some other inhabitants. From one older man, a fellow gunhawk, he had heard about Day Pardee’s activities up north; Day and his boys had quite a “business” going it seemed–they were “Land Pirates” running a few wealthy ranchers off of their spreads. It had sounded as if there could be some very big money in it, and north seemed a good direction in which to travel after his recent experiences south of the border. Johnny had quickly decided to seek out his old friend. He’d managed to trade the team and buckboard for a pretty suitable saddle horse and gear and then had set out.

He’d arrived in town two weeks ago and Day Pardee had been pleased to see him; he could always use another good gun. Coley and some of Pardee’s other old hands had been less enthused to learn that someone of Johnny Madrid’s stature was joining up with them, since they anticipated–correctly–that Johnny would expect a sizeable cut of any profits that he helped them to acquire.

The promise of a percentage of the profits had paled in significance to the unexpected bonus: learning that one of the ranches targeted belonged to Murdoch Lancer. When the name had been mentioned, Johnny hadn’t let on that it meant anything at all to him. But of course he’d immediately identified the man as his ‘father’–the cold-hearted gringo who had tossed out his wife and child twenty years before. 

On her own, with a young child to care for, his mother had had a very difficult life. And a short one–Johnny had been on his own every since she’d died. Over the years, he had considered that he maybe ought to look Murdoch Lancer up and even the score. Johnny certainly believed that he had plenty of reason for calling Lancer out.

That was what a gunfighter did . . . you didn’t ever shoot a man down in cold blood, however much he might deserve it. You called him out, gave him a chance to defend himself, if he could. Better yet, you worked it so that he had no choice but to call you out. Once you were standing there, facing each other, if you were good and if you were fast–and Johnny Madrid was both–well, then you allowed your opponent to make the first move. Once he made that slight motion that told you he was going for his gun, then you drew on him, and finished him. And the law couldn’t touch you, it was self-defense.

If it was business, you collected your pay for doing the job. If it was personal, you collected your satisfaction. Still, it would be a hard thing, meeting your old man for the first time and then drawing down on him, no matter what it was he had done. But this would be better; a more fitting punishment, actually. Take away his ranch, turn Murdoch Lancer out, leave him penniless, homeless, with nowhere to go and no one to turn to for help. And make damn sure he knew exactly who had been in on it when the time came.

According to Day, of all the ranchers in the area, it had been Lancer, right from the start, who had put up the most resistance. No surprise the old man was tough; he’d have to be, to do what he’d done. Day had asked Johnny point blank exactly what sum he’d be expecting for his share but Johnny had held off on telling him that it was satisfaction more than the money that he wanted this time . . . 

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Now Johnny watched idly as the tall stranger with the short blond hair walked across the room. He was carrying an Eastern style hat, wearing a fancy tie, had a shirt with ruffled cuffs showing underneath his jacket. His suit was made of a material that looked like it was too heavy for the temperatures here out West. It was a habit, born of necessity, noticing such details about a person. You started with appearances, then moved on to behaviors. The newcomer walked with a long stride and a confident air about him. When he’d entered the saloon, the man had barely glanced around, just looked over at Gus and headed directly towards the bar. Johnny had a hard time understanding that sometimes, why people weren’t more careful, more observant. As he contemplated the beer remaining in the bottom of his mug, he considered that maybe you could just go through life being that unaware if you knew that there wasn’t anyone gunning for you . . .not that Johnny Madrid was likely to ever find out what that felt like.

It was quiet here; it was the bars at the other end of town that drew most of the activity. This place lacked entertainment–no piano player, no saloon girls, and no owner either, as far as Johnny had seen. Just Gus, and his boy, Tommy, who helped out in the back. Gus pretty much ran the saloon for the man that actually owned the place. Glad to have something to do, Gus asked the stranger what he could get for him, and the blond man replied “Nothing, thank you— it’s information that I’d like actually. I understand that the Lancer ranch is near here.”

Johnny’s ears pricked up at that. What did this Easterner, who looked to be a city boy, what did he want with Lancer???

Gus had to be wondering the same thing. “Yeah,” he said slowly, “It’s not far from here. Ain’t too hard ta find.”

“I’m glad to hear that,“ was the stranger’s reply. “Now perhaps you might tell me where I might hire a horse?”

Johnny snorted softly at that. “You ride?” he asked in a voice that was just barely loud enough to be heard by the men at the bar.

Surprised by the derisive question, Scott Lancer partially turned towards that voice. As he glanced over his shoulder at the speaker, he noted that it was the dark-haired man in the corner– who was now looking back at him with a rather mocking expression. Scott eyed the young man coolly, before deciding not to respond. Facing the bartender once more, he continued, “I have some luggage outside. If someone could transport those cases to out the ranch, then the people there will know that I’ve arrived. I’ll ride out a bit later.” Johnny grinned to himself, picturing the dude on horseback, then finished off his beer.

Instead of responding specifically to the Easterner’s comments, Gus looked towards the rear of the building and called for his son: “Tommy!”A young boy of about ten ran through the door, saying “Yes, Pa!” The youngster had brown curly hair and a freckled face. He listened attentively as his father gave him his instructions. “Tommy, I want you to run down to the livery, tell ‘em there’s a gentleman here wants ta hire a wagon –has some things to go out to the Lancer ranch, right away. Tell Owen he’ll be wanting a saddle horse later on too.”

Gus addressed the stranger–”The boy‘ll be needin’ ta give the stableman a name.” The blonde man paused momentarily, the hesitation long enough to draw Johnny‘s complete attention. He watched intently as the stranger glanced briefly down at the floor before he looked up at Gus and quietly introduced himself. “It’s Lancer. Scott Lancer.”

Gus was somewhat startled to hear that name, and it showed. Johnny Madrid quickly rose from his seat, and then with a studied casualness, sauntered over towards the bar, nodding to Gus to indicate that he shouldn’t feel the need to say anything more to the newcomer. Lancer placed his hat and gloves on the bar, then slipped a leather wallet out of his jacket and extracted a few bills, which he handed to Tommy. “Please give this to the livery man, and let him know that I’ll take care of the difference, if it’s not enough.“ 

“Should be more than enough,” said Gus, noting the denominations of the two bills. Lancer didn’t seem too concerned about that, as he returned his billfold to the inside pocket of his jacket. He smiled down at Tommy, who stood there wide-eyed at being entrusted with such a sum. “Perhaps you’d better put that in your pocket,” Lancer suggested mildly. Tommy quickly stuffed the money into the front pocket of his dusty brown pants. “And I’ll have something for you, Tommy, when you come back and let me know that those two suitcases are on their way.” Tommy nodded his head, said “Yessir, Mr. Lancer!” and ran out the door.

Gus eyed Johnny warily as the gunfighter stepped up to the bar: “How ‘bout a bottle, Gus, and two glasses. I figure I can handle giving our friend here directions out to the Lancer place.” Gus turned to comply and Johnny faced Scott Lancer’s inquiring gaze. “So where ya from?“ he asked, in a conversational tone.

“Boston. . . have you heard of it?”

Johnny collected the bottle and the glasses that Gus had set on the counter. He tilted his head at the question, then said softly, “Yeah.I heard of Boston.”

The blonde man emitted a small sigh and then regarded him with a serious expression. “No offense intended. It’s just that not everyone out here has . . .”

“Well, I ain’t sayin’ I know where it is.”

Lancer gathered up his gloves and hat and smiled at the comment. “Well,. .let‘s just say that it’s about as far East as you can go,” he said lightly. 

“Yeah, I figured you was from back East . .. . so do ya drink?”

Lancer hesitated. When his answer came, the tone was pleasant enough, but the words were reserved: “When I know the man I’m drinking with.” 

Even without looking at the bartender, Johnny could feel Gus watching him intently. By now, everyone else in Morro Coyo knew who Johnny was. “Name’s Madrid. Johnny Madrid.”

Lancer nodded. “Madrid, “ he said, repeating the name in acknowledgement, but clearly unaware that he was in the presence of a well-known gunslinger. “I’m Scott Lancer.”

“I heard,” was Johnny’s response as he turned and headed back to his corner table. Listening for footsteps, he could tell that the Easterner paused for a moment before finally deciding to follow him. Scott studied Madrid as he walked towards his corner table. From what Scott had observed during the past week, the man’s attire was somewhat unusual: the dark pants had a line of silver buttons down the side of each leg, and his embroidered shirt was a very bright rose color. Madrid’s hat hung down his back and his gun was slung very low on his right hip. He seemed to have a very confident air about him, extending even to his complete certainty that Scott would simply follow him. Which he did.

Once Johnny Madrid had resettled himself in his corner chair, facing the door, with Scott Lancer seated opposite, he opened the bottle and filled one of the glasses. Only then did he initiate a conversation. “Murdoch Lancer’s got a pretty big spread,” he observed. “I hear it’s over one hundred thousand acres. “When Scott Lancer failed to comment, Johnny finally posed a direct question: “So what’s he like?” he asked, as he slid the glass over to Scott.

“I’ve never met him,” Scott Lancer replied, and watched carefully for Johnny‘s reaction. Then Scott leaned forward and picked up the filled glass nearest to him, nodding at Johnny as he did so. Johnny covered his surprise by concentrating on filling his own glass, then set the bottle down on the table. “Figured you was related.”

Lancer took a drink, then stared at the glass in his hand. “Oh, but we are,” he said, looking away from Johnny, with a slight smile playing about his lips. Johnny noticed that the man had an unusual manner of speaking; there was something about the emphasis that he placed upon certain words, the rhythm of his speech, which was just a bit different. Then the Easterner looked directly at Johnny, and with a completely neutral expression, he announced: “He’s my father.”

Johnny knew that he hadn’t been able to mask the fact that he had been purely startled by this piece of information, so he simply voiced his disbelief. “That right?” he asked in a surprised tone, then tossed back his drink. “So how many kids has the old man got?”

Lancer gestured with his glass; “Now that’s a very good question. Perhaps you might tell me.”

“Why would I know?” Madrid asked with an edge to his voice. The Bostonian raised his eyebrows at the tone, but replied in a mild voice: “I only assumed that since you are from around here, that you might know something about him.”

Johnny sniffed at that. “Nope. Only been here a coupla weeks myself.”

Scott sighed again and contemplated the liquor remaining in his glass, as he reconsidered his situation. Now that he was finally about to have the long awaited first meeting with Murdoch Lancer, he was once more confronted with how very little he actually knew about the man. Here he’d been reduced to asking a total stranger for information about his father.

Scott knew that a grey haired older man was still seated at a table somewhere behind him; for all that he knew, that man could actually be Murdoch Lancer. And if his father did in fact have a wife and other children, of course Scott would never recognize them either; it was actually a bit unsettling to think that he could walk past them en route to the stable, ride by them on his way to the ranch, without ever realizing it. Scott finished his drink, set the glass on the table and looked across at his companion. Somehow the Bostonian had the feeling that the man’s interest was more than just a casual one, although he couldn’t imagine what the basis for that interest might be. Johnny Madrid just didn’t seem to be the type to simply wish to be welcoming to a newcomer and pass some time in friendly conversation.

On his side, Johnny eyed the Easterner appraisingly; figuring him to be two or three years older than himself. He watched as Lancer slowly lifted up his legs and placed his feet on the seat of the chair that was positioned to his left. The blonde haired man leaned back, looking, in Johnny’s opinion, much more relaxed than anybody had a right to look dressed up in those clothes he was wearing. Scott reached for the bottle and refilled his glass. 

<<Murdoch Lancer’s kid?>> Johnny thought. <<Mama never said a thing ‘bout the old man having another son.>>“ So you ain’t never met him?” he asked aloud.

“He contacted me for the first time, about a month ago,” Scott replied, and then shook his head slightly, asking himself why he was sharing so much of his story with this stranger. During his trip across the country Scott had become quite guarded in discussing the reasons for the journey, having found that even the briefest version of the truth led to multiple questions from incredulous listeners.

“So now ya just gonna ride on out to his ranch?” 

Hearing the emphasis on the word “ride”, Scott smiled. “I think I can manage. “Then he offered an explanation: “In answer to your question earlier, I served in a cavalry unit during the War.”

“Horse soldier, huh?” <<Officer, most likely. >> “Well, that sure explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“Why he sent for ya.” 

The blonde man waited silently. Although his expression was carefully guarded, Johnny could feel how much he wanted to hear more. Lancer didn’t look up at him, though, he just stared at the rim of the glass he was holding with the fingertips of his right hand and slowly rotated it.

“If you can ride and handle a gun, he can use ya. He’s got some trouble. Some men trying to run him off of his land.”

The head snapped up at that. “Who?”

“Gunfighter, name of Pardee. Day Pardee. He’s got about nineteen,” Johnny grinned, and corrected himself. “Well, make that twenty, guns. They’ve taken over quite a few places round here. I guess Lancer’s puttin’ up one hell of a fight though.”

“What about the law?”

Madrid’s grin widened at that question. “Ain’t any”, he said with finality. “Just pack law. And Day’s the Big Dog.”

Lancer considered this information. When he failed to comment, Madrid added: “I was you, I’d go meet the old man, then head back home. You’d be real smart ta stay outta it.”

In one fluid motion, the Easterner lowered his legs to the floor and stood. “Well, thank you for the advice . . . and for the drink,“ he said. “Perhaps we’ll meet again, Mr. Madrid.” And then Scott Lancer extended his right hand. Johnny hesitated. Maybe a handshake wasn’t a big deal back East, but in Johnny’s world, you gave a man your hand, it meant something. And he knew that he and Scott Lancer might very well find themselves on opposite sides of this fight.

Scott Lancer was surprised to note that the dark haired man was staring at his hand without making a move to accept it. Just as he was about to withdraw the proffered handshake, Scott heard a drawling voice behind him. “Hey, Johnny Madrid. Who’s your fancy friend?” Scott turned to look at the newcomer, a man with a mustache, wearing a hat with a fairly low crown. Like Madrid, the speaker wore a gun belt, slung low on his hip.

Johnny rose to his feet. “Day, this here’s Scott Lancer, ol’Murdoch’s son.” Scott looked across at Johnny as soon as he heard the name “Day”. When he returned his gaze to the man standing at his left, he found himself facing the muzzle of Pardee’s gun. 

Johnny completed the introductions in the same friendly tone. “Scott, this here’s Day Pardee. I believe you’ve heard of ‘im.” Johnny grinned reassuringly over at Gus, who was watching from behind the bar.

Gus was wearing a concerned expression that became significantly more worried when Tommy dashed in the door and ran over to Scott. “Mr. Lancer! They jist now went an’ took your bags and Owen down at the stable . . . .“ the boy stopped in his tracks, open mouthed when he recognized Day Pardee and realized that the man had a gun trained on Mr. Lancer.

Scott Lancer smiled calmly down at the boy. “Thank you, Tommy. I see you recognize Mr. Pardee.. . . We were talking about guns and he’s showing me his.” Assuming a serious expression, he crouched down to the boy’s level and asked, ”Now what were you going to tell me about Owen?”

Tommy was still looking uncertainly from the man with the gun to Mr. Lancer and back. But Mr. Madrid was standing there too, and he was nodding and giving Tommy his usual friendly grin, so the boy decided that maybe everything was all right after all. “Just that he’s saddling’ up a real fine horse for ya.”

“And I have something for you,” Lancer replied, standing up to his full height once more and –very slowly, for Day’s benefit–reaching into his pocket and pulling out a coin. From Johnny’s vantage point, it looked to be a silver dollar and Tommy’s eyes got about as big when he took it. “Gee! Thanks, Mr. Lancer!” “You’re welcome Tommy,” was the serious reply. “Now perhaps you might run on back to the stable and tell. . Owen . . that I may be delayed. But. .“ and now the Bostonian looked directly at Day Pardee— “I do still intend to use that horse.” 

The boy nodded his head. “I will!”. Then, “Is everything really okay?” Tommy asked, looking directly at Johnny. Scott Lancer started to answer, but Johnny cut him off. “It’s gonna be fine, Tommy. Don’t you worry. You just go along now.” Scott nodded in agreement and, to Gus’ visible relief, Tommy scampered back out the door.

“Whaddya say we go somewhere private and have us a little talk?” Pardee gestured with his gun, and Johnny was pleased to see that Lancer didn’t seem to have any ideas about arguing, he just picked up his hat and gloves and put them on as he calmly headed for the door. <<So he ain’t stupid. Took good care of the kid, too. >> Johnny thought approvingly.

“Left,” ordered Pardee as Scott reached the doorway. “And keep walkin’”

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When the threesome entered the establishment that Pardee and his “boys” had essentially claimed as their own, several of the “land pirates” were there seated at the haphazardly arranged tables. Each man was immediately curious about the well-dressed stranger entering in front of Day, but knew better than to ask questions of their leader when he had business to do–serious business, as indicated by the drawn weapon in his hand. Pardee signaled to Coley and the stocky, bearded man fell into line behind the other three as they proceeded towards an empty room at the rear of the building. Pardee gestured for Scott to continue through that doorway alone, while he paused to speak briefly with Coley and Johnny Madrid.

When he had first entered the building, Scott Lancer had, through force of habit, removed his hat, tucked it under his arm and taken off his gloves. Now, momentarily alone in a small stock room, he surveyed the interior as he set the hat and gloves down on a dusty table. Next he removed his jacket. The Easterner had been feeling uncomfortably warm in the medium weight material, and although uncertain of what might come next, he considered that it was quite likely that he might prefer to have more freedom of movement than his suit jacket allowed. When the three men finally entered, Scott looked expectantly at Pardee, who still had his weapon drawn. “Tie ‘im up, Johnny,“ Day ordered and Scott noticed that Coley quickly handed the younger man a length of rope.

As Johnny accepted the cord, he wondered whether or not Lancer would put up some resistance, but the taller man merely glanced briefly in his direction, then refocused his attention upon Pardee and the drawn gun. As Johnny approached their prisoner, he noticed that Lancer brought his hands up in front of him, right wrist crossed over left, holding them in loose fists. Johnny’s eyes narrowed in recognition of what seemed to be an incongruously reflexive movement from the Bostonian. Then, when he began to loop the rope around the blonde man’s wrists, Johnny saw the scar on the inside of the right one and knew that at some point in time, cords had bitten deeply into the flesh there. The scar was an old one; it was hard to tell how old, and it hadn’t healed particularly well. Johnny also noticed that the captive was trying to hold his hands so that there would be a bit of space left between them. With a grin, he pulled the rope tight, bringing the man’s wrists close together, and watched with grim satisfaction as the flicker of pain and annoyance flashed across Scott Lancer’s face. 

“Have a seat,” Day growled, once Johnny had finished tightening the last knot.

Lancer merely stood there, looking at him impassively, but made no move to comply.

“I said, sit down”, Day repeated, more harshly this time. “I prefer to stand,” Scott responded in a soft voice. He had barely finished the sentence when a lightening quick punch from Day’s left fist caught him full in the stomach, doubling him over far enough to knock him to his knees. Scott landed hard on the floor, catching himself with his bound hands. As he struggled to get his breath back, he felt Coley and Johnny, no doubt responding to some unseen signal from Pardee, each grab one of his arms and lift him backwards into a chair. Coley remained standing behind Scott, while Madrid moved off to the left.

Johnny made sure to stand where he would have a good view of both Pardee and his prisoner—-Lancer seemed like he was gonna make this interesting, after all.

Day holstered his gun, and stared at Scott who was looking right back at him. “So Murdoch Lancer is your old man,“ he said, almost as if he was thinking aloud. “What are ya doing here? When’d he send for ya?”

Scott didn’t respond. He was leaning forward a bit, instead of sitting up straight, resting his arms on his thighs, probably trying to ease the pain in his midsection. He looked right at Day, who from his expression was clearly growing impatient, but still the blond man said nothing. His breathing was about back to normal. <<Oh yeah, >> Johnny thought , <<Seems like this is gonna be interesting>>.

Day spoke very quietly, but menacingly. “Mebbe you didn’t hear me. I asked ya a question. And I ain‘t really a patient man.” Johnny knew that that was the truth. And that there was no way that Day was going to allow this to go on in front of an audience. Coley was already smiling in anticipation of what might happen next, possibly assuming that he would even be called upon to “encourage” Lancer to start talking.

Day used his right hand this time, and cracked Scott Lancer across the face, whipping his head around. There was no sound from the Easterner except for a sharp intake of breath. Now he sat with his eyes closed and his head bowed.

Johnny crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall. “Now this is kinda stupid.” Day and Coley both looked sharply at Johnny, then realized that he was addressing their captive. “He ain’t asked ya anything ya ain’t already told me.”

Lancer raised his head up at that, though he was staring at the right corner of the room, not looking at either Johnny Madrid or Day Pardee. Johnny could see that the man was gonna have a pretty good bruise, and his lip was bleeding a little. “Then you answer him,” Scott said tightly.

Johnny pushed himself off of the wall and proceeded to do just that. “Lancer sent for ‘im a few weeks back. Told me he was raised back East. He’s here to see his old man.. . .Says he never met ‘im.”

While Scott Lancer continued to direct his gaze towards that right corner of the room, the other two men registered surprise at this information. “That‘s probably all there is to it,” Johnny told Day. “I mean, look at im.” As both Day and Coley intently regarded Scott‘s impassive profile, Johnny continued. “I figure if Lancer’s lookin’ for help, he ain’t gonna get it from ol’Scott here. Ain’t gonna be much a city fella can do for ‘im. Probably can’t even ride a horse or fire a gun,” he added in a disparaging tone. Johnny was impressed to see that Scott Lancer didn’t visibly react to anything he was hearing.

“So now, what do you think we oughta do with him, John?” Day asked, folding his own arms against his chest and continuing to stare at Scott.

“Way I figure it, Lancer might wantta see ‘im, but he ain’t likely ta give up anythin’ much for someone he ain’t never bothered with before.” 

“Hell,” Day said with a grin, “maybe his son here’ll get mad enough ta take care of the old man for us.”

Johnny laughed at that suggestion, then, serious once more, he offered one of his own: “Day, you been wantin’ ta get a message to ol’ Murdoch. Seems like his boy ‘Boston’ here might be capable of deliverin’ one.“

“Yeah,” Day nodded in agreement, and walked around to place himself in Lancer’s line of vision. “So when you have your little reunion, you just be sure to tell your daddy that we’re getting tired of waitin’. One of these days–real soon— it’s gonna be blood. Those vaqueros of his’re gonna be the next targets. Ya got that?” The only acknowledgement that Pardee received was Lancer flicking his gaze over to meet Day’s eyes. Evidently that was enough, as Pardee turned to leave the room, motioning for Coley to follow him. To Johnny, he said, “Yeah, he sure don’t look like much ta worry about, John. Send him packin’.”

As the other two men exited the room, Johnny sauntered over to Scott with his knife drawn. As he severed the cords binding the man’s wrists, he informed him that “The livery’s back down the other end of the street. You’d better get that horse and ride on out of here.” Scott made no response as he arose from his seat, slowly rubbing his wrists. With deliberate motions, he put his jacket back on and then picked up his hat and gloves, all the while holding Madrid in a cool regard. Johnny escorted Lancer back through the main room, past Pardee and his boys, several of whom had a few comments to make about the fancy attire of “Madrid’s new friend.”

Outside on the boardwalk, Lancer placed his hat on his head, then turned to study Madrid. His lips were pressed tightly together but his unasked question still hung in the air between them. While he pulled on his gloves, Scott continued to regard Madrid speculatively. Finally, Johnny shrugged. “Ya come this far, seems like ya oughta get ta meet the man.” Scott nodded silently at that and turned to leave. He’d only gone a few paces before Johnny spoke again. “Hey Boston . . .” The Easterner paused, but didn’t turn back. “Tell your old man that Johnny Madrid sends his regards.” At those words, the blond man’s head snapped around, but again it was only the light blue eyes that asked the question. The gunfighter’s own blue eyes blazed with an intensity that was not evident in the studied casualness of his words and his tone. “Not sure if he knows the name . . . But you just tell him.”

Lancer nodded curtly and then continued walking down the dusty, deserted street.

Johnny leaned against a post and watched, nodding to himself when he saw the man turn into one of the shops. The gunsmith. Johnny glanced back over his shoulder, but the boys inside were busy with their beer and boisterous conversation; Day was laughing loudly and saying something about “Murdoch Lancer’s long lost son.” Noticing a straight-backed chair on the boardwalk near the door, Johnny strolled over to it and sat himself down, tilting back on the rear legs and leaning against the building. Watching and waiting. Reviewing in his head what little he knew about Murdoch Lancer; the things that his mama had said about his “gringo” father. 

When Scott Lancer emerged from the gunsmith shop, he was empty handed. He looked down the street, both right and left, his glance in the leftward direction lasting just long enough to let Johnny know that he’d been spotted, perched there on his straight backed chair. There was no other sign of recognition. As the Easterner turned to continue on down the street, Johnny could tell, from the movement of the man’s jacket, that he was now wearing a weapon. Lancer still didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry though; in fact, he headed across the street to another store, Baldemerro’s. Johnny tried to remember; he thought that the Mexican merchant sold mostly . .. Clothing? Seemed like his “brother” was out to do some more shopping . . .

There it was–his “ brother ”. If Scott Lancer was really Murdoch Lancer’s son, then the two of them were brothers. Or half brothers, anyway. The word had been skimming around the edges of Johnny’s thoughts, though he’d pretty much fended it off til now. But he figured that that had to be why he‘d encouraged Pardee to let Scott go, why he’d kept quiet about the man being a former cavalry officer. Not that one more gun was going to do Murdoch Lancer much good. And who knew if the city boy had actually seen much fighting, anyway? Johnny figured that there was no need to lose any sleep over holding that piece of information back from Day, seeing as he‘d already withheld something even more significant: his own relationship to Murdoch Lancer. <<But Mama, >> he thought again , << she never once said anything about ‘im havin’ any other kids . . .>> If Johnny’s assumption was correct, that Scott must be a few years older, then Johnny’s mother should’ve known about him—even if he was living back East.

Well, aside from sharing that old man’s blood, the two of them didn’t seem to have anything else in common. There sure wasn’t any family resemblance. Folks had always told Johnny that he favored his mama; he wondered now whether Scott Lancer took after his own mother or if ol’ Murdoch would turn out to be an older version of this young blonde gringo. As he reviewed the things that Scott Lancer had said and done, Johnny decided that he might have to amend his assessment. Perhaps, based on his brief observation, he and his “brother” did have a few things in common. The city “dude” clearly wasn’t one to show fear. And he was also evidently a rather stubborn man. Growing up, Johnny’d been called “el mulo terco” often enough, and he still wasn’t one for ever givin’ in. And, of course, another thing that Murdoch Lancer’s sons had in common was that neither one of them had ever laid eyes on their father. Well, Johnny sure hoped that Scott appreciated the chance to face the old man, cause it weren’t likely he’d have time enough to get too attached. If “Boston” was smart, he’d head back East pretty quick. But as he watched the blonde man exit the clothier, package in hand, and head, finally, in the direction of the livery, Johnny had a feeling that this new found brother of his just might not be all that smart.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

His preparations completed, Scott Lancer was finally under way, riding in what he had been assured was the direction of the Lancer ranch. The horse upon which he was seated was an acceptable mount, although he had noted at least one superior looking animal in the stable. But, he couldn’t really blame the livery owner. If Murdoch Lancer was a target of the “land pirates”, then his newly arrived son was likely to be one as well. It was understandable that Owen wouldn’t wish to risk his best saddle horse. 

Well, if he was a target, at least he was no longer an unarmed one. Scott had a loaded six gun strapped to his side–but it had been quite a while since he’d worn a sidearm. The former cavalry officer was actually much more comfortable with longer weapons– rifles, carbines, shotguns– but he recognized that the pistol afforded the important advantage of concealment. His goal in visiting the clothier had been along the same lines. He had packed a variety of attire in the suitcases that he hoped had already been delivered to the Lancer ranch, including some casual wear and riding outfits. However, his observations of the people that he had seen over the course of the past few days, and most particularly those in Morro Coyo, had convinced Scott that he would be very noticeable while dressed in any of his Eastern clothes. He had asked the storeowner–Senor Baldemarro– for a typical work outfit, such as a ranch employee might wear. He hoped that his newly purchased items would afford him the opportunity to blend in if he ever returned to town. A couple of beige checked shirts, two pairs of work pants: one black and one brown, a western style hat and light jacket—-only the essentials, yet it had clearly been a windfall sale for the happy store owner. Scott was sure that the man would be talking about it for days; fortunately he had been careful to again identify himself as Garrett, rather than Lancer. 

Garrett was Scott’s middle name–and his mother’s maiden name. He had been raised in Boston by his maternal grandfather, a wealthy businessman. His grandfather had told him that his mother, Harlan Garrett’s only child, had died shortly after Scott had been born, and that he had been brought to Boston as an infant because his father’s ranch in California was no place to raise a young child. Thanks to his attentive grandfather, Scott had enjoyed a privileged boyhood and adolescence. He’d attended private schools, had the opportunity to travel. Eager to fight in support of the Union cause, Scott had enlisted and served in the cavalry, spent a horrendous year in a Confederate prison camp and then returned to Boston at the War’s end. He’d completed his Harvard degree, and had been somewhat at loose ends. Then he had been contacted by the Pinkerton agent. “Your father wants to see you”, the man had informed him, and Scott’s initial response had been that the feeling was far from mutual.

He’d been offered money if he was willing to travel to California—expenses paid, plus a fee of $1000 for “one hour of your time”. A bribe? There had been no letter or note from Murdoch Lancer, no personal message of any kind. Scott had long ago given up any hope of ever hearing from the man, and now, when he had, at age twenty-four, finally received a communication from his father, it was in the guise of a Pinkerton man.

He’d told the agent that he wasn’t interested, but had accepted the proffered card. As Scott had walked the darkened city streets on his way back to his grandfather’s house, the question he had asked for most of his life: “Why hadn’t he ever heard from his father?” was replaced by a different one: “Why now?” He had easily surmised that it had nothing to do with his own life— Scott had not recently celebrated a significant birthday or experienced an important event. It had been four and a half years since he’d returned from the War, he’d completed his degree six months ago, about the same time that Julie Dennison had broken off their engagement. The logical assumption was that the communication was due to some change in circumstances for Murdoch Lancer. Scott had had to consider the possibility that the man might be very ill or dying, and hoping to ease his conscience by finally meeting with his estranged son. Whether or not that supposition was correct, Scott had come to believe that, if he failed to accept the current invitation, there would never be another.

Now, he had not quite reached his father’s ranch, but perhaps some of his many questions had already been answered. At least it seemed unlikely that Murdoch Lancer was actually on his deathbed; Madrid, or Pardee, perhaps even the barkeeper, some one would have commented on that. Murdoch Lancer was in danger of being run off of his land, and he needed help. The “land pirates” certainly seemed to be a rough crew, and apparently the law and its enforcement, simply did not exist out here. Madrid‘s words repeated themselves inside Scott‘s head. << “Well, that sure explains it.” . . .“Why he sent for ya.” >> Of course, despite the stranger’s assumption, there was no way of knowing for certain whether or not his father was even aware of Scott’s military service. Scott wondered again why Madrid had kept that piece of information from his leader, Pardee. And why had the dark haired young gunman asked him to relay his “regards” to Murdoch Lancer?

Scott reminded himself that he couldn’t afford to be lost in thought–he needed to stay alert to his surroundings. It was also too easy to appreciate the scenery when he was out in it, rather than peering through the small square opening offered to a passenger seated on a noisy train or a jostling stagecoach. The distant mountains loomed large against the still blue sky as he rode along the road that he had been told would lead to the Lancer ranch. Not a road, exactly, but two wheel ruts, separated by a wagon’s width, winding through the hills.

From the crest of one of those hills, Scott could see in the distance, a very large white structure, with numerous outbuildings. Even from this remote vantage point he noted the bustle of activity. One hundred thousand acres, Madrid had said. It would stand to reason that such a large enterprise would employ a significant number of men.

Understandably, Scott had thought a great deal about this long awaited meeting with his father. But he had always imagined the encounter, and the subsequent visit, as a rather private affair. Now he considered that the actual scenario might in fact be quite different. There would be many inhabitants on a land holding of such great size. Scott wondered again whether there might be a Mrs. Lancer in residence, whether he was about to be introduced to any half siblings. 

As he approached an archway with the name Lancer prominently displayed, Scott slowed his horse to a walk and then, just before he passed beneath it, he reined to a halt. Boston, and everything familiar, seemed very far away. He’d been a stranger in this Western land for well over a week now, easily identified as such by his clothing, his manners, his accent. Lancer–that was his name. Yet as he was about to pass under the arch, he felt more of an outsider here than he had ever felt in his entire life.

<<I am a guest>> he reminded himself. Yes, that was true, he had been invited here–for one hour. 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Passing beneath the archway, Scott Lancer urged his mount to a quicker pace, and headed in the direction of the largest structure, which he took to be the main house. It certainly was impressive in size. As he began to encounter some of the workers, most of them apparently Mexican, the men waved and smiled and a few on horseback even accompanied him, following a short distance behind. Although he didn’t understand what they were shouting in Spanish, it seemed friendly enough, so he nodded in response.

Reaching what he took to be the front door of the house, Scott smoothly dismounted, and several men hastened to take possession of his horse. Gesturing for them to wait a moment, he moved to untie the bundle of clothing that he had fastened on behind the saddle, when the large carved wooden double doors opened and a young dark haired girl in a blue dress emerged.

“Miguel will take that, and put it in your room with the rest of your things,” she said with a smile. “You must be Scott,” she added. “I’m Teresa, Teresa O’Brien.”

“Miss O’Brien.”

“Just Teresa,“ she corrected, coming closer and looking earnestly up at him. “We’re so glad you’re here, though we weren’t expecting you for a few more days, but we’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Mr. Lancer is out with a work crew, checking a fence line, but I’ve sent someone for him and he should be back very soon . . .” realizing that she was rattling on nervously, Teresa stopped, her face a rosy hue.

“Since my father isn’t here, is there a Mrs. Lancer to whom I should introduce myself?”

Already flustered, Teresa didn’t immediately register what it was that this very tall, very handsome and very overdressed stranger was asking her.

“Oh, no,” she finally replied with a nervous laugh. “Mr. Lancer isn’t married.”

“I see,” was the serious reply. “It’s just that this seems to be a rather large house.” 

“Oh it is, much too big for just the two of us,” was the girl’s cheerful reply.

Now it was Scott’s turn to be puzzled. “So Teresa,” (he pronounced it Ta- ray -sa; she liked how that sounded), “Do you work for my father?”

“Oh, no. I was born here on Lancer. My father was the foreman.”

“Was?” 

A pained expression crossed the young girl’s face, and then she kept her eyes lowered as she explained. “He was murdered three months ago–the same time that Mr. Lancer was shot.He’s my guardian now.“ 

“My condolences, Miss O’Brien.”

Despite the soft tone in which they were uttered, Teresa was startled by the cool formality of the words. She looked up and found herself gazing into a pair of what had to be the kindest, gentlest, blue eyes that she had ever seen. A long moment passed. “Shall we go inside?” he asked, finally.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Alone in the large guest room to which he had been escorted, Scott Lancer removed his newly purchased gun belt and placed it in the empty top drawer of the dresser. He recognized that there was no point in unpacking anything until after his meeting with Murdoch Lancer. When he’d first decided to undertake the trip, Scott had resolved that he would be staying longer than the requested one hour, but now he was not quite so certain that he would elect to remain very much beyond the indicated time period. In any event, it seemed prudent to wait until to unpack after the initial interview with his father had taken place.

Teresa had pointed out a large room downstairs, one with a wall of shelves lined with books, indicating that he might be comfortable waiting there for Murdoch Lancer’s return. Before exiting the guest bedroom, Scott glanced at himself in the mirror and saw that the bruise on his face was becoming quite visible.

He descended the stairs and reached the designated waiting room without encountering anyone. Once he began idly perusing the bookshelves, Scott was pleasantly surprised to find quite a variety of works in the array, including a number of the “classics”. The Easterner selected a slim volume of California history and was soon engrossed in its pages.

When Murdoch Lancer finally reached the arched doorway to the Great Room, he paused to visually examine the young stranger leaning against the far wall, his head bent over the book that he held in both hands. Relying heavily upon the cane that he had used ever since being shot in the back by Day Pardee, Murdoch Lancer carefully studied his son. The young man was fairly tall, though not as tall as Murdoch himself, with blonde hair, though it was not as pale as Catherine’s had been. <<Catherine.>> The name echoed through his mind. During the past weeks, Murdoch had found himself dwelling upon thoughts of his first love, staring at the one picture that he had of her. Now he was eager to discover some resemblance between the young woman who had died much too soon and the young man who was her grown son. Instead, Murdoch noted with some displeasure the Eastern “city style” attire, the well cut suit, the ruffles at the collar and sleeves of the white shirt, the fancy cravat. His heart sinking, he couldn’t help but wonder whether this might not have been a mistake.

<<“He‘s come a very long way to see you.“>> That’s what his darling girl had said to him just before he’d entered the hacienda. Teresa had hurried out to greet him with the news of his son’s arrival, smiling happily as Murdoch had slowly eased himself out of the buckboard. “He’s here then?” Murdoch had asked, his tone gruff even to his own ears. Was he nervous? Damn right.

Teresa had been visibly disconcerted by Murdoch‘s tone, then apprehensive, no doubt fearful that her guardian would say something which would cause the young man to leave. 

When they had been awaiting word from the Pinkerton agency as to whether or not the invitation extended to his son had been accepted, Murdoch Lancer had made it clear that he expected a refusal; that, in fact, he thought it quite likely that there would be no response at all. In Teresa’s estimation, Murdoch had acted almost as if he rather hoped that that would be the case. But the girl had also seen the expression on her beloved guardian’s face when he had received word that Scott Lancer was indeed en route from Boston. She was convinced that it meant a great deal to Murdoch Lancer that his son was here; she was even more certain that the stern rancher would never reveal that to the visitor awaiting him inside. Seeing him now about to enter the house for their first meeting, Teresa was terribly apprehensive about the sort of welcome that Murdoch would offer his son— but all she dared venture was a gentle reminder of how far their guest had traveled.

Standing in the doorway, Murdoch recalled Teresa’s words, <<“He‘s come a very long way to see you.“>>, but on the heels of that thought came another, <<I wonder why?>> He was certain that his son would have questions for him, questions that he dreaded because there simply were no easy answers. Relieved that the young man still seemed unaware that he was being observed, Murdoch shook his head, drew a deep and somewhat shaky breath and finally addressed his son by name: “Scott?”

The blonde head snapped up. Instantly Murdoch recognized that in his facial features, Scott did indeed bear a certain resemblance to his mother, but it was the eyes . . .they were absolutely Catherine’s eyes—, staring at him, examining him, challenging him, taking his measure. Thus it was Murdoch Lancer who looked away first. The tall rancher entered the room, and, still relying heavily upon his cane, crossed to his desk. Scott Lancer slowly closed the book he’d been reading and carefully replaced it on the shelf. He turned to face his father, an expectant look upon his face.

Murdoch limped around the large desk and opened a drawer, withdrawing an envelope which he placed on the desktop. “Please, sit down,” he said, gesturing to a comfortable chair quite near the desk. Despite the polite phrasing, the words were more a command than a request. Scott gave the briefest of nods, then moved towards the suggested seat, continuing to openly study Murdoch Lancer.

“Drink?”

“No, thank you,” Scott replied in a level voice.

“Well, I need a drink.”

The blonde eyebrows lifted at that, but the younger Lancer made no comment. He settled into the chair and silently watched as his father went to a nearby cabinet, extracted a bottle and a glass and then poured himself a drink. Turning back to face Scott once more, Murdoch gestured inquiringly with his glass. Scott again declined, shaking his head in refusal. Setting both the bottle and the glass down on his desk, Murdoch picked up the envelope and extended it towards his son. “Here’s your money.”

Scott was taken aback by that. Ever since he’d first heard his father’s voice, he’d been staring at the man. He’d never seen a portrait, had never even heard a detailed verbal description of Murdoch Lancer’s appearance. Scott had immediately searched for some physical resemblance between his father and himself; failing that, he was now examining the exterior for some indications of the man inside. Scott had also been wondering just how Murdoch Lancer would go about opening the conversation between them; an abrupt mention of money was not what he had been expecting. Eyes narrowed, Scott instantly surmised that the envelope contained the $1000 payment that he had already summarily rejected. But before he could respond, Murdoch Lancer offered an explanation: “Travel expenses.” Still looking the man directly in the eyes, Scott simply said “Thank you,” and, remaining seated, he accepted the envelope, tucking it inside his jacket without further comment.

Murdoch lowered himself into the chair behind his desk. “Well, I’m sure that you have some questions.” It was abundantly clear from the older man’s tone that he did not relish the prospect.

“I do.”

“So, then . . Go ahead. Ask.”

Murdoch waited. The question came, after only the briefest hesitation. It was not the one which he had been anticipating for the past several weeks, the one to which he knew there was no good answer. Rather than a variation on a question beginning with the phrase “Why didn’t you . .?” it was:

“Why did you send for me?”

In the lengthy pause that followed, Murdoch stared at the edge of his desk, uncomfortably aware that those blue eyes were fixed upon him, waiting. He knew that he couldn’t bring himself to say anything about how much he had longed to communicate with his son, or explain how certain he had been that any such attempt would have been thwarted by the boy’s grandfather. To reveal any of that would mean that he would also have to admit that he had given up. That he’d stopped trying–if truth be told, had never really tried very hard at all. He also refused to admit that it had been a fear of rejection that had prevented him from attempting to contact Scott once his son had attained adulthood. Murdoch Lancer was painfully aware that the invitation which he had so recently extended was far too little and far too late. Despite the fact that Scott had been willing to travel across the country, Murdoch remained firmly convinced that any expression of paternal sentiment would be met with swift rejection from the young man seated before him. Under the scrutiny of those hauntingly familiar blue eyes, he could only present the stark, honest truth. 

“Because of what’s happening out there, right now,” he said finally, gesturing at the large window behind him. “This ranch is under attack. They shot me in the back, left me with this bum leg. Killed my segundo, Teresa’s father. People call them “Land Pirates”; their leader is a gunfighter named Pardee. They’re trying to run me off of this place.”

There, he’d said it. 

Scott’s expression was unreadable. Murdoch Lancer received no indication that he had, in fact, actually passed the first ‘test’. Scott accepted that, if nothing else, the man’s response was an honest one. The tone in which the words had been uttered had been defensive, almost angry, but the information matched what he had learned in town. Still, Scott couldn’t keep himself from hoping that there just might possibly be more to it.

“This ranch must mean a great deal to you,” was his only response, the observation, accompanied by a searching look.

“I love this ground more than anything God ever created, “ was Murdoch Lancer’s quietly impassioned reply. “I have a grey hair for every good blade of grass that you see out there.”

“And now it’s all at risk.“

“That’s right.“

“Well, . . .I met your friend Pardee, in town,” Scott said slowly. “He wanted me to give you a message. Apparently, he’s getting tired of waiting and intends to make your men his next targets.” Murdoch looked concerned, then belatedly noticed the bruise on his son’s face. But before the older man could form a question, Scott posed another one of his own: “What is it that you want from me?”

Murdoch Lancer did not immediately respond. He stood slowly and turned to gaze out at the view behind him. The embattled rancher was well aware that he had no right to ask his son for anything, no right at all, yet here he was, about to request his help. Steeling himself, he faced Scott once more. “It’s not just your gun–though I understand you can use one,” he said, looking unflinchingly into those blue eyes. “I want more than that, I want your legs, your arms,“ noting once more the ruffles at his son‘s wrists, he couldn‘t refrain from adding, “And your guts—- if you have any.” Scott’s eyes blazed at that, but Murdoch continued: “I don’t want any favors from you; I’m offering you a share in this ranch, if you can help me hang onto it.”

Scott couldn’t hide his surprise. He looked down, a bemused expression on his face. This was. . . . unbelievable. Had the man really just offered him part ownership in this ranch? Did he honestly expect that Scott would have any desire to stay here? Why should he? There had been no effort made to converse on anything approaching a personal level; on the face of it, this was nothing more than a simple business proposition. And that realization made Scott very angry. First there had been the offer of$1000 for one hour of his time, and now Murdoch Lancer was apparently attempting to hire him on as a mercenary soldier.

Quelling his anger, Scott endeavored to remain polite. “I’m sorry, but you really haven’t given me any reason . . . .”

“One hundred thousand acres. Twenty thousand head of beef. . . “

Unexpectedly saddened by this response, Scott shook his head in disbelief and slowly stood up. “I came here expecting some answers.” Then he added, in a tired voice, tinged with regret, “I . .I don’t even know what to call you.”

“Call me anything you like,” was Murdoch’s angry reply. “We’re strangers to each other. Maybe that’s my fault, maybe it isn’t.”

A stony silence followed this last comment. It really was no great surprise to Scott that his failure to express adequate interest in the ranch had engendered his father’s wrath. He resolved to leave on his own, before he could be summarily dismissed. As to who was “at fault”— as far as Scott was concerned, there certainly could be no doubt as to which of the two of them was responsible for the estrangement between father and son. He shook his head again. “If that’s meant to be an apology .. .”

Murdoch Lancer cut him off with an indignant assertion. “You’ll get no apology from me! If the air needs clearing, then let’s clear it.” Leaning once more on his cane, the older man moved awkwardly about the room in an agitated manner. “Your mother’s family thought that she was daft to marry me, not a year off the boat from Inverness . . And maybe they were right.” Then looking across the room at his son, he added: “You were born, she died, I left you in their hands.” “Period,” he concluded emphatically.

“Period?” Scott asked tightly, and then before he could say anything more, a door opened and Teresa entered the room. Her bright smile faded as she took in the positions and expressions of the two Lancer men. “I just wanted to let you know that dinner will be ready in about a half hour . . if that’s all right . . .” she finished doubtfully, her voice trailing off. “We’ve planned a special meal,” she said, sending Scott a pleading look, “to welcome you.”

Scott reluctantly removed his gaze from his father. As he met Teresa’s eyes, his grim expression slipped away and he managed a polite smile. “That’s very kind of you, Miss O‘Brien.”

“It’s Teresa,” she reminded him hopefully.

“I’m sorry,. . . Teresa,“ Scott said apologetically. The girl gave her guardian a worried look, then backed out of the room, softly closing the door.

Scott glanced at Murdoch. “I will stay for dinner, if you don’t mind.” When Murdoch looked questioningly at him, Scott continued. “That does means that I’ll be here beyond our agreed upon one hour. But I will leave directly after the meal.”

That comment goaded Murdoch into speech. “Scott, some things just happen. Some questions don’t have answers,” he said. Seeing no sign that the younger man might relent, Murdoch nonetheless forged on, ”What’s in the past is past. Good or bad, right or wrong, it’s past and gone. What’s important is now.”

“You mean, of course, what’s happening out there, to your ranch.” 

Feeling defeated, Murdoch could only say, “We’ll talk more at dinner.” He moved to the sofa and sat down heavily upon it.

“Then if you’ll excuse me. “Scott strode to the door, but, as he reached the entryway, he stopped and turned. “I almost forgot, Sir,“ he added, in a coolly polite tone. “In addition to your “land pirate“, Pardee, I also met a young man in town. He seems to be working with Pardee, but he asked me to give you his regards.”

“Oh?”

“His name is Madrid, Johnny Madrid.”

“Johnny?”Murdoch asked, with an expression that Scott could only describe as stunned. Clearly his father knew the man, but at the moment Scott was frankly uninterested in hearing any of the details. He wanted nothing more than a few moments alone so that he could attempt to sort out this initial conversation and formulate his impressions of Murdoch Lancer.

“I see that you recognize the name, “ Scott observed mildly. “He wasn’t certain that you would.”

Murdoch Lancer stood and walked hurriedly over to his desk. Scott silently watched the flurry of activity as the big man opened a large lower drawer of his desk and removed a series of files, stacking them on the desk surface. “I’ve only learned that name recently, but I’ve been looking for him for a very long time.” Murdoch noted Scott’s questioning look and then made a startling announcement: “He’s my son.”

His interest piqued, Scott very slowly approached the desk, staring at the collection of file folders, as Murdoch settled into the desk chair once more. “Here, this is the most recent one,” he said, offering one of the files to Scott. “Two years after your mother died, I met Maria, Johnny’s mother, down at Matamorros. She . .. We got married. Two years after that, I awoke one morning and found her gone, Johnny along with her.”

Scott looked at the folder in his hands, then back at his father. “This is a Pinkerton report.”

“That’s right. Off and on, for twenty years I’ve had agents trying to track them down. We learned that Maria died about ten years ago. Johnny . .was on his own . . . Later he took on another name and.. . .he became a gunfighter.. . “

Scott sat down in the chair that he had occupied earlier and quickly read through the report. When he reached the last page, he sat looking down at it for a moment, making an effort to collect his scattered thoughts, <<”He’s my son.”>> Murdoch Lancer had said. Even before Scott had picked up the folder, the personal significance of that statement had been clear.<< Then he’s my. . . brother >> This had been followed immediately by the realization that “Johnny Madrid” must have been aware of their relationship from the very moment that he had heard Scott claim Murdoch Lancer as his father .

The information on the pages that Scott now held in his hands merely sketched a confusingly drawn portrait: a notorious gunfighter, a peasant revolution, a last minute rescue from a firing squad. And now, added to that, an apparent alliance with the land pirates who were threatening the Lancer ranch. Scott’s efforts to make some sense of it all were interrupted by a sudden tocsin. The Pinkerton file fell to the floor as he hastened to follow his father from the room.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Another field ruined. Murdoch Lancer sat behind his desk brooding. The loss of another patch of land was bad enough, but as soon as he had entered the room, his eyes had fallen upon the stack of files on his desk, and then he had remembered. <<Johnny is in Morro Coyo. Johnny is working with Pardee.>> The thought was chilling; it made his blood run just as cold as it had when he’d read that last report, the part about the Mexican firing squad. Now it appeared that the son for whom he had been searching for so long time had joined in the alliance against him. The idea that the happy toddler that he recalled so vividly even after all these years was now lost to him entirely, that thought was almost physically painful. He had been waiting for so long, worrying for so long. Learning that Johnny Lancer had become Johnny Madrid, that had been painful as well, but with that pain there had also been the hope that, once armed with a name, the Pinkerton agents would finally be able to locate his son, and convince Johnny to come back home. It had been quite a shock to learn that the young man was in town. The weary rancher sat with bowed head and wondered what that woman must have said to him, what lies his mother had told Johnny which now prompted him to come seeking revenge . . ..

And Scott had unwittingly encountered Johnny in town. Murdoch had not yet had the opportunity to ask Scott about that meeting. <<Questions . . >> he thought in dismay. Desperate as he was to know more about Johnny, Murdoch realized that he could hardly ask Scott questions about his half-brother– or anything else— when he had yet to provide the young man with any of the answers which he had come here seeking.

And he had to admit that the Bostonian had been a pleasant surprise. Murdoch had only had one brief glimpse of Scott, a little boy with blond hair and a very serious expression. That had been almost twenty years ago now. He had not requested a report from the Pinkerton agency, but had been grateful for the scant information provided by the agent’s short summary. Now, after weeks of agonized anticipation and then the initial negative impression created by Scott’s attire and stiff manner, Murdoch had to acknowledge that he was favorably impressed. Once they had gotten outside and had seen the rapidly spreading flames, the jacket and fancy tie had quickly disappeared and Scott had worked steadily alongside the hands. And when Murdoch had finally voiced his decision to allow the fire to burn itself out, Scott had even started to object; he hadn’t been ready to give up yet. But he had yielded to Murdoch’s prerogative, had nodded his acceptance and helped relay the word to the men.

Murdoch had noticed that Scott had spoken privately with Teresa, both of them sending concerned looks in Murdoch’s direction. The older man was fairly certain that his son had urged the girl to escort him inside. The increasing pain in his back and leg had left Murdoch Lancer more than willing to leave the organization of the clean up in the hands of his Segundo, Cipriano and. . . his son, Scott. Before returning to the hacienda, Murdoch had introduced Scott to the foreman. It had felt strange to say those words, “My son.”

“Do you think he’ll stay?” Teresa had asked once they were inside. “I don’t know,” had been Murdoch’s discouraged response, adding that he hoped that Scott might be persuaded to at least spend the night. Teresa had made no attempt to hide her dismay before she hurried off to get cleaned up. Murdoch was now at his desk, staring at those damn Pinkerton files on Johnny and waiting for Scott. Sitting alone in the Great Room, Murdoch Lancer realized that, more than anything, he did not want Scott to leave. 

When Scott finally appeared in the doorway, he paused and knocked politely on the doorframe, waiting for Murdoch’s acknowledging nod before entering. His sleeves were rolled up, his clothes covered with dirt and soot, his hair was in disarray. There was a dark smudge on the right side of Scott’s face and the bruise on his left cheek was quite plainly visible; Murdoch was pretty well convinced that he had been struck. By Pardee, or one of his men, most likely. The young man looked tired; he walked directly from the doorway to the liquor cabinet and proceeded to pour himself a drink. He then filled a second glass as well, and wordlessly set it on the desk.

Reluctant to sit on one of the upholstered chairs in his damp, dirty, clothes, Scott perched on the corner of his father’s desk and looked down at the man seated across from him. He took a sip of whiskey and then stared at his glass for a moment before he broke the silence with a question: “How many fields have you lost?”

“That’s the third one. Thank God, so far it’s only been fields. Though that’s about to change, according to what Pardee said to you . .” Murdoch shook his head wearily. “I‘m just not sure that I can continue to put my men at risk. Some of them have families here . . . .”

Scott nodded soberly. He was glad to hear his father express concern for his men; having just witnessed the effort which some of them were willing to expend to save land which was not their own. His brief observation indicated that Murdoch Lancer had earned the respect and loyalty of those who worked for him. “And just how many men do you have?” Scott asked.

Murdoch picked up his glass and took a drink before he responded to that question. “Eighteen,” he said.

Scott’s dismay was evident. “That’s not very many, not to try to defend a property of this size.”

Scott knew that Pardee had twenty men. Since it had been Johnny Madrid who had provided him with that information, Scott elected not to share it with Murdoch Lancer. The ex-cavalry officer knew that it only took a handful of men to launch this type of devastating attack, but that many more would be required to mount a creditable defense.

“I had over one hundred hands before this all began,” Murdoch explained. “Eighteen may not seem like very many, but only the best stayed.” He was not able to keep the pride and defiance from his voice.

Scott glanced down at the glass in his hand, then looked up and met Murdoch Lancer’s eyes. “The two of us make twenty,” he said softly.

The older man gave his son a searching look. “So you‘ll stay?“ And then, “Why?”

Scott dropped his eyes again, smiling ruefully to himself. “I’m not sure I can explain, exactly.. .I‘m not sure you‘d understand, exactly.” When he looked up at Murdoch once more, his expression was completely serious. “But I will stay, for now.” 

Murdoch reached to his right and slid open a drawer of the desk. Withdrawing a single folded sheet of paper, Murdoch handed it to Scott, then picked up his glass and drained the remaining liquid. 

Scott carefully unfolded the document and swiftly scanned it. He saw his own name, and Johnny’s as well. Each of them was to receive a one-third ownership in the ranch. At the bottom of the paper were spaces where they could sign. Scott noted that Murdoch Lancer had not yet affixed his own signature. He looked up at his father, questions in his eyes.

“I’ll change it, of course. One-half, rather than one third, if you decide to stay.”

“I’ve already given you my answer. But . . .”

“But what?”

Scott hesitated. “I’ve read that report. The Pinkerton agent never relayed your offer.. .Johnny never even knew who sent the man who rescued him from–”

“What difference? He’s made his choice.”

“An uninformed one.”

“He’s in Morro Coyo. He could have come here, asked me some questions.”

Scott briefly wondered whether Johnny would have garnered any more answers than he himself had received. Rather than voicing that thought, he simply handed the paper back across the desk to Murdoch Lancer. “We can take care of this later—.”

“Once we see if we can hang onto this place, “ Murdoch finished his son’s thought. The gruff rancher nodded in agreement. He replaced the document in the drawer and slowly closed it. Then, reluctantly but resolutely he looked up at his son. “I owe you some answers.”

Scott stood, picking Murdoch’s empty glass as he did so, and carrying it along with his own over to the liquor cabinet. With his back turned to his father, he said, “There’s time for that.” Scott refilled the glasses. Murdoch waited until Scott turned to face him once more. He regarded his son, “You still have questions,” he stated flatly. “Go ahead and ask one.”

Scott set Murdoch’s glass down upon the desktop once more, then, heedless of his still sooty and damp clothing, he sank slowly into the upholstered chair facing the desk.

Scott’s glance dropped downwards, and then back up to give his father another direct look. Murdoch waited, as Catherine’s eyes seemed to bore into him. Then, “Tell me about Johnny,” Scott said softly.

Caught off guard, as Scott yet again failed to pose one of the anticipated questions, Murdoch reacted with some irritation. He gestured at the files before him. “Everything that I know is here, in these reports. You’re welcome to read them.”

Scott nodded thoughtfully. “I will. That is, if you’re certain you don’t mind.” Murdoch got up from his chair, gesturing to the vacated seat. As he circled the desk, and moved towards one of the sofas, Scott rose to his feet and then took possession of the curved- backed wooden chair. The young man sat for a moment, transfixed, seemingly lost in thought and gazing at the folders. Then he gave a small shake of his head and reached to take the first one off the stack. At that moment, the door opened and Teresa entered. Instantly, the Boston gentleman was on his feet.

“Oh, good, you’re here,” she said with a delighted smile in Scott’s direction. “We’re getting a bath ready for you— in your room. If you want to go there now, while the water’s still hot, someone will come and collect your clothes for the laundry. And bring you some supper.”

Scott wearily nodded his assent. The prospect of a hot bath and some food was very enticing. But he still couldn’t help glancing again at those reports. Noting this, Murdoch instructed the young man to go along to his room. “I’ll have someone bring those to you. You can read some of them tonight if you want.” 

Scott nodded again. “Thank you, sir. . . I’ll see you in the morning then,” he said, and then exited the room.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Seated in a tub of pleasantly hot water, shielded from the rest of his large room by a freestanding screen, Scott Lancer closed his eyes and contemplated the day’s events. So much had happened since he’d stepped off of the stage in Morro Coyo; chief among them the introduction to his father and then learning that he had unknowingly encountered his half-brother.

His initial impression of Murdoch Lancer was of a brusque, almost angry man, and certainly a very tall one. At least now Scott knew the derivation of his own height. Harlan Garrett was a man of average stature; Scott had heard both his mother and grandmother referred to as ‘petite’. Murdoch Lancer must certainly have towered over Catherine Garrett.

It was difficult to believe that she had traveled all this ways with that man. Stretching his arms and resting them along the rim of the bathtub, Scott pictured in his mind’s eye the delicate features of the young woman in the painting that hung in the front parlor of his grandfather’s home. One of several on display in the Garrett household, it was the largest portrait of Catherine, and Scott’s favorite. His mother had been younger than Scott was now, when she’d made her journey west. Scott had often been told that he resembled her, and based upon that portrait, there was certainly ample truth to the assertion. Most particularly, Scott had been told that he had his mother’s eyes. Sitting there with his own eyes closed, picturing his parents, he wondered what his mother had ever seen in Murdoch Lancer.

If Scott was hard pressed to see much of a resemblance between Murdoch and himself, he thought that he could detect some similarities between Murdoch and the young man that he had met in town, now that their relationship had been revealed. Although Johnny most likely resembled his own mother in his coloring and lack of stature, his half brother did have Murdoch Lancer’s piercing blue eyes, the same angry glint. 

The startling discovery that he had a brother named Johnny had been especially disquieting, since as a boy, Scott had actually created for himself an imaginary brother with that very name. Of course, “John“, or “Johnny” was a common first name. One of Scott’s closest boyhood friends, Will Hayford had had an older brother named John, and young Scott had greatly envied the bond between the two.

Scott could also easily recall that during summer visits with his aunt and uncle in Maine, he had spent afternoons fishing off of a wooden bridge over the Cathance River— with his little brother Johnny at his side. And, back home in Boston, he had devoted hours to aligning tin soldiers in endless battle formations, and scolding Johnny if any of the men inadvertently toppled over. Scott had long assumed that his childhood fantasy of his absent father sending yet another blond-haired blue-eyed child to Boston had simply been the invention of an imaginative, as well as an occasionally lonely, little boy.

But, when Scott had moved to occupy the chair behind Murdoch Lancer’s desk, another memory had come back to him, one of sitting at his grandfather’s desk, many years ago. He must have been nine or ten years old, and well aware that Grandfather’s study was “off limits”. Little Scotty wasn’t supposed to be in there, but on this day he was, and he’d spied a folder on top of the desk. It had the name “Lancer” on it. Curious, he’d started to read parts of the pages inside, information about California and a ranch. He knew that his father lived in that far off territory, but what had really captured his interest was the part that told about a baby being born, a baby named Johnny. But then, a page later, the baby was gone, and exactly where was apparently ‘UNKNOWN’. Scott now recalled hoping that the baby was coming to Boston; he had been looking for another mention of the child when he’d heard the front door open. His Grandfather was returning home with some dinner guests. Scott had raced from the room, run to greet his Grandfather. He had never asked anyone any questions about what he had read.*

Murdoch Lancer had always been an awkward topic of conversation. Harlan Garrett had nothing good to say about the man. Scott was not at all surprised that his Grandfather had gathered information on his absent father; Harlan Garrett was a man who liked to be well-informed. It was also understandable that his grandfather had never told Scott about his half brother, given that the child had disappeared twenty years ago and could have been long dead. But now he knew that his ”little brother Johnny” was “real” and he was certainly alive.

The sound of a door opening, and soft footsteps entering the room shook Scott out of his reverie. His view was obscured by the screen that shielded the area around the bathtub from the rest of the chamber. He heard a whispered exchange in Spanish and what sounded like plates and utensils being placed upon a wooden surface; then the two people quietly departed. Suddenly feeling hungry, Scott located the soap and set about scrubbing the smoke out of his close cropped blonde hair.

Coming around the screen, towel wrapped securely around his waist, Scott rolled his discarded damp and sooty clothing into a bundle and deposited the items on the floor next to a straight backed chair. Somewhere he had a suit jacket to match those pants, and a cravat as well, but he’d be hard pressed to recall where he had been when he’d removed them as he set to work helping to combat the flames ravaging the field. The smell of his smoke- infused clothes and the acrid air coming in through the open window combined to overwhelm the scent of the soap he had just used. Crossing to close the window, Scott noted the plate of cold supper that had been deposited on the dresser, along with the welcome addition of a wineglass and a newly opened bottle.

Scott poured himself a glass and savored it. It was very good. As he surveyed the room, he saw his unpacked suitcases on the floor beside the bed. The package of clothes he had purchased in town was on top of the bed, along with the stack of Pinkerton file folders.

Setting the glass down, Scott began first to open the package; clearly his recently purchased “Western” style clothes were what he would be wanting to wear in the morning. As he removed the items, he reflected ruefully that their newness would still give him away; perhaps he should drag them through the dirt, explain to the ranch hands that it was a quaint custom from “back East” . . . 

His brand new gun belt and weapon were still in the top drawer of the dresser. There was a hall tree in the entryway to the hacienda; he’d noticed hats deposited on the uppermost branches and a few gun belts hanging on those below. In the morning, perhaps he would add his own to the collection.

He lifted the larger of his two valises and placed it on the bed. For the next several minutes, Scott moved methodically from the opened suitcase across the room to the dresser and the armoire, distributing his clothes and toiletries, pausing en route for a sip of wine or a bite of food. He was beginning to feel uncomfortably aware of slight protests from various muscles. Not that he was particularly muscle bound; he certainly no longer had the sinewy arms and legs that he’d developed during his days in the cavalry. Thankfully, he was also no longer as emaciated as he’d been when he’d first returned from Libby–though he certainly hadn’t put on much weight in the intervening years. But, of late, Scott’s “physical activity” had been primarily nocturnal, so it was not surprising that he might feel some aches and pains from this day’s exertions. He was also still well aware of the bruise on his face and, as he readjusted the towel about his waist, he could still feel where Pardee’s punch had caught him in the midsection. Scott was very sore and very tired and the bed was starting to look particularly inviting.

He decided not to tackle the smaller suitcase. As far as he could remember, it contained more clothes, some books–and he had ample reading material with the Pinker ton reports. With some embarrassment, Scott now recalled that the valise also contained a few items–photographs and other mementos–which he had packed with the thought that he might share them with his father. 

<<Well,>> he thought, as he turned back to the wineglass and cold supper, << Murdoch Lancer is not on his deathbed, he is not desperately seeking forgiveness of his son . . . . Or sons. >> What the man wanted was help. And he was willing to pay for it. Scott certainly didn’t feel as if he’d been welcomed with open arms; he couldn’t actually say that he’d been welcomed at all. And still, he had committed himself to stay. Scott absently placed a piece of cold beef between two halves of a biscuit and chewed thoughtfully as he gazed out the large window. The view of the distant mountains was impressive. Perhaps in the morning he would have the opportunity to see more of the ranch, explore beyond the house and the seared field. . . 

But now, Scott just wanted to crawl into bed with a glass of wine. He moved the folders to the far edge of the bed and positioned the pillows against the headboard so that he could sit in a propped up for reading. It was much too warm to don the New England issue union suit he was accustomed to sleeping in– unless, of course, he had company. He didn’t own a nightshirt or pair of pajamas.  Untucking the towel, Scott crossed to the dresser and pulled out some underwear. The towel was tossed to the chair beside his smoky clothes, the wine glass and bottle were positioned on the nightstand. Scott slipped into his drawers and then eased his tired body between the sheets. 

Once he was settled comfortably against the pillows, he reached for the first file folder. Legs bent to provide a resting spot against his blanketed thighs, he saw with some dismay his own name on the cover. Apparently Agent Mawby had written a report of his own. Perusing the few pages inside, it became evident that the report had been perfunctory at best; written primarily to confirm that the message from Murdoch Lancer had been delivered. Various key pieces of information about Scott’s past were not mentioned; he noted particularly the omission of any reference to his imprisonment at Libby or to his recently broken engagement to Julie Dennison. But at least, now he knew exactly what his father did and did not know about him. The report clearly stated that he had served in the cavalry, fought in the War. <<“Well, that sure explains it.” “Why he sent for ya.” >> But perhaps Murdoch Lancer had not received confirmation of those facts until after his invitation had been extended and accepted.

Scott tossed “his” file aside and reached for his wineglass before addressing the pile of paperwork devoted to his brother. Setting the empty glass back down on the bedside table, he picked up the next folder and recognized it as the most recent one, written by the Agent–Thomas–who had been wounded when he’d saved Johnny from having to face a Mexican firing squad. Holding the file in both hands, stretching his legs out flat on the bed, Scott quickly reviewed the contents. It was abundantly clear that Johnny Madrid could not possibly be aware that it had been Murdoch Lancer who had charged the agent with finding him; the agent wrote that he had not even had time to identify himself, much less relay to Johnny his father’s offer of $1000 for one hour of his time.

As Scott recalled the conversation that he had had with Johnny Madrid in the saloon, the questions and comments that the dark haired man had addressed to him could now be seen in a very different light. Johnny evidently did know that Murdoch Lancer was his father. The gunfighter also must have realized that Scott was his half brother; that was the only explanation for the man’s decision to urge Pardee to send Scott on his way. And Johnny had withheld information from Pardee; he had chosen not to inform the so-called “big dog” of Scott’s military experience, and also refrained from mentioning his own connection to both Scott and Murdoch Lancer. Scott’s distinct impression was that Day Pardee was not the type to relish being kept in the dark.

Thoughtfully, Scott set the file aside. It appeared that the remaining folders were organized by years. Murdoch Lancer had clearly had people searching for Johnny for a very long time. The next one on the stack was considerably thicker, so Scott drew his knees up once more to provide a resting place for the next set of reading material.

Suddenly, the door to his room flew open. Scott looked up and Miss O’Brien–Teresa–appeared, balancing a willow basket on her hip.

Glimpsing Scott’s surprised expression over his raised knees, the dark haired young woman smiled engagingly and cheerfully said “Sorry, if I startled you,” as she bustled into the room.

“Well,. .where I come from, people do tend to knock.”

Teresa continued briskly towards the pile of soiled and rumpled clothing on the floor, set the basket down and placed the items in it. Reaching for the damp towel draped over the chair, she turned and started to say dismissively, “Oh, just think of me as ..”.Her words faded away in rosy confusion as she caught sight of Scott’s bare chest, and flat stomach. 

“Just think of you as . . What?” he prompted her, as she quickly turned and stooped to pick up the laundry basket. 

Her delicate features flushed pink, Teresa stammered out a reply of sorts. “Just think of me as someone.. . .who is very happy that you’ve come . . . Here. .. . .to Lancer.”

“Thank you, Miss O’Brien. Teresa.” Scott managed to keep a straight face, but could not hide the amusement in his eyes.

Basket braced on her hip, Teresa hurried from the room.

“Good night,” Scott said politely, to her departing back.

She tossed a muffled reply over her shoulder and hastily shut the door behind her. Safely in the hallway, Teresa grasped the handles of the basket in each hand. She had meant to say “as a sister”, she thought as she leaned against the door with her heart pounding.

A few moments later, Teresa had composed herself and went off to deliver their guest’s sooty clothing to the laundry room. Alone in his room, Scott Lancer read Pinkerton reports on the gunfighter Johnny Madrid for several hours before finally falling asleep.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Johnny Madrid sat in his accustomed place, a table in the back corner, sitting facing the door, a wall behind him. He was alone with his beer, thinking and staring down at the rim of the mug. Day Pardee strolled in, closely followed by his stocky, bearded henchman. Day walked directly over to Johnny, who greeted him with a careless smile; “Day.” 

“John Madrid.” The “Big Dog” nodded, paused and then tilted his head. “Or should I say Lancer?”

The smile swiftly evaporated from Johnny’s face, and he assumed a grim expression. “Where’d ya hear that?”’ he asked. “

“Well, John, I sent a message with that brother of yours, jist like ya asked me to . . Got a real nice answer back.“

“That right?” Johnny asked in a disinterested tone and then took a long drink of his beer. When he set the glass back down, he was looking into the drawn muzzle of Pardee’s gun.

“I don’t much like bein’ kept in the dark, Johnny.” As Johnny slowly got to his feet, the bearded man quickly relieved him of his weapon. Pardee gestured with his gun, “Now move.”

Hands raised, Johnny passed in front of Pardee and headed towards the door. Scott watched helplessly as Pardee slowly raised his weapon and fired point blank at the back of Johnny’s head. At the explosive sound of gunfire, young Tommy came running through the door, an angry expression on his freckled face. “You traitor! You’ll pay for this!” he shouted at Scott, in a very adult voice. “You’ll pay!” Scott was not at all surprised to see that Day Pardee and his henchman were now attired in Confederate grey, but he was stunned to look down on the floor and see, lying in a pool of blood, a small boy with blond hair.

“Johnny,” Scott said urgently, as he approached the motionless form. The boy’s face turned towards him, the eyelids flew open and a pair of brilliant blue eyes stared up at him accusingly. And that’s when Scott Lancer woke up.

As he lay there staring up at the unfamiliar ceiling, the words, “You traitor, you’ll pay”, echoed through his mind in what Scott now recognized as Lt. Dan Cassidy’s voice. Cassidy had accused Scott of betraying an ill-fated attempt to escape from Libby Prison. It had been Dan who had planned the escape, before he had been taken ill and confined to the camp hospital, leaving Scott in charge as second in rank. The other men had insisted on carrying out the escape effort as scheduled. They had failed utterly, and Scott had been the sole survivor. Now his nightmares of the carnage of the disastrous attempt had become entangled with his memories of his brother Johnny–both his childhood fantasy and the recently encountered reality.

Scott knew from experience that there was no point in trying to go back to sleep with the early dawn light already entering his window. He slowly climbed out of bed and eased into a shirt to ward off the early morning chill.

A short time later, shaved and dressed in his new “western” clothes, Scott slipped into the hallway carrying his gun belt and hat. When he reached the entryway, he deposited the items on the hall tree and then endeavored to locate the kitchen. The scent of freshly brewed coffee lured him in the right direction. Stopping in the doorway, he offered up a “Hello?” in order to avoid startling anyone who might be at work inside the room.

A round-faced Mexican woman came into view, wiping her hands on the apron tied about her substantial waist. “Buenas dias,” she said with a smile. “Good morning. You are Senor Scott?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied, returning her smile. “Bu-e-nass dee-ass, and you are . . ?”

“Senora Maria Constancia Aguilera de Alvarez,” she said rapidly, then waved her hand, as if to negate it all. “I am Maria.”

“I was just hoping to find some coffee,” he explained, gesturing toward the pot on the stove.

Maria stood still for a moment with her hands on her hips, her eyes appraising. Then: “Come, sit, sit,” she said, indicating the kitchen table and the four wooden chairs around it. Without waiting for Scott to comply, the woman bustled over to the sideboard, procuring a cup and bowl of sugar, which she placed on the table. Scott eased
into a chair and waited while Maria provided a pitcher of cream and then, finally, the silver coffee pot, dispensing the dark liquid. As Scott inhaled the rich aroma, he smiled contentedly, then carefully added cream and a touch of sugar to his cup. When he lifted the cup and savored the first few sips, he noted that the woman–Maria–was busy with something at the stove. He set his cup down and addressed a question to her back. “How do I say `thank you`?”

Maria turned, a puzzled expression on her face, not immediately certain what the young blonde Senor Lancer was asking her. “In Spanish,” he added.

Maria’s smile split her face once more. “Gracias.”

Scott raised his cup and repeated the word. “Gra-ci-us.”

Then, “Coffee?” he asked.

“Cafe” was her response. Next she held up an egg: “huevo”, just as Scott refilled his cup. He started to rise, thinking to take his coffee to the dining room, when Maria held up a hand and addressed him insistently. “Sit, sit. I will make for you the huevos ranchos.”

Scott`s usual breakfast consisted of coffee and a piece of toast. He had no idea what Senora Alvarez was about to prepare, but he decided that it would be impolite to refuse. Maria set to work wielding a large iron skillet, and murmuring to herself in Spanish. Scott had no way of knowing that the woman was commenting disapprovingly on his lean physique.

Sometime later, Scott had just finished working his way through a large plate of Mexican style omelet when Murdoch Lancer entered the kitchen. Maria greeted him and a second cup of coffee was swiftly produced. Scott listened with great interest as his father
and Maria conversed in Spanish. He wasn’t certain, but he thought that he might have heard his mother’s name. Maria set about preparing breakfast for el patron.

Coffee cup in hand, Murdoch gestured towards the doorway. “Join me in the Great Room,” he said to Scott, as Maria bustled past with a full plate.

Scott followed his father and sat down at the table. Murdoch Lancer concentrated on his breakfast for a few minutes, while Scott nursed yet another cup of coffee.

“Did you read many of the Pinkerton reports? ” Murdoch asked, finally addressing his son.

“I got through a few of them.”

Murdoch set his fork down on the table. “Does what you read fit the man you met?”

“Well, that’s hard to say.”

Murdoch looked at Scott with some intensity. Then, “Tell me about him,” he instructed the younger man.

Scott nodded. “All right.” He began slowly, with a description of Johnny`s physical appearance, his distinctive attire. Scott explained that Johnny had approached him as soon as he had identified himself by name; “I didn’t realize at the time that it might be unwise to be associated with Lancer,” was his dry comment. “He asked me a few questions about you, questions which I was unable to answer. And then he told me a little about your `problems’ with Pardee.”

Throughout this recitation, Murdoch had been staring at his plate, no longer eating his breakfast, but sitting motionless, listening to Scott. He looked up at this last. “So you already knew about the threat to the ranch,” he said flatly.

“I did,” Scott responded. Murdoch Lancer realized that when his son had inquired as to why his father, had sent for him that Scott had quite likely been testing him.

As Murdoch lapsed into silence once more, Scott continued his story. He briefly described Pardee’s entrance into the saloon, mentioned that `they’ had gone elsewhere to talk. Murdoch noted that Scott did not make reference to physical force being used, and wondered whether the mark on his son’s face was the work of Day Pardee or of Johnny himself. Scott did explain that his brother had intervened, that it had been Johnny who had suggested that Pardee send Scott to the ranch as a messenger.

“But he didn’t acknowledge his relationship to me?”

“No, sir, he didn’t. I’m quite certain that his associates are unaware of the connection between you.” Murdoch did not look happy about that. “There was something else . .” Scott said slowly. “In our earlier conversation, I had mentioned my military service. . . . But Johnny didn’t say anything about that to Pardee; in fact, he strongly implied that I’d be of no help to you. I believe in order to convince him to let me go.”

Murdoch silently contemplated exactly what that might mean. “He has no reason to wish you any harm,” he said finally. Murdoch sipped at his lukewarm coffee and Scott studied his father, wondering what the man was thinking.

There was a knock on the door. Murdoch rose to open it, but two men abruptly entered without waiting. Scott recognized the foreman—Cipriano?– who entered behind a younger man who seemed quite agitated. “Senor Lancer!”

“What is it, Miguel?”

“It is terrible! Oh, what I have seen, Senor, what I have seen!”

Cipriano quickly explained that a nearby home had been attacked. Murdoch went immediately to the hall tree, grabbed his gun belt and put it on, firing questions at Cipriano as he did so. Taking his hat from one of the uppermost branches, he turned and was gratified to see Scott come up behind him and then reach for a gun belt of his own. Outside the hacienda, they climbed into a waiting buckboard wagon. Scott took the reins and urged the team into motion. Cipriano, Miguel and several other vaqueros led the way on horseback.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

More senseless destruction. But this time it was different. Lives had been lost. Two innocent lives, apparently killed by the land pirates in order to send Murdoch Lancer a message. Murdoch shook his head. He had delegated a few men to tend to the wreckage, bury the bodies. The rest returned home.

“This sickens me,” he said quietly, staring straight ahead. “And even more so to think that your brother is involved in this.”

Beside him in the buckboard, Scott nodded soberly. He had to acknowledge that it was certainly possible that Johnny had participated. He recognized, however, that only a small handful of man would have been necessary to do the deed; clearly not all twenty would have been needed. The hoof prints leading away from the farmhouse bore that out.

“Those tracks,” he pointed out, “They may lead to their camp.” Murdoch nodded. No more was said en route to the hacienda, both men deep in thought.

Jumping down from the wagon, Scott addressed his father’s foreman. “Cipriano, how well do you know these mountains?”

“Like the back of my hand, Senor.”

“Is there a pass?” was Scott’s next question.

Receiving an affirmative response, Scott then addressed Murdoch, who had climbed down slowly from the buckboard and then walked around the wagon to join them. “I’ll go after them, take a dozen men. That is, if you agree.”

Murdoch hesitated. “It could be a trap.”

“The thought had occurred to me.” Scott did not elaborate; he simply stood waiting for Murdoch’s answer, a carefully neutral expression on his face. Looking at Scott contemplatively, Murdoch Lancer viewed this as another test. Was he willing to entrust the safety of the ranch to his son? For if Scott was wrong, there was no question that the ranch would be at risk. Speaking very deliberately, he announced: “I say you go.” His expression still serious, Scott nodded. Then he turned to Cipriano: “I’ll need a horse . . . .and a carbine. I think we should leave the best marksmen behind. Will you choose the men?”

“Si, Senor.”

Scott headed to the stable with Miguel to select a mount. Cipriano addressed his employer. “It is good he is here.” Murdoch nodded his agreement and headed inside for weapons and ammunition.
 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Much later in the day, Pardee, Coley and a handful of other members of the gang returned to town to gather the “rest of the boys”, including Johnny Madrid. Pardee announced that they would be heading out just before dawn and having breakfast at the Lancer ranch. After the other men had left to prepare for the attack, Johnny pulled Day aside and asked him why he was so sure that they’d be riding right on in.

“Lancer’s city slicker son? We laid a trail up through the mountains and he took the bait. Led a crew of ranch hands right on after us.” Day grinned and slapped Johnny on the shoulder. “I figure Lancer’s got less than half a dozen men left at the house. Gonna be real easy Johnny.”

Johnny returned a grin of his own: “That’s good news, Day. Nothin’ wrong with easy.” But he felt some disappointment. Somehow he’d expected a bit more from Scott Lancer than riding right on into the very first trap that was set for him. Well, it was a good thing he hadn’t let on to the man just who he was. Johnny headed slowly back over to Gus’ place and had a bite to eat, thinking about the next morning, when he’d be meeting Murdoch Lancer face to face. <<Guess he didn’t recognize the name `Madrid’,>. Johnny thought. <<Or else ol’Boston forgot to tell give `im tha message.>>

His small meal finished, Johnny headed upstairs. When he turned to close the door to his room, he immediately felt the presence of another person. As his right hand reached for his gun, he heard a weapon cock and a quiet voice say, “I wouldn’t.” He paused for a moment, considering, decided that he recognized the accent and held his hands away from his body as he slowly turned to face the interior of the darkened room.

He grinned as he recognized the man seated in the only chair. “Thought that sounded like you. Hey, I heard you were stumblin’ around in the dark, up in the mountains, with a bunch of cowhands for company.”

Scott Lancer kept his pistol carefully trained on Johnny Madrid. “We rode far enough to fool your friends.”

Johnny grin widened. “Ol’Day’s convinced you’re still up in the hills with the entire Lancer crew. Musta doubled back, huh? Decoyed the decoy?”

“It’s a military tactic I’m familiar with.”

Johnny`s smile suddenly disappeared. “So what`re you doin’ here, Boston?”

Scott`s eyes narrowed at that appellation: “Well, Brother, it seems there was something you forgot to mention when we spoke earlier.”

Johnny’s face assumed a grim expression. “Weren’t sure you’d believe me.”

Scott inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement of that reasoning. He also noted that Johnny hadn’t especially liked being called “Brother”. Scott didn`t say anything more, merely continued to regard Johnny in the dim light, a somewhat expectant look on his face. Johnny shrugged. “Ya might as well put that gun away, we both know ya ain’t planning ta use it.” Scott again nodded in recognition of the truth of that statement. He then slowly lowered his weapon, glancing down briefly to adjust the holster so that he could sheath the weapon while in his seated position. When Scott looked back up, he was staring at the barrel of Johnny’s gun.

The blonde man met Johnny’s eyes: “I’d heard you were fast,” he commented as he settled himself more comfortably in the chair.

“Being this trustin’, you must get taken pretty often.”

“I guess I do,” was the calm response.

Johnny noted with approval that the Easterner betrayed no apprehension or fear, merely continued to regard him impassively. “You play poker?” he asked seriously.

“I do,” Scott replied again, but this time one eyebrow raised, ever so slightly, at the unexpected question.

“Well, I’d be willin’ to stake you.”

Scott continued to look at Johnny. Finally he posed a question of his own: “How does one thousand dollars sound as a stake?”

“You tryin’ ta buy me, Boston?”

Scott was annoyed at the repeated use of the pseudonym, though he kept his tone carefully neutral. “In case you didn’t catch the name, it’s Scott.”

Johnny smiled again, then holstered his weapon. “So , Scott , tell me `bout this $1000 you’re offerin’.”

“Oh, it’s not my offer. It’s Murdoch Lancer who’s willing to pay. One thousand dollars for one hour of your time. That Pinkerton agent, the one that found you, well, it seems that he didn’t have the opportunity to tell you about it.”

“You sayin’ Murdoch Lancer sent him?”

“That’s right.”

Johnny stood looking down at the floor, thinking about this information. It had to be the truth, or how would Boston–Scott–even know about that agent? So it had been Murdoch Lancer who had sent Thomas to search for Johnny Madrid. He wondered if the city boy here knew about that firing squad too.

Still seated in a relaxed position in the chair, Scott offered some additional information. “Apparently, he’s had agents searching for you for quite some time.”

The dark haired man looked up at him: “Yeah?”

“Off and on for twenty years.” When Johnny snorted at that, Scott added: “I’ve seen the stack of Pinkerton reports.”

“You read any of `em?”

“Only the most recent ones. But the others are there, and they go back quite a ways.”

Johnny jiggled his hands in an agitated movement. “So I guess he recognized the name then.”

“He did,” Scott assured him. Then he took a chance. “He said that he woke up one morning, to find that your mother was gone, and you along with her.”

Johnny flashed angrily at that: “That ain’t the way I heard it.”

“Well, I’ve heard some things myself–and I haven’t known the man long enough yet to decide what’s true. But he’s willing to pay you a thousand dollars to listen to what he has to say,” Scott said mildly.

“Well, that don’t come close ta matchin’ what Day’s offerin’.”

“Oh, there’s more: a one third ownership in his ranch.”

“He offer you that?”

“He did.”

“So you’re thinking of stayin’ on, doin’ some ranchin`?” Johnny laughed disparagingly. “Well, you can forget it . . . Pardee and his boys are raiding that ranch in a few hours. Ol’Murdoch’s gonna be run off the place. You were smart, you wouldn’t even be goin’ back there.”

Scott considered his brother. “I’m afraid I have to.”

“So you think I’m gonna let you go, cause I did it once before?”

“Yes. And, I had thought that you might come back with me.”

Johnny shook his head. “Well, you got it wrong if you think I’m gonna just turn on Day.”

“I was hoping you’d lead him into the trap, actually, ” Scott said lightly.

Johnny scowled. “What trap? Coming here just means you put in a lot of wasted effort up in those hills.”

Dismayed, Scott feigned nonchalance. “Whether you come with me or stay here with him— either way I expect that now you’ll warn them off.”

There was a short silence and then Scott decided to try one more tactic. “You said that you’d only been here a few weeks.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

“Then perhaps you don’t realize that it hasn’t only been the large landholders like Murdoch Lancer that have been targeted. . . Your friend Pardee started with the smaller ranches.” “And small farmers,” he added carefully, “Like the ones you were trying to help in Mexico.”

Plainly, Johnny was not happy to hear this news.

“So maybe I’ll just have ta think about it, Bos—-Scott.”

“It seems you don’t have much time. Not if the raid is set for dawn.”

“Well, neither do you, so you’d best be headin’ back.”

Scott got up slowly and walked past Madrid. As he reached for the doorknob, he heard Johnny address him by name: “Scott?”

He turned and saw that his brother had extended his right hand.

Their eyes met and Johnny gave a little shrug–“I didn’t shake with ya before.” Scott regarded him without expression. “Good to meet ya.”

A smile briefly crossed the blonde man’s face as he grasped his brother`s hand. Giving him a searching look, Scott urged one more time: “Come with me.”

“Oh, don’t you worry, I’ll be along,” Johnny replied enigmatically.

Chagrined by that ambiguous response, Scott relinquished the hand and turned away quickly in order to hide his dissatisfaction. He edged into the darkened hallway and slowly felt his way back to the staircase. When Scott had first entered the building through the back room of the saloon, he had been fortunate to encounter young Tommy–the boy had said a startled hello to “Mr. Lancer”, but then had kept silent at Scott’s signal. When Scott had whispered an inquiry for “Mr. Madrid”, the boy had responded that the gunfighter was in fact staying upstairs, adding, “He’s real nice–not like those other men.” In reply to Scott’s request, Tommy had willingly given him the room number; he hoped that the boy had not mentioned to anyone that “Mr. Lancer” was on the premises.

Reaching the bottom of the stairway, Scott, eased through the door to the alley behind the saloon. He was relieved to see his horse still quietly waiting. Briefly looking left and right, and seeing no shadowy shapes lying in wait, Scott strode quickly to the animal, mounted and slowly rode to the end of the narrow street. Careful to stay in the shelter of the darkened buildings, he continued on his way to the edge of town. The only small sounds that he thought he heard, other than the steps of his own mount, seemed to come from directly behind him—never drawing closer. Once he reached the open space that indicated the end of the town proper, Scott turned momentarily and peered into the darkness behind him. Still uncertain, he offered a swift salute, then wheeled his animal and galloped off in the direction of the Lancer ranch.

Standing in the shadows, Johnny Madrid allowed himself a small smile at that salute. He felt strangely relieved that the Easterner had apparently made it safely out of town, even though he was still uncertain of his own course of action. Tonight, in the darkness, he had watched silently over his brother, ready to intervene on his behalf if necessary; but tomorrow`s daylight might well find them on opposing sides.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

CONCLUSION:


The subsequent events play out much like the action of the pilot episode, with only a few changes. Johnny Madrid accompanies Day Pardee and the boys, and, on the hill overlooking the ranch, he tells Pardee to get off of “his old man’s land.” Pardee is understandably skeptical that the gunfighter is really a Lancer, Johnny assures him that he is, and then shoots and wounds Pardee. .

During Johnny’s headlong ride towards the hacienda, he is, of course, mounted on a horse other than Barranca; his introduction to the palomino, as well as the demonstration of his brother’s equestrian prowess will have to wait. Since Murdoch has never seen his Johnny as an adult, it is Scott who recognizes the approaching rider as his brother and announcing this, calls out for the Lancer men to hold their fire. When Johnny is shot off of his horse and Murdoch poses his question “I wonder what was that boy doing?”, Teresa does not make her tearful assertion that he was “Coming back to us”, as she has yet to make the acquaintance of Murdoch Lancer’s younger son.

When it becomes apparent that Johnny is still alive, Scott goes to his fallen brother’s assistance. He shoots Pardee and, just as in the original, the rest of the land pirates decamp. Lying on the ground, Johnny has seen it all.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

“Good shooting.”

Scott turned and walked over to the injured man. Johnny looked up at him and managed a weak, lop-sided grin. “Told ya I’d be along.”

“I’d just about given up on you, Brother,” was Scott’s smiling response.

Johnny carefully eased himself into a seated position. “Thought I might as well have a word with the Old Man,” he said. Despite Scott’s murmured advice to “Take it easy”, he struggled to his feet. “That him over there?” Johnny asked, indicating the tall white haired man waiting with a young girl and some of the ranch hands over near the building, some distance away.

“Yes,” Scott assured him, and then reached out to grasp Johnny’s shoulder as he saw the younger man start to sway a bit. Johnny gritted his teeth and holstered his weapon. He was determined to meet his father standing on his feet, but the pain which shot through him as he took his first step warned the wounded man that carrying out that intention was not going to be easy.

Leaning on his cane, Murdoch Lancer limped slowly towards his sons, Teresa, Cipriano and a few of the vaqueros following in his wake. Intent upon the man who had been identified as his father, Johnny took a few small steps, and then, as he started to collapse, reached out towards Scott. Instantly, his brother’s arm went around him, and Cipriano also hastened to the wounded man’s side. “Johnny,” said Murdoch, as he continued his forward progress.

Johnny regarded him searchingly. “You got something to say Old Man?” he asked just before losing consciousness.

With Cipriano’s assistance, Scott carried his brother into the hacienda. The doctor was called in and after tending to Johnny’s wound, confidently predicted the patient’s full recovery. Murdoch and Teresa took turns sitting beside the injured man’s bed, while Scott worked with the hands to repair the damage to the grounds and remove the bodies of those killed in the combat. The next day was also a very busy one, and Scott’s conversations with his father were limited to discussions of the work that needed to be done on the ranch.

As luck would have it, Scott was giving Teresa a moment of respite when his brother finally opens his eyes. “Hey, Boston.” Johnny’s voice was weak, but there was a hint of a friendly tone. “What happened?”

Scott supplied him with information about the outcome of the gun battle with the land pirates and also described the extent of his injury, thoroughly answering Johnny’s concerns on those two topics. They lapsed into a silence which was broken by a question which Johnny started but did not finish: “So where’s . . .?”

“Murdoch?” Scott asked with immediate comprehension. “I’ll get him.”

Finding Murdoch Lancer in the Great Room, he informed his father that Johnny was awake. As Murdoch headed for the doorway, Scott said his name: “Murdoch?” The older man turned, waiting to hear what his son had to say.

“Yes, Scott, what is it?”

“Just that I’m sure that he has some questions, Sir.” “And,” he added, glancing down at the floor momentarily before meeting Murdoch’s gaze. “I think you should try and answer them.”
 

~end~
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PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT

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. You can do so using the ‘reply’ box below, or, if you prefer, you can email Sharon directly.

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3 thoughts on “WHI for The High Riders by Sharon

  1. I like this WHI for the High Riders. It would have made a very watchable pilot episode and a sure hook to keep the audience tuned in.

    Like

  2. Thank you for reading Debra. I wish the show had spent more time on the relationships between the Lancers!

    Like

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