Word Count 2,095
An episode tag to The Escape
In the following piece, it is assumed that the events portrayed in the episode entitled “The Escape” occurred relatively soon after the brothers arrived at the Lancer Ranch, and prior to those of some other first season episodes, such as “Julie”. This is based upon the observation that although in “The Escape”, Johnny takes it upon himself to attempt to escort Dan Cassidy out of town, and makes it clear that the ex-lieutenant will face his gun if he continues his effort to kill Scott, he appears to have much less of an emotional investment in coming to Scott’s aid than he displays in “Julie”.
Having insured that the ex-soldiers Jed Lewis and Rick Hardy had in fact removed themselves from their land, the three Lancers returned to the house with former lieutenant Dan Cassidy. When they arrived at the front door, one of the hands was there to collect their horses. Johnny assisted him to the stable, while Murdoch, Scott and Cassidy went inside. He relinquished Barranca with the others at the stable door, resolving to return to check on his horse before he turned in for the night.
Johnny entered the library through the double doors and saw the other three standing and conversing in the main entryway. As he sauntered towards them, it appeared that Cassidy was finishing up with some expression of gratitude–he shook hands and headed up the stairs.
Scott, left arm still in the black sling, watched Cassidy ascend the stairs. There was a slump to Scott’s normally erect posture; Johnny saw
that his brother looked worn out, much paler than usual. As he came to a halt, he saw Scott close his eyes and give a slight shake of his head. << Like maybe he was seeing something besides that Cassidy fella climbing the stairs .>>
Scott turned towards Murdoch. “I want to thank you for backing me up in this”, he said. While he didn’t exclude Johnny, his words were directed primarily towards the older man. Johnny knew that neither his father nor his brother was aware that on his own he had tried, and failed, to get Cassidy out of town. It was likely to stay that way, unless Cassidy himself had said something. When Scott had turned up missing, it had been Murdoch who had organized the search. Murdoch had also acquiesced in Scott’s decision to bring Cassidy and his wife to the ranch after it was revealed to have been Cassidy who had inadvertently betrayed the escape attempt. Their father might not be certain whether or not he would have harbored Cassidy if Scott had not talked him into it, but Johnny certainly knew his own opinion on the matter: << Man travels all this way to kill you, his troubles are his own .>>
“I . . .” Scott was about to continue when Murdoch gruffly cut him off—
”You’ve had a long day, Scott, you’d better get yourself upstairs and back in bed where you belong.” he said, effectively ending what passed for a heartfelt moment among the Lancer men.
“Yes, sir,” Scott sighed and turned to look up at the now empty staircase.
Johnny moved in beside him and looked up too. “Yah know Boston, it seems like maybe they added a couple while we were out . . ‘ Scott slid a sideways glance at his brother, managed a tired smile, and placed his good arm around Johnny’s shoulders in acceptance of his unspoken offer of assistance.
Murdoch watched as the two slowly mounted the stairs. Scott’s long legs and slim physique, the black knot of the sling at his neck. Johnny’s flared pants, gun belt slung low on his hips, the hat hanging down his back. Blond head next to dark. He retreated to his study to pour himself a drink.
When they reached his room, Scott stood in the doorway. “Johnny . . . I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Good night, Scott.” As he turned away, he thought << Don’t worry big brother, I wasn’t gonna try to undress you and tuck you in .>>
Johnny headed downstairs and found Murdoch seated at his desk.
“Pour yourself a drink”, was what Murdoch said by way of greeting, but Johnny declined. That was one thing that hadn’t changed since his sons had arrived, Murdoch Lancer still had to drink alone. Johnny moved restlessly around the room until he was ready to ask his question.
“So . . . you know anything about all this?”
Murdoch shook his head. “No”. The Pinkerton men had known exactly where to find Scott Lancer, so their report had clearly been perfunctory, at best. There had been very few details of Scott’s military service, and no mention of his imprisonment. Murdoch wondered cynically what other noteworthy events might also have been omitted. He took another swallow. He hated being reminded of how little he knew about his sons.
“I knew, after the fact, that he served on the Union side in the War. . . . in the 83rd regiment. Cavalry unit.”
Johnny waited quietly. Finally Murdoch continued. “Of course, I read quite a bit about the war, while it was happening. After it was all over, I remember reading something about Confederate prisons, —how bad conditions were, but I had no idea . . .” He set down his not-quite-empty glass. “I can’t imagine your brother was there for a year.”
Johnny knew something about prisons. He certainly couldn’t imagine spending a year in one. “A year’s a long time, Murdoch”, he agreed. “But we already knew that Scott’s a lot tougher than he looks.” He smiled as he added this last part, but Murdoch didn’t see. He was still looking at his glass.
Johnny tried again. “So–the war ended, what, a while ago . . .”
“That long. He wasn’t very old then.” Funny, it seemed like maybe one of the names he’d had for his brother when they’d first met—-well, maybe it hadn’t been too far from the truth: “ Soldier Boy ”.
“From what I understand there were a lot of very young soldiers on both sides”.
“Guess I always pictured Scott growing up safe in some fancy house in Boston.”
What Johnny certainly could not picture was Scott in a prison setting. << He seemed too–What was that word that Teresa’d used? Yeah, ‘Refined’. > > He couldn’t imagine his ‘refined’ older brother in such a situation. Whenever he did consider Scott’s military service, the image that came to mind was of ol’ Boston wearing a pretty uniform, prancing around on a high stepping horse, every strand of blond hair in place. Johnny thought that maybe he didn’t want to give that image up.
When Johnny mentioned “a fancy house in Boston”, Murdoch tossed back the rest of his drink. He looked at Johnny. “He’s here now. The Cassidys are leaving in the morning. I’m going to turn in.”
Johnny headed out to the stable and spent some time grooming Barranca. Funny how the first time that he’d laid eyes on Scott, on the stage, he’d figured he’d had him pegged. Well, his new brother had turned out to be full of surprises. Johnny had surprised himself with how protective he’d felt when he’d learned that someone was gunning for Scott. He’d been pretty certain that the man he knew couldn’t have turned traitor and caused the death of so many of his own company. And Johnny sure hadn’t liked listening to the Cassidy woman encouraging Murdoch to send Scott away somewhere. “Seems like I’m gettin’ attached”, he said to Barranca.
Scott woke the next morning to find that sometime in the night someone had placed a blanket over him. After he’d said good night to Johnny, Scott had removed his boots and then decided that he was too tired to get undressed with one good arm. He had stretched out fully clothed on top of his rumpled bed. Aware of having had several dreams during the night, Scott hoped that he hadn’t made any sounds to draw someone to his room.
Scott managed to get the boots back on and then combed his hair. Even though his beard was pretty noticeable this morning, he wasn’t about to try shaving one-handed. As he was attempting to readjust the sling, Teresa came in: “Let me help you with that.”
“I was just checking to see if you were awake. The Cassidys have had breakfast and are packing their things. They’ll be leaving soon.” Teresa clearly wouldn’t be sorry to see the couple go.
“Well, then, I’d better get downstairs, I wouldn’t want to miss them.”
Teresa frowned: “ She came out here before, you know, Mrs. Cassidy.”
“She came to tell Murdoch that it was her husband who was after you. She said that Murdoch should use his money to send you away from here, where her husband couldn’t find you.”
“Did she? And did she explain why?”
Teresa hesitated. “Well, she told us about the escape attempt.”
Scott met her eyes. “I assume that she also told you about the sixteen men who died in that attempt. That I was the only survivor. And that Dan believed that I’d betrayed them.”
“She did! But I didn’t believe her, Scott. I knew that you couldn’t do anything like that.”
Scott glanced down, then back at the girl. “I’m very glad to hear it, Teresa.”
Teresa wouldn’t tell him how afraid she’d been that Murdoch Lancer might have doubts, but she gladly repeated the older man’s words: “Murdoch said that ‘No son of his could ever do a thing like that.’”
“He said that?”
“Yes, he did.” Teresa was delighted to present him with this evidence of Murdoch’s confidence in him. The girl was disappointed to see Scott’s features assume his familiar tight-lipped expression, rather than the rare, warm smile that she so enjoyed. For Scott had quickly interpreted his father’s words as the expression of a deeply held desire, rather than a conviction. << After all, he doesn’t really know me. And I read that report. The Pinkertons didn’t write about any of it. No one here knows what I was like then, or what I did during the War .>>
After taking leave of the Cassidys, Murdoch and Johnny returned to their tasks while Scott retreated to the library. He tried to resume his work on the accounts, but couldn’t even come close to recovering the focus that had kept him up past midnight such a short time ago. When Teresa came in to say that dinner was ready, he smiled and said that he wasn’t hungry. “I did just have breakfast”, he said, but he really preferred to avoid dining room conversation.
Deciding to give up on the ledgers, Scott pulled a book off of the shelf– a novel, nothing that he was familiar with. He read a page or two before his mind started to wander again.
When Lt. Dan Cassidy had been taken ill, the rest of the men had been determined to carry through with the planned escape attempt, but, as second in command, the ill-fated final decision had been Scott’s. In view of the outcome, the burden of that decision had been a heavy one, now somewhat lightened by the assurance that the disaster had not been due to some unknown error on his part. He couldn’t imagine the weight now pressing on Cassidy, who now knew that it was his own fevered ramblings which had betrayed the company.
Scott had been sincere when he’d told Dan that he’d enjoy seeing a picture of their unit and reminiscing about their early days together. Lieutenant Dan Cassidy had been like a brother to Scott, or so he had thought. Several months had passed between the nightmare of the escape attempt and his visit with the still very ill Lieutenant Cassidy at the War’s end. By then Scott had been so numb—-with grief for the men who been killed, with guilt at being the only survivor, with the abuse that he’d taken after the failed attempt—–that he had barely reacted when Dan had accused him of betrayal. Scott hadn’t tried to change the man’s mind even when Cassidy had threatened to “make him pay”. Perhaps a part of him had recognized that Dan was still very ill, and not thinking very clearly, but the pain that Scott should have felt at hearing such an accusation from a close friend simply hadn’t been there. He’d felt nothing. Scott had left the camp, returned to Boston and tried hard to forget about it all . . .
While Scott and Murdoch were taking their leave of the Cassidys, Johnny had stayed in the background. He was glad to see the couple go. At breakfast, Sarah Cassidy had had little to say, but Dan had made several attempts at conversation. He talked about how well he’d known Scott in the regiment, how Murdoch should be proud of the way that his son had conducted himself and finished up with repeating how sorry he was that he’d ever believed Scott’d turned traitor. Teresa tried to be polite. Murdoch had little to say to the man, and Johnny even less. Although curious about his brother’s experience, Johnny was not interested in hearing any opinions from the likes of Cassidy.
Johnny considered what Murdoch had said about wanting to have as much ‘compassion’ as Scott. Compassion. Forgiveness. Sounded like that turn-the-other-cheek business in the stories of the Catholic saints and martyrs that he’d heard as a kid. Not that Scott seemed like the religious type, but it looked as if he maybe had one of those streaks that made a person always want to be doing the “right” thing— even when it didn’t make any sense. In their conflict with Day Pardee and his boys, Scott hadn’t any good reason to help Murdoch, or later, Johnny himself, but he’d gone ahead and done it anyway. And his brother had certainly had plenty of reason not to help Cassidy. << Seems like its those people who are always doing the ‘right’ thing that end up having bad things happen to ’em. >>
When Scott failed to appear in the dining room, Johnny finished his meal and went looking for him. As Johnny strolled into the library Scott looked up, nodded, then returned his attention to the book that he was holding. Johnny tossed his hat on a table and sat down, noisily, in Murdoch’s chair, but Scott didn’t glance up again. After watching him for a while, Johnny concluded that he sure didn’t seem to be doing much with the book. << Okay, start with something simple, about the War. Like why’d he join up? >>
“Hey Boston—I was wondering—”
His brother looked up at “Hey Boston” and there was something about the expression on Scott’s face that made Johnny change in mid sentence. “I was wondering–since you don’t seem to be readin’ much of that book, I was wondering if you might not give me a game.”
Scott’s face relaxed visibly. “Sure.”
Johnny placed the chess board on the table near Scott and set up the black and white armies facing each other. Then he rotated the board, so that the black pieces were lined up in front of him, the white pieces on Scott‘s side. Scott nodded in acknowledgment—-Johnny always preferred to play black. It was Murdoch who had taught his younger son the game while Johnny was recuperating from Pardee’s bullet. Johnny had yet to defeat Scott, but twice the brothers had played to a draw. And Scott hadn’t exactly been gracious about it, at least not the first time. For someone who was usually pretty even tempered, Boston sure played chess like it was something personal. Johnny watched while the older man adjusted a few of the white pieces and considered his opening move, finally settling on one of his favorites, an aggressive one: “Knight to King’s Bishop 3”, Scott said as he lifted the horse soldier forward.
The game progressed more slowly than usual. As he watched Scott absently stroking the bristles on his chin, Johnny tried to picture his brother with a beard. << Not much chance to shave in prison.> > The image of a gaunt-faced, bearded and haggard-eyed Scott flashed in his mind, and Johnny didn’t like it. He also didn’t like that it was starting to look as if his first victory over his older brother was very near at hand. As Johnny reached across the board to capture yet another one of the white pieces, their eyes met. Scott looked away first.
<< That’s okay, Boston. I guess we don’t need to talk about it .>> A few moves later, Johnny laid his king on its side—”Boston, you know, I’m gonna have to let you try to beat me some other time—– just remembered I told Murdoch I’d do somethin‘.” Scott didn’t object as Johnny quickly left the room–only to realize, when he reached the front door, that he’d left his hat in the library. Returning, he saw that Scott hadn’t moved and was sitting and staring at nothing. Johnny decided that he could get along without his hat for what was left of the afternoon.
Despite a number of sleepless nights, Scott Lancer had recovered completely from his gunshot wound within a few weeks. He did not volunteer any further information about his military service, Lt. Dan Cassidy, or the Confederate prison camp. And no one at Lancer asked him any questions.
It was not until several years later, during a trip East, that Scott spoke at any length about his experience. While visiting Memorial Hall in Cambridge, constructed in honor of those Harvard men who served the Union in the War of the Rebellion, he saw the name of one of the sixteen engraved on a plaque. It was there, surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows created to commemorate the valor and patriotism of those who died in the War, that Teresa finally heard the full story of The Escape.
INMORTALIS EST ENIM MEMORIA ILLORUM
QUONIAM ET APUD DEUM NOTA EST ET APUD HOMINES
“The memory of those (men) is immortal because it is known both with God and
with men.” (translation of a Latin inscription found in Harvard’s Memorial Hall.)
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