Word Count 2,495
Written for the Lancer Writers 2023 Betrayal Challenge. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks to Sandy for her always quick and invaluable help.
Cipriano, the Segundo of the Lancer ranch, was about to go into the barn to check the horses as he does every morning when Johnny’s raised voice stopped him.
He listened for a moment and wondered why Johnny was speaking in Spanish, then shook his head and thought, “Here we go again.”
He turned on his heel, intending to walk away rather than get caught up in one of the usual fights between the Patron and his younger son.
After a few steps, he stopped. The second voice did not belong to the Patron but to Maria, the housekeeper, and she seemed very agitated and tried to explain something in a shrill and trembling voice.
When Johnny snapped at Maria, Cipriano felt compelled to intervene. The boy had no reason to be aggressive and disrespectful towards the poor woman who loved and fussed over him, almost as if Johnny were her own son.
Without stopping to think, Cipriano pushed open the barn door. “Que está pasando aqui?”
Johnny, taken aback by the loud noise of the door slamming against the wall, gasped, put his hand on the butt of the gun, and began to turn to face the intruder.
Luckily, his senses, perfectly sharpened, had registered that the voice was that of the Segundo, and as he finished turning, he moved his hand away from the weapon.
“Are you loco? You know better than to come up on me like that. I could have killed you.”
Not intimidated, Cipriano gave Johnny an angry look. “What about what you’re doing? What right do you have to address Maria like that? You should be ashamed, chico!”
Johnny realized he was taking all his frustrations on the poor woman, who only wanted to show him the truth.
She just wanted to tell him how her father had always wanted him and had spent years looking for him. But Johnny, too angry with the old man after yet another quarrel the night before, wasn’t willing to listen.
“Lo siento mucho, yo… Lo siento, lo siento María.” Johnny began to walk towards his horse when Cipriano’s big hand rested on his arm.
The contact made him pull away abruptly. “Don’t! Let me go. It’s better.”
Cipriano took a weeping Maria in an embrace and led her towards the house and her kitchen.
As they crossed the yard, they saw the lone rider seated on his golden horse outside the ranch entrance archway. He was looking at the house, motionless. After a few minutes, he turned the palomino and set off at a gallop.
When Johnny arrived in Morro Coyo, the town was still shrouded in the dim early morning light.
The noise of Barranca’s hooves, which advanced in the deserted street, resounded rhythmically, attracting the attention of the few owners of the businesses who were the only ones already at work. They turned around, curious about who was venturing into town at that hour. Recognizing Murdoch Lancer’s youngest son, they waved to him and returned to arranging their wares.
Johnny stopped in front of the cantina, waiting for Senor Benitez to open. They entered together, and as the owner began to put on his apron, the young Lancer’s voice made him stop, perplexed.
“Don’t bother putting on your apron. Give me two bottles of the best tequila, close the door and go home. Come back later.” The tone of voice left no doubt that the boy was serious, and the $20 gold coin convinced him.
After setting the tequila and an empty glass on the table in front of Johnny, Senor Benitez did as he was told. He flipped the ‘Closed’sign over before pulling the door closed.
Johnny sat down as usual at the table furthest from the entrance and with his back against the wall. He filled his glass and downed it without even bothering to help himself to salt and lemon.
He prepared the second glass, then stopped to contemplate the yellow, golden liquid and let it swirl in the glass.
In reality, he no longer felt like drinking, much less getting drunk. This had never been the way he had dealt with problems. Usually, he would go straight to whatever obstacle came his way without thinking about the consequences.
What had come over him this time, he didn’t know. Why couldn’t he face his father man to man instead of retreating seemingly behind a wall of hostility? Why had he mistreated Maria, who he knew just wanted to help him?
Johnny was aware that alcohol wouldn’t help him in the confrontation that by now he had decided to have with Murdoch. Whatever happened, everything had to end as soon as possible. After their talk, he would know if he could stay or leave and return to his old life.
He sat there, his blue eyes staring at the liquid swirling in the glass and wetting the already dirty and sticky table, hoping to figure out how to formulate a mental plan to clarify the situation, at least for himself. Nothing came to mind.
After last night’s furious argument with his youngest son, Murdoch Lancer had decided that they couldn’t go on like this any longer.
So, he woke up early to ride into Morro Coyo, where he knew he could find his friend Dr. Sam Jankins. On Wednesdays, the doctor could always be found at the cantina drinking coffee before starting his rounds.
Sam was sitting in front of Senor Baldomero’s emporium with a cup in his hands.
“Morning, Sam. Is the Cantina closed today?” asked Murdoch, dismounting.
“Not exactly,” said Sam with a smile. Senor Benitez, the cantina’s owner seemed to be a bit nervous. “Johnny bought two bottles of Tequila and hired the entire cantina.”
“What? Why?” Then giving a deadly look to Senor Benitez, he asked, “And why did you give him the bottles? You know he is not legal yet!”
“Of age or not, it’s always Johnny Madrid. When Madrid is in a bad mood, I do what he says. I’m sorry, Senor Lancer. He may be your son, but I don’t trust him.” Having said this, Juan Benitez headed for home, aware of the disapproving looks that followed him.
Murdoch turned to his friend with a shake of his head.
“I just came to get some advice from you about how to speak with Johnny. I don’t want to make a mess of it this time. I don’t know how to convince him that Lancer is his home and we are his family. What can I say to break his doubts?”
Sam thought for a moment before smiling, “Do you want my advice, and do you plan to follow it, or will you, as usual, get sidetracked by the intelligent tactics of that boy, who will try to argue rather than answer your questions?”
Receiving no response, only a gesture of surrender of Murdoch’s hands, Sam continued,” I know that for you, it’s a difficult thing to do but let him lead the speech.”
Murdoch took a deep breath and slowly released it before nodding. “Okay, Sam, I will try to do the right thing because I think our time is up. Either we find some ground we can move on fairly easily, or I’m going to lose that boy again, and that’s not what I want.”
Looking at the closed cantina door, Murdoch nodded. “All right, let’s go to the mountain lion’s den.”
Sam watched the big man walk towards the cantina, as if he were going to the gallows, and prayed that it was finally the right time.
Johnny looked up as he heard the door open, and the sight of his father took his breath away.
“Hello, Son,” Murdoch said as he entered with a tight smile.
“Hola Murdoch, are you looking for me?” asked Johnny, hoping for an affirmative answer.
Murdoch thought saying yes would have eased the situation, but he also knew his perceptive son would see the lie, so he just said, “Actually, I came to get some advice from Sam on how to talk to you. Since you were here, I thought there was no better time than the present.”
“Take a glass and come to sit.”
Johnny nodded toward the chair in front of him.
Johnny licked his lips and ran his hands over his face looking into his father’s anxious eyes. He breathed heavily and said, “I wanted to talk to you too, but I thought I needed help.” He nodded to the bottles in front of him, shaking his head disconsolately.
“I’m here to listen to you or to answer any questions you have for me,” Murdoch said seriously, helping himself to a glass of tequila and drinking slowly.
For a few moments, Johnny kept his head down, then took a sip and said, without looking up
“I have nothing to ask you. I don’t want to ask you anything.” He finished the glass and quickly downed another.
Murdoch frowned at the thought of what he was about to hear if his usually cold and detached son needed so much liquid help.
“I had all the information I needed. Theresa told me the whole story, but I didn’t believe her. After all, she is young, I told myself; she couldn’t know what’s happening. She was just repeating what she had heard. What you wanted her to know.”
The tension at the table was high, but Murdoch hardly dared to breathe or move while waiting for Johnny to continue.
“Then I asked around, and the answers were always the same, but I thought they were scared of me and telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. I told myself they were lying when all the time I was lying to myself. I know when people don’t tell me the truth; when they say what Johnny Madrid wants to hear. I learned to understand that a long time ago.”
“Why didn’t you ask me directly?” An anguished Murdoch asked.
“Why? Because I understand one thing about you, you don’t lie; you can be a hard man, but you are honest and always tell the truth. If you had said the same thing, that would have meant that it was the gospel, and I didn’t want to know it.”
Johnny opened the second bottle and, forgetting the glass, raised the bottle and took a long gulp, making the man sitting in front of him shiver.
“Do you know what that means?”
Murdoch shook his head, he needed a drink, but figured that at least one of them should stay sober, and being the father, it was his duty.
“I loved mama, always had. She was the only person that cared for me. The light in a dark life. But… but, if all that she said were lies. She told me you betrayed us; kicked us out.”
Johnny looked into his father’s shocked eyes and forced himself to continue. “But the truth is that she betrayed you and her wedding vows.”
“Johnny, stop it, please,” begged Murdoch, sensing the son’s suffering.
“The worst is that she betrayed me too. She made me who I am now, making me hate you for your betrayal, and made me a man who kills other men for money. I became a killer and wanted to become the best with only one goal. Kill the man who had condemned us to that accursed life. You.”
A hard gasp from Murdoch made Johnny raise his hand.
“Now let me finish, please. Don’t make mistakes now. I had so many jobs that I didn’t find the time to come so far north, but then, you offered me a thousand dollars.” Johnny laughed. “You could say you paid for your own murder.”
Murdoch could no longer breathe, an enormous weight weighed on his heart, and he certainly didn’t know what to answer, so he gulped down his drink.
“And before you ask. No, I wouldn’t have given you the satisfaction of knowing why you were dying. I wouldn’t have told you who I was, nor would I have given you the time to tell me your version of events.” Johnny looked at his father’s pale face and his eyes filled with unshed tears.
Murdoch waited a moment to see if Johnny had said anything more. Finally, he asked, “Why am I alive?”
“What do you mean about Scott?”
“Having a brother I knew nothing about shocked me and made me lose sight of why I came.
Then everything happened so fast that it confused me more than anything. Lastly, I just couldn’t become a cold-blooded murderer if there was something that cleared you.”
“I am glad you have had all these obstacles and are a man of strong principles.” Murdoch smiled and breathed a sigh of relief.
Johnny and Murdoch looked at each other for a moment, picked up their glasses at the exact moment, and drank.
Johnny seemed to have finished, and the silence between them was heavy.
“What do we do now?” the boy’s voice was a whisper.
Murdock knew by then that his answer was crucial.
“We can go home and try to put things together calmly.”
“Can it be so easy?” Johnny asked with trepidation.
“Do you still want to kill me?”
“Do you want to leave or stay?”
“I want to stay.”
Murdoch nodded, smiled, and went up to his son. “Let’s go home then.”
“Thank you, Old man, you will not regret it.” ‘
Johnny stood and staggered slightly toward the door, followed by his father. Once outside, Johnny turned toward the livery stable. Murdoch stayed by his side, ready to catch him if he fell.
Passing in front of Baldomero’s Emporium, Johnny stopped.
“Wait, I have something to buy.”
Johnny went inside and, a few minutes later, came out with a long brown package.
Murdoch was curious as to what his son had bought. “What do you have here, son?”
Johnny gave a silly smile. “I bought a new wooden spoon for Maria. I have the distinct impression that when she’s done with my butt, she’ll need a new one.”
Murdoch was incredulous, looking into the happy eyes of his strange and unpredictable son.
A great desire overcame him to put his arm around Johnny’s shoulders and hug him. But the father inside him knew it wasn’t the time, not now, not yet. He would have waited and hoped that soon something would change between them.
Shaking his head and chuckling, he followed his son, who walked confidently to the horses despite all the tequila he’d swallowed.
“Are you sure you can ride?” Murdoch helped his son to mount.
“Yeah,” Johnny answered with a smile. “I can make it.”
Murdoch put a hand on his son’s leg and nodded. “Then let’s go home, son.”
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19 thoughts on “The Last Attempt by Silvia ”
Good job! My big sister!! I’ m very proud of you!!
I was thinking who was Annamaria!!
Thank you little sis.
This was very good. I liked it a lot
Thank you Charlene, you are very kind.
Thank you so much for reading and letting me know that you liked it.
Thank you Tania, for reading and comment ing.
Hi, Silvia- This is a great story of Johnny coming to know the truth of what had happened in his early life- Maria’s lies, and Murdoch bearing the brunt of the false accusations… and Johnny having to come to terms with all of that, then admitting to Murdoch that what he had been told were lies. This was ‘the’ turning point between father and son. Great story!
Thank you Diana for the kind feedback I’m glad that you liked it.
This was great ! Thank you.
Thank you Caterina, I’m glad you liked I’m glad you like it
What a great story. Thank you.
Thank you Helen for reading and letting me know that you liked it.
Love it. Love reading it. Thank you for writing it.
Thank you Rita for reading and commenting.
I love this story. Johnny going into Baldemaro’s for a wooden spoon is a perfect ending.
Thank you Debra to take the time to read and give feedback.
I’ve always liked the reference to Maria’s wooden spoon in fanfiction, so I wanted to add it, somehow, to my story.
Have a nice day
Nice brief insight on those early days
Thank you very much.