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Buckskin

 

 

Battle Of Wills
February 2020 challenge at Lancer Writers: Vice Versa challenge

March 1860

He stared at the letter in his hand. Shaking fingers crushed the envelope, wrinkling the paper within. Had it been alive, its life would have been snuffed out in seconds. Harlan Garrett seethed as he read the name on the missive. Scott Lancer…  The cheerful crackling fire in Harlan’s study could not chase away the cold in his heart. It had been there too long and had taken root and would grow until Garrett drew his last breath.

It was bitter and raw. He’d lost his daughter, sweet Catherine, as a result of that man’s refusal to do the honorable thing and leave her alone. He was not good enough, not educated, nor was he of a good family or name. And, still, he wants Scotty!  I should have changed the boy’s name! I should have taken him abroad! I should have… Yes, there were a thousand ‘should haves’.  But he hadn’t done them. He’d been so self-assured in his ability to avoid any unpleasantries, he hadn’t seen the need.

Harlan knew the man to be tenacious. He had tried ever since Scotty had been brought to Boston to claim his son. And he wrote letters to the boy, every birthday, every Christmas and all occasions and with letters in between. And gifts… oh, the gifts were a blatant reminder the man would not give up. But Harlan intercepted those letters and gifts; he’d destroyed them, and never delivered into the hands intended to hold them, to read, and to know he’d been wanted and loved.

“Oh, Scotty,” Harlan would say as he sat in his chair as the boy, obviously distressed, poured out his shattered little heart. “The man doesn’t want you, he does not deserve you. Now dry those tears. A Garret does not cry, young man!” And that was the end of it.

Scotty’s young heart had to make an effort to heal on its own. There had been many questions he wanted to ask Grandfather but now knew he would not get his answers. Grandfather wasn’t going to talk about the issue anymore.

And Scott’s young world was manipulated. He had been led to believe the ugly untruths and steered on a path of ruthless and inflexible opinions and decisions. A way that led to the harsh, sometimes brutal world of Garrett Enterprises.

Harlan would win the battle, no matter what. He had the money and legal backing, and the unmitigatedviciousness to see this through. Garrett did not play by the rules and always got what he wanted.

Along with issues he’d dealt with over the years, Harlan Garrett would also have his way regarding the subject of his grandson. He had lied and connived to keep Scott from knowing the truth that his father in California wanted him, had, in fact, come to take Scotty home on his fifth birthday. Home to what? A dirt farm to do backbreaking physical work, wasting the education that he would receive here? No, Scotty is entitled to more!  

And he continued to seeth as he thought of the other son, the half-breed! Scotty could not be tarnished, should this other one be found and brought to Lancer as well! That one would turn out bad, he probably already was. That is, if the brat was still alive.

No, Scotty will never know about his father, he’ll never know about his bastard brother, either.

Not recognizing the second marriage, Harlan refused to accept the fact his son-in-law had another wife. No one could take dear Catherine’s place and more, no one would take Scotty away from him… No one!

<><><><> 

As Scott grew, Harlan was delighted that thoughts of his father became less frequent. He made sure the lad accepted the fact the man that fathered him did not care about him. There had been no contact, Scott had been ignored; however, the hurt seemed to linger. Garrett had told him to forget about the man and was able to convince him it was a waste of time to dwell on what was not to be. So, young Scott immersed himself in his studies, and as the years went by, was walking in his grandfather’s footsteps.

“You are doing a fine job, my boy! A fine job! You will be running the company before you know it!”

But Harlan did not detect the forced smile that turned the lad’s mouth into a frown.

Harlan Garrett couldn’t be more proud. The plans were working out just as he wanted. Scott would take a position in Garrett Enterprises, and lead the company long after Harlan was gone. Garrett’s dream was becoming a reality!

<><><><> 

March 1870

Harlan Garrett gloated. Not only had Scotty returned from that horrendous war, he was now beginning to take more responsibility in the company. He huffed in disdain over the lad living a savage life in the wilds of California. That life had killed his beloved Catherine, and Harlan vowed he would do everything in his power to save his grandson from that terrible fate. And Harlan grinned. He would save Scotty, but the denial of his former son-in-law was sweet revenge. And he reveled in the victory, the battle he continued to win.

However, Harlan’s job was not finished. Scotty still lacked in much of the aspects required to be a successful businessman. He was not displaying what it took to fill Harlan’s shoes. There was a characteristic about the lad that made an opponent feel like an equal and not an opponent at all, and Harlan could not abide weakness in any form. This was not a place to make friends. This was business!

“Scotty! You have to learn if you want to win, you need to be aggressive! You need to dominate your adversary, and sometimes, you need to destroy him!”

“This is not a war, Grandfather! There is no need to destroy anyone! Solutions can be worked out.”

So, Harlan set about a more aggressive training program and one, he found to his complete and utter dismay, one at which Scotty did not excel. In fact, he fought against it. But he would learn.

Garrett turned a blind eye to the lad’s dalliances, but with warnings should Scott fall prey to the young socialites searching for the best ‘catch’ in Boston’s high society. No matter how many, no matter who the young misses were, Scotty would come to his senses, Harlan would make sure of it. He chuckled to himself. He knew that this evening, his grandson would be keeping company with… what was the girl’s name? He couldn’t remember. She wasn’t important enough to worry about. Her family was not significant enough for Garrett to call the name to mind. Scotty would burn off a bit of steam and forget all about her. That was all there was to it.

And Harlan remembered the talk he’d had with Scott earlier after he’d come home from the war regarding the minor improprieties.

“If you feel the need for company, choose one that cannot sully the Garrett name! A gentleman does not leave a brood of bastards in his wake!”

But that had been long ago and, although Scotty had learned discretion, Harlan did not approve of the penchant for the late-night engagements indulged by his grandson.

<><><><> 

It was late, and Harlan was ready for bed. Taking the watch from his pocket, he checked the time and noted Scotty had not yet returned from his night out. The date with… with… Ah, Barbara!, that was the name!  And he hoped that he would soon hear the lad come through the front door.

“I can stay up for a bit longer. I’d like to speak to Scotty before I retire for the night.” Harlan Garrett had to chuckle. He’d been talking to himself more, especially at night when he was alone. He stood by the fire as the night chill began to invade his cozy study, the flames licked over the logs, sending their sparks up the chimney and lending a cheerfulness that Harlan had not felt in a long while.

He was pleased with most of his grandson’s abilities in the company and assured himself what Scotty lacked would soon grow to make him even more proud. Harlan was a very happy man! He couldn’t help the grin that crawled across his face. Yes, he had won! Oh, dear Catherine, I wish you could be here and see your son! He will soon have all he deserves!

 The musings were cut short as the heavy oak study door opened without the courtesy of the required knock. Harlan whirled to confront the offense as Scott entered the room. Without a greeting, he went straight to the sideboard and helped himself to the prise brandy Harlan stocked for his personal use. Without the usual respectful manners, Scott settled in a chair to level Harlan with an insolent, cold stare.

The old man was stunned. Scotty had never before exhibited such abhorrent behavior.

“What is the meaning of this? What is so important that you cannot respect me with, at the very least, a knock to my private study?” he demanded.

What was it he saw in Scotty’s eyes? That look had never been directed at him before…

Scott took an audacious drink before he spoke, then slowly turned his head to face his grandfather. Without wasting his words, Scott Garrett Lancer got right to the point.

“I want to know about my father, and I want to know the truth.”

If Harlan was stunned before, he was frozen now, and the cheery fire could not begin to touch the cold that wrapped around his heart. He felt his heart seize, and his breath caught in his throat. Scotty couldn’t know

He placated, and he lied again. “Why, Scotty, whatever do you mean? You know the man abandoned you; you know he washed his hands of you. What else could you possibly want to know of the… the backwoodsman? The man that literally murdered your dear mother?”

“Save the dramatics, Grandfather.” Scott kept the temper at bay. It would serve to irritate Harlan, perhaps trick him into divulging something that had been kept hidden. Scott knew he had not been told all the story, much less all the truth.

“I think there is much that you haven’t told me. So, I am giving you the chance to make things easier, for both of us.”

The stare did not lessen, and Harlan Garrett, unshakable and unmovable business magnate, began to inwardly tremble under the blue-gray shards that started to shred his heart.

Could he save himself? He couldn’t tell the truth, it would destroy him!

<><><><> 

It had been a long night, but Harlan was sure Scotty believed him in the end. What had happened to set the lad on this uncharacteristic attack?. He thought all night, had not been to bed and now waited for Scott to join him. He would say the things needed to relieve any lingering doubts and bolster his own fabrications. And he would do anything to make Scotty believe him.

Scott descended the stairs, dressed to greet the world, hat, coat, gloves, and…  valise. He stopped at Harlan’s study door and looked around the room that he now despised. It was a room of lies, contempt, and ugliness.

Harlan felt fear. For the first time in his life, Harlan was afraid.

“Scotty, where are you going?”

Scott could only smile. A small tug at the corners of his mouth, but a smile none the less.

“Well, Grandfather, I am going after what I want with all the skills you taught me. I am ruthless and unrelenting. You see, I am after the truth. I am going to California.” And Scott Garrett Lancer closed the door to the house on Beacon Street.

Harlan stood rooted to the spot. He was alone, he was dizzy, and his head pounded. Then suddenly his will kicked in.

This isn’t over!

 

 

~ end ~

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