The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Danni

 

 

The Longest Day

A special thank you to Lacy for her encouragement and constructive feedback.  My story is better because of her!

 

 

Holding onto the horse took all the strength he had left, but he kicked that horse hard.  Bolting between the three riders that surrounded him, he headed the horse to the edge of the bluff and together they leapt over the ledge and into the air.  As the horse and he plummeted down to the river below, he let go to separate himself from the horse.  Hitting the water hard and then driving deep below the surface of the river, he wondered when - and if - he would feel the river bottom and then be able to propel back to the surface.  That moment finally came and he pushed as hard as he could against the river bottom.  

Finally reaching the top, he broke through the water gasping for air.  He shook his head from side to side to get his hair out of his face.  It was only a second before he heard the sound of a gun being fired from above.  “We’re not done with you yet, Lancer!” yelled someone from the top of the bluff.  The heavy rains of the last few days worked to his advantage as the river swiftly moved him downstream.  For that, he was grateful. 

Up ahead he saw a nice-sized branch floating and swam to it.  When he reached it and was able to get a good hold on it, he was relieved; for a moment, anyway.  The pace of the river and the fact that Burke and his men were starting their pursuit of him from the top of a tall bluff gave him a moment to breath – to think.  He then watched the horse leave the river, shake off the excess water and gallop away.  Well, he wouldn’t be riding home. 

*

Val Crawford dismounted his horse and tied it to the post outside the front door of the hacienda.  He looked up towards the sun, took off his hat and wiped his brow with his sleeve.  The late morning sun was warm and the ride from town had been fast.  Val headed toward the French doors that opened into the great room of the Lancer hacienda.  He walked into the great room and found Murdoch, as he expected, sitting at his desk reviewing the books.  Murdoch looked up and greeted Val.

“Val, I’m surprised to see you,” he said as he stood up to meet Val as he entered the room.

“Murdoch.  Is Scott home?” Val asked as he walked to meet Murdoch and shake his hand.

“No.   He went to check for stray cattle near the bluffs.  He left before dawn this morning.  I expect he’ll be home soon,” replied Murdoch.

“Well, the Burkes were in town last night,” Val said as he slapped his hat against his leg to shake the dust off.

Murdoch’s relaxed face became concerned.  “I thought they had another year in jail.”

“Seems they got a reduction in their sentence,” returned Val.  

Murdoch heard the sound of horses galloping towards the house.  As he turned to Val, he said, “Perhaps this is Scott now.”

Murdoch walked with Val to the French doors and onto the patio.  What they saw immediately alarmed them.  There was Scott’s horse – in between Frank and Ben - without Scott.

“We caught Scott’s horse near the front gate, Mr. Lancer.  No sign of Scott, sir,” stated Frank.

Murdoch and Val walked to the horse and checked him and the saddle for any clues as to the time and distance the horse had traveled on his own.  Val’s eyes met Murdoch’s eyes. 

Murdoch turned to Frank.  “Scott was working the northern side of the bluffs today.  We’ll start searching there.  Frank, please saddle up my horse.  I’d like you and Ben to come with Val and me.  Ben, Johnny is working south of the bluffs.  Send someone to tell him that the Burkes are in the area and Scott is missing.  Tell him to start heading north and watch for Scott.”  Murdoch’s words were quick and decisive.

“Yes sir, Mr. Lancer, “replied Frank as he dismounted and led his horse to the barn.

*

He hung on for dear life as sections of the river were treacherous with large rocks.  The branch provided some protection, but he still swirled around in the whirlpools near the rocks.  In his weakened state, holding on to the branch was all he could manage.  He watched for an opportunity to get to shore. 

*

Josh Burke and the two Burke riders fired only a few shots at Scott.  They looked at each other – stunned.  Lancer had ridden the horse over a cliff and survived.  Just a few hours before, they had played with Scott like a toy.  Josh recalled ambushing Scott while he was rounding up strays.  Scott’s horse had run off and then roped Scott like an animal.  Then back at their campsite, they played with their prey.  He remembered clearly that morning… “You know, Lancer, I spent 5 years in prison.  And while I was there, I couldn’t help but think of you.  You know if you had just stayed out of it…and let me deal with Angel, we wouldn’t be faced with the problem we have now.”

Despite his situation, Scott was still bold and had actually called him a coward.   For that, Josh punched Scott in the stomach.  As Scott had struggled for air, Josh smiled.  “Well, Lancer.  Let’s just see who cries out and begs today.  My old man has some plans for you.  I’m thinking that we have some fun before we let him have his fun.”  Then he had reached down inside his boot and pulled a hunting knife from its sheath.

Slowly and skillfully, he had cut each of the buttons off of Scott’s dark blue shirt.  Deliberately and calmly, he ran the sharp point of the knife down Scott’s chest.  The knife left the thinnest scratch and blood trickled.  When Josh pulled the knife back, he then watched Scott take a slow, shallow breath.  Josh had grinned and put the knife back into the holder in his boot.  Standing in front of Scott, he had stared directly into Scott’s blue eyes.  “More than once, I got a whipping at prison, Lancer.  I think I owe you one.”

He had wanted to see Scott show fear – but he didn’t.  “Tie him up – spread eagle between those trees, boys.  We’re going to have some fun.”  While the two men tied Scott between the trees, Josh had walked to his horse and gotten the whip.  For effect, he had cracked it over and over again on his way to a spot behind Lancer.  Taunting Lancer, he cracked the whip on either side of Scott’s body and his feet – missing him by just mere inches.  When he tired of this, he planted a powerful, wicked lash on Scott’s back.  He smiled as he heard Scott gasp loudly.  He wanted Scott to feel pain and whipped him a half a dozen times before stopping.  Scott wasn’t making enough noise to suit him.  He wanted to hear desperate cries; he really wanted to hear and see Lancer suffer.  He handed the whip to Jim, one of the two Burke riders.  Josh walked to his horse and retrieved a small pouch from his saddlebag.  He then walked and stood behind Scott.  While Scott showed weakness and distress from the whipping so far, he wanted more from Scott…to hear his cries, for him to beg him to stop.

From the pouch, Josh had poured salt into his hand.  With pleasure, he then spread the salt over Scott’s back and pressed it in the wounds.  Scott had jolted, pulling against the ropes that bound him and then let out a surprised, cry of agony.  Lancer was in real pain - Josh had laughed.   Closing the bag of salt and putting it in his pocket, he then walked in front of Scott.  Lancer’s head drooped.  Josh grabbed a handful of Scott’s hair and pulled his head up.  “I think I want to enjoy the view for a while, Jim.  Go ahead, Jim - give him a couple of good ones.”  And while he held Scott’s head, Jim whipped Scott.  And as Josh had held Scott’s head, he smiled and laughed aloud.  Clearly Lancer was in agony – but took the whipping until he sagged, straining against the ropes.  Josh laughed as he slapped Scott on the back.  Scott gasped.  “Well, well, I got some blood on my hands…” Josh chuckled and then used the front of Scott’s shirt to wipe it off.

“Well, I think you’re ready to meet my old man.  Dave – get Scotty boy a horse.  Yes, Scotty, we brought along an extra horse, just for you.  We’re going to take a little ride.”

“Hey Josh, we’d better get moving,” Dave said.  Dave’s voice brought Josh back from his thoughts.  

Josh nodded.  “Yes, we’d better get headed down the river.”  They turned their horses and began the ride south across the top of the bluff.

*

Johnny Lancer was enjoying the day.  He and Scott had bet on who would find the most strays.  The competition made the day searching for strays a bit more fun.  And, the bet was a sweet one…the loser gave up all rights to any of Teresa’s chocolate cake.  Johnny had already rounded up a dozen strays and had his eyes set on the next one when he heard Tomas’ voice from a distance.  He looked and saw Tomas with two other Lancer hands.  He rode to meet them.

“Mr. Johnny, there is a terrible situation,” Tomas said.

“What’s wrong?” asked Johnny.

“We fear for Mr. Scott.  Sherriff Crawford told your father that the Burkes were in town and then Mr. Scott’s horse came home without him,” said Tomas.  “Your father sent us to help you search for your brother.  We are to head north to where Scott was to be working in the bluffs.”

Fear for his brother struck Johnny hard.  “Thank you Tomas, Eduardo and Jim for coming,” replied Johnny.  “The Burkes have a terrible grudge against Scott.  Scott stopped Josh Burke from killing Angel, his girlfriend.  Josh Burke was sent to jail for it.  And then his father and a few others got sent to jail for almost killing a deputy when they tried to break Josh out of jail.”

Johnny sat back on his horse.  All the fun of the day had been lost.  And Tomas was right.  There was real reason for concern.  The Burkes were evil men.  They were men who enjoyed torturing their prey before killing it.  Scott was likely their prey.

“Let’s go,” Johnny directed the others and they started to move north.  The strays corralled that day would wait.

*

Val, Murdoch and the Lancer hands stopped at a small clearing.  There were remnants of a campfire and pieces of ropes hanging from two trees.  Val dismounted and walked to the campfire.  He squatted beside the rocks that surrounded the barely smoldering ashes.  “Someone was here not too long ago.”   Val then stood up and walked to the trees.  He took one of the ropes and held it up.  “’Looks to me that they might have tied someone up between these two trees - just the right amount of space.  Lots of boot prints in the dirt.”

Murdoch lowered his head.  He could only imagine that it was Scott strung between those two trees.  If they harmed his son, they would pay. 

As Val reviewed the site, he answered.  “Looks like they had four horses.  Jeb Myer said he saw three Burkes in town this morning.  Looks like they had an extra horse.  If so, my guess is that they are on their way to meet George Burkes.  Nasty old man.  He should have been dead a long time ago.”

“What direction, Val?” asked Murdoch.

“Looks to be west, towards the bluffs - lots of good places to hide in the bluffs.  River is too high to ride down right now.  They’ll want to stay on land.”

Val walked back to his horse, mounted and then headed west right after Murdoch. 

*

Scott was getting cold.  His teeth chattered.  The cool water, however, had been like salve on his back.  Finally he found a good place to leave the river.  The river had been a safe place for him and a good way to put some distance between him and the Burkes.  As he got to his feet and slowly emerged from the water, his legs felt heavy.  Part of the weight was due to being soaked from head to toe, but mostly it was from his state of exhaustion.  He fell to his knees on the dirt and gravel of the bank.  He thought it fitting that he should fall to his knees…saying a prayer seemed like the thing to do at the moment.  To give thanks for his escape from the Burkes and to pray for help to get safely home.

*

Josh Burke and his riders finally reached the base of the bluff.  “Listen, Josh.  It’s going to be hard to find Lancer.  There are lots of hiding places along the river.  And, we don’t know when or even if he got out of the river.  Maybe we should use the time to get out of the area.  Let Lancer die on his own; chances are he won’t survive,” said Dave.

“Let him go,” shouted Josh.  “He survived jumping off a cliff!  I’m not taking any chances.  Besides, my old man wants to skin him alive for taking 5 years of his life.  Now, let’s head south.”  The three continued heading south along the river.

*

Staggering, Scott felt the heat of the noon sun.  The day was getting warm and as he walked in the direction of the Lancer ranch, he was beginning to miss the river.  He estimated that he had ridden the river down about 3 miles and hoped he could keep the distance between him and Josh Burke – who, without doubt, was now looking for him.  He knew that Johnny was working south of where he was and he hoped that he would cross paths with his brother – it might be the only way he would survive this long day.  Looking ahead, there were trees – a good place to rest – and he needed to rest.  He stopped, leaned forward and then pulled himself back up and took another step.  With his next step, the world reeled and he lost his battle to maintain consciousness.  He fell forward, hitting the ground hard. 

*

Through his binoculars, there laid a body.  It had to be Lancer.   Josh Burke could not believe his good luck.  He had found Scott Lancer – again – a second time in the same day.  “Well, well, we are in luck.  He’s straight ahead.  C’mon boys.”  The three kicked their horses and headed toward the still body not far ahead.

When they reached Scott, Josh dismounted his horse and squatted down beside him.  “Is he dead, Josh?” asked Jim. 

“No, Dave.  But, he will be soon.”  Josh looked up at Jim and grinned.  “Hey, Lancer!” yelled Josh as he shook Scott. 

Scott heard his name, but he didn’t recognize the voice.  Struggling to come back to consciousness, his eyelids fluttered before opening and staying open.  To his horror, it was Josh Burke.  His prayer had not been answered. 

Josh slapped Scott on the back and laughed.  “Well, Scotty boy, I was afraid we lost you!”

Scott gasped.  He hated showing the pain that Josh caused him.  He knew that Josh truly enjoyed torturing people.  Angel had barely survived his final, cruel attack on her.  Josh grabbed Scott by the shoulder and turned him over.  Scott moaned loudly – the hard ground rubbed against on the open wounds on his back.  “Oh, geez…did that hurt, Scotty-boy?”  Josh laughed once again.  Truly evil, thought Scott.  Dear God – please let Johnny find me.

*

Johnny Lancer had the group keep a steady pace as they headed north.  The group had spread out to ensure that they covered the widest area possible.  Johnny was always impressed, and somewhat surprised, at how the ranch hands had taken to Scott.  Despite being a greenhorn at ranching, Scott was respected as a horseman and as a leader.  It was Johnny’s own opinion on this, but he felt that the ranch hands of Mexican descent showed Scott the most respect.  Johnny was sure that was because of the close bond that he and Scott shared. 

They were nearing the most southern part of the section where Scott was to be working.  He hoped – and prayed – that he would find Scott soon. 

*

Val, Murdoch and the Lancer hands followed the trail that led from the campfire towards the bluff area.  The path was fresh and clear.  They rode fast, intent on finding Scott as quickly as possible.  However, they were unsure as to what situation they would encounter with the Burkes.

*

The Burkes rode slowly leading Scott.  After the incident at the bluff, Scott would not be riding.  Josh often turned back, smiling at his weary prisoner.  Scott’s hands were tied to the rope that was secured to Josh’s saddle.  “Yep,” he thought, “this boy was gonna die today.  Just a matter of when and how; and he had a few thoughts on that.”

*

It was the early afternoon when Johnny and the Lancer hands saw men on horses in the distance.  And, it was the only moment when they had actually stopped and regrouped since their search for Scott had begun.  From his saddlebag, Johnny pulled out his binoculars.  Though the figures were somewhat blurry, he saw three riders and a man walking behind him.  Both happiness and fear gripped him.  It was Scott who walked behind them and he was alive – but he was also their prey.  His anger grew as he watched his brother stumble, fall and then dragged a few feet before the other men stopped and waited for him to get back on his feet.  They would pay for what they did to his brother.  But, first, he had to get Scott away from them - alive. 

Tomas could see the anger and fear on Johnny’s face.  “It is the Burkes and Scott?” he asked.

“Yes, Tomas, it is.  We will need to figure out how to get Scott away from them before they kill him,” responded Johnny.

Tomas could see the coldness in Johnny’s eyes.  “We can do this, Johnny.  We can head into the trees until we are along side of them.”

Johnny looked to Tomas and smiled slightly.  “Yes, that is a good idea, Tomas.  Then we will greet them with guns on all sides.  There is a spring in the woods – a good resting place and has water for the horses,” he added.  “With any luck, they may be planning to stop there.”

They headed toward and then into the trees.

*

Val Crawford slowed the group.  He saw movement up ahead but could not identify who it was.  “You got your binoculars, Murdoch?” he asked. 

Murdoch nodded and pulled the binoculars from his saddlebag and handed them to Val.  “It’s Burke and two other riders.  They’re moving awfully slow.  Take a look.”  Val looked ahead then passed them to Murdoch. 

Murdoch took the binoculars and looked.  “Val, what concerns me is the pace that they are moving.  Why so slow?”

“Well, we can use that to our advantage.  Let’s move into the woods and wait for them.  I don’t think they have spotted us,” Val recommended.

“Good idea, Val,” replied Murdoch and they headed to the wooded area.

*

Johnny and the three Lancer hands moved quickly and positioned themselves by the spring.  Moving closer to the wooded area, the Burkes did not appear to have any idea that they were not alone.  Johnny smiled as he watched the Burkes head toward the spring to rest and water the horses.

“This is a good place to stop, water the horses, Josh,” said Dave.

“Good idea, Dave,” replied Josh.  

They rode their horses to the pool of water at the bottom of the spring and dismounted.  “Jake, tie Scotty-boy to that tree over there.  Real tight, now.”

Jake took the rope from Josh and took Lancer by the arm and started to lead him to a nearby tree.  Scott, exhausted, fell to the ground. 

“Get up Lancer,” Jake ordered and then kicked him in the ribs.  That is when the first shot was fired.  Jake grabbed his right shoulder and fell to the ground next to Scott.

Josh and Jim ran for cover.  Scott struggled to get his breath.  He found himself praying again.

*

In the quiet of the woods, the single shot was clearly heard by Val, Murdoch and the two Lancer hands.  In unison, all riders moved their horses to a gallop and headed in the direction of the gunshot.  As they rode, Murdoch called out, “There’s a spring ahead – a good place to stop and rest.   Could be the Burkes.”

As they grew closer, they were relieved to see Tomas waving at them.  They stopped their horses, tied them to nearby trees and then ran to join Tomas.

“Senor Lancer.  We have surrounded them. They have Scott.  Johnny has wounded one of his captors.”

“Tomas, where is Johnny?” asked Murdoch. 

“I will take you to him, Senor.  Follow me,” said Tomas and then he led Murdoch to the right and through thick brush. 

“Frank, you and Ben move in slowly from this direction.  I’m going to scout out the area and find Eduardo and join him,” directed Val.

*

Murdoch carefully and quietly followed Tomas.  Both of them knew it was unwise to sneak up on Johnny.  When they got close, they softly called his name.  Johnny, always alert to his surroundings, quickly turned – gun pointed at them.

He dropped his gun to his side.  “Those bastards have Scott,” he said with anger.

Murdoch carefully moved up to beside his son.  He peeked out over the top of the boulder that Johnny used as protection.  He could clearly see Scott on the ground, bound and unable to move.  The man that Johnny had shot lay near him holding the shoulder, blood seeping between his fingers.  He then looked into Johnny’s eyes for signs of Madrid.  He did not see the killer of Johnny’s past – for that he was relieved.  What he did see in Johnny’s eyes was rage and concern for his brother.

“Johnny, Val is here.  He’s joining Eduardo on the other side.  We need to….”  Murdoch was unable to finish his sentence when a several shots were fired at Scott – one striking Scott in the thigh.  Johnny and Murdoch could hear Scott’s cry.  In unison, they both began firing at the place where the shot originated.   To their disappointment, neither of them hit the shooter.

“Damn it, Murdoch.  They’ve got a clear shot at him.  I can’t stay here and watch them slowly kill him.” 

Murdoch remembered the intensity of the look in Johnny’s eyes.  It was the day when he had returned home after leaving Lancer with Wes.  That day, one of the Strykers had grazed Scott.  Johnny had just lost Wes.  He wasn’t going to let them take anyone else that day – especially Scott.  Murdoch was watching Johnny’s judgment erode.   “Cover me!” And Johnny bolted over the top of the boulder and through the pond at the base of the spring to where his brother lay – firing all the way.  Murdoch, Val and the others fired, giving Johnny additional coverage.  

Johnny grabbed Scott under one arm, much like Scott had done for Johnny had done on the day of the final confrontation with Pardee at the ranch, and dragged him to a place of some cover.  If not for Murdoch and the others, surely Johnny would have been killed pulling this stunt.  And, once again, Murdoch felt great pride in the actions of his sons. 

All firing ceased and it was eerily quiet.

Johnny had pulled Scott to safety, but they were definitely pinned down.  He put his gun down for a moment, pulled out his kerchief.  “Man, oh, man, Boston, what did you get yourself into,” said Johnny quietly as he pressed the kerchief on Scott’s thigh. 

There was the slightest of a smile on Scott’s face.  No words.  His eyes didn’t open, but Johnny knew his brother was alive – and he was going to keep him that way.

He reloaded his gun and waited for movement – any movement.  It was then that Val’s voice broke the silence.  “Burke!  You got no place to go.  Give it up now.  If Lancer dies, you die.  If he lives, you live.   It’s your choice.”

Johnny could not believe his eyes; Josh Burke stood up, tossed his gun and walked out with his hands up.  “I’m giving up, Crawford!”

Johnny watched Josh Burke continue to walk out into the open – he appeared to be unarmed.  He then saw Murdoch and Val emerge.  And at that moment, Scott cried out, “Watch out!  There’s another!”  And, at that moment, Jim emerged from cover with his rifle pointed at Murdoch.  Without hesitation, Johnny shot Jim dead.  Burke attempted to run, but Val’s shot caught him in the leg and he went down with a cry, grabbing his injured leg.

“Boston, you are sure somethin’,” said Johnny.  

Val Crawford and the others moved into the clear area by the spring.  They had two prisoners and one dead man to take back.  Crawford moved to the wounded Jake and kicked his gun away and then proceeded to tie his hands behind his back.  Murdoch watched as Johnny stood and walked over to Burke, gun in hand.

Burke looked up to face Johnny Lancer.  “You know, I should just kill you right now, Burke.  Whether or not my brother makes it, you just shouldn’t be walking this earth.”

*

Murdoch assessed the situation.  Scott was in bad shape.  How bad he didn’t know yet, but he did know that Scott would need a doctor.  “Tomas, Scott is going to need a doctor.  Leave now and get Sam.  Bring him to the house.  We’ll get Scott ready for travel and be heading back to Lancer shortly.”

“Right, Mr. Lancer,” replied Tomas.  He turned and then headed into the woods to where they had left their horses.

“Ben,” continued Murdoch, “Get all the horses together.”

“Yes, sir,” and he also headed into the woods.

“Val, Ben and Eduardo can accompany you back to town with your prisoners,” said Murdoch before turning to join Johnny at Scott’s side.

Johnny had done the few things he could to make Scott more comfortable.  His jacket was now folded up and under Scott’s head and he was attending to the bullet wound in his brother’s thigh.

“How is he, son?” asked Murdoch.

“Not good, Murdoch.  We need to get him home and for Sam to see him,” replied Johnny. 

“Ben will be back with the horses in a minute.  Val, Ben and Eduardo will take Burke and the others to town.  It’s obvious that Scott is in no condition to ride on his own.  He’ll have to ride double with someone.”

“He’s riding with me, Murdoch,” said Johnny.

“I figured that’s what is what you’d say,” said Murdoch.  He knew that Johnny would not allow anyone else to take care of his brother.

“I don’t understand why he’s in such bad shape…the bullet wound is not that bad,” Johnny said looking at Murdoch and then back to an unconscious Scott.

“Tomas is going to get Sam and bring him back to the ranch.  We’ll take it slow and easy on the way back, Johnny.   Sam should be there by the time we arrive.  Keep him comfortable for now.  We’ll start back to the ranch shortly.”

For a moment, Murdoch’s attention turned back to Val and his prisoners.  Ben had bandaged Josh Burke’s wound and Burke stood there – almost smirking.  Ben had tied Burke’s hands behind his back and had hold of Burke’s arm.  Eduardo and Val finished tying Dave’s dead body over one of the horses and were walking to get Jake.

“Hey Murdoch, Scott’s coming around,” Johnny said with excitement in his voice.  Murdoch hurried to Scott’s side.

“Hey Boston, stop scaring us, will ya,” Johnny said with a smile.

Scott returned his brother’s smile with a weak smile of his own.  “Sorry to inconvenience you.”

Johnny and Murdoch smiled broadly.  It was good to hear Scott joke with his brother.  “You could never be an inconvenience brother,” responded Johnny gently.  He then took his brother’s hand and held it tightly.  It was as if Johnny hoped he could transfer some of his strength to his brother.

“Scott, we’re going to head home in a few minutes.  You’ll ride double with Johnny,” Murdoch told Scott.

Scott nodded in response.

“Let’s get him up, Johnny,” Murdoch said to Johnny.  With their help, they sat Scott up.  Scott’s weakness was apparent as he sat still for a moment to catch his breath and ready to stand up. 

“Ready to stand, Boston?” asked Johnny.

Scott nodded and Johnny and Murdoch, on each side of Scott, helped him to his feet.  Scott waivered, but they were there – as his family always was.  It was at this moment that Murdoch noticed the tears in the back of Scott’s shirt.  Immediately, he knew what had happened but took a closer look.  Johnny followed his father’s eyes and he, too, was taken aback.

“Hold him, Johnny,” Murdoch said.  Johnny nodded and ensured he had a hold of Scott.  Murdoch turned and walked to face Josh Burke.  “You whipped my son,” said Murdoch.  Burke laughed – until Murdoch’s fist struck his face and he fell to the ground.

“Hey, Sheriff, I thought you were supposed to protect your prisoners!” shouted Burke.

“I did Burke, I didn’t let him shoot you,” Val said as he walked to help Burke up off the ground.  Val smiled at Murdoch.

Johnny and Scott couldn’t help but smile. Yep, don’t mess with their old man!  It was their turn for pride – Murdoch looked out for his sons, loved them – and it showed.

Murdoch walked back to Johnny and Scott.  With care, he held onto Scott’s arm to steady Scott as they walked to Johnny’s horse.  “Let’s take a look at your back before we get you onto Barranca.”  Murdoch gently pulled the shirt away from Scott’s back.  Surprisingly, the wounds were much cleaner than he expected.  Murdoch then went to his horse and got the short jacket he always carried with him in his saddle bag and brought it back.

“Here, let’s get this on you,” and he and Johnny helped Scott put on the jacket.

“Let’s get you on Barranca,” said Johnny and he and Murdoch provided the strength Scott needed to get him on the palomino.  Weakly, he leaned forward.  Johnny quickly, but carefully, mounted Barranca to sit directly behind Scott.  With care, he pulled Scott back so Scott rested against his chest.   “Ready to ride, brother?” Johnny asked.

“Let’s go home, brother,” replied Scott.  Going home was the answer to his prayers.  And, he had said a lot of prayers that day.  Johnny gently nudged kicked Barranca and they began to walk slowly out of the wooded area. 

Scott had lost track of time.  He looked up at the sun and saw that it was nearly sundown.  It had been a long day – one of the longest since he had made Lancer his home.

 

~ end ~

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