The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Deborah

 

 

A Part Gone Missing

It was a beautiful late fall night at Lancer cool but still mild enough to be pleasant without a jacket.  Murdoch Lancer stood out on the veranda with his youngest son Johnny enjoying an after dinner drink.  It was the day before Thanksgiving and wonderful smells were coming from the hacienda kitchen.  Each year Murdoch hired women from Morro Coyo to cook a huge feast for the Lancer hands and their families.  Maria had the day off although she could not keep away from her kitchen and helped Teresa supervise things.  Murdoch, Johnny and Jelly had set up tables in the great room and on the patio outside the double doors.   Come tomorrow the Lancers and the women from town would serve the Lancer Ranch family in thanks for their hard work.  Murdoch would hand out bonuses to help the families have a happy upcoming Christmas.

Johnny looked sadly at his father who was staring up at the star filled sky.   Johnny and his brother Scott had come back 4 years ago after being separated from their father when they were babies.  Having different mothers the brothers had not known of each other's existence until the day they first met their father.  They and their father's ward Teresa had forged an unlikely close family.

Two years ago in September they all sat down for the usual family breakfast.  Scott was headed to Stockton to sell a stallion to a buyer.  He was planning to ride the animal there, stay a night and take the stage back.  But Scott never returned.  He never made it to Stockton and they never found a trace of him.  Not even Harlan Garrett's detectives or the Pinkerton Agency found anything.

“The holidays are hard, aren't they son?”

“They are.  Not knowing what happened or is happening to him to keep him away from us.  God I just miss him Murdoch.”

“So do I Johnny.  But continuing on as we have is what Scott would want.  I think he would be proud of us.”

Johnny grinned.  “Yeah I think he would be.   He used to tease me about growing up.  But the truth was he accepted me no matter what and I always knew he was there for me… on my side.”

Murdoch bowed his head and smiled.  “In the beginning when you and I seemed to be butting heads a lot your brother dressed me down several times about my treatment of you.  I had a lot to learn about being a father back then son.”

“He did?  I never knew that.  You and I both had a lot to learn but not Scott.  He sort of held us together back then.”

“That he did.   I'd always been afraid that if Scott left you'd go too.  Now it seems like he's still holding us together.  We share our grief and missing him.  I've never been one for discussing my sorrows but talking with you and Teresa about Scott…well it's comforting.”

“Do you think he's still alive Murdoch?”

“I'm a practical man Johnny but somehow I think so, at least I hold out hope.”  Murdoch put his arm around Johnny and squeezed his shoulder.  “Now I'm going to turn in son.  Goodnight.”

“Goodnight Murdoch.”

Johnny looked up at the sky.  “Wherever you are Scott, dead or alive we love you and we always will.”

The next day kept the Lancers too busy to think much about the one of them that was absent.  When they did it was only because of the happy families surrounding them.  They kept smiles on their faces but they could not escape the heartache they felt with their son and brother missing.  Scott had always known how to be a good host talking with men, women and children alike.  His easy smile made everyone feel welcome and part of Lancer Ranch family.   After the huge feast there were games for both adults and children and then a dance with punch, wine and sandwiches served.    Well after midnight when Johnny retired to his room.  He was too tired to undress and he just pulled off his boots.  He wept silently into his pillow until he fell asleep as he had so many nights since his brother's disappearance.

The next day was a half day for the hands and a day off for the Lancers.   Breakfast was late and leisurely.  Teresa chattered about Christmas and what Murdoch and Johnny might want.  Johnny was non-committal and grinned at Teresa's chagrin. 

“Well fine.  I won't get you a thing Johnny Lancer.  Scott helped me buy for you before.”  Teresa stopped and said in dismay. “Oh I shouldn't have said that.”

Murdoch shook his head.  “Darling you know Scott is a part of this family and what you said is true.  We need to talk about him and not forget him.”

Teresa smiled.  “I'm glad we speak about him Murdoch.  I'd never want him to be a forbidden subject.”

Johnny stood up and went over and kissed Teresa's cheek.  “He never will be honey.   Christmas was Scott's favorite time of year and we're going to do it up big this year.  This family was everything to him and he'd want us to go on and that is what we're going to do.  Agreed?”

“Agreed.”  Murdoch said firmly.

Teresa smiled and nodded happily.

Johnny stretched.  “Now I'm going to pack for my trip to Salinas tomorrow.  Wait until you see the stallion I'm picking up Teresa.  He's too beautiful for words.”

“Just so you're back in plenty of time for Christmas.”

“Don't worry hermana.  I'll be back in plenty of time to trudge up to high country for a Christmas tree .

Murdoch poured himself another cup of coffee as Johnny went up the backstairs and Teresa and Maria began to clear breakfast.    He took it to his desk and sank into his chair.  He looked out the huge windows at the vista that was Lancer.  He had built this ranch for his sons in the hope that they would come back and they did in time to save it.  He'd happily given them each one-third. 

Now his eldest son somehow had been taken from him again.  He'd only had 2 years to love and cherish his boy.  Scott was such an extraordinary young man, intelligent and tough, at home on horseback on the range or in a suit at a Cattleman's Association meeting.  He was an integral part in their lives in so many ways and it took nearly a year for them to function as a family again.  He was proud of Johnny who although was devastated by Scott's disappearance showed a quiet strength that helped them all even Murdoch himself.

Still as far as they had come this Christmas again would be difficult.  Scott's presence had been strong and it was only natural that his disappearance left a big hole in their lives especially during the holidays.

As much as he wanted his son alive and restored to him he didn't want him suffering somewhere.  If that were the case he'd sooner have him be with Catherine.

The Lancers spent a fairly quiet day.  Johnny helped Teresa get the Christmas decorations down from the attic.  He and Murdoch played a game of chess.  They skipped lunch as they'd had a late breakfast. 

Johnny went out to check on Barranca to make sure he was ready for the trip.  Charlie nickered as Johnny came up.  Johnny went over and stroked Charlie's soft nose.  He'd kept Charlie and Barranca together.  They always been stable mates and Scott and he always turned them out together.

“Do you even remember my brother Charlie?”  Johnny said scratching behind Charlie's ears.  “I know I should give you to someone to use but I like having you as my second mount and I don't think I could stand to see anyone but Scott riding you.   You two were so good together.  I loved watching my brother ride, how sometimes he'd throw out his right arm and keep it there.”  Johnny laughed a little and went over to Barranca and began to check him over.  He was glad to be leaving for a few days.  It seemed that every place he turned on Lancer something reminded him of his brother.

 

Johnny made good time the next day and by the time he camped he felt he would be in Salinas at dusk the third day.  He planned to get a hotel room for the night and then ride the few miles out to the ranch the next morning and pick up the stallion and head back.  It would take longer to get back leading the stallion.  He smiled when he thought about the animal.  Breeding horses was something Johnny did on the side.  Murdoch accepted it finally when Johnny told him he would leave most of the breaking to one of the hands.  Johnny hired Mannie Lopez who applied to work with the horses.  It took awhile but now Johnny was making money.  He achieved a good reputation for breeding solid cow ponies. 

Johnny rode into Salinas later than the time he had estimated.  He checked into the hotel and headed to the saloon to get a steak and a few drinks.  The saloon wasn't busy and Johnny wearily sat down at a table and ordered from the middle aged bartender.  He took Johnny's order and brought his beer right over.  Johnny was rubbing his finger around the edge of his half empty beer when the steak was set in front of him.   Johnny absently said thank you and took another drink of beer.  He tensed at the sound of a ruckus.  He turned around to see a man wearing an apron on the floor his back to Johnny.  Another man stood over him.  Johnny became irritated.   He knew the type of man the aggressor was.  He kicked the man on the floor who was trying to get up.

“Leave him alone Wilson!”  The bartender shouted.

“Stay outta this”, Wilson growled. “I'm just having a little fun with him.”  Wilson froze at the sound of gun clicking behind him.

“I think you should leave Mr. Wilson.  You're interrupting my dinner.” Johnny said in his soft deadly voice.  Wilson turned around to see the barrel of a gun pointed at him and a wolfish smile on Johnny's face.

Wilson backed towards the door.  “This ain't over.”

“It better be over because if it isn't you are going to be dead.”

Johnny holstered his gun and went over to help the man get up.  Johnny sucked in his breath in shock.  He was thinner and his hair was down to his shoulders but the features were unchanged.

“Oh God.  Scott!”

The man looked at him with a frown and shook his head an adamant no.  He turned and went behind the bar and through a door.  Johnny stood in shock for a few seconds and then went to the bar.

“That man who I just helped…what do you know about him?”   Johnny put a 20 dollar gold piece on the bar.

“Pedro?  No one knows much about him.  He was found badly beaten along the road about 5 miles outta town about 2 years ago.  Old Alphonso Martin nursed him back to health and brought him to town.  The boy took a bad blow to his neck so he can't talk.   He also took a bad blow to his head and he doesn't remember who he is.  He ended up being homeless and he stole some food.  He got 4 years for stealing.  Since the boy was obviously not all there in the head the sheriff took pity and sold a four year indenture to Mr. Morrison who owns this place.  Mr. Morrison is in the back if you want to talk to him.”

“I'd like to talk to him.”

“Go on back.”

Johnny nodded and left the gold piece.  “Thank you.”

Johnny went in to the back kitchen.  Scott looked at Johnny and took a step back.

“Mr. Morrison.  I'm Johnny Lancer.  I'd like to talk to you about Pedro here in private if possible.”

Mr. Morrison looked a bit confused but finally he turned to Pedro.  “You are done for the night Pedro.  Go on to bed.”

Pedro nodded and left the room by another door.

“Mr. Lancer, what can I do for you?”

“Your bartender told me about your indentured man.  I'm interested in buying his indenture.  I own a ranch near Morro Coyo.  We are always looking for ranch hands.  I realize he only has two years left on his indenture but should he want to stay he will have a paying job on Lancer.”

“Senor I might be willing to sell him for the right price.  When Pedro first came to me his brain seemed to be muddled by his beating.  He was easily confused, couldn't speak.  He was living on the street and unfortunately stole some food because he was starving and was arrested.    He still cannot speak but his intelligence has grown in the 2 years he has been here.  I now feel he is a fairly intelligent man.”

A lump grew in Johnny throat listening to what his brother had endured.  “What would be the right price?”

“500 dollars”

Johnny forced a smile.  He hated the thought of buying his brother but he had no choice.    “Seems a bit high.  I think you paid a lot less than that for him”

Mr. Morrison smiled back. “True but as I said he's recovered his intelligence and he's much more of a help now.”

“He only has 2 years of his indenture left.  $300 dollars.”

Mr. Morrison thought a minute and then held out his hand. “Deal.  I am also letting him go because of what just happened in the cantina.  Because he does not speak many men mistreat him.  They think him a fool.”

“That's not true.”  Johnny muttered.

“Let's go talk to him,” Mr. Morrison said leading him through the door Scott had gone through.   Mr. Morrison lit the lamp.  It was a small storage room and Scott was laying on a cot against the wall already asleep his left wrist shackled to a chain bolted to the wall.

“You chain him at night?”

“He tried to escape when he first came here but as I've said he isn't the same man now.  I've told him he didn't need to chain himself anymore but he always does.”  Morrison shook Scott awake.  Scott sat up and looked at both of them sleepily.

“Pedro, this is Johnny Lancer.  I've sold your indenture to him.  You will be leaving with him tonight.”

A lump grew in Johnny's throat as his brother started shaking his head ‘No'.  Scott's eyes were sad and frightened and he looked at Johnny almost in a pleading way.  “Let me talk to him alone a minute.”

Morrison nodded.  He gave Johnny an old flour sack.  “For his things.” He said as he left the room.

Johnny pulled up a chair so he faced Scott whose head was down.  “Pedro, I own a big ranch near a town called Morro Coyo. “  Scott brought up his eyes to meet Johnny's.  Johnny could see how lost Scott felt and it was all he could do not to pull Scott into his arms and hold his big brother.  “I'm a very kind man, Pedro.  I promise I won't let anyone hurt you like that man out there did.   The ranch has lots of jobs.  You could work with me out on the open range or we have a handy man you could work with.  If you like this work you could also help in the kitchen.  You can have any job you like and when the 2 years are up you can have a paying job.”

Scott looked at Johnny.  He realized he didn't really have a choice.  The man had helped him with Wilson and he did have kind eyes and a warm smile.  Things were clearer now than they had been at first but the terror sometimes was still very present.  He didn't know who he was and he couldn't speak and even after two years he felt so unbalanced sometimes it was almost unbearable.   He always felt nervous, jittery and sad.   Scott nodded and began to pack his paltry belongings, two sets of hand me down clothes.  He pulled on his boots and stood up.

Johnny got Mr. Morrison who unlocked the shackles.   He gave them and the key to Johnny.  Scott shook Mr. Morrison and the bartender's hand sadly.  Johnny paid the bill and told the bartender that he wasn't hungry anymore.  As they walked out into the night air Johnny felt elated.   Through dumb luck he had found his brother, at least a shadow of his brother.  “You hungry Pedro?”

Scott nodded.  They went into a little Mexican place and had Mexican food. Johnny watched his brother eat.  His hair was so long there were curls on the bottom.  He was thinner and he seemed ravenous.  There was an innocence about him and Johnny supposed it was because all Scott's life experiences were lost to him.  He didn't remember the war or prison camp or his childhood.  The self–assured, kind, strong man with the dry humor and bit of sarcasm that was Johnny's big brother didn't exist at the moment.  But he was in there somewhere and all Johnny  could hope that he would somehow make it back to all of them.

“Don't you like beer?” 

Scott shrugged.  “Why don't you try it?” Johnny said with a smile.

Scott took a sip and then a drink.  He grinned a little and nodded and drank down the whole beer.

Johnny could not help but laugh.  “Come on Pedro, let's get some shut-eye.”

They went to the hotel room and Johnny told Scott he could sleep in any bed.  He took the shackles and key out of his jacket pocket and set them on the table and went over and washed his face.  When he turned back around Scott was sitting on the bed with one wrist shackled and the other shackle around a bed pole.  Johnny picked up the key from the table and sat on the other bed across from Scott.

“Do you promise not to escape for the next two years?”

Scott looked at Johnny seriously and nodded.

“Then we don't need these.”  Johnny said releasing the shackles.  “Try to get some sleep huh.”

Scott laid back and Johnny blew out the lamp and lay back too.  Johnny sighed.  He couldn't take his brother acting as some kind slave to him.  Tomorrow morning he was going to tell Scott who he was.   He looked at the shape of his brother in the moonlight whose breathing was already evened out.  He let tears come to his eyes for what his brother had been through and was still going through.  Johnny vowed he was going to keep Scott safe from now on and fell asleep.

The next morning Johnny got up and dressed and slipped out of the room and went to the desk.  He ordered breakfast and got a piece of paper and pencil and went back to the room.   Scott was standing running his fingers through his long blond hair when Johnny came in.

Johnny gave him a grin.  “Pedro, let's sit down at the table.  I need to talk to you.  Scott did as Johnny told him.   Johnny handed Scott the paper and pencil.  “So you can write back.”  Scott nodded.

Johnny took a deep breath.  “Listen your name isn't Pedro.  It's Scott.  Scott Lancer.  You're my older brother.   You left two years ago on your way to Stockton on business for our ranch.  You've been missing since that time.”

Scott looked at Johnny his face unbelieving and then he wrote.  ‘We don't look alike.'

“Different mothers who have passed.  We have a father and a sister at our ranch.”

Scott shook his head and wrote ‘I don't know you and I don't know them.'  Scott seemed agitated.

Johnny put his hand on Scott's arm.  “What's wrong Scott?”

Scott hung his head and wrote.  ‘I can't be what you want me to be or what they want me to be.  I can't even speak. ‘

“Scott we won't expect anything from you.”

Scott looked at Johnny sadly. ‘I owe you two years.  After that I go where I want.'

“That's fine.  We won't hold you back.  But you do own one third of Lancer.”

Scott looked at his brother, his eyes troubled.   ‘Two years.  I cannot handle expectations.  If you have expectations you will only be disappointed. “

Johnny nodded. “No expectations, I promise except you'll live in the main house with us. You are a Lancer you know. It won't do for you to live in the bunkhouse.”

Scott looked at Johnny and finally nodded.  He wrote one more thing. ‘I don't trust you yet.  Someone hurt me badly and I don't know who.'

“That's fine Scott.  You should be on your guard.  Is it okay if I call you Scott?”

Scott's note came back. ‘Yes, I despise Pedro.'

Johnny laughed.  “It didn't fit you.”

They ate in silence with Scott still wearing a frown.  The next stop was the general store.  Johnny decided his brother needed new things.  They went in and Johnny noticed Scott found a corner and stood there with his head down.

“He with you?” The clerk said pointing a finger at Scott.

“Yes.  Is there a problem?”

“Not really.  He stole food from here a couple of years ago.  I was real sorry I pressed charges.  The boy was just hungry and well he wasn't normal in the head him being hurt so bad and all.”

“My name is Johnny Lancer.  He's my brother Scott.  He's been missing two years and I was lucky enough to find him here.  I'd like to pay for what he took.”

The old man smiled. “Walt Hansen and there's no need.  Every time he got a little money doing odd jobs when Morrison wasn't keeping him busy he slipped it under the door at night.  I finally told him he'd paid me back and he stopped. I expect he thinks I'm angry with him.”

“He seems pretty meek and he is easily frightened.  None of those things fit my brother, Scott.”

“Old Alphonso found him in a bad way.  Someone had beaten him and left him for dead.  You should go talk to Doc Carlson.  Alphonso called him out to doctor him”

“Thank you, I'll do that but right now Scott needs some new things.”

With Mr. Hansen's help Johnny got Scott to come forward and Johnny bought him three sets of clothes, a new jacket, socks, drawers and new boots and a new hat.  Scott was tentative at first but he soon began to enjoy picking out things and a small smile came to his face.  Johnny bought two pads of paper and pencils along with new saddle bags.    Next they came to the guns.  Scott shook his head and held back.  He wrote ‘I don't want to hurt anyone.'

“That's fine Scott but you can't allow people to hurt you either.  Besides they're good for rattlesnakes, as a signal and the sight of one sometimes ends any trouble right there.”  Scott finally reluctantly agreed and they bought him a Colt, gun belt and a rifle.  The last thing Johnny bought was a piece of chocolate for Scott.  His brother loved chocolate.

“Try it Scott.”   Scott took a bite and a slow smile spread over his face.  Johnny got a lump in his throat as Scott smiled and nodded.  It was the first really genuine smile Johnny had seen.  It was the smile of his big brother.

Johnny paid the bill and gathered a set of clothes for Scott.  “Mind if we leave the rest of this here for a spell?”

The storekeeper shook his head.  “That's fine.  I'm glad you found your brother.  He's really not safe here.  There's a group of young men in town that have been bullying him.”

Johnny watched as Scott petted the storekeeper's dog.  “Yes I met one named Wilson.  Strangely if he hadn't tripped Scott I might not have found him.”

“Pete Wilson, the leader.  Yes it's a good thing.  He's been through enough.”

Johnny said goodbye and both of them headed for the bathhouse/barber shop.  Johnny grinned as Scott made his wishes known for a haircut by fake cutting his hair with his fingers.  “Yes we'll both get a bath and a haircut.”

Scott pulled the paper out and wrote quickly ‘Thank you.'

Johnny nodded.  “The money I am spending is ranch money Scott.  It's part yours”

Scott shook his head and wrote ‘I didn't work for it.'

Johnny just shook his head thinking his brother was still plenty stubborn.  After the baths and haircuts Scott put on his new clothes.  Johnny's heart twisted as it hit him hard that this was truly Scott Lancer.  He looked completely like his brother now.  Johnny felt anger towards whoever had hurt Scott so badly.   He had also noticed bruises over Scott's ribs from Pete Wilson's cruelty.

“Scott I need to talk to Dr. Carlson for a bit.” Johnny said as they crossed the street.  Scott shook his head and wrote. ‘I don't want to see him.'

“That's fine.  How about if you wait here on this bench?”  Johnny said pointing at a bench on the boardwalk a building down from the doctor's office.  Scott headed toward it and Johnny went in to the doctor's office.  An elderly gentleman sitting behind a huge desk looked up as he came in.

“How can I help you young man?”

“You Doc Carlson?”

“I am.”

Johnny offered his hand.  “I'm Johnny Lancer.  The man you know as Pedro is my brother Scott Lancer.  I need to know about his injuries.”

Doc Carlson smiled.  “I'm very happy to hear that Mr. Lancer.  Did Pedro…Scott regain some memory?”

“No it was just dumb luck I found him.   Can you tell me what happened to him?”

Doc nodded.  “It was as bad as I had ever seen.  Whoever did it didn't expect your brother to live.  That was obvious to me.  Alphonso hauled him to his cabin and I came out.  Your brother was unconscious from the head injury.  He'd also been struck hard across the neck and was fighting to breathe.  His airway was compromised.  He may have suffered a fracture of his voice box.  He fought for his breath for two days.  He was worn out from fighting for air and I thought death was near for him.  Then the swelling must have gone down and he was breathing easier.”

“Dear God.   He just disappeared.  We had no idea what happened to him.  What else?”

“I believe he was beaten by a blunt object, a piece of lumber, a fork handle.  His wrist was broken and he had broken ribs, many bruises.  When he awoke he tried to speak and I could see it was excruciating but nothing came out.  He got water down with difficulty but he couldn't eat so he survived on liquids for 3 weeks.”  The doctor stopped not sure he wanted to go on.

“What?”  Johnny asked quietly.

“When he awoke your brother suffered Mr. Lancer.  He suffered more than any patient I have had.  His throat was very painful, his ribs too.  The head injury affected him, his thoughts were muddled.  I believe he had a severe concussion.  He suffered for 4 weeks.  I gave what morphine I could.  Between doses he would roll into a ball his face reflecting the pain he felt,  his eyes begging for help.   He tried to speak but it caused a great deal of pain and no sounds came out.  Laudanum did not help until the end.

Johnny bowed his head and kicked the desk leg.

“After three months your brother wanted to come in to town.  The rest you know.  I'm afraid Scott doesn't like me much.  He relates me to the anguish he went through.”

A little boy came in to the office obviously agitated.  He looked at Johnny.  “You Pedro's friend?  Some mean men want to hurt him!”

Johnny pulled his gun and headed out the door.  Wilson and two other men had Scott pinned up against a wall.  Wilson held a piece of lumber in his hands.  Scott looked terrified.  Johnny fired and he blew the piece of lumber in half.  He fired again and he blew off the piece of lumber right above Wilson's hands.  His next shot blew off Wilson's hat.

“Mr. Wilson you are surely trying my patience.  I have three bullets left. If you men don't want me to use them, ride out.”

Johnny watched them mount up and ride out of town.  He holstered his gun and ran over to Scott.  His brother was hyperventilating and shaking.  “Jesus, Scott.”  Johnny put his arm around him and guided him into the doctor's office.

“Doc what's wrong with him?”  Johnny asked in a worried voice.

Doc kept back away from Scott.  “He's panicking.  Talk to him, reassure him that he's safe.”

Johnny looked helplessly at his brother.  “It's okay Scott.  You're safe.”  Scott's eyes were terrified.  He was still breathing fast and shaking.  Finally Johnny pulled Scott into his arms and held him and talked softly in his ear. “I won't let them hurt you Scott.  I've stopped them, haven't I?  Please try to calm down big brother.   You're safe, I promise you.  Everything is going to be okay.  You'll see.”   Johnny gently stroked the back of Scott's head saying over and over. “You're safe Scott.”

Finally Scott calmed down and stepped back from Johnny giving him a grateful look.  He took out his paper and pencil.  ‘I'm sorry Johnny.  I just get so afraid sometimes.”

“Don't Scott.  You've been through so much.  You need to let things out.  I'll back you up no matter what it may be.”

Johnny said goodbye to Dr. Carlson.  All of a sudden he was in a hurry to get out of Salinas and get Scott home.  They checked out of the hotel, got their things from the general store and headed for the livery.  Johnny rented a rig and made a deal with the liveryman owner that he pick up the rig at the Mathers Ranch.   Johnny also bought used tack from the livery and loaded it and his tack and their saddle bags into the back of the wagon.  Lastly he tied Barranca on the back of the wagon and he and Scott climbed on board and they made their way to the Mathers Ranch.

When they got there Johnny got off the wagon to greet Mr. Mathers and Scott followed.

“Mr. Masters this is my brother Scott.  Uh, he doesn't speak.”  Johnny was unsure of how Scott would take that declaration but he smiled pleasantly and shook the man's hand.   Masters got the stallion and Johnny paid him.

“He's beautiful, isn't he Scott?” Johnny said as he saddled Barranca.

Scott nodded his eyes shining as he looked at the animal.

“You'll be riding him to Lancer.”

Scott's expression became troubled and he shook his head no.  Johnny threw the saddle on the stallion's back.  “Scott, it will be fine.  You are one of the best riders I've ever seen.”  Johnny finished saddling the stallion and tied on his saddle bags but Scott still hung back.  Johnny led the horse over to his brother.

“I wouldn't ask you to do this if I thought you couldn't do it.  Mount up.  I'll hold him.”  Johnny said in a reassuring voice.

Scott swallowed and tentatively came over and mounted the stallion.   Johnny grinned as Scott caught the stirrups and gathered the reins in his hands.   He looked up at his brother.  “Feel like you've done this before?”

Scott nodded grinning back as his brother.  Johnny went and saddled Barranca and mounted him.  Scott was turning circles with stallion.  “I think he needs a run!”  Johnny waved to Mr. Mathers and let Barranca go into a lope and Scott followed.  Scott rode beside Johnny feeling exhilarated.   It was the strangest feeling realizing you could do something that you had no idea you could do.  He felt so comfortable and it felt so familiar.   Scott grinned widely at his brother.  He felt happy and decided he would work with Johnny on the range if he could, anything to ride like this.

They finally slowed their horses down to a walk.  “You have your own horse you know.  I've been riding him for you.  He's a good sized bay.  His name is Charlie.”

Scott looked at Johnny thoughtfully.  He did like this man.  Maybe he could fit in at Lancer Ranch somewhere.  He hoped so because he'd found out the hard way without speech making your own way was difficult at best.  He still had one pressing fear.  Whoever had hurt him had wanted him dead and if they found out he wasn't, they could come at him and he wouldn't realize it until it was too late.

The trip home was bittersweet for Johnny.   The man riding beside him looked like Scott but he certainly did not act like Scott.   He didn't communicate much even with the writing paper.   They took some time and did some target practice and Scott did really well.  Scott had written to Johnny after ‘It is a strange feeling to realize you know how to do something you didn't remember.'  On the way home they stopped so Johnny could send a telegram.  It was a hard one to write.

Murdoch - I found Scott. He's alive.  He was badly hurt 2 years ago. He has recovered but he does not remember who he is.  He can't talk.  He is  easily frightened.  His homecoming must be very low key. It is very important that we not have expectations of him. He is not the Scott we know and he is very fragile.  Please inform everyone on the ranch that he will not know them.  Home tom. afternoon.

Johnny

Johnny requested it be delivered to the ranch immediately and went out where to Scott was waiting and mounted.  They would be home late in the afternoon the next day.  Johnny knew Scott was nervous and as they got closer he was almost sullen.

“Scott, it's going to be alright.”  Johnny said quietly.  “We feared you were dead and by a miracle I found you and I'm bringing you home.  That's enough for me and it will be enough for them.”

 

Murdoch looked up from his desk at a knock at the door.   Teresa answered and came in with a telegram.   “It's from Johnny.”  Murdoch stood up and stretched and took it from Teresa.  He opened it up and read it.  Murdoch turned toward the great window as tears filled his eyes.   His eldest son was alive.  He brushed the tears away.  His son had been hurt and Murdoch knew his family would need him to be strong, especially Scott.

“Murdoch…what is it?”  Teresa asked in a frightened voice.

Murdoch handed her the telegram.  “It's great news darling.”

After she read the telegram Teresa began to cry softly.  “Oh Murdoch, I thought he was dead, buried in some unmarked grave.   This is a miracle Murdoch, a Christmas miracle.”

Murdoch took Teresa in his arms.  “Yes, it is.  But we have to be careful not to overwhelm him.  He doesn't know us darling.”

Teresa nodded against Murdoch.  “Not being able to speak and not knowing who he is, he must have been so frightened, so lost.”

“We'll give him a place to feel safe.  He needs that.”

 

 

Scott stared at the Lancer arch as they passed under it.  Johnny had shown him the ranch from the road.  It did nothing to calm his nerves.  He really wished he could remember belonging here.  Now he would just be a disappointment just as he was to Johnny.  Scott grinned bitterly.  He knew why people who couldn't speak were called dumb - because that is how they seemed.

Johnny saw the lookout give the signal.  Murdoch and Teresa would be waiting.  They were standing outside when they rode up.   Hands came for the horses and Scott and Johnny got their saddle bags and walked over to them.

“Scott, this is Murdoch Lancer, our father.”

Scott looked up at formidable man who was his father without recognition and held out his hand.  Murdoch shook it and his heart leaped at seeing his son and touching him.  “Welcome Scott.  We've missed you.”

“And this is Teresa who is like our little sister.”

Scott nodded and gave her a small smile.

“Scott?  Would it be alright if I hugged you?”

Scott looked at Teresa sadly and nodded.   Teresa gave him a quick but heartfelt hug.  “Welcome home Scott.  If you need anything come see me.”

“Well let's all go inside.”  Murdoch said pleasantly.  Once inside Scott looked around The Great Room in awe especially the great shelves of books.  He took out his paper and wrote to Johnny. ‘Do I read books?'

“You love to read or at least you did.”

Scott nodded and wrote again to Murdoch.  ‘I am indentured to you for two years.  After that I may leave here or work for pay.'

“I don't understand.” Murdoch said showing the note to Johnny and Teresa.

Scott wrote to Johnny. ‘He should know what I've done.'

Johnny sighed.  “Scott was caught stealing food and was sentenced to four years in prison.   Instead of that they sold him as an indentured worker to a cantina owner in Salinas.  That's where I came across him.  I used Ranch money to buy the last 2 years of indenture.  He means to finish it out and then decide what to do.”

Scott's head was bowed and it was clear he was miserable and embarrassed.  Johnny shot a warning glance at Murdoch. 

“That sounds fine.”  Murdoch said.  “Scott, dinner is in 2 hours.  Would you like to see your room and rest for a while?  Johnny will show you.”

Scott nodded glad to get out of the room.  He followed Johnny upstairs.  “We pretty much left everything the same.   Everything in here is yours Scott so please don't be afraid to touch or use anything.  I'll see you down at 6:00 for dinner.”

After Johnny left Scott looked around the room and fingered the picture of him and an unknown soldier.  He also stared at the one of an old gentleman and then a picture of him with his family.   Suddenly he felt lonely.  He was smiling in that picture seemingly happy.   He opened his closet astounded at what filled it, many clothes and a trunk and a chest of drawers.    It was a pleasant room with a large window.   Scott sat on the bed and pulled off his boots and laid back.  He was tired and soon he was asleep.

Johnny went downstairs where he knew Murdoch and Teresa would be waiting.  When he had introduced Scott both of them covered how they felt well.  Now they would need further explanation.  They were sitting at the kitchen table and he sat down and Teresa poured him some coffee.  Johnny started at the beginning and told them everything.  When Johnny began to tell how badly Scott had been hurt and how he had suffered Murdoch got up and began to pace around the room and tears streamed down Teresa's face.   When Johnny finished they all had to fight back tears.

“It's so horrible,” Teresa said brokenly.  “He must have been so frightened to be put in jail and then they sold him like a slave.  Murdoch what are we going to do?”

“We are going to live our lives.  We will ask Scott to participate in things we do as a family but we cannot insist that he do so.  We will take things very, very slow.  I would like Sam to examine him.”

“I'll ask him but he doesn't like doctors much,” Johnny said “Do the hands know?'

“Yes they all know.”

“Good.  Scott wrote something to me the other night.  He said he figured out why those who don't speak are called dumb.  He said he was perceived that way. He called himself ‘The Nodding Fool.'

“Your brother has always been hard on himself.  I guess some things do not change.” Murdoch said ruefully.

Dinner was a strained affair.   Scott kept his head mostly down and looked at his plate.  He felt inadequate among these people but he knew he had to give it more time.  He wrote a note to Maria ‘This is very good ma'am.  Thank you.'

“Gracious Senor Scott” Maria murmured and hurried to the kitchen unable to stop her tears.  Teresa had confided in her and her heart ached for the young Patron.  He could not speak in that beautiful voice of his that so defined him.   He looked so lost and alone, his normally blue sparkling eyes were dead with sadness.  He did not remember his favorite meal even though he'd eaten it all.  He was so thin, too thin.  She vowed she would fatten the young Patron up by making his favorite things.  It was all she really could do for him, that and love him.

After dinner the three Lancer men walked out to the barn.  Murdoch looked over the stallion pleased with the purchase.  “He's a beauty.”

Scott nodded running his hand over the stallion's neck.  Johnny turned as a horse started nickering.   It was Charlie and he was looking right at Scott.  The horse continued nickering so incessantly that both Murdoch and Scott noticed and looked over.

“That's Charlie, Scott.  It seems like he missed you.”    Johnny said quietly.

Scott walked over to his horse and it nuzzled him as he stroked its nose.  Scott pulled his pad of paper out of his waistband and wrote.  He stroked the horse's neck as it gently pushed against him.   Scott's shoulders slumped and he gave the horse a quick hug around the neck.  He turned to face Johnny and Murdoch with tears in his eyes and handed Johnny the note.  Johnny handed it to Murdoch as Scott left the barn.   It said   ‘I don't remember him.'                                                                                                 

Johnny covered his face with hands and felt Murdoch put a hand on his shoulder.  “It will be okay son.”

Scott went for a long walk in the moonlight and when he came back the hacienda was dark except for one lamp in The Great Room.  Murdoch was sitting at his desk and he looked up as Scott came in.

“Could I talk to you for a moment Scott?”

Scott nodded and pulled out his paper and sat down in front of Murdoch.

“This is difficult for you, isn't it?”

‘And for you.' Scott wrote.

Murdoch shook his head.  “Not really Scott because a few days ago we thought you were dead.”

‘I'm a disappointment.'

“No you are not.  Not in the least.”

‘I would like to fit in. I wish I could remember this place and all of you.'

“You belong here Scott, whether or not you ever remember or speak.  This is your home and you are my son.  You will always belong and fit in here.”

Scott bowed his head and smiled slightly as he wrote.  ‘Thank you.'

Scott stood up to go.   “Let's take it one day at a time Scott.”  Murdoch said softly.  Scott nodded.

When Teresa awoke the next morning one thought came into her mind.  It was 3 weeks until Christmas and now that Scott was back they were going to have a nice Christmas and she wanted the annual Lancer New Year's Party back on.  They would include Scott in everything.  As the Lancers sat at breakfast Teresa chattered about Christmas.  She and Maria would begin baking today.  In a few days Johnny and Scott would find the perfect tree and then they would decorate it with popcorn and cranberry strings and the Lancer Christmas ornaments. 

“Murdoch do you think we can have the New Year's Party this year” Teresa asked.

“Oh I don't know darling.  It might be a little soon.”  Murdoch said.

“Well what do you think, Scott?”  Teresa asked.

Scott had been listening enjoying hearing the plans for Christmas when Teresa asked him his opinion.  A bite of eggs froze mid-air at the question.  He looked at everyone and nodded.

Johnny laughed.  “Well that seals it Murdoch because I agree.”

That morning Murdoch took Scott on a short tour of the ranch.  Murdoch was pleased that Scott seemed interested and asked pertinent questions.   He too thought his son's intelligence was back to normal after his serious head injury. Scott rode Charlie.  It didn't take long and horse and rider bonded again and moved as one.  The rest of the week he worked with Johnny and he came home dead tired but he was happy and liked the work.

At the end of the week Teresa decreed it was time for the tree.  Johnny tied a litter to Barranca and Scott and he rode to the high country to find one.  It was cold on the mountain and strips of snow were nestled in shaded areas.  They found a tree they liked and Johnny was busily tying it to the litter when a snowball hit him on the side of his head.  He looked at his brother who was suddenly looking at something on the ground.   Johnny shook his head and went back to what he was doing when another snowball hit him in the back of his neck.

“Alright that tears it brother.”  Johnny let go his own snowball which hit Scott just below his ear.  The snowball fight was on.  They ducked behind trees and fired at each other.  Later when they started down the mountain they were cold and wet but both of them were grinning.

Teresa had hot chocolate and cookies for them and bade them to sit by the fire in the kitchen.  “How did you two get so wet?”

Johnny grinned.  “Scott started a snowball fight.”

“Is that true Scott?”  Teresa said in a stern voice.

Scott nodded looking guilty.  Teresa went behind them and gently knocked their heads together.   “Not very smart boys.  I don't want either of you sick for Christmas!

“Ow!   Teresa why do you have to be so mean?”

“Johnny Lancer that did not hurt.  Scott did that hurt?”

Scott shook his head grinning widely.

“Hey brother!  Whose side are you on?”  Both Johnny and Teresa laughed when Scott pointed at Teresa.

Murdoch smiled in the doorway watching his children.  The moment was bittersweet in that Scott could not remember them and his deep laugh was not joining in with the others.

Later after dinner they all decorated the tree.  Scott was busily working on making a popcorn and cranberry garland when a cranberry hit him in the forehead.   He looked up quickly but Teresa and Johnny were working on garlands too and Murdoch was sitting at his desk looking over some papers.  He frowned and went back to work.  Another cranberry hit him on the nose and he glared at Johnny and Teresa who looked at him in surprise.  Scott shook his head at them.  He didn't want to retaliate with his father there and he began his task again only this time he looked up quickly surprised to catch Murdoch in the act of aiming a cranberry at him.  Both Johnny and Teresa laughed at the shocked look on Scott's face.

Murdoch cleared his throat.  “Sorry son, I was worried you wouldn't have enough cranberries.”

Scott nodded and wrote a note ‘I want to thank you, Sir, for thinking about me but really I AM FINE!'  Teresa came over and read the note and giggled and showed the note to Johnny and took it to Murdoch.   Murdoch read it and laughed and they all joined in.  Johnny took in the happy smile on his brother's face and Murdoch hadn't laughed since Scott went missing.  Later after they had decorated the tree they all agreed it was beautiful.

When Scott turned in for the night... his heart felt light for the first time in two years.  He opened the closet and began to look through things that had belonged to him.  There were a lot of fancy clothes and work clothes as well.   There were several hats, several pairs of boots and shoes, coats and jackets.  Johnny had told him that he had been raised in Boston and the picture of the older man was his grandfather so when he found gifts from Boston with his name on he wasn't surprised.  He did stop when he found three presents at the bottom of his closet with his family's names and Merry Christmas on them.    He realized he must have gotten them before he had been hurt in September two years past.  He thoughtfully placed them on top of the dresser and crawled into bed.  It was time they got them.

The next two weeks were spent working and getting ready for Christmas.  It had spread through the community that Scott was back but could not remember or speak.   A few days after they had decorated the tree, Scott and Johnny went to town to pick up supplies and stopped in the saloon for a beer and sat at the bar.

Johnny groaned as he saw Cal McDonald get up and start over to them.  “Scott there is a man coming over here.  He's an idiot and when he gets drunk he always causes trouble.  He'd sass off to us but you'd say something sarcastic and everyone would laugh at him.”  Scott shrugged and took another drink of beer.

“Scott Lancer...heard tell you can't smart off like you do at my expense anymore.  All you can nod and shake your head like some fool.”

“Damn it.” Johnny muttered meeting Scott's gaze.  Johnny had been ready to intercede but Scott was angry and he was questioning his brother.  Johnny gave an imperceptible nod towards McDonald.  Scott gave a small smile, finished his beer and then turned around to face McDonald.

“Come on McDonald leave him alone.”  Johnny said.

“Stay out of this Johnny or does big brother need you to babysit him?” 

McDonald looked at Scott with a sneer on his face and a few seconds later he was laid out flat and dazed on the floor.   Scott stepped over him and headed for the door.  Johnny stopped and bent down putting his hands on his knees and shook his head.

“My brother may not be able to speak anymore but his fists still work just fine.”  Johnny said and followed Scott out.  Johnny grinned as they got the wagon.   Scott's self-confidence was growing daily.

“Hurt your knuckles?” 

Scott nodded affirmatively.

“But it was worth it?”

Scott nodded again.  Johnny playfully punched Scott in the arm as a slow smile came over his face.

It was a week before Christmas.  The Lancers had invited Sam for dinner and Scott had finally agreed to let Sam examine him after dinner.    Scott came down carrying the three gifts he had found in his closet and placed them under the tree.

“Scott I told you gifts weren't necessary.   When did you get those?”  Johnny asked quizzically.  Scott had a note already written and Johnny read it and passed it to Murdoch and Teresa.

“That isn't surprising.  You were never one to wait on things.  You always thought ahead.”

Scott wrote ‘I guess we all will be surprised.'

There was a knock at the door and Teresa went and greeted Sam and introduced Scott to him.  Dinner was a pleasant affair and Sam watched with interest how Scott carried on conversation by passing notes.  Later Sam shared a drink with Murdoch in his den while Scott went upstairs to undress and cover himself with a sheet at Sam's instructions.

“He seems happy Murdoch.”

“Well I think he is.  He has been miserable the two years he was away.”

“What are you worried about Murdoch?”

“Besides the obvious he was badly beaten and I want him checked over.  And yes I'd like you to evaluate his loss of speech and memory.”

Scott was nervous as he sat on the bed with a sheet around his waist.   There was a knock and Sam came in.  He smiled at Scott and pulled up a chair in front of him. 

“Good I'm glad you have your note paper.  I'm going to start out asking a bunch of questions as I look you over okay?”

Scott nodded.

“Now point to me where you were injured.”

Scott pointed to his wrist and Sam examined it closely moving it and his fingers.  “Any numbness?”    Scott shook his head and pointed to the back of his head.  Sam felt the area and looked at Scott's eyes.   “Any dizziness, headaches.”   Scott wrote ‘Headaches but not very often.'

Scott next pointed to his neck.   Sam carefully felt the outside of Scott's neck.  He then examined his ears, nose and throat.  “Johnny told me what the doctor in Salinas told him.   I need to know what you remember after you woke up.”

‘My throat was very painful and it was hard to breathe or swallow.  I tried to talk but it was excruciating and nothing came out.'  Scott wrote.

“How long did you try to talk?”

‘About 8 months.  Every time I tried I got that pain and then it was difficult to breathe and swallow for weeks again.  So I stopped.'

Sam nodded and had Scott lay down and he gave him a full examination.  Finally he told Scott to sit up again.  “Scott I want you to try to talk again.”

Scott vehemently shook his head and wrote.  ‘No!  Last time I could barely breathe.'

“Please Scott…trust me.  Try.”

Scott looked at Sam his eyes filled with doubt and fear and shook his head.

Sam put his hand on Scott's shoulder.  “You can do it, son.  Say the word ‘He'.”

Scott took a deep breath and tried.  To his surprise the word came out a little hoarse but understandable.

“Any pain, shortness of breath Scott?”

Scott shook his head. 

“Say something else.”

“Oh God, Sam thank you!”  Scott said his voice still weak but understandable.  Scott suddenly began to cry softly.  He held up the sheet around him with one hand and put his arm around Sam with the other.  Sam hugged him warmly.

“Get dressed and I'll explain everything for all of you and then you can show them your speech.”

Sam went and got everyone and then waited for Scott to open the door.  After he did Scott and Johnny sat on the bed and others sat down in chairs.

“I did a full examination on Scott.  His head seems fine.  He only has an occasional headache. I think he did have a very serious concussion and it could have easily caused him confusion until the swelling went down.  The body does have the capability to heal itself.  The rest of the examination is pretty normal.  He obviously had some broken ribs.  They have healed although not cleanly but it shouldn't bother him.  As far as his memory he may never regain it or it could come back tomorrow.    There is no way to know.”

Johnny was watching his brother whose face was passive but his eyes were red rimmed.  God, please don't let him be ill or hurt further he thought.

“As far as his voice Scott tells me he tried to speak on and off for 8 months.  Every time he tried he had excruciating pain, no sound and his airway was compromised.  Finally after an extreme case of pain and airway blockage he stopped.  What I believe was happening is when Scott tried to speak he reinjured whatever was hurt in the beating.  I think it may have been his vocal cords.  Anyway, I thought after 12 months of silence it was worth a shot.”

“We were successful.”  Scott said in a hoarse quiet voice.

Murdoch went to his son and gave him a quick hug.  “Scott I couldn't be more pleased. “

Scott smiled. “Thank you sir.”

Teresa kissed him on the cheek.  “Oh Scott I am so happy!  I've missed your voice and laughter.”

Johnny slapped Scott gently in the stomach.  “This is the best news Scott.  I can't wait to hear that sarcastic tone of yours. “

Sam smiled.  “Well I must be going.  Scott take things slow.  Don't overuse.  I'm expecting your voice to strengthen with time.”

“Sam I'll never be able to… thank you enough for helping me.”

“It's one of the pleasures of my job Scott.” Sam said.

They all saw Sam out and settled in the great room.  Murdoch stood up.  “I want to say something and it's not because Scott has found his voice.  I was planning on saying this anyhow tonight although I know whatever Scott chooses regaining his voice will make his life a lot easier and I am very grateful for that.”

Johnny sat up all of a sudden thinking he was not going to like what Murdoch had to say.

“Scott you were taken from me as a baby.  A big part of that is on my head.  I didn't try hard enough to get you back.  I admit that and make no excuses.   You are my son and it doesn't matter if you don't remember because I love you.  I always have and will.  Therefore I am releasing you from your indenture.  I don't want to keep you here against your will.  I can't do that to you son.”

Johnny realized Murdoch was right.  Scott had to make his own decisions but Johnny had a sick feeling in his stomach.  What if Scott chose to leave?

“Scott I also want to say…I don't want to lose you again.  Four years ago we didn't know each other, none of us did.  But in two years we were a family, closer than I ever hoped possible.  Then you were taken from me again, taken from all of us, a part gone missing.  But we can start over Scott, we already have.  Just know we don't care if you remember son.  We want you to stay no matter what, not because you have to but because you want to.

Scott looked at all of them.  They did love him and they had shown him that immediately.   He was happy here, that much he knew.  He took a deep breath.  “I want to.” he said softly.  He smiled as he was enveloped by three sets of arms.

 

 

The next week was spent preparing for Christmas.   Everyone was light-hearted due to Scott regaining his voice and wanting to stay.  With Scott's blessing Murdoch went to town and wired Harlan Garrett that he was alive but could not remember.  He wanted the old man to have a happy Christmas and he knew it meant a visit from Harlan in the future and Scott understood that.

The Christmas day plans were set.  The family would have a light breakfast and open their gifts.  Then they would have the dinner meal at 1:00.  Val and Sam were invited.  Jelly, Maria and Cipriano would also be there.  The meal was being cooked by Maria's daughter and daughter-in-laws.  Murdoch had offered payment for volunteers so Maria could be free.   Teresa and she had baked Christmas treats and pies so that the hands had those in addition to turkey and the fixings made up by Cookie.

When the Lancers sat down to exchange gifts everyone was in good spirits.  Scott's voice was stronger and he was successfully battling the urge to nod.  It had been funny at times and when Scott's laughter was heard after so long it brought lumps to all of their throats.

Scott looked with interest as Teresa opened her gift from him.  He had received a St. Christopher's medal from Teresa, a new bridle from Johnny and a new saddle from Murdoch.  Those things had all been taken from him during the ambush.

“Oh Scott…it's beautiful.”  It was a necklace with jade and diamonds.  “I admired this in San Francisco when we were there a month before you went missing.  I love it.  Thank you so much Scott.”

Johnny was pleased with a new billfold with the Lancer L stamped into leather.  Scott laughed as Johnny took out his old one which was falling apart.   He sobered.  He had known them then, what they liked.  Next year he would know them he told himself.  Murdoch picked up the gift from Scott.

Scott watched as his father began to open it.  “Murdoch wait!”  Scott stood up as pain in his head caused him to wince and dizziness made him unsteady.   Murdoch, Johnny and Teresa jumped and up came over to him.

“Scott, what's wrong?”  Murdoch asked in a concerned voice.

“I…remember that gift.  It's a humidor with Cuban cigars in it.” Scott said.  And then it was like a door opened and all his memories came rushing in, his life in Boston, the war and his family at Lancer.   It was so overwhelming he felt dizzy. “Oh my God…I remember everything….everything.   I remember you all. “

Scott choked up and he could say no more.  The Lancers formed a circle with heads together, fighting unsuccessfully to hold back tears and just stood there for several minutes holding on to one another.  The part gone missing was truly back. 

Finally Scott spoke  “Murdoch, I'm really sorry for spoiling the surprise of your gift.”

Laughter filled the Great Room, all of their laughter.  That Christmas would always be special to them because one was lost and then found.

 

 

EPILOGUE

Well after midnight the festivities were over and everyone had left.  Teresa had wearily but happily gone to bed.  She felt her prayers had been answered and that they had experienced a Christmas miracle.  The Lancer men could not argue with her.

Now the three men stood on the terrace having a brandy.  Scott had wanted to wait until Christmas was over to talk to Murdoch and Johnny.

They all drank silently.

“Two men ambushed me on the way to Stockton.  They bound and gagged me; put a hood over my head.  Then they threw me over a horse on my stomach and tied me down.  We went on a two day hard ride.  I didn't see daylight until we reached the destination.  No food or water.”

Scott's mind went back as he told his father and brother why he had gone missing for two years.

 *****

Scott was untied from the horse and pushed off.  The hood was removed and he was unbound except for his hands and pulled to his knees.  The gag was pulled out and he was given some water.  A man stood before him and Scott met his stare. 

“Word is you killed my brother,” the man said.

“Depends on who your brother is.”

“Day Pardee.”

Scott swallowed .  “Then you are correct.  I shot him because he deserved it and I would do it again.”

The man backhanded Scott almost knocking him to the ground.  “Lancer I am Rob Pardee.”   He produced a stout piece of lumber.  “I am going to beat the life out of you for killing my brother.”

*******

“Then he did as he promised… almost.  It was very painful.  When he hit me across the throat I couldn't breathe.  Then after the blow to my head I knew no more until I woke up in Alphonso's cabin.  You know the rest.”  Scott's voice had a flat tone as he related the story.

“Rob Pardee.  He's way worse than Day ever was.  Scott I am so sorry this happened to you.”  Johnny said bitterly.

Scott looked at Johnny and then bowed his head.  It had been hard on all of them “Thank you brother.”

Murdoch put his hand on Scott's shoulder.  “I'm sorry too that this happened and that you were all alone son.”

Scott smiled ruefully. “I think that was the hardest part, sir.  I was terrified much of the time, my thoughts muddled at first, not knowing who I was, unable to speak.   I never want to be that alone again.”

Murdoch gave his son's shoulder a squeeze.  “You never will son.”  

Scott turned away from them and stared out at the stars.   His voice was flat and hard.  “When he finds out I'm alive he will come after me again.  I can't let that happen.  He didn't kill me so the law may send him to prison for a year or so.   He come after me as soon as he gets out.  After the first of the year I am going after him and I am going to kill him.  He left me for dead and he put me through hell for two years.  It was two years I should have been with my family.  I will never get them back.”

“I am going with you, Scott.”  Johnny said firmly.  “When he took you away we stopped living too.  We still hadn't totally recovered when I found you.   We looked for months, hired Pinkertons.   Harlan sent detectives too. Our lives have been incomplete Scott.  A part of our family was missing and we had no answers.”

“I'm coming too Scott.  Pardee is not going to get another chance at you.  He left you for dead.  We won't spend any time looking over our shoulders if we take him out now.” Murdoch added.

The New Year's Eve dance was a huge success.  For the Lancers the it was also a party welcoming a fully recovered Scott back in to the local society.   There was food, drink and dancing.  At a little before 12:00 the Lancer's stood together and Murdoch gave a short speech.

“I'd like to thank all of you for joining us to ring in the New Year.  No matter what happens in this New Year my family has been blessed with the return of my eldest son Scott.  I wish you happiness and good fortune this year.”

The crowd commenced a countdown.  At midnight Scott hugged all his family and then received a multitude of kisses from the fairer sex.   The dance started again and Scott whirled around with several different partners.

“He looks happy.”  Murdoch commented to Johnny.

“He is Murdoch.   Once we make sure he's safe from Rob Pardee, I'll be happy too”

 

 

A few weeks later Rob Pardee was ambushed by three men on his way to his hideout after visiting the saloon.   His hands were bound behind his back and he was forced to his knees.  A man stepped in front of him.

“Madrid.  What is going on?  Why are you doing this”  Pardee asked in a frightened voice.

“I'm afraid it's really Johnny Lancer.  My father and I wanted to repay the kindness you showed my brother Scott but he wants to make it quick and painless for you.”

The last thing Rob Pardee saw in his life were the cold slate blue eyes of a man he thought was a ghost, Scott Lancer. 

“I'm doing you a favor Pardee.  I'm sending you to hell to be with your brother.”   Scott said in a cold voice.  A shot rang out.

A couple days later the same three men turned in for the night in their own beds feeling much safer and having no regrets.  One of them smiled as he remembered something his brother had told him years ago.   ‘You gotta get them before they get you'.  Justice had been done.

 

~ end ~

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