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Sharon and Sammi

 

 

Betrayal, Part 2

 

 

 

 

Chapter 11

Prosecuting attorney Marcus Webster called as his first witness, Sheriff Sam Jayson. The sandy haired small town lawman was sworn in by the bailiff and, with a nervous look in the direction of the defense table, he took his seat on the witness stand. After first asking a few introductory questions that allowed the Sheriff to identify himself, the prosecutor quickly began to interrogate the man about the events that he had witnessed.

“Sheriff, you rode out with the search party the night that Scott Lancer first came up missing, is that correct?” Webster asked as he paced in front of the witness stand, his hands clasped behind his back.

“Yes…ah,” Sam wiped his brow with his handkerchief nervously. “I'd stopped out at the Lancer Ranch to drop off a bill to Johnny and…”

The tall prosecutor stopped abruptly and focused an inquisitive gaze upon Jayson, causing the Sheriff to falter in his recitation. With the eyes of the jurors upon him, Webster waited a moment before posing his next question. “What was this bill for?” he asked.

“Well, . . . Johnny got in a fight at the saloon in town,” the sheriff explained reluctantly. “He was real sorry and since he'd thrown the first punch he agreed to pay for the damages.”

“I see. Does the Defendant get into fights very often, Sheriff?”

“I object!” Nicholas Reed stated firmly from his seat at the defense table. “Your Honor, this line of questioning has no bearing on the case.”

“Your Honor,” Webster replied, sweeping his glance over the jurors, “I contend that it goes to the fact of the Defendant's temper and impulsivity.” “But,” he added smoothly, “ I'll withdraw the question.” Reed's eyes narrowed at that and he jotted a few notes on the piece of paper in front of him. Beside him, Jarrod Barkley scribbled furiously as he attempted to record the prosecutor's questions, as well as Sam Jayson's answers. The prosecutor turned back to the lawman. “Sheriff, please tell us what happened when you joined the search team.”

“Well, we split into two groups and headed out to the dam site.”

“And when you arrived at that spot, Scott Lancer's last known location, what did you find there, Sheriff?”

Sam Jayson looked down at his hat, lying in his lap and back up at Webster. “When we got there we saw Scott…….ah Scott Lancer's horse. We didn't see any sign of him. Someone, I think it was Mr. Hayford told everybody ta stay where they were so that we could look at the tracks on the ground.”

“And Mr. Hayford would be?”

“Umm, he'd be Scott Lancer's lawyer friend from Boston. “

“From Boston?'

“Well, I guess he lives out here now. He was visitin' at the ranch.”

“I see. And who were the other members of the search party, Sheriff?”

“Well, now, let's see, there was Mr. Lancer—Murdoch that is, and a coupla men that work for ‘im, Jelly Hoskins and Cipriano . . I think his last name might be Sanchez. And Chad Lancer, he's a cousin. And, um, well, ah, Johnny, a course.”

“So you looked at the tracks and how many sets did you see?”

“There was only two sets of tracks in that clearing. Brunswick's, that‘s Scott's horse and Barranca's—that would be Johnny's horse.” Rubbing his mustache, Sam looked over toward Johnny apologetically. Seated beside Jarrod Barkley at the defense table, Johnny Lancer was listening intently, but kept his gaze fixed upon the bare surface of the table in front of him. Jayson shifted uncomfortably in his seat as the prosecutor continued his questioning.

“Sherriff Jayson, would you explain to the Court how those tracks could be identified as belonging to those particular horses?”

“Well, you see, Johnny's horse had front shoes that were kinda worn, so they left distinctive marks on the ground,” Sam explained, his chest puffed out with importance. “Scott's horse's shoes left narrower prints.”

“You're certain that there were no other tracks?“ Webster asked with deliberate emphasis.

“No, sir,” Sam said shaking his head. “We all looked around and there just weren't any other tracks.”

“Sheriff Jayson, could you describe the other significant items which were found at the scene?” the prosecutor continued, one hand resting lightly on the rail next to the witness.

The Sheriff paused to gather his thoughts, thinking back to that night. “Well, first thing we found was a canteen full of water which we were sure was Scott's. And then we found his hat a little ways downstream.”

The prosecutor introduced into evidence the canteen and the hat. He turned back to Sheriff Jayson.

“Please go on, Sheriff. What else was found?”

“Well, there was a piece of wood, kinda like driftwood, stickin' out from some branches. We looked at it and there was a dark stain on it that we all thought coulda been blood.”

“This piece of wood looked like a club, did it not?”

“Objection,” Reed said calmly, “leading the Witness.”

“Sustained.”

Marcus Webster allowed himself a small smile. “Sheriff Jayson, could you describe the size, shape and appearance of this piece of wood, the once which the members of the search party believed might have a blood stain on it?”

Sam Jayson gestured with his hands to indicate the size of the stick. “Well, it was about this long and that big around . .it did kinda look like a club,” he concluded lamely.

“Sheriff, were the members of the search party concerned that Scott Lancer might have been attacked and robbed?”

“Well, not robbed, cause his horse and all of his things were still there.”

“But they feared that he might have been attacked?”

“Yeah, cause of that piece of wood and where his hat was.”

Webster walked over to his associate at the prosecutor's table and picked up a small white envelope. The eyes of the jury members were trained upon the item that he held in his hand as the lanky prosecutor approached the witness stand once more. Removing a small object from the envelope, Webster extended his open hand towards Sam Jayson. “Sheriff, was this button also found at the scene?”

Sam Jayson leaned forward and studied the prosecutor's palm. “Yes sir, it was layin' on the ground,” he said, nodding his head.

“Were you able to identify the source of the button?”

“Well, it sure looked like it came offa the shirt Johnny was wearin',” Sheriff Jayson replied, again looking apologetically towards the top of Johnny's dark head.

“One of his buttons was, in fact missing?”

“Yes.”

“Did the Defendant admit to losing the button at the dam site?”

“No,” the lawman replied uncomfortably. “He said it was missin' when he put his shirt on that mornin'.”

“Sheriff, if it was already missing then how did it get to the crime scene?” the prosecutor demanded.

Sam Jayson struggled to come up with an answer. ”I'm not really -----“

“Objection,” Nicholas Reed insisted, half rising this time. “Calls for speculation.”

“I'll withdraw the question, Your Honor,” was Webster's quick rejoinder, “And I'll turn this witness over to the defense.”

Nicholas Reed stood slowly and deliberately approached the witness stand. The eyes of everyone in the courtroom followed the movements of the distinguished looking attorney, including those of his client. “Good morning, Sheriff,” he said with a smile.

“Good mornin',“ the round faced lawman replied.

“Tell me, Sheriff Jayson, are you a trained investigator?”

“Well, no, I guess I can't say that I am . . “

“Are you experienced in identifying tracks, for example?”

Sam Jayson looked nervously over at Johnny, who coolly returned the perspiring man's gaze. “Uh . .no, not really.” Jayson glanced down and shifted in his seat. “It was Cipriano who showed ‘em to me, “ he admitted.

“So can you personally be certain that there were only two sets of tracks in the clearing and that those tracks did in fact belong to the horses which the Lancer brothers were riding that day?”

“No, I guess not, but . . . .”

“Thank you, Sheriff,” Reed said, holding up one hand, halting him. “Now, Johnny Lancer admitted that he had been at the dam site, correct?”

“Yes sir, he said he'd been waitin' there for Scott.”

“So the tracks aren't proof of anything, really,” Reed said musingly.

Marcus Webster was polishing his eyeglasses. “Is that a question, your Honor?” he asked looking up from his seat at the prosecution table.

Reed quickly addressed the Judge, “I'm sorry, Your Honor.” The defense attorney regarded Sam Jayson thoughtfully. “Sheriff, did I understand you to say that it was Mr. Hayford who was concerned about stopping to examine the tracks when the search party initially first arrived at the clearing?”

“Well, yes, yes, sir he was.”

“And when it appeared that Scott Lancer might have fallen into Grand Creek, who was it who first suggested that it might not have been an accident?”

Sam Jayson thought about that. “That would be Mr. Hayford, I think”

“Hmmm, that's interesting . . . Sheriff, who found the button on the ground?”

“Mr. Hayford,” Jayson replied confidently.

“And I assume that it was also Mr. Hayford who noticed that Johnny's shirt was missing a button?”

“Yeah, that's right.”

“Sheriff, who was it who urged you to consider Johnny Lancer as a suspect in his brother's disappearance?”

“Mr. . . .Hayford,” Sam Jayson answered a bit more hesitantly, in belated recognition of the fact that it might appear that he had been led astray by the Eastern lawyer.

“One more question, Sheriff—I think that perhaps there might be a pattern here--who was it who went with you to obtain the arrest warrant from Judge Hill?”

“Uh . .Mr. Hayford,“ Sam replied in a somewhat embarrassed tone.

“I wonder if anyone else sees a pattern . . .” Reed murmured.

Before Marcus Webster could voice an objection, Judge Blackwell looked over the top of his reading glasses to offer a mildly pointed interrogatory of his own: “Mr. Reed, is there a question for the witness?”

“No, Your Honor, I have no further questions for this witness.”

Webster promptly rose to his feet and strode towards the witness stand. “Sheriff, you said that you were not an experienced investigator. Did you therefore appreciate the assistance that you received from the other members of the search party?”

“Well, yes . . .”

“Sheriff Jayson, who found Scott Lancer's canteen?”

Sam considered this. “It was Cipriano, Mr. Lancer's foreman.”

“And who helped you to identify the tracks as belonging Scott Lancer's horse and that of the Defendant?”

“That was Cipriano again. He found the piece of wood, too,” Sam added helpfully.

“Who was it who suggested that the stain on the wood could be blood?”

“That was Mr. Lancer . . Murdoch.”

“And who found Scott Lancer's hat downstream?”

“Chad Lancer,” Jayson said confidently.

Webster strolled away from the witness stand, positioning himself so that both he and Johnny were in the jurors' line of sight.

“Sheriff Jayson, besides Scott Lancer, who is the only other person who was known to have been present in the clearing prior to the search party's arrival?“ Noting the lawman's confused expression, Webster rephrased the question. “Who had been there earlier in the day?”

“Johnny Lancer.”

“Who was known to have argued with the victim?”

“Well, Johnny, I guess. . “

“Objection! The Sheriff has not testified to having first hand knowledge of any disagreements between the brothers,” Reed explained.

Judge Blackwell nodded his agreement. “Sustained.”

“Sheriff,” Webster began again, “whose button was found on the ground at the dam site?”

“Johnny's.”

“Sheriff, you sought an arrest warrant because you were presented with evidence of a suspect having both motive and opportunity to commit a crime. What was the name on that warrant, Sheriff?”

Sam Jayson sighed. “Johnny Lancer.”

“Sheriff, who is the only person that you are aware of who had both the opportunity and a motive to attack Scott Lancer?”

When Sam Jayson did not answer, Marcus Webster stepped nearer to the witness stand and repeated his question.. “Sheriff, I repeat, who is the only person that you are aware of who had both the opportunity and a motive to attack Scott Lancer?”

“Johnny Lancer,” Sam Jayson said reluctantly.

“No further questions.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Andy Stovall was the next witness for the prosecution. After he had been sworn in, Marcus Webster asked the young man a few questions about his brief period of employment at the Lancer Ranch. Throughout these preliminaries, the prosecutor addressed the red-faced and obviously nervous young ranch hand in a reassuring tone.

Stepping away from the witness stand and closer to the jury box, the experienced prosecutor introduced a topic that he believed to be central to his case. “Now, Mr. Stovall, I understand that you had the opportunity to overhear a conversation between Mr. Scott Lancer and the Defendant, a conversation that involved Scott Lancer's will?”

“Ah….y y yyes, sir,” Andy stammered. “We were eatin' lunch out at the pasture where we were buildin' a new fence line and Johnny up and asked ‘im if he had a will.”

“Andy, to the best of your recollection, what were the Defendant's exact words?”

“He said ta him, ‘have you got a will, Boston?', I remembered that he didn't call ‘im by his real name. Then he told him he might be needin' one some day."

“The Defendant said that? Did that sound like a threat to you, Andy?”

Andy Stovall hesitated a long moment. “Well, Mr. Lancer—Scott—he didn't seem too bothered by it, but it sure didn't sound too friendly to me.”

“What was Scott Lancer's response?” Webster inquired.

“He just said that he was havin' a will made.”

“How did the Defendant respond to that information?”

“He wanted ta know how much Scott was leavin' him. Scott told ‘im there was a lot of money.”

“Did the Defendant say anything else?”

The dark haired young ranch hand slid a sideways glance in the direction of the defense table. Webster quickly stepped into Stovall's line of vision. “Let me remind you, Mr. Stovall, that you are under oath to answer truthfully to the best of your recollection.”

Andy took a deep breath and slowly expelled it, then hurried through his answer. “Johnny, he wanted ta know if it meant he'd never have to work again, an' Mr. Lancer, that's Scott, he said that the only problem was he'd have ta be dead fer Johnny ta get any of it.”

“What was the Defendant's reply?”

“Well, he said he was gonna stop keepin Mr. Lan---Scott out of trouble. And then Scott turned to me and Walt and told us to remember that. He told us we was witnesses. That's what he said, that we was witnesses.”

At this revelation, there was a murmur in the courtroom, quickly silenced as Judge Blackwell glared down at the spectators.

“Thank you, Andy.” Marcus Webster walked over to the prosecution table, leaning over and speaking to his legal associate in low tones, providing the jury with an opportunity to absorb this information. Then he turned back to the witness.

“Andy, I understand you overheard an argument between Scott Lancer and the Defendant on the day prior to Scott Lancer's disappearance?”

“Yyyes, sir.”

“Please tell the court what you heard.”

The dark haired young man sighed again. “Well, Johnny was mad cause he said Mr. Lancer---Scott--- was takin' charge of things, over ridin' his orders. They started ta' argue.” Andy paused, nervously looking at the courtroom filled with people listening attentively to him. “Then, Scott, he sent me to off to the barn. I could hear ‘em talkin', real angry like, but I weren't payin close attention til……”

“Until what?” the prosecutor prodded him.

“Johnny—the Defendant that is---grabbed Mr. Lancer by the arm. I saw that but I couldn't make out what they was sayin' though. Then Scott, he kinda shook him off and started ta walk away.”

“And what did the Defendant do then, Andy?”

“He stood there an' he said, kinda loud, he said, ‘ They ain't never shot ya, like I did.' I remember it clear as a bell cause it sure enough surprised the he--heck outta me.”

“What did you take that statement to mean, Andy?”

“I weren't sure, but some of the other hands, I think it was Manuel and his brother Jorge, they told me later that . . .

“Objection!” announced Nicholas Reed. “This is hearsay.”

“Sustained.” Judge Blackwell turned to the witness. “You may only testify to events of which you have direct knowledge, not to things that someone else has told you about.”

Webster approached his witness once more. “Was that the end of the argument, Andy? Did the Defendant say anything else to Mr. Lancer?”

“Yeah, he said that he guessed that Scott thought he could take care of himself cause he was turning his back on him. On Johnny, that is.”

“What did you take that statement to mean, Andy?”

“Well, I took it ta mean that he was sayin' that Mr. Lancer oughta watch his back.”

“Thank you, Andy,” Webster said with a smile. The prosecutor addressed the judge: “No further questions, your Honor.”

Jarrod Barkley rose to conduct the cross examination of Andy Stovall. One hand in his pocket, the other idly fingering his string tie, the Stockton attorney addressed the young ranch hand from a position near the jury box. “Mr. Stovall, you've only been working for the Lancers for a short time, is that correct?”

“Yessir, that's right.”

“So, it would be fair to say that you don't really know the Lancer brothers very well, now do you?”

“No, I guess not.”

“But you had probably heard some things about Johnny Lancer's past, that he used to be a gunfighter?”

“Yeah, sure, I'd heard that.”

“Now, Mr. Stovall, what was your opinion of Scott Lancer?”

Andy considered this question for a moment. “I dunno know what you mean, he seemed like he knew what he was doin'. The other men said---.” Jarrod held up his hand. “Mr. Stovall, I asked you for your assessment. Did you like Scott Lancer, was he easy to get along with?”

“Well, sure, I guess so . . . yeah.”

“But, Johnny Lancer, because of what you'd heard about his past, were you perhaps a bit more . .leery . .of him?” At the defense table, Nicholas Reed noted with mild surprise that Marcus Webster did not object to Jarrod's somewhat leading question.

“I guess, maybe.”

“Maybe? Is that a yes or a no, Mr. Stovall? Were you a little bit uncomfortable around Johnny Lancer?”

“Yeah, sure I was.”

Jarrod paused for a moment, staring at the floor as he formulated his next question. “Mr. Stovall, you had only worked for the Lancers for a short time, you admit that you didn't know the Lancer brothers very well. You acknowledge that you liked Scott Lancer and felt a bit uncomfortable around Johnny Lancer. Mr. Stovall, is it possible that the remarks which you viewed as threats were in fact joking comments between the brothers?” Marcus Webster rose to his full height. “Your Honor, Mr. Barkley is making a speech and leading the witness.”

Judge Blackwell gave Jarrod a baleful look. “Get to the point, Mr. Barkley.”

“I'm sorry, your Honor.” Turning his attention to Andy Stovall once more, Jarrod rephrased his question. “Andy, is it possible that you could have misinterpreted the conversations that you over heard?”

“Sure, it's possible,” was Andy Stovall's grudging response.

Jarrod Barkley stepped over to the defense table and picked up his page of notes. “Mr. Stovall, you said that Scott Lancer ‘didn't seem too bothered' by his brother's comments about having a will. If Johnny had in fact been threatening him, rather than merely joking with his brother, wouldn't you have expected Scott to have been a bit ‘bothered'?”

Andy Stovall shook his head. “Scott, he didn't act scared or nothin', but it sure sounded like a threat ta me,“ he insisted stubbornly.

Jarrod looked over at Nicholas Reed. His mentor nodded slightly; their grave concerns about this witness's testimony had come to pass. Jarrod addressed the Judge. “No further questions, your Honor.”

On redirect, Marcus Webster efficiently took Andy Stovall through the key portions of his testimony, making sure that the gentlemen of the jury understood that the Defendant had reason to expect to inherit a considerable sum of money from Scott Lancer's will, and that if the conversation between the brothers had contained a note of dark humor, there had been a threatening undertone as well. The prosecutor also made certain that the jurors realized that the Lancers' quarrel had taken place on the very day prior to Scott Lancer's disappearance and that the argument had included a threatening statement by the Defendant as well as a reference to his having shot his brother at some time in the past.

Once Andy Stovall was excused from the stand, the stocky young man hurried from the courtroom. Marcus Webster calmly called his next witness: Mr. William Hayford.

 

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Chapter 12

Will Hayford slowly walked across the floor to the witness stand. He was wearing a light brown suit, with the right sleeve of his jacket pinned to the shoulder. The bailiff swore him in; Will raised his left hand to take the oath. As he settled into the witness chair, the attention of everyone in the courtroom was focused upon the man with the eye patch.

As with the previous witnesses, the prosecutor began his questioning by posing basic inquiries; Hayford's occupation was one topic. It was established that he was an attorney, originally from Boston, currently a member of the firm of Wetherby and Franklin, in Sacramento. At this information, there was a murmured response from the crowd of spectators that had gathered to observe the proceedings. Weatherby and Franklin was considered a very prestigious firm in the city, with a reputation for rarely losing a case.

Marcus Webster continued his examination of the witness by inquiring about his military service record. Will Hayford modestly stated that he was a former U.S. army infantry captain.

“Captain Hayford, you received your injuries on the battlefield, is that true?”

“Yes, at Gettysburg.”

“And is it also true that you were recognized with a medal for your bravery in that conflict?”

“It's true that I was awarded several medals, but I don't consider myself to be a hero, Mr. Webster. Just a soldier, defending his country.”

Webster nodded in approval at the sincerity evident in Hayford's reply and then looked significantly at the gentlemen on the jury. The attorney for the state next proceeded to question Hayford about his educational background. The witness confirmed that he was a graduate of Harvard College.

In his next series of questions, the prosecutor asked the witness to describe his relationship with Scott Lancer. For the most part, Will spoke with confident familiarity of his friend, although at times his voice cracked with emotions that he tried in vain to hold back. He confirmed that they had known each other since childhood and that he had considered Scott to be like a younger brother. The young attorney described his long-time friend as an intelligent, honest, loyal, and generous man. Hayford also cited several acts of bravery for which Lieutenant Scott Lancer had been recognized while serving in the Union cavalry. As he responded to the prosecutor's inquiries, Hayford directed his remarks alternately towards the jury members and towards Webster himself.

On his side, Nicholas Reed scribbled notes in a somewhat frustrated manner. The defense had already stipulated to Scott Lancer's “sterling qualities”; the character of the alleged victim was not in question. The experienced attorney was well aware, however, that juries were simply more eager to find a defendant—any defendant--- guilty if they believed that the victim was a “good” man, one particularly deserving of Justice. If Scott Lancer could be presented as a candidate for sainthood, then it would be just that much easier for the prosecution to portray as the epitome of evil anyone accused of having harmed him. Continuing with his “Cain and Abel theme”, it was clear that Marcus Webster wished the jurors to accept the late Scott Lancer as “the good Lancer brother” and Johnny as “the bad seed.” Reed knew that if he objected to any part of the witness's detailed description of Scott Lancer or to the prosecutor's drawn out exploration of the long standing friendship between the two men, that it would be at the risk of having the jurors perceive his actions as disrespectful to either the missing man or to the humble war hero on the stand. Webster alternately addressed Hayford as either “Mister Hayford” or as “Captain”, even though the injured man clearly no longer held that military position—something else that Reed also prudently refrained from pointing out. It was apparent that Marcus Webster was very well aware of the fact that he had an intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable and sympathetic witness in Will Hayford, and the prosecutor was deliberately taking his time in questioning the man.

Eventually, the line of inquiry turned to the day that Scott Lancer had “tragically came up missing” and the search at the dam site. Webster painstakingly took Will Hayford through what the earlier witnesses had stated in regards to the evidence that had been found at the scene: Scott Lancer's horse, his hat and canteen, the piece of silvered wood and the two sets of hoof prints.

"Mr. Hayford," the solemn faced prosecutor continued, one hand resting on the rail beside the witness. "The defense has intimated that you may have been . . .premature . . . in presuming that Scott Lancer ended up in Grand Creek as the result of a vicious attack. There has been speculation that Scott Lancer may simply have slipped and fallen into the water. Could you explain to the jury why you so quickly discounted this possibility?"

"In addition to the club-like piece of wood with the possible bloodstain on it, there were Scott's own footprints. It appeared that he was standing in the sand, not on the slippery rocks. At least, that's where his canteen was found," Will responded, turning his head to look directly at Murdoch Lancer, then back at the prosecutor.

"But do you agree that if he had tripped and fallen into the creek, then he would most likely have drowned?”

"No, I do not agree," Will answered confidently.

"Why not?"

Will addressed his reply to the members of the jury. “Scott was my height and very strong. He was also an excellent swimmer," the witness explained quietly. "We grew up near the ocean. Scott spent several summers up in Maine; he was quite experienced in the woods and around water."

The prosecuting attorney walked over to his table and got a drink of water, allowing the jury members time to contemplate this information. Webster asked his witness his next question from a considerable distance.

“Mr. Hayford, if Scott Lancer did not have an accident, then he was, you believe, attacked?”

“Yes.”

"Is it true that you were instrumental in pursuing a warrant for the arrest of the Defendant for the attempted murder of Scott Lancer?"

"Yes," Will declared, looking directly at Johnny.

"Could you explain to the court, why you suspected him?"

"It was because of the evidence at the scene," Will began. "First, it was clear that the attacker's motive was not simple robbery, as Scott's horse, his rifle, everything in his saddlebags—nothing had been touched. Second, there was no indication that anyone else had been present at the clearing—there were only two sets of hoof prints, from Scott's horse and from that of the Defendant.”

From across the floor, Webster tilted his head, a puzzled expression on his face. “But Captain Hayford, the Defendant freely admitted that he had been at the clearing earlier in the day, did he not?”

“Yes, he did, and he said that he had been there on time. Scott Lancer has always been very punctual, yet the Defendant claimed that he had never seen him.”

Webster walked slowly towards the witness stand. “Couldn't Scott Lancer have been delayed?”

“Of course,“ Hayford acknowledged. “But clearly he arrived at the clearing at some point. Those were two things that the Defendant said that didn't sound quite truthful to me: first his claim of having been on time and second his assertion that he had never seen Scott at the clearing.”

“Was there anything else?”

“Yes. There was the button, which matched the one that was missing from the Defendant's shirt. With the entire search party as witnesses, he said that the button had been missing from his shirt when he put it on that morning and yet---- I picked it up off the ground in the clearing."

"What was your conclusion, Mr. Hayford?”

“That the Defendant was lying.”

Marcus Webster stood still, a thoughtful expression on his face. After a moment, he roused himself and looked up to address Judge Blackwell's stern visage. “Your Honor, I still have a number of questions for this Witness, but in view of the fact that Captain Hayford has been on the stand for quite some time now, and that it is past the hour of noon, I move to recess.”

Judge Blackwell tapped his gavel and announced in a stentorian voice that the Court was adjourned until two o'clock. “All rise,” the Bailiff declared as the big man stood and regally exited the Courtroom in a swirl of black robes.

 

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Once Court was again underway, Marcus Webster continued his questioning of Will Hayford. “Mr. Hayford, prior to the recess, you had indicated that you were skeptical of the Defendant's honesty.”

“I am.”

“Yet, you've only recently become acquainted with the Defendant is that true?”

“Yes, I met him for the first time when I came to visit Scott at the Lancer ranch.”

“Doubtless your friend had told you something about his newly encountered half-brother?”

"Yes, Scott had told me that his half brother had been a gunfighter. He said-----"

"I object!" the defense attorney protested, standing up. "Your Honor, the witness is testifying to a conversation which cannot be corroborated."

"Your Honor," the prosecutor countered, “We certainly agree that it is unfortunate that Scott Lancer is not . . available . . . to testify, but it is relevant to our case that the jury members understand what Scott Lancer knew about the Defendant."

"Overruled," Judge Blackwell decided.

"Continue, Captain Hayford."

"Scott told me that his brother used to be a gunfighter. He said that he had used the name Johnny Madrid."

"Did he say anything else about the Defendant's past?"

"No, not really," Will responded, shaking his head. He directed his one-eyed gaze at Johnny, who stared back at him without expression. "Scott was quite reluctant to discuss details of his brother's past with me." “But,” he added, looking at Webster once more, “I conducted some research of my own about Mr. Madrid's exploits, how many men he had killed . .”

Over Nicholas Reed's repeated objections, Marcus Webster took Will Hayford through a reading of several documents. Evidently convinced by Webster's assertions that information about Johnny Madrid Lancer's past spoke to the character of the Defendant, Judge Blackwell allowed the material to be read to the jury and entered into evidence. Once this lengthy task had been completed, the prosecutor introduced a new topic.

“Mr. Hayford, as an attorney, you are aware that in solving a crime, primary consideration must be given to determining a suspect's motive. In your professional opinion, did the Defendant have an identifiable motive for this vicious attack on his brother?”

"Yes, in fact, several."

"What were those possible motives?"

"When Scott was visiting me here in Sacramento, I drew up a will for him, a will which leaves his sizeable trust fund and other parts of his estate to the Defendant. Mr. Stovall has already testified that Johnny Lancer was aware of both his brother's will and of the money involved; the Defendant was also present the evening that Dr. Jenkins and Chad Lancer served as witnesses to Scott's signature on the document," Hayford revealed.

“So was this attack motivated by a desire for money?”

“Objection. Calls for speculation.”

“Sustained.”

Webster was unruffled. “Let me ask another question. Captain Hayford, based upon your personal observations of the brothers, were there any other possible motives for the attack?”

“Mr. Webster, during my short visit, I personally observed that the Defendant has a rather volatile temper; on at least two occasions his anger was directed at Scott Lancer. It is my opinion that the Defendant seemed to be rather resentful of his brother.”

“And you also witnessed the argument that Mr. Stovall described?”

“I did. It appeared that the Defendant was initially upset because he believed that Scott had countermanded his instructions to Mr. Stovall. When Scott tried to explain, his brother only seemed to get angrier. He called Scott ‘Boston' in a derogatory manner and then accused Scott of talking to me about his past.”

“It seems that you overheard more of the conversation than Mr. Stovall did.”

“I did. I was standing much closer to them. The Defendant made some derogatory remarks about Scott Lancer's grandfather; that's when Scott got angry and tried to walk away.”

“Tried to?”

“Johnny told Scott that he'd better watch his back, because he wasn't going to do it for him any more. I was heading back towards the house, so I don't know what happened next; the next thing I heard was Johnny saying something about having shot Scott. That startled me, and I turned around. . . . That was when the Defendant threatened his brother.”

“Really? What did he say?”

“Johnny said that Scott had better be capable of taking care of himself if he was turning his back on him. From his tone, I took that as a warning.”

“As did Mr. Stovall,” Webster observed. “Captain Hayford, besides the issue over giving orders to one of the hands, are you aware of any other reasons why the Defendant might have felt resentment towards Scott Lancer?”

Will Hayford considered this question for a long moment. “I certainly believe that it's quite possible that his brother resented Scott for being who he was—a cultured, educated Easterner. Scott was self-confident, he was comfortable in a leadership position. I also learned that when the two of them first arrived at their father's ranch, they helped Mr. Lancer fend off a band of what were called “Land Pirates”—and the leader of that band, a man named Day Pardee, was a former associate of the Defendant. In the course of that conflict, Johnny shot and wounded Pardee.”

“And what did this have to do with Scott Lancer, Mr. Hayford?”

“Mr. Webster, the Court has heard that the defendant has a reputation for being quite deadly with a six shooter. I would surmise that had he wished to kill Pardee, he would have done so. As it happened, before the conflict was over, it was Scott Lancer who shot and killed Pardee.”

“So you believe that avenging this Pardee's death could be another possible motive for the Defendant to attack his brother?”

“Yes, Mr. Webster, I do.” At the defense table, Johnny Lancer slapped the table surface with one hand and engaged in a heated whispered exchange with Jarrod Barkley. A warning tap of the Judge's gavel and a glare from Nicholas Reed quickly quelled the disturbance.

Marcus Webster smiled indulgently in the direction of the defense. “You were saying, Mr. Hayford? As to the Defendant's motive?”

“Mr. Webster, when a man has a temper, a motive is not always necessary. A fatal attack could be the result of an angry impulse. But in this case, I believe that the Defendant had three possible motives: greed, envy and revenge.”

Webster paused dramatically and allowed his gaze to sweep the jury box. He nodded approvingly as he noted the attentiveness of the jurors. “Thank you, Captain Hayford. Your witness, Mr. Reed.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Nicholas Reed approached the witness warily. He noted that Hayford, who had been sitting upright and alert, now settled back comfortably in his chair as the defense attorney neared him. During the mid-day recess, he and Jarrod had discussed possible strategies; it was Reed's intention to try to keep Hayford off balance by abrupt changes of topic.

“Mr. Hayford, you have brothers, do you not?” Reed asked, turning to face the jury box.

“Mr. Reed, I have one surviving brother; the other perished at Gettysburg.”

Aware of the jury members' scrutiny, Reed was careful not to react. Instead, he rested his hand upon the rail and regarded it thoughtfully. “Did you ever fight with your brothers? Argue?”

“Of course, all brothers argue. But I never wanted to do either of mine physical harm, if that's what you're getting at, Mr. Reed.”

Reed's head snapped up at that, and he turned to face Hayford. “It wasn't, but it is an interesting thought, Mr. Hayford.” Reed placed his left arm across his chest, resting his right elbow on his left hand. He pensively stroked his clean-shaven chin with the fingers of his right hand. “Mr. Hayford, you testified that you had known Scott Lancer for a very long time, that he was ‘like a brother' to you. Did you ever argue with him?”

“We disagreed sometimes, certainly.”

“About what sorts of things did you disagree?”

Will considered his response for a moment. “Mr. Hayford?” Reed inquired. Will looked out over the courtroom, without seeing the faces of the spectators assembled there. “Well, . . .I disagreed with his decision to accept his estranged father's invitation to come out here, to stay in California.” “More recently, I tried to suggest that perhaps he shouldn't be quite so trusting of others,” Will added softly, “particularly the Defendant.” “But,” he continued, looking directly at Reed, “we tended to discuss or debate; I can't say that we really ‘argued'.”

“But did you did convey to Scott Lancer that you . .disapproved . . . of his choice to live with his family here in California and did you express to him as well your negative judgment of his brother?”

“Yes, Mr. Reed, I certainly did.”

Something about the slight hint of frustration in Hayford's tone told Nicholas Reed to take a chance. A cardinal rule, and one which he had repeatedly impressed upon Jarrod Barkley as well as upon other young associates, was that a prudent attorney never asked a question in court unless he already knew the answer. It wasn't that “rules were made to be broken,” but one reason why Nicholas Reed was a successful lawyer was because he was a man who had learned to trust his instincts. “Mr. Hayford,” Reed asked in a curious tone, “how did Scott Lancer respond to your concerns about his brother?”

“He told me not to worry,” Hayford replied honestly, a harsh edge in his voice. He turned his head to the right, bringing Johnny into his line of vision. One brown eye stared intently at Johnny's two bright blue ones. “Scott said that he trusted him,” Will said in a bitter tone, and then set his mouth in a grim line.

Before Hayford could add anything more, Nicholas Reed hastened to pose another question. “It would appear that you were reluctant to trust Scott Lancer's judgment. How did you really feel about him, Mr. Hayford?”

Hayford glared angrily at the white haired defense attorney. “I loved him like a brother.”

“Loved him? Despite his poor judgment? How charitable of you,” Reed said, smiling sardonically.

“Mr. Reed . . .” began the judge in a cautioning tone.

The defense attorney nodded respectfully to the grim magistrate and then addressed Will Hayford once more. “Tell, me, have you always had such positive feelings towards Scott Lancer, Mr. Hayford?” When Hayford merely stared back at him without answering, Reed rephrased his question, making it more pointed: “Have you ever said that you hated him?”

With a rueful smile, Will searched until he found Teresa O'Brien, seated next to Murdoch Lancer, behind Johnny and Jarrod Barkley. “I assume, Mr. Reed that you are referring to a conversation that I had with Scott the morning of his disappearance, a conversation that Mr. Lancer's ward, Miss O'Brien, overheard.” He glanced down with a sigh and then up at Reed once again. “It should have been evident that we were talking about events from the past.”

“So you hated Scott Lancer in the past? But you also loved him like a brother? Which was it, Mr. Hayford?”

“Objection, Your Honor, Counsel is badgering this witness.”

“Sustained. Allow the witness to respond, Mr. Reed.”

Will Hayford sighed once more. When he began speaking again, it was in a distant voice. “When I returned . . from the War, I had difficulty . . . coping with my injuries . . . as well as with my older brother's death. I . . I started drinking, quite heavily. And then sometime later, we received word that Scott had been imprisoned in Libby.” Will paused, looking firmly in the direction of the Lancers. “Those of us who knew him and cared about him, we were concerned about whether or not Scott would survive his time there. And when he finally came home, even though he was alive and in one piece, he was still very thin, sickly. . . . Despite that, he tried to help me . And I resented him for it.”

“Resented him?”

“I was jealous as hell of Scott Lancer, and angry, angry that I needed his help so badly. I hated him.”

Nicholas Reed paused to allow the jury members to absorb the significance of this statement. To the defense attorney's chagrin, Hayford continued speaking. “But once I sobered up, with Scott's help, well, then I came to appreciate what he'd done for me. And in turn, I was able to help him . . . . . they weren't visible, but Scott had some scars of his own.”

“Scars?”

“Scott was a prisoner of war for an entire year. He was also the sole survivor of a failed escape attempt. The loss of his men weighed on him very heavily. He was even falsely accused of having betrayed the escape.”

“You discussed these events with him during your recent visit?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Hayford, what if Scott Lancer were to walk in that door, right now?” As he posed the question, the defense attorney pointed to the double doors at the rear of the courtroom. Everyone in the courtroom turned to look in that direction.

“I'd be very happy, Mr. Reed.”

“Would you?”

“Yes,” Will Hayford said emphatically.

“And how do you think that Scott Lancer would react to learning of the accusations which you have made against his brother?”

Will Hayford focused his one eye unflinchingly upon the white haired attorney. “Well, Mr. Reed, I suppose that that would depend upon what Scott already knew, whether he had seen his attacker.”

“Mr. Hayford, I'm asking you how you think Scott Lancer would react to hearing that you have accused his brother of attempted murder.”

“He wouldn't want to believe it was true, of that I'm certain. But Scott would consider the evidence.”

“You don't think he would be angry with you?”

“I'm sure he would be. But, Mr. Reed, Scott Lancer could hate me for the rest of his life, and I would still be glad that he was alive.”

“Mr. Hayford, the piece of wood found at the scene, which has been described as “resembling a club”, that piece of wood has not been entered into evidence. The jury has not had the opportunity to examine it. In your professional opinion, is there any way to verify that the discoloration on that piece of wood was actually blood?”

“No sir, there is not. But as Sheriff Jayson has already testified, it was Mr. Lancer who first suggested that it might be, and the rest of us agreed.”

“But you acknowledge that it is impossible to be certain, that the piece of wood did in fact have a bloodstain on it, or that it was even used as a club.”

“It is impossible to be certain,” Hayford replied in an ironically dutiful tone.

“Mr. Hayford, is it true that that piece of wood, about which it is impossible to be certain, was a key factor in the members of the search party jumping to the conclusion that Scott Lancer had been attacked?”

“I can't speak for the other members of the search party, Mr. Reed, but for myself, my concerns about the Defendant were a key factor.”

“Your concerns about Johnny Lancer, the man that his brother trusted, were much more significant to you than the alleged weapon?”

“Yes.”

“You were immediately suspicious of Johnny Lancer, weren't you, Mr. Hayford?”

“Yes, Mr. Reed,” Hayford responded forthrightly, “I was.”

“Based solely on what you knew of his past?”

“Not solely.”

“Primarily then.”

Will Hayford sighed. “There were my personal observations as well, but yes, Mr. Reed, his past as a notorious gunfighter was an important factor.”

As he stood facing the members of the jury, Nicholas Reed crossed his arms. He continued to study the faces of the jurors as he posed his next question to the witness seated behind him. “Let me ask you this, Mr. Hayford. Had you not felt such an animosity towards your friend's brother, wouldn't you have been more inclined to consider other possibilities besides an attack?”

“Objection. Presumption. Calls for speculation.”

Reed whirled to face the judge. “Your Honor, this witness is primarily responsible for the accusations levied against my client. I would submit that he has already voiced considerable ‘speculation'.”

Evidently displeased by the defense attorney's words and tone, Judge Blackwell coolly regarded Reed over the tops of his reading glasses. Finally, however, he nodded. “I'll allow it. But go carefully, Mr. Reed.”

Nicholas Reed repeated his question. Will Hayford slowly shook his head. “I've already explained why I doubt that Scott simply slipped and fell into the creek. . . “

The patrician lawyer irritably interrupted the witness. “Aren't there other possibilities, Mr. Hayford?” he asked, “other explanations for Scott Lancer's demise which might serve to exonerate his brother, had you been in a frame of mind to consider them?”

Will Hayford stared at Nicholas Reed without comprehension. “I'm afraid I can't think of any, Mr. Reed,” he said in a puzzled tone.

“Well, Mr. Hayford, you did say that Scott Lancer returned from the War and his lengthy period of imprisonment with scars, invisible ones. Perhaps your visit, your conversations, stirred up painful memories of his incarceration, the failed escape.” Reed paced away from the witness stand and then turned to face Hayford once more. “Based upon the evidence, isn't it possible that Scott Lancer took his own life?”

“NO!”

The word erupted simultaneously from Will Hayford on the witness stand, Johnny Lancer at the defense table and Teresa O'Brien, who was seated behind Johnny, in between Murdoch and Chad. Judge Blackwell glared in the direction of the defense table and tapped his gavel. “Order in the Court!” he shouted, quelling the spectators. “Control your client, Mr. Barkley,” he admonished the Stockton attorney. Jarrod nodded, speaking quietly to Johnny, who stared hard at his own clenched fists on the table top in front of him.

On the stand, Will Hayford repeated the word emphatically. “No. Scott would never do that.”

“You're quite certain, despite the evidence? I would contend, Mr. Hayford, that the evidence at least allows that possibility, that is, if one were willing to consider it objectively.”

Marcus Webster pursed his lips. “Your Honor, is Mr. Reed testifying here?”

Judge Blackwell admonished the defense attorney with a look. Reed slowly approached the witness. “Isn't it true, Mr. Hayford, that because of both your admiration for your late friend and your personal distrust for his recently acquired brother, that you are unwilling to accept the possibility that Scott Lancer may have been responsible for his own death—either through the simple human error of a careless misstep or otherwise? Isn't that the real reason why you believe his brother is responsible?”

“No,” replied Hayford, calm once more. “I simply examined the evidence and relied upon my personal observation of the two men during my visit.”

“Ah, yes, your short visit, of three or four days . . .”

At the prosecution table, Webster raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth, but Timothy Blackwell was quicker. “Ask a question, Mr. Reed,” the judge intoned.

“Isn't it true Mr. Hayford, that you were envious of Scott Lancer's relationship with his brother, that you took an immediate dislike to Johnny Lancer and therefore wished to blame him rather than Scott himself for this tragic event?”

“No, Mr. Reed, that is not true.”

“Perhaps you were angry that Scott Lancer declined to accept your advice, refused to leave his family's ranch, resisted your suggestions that he should trust you rather than his only brother?”

“I was concerned about Scott, Mr. Reed, I was not angry with him.”

“Mr. Hayford, you knew that the Lancer brothers were going to meet at the Grand Creek dam site that day?”

“Yes, I did. As did others.”

Reed nodded. “Upon first arriving at the site, you immediately urged the Sheriff to examine the tracks?”

“Yes.”

“Because you immediately suspected foul play?”

“No. I realized that the tracks might give some indication as to what had occurred.”

“But you had no idea at that point what could have occurred?”

“As you say, Mr. Reed, everyone was aware that the Defendant was to meet his brother there earlier in the day. The Defendant had told us that Scott had never shown up, yet his horse was immediately visible in the clearing upon our arrival---and Scott was not.”

“Mr. Hayford, a suspicious person might have suspected that you leapt to the idea of an attack, because you had some knowledge of it. Had you been to the clearing earlier in the day yourself?”

Hayford stared angrily at Reed. “No, I had not,” he said tightly.

“Was Johnny Lancer's button in your jacket pocket all day, just waiting to be ‘found'?”

“No!”

“It just happened to be there on the ground, lying at your feet, where you just happened to see it?”

“Yes.”

Nicholas Reed shook his head in disbelief. “Your Honor, I have no further questions for this witness.”

Marcus Webster slowly rose from his seat. The tall man with the receding dark hair approached he star witness. Will Hayford had been on the stand for a very long time and Reed's relentless questions, abrupt shift of topics and startling accusations were all taking their toll on the man. Nevertheless, Webster meticulously took Will through a review of the key elements of his earlier testimony. The prosecutor was very clever in linking his questions to topics that had been raised by the defense and was able to emphasize the evidence against Johnny. Reed's objections were most often overruled by Judge Blackwell.

The prosecutor had noted that several of the jurors had reacted visibly to Will Hayford's potentially damaging admission that Scott Lancer had expressed trust and confidence in his brother. Webster set about laying groundwork to combat the possible negative impact of that piece of testimony.

“Mr. Hayford, you advised Scott Lancer to be cautious in trusting his brother, did you not?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Would you characterize Scott Lancer as a trusting man, Mr. Hayford?”

“I suppose that you could say that. Scott tended to expect that other people were much like himself, honorable.”

“He must frequently have been disappointed then. Mr. Hayford, are you personally aware of instances in which Scott Lancer trusted people who, as it later turned out, were not deserving of that trust?”

“Yes, I suppose that I am.”

When Marcus Webster requested a recent example, Will briefly outlined for him what Scott had shared about his experience with Polly Foley. The pregnant young woman had lied to Scott about her identity, but Scott had persisted in helping her anyway.

“So it would appear that Scott Lancer was also unusually forgiving, willing to overlook the lies and transgressions of others?”

“He was willing to accept his father's invitation to come out here, helped the man defend his ranch, even though Mr. Lancer ignored Scott the entire time he was growing up.”

“How significant then, is Scott Lancer's statement that he trusted his brother? Wasn't he willing to ‘trust' anyone, forgive anyone?”

Will Hayford paused at that. His face assumed a grim expression. “Scott was not stupid or naïve, Mr. Webster. He believed in giving a man the opportunity to prove himself.”

“Any man, or woman? And at times, as it turned out, he was quite wrong to do so?”

“Sometimes, yes,” was Will Hayford's reluctant reply. Marcus Webster thanked his witness and excused him from the stand.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

"The prosecution calls Jellifer B. Hoskins."

Jelly Hoskins slowly and very reluctantly rose from his seat. The Lancer handyman was attired in a jacket and black string tie for his appearance in court, with his sparse hair carefully combed back. He nodded to Murdoch, Chad and Teresa and with a very solemn expression started to walk towards the witness stand.

From his seat next to Jarrod at the defense table, Johnny watched with sympathetic concern as Jelly approached the front of the courtroom. Reed and Barkley had explained that Jelly would be considered a "hostile" prosecution witness and the two attorneys had speculated at length as to why Marcus Webster had decided to call Hoskins to the stand.  The grey bearded horse wrangler had been an outspoken defender of his young friend, and extremely supportive of Johnny ever since Scott's disappearance. Normally outspoken and even belligerent in expressing his views, today Jelly appeared uncharacteristically subdued.  Nicholas Reed had met with him and then later confided to Johnny that the older man was very concerned that he might somehow be tricked into saying something that would be detrimental to Johnny's defense.

As he studied his friend, Johnny caught a motion at the corner of his eye. Rather than returning to his seat in the body of the courtroom, Will Hayford was moving towards the main doors at the rear of the chamber. Turning to look, Johnny could track Hayford's head of brown curly hair, and the distinctive eye patch, as it moved above the faces of the seated spectators.  Seated in the row of seats behind his son, Murdoch Lancer turned to follow Johnny's gaze.  The two of them registered the newcomer at the same moment: standing at the back of the room was Mr. Harlan Garrett, Scott's grandfather.  There was another, younger, dark haired man standing beside the elderly Bostonian.  As the Lancers watched, Will Hayford grasped Garrett's shoulder, while nodding, unsmilingly, at his
companion.

<< Looks like he's aged ten years >> Johnny thought to himself.

Meanwhile, at the front of the courtroom, Jelly Hoskins completed the oath, a hint of defiance in his voice as he swore to tell the truth.  Jelly took his seat and awaited Marcus Webster's first question.


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
 

Chapter 13

Sitting on the stand, nervously anticipating the prosecutor's first question, Jelly Hoskins received a reprieve of sorts when Attorney Marcus Webster turned to Judge Blackwell and requested that Court be adjourned, "in view of the late hour and the unlikelihood of completing Mr. Hoskins' testimony today." Judge Blackwell concurred with the request, rapped on the bench with his gavel and soon exited the courtroom.  The door had barely closed on the departing judge when Johnny Lancer turned to his lawyer, his blue eyes blazing. 

"What the hell was that all about?" he demanded angrily, "suggestin' that Scott maybe killed himself?"

Nicholas Reed fixed Johnny with an angry look of his own. "We'll discuss this in
private," he replied coldly, all too aware of the people still milling around the courtroom. 

"I'm askin' you now," Johnny insisted, ignoring Jarrod Barkley's remonstrations.
Murdoch Lancer appeared at his son's side. "I want to know too," the tall rancher announced, glowering at Reed.  In response, the white haired lawyer gestured towards a door off to the left.  "I requested the use of a room where we can confer, before Johnny is taken back to his cell. Let's go there."  "Please," he added, in a conscious effort to sound less angry.

Once Jarrod, Murdoch, Johnny and Reed were inside the small room, the defense attorney carefully shut the door.  Facing Johnny, he directed his first comments to the still visibly angry young man.  "Your father is paying me a very large sum to do my job. And I'm very good at it. I understand that you may have questions about my handling of your case, but,” he said, gesturing emphatically towards the door, “you will not question me out there, not in the courtroom. And if at any time you are unhappy with my work, you are both quite free to let me go."

Johnny stared back at Reed. He recognized that the man was good at what he did and that Reed had been upfront with him, at least so far. Willing himself to regain his composure, Johnny inhaled audibly, and then quietly, insistently, said, "You had no call to say that 'bout Scott."

Reed sat down at the small square table and indicated that the other men should also take seats.  Johnny eased into the chair facing Reed.  "Your concern for your brother's reputation is understandable, and admirable, Johnny. But you both need to understand this---," with a look, Reed included Murdoch Lancer as well as his son. "As your legal representative, you are my primary concern and I will do whatever is necessary to prevent you from finding yourself at the end of a rope. Which is where you could be headed."

"How will . . ?" Murdoch started to ask, and Johnny looked at Reed with the same question burning in his blue eyes.  "If I can create even the smallest doubt in the minds of the jury as to whether your brother was actually attacked, then it becomes rather difficult for them to find you guilty," Reed explained.

"I'm thinkin' he sure was attacked, all right, by that so-called friend a his."

"That's certainly another possibility, which I also raised."  All three of the other men nodded their heads in acknowledgement of this fact.  "Given the makeup of the jury," Reed continued, "I felt it best to work my way slowly in that direction and not attack Hayford directly."

"So you attacked Scott instead," Murdoch observed bitterly.

Nicholas Reed sighed.  It had not escaped his notice that Marcus Webster had also attacked the victim, in order to counteract the prosecutor's own witness's assertion of Scott Lancer's positive feelings towards his younger brother. It was not something that Reed enjoyed seeing take place in a courtroom. He anticipated additional testimony along the same vein and realized that it was going to be very difficult for his client and his grieving family to hear. 

"In my professional opinion, drastic action was needed.  Johnny, despite all of the questions, the answers, the evidence, the witnesses, in the minds of the jury this could all come down to one issue-- your explanation of what took place against that of your accuser, in this case, William Hayford." 

Reed leaned back in his chair.  "I'm afraid that if it's simply your word against his, then you're destined to lose."

Both Murdoch and Johnny reacted angrily to that statement.  "Please, gentlemen, listen to him," Jarrod Barkley urged his friends.

"A wounded war hero and a gunfighter," Reed stated bluntly.  "There was no question in my mind which way the jury was leaning."


"Is there more to it than that?" Murdoch Lancer asked quietly. 

"Mr. Lancer, I think that you know that there is," Reed replied seriously. "Johnny, those men on the jury can more readily identify with both William Hayford, and your brother, than with you, and for any number of reasons.” Reed slowly counted off his examples on the fingers of his left hand. “They are white, educated, reasonably wealthy, and, in their own minds at least, completely well-bred and utterly law abiding."

Johnny sighed.  Jarrod Barkley had laid out similar concerns about a jury trial in Sacramento even before they had left for the city. "My word against his--that mean you're thinkin' of lettin' me testify in court?" he asked.

"No!" replied Reed, Murdoch and Jarrod in unison.  "Johnny, we've talked about that," Jarrod reminded him.

"I want to have my say," was Johnny's stubborn response.

Nicholas Reed turned to Murdoch Lancer.  "Mr. Lancer, I've been giving it careful consideration, and I believe that it would be best if you did not take the stand either. . . "

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

When Court reconvened early the next morning, Jelly Hoskins was recalled to the stand and reminded he was still under oath. Marcus Webster also reiterated for the benefit of the jurors, as well as Judge Blackwell, that Mr. Hoskins' status was that of a “hostile witness.”

The prosecutor began with several questions about “Mr. Hoskins'" background and his association with the Lancer family, particularly his length of employment and the type of work that he did on the ranch. Once these preliminaries were completed, Webster moved a distance away from the witness. “Mr. Hoskins, what kind of person was Scott Lancer?"

Johnny had noted that during the opening series of basic factual questions, Jelly had started to relax; now it was clear that his old friend found the prosecutor's abrupt change of topic to be somewhat unsettling. “Scott? waal, uh . . . Scott, I'd hafta say he's jist a good man. Like his brother, Johnny,” Jelly replied nervously. "He's smart and he's...ah.... a right nice person. Wouldn't never do nuthin' ta hurt no one, never. An' Scott'd give ya' the shirt offin' his back if ya' let em. Not that he ever done that, a course, but leastways he sure did seem like he was always ready ta help a person."

"So was he trusting? And loyal to his friends?" Webster asked.

"Wall, yeah, he sure was, he was the only one didn't laugh at me when I got Hump. He was a bull with a hump on his back, tha's how he got his name." Jelly explained, his eyes glistening from the memory. "Scott understood bout' me wantin' ta be somebody. Ta' do somethin' with my life."

"It sounds like Scott Lancer was a good, helpful, friend, Mr. Hoskins," the prosecutor observed, looking at the witness sympathetically.

"Oh, he was," Jelly continued. "Always ready ta help, and not just his friends, neither. There was this one time, Scott...he almos' got kilt in the desert an' these miners, well they helped im' and then Scott got em' some food and medsin' fer the sick ones. But they was wanted for those shootins up at Cripple Creek. So I went long' ta' help im' cover his tracks. But Johnny...well...he's a real good tracker too an' he was able to find us, course the main thing was that he figured out what Scott was thinkin'. I tell ya' there ain't two brothers whats' clos'------"

"Mr. Hoskins," Webster interrupted, smoothly changing the subject. "Some other people that Scott Lancer helped were the members of an Irish Immigrant family named . .” the tall prosecutor paused, glancing down at his notes. “McGloin, is that right?"

"Wall, yeah," Jelly began. "They sure did pull the wool right over on Scott. He thought they was down on' their luck."

“He trusted the McGloins and they took advantage of that trust, didn't they?”

“Waal, like I told ‘im, he'd bin taken before and he'll be taken agin.”

"Mr. Hoskins, Scott Lancer was often a * too* trusting person, wasn't he?"

"Waal, Scott...now I'd hafta say that he sure . . .," discomfited by the phrasing of the question, Jelly stumbled over his words.

"A simple yes or no will suffice," the prosecutor declared. "In your opinion, was Scott Lancer * too * trusting?"

"Well, ...but it weren't like that----." Jelly began, only to be interrupted again.

"Mr. Hoskins," the Judge barked. "You will answer the prosecutor with a simple yes or no."

"Yes, yur honor," Jelly nodded. Webster repeated his question.

Johnny had to hide a rueful little smile as Jelly shook his head and rolled his eyes while saying in an exasperated tone that “Yes, Scott sure could be too trustin'.” Jelly's demeanor clearly conveyed to everyone in the courtroom his low opinion of both the prosecutor and his questions.

Having confirmed that Scott Lancer was ”too trusting”, Webster next took Jelly through a similar inquiry about Johnny, until the horse wrangler was forced to concede, with the same degree of obvious reluctance, once more clearly evident to all present, that “Yes, sumtimes Johnny has a temper.”

The prosecutor next took considerable time to guide Jelly through a description of the search along Grand Creek and how far downstream the men had hiked before discovering a piece of fabric from Scott's shirt. Once Jelly had identified it, the swatch was entered into evidence. After being asked to describe the strength of the current and the number of rocks, Jelly had no choice but to conclude that there was little chance that Scott Lancer could ever have survived. Watching as the grey-bearded man bowed his head in a futile attempt to hide his emotion, Johnny felt his own stabbing sense of loss. The prosecutor, however, allowed little time for either man to dwell upon such thoughts, as he moved quickly to his next series of inquiries.

"Mr. Hoskins, the day before Scott Lancer disappeared, you witnessed an argument which he had with the Defendant, is that correct?"

"Well....ah...Yes" Jelly answered unwillingly. In response to further questioning, Jelly acknowledged that the argument had started over an issue involving giving instructions to one of the men. The voluble handyman explained in some detail how Johnny had wanted young Andy Stovall to go work with his cousin Chad and that Scott had decided it was better for Andy to go to town after supplies with Jelly. At his place at the defense table, Johnny managed a sideways glance at Chad, seated behind him and to his right, next to Teresa. He hoped that the prosecutor wouldn't ask Jelly to go into any details that would be embarrassing and hurtful to his cousin.

“Was there more to the argument than that, Mr. Hoskins?”

“Sure there was. Johnny was tryin' ta tell Scott ta watch out fer that Hayford fella; seems he was askin' lotsa questions ‘bout Johnny's past.”

“And that was upsetting to Johnny Lancer?”

“Waal, course it was, ta have somebody nosin' round like that!”

That response actually garnered a few smiles from the serious gentlemen of the jury. Johnny recalled that during the argument, Scott's grandfather had also been mentioned; he recollected asking Will Hayford if he was looking for something to use against Scott. “Well, it ain't gonna work,” he'd told his brother's one armed friend. “His grandfather already tried it.” Scott had been about as angry as Johnny had ever seen him, and his temper had been pretty equally directed towards both Johnny and Will Hayford. <<And that's when I said ta Scott, “well, at least he wanted ya.”>> Johnny remembered regretfully.

Marcus Webster hid his annoyance at Jelly's reply to his previous question. He made sure to phrase his next inquiry as one demanding a ‘yes” or “no” response. "Did the Defendant, Johnny Lancer, threaten Scott Lancer?"

"Well...ah wouldn't ‘xactly call it a threat."

"Did the Defendant threaten Scott Lancer, yes or no!” Webster demanded.

Jelly looked over at Johnny, then back at Webster. "No,” he said stubbornly. “Weren't a threat.”

The prosecutor sighed audibly. “Mr. Hoskins, can you recall the Defendant's exact words in regards to ‘watching his brother's back'?”

There was a short silence, while Jelly gathered his thoughts. Seated at the defense table Johnny felt more deep regret. The last words he'd ever said to Scott had been at the end of that argument, as his brother was walking away. Something along the lines of how the Easterner must really believe he could take care of himself, if he dared turn his back on Johnny Madrid. Well, he hadn't said exactly that, not in so many words. But that's what had been in his head and in his tone, when he'd been speaking to his brother's back. Scott hadn't turned around, hadn't even thrown a glance over his shoulder. They hadn't said two words to each other the rest of the day and evening and then the next day Scott was gone.

Marcus Webster stood motionless near the jury box, waiting for Jelly Hoskins' response. This time, when he finally spoke, Jelly kept his eyes trained on the floor. “First, Johnny, he said that he'd keep on watchin' out fer Scott. Then, Scott, he got kinda mad, said he could take care of hisself. Then Johnny said that Scott could just watch his own back, that Johnny weren't gonna be doin' it no more. But he never meant ---.”

The prosecutor cut Jelly off once more. “Did the Defendant say anything about having shot his brother at some time in the past?”

Another pause. “Yes,” Jelly finally answered, with obvious reluctance.

“Mr. Hoskins, do you have direct knowledge of that incident; did either of the Lancer brothers tell you anything about what happened?”

“No,” Jelly Hoskins said quickly. The shooting had occurred prior to Jelly arriving at Lancer; Jarrod Barkley had carefully explained that Jelly could not be asked about the incident since his information about it would be classified as “hearsay”.

“Mr. Hoskins, have you ever witnessed other arguments between the Lancer brothers?”

Jelly immediately recalled the time that Johnny had made a few joking remarks to Scott about Miss Moira McGloin and the boys had almost come to blows. Jelly had even stepped in between them, he'd been that worried.

“Course they've had sum other arguments.”

"No further questions," the prosecutor stated, surprisingly giving way to the defense attorney. On the witness stand, Jelly looked even more concerned about the prosecutor's sudden decision to stop questioning him than he had been when he was anticipating the man's questions.

Johnny was well aware of his friend's anxiety; Jelly had been, in his own words, as “nervous as a cat in a room fulla rockin' chairs” thinking about taking the stand, afraid of making a wrong move. The previous evening-- his family, Murdoch, Teresa, Chad and Jelly---had visited Johnny at the jail after dinner, just as they had each day that they had been in Sacramento. Jelly, who was just as much family as anyone, in addition to being worried about having to testify and still sputtering angrily about the idea of being called as a witness for the prosecution.

No one had wanted to say much about yesterday's testimony. It was an established fact that none of them had a single good word to say about Scott's friend Will Hayford. It had been hard enough to hear the man outline the evidence against Johnny, but each member of the family had been greatly disturbed by Nicholas Reed's intimation that Scott could have considered killing himself, and by hearing Scott identified as what amounted to a “trusting fool”.

Fortunately, Chad had brought his guitar. The young Kentuckian had played and softly sung a few songs, providing a welcome distraction. Nothing too sad, but nothing too cheerful either; the tunes had seemed just right. One song that Johnny had recognized was called “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.”

Johnny had taken advantage of the cover of the music to quietly question his father. He had learned that Murdoch had not yet had any private conversation with Harlan Garrett, having been loathe to approach his former father-in-law while he was in the company of Will Hayford. Standing with his arms crossed over his chest, leaning against the bars of his cell, he listened while Murdoch explained that Scott's grandfather was not staying in the same hotel as the Lancers. The elderly man was registered in another establishment down the street, along with the stocky young man accompanying him, who was a relative by the name of Wade Garrett.

“So, you heard from Cipriano?” Johnny asked, changing the subject.

Murdoch raised an eyebrow in reply. “Johnny, I'm not worried about the ranch, Cipriano can handle things.”

Johnny looked down at the floor. “I was wondrin' if they'd found ‘im yet,” he said softly.

Murdoch looked away. “Even if they do, Cipriano won't send word. I told him not to,” he added gruffly. Johnny raised his head at that, staring hard at his father, waiting until the man finally met his eyes. Seeing the question there, Murdoch answered it, reluctantly. “It won't help your case to have confirmation that Scott is . .dead.” Murdoch described for his younger son the spot in which Scott's body was to be buried, if and when it was recovered, adding soberly, “We'll have a memorial service once we are all back at the ranch.” Fearful of being overcome with emotion at his father's words, Johnny had to look away once more.

“You know, Murdoch, I'd like it if you put me longside ‘im, if it comes ta that.”

“Johnny,” Murdoch remonstrated him, his voice clearly audible as the notes of Chad's song faded away.

“I said if it comes ta that--- now or anytime later,” Johnny repeated firmly, then turned to Chad, complimented his cousin on his song and asked for another.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Nicholas Reed carefully approached the witness stand, a reassuring smile on his face. "Jelly, would I be correct in saying that you know both Johnny and Scott Lancer pretty well?" The defense attorney asked, putting his hand on the rail in front of the witness stand. 

"Yeah," Jelly nodded his head emphatically. "I know ‘em both real well."

"Mr. Hoskins, the prosecutor already asked you if Johnny Lancer threatened his brother the day before Scott Lancer disappeared," Reed said, looking at the jury. "And you have answered ‘no'. How did you interpret the comments about ‘watching his back'?”

“Weren't hardly no threat.” Jelly puffed his chest out. "Johnny was just mad, when he was saying he wasn't gonna' watch Scott's back no more. But he would've looked out fer ‘im all the same. Those boys're as close as any two brothers I ever did see."

"When they have had arguments, have you ever seen either of them strike the other?"

"No, never," Jelly declared.

"Mr. Hoskins, do you believe Johnny Lancer would deliberately hurt Scott Lancer."

"No way in tarnation!" Jelly exclaimed. "Those two were closer than any brothers I ever did meet. Always, lookin' out for one 'nother."

Reed next posed questions that allowed Jelly to describe several examples of the “Boys” having been supportive of each other. The experienced defense attorney stopped when he realized that the members of the jury were showing signs of losing interest in following the grizzled handyman's sometimes convoluted stories. Marcus Webster had also noted the demeanor of the jurors and kept his cross examination blessed brief, while still underscoring Scott Lancer's trusting nature and Johnny's more volatile one.

When Jelly Hoskins finally stepped down from the witness stand, the grizzled horse wrangler had to acknowledge to himself that he felt as if he been good and trampled by a whole herd of animals . . . .

  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

The final prosecution witness called to the stand was Mr. Harlan Garrett of Boston. As he watched Scott's grandfather walk slowly to the front of the courtroom, Johnny noticed again how much the man seemed to have aged. Clearly, Scott's . . death had hit him hard.

During Garrett's visit to Lancer, when he'd tried to force Scott to return East with him, Johnny had had the distinct impression that the man hadn't thought that anything or anyone out here in the West was good enough for his grandson, himself included. Johnny could pretty much imagine the opinion that Garrett must now hold of his grandson's half-brother. From his seat at the defense table, Johnny stared hard at Mr. Harlan Garrett, waiting for the moment when Scott's grandfather would look his way, expecting to see pure hatred in his eyes.

Once the elderly man was seated, Marcus Webster posed introductory questions that allowed Garrett to be identified to the jury as a successful Boston businessman, as well as Scott Lancer's loving grandfather and childhood guardian. Webster allowed the grieving grandfather the opportunity to describe his grandson's attributes and accomplishments in some detail.

“Mr. Garrett, you raised Scott Lancer from infancy, did you not?”

“Yes, Mr. Webster, I did.”

“Were you and your grandson close, sir? Would you say that you knew him well?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Mr. Garrett, the Defense has suggested that your grandson could have been despondent enough over his difficult experiences during the War to consider taking his own life. What is your reaction to that?”

Harlan Garrett's expression turned grim. When he spoke, it was with a voice filled with barely controlled anger. “Mr. Webster, it is only out of respect for the Court that I shall refrain from clearly . . . .articulating my views on that subject. The events of which you speak took place over six years ago, sir.” Garrett drew a breath. “Scotty did not survive the War, . . .and a . . a year in that horrible place, only to come out here to California and kill himself!” he concluded emphatically.

Webster nodded sympathetically. “So you consider that theory to be highly unlikely?”

“Yes, I most certainly do.”

“Forgive me for pursuing a painful topic just a bit further, Mr. Garrett. In your observation, prior to leaving Boston two years ago, was Scott depressed?”

“No, no. At loose ends, perhaps. But not that.”

“He did not seem to be excessively troubled by thoughts of the War and his experiences in the prison camp?”

Webster noted with some displeasure that Garrett hesitated this time; some members of the jury seemed to notice this as well. “Certainly, there were some rather unpleasant memories. Scotty was not one who would easily forget his fallen comrades.”

“Mr. Garrett, do you know a man by the name of Lt. Dan Cassidy?”

A distasteful expression crossed Garrett's face. “I've never met the man, but yes, I recognize the name. I believe that he made some outrageous accusations against my grandson,” he said slowly.

“He accused him of having betrayed an escape attempt at Libby Prison. More than that, Mr. Garrett, are you aware that Lt. Cassidy actually came out here to California with the intention of killing your grandson?”

“Yes, Scotty wrote to me about that.”

“What did your grandson tell you about the outcome of that episode?”

Garrett sighed. “It seems that it was this Cassidy person who actually betrayed the escape plan—he was delirious, as I understand it.”

“And do you know what your grandson did, once the truth was known?”

Scott's grandfather sat up a bit straighter. “He protected the man from his former associates, men who were still intent upon revenge,” he said with a hint of pride in his voice.

“So he seemed to have forgiven this Cassidy for traveling all this way to kill him. Mr. Garrett, would you say that your grandson was an understanding, forgiving, man?”

Garrett nodded. “Yes, yes, I believe that he . . was,” he answered, his voice faltering at the end.

The prosecutor waited a moment for the witness to regain his composure. “Was he perhaps too forgiving, sometimes?”

The elderly man hesitated. “I'm not certain of that, Mr. Webster.”

“No? Even though he helped a man who had traveled thousand of miles to kill him?” the prosecutor inquired, apparently purely for the jury's benefit, since he did not allow Garrett the opportunity to respond. “Tell me, sir, would you say then, that Scott was accepting of others?”

“Yes, very much so.”

Satisfied with that response, the prosecutor then returned to asking questions about the late Scott Lancer. His inquiries were carefully phrased so that the responses would reinforce the idea that Scott's fall into Grand Creek had not been an accident; allowing his grandfather to describe the young man as having been physically strong, a good swimmer, and far from being “just a city boy”, but also a careful, experienced woodsman.

Next, Webster painstakingly elicited information from the Boston businessman about the provisions of his grandson's trust fund and the other contents of his estate, corroborating Will Hayford's previous testimony.

Webster took a few steps away from the witness stand, then turned to face the front of the courtroom once more. “Mr. Garrett, what did Scott tell you about his half-brother, the Defendant, and his past?” The spare lawyer gestured in the direction of the defense table as he posed this question, and the witness's eyes followed the movement. Still watching intently, Johnny was surprised to see Scott's grandfather's regarding him with an expression of deep sadness on his face.

The elderly man sighed. “He wrote that he had previously made his living as a gunfighter.”

“Under the name ‘Johnny Madrid'?”

“Yes.”

“And what was your reaction, sir?”

“I was concerned, of course.”

“Concerned that your grandson might come to harm in the company of such a man?”

“Well . . yes.”

“Mr. Garrett, were you also concerned that your grandson might actually be harmed by the Defendant?”

“No.”

“You weren't concerned that Scott might come to injury at the hands of a man with such a violent history?”

“I received letters from Scotty on a regular basis and he assured me that there was no need to be concerned on that score.”

Marcus Webster was uncharacteristically surprised. Due to the Eastern gentleman's recent arrival, he had not had much time to interview Scott Lancer's grandfather. The prosecutor had assumed that the Boston businessman would be repulsed by the idea of his beloved grandson having a half Mexican, unlettered gunfighter as a brother, certain that the grief stricken man would be eager to see Scott Lancer's accused murderer severely punished. Instead of the anticipated righteously angry diatribe against the Defendant, Webster was disconcerted to note that this final witness for the prosecution was actually sounding a bit sympathetic towards the accused.

Outwardly blasé, the prosecutor surveyed the faces of the members of the jury as he spoke. “And of course, Mr. Garrett, we can all understand that you must have wanted very much to believe that your grandson's assessment of the Defendant was accurate.” Webster faced Judge Blackwell. “Your Honor, I have no further questions for Mr. Garrett at this time.”

At the defense table, Jarrod Barkley and Nicholas Reed and been exchanging notes throughout Harlan Garrett's testimony. The two attorney's had been apprehensive about how best to handle Scott Lancer's grieving grandfather, and based upon the description of the man which they had received from both Murdoch and Johnny, they had expected Garrett's testimony to be full of invective against their client. They hastily adjusted their strategy in their scribbled written communications.

It was Jarrod Barkley who approached the witness stand. He began by offering his personal condolences to his friend's grandfather, then proceeded to pose his first questions.

“Mr. Garrett, you mentioned that your grandson wrote you letters. Did Scott speak favorably about his brother in his letters to you?”

“Yes, Mr. Barkley, he did.”

“What sort of things did Scott say about Johnny Lancer?”

Harlan Garrett hesitated for a long moment. “When he first came here, to California, Scotty was very happy to learn that he had a brother,” he said softly. “He said that he admired him, because of the things that he had overcome in his past.”

Pleased at this response, Jarrod risked probing a bit further. “Was there anything else, sir?”

“After my . .visit, Scotty wrote to me at some length about Johnny Madrid . . . excuse me, I meant to say Lancer,” Garrett said with a shake of his head. His next words sounded as if he were recalling an exact quote. “He told me what an honorable, caring, person Johnny was, and that he was . . that he was proud to call him his brother.”

At the defense table, Johnny sat motionless, staring hard at the bare table top in front of him, lifting his head only when he heard the name “Madrid.” He considered the man in the witness chair carefully, and decided, much to his surprise, that there had been no malice in it. As to the rest of what Garrett had said, Johnny swallowed hard and tried not to think about it.

Jarrod Barkley paused so that the jury would have ample time to consider Garrett's reply. “Mr. Garrett, when you visited your grandson, you attempted to . . persuade him to return to Boston with you.”

The elderly man gave the attorney a level look. “Yes, I did,” was his dignified response.

“Johnny Lancer thwarted your effort to . . convince . . Scott to return with you to Boston. Sir, why do you think that he did that?”

“Objection. Calls for speculation.”

“Sustained.”

Jarrod tried another angle. “Mr. Garrett, what was your observation of the interaction between your grandson and his brother?”

Garrett shook his head sadly at the memory. “They seemed quite close. Rather affectionate. . . . joking as young men do.”

“It appeared to you that Johnny reciprocated Scott's positive regard?”

“Well, . . .ahem,” Garrett cleared his throat. “I would say yes, Mr. Barkley. He seemed to be quite . .protective of Scotty.”

Jarrod paced back and forth in front of the jury box, before addressing Garrett once more. “Is it fair to say, sir, that you are not completely convinced that Johnny Lancer is the man responsible for the attack on your grandson?”

“No, sir, I am not yet fully convinced of that.” Harlan Garrett directed his next words to the defense attorney, but spoke loudly enough for the entire assemblage to hear. “And I assure you, Mr. Barkley, that I do not intend to return to Boston until I am * entirely* certain that the man who committed this act has been apprehended---- and punished.”

The elderly man bowed his and added, softly, so that only those near the front of the courtroom could hear him, “I owe that to Scotty.”

 

Chapter 14

Jarrod Barkley wisely decided to end his questioning of Harlan Garrett after the older man's pronouncement that he did not intend to see his grandson's murderer go unpunished. The Stockton attorney believed that Scott Lancer's own grandfather expressing the opinion that the evidence against Johnny Lancer was, at best, inconclusive, would make a very strong impression upon the members of the jury.

The prosecutor, hoping that this witness might yet present some information that would implicate the Defendant, began his cross-examination by asking Garrett if Scott Lancer had ever told him that his brother had shot him.

The Bostonian's face assumed a very concerned expression. "No, Mr Webster, that was not something that Scotty ever mentioned to me, either in a letter or in person. But I'm sure that ----–"

"Thank you Mr. Garrett," Webster interjected quickly. Before excusing the witness, the prosecutor used a few additional questions to underscore the point that Scott Lancer had been a forgiving, trusting man, and reiterate that his trust had, in the past, sometimes been misplaced.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


With Harlan Garrett's departure from the witness stand, the prosecution case was completed. After a brief recess for the midday meal, it would be time for the Defense to begin to present. Although Johnny and his supporters were amazed by the turn of events, there was little time to discuss Harlan Garrett's testimony. Murdoch Lancer, who had yet to speak privately with his former father-in-law, did strongly express his distrust of the elderly Bostonian and wondered aloud exactly what the man had hoped to gain by voicing doubt as to Johnny's guilt. Jelly shared the Boss's concern about Garrett's stated intention to see to it that whoever had attacked Scott would be apprehended and punished. Both men were convinced that, in the end, Garrett's apparent good will would not bode well for Johnny. Attorneys Reed and Barkley simply stated that they viewed the man's testimony as helpful to their client's case and proceeded to outline their strategy for the afternoon.


Once court was again in session, Nicholas Reed followed his habitual strategy of beginning slowly, his goal to slowly but surely chip away at the prosecution's case. Reed's assessment was that typically the jurors, after days of listening to prosecution witnesses, were convinced of the Defendant's guilt, and prepared to resent any attempt to change their minds. Once they had formed an opinion, jurors could be a stubborn lot; the experienced defense attorney therefore intended to first undermine the evidence by raising a few questions in the minds of the panel members, to weaken the foundation before launching a full-scale attack.

Dressed for court in a white shirt and brown leather vest, Young Walt Johnson was the first witness called. Reed's purpose in calling the ranch hand to testify was to counter two points in the prosecution's case. He hoped to cancel Andy Stovall's recollection of the conversation between the Lancer brothers as hostile by having Walt share his differing perspective. In response to the prosecution's assertions that Johnny Lancer had harbored animosity towards his brother, young Walt would be able to describe Johnny's participation in the search for Scott's body.

Walt's account of the previously mentioned discussion matched Stovall's as far as the content: Johnny had asked Scott if he had a will and then had inquired as to what the older man was going to leave him. When Scott Lancer pointed out that his brother could not inherit anything unless something fatal happened to him, Johnny had commented that he only needed to stop looking out for his sibling. In reply, Scott had then informed Andy and Walt that they were "witnesses", should anything unexpected occur. But the defense witness's impression of the overall tone of the conversation was distinctly different from Stovall's---Walt stated clearly that he believed that the brothers had, in fact, been joking. This point being made, Reed then proceeded to question the young man about Johnny Lancer's role in the search efforts along Grand Creek.

Taking his turn, prosecuting attorney Webster quickly made his own point: that both Walt and his father were Lancer hands and that each of them held Murdoch Lancer in high esteem-- the implication being that the witness was providing testimony that would be pleasing to his employer. Not that Marcus Webster said as much directly, being fully aware that Nicholas Reed would be ready to object.

Unable to shake the dark haired young man's conviction that the exchange between the brothers had not been serious, the prosecutor nevertheless forced Walt to admit that he had not actually spent much time in company with Murdoch Lancer's two sons and therefore had not had much opportunity to observe the interactions between them. Satisfied that he had cast doubt upon the Lancer hand's qualifications to judge the brothers' meanings, Webster moved on.

Where Reed had allowed Walt to describe in some detail Johnny Lancer's determination to find his brother, and his obvious concern for his older sibling, the prosecutor attempted to discount that information. When Walt repeated that Johnny had been very reluctant to turn back after a long day and many miles of searching, Webster seized upon that statement.

"But he did turn back?" he asked, in an arch tone.

"Well, yeah, but so did the rest of us."

"The rest of you were not looking for your allegedly beloved only brother," was Webster's smooth rejoinder. "No further questions."

Nicholas Reed made sure that Walt repeated for the jury his opinion that the Lancer brothers had been engaging in friendly banter about Scott's will as well as his view that during the search along Grand Creek, Johnny Lancer had been driven by his intense worry about Scott's fate. Finally, the young ranch hand was excused from the about the time that he had been shot by Sam Stryker; the time that he had taken a bullet intended for Johnny Madrid Lancer.


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


As the first female to take the stand, there was no question that the next morning, Teresa O'Brien was the center of attention in Judge Blackwell's courtroom. Bolstered by her determination to do her utmost to help defend Johnny, the raven haired young woman was much less outwardly nervous than several of the men who had occupied the chair previously.

Nicholas Reed wasted little time in preliminaries; after making sure that Miss O'Brien's position in the Lancer household had been made clear to the jurymen, he proceeded to ask Murdoch Lancer's young ward a series of questions about the relationship between the two Lancer sons. Teresa confidently described the brotherly affection shared by the men, described how close they had become over the past two years and explained that they seldom argued.

Pleased with her responses, Reed then moved onto the attack. "Miss O'Brien, what was your observation of the relationship between Scott Lancer and William Hayford?"

Teresa's expression became troubled. "Mr. Hayford said that he had known Scott for a very long time, since they were children. But he also said that he hated him."

"Really?" asked Reed, in feigned surprise. "Did he say why?"

"Yes, it was because Scott came back from the War . . uninjured."

"Was there anything else?"

"They were talking and Mr. Hayford mentioned that after the War he had started drinking and that Scott . . . that Scott wouldn't let him get drunk, that's what he said."

"So it sounded to you as if Mr. Hayford had a good deal of resentment towards Scott Lancer?"

"Yes, yes, it did. Because he had been hurt so badly. And because his own brother was killed in the War."

Teresa momentarily faltered here, but clung to the instructions she had received--to keep her eyes on Nicholas Reed's face. She was very much aware of Will Hayford's presence in the courtroom; the man with the distinctive eye patch was seated in the front row behind the prosecutor's table, next to Scott's grandfather and cousin. She felt that he was regarding her intently, but resisted the urge to glare at the man, to check his reaction to her testimony.

"Interesting that Mr. Hayford testified that he and Scott Lancer had been 'like brothers'," Reed mused. Miss O'Brien, in your observation, what was Mr. Hayford's attitude towards Scott's brother Johnny Lancer?"

"Oh, he didn't seem to like him at all. He accused Johnny right away. But Johnny wouldn't ever hurt Scott, I just know he wouldn't!"


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


As he slowly rose from his seat, the tall prosecutor regarded Teresa appraisingly. He paced towards the witness stand, pausing halfway, directly in front of the jury. Folding his arms across his chest, Marcus Webster posed his first question in a deliberately challenging tone. "Miss O'Brien, was the relationship between the Lancer brothers * always * as good as you * say * that it has been?" When the girl did not immediately reply, the attorney sternly reminded her that she was under oath.

"Well .. not at first . . . not when they first met, but that was just because they didn't know each other yet, and they were so different from each other . .." Teresa's voice trailed off and she looked guiltily at Nicholas Reed. The defense attorney had warned her to answer Webster's questions briefly, with a simple "yes" or "no" if possible, and here she was rattling along.

"You told Mr. Reed that the Lancer brothers `seldom argued'. When they did argue, what sorts of things did they disagree about?"

Again, Teresa hesitated. Webster quickly backtracked. "Miss O'Brien, have you ever witnessed an argument between the Defendant and Scott Lancer?"

"Ye-es".

"Would you please describe for us a specific argument that you remember?"

Teresa thought immediately of that first day, down at the river, after Scott had been attacked by some of Pardee's men in town, and Johnny hadn't helped him. When Johnny had shown up, he'd made a few comments to Scott and then Scott had hit him, sending newly met brother rolling down the slope towards the water. Under the circumstances, Teresa hadn't blamed Scott one bit, but now she considered that the story wouldn't show either of the young men in a positive light and wouldn't help defend Johnny. When Webster prodded her once more, the young woman managed a rather jumbled account of the incident.

"Did Scott Lancer take it upon himself to try to make amends to his brother?"

"Ye-es."

"What did he say, Miss O'Brien?"

"That they should be able to get along, since they . . .came to Lancer. . . for the same reason."

Noting the hint of dismay in the young woman's voice, and trusting his instincts, Marcus Webster risked asking the follow up question: "And how did the Defendant respond?"

Teresa bowed her head and closed her eyes.

"Remember that you are under oath," he said softly. Under the intense scrutiny of the jury members, Teresa regarded Webster with a pained look in her eyes. "Johnny took a twenty dollar gold piece out of his pocket and said that was why he had come. But he didn't mean it, not really, you see he thought that .. . .."

Webster cut her off. "So he said that he was there for money." Teresa just stared at him, a miserable expression on her face.

"Now, Miss O'Brien, as to this conversation that you overheard, the one in which Captain Hayford allegedly said that he 'hated' Scott Lancer, did you understand that the men were talking about present events or something from their past?"

"They were talking about the past, right after the War."

"I see," said Webster carefully, his eyes sweeping over the faces of the jurors. "And how did Scott Lancer react to Captain Hayford's statement that he had `hated' him at some time in the past? Did he seem surprised?"

"No."

"Did Scott Lancer seem angry?"

"No."

"So this statement by his old friend was not upsetting news to Scott Lancer?"

"No, . . . I guess . . not."

"It would appear then, that these two men, these two old friends, had long since settled their differences. . . Tell me, Miss O'Brien, did you also have occasion to overhear a conversation between Captain Hayford and Murdoch and Johnny Lancer?

"Yes."

And did you later have a talk with Captain Hayford about Scott Lancer, in which he told you some things about their childhood together?"

"Yes."

"Based upon those conversations, Miss O'Brien, would you say that Captain Hayford knew Scott Lancer very well? That he knew things about Scott Lancer that his father, his brother and you yourself did not know?"

Teresa had been looking directly at Webster as she gave her affirmative answers, but now she glanced uncomfortably away. Reluctantly, she responded. "It did seem as if he knew him very well, yes."

"So it appeared to you that Scott Lancer had confided some things to his friend Will Hayford, things that he had not shared with his new family?"

"Well, not yet," was Teresa's insistent response.

"Answer the question 'yes' or 'no' please, Miss O'Brien."

Teresa's "Yes" was accompanied by a fierce look directed at Attorney Webster.

At the defense table, Johnny listened to his surrogate sister with a heavy heart. He was well aware that some of her responses were not helping his case, and suspected that Teresa realized that as well. Johnny had tried to support her as best he could with a sympathetic gaze, but so far the young woman had kept her eyes trained upon her interrogator, Reed or Webster, giving Johnny only a view of her delicate profile. Now, listening to Teresa tell the court how well Will Hayford had known his brother, Johnny stared across the courtroom at the man. Hayford was watching Teresa intently, while beside him, Harlan Garrett sat with bowed head.

As he stared at Will Hayford, Johnny recalled that the one-eyed man had known the name of that guard at Libby, the one that Chad reminded Scott of; and that Scott had confided in Hayford about the Gatling gun. The stark, painful truth was that evidently Scott and Will Hayford had been like brothers, closer than he and Scott had been after their all too brief two-year acquaintance. The full force of his loss hit him again, and Johnny found himself once more staring fixedly at the tabletop in front of him. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes, but he could still see the pattern of the grain of the wood, every nick and scratch in the well-memorized surface. . . .

Meanwhile, Marcus Webster continued to question Teresa. As with Jelly, Webster's questions steered the young woman into acknowledging that Johnny Lancer did have a bit of a temper. But when she was forced to admit that the Lancer brothers had not been getting along well just prior to Scott's disappearance, she added in a rush that "Scott told me that he was going to try to set things straight with Johnny when he met him at the Creek."

"I'm sure that Scott Lancer intended to do just that Miss O'Brien," Webster intoned solemnly. "It's too bad that he never got that chance, too bad that the Defendant had other ideas." He shook his head sadly. "No further questions, your Honor."

Near tears as she thought about what had happened to Scott and stricken to think that she had helped the prosecutor in making points against Johnny, Teresa tried desperately to compose herself as Nicholas Reed approached once more. The defense attorney attempted to give the young woman the opportunity to reiterate her conviction that the brothers cared deeply for each other and also to describe examples of Johnny Lancer's gentle, caring nature, but it was a struggle for the now emotional young woman. Sensitive to the growing discomfort of the jury members, Reed wisely brought Teresa O'Brien's testimony to a close.


>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Chad Lancer approached the witness chair and was sworn in. The defense attorney led his third witness through some preliminary questions, such as his distant, convoluted relationship to Murdoch, Scott and Johnny Lancer, some aspects of their past history and how long he had lived at the ranch.

"Chad," Reed continued, "Tell us about your first meeting with Johnny Lancer."

"Well, I was playin my music in a saloon with my sista an' some folks started fixen on hurting me an' Johnny, waal he shot one of em."

"Did he kill him?"

"Oh, no. He jist shot his gun out of his hand," Chad replied.

"But Johnny rescued you and your sister from the men who were threatening you?"

"Yes, suh."

"Now Chad, you and Johnny are very good friends aren't you?" Reed asked, standing next to the witness stand with one hand resting on the rail.

"Uh, waal....yes, suh," Chad replied nervously. "Johnny and I are reel close."

"Would you say that you two talk about things quite a bit?"

"Yeah, we talk bout lotsa stuff," Chad answered, looking at the spectators and back to Reed.

"Did Johnny ever tell you that he wished his brother would leave, or that he intended him any bodily harm?"

"No, suh."

"Did he ever talk about the money he would inherit from Scott Lancer if anything were to happen to his brother?"

"No, suh. He never wanted ta talk `bout that a'tall."

"Do you believe Johnny murdered his brother?" Reed asked him.

"Waal . . . he had no call to do it," Chad replied evasively. "I mean I reckon Johnny would nevah kill nobody, less'n he had himself a reel good reason."

Less than pleased with this response, Reed elected to change the subject. "Chad, after Scott Lancer disappeared, did Johnny spend much time looking for him?" Webster asked.

"He shore did, "Chad responded nodding his head. "He went out every day til the sheriff arrested `im fer killin' Scott."

"Did he tell you that he missed his brother?"

"Waal, I magine he shore does, but he nevah wanted ta talk bout it," Chad drawled. "he still don't, cause when I try ta talk ta him he jist don't say nuthin."

"Thank you, Chad," the defense attorney said, "no further questions."

Marcus Webster approached the witness stand, stopping a few feet from Chad.

"Mr. Lancer, you claim that the Defendant hasn't said one word to you about Scott Lancer since he disappeared?" the prosecutor asked incredulously. "He hasn't said that he misses him, that he wondered what happened? Nothing?"

"Nah, and I didn't ask him nuthin' cause I was afeared I'd upset him agin."

"Were you afraid of his temper , that he might try to harm you?" Webster shot back.

"That's not what---" Chad replied vehemently.

Webster cut him off. "Mr. Lancer, it has come up in testimony that you and Johnny Lancer were recently involved in a fight in a local saloon. Is it commonplace for Johnny to get into that type of altercation?"

"Waal, no. Most people wouldn't wanta be startin' anythin' with Johnny. . . . and he...he wouldn't nary of hit him iffn that man hadn't insulted his mama." Chad glanced at Johnny apologetically.

"Most people wouldn't want to `start anything' with him because of his reputation?"

"Waal, `course. Everybody round these parts's heerd of Johnny . . .." Chad's voice trailed off uncomfortably, while Webster nodded and looked significantly at the jury.

"Now, we've also heard about the defendant's temper and arguments which he had with his brother. Prior to Scott Lancer's disappearance, Mr. Lancer, did the brothers seem to be arguing a great deal?" Webster asked, changing the subject.

"Waal, I don't recall bein' present to any fightin'."

"Did the Defendant ever mention his brother's will to you?"

"No, suh. Laike I a'ready said, he nevah wanted ta talk `bout that. Leastways, not with me."

"What about money matters, Mr. Lancer? Did the Defendant ever discuss his financial status with you?"

Chad looked puzzled by that question, and seemed to think long and hard before answering. "He did say a coupla times that he was goin' ta hafta ask his daddy for an advance on his wages. Whenevah we'd go inta town, it was always Scott that'd be buyin' the beers, cause, he Johnny nevah had any money."

"But Scott Lancer did. Did the Defendant have any other reason to resent his brother?" Webster asked, moving to the table, and then turning to face Chad as he accepted some papers from his associate.

"Johnny....well...we was tird of Scott always actin so . . . see, Scott he was collige edjucated, and it warn't like he was uppity or nothin'. But sometimes me `n Johnny didn't laike the way he always seemed ta be ta folks with no book learnin."

"I see. Did this make the Defendant angry?" the prosecutor asked.

"Well, yeah, kinda," Chad replied. "I mean not like he'd a hurt Scott or nothin. We jist didn't laike the way Scott was always takin' charge, tellin us what ta do. Thought he was the boss or somethin".

"What did the Defendant say in regards to his brother acting in this manner?"

"I don't rightly recall," Chad's forehead creased in concentration. "I believe he said somethin' bout talkin' ta him ta straighten `im out mebbe."

"Apparently he decided to do more than just talk . . . .Thank you, Mr. Lancer," Webster commented quietly. "No further questions."

Nicholas Reed approached his witness, stood next to the witness stand and attempted to undo some of the damage.

"Chad," Reed began. "Have you ever been afraid that Johnny Lancer would hurt you?"

"Ah....no," Chad replied nervously. "Johnny is....my frien'." He glanced nervously at Johnny, then back at Reed. The defense attorney meticulously took the young Kentuckian through a series of questions designed to show that Johnny Lancer was a caring, supportive, brother and cousin.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

After court had adjourned for the day and everyone had left the courtroom, both of the defense attorneys, Murdoch and Johnny met once more in the small conference room.

"I want to testify," Murdoch began insistently.

"I can't let you do that," Reed replied, shaking his head. "You have only known your sons for two years. The prosecution would attack any testimony to their personal characters based on that short acquaintance."

"But....." Murdoch protested.

"Murdoch," Jarrod agreed quietly. "Putting you on the stand would not help Johnny at all. First of all they would discount your testimony based on personal bias. He is your son."

"I'm also Scott's father," Murdoch replied angrily. "And I would not be willing to defend Johnny if I thought for one moment that he killed his brother."

"All right. And what if they start asking you questions about Scott?" Jarrod asked, looking Murdoch Lancer directly in the eyes. Since Murdoch was a long-time friend of Jarrod's parents, he knew something of the Scotsman's family history. "What if he want to know why you left Scott in Boston all those years? Why you spent so much time and money looking for Johnny?" As Murdoch started to offer a heated response, Jarrod held up both hands to stop him. "I'm not asking those questions, I'm only saying that Webster might. Webster is capable of insinuating that you favored Johnny, and did not care about your older son--- and you could end up losing your temper and saying something that could be misinterpreted, something that could damage our case."

"I just want to help Johnny!" Murdoch responded in frustration.

"We know you do," Jarrod replied. "But you know too much. Webster would ask you questions about the Pinkerton reports you have at home, details of Johnny's career as a gunfighter."

"And it's not all about Johnny's past," Nicholas Reed added. "You also have first hand knowledge of the shooting from both of your sons; so far we've been able to keep those details away from the jury, it has been inadmissible as hearsay, but from you, that information will be allowed. Regardless of the circumstances, the fact is that Johnny shot Scott. That isn't going to look good to the jurors."

Jarrod picked up the thread. "They could ask you about the Foleys," he said, pausing to look at his notes. "Or the McGloins and the Cassidys, making Scott look once more like the trusting fool."

"My son was not a trusting fool!" Murdoch declared loudly.

"We know that," Reed said quietly. "But frankly Mr. Lancer, you would be more likely to be a liability to Johnny, not an asset. You know things that the prosecution could use against him in court."

"It's just so damn frustrating!"

"I know, Murdoch." Jarrod said sympathetically. "But there is no way in good conscience that we could allow you to take the stand. Not and expect to get Johnny acquitted."

"All right, all right," Murdoch said, resigned to the fact he couldn't testify.

Throughout this exchange, Johnny had been leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, listening and watching his father and the two attorneys. "Hey," he said softly. "It means somethin' ta me that you're willin', Murdoch." The big man looked at him, and after a brief struggle to keep his emotions in check, nodded his understanding.

"Okay, let's discuss our next strategy," Reed began, but Johnny interrupted him.

" I want to testify," Johnny stated quietly.

"Absolutely not!" Reed was adamant.

"Look," Johnny said firmly. "Those jurors are lookin' at me an' I know what they're thinkin'." He paused, looking down, then back up at his attorneys. "They think I'm a killer, they know that I killed a lot of people in my life and they're sure that I just did it again."

"You don't understand, Johnny," Jarrod said firmly. "The reasons why Murdoch shouldn't testify apply doubly to you. The prosecution will be able to ask you about all those things we just mentioned, including the shooting, the disagreements you'd been having with Scott. No matter how carefully and truthfully you answer, Webster will be able to twist your words. You've already seen him do it!"

"Johnny," Nicholas Reed added. "They will try in every way they can to get you to say negative things about your brother."

"Ain't no way they'll get me to do that," Johnny replied.

The dignified, white-haired defense attorney shook his head. "What if they ask you if he was too overbearing?" Reed demanded. "Or if you thought he was too educated, believed that he thought he knew everything, talked down to you?"

"Scott weren't like that!" Johnny replied angrily.

Both Reed and Barkley regarded him solemnly. Reed tried to explain. "Johnny, if you get angry and defend your brother, Webster will use that against you, as evidence of your temper, your inability to control it. If you don't defend him, it will be portrayed as proof that you didn't care about him. I'm afraid you won't be able to win, not against Webster."

"The evidence is circumstantial, Johnny," Jarrod pointed out. "There isn't even any definite proof of Scott being dead without a body, and further, no real proof that he was injured. You have to trust that the jury will see that there is a reason for doubt . . . .."

"Enough!" Johnny stood up, angrily. "I'm testifying, with or without your help. I told you—I see the way they're lookin' at me. They think I killed my brother.......... my best friend." He choked, looked away for a moment and then back at Reed, staring straight into his eyes. "You're askin' a lot if you're askin' me ta trust those men sittin' there. Now I know the two of you have done your best, and I appreciate it. But if there's a chance I'm gonna end up in prison or hangin' from a noose I want to at least have had my say. I need to. I want them jurors, and everyone else ta hear from me that I didn't kill Scott."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


Chapter 15

Jelly and Chad spent the evening visiting with Johnny at the jail while Murdoch and Teresa joined the Garretts, Harlan and Wade, for dinner at their hotel. Scott Lancer's father and grandfather solemnly, wordlessly shook hands and then took their seats.

Wade Garrett assisted Teresa with her chair and then extended his hand to Murdoch Lancer. “Mr. Lancer, I'm Wade Garrett. I . .I'm very sorry for your loss.”

Murdoch Lancer looked up and nodded at the short, stocky, bearded young man and then accepted the proffered handshake. Inclining his head towards Teresa, he introduced the young woman; “This is my ward, Teresa O'Brien.”

“Miss O'Brien,” the younger Garrett murmured politely, then took his seat opposite her.

Harlan Garrett looked across the table at his former son-in-law. “Have they found him, yet, Murdoch? Have they found Scotty?”

Murdoch shook his head. “I haven't had any word, Harlan.”

Conversation throughout the meal was sparse. No one at the table was especially eager to talk about Scott's death, or Johnny's ongoing trial. Wade Garrett valiantly attempted to initiate discussions about life on a ranch, the attractions offered by city of Sacramento, the train trip across country which he had made with the senior Garrett, but received only halfhearted responses from his dinner companions. When Wade made a reference to “Uncle Harlan”, Murdoch did pose a question about the actual relationship between the two.

“Wade is my late cousin Walter's son,” the elderly man explained. “Given the differences in our ages, ‘uncle' seemed an appropriate form of address. Wade has been in my employ for quite some time, even before . . . Scotty . . .left to come to California. The two of them worked together . . . for a while..”

At the mention of Scott's name, Wade Garrett nodded solemnly. “I can't say that Scott and I were close friends, Mr. Lancer, but he was a fine man and Uncle Harlan had every reason to be proud of him.”

Silence followed this statement. It was not until they began to take their leave that Murdoch finally attempted to express his appreciation to his older son's grandfather for the testimony that he had given in court, testimony that had seemed supportive of Johnny. Harlan Garrett waved his hand, as if to ward off the tall rancher's thanks. “What I said in court, Murdoch, was the truth, as I believe it to be.” The Boston businessman accepted his hat from Wade and then looked up at Murdoch Lancer. “I did mean what I said, Murdoch, that I intend to see whoever . .did this . .pay. No matter who it is.”

“It wasn't Johnny! He would never hurt Scott!” Teresa said insistently.

Scott's grandfather turned towards the dark haired young woman. “I hope not, Miss O'Brien,” he said in a serious tone, “I sincerely hope not.”

 

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The next day was to be a short one, as Timothy Blackwell had other cases to be adjudicated in the afternoon. Defense attorneys Reed and Barkley alternated in presenting a series of ‘character witnesses', people who could testify to Johnny's many positive attributes. The two lawyers, who wished to insure that these witnesses would not be able to verify details of their client's gun fighting past, had carefully vetted these individuals. Family friend Dr. Sam Jenkins had been eager to testify in Johnny's behalf, but had been scratched from the list due to his extensive knowledge of various bullet wounds and other injuries sustained by the Lancer brothers. Sheriff Val Crawford had also been removed, due to his in depth knowledge of Johnny's gun fighting abilities; Reed also had reservations as to how Crawford would come across to the members of the jury. Cognizant of the poor impression that the horse wrangler had made upon his initial appearance in court, the defense attorney was also reluctant to recall Jelly Hoskins to the stand as a defense witness.

Those who did testify: Pony Alice's guardian, Miss Florida, school teachers Catha and Ben Cameron, and missionary Laura Thompson-- each had a tale to tell about Johnny Lancer's giving, caring nature. Nonetheless, prosecutor Marcus Webster was able to negate much of the testimony by succinctly pointing out that none of the witnesses had known Johnny very long, none of them had ever known him as “Johnny Madrid” and that none of them had witnessed any interactions at all between Johnny Lancer and his late brother. And, in the case of the female witnesses, Webster was also successful in very subtly suggesting that their testimony could be biased in favor of Johnny due to a particular “affection” that they might possibly feel for him.

Gathered around the table in the small conference room once more, the members of the defense team were each aware that, despite the best efforts of people who sincerely admired and believed in the young man, the morning had not been terribly productive in supporting Johnny's case. Nicholas Reed once more braced himself to face down the renewed insistence upon testifying that he expected from his client. He was not disappointed.

“You're gonna have ta let me have my say,” his client announced matter-of-factly to Reed before the door to the tiny room was even fully closed. To Reed's chagrin, he could see from the expressions on Murdoch Lancer and Jarrod Barkley's faces, that today, they were more sympathetic to Johnny's view than they had been even the day before.

Standing with his hands resting on the back of a chair, the experienced defense lawyer patiently explained once again the myriad reasons why it would be unwise for Johnny Madrid Lancer to take the stand. “Even if we rest our case now, there are still the closing arguments. I will have the final say, and I'm confident that I can raise enough questions in the minds of the jurors to create a reasonable doubt.”

Reed thumbed through a number of papers, his white head bent over the stack until he located the sheets for which he was searching; pages which contained notes for the summation which he had been preparing ever since the trial began. Taking a seat, he motioned for the other men to do likewise as he outlined his strategy. He reminded them once more that since his body had not yet been found, there was as yet no definitive proof that Scott Lancer was in fact dead. “At this late date, even if the body were to be found, it's unlikely that anyone would be able to tell if he were struck or even shot,” Reed stated bluntly. “Which still allows the possibility that your brother simply slipped and fell.” Johnny stared darkly at Reed, a challenge in his eyes, daring the man to say something, anything about Scott maybe going willingly into that Creek. Wisely, Nicholas Reed did not.

“There is no clear motive; I would argue that a few disagreements between brothers and some questionable statements about your brother's will are far from sufficient cause to commit murder. And yes,” Reed said, holding up a hand to ward off Johnny's objection, “I know that Webster has emphasized that you have killed before, killed professionally. Johnny, we've looked into the backgrounds of some of the jurors; quite of a few of them came out West to start new businesses, new lives. I believe that at least a few of them will be able to appreciate the things that I plan to say about a man being entitled to put his past behind him in order to make a fresh start.”

“As to the evidence, I will point out that it is circumstantial, remind the jury members that you never denied being present at the damsite. Your principle accuser is William Hayford. Rather than attacking him directly, I will simply indicate the role which he has consistently played throughout and suggest to the jury that perhaps he has been . . .somewhat . . . overzealous . . . due to his desire to see someone punished for his good friend's death.”

"I * want * to testify," Johnny insisted, still staring straight at Reed. "And those people want to hear....no, they * need * ta' hear somethin' from me."

Reed looked at Murdoch Lancer. The tall rancher sighed. “We've heard your advice, Mr. Reed. But in the end, it has to be Johnny's decision.”

“Jarrod?” asked Reed, certain that his protégé, at least, would side with him.

"I have a tendency to agree with Johnny," Jarrod admitted reluctantly. "Some of those jurors are looking at him as if he is a cold-blooded killer. If he takes the stand and testifies, I believe they will be favorably impressed. At least they will be able to see that there is more to Johnny than what the prosecution is making him out to be."

"Fine," Reed sighed resignedly, mentally throwing his hands up in defeat. "But,” he said firmly, “Johnny, if you testify, it will be Jarrod who will do the questioning. I am not going to be a party to helping the prosecution with their case."

"That's okay with me," Johnny replied evenly.

"Nicholas, I will count on you to advise me," Jarrod commented quietly, secretly very much relieved at the slight nod of Reed's head. The senior defense attorney riffled through his stack of paperwork once more, located and then handed a sheaf of papers to his co-counsel. Jarrod glanced at the top page and smiled, slapped the pages against his open hand, shaking his head in appreciation of the thoroughness of Reed's preparations.

"Get ready for a very long afternoon," Jarrod warned Johnny.

"What's all that?" Johnny asked, pointing to the papers in young Barkley's hand.

"It's a list of questions I'll want to ask you and others that you're bound to be asked by the prosecution," Jarrod explained patiently. "We're going to go over these questions until I'm satisfied that you know exactly what to expect. We don't want your responses to sound rehearsed, but we need to have some idea of the answers you'll be likely to give." He turned to Murdoch. "You might want to ask the guard if we can have some cups and a pot of coffee sent in here." Murdoch nodded, heading for the door. Jarrod, sitting on the edge of the table, started with a list of do's and don'ts, carefully explaining to Johnny what he should and should not say and then suggesting how he might say it.

 

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The next day, Johnny Lancer was sworn in and took the stand. He knew that everyone in the courtroom was staring at him, that most of them were assuming that he was guilty of murdering his brother, and he was determined to face them all down.  

Jarrod Barkley was pleased to note that as Johnny raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth, his voice conveyed a quiet conviction. Taking one last glance at his notes, Jarrod rose to approach the witness stand. At the prosecutor's table, Marcus Webster reacted with mild surprise to the revelation that it would be Jarrod Barkley, rather than Nicholas Reed, interrogating the Defendant.

"Johnny, before you came to Lancer, what did you do for a living?" Jarrod walked over, resting his hand on the rail of the witness box.

"I was a gunfighter," Johnny answered calmly.

"Do you still consider yourself to be a gunfighter?"

"No, I put that part of my life behind me when I decided to stay at Lancer," Johnny replied quietly.

Marcus Webster, scribbling notes on the pad of paper before him, paused briefly in appreciation of what he recognized as a solid defense strategy—to confront Johnny Madrid Lancer's past head on.

Jarrod Barkley went on to lead Johnny Lancer through a series of questions concerning the facts about his arrival at Lancer and his initial encounter with his previously unknown brother. Johnny's replies were brief and to the point, all uttered in the same calm, quiet voice. In response to Jarrod's queries, Johnny acknowledged that he had known and worked with Day Pardee in the past and that he had not intended to kill his former associate when he'd shot him.

“But later on, Scott shot and killed Day Pardee?”

“Yeah, that's right. After I told'im to look out.”

“Johnny, were you angry at your brother for killing your old friend?”

“I couldn't be, seein' as how Day was about to kill one or both of us, if Scott hadn't shot him first.”

“So the prosecution's suggestion that you might have killed Scott Lancer in order to avenge the death of this Day Pardee is . . “

“Pretty damn stupid.”

“Language, Mr. Lancer,” Judge Blackwell admonished him.

“Sorry, Judge.” Johnny looked at Jarrod. “Let's just say that idea ain't too smart.”

Jarrod turned his face towards the floor, in order to hide a smile. From the corner of his eye, he could see a few members of the jury smiling as well. Buoyed by the hope that Johnny was making a favorable impression upon the jurymen, Jarrod tackled the next difficult topic.

“Johnny, Mr. Reed and I both warned you that if you testified in court, you would no doubt be asked about the time that you shot your brother.”

Johnny nodded. “That's right, you did.” He turned to look directly at the twelve men seated in the jury box. “I'd do it again,” he stated firmly.

“Tell us what happened,” Jarrod suggested. Johnny outlined the essential elements of the story involving the Velasquez brothers and their desire for revenge on Johnny Madrid. He carefully explained that it had been his intention to wound Scott, that he had been convinced that if he hadn't dropped him, that Gordon—the Velasquez' brothers' accomplice on the roof--- would have put a bullet in his brother's back. Jarrod's follow up questions required Johnny to give some hint of the depth of his concern in the aftermath of the event, his fear that his brother might not have survived.

"Johnny, let's turn to some more recent events," Jarrod began. "You were supposed to meet your brother the day he disappeared, is that correct?"

"Yes," Johnny replied.

"Could you explain to the court what happened that day, starting with when you arrived at Grand Creek?”.

"Well, when I got to the dam I saw that Scott hadn't been there yet," Johnny began, his voice low and quiet, yet it easily carried in the courtroom which had become so still that one could have heard the proverbial pin drop. "I tethered my horse and looked around at the dam while I was waitin' for Scott...." He paused. "Only he.....Scott....never showed up."

"How long did you wait?" Jarrod asked.

"'Bout forty minutes," Johnny responded. He looked over at his father and then back at Jarrod. "I thought he must have gotten held up workin' somewhere else so I left."

"And where did you go?"

"I went for a ride," Johnny explained, a flicker of pain crossing his face. "I wasn't too happy. I wanted ta' talk to Scott and I wasn't too happy when he didn't show up."

"Did you see your brother at any time during the day?"

"No."

Jarrod nodded. Shifting topics, he tackled another of the points raised by the prosecution. "Johnny, tell us about the conversation you had with your brother about his will."

"We were out workin' on the fenceline and Scott mentioned somethin' about havin' his will done while he was visitin' his lawyer friend here in Sacramento. So I asked him what he was leavin' me."

"And what did he say?"

"Well, first he said he'd left me a picture of himself...." Johnny said with a slight smile.. "I figured it was the one of him all fancied up in his army uniform.” He paused, recalling that conversation. “He mentioned a coupla other things and then he said somethin' bout his trust fund. I asked him what that was and he told me.”

“Was that the end of the conversation, Johnny?”

“No,” Johnny said with a sigh. “I asked him if there was a lot of money and he said there was enough." Johnny stared at his hands as he continued on, willing himself to stay under control. "Scott said that the only problem was he'd have to die for me ta collect anythin'.

“'The only problem'?” Jarrod asked. “Scott did tend to have a dry sense of humor, didn't he?”

“Yeah,” Johnny agreed softly.

Jarrod prompted him. “So, how did you respond to Scott's remark about there only being one problem?”

Johnny looked directly at Jarrod. In the same calm, quiet voice, he forthrightly answered his attorney's question. “I told him that all I'd have ta do was stop keepin' him outta trouble. Walt and Andy heard me say it. Then Scott said somethin ta' Walt and Andy 'bout bein' witnesses and . . and then we all went back to work."

"Did you and Scott joke like that a lot?"

"Yeah, ....well, I mean not about his will, but other things."

"Is it true that lately you and Scott had been having some disagreements?"

"Yes," Johnny replied, reluctantly. Even though Jarrod had prepared him for all of the questions he had posed so far, Johnny still was not eager to address their arguments and especially that last exchange that he had had with his brother.

"Were they due to typical sibling rivalry, normal competition between brothers or was there more to it than that?"

Johnny looked down for a moment. "Me and Scott.....well, we had our share of disagreements. But he wasn't all that hard ta get along with most of the time.”

“Did he sometimes do things that made you angry with him?”

“Sure. Nothin' big. He brought up a mistake I made in the books in front of his friend over there....." Johnny looked straight at Will Hayford. "and I didn't like that, got pretty mad at ‘im."

"What about the argument which took place between the two of you the day before Scott disappeared?" Jarrod asked.

"That was a bigger one,” Johnny admitted reluctantly. "But, like Jelly would say, it was mostly just horns and rattles . . words. It seemed like lately Scott was makin' all the decisions and expectin' me ta follow orders.” Johnny lifted his head and looked directly at the jurors again. “I admit I blew up at ‘im, and said some things I'd like ta take back, but I didn't mean anythin' by it. I would never have hurt Scott......." He paused, and looked out over the courtroom. "And I would never have let anyone else hurt him, either."

Jarrod walked away from the witness stand for a moment, then turned to face Johnny once more. After a brief pause, he fired one last question across the courtroom. "Johnny, did you kill your brother?"

"No," Johnny responded, a sad look on his face, he looked at Will Hayford, then at Harlan Garrett and finally toward the jury. "I did not kill Scott.”

"Thank you, Johnny. No further questions, your Honor."

The prosecutor casually leafed through his papers, slowly standing. "Mr. Madrid....ah....excuse me, Lancer. You used to go by the name of Johnny Madrid, didn't you?"

"Yes," Johnny answered, keeping his face expressionless.

Marcus Webster fired more questions at him. "Is it true that you worked as a hired gun? Is it true that you killed for money?"

“I guess you --”

"A simple yes or no," Webster interjected quickly. "Did you kill for pay?"

"Yes," Johnny replied firmly.

"Was the reason that you initially came to the ranch solely because your father, Murdoch Lancer, paid you to come? He offered you one thousand dollars for one hour of your time?"

"Yes, that's right...but..." Johnny began.

"You were aware that your brother had signed a will which left you as his principal heir, is that correct?"

"I already said I knew that," Johnny retorted. Nicholas Reed's head came up at the slight note of irritation in his client's voice. Johnny noticed the movement out of the corner of his eye; he kept his gaze fixed upon the tall prosecuting attorney, and renewed his resolve not to allow the man to provoke him.

Webster addressed Judge Blackwell. "Your Honor," he requested, "A simple yes or no."

"Mr. Lancer, you will respond with a simple yes or no," Blackwell instructed him.

"Yes, sir," Johnny agreed with a nod, still keeping his gaze locked on Webster.

"You stated earlier that you waited forty minutes for your brother," the prosecutor said, glancing at his notes. "Are you certain that it wasn't more like twenty minutes---or an hour?"

"It was forty minutes," Johnny replied, pulling out the pocket watch his father had given him. "I had this watch with me."

"And after waiting for him, you just went riding?"

"That's right."

"And never went back to check on him . . . . . Now, Mr. Ma—Lancer, we've had testimony that a button from the shirt you were wearing the day Scott Lancer disappeared was found at the dam site," Webster continued. "But you denied that it could have fallen off while you were there—waiting for your brother.”

"The button was missin' when I got dressed in the morning," Johnny answered firmly.

"I see. And why would you wear a shirt with a missing button?"

"It was the only clean shirt I had," Johnny explained. "The rest of my clothes were in the wash.”

"I see," Webster murmured thoughtfully. “And of course you have no idea how the button could have gotten to that clearing beside the Creek . . .” he added ironically.

“Well actually, Mr. Webster, I do have an idea ‘bo---“

Marcus Webster interrupted the witness, smoothly changing topics. "Mr. Lancer, do you believe that Scott Lancer could sometimes be too trusting?"

"Yes, he could be," Johnny agreed, with obvious reluctance.

Webster then proceeded to ask Johnny questions in about Polly Foley, the McGloin family and, finally, about the Cassidys, Dan and Sarah. Johnny was forced to admit that he himself would not have helped those individuals, that, in fact, he had at the time disagreed with his brother's decision to aid them. No matter how hard Johnny tried, the prosecutor still made it sound as if he was saying that Scott had been an extremely poor judge of character and that he was very often far too forgiving.

“You stated earlier, Mr. Lancer that you only shot your brother to keep him from being killed."

"That's right."

"And the only other person who could corroborate this is the man you claim was on the roof, is this correct?"

"Yes," Johnny agreed once more.

"Is it true that you were friends with this..." He paused leafing through his papers. "This Gordon, the man who you say was going to kill your brother if you didn't shoot him?"

"Yes, we---"

"Just answer, yes or no, Mr. Lancer," The prosecutor reminded him. "It appears that even after you were forced to shoot your brother, you remained friendly with this Gordon. Didn't you let him get away?"

"Yes," Johnny admitted grudgingly.

"The truth is," Marcus fired back. "that you wanted Scott dead even then."

"No," Johnny insisted angrily. "I was a gunfighter, remember. If I'd wanted him dead, he woulda been.”

Webster paused dramatically, his eyebrows raised. “Please try to control your temper, Mr. Madrid,” he said mildly.

Johnny glared at him. “It's Lancer,” he ground out. He knew, because he could feel their eyes on him, that Nicholas Reed and Jarrod Barkley were watching him very closely from the defense table.

“Try to remain calm, Mr. Lancer,” came the admonishment from Judge Blackwell.

Johnny half turned to look up at the Judge. “It's kinda hard ta sit here and be accused of doing something I wouldn't ever have done.”

The Judge looked over his glasses at Johnny. “Just answer the questions, Mr. Lancer,” he said sternly. “You're doing fine. Proceed, Mr. Webster.”

The prosecutor tried a different tactic. “Tell, me, Mr. Lancer, didn't you always resent your brother--- his education, his privileged upbringing?”

“No, I never held any of that against ‘im.”

“Once you found out about his will, you wanted his money didn't you?"

"No. I----"

"The button off your shirt was found at the river wasn't it, Mr. Lancer?" Marcus Webster asked, again abruptly shifting the direction of his interrogation.

"Yes. But I----"

"Do you really expect this jury to believe your button was missing in the morning?" the prosecutor asked, his face the image of disbelief. "And then it somehow mysteriously appeared at the river!"

"That's what happened!" Johnny retorted.

"The truth is you lost that button in a struggle with your brother," Webster stated theatrically. "You hit him over the head with that piece of wood and threw him in the river didn't you?"

"No! I didn't kill him,” Johnny insisted. Then looking down, he swallowed, hard. “I didn't kill Scott," he repeated softly.

"Regrets, Mr. Madrid? After all, what's one more victim to a killer for hire?”

“Objection!” Jarrod Barkley shouted angrily. Behind him, Jelly shook his head in frustration while Teresa choked back a sob. Grim-faced, Murdoch Lancer could only pat her hand. Chad clenched his big hands into fists as he continued to study his cousin intently.

“Sustained.”

“No further questions, your Honor." The prosecutor quietly took his seat.

Jarrod cautiously approached the witness stand, where his client sat with bowed head. He knew that he had to try to undo the damage that the prosecution had done. “Johnny, what was your impression of Scott, when you first met him?”

Johnny slowly raised his head, a weak, lopsided grin tugging at his lips. “Well, I thought he was some just Easterner dandy, that he wouldn't amount ta very much.”

“And?”

“And, I was wrong.”

"Johnny, did you come to respect your brother?"

"Yeah, I sure did," Johnny replied softly.

"Johnny, would you say that you admire Scott Lancer?"

"Yes," Johnny agreed once more with conviction.

"Why?" Jarrod asked simply.

Johnny started slowly: "Scott was a hard worker, and never afraid to try anything." Then he looked at Will Hayford and Harlan Garrett, seated side by side in the first row behind Marcus Webster and thought about what he wanted to say to the two men who had been privileged to know his brother for so many years. “Scott wasn't that easy to get to know, but . . .Johnny stopped, then started again. “The thing was, almost right from the beginnin', he accepted me as his brother.”

The dark head bowed again, as Johnny Lancer struggled to maintain his composure. Jarrod Barkley was giving him the chance to tell the court how he felt about his brother and damn if he wasn't going to get it out, so everyone could hear. “Scott always tried ta do the right thing. It wasn't that he was too trusting, just that he was . . . honorable . . . and expected other men to be the same. He was willing to give anyone a chance. And sometimes more'n just one, if they needed it." At that, Harlan Garrett looked up and met Johnny's gaze, holding it for a long moment.

"Did you wish him any harm?" Jarrod asked.

"No," Johnny stated emphatically.

"One last question, Johnny," Jarrod said gravely. He eyed his friend speculatively, wondering how he would react to the unexpected query. "Did you love your brother?"

Johnny looked at Jarrod, and an expression of great sadness washed over his features, but he did not look away. "Yes," he said softly.

Jarrod Barkley waited a few beats, until the echo of that reply had faded entirely in the silent courtroom. Then, finally, "No further questions your Honor," he said. Jarrod walked back to the defense table, looking at his co-counsel, both of them knowing this had not gone quite as well as they might have hoped, but also not as badly as they might have feared. Jelly and Chad exchanged a worried look of their own, while on the other side of the courtroom, Harlan Garrett looked meaningfully at Will Hayford, who slowly nodded.

Judge Blackwell adjourned for the day, instructing them that court would reconvene the next morning, promptly at 9:00 a.m. Reed and Jarrod quietly pulled Johnny into the familiar conference room and Murdoch followed them in.

“That didn't go as well as we could have hoped,” Jarrod observed with a sigh.

"It doesn't matter," Johnny said quietly. "I wanted the jury, my family and friends to hear me say under oath that I didn't kill Scott."

"We already knew you didn't kill him," Murdoch protested vehemently.

Johnny turned to his father, smiling sadly. "Thanks, Murdoch."

The four men seated themselves around the small table. Jarrod and Nicholas Reed began to explain what they expected to happen the next day during the closing arguments.

 

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Jelly Hoskins walked slowly from the Court House back towards the hotel in which he and the other members of the family were staying. The grey bearded man was sharing a room with Chad Lancer; Chad, Murdoch and Teresa had already gone on ahead to get ready to meet the Camerons for supper. Jelly shook his head; it was sure beyond him how anybody could be thinkin' of eatin' much of anything with this blasted court case about ta come ta an end the next day. Jarrod and that Reed fella was workin' hard on their . . . .'closing argumints' was what they'd called ‘em. Johnny had done a real fine job testifyin', real fine, but Jelly was worried sick that it weren't gonna be near good enough ta convince them city slickers on the jury.

Jelly had just about reached a small park opposite a few of the other hotels, when he recognized two men seated on a bench a short ways up ahead. It was Mr. Garrett, Scott's grandfather and that damned Hayford fella, lookin' pretty deep in conversation. Jelly stopped, looked around and then headed over to another bench nearby and took a seat. He wasn't sure if the two men woulda noticed him if he'd just walked on past, they seemed like they was in the middle of some kinda serious discussion, but he wasn't about ta take any chances. The last thing he wanted was ta have ta say anything to the likes of them.

Suddenly, one of the clerks came out of the hotel opposite, and hurried down the stairs, calling out “Mr. Garrett! Mr. Garrett!”

Jelly watched with some curiosity as Scott's grandfather slowly rose to his feet and turned in the direction of the approaching clerk. "Yes, yes," the elderly man barked. "I'm Harlan Garrett."

"I have a telegram from Boston for you, sir." The young man handed him the telegram, which Garrett accepted. The white haired gentleman pulled a coin purse out of an interior pocket of his jacket, extracted a coin and sent the clerk on his way. Then Scott's grandfather resumed his seat next to Will Hayford and opened the telegram. Even from his distance, Jelly could see that as the Bostonian read the message, a big smile spread across his lined face. He watched as Garrett showed the contents of the telegram to his companion. Jelly's eyes narrowed and he shook his head in disbelief as he saw the joy on Hayford's face---the man almost threw his one arm around Harlan Garrett's shoulders. Here Scott was dead, his brother Johnny was on trial for killin' ‘im, and Scott's grandfather and his so-called friend still seemed ta have somethin' ta celebrate. Jelly was so anxious to find the Boss and fill him in, that it was all he could do to stay on his bench until the two Easterners had hurried off down the street.

 

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Back in his cell for the evening, while his family ate supper at their hotel and his attorneys, Barkley and Reed prepared for the next day's closing arguments, Johnny was relieved to finally be alone. After the full day of questioning, he felt emotionally drained. Uncertain as to whether or not the men on the jury had believed him, he reminded himself that it wasn't what was most important. What was most important was that along with the jurors, his family and friends had heard him say, under oath, that he hadn't hurt his brother. Oh, he knew that they'd all been nothing but supportive right from the start, but it still mattered. It meant something, that he'd had his say.

Head aching, heart aching, arms folded across his chest, Johnny leaned against the bars of the cell. He thought about some of the things that had been said in the courtroom since the trial began. The prosecutor had described, repeatedly, how Scott had been waiting at the river to meet his brother. “The unsuspecting Scott Lancer” was how the attorney had referred to him, over and over. Webster had speculated that there had perhaps been some sort of struggle before Scott had ended up in the water. Scott was lean, but he was strong----the man could pack a punch, Johnny knew that first hand. Anyone who had tried to go after him would have had a fight on his hands.

The other theory was that “the unsuspecting Scott Lancer” had been taken by surprise, struck from behind. Johnny went over to the cot and flung himself down on it. He tended to lean towards that second theory himself, that Scott was much more likely to have ended up in Grand Creek if he hadn't ever seen it coming. Which meant that Johnny had to wonder what might have been going through Scott's mind as he fell into the current. It was bad enough to know that the last words he had exchanged with his brother were angry ones, to be worrying about how Scott might have interpreted the things that Johnny had said to him, but what was most disturbing was the knowledge that Scott had been there waiting for him and therefore it was likely that Scott had, in his last moments, believed that it was his brother who had . . . Johnny sighed and threw his arm over his face. He didn't want to think about the possibility that Scott could have gone into the creek believing that it had been Johnny who had attacked him. More than anything, Johnny wanted to slip into a deep sleep, to escape for a while the aching in his heart and in his head, to avoid those painful thoughts.

 

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Suddenly, he was enveloped by the cool darkness, the throbbing in his head almost unbearable. Slipping from consciousness would have been a relief. Yet, somehow he still managed to struggle to maintain his awareness. It helped that there was an urgent voice inside his head. “Put yah feet down rivah. Always remembah, if yah fall outtah th' canoe, put yah feet down rivah.”

He knew that he had to somehow obey that command. The words of the crusty Maine guide had been firmly imprinted upon the mind of a small boy awed by the white water of the mighty Kennebec. As his face broke the surface momentarily, he gasped for breath, pulling desperately needed air into his lungs before being drawn under once more.

Feet properly positioned, Scott Lancer ordered himself to relax, tried to hold his arms in close to his body, and waited for the next time that he felt air on his face to take another breath.

He had always been a strong swimmer, but there was no fighting this current, especially when still dazed from what had to have been a blow to the head. Bumping, scraping, tumbling, struggling to keep his feet pointed downstream and his face turned in what he thought was the direction of the sky, he could only wait for the next opportunity to breathe. All he could do was try to ride it out. It was a swift, wild, ride.

When the current finally slowed, it was some time before he realized it, lying on his back in the cool water, heart pounding ferociously, taking in gasping, achingly deep breaths. Floating down stream, looking up into the blue sky at puffy white clouds, Scott felt drained. He lay there as if suspended in time, lacking the strength to move, hearing only the beating of his heart and his own raspy breathing. The current continued to carry him gently along until he finally summoned the energy to turn over into a swimming position, to lift up his head in an attempt to survey his surroundings. <<You need to get to shore, get to shore, Boston.>> he told himself. Although it had been a few years since Scott had done any serious swimming, he found himself automatically striking out for shore, albeit with shaky, painful strokes. Only the “shore” seemed to be a sandbar in the middle of the river. But it would do. He used his aching right arm to pull his bruised and battered body up onto the soft sand . . . .halfway was the best he could do before his strength gave out. Lying with his face resting on the sand and his feet still in the current, he concentrated on trying to slow his still labored breathing. And then blessedly slipped from consciousness.

 

Chapter 16

Sometime later, Scott finally woke up, shaken into awareness once more by the tremors wracking his body. He was cold and damp and shivering violently. He tried to lift himself up off of the sand, but his left arm didn't seem to be working properly, didn't seem to be working at all, actually, so instead he simply rolled over onto his back. Looking up at the sky through half closed eyes, he realized that the sun was setting; he must have been lying here for hours. The sand under his back felt warm, but not warm enough to quell the trembling. Slowly, and with great effort, he bent his knees, bringing his booted feet up out of the water.

Scott leaned on his right arm and pulled himself into a reclining position. He looked up stream; the current was moderate up to the next bend, which was as far as he could see. As he stared at the flowing water of Grand Creek, impressions of being swept along by the rushing water flashed through his mind, images that he put aside with a shudder caused by more than just the chill from his wet clothing.

Still shaking with the cold, Scott heaved himself upright, until he was sitting cradling his impaired left arm in his right hand. He recognized that he was still wearing a glove on that left hand; it seemed so very long ago that he'd taken the right one off up at the damsite, tucking it under his belt so that he could more easily remove the lid from his canteen. That right glove was long gone. Now the drying leather clung tightly to his left hand, but when he tried to remove it, the first tug caused a sharp pain to shoot up his arm, leaving him gasping.

He felt numerous other pains as well, but it was the throbbing in his head of which he was most conscious—he'd been struck from behind, he was sure of it. That's what must have sent him into the creek. But by whom? And why? More dark thoughts to be pushed aside. Now was not the time to try to figure out the answers to those questions . . . right now, what he needed was a fire, warmth. Some food. Perhaps a shelter of some sort. Scott dully forced himself to take inventory and recognized that he had precious little besides the damp clothes he was wearing, and even those seemed to be quite tattered. There were visible rents in several places along his black trouser legs and his beige shirt was also torn in several places that he could see, as well as having precious few buttons remaining. For now he simply refused to investigate the condition of the skin beneath those tears. He had the one glove, a now empty holster, no jacket, no hat. He slowly pushed himself to his feet, wavering a bit once he was standing upright, gritting his teeth as he realized how much it hurt to place any weight at all on his right leg. Walking any distance was clearly going to be difficult, if not impossible.

Not that there really was anywhere to walk to . . . This is a sandbar, he decided, looking around. He was not on shore, but rather on a sandbar in the middle of the stream.

Then as Scott stood there, holding his left arm and facing downstream, still shaking and dazed, he saw it—a light glowing not too far away. Someone making camp? Or was it perhaps a cabin? A fire meant much needed warmth, but how to get there? The thoughts had barely formed in his mind, when he knew the answer: that the quickest means of traveling down stream would be to float in the current once more. With grim resolve, he hobbled painfully to the water's edge.

Scott returned once more to the creek, floating on his back downstream, trying to stay close to the shoreline until he reached the vicinity of the cabin. Grasping at roots emerging from the banking, Scott hauled himself out of the current and limped slowly onto the shore. Dripping creek water, he forced himself to make his way towards the cabin, following the beckoning light. Fortunately, the log structure was only a very short distance from the creek's edge, albeit up a slight incline which left the agonized young man gasping for breath. The final step up onto the low plank porch required a tremendous effort, his concentration so focused that it never occurred to Scott to call out to whoever might be inside. Using his right hand as a guide, he edged past the front wall, bumping his way along until he reached the door. Utterly drained, he paused there for a moment, his weight resting on his right shoulder against the logs of the cabin, unable to move his left arm, barely able to stand. He noted dispassionately that at some point his body had started shivering violently once more.

Inside, the cabin's sole inhabitant had just finished his solitary supper and was about to rise from the rough hewn table in the center of the one room. Alerted to the possibility of a visitor by the scraping of a stool against the planking of the platform stoop, he grasped his shotgun and quickly stepped over to the door.

On the other side of that door, Scott Lancer thought vaguely that he should try, somehow, to knock. The young man was not sure how much longer he could stay on his feet. Placing his right hand against the smooth bark of the logs, he struggled to push himself upright, the weight causing the muscles in his arm to quiver uncontrollably. Then suddenly the door opened and light streamed out into the rapidly descending darkness. Scott weakly lifted his head, and a feeling of stunned surprise came over him as he stared at the curly-haired silhouette of the person who emerged from the cabin. Barely able to form the name through his chattering teeth and blued lips, Scott attempted to speak to the man standing in the doorway.

“John---?” he murmured, but before he could finish the thought, he slipped once more towards the black void .

 

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The man in the doorway had lived in this cabin along the edge of Grand Creek for some years now, and valued his solitude. Although surprised by the name on the stranger's lips, the cabin's occupant still reacted quickly enough to catch the blond man as he started to slump towards the porch floor, in the process allowing the shotgun to clatter to the planks at their feet. Grasping his soaking wet and shivering visitor around the waist while pulling the blond stranger's right arm over his own shoulder, he managed to maneuver the barely conscious man inside.

Scott was only vaguely aware of being eased to the floor and just felt the blessed warmth of the fire before losing consciousness altogether. The log cabin's sole inhabitant, a tall man with iron grey curly hair and a large mustache of the same color, hastily tossed a few additional logs on the fire, then returned to the still open door to retrieve his shotgun. He paused for a moment to quickly scan the looming darkness, before withdrawing to the interior, pulling the door closed behind him.

A rapid assessment showed him that the first order of business was to remove the stranger's wet clothing. He made quick work of what was left of the beige checked work shirt, noticing the multitude of scrapes and bruises which covered the lean torso. Some of the injuries would require treatment—later. He noted with interest as well the older scars that the young man bore, marks whose significance the grey haired man recognized all too readily.

Removal of the sodden leather boots proved much more difficult; when the right one finally came free, it revealed an ankle swollen to impressive size. Stripping the pants away showed that the right knee was badly bruised as well, but the heavier fabric of the stranger's dark trousers had afforded his skin much more protection from the rocks of the creek bed than had the thin cotton of the shirt. Once the young blond man was rolled into a blanket before the fire, his host readied a kettle of water. He knew that he needed to get something warming inside of his unconscious visitor. Next, he pulled some extra blankets and quilts to the floor with the intention of forming a makeshift bed. Finally, he rummaged through his trunk until he located a woolen union suit.

Noting with approval that the tremors which had convulsed the young man's body were already easing a bit, he removed the damp blanket and cast it aside; he set about forcing first one, then the other of his unexpected guest's legs into the long underwear. Just as he was about to grasp one arm, he recognized that the left shoulder was dislocated. Calling upon his past training, he efficiently popped the shoulder back into place and then methodically finished dressing the young stranger. Once the buttons were fastened, a dry wool blanket was placed over the unconscious man.

Periodically throughout the night, he arose from his bed to tend to this person who had washed up on his doorstep, so abruptly invading his solitude. He crouched beside the young man lying on his floor, keeping the fire stoked and trying to force sips of warm tea or broth between his patient's lips. Listening to the torment in the stranger's voice, trying to understand the slurred words, the grey haired man was able to discern several names, names which would be repeated often over the next several days as the blond stranger lay consumed by fever, reliving unknown struggles in a fitful sleep. Johnny. Drago. Grandfather. Carter. Murdoch. Those were the names that were mentioned most frequently. There were others: Will, Julie, Cassidy. But most often, the name that he heard was Johnny.

Already believing that his guest must have been carried downstream by the raging waters of Grand Creek, the grey haired man heard enough to begin to suspect that the fall had not been an accident. He could not help but wonder which of the people whose names had been murmured just might have played a role in initiating such a hazardous journey.

It was several days later that the two strangers came, calling out a greeting to the inhabitant of the isolated cabin. When its occupant appeared on his small plank porch, shotgun in hand, the two men in cowboy hats explained that they were looking for a friend who had been swept away by the current. They said that the missing man's name was Scott Lancer and that they had been sent by his family to search for his body. Perhaps they were telling the truth. Perhaps not. Refusing to take any chances with the young man's life, he told them he had not seen anyone for quite sometime, and sent them on their way. Turning back into the interior of the cabin once more, he addressed his unknowing guest. “So, Mr. Scott Lancer, who do you think sent them?” he asked the sleeping young man. “Well, at least now I've got a name for ya.”

The man who lived alone in the cabin beside Grand Creek was not a man who trusted easily. He had seen things, especially during the War, things that had changed his life forever. He no longer felt comfortable living among a lot of people, which was why he had built this isolated cabin. Occasionally someone would pass by, but pretty much he was on his own, alone with a few animals that he kept. He liked it that way.

 

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Once the fever finally broke, it was still another day before Scott Lancer began to be aware of his surroundings. While still unconscious, he had been maneuvered with difficulty into the only bed in the small cabin. The owner of the cabin had also carefully bound and elevated Scott's badly swollen ankle and had partially immobilized Scott's injured left arm which would also ease his relocated shoulder.

Upon first regaining awareness, Scott blinked, once, then twice, and then slowly looking around the one room, taking in the table, the fireplace. His eyes narrowed in confusion at the unfamiliar surroundings. He was just struggling to ease himself into a sitting position when the door to the log cabin opened and he saw a man, a tall, grey-haired stranger, walking towards him. The man wore a dark shirt, the sleeves rolled up to reveal another pair of grey sleeves beneath. He stood at the foot of the bed, looking down at Scott with his arms folded over his chest.

“Where…..where…am..I?” Scott croaked, his throat dry and scratchy.

“You're in my home, which sits alongside Grand Creek.”

Squinting, Scott considered that piece of information.

“Do you remember how you got here?”

“No,” he responded slowly, “not exactly.”

“Well, I do believe you got here the hard way.”

Scott shook his head-- he had no recollection of arriving at the cabin, didn't have any idea, in fact, as to how he had come to be here. “The hard way?” Not comprehending immediately, it was only another moment before snatches of memory began to return to him. Suddenly, it all came flooding back: the images of water, the flashes of sunlight, the sensation of being carried along helplessly in the rapid current of Grand Creek, the echo of the words of that long-ago guide, the advice about how to go “down rivah” reverberating in his head, then drowned out by the sound of water-- rushing, churning water.

The grey haired man pulled up a chair, took a seat, crossed his arms once more and waited. Leaning back against the pillows, Scott started slowly. “There's a dam up above, quite a ways, I'd guess. It's part of our ranch.” The stranger nodded in comprehension.

“We'd heard it'd been breeched, my father wanted us to check on it, Johnny and I.”

Scott explained that he was supposed to meet Johnny at the dam site, how when he'd arrived, he'd seen the tracks from Johnny's horse, but no sign of his brother. He told this stranger that he'd gone to fill his canteen at the water's edge and had heard a noise behind him. He'd started to turn, thinking it was his brother. The last thing Scott remembered was getting hit on the head from behind.

The grey haired man nodded thoughtfully, his suspicions confirmed. While treating some of the more serious cuts, scrapes and bruises, he had even found the large lump on the back of Scott Lancer's head. And the oft-mentioned “Johnny” was, apparently, Scott Lancer's brother

“So you didn't see who did it?”

“No, I didn't.”

“Do you think it could've been your brother?”

“No,” Scott said, shaking his head. He still felt somewhat confused about a lot of things but he was certain that Johnny would not have tried to kill him. Another concern came to mind, however, and he expressed it aloud, almost without realizing it. “Whoever attacked me might have . . . might have gotten to my brother first.” Scott paused, his mind running through what had happened to him, trying to recall every detail of what he had seen and heard at the dam site.

“Could have.”

The stranger's voice startled Scott, breaking his concentration. “Oh….ah, my name is Lancer….Scott Lancer.”

“Oh, I know your name. There were two men who came here looking for you. They claimed your family sent ‘em, said they were searching for a body. I didn't have any way of knowing if that was true, so I didn't let on to them that you were here. I figured it was possible that what they were looking for was to finish the job.”

“Was one of the men a bit shorter than you?” Scott asked, regarding the man intently. “Young, with very dark hair and blue eyes?”

“Nope,” the grey haired man replied. “One of ‘em was a big, heavy set Mexican and the other one was an older man, about my age. I didn't see their hair or eyes too well though; they were both wearing hats.”

Scott's mind reeled at this information, that two unknown men, had been searching for his . . body. He had to consider the possibility that his family might very well believe that he was dead. He was now even more concerned that something might have happened to Johnny; otherwise his brother would certainly have come looking for him. As Scott felt these worries wash over him, he also felt a great need to be home. He struggled to sit upright, looking around for his clothes. “I've got to get back to the ranch, find out what happened.”

“Take it easy,” the stranger advised. “You're in no condition to go anywhere.”

“Listen, I appreciate your taking me in, Mr. …..ah…who are you? What's your name?” Scott asked, suddenly realizing that he knew nothing about this man.

His benefactor leaned forward, with his elbows resting on his knees. “You called me John when you first showed up here the other night. Do I remind you of your brother?”

“No, not really.” Scott stared at the man seated beside him. He really didn't see any similarities at all between this man and his younger brother. But, to his great surprise, he did recognize a slight resemblance to John Hayford, Will's late brother. All of the Hayfords had had brown curly hair, and perhaps in the darkness . . . “You…you remind me a little of a friend of mine, whose name was John. I may have mistaken you for him.”

“He from around here?”

“No. No. He was . . killed at Gettysburg.”

Something unreadable flickered across the older man's face. He rose abruptly to his feet. “Well, Scott, looks like you've found yourself another John. John Jones is the name.” He extended his right hand. Scott grasped the hand, while carefully masking his skepticism. He didn't feel certain of very much at the moment, but he would have wagered a great deal that John Jones was not his host's true name.

 

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Several more days passed before Scott had regained enough strength to move about very well on his own, still favoring his tender right ankle and knee. It seemed likely that he had jammed his leg hard against a rock during his journey down stream. John Jones pointed out that Scott had been extremely fortunate that the water level was unusually high; that fact, added to the breech in the dam, had meant that the current had carried him over, rather than into, most of the many rocks and boulders which filled the bed of Grand Creek.

Although he did not learn anything more about the background of his reticent host, Scott found himself responding to the man's questions with rather detailed stories of his own life in Boston, his travels in Europe, his arrival at the Lancer ranch and newly formed relationships with his father and brother. Scott was typically reluctant to reveal so much of a personal nature, but as Jones appeared to be very interested, it seemed the least that he could do--to repay the man for all that he had done by providing him with some mild form of entertainment.

Another topic of conversation was, of course, the probable explanations for the event that had transpired at the dam site. At one end of the spectrum was the possibility that the attack on Scott had been part of a random act of robbery by a passing drifter; at the other, that there had been a conspiracy to eliminate both Lancer brothers in order to take control of the ranch itself.

As the two of them made plans to return Scott to the ranch, Jones emphasized that the younger man should keep in mind that some unknown person had most definitely tried to kill him.

“You can't just go riding back into the ranch as if nothing happened. I didn't spend all this time fixing you up just to have you go get yourself shot or something right on your front doorstep.”

Scott nodded soberly. Although he wasn't eager to accept Jones advice that he “shouldn't rule out anyone”, he certainly owed this man a great deal for “fixing him up”. In addition to nursing him through a fever, tending to his various injuries, feeding him and even giving up his own bed, Jones had sewn up the tears in Scott's pants and loaned him a shirt to replace the one that he had been wearing on his ill-fated trip down stream. The remains of Scott's beige work shirt had in fact been torn into strips and used to bind up his injured ankle. Since Scott's left arm was still resting in a black fabric sling, it was Jones who was working on his boots with a knife. The soaked leather had tightened as it dried; it would be impossible for Scott to get his feet into them without strategically placed slits. Fortunately, he had several virtually identical pairs waiting for him back at the ranch.

“If I were you, I'd try to keep that arm in the sling for another few days at least,” Jones said as he handed Scott the first boot. “Here, give this one a try.” As Scott accepted the footgear, Jones started to work on the right one, opening up space around the ankle. “One thing about that sling,” Jones added, gesturing towards Scott's arm with his knife, “It could be a good place to conceal a weapon.”

“It could be,” Scott agreed readily, “if I had a weapon.” His own gun had, of course, been lost when he'd fallen into the Creek. Although he was wearing his black belt with the silver buckle, the leather of both it and his gun belt had been badly water-soaked, scuffed and split.

Jones only reply was a nod of his head. However, once the man had handed Scott the second boot, he crossed the room to rummage through a large trunk that was pushed against the far wall. Intent upon tugging at the resisting footwear with one hand, Scott was not aware of what the man was doing until he stood beside him, holding out a gun. Scott immediately recognized the weapon as a US Army issue sidearm; he accepted the gun without comment and then checked to see that the chambers were loaded. They were.

They intended to leave the cabin very early the next morning, long before first light, using Jones' draft horse and cart. The two men had roughly estimated the time that they expected it would take to travel to the Lancer ranch, and hoped to arrive mid-morning, a relatively quiet time under normal circumstances, since everyone would be about their daily tasks. Once they entered the grounds, the plan was for Scott to remain concealed in the rear of the cart until Jones could assess the situation.

As he paced back and forth across the cabin floor, breaking in his “remodeled” boots, Scott fervently hoped that the next day would bring a happy reunion with his family and tried very hard not to think about the worst that he might find when he returned to the ranch.

 

Chapter 17

Scott concentrated on trying to walk without favoring his injured right leg. After a few passes across the small cabin floor, both his pacing and his thoughts about what the immediate future might hold were unexpectedly interrupted by a question about his past.

“So . .which unit were you in?”

Scott halted in surprise. Jones was standing near the cook stove with his back to him, pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“It was a cavalry unit. The 83 rd .”

Jones nodded thoughtfully, stirring the hot liquid in his cup, the metal spoon making a soft clinking sound against the enameled edges. Scott went back to the chair in which he'd been seated, lowered his head and began to try to remove his right boot.

“That gonna work for you?”

“Yes,” Scott replied with a nod, looking up at Jones from beneath uplifted brows. “And thank you.” As the younger man returned his attention to his footwear once more, his host threw out another question.

“Where was it you were held?” Jones asked. Eying his guest closely, the grey haired man noted that Scott Lancer paused momentarily at that, then continued to use his one good arm to tug at the tightly clinging leather on his right foot.

“At Libby,” was the terse reply.

“How long?”

Scott paused more noticeably at that one, lifting his head, but still presenting a profile to his interrogator. “A little over a year,” he answered, then grunted softly as the right boot finally came free.

A year. Jones exhaled audibly in response, then set his blue enamelware cup down on the table and went over to toss another log into the fireplace. It wasn't particularly cold in the cabin, but he liked to sit and watch the flames. He drew the second chair into position near the fire before settling into it, blue mug clasped tightly in two hands, the ankle of one leg resting on the other knee. Staring into the hearth, he responded to Scott Lancer's unasked question. “You said a few things, while you were sick.”

Suddenly, Scott felt . . . exposed. He'd answered Jones' queries about Boston—the man had recognized his northeastern accent. He'd even volunteered more information than he typically would have revealed about his recently formed relationships with his father and brother. But the former cavalry officer had made no mention at all of his military service. Thus far, he had scrupulously respected Jones' apparent need for privacy, assuming that the man had good reasons for wishing to keep his own identity a secret. Scott was more than grateful for Jones' assistance and recognized refraining from probing questions might be some small form of partial repayment.

Now, however, he stared hard at Jones' grey curls, at the suspenders criss-crossing the man's blue shirted back. As if in retaliation, Scott fired his own questions. “What about you?” he asked, rather more harshly than he'd intended. “Were you a doctor?”

The grey head bowed over the cup he held in his hands. Jones expelled another audible breath. “Hhhh. I suppose some would say so.” The head lifted again, and, keeping his eyes fixed on the burning logs in front of him, he took a long sip of his coffee. When he spoke, it was with deliberate emphasis. “Some might say ‘butcher'. . . . Amputations became my specialty.” Silence filled the small cabin, until Scott's second boot fell to the floor with a soft thump.

Rising to stand in his stockinged feet, Scott lifted his chair with one hand and turned it to face the hearth, still remaining somewhat behind Jones. Resuming his seat, he struggled to adjust the knot of the black sling, trying to place it in a more comfortable position against his neck. He watched as the pile of wood shifted, setting sparks dancing in the open fireplace. “I have a friend ..” Scott said finally. “The doctors took his arm, to save his life.”

“And I'm sure he was eternally grateful.”

Scott looked down at the cabin floor, then back into the flickering flames, remembering. “No, he wasn't, not for long while . . . but there were others who were. And I was one of them.”

For a few moments, Scott's thoughts shifted back in time to the end of the War and his return to Boston, a time when he had wanted to forget everything about his role in the conflict, and especially his time in Libby Prison. Despite an awkward reunion, his youthful friendship with Will Hayford had been renewed and then strengthened. Although the two men had had quite dissimilar wartime experiences, they had found themselves connected by the difficulties that both of them were having in attempting to gather up the threads of a former life. What they had also had in common were the painful memories of a recent history that stood in dark contrast to the pleasant routine of everyday events in Boston. Each of them had been willing, even grateful, to share a portion of that story with an old friend, one who was capable of imagining the nightmare.

“He's doing very well, now,” Scott concluded softly. Jones nodded his head and stared into the fire. No more words passed between them and a short while later they bid each other good night.

 

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The next morning, the two men set out before dawn in the small cart to which Jones had hitched his draft horse. They had decided that Scott would ride up front beside the driver until they neared the ranch, then climb into the back and hide beneath a few old army blankets. Scott glanced at Jones and then looked doubtfully over his shoulder at the bed of the wagon. It had seen better days; a few of the boards were splintered, a few had pieces missing.

Perhaps from a reluctance to resume the previous evening's conversation, neither man had very much to say, other than to offer brief comments about the route that they were traveling. Now that they were finally on their way, Scott could no longer avoid worrisome thoughts about what might have befallen his family and the other people at Lancer. Of course, there was no way of knowing what they would find when they arrived at the hacienda. He hoped to discover that the ranch remained immersed in its ordinary routine, and that only his sudden disappearance, and now fortunate return, had been the sole departures from the usual round events. Scott was still very concerned that his brother might also have been attacked by the unknown assailant and …. Scott shook his head and tried not to dwell on the worst that could have happened.

As they had expected, it was late in the morning when Scott announced that they were getting quite close to the ranch.

“Then it's time for you to get in the back.”

Scott looked at Jones for a moment. “I do hate the thought of hiding in the back of the wagon,” he admitted, more to himself than to his companion.

“I'm sure you do,” the older man replied. “But it's best to err on the side of caution. You might not be able to do your family or anyone else any good if you're spotted before we can assess the situation.”

“I know,” Scott agreed, with a sigh. “You're right, . . John.”

“It's Elijah,” the older man stated quietly, without looking at Scott. “Name's Elijah Morse.” With a gentle “whoa, now” to the horse, he reined the animal to a halt.

About to jump down from the cart, Scott paused for a moment, surprised by the man's revelation, but also struck by a vague sense that there was something familiar about that name. Unable to place it, he simply extended his hand towards his benefactor. “Thank you, Elijah,” Scott said sincerely. “I— I wouldn't be here without your help.”

Elijah nodded and accepted Scott's handshake. “You just be careful, now,” Morse urged him. “And remember, don't rule anyone out. Someone wanted you dead, and they could still be here.”

“I hope we meet again.”

“Maybe we will,” Elijah replied gruffly. “You do know where I live.”

Scott smiled at that, and then carefully climbed down from the cart. He entered the wagon bed from the rear, lay down and covered himself with the blankets. He was still in possession of Morse's army revolver, at least until they reached the stable. The plan was for Scott to exit the cart when they passed the stable doors. He knew that there would be a few shotguns or carbines hanging inside. Once armed with his own weapon, he would be able to leave the borrowed pistol with his friend. Scott planned to circle around and enter the hacienda from the rear.

Shortly before they reached the Lancer arch, Morse softly informed his hidden passenger that there were two men approaching on horseback. Lying on his back against the rough boards, shielded from view by the blankets, Scott kept a firm grasp on the handgun. He knew that Morse had a shotgun close beside him, but the younger man also realized that he would be the one with the advantage of surprise, if gunplay were to become necessary. Scott listened intently to the sound of hoof beats that were much lighter and quicker than the plodding steps of the now weary draft horse. The riders neared them, then evidently continued on past, one voice bidding Morse a friendly “Good mornin'.”

Scott peered out from under the blanket, and realized that the departing ranch hands were the Johnsons, young Walt and Walt Senior. “You recognize ‘em?” Morse asked. Lifting the blanket away from his face, Scott identified the two men and expressed his certainty that all must be well at the ranch, since the father and son had so casually greeted a stranger. But Elijah insisted that Scott stay under cover until they arrived at the stable as planned, stressing to the younger man that he had most certainly been attacked, even if the ranch had not. He urged Scott once again not to be too quick to trust anyone until he found out who it was who had tried to kill him.

Reluctantly, Scott agreed to remain out of sight in the rear of the wagon. Of course he had invited his friend to stay on for a time, if all was well at the ranch, but Morse had declined. “In that case, I'd just leave you to your family reunion,” the man had said, implying that he would have remained to help, had there had been clear signs of trouble. The reclusive Morse was unlikely to have changed his mind, Scott decided, and would most likely depart as soon as possible.

As expected, there was very little activity immediately outside the hacienda, and no one exited the house to offer a greeting as they drove past the front entrance. Elijah pulled the wagon up close beside the stable doors. He looked around and gave Scott the signal that all was clear---- that he could get out of the cart unseen. Surveying the area as he walked the length of the wagon bed, Scott was relieved that he did not see anything that seemed out of the ordinary. It appeared that all of their precautions had been unnecessary, after all. “Hello?” he asked of the dim interior of the stable. Hearing no reply, and after a cursory examination from the entrance, Scott deposited the Army revolver on the seat of the cart and tried to thank Morse once again. The older man waved the words away. “You know where I live,” he repeated.

With that, Elijah Morse flicked the reins and the big draft horse moved off. Standing in the shadow of the stable doors, Scott watched him for a few moments, then entered the empty building to retrieve a weapon, although he now believed it to be quite unnecessary. He quickly moved towards the tack room where he expected to find a selection of long guns, but was halted by a familiar nicker. Greatly pleased to see Brunswick, he immediately went over to him, returning the horse's greeting by stroking the white blazed face and speaking softly to the animal. It was with a frown of concern that he noticed that Barranca was standing in the stall next to Brunswick. At this time of day, Johnny should be out working. . . . this did not look good. Scott hurried into the tack room and, grabbed a carbine. In order to load it, he had to withdraw his injured arm from the sling; although his movements were stiff, he decided to forego the sling for the time being. Bunching up the piece of black fabric and stuffing it into the right pocket of his borrowed shirt, he placed additional ammunition for the gun in the pocket on the left side. Slipping out the back door of the stable, Scott headed for the rear of the hacienda, planning to enter through the kitchen door.

He neither saw nor heard anyone en route. Once he reached the door of the Lancer kitchen, Scott found it slightly ajar, allowing the aroma of baking bread to escape. He slowly pushed the door with his right shoulder, keeping the weapon ready. Through the narrow opening, he glimpsed Maria, dressed all in black, except for a large light blue apron. She was seated on a kitchen chair with some embroidery work in her ample lap. The Mexican woman was busily winding a small skein of brightly colored silk thread into a tight ball.

Quickly easing his way into the room, Scott turned to lean the carbine against the wall before softly shutting the door. When he faced Maria once more, he was greeted by an expression of shocked, open-mouthed surprise on the woman's face. She rose swiftly to her feet, frantically murmuring in Spanish and crossing herself as the embroidery materials that had been in her lap cascaded to the stone floor of the kitchen. The tiny ball of red silk that she had been holding rolled under the table, leaving a long tail of scarlet thread in its wake.

His concern evident, Scott approached her, motioning with his right hand in an effort to calm the obviously startled woman. “¿Cómo . . usted Maria?”

Maria clutched at Scott's extended hand, “It is really you?” she asked, as her tears began to flow freely down her round cheeks.

“Yes,” he replied, nodding reassuringly down at her, “it's really me. . .. Maria, where is everyone? Is Johnny all right?”

Still weeping, Maria released Scott's hand and shook her head. At this negative response, he felt an empty feeling starting in the pit of his stomach, but rather than pressing her for more information, Scott urgently posed another question. “Where's Murdoch?”

“He is in Sacramento. Senorita Teresa too.”

Although disconcerted by this information, Scott instantly decided that there had to be a story there. “Here, sit down,” he urged the woman. After helping Maria settle heavily into her seat once more, Scott crouched before her. “Now, just tell me what's been happening, why are they in Sacramento? . . . . And what happened to Johnny?” Using his good arm, he started to pick up the embroidery hoop and skeins of silk thread scattered at the woman's feet, and place them on the table beside her.

“They are there with your brother. At the court. For the trial, Juanito's trial!”

Pausing in his task, Scott's initial relief at learning that his brother was still alive was immediately replaced by confusion as to why Johnny would be on trial. His troubled blue eyes searching her face, Scott took Maria's hand in his once more. “Senora, you need to calm down and tell me,” he said forcefully. “I need to understand what's happened.”

Maria nodded and took a shaky breath. In rapid, accented English, she explained that when Scott had not returned for supper, a group of Lancer men had ridden out to the dam site. Scott nodded in acknowledgement; it was to be expected that the search would have started there. In response to the woman's concerned questions as to what had happened to him, Scott quickly explained that he had been waiting for Johnny to return; his brother's tracks had indicated that he had reached the spot ahead of him. He told Maria that while he was at the water's edge, he had heard someone behind him; he'd said his brother's name, but had heard no reply, then been struck from behind and gone into the water, without ever seeing his assailant.

“It was not Juanito!”

“No, I'm sure it wasn't, “ Scott agreed, looking up at her from his crouching position.

“Your friend, that Senor Hayford, he says that it was your brother who struck you!”

Scott slid his glance to the floor, and then slowly rose to his feet. He was extremely dismayed by this news, though he could hardly claim to be completely surprised, given Will's repeatedly expressed concerns about Johnny and his past. Maria continued speaking in an aggrieved tone, explaining that it was Will who had seen to it that Johnny was placed under arrest, and insured that there would be a trial.

The fact that it had come to that, to a trial, gave Scott pause. He had always had a great respect for the law, faith in the legal system. As confident as he was that his brother could not possibly have been the assailant, Scott couldn't help but wonder about the sort of evidence that could have brought all this about. “Why? Do you know what reasons he gave?”

“He says that Juanito killed you for your money!”

Scott stared down at Maria, shaking his head, in total disbelief. Then, because that was not quite the question that he had meant to ask, he tried a second time. “What I meant was, what proof did he think he had against Johnny, that was enough to bring about a trial?”

Maria said something about arguments, about tracks, something about a button, mixing Spanish in with her English and speaking so quickly that Scott couldn't decipher it all. But he understood exactly what she meant when she said that if he was found guilty by the jury in Sacramento, Johnny could hang. He felt a flash of cold fear for his brother, followed by one of hot anger towards Will, both quickly tempered by his compelling need for more information.

“Senora Maria, have you had any news from Murdoch? Do you know what's happening in Sacramento? Tell me, please, and slowly . . .”

Maria drew a deep shaky breath. “Senor Lancer, he promised to send word as soon as the jury decides. Senor Johnson's son, he was there, he came back, he says that the trial, it will end on Thursday—that is in two days!”

Scott gave a quick nod and turned to exit the kitchen, heading towards the main part of the hacienda.

“Senor Scott, where are you going?”

“To Sacramento,” he answered in a matter of fact tone. “I'll need to get a few things together. But I'll come back down here before I go.”

She nodded, rising from her seat and waving her hands at him to leave. “You go, I will prepare some food.”

At the doorway, Scott turned back towards her. “Maria?”

“Si, Senor Scott?”

“Please don't tell anyone I'm here.”

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Scott went directly to the Great Room and opened the cash box to retrieve some money. He frowned at the small amount that remained, then realized Murdoch would have had to pretty much deplete the house funds for his own trip to Sacramento. As he headed upstairs, Scott wondered how much cash he had available in his room.

Once in his bedroom, he went to the armoire, quickly removed clothes for the trip, and laid them on his bed. Scott limped over to his dresser, opening the top drawer and found his money pouch. He sighed in relief, remembering that he had received a gift of money from his grandfather for his birthday and that he had put it aside for a rainy day. Clothes, money, . . . . Scott paused for a moment, remembering what Elijah's warnings. There might be someone out there who still wanted him dead; he needed a gun.

He crossed the hall and entered Johnny's room. Looking around, he was first surprised, then dismayed to see his brother's gun belt hanging on the bedpost. Scott thought about taking the gun from the holster, but hesitated at using the one that Johnny typically carried. He walked over to Johnny's armoire. He opened the left door and saw a couple of clean shirts, neatly folded; opening the right door revealed several intricately tooled leather belts. One in black leather caught his eye, as it had a matching gun belt, both with silver buckles similar to what he was wearing, and both were devoid of design. His own belt was scuffed and torn from his trip down stream; his gun belt with its empty holster had been left behind at Elijah Morse's cabin. And, of course, his gun was somewhere on the bottom of the creek bed. He frowned as he remembered that that gun had been his first gift from Murdoch.

Scott decided to borrow the matching black leather belts; although the holster was empty, the gun belt was already supplied with a row of bullets. As he removed them from the cabinet, he noticed that there were in fact some designs incised in the leather, small stars and a good sized Lancer “L” on the left hip. He smiled thinking that he'd have to ask Johnny if he'd done that so he could keep track of his left and right.

The smile quickly faded from the elder Lancer's face when he thought of where his younger sibling was. Although certain that his brother would have several other weapons secreted about his room, Scott decided not to waste any more time in a search. Seizing Johnny's gun from the belt hanging on the bedpost, Scott hurried back into his own room.

Once there, the young man stripped out off his borrowed shirt and, moving carefully so as not to aggravate his injured arm, he put on a dark blue one of his own. It took a few moments of concerted effort to remove his boots, but finally Scott tossed the cracked and slitted leather aside and selected another pair from his wardrobe. Next, the mended black pants he was wearing were exchanged for a pair of dark brown ones, with the new black leather belt slipping easily through the waistband loops. It was quickly joined by the matching gun belt, with Johnny's six gun secure in the holster. After pulling his boots on with one hand, Scott then crossed to the armoire once more and removed his caramel colored jacket. As he slipped it on, he winced in pain at the twinge in his left arm. He decided that perhaps he should keep his arm in the sling until he reached Sacramento. Thinking that he would ask Maria to help him readjust it, he grabbed the square of black fabric from the pocket of Morse's plaid shirt. He quickly packed a few additional items and then headed towards the kitchen.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

When Scott entered the room, carrying a pair of saddle bags, he was surprised to find Cipriano Sanchez waiting there in the kitchen with Maria. “Senor Scott,” the Lancer Segundo greeted him, relief flooding his features as he extended a hand towards the younger man. “Dios mio. It is true.” Scott dropped the saddlebags on the kitchen table in order to grasp the older man's hand, but shot a questioning glance towards Maria. She hastily moved forward to reassure him. “Senor Sanchez was with those who were searching . . he can tell you more what happened…”

Scott nodded and withdrew the black sling from the pocket of his jacket. “Por favor . ,” he murmured, handing the fabric to Maria and then holding his left arm in position. As the older woman hastened to comply with his unspoken request, her eyes filled with concern, Scott looked expectantly at Cipriano.

Rather than supplying Scott with information, it was Cipriano who quickly posed several questions. “Senora Alvarez says that you were hit from behind, that you did not see anyone?”

“That's right.”

“And that you were carried down with the Creek, a great distance?”

“Yes.”

Cipriano shook his head sadly. “We searched on foot for a very long way, Senor, we could not believe that you would still be alive. The men, they have still been looking for . .for your body.”

Scott nodded soberly as Maria reached up to fasten a knot at his neck. He had certainly considered that possibility back at the cabin, that his family and friends would most likely assume that he had perished. But the Segundo's next words sent a chill through him.

“Everyone thought that you were dead; Senor Lancer even sent word to Bos-ton to . . . su abuelo—to your grandfather.”

“My grandfather was informed?” Scott asked with considerable dismay.

“Si, a telegram. I myself carried the message to town.”

Scott had only a few moments to consider this information and the impact that such news would likely have had upon the elderly man. Since his grandfather's disastrous visit to the ranch, and the stunning betrayal of his blackmail attempt, the two men had communicated in a few short, stiffly worded letters. But Scott still knew that despite the rift between them---or perhaps because of it---his grandfather would have surely taken the news very hard indeed.

But Cipriano was intent upon discussing a matter of more immediate concern—the accusations against Johnny and the trial taking place in Sacramento. “The trial will end on Thursday, that is in two days,” he informed Scott, repeating the same information that Maria had shared.

“You're certain of that?”

“Yes,” the Segundo replied. He explained that young Walt had been in Sacramento to testify and that the ranch hand had returned with the news. Scott raised an eyebrow at the angry tone that the older man used to impart this information.

“I assume that Walt testified on Johnny's behalf?”

Cipriano nodded in affirmation. “But there was another one, Stovall, he goes to the court to speak against your brother.”

“Andy? Is he here now?”

The big foreman shook his head quickly. “No, Senor, that one, he did not return.” After a short silence, it was once more Cipriano's turn to ask a question. “And you, you did not see who it was?” he asked again.

“No, I didn't,” Scott confirmed. “What more can you tell me?” he asked, again regarding Cipriano expectantly.

“Juanito did not do this thing! He did not!”

Scott was aware of Maria, standing on his other side, nodding emphatically. <<Do they really believe it is necessary to persuade me of that?>> he wondered. Aloud, he posed a question to his father's Segundo.

“Cipriano, do you suppose that it might have been a robbery, perhaps some one just passing through?”

The foreman shook his head, explaining that there had been no sign that any of Scott's possessions, including his carbine, had been tampered with. Scott nodded in quick comprehension; he had seen Brunswick safely in his stall and surely a thief would have taken the horse. While he was considering this, however, he almost missed something else that Sanchez was saying: “we could find no other tracks . . “

Scott regarded the older man intently. “There were no other tracks?”

“None, Senor. Your footprints only, and Juanito's . . and the tracks of your two horses.”

“Cipriano, there had to have been some sign that someone else was there.”

“No, Senor,” the big Mexican repeated, shaking his head. “There was nothing that we could find.” “It was not su hermano who did this!” he hastened to add, disturbed by the troubled expression on Scott Lancer's face.

“But someone did,” was the quiet response.

“Juanito, he thinks that he knows who it was who struck you.”

Scott's head lifted at that, a hopeful expression on his face, as he waited for Cipriano to elaborate upon Johnny's theory, an expression that disappeared quickly when he heard the Segundo's reply. “He fears that it was your friend, Senor Hayford. Right away, he makes sure that Juanito is put in jail, it is Juanito that he says did this thing.”

“I know that,” Scott said unhappily, “Maria told me. But Johnny actually thinks that it was Will who tried to kill me?”

“Si.”

Scott shook his head. “I can't believe it was Will . . I've known him for a very long time . . . he stopped in mid sentence, stunned by the fierce expression on Cipriano's face. The big man actually spit on the stone floor of the kitchen before he unleashed an angry stream of Spanish—something about a “gringo” being believed before a Mexicano.

Scott could only stare at the older man in silence, quickly arranging his own face into a carefully neutral expression, while on his other side, Maria launched into her own a torrent of rapid espanol, apparently demanding to know, amongst other things, how Cipriano could speak in such a manner to Senor Scott?

“It's all right, Maria, “ Scott said quietly, placing his right hand upon her shoulder. Looking Sanchez directly in the eye, he slowly explained that his doubt that Will Hayford was the assailant did not mean that he believed Johnny to be the guilty party. “Johnny is my brother. I trust him,” he stated firmly. “But you need to understand that Will and I . . we grew up together, and . . .and I trust him as well.” Only then did Scott remove his hand from Maria's shoulder and allow his gaze to glide away from the foreman's face. “Now it seems that they've accused each other.”

Maria in turn placed her hand on Scott's arm. Looking up at Scott, she spoke quickly, earnestly. “Even though you did not share your boyhood, you and Juanito, you are . . .” she stopped and sighed, searching for the right words. “Usted son de verda hermanos del corazón .” Seeing his puzzled expression, she translated slowly. “You are true brothers . . .brothers of the heart.”

His expression brightened momentarily at the phrase, and she could see that the small smile reached his eyes before he lowered his gaze to the floor. Thus encouraged, Maria continued, in a motherly tone. “I cannot speak for your . . for your friend; that is for you to say. But, for Juanito . . . you go, you will see.” Then, more insistently, she added, “You go and see your brother, you will know that he could not have done such a thing. Go to Sacramento.”

“Maria,” he replied slowly, meeting her eyes once more. “I intend to do just that.” Still stung by Cipriano's accusation, Scott gave the Segundo another long look. “I plan to pick up the stage in Morada—no one will recognize me there,” he informed him. “I'll leave my horse in a stable. Perhaps, Cipriano, you can send one of the men after him.”

While Scott was addressing the foreman, Maria retrieved from the sideboard the food that she had packed for the young man's journey. Now she pressed the package into his free hand. Placing her own hand on his chest, where it was crossed by the black sling, she spoke reassuringly once more. “Hermanos del corazón,” she repeated. “You will know, when you see him, you will know in your heart.”

Scott looked down at her and, although he nodded his agreement, she was dismayed to glimpse an immeasurable sadness in the light blue eyes.

“I'm sure you're right, Senora, I know you're right. Its just that . . .” Scott turned away, and started towards the door, burdened with worry about Johnny, Will and his grandfather. His mind was filled with troubling thoughts: of his brother's anger and the heated words that had passed between them, of his friend's distrust and the persistent questions he'd been asked, of his grandfather, sitting alone in the big house in Boston, holding that telegram.

Maria's concern followed him. “What? What is it?”

Scott stopped, but did not look at her. “It's just that . . . . . . he said, then sighed. “My heart's been wrong before,” he finished softly. Picking up the carbine, he walked out through the kitchen door towards the stable. Maria watched him for a long moment, holding her apron and sadly noting both his slight limp and the weary slump of the young man's normally erect shoulders. She turned to Cipriano, handing him the forgotten saddlebags and fiercely instructed him to go and help Senor Scott.

 

Chapter 18

Carrying the saddlebags, Cipriano Sanchez obeyed Maria's instructions and followed the patron's eldest son into the stable. The usually stolid Mexican already regretted his uncharacteristic outburst. It was simply a miracle that Senor Scott had survived being carried so far downstream--- un milagro verdadero!-- and he in no way could be blamed for any of the events that had taken place after his disappearance: the hours of fruitless searching, and then the bewildering speed with which Johnny had been arrested and turned over for trial. If he was found guilty, Johnny's life could very well be forfeit, so the big foreman had wanted very much to travel to Sacramento to speak on Juanito's behalf. He had swallowed his anger in the face of Senor Barkley's reluctant explanation that the Segundo's testimony would not be likely to be as helpful as that of others who would be perceived as having more in common with the members of the Sacramento jury. Cipriano had understood exactly what the lawyer from Stockton was trying so very hard not to say directly, and it had only fueled his conviction that Juanito himself would not fare well in the trial, if he was to be judged by such men.

But there was no reason to be angry with Senor Scott, who had, after all, been the one who had nearly been killed. Not only had the blond Senor Lancer never been known to distinguish in any way between Mexicans and Anglos, but he had also, despite Johnny's notorious past, always seemed supportive of his younger brother. Even today, after he had learned that there was no evidence that anyone else had been at the clearing, Senor Scott had still repeatedly expressed his conviction that Juanito could not have been the one who had struck him. But the lack of other signs had concerned Cipriano, who had come to believe that the elder Lancer had not been attacked at all, but had somehow simply slipped and fallen into the current.

Now Senor Scott was here, and he had clearly stated that he had been attacked, hit from behind. Something that only a coward would have done! If only he had seen something which would help to identify the true criminal. The young man was doing the right thing, Cipriano thought with approval, going immediately to Sacramento, to try to stop this trial. Cipriano did question Scott's plan to meet the stage in Morada, when there were several closer stops, but, as he stepped into the dim interior of the stable, the grim realization flashed. “No one will recognize me there,” that was what Senor Scott had said. Cipriano berated himself that in his joy that the elder Lancer son had returned home alive, and his fear that the life of the younger son remained in jeopardy, he had overlooked the very real possibility that Senor Scott himself could still be in danger. Whoever had attacked him might very well do so again, once it became known that he had survived.

“Haré eso, I will do that,” Cipriano said gruffly. Scott was standing just outside Brunswick's stall, about to remove his left arm from the black sling. Their eyes met briefly as Cipriano handed over the saddlebags, but neither man uttered another word. Removing the horse's bridle from its place on the wall, Cipriano approached the animal and set to work. Scott stood by quietly and watched while the Lancer foreman efficiently saddled the chestnut horse. When the time came, Scott slipped the carbine into the boot; Cipriano then fastened the saddlebags in place. It was only when the Segundo began to attach a bedroll that Scott finally spoke.

“I won't be needing that. I plan to ride through the night, sleep on the stage.”

Cipriano nodded and tossed the bedroll aside. Scott grasped the bridle and began to lead Brunswick out of the stable. “Thank you,” he said sincerely, looking back over his shoulder.

“Senor Scott, . . .I should not have spoken as I did.”

Scott nodded in turn, but made no other reply. Even in the dim light, Cipriano could see from the expression on his face that the younger man was still puzzled by that forceful reaction.

Once they were out in the daylight, Scott turned to his father's Segundo and finally asked the question that he had been so reluctant to pose. “Tell me, Cipriano, did anyone see my friend Mr. Hayford riding out towards the dam that day?”

“No Senor, I have asked the men and there is no one who says that he has seen him.”

Scott nodded. Glancing around the yard, he commented on how quiet it seemed. “Where's Jelly?” he asked.

“He is in Sacramento, to speak in the Court.”

Something in Cipriano's tone gave Scott an inkling of what might be bothering the foreman. “You didn't go,” he observed mildly.

The older man shook his head. “Senor Barkley, he says that the others, they are enough to speak for Juanito.”

“I see,” was all that Scott said in reply, but the look that passed between them led the Segundo to believe that perhaps he did.

“It's good that you're here, to keep an eye on things.”

“Your brother, he needs you. You must go now.”

At that reminder, a cloud settled over Scott's fine features once more. He shook the foreman's hand, then climbed aboard Brunswick; encumbered by the sling and his other injuried, his mount sadly lacked its usual fluid grace. Once astride his horse, Scott Lancer gave Cipriano a final nod, then cantered off, riding purposefully away from the hacienda and beneath the Lancer arch. Cipriano watched him for a moment, turning when he heard the footsteps behind him. It was Senora Alvarez, holding another package of food. “You are going?” she asked him in Spanish. “Si,” he responded as he accepted the small sack and headed off to saddle his own horse.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Scott Lancer was true to his word; he did ride through the night, keeping Brunswick at a moderate, mile-eating pace, as he unknowingly traveled under the watchful eye of Cipriano Sanchez. The Lancer foreman maintained enough distance to avoid detection, yet remained close enough to be of assistance should Senor Scott encounter any trouble. Once in Morada, he watched as the young blond man dismounted at the stage depot and went inside to pay for his trip to Sacramento. Apparently, he also made arrangements to stable the weary Brunswick, as an unknown man soon appeared to collect the horse and lead the animal off down the street. Sanchez noted with interest that Scott also visited the telegraph office before heading over to the nearby saloon. Cipriano had wondered whether or not he himself should send a wire on to Senor Lancer in Sacramento, but apparently now Scott had done so. The foreman could not specifically recall telling the young man where his father was staying, but perhaps the son knew of a preferred hotel. Cipriano continued to wait patiently for half an hour or more, until the stage finally rumbled in, and he could be assured that Senor Scott was safely inside. Once the coach had departed, leaving a cloud of dust swirling down the main street of Morada, Cipriano rode off in search of the stables.

Inside the stage, Scott nodded a weary greeting to his three fellow passengers and then leaned his head against the inside wall of the coach and closed his eyes. He was all too well aware of the multitude of aches and pains that were souvenirs of his journey down Grand Creek, now exacerbated by the long night in the saddle. Somewhat fortified by the bit of breakfast which he had purchased at the saloon in Morada, he saved the remainder of the biscuits and other staples which Maria had packed for later in the day. Scott knew that his chances of being able to sleep while being jounced around inside the noisy vehicle were small, but he was more than tired enough to try. Just as they had throughout the night, the same questions plagued him; he'd only been able to escape his troubling thoughts during the early morning hours, when the mind numbing rhythm of Brunswick's movement had finally lulled him into a dull trance. Now the same questions were again bouncing around inside his skull. How could Will—or anyone else—have believed that Johnny would actually try to kill him? Did Johnny truly believe that Will had been the assailant? How could there have been enough evidence against his brother to warrant a jury trial? And why hadn't there been any signs of anyone else having been at the dam site? Just as they had throughout the night, the same questions remained maddeningly unanswered, until Scott Lancer finally drifted off to a fitfully light sleep.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Later that afternoon, just as Scott was nearing the Sacramento city limits, Jelly Hoskins was shaking his head as he watched Harlan Garrett and Will Hayford walk down the street away from him, still deep in animated conversation. The Lancer handyman hurried off towards the hotel at the far end of the street, thinking that he might as well join the Boss, Teresa and Chad in the dining room with the Camerons. Perhaps the company would somehow manage to distract him from his worries about the next day in court and those “closin' argumints”.

Around the corner and down a side street, Jarrod Barkley exited the jail after having spent some time visiting with his client. The lawyer from Stockton had great faith in the abilities of his mentor, Nicholas Reed, and was actually feeling quite optimistic about the closing argument that would be presented in court the next day. But he was disturbed that during their visit just now, Johnny had seemed so downcast. The younger man had been quite pensive and had said some rather surprising things.

Jarrod was even more surprised to look up and see Scott Lancer's grandfather approaching him. He was more than a little displeased to see that the elderly gentleman was accompanied by Will Hayford.

“Mr. Barkley!”

Jarrod stopped and politely returned the man's greeting. “Hello, Mr. Garrett,” he said, sparing Hayford only the briefest of nods.

“Mr. Barkley, it is imperative that I speak with Johnny Lancer immediately!”

Jarrod was taken aback. While it was true that both he and Reed believed that Garrett's testimony had helped rather than hurt Johnny's case, Scott's grandfather was still a witness and it would be highly irregular for him to engage in conversation with the defendant while the trial was still ongoing. “Well, Mr. Garrett,” he said slowly, “I'm afraid that . .”

Will Hayford interrupted him. “Mr. Barkley, I have already explained to Mr. Garrett that, as prosecution witnesses, we would not be allowed to visit with Johnny Lancer---unless he requested to see us and unless, of course, one of his attorneys was present.”

“That's true,” Jarrod said, addressing Harlan Garrett.

“Yes, yes, I understand; as he said, William explained all that.”

The defense attorney was still more than a little perplexed and made no effort to hide it. “What exactly was it that you wished to talk to Johnny about, Mr. Garrett?”

“I have important information about my grandson-“ Garrett began forcefully.

“And Mr. Garrett would really like to speak with Johnny in person,” Hayford interjected, placing his hand on the older man's arm.

“I would be most appreciative, Mr. Barkley, if you might see your way to assist me in this,” Harlan Garrett concluded in a dignified tone.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Back inside the jail, Jarrod relayed the startling request to Johnny. “I have a feeling that Nicholas would not be in favor, Johnny, but since you just finished telling me that you would like a chance to speak with Scott's grandfather, . . .

“I ‘preciate that, Jarrod,” Johnny said softly. He leaned against the bars of the cell, his arms folded across his chest. “Ever since he testified, I've been . . I've felt like I maybe might like ta talk with the man . . about Scott.”

Jarrod nodded in understanding.

“So now he's here and he says he has somethin' to tell me, I guess I'm willin' t' hear what he has ta say.”

“Well, Johnny, you realize that I will have to be present while the two of you talk.”

Johnny indicated his acceptance. “If that's the way it has to be.”

“I don't mind telling you I'm concerned about what this ‘information' that he has for you might be.”

“From where I'm sittin' I don't see that there can be much harm in it.”

Jarrod sighed. He felt pretty certain that Nicholas Reed, who was even now hard at work polishing the final draft of his summation, would greatly disapprove of the meeting that his co-counsel was about to arrange between Johnny Lancer and his late brother's grandfather. Murdoch Lancer had been a close friend of Jarrod's own late father and, after Tom Barkley's death, the tall rancher had remained in contact with the family. Once his own sons had arrived, Murdoch had been more than proud to introduce them to the Barkleys and Jarrod had hit it off particularly well with Scott. While he knew that it could not begin to approach the degree of pain that Johnny must be feeling, Jarrod Barkley was keenly aware of a personal sense of loss. He also couldn't help but think of the close relationships which he enjoyed with his own three siblings, and he had therefore been sympathetic to Johnny's wish to have the opportunity to talk about his older brother with the man who had known Scott longer than anyone else, his grandfather.

“It's just that they . . well, they just didn't seem to want to tell me anything about what this information is. I have a feeling that what they really want is to witness your reaction to it.”

“They?”

“Hayford is with Garrett. Of course, he isn't going to be coming in.”

Johnny thought about that for a moment. “Why not?” he asked, his voice taking on a hard edge. Because I sure can think of a few things I'd like ta say to him.”

“No,” his attorney said firmly. Johnny sighed, knowing that he really shouldn't try to change Jarrod's mind.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

When he finally disembarked from the stage in Sacramento, Scott Lancer realized that it was too late for Court to still be in session, and immediately asked for directions to the jail. Fortunately, it sounded as if it wouldn't be that far on foot, but Scott still arranged to leave his things at the depot for the time being. He hurried down the city streets, through the shadows of buildings cast by the declining sun, until, at long last, he came upon the city jail. Once inside, he informed the young man at the desk that he wished to see one of the prisoners, Johnny Lancer. The jailer replied that visiting hours were be over in another half hour and gestured to the log book lying open on his desk, indicating that Scott should sign his name at the top of the freshly turned page. It was the thought of seeing his name written so prominently on the new page that prompted Scott to identify himself as “Scott Garrett.” While the visitor slowly unfastened his gun belt with one hand, the guard glanced down at the name on the register, commenting that there was a relative already inside, visiting with Johnny Lancer. <<Murdoch?>> Scott wondered hopefully.

Once Scott had relinquished his weapon, the man opened the door to the cellblock. Inside another guard, a pleasant faced older man with greying hair stood to greet Scott and in response to his query for “Lancer?” pointed to the left, adding “He's all the way at the end.” Immediately, Scott heard the unmistakable sound of his brother's voice, speaking to someone with low intensity. Intent upon his goal, Scott did not realize that the guard had followed partway, not until he heard the man's voice cheerfully announcing, “Right there, there you are.”

Johnny turned and looked in the direction of the newcomer, and then very slowly reached out to grasp the bars of his cell with both hands. Scott felt that there were other pairs of eyes in the room, he could feel that they were locked upon him, but for the moment he saw only his brother's eyes—startlingly blue and gazing at him in wonder. Scott Lancer stared back. And he saw at once that Maria had been right. <<Hermanos del corazón . You are true brothers of the heart>> As soon as he looked at Johnny, Scott did know the truth; his eyes confirmed what he had, in his heart, already believed. And with a heartfelt smile, he offered up a mild greeting. “It's good to see you, Brother.”

“Scott,” Johnny breathed, his voice barely a whisper, his knuckles white as his grip on the bars tightened. “Is it really you, Boston?” Scott simply nodded wordlessly; when he did open his mouth to speak, he was interrupted by the sound of his own name.

“Scotty!” and then suddenly, improbably, it was his grandfather walking towards him, hands out stretched. Startled to see the elderly man here, Scott nonetheless hastened to approach him. “Grandfather, it's good to see you, Sir,” he said as the two of them shook hands affectionately. “I never expected you to be in California; I sent a wire home, so that you wouldn't worry,” Scott added with concern. “Yes, yes, it was forwarded to me here from Boston,” his grandfather assured him. “As soon as I received it, I came straightaway to tell your brother.”

Now Jarrod Barkley stepped forward, the look of wonder on his face giving way to a welcoming smile as he offered his own handshake. “Scott, it's . . it's good to see you. Welcome back! Are you all right?”

“Jarrod,” Scott greeted the attorney warmly. “Yes, yes, I'm all right.”

Johnny had never in his life been so happy to see anyone—not even that Pinkerton agent, the one who had rescued him from the Mexican firing squad. Johnny had spent plenty of time thinking about Scott over the past few weeks, imagining him showing up, walking in . . now that he was here, Boston sure was a sight for sore eyes. Didn't seem too much the worse for wear, either. Had one arm in a sling, but other than that . . . Studying Scott a bit more closely, Johnny could not only see a fading bruise on the older man's cheek, almost hidden by a day's growth of dark stubble, but also a weariness in his brother's eyes, greater than any he had ever seen there before.

Even his voice sounded tired. Scott approached the bars, reaching through them to lightly touch Johnny's forearm. “The first thing that we need to do,” he said, “is get you out of there.”

“What happened?” Johnny demanded. “Why couldn't we find you?”

Harlan Garrett and Jarrod Barkley joined Johnny in regarding Scott with eager curiosity. Scott stood near the bars of his brother's cell, one hand resting lightly on his hip, his other arm still cradled in the black sling. “Well,” he began, “I was carried downstream, quite a ways . . . ..

“Did you fall, Scott, or were you attacked,” Jarrod asked.

Scott looked directly at Jarrod. “I didn't fall.”

“Then did you see who it was?”

“No.”

“Wasn't me,” Johnny said firmly, eyeing Scott carefully.

“I know,” Scott replied quietly. Gripping the bars with his right hand, Scott addressed the attorney. “Jarrod, I assume that since I'm here, and since I haven't been murdered, the charges against Johnny will be dropped.”

Jarrod sighed. “Well, Scott, the charge is actually attempted murder,” Jarrod explained slowly. “So your being alive does not close the case. The final arguments are scheduled for tomorrow. Nicholas Reed is the lead attorney on the case, and he had hopes of creating a reasonable doubt by suggesting that you simply . . had an accident and fell into the creek.”

“Perhaps I should have stayed away a few days.” Scott commented dryly.

“Not at all, I didn't mean that,” Jarrod quickly replied. “But the surest means of getting the charges dropped would be if you could identify your true assailant.”

Scott shook his head ruefully. “As I told you, I didn't see anyone; in fact, I never saw it coming.”

“Then we need to figure it out, Scotty!” his grandfather declared. “Who could have hated you enough to try to kill you?” The other three men regarded Scott speculatively; until Harlan Garrett ventured another question. “Do you think that it could possibly have been related to that escape attempt?”

Scott shook his head. “No, Sir. Dan Cassidy wrote to the families of the men, he explained to them what really happened. He took full responsibility and cleared my name.”

Johnny was surprised to hear that Cassidy had done that; he hadn't been all that impressed with the man. But he had a question of his own, for Scott's grandfather. “Something I was wondrin' about, Mr. Garrett.” The dark haired young man paused momentarily, then forged ahead. “How come you're so certain I didn't do it?”

As Scott watched somewhat apprehensively, the elderly gentlemen drew himself up. “You heard my testimony, did you not?” he asked Johnny severely. “It has been made quite . . .clear to me that Scotty holds you in high regard. And he has often mentioned how clever you are.” Seeing that Johnny was not altogether satisfied with this answer, Garrett continued. “Johnny, if you were going to kill your brother, how would you go about it?”

“I wouldn't.”

“But if you were going to do so?” Harlan asked again.

“I suppose you want me to say that I'd shoot ‘im,” Johnny said coldly.

Scott thought that he sensed where his grandfather was going with this. “Somewhere remote, out on the trail,” he suggested lightly. “When we were alone, far from home.”

“Yeah,” Johnny conceded, his dark eyes unreadable. “That would be easy enough, say it was someone else---”

“Somehow, I don't think that explaining how you would go about killing your brother would be a good defense strategy,” Jarrod couldn't help commenting.

“My point is,” Garrett said with a dignified air, “that Scotty has several times described Johnny as being rather intelligent. Leaving evidence behind certainly is not.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Will Hayford had told Mr.Garrett that he would take a walk around the jail to “try to clear his head” while the older man was inside visiting with his grandson's half-brother. Eager to resume his conversation with the elderly gentleman, Hayford now entered the jailhouse to see if there was any sign of Harlan.

The sandy haired young man at the desk greeted him in a friendly manner. “Hi there, Captain Hayford!” Since Will had been in practice with a prominent firm in Sacramento for several months now, he was of course easily recognized by almost everyone who worked in the city's legal system. Ben Howell was another transplanted Easterner and had been employed at the jail for a little over a year. Howell had signed on as a very young Union private for the final months of the War and had been fascinated to learn that “Captain” Hayford--- as he insisted on calling him--- had actually been on the battlefield at Gettysburg. So far, however, Hayford had had very little to say about any of his experiences during the War, to Howell's great disappointment.

Returned the jailer's greeting politely. “Hello, Ben. How are you this evening?”

“Just fine, sir.” Ben noticed that the one-armed ex-soldier seemed to look rather tired. “Long day in court, sir?” he asked sympathetically.

“You might say that,” was Will's weary reply as he sat down in the chair in front of the desk. “There was a great deal of . . very . . enlightening . .testimony.”

Ben Howell made some response, but Will Hayford did not hear him. As he glanced done at the visitor's register lying open on the desktop in front of him, he saw, in very familiar handwriting at the top of the page the name “Scott Garrett”. He quickly stood up and reached for Howell's pen, hastily signing his own name below Scott's. “Well, I'd better get in there and see my client,” he told the young guard with a smile. “Perhaps we can sit and exchange a few war stories when I'm through.”

“Sure thing, Captain,” Howell replied with a pleased grin. “Didn't know you had anybody back there tonight. You just go right on in.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

As Will hurriedly approached Johnny Lancer's cell, he could see that Scott was there, talking with his brother, his grandfather and Jarrod Barkley. Johnny noticed him first, his eyes narrowing as he took in Will Hayford's happy expression.

“Scott!” Will exclaimed jubilantly.

Scott acknowledged him coolly. “Hello, Will.”

“It's good to see you!” Will said, coming up on Scott's right, between Scott and the bars of the cell, so that he could place his hand on Scott's shoulder, and see him clearly with his one good eye. “What happened? Were you attacked?” Hayford asked with evident concern. Accepting Scott's affirmative nod, he plied his friend with more questions. “Are you all right?”

“I'd be better, if this trial wasn't being held.”

Johnny gripped the bars tightly. “Go ahead, Hayford,“ he ground out. “Go on and tell Scott all about how you railroaded me in here!”

Scott turned towards Will, leaned against the cell door and looked at his old friend expectantly. Johnny stood directly behind Scott, the only thing separating them the black vertical bars of the cell. Harlan Garrett watched and listened intently as well; behind him Jarrod Barkley was also taking in the scene. The Stockton attorney was accustomed to standing in silence as his clients conferred, commiserated or argued with their friends and family members; he anticipated that the discussion which was about to take place would rival any of those to which he had previously been a party.

Will Hayford met the united gaze of the Lancer brothers. “I was only doing what I'm trained to do, which is to look at the evidence.” He looked from Scott to Johnny and back to Scott. “It pointed to your brother---though I do question that now. But you have to understand that there were parts of his story which . . . just didn't seem to ring true.”

Scott met Will's gaze. “My brother doesn't lie.”

His gratification at hearing his brother's quiet assertion went a long ways to helping Johnny keep his rising anger under control. “He suspected me right from the minute we got ta the dam!” he stated, giving Will a long cold look.

“Johnny said he'd been there waiting for you, and that you never showed,” Will explained carefully. “But when we reached the clearing, your horse was the first thing that we saw. I was hoping that perhaps the Sheriff would be able to tell by looking at the tracks which one of you had been there first.”

“It might be possible to read that from the signs out on the trail,” Scott acknowledged. “But it would be virtually impossible even for Val to tell from the prints in a clearing.”

“It wasn't Val,” Johnny informed Scott, from his position behind his brother. The older man looked over his shoulder to regard his brother quizzically. “It was Sheriff Sam . . . .Sam Jayson.”

At this announcement, Scott made a softly derisive sound, and Johnny couldn't help shooting his brother a knowing look.

“I certainly didn't realize at the time that the Sheriff was . . .less than competent,” Will said defensively.

“Maybe ya should have asked me,” Johnny retorted. “'Stead of pointin' at me from the start.”

“Johnny---“ Will replied, turning to the dark-haired Lancer.

“Once you figured out he wasn't all that smart, you sure made good use of it,” Johnny charged, raising his voice. “You got him to get an arrest warrant for me real fast.”

“Is this true?” Scott asked Will with a frown.

“Well, there was more than one cause for suspicion,” Will explained. “There was other evidence, including a button from the shirt Johnny was wearing. I picked it up off the ground, I was standing there holding it in my hand and yet he claimed that it had been missing when he put the shirt on back at the house that morning. Your brother had the opportunity, and at the time I believed that he had the motive. . .”

“You were wrong,” Scott said forcefully.

“I agree. I don't think he was the one who attacked you.”

“But someone did,” Johnny stated meaningfully.

Scott nodded, turning towards his brother Johnny. “Who do you think did it?”

“You might not like it but my first choice would be him,” Johnny replied, gesturing at Will.

“Cipriano told me that you suspected Will,” Scott revealed, casting a challenging look in Will's direction.. “What do you have to say?”

“Scott, you don't really expect him to just tell you he did it, now do you?” Johnny asked in an angry tone.

“Scott, it would be simple enough to find out if anyone saw me out riding that day,” Will said calmly.

Scott addressed his reply to his brother. “Cipriano said that no one saw Will on horseback that day; he'd already asked the men.”

“Besides,” Will quickly pointed out, “I never was a great horseman and even less so now. Someone would have had to saddle a horse –or harness a team--- for me. They surely would have remembered that.”

Scott looked down at his own arm in the sling, remembered the difficulties it had posed. “He makes a good point,” Scott observed, again addressing his brother.

At that, Will reached out to grasp Scott by the arm. “Scott, the point is, can you look me in the eye and tell me that you could believe for more than a moment that I might actually want you dead?”

“No, Will, I can't, no more than I could believe that of Johnny.” Scott pushed himself away from the bars, standing erect between the two men. Looking from one to the other, he asked, “Now, do I need to spend any more time convincing the two of you or can we concentrate on other things, like figuring out what really happened?”

Will Hayford started to offer an apology. “Johnny, I was wrong and ---

Johnny glared at the one armed man, but his words were directed at Scott. “He set me up. He's got people believing' I wanted you dead. You're asking a lot if you expect me to forget about it.”

I understand that.”

“Do you, Scott?” Johnny asked with dark intensity. Scott's eyes narrowed as he felt some of the heat of his brother's understandable pent-up anger now turned towards him. “That Cassidy came all this ways just to kill you,” Johnny continued, “and then you turned around and helped him.”

Blue eyes stared at blue eyes for a long moment before Scott finally responded. “That was different; Dan and I had a history. We were like—“

“Don't say it,” Johnny warned harshly. “Don't say you were ‘like brothers'. Just like you and Hayford here. I figure you'll be forgivin' him pretty quick. Seems like you're just a lot better at forgettin' than I am.”

Scott took a deep breath. Johnny had no reason to feel anything other than hatred for Will. His old friend's efforts to explain his reasoning couldn't alter the fact that it had been his accusations that had put Johnny's life in jeopardy.

The pained expression on Scott's face took some of the heat from Johnny's voice as he finished saying his piece. “Seems like you can manage ta forget about what Murdoch did . .or didn't do. What he,” here Johnny gestured towards Scott's grandfather, “tried to do to ya. Well, I ain't made that way, Scott.”

Scott pressed his lips together and cast a quick glance towards his grandfather, just in time to see the elderly man lower his own gaze in the face of Johnny's assertion. “Gr-,” he started to say, then abruptly decided that he had to finish this with Johnny first. “Johnny, I'm not asking that of you, to forgive or forget. . . .And, for the record, even for me, this is different.”

“How?” Johnny demanded.

“Well, this time, it wasn't just about me.”

Scott stared at the floor, wondering what else, if anything, to say, to Johnny; what he should say to Will. He drew a long breath and then decided it would be better to direct the conversation to more practical matters. He turned to address Jarrod Barkley. The defense attorney had stood with Scott's grandfather as a silent witness to the exchange between the three young men. Jarrod knew that he should have protested Will Hayford's entrance to the cellblock; as a prosecution witness, in fact the chief prosecution witness, Hayford should not have been allowed to speak with Johnny Lancer, even though it now sounded as if the one-armed man was having second thoughts about his accusations.

“I assume that you'll want me to testify, ” Scott said to Jarrod.

“I'm obligated to inform the Court that you're here,” Jarrod replied, “and you'll have to confirm that you were, in fact, attacked. But it doesn't sound as if you have any evidence to present, since you didn't see the man who attacked you.”

“No, I didn't,” Scott agreed. “But I can testify about Johnny, tell the jury that he didn't do it.”

“And how do you know that, Scott?” Johnny asked softly.

“I just know you. And I trust you.”

Silence greeted this statement. Scott looked at each of the other men in turn, but he couldn't read what was in their eyes. Finally Johnny broke the stillness. “You sayin' you trust me might just put the last nail in my coffin.”

“Why?” Scott asked him, puzzled, but Johnny glanced away. Scott looked searchingly at his grandfather, at Jarrod and finally at Will Hayford and decided that his friend seemed to be the most uncomfortable. “What is it? Will? What aren't you telling me?”

“It's just that . . .,” Will began uneasily, but Johnny interrupted him.

“It's just that the prosecution's been doing a damn fine job of making you look like a trustin' fool.”

“I'm afraid my testimony has helped lead to that assumption.”

“Is that what you think of me, Will?”

“It was more the prosecutor than him,” Johnny explained quietly. “He just knows how ta twist things.”

The other men looked at Johnny in disbelief, surprised that he seemed to be defending Hayford. Johnny shrugged his shoulders. "The man tried to get the rest of us to say the same thing, worked sometimes too, even though none of us believe it." Then, he added, looking meaningfully at Jarrod. "I've got a pretty damn good lawyer myself. . . but he's said some things you ain't going to like either, Boston."

Scott stood a minute looking from Will to Johnny and then turned his penetrating gaze back to Will Hayford. “We'll talk about this later.” Johnny had to hide a small smile when he saw his older brother give his friend the look that Johnny himself knew so well. He had been the target of that look and that promise from Scott on more than one occasion; he knew that it most definitely would be kept. That hint of a smile disappeared rapidly when the focus of that look expanded to include him as well.

Realizing that Scott had many questions about the testimony, Jarrod asked the guard for a few chairs and urged Mr. Garrett to take a seat. After Scott explained that he had been on a stagecoach the entire day and preferred to remain standing, Jarrod settled in the second chair. Scott leaned against the bars of the cell and Johnny stood close beside him, while Will leaned against the opposite wall, crossing his left arm over his chest and tucking it under what remained of his damaged right arm. The defense attorney wondered again if he shouldn't ask Hayford to leave, but he realized that the damage, if any, had already been done. Both he and Will Hayford, as members of the bar, might have something to answer for, and if a mistrial was declared because of contact between prosecution witnesses and the defendant, then at least that kept Johnny safe from the noose. Jarrod proceeded to outline for Scott some of the key elements of both the prosecution's case and of Johnny's defense. He explained that the prosecuting attorney had emphasized the contents of Scott's will, had stressed the arguments that had been witnessed between the brothers, and made much of Johnny's past as a gunfighter. Scott was dismayed to learn that the incident with Gordon and the Velasquez brothers had been used against Johnny as well. The prosecutor, Marcus Webster, had tried to imply that there had not really been a man on the roof, that Johnny had made him up and had simply, willfully shot his brother.

Believing that Scott would be appreciative, Jarrod shared Johnny's response: "I was a gunfighter, remember. If I'd wanted him dead, he woulda been.”

Johnny watched his brother carefully and saw the grey-blue eyes cloud over. Unlike other people, Scott had never been one to shy away from conversations about Johnny Madrid, but having to face the gunfighter had been a very disturbing incident. Their relationship might not have survived the shooting, if it had not been for Scott's trust, but Johnny knew that it couldn't have been easy.

Now Scott looked up at Johnny with a very serious expression. “Which bothers you more, little brother,” Scott asked, a twinkle in his eye. “Being accused of inventing Gordon or of being a poor shot?”

Johnny looked back at Scott, startled for a moment, then he relaxed. All that worrying that Scott would think he had tried to kill him had been for nothing, he now knew for certain that everything was really all right between them.

Once Jarrod concluded his outline of the evidence, Scott sighed and then expressed his concerns. “Are you sure that this Reed is justified in being optimistic about the verdict?” Scott shot his brother an apologetic look. “It certainly seems as if the prosecution has presented a great deal of evidence against Johnny.”

From his spot against the wall, Will Hayford spoke. “That's because there IS a lot of evidence against him----perhaps too much. We're looking in the wrong direction.” Will exclaimed. “We've been thinking all along that it was Scott who was the target, wondering who it was would tried to kill him.” He paused for a moment, pushing himself away from the wall, fastening his one-eyed gaze upon the Lancer brothers. “Johnny is the real target,” he stated with conviction. “Someone was trying to frame him.” Will addressed the dark haired brother directly. “So who would have a grudge against you?”

Johnny snorted at that. “Ya want me ta make a list?” Johnny replied, shaking his head.

“No,” Scott said, thinking about Will's theory. “No . . it would not be someone from your gun fighting days. They would call you out, not frame you for murder.”

“And why would they choose Scotty?” Harlan asked. “They could have killed anyone.”

“It had to be someone who hated Johnny enough to want him to go through this trial,” Scott stated. “To hang for killing me.

“Well, whoever it was could be long gone by now,” Johnny observed, as he paced in his cell.

“No, I don't think so,” Jarrod responded. “If someone went to all that trouble, they would still be around.”

“They'd want a front row seat,” Will agreed.

“At the hangin'. Which could still happen if we don't figure out who did it.” The silence in the room was deafening as Johnny finished speaking. “You sure did pick a helluva time to be late, Boston,” Johnny informed his brother as he leaned his head against the bars.

“I wasn't late, I was actually early….though I was surprised to see that you'd been there before me.”

“What're you talkin' about?” Johnny grumbled. “I was there at noon, waited forty minutes, you never showed.”

“I never ‘showed' because I was told that the time had been changed, that you wouldn't be there until two o'clock.”

“Who?” Johnny asked, eyes narrowing. Suddenly he knew that the answer to that question would be crucial in solving the case. Harlan Garrett, Will Hayford and Jarrod Barkley all seemed to share that belief and each man joined Johnny in regarding Scott expectantly. “Who told ya that?”

One hand on his hip, Scott looked down at the floor, then up at Johnny again, with a perplexed expression on his face. “It was . . . Senora Maria.”

 

CONCLUSION

Scott's revelation that “It was . . . Senora Maria” who had told him to meet Johnny at Grand Creek at two o'clock was met with consternation from those men present who were not at all certain who she was. Johnny was momentarily stunned by the news. He recovered quickly, however, and demanded to know exactly what the beloved Lancer cook had said.

Looking wearier than ever, Scott stood lost in thought, trying to recall the details of what Maria had told him that morning, a moment in time that now seemed to be so very far distant. He pensively rubbed at the growth of beard decorating his jaw line as the recollection slowly returned, along with a growing certainty that his brother was not going to welcome what he had to say. Looking up at Johnny with a guarded expression, Scott slowly explained.

“She said that Chad had been looking for me, that Murdoch had sent him to tell me that you'd be somewhere else at noon, and that our meeting time would have to be later. At two. Maria knew that I'd be coming into the kitchen to get the lunch she'd made and . . .well, I assume that she offered to pass the word along. Which she did.”

“Chad, huh?” Johnny said, turning away.

Scott quickly stepped closer to the bars of his brother's cell. “That's what Maria told me, Johnny. I'm not saying that Chad was the one who . .”

“Coulda been,” Johnny interrupted harshly, turning back to stare at his brother. “Murdoch sure didn't know nothin' ‘bout a time change. I mentioned it enough, how I'd been there right at noon. And Chad was workin' by himself the whole day, riding the fence line—I remember cause . . “ Johnny paused, folded his arms, and looked down at the floor. “Cause I was kinda glad ta see that Murdoch was givin' him some responsibility, . . . trustin' ‘im,” he finished in a harsh tone.

“That still doesn't prove . .” Scott began again, but Johnny interrupted him. “Scott, did you see Chad at all that mornin'?”

Scott thought for a moment before he replied. “No, I didn't.”

“Well, he saw you. When we found a piece of your shirt in the creek, Chad was the only one of us could say for sure what color shirt you'd been wearin'.”

The men considered the significance of that information for a moment, until Will Hayford broke the silence with a question. “This cousin of yours, he does live in the main house, right?” he asked Scott.

“Yes, his room is next to Johnny's.”

“So he could have taken the button from his shirt, dropped it in the clearing.”

“If you hadn't picked it up off the ground, Chad probably would have,” Scott agreed.

“Well, Scott, I guess Chad's smarter'n we gave him credit for,” Johnny said grimly. The brothers exchanged a look, but whatever response Scott had in mind was drowned out by a series of questions from the other three men.

“But what would this Chad person have against Scotty?” Harlan Garrett demanded.

“That's what I was wondering, too,” Jarrod quickly added from his seat beside Scott's grandfather.

“And why would he go to so much trouble to make it look as if Johnny was the guilty party?” Will asked. Fixing his one-eyed gaze directly on the man in the cell, he added, “The two of you seemed to be quite close.”

Scott also regarded his brother intently. “You do know him better than I do,” he said, in a mildly apologetic tone, preferring to hear what Johnny had to say on the matter before offering his own opinion.

Johnny looked down at the floor, avoiding the scrutiny of the other men. “I'm guessin' it hasta be because of Callie. He must still hold it against me that she got shot.”

“And who is Callie?” Scott's grandfather demanded. The elderly man seemed rather exasperated by the introduction of yet another unfamiliar name into the conversation.

With a sigh, Scott explained. “Callie was Chad's sister.”

“Chad thought it was me comin' after ‘im, and he shot her by accident,” Johnny added softly.

Jarrod Barkley did not hide his surprise at this information. “So Chad has tried to kill you before?” he asked, rising from his wooden chair and stepping closer to the cell.

Johnny nodded, grasped the bars loosely with both hands and thought about how to explain. “Callie . . she and I, well, we kinda had a misunderstandin'; somehow she got the idea I was in love with her. When she found out that weren't the way it was, she was real angry, told Chad some things ‘bout me. He thought he was . . defendin' her honor or somethin', tryin' ta get even with me.” Although he addressed Jarrod, Johnny's gaze swept over the other men. “She was runnin' to tell him the truth, when he shot her,” he said simply.

Johnny still clearly remembered Callie's dying words, what she had told Chad. She'd said: “You are my older sister Ann's boy. And she ran off with a . . Lancre. Ann died and Paw raised ya like his own.” He softly explained to his listeners the news that Chad had heard from the “sister” he had killed.

Johnny still clearly remembered Callie's dying words, what she had told Chad. She'd said: “You are my older sister Ann's boy. And she ran off with a . . Lancre. Ann died and Paw raised ya like his own.” He softly explained to his listeners that Chad had learned his true identity from the “sister” he had killed.

As the other men listened attentively to the story, the dark haired young man tilted his head and continued. “Chad took it hard. But he said he didn't blame me. Murdoch and me convinced him he should stay on at Lancer.” Looking directly at Scott, Johnny added one more piece. “Looks like you were right, not ta trust him.”

“So his motive was revenge,” Will said musingly. “He killed his own . . .”sister”, but blamed you for her death--- and then he tries, fittingly he thinks, to make it look as if you killed your brother.”

“I guess,” was all Johnny said in reply, but his thoughts were whirling through the events of the past few months. His cousin sure had acted as if all had been forgiven. Johnny remembered how supportive Chad had been ever since Scott's disappearance, but before that, he'd had a lot to say against Scott. Calling him “uppity”, “bossy”, a “Yankee”, and telling some stories that probably hadn't been true. Even though Johnny agreed that he'd most likely been Chad's real target, he figured that Chad probably hadn't minded hitting Scott over the head one little bit. He now mentally berated himself for being taken in by Chad's seeming gratitude, but knew that he had to hand it to his “cousin” for doing such a good job of biding his time and hiding his anger. Though now that he thought about it, Johnny had gotten a few good glimpses of that rage inside of Chad, first with the events surrounding Callie's accusations and her death, and again, when Johnny had destroyed that foolish flying machine. He recalled thinking even then that it was a good thing Chad was usually so even tempered; the memory of the look in his cousin's eyes left Johnny without any doubt that Chad could be the would-be killer.

“Well, this man needs to be taken into custody,” Harlan huffed impatiently. “Immediately!”

Jarrod turned back to look down at the seated man with a nod of agreement before asking a question of Johnny. “Is he staying at the hotel with Murdoch?”

“Yeah, with Murdoch an' Teresa n' Jelly,” Johnny informed him.

Will fired a question at the other brother. “Scott—did you send a wire to your father?”

Scott regarded Will with an expression of mild surprise, then slowly shook his head. “No, I was coming directly here and, well, I wasn't sure where he was staying.”

“That's good,” Will assured him. “Then Chad doesn't know you're here, that you survived.”

Scott agreed, but his next words immediately reawakened his grandfather's concern. “No, he doesn't . . .not unless Cipriano sent word after I left the ranch.”

“If this Chad knows that, then Scotty could still be in danger!”

“That's true, Mr. Garrett,” Will acknowledged. “But even if Chad knows that Scott survived, he doesn't know that Scott realizes who changed the time for the meeting. You know, Chad can't even be certain that Scott didn't catch a glimpse of him before he went into the creek.”

Scott thought that he could see where his old friend was going with this. “Then, perhaps if I could take him by surprise, he might say something, give himself away.”

Jarrod was also following that line of thinking. “That's the surest, quickest means of getting Johnny released, a confession from the true assailant.”

“It would be best if it was in front of witnesses, several of them . . .” Will suggested.

“You mean tomorrow, in court?” Johnny asked.

Will shook his head. “No, too many people, I think, the focus needs to be on Chad. And trying to get him angry or worried enough to make a mistake. It would be best if we could have someone official present, Scott when you confront Chad—like say, Judge Blackwell---.”

“Confront!” Harlan exclaimed with displeasure just as Johnny spoke to his brother with quiet intensity. “Scott, I wanta be there.”

Scott nodded. He knew that he would feel the same way if the brothers' roles were reversed. “What if we sent word now, asked Chad to come here?” he asked, addressing his inquiry to Johnny as well as the two attorneys.

“Visiting hours are almost over and we still need to talk to the judge,” Will pointed out.

Jarrod offered another concern. “I would think also that we don't want to do anything to make Chad suspicious.”

“Yeah, like sendin' ‘specially for him . .” Johnny had to agree, but he knew that he would risk alerting their cousin if it was the only way that he could be present when the ‘confrontation' took place. Not only did he share some of Harlan's concerns for Scott if his brother were to face his attacker alone, but Johnny needed his own opportunity to face Chad.

“If Scott goes to the hotel to confront Chad . . .” Jarrod started to say.

“Then Johnny won't be there.”

“I'm afraid you're right, Scott. But I can't see the Judge letting him leave the jail, even if he is in custody.”

There was a brief silence. Evidently, Will Hayford had been formulating a plan, which he carefully proposed to Scott. “What if. . . you were at the courthouse early tomorrow, if Mr. Barkley told your father that Johnny wanted to meet with him and your cousin before the session began. That way it's not just Chad who is being sent for, and your brother would be there as well.”

“And the judge?” Scott asked, while his grandfather hastily added “And some officers to take this Chad person into custody!”

“That might work,” was Jarrod's assessment. “We could probably get permission to bring Johnny over to the courthouse early.”

“Then Mr. Barkley, what if you go and confer with Mr. Reed—he'll know how to get in touch with Marcus Webster. I'll bring Scott to Judge Blackwell's residence. If the Judge is agreeable, then you can convey the invitation to Mr.Lancer. Of course the Judge will need to talk to you, Scott, but after that, you'll have to stay out of sight.”

“He'll come back to the hotel and stay with me,” Harlan said quickly.

Scott expressed one concern. “If by some chance Cipriano did send a wire, then Jarrod will find that out when he talks to Murdoch; and that could alter our plan.”

“True,” Will agreed. “Let's assume for now that he didn't.”

“If Murdoch had any news ‘bout Scott, he'd be here.” Recognizing the truth of Johnny's assertion, the men prepared to set their plan into motion.

As Jarrod Barkley headed towards the door leading out of the cell block, Scott stopped him. “Jarrod,” he said quietly, When you do talk to Murdoch, perhaps you can speak to him privately, let him know that I'm here—“

“That might not be a good idea,” Johnny said, interrupting his brother. In response to Scott's questioning look, Johnny explained. “Murdoch'd wanta tell Teresa n' Jelly right off,.. . . .”

Scott nodded in quick comprehension. “Chad would find out.”

“And if Jarrod tells Murdoch why he can't let Chad know, there's no tellin' what he might do ta Chad.”

“That's a good point,” Scott conceded.

The men prepared to go about setting their plan in motion. Will Hayford started towards the exit in conversation with Jarrod Barkley, outlining directions to the judge's residence in the off chance that Barkley was unable to quickly locate Nicholas Reed and inform him of the startling new developments in the case. Looking back over his shoulder, the man with the eye patch told Scott that he would wait for him outside and politely told “Mr. Garrett” that he would see him back at the hotel. Will looked for a moment as if he wished to say something more, but finished by simply stating “We'll talk.” It was not completely clear which of the three men he was addressing, but it was Scott who replied. “Yes, we will.” The blond man with the black sling stood motionless, watching even after Will Hayford had disappeared from view.

With a small shake of his head, Scott turned back to his brother, who was leaning against the bars of his cell regarding him intently. It struck Johnny once more—how tired Scott's eyes looked, and how sad. Well, there sure wasn't much for ‘im to be happy about, not at the moment. Johnny addressed his older brother in a soft, drawling voice. “Looks like you could use some rest, Boston. You get back from talkin' to the judge, maybe you'd better just let your grandfather here take care of ya.”

Harlan Garrett rose slowly and somewhat stiffly from the wooden straight backed chair in which he had been ensconced. He regarded Scott expectantly, although the elderly man waited for his grandson's reply with uncharacteristic patience.

“You'll be out of there soon, Johnny,” Scott said, seemingly as much to reassure himself as his younger brother.

“It's startin' ta look that way,” was Johnny's quick rejoinder, voicing more confidence than he truly felt. After all, Chad had fooled every one of them so far, he might somehow manage to continue to do so—assuming, of course, that he ‘d really been the one to attack Scott in the first place.

“Come, Scotty,” Harlan said in a concerned tone, grasping Scott's good arm. “While you and William go to see the judge, I'll make arrangements at the hotel. I'm sure you'll want a bath, something to eat.”

Scott looked gratefully down at his grandfather. “I could use a drink,” he said, a slight smile playing about his lips as he heard the echo of Murdoch's voice in his own words.

“You have one for me, too,” Johnny instructed him jokingly, then regretted it as Scott's mouth resumed its grim line. “Bye, Scott. See you in the morning.”

“Good night, Brother,” was Scott's reluctant answer. The blond man turned to leave, looking down at his grandfather and then somewhat tentatively placing his right hand on the older gentleman's shoulder, gently guiding him towards the door.

“Hey, Boston.”

“Yes?”

“You watch your back, now.”

Scott exhaled. In a characteristic motion, he glanced briefly at the floor, before looking up to meet Johnny's gaze. “I think I can manage to do that—for another few hours at least.”

Johnny's eyes glimmered in understanding and he softly bid his older brother a good night.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

The next morning, Jarrod Barkley was standing outside the doors of the courtroom waiting to intercept Murdoch and Chad. He greeted the two men and then told the senior Lancer that there were a few papers for him to sign. “And then Murdoch, I'd like to have a word with you in private.” Ignoring Murdoch Lancer's raised eyebrow, Jarrod turned to Chad.

“Chad, why don't you go on inside; Johnny's waiting for you.”

“Shore thing, Mista Barkley.”

Inside the large courtroom, Johnny Lancer was seated alone at the defense table, dressed in his dark suit. Johnny drawled a greeting and Chad responded in kind. Chad's booted footsteps echoed in the empty room as he walked up the aisle.

“So it's closin' argumints taday, Johnny?”

"Yeah, Chad my lawyer even has a big surprise.”

“What's that, Johnny?”

“I've got a special witness....judge even approved him.”

“Who's that?”

“Well, Chad, you remember Scott . . . .”

The door to a small conference room opened and Scott Lancer stepped into the courtroom. Chad stared openmouthed, looking as if he had seen a ghost. Only where ghosts were usually pale white, this one had blond hair, a blue shirt and had one arm cradled in a black sling.

“Hello, Chad.”

“Scott! . . .yur. . . yur. . . alaive!”

“Are you happy to see me, Chad?”

“Well, a course Ah am!” he replied with a big grin. “Ah mean, I allas said you weren't half bad for a Yankee!”

Chad smiled in a conspiratorial manner at Johnny. “Ol' Scott's kinda hard ta take sometimes, but we shore are glad ta have him back, ain't we Johnny?” Chad started towards Scott. “Corse I'm glad ta see ya again, cuzin.”

“Again? Well, you were the last one to see me. . . . at two o'clock.”

Chad looked from the cold blue eyes of one Lancer brother to the other. It was Johnny who finally spoke. “I sure wish you'd told me about the change in time, Chad. Then I could have been there to watch my brother's back.”

Dark rage colored Chad Lancer's handsome face. “Oh yeah, you and yur precious brother. Who thinks he's jist better'n alla tha rest of us!”

“Now, Chad,” Johnny said, as he slowly rose from his seat. “I don't believe Scott was the one you were really angry at. I'm guessin' it was me.”

“Damn right! Yur nothin' but a cold blooded killa!” The tall Kentuckian's angry voice reverberated off the walls of the courtroom.

“But you know I didn't kill Callie,” Johnny said quietly.

“It's all because of you that she's daid!”

“You're the one pulled the trigger. But we all know it was an accident, Chad. Besides, you even told me that you didn't hold it against me.”

“Mebbe I lied to ya, Johnny. Did you really think I could fergit Callie that easy?"

“We know you haven't forgotten her, Chad. But your problem was with me, you had no call to go after Scott.”

“Ah'd neva fergit Callie, she was kin! An' us mountain folks've got long memories, ‘specially when it comes ta kin. Don't matter how long it takes. Ain't you neva heard of an eye fer an eye, Johnny? Ah wanted you ta know what it felt laike.”

“It's over, Chad.” Johnny spoke quietly. “There are a couple-”

“It's ova fer you!”

Chad reached to his waistband and pulled out a gun. Scott Lancer, who had been listening to the exchange in silence, quickly yelled at Johnny to “look out!” Johnny dove to the floor as the weapon discharged. Before Chad could aim a second bullet at his brother, Scott swiftly returned fired with the gun he had had hidden in his sling. A stunned look crossed Chad's face as he staggered backwards and then fell against the judge's bench, slowly crumbling to the floor.

Two lawman burst in from a side room, as Jarrod and Murdoch hurried in through the main doors. Nicholas Reed, Marcus Webster, Will Hayford and Judge Timothy Blackwell had also been in the wings and had heard the entire exchange between Johnny Lancer and his cousin. The law officers holstered their weapons as they realized they were too late.

“Scott!” Murdoch greeted his elder son, squeezing his shoulder. “I've never been happier to see you.” He nodded towards Jarrod Barkley. “Jarrod already filled me in . . ”

“Thank you, sir,” Scott replied. “It's good to be back.” Murdoch and Scott slowly walked over to where Chad was lying on the floor. Johnny was standing over him, and Scott noticed that there was blood on his brother's sleeve. “You were hit.”

“It's nothing, just a graze,” Johnny replied. “I've had worse. Good shooting, Brother.” A gleam of recognition entered Johnny's blue eyes as he noticed the familiar gun dangling from Scott's right hand

“We took that boy in,” Murdoch said, looking at Chad's still form. He shook his white head. “Gave him a home.”

“Murdoch, why don't you take Johnny over there to sit down,” Scott suggested, a concerned look passing between father and son. This had to be very difficult for the youngest Lancer. After all, he had considered Chad a friend and he been betrayed by him.

The attorneys and Judge Blackwell were already discussing the process of having all charges against Johnny Lancer dropped. Will watched as Johnny and Murdoch turned away from the body, and then came up to stand beside Scott.

“Well, that's the answer to the last question,” Will commented after a moment.

“What's that?”

“Why there weren't any other tracks,” Will stated, gesturing at Chad's booted feet.

Johnny had paused and turned back at Hayford's words, and looked down at Chad's feet at the same time as his older brother. “So, how many pairs of those boots you got, Boston?”

“One less pair now.”

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Scott Lancer exited his hotel room, looking up to see Johnny leaning against the wall across from his room, his hat in his hand. His brother was attired in his familiar rose- colored shirt and silver buttoned black pants. Johnny hadn't seemed to be the least bit dismayed that Chad's bullet had ruined the jacket of his black “court” suit.

On his side, Johnny noticed that Scott was dressed for dinner, in his tan jacket, white shirt and black string tie. The black sling was missing.

“How's your shoulder, Johnny?”

His brother shrugged. “Fine. You heard Teresa say she was glad ta bandage me up—“

“Yes,” Scott smiled. “She said it had been so long, she was afraid of getting out of practice.” Dealing with the aftermath of Chad's death and the remaining legal details of Johnny's release had still allowed Scott ample time for a joyful reunion with both Teresa and Jelly.

“Were you waiting for someone?” Scott carefully inquired, pulling the door shut behind him.

“I heard yur goin' to dinner with that so-called friend of yours,” Johnny growled.

“I'm meeting Will for a drink,” Scott corrected him. “I'm having dinner with you.”

Johnny dropped his head, then looked back up his eyes dark with concern. “I don't like it, Scott. He'll try an'---“

“Try and what?” Scott interrupted, with that sad look in his eyes. “Try and convince me you're no good.” He shook his head. “ 'Will would never try to do that now, but even if he did, there is no way he could convince me of that. All he would succeed in doing is destroying whatever chance there might be to save our friendship .”

“He has a lot to answer for, Scott,” the dark haired Lancer declared. “He's going to use that Harvard education of his ta try and talk his way out of what he did ta me.”

“Why don't you go with me?” Scott inquired. “Will asked to talk to you earlier, he even sent a note.”

Johnny unconsciously turned his hat in his hand. “I already told ya' as angry as I am, I ain't sure what I might do.”

Scott walked over, leaning against the wall, next to his brother. “Johnny,” he said quietly. “There are some things I have to discuss with Will, some things I want to make clear.”

“Well, I don't like it.” Johnny declared, putting his hat on his head, he pushed away from the wall. “Just make sure you're there ta meet us at six.”

“I'll be there,” Scott assured him, and started to head down the hall.

“Hey, Boston,” Johnny called after him.

Scott turned, waiting as Johnny quickly walked up to him. “Yes?'

Johnny threw one arm around Scott's shoulders, pulling his brother towards him. Scott was momentarily startled by the brotherly embrace and then responded in kind. As they moved apart, each one looked searchingly at the other.

“We need ta make a deal,” Johnny stated seriously. “We got a problem with each other, we talk about it.”

“That sounds like a great plan to me,” Scott replied, slapping his brother on the arm. “Well . . . .I better get going or I'm never going to make it to dinner.”

“Tell yur friend I said----“ Johnny drawled, a twinkle in his eye. He paused, changing his mind at the look in Scott's eyes. “Never mind, I'll see ya in a while.” He watched as his brother walked down the steps, shaking his dark head as he strolled towards his father's room. Scott would always and forever be a peacemaker, but it would take a lot of time and space before Johnny would be able to stomach bein' in the same room with Will Hayford.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

When Scott entered the restaurant, he looked around until he spied Will sitting at a table in a secluded corner. He walked over and took a seat opposite his friend.

“A whiskey,” Scott said to the waiter, turning to Will. “Will?”

“I'm all set,” Will answered, picking up his glass. “I'm meeting Webster and Reed for dinner in an hour.”

“Things change fast,” Scott commented, raising an eyebrow. “Yesterday they sat on opposite sides of the courtroom and you were a witness.”

“Outside the courtroom, we're all friends,” Will explained quietly. After a brief pause, he added, “I was hoping that Johnny would join us, Scott. There are some things I'd like to say to him. . . I'd like to at least try to apologize.”

“Johnny's too angry to talk to you right now,” Scott began, pausing to carefully gather his thoughts.

“I can understand how he must feel . . ,” Will began.

“Can you?” Scott asked with angry intensity. “If I had been more seriously injured, taken longer to get back, I could have come home to find that my brother was dead.” He paused, giving Will time to reflect on his words. “And I would have also discovered that you had played a major role in his being wrongfully arrested and hung for my murder.”

“You don't know how much I regret that,” Will said softly. “There's no denying, that if your brother had hung, I would have been the one to blame for that.”

Seeing that his friend seemed to be truly remorseful, Scott offered up a dry comment. “Well, Chad did have something to do with it.” Although he took no pleasure in the memory, Scott had no remorse about shooting his ‘cousin' in order to save Johnny.

“It wasn't just the evidence that he planted, Scott. I would have seen through it that much sooner if I hadn't . . . gotten carried away.”

Scott watched his friend carefully. Will sat staring at the changing level of the whiskey in the glass he was grasping between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, tilting it slowly back and forth. As usual, the bottom of Will's right sleeve was pinned to the shoulder of his jacket. With his blind side turned towards Scott, the other man's expression was unreadable. As he examined the damaged face of his childhood friend, Scott thought about how much Will had overcome and how he admired him for it. Somewhat to his own surprise, he heard himself say as much, then add, in a regretful tone, “Apparently you don't think very highly of me.”

Having kept his brown curly head bowed during Scott's expression of regard, Will now looked up at him in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“You should have listened to what I told you about my brother, when I told you that I trusted him and he trusted me. Then perhaps you wouldn't have been so quick to judge him.”

“But I did listen,” Will confessed. Seeing Scott's expression clouded with disbelief, Will pressed on. “That's what angered me, what drove me to . . .to go after him. If you could put that much trust in Johnny, and he betrayed you, I had to make sure that he paid for it.”

“But he didn't betray me,” Scott reminded him. “Will, I'd like to believe that you honestly thought Johnny was guilty, that that was your motivation.” About to continue, Scott stopped as the waiter appeared with his drink. “Thank you.” Once the man had departed, Scott looked at Will once more. “I suspect that everything you did, Will, was because you thought that you * needed * to protect me.”

“It wasn't like that,” Will protested.

“I think it was,” Scott replied, determined to get his point across. “You've been so used to the idea of ‘taking care' of me all these years that you don't know how to let go, but you have to. Part of the reason I left Boston was to get away from my grandfather's …over protectiveness.”

“I know you're right,” the young lawyer finally conceded. “But if I had to do it all over again, given the same set of circumstances, I'm afraid that I might do the same things.”

After a moment, Will continued speaking. “You know, Scott, Chad's goal wasn't to kill you, it was to get revenge on Johnny. Not that that would have made you any less dead, if Chad had had his way.”

Scott's eyes showed his understanding. “Just as your goal wasn't to kill my brother, but to avenge my death. Not that that would have made Johnny any less dead.”

“Exactly. And you can't think that I'm proud to find myself to be . .to be similar to someone like Chad.”

After a short silence, Scott resumed the conversation. “This isn't Boston,” Scott informed him. “Things aren't always as black and white out here, there are a lot of grey areas and my brother falls into one of them.” He took a sip of his whiskey. “Though I closed my eyes to it, it does seem to me that you never liked Johnny, never gave him a chance.”

“That's not true, Scott.”

“I think it is,” Scott said sadly. “You looked for only the negative things.” The blond haired Lancer twirled his glass, watching the liquid splash on the sides. “You even hired someone to investigate his past.”

“I only did that after you told me about Drago,” Will said, defending himself. “And the Gatling gun. Scott, you almost died simply because your brother is—or was—Johnny Madrid, and I wanted to know if it was likely to happen again.” Surprised by this explanation, Scott regarded Will thoughtfully.

“You did come up with a good plan, to confront Chad.”

“That doesn't undo anything.”

“That's true.”

“I realize that this has changed our relationship,” Will added, his expression filled with regret. “That it will be hard for you to forgive this…I knew that before you made that statement to Johnny at the jail.”

“It is different this time,” Scott told him. “It's harder to forgive when it involves my family.” And I know,” he added, holding up a hand to ward off an objection that, on second glance, did not appear to be forthcoming. “I haven't known them very long. It's only been a few years since I learned of Johnny's existence. And, you did spend a lot of years listening to me . . . talking about how much I hated my father, how he didn't care about me.”

Will nodded, but when his friend did not offer a comment, Scott continued. “Now I know that he does care. So does Johnny. And I care about them, Will, very much.”

“I can see that, now. And, I know now that if I'd seen it sooner, I might have worked with them to figure out what had happened. But instead, I acted as if I was the only person that you mattered to. “

“I'm glad that you can see that, Will.”

“I'm not blind, Scott.” His friend grimaced wryly, rubbing at the edge of his black eye patch. “Though I can be single focused, in more ways than one. . . . Actually, it was your grandfather who helped me to see how things are. . ."|

“Grandfather?”

“He really does seem to understand, Scott, how you feel about Johnny . . . . and Murdoch.”

Scott's expression did not alter, but something in his light blue eyes changed, showing how much he valued that piece of information. “That's good to know,” he said mildly.

Across the way, Murdoch, Jelly, Teresa and Johnny entered the hotel dining room. As a concession to its formality, Johnny had donned a black bolero jacket over his brightly colored shirt. He paused in the doorway to survey the room, and spied Will and Scott in their corner. As the others headed to a table, Johnny sauntered towards his brother. “You ready?” 

Scott slowly rose from his seat. “This isn't the time, Will,” he softly admonished him, and was somewhat relieved to see his friend nod in agreement. 

Johnny stopped a short distance from their table, sliding his sharp blue-eyed gaze over Will Hayford without allowing so much as a flicker of an expression to show on his face. He looked directly at Scott. “You comin'?”  

“Yes.” Scott looked down at Will. “I'll be in Sacramento a few more days, to spend some time with Grandfather … and Wade.” He squinted down at his old friend and then added lightly, “You might have told me about Wade.” Scott had been surprised the previous evening, when he'd encountered Wade Garrett at the hotel, to see how much the other man had changed. Wade had lost weight, his bad complexion was masked by a fine growth of beard and he now exuded a far greater self-assurance than Scott had remembered.

Will exhaled softly and a slightly ironic smile touched his lips. “He certainly is no longer ‘The Toad' he once was.”

His curiosity already piqued, Johnny failed to prevent the question from slipping out. “Toad?”

Scott smiled ruefully at his younger brother. “It was an unfortunate nickname that we had for Cousin Wade, when we were boys,” he explained. “I'm not sure who invented it, but I don't believe that Wade ever knew.”

Will pushed his chair back and stood up. “Oh, he knew. And it was my brother John who coined the phrase,” he added, his gaze including both Lancers. “Wade heard John say it once. Of course, my brother John, . . . he told Wade that you'd made it up.”

Scott's eyes widened in dismay at that information, then he shook his head. “No wonder he never liked me much.”

“That's something I * can * fix, Scott.” He looked at Johnny, then back at Scott once more, but again seemed to be addressing both of the brothers. “I know what it is to lose a brother. I wouldn't be very willing to forgive me either.” About to extend his left hand, Will apparently thought better of it, and simply reached up and lightly patted Scott's shoulder. “I hope we'll talk some more, before you leave,” he said, as he moved away, towards the door.

Scott nodded his acceptance. “I'd like that. Good night, Will.” Placing his own hand on Johnny's shoulder, Scott steered his younger brother towards their waiting family.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

Dinner was relaxing, but fairly quiet, once Scott had told his family what he could recall of his stay with Elijah Morse and described his stealthy return to the ranch. The Lancers and Jelly were not eager to rehash the events of the trial, and to Johnny's relief, Scott did not inquire about any of those things that Johnny had said he wasn't going to like. Everyone at the table also studiously avoided mention of the names “Chad” and “Will”.

Eventually, Murdoch Lancer turned the conversation to the ranch, and the work that would be waiting for them there. The Lancer patriarch made no secret of his desire to return home as soon as possible, a wish which Jelly and Teresa clearly shared.

Scott informed Murdoch of his intention to remain in the city for a few days in order to spend time with his grandfather, and then waited for the older man to make his displeasure known. He was pleasantly surprised to find that that was not the case. Murdoch simply nodded and said that he had expected that. There was not a hint of resentment in his tone, or a flicker of annoyance on his face, not even when Johnny announced his intention to remain behind as well, in order to accompany Scott home.

True to his word, Murdoch Lancer departed Sacramento the next day, after taking leave of Nicholas Reed and Jarrod Barkley, and expressing his deep appreciation of everything that they had done on Johnny's behalf. Once back at the ranch, Murdoch also sent Walt Sr. and Alfonso to Elijah Morse's cabin with some supplies and a note of thanks for the assistance the man had rendered to Scott. Reed and Morse were extended open invitations to visit Lancer; Murdoch assured Jarrod Barkley that he would be in touch with Jarrod's mother, Victoria soon, to plan a joint gathering of the two ranching families.

Scott spent a pleasant few days in the company of his grandfather and Wade, and also had lunch with Will Hayford. Despite Scott's repeated invitations for Johnny to join him, the younger man preferred to spend time on his own, restlessly exploring the city, trying not to let Scott see his great impatience to head for home. Both brothers were fairly quiet on the stagecoach trip back to Morro Coyo, spending much of their time traveling in companionable silence.

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

As they cut across the stream and turned their horses west, Scott and Johnny rode within sight of the small Lancer ranch cemetery. A week earlier, Chad had been laid to rest beside Callie. The brothers had not objected to Murdoch's reluctant decision, after all, the man had to be buried somewhere. But none of the Lancers had been present when the ranch hands assigned to the task had lowered the coffin into the grave; no prayers had been recited at the graveside.

“Lot of hate died with im.”

“That's true.”

“Funny how sometimes you can't tell by lookin' at a man that he's all eaten up inside.”

“I doubt he was always like that, Johnny.”

“No, prob'bly not. Maybe just since Callie died.”

“Sometimes its harder to be the one that lives.”

Johnny gave his older brother a long look. “Maybe. . .I guess I just can't understand bein' willin' to go to all that trouble,” he said slowly.

Scott eyed Johnny speculatively. “No . .you wouldn't.”

“Damn right. I had a problem, I'd have it out, face to face.”

“In a gunfight.”

Johnny paused at that. “Not necessarily. But, yeah, that's what I did you know. It's one way ta settle things.. .”

“Did you ever get used to it?”

Johnny sighed. “It's like anything else, you do it often enough or see it. . yeah, in a way, you get used ta it. In other ways, you don't.” Johnny wasn't sure he was making any sense, but he noted that Scott nodded in understanding. He had no way of knowing that his older brother was thinking about that interminable year at Libby.

“I mean, you can't think about what you're doin', you just have to do it. You can't be standing there ready ta face someone's gun and be afraid of killin' . . .or of dyin'.”

“I have never been as afraid as I was when I thought you might hang for killing me,” Scott admitted uncomfortably

“Not as scared as I was,” Johnny replied. “At the thought of never seein' you alive again.”

They rode on in silence for a ways. Johnny slid a glance over at Scott. His blue-grey cropped jacket accentuated Scott's erect posture. His brother's head was up, eyes forward, shaded by the brim of his hat. Impassive expression. Scott sure was hard to get to know. Johnny remembered those first few hours after the older man had come up missing, how one of the first things he'd thought of was how much he still didn't know about Scott and the cold fear that he was never going to get another chance.

“Time I was most afraid of dying would have ta be down in Mexico, just before Murdoch's Pinkerton man showed up.”

Johnny could feel Scott's gaze on him, all attention, just listening, as he slowed Brunswick up a bit to match pace with Barranca. But Scott didn't ask any questions and Johnny didn't look up at him. He figured that now that he'd started, he might as well finish it. “There was all kinds of things I was thinking about while I was sitting in that cell, just waitin', but when I was kneelin' on the ground, and they shot the man in front of me, all I could think about was would I be able to stand up, stay on my feet. But, I guess it's hard ta know til it's time.”

“No, I guess no one really knows,” was Scott's guarded response.

After another long pause, Johnny finally asked a question. “You ever been scared like that?”

“Many times, during the War.”

Scott thought about adding more to that, but he'd never felt successful, trying to describe what it was like to be in the middle of a battlefield, to someone who hadn't been there. He thought about that dark year at Libby and how he had yet to share any of the details with his family. The episode with Dan Cassidy, Lewis and Hardy, had revealed a part of that year, had dragged his past out here to cast a shadow over his new life, but there was still so much more that had been left behind, memories which he was reluctant to expose to the light of day here at Lancer.

But there was something, a moment from his new life, something that he'd discussed with Will, which perhaps he really should have entrusted to his brother before anyone else.

“Johnny, you remember Drago . . . ."

Johnny nodded in appreciation. “Yeah, Scott,” he said in an encouraging tone. “I remember ‘im . . .”

 

~end~

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