The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Kathy W

 

 

Expectations

His first mistake was getting in the spring wagon.

No, if he had to be honest with himself, his first mistake was probably staying out way too late in that cantina in Morro Coyo.  Johnny settled more deeply into his seat, the whisper of a grin on his lips. But at least that mistake had been worth it.

After weeks spent healing up from the bullet in his back, last night had finally been his chance to howl. 

Johnny stole a glance to his left. Scott was looking all bright eyed and bushy tailed.  He had even changed up his eastern duds into a much more acceptable jacket and string tie. Leave it to Boston to figure out real quick how to fit right in.

The buggy lurched, hitting a rut in the road and sending a thunderbolt through Johnny’s head. The tequila had been a rough blanco, the good stuff long gone, courtesy of Ole Day and his boys. Fortunately, the lovely Esmeralda had been plenty soft and more than willin’ to help him work out the kinks in his still-tender back.

“Dios mio,” Johnny mumbled as the wagon rocked a second time in as many minutes.

“Problem, John?” Murdoch tightened his grip on the reins and shifted his attention to his younger son. Theresa finally gave off chattering about whatever it was she was going on and on about and glanced around at him as well.

Last thing he needed was Murdoch looking his way. “Nah, no, Murdoch, I’m good. Go on”

Was that a smile from Scott? Like maybe he had some idea of what Johnny’s head felt like right about now. Johnny felt another twinge, and this one had nothing to do with his head, or his back. This one had to do with the look in Scott’s eyes last night when he took off without him. Scott seemed settled in front of the fire, drinking that brandy that he and Murdoch seemed so fond off, chatting with their father about God knows what, something about some guy named Shakes something.

“Okay, then.” Murdoch clucked at the team and with a slap of the reins the spring wagon resumed its steady pace towards Green River.

The look in Scott’s eyes hadn’t lasted long. He covered it up real quick with a nice and polite, “Have a good evening.” Still, it had given Johnny a moment of hesitation. But the vaqueros were waiting and had been for a while.  He had sat down for dinner at six, just like he was supposed to, and made nice. Now the men were getting restless, he could hear the steady stream of rough Spanish drifting in through the French doors.

No way could he bring Scott along with him. If he had learned one thing in the last two weeks, it was that the cowboys went to Green River on Saturday nights and the vaqueros visited the cantinas in Morro Coyo. To each his own, Johnny got that. Scott wouldn’t. Scott would stick out like the greenhorn gringo that he was. Not a good idea when folks were still all riled up.  Hell, he wasn’t even sure of his own welcome in the town. The Mexican hands had taken to him easy enough, and he had spent half his life in cantinas on both sides of the border. Hopefully his reputation against the rurales would carry him, but he worried that the stink of Pardee and his men might still stick to him. No, Scott was better off at home with their father.

Now he sat trapped in the back of the buggy on his way to Sunday Services of all the damn things. It seemed easier to just say yes to Murdoch’s gruff demands and Theresa’s milk saucer eyes. Easier than getting into another row with the Old Man or seeing a disappointed look on Scott’s face. He could mumble through the Latin well enough, and he knew when to stand and when to kneel. There had been plenty of kneeling in that orphanage in Casa Grandes.

Yup, getting into that spring wagon had been a mistake.

If he had just taken Barranca instead of hoping for another hour of shut eye in the back of the wagon, he’d of been all set. He coulda peeled off when he realized that they weren’t headed to the Mission church in Morro Coyo at all but had made the turn for Green River. Damn. Why didn’t he think of that? Of course Murdoch went to the gringo church in Green River. No Anglo rancher he ever worked for belonged to the Catholic church. 

 Murdoch and Scott were having a ‘lively debate’, as his brother would say. Something about some Old South Church somewhere that they both had been to. And there was all sorts of talk about Congregationalists and Presbysomethings, and some schism, whatever the hell that was. If his head wasn’t already about to fall off, it sure was now.

The Old Man claimed that the church in Green River was a “Community Church” and that all were welcome. Scott, who had been to services with Murdoch and Theresa the last two weeks, seemed to think that the right Reverend Pearson was way too plumped up about himself for his own good. Johnny snorted, it figured. Fit right in with every minister he had ever come across.

Mierda.

Slick as butter his father slid the buggy into a line of carriages parked outside the white clapboard building. No flies on Murdoch when it came to handling a team, he’d give him that.  The neighbors came buzzing around the wagon, glad handing his father, a more restrained greeting reserved for Scott. Not a one of them had been there against Pardee Johnny was quick to notice, but there was nothing new in that. Easy enough to be neighborly on a bright, sunny Sunday morning outside of a church. Not so easy to be friends when the bullets are flying. Johnny sighed. He’d seen it often enough when he was hiring out his gun.

Johnny eased his way slowly from the wagon in an effort to steady his jangled nerves. Now that they had arrived, he could tell what a really, truly bad idea this was. He could see the not so subtle looks from the fine upstanding citizens of Green River—was it his rig they couldn’t take their eyes off, or the calzoneras? Or just maybe it was a little a both? He saw one rancher pull his wife away from Johnny’s side of the wagon. What the hell did the man think that Johnny was going to do, knock her down and take her, right there in the middle of Main Street?  Johnny felt a heaviness in the back of his throat. If he didn’t get ahold of himself right quick, they were gonna be getting a real good look at what was left of the tamales and beans he had for supper last night too.

He squared his shoulders, took a deep breath, and looked to the steps leading up into the church. Johnny could do this, he had to at this point. He had never run from a fight in his life and he wasn’t about to start now. He wouldn’t give anyone the satisfaction of seeing him back down from some puffed up jaybird of a preacher and his narrow-minded flock.

Ignoring the flutter in his chest, Johnny climbed to where the Reverend was greeting his parishioners. Not eager to meet the enemy head on, he thought to flank to the left and ease his way into the darkened church interior.  Once the service started, he could slide out the back, easy as pie, no shots fired, no harm done. It would be simple enough to catch up with Murdoch and the rest after everything was over.

But there he was, Scott, all straight backed and dignified, stepping up behind him. One hand rested lightly but firmly on Johnny’s shoulder and he turned them both to face the music. With a tone he’d come to think of as his brother’s ‘Boston’ voice, Scott announced to the minister, and frankly anyone within a half mile, “Reverend Pearson, I don’t believe that you’ve had the pleasure of meeting my brother, John.” Scott stuck his hand out and met the minister’s own.

A flash of red ignited the minister’s face and Johnny had to choke down a laugh. Clearly not what the man had been expecting then. Good to know. He offered the man his second-best smile and shook the minister’s hand in turn.

Johnny felt a slight squeeze on his shoulder, then his brother’s hand was gone. Scott had moved on ahead, filing into one of the pews behind Murdoch and Theresa. He followed Scott down the aisle and slid in beside his family.  Sparing a quick nod to the man beside him, Johnny eased into his seat and willed the tension away.

Maybe Green River would do for next Saturday night. He’d have to ask Scott about it.

 

 

~end~
11/2019

Author’s note: The Old South Church was founded in Boston in 1729 and is well known for political activism from the Revolution to Abolition to present day.

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