The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Michele U.

 

 

Justice For Johnny

WARNING : DEATH FIC

The Free Spirits Series

Val sat in his office and stared at the wall.  He couldn't feel anything, nothing at all.  He pondered that for a minute.  He knew his deputy, Pete had walked him over here from the saloon.  He'd sat him down in his chair and wrapped a blanket around his shoulders.  ‘Why had he done that?'  Val was cold and he was numb but even the blanket did nothing to warm him.  He realized that it was his heart that was cold and numb, his body was just fine.  ‘Not like Johnny…'  No his best friend was dead.  Val's mind's eye saw him fall over and over again as his bullet struck home. 

‘Why had he killed Johnny?'  He was a good enough shot to have just winged him.  Val's head knew the answer, even if his heart could not accept it.  He had known in that heartbeat that if he'd just wounded Johnny, that his friend would have killed him…even if it was with his last breath.  Johnny was a fighter, he never woulda stayed down. 

Val dropped his head down to his chest.  He shoulda let Johnny kill him, then he wouldn't be sittin' here wishing his friend was alive, because Johnny would be alive…but at the expense of his brother and Val.  He knew that was crazy thinking!  Johnny woulda been hung or shot down trying to escape…he would be just as dead. 

He could hear Pete rummaging around trying to make coffee and thought of how Johnny had teased him about his fryin' pan coffee.  Johnny had hated the stuff and never missed a chance to tell him so.  Val knew he made lousy coffee but he had just gotten used to it. 

Val looked up as the door opened.  For some reason he had thought he would see Johnny sauntering in to harass him about something.  Johnny was always dropping by and sitting a spell, they would talk about everything and nothing at all.  Just seemed to like each other's company, he guessed.  He let a tear run down his face as he realized that Johnny was never walking through that door again.

Sam Jenkins had walked into Val's office with a heavy heart.  He had just left his oldest friend in the world, sitting with his very ill son.  It had broken his heart when he had seen Murdoch telling his youngest son, Johnny goodbye.  He knew they would never get over the loss of the boy.  He had been special to them all and right now he just felt empty inside. 

Sam looked up to see Val sitting at his desk, he was wrapped in a blanket and staring into space.  Thinking of Johnny, no doubt.  Sam didn't know how Val would handle killing Johnny, for all practical purposes, Johnny had not only been Val's best friend but his only family.  Val had a lot of people that liked him and thought highly of him but Sam knew that Val and Johnny were as bonded as brothers.  Sighing, he thought that just maybe this would be the end of Val, as well.

“Val?”  Sam addressed the very still man.

Val looked up at him and Sam could see the tears falling silently down his face.

“Doc.”  Was all Val managed to say.

Sam thought at least he could lighten the load a little for Val.  “Val, Scott pulled through his surgery alright.  It looks like he might make it, if we can get him through the next few days.”  Sam studied the lawman.

Val looked at the floor.  “That's good, Doc.”  He was glad Johnny's brother was still alive…Johnny woulda hated knowing he had killed him.  Hell, he woulda hated he shot him!  What made him do that?

“Why, Doc?  Why did Johnny shoot his brother?  Why did he make me kill him?”  Val was wringing his hands together without even realizing it.

Sam shook his head.  “I don't know, Val.”  And he didn't know, he never would have believed that Johnny could have done something like that, not ever.

“He was off a little tonight, Doc.  You know, before the shooting.  He was real touchy and little things seemed to set him off, he even shoved me when we were playing cards.  The look in his eyes was well, not Johnny.”  Val remembered the look his friend had gave him at the card table.

Sam thought on that a minute before asking Val for anything else he remembered.  “Hell Doc, I don't know anymore.  One minute everything was fine and the next I had killed my best friend!”  Val shouted.

Val closed his eyes but all he could see was Johnny lying on the saloon floor!  “Murdoch!  Doc is Murdoch here?”  Val had suddenly thought of Johnny and Scott's father. 

“Yes, Val he and Jelly rode in right after I had finished with Scott's surgery.”

“Does he know about Johnny, Doc?”  Val asked concerned for the father of his friend.

“He knows, Val.”  Sam rubbed a tired hand down his face as he remembered his friend collapsing into the floor with grief.

Val looked up into Sam's eyes and asked.  “Does he know that I killed him, Doc?”  The pain Sam saw in Val's eyes was crushing.

“No, he isn't able to handle anymore right now.  He is with Scott and trying to deal with his grief over losing Johnny.  Jelly is with him but they are both taking this very hard.”  Sam explained.

Val just nodded.  He wouldn't blame Murdoch if he marched over here and strangled him with his bare hands.  ‘This is my fault.'  Val thought as he pushed his hands through his curly hair.

Sam finally persuaded Val to let him examine him and he poured a cup of coffee that he had Val to drink.  He sighed, as he watched Val succumb to the sleeping powders he had placed in the coffee.  Between him and Pete they carried the sleeping man into the back where Val kept a cot.  Sam knew it would be bad for Val to awaken behind bars so he was happy that Val had a cot in the small storage room for when he had to stay overnight at the jail.

Pete told him that he would stay with Val to make sure he was okay through the night.  Sam was glad Val had such a good deputy, he was sure Val and the town would need him in the coming days and weeks.

Sam left Val's office and made his way back down the street to check on Scott.  He knew the oldest Lancer son had a long way to go and not just in his recovery from his wounds.

Murdoch jumped up as he heard his son shout for his brother! 

“ JOHNNY!! ”  Scott screamed out and fell silent again. 

Murdoch and Jelly both jumped at the sudden sound, having been startled out of an exhausted sleep.  The nurse, Anne ran to Scott's side and checked his pulse and heartbeat before lifting his eyelids.  They showed no response, he had fallen back into unconsciousness. 

“Jesus H. Christ, Scott!  What are you yelling about?  You yell loud enough to wake the dead, brother!”  Johnny said as he followed Sam into the room.  He watched as Sam checked Scott over before realizing that he hadn't known that Scott was hurt! 

“What happened, Doc?”  He asked as Sam went about checking his brother over.  When he didn't answer, Johnny walked closer to the table where his brother lay covered in bandages.

Johnny was shocked to see his brother in such bad shape.  Tears fell from his deep blue eyes as he listened to Sam tell their father that Scott was slipping away from them!  Johnny didn't know why he was losing his brother, but he wasn't gonna let it happen! 

He leaned down near his brother's face and whispered to him, softly. 

“You, stay with me, Boston.  Do you hear me, brother?  Stay with me, please.”  He prayed his brother could hear him and would not leave him.

Rising up and wiping away the tears that were rolling down his face, he turned to his father. 

“Murdoch?  What happened to Scott?”  Johnny asked as he looked down on his brother, once again. 

He was met with only silence and Johnny realized that no one was acknowledging him!  Furious, he ran up to his father and shouted at him!  “Tell me, Old Man!”  But his father just sat down on the chair beside the bed and never even looked up at him. 

Johnny was confused.  Something really bad had happened to his brother and his father wouldn't even look at him!  Had he done something to cause this, shock settled over him as he understood that this was somehow his fault.  Had someone come looking for Johnny Madrid and hurt Scott instead?  Why had they not told him Scott was hurt?  He wouldn't have known if he hadn't heard his brother shout his name to the heavens!

Looking around desperately for answers, he saw Jelly sitting there with his head in his hands.  “Jelly!”  Johnny stood beside his dear friend.  Jelly would tell him what had happened.  “Jelly, what happened to Scott?  I gotta know, Jelly!”  But his friend just sat there, he wouldn't look at him either. 

Johnny felt real panic rising within him, he wrapped his arms around himself tightly, to try to calm his fear.  His thoughts running wild.  ‘What is happening?  Why are they ignoring me?  What did I do?'

 Johnny was startled by a hand on his shoulder!

“Scott!”  He had spun around to see his brother standing behind him!  Relieved, he laughed and grabbed Scott up into a bear hug, before he thought.  ‘Wait a minute!'  Johnny looked past his brother to see his body still lying on the table.  

Stunned, he slowly released his brother.

“Scott?  How can you be here, if you're there?”  Johnny pointed toward the form on the table. 

“Well I am glad to see you too, brother!”  Scott laughed.  Why did Johnny have to make things so hard?  “Obviously, I am appearing to you in some sort of shadow form because I am lying over there” He pointed toward his body.  “Near death!”

Johnny just stared at him like he was crazy!  Perturbed, he glared at his brother!  “I think I am dreaming or you are dreaming because this is insane!  Boston, I swear, if you are keeping me here in this crazy dream with you, I will kick your ass in the morning!”  He shouted at his brother!

Scott rolled his eyes at the ‘Johnny logic' before placing his hands on his hips and challenging his brother's theory.

“No, I don't think I am dreaming, Johnny.  Must be you that is holding us here because you have all the weird dreams, brother!”  Scott stated sarcastically.

Johnny's temper rose like a dust devil in the desert before he finally threw down the gauntlet.

“That tears it, Scott!”  Johnny threw a punch at his brother's face and the fight was on as they rolled around the floor throwing punches and basically beating the hell outta one another!

Johnny stopped fighting when he realized that everyone around them was acting as if nothing was happening.  Surely, Murdoch would have broken up their fight by now!  But, no they were still sitting there with Scott's body. 

How could they not see them or at least him?  He wasn't on the table, he was right here!  They would at least question why he was rolling around on Sam's floor fighting with himself, if they couldn't see Scott. 

Then he remembered.  It was some kind of crazy dream at least one of them was having because the last thing Johnny remembered they were drinking and playing poker with Val in the saloon. 

‘Oh, No!'  Johnny slapped a hand down his face.

‘We must be passed out drunk!  No wonder we are dreaming this crazy shit!  With our luck, we will wake up in jail, again!  Val will probably walk in here any minute with that annoying little smirk on his face.‘  Johnny sighed.  Murdoch was gonna be pissed and somehow Johnny knew it would be his fault!

Scott had also stopped fighting, something was very wrong with this picture.  He looked at his brother then got to his feet and walked over to their father.  Scott waved a hand in front of Murdoch with not even a flinch from the man.  Then he leaned down until his face was an inch from his fathers and shouted as loud as he could. 

“MURDOCH!” Nothing.  Scott raised up and stared at his brother, who only shrugged his shoulders. 

“Johnny, come over here and try again to get their attention.  Maybe they will respond to you since you are not half dead at the moment!” 

Scott knew it was callous of him using his brother like this, fully aware of how upset Johnny was over the whole situation.  But they had to find out what was going on, this was more than some dream.  Scott knew that with all that he was, he knew they were in trouble!

Johnny looked kind of perturbed for a moment before complying with his brother's request.  He sauntered over to Jelly and suddenly leapt in front of the old wrangler, shouting and waving his hands like a maniac!  Scott could not hold back the laugh that escaped as he watched his little brother dancing and shouting! 

He sobered though as he saw Jelly get up and walk right through his brother like he was no more than a shadow!  Scott was stunned at what he had seen and Johnny was shaking off the hibby jibby's as he hurried back to his brother. 

“What the hell was that, Scott?”  Before Scott could answer Johnny continued, fixing hard cobalt eyes on his brother and emphasizing his point with a finger jab to his chest. “So help me Boston, if you say it's a dream I'm gonna smack ya good!”

“Shut up, Johnny!  Just shut up and let me think!”  He pushed his brother away, roughly.  Scott was beside himself with worry.  There had to be a reasonable explanation for all of this, but what?  Nothing made any sense! 

“Okay, let's take this minute by minute, Johnny.  What is the last thing you remember before coming in this room?”  His brother stared blankly at him but he could see the wheels start to turn in his head. 

“Uhm, hell Scott I don't know how I got here!  The last I remember was playing cards in the Silver Dollar with you and Val.  Next thing I know, you are yellin' my name and I followed Sam in here to check on you, brother.”  Johnny had his head down now with his arms wrapped around himself in a self-hug.

Looking up at his brother, Johnny asked.  “What do you remember, Scott?”

Scott paced away before turning back to face his brother.  “I remember Val coming in the saloon and we were drinking and I was teasing you about falling off the horse last week.”  He paused.  “I…I was calling for you.”

Scott remembered his brother's soft voice asking him to stay with him, but he didn't mention that part to his brother. 

“Then I wake up here, like this.  You were questioning everyone but nobody was listening to you.”  That was really strange, Scott thought.  He could understand why they couldn't see him he was still lying on the table over there, apparently dying!  That must be it, Scott thought!

“Johnny, I think I know what is going on at least in part.”  He had an idea but some of the pieces didn't fit together.  Like why Johnny was here, sort of, as well.  

Johnny looked at Scott with hopeful eyes.  Before impatience set in and he snapped at his brother!  “Spit it out, Boston!”  Damn he didn't like how he was feeling right now, he was scared and that was not in his character.

“Johnny” Scott started carefully because he knew his brother was not going to take this well.  “I think that at least some of this is real, I mean I think that I really am on that table over there.”  He turned to look at himself lying so still and frighteningly pale.  Johnny just stared at him disbelieving. 

“No!  I won't accept that, Scott!”  Johnny had started pacing and shaking his head furiously!  “That can't be, I would have known if you were hurt!  I would have been here all along, it doesn't make sense!”  Johnny would never accept that he wasn't here by his brother's side if he needed him, no matter what he would have been here!

“Yeah, it does, amigo” Val had walked in and caught what Scott had been telling Johnny.  He had been very surprised to find himself here as the last thing he remembered was being examined by Sam and treated for shock.  

But somehow here he was, he had been aware of looking down at his friend's body when he'd heard his voice, then his brother's voice.  He had walked in here and the brothers were arguing over what was happening. 

Unfortunately, Val knew and he wasn't looking forward to letting them in on why they were all here, like this.  Val looked down at his faded form. 

Val looked at Johnny and noticed he was almost solid.  Scott appeared nearly as solid as his brother but not quite.  Val wondered about that, he guessed Scott was real bad off and close to death. 

He knew however, that Johnny was all the way there. 

As for himself, he figured the doc had snuck enough sleeping powders in his coffee to knock him out for a while.  He was at least out enough to be here like this, he had remembered wanting to see Johnny and the next thing he knew he had been looking at him. 

Val knew that Johnny's body still lay in Sam's back room.  He realized that Johnny needed to know that but not Scott.  The brothers were so close that if Scott knew his brother was gone, he might not fight hard enough to live and Murdoch would lose both of his sons.

“Val!”  Johnny grinned as he rushed to greet his best friend!  “I knew this was some kinda mistake…”  But Johnny passed right through Val like he wasn't even there!  “What the hell?”  Johnny turned to see his friend behind him, now.  Johnny felt like the World was tilting and he stumbled before his brother caught his arm and held him steady. 

“Val, I think you need to explain some things.”  Scott spoke softly but they could both hear the fear in his voice.

Clearing his throat, Val started.  “I guess I do at that, Scott.”  He sighed and looked up at his friends.

Val did not want to do this, but he knew he had too.  Like it or not, his friend was gone and Val had to try and fix things as best he could.  So, taking in a deep breath he began to tell the brothers what had happened earlier in the saloon.  Leaving out the part about Johnny shooting Scott and Val killing Johnny. 

Johnny and Scott just stared open mouthed at him as he told of Scott being shot several times in the saloon.  He hated lying to his friends but he knew this was the way it had to be.  He continued with telling how Johnny had been blamed because there hadn't been anyone else around to witness the shooting and Johnny had been knocked unconscious, so he couldn't tell them what had happened.  Johnny's Colt had been lying in his hand, still smoking. 

He was still out over at the jail but Sam had said he would be fine, once he woke up.   Val had been so upset over everything that the doc had to give him some sleeping powders so he could get some rest and his deputy Pete was watching over them at the jail.

Val told them how he had woken up, well sort of, to find himself here at Sam's office with the two of them squabbling. 

“That's about all I know, so I guess you two needed a peacekeeper!  So here I am!”  Val tried to make lite of the situation.  Knowing full well there was nothing funny about it and that there would be no fairytale ending to this night.

“Okay, let's get this straight!  Scott is on the table maybe dying!  I am over at the jail accused of trying to kill him, out cold by the way!”  Johnny glared at Val!  “And you Val, are sleeping off some powders Sam gave ya because ya was worried?!  Is that about right, Val?” Johnny didn't believe that last part for shit!  Val needing powders because he was worried!  Did Val really believe he was gonna swallow that bullshit?!

Val was facing Johnny and Scott had his back turned to them looking at himself on the table as his family rallied around him, so Val just shook his head at Johnny.  Johnny understood immediately that Val had not told the whole story!  That scared him more than anything, Val obviously didn't want Scott to know everything.  But, Johnny knew Val would tell him just as soon as he could without Scott hearing.

That opportunity came quicker than they thought as Scott's body started convulsing and the shadow Scott disappeared.  Panicked, Johnny ran over to his brother's body and passed right through Sam as he tried to save his brother.  

“You hold on, Brother!  Don't you dare leave me!”  Johnny shouted at his brother, not knowing if he could hear him or not.  He tried to touch his brother to let him know he was there but he couldn't do it…his hand just passed right through!

“Why can't I touch him Val?”  Johnny asked his friend through his panic.

“Because he's alive, Johnny.”  Val stated, feeling real sympathy for his friend.

Johnny was disbelieving though, “But, I could touch him before.  We were rolling around on the floor and our punches were real as anything, Val!”

Val hated this!  “He was somehow outta his body, like I'm outta mine even though we're still alive.”  He looked to see if Johnny would understand what he was saying.

“But that is crazy, Val!”  Then a thought occurred to Johnny.  “Maybe, I am waking up over at the jail and that is why I can't touch him, Val?”  Johnny turned to go to the jail.  “We gotta knock me back out, Val!”  Johnny shouted as he hurried toward the door. 

But Val beat him to the door and even though Johnny coulda ran right through him, like he did before.  The look on Val's face stopped him cold.  Johnny froze, he knew that look.  Val just shook his head and the grief Johnny saw on his face was frightening!  “No Johnny, you are not waking up over at the jail, amigo.”

Johnny was confused.  “How do you know, Val?”  Johnny was afraid to know the answer.  He was as afraid as he had ever been in his life and that was saying something.

 Johnny took a step back away from Val, he could see that what his friend had to say, he didn't want to hear.  “Johnny, things didn't happen just like I said earlier.  I don't want to have to tell you any of this Johnny, but it's got to be said.”  Val lowered his head and continued but he couldn't look up and meet Johnny's eyes. 

“Johnny it was you that shot Scott over at the saloon.  I had left to break up a fight and drag a drunk off to jail.”  Johnny interrupted.

“Then how could you know I did it, Val?  If you wasn't even there?”  Johnny knew he would never shoot his brother on purpose but looking at Val's bowed head, he also knew his friend would never lie to him, either.

“I came back because of the gunfire, Johnny.  Almost everyone had left the saloon to watch me and Pete drag the drunk down the street.  When I came back in…”  Val had to stop for a second before gathering the courage to continue. 

“When I came back in, Johnny you had already shot Scott once just above his belt.”  Val watched as Johnny shook his head in denial. 

“Scott was stumbling across the floor toward me and you were stalking him like he was your prey, Johnny.  He almost made it to me when you shot him again, this time in the shoulder.  You didn't seem to care that you were killing him Johnny.  You looked right through us, and you taunted Scott.”

Johnny was wrapped in a tight self-hug as he continued to shake his head.  “No!  I couldn't have done that!”

Val knew the worst was to come and there was nothing he could do to prepare his friend for what he was about to hear.  “I pulled my gun on you Johnny as Scott fell to the floor, he was unconscious and bleeding to death.  I begged you to put the gun down and for a second I thought you were gonna do it…then you smiled and shot Scott for the third time.  This one going in his chest as he lay on the floor.”  Val felt tears rolling down his face and he wondered for a second how it was that he could cry in this form?  “I did the only thing I could do to save Scott from you Johnny.”  Johnny looked up at him and Val could see the understanding in his friend's eyes. 

“It's okay, Val I understand what you had to do.  You shot me didn't you?” Val just nodded his head.  “I am not just unconscious am I, Val?”  Johnny had a haunted look on his face as the tears fell slowly from his eyes. 

“No, amigo.  You are not just unconscious.  I am so sorry, Johnny!  I never meant to kill you!”  Val dropped to his knees and cried like he hadn't cried in years!  “Please forgive me, mi amigo!  Please, amigo!  Please!”  Val cried. 

Johnny dropped down beside his best friend.  He wanted to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder to ease his pain.  But, he could not.  He couldn't touch Val because Val was just sleeping and Johnny was sleeping the eternal sleep. 

“Lo siento, mi amigo.  I would take this burden away if I could.  Look at me, Val.”  Slowly, Val raised his head and stared into the tear filled deep blue eyes of his best friend.  His brother by choice instead of blood, he had always liked to believe.

“There is nothing to forgive, mi hermano of my heart.”  Johnny gave Val his biggest smile.  “I will miss you, mi amigo.” 

“What can I do for you, Johnny?”  Val needed to be able to give his friend some amount of peace before he left this world.  Val knew Johnny had known little peace in his short life.“

Johnny just shrugged.  “Look after my family, amigo.  Be a friend to Scott and Murdoch.  Keep an eye on Teresa, she is the sweetest person I have ever known and I would like you to make sure she ends up with the right fella.  Somebody worthy of her.”  Hell, maybe even Scott.  But he would keep that to himself along with the fact that he loved her himself and not like the sister they'd been told to think of her as being.  Johnny knew someone as sweet and innocent as Teresa deserved someone better than a gunhawk, a hired killer. 

Still, it saddened him to know he had never told her how much he loved her and thanked her for the small amount of peace just being near her had brought to him.  How he enjoyed just sitting and talking to her about nothing at all.  How he loved her laugh and how it brought light to his darkness.  He was glad she hadn't felt the same because she deserved so much better than him.

He sighed.  “Look in on Jelly from time to time.  He is a good friend, kinda like my surrogate father, but don't tell Murdoch that!”  Johnny laughed.  “I sure coulda used him in my life before I came to know my own father or before I became Johnny Madrid.”  Johnny dropped his head then as he thought of his other amigo.

“Val, have Scott and Murdoch take Barranca up to Wild Horse Mesa and turn him loose.  He has been a good friend and he deserves to be free.  Up there, he will be safe and he can make some little Barranca's.”  Johnny smiled at the thought of all the offspring shining golden in the sun. 

“Tell, Boston to round one up some day for his first born son, as a gift for his sixteenth birthday.  Tell him it's from his Uncle Johnny.”  Val about lost it!  Just thinking of a future that didn't have Johnny in it, broke his heart. 

Johnny sobered as he asked Val for one more thing.  “Find out what really happened, Val.  Because there is no way I was in my right mind or this wouldn't have happened.”

Val was able to get himself under control enough to look up at Johnny.  But tears were still shining in his eyes.  “Well, amigo there is no time like the present!  You're still here, for now.”  Val looked over to where Scott lay after becoming more stable but it didn't take a doctor to know that he was still in bad shape.

Johnny watched his father as he held his brother's hand and begged him to fight.  He wanted his brother to fight too, their father needed him now more than ever.  Johnny hated what this was doing to his family.  ‘Why did I have to die now, just when I finally had a home and family?'  Johnny sighed and turned back toward Val as he voiced his idea.

“You are here and I am here, what say you and me take a little trip over to the saloon and get us them answers?”  Val asked.  Johnny just smiled that devilish little smile of his and nodded to Val.

Just like that, Johnny and Val were in the saloon.  “Whoa!  And I thought I was fast!”  Johnny laughed.  It was the lighthearted, Johnny at play, laugh.  The one that made him seem so young at times… Val knew he was gonna miss that laugh.

Looking around the now empty saloon, they watched with sadness as Ben the new bartender mopped up the blood from the floor.  He limped back over to the mop bucket and wrung out the blood red mop into the now pink water. 

“Johnny what do you remember about being in here tonight?”  Val asked as he strolled across the floor to the table they had sat at earlier in the evening.

Johnny followed him to the table in the corner.  “I remember you coming in Val and buying us a round or two of beer.  I remember Boston teasing me about falling off that horse when the cinch broke.”  Val asked him.  “Did it break Johnny or was it cut?”

Johnny thought about that for a minute.  “I never looked at it, I was kinda outta it for a while there, Val.”  He wondered at what Val was thinking.

“You think somebody was out ta get me, Val?”  Johnny had to wonder himself, now with everything else that had happened.

“I don't know, Johnny maybe?”  Val was looking over the area around the table.  It had already been cleaned up but Val still found small pieces of glass here and there. 

“Did somebody break a glass, Johnny?”  Val pointed out the tiny shards.  “I remember that you had some cuts on your face.”  Val froze when he realized that he had said too much.  He looked up at Johnny.  Johnny didn't have any marks on him now…not a one.  Not even the bullet wound.  But his body back at the doc's house sure did. 

“When did you notice I had cuts on my face, Val?”  Johnny asked him cautiously. 

Val wanted to punch his own lights out for spilling that piece of information.  “When I saw your body, Johnny.  I couldn't even look at you after you fell from my bullet.  But when I went to sleep, I woke up standing over your body at the doc's house.”  Son of a bitch he had done it again!  Slapping a hand down his face, he cursed. 

“My… my body is over at Sam's, Val?”  Johnny stuttered.  He had been in the same house with his own dead body.  He had a more horrible thought, his family was in the same house with his dead body!   “Have they seen me, Val?  You know, Murdoch and Jelly?”  Johnny asked his friend.

Sighing, Val said.  “Doc told me that Murdoch and Jelly knew you were gone, Johnny.  But, they didn't know the how or why or that I had killed you or that you had shot Scott.  He didn't think they could handle all of that just, yet.”  Val was sorry he'd had to tell his friend that part. 

Val sat down heavily in a chair and went right through to the cellar below.  “Son of a bitch!”  He shouted as he found himself in the saloon's cool storage area.  Looking around he took in all of the kegs of beer and bottles of liquor, not to mention several cases of premium Tequila that were pretty rare for California and even some very old bottles of Scotch. 

“That stinking Lem has been holding out on us!”  Val snarled when he saw the good stuff!

“Johnny!”  Looking up Val began calling for his friend only to nearly jump outta his hide when Johnny spoke from behind him.  “Dammit Johnny!  Don't do that!”  Val was white as a ghost.  He had to laugh at that!  ‘I'm just a shadow of the real ghost in the room and neither of us are all that white!'  Val started chuckling.

“Calm down, Val.”  Johnny spoke in his soft drawl.  He too looked around the storage area and complained as he put his hands on his hips in disgust.  “I wish I knew this was here before, Val.  Now, it does me no damned good!”  He was still muttering to himself when he noticed Val staring at something. 

“Val?”

“Ssshhh!” Val shushed Johnny and waved at him with his hand to back away from the light.

“What the hell ya shushin' me for Val?  I'm a damned ghost ain't nobody can see me or hear me but you and you're lookin' mighty ghostly yourself, amigo!”  Johnny laughed as he reached out in an attempt to touch Val. 

“Quit it, Johnny!” Val laughed as he danced away.  Johnny pursuing him around the kegs as they laughed at each other.  The silliness of what he had done had hit Val and he raved with laughter at the antics of his mischievous friend.  Val stopped playing as he realized that this would most likely be the last time he saw his best friend.  The ache that hit his heart was overwhelming.

Johnny stopped chasing Val when he saw that look come over his friends face.  “I'm sorry, Val.”  Johnny looked down at the dirt floor and wrapped his arms tightly around his surreal body.  Neither looked up as Ben came in and placed a small bottle on the shelf before making his way slowly back upstairs.

The silence that followed as Ben finally made his way out the door was broken by the sudden reappearance of Johnny's brother!  “What did I miss?”  He asked as both Johnny and Val jumped. 

“Don't fucking do that, Boston!”  Johnny had been frightened out of his…'his what?'  He thought.  ‘His mind!' He'd settled on, didn't have much to choose from he figured.  ‘It sucked being dead!'

Ben made his way back into the barroom after removing the evidence of his crime.  He smiled to himself as he limped behind the bar.  He stared at the table where Madrid and his brother had sat, just hours before.  The dark look that passed over his face was unlike the friendly face he had presented to the town since his arrival.  No one would ever guess he had come to Green River to rid the World of that son of a bitch, Johnny Madrid! 

Madrid had put the bullet in him that'd given him the permanent limp that now marked him for life.  He had once been on his way to becoming a successful rancher, not the likes of Lancer certainly but it had been a lot to him.  He'd had a bright future ahead of him, even a nice little lady that had agreed to become his wife.  But that had all changed the day Madrid had ridden into their little town.  The gunhawk had been challenged by the local fast gun, or so the little bastard had thought until he had faced the ‘legendary Johnny Madrid.'  The fuckin' kid had never stood a chance against a killer like Madrid! 

Ben thought back to that fateful day and slammed his fist down on the bar, in fury!  He'd had nothing to do with any of it, he had only come into town to pick up some supplies for his fledgling little ranch.  He had been minding his own business when the gunfight had occurred, he hadn't deserved what had happened to him!  He wasn't a gunman, hated the blasted things!  He only used a gun when necessary and it was mostly just a rifle for hunting or a shotgun on occasion.  He had never understood the men that carried weapons around to use on another human being!

‘Human Being', He smirked.  He was no longer treated as a human being!  He was barely noticed at all, unless it was due to his limp, or being kicked around because he was perceived as being weak!  He was so angry at the way he was treated after his injury that he barely felt human anymore.  He had awoken in the doctor's home three weeks after the shooting to discover that he had been hit by a stray bullet from Madrid's gun, which had shattered his hip bone on his left side, leaving him with a permanent limp. 

His fiancé had abandoned him after learning that he would never be able to walk right again.  He had even lost his small ranch because he could not work to keep up the mortgage payments and what money he'd had went to pay the doctor for his care, not that it would have mattered anyway…not one soul had bothered to keep an eye on the place and what had not been stolen had been taken by the bank.  He sighed and limped over to the still damp place on the wooden floor.  ‘It's just as well,' He thought.  ‘I couldn't manage the physical labor that it took to run the ranch.'   He stared down at the place Madrid had died.  “At least, I got rid of you!  You won't ever be able to do to anyone else what you done to me, you murderin' bastard!”

“You kilt Johnny?”

 Jelly could not believe his ears.  He had been walking around trying to clear his head before heading out to tell Teresa and Cipriano the terrible news.  He could no longer sit and do nothing…he had stopped by the saloon to try and find out what had happened to his boys.  The doc would not say any more about what had happened and Murdoch didn't want to know right now, he had enough to deal with for the time being. 

Stunned, Ben stumbled backwards as Jelly advanced on him!  “You stay away from me, you hear me!”  He backed further away from the old wrangler.  Jelly just kept coming, he had never before felt the intense anger and hatred that flowed through him now! 

“WHY?!  WHAT DID HE EVER DO TO YOU?!”   Jelly was shouting! 

He grabbed Ben by the shirt and shook him before he threw him to the floor.  Ben tried to scramble backwards away from the furious man but Jelly would not be deterred!  He followed the groveling coward until his back hit the far wall and he had no place else to run!  Jelly snatched up the worthless piece of shit that had took his friend away from him and shoved him against the wall. 

“Now, you're gonna tell me what you did to Johnny!”  He shoved him again to make his point!

Ben was terrified!  He had been stupid to say that out loud and now he would likely hang for killing Madrid!  He was done for and he knew it, so he fought back in the only way he could, with his anger! 

“He deserved to die!  I'm glad he's DEAD!  I'm glad I was the one to KILL HIM!  He was nothing but a filthy half-breed that should never have been born!  He should have been drowned at birth!  HE WAS A KILLER!”  Ben was panting for every breath after his rant!  He hated Madrid!  Didn't they understand what he had done to him?  Didn't they know he had taken his life as surely as if he'd put that bullet in his head instead of his hip?  He sank to the floor and cried as he realized that he had become what he had hated most, a killer.

Down in the cellar, Johnny and Val had caught Scott up on things, more or less, when they heard the shouting from upstairs.  Suddenly, they found themselves witness to what could only be considered a bizarre fight between Jelly and Ben! 

The three exchanged puzzled looks as they watched Jelly attacking the new bartender.  Val and Johnny advanced on the two before remembering that they could in no way stop the fight!  Johnny threw up his hands in defeat as Val tried to pull the two apart only to see his hands pass through the combatants!  Scott turned to somehow find help before being frozen in his tracks by the words he heard next. 

“Now, you're gonna tell me what you did to Johnny!” 

‘What the hell?' They all stood frozen in shock from what they'd heard Jelly say!  The diatribe that followed put them all in shock, Johnny was sick with guilt!  This was his fault, again! 

Scott just stared at his brother. “Dead?”  He saw Johnny look up at him and the sorrow in his brother's sapphire eyes told him the truth.  His brother was dead, he had died right here in this saloon.  The reality that struck him upon accepting that truth broke through the bonds on his memory and it all came crashing back to him as he watched the scene play out in front of him.

All the memories of their part in this drama, played out before them.  Including Ben's memories of what had happened to him the day of the gunfight added themselves to the theatre now playing its self out to the three ghostly figures. 

They all watched in stunned horror as Ben took a small bottle from behind the bar and not once but twice poured liberally into the glasses of beer destined for Johnny's hand. 

They did not know what it was but the intent was clear…to cause Johnny harm. 

They watched as Ben intentionally spilled beer on the already irate cowhand, knowing that Val would be drawn away from Johnny, allowing time for the drug to work and for Johnny to become out of hand.  Everyone knew of Johnny's legendary temper and that combined with the recent head injury from the accident and the unintentional goading by Scott had had the desired effect, Johnny had completely snapped! 

Johnny had had nothing to ground him, No Love, No Compassion and No Remorse!  The drug had taken away any barriers that would have prevented the tragedy that was now coming to its painful end as they watched Johnny fall from Val's bullet!

As they watched Johnny's lifeless body crash to the saloon floor, both Val and Scott disappeared!  Johnny was left standing alone in the saloon as Jelly jerked Ben to his feet and half dragged him out the door. 

Johnny just stood in the silence, he was lost and alone, just like he had always been throughout his short life.  He wrapped himself in the familiar self-hug and waited to vanish from the earth.  ‘They will be better off without me…'

Sam had finally told Murdoch what he knew of the events that had led up to Johnny being killed and Scott being mortally wounded.  Scott had continued to fail and Murdoch was beside himself with worry.  He had to know what had happened to his sons, why he had lost Johnny…why he was losing Scott!  What his friend told him was unbelievable!  He shook his head.  He would never believe Johnny had done such a thing! 

“Never!  Sam, he would never do that to his brother!”  Murdoch exclaimed!

Sam felt sympathy for his friend but what could he say?  That is what had happened by all accounts.  “I don't know why it happened, Murdoch.  I only know that it did happen the way I told you.”  Sam hated bringing more bad news to the grieving man.

“It had to be the head injury, Sam from the fall he took last week!”  Murdoch knew he was grasping at anything that would explain what Johnny had done, if in fact he had done those things!  He would never give up looking for the truth!  His son was a good man who'd had to fight for his life every day he lived and he deserved better than to be remembered like this, No!  He would never allow the gossips to run Johnny down, further!  There would be justice for Johnny, if it was the last thing he ever did!

“I can't say, Murdoch.  I wasn't called out to examine Johnny after the fall and by your own account, he seemed alright since then, so we may never know if it was a factor.”  Sam wished he had been summoned to Lancer to take a look at Johnny after his injury.  He knew that head injuries were tricky things but just maybe this could have been prevented. 

Murdoch sat with his head lowered into his hands.  He thought back to his son's behavior since the accident.  He had not noticed any change, no noticeable difference.  Johnny had not missed any work after the one day that he had insisted he take off after the fall and Johnny had about drove him crazy complaining about the restrictions.  But if not the head injury, then what?

Murdoch had one more question for Sam and it was one he dreaded asking.  Taking in a deep breath, he looked over to the table where his eldest son lay so near death.  He had to ask this question…”Sam?  If Johnny shot, Scott.  Who killed Johnny?”  Sam sucked in a sharp breath!  This was the question he wanted to answer the least!

Murdoch saw the hesitation on his friends face and knew he probably could guess who it had been.  “It was Val, wasn't it Sam?”  Who else could it have been?  It had to have been Val, no one else could have come close to taking Johnny down.  Only Val…Johnny would have killed himself to prevent what had happened if he had been able…but mostly he would have spared his friend the guilt of having to kill him!  Johnny was selfless, even if the price was his life…his soul.

“He's not doing well with this Murdoch.”  Sam knew that the sleeping powders were likely wearing off by now and that Val was probably in a great deal of emotional pain.

“It broke his heart, Murdoch.  I don't know that we haven't lost him as well.”  Sam ran a tired hand over his face as he saw the sky begin to lighten in the east. 

“Johnny was more than his friend, he was the brother that he'd never had.” 

“I know, Sam.  I don't know what bonded them so tightly but they were bonded, anyone could see how much they meant to each other.”  Murdoch knew that Val was suffering right along with them, maybe more since he had been the one to take Johnny's life. 

The one thing Murdoch was sure of was Johnny would forgive Val without question.  His son knew about doing the hard things in life and he would understand what Val had had to do…he would even thank him for doing what was necessary to try in save Scott.

Scott had found himself back in his body, lying on the table in Sam's surgery room.  But something was different?  He was aware of what was happening around him, just as he had been when he was out of his body.  He listened intently to his father and Sam speaking of what had happened to him and his brother that evening.  His ‘brother'…'No! I won't let him go!'

Johnny walked out of the saloon as the eastern sky turned a pale shade of pink, announcing the coming dawn.  He stood in the middle of the deserted street and watched with a heavy heart.  He knew his time was short, that this would be his last sunrise. 

Val sat up on the side of the cot and tried to slow his pounding heart!  He had dreamed that he and Scott had been helping Johnny to find out what had happened the evening before that had led to Johnny being killed.  ‘Killed?'  Val thought hard for a second, ‘No, Johnny wasn't dead!'  I must have tied one on last night to dream that I killed Johnny and then helped his ghost find out the reason why.  Val just shook his head wondering what the hell he had been drinking. 

He was shaken from his reverie as Jelly pushed a frazzled looking Ben through the door, slamming it with a bang!  “What the tarnation ya think ya doing, Jelly?”  Val asked.  He looked at the disheveled bartender before taking in the look on the old wranglers face. 

“He did it, Val!  He's the low down snake that kilt Johnny!”  Jelly was furious and Val thought maybe he had been drinking too?  Val got up and stumbled to his desk and sat down hard in his chair.  He had to still be dreaming, or the whole world had gone crazy! 

“Now, just hold on a blasted minute, Jelly.  What are ya going on about?  Did ya have a dream about Johnny dying too?”  Val really needed some coffee he wasn't feelin' all that clear headed.  Jelly just stood there lookin' at him like he had gone around the bend, as he finally laid a hand on the coffee cup that he had left on his desk. 

Jelly sat Ben down none too gently in a chair before coming over to Val.  He looked hard at the sheriff before asking him if he was feelin' alright.  Val just rolled his eyes and rubbed a tired hand down his face.  “Yeah, Jelly I'm…”  Val had looked down into his cup.  He put a finger inside and rubbed it across the bottom, it came back out covered in powder.  Val tasted it, then spit it out!  “Sleepin' Powders!” 

Reality hit Val like a freight train!  “No!”  He felt sick and swayed a little in his chair.  It wasn't a dream!  ‘I killed my best friend!'  Val slowly sank to the floor havin' slipped outta his chair without realizing it. 

Jelly put a hand on Val to offer some comfort and Ben just stared at the floor.  He had done this, he was the cause of all this misery!  He just wanted Madrid to pay, he hadn't thought what the cost would be to anyone else!  He knew he was gonna pay with his life for what he had done. 

He hadn't known when he had taken the mixture from the cellar what exactly it would do to Madrid, he had been warned by Lem not to touch the stuff.  It was some kinda mixture made from Peyote and some other ingredients from the Orient, fatal if taken in large doses.  Lem had mentioned a side effect of violent behavior, that intrigued him but Ben had been more focused on the death aspect of the drug.

It was used as an unorthodox remedy for chronic pain, if diluted with water in small amounts.  But he had given Madrid nearly half the bottle between the two beers he had served him, personally.  Enough to kill him or so he had thought, it had worked out even better because Madrid had lost control to the point of nearly killing his own brother, forcing the sheriff to take Madrid out!

Unsure of the immediate reaction that Madrid would have to the drugs, he had cleverly gotten Val out of the way just in case a violent reaction preceded the death that was sure to follow!  He had hoped that Madrid would suffer greatly, it would be a horrible but fitting death for the notorious killer.  He had been more than pleased to watch the murderin' bastard die!  But, now Ben was the killer and would be the one to pay with his life for the revenge he had felt he deserved. 

Scott fought like he had never fought before, he had to break himself free from his body!  He was about to lose his brother and the thought of life without Johnny was unbearable to him.  ‘No!'  He pushed harder but his earthly body was unwilling to let him go, it was the survival instinct that made his body try to hold on to his spirit.  Scott knew that he would die if he left his body now, but he didn't care.  He had to get to Johnny, if his brother was leaving this world then so was he, his body fought the good fight but his spirit was stronger.

Murdoch looked up as his son's body began to struggle for air.  He leapt up in horror as he watched his son gasp before becoming still and falling lax.  Just as Murdoch reached him, Scott's body took its final breath. 

The rest was a blur for the big Scot as Sam ran in and tried in vain to bring Scott back.  He pounded on his chest trying to restart the silent heart.  Murdoch just stumbled back from what he was witnessing.  The reality settled over him like the weight of the world.  He had lost both of his sons, he dropped to the floor, the despair he felt was too much for him and he just collapsed.

“Nooooo!”  He cried before he was lost in the pain, unable to accept the loss of both of his sons, he faded from consciousness.

Scott felt the break and flew from his body, he could feel Johnny leaving him and it was like a part of his own soul was being ripped away.  Panic hit him as he fled, never seeing his father fall or the fight being waged for his life.  His life was about to leave him behind, his brother, he had to get to his brother!

Johnny saw the light growing brighter but it took a second for him to realize that the bright light now glowing around him wasn't from the coming dawn.  No, it was not the pink of dawn, it was the most amazing light he had ever seen.  It was warm and comforting, he turned to see it glowing brighter and was mesmerized by the peace he felt from the warm glow.  

A figure could be seen now coming from the soft light.  He stared as the form took on the shape of a lovely woman.  She came closer to him but he felt no fear.  The form reached out a hand to him but he hesitated to take it, he heard her speak to him but the words were just in his mind.

“Come with me, son.  It's time to go home.”  The peace and love that filled him with those words healed his broken heart.  He had so longed for the feelings that were now flowing through him.

“Mama?”  He reached out to take her hand.  He knew in an instant that this was not his mother, it was not Maria.  No, this was not the hate filled woman that had made his life a living hell.  It could not be, this woman made him feel loved not unlovable.  She made him feel safe instead of fearful, but if not his mother then who was she and why did she call him son.  As if he had asked the question, she stepped closer to him and touched his face with her celestial hand.  Tears fell down his face as he looked into her eyes, he was overwhelmed with love and acceptance as he realized who the beautiful woman was…

Scott felt like he was running in sand as he tried to reach his brother.  He knew in his heart that he could not go with Johnny but he still needed him.  He ran into the street and could see his brother standing in a bright light that seemed to come from Heaven.  He could see his brother in the arms of a beautiful angel, she held him lovingly and Scott felt a moment of regret for what he was trying to take from his brother.  He knew that his brother deserved the peace that was now surrounding him but Scott needed him to stay.  He reached the edge of the light but could go no further, he could see the tears falling from his brothers sapphire eyes and as the woman turned toward him, he gasped!

“Mother?”

Scott was stunned, the angel she was his own mother.  He had only seen her in pictures and sometimes in his dreams.  But, he knew without a doubt that is who she was and when their eyes met, he was surrounded with love.  He understood in that moment that it was not his time, he had to stay.  He had to stay without his brother, but he felt at peace as he looked upon his mother for the first time and his brother for the last time. 

His brother looked peaceful, there was no past to haunt him, no one coming to do him harm.  No worries and no more hurt, he smiled at Johnny and he received a smile in return that could almost rival the light that surrounded them.  Scott knew his brother would be okay, he would have the peace that he had always deserved. 

Scott felt overwhelming love and gratitude toward his mother, for accepting Johnny.  She had come to ease his passing when he had had no one else.  She had come for Johnny like he was her son and Scott suddenly realized that he was her son of the heart.  He knew that she would have loved and accepted Johnny in life just like she did in death.  She had watched over him just like she had her own son of the flesh.  She had loved Johnny from her place in Heaven and she had come to claim him at the end of his life. 

 Scott felt a mere second of jealousy, he wanted to be with them.  He wanted to go with his brother, he wanted to be with his mother.  He heard the words from her heart to his, ‘I love you, son.  We will be together again one day but for now your father needs you, here.'  She looked at Johnny and they both smiled at Scott.  ‘I will take care of your brother, son.  I have watched over him since before he was born, but now it's his time to come home.  He will be safe in our Father's Hands.' 

“I love you, Mother.  Thank you for looking after my little brother.”  Scott choked out the words with a sob.

Tears fell from his eyes as he saw the love and peace on the faces of his mother and brother.  They were happy tears for them and sad tears for himself.  He wished to go with them but already he felt the pull of his body, it summoned him to return.  He knew he had to say goodbye for now, he fought the tears as he said his last farewell to his brother.

“Johnny, it has been my honor, brother you were the best part of my life.  I just want you to know that I will always love you and I will miss you for the rest of my days.”  Scott lay his hand over his heart as he looked into his brother's beautiful blue eyes.  He would miss the way they danced with mischief and crinkled when he smiled.  He would miss his brother.

Johnny's heart broke for the pain he could see in his brother's pale blue eyes.  He never dreamed of having a brother like this one, he was truly the best part of his life, as well.  His biggest regret was that they had not had a lifetime together.  He touched his hand over his own heart as he spoke to his brother for the last time. 

“Scott, you were the voice of reason when I could see no sense for myself.  You were the rock that grounded me when I wanted to run away.  You accepted me when no one else would, without reservation or fear.  You were my family when I had none, you saved my life many times over without even knowing it, Boston.  I promise I will never be far away.”  Tears fell freely from the deep blue eyes when they looked upon his brother. 

Johnny did not want to leave his brother but it was too late for that now.  “I wish we had grown up together, brother.  Maybe this would not have happened and we would grow old together.”  They both laughed at that, the image of them old and grey with a house full of grandchildren at their feet.  But, the laughter faded as the light waned and their time was at an end.

“Time to go, son.”  His mother looked at them both, she was speaking to both of her sons.  One would be going with her, the other left behind for now.

Scott felt a deep panic in his breaking heart.  But wanting to make his brother and his mother proud, he stood straight and tall before them.  He would not let them down in this final moment. 

“I love you, son.”  Followed by “Te amo, mi hermano.” As the light faded taking his loved ones with it, in an instant they were gone…

Scott was propelled backwards into his own body before the pain could set in from the incredible loss he had just suffered.

Sam dropped his head as he accepted that he had lost the other Lancer son.  Scott had succumbed to his injuries and had slipped away.  Only then did the old doctor notice that the boy's father had fallen to the floor in grief. 

Sam knelt down beside his old friend and tried to bring him around.  His nurse Anne stood by him, sorrow written across her face.  She held smelling salt out to him as he lifted his friends head from the floor.  He was about to administer it to Murdoch when he heard a gasp from his nurse!

Standing up, Sam could see that Scott had started to breathe again!  He watched in fascination as the elder Lancer son gasped for air before settling in to a more even rhythm.  After checking his vitals and by some miracle finding them stronger, Sam was so relieved that he cried.  He was so tired and this night had literally drained the life from him with the pain and loss. 

He again turned his attention to Murdoch, who still lay on the floor.  He decided against trying to wake him but with the help of his nurse, together they managed to lift him onto a cot.  He looked down at his friend, knowing that he needed to sleep but that when he awakened it would be to his living son.  It would not quell the hurt of losing Johnny but he knew that with Scott still with him, that Murdoch would not give up. 

Sam sent up a prayer of thanks that Scott still lived and a prayer for Johnny to find Peace.   A request for all of them to be able to go on and recover from this tragedy… Murdoch, Scott, Jelly, Teresa, himself and Val.  Everyone that had loved and lost, Johnny.

Val Crawford made his way back to the jail, a small bottle clutched in his hand.  He tromped through the freezing rain with a heavy heart.  It had been raining since dawn and the grey dreariness of it matched his dark mood.  He had locked up the man responsible for killing his friend, but he knew that Johnny had actually died by his own hand.  Val looked down at the hand that had held the gun.  He could never put the bullet back in his gun, it was buried in Johnny's heart.  He had killed him, it didn't matter whose fault it had been. 

Val entered the jail, he had sent his deputy home early this morning.  Pete had stepped out just before Val had woken up to remember what he had done.  When he had returned, he had found Val sitting in the floor with Jelly trying to comfort him as he cried.  Val didn't feel any shame for crying, hell he wanted to cry some more…he would if it would bring Johnny back.

He had locked Ben up next to the drunk, before setting off for the saloon to retrieve the evidence from the cellar.  He knew exactly where to find it and had ran into Lem on his way to the door that led downstairs.  Lem had been shocked to learn that his new bartender, Ben had been responsible for Johnny's death.  He hadn't known what had happened until he had returned to town this morning.  Having been out at his hunting cabin for a couple of days. 

Lem had told Val that he had originally ordered the stuff for Old Ned, an oldtimer that had been here since before there was a town, he had passed away almost three years ago.  He wished now that he had never kept the stuff and being the last bottle, it had been watered down so much that he never thought for a second that it could be used to kill anyone.  Lem had felt guilty for keeping it around now, knowing that it had been used to kill Johnny.

Val thought about that, three years ago Johnny wasn't even in California.  He was raising hell on the border, as Johnny Madrid.  No, Johnny had only been here a year or so.  It was ironic that he had been killed by something that had sat on a shelf for three years, untouched.  Only to be used to kill him by someone he didn't even remember. 

Val dropped his head as he set the bottle down on his desk, why did this have to happen to his friend?  He knew that Ben would most likely hang for killing Johnny, but it didn't make him feel any better.  He looked out the window at the falling rain, it felt like it was falling in his heart.  He was weighed down by grief even though he knew it wasn't what Johnny would want.  No, he would want Val to forgive himself just as he had forgiven him but Val could not feel anything right now but pain.

He was startled from his thoughts by a noise from the cell area.  Sighing, he rose and walked in the back only to find Ben swinging from his belt and the drunk looking green around the gills, after witnessing the suicide.  Val hurriedly unlocked the door and lifted Ben's weight as he cut the belt looped over the bars.  But as he lowered him to the floor, he knew he was dead.  His neck broken, the cot tipped over in the floor where he had used it to hang himself. 

Val released the drunk and sent him for the undertaker then walked out and sat at his desk again.  No need to hurry for anyone, Val thought as he watched the drunk stumble down the street in the still misting rain.  Ben was dead weren't nothing anybody could do for him now.  Val wondered for a moment if Ben had any family, anyone that would care that he was dead.

He also had a moment of wondering if Ben were still here in some form or the other.  But, dismissed it since he didn't figure suicide got you too many favors from Heaven. 

No, what had happened last night was the exception, not the normal every day thing.  Val wondered where Johnny was now and if he was happy?  He hoped so, because he had earned it…the hard way. 

He wondered if they had horses in Heaven because a place without horses was no Heaven to Johnny.  Val smiled at the thought of Johnny tearing up the sky on a great steed.  “Maybe they do…” He wondered out loud.

Johnny was special and apparently he'd had a friend in a very HIGH place.  Rightfully so, Johnny deserved the justice that he had gotten.  Val wished he could turn back the clock, he would never have left Johnny in the saloon with his brother, or better yet he would have run Ben outta town before he got so much as a foot in it! 

Of course, if he could turn back time he would have given Johnny an easier life.  Maria never woulda been allowed to take him away in the first place!  By Val's reckoning, that would have solved everything, because Johnny Lancer never woulda been Johnny Madrid, he never woulda been alone.

Then he thought of his own lonely existence, Johnny had been his only family.  He didn't have anyone else, no one at all.  He couldn't think of one damn reason to get outta bed tomorrow.  He looked hard at the bottle sittin' on his desk, evidence that he no longer needed…there had been justice for Johnny.

Val took a piece of paper out of his desk and began to write.  Once he finished the letter, he folded it over and wrote ‘Murdoch Lancer' on it.  Placing it on his desk under the rock he used as a paperweight, he stood and took a long look at his office before dropping his badge on the desk and walking out the door.

 

 

Continued in Free Spirits--->

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