The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link | subglobal1 link
subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link | subglobal2 link
subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link | subglobal3 link
subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link | subglobal4 link
subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link | subglobal5 link
subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link | subglobal6 link
subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link | subglobal7 link
subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link | subglobal8 link

PatriciaG

 

Scott Lancer

 

Alienation of Affection

Thank you to Raian for being an awesome Beta and to Sheri for encouragement and editing advice.

Scott, recovering from near pneumonia, had been relegated to “desk work” while Johnny and Murdoch ran the day-to-day activities at the ranch.

Father and son entered the hacienda through the French doors that stood open to let in a cool breeze for Scott at the desk.

“Yeah, but Murdoch, how is it I’m covered with cow dung and mud and you still look clean?” Johnny stared incredulously at his father.

“Ha! Years of practice and knowing how to delegate, son. You should also know that cow excrement won’t stick to your old man.”

“What?” Johnny howled with laughter.

Scott smiled while he watched his father and brother’s antics. It was nice to see them getting along so well.  They didn’t seem to be butting heads as often as they used to. He just wished he was a part of it instead of being stuck working on the books.

“Come on old man, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee,” Johnny put his arm around Murdoch and led him into the kitchen. Neither man spoke to Scott or even acknowledged him. A feelings of anxiety flooded Scott because he wasn’t a part of his family’s inner circle, but he quickly dismissed it as nonsense.

“I don’t think ol’ Boston even suspects a thing.” Now that they weren’t within earshot of Scott, Johnny felt comfortable talking about his plans for Scott’s surprise birthday party. “Teresa is making him a chocolate cake for his birthday. I can’t wait till it’s my birthday. The gifts I ordered have already come in. The hands are planning a big surprise, but won’t tell me what it is. Have you talked to Dr. Jenkins, Widow Hargis, Zee, and the town folks?” Murdoch nodded.

“Yes and I’ve gotten a package from …” Murdoch stopped talking because he saw his eldest walk into the kitchen.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt. I just thought I would join you two for lunch.” Scott looked at both men and waited for them to ask him to join them or just accept his presence.

“Actually Scott, we’re just going to grab something and get right back out there.”

Murdoch and Johnny looked at each other, grabbed a sandwich and headed out the door, smiling at each other. Actually, Johnny even grinned at his father.

Again, puzzled, Scott didn’t understand their behavior. He was trying not to get angry, but this had been going on for several weeks now. Was everyone avoiding him? He was deep in thought when …

“While Jelly is in town, we need him to get some more flour and sugar and cocoa powder ---,” Teresa, talking to Maria, stopped midsentence when she noticed Scott was sitting at the kitchen table. “Scott, I didn’t know you were here. Is there something you need?” she rather abruptly questioned her brother.  Before he could respond, Teresa continued, “We are really busy today, so just grab a sandwich if you’re hungry and take it with you.”

“All right, I was just leaving,” stammered Scott, a little embarrassed.

Scott tried to not let it bother him that everyone left him out of conversations, met in secret, whispered and seemed to change the subject whenever he was around. Maybe he was getting paranoid.

Scott took his sandwich out to the barn. He hoped a change in scenery would lighten his mood. He walked in expecting to see his beloved bay, Charlie, but instead saw an empty stall next to Barranca.

“Has anybody seen Charlie?” Scott questioned Walt.

“Oh, I think Johnny took him out, since he wasn’t getting much exercise from you lately. I think your brother said something about enjoying having two horses to call his own,” joked Walt.

Scott bent his head in disgust, another example of his family carrying on without him. He slowly walked back into the hacienda. He passed people, but no one spoke to him. It was as if he was invisible. Maybe he should take the hint. As he entered the house, he glanced around the great room. It was such a big room, but it always felt cozy to him. The way it was divided up into office, dining room, and living room with the great fire place made it seem smaller than it actually was.

“I know when I’m not needed,” mumbled Scott. He slowly dragged himself up to his room. His bedroom door was open. Obviously someone had come in to clean, because everything was in its place, except there was a frame face down on the floor. It was the picture of General Sheridan and himself all “smarted up.” It had been knocked to the floor with the glass broken and nobody had noticed.

Finally, after all of the secrecy from his family, Scott was fed up with being avoided. He thought about a letter that he had received from his Harvard friend, Joshua Springs, who invited Scott to join him in a business venture in the San Francisco area. He had turned him down because he was already one-third owner of Lancer. Now, he just couldn’t seem to remember why he wanted to stay at the ranch.

Maybe if he had a break from his family he could get his mind on straight. Scott bumped into his father at the bottom of the stairs.

“Murdoch, I’m getting tired of working on the books. Now that Dr. Jenkins has released me from bed rest, I was wondering if you had a business trip that I could take to buy horses, cows, run some errands, anything to get back out there working again.”

Murdoch didn’t want his son to leave, but Johnny strolled up during the conversation and added his two cents worth.

“I think that’d be a great idea, Murdoch. Why don’t you send Scott off somewhere?” Johnny hoped that his father got the hint that he wanted more time to set up the party.

Thinking that Scott would only be gone for a couple of days, Murdoch agreed to his request.
“You know, Scott, I really don’t have any business for you to do right now, but you can just take some time off if you’d like. You aren’t really needed here to help run the ranch right now, so … go ahead, and take some time.”

Scott nodded, “Alright, I’ll … leave in the morning then.”

“Great Boston, have a nice time. Don’t worry about us. Everything will run smoothly while you’re gone.” Johnny was thinking, if Scott left tomorrow he wouldn’t be back until Saturday. That will be perfect.

Scott was confused. Why did it seem like they were glad that he was leaving for a little time off? Scott made his decision. His family had made it easy for him. After all the times that they had treated him like a greenhorn and now they didn’t care if he was around. So, maybe now would be a good time to leave Lancer.

“I don’t want to go back to Boston. That isn’t my life anymore. And I don’t want to compete with Lancer for cattle ranching. It would only bring back too many disappointed memories of my family.” Scott’s stream of consciousness, led him to only one conclusion. It was time to leave.
 
While he packed to leave, no one stopped by to say goodbye, have a safe trip, see you in a few days, nothing. He tried to go around saying goodbye to his family and friends, but everyone was too busy. They just thought he was making a short trip, but again his family had made his decision to leave easy.

Everyone felt relieved that Scott did not suspect their true party plans. No one noticed how their actions and secrecy had affected him.

*****

Scott stopped at the bank in Morro Coyo to get $5,000 from his personal account.

The banker, who planned on coming to the party, almost let it slip. “I’ll see you on Saturday. Have a safe trip.”
Scott was confused, but appreciated someone wishing him well, at least.

Scott traveled on to Green River where he put Charlie up in the livery. “Could someone take Charlie out to the ranch in a few days?”

“Sure thing, Mr. Lancer. Won’t you need it when you get back, though?” Scott sadly shook his head.

Then, he traveled by stage to Cross Creek where he would take the train to San Francisco. Before boarding the train, he stopped at the telegraph office to send a telegram to his friend.

Joshua Springs,

I will be arriving on the evening train tomorrow.
I look forward to our business venture.

Scott Lancer

*****

Saturday morning came and Scott had not returned to the ranch.

“Johnny, do you think Scott will be back in time for his own party?” Teresa was concerned as to when she should hang the decorations.

“Scott will be here. Go ahead and get started. The guest will be arriving around 4:00.”

Dr. Sam Jenkins and Val Crawford arrived around the same time. More of the townspeople staggered in as the night progressed.
 
“Murdoch, I hope nothing’s happened to Scott Lancer. I would hate for the boy to miss his own party,” Widow Hargis voiced the thoughts of everyone at the party.

Murdoch turned to the guest and cleared his throat, “Well, I appreciate everyone coming out to celebrate Scott’s birthday, even if the guest of honor wasn’t present. I’m sure he’ll be mighty sorry to have missed all of you. Well, we have learned a valuable lesson tonight. Don’t plan surprise parties, because you might be the one getting surprised.” Most guests laughed, but his family members began to worry.

After two more days had passed, the family began to seriously worry about where Scott might be. Maria went to cleaned Scott’s room and opened the window to air it out. A strong breeze knocked an envelope off the dresser and it landed under his bed. As she later swept under his bed, she found the note he had left for Murdoch. She took it to Murdoch, who realized after he read it that their conniving ways had gone too far.

Murdoch,

I have appreciated my time at Lancer. I have tried my best to assimilate to ranching, but have obviously failed. I realized this past few weeks that this ranch doesn’t need me to run smoothly. I know that you will carry on just fine without me. You have done so for over 20 years. I am truly happy that you and Johnny are working well together. I hope Lancer is prosperous for many years to come.

I care for all of you very much and will miss you.

Your son,
Scott

“Johnny!” Murdoch bellowed. “Your little surprise party really backfired. All the secrets, avoiding your brother, he thought that we didn’t need him anymore. Oh, how could we have let things get so out of hand?”

“Damn it, Boston! Don’t worry Murdoch, I’ll find him and make it right.”
Johnny was beside himself with guilt. He had pushed his brother, his best friend away.

Johnny saddled up Barranca and rushed to Morro Coyo to try to track down Scott. He talked to people in the saloon, the mercantile and the livery. No one had seen Scott. Johnny finally went to the bank where he found out his brother had withdrawn a large amount of money from his personal bank account. Next, he went to the stage depot, but Scott hadn’t taken a stage anywhere. Next, Johnny decided to check out Green River to see if his brother had gone there.

Upon arriving in town, he went directly to the livery. Scott’s horse, Charlie, was being led out of the barn.

“Hey Johnny, I was just about to have Jake take Charlie back out to the ranch. Sure was strange that Scott didn’t want me to keep him here until he got back.” The livery owner was perplexed.

“Where did Scott go?” Johnny wondered.

“He didn’t tell me. Why don’t you check the stage depot?”

Johnny wandered over to the stage depot. The old man on duty couldn’t remember if he had sold a ticket to Scott. “I just can’t remember who all buys a ticket and where they’re goin’. We have so many people comin’ and goin’ around here.”

Frustrated on which way to go, Johnny decided to head home to talk it over with Murdoch. He brought Charlie home to Lancer with him.

*****

Soon after Scott’s birthday, December 19th, and Christmas came and went without a word from him, they continued to feel guilty about their actions. Especially when they found presents that Scott had left for them in his wardrobe in his room.

After New Year’s, Murdoch hired Pinkerton Agents to track Scott down.

In early February, Murdoch finally sent Harlan Garrett a telegram:
Is Scott with you? Missing since Christmas. I’ve hired Pinkertons.

Scott’s Grandfather replied:
I have not heard from Scotty. I am hiring Pinkerton Agents. I will find him.

*****

The ranch had its usual routines: fences mended, cattle branded, herds moved to other pastures, and horses broken. Murdoch and Johnny continued to work the ranch, but neither man had their hearts in it without Scott. No one mentioned his name around Teresa or Maria lest the women begin to cry. It was worse than a death, because they couldn’t even visit his grave to mourn him.

Murdoch decided that things needed to change. The Annual California Cattle Growers Meeting was coming up soon in San Francisco. Usually all the Lancers and Teresa would go and make a grand trip of it.  

At dinner that evening, Murdoch announced, “I think we should all go to San Francisco next week for the annual meeting. It would do us all good to get away from the ranch for a few weeks.”

“Ah, Murdoch, I really don’t think I need to go this year. It just don’t feel right to go without Scott.”

“We can’t stop living just because your brother chose to leave us! We are all going. No discussion.”

Teresa got up from the table and ran off to her room crying. It would be the first trip without Scott.  Murdoch watched as Johnny nodded, got up from the table, and headed to his room.

“Boss, a rider just rushed this telegram in from town. He said it’s urgent.” Jelly rushed into the great room and was out of breath by the time he finished speaking.

Murdoch opened the telegram and scanned it quickly.

“Johnny, Teresa, Jelly! The Pinkerton’s have found Scott in San Francisco!”

“Yes!” Johnny burst out in a huge smile. “I’m gonna go start packing right now. Everything is gonna be OK again.”

*****

The trip to San Francisco was uneventful and painfully long. Teresa spent most of the time looking out the stage window, while Johnny tried to keep a grin off his face, but couldn’t. Murdoch was deep in thought.  He was wondering what he was going to say to his wayward son.  

Upon arrival, the Lancers checked into the hotel by the water front.

“Scott loved this hotel. I wonder if he’s here for the meeting.” Johnny hesitantly asked. Teresa looked around expectantly, wanting Scott to appear.

“You two go drop off our bags in our rooms. I’m going to go check in at the Pinkerton’s office. Why don’t you clean up and rest. We can have dinner afterward.” Murdoch spoke hurriedly. He didn’t want to wait another minute to find out where Scott might be.

The Pinkerton Agency had no further information than what was on the telegram. Scott had been sighted in the San Francisco area. He had been to the bank to do some transactions.

“I’m staying at the Grand Union Hotel. Please send any new information to me as soon as possible.” Murdoch walked slowly back to the hotel with his head held down in disappointment.

*****

At dinner that night, Murdoch ordered a bottle of red wine to go with his steak dinner. Johnny noticed the bottle had the brand Lancer Springs on it.

“Hey Murdoch, that wine bottle has our name on it.”

“Johnny, I hadn’t noticed. That’s unusual. Could there be a spring around here named after our ancestors?”

Murdoch called the waiter over and asked him, “Where is the vineyard for Lancer Springs Winery located? Is it near here?”

“It’s located just eight miles north of the city. We just started carrying that brand last week. It’s been very popular with the guests at the hotel.”

They decided to schedule a trip to the winery the next afternoon after the annual meeting.
 
Johnny was convinced that his brother would be at the meeting tomorrow morning, but he and Murdoch left disappointed because Scott wasn’t there. They all hoped that the afternoon ride would raise their spirits.

*****

It turned out that the ride to the winery was relaxing. It was only just over an hour ride from the city. Johnny and Teresa were chatting about the ocean air and the difference in temperature and weather from the San Francisco waterfront to the inland country.

The three arrived at their destination, tied up their mounts, and walked up to the front of the house on the property. Just as they reach the door it opened, and to their surprise, Scott stood there. All mouths dropped open in shock. Then, Johnny reared back and landed his right fist on his brother’s chin. Scott dropped to the floor. Murdoch quickly pulled his youngest off his oldest son.

“How could you? How could you leave without telling us?” Teresa blubbered.

“Yeah, I looked for you. Murdoch hired Pinkertons. What were you thinking?” Johnny yelled at his brother.

“That I didn’t belong! That I wasn’t needed! I did try to say goodbye, but no one cared. I did leave a note. I spent weeks feeling lost and alone.” His family stared at Scott in shock. “I needed to find a place to fit in and I’ve found it here.” Scott finally took a breath, “I’m … I’m needed here.”

“Son, you’re needed at Lancer.”

“We were just planning a surprise party for your birthday. That’s why we were avoiding you. We never wanted you to leave,” Teresa explained.

“I remember the last thing you said to me, sir. You aren’t really needed to help run the ranch. How was that supposed to make me feel?”

The silence was deafening. No one wanted to admit to being wrong. Finally Scott spoke up.

“I’ve been meaning to write and let you know where I was, but it’s been really busy here. I understand we all have hurt feelings, but I think it would be best if we put this all behind us and move on… separately.”

“But Scott, we want to you come back to Lancer with us.” Teresa tried to change his mind. Scott simply shook his head.

“I can’t go back. I’m making a life of my own here. Murdoch, if you want me to sign some paper relinquishing my partnership in Lancer, I will.”

Murdoch gulped back a shocked sound. “No, I don’t think we need to do that, son. I think we should let some time go by and talk about it later.”

Scott didn’t want to argue with his father, so he simply nodded his agreement.

“Would you care to see the winery?” Scott suggested trying to calm everyone down.
“I think I’ve seen all I need to see, Boston.” Johnny stated venomously.

Murdoch and Teresa nodded in agreement with Johnny.

They turned their backs on Scott and rode heart-broken back to the hotel. They were devastated that their deception had caused their family to be ripped apart.

*****

“I’m not buying it Murdoch, that’s all. Scott can’t be happy here. He loved it at Lancer. I can’t just let it go. I’m going back to talk to him again.”

“Johnny, Scott’s a grown man. He can make decisions about his own life for himself.”

“Well, maybe he just needs some convincing.”

“Son, don’t use your fists again or your gun. Use your words and your brotherly charm.”

“Murdoch, you and Teresa go on back to the ranch without me. I’ll be back in a week with Scott. I’m not leaving until he makes the right decision to come back to Lancer.”

Johnny decided that he needed to correct the mistakes that he had made with his brother and the only way to do that would be some alone time with him.

*****

Later that evening, Johnny rode back out to the vineyard. He quietly watched the house to get the lay out of the property. He saw his brother come out of the house with a glass of wine in his hand. Scott looked deep in thought as he gazed out at the grapes. He didn’t hear his brother sneak up, nor did he expect anyone to be around. He heard the distinctive sound of spurs, just before the click of the pistol hammer being pulled back.

“Scott, you are coming with me. We are going to have a little talk.”

Scott turned to see Johnny holding a gun on him. “What are you doing? What’s that gun for? I think we’ve said all we need to say, brother.”

“Not until you change your mind and decide to return to Lancer, Boston,” Johnny use the term of endearment that his brother hated then grew to love.

“Johnny, I understand what you’re trying to do, but I have a life here now. I’m not going back to the ranch.” Scott was irritated at his brother.

“You will ride with me by choice or by force, brother.”

“Are you seriously considering kidnapping me?” Scott asked incredulously.
“I’ll do whatever it takes for you to see reason.”

“Johnny, when you chose to leave the ranch because you couldn’t get along with Murdoch, I didn’t force you to return. I just came to talk to you in that small town bar. I let you decide when you were ready to come back to Lancer.” Scott stopped to take a breath. “You all came and talked to me earlier today and I listened, but I’m not going back. Now it’s time for you to go back to Lancer!” Scott was starting to get annoyed.

“Nope,” Johnny shook his head. “You will ride with me. That will give us a chance to really talk. I know that I can convince you to move back to Lancer by the time we reach the ranch.

“And if I refuse?” Scott left his question hanging.

“I will hog tie you to the saddle and drag your sorry butt back to Lancer!”

The two brothers stared intently at each other. Finally, Scott relented.

“I’ll go back with you, but only because I have things that I left at the ranch that I need to bring back with me. When do we leave?”

“Now! I have an extra horse. Get your saddle bags packed and be back here in five minutes or I’m coming in to get you. I have a rope and I know how to use it.” Johnny was half kidding and half serious.

Scott left Johnny outside while he went in to tell his partner he’d be gone for a few weeks. “I’ve some loose ends I need to take care of back at the ranch. Then I’ll be back.”

*****

Now that Johnny had his brother with him, he couldn’t think of anything to say and Scott wasn’t going to help his brother out in making conversation. They rode along together in silence until they got outside of San Francisco.

“Why don’t we make camp for the night?” It sounded stilted to Johnny’s own ears.

“All right.”

“I’ll take care of the horses. Do you want to start a fire?”

“Fine.”

“I brought some jerky and biscuits if you’re hungry.”

“No, thanks.”

“Could you put some coffee on?”

“Sure,” Scott was determined to not make this easy on his brother.

“Boston, you sure don’t have much to say.”

“No, I don’t.”

Scott and Johnny sat with a cup of coffee in their hands, staring at the fire. Johnny started to wonder if this was such a good idea. Maybe tomorrow they could talk about some of their experiences at the ranch. Maybe Scott would forgive him for how they treated him.

“Wait! Why am I feeling guilty? I was just trying to do something nice for you, brother!” Johnny exploded at Scott, and then calmed down, “I’m sorry that you got your feelings all hurt, but you should’ve talked to me.”

“What?! I tried! How would you feel if everyone shunned you?” Scott took his frustration out on his brother. “I did try. For weeks I felt alienated. I just couldn’t handle being ostracized from everyone.” Scott shouted at his brother. “It finally felt good to be accepted and needed again. Joshua wanted my help, appreciated my ideas … and made me feel like I had a family again.” By the time Scott finished talking, his anger had dissipated.

Both brothers sat and stared at each other in silence.

“This just isn’t going to change anything, Johnny,” Scott quietly looked at his brother, “I’m going back to the Winery.”

Johnny pulled his gun on his brother.

“I’m not kidding, Boston. You are going to go back to Lancer with me to face everyone. I’ll hog tie you if I have to.”

Scott looked at his brother with astonishment. “You wouldn’t dare.”

Johnny grabbed the rope that he had been hiding under his saddle and walked toward his brother.

Scott jumped to his feet and ran for his horse. Just as he was leaping onto his mount, Johnny pulled him to the ground. Scott scrambled to his feet only to be pushed back to the ground. After all the wrestling was over, Johnny had a bloody lip and his left eye was swollen and bruised. Scott had bruises on his arms, a cut lip and his hands were tied together in front of him.

“I will untie you in the morning. This way I can make sure you don’t try to sneak off during the night.”

Scott fumed. He couldn’t decide whether to try to make a break for it the first chance he got, or submit until he got back to the ranch. For the moment, he gave his brother the cold shoulder. He lay down on his bedroll, turned his back on Johnny, and pretended to go to sleep.

Johnny regretted what he had done to his big brother, but he felt justified because he had to get Scott back to the ranch. Everything would work out once Boston was back at Lancer. Johnny lay back on his bedroll and closed his eyes. He wrapped the end of the rope that was tied to his brother’s hands, to his leg, so he could feel if his brother tried anything.

Both brothers had a restless night. Johnny woke at daybreak. He stoked the fire and put some fresh coffee on to heat.

Scott didn’t turn to look at his brother. “Are you going to take these ropes off?”

“I didn’t know you were awake, Scott.” Johnny knelt to remove the ropes from his brother’s hands. He noticed that Scott hadn’t tried to remove them during the night because his wrists looked uninjured. “Are you hungry? I have the biscuits and jerky from last night.”

Scott simply shook his head.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Scott nodded.

“Are you going to speak to me?”

Scott shrugged his shoulders.

This wasn’t the reaction that Johnny expected. He thought his brother would yell at him, try to break away, or even deck him, but not the silent treatment. It would to be a long quiet trip if he couldn’t get his brother to talk about the good memories from Lancer.

Scott stood up, stretched, and started to walk toward the grove of trees where the horses were tied. Johnny started to go after his brother until Scott turned around.

“A little privacy, please...”

“Oh,” Johnny realized his mistake. His brother wasn’t trying to leave, he was just going to relieve himself.

By the time Scott returned, Johnny had doused the fire, packed up the left overs, and was tying the bedrolls onto the horses.

Scott dutifully climbed onto his horse and waited for Johnny to mount his. The brothers rode side-by-side back to the trail that would lead them home.

*****

“Murdoch, I wonder how Johnny is going to convince Scott to come back to Lancer.”

“Teresa, I wouldn’t worry about Johnny. He loves his brother and Scott him. I think Johnny can charm him into returning. Once Scott steps foot back on Lancer, he’ll want to stay.”

“It’ll be nice to be a family under one roof again.”

*****

 After riding for three hours with very little communication between the brothers, Johnny suggested that they stop for lunch. “Do you want me to heat up some beans?

“Johnny, I’m not really hungry, but you can if you want to.”

“Boston, you’ve got to eat something. I’m not bringing you back looking like a skeleton. Jerky, beans or both?”

“I guess jerky, then.”

Johnny was getting more frustrated with his brother, but also with himself.

“Scott?” Johnny was standing by his horse watching his brother dismount. “Did you miss us?”

“Did I miss you?” Scott answered quietly, but then his temper flared. “I missed you even before I left!”

Johnny hadn’t meant to anger his brother. He only hoped to start a conversation, but he felt he‘d failed miserably. He thought of another tactic.

“Brother, do you remember that first day on the stage when we met?”

Scott nodded with a slight smile, just a crack in the armor that he had surrounded himself with to keep the hurt from overwhelming him.

“I thought you were a salesman, all smarted up in your city clothes. I kept tryin’ to figure out what you were selling. Want to know what I came up with?”

“Sure, Johnny, what kind of salesman did you think I was?”

“Soap! I thought you were selling soap. Even with dust from the stage, you still looked clean. You even smelled clean.”

“Oh, do you want to know what I thought about you, brother?”

“Watch what you say, Scott. I’d hate to have to shoot you,” Johnny kidded.

“I saw pictures of gunhawks on dime novels, but I’ve never seen one in person. So, that didn’t enter my thoughts.” Scott thought back, remembering that day on the stage when Johnny wore calzoneras and his favorite red embroidered shirt. “No, I thought you were an actor. Dressed up for a play.”

“What?!” roared Johnny, “You thought my clothes were a costume?”

Both brothers laughed at their misconceptions.

“Johnny, how far are we from Walnut Creek?” Johnny guessed where his brother’s thoughts were going.

“A couple of hours. Why? Are you wanting to stop there tonight?”

“Since, we’re closer to the ranch than San Francisco, I won’t try to head back there. I would like a good hot meal, a bath, and a soft bed. I want to look my best when we return to Lancer.”

“I think that’s a good idea. We can also send a telegram to Murdoch to let him know we’ll be home in a few days. And Boston, the way you like to keep clean, you would’ve been a great soap seller.”

That comment from Johnny brought another hard won smile to Scott’s face.

The boys traveled on in better moods than they had originally started with. They made it to town just before sunset. Scott went into the hotel to get them a room and requested two bath tubs while Johnny took the horses down to the livery. Both brothers had decided to meet in the saloon for a beer to wash down the trail dust before dinner.

Scott got to the saloon before his brother. He remembered his brother’s instructions to always stop and look around before entering. It was a quiet evening, so he strolled over to the bar. Scott leaned on the bar as he spoke to the bartender and placed his drink order. One small town saloon looked like another. He remembered many misadventures with his brother in saloons. These memories brought another smirk to Scott’s face.

Johnny glanced through the saloon doors and walked over to stand by his brother at the bar.

“The beers aren’t really cold, but they’re wet, brother. Did you get the horses taken care of?”

“Yep. Thanks for the beer.”

“You’re welcome. I also ordered bath tubs to be brought up to our rooms after dinner. I saw a nice little café down the street where we could ---”

Johnny interrupted Scott in mid-sentence and leaned in to give his brother instructions in a low, quiet voice. “Scott, I want you to walk out of the saloon and don’t look back.”

“No, I’m not leaving you. Whatever the problem is, we’ll face it together.”

“Boston, I don’t want to be thinkin’ about you when the shootin’ starts.”

“Brother, I have your back. No matter what. I am staying.”

“I need to do this my own way. I don’t want to have to worry about you getting hurt. Now get!”

“Johnny, I have your back.”

“Well … if it isn’t Johnny Madrid! What brings you out from under that rock you’ve been hiding under?” A tall man with a scar from his left eyebrow to his chin saundered over to the brothers. Scott noticed he had a long gun tied to his hip. He had never seen a gun like that before, but obviously Johnny had.

“Raf, I’m not hidin’. I’m just not in the business anymore.”

“Madrid, retired?” Raf laughed loudly. “Most men in our line of business don’t retire above ground. If you know what I mean.” The gunman smiled as he turned to look at Scott, “And I overheard this gent next to you called you brother. I remember my brother. I loved him very much. He was stupid enough to call you out, Madrid, and paid the price. I think I want to call your brother out.”

Scott now understood why Johnny didn’t want him to stay. He wished that he had listened to his brother’s advice. “I’m not interested in a gunfight with you, sir. Johnny, I’ll meet you over at the hotel.”

Scott got up to walk out of the saloon. He was surprised how calm he felt even though his legs were shaking. He knew that Johnny had his back. As he attempted to walk past Raf, the gunman pulled his gun and grabbed Scott by the arm. Johnny slowly stood up with his gun already in his hand.

“Take your hands off my brother. This is between you and me, Raf,” growled Johnny.

“Nope, your brother is going to pay the price for my brother’s life.”

Scott felt the gun poke him in his side. He breathed deeply and looked intently at his brother. He watched for a sign from Johnny which came quickly.

“Now, Scott!”

Scott elbowed Raf, dropped to the floor, and pulled his gun from his holster. He was thankful that had he stopped putting his gloves over his holster thanks to Johnny’s insistence. Johnny, Scott and Raf all fired simultaneously. As the smoke cleared, all three men were on the floor. Raf was dead before he hit the floor due to two shots to the chest.

Johnny stood up and checked himself to see that he was uninjured. He turned to look at Scott.

Scott looked at his chest, legs and arms. He saw no injuries either. He went to stand and fell back to the floor. He saw blood dripping from himself, but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.

Johnny rushed to his brother’s side. “It’s gonna be okay. It’s just a scalp wound. They bleed like crazy. It’s a good thing you were so close to Raf. He could never shoot straight with that gun at short range.”

The bartender walked over to the brothers. “Here’s a towel you can use to stop the bleedin’. I never did see nothin’ like that before. Seen how you got out of that mess. You guys are good.”

Johnny grinned at his brother, who was weaving some on his feet. “Let’s get you back to the hotel, while I go find a doctor.”

*****

“He’ll be fine. He should probably stay in bed for a day. He’s going to have a powerful headache. No long rides, though,” The doctor instructed Johnny. “Here is some laudanum and sleeping powder if you need them.” Johnny looked at Scott, asleep on the bed, and took the medicine from the doctor. He knew that his brother would resist taking anything, but it would be better to be safe than sorry.

When Scott awoke, the sun was already high in the sky. “Johnny, what time is it?”

“It’s around 11:00.” Johnny loved looking at the pocket watch that Murdoch had given him.

“I slept that long? Did you give me anything to make me sleep?” Scott didn’t wait for an answer. “We need to get on the road.”

“Not today, brother. Doctor’s orders! Are you hungry? You haven’t eaten since lunch yesterday.”

Scott’s stomach growled loudly. “I guess I am hungry.”

“I’ll go down to the café and bring you back something. Soup or something.”

Scott closed his eyes and sank back into the comfortable bed for a few more minutes of shut eye.

“Here ya go, Scott,” Johnny loudly banged open the door with his foot since his hands were full. He looked over toward his brother, who opened one eye to glare at him. “Oh, sorry Boston. I didn’t know you’d gone back to sleep. Well, sit up and eat while the food’s hot anyway.”

Johnny helped his brother into a sitting position after he put his purchases down on the table. “That place was great. I even got us some dessert. Scott, they had cherry pie and chocolate cake!” The wide grin on Johnny’s face made Scott smile too.

After lunch, Johnny went to the lobby to borrow a checker set. He thought playing, and beating, his brother would help remind Scott why he belonged at Lancer. Scott tired during the game and was having a hard time concentrating much less staying awake. While Scott slept, Johnny decided to send a telegram to Murdoch and Teresa.

Murdoch

Scott slightly injured.
Delayed returning home.
Should arrive in three days.
Reschedule party?

Johnny

Scott woke while Johnny was out. He thought about how he handled everything with his family. He felt ashamed for leaving the way he did. He knew that he would keep his partnership with Joshua Springs at Lancer Springs Winery, but he was leaning towards returning to Lancer for good.

“Oh, you’re awake. I just went to send a telegram to Murdoch. I told him about your head and let him know that we would be back in a few days. How are you feeling?”

“Better, Johnny, thanks for taking such good care of me.”

“Ah Boston, that’s what brothers and families do. I was glad we had each other’s back at the Saloon. It could have gone either way.”

“Brother, I have missed this,” Scott pointed to Johnny and himself. “How could I have been so stupid? To think that you didn’t care to have me around, well I was wrong. Just don’t go planning anymore surprise parties for me. I’ve learned I don’t do well with secrets that alienate people.”

Johnny had a stricken look come over his face. He couldn’t decide if he should tell Scott about the rest of the telegram. He finally decided what to do.

“Since we’re not having any secrets, brother … I just thought you should know that I asked Murdoch to reschedule the surprise birthday party for when we return.”

Johnny waited for his brother’s reply. Would he be angry? Would their new found relationship be in jeopardy?

“Thanks for telling me,” Scott paused trying to think of how to handle this. “I really don’t like surprises and I appreciate all you have done for me. If you could cancel it, please do. If it’s too late, I’ll try my best to look surprised.”

“I’ll let you know if Murdoch sends me back a telegram.”

The brothers ate in the hotel room again that night. They reminisced about other trips they had taken, hotels they had stayed in, and near scrapes they had escaped from together.
 
“I think that I’m feeling well enough to travel tomorrow.”

Johnny looked skeptical, but agreed. “All right, if you think you can do it. We can take it slow and stop any time. We won’t be here to get the telegram, though.”

“I’ll try to enjoy my party,” Scott smiled.

*****

After three more days of travel, with overnight campouts, the pair neared the lookout above the hacienda.

“This view still gets to me. It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. I’ve truly missed this place.”

Johnny’s heart soared with relief. His plan had worked. He and Scott were as close as brothers could be and Scott had actually admitted he missed Lancer!

Scott was not in a hurry to go through the Lancer arch, though. He was worried about how his family would feel about his return. He felt bad about a lot of things. What he had said, how he had acted, and how he refused to listen to their apologies.

Johnny noticed that Scott walked his horse at a slower pace. “Hold up there, brother. Talk to me. What’s going on?”

“Johnny, this is going to be so hard. I remember how Murdoch treated you when you returned. I don’t think I could take it if he acted that way to me.”

“Boston, Murdoch only said those things because he didn’t want me to be around the Strikers. We talked about it later. I know he’ll be excited to have us both back at the ranch. Trust me. Have I ever led you wrong?”

“Well …” Scott started to comment, but was interrupted.

“Don’t answer that, brother.”

Finally arriving at the Lancer hacienda, both men were surprised to not find anyone outside to greet them. Suddenly the front door swung open.

“Surprise!” A chorus of well-wishers came pouring out of the front door, French doors, and from the patio. “Welcome back Scott. Happy half birthday! Better late than never.”

Scott smiled at all the guests, but his eyes were searching for one man … Murdoch. He looked into his father’s eyes and saw tears. Murdoch rushed to his eldest’s side and put his arm around him. “Welcome home, Scott,” his father whispered.

“It’s good to be home, sir.”

 

 

~ end ~
March 2020

Want to comment? Email Patricia