The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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ROUND ROBIN/COLLABORATION

 

 

FEmerson Was Right

A Collaboration by Lancer Fans: Adriana Maffei, (Adriana), Diana Littner (Buckskin), Darla Marie Poulos (DarlaMPoulos), Terri Derr (Doc), Cathie Flynn (Flynnie), Kathy Padfield (KathyP), Melinda Young (M.E), Ronnie Fish (Ronnie), Sandy Wells Sharp (SandySha), Sherry Dancy (Sherry), Vicki Nelson (VickieLNelson) and Christine Jensen.

 

"As Emerson said, brother, once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."  Scott's eyes filled with mischief as he gave Johnny a conspiratorial grin.

"Yeah, but it wasn't me who decided to go looking for a needle in a haystack." Two weeks ago, when the brothers were in Stockton, a well-dressed lady smiled at Scott from a passing carriage. Ever since he'd talked of little else. When Murdoch heard of another bull for sale in that cowtown, he ordered the boys back to look into it. Scott had already decided he was going to search for the lady as soon as he had the chance; Murdoch's order left him crowing for Johnny to hurry up.

The realization that his brother was on a mission to spark a young lady had Johnny’s wicked radar on high alert. As Johnny brushed Barranca for the fifteenth time trying to shave as much off the clock as possible, Scott stood outside the barn, pacing a hole in the dirt large enough to at least bury a newborn calf.  “Oh boy, we sure can have a little fun at Boston’s expense,” Johnny quietly voiced to Barranca. Deciding just at that moment perhaps his riding companion did indeed need a new set of horseshoes prior to their trip to Stockton, Johnny went in search of the ranch Blacksmith.

“Johnny?”

“Cool your heels Boston, Barranca needs new shoes. This may take a while.”

“Seriously!? You're going to shoe Barranca now? I’d like to get back to Stockton sometime this year!”

“Yes. Now. I’m not going to take a chance on…”

The sound of the hacienda’s front door opening and then slamming shut stopped him in mid-sentence.  The sight of Murdoch stomping towards them left little doubt the ‘tune caller’ wasn’t happy.  Scott shook his head, knowing this wasn’t going to be good. The expression on his father’s face would have made him laugh had the man not been staring at him.

“What are you two still doing here? I thought I told you to get back to Stockton and check on that bull. By the time you get there, he’ll be gone.”

“We’ll be leaving, Sir, just as soon as Johnny gets Barranca reshod. I was just going inside to make sure we had everything we needed for the trip.”

Murdoch looked past Scott to see Johnny and the blacksmith working on Barranca. As much as he wanted to say something, he held his tongue.  “Alright, but Scott, the main reason for this trip is to buy the bull.”

The smile on Murdoch’s face made him wonder if the older man knew his intentions while in Stockton were to find a certain young lady. He planned to leave the bull to his brother.

*****

“Don’t worry, Boston, we’ll be there before ya know it. We’ll get that bull an’ the ol’ man’ll be happy.”

Scott turned to his brother and almost felt guilty. Oh, you worry too much. Johnny will do fine negotiating a price for the bull while I… go visiting. He has certainly made time for a visit or two of his own on occasion. He’ll understand! Talking himself out of the guilt, Scott settled in to enjoy the ride.

They made good time and soon were riding down Stockton’s main street.

“The bull is in the cattle pens down by the loading docks. We shouldn’t be late. Let’s hurry and get over there.” Scott scouted the area, then took a surreptitious glance down a side street to the little white house with neat gardens in front and picket fence. Just a bit longer…

There was a crowd growing rapidly around the pen. Scott began to grin. It should be fairly easy to lose him in all these people! “Johnny, I see Jeff Richardson over there. I’m going to have a word with him regarding that remark he made about Lancer at the Cattle Growers meeting last week!”

“Let it go, Scott. Everyone was a little on edge, sayin’ things they shouldn’t have,” Johnny did his best to talk his brother out of potential trouble and wondered what had caused Scott to be unusually obstinate.

“No, this will only take a minute. You keep an eye on the bull and if the bidding starts, don’t you let anyone take him! Start bidding!” Scott turned and walked into the crowd.

Johnny shook his head. What had gotten into his brother to make him confrontational?

Scott melded into the crowd, then he turned to watch Johnny making sure his little brother’s attention was on the bull, then Scott dodged behind the building. Now out of his brother’s sight, he was free to go on his way, the anticipation started to grow as he ventured closer to her door. I’ll cut through the alley, it will be faster this way....

The alley was cluttered with crates and boxes, some fallen over, making it difficult to navigate. The noise behind him drew his attention, but it was too late as a blow to the back of his head exploded in pain. And everything went black as he fell to the ground.

Scott woke up with a raging headache and vomited whatever he'd last eaten onto the ground. Pulling himself to his knees, he dizzily looked around and tried to remember why he was where he just found himself. He shook his head, instantly realizing the mistake of doing so.

Scott scooted himself backward. Where was he? Wherever it was, it was dark and smelled musty. He moved to stand, but a wave of nausea stopped him. The small bit of light he could see spun round and round. Complete darkness threatened again. Best stay put for a bit, try to reason out what had happened, and hope Johnny came looking for him.

He listened to see if he could hear the auction. Sure enough, he thought the sing-song sound of the auctioneer and sounds of cattle was there. The ringing in his ears made him a little unsure of the distance. His senses were distorted and everything seemed off. There was another sound...was that footsteps?

A door banged open and light blinded him. “So, you’re Madrid’s brother.”

“No.  Not Madrid, but Lancer, my brother is Johnny Lancer and we are here for work. In this moment, the auction is our only concern… and…”

“Really? Are you here only for the auction?  Please, don´t fool me.”

“Take it as you want, but my brother and I don’t want any business with you or your family.”

“And what about Melinda? “

“Melinda?”

"Don't tell me you've forgotten all about Melinda already? She's the pretty lady who smiled at you from a carriage when you and your brother were here doing business. Surely, you haven't forgotten her already? I couldn't help notice your interest in my sister." 

"Your sister? How is she mixed up in this...whatever this is?" Scott was confused, not to mention a little fuzzy-headed after that knock on his head. 

"Hmm, Melinda's not involved in this ...yet. I saw how she looked at you; she was pretty intrigued with you, Pretty Boy. I must admit it was at that moment that I hatched my plan." 

Scott wasn't following, "And, what plan would that be?" 
The man looked at Scott with bemusement, "How badly would your family want you back? What would Old Man Lancer be prepared to pay? What would Johnny Madrid be prepared to do?" 

Scott groaned, burying his aching head in his hands. He swore to himself that if he ever got out of this mess with his family intact, he would never give another pretty woman as much as a passing glance.

So, on second thought. Never looking at another pretty face was overreacting. Still. This guy was serious about a ransom of some kind, but he didn't appear smart enough to tie his shoe without help. Maybe he could get out of this with a bit of wile and luck. If not, Johnny would never give him any peace about being hijacked because he snuck off to chase a woman.  "What's your name again, Mr. ...."

"Didn't give you my name."

" I see. Well. I assume you have one."

"Yeah, smart aleck. I've got one."

After a few seconds of silence, Scott tried again. "Is it something you'd care to share?"

The guy looked absolutely confused. If Scott wasn't so sure that the man wouldn't shoot him, he would have laughed. "Your name, sir."

He stuck out his stubbled chin and glared. "I'm known as the Red Eyed Kid."

By the sudden swell of Red Eyes chest, Scott assumed the name should be familiar. It wasn't. Was this a man from Johnny’s past? If so, he wasn't in the same league as his brother. Scott wasn't sure where to go next. What would Johnny do?

*****

The bull Murdoch was interested in wasn’t up for auction until after lunch, so Johnny began to look around for Scott. He hadn’t been fooled when Scott headed off to talk to Richardson, he knew his brother had gone looking for the girl in the carriage. He figured the best way to find her was to find the carriage and that meant a visit to the livery stable.

He stopped at the double doors, let his eyes adjust to the dim light before walking in, then called out, “Anyone here?”

“Comin’.” The man that came out from a back room looked like every other hand in a livery Johnny had ever come across. “What can I do fer ya? Got a horse to stable?”

“No, I’m looking for a carriage pulled by a pair of bays, someone that lives here.”

“I know who you mean, that’d be the Mapes. Couple of brothers and their sister. Ain’t been here too long. They live a couple of streets over, little place, white with a picket fence.”

“Thanks.” Johnny turned and gave a brief wave as he walked away.

The house was easy enough to find but no sign of his brother. Of course, Johnny didn’t expect him to be sitting on the porch either. No, he knew where to find him after the sale. Lunch, a beer, then time to buy a bull.

*****

Johnny stood across the street, eyeing the house. It looked quiet enough. Was Scott inside, making himself agreeable with that girl? Should he interrupt? Of course, he should. It was just a matter of getting the timing just right to mess things up the most.

“So, I see you’re back.”

The voice was sweet, feminine, and behind Johnny’s back.  He turned slowly and frowned.  That pretty girl from the carriage. She stood in the street, holding a parasol to give herself some protection from the sun. Johnny glanced around. No Scott.

She flashed him an innocent smile as she tilted her head and glanced at the ground. “I wondered if I’d ever see you again.”

He waited for her to say something about his brother. He was the one who caught her eye. Or maybe she caught his. It didn’t matter. Eyes crossed, things got caught, and Scott had been dizzy ever since. But she was looking at him. No mention of Scott.  Johnny shifted his weight back on his heels as he parked his hands on his hips. Had she even noticed him before? This sure seemed like a setup.

"Do I know you?" he asked the young lady.

She smiled. "I know you. You're Johnny Madrid."

Johnny huffed out a little laugh and looked down at his boots. "No, ma'am, I go by Lancer now. And I'm lookin' for my brother Scott. You seen a fellow about six feet tall, blonde, thin, and real polite?"

There was a faraway look in her eye when she answered. "Oh, I remember! That was the other man with you a while ago. He stared at me when we drove by in our carriage. I haven't seen him since then."

"He thought you were the prettiest thing he'd seen, and we came back here so he could find you. Only trouble is, I seem to have lost him."

The young lady's eyes flicked to look at something behind him and Johnny turned and drew without thought.  

The look was unmistakable. Eyes wide and filled with… what? An anxiousness that Johnny had seen time and time again. Dread flooded through him and he knew this stupid idiot would call him out. When would they leave him alone? But those eyes told Johnny it would happen. And it would be on his conscience, another dead man that would seal his fate in Hell.

Johnny, gun in hand, pointed it at the puffed out chest. This wasn’t going to end well. But he had to find Scott and a niggling in his brain told him this Mr. Self-Inflated Ego knew something about it. Johnny pierced him with ‘the Madrid stare,’ and Puff deflated a bit.

“Do I know you?” Johnny asked.

Puff took a breath, clearing his mind, trying to get control of the situation. “No, but you’re gonna!”

“All I wanna know from you is where’s my brother. And. I. Want. To. Know. Now!” Though spoken softly, the words were cold, deadly.

Puff pulled himself together; a feral grin crawled across his mouth.

It was then, Johnny heard twin revolvers snick behind him. Triggers pulled back, and he knew the tables had turned.  Keeping his gun on Puff, Johnny glanced back over his shoulder to see how big the trouble was. Melinda stood square, a scowl on her face and two Colts gripped with surprising confidence in her hands, her parasol lying forgotten on the ground. But her dagger-filled eyes weren’t locked on him. And neither were the twin Colts.

“You idiot!” She glared over Johnny’s shoulder.

Johnny glanced back at Puff, whose feral grin had melted into forlorn bafflement.

“Clarence,” she said in tones that sounded like an angry school teacher, “I always knew I was born with most of the brains in the family. But I didn’t realize you’d given what little you had to some charity!”

“But, sis—”

Johnny’s eyes darted back and forth between the squabbling pair as they traded angry words. He didn’t mind them fighting. He just didn’t like them fighting—with guns out—with him standing square between them.

“Clary, didn’t you see I had the situation completely in hand??”

“Don’t call me that!”

“I’ll call you whatever I darn well please. As a matter of fact—” She gave both men a hard look. “Guns on the ground, gentlemen.”

Johnny wasn’t about to stand down until he knew what was going on. He looked back at Puff—Clarence—whatever—and saw the sheepish pleading all over his face. “Melly, don’t do this to me.”

“On—the—ground. I’m going to stand here and let Mr. Madrid give you jessie.”

Johnny saw Clarence hesitate.

“Don’t make me take off part of your ear.”

Where a bloodthirsty killer had stood a minute ago, now an angry, unhappy, helpless overgrown kid whined, “Melly, I swear—”

“Clarence, you know it’s always bothered me that your earlobes don’t match. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to even them up.” She raised the Colt in her right hand to draw a bead on her target.

Puff quickly set his murderous weapon on the ground.

Melinda turned her gaze on Johnny, who hoped he’d been forgotten, despite his position smack dab between them. She lowered the Colt but kept both weapons at the ready. “Mr. Lancer?”

Johnny didn’t have much choice. He quietly knelt and set his pistol on the dirt road. He gave a glance around. For a bustling town, Stockton sure had empty streets.

The gun-toting schoolteacher from Hell tilted her Colts to the sky and took a step back. “Mr. Lancer, I would like to apologize, and I owe you an explanation.” She gave a vague head tilt back toward the house. “I insist you join me for lunch.”

Johnny regarded her coolly. He listened for some sound behind him that Clarence Puff was pulling out another gun or reaching for his discarded pistol, but all he heard was guttural grunts of exasperation. The woman still had a firm grip on her Colts, even if they weren’t pointed at him. He didn’t like this one little bit. But maybe she could tell him what happened to Scott. And she had two guns to his none. And maybe she could cook. He was kinda hungry. “Sure.”

She nodded and stepped to the side, indicating for him to go first. 

He glanced back at Puff, who still looked ready to spit bullets. “He coming, too?”

She glared at Puff. “Clarence is not invited.”

Both of them ignored his whine.

Johnny gestured at his gun by his feet, asking her permission to retrieve his property. She gave him a non-committal nod. He reached down slowly and, with infinite care, reholstered his pistol. He indicated her parasol, still lying a few feet away. “Ma’am?”

Her small smile of appreciation at his gallantry seemed a little out of place as she continued to hold the Colts at the ready. She gave him a gesture of thanks, and he picked up her sunshade. He wasn’t being gallant. He thought it might come in handy if he needed to knock a gun out of her hand. But as she stepped to the side and gave him a gracious gesture to precede her to the house’s door, somehow, he didn’t think she’d give him a chance to use that weapon of opportunity.

*****

For two hours, Scott sat in the small windowless room, wondering if anyone was going to come back to check on him. Not for the first time, he wondered where he was. The faint sounds of the auction could still be heard in the distance.  

Putting his ear to the door, he thought he heard voices. Yes, there was someone out there. He pounded on the door.  “Hello! Hello! Is anyone out there?”  Scott screamed and pounded again, “Hello, out there. I’m in here.”

His ear to the door again, Scott heard a familiar voice. Praying he was right; Scott held his breath when he heard the key turn in the lock. The door flew open.  Adjusting to the brighter light, Scott’s eyes went wide at the sight that greeted him. Without thought, he threw himself out the door and grabbed his little brother in a bear hug.

Finally, letting Johnny loose, Scott stepped back and looked around. To his right stood the lady he’d seen in the carriage; the lady he knew by name now as Melanie, holding a gun in each hand. To his left stood the man who introduced himself as The Red Eyed Kid.
“What’s going on Scott? Why were you locked in there?”

Scott glared at Red Eyed. “He knocked me out and locked me in there.”

Melanie turned to her brother.  “Clarence, did you do that? Did you hurt Mr. Lancer and lock in the broom closet?”

“Melly, I was just…”

“You were just what, Clarence? I swear I don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” Then turning to address Scott, “I’m sorry, Mr. Lancer if my brother hurt you.”

Scott started to say something then realized Johnny was standing in front of him, holding a parasol. Did he really want to know why? Maybe not. The only other thing he could think to say was, “Did you get the bull?”

"Nope. Been lookin' for you all this time Boston."

“Johnny, you know Murdoch will literally have a cow if we don’t bring back that bull. What’s wrong with you!"

“Well, Boston if you didn’t pull a disappearing act searching for a lady you had seen passing by in a carriage, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

“Let me explain Mr. Lancer, is it? Yes well, I knew you were smitten with me, so I conspired to have you kidnapped knowing your brother would soon follow. Hoping he would eventually miss the auction for that bull, which I intend to buy at a very low price without Lancer bidding.” Melinda smirked while taking her lace gloves off and fanning her face with them as if she was the belle of the ball.

Scott was now beginning to wish he had never become so infatuated with this woman in the first place.

“Oh, well, I think I should have followed the good advice that a friend of mine gave me time ago…”

“What friend, Scott?” Johnny couldn’t keep the thought to himself.

Scott looked at him with a grin.  “Don't expect I would tell you. But it was somebody who told me once not to trust the unknown, especially when it was so beautiful.”  He turned his gaze to the lady. “You might have saved all that problem, Madam, the bull is all yours.”

“Hey, Scott, what are you saying?  Are you mad or what? You just told me Murdoch would have our behinds if we didn't buy that bull.” Johnny recognized that half smile of his brother and he understood Scott was working on a trick.

“I know, Johnny, I wanted to be sure you hadn’t bought it.”

“Nope, I couldn't pay an eye on the famous bull, let alone make an offer for him. During all this time, I wanted to find my lost brother and, of course, my instincts worked in the right trail. By the way, Miss Pretty Lady, why don't you tell your reddish brother that there isn't any sense in keeping my kidnapped brother.  We won't buy the bull.”

Melinda looked at them with disbelief, then to her brother with a sarcastic mood.  “Do you believe them?”

Clarence thought the Lancers were lying, but he wasn't so sure. “No, sister, I wonder why these boys won't do what they were told.”

“We have no money.”

Johnny’s eyes widened at Scott’s audacity with that statement.  “Scott, Murdoch said …”

“He didn't send the credit to the account at the Stockton Bank.” 

Clarence and Melinda felt that they were fish out of water.

“Yet.  You mean, he didn´t send it yet.” Johnny couldn´t be sure where his brother wanted to go.

“He won´t send it. He can’t.  If you go to the bank, you will see it is closed.  No one knows why, but there’s a poster on the door saying it will be closed all this week. That is the reason Miss Melinda and her helpful brother will be free of us.”

“I can’t believe I won’t need to shoot anybody to rescue you, Brother,” said Johnny, almost shouting.

“I am afraid not this time.”  

Again that half smile appeared on Johnny´s face.  “What a pity, Scott, because I wanted that Red Eyed Kid to get a taste of…”

“All men are really stupid thinking only on women or bullets! What waste of time!”  Melinda furiously crossed to the door.  “Come on, Red!” 

Red Eyed Kid sent a blazing look to the two Lancers as a sort of implicit threat of silence, and ran to his sister. 

Johnny didn't move, but looked at his brother quizzically.  “Why?  What’s this story about the Bank? We don't need…have you lost the bag with money for the bull, Scott?”

“No, it’s safe in the place you know.”  Scott took a piece of journal out of his back pocket and showed it to Johnny. “Read it.  Here, the bottom article.”

At that point, Johnny was feeling a wish to use his gun but took the Stockton paper. “The Cattle Association suggests quarantining all the heads of cattle around…”  Johnny hesitated.

“Well, go on. Where are the cattle being quarantined?”

When he didn’t receive an answer, Clarence turned red and jerked the paper out of Johnny’s hand. Reading the small article, “The Cattle Association suggests quarantining all the cattle around the town of Hallettsville. Reports that several cases have tested positive for anthrax.”

“Anthrax?” Melinda questioned. “Oh, my.”

Clarence frowned. “Melly, where is Hallettsville?”

“Clarence, why everyone knows where Hallettsville is.” Then turning to Scott and Johnny, she sighed. “I suppose this has all been for nothing. We can’t take a chance on bringing anthrax onto the ranch.”

“Does that mean we can go now?” Scott asked, hopeful that neither of his captors would look closer at the paper.

Sighing even deeper, Melinda nodded.

“Come on, Scott, we’re getting out of here.”

Scott took the paper from Clarence and turned to leave. When Johnny turned and started for the door, Scott reached out and stopped him.

“You don’t need this, brother.” Scott reached for the parasol Johnny was still holding. “Unless you want to keep it.”

Johnny blushed, thrust the parasol into Clarence’s chest, then stomped out of the room. Scott smiled and nodded to Melinda before hurrying after his brother.

*****
Once outside, the Lancer brothers hurried toward the sound of the auction. They could hear the auctioneer still going strong.

“Do you think we’re still in time?” Johnny wasn’t slowing down.

“I hope so. You’re right, Murdoch will skin us alive if we miss this bull.”

As they waited for the bull to make an appearance, Johnny looked at Scott and laughed.
“That was a pretty neat trick you played with the newspaper.”

Scott shook his head and laughed. “I just remembered I had it in my pocket. I’m just glad they didn’t read the headline.”

As the bull was led in for the auction, Johnny was able to say, “You think they’ll ever figure out that Hallettsville is in Texas?”

From the arena, “Up next is a bull that any rancher would be proud to own. What am I bid?”

“I don’t really care….,” Scott said as he raised his voice and bid, “$500.”

*****
Three hours later, the bull was loaded in a freight car and ready to be transported back to Lancer.

"Sometimes I get so proud of you," Johnny said to Scott with a smirk.

"Yes, I can out sneak even my sneaky little brother sometimes."

It was a short walk from the station to the livery. The streets were crowded as the auction-goers wound down their trips. While they waited for the men in front of them to claim their horses, Johnny kept an eye out for the Mapes brother and sister.

"Hey, Scott. You think you wanna go say goodbye to the good looking blonde?"

Scott turned, puzzled.

"Because she's right over there, looking for you." Johnny pointed across the street, where Melanie Mapes stood under her pink parasol, scanning the crowd.

Scott paled. "In this case, I think discretion is the better part of valor, Johnny."


"But didn't you tell me 'faint heart never won fair maiden,' or somethin’ like that?" Johnny couldn't contain his huge grin.

But Scott met his grin, took a deep breath, and said, "Emerson said, 'He who is in love is wise and is becoming wiser, sees newly every time he looks at the object beloved, drawing from it with his eyes and his mind those virtues which it possesses.' And I'm here to tell you, brother, the virtues possessed by that fair maiden leave quite a bit to be desired."

The liveryman motioned them into the barn to claim their horses. As they rode out, they saw Melanie and her brother staring at them. The Lancer brothers, ever the gentlemen, tipped their hats and then spurred their horses, leaving the Mapeses behind in a choking cloud of dust.

 

Epilogue

Standing in front of the hacienda, Murdoch watched his sons ride under the arch, slightly surprised they were back on time.

“Murdoch.” Scott waved as he got closer.

“Scott. Johnny, it’s good to see you. Did you get the bull?”

Johnny dismounted and looked at Scott. “Did we get the bull, Boston?”

“Bull? We were supposed to get a bull?”

Both brothers turned to look at their father.

Murdoch crossed his arms over his chest, waiting for the joke to be over and hoping it was a joke.

Scott was the first to break. Laughing, he answered, “Yes, we got the bull. It’s being shipped by train to Cross Creek. We can pick him up there this afternoon.”

“And the price? Did you get it within the budget?”

“Remind us again what the budget was, Sir.”

“You know good, and well, I gave you $2000. So, how much did you have to spend?”

“Can we keep what we didn’t spend?” Johnny asked with a gleam in his eye.

“So, you didn’t have to spend the whole amount?”

“Well….”

“John?”

“Alright, we got the bull for $500. “

“$500?”

Scott held up a hand. “No, the bull is well worth the $2000 you gave us, but there was a problem in town. The bank was temporarily closed that day, and we were the only ones with cash.”
“So,….”

“We were the only ones to bid on the bull who had the cash to pay for it. You know what Emerson said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
Johnny smiled. “That’s right. We made a decision to get the bull and …. what he said.”

A grin spread across Murdoch’s face. Never in his wildest dream would he’d have expected to hear his youngest son quoting Emerson.

“And the lady you went to find?”

Scott paled slightly.

“For that story, Murdoch, I need a stiff drink,” Johnny huffed.

Scott led the way. “No, Sir, for this story, we need a lot of drinks. You see, there was this pretty lady in a carriage….”

 

 

~ end ~
March 2020

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