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Winj

 

What Happened First

 

 

First in the What Happened series, followed by What Happened In Between and What Happened In Between - Sequel

We all love the 'What Happened Next' stories, but what happened before Murdoch sent for the boys, before Pardee shot him and killed Teresa's father? I estimate it took months for Murdoch to recover from his wound and losing his best friend and that's why it was so long after that night that he sent for the boys. This is my version of that fateful night.

 

Murdoch Lancer sat at his desk staring at the pictures of his two wives and trying to imagine what his sons looked like. He imagined Scott would be blond with blue eyes, since both his parents had blue eyes. How tall is he? Does he look like me or Catherine? He hoped the boy had his mother's fine features. He knew he had been well-educated so he must be quite the gentleman. He had served in the army which would have given him discipline. Yes, he imagined Scott to be an honorable man. But what of his heart? Had it been turned to stone by Harlan Garrett over the years? Was he as unfeeling and ungiving as his grandfather? He knew Johnny had blue eyes, startling blue in fact, and dark hair like his mother. But what else? He was so young the last time he had seen the boy, it was impossible to know how his features had taken shape over the years. He imagined Johnny looked more like Maria since he had when he was a baby. He wondered if he had developed any of his father's characteristics. It still utterly astounded him that the Pinkerton's had not been able to locate him after all these years. So much for hiring the best.

"At it again, I see," Paul O'Brien said as he walked into the living room.

"Oh, I was just thinking, wondering what they look like now," Murdoch said with a small smile.

"You don't have to wonder, Murdoch. At least not with Scott. All it would take is a trip to Boston and you'll know what he looks like," Paul said.

"You know I can't do that," Murdoch grumped.

"I know you think you can't. You think Garrett's got you over a barrel. I wonder just how hard he'd push if you really challenged him," Paul said.

"I can't take that chance. It's Scott I'm thinking of, you know that. How would he feel if after all these years I just showed up to claim him? Besides, he's a grown man now."

"Exactly, he's grown. Garrett can't tell him what to do anymore. Why don't you at least write to him, ask him to come here? Murdoch, how do you think he feels, thinking his own father doesn't care about him?" Paul asked poignantly.

"Of course I care about him!"

"But he doesn't know that. Garrett probably told him all kinds of lies. When are you going to set the record straight with that boy?"

Murdoch didn't answer him. He wanted desperately to send for his son. He wanted to explain but how could he? How could he explain what happened without sounding like he was blaming Garrett for everything. Even though he did blame him for letting Catherine die, he couldn't expect Scott to believe him. Why should he? Garrett raised him, not his father. Paul was right, there was no telling what he had told Scott.

Paul could tell this part of the conversation was over. It had ended the same every time. "Any word from the Pinkerton's lately?" he asked.

"No, nothing. You would think that the best private investigators in the country could find one boy in twenty years!" he groused.

"How long has it been since they found out Maria died?"

"Seven years, seven years and not a sign. How could they not find him in all this time? That's what I don't understand. It's like he dropped off the face of the earth. Like he..." Murdoch couldn't finish the thought. He had thought it before, that Johnny may be dead and it sickened him to the point that he refused to believe it.

"They'll find him, Murdoch," Paul said, reading his friend's thoughts.

"Well, we have other things to worry about at the moment," Murdoch sighed.

"Pardee. Got any ideas about that?" Paul asked.

"Not a one. All I know to do is fight him. But, now with half the ranchers gone and most of our men as well, I don't know how much longer we can hold them off."

There was a knock at the door and Murdoch went to answer. He returned a minute later with an envelope.

"What's that?" Paul asked.

"It's a Pinkerton report," Murdoch said glumly. "Probably the same as the others, can't find..." His voice trailed off as he looked closely at the envelope. It was marked urgent. He ripped it open and felt his knees go weak as he stumbled to the desk and sat down.

"Murdoch, what is it? Did they find Johnny?"

Murdoch nodded his head, but couldn't speak. He handed the report to Paul and buried his face in his hands. Paul dreaded reading the letter, from Murdoch's reaction, he was sure it was the worst possible news. He read it though, and he too was speechless.

"Johnny Madrid," Murdoch whispered. "My son is Johnny Madrid, the gunfighter. My God, I've even heard of him," Murdoch said, stunned.

"What are you going to do?" Paul asked, equally as stunned.

"What can I do? I'll send a wire in the morning to the Pinkerton's and asked them to contact him. I don't know if he'll even come though. I don't know what ... what he thinks," Murdoch said through the tightness in his throat.

"Why don't you make that two telegrams? Murdoch, send for both of them. Send for them now before it's too late. They don't even know they're brothers. At least give them that," Paul suggested.

"Your right, they have the right to know each other, even if they don't want to know me. Now that I know who Johnny is, I don't want to waste anymore time. He may not have any time to waste," Murdoch said ruefully. "Well, might as well try to get some sleep, Paul. Tomorrow is the day."

Murdoch couldn't sleep though and he sat at his desk through the early morning hours. He couldn't stop thinking about Johnny. How did it come to this? How did his son become a gunfighter? He wanted to know the answers to these questions more than anything. He knew it must have had to do with losing his mother at such a young age. He had no one after she died. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a horse whinnying. He grabbed his gun and went outside to investigate. He saw two men riding off with his prize stallion and fired at them but they were already out of range. Paul came running out and he yelled what was happening. They took off toward Morro Coyo after the thieves.

The rest, as they say, is history.


~end~

TO What Happened In Between

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