The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winnie

 

 

Homecoming

{Special thanks to Maureen Lougen for her help with this story.}

 

Scott Lancer jumped down from his horse and ran to the fallen man. He'd seen the horse buck the rider from a distance and hurried towards the scene. As soon as he turned the man over he realized his mistake.

"Hands up Lancer," the man grated through clenched teeth.

 "Who are you?" Scott asked as he stood up and put his hands in the air. He watched as the man began to get to his feet, and he launched an attack, but before his body slammed into the man he felt a sharp pain resonate from his shoulder, down through his arm and into his hand. He stumbled backwards away from the man.

 The man easily sidestepped and stood looking down at Scott. "That was your second mistake, city boy. Now get to your feet!"

 Scott held his injured left shoulder as blood seeped through his fingers. Grinding his teeth against the pain he managed to get to shaky feet. He stood before the man and repeated his question. "Who are you?"

 "You might say I'm your worst nightmare. You and I have some things to discuss and the boys here are gonna see that we're not interrupted," he laughed as he reached out and hit Scott with his gun.

 Scott barely had time to register the four newcomers as blackness took over. He slumped to the ground, unconscious.

********

"Scott should have been home hours ago," Teresa said worriedly.

"He's probably taking the long way home from Green River," Murdoch Lancer, patriarch of the Lancer family, told her. He tried to keep his own worry out of his voice but didn't completely succeed. He glanced at his youngest son relaxing on the settee.

"That's right, Murdoch. Scott loves the ride along the river. He's probably just lost track of time," Johnny Lancer suggested. Johnny stood up and walked to the door.

"Where are you going, Johnny?" Teresa asked.

"I was going to take Barranca for a ride."

"Sure you were," Murdoch laughed. "I suppose you're planning on taking the long ride towards Green River?"

"Well, I was going to take the scenic route," Johnny said.

"Want some company?" Murdoch asked.

"I'm coming too," Teresa told them.

Murdoch and Johnny looked at each other. Both men knew it was unlike Scott to be four hours late coming from town unless he'd run into some kind of trouble. They also knew that once Teresa made up her mind there was little they could do to change it. Three worried people headed for the barn and their horses.

*******

Scott woke to find his arms pinned above his head. His legs were numb and he knew he'd been standing for some time. His shoulder throbbed with every breath. He shivered with cold and slowly opened his eyes.

Shadows cast by a single candle flickered across the walls. Scott had no idea where he was and the meagre light did nothing to alleviate that fact.

"So you've decided to grace us with your presence."

Scott recognized the voice of the man he'd first seen lying on the ground. He could tell by the hatred in his eyes that he should know the man. There was something familiar about him, but Scott's pain-filled mind couldn't grasp the connection. He closed his eyes as the man walked towards him.

"Open your eyes, Lancer."

Scott forced his eyes open once more, "Why?" he asked as his eyes closed again. His head pounded and he groaned softly.

"Revenge," the man said as he slapped Scott open-handed across the face. "Now open your eyes and look at me."

Scott did as he was told, his cheek stinging from the slap. "Revenge for what?" he asked through gritted teeth.

"Let's just say your grandfather owes me and you're the instrument I'll use to make him pay."

"My Grandfather? What did he do to you?" Scott asked, his mind a jumble of confusion and pain.

"He killed my family," the man said harshly.

"Harlan Garrett was a hard man but he never killed anyone," Scott grated out.

"I guess it's true what they say about family being the last to know, Lancer. You were only a kid when we came to visit your grandfather. I remember my Pa telling me how he'd worked his whole life for Harlan Garrett and had nothing but a broken down farmhouse to show for it. My Pa moved us west that year with the few things we owned. He had big plans to find gold in California."

"What's that got to do with my Grandfather?" Scott asked tiredly.

"If it weren't for your Grandfather we would have stayed in Boston," the man said angrily. "My Pa would still be alive and we'd be livin’ in luxury just like you. I hate you and what your grandfather did to me. My ma and brothers were killed before they even made it halfway to California. Pa and me were able to get away but he was hurt and I watched him die out there. I vowed that when I got older I'd find a way to make Garrett pay."

Scott listened to the man ramble on about what he thought Harlan Garrett had done. He closed his eyes once more and groaned as the pain in his shoulder became almost too much to bear. "You still haven't told me who you are," he said.

"I thought you'd have figured it out by now, Lancer. I've given you enough information. I thought you were supposed to be smart," the man laughed harshly.

"You said I was a kid when you visited my grandfather. How do you expect me to remember you? I'd say you're only a couple of years older than me."

"That's right, Lancer. I'm exactly three years older than you. I was ten when we left Boston. My father's name was Mitch Harper and mine's the same. Do you remember now?"

Scott tried to make his mind work but was unable to get past the pain of his body. His shoulder throbbed unmercifully and he tried to take some of the pressure off by standing on the tips of his toes. A small groan escaped his lips bringing a harsh laugh from his nemesis.

"That's gotta hurt," Harper said. When Scott didn't answer him he lashed out with his hand, striking a glancing blow to the bound mans ribs. Scott's sharp intake of breath seemed to make Harper happy and he walked away.

**********

"Where could he be? It's been over twenty-four hours," Theresa asked as she paced back and forth in the living room of the Lancer ranch house.

"Why don't you sit down before you wear a track down the middle of the floor, Theresa," Murdoch said. "Johnny should be back anytime with Val. As soon as they get here we'll start a more thorough search of the area between Lancer and Green River. If he's there we'll find him," he said with more confidence than he felt.

"What if he's not there?" Theresa said as she sat beside Murdoch.

"We'll find him, Theresa, don't you worry about that," Jelly said from the chair.

"Oh, Jelly," Theresa said as tears threatened to flow from her eyes. She forced them, back as they heard horses gallop into the yard. Jelly was the first to the door and was followed out by Murdoch and Theresa.

Johnny tethered Barranca to the post before Sheriff Val Crawford had even made it off his horse. He hurried up to the house and looked at his family, "Is he back?" he asked.

"No," Murdoch answered before the others could.

"I take it Scott hasn't come home yet?" Val asked as he joined the family and they walked into the house together. "Did anyone check Green River?"

"We rode into Green River last night. Scott left to come home early in the afternoon," Murdoch explained.

"Are you sure he made it there?" Val asked.

"I spoke with Mr. Mercer at the store and he said Scott picked up the supplies and left immediately. He's got to be somewhere between here and Green River," Johnny explained to his friend.

"You didn't see any trace of him in your search yesterday?" Val asked.

"We didn't really make a search. By the time we got to Green River it was dark so we stayed the night. I sent Johnny on to Morro Coyo for you while Theresa and I came home to round up some of the men. I sent most of them out as soon as we got back," Murdoch said.

"Well then let's see what we can find," Val said.

"I'm coming along," Theresa said.

"Not this time, Theresa," Murdoch said as he placed his hands on her shoulders. "I want - no, I need you to stay here in case Scott shows up."

"I can't just sit here, Murdoch," she said softly.

"Please, Theresa, stay here," Murdoch pleaded. "We don't know what's happened to Scott and I don't want you in any danger. Promise me you won't come after us."

Theresa wanted more than anything to help search for Scott. She looked into the pleading eyes of the man she'd come to lean on since her father's death. She knew she was keeping them from the search and gave in to Murdoch's wishes. "I'll stay," she said as she forced back the tears.

"Jelly," Murdoch turned to the older man.

"I know, it's always the same thing. Jelly stay with Teresa. Jelly look after things. One of these days I ain't gonna do it," the older man mumbled. "Come on, Teresa, let's you and me go get some coffee. Looks like it could be a long wait," he said as he led the young woman into the kitchen.

Murdoch watched them disappear and turned back to the others, "Let's go find your brother, Johnny," he said.

*********

The smell of fresh coffee brought Scott out of a less than restful sleep. His arms were still pinned above his head and he forced himself to stand straight. Instantly he felt the tingling sensation as blood returned to his numbed hands and wrists. Not wanting Harper and his men to know he was awake he bit back a cry of pain. Through half opened eyes he began to survey the cavern he was in. Off to his right he could hear the slow trickle of water. A cold draft seemed to come from that direction and he figured the entrance must be that way as well. He could see a dew-like substance on the cavern walls and knew that was what was making him so uncomfortable. The light dancing off the ceiling also revealed the shadow of a spider spinning its web in the corner. Scott shivered from the cold and dampness.

Finally, he brought his attention back to the five men seated around the fire. He strained to hear what they were saying and was rewarded as part of the conversation drifted to his ears.

"I told you - once Murdoch Lancer gets the note he'll contact Harlan Garrett. I know from my visits to Garrett's home when I was a kid that he'd do anything for his grandson. We just have to watch and wait. Harlan Garrett will come for Scott Lancer and when he does I'll kill him," Harper laughed as he said this and turned to the man chained to the wall. "How does it feel knowing you'll be the cause of your grandfathers death?"

Scott kept his eyes closed and didn't answer. He felt chilled at the depth of hatred he heard in Harper's voice and knew that he meant what he said: he would kill Harlan Garrett if given the chance.

"Hey, Lancer, I asked you a question," Harper chided as he walked towards Scott.

Scott heard approaching footsteps and opened his eyes as they reached him. "You're crazy if you think old Harlan will come for me. I guess you never really thought this through very well," he said.

"What do you mean?" Harper asked curiously.

"Did you ever wonder why I'd leave a rich estate in Boston to move out here? You can't possibly think it was to live with my father," Scott put his head back and laughed raucously.

Harper's confidence wavered slightly and he slapped Scott open-handed across the face. "What are you talking about?"

"Harlan and I had our share of disagreements. I couldn't take his orders anymore and that's why I came out here. I swore I'd never return to Boston and he swore I'd never receive anything from him again. So your plans are for nothing," Scott laughed as he rubbed his cheek against his shoulder.

Harper glared at Scott before stomping away. He sat back at the fire and picked up his coffee. His men looked at him and then at each other, lingering doubts ringing in their minds.

A short, balding man with rust coloured whiskers was the first to speak up. "If he's telling the truth then all this is for nothing. Your plans to use him to get Garrett to come to you won't work," he said.

"I can't believe that, Jacob," Harper said. "I saw how Harlan Garrett doted on his grandson. He'd have given Scott Lancer anything he wanted."

"But that was a long time ago and things change. Maybe Garrett and Lancer did have a fight. Maybe they don't talk to each other any more," Jacob Frost told him.

"There's only one way to find out. We wait and see."

Jacob Frost nodded his head and then faced their captive. "We have another problem, Mitch."

"What's that?" Harper asked his long time friend. They'd been together since they'd escaped from prison six years before. Both men had prices on their heads but the few that had tried to collect had wound up with six feet of earth between them and the reward.

"If you don't do something about that bullet, Lancer will be dead before we have a chance to find out if he's tellin the truth or not."

Harper's gaze wondered back to his prisoner and he knew Frost was right. Blood had stained the front of Lancer's shirt bright red but was now drying to a muddy colour. The centre of the pattern was the brightest where new blood mingled with old. "What do ya want me to do? I ain't no doctor and I'm not gonna bring one out here just for him." he said.

"You don't have ta. See Reynolds over here, he trained with the medics in the army. He'll be able ta take the bullet out and make sure Lancer stays alive long enough for you to get your revenge."

"That right, Reynolds? Think ya can get the bullet out and keep him alive?" Harper asked another of his men. This one was just under six feet and every time Harper saw him stand to his full height he thought he was gangly looking. His too-thin body seemed likely to break in half at the first sign of a heavy wind.

"Sure thing, boss. Might not be a pretty job but I can do it," Mike Reynolds grinned.

"Billy, Rob, you two get over there and cut him down," Harper ordered.

Billy and Rob Smith were brothers who'd met up with Harper and Frost soon after the prison break. The four men had stayed together out of necessity rather than friendship, figuring they were more secure in numbers. They hurried towards the prisoner and cut him down.

Scott listened to the conversation with dread. He watched as the two men hurried towards him and wished he were invisible. As the Smith brothers cut him loose he fell heavily to the cold, damp floor of the cave.

"Where do you want him, boss?" Billy asked as he and his brother reached down to pull Scott to his feet.

"Put him on the cot so Mike can work on him," Harper told them.

"I don't want his help!" Scott exclaimed, struggling to get away from the two men holding him in vice-like grips.

"He's just gonna help ya, Lancer," Rob said breathlessly.

"I said I don't want his help!"

Harper listened to the ongoing struggle in the back of the cave and slowly stood from the rock by the fire. Angrily he strode towards the struggling men. "I said put him on the cot! If he gives you any trouble bind his legs and tie his good arm to his side."

"Sure, boss," Billy grinned evilly and forced the weakened man towards the cot.

Scott fought as well as he could but soon found himself tied down to the cot. Mike Reynolds stood over him an evil smile plastered on his face. "Get away from me!" Scott grated through clenched teeth.

"Sorry, pal, but I got my orders," he said as he knelt by the prone man. Using a knife he cut Scott's shirt away from his injured shoulder. "That must feel awful, but I seen the docs work on worse in the war. Always wanted to cut out a bullet and it looks like I'm about to get my chance. Hey, boss, got any whiskey?"

Scott sighed in relief when he heard Reynolds ask for whiskey. He knew from experience how important it was to clean the wound and the knife being used to remove the bullet. 'Maybe this guys smarter than he looks,' he thought. His relief quickly faded as he watched Reynolds take the bottle from Frost and tip it to his lips.
Reynolds made a sound of pure pleasure as he set the bottle on the ground and without a word drove the knife into the bullet wound. His face contorted with pleasure as he heard the man under the knife scream in pure agony.

Scott felt the knife enter his arm and was unable to suppress his scream. The white-hot fire that invaded his body was more than he could stand and he lapsed into a world between nightmare and reality. A world where his family gathered round and laughed at the torture inflicted on him. A world he knew didn't exist but somehow had become part of his private nightmare. His last vision before consciousness left him completely was his grandfather drinking from a brandy goblet as blood dripped from the knife he held above his head.

"Damn! He's not sticking around for the fun," Reynolds said disappointedly.

"You might as well get the bullet out and stop messing around," Harper said, his face showed the disappointment he felt at not being able to watch his captive’s face when Reynolds removed the bullet. He picked up the half empty bottle of whiskey and walked back to the warmth of the fire. "Here, Billy, make sure ya drop this where it can be found," Harper told his man as he passed him a barely legible note.

"Sure, boss," Billy said as he took the note and hurried out of the cave.

*******

Johnny 'Madrid' Lancer led his group of men in their search of the forested area around Green River. The search had been fruitless and as soon as the appointed time came they headed back to the camp by the edge of the river to share information with the others. As the four men approached the camp darkness began to descend and Johnny could see someone had started a small fire. He hurried ahead of the others in his group and jumped from Barannca's back. One of the men automatically took the reins and Johnny mouthed a silent thank you as he headed towards Murdoch.

Murdoch stood beside the river gazing out over the serene beauty. Normally he loved this time of day but one of his sons was missing and he had no time to drink in the serenity. His attention was diverted when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"We'll find him," Johnny said, trying to put more confidence than he felt in his voice.

"We should have found something by now," Murdoch said softly.

"Maybe we're looking in the wrong place," Johnny said.

"Scott always comes this way. He loves the river."

"I know, Murdoch, but maybe he decided to take another route. Or maybe he had enough of the west and went back to Boston," Johnny said.

"You don't believe that anymore than I do. No, Johnny, something's happened to him. Your brother would never light out without telling us. I don't think he's had an accident either or we'd have found him by now. No, something tells me he's in trouble," Murdock said, his voice laced with melancholy.

"What kind of trouble?" Johnny asked.

"The human kind. The kind that hits you when you're down and won't let you get back up. We have to find him before it's too late," Murdoch said.

"We will," Johnny said placing his hand on Murdoch's forearm.

Murdoch looked down at his arm and felt the warmth of the touch. He knew how hard it was for his youngest son to show his feelings. This touch meant more to him than if Johnny had spoken the words aloud. The two men turned towards the fire and walked back to join the others.

*********

Teresa was startled from her sleep by a loud pounding on the door. It took a few seconds for her to arouse herself totally and she realized that after a long agonizing night of worry, she'd fallen asleep on the settee. She swung her feet to the floor and straightened her dress as she hurried to the door. Jelly met her as she opened it.

A young boy stood in front of her holding a piece of paper. His clothing, although too small and well-worn, was clean and hole-free. Slowly he held his hand out to Teresa, "My pa tole me to bring this over to ya. It was layin’ on our stoop when we got up this mornin’. He says the word on the front says Lancer and that I should make sure you got it right away."

Teresa recognized the boy as one of the Flack children. The Flack family had moved into the area three years before and were trying to farm a piece of land that adjoined the Lancer ranch to the south. The family was poor and Teresa had finally been able to convince the family that they could be friends. James Flack was a hard man who loved his family but didn't want charity. He was convinced he could make a go of the farm and Murdoch had a great deal of respect for him. June Flack was a woman who'd lost most of her beauty to the rigours of farm life and childbirth. Her beauty was still noticeable but she didn't have the time or the money to spend on herself. The boy standing before Teresa was the oldest of the Flack’s six children.

"Would you like something to eat?" Teresa asked as she opened the note. Her face took on a haggard look as she read the note and she didn't hear the boy’s answer. "Oh my God," she cried as she finished reading.

"What's wrong, Teresa?" Jelly asked worriedly.

"Someone's kidnapped Scott," She cried before turning her attention back to the boy. "Does your Pa have any idea who left this?" she asked.

"No, ma'am. I found it and showed it to him. He sent me here right away. I have ta get back to the farm but I'd really like somethin’ to drink."

"I'm sorry, Joey, is it?" Teresa asked and the boy nodded affirmatively. "Jelly, could you get him a drink. I have to get this to Murdoch and Johnny right away," she said. Not waiting for a reply she hurried down the steps and into the barn. Most of the men were involved in the search for Scott so she saddled her horse and headed towards Green River. She knew she'd find Murdoch and Johnny somewhere along the route.

*******

Scott opened his eyes and tried to lift his throbbing head. His legs and arm were still bound but at least he wasn't standing upright against the cold wall of the cave. Someone had even thrown a blanket over him. He knew it wasn't because they cared about his comfort but because they needed him alive. His shoulder burned where Reynolds had dug the bullet out. His throat was parched and his lips felt as dry as the desert. He tried to moisten his lips but even his tongue felt like leather as he circled his lips.

Frost heard the rustle of movement that signalled the prisoner was awake. He glanced at the other sleeping forms before getting out of bed. He picked up his canteen and walked over to the cot.

Scott heard the heavy tread of someone walking towards him and tried to turn his head. Grey-blue eyes stared into dull green eyes before the man standing over the cot removed the cork from his canteen. Without a word he lifted Scott's head and helped him drink the tepid water.

Scott felt the water hit his parched mouth and swallowed what he could. Water ran in rivulets from the corners of his mouth and down his neck. Finally the canteen was removed and Scott took a deep breath, "Thanks," he said.

"Can't let ya die of thirst after all the hard work Reynolds did to get the bullet out, can we?" Frost laughed.

Scott closed his eyes and let sleep take him away. He dreamed he was a young boy wrapped in the loving arms of his grandfather. A man stood before them. He wanted something from Harlan Garrett but Scott's young mind couldn't grasp what it was. He kept hearing the word Lancer and his mother's name but didn't know what it meant. Tears flowed from his eyes as he looked at the older man with the funny accent. There was something about him that made young Scott feel warm and trusting. He tried to pull away from his grandfather but wasn't strong enough. His grandfather's next words left him cold. "You will leave my home at once, Murdoch!" Scott shivered in fear at the fury he felt emanating from his grandfather. He watched the stranger turn on his heel and leave, slamming the heavy door with a thunderous bang. Scott woke from his dream realizing for the first time that his father had come to take him home that day so many years ago.

********

Teresa spotted the camp as she rode out of the trees. As she entered the encampment she spotted Murdoch and Johnny hurrying towards her. Johnny reached up and helped her from the horses back.

"What are you doing here?" Murdoch asked.

"Scott's been kidnapped," she said breathlessly as she passed him the note.

Murdoch saw his name written in bold letters and opened it.

“I have your son Scott. He will be held until Harlan Garrett has been turned over to us. If you try to find us he will be killed immediately. I will contact you again once Garrett has arrived.”

The note was unsigned and there were no distinguishing marks. "Damn! Where did you get this, Teresa?" he asked.

"Joey Flack brought it over. He said he found it on their stoop this morning. Oh, Murdoch, we have to find Scott," she cried.

"Don't you worry, Teresa, we'll find him," Johnny vowed as he took the note from Murdoch's shaking hands. He read it over and over. "Whoever this is must have something against Garrett - but why would he come all the way out here to kidnap Scott? Wouldn't it have made more sense to take his revenge in the city?"

"I don't know," Murdoch said.

Johnny seethed inside. He fought to hold back the anger that was always close to the surface. He was used to being in danger because of the life he'd led as a gunslinger before coming to Lancer. Scott on the other hand had grown up in Boston. He'd never really known the hardships of life in the west until Murdoch asked him to come to Lancer. Now someone from his grandfather’s past had come for revenge and was using Scott as the means to extract it. Johnny fingered the gun in his holster as he passed the note to the sheriff.

Murdoch had come to know his youngest son over the last year and he could see the telltale signs that Johnny was bent on his own revenge. "Don't do it, Johnny," he said simply.

"Don't do what?" Johnny asked as his hand lingered on the gun.

"I need you level-headed. I don't want you taking things into your own hands and doing something we'll all regret. Your brother's life depends on us keeping our wits about us. Promise me you won't do anything foolish," Murdoch said.

Johnny knew his father was right, but somehow he would get his own revenge on this man. 'If you hurt my brother I swear I'll kill you myself,' he thought. His eyes met his father’s, and Murdoch could tell his son would do what he thought needed to be done. "If he hurts Scott I'll kill him."

"You'll have to stand in line," Murdoch said his gaze never wavering from his son’s.

*********

Harlan Garret was an angry man. First his grandson had moved out west without so much as a backwards glance and now he'd gotten himself kidnapped. It didn't matter to him that he was the cause of the kidnapping; he just knew that Scott would still be safe if he'd stayed in Boston where he belonged.

He read the telegram from his hated son-in-law once again then threw it into the fire. Picking up the heavy silver bell he rang it loudly. The door to the study opened instantly and his butler entered.

"Book me passage on the next train to Green River or whatever god-awful town is closest to it. Have Sylvie pack me some clothes and supplies. Move it man - my grandson needs me." Garrett ordered and ushered the man out of the room. "Make sure you cancel all my appointments until further notice," he said as an afterthought.

"Yes, Sir," the butler said as he hurried to do Garrett's bidding.

*********

The days dragged by in an endless sequence of pain and sleep for Scott. He knew they'd sent a note to Murdoch and that they were waiting for his grandfather's arrival. He knew he'd be here until either his grandfather gave himself up to Harper, or Johnny and Murdoch found him. He'd lost track of the days and wondered just how long he'd been held there. He was given food and water whenever somebody remembered he was there. If he was lucky Frost brought it to him and his hands were freed for a while so he could eat. If one of the others brought it over he was left to fend for himself. He was still amazed at the new ways he found to feed himself without using his hands.

The only man he dreaded walking towards him was Harper. If he was the one bringing the food Scott knew it was scraps and not fit for a dog. Once he'd witnessed Harper spit on the plate before placing it before him. The plate had been left untouched until one of the others took it away. Another time Harper had thrown the plate at Scott and the hot stew burnt his leg where it landed.

Scott knew Harper took sadistic pleasure in hurting him for no reason other than the fact that he was Harlan Garrett's grandson.

Scott felt the tug of his shoulder as he moved his position. He knew he'd been lucky that the wound hadn't become infected. He owed a debt of gratitude to Frost for keeping it clean after Reynolds had finished his butcher job. He heard someone walking towards him and knew it was Harper. He could smell the anger off the man. Opening his eyes he stared into hate-filled, ice blue eyes.

"Time for grub, Lancer," Harper said and knelt beside the cot.

Scott's eyes lit on the plate in Harper's hand. The congealing mass made him gag and he tried to turn away.

Harper's free hand shot out and he grabbed Scott by his injured shoulder.

Scott screamed in agony at the white-hot pain. "You lousy son of a..."

"Don't say it," Harper ordered as he squeezed the shoulder again.

Scott's body came off the cot as the pain in his shoulder intensified. The pain ran down his shoulder and through his hand.

"Don't ever call me that," Harper said as he tried to force a handful of the cold food into Scott's mouth.

Scott held his teeth clenched against the pain and the food. He felt his resistance weakening as his shoulder was held tightly. Finally consciousness left him and Harper stood back angrily. He threw the plate down on top of the injured man angry that his fun had been cut short.

********

Murdoch read the telegram he'd received in response to the one he'd sent Harlan Garrett. He didn't know how he felt about seeing Garrett again but knew he'd be civil for the sake of his oldest son. He paced the length of the study before pouring himself a stiff drink and downed it in one gulp.

"I take it Garrett's coming," Johnny said quietly. He knew form the last visit how much the two men detested each other. Harlan Garrett had been determined to lure Scott back to Boston and he'd almost succeeded.

"Yeah. The telegram says he'll be on Fridays stage."

"That's six days from now. I'm gonna keep the men searching for Scott."

"It's been four days since he disappeared and we haven't found any sign of him," Murdoch said quietly.

Johnny's face filled with rage. "I won't give up, Murdoch. Boston may have grown up in the city but he has survival instincts and somehow I'll find him."

"I'm not giving up, Son. I'm just facing facts."

"The fact is that I'm gonna find Scott," Johnny said as he hurried out of the room almost knocking Teresa over. "Sorry," he mumbled as he continued past her.

"What's wrong with Johnny?" she asked worriedly.

"He thinks I'm giving up on Scott."

"Are you?" Theresa asked suspiciously.

"You know me better than that, Teresa. If there's any way to find Scott, I'll find him." Murdoch said a touch of anger in his voice.

"I'm glad to hear that, Murdoch. What did the telegram say?" she asked and picked it up from the desk where he'd dropped it. She watched him pour another drink before she read the reply. She knew Garrett didn't like Murdoch but she wasn't prepared for the display of animosity shown in the telegram. According to Harlan Garrett, Scott was probably already dead and Murdoch was to blame. If he wasn't, Garrett planned to make Scott return to Boston with him using any and every means available to him. Teresa understood why Murdoch was drinking. She knew how guilty he felt every time something happened to one of his sons. She reached out and touched his arm. "He's wrong, Murdoch," she said simply.

"Is he? Is he really? Scott could be leading the high life in Boston if I hadn't asked him to stay here."

"You don't know that, Murdoch. Maybe Scott would have come out here on his own."

Murdoch shook his head angrily. "Harlan Garrett stole my son once and now because of him I may lose him permanently and he has the nerve to send me that telegram. That man will never be welcome in my home," he said. "Leave me alone Theresa. I have some things to think through."

Theresa knew when Murdoch really needed time to himself and this was one of them. Without a word she left the study closing the door behind her.

********

The days continued to drag for Scott. Frost brought him food and water whenever he woke. He had no appetite for the food but drank the water thankfully. He could feel the fever raging through his body and hoped that his father and brother would find him soon. He opened glazed eyes and tried to focus. His body was a mass of pain emanating from his shoulder and spreading out through his extremities. He moaned as he moved on the small cot.

"You ain't looking too good, Lancer," Billy Smith laughed maliciously. "Think maybe ole Reynolds better take another look at that shoulder. Hey, Mike, ya better take a look at your patient," he called to the other man in the cave.

"D... don't want h... his..." Scott's voice came out in hiccupping gasps.

"Let me see," Reynolds said as he knelt beside the cot. He pulled away the makeshift bandage and shook his head. "Looks pretty red there, Lancer. Bring me my knife, Billy," he ordered.

"What are ya gonna do, Mike?"

"I have to lance the wound and let the ‘fection out," Reynolds explained as he took the knife from Billy's hands.

"Maybe ya oughta clean it this time. Harper wants him kept alive," Billy said remembering how the doctor had always cleaned his instruments before an operation.

"You may be right. Can't have him croakin’ on us now can we?"

"N... no," Scott groaned and tried to move away from the men. He had very limited success with his legs and one arm still tied down. He soon felt the hot blade of the knife enter his shoulder and with a gasp of pain consciousness mercifully left him.

Reynolds cleaned the wound and put a clean piece of cloth over it. Some of the redness had dulled around the wound but it still looked nasty. "That'll have ta hold him," he laughed.

"What are you two up to?" Frost asked as he came into the cave.

"Had to fix up his wound. It was real infected," Reynolds told him indignantly.

Frost walked over to the cot and saw the beads of sweat on Scott's brow. "He ain't gonna be able to take much more. I hope you did a better job of it this time," Frost said.

"I did what I could. Better than you woulda done. Least he's alive and that's what Harper wants," Reynolds said indignantly.

"Where's Mitch and Rob?" Frost asked.

"Mitch went to Green River for supplies. He sent Rob to look around Lancer and see if he could pick up any news," Billy told him.

"Harper's a fool!" Frost snapped. "He's liable to get himself caught in Green River and get us all arrested," he said as he walked over and sat at the makeshift table. His thoughts once more returning to the mess he'd gotten himself into because of his friendship with Harper. Somehow he would make sure Scott Lancer made it through this and get him back to his family. His own life was full of mistakes and wrong choices.

The more he thought about Harper and his need for revenge the more he realized it was all a mistake. Harper's family had died as a result of an Indian attack not because of anything Harlan Garrett had done. Harper had placed the blame on Garrett because he didn't want to face the fact that his own father had made the wrong choice. He'd heard the story over and over from his friend and knew he was blinded by loyalty to his own father.

Somehow he had to get a message to Johnny Lancer. But first he had to make sure they could get away before Lancer's family came for him.

*********

Teresa rode her horse through the dense forest. She was taking the shortcut back from visiting the Flack farm. She'd become friends with June Flack since they moved in and she'd gone to visit her so Murdoch could have some time to himself. She hadn't meant to stay so long but June had insisted she stay for dinner. Now the sun was beginning to set and darkness would soon descend. Heavy shadows cast by the trees made her realize she'd made a mistake in taking the shortcut.

Suddenly her horse bolted and she was thrown to the ground. As she tried to sit up she found her hands grasped tightly. She tried to pull away but knew it was useless. "Let me go," she cried angrily.

"Well, well, well! Looks like I found me something to keep me warm," Rob Smith said harshly.

"I said let me go!" Teresa screamed.

Rob Smith put his hands roughly over her mouth, stifling her scream. He pulled her tightly to him and longed for her warm silken body. "I think I'll just have to take you with me. A lady like you needs the comforts of the inside when she's with a man."

Teresa heard what the man was saying and renewed her efforts to get away. She used all her strength to kick backwards and felt her foot connect with the soft interior of his thigh.

Smith groaned and almost released his hold on his captive. He reflexively struck out with his fist and connected with the side of her face. Her body suddenly went limp in his arms. Smiling he lifted her off the ground and threw her over his horse. Quickly he jumped up behind her and galloped towards the cave.

*******

Johnny and Murdoch hurried their horses towards the Flack Farm. As soon as darkness had fallen and Teresa hadn't showed up they knew something was wrong. Without a word both men had walked out of the house and saddled their horses. Their worry escalated as they neared the Flack house and could see only darkness at the windows.

Johnny threw Barranca's reins over a rail and hurried to the door. He pounded on it until he heard someone shouting angrily from inside.

The door was pulled inward and an irate James Flack stood before them, "What's the meaning of this?" he asked.

"Jim, is Teresa still here? Did she decide to spend the night?" Johnny asked hopefully.

"Teresa left here long ago. You mean she never got home?"

"No she didn't," Murdoch answered. "Did she say if she was going home?"

"Yep. She wanted to get home before it got dark so she was taking the shortcut through the trees."

"Thanks, Jim. I'm sorry we woke you up," Murdoch told the man.

"No need to apologize, Murdoch. Teresa has been a great friend to my June since we moved here. I hope nothing's happened to her."

"Me too, Jim," Johnny said turning away and heading for his horse.

"Any word on your other son?"

"Not since the note was delivered," Murdoch answered.

"I'm sorry for your troubles. If there's anything we can do just let us know."

"Thanks, Jim," Murdoch said as he got on his horse and rode away.

*********

By the time they reached the ranch both men were exhausted. They'd found Teresa's horse in a strand of trees. The reins had tangled in a low branch of a tree and the horse had stayed where it was. They'd searched the area for Teresa but had been unable to find her. Johnny had found the signs of a struggle and another horse but the sky had clouded over and they'd been unable to continue the search. Dejectedly they rode back to Lancer, worried over the fate of the girl.

*******

Scott opened his eyes and tried to move his numbed body. He regretted it immediately as the movement shot red-hot pain through his shoulder. 'That was a stupid move,' he thought. He closed his eyes and rested his head back on the cot. He shivered uncontrollably as the pain began to recede.

A commotion at the entrance to the cave made him lift his head. 'Please, God, let it be help,' he thought hopefully. His hopes were dashed when he heard the cries of a woman.

Teresa struggled against her antagonist. She balled her hands into fists and lashed out at him. "Put me down!" she cried.

Recognizing the voice Scott lifted his body as much as the restraints would allow. Angrily he fought against the ropes in an effort to help his 'sister'. He ignored the pain caused by the struggle and tried to yell. "Leave her alone!" he shouted in a hoarse, pain-filled voice.

"You gonna make me?" Ron Smith laughed as he tried to keep the girl under control.

"Where'd ya find this pretty little thing?" Billy asked his brother as he helped him hold Teresa.

Teresa heard Scott's voice and renewed her efforts. She struggled and kicked and finally pulled herself free. She hurried to the cot and knelt beside her 'brother'. "Oh, Scott," she said as she took in his gaunt features and the state he was in. She could see a bulky bloodstained bandage on his shoulder. Tears filled her eyes.

"Its ok, Teresa," Scott said, trying unsuccessfully to put her at ease.

She placed her hands on either side of his face and immediately felt the telltale signs of fever. Anger replaced fear and she stood and faced his tormentors. "What have you done to him?" she yelled.

Rob grabbed her arm and twisted her around to face him, "I oughta teach you a lesson," he said.

Teresa watched the mans face cloud with rage. "Let me go!" she ordered. She could hear Scott struggling to help her and worried more about him than herself. "Please, I need to help him," she begged.

Rob Smith was not a smart man but he could tell there was something between the two captives. "Kiss me and I'll let you help him," he said.

"No, Teresa, don't do it," Scott said as he continued to struggle with the ropes.

"You shut up!" Rob told him. "You gonna kiss me, girl?" he asked his full attention back on the girl in his arms.

Teresa twisted so she could see Scott. She saw the pain and anger in his voice. The beads of perspiration from his struggle and his fever told her he needed her.  Closing her eyes she placed a quick kiss on Smith's face.

"That's not the kinda kiss I had in mind," Smith said as he pulled Teresa into a tight embrace.

Teresa's stomach churned relentlessly as she was forced to endure his chapped lips on her own tender ones.

"What the hell's goin on here?" a voice boomed from the cave entrance.

Rob Smith released his captive and she hurried to Scott. Smith turned in time for his face to meet a beefy fist. He fell to the floor, blood streaming from a broken nose. "Why'd ya do that?" he asked as he used his already dirty sleeve to wipe the blood from his nose.

"What's she doin here?" Harper asked as he pulled Teresa away from Scott. Recognition clouded his features and he smiled evilly. "Teresa O'Brien!" he exclaimed softly.

"Leave her alone, Harper," Scott ordered.

"Shut up," Harper said and struck Scott resoundingly across the face.

"Stop it," Teresa cried as she saw blood form on her 'brother's lip. She pulled away from Harper and once again knelt beside Scott.

"Looks like I owe you an apology, Rob. You brought us the one thing I can trade for Harlan Garrett."

"I thought you were trading Lancer for him?" Smith asked through bloody fingers.

"I was. But I never really intended to let Lancer go. I've been trying to figure out a way to keep him as well as Garrett."

"Why do ya need em both?" Billy Smith asked.

"Cause Scott Lancer had the life that I shoulda had. I shoulda been livin in the same kinda mansion he did. I shoulda had servants to help me. I shoulda had the same things he did. Instead I grew up without any of it. I had to work for every drop of water or mouthful of food I got. Scott Lancer will pay for growing up a spoiled city brat," Harper said.

Teresa heard his voice and could tell he was in the throes of madness. She knew Scott was in even more danger now that she was here. Some how she had to get word to Murdoch and Johnny but for now she was stuck here with her captors. "Can I get some water?" she asked

"What for?" Harper asked.

"I want to clean his wound."

"Reynolds can do that when he and Frost get back. You get over to the fire and start making something to eat. I'm sure you're a better cook than Billy here," he said.

Anger spread across Teresa's beautiful face as she leapt to her feet, "I'll make a deal with you Mr. Whatever you call yourself. Bring me some clean water and clothes and I'll make you whatever you want!"

Harper glared at the girl. His anger slowly subsided and he felt a touch of admiration for her. He couldn't believe she had the nerve to stand up to him.

Teresa watched as the man's face went through several changes. She kept her face passive while inside she shook in terror. She knew this man held hers and Scott's life in his hands. She placed her hands on her hips to stop her tremors.

Harper walked past her and looked at the man on the cot. Without a word he pulled the bandage from Scott's shoulder and laughed as Scott winced. "You want to clean him up so I can kill him when the time comes?" he laughed.

"I want to keep him alive till we're rescued," Teresa replied.

Harper gazed into her eyes and saw the look of determination in them. "You may get out of here alive but he won't," Harper said angrily.

"Don't be so sure," Teresa said and turned her attention back to Scott.

Harper shook his head and walked to the fire where Billy and Rob Smith stood.

Rob's eyes had turned black and he was holding a wet cloth to his nose. "She's mine," he whimpered.

"Not any more. She's gonna help me get my revenge," Harper said. "Bring her some water and clean clothes, Billy."

Billy swallowed his protest when he saw the look on Harper's face. He hurried to do as he was told.

Teresa took the water from the man and began to clean Scott's face and shoulder. As she removed the remainder of the shirt he'd been wearing she gasped at the bruises spread over his lean torso. 'Animals,' she thought as she gently washed his face.

"I'm sorry, Teresa."

Teresa looked into Scott's blue eyes and saw the pain in them. "You have nothing to be sorry for," she assured him.

"I'm sorry you're here," Scott said.

"Not your fault. Now be quiet and let me finish cleaning this shoulder."

"Watch out for Harper," Scott said as he closed his eyes to sleep.

"I will," she told him softly, tears in her eyes for her 'brother'.

"You finished over there yet, girl?" Harper asked.

Teresa wiped the tears from her eyes and turned away from the cot. "I'm done," she said and walked to the fire.

"Bout time. Now get cooking girl," Harper said.

*********

Murdoch and Johnny Lancer waited for the stage to arrive. They'd spent the past few days searching for Teresa and Scott but to no avail. There had been a storm the night she'd disappeared and it had washed away any sign of her whereabouts. Both men were exhausted from lack of sleep, worry, and loss of appetite.

Murdoch paced back and forth in front of the hotel. He hated the idea of seeing Harlan Garrett again. He hated the 'I told you so' attitude he was sure he'd see on the man's face.

Johnny watched his father and knew how much this meeting would take out of him. He'd met Garrett once and was unimpressed by the over-bearing man. He looked up as they heard the rumble of the stage coming towards them. The defeated look on Murdoch's tired face didn't get past him.

The stage pulled to a stop directly in front of them and the driver jumped down. He opened the door and the moment Murdoch Lancer dreaded had arrived. He watched as his father-in-law stepped out of the coach.

Harlan Garrett wore a dark blue three-piece suit with a white shirt and tie. In his right hand he carried a black cane, topped with a silver lions head. The hair on his head had whitened considerably since their last meeting, but he was still as lean as ever. His eyes were dark with anger as he faced his son-in-law, "He should have stayed with me!" he exclaimed angrily.

"Scott made his decision," Murdoch said, biting back his own anger.

"A decision he should never have been allowed to make on his own. If he'd come back to Boston with me he wouldn't be in the danger he's in right now."

"My son stayed because he wanted to! Did you ever think he didn't want to go back with you because he was tired of your self-righteous attitude?" Murdoch told the older man.

"You were always jealous of my relationship with my grandson," Garrett said, his eyes flashing dangerously. "You'll never admit Scott was better off with me otherwise he might have turned into a no-good gunfighter like that one," he said pointing a long, well-manicured finger at the young man behind Murdoch.

Before Johnny had a chance to defend himself, Murdoch's hand lashed out and grabbed Garrett by the collar. "Don't you ever talk about my son like that again or I'll make sure you regret it the rest of your sorry life."

For once Harlan Garrett felt real fear. His words, spoken in anger had brought out a side of Murdoch Lancer he'd never seen before. He'd seen the man angered because of his wish to take his grandson back to Boston but this was different. He'd insulted Murdoch's son and now Murdoch looked ready to murder him.

Johnny Lancer knew he'd have to step in before Murdoch did something they'd all regret. It wasn't that he didn't think Harlan Garrett deserved whatever Murdoch had in mind; it was the fact that he was needed to get Scott and maybe Teresa back alive. He stepped forward, one hand resting on his gun as he placed his other on Murdoch's shoulder. "We need him," Johnny said simply.

Murdoch felt the strong touch of his younger son and released the older man. "Don't you ever speak of my son like that again," he repeated and walked to his horse.

"I see your old man still hasn't found a way to curb his anger," Garrett said, his voice betraying a lingering fear.

"My 'old man' as you put it has a lot on his mind. Let's get something straight! You don't like me and I don't like you. But there is one thing we have in common."

"What would that be?" Garrett asked sarcastically.

"We both want Scott and Teresa back alive," Johnny said, his face and eyes filled with anger.

"Scott is the only reason I'm here," Garrett said coldly. "I want him back and when he is I'm taking him back to Boston where he belongs."

Johnny's face contorted with anger; "There are two people in danger here. One of them is my brother, the other my 'sister'. I want them both safe."

"All I care about is getting my grandson back and returning to Boston," Garrett said angrily.

Johnny shook his head and walked away without another word. He could hear the older man hurrying to keep up with him.

"Aren't you gonna get my bags?" Garrett asked loudly.

'Get them yourself,' Johnny thought angrily as he stopped beside Murdoch.

Murdoch raised his head and met his son's eyes. The anger made Johnny's eyes sparkle with fire. "We need him to get Scott and Teresa back," Murdoch reminded him.

"That's right. It's about time you two realized you need me more than I need you. I will do everything in my power to get my grandson back safely, if the girl is returned as well that's fine too. Now get my bags and let's go to your ranch," Garrett said, emphasizing his loathing of Murdoch's land on the last word.

Murdoch ignored the man and helped Johnny load his bags into the wagon. Without another word he got behind the reins and they headed for the ranch.

********

Teresa sat on the cold floor beside Scott. She could tell that his shoulder still bothered him but there was nothing else she could do about it. She'd managed to clean the wound and prevented the infection from getting worse, but it wasn't enough. His body was bruised and gaunt from the continual abuse he received at the hands of Harper and three of his men. They'd twisted his arms behind his back and tied his hands together when they'd removed him from the cot two days ago.

The only one who didn't mistreat Scott was never around long enough for her to ask him to help her. She'd heard the others call him Frost and kept hoping for a chance to speak to him. She heard a soft moan from the man beside her and turned to cradle him in her arms.

Scott opened his eyes and regretted even that small movement. His shoulder felt better but he knew it was far from healed. He gazed into Teresa's worried eyes and tried to give the impression that he was fine. He could tell it wasn't working as she reached out and touched his cheek. "Teresa," he said softly so the others wouldn't hear.

"What is it, Scott?"

"I want you to promise me that if you get a chance to escape you'll do it."

"I won't leave without you," she told him.

"You have to," Scott said, his voice hitching on the pain from his stiff muscles.

"You two want to let me in on your little secret?" Harper asked from where he lay on the cot.

"Nothing that concerns you," Scott said as forcefully as his weakened body would allow.

Harper's laugh echoed around the cave as he stood from the cot. "Looks to me like it's time for another lesson boys. Get him on his feet," he ordered.

"No!" Teresa screamed as Reynolds and Billy came towards her and the injured man. She threw her body in front of Scott, trying to protect him from the men coming towards him. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she was pulled away from her 'brother'. She knew there was nothing she could do to help him but she continued to fight anyway.

"Stop, Teresa," Scott said with more strength than he felt.

Teresa heard him and cried openly as he was dragged to his feet. "No, God, no. Please don't do this. He's been through enough," she begged as Harper reached out and took her by the arm. He shoved her toward Frost, who'd stayed back near the fire.

Teresa fell to her knees, sobbing hysterically as she watched the men pull Scots shirt from his back and tie him to the wall of the cave. She felt strong hands reach out to her and pull her to her feet. Once again she tried to throw her body in front of Scott but was held back. She felt blood trickle down her legs and knew she'd probably cut them on the sharp rocks in the cave. Continuing her struggles did nothing and she finally admitted defeat and turned away from the horror she knew was about to happen. Her body went limp in Frost's arms and he knew she'd lost consciousness.

Frost pulled her into his arms and snuggled her face into his shoulder. He watched as Harper pulled a whip from his saddlebag and walk towards his victim. He knew there was nothing he could do for Scott Lancer but decided he'd get the girl away from here as soon as Harper and the others were engrossed in their fun.

"Now, Lancer, feel like telling me what you and the little lady were talking about?" Harper asked as he snapped the whip.

"Go to hell," Scott told him.

"You and your grandfather will get there before I do," Harper said as he once again pulled the whip over his shoulder and snapped it against Scott’s bare back.

Scott felt the whip tear into his back and bit back a scream. He didn't know how long he'd be able to remain quiet but he resolved to do so as long as he could. He tried to tune his mind away from the newfound agony that was his back. Each time the whip came down he felt his resolve weakening.

Frost could tell that the others were so intent on Harper's torture of Scott Lancer that now was as good a time as any. As quietly as possible he carried the lightweight woman out of the cave. As he slipped from the cave he heard a scream that sent shivers down his spine. He lay Teresa on the ground and hurriedly threw his saddle on his horse. He untied the other horses and lifted the woman into his arms. He shoved her up on his horse and jumped up behind her. With a loud whoop he drove the other animals in front of him and rode away from the cave as fast as he could.

Scott's scream was torn from his throat. His back felt as if it had a life of it's own. The pain felt like molten lava had been poured over him and he tried unsuccessfully to hold back the tears. "T... Teresa," he sobbed worriedly as unconsciousness mercifully took him.

"Hey, little lady, what do you think? He ain't so pretty now is he?" Harper asked as he turned away from his victim. He hurriedly searched the cave looking for the missing woman. "Frost!" he yelled. "Where are they?"

"I don't know," Reynolds answered.

Suddenly they heard someone shout and the sound of galloping horses. "That Son of a bitch. Get out there and stop them," Harper shouted as he hurried out of the cave, drawing his gun as he went. By the time he got to the entrance he was to late. Frost had disappeared, the woman and other horses with him. Swearing loudly he hurried back into the cave, followed closely by his men.

"What are we gonna do now?" Billy Smith asked.

"You and Rob get out there and find the horses. They can't have gone to far," Harper said and was angered when the men didn't jump to do his bidding. "Get out there and find the damn horses," he shouted. This time the two men hurried outside. "Mike, cut him down and get everything ready. We gotta get out of here."

"Sure, Mitch," Reynolds said and used his knife to cut the ropes binding Scott. He let his body drop limply to the floor.

Harper watched as Scott fell to the floor and stood over him. He could hear Mike Reynolds hurrying around the cave and gathering their belongings. 'I'll still get my revenge against you and your grandfather. Not only have you cost me my family you've also cost me a good friend. At least I thought he was a good friend. He's gonna join you and your grandfather in death,' he thought angrily.

By the time Reynolds had finished picking most of the stuff up they heard a commotion outside the entrance. Harper and Reynolds hurried out and grinned as he saw his own horse and one other. "Where are the others?" Harper asked.

"We couldn't find em. These two were grazing just over the hill," Billy told him.

"You two go inside and bring Lancer out," Harper ordered. While they were gone, he ordered Reynolds to get up on the other horse while he mounted his own. "When they get out here I want you to hold your gun on them. If they try anything kill them."

"What?" Reynolds asked uncertainly.

"Do you want to stay behind with them?" Harper asked pulling his gun.

"No way!" Reynolds said, realizing there were only two horses and five men. "What a..." he didn't get a chance to finish as Billy and Rob exited the cave supporting a still unconscious Scott between them.

"Hey, what's goin on here?" the brothers asked in unison.

"Well, we have us a little problem. We have two horses and five men to ride em. The way I see it is Mike and I have our guns pointed at you two and we're already on the horses. That gives us squatter's rights. Lancer will be riding with me so that leaves you two. There's just no way for you two to come along. Now unbuckle those guns and throw them over there," Harper said, indicating a circle of rocks.

The brothers did as ordered and returned in time to see Harper jump off his horse. The two men debated about jumping him but one glance at Reynolds holding the gun changed their minds.

"Turn around," Harper said.

Billy and Rob glanced at each other before doing as ordered. As soon as they turned Harper brought his gun down on Billy's head, then quickly did the same to his brothers; both men slumped to the ground.

"Help me get Lancer on my horse so we can get out of here," Harper told Reynolds. The two men soon had the unconscious man on the horse and hurried away from the cave, Harper in the lead.

********

Frost kept up the fast pace as long as he could. Finally he reined in his horse and let her make her own pace. It wasn't long before he felt the woman in front of him begin to stir. She moaned as she opened her eyes.

"What's going on?" she asked confusedly.

"Easy, girl," Frost said. "I'm taking you back to your home."

"Home," Teresa smiled and then reality hit her and she sobbed quietly. "Scott?"

"I couldn't help him."

"But Harper will kill him."

"There was nothing I could do. I was lucky the others were watching Harper and not us. We were lucky to get away from there ourselves. I'm sorry," Frost said.

"Oh, Scott," Teresa sobbed as she conjured up an image of Scott’s battered body. The sound of a whip echoed in her ears as she leaned wearily back against Frost. "We have to go back," she said.

"It's too late. He's probably already dead."

Teresa squirmed in her seat until she was facing Frost. "Don't you dare say that! Scott's not dead. He can't be. We have to go get him," she said angrily.

"Wouldn't it be better if we got some help first?"

Teresa knew he was right and sat back dejectedly. The day dragged on as they rode towards Lancer. She tried to convince Frost to hurry but he explained that it was hard enough on the horse and they needed to save its strength.

********

The journey back to Lancer was a quiet and subdued one. Very few words were exchanged between Murdoch and Garrett, the ones that were, were heated and angry. They lapsed into mutual silence for the rest of the trip.

Johnny rode ahead of the wagon. His mind wondered to his brother and 'sister'. He worried whether he'd ever see them again. He knew that as long Scott and Teresa were in the hands of the kidnappers their lives were in serious danger. Somehow he had to find them before Garrett turned himself over. He knew the type of men he was dealing with from his life as gunslinger Johnny Madrid. 'I'll find a way to get you both back,' he thought.

*******

Scott knew he was moving. He felt strong arms around him but knew they weren't friendly. He remembered the times Johnny had held him as they rode home. He'd been injured and hadn't been able to ride his own horse. Johnny's arms had felt strong and gentle around him whereas these felt strong and firm. He felt as if the breath were being driven from him as the horses galloped across the land. His back burned as he was flung back against the man holding him. Suddenly memory came back to him and he knew who was holding him. He tried to pull away but didn't have the strength.

Harper felt his captive return to consciousness. He felt him fight against him and renewed his hold. "Stop it, Lancer!" he yelled in order to be heard over the horses.

Scott renewed his own effort to get free but weakened quickly. Suddenly he felt Harper pull back on the reins and the horse slowed and finally stopped. He felt one arm release him but before he could do anything there was a gun at his head.

"Get down!" Harper told him.

Scott lifted his leg over the side of the horse and fell to the ground. Before he had a chance to stand he felt his arms pulled roughly behind him. Harper's weight against Scott's back forced a cry of pain from him. He tried to squirm away from the cause of the pain but found he was pinned to the ground.

 "Give me some rope, Mike," Harper said.

Reynolds jumped down from his horse and pulled a coil of rope from his saddle. Within moments Scott hands were tied tightly behind his back and he was pulled roughly to his feet.

Pain radiated from every part of his body as he was thrown face down over the back of Reynolds horse. "Tie him to the saddle," Harper ordered.

Reynolds looked from Harper to the man lying face down on his horse. Realizing what was about to happen he reached for his gun.

"I wouldn't," Harper said, his voice cold and devoid of emotion.

"You can't leave me out here," Reynolds whined.

"Watch me. Drop your gun and tie Lancer to the horse."

"I'll ride with him," Reynolds tried.

"Too tiring for the horses," Harper grinned maliciously.

Reynolds looked around at the wasteland they'd been riding through. He knew there was no way he could survive out here without a horse. He glared at Harper as he reached for his belt buckle. In a desperate move he changed direction and went for his gun. His hand hadn't touched the gun when the sound of a shot echoed through the still air. He looked unbelievingly at the small circle of blood forming on his upper left chest. He was dead before his body hit the ground.

Guess I'll have to do it myself," Harper said as he walked to Reynolds horse and slapped his hand down on Scott's exposed back. His grin broadened as he heard the scream of agony from his victim. "Sorry ‘bout that," Harper laughed as he wrapped a rope around Scott's arms and pulled it under the horse. Once he finished securing Scott to the horse he took the reins and got back on his own. He headed the horse towards the only home he'd ever known. The home he'd grown up in. The home he associated with all the bad things that happened in his life.

*******

Johnny stood outside the house as the sun began to sink below the horizon. His mind was filled with thoughts of rescuing his brother and 'sister'. Suddenly he was pulled from his thoughts by the sound of an approaching horse. 'Now who could that be?' he thought as the horse came closer and he made out two riders. Instinctively he knew one of the riders was Teresa. He hurried towards the horse as it neared the house and deftly lifted her down before the horse had come to a complete stop.

"Johnny," Teresa said, exhaustion evident in her voice as tears flowed freely from her eyes.

"Teresa," Johnny said, relieved to be holding his 'sister'. He held her through her sobs and waited while the man got off his horse and tied it to a post. "I don't know how you came to have my 'sister’, Mister, but I thank you for bringing her home."

"I'd hold off on your thanks till you get the whole story," Frost said. He knew and respected Johnny Madrid's reputation from stories he'd heard.

Johnny heard the unmistakable tone of respect and weariness in the man’s voice and knew he wanted to hear the story. A moan from the woman in his arms told him it would have to wait and he turned towards the house. "It'll have to wait till we get Teresa taken care of. You best come inside."

Frost followed the younger man into the brightly lit house. He felt as if he were entering the gallows in spite of the brightness. He'd been involved in the kidnapping of a man. He knew what he'd done for Teresa probably didn't make up for the other but at least she was now safe. Suddenly he felt as if a great weight had been lifted and he knew, no matter what happened to him, he'd help this family find Scott Lancer.

Johnny heard Murdoch and Garrett arguing. He'd been outside because he didn't want to listen to it any longer. He didn't blame Murdoch for what he was saying to the older man. Harlan G elderly man sitting on the settee and wondered why he hadn't gone to help the others. The man never spoke but his eyes didn't leave Frost.

An hour later Johnny and Murdoch came into the room where the two men sat in an uncomfortable silence. Johnny walked to Frost and held out his hand. "I'm Johnny Lancer, this is Murdoch Lancer and," looking at the older man across the room. "That's Harlan Garrett. I want to thank you for bringing Teresa back home but how and where did you find her?"

"More importantly was my grandson with her?" Harlan Garrett asked with no concern for the girl sleeping in her room.

"Your grandson?" Frost asked and instantly realized the man sitting on the settee was the man Harper was after. He didn't seem as formidable as Harper had made him out to be.

"Yes, my grandson, was he with that girl?" Garrett asked impatiently.

"Now, you just wait a minute," Murdoch shouted angrily. "That girl up there means a lot to all of us. You may not care about her but we do."

"The only one I'm concerned about is my grandson," Garrett said and turned back to the stranger. "I don't care who you are or how you found her. I just want to know where my grandson is."

"Be quiet, Harlan," Murdoch said icily. "You are a guest in my home and therefore can be turned out at any time. Sit down and let the man talk."

"Well, I never," Garrett said but sat back in his seat.

"What's your name?" Johnny asked.

"Names Jacob Frost."

"Well, Mr. Frost, how did you find Teresa?' Murdoch asked.

"It's a long story, Mr. Lancer. First I think you should know your son is still alive."

Three sets of eyes rose suspiciously. "How do you know?" Murdoch asked hopefully.

"Where is he?" Garrett asked.

Johnny stood silently glaring at the man. His years as a gunslinger and a card player helped him to read a man's face. He knew this was probably a long story and he wanted to hear the whole thing. He also knew this man played a large part in his brother's disappearance and he would make him pay if Scott didn't make it. "Where is he?" Johnny repeated Garrett's question.

"I don't know," Frost said.

"What do you mean you don't know?" Garrett shouted. "Tell me where he is."

"Will you shut up and let us handle this?" Murdoch told his father in law. "Why don't you tell us the whole story?" he said to Frost.

Frost began the story with how he'd met Mitch Harper and their growing partnership. He explained Harper's hatred of Harlan Garrett and Scott Lancer and how he'd planned his revenge. He told them how Teresa had ended up in his hands and how he'd managed to escape with her while Harpers attention was focused on Scott. As he finished he met Johnny's cold eyes. "I can show you where the cave is," he told him.

"Let's go," Johnny said, his calm voice hid the barely restrained anger he felt. He'd listened quietly while Frost had described Scott's shoulder wound and the subsequent care by Teresa. The last straw had come when the man had told them that when he'd left the cave Scott was being whipped by Harper while the others watched and laughed. He knew they all owed Frost a debt for bringing Teresa home safely but visions of his brother's torture at the hands of a madman made his blood run cold. Johnny Lancer was a force to be reckoned with on any day but when his family was involved that force grew tenfold.

“Let me make sure Teresa's ok and we'll leave right away," Murdoch told his son. He hurried to Teresa's room. Jelly sat in a chair by the bed and spoke soothingly to the girl. She whimpered in her sleep calling for Scott and crying softly. "How is she?"

"She's havin’ some terrible dreams, Murdoch. The girl's been through a lot."

"I know. Can you stay with her, old friend?"

Jelly locked eyes with Murdoch and he knew something had happened. "You know where Scott is, don't you?" he asked.

"We know where he was. I haven't got time to answer any more questions, Jelly. Please stay with her."

"You know I will," Jelly said simply. He loved the girl on the bed as if she were his own flesh and blood. As Murdoch left the room he heard Jelly say quietly. "We always seem to be the ones sitting at home waiting for our loved ones to come back safely, don't we, Teresa?"

Murdoch smiled as he hurried outside where Johnny had already saddled their horses. Three ranch hands were ready to ride out with them. He climbed onto his own horse and they followed Frost.

Harlan Garrett watched as they rode away. 'Bring back my grandson, Murdoch, he's the only one I got,' he thought and went back inside the house.

**********

Harper pulled the horses to a halt in front of a broken down shack. He tied the two horses to a rotted post and walked through the half opened door. The inside was as he'd left it but covered in dirt. The carcass of something long dead lay in one corner, broken dishes in another. An upended table and several broken chairs stood beside the fireplace, half burnt logs scattered around the hearth. 'Too bad that girl ain't here to clean the place,' he thought wistfully.

He walked back outside and cut the ropes that bound his prisoner. With no care for Scott's wounds he pulled him roughly from the saddle and let him fall to the ground. He cut the ropes binding Scott's hands and feet and stood over him.

Scott slowly became aware of the tingling in his feet and hands as the circulation returned to them. He rubbed his rope-burned wrists and tried to sit up.

"That's right, Lancer, get on your feet and let's get inside," Harper said and pulled Scott roughly to his feet.

Scott staggered as his numbed legs barely held him. He forced himself to put one foot in front of the other as he was shoved towards the shack. After what seemed an eternity to his pain-filled mind he was shoved to the floor beside a fireplace. His hands were once again secured behind his back.

Harper grinned at his captive before going outside. He soon returned with his saddlebags and canteens. Throwing them to the floor he set the table back on wobbly legs and found one chair that would still hold his weight. He opened a canteen and took a long swallow letting the water run down his throat.

Scott licked his parched lips; envious of the water dripping from the other man’s mouth. He couldn't remember how long it had been since he'd been given anything to drink but knew it was before he'd been whipped. Swallowing hurt his dry, parched, throat and forced an almost inaudible moan from him.

Harper finally pulled the canteen from his mouth and spared a glance at his captive, "Want some?" he laughed.

Scott nodded his head involuntarily. He wanted the drink more than he'd ever wanted anything else in his life. He was surprised as Harper walked towards him, canteen in hand.

Harper held the canteen to Scott and waited for his mouth to open. He lifted the canteen and let the tepid water run down Scott's throat.

Scott's mind wondered why Harper had suddenly decided to give him something he needed. It wasn't long before he realized this was another sick form of torture as Harper kept forcing the water into his mouth. Scott tried to pull away but was hindered by the wall at his back. He choked as the water continued to pour unheeded down his throat. Finally Harper pulled the empty canteen away and Scott coughed until his stomach emptied its entire contents. His body heaved as he tried to catch his breath, all the while listening to a madman's malicious laughter. His head sagged against his chest as darkness tuned out the pain.

**********

Frost led them to the cave where Scott Lancer had been held. He knew Harper had probably abandoned it already but at least it gave them a place to start. As soon as he stopped his horse he saw the two bodies lying on the ground.

Murdoch and Johnny Lancer hurried into the cave but returned moments later after discovering it was empty.

Frost recognized the two men on the ground and walked over to check on them. Both men were sunburned but alive and he began shaking Billy Smith. "Come on, Billy, wake up."

Billy groaned as he returned to consciousness.

As soon as he opened his eyes Johnny pulled him roughly to his feet. "Where's my brother?"

Billy tried to pull away from the hard-faced man standing before him, "What are you talking about?" he asked in a terrified voice.

"Tell me where my brother is! I know he was in that cave but he's not there now."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Billy said as he caught sight of Frost. "You! This is all your fault! Harper would never have left us behind if you hadn't taken off with the girl!" Billy shouted, still struggling against Johnny's vice-like grip.

 

"Where's Harper taken my brother?"

"How should I know? He didn't exactly tell us before he knocked us out, ya know?"

Frustrated, Johnny pushed the man away from him and watched as he lost his balance and tripped over his brother's body. "Where would he take him Frost?"

"I can think of a few places but none of them are in easy reach. Harper would want to stick around the area so that he could still make the trade for Garrett." Frost explained thoughtfully.

"What does Harper have against Garrett anyway?" Murdoch asked.

"According to Harper, Harlan Garrett was the cause of every bad thing that ever happened to a member of his family.

"I can understand why," Murdoch grumbled, thinking of his own loss to Garrett.

"What you don't understand is that Harper will take his revenge against Scott if he can't get to Garrett," Frost told him.

Johnny touched his gun as he walked towards his horse. "Then we'd better find him fast," he said.

"Can you pick up the trail?" Murdoch asked hopefully.

"I think so," Johnny said as he inspected the ground, bushes and trees in the area.

Murdoch turned from his son and placed his attention on the three men who'd come with them. "Jake, Matt, I want you to deliver these men to Sheriff Crawford. Tell him what's happened and that we've got a lead on Scott."

"Sure, boss," Jake said.

Murdoch watched as Jake and Matt gathered the prisoners. Rob Smith still showed no sign of waking up so Jake placed him face down over his saddle and climbed up behind him. Matt tied Billy Smiths hands and made him ride in front of him. Soon the four men rode away, two to a horse.

"Anything, Johnny," Murdoch asked.

"They went this way," Johnny said thoughtfully.

"You sure?" Burt, the third ranch hand asked before Murdoch had a chance.

"Never doubt my son," Murdoch told Burt as he climbed wearily on his horse. "Let's go," he said with more energy than he felt.

**********

Scott's return to consciousness was not a pleasant one and he wished he could escape back into the pain-free dream world he'd occupied. He bit back a moan and lifted his head carefully. In spite of the warmth from the fire he shivered violently. The smell of beans made his stomach grumble, but not from hunger. Food was the last thing he wanted to think about. He searched the shack for his captor and at last saw him facedown on a dirty mattress by the door.

Closing his eyes, Scott lay back on the floor and tried to ignore the burning sensation in his back. An almost inaudible moan escaped his lips as he strained against his ropes. He glanced towards Harper hoping the man hadn't heard. He was not so lucky.

"I see you decided to wake up. ‘Bout time, I'd say," Harper said as he got up and walked towards Scott.

"What do you want?" Scott asked, his voice quivering weakly.

"Is that any way to speak to the man who holds your life in his hands?" Harper taunted.

"You don't hold my life in your hands," Scott said with more gusto than he felt.

Harper pulled his gun from its holster and placed it to Scott's head. "Don't I?" he asked.

"You may hold the gun and you can kill me any time you want but my life was and is my own. I've lived it to the best of my ability and you can't take that away from me."

Harper's anger grew as he listened to the man on the floor. "I own you!" he said.

"Never!"

Harper drew the trigger back on the gun but stopped short of pulling it. He pulled the gun away from Scott's head and angrily strode out the door.

Scott let his head fall to the floor and breathed a sigh of relief. 'Help me, Johnny,' he thought as his eyes closed in an exhausted sleep.

Harper stood outside the door, one hand over his right ear, the other, still holding the gun over his other ear. His body trembled angrily and he began pointing the gun everywhere firing rapidly. Finally he heard the hammer striking on empty chambers and slid to the ground. "Don't worry, Pa, I'll keep him alive long enough to get Garrett," he screamed madly as darkness fell over the area.

**********

Teresa opened her eyes to bright morning sunlight shining through her window. She felt warm and protected but wondered why her body ached so much. She reached her hand up and touched her forehead. She was surprised to find a small bandage over a particularly painful area.

"Don't touch that, Teresa."

Rough hands touched her gently and Teresa recognized Jelly Hoskins. "What's happened? How did I get here?" she asked confusedly, her eyes searching the room furiously, "Scott! Where's Scott?" she asked as events of the last few days came back to her.

"Easy, girl, easy. You're safe now," Jelly tried to reassure her.

Teresa focused her attention on the older man, "Where's Scott, Jelly?" she asked as tears flowed from her eyes.

"Murdoch and Johnny have gone looking for him. That fella that brought you here is showing them the way to the cave. They'll find him."

"Oh, Jelly, they we... were going to w... whip him. Ha... Harper is so so cr... cruel," she sobbed.

Jelly reached down and wrapped Teresa in his arms. He let her cry until he felt her body relax in sleep and then gently laid her back on her pillow. The dark circles under her eyes, the bandage on her forehead, and the soft hic-upping sounds told him she'd been through hell in the few days she'd been in Harper's hands. His thoughts turned to Scott Lancer, still being held by Harper and his men. "They'll get him back, girl, just wait and see," he said as he gently wiped the tears from her cheeks.

*******

Harlan Garrett stared at the two people in the bedroom. He'd listened to the conversation between the two and felt the anger well up inside. He heard the girl speak of the whipping Harper was going to inflict on his grandson and resented the fact that she'd managed to escape but hadn't taken Scott with her. He didn't care that the odds were stacked against a lone girl. All he cared for was his grandson. 'As soon as you’re back, Scott, we're going back to Boston where we both belong,' he thought as he walked away from the door.

*********

Johnny had reluctantly agreed when Murdoch had called a halt to the search because of darkness. They'd eaten quickly and retired for the night. He was the first to waken at dawn and hurriedly made coffee and breakfast. As soon as it was ready he woke the other three. They ate in silence and renewed the search for the missing Lancer.

The sun rose high above their heads before they came to a fork in the road. One led into a range of high, green, tree-covered hills. The other led towards an area known only as the badlands. It was mostly desert with very few places to get water or food. The four men got off their horses and began searching the area for signs of which way Harper had taken Scott. They'd discovered the body of Mike Reynolds earlier that morning and knew they were searching in the right direction.

The ground was mostly rock and made it hard for them to find fresh tracks. Johnny sat back on his haunches and worried that he'd make the wrong decision and cost Scott his life. He spotted some broken twigs on a low hanging tree and had almost decided to take the road towards the hills when Frost pointed in the other direction.

"Is that the area they call the badlands?" Frost asked.

"Some call it that," Murdoch answered.

"That's where he went," Frost said.

"What makes you so sure?" Johnny asked.

"Cause Harper told me stories about his life in the badlands. He told me he lived there in a tiny cabin. His father died there but he stayed for several years after."

"Do you have any idea where this cabin is?" Murdoch asked excitedly.

"Not exactly, but Harper said it was well hidden and hard to find."

"Damn! Can't we catch a break once in a while?" Johnny swore softly.

"Maybe we just did," Burt said. "Seems to me Matt and I passed a cabin to the northeast of here, although it's not much of a cabin now."

"How far?" Murdoch asked impatiently.

"Bout half a days ride I'd say," Burt told them.

"Lead the way," Johnny said as he jumped on Barranca's back.

"I'm not exactly sure of the location but I'll try," Burt told them.

"That's all I ask," Murdoch said, placing a reassuring hand on Burt's shoulder.

The four men were soon mounted again but this time Burt was in the lead. Everyone felt the same life and death desperation.

*********

Scott longed for a drink. His throat felt on fire and his body burned with an incessant need. He watched as Harper drank from a canteen. The water dripping from his chin made Scott lick his dry, chapped lips.

Harper knew his captive was awake as he placed the canteen in front of him. He gleefully pointed his finger at Scott and then at the canteen.

Scott was sure he was being taunted but knew he needed the liquid to survive. He could not bear to die without seeing his family again. He nodded his head slightly.

Harper lifted the canteen and walked towards the injured man. "You sure?" he grinned.

"Pl... please," Scott stammered through clenched teeth.

"Drink," Harper said and placed the canteen to Scott's lips.

Scott braced himself for the onslaught of water. He fully expected Harper to repeat what he'd done the first time he'd given him a drink. Scott was surprised when his captor pulled the canteen away after a few moments. His body cried for more but he didn't want to push his luck. His stomach churned and Scott fought to keep the meagre contents down. Finally he felt as if he were going to hold it down. He closed his eyes and listened as Harper moved away before allowing himself to relax.

*******

Burt pulled his horse to a stop and waited for the others to do the same. As they came abreast of his horse he turned and spoke directly to Murdoch. "It's been a few years since Matt and I were here, Sir, but I'm pretty sure we're close."

"How can you be so sure?" Murdoch asked.

"See those two rocks over there?" Murdoch followed his pointed finger and nodded his head. "Well Matt commented on them looking a little like wolves baying at the moon. If I'm right the cabin should be just on the other side of them."

"I think he's right, Mr. Murdoch. I seem to remember Harper saying there was a pair of wolves always watchin over him while he lived here," Frost added quickly.

As if by unspoken agreement Johnny took the lead and they began to ride towards the rocks. By the time they reached the base of the formation the sun had dipped below the horizon and darkness had descended.

"I think we'd better stop for the night, Johnny, we won't be able to find it in the dark, Murdoch suggested.

"But," Johnny tried.

"We can't take the chance of one of the horses stumbling and getting hurt. Come on, Johnny, you know I'm right," Murdoch said quietly.

"Why don't you three set up camp and I'll just check around a little bit. Barranca, here," he said patting the horse's neck and was rewarded with a soft whinny, "is used to picking his way in the dark."

Murdoch wanted to say no but could see that Johnny was too tense to settle down for the night. "All right, Johnny, but I want you back in an hour at the most."

Johnny smiled, the winning smile he reserved for instances when he knew he'd won, whether it was with Murdoch, Scott, or one of the many ladies who vied for his attention. Without a backward glance he took off in search of his brother.

While the others continued to make camp for the night Johnny rode past the Rock formation and let Barranca take his own lead. The horse carefully picked his way over the hard, rock-strewn ground.

Johnny kept his eyes peeled for anything that would lead him to his brother. Tired and dust covered, he was about to turn back for camp when a light caught his attention. The light was small, but Johnny was sure it was coming from a window. Excitedly he spurred Barranca towards the tiny speck of hope.

It took ten minutes for Johnny to reach a place where he could see the light seeping through the small window. He tied Barranca to a tree and covered the remaining distance on foot.

Inside the cabin Scott was lying on his side by the fire. His face lathered in sweat, and contorted in pain.

 Mitch Harper stood over him, gun in hand; "Hey, Lancer, I've decided to cut my losses and get outta here. I was gonna shoot you but I figure you'd suffer a much better death if I just leave you here with your hands and feet tied," he laughed and lashed out with his foot.

Scott cried out as Harper's foot connected with his right leg and tried to pull away from his tormentor.

 Johnny had just reached the window when he heard Scott's cry of pain. He looked in the window just as Harper pulled Scott to his feet. Pulling his gun Johnny tried for a clear shot but was unable to with Harper holding his brother in front of him as a shield. Frustrated Johnny carefully worked his way towards the door. In the darkness he kicked some debris on the porch, the impact astonishingly loud in the quiet air. From inside he heard a muffled curse, followed by an angry voice.

"Who's out there? I got me a gun and a hostage and I'll shoot him if you try to come in here. I swear I'll shoot him."

Johnny stopped at a window and chanced a glance through it. He saw Harper still holding Scott, who appeared to be semi-conscious. Silently he cursed his luck as Harper raised his gun and fired it. The bullet barely missed Johnny's face as he ducked away from the window. He knew things were desperate for his brother and hoped the others had heard the shot.

Murdoch had just poured a coffee when the sound of a gunshot echoed through the darkness. The coffee dropped untouched from his hand. "Johnny," he said worriedly. He hurried to the horses, a step ahead of the other two men.

"Any idea which direction?" Burt asked.

"None. But I'd say it's a safe bet to check out the wolves," Murdoch said, as he saddled his horse. By the time the others had their horses saddled, Murdoch had already moved out. He road steadily for the next ten minutes, worry about his own safety in the darkness forgotten. It wasn't long before he spotted the same speck of light that had caught Johnny's attention a short time ago. He quickened his pace, his heart in his throat.

Johnny knew he had to keep his presence secret until Harper released his brother. He stood by the window holding his breath.

Harper began to relax, as there was no answer to his gunfire. He laughed at the rag-doll like figure in his arms. "Guess it was a wild animal," he said nervously.

Scott heard the words but they didn't register. He knew he didn't have long to live unless a miracle happened. Harper seemed to be growing more and more crazy as the minutes passed. "Johnny," he said, not realizing he'd spoken the name aloud.

Johnny heard Scott faintly calling his name and grinned. 'Nothing can keep a Lancer down,' he thought. Suddenly he heard the sound of horses. He knew there was nothing he could do to warn them to keep quiet so he turned his attention back to the shack. He watched as Harper began to relax and ease his grip on Scott.

Harper was about to drop his burden back to the floor when he heard what sounded like thunder moving towards them. He knew instinctively that it wasn't thunder but the sound of approaching horses. A sudden movement at the window caught his attention and he pulled Scott towards the table, forcing him down in front of him. He tipped the table on its side effectively using it as a shield. "Whoever you are you'd better back off or I'll kill Lancer!" he shouted nervously.

Johnny remained where he was and waited for the newcomers to arrive. He knew if he rushed into the cabin his brother would die.

Murdoch pulled his horse to a halt and hurried towards the shack. Frost and Burt followed closely behind.

Johnny had his finger to his lips as the three men strode towards him. "Scott's inside," he told them simply.

"Let me talk to Harper. Maybe I can make him listen to reason," Frost suggested.

Johnny still didn't trust the older man and shook his head vehemently, "No. You and Burt take the windows and cover us. Murdoch and I will take the door," he whispered.

"Harper'll kill your brother," Frost told him as he turned towards the window. Burt moved to the nearest window and chanced a look inside. Harper saw the movement and quickly fired a shot at the window. Frost caught Burt's body as he fell from the lighted window. He could see the bright crimson stain spreading over his head. Burt's eyes were open but staring sightlessly. Frost knew he was dead.

As Frost caught Burt's body, Johnny took advantage of the distraction and burst through the door. He rolled to the left away from the table, landing behind a broken chair. He fired at the table but knew he didn't hit anything.

Murdoch cast a last glance at Burt, 'sorry my friend,' he thought as he turned back to the door. A volley of gunfire made it impossible for him to enter.

Frost's face contorted in anger. He'd seen enough senseless killing in his life, even done a few himself, and wanted it to end now. He rushed past Murdoch and dove for the table.

Harper saw Frost jump towards him and fired off two shot in rapid succession. He saw the startled look on Frosts face as his bullets found their mark. Frost fell to the floor and lay still, his gun, unfired, in his hand.

Harper pulled Scott on top of himself just as Johnny decided to make his move, "I wouldn't," Harper said coldly.

Murdoch and Johnny stood and watched as Scott was once more pulled to his feet, a gun levelled at his head.

"Let him go!" Johnny said menacingly. His fingers itching to pull the trigger and kill the hated man holding his brother.

"You're in no position to tell me what to do. Throw the guns down or I kill him now."

"Shoot him, Johnny," Scott mouthed through trembling lips.

"Shut up!" Harper said and ground the barrel into Scott's head.

"Do it, Johnny," Scott gasped weakly.

Johnny locked eyes with the man holding his brother. He knew Harper was not leaving the shack with his brother.

Murdoch aimed his gun directly towards Harper. Between the table and his son’s body there was no way for a clear shot. 'Damn!' he thought as he searched for an opening.

The silence in the room was almost unbearable as each man stood his ground. Harper was the first to break the unnatural silence. "Last chance, Lancer, throw the guns down."

Scott's eyes looked pleadingly at his brother. Johnny saw the pain etched on the dirt covered face and dropped his gun. Murdoch did the same.

Harper waved his gun around and laughed harshly. "You fools. I'm gonna kill you all anyway," he said and pointed his gun at Murdoch.

With the speed of lightening, and born of desperation, Johnny reached behind him and pulled out the extra gun he'd placed in his belt. Two gunshots were heard almost simultaneously. Harper and Scott fell to the floor as one.

Murdoch ran to Scott as he called to his younger son, " Johnny are you all right?"

"I'm fine, Murdoch," Johnny said as he stared unbelievingly at the man on the floor. He bent down and lifted Frosts head. "Thank you," he said as he pulled the gun from his hand.

"I had to. I couldn't let him kill another innocent man," Frost said as he closed his eyes for the final time.

Johnny reluctantly let Frost's head fall to the floor and hurried to where Murdoch was cutting the ropes from Scott's hands. One glance at Harper told him the man was dead, twin bullet holes on either side of his head.

"How is he?" Johnny asked.

"Not good, Johnny. He needs a doctor." Murdoch said as he finished with the ropes on Scott's hands.

"I... I'm... f... fine," Scott said tremulously.

"Sure you are, brother," Johnny said as they sat Scott on the floor. Murdoch held his injured son while Johnny examined his back. "This don't look too bad," Johnny said staring into his father's eyes.

Murdoch knew from the look Johnny gave him that Scott's back was bad. He looked into his oldest son’s eyes and could see the pain in them. "Guess we'd better get you cleaned up before we go home," he said.

Scott shook his head weakly. "I want to go home now. I... I don't w... want t.. to stay here."

"Scott," Murdoch said and was rewarded when Scott's eyes once again met his. "I promise we'll get you home. But, first we have to clean your wounds. You'll be fine and we'll have you home in your own bed in no time. All right, Son?"

"Home." Scott said firmly.

"Always knew you had a one track mind, Boston. You're as stubborn as a mule. Now rest easy and we'll go home," Johnny said in the same tone his brother had used.

"Wanna go home," Scott said again and his eyes closed.

Johnny watched his brother close his eyes and worriedly looked at Murdoch, "Is he?" he asked terrified to hear the answer but knowing he had to.

"He's just unconscious," Murdoch said, his own worry evident in his shaky voice.

Between the two men they began to clean Scott's wounds and worried over whether or not he could make the trip back to Lancer in his weakened state.

Johnny heated water and began working on his brother's back. He gently dabbed the cloth as tears fell from his eyes.

Murdoch watched his tough as nails gunfighter son gently caring for the brother he'd only known a few years. The brother he'd known little or nothing about until they'd met on the stage in answer to Murdoch's prayers. "Johnny," he said.

Johnny looked at his father, anger and pain in his own eyes, "How could he?"

Murdoch knew Johnny was asking how Harper could so cruelly treat his brother. He shook his head knowing he didn't have those answers. "Some people are just cruel, Johnny. Harper can't hurt your brother anymore. He's dead. Why don't you get some air and I'll finish up with Scott?"

"No thanks, Murdoch, I need to do this for him. I know he'd do the same for me," Johnny said and turned his attention back to the angry looking lash marks that covered Scott's back and shoulders. "What are you gonna do about Garrett?" he asked.

"I'm not sure. He is Scott's grandfather. If it were up to me I'd send him packing without a word. But I can't do that to Scott. I think Scott finally realizes he belongs here and not in Boston. Harlan doesn't have a chance of convincing your brother to go with him," Murdoch said.

"You sure of that. Garrett doesn't strike me as the kind of man who'll give up easily. He thinks Scott should live in Boston. We know Scott wants to stay but that man would stoop to anything to take him away from us."

"I think Garrett really does love your brother and I'm sure he'll realize that Scott doesn't belong in Boston."

"I hope you're right, Murdoch," Johnny said softly.

"I know I am," Murdoch said, not realizing those words would come back to haunt him over the next few weeks.

Scott heard the conversation but only in snatches. 'Scott's grandfather. .............Scott belongs in Boston.' He recognized Murdoch's voice and it hurt but not as much as the betrayal he felt over Johnny's words. 'Scott should live in Boston.......... Stoop to anything, right Murdoch?.' Scott's fevered mind caught the words and felt as if they were saying they wanted him to live with his grandfather in Boston and they'd do anything to make him leave. "No. Don't wanna g... go... Boston," he cried weakly.

"Don't want to what, Boston?" Johnny asked as he finished with his brother's wounds.

The words came out in fragments and cut Johnny to the core as all he heard were the last three words his brother said " Wanna g... go... Boston," he looked up and knew Murdoch had also heard the three hated words. "He can't be serious," Johnny said.

"It's probably the fever talking. Listen, Johnny," Murdoch said, trying to change the conversation. "I think we're gonna have to spend the night here. It's already dark out and we both need to rest. I'm gonna look around and see if there's anything we can use to make a travois for your brother. I don't think he'll be able to sit a horse."

Johnny stood up and moved towards the door. "I know how to make a travois out of anything, Murdoch. You stay here with, Bos...," the name caught in his throat as he hurried out the door.

Murdoch watched as his youngest son rushed past him. He knew they were in for a long night as he began removing the dead men from the cabin.

*******

They were on the road to Lancer as telltale streaks of dawn came over the sky. Scott had remained in a fevered, unconscious state through the night. He'd moaned in pain as they carried him and lay him on his side on the makeshift travois Johnny had constructed. He'd used bits and pieces of the shack as the beams and had torn up the saddle blankets from the dead men's horses as a type of cushion.

Every mile took its toll on the healthy as well as the injured. Every moan from Scott brought anguished looks between Murdoch and Johnny. The only time they stopped was to force water down Scott's throat and to make sure the blankets weren't pulling away from the beams.

They rode well into the night, each man knowing it was imperative that they get the injured man home. They breathed a collective sigh of relief as they rode through the Lancer gates and up to the main house. Unlike any other night when Johnny had rode home late, the house was well lit.

Johnny jumped tiredly from Barranca's back and hurried to his brother. He listened to the raspy breathing and knew Scott needed the doctor. He turned in time to hear Murdoch ordering one of the hands to go to Morro Coyo and bring Doc Jenkins back.

The door burst open as Harlan Garrett, Teresa O'Brien, and Jelly Hoskins hurried from the house. Three worried people joined the two Lancers as Johnny began removing the bindings that held Scott to the travois. Gently each person placed a loving hand on Scott as they helped lift him. By unspoken agreement they walked into the house and up the stairs to his room.

Tears streamed from Teresa's eyes as she felt the lightness of the body they carried. She could tell Scoot had lost weight as they put him on his bed. "I'll get some water," she said as she turned and hurried from the room. Once outside she let the tears flow freely for herself and Scott. The guilt she'd felt at leaving Scott behind was unfounded but she'd held it inside anyway.

Murdoch looked around the room and knew Scott was in good hands. He followed Teresa out the door knowing she needed him as well. He reached for her shoulders and pulled her close as sobs shook her. "It'll be all right, Teresa," he said.

"I should never have left him," she said as she tightened her grip on Murdoch Lancer.

Murdoch pushed her to arms length and made her meet his eyes. "Now you listen to me, girl. You wouldn't have accomplished anything if you'd stayed with Scott except maybe getting you both killed."

"But look at him," she cried.

"Would your staying have prevented what Harper did?"

"No. But..."

"No, Teresa, you know you couldn't have helped Scott then, but you can now. He needs you," Murdoch said softly.

Teresa wiped the tears from her eyes and without a word hurried down the stairs.

Murdoch turned back to the room just in time to see Harlan Garrett kneel by Scott's bed.

"Scotty, come on boy, wake up," Harlan pleaded. "What have they done to you? I knew I should have made you come back home with me. Look at you now Boy. Whipped like... like a common criminal. Oh, Scotty, as soon as you're able I'm taking you away from this backwoods country to more civilized parts."

"Scott's a grown man, Harlan. He's quite capable of making his own decisions," Murdoch told him.

"Is he? I don't think so. Not when he keeps making the wrong ones. He belongs in Boston with me. At lease he was never hurt there."

"Are you forgetting you're the reason Scott was hurt out here?" Johnny asked. "Seems to me that every time you've come for a visit my brother gets hurt. Maybe you should consider staying in Boston where you belong!"

"I'd never hurt the boy," Garrett said.

"Maybe not. But the people who work for you are the ones that hurt him. First the Degan brothers and now Harper, how many others does Scott have to worry about?"

"You can't be serious? I didn't want Scott hurt," Garrett said as a moan from the bed drew his attention. "Scotty," he said.

Once again snatches of the conversation had reached Scott's consciousness. 'Belongs in Boston,' his grandfather's voice said. 'Scott was hurt out here...  Staying in Boston where you belong,' Johnny's voice.

"Scott, "Johnny said and reached out to touch his shoulder.

Scott felt a light touch on his shoulder and the soft voice of his brother. He wondered how Johnny could have betrayed his trust. How could his own brother want to send him away? Tears welled up but he held them in check. The pain of his brother’s and father’s betrayal cut deeper than any of the numerous whip marks on his back. Despair flowed over him and he turned to the welcoming comfort of unconsciousness.

"Scotty," Garrett repeated worriedly.

Teresa came through the door carrying water and towels. She walked to the bed and immediately took charge. "Murdoch, why don't you and the others go get something to eat while I check Scott?" Her words were immediately met with three protests and she held up her hands. "You two," she said pointing at Johnny and Murdoch. "Probably haven't had anything to eat and probably haven't slept in days. You can't help Scott if you get ill. Please go eat. I promise I'll call you if he wakes up."

"I'll stay and help her, Murdoch," Jelly Hoskins said.

"I'm staying," Johnny said forcefully.

"Murdoch, take Johnny and Mr. Garrett out of here," she said, knowing it would be hard for them to see Scott's wounds again.

"Come on, Johnny," Murdoch said. "Let's let Teresa and Jelly fix your brother up until Doc Jenkins arrives."

"No one touches my grandson till the doctor arrives. You people don't know what your doing. Probably do Scott more harm than good."

Johnny's eyes glazed over with anger and fire blazed in their depths, "You may be Scott's grandfather but you're not welcome here."

"How can you let your half-breed son speak to me like that, Murdoch?" Garrett asked indignantly.

Murdoch walked over to the elderly man and grabbed him by the collar of his starched white shirt, "Don't you ever speak to my son that way again. You forget whose house you're in and if you want to stay, you owe Johnny an apology!"

Harlan Garrett realized he'd overstepped his bounds and looked sheepishly around the room, his eyes lighting on Johnny. He swallowed with difficulty as Murdoch tightened his grip, "I... I'm sorry," he said breathlessly and breathed deeply as he felt the vice like grip release its hold.

"Take this out of here. Do you think your fighting is doing Scott any good?" Teresa said angrily.

"You're right, Teresa," Murdoch said as he pointed to the door. "After you, Harlan," he said vehemently.

Garrett stepped through the door without a backward glance. 'I'll find a way to get you away from this wilderness and back home to civilization, Scotty. You don't belong here!' he thought as he rubbed his neck.

********

Johnny sat by his brother's side long into the night. He watched as Scott struggled to hold back his cries of pain when he moved. He'd promised to wake Murdoch at two and it was already past four. He knew Scott was running a fever by the flushed tone of his cheeks.

Johnny thought over the last couple of years. He'd grown to love having a brother and didn't want to lose him. He reached out and took Scott's hand in his. "Scott, I may not tell you this often enough, hell I may not say it at all, Boston, but I need you. We've only just found each other and I kinda like having an older brother," he said as a single tear rolled down his cheek. "Remember you promised to always be there for me. Well it may sound selfish but I want you to be with me always. Please, brother, I know it hurts but fight. You hear me fight this and come back to me."

"He hears you, Son," Murdoch said as he entered the room.

"Sorry," Johnny said, swiping at his watery eyes. "I didn't know you were there."

"So I see. I thought you were gonna call me at two."

"Sorry, Murdoch, I just didn't want to leave him."

Murdoch placed a consoling hand on his youngest son’s shoulder. The simple touch conveyed more than words ever could and Johnny looked at his father gratefully.

"How's he been?" Murdoch asked.

"He's in a lot of pain and his fever’s getting worse."

Murdoch touched Scott's flushed cheeks and felt the heat emanating from him. "Frank should be back with Doc Jenkins anytime," he said.

"I hope so," Johnny said. "Do you think Scott will go back to Boston with Garrett?" he asked after a few minutes.

Murdoch thought over the question before answering. "You know, Son, I've thought about what life would be like if I lost either of you again. I don't like the idea but whether he stays or not has to be Scott's decision. I don't want him to think he has to stay at Lancer for the wrong reasons. I want him to make up his own mind that this is his home, this is where he belongs, not Boston."

"What about Garrett? We both know he'll do anything to make Scott go home with him."

"Then we'll have to convince Scott how much we want him to stay. Now why don't you go get some sleep?"

"I'd rather stay with Scott," Johnny said.

Murdoch knew it was useless to argue with his stubborn son. He walked to the window and pulled the curtain open. The night sky was filled with a majestic carpet of stars. The moon cast shadows wherever it's light touched and Murdoch knew just how much he needed his sons.

Scott lay in the bed, pain fogging his mind so that once again only snatches of the whispered conversation between his father and brother reached his ears. 'Scott... go back to Boston with Garrett,' Johnny's voice. 'I don't want him... to stay at Lancer,' Murdoch's voice. 'What about Garrett... We both... do anything to make Scott go home with him,' Johnny's betraying voice again. Tears filled his eyes as the words filled his mind. Moaning softly he tossed on the bed, "G...go back to B... Boston w... with Grandfather," he mumbled.

Johnny and Murdoch looked at each other confusedly. They'd both heard Scott's words and couldn't believe he meant them. Before they could say anything they heard the sound of a horse hurrying into the yard. Murdoch glanced back out the window in time to see Frank dismount his horse and Doc Jenkins pull up to the house in his buggy.

"The doctor’s here, Johnny," Murdoch said and hurried down the stairs to meet the elderly man. He opened the door and ushered him into the house.

"How is he, Murdoch?" Jenkins asked.

"He's in a lot of pain, Doc, and running a fever," Murdoch answered. He saw Frank close the door and walk towards the kitchen. He didn't have to ask where the man was going. He knew he was going to get water and supplies for the doctor.

"Where is he?' Jenkins asked.

"His room," Murdoch said and hurried up the stairs. Teresa joined them as they entered Scott's room.

"Doc," Johnny said, relief evident in his voice and demeanour.

"Johnny," Jenkins said and moved past the younger Lancer. He placed a soft, yet experienced hand on his patient's head and immediately turned to the others. "You're right, Murdoch, he's running a high fever. I need cold water. Ice too if you have any available. Teresa, can you get me some clean cloths? We need to get his body cooled down to prevent convulsions. Then we can look after the source of the fever." Jenkins said and wasn't surprised to see everyone hurrying to do his bidding.

Scott lay on his side, shivering as Jenkins lifted the blanket from his body. Through the haze of a fevered mind he heard snatches of conversation. He knew the doctor had arrived and that he wanted ice but he didn't know why. He couldn't tell how long this went on but prayed for it to end soon.

"Scott, I don't know if you can hear me, young man, but I want you to know that I'm here to help you. This may feel uncomfortable for a while but we need to get your fever down," Jenkins kept up the continual chatter as he placed cold cloths on Scott's body. He felt his patient’s body tremble with cold but knew he couldn't stop.

"He's freezing, Doc, can't we cover him up?" Johnny asked. They'd been bathing Scott in cold water for nearly two hours and the fever seemed to have diminished slightly.

"Johnny," Jenkins said and reached out a hand to the young man. "I know this is hard for all of you to see but it's for the best. Convulsions can cause a lot more damage to your brother than a cold bath. Why don't you go get some rest? Teresa told me you haven't been to bed since you and Murdoch brought Scott home."

Johnny shook his head tiredly, "I can't leave him," he said.

"Then make yourself useful and bathe your brother," Jenkins said and handed Johnny the cold cloth.

Johnny sat on the bed and automatically began bathing his brother battered body.

Jenkins walked to the small table. He found a pitcher of cold juice and some clean glasses. He reached in his bag and pulled out a small packet. Pouring a glass of water he mixed the packet with it and walked back to the bed.

"What's this?" Johnny asked, as Jenkins passed him the glass.

"It's juice, young man, and you look like you could use it," Jenkins said and was rewarded when Johnny downed the glass and turned his attention back to his brother. Jenkins moved away from the bed and stood beside Murdoch.

"What was in the packet?" Murdoch asked softly.

"A mild sleeping powder," Jenkins told him conspiratorially.

"He needs it," Murdoch said simply.

Johnny continued to bathe his brother, yawning tiredly as time dragged on. It wasn't long before he found he was unable to keep his eyes open and he slumped forward on the bed.

"Worked like a charm, Doc," Murdoch grinned. "Teresa, can you pull down the blankets on Johnny's bed, please?"

Teresa hurried from the room just as Murdoch and Jelly lifted Johnny's sleeping body into their arms. They put Johnny in his bed and closed the door. By the time they got back to Scott's room, the doctor was placing a healing salve on Scott's back.

When he finished Jenkins turned to face the others. "The fever has come down some but we're out of the woods yet. Murdoch, you need to get some rest. I'll stay here with Scott."

"I'm not tired," Murdoch told him.

"Sure you're not!" Jenkins laughed. "Go to bed or do I have to mix a powder for you as well."

Murdoch knew his friend was right and he felt his body tremble with the effort it took to stay on his feet. He felt a soft hand on his arm and let Teresa guide him from the room. "Call me if anything changes," Murdoch said.

"I will, Murdoch," Teresa promised as she closed the door.

********

Harlan Garrett didn't consider himself a coward, he thought of it more as self-preservation. He'd stayed out of the way when the doctor had arrived; making sure no one had the chance to kick him out of the room. He'd sat in a chair by the window watching as the doctor had carefully examined his grandson and begun treatment. He'd developed an unwanted respect for the country doctor after seeing how he treated Scott's injuries. Now, with only Teresa and the doctor in the room he walked to the bed.

"How is my grandson?" he asked.

Teresa and Jenkins looked up from the patient.

"Who are you?" Jenkins asked. He'd been away when Harlan Garrett last visited and was unaware of the hostility between him and Murdoch. He'd glanced at the man earlier but hadn't had a chance to ask about him.

"Harlan Garrett," Teresa said. "He's Scott's grandfather."

"Oh," Jenkins said simply. He'd heard the story from the people in town. He knew Garrett had come west in hopes to get his grandson to move back with him. He'd also heard the man had used some underhanded tactics to get his way. Luckily for Scott and the other Lancers he'd failed.

"I asked you how my grandson is?" Garrett asked indignantly.

"He's holding his own at the moment. As long as we keep the fever down and prevent any further infection I think he'll be fine," Jenkins told him.

"You think! What kind of answer is that? Will he be all right or not?"

"Mr. Garrett, it's too soon to say. The next twenty four to forty eight hours will tell."

Harlan Garrett picked Scott's hand up in his own and began massaging it.

Teresa could see the tears glistening just below the surface of his eyes. She knew the man wanted to take her 'brother' away from her but couldn't help feeling sorry for him. "He'll make it, Mr. Garrett," she said.

"Will he? Look at him. He's so torn up. He should have stayed with me. I should never have let him go."

"Scott's a grown man and he made his decision," Teresa told him.

"It was the wrong decision," Garrett said. "This time I'll make sure he sees how wrong it was."

Teresa felt the anger well up inside. "Just how do you plan on doing that? You gonna hire some more men to shoot him or do you plan on kidnapping him yourself this time?"

"You can't speak to me like that, girl!"

"She just did, Mr. Garrett," Jenkins said. "Now I have a patient to look after and I'd appreciate it if you'd leave so I can do that."

"He's my grandson and I'm not going to leave him."

"Would you like me to get some of the men and have you removed?" Teresa asked.

Garrett rose from his position by the bed and left the room. 'Soon, Scotty, we'll be going home soon,' he thought.

*******

Johnny Lancer opened his eyes and swore sharply. He sat up to fast and immediately regretted the action when daggers of light flared behind his eyes. Slowly he lay back on his pillow, rubbing his eyes gently.

Teresa stood outside the door; unsure whether it was safe to go in or not. She knew Johnny was going to be upset over the doctor's use of the sleeping powder. Breathing deeply she opened the door and smiled "Well, I see you're finally awake. I brought you some dinner," she said cheerfully.

Johnny glared at her and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Scott," he said.

"He's sleeping. Doctor Jenkins says he'll be fine as long as he rests and the fever doesn't come back," she told him.

"I'm gonna have a talk with Doctor Jenkins," Johnny said and stood up quickly.

"No you don't, Johnny. You needed to get some rest or you wouldn't have been any good to Scott. Now why don't you eat this and we'll both go see him?"

Johnny looked at the tray she'd brought and realized how hungry he was. He picked up half a sandwich and turned towards the door. "I'll eat in Scott's room," he said.

Teresa knew there was no point in arguing. She picked up the tray and followed Johnny to Scott's room.

Doctor Jenkins looked up as Johnny entered the room. He knew by the look on the younger Lancer's face that he should make himself scarce, instead he looked him in the eye and asked, "How are you feeling, Johnny?"

"I feel I should teach a certain doctor..." Johnny said and was interrupted by a quiet voice.

"That's enough, Johnny, you needed to sleep and that was the only way to make sure you got some," Murdoch said as he entered the room.

Johnny walked to his brother's bed and smiled as he heard the doctor sigh behind him. He reached down and touched his brother's hand, "How's he doin, Doc?" he asked.

"Well, the fever's down some and he's resting as comfortable as possible. His back worries me because of how long it was left untreated. I gave Teresa instructions on how to care for him."

"What do you mean gave Teresa instructions? Aren't you staying?" Johnny asked disbelievingly.

"I have other patients who need me, Johnny."

"Scott needs you," Johnny said.

"Scott has you and the rest of his family. Some of my patients don't have anybody. They depend on me stopping by every few days even if it's only to have someone to talk to," Jenkins said seriously. "Your love and care will do more for Scott's recovery than all my medical knowledge right now. I've done everything I can for him. I'll stop back in a day or two, meanwhile just let him sleep and push the fluids."

"I understand, Doc," Murdoch said, remembering the loneliness he'd felt when he'd first moved west. There'd been many nights he'd have given his right arm just to have someone to break the monotony. Of course that had been many years ago and now he had his two sons and Teresa to keep away the loneliness.

"Thank you, Murdoch. Send someone for me if anything changes. Otherwise I'll stop back in two days," Jenkins said. He picked up his bag, felt Scott's head once more and hurried away from the dark glare of Johnny Lancer.

Johnny knew Jenkins was right and that he was needed by others but his main concern was for the pale, blonde-haired man laying quietly on the bed. "Hey, Boston, you gonna wake up today? We got a lot of things to do. All your chores have been piling up while you were away. Hope you don't think I'm gonna do em for ya."

Murdoch and Teresa stood back and listened to Johnny's one-way conversation. They knew if anyone could get through to Scott it was Johnny.

Scott lay still and listened to what his brother was saying. He felt confused and betrayed and didn't understand why Johnny was talking about chores now after saying he didn't want him living at Lancer. He tried to speak but nothing came out. His body felt as if it belonged to some one else. Some stranger who didn't have the strength to open his eyes. "Jo..." he tried again.

Johnny heard the small sound escape his brother's lips and leaned closer, "Easy, Scott, I'm here. You're gonna be all right."

"A... all right. Gonna go... b... to... Boston."

Johnny listened to the words and had to fight back a retort. He knew Scott was in a lot of pain, but for him to want to move back to Boston hurt Johnny more than he let on. "If that's really what you want, Scott, I won't let anyone stop you," Johnny said sadly.

Murdoch and Teresa joined Johnny by the bed and the three listened to Scott's raspy breathing. Unshed tears glistened in three sets of eyes.

"Do you really think he'll leave?" Teresa asked.

"I don't know," Murdoch said quietly. "If that's what he wants then we have to let him go."

"What if I can't?" Johnny asked.

"Scotty wants to come back to Boston with me. You heard him as well as I did," Harlan Garrett told them. He'd stood in the door listening since Scott had mumbled the word Boston. He'd been unsure of what had been said until he heard Teresa ask if they thought Scott would leave. He seized the opportunity. "As soon as he's able to travel I'll make the arrangements." he told them.

"I think you're jumping the gun, Garrett," Johnny said. "Scott's not thinking clearly right now. I know he'll change his mind when he comes to his senses."

"I don't think so! Scotty will be better off coming home to Boston." Garrett said.

"Boston may be your home but it's not Scott's. He belongs at Lancer with his family," Teresa told him.

"I suppose you consider yourself his family?"

"If she doesn't, I do," Johnny said, his voice dangerously low.

"She's more family than you'll ever be," Murdoch answered in the same low voice Johnny had used.

Scott listened to the voices but didn't understand who or what they were talking about. The heated exchange didn't mean anything to him. All he could think of was the earlier conversations he'd overheard. Between the pain and the medication the two seemed to blend as one and the only thing he could focus on was that his father and brother didn't want him but his grandfather did. He closed his eyes and shut out everyone around him. It wasn't long before he slept.

********

The days seemed to be an endless turmoil of pain, both emotional and physical for Scott. He managed to eat the simple broths and juices Teresa brought him but had little interest in talking to anyone.

If Johnny or Murdoch came to see him he pretended he was sleepy and would close his eyes and wait for them to leave. Each day brought him closer to his decision to leave with his grandfather. His memories of the conversations between his father and brother were foremost in his mind. He knew he couldn't hurt them anymore by staying where he wasn't wanted. He would leave so they wouldn't have to tell him to go. In this way he could think of it as his own decision.

"Scotty."

Scott opened his eyes and looked at Garrett. He struggled to sit up in the bed. "Grandfather," he said weakly.

"Can I get you anything, Scotty?" Garrett asked.

"N... no, thank you, Gr... Grandfather," Scott's voice hitched on a spasm of pain.

Garrett leaned down and fixed the pillows behind his grandson's back. "Feel like talking, Scotty?" he asked.

"Sure, Grandfather, what do you want to talk about?"

Garrett pulled up a chair and sat beside the bed. "I want you to come home with me, Scott," he said.

********

Teresa stood outside the door listening to Harlan Garrett. She wanted to stop this conversation until Murdoch and Johnny were here. The two men had left to check on some cattle earlier and hadn't come back yet. She stood with her back to the door unsure what she should do.

*********

Scott lay on the bed, fidgeting with the blankets; unable to speak the words he knew he must say. Tears for what should have been his home and family filled his eyes as he finally found his voice. "I... I'll come with you Grandfather."

Harlan Garrett's face shone with happiness as he looked into the anguished face of his grandson. He saw Scott grimace and put it down to pain from his physical wounds. "That's wonderful, Scotty. I'll make the arrangements right away. How soon do you want to leave?" he asked anxiously.

*********

Teresa couldn't believe what she'd just heard and a small sob escaped her lips. She was about to enter the room and beg Scott to wait for his father and brother before making any decisions but stopped in her tracks at his next words.

********

"As soon as possible. I can't stay where I'm not wanted," Scott said sadly.

Garrett fought back the grin that threatened to explode on his face. He'd waited a long time to hear Scott tell him he wanted to come back to Boston. He wasn't about to give anyone the chance to change his mind. "That's right, Scotty, they never wanted you here," he said.

He was interrupted by the door swinging open loudly, a dark haired beauty with fire in her eyes stood before him. "How can you say that?"

"How dare you interrupt me," Garrett shouted angrily.

"How dare you tell Scott that we don't want him here," Teresa shouted back.

"Teresa."

Teresa looked at Scott as she knelt by his bed. "You can't believe him, Scott. Murdoch and Johnny love you. They would never want you to leave."

"They do. I heard them," Scott told her as he reached out to take her hand in his.

She looked down at his hand holding hers and felt a slight tightening of his fist. "You can't believe that, Scott," she repeated softly.

"I heard them say they wanted me to leave. They said I belonged in Boston," he told her.

She saw the light reflect off his eyes and could tell he was fighting back his own tears. "Talk to them, Scott. You'll see you're wrong."

"Scotty has already made up his mind. He's coming back to Boston with me. We'll be leaving as soon as the doctor says he's able to travel."

"I wouldn't make those plans just yet, Mr. Garrett. Murdoch and Johnny will fix everything when they get back," Teresa said with more confidence than she felt.

"I'm sorry, Teresa," Scott said and she followed a single tear down his gaunt cheek.

"Scott, what exactly did you hear?" Teresa asked, turning her back on the elderly man sitting next to the bed.

"I... I heard Johnny say, 'Scott should go back to Boston.'" Scott told her painfully. "And Murdoch said, 'I don't want him to stay at Lancer,'" he continued painfully.

"Are you sure you heard those words?" Teresa asked. "Maybe you just dreamed them," she suggested.

"I... I know what I heard. There's more. Murdoch said, 'do anything to make him go home with him,'" Scott told her.

The words sounded familiar to both Garrett and Teresa. Teresa knew they'd been spoken in this very room when Scott had first been brought home. She could tell Garrett knew it as well. "Tell him the truth, Mr. Garrett," she ordered.

Garrett saw his chances of having Scott go home with him slipping away and made a last, desperate attempt to convince him he was making the right decision. "You will leave this room at once, girl. I don't like the way you're upsetting Scotty," he said.

"She's not upsetting me, Grandfather," Scott said as he tried to focus on the conversation he'd heard and what Teresa was telling him.

"Upsetting him? I'll have you know that you're the one upsetting him and everyone else in this house," she yelled at him and turned back to Scott. "Listen to me, Scott, Murdoch and Johnny did have that conversation but you were delirious and didn't hear it all."

Garret reached over and took hold of Teresa's arm, " I said leave!"

"No!" she said, once again turning back to the man in the bed, "Scott, please, think about it? Why would Murdoch and Johnny want you to leave now?"

Garrett began to pull her away from the bed but was halted by a strong hand on his shoulder. "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Johnny's voice mirrored the anger in his eyes.

"She's... she's upsetting m... my Grandson," Garrett stammered.

Johnny glanced from Garrett to Teresa and finally came to rest on his brother, "That right, Boston?" he asked.

Scott's only answer was a simple shake of his head. Slowly he tried to turn away from the group but the movement tore a sharp hiss of pain from him.

Johnny released Garrett and rushed to his brother's side, "You all right, Scott?"

"I'm fine. Just leave me alone."

"I think it's time we had a talk, brother," Johnny said softly.

"What's there to talk about? I'm leaving with grandfather as soon as the doctor says it's ok." Scott said, keeping his back to his brother so Johnny wouldn't see the stricken look on his face.

"Now that's one of the things we need to talk about. All of a sudden you want to leave Lancer and go back to Boston without any kind of explanation. That's not like you, Scott."

"I don't have a choice," Scott said sadly.

"What does that mean?" Johnny asked, confused and angered by Scott's answer.

"It means I don't stay where I'm not wanted. Now can you just leave me alone and let me get some sleep?"

Johnny couldn't believe what he'd just heard. Shaking his head he turned to Harlan Garrett. "What have you been filling his head with?"

For the first time Harlan Garrett actually felt afraid of the young man before him. "I didn't fill his head with anything. If you must know Scotty heard everything you said and has decided to come back home where he belongs," he said shakily.

"Is there a problem here?" Murdoch asked as he entered the room and took in the small group clustered around Scott's bed.  Dr. Jenkins immediately followed him in.

"Scott says he wants to go back to Boston," Johnny explained.

"Is that right, Scott?" Murdoch asked, quickly masking the disappointment he felt.

"Yes," Scott answered keeping his face turned away from the group.

Jenkins hurried to his patient and began ushering the others out of the room. "Well you won't be leaving anytime soon," he said.

"When?" Scott asked simply.

"Not until we have a chance to talk, Son," Murdoch said and ignored the doctor. He took the chair vacated by Harlan Garrett and placed his hand on Scott's shoulder. "What's going on, Scott? Why the sudden urge to leave?"

Scott tried to turn to face his father. He felt angered that they would blame him when they were the ones who wanted him to leave. With Jenkins help he was finally sitting and able to look Murdoch in the eyes. "Why don't you tell everyone the truth? You and Johnny are the ones that want me to leave," he said as strongly as his weakened body would allow.

"We what?" Johnny asked incredulously.

"That's what we were talking about when you came in Johnny," Teresa said quickly. "Remember the day you brought Scott home?" at the affirmative nods she continued. "Well he overheard snatches of conversation. He thinks you two don't want him here."

"How can you think that, Scott?" Murdoch asked. "I know I've done you and Johnny wrong by not finding you sooner but now that you're here I don't want to lose you. I want to build the relationship we should have had. Please, Son, give us that chance."

"Don't believe him, Scott, I was here too and I know what I heard. I heard them both say you belonged in Boston," Garrett said, ignoring the irate looks he received from everyone in the room except his grandson.

"Get out of my home, Harlan," Murdoch said angrily.

"No, please don't make him leave, Murdoch," Scott said, his voice filled with pain as his eyes met his fathers. "I understand why you want me to leave. I'm not much help out here."

"Scott, please believe me when I say you never heard what you think you did. I just wish there were some way to prove it to you. To prove once and for all that your grandfather is lying," Murdoch said.

"There may be a way," Teresa said, a smile glowing brightly on her face.

"How?" Scott asked, hope evident in that one word.

"Johnny, come with me," she said.

"Why?" Johnny asked curiously.

"I want to prove something to Scott," she said as she held the door for him. "I want you to close your eyes, Scott, and listen carefully."

"What will that prove?" Scott asked.

"Just do it, Scott. I want you to listen to what's being said but I don't want you to see what's going on. Murdoch, make sure he keeps his eyes closed."

"Ok, Teresa," he said bewilderedly. "You heard the girl, Scott, close your eyes."

Dr. Jenkins stood back with Harlan Garrett, wondering what Teresa had in mind. It wasn't long before they knew what she was up to. Garrett made a move to interfere until he felt Murdoch's eyes on him. Silence filled the room as they waited for Teresa to put her plan into action.

*******

Teresa closed the door and turned to Johnny. Quickly she explained what she wanted him to do. She held the door, opening and closing it during their conversation.

"Johnny, do you want Scott to go back to Boston?" she asked.

Inside the room Scott heard only pieces of her sentence. 'Scott ... back to Boston.'

"Hell, no, I don't want Scott to go back to Boston. I want him to stay here at Lancer where he belongs."

Once again Scott only heard small bits, 'I... want Scott...to... back to Boston... where he belongs.' Understanding suddenly dawned on Scott's face and he smiled warmly. "Teresa, I've heard enough," he said.

Teresa and Johnny stepped back into the room and walked over to the bed. "Does that mean what I hope it means, Brother?" Johnny asked.

"I feel kinda foolish," Scott said sheepishly.

"And well you should, Scott Lancer," Teresa laughed. "Imagine thinking your family don't want you."

"Scotty."

"Grandfather," Scott said as the elderly man walked up to the bed.

"Does this mean you'll be staying?"

"I'm afraid so, Grandfather," Scott said, feeling sorry for the man in spite of what he'd done.

"Then I'll be leaving in the morning," Harlan Garrett said, turning to leave.

"Don't go," Scott said simply. "Please tell him he can stay, Murdoch," he pleaded.

"Against my better judgement and because my son loves you I'm willing to let bygones be bygones, Harlan. You can stay as long as you promise not to interfere with Scott's decision."

Garrett looked at the handsome young man in the bed. He could see that he'd hurt him by lying about what he heard and he knew he'd have to fight to win back any kind of trust. He loved his grandson and wanted him home but for now that seemed to be beyond his reach. "I'd like to stay. At least till I know you'll be all right," Garrett said softly.

"Since that's all straightened out I'd like to examine my patient. So if everyone but Teresa would leave I'd be much obliged," Jenkins told them and was relieved to see the three men do as he'd ordered.

Johnny stopped at the door and turned and walked back to the bed. He looked Scott straight in the eyes and spoke so only he could hear. "Don't ever think of leaving me again, Brother."

"You either, Brother," Scott whispered back.

Johnny nodded his head and left the room.

"Now let's see how you're doin, shall we?" Jenkins asked.

******

Two weeks later Scott Lancer stood and watched as his grandfather's Buggy left the ranch. He watched as it progressed through the gates and disappeared over the hills. A sigh escaped his lips as he turned back to the house. Dr. Jenkins had refused to let him accompany his grandfather because of his weakened condition.

"You ok, Boston?"

"I think so, Johnny. I was just thinking about Grandfather. I kept hoping he would apologize for lying to me," Scott said as he sat in a chair Johnny nudged under him.

Johnny looked at the horizon where Harlan Garrett had disappeared. "You know I'm not to fond of your grandfather, Scott, but he does love you. Even if he has a funny way of showing it sometimes."

"That's grandfather all right. He'll do anything to get what he wants. I just hope he doesn't feel too disappointed."

"The only way he wouldn't have been disappointed is if you'd gone with him. Then I would have been disappointed," Johnny said as Murdoch, Teresa, and Jelly joined them.

"Thanks, Johnny," Scott said as he took in his surroundings. He knew he was home and that nothing or nobody could ever take it away from him.

 

~end~

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