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gemspegasus

 

 

FBlood Trail

An episode tag for The Escape

Characters: Scott Lancer, Johnny Lancer, Chris Larabee, Buck Wilmington, Nathan Jackson, JD Dunne, Ezra Standish, Vin Tanner and Josiah Sanchez will eventually come into the story. Other characters are Jed Lewis and Rick Hardy.
Crossover: Lancer /The Magnificent Seven (OW)
Rating: Gen, Hurt/Comfort,
Spoilers: For Lancer, the episode “The Escape” and The Magnificent Seven, “The Collector”, "Sins of the Past" and “Lady-Killers”
Status: Complete
Word Count: 6,959 words
Disclaimer: Neither Lancer nor The Magnificent Seven belong to me. I'm only saddling them up for a 'ride' or 7. I will return Lancer to CBS, Twentieth Century Fox and Samuel A. Peeples and The Magnificent Seven to CBS, MGM, Mirisch, Trilogy and John Watson when we're done. Not mine. No copyright infringement intended. This was written for fun only. No profit made.
A/N: Inspired be this prompt, “Johnny was following a blood trail(Scott’s of course) and the sky was darkening except when lightening strikes streaked across it and the crashes of thunder were coming closer and closer. Johnny knew in moments the rain would come in a downburst and the blood trail would be lost…” found at shallowz’s journal. To find out more about Mag 7 you can go here:  http://blackraptor.net/m7fic/contents/seven/seven.htm

 

 

Chapter 1

Whitley Pass – New Mexico Territory

Blood seeped through long, tightly-bunched fingers, leaving a trail of bright red splotches on the dirt packed earth. Pressing a hand more firmly against his wounded side which was still copiously dripping blood, Scott Lancer gritted his teeth and kneed his horse, Charlie forward.

Charlie ignored the sound of gunfire around him and his hooves barely touched the ground as his rider bend lower over his withers.

The pounding of hooves behind him and the bullets whizzing by him meant his attackers were still chasing him.

What were the assailants after? Money? If so, the would-be-robbers had the wrong Lancer brother. Johnny was the one with the money from the horses recently sold to Fort Selden. All he had was the purchase contract for one of Lancer’s prize bulls which the rancher in Las Cruces had agreed to buy.

A voice from Scott’s past shouted, “You won’t get away from us this time, Lieutenant Lancer!”

'Not thieves then, but men looking for revenge', thought Scott as Charlie galloped into a thickly wooded area.

Jed Lewis and Rick Hardy smiled maliciously as they noted that the former lieutenant was heading toward the ranch of their new boss, Guy Royal.

Thunder boomed and lightening flashed across the sky as the two men pursued their prey.

 

Chapter 2

Chris Larabee’s Cabin - New Mexico Territory

Meanwhile, a mile or so beyond the eastern edge of the woods, two men, Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington were getting ready to eat supper at Chris’s cabin on the outskirts of Four Corners. The two peacekeepers had been returning to town from delivering a prisoner to Lobo County. But sighting the darkening sky and hearing the echoes of rolling thunder, they knew a storm was coming and they decided the closest shelter was the cabin.

“Ezra has patrol, tonight. He’s going to be miserable.” Buck said as he wandered out of the spare bedroom and up to the small table.

“Yep. And we’ll hear about it tomorrow.” Chris chuckled slightly as he stirred the pot on the stove filled with some of Josiah’s chili.

 

Whitley Pass - New Mexico Territory – Two hours later

At that moment on the same trail where Scott had been waylaid, Johnny Lancer urged his palomino, Barranca into a faster trot. He wanted to get to Ridge City, find his brother Scott and get on the train heading for home…heading to Lancer. A happy smile curled Johnny’s lips and then slid off his face as his sharp blue eyes caught the sight of a hat lying forlornly on the road.

It was Scott’s hat. And it had a bullet hole above the brim!

Johnny worriedly and rapidly scanned the ground. Reading the signs, he knew Scott had been bushwhacked and was being chased. The ex-gunfighter swore softly as he saw the splotches of blood next to Charlie’s hoof prints. Nudging Barranca in the flanks, Johnny lowered himself over the saddle while muttering a quick prayer that he would find his brother before this thunderstorm broke loose and washed away all the tracks.

 

Forest near Whitley pass – New Mexico Territory

Back in the woods, the chestnut horse, Charlie raced forward until a red fox startled him and his rider who then kneed him to the right.

Two curses floated in the air behind him.

Jed Lewis’s horse had picked up a stone and Rick Hardy had seen Lancer turn away from Royal’s place and toward the town of Four Corners. The taller man had told Hardy to continue chasing the ‘Lieutenant’ and not to lose him. He’d follow him as soon as he saw to his horse.

Scott almost tumbled off of his mount when a low-lying tree branch thwacked him in the back of the head but he stubbornly held on. Sweat dotted his brow and ran down his temples His vision blurred and blood was still oozing from his wound as he and his horse, Charlie cleared the forest.

‘Were those brown blobs he saw only a few yards away, a house and a barn?’ Scott thought to himself as Charlie galloped in the direction of those blobs.

Narrowed blue grey eyes squinted slightly. Yes, someone was home, there was smoke coming out of the chimney. Scott halted Charlie outside the cabin and shouted, “Hello, the house!”

 

Chapter 3

Chris Larabee’s Cabin - New Mexico Territory


Inside, at the sound of the shout, two chairs scraped across the floor as both Buck and Chris rose and strode to the front door. With their guns drawn, the two men stepped onto the porch.

Both peacekeepers immediately noticed the pinched, pained set of the man’s face.

“Two men…war…revenge.” Scott hissed out as Buck and Chris surrounded him.

Chris’s sharp eyes darted around the property and down the trail. Hazel orbs spotted the shadow moving out of the trees and caught the glint of metal aimed at the wounded man's back thanks to a jagged bolt of lightening which flashed in the sky at that moment.

A bullet sped out of Chris’s Colt 45 and embedded itself into Hardy’s forehead, killing him instantly.

‘Hell, the man in black was as fast as Madrid!” Jed Lewis thought to himself as he crouched behind a tree. He didn’t want to tangle with the deadly blond but Rick had saved his life at Vicksburg and he would see to it that Rick would be buried proper and not eaten by coyotes.

Buck took one look at Scott and a quiet “damn” escaped his lips as he saw the wound on Scott’s left side. It reminded him of when JD had been gut shot by Maddie Stokes. “Chris, we need to get him to Nathan pronto.”

Scott called out, “Johnny” and slumped sideways almost falling off his horse before Buck caught him.

Chris brought out Beau, Buck’s grey mount. “Go. I’ll stay and keep an eye out for any one else looking for him.”

Beau led the chestnut horse now carrying the unconscious man across his saddle at a fast clip. When they reached Four Corners, Buck shouted for Nathan who along with three of the other peacekeepers came running out at the sound of Buck’s yell.

 

Chapter 4

 

Forest near Whitley pass – New Mexico Territory


Tracking through woods could be difficult but Johnny was an excellent tracker and could read the tell tale signs of Scott’s run through the trees with ease. Plus the blood stains marking the floor of the forest helped Johnny follow the trail. Johnny halted Barranca as he came upon a piece of ripped beige cloth whipping to and fro on a sagging tree branch.

Pocketing the cloth in his shirt pocket, Johnny studied the signs and noted that Scott had turned to the right at this spot and that now only one horse was following Scott. The other horse’s hoof prints led away from the chase. “Was the second horseman circling around to trap Scott? I’ve got to find him.” Johnny whispered to himself as Barranca ran through a canopy of trees.

A moment later, heavy drops of rain began to drench both Johnny and Barranca.

The palomino was still sure-footed though and trotted out of the forest with a shake of his head.

Johnny’s heart stuttered a beat while a softly-spoken “Dios mio, no!” fell from his lips as he saw a freshly dug grave a few feet from the edge of the woods he had just ridden out of.

“Dios mio, no” – My God, no!

 

Chapter 5

 

Four Corners, New Mexico Territory


In Four Corners, Buck and Nathan carried the unconscious man carefully up the stairs into the healer’s clinic.

Nathan peppered Wilmington with questions about how the bloodied blond had received his injuries.

All Buck had been able to tell him was that first, the blond had already been shot by the time he had arrived at Chris’s cabin and second that two men bent on revenge had been after the stranger whose name was Scott Lancer. One had tried to shoot him in the back but Chris had gotten the ‘varmit’ right between the eyes. And Chris was still at his cabin keeping an eye out for the second man.

Vin, JD and Josiah also heard this as they followed their friends up the stairs.

When Buck finished answering Nathan’s questions, Vin asked JD to ride out and find Ezra. The gambler needed to know to be on the lookout for this second assassin.

JD nodded and headed down toward the livery.

Once inside the clinic, Nathan and Buck set Scott gently onto the bed. The healer asked Buck to hold Scott’s legs down, Josiah to hold onto the man’s shoulders and for Vin to light and shine the lantern close to Scott’s wound as there wasn’t much natural light coming through the window due to storm clouds darkening the sky outside.

Buck hoped JD had remembered to put his rain slicker on before he lit out. Then the mustached man slightly tightened his grip on the unconscious man.

Josiah’s large hands firmly held narrow shoulders while he mentally said a prayer to the Almighty.

With the now bright lantern in hand, Vin slid into place next to Nathan who was kneeling down on one leg besides Scott.

”Buck, ‘Siah, need you to roll him over onto his right side and keep him up sideways in the bed. I need to see both his back and his front at the same time. Alright on three...One…two…three…”

On three, the two big men carefully turned Scott sideways and held him as they had been instructed.

Nathan softly loosened and removed the strips of shirt which Buck had tied around Scott’s torso. The dark-skinned healer exhaled a breath as he studied the jagged injury.
There was an entrance and exit wound. Both were messy but it meant that a bullet had gone through the man instead of still being inside the man. Nathan would still need to stitch him up but he could do that. Lord knew, he’d had enough practice with all of his fellow peacekeepers and friends having to be stitched up more times than he could count.

“There’s an entrance and exit point on his body,” proclaimed Nathan in a relieved tone of voice.

Josiah, Buck and Vin all smiled in relief as well.

“Okay boys, need to stitch him up though, so everybody knows how he can help right?” Nathan asked. At the three affirmative head nods, he went to wash his hands with a lye soap and rinse them with a basin filled with water for that particular purpose. Nathan dried his hands with a soft cloth which Ezra had gifted him with while the others bustled about the room gathering supplies. Within a few minutes, his three assistants chorused, “Ready.”

Nathan chuckled quietly to himself and then concentrated on suturing up his latest patient.

 

Chapter 6

 

Chris Larabee’s Cabin - New Mexico Territory


Spying a house up ahead, Johnny had Barranca galloping straight to it.

Chris Larabee stood on his porch with a deceptively relaxed stance allowing the younger man to ride up to the hitching rail in front of the cabin.

The raven-haired man tilted his head and the blond peace keeper correctly read the question in the younger man’s eyes.

“Come up onto the porch and get out of the rain and put the palomino in the barn.” Chris told the stranger.

“Thanks. Name’s Johnny Lancer.” Johnny said as he dismounted and took Barranca into the barn. Once his horse was settled in a stall, Johnny dashed out of the barn and back to the cabin. He jumped up the two porch steps and now stood in front of the man in black.

Chris introduced himself and Johnny blinked in surprise for a moment but then his “Madrid” mask emerged.

“Was the man buried in that grave, a slim, tall, blond man with blue grey eyes?” Johnny asked.

Larabee replied evenly, “If he was, who was he to you?”

Without thinking, Johnny cocked his gun and ordered in his hardest Johnny Madrid tone of voice, “Damnit, tell me if it’s my brother, Scott in the ground over there or not.” And he blinked again when he registered that the blond man had cocked his own gun at the same time he had done so.

Chris knew how to read people just as well as Johnny did and he was sensing that the younger man was telling the truth. He could see a familiar anguish lurking deep in the deadly blue eyes staring at him

Giving Lancer his own hard hazel-eyed glare, Chris countered with, “Your brother work for Guy Royal?”

“Who?” replied Johnny as he looked blankly at the blond man. “Scott and I are ranchers from California here on business and he doesn’t work for this Royal. Now, tell me who’s buried in there,” demanded Johnny.

Chris responded, “Your brother isn’t the one in there.” Larabee inclined his head toward the grave. He continued speaking, “It’s one of Royal’s ranch hands. Some of the other ranch hands came by looking for him since he hadn’t come back from running his boss’s errands in town, yet. He tried to shoot somebody in the back, so I took him out.”

Johnny breathed out a thankful sigh that it wasn’t Scott lying in the grave as he had feared. He then re-holstered his weapon and Chris did the same with his Colt 45.

Then the raven-haired Lancer asked him, “Have you seen Scott? Some men were chasing him, looks like it was two of ’em from the tracks on the road and through the woods.”

Chris nodded. “Scott said two men looking for revenge…” was harshly interrupted by Johnny’s verbal outburst.

“Shit! Why does my past always have to catch up with my family?” The younger man then began to pace the length of the porch while constantly carding a hand through his dark hair.

In a clipped tone of voice, “Chris responded, “Johnny, you didn’t let me finish what I was saying. Scott said these men wanted revenge for the war. Were you in the War?”

Johnny had stopped pacing and now stood at the opposite end of the porch from Chris. He had been forlornly staring out into the deluge pouring down but his head whipped around when Larabee mentioned the war.

‘War?  Were Lewis and Hardy chasing his brother again? He hadn’t wanted to let them go the first time they had hurt Scott but he had acquiesced to his brother’s wishes at the time. Wait! Larabee said that Scott said…’ all of these thoughts flashed lightening quick through Johnny’s mind.

Suddenly Johnny was in Chris’s face again. “Scott’s alive! He inside?”

Johnny reached for the handle of the cabin door but a strong, callused hand stopped him.

Hazel and blue eyes locked glares.

Chris spoke, “He’s not inside. He had already been shot at least once when we saw him, Johnny. A friend of mine, Buck rode with him into town. There, Nathan will do everything he can for him.”

 

Chapter 7

 

Chris Larabee’s Cabin New Mexico Territory


Johnny blanched at Chris’s words. He swallowed hard twice before asking, “How bad?”

“Don’t rightly know but Nathan will do the best he can. He’s patched us all up one time or another and we’re all still here.” Chris threw over his shoulder as he stepped down the porch steps.

Johnny dogged his heels and asked, “Where are you going?” He stepped out into the wet, damp yard.

It was still raining but not as hard as before.

The blond man didn’t break stride as he replied, “To saddle the horses so we can ride. Your brother Scott is in town, so I figure that’s where you want to be too.”

Johnny didn’t answer. He just dashed past him into the barn.

Chris quirked his lips slightly and entered the barn in time to see Lancer throwing the saddle over the Palomino. His own black gelding, Pony nickered softly when he spotted him. Larabee patted him once on the shoulder in a return greeting and then readied him to ride.

 

Road leading into Four Corners, New Mexico Territory

Several minutes later, Pony and Barranca trotted steadily on the muddied road which led into Four Corners.

Chris spoke before Johnny could clear leather when they both heard and saw two horses bearing down on them. “It’s two of my men, Ezra and JD.” The blond had recognized the flash of a red jacket as Chaucer and Toby raced toward them.

Johnny stilled the hand moving over his gun and reined Barranca to a stop. He waited impatiently as Chris also halted his black gelding.

As soon as Ezra and JD reached their side, Larabee asked, “JD, everything all right in town?”

JD replied, “Everything’s good, Chris. But when Buck brought that wounded stranger in and explained who was after him, Vin told me to ride out and tell Ezra.”

The blond nodded as he acknowledged that was good thinking on Vin’s part and turned his head a quarter of a fraction to look Ezra straight in the eye.

The gambler reported nothing unusual happened on his patrol until Mr. Dunne arrived with the news from Four Corners. He did manage to slip in a complaint about the weather and how it adversely affected his wardrobe.

Chris glared at Ezra and forbade the Southerner to send the Judge a letter asking for reimbursement for the wet clothes like he had done the last time he’d gotten caught in inclement weather.

Meanwhile, Johnny had introduced himself to JD and began to ask after Scott.

JD responded to Johnny a few moments after the four horsemen began to ride again.
“Well Mr. Lancer, Scott was shot on the left side on the torso. Don’t know if the bullet is still inside of ’im or if it went through but I know he was still alive and breathing when I left to find Ezra. If anyone can save him, Nathan can. He’s saved us all.” Absent-mindedly, the young man rubbed the area of his vest which hid the scar on his own torso.

Both Chris and Ezra noted the rubbing and both made a mental note to talk to JD later.

Johnny didn’t begrudge these men their faith in their doctor but he feverently wished that the Lancers’ doctor Sam Jenkins was here. He had only met his big brother a few years ago. He wasn’t ready to let Scott go, now or ever.

 

 

Chapter 8

 

Nathan’s Clinic Four Corners, New Mexico Territory


Scott Lancer felt as if heavy weights were attached to his eyelids as he tried to open his blue-grey eyes and his head pounded as if a troop of cavalry horses were galloping through it. Finally, he pried his eyes open to a slit and saw a lilac-colored, calico shirt. ‘When did Johnny get a new shirt?’ flitted fuzzily through Scott’s thoughts before he heard the soft drawl of, “Nathan, he’s awake.”

Buck rose from the chair next to the sickbed so the healer could take his place.

All Scott knew was that the lavender-colored shirt had left his sight and he hoarsely rasped, “Johnny, brother, don’t go.” He thrashed about on the bed but Nathan gently restrained him while he scolded him.

“Take it easy, now. You don’t want to tear out any of the stitches sewn into your side. You also took a whack to the back of the head. And it gave you a good-sized goose egg there, so all this wiggling about is likely to make you dizzy and nausea.”

Walking around to the other side of the bed, Buck crouched down by the bed putting the shirt within Scott’s range of vision again and Scott settled immediately. But Scott’s stomach did not, he jerked under Nathan’s hand and began to retch.

With his free hand, Nathan grabbed an empty basin and held it under Scott’s convulsing body.

And Buck was steadily rubbing Scott’s back with a calming circular motion. “That’s it pard. Let it all out. You’ll feel better, Scott.” Buck crooned softly.

The injured blond finished retching and exhaustedly slumped back against Buck’s shoulder. He fell asleep to the still gentle feel of a hand moving lightly over his spine.

The mustached man stopped when he heard Scott’s breaths deepen and even out.

Two strong, dark-skinned hands slipped Scott properly into the bed and then covered him with a blanket.

Buck rose from his crouch and said, “Nathan, go get some shut-eye. You’ve got to be beat. I’ll watch over him til ’Siah spells me. And I will wake him in an hour or so to check on his concussion. I will also try to get him to drink water too. Now git or I’ll set Chris on ya when he gets back.”

The healer gave a tired chuckle, nodded his head and lumbered off to bed.

 

Chapter 9

 

Nathan’s Clinic, Four Corners, New Mexico Territory

An hour or so later, Buck gently roused the injured blond to wakefulness. Wilmington then asked Scott some questions.

Scott answered him grumpily and groggily. “I’m Scott Lancer, Charlie is my horse and you’re Buck Wilmington.”

A big grin creased the mustached man’s face as he replied that he sure was. He helped Lancer sit up some in the bed. Buck then offered Scott a few sips of water which the blond greedily swallowed.

“Not too fast now, hoss, don’t want you gettin’ sick on us again.” Buck said as he pulled away the cup from Scott’s lips.

Scott croaked out a hoarse, “Thank you,” and gave the peace keeper a wan smile. The next moment, he startled slightly as a long-haired blond man dressed in buckskins quietly entered the room.

At the feel of cool air hitting his back, Buck whirled around with his gun in hand and stood protectively over Scott.

Dark blue eyes met bright sapphire blue eyes and Buck huffed out, “Geez, Vin! Give a pard a warning next time.” Afterwards, he re-holstered his gun.

“No time, Bucklin. Got four riders comin’ in fast. With this storm, can’t tell if it’s friend or foe. Best be ready though. Wake Nathan. I’ll be at the bell tower. 'Siah knows and he’s over at the jail. Yosemite and others are spread throughout town.” Vin Tanner drawled. The Texan tipped his hat to the now wide awake Scott Lancer before silently slipping out the door into the night.

Scott turned bewildered eyes upon a smiling Buck Wilmington.

“Vin’s definitely a man to have at your back when you need it. Gotta remember to tell Chris he did good hooking up with ’im.” Buck said to himself when he heard Lancer calling him.

“Buck, what’s going on?” demanded Scott.

“Might be the second man looking to kill you riding in and we don’t aim to give him a chance to get to you.” Buck responded in a hard tone of voice.

Scott’s head was still buzzing with pain but he understood he was still in danger and that Buck and this man Vin meant to protect him.

“How many is we?” asked the blond man because he needed a rifle so he could shoot too, well once his head stopped spinning.

“There are four of us in town now,” fell from the mustached man’s lips.

“And seven peacekeepers in total,” added a rich baritone which belonged to a dark-skinned man who had entered the room. “Nathan Jackson, I’m the healer around these parts.” He introduced himself then asked to check the blond’s wounds.

While Nathan gave Scott Lancer the once over, Wilmington quickly filled Nathan in on what was going on. Jackson nodded once to signal that he understood.

Scott then asked Buck if he had heard anything about or seen his brother Johnny Lancer.

Both Buck and Nathan replied that they had neither seen nor heard of a Johnny Lancer but they’d keep their eyes and ears open.

Nathan told Scott his side looked good but wanted to know how the blond’s head was feeling as Buck left the room to retrieve more weapons and ammo.

Scott un-scrunched his nose as he finished drinking down one of Nathan’s medicinal teas.

Buck returned and handed Nate his knife sheath. He then chuckled when Scott groused.

“A most vile concoction, Mr. Jackson.”

“Sounds like Ezra, doesn’t he?” Buck whispered to the healer as Scott’s eyelids closed and the blond man drowsed.

“Yep.” Nathan agreed.

Suddenly, the door of the clinic burst open and a young, dark-haired man bounded into the room, followed by Chris and Ezra.

Both Buck and Nathan put their guns away as they saw their friends come into the room.

“Johnny Lancer?” Buck asked and Chris nodded.

Johnny paid them no mind as all his concentration was taken up with the wounded blond man on the bed. Sharp blue eyes took in the stitches on the torso and the white bandage wrapped around the head and the chest which was continuously moving up and down.
‘Gracias, Madre de Dios! His brother was still alive and breathing. Johnny sank into the chair next to the bed while reaching out to stroke a few stray locks of hair off of Scott’s forehead.

“Boston, open those blue eyes for me. Can’t leave you alone for five minutes without you getting into trouble, can I? You’re a trouble magnet, that’s what you are.” Johnny teased gently to get his brother to awaken.

Scott had been falling asleep when the door banged against the wall. He’d heard and recognized Johnny’s voice and had battled with his eyelids and fought off their heaviness. He knew his brother’s teasing tone for what it was. Blue grey eyes slit open as he replied, “pot calling the kettle, black, Johnny.”

A soft smile lit Johnny’s face as he heard his brother’s words and saw Scott staring sleepily at him.

‘Gracias, Madre de Dios! - Thank you, Mother of God!

 

Chapter 10

 

Nathan’s Clinic, Four Corners, New Mexico Territory


Scott shifted slightly in the bed and Johnny immediately helped him sit up. He grimaced as he pulled some of the stitches tight as Johnny fluffed his pillow.

As Johnny did so, he caught sight of the goose egg on the back of Scott’s head. He muttered, “Scott?” in a worried tone.

“A tree branch whacked me good as I rode past and gave me a concussion,” replied the blond as he lay back against the pillow.

The dark-haired Lancer nodded and sat down on the edge of the bed.

Two sets of blue eyes locked with one another.

Johnny’s eyes had darkened as he practically growled out, “Lewis and Hardy ambush you?”

Scott stared at his younger brother in astonishment. How did Johnny know? His mental question was answered when Johnny spoke again.

“Larabee there,” and Johnny tilted his head over his right shoulder at a blond man, Scott vaguely recalled. “He said you told him two men were after you in revenge for the war.
And since they skedaddled after the first time they failed at it, I reckon they tried again. So was it them?”

A drowsy, “yes” answered him.

In the background, Nathan began shooing out his fellow peacekeepers from the clinic after agreeing to meet for breakfast in the saloon the next day.

Chris told Nathan to tell Johnny that he, Chris would take care of sending a telegram to Murdoch Lancer.

Nathan said he would and quietly closed the door. Turning around he spoke, “Mr. Lancer, if you want to lie down, you can use the cot across from your brother’s. I’ll be back in an hour to check on him.”

Johnny tore his eyes away from Scott who was once again asleep and landed upon the black man standing at his side.

“You’re Nathan? You patched ’im up?” Johnny whispered as he stood up to shake Nathan’s hand.  After Nathan introduced himself and responded to Johnny’s handshake, Johnny told him to call him Johnny cause, “Mr. Lancer was his father.” A soft curse fell from the youngest Lancer’s lips as he remembered he’d have to let Murdoch know what was going on.

Once the healer found out the why of Johnny’s cussing, Nathan told him Chris had it covered and a telegram would go out in the morning.

A relieved sigh crossed Johnny’s lips then he sent Jackson back to bed. He explained that both he and Scott knew what it was like to keep vigil over one other as both of the brothers had suffered through previous injuries and illnesses.

Nathan went because he sensed he wouldn’t budge Johnny from Scott’s side, not even with a stick of Ezra’s dynamite.

 

Chapter 11

Nathan’s Clinic, Four Corners, New Mexico Territory

A tousled-haired Johnny shot up straight in the chair as Scott began to twist about under the woolen blanket covering him and then shouted.

“Buck! Tanner! Lewis! Johnny! All of them shot dead…No!” screamed the blond man as he jack knifed up on the bed. Blue grey eyes not seeing the room he was now in…lost to the nightmarish horrors of his past.

Scott crawled along the underground tunnel which he and the other prisoners of war had painstakingly dug for weeks until it was done. He ignored the squeals and the scurrying of the rats across the tunnel. Eyes firmly fixed upon his brother Johnny who was directly ahead of him. He could see his brother’s dark hair peeking out from underneath a dusty kepi and the torn and ragged jacket hanging loosely off of Johnny’s compact form. Scott scooted forward on his lacerated hands and knees. His own tattered, dark-blue uniform was plastered to his sweat-soaked skin. But freedom was almost theirs. They were so close, he could almost smell it!

Suddenly, a draft of fresh air cooled him and Scott took his eyes off of Johnny long enough to see Colonel Buck Wilmington wiggle his body out of the tunnel.

Lieutenant Colonel Vin Tanner and Captain Jeff Lewis followed the tall man out.

Scott lightly shoved Johnny up through the hole.

Johnny was almost completely out of the tunnel when unexpectedly, he kicked out his right leg and struck Scott hard on the temple.

Scott unprepared for the boot in the face tumbled backwards and landed flat on his back. While he stared up at a ceiling of spinning clumps of dirt, he heard gun shots above ground and felt the earth tremble around him as the sound reverberated through the tunnel. He gasped in hitching breaths and frantically scrambled to his knees. A strong dizziness assailed him but he fought it off as he scuttled forward.

Overhead, voices shouted and horses’ hooves thundered across the ground.

Minutes later, Scott, finally pulled himself out of the tunnel and was met by the most ghastly sight.

The lifeless bodies of fifteen men were strewn across the earth. Tanner, Lewis, Buck and Johnny were among them.

Scott yelled out, “Buck! Tanner! Lewis! Johnny! All of them shot dead…No!” The blond man clambered over one of the fallen men to reach his brother. He pulled Johnny into his arms and rocked him, whispering, “No! No! No! No!” Abruptly, he collapsed against his brother’s body as a blow to the back of Scott’s head knocked him unconscious.


Johnny had been trying to soothe his brother through the nightmare but to no avail. He fell onto the edge of the bed when Scott pulled him into a tight hug, rocked him and mumbled no over and over again. A moment later, Johnny felt Scott sag into him.

Scott’s rocking caused Johnny to move and to slip off the bed taking Scott with him.

Both brothers nearly crashed to the floor before they were caught by two pairs of strong arms.

Nathan and Josiah had both heard Scott’s scream and had entered the clinic quietly when they saw Johnny Lancer trying to calm Scott Lancer.

Both peace keepers had moved quickly when the brothers had teetered off the bed.

 

Chapter 12

Nathan’s clinic, Four Corners, Territory


Scott kept his eyes closed until he heard Nathan close the door softly behind him. He opened them to find Johnny sitting by his bedside, moistening a rag by dipping it into a water-filled basin set on a small night stand beside Johnny’s chair.

“Morning Scott,” Johnny said as he took the now damp rag and began to wipe it with sure strokes over Scott’s fevered brow.

A small sigh of relief puffed through Scott’s lips as he felt the coolness of the cloth against his heated skin.

When Johnny finished cooling him down, Scott attempted to move and was met by his brother’s hand pressing down on his shoulder.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Johnny asked.

“Help me get dressed. And then we head home. I don’t want to cause any trouble for these people or this town.” Scott replied.

Johnny shook his head and responded, “We aren’t going anywhere yet, Boston. You’ve still have a high fever and those stitches in your side ‘ll make riding painful for a few days yet. And this town has seven peace keepers, so it’s well protected.”

A vague recollection of Buck mentioning the seven lawmen flitted through Scott’s mind.
“But they should know what they’re up against with Lewis and Hardy, Johnny will you?...” and Scott was cut off by Johnny’s nod.

A quiet, “Johnny” sounded from outside the clinic door before Johnny could reply to his brother’s words.

The raven-haired Lancer stood and opened the door for Josiah who had his hands full carrying a breakfast tray for the Lancers.

After breakfast, Josiah stayed with Scott while Johnny strode over to the saloon to talk to talk to Chris and the others.

 

Standish Tavern, aka…The Saloon, Four Corners, Territory

The six law men set around their regular table. Chris and four other peace keepers sipped their cups of coffee while JD wiped off his milk mustache with the inside of his shirt sleeve.

When Johnny strode the saloon’s bat-wing doors, he found six pairs of eyes focused on him. After he nodded to Inez behind the counter and gave her thanks for the chilaquiles, he then slipped into the empty chair that Larabee and Tanner had pushed out for him. Once greetings were exchanged with everyone around the table, Johnny told them of Scott’s past as a POW and how Lewis and Hardy tied into it.

The six regulators looked thoughtful and then Vin spoke, “This ain’t Tascosa or Nogales, Madrid. We'll back you and your brother. Give you my word as a Tanner.”

At Johnny’s glare, Vin added, “Grew up in Texas around the border. You helped Jess Kincaid before you got caught up in the trouble in Nogales.”

JD was still trying to figure out what a city in Spain had to do with all of this and asked this question out loud.

Buck cuffed him lightly on the back of the head, “Kid, Vin wasn’t talking about the city but about Johnny. Johnny is Johnny Madrid.”

Dunne’s hazel eyes widened in astonishment while Johnny talked quietly with Vin. A soft, “Wow,” fell from JD’s lips as he heard Chris ask Nathan if Scott could be moved.

They didn’t want to let Lewis get another chance at Scott if the man made his way into the clinic on a pretext of being hurt.

At Nathan’s cautious assent, JD volunteered his room at the boarding house. He stated his reasons before Buck could protest. First…Royal and his men wouldn’t look for Scott in his room. Second…His room had a window that overlooked the main street of Four Corners, so Scott and Johnny could have a good view of anyone coming into town.

Chris conceded that JD made sense and it would also be wise to hide Barranca because they didn’t want Lewis scared off.

Johnny would do that after they finished their strategy and moved Scott to Dunne’s room.

 

Four Corners, Boarding House – JD Dunne’s room

Later that morning, Scott sat on JD’s bed talking to Johnny who sat rocking in the rocking chair near the window overlooking the street. Both men heard the bell signaling that Royal and his men were riding into town.

Johnny cautiously peeked out the window.

Meanwhile, Scott pulled a sharply bladed knife which he had borrowed from the healer, Nathan Jackson off of the night stand next to the bed. He couldn’t shoot a gun right now because of his injuries but he was armed with a weapon if he needed it. His lips curled up slightly as he remembered arguing with Johnny and Larabee about being armed but he could be stubborn too and both his brother and the blond peace keeper had finally given in. He strapped the blade into the sheath next to his gun belt

Fingering the hilt of the knife, Scott said, “Is Lewis one of them coming in?”

Johnny nodded tersely and replied, “Yep.”

The younger Lancer stated what was going on outside the window so his brother would know what was going on.

“Lewis walked his boss, Royal over to the bank and the rancher has gone inside, now Lewis is heading over to the clinic. Looks like he’s limping up the stairs. He’s knocking on Jackson’s door. Nathan opened the door and they’re talking. Nathan ushered Lewis inside.”

“Are the others all in place?” Scott asked.

“Chris is leaning against the wooden post nearest the bank. Buck is flirting with one of the saloon girls over by the hotel. Dunne is straddling a chair, outside of the jail and whittling. Sanchez is pounding a nail into the church door. Standish is shuffling his cards while sitting on a chair outside of the saloon and Vin is on the roof behind the sign of the hardware store.”

Scott nodded to himself, good everyone was in place.

“The other ranch hands walked over to the cantina but Ezra and Buck said they had a plan for them. There’s Ms Blossom saying howdy to one of the cowboys and Ezra’s herding two of the others through the bat-wing doors,” continued Johnny.

Then Johnny spun around to help his brother up and down the stairs of the boarding house. “Are you sure you want do this, Scott? I could…” Johnny’s voice trailed off and he held his hands out in surrender when Scott glared at him and growled out, “I’m sure, Johnny.”

Scott had been adamant about confronting Lewis once and for all and none of Johnny’s or Larabee’s arguments could sway him otherwise.

Johnny nodded and held a steady hand against Scott’s back while his brother slid his uninjured arm around Johnny’s shoulders. Then the Lancer brothers made their way out of the boarding house.

When the brothers stepped out onto the street they were flanked by Chris Larabee and Buck Wilmington.

By this time, Guy Royal had finished his business at the bank and had walked over to the jail where he was getting into a heated discussion with the Sheriff JD Dunne.

And Jed Lewis stopped on the last step of the clinic stairs, his hand sliding his gun out of his holster and cocking it as he stared at the four men striding over to the sheriff and the rancher.

Nathan who was right behind Lewis warned, “Don’t even think about it,” as he pressed his own gun against Lewis’s back.

Chris, Scott, Johnny and Buck stepped onto the boardwalk in front of the jail in time to hear Royal demand that Scott Lancer be arrested for murdering his ranch hand.

Larabee cut off the rancher’s tirade by flatly informing the rancher that it wasn’t Lancer who had shot the man. But rather that it had been Chris who had shot him because Royal’s man, Hardy was going to shoot Scott Lancer in the back. And he and Buck had seen it with their own eyes.

Guy’s eyes darkened with anger and his face purpled as he realized that Jed Lewis had lied to him. He had stirred up trouble with the seven peacekeepers and all for nothing, now that he wouldn’t be able to get his greedy hands on Lancer’s money.

Meanwhile, Josiah sidled up to the steps of the clinic asking Nathan if there was a problem. The big man narrowed his eyes when he saw the gun clutched in Lewis’s hand then he noted that Nathan had his own weapon at Lewis’s back.

Ezra emerged from the saloon at the moment in which Josiah and Nathan marched Jed Lewis over to the jail. Green eyes had scanned over the scene taking in everything and Ezra drew his own weapon as a precaution.

A few seconds later, Jed Lewis kicked out at the back of Josiah’s knee and felled him then turned on Nathan and jabbed at the healer’s eyes.

Nathan stumbled back a few steps and then a single rifle shot rang out and embedded itself into Jed Lewis’s shoulder.

Lewis crumpled to the ground as Johnny, Chris and Buck whirled around and fired their guns at him.

Ezra and JD did as well before they hurried over to their fallen friends.

Blood flowed freely onto the dusty street and pooled underneath Lewis’s bullet-riddled body even as the healer crawled over and tried unsuccessfully to staunch it. Garbled words gurgled out of his bloodied mouth and the last thing he heard was the voice of “Lieutenant” Lancer.

Scott Lancer stood over Lewis’s dying body and softly whispered, “May you find peace,” before lapsing into silence.

Johnny stood quietly next to his brother until Scott asked,

“Johnny?”

“Yeah, Scott?" Johnny answered.

“How soon can we go, home?” replied Scott.

~ end ~

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