The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

Coming Home

 

 

 

A 'what happened instead' for The High Riders

 

Johnny Madrid rode into Socorro with one thing in mind - a bath. He'd been on the trail for a week from Mexico City and he was in a sour mood.

His trip had not gone as planned plus it had been expensive. All he wanted now was to bathe, eat and sleep for a few days, then find himself a job.

He rode up to the livery and stabled his black stallion, then headed to the barbershop on the corner. Surveying the street, things seemed relatively quiet so he relaxed a little and went inside.

Half an hour later, he felt a few pounds lighter and headed for the saloon. He walked in and glanced around, then settled himself up against the bar and ordered a beer.

He found a table in the corner and sat with his back to the wall, propping his feet in a chair. A redhead sauntered up and brushed against his leg, smiling seductively. He looked her up and down and decided he wasn't in the mood for company. The look he gave her sent her packing.

Madrid sat there thinking about his trip. What a waste of time. He wasn't really sure why he'd gone, only that he had to know for certain. He hadn't expected her to be glad to see him, but he wasn't expecting the pure antagonism he'd received either.

He shook his head and sighed. What the hell, he thought. Haven't needed her since I was able to walk anyway. Still, one thing she had said to him stuck in his mind . During one of her two tirades toward him. He still couldn't believe he'd gone back for more after the first one.

How had she put it? It was the way she said it not what she said because she'd said it so many times before in one way or the other. 'You think he would want you now?' Something like that. He'd never wanted him so why would she say it like that? Want you now? That thought had nagged at him the past week.

He seemed to have lost his appetite so he took a room upstairs and sacked in for the night. Sleep was elusive however, as the confrontations played out over and over in his mind. She was still as beautiful as ever but she was also as angry as ever. If he were honest with himself, he'd admit she hurt him deeply.

He figured out years ago that she had never really wanted him, that she'd been stuck with him since his father threw them out. She had made no effort to hide it either. She reminded him of what a burden he was almost every day of his life. Right up to the last day when she told him she was leaving and he wasn't going with her this time.

He sighed and turned on his left side, gun nestled in his right hand as always. At least she had finally given him a name and a general location. That was the other thing she'd said. 'You deserve each other.' What the hell did that mean?

He knew there were no answers to her cryptic words. There were never any answers from her, only half-truths and full out lies. For the first time in his life, he wondered what really happened. Why she really left his father. He wasn't so sure anymore. She had lied to him so many times, why should he believe her? The fact that it might be true was the one thing that had kept him from finding out on his own. That, and the fact that she wouldn't even tell him the man's name until last week.

He finally dozed off into a fitful sleep filled with nightmares for a few hours. When he awoke, the dawn had just broken and he got up and walked to the window to watch it. The streets were empty, it was his favorite time of day. If any of his fellow professionals knew he got up this early every day, they'd laugh him right off the border. But for Johnny, it was the only time he ever felt any real peace and he treasured it.

He checked his resources and grimaced. He knew he had to find work, knew it probably wouldn't be too hard, but he was in a hurry. Why, he didn't know, but now that he had the information, he wanted to use it.

He went downstairs and ordered breakfast, contemplating his next move. There was one other advantage to getting up early, he got first dibs on anyone looking to hire a gun. He smiled at the thought as the man walked into the saloon. Johnny knew immediately this man was looking for help.

He watched as the man approached the bartender and spoke in whispers. He watched as the bartender nodded his head toward Johnny. He watched the man look him up and down and he hid the smile playing at his lips. He watched it all without ever looking up from his breakfast.

The man did not approach him but stayed where he was, drinking coffee and seeming to be waiting for something. Maybe he doesn't like the looks of me. Maybe he thinks I'm too young or maybe he doesn't like half-breeds, Johnny thought with some amusement. He finished his breakfast and pushed the plate away.

As soon as he did this, the man approached him slowly. "Mr. Madrid ?"

Johnny looked up slowly and answered softly. "Yeah?"

"May I join you?"

Johnny scooted out a chair with his foot and nodded.

"I didn't want to interrupt your breakfast," the man said with a nervous smile.

"That's real thoughtful of you," Johnny drawled, giving the man an easy smile in return.

"I, um, well, I'd like to hire you," he stammered.

Johnny laughed softly. "I didn't think you were gonna invite me to a dance."

The man relaxed a little at the joke but Johnny could tell this man was in trouble.

"What can I do for you, mister ... "

"Riker, Abe Riker," he offered. "I need justice, Mr. Madrid , and there is no law in Socorro."

"What's the problem?"

Riker was hesitant, unsure how much to say but Johnny prodded him silently with a smile.

"I have a daughter. She's fifteen and she's very pretty. Takes after her mother obviously." Riker laughed nervously at this small joke. His face fell then, his expression turning to one of pure agony right in front of Johnny.

He suddenly felt an uneasiness about what this man was about to say but he maintained an expressionless mask and waited patiently.

"She was on her way home from church Sunday a week ago. She doesn't usually walk alone but my wife was ill and hadn't attended and I had stayed to talk with some friends. She wanted to get back and tend to her mother. I came home two hours later but she'd never made it back. I went looking for her and found her in some bushes. She'd been ... attacked." He stopped, his voice trembling.

Johnny's jaw clenched tight as he listened, his anger growing rapidly. "Who did it?"

"His name is Rafe Clemons. His father owns a ranch near here, the biggest one around. I tried to get the Marshall to come from Albuquerque but he said it was her word against Clemons and he couldn't do anything."

"How is your daughter?"

"She's better but she won't leave the house, won't speak hardly at all. She has nightmares every night."

'And that's better?' Johnny thought. "Do you think she would talk to me, with you there, of course?"

"I don't know. She's so timid now. She was such an outgoing girl before all this," Riker sighed.

"I'd like to try. If it's too much for her, I'll back off, I promise," Johnny said softly.

"Why?"

"Let's just say I'd like to get my facts straight."

*

Mr. Riker took Johnny home with him but asked him to wait outside. After fifteen minutes, he returned.

"I'm sorry it took so long but she's agreed to try as long as I stay with her," he apologized.

Johnny followed him into the house. It was a quite large, Victorian style two-story. He was led into the main sitting room where a young brown-haired girl was sitting on the sofa, her head bowed.

Johnny stayed at a distance as her father sat beside her. He walked around to stand on the opposite side of the coffee table. "Hi," he said barely above a whisper.

"Hello," she replied in much the same tone.

"I'm Johnny."

" Kaitlin ."

"That's a beautiful name. Do you mind if I sit down?"

"Please," she replied in the same whispered voice. She had yet to look at him.

"Your father asked for my help, Kaitlin . Did you know that?"

"He told me."

"What do you think about that?" Johnny held his hand up to silence her father when he opened his mouth.

"I don't know," she answered.

"Do you think you could look at me?"

She hesitated for a minute then finally she raised her head. Her eyes were the clearest blue he'd ever seen, almost like a tinted crystal. He smiled gently at her.

"What would you do?" she asked.

"That would be up to you, Kaitlin . What do you think should be done?"

Those crystals welled with tears but she did not take her eyes from his. "He should die," she answered in a trembling voice.

Johnny's expression didn't change, there was no judgment in his face. "You think he should die for what he did to you?" he asked without reservation.

She nodded her head affirmatively.

Johnny inhaled deeply. "This is entirely up to you. If that's what you want, I'll kill him for you. I just want you to be sure because once it's done, it can't be undone. Do you understand?"

She faltered, her eyes lowering then meeting his again and he knew instantly this was her father's wish not hers.

"Thank you for talking to me, Kaitlin . Mr. Riker, could I see you outside?" Johnny said politely and walked out.

"Well, will you take the job?"

"That little girl doesn't know what she's asking for. If I kill this man and she regrets it, how will you deal with that?"

"Regret it? She won't regret it, Mr. Madrid . He brutalized her! I can't even tell you what all he made her do," he said, his face turning bright red.

"Take is easy. I think you better sit down here." Johnny took his arm and lowered him to the step.

"She was bloody, her clothes torn. Her mother had to ... to look at her. She told me how he ... abused my little girl. It wasn't just rape like you think of it!"

"Alright, Mr. Riker. You want to hire me, I'll do the job."

"How much?"

Johnny thought for a minute. It wasn't going to be that tough he reckoned , still it might take a little time.

"Before I answer that, tell me something. How hard is it going to be for me to get to him?"

"He's at the saloon almost every night drinking and womanizing. Why would he do this to my little girl with all those whores right there in front of him!?"

Johnny couldn't answer that but he also couldn't stand to watch this man's pain much longer either.

"Two hundred up front. I have a feeling I'll be leaving town right after. If I get myself killed, you can take the money off me," Johnny said flatly.

Riker nodded his head. "Wait here, please."

He came back out with the money. "When will you do it?"

"First time he comes into town. I'll wait in the saloon for him. What does he look like?"

"He won't be hard to find. He's six feet, red hair and skinny, about 160 pounds soaking wet," Riker smirked.

" Rafe Clemons, right?" Johnny clarified.

"Yes, Rafe Clemons," Riker repeated.

*

Johnny returned to town and went back to the barber shop. He had found it was a good place to get information and he wanted to be sure about this Clemons. It didn't take him long to find out that the Clemons family was pretty mean and ran over anybody that crossed their path just for the hell of it. The barber haltingly gave Johnny another very useful piece of information; Rafe Clemons hated Mexicans.

Johnny smiled widely at this, knowing exactly how this was going to go down. It sounded almost too easy but he was no fool. He would not let his defenses down. Clemons would have friends with him, no doubt. He began mapping out his escape route, making sure he could head west out of town.

Just before dusk, Johnny retrieved his horse and tethered him in the alley down from the saloon. He walked inside and sat at a back table to wait. It didn't take long before a rowdy crew came charging in. A tall redhead began barking drink orders and pushing at people as he made his way to the bar.

Johnny watched with some amusement as the man took charge of the room and it's occupants. Or so he thought. The bartender served Clemons with a shaky hand and kept shooting looks in Johnny's direction, just as he had told the man to do.

Clemons finally noticed this and turned to see what was making the barkeep so flighty.

"Well now," he bellowed so all would hush and hear him. "Look what we got here, boys.   A genuine chili pepper. No, wait! I'm wrong, I'm wrong. It's half a chili pepper." He grinned and the room exploded in laughter.

Johnny smiled himself at the joke and sipped his beer.

Clemons walked over and stood in front of him. "Well, ain't I right? Ain't you a half a chili pepper?"

Johnny kept his head down and drank his beer slowly.

"What's the matter, boy? Don't speeky english ?" Clemons asked and howled with laughter.

Johnny looked up slowly and took the man in. "I speak English," he said softly.

"Hey, it speaks! Hey, can ya dance, too? You know that Mexican dancing? Come on, boy, dance a little for us," he laughed.

Johnny smiled full out at him. "You wanna dance? Okay, let's dance. Outside." He lowered his voice to a deadly tone with the last word. He stood up and walked toward the door.

"Hey! Where ya goin?" Clemons yelled.

Johnny stopped at the batwings and turned halfway around. "You wanted a dance, let's go," he shrugged.

Clemons and his crew followed and when they got outside, Johnny was standing in the middle of the street.

*

" You callin me out, boy?" Clemons asked in astonishment.

"Mister, you said you wanted to dance. This is how I dance.   Are you backin down?" The corner of his lip curled up.

Clemons stepped out into the street and looked him up and down. "You got any idea who I am, boy?"

" Rafe Clemons," Johnny answered with a shrug.

Clemons snorted. "Well, reckon it's your funeral. Uh, what name should I have ' im put on the tombstone?"

"I told you, Rafe Clemons," Johnny smiled. "But, if you're askin me my name, it's Madrid , Johnny Madrid."

Clemons smile disappeared and he stared at the man before him. Then he laughed nervously. "Hear that boys? Punk's tryin to make me think he's Johnny Madrid."

The bartender shouldered his way through the crowd on the sidewalk and pssst at Clemons then nodded his head fervently.

"Are you gonna dance, Clemons, or are you a cobarde ? That means coward," Johnny said coldly.

"Coward?!" Clemons croaked out and went for his gun. He fell to the street before the pistol cleared the holster.

When his 'boys' finally took their eyes off their boss, Madrid had disappeared.

*

Johnny stepped quickly into the alley and made his way to his horse. He vaulted on and tore out hell bent for leather, due west.

A week later, Johnny rode into Morro Coyo and checked into the hotel. He asked the clerk for directions to the ranch and got a rather unfriendly but accurate answer.

"You here on business, mister?" the clerk asked.

"If I am, it's my own," Johnny clipped and headed up the stairs. Sometimes, he got so tired of it all.

He didn't come out of his room the rest of the night. He made a supper of the jerky in his saddlebag and a bottle of tequila. He didn't want to see anyone as he gathered his thoughts. He wasn't sure how to go about this or what to expect. He hoped he was right and she had been lying to him all this time but it was impossible to tell until he came face to face with the man. Then he would know, he would be able to see it, he was certain.

Murdoch Lancer. He rolled the name around in his mind over and over. Johnny Lancer. It sounded pretty good actually. He tried to imagine what the man looked like but it wouldn't come. He knew he looked a lot like his mother. The only thing he knew for certain was the man had to have blue eyes. If he didn't, Johnny reckoned it was the wrong man. He laughed softly at the thought.

He realized with chagrin that he was nervous. What if she was right? What if he really didn't want him? Or, if he had before, would he want a gunfighter for a son now? Johnny couldn't imagine he would. He had no expectations of being welcomed with open arms, no thoughts of even staying one night there. He just needed answers. Answers she refused to give him. Answers he hoped his father would be able to provide. If he had those answers, he felt he could at least die with some peace when his time came.

The next morning he was up with the dawn. He ate quickly and headed out. He was anxious to get this over with. Riding through the countryside, he noticed the landscape becoming more lush . He rode up a steep rise and stopped at the top. Below him, the valley spread out in deep green grasses with a sparkling blue river below. In the distance, he could see a white hacienda. It was huge and he raised an eyebrow. Guess she should have stuck around, he thought wryly.

*

He rode up casually and dismounted in the courtyard, tethering his horse to the hitching post and scanning the area simultaneously. He saw several men working and they all had rifles within easy reach. He frowned as he thought it looked like they were ready for trouble. He had noticed the guards on the roof as he came in and wondered if he'd make it to the front door. A smile crossed his face then he sobered and walked onto the porch.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then knocked on the door. He heard it open and his head came up slowly, taking in the mountain in front of him.

"Murdoch Lancer?"

"Yes, may I help you?"

"My name is Johnny Madrid. I was hoping I could..."

"Johnny?" Murdoch nearly gasped. "Uh, come in, please come in," he said, fanning his arm out to show the way.

Johnny removed his hat and walked into the great room. Taking it in quickly, he almost whistled. He turned to see the man gawking at him.

Johnny cleared his throat and smiled a little. He had it all worked out, what he would say, but suddenly, those thoughts were gone.

"Can I get you some coffee?" Murdoch offered.

"No, thanks. I'm fine," he smiled. "I'm not sure how to say this. I, uh, well, I think ... I was told…" He couldn't do it and he didn't know why.

"You are my son," Murdoch said definitively. "I've been looking for you for so long."

"You have?" Johnny asked, clearly stunned by this revelation.

"Yes. This is just so amazing. I only found out two months ago what name you were using. I've had the Pinkerton Agency searching for you on and off for years."

"Pinkertons! I ... I've been dodging them for the last few weeks. Didn't know what they wanted but I figured it couldn't be good," Johnny said with a small laugh.

They both fell silent for a moment, taking each other in. Murdoch stared openly at him and Johnny began to feel uncomfortable.

"You look like your mother," he said softly.

"I know, except the eyes, right? She always said I had your eyes," Johnny said, then bowed his head. "So, you were gettin close, huh?"

"Yes, um, well, take a look at this." Murdoch walked to his desk and pulled out a thick file. "This is you. It's been pretty thin until the last few months. Once they discovered who you were ... well, it was easier to get information."

Johnny ran his hand over the cover that read Johnny Lancer AKA Johnny Madrid. He smiled ruefully. "For me this is backwards. It should say AKA Johnny Lancer." Saying that name aloud actually surprised him, but it sounded ... right.

"Sit down, son."

Johnny's head jerked up and he opened his mouth, then closed it again. He took a seat on the sofa and Murdoch sat in the chair near him.

"Why now? I mean, what made you decide to come see me?"

"I just found out who you were. I didn't know your name or where you lived until a few weeks ago."

Murdoch frowned at this but then he thought, why would she have told him anything. "How did you find out?"

"My mother told me," he said flatly.

"I'm sorry? What did you say?"

"My mother told me," Johnny restated.

"But you said you only found out a few weeks ago," Murdoch said, confused.

"That's right."

"How could she have told you? She's been dead for over ten years," Murdoch asked.

"Dead? Maria's not dead. She's in Mexico City . I just left her," Johnny said, stunned he would think such a thing.

"But, the report. It said you've been alone since you were ten," Murdoch whispered.

"That's right. She didn't die, she left me," he said, no emotion in his voice.

"She left you!?" Murdoch shouted, getting to his feet.

*

Johnny was taken aback by the outburst and watched in fascination as the tall man paced around the entire living room. He had to turn half around to watch him. He could see the anger on the man's face and the pain as well. He watched in amazement as his father worked to control himself. 'Wonder if that's how I look when I do that,' he thought.

Murdoch finally returned to his seat. "I'm sorry about that. I wasn't expecting it."

"It's okay. I didn't know you thought she was dead. Look, I just wanted to meet you, maybe find out some things. I don't want to cause you no trouble."

"Trouble? You're no trouble, son. I'll try to answer your questions but I'm afraid you might be disappointed. You see, I don't know why she left. I woke one morning to find her gone and you with her. No note, no warning, nothing."

Johnny laughed softly. "Yeah, sounds like her. At least she told me when she left. Guess she didn't want me tryin to find her. Boy, was she mad when I did find her in Mexico City !"

"Mad? Why?"

Johnny shrugged. "Didn't want me around. Problem was, well, I'm grown now and I wasn't gonna leave her alone until she at least told me your name."

Murdoch's forehead furrowed once more when he heard this. "Did she give you any indication of why she left here?"

Johnny glanced at the floor, then locked eyes with his father. "She said you threw us both out."

"What?!" Murdoch was beside himself. What kind of woman did he marry? "I can't believe she would say such a thing," he said, his voice much lower.

Johnny hmmphed at this. "Believe me, she's said a lot worse. It doesn't matter to me, not anymore, but I guess you'd like to know. I'll tell you right now, though, if you go to see her... well, she's just not gonna want to see you, is all."

"That's pretty obvious. I guess I'd just like to understand why she hates me so much. We had a good marriage for a while. I knew she wasn't happy at the end but I guess I thought she would come to me, talk to me about it. I never thought in a million years she would up and leave like that."

"I'm sorry." He could think of nothing else to say.

*

Murdoch looked at him and smiled. "So you decided to look up your old man. I'm glad, very glad."

"Are you sure? Look, I don't know what's really in those files, but ..."

"I know you're a gunfighter, Johnny. I had heard of you before I knew you were my son. I guess my question for you is; is that what you want or would you consider staying on here?"

Johnny's eyes widened with surprise. "You'd want me here? Do you know what you're saying? Look, even if I walked away, there are people who hate me. It could be a lot of trouble for you."

Murdoch chuckled. "In case you hadn't noticed, I have plenty of trouble around here as it is. I know it won't be easy, for either of us, but I would like to try. I spent so many years trying to find you and here you show up on your own. I can't tell you what this means to me, Johnny. I'll admit, when I first found out about Johnny Madrid, I was shocked. But, if you can accept the idea of trying to change your life, living and working here with me, then I can accept what you did for a living."

Johnny swallowed hard, he never expected this, any of it. He thought he would talk to the man, try to get some answers, then light out. "I think I'd like to give it a try," he said softly. "What kind of trouble are you having? Sure got a lot of armed vaqueros around here."

"High riders. They've taken over half the valley already. Now, they're coming after Lancer. They've killed my stock, burned my fields and killed my men. Only the best have stayed with me. "

"Who are they?"

"The leader is a man named Pardee."

"Day. Day Pardee."

"You know him?"

"Oh yes, I know him. He's a gunfighter and he's good, too. Yeah, I'd say you got yourself some trouble all right," Johnny grinned. "Guess I showed up just in time," he added with a full out smile.

"Not much of a homecoming, is it?" Murdoch smiled back.

"Yes, it is. More than I ever expected," Johnny said, turning serious.

*

"Well, let's get you settled. Oh, you should meet Teresa," Murdoch said, a million thoughts whirling through his mind.

"That your wife?"

"What? Oh, no," Murdoch laughed. "Teresa is my ward. Her father was my segundo . Pardee killed him a few months ago. Just wait right here."

Johnny stood up and walked around the room, taking it all in. The place was massive and he thought idly he could get lost. A smile crossed his lips at that thought. Wouldn't be so bad gettin lost in a place like this.

"Johnny? This is Teresa O'Brien," Murdoch said, interrupting his thoughts.

Johnny turned to find a beautiful young girl standing in front of him. He smiled and nodded his head.

"It's so good you meet you, Johnny. Welcome home." Teresa smiled.

"Thank you," he said, a bit stunned by her acceptance.

Suddenly, they heard shouts from outside in Spanish and a whirl of activity. Murdoch strode to the French doors and Johnny was right behind him.

Sitting on their horses, just outside the wall, were Pardee and his men. They seemed to be waiting for something.

"What now?" Murdoch groused. "Teresa, get my rifle," he barked.

Teresa handed him his rifle and he looked at Johnny.

"Might be a good idea if Pardee didn't see me right off. Give us the element of surprise," he grinned.

Murdoch smiled and nodded and walked out to face the enemy. Johnny pulled his Colt and checked it.

"What do you want, Pardee?" Murdoch called.

"Same as always, Lancer. Time for you to go. Up to you if it's easy or hard," Pardee called back.

"I think that's up to you, Day," Johnny said as he walked out and stood by his father.

"Johnny Madrid?" Pardee fairly gasped, then narrowed his eyes. " Hirin guns now, Lancer?"

"This ain't a job, Day," Johnny said as he stepped out into the open. "This is my father's land and I want you to get off."

Pardee's eyebrows went up with this information, a split second before he drew. Johnny drew and fired, then rolled to his left, taking out two more henchmen as he went. All hell broke loose as Pardee's men returned fire and the Lancer vaquero's joined the fight. Nobody at the ranch had time to react to the news that the patron's son had returned.

Pardee lay dead next to the gate and after a few minutes of fierce fighting, his men decided the battle was lost without their leader. They mounted up and cleared out in a thunder of horse hooves.

*

Everything grew eerily quiet in the aftermath of the battle and Johnny walked out to where Day Pardee lay. He crouched down beside the body and shook his head slowly. "We always did wonder which of us was faster, didn't we, Day?"

He sighed and stood, then walked back to Murdoch who had watched his every move.

"We were friends once," he explained.

"I'm sorry, Johnny."

"No need. He made his choice and he lost. Comes to us all sooner or later," Johnny shrugged.

"Well, come inside. I'm sure you could use a rest. I know I could."

Johnny settled in his new room and tried to nap but he had never been one to doze so sleep would not come. He left the room and ambled downstairs, exploring the house. He found the kitchen and an older woman busy at the stove.

"Buenos dias ," he said softly.

She turned and looked him up and down, then smiled brightly. "Buenos dias , Juanito . ¿ consiguió sueño ?"

Johnny smiled and shook his head.   "No mucho para dormir durante el día ."

She smiled and nodded then returned to her work.

"¿ Cuál es su nombre , Senora?"

"Maria," she answered, her back still to him.

His eyes darkened for a split second before he recovered. " Bueno ," he whispered and walked to the living room.

He meandered around the room then sighed and walked outside to the barn.

He stopped at the corral and surveyed the horses with a smile. 'Good stock,' he thought.

"Buenos dias ."

"Buenos dias ," Johnny answered.

The man walked up to him but he was not smiling. He looked directly into Johnny's eyes when he spoke. "My name is Cipriano. I have worked for Senor Lancer for many years. What are your intentions here, Senor?"

Johnny raised an eyebrow at the man's directness then smiled. "To have my family," he answered honestly.

Cipriano's expression relaxed and he smiled. " Bueno . You papa will have much to tell you, I am sure. There is a horse you should see, nino ," he said and turned to the corral.

"Cipriano, I am not a nino ," Johnny said crossly.

Cipriano turned back to him. "To me, you are a nino . When you are my age, a boy your age will be a nino to you. Do you disrespect me?" His voice was full of challenge and Johnny recognized the old ways of this man.

"No, Senor. Perdóneme ," Johnny said respectfully.

Cipriano nodded. "That one, that is the horse for you," he said authoritatively.

*

Johnny took in the handsome palomino with it's golden coat and white mane. It was a stunning animal and he smiled. Stepping into the corral he started to approach the horse.

"He is not broken," Cipriano warned.

"Okay," Johnny said softly.

Within the hour, he was riding the palomino across the meadow full out, giving the horse it's head and relishing the wind in his face, the sun beaming down on him.

Murdoch walked out as he was riding back into the corral. "Cipriano, you gave him that horse?"

" Si, and he has gentled it as I knew he would," the vaquero smiled.

"That is one fine animal," Johnny grinned as he slid off the horse's back.

"Well, I'm glad you like him, he's yours."

"Really?" Johnny smiled, then looked curiously at his father. "Why?"

"Why? Well, because you broke him and because I'd say you earned him."

Johnny nodded his acceptance of the explanation and Murdoch could see this young man took nothing at face value.

*

After supper that evening, Murdoch invited Johnny out on the veranda for a drink. The cool breeze was enticing and the young man settled on a low wall with his feet up and his back resting against the cool stone.

"Nice night," Johnny remarked.

"We have a lot of those around here. More now that Pardee is out of the way. Thank you for that."

Johnny shrugged. "You're welcome."

"There are a lot of things you need to know, Johnny. About me and about you. I've been trying to think of how to tell you all of it. I thought I should start with what's right in front of you. Cipriano," Murdoch said, pausing for a reaction.

"What about him?"

"He is your mother's uncle, Johnny."

Johnny sat straight up and stared at the man. "My tio ?" he whispered.

"Yes."

Johnny swallowed hard, then smiled. "He knows of course," he said more than asked.

"Yes, he knows."

Johnny laughed softly. "Put me in my place today." He sobered then. "What does he think about my mother?"

"We don't discuss it. I guess it's just not something he wants to talk about."

"He's a family man, likes the old ways. Yeah, I guess he wouldn't talk about things like that."

"Well, it's been a long day. Think I'll turn in."

"What else did you want to tell me?" Johnny asked.

"Tomorrow, okay?" Murdoch said, his face becoming serious.

Johnny nodded his head. "Goodnight."

*

The next morning, Johnny walked into the kitchen to find his father sipping a cup of coffee. " Mornin ."

"Good morning. How did you sleep?"

"Good. You?" Johnny smiled.

"The same. I thought you might want to take a ride with me, get a look at the ranch."

"Sure, that'd be great. Then you'll tell me what else I'm supposed to know, right?" Johnny asked, raising an eyebrow.

Murdoch dropped his eyes and nodded. "Right."

They headed out across the meadow and Murdoch took him to South Mesa , explaining it was the best place to see the entire ranch. As Johnny stood on the ridge, looking down at the valley, he finally let out that whistle.

"This is some place. Must have taken years to build up."

"It did indeed. Twenty-five years to be exact," Murdoch said with pride.

Johnny turned and looked at him and smiled. "So, what else do you have to tell me?"

"You are persistent," Murdoch chuckled.

"Only because I get the feeling it's important," Johnny said seriously.

"It is, very important. Let's sit over here." Murdoch settled on an old log.

Johnny joined him, a strange feeling in his gut that put him on edge.

"This is going to be hard to hear but I need you to let me say it all before you react . I was married once before to a young woman I met in Boston . She came out here with me. She became pregnant and there was trouble, another range war. Anyway, I thought it was best to send her back to Boston until the trouble was over. She was close to her time and I was afraid something might go wrong.

â€I arranged for her father to meet her in a place called Carterville and escort her the rest of the way. She went into labor in Carterville and had the baby. Her father was there and he took the child back to Boston with him. Catherine died shortly after giving birth." Murdoch stopped here to catch his breath and try to fight back the emotions this telling was bringing on.

Johnny stayed still, knowing there was much more to this.

*

"Once the trouble was over I wrote to Harlan Garrett, Catherine's father, to tell him I would be coming for the baby. He wrote me back and said he wouldn't give him up and if I tried to take him, he would drag me through the courts for years. At that time, my resources were pretty low. I thought I would bide my time and then go get my son. During that time, I met your mother. After you were born, it was my dream to bring Scott home and raise my family. Then, well, you know what happened."

Johnny didn't speak for a while, rolling this information around in his mind. He was full of questions but one more than any other. "Why didn't you go get him after that?"

"I did, I tried. I went on his fifth birthday to see him and to bring him home. He didn't even know who I was. Harlan threatened court action again only this time, he swore he would make Scott a part of it. I just couldn't let him get hurt like that. Can you understand?" Murdoch asked, seeming to need his son's understanding desperately.

Johnny nodded his head. "So, I guess this Garrett, he's pretty rich or something?"

"Yes, and powerful in Boston . He has a lot of friends in the courts. I knew it was futile to fight him."

"Well, I guess I can understand, Murdoch, but what about when he turned twenty-one?"

"That was three years ago.   I guess I thought he wouldn't want to see me by then. I can't imagine what Harlan has told him over the years."

"Have you tried writing to him? Asking him to come see you?"

"I wrote to him all the time when I thought he was old enough to understand. I sent him birthday and Christmas presents every year but I never got a reply. I'm sure he hates me. " Johnny didn't miss the pain in his voice.

"So, I have a half brother who lives in Boston . Do you know anything else about him?"

"Very little. He was in the cavalry during the War Between the States and he went to Harvard University . That's really all I know," Murdoch said sadly.

"When's the last time you tried to contact him?"

"Two months ago. I wrote to him but never heard back."

"Maybe ... maybe if I wrote to him. Does he know about me?"

"I doubt it. I can't see Harlan Garrett telling him. It's a nice thought, Johnny, but if he hates me that much, he might not care," Murdoch said gently.

"I'm gonna do it anyway. I'm not much on writing letters but this is too important," Johnny said firmly. He was already formulating his thoughts and he had a sneaking suspicion that his brother's grandfather had a lot to do with whether Scott ever actually got any of the letters their father sent. Still, he wanted to be absolutely sure of something.

"I take it this Garrett doesn't like you much," he fished.

" Hmmph ! That's putting it mildly. He has never forgiven me for marrying his daughter and taking her away. He blames me for her death," Murdoch said sourly.

Johnny didn't comment on this, he figured as much. "Well, what did you have in mind for the rest of the day?"

"I have some things to take care of. Would you like to come along?"

"Yeah, I would," Johnny said softly.

They spent the rest of the day riding the range, checking the herd and Murdoch gave instructions and orders to his men. He introduced Johnny to them and let them know his son would be staying.

*

Johnny retired early after supper. After procuring some paper and a pencil from Maria, he began drafting his letter to his brother. Balls of crumpled paper were strewn about the room by the time he finished, but he felt he had gotten it right and he reread the letter.

'Scott,

    You don't know me and I don't know you. My name is Johnny and I am your brother. Well, half-brother to be exact. I recently met our father and he told me about you. He also told me he has written to you many times over the years and asked you to come see him just recently. You have never replied to any of those letters and he thinks it is because you hate him. That may be true, I don't know, but the man I met surprised me. I was made to believe he didn't want me in his life but I found that was a lie. Maybe you haven't been told the whole truth either. However you feel about Murdoch Lancer, I am hoping that finding out you have a brother might change your mind about visiting. I have decided to stay here with our father and it would mean a lot to me if I could at least meet you. If you don't want to come to Lancer and would like to meet with me, we could arrange to meet someplace else. It's your choice, anytime and anywhere you say, I'll be there .

                                                                             Respectfully,

                                                                             Johnny Lancer

He looked over the letter three times and, satisfied, he placed it in the envelope and went downstairs.

"Murdoch, could you give me Scott's address?"

Murdoch looked up from his paperwork. "You're sure you want to do this?"

"I'm sure."

Murdoch pulled out an old envelope and handed it to Johnny. It was from Harlan Garrett. Johnny copied the address with Scott's name and left the return address blank.

"Aren't you going to put who it's from?"

"Nope," Johnny grinned.

*

Boston      April 1870    

Scott Lancer knocked on his grandfather's study door and heard the man grunt a 'come inâ€. He smiled and opened the door, peeking his head through.

"Grandfather? You wanted to see me?"

"Yes, Scotty. You have a letter. No return address, it's probably from one of those 'army buddies' of yours," the old man grumped distastefully.

Scott rolled his eyes and walked over to retrieve the missive. "May I?" he asked, indicating a chair.

"Of course," Harlan replied, his tone softening.

Scott smiled and sat down, opening the letter carefully. He began to read and the second sentence caused him to inhale sharply. Glancing at his grandfather, he smiled to reassure the man so he could finish the letter. Scott's face became a mask of anger as he read, his jaw tightening with each word. When he had finished, he stood up and walked over to stand directly in front of his grandfather's desk.

"Would you mind explaining this to me, Sir?"

Harlan Garrett looked at him as if he'd lost his mind, then took the letter Scott had thrown in front of him. His face paled as he read, then it turned red.

"Well? Is this true? I have a brother?" Scott demanded.

"Scotty, he's nobody. He is a half-breed Mexican nobody!"

"How can you sit there and ... and what is this about my father writing to me several times and asking me to come visit?" he asked, his mind whirling in anger and disbelief.

"Your father didn't want you! Why would I bother you with letters from him?!"

"How dare you intercept my personal correspondence? I cannot believe you would be so deceitful. I have a brother and you don't think I should know that? And don't tell me he is a nobody !"

"Lower your voice, young man!" Harlan demanded.

Scott took a deep breath and fought for control. "Certainly, Grandfather. I will lower my voice. So low, you won't hear it again. I will be leaving for California in the morning. Good night, Sir!" With that, Scott turned on his heel and stalked out leaving Harlan Garrett with his mouth hanging open.

*

Two days later, Murdoch took Johnny into Morro Coyo with him for supplies. "I'll check the mail if you want to start gathering the supplies, son."

Johnny nodded and went into the store as Murdoch headed for the stage depot. He returned within a few minutes with an odd look on his face.

"What's wrong?" Johnny asked.

"Nothing, there's a telegram here for you, Johnny Lancer," Murdoch said and handed it over.

Johnny frowned and opened the wire, his face brightening into a smile.

"Left Boston Thursday morning. Can't wait to meet you and Murdoch. Will be in Morro Coyo in seven days.     Scott." he read aloud.

Murdoch smiled as he heard the words.

"Did you hear that? He can't wait to meet US. That's mean's you, old man. Ya know , I have a feeling Scott's grandfather kept those letters of yours from him."

"Why would he ... never mind, you may be right. I hope so, because that would mean ... well, maybe he doesn't hate me." Murdoch felt a glimmer of hope for the first time about his eldest son.

*

For the next week, Murdoch was in a pensive mood. Johnny, unsure of the man, wasn't prepared to deal with this. He sought out Teresa.

"He hides his feelings most of the time, Johnny. But, he's scared. He's worried Scott will reject him, just as he worried that you would. When you came here on your own, that told him you wanted to be with him."

"How do I get him to ease up? He's gonna bust something if he doesn't take it easy," Johnny frowned.

Teresa smiled. "It's so nice to know you worry about him."

Johnny returned the smile. "Well, I guess it's easier for me to give him a chance, bein as my mother ..." he trailed off, his expression turning dark.

Teresa laid a gentle hand on his arm. "I'm just glad you're home and that Scott is coming. I just hope he gives you both a chance."

"He will, I know it. Don't know how I know, but I do," Johnny said confidently.

*

After much discussion, Murdoch agreed to wait at the ranch while Johnny went to pick Scott up at the stage. He arrived in town with time to spare and decided to fortify himself with a cool beer. Heading back out of the cantina, he saw the stage rounding the corner and his heart went to his stomach.

'Come on, Madrid . What are you scared of?' he chastised himself.

He watched as the passengers disembarked. He saw a tall blond man who was overdressed step off the stage and look around. Johnny smiled, that had to be him.

"Scott Lancer?" he called out softly.

"Yes."

"I'm Johnny. Nice to meet you, brother." He smiled and extended his hand.

Scott smiled back and shook hands as he took in the young man before him. "It's a pleasure."

"I got a buggy over here. Which luggage is yours?"

After loading the luggage, they both climbed into the buggy. Johnny flipped the reins and took off without further ado.

"Long trip?" he asked.

"It certainly was," Scott replied politely.

"Well, we're glad you made it."

"Your letter said you hadn't been here long yourself."

"That's right. Just a couple of days when I wrote to you. Murdoch told me about you and, well, I figured I might be able to get you come out or at least meet me somewhere."

"I must say, it was a shock. I didn't know about you. I didn't know Mr. Lancer had written to me before, either," Scott admitted.

"I figured as much. Once he told me how much Garrett hates him, I figured the old man might keep things about Murdoch from you."

"And exactly how did you make that assumption?" Scott asked heatedly.

"Easy there. I just know how people think. Your grandfather hates your father. Makes sense to me he'd want to keep you as far away from the man as possible. He's done it for over twenty years."

"You don't know anything about my grandfather. He raised me when my own father didn't want me," Scott replied haughtily.

Johnny sighed and pulled over to the side of the road. He turned to face the easterner.

*

"Look, let's set things straight here. I don't know your grandfather or you. I barely know Murdoch Lancer. But I can read people, I can tell when they're bein straight and Murdoch's been straight with me. I believe him when he says he sent you letters and presents. I believe him when he says Garrett blames him for your mother's death and I believe him when he says he wants you here."

"He sent me presents?" Scott asked in disbelief.

"Every birthday and Christmas," Johnny confirmed.

"I never got them," Scott whispered.

"Maybe your grandfather has some things to answer for, too. That's between you and Murdoch. Whatever happens with him, I'd like to get to know my brother. I never had any family to speak of growing up," Johnny said, his voice dropping.

Scott looked at him and smiled. "I'd like that, too, brother."

*

They pulled into the courtyard and stepped down. Scott gazed at the house and thought idly it was larger than the Garrett estate.

"You want some company or do you want to go it alone?"

"I think I'd like some company." Scott smiled, his heart in his throat.

Johnny showed him inside and into the living room where Murdoch was waiting in the middle of the room.

"Scott, this is our father," he said simply and stepped back.

Scott removed his gloves and dropped them in his hat, then walked up to his father. "It's nice to meet you, Sir."

Murdoch took him in, noticing his eyes and stature. "It's good to have you here, Scott," he said as they shook hands.

There was an awkward silence in the room as each man tried to gather his thoughts. Murdoch cleared his throat.

"Perhaps you'd like to get cleaned up. Johnny can show you to your room."

"Thank you, I would like to freshen up."

Johnny took him upstairs. "That's my room across the hall. This one's yours," he said as he opened the door.

Scott stepped through and nodded his approval. He noticed his bags already there and he began unpacking.

Johnny leaned against the door jamb and watched, a smile playing at his lips.

"Did you want to tell me about yourself or shall we ease into this?"

"Makes no difference to me," Johnny shrugged. "I wouldn't want to scare you off on your first day, though," he grinned devilishly.

Scott turned and smiled. "I don't scare easily."

"No, I don't guess you do. Well, let's see. My mother ran out on the old man when I was about two and took me along for the ride. She told me he threw us out. About a month or so ago, I tracked her down and made her tell me his name and where he was. I came here and he told me he didn't throw us out and that she took off in the middle of the night. Knowing her, I figured that was the truth so I decided to stay when he offered."

"Your mother is alive then."

"Yeah, she is. Look, the thing is, I'm a gunfighter, used the name Johnny Madrid. I guess I should say I was a gunfighter. Things have been happening so fast, it's hard to keep up." Johnny laughed softly.

Scott was looking at him oddly though and he bristled. "I've read some books about the west and gunfighters."

"Yeah? Well, don't believe everything you read," Johnny said coldly.

"You really do believe Mr. Lancer, don't you?" Scott asked, deciding to change the subject.

"Yes, I do. Are you gonna keep calling him that?"

"What should I call him? Father doesn't seem appropriate under the circumstances."

"I just call him Murdoch or old man. He don't like that too much though," Johnny laughed. "The thing is, Scott, I know my mother and that's why I believe him. I guess you're gonna have to decide how well you know your grandfather and what you can believe," Johnny said seriously.

Scott looked away and nodded.

"Well, I guess you'll want to get yourself cleaned up. Teresa put fresh water and towels out for you. Oh, you'll meet her, she's Murdoch's ward and she's a sweet girl, you'll like her." Johnny smiled and closed the door behind him.

*

Scott sat on the bed and sighed heavily. His mind was whirling with the possibilities. He had to admit, his grandfather had lied to him about the letters, kept the knowledge of his brother's existence from him. How far would he go to keep him away from his father? Scott wasn't sure he wanted the answer to that. He had a feeling of dread that this was coming to a choice between his father and grandfather. A choice he did not want to have to make.

Scott did indeed meet Teresa later that day and he was quite impressed with her. The word spitfire came to his mind and he smiled. Young but competent, he wondered how she had gotten so strong. Maybe just living in this country made a person, man or woman, strong. He'd always thought of himself as a strong person as well. Maybe it was inborn, maybe he could find a way to make this work. Before he could consider that possibility, he had to have an honest talk with Murdoch Lancer.

That evening after supper, Johnny and Teresa made themselves scarce. Scott found himself alone with his father and neither of them found any comfort in the situation.

"I suppose you have some questions for me. "

"Yes, Sir, I do. The first one would be , why did you leave me in Boston ?" Scott said, coming straight to the point.

"At first, I thought it was for the best. Those were dangerous times here. That's why I sent your mother east in the first place. Once the danger was over, I wrote to Harlan and he told me he wouldn't let you go. I had no money to fight him with at the time. The ranch, well it wasn't what it is today. Then I met Johnny's mother. After she left, I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find them. I did come to see you on your fifth birthday but I don't suppose you would remember."

"No, I'm afraid I don't. Why didn't you take me with you then?" Scott asked softly.

"Oh, Scott, Harlan made it clear he would fight me every inch of the way. With my wife leaving me and his position in Boston , I could see it becoming a very long process. He told me he would put you in the middle of it and I just couldn't do that. I couldn't make you go through something like that. I think he knew that and he may have been bluffing but I couldn't chance it. I could see you were well taken care of so that wasn't an issue. I wanted you home. Maybe I was wrong, I just don't know."

Scott took all this in and he could see the position his father had been put in. He couldn't believe his grandfather would drag him through a court battle but he could also see how Murdoch couldn't take the chance.

"And later, when I was older?"

"I wrote to you, son. When you turned twenty-one, I invited you to come but you never replied."

"I didn't get the letter. I never got any letters or anything from you."

He saw the anguish on his father's face and knew Johnny had told him the truth.

"I guess I'm not as sneaky as your brother. I always put the return address on my letters." Murdoch smiled a little.

Scott smiled despite himself. "My brother. That was quite a shock," he laughed.

"I can imagine but he was determined. I'm quite sure he'd be on a train bound for Boston right now had you not responded."

Murdoch walked over to Scott's side and locked eyes with him. "Would you consider staying on here, trying to become the family we should have been?"

Scott looked into his father's eyes and saw the truth. "I'd like that very much, Sir."

Murdoch smiled brightly, then suddenly, he bellowed for Johnny.

Johnny rushed into the great room ready for anything when he saw the smiles plastered on his family's faces. "What?"

"I'd like to make you both an offer. One-third of Lancer. Equal shares to all of us."

Johnny and Scott both raised an eyebrow at the offer.

"How long you been thinkin about this?"

"Since the day you were born, Johnny. I have one stipulation, I call the tune. Agreed?"

Scott nodded his head and smiled. Johnny smiled too and looked up at his father.

"Sounds good to me."

"We'll go into town tomorrow and draw up the papers." Murdoch smiled and placed a hand on each of his son's shoulders. "Welcome home, boys."

 

~end~
2003

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