Word count 1,916
A WHN for Shadow of a Dead Man
Disclaimer: I don’t own them but I’d borrow the money to buy them if they were for sale.
Note: This is what happens when someone makes a suggestion while you’re on mind altering meds. Thanks SF!!! I also want to thank her for making it all pretty and fit to read. Without her it wouldn’t be nearly as nice.
“Let me get this straight, you sold that land for a dollar and some biscuits!” Murdoch tugged a little harder on the bandage than he intended but it was stuck to the wound on the boy’s arm.
“Ouch! You mind leavin ‘me some hide?” Johnny complained, gritting his teeth at the pull on the fresh wound. He inhaled deeply as he fought the flare of pain.
“Sorry, son,” Murdoch soothed. His brow furrowed in concern as he tried a gentler approach, peeling away the old soiled bandage so he could begin to clean the wound. “You mind explaining to me how you came up with that deal?”
“Well, it wasn’t easy… Aaaa!” Johnny hissed as the warm water flowed over his arm and his father began to tenderly bathe the angry looking wound.
Murdoch grimaced at his son’s reaction. “I know it sore but we really need to clean this out so it doesn’t get infected. This is probably going to sting but I’ve got to use the carbolic acid.” Murdoch dreaded having to cause the boy more hurt.
“I know, just get on with it,” Johnny stated, resigned to the pain. This time he looked away preferring not to watch as his father poured liquid fire on his arm.
Once the wound had been cleaned, Murdoch helped his son wash up and change into a clean nightshirt and into bed, despite Johnny’s protest, and then he settled down to hear the full story.
Johnny chewed his bottom lip as he studied his father’s face, knowing the old man wanted the details but not sure how exactly his father was going to take the deal he had made with Jessamie. He knew it wasn’t exactly what his pa had in mind when he sent him to take care of it. Of course, he had warned him that he wasn’t much good at paper work stuff.
Murdoch knew Johnny was having a hard time getting started. Attempting to put him at ease he reached out and brushed the hair back from the boy’s eyes, and then rested his palm against his slightly warm cheek. “You take your time and tell me all about what happened. Knowing you like I do, son, I’m sure it’s going to be a pretty interesting story.”
“Well it’s sorta like this. When I got there I found this little house and a little woman with a great big gun and even bigger eyes,” Johnny stated.
“Let me guess, you fell for this little woman with the big eyes,” Murdoch inquired as he plumped Johnny’s pillows.
“No, it wasn’t her big eyes. They were kinda scary. What made me fall was that big gun she liked totin’ around,” Johnny informed his father. “Specially since she kept backing me up with it.”
“She’s not the one that shot you, is she?” Murdoch asked; alarmed to think Johnny would practically give land away to a woman, who had shot him.
“No, she didn’t shoot me, just at me, a lot, seemed like every time I turned around, she had that damn gun pointed in my face. It was somebody else who wanted to kill her but he didn’t get to because she wasn’t any more trustin’ of him than she was of me, until the end.” Johnny yawned and struggled to keep his eyes open.
Murdoch listened closely because even though this little story was beginning to ramble, he knew there had to be answers hidden in there somewhere.
“Those must have been some pretty good biscuits for you to sell the place for a dollar and few baked goods.” Murdoch nudged his son when he noticed the boy was starting to nod off.
“Well, the first ones were pretty good but the second batch had these little stick things in them,” Johnny told his father, sticking his tongue out and making a face as though he could still taste it.
“Why did they have little sticks in them?” Murdoch questioned, confused by this turn in the story.
“Well, it was probably my fault they were there because I was trying to knock the old pieces of the roof off so I could patch the leak.” Johnny shrugged at his father, his guilty expression making him appear years younger.
“Why were you knocking the roof off into the biscuits?” This story seemed to be meandering along a couple of paths and Murdoch wasn’t sure which one would get him the answers he was seeking.
“Well… I was trying to fix it. I had to knock out all the rotted wood and patch it with these pieces of tin I found in her barn. I had already fixed the windmill. She was givin’ me a dollar to do the work. Never would let me stay inside the yard though. Had sleep outside that damn gate with her pointin’ that big gun at me and starin’ at me with those big ole eyes of hers!” Johnny grumbled, irritation making him squint his eyes.
“Ok, well, now I know that you were fixing up the place for this woman who had a big gun and big eyes but what does that have to do with you getting shot?” Murdoch implored, shaking his head in frustration at the lack of answers in the jumble of information.
“She let the man, who did do it,” Johnny motioned to his wound, “in her house, and then asked him to get rid of me. He was some kind of bounty hunter. She killed a man and his kin sent the bounty hunter after her. She was a bad judge of character. Her son was better at judgin’ people than she was,” Johnny informed his father.
“Wait a minute. She had a son? How old was he?” Murdoch asked, scratching his head as he realized this story was going to take longer than he had originally suspected.
“Grady. He was her son. He’s about seven or eight, I suppose. Good boy but he sure misses havin’ his pa and other folks around.” Johnny nodded, agreeing with his assessment, and then frowned as he added, “She’s got them hid out there and never lettin’ anyone get near them, the boy was pretty starved for company. Enough so that he come sneakin’ into my camp with them damn biscuits. I nearly shot the kid before I realized who it was,” Johnny confessed, his horror darkening his eyes, and then he started to yawn again.
“So this man who shot you, where did he come from?” Murdoch asked trying to make sense of the story his youngest was relating.
“I told you, he was bounty hunter sent to kill her,” Johnny reminded his father. “You know she let him come in the house and everythin’. I never got past the gate unless I was climbin’ on the roof or the windmill. She even gave him biscuits and he hadn’t done nothin’ to earn them! I had to work for my biscuits and here she just let him in like he was comin’ for Sunday dinner.” Johnny informed his father, clearly disappointed with his unfair treatment from Big Eyes.
“So how did he get the drop on you? I’ve got to tell you I’m pretty surprised by that.” Murdoch was very interested at this point to put the pieces of this story together.
“Well, she told him I had come to kill her and he let her believe he would help her and well, one thing lead to another and before I knew it I was in the house with her and the kid and he was shootin’ at us,” Johnny rambled, pausing for a moment to collect his scattered thoughts before continuing. “I laid my gun down long enough to take off my jacket and that dumb gal threw it right out the window. So now here we are sittin’ in her house while that bounty hunter is holdin’ us down with gunfire.” Johnny frowned as he remembered the incident.
Seeing his son was caught up in is thoughts, Murdoch prodded him along. “What happened next?”
“I gotta tell you, I was pretty pissed off when she threw my gun out the window. Then she tells me all about how I’m the bounty hunter sent to kill her and all and that’s when I lost it on her,” Johnny declared. Clenching his teeth, and pursing his lips at the memory, he continued, “I told her Lancer was my name and that the land, she was squattin’ on, was my father’s land. That sure shut her up then.” Johnny nodded in satisfaction. “Of course, we were in a mess so I had to come up with a plan. She didn’t want to go along with it at first but she finally agreed.” Johnny wiggled around in the bed as he caught his second wind.
“I told her, I was gonna have to make a dive for the rifle that she was so attached to earlier but had managed to leave behind in the yard when we needed it most.” Johnny huffed at the remembered blunder. “Anyway, I told her to create a diversion and I made a mad dash for it. I got real close and dropped like a rock next to it and played dead, and then when the bounty hunter got close enough to check me out I plugged him and that’s that.” Johnny’s second wind dwindled down to more of a light breeze.
“You were shot in the process of trying to get to the rifle?” Murdoch surmised, his gut churning at the cavalier manner in which his young son related the events.
“Yep, that’s about it,” Johnny confirmed around another yawn.
“You sold the land for a dollar and some biscuits?” Murdoch asked, watching as Johnny’s eyes rolled as he tried to focus them and he began to sink further into his pillow.
“Yep. Figured that’s about all it was worth,” Johnny muttered as he got comfortable.
By the time Johnny had finished telling the story to his father, he was beginning to feel the effects of his long ride, the slight fever from his wounded arm and the medicine his sneaky father had slipped him in a glass of water. “You mad at me, Pa?” Johnny asked around a head splitting yawn.
Pulling the covers up around the boy’s shoulders, Murdoch relished the rare occasion of being addressed as Pa. He knew it was probably a mixture of feeling whipped from a long day’s journey, a poorly attended wound and the relief of being home and being taken care of by someone he knew loved him.
“I’m not mad at you son. In fact, I’m very proud of you. I’m not sure I could have made such a fine deal myself. Now, you settle down and get some rest.” Murdoch watched as Johnny’s eyes slid closed, and then he moved to sit in the chair next to his bed, intending to be there should Johnny need anything during the night.
~ end ~
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