Word Count 44,067
Special thanks to my Beta Reader – Linda Rae. I couldn’t have done it without you girl! You are a wealth of information and a stickler for details that really matter. Thanks also to Lisa for her medical advice and to Edwina for her moral support.
Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters. I only borrow them. I make no money off of them. Many thanks to the original writers and actors who brought the characters to life.
Note: Many thanks to Debbie B for letting me use an element of her story – A Teresa Story part 2.
R – Rating for physical violence
It had all started out as such a great adventure – Scott taking his little brother to the town where he had been raised. Now he was in a desperate search to find that brother – lost somewhere in the great eastern city. As he headed toward the waterfront, he could only pray that he would find his brother – but after 2 days of searching it was as if Johnny Madrid Lancer had dropped off the face of the world.
3 weeks prior….
The weather had been unbearably hot during the cattle drive, but the two Lancer brothers had endured. It had been their first effort taking a herd to San Francisco for delivery without their father. They returned to Lancer feeling like conquering heroes – the herd sold for a price greater than what they had originally negotiated.
“Hey Murdoch!” Johnny called as he led the charge up to the main house followed closely by Scott, Jelly and the other vaqueros.
Murdoch and Teresa were standing in front of the house waiting as the dusty men rode up. “Johnny! Scott!” Murdoch called back as the two boys separated themselves from the rest of the group and came forward to greet him. “You had a safe trip?”
“A profitable one!” Scott said greeting his father with a warm handshake – receiving a slap on the back from the older man.
Murdoch frowned briefly wondering at the ignored question. “Johnny – you had a safe trip?” He reached out to give his youngest son an affectionate slap on the back, only to have him spin out of reach.
“Well, let’s say that it wasn’t without its own excitement.” Johnny said looking everywhere but in his father’s eyes.
“Jelly?” Murdoch turned to the old hand knowing that from him he might get a straighter answer.
“You boys want to tell him or should I?” Jelly looked at his two charges who now looked as if they were ready to ride out again.
Finally Johnny spoke up, looking at his spurs. “It went very well. We made it to San Francisco in record time and got top dollar for the herd….”
Scott stepped forward. “It was self defense, Sir, and there were no charges…
“And…? Murdoch urged impatiently.
“The doctor said that it would heal in no time at all.” Jelly finished, pleased that the story was now out.
Murdoch looked to Theresa who was as confused as he was. “Let me get this straight. You made it to market – got a good price, no one was put in jail and one of you will heal in time?”
The three travelers looked at each other and agreed that was a fair assessment of the trip. “All right then – we won’t discuss it any further. Why don’t you boys get cleaned up. Theresa has been baking for a week in anticipation of your return.”
Relieved that their father had not pressed the issue further, the boys hurried to the bath house behind the kitchen. Murdoch caught Jelly’s arm and pulled him into the coolness of the veranda. “Out with it. Who’s hurt?”
Jelly bobbed his head trying to avoid the sharp eyes of his boss, but he knew that it would have to come out sooner or later. “It’s Johnny…”
Murdoch looked after his sons – neither appeared to be moving with any noticeable difficulty. But they had been on the trail for a long period of time and it was normal for a man to move a little stiffly. “What happened?”
Jelly looked at his boss his eyes full of sorrow. “He handled it well – said that he grew up dealing with such things… Scott, he was …” The older man had to stop as his eyes were misting over. “Mr. Lancer, ya really ta speak with ‘em boys of yours.” And with a parting comment he whispered: “Check out Johnny’s back.” With that said, Jelly hurried off to his own quarters.
The conversation with Jelly had left the elder Lancer more confused that ever. Determined to find out what had happened and to make sure that his youngest son was alright, he beat a path to the bath house. He slowed trying to figure out how to best approach his sons on what clearly had been a traumatic event. As he neared the structure, he could hear his son’s voices as they echoed off the tiled surfaces.
“I’m alright. Boston,” came Johnny’s insistent voice.
“I don’t know… Maybe we should speak to Murdoch…”
“And what’s he going to do? Come on – help me get in here and clean up.”
There were a few moments of silence before Murdoch heard his youngest swear a blue streak in Spanish. Unable to take anymore, he entered the building. Johnny was sitting in a tub and Scott was gently pouring water over his back. Before either man could say a word, Murdoch went and inspected Johnny’s back. “Good Lord,” He swore viewing long red welts in tanned flesh. Obviously his son had been whipped. “What happened?”
Johnny, who was holding onto the tub in white knuckled agony, was unable to speak. Scott put down the water pitcher and began to dab at his brother’s healing wounds. “There was a group in San Francisco that took exception to dealing with us…” He sucked in his breath as his ministrations caused his brother to moan. “Sorry.”
Murdoch moved to squat in front of his youngest. “You OK?”
Johnny gave him a weak smile. “You should see the other guys.”
Murdoch’s eyes flashed at his two sons. “Come see me when you’re done.”
An hour later, both boys were in front of their father’s desk. Scott was seated while Johnny stood – obviously reluctant to put any sort of pressure on his wounds.
“Now, I want the full story – no malarkey. When and how did this happen?”
“Why does it matter?” Johnny insisted. “It’s over and done. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before….” He dropped his head in memory of events that had transpired many years ago. Memories that he thought were long buried with the rest of his past.
Murdoch’s eyes flashed. “You are my son – a Lancer. No one whips a man – especially you. Now out with it!”
The two boys made eye contact. Johnny gave a silent nod to Scott to tell the tale. “We were at Henderson’s – the cattle broker you sent us to. While I was out with Mr. Henderson inspecting the herd – several of his boys took exception to dealing with us…”
“’Cause I’m a half-breed Mexican,” Johnny interrupted, quoting the words that he knew his brother was too embarrassed to say.
“I tried to turn away. I knew that you were counting on the money from the herd. I thought that maybe if I just left it would be OK. ‘Turn the other cheek’ like they say in Church. But one of them pulled out a whip…” Johnny closed his eyes trying not to recall the events.
“By the time I got there, Johnny had killed one of them and had wounded 2 others. The Sheriff ruled it self defense.” Scott spoke up taking the burden of recollection from his brother.
“We sold the Cattle to Myers, got a better price.” Scott said trying to end the conversation that he knew to be so painful to his brother.
Silence filled the room as the men soaked in what had happened. “Johnny…?” Murdoch asked waiting for a response from his youngest. “You defended yourself…”
“I’ve done it before…”
“But this is the 1870’s! How can men be so barbaric?” Scott wondered aloud. “We’ve freed the slaves. Why should it matter….”
“It just does…” Johnny said quietly as he turned and left the room.
“Is he alright?” Murdoch asked finally.
Scott looked after his brother, his heart now filled with concern. “I had thought so – but now I am not so sure. I mean, on the way back, he was joking with us – that this was nothing that he hadn’t experienced before. But, now…” Scott turned to look at his father. “I never realized that there was such prejudice out there. He’s not an animal – he’s a man. How can people be like that?”
Murdoch considered the question. When he and Maria had Johnny, they never dreamed that their son would face such prejudice. But it was the fact that he was of mixed decent that had molded him into the man he was today. Johnny knew what it was like to be singled out – to be an outcast – being neither Mexican nor Anglo. Not welcome in either world until he had to fight his way in with a gun. It was that fight that taught him that a little compassion went a long way. Murdoch had to wonder if that wasn’t why he was always looking after strays like Jelly’s boys or Pony Alice. No one had been there to help him when he was growing up. Now, he was the one always looking to give aid where it was needed. “I’m glad you were there for your brother – that he didn’t have to handle this by himself.”
The two men sat in comfortable silence for a few moments when Murdoch spotted an envelope on his desk – a letter to Scott that had been delivered while he was gone. “This came for you last week.”
Scott looked at the return address – Boston – and anxiously opened the letter. A smile spread across his face as he quickly scanned the contents. “Well I’ll be! One of my fraternity brothers – Joshua Armstrong – is getting married next month and he wants me to come back to Boston to be his best man!”
“Isn’t he the boy who lived next door to your grandfather’s house?” Murdoch asked remembering some of Scott’s stories about his childhood. Sitting back in his chair he looked at his oldest. The young man was no longer the pale easterner that he had been over a year ago. He was now tanned and fit – confident in his role on the ranch. He wondered how Scott would fit back in Boston society. From the look on Scott’s face, he could tell that his son had not cut all of his ties with the Atlantic coast town. Sure, he had come to terms with his relationship with his grandfather – but this letter was apparently from a peer that had been close to Scott – maybe as close as a brother? “So, when do you want to leave?”
Scott looked up from the letter stunned by his father’s question. “Leave – Lancer?”
“Come now, Scott. You know that you want to go.”
“But I can’t leave you and Johnny – not now….” Scott paused as a thought seemed to run through his mind. “I could take him with me!”
A smile spread across his father’s face, the thought of Johnny Madrid in Boston was almost amusing. “I’m not sure that Boston is ready for Johnny…”
“Why not? He needs some time off – he deserves it. Maybe some time in civilized society will help him to get over what happened in San Francisco.”
Murdoch frowned. “Scott, to say that there is no prejudice in Boston…”
“Not among my friends. It would be good for him to see the rest of the world…” Scott’s blue eyes were alight in excitement. Already he was planning the adventure that he and his brother would share.
“Alright,” the father conceded. “Speak to your brother – if you can get him to go – then I give you my blessing for a month off. You both deserve some down time.”
Scott found Johnny out by the corral checking out the latest herd of horses that the vaqueros had rounded up during their absence. He found himself smiling broadly as he broached his brother about going to Boston.
“You want me to go where?” Johnny asked stunned by Scott’s request.
“Come on Johnny. It will do you good to get off this ranch and see what else there is in the ‘civilized world’.”
Johnny laughed at his brother. “Scott, I’ve been quite a few ‘civilized’ places – Texas, New Orleans, Kansas City…. Believe me – there’s nothing back east that I need to see…”
“Of course you don’t need to see it, but I want you to come…”
“To see how the ‘civilized’ world lives? I believe that I saw that back in San Francisco.” Johnny spat the bitter words as he looked off into the distance, trying hard not to remember the memories he had been fighting. The trip to San Francisco had shaken him more than his family knew. It hadn’t been the first time he had been beaten because he was of mixed decent and sadly he couldn’t think that it would be the last. From a very tender age he had been made keenly aware that he was different. As a child, he saw himself as an unwanted half-breed, a fact that was beaten into him by almost every one of men that his mother had sought companionship from. Sure, they wanted her – she was astonishingly beautiful and full of life, but none of them wanted her bastard. It didn’t matter if they were in a small boarder town or in one of the larger cities; he was the object of contempt. It wasn’t until he was older – when he earned his reputation as Johnny Madrid that he had shown them all how wrong they were.
Scott frowned at his brother’s view of his world back east. “Believe me – things are different in Boston. People are more accepting….”
“Like you Scott?” Johnny knew his brother to be a very trusting person – always seeing the goodness in people. ‘A sucker with a soft heart’ Johnny had too often thought.
“That right – like me. Besides, it will be fun. Murdoch has already given his permission for us to take a month…”
“So you already asked the old man?” Johnny looked out over the corral. He had no desire to leave his ‘home’. It was strange, his entire life he had been looking for a place to belong. Now that he had found it, the idea of traveling no longer held the appeal that it once had. Looking at the earnest face of his brother, he wondered how he could refuse. With a laugh he threw an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “So tell me if I go – do I have to wear plaid?”
The plans were quickly made for the brothers to travel to Sacramento where they would board a train for the trip across the continent to Boston. Murdoch and Jelly accompanied them to Sacramento where they did some shopping for Johnny. It took all three men to convince the former gunfighter that his low cut pants with silver buttoned seams were not appropriate for Boston society. A wardrobe of one formal tuxedo and 2 less formal day suits were purchased. No plaid riding pants.
The next day, Murdoch and Jelly saw them off at the train depot. It was agreed that they would meet them back in 3 weeks time. They had calculated 2 weeks for traveling to and from Boston, leaving the boys a week in Boston to visit and attend the wedding.
“My bones ache,” Jelly complained, rubbing his elbows as he watched the train leave with the two Lancer brothers. The old handyman was convinced that whenever his bones ached that trouble would not be far behind. His bones were aching more now than they did when they were in San Francisco, convincing him that nothing good was going to come from this trip.
“I’ll miss them too.” Murdoch admitted as he watched the train disappear around the bend. “God speed,” he prayed trying to ignore Jelly’s predictions of doom.
When Harlan Garrett returned from his trip to California – he wasn’t the only one disappointed that Scott had not returned with him. Waiting at his home were Scott’s fraternity brothers from Omega Alpha Pi Fraternity. Joshua Armstrong, the vice president of the fraternity during the years that Scott had attended Harvard was now a lawyer with his father; Nathan Potteiger had been the Treasurer, now a banker; Reginald Pierce the son of a weapons manufacturer had been the Sergeant at Arms and was currently on leave from the Army; Trevor Hawthorne was the secretary and was presently a reporter for the Boston Herald. Scott had been the fraternity president during his senior year – a natural leader. The five men together had been a very close group swearing their allegiance to each other – to the death. His ‘brothers’ did not take the news of Scott’s decision to stay in California well.
Harlan quickly filled them in on his disastrous attempt to have Scott return home. He conveniently omitted his own covert plan to blackmail his grandson into returning ‘home’. He did tell them tales of the father and brother who now controlled his beloved Scotty. “I believe him to be afraid of his half-breed brother – a Mexican! The man had been a gunfighter. What chance does Scotty have of getting away when he could expect a bullet in the back?” Seeing that his words were inflaming the group, he continued. “Some how there must be away to lure him home where he can begin to live again.”
To Harlan’s delight the group, now greatly agitated, worked hard to come up with a plan to ‘rescue’ Scott. Joshua had been Scott’s best friend – as close as a brother – as they were growing up. He was now preparing to marry Scott’s childhood sweetheart – Andrea Baldwin. Perhaps an invitation to the wedding would be the key to bring their ‘brother’ home. And it was! But they could hardly contain their outrage that Scott’s brother would be coming along to make sure that he returned to California. The group vowed to use whatever means were necessary to separate Scott from Johnny – to free him from his keeper.
Trevor, Nathan and Joshua were convinced that they could reason with Johnny. They figured that gunfighters were greedy men and that given the opportunity, Johnny would see that with Scott back in Boston, he would have the entire Lancer Ranch for himself. They also counted on Scott ‘coming to his senses’ and realizing that he belonged with them and not in the wilds of California.
Reginald ‘Reggie’ Pierce viewed the situation entirely different. To him it was a challenge to permanently separate the two Lancer brothers – by whatever means necessary. After College he had returned to the Army where he was posted in Texas along the border with Mexico. He had developed a hatred for Mexicans whom he had viewed as nothing more than pests to be eradicated. He had taken great pleasure in capturing the bandits that raided the boarder ranches and making sure that they never bothered another American. When his actions became known to his superiors he had been quietly discharged and sent home. This fact was not known to his friends, but was well known to Harlan Garrett who now chose to exploit that information and Reggie’s talents. He made it Reggie’s mission to make sure that the ‘dirty little Mexican’ would not remain in Scott’s life. With great care Harlan primed Reggie for the arrival of Scott Lancer and Johnny Madrid. It would be a military operation – a battle for Scott’s soul that Reggie was now determined to win.
Harlan Garrett distanced himself from the group, but through Reggie was informed of their plans. He made it clear that he could not be an active participant, but if there was anything he could do to assist their cause he would do it. The old business man took great delight in knowing that one way or another his grandson’s half-breed brother would no longer be a consideration. He enjoyed the power he had – changing the lives of three men. The half-breed would be gone; Scott would be in Boston and Murdoch Lancer would be in California with his ranch and grand hacienda and no sons.
Scott tried hard not to remember his father’s words: “…To say that there is no prejudice in Boston….”, but now they rang in his mind as loud as a church bell. How could he have been so naïve to think that just because Johnny was his brother that he would be accepted as a peer? He had forgotten how his grandfather had treated the former gunfighter when he had visited Lancer just 3 months ago. At every chance he cut into his brother about being a half-breed and inferior. Not once in the months that he had been with Johnny, had Scott ever thought of him in that way. From the moment they stepped off the train in Boston, he should have realized the danger. Now he was filled with the desperate feeling that he was too late.
Finishing the rounds at the docks, he was convinced that Johnny had not been spirited away on some vessel – a reluctant sailor. “Where are you brother?” With every passing minute he knew that he was no closer to finding the missing man. In defeat, he turned to go back to his grandfather’ house.
The trip east has been a transforming one for the Lancer Brothers. Johnny was amazed at how quickly his brother had re-adopted his formal eastern manners. By the time they reached Philadelphia, Scott had truly transformed himself back into the Eastern Dandy that Johnny had first suspected him of being. Scott stopped wearing his ranch clothes in favor of the traveling suit that he had worn when Johnny first met him.
For Johnny, it was culture shock. It was in St. Louis that he noticed that there weren’t any people of Mexican decent. He also noted that it was no longer acceptable to wear a gun on his hip. At Scott’s insistence he packed the weapon into his traveling bag. What he refused was to wear the clothes that Scott and Murdoch had picked out for him in Sacramento. “There’s just no way I’m gonna wear ‘traveling clothes’ – not when I feel more comfortable in my regular old duds.”
“I think that you’ll find that the closer we get to our final destination – the more you’ll be sticking out like a sore thumb.”
“So let me be a sore thumb. I’m sure those Eastern friends of yours know all about cowboys – after all you USED to be one.”
Scott smiled at the jibe and threw an arm around his brother’s shoulders. “Well, within a few days we’ll find out how right you are!”
Johnny watched the landscape change from the golden colors of the desert, to the amber wheat fields of the mid west. At they approached the east coast, there were more hills and valleys – filled with thick forest – some how different from the wooded land on the ranch. It was also getting cooler and the autumn air had a bite to it. As they traveled north from Philadelphia, he watched in fascination as the trees changed from green to rich colors of orange and red.
It was a brisk 50 degrees by the time they reached Boston and that was at noon when the day should have been at its warmest. Scott was prepared with a thick overcoat where Johnny had insisted that his short cropped jacket would be more than enough for any sort of eastern weather. Now he knew why his brother had laughed – insisting that Johnny have a warm wool coat in his bag for the evenings.
They were met at the train station by what Johnny felt was an entire mob. Scott debarked first and was greeted with a cheer from a group of four men.
“Scotty!” One of them had called.
Scott responded by throwing up his arms and launching himself at his friends. From the exit of the train Johnny watched – glad that his brother had the opportunity to see old friends. But, more and more he was overcome with the feeling that he didn’t belong. That it was a mistake for him to be in Boston.
“You getting off here mister?” The conductor finally asked the cowboy.
“Yeah, I guess so.” Grabbing his valise, Johnny climbed down and waded through the crowd towards his brother. He stood patiently for a few moments until Scott finally turned to introduce him.
“Gentlemen – this is my brother – Johnny Lancer. Johnny, these are my fraternity brothers from college -Joshua Armstrong, Nathan Potteiger, Reginald Pierce and Trevor Hawthorne “
“Como esta?” Joshua asked in an awful Spanish accent as he approached the former gun fighter with an extended hand.
Johnny glanced at the extended hand and then to his brother, clearly puzzled as to why one of Scott’s friends would great him in Spanish. “Nice to meet you,” Johnny responded in a soft drawl taking the offered hand.
“He speaks English?” Reggie observed with a hit of sarcasm. The other men responded in stunned silence.
The Lancer brothers looked at each other, now both were puzzled. “Of course – he’s from California…” Scott attempted to explain, puzzled at his friend’s reaction.
“Your Grandfather said that he was Mexican – so we assumed that….” Nathan spoke up trying to ease the situation.
Scott winced and Johnny’s eyes flashed. “My grandfather must have omitted that Johnny is American.” Scott tried to catch his brother’s eyes, but the former gunfighter had looked away.
“Well – no harm was meant.” Joshua grabbed Johnny’s hand and pumped it hard. “Any brother of Scott’s is a brother of ours! Why you all must be famished! I believe that Mr. Garrett has supper waiting.”
An open carriage was hailed. Johnny climbed up front with the driver while Scott sat in the back with his friends obviously basking in the glow of their companionship. He tried to pay attention to the route that they took from the train station through the cobbled streets of the seaport town. Having seen San Francisco – Johnny thought that he was ready for Boston – but he was wrong. Boston was an old town. The streets were narrow and were lined with brick buildings. They traveled through an obviously run down area before coming to the type of fancy houses that he had imagined that his brother had grown up in.
The roads were all paved with cobblestones and there were bricked sidewalks for the ladies to walk on – not the patches of dirt and mud that made up the paths that he had grown up on. Along the streets were overhead gas lights. Each house was neatly painted and gated. Shaking his head he tried not to make too many comparisons – but as the houses became more and more elegant – the harder it became.
Finally he turned to the driver. “You live around here?”
The man snorted and shook his head and spoke in a thick New England accent. “Not on what they pay me I don’t. Why?”
“Just wondr’n,” so this was the equality that his brother had spoken so highly of? Johnny shook his head and dove even further into his own thoughts.
In the back, Scott had temporarily forgotten his brother – concentrating on the sights that he had so missed over the past year. There were the Wharfs, the Common, the State House and even the University in the distance across the Charles River. Had it been so long ago that this had been his everyday surroundings? He hadn’t realized how much he missed the town until he returned.
His friends were filling him in on what he had missed and the plans for the wedding to be held in just 4 short days. From what Johnny could hear, they had every minute of the entire visit already planned out.
Johnny was the first to climb down when the carriage stopped in front of a stately townhouse. He looked up at the 3 story red brick structure and whistled aloud. It was a far cry from the one room adobe huts that were typical of the houses that he and his mother had shared. Gazing at the trim exterior he smiled – it was nice but no where near as magnificent as the Lancer Hacienda.
Scott paused next to his brother and looked at the house. “Our home away from home…”
“Mi casa es su casa?” Johnny muttered before grabbing his bag from the driver. “You come by here often?” He asked with a smile.
The driver shook his head. “Cowboy – just give a whistle when you’re ready to go home.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” From his pocket he flipped the driver a silver dollar and headed after Scott and his friends.
“Mr. Scott, welcome home.” A tall elderly black man greeted the travelers at the front door.
“Jennings!” Scott threw his arms around the man and gave him a warm hug. “Jennings this is my brother – Johnny.”
“Mr. Lancer,” Jennings nodded his head, but was stunned as Johnny took his hand and shook it warmly.
“It’s Johnny. Scott’s told me all about you.”
After a moment, Jennings returned the handshake and smiled warmly at the stranger. There was something in the smiling blue eyes and firm grip that told the servant that this man was not the cruel gunfighter that Mr. Garrett had prepared him for.
“Why, Mr. Scott sent letters telling me all about you too…”
“All lies!” Johnny laughed.
“Ahem!” The warm greetings stopped abruptly at the appearance of Harlan Garrett at the top of the stairs. “Scotty.”
Johnny watched as Scott instantly transformed from the comfortable relationship he had with the man servant to the formal relationship he had with his grandfather. He thought that Scott’s back would snap as he came to attention. For his part, Johnny just leaned against the door jamb letting the cool fall air fill the house.
“Tell Mr. Madrid either in or out…”
Scott took immediate note of his brother standing in the doorway. “Johnny….”
“You know me Boston, I just don’t like no doors hitting me in the butt as I enter…”
“Johnny!” Scott whispered furiously.
Johnny entered the house, closing the door behind him.
Scott greeted his grandfather with a handshake. It didn’t go unnoticed by anyone that Mr. Garrett never spoke directly to Johnny or acknowledged his presence beyond the chastisement at the door.
“I see that your friends found you safe and sound. Will you gentlemen be staying for supper?” Harlan asked turning his back to Scott. His eyes flashed sending the four men the message that now was not the time for them to stay.
“No, thank you, Sir.” Joshua responded. “We’ll catch up with Scotty tomorrow.” With that said, the men said their goodbyes to Scott and Johnny and quickly left.
“I see that you made a good recovery from your wound.” Harlan remarked as he led the brothers into the drawing room.
“Yes, Sir, it didn’t take long to heal.”
Johnny strolled around the elegant room filled with antique furniture and pieces of crystal and china. His constantly moving hands picked up one particular piece of crystal – a small horse.
“Put that down!” Harlan’s voice boomed causing Johnny to pause and stare coldly at the old man before placing the item back where he found it.
“That’s a fine piece of crystal – worth hundreds of dollars…”
“Grandfather, Johnny didn’t mean anything…”
“No I didn’t, Mr. Garrett,” Johnny interrupted on his own behalf – his voice barely containing the anger he felt. Swallowing hard, he decided to take the high road and give his brother time alone with his grandfather. “Listen – I’m sure that the two of you have lots to talk about. How about if I just go…”
“Jennings!” Harlan shouted as he rang a satin sash along one of the walls. The black man came breathlessly running into the room.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Garrett, sir…”
“Take Mr. Madrid up to his room while I have a few words with Scotty…”
Jennings turned to Johnny and bent to pick up the younger man’s bags only to have them snatched from his grasp. “I believe that slavery was abolished a few years back. I can carry my own bags. You just lead on.”
Scott waited until Johnny had left the room before he rounded on his grandfather. “You will not treat my brother like that ever again! Are we clear? He is Johnny Lancer – not ‘Mr. Madrid’. He is my brother and my guest. You will treat him with the same respect as me or we will leave this house and go to a hotel…”
“Scotty – he’s just a….” Harlan stammered unprepared for the attack from his beloved Scotty.
“He’s just the man who has saved my life more times than I can count. And as I recall, he saved your life as well.” Scott turned to pick up his bag and follow his brother up stairs.
Harlan puffed out his cheeks in anger. This was not how he wanted the visit to start. He wanted Johnny to be the one put on defense – not he! Somehow he had to show Scotty just how wrong he was about his ‘brother’ and how he really belonged back in Boston and not the wilds of California. Remembering the seeds he had sown in the minds of Scott’s friends he smiled. Pouring himself a brandy, he let the burning liquid stoke the fervor in his heart. He knew that in a few days, it would all be academic. Johnny Madrid would be gone and Scott would never return to California. On that pleasant thought, he downed the remainder of the drink and made preparations for supper.
After leaving his Grandfather, Scott had slowly climbed the stairs to his room. It had taken a lot out of him to confront his grandfather in that manner. He had to wonder if that was what the west had done to him – made him more outspoken – independent. And if so – why did he feel so bad?
Johnny was waiting for him; he sat rocking slowly in a chair by the window. “You didn’t have to do that…” He said quietly as Scott entered.
“Johnny, he shouldn’t have…..”
“That’s between him ‘n me, Boston. You’re here to enjoy his company – not to fight my battles…”
“What would you have me do – let him continue to treat you like…?”
“A child?” Johnny smiled and his eyes twinkled as he finished his brother’s question. “Isn’t that how you’re treatin’ me? Like I’m your kid brother?” He stood as Scott began to protest. “Scott. Let me handle this in my own way and we’ll both be happy. Now what do you suppose is for dinner? I got a fifty cent piece says that it’s chicken?”
Scott smiled as he pulled a coin from his pocket. “My money’s on Alberta making my favorite – Beef Wellington.”
Johnny shook his head. “Alberta, that’s the cook? Well it’s a bet – Brother!”
An hour later the brothers entered the elegant dining room of the Garrett house. Johnny whistled at the amount of crystal and silver present. Scott had warned him that his grandfather set a formal table, but the cowboy was still taken aback. As a gesture of peace, he had allowed Scott to dress him in one of the fancy outfits they had purchased in Sacramento. He still hadn’t understood the purpose of dressing up just to eat a meal. The confines of the vest prevented him from breathing – let alone eating like he wanted to.
“That’s the purpose,” Scott had explained as he tied his brother’s cravat. “That way you don’t over eat.”
“Is that why you were so skinny when you arrived at the ranch?” Johnny turned to look at himself in the mirror. If he didn’t know he was looking at his own reflection, he would have thought he was someone else. He was in charcoal gray pants, a white shirt with navy vest and jacket. The cravat that Scott had just finished tying was red. “You sure this is right?” He asked trying to stretch the fabric away from his neck.
Scott smacked his hand away. “Don’t mess with perfection, boy.”
The brothers smiled at each other and burst into laughter. As different as they were – night and day – they had bonded over the past months. For the second time that day, Scott was playing ‘big brother’ with relish. As they walked down stairs, Scott was again reminding Johnny that you used the silverware from the outside in – each course had its own utensil. “Think of this as the warm up to the party we’re having here tomorrow night.”
Johnny rolled his eyes, steeled himself and entered the dining room. The places were set so that Harlan was seated at the head with one of the boys on either side. Scott indicated that Johnny should stand until Harlan entered and sit after the older man had sat. The ex-gunfighter thought the custom strange – but he was the stranger here and had learned in the past not to break another’s custom – especially when you’re hungry.
Harlan Garrett entered the silent room and took his seat. Scott nodded to Johnny and the boys sat waiting for the older man to speak. After a few strained moments, Harlan cleared his throat. “John…” He turned towards Johnny, but never looked him in the eye.
“Yes, Harlan?” From the corner of his eye, Johnny saw his brother and Harlan both bristle at the use of the familiar.
“It’s Mr. Garrett….”
“No. It’s Harlan.” Johnny insisted in a soft quiet voice. Before Scott interrupted he continued. “I have no doubt that you don’t like me. That suits me fine ‘cause I don’t care for you much neither – but let me tell you what does bother me. My brother over there loves you and I think that you probably care for him just as much as I do. So, maybe we could both make nice for him – at least until we leave?” Johnny held his eyes steady on the older man and waited patiently until the redness in Harlan’s checks slowly faded and the old man’s gray eyes met his blue ones.
“Mr…Johnny… I think that you’re right. Perhaps we both could tolerate each other – for Scott’s sake…”
“Now wait a minute…” Scott started not liking the idea of being spoken about like he wasn’t there.
“Scotty, your bother and I are having a conversation here…”
“Yeah, Scott, butt out!” Johnny snickered and smiled making the other two men relax and smile as well. “So Harlan, what’s for dinner?”
“Alberta felt that having Scotty home would be like a holiday, so she roasted a turkey…” Harlan paused as Johnny held his hand out towards his brother. “What’s this?”
Scott shook his head in protest. “Turkey is not chicken….”
“It’s closer than ‘Beef Wellington’” Johnny waggled his fingers at his brother. “Pay up.” Reluctantly Scott dug into his pocket and handed over the proper coinage. “Thank you, Brother.”
“You’re welcome, Brother.”
Harlan watched in stunned silence as Scott paid up on his lost bet. “Is this something you learned out west?”
“Yes, Grandfather. Johnny here is always finding ways to make up for the money that he knows he will eventually lose to me at cards….”
Johnny laughed aloud. “Why Scott – you almost told a joke!”
In spite of himself, Harlan found himself joining in the laughter of his grandson and his brother.
A block from the Garrett townhouse, Scott was stopped by Andrea Baldwin – Joshua’s intended. “Scott!” She called to him drawing him out of his dark thoughts.
“Andrea, shouldn’t you be getting ready for the ceremony?” Scott glanced at his watch. The wedding was scheduled in 3 hours.
“How can I even think of that with your brother….” The girl bit her lip and looked away.
A strange feeling overcame Scott as he watched her cry tears for a man that she hardly knew. “Andrea – what aren’t you telling me? Do you know something about Johnny?”
Andrea looked at Scott. He was worn out with worry and concern. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Reggie had told her that they were saving him from the albatross that was Johnny Madrid. But she now knew different. Somehow they were being used by Harlan Garrett to keep Scott in Boston. Johnny wasn’t the monster that he had led them to believe. Johnny wasn’t the one holding Scott back from returning to them – Scott didn’t want to come back because he no longer belonged in Boston. It was Scott’s strong hands on her arms that shook her from her reverie. “It’s too late…”
“Too Late? Too late for what?” Scott insisted, his hands squeezing harder.
Her eyes grew wide realizing that she had said too much. She had to think about Joshua and the others – Johnny Madrid was nothing to her. But looking at Scott – a man that she had once loved with all her heart – she knew that Johnny was now everything to him. “The fraternity house…Quickly – go now before it’s too late!”
The next morning, Johnny was up at the crack of dawn. Scott had stayed up late speaking with his grandfather in private while Johnny had gone to bed early. Looking at his wardrobe, he opted for his regular clothes. The clothes from the night before were too confining and he wanted to be comfortable. More than once he had wanted to strap on his gun, but he knew that his brother would never have approved it. “Like going out naked…” He mumbled as he prepared to leave the room.
“You say something, Brother?” Scott asked opening his eyes.
“I feel naked…”
“You’ll feel more than that if you go out in Boston public dressed like that.”
“And what’s wrong with this?” He was wearing his brown Mexican style pants complete with silver buttons down the outside seam and a blue shirt. “Everyone knows that I’m a wild heathen – why not give them what they want?”
Scott smiled and sat up. “And just what do you want?”
Johnny returned the smile and sat down on the edge of Scott’s bed with a bounce. “I want to go for a ride. I tell you, Boston, my backside can’t take much more of those cushioned bench seats. I need to feel a saddle and a fast horse.”
“Well, that can be arranged. Give me a minute to dress and I’ll join you for breakfast.”
Scott had decided not to give his grandfather heart failure and dressed in a proper riding outfit – plaid pants and all. Johnny laughed when he recognized the outfit as the one that Scott had worn into Morro Coyo what seemed to be a century ago. “I thought Theresa burned that after the fight with Pardee’s men.”
“She knew better. She had it cleaned and pressed, and packed away where she didn’t think that I’d ever find it again. But, when she found out that you were coming with me on this trip, she offered to have it duplicated…”
“No she didn’t…” Johnny protested.
“No, she couldn’t. Just the thought of you in this outfit caused her to laugh so hard I was afraid that she was going to hurt herself.”
“So, where do you keep the horses around here?” Johnny had taken a quick tour of the house before retiring the night before and had realized that there was no stable on the property.
“Grandfather keeps a buggy horse at the livery at the end of the block. We’ll be able to rent horses there for the day.” Johnny missed Barranca and wondered if there would be any spirited horses or if they were all as tame as the local gentry. As if he were reading his brother’s mind, Scott tried to lay Johnny’s thoughts to rest. “If there’s not a horse there you like, we’ll go out to the hunt club and find you a mount for the rest of the week.”
“The hunt club?”
“I used to belong to a Fox hunting club – just outside of town. I’m sure that there will be a stallion there more to your liking.”
“Fox hunting?” Johnny had heard of hunting bear or deer or even rabbits. But hunting an animal that you couldn’t even eat didn’t make sense.
Scott just grinned and threw an arm around his misplaced sibling. “Maybe we’ll get to give it a try another day. Today I want to show you the sights and tonight we have the party.”
Alberta had prepared a true Boston breakfast, oatmeal, coffee, sausage, soft boiled eggs and English muffins. Johnny leered at the mush in the bowl – it reminded him the gruel that he had been forced to eat while in a Mexican prison. He was disgusted as Scott ate the mess with gusto. The soft boiled eggs were served in little silver stands with the shells intact. He didn’t even want to think about having to break into one just to eat. . He did find that he liked the sausage – though it was not as spicy as he would have preferred.
Scott watched in amusement as his brother tried to find something to eat. “You’re going to starve unless you try it.”
Johnny looked up from his bowl of oatmeal and cringed. “You wouldn’t say that if you knew what this reminded me of.” He pushed it away and settled on the sausage, English muffin and black coffee. His only hope was that perhaps lunch would be better.
They headed out on foot towards the livery and were quickly joined by Joshua Armstrong who still lived next door. He too was dressed in natty riding attire similar to Scott’s. He looked at Johnny and questioned – “Didn’t you bring anything else to wear?”
“Not for riding.”
“But surely you’re not going to ride in those….” Joshua was horrified to see Johnny wearing the same clothes he had worn the day before. Yesterday he had assumed that they were just traveling clothes – remnants of his western wear.
Johnny stopped and smiled. “I’ve been riding in clothes like these for as long as I can remember. I’m not as clothes conscious as my brother – he makes up for it for both of us.”
Scott hid a smirk as Joshua tried to explain that in proper Boston society wearing pants that hung from one’s hips was just not acceptable. Johnny just glared and looked away. Finally Scott intervened, “So, Josh, what are you doing today?”
“I had all of my appointments canceled to spend the day with you and catch up on old times. In fact, the others are waiting for us down at the livery.”
“You all live around here?” Johnny asked suspiciously.
“We were all born and raised around here.” Joshua spread his arms wide. “This is called Beacon Hill – where all of the best of Boston can be found. That is, all but your brother Scott, who has chosen to leave us for the wilds of California.”
Scott blushed at the comment. “You and the others will just have to come out and see the ranch. There’s nothing like it anywhere.”
“So what do you call the place?”
“Lancer – over a thousand acres in the San Joaquin Valley. Some of the best cattle land in the state. My father worked hard to build the place up…”
“That would be Murdoch – right? I mean, when we were kids, you swore that you would never have anything to do with him…”
“Well, times change and we all have to grow up. He’s not as bad as I had thought.” Scott glanced at Johnny who appeared to be paying attention to anything but this conversation. Scott knew better.
“And you, Johnny – what was it like growing up on that ranch all by yourself with your father?”
Johnny turned to Joshua and stared, his blue eyes cold as ice. As he opened his mouth to speak, Scott quickly intervened. “Johnny didn’t grow up on the ranch. He was raised by his mother in Mexico.” It was hard enough living the life Johnny had without trying to explain it to some uninformed easterner – no matter how well intentioned.
As they neared the livery, they were met by the others. “We have horses already picked out for you!” Reginald Pierce greeted them indicating the two saddled horses in the corral. He then looked over Johnny’s choice of attire and shook his head. “Scott – we thought that we’d go for a quick ride around town, give your brother a tour – ride over to Cambridge and maybe go out to the club after lunch and get in some shooting.”
At the mention of shooting, Johnny’s interest was instantly piqued. Scott smiled, relieved that his fraternity brothers were making the effort to consider activities that Johnny would be interested in.
The group entered the corral and prepared to mount the horses. Johnny just stood at the gate and stared. “What are those?”
Scott turned to see what his brother was looking at. “The saddle?”
Johnny moved closer to the black stallion that Reggie had cut out for him. “Is that what you call it?” He looked suspiciously at the English saddle with its lack of a horn and shorter stirrups.
“I thought that he knew how to ride.” Reggie commented with a sneer.
Just as Johnny was about to make a retort, the proprietor came out to see what the fuss was all about. “Is there a problem?”
“You don’t have any other types of saddles do you?” Scott asked trying to avoid any further confrontations.
The man looked at the group and then back at Johnny in his obviously different riding clothes. “I think that I have what you’re looking for.” He disappeared into the barn and returned with a new western saddle. “You John Lancer?”
“This came the other day – all the way from California – with this note.” Attached to the horn was a note with Johnny’s name on it.
Johnny snatched the note off the saddle and read it with a laugh. “What does it say?” Scott asked reaching for the piece of paper. “It’s from Murdoch….” He read the note aloud:
I’ve been to Boston a few times myself and found the saddles inadequate. You were due for a new saddle – so bring it home with you. M.
As Scott read the note aloud, Johnny was removing the saddle from the horse that was chosen for him. As he removed the gear he checked the blankets and found a burr. “You saddle this horse?” Johnny quietly asked the unsuspecting proprietor.
“No – Mr. Pierce selected the horse and saddle himself. Is there a problem?”
“Nope.” Johnny said simply as he placed the new saddle on the mount and secured it properly. “This animal got a name?”
“Well….” The proprietor was now looking about nervously. “We call this one Man-o-War on account of the fact that anyone who’s had to ride him has had a fight on his hands.”
“That so?” With a smile, Johnny made a show of leading the animal from the corral to join the other men who were now mounted.
Scott sat on his horse, envious of the saddle that Johnny now had. He too had gotten accustomed to riding a western saddle and found the shorter English stirrups cramped his legs. “You ready Johnny?”
“Yep.” With a quick jump, Johnny was in the saddle before the horse had a chance to buck him away. As a man accustomed to handling wild horses he easily controlled the half tame mount that was now pacing nervously. “Seems that this animal has a lot of fight in him, lets say we let him run.” Johnny wheeled the horse away from the fine houses of Beacon Hill and into the nearby Common – an open space in the middle of the city. In seconds, the horse was running at a full gallop with Johnny staying squarely in place.
Scott looked on, puzzled by his brother’s sudden need to display his horsemanship while the others looked in disappointment at Reginald Pierce. In no time, they were all giving chase after the dark haired Lancer and his black stallion.
In minutes they found Johnny holding the horse completely still by gently patting its neck and speaking to it quietly in Spanish. It seemed that the horse was taken by the soft speech and almost musical quality of the strange words being whispered. Johnny looked up and smiled at the approaching group. “Seems that Man-o-War here hasn’t had a run for awhile; I think he’s ready for the tour now.” Johnny looked directly at Reggie who showed no reaction to the statement.”
“That’s Man-o-war?” Trevor questioned his eyes growing wide. “I thought he was going to be put down after that accident last week.”
Scott looked at his ‘brothers’ and then to his brother. “What do you mean?”
Nathan spoke up nervously. “There was an accident last week – the horse bolted and the rider fell off breaking a leg…”
“And you gave that horse to Johnny?” Scott was incredulous.
“I’m sure it was a simple mistake,” Johnny commented softly. “Kinda like how a burr could get under a blanket by accident. No harm done. Besides – I was just tellin’ you this morning that I was lookin’ forward to a good ride.” He smiled at his companions and then nudged his horse forward and back to town – this time at a slower pace.
“Your brother sure has a way with animals,” Trevor commented. As a city bred horseman, he had never been comfortable riding – not when there was other means of transportation.
“He was practically born on a horse.” Scott was now flanked by Reggie and Trevor while Joshua and Nathan had moved to flank Johnny.
“He was born in a barn?” Reggie snorted.
Scott’s eyes flared. “You have something to say Pierce?”
Reggie smiled and winked. “I didn’t mean anything by it. Don’t get so flustered Scotty. Remember where you are. You’re not in some back water boarder town. You’re in Boston and so is that brother of yours. Just don’t forget it.” With that said, he urged his horse forward and ahead of the pack.
“What’s with him?” Scott wondered aloud.
Trevor looked after Reggie. “He changed a lot after college. Did you know that he actually rejoined the army and spent 2 years down near the Mexican Border in Texas? He’s only been back home for 2 months.”
“You don’t say. How has he changed?”
Trevor bit his lip. “He’s more focused than he used to be. More business like.”
Scott looked after his friend. When he was planning his trip ‘home’ he had remembered his ‘brothers’ as they had been in college – young and carefree. He hadn’t taken into consideration that they may have grown up and changed. “I guess that we’ve all changed in the past 2 years.”
“We all have.” Trevor said pointedly. “Especially you.”
A smile crossed the reporter’s lips. “Why Scott Lancer – I can remember when your only focus was to marry Julie Davenport, settle down, have babies and work for your grandfather. Now look at you – a rancher in the wilds of California! Who would have thought?”
“I guess you’re right,” Scott admitted. “Two years ago I never, in my wildest dreams, thought that I would be with my father in California – or even dream of a brother…”
“Is it true that he is a gunfighter?”
The accusation caught Scott off guard. “My grandfather has been telling stories…”
“No, really – we heard him call him Johnny Madrid – that sounds like a gunfighter’s name.”
“I suppose it does.” It was the same reaction Scott had when he first heard the name. Johnny Madrid just sounded like the name of a gunfighter you’d read about in a penny novel. But knowing Johnny had somehow made it real and dangerous. “His name is Johnny Lancer and he is a rancher – same as me. That’s all there is to it.” With a quick kick to his horse’s sides, he sped up to match pace with the rest of the group.
Trevor looked after his friend and shook his head. Scott had changed a lot over the past two years. Could it be that he was actually happy with his new life in spite of what Mr. Garrett had told them?
The group made their way around the streets of Boston, Scott taking time to point out special places of interest – where he had attended day school, church, the business district where Harlan Garrett ran his business empire and the Charles River where Scott had learned to swim.
After a time, they took the bridge that crossed the river to Cambridge and the campus of Harvard University. Once across the bridge, there was more open space in comparison to the close confines of the streets of Boston. Instead of riding 2 across the group of men were able to spread out and ride side by side. Johnny listened as Scott and his friends reminisced of their college exploits. When they reached Harvard they did a quick tour of the campus before dismounting in front of a large stone mansion.
“This, my dear Brother, was my –our- home away from home.” Scott corrected himself. Taking Johnny under his arm he led him to the front steps of the building. “This is the fraternity house of Omega Alpha Pi.”
“Omega Alpha Pi?” Johnny had the sense that there was something more to this ‘fraternity’ thing that Scott and the others had been alluding to. “Is this some sort of secret club? A band of hermano?”
Reggie snorted, “We are ‘Greeks’ pledged to service and each other.”
“And just what kind of ‘service’ did you pledge to?”
“Omega Pi is a community organization. We look out for all that is right in our society and we crush what is wrong.” Reggie’s dark brown eyes locked on Johnny’s blue ones in challenge.
“How noble,” Johnny said under his breath, his eyes catching Scott’s. He could tell from the flash in Scott’s eyes that his brother was not in total agreement with Reggie’s comments and was about to say so when Trevor spoke up.
“It’s more than that. We were drawn to each other by virtue of our background, studies and our goals. We lived and worked together for four years. We helped each other overcome our trials and tribulations. We became ‘brothers’ by choice.”
Johnny considered the words and again looked to his brother. “I guess that you know these guys pretty good then?”
Trevor’s words had defused Scott’s immediate anger at Reggie. The blond Lancer was once again smiling at his friends. “I trusted them with my life and I still do.”
Johnny nodded his head positive that somehow these men, whom his brother had trusted two years ago, had changed and not for the better. There was something about Pierce that reminded him of some the men he ran with along the boarder. He was not to be trusted – especially with your back. “So, just what did you do here?”
“Well,” Joshua took Johnny’s arm and led him up the front steps. “Your brother was our leader – the president of the fraternity.”
Johnny flashed a smile at his brother. “You’ve been holding out on me, Boston! President?”
“Well, it is sort of an elected title…”
“Nonsense,” Nathan interrupted. “Scott led us on some of the most daring raids in the history of the house.”
“Raids?” Johnny asked remembering the raid that Scott had plotted out when they were fighting Pardee.
“He was quite the master planner. Raiding the Delta’s one week – stealing their flag or hiding the school mascot until they had to call the …”
“That’s quite enough!” Scott interrupted seeing that his brother was taking in way too much of his wayward past. “We worked hard on our studies….”
“Right!” Johnny was grinning from ear to ear. Somehow Scott had given him the impression that Harvard was all work and no play. Now he was seeing another side of the school and his brother. As he suspected, the always serious Scott Lancer had a mischievous streak that went way back. “You’ll have to tell me some more stories of the adventures that you all had…”
“I’m sure that he didn’t do anything more than you did at his age.” Reggie responded to the former gunfighter. Malignantly he asked: “Tell me, what college did you go to?”
Johnny immediately felt himself as the center of attention. “I didn’t attend college…”
“Where did you go to school?” Reggie persisted wanting to show his comrades just how superior they were to the cowboy.
After a moment of consideration, Johnny softly responded: “Escuela de fusil peleador.” <Gunfighter School>.
The only man to understand Johnny’s statement was Reggie and he smiled in cruel satisfaction; his thoughts confirmed. Johnny was a half-breed Mexican – definitely worthy of his contempt; an inferior to be eliminated from Scott’s life.
Scott and the others did not understand the Spanish declaration and looked at each other and then at Johnny in some confusion. Scott had never heard Johnny ever refer to any formal education so this was a first. “Johnny?”
The edge of Johnny’s mouth tried to curl up into a smile that failed miserably. “Nothing; tell me more about this fraternity of yours…”
As they entered the building they were greeted by the House mother – Mrs. O’Malley – a plump older widow who lived in a separate apartment. She did the cooking and cleaning for the students now in residence. Remembering the men from years past she allowed them to tour the building.
Johnny watched his brother closely as he went from room to room reminiscing. He could tell that Scott was completely absorbed in the experience. Johnny had no such happy experiences. His past was filled with death and dying; being the hunter and hunted. Scott’s had been filled with the safe companionship of his ‘fraternity brothers’.
“So,” Johnny asked Reggie as they prepared to leave. “What sort of ‘secret initiations’ did you have to go through to be a ‘brother’?”
Reggie only smiled and turned away. Johnny felt a shiver go up his spine and reminded himself to ask Scott the same question later.
Scott hailed a hansom cab to transport himself and Andrea across the Charles River to Cambridge and the campus of Harvard University – the vaunted institution of higher learning that he had attended after the war. It was there that he had formed the ideals that he held so high – ideals of equality and of freedom for all. Why was Andrea leading him there to find his brother?
Andrea had the driver drop him off in front of the Omega Alpha Pi Fraternity house. Scott was clearly puzzled at this destination. “What does the fraternity have to do with Johnny’s disappearance?”
“Oh, Scott, may you and God forgive us.” She quickly kissed his cheek before getting back into the carriage and riding off into the graying afternoon.
The men returned to the Garrett House for lunch. Alberta had outdone herself preparing a meal of oyster stew and fish cakes. As the others dug in with gusto, Johnny could only dip his spoon into the foul mess and shake his head. He had hoped for a leftover Turkey sandwich – not something worse than the ‘gruel’ that he had been given for breakfast.
“You’re not hungry?” Scott asked as he took an oyster into his mouth and chewed with relish.
“No – I’m still full from breakfast…” Johnny lied rising from the table and leaving the room.
“What’s the matter with him?” Nathan asked reaching for a slice of brown nut bread that Alberta had steamed fresh for the meal.
“Probably missing tamales,” Reggie laughed under his breath.
Scott looked at his friend trying to figure out exactly what he had against Johnny. “He’s a big boy – he’ll eat when he’s hungry.”
“So, tell us Scott – how does it feel to be back in civilized society?” Nathan asked the question knowing that the others were anxious to finally speak with Scott without the presence of his brother.
“It is great to be back, but there is nothing like the ranch…”
“Surely having to get up at ungodly hours and taking care of animals can’t compare with all that Boston has to offer?”
Scott looked at his ‘brothers’ and smiled. “Gentleman, I don’t know how to put it other than to say it’s great to be back, but Lancer is my home. It’s where I belong.” Taking another bite of his lunch, Scott failed to notice the dark looks that passed between his friends. His response was not what they had anticipated. Changing his mind about California was going to be a harder challenge than they originally thought.
Johnny wasn’t just hungry, he was starved! He was used to the large breakfasts that Teresa would feed them and a midday meal that was just as filling. After leaving the dining room he explored the first floor until he found the kitchen. Sitting at a low table were Alberta and Jennings – enjoying their own lunch of leftover turkey.
Alberta stood in alarm as Johnny entered the room. “Mr. Lancer… Was there something more that I can get you?”
“Well, I’m sure that you went to plenty of trouble to make that fine lunch. Scott and his friends are truly enjoying it. It’s just that I’m used to things a little more plain…”
A smile grew on Alberta’s face as she saw the young man practically drooling over the plates that she had made for herself and Jennings. “I think I know what you mean. How about if I make you a sandwich and bring it out….”
“Ma’am., I’d be just as happy to eat right here if it wouldn’t be too much trouble.” Johnny pulled out a chair next to Jennings and sat down. “Where I come from theres none of this nonsense of waiting on formality. When you’re hungry – you eat, and right now I’m starved!”
Initially both of the servants were horrified at the prospect of one Mr. Garrett’s guests coming into the kitchen – let alone eating with the staff – but Johnny’s easy manner quickly won them over. Alberta pulled out an extra plate and cut 2 slices of thick white bread. On top of one slice she placed a generous portion of the left over turkey and then spooned some gravy on top.
Gratefully Johnny took the offered plate and dug in. After a few minutes the threesome were laughing and carrying on – sharing tales of Scott in his youth, stories that he had so far neglected to tell his family.
“You know, when he was at Harvard, he was a member of the Hasty Pudding Society.” Jennings said proudly.
“Hasty Pudding Society? Is that another fraternity?”
Alberta laughed. “Bless me no! The Hasting Pudding Society is a group that puts on theatrical shows. Why your brother was one of the leads in Romeo & Juliet during his senior year.”
“Scott did acting?”
“Sure did – he was the best Juliet they ever had…”
Johnny stopped chewing and his eyes grew wide trying to digest this new piece of information. “You mean Scott played a girl?”
“Not just any girl – a beautiful girl! They still talk about it!” Jennings said proudly. “Alberta here made his costume.”
Johnny burst out laughing so hard that he almost fell off his chair. A few moments later, Scott came in to find his brother hiding out with the servants and laughing like he had never heard before. “Everything alright in here?” Johnny looked up at his brother and doubled his laughing until tears were streaming down his cheeks. “Someone mind telling me what is so funny?”
Johnny opened his mouth to speak, only to break down as more laughter built up inside him. It was Jennings who finally spoke up. “Why Mr. Scott – we were just sharing some stories of your youth with your brother.”
“And just what stories were you telling?” Scott placed his hands on his hips trying to think of what stories from his childhood would be so funny as to cause his brother to become speechless.
“Why, we were just telling him about the play you did in college…” Jennings started.
Scott moaned, his face turning red “Not Romeo and…”
“Juliet!” Johnny laughed, tears streaming down his face. “Tell me brother; were you a blond or brunette?”
“For your information I was a red head!”
“A red head?” Johnny let out a howl and did finally fall to the floor. “Just wait until we get home…!”
“It’ll cost you – I can just imagine what will happen when Jelly finds out!”
Scott paled as he thought of this tidbit of information being spread up and down the entire San Joaquin Valley. “Name your price.”
Johnny made his way back into his chair and wiped his eyes on the back of his sleeve. “You do my chores for a month…”
“Done.” Scott said firmly. “Now, you ready to go out to do some shooting?”
“Why didn’t you say so?” Johnny stood, wiping his mouth on his napkin. Quickly he thanked Alberta and Jennings for the meal and companionship and fled the kitchen. Before leaving, he went upstairs and grabbed his gun and belt from his suitcase and packed them into a saddle bag. By the time he made it outside, the others were waiting on him.
“You have a good lunch?” Reggie snickered thinking of the half breed eating with the servants.
“I’m full and ready to go.” Johnny quickly climbed up on Man-o-War.
This time the group headed west and into the countryside. Gone were the narrow streets lined with houses and businesses. They were riding out past fields of corn stalks that had been recently harvested for the season. There was a cool crispness to the air that was undistinguishable in Boston proper. To Johnny it smelled like freedom.
Knowing that his brother was anxious to test his mount, Scott took the lead and led the group at a brisk pace to their destination – the Concord Fox Hunting Club. Scott and Johnny, more accustomed to riding, arrived ahead of the pack and were dismounted by the time the others arrived.
“So, you hunt foxes here?” Johnny asked checking out the property. As far as he could tell there was nothing special to look at; just rolling fields lined with multicolored fall trees. There was a two story house that appeared to be the main building. Behind it was a substantial stable with a fulltime groom.
“Fox hunting is a gentleman’s sport.” Nathan explained pleased to get off his horse.
“And exactly how do you hunt foxes?”
“Well, a group of riders is formed and there are dogs – a fox is let loose….” Nathan stopped as Johnny gave him a funny look.
“You mean that you get a posse together to chase one animal?”
“Well…” Nathan paused realizing how silly the sport must sound to an outsider. “You really must experience it to understand it.”
Johnny shook his head and smiled. “Naw, I’d rather be back home hunting cougar or bear – something that can bite you back if you mess up….”
“And just how many cougar or bear have you killed?” Reggie snorted with an air of undisguised superiority.
“My share – and nothing more.” Johnny was now squaring off to face Reggie head on.
“How about we set up the targets?” Scott interjected hoping to ward of further confrontation.
A series of bottles were set up along a fence. From the stable, the groomsman appeared with several hand guns and rifles – property of the club. Johnny watched in quiet amusement as Joshua, Nathan and Trevor each attempted to shoot at the bottles. It was obvious that they had no real experience with firearms. Scott and Reggie went next and were able to strike over half of the targets that they aimed at. Reggie was quite proud of his performance and with a twirl he put the gun back in his holster and turned to challenge Johnny.
“I suppose that you can do better?”
Johnny went to his horse and pulled his gun belt from his saddle bag. With practiced ease, the belt was slung low on his hips – the handle of the gun just within reach of his fingertips. Scott made sure to keep watch on Reggie’s face as his brother proceeded to shoot six of the bottles to bits in a matter of seconds – every shot hitting its mark. When he was done, the gun was back in the holster – no flourish or twirls. For Johnny, a gun was a tool – not a toy.
Reggie’s mouth hung open for a brief second before he closed it. “You are a gun fighter.”
“I don’t hide the fact that I was. I’m not any more.” Johnny took the gun from the holster, emptied the chambers and reloaded it from the bullets on his belt.
“How many men have you killed?” Trevor, ever the reporter, asked quietly.
Johnny bit his lip for a second and then looked the questioning man in the eyes. “The exact number – I don’t know, but I’ve only killed men who tried to kill me first. I take no pride in it.” Johnny then took the belt off and walked back to his horse to put it safely away in his saddle bag.
When Johnny was out of earshot, Trevor turned to Scott remembering the earlier denial. “So, he is a gunfighter!”
Scott looked after his brother for a few seconds before turning to face his friends. “He was a gunfighter but not any more. He saved the ranch because he was. He’s saved me more than once because he knows how to handle a gun.”
“Aren’t you scared of him?” Nathan asked in a half whispered voice.
Scott looked at his friend in disbelief. “He’s my brother. I trust him with my life.”
“But what about the lives he’s taken?” Trevor accused. “How many innocent people has he murdered?”
“Don’t judge what you know nothing about!” Scott snapped. “Johnny is one of the best people I know. He would die for me – he nearly has…” He paused gathering back his emotions. “You just don’t have the whole story. If you did you would understand.”
“Then tell me; help me to understand what hold he has over you. How can you prefer to keep company with a murderer than with your own kind?”
“Hold he has over me?” Scott smiled and shook his head. “Whatever you’ve been told is wrong. Johnny is my brother, but it is more than blood that binds us together.” He stopped before he let the word ‘love’ come out of his mouth. That was between him and Johnny and no one else. “Johnny has no more hold over me than I have over him. And as far as my keeping company with my own kind – that’s easy. He is my brother we are the same kind.” With that said, Scott followed Johnny back to the horses.
“No you’re not – you’re better,” Trevor whispered to himself before turning to face his friends. He could read the confusion in Nathan and Joshua.
There was no confusion in Reggie – the man practically gloated in confirmation that what Harlan had told them was true. “See, Mr. Garrett was right! Johnny is a gunfighter – we all know what that means!”
“Do we?” Nathan asked quietly. “Scott seems quite taken by Johnny. He’s not afraid of Johnny – he’s proud of him!”
“I’m sure he is,” snorted Pierce. “Scott is an ‘Eastern dandy’ compared to that gunslinger. They’ve got him scared of his own shadow. He probably needs Johnny to fight his battles for him.”
Joshua knew better. He had been in Scott’s unit during the war. Scott had been a brave and tactical leader. “No. Scott doesn’t need Johnny for protection. There’s something more to their relationship. What do you think Trevor?”
The reporter crossed his arms across his chest. “I don’t like the fact that he is a killer – I don’t care what Scott says, men like that don’t change their stripes over night.” He frowned when he caught Reggie agreeing with his comment. “But then again, Scott has indicated that there is more to the story than just what we’ve been told by Mr. Garrett.”
Nathan and Joshua looked after Trevor as he went to rejoin Johnny and Scott at the horses. “I don’t like it,” Nathan shook his head at the situation. “Scott has changed. They’ve changed him. We’ve got to think about what needs to be done to change him back”. Joshua nodded in agreement and together walked with Nathan back to the horses.
Reggie lagged behind, his mind whirling in the knowledge of what had to be done to save Scott. Finally, his lips formed a smile so evil that it would have given a snowman chills. “Your time is coming Madrid.”
Johnny watched the approaching men with a measure of disdain. They were judging him based on the fact that he knew how to handle a gun and that he had killed. It burned at him that they saw themselves as being superior just because they lived in fancy big houses and never had to fight for a thing in their pampered lives. He was about to mount his horse and ride out when Scott caught his arm. “Give them a moment, Brother.”
“For what?” Johnny spat angrily, “for them to judge me like they did in San Francisco?”
“They’re not going to whip you.” Scott caught Johnny’s eye and knew that he had used the wrong expression. “OK, they may be judging you. They’re reacting to information that shakes their sensibilities…”
“Sensibilities?” Johnny shook his head and laughed. “We are talking about men aren’t we?”
“We’re taking about men who have no idea what life is like out west. They’re as naïve as I was when I first arrived at the ranch. Give them a moment to think. They are educated men who can evaluate people for who they are – not just because you may look different or handle a gun better than they can. They’re just like me. You’ll see.”
“Is that what you think?” Johnny looked closely at his brother. “You think that they’re like you?”
Scott smiled confidently. “They are like me. That’s why we’re ‘brothers’.”
Joshua came forward first. “Johnny, we owe you an apology. We had our preconceived notions of what a ….”
“Gunfighter?” Johnny offered.
Joshua smiled and continued. “Yes, a gunfighter is like. If Scott tells us that you are no longer a gunfighter then we believe him and you.”
“Just like that?” Johnny asked quietly. He knew better than to accept whatever their response was. They all had shown their true colors and he knew that colors like that did not change in a matter of moments.
“Just like that.” Nathan responded in confirmation. He then turned to address Scott. “We’re sorry that we were so quick to judge. We hope that it won’t spoil the rest of your visit.”
Scott smiled outwardly, but inwardly he was relieved. He had to admit to himself that part of him was just as upset as Johnny was. “Apology accepted. And to show that there are no hard feelings – you can buy us ale at the Cock and Bull!”
Johnny hung back behind the group as they made their way back to town. He watched as Scott easily interacted with his ‘brothers’. Scott so wanted them to be as they were, but Johnny could tell that there was more to this group than what his brother perceived. There was something dangerous – especially in Reggie. Where the others had apologized, Reggie had remained quiet. Reggie had a look that Johnny had seen before – a man on edge – a man who desired conflict and danger. At one time Johnny had considered himself to be much like that, but he had outgrown it after he had gained his reputation as a gunfighter. Once he was Johnny Madrid he had changed from hunting conflict to gain a reputation to being the hunted as others sought him out to gain their own reputations. Reggie was definitely a hunter; a dangerous man.
The others were followers. He could imagine Scott leading them like he had led the vaqueros in defense of the ranch. Scott was focused and had a purpose. He wasn’t the predator that Reggie Pierce was and from experience Johnny knew that he wasn’t a follower.
Scott had noticed his brother slip away from the group and had stopped his horse waiting for Johnny to catch up. “Feel better?”
It was clear to Johnny that Scott was feeling better – and that was what counted. “Yeah.” Johnny flashed his brother a smile. “I’m having a great time learning all these new stories about you! I can’t wait to get home and tell the others…”
Scott rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner. “You can’t believe everything these fellows tell you…”
“Why not? They’re all honest Bostonians – aren’t they?”
“What more is this going to cost me?”
“I can’t have you ruin Murdoch’s illusions about me…”
Johnny laughed and eyed his brother warmly. “Brother, I’m sure that by the time this trip is over, I’ll have something in mind!”
Scott cautiously mounted the steps to the house where he had stayed during his college years. It had been his first real home away from his grandfather’s house. His stay at Libby Prison didn’t count. At Omega Pi he had made friends and formed the dreams for his future. How grand they had all planned out their lives – to be friends and business partners for the rest of their days. He knew that by moving to California that he had betrayed those dreams – but he had no regrets. His dreams now were reality. He had a place with his father and brother…Johnny!
Quickly he threw open the front door and entered the building. The regular inhabitants were out for the weekend. A quick survey the first floor found no sign of anyone – much less his brother. Closing his eyes, he remembered that this building held its secrets very close. There were secret rooms in secret passages – IN THE BASEMENT.
The day was winding down as the group returned to Boston. There was a party later that evening at the Garrett House – a welcome home celebration for Scott and a social for the Armstrong/Baldwin Bridal Party.
Johnny listened as Scott and his friends made their plans for the evening and the remainder of the week. There were suggestions that they hire a boat to go sailing down to Cape Code where the Hawthorne’s had a summer cottage or that they ride up north to Salem where the Witch Hunts had been held almost 200 years earlier. The former gunhawk refrained from making any suggestions knowing that whatever his brother decided was what he would be doing.
After a fashion, Trevor Hawthorne sought Scott out again. He had been fairly silent since the conversation they had at the hunt club. Scott knew that the reporter was still burning with questions about Johnny’s prowess with a gun. “Johnny went by the name Johnny Madrid not Lancer? Why?”
Scott sighed knowing that his friend would not be satisfied until he had the full story. “Yes, he was Johnny Madrid…”
“How did that happen? How did he become a gunfighter, a hired killer?”
“He is not a killer!” Scott snapped, suddenly tired of the reporter’s constant questions. Scott looked at his brother riding ahead with the others. He didn’t see a killer. He saw a man who had been forced to kill to protect himself. With a sigh, Scott tried to explain without speaking out of turn. “Johnny had a hard life growing up. His mother took him from the ranch when he was only two years old. She was killed when he was young and he literally had to fight to stay alive…”
“He’s half Mexican isn’t he?” It was more a statement than a question.
“His mother was Mexican and he was raised in the border towns – a hard life for a kid without a family.”
Trevor considered the words. From what Harlan had told them, Johnny was a born killer, but now he was getting the picture of a man who had learned to survive against adverse circumstances. “What about your father, why didn’t he try to find him?”
“For the same reason that he didn’t come and get me; He thought Johnny was better off with his mother while I was better off with my grandfather. He didn’t know that his wife had died and that Johnny had been orphaned…”
“And now we are a family.” Scott smiled as Johnny had slowed down waiting for Scott to catch up. They were entering Boston proper and the streets were becoming more crowded with pedestrian and merchant traffic.
“Hey Boston – Where’s this Cock and Bull place your friends have been braggin’ on? I’m getting mighty thirsty for a beer”
“That’s ale, brother, and we’re getting close.” The Lancer brothers took the lead down Beacon Street – the main business street that ran parallel to the river. This street was wider than the streets in the residential areas and was lined with businesses on both sides. As they got closer to Beacon Hill the street narrowed and the foot traffic became heavier.
The riders slowed up for a group of children leaving school for the day. Many of the children had turned to point at Johnny and his western attire while some of the women on the sidewalks scoffed and turned their heads away and noses up in the air. One woman had pointed at Johnny’s pants and had declared that she had: “…Never seen the likes of a pair of pants that hung so dangerously close to a man’s hips.”
“I told you you’d stick out like a sore thumb!” Scott laughed leaning towards his brother.
“Let them look, big brother. They’ve just never seen a real man before. They’re used to you Boston Dandies and your plaids….” Johnny stopped and stood in his stirrups listening to the sound of horse’s hooves pounding on the cobblestones behind them. Turning he saw a large freight wagon bearing down on their position and on the children in the street ahead. A driver was conspicuously missing from the wagon. Wheeling his horse around, he headed back down the street towards the run-away team.
“Johnny!” Scott yelled after his brother and turned in an attempt to follow only to be stopped by his companions and moved out of harm’s way.
Johnny quickly dismounted, shooing his horse aside, and took a position immediately in front of the runaway team. Standing there alone he waited for just the right moment – catching the bridle of the lead horse in his left hand – swinging himself up on its back. Once up, he used his right hand to grab the reins of the other horse and haul back as hard as he could to bring them to a stop before they ran into the children. Both horses responded by rearing up causing the wagon to over take them – striking them from behind. At the same time, the overloaded freight shifted and flew over the driver bench, raining down on the horses and would be rescuer. One large heavy box struck Johnny’s head and left shoulder. His horse reared, as it too was struck by the falling freight, throwing Johnny clear of the animals and their thrashing hooves. He landed on the hard stones and was immediately covered with broken crates from the wagon.
There was a moment of immediate silence as everyone took in the event. The silence was broken by the cry of the frightened children as they ran to the curb to be comforted by a teacher. Other people came out of the stores and businesses to just gawk at the mess. The horses also made noises as they struggled to get up amidst the wreckage.
The owner of the wagon came running up accompanied by several of his men. “Jeezu! What the hell happened?” He shouted as they immediately started to remove the remains of the load from the injured animals.
Scott arrived at the same time frantically looking for signs of his brother. “Johnny!” He called attempting to move the heavy boxes that had come off the wagon.
The owner looked at the mess and shook his head. “There’s someone under here?”
“My brother! Help me!” Quickly, they pulled off barrels and boxes from where the horses and rider went down. Their efforts intensified as Scott was the first to spot Johnny’s dark head. “Johnny!” Within seconds, the last of the load was removed to reveal the horses and rider lying on the cold cobblestones. The horses were obviously injured, legs broken from the fall on the hard stones. Johnny lay beside them – out cold.
“Johnny?” Scott whispered taking his brother’s unconscious form into his arms. Quickly he surveyed the injuries: there was a nasty gash to the left side of his head that was leaking blood down his shirt collar. Scott could also feel that Johnny’s left shoulder appeared to be misshapen and he moaned as Scott attempted to feel for broken bones. “Hang in there, Brother – I’ll get you to a hospital.”
By now a large crowd had gathered – gawkers hoping for a peek at the tragedy. Constables arrived and shooed many of the people away, giving room for them to survey the damages. A Sergeant came forward and observed Scott holding his injured brother. “There’s a hospital down the next block – Massachusetts General. We can get a stretcher…”
Scott stood, lifting his brother with him. “I’ve got him. Show me where…” He looked at the pale face now resting on his shoulder. Johnny’s blood was dripping down Scott’s jacket as he carried him. Joshua and Trevor attempted to help Scott with Johnny while Nathan secured their horses to take them back to the stable. Reggie held back and surveyed the wreckage.
Quickly the three men negotiated the injured man through the streets to the hospital. An attendant held open the doors as they rushed in. “We need some help here!” Scott called out as his strength began to fail.
A nurse rushed to them accompanied by an older man wearing a long white coat. “I’m Dr. Johnson. What happened?”
“My brother! He stopped a runaway wagon – was hit by the load and knocked to the ground…”
The doctor lifted one of Johnny’s eye lids – not liking what he saw. “Follow me.” He led Scott to a small examination room. Scott gently laid his brother on the leather covered table and stood back as the doctor and nurse began to work.
“He’s my brother….”
The doctor looked from the well dressed blond to the unconscious dark haired man. “This man cannot be your brother…”
“Look – that’s not important – just help him!” They were able to ease the injured man out of his jacket and were in the process of removing his shirt when the nurse stood back horrified. “What is it?” Scott asked moving closer. He saw that the woman was staring at his brother’s chest.
“What’s the meaning of this?” The doctor demanded pointing to numerous scars – obviously bullet wounds. “Was he in the war?”
“Not exactly…” Scott was stunned by the physician’s reaction. His concern should have been for his brother, not about a few old scars.
The doctor looked at the well dressed blond and then back at the dark haired ruffian he claimed to be his brother. He immediately drew the wrong conclusion. “We don’t treat criminals here! There’s a clinic a few blocks over for his kind…”
Anger now took over the older Lancer. “His kind? He is not a criminal! For god’s sake help him!”
The doctor was about to protest some more when a constable rushed in. “Is this the man that saved the children? How is he doing? The mayor wants to know. One of the children he saved was his granddaughter. This man is a real Hero!”
Scott’s eyes met those of the doctor’s knowing that the man now had no choice but to help his brother. “You don’t want to disappoint the Mayor by loosing your patient do you?” He hissed under his breath.
“Tell his Honor, the Mayor, that Massachusetts General Hospital shall do it’s very best to make sure that this ‘hero’ survives.” The doctor’s voice was low as he forced out the polite words.
The constable nodded and left the room to relay the news to the mayor. The doctor, now on notice that his patient was something other than a criminal, motioned for the nurse to continue removing the shirt while he assessed the wound to Johnny’s head. “He has a nasty gash here – he’ll need stitches. Probably has a concussion as well.”
“I think his shoulder is broken.” Scott offered. A glare from the doctor was returned in kind as he watched the physician’s hands go over his brother’s chest and arms.
“Could be dislocated; let’s roll him on his side so I can check his back.” The doctor again caught his breath at the sight of the large scar in the middle of Johnny’s back as well as the lingering welts from the San Francisco trip. There were several older scars in other places as well. The doctor’s eyes cut to Scott again in an unspoken question.
“Not now,” Scott insisted. “Help him.”
Both the doctor and the nurse eyed their patient with caution as they completed the examination. The left side of Johnny’s back was starting to show a mass of deep black bruises where the boxes had struck him. “The shoulder is dislocated. Maybe some ribs are cracked as well. We’ll need to give him medicine to keep him unconscious so the shoulder can be relocated…”
“No…” Johnny’s voice came as a harsh whisper. He licked his lips and was attempting to open his eyes.
Johnny?” Scott came forward laying a hand on his brother’s uninjured shoulder.
“Shoulder,” Johnny gasped reaching for his left shoulder. “Hurts…”
The doctor bent to speak carefully to his patient. “You dislocated your shoulder in the accident. I would like to give you some medicine so we can put it back…”
“Do it – it’s happened before. No drugs.” Johnny’s unfocused eyes were now open and searching for his brother. “Scott….”
“Right here,” He squeezed Johnny’s right hand letting his brother know he was there. “Can you put it back in place with out medicine?” Scott’s eyes never left Johnny’s; there was something pleading the blue eyes that he had never seen before.
The doctor shook his head. “I will not without proper medical…”
“Scott…” Johnny looked to his brother. “Don’t let them…” Blue eyes closed for a long moment and opened again with crystal clarity.
Scott understood what his brother was trying to tell him. Johnny didn’t like medicine that made him loose control. In this case, he was a stranger in a strange town. The only one to watch over him was Scott. Johnny was counting on Scott to keep him safe. “Can it be done without putting him out?”
“Yes – I suppose it could be done, but I will not be a party to that…”
“Then show me how!” Scott demanded catching the look of approval from his brother.
Exasperated, the doctor pushed Scott aside. “If you are so intent on doing this the hard way…” The doctor lifted Johnny’s left arm out to the side and then placed his other hand on the misshapen shoulder. Suddenly he pressed hard until there was an audible ‘click’ followed by a sharp cry from Johnny who promptly passed out. Scott stood pale for a moment, stunned by what had just been done.
“I hope that you are now satisfied, Mr….”
“Lancer, Scott Lancer.”
“Well your brother will need stitches. Do you want me to wake him up so that he can be tortured for that as well?” Sarcasm dripped from the doctor’s voice. The nurse nodded her disapproval of the entire affair.
“No. That won’t be necessary.” Scott was torn between being angry at the doctor and at Johnny for placing him in such a terrible position.
Satisfied that he would have no more interference from Scott, the doctor set to work and quickly stitched the gash. When he was done he carefully swathed white gauze around Johnny’s head. Additional bandages were wrapped around his chest to support the injured ribs. “I’d like to admit him to the hospital for observation. He has a concussion and shouldn’t be left alone.”
“Can I wait here with him until he comes around?” Scott bit his lip trying to figure what would be best for his brother.
“I can bring him around. Nurse,” the doctor indicated a bottle of smelling salts on the shelf in the medicine cabinet. The opened bottle was placed under Johnny’s nose. The reaction was immediate. Johnny’s eyes popped open and he attempted to sit up to get away from the malodorous scent.
“What…?” He moaned, the top of his head feeling ready to pop off. Lying back, his eyes found what he sought – Scott.
“You’re in the hospital. You were in an accident and your shoulder was dislocated…”
“I remember that.” Johnny whispered lifting his right hand to his left shoulder.
“The doctor stitched your head. He says that you should stay here for observation…”
“No!” Johnny attempted to sit up again and immediately felt his head spin and his stomach churn.
“Mr. Lancer, I must insist. You may have a concussion….” The doctor paused as he watched Johnny consider his words.
“No doubt, I have a concussion,” Johnny confirmed, his churning stomach erupting. The nurse came closer with a basin and they rolled the injured man to his right side. After a few moments of violent retching, Johnny laid back on the table completely exhausted.
“As I was saying Mr. Lancer, you should stay here where we can look after you.”
They all waited as Johnny’s breathing evened to the point where they thought he had gone to sleep. “Scott?”
“I’m here, Johnny.” Scott took his brother’s hand in his own and held it tight.
“Can you get me out of here?”
Scott looked to the doctor who only shook his head in exasperation. “The doctor says that you need rest…”
“I can rest back at Garrett’s…”
At the mention of the name ‘Garrett’ the doctor’s eyes opened wide in question. One of the largest benefactors of the Medical College of Harvard University was a ‘Harlan Garrett’. The college and the hospital were located next door to each other. Dr. Johnson taught at the college and practiced medicine at the hospital. He sized up the well dressed young man and from the back of his mind he remembered Harlan Garrett having a grandson. “Is that Harlan Garrett of Garrett Enterprises?”
“My grandfather,” Scott responded his interest piqued by the doctor’s question.
The doctor’s mind raced, if his patient was related to Mr. Garrett he didn’t want to be the one to make him angry. “I teach at the College next door. Mr. Garrett is well known to me. Perhaps we can work out an arrangement.”
“An arrangement?” Scott asked suspiciously.
“I will arrange for transportation back to Mr. Garrett’s house and will make a house call in the morning to check on your brother. How does that sound?”
Johnny closed his eyes and chuckled. Who would have believed that the mention of Harlan Garrett’s name would have been the key to set him free? Scott looked at his brother, puzzled by the laughing. Perhaps the blow to his head did more than just give him a concussion. “Johnny?”
“It’s OK. Just get me out of here.”
Scott left the examination room and sought out his friends. Joshua and Trevor were standing by the door. Nathan had not returned from tending to the horses. Reggie was conspicuously absent.
“How is he?” Joshua asked first.
“He had a dislocated shoulder, bruised ribs, a cut to his head and a concussion…”
“Why did he do it? He nearly got himself killed.” Trevor asked trying to piece together the bits and pieces that he was learning about Johnny Madrid.
Scott considered his friend, deciding that he was too tired to try to explain his brother any further. “He saved the lives of those children. I think that is explanation enough. I’m going to take him home.”
“What about the party?” Joshua pointed out the time. It was now 5 o’clock. The party at Mr. Garrett’s was scheduled to start at 7.
“It is more important that I get Johnny back to the house. I’ll see you there later.” Scott dismissed his friends as he turned to go back to the room where Johnny waited. He paused at the closed door, suddenly overcome by emotional and physical exhaustion. Why did he ever think that taking Johnny anywhere was going to be easy? The boy was a magnet for trouble, either he found it or it found him. In this case, he couldn’t fault his brother; he had done the right thing – saving the lives of the children. Taking a deep breath he opened the door and left his friends behind.
“That was the craziest thing I had ever seen!” Nathan chattered greeting his two friends as they exited the hospital. Over his shoulder were Scott’s and Johnny’s saddlebags. The trio had to make their way through the crowd that had gathered for news of the injured ‘Hero’. Excitedly he continued his narrative of the event: “He grabbed that horse and swung himself up like a monkey! He saved those children – total strangers. Now why do you think that he would do that – him being a murderer and all?”
“I think that there is a lot more to Johnny Lancer than what Mr. Garrett told us.” Nathan and Joshua looked sharply at Trevor who had just referred to Johnny as ‘Lancer’ and not ‘Madrid’ for the first time.
“What are you trying to say?” Joshua queried cautiously.
“I’m saying that I don’t believe what Harlan said about Johnny is just black and white; just like I don’t think that Scott is being held ‘hostage’ in California. I think there is a lot more to Johnny and Scott’s relationship than what we’ve been told.”
True to his word, the doctor arranged for transportation to move Johnny from the hospital back to the Garrett residence. There was a large crowd waiting for the boys as they exited the building. Johnny was wrapped in a blanket, his left arm in a sling. Scott and one of the constables had to make a path through the crowd of well wishers – each wanting to reach out and thank the injured cowboy for saving the children. Johnny’s first reaction to the mob was to turn back inside the building as the only crowds that he was used to were crowds that wanted to hang him – or worse. It was only Scott’s threat that if he didn’t leave now that he’d have to spend the night, with Dr. Johnson attending to him, that convinced the injured cowboy to leave the building.
Once they were in the relative safety of the carriage, the constables escorted them the few short blocks to Beacon Hill. “You OK?” Scott asked looking at the pale face that was leaning once again on his shoulder. He was not at all convinced that Johnny was better off at his grandfather’s rather than spending the night in the hospital.
Johnny sucked in his breath as he attempted to control a raging headache and pain that filled the left side of his chest. “I just need a decent meal and some sleep.” He mumbled without opening his eyes.
“I think I can arrange that.” Scott put and arm around his brother’s shoulders and held him in a protective embrace. “I’ve got you.”
Harlan Garrett and Jennings met the carriage as it pulled up to the door. “Scotty!” Harlan called out as Scott opened the carriage door. “Thank God! They told me that my grandson had been trampled by some horses….”
“It wasn’t me, it was Johnny.” Scott turned and helped his injured brother out of the carriage, supporting him as Johnny’s legs began to buckle. Jennings immediately came forward to help.
Harlan stood on his stoop red-faced. He had been told that his grandson was a hero – risking his life to save innocent school children. Now he was faced with trying to explain that it was his grandson’s half-breed brother who was the hero! This was no good! The half-breed was a monster – not the hero that the entire town now thought him to be.
“Can you open the door, Grandfather?” Scott asked struggling to keep the semi-conscious Johnny on his feet.
“Of course,” Harlan stepped aside and let the three men enter his home. ‘This is not good, not good at all,’ was all that the wealthy merchant could think as he entered his home and closed the door.
Scott and Jennings took Johnny up to his bedroom and quickly had him undressed and under the covers. Scott was concerned as his normally active brother was still and lethargic, letting Scott care for him. Once Johnny was settled he seemed to drift into a deep sleep. Alberta came up to check on him. “We’ve got to wake him up to make sure that there’s not something serious wrong in his head.” She put a cool hand on his brow and nodded her approval – no fever.
“Alberta – he’s awfully tired. Maybe we should let him sleep…” Scott offered.
“And maybe you should just get yourself cleaned up for that party you be hosting in an hour…” She said sharply, shooing Scott into the adjacent room so that she could get a good look at her patient. Gently she lifted the white bandage and inspected the wound to the left side of Johnny’s head. The doctor had done a good job in sewing the two inch gash closed. It was clean and there was no sign of infection. Laying an ear to Johnny’s chest she listened to him breathe. The lungs sounded clear though the breathing was slightly labored. Opening the night shirt she got a look at some of the bruises that were now spreading over Johnny’s left shoulder. “What did you do?” She whispered, doing back the buttons.
Jennings peered over his wife’s shoulder. “Is it bad?”
“It’s not good – but he’ll live.” Alberta confirmed with a smile. Now came the hard part. “Johnny? You got to wake up….” She gently called trying to rouse her patient. If he woke up, he was just sleeping. If he didn’t he was unconscious – not a good sign for a head injury. “Johnny.” She called, this time more sharply. “Johnny wake up.”
Johnny heard the voice calling to him and couldn’t place it. “Go away,” he mumbled.
“Johnny you got to wake up now.” The voice continued until Johnny’s eyes slowly opened, the blue orbs reflecting pain and confusion. “You’re back at Mr. Garrett’s,” the voice reassured. “You were in an accident….”
Johnny’s vision was a blur as the room began to spin. “Scott…” He whispered as he tried to control his breathing to contain the bile that was building in the back of his throat, but as the spinning continued control became impossible. He felt Alberta’s gentle hands roll him to his right side so that he could express last contents of his stomach into the basin that Jennings was holding. When it seemed clear that he was done he was rolled to his back and a cool cloth placed over his brow. “Scott…”
“He’s in the next room,” Alberta whispered softly placing a gentle hand on his chest. “I’m going to take care of you while your brother attends to his guests.” Jennings helped to raise Johnny’s head and shoulders as she placed a glass against his dry lips to let him take a few sips of tepid water.
“Guests?” He asked weakly laying back against the pillows.
“Don’t you worry. You just rest. I’ll have Scott check on you in a bit.” She watched as Johnny’s eyes slowly closed and his breathing deepened.
“Mr. Garrett is going to expect you to tend his guests,” Jennings said as he escorted his wife from the room.
“Mr. Johnny is one of Mr. Garrett’s guests and I’m going to tend to him for Mr. Scott.” Alberta’s eyes flashed defiantly.
They met Scott in the hallway. The young man was now cleaned up and dressed in a dark blue suit. His handsome face was creased with worry lines and concern for his brother. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s sleeping – but you might want to go and check on him before you go downstairs.”
Scott nodded his thanks and quietly opened the door and took in the sight of his brother lying asleep on his back. The last rays of sunlight were filtering into the room and cast an almost angelic glow around his brother. Scott laughed to himself at the thought of his brother being an angel. Softly he crept into the room until he was close enough to hear the deep breaths of his brother’s sleep. As he was about to check further, the bedroom door opened and his grandfather’s loud voice called to him.
“Shhhh!” Scott whispered turning toward his grandfather placing a finger on his lips.
Harlan was immediately taken aback. He hadn’t been told to ‘shhh’ since his late wife had passed on. “Scotty!” He called this time in a louder more insistent voice.
Rolling his eyes, Scott strode to the door. “What is it that can’t wait for a few minutes?”
“I have a few details for the evening to go over with you before the guests arrive.”
“Well it can wait for 2 minutes while I check on Johnny.”
“I just spoke with Alberta and she told me he was asleep…”
“Not anymore,” Johnny spoke up through the darkness that was now closing in on the room.
“Johnny!” Scott went back to his brother and sat on the edge of the bed. “How are you feeling?”
“I’d feel a heck of a lot better if the room would stop spinning,” was the tired response. “What are the two of you fighting about?”
“Nothing that can’t be discussed in two minutes,” Agitation was clear in Scott’s voice as he glared at his grandfather. “I just wanted to make sure that you were alright before I went downstairs…”
“Yeah, you have that party tonight. What a shame.” A smile crossed Johnny’s mouth as he closed his eyes.
“Yeah, it’s a shame I can’t get dressed up in that suit again…” Johnny opened his eyes to catch Scott’s look of surprise. The injured man tried to laugh, but ended up grabbing his ribs and wincing.
“It only hurts when I laugh,” was the wry response. “Now get out of here and have fun with your guests.”
“Get out of here and let me sleep.”
“What some guys won’t do to avoid getting dressed in a suit.” Scott muttered as he left the room and closed the door.
Johnny smiled at his brother’s parting shot. He had to admit that he hadn’t looked forward to getting dressed in that suit again, though this wasn’t exactly the way he wanted to avoid it. As he snuggled back in the soft bed he let his exhaustion wash over him and was sound asleep in a matter of seconds.
Scott closed the door to the room, walked past his grandfather to the head of the stairs and began his decent. “Scotty!” Harlan called after him. When Scott didn’t respond the older man hurried after his grandson and followed him to the bottom of the stairs. “Scotty, I’m speaking to you!”
“Yes, I know, Sir.” Scott’s face reflected the hurt he felt knowing that his grandfather had no concern for his injured brother.
“Why are you ignoring me?”
“For the same reason that you are being rude to a guest in your house.”
Harlan paused, considering Scott’s hurt look and the sadness in his voice. “Scotty, I didn’t mean to imply…”
Scott shook his head and raised a hand not wanting to hear more from his grandfather. “Grandfather, my brother was badly injured today. Normally I would be at his side caring for him. But, I know that you have had this evening planned for a long time. It’s only because that man upstairs told me to leave that I am here right now. He is thinking of you. Why can’t you just once think of him?”
Harlan was completely taken aback by the comments. All he had been doing was thinking of Johnny and how to get rid of him! This was twice in two days that Scott had defended his brother. Twice that Johnny Madrid had proven that he was more valuable to his grandson than he was. Harlan did the only thing he could think of to make things right. He forced himself to say: “I’m sorry.”
It was now Scott’s turn to be surprised. His grandfather had never apologized to him – ever. Not even after his disastrous trip to Lancer when he had lied to get him to return to Boston. That lie had nearly cost both of them their lives. Now, his grandfather was apologizing over his treatment of Johnny. Was Harlan finally accepting that Scott had other priorities? Was he finally accepting Johnny?
Backtracking through the kitchen Scott found the door to the nether regions of the fraternity house uncharacteristically locked. Frantically he searched the drawers for the extra key. Not finding it, he grabbed a nearby fire axe and with all the strength that months on the ranch had built he began to steadily chop at the thick oak door. When he had created a hole big enough for his hand he reached through to undo the lock.
Opening the door, he grabbed a nearby lamp – lit it – and descended into the cold musty bowels of the building. The temperature seemed to drop 20 degrees by the time he made it to the bottom step. It was there in the cold, dark, dampness that they had held their secret initiations –the paddling, swallowing gold fish or some other putrid concoction that one of the older ‘brothers’ had created. They had endured physical pain and tests of stamina and humiliation until they were at last accepted as a ‘Greek’ and a ‘Brother’.
Now, as he recalled those events of his past, he felt his fear for his Johnny rising. He remembered the oaths and pledges that he had made to be true to his fraternity and to his new found brothers. Had his ‘brothers decided to take him to task for breaking those vows? Had they exacted their revenge against his one true brother?
At seven o’clock, the Garrett house began to fill with old friends of Harlan’s and members of the Armstrong/Baldwin Bridal party – friends of Scott’s. Within a short period of time, Scott found himself surrounded by people who had helped raise and make him into the man he was today. Memories kept crashing into him, ever pushing thoughts of his injured brother and the ranch – now so far away – out of his mind.
At 7:15 PM – Andrea Baldwin arrived on the arm of Joshua Armstrong. Time seemed to stand still as the bride-to-be went to greet her fiancé’s best man. Andrea had been a childhood friend of Scott’s and until he left to join the union army, it had been thought that she and Scott would eventually marry. She had found waiting for him while he was in Libby Prison unbearable and had turned to Joshua who had escaped capture and was sent home. When Scott returned to Boston, he sought his own comfort in the arms of Julie Davenport – the woman that his Grandfather had brought to California with him on his visit. There were no hard feelings among the old friends. Scott had understood and had wished his friends nothing but happiness.
The petite blond haired woman greeted Scott with a warm smile. “Hello, stranger.”
“Andrea!” Scott picked her up and gave her a quick spin. Abruptly he put her down realizing that such a display was unheard of in Boston. His face turned red realizing his mistake. “You’re looking well.”
Andrea giggled and smiled broadly. “Why, Mr. Lancer it that how you greet friends at that ranch of yours?”
Scott’s face turned even redder. “We’re just a tad less formal out at the ranch.”
“I should say!” Joshua agreed placing a possessive arm around Andrea’s slim waist. “If I didn’t know better, I would say that you were being ‘fresh’.”
“No, No.” Scott insisted. “I’m just very pleased to see her again.” He fumbled to find his glass of champagne and raised it to toast his friends. “To Joshua and Andrea; may their marriage be blessed with love and lots of children!” The entire room responded by raising their glasses and drinking to the young couple.
From a strategic corner of the room, Harlan smiled in smug satisfaction. He watched as Scott was being transformed from a ‘cowboy’ and back to the polite young man who had left his home so many months ago. Perhaps this gathering was all that was needed to remind his grandson of his roots and true place in life. Reggie Pierce came to stand next to the older man observing the pleased look on the older man’s face. “Your plan appears to be working. Scott is becoming more like his old self.”
“Yes, I think that he is seeing how much he has missed here at home. Now if only we could remove that brother of his.” Harlan hissed in a low voice. “If only that accident this afternoon…”
“It would have been a convenient fluke.” Reggie noted taking a sip of his champagne, but he did not agree. If Johnny had died in the accident he would have been deprived of fulfilling the plans that he had so carefully made for the former gunfighter. “I take it that you want me to proceed with the plan?”
“Yes, of course.” Harlan smiled and nodded as a guest came by to thank him for his hospitality. “What about the others?”
“They are of no consequence to my plans. They think that they can convince Scott to stay in Boston and that Johnny won’t object once he sees that. I know better. I think that they are beginning to like Johnny.”
Harlan nearly choked on his champagne. “Like him?”
“He has some endearing qualities. I am not fooled. He is a half-breed not worthy of our contempt. He shall be dealt with.” Reggie swore raising his glass to his host.
The two men were interrupted as an uninvited guest came to the door to be announced. Jennings entered the room and announced: “His honor the Mayor – William Gaston.”
Harlan frowned as the current mayor of Boston entered the room. “Mr. Mayor, what an unexpected honor. What can I do for you?”
“Why I’m here to thank your grandson for saving my granddaughter…” The Mayor entered the room, his eyes searching for the dark haired young man he had been told about.
Harlan shook his head and was about to speak when Scott came forward. “Mr. Mayor? – I’m Scott Lancer, Mr. Garrett’s grandson.” Scott took the man’s offered hand and shook it warmly.
“So, you’re the one who saved the children this afternoon?” The Mayor looked at Scott trying to figure what injuries that would have sent him to the hospital.
“No. That was my brother – John Lancer.”
“You have two grandsons Harlan?” The Mayor raised his eyes brows in surprise. His sources had told that Harlan Garrett only had one grandson.
“It’s a long story,” Harlan grumbled.
Scott quickly interjected. “Johnny – John, is my half brother. He has no blood relation to my grandfather.”
“Well, in any case, I’d like to see him to thank him.” By now all assembled were gathered round and the politician took the opportunity to work the crowd. “He was quite the hero – jumping on those horses and stopping them before they stomped the life out of those poor children.” The audience applauded at the mayor’s dramatic description of the event.
Scott shook his head. He knew that his brother was not strong enough for visitors yet. “Johnny was injured. He’s upstairs in bed sleeping…”
“Nonsense, Scotty.” Harlan spoke up firmly grasping Scott’s forearm. “I’m sure that your brother would want to meet the Mayor.”
Wincing at the strong grasp and recognizing the tone in his grandfather’s voice, Scott tried to protest but when his eyes met his grandfather’s he knew it would be futile. “Yes, Sir. I’ll go and see if he’s awake and able to have company.” Scott excused himself and found Andrea tagging behind him as he made his way upstairs.
“Your brother, is he really going to be alright?” She asked as they made their way up to the private area of the house.
“In the short time that I’ve known him, Johnny has proven himself to be quite resilient.” Scott smiled wondering how his brother was going to react to being called a hero. “Why don’t you wait here…” they were on the landing preparing to take the last flight of steps to the second floor.
“No – I’d really like to meet him.”
“Alright, but stay here until I check to see if he is awake.”
Andrea looked after Scott. Joshua had told her all of the terrible tales Harlan Garrett had related about the gunfighter that had taken Scott from them. She was anxious to face her enemy – even if he was injured doing something noble.
Scott met Alberta in the hallway as she was closing the bedroom door. “How is he doing?”
She shook her head. “I haven’t been able to keep anything in him yet. He says that his head is spinning too much to eat. There’s no fever. He needs to rest.”
“The mayor is downstairs and wants to see him. Is he awake?”
“Mr. Scott, he really shouldn’t….”
“I know, but Grandfather insisted, it will only be a brief visit.” As Scott slowly opened the door, a frown crossed Alberta’s face. It was happening already – Harlan was running Scott like he had when he was a child.
Scott tapped lightly on the door before entering the room. A lamp was lit on the bedside table and he could see Johnny lying back against the pillows. “Johnny?” He moved closer as he saw his brother’s eyes open. “How are you feeling?”
“Oh, I’ve been better.” Johnny sighed before taking a good look at his brother. “Don’t you look pretty.” The words came out in the barest of whispers.
Scott smiled remembering that Johnny had called him ‘pretty’ after seeing a photograph of himself and General Sheridan in their formal uniforms. Sitting on the edge of the bed he could see the exhaustion in his brother’s eyes. Johnny was almost as pale at the white bandage that surrounded his head, but his spirits seemed to be up. “There are some people here that would like to see you.”
“It seems that you’re the talk of the town – saving those children and all.”
Johnny shook his head and then stopped when it made his vision blur. “I’m not sure …”
“It will only be for a minute. I promise – I mean if you’re up to it.”
Johnny considered his brother for a moment. It seemed to him that Scott was anxious for him to meet the Mayor. “OK. For a minute…”
Scott stood pleased that Johnny had agreed. His grandfather would now be satisfied that he had coaxed his brother into seeing the Mayor. Before leaving, he gently helped Johnny to sit up by propping him with pillows from the settee. “I’ll be right back.”
Johnny closed his eyes after his brother left. He was tired and he hurt. Scott was sure fired up for him to meet the Mayor. Johnny smiled to himself trying to figure out what Harlan was thinking about all of this. After a few seconds he heard the door open and the swish of long skirts as they came closer. Through cracked eyelids he watched a pretty blond haired woman as she approached his bed. He was taken aback by the sheer loathing that he saw in her eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re the mayor.” He asked trying to smile.
“I should say not!” was the hot reply.
If Johnny noticed her hostility, he tried not to show it. “Alright, if you’re not the Mayor who are you?”
“Andrea Baldwin.” Again the response was curt and cold.
“The bride?” When she only nodded her response, Johnny closed his eyes trying to figure out was going on. “If you’re just going to stand there and stare – then leave.”
“No.” She came closer, her voice becoming low and demanding. “I want you to leave Boston and leave Scott.”
Johnny’s eyes flashed open. “What are you talking about?”
“Whatever you’ve done to Scott – let him go! He belongs here with his friends and family – not in the wilds of California.” She hissed. She was about to say more when the door opened again. The hard look was instantly replaced by an open smile.
“Andrea? What are you doing?” Scott was stunned to see her in the bedroom.
“Why, I was just having a chat with your brother.” She quickly moved away from the bed and out the door.
Johnny gazed after her, puzzled why she should hate him so completely. His muddled brain could only think of one answer: Harlan Garrett.
“Johnny,” Scott came closer and ushered in a large framed older gentleman. For a few seconds Johnny’s confused brain thought that it was his father, but as the man came closer he knew that it was only the physical presence that was the same. “This is William Gaston, the Mayor of Boston.”
Johnny tied to sit up a bit straighter, but only succeeded in making himself more uncomfortable. “Please, don’t get up.” The mayor had mistakenly assumed that the injured man was going to get up to greet him. The large man strode to the side of the bed and firmly grasped Johnny’s right hand – squeezing it tight in his own. “Just wanted to thank you for what you did today young man. Why I don’t suppose that there was a man alive in Boston that could have done what you did – stopping that wagon and saving those children. Well, it’s a downright miracle that you were there to take care of things.” The injured man looked wary as the pompous man continued to squeeze and pump his hand. “If you’re up to it, we’re having a small celebration at City Hall tomorrow night and we’d be pleased if you would be our guest of honor!”
Johnny’s eyes opened wide in surprise. ‘Guest of honor?’ Did the man know who he was talking to? “Well, I…”
“He’ll be there.” Scott spoke up gently pushing the large man away from his brother.
”Splendid!” The man was practically beaming. “8 o’clock sharp tomorrow evening. Dress is formal – but you can wear the outfit that you wore today. I’m told that you were quite the figure in your ‘cowboy clothes’.” As the words were being said, Scott practically pushed the man from the room and closed the door before he burst out laughing.
“Scott…” Johnny started, looking at his laughing brother. “Did he just say ‘cowboy clothes’?”
Scott sat down hard on the edge of the bed and laughed until tears streamed down his cheeks. “Imagine – Johnny Madrid – the guest of honor at Boston City Hall.”
Johnny stared at his brother for a second and a smile began to make its way across his pale face. “Yeah, if only ‘ol Murdoch and Jelly were here to see it!” The two brothers began to laugh.
They were still laughing as Harlan entered the room. “What’s the meaning of this?”
“Nothing, sir.” Scott looked at his brother and had to catch himself from laughing all over again.
“Mr. Gaston tells me that there is going to be a reception tomorrow in honor of my grandson – John Lancer.”
“Your grandson?” Johnny caught the stricken look on Harlan’s face and began to laugh all over again.
Harlan stood with his hands on his hips, a stern look on his face. Obviously he could find no humor in the situation. “Scotty, we have guests downstairs waiting on you.”
Scott wiped the tears from his face and looked back at his brother. Just a few minutes ago, Johnny had looked pale and exhausted. Now his face was flush with laughter. Somewhere he remembered a saying that laughter was the best medicine. Tonight he became a believer. “Well, Brother, it’s back to the party for me. Is there anything I can get you before I leave you?”
Johnny shook his head, his eyes bright in merriment. “No, Brother. I’ve think that you’ve done quite enough.” He watched as Scott and Harlan left the room. Once the door closed the smile left his face. The mayor he could handle. But Andrea and her cryptic threat had him concerned. The exhaustion that had temporarily left returned with a vengeance and soon he was fast asleep.
Reggie motioned to his fellow ‘brothers’ once Scott had left the room with the mayor. They retired to Harlan’s private office and he quietly slid the pocket doors closed. “Well?” He asked his friends once they were securely out of sight from the rest of the guests.
“Well, what?” Trevor asked taking a seat by the fire.
“Are we set on going through with our plan?” There was no immediate response as they took turns looking at each other. “You all heard him today! He is a killer – a gunfighter!”
“He was…”Nathan started.
“Says who – Scott? What would you expect him to say? For God’s sake! The man brought his own gun!” Reggie looked at his ‘brothers’, anger building. “You all saw Scott today – he was defensive about everything! That half-breed brother of his is like a yoke around his neck. I say that confront the half-breed Mex and send him packing back to California without Scott!”
Nathan and Joshua considered the words and found little to argue with. Both had noted that Scott had changed a lot since he had gone out west. He was certainly less formal than he should be. Joshua was still quite upset with the way Scott had physically handled Andrea. The Scott that he had gone to college with would never have thought of touching a woman in such a manner.
Trevor was not as convinced as he had been before meeting Johnny. “I still don’t understand Scott’s need to keep Johnny’s past such a mystery, but his actions this afternoon certainly spoke well for him. That was a selfless act – saving those children…”
“Anyone could have done it.” Reggie said under his breath.
“No one did. Johnny saw what was going to happen and acted without concern for his own well being.”
“One action does not put right all of the wrongs that he has done in his lifetime. Think of all of the men he has killed – women who are now widows, children who are now orphans. What more do you want – the fact that he has no formal education other than knowing how to handle a gun? What good is he to our Scotty?” Reggie spoke with a passion that underscored his dislike for Johnny. “He is not an American – hell, he’s not even a Mexican. We swore our oaths that we would look out for each other. Scott is in danger. It is up to us to make his life secure again, here in Boston in a world without Johnny Madrid in it!”
Joshua and Nathan nodded in agreement, swayed by Reggie’s words. Yet, Trevor still had some hesitation. “I don’t like the idea of moving ahead without hearing Johnny’s side. I say that we speak with him and see if we can’t convince him to do what is right for Scott. Surely he has seen for himself that Scott belongs here and that it would be better if he returned to California without him. ”
“And if he won’t listen?” Joshua asked glancing at his friend.
“Then we work on Scott – convince him that he belongs in Boston with us.” Trevor surveyed the room and the nods of agreement. “That’s it. I say we return to the party and enjoy Mr. Garrett’s champagne.”
Reggie lingered by the dying fire. Trevor was only deluding himself if he thought that Johnny would ever leave Scott in Boston. Didn’t they have a sacred duty to protect the world from people just like that half-breed killer? Reggie had taken his oath and swore it with his blood. His mind set, Reggie left the Garrett house and went to finalize his own plans.
The party lasted into the early morning. Before going to bed, Scott and Harlan retired to the study to smoke cigars and drink brandy. They sat in comfortable silence reflecting on the events of the day. “I’m glad that you are home, Scotty.”
“Me, too, Grandfather.” Scott took as sip of the brandy, enjoying the numbing feeling as it went down his throat.
“I have to tell you that I did not think that you would ever return home after my visit to the ranch.” There, it was said. Harlan laid out his fears for his grandson and now he waited for the response.
Scott considered his words carefully before responding. “You deceived me with the half truth you told. It nearly got us killed.”
“I was afraid of loosing you forever….”
Scott turned to look at the man who had raised him for the first 25 years of his life. “Don’t you know that you will never loose me? I have too much of that Garrett stubbornness to ever be lost to you.”
“It’s just not the same without you here. I have the business – it will be yours someday. I want you to be here with me so I can teach you….” Harlan paused as Scott turned away. “You do still want the business, don’t you?”
Scott stood and leaned against the mantle, a sad smile crossed his face. His grandfather had not learned anything from his visit at Lancer. He spoke in a low voice trying to keep control of his emotions. “I have the ranch now. How can I explain to you what it means to me? Lancer is like a living and breathing thing. I love everything about it – the outdoors, the cows, and the people – Johnny and Murdoch. Its like I was meant to be there.” He stopped, seeing that his grandfather did not understand.
“How can you love a place that killed your mother?”
It was the same old tired argument. “It was not the land that killed her. Her death was a tragedy – but it was not the fault of the land.”
“No! It was your father’s fault, the same father that abandoned you and that half-breed brother of yours.” Harlan was now raising his voice in anger and realized that he was going too far. Quickly he tried to make things right. “I’m sorry, Scotty. It’s just that I don’t understand how you can stay with him after all he has done to you.”
Scott put down his glass and knelt by the older man. How could he ever make his grandfather understand? “Grandfather, we all have our faults to bear. Murdoch lost two sons for twenty-five years. Isn’t that punishment enough?” Scott lingered for a moment looking into his grandfather’s eyes; he saw that Harlan still didn’t get it. Exhausted, he rose and turned away.
Harlan listened as Scott made his way up the stairs. It was Scott who didn’t understand. The young man failed to recognize that he was needed in Boston. He was Harlan’s legacy. He smiled knowing that the seeds he had sown in the mind of Reggie Pierce would soon bear fruit. It was now in his hands if the others could not convince Johnny to let Scott go.
Staring at the fire he remembered his last words to Murdoch Lancer: ‘The winners have become losers and the losers the winners.’ He was confident that he was to be a winner again. He had no illusions; his hatred for Murdoch Lancer burned deep. Now he celebrated – on the verge of becoming a ‘winner’ again.
It was past 1AM when Scott ran into Alberta as she was leaving Johnny’s room. It was clear that she was tired having taken care of the guests and his brother. Part of him felt a deep sense of guilt for not taking care of Johnny himself, while the other was sorry that he had not thanked her for the party and all of her hard work. “How’s he doing?”
“He’s sound asleep. He still is having difficulty in keeping anything in his stomach.”
“The doctor said that he would come by in the morning to check on him. Thank you for looking after him.” He gave the woman a light squeeze on the arm before opening the door.
Alberta reached out a hand, holding him back, as she looked up into his face. “Mr. Scott, are you happy on that ranch of yours?”
Scott stopped dead in his tracks at the question. He looked to the woman who had helped to raise him and gave her a reassuring smile. “Why yes. I’m very happy…”
“And your brother – you care for him?”
Scott peeked into the room at the sleeping form before giving her an answer. “Having Johnny in my life is like finding a piece of me that I didn’t know was missing.”
The older woman patted Scott’s cheek with a smile. “Then you best keep him safe then.” Gathering her robe about herself, she scurried down the hall to the servant’s quarters.
Scott stared after her wondering at the cryptic words. With a shrug, he entered the room and checked Johnny for himself. His brother’s face was still pale, but there was no obvious sign that he was in any difficulty. He adjusted the coverlet, pulling it up to his brother’s shoulders. The nighttime air in Boston was several degrees cooler than the ranch. It wouldn’t do for Johnny to catch a cold on top of everything else. “Rest easy Brother; tomorrow you will be the hero of Boston.”
With the lamp throwing shadowed light, Scott’s eyes strained to peer into the molding corners of the damp walls and muddy floors of the Omega Pi basement. The cool musty dampness over whelmed his senses and he longed to run from the building into the fresh air of the late afternoon. Yet, he knew that he had to keep looking. His journey took him to several smaller chambers until he was at a final boarded door. Scott had no recollection of having seen this door before. Closer inspection revealed that it was of new construction. The door was bolted shut and locked with a pad lock.
“Johnny!” Scott pounded on the door and then shouted before placing an ear against the thick wood. But, he could hear no reply from the other side. Dissatisfied with not knowing what was beyond, he placed the lamp down and picked up a thick metal bar that lay discarded in a pile of trash. With a grunt he forced it behind the lock and pulled with all of his strength. After several strong tugs, the bolt came free and he pulled the door open.
It was the smell of coffee that brought Scott back to his senses. He opened his eyes to find Jennings bearing a small bed tray with a silver pot and a coffee mug. “Good morning, Mr. Scott.” The servant greeted the younger man with a smile. Placing the tray on the bedside table he opened the paper he had tucked beneath his arm with great flourish. “I thought that you had best be in bed as you read the headline.”
Puzzled, Scott reached for the paper and caught his breath as he read the Boston Herald banner:
COWBOY HERO SAVES CHILDREN!
Beneath the banner was an artist’s rendition of Johnny atop rearing horses pulling back on the reins while children cowered in the street in front of them. Trevor’s story was a simple re-accounting of the event and how Johnny was in Boston visiting with his brother. Scott was impressed that Trevor had managed to write a fair piece in spite of his previously expressed uncertainty of Johnny’s background.
Scott threw off his covers and ran from his room to the adjacent room occupied by his brother. “Johnny!”
“Go away,” Johnny mumbled trying to roll away from his brother and the light that now flooded the room from curtains that Jennings had opened.
“Wake up! You’ve got to read this!”
Somewhere in the back of his mind, Johnny registered that Scott wanted his attention, but the pounding in his head was getting the better of him. “Later….”
Not to be ignored, Scott sat on the bed next to his brother and gently rolled him to his back. “You can rest later. You’ve got to see the newspaper!”
Slowly Johnny opened his eyes and gave his best glare to his offending brother. “This had better be good, Boston…” His eyes shifted from Scott to the newspaper that was thrust in front of his face. “No, no…” he murmured as his eyes focused on the black print.
“Yes, yes!” Scott laughed taking the paper. “You, my dear brother, are now the toast of the town!”
Johnny was not amused. “I ain’t no hero. I’m tired…” He closed his eyes and tried to roll over to go back to sleep.
“Johnny?” Scott’s voice changed from mirth to concern.
“How do you feel?”
Johnny noted the change in his brother’s voice and rolled back to face him. “I’ve got a headache, my shoulder hurts and my ribs hurt like hell. Other than that I’m just dandy.”
“The doctor will be back this morning to check on you.”
“I don’t need no doctor…”
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” interrupted Dr. Johnson. Neither man had noticed Jennings had left the room to answer a knock on the front door. The doctor man entered the room accompanied by Harlan. “I came all this way to see you.”
“Scott, perhaps we should give the good doctor some time alone with his patient?” It was more of a command than a suggestion. Jennings was now beside Mr. Garrett holding Scott’s robe & slippers.
Scott gave Johnny a reassuring smile, grabbed the robe and slippers and left with his grandfather.
“Now, how are ‘we’ feeling?” The doctor snatched Johnny’s wrist and took his pulse.
“We?” Johnny hated to be patronized and the doctor was grating on his nerves with the tone of his voice and demeaning attitude. But, he realized that the sooner he answered the question the sooner the man would leave him alone. “Head hurts. Shoulder hurts. Ribs hurt.”
The doctor was obviously not amused by Johnny’s tone or attitude. “Have you been able to eat anything yet?”
The doctor leaned forward and peered into Johnny’s eyes. The pupils looked normal – both reacting to light stimulation. Next he opened Johnny’s night shirt to inspect the deep purple bruises that had now spread from his left shoulder to his chest. None too gently he poked the damaged area, eliciting a few gasps from his patient but no serious moans of pain. Satisfied, he closed the shirt and sat on the edge of the bed. “I see in the paper that you are to be the guest of honor at City Hall this evening. I suggest that you spend the majority of the day exactly where you are. Save your strength. I’ll leave some powders that should help you sleep if you need them.”
Johnny looked at the man sensing that there was more that he wanted to say or perhaps ask. The injured man had no memory of the confrontation between Scott and the doctor over his getting medical attention. “Is there something more?” He asked finally.
The doctor pursed his lips for a moment. “I see a number of old scars and some new ones. Who or what exactly are you Mr. Lancer?”
An awkward smile came to the young man’s lips as he made his sarcastic response: “I’m the ‘Hero of Boston’.”
The doctor straightened in a huff and made his way to the door. “I’ll see you tonight. Get pleanty of rest today.” The man slammed the door as Johnny began to snicker. There was something about Bostonian men and their pompousness that amazed him. He thanked God that Scott had been such a quick study and gave up those ways.
Scott and Harlan waited for the doctor in the foyer. Scott could tell by the way that the man pounded down the steps that he was upset. “How is he, doctor?”
“If insolence was an illness I’d say that he has a fatal case.”
Harlan scowled. “My apologies, Dr. Johnson, I’m afraid that Mr. Lancer has no manners.”
“How is he?” Scott asked again ignoring the comments.
“Your brother will be fine. He seems to be making a good recovery. I told him to stay in bed so he can rest up for this evening. Here,” the doctor reached into his bag and withdrew several brown envelopes. “If he has any problems going back to sleep or if his headache gets worse, put a full envelope in a glass of water or tea.”
“Thank you for coming,” Harlan walked the man to the front door.
“If it weren’t for you I would have never come.” Jennings was waiting by the door with the doctor’s coat and hat. The doctor grabbed both and stormed from the house. The servant smiled at the man’s back. Like most of Mr. Garrett’s friends, this doctor had a very high opinion of himself. Jennings was sure that Mr. Johnny had somehow knocked him down a peg.
Scott stood at the bottom of the stairs wondering what in the world his brother could have said to the doctor to have offended him so.
Harlan was torn between wanting to go upstairs and throttle Johnny for whatever comment he had made to the doctor or somehow convincing Scott to spend the day with him at the office. His cooler head prevailed. “Scott, since the doctor said that John needs rest, why don’t you plan on spending the day with me at the office. I could use your expertise on a problem that I have.”
Scott looked at his grandfather and smiled. Perhaps it would be good if he spent some time with the older man. After all, he had spent yesterday with his friends and tonight he would be with Johnny at City Hall. “I suppose that Johnny can do without me if he is going to spend the day sleeping. Let me get dressed and I’ll walk with you to the office.”
“Splendid! I’ll have Alberta fix you a proper breakfast in about 10 minutes?”
“I’ll be ready.”
Johnny watched thru the open connecting door as his brother silently got dressed into one of his day suits. Since he had returned, Scott hadn’t said two words to him. Aggravated by his brother’s silence, Johnny finally asked, “You gonna talk to me?”
Scott turned to his brother in exasperation. “What did you say to the doctor that made him so mad?”
“What did I say to him? Scott, the man is a horses…- behind! Jelly has a better bedside manner than him!” Johnny had tried to sit up and was suddenly over come by a bout of dizziness. Slumping back against the pillows he decided that he didn’t want to argue with Scott anymore.
Alarmed, Scott went to his side. “Johnny?” Johnny didn’t respond, choosing to now play the silent part that Scott vacated. “I’m sorry. I know the man is a bore. You probably didn’t say anything that he didn’t deserve.”
Johnny opened his eyes and smiled, relieved that Scott was no longer angry at him. “He asked me who I was.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him I was the Hero of Boston.”
Scott laughed. “Well, that explains his comment to Grandfather, and I quote: ‘that if insolence was an illness then he has a fatal case’.”
“Well, I don’t remember Doc Jenkins having any problems with my ‘insolence’.”
Scott hid a smirk at his brother’s response. “I guess not. All of us Lancer’s have double doses.” It felt good that the rift between them was over. Scott looked at Johnny with fondness. “I’m going to the office with Grandfather. Will you be alright here with Alberta and Jennings?”
“Go on and have a good day. I don’t need no babysitter or a big brother to keep me company. I think that I’m going to need all of my energy for tonight.”
While Scott spent the day with Harlan going over business plans, Johnny rested. By noon, Alberta had fixed him some soup that his queasy stomach was finally able to handle. Once full, he fell back into a deep slumber. At four PM Jennings gently woke him to help him get ready for the evening.
The Garrett House was one of the more contemporary houses in Boston. There was a bath on the second floor that provided heated water. With Jennings’s assistance, Johnny was scrubbed down and shaved. The white bandage was removed from his head and his hair and wound cleaned. The older man had offered to cut Johnny’s black hair to make him more socially acceptable, but the young man flatly refused. If the people of Boston were going to honor him, they would have to take him as he was.
Soaking in the tub helped to ease the aches that had settled in his shoulder and chest. In the warm water he tried to move the injured limb knowing that inactivity could hinder his recovery the same as too much activity could.
Once he was clean, Jennings began to prepare him for the evening by binding his ribs so that he could move without further injury. While Jennings tightened the bandages, Johnny gazed at the tuxedo that was laid out on the bed. “Are you sure that is really necessary? The Mayor said that I could wear my ‘cowboy clothes’.”
Jennings laughed and held the dress shirt for Johnny to slip his arms into. “The Mayor may have said that, but I can tell you right now that there is no way that Mr. Garrett will let you out of this house unless you are properly attired.”
With a sigh of defeat, Johnny began the difficult task of maneuvering his injured arm into the jacket sleeve. After several minutes, he found himself facing an unknown reflection in the mirror. He thanked God that his friend Val Crawford was no where near to see him in this getup. He could just imagine the Sheriff of Green River rolling on the floor at the sight of Johnny Madrid in a white tie, ruffled shirt and black tails.
The outfit was completed by a black sling that Alberta had made to match the suit. Jennings made sure that Johnny’s left arm was securely in place before giving his final approval. “Mr. Scott and Mr. Harlan will be home soon. Do you want to wait for them here or downstairs?”
Johnny looked about the room and realized that there were a few things that he wanted to add to the outfit that Jennings had not thought of. “You go. I’ll be down shortly.” Puzzled by the request, Jennings left Johnny to make his own way.
Sure that the servant was no where near, Johnny went to the saddle bag that Nathan had retrieved from the day before. Reaching in, he removed a small hunting knife that he always kept in his belt. Tonight, he secured the small weapon in the sling. Next he went to his boots and pulled out the slim stiletto that he kept there. That was slipped into his dress boot. Satisfied that he was now ‘properly armed’ for the evening, he made his way slowly down the main staircase to the kitchen.
“Oh- no- you- don’t!” Alberta warned as she saw her patient enter her private domain. “Mr. Garrett will be here soon. He don’t like his guests in the kitchen! You go find yourself some other place to roost…”
“But I’m hungry…”
She eyed him with a smile. “They are going to have food at that party…”
“Boston food?” Johnny was remembering the lunch that he had not been able to eat the day before. If that was what was going to be served, then he had better eat something he could recognize before he left.
Alberta smiled guessing what he was thinking. “You want something you can hold down?” When he nodded, she smiled even more. “I’ll bring you a bowl of that soup you had for lunch and some bread. That should hold you ‘till you get back.”
“You are an angel.” He gave her a peck on the cheek and quickly exited the now off limits kitchen.
A short time later, Scott and Harlan found Johnny sitting alone in the dining room. A large napkin was tucked into the collar of his suit while he ate a bowl of turkey soup. “Well, don’t you look ‘pretty’!” Scott commented sarcastically taking a seat next to his brother. Johnny made a face and continued to eat his dinner.
“John, you are going to ruin your appetite eating all of that!” Harlan admonished. “I hear that they are going to have a raw bar of oysters, clams and muscles. Surely you don’t want to fill up on that soup.”
Scott laughed as his brother paled at the thought of eating raw shellfish, strange for a man who thought nothing of eating a worm that had been pickled in mescal. “Grandfather, somehow I think that soup is exactly what the doctor ordered! I must say that he looks a hundred percent better than he did last night. He almost looks like a proper Bostonian. The hair is a little long though…” Scott reached to touch his brother’s hair only to have his hand swatted away.
“There is nothing wrong with my hair.” Johnny’s jet black hair had smoothed into place away from his face and eyes. “Jennings offered to cut it, but it suits me just fine.”
Harlan shook his head. “Scott, we had better get dressed or we’ll be late.”
“I’ll be up in a minute.” Scott waited until his grandfather had left the room before anxiously turning to his brother. “You OK?”
“As fine as a man can be dressed in buryin’ clothes while still alive.” Johnny snorted taking another spoonful of soup.
Scott laughed. “Well you do look ‘pretty’. Maybe we can get your picture taken to send home so we can show….”
“Oh, no!” Johnny threatened his spoon at his brother. “Don’t even think about it. I don’t want anyone to see me in this get up.”
“Don’t ‘but Johnny’ me! I mean it Scott – no photographs!”
“Just one more shot, Mr. Lancer!” Another photographer had come forward to get a picture of Johnny shaking hands with the Mayor while receiving the Key to the City.
Scott had looked on barely hiding the smile that threatened to breakout over his face. Since they had arrived at City Hall, all of the reporters had taken turns asking questions of Johnny and then getting the required photograph for their articles. But, after posing for the 3rd photograph, Scott could tell that Johnny’s patience was wearing thin. “I think that just about does it.” Scott strode forward and stood in front of his brother.
“Mr. Lancer is right.” The Mayor agreed. The politician recognized that the story had reached its crescendo and was now dying out. The next story would be on the society page about who had shown up and who had not. “Gentlemen, I suggest that we retire to the bar!”
Before they left the interview area, Scott requested that one of the photographers send him several copies of the photograph for him to take home as a souvenir. He then found Johnny standing between the Mayor and the Chief of Police looking miserable as the two older men regaled him with embellished stories of their youth. Recognizing the needy look on his brother’s face, Scott deftly excused him away to a quiet corner. He was aware that Johnny strongly disliked being in crowds and being the center of any kind of attention. This evening was a double dose on both accounts.
Harlan Garrett had stayed away from the spectacle of Johnny’s being regaled as a ‘hero’. Instead he had found a seat near the bar and watched the goings on with darkly veiled eyes. He could barely stand the fact that the former gunslinger was now the toast of the town. If only they all could see Johnny as he saw him.
He was lost in thought when he became aware of a presence beside him. Reggie Pierce had arrived through a side door and had quietly made his way to Harlan’s side. Harlan looked up at him, expectation written all over his face. “Well?”
“Tonight. Cover for me.” With those few words said, he faded back out of the building and into the night.
Harlan stood and went to the bar. Champagne was now in order. Before raising his glass to his lips he toasted his good fortune to find an ally in Reginald Pierce.
Boston City Hall was a majestic four story gray stone structure. It had only been completed a few months earlier and the Mayor was fond of showing the building off. The marble lobby had been transformed into a large dance floor that was presently filled with couples dancing to the strains of the small orchestra that was assembled by the grand staircase. Set off to the side was a lavish buffet and bar. Everyone who was anyone in Boston had been invited. They were all eager to meet an honest and true ‘cowboy’ – a hero to boot.
The Lancer boys stood back and watched as bejeweled ladies danced in dresses from France. “I tell you what, Boston; they don’t skimp on the finery here. I’d love to see Teresa all dressed up and out there dancing.”
Scott smiled at his brother’s words. Boston was a far cry of the simplistic life they led at Lancer. “What do you really think about all of this?” Scott waved his hand at the dancers, the lavish tables of food and the general opulence of the affair.
Johnny shook his head. “Seems like a waste of time and effort. They used my saving those children as an excuse to spend money and get drunk.” Johnny paused as a young mother approached with her daughter – a dark haired girl of about 7 years of age.
“I just want to thank you for what you did yesterday, Mr. Lancer. You saved my Sara’s life and I am eternally grateful. ” The woman held out her hand and Johnny politely shook it.
“My pleasure, Ma’am.” Johnny then knelt so he was face to face with the girl. “And what’s your name?”
The girl smiled and blushed as she looked into Johnny’s blue eyes. “I’m Sara. And I wanted to thank you too.” The girl threw her arms around Johnny’s neck and gave him a kiss.
He gave her a light hug before standing again. A gentle smile crossed his lips as the mother and daughter went to rejoin their friends. “That, Boston, was the nicest thing to happen to me since we hit this town.”
“Amen to that Brother.” They watched as the mother and child melted into the crowd. Scott was about to suggest to Johnny that they go and get a drink when Andrea and Joshua approached them.
“Well, how’s the hero?” Joshua asked grabbing Johnny’s free hand.
Johnny blushed, embarrassed by the hero reference. “I ain’t no hero…”
“And modest too!” Joshua laughed slapping Johnny’s injured shoulder. “Sorry,” He immediately apologized as Johnny held the sling closer to his chest. “Why don’t we go out and get some air? It will make you feel better.”
“Scott,” Andrea stepped up and took Scott by the arm as he moved to go with Johnny and Joshua. “How about a dance while they go out for a breath of air.”
“You going to be alright?” Scott asked Johnny who was clenching his teeth in obvious pain.
“I’ll make it. Dance a dance for me.” Johnny let Joshua guide him out a side door to a secluded garden near an exterior corner of the building. From the shadows, Johnny saw 3 figures immerge. Immediately the hairs on the former gunslinger’s neck stood on end. Into the dim light stepped Reggie, Nathan and Trevor. Joshua left Johnny’s side to stand beside his friends. Johnny squared his shoulders and reached into the sling to recover the knife that he had hidden there earlier. Feeling the warm metal in his palm gave him a measure of comfort. “Boys,” Johnny greeted them warily.
“Madrid,” Reggie nodded.
“What’s on your minds?”
“This is an intervention.”
“We’re here for Scott…” Nathan started.
Johnny could guess what they wanted – the same as what Harlan always wanted, but he was going to make them say it themselves. “Scott’s inside…”
“He’s playing with us!” Reggie stepped forward his hands clenched in undisguised rage. Trevor held him back and he stepped forward hoping to clear the air.
“Johnny, we’re here on Scott’s behalf. We want him to stay in Boston where he belongs.”
“Don’t you think that Scott can make up his own mind on where he wants to be?”
“No, we don’t. We don’t think that you and your father are letting him make that decision.”
“Who told you that – Garrett?” Johnny spat the name.
Joshua spoke next. “He doesn’t belong in your world – a world of guns and violence…”
“And tell me – just what are you prepared to do to keep him here- resort to violence?”
Nathan shook his head and spoke calmly. “You have to let him go. He’s no longer your prisoner. We won’t let you keep him any longer.”
Johnny looked at the men shaking his head. “Prisoner? You have no idea what you’re talking about! Scott is exactly where he wants to be – at Lancer!”
“That’s not true.” Joshua insisted. “You don’t know him like we do. We grew up with him, you are just his….”
“His what?” Johnny challenged. “I am the one thing that the four of you can never be. I am his brother. Yeah, I didn’t know him for 23 years. But I do now. I know that he loves the ranch and wants to be there. I suggest that you go and talk to him. Ask him what he wants.” Johnny attempted to leave, but the four men stood firmly in his way. “What are you going to do? Resort to the ‘violence’ that you find so ugly to keep him here? You have no idea what you’re doing.”
“I do!” Reggie, whose rage had been building, rushed the injured man.
Johnny pulled the knife from his sling and held it in front of himself. “Hold it right there,” he commanded as the man stopped dead in his tracks. “I don’t think that the Mayor would be none too happy to find blood on his roses.” He could only hope that the four would take him seriously. He was in no condition to fight and he knew it.
“We can take him!” Reggie urged rushing forward again.
Johnny made a stabbing motion at Reggie as he charged. The blade of the knife caught the sleeve of the man’s suit coat and cut into his right arm. Reggie, now wounded was further enraged. He backed off grasping his arm. “He cut me! The filthy half-breed Mex cut me!”
The others stood shocked at what was happening. This was not their plan. They were to convince Johnny to let Scott go – not attack him. But now, one of their own had been hurt. They had made promises to each other that now demanded that they take action.
Reggie looked to his ‘brothers’. “Are you going to let him get away with this? He’s cut me!” Satisfied that they were now on his side, he moved forward again, this time with the others beside him.
Johnny was now backed against a dark wall. The door that led back to the hall was only 50 feet away, but it might as well have been a mile. The music from the orchestra and the murmurs of the crowd would drown out any calls for help that he could have made. Johnny was left with only one option to seek out the weakest link – Joshua. With Joshua down, Johnny felt confident that he could find a way around the others and back into the safety of the building. Holding the knife in front of himself, he met the charge of his assailants – his blade again struck flesh – catching Joshua in the side. Stunned that he was struck, Joshua went down, a hand clasping the small wound that had been cut thru his suit. “I’m hurt!” Joshua stared at the bit of blood that covered his fingertips.
“That’s it. You die Madrid!” Reggie, now blinded by pain and his desire for revenge, plowed into Johnny, knocking him to the ground. Once down, Reggie began to pummel Johnny’s face and chest with his fists. “No! One! Threatens! Me! Or! My! Friends!” Each word was punctuated by a closed fist meeting soft flesh. By the time he was finished, the others were pulling him off the now bloody and unconscious Johnny.
Trevor knelt beside the downed man and lightly placed a finger on Johnny’s throat. “I think you’ve killed him.” He whispered, terror taking his voice. “No – he’s still alive. He’s breathing.”
Reggie was breathing heavily staring down at his victim. “He deserved it.”
“What are we going to do?” Nathan asked in a worried voice. This was not at all what the banker has bargained for.
“Leave it to me. You go back to the party. I’ll take care of Madrid. We’ll meet at Joshua’s office at midnight.”
“How do we explain this to Scott?” Joshua’s eyes were wide with fright.
“Tell him that his brother was tired and took a cab home.”
“And if he wants to check this story out?” Nathan asked nervously.
“Make sure he doesn’t!” Pierce bent and roughly slung Johnny over his shoulder and walked into the deep unlit recesses of the courtyard.
The three remaining men were left looking pale and nervous. “I can’t believe this is happening.” Joshua pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it against the scratch that had already stopped bleeding. He quickly pulled his suit jacked closed, effectively hiding damaged vest. His face was pale from the entire escapade, but otherwise he was alright.
“What was Reggie thinking? We were only going to talk to Johnny…”
Nathan shook his head, completely baffled by the turn of events. “What ever happens, we are bound by our oaths to look after each other…”
“What do you think Reggie is going to do to Johnny?” Joshua asked anxiously.
Trevor found himself caught in a state of shock “I can’t imagine what is going on in his head anymore. He’s changed since he came back from Texas. I guess that we’ll find out at midnight.”
After calming themselves, the 3 remaining fraternity brothers returned to the party. Joshua returned through the entrance he and Johnny had exited. Trevor and Nathan circled around the building and came in the main entrance. It wouldn’t do for Scott to see them enter together. They found Scott standing with Andrea near the buffet table. “Where’s Johnny?” Scott asked Joshua after greeting Nathan and Trevor.
“He decided that he wasn’t much in the mood for the party. I think he was tired so I put him in a cab and sent him back to your grandfather’s house.” Joshua calmly spoke the lie that they had contrived.
Scott frowned. It was just like Johnny to duck out. He pulled the same disappearing act whenever they had a get together at the ranch. But, this was different. He felt sure that his brother would have come to him to let him know where he was going. “Well, perhaps I should go and make sure he is alright.”
“No,” Joshua stepped forward nervously. “He told me to tell you to stay and have a good time.”
“He said that?”
“He said that he wanted you to make up your own mind to stay or leave.”
“Well, I guess that I had better stay.”
The social at City Hall ended at 11 PM. Scott was going to return to the house to check on his brother, but Trevor encouraged him to go with him for a night cap at the Cock and Bull – the tavern that they had missed the day before. They found the establishment nearly deserted. The regular crowd had gone to the soirée at City Hall, leaving the tavern all but empty.
The two friends found a booth secluded within the richly paneled recesses of the bar area. An ample barmaid took their order for two brandies and left the two men alone. “It really is good to see you again, Scott.” Trevor nervously studied his friend’s face closely. “We all have missed you these past months.”
“I know, but believe it or not, I love it out at the ranch. Trevor, I’ve never felt so alive or productive. After Libby Prison, I felt as if a part of me had died. But being at the ranch has rejuvenated me.” Scott’s eyes shone bright blue as he spoke fondly of Lancer.
“You could feel alive and productive here.”
“It’s not the same.” Scott shook his head trying to find the words to make his friend understand. The barmaid brought their drinks giving Scott an additional moment to reflect. “You live in such a world of privilege here in Boston. It’s not like that at Lancer. We have to work for everything – there are no short cuts, no easy way outs. Everything that we have, we earn….”
“You keep saying ‘we’?”
Scott smiled. “I have something that I never had before. I have a family – Murdoch and Johnny. You have younger brothers – tell me that your life hasn’t been enriched by growing up with them?”
“I guess you’re right. I can’t imagine life without Brian and Timothy.”
“Well, I can’t imagine my life without Johnny. We missed so much, not being together all these years, but I tell you I feel as if I’ve known him my entire life.”
Trevor swallowed hard hearing those words. It was then that he knew that they had been fools. They had no right to make the decision for Scott to stay in Boston. It was now clear that Scott was still his own man – even more so than before. And Johnny – he was innocent of all the false conclusions they had drawn. “Scott, I forgot something. Can you make it home on your own?” The reporter stood quickly and fled the tavern. He had to get the others and find Reggie before he did what ever it was that he was going to do to Johnny.
R – Rating for physical violence
Throwing the bar aside, Scott picked up the lamp again. The room beyond the door was even fouler smelling than the rest of the basement. But there was something familiar in the stench – Scott could smell blood! Every fiber of his being sent him quickly into the room until, at long last, the light shone on a dark haired lifeless body lying in the middle of the floor.
Reginald Pierce disappeared behind the brightly lit City Hall with Johnny Lancer limply slung over his shoulder. Keeping to the dark recesses, he gave a low whistle as he approached his private carriage. The driver, an old army buddy who had learned a long time ago never to ask questions, opened the carriage door. Making sure there was no one around, Reggie hurried to the open door and unceremoniously dumped Johnny’s limp body inside. The unconscious man was covered with a blanket while Reggie climbed in and the door closed. “Drive” was the only command given. The driver climbed up on to his seat and the carriage made its way through the streets of Boston to its final destination – Harvard University and the Omega Alpha Pi Fraternity house.
Reggie had made his plans very carefully. The members of the house had gone on a long weekend retreat to the Cape, leaving the building virtually empty for the next few days. Only Mrs. O’Malley remained at the house; her apartment was on the far side of the building – away from where Reggie had made his plans for Johnny Madrid.
As a former resident, he had keys to every entry of the building. The carriage was quietly driven behind the building to the exterior basement doors. Reggie jumped out and lit a lamp that was hung by the closed portal. Unlocking the doors, he threw them open to reveal a steep set of steps that led into the bowels of the building. The driver had already pulled Johnny from the carriage and stood with him poised over his shoulder. “Drop him in!” Reggie hissed.
The driver made his way to the open doors and did as commanded. Johnny was dropped to the stone sill and then kicked – rolling down the 8 wooden steps, hitting each one with a thud. At the bottom, he rolled to his back, still as death. Reggie scurried down the steps to make sure his prey had not died as a result of the tumble down the stairs. Feeling a pulse at Johnny’s neck he smiled. His fun had not been spoiled too quickly. Stepping over the prone man he made his way to the new storage room that he had built for the fraternity as part of his continuing patronage of the facility. The storage door was locked with a padlock that only Reggie had the keys for. The thick door was opened and Johnny dragged inside by the driver. “Wait for me outside,” Reggie again commanded. Not wanting to know more or incur his employer’s wrath, the driver made his way out of the building.
Reggie Pierce was not a large man. He was only slightly taller than his quarry but he was wiry. He had been preparing himself for this event like an army greenhorn at training camp. It had been months since he had last been able to satisfy his feral urges. He still could not understand why the army had dismissed him so unceremoniously. He had been commissioned to seek out enemies of the United States – to ensure the safety of the settlers. He had taken the job to the next level and began eliminating them. All non- English speaking people – Indians, Mexicans, etc… – were subject to his plan of disposal. Johnny was an example of the worst that could happen – a half-breed! Pierce saw him as an abomination that was to be destroyed.
With ease he maneuvered his victim about the room. “Soon, mi amigo, you are going to find out just how disposable you are.” A crazed look came to the former soldier’s face. He pulled out a hunting knife and cut the formal dress coat from Johnny’s torso. The vest and shirt were also removed leaving the man exposed from the waist up. Though Johnny had not awakened, he moaned as Reggie tugged and then pulled on the injured shoulder and broken ribs. The sling was used to gag the unconscious man should he awaken and attempt to cry for help. He pulled Johnny to a far corner and bound his wrists behind his back and then his ankles with a thick rope. He took a moment to survey his handiwork. Johnny lay curled in the dirt; blood oozed from facial cuts, the result of the beating that Reggie had given. There were new bruises about his chest too. A smug smile of satisfaction crossed Reggie’s mouth. It was a pity that he had to leave – but he had to get back to his ‘brothers’ to make sure that they didn’t have second thoughts about what was to come next. With a sigh, he exited the prison that he had created, locked the door and left the building.
No command was needed as he entered his carriage. The driver snapped the reins and they headed back to Boston.
Trevor left the Cock and Bull panic stricken. ‘We were wrong’ was all he could think over and over in his mind. Why hadn’t they tried to speak with Scott first? Why were they in such a rush to believe all that Harlan Garrett had said about Scott’s life out west? More importantly, why was Reggie Pierce in such a hurry to eliminate Johnny? The reporter inhaled the cool night air as if it could breathe clarity into his clouded thoughts. Whatever happened, he had to stop Reggie and get Johnny back.
Scott Lancer sat alone in the Cock and Bull trying to figure out what had come over his old friend. He drank his brandy and stared in the fire. It was not his past that he wanted to think about. He was thinking about his life and his future on the ranch. This was the time of evening that he enjoyed – gathered around the hearth with his family, exchanging news of what they had done during the day. Closing his eyes he could picture Murdoch sitting in his favorite chair watching as he beat Johnny at chess – again! A smiled crossed his lips as he thought of his brother. He wasn’t surprised when they told him that Johnny had left, but it was bad manners that he hadn’t thanked the Mayor properly. It had taken some doing on his part to convince the politician that Johnny’s disappearance wasn’t a reflection on his hospitality but rather his brother’s ignorance of social custom combined with his injuries. He was surprised when his grandfather had come forward and helped with the situation. It amused Scott that Harlan Garrett would come to the defense of Johnny at all!
Finishing off the brandy, Scott left the establishment and strolled his way home. It was a clear fall night and the overhead gas lights provided a safe path back to Beacon Hill. Scott marveled at how much the town had changed during his absence. There were new houses and factories where there had once been open land. From his visit at his grandfather’s office, he could tell that Harlan had taken advantage of the growth – his own business almost doubling. It was no wonder that he wanted Scott to come back to stay. But, the young man knew that his heart was no longer in Boston. It was held captive by the rolling hills, grassy meadows and wild streams of Lancer.
At midnight, there was a clandestine meeting at the law firm of Armstrong and Armstrong. Joshua arrived first accompanied by Andrea. He had no secrets from her and had, in fact, confided in her prior to the reception at City Hall. She approved of the group’s plan to have a frank discussion with Johnny regarding Scott’s future. She had even volunteered to occupy Scott’s time while Joshua and the others had their meeting. When he returned from the garden, she had keenly picked up on his pale countenance and had whisked him away. She could hardly believe his tale of how Reggie had taken it upon himself to single handedly attack Johnny Lancer. “I thought that you were only going to reason with him?”
“Reggie was like a wild man – he was out of control. What could we do? We are brothers…” Joshua now sat behind his desk, his head in his hands. He had seen a side to Reggie Pierce that he had never seen before and it scared him.
“What do you think that he’s going to do to Johnny?” The future bride asked wringing her hands.
“Only God knows…”
“…Or the devil.” Trevor said as he and Nathan entered their friend’s office. “I spoke with Scott. He says that he belongs in California – and I believe him. There will be no changing his mind.”
“But what about Johnny?” Nathan asked nervously. He was afraid that Reggie would do something rash and then implicate them in his plans.
“I have Johnny Madrid well in hand.” The disembodied voice of Reginald Pierce filtered into the room startling the others. Reggie had quietly entered the building and had been listening to the conversation of his friends.
“Reggie – what have you done?” Trevor, the bravest of the group, confronted his ‘brother’.
“Why, I have done nothing that we weren’t sworn to do when we joined Omega Alpha Pi. I am removing a blight from our society…”
“We’re not talking about a ‘blight’,” Trevor snapped. “We’re talking about a man…”
“We’re talking about a thing that is less than human! We’re talking about a killer! You saw he came prepared with a knife! He cut me and Joshua…”
“He was only acting in self defense!” Joshua had been a former prosecutor prior to going into private practice with his father. “He had every right to defend himself…”
Reggie smiled and looked calmly at his ‘brothers’. “It’s my word against his. I am a decorated officer of the Union Army and he is just a half-breed gunslinger. Who would believe him? Who would testify against me?”
Trevor paced the floor. “You had no right to injure him. Is he still alive?”
“What are you planning to do to him?” Nathan asked nervously.
“He is an abomination, a half breed. Besides that, he is an albatross around Scott’s neck. I am going to free our ‘brother’ from that albatross.”
“You’re talking about murder!” Trevor declared.
“I’m talking about extermination.” Reggie’s calm words caused the others to stare in stunned shock. Reggie nodded his head confirming his statement. “If I go to prison for murder then you all are going with me.”
“This is blackmail!” Nathan sputtered. “I will not be a party to a murder!”
Strong hands grabbed the lapels of Nathan’s jacket and threw him against the far wall. Reggie stood over the dazed man – a crazed look filled his face. It was a look none of the others had ever seen before. “You listen to me – all of you! The blood on my hands is just as red as the blood on yours. Johnny Madrid is as a dead man. He is history! Your job now is to find the means to keep Scott busy while I finish my work. And, while you’re at it, figure a way to keep him here in Boston where he belongs!” He then strode from the room and out the back of the building to his waiting carriage.
The others rushed to Nathan’s side as he tried to stand. Gently they guided him to the loveseat that faced Joshua’s desk. “What are we going to do?” The banker asked gingerly touching the bruise on his cheek where he hit the wall. “He’s out of his mind.”
Joshua, ever the lawyer, tried to rationalize situation. “Reggie is right. If we stick together and don’t tell a soul about what happened then we will be alright…”
“It’s not right!” Trevor exploded. “We are enabling him to get away with murder! I cannot be a party to that!”
“And would you send us all to jail?” Andrea spoke up – she was not willing to go to jail – not for a half-breed – not for anyone. “You all must consider this as well. What will Reggie do if he finds out that we betrayed him? I don’t want to live the rest of my life living in fear of Reggie Pierce!” The last statement caused all three men to stop and consider their options.
“I just don’t know…” Trevor left the room without a look back.
Harlan Garrett was anxiously waiting for Scott’s return for the evening. When he had first contacted Reggie about taking care of Madrid, he had made it clear that he was not going to be an active participant. Yet, here he was providing ‘cover’ for whatever Reggie had planned for Johnny.
He returned home at 11PM and made sure that Jennings and Alberta had retired for the evening. He made a show of speaking as if escorting Johnny into the house. Quickly he had gone up the stairs and made noises in the guest bedroom as if Johnny were in there preparing for bed. He messed the bed and blew out the lamp. He then went to his room and changed into his bed clothes, returning to the first floor with his robe and slippers on.
Pouring himself a brandy, he began his wait. His mind raced at the possibilities for the extinguishment of Johnny Madrid. He hadn’t asked Reggie exactly what he was going to do, but if he was following the course he had started in Texas – it was bound to be a gruesomely slow death. The old man took comfort in knowing that with Johnny dead the Lancer name and bloodline would not longer be tainted by the half-breed.
He also gloated over the pain that would tear at Murdoch Lancer over the loss of his sons. It would be his permanent revenge for Murdoch’s wooing Scott away all those months ago. The old man had no sympathy for his enemy. He felt like a puppet master playing a cruel joke on his nemesis. Lancer had just found his sons after two decades; there would be no bringing them back this time. Johnny would be dead, and Scott – well, Harlan figured that his grandson would come to his senses. With Johnny gone, there would be no reason for him to return to the ranch.
Scott arrived a little after midnight. The young man was in high spirits thinking of the wedding to be held in 2 days and then the return to Lancer. Between the spirits he had drunk at the reception and the brandy he and Trevor shared, he had a slight ‘glow’ on. He was surprised to find his grandfather waiting up for him. Usually it was Jennings who made sure that he was in and the house locked. “Grandfather, you’re still awake?”
Harlan met him in the foyer and quickly ushered him into his study. “Since our time is limited I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to spend as much time as I can with you.” He poured Scott a large snifter of brandy and then poured himself another, albeit smaller glass. “It was a nice reception. Johnny said that he enjoyed it.”
“He did?” Scott asked surprised. His brother hated organized events with a passion.
Sensing that he had erred, Harlan quickly tried to cover. “Well, not in so many words. I think that he enjoyed seeing all of the finery on display. He mentioned that Teresa would have enjoyed the dancing.”
Scott smiled and took a sip from his glass. “Yes, we discussed that she would have enjoyed the dancing and the dresses.”
Harlan sighed and took a gulp of his own drink. “And you, what did you think of it?”
Scott sank into a wing backed chair near the fire and stretched his long legs. “I haven’t danced so many waltzes since before I went into the army.”
“No waltzes in California?”
Scott smiled thinking of the dances held at the ranch and the socials held at the church. “No, we do a lot of square dancing out west.”
“Barbaric…” Harlan snorted and then laughed. “You must miss the social opportunities that we have here in Boston.”
“No, not at all. I’ve learned that there is nothing wrong with staying at home and enjoying time with family. We’ve been trying to make up for the time that we lost over the years…”
“Is that what you think you’ve lost – time?” Harlan could scarcely keep the hurt out of his voice.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. I wouldn’t trade the time that I spent with you – but how do I ever make up for the time that I lost being a son and a brother? That’s one of the reasons that I had Johnny come with me. I wanted to show him that there is more to life than the adversity that he grew up with.”
“So, this trip is about Johnny?”
Scott rolled his eyes. “This trip is not just about Johnny. It’s about you and me and Johnny and all of the people that I know here in Boston. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go and check on Johnny and then turn in.”
Harlan nearly panicked at Scott’s words. He couldn’t go and check on Johnny – not yet. “Scotty, I put your brother to bed myself. He was exhausted. Why don’t you just turn in? You can speak with him in the morning.”
Scott considered his Grandfather’s words and nodded his head. “If he was really OK…”
“He was fine.” Harlan responded with a reassuring smile. Together the men walked upstairs to their respective rooms. “Good night, Scotty. Have good dreams.”
Trevor, not satisfied with what Reggie had asked them to do, quickly made his way out of the Armstrong building in time to see Reggie’s carriage as it headed west on Marlborough Street. Grabbing the reigns of his horse, he mounted and attempted to follow at a discrete distance. Keeping to the shadows, he watched as the carriage headed north on Massachusetts Avenue and toward the bridge that led to Cambridge. “Where are you going?” Trevor wondered to himself. There was no hiding on the bridge, so Trevor had to wait until the carriage crossed before he could attempt to follow. By the time he was able to cross the bridge, the carriage was out of sight – lost in the cool fog that had drifted in off the river. With a sigh, Trevor turned his horse back to Boston. Tomorrow he would start again.
Johnny Lancer awoke with a shiver in the pitch dark of the molding basement. His senses were immediately assaulted by the new pains to his head and arms. A penetrating cold was seeping through the bandages around his chest and into his muscles from the cold ground that he was laying on. Opening his eyes he saw only black. Immediately he was fearful that he had once again lost the sight that he had recovered just a few months ago. It took him a moment to further orientate himself. His arms were tied behind his back – his left shoulder felt afire with pain from the way it had been pulled behind his back. There was no play in the ropes that bound his wrists and ankles. Rolling to his right side, he rested for a moment, his cheek lying against a cool dirt surface realizing that he was in some sort of pit or basement. In spite of the darkness, he closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing. The minor movements that he made had caused his head and stomach to spin. He wanted to spit out the blood that had pooled in his mouth but the gag made it impossible. His stomach threatened to rebel after he ended up swallowing the coppery substance. For a few minutes he fought the nausea – breathing in the damp air thru his nose until he was sure that his stomach would not erupt. Opening his eyes, he strained to see any sign of light – but there was none.
The room he was in was cold and he shivered realizing that his shirt and coat had been removed. ‘This has to be Reggie’s doin’,’ he thought to himself as he pulled again at the ropes. Remembering the knife that he had secreted in his boot, he bent like a contortionist until his fingers found the hidden blade. ‘Reggie, you’re not as smart as you think,’ he thought smugly to himself as he began to saw away at the ropes that bound his wrists. The motion was awkward causing the ropes to cut into his wrists until his hands were numb and slick with his own blood. Exhausted, he had to take frequent breaks to gather his waning strength. When he rested, his mind flashed back to a memory of his childhood and to a time when he had been locked in a root cellar by his stepfather. For a day he had been left in the four foot hole – no food and no water. Once he had gotten out he had sworn to kill the man who had imprisoned him. It was a promise that the then six year old Johnny Lancer fulfilled as Johnny Madrid some six years later. The memory spurred him past the pain until at last his hands were free.
The first thing he did was pull the dirty gag from his mouth so that he could breathe in gulps of the cold damp air. He lay on his back, panting and sweating feverishly in spite of the coldness of his prison. His head pounded worse than it had the day before; reminding him of the headache he had when he had been blinded by a bushwhacker. There would be no Mattie to help him this time. He was all alone.
When he at last had some strength, he cut the rope that bound his ankles. His next thought was of escape. Painfully he moved to his knees and finally to his feet. With his hands held out, he felt for the barriers that made up his prison. Slowly he surveyed his domain with his hands. He was in some sort of enclosure that had two stone walls and two walls made of thick wood planks. With his fingers, he found the edge of a door in one of the wooden walls, but there was no handle to pull on. The door was locked from the outside. There did not appear to be any windows which would account for the fact there was no light. He could only pray that was the case. The alternative – blindness – was not an option he wanted to consider.
The injured man had no sense of time. He had no idea how long he had been unconscious. He only knew that he hurt worse now than he had before leaving for the reception. From that pain came the drive to escape. He returned to the door and positioned himself on the side away from the hinges so that when it swung in, he would not be caught behind it. This was where he wanted to be when his captor returned.
Convinced that he had the others under his control, Reggie was anxious to return to Harvard and to the basement of the Omega Alpha Pi fraternity house. In order to avoid suspicion in the graying dawn, he had his driver drop him off several blocks from the house. He was practically giddy knowing that he was free to complete his mission. The others were cowards. It was up to Reggie to set straight what they could not. Scott would understand once he got used to the idea that he was free of his half-breed brother. In his demented mind that was the one thing that Reggie was sure about – Scott would see things his way.
The dawn’s first light was peaking through thick clouds by the time he arrived back at the house. Quickly he unlocked the exterior basement doors and entered. Carefully he descended the steps he had Johnny thrown down. There were spatters of blood on them and a small pool had soaked the dirt at the bottom where Johnny had briefly laid. Reggie stopped and put his fingers in the damp soil. It felt oily to touch and smelled like copper – like death.
He wasted no more time, lighting a candle he went directly to the wooden door of the prison he had made. Quickly he unlocked the door and flung it wide. The light held high – he gasped when he saw that his quarry was not where he had left him. He turned his head and caught the flash of metal as it came out of the darkness. With a slight move he was able to dodge the thrust of the blade aimed for his chest. Instead, the blade caught his right arm causing him to drop the candle, pitching the room into darkness.
Johnny had waited patiently for his opportunity. He held his breath as the door opened and light shined in. ‘Not blind!’ his mind rejoiced briefly and then focused on what had to be done next. Gathering the remains of his strength, he coiled himself to lash out at his keeper. Springing up – out of the darkness, he surprised Pierce and attempted to stab him with his knife. Throwing all of his weight behind the attack, he felt the knife as its blade came in contact with soft flesh. Johnny took small comfort in the cry of surprise that Reggie gasped before dropping the candle- plunging the room into darkness once again.
The two men fell together, Johnny on top of Reggie, and rolling to the left – onto Johnny’s previously injured shoulder and ribs. Pain immediately threatened to overcome his senses and he lost the knife in his attempt to push Reggie away. His right fist lashed out at his captor, striking the other man in the side of the head and knocking him back. Realizing he was in no condition to continue any sort of physical combat, Johnny decided to press his advantage and try to escape. Feeling his way he went through the door hoping to find some other light source. There was none. Since he had never seen the next room, he immediately tripped over some stacked wood and fell hard – the breath knocked out of him. For a few seconds he lay stunned, unable to move. ‘Get goin’, he told himself when he heard movement from the room where he had been trapped. Clenching his teeth, he began to crawl, feeling his way along a worn path in the dirt. He hadn’t gone far when a light filtered from behind.
“Crawling like a dog? How appropriate.” Reggie held the lighted candle high as he watched Johnny stop. “You know that you are going to have to be punished…”
“Why? Why this?” Johnny came to his feet and swayed trying to keep his balance while his head spun. If he was going to die, he wanted to know why. Many had tried to kill him in the past; some to try to take his reputation, others for revenge. He had no history with Pierce. This made no sense.
“You and your kind.” Reggie came closer, a smile on his face that caused Johnny to shiver. It was the look he had seen several times in his life – the look of one who had slipped over the edge. Reggie Pierce was insane.
Realizing exactly what he was up against, Johnny looked about for something to use as a weapon. Taking a step back, he tripped again, landing hard on his back. Reggie was on him in a flash. His fists once again pounded the injured man; Johnny could only attempt to curl into a ball to protect his already injured body.
Johnny was unconscious by the time Reggie finished this latest round. He stood over his prey breathing heavy, his hands bruised and bloody from the beating he had delivered. The knife wound that Johnny had inflicted was a minor inconvenience as Reggie actually enjoyed the physical pain. Roughly he dragged Johnny back to his cell. He retied Johnny’s hands and then looped a second rope through the first and threw it up over a rafter, pulling the rope until Johnny was all but suspended – his bound feet barely touching the ground. “Get out of this,” Reggie smirked as he tied off the rope. This was even better than he originally planned. Now he would be eye to eye with his victim.
From the corner, he produced a bucket of water that he had brought in the day before in preparation for Johnny’s initiation into his private fraternity. The cold contents were dumped on the unconscious man who sputtered and then gasped as new pains assaulted his body and senses. It took a few moments for cold blue eyes to focus on the crazed face of his tormentor.
“You’re a dead man.” Johnny’s voice was now a harsh whisper.
Reggie only laughed. He had heard the same threat many times before. None had ever survived to even try to take him on. “You are no different than the others…”
“The other Mexicans I killed when I was in Texas. The government sent me to do a job and I did it well…”
“We are not at war with Mexico…”
Reggie grabbed Johnny’s hair and pulled his head back, his lips barely touching Johnny’s ear. “There is no ‘we’ here compadre. Only me and you – and I am at war with Mexico or any other vermin on this planet that threatens me and mine!”
Reggie let go of Johnny’s hair and began to pace the room bringing his emotions under control. “They think that you are dead, you know. Poor Scott, he will never be able to return to California now – not after he lost his ‘brother’. How would he ever explain it to his father? You know what is going to happen next, don’t you? No one knows you’re here. There is no hope of rescue. You are already dead – you just haven’t felt it – not yet, but you will.”
From behind his back he produced a knife. “Down in Texas they call these Bowie Knives. This one, I’m told, was used by the great man himself at the Battle of the Alamo. It was christened with the blood of hundreds of Mexicans.” He held the large blade out close to Johnny’s face. The eight inch blade had been polished to a high shine, the edge razor sharp. “Yesterday you asked about the initiations into the fraternity. Let me show you a few that my ‘brothers’ never experienced.”
Johnny immediately figured that he was somewhere connected with the fraternity – possibly the house they had visited the day before. His eyes locked on his tormentor’s, aware that the blade was now being lowered out of his immediate view. He startled as he felt the prick of its tip being drawn deeply across his chest. There was immediate pain followed by a warm feeling – his own blood as it spilled. He clenched his teeth, refusing to give Pierce the satisfaction of hearing him cry out. A bead of sweat dripped down his cheek as he struggled to contain the pain. The bandages that Jennings had so carefully applied hours earlier were filthy from sweat, dirt and now his blood.
“My, you are a brave one,” Reggie snickered. It would have been better if Johnny had cried out or even flinched, but he had done neither. Part of Reggie was disappointed, the other was pleased. Perhaps Johnny, being a half-breed, was made of sterner stuff and would last longer. “I have to go now, but I’ll leave you with one more thought.” With that he took the knife and plunged it into Johnny’s left upper thigh.
Johnny fought the urge, but finally a low moan escaped his lips. Pleased with the response, Reggie wiggled the blade until it hit bone. Johnny cried out as his tortured nerves could endure no more. The knife was extracted, leaving an open bleeding wound. “Must not have hit an artery; the blood is not gushing. Should I try again now or return later?”
At that moment, Johnny lost his battle with consciousness. His eyes rolled back into his head and he went limp, hanging heavily from the ropes that bound him to the building.
Reggie only smiled at the response. Before leaving he snatched up the filthy gag and jammed it back into Johnny’s mouth. He then carefully
wiped the blade against the dirty gray bandages around Johnny’s chest. “This is only the beginning, amigo. By the time I’m done with you – you’ll be begging for death.”
Scott Lancer awoke from a restless sleep at 6AM. His normally peaceful dreams had been occupied by a nightmare about Johnny. Sitting up in his bed, he couldn’t shake the image of Johnny covered with blood, dying alone somewhere in the darkness. Throwing off his covers he lit his candle and decided that it was past time for him to check on his brother. Quietly he made his way to the adjoining room and slowly opened the door – careful not to make any noise. He mused that Johnny would laugh at the thought of Scott looking after him – but as the older brother, he had come to think of it as part of the job description.
Opening the door, Scott was immediately taken by the silence. Throwing the door open the rest of the way he thrust the light out in front of him – the bed was empty! His heart was gripped in immediate fear. Crossing the hall, he checked the water closet. Empty. Going downstairs he found no sign of his brother. Johnny was definitely not in the house. Racing back upstairs he searched Johnny’s room for some sign or note from the missing man. “Jennings!”
From down the hall, a door opened, and the old servant came running, pulling on his robe – no time for slippers. “Yes sir, Mr. Scott. What’s wrong?”
“My brother – have you seen Johnny?”
“No sir. I haven’t set eyes on him since you left. I think he came in with Mr. Garrett…:”
“Scotty! What is all the infernal racket for?” Harlan Garrett came from his room in his robe and slippers.
“Johnny – Johnny is not in his room!”
“Is that all?” Harlan responded faking a yawn. “Go back to bed. I’m sure he just went out for a walk.”
“In his condition? I thought you said he was exhausted?”
“He was – but maybe he couldn’t sleep. How the devil am I to know what goes on in his head? Perhaps he decided to spend the evening with some of his own kind…”
Scott’s eyes flared. “And just what is that supposed to mean – his own kind?”
“You know what I mean. He’s not one of us. Maybe he went somewhere he could feel more at home.” Harlan was using what he knew to be the wrong words, but he couldn’t help himself, he wanted to drive a wedge between the brothers – hitting on their differences until Scotty could see for himself that Johnny was beneath him and not worthy of his time or his love. “Maybe he found his way down to the docks for some companionship…?”
Scott turned disgusted eyes on his grandfather. “You know nothing! I’m going to go and find him…”
“Scotty, don’t be a fool!” Harlan admonished, trying to make up for his ill chosen words. “I’m sure that wherever he is that he is having a good time. Go back to bed…” The older man looked to his servant for support, but found none.
Jennings followed Scott back to his room and began to help him dress. “You want me to contact the constables, Mr. Scott?”
“No,” Scott paused. It wouldn’t do if Johnny was just out on a lark like his grandfather had tried to imply. “Let me do some checking first. If I don’t find him we’ll notify them.” Scott was pulling on his ranch clothes. If he had to be moving he may as well be comfortable. Before going out he returned to Johnny’s room and retrieved his brother’s gun. Scott had given Murdoch his before leaving Sacramento while Johnny had preferred not to be separated from the weapon that had so many times saved his life. Carefully he tucked the weapon into the waist of his pants and closed his jacket.
Harlan was waiting for him in the hall. “Scotty, be reasonable. What if Johnny is just out – wanting to be alone? How will he react…”
“When I break his neck?” Scott scowled afraid to meet his grandfather’s eyes; afraid that his grandfather could be right. But, in his heart he knew that Harlan was wrong. Remembering his dream, he left the house in a hurry.
Four days after the boys had left California, a third Lancer was making his way east. Murdoch, like Jelly, had developed a feeling of foreboding about the boys that could not be quelled. Between his gut feeling and Jelly’s aching elbows he was spurred into action – taking the train from Sacramento – Murdoch Lancer was only 4 days behind his sons. As he slept in the cramped confines of the passenger car, the older man’s dreams were filled with terrifying scenes of his sons in danger – and him too far away to help. Of particular fright was a dream of Johnny tied up – and covered with blood. It was that image that kept him going. Before leaving Sacramento he sent a telegram to his old friend James Davis and let him know that he was coming for a surprise visit. After all, the man owed him a favor for sending Scott and Johnny to the mining camps to rescue his daughter, Melissa, just a few months earlier.
At the stop in Philadelphia, he sent another wire to let his friend know that he was just a day away. While waiting for a response he picked up a copy of the Boston Herald that had just been dropped on the platform by a passenger departing from a train that had come from Boston. The lead story was how a cowboy had saved a group of children. Looking at the artist’s picture he recognized the cowboy as Johnny! Quickly he scanned the article learning that his son had not only saved the children but that he had been seriously injured as well. Perhaps this was the event that worried him so, but after re-reading the article he was more convinced than ever that both of his sons were in terrible danger.
Scott spent the early Saturday morning hours scouring the streets of Beacon Hill. There was no sign of the missing man. Scott had stopped all of the local delivery people questioning them about a dark haired man with his arm in a sling. The only response that he got was that of indifference. No one wanted to get involved.
Realizing that he needed another tactic, he headed to the offices of the Boston Herald and Trevor Hawthorne. It was 11AM when he found his friend sitting at his desk in dark reflection. “Trevor!”
Startled, the journalist looked up at his friend, his face immediately turning white. “Scott! What brings you here?”
“Trevor, he’s missing…”
“Who’s missing?” The journalist found it hard to look his worried friend in the eye and ask the question he already knew the answer to.
“Johnny! He left my grandfather’s house sometime in the middle of the night. I’ve been searching all morning with no luck. I need a copy of the photograph that was taken last night – a picture to show people who I’m looking for.”
“Johnny left your grandfather’s house?” Trevor’s mind was spinning – only he and the others had known that Reggie had taken Johnny. Who in the Garrett household would attempt to cover the disappearance? It came to the reporter in a flash – Harlan Garrett! If Harlan knew about
Reggie’s plans then perhaps he knew where Reggie had taken Johnny.
Obviously, Scott had not made any connection that Harlan was involved in his brother’s disappearance and Trevor was reluctant to reveal that link until he had absolute proof. You didn’t cross Harlan Garrett in this town and get away with it.
Trevor was shaken from his thoughts by his anxious friend. “I think that the photographer has already printed a few copies. Come with me.” He led Scott to the basement and the photography lab. The photographer had already developed the picture he had taken the night before and had set several printed copies aside for Scott as he had requested.
“Mr. Lancer – I was going to deliver these to you later this afternoon. Your brother and the Mayor make quite the pair.” The photographer proudly displayed the 8×10 photograph.
Under any other circumstances, Scott would have been amused. Seeing Johnny dressed in a tuxedo was quite an event. The fact that he was receiving an award for heroism only made it more special. Taking the picture he ran his fingers across his brother’s face. “Is there something wrong?” The photographer asked sensing a deep sadness in the man before him.
“Mr. Lancer’s brother disappeared sometime last night.” Trevor quietly explained. “Can we get any more pictures to distribute to the authorities?”
“I’ve already made 20 copies for the Mayor.” The photographer returned to his lab and returned with the dried prints. “I can make more if it will help.”
“Thank you,” Scott said gratefully taking the stack of pictures.
“What do you think happened?” Trevor asked walking Scott to the main entrance.
“I don’t know. My grandfather seems to think that Johnny just went on a walk about town…”
“But you don’t believe it.”
“No. Under normal circumstances, he would. He is quite adventurous by nature. But he was hurt. I’m afraid that maybe the head injury was worse than we thought…” Scott’s eyes brightened, a possible answer coming to him. “I’ve got to check the hospitals! He could have had a relapse…”
“Do you need some help?”
Scott paused and looked at his friend. “I’ll take whatever help I can get.”
“Give me some of the pictures and I’ll take them around to the precincts.”
Scott gave his friend a weary smile and handed him a few of the pictures. “Thank you. This means a lot to me.”
“Sure, anything I can do for a ‘brother’.” Trevor choked out as he watched Scott depart. So much of him wanted to tell his friend the truth – but without knowing the whole truth where could he start? If only he could find Johnny first – perhaps then there would be a way to explain. Shaking his head, he knew that his options were limited. He needed to find Harlan Garrett and get to the bottom of this mystery.
Trevor found Harlan Garrett in his office at Garrett Enterprises. The older man was seated behind a massive mahogany desk busily attending to papers that covered the surface. There was much about the older man that scared the young reporter; he had a reputation for being ruthless in business and in his personal life. Trevor had personally seen how the man had tried to run Scott’s life before he joined the army. The fact that Scott had managed to leave and go out west had said a lot about Scott’s character. Now he found himself preparing to do mental battle with the old man as he knocked on the open door frame. “Mr. Garrett?”
Harlan looked up from his work, surprised to see one of Scott’s friends. “Yes, Mr. Hawthorne?”
“May I come in, Sir? I have an urgent matter to discuss with you.”
“Urgent?” Harlan’s face was blank waiting for details on the nature of the visit.
“It involves Scott’s brother, Johnny.”
At the mention of Johnny’s name, Harlan stood and ushered the younger man into the office and then closed the door that separated his office from the rest of his business associates.
Trevor waited until Harlan had returned to his desk before starting. “This is not easy…”
“Then I suggest that you either speak up or leave until it becomes easier.” Harlan waved his hand to dismiss the journalist and returned to his work.
Trevor glared at the coolness of the old man. It became clear from his response that Harlan Garrett was involved in this mess up to his eyeballs. “Where is Johnny Lancer?”
The old man lifted his eyebrows in dismay. “Johnny Lancer? How should I know where he is?”
“He didn’t return to your home after the reception last night…”
“What are you saying?” Harlan asked with an edge of impatience.
“Reginald Pierce took Johnny…”
“Well it seems that you know more than I do…” Harlan interrupted angrily.
“Shut up!” Trevor snapped. He moved to Harlan’s desk and placed both hands on the polished surface leaning forward until he was practically nose to nose with the old merchant. “I know that Reggie Pierce has taken Johnny somewhere to do who-knows-what-to and that you are covering for him with Scott! I want to know where he is!”
Harlan sat back in his chair, his face paling. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. No one was to know. “Does Scotty know?”
The reported sighed and moved away from the desk, his worst fears confirmed. Harlan Garrett was at the heart of this situation. “I haven’t told him. I couldn’t tell him until I knew for certain that you were involved.” Trevor crossed his arms thinking of what had to be done next. “Scott is out looking for Johnny – convinced that his head wound may have caused him to wander off. We need to stop whatever Pierce has planned and get him back!”
“Get him back?” Harlan looked up at the dark haired reported and snorted. “What makes you think that I want him back? He is an abomination – a half-breed Mexican. With him gone…”
“This is not about what you want! This is about Scott. Don’t you see that Scott loves his brother?”
“What does Scott know about love? Does he know how much he hurt me by staying in California all these months?”
The old man was only seeing one side of this entire affair – his own. Well, Trevor decided, two could play that game. In a low voice he threatened the old man. “If you don’t tell me where Johnny is, I will go to Scott and the authorities and tell them of your involvement in his disappearance.”
For the first time, Harlan’s eyes flashed in realization that perhaps there could be consequences adverse to him. “You wouldn’t! I’d see to it that you would go to jail too!”
“I know my guilt and am prepared to face up to it. I should have stopped this last night, but I didn’t…”
“What about your friends? Do you speak for them as well?”
“This is between me and you! Where is Johnny?” The sentence was punctuated as his right fist struck the desk sending papers flying.
The two men locked eyes for a long moment. Finally, Harlan looked away. “I don’t know,” he raised his hands as Trevor opened his mouth to protest. “I can find out and let you know.”
“Mr. Pierce is to meet me here in an hour. Come back at three o’clock and I’ll let you know.”
Trevor considered the response. He had no choice but to believe the old man. “I’ll be back at three o’clock. If you don’t have Johnny’s location for me I’ll go straight to the newspaper and it will be on the front page tomorrow.” Turning on his heal, Trevor left the building feeling no better than when he had arrived.
Harlan Garrett stared after the departing young man. How dare he threaten him! A smile crossed his lips; if Trevor had not revealed his involvement to anyone then perhaps Mr. Pierce could be convinced to make sure that the secret not be shared with anyone else.
Reginald Pierce returned to the fraternity house late Saturday morning. He entered through the front door and was greeted by Mrs. O’Malley who was waiting for him with an ashen face. “Mr. Pierce, I am so glad that you have come by!”
“What is the matter?”
“I’m afraid the building is haunted!” The woman was wringing her hands in worry.
“There are noises in the basement – loud thumps and moans! I’ve been scared to death to go down and check it out. Would you…?”
“I would consider it my duty!” Reggie paused in the hallway looking at the collection of pledge paddles hung neatly on the wall. All pledges had to make their own paddle that would later be used for their initiations. Grabbing one firmly in his hand, he went to the kitchen and unlocked the door to the basement. Picking up a lamp in his other hand, he descended the stairs. Mrs. O’Malley attempted to follow but was turned back by the former resident. “Perhaps it would be best if you just stayed up here while I investigate.”
“But, what if…?” The older woman was torn between satisfying her curiosity and her fright of the unknown.
“Madame, I am prepared for battle. Stay here and I will return shortly.”
Johnny was colder than he had ever been in his life. His shoulders felt as if his arms were being torn from their sockets, but that pain was diminishing as the lack of circulating blood had caused his hands and arms to go numb hours before. Struggling to push past the pain and cold, he focused on finding a means of escape. The ropes that held him suspended were secure. His only hope was to find a way of alerting someone of his presence – wherever he was. From Reggie’s cryptic comments he figured that he might be in the basement of the fraternity. Remembering his visit, he knew that Mrs. O’Malley lived in the building. With feet barely able to touch the ground, he began to swing from the rope that bound him. Moving slowly he was able to gain momentum as he shifted his weight into the motion. It took a couple of swings until he made contact with a large crate in the dark. His left leg took the initial impact causing him moan through the gag and nearly black out. He could only pray that the noise would get her attention and perhaps she would come and investigate. Gritting his teeth, he continued to strike the box with his other foot until he was exhausted. Taking a break, he would rest, and begin the process all over again.
He had continued the intermittent knocking for the better part of an hour when the door to the enclosure opened. Squinting against the light, his hopes for rescue were dashed when his eyes focused on the malevolent features of Reggie Pierce.
Reggie closed and secured the door before hanging a lamp on an over head nail. “You’ve been causing quite a stir. Poor Mrs. O’Malley thinks that the building is haunted. I told her that I would have to perform an old fashioned exorcism.” Pierce advanced on his suspended victim, wielding the paddle like a weapon.
Johnny watched his tormentor though battered eyes and tried to kick out. Pierce easily side stepped the feeble attempt and struck the suspended man’s back. Johnny cried out as wood slammed against taught muscles, sharp edges cutting into his skin. He breathed heavily through the gag trying to control the pain. The blow had struck at his kidneys making his insides feel like fire. Johnny’s eyes flashed in anger as he grunted in pain.
“You have something to say?” Reggie taunted removing the gag.
It took a few seconds for Johnny to find his voice. “Cobarde…” came the harsh whisper.
“Coward?” Pierce considered the word and smiled. “Are you trying to imply that I am pressing an unfair advantage? Why, that’s the purpose of this exercise – to let you know who the superior is.” Reggie surveyed his prisoner with a glare. “How about if I press my advantage further?” Taking careful aim with the edge of the paddle, he struck Johnny’s wounded leg.
Johnny was too tired to even try to avoid the blow which struck the inflamed oozing wound. His body arched and he cried out only to be swallowed by the darkness that quickly claimed him. The injured man’s body went slack immediately. Not satisfied, Reggie continued to strike Johnny’s back, chest and legs – mindful that he wasn’t ready to actually kill Johnny – yet. The unconscious man moaned involuntarily as each blow struck abused flesh. Wiping a sleeve across his sweaty forehead Pierce surveyed his prisoner. The half-breed was still alive – but just barely. Johnny’s head had dropped to his chest and Reggie could hear raspy breaths coming from his open mouth. The bandages around Johnny’s chest had been torn and were now hanging from his torso.
Satisfied that Johnny had been suitably punished, he replaced the gag and moved the crate from Johnny’s reach. Relocking the door, he made his way back to the kitchen and Mrs. O’Malley. The woman was standing at the doorway waiting expectantly. “I thought I heard you yell…”
“Well, there are no ghosts. Only rats…”
The woman’s eyes went wide in fright. “Rats?”
“I saw a particularly large one. Do you have a place where you can stay until I get rid of it?”
“Why, I have a sister in Boston…”
“Then why don’t you back a bag and I’ll take you there on my way back?”
“I would so appreciate it Mr. Pierce. Those noises and sounds,” the woman shivered. “It won’t take but a few minutes. I suppose that it’s a good thing that the students went away for the weekend.”
“Quite a good thing,” Reggie agreed moving the woman along towards her apartment. “I guarantee to have the basement properly exterminated by Sunday night.”
“I don’t know what we would do without you Mr. Pierce.”
It took the woman fifteen minutes to pack her bag and vacate the building. Reggie was pleased at this turn of events. With the woman and the students gone for the weekend he wouldn’t have to worry about any further interruptions. By Sunday night, Johnny Madrid would be dead and his body a permanent fixture of the Omega Alpha Pi house.
After dropping Mrs. O’Malley off at her sister’s house, Reggie headed for Garrett Enterprises, Ltd. He was aware that the old man would want a proper accounting of what had transpired. The two of them were the same: both were ruthless in getting what they wanted. He was slightly disappointed in the old man – waiting so long in making his move to get Scott back, but he was more than making up for his inactivity by participating in the ‘cleansing’ of the Lancer lineage now.
Arriving at 2 o’clock, he found the older man waiting for him – is face flushed red with worry. “Close the door!” The old man commanded as Reggie leisurely made his way into the plush office.
“What is the matter?”
“We’ve been found out! That’s what the matter is!”
“Hawthorne – that reporter, he figured out that I was covering for Madrid’s disappearance.”
Reggie calmly sat down and steepled his fingers in thought. “Has he told anyone else?”
Harlan’s eyes widen in thought. “He said he hadn’t told Scott. I don’t know about the others – but I don’t believe so. He was waiting for me to speak with you and find out where you have Johnny hidden.” The old man paused and peered closely at the young man in front of him. “He is dead, isn’t he?”
The right corner of Reggie’s lip curled. “Not yet – but soon.”
Harlan visibly paled. “Why have you not killed him and be done with this? It is madness to think that you can simply torture a man and get away with it!”
“Why not? I did in Texas.”
“This is not Texas! For God’s sake what are you waiting for?”
Reggie considered Harlan and then his cuticles. “I am waiting for him to beg.”
“What are we going to do about young Hawthorne?”
“I suppose that I will have to have a talk with him – convince him that no one else needs to know what happened to the half-breed…”
“And if he cannot be convinced?”
“I can be very convincing.” An evil grin crossed Pierce’s face.
Harlan held up his hands. “I have no need to know of the details. Just get the job done! Kill Madrid and do whatever it takes to keep Hawthorne silent.”
Reggie raised an eyebrow. “Whatever it takes?”
The old man knew that he was now securely entrapped by Reggie’s scheme. There was no denying his involvement. How could he have ever have thought that he could control a man who the Army could not control? The best he could hope for was that whatever motivated Reggie would be satisfied with murdering Madrid. As far as Hawthorne – “Whatever it takes.”
By three o’clock, Scott was exhausted. He had been on his feet since awakening – walking down every street and alley he thought might have beckoned his brother. There had been no luck at the hospitals or even at the clinic’s that Dr. Johnson had tried to send Johnny to. He tried the mission houses remembering how Johnny had once taken refuge in one after being attacked at the end of a cattle drive. In defeat he headed back to his grandfather’s house.
As he walked, he tried desperately to think of what he may have over looked. There was something in the back of his mind that bothered him from the beginning. If only he could identify it. Jennings greeted him as he mounted the steps to his grandfather’s house.
“Any luck, Mr. Scott?”
“Not a sign or a clue.”
Jennings frowned. He had known Scott for the majority of his life. Never had he seen the young man so troubled or exhausted. What he had to tell him next didn’t make the situation any easier. “Mr. Scott, Miss Andrea is here to see you.”
Scott was in no mood to see anyone. He was tired, hungry and in no frame of mind to deal with the social niceties of Boston Society. “Tell her…”
“Tell me what?” Andrea interrupted stepping out of the sitting room. Her heart was immediately taken by the pale complexion of her old friend. Taking Scott’s hand, she led him back into the room and led him to a plush couch. “Jennings told me that Johnny has gone missing. Is there any news?”
“None. I’m waiting to hear from Trevor. He was going to check with the constables. “
“Constables?” Andrea’s heart raced. She had to think of Joshua and the others. “Do you really think that is necessary? Johnny could be off on a lark…”
“Stop it right there!” Scott stood and began pacing. “This is not like Johnny! He wouldn’t just up and leave without a word. He’s out there – somewhere – hurt and alone. I have to find him!”
“Calm down, Scott. I meant nothing by it.” She patted the seat next to her and smiled sympathetically. When Scott had calmed and sat down, she again took his hand in her own. The socialite was torn by the hatred she had for Johnny based on her perception that he had somehow been keeping Scott a prisoner in California and the obvious hurt that Scott was experiencing by his absence. She was also having some doubts about the entire situation after hearing what the others had said in Joshua’s office. Joshua had told her that Trevor felt Harlan Garrett had lied to them. She now wanted to know what Scott had to say. “Tell me about him, please? I want to know what kind of man your brother is.”
Scott frowned, thinking of how to explain his brother to his well bred eastern friend. “I brought him here to show him how ‘civilized society’ differed from our life at the ranch and the environment that he grew up in. He has faced much adversity in his lifetime. Did you know he was orphaned at an early age? He lived on the streets fending for himself while I was here – safe and warm in Boston. He lived in the squalor of the border towns – no home, no one to care for him; fighting for his very existence – a half-breed – not welcomed anywhere. It was only as a gunfighter that he gained respect. But, I don’t believe that was how he really wanted it.” Scott bowed his head taking a moment to compose his words and emotion – guilt he felt for the hardships his brother had to endure while he was living the life of a ‘rich man’. “He is one of the kindest and most gentle men that I know. Why, he has a special way with animals and children that’s almost magical. Since I met him, I’ve changed. He’s changed. We’re like two halves of a book – together we are whole. It’s my job as his older brother to take care of him. I’ve got to find him!”
Andrea considered her friend and felt her own heart breaking. They had been lied to! And yet, as much as she wanted to tell Scott what she knew – what could she really tell him? She had no idea where Reggie had taken Johnny or that he was still alive. Reginald Pierce scared her to pieces. She was convinced that if she said anything Reggie would come looking for her too. “Scott, I don’t know what to say…”
“How about a prayer? I think that Johnny could use it. I know I could.”
Andrea nodded her head, fighting back the tears that were forming in the corners of her own eyes, and quickly kissed his cheek. “Let me know if …- when you find him. The rehearsal is tonight…”
Scott looked blank for a moment and then realized that Andrea’s wedding was to be held the next day. “I don’t know if I can make it….”
“Don’t worry. Find your brother.”
Scott watched as Andrea left. He felt more alone at that moment then he did when he was in Libby prison. Again, his thoughts went back to when he first discovered that Johnny was missing. It niggled in his mind that he had over looked something – something important. Standing, he stretched and went to go upstairs.
“Mr. Scott?” Jennings stopped him at the bottom of the steps. “Alberta has a meal prepared for you. You need to keep up your strength for your search.”
Scott smiled weakly. “You’re right, of course.” The older man put a comforting hand on Scott’s shoulder and led him to the dining room where Alberta had prepared a small repast. “Tell me, did you actually see Johnny when he came in last night?”
“No, Sir. Mr. Garrett had told us that we were no longer needed so we went to bed. A few minutes later – I think that was when we heard your brother come in.”
“Did he say anything?”
Jennings thought for a moment. “Well, no sir. We heard Mr. Garrett talking to him as they went up the stairs. They went straight to Mr. Johnny’s room…. Is there something wrong?”
Scott, who had only taken a few bites of his food, stopped as if hit by lightning. “I need to check Johnny’s room.” Dashing from the table, he went up the stairs two at a time. Johnny’s room had been straightened up – the bed made and the clothing hung in the wardrobe. Jennings, who had followed Scott up the stairs, watched in dismay as the young man began to tear through the neatly hung clothes. Finally he stopped and stood still.
“Mr. Scott?” Jennings asked cautiously.
Scott Lancer stood in numbed silence. It had been right in front of him the entire time. The tuxedo that Johnny had worn to the reception was nowhere to be found. The clothing that his brother would have chosen to wear – his ranch clothes – were still hanging neatly in the closet along with his work boots. His mind raced. If Johnny had come home from the reception, there was no way that he would have gotten ready for bed and then put the dreaded tuxedo back on to go out for a walk. The next question was why had his grandfather lied?
“Mr. Scott?” Jennings asked again entering the room. “Is there anything I can help you with?”
A lump formed in Scott’s throat and he swallowed hard before speaking. “Where is my grandfather?”
“Mr. Garrett? Why, he went to his office. I expect him home almost anytime….” The older man was obviously confused as to why Scott would suddenly need to know where his grandfather was.
“Tell me again. Did you actually see Johnny last night?” Scott’s eyes were closed and his voice came across cold and hard.
“Not with my own eyes – no.”
“Did you hear Johnny last night?”
Jennings paused for a moment. “I heard Mr. Garrett speaking like he was talking to someone; I just assumed that he was speaking to your brother…” The words stopped as Scott brushed past him and raced down the stairs. “Mr. Scott, where are you going?”
“I’m going to find my brother!” Throwing open the front door he ran out into the early evening. He hoped that the door stayed open and that all of the hot air in the house would escape – like he wanted to escape from the terrible thought that clouded his mind: his grandfather was involved in Johnny’s disappearance! Just the thought of such complicity shook Scott’s foundation. He now felt as if he was in a race against time to find Johnny. His grandfather was a powerful man with many connections. He was afraid that if Harlan Garrett had wanted Johnny Madrid Lancer to disappear, that he would never see his brother again!
Trevor Hawthorne waited until 4 o’clock to return to Garrett Enterprises. He was not surprised to find that Harlan Garrett was in a meeting and unable to receive him. Instead, the older man had left a simple note for the reporter:
Johnny is at the fraternity house in Cambridge. I believe him to be hidden in the basement.
He ran from the building, crumpling the note into his overcoat pocket. If he was going to rescue Johnny, he would need help. Walking quickly, he went to Joshua’s office only to find that he had left for the day to prepare for the wedding rehearsal. The reporter had completely forgotten about the grand event scheduled for the following day. Remembering the plans of the bridal party, he went directly to Andrea’s house.
Andrea was preparing to go to the church for the rehearsal when Trevor found her. Impatiently he waited until she was able to separate herself from the rest of her entourage. “Andrea, where are Joshua and Nathan?”
“They are at the church where you should be!” She gently scolded tying to avoid the anguish in his eyes.
“I won’t be able to make it. I have found out where Johnny is. I’m on my way to bring him back…”
Andrea’s eyes opened wide in concern. “What about Reggie? Aren’t you worried that he might come after you if you cross him?”
“That is a risk that I will have to take. I have to make right the terrible wrong that we made. Have you seen Scott?”
“Yes, he’s worrying himself sick over Johnny’s disappearance….” She bit her lip and chose her next words carefully. “I know now that we were wrong about Johnny, but maybe it would be best if we just let Reggie complete his plan and let Scott get on with his life. You saw Reggie last night,” She spoke in a soft but fierce tone. “I think he’s crazy!”
Trevor shook his head in disbelief. “I’ve spoken with Scott. He loves Johnny. If Johnny were to just disappear forever I don’t believe that Scott would ever forgive himself. I know that I won’t forgive myself – not if I don’t try to stop this madness.”
Andrea turned away remembering the dark circles and haunted look on Scott’s face. It had shaken her to see him in such a state. It was like when he had returned home from Libby Prison – only worse. The men he had watched suffer were close friends. He was now worried about a brother – someone he loved. But, the danger for the rest of them was just as real as Reggie possibly killing Johnny. Her mind in a turmoil, she turned back and faced Trevor. “Where is he?”
“At the fraternity house…”
“How do you know?”
Trevor hesitated to share what he knew about Harlan Garrett. If anyone was to pay for crossing the old man, he would be the only one. “Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
She caught his sleeve as he turned to leave. “When will you be back?”
“As soon as I have freed Johnny.” He paused for a moment. “If I don’t return by noon tomorrow, tell Scott where I have gone.”
Evening was falling as Trevor made his way to Cambridge and to Harvard University. The air had turned cold; a brisk breeze blew dried leaves across the road adding to his edginess. In his haste to get to Johnny, Trevor had ridden a horse. He also carried the small derringer that he used when he was investigating stories in the less savory areas of Boston. As his horse raced along he began to think about what he would do if he ran into Reggie. Resolving to himself that Johnny was more important than his own fears he urged his mount to move faster.
The horse was lathered and breathing hard by the time they arrived at Harvard. Trevor quickly dismounted and ran up the stairs to the darkened house. The front door was unlocked. Cautiously he entered. “Mrs. O’Malley?” Puzzled by the lack of response and the complete darkness of the building he found a lamp on the foyer table and lit it. It was unusual for the normally active building to be completely unoccupied. He then remembered that this was the weekend for the annual retreat for new pledges. But, that didn’t explain where the housemother was. He could only pray that she had not fallen victim to whatever plans Reggie had for Johnny.
It was unnerving for the building to be so quiet and more than once his resolve threatened to leave him. Making his way through the dining room to the kitchen he found the door to the basement unlocked as usual. Putting down the fancy lamp, he found a small lantern to light his way through the lower chambers of the building.
A chill ran up his spine as he descended the stairs and was assaulted by the cold dampness of the cellar. He remembered that Reggie had recently had a storage area built in the basement. Making his way through the darkness, he found a new wooden wall. Without a second thought to his own safety, he opened the door and rushed in. His vision was immediately assaulted by the sight of the beaten and bloody body of Johnny Lancer hanging from a beam – his arms stretched above his head.
“Oh, God!” He swore placing the lantern down and rushing to aid the injured man. “Johnny!” He looked for something to use to cut the abused man down from where he hung. On the floor, he spotted Johnny’s discarded boot knife – blood still staining its blade. Grabbing the knife, he held Johnny securely with his left arm as he reached overhead with the knife and cut the thick rope. Johnny immediately slumped into his arms. Staggering under the dead weight, it was all that the reporter could do not to drop the unconscious man on the floor.
As gently as he could, he laid Johnny on his back, taking his topcoat off – placing it over the beaten man. With shaky hands he removed the gag and felt for a pulse at Johnny’s neck. Trevor sighed in relief as his trembling fingers detected the faint beats of Johnny’s heart. He proceeded to cut loose the remaining ropes and tried to rouse the injured man. “Johnny, Johnny…” He softly called aloud as he damned himself for letting such a brutal attack happen. After many long moments he was gratified as Johnny moaned and his eyes fluttered.
“Scott…” Johnny scarcely whispered.
“No, it’s Trevor. Thank God you’re alive…”
“No – you can thank me.” Reggie Pierce stepped out of the darkness and into the lantern’s light.
Trevor was startled, but quickly recovered. “Thank you?” he spat. “You had no right to do this!”
“I have the God given right to do this! He is a lesser being.”
“He is a man!” Trevor moved protectively between Johnny and his demented friend.
Reggie responded with a smile. “He is a dead man.”
“And if I choose to stop you?”
“Then you’ll be a dead man too.”
From his pocket, Trevor pulled out the single shot derringer. Reggie laughed as he pulled a .45 ca. revolver from behind his back. Trevor stepped back in horror realizing that he was outgunned. “You can’t do this – we’re ‘brothers’…”
“If you were my ‘brother’ you wouldn’t have come and you wouldn’t be trying to stop me.” Reggie advanced on the reporter.
“People know where I am…”
“Who did you tell – our ‘brothers’? They’re sniveling weaklings. They will never defy me.”
“Mr. Garrett knows I’ve come to get Johnny….”
“Who do you think set this up?” Reggie moved closer. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be. I can be quick”
The coldness of the dirt floor awakened Johnny Lancer like being hit with a bucket of ice water. His senses were afire with the agony of blood returning to his arms and hands. It hurt to breathe as broken ribs pressed against his lungs. His left leg throbbed as his fingers touched the sticky blood that had glued his pants to the wound. He recognized the signs of a fever that burned in his body and in his mind. It took several moments for him to realize that he was no longer alone in his confined space. There were voices arguing and he strained to listen. Instantly he recognized his tormentor’s voice, but the other one, he thought he knew it, but could not place it. Listening, he could hear how the other man was pleading with Pierce.
Opening his eyes, he looked up to see Trevor Hawthorne being backed into a corner by Pierce who was now close to Johnny. Unable to move his arms, he moaned as he kicked out with his right leg causing Reggie to trip and drop his gun. “Run!” Johnny rasped hoping that Hawthorne would go for help.
Pierce fell hard and was immediately infuriated by Johnny’s interference. Grabbing the ever present Bowie Knife, he plunged it into injured man’s side. “Die half-breed!” Johnny cried out and then lay still. Reggie removed the bloody blade and looked at the pale features of his prisoner. He had hoped for a more fitting end, but the half-breed had spoiled it.
“No!” Trevor had looked on in horror, frozen by the cruelness of a man that he had considered a friend. The derringer was now held out in front of him like a shield. “This ends now!” With shaking hands he fired the tiny weapon, only to miss his target – the shot lodging in the stone foundation.
Pierce stood, snorting at the inept aim of his friend. Slowly he moved toward Trevor armed only with the bloody knife. “This does end now!” With practiced speed he threw the knife – the sharp blade, lodging in a space between the reporter’s ribs – imbedding to the hilt.
Stunned by the sudden searing pain in his chest, Trevor looked down and saw his own blood as it flowed from his body. The reporter tensed and looked at his one time friend, his mouth moving, but emitting no sound. His lips formed one word: “Why?” before falling to the floor next to Johnny.
“Why not?” Reggie paused before removing the knife from his friend’s chest. He now had two bodies to dispose of. Surveying the room, he smiled with satisfaction. The half-breed was dead. Hawthorne had betrayed his oath to the fraternity and deserved what he had gotten. His only regret was that he had finished Johnny off so quickly. He had wanted to prolong the half-breed’s demise – but he did what had to be done. Tomorrow he would worry about disposing of the bodies. Tonight, he would celebrate a job well done. Before leaving, he securely locked the room and made his way up to the kitchen where he locked the basement door – taking the key with him. It wouldn’t do for any of the regular residents to return unexpectedly from their weekend and find his uncompleted ‘project’.
After leaving his grandfather’s house, Scott Lancer headed to the offices of Garrett Enterprises. Scott’s mind burned with the knowledge that his grandfather had a hand in the disappearance of his brother. Harlan may not have done the deed, but he certainly knew more than he had indicated. But, until he knew the entire story, there would be no confrontation – not unless Johnny never turned up. The slender man swallowed hard not wanting to think of that dire possibility. Harlan Garrett had diversified holdings throughout the Boston area – many of them ideal locations for hiding a man. What scared Scott most was the thought that Johnny may have been packed away on one of the many ships his Grandfather contracted with to move goods throughout the world.
Garrett Enterprises was closed by the time Scott arrived. As a young boy, he had discovered the means to get into the offices through an old basement window located in the narrow alley behind the building. It had been his way of trying to be near his grandfather when the older man was too busy for him. He would play in the unused furniture, pretending to be an important merchant – like his grandfather – ordering his employees about and making lots of money, ‘and being totally alone’, Scott thought shaking his head from the memory.
Luck was smiling on him when he discovered that window well remained unsecured. Quickly he climbed down, and levered the window so he could slip inside. Not much had changed in the basement, there were more boxes of paper, but basically he could make his way through the maze of files and furniture to the stairway that led to the main floor of the building. His grandfather’s office was on the second floor. In the shadowed light of the autumn sunset, he went upstairs to his grandfather’s office. Once inside he closed the heavy drapes before lighting the lamp that sat on the edge of the desk.
He had worked for his grandfather between semesters at Harvard and knew that the old man kept his ledgers of cargo manifests in his desk. To his surprise the desk was locked. Grabbing a letter opener, he forced the lock and searched through the papers in the large file drawer. There he found the two ledgers he sought. The first was the register of vessels that were scheduled to leave Boston for the month. His heart sank when he saw that one vessel had already departed the seaport earlier this day! The destination was England. Furiously he thought that if he didn’t find Johnny in the next two days he would book passage for England and follow the ship’s course.
In another ledger, he found a listing of warehouses and properties that Harlan owned throughout the Boston area. Scott was shocked at how much the old man’s operations had grown in months he had been gone. He realized that he would need help in his search and wondered where his ‘brothers’ were. The only one who had offered to help in the search was Trevor, but even he had managed to disappear.
Tearing the pages from the ledgers he tucked them into his jacket pocket. He was on his own. The open ledgers were left on the top of Harlan’s desk. He made no effort to disguise the theft. If the old man had stolen his brother – what would it matter that he stole a few meaningless pieces of paper?
Murdoch Lancer arrived in Boston later that night. Jim Davis met him at the station. “Murdoch!” Jim called greeting his old friend. “When I invited you to Boston a few months ago – I didn’t dream that you would be coming so soon. Do you have any baggage?”
“No, speed was more important than clothing,” Murdoch held up a small satchel that Teresa had hastily packed for him. “I’m traveling light…”
Jim smiled in understanding. “You don’t want the boy’s to know you’re here?”
“Something like that.” The two men quickly made their way through the virtually vacant station to Jim’s waiting carriage. Once settled, Murdoch turned anxiously to his friend. “Have you seen them? How’s Johnny? I read in the paper that he was injured…”
“Yes. I made a discrete inquiry at the hospital. He was treated for a concussion and dislocated shoulder…”
“You’re sure it wasn’t more than that?”
Jim frowned trying to remember what he had read and heard about the incident. “I don’t believe so. Is there something I need to know?”
Murdoch sighed, sinking back in the cushioned seat; he decided to confide his fears to his old friend. “I’ve never had this feeling of dread before – not since the boys came to the ranch. It’s like this feeling that something is terribly wrong…”
“I know the feeling. It’s the same one I had when Melissa wrote to me from that miner’s camp. Thank God your son’s were able to bring her home…”
“How is she doing?” Murdoch asked trying to remember his manners.
Jim smiled. “Fine, just fine. You were right. I got a letter from her last week. She had a nice visit with her aunt and will be returning to Boston next month.” Jim paused, thinking of what more he could tell his exhausted friend. “They had a reception for Johnny last night at City Hall!”
“A reception for Johnny?”
“It was one of the grand events of the social season. The Mayor threw out all of the stops to celebrate Johnny’s saving those school children. I saved a copy of today’s paper for you. There’s a photograph of him and the Mayor on the front page.”
Murdoch smiled thinking of his youngest hobnobbing with the elite of Boston. “Did you go?”
“No. I was tied up in a business meeting of my own. But, my partner went. He said that Johnny had apparently left early – something about his head hurting…”
“His head?” Murdoch’s mind raced remembering the cautions the doctor had given his youngest son about re-injuring his head and loosing his eyesight again. “Has anyone seen him today?”
“Well,” Jim bit his lip. “There could be a reason for concern. My houseman heard that Scott was out all day looking for Johnny…” Murdoch slapped his leg and swore. “Murdoch, we don’t know that there is anything wrong…”
“Don’t you? My son may be missing! We’ve got to go to Garrett’s and find out what is going on…”
“Murdoch, it could be a simple misunderstanding. Johnny could be playing a trick on his brother. Listen, why don’t we go to my home, I’ll send my man around to make some discrete inquiries in the morning. If he find’s anything wrong he’ll let us know. If everything’s OK, then you’ve worried for nothing.”
Murdoch considered the words and reluctantly agreed. He didn’t want to give the boys the impression that he didn’t trust them – they were grown men after all. But, somehow he couldn’t shake the feeling of foreboding that had followed him from the day the two of them had left for Boston.
Reginald Pierce made a late appearance at the Armstrong residence. The rehearsal dinner was over. The men had excused themselves from the women and were now playing billiards. He had changed into a clean suit before making his entrance. Trevor and Joshua excused themselves and guided Reggie to the library where they quickly closed the doors.
“Where have you been?” hissed Joshua.
“Attending to business…”
“Is it done?” Nathan asked in a voice filled with dread.
“Done. All that is left to do is the burying….”
“Oh, for God’s sake!” Joshua placed a hand over his heart and sat heavily behind his father’s desk. “How much longer is this going to take?”
Reggie paused to pour himself a snifter of brandy, swirling the brown liquid in the glass while two men before him began to perspire waiting for the answer. “It will be my wedding present to you and Andrea.”
Joshua paled at the response. “Tomorrow is to be the happiest day of my life. Why do I feel as if you have just placed a nail in my coffin?”
A smile played on Reggie’s lips as he considered his spineless friend. “I promise, Johnny Madrid will never be found.” He paused to take a sip of the brandy before casually asking “Have you seen Trevor today?”
“No.” Nathan had poured himself a glass of brandy and swallowed the entire contents in one gulp. “I haven’t seen him or Scott.”
“Andrea said that Trevor stopped by her house before she left for the church. She said he was working on a story and would not make the rehearsal – but he was sure to be at the church tomorrow for the ceremony.” Joshua considered his friend remembering how upset Trevor was the night before. “Have you seen him?”
“After last night, I got the impression that Trevor would rather be dead than associate with me!” Reggie laughed and finished his brandy. “And what of Scott? Have you seen him?”
“No. Andrea stopped by Mr. Garrett’s this afternoon to see him. She said that he was quite upset over Johnny’s disappearance.”
“And what did she tell him?”
Joshua exchanged a concerned look with Nathan. “Nothing! She said that she expressed her concern, but that was all.”
Reggie put his glass down and considered his friends. “Gentlemen, let me reiterate my position. If you attempt to interfere with me you will join Mr. Madrid in hell. The same goes for Andrea. Am I making myself clear on this?” One look at his wide eyed friends and Reggie knew the answer. “Good, now that we have that clearly understood – when are you going to speak with Scott?”
“That is my job.” Nathan said nervously. “I’ll find him after the ceremony tomorrow….”
“Good, good.” Reggie headed to the door. “I’m going to give my regards to the bride.”
Joshua stood, not liking the threat that edged Reggie’s words. “Leave her be! She has nothing to do with this….”
“I just want to make sure that we all have the same understanding.” He smiled and exited the room.
Nathan and Joshua’s eyes locked for a long moment. They both realized that they were in way over their heads. “You don’t think he’s going to do anything to her do you?” Joshua asked in a whispered voice.
“Not if she hasn’t done anything to upset him.”
Reggie stood at the entrance of the Armstrong formal living room and beckoned Andrea to come to speak with him. The bride froze at the sight of Pierce; her heart thumping in her chest. She paled as she stood to see what he wanted.
“I won’t hold her from you long,” he reassured the other ladies as he took her by the arm to the vestibule. “I understand that you spoke with Trevor?”
Her eyes grew wide as she quickly tried to remember the fiction she had told to Joshua. “He said that he was working on a story, but that he will be at the wedding tomorrow evening….”
“And he said nothing about where he was going?”
“No!” She responded almost too quickly. “I mean, what do I care where he was going. I’m in the middle of planning my wedding!” From deep inside, she pulled on the mask of a Boston debutante. “Really, I have no time to keep track of Trevor Hawthorne!”
She turned to leave when Reggie grasped her arm and pulled her back. “And what did you tell Scott Lancer?”
“Nothing!” She spat. “He is worried sick over his brother. Well, I say good riddance to Mr. Johnny Madrid – especially if Scott decides to stay in Boston!”
Reggie smiled at her words. Perhaps she was his ally. “Alright then, as long as we have an understanding. You don’t meddle in my plans and I won’t ruin your day tomorrow.”
Andrea blanched at his words, and nodded her head in understanding. He bent and kissed her hand. “I bid you adieu.”
As soon as he was out of the house and the door secured she wiped her hand on her gown thinking that her skin would never come clean again. When they had first decided to intervene on Scott’s behalf, she had found herself drawn the charismatic Pierce. But since those first days he had changed. She now found him revolting. She was left to wonder about her own morals. Smoothing her skirts, she returned to her friends – trying desperately to find a way out of this terrible situation.
In the basement of the Omega Alpha Pi Fraternity house a young man stirred. His chest was filled with a great agony. His breaths came in short pants as he tried to fill his lungs with precious air. Opening his eyes, he could only see darkness. With a sigh he sank back relieved that Pierce was gone – for now. He was cold and his body shivered involuntarily trying to warm itself. Briefly the man wondered how much of the cold and blood loss he could endure before his body finally gave up and he died. Death was not an option that he wanted to explore, but it was a real possibility. Suddenly he remembered that he may not be alone. There was Pierce’s other victim who also needed help.
“Are you here?” He rasped repeatedly until finally, he was rewarded by the sound of a low moan to his right. With great effort he rolled to his stomach and began to crawl along the floor until he came upon the other. “You’re not alone,” he murmured as he lay next to the other man hoping that together their bodies would provide enough warmth to keep them alive until help arrived.
END Part 1
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