Word count 2,976
Disclaimer: The characters don’t belong to me. Never have, never will.
Teresa O’Brien retired to her room after witnessing another emotional conflict among the Lancers. Finding comfort in writing, Teresa removed her journal from her desk and proceeded to put her thoughts on paper.
Things had been so calm around here these last few months. I should have known it wouldn’t last. Today seemed like it would be another peaceful day. But then the trouble started right after supper.
Murdoch, who works way too hard, just had to review some contracts that didn’t need to be signed until later this week. He was looking through some files in his bottom drawer when he discovered the Pinkerton report on Johnny Madrid was missing. Oh Diary, the scene that followed was awful.
Murdoch immediately confronted Johnny. Johnny said he didn’t know where it was and then, Murdoch practically called him a liar. Johnny responded with bitter accusations of his own. I could only sit there and watch as two people I love tore each other apart.
I guess Scott was upset too because he told them to stop and let him say something. Nobody was more surprised than I was when he confessed to taking the report. He said he came across it one day and didn’t think it right for Johnny’s life to be detailed in a report for Murdoch to examine whenever he felt like it. There weren’t reports on Murdoch or himself for Johnny’s review so he decided to throw the report in the fire. Scott explained this placed them all on equal footing.
I couldn’t believe Murdoch accepted that Scott would do such a thing. To me, it seemed obvious he just confessing to stop Murdoch and Johnny from fighting. However it all worked out in the end. After Scott’s “revelation”, the three men talked things over and peace was restored. Thank Goodness! I couldn’t take it if this thing had come between them forever.
Teresa reread her last entry and then returned the book to her desk. Before closing the drawer, she removed a small advertisement. For a few seconds, she forgot the day’s unpleasantness. She only needed fifty more dollars and the sewing machine depicted on the paper would be hers.
Setting the advertisement aside, Teresa reached for a sheet of plain white paper and wrote a letter.
Enclosed is my latest manuscript. It is entitled “The Execution of Jimmy Barcelona” and details Jimmy’s efforts to help peasants in Mexico and his subsequent capture by the Rurales. At present, I plan for this to be the last in the series. Please mail your payment to the same address as before.
Teresa got up and walked to her bed. From under the mattress, she pulled two bundles of papers. The first group she put in an envelope with the letter and laid it on the desk to be addressed later. How fortunate that publishing company’s ad was on the other side of the sewing machine ad! Otherwise she would never had earned enough to buy one herself. All the Lancers ever did with extra money was invest in the ranch. In Teresa’s opinion, there was enough bull here already.
The second group posed a problem. If only Murdoch hadn’t decided to work on those blasted contracts! She could have returned the report before dawn and no one would have been the wiser. Now thanks to Scott’s noble gesture, she really had no choice. Walking to the small potbelly stove, she opened the door and threw the papers into the fire.
The Next Day
Scott Lancer had not slept well. The previous night’s argument troubled him. He hated lying to Murdoch but he was tired of watching his father and brother fight. It took so little for either of their tempers to flare up. So in the interest of peace, he’d lied. Besides he could pretty well guess what happened. Johnny probably was working at the desk one day and came across the Pinkerton report. He read it and in the heat of anger, destroyed it.
If that was the way it happened, Scott could understand and readily forgive. And even though Murdoch was angry with him at first, it was just a little inconvenience compared to what would have happened if he hadn’t interceded for Johnny. One would think Johnny would have shown some appreciation but even after Murdoch and Teresa had retired, Johnny acted as if he hadn’t taken the report. While Johnny’s ingratitude rankled, Scott decided that the best thing would be to try to forget the whole ordeal.
Six Months Later
“It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it,” thought Scott gleefully as he stood on a pier in San Francisco watching the ships come in. Scott was in town handling ranch business for Murdoch who was laid up with a bad back. Although sympathetic to his father’s misery, he was delighted to have the chance to visit the city by the bay.
With business completed, Scott took some time for himself. Standing here, he remembered boyhood dreams of exploring the South Pacific, visiting exotic places – China, Australia, the Sandwich Islands, Japan. “I guess I might as well say sayonara to those dreams. I found my true destiny at Lancer,” reflected Scott. Thoughts of home sent him hurrying away from the wharf. He was leaving this evening on the seven o’clock train and still had one more errand to run.
Once he was back on the streets of San Francisco, Scott hailed a hansom cab and instructed to the driver to take him to Shedds & Fine Bookstore at the corner of Yankton and Honegger. A trip to the city wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its most famous booksellers.
For over two hours, Scott roamed the long aisles of books perusing anything that seemed interesting. For himself, he picked out three of the latest novels, a book on psychology and another on architecture. Deciding to pick up presents for his family, he got a book of Greek Myths for Murdoch and two ladies periodicals for Teresa. That only left Johnny.
Laying the items chosen so far on the counter, Scott asked the clerk where the penny dreadfuls were kept. With a supercilious smile, the clerk gave Scott the directions to an area in the back of the store. Fighting the urge to explain the books were for his younger brother, Scott politely thanked the man and made his way to the section indicated.
Scott hurried down the aisles trying to remember the titles of the books he had seen Johnny read. He had even tried to read a few himself but found them to be repetitive. Now he wondered if he would be able to recognize one from another.
His question was answered when he rounded the corner and saw a huge display for “The Execution of Jimmy Barcelona” by Terence Bryant. For a moment, he was dumbstruck. Then the humor of the situation hit him.
“Why that sly girl. So that’s how she got enough money for her sewing machine. I can’t condone her stealing the report but it sure took some guts.”
Chuckling, Scott approached the display. He was amazed to discover five other Jimmy Barcelona books on the table with what was obviously the last of the series. Forgetting Johnny, Scott gathered copies of all six novels. He couldn’t wait to read them.
Nearby, a young clerk noticed Scott’s interest. “Good choice, sir. They’re the best I’ve ever read.”
Scott turned to the young man. “Excuse me?”
“The Jimmy Barcelona books, sir. I saw you picking them up. I think you will really like them,” replied the clerk enthusiastically.
Scott smiled at the clerk’s fervor. “I’m sure I will.”
As he started to walk away, the clerk called to him. “Sir. Don’t you want to get Mr. Bryant’s latest book?”
Scott raised his eyebrow. “Latest book? I would think an execution would make for a rather final ending.
“Oh no sir! Jimmy was saved at the last minute. Here’s the latest,” said the clerk holding the slim volume towards Scott.
Scott froze at the sight of the book’s one word title: LANDRY. Grabbing the book from astonished clerk, Scott flipped it over and read the publisher’s blurb.
Landry, the story of a wild land and the men and woman bent on taming it. Matlock Landry head of the family. He’ll do what it takes to hang on to what is his. Skip Landry, Matlock’s older son. An Eastern dandy, raised by his grandmother in Philadelphia, now facing a life for which he is unprepared. Jimmy Barcelona Landry, gunfighter. Dangerous and untamed as the land he was now a part of. Together with Matlock’s beautiful ward, Marisa and their faithful wrangler, Jams, this family comes together in a story you will never forget.
All color drained from Scott’s face as he read the back cover. No longer did he find the situation amusing. He was mad. Madder than he had ever been before. Teresa had some explaining to do.
The train pulled in the Green River station promptly at two in the afternoon. Scott swung himself from the passenger car and was halfway to the livery stable before the train even came to a stop.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Johnny and Teresa were enjoying the rare treat of a free afternoon. Having recovered from his back trouble, Murdoch was in a good mood and decided the two young people deserved a break. As for himself, the boredom from his recent confinement provided the incentive to go into town with Jelly for supplies.
Johnny and Teresa had settled at the table for a game of checkers when Johnny heard a horse galloping towards the house. The horse was being ridden hard which in Johnny’s experience usually meant trouble. Reaching for his gun, he headed through the French doors and out onto the veranda.
Relief battled with concern when Johnny saw the rider was his brother. Something must have upset Scott pretty bad for him to come tearing into the place like the devil himself was after him.
“Good to see ya, Boston. Couldn’t stand to be away from us any longer? Or do ya have a posse after ya?” Johnny asked trying to gauge Scott’s mood.
Without answering, Scott dismounted. He untied his valise from behind the saddle and handed the horse over to the care of a nearby hand. Only then did he acknowledge his brother’s presence.
“Johnny, where’s Teresa?”
“I’m right here. Welcome home, Scott!”
Both brothers turned to the young woman standing in the doorway. Johnny couldn’t help but notice how pretty she looked as she sweetly welcomed Scott. On the other hand, his brother looked anything but pleased by the charming picture she made.
Stalking pass Teresa, Scott entered the house and glanced around the room for any sign of Murdoch. Satisfied that his father wasn’t present, he walked to the table, opened his valise and threw the seven penny dreadfuls onto the table. Eyes glaring, he turned back to Teresa.
“Would you like to explain these?”
Teresa gasped at the sight of the books. With her face as white as a sheet, she sank into a chair.
Johnny joined the others at the table and inspected the books. “Jimmy Barcelona and the Reed County Range War, Jimmy Barcelona and the Gunfight at Nelson Corral, The Execution of Jim…”
“Johnny!” cried Scott. “I already know the titles. What I want to know is how could you, Teresa?”
Johnny saw Teresa shudder at Scott’s angry voice. Reading the silent plea in her eyes, Johnny tried to intervene on her behalf.
“Hey, Scott lighten up. What’s the big deal?”
Scott rolled his eyes at his younger brother. “Johnny, in case you haven’t figured it out, you’re Jimmy Barcelona!”
“Well yeah Scott. I kinda figured that out. I repeat, what’s the big deal?” drawled Johnny a little peeved with Scott’s treating him like a simpleton.
“What’s the big deal? First, she steals the Pinkerton report from our father’s desk. Then she exposes our lives to the whole world. The temerity! You may not mind but I refuse to stand idly by while Teresa makes fools of us all. Except of course for the lovely and talented and perfect in every way, Marisa O’Leary.”
While Scott was speaking, Johnny had been flipping through the book titled, Landry. Choking back a laugh, Johnny started reading aloud. “… Jimmy Barcelona, handsome as he was dangerous. Men feared him and women…”
“Maybe you find this amusing. but I don’t,” said Scott as he snatched the book away from his grinning brother. He turned to another passage which he read aloud to Johnny’s delight.
“Skip dreaded telling his grandmother of his decision to go west and meet his father. As expected, she did not take the news well.”
“Skippy, my boy. You can’t be serious. Your home is here in Philadelphia with me. Matlock Landry is no good. He stole my daughter and now he is trying to steal you, my most valuable legacy.”
Johnny couldn’t help but snicker at the segment Scott had chosen. Seeing how affronted his brother was, he adopted a conciliatory approach. “Yeah but Scott, she did include your military career. That counts for something, don’t it?”
“She described me as having a flowing blond mane and a fancy uniform. She made me sound like George Armstrong Custer! She… Wait a minute. How did you know she included that?” asked Scott suddenly suspicious.
Johnny opened his mouth but no words came forth. He cast an imploring look at Teresa and immediately saw no help was coming from that quarter. Before he could formulate a plausible story, Scott advanced upon him.
“You are part of this whole stinking mess.”
“Don’t well me, brother. Here I was feeling guilty over the fact that I had thought you had taken the report when really it was Teresa. Now I find the two of you are in cohoots.”
“She only borrowed the report. She always returned it when she finished a story. That last time was just bad luck. Murdoch went into the drawer a day early, you see.” Johnny explained with a disarming smile.
Scott expression did not soften. “And exactly, what was your part in all of this, Brother?”
“The report gave her the facts. She needed me to describe the sight, the sounds, the smells, what I felt as…”
“Save it, little brother. The two of you can explain it all to Murdoch.”
Teresa spoke for the first time. “Oh no, Scott! You wouldn’t be so cruel as to tell Murdoch, would you?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
Johnny grinned. “Well for one thing … six months ago ya stood in this very room and told Murdoch that ya took the report. Gave a real passionate speech. How are going to explain your lyin’ to him?”
Johnny could tell by the look of uncertainty on his brother’s face that he had not thought about that angle. He waited patiently for Scott to admit defeat.
“Okay. I’ll make a deal with you. I won’t tell Murdoch if you promise no more Jimmy Barcelona and/or Landry stories. Deal?”
Johnny and Teresa exchanged looks. Since neither of them had any desire for Murdoch to learn of the escapade, they had no choice but to agree. In unison, they replied half-heartedly, “Deal.”
Although not resolved to anyone’s complete satisfaction, Scott obviously considered the matter closed. Picking up his valise, he announced his attention of going to his room to catch up on the sleep they had cost him.
Sinking into the chair by Teresa, Johnny gathered the books into a nice neat pile. “We better put these somewhere safe. I gotta say though, they look real nice all printed up, don’t they?”
Teresa answered Johnny with a question of her own. “Yes. But what are we to do now? We can’t break our promise to Scott.”
Johnny thought for awhile. “You’re right. The only thing to do is to cancel Landry and start a new series.”
“But what?” asked Teresa plaintively
Johnny got up and started pacing in front of the fireplace deep in thought. “I got it. The main character can be a Marshall in a cattle town, like Dodge. What with drifters, cowboys, criminals of all types, we should be able to come up with plenty of stories.”
“So the focus would be his interaction with all these different people who pass through his town, especially with those who get in trouble with law. That’s a great idea.” Getting a writing tablet and pencil from Murdoch’s desk, Teresa began to write furiously.
Johnny clicked his fingers and stopped his pacing. “Wait. I’ve got a better idea. Instead of a Kansas Marshall, how about a San Francisco Police Chief.”
“Oh Johnny. Wonderful. And for a twist, he can be in a wheelchair,” said Teresa, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “And he could have a beautiful and smart female assistant named…”
“Nan. Nan Melton,” contributed Johnny.
Nodding her head, Teresa continued to scribble as the two friends spend the afternoon enjoying their favorite new and profitable pastime … writing fiction.
Note. In 1967, Wayne Maunder played the title role in the short-lived western, Custer. In 1971, Elizabeth Baur joined the cast of Ironside as Policewoman Fran Belding.
In parts 2 and 3, there are references (often vague) to 12 titles or roles related to James Stacy. If you can’t find them and want some help, just let me know.
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. You can do so using the ‘reply’ box below.
Sadly, we can’t pass the comment on to the author, as we don’t have a current email address. Don’t let that stop you commenting! If the author reconnects with the fandom in the future, she will see how much her work is appreciated.