Word count 591
The Julie episode left several questions unresolved. This is my answer to one of them. I originally wrote and posted it to the Lancer groups on Yahoo on or before April of 2006. In February of 2014, I made some minor revisions and added it to my folder in the files of the Lancer FanFiction group on Facebook.
A haze of dust swirled in front of the stage depot as the coach rocked to a halt. Relieved the bumpy ride had ended, Murdoch Lancer opened the door and stepped out. He tipped his hat to a young woman who was waiting to board, gave her a hand up, and turned to greet his two sons.
On of Murdoch’s sons asked how his trip had gone.
“A thousand head…they’ll be delivered in a week,” Murdoch said feeling smug about the deal he had made. The stage rumbled away and he noticed his younger son Johnny cast a fleeting glance toward the coach.
Murdoch asked if he sons had found something to occupy their time. Johnny’s “no” was confirmed by a firm “no, nothing,” from his elder brother Scott. Murdoch, however, wasn’t quite convinced that the young men were being truthful, and he voiced his doubts.
“No, Murdoch,” Johnny said, stepping off the porch. “We just watched the dust settle.”
Murdoch laughed and followed his sons toward the horses that were tied to a hitching rail in front of another building a short ways away. As he drew near, he recognized two of the horses but the other one wasn’t familiar.
Johnny Lancer reached for the reins of the strange horse.
Murdoch frowned. “Where’s Barranca?”
“He . . . threw a shoe.”
“Oh?” Murdoch’s brows arched. Why had Johnny hesitated like he was searching for an answer?
Johnny looked away. “Yeah. I . . . thought I’d ride out a ways with you and Scott and then come back and get him.”
“No need to do that,” Murdoch said. “We can wait until he’s ready to go.”
“Uh, well, actually . . . he’s not here. I left him a ways out of town. He was limping, so I thought I’d give him another day before I headed home.”
Noting that Johnny still seemed hesitant, Murdoch wondered what his son was reluctant to tell. A glance at Scott revealed nothing. Face hidden from view, that young man was busily checking his cinch.
Murdoch opened his mouth to question his younger son. At that moment, a wagon rattled past and stopped on the far side of the street. There was no mistaking that the palomino tethered to the tail board was Barranca. The Lancer L on the animal’s hip was clearly visible.
“Looks like you won’t have to go after your horse.” Murdoch jabbed a thumb toward Barranca while watching Johnny’s face.
Johnny stretched upward, his eyes seeming to follow the movement of Murdoch’s hand. His lower jaw sagged. Then his mouth snapped closed. “Guess I won’t,” he said and grinned as though he had been caught with his hand in Teresa’s cookie jar.
Curiosity demanded answers, but Murdoch refused to speak his thoughts. He simply tightened his cinch, climbed into his saddle, and waited for Johnny to collect Barranca. Whatever activities of the past two days his sons had chosen to keep from him couldn’t be of too much significance. Neither was hurt or in jail. That was all that mattered. The rest was in the past and nothing could be done about it anyway.
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