Word Count 1,900
(Note: This was originally posted to the Yahoo Lancer_Writers group on January 10, 2013 for its Amnesty Challenge. For that challenge, I could choose from any of the past year’s monthly challenges. I hadn’t written a story for the June 2012 challenge, so I chose to use it as my inspiration. It called for stories that showed us the Lancers through a fresh point of view rather than from one of the main characters or an often used minor character. This story expands on a scene from the High Riders and is told from the viewpoint of the stagecoach driver. As you read, think of him as telling this to someone sometime after the ending of that episode.)
It was somewhere ’round the middle o’ April. I was ’bout to make my return run to Green River from the Willow Creek relay station fifteen miles the other side o’ Moro Coyo, which would be my first stop, or so I thought. Me and Willis Crowley, my shotgun rider, had et our lunch and was sittin’ on the porch havin’ a smoke whilst we waited for the southbound coach to arrive. It wasn’t due for a while yet.
As I recall, the stage rolled into the station a mite early, dust a swirlin’ when the team skidded to a halt. Jackson hopped down off the boot and grinned at me. He looked to be enjoyin’ some kind o’ joke. When he opened the door o’ the coach, I could see why. There was this duded-up feller tryin’ to put his self right.
I would o’ laughed if it weren’t for them two ladies. There be times Jackson don’t use the brains God gave a grasshopper. He had no call getting’ them all roughed up just so’s he could muss up some eastern dandy. I’d o’ told him so too, but Fancy Duds beat me to it. Not in them words, mind you.
It happened this a way. I stepped up and helped them ladies light down afore Jackson had a chance to make a fool o’ his self. Then the men folk climbed out. One seemed to be with the ladies and one was Father Miguel from Moro Coyo. None of ’em looked too happy, and they got their selves right into the station house.
Fancy Duds got out last. He dusted off that purdy suit o’ his with his gloves, got his mile-high hat perched just so on his head, and stood up tall like he was Ulysses S. Grant his self. Put me to mind o’ that know-it-all lieutenant I got out of a fix down Arizony way a few years afore I started drivin’ coach up here.
Anyhow, Fancy Duds lights into Jackson quicker’n you could spit. “My good man, have you no shred of regard for the safety of your passengers?” he asked. His nose was stuck in the air. “You can be assured that I shall report this incident to your superiors and recommend your immediate discharge. You could have killed us all.”
Jackson just grinned at him. Jackson never did know ‘nough to be scared o’ anythin’. “Wasn’t no danger, Mister Lancer,” he says right smug like.
“Lancer?” says I.
“That’s the name on the register,” Jackson answered. Then he looked at me all squinty eyed and says, “Why?”
I gave Fancy Duds a goin’ over with my eyes and wondered if he could be any kin o’ Murdoch Lancer’s. I looked at Jackson. “Ain’t ya ever heard that name b’fore?” I says.
Jackson shook his head. “Nope. That name s’posed to mean somethin’?”
I swear. Sometimes I think Jackson lives in one o’ them cocoons butterflies come out o’. Ever’body around these parts has heard o’ Murdoch Lancer, and I told him so afore I turned to look at Fancy Duds again. “You be any kin o’ his?” I asks. He’d heard me talkin’ to Jackson so he knew who I was meanin’.
“He’s my father, so I’m told,” says Fancy Duds Lancer. He didn’t sound none too proud o’ the fact, neither.
I was plumb befuzzled. The only boy o’ Lancer’s I’d heard about was half Mex and hadn’t been seen since his ma run off with him when he was just a tyke. There weren’t no way this feller was that boy. Fancy Duds had yeller hair.
You’d think Jackson’d learn to keep his yap shut. Don’t guess that’s in the cards, though. He just laughed and says, “What’s your old man? Some high-faluttin’ congressman that caters to all the rich snobs an’ swindles us poor honest folk?”
Fancy Duds didn’t so much as blink an eye afore he mashes Jackson’s nose flatter’n a toad run over by a team o’ horses. He rubbed the back o’ his hand and looked at me like he was askin’ if I wanted some o’ the same. I knowed better’n to mix in other folks bus’ness. I kept my trap shut, an’ he marched off to the station house like a soldier p’radin’ in front of a general.
The next I saw o’ Fancy Duds was after the team was swapped. Willis was already up in the box, and I hollered I was ready to roll. Whilst I held the door open, Fancy Duds helped the ladies into the front seat and set his self down across from ’em on the far side of the rear seat. Father Miguel got in next to him and the other man set his self down by the women folks.
I drove like I always do. Not too fast an’ not too slow. I done my best to stay out o’ the ruts an’ chuck holes. My ma taught me respect for women folk, an’ I never could see makin’ the trip no worse’’n need be for ’em. Could be why Jackson didn’t get no sorrow from me on account o’ his nose, even if Fancy Duds didn’t bloody it on their account.
We was ’bout ten mile out o’ Moro Coyo an’ makin’ fair time when Willis bumped my elbow an’ pointed his rifle at a feller climbin’ into the road. He had a saddle slung on his back. Must o’ lost his nag down the hill somewheres. There weren’t one with him I could see.
This feller steps out in the middle o’ the road. Mighty trustin’ o’ him to my way o’ thinkin’. Jackson would o’ run him down ‘thout a second thought. He wouldn’t stop for his own grandma if he thought it’d cost him a minute or two. Me? I ain’t no fool, but I believe in givin’ a feller the benefit o’ the doubt. I hauled on the lines.
“Goin’ to Moro Coyo?” this young feller asks. When I says I am, he asks if I minded givin’ him a lift.
He looked to be a Mex. Brought to mind one o’ them Dons I saw ’round Tucson when I was down that way. He was wearin’ them leather pants what button up the side o’ the legs an’ a short jacket with braidin’ ’round the edge. I’d seen right off he was packin’ iron, too. Wasn’t shoved in the band o’ his pants, neither. He had him a holster and it looked tied down to me. A feller name o’ Pardee and his gun hawks had been causin’ quite a stir ’round the country, so I figured I’d best take no chances. “I’ll take that gun,” I says and holds out my hand.
He stares at me real cold like. When his hand dropped to the butt o’ that side iron, I thought my heart was gunna stop even with Willis pointin’ his rifle at the feller.
Mex grinned and I let go o’ the air I was hangin’ onto. He hands me up his pistol, a right nice one, too, and gives his saddle to Willis. Then he climbs into the coach and I whip up the horses.
I felt kind o’ bad about startin’ out with such a jerk. He could hardly o’ got his self set. I didn’t do it to rough him up. I just wanted to get goin’ in case he had some pals lurkin’ out o’ sight.
My worries was for nothin’. We had us a quiet ride all the way to town. Moro Coyo was peaceful enough, too, that day. Good thing I had me a couple o’ days off when I finished up my run though, ’cause I heard Pardee’s bunch rode in the next mornin’.
Anyhow, I stops in the middle o’ town to let the folks out. While Mex is gettin’ his gear, Fancy Duds climbs out and stands there like he’s lookin’ for his pa to meet ‘im. That’s when I saw the O’Brien gal. She had a couple o’ the Lancer hands with her.
She comes over to the coach. “Mister Lancer?”” she says, soundin’ like she weren’t sure who she was lookin’ for.
Now, it wasn’t no s’prise when Fancy Duds says, “Yes.” But ya could o’ knocked me over with a feather when Mex answers her, too.
Guess she was s’prised as me, ’cause she asked who said that.
Both of ’em spoke up again.
She smiles and looks at Fancy Duds. “You must be Scott Lancer,” she says. Then she turns to Mex and says, “And you’re Johnny Lancer.” That sure made my mouth drop open.
Well, Mex stiffened up like he might be thinkin’ ’bout shootin’ Fancy Duds and says, “No, ma’am, he ain’t no Lancer. My momma only had herself one kid.”
“Likewise,” says Fancy Pants. He gives Mex a look fit to kill.
Miss O’Brien says they’re both right. It was Mister Lancer who had two.
“Two what?” says Fancy Duds, his voice hitchin’ up like a kid in Father Miguel’s choir tryin’ ta hit a high note.
“Wives . . . and sons,” says Miss O’Brien. She sure looked smug in settin’ them fellers straight.
Fancy Duds looked down his nose at Mex. I couldn’t see Mex’s face, but I’m sure I heard a snicker. Miss O’Brien just stood there a smilin’.
Now who would o’ guessed then two would be brothers, or I’d be the one to bring Murdoch Lancer’s sons home to him on the same trip, no less? Them boys don’t look nothin’ alike an’ they come from op’sit parts o’ the country. What’s the chances o’ them gettin’ there the same time? Gotta be less’n stayin’ dry in a Louisiany rainstorm.
That sure was a lucky day for folks here ’bouts, though. ‘Fore the week was out, Pardee an’ his land pirates was hist’ry. Turns out Fancy Duds was a lieutenant in the cavalry and right handy with a rifle. Mex weren’t no greenhorn with a shootin’ iron, neither. Not that it come as any s’prise to me. What made my knees go weak was was learnin’ later on that folks down ’round the border knowed him as Johnny Madrid.
Yep. That was some day. Who would o’ guessed I’d take the gun off o’ Madrid and live to tell it? Or have him sittin’ in my coach. Or that he’d be Lancer’s long lost son? Or that him an’ that dandy brother of his’d ever be pards. Guess my pappy was right. Wonders never do cease to happen.
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