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His Moral Fiber by Patti H.

Usual Disclaimers Apply 
Howdy y’all…here’s my first Lancer story…I love reading all the brilliant Lancer fan fiction on the Yahoo Groups and Karen’s site and decided to give it a whirl myself.  It has been grand fun for me to “play with the Lancer boys”, especially Johnny <VBG!>…so I reckon I’ll be doin’ it again!  No beta…as I channeled my inner maverick for inspiration (that bein’ Johnny Madrid as my muse tellin’ me his story) – hope y’all enjoy! 

Summary:  Johnny ventured into Morro Coyo to join old friends for an evening of merriment…. 
Rated:  NC17 for language that Johnny told me to use, since they came outta his mouth.

Word count: 16,233

Chapter One

Johnny sat alone focusing his attention on the drink in front of him, untouched since Ray; the barkeep of the Painted Lady saloon in Spanish Wells had poured him a two-finger shot of tequila, leaving the bottle on the table at Johnny gruff command to “leave it”. In his head he replayed the words “where the hell is your moral fiber?” roared by his father, Murdoch Lancer at him earlier that Sunday morning, amongst other things. This was yet one more heated row between father and son in a long line of disagreements; this time was over his latest escapade in Morro Coyo that would cost more than just dollars to put right, of this Johnny was certain as he pondered things.

To Murdoch’s way of thinking Johnny’s conduct had sacrificed the Lancer family’s dignity and reputation as one of the leading civic-minded families in the San Joaquin Valley. Johnny sighed when he recalled that his father didn’t even know the entire circumstances. No, Murdoch had not been pleased with his youngest son, which he made unmistakably clear upon the family’s return from church services that Johnny hadn’t attended since he was nowhere to be found when they departed for town. Johnny thought that if Murdoch was furious before…he wasn’t goin’ be any too pleased later on when everything was out in the open.

Johnny had deliberately ridden back to the ranch only after his family had left for Morro Coyo, having spent the night nearby in a secluded grove of trees by his and Scott’s favorite swimmin’ hole. The boys liked the spot so much, they had set-up the area for their own special usage by building a fire pit and storing in a hallowed out tree truck in water-tight tarps cooking utensils, plates, mugs, a coffee pot and a frying pan for nights when they wanted to either be out late or perhaps not return home until their night’s fun had worn off. Also secured in their “hidey-hole” was a shaving kit for unexpected overnights such as the previous night. Coffee grounds, extra clothes, and a few other necessities were normally planned for in advance and brought along when it suited either brother. The campsite had served both brothers several times in recent months. Murdoch was to their knowledge none the wiser on those nights they stayed there rather than chance waking him up by returning home late from one of their nocturnal ventures into town.

This morning however, Murdoch began roaring for Johnny before the surrey had come to a complete stop in front of the hacienda when he spotted Barranca tied to the hitching post. Johnny had been in a deep sleep; on the sofa in the Great Room where he collapsed when his exhaustion had overtaken him. Despite his unconscious condition, he was instantly jolted wide awake from his slumbers and jumped to his feet when his father’s thunderous tune was bellowed from the front door reaching into the Great Room. He caught several deafening words including “damages, money, moral fiber”, as Murdoch spied his quarry and ordered him to “stay right where you are young man!”

Up until that moment Johnny had thought his “moral fiber” was just fine and dandy. He said to himself, “Hell’s bells, at least I hadn’t pulled my damn gun and shot my old man….yet. That should count for something….sure would fix him and shocked the shit outta Scott and Teresa,” he sighed deeply as he continued to gaze at his untouched drink. “Dios! Johnny Madrid might have done that back in the day but no not Johnny Lancer, son of the great, noble and loud Murdoch Lancer,” he said to no one there, again sighing deeply. “Now that wouldn’t have been showin’ my “moral fiber” had I done that. Guess this is how it feels to care about someone else enough to not want to blow their foolish head off when they’re shoutin’ at ya something fierce. And old Murdoch don’t even know everything there is to know about me and Morro Coyo, he said with a cock-eyed grin to himself. “He’s goin’ be mad – when he finds, no doubt about it.”

Even Scott had not been able to perform his usual role as peace-maker between father and son and instead could only watch as his brother had angrily stomped out of the hacienda, spurs jingle-jangling loudly with each boot thump as he strapped on his gun belt. Scott visibly cringed as his brother shouting at Murdoch where he could put his “fuckin’ moral fiber.” Scott shook his head in disbelief upon hearing the words “where the fuckin’ sun don’t fuckin’ shine” as Johnny slammed the heavy oak door behind him and vaulted into his saddle onto Barranca. Scott watched him riding hell bent for leather down the dusty lane, racing out under the Lancer archway, in another act of pure defiance to their father’s directives, thinking to himself, “Well little brother, there will be hell to pay this time.”

Scott knew that as long as Johnny had his hot-blooded “mad” flowing through his veins there would be no reasoning with him. “Better he ride that temper out of his system, maybe he’ll listen to reason later,” he said to Murdoch who was watching Johnny gallop away as fast as Barranca could go from his position by the French windows.

“Scott, your brother has gone too far this time. We’ll not be able to show our faces in Morro Coyo, not even for supplies until this blows over,” said Murdoch as he threw a stack of bills down across his desk. “Just look what his Saturday in town with those so called friends of his cost us, and I’m not talking about just the money. I’m talking about maintaining one’s self-respect, their dignity and their honor.”

“Murdoch since when was it more important to you what the townspeople thought than your own son? You didn’t even give him a chance to explain what happened. For all you know he didn’t start the mêlée. At least you should have heard him out instead of wondering what was going on in the minds of those small-town busy bodies, who were more than pleased to whisper to each other and point at us in church,” said Scott as he picked up the receipts to review them. “I thought you to be more evenhanded than that,” he added. “Or is it just with Johnny that you can’t be reasonable?”

Murdoch gave his fair-haired son an intent look that would make hardened criminals cringe in trepidation of their upcoming punishment, “Scott, for once and for all your brother is going to have to learn how to avoid trouble instead of embracing it with open arms. He needs to make better decisions maybe even thinking things through before acting on his instincts wouldn’t hurt either. His action affects us all and how we are viewed by the townsfolk. After all we have a reputation…a proud family name to consider. ”

“Sir, I shouldn’t have to remind you that those same instincts kept Johnny alive all those years he was on his own. I just don’t understand why you are so hard on Johnny. It’s almost as if you intentionally want to drive him away. You don’t do you?” Scott inquired with a look of concern etched upon his face.

Murdoch shook his head no with a determined look on his face, “No, son I do not want him to leave but I need to know that he will adhere to my tune and remember that his actions are a reflection upon us as well. If he can’t behave accordingly, he’ll have to pay the consequences for his actions.”

Meanwhile, Johnny grabbed his drink, raised it to the light and examined the contents thoroughly before admonishing himself, “Dios! Who the hell was I kiddin’, livin’ under the thumb of another man, puttin’ up with bein’ ordered round like some green kid? Shit! I’m just can’t “dance to another man’s tune…especially Murdoch Lancer’s, the most stubborn mule-headed man I ever ran across!” He quickly drained the contents of his glass, took a bite out a lemon wedge and licked the salt from the crook of his thumb and index finger feeling the warm glow of the liquid fire spread down deep inside of him. Temporarily satisfied he poured another shot of tequila, leaving it sit on the table, again lost in deep thought.

If Johnny could turn back the hands of the ever present tick-tocking of Murdoch’s annoying clock in the Great Room, a clock that one day he would plug it full of bullet holes just to not hear it any longer, he would go back at least 24 hours when he had left the Lancer ranch for town. Johnny had been headin’ there for several reasons the first was to run errands for the ranch. He then was meetin’ up with his old friends, Rambler and Buck at the Red Dog Saloon for an evening of wine, women and song, three good reasons in themselves, throw in a friendly poker game or two along with tellin’ stories about old times made it the perfect way to spend a Saturday night in his mind.

Buck and Rambler had ridden into town the previously week and were surprised to run into their former saddle companion. After spending some time together in the saloon, Buck and Rambler decided to stick around for awhile longer. They had been cooling their heels all week, waiting for their old friend to get time off from all his responsibilities as the son of a prominent rancher. While they were happy he finally had a place to call home along with a family, they had been riding him about not being foot-loose and fancy free any longer, as friends are prone to do just to see the reaction they’ll get. After all boys will be boys no matter how old they get to be.

“Howdy, Johnny,” said Buck as he and Rambler followed after Johnny, who had entered Valdemerro’s General Store to order more fencing supplies.

“Howdy yourself Buck, Ram,” said Johnny as he playfully slugged Buck’s upper arm in greeting.

Buck grinned at Rambler before he said, “Johnny boy, you do have your father’s permission to be in town? We hear he likes to keep a tight rein over you, ain’t that right Ram?”

Rambler grinned and said, “Yep that’s the word around town. Your old man rides you pretty hard from what folks hereabouts tell us, keepin’ you in line and out of trouble. Tell us that this ain’t so Johnny?”

Johnny looked intensely at his friends, displaying his Madrid stare to say with a low deadly drawl, “Amigos, I don’t need my old man’s blessin’ to go where I want, when I want or for that matter to see who I want to see. I think ya know me better than that.”

“Whoa, Johnny boy, relax, take it easy, we’re just havin’ some fun,” said Rambler. “Ya haven’t been around all week and well Buck ‘n me we’re more than ready to kick up our heels with our old pal, that’s all.”

“I’ve gotta take care of some ranch business, right now…so why don’t I meet up with ya later over at the saloon…say maybe in an hour, maybe less,” Johnny said to his friends.

“Sure, that sounds okay by me,” said Buck with a smile. “Come on Ram, let’s go get started and Johnny here can catch-up with us when he gets done. Just remember you’re buyin’ since you’re the big man around town nowadays.”

Johnny gave Buck another punch to his arm, slightly harder this time and said, “Go on get out of here will ya? I’ll see ya sooner or later.” He watched as his friends poke and push each other, laughing all the way to the saloon, carefree without a thought about responsibilities or work, taking life as it came, no worries or deadlines to meet. He turned back to Senor Valdemerro with a heavier heart than just a moment before, ponderin’ that being the son of Murdoch Lancer was a far greater burden than he had ever carried before in his life. He shook his head, driving the thought from his mind to finish placing the latest order for the never-ending fencing materials.

“Senor Johnny, is that all you need? A dozen cases of nails and 20 rolls of barbed wire? I just got in an order of leather work gloves that you should take a look at – the material is reinforced to help protect your hands from snapping wires or any barbs from digging into your hands. Come see…they’re right over here,” said Senor Valdemerro, indicating for Johnny to look at the display.

Senora Valdmerro smiled and added, “Oh, Senor Johnnee…these gloves will keep you hands so nice and smooth that all your lovely senoritas won’t want to release your hands from their own.”

“Yeah, sure, sounds good, let’s see ‘em,” said Johnny but in his mind he heard the words of his friends. Johnny walked over with Senor Valdemerro to the display and tried on several pairs of gloves until he found a pair that felt right on his hands. “Go ahead and put these on the bill. I’ll take these with me but if you can have the other supplies delivered early Monday to the ranch that would work for me.”

“Si, Senor Johnny…I will have everything delivered first thing Monday morning.”

Johnny walked over to the doorway and looked with eager anticipation towards the saloon. “Well, I’d better head over and get a haircut and a shave first before joinin’ my friends. Don’t know when I’ll have time to get away and have the luxury of a barbershop shave and a trim again with all those fences that need mendin’,” he grumbled to himself. With a quick wave and an “Adios” tossed to Senor and Senora Valdemerro Johnny left the store, heading to the barber shop.

As Johnny continued to reflect in his mind’s eye the chain of events of the previous day, he began chuckling to himself, at first softly, then more heartily as he recalled the look of total surprised then bad temper that had flashed across Arabella Higgs’ face, making it squashed all together and givin’ the poor girl the appearance of a big ugly horse. He quickly downed his second drink and was pouring another one when he looked up from his chair at the sound of a familiar voice in the saloon to see none other than Val Crawford, his old friend and Sheriff of Green River.

“Well now Johnny Lancer, ya want tell me what so durn amusin’ that you’re settin’ in here on a Sunday afternoon drinkin’ and laughin’ all by your lonesome?” drawled the tall, lanky, dusty figure as he stood by his friend, knocking some of the trial dust from his clothes with his well-broken in hat.

“Dios! Howdy Val! Why don’t ya take a load of your boots and sit down like civilized folks do,” he retorted using his own booted foot to slide a chair out for Val. “What brings ya to Spanish Wells?”

“Ha…ha…as if ya didn’t know. But for your information ya bring me here along with Mayor Higgs loudly insisting that I track ya down and haul your sorry ass into jail for what ya did to his precious daughter yesterday. I’ve already been out to Lancer and seen your old man and guessed even ya wouldn’t be dumb enough to show your face in my town or Morro Coyo today. It was easy to figure the next convenient waterin’ hole would be where I’d find ya and here ya are.”

Val continued, “Hell Johnny whatever ya said to set your old man off…well, he was still sputtering horrible threats as to what he’d do to ya next time he lays eyes and his hands on ya hide. His face was beet red, all puffed out and for a second I thought he was gonna shoot me just for knowin’ ya,” reported Val with a concerned look upon his face. “Dammit, I reckon I may have to toss ya in a cell just to keep ya away from each other and save the tax-payers the expense of a trial if either one of ya gets the crazy notion of shootin’ the other. Scott done told me what ya yelled at him. Now just what in the hell where ya thinkin’ boy?”

Johnny looked over at Val and said softly, having the decently to at least look ashamed, “Wasn’t tryin’ to piss him off, but I’ve had my fill of the old man believin’ the worst of me without hearin’ me out. Val I swear what happened in Morro Coyo was an accident, pure and simple. Truly, none of it was my fault. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time…that’s all. I’m a victim of circumstances because of that horse-faced Arabella Higgs. Boy! Was she mad! I reckon my old man wants my head on a platter for what took place.”

To emphasize his truthfulness Johnny raised his right hand, looking directly into Val’s eyes and boldly grinned, “Val…once things started well…everything went to hell in a hand basket faster than ya could blink an eye. There wasn’t a snow-ball’s chance in hell of things not ending poorly. And well…ya know me, Val, I don’t abide anyone, not even my old man or ya cussing me out, questioning if I had any of ‘em “moral fibers”, jabbering on about “consequences” when I ain’t even responsible. I got ‘em, those moral fibers, same as ya, my old man and even my all so proper Boston brother. Ya know I do, too.”

Johnny let out another big sigh before grinning, “I suppose Mayor Higgs woke ya up from your afternoon siesta after he got Arabella back to Green River all safe and sound, maybe in one piece, at least she was when I finally got away from her and her shrieking friend. Are they okay?”

Val stared hard at his friend, having known Johnny for several years he trusted his own gut to determine if his friend was telling the truth or stretching it, he pondered the thought and wondered if Johnny truly regretted the previous day’s pandemonium. He gruffly said, “I reckon they’ll live. Well, I’m waitin’, go on with it; don’t keep me in suspense any longer, Johnny, let me hear your story and don’t ya leave any of the particulars out. All I can say….ya better make some sense outta it, so’s I don’t hafta lock ya up and throw away the key…and there better be a good reason behind everything, otherwise all them good decent folks of Green River and Morro Coyo will be wantin’ to toss me out of my job just for bein’ friends with ya. Hell, as far as most of ‘em are concerned, you’re already tried and convicted. Now they’re out for your hide, just like ya pa.”

Johnny smiled widely and said, “That bad, huh? But before I begin, Val, trust me on this, you’re gonna need a stiff drink or two.” He poured Val a double dose of the tequila and pushed the salt and bowl of lemons towards Val. “Drink up Val,” he said as he emptied his glass for the third time on his empty stomach. Johnny had gotten quite comfortable with the familiar warm glow that was spreading throughout his body; feeling relaxed as his earlier tension and anger towards his old man was ebbing away with each downed shot of tequila.

As the friends shared the rapidly emptying bottle, Johnny settled back in his chair to begin his tale of the events from the previous day. He waved to Ray to bring over another bottle as he poured refills, again doubling up Val’s drink to catch him up with his own consumption of their particular favorite brand of fire water. “Come on Val, trust me…my story is gonna go down better with this in ya, bottoms up!”

“Johnny you know as well as I do that talk is cheap especially when the story is good and this tale kept growin’ bigger down the line. And well I’m tellin’ ya that I don’t think it can all be true – since it kept gettin’ more and more far-fetched each time I hear it,” said Val as he gulped down his second pour, turning his glass upside down on the table to signal that he wasn’t havin’ any more of Johnny’s diversions of alcohol. “Boy, start talkin’ or I’ll have no other choice but to slap handcuffs on ya, haul your ass outta here and take ya to my jail for safe-keepin’. Ya better keep that shit-eating grin off your face until I decide this situation calls for hilarity. So far I am not amused.”

“Okay, okay, Sheriff, ya got me dead to rights and I know when I’m beat,” Johnny said with a smirk holding up his hands to indicate his defeat to Val, then finished a bite of his lemon and salt combination. “Just remember ya asked for the truth and that’s what you’ll be gettin’…even if your heard other versions…what I’m tellin’ ya will be the truth, the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth,” he said holding up his right hand again as he was only slightly slurring his words together as the effects of the tequila began taking hold. “So help me God,” he concluded before dropping his hand down to the table top with a solid thud.

Val rolled his eyes at his friend’s obvious attempt to avoid telling the tale that by now had to be spreading throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley like wildfire. Val was sure as he was sittin’ here with his old pal, that there were plenty of elbows being jabbed into ribs, back slappin’ and general hee-hawin’ goin’ on from the men at the expense of his friend and the Mayor’s daughter’s plight. Meanwhile the respected women folk were more than likely barely concealin’ their up-righteous “holier than thou” attitudes, turnin’ up their snooty noses at Johnny Lancer’s latest and utmost unbelievable social blunders to ever grace the community. This would go down in local folklore for years to come about the day Johnny Lancer came to town and single-handedly destroyed a good parcel of it along with Arabella Higgs’ dignity and reputation not to mention her friend, Becca Wilson’s to boot.


Chapter Two

Murdoch was seething as he totaled the receipts that all the townsfolk had handled him before, during and after church service in Morro Coyo, while he kept looking grimmer with each invoice as the amount increased. “I tell you Scott, I will forbid that boy from setting foot anywhere near a saloon or those saddle tramps he calls friends if it’s the last thing I do. I’ll keep him so busy mending fences, painting the barn, mucking out stalls, digging a new privy, mending saddles, chopping firewood, hell I’ll even make him help the women in the kitchen if necessary…anything to keep him toeing the line. Just look here; over $1,000.00…this is outrageous! There goes the two Hereford bulls we were going to Stockton to purchase to strengthen the cattle lines.

“Now sir, be reasonable, you haven’t heard anything from Johnny yet. Can’t you wait until you talk with him before making ultimatums? You might just think otherwise when we find out for certain what actually transpired in town. The thought never occurred to me that you would not give any other person a fair shake, it’s the least you can do for your own son,” stated Scott as he looked over the receipts again. “Johnny just can’t be the only one responsible here, there’s got to be others involved….let them pay their fair share.”

“Scott you saw how the town looked after his night there when we drove through after church. I can very well imagine that he was the instigator. I don’t know what else to think about the boy after the way he high-tailed it out of here after all his foul-mouth back-talking to me. Well, we better saddle up and ride over and call on Mayor Higgs and his daughter to try and make amends,” Murdoch said looking anything but pleased with his missing son.

Teresa was sitting next to Scott in front of Murdoch’s massive oak desk and leaned forward to ask, “Murdoch, do you want me to come along and see if I can talk to Arabella or Becca to get a woman’s point of view on the matter?”

“That’s not a bad idea Teresa,” said Scott as he looked over at father’s ward, who had insisted that he and Johnny “think of me as a sister,” their first morning on the Lancer ranch. “I’ll go saddle up the horses and meet you both outside.”

“Okay Johnny, let me get this straight, ya were goin’ about your business, placin’ an order at Valdemerro’s and got yourself a shave and a haircut. I already done heard ya the first three times boy…where’d ya go next?” grumbled Val as Johnny began slumping in his chair.

“That’s what I’ve been tryin’ to tell ya…but you keep interruptin’ me, Val, will ya shut-up the hell up and let me finish?” Johnny asked. Suddenly he held up his left hand and said, “Dios…hold up a minute….I’d gotta eat somethin’ those tequilas are rollin’ around inside me somethin’ powerful”, as he used his other hand to rub his stomach.

Val grabbed Johnny by his blue-flowered shirt front as he pitched forward in his chair, “For cryin’ out loud Johnny, sit-up straight and get to the rest of the story! Hey, Ray, we need strong, black coffee and some hot chow over here pronto,” yelled Val to the barkeeper who was wiping glasses behind the counter.

“Sure thing Sheriff, guess he should learn to pace himself better with that rot-gut he drinks,” said Ray.

“Shit, Ray, ain’t ya in the business of sellin’ it? When did ya get so particular how anybody drank it or how much as long as ya were paid? If ya don’t mind will ya hurry up with the coffee and food!“ snapped Val as he grabbed Johnny again, forcing him to sit-up in his chair again. “Johnny Lancer, if ya pass out on me, so help me ya’ll find yourself hog-tied ridin’ across that horse of yours so fast ya won’t know what hit ya.”

Johnny looked at Val, clasping a hand to his forehead, “Lo siento amigo, I haven’t had any grub since yesterday morning. I hadn’t planned on spendin’ the night at my hideout from the old man, didn’t have anything….not even a little beef jerky to chaw on. Guess I shouldn’t of drunk all that tequila, that’s all. Dios my head is trobbin’!”

After the coffee arrived Val made Johnny drink three cups of the strong black brew and eat two bowls of semi-warm beef stew. When he had filled his belly, Val made Johnny walk around to see how steady his friend was on his legs.

“Val can we git the hell out of here and go somewhere else?” Johnny asked with drooping eyes on his wobbly legs. “I’ve had enough of this place.”

Val sighed, rolled his eyes and said, “Come on amigo, ya and me let’s head out of town to the river where we can sit and enjoy the fresh air to clear your addled brain, while ya finish tellin’ me your damn story!”

“Okay,” agreed Johnny, grinning as he dug a twenty dollar gold coin from his jacket pocket and tossed it over to the Ray. “Ray that should cover everything, see ya ‘round!” Grabbing his hat from the tabletop he walked out into the late afternoon sunlight, shielding his eyes from the sun’s rays that were bouncing off the window panes of the saloon. Blinking fast to adjust his vision, he rubbed Barranca ears and spoke softly “That’s a good boy,” before he unhitched him and mounted, waiting for Val to join him.

The pair rode side by side out of Spanish Wells in a mutually comfortable silence, where they shortly arrived at a grove of mesquite trees along the river. They dismounted and ground-tied their horses, by the water where their mounts could not only drink their fill but munch on the long prairie grasses to their content.

Johnny and Val sat down by the water where Johnny pulled his boots and white socks off to dangle his toes in the cold water while Val leaned back on the inclining river bank crossing his arms behind his head. “Get on with it amigo tell me the rest of your adventures in Morro Coyo.”

“Okay, Val, ya asked for it,” said Johnny who smiled, feeling better with coffee, food and fresh air in his system, and began where he left off.

Murdoch, Scott and Teresa stood outside the front door of Mayor Higgs house, bracing for the ear-chewing they were certain to be on the receiving end. “Let’s get this over with,” growled Murdoch as he rapped sharply on the door. They held their collective breathes waiting for the door to open.

“Murdoch, Scott, Miss Teresa, as I live and breathe, now here’s a trio of Lancers I didn’t think would have the guts to show their faces in public, let alone at my front door, for quite some time,” said the mayor, deliberately being sarcastic to his uninvited guests. “Funny, I don’t see your wayward son, Johnny, where is the troublemaker?” he sneered. “Out robbin’ the bank now? Holdin’ up the stage or maybe the train?”

“Mayor Higgs may we come in and talk as parents? Not as advisories? As you can see, my son, John, is not here, we have come in his stead and wish to inquire on the well-being of your daughter and her friend,” stated Murdoch with concern etched upon his face.

“By all means, come in, yes, let’s behave as civilized adults, this way, if you, please,” said Mayor Higgs, as he swept his hand across the entryway for his guests to enter his home. “Into the front parlor and be seated.”

“How is Arabella doing?” asked Teresa. “May I see her?”

“Arabella, my poor delicate daughter, is lying down resting after her unimaginable nightmare, so no you may not see her. As for how she is doing, I expect as well as any woman could be after enduring the suffering and indignities she went through at the hands of that hooligan,” huffed Mayor Higgs. He was becoming agitated and next shouted at the Lancers, “I hope you know that at this very moment I have dispatched Sheriff Crawford to find him, arrest him and bring him in to face formal charges!”

“Now you see here Mayor Higgs, as I understand from Sheriff Crawford, he’s only interested in talking with John about what happened yesterday. Neither you nor any of us were present therefore none of us knows for certain what fully transpired. I’m not willing to condemn any one, until all the facts have been sorted out. I would trust you feel the same way. Understand this; Mayor Higgs, I will accept full responsibility for damages and repairs, regardless of who was responsible for what. But I won’t stand for anyone falsely accusing my son or your daughter until they have told us the entire story and have answered our questions,” Murdoch stated firmly at the rotund little man, who was pacing back and forth in front of his guests.

“Murdoch Lancer, your son is not fit to be among decent people! He is a ruffian! A barbarian! He’s nothing more than a half-breed gun hawk that I’m surprised hasn’t shot you all while you’re sleeping to gain control of your holdings! You should never have permitted him to become part of your family not to mention a full-fledged partner in your ranch,” the mayor stated pounding one fat fist into the palm of his other hand to underscore his irk.

Scott jumped to his feet angrily retorting, “Now you see here MAYOR Higgs, my brother is part of the Lancer family, and our partner! There is nothing you or any other narrow-minded bigot can do to change that! Johnny is a decent human being who just happened to have a rougher start in his life than others, including me, by no fault of his own. I know him to be a warm, caring, generous, loving person who would lay down his life in an instance for any member of his family. He is fully entitled to both the Lancer name and our home! You sir, are nothing but a pompous jackass!!!” he concluded by emphasizing his own annoyance at the mayor as he jabbed his index finger into the now quivering man’s chest, during his final statement.

“Teresa, Murdoch, my apologies but I will not stay in this house one more minute listening to this vicious, vile, insignificant man as he berates my brother! We are not accomplishing anything here with this close-minded pipsqueak! Are you ready to go home?” he added as he pulled his hat on his head. “I need unsullied air as the air in here is tainted,” he concluded, stalking out of the room and jerking the front door open, making it bang loudly into the adjoining wall.

As Scott turned to see if his family was following him he noticed motion from upstairs, looking upwards he saw Arabella standing in a doorway, looking remarkably fit for someone who supposedly was resting from an injury of some fashion done by his brother the day before. She was fully outfitted in an over-ruffled dress in a hideous shade of lime green with an equally horrid bonnet on her head, looking as if she getting ready to step out. She had the audacity to smile and wave at him before he turned on his heel and walked out the door, leaving it and her mouth hanging open.

The mayor stood there gasping as Scott departed his parlor with his large jowls flopping as he opened and shut his mouth several times without speaking a word as Murdoch and Teresa rose to take their leave.

“GOOD-BYE Mayor Higgs, please give Arabella our best wishes for a speedy recovery,” stated Teresa as she walked out the front door with her head held high.

Murdoch looked over at the Mayor and said with conviction, “Higgs, this is not finished, not by a long shot. Just as soon as Sheriff Crawford has spoken with Johnny, as President of the Cattlemen’s Association, I will direct the Sheriff to interview your daughter and any other potential witnesses, to get to the bottom of this,” he stated and then followed his family out the door, softly closed it instead of slamming it shut, as he envisioned himself doing.

As he climbed onto his mount, Scott asked him, “Murdoch, did you happen to see Arabella all decked out in some gaudy costume at the top of the stairs? She looked despite the gaudy clothes to be in good health, completely unharmed to me, looked happy to see me and actually waved at me like I was picking her up to take her to a dance, fat chance of that ever occurring.”

“No Scott, I didn’t notice her, but it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t put anything pass the Higgs with their propensities for theatrics. Scott, I want you to ride into Morro Coyo…see if you can find Johnny’s friends; bring them back to the ranch.”

“You were right, Scott; I should have listened to Johnny this morning instead assuming the worst. We need to know just what happened yesterday and perhaps his friends can shed some light,” remarked Murdoch as they turned towards the road leading towards Lancer and Morro Coyo. “Thank you son,” he added.

“For what?” Scott asked.

“For not saying “I told you so”, I saw all those bills and didn’t give your brother the benefit of the doubt. For that I was wrong. However, I still don’t condone his comments and will address those with him,” said Murdoch. Oh and Scott, thank you for standing up for your brother with Higgs; I’ve always said that Lancer takes care of their own. I don’t think I could have said it any better myself to that insufferable old fool.”

Teresa and Scott exchanged looks with each other, relieved to hear Murdoch admit that he had rushed to judgment towards his youngest son. “You’re welcomed Murdoch. I’ll see you back at the ranch as soon as possible,” he said as they reached the turn-off for Morro Coyo. Scott quickly urged Charlie into a gallop while Murdoch and Teresa headed home.

As Johnny finished telling his account to Val, keeping a straight face he looked over through his long dark eye lashes for Val’s reaction. He couldn’t help but grin as he saw Val, with his arms, crossed tightly against his chest, reaching over to his sides, his body shaking as he tried holding back laughter from bursting out of his mouth. Val’s lips were shut tight but Johnny saw the upturned smile quivering slightly at the corners of his mouth along with tears forming in the corner of his eyes as he next clamped a hand to his mouth as he started giggling, yep he was actually giggling as he mulled over the events from the day before, Johnny noticed.

“Sheeit, Val say somethin’ don’t just sit there laughing your damn fool head off….it wasn’t t’all funny while it was goin’ on,” said Johnny, himself trying not to join in with his friend’s growing chuckles.

“Madre de Dios! Johnny that would have been a sight to behold, I would have sold tickets and made enough money to retire! No wonder the esteemed Mayor has his drawers all in a bunch over this,” said Val laughing so hard, he was close to rolling on the ground as he wiped tears from his eyes. “Hell, ya old son-of-a-gun! I’m bettin’ that Murdoch and Scott didn’t hear things told quite so interestin’. I think they only knew what the damages cost…no wonder Murdoch had his britches in a bunch!”

“Ya know as well as I do that your pa hates wastin’ anything…especially money!” This set him off again along with Johnny, both laughing so hard that their horses turned their heads, slowly chewing the grasses hanging from their mouths, probably pondering what was wrong with their riders who were making a lot of racket but they quickly turned their attention back to the tall grasses alongside the bank.

“Johnny sounds to me as if your damn moral fiber is just fine, maybe too fine for those circumstances, hell, livin’ with that high-flautin’ Boston brother of yours probably contributed to things getting’ out of hand as ya were tryin’ to do the “proper” thing. The best thing ya can do now is go on home and talk to ya pa. Even Murdoch Lancer can’t help but see the particulars of your story and recognize it wasn’t your fault t’all,” Val said trying to rein in his laughter. “Not t’all in the slightest,” he said as he finally did fall over laughing, pounding the ground with his fist.

“Hell, boy I’m goin’ back with ya, just so Murdoch knows we’re square and he doesn’t need to visit ya in the pokey,” he finished chuckling, shaking his head knowing that his young friend was doin’ his best to dance to his pa’s tune playin’, despite his natural inclination not to.

“Yeah, well I might just need ya there to keep him from cold-cockin’ me for what I said to him, ya bein’ a peace officer and all,” grinned Johnny relieved in knowing his friendship with Val was secure. He let out a sigh as he thought about the morning, Murdoch was another story, and Johnny felt regretful about his partin’ shot to his pa as his moral fiber was busy tuggin’ strong on his conscience. He didn’t like the feelin’ he had in the pit of his stomach and knew he had to square things with his old man.

Johnny pulled his socks and boots back on his feet as he grimaced and said, “Dios, I guess I’d better go eat crow and accept whatever his consequences are this time. Maybe sooner or later I’ll learn when to think before my temper flares, when he’s pissin’ me off,” said Johnny. “But I doubt it…ya know the first thing my old man ever said directly to me was “you’ve got your mother’s temper”. I felt he was throwin’ down an insult against both of us, which I reckon is why I buck him, every chance I get.”

Val shifted over onto his side to look at his friend, “Johnny, maybe it’s none of my business but I reckon ya got a good amount of your pa’s temperament, along with a sizeable share of his stubborn streak that’s at least a mile wide. Far as I can tell ya’re a chip off the old block, bull-headed, hot-tempered, sudden to ignite, neither one of ya willingly to give the other one an inch. Shit, it’s a damn good thing ya have Scott there to talk sense into the pair of ya. Just don’t tucker him all out while ya and your old man figure out how to dozy doe without stepping on the other one’s toes.”

Johnny felt his fury rising, already forgetting that he just said he needed to think before he got all riled, snarled at Val, “Dammit Val! Don’t fuckin’ mince any fuckin’ words with me! Why don’t ya just tell me what a fuckin’ ass I am while ya at it?

Val squinted his eyes, glaring at Johnny, he began shouting, then pointing and shaking his index finger at his friend, “Johnny Lancer, this is exactly the type of shitty attitude I’m talkin’ about! You’re lucky I’m your friend and not ya pa right now! ‘Cos iffing I were ya pa I’d be wearin’ my belt out on your backside with a good whoppin’ for smart-mouthin’ me instead of yellin’ at ya! Hell, boy, just remember, ya ain’t too big to have those fancy britches of yours set on fire with ya inside of them! Ya know what the trouble with ya is?” he asked.

“No, what’s the fuckin’ trouble with me?” Johnny yelled back at his friend. “Besides the fact ya don’t like my fuckin’ attitude and maybe my pants too…never bothered ya before when I was watchin’ your back!”

Val continued pointing and shaking his finger at Johnny said, “I’ll tell ya what your problem is amigo….you don’t know when to quit pushin’, when to shut-up and listen to what ya elders have to say to ya. Just ‘cos ya used to do what ya pleased, when ya pleased, where ya pleased and how ya pleased don’t mean that’s how your entire life will play out. Ya got another responsibilities now along with a family that wants the best for ya, Johnny. Ya better not blow it or ya’ll answer to me if your pa don’t straighten ya out. Ya hear me Johnny?”

Johnny dropped his head down to his chest, scratched his head before he drawled, “Yeah, I hear ya Val. Well hell, I did it again, didn’t I? Lo siento mi amigo. Come on; let’s go talk to Murdoch about the ruckus. Uhhhh hey Val, mucho gracias for bein’ ya know…a good friend. I know I don’t make it easy on people…ya know it’s tough for me let Madrid just fade away and put my trust in other people, ya know I don’t like bein’ disappointed by ‘em…I’m tryin’ to do what’s right, ya understand that don’t ya?

“Tryin’ in more ways than one, pal! Get a move on will ya? I’m dying of a huge case of nosiness myself in seein’ how your pa and Scott take the news when YA tell them all the troubles ya created, of course, to be fair, none of it bein’ your fault and all,” teased Val rising to his feet. He reached a hand down and pulled Johnny up to his feet. “Hell, Johnny I hope ya ain’t sufferin’ too much from a hang-over neither….but boy that sure was a plum pitiable attempt on your part, tryin’ to get me drunk….as IF I didn’t know what ya was pullin’!”

“Me, try and get ya drunk??? Johnny asked innocently, masking a grin. “Ya know I was just sitting’ there bein’ a little angel in heaven in the saloon, mindin’ my own damn business, botherin’ nobody when ya lumbered on in. The only reason I was there was ‘cos I wasn’t over my mad yet. I was tryin’ to decide if I was gonna get rip-roarin’ drunk or not have any t’all or maybe go on back home or maybe take off for parts unknown, when ya barged in on me. I was just makin’ sure ya were feelin’ no pain when I told ya what happened! Oh boy, I hope my family finds it as hilarious as ya did!” exclaimed Johnny. “Otherwise I may need to bunk with ya until this blows over.”

“Ya ain’t been invited, bucko, I don’t need my life turned topsy-turvy by ya bein’ “a little angel in heaven”!” said Val as he slapped Johnny on his back and starting laughing all over again.

“You’ve very funny, Val, very funny,” said Johnny but he too was laughing loudly ponderin’ about the calamity that fell upon Morro Coyo.

Johnny and Val checked their saddles before mounting up and rode off into the fading sunset back to Lancer. Every so often one of them would start chuckling. “Get it out of your system now Val, ya can’t laugh t’all when I tell my old man what happened,” said Johnny. “I gotta tell him with a straight face or he’ll never believe me.”

Val laughed again, “Just as long as ya get it said boy.”

As the pair approached the Lancer archway, Scott rode up alongside them, having returned from Morro Coyo without locating Johnny’s friends. He felt a great sense of relief seeing his brother riding alongside Val. “Evening Johnny, evening Val, well is Johnny in trouble with the law, Sheriff?” Scott inquired. “I see you haven’t put him handcuffs…so I hope that’s a good sign.”

“Scott, evening…let’s just say your brother’s troubles are yet to be determined,” said Val with a nod towards Johnny.

Johnny asked, “Hey Boston, how’s Murdoch?”

“Brother, last time I saw Murdoch he wasn’t pleased with you or Mayor Higgs for that matter. But he’s willing to hear you out. I trust you are intending to demonstrate remorse for your uhmm…exit… this morning, aren’t you Johnny? I definitely believe this would go a long way towards making peace with our father,” Scott stated.

“Ya think so Scott? I ah…uhmmm…well…ah…dammit…what I’m tryin’ to say is perdonar, hermano mayor…for ya know…ya bein’ stuck in the middle,” Johnny said. “Val told me I’m lucky to have ya help fix things between the old man and me, muchas gracias mi hermano for that. It’s nice having a big brother watch my back for me. Guess I’ve been a muy grande pain in everybody’s ass lately. I wish Murdoch would stop pushin’ me…hell I’d do just fine if he’d back off, give me breathin’ room with no deadlines for a change.”

Scott said, “I would have to concur with you little brother about one thing, you have indeed been an outrageous nuisance today. We’ve been worried about you. We didn’t know where you rode off to since the fine folks of Morro Coyo aren’t entirely delighted with the Lancers for the moment, judging from the reception we received in town. From what Val said earlier you weren’t in Green River. We tried speaking with Higgs who was his characteristic insufferable idiot, looking for blood, preferably yours. I managed to catch a glimpse at Arabella and was relieved to see she didn’t look incapacitated in any manner. Johnny, I am very intrigued to hear about your trip into town and just what happened.”

“Hell, Boston, there ya go again, using all ‘em fuckin’ high-flutin’ college words when you know plain English suits me best” teased Johnny; in high spirits hearing that his big brother was indeed watching his back, that he decided was a feelin’ he had grown used to and liked.

“Johnny, just a word or two of advice from your older, wiser and much better looking brother”, quipped Scott, “If I were you I would drop all you’re cussing around Murdoch. He doesn’t appreciate hearing it, especially directed at him and you know he doesn’t like Teresa hearing it either,” cautioned Scott. For your sake, promise me you’ll remain calm.

“Okay, brother, I’ll do my best. Dammit, I reckon it’s time to face the tune caller,” sighed Johnny as he adjusted his hat on top of his head and the trio rode over to the hacienda’s hitching rail, where he, Scott and Val tied off their horses. Walking up to the front door, Johnny said with gusto, “Let ‘er buck,” as he trailed Scott inside the entryway leading to the Lancer’s Great Room.

Murdoch Lancer was seated behind his massive desk, looked up as he heard Johnny’s spurs jingle jangle on the tile floor in the foyer. Johnny and Scott removed their gun belts and hung them up along with their hats. Val hung up his hat alongside the brothers’, but kept his gun belt on. The trio approached Murdoch at his desk; a glass of his favorite blend of Scotch had been poured and was on his desk. Murdoch waited expectedly for one of the three to speak, taking a small sip of his drink; he raised his eyebrows in anticipation of just who would be the first to break the silence.


Chapter Three

Caution: High Probability of Fallin’ Cuss Words! 

“Hey Murdoch,” said Johnny as he looked at his father, with his deep blue eyes searching his father’s matching blue eyes which looked as hard as steel on a cold winter’s day. Johnny began shuffling his boots, before he averted his gaze downward to stare at those boots and mumbled more to his boots than to his father, “I wanna tell ya lo siento for what I said to ya earlier. Can we talk?”

Murdoch looked unswervingly at his youngest son and sternly inquired, “Sitting down or standing up John?”

Johnny cleared his throat, as he picked up the match holder from the corner of the desk. To mask his anxiety he began fiddling with the case before replying softly, “Murdoch, it’s a long story, so how about ya make it less like I was dragged to the priest’s office to be punished. Can’t we sit down and talk, man to man?”

“John, I don’t consider a nineteen year old boy to be a man yet, despite your previous style of living. You, young man, still have a lot of growing up to do in my eyes,” said Murdoch as he gave his wayward son an intense stare.

“Look Murdoch, I’ll hold my temper if ya do the same. Why we even got Val here to maintain the peace….just in case,” Johnny added with a sly grin to his friend, as he made an attempt to lighten the heaviness that was hanging in the room.

Murdoch nodded his acknowledgement of Val and Scott presence in the room before speaking, “John, before you proceed with your “long story”, what I want from you is to first know if I have not one but two obedient sons who respect me, respect our family name and are contributing members within our community. Is this something you are able and willing to do? You understand that I expect nothing less from you?”

Johnny remained standing in front of his father’s desk, again shuffling his boots. From the corner of Johnny’s eye he couldn’t help but notice Scott and Val looking awkwardly around the room, both now avoiding eye contacts with him, being reluctant witnesses to his seeming discomfort. Johnny stopped shuffling his boots to stand tall as he looked earnestly into Murdoch’s eyes with a silent plea in his own eyes to his father, to let him save face in front of his brother and friend.

Johnny didn’t answer right away, instead allowed himself time to hold back his mounting temper by biting the inside of his bottom lip, hard enough to taste the salty, coppery flavor of his blood. He started shuffling his boots again, once, twice and a third time all the while his spurs jiggling their song before quietly conceding to his father, “Yessir…I understand.”

“You fully agree to my terms….terms we have previously discussed and if my memory stands correctly you and your brother accepted?” inquired Murdoch, not yet letting him off the hook.

Johnny looked at his father, nodded his head yes and replied, “Agreed, Murdoch.”

“Excellent, then by all means have a seat. Explain to me what happened yesterday in Morro Coyo,” said Murdoch as he indicated with a wave of his hand the chair opposite him.

“Murdoch, can we sit over by the fireplace? It’s more relaxin’ and well, I did have one heck of a Saturday in town with more than my share of troubles yesterday,” Johnny remarked.

“Do tell, John, do tell,” said Murdoch as he indicated Johnny towards the chair in front of his desk.

“Ahhhhh…Mr. Lancer I’d like to throw in my two cents and tell ya that Johnny already done told me his long story, you’ll find it ahhhh…interestin’…a real humdinger. Guarantee y’all would be more at ease over there than ya are over here,” Val said, taking a stab at helping his friend win this small skirmish that had the potential of causing tempers to flare open between the strong wills of an obstinate father and equally obstinate son.

Scott injected his own notations to Murdoch, “Murdoch, I think moving over to the fireplace is an excellent idea. If this is going to be one of Johnny’s long stories, we might as well be comfortable, since you know he CAN drag it out sometimes,” he said with a quick wink to his brother, who grinned back.

“By all means, let’s adjourn to the fireplace, sit down, relax and hear all about your…what did you call it? Oh yes your “one heck of a Saturday”, replied Murdoch gesturing with his hand to the fireplace sofa and chairs.

Just as the group moved to the sofas, Teresa walked into the Great Room, saw Johnny and exclaimed, “Johnny! You’re home! Are you hungry? Can I bring you something? What about you Sheriff Crawford?”

Johnny smiled at her greeting and the mention of food. He was hungry, tired, sore, thirsty all rolled into one and was more than willin’ to have someone take care of him. “Sure T’resa…ya know me I’m always ready to eat somethin’!”

“Miss T’resa, thank ya kindly for your offer…Johnny and I wouldn’t turn down anythin’ that’s hot and spicy to boot would sure hit the spot,” remarked Val.

Scott jumped to his feet, “Sheriff how about a drink? Johnny?”

Val looked over at Scott and said, “I’ll have a whiskey but Johnny here just wants plain black coffee, ain’t that right amigo?”

“Yeah, sure Val,” said Johnny. Johnny guessed what Val was up to – which was watchin’ his back for him, that was twice he’s come to my aid in the last few minutes, as did Scott, he thought to himself.

Scott noticed something private pass between Val and Johnny that he didn’t know what all it entailed but he recognized it as a special accord between friends who have known each other for a long time. He felt a stab of regret that he and Johnny had missed so many of those moments by not growing up together as he poured drinks for himself and Val while topping off Murdoch’s glass with his favorite blend of Scotch.

“John, begin,” directed Murdoch with a tone that implied he wasn’t willing to put up with any more delays.

“Okay, just bear in mind everything I tell ya is really, truly, honestly, for sure what happened,” Johnny sighed, taking a sip of the hot coffee Teresa placed in front of him. Johnny leaned back into the soft cushions with an aggrieved look in his eyes. As he began his story, everyone found themselves leaning forward to not miss a single word.

“Everything was goin’ dandy…I had finished runnin’ errands; placed the order for the fencing materials, got myself a shave and haircut. I was headin’ over to join my pals over at the Red Dog. I had just crossed the street from the barber’s to the saloon, when I saw what at first looked like a big pink puffy inflated somethin’ bouncin’ down the boardwalk, only it was talkin’ loud and fast, not stoppin’ for a second to catch a breath of air. Turns out that was Arabella Higgs and alongside of her was another oversized frilly yallow inflated bag of wind bouncin’ down the boardwalk too, holdin’ one of those umbrella things up over her head,” said Johnny.

“You mean parasol, Johnny,” said Teresa as she carried in bowls of hot, steaming chili setting them down in front of Johnny and Val.

Johnny reached for his bowl, grinned his thanks for the food and the information. “Yeah that’s right, T’resa, it was a parasol. Both of them were yakking their heads off at the same time, not watching where they was awalkin’. Ya know I don’t get it how women can understand a single word they say if both are squawkin’ like gale storms blowin’ into town from opposite directions, crashin’ together. Makes no sense to me at all”, reflected Johnny.

“The only thing I can figure is that neither one of ‘em saw me bend down to fix my spur strap that had come loose. It wasn’t like I was stopped in the middle of the boardwalk; I was leanin’ over just outside the entrance to the Red Dog. The next thing I knew, that Arabella in her pink getup was fallin’ over me, followed by the other yallow one. We ended up sprawled out on the boardwalk; there were yards and yards of those fluffy, frilly dresses coverin’ me from head to toe.”

“So there I was tryin’ to figure out how to get out from under all that mess, I tried to get up and make certain nobody was hurt. Near as I can figure is somehow both my spurs got all tangled up in their dresses, ‘cos there were loud rippin’ sounds when I helped ‘em to their feet and they tried to walk away from me. Without so much as a howdy-do or thank ya kindly for helpin’ ‘em back on their feet.”

“I hollered at ‘em to ‘stop and don’t take another step’ just as soon as I’d felt the tuggin’ and jerkin’ on my boots and when they turned back around, the bottom portion of Arabella dress started unravelin’, layer by layer. I made a grab for the material to hold it back up against her, ya know to shield her, thinkin’ pretty quick that she probably wouldn’t appreciate half the town seein’ her unmentionables makin’ an appearance in public and all.”

“I don’t know what she was thinkin’ other than I guess she thought somethin’ else, which she would have been wrong thinkin’ about that….but she took a swing at me, while her friend began whackin’ me on my head with her damn…oops sorry T’erea…her darn parasol. They were both screamin’ bloody murder and the harder they pulled to free themselves from my spurs; the more rippin’ of material was takin’ place and the more of those unmentionables things of Arabella’s were showin’.”

“So I tried to get ‘em to settle down long enough for me to untangle their dresses from my spurs or hold still long enough so’s I could take my boots off. Neither one of them would listen and that other girl kept whackin’ me on my head. I was feelin’ a lump risin’ so’s I made a grab for that damn parasol, snatched it quick from her and flung it into the street, it opened up just as the delivery wagon with the beer kegs was pullin’ up to the front of the Red Dog.”

“That damn…dang parasol floatin’ down spooked the team of horses and they high-tailed out of there like a pack of wolves were chasin’ after ‘em…with beer kegs rollin’ and flyin’ off the back of the wagon, shootin’ off every which way, splittin’ open as they hit the ground….other people were screamin’ and shoutin’ as the horses and wagon flew down the street and they were getting’ the hell out of the way. I saw the horses go one way draggin’ their hitchin’ harnesses and the wagon crashed inside the front door of the boardin’ house. Those two girls kept yellin’ at me as if I caused it to happen.”

“A couple of the kegs flew through the saloon’s windows, shatterin’ glass, sendin’ pieces everywhere which startled the McGinnis spinsters in their nearby buggy, that old nag of theirs broke into a run right at us and to protect them screamin’ she-cats from bein’ trampled I threw myself on top ‘em knockin’ us all back to the ground. I just didn’t see the pile of horse shee…manure Arabella landed in until it was too late. Now she was screamin’ all the more like she was really bein’ murdered. All I was tryin’ to do was to protect ‘em from getting’ hurt when the McGinnis’ buggy rolled over me, with those two old ladies screamin’.”

“Arabella and her friend were squirmin’ under me pullin’ on those dumb dresses tryin’ to free ‘em from my spurs, still makin’ it worst ‘cos I kept hearin’ “rip, rip, rip”, the more they were kickin’ and gougin’ at me. So’s I sat up in the middle of the street and sure enough they tried gettin’ up but slipped in the horse shee…droppings fallin’ flat on their faces in all the beer sittin’ in a puddle on the street, yankin’ me along for the ride. The only good thing was that at least the beer smelled better than what Arabella had already fallen into and had smeared on her face.”

“I yelled at them to stay still long enough so I could get ‘em free and pulled out my boot knife to cut their dresses outta my spurs. Well, by now they were cat-awhaulin’ about how I had did somethin’ to their honor…I forgot the exact word…but it sounded bad…something like inpuked.”

Scott stifling a grin, sniffed, made a coughing sound, trying to be helpful said, “Johnny, I think you mean impugned.”

Johnny brightened at his brother’s figuring out of the word and exclaimed, “Yeah Scott that sounds right! I don’t know what it means…but like I said it sounded real bad, especially with her screamin’ it at me. So, I figured the least I could do would be to wrap my jacket around her, even if it was covered in mud, beer and maybe something else too. I was just tryin’ to help Arabella, who was lookin’ the worst for wear, as the other one had fallen on top of her, and then me on the both of ‘em.”

“Well while old Arabella was sittin’ there in the street covered in dung, beer and mud… I tried my best to see if there was any blood…I was thinkin’ it would be a good thing to not see any on her or her friend or even me. I hollered at ‘em to settle down, which only set ‘em off again with all their cryin’ and shriekin’.”
“Barrin’ anything else I didn’t reckon we should be hangin’ around in the middle of the street any longer, havin’ everyone gawkin’ at us, pointin’ and laughin’ especially at Arabella lookin’ as pitiful as she did…I grabbed Arabella around her waist and threw her over my shoulder to take her inside of Valdemerro’s to get a blanket she could use to cover herself. The other one was runnin’ after us, still tryin’ to whack me over my head with her parasol which was all bent and breakin’ up into pieces. I grabbed the damn thing from her and flung it up on top of Valdemerro’s roof, hopin’ to never see that again.”

Johnny stopped to catch his breath, take a few bites of food, and sip his coffee while his family sat transfixed by the story. Val, having already heard it, grinned and said, “I told ya it was interestin’. And he hasn’t gotten to the good parts yet.”

Upon hearing Val’s comment, Murdoch closed his eyes tightly shut and rubbed his forehead, looking like he was in pain, while Scott shook his head left to right wondering when he would be able to show his face in Morro Coyo and not have someone remind him of the previous day’s drama. Meanwhile Teresa’s eyes were as big as saucers while she gasped out loud at various parts of Johnny’s story.

Murdoch opened his eyes and looked at Val, “There’s more?” he asked incredulously. “Isn’t this enough already?”

“There’s more only if ya want to hear it,” drawled Johnny, as he finished off his food.

Murdoch waved his hand indicating for Johnny to continue as he said, “Carry on.”

“Go on Johnny; tell ‘em what happened next,” said Val with an amused look upon his face.

“Well if I hadn’t been so concerned about takin’ care of those two screamin’ fools I guess I would have high-tailed it outta of town but I wanna ta make sure they were okay. While I had Arabella flung over my shoulder, and I might add, she didn’t smell any too good either, I grabbed one of those Indian blankets of Val’s that are for sale from the shelf and flung it over her. She had been kickin’ and flayin’ her arms and legs and one of her kicks landed on my ummm family ahhhh jewels…if ya get my meanin’,” said Johnny looking over at Teresa with concern.

“Proceed; carefully young man,” was all Murdoch said as he rolled his eyes in disbelief. Scott was now no longer able to contain his concealed snorts as he broke into laughter so he placed his hand to cover his mouth, and began having a coughing fit as he tried to control his mirth.

“When her foot landed, I just reacted and smacked her hard on her ass. She shrieked like the calves do when we brand them and kicked me again only that time it was much harder. It hurt like holy hell makin’ me fall backwards into a container of honey that was settin’ on the countertop. It teetered back and forth before fallin’ over on its side, knockin’ the lid off and the honey began oozin’ a trail across the counter, down the front and side onto the floor makin’ it slick and sticky, as it was drippin’.”

“Arabella landed another kick, which completely knocked the wind out of me. I slipped on the honey on the floor, threw my arms out for balance, droppin’ Arabella from my shoulder, and she landed smack dab in a pool of honey at my feet on her ass…but ya know I didn’t dropped her on purpose. So now I had to; well nurse my sore ahhhh jewels while suckin’ in air, I fell down to the floor on my hands and knees and over onto my side doubled up in pain, clutchin’ my hmmmm jewels, getting’ honey in my hair and clothes, it was everywhere.”

“That’s when that rotten Johnson kid decided it would be great fun to open that container of marbles at the other end of the counter, which turned out to be too heavy for him to hold on ta and it crashed to the floor, scatterin’ marbles north-south-east-west, along with more broken glass. Arabella fell on her ass again. Sorry T’resa…her backside as soon as she stood up and stepped on a couple of ‘em marbles. I got up off the floor and hauled her back onto her feet, then her friend slipped as she tried to grab Arabella and she fell against us, knockin’ me into a shelf which emptied all the canned goods onto the floor.”

“I stepped backwards onto one of those cans, landed in a bunch of feather pillows that burst open at the seams sending feathers flying up into the air, covering Arabella, her friend and me with feathers that were stickin’ on the honey that had us pretty well coated. Meanwhile, the Valdemerros were standin’ as still as those old Greek statues Scott showed me in one of his books. I think they were too scared to move but I heard Senora Valdemerro say over and over “Oh Dios mío”! So I know she wasn’t too happy at havin’ her store in shambles. I saw that other gal grab up a broom and she swung it at my head. Well I was fixin’ on not gettin’ conked with that…so I grabbed ahold of the other end and gave it a yank.”

“She didn’t release the other end as I jerked it from her until she slipped on the honey or marbles or canned goods…take ya pick as by now it could have been any one of ‘em. Anyway she fell on her ass…’err backside and pick up a couple of those canned goods, began pitchin’ ‘em at my head, I ducked and the first can went flyin’ through Valdemerro’s window, smashin’ it, the second one hit my shoulder, another one broke one of those glass cases. Before she could pitch any more of them I made a grab for her and came up empty-handed, except for a sizeable piece of her dress as it ripped off into my hands.”

“Now I understand what all the receipts are for,” said a wearily looking Murdoch. “Please son, tell me this is the end of the catastrophe. There surely can’t be any more?”

“Oh no Murdoch, there’s more. This is what I get for tryin’ to use my moral fiber for good purposes. I was afraid that old Arabella and her friend, who I hope never to see, ever again, were injured somewhere from all the glass, marbles, spills, spurs and whatever else. I felt accountable to be lookin’ out for ‘em even as unpleasant and ornery as they were bein’ to me. But the way I see it everything that happened was their own damn fault.”

“How do you figure that brother?” Scott inquired masking his grin behind his cupped hand, his eyes filled with amusement as he was picturing the scene.

“Well, Boston, if they had only been lookin’ where they were goin’ instead of flappin’ their jaws like two brayin’ jackasses, none of this would have happened t’all,” drawled Johnny. He finished his coffee, and looked longing at his bowl, and then over to Teresa and said, “Thank ya again T’resa, that was good.”

“Do you want more Johnny?” she asked as she decided she had heard enough and needed to escape from the room before she started giggling, picturing in her head what those catty girls must have looked like covered in the muck, beer, mud, honey, and lordy feathers with half their dresses ripped to shreds! She just had to get out of the room before it was too late!

“I wouldn’t say no ta more,” he said as he patted his stomach. “You got the right amount of spices to suit me just fine.”

“Sheriff, what about you, can I get you a refill?” asked Teresa still trying to hide her mounting merriment as she gathered up the empty bowls and Johnny’s cup.

Val, who had been tryin’ his best to remain subdued throughout his second hearin’ of the calamities that befell Johnny, was wiping tears from his eyes as he began loudly guffawing. “No more for me Miss T’resa, I just might bust a seam from his tale of agony and defeat….don’t dare put any more food in my belly.”

Johnny glared at Val saying, “You aren’t supposed to be laughin’ amigo but offerin’ me moral support, remember?”

“Sure Johnny, it’s just whenever I picture you covered in all that crud and feathers….I just can’t help it!” he said between his hee-hawing, which finally got the best of both Scott and Murdoch, who joined in as they too connected all the dots to form a picture in their mind’s eyes of what Johnny had to have looked like, not to mentioned Arabella and Becca.

“Well go on then all of ya. Get it out of your system. I got the time to wait on ya,” Johnny said as he crossed his arms across his chest and watched his family and friend have laughing fits.

“Poor Johnny,” laughed Teresa as she came back with another hot bowl of chili for him.

“Hey, watch what ya’ doin’! I don’t need ya spillin’ anything on me either, T’resa, I’ve had enough of that!” he loudly said as the bowl was wobbling in her hands while she was walking and laughing. He jumped to his feet and moved away from her until the bowl was set down. His lighting fast reaction only increased the peals of laughing emulating from the others.

“Oh will ya sit down and tell ‘em how the rest of your trip to town went,” laughed Val.

“Yes brother, I want to know how you managed to get out of town in one piece. Now I understand why you were prone on that sofa when we got back from Morro Coyo until you heard Murdoch using his best “wait until I get my hands on that boy” tone. I would have been plum exhausted myself,” said Scott. “No wonder you were like a bear whose mid-winter’s nap was interrupted!”

Johnny grinned at Scott, “Now ya gettin’ it Boston, I felt like I had been rode hard and put away wet.”

“It sounds like that was what indeed happened with those girls hooked on to your boots, pulling you this way and that way,” laughed Scott all the more robustly.

“Go on Johnny, tell ‘em what happened next,” prodded Val.

“Ya a big help, ya know that don’t ya?” asked Johnny.

Murdoch had regained his composure, sat back in his seat, listening and watching the interaction unfolding before him, he cleared his throat and said, “Well, John if there’s more to be told, let’s hear it.” This quieted the others down as they settled back down to listen.

“I figured I could either leave ‘em where the hell they fell again or do the right thing and get ‘em over to the Doc Jenkins’ to make sure they were okay,” he drawled. “I got ‘em onto their feet again, had to yell at ‘em to “Shut the hell up”! Which finally startled them both into silence. I made ‘em stand still while I wrapped blankets around ‘em both. Then grabbed a hold of each by their elbows, walked ‘em out the front door. By now there was a crowd that had been gatherin’ outside Valdemerro’s and all those fine townsfolk stood there laughin’ and gawkin’ at us. The crowd parted enough to allow us to pass when that stupid other girl got pissed…sorry…mad I guess from the busy-bodies pointin’ and laughin’ at us.”

Johnny paused to look at the others, who by now were sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to hear more. “She try pullin’ away from me and as best as I can figure, part of her blanket had been draggin’ behind her, someone in the crowd must have stomped on it with their boot or something. ‘Cos when she pulled on it the blanket got loose from whatever was holdin’ it, she tripped, fallin’ face down into the water trough with a big splash, making Arabella start up with all her ear-piercing shriekin’ again.”

“Oh no!” laughed Teresa. “What did you do Johnny?”

“Well, T’resa by now my moral fiber was plum worn out and I did what I wish I had done in the first place,” he said.

“And Johnny, dare I ask what was that?” asked Murdoch, hoping for the best in his son’s tale of misadventures.

“Ya can ask, ya might not like the answer. I picked up that shriekin’ Arabella and dropped her into the water trough alongside her friend, walked over to Barranca, unhitched him and rode out of town, not lookin’ back while the townspeople stood there finally quiet themselves,” said Johnny.

“You mean to tell me that you left them in the water trough?” said Murdoch. “Any particular reason for that, son?”

“Murdoch, ya take your pick, I was filthy, sticky, smelled like I’d been rollin’ around in a pig sty and I was tired, had feathers flyin’ off me and my clothes, I looked and felt like a mottlin’ chicken. I was surprised Barranca even let me git on top of him. My head, my shoulder, my ass and my jewels were throbbing from being assaulted by them damn she-devils; my ear drums couldn’t take any more of their shrillness and well a man’s gotta know when ta hold em’ and went ta fold ‘em so’s I cut my losses and gotta out of town before anything else could go wrong.”

“I never did get to see my friends, or have a couple of nice cold beers. I had a belly full of tryin’ to help those screamin’ banshees who didn’t want my help and kept makin’ everything worst with every step they took. I figured Barranca and me needed to be anywhere but there, someplace where I could lick my wounds, clean-up and have me some peace and quiet.”

“So you go ahead yell at me if ya want to about where my moral fiber is or where it was. I think it may have fallen somewhere between the Red Dog and Valdemerro’s store. If ya can find it ya can hold on to it ‘cos it sure wasn’t worth it as far as I could tell with them two!”


Chapter Four

Caution: More cussin’! 

All eyes in the room shifted towards Murdoch to see his reaction to Johnny’s proclamation, who was glaring at him in mute silence and then slowly all eyes turned back to Johnny. Johnny was smirking at his father, daring him to say anything, just anything disapproving at all about his trip into Morro Coyo. He waited to see if anyone had anything clever to say, no one was sayin’ much of anything, just sittin’ there lookin’ a bit stunned, except for Val, chuckling; so he decided not to remain silent any longer he grinned and said, “Come on, y’all know I don’t like my fun organized…”

“John I think it’s time for you to take Barranca out to the barn and bed him down for the night. Wait for me there,” interrupted Murdoch.

“Why?” challenged Johnny.

Murdoch looked over at his youngest son, controlling his temper said, “Young man, you are not in the position of questioning me. I told you to do something, that’s reason enough why unless you want me to discuss your consequences here and now in front of your brother, Teresa and Sheriff Crawford.”

Johnny looked less smugly at his father’s threat but didn’t get up to follow his order. He remained seated while looking for support to come from his big brother or Val, both having been more than eager to watch his back earlier. He sensed that he was in need of their assistance now, more at this moment than earlier. Murdoch gave him an unyielding stare before shaking his head in wonderment at his son’s tenacity.

Murdoch stood up and walked over to Val, “Sheriff Crawford, thank you for seeing John home, if there’s nothing else to be done here, would you kindly excuse us? John and I have father and son matters to discuss in private. You will let me know if this matter will be dropped in the eyes of the law since no one was seriously injured, maybe just a few bruised prides? Without question, I will pay for the damages and repairs.”

Val got up and shook Murdoch’s offered hand, saying, “I think, since I represent the law in this matter, this really is somethin’ for you and Johnny ta, ahhhhh, discuss in private. As long as the damages are paid for I don’t see no reason t’all for any further involvement on my part. He didn’t break any laws near as I can figure, might be a touch too accidental, Mr. Lancer. Now don’t ya be too hard on the boy, after all he did try ta do the right thing and well parts of him are plum worn out already. Just one thing, maybe ya could keep him outta Morro Coyo and Green River until this whole thing blows over and Higgs settles down?”

“Hey, now wait a minute, Val, where do ya think ya goin’?” asked Johnny looking over at his friend.

“Scott, Miss T’resa, thank ya for the drink and food. Johnny, guess I’ll be takin’ my leave now,” said Val as he crossed over to the hat rack to retrieve his battered old hat. He turned around before walking out the door, giving Johnny a thumbs-up with a wink said, “Amigo, I’ll be seein’ ya sooner or later.” He mounted up and headed back to Green River with the feelin’ that Johnny would be learnin’ all about consequences from his father. “I sure don’t envy him,” thought Val as he rode off into the night, “His old man looked like he was gonna erupt any second. Gotta give to Johnny, he sure enough knows how to tear-up the town!! Oh boy that sure was some story!”

Johnny watched Val leave, crossed his arms across his chest he looked at Murdoch, who said with decisiveness, “John don’t make me tell you again. If you recall, not more than an hour ago you gave me your word that you would be an obedient son, do as I told you, now.”

Johnny looked over at Scott who shrugged his shoulders at his brother, pointed his index finger towards the door and said, “If I were you little brother, I’d get moving.”

“Okay! Okay I’m going,” he replied, and he walked out the front door to collect Barranca. Johnny was out in the barn for at least fifteen minutes or so brushing him down, after giving him extra oats when he heard the barn door close firmly as Murdoch came in. He felt his father’s eyes upon him as he continued brushing his beloved horse, willing himself to remain cool, calm and collected even as his hand clamped tighter around the brush.

Murdoch came alongside of his son, and gently removed the curry brush from his hand, putting it down on the shelf. Johnny looked up at his tall father, waiting for him to say something, “Johnny, I know you think I ride you pretty hard, more so than Scott and well to be frank with you, I do but with good reason. You know that Scott had a much different upbringing than yours. His grandfather kept him engaged learning Bostonian society manners, attending the finest schools where he had to respect and obey his teachers, and then he entered the Army where he learned the importance of following orders and maintaining discipline among soldiers from his commanding officers as well as leading men into battle, some never to return.”

“I’m trying to be the father you didn’t have while growing up in those dusty border towns. I can only wish I had been there for you more than just your first two years of life. But Johnny neither one of us can change what’s done and in the past. We’re here now and we need to figure out how to work together for the future of Lancer. I don’t want you to think that my being harder on you is because I’m unfair, uncaring or vindictive. Scott doesn’t need breaking in to my way of thinking, he follows my orders, but you my son, you do need breaking in; you’re like those wild mustangs you like to catch and break. You know that it takes time and patience to do that job right or you just end up with an unreliable horse. Scott agreed as you did when you signed on as a partner that there’s only one man calling the tune around here…and that man is me.”

Johnny stood silently listening to his father’s lecture…wondering where he was heading. “Look Murdoch,” he started to say until he saw Murdoch’s hand go up, to silence him. He sighed deeply, looking up into his father’s eyes and waited, not an easy thing for him to do.

Murdoch put his hand upon Johnny’s shoulder before he continued, “John we have talked about actions having consequences before and here’s what your consequences will be: First, you will be working off the costs from your day in town to me, as I will pay for the damages.”

“Second, you are not to go into Morro Coyo, Green River, Spanish Wells or any other town for that matter until the damages have been paid in full….which I estimate should take you oh anywhere between two to three months’ time between your regular pay and the extra chores I’ll assign you. You, young man will be too tired to even think about heading anywhere but into your bed after your day is finished. It will at least offer time for yesterday to be forgotten by some of the townspeople, if we’re lucky.”

Third, I don’t want you wearing those spurs anywhere near another female, you around women with spurs on is a deadly combination. I do not want to hear, see or know about any repeat performances. Your spurs are barred from any socials or dances you may attend in the future.”

“Fourth, you will make formal apologies to Arabella and her friend Becca for what happened, regardless of who was at fault or responsible. Being the man you think you are, I want you to accept full responsibility. Now, John, do you have something you want to say?”

“Is that it Murdoch?” he asked. “Can I go ta bed now? I’m tuckered out and would like to hit the hay in my own bed tonight.”

“No son, those were your consequences for your mishap in town. Your final consequence is for your lack of respect you displayed towards me this morning. I did not appreciate the words you threw at me, or your tone, or your willful disregard of my rules. I do not excuse those behaviors, or with your frequent use of language I have asked you not to use around Teresa,” Murdoch paused giving Johnny time to think about the disappointment he felt with his son.

“John, I expect we’ll disagree about other matters in the future but we will discuss them in civilized tones and not hurled insults, nor go charging away from the discussion when it doesn’t suit you. These are not appropriate behaviors for any grown man to display. I trust you understand me. Had you grown up here on the ranch we would have developed a solid relationship as father and son, you would have grown-up learning to follow orders…my orders. As I mentioned upon your return home this evening I consider a nineteen year old boy not yet ready to be a man. If you are going to act like a child you will be punished like a child,” stated Murdoch with resolute.

“Meaning what?” Johnny asked guardedly with a strong sense of dread at what he sensed was coming.

“It’s been my own personal experience that there’s nothing like a good hiding to clear the air, to help a wayward son find his way back and reignite his moral fiber amongst other things, you know give it a little nudge,” said Murdoch. “Now we can do this the easy way or we can do it the hard way.”

Johnny looked at his father, and asked, “The difference bein’ what?”

“The easy way is for you to accept your punishment without fighting me. The hard way is for me to have to make it longer and harder than need be if you challenge my right to discipline you. Either way it’s something that will be done, so John you tell me which way you prefer.”

Johnny standing in front of his father hung his head down, “Murdoch, I’ll already told Scott and Val that I would accept my consequences whatever they are. Truth be told I’m not lookin’ forward to having’ ya whop my ass…uhhh well, I did it again…sorry…my ahhh hindquarters. I’m hopin’ it will clear the air between ya and me and ya know, ease my conscience. My stomach’s been churnin’ all day for sayin’ what I said ta ya, but not for what happened in town, that was ‘em stupid females’ fault…not mine. I try and try ta be a son that makes ya proud…it just don’t always work out for me and ya don’t make it any easier ya know with all ‘em rules and orders…I just ain’t use ta followin’ ‘em.”

Murdoch dropped his hand to his son’s shoulder, giving him a slight pat along with a squeeze, “I know son…I know. If it makes you feel any better, I appreciate your efforts…you just need to work on your attitude and that will make me even prouder of you…knowing you are becoming the man you should be. Now are you ready to get this over and done, put it behind us?”

Johnny smirked at his father, “Don’t ya mean behind me? Ya really mean ta do this?”

“Son, have you ever known me, in our time together, to tell a lie? If I say something is to be done…you should know by now that I say what I mean and mean what I say. You know a man’s word should always be his bond.”

“Now as for you young man, we can either do this here or if you prefer, go up to your room…your choice. I thought out here in the barn would be easier on you if your brother and Teresa weren’t around to hear me disciplining you.”

Johnny sighed saying, “I reckon, here’s okay…at least Barranca won’t snicker at me afterwards even if I may not feel like ridin’ him tomorrow or the day after.”

“That Johnny my boy comes with the territory. I want you to remember what my father would tell me just before he tanned my hide. He would say, “Son, God provided the perfect spot that being your backside where you will feel His right arm come down from heaven above as He guides my arm to gain your undivided attention while you received his message to honor and respect your father and to do what is expected of an obedient son,” said Murdoch, as he unbuckled his belt, pulling it from his pants loops with a whooshing sound that did get Johnny’s full attention as he felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.

“Honoring one’s father is one of God’s laws that wayward sons occasionally are in need of reminding…let’s hope one reminder is enough for you, my boy,” said Murdoch. “My father would add, that God made it possible for disobedient sons to recall the lesson given for a few days, allowing them time to reflect upon their mistake and to learn from that mistake to avoid making it again,” Murdoch said as he placed a saddle blanket on top of the stacked hay bales. He instructed Johnny to unbutton his leather Concho pants, drop them and position himself over the blanket.

“Did it work for you?” asked Johnny as he hunched up his shoulders, unbuttoned his pants and leaned over the hay bales, following Murdoch’s directions; he looked back over his shoulder to watch his father roll up his shirt sleeves and swallowed hard at the well-toned muscles on his father’s arm. “Shit,” he thought…”this ain’t gonna be easy no matter what the hell the old man said.”

“Son, I learned my lessons the hard way…same as you are now going to learn your lesson. I want you to know John; this isn’t going to be any easier on me than it is on you,” said Murdoch as the swishing belt landed sharply on his backside. Murdoch followed that one with a series of solid swats all finding the target area of Johnny’s exposed rear.

“Murdoch, somehow I doubt that very much,” hissed Johnny as he gritted his teeth, gripping the blanket tighter as each swing of his father’s belt found its mark. He felt his backside igniting something powerful and thought, “If this is the fuckin’ consequences I have ta pay for losin’ my fuckin’ temper, shootin’ off my fuckin’ mouth and tarnishin’ my fuckin’ moral fiber with the old man…I’ll be holdin’ ‘em nearer ta my fuckin’ chest from now on. Yeow! Dios! I sure don’t like the fuckin’ tune he’s playin’, hope he finished it pretty goddamn quick! Yikes! Dios mío!”

When Murdoch did finished playing his tune, it left Johnny’s backside looking as red as the barn would be when Johnny got around to painting it, he looped his belt back in his pants and said to Johnny, “It’s over, son, you’ve paid this consequence in full. I hope you take to heart and heed what I said to you, as I don’t want to repeat this again but will if you need more nudging. You understand don’t you son?”

Johnny had remained lying across the hay bales and reached back to gingerly rub his sore backend before shifting slightly to glance over to his father. Johnny remembered that Scott had told him that usin’ discretion had somethin’ to do with valor only he explained it to Johnny that it meant that sometimes bein’ smarter instead of a smart aleck in certain situations was the best course to follow, thinkin’ at the time that he didn’t really know what Boston was talkin’ about, but figurin’ this was one of those “certain situations”, he simply said, “Yessir, Pa, I got your message loud and clear.” He really wanted to shout, “Understand this ya fuckin’ asshole,” while he punched his old man’s lights out but he didn’t.

Murdoch smiled softly to himself when Johnny called him “Pa” and thought that they had made some headway in developing their father-son relationship. He walked over to where Johnny was still prone and reached down his hand to help him to his feet said, “Here, son take my hand, let me help you up. I can’t imagine you want to stay in that position too long, never know when Teresa will walk in on you.”

Johnny stood up and whistling sharply as he pulled his leather pants up and over his sore ass, rubbing some more as he attempted to put the fire out, “Dios Murdoch that was your easy way? I don’t even want ta think what the hard way would have been like. Man, oh man ya wore out my ass!”

“Well, Johnny guess you’ll not be forgetting your lesson anytime too soon then, eh my boy?” asked Murdoch as he reached over to draw his son in for a quick hug.

Johnny looked up at his father and said, “Ya got that right – this is one nudge I can do without!”

“Are you ready to head back inside son or do you want some time for yourself?” asked Murdoch.

Johnny ducked his head down and said, “Ya go on in, think I’ll stay out here a little while longer.”

“Alright, just don’t stay out here too long, morning will be here before you know it and…”

“I know, I know…I have plenty of work ta do,” finished Johnny as he finished adjusted his Concho pants back into place, sucking in air at the chafing of the material against his backend. “I’ll give ya my word Murdoch, I’ll be in directly.”

“Son, before I go, shake my hand, like men do when they have concluded their business,” Murdoch said as he stuck out his hand towards Johnny. Johnny gripped it with his own hand and they firmly shook each other’s hand.

Johnny released his grip and said, “Look Murdoch…I real sorry about everything that I said ta ya this mornin’.”

“Good to hear my boy. Indeed that’s good to hear, I guess the heat to your seat reignited your moral fiber after all,” smiled Murdoch.

“Indeed, Murdoch, indeed,” replied Johnny as he used both hands to rub the red-hot flames that had blistered his moral fiber.


December, 2008


Author’s Note:

Howdy!  Hope y’all enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  It’s been fun having my muse run lines and ideas through my head, sometimes at the strangest of times and places a thought would just pop-in!  Lancer certainly is an addicting outlet from real life’s trials and tribulations.  It’s my intention to use this story as a springboard into my second story that I’ve started dabbling at during this past summer when I first reconnected with Lancer after discovering all the creative outlets on the Internet.  This story helps set the stage for my next piece, “Double, Double Lancer Trouble”.  And that’s the only clue I’ll offer…as to what type of stage is being set…to quote Johnny y’all find out “sooner or later”  as indeed only time will tell as I continue scribbling away at my story. 

Happiest of Holidays to All – May Everyone Enjoy a Happy and Hopefully More Prosperous New Year! 

Happy Birthday to James!!  I Wish It To Be a Grand One!!  Thank you for all the wonderful memories of my favorite Western series!


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.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Patti H. directly.


4 thoughts on “His Moral Fiber by Patti H.

  1. Such a hysterical story. I felt bad though for Johnny getting so severely disciplined when he was trying to do the right thing with the women.


  2. I found this story to be very amusing and I am glad that Murdoch did see the funny side of what happened to Johnny in town, with the two young ladies
    And although I don’t hold with Johnny using such language to his father, I did think that his punishment was rather harsh.
    Lancer lives on!


  3. I can’t wait for the next part! I love your stories and this one is so original. I didn’t think Murdoch would follow through but he sure did. Johnny needs his mouth washed out with soap but maybe their cook Maria will see to that.


  4. Johnny is always getting the short end of the stick even when he does the right thing. Yes he was wrong to curse his father, but Murdoch was wrong also in more ways than one. How can you teach someone about moral fiber and leave yours at the door. I enjoyed this story but I didn’t like the ending 😕


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