Word Count – 3,894
The twenty year old young man stood by his golden horse and watched the sun as it went down behind the hills. Tears started down his cheeks and as the sun disappeared he fell to his knees and sobbed.
After a while he laid down and fell to sleep. When he woke up he realized he had not unsaddled his horse or even made a camp fire so he could eat. His depression had gotten the best of him again but he must snap out of it.
After making a fire and eating his dinner the boy once again asked himself the same question that had been on his mind for over 2 months.
Did he have a family or just thought he had? But he knew the answer as soon as he looked at the letter L that was engraved on his saddle.
His name was Johnny Lancer and he is the son of Murdoch Lancer and the little brother of Scott Lancer. It was almost 2 years ago when his father found him and brought him home 16 years after his mother took him away from his father at the age of 2 and made him live a life of mistreatment and hate.
He was a little boy alone after his mother was killed and at 14 he took up gunfighting to make a living and to avenge his mother’s death. He even changed his name to Johnny Madrid.
His father’s love and guidance plus his big brother’s advise brought him all the way home and changed him into a fine young man.
Then 2 months ago his Pa and brother boarded a stagecoach to Sacramento to attend a meeting of the Cattlemen’s Association.
They were to be away only 2 weeks but when the time for them to return had come and gone Johnny went looking for them.
For the last 60 days he rode everywhere searching for them. He sent telegrams to the Cattleman’s Association, he talked to the stagecoach driver and went to every town along the way asking the same questions.
“Have you seen these men?” He asked the local sheriffs, and his friend Sheriff Val joined the search by wiring other lawmen in the area. The ranch hands at Lancer also rode asking questions.
But it was always the same, no one had seen them. It was as if they vanished off the face of the earth.
His father’s long time friend and local banker checked the accounts to see if any money was being used but the accounts were untouched.
He put up reward posters everywhere offering $50,000 for information on their whereabouts. Those posters only brought in people who lied to try to get the money. Another dead end.
In addition he had to run Lancer ranch, pay the hands and keep the books. However their friend and doctor Sam helped by hiring more ranch hands and managers so Johnny was not so overwhelmed which freed him to search.
This last trip he had been gone 2 weeks and it was time to go back home for a short while and go out again.
Each time he went back home the hope that he would find them got smaller and smaller. Being alone again also added to the pain he felt inside. Why was God not helping him?
He started back home and as he rode he saw a small boy sitting on the side of the trail sobbing and saying out loud “I want my Papa” over and over again.
Johnny stopped his horse next to boy and asked him if he was lost. Startled the child ran away. Johnny decided to ride ahead to the nearest town to ask the local sheriff about the little boy who appeared lost.
After riding for 10 minutes or so he arrived at the town but did not see the name of the town anywhere. But he did see the sheriff’s office and decided to pay him a visit. As he was tying his horse up he was startled to see the little boy who had been crying for his father.
He started to walk toward the child when the sheriff came out of his office and asked him what he wanted.
Johnny said to the man “my name is Johnny Lancer and I have been searching for my father and brother who have been missing for 2 months. I was headed home when I saw that boy over there crying for his father but when I tried to help him he ran away”.
The sheriff looked at him and decided to answer his question though reluctantly. He explained that the boy’s father was sent away to prison so he could work off the debt he owed the landlord and the child was missing him.
Johnny thought about this for a moment then asked about the location of this prison and who was in charge of it.
The sheriff decided he would not answer any more questions so he told Johnny he was too busy to talk and then turned and walked back into his office. As Johnny mounted his horse he watched the little boy and his mother go into their house. He would act like he was leaving for home but return later after dark. He felt that little boy and his mother would have a answer for him. It was just a hunch but he needed a miracle and maybe they would have it.
It was after 11pm when he rode quietly into town and tied up Barranca in the back of the house and gently knocked on the door. A lamp was lite and he saw the boy’s mother approach the door. “Go away whoever you are” she said and started to turn away.
Johnny told her his name and that he was the one who tried to help her son. He also told her he too was missing his own father and that he needed help and thought maybe she could help him.
She hesitated for a minute then turned and opened the door for him and as he entered the house he saw that she also held a gun on him.
“Ma’am” he said “I have been searching for my missing father and brother for over 2 months now and it is like they just blew away in a puff of smoke. Your sheriff would not tell me where your husband was being held in prison and as I never heard of any prisons in this area I thought you might have the answer”.
The woman looked closely at him and lowered the gun she held on him and invited him to sit down. She explained that her son told him how nice Johnny was to him and that she would try to help him.
“My name is Ellen Wallace and 10 months ago we came into town with our little boy to build a new life and bought this house and some property out of town. Everett, my husband, worked hard and built up the land till it was almost time to plant a corn crop. Then a man named Kyle Gross showed up here with the sheriff and handed us a piece of paper that said our deed was not legal as the man who sold it to us did not hold legal title and therefore it was not his to sell.”
“Mrs. Wallace”, Johnny said “how long where you here when this happened?”
“We were here for 7 months before this happened, she answered and Everett told the man he was lying and wanted to know why they waited for 7 months to tell us, accusing the man of waiting for us to build and plant so that he could come in and steal it after we did all the hard work’
“Then we took our case to a lawyer but he betrayed us when he arranged for Everett and I to go before a judge not to plead our case but to charge us for stealing the property and that he was to work on a convict farm till the money was paid. But we were there to testify that this deed was false and show the judge the deed we had that was on record with the county. Instead of doing his job he ordered that Everett be arrested as he thought this Kyle Gross was entitled to have the legal fees he had to spend to serve us with a warrant repaid by us.
Johnny looked at her and asked if she had gotten a new lawyer or had gone to another judge. “No Johnny I have not, you see the money is all gone and I am going to have another baby and the little money I have goes to feed my son and I. That so called judge has given us just 1 more month to live here then we are to be evicted. I have not told Everett about the baby as it would only make him worry more than he already has.”
They were silent for a few minutes then Johnny said he was going to leave before it got light. Mrs. Wallace took Johnny’s hand and then pleaded with him not to confront Gross or the sheriff alone.
“Johnny I have not told this to Everett but I think someone other than Kyle Gross is behind all of this. I have no proof but I know someone who may be able to verify this. There is a small newspaper outside of town and the owner has told me he would print my story. “
Johnny left and headed back home and thought he would try to find the newspaper office and speak to the man who ran it. He rode deep in thought and when suddenly he felt like his head was exploding then he fell from his horse and everything went dark.
He was not fully conscious and could not seem to wake up but he knew who was now holding him and softly telling him he was going to be OK. It was the voice of his father Murdoch Lancer and he felt safe and warm. His Pa was kissing his face and speaking gently to him while holding him tightly and rocking him back and forth. But even though he tried to move or talk he had no strength to do so.
He tried to come too but fell asleep again and he decided to at listen for his father’s voice because that told him he was home. He was semi conscious again when he heard other voices other than his father’s. He smiled to himself when he heard his brother Scott talking but there was now an unknown person in the room. A man whose tone was threatening and cold. He could not make out the words but his father was yelling at his person. But since he felt safe now he decided to go back to sleep as he knew his Pa and brother would protect him.
Murdoch gently laid Johnny down on a sofa then got up and confronted the man who had entered the room. “Damn you Gross why was my boy shot and where is the doctor who was supposed to be here by now”? He is badly wounded and no one is here for him. Your boss ordered this, I know he did and I swear he will pay for it.”
Kyle Gross just smiled then opened a door to let a man come in to attend Johnny. This man was the town doctor and he was told the shooting was a accident. Murdoch stepped aside while the doctor tended Johnny’s wound but once again started to go after Gross who now held a gun on both he and Scott. “Calm down Lancer your boy is in good hands. Doctor Stevens is the best in the county. After he leaves the Colonel will be here to see if you have changed your mind”.
Dr. Stevens worked on Johnny for over a hour then told his father and brother that Johnny had a bad concussion and possibly a fractured skull and was in a coma. He did not think the boy would die but he must not be moved and needed time and rest. He left and promised to be back the next morning.
Murdoch heard the doctor talking to others in the hallway. He knew the Colonel was going to come in and thought back to how this all started. He and Scott had gotten off the stage and were ready to take the next stagecoach to home when they were approached by a man dressed in a white suit who introduced himself as Colonel Hilstrom and said he had heard from the local cattlemen about Lancer ranch and would be honored if they would have dinner with him then spend the night at the ranch.
Scott and Murdoch were tired from the long trip and accepted the man’s invitation. They arrived at a large spacious home and made themselves at home. The food was wonderful and the Colonel a grand host. He was a large man in both height and weight who always had a cigar in this mouth and dressed in white suits. His manners were impeccable and his tales of his service to the South in the Civil War were colorful to say the least. He had heard that Scott was a officer in the Union Army and he congratulated him on the victory. They then all went to bed.
Early the next morning at breakfast the man in white got down to his real purpose for inviting them into his home. He wanted to buy Lancer, all of it. House, acres, stock. All of it. Murdoch told him it was not for sale and never would be. When they got up to leave several men with guns entered the room and Hilstrom told them they were going to be his prisoners and could only go free when they signed the sales contract he had drawn up. So for 2 months after trying many times to escape they could not break free. Now Hilstrom knew the three Lancers each owned a third of Lancer but did not seemed concerned about Johnny. Now they knew why, he had intended to kill the youngest Lancer.
Sure enough the Colonel entered the room and told them unless they signed the sales contract the doctor would not be coming back for Johnny and the boy would be allowed to die alone and in pain. Murdoch and Scott walked over to the table and each signed the sales agreement. Without their Johnny there was nothing to live for. Scott asked how he would get away without Johnny signing and he told him he had already forged a sales agreement from Johnny. He then left the family alone and rode out with Lyle Gross and the other men he had hired.
They came back after 2 days arriving early in the morning from the long ride to the county recorders office in Morro Coyo. And one look at Hilstrom told them things had not gone well. Gross and Hilstrom stormed in the room and tried to get to Johnny who was still unconscious but his father and brother stopped him.
“Didn’t you get our ranch” Murdoch asked. “No, your halfbreed son saw to that” Hilstrom replied. “Your boy had the judge put a condition on the sale that all three of you had to be present in person and that the signing must be in the presence of a Doctor Sam and Sheriff Val or the sale would not go through”.
Both Murdoch and Scott smiled with pride and were filled inside with love that Johnny had the wisdom to keep someone from stealing Lancer in case that was why his family was missing for so long. When Gross and his boss saw their smiles they almost exploded with anger. Johnny had out thought them all. He had beaten the odds all his life and he had won. Now it was up to the Colonel to make the next move.
As soon as they left the county office the clerk went right over to Sheriff Val and told him what had happened. He described the men and when Val was told about the big man’s white suit he knew exactly who he was. Val went over to Dr. Sam’s office and both of them went to see the judge. “Your honor I know these men. They are wanted in 5 states for murder, kidnapping and grand theft. If they have our friends then we have to act fast. I am going to put together a large posse and I need to get warrants for their arrest.”
Judge Thomas issued the warrants and the sheriff and his posse left within the hour using the tracks left behind to follow them. Dr. Sam came along on his buckboard in case one the Lancer men was injured. The journey would take a day or two and they rode hard to get there as soon as possible.
Five days had passed since Johnny had been shot and he was slowly regaining consciousness. The doctor had taken good care of him and told his father that it looked like the youngster would survive. Johnny had called out to his father and responded to his Pa’s touch. Lyle Gross told them once Johnny was well they were all going to Morro Coyo again and this time the sale would go through. If anything happened they would all be shot and killed and they would torture both Scott and Johnny before their father’s eyes for days while he watched.
Two days later Johnny woke up and was finally aware of his surroundings. He stayed awake till nighttime when he fall asleep. Murdoch held him as he slept laying next to him in bed and both of them got the rest they desperately needed. The plan was to leave within another week for town . No one involved realized the house was surrounded by the posse waiting for them to come out and be arrested.
Early in the morning Murdoch told Hilstrom that Johnny was still too weak to travel but it did no good to protest. For the first time they were introduced to another prisoner, Everett Wallace who told them how he ended up there. Wallace was to help take care of Johnny during the trip and make sure no one tried anything. Then Everett told them he was on their side and would help them escape if he could.
The sun had finally come up when they left the house for the trip and had gotten about 400 yards away when they were surrounded by the lawmen. But when they refused to surrender the shooting started. Murdoch went after the Colonel while Scott tackled Gross. Everett grabbed a gun from one of the men and gave to to Johnny who aimed it at Hilstrom and fired one round into his head. Scott had beaten Gross and was still hitting him when Val broke it up. The other men ran but were overtaken by the rest of the posse. When the shooting stopped it got very quiet and Murdoch jumped into the wagon to hold Johnny who had lost consciousness after he fired the shot that killed the Colonel. Sam also climbed into the wagon and treated his favorite patient.
While the sheriff rounded up the prisoners Murdoch, Scott and Dr. Sam took Johnny into the nearby town to tend his wound and get themselves cleaned up. Murdoch sent off a telegram to Lancer Ranch to tell them they were safe and would be home soon. Teresa, Murdoch’s ward was sent away by Johnny to her Aunt who lived in San Francisco so she would be safe and away from the ranch while Johnny searched for his family.
Once they were settled in the hotel Everett ran to his home and hugged and kissed his wife and little boy. They were all laughing and crying at the same time then Everett noticed his wife had gotten bigger and was overjoyed that he was going to be a father again. When Val had gotten his prisoners in jail he tried to arrest the local sheriff but both the sheriff and the judge who sentenced Everett had escaped. Wanted posters were issued and with luck they would soon be caught.
Meantime Val had arranged for the territorial Marshall to come and take charge of the town and also to have him bring a judge to set things right. Everett’s house and land were returned to him as he was the rightful owner and Gross and the other henchmen would be tried and sent to prison for a long time. As for the doctor who treated Johnny’s head wound he claimed he had no idea they were prisoners and because of the fact that his care saved Johnny they agreed not to prosecute him.
It took another couple of weeks for Johnny to be well enough to travel and once he was Dr. Sam and Val accompanied the Lancer family back home with Johnny who was resting in the back of a borrowed wagon with Barranca tied to the back of it. When the Lancer family rode under the arch that said Lancer Teresa and their foreman Cipriano ran toward them and lots of hugs, kisses and back slaps were exchanged over and over again. They were home after almost 3 months. Johnny had kept his promise to find his father and brother and bring them back home. Johnny still had headaches and he was still in need of rest and healing but he was going to be back to normal in no time. Thank God they were home again!
It was after 2am when Murdoch got up to check on his sleeping sons and after seeing Scott sound asleep he was startled to see that Johnny was not in his bed. He went downstairs and found his boy sitting on the couch looking out the window. He had tears in his eyes and Murdoch went to him and held him . After a little while Johnny told his father that when he took aim at the Colonel his vision was so bad that he was not sure he would hit him and was scared of hitting his Pa. Then in an instant his vision cleared and he hit his target. Murdoch held him tight and told him how much he loved him and how proud he was of how he ran the ranch and all he did to find them. Johnny tilted his head up and smiled at his father. “I love you Papa. Thank you for bringing me home .” Murdoch held him close then realized his youngest son had fallen sound asleep.
He gently picked his boy up and carried him upstairs to his bed. After tucking him in he leaned over and kissed him goodnight. Murdoch was exhausted from the long trip and looked forward to a good night’s sleep. As he drifted off to sleep he smiled to himself. The Lancers were all home again safe and sound. He thanked God then closed his eyes.
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