#1 in a duology, followed by Brothers In Need
This is an AU story for “High Riders”.
Word count: 6,060
John Madrid Lancer stepped down from the stagecoach which had brought him to Morro Coyo. Looking around he saw only another dusty town, just like many of the border towns which he had called home in the last twenty years.
Madrid turned to face a young brown-haired girl staring at him with a question in her eyes.
Now this is more like it!
“I’m Teresa O’Brien. Murdoch Lancer sent me here to pick you up and take you out to the ranch.”
“That’s fine with me since I don’t have a horse, but why would he send a tiny thing like you? Why couldn’t my loving father come himself?”
Teresa gritted her teeth at the smirking tone in the young man’s voice. “Mr. Lancer was injured severely not long ago. He’s still recovering.”
“I see. So he must really need my help now?”
Hesitantly, the girl looked up into the sapphire-blue eyes. “Yes, he does. He needs someone to stand with him since my father died.”
“Paul O’Brien was the foreman of Lancer. He and your father went after a stolen stallion in the middle of the night. They were ambushed and my father died. Mr. Lancer was wounded, but now the situation with Pardee has become much worse. He wants to take the ranch away from your father. You have to help him, Mr. Lancer.”
With a smile that usually charmed all the ladies, but never reached his eyes, Johnny Madrid politely disagreed. “Sorry but you’re wrong there, Miss. All I have to do is listen for my $1,000.”
“I see. You’re in this solely for the money.”
“You’ve got that right. I figure the old man owes me something for all those years after he kicked my mother and me out!”
Vehemently, the young woman protested, “That’s not what happened! Your mother left of her own free will!”
“Who told you that?”
“My father. He was here then.”
“And he was a good friend of Murdoch’s, wasn’t he?”
“Of course, but he wouldn’t lie.”
In his soft, caressing voice, the gunfighter soothed the upset female. “Oh, he probably believed he was telling you the truth, but usually a man doesn’t discuss what goes on in his bedroom with another man, even a good friend.”
A blush of embarrassment colored Teresa’s pale face. “I wouldn’t know about that.”
“No, of course you wouldn’t. You were raised to believe your father’s word was law, and now that he’s gone, Murdoch’s taken his place, hasn’t he? Well, that doesn’t mean anything to me. I’m sorry about your father; he shouldn’t have gone out alone with Murdoch to get that horse. I may not be a rancher, but I could have smelled that trap from Mexico.”
The small woman pulled herself up to her full height. “Oh, of course. I forgot that you’re the tough gunslinger, aren’t you? So tough that you were facing a firing squad if that Pinkerton man hadn’t shown up!”
Madrid grinned. “Well, now you do have some spirit, don’t you?”
Teresa nodded. “Yes, I do when it comes to Lancer, and now I think we should head out to the ranch so you can see just what it is we’re talking about.”
The two young people climbed aboard the buckboard which Teresa had waiting. Most of the ride was taken in silence. Johnny had a great deal to think about. Teresa’s words had raised some of the doubts he had had over the years. His mother had rarely spoken about the Anglo that she had married and the few words were not very helpful in giving his son any kind of image of the man who was his father. The one absolute truth that the young man could cling to was that his mother had loved Johnny. Perhaps she had made mistakes, but she had loved him enough to take him with her instead of leaving him behind with a man who couldn’t satisfy his own wife. When he had asked about the great ranch just before his mother’s death, Maria had simply answered, “She was your father’s beautiful mistress and I could not defeat my rival.” Johnny had flushed with the pain of that acknowledgement. Well, he was not some blushing bride afraid to stand up to the great Murdoch Lancer. He would hear the man out and make his own decisions.
On a rise overlooking a valley filled with buildings, dominated by a great white hacienda, Teresa stopped. “There it is—all the way to the mountains, the most beautiful land God ever created—Lancer!”
“God and Murdoch Lancer, you mean!”
‘”Of course. Mr. Lancer had his dream from the moment he stepped off the boat from Scotland. He’s put his blood and sweat into building this ranch.”
“And just what would have happened to it if he had been killed the night your father died?”
“I…I don’t know. He’s never told me if he made a will.”
“So maybe it would belong to you?”
“I’m just his ward.”
“So? It sounds like he cares a lot more about you than he did his son.”
“That’s not true!”
“Maybe you’d like to believe it’s not true, but it’s me who had to live in rat-infested hovels while my mother took any kind of work she could get. There were times when she gave me the last bit of food we had and she went hungry so don’t tell me that Murdoch Lancer cares about me. He found me once with a Pinkerton; he could have done it before.”
Teresa said nothing as she started up the buckboard to continue under the great gate and into the courtyard.
The darkly handsome man strolled into the white hacienda, following Teresa O’Brien. It was quite obvious to the young man that Murdoch Lancer had created an empire out here in California. The house fit into the landscape and every piece of furniture seemed to belong in this great room. Even the chiming of the clock which tolled the hour seemed as much a part of Lancer as the mountains which he had seen in the distance.
When Teresa came to a stop in front of the desk where the older man sat peering at his books, Johnny took the opportunity to observe the man who was his father. From the lined face and graying hair, the patriarch appeared to be in his middle to late fifties and not a man given to much joviality. Those lines were from work, not laughter.
With an almost exaggerated slowness, Murdoch Lancer rested his book on the desk in front of him. It was the only item on the wooden desk except for a lamp. This was not a man who let his paperwork pile up.
Standing to his full height, Johnny’s father took hold of the cane which leaned against the desk to advance carefully towards the shorter man.
For one of the few times in his life, the gunfighter felt at a disadvantage with a taller man. It wasn’t just the added inches, but the demeanor of a man who knew what he wanted and what he had to do to get it.
The flinty eyes cautiously took in the young man he had not seen in twenty years. Murdoch had only known the baby, the toddler who had brought such joy to Lancer and then such sorrow when he had been removed by Maria, Murdoch’s wife. In the early days after her disappearance, the tall rancher had assumed she would return, that she was only using her womanly wiles to ensnare him further as she had done before. But as the months had passed, it had become quite evident that she did not intend to return. A part of him had whispered that she had found someone else to bed. He had vainly tried to shake off those thoughts, but they still haunted him.
He had tried to be loving towards the woman, but the days of work were so long and sometimes it was all he could do to finish his dinner before the need to sleep would compel him to head to their bedroom.
After the arrival of the baby, Murdoch had felt relief because Maria now had someone to care for, to love, and who would need much of her attention. He did make a special effort to play with the baby when he returned from the range or from cattle-selling trips. The small creature could twist him around his miniscule finger faster than anyone.
One of Murdoch’s most vivid memories of the small Johnny was taking him out on his horse to show him the ranch that would one day be his. Of course, Maria had scolded in a litany of Spanish about the boy being deprived of his food when they had returned later than planned. But that moment had remained with him through the terrible days that followed when Maria had stolen away one day while he was on another trip.
Paul O’Brien had done his best to console the ranch owner. After all, who knew better than his foreman what it was like to lose a wife? But Murdoch shrugged off his friend’s help and had thrown himself into his dream. Lancer was then his only family and all that he held dear.
“So you decided to come, John?”
“Ah yes, the money.” Wincing with pain as he bent over to take an envelope out of the drawer, the tall man handed it to his son. “Count it and then we’ll talk.”
“Mr. Lancer, I’ll be in the kitchen if you need me.”
“Thank you, Teresa.”
Watching the dark-haired man count out the bills, Murdoch tried to see the toddler he remembered in those features. All he could see was a gunfighter, someone who lived and possibly could die by the gun.
“It’s all here.”
“Good. Sit down and I’ll tell you my proposition. A man named Day Pardee wants Lancer.” The rancher didn’t notice Johnny start at the familiar name. “His efforts have escalated in the last year and now I have very few ranch hands willing to risk their lives to help me stop them. That is why I paid the Pinkertons top dollar to find you.”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed. “You want to buy my gun?”
Murdoch almost gasped at the bluntness, but then he nodded. “As a matter of fact, I do. However, I am willing to pay generously for your…expertise.”
“I’d say $1,000 is pretty good pay although I was told it was just for listening to what you have to say.”
“It is. The proposition I have in mind would be for the two of us to be equal partners in this ranch—after you help me defeat Pardee and his men.”
For a moment Madrid held his breath—a partner in this huge ranch? He could actually stay in one place for more than a few days at a time? A sinking feeling hit his stomach. There had to be more.
“Why offer me a share in this ranch? Why not just go out and hire a few guns? You could get them a lot cheaper.”
“You’re right, I could buy guns, but I can’t buy someone to care about Lancer.”
A knowing grin lit up the handsome face. “So that’s it. You think I’ll just fall right in line. I’ll be the patrone’s son who will want to stay at his father’s side.”
“Is that such a bad thing?” Johnny leaned forward to make his point. “Listen to me, Old Man. You gave up on me alotta years ago and it’s only now when you need my help that you want me around. Well, Johnny Madrid doesn’t work that way!”
Speechless for a second, the rancher took some time to collect himself. He had not thought anyone would turn down a share in a 100,000 acre ranch. Slumping down into the vacated chair, he began to reappraise the man in front of him.
“John, I am not going to apologize for what happened when you were small. Your mother made the decision to leave. I will not beg you or anyone to help me, but I am willing to pay for your services. If, after Pardee is defeated, you choose not to stay, I will give you $15,000. However, if you do stay, I will give you half of Lancer—and when I die, you will be sole owner.”
“What about your ward?”
“Teresa? I have made provision for her whatever she chooses to do in the future.”
The sapphire eyes stared at the older man. Normally, the gunslinger was very good at reading his opponents. In many a gunfight, that ability had saved his life, but this man was much, much harder to read. “So this is to be a strictly business proposition?”
“If you like. Perhaps, somewhere down the road we can get to know each other better.”
Madrid snorted. “What makes you think I want to know anymore than what I already know, Old Man?”
Murdoch grimaced. He did not like the insolence of that term. Lips in a thin line, he clenched his hands together before answering. “John, I am your father and for the time being, your employer, so I expect you to address me with respect. Do I make myself clear?”
For an instant the sapphire eyes flickered, then lowered. “You surely don’t expect me to call you Father, do you?”
“No, I don’t. Murdoch will do. Now, I’d like to ask you a question, if I may?”
“You can ask.”
“Why do you use the name Madrid? Surely your…mother told you your rightful name?”
The young man tipped back his chair, barely refraining from resting his feet on the massive desk. “My mother did tell me that I had an Anglo as a father. She told me that your name was Lancer, but I decided that I preferred to use a name that I could live with.”
“I…I don’t understand.”
“No, I don’t suppose you would. I may have been just a gun for hire, but I did it on my terms. I never took a job that didn’t need doing and for the most part when I drew down on a man, he was the one who pushed me into it. I don’t take much pleasure in killing, but I am damn good at it. Now, let me ask you if that’s the kind of man you’re looking for?”
“Well, then I guess I’m your man—for the time being. Oh, and by the way, I took the name Madrid because my mother always dreamed of going there. She used to tell me stories about all the fine houses and how beautiful it was.”
“I…I do remember she once mentioned that she wished we could go there sometime, but of course she was already….”
Johnny’s chair leaned forward inch by inch. “You didn’t go because she was carrying me when you got married. Is that what you were going to say?”
“This is not something I wish to discuss with you.” A slight flush appeared on the lined face
“Why not? You got what you wanted but you didn’t want to pay the price, is that it?”
“No! I loved your mother. It’s just…it’s just that we knew so little about each other. I was very happy to learn that we were going to have a child. I thought your mother might not be so…restless with a baby to look after.”
A peal of laughter rang out. “Well, you sure were wrong, weren’t you, Old… Murdoch.”
Chagrined, the patriarch could only nod.
Suddenly Johnny jumped to his feet. “I do believe I’ll ride into town and start earning my money. I’ll need a horse.”
“You can have your pick of the horses, but you don’t have to leave right now. Teresa will have dinner ready in an hour or so.”
“When Johnny Madrid takes a job, he doesn’t slack about. I need to get the lay of the land so to speak and I can do that better in town.”
“Well, if you feel that’s best.”
“I do and I’m the expert, remember?”
“Take care of yourself then. When can we expect you back?”
“What’s the matter? Don’t you trust me?”
As Murdoch began to protest, Johnny held up his hand. “Don’t worry about it. I don’t trust you either. Still, blood is supposed to be thicker than water—whatever that means—so I expect I’ll show up sooner or later. Adios, Father.” the dark-haired man sneered.
As the days passed by Johnny Madrid did show up on occasion to report on the movements of Day Pardee and his gang. Of course, Murdoch did not rely solely on the gunfighter’s talents. He had entrusted some of his more loyal vaqueros to cause a diversion hoping to draw Pardee out.
Deep down, the patriarch wanted to trust his son, but he would not bet Lancer’s continued existence on a gut feeling. He had not conquered this land with fantasies, but with good, hard work.
A trickle of sweat slithered down the older Lancer’s spine as he thought about all that he stood to lose. He was determined to defend his ranch and its people with his very life’s blood, but there was still the niggling thought that Johnny might just stand back and see who the winner was before committing himself. He might even make some kind of deal with Pardee.
All thoughts of that nature vanished when he caught sight of his son riding hell for leather towards the protection of Lancer. Mouth, dry with fear, he stood motionless as he watched the dark-haired man falter and fall to the ground just outside the ring of guns firing at Pardee and his men who were chasing the young man.
The patriarch couldn’t believe his eyes as the outlaws continued on into gun range where many, including Pardee, were mowed down. The few who survived hightailed it for safety.
In the elation of that moment two thoughts entered the rancher’s head: Lancer is safe and Johnny needs help. Pushing himself forward, he hurried towards the fallen man. To his relief, he discovered that even then, the boy was making an effort to stand. “Are you all right, John?”
“Just a crease. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be cheated out of what’s mine by a man like Day Pardee.”
The two Lancers started to walk towards the hacienda where Murdoch discovered that he had dropped his cane in the urgency of the confrontation. Picking it up, he hurled it away from him with a grunt. “I don’t believe I’ll need that anymore.”
Johnny glanced at his father. “You’re a tough old bird, aren’t you?”
For a moment, the patriarch started to take offense, then he patted his son on the shoulder. “You bet I am. Now, let’s go get you taken care of.”
Following the destruction of the Pardee gang, Murdoch Lancer felt as if life had begun anew at his beautiful ranch. He had never let himself seriously contemplate what would happen if Pardee had gained the upper hand because deep down he knew he would never survive the onslaught of terror. Still, his flesh turned cold at the realization at what might have happened to the ranch hands and their families who had remained loyal. Even worse was the thought of what might have happened to Teresa. At one point he had contemplated sending her to someplace safe until the issue had been resolved, but he had never had the courage to do so. She had made it plain that her place was at Lancer and he could not deny that.
Now, it was time to breathe the clean mountain air again and know that, at least for awhile, there might be some peace where his ranch could prosper. Unspoken was his hope that his son might decide to stay and that they could forge a strong relationship to make up for the years lost to them.
Striding into the house just after dawn, Murdoch Lancer walked into the kitchen where, as usual, Teresa waited for him with a welcoming cup of hot coffee. “Thanks, Teresa. You know you don’t have to do this every morning. Maria can make breakfast for me.”
“I like to do it, Mr. Lancer. And after what this ranch has just been through, I’m more than happy to welcome each new day here.”
“I know what you mean. I was just standing outside as the light began to appear over the mountains. I thank God we have all survived to be together.”
“I think you should thank your son too. He gambled with his own life to bring those men out into the open.”
The tall rancher sighed. “Yes, it was brave of him. I just wish I had known what he had planned.”
The brown-haired girl admitted, “Johnny strikes me as the type of man used to keeping his own counsel—sort of like another man I know.”
The gray head came up in a swift glance. “I don’t suppose I know this man, do I?”
“I don’t think it’s in my best interests to disclose that,” Teresa chuckled. Trying to change the subject, she inquired, “Should I take a cup of coffee to Johnny?”
“No, I’d let him sleep. I know his wound wasn’t serious, but he’s needed these two days to recuperate. I’m sure he’ll be out when he’s ready. I have to ride into Spanish Wells later to answer some more questions about Pardee and his men.” Shaking his head, he looked up at his ward, “You’d think it would be enough that a man defends his property without the law wanting an accounting.”
“Perhaps, it’s the beginning of a new way of life in the West, Mr. Lancer. Maybe one day everyone will be held accountable for their actions.”
“I have a great respect for the law, but if you ask me this is just more paperwork so some fool clerk up in Sacramento has a job!”
“Well right now, I have a very important job. A certain young man has taken a liking to my biscuits so I had better get started on a batch.”
“Wait a minute! I like your biscuits too.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll make enough for the both of you.”
“Good because I’ll need something in my stomach before talking to those mealymouthed officials in Spanish Wells.”
“Give me a half-hour and they’ll be ready. I just have to roll them out and put them in a hot oven. Oh, that reminds me— yesterday Johnny was out here in the kitchen when I took the biscuits out and he grabbed one before it could cool a bit. You’ve never seen anything funnier than that ferocious gunfighter hopping around holding his hand like he’d stuck it straight into the fire!”
“Is that why I saw him running out to stick his hand in the horse trough?”
Teresa nodded then giggled. “Of course, when he back in, he tried to be nonchalant about it, but I could see how embarrassed he was.”
“He’s one of a kind all right.” Hesitating for a moment, Murdoch decided to broach a touchy subject to his ward. “Teresa, you wouldn’t mind if Johnny decided to stay here, would you?”
“Why would you ask that? He’s your son. He has a right to be here.”
“Of course, but this is your home too. You do like him, don’t you?”
“Of course, although he’s more stubborn than any mule. It will be nice having a brother—at least I think so. Just as long as he doesn’t try to lord it over me! If he tries that, I’ll set him straight!”
Now, it was Murdoch’s turn to chuckle. “I’ll just bet you would. Anyway, I’d better go do a few things then I’ll be out in thirty minutes so I can get my share of the biscuits before the vandal hordes arrive.”
“Johnny—I’ve seen how he can eat.”
“You’re right about that. He reminds me of the locusts you read about in the Bible….But then perhaps he’s making up for lost meals.”
Murdoch caught the hint of sadness in that last remark, but chose not to pursue it. He had work to do and not much time to do it in.
Heading to his bedroom, he took out his shaving brush, straight razor and strop. Usually, he did this simple task before dressing, but somehow the dawn had called to him this morning as it had since Pardee’s destruction. He had needed to be out there to reassure himself that his dream was still there in the early morning light.
Soaping up, he allowed his mind to wander, to contemplate the months to come as he got to know his son again.
A light knock on the open, accompanied by a voice broke into his thoughts. “Murdoch?”
Turning, the rancher spotted the rather pale countenance of his son. “John! Come in. How are you feeling this morning?”
“Better. I just thought I’d see if there was anything you wanted me to do today—I mean something on the ranch.”
Wiping his face on a clean towel, Murdoch remarked, “Well, actually I’m going into Spanish Wells later. If you feel up to it, you could go with me. I’d like to introduce you to the banker and some of the others that Lancer deals with.”
The gunfighter broke into a shy smile. “I really don’t have much of a head for business.”
“It’s not that hard and I’ll be glad to help you all I can. You can take it slow. Learn your way around.”
As the young man moved into the room, he caught sight of a painting on the far wall. Hearing Johnny’s gasp, Murdoch turned to see what had caught his attention.
The slender figure stood there transfixed by the painting of a beautiful woman wearing a mantilla. “That’s…that’s my mother, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I had it painted not long after we were married. She was certainly a beautiful woman. You remind me of her.”
“She always said I had her temper.”
“Well, I can’t swear to that, but she did have one. See this small scar on my cheekbone—she threw a dish at me.”
“I don’t even remember now, but I suspect it had something to do with my not showing up on time. I was working from dawn to dusk in those days and I probably neglected to show up for dinner or something.”
The sapphire eyes just held onto those of his father.
“John, I’m not going to tell you I was the perfect husband. I wasn’t, but I was saddened when your mother left with you. I had thought we would be a real family.”
The young man’s gaze averted from the stormy eyes confronting him to a set of pictures sitting on a nearby chest. Moving over to them, he picked up one which was a miniature portrait of a golden-haired woman. “Who’s this?”
“Catherine—my first wife.”
The dark-haired man perused the painting carefully. “My mother said she was lovely.”
“Your mother told you about her?”
“Yes, one day, not long before she died, we were talking. She said that she thought you had never stopped loving your first wife.” In a whisper, he added, “My mother felt that you only married her because she was carrying me.”
“John, we talked about that. I did love your mother. Perhaps, we were just too different in what we wanted from life—although we both certainly did want you.”
“I’m beginning to believe that. I just wish….” Not wanting to continue in that line, Johnny put down the miniature and took up the framed photograph. It was of a blond-haired young man in a blue uniform. “And this?”
“That was Scott—Catherine’s and my son.”
The pale face of the gunfighter became as white as snow. “I…I have a brother? Why didn’t my mother tell me?”
“She didn’t know. I only told her that my first wife had died. I didn’t tell her about the child.”
“For God’s sake, why not? Where is he? Why doesn’t he live here?”
“John, just calm down. I’ll tell you everything. You see I had sent Catherine to safety, but something went wrong. The baby survived but his grandfather took him to Boston to raise.”
“What? He couldn’t do that!”
“I tried to get him back when he was five, but Garrett threatened to take it to court. I didn’t think I would win so I returned to Lancer.”
“You gave up, just like that!”
“I thought it was the best for Scott. I hate to admit it, but Garrett did seem fond of the boy.”
The young man began to pace around the room then stopped right in front of the taller man. “Okay, so maybe that was the right thing to do then, but why didn’t you ask him to come out here later? Why didn’t you want him to help you with Pardee? Why just me?”
The rancher put one large hand on his son’s shoulder. “John, he joined a Massachusetts cavalry troop during the war and was captured in 1864. Scott was sent to a prisoner of war camp, but apparently he died during an escape attempt.”
The sapphire eyes grew wide as tears formed in the corners. “What do you mean ‘apparently’?”
“With the fall of Richmond, most of the records about prisoners were lost. Evidently all of the men from the 83rd were killed in the attempt so no one knew exactly what happened. There was no body ever identified. I only know this because Harlan Garrett sent me a letter in 1868, telling me what he had pieced together. It was the only time I think I ever felt sorry for the man. All of his money and power and he lost the only person he cared about.”
Johnny Madrid stood there thunderstruck. “But he might still be alive!”
“John, I wish that were true, but it’s been five years since Appomattox, why wouldn’t he have returned to Boston?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out!”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“I’m going to Boston to talk to this Harlan Garrett. Maybe there’s something, some little thing he can tell me and I’ll be able to find my brother.”
“John, you can’t do that! Harlan Garrett is dead. I think with…Scott’s loss he just gave up. A friend of mine who lives in New England sent me his obituary from the Boston papers.”
The dark-haired man wrapped his arms tightly around himself as he stood there thinking. A wrenching pain pierced his mind and heart. “Murdoch, did…Scott know about me?”
“No. I never told his grandfather and I never had any contact with him except for the one time.”
“Harlan Garrett was a mean-spirited man. He would have looked down on your heritage and by that time, you were already gone.”
“So you let two sons go?”
“No! You both were taken from me!”
“Do you expect me to believe that a man who could carve a ranch like this from the wilderness would let anything stop him from getting his sons back—if he wanted to?” Fire flashed from the blue eyes as he thought about all that he had been deprived of.
“I did want to; you just don’t understand the position I was in. I couldn’t spend years in Boston or in Mexico looking for you. My life was here. There were so many dangers and men who wanted what I had and would take it. I couldn’t ask Paul O’Brien or the hands to do my job.”
“But you could let someone else raise your sons, is that it?”
“No! I did what I thought best and I would do it again!”
“And I have to do what I think is best for me.”
“What are you saying?”
“I am going to Boston to find my brother. If he’s dead, then I want to make sure he’s buried somewhere where I can visit him. But I don’t believe he’s dead. I would know.”
“John, you’re being irrational. You didn’t even know you had a brother until a few minutes ago.”
“Maybe that’s true, but I do know that I’ve always felt a part of me was missing. I kept telling myself that it was you I needed, but now I know the truth and come hell or high water, I am going to find out what happened to Scott.”
Seeing the clenched-jaw determination of his son, Murdoch capitulated.
“If you’re determined to do this, you’ll need money.”
“I have the $1,000 you gave me.”
“That won’t last long. Pinkertons come high-priced, I should know.”
“Then I’ll take up your offer of the $15,000. That should be enough.”
“You mean you’d give up your share of the ranch in this…hopeless quest?”
“If that’s what it takes. I’ve had very little money and no home for most of my life. Right now, finding a brother seems a lot more important.”
Sighing deeply, Murdoch remarked, “I wish you would stay here, but a man has to make his own decisions. We’ll ride into Green River to get the money tomorrow. That way you can catch the stage to the train east.”
“Good—and thank you.” As the young man started to head back to his own room to pack his meager belongings, Murdoch made one more request, “John, if…if you do find Scott, will you bring him back here?”
“If he wants to come, but you might as well know now—I won’t leave him no matter what.”
Murdoch Lancer’s throat tightened in pain as he understood the full meaning of that statement.
“Miss Nicholson, how is our patient doing today?”
The tall gray-haired woman looked down at the small, mousy doctor. Her demeanor pronounced her opinion of the man. “Scott is doing well, Dr. Jackson.”
“But he hasn’t spoken at all, has he?”
“No, that he hasn’t done, but there are times when he seems almost aware of his surroundings.”
“Well, the damage done by that Rebel bullet was considerable. He is fortunate to be alive. I have seen many men succumb to such an injury.”
“I know, Doctor. I did volunteer nursing in the Union Army for four years.”
“Mr. Lancer is very fortunate to have someone so well-qualified to care for him.”
“Dr. Jackson, I have known that young man almost all of his life. I could not love him more if he were my son. When his grandfather finally located him just a few months ago, he immediately telegraphed me to ask for my help. I think he believed that between us, we could help Scott reclaim his life.”
“Ah, yes, it is so sad that Mr. Garrett died so suddenly. He told me how much he looked forward to having his Scotty regain his memory.”
“Dr. Jackson, I firmly believe that the Scott Lancer I knew is still inside the man sitting in that chair in the corner. War has a terrible effect on some men. Perhaps, he just needs a reason to face life again. That’s why I insisted that he stay in his old room. He needs to be with familiar things. He needs to be with someone who cares about him.”
“Ah, SPIN, you are truly a formidable woman. With you at his side, I cannot doubt that he will recover.”
“Thank you, Dr, Jackson. I will remain with Scott for as long as it takes; however, I must tell you that only one man in the world is privileged to call me SPIN—and that is not you. Now, it is time for Scott and I to take a little stroll around the gardens. Please excuse us.”
The mousy man watched as the tall woman gently helped the thin blond to his feet and led him out the door. In her calm reassuring voice, she talked about all they would do when he felt better.
The doctor did not truly believe in God, but seeing the determination of Sarah Nicholson, he couldn’t help but wish that they would get their miracle.
To Brothers In Need —->
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