Word count: 2,319
Scott Lancer sat at one of the tables in the saloon waiting for his brother, Johnny. The two young men had come to Morro Coyo to complete some business for their father. In fact, the cattle transaction had net Lancer over $1,000.00. Of course, most of it would be used for the ranch itself, but $1,000 was still a pleasant start to another hot California day.
After signing the papers, Scott and Johnny had headed their separate ways because Scott had a parcel to pick up that had just come in on the stage. The blond Lancer now had the package sitting in front of him on the table, but he still hadn’t decided whether to open it or not. He knew it contained a present from his grandfather in Boston because Harlan Garrett had sent him a telegram indicating that such a package would be arriving. Mysteriously, the man had not indicated what the parcel would contain, just that it was something that he thought his grandson might need.
The relationship between Scott and his grandfather had been strained of late because of the recent visit from the older gentlemen. While Scott realized that Garrett did care for him, he was less than happy about the method that his grandfather had used to try to force his return to Boston. Scott was happy at Lancer. He loved the land and the freedom it gave him. No one looked at him and saw only Harlan Garrett’s grandson.
Of course, admittedly, most people here thought of him as Murdoch Lancer’s son. While he was not ashamed of being the ranch owner’s son, he was definitely his own man. He had served in the Union Army and did not owe Murdoch Lancer any more allegiance than he chose to give. After all, the patriarch had abandoned his son, not the other way around.
Suddenly those thoughts were jolted by a familiar voice, “Hey, Boston, I got those supplies ordered. Let’s have a beer and then we’ll head back to Lancer.”
Looking up, the blond took in his half-brother. Johnny was as dark as he was fair, but they both had blue eyes and were devoted to each other. Sometimes, Scott wondered if he would have felt comfortable staying at Lancer if Johnny hadn’t been part of the package.
He enjoyed having a sister in Teresa, but his relationship with Murdoch was still tense–particularly after Garrett’s recent visit. Neither of the two older men could seem to understand that Scott had ties to both. They continued to pull and tug at his loyalty and need for family.
Thankfully, with Johnny there was no ambivalence. There was nothing he would not do for Johnny Madrid Lancer, and he suspected the former gunfighter felt the same about him–even if he would never admit it.
Placing the mugs of beer on the table, Johnny slumped down into one of the chairs. “Hey, Brother, whatcha’ got there?”
“It’s a present from my grandfather.”
The brunet’s eyebrows arched. “Let’s hope it doesn’t explode.”
Scott chuckled. “Johnny! He’s not that bad.”
“If you say so, Brother, but why haven’t you opened it? It’s not your birthday, is it?”
“No. He just said he thought I could use a few things.”
“Well, let’s see then. Come on, I’ll help you open it.”
Scott handed over the box. Johnny ripped into it like a bear with a honeycomb. Johnny’s excitement even spilled over to Scott. After all, his grandfather said it was a present!
Johnny dug into the package. The first item he took out was a brush with a silver back. “This is pretty fancy for your horse!”
Scott hid his smile behind one slender hand. “I believe that’s for me.”
“You? You mean to keep them blond locks out of your face?”
“Exactly. My grandfather always says that a gentleman should be well-groomed.”
“Well, sure. I guess. I mean…. Uh, let’s see what else is in here.”
This time he took out a matching comb, also made in silver. “Whooee, he really does want you to be a dandy.”
“I think they come as a pair.”
“Oh. Now, what’s this?”
“It’s a straight-edge razor. My grandfather must have ordered it from England. They make some beautiful shaving equipment.”
“Now, that really is fancy. I’ll bet you could really slit a man’s throat with that one!”
“I’m sure you could. Grandfather must have noticed that the one I’m using currently, has seen better days.”
“Well, I suppose, but I’ve used worse. You know when I first started shaving, I didn’t have a razor so I used this old knife I found.”
The older Lancer son winced. “That must have been painful.”
“Yeah, it was, but I only had to do it once a week sometimes.”
“Well, you’re welcome to use mine whenever you want, Johnny.” **I think I’ll write to Grandfather and see if he can order another one in time for Johnny’s birthday.”
“Thanks, Scott, but I think there’s a couple more presents in here.”
Carefully, he removed a silver-backed mirror with a silver loop attached to it.
“That’s clever. I don’t think I’ve seen one like that before.”
“What do you mean? Isn’t it just a mirror?”
“Well, yes, but with the loop you can hang it up so you can see to shave–even if you’re on the trail.”
“I s’pose you can use it when you brush them golden locks of yours too!”
Johnny, what is it with you calling my hair ‘locks’ all of a sudden?”
“Oh, you know that librarian I been seeing over at Green River? Well, she told me about all these books and they’re always using words like locks and slake and things like that. She thinks it’s romantic.”
“Yeah, that was one of ’em but I’m not sure what it means.”
“Well, maybe that’s just as good. Now what else is in my box?”
“This.” Johnny Lancer removed a pocket watch from the now empty parcel. Attached to one end of the chain was a fob.
Scott’s blue eyes unfocused briefly then he smiled as he gently took the watch and fob in his hands. The fob was a miniature painting enclosed in silver. The painting was of a lovely young woman.
“My mother. My grandfather has a larger painting like this in his study. I’ve always admired it. There are so few pictures….”
“She’s a lovely woman, Scott. ‘Course, you don’t look much like her….”
The cerulean eyes glanced at the laughing sapphire ones. “You’d better watch it, Little Brother, my new razor is very sharp.”
The gunfighter raised his hands in capitulation. “Hey, you’re right after all. You look just like her.”
“That’s better.” The blond just sat there for a moment gazing at the small painting. Someone once said that you can’t miss what you don’t have. Right then, Scott Lancer certainly didn’t agree.
“Hey, Boston, I think I’ll go get one more beer and then we’d better pick up them supplies.” Scott nodded in agreement.
But before, the brunet could move over to the bar, a small, rather scruffy-looking man rushed through the swinging doors.
“Scott! Scott! I sold it. I sold it!
The slender Lancer’s face broke into a broad grin. “Congratulations, Ben. I knew it would happen if you just held on long enough. Did you get a good price?”
“More ‘n enough ta get me back East. Come on with me. I wanta pay you back the money I owe you. It’s over at the bank.”
“Ben, you don’t have to pay me now. Why don’t you wait until you get established back at home?”
“No, Scott, I want to pay you now. You’re the only man who ever trusted me and I want to make sure you get your money. Let’s go get it and then we’ll come back and I’ll buy you and Johnny a round of drinks, all right?”
Looking at the worried face, Scott Lancer knew that he couldn’t refuse to take the money. It obviously meant a great deal to Ben Roper.
“Sure, I’ll go with you.” Turning to his brother, he remarked, “Johnny, you stay here with my stuff. We won’t be long and then we’ll come back here.”
“Sure, Boston, whatever you say. I’ll take care of your presents.”
The gunfighter watched as Scott and Ben left the saloon. There was something about Ben Roper that he didn’t like, however, Scott had taken the scruffy man under his wing. Ben Roper had served in the same cavalry regiment as the lieutenant. When the war had ended, Roper had moved to California hoping to make his fortune. Instead he had found the bottle and a ranch that barely provided a living for the former soldier. Scott had loaned the man money from time to time, and now it seemed that Roper’s fortunes had turned.
Sitting at the table with the silver items displayed in front of him, Johnny Lancer pondered the differences in men. It was still hard for him to realize that for over twenty years he had not known of Scott’s existence. The gunfighter was not a man for regrets, but he did regret not knowing his blond sibling all those years. His own childhood had been lonely. In fact, sometimes he thought he had never really been a child–just a small adult. But now, things were looking up. He had a family, a ranch, and most important of all, someone he could trust absolutely. Johnny Madrid had never allowed himself to trust anyone like that. It was a scary but very satisfying feeling.
“Hey there, Pretty Boy, ain’t you that fearsome gunfighter, Johnny Madrid?”
“Oh God, not again” The sapphire eyes took in the stranger. “My name used to be Madrid. Do I know you?”
“Don’t think so, but you will when I kill you.”
“I don’t have any quarrel with you so why don’t you just move on?’
The large man with huge, dirty hands walked over to the table. He picked up the delicate watch and fob. “Sure is pretty stuff. It yours or didya steal it?”
“They belong to my brother, if it’s any of your business.” He grabbed the watch away from the man and pointedly put it in his shirt pocket. “Now you just go get a drink and leave me alone.”
The big man cackled in laughter. “Me ‘n my friends don’t want no drink.” Johnny glanced behind him. Sure enough, there were two smaller men with dirt on their faces and broken teeth, standing by the bar.
“Then, why don’t you just head out of town?”
“Just as soon as your dead! So why don’t you and me go outside and finish this.”
Bowing to the inevitable, Johnny stood up and prepared to go out into the dusty street once again–as he had done so many times in so many towns. Before heading out the door he handed over the box to the bartender for safekeeping.
Striding over to stand in front of the bigger man, the gunfighter warned, “Just make sure your…friends know that this is between you and me.”
“‘Course. Slip. Brady, don’t you interfere.”
The two men nodded but followed Johnny and the stranger out the door.
Just as Johnny moved into position opposite the stranger, someone called his name, “Johnny!”
Recognizing the familiar voice, he did not turn his head from the menacing figure straight ahead; he merely called back, “It’s okay, Scott. I’ll take care of this and then we’ll have our drink.”
Silence filled the street. In that instant Johnny and the stranger seemed to be the only two men on earth. Johnny could hear his heart beating faster. He licked his lips, waiting for the man to make his play. Then out of the corner of his right eye, he noticed a movement. Despite himself, the blue eyes flickered in that direction. One of the dirty men with the stranger had his gun drawn, prepared to fire.
The Lancer gun spat fire and the would-be killer went down. Johnny Lancer also went down under the powerful blow that struck his chest. Gasping for breath, it seemed that his lungs must have exploded. More gunfire but the prone young man just lay there. Then it was quiet again.
Running feet and a soft touch broke the silence. “Johnny? Where are you hurt? I don’t see any blood.”
“Not sure, Scott, I just felt the bullet. Now it’s tough to breathe.”
“Ben’s already gone to get the doctor. You just lie quiet.”
“Scott, are they dead?”
“Yes, Johnny, they are. You got one while Ben and I got the other two. Low down bushwhackers. Do you know who they were?”
“Never saw ’em before.”
An hour later a very bruised and sore Johnny Lancer sat on the seat of the buckboard taking he and his brother back to Lancer. “Johnny, are you sure you shouldn’t be lying down?”
“I told you I’m all right. Just sore. That bullet packed a punch.”
“It’s a good thing it was deflected or you’d be dead.”
Johnny Lancer grimaced. “Scott, about the watch fob. I’m real sorry it was ruined.”
“Hey, Little Brother, I can always get another fob, but I can’t get another brother.”
“But your mother’s picture!”
“I’m sure Grandfather will be able to have another one painted. . . .You know I kind of look at it like maybe my mother was protecting you.”
“Well, I guess I’m not all that religious, but I’d like to think my mother is looking out for me and well, she must know how important you are to me so….”
“You’re important to me too, Scott. I guess I was just lucky that your grandfather’s present arrived today, wasn’t I?
“Yes, but I’m the really lucky one. You’re alive and we can both go home to Lancer–together.”
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