Word count: 2,992
“Say, Boston, do ya s’pose Murdoch would mind if we use some of this money for some cold beer and hot women?”
The blond Lancer smiled at Johnny. “Did you spend all your wages again, Brother?”
“Well, Susanna needed a new bonnet.”
“So you bought it for her?”
“She looked right pretty in it.”
“Johnny, you have a heart of mush when it comes to a pretty face.”
“Shh! I don’t want anybody to know Johnny Madrid’s soft.”
“All right, let’s get this money deposited , and then I’ll buy you a beer!”
Clapping Scott on the back, the brunet remarked, ” I knew I could count on you, Brother.”
“But that’s it–no hot women!”
“How about a luke-warm one?” Both men burst into a fit of laughter.
Two little old ladies in the bank line ahead of them gave the two scruffy-looking cowhands disapproving glances. Since the brothers had been on the road for days and had had little chance to bathe or even clean up, it was natural that these fine ladies would look askance at their behavior.
“This is the slowest line in creation.”
“You said a mouthful, Boston. . . Tell me again why we’re putting the money in this bank instead of the one at Spanish Wells.”
“Because Murdoch plans to do some business around here and he wanted the bank manager to get to know the Lancer account.”
“Well, I’d say $1,000.00 should make ‘im real friendly.”
“Johnny,” the blond hissed, “be quiet.”
“Boston, you’re just bein’ silly. Ain’t no reason ta fear in this bank.”
The words had no more than been uttered when a slimy man who had been standing in the corner took out a six-shooter and yelled, “Raise ’em high!”
Johnny Lancer started to draw only to find himself conked on the head by another seemingly innocent bank patron. The gunfighter, dazed but not unconscious, found himself the object of attention of four guns.
“So Madrid, you really do have a hard head.”
The brunet looked up to see a tall man with a moustache and sandy hair.
“Do I know you?”
“Not really but I know who you are. Everybody’s heard of Johnny Madrid.”
One of the other gunmen moved over to the sandy-haired man. “Let me kill ‘im. I owe him for what he did ta me in Sonora.”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed. “Now, you I know–didn’t ya try to bushwhack me in Mexico?”
“Yeah, and I’m only sorry I didn’t finish the job!”
“That’s enough. We’re only here for the money. I don’t wanta kill nobody. Bright, you get the money from these good folks, and I’ll speak to the teller.”
Johnny started chuckling, “Bright–that’s a good one!” The mousy-haired gunslinger back-handed the younger Lancer.
“Johnny, why don’t you control your tongue?”
The leader looked at the blond, then back at Johnny. “He somethin’ ta ya, Madrid?”
“No, I wuz jest talkin’ ta ‘im while in line.”
“Then why did he call you Johnny?”
“I musta mentioned my name.”
“Hey, Blondie, what’s your name?”
“Lancer huh? You part of that big spread near Morro Coyo?”
“Well, now mebbe you’re worth somethin’. You got a daddy there that might pay somethin’ for you?”
Johnny snorted. “Him? Look at him. His daddy might pay ya to take ‘im!”
Bright bellowed with laughter. “Yeah, he looks like he’s afraid a his shadow. At least Madrid knows how ta use a gun!”
Soon one of the other gunmen walked over to show the sandy-haired leader the bag of money that had been collected from the teller. In the background hysterical sobs could be heard. Almost as if in apology, the leader stepped towards the teller. “Hey, now pretty lady, no need to cry. No one’s gonna get hurt as long as none of ya does nothin’ stupid.”
Taking advantage of the other man’s distraction, the mousy-haired bright walked over to Scott. “Okay, rich boy, let’s have your money.” When Scott didn’t hand over the money, the scrawny bushwhacker punched the blond. Scott still didn’t react. Then Bright pointed a gun at Johnny’s head. “Mebbe he’s somethin’ to ya ‘n mebbe he ain’t, but I’m gonna blow him away if ya don’t hand over your money.”
At that Scott handed over the pouch. “Would ya look at this! Hey, Boss, we’ve struck it big!”
The moustached man looked into the pouch. “I should say we did. Thank ya kindly, Mr. Lancer. I don’t suppose your daddy will miss this much, but it and the other money will keep four desperate outlaws from starvin’.” Chortling at his own cleverness, he gave the order to ride.
The four villains moved towards the door. Out of the corner of his eye, the older Lancer could see Bright going out the door. He could also see the slimy character turn and deliberately take aim at Johnny who was still sitting on the floor.
“NO!” Scott jumped to cover his brother, then felt the hot projectile pierce the fleshy part of his arm. For a moment the pain was fierce, but then he rolled away from Johnny to come to his knees. The bullet had missed the bone and was nearly visible under the skin. It wasn’t even bleeding much.
When Bright had fired, the teller had screamed and one of the little old ladies had fainted. Everyone seemed to have congregated around the fallen woman and the hysterical teller.
Getting carefully to his feet, the younger Lancer walked over to his brother. “You okay, Boston?”
“Sure. How’s your head?”
“Feels like a beaver’s buildin’ a dam inside usin’ a sledgehammer, but I’m okay.”
“Who were those guys?”
“The mean one was Joe Bright. We had a run-in in Sonora. I thought I killed ‘im then.”
“How about the guy in charge–the one who took Murdoch’s money?”
“He seemed to know you.”
“Lotta men know of Johnny Madrid–not many know Johnny Lancer.”
“Thank goodness he wasn’t one of them. Seems to me he might have decided Johnny Lancer was worth taking along.”
The brunet glanced at his brother, puzzled by the remark, but not willing to question him about it when time was of the essence. “We better get our horses and get after ’em.”
“You’re right. Murdoch’s not going to be pleased about losing so much money. Too bad there’s no law in this town to help out. Come on, we’d better go before they get too far ahead.”
“Just a minute!” A plump, balding man walked over to the brothers.”Are you two intending to go after those men?”
“Ya didn’t think we’re just gonna stand here and let’em take our money, did ya?”
“I don’t know how much you lost, but my bank has certainly lost more so I’m prepared to offer you a generous reward if you track those men and return my money.”
Scott peered at his brother then at the bank manager. “Don’t you mean the bank’s money?”
The plump man flushed. “Of course. But you’re wasting time. I’ll give you $50.00–that’s $25.00 each.”
“Man’s real generous, ain’t he, Boston?”
Scott Lancer looked the sweating man up and down and waited.
“All right, all right! I’ll make it $100.00! Just make sure it is ALL returned.”
Giving the man a disgusted glance, the blond suggested, “Maybe you should spend some of that on a security guard?”
The manager flushed. “Listen, I don’t two trail bums to tell me my business. $100 will keep you two in liquor for months.”
The two young men exchanged looks. “Guess we’d better go earn our money, Boston, so’s we can start that drinkin’.
Sarcastically the blond Lancer agreed, “I can hardly wait.”
“Now that’s more like it,” the balding man smirked. $100.00 was a lot of money, but after all the outlaws had made off with $10,000.00! “By the way, what are your names?”
“He’s Johnny Madrid.”
“”The gunfighter? Well, fine. I don’t care if you kill them or not, just bring back the money.”
The two men headed out to get their horses. When Scott tried to mount, his injured arm pulled tightly. The pain brought a gasp but fortunately the pain let up when he was safely in the saddle.
It didn’t take long to pick up the trail. The gang of four didn’t seem to be very experienced at a getaway unless there was a reason that they had made no effort to cover their trail.
“Scott, keep a sharp look out. This could be a trap.”
“For you, maybe.”
“What do ya mean?”
“I think they’d be worried that you might follow–not me. After all, that Bright tried to kill you.”
“I s’pose you’re right.”
The two brothers continued for some time. Scott’s arm began to hurt with the intensity of a toothache. The initial numbness had worn off and even though there had been little blood, he was beginning to feel slightly lightheaded.
“How far ahead do you think they are?”
“Not more’n half-hour. It depends on if they’ve got a place ta hide or they’re gonna just keep ridin’.”
“Think they’ll stop for the night?”
“Mebbe. I think they’re holed up somewhere around here. They’re probably splittin’ up the money. Bright’s not the type ta trust any man with his share of the loot.”
“Why’d he try to bushwhack you anyway?”
“He wuz workin’ for some landowner near the border who didn’t cotton to me helpin’ out a small homesteader.”
“Why’s he still alive?”
“Don’t know. Thought I’d finished him but his body fell in a river ‘n washed downstream. He musta crawled out.”
The brunet peered at the blond. “You’re gettin’ kinda bloodthirsty, Brother.”
“No, just practical. If you had killed him before, he wouldn’t be after you now.”
“Got a point there.”
The trail continued on into a rocky area where it stopped. “Hell!” Johnny stopped, got down and looked carefully around. “They must have a place up there in those trees or somethin’.”
Scott looked up to see a huge stand of trees higher up on the hill. “Why don’t we go take a look?”
“Let’s wait ’til nightfall. It’ll be easier in case they got a lookout.”
“All right. It’ll be dusk in an hour. Let’s go back down the trail some and find a spot to wait.” Even as he spoke, dizziness struck at the blond, but he managed to hang on long enough to pull himself up into the saddle and follow Johnny to a small clearing. After dismounting, Scott took a drink from his canteen, then settled himself against a boulder. In no time the slender body succumbed to pain and exhaustion so that he fell asleep.
Seemingly only moments later, the older man heard Johnny’s voice urging him to wake so they could check out the forested area. “Don’t ‘spect they’ll stay too much longer so we gotta go.”
Scott really only wanted to curl up and go back to sleep, but he dutifully followed his brother up the hill after tethering the horses in a safe place.
At first, the older brother feared that Johnny had been wrong about the outlaws holing up, but then he glimpsed what appeared to be a campfire deeper into the trees. From the clearing ahead, the two men could hear angry yelling and then gunshots.
Instinctively ducking, Scott bumped his injured arm against a rock. Cursing the pain, he looked up to see Johnny moving towards the clearing, gun drawn. Pushing himself up with his good arm, Scott followed his brother.
Not even looking to see if the other man was covering his back, Johnny emerged into the clearing. “Put the money down, Bright.”
“So, Madrid, ya did foller. I told ’em ya might.”
Johnny looked at the bodies lying sprawled around the campfire. “I see you’re still up to your bushwhackin’ ways.”
“They wuz jest plain stupid. They thought I wuz willin’ ta take a quarter. Why should I do that when I kin have it all?”
“Now, you’re not gettin’ any so put it down–slowly.”
“Tell ya what. I’ll split it 50-50 with ya.”
“Right. Then you’ll shoot me in the back.”
A broken-toothed grin crossed the unsavory man’s face. “I might ‘n I might not. I could use a partner like Johnny Madrid. Them three were amatures” Jerking his head at the sandy-haired man, he continued, “He used ta be a rancher ’til he lost his money gamblin’. And t’other two worked for ‘im. They thought all they had ta do was a rob a bank and they’d get it all back. Didn’t want no killin’. Jest plain stupid. Thought since I’d a worked for ‘im awhile, I could be trusted.” A hollow laugh popped out. “He don’t need ta worry ’bout money now.”
“Enough talkin’. Put the money down and toss me your gun real gentle-like.”
“So you’re gonna kill me and take the money yurself?”
“Mebbe or mebbe I’ll turn it in for the reward.”
“Johnny Madrid turn it in! That’s a good one.”
“You’re wrong there. The name’s Johnny Lancer.”
“Lancer? Like that other feller?”
Just then Scott made his appearance. He had waited, not wanting to distract his brother from the task at hand.”We’re brothers.”
Bright’s mouth dropped open at the sight of the blond. “Dang, thought I put a bullet in ya.”
“You did, but you’re a lousy bushwhacker.”
Johnny’s head whipped around. Taking his eyes off Bright for one instant to glance at Scott, the younger man lost focus. The weasel-faced man took his chance. The money fluttered to the ground as two bullets smashed into the scrawny body. Johnny walked over to feel for a pulse then he turned to the other man, “This time I know he’s dead.”
Scott nodded. “Let’s collect the money and head back. I need a meal and a bath.”
“Just a minute. Were ya tellin’ the truth ’bout him shootin’ ya?”
“It’s just a scratch. I’ll get it looked at when we get back to town. I want to see that bank manager’s face when we collect our $100.00.”
Johnny grinned. “Damn straight.”
Two exhausted, dirty men rode into town in the wee hours of the morning. Since the bank was still not open, the two opted to sack out in the stable with the horses.
Then Scott headed off to the doctor for fifteen minutes of torture while the bullet was removed from his arm. Scott caught up to his brother at the bathhouse. Even though his arm was bandaged, it still felt wonderful to soak in the hot water and finally feel clean. After eating a huge breakfast and going by the barber shop, at last the Lancer brothers felt it was time to visit the bank and claim their reward.
Behind the teller’s counter was the beleaguered manager. He seemed to be arguing with a bank patron. “Mrs. Warren, I cannot give you your money now. We had a robbery if you’ll remember?”
“Mr. Giles, I want my money.”
“I don’t have your money. Can’t you understand? It’s bad enough all of our assets are gone. Now my only teller has quit. You’ll just have to be patient.”
The woman gave him a sour look. “When my husband hears about this, he won’t be patient. You’ll be run out of town!”
“Mrs. Warren, please. I’m sure we’ll get the money back.”
“Uh!” Johnny interrupted the discourse. “M’am, I believe we have your money right here.”
The older woman stared at the dark-haired man. For one instant she wasn’t sure about the young man, then he smiled at her.
“Well, that’s right nice of you. Did you capture those terrible men too?”
“No, m’am,” Scott volunteered as he stepped up beside Johnny. “They’re all dead.”
“No loss! Well, Mr. Giles, it’s a good thing someone around here is competent.”
“Uh, well,” looking at the two neatly-dressed men, “how did you two get the money?”
“Don’t you remember you promised us a reward?”
“A reward? But that was to two drifters…Oh, I see, yes of course. . . Mrs. Warren, I hired these two fine young men to reclaim the money. Now I’ll just take it and make sure it’s all here.”
“Oh it is!”
“Well, of course, I…trust you but just let me count it.” Hastily, the plump man headed to the desk to count it out. Being flustered, it took him three times to count it correctly, but finally he deduced that every last penny was there plus the jewelry taken from the little old ladies.
“Now, I’ll take my money, Mr. Giles!”
“But Mrs. Warren!”
He handed over some bills. She signed for them and then walked towards the door, flashing a smile at the two brothers as she passed by.
“Now that ya know it’s all there, kin we have our $100?”
$100? Are you sure that’s what I said?”
“Oh we’re sure,” the blond replied.
“Well, all right but it will have to come out of my personal account.” The sweating man carefully counted out the money, then made them sign for it. “Hmm–Johnny and Scott Lancer. By any chance are you related to Murdoch Lancer?”
“He’s our father.”
The manager paled. “Your father? Well…I …that is, I’ve heard that he was planning to do business up this way. Maybe I’ll have the pleasure of meeting him and discuss some investments.”
“Oh, you sure would have, but when we tell him just how you do business, I think he’ll find some other bank where he can put his $1,000.”
“$1,000? Wait, it wasn’t my fault about the robbery!”
“S’pose not but me ‘n Scott didn’t much fancy the way ya treated us so I think we’ll do our bankin’ elsewhere. Right, Brother?”
“Exactly. Come on, Brother, let’s go spend our $100 on cold beer and hot women!”
And that’s exactly what they did.
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