Hurdles by S.

#2 in a pentalogy of stories:

Visions Of The Past
Words And Actions

Word count: 5,785

Riding over the crest of the last ridge before he reached the safety of Lancer’s white hacienda, Scott Lancer leaned close to the neck of his heavy-breathing bay. Inadvertently coming upon a small band of rustlers in a remote area of the south range, Scott had turned to race back to Lancer, knowing that he had to alert his father. Unfortunately, one of the sharp-eyed thieves had seen the young blond man as he sped away and had begun the chase that had covered miles of Lancer property. The thief had not wasted his bullets, only firing when he believed that he had an excellent chance at hitting the moving target.

Bullets had whizzed past, uncomfortably close. One had even removed his hat, but still the easterner rode on. He knew that Murdoch Lancer might be able to gather together enough men to stop the rustlers and their slow-moving beeves, if he could get to Lancer and sound the alarm.

Just as Scott began his descent down the ridge, the blond felt a darting blow hit his left side. Ignoring it, he turned to see the bandit racing away from the top of the ridge, returning to his compadres. Time was now of the essence or Lancer would lose a small part of its cattle empire.

To Scott’s relief, the rancher emerged through the French doors just as his tired horse pulled up in front of the house. Without delay, the young man informed his father of the menace out on the south range. Murdoch Lancer immediately responded to the danger and went to collect a group of vaqueros as well as his younger son to chase down the miscreants. Knowing that the situation was well in hand, the blond walked into the house to change his ripped shirt. He had already told the tall man that he would make every effort to catch up as soon as he could procure a fresh horse.

Upon entering his room, the former cavalryman stripped off his shirt and poured some water from the pitcher into the bowl to clean the graze caused by the rustler’s ultimate bullet. Unhappily, the jagged wound was high on his back and side just where it joined his chest. Its position made it awkward for Scott to reach so he decided to let it go since the bleeding had almost stopped anyway.

Taking out a clean shirt from his chest, the Lancer scion was startled to hear a voice from behind him. “Scott, what happened? I heard Murdoch and some men ride out.”

Turning to face the brown-haired woman, the blond quickly replied, “Don’t worry, Teresa, they’re after some rustlers on the south range.”

But Murdoch’s ward didn’t hear one word of his reassurance. She was staring—staring at the two puckered, livid scars on his left shoulder, one from a bullet and the other from a severe burn. “Scott. . . how. . .when did that happen?”

Sighing, Scott informed her, “I really don’t have time to talk about this now. I have to catch up to Murdoch since they already have a huge head start. Could you just bring me a glass of lemonade? I’m really parched from that ride.”

Turning partway to pick up the shirt in his drawer, Scott’s newest wound became evident. Teresa gasped and then in a soft voice, told the young man that he was bleeding.

Annoyed with the frustration, Scott started to cut off her show of concern when he saw the look in the brown eyes across from him. “It’s just a graze, Teresa. I’ll take care of it as soon as I return.”

“Why don’t you let me clean it for you now? You know Murdoch can get along without your help.”

Cerulean eyes narrowed then Scott sighed, “I suppose you’re right. I’m sure that they can get the job done.”

“Fine. Just let me get my medical supplies.”

For the next ten minutes, Scott endured the pain of the carbolic acid cleansing. Clenching his lips together he refrained from letting out a scream when the disinfectant bit deep. “There now, it’s all done. Why don’t you lie down and rest and I’ll go get you some lemonade.”

“Sounds good. I guess I am a bit worn from all that.”

Teresa O’Brien returned in just a minute with a large glass of the citrus liquid. To her pleasant surprise, she found Scott lying on his bed, reading his journal. “Here you are—just the way you like it.”

“Thanks, Teresa, and thank you for taking care of me.”

“My pleasure. Why don’t you try to get some sleep? I’m going into the kitchen to make a pile of sandwiches. I expect there will be some hungry ranchers who will need to eat when they return.”

“You’ve got that right. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. You know cattle are the life’s blood of Lancer so Murdoch will do all that he can to get those beeves back.”

“I know—just like he did the night he wanted to get the stallion back and my father died.”

“You must miss your father a great deal.”

“I think about him often. At least I can go to his grave and know he’s really there. I told him about the changes at Lancer. I wish. . . I wish you had had the chance to meet him.”

“I do too. I know he would have been very proud of you.”

 “Thanks. Now, I think it’s time you tried to get some sleep. That wound wasn’t severe, but you’ve been looking rather haggard for a couple of weeks.”

“I guess it must be due to all those days of hard work. Can’t be a lay about at Lancer.”

“That’s for sure. I have a feeling Murdoch would use buckshot to pepper the behind of anyone who tried to shirk his job!”

“I don’t think you’d have to worry—all you’d have to do is boycott the kitchen for a couple of days and he’d give in.”

The young woman gave the blond a malicious grin. “Now, that’s a great idea, Scott. Thanks for mentioning it.”

Watching the brown-haired girl leave, Scott sat up and called out, “Teresa, come back here. You didn’t mean it, did you? Teresa!?”

After waiting for a few minutes with no reappearance by Murdoch’s ward, Scott Lancer quietly got up, walked out to the stable, saddled a horse, and set off.

The determined blond man rode on across the unending property that was Lancer. When Scott had first come to California to deal with Murdoch Lancer’s offer, he had had only a vague idea about what his new life might be like. He was an educated man so he had known the book facts, but they had not prepared him for the immense landscape that life was played upon in this new land. Boston and much of New England could easily be fitted into this immense territory. The rugged mountains dwarfed those of the East and the star-filled sky seemed to go on forever. The differences between East and West were many, and yet there were some things that were the same—the evil and cruelty that humans could perpetrate on other humans.

Just five years before the country had gone through unparalleled upheaval which had almost torn South from North. Though most of the battlefields were in the East, no one could deny that the West had been affected. The state of Nevada and its silver had played a vital part in the Union’s war chest and many men who had settled in the West had returned to their birthplaces to fight—for one side or the other.

Scott Preston Lancer had answered Massachusetts’ call for men, despite his grandfather’s objections. He had fought, killed, and been taken prisoner. It was an experience that would never leave his memories, his thoughts, his body for whatever life was left to him. True, he had only been wounded slightly during actual fighting, but imprisonment had left a different kind of mark on body and soul. The blond had seen the degradations visited upon prisoners by their captors—and even worse, those done by other prisoners. In his despair, he had often questioned how low a man could sink. Somehow though, he had survived the War intact, but then upon his return to Boston he had found new terrors—nightmares that made sleep impossible, bombastic fools who vilified the soldier who fought their fight while they stayed home safe and rich, and a bewildering world where it was easier not to speak of what he had seen and done because no one would understand—or care. That was one of the reasons, Scott had seen as California as salvation. He could start again in a new land, a land not stained with the blood of 600,000 men. So, the former cavalryman had left the only family he had ever known to find his own version of peace.

But the older Lancer son was no longer the naïve idealist of 1863; he had seen hell and recognized that war was only a grandiose version of it Scott Lancer now knew hell could be found anywhere—even in a beautiful land like California.

After an hour’s ride, the slender blond came upon a small party of riders, one of whom was his father. Drawing close, Scott could see that rancher’s face was lined with pain and that his left arm was held at an awkward angle. “Murdoch, what happened? Did you catch up to the rustlers?”

Sighing, the patriarch informed the younger man, “Yes, we caught up to them, but they tried to get away by starting a stampede. I was caught in the tide of beeves, but luckily I only broke an arm, not my neck. Some of the rustlers got away, but most were killed or captured.”

“Where’s Johnny?”

“He took what prisoners we had to Spanish Wells.” The rancher shifted in pain.

“I’ll ride into town and get the doctor. Go on back to Lancer.”

“Thanks. I really would like to lie down.”

Scott immediately started towards Morro Coyo. Fortunately, the doctor was in his office when the young man arrived and promised to immediately set out for Lancer. He was frankly surprised that it was Murdoch Lancer who needed his services this time.

By that time, Scott was beginning to feel the effects of his earlier wounding and exhausting ride. Deciding to stop by the saloon for a reviving drink, the blond sipped at a shot of whiskey, then another, and another. At least from this angle the world looked slightly better than it had early that morning. Unfortunately, the easterner knew it wasn’t possible to stay in this condition very long. He had a duty to Lancer and everyone knew that Scott Lancer always did his duty.

Darkness had fallen by the time Scott returned to the white hacienda. To his relief, no one was in the great room when he entered. The chiming clock admonished him by tolling the hour—dinner would be over by now. Walking quietly across the room, Scott stopped to knock on his father’s door. Opening it, he found his father lying on top of his bed with his arm in a sling. Johnny was sitting in a chair at his side. “Scott! We wondered what happened to you. I thought you would come back with the doctor.”

“Sorry, Murdoch, I had some…business to take care of.”

Johnny’s sapphire eyes carefully appraised his brother’s rumpled figure. “Are you sure your business wasn’t in a saloon, Brother? You look like you’ve been at the bottle.”

Scott straightened his slim figure. “I didn’t realize that I had to get your permission to take a drink, Johnny. I’ll remember next time. . .I’m glad the doctor was here, Murdoch. I’ll say good night.” The blond man turned and walked out of the room to head to his own, leaving an open-mouthed Johnny Madrid.

Flinging himself down on his bed, Scott picked up his journal which had fallen on the floor earlier. Opening it to the current page, he began to write in his beautiful script. Before he could finish, there was a knock at the door which proved to be the younger Lancer. “Scott, could I talk to you?”

“I was just about to go to sleep.”

“This won’t take long. I…I just wanted to tell you I didn’t mean anything by what I said before.”

“Forget it.”

The dark-haired Lancer stood there fidgeting. “Boston, you’d tell me if something was wrong, wouldn’t you?”


“Teresa mentioned somethin’ about you bein’ hurt.”

“It’s just a graze. Teresa took care of it.”

“You sure?”

Ice blue eyes returned his brother’s gaze. “Johnny, I am capable of telling when I need a doctor.”

“Well, sure, I didn’t mean….”

“Johnny, if you don’t mind, I would like to go to bed. It’s been a long day.”

“Uh, sure, good night.”

“Good night.”

Scott Lancer lay there for some time then he once again picked up the journal and began to write. Fifteen minutes later, he finally put down the notebook and then stealthily walked out of the house into the clear night air. Sitting down on a bench, he stared up at the blazing stars overhead. There were so many of them. It didn’t seem possible that these same twinkling lights were also looking down on Boston. Here, they had a quality that reminded him of diamonds. Diamonds—he had bought Julie a diamond. In fact, she still had it. He hadn’t insisted that she return it when they had broken their engagement. Julie—what would life have been like if he had married the woman? It wasn’t likely that she would have wanted to live at Lancer. **She and I could have had children and Murdoch would never have known that he was a grandfather. Hell, what difference would it have made? He wasn’t interested in a son, why would he care about a grandchild? I could have been killed during the War and he wouldn’t even have contacted Grandfather to find out. Oh well, I made a bargain and I’ll stick to it. One place is as good as another.**

Hours later the chilled young man returned to his bedroom. It felt good to seek solace in the warm bed. Shaking with cold and emptiness, Scott Preston Lancer lay there waiting for the light of dawn to arrive. Lost in a maelstrom of pain, he did not hear the footsteps that approached his door then withdrew.

The next morning Scott Lancer walked into the kitchen to find his brother drinking a cup of black coffee and munching on a couple of Teresa’s cookies. Sapphire eyes looked up then shuttered over at the sight of the blond. “Would you like some coffee, Scott?”

“Thanks, Johnny. Uh, about last night—I’m sorry that I was short with you. It. . .it isn’t anything you said, it’s just something I have to work through on my own.”

The sapphire eyes immediately warmed to the sound of the pain-filled voice. “Sure, but if I can help. . . .”

“I appreciate the offer, but it’s not something I really want to talk about. Can you understand that?”

The dark head nodded. “I’ve done some things in my life I’d just as soon not talk about either.”

“Good. I’m glad you do understand. Oh, by the way, Teresa told me she intends to bake a chocolate cake today.”

The gunfighter’s face lit up with joy. “Really? I wonder if she’s got it done yet. It’s been a long time since she made me. . .I mean us. . .one.”

The blond cleared his throat. “Uh, Johnny, it’s only 6:30 AM, I kind of doubt if the cake is finished yet and as I recall she made one just last Sunday for dinner.”

The younger man grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, mebbe you’re right. I should give her at least another half-hour or so to get it done—and last Sunday was nearly a week ago!”

Cerulean eyes reflected the laughter of curved lips as Scott quickly agreed. “Oh, of course, that is a long time. How could I not realize that?”

“I was just gonna take Murdoch a cup of coffee. Do you suppose he’s still asleep?”

“Don’t know, Johnny. Maybe you should let him rest. He’s not as young as he used to be and a broken bone can be quite a shock to the system.”

“I guess you’re right. I’ll wait awhile. Besides you know what a bear he can be early in the morning before he’s had his coffee. Do you suppose you might want to take it in, Boston?”

“Oh, no you don’t, Brother. I’m not anxious to have my head handed to me on a plate. Why don’t you wait and let Teresa take it in to him? You know he rarely yells at her.”

Johnny walked over and clapped his hand on Scott’s back. Unfortunately, he slapped the spot where the blond had been wounded the day before. A wince of pain crossed the handsome face, but quickly disappeared. “That is a brilliant idea, Brother. Teresa can wind him around her little finger.” Johnny remarked.

“Who can I wind around my little finger?”

The two young men turned to face the brown-haired girl. “Murdoch, of course. Scott and I want you to be the one to take Murdoch his coffee this morning.”

“Cowards! Besides, I already took it in to him. Now, I’m going to make some flapjacks and bacon for his breakfast.”

Teresa and Scott could almost see Johnny drool. “Flapjacks! I love your flapjacks, Teresa.”

Winking at Scott, Teresa apologized, “Well, thank you, Johnny, but I don’t think I’ll have time to make any for you. You’re welcome to make your own.”

“Now, wait a minute, Teresa. Don’t you remember the last time Johnny tried to make them? There was flour all over the kitchen and it took you forever to get the range cleaned from the overflow muck.”

“Oh, that’s right. Well, I suppose since I’m making some for Murdoch I could make one or two extra for Johnny.”

“Just hold it there! I did not get flour everywhere and was it my fault that your griddle is so darn small? And I can eat lots more than two. I gotta lot of work to do today and I need food.”

Sighing melodramatically, Teresa replied, “Oh, all right. I’ll make you a stack, but that will delay my starting on the chocolate cake I was going to bake.”

Both young people could almost see the wheels turning in Johnny’s head as he weighed the delights of flapjacks and chocolate cake. “Uh, I gotta idea, Teresa. You get my cake into the oven and while it’s bakin’, then you can make my flapjacks. How does that sound?”

“Like I’m doing all the work!”

“Uh, well, uh, I can take Murdoch’s breakfast into him for you.”

“Johnny, why don’t you just go in and see if Murdoch needs some more coffee. I’ll have a couple of stacks ready to go in a few minutes. Then you can have breakfast with him. What about you, Scott? Do you want some flapjacks?”

“No thanks, Teresa. I thought I’d ride into Spanish Wells to talk to Val about the rustlers. I wonder if he’ll need me to testify at their trial?”

“Trial? They’re rustlers. They’ll be swingin’ at the end of a rope by tomorrow.”

“Johnny, I know ranchers around here hate cattle rustlers even more than horse thieves, but they should be given a trial.”

“Yeah, maybe they’d do that in the East, Boston, but out here we don’t mess with all those niceties.”

“It’s a good thing not all lawmen feel that way, Johnny, or that sheriff would probably have let those bounty hunters take me without a protest that time.”

Johnny flushed slightly. It was still a sore point that Scott had been thrown into jail because of Julie Barrett’s false testimony. “Mebbe you’ve got a point, Brother, but there’s no doubt they’re guilty of rustlin’ and shootin’ you.”

“Speaking of that, how’s your wound, Scott?”

“You did a good job cleaning it out, Teresa. Hardly bothers me at all. Well, now I guess I’d better get going. I’m sure that Murdoch will have lots of work for me to do when I get back.”

 “That’s for sure. It’d take more than a broken arm to keep him down.”

“See you later, and, Johnny, don’t eat too many flapjacks!”

“Can’t promise that, Brother.”

Scott walked out to the stable, mounted, and rode into town. Talking to Val about the rustlers had made a convenient excuse to get away from the ranch. It was just too hard trying to keep up an easy-going façade at Lancer.

In the weeks that passed after Murdoch’s injury, Johnny was proven to be right. The remaining surviving rustlers were hanged with a minimum of fuss. There had been a trial—of sorts—and with little opposition the men were marched out to their fate.

Also, during those same weeks Johnny had fallen in love twice and then decided that the females were not really the ones to be honored with the title of Mrs. Johnny Lancer since one of the young ladies had the regrettable tendency to flirt with any male from the age of twelve up. On the other hand, the other attractive female was disgustingly loyal—so loyal that Johnny felt like he was stuck in quicksand, a fate seemingly to be preferred to the CONSTANT attention of one Belinda Davis.

Murdoch recovered his customary good health, not allowing the broken arm to slow him down except for a few times when it was used to good advantage for some covert pampering on the part of his ward—and one son. Not being used to having a young male around to “take care” of him, the tall rancher had at first growled and grumbled when it was hinted that he might need to rest more. But the treat of having his son willing play checkers or even read to him, when he was afflicted with a headache one day, soon changed his mind. Of course, Murdoch would not countenance such indulgence when his arm was pronounced fit, but the memories were pleasant and did lead to further games of checkers.

Teresa did not need to resort to a boycott to have several days of freedom. Her good friend, Mary Henderson, asked her to go to Modesto for a small shopping trip. Teresa loved shopping as much as anyone and Mary had exquisite taste so the two had had a wonderful time. They had also spent a good deal of the time discussing their respective “brothers” and men in general. Mary was definitely more sophisticated when it came to men, but always appreciated Teresa’s natural intuition when it came to the mysterious creatures. Since both young women were heart whole and fancy free, neither Teresa nor Mary was overly worried about finding THE man. Life was too interesting and fulfilling as it was.

Scott spent most of his time working. He had found that the best way to maintain his equilibrium in the weeks after his brutal attack was to immerse himself in good, hard work. It was difficult to brood when you were sweating to pull a recalcitrant cow out of the mud or sink a stubborn fence pole or even the stinking, disgusting job of branding. The blond had also volunteered to do some work on the books and other paperwork that Murdoch usually reserved for himself. Perhaps, it was due to his grandfather’s inspiration, but the older Lancer had a natural bent for the neat and orderly and nothing was more orderly than an account that balanced to the last penny.

The blond’s effort to recover from his trip to Nameless had taken a downturn when Teresa had inadvertently spotted the scars of that encounter with the misbegotten creature, who had taken such delight in torturing the young man. Waking in the filthy stable to the sight and smell of blood and his own burned flesh, Scott had valiantly made an effort to ride back to Lancer, but his body’s weakness had betrayed him. Fortunately, two kind women who lived outside Nameless had found the blond lying by the side of the road and took him in. The Lancer scion had no doubt that they had saved his life. When he had finally felt that he was able to make the ride to the white hacienda, Scott had tried to offer the two sisters money, but they had rejected it. In whispers, they had confided that they were only too pleased to help a young man who had survived his visit to Nameless, a veritable den of inequity where no decent person would ever willingly set foot.

By the time that the easterner had finally reached Lancer, he had concocted what he believed to be a plausible story to cover his late appearance. Fortunately, he still had the money from the business transaction and in addition, Murdoch and Johnny were absorbed in dealing with the recent raids upon Lancer cattle. The rustlers had contented themselves with taking only small numbers of cattle during this time which puzzled both ranchers. Murdoch was of the opinion that the rustlers assumed that a few snatched cows here and there would not be missed. Obviously, the thieves did not know Murdoch Lancer.

It was those same rustlers which Scott caught sight of before his precipitate ride to warn Murdoch of the renewed threat to his cattle empire. Now, that problem had been dealt with using bullets and a gallows. The humiliating memories of what he had suffered in Nameless were less easy to deal with however. Trying to cope had led the blond to days of anguished introspection and tormented recall which in turn had caused him to withdraw from those at Lancer.

For days Scott tried to avoid being at home since it was exhausting trying to maintain his normally placid façade. At times, he could see Teresa watching him with a question in her brown eyes. Before the festering wound could get out of control, Scott Preston Lancer resolved to do something to rectify the situation. He would not allow his problems to interfere with life at Lancer so he decided to return to Nameless and have justice.

Putting his plan into action took some time as he was not free to just leave whenever he wished. He had a responsibility to Lancer and did not take that lightly, nor did he wish to presume on the interest of its inhabitants. Besides, it gave him much needed time to ready himself for his encounter with the evil man.

Then, three weeks after the rustlers met their fate, Murdoch inadvertently gave the blond the chance he had been seeking by telling him that he wanted to purchase some brood mares from a ranch only half a day’s ride from Nameless. Here was the opportunity Scott had been waiting for. Johnny had quickly spoken up to say that he would also like to go along, but again Murdoch paved the way for Scott’s plan by insisting that Johnny remain at Lancer. When questioned by the dark-haired younger son for his reason, Murdoch had simply replied, “Dave Barton has a pretty eighteen year old daughter.” Scott left the ranch with the echoes of laughter ringing in his ears.

Riding along at a steady, demanding pace Scott could feel the butterflies in his stomach. Had Johnny ever felt this way just before drawing down on a man? He had thought that serving in the cavalry would have made this easier. After all, war was the ultimate act of violence, but then it had been less personal—a soldier in butternut was trying to kill you so you shot back. Of course, the man from Nameless had done much worse, but that had been weeks ago. Now, Scott’s justice was to be cold and calculating, not a lightning bolt in the heat of the moment.

A day after Scott Lancer left, Johnny Madrid rode in, only to find Teresa sitting out on the bench under the trees. “Must be nice not having anything to do!”

The brown-haired girl gave him a scornful look. “Excuse me, Mr. Madrid, but I just finished washing up two loads of dirty clothes. I think I am entitled to a short break.”

“Say, did you wash my red shirt? I want to wear it on Saturday night.”

“Yes, it’s drying now. Are you going to wear it to the dance?”

“Sure am. Myrtle likes me in red.”

“Myrtle? Who’s she?”

“She’s new in town. I met her in church.”

Brown eyes stared at him in astonishment. “Church? You?”

“Well, I wasn’t actually in church. Reverend Baker needed some help carrying some new hymnals that just arrived at the general store and I volunteered. Myrtle is gonna organize a choir.”

“How nice. A little bit of civilization comes to Morro Coyo.”

“You’re right about that. Teresa, is there any chocolate cake left? I’m kinda hungry.”

“I think there’s a piece, but before you go in, I want to ask you something.”

“Sure, what is it?”

Hesitating, the girl finally inquired, “Do you know anything about a bullet wound and burn that Scott received in his left shoulder?”

“You mean from that rustler?”

“No, an older one. He wouldn’t tell me how he got it.”

“Mebbe it was from the War?”

“I think he would have told me if that was it.”

“‘S’pose so. Mebbe he was ashamed of how he got it. Man doesn’t like to talk about certain things to a girl.”

“I KNOW THAT, but he didn’t tell you either. It just worries me that he could have been hurt so badly and none of us knew.”

“Well, not much we can do about it now. I’m gonna go in and get that cake.” The dark-haired man walked off humming “Amazing Grace.”

Upon entering the kitchen, he found his father sitting at the table drinking coffee and eating a piece of chocolate cake. “Johnny, back so soon?”

“Yeah, got the stuff taken care of in Morro Coyo.”

“Good. Sit down and have some coffee. Sorry, this is the last piece of cake, but I think there are some cookies left.”

Mutter, mutter.

“Did you say something, Son?”

“No, Sir. Just wondering if Scott is havin’ a good time with Jenny Barton.”

At that very moment, Scott Lancer was riding down the main street of Nameless, California. Gooseflesh covered every inch of his body as even the most unpresumptuous of buildings took on a foreboding air. Shaking off this feeling, the blond rode straight to the livery stable. At first, he thought that no one was around, but then he heard a raspy familiar voice from behind. “Kin I help you, Stranger?”

Turning to see the same ferret-face man as before, Scott coolly replied, “I wouldn’t say that I’m a stranger to you.”

The nondescript eyes squinted as they took in the tall blond. “Ya do look kinda familiar.”

 Scott walked over to the nearby forge where the man had been working on horseshoes to pick up the iron rod. Pointing it straight at the other man, the former cavalryman asked, “Does this bring back any memories?”

Now, the eyes lit up. “How could I fergit that? You sure do scream loud.”

“But you didn’t get the money, did you?”

“Still can’t figure where you hid it.”

“It’s not important now. What is important is that I came back to make you pay for what you did.”

 The man broke into gales of reviling laughter. “Make me pay? Sonny, you ain’t man enough to do that to Lester Cox! Once you got outta Nameless, you shoulda stayed out. There sure ain’t no law in this town and none of the good townspeople is a gonna help you.”

Scott stood there defiantly. “That certainly doesn’t surprise me. But there are other towns where the law does its job so you’re coming back with me.”

“T’ain’t. Yur gonna have to kill me and I don’t think you got the stomach for it, even if’n you wuz a soldier. It’s a might different drawin’ down on a man when you can look him in the eyes.” The cretin stood there, gun slung low at his side, challenging Scott to do his worst.

Granite-blue eyes under a blond fringe focused on the other man. Scott’s heart hammered loud within his chest, but he did not flinch as Cox suddenly went for his gun. Bringing up his own gun with a here-to-for unknown speed, Scott calmly shot the man right between the eyes. His weeks of practice at Lancer had paid off.

Walking over to the man, Scott nudged him with his boot. There was no doubt this justice was final. Mounting his horse, the blond didn’t even bother to look back before heading to the ranch with the pretty eighteen year old daughter.

Five days later, Scott Preston Lancer returned to Lancer with three fine brood mares on a lead. His host had plied him with food, drink,

and the company of his daughter, Jenny, hoping to get a few dollars more for the horses, but the easterner had stood firm on his offer.

Riding into the courtyard, he was met by a very pleased Murdoch Lancer who accompanied the horses to the stable to make sure that they were taken care of properly.

Pulling off his gloves, Scott proceeded into the house where he found Johnny in his room. “Boston, glad to see you’re back. Have you got any money left from your pay this month?”

“Some. Why?”

“I need to borrow $20.00.”

Scott removed two coins from his pocket and tossed them to his brother.

“Thanks. I’ll pay you back when I get my wages.”

“Don’t worry about it. Any excitement around Lancer while I was gone?”

“There’s a new choir at the church. I’m gonna be in it.”


“Sure. Myrtle says I’m a natural.”


“She’s in charge of the choir.”

“I see, and is she pretty?”

“Is she! Just let me tell you, Boston. . . .”

“Well, why don’t we go into the kitchen and you can tell me all about her over a cup of coffee. Oh, and one other thing, now I can understand why you chose to be a gunfighter.”

Johnny Madrid’s eyes opened wide in bewilderment, but he said nothing as he followed his brother into the kitchen.



To Legends —->


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