#3 in a pentalogy of stories:
Word count: 1,192
Scott Lancer leaned against a tree in the courtyard at Lancer, watching his brother talking to two young boys, the sons of ranch hands. From the short distance, he could not actually hear the words being said, but he could see the rapt looks on the faces of Miguel and Ricardo.
Moving nearer, he could see the way the two boys gently caressed the gun that Johnny had drawn from his holster, removed its bullets and had now allowed the two boys to hold, one at a time.
Abruptly, the scene was interrupted when the mothers of the two boys called them to their sides as it was time for dinner and both Miguel and Ricardo had to wash up. Waving to the dark-haired Lancer, the boys called out, “Adios, Senor Legend!”
Johnny waved back and then put the bullets back in his gun and reholstered it.
“Looks like you’ve made quite a conquest there, Senor Legend.”
The younger man laughed. “They were arguing about how they had heard their papas say that Johnny Madrid was a legend for his exploits. I was just trying to make ’em see that a gun has its purposes besides killin’.”
“Well, from the looks on their faces, I’m not sure if they were paying much attention.”
“Aw, Boston, boys are interested in things like that. They like to hear stories and if they’re gonna live out here they gotta learn to take care of themselves. After all, you wear a gun.”
“I know. I’m not saying you were wrong. It’s just that legends can sometimes be dangerous.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Did you ever hear of a book called The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“It was written by Washington Irving around fifty years ago. It’s about this man named Ichabod Crane. He was a schoolmaster who was walking home one night on a dark road and met up with a legend.”
“What kind of legend? Is this a true story or one of them novels?”
“It’s supposed to be a novel, but strange things happen in that part of New York.”
Madrid grunted. “New York, huh?” as if that explained everything.
“Anyway, the Headless Horseman, carrying his head, came riding up behind Ichabod. Some say he threw it at the schoolmaster, but all that’s known for sure is that Ichabod Crane was never seen again.”
Johnny stood there speechless for a second then spoke up. “If I had a name like Ichabod, I’d hide too. Why do you read stuff like that Scott? Thought you had more sense.”
“Okay, Johnny, just thought I’d make a point about legends. By the way, I’m going up to Stockton to see the Barkleys on the 26th. They’ve invited me to their Halloween party on the 31st. I’ll be back after that. Anything you want me to tell Nick?”
Johnny’s blue eyes narrowed. “Is Nick gonna be at the party dressed in red with a forked tail?”
“Why Johnny Madrid or should I say—Senor Legend, I thought you and Nick were getting along better?”
“Well, we, uh, were until he caught me kissin’ Audra in the garden.”
Scott grinned broadly. “Oh, Johnny, I thought you had learned your lesson.”
Just then Teresa yelled out the door that dinner was getting cold so the two young men went in to partake of one of her excellent dinners.
On October 26, the blond Lancer dutifully left for Stockton, after promising to give Audra a kiss from Johnny.
For the next few days, the younger son had to put in extra work to cover his brother’s absence, but he also was looking forward to going to a Halloween party. The proprietress of Old Maude’s Dancing Emporium and Saloon held a mammoth party every October 31. Naturally, Johnny could not miss a chance to have a good time and dance with the girls who graced the dance floor. The only trouble was that Murdoch had insisted that Johnny put in a full day’s work on the 1st of November so, grumbling and muttering, the brunet had agreed even though it meant a long ride home after the party ended.
In the end, Johnny felt it had been worth it. Maude had dispensed the booze with a liberal hand and he had danced with each of the girls at least twice. Still, the nagging headache from the alcohol and a slight queasiness from some of the provided tidbits, made the ride less than pleasurable. By the time, Johnny had reached the last bend before sighting Lancer, he was dying to reach his bed when suddenly behind him he heard galloping hoofbeats.
Drawing his gun, he stared into the darkness when he saw a figure looming out of the night. Though he couldn’t see the features of the rider, he could tell that there was something in his hand. Thinking it might be a weapon, Johnny started to take aim when—splat!—something hit him right in the face. Eyes filled with a sodden mess, the gunfighter frantically tried to clear the gelatinous material from his vision so that he could fire. However, by the time he could focus, there was nothing to fire at.
Searching in all directions, the young man finally gave up and headed to Lancer without further incident. Tiptoeing into his room, he made a cursory effort to clean up the rest of whatever had hit him. In the glow of his lamp he could see the remnants of the blood red glop. Despite himself, he shivered then flung himself into his bed and tried to sleep.
Keeping his promise, Johnny Lancer headed out to the north range at dawn. Before doing so, he hid the red-covered shirt which he had been wearing the night before. He did not relish being questioned by the keen-eyed Teresa O’Brien.
Three days later Scott Lancer rode into the courtyard. Walking into the house, he found his family at dinner. Murdoch and Teresa immediately welcomed him back and inquired about the Barkleys. The blond assured Teresa that Mrs. Barkley and Audra were eagerly looking forward to her visit later in the month. Then, Scott remembered that he had a present for the brown-haired girl. Going out to where his horse stood, the older Lancer son brought in a jar of thick red liquid, handing it to Teresa.
For one instant the young woman looked at it in bewilderment, then her eyes lit up. “I know what this is. Audra told me in a letter about this sauce that she had while in San Francisco. She promised to make some for me so we could all try it. I’m sure it will be delicious.”
Scott and Murdoch just nodded, but Johnny turned white. The red sauce looked just like whatever it was the horseman had thrown at him! Jumping up, he raced into his room, slamming the door tightly behind him.
Murdoch watched the strange behavior of his younger son then turned to Scott, “What do you suppose is the matter with him?”
“I’m not sure, but I suspect that sometimes Senor Madrid has problems with legends.”
To Visions Of The Past—->
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