Manipulation by S.

Word count: 1,478

April, 1874

“Dear Agnes,

I hope you are not gritting your teeth because I have addressed you as such. I’m probably the only person alive who knows that is your true name. I’ll never forget the day that Paul brought you to Lancer and introduced you as Agnes. The look you gave that poor man. He never forgot to call you Angel after that.

I’m sure you are astounded to hear from me, but I wanted to tell you that today our daughter Teresa married a fine young man named Steven. They were married here at Lancer and left for their honeymoon to New Orleans . I am sure that they will be happy together.

Of course, you are probably now equally astonished because I have referred to Teresa as our daughter. I realize that you hoped I would never suspect what those two nights we spent together while Paul was on a buying trip meant, but deep down I think I’ve always known she was mine. The hardest part was trying to understand why you would even invite me to your bed when you didn’t even appear to like me very much. It took many years before I even had a glimmering of the truth.

One night not long before Paul was killed, we shared a few glasses of brandy. He became rather. . .nostalgic and lamented that the two of you had been married so long before Teresa’s birth and then you ran off. In fact, he even referred to our girl as the miracle child. Is that what you could never admit? You needed me to give him the child he wanted so much?

I suppose it doesn’t matter what the reason is now although your leaving almost destroyed him you know. He just couldn’t understand. For a time I couldn’t either, but I suppose seeing me day after day made you feel dirty for what you had done, for what you had sacrificed to give your husband a child. There was no need to go. I would never have told Paul or let Teresa know, but you must understand why I couldn’t let her go with you that time you showed up with that bastard Carl. How could you have let yourself sink to that man’s level? You were always so proud, so fiery. The woman who came to Lancer in her wagon and finery was a lost soul. Is any lie worth that?

Forgive me, Agnes, I do not mean to sound so judgmental, but it has become my way over the years. When I got off that boat from Inverness , I was so full of the idealism of youth and now what am I? I look in my shaving mirror and see a man who is wealthy and powerful. Indeed, I hope so. I have fought and worked for almost three decades to achieve what I have. Of course, I did lose two wives and nearly lost two sons, but I have endured despite the great cost.

Perhaps it sounds strange considering the circumstances between us, but I still miss Paul’s presence here at Lancer. He never mentioned your name after you ran off, except to tell Teresa the great lie, but I could see how much he missed you when the two of them would stand by your empty grave. I did my best to console him, but every man has his own pride and I had done enough to injure his—even though he never knew it.

Possibly, in the end it was enough that he had the love of our daughter to ease his despair. When I saw Teresa leave the hacienda today at the side of her new husband, my heart ached with loneliness. She was the only true joy of my life, except for Lancer, so I cannot understand how you were able to let her go—and with such apparent ease. As for me, I only wish that she would have been able to stay here forever, but that would have been too selfish, even in my eyes. She deserves a happy life with someone who loves her.

Speaking of that, I’m sure you noticed, while you were here, that Johnny and Scott treated Teresa like a sister. That, of course, is just as I wanted. I could not take a chance that either one might become romantically inclined towards her. Heaven knows it was difficult since Johnny tends to flirt with anything in skirts, but fortunately he showed some sense and backed off.

Fortunately, I did not have to warn Scott, despite what one might expect from the Pinkerton report. Not surprisingly, his grandfather’s death has made it more difficult to control him, but I have become a master at it. He rarely even bothers to fight any more. I suppose he has come to accept that I hold all the cards which does speak of his common sense, a valuable commodity in a rancher because it cannot be taught. I will admit that he had me fooled for awhile there. In fact, I had almost decided that I made a mistake in sending for him, but there is more to him than fancy clothes and book learning.

Naturally, part of the problem was Scott’s link with his grandfather. I knew that had to be broken before I could reclaim my son, and I must say that my solution was perfect. It was a pleasure using Harlan Garrett as the lever to keep him here. It took me twenty-five years to get my revenge on that old man, but I was able to do it within three years of Scott’s arrival.

Strangely, Johnny has been less of a problem in many ways. Early on, he and I were continuously at odds, but he was much easier to tame than Scott. Johnny needed to be accepted. He needed to have someone tell him that Johnny Madrid was dead—except for when I needed his talents—and that it was John Murdoch Lancer who had a chance to make something of himself. It was difficult at times, but I knew it would require patience, allowing him to rebel only so much—after all, his mother’s hot blood runs in his veins as well as the more temperate of his father. At the proper time, I stepped up my campaign with just the right amount of reassurance and gentling. My younger son does remind me of that wild stallion he once captured, but over the years I have learned how to tame wild things so he is now secure in his love for Lancer and as my heir.

I’m sure the two of them will work well together since Scott has many organizational skills that Johnny can’t be bothered with. In addition, I have encouraged them to depend on each other. With Garrett gone, Johnny is Scott’s weakness and I have not hesitated to make use of that.

Perhaps you can guess what Johnny’s weakness is. His need for home and stability is centered on Lancer at long last. I can think of no greater joy than knowing my dream will continue long after I am gone.

Our daughter will continue to share in that dream as well because I made it a part of my will that my one-third share of this ranch will go to Teresa’s sons. I know she will raise them to love Lancer as much as she does.

Agnes, I know that we will never see each other again so perhaps that is why it has been easier for me to write this letter, but I knew you would understand what it is to take the life of another person in your hands and shape it into what you desire it to be. Perhaps I should resent your using me in the way you did, but Teresa was a gift I cannot ever regret. I can only hope I have succeeded as well with Johnny and Scott. As I created Lancer with my blood and sweat, I have shaped them into the sons I have always wanted, but I concede that I was unable to completely erase their pasts. Their souls remain their own and even I have no say-so there.

Murdoch I. Lancer”


After writing the letter, a contented Murdoch Lancer sealed it in an envelope to give to his lawyer, along with instructions for its eventual delivery. It would be placed in the same safe deposit box as his will. He knew the letter probably would not be delivered for many years and it was always possible that Angel Day would never have the opportunity to read the note, but it satisfied that part of him that liked a balanced ledger. No one could ever say that the tall man from Inverness and Lancer was not a good businessman.




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