Word count: 1,818
“Scott, Scott! Where are you, Boston ?” Johnny Lancer hustled into Lancer’s great room, searching for his brother.
“Take it easy, Johnny. I’m right here.” Scott stood in the doorway of his bedroom, slowly fastening the buttons to his blue shirt.”
“C’mon, you gotta ride into Spanish Wells with me. We gotta get your name on some kind of petition.”
The slender, blue-eyed man stared at his brother as if he had just discovered there were two dark heads in front of him. “Petition?”
“Sure. Spanish Wells is plannin’ to run Oliver Peabody for Mayor. You know what a stuffed shirt he is. He’ll try ‘n shut down the saloon and the bordello. Now that the town’s got a jail, he thinks it needs citifyin’.”
“John Madrid Lancer, what the hell are you talking about?” The cerulean eyes narrowed. Since the advent of the jail and the effort to bring some law and order to the small town, there had been rumors that one of the other big landowners in the area wanted to put his stamp on the town as its mayor, but so far it had only been a rumor.
“You gettin’ slow in your old age? Oliver Peabody has thrown his name in the ring for the office. If he’s the only one on the ballot, then he wins!” Johnny grabbed his brother’s arm and started to pull him out the door.
The blond dug in his heels. “Johnny, first of all I do not want to be Mayor of Spanish Wells. Peabody may be a tad pompous, but he’s a decent man and would probably do a good job.”
“Decent? Don’t you remember he’s the one who ordered me to stay away from his daughter? And all I did was kiss her!”
Scott stood still for a moment then deliberately crossed his arms across his body, settling his weight on one leg before saying one word, “All?”
Johnny’s eyes dropped, “Well, mebbe I did try for more ‘n that, but nothin’ much. I was a perfect gentleman.”
Whoops of laughter filled the room. Swiveling on his heel, Johnny glowered at Teresa O’Brien. “Quiet woman, this is man talk.”
“Oh, Johnny, who are you kidding? Miranda told me how you drove out with her in the buggy.”
One lip came out in a pout. “Well, how’d I know it was gonna rain and that dress of hers was so. . . light? Always thought you women wore scads of petticoats.”
“Johnny, it was a very hot day. She was probably trying to be more comfortable. You men don’t know what it’s like having to wear all those. . .undergarments.” Her face tinged pink.
The youngest Lancer threw up his hands in exasperation. “So mebbe I could have found some shelter faster, but we. . .uh, well, the wheel needed fixin’. I got her back as soon as I could. Least the sun came out some of the time.”
“And she was in bed for a week with a cold. It’s no wonder her father wasn’t too happy with you!”
“Aw, he’s not happy with anybody, ‘cept blondie here. That’s what gave me the idea. If Scott runs against him then old man Peabody’s not likely to try any dirty tricks.”
Scott blinked in puzzlement. “What gives you the idea that Mr. Peabody likes me? I haven’t spoken to him more than once or twice in the last year.”
“Yeah, but he made a point of askin’ you to Miranda’s seventeenth birthday party, didn’t he?”
“For your information, Brother, he asked all of us. He just happened to spot me in the street.”
“Yeah, well, he always crosses to the other side of the street when he sees me. So whattya say? Don’t it just grab you? Scott Lancer for Mayor!”
“Johnny, I don’t want to be mayor. Why don’t you ask Murdoch?”
“Aw, you know he’ll just say he’s too busy.”
“And you don’t think I am?” Scott clenched one hand.
“Not since Angie dumped you and I just happen to know you got the books all done for this month.”
“Angie did not dump me! She and her family moved to Tucson !”
“Pretty bad when a girl moves all that way just to get away from goin’ out with you.”
Scott launched himself at the other man. For a minute the two wrestled around on the floor until there was a subtle noise above them. The clearing of a throat stopped the two young men in their less-than-stellar behavior. Scott looked up into Murdoch’s face and cringed. Johnny tried to crawl under the table. “I assume there is some explanation for your juvenile behavior,” Murdoch asked sarcastically.
“Sure there is,” Johnny gasped. “It’s Scott’s fault. He can’t take a joke.”
“Johnny insulted Scott’s girlfriend.” Teresa remarked with a smirk on her face.
“I did not,” the younger Lancer protested. “I insulted him.”
Murdoch Lancer rubbed at one temple where a headache was just beginning to make itself known. “I see. Well, if you two can hold off hostilities for awhile, there’s something I’d like to discuss with you.”
“Uh, can’t it wait? Scott’s gotta get into Spanish Wells. We gotta start huntin’ down people to vote for him.”
“Scott’s for runnin’ for Mayor of Spanish Wells ‘n I’m gonna be his campaign manager.” Johnny looked over at the blond. “You are gonna ask me to handle your campaign, aren’t you?”
Scott’s eyes closed then he looked up at the ceiling, counting to ten under his breath. “Johnny, I do not want to be in public office.”
The tall rancher glanced from one son to the other. “Actually, that’s the reason I want to talk with both of you. I’ve discussed the situation with Oliver Peabody. He has graciously offered to run for mayor and I want Lancer to back him to the hilt.”
“You want us to vote for Oliver Peabody and not Scott?” Johnny’s face dropped.
“Well, naturally, I didn’t realize that Scott was thinking of running for the position.”
“Oh, he is, he is!” Johnny gave Scott a hard nudge in the ribs. “Aren’t you, Brother?”
Three sets of eyes focused on the easterner.
Ignoring Johnny’s question, Scott turned to face his father. “Do you think Mr. Peabody is the best man for the job, sir?”
“Well, I know he can be somewhat self-righteous at times, but he’s a fine businessman and I think he really wants to see Spanish Wells become more respectable. The next ten years could see real growth in the area and I think Peabody will do a good job.”
Scott hesitated for a moment, then straightened his shoulders. “I think he would do an excellent job myself. I had the opportunity to talk to him one day and he had some sound ideas.”
“Yeah, but. . . .” Johnny started to comment.
“You have a problem with Oliver Peabody, son?”
“I think Johnny’s afraid that Peabody might carry the respectability part too far, too fast.” Scott answered. “After all, Spanish Wells is not ready to become another Boston or Philadelphia .”
Murdoch rubbed behind one ear. “I suppose you have a point. You can’t force people to accept culture or civilizing. We found that out when Charlie was building the jail, but maybe we can help start the ball rolling. I was thinking of donating some books for a library or a permanent schoolhouse.”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea, Murdoch. I have some books I could donate too.” Teresa added. “Perhaps Mayor Peabody could advertise for a schoolteacher?”
“Now, just you wait a minute! He hasn’t been elected yet! I still think Scott would make a better mayor!”
“Why thank you, Brother, but I have no political ambitions at this time. If I had then I would have stayed in Boston. Some of Grandfather’s friends even encouraged me to become involved in politics because of my wartime service. I prefer to spend the next few years learning about ranching. After that, who can say?”
Johnny slumped down into the nearby chair. “Damn! I was lookin’ forward to bein’ your campaign manager and takin’ on old man Peabody. He’s gonna close down the saloon for sure.”
Murdoch stifled a small laugh. “I really don’t think you have to worry about that, son. Oliver Peabody isn’t likely to close down the saloon.”
Still slightly belligerent, Johnny demanded, “Why not? He sure spouts off enough ’bout goin’ to church ‘n everything.”
“Didn’t you ever wonder why a saloon in California would have a strange name like ‘Shakespeare’s”?
“Now that you mention it, I guess I did,” the younger man admitted.
“Peabody ‘s grandfather was from Stratford-On-Avon. He owned a pub there so when he came to California, he opened up a saloon and named it Shakespeare’s. One of his son’s kept the saloon, but the other went into ranching. That was Oliver’s father, but he still has a soft spot for the saloon. In fact, I happen to know that he keeps a personal bottle of scotch behind the bar. He doesn’t use it much anymore since he’s so busy with the ranch, but it’s still there.”
Johnny walked over to the decanter where Murdoch kept his own scotch. “Good as this?”
“We split a case shipped in from Aberdeen three or four times a year.”
Johnny nodded. “Guess he’s got my vote.”
“Good. I think I’ll ride over and talk to him about his plans. Teresa would you like to come with me to see Miranda?”
“Of course. It will be nice to see her. Just let me go get a shawl.”
Just as the two left, Murdoch glanced back at the two young men. “Behave yourselves while we’re gone and I’ll tell Miranda hello for you.”
“Did you say something, Johnny?” Scott inquired of the slouching figure in the chair.
“Had all kinds of speeches planned.”
“Did you? Well, who knows maybe one day I’ll run for President and you can write all my speeches.”
Johnny jolted upright from his slumped position. “President? Say that’s right, next year’s the election. ‘Course I’m not sure you stand much of a chance against Grant, but mebbe the one after that?”
“‘Fraid not. I’ll have to wait until at least 1880.”
Johnny sniffed. “Why then? Don’t think my speeches can wait that long!”
“You’ll have to. Man has to be thirty-five to be President.”
“Oh. Guess they figure old is good, huh?”
“Perhaps they feel wisdom comes with age,” Scott suggested.
“Never thought much about it. Never figured I’d live that long,” Johnny conceded.
Scott put one arm around his brother. “Well, if I have anything to do with it, you will so what do you say we go in the kitchen and finish off that pie Teresa made and you can tell me all about these speeches I’m going to be making in ten years?”
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