#3 in a quadrilogy of stories:
The time frame of this story is the same as that of “The Truth”. S.
Word count: 3,312
Scott Lancer stepped down from the train. After the many miles that he had traveled from California, he was extremely glad to finally be in Boston. Fortunately he knew that a carriage would be waiting for him so that he could get to his grandfather’s house as soon as possible.
During the carriage ride Scott thought back to the day that the telegram had arrived from Thaddeus Loomis, Harlan Garrett’s attorney. It was simply stated:
“Harlan Garrett very ill. Come at once. T. Loomis“
Scott had packed and left at once. He regretted leaving the mare so soon after the birth of the foal, but it was necessary. His note to Murdoch had also been brief, but he’d send a telegram as soon as possible.
The carriage stopped. Scott got out and looked up at the imposing house he’d lived in for so many years. His stomach clinched in apprehension, Scott knocked on the door.
The woman who answered the door had dark hair with silver traces. She
was tall, slender and austere of manner. She had been Harlan Garrett’s
housekeeper for many years.
“Mr. Scott, Mr. Loomis has been expecting you. He is in the study.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Long. I’ll go right in.”
“I’ll see that your bag is put in your old room.”
Scott walked straight to the study. The house never seemed to change. It was always immaculate, but also vaguely cold.
As he entered the study, Scott had a sense of deja vu. He remembered going into this room to tell his grandfather that he was going to California–to see Murdoch Lancer. Now his grandfather lay upstairs dying.
“Scott, my boy. You look very fit. Life on the frontier suits you.”
“Thank you. How is Grandfather?”
With that Loomis’ slight smile turned to a grimace. “Not good. Not good at all.”
“He had a stroke. Most of his body is paralyzed; however, he can speak a little.”
Scott closed his eyes. Harlan Garrett had always been so dynamic. The thought of him being helpless was devastating.
“I’d like to see him.”
When they entered Garrett’s room, they found Mrs. Long there. She seemed to be tucking her employer in. As she turned to face them, Scott thought her eyes looked red from weeping. However, her voice was calm, “Lunch is at 1:00. Will you be staying, Mr. Loomis?”
“Perhaps. I have some arrangements to make first.”
She nodded her head.
“I’ll just leave you alone with your grandfather. I’ll see you later.” The 2 left.
Scott sat down by his grandfather’s bed. He took one of his hands into his own. For some minutes he tried to talk to his grandfather, but there was no response. Finally he decided to get up when he felt a slight pressure on his hand. Harlan Garrett opened his eyes.
“Yes, it’s me. I came as soon as I could.”
Garrett tried to smile, but his face was partially paralyzed so the smile was more of a grimace. “Love you.”
Scott sat back in astonishment. Harlan Garrett rarely admitted his feelings to anyone.
“I love you too.” Suddenly Scott realized how much he meant that. After all, this man had raised him. For so long he had been his only family.
For some time Scott sat there holding his grandfather’s hand. The older man’s breath grew shallow and finally stopped. Scott continued to sit. It was as if he couldn’t admit that this man who was such an important part of his life was gone.
Then the door opened. It was Loomis and Dr. Lewis who was the family doctor.
Dr. Lewis walked over to the body. After checking for a pulse, he nodded.
“Come, Scott. Lewis will take care of this.”
“But Mr. Loomis, aren’t there arrangements to be made?”
“Your grandfather was a meticulous man. Everything has been taken care of. The funeral will be tomorrow.”
Scott swayed slightly.
“You need to eat something and get some rest. Why don’t you go lie down until lunch?”
The thought of lunch revolted Scott, but he did feel dirty so maybe a wash would not be amiss.
“I’ll go down to tell Mrs. Long about Harlan. You come down whenever you feel like it.”
Mrs. Long had prepared an excellent lunch, but no one seemed hungry.
“Scott, I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes, if you feel up to it.”
“Of course, Mr. Loomis. I’m sure there are decisions to be made.”
Scott sat down in one of the study chairs. Again he had the feeling of deja vu. When he had done something wrong as a boy, his grandfather had always brought him into this room for their “discussions”.
“Scott, your grandfather’s will still has to go to probate, but I can tell you the main provisions now. He left you a considerable amount of money. He thought you might wish to travel if you decided not to return to California. Of course, he also left smaller amounts to various servants who have been long time employees as well.”
Loomis hesitated. “He left this house and the money to keep it going to Mrs. Long.”
“Mrs. Long and your grandfather had a–uh special relationship. Perhaps you didn’t know that Mrs. Long’s late husband worked for Harlan? When he died, Harlan offered her the position as housekeeper so that she could raise her son. Her son was killed at Antietam.”
“Over the years the two of them became close, but since you were living here, they had to be discreet. Her companionship meant a lot to Harlan.”
Scott, as a boy, had always considered Mrs. Long formidable. Now he realized that there was another side to her. He needed to talk to her about that.
“Thank you for telling me, Mr. Loomis. I think my grandfather made a wise decision. I think I’ll go lie down now. I am feeling a bit tired and I expect that tomorrow will be difficult.”
“Goodnight, Scott. Oh by the way, your grandfather instructed me to give you a small package to be opened after the funeral so I shall do that tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll see myself out.”
Puzzled by Loomis’ last words, Scott started to head upstairs, then changed his mind. He went to the kitchen. Mrs. Long was obviously doing some baking. He wondered why.
She turned around. “Mr. Scott, did you need something?’
“No, I just wanted to talk to you for a moment. Mr. Loomis told me about the house and…”
“I hope you are not upset. Your grandfather meant a good deal to me.”
“Of course I’m not upset. I’m glad that he had a companion to be with.”
“Thank you. And please feel free to stay here as long as you want. It’s nice to have a young man here again.”
“Well, I’ll probably be heading back to Lancer in a few days, but before I do I’d like to talk to you about my grandfather. It seems like there was a lot I didn’t know about him.”
“Anytime, Mr. Scott. Just ask.”
“Please call me Scott.”
“Alright, but now you had better get some rest. It will be a full day tomorrow.”
“What about you?”
“Oh, I’m just making a few things in case people return here after the service .”
“Don’t stay up too late.” On an impulse Scott kissed the lady on her cheek.
The following day went smoothly. As Loomis had said, Harlan Garrett was meticulous. The service was kept to a minimum. He was laid to rest next to his wife and daughter. Scott stayed behind for a few minutes. It had been a long time since he had visited his mother’s grave.
When he returned to the Garrett house, he found Mr. Loomis and Mrs. Long with some of the business acquaintances who had come to the funeral. Scott knew some of them from before. He really was not in the mood for socializing and so when the last guest left, he heaved a sigh of relief.
“Scott, I am going to leave now. Contact me if you have an questions. Here is the package I mentioned.”
Scott took the small package. “Thanks for all your help. You made this much easier for me.”
“Harlan Garrett was my friend. I hope I can be yours too.”
Scott decided to go up to his room to look at the package. He needed the familiarity of his old room right now.
When he opened the package, he discovered it contained an excellent miniature of his mother. Garrett must have had it painted just before Catherine went off with Murdoch. It struck Scott how much his grandfather had loved his daughter. Then he opened the letter.
As he read it, the world outside of the room faded away. There was nothing but the words on that paper. Somehow he managed to walk over to the tallboy by his bed. Carefully he placed the miniature and the letter down. Then he threw himself onto the bed, sobs began to tear from his chest and he slid into an abyss of loss.
Johnny Lancer hated trains. Obviously they were designed to torture their passengers. Smoke, dirt and endless breakdowns had worn his patience down to invisible. But he had finally made it to Boston.
Boston. It was big and full of people. What were all of these people doing out on the streets? Didn’t they have jobs?
Scott had told him some things about Boston, but nothing could prepare him for this. The height of the buildings was amazing. I wonder if the people on the top floors get dizzy?
Now that he was off the train, Johnny felt better. He just had to hire a carriage to take him to Harlan Garrett’s house. At least this city had horses!
During the carriage ride, Johnny thought about the events that had brought a reformed gunslinger like himself to this point. God, I hope Scott is still at his grandfather’s house. What’ll I do if he’s disappeared?”
The carriage pulled up in front of an imposing mansion. Johnny paid the driver and then knocked on the door. After a minute it was opened by an older woman with dark hair.
“M’am? I’m Johnny Lancer. Is my brother Scott here?”
Astonishment crossed the woman’s face. “You’re Scott’s brother? I thought you were in California?”
“Uh, could I come in? I really need to talk to Scott.”
She stepped back and led him to the parlor. “Please sit down, Mr. Lancer. My name is Alma Long. I was Harlan Garrett’s housekeeper until his death.”
Hesitantly she asked if Johnny would like some tea. Johnny declined.
“Could you tell me where Scott is? This is really important.”
“Mr. Lancer, didn’t you receive my letter?”
“Mr. Lancer….Scott’s dead.”
Johnny sat there hearing the words, but they made no sense. “Dead?”
“There was a fire. Scott and Mr. Loomis tried to rescue some people. Mr. Loomis got out. Scott didn’t.”
“When was this? I just received a package from him a few weeks ago.”
“Oh, yes, your birthday present. I mailed it for Scott. He had an appointment with Mr. Loomis and so he asked me to be sure that it was mailed in time. The fire was that same day.”
Johnny’s head reeled and he began to sway in the chair. Mrs. Long hurried over to a decanter of brandy. “Drink this; you’ll feel better.”
Johnny drained the glass.
“Who is this Mr. Loomis you keep referring to?’
“Mr. Garrett’s attorney. The 2 of them had concluded some business at his office and they were on their way to lunch when they spotted the fire. Mr. Loomis is still in the hospital because of his injuries.”
“I want to see him. Maybe he can tell me more about….”
“Of course. I go to see Thaddeus almost every day. In fact, I had planned to leave for the hospital in about 15 minutes. Why don’t we leave now?”
The drive to the hospital was made in silence. When they arrived, they went straight to Thaddeus Loomis’ room.
“Thaddeus, this is Johnny Lancer. He hadn’t heard about Scott.”
The older man, who was obviously in pain, tried to smile at Johnny. “Mr. Lancer, I am so sorry about Scott. He saved my life. He dragged me out of the building and then went back in. I begged him not to, but he just wouldn’t listen.”
“Now, now Thaddeus. It wasn’t your fault. Scott did what he thought best.”
“Mr. Loomis, are you sure he’s dead?”
“The police did not find a…body, but he didn’t come out.”
Johnny closed his eyes. Scott was all alone when he…..How could he tell Murdoch and Teresa?
“Mr. Lancer, we put up a head stone for him even though there wasn’t a body. It’s right next to that of his mother.”
“I’m sure he’d have liked that, Mrs. Long.”
Thaddeus Loomis began to feel sleepy, but there was something important he had to tell Johnny. “Mr. Lancer, while we were at my office, Scott made out a will. He left all of his money to you. He also told me that there a small package in his room that he wanted to give to his father. I believe it’s in a desk drawer.”
“He left me money?”
“Yes. It’s a considerable amount that Harlan Garrett had left him. I can have it sent to your bank as soon as the will is probated. He obviously cared for you a great deal.”
Johnny turned and walked blindly away. This just couldn’t be happening. This couldn’t be. Money? He didn’t want Scott’s money! He wanted Scott alive and well!
Taking leave of Mr. Loomis, Mrs. Long hurried after Johnny. “Let’s go back to the house. You need to eat something and rest. You can stay with me as long as you need.”
The words finally got through to Johnny. “No, right now I need to go to the telegraph office. I should tell Murdoch. He might not have received your letter and…I don’t know what to say to him. How do you tell a man that his son is dead?”
“There is no easy way. When my son died, I received a letter from one of the men in his regiment. I still have that letter.”
“I’m sorry about your son.”
“It happened at Antietam. At first I thought I would die, but Scott’s grandfather helped me. I am just happy that I could help him when he needed it.”
After sending the telegram, Alma and Johnny returned to the house.
“Mrs. Long, I really appreciate your help and understanding, but I want to return to Lancer tomorrow. I need to be there for Murdoch and Teresa.”
“I understand. Let’s just have a simple meal and then you can get some sleep. You’ll want to catch the early train.”
The next morning Mrs. Long brought him a cup of coffee and a slice of fresh-baked bread. “I packed some sandwiches for your trip.”
“You are a wonderful woman. I’m glad Scott had a friend like you. I had best go now so I don’t miss the train.” He gave Mrs. Long a kiss and then headed out the door.
“Oh wait! Don’t forget this. Be sure to give it to your father.” Johnny put the small package in his pocket and left.
He made the train’s departure by 5 minutes. He sat down on one of the padded benches. This time he was able to have a semi-private compartment. He certainly did not feel like conversing with strangers.
He hung up his jacket so that he would be more comfortable for the long ride. As he did so, he remembered the package.
He took out the miniature of Catherine. She certainly was a beautiful woman. It’s obvious where Scott got his looks.
As he put the painting back, he noticed a piece of paper in the bottom of the box. He took it out and began to read. It was obviously a letter from Harlan Garrett to Scott.
By now Loomis has told you about my arrangements for Alma. She is a fine woman. I hope you are not too upset about the house. She has told me that you will always be welcome there.
There is something else I think you should know. You are a man now and perhaps it is finally time for you to understand why I insisted that you live with me instead of Murdoch Lancer. I promised Murdoch that I would never tell you this, but I have decided to break that vow. Murdoch Lancer is not your father.
When he married your mother, she was already carrying you. She had been assaulted by the husband of a close relative while visiting their house. I blame myself because I knew the man was slightly unstable, but I never dreamed my child was in danger.
To his credit Murdoch did insist upon marrying Catherine when he found out the truth. Perhaps they could have been happy together, but I could not let him have you when she died. You are my flesh and blood, not his.
Scott, I hope you will forgive me for telling you. Perhaps I shall burn in Hell for breaking my promise, but I needed you to know why I had to hold on to the one piece of Catherine that I still had left.
Johnny folded the paper and put it back in the box. Tears began to stream down his cheeks. Of course, Johnny had known about Scott’s true parentage since Murdoch’s return from the Hendersons. It had made no difference to Johnny. He still thought of Scott as his brother.
Scott must have been shattered by that letter. And, oh God, he was all alone.
The train left Boston.
“Was he very upset, Alma?”
“Yes, he was. He is very fond of you. I hated lying to him.”
“It’s for the best.”
“But why? Your injuries will fade. The doctor said even the scarring shouldn’t be too extensive. Perhaps even your other… wound might improve.”
“Might? I can’t take that chance. Johnny is quite strong. He doesn’t need me.”
“What about your fa…Murdoch?”
“He needs me even less. He still has his favorite son.”
Alma remained silent. She knew the young man had been deeply hurt by recent revelations.
“I still think that it’s unfair to let them think that you are dead.”
“We’ve discussed this before. I will NOT be an object of pity.”
“But they are your family.”
“I have no family or have you forgotten that?”
For a moment silence filled the room.
“Alma, you are my friend. I appreciate all that you have done for me, but I think it is time for me to leave.”
“Leave? But where will you go? You gave your money to Johnny.”
“Not all of it. I still have the trust fund from Grandmother Preston. It will provide all that I need. I intend to leave tomorrow.”
“Please, you don’t have to go.”
“Yes, I do. I have to learn to be on my own.”
“Will you…will you at least let me know how you get along?”
He hesitated. “Yes, if it will make you feel better.”
“It will. Now, you should get some sleep if you plan to leave so soon. Shall I turn off the light?”
“It hardly matters, does it, Alma?
She turned to leave. “Are you sure you won’t change your mind and stay here with me?”
“I won’t change my mind.”
“Scott Lancer, you are one stubborn man.”
“Scott Lancer is dead. From now on there is only Scott Preston and he doesn’t have a brother or a father—only himself.”
To Hope For The Future —->
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