#1 in a quadrilogy of stories:
Word count: 968
Johnny Lancer, hot, dirty and tired, walked into the study at Lancer. He thought his brother Scott would be there, but the house echoed with emptiness.
That’s strange. Maybe he’s out in the barn with the mare.
Scott Lancer had stayed behind while Murdoch, Teresa, Johnny and Jelly went to a wedding at the Henderson ranch. Matthew Henderson was a good friend of Murdoch’s. He had a son and 2 daughters. It was Martha, the older of the 2, who was to be married. Both Johnny and Scott were very fond of the younger daughter, Mary. Fortunately, Mary seemed to enjoy the company of both young men.
As for the Henderson heir, Steven, Teresa seemed to enjoy his companionship. Secretly Murdoch hoped that Teresa might find happiness with the young Henderson, but not for awhile. He wanted to keep Teresa with him for a few more years.
Jelly had also gone along because of his friendship with the “Double H” foreman. They spent many an hour together spinning yarns about youthful adventures.
Scott had originally intended to attend the wedding, but then his prize mare, Catherine, showed signs of giving birth in the near future. He decided to stay with the mare until she had successfully foaled and then ride over to the Henderson ranch.
The pre-wedding parties had been fun. Johnny had danced with Mary several times, but he had noticed that she spent a lot of time with the “best man”, David. Johnny had to admit that he seemed nice enough, but that didn’t mean he was good enough for Mary!
When Scott didn’t show up for the wedding, Johnny decided to ride back to Lancer and bring him back for the remaining festivities. Matthew Henderson had invited the Lancers to stay for few days since the 2 families rarely had the chance to visit. The responsibility for 2 huge ranches was daunting. Johnny was glad that Murdoch had agreed to stay because he thought his father needed a break. The ranch hands at Lancer would take good care of the estate.
Now he was back at Lance, but where was Scott? Just then he noticed a piece of paper on the desk. It was a note for Murdoch:
“My grandfather is very ill in Boston. I’ll send you a telegram when I get there. Take care of the mare. Her foal is beautiful. Scott”
Johnny wasn’t sure how to take this news. He knew Scott’s relationship with his grandfather was complex, but after all he was family. Johnny realized he’d just have to wait until Scott contacted them to find out more.
After taking a bath and eating, Johnny began to feel better. He’d decided not to contact Murdoch until he knew more. Why spoil their visit to the Hendersons? After all, Scott might be back in a short time.
The next 2 days passed slowly. Johnny worked hard around the ranch. He especially enjoyed spending time with Scott’s mare and the foal. The little guy was a beauty.
Murdoch, Jelly and Teresa would be back tomorrow. He realized that he would be happy to see them. They had really become his family. Johnny Madrid with a family? No, Johnny Lancer with a family. He smiled at that idea.
Early the next day Jelly rode in. “Hey, Johnny, I’m back. Where’s Scott?”
“Boston.” He told Jelly about the note.
“Sure hope his grandpa’s okay.” Johnny nodded in agreement.
“Where are Murdoch and Teresa?”
“Oh, they decided to stay a couple more days. Steven Henderson plans to take Teresa to a big party on Saturday and I think Murdoch plans to do some fishing with Mr. Henderson.”
“Well I’m glad that they’re having a good time, but why did you come back?”
“To look after you. I never know what kind of trouble you’ll get into.” Johnny laughed. It was good to know that this man cared about him.
On Saturday morning Johnny decided to ride into town to pick up some supplies that were needed. Murdoch and Teresa would probably be back tomorrow so it would be a good chance to get that done.
“Jelly, after I get the supplies, I’ll stop by the telegraph office to see if there might be something from Scott. We should have heard by now.”
“You do that. I tell you if it’s not you I have to worry about, it’s Scott.”
“See you later, Jelly.”
Johnny drove the buckboard to the general store, placed his order and then headed to the saloon for a cold beer. After a pleasant half-hour talking to a new bar girl, he decided to head to the telegraph office.
Just as he entered, Sam the telegraph operator looked up. “Johnny, I’m glad to see you. I was planning to ride out to deliver this to your place. My delivery boy quit 2 days ago. Dang youngsters.”
Johnny opened the envelope:
“Murdoch, My grandfather passed away yesterday. Before he died he told me the truth so I will not be returning to Lancer. Give my love to Teresa. I will miss all of you, but it is for the best if I don’t return. Scott“
Dazed, Johnny turned to head out into the street. He stopped to reread the words.
Suddenly he heard the telegraph clerk’s voice and felt his hand on his shoulder. “Johnny, there’s another one.”
Johnny looked at the paper like it was a rattler, but then he took it. It was addressed to him
“Johnny, I am not coming back to Lancer. Murdoch will tell you why. Take care of the mare; she’s yours now. Watch out for Murdoch and Teresa. Thanks for your friendship. Goodbye and take care of yourself. Scott“
Tears formed in his eyes. Scott’s not coming back. Scott’s not coming back, echoed through his mind.
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