Takes place after “Legacy”
Word count: 2,083
“Scott, you gonna tell me what’s been goin’ on in that head of yours for the past coupla weeks?”
The older Lancer son glanced over at his brother. Unable to sleep, Scott had wandered out onto the porch to gaze up at the night time sky. The endless stars seemed to soothe his restless mind. “Gotta work this out on my own, Johnny. Go on back to sleep. Dawn’ll be here before you know it.”
Stubborn as always, Johnny stuck to his post. “Got somethin’ to do with that bas. . .your grandfather’s visit, don’t it?”
It had been two weeks since Scott had watched Harlan Garrett depart for Boston . The visit had been a total fiasco, nearly resulting in the older Lancer’s death at the hands of the Degans. In that space of time Scott had said very little about the old man to anyone, not even Johnny.
Rubbing one hand through his blond hair, Scott took a deep breath of the cool night air and asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time I ran away from home?”
“Don’t remember it.”
“Not something I like to recall. The day of my eleventh birthday, I had an argument with my grandfather. For some reason I was. . .convinced that my father would show up at the house with all kinds of presents for me and that he would take me back to California with him. I told Grandfather that with all the certainty of a pig-headed eleven year old.”
One of Johnny’s eyebrows arched, but he said nothing.
In the darkness Scott continued, “Oh, I know it’s hard to believe, but I can be a bit stubborn at times. Guess I get it from you,” he suggested.
“Hey!” Johnny protested.
“Anyway,” Scott continued, ignoring the interruption, “my grandfather didn’t say much except that it wasn’t likely that Murdoch would be there.” Scott’s head dropped a fraction as he remembered. “Of course, he didn’t come and by the time I went to bed I was. . .feeling sorry for myself and angry at the whole world.”
For a moment Johnny could picture the image of the thin blond boy with hurt blue eyes railing against the pain.
“When Grandfather came to tell me goodnight, I yelled at him. He was shocked because I. . .I was brought up to have respect for him and other adults, but that night I just couldn’t help myself. I accused him of keeping my father away, of burning my presents and letters, of lying to me for all those years. It went on and on until I must have cried myself to sleep from the exhaustion of letting out all those fears and doubts.”
“Didn’t he say anything?”
“Not then. I guess he was so startled that he was speechless. When I woke up, it was just after dawn. I dressed and threw a few things in a bag, crept down the stairs, and left the house. I’m not even sure what I had planned, maybe I thought I’d go to California and ask Murdoch all the questions I needed answers to. The only trouble was that overnight it had snowed and I hadn’t worn my boots or anything warm. After only a few minutes, I was freezing and. . .and everything was just this white landscape. I guess it was beautiful in a way, but I was terrified. Nothing looked familiar and it was so quiet. Finally, I decided to go home so I turned around and started back. I’d only gone about twenty feet when I met up with Grandfather. He’d followed my footsteps.”
“Was he angry?”
“He didn’t say one word. He saw how cold I was so he took off his coat and wrapped it around me. When we got home, SPIN was waiting for me with a hot bath and she’d made a big breakfast. I thawed out and then. . .then I had to face the music. Grandfather asked me to join him in his study. That’s where we always had our little talks. I tried to apologize, but he wouldn’t let me.”
“Why not? You’re not the first kid to ever run off.”
“No, Johnny, you don’t understand. He apologized to me.”
“He said it was his fault that I didn’t. . .trust him, that I was now old enough to understand about my father.”
“So he said that Murdoch didn’t give a damn about you! Is that it?”
“Not exactly. He reminded me that he had never tried to hide the fact that I was Murdoch Lancer’s son. He also told me about Murdoch’s visit when I was five. It’s strange, but sometimes I think I remember seeing that tall man standing next to Grandfather. I. . .I asked him why my father left me in Boston if he had come that far to find me.”
“Yeah, I’ll just bet he had a good answer to that one,” Johnny remarked sarcastically.
“Grandfather told me the truth about how he had threatened to take Murdoch to court if he tried to take me away and Murdoch had backed off. Of course, I still have only my grandfather’s words to go by, but perhaps one of these days Murdoch will trust me enough to tell me his side of the story. When I asked Grandfather why he had been so adamant about keeping me with him, he explained that I was all he had and he had no intention of letting me be second choice to 100,000 acres. Then he swore on my mother’s grave that he had never tried to keep Murdoch from writing to me or sending presents or even visiting again. I. . .I must have looked at him funny because he leaned forward and said, ‘I knew that one day you’d question me about your father and I was afraid that if I did try to keep any letters from you, you’d hate me when you found out the truth.'”
“And you believed him?”
Scott nodded. “I did then and I still do.”
“So you believed Garrett at eleven, but what about now after he almost got you killed?”
Scott flashed his brother a grimace and then started to walk back into the house, however, Johnny grabbed his arm in a bruising grasp. “Not this time, brother. That old man almost got you killed. You just gonna pretend it didn’t happen?”
“If you don’t mind, I’m cold. I thought we could finish this conversation in the great room, but if you’d prefer to interrogate me in the barn, I suppose I could manage.”
Johnny let loose of his brother. “Sorry. Man makes me furious.”
Scott patted Johnny on the shoulder. “I’m not surprised. I feel the same way at times.”
For a second Johnny stood there nonplused. He had never even heard Scott say anything against his grandfather.
Half-way into the house, the blond turned to inquire, “You comin’?”
The dark-haired man shuffled past his brother. “Damn, it is cold out here. S’pect we’ll be seein’ one of them icebergs in the river.”
Scott started to chuckle at the forlorn look on Johnny’s face, but walked over to the bottle of brandy and poured two measures instead. “Maybe this will warm you up, cactus.”
“Well you like the heat, you’re prickly on the outside and the inside is kind of pithy and sour!”
Sapphire eyes flashed, but Johnny couldn’t hide his grin. “Hey, I like that! Johnny Madrid Lancer—the cactus. Nah, too intimidatin’ to my fair admirers. ‘Course bein’ a myst’ry always entices ’em.”
“Well, you’re certainly a mystery to me at times.” The tone of the comment was light but serious.
“We were discussin’ you and your grandpa, Boston . Not me.”
“Right,” Scott conceded, “but one of these days it’s going to be my turn to ask the questions.”
“Mebbe,” the younger man mumbled.
The older Lancer sat down in his chair to stare into the glass of amber liquid in his hand. “Johnny, my grandfather and SPIN were all I had for so many years. He. . .he could be difficult, but I always knew he loved me. Even when I decided to join the cavalry, he ranted and raved, but I knew it was because he was afraid of losing me. The morning I left Boston , he drew me aside and said that he didn’t agree with my decision, but that he respected me for making a man’s choice. Then, he said, ‘I’m trusting you to come back.’ That’s one of the reasons I didn’t give up when I was in Libby. I couldn’t let him down. I couldn’t let him be alone in the world. I just wish that he hadn’t forgotten that.”
“When I left Boston to come to California , Grandfather wasn’t happy about it as you can imagine. I told him then to trust me because there is a bond between us that nothing can break. Johnny, I respect Murdoch and what he has done here. I even believe that to some extent he does regret leaving me in Boston . But whatever excuse he gives is not enough to hide the fact that he willingly played no part in my life up to the point I came to Lancer and whatever we have between us from now on is based on the fact that he contacted me only when it was in his best interest to do so. I try not to dwell on that too much because we can’t change those twenty-five years, but my grandfather’s visit has brought it all out into the open again.”
“So. . .so how do you feel about Garrett now?”
Scott looked up into his brother’s eyes. “I wish he had trusted me more. My being here doesn’t mean I love him less. I might choose never to live in Boston again, but I don’t intend to tear those twenty-five years from my heart and mind. Can you rid yourself of the memories of your mother just because of what Teresa believes is the truth?”
Johnny shook his head. “Don’t want to. What I know about my mother is for me alone.”
“Exactly. The Harlan Garrett I know is not Murdoch Lancer’s father-in-law or the businessman or even the man who hired the Degans.”
“You sayin’ you’ve forgivin’ him?”
“Let’s just say I understand him. Maybe there’s been a crack in the bond, maybe he should have trusted me more, but what he did doesn’t wipe out all those years we had together. I need him and he needs me.”
“And you call me a myst’ry!”
A hint of laughter filled the air. “It’s not a mystery, Johnny. It’s not in me to be so self-righteous and judgmental that I can’t understand what it means to lose the most important person in your life. Grandfather went to the extreme, but if you tried to walk away from Lancer again, I certainly wouldn’t be cool, calm, and rational about it.”
Johnny hesitated and then added, “Guess you gotta point. Was thinkin’ ’bout kidnappin’ you off that train if you made it that far.”
“I don’t doubt it and that’s the point. Everybody has to decide for themselves what is most important to them and what they’re willing to do to keep it. It may not be easy and it may take sometime before I can accept what my grandfather did, but I don’t know how many years we have left to us and I will not let this incident drive us apart. Regret is a killer, Johnny, just like a bullet and I don’t intend to live with anymore than I already have.”
“Yeah, I got my share too. One thing I don’t regret though.”
“What might that be?
“You ‘n me meetin’ up here at Lancer. Took us awhile, but I coulda done a lot worse.”
“Thank you, brother. I suppose I could say the same although it would probably swell that head of yours.”
“Well, when so many folks think you’re perfect, no use to deny it.”
“On second thought maybe I could advertise in the Boston or San Francisco papers,” Scott hedged.
Johnny’s sapphire eyes blinked. “No way, Boston . You’re stuck with me, just like I am with you.”
“If you say so, brother. Anyway, I’m for bed. I believe I heard Murdoch mention something about wanting some branding done today.”
The sound of Johnny’s groan echoed through the night.
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