This story is a birthday tribute to Wayne Maunder, who brought my two favorite characters; Scott Lancer and Sam MacCray to life on televsion. I remember as a child of eight, sitting anxiously waiting for Lancer to come on, so I could get a glimpse of Scott, and a few years down the road, my namesake Sam.
Happy Birthday, Wayne.
Thanks to my beta, Sharon C., for catching all those pesky errors I make and forever helping me grow as a writer.
Word count: 4,638
Lieutenant Scott Lancer watched as the Confederate guards tied the young man’s thumbs, then pulled on the rope until he was standing, just on the tips of his toes. He didn’t know what his fellow prisoner had done, but he knew it did not take much to merit this ghastly punishment. Scott could not remember why he was here. He had thought that the War had ended, and yet here he was back in Libby, the nightmare far from over.
Next the guards walked over to Scott, yanking him up roughly. He tried to ask them what he had done, what they were going to do to him, but they just kept looking at him, evil grins across their faces. He was tied securely, one arm to each post. The guards walked over to a line of Union soldiers, some of his fellow cavalry officers, men Scott recognized from the 83rd infantry.
One of the men in gray picked up a whip and the clench of fear started involuntarily in his stomach. He looked at the guard, felt himself tremble. He tried to think of the man’s name. Jamison, that was it. He was known throughout the prison as the most ruthless of all the Confederate soldiers on guard there.
Trying to find a way out of this, Scott looked around, his eyes settling on the figure of the Commandant. He glanced at the officer, then started to look away, but his eyes came back to the face in startled surprise. The man in charge of this prison was his father, Murdoch. Scott yelled his father’s name, but Murdoch did not acknowledgehim; instead the gray-haired man merely nodded to Jamison and looked back at Scott menacingly.
As Jamison walked over in front of Scott, the man pulled the whip through his hand, smiling cruelly.He stared at the whip; it had to be two feet in length and was made of leather. Even though the Confederate guard was behind him, somehow Scott could still see him slapping the whip in his hand.
The man in gray pulled the whip back, and Scott braced himself, ready for the excruciatingpain, when a shot rang out. He jerked his head up, looking around for the shooter. In the middle of the courtyard was a man sitting on a golden palomino. The rider was dressed in black and his pants had silver buttons running up the sides. Scott knew exactly who he was, even before their eyes met. Johnny nudged Barranca forward, towards Scott, but before he could get there, Scott heard the whistle of the whip as it was swung through the air. He screamed in pain as the whip fell across his back.
Scott sat straight up; his heart was beating at an erratic pace. He looked around the cell, in confusion. It took him a few minutes to realize he was not in Libby Prison anymore; he was in the Green River Jail. He sighed in relief, and leaned back against the wall. He guessed it to be about two or maybe three in the morning. It was going to be a long night, sitting in the darkness, with nothing to do but listen to the snoring of the drifter in the next cell.
Friday Morning: Green River Jail
Finally, daylight rescued Scott from his troubled sleep. He had spent the rest of the night reliving events from his year in that Confederate prison camp.
In the early morning light, Scott Lancer paced back and forth in the small jail cell. He walked over to the bars once again, looking to see if the sheriff had returned. What a time for Val Crawford to choose to take a day off and leave a new deputy in charge of the town.
This was not how Scott had planned to spend his twenty fifth birthday. He had hoped for a nice quiet dinner at home, had thought of maybe spending the evening playing chess or checkers with his brother.
Initially, Scott had thought about asking Johnny if he wanted to come to town and have a couple drinks, maybe play some cards, but Teresa had informed the blond-haired Lancer that she was making him a special birthday dinner. She had seemed so excited about it that Scott had relented.
While the former Easterner was growing up in Boston, his grandfather had given him wonderful birthday parties. Balloons, party favors, games, extravagant gifts, and lots of children for him to play with. Every year seemed to top the one before. Scott smiled as he thought of the year his grandfather had paid for all the party guests to go to a small private zoo. Everything had gone smoothly until little Walter Harding had opened a cage and let the zebras out. The Bostonian smiled unconsciously as he envisioned his grandfather and his friends helping the zoo keepers as they tried to catch the animals. He hated being behind bars, it reminded him of his time in a Confederate prison camp during the War. It wasn’t that he was claustrophobic; the former Lieutenant just hated the feeling of confinement. Scott felt a bit like an animal now, a caged one. Well, not really, this was just a small town jail. He had a bed to sleep on and a good breakfast. Not like when the former cavalry officer was at Libby, where men were treated worse than those animals had ever been.
The former cavalry officer had spent a little over a year at Libby; endless days of living in a space no larger than ten feet by two, living on bean soup and cornbread. To this day, Scott could barely stand to look at either fare, let alone attempt to eat it. The hardest part had been not being able to be outside, to look outside. The punishment for even a glance at the window had been death.
At night it had been extremely cold, with only grates on the window; he had not even had a blanket. In order to keep from freezing he had spent his nights walking, only sleeping during the day when the sun would shine through the window. A shiver went up his spine, just at the thought of his imprisonment there.
Determined not to dwell on that dark time in his past, Scott turned his thoughts to the previous day. If only he hadn’t gone into the saloon for that drink……..
Thursday Afternoon: Green River
Looking at his lists once more, Scott mentally checked off each item, making sure he’d gotten everything his family had wanted. Normally Johnny would have come with him but they’d had a break in the fence line last night about half way to Black Mesa, right along the boundary with the Sanderson Ranch. His brother had been chosen to help go after the strays. Looking toward the sky, the blond-haired Lancer smiled to himself, he had just enough time to grab a drink at the saloon before he headed for home. Scott looked down, dusting off his brown pants and his suede jacket.
The young Lancer walked into the bar room, glancing casually around the room. He shook his head at the habits he seemed to be picking up from his little brother, but he trusted the former gunfighter when it came to looking for dangerous situations. Johnny was always beating it into his head that he should take a moment to check out who his drinking companions would be whenever he went into a saloon. There was a card game going on in the corner, and Scott nodded towards the men as he recognized a couple of ranch hands from the Double J.
As his gaze swept in the other direction he noticed two drifters, each nursing a beer at a table in the back. Neither of them had looked up when he entered. The man on the right had long black hair, which was pulled back in a ponytail. The man to the left was taller, with short brown hair. He’d seen them around Spanish Wells before, looking for work. Murdoch had mentioned a few days ago that they were going to need a couple extra hands; maybe he’d talk to them before he left the bar.
“Hey, Scott! What brings you into town in the middle of the week?” asked Clay the bar keeper, a short stocky man with dark brown hair. He gave a friendly smile as he wiped out a glass.
“Supplies,” Scott replied, as he slowly took off his gloves. “Give me a whiskey, Clay.” He leaned easily against the counter, watching as the saloon owner placed a glass in front of him and poured him his drink. Scott picked up the glass, turned and walked casually over to a table. Setting his glass down, he took off his jacket and gently tossed it over a chair.The tall blond sat down slowly, picked up his glass once more, took a drink and sighed, putting his booted feet on the chair across from him and tipping his head back, momentarily closing his eyes. He’d stayed up too late last night, trying to find an error in the books.
Scott sat there for a while, enjoying the unusual solitude. There was only an occasional groan or a cheer from the corner table when a hand of cards was finished. He opened his eyes as he heard the scrape of a chair; the dark haired man from the back was headed toward the bar. Scott finished his drink, pushed his own chair back and stood up. One more drink and he’d better head for home, he decided. As he walked up to the bar, the long haired man bumped into him, the drifter’s beer falling out of his hand.
“Now look what you gone and done!” The drifter snarled, giving Scott a shove. “Somebody needs ta’ teach you a lesson, boy.”
“Now, just a minute,” Scott protested, raising his hands up. “I did not spill your beer, you ran into me.”
The dark-haired drifter brought his fist up into Scott’s stomach. The blond haired Lancer swung his fist into the side of the cowboy’s face, knocking him to the floor. The bar keeper ran to the saloon doors shouting for help.
“Hold it!” Ray, a red-headed young deputy, shouted as he entered the saloon. The deputy grabbed Scott, while the brunette grabbed his friend.
“All right, what’s going on here!” The deputy barked.
“He started it,” the drifter said accusingly, rubbing his jaw. “Ran into me on purpose, looking for trouble.”
“That’s not true!” Scott exclaimed. “You bumped into me. And if you hadn’t swung first, I wouldn’t have hit you.” He turned to the bar. “Isn’t that right, Clay?”
“I’m sorry, Scott. I was in the back room, getting some clean glasses. When I walked out here you and Brodie were already fightin’,” the bar keeper admitted.
“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Ray declared. “There’s a new ordinance, anyone caught causing a public disturbance serves a night in jail and pays a $100 fine.”
“Come on, Deputy,” Scott pleaded. “I have a wagon full of supplies out there. I need to get home.”
“There ain’t nuthin’ I can do about it,” the deputy replied, taking both the men’s guns. “The law’s the law.”
“Where’s Val?” Scott demanded.
“He took a couple days off. Won’t be back til tomorrow afternoon,” Ray answered. “Now, let’s go peaceful like to the jail.”
“Just give me a minute,” Scott responded. Frustrated, he turned to the barkeeper. “Clay.” Pulling some money out of his pocket, he laid it on the bar. “Would you get Young Pete from the stables to take the wagon home?”
“Sure, Scott,” Clay answered. “Anything else?”
“You got a pencil and piece of paper?” Scott inquired. Seeing the deputy start to object, the young Lancer explained. “I just need to send a note to my family so they won’t worry.” Ray nodded in acknowledgment.
Clay handed Scott the materials he requested. He quickly wrote a note and gave it back to the barkeeper. “Make sure you tell Young Pete to give that to Johnny.”
“Thanks, Clay. I appreciate it,” Scott said gratefully. He knew he could rely on his brother to follow the instructions in the note. He nodded to the deputy and walked out ahead of him, towards the Green River Jail.
Scott’s thoughts came back to the present as he heard the front door to the jail open. He looked up, feeling relieved to see Sheriff Val Crawford walk in. As usual, dark haired Val was stubble cheeked. He looked in sore need of a change of clothes and a bath, which was nothing new for the sheriff.
Val!” Scott cried, getting up from the bench, walking over to the bars. “Would you tell this deputy of yours to let me out of here!”
Val frowned, looking at Ray and back at Scott, blinking. “I need ta’ get my eyes checked. If I didn’t know better I’d think Scott Lancer was sittin’ in my jail.”
“Very funny,” Scott scowled, his hands on the bars. “Now, let me out of here.”
“Now, just a minute,” the Sheriff turned to his deputy, frowning. “What’s he in there for?”
“Disturbing the peace,” the deputy reported. “He can leave as soon as his fine is paid.”
“Val,” Scott protested. “You know I’m good for it. I’ll go over to the bank and bring it right back.”
“The law’s the law,” Val stated seriously. “I can’t let you out until it’s paid. You want me to send someone to Lancer so they can come get you out?”
“I already sent a note,” Scott retorted.
“Well, then someone should be along soon to get you out.” Val turned to his deputy. “You go get some lunch, I’ll watch the jail.”
Once the deputy had left, Scott tried every way he could to persuadeVal to release him but to no avail. As the afternoon wore on he started getting more and more irritated. Johnny should have been there a long time ago. He had hoped to be home before Murdoch and Teresa arrived back at the ranch, from their trip to Stockton.
There was no hope of that now; his honorary sister was probably halfway through preparing his birthday dinner. Teresa would be very upset if he missed it, and if there was one thing Scott hated doing it was disappointing his family.
It would just be the icing on the cake if Murdoch found out he’d gotten arrested. Scott could hear the lecture he’d be getting already. Not that the criticism would bother him that much, it was the embarrassment. The former Bostonian prided himself on staying on the right side of the law.
Where was that brother of his anyway? He should have been here hours ago. Scott frowned as a thought came to him. What if Pete just left the wagon and came back to Green River without giving Johnny the note. His brother would think he was on the ranch somewhere and wouldn’t come to Green River looking for him. Scott started to pace in earnest again. He had endured one sleepless night in this jail, come hell or high water he wasn’t planning on spending two. He needed to think, to come up with an alternate plan. Just as he was about to start harassing the sheriff again, the jail door opened, andhis younger brother walkedin.
“Hey, Val!” Johnny greeted. “I’m here to bail out my bar fightin’ brother.”
“Hallelujah!” Val responded, shaking his head. “Your brother’s been hollerin’ his head off all day.”
“Johnny, where have you been!” Scott demanded loudly.
“Now, just calm down, Boston,” Johnny said, grinning at him. “What’s Murdoch gonna say when he finds out what you been up to?”
“He’s not going to find out,” Scott barked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Johnny drawled. “Seems he might want ta know what happened ta that hundred dollars I took out of the safe.”
“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” Scott declared, waving his hand at Johnny through the bars. “Just pay Val so I can get out of here.”
“Patience, Boston,” Johnny pulled some money out of his pocket, counting out the necessary amount and handed it to the sheriff. Val picked up the keys and Scott’s gun belt and then opened up the cell door.
“You’re all set, Scott,” the Sheriff said, handing him his gun belt. “You keep yourself out of trouble now.”
“Let’s get out of here, Johnny,” Scott grumbled, heading out the door. “I was hoping to get home in time to take a bath and shave before dinner.”
“We could stop by the bath house on our way out of town,” Johnny suggested, as they walked down the sidewalk towards their horses.
“Considering that I don’t have any clean clothes that would kind of defeat the purpose,” Scott complained, looking down at his wrinkled tan work shirt.
“I’ll tell ya what,” Johnny proposed, a twinkle in his eye. “You go take a bath and I’ll go buy ya somethin’ to wear home.”
“You will pick out clothes for me?” Scott asked skeptically.
“Well, it ain’t that difficult,” Johnny drawled smiling. “All I got to do is find somethin’ I wouldn’t be caught dead in.”
He stopped in front of the bathhouse. “Aw, come on Boston. I promise, I’ll bring ya somethin’ you’ll like. Just go take a bath and by the time yur done I’ll be back.”
“Okay,” Scott relented. He really didn’t look forward to facing Teresa the way he looked right now.
Scott sat in the tub scrubbing his body. He thought back to his previous birthday. His grandfather hadthrown one of his lavish parties, with all the high society folks in attendance, including his fiancée, Julie Dennison. Scott wondered where she was now, if she was happy. He would never understand the reasons she had given for breaking up with him. They’d had an argument in regards to whether Scott would continue to work for his grandfather, something he hadn’t wanted to do. The next thing he knew she’d angrily told him they wanted different things out of life. She had handed him his ring back and from that moment on she had refused to see him.
Scott frowned at the thought that possibly his grandfather could have had something to do with it. It was likely that he had. Harlan had told him on more than one occasion that Julie wasn’t good enough for his “Scotty”. The former Bostonian grimaced at his grandfather’s name for him. It had been fine for him when he was growing up, but once he became of age he much preferred to be called Scott.
As he rinsed the soap from his body and shampooed his hair, his thoughts turning to this birthday. Ever since he was old enough to understand, he knew that his family was different than his friends. Scott had only wanted one thing for his birthday, a brother. Finally, this year he’d gotten his wish. As he rinsed the soap out of his hair, he realized that of all the parties, the gifts, and special events he had had on his birthday growing up, nothing compared to being at Lancer with his family.
Not that Scott did not appreciate or love his grandfather. The elderly gentleman would always hold a special place in the young man’s heart. He had given his grandson the best of everything; including an excellent education. A flash of homesickness for his grandfather and Boston went through him. Scott knew his decision to stay at Lancer had to have been heartbreaking for his substitute parent.
The young man’s thoughts turned to the worst birthday he had ever had, spent in a Confederate prison camp. Ironic as it was, that was the day that Lieutenant Cassidy had chosen for the escape attempt.
Everything had been planned out to the smallest detail, but the unforeseen had happened. Dan Cassidy had fallen gravely ill, slipping in and out of consciousness. Scott had been chosen to lead the men through the tunnel toward freedom. They had almost made it when the young officer heard the warning sounds of the Confederate guards. Realizing that their escape attempt had failed he commanded his men to lay down on the ground. The Union soldiers kept running and one by one they fell, as the men in gray shot them down to prevent them from escaping.
Later that evening, all the remaining prisoners in Libby were lined up in the courtyard where they were forced to watch while Scott was whipped. He was left there, hanging from the posts until the next morning as an example of what would happen if anyone else even dared to think about leaving.
This painful memory was interrupted when his younger brother entered the room, carrying Scott’s boots and a package, which he assumed to be the clothes Johnny had purchased for Scott.
“You almost done, Scott?” Johnny asked quietly, placing the package on the bench against the wall. “I took your boots and had them polished for you.
“Thanks.” Scott replied, dunking his head under the water. Johnny walked across the room, leaned against the wall and looked out the window. “I’m just finishing rinsing my hair.”
Scott stood up, the water running off his toned, muscular body. He stepped out of the tub, grabbed the towel and put it to use, carefully keeping Johnny from seeing his scarred back. Once he was dried off, he opened the package Johnny had brought, quickly putting on a pair of black dress pants. He picked up the blue shirt; put one arm through the sleeve, pausing at Johnny’s words.
“What happened to you!” Johnny exclaimed, walking over, gesturing to the black and blue mark on his brother’s stomach.
“It’s just a bruise from the fight I was in yesterday,” Scott commented, putting his other arm through the sleeve.
“Maybe you should see the Doc,” his brother replied, frowning.
“I’m fine, Johnny,” Scott insisted, buttoning his shirt. He tucked his shirt in and buttoned his pants. Picking up the pair of clean socks that were laying in the bottom of the package, Scott quickly finished getting dressed. He walked over to the mirror and combed his hair.
“Well.” He asked, turning around.
“You look …….” Johnny began to say, a twinkle in his eye.
“Don’t say it,” Scott warned, grinning. His younger brother liked to tell him he was “pretty” or “breathtaking”.
He slipped into his suede jacket and then picked up his dirty clothes, stuffing them into the saddlebag Johnny had brought in earlier. Suddenly, Scott couldn’t wait to get out of here, out of town. The memories of Libby Prison that spending a night in jail had resurrected were just too fresh in his mind. Scott wanted to put some distance between himself and Green River. He grabbed his hat and placed it on the crown of his head.
“We better get going,” Scott stated, turning to Johnny. “We don’t want to be late for dinner.”
Johnny nodded and they walked out the door, heading for their horses.
They rode their horses towards home at a leisurely pace. At first, Johnny tried to make conversation, but he soon realized Scott was not in a talkative mood. He sensed that his older brother was deep in thought about something; Scott had a far away look on his face, almost as if he were somewhere else. Johnny wondered if that was the look Boston was always telling him he had, whenever his brother caught him thinking about his past. The younger Lancer wanted to ask his sibling what was troubling him, but he knew it was pointless. It seemed to be at least one trait all three Lancer men had in common; once they decided they did not want to talk about something, nothing was going to get them to change their minds.
Scott felt Johnny’s glances and knew that his brother had to be wondering what was bothering him, but it was not something that he felt comfortable discussing. The former Army Lieutenant’s experiences in the war were a closed subject; he had never discussed it with anyone, except for a few close friends who had fought also. He had chosen to put it behind him, only thinking about it at those rare times when it invaded his dreams, or when some event brought it all back to him. Like spending a night in the Green River Jail.
The former Easterner knew that his brother would most likely understand, Johnny had possibly been in places similar or worse than Libby. There might come a time, someday, when the subject would have to be addressed, but for now it was better to leave it where it belonged, in the past.
“Tell me the truth,” Scott said, breaking the silence. “Teresa and Maria went all out didn’t they?” He turned his head, a slight grin on his face.
“You knew they would,” Johnny smiled, relieved that Scott seemed back to his old self. “All your favorite foods, to be topped off with a very pretty cake.”
Scott stopped as they rode along the crest of the hill-overlooking Lancer. Johnny pulled up on Barranca’s reins, looking over at his brother; he followed his gaze to the ranch below. From their viewpoint, it was quite clear that a party was underway at the Lancer Hacienda.
“What’s going on at the ranch?” Scott asked, though he had a feeling he already knew.
“Now what do you think?”
“I can’t believe you did it,” Scott admitted, shaking his head. “You’re just lucky I got arrested or there would have been no way you could have surprised me.”
“Well, luck didn’t have nuthin’ to do with it. I…” Johnny hesitated, playing with Barranca’s reins.
“What do you mean?” Scott demanded.
“I couldn’t think of another way to keep you away from the ranch,” Johnny explained, a twinkle in his eye
“You mean….,” Scott set his jaw, trying to hold back the flash of anger. His own brother had set him up.
“Hey don’t get mad Boston, it’s our own fault,” Johnny justified, grinning. “You told us about those parties you had when you were a kid and you’re always sayin’ no one’s ever surprised you before.”
Scott stared at Johnny, speechless. He could not think of one thing to say. Yes, spending the night in jail had been hard on him, but his brother had no way of knowing about his miserable experience as a prisoner in a Confederate prison camp.
“Well, we bought ya’ presents, too,” Johnny informed him. “I got you a real nice one.”
“Little brother,” Scott whispered so low, Johnny almost did not catch it. “I’ve already received the best gift.”
“What’s that?” Johnny inquired.
“You,” Scott replied quietly. He stared at Johnny for a few seconds, and then looked away.
“Come on, Boston,” Johnny said, reaching over and slapping him on the arm. “Just think of all them pretty women just waitin’ to dance with the birthday boy.”
“Women?” Scott replied, the hint of a smile touching his face. “You got me thrown behind bars and all you can think about is dancing?”
“First time for everything. I hope it was real educational,” Johnny grinned.
Scott thought about how glad he was that he had a brother with whom he could share his present life, and maybe some day even his past. He nudged Brunswick forward, the horses matching strides as they galloped towards Lancer. As they neared the Hacienda, Scott could not help but feel that they were riding towards their life together, leaving the past where it belonged. At least for now.
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