Word Count – 5,908
Part 1 The Confrontation
Beta by friends: Raian Kaiser and Sheri Bonner
A smile spread across Scott’s face as he gazed at the beautiful landscape. Spring rains last month had left fields green and lush. He looked down at the ranch hands and his brother as they moved the herd onto the south pasture. He leaned back in the saddle and removed his hat to wipe the sweat from his brow. An unexpected but welcome breeze tousled his hair. His smile turned into a smirk as he saw Johnny galloping toward him. He put his hat on the back of his head and turned toward Johnny.
“Hey brother, you enjoying your view while I do all the work?”
“Occasionally I have to let you earn your keep.” Scott chuckled. “I was just enjoying the view. Did you realize we’ve been here two years already? Time has really flown by.”
“When I saw you up here, you looked really … happy.” Johnny smiled back at his brother.
“Johnny, I feel truly… content. You know this is where we belong.”
Johnny’s eyes crinkled at the edges as he understood what his brother was feeling. “Well, Boston, if you’d stop slackin’ off we could use some help getting those steers moved.”
Scott rode off yelling over his shoulder, “What are you waiting for, brother?”
Johnny burst out laughing as he spurred Barranca to catch up with his brother.
Conversations at the dinner table were lively and happy. Several times one of the brothers laughed at the remarks of his sibling. Murdoch enjoyed the sparring of the brothers and Teresa had to hide her laughter behind her napkin several times.
As the meal concluded, Murdoch suggested they retire to the living room for some drinks. “Oh, Scott, there’s a letter for you on my desk. I think it’s from Boston,” Murdoch growled.
It’s been two years… will he ever let it go?
Scott grabbed the envelope off Murdoch’s desk. He didn’t recognize the handwriting. “I think I’ll retire for the evening. Goodnight, gentlemen.”
Scott threw the letter on his bed. He thought he’d read the letter after he turned in. After washing his face and disrobing, he climbed into bed. He looked at the letter and decided it could wait until tomorrow to read. He placed it on his nightstand.
At breakfast the next morning, Murdoch assigned Scott to surveying the new property they had purchased to increase their land closer to the river. He then assigned Johnny to finish moving the cattle. “Well, Scott, what did your Grandfather have to say?”
Scott couldn’t decide if his father really wanted to know or was just getting a dig in. “I haven’t read it yet. I’m sure you wouldn’t be interested.” With that, Scott stood and roughly pushed his chair in, and headed to the barn.
Johnny looked at Murdoch but neither man commented.
After a few hour’s work, Scott stopped to take a drink from his canteen. He felt the envelope in his tan-checked shirt’s pocket. Now would be as good a time as any to read it. He found a shady spot to sit in under a tree.
Dear Cousin Scott,
I know it has been a while since I have written to you, so I want to get you caught
up on what is happening in Boston. Uncle Harlan is well. He has decided to let me
run the shipping company he recently purchased in San Francisco. He thought this
job would have been perfect for you, but since you were not available he gave me
the position. He says that he is happy that you like being a cowboy and part
owner of a ranch, but I know that he would rather that you had the job instead of me.
I don’t know if I wrote you about Julie’s wedding last fall. She is expecting a child
soon. I see her and her husband at most functions. She looks really happy. I always
thought you and Julie would have made a nice couple. Just think, you would have been
a father soon if you had married her.
I am planning to stop by to see your ranch on the way to San Francisco. I would
love for you to show me around it, if you are not too busy.
I will be arriving the end of this month. I will send you a telegraph when to pick
me up from the train station in Cross Creek.
Scott put the letter back into the envelope and shoved it into his pocket. Time to finish the survey. He pushed himself to his feet and strolled over to the surveying equipment. How can one letter make you want to reevaluate your life?
At dinner that night, Teresa talked about the new school teacher who had recently arrived from Boston.
“Scott, maybe you know her? Her name’s Sarah Cunningham.”
Every eye turned to look at Scott who was moving his food around on his plate.
“Son, did you hear Teresa’s question?”
“No, I’m sorry. My mind was elsewhere. What did you ask?”
“Did you know a Sarah Cunningham when you lived in Boston?” Teresa repeated.
“Teresa, Boston’s a big city. I didn’t know everyone in Boston! If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to retire early.” Scott abruptly left the table and strode to his room.
“Did I say something wrong?” Teresa questioned Murdoch and Johnny.
“No, darling. He seems to be working through something. I’m sure he didn’t mean to be short with you. I think I’ll talk to him to see what’s going on.”
“Wait, Murdoch, let me talk to Scott. I’ll let you know what I find out.”
Johnny pushed in his chair and went upstairs. He went to open Scott’s door but found it locked. Johnny had to knock as his brother had requested since the first day he arrived at Lancer. There was no immediate reply, so Johnny called out to Scott.
Finally Scott answered, “Johnny, I don’t feel up to talking tonight. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Johnny mumbled, “OK,” as he walked back down to the Great Room.
“Well, what did he say, Johnny?”
“Nothing. He locked his door. That’s not like my brother.”
“I wonder if it had anything to do with the letter from Boston? I know I wasn’t happy to see him get a letter from there. I guess he’ll talk to us when he’s ready. I think I’ll turn in as well. Good night, son.”
“Good night, Murdoch.”
Teresa sat knitting by the fire, disappointed that they hadn’t found out what was wrong with Scott.
Murdoch glanced at Scott’s door on the way down to breakfast. Johnny was already at the kitchen table. Maria brought over eggs, bacon, and biscuits for them. She filled up their cups with fresh hot coffee. Murdoch spread a napkin on his lap. “Johnny, have you seen Scott?”
“Nope. I don’t think he’s been down.”
Maria paused on her way to the stove. “Señor Scott left early this morning. I made him take some biscuits. He didn’t eat much dinner last night.”
“He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself. I’m sure he knows what work needs to be done around the ranch. Johnny, maybe you can catch up to him and find out what’s going on.”
Johnny rode to where Scott had been doing the surveying yesterday. Not there. Next, he went to see if Scott was helping with a bridge repair. Nothing. He finally found his brother slowly riding a fence line.
The horse picked its own way as Scott reread the letter. Scott thought about the fact that he’d have been married by now if he’d stayed in Boston, if not to Julie then to someone else. He’d probably have been a father too. He would’ve loved to live in San Francisco… but he’d decided to stay at Lancer.
He was five years older than his cousin Henry and still not in charge of anything. Yesterday, Scott thought he was happy at Lancer. Now he wasn’t so sure.
Scott looked up, saw his brother riding in his direction and quickly put the letter back into his shirt pocket.
“Got it memorized yet, Boston?”
Scott smirked at his brother. “It’s one of those letters that has to be read several times to take it all in.” He decided to hand the letter to Johnny to read.
“Well, it doesn’t sound too bad. What’s got you all up in knots?”
“You know how one day you think you have your life all figured out, then something comes along and makes you question your decisions?”
Johnny felt at a loss for how to help his big brother. “Well, if you need to talk about it, you know I’d be happy to help.”
“Thanks, Johnny. Right now, I need to get to work to take my mind off it.”
For the next couple of weeks, Scott seemed to be back to his old self again. He even volunteered to take Teresa into town for supplies. While he waited for the supplies to be loaded, Tim from the telegraph office approached and handed over a telegram. It was from Cousin Henry, saying he’d arrive Thursday evening on the 7:00 p.m. train.
Thursday arrived quickly. Scott drove the buggy to pick up Henry from the station. Scott was not ready to introduce Henry to the family yet, so he decided to rent a hotel room for them for the evening, since it would be late after they had eaten dinner.
During dinner, Henry tried to talk Scott into accompanying him to San Francisco. “You could help me find a house and get settled. Scott, you’ve been there before and know where to look. I’d also like you to meet the staff. Some of them came from Boston earlier this month and you might know them and be able to help me get to know them.”
“Henry, I’ll need to talk it over with Murdoch.”
“You need to ask your father for permission?” snarked Henry. “I thought you were an owner, not a hired hand.”
“Murdoch calls the tune when making ranch decisions, because he has years of experience running a ranch. I don’t think it’ll be a problem for me to take a week off as we’re not too busy right now.”
Their conversation took on a lighter note as they talked about acquaintances they had back home. Henry told Scott about how Harlan was doing. They retired for the evening as Henry was tired from his long train ride.
Scott spent Friday morning showing Henry around the ranch. It was after lunch before they returned to the hacienda. Since there was no one in the kitchen, Scott made roast beef sandwiches for them.
“Don’t you have staff to cook for you?”
“Yes, but it’s after lunchtime, so Maria’s busy with her other duties. I don’t mind making lunch. Many times I’ve made my own sandwiches to eat on the range. If you feel up to it, I can show you more of the ranch this afternoon.”
“There’s more?” Scott smiled proudly and nodded. “Sure, that would be great, Scott.”
The cousins returned to the ranch about an hour before dinner. They had just enough time to clean up and have a drink. At dinner, Scott talked about taking Henry around the ranch, and all the cattle and fields that were part of Lancer that had impressed his cousin. Henry spoke highly of how overwhelmed he was by the size of the ranch and how smoothly everything ran.
Murdoch graciously accepted the compliment but wasn’t quite sure if he liked Scott’s cousin.
“Well, gentleman, I am a little tired. I’m not used to riding on horseback for such long hours. I think I’ll turn in for the evening. Thank you so much for allowing me to stay here, Mr. Lancer.”
“You’re welcome. Anytime, Henry,” Murdoch conceded.
After Henry retired, Scott asked Murdoch if he could speak with him. Johnny took the hint and decided to go to the barn to check on Barranca. Murdoch sat down behind his desk as his eldest sat down in the chair in front of it.
Scott decided to get straight to the point. “Murdoch, Henry asked me to go to San Francisco with him for a week to help him get settled. There are some mutual acquaintances that I would like to see –”
“Now, Scott,” Murdoch interrupted, “it’s too busy this time of year and you can’t ask your brother to cover for you for an entire week.”
“No, sir, it’s not! Branding doesn’t start ’til the end of the month, the cattle have already been moved to the south pasture, and we’re actually slow right now. You could definitely do without me for a week and you know Johnny can take care of anything that comes up.” Scott squared his shoulders and raised his voice. “I think you don’t want me to go because Henry is a Garrett.”
“Well, I call the tune and I say no!”
“I’m not a hired hand asking permission! I’m part owner of Lancer. You can call the tune about ranch business but not about my life. Henry and I will be leaving in the morning!” Scott pushed himself to his feet and turned toward the stairs.
“Son, it’s not that way!” Murdoch followed and tried to grab Scott’s arm. Scott twisted out of his father’s grip and strode up the stairs.
Johnny returned to the Great Room just as Scott slammed his bedroom door. “Well, what did I miss?”
“Your brother and I had a slight disagreement. I think I’ll turn in for the night as well.” Murdoch regretted how he had handled the conversation with his son. He would need to make this right with Scott before he left.
Murdoch and Johnny had finished breakfast in the kitchen by the time Scott and Henry finally came down the stairs together. As they entered the kitchen, Murdoch forcefully pushed his chair back and stood. Thinking on it overnight, he couldn’t believe Scott had questioned him the night before. “Scott, come see me after you’ve finished breakfast,” Murdoch ordered as he strode toward the Great Room.
“Ew wee, what’s got Murdoch riled? What’d I miss last night?”
“Johnny, I’m going to San Francisco for a week with Henry. Could you cover for me while I’m gone?”
“Sure, Scott, but it’ll cost you when you get back,” Johnny jested but realized it fell on deaf ears.
“I just need some time in the city and Henry’s asked me to help him get settled in, is all.”
“Well, Boston, have a nice time in the big city. We’ll all be here when you get back.”
Scott chuckled and swatted Johnny on the back. “Thanks for understanding, brother.”
Henry brought his luggage to the front portico. He could feel the tension between Scott and Murdoch and didn’t want to get involved.
Scott helped harness the horses to the buggy that Jelly brought out. Scott knew he was avoiding a confrontation with his father but also knew he couldn’t put it off much longer. After placing Henry’s luggage in the buggy, Scott went into the house to retrieve his own bag. They’d have to stop at the train station in Cross Creek to pick up Henry’s trunks before boarding the train to San Francisco.
Murdoch looked at his oldest from across the room as Scott came downstairs with his bag. He didn’t want Scott to leave angry. “Son, do you have a minute to talk? I think we should get this straightened out before you leave.”
Scott dropped his bag at the door. “Let me tell Henry I’ll be right there.” After Scott poked his head out the door, he went over to talk to his father. Murdoch came around his desk to stand in front of it.
Scott approached his father. “What more is there to talk about? I’m going with Henry to San Francisco.”
All thoughts of reconciling with his son flew out of Murdoch’s mind. “You agreed to me calling the tune! You need to stay here! Can’t you just be obedient for once?”
“I see.” Scott turned on his heels and walked straight-backed toward the door. “I’ll be back in a week, sir. I don’t expect to accrue wages during my absence.”
Murdoch moved over to the French doors to watch Scott and Henry leave the ranch. At first, he was angry at the way Scott had behaved. When he finally calmed down and thought about it, a slight smile crossed his lips. He realized that he was actually proud of his son. Scott had stood up for what he believed in. Murdoch decided that when Scott returned, he’d try treating both his boys more like partners and sons.
The cousins exited the train in downtown San Francisco. As they waited on the station platform for Henry’s trunks, they glanced around at the different parts of the city that they could see. Each cousin felt different emotions. Henry was excited, but nervous at the same time. Scott, on the other hand, felt an unexpected calmness. He had been here many times before and knew this was just another visit. Again, Scott realized his home was at Lancer. He couldn’t understand how everything went so wrong with his father, but vowed to work it out when he returned home.
“Hey, since Uncle Harlan’s paying, why don’t we stay at the Palace? Only the best!”
Scott nodded his head and smiled. “That’s a fine idea, cousin.”
The porter arrived with Henry’s trunks. “Where do you want these delivered, sir?”
Henry stood to his full height. “The Palace, my good man. Also, could you get us a cab to the hotel?”
The porter nodded and rushed to get a cab for the rich-looking gentleman and his ranching-dressed companion. He hoped they’d be generous with their tip. They didn’t disappoint.
After getting checked into the hotel, the cousins decided to visit the office of Garrett Enterprises. The staff were excited to meet Henry as their new boss. Several staff members knew Scott and stories were exchanged about what had been happening in Boston. Memories made Scott’s thoughts drift to Julie. This could have been his life: married to Julie, president of the company, living in a large city. He pushed those thoughts from his mind as he heard Henry asking him a question.
“Are you ready to see some houses? You tell me what’s the best part of town.” Scott nodded his head, said his goodbyes, and followed Henry through the door.
Henry’s office assistant had taken the liberty of finding properties for them to visit. They saw relatively few houses and Henry picked a small one that would fit his needs and still look like the home of a successful company president. It was near Nob Hill so he was happy with his decision. Henry’s wife would be joining him at the end of the month. Henry decided to let his wife hire the house staff when she arrived.
The week seemed to fly by. They furnished Henry’s new house with a minimum of furniture: enough to get him by until his wife could finish the job. They ate at fine restaurants and enjoyed the theater and a musical. The cousins felt very accomplished to get so much done in only one week.
Finally, the last day of Scott’s visit was upon them. He was tired and ready to return home to Lancer. Home. Lancer would always be his home. “Why don’t we stay here at the hotel for my last night in town, Henry? I’m tired and would prefer to eat dinner in the restaurant downstairs.”
“Great idea, Scott. It certainly has been a whirlwind of a week.”
As they walked into the hotel dining room, Scott motioned to the maître d’ to seat them at a back table by a window. The cousins discussed some of the famous people they had met during the week. They had been introduced to the Mayor, Chief of Police, and even a partially-clad famous stage singer at the theater. Both men smiled at that memory.
The table vibrated and chandeliers swayed. Scott realized this could be the early signs of an earthquake. He’d been through several quakes since living at the ranch. It dawned on Scott that Henry would never have experienced an earthquake before and wouldn’t know what to do. “Henry, this is an earthquake. You need to get outside to the street!” Henry sat with mouth gaped open, shocked and frozen in place.
“Now!” Scott screamed as pictures fell from the walls.
Henry jumped up and tripped over his chair. Scott helped his cousin off the floor and then pushed him toward the hotel lobby. Henry got caught up in a crowd that rushed outside, pushing and shoving into the street. As he made it to safety, Henry turned to look for Scott: he was nowhere in sight. Henry wandered up and down the street but couldn’t find his cousin.
He approached a policeman directing crowds and helping injured bystanders. “Excuse me, officer, could you help me find my cousin? We were having dinner in the Palace dining room –,” Henry’s voice was lost in a deafening roar from the Palace Hotel as the facade of the building collapsed. The ground shook again: Henry gripped the policeman’s arm.
The earth stopped moving. “Look, mister, walk around and see if the man you’re looking for escaped. If he didn’t make it out of the hotel… well he’s gone. Excuse me, I have to get back to helping those who can be helped.” The policeman looked at Henry’s face, shook his head and walked away. He couldn’t do anything for the man’s cousin but there were others who could be saved.
Henry stood in shock as he watched people and firemen try to control the chaos and destruction. He wandered around calling Scott’s name, and looked under blankets covering deceased bodies, before he finally gave up. He didn’t know what else he could do, so he worked his way to check on Garrett Enterprises. He hoped that Scott had made it out somehow and was waiting for him at the office.
Thankfully the Garrett offices were still standing with only minimal damage. No Scott though. One of Henry’s employees offered to take him home. Henry’s assistant told him that he would check with the hospitals to see if Scott had been taken there. This thought brought a smile to Henry’s face as he was led to the waiting cab. “I’ll just go home and rest and I’m sure Scott will be found safe and sound.” Henry prayed that everything would all work out all right.
Scott watched as his cousin Henry meshed into the exiting hotel crowd. He helped a few more guests escape the dining room before he turned to run from the building. The front of the building all the way to the back of the lobby crumbled before him. He looked around to find the nearest unblocked exit behind him.
A waitress had fallen and huddled under a table screaming in terror.
“Miss, we need to get out of here. Give me your hand and I’ll help you get out,” Scott said to calm her down. He helped her to her feet as ceiling plaster and an overhead beam cracked and gave way.
The waitress’ scream was cut short as the beam fell on her and Scott. The heavy beam struck the girl’s head, killing her instantly. Scott thought himself lucky that the beam only landed on his leg, though the amount of pain told him that his leg had surely broken. More debris showered down. Pain dissolved into blackness as Scott lost consciousness.
Two bus-boys heard the woman scream and came to help. When they found their waitress friend, they could immediately tell she was dead. They started to rush away but stopped when they heard a man moaning.
They almost didn’t find the man amid the piles of ceiling plaster. It took all the bus-boys strength to lift a beam and dig him out. They grabbed the limp figure and dragged him to safety, just as flames from the broken chandeliers engulfed the room.
The bus-boys, after checking Scott’s pockets, loaded his unconscious and bleeding body into the back of a wagon along with other casualties to be driven to the nearest hospital.
Help arrived for Henry in the person of Jeeveson, a butler sent by Uncle Harlan to help at the new house. Jeeveson and Henry’s office assistant took turns checking hospitals for word of Scott.
After two days of not getting any news from the hospitals, Henry decided he must notify Mr. Lancer about why Scott was late returning to the ranch. “How do I tell Murdoch that his son is missing and presumed dead? How do I tell Uncle Harlan about his grandson?” Henry was overcome with guilt for asking Scott to come to San Francisco. “If I hadn’t asked him to accompanying me, he’d be safe at home.”
Jeeveson listened to the ramblings and felt sorry for his new boss. “What shall I do, sir?”
Henry was beside himself with grief. “Let’s wait another day before we write the telegrams. I’m very tired and think I’ll lie down for a while.” Jeeveson helped Henry to his bedroom and gave Henry the sleeping medicine the doctor had prescribed to help him relax.
Following the third day with no news, Henry composed two telegrams that he wished he had never had to write. Tears slowly rolled down his face as he dictated them.
Murdoch Lancer – Morro Coyo, CA Harlan Garrett – Boston, MA
Earthquake in San Francisco. Earthquake in San Francisco.
Scott is missing. Company building is barely damaged.
Checked hospitals no results. Scott accompanied me here.
Presumed dead. Scott is missing and presumed dead.
Please come immediately. Please come immediately
Henry Garrett Henry Garrett
Garrett Enterprises Garrett Enterprises
There was nothing left to do but wait for the family to arrive. His grief was taking a toll on the young Garrett. He couldn’t think straight, not even about a memorial service. Henry was ready to turn all the planning over to the Lancer patriarch and Uncle Harlan. Maybe then he could pretend all of it had never happened.
The doctors at St. Joseph’s hospital were overrun with victims from the earthquake. Unfortunately, many weren’t able to be saved. Scott was one of the fortunate ones. He did require immediate surgery on his broken leg, which the doctor then put into a plaster cast, but Scott’s head injury was another matter. The combination of the anesthetic from the surgery and his head injury caused Scott to stay unconscious for two days.
When he finally awoke, the nurse assigned to watch after the blond patient rushed to notify Dr. Adams. Then, she hurried back to her patient. She gave the unidentified man some water and waited with him until the doctor could come talk to him. “After Dr. Adams explains about your injuries, we’ll give you some medicine to help with the pain. Can you tell me your name?” Scott stared at the ceiling, trying to think. “Can you hear me, son?”
Scott sighed and nodded once. “Yes, but I can’t seem to remember my name.”
“It’s going to be all right. You’ve had a serious accident and emergency surgery. Sometimes it takes a while for the brain to start functioning correctly. We’ll give it time. In the meantime, we’ll call you John. Oh, here’s Dr. Adams. Dr. Adams this is John. Well, at least until he remembers his real name.” The nurse stepped away from the bed to give the doctor room to move closer to Scott’s head.
“How are you feeling, John?”
“Other than a broken leg and a concussion, I feel fine.”
Dr. Adams smiled. “At least you have a sense of humor about all this.” The doctor checked Scott’s pupils that were equal and reactive. The doctor grunted. “That’s a good sign.” He proceeded to check Scott’s toes where they stuck out of his cast. They were pink and reacted to being poked by the doctor. Again, the doctor grunted something positive about his patient.
“Dr. Adams, how long will it take for me to get my memory back and how long before I can leave the hospital?” Scott queried even though he didn’t know where he would go if he didn’t start remembering anything.
“Well, John, you’ll need to be here until we’re sure your leg’s healing. As far as your memory goes, that’ll be up to you. It could be a few days, weeks, or –”
Scott stared at the ceiling. “Or never?”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, young man. Give it a few days and we’ll see where we are. OK?” Scott nodded. “Now the nurse is going to give you something to help you rest and heal. I’ll be around to check on you later. Rest is the best medicine!”
Rest is all I can do for now. Scott decided to be a good patient and do as directed.
Tommy rode his horse to the Lancer ranch as fast as he could. Tommy’s pa was the telegraph operator. He’d told his son to get this urgent telegram to Mr. Lancer right away. His pa usually made people come pick up their telegrams so Tommy knew this must be really important.
Tommy pulled his sweat-lathered horse to a skidding stop in front of the Lancer hacienda. “Jelly, I have a very important telegram for Mr. Lancer. Is he in the house?”
“Tommy, good afternoon to you too. Which Mr. Lancer do you mean?”
Tommy dismounted and wrapped his horse’s reins around the nearest hitch rail. “Mr. Murdoch Lancer.”
“Give me the telegram and I’ll give it to Murdoch.” Jelly wiggled his fingers at Tommy.
“No, sir, Jelly. Pa said I was to give it to him myself.”
“Well then, let’s go into the house so you can deliver your all-fired important message.” Jelly was a little miffed at the smart-alec boy. He pushed the hacienda door open and didn’t wait to make sure it wouldn’t close and hit Tommy. “Murdoch, Tommy has a telegram for you.” It made Jelly feel important to announce the telegram and take some of the attention away from Tommy.
Murdoch met Tommy before the boy had gotten halfway across the room. Tearing open the envelope, Murdoch glanced through the French doors before returning to his desk. “By the looks of your horse, I bet you rushed it to me, Tommy. I bet it’s from Scott explaining why he’s late getting back. When my son gets back from his vacation, I’m sure Johnny and I will have a long conversation about leaving us to take care of his share of work.” Murdoch smiled at Jelly, who grunted his agreement.
“Gallivanting in the seven hills of San Francisco, he is. Maybe Scott even met a girl –” Jelly stopped talking when Murdoch’s expression changed.
Murdoch collapsed into his desk chair after dropping the telegram to the floor. Slow silent tears started to fall down the distressed father’s face.
Jelly rushed to the kitchen to find Teresa. “Teresa, somethin’ is awful wrong with the boss. Come quick.”
Teresa entered the Great Room to see Murdoch with his head in his hands. “Murdoch, what’s wrong?”
Jelly spoke up, “He got an important telegram and just dropped it and sat down to blubber.”
Tommy had never seen Mr. Lancer act like this. “Jelly, do you want me to find Johnny?”
“No, Tommy. You go on back to town. I’ll find Johnny once we know what’s wrong.” Jelly pushed Tommy through the front door and shut it.
Teresa picked up the telegram. “Oh no! It can’t be! Oh, Murdoch, it’s got to be a mistake!” She rushed into Murdoch’s arms.
Murdoch looked at Jelly. “Go find Johnny and get him back here fast as you can.”
“Sure, boss.” Jelly didn’t know what was in the telegram but he knew it was bad news and guessed it was about Scott.
Jelly sent a ranch hand to find Johnny, who was found helping clear debris from a stream. “Johnny, Murdoch needs you back at the house right now.” The hand yelled to Johnny.
As soon as Johnny rode up, Jelly rushed him into the house and followed him inside. Johnny paused in the entryway to hang his hat on the rack. “Murdoch, thanks for pulling me away from that messy job. What’s goin’ on?” Johnny looked up to find Murdoch standing facing the picture window behind his desk with Teresa sniffling in his arms. “What’s wrong?” He quick-footed it into the Great Room.
“Read the telegram on the desk, son.”
Johnny picked up the telegram and began to read. “No!” Johnny sank into the chair in front of Murdoch’s big desk, head in one hand and crumpled telegram in the other. A fist hit the desk. “I don’t believe it. I’ll go to San Francisco an’ find ‘im.”
Jelly stood in silent disbelief.
Murdoch pulled himself together. “Jelly, send someone to find Cipriano and bring him here. I’ll tell him what’s happened.”
Murdoch had processed the awful message and now wanted to do something to take his mind off his loss. “Teresa, I need you to pack bags for us to go to San Francisco. Johnny, get the buggy ready to go. We’ll leave as soon as I talk to Cipriano.” Murdoch gave orders with no expression or emotion.
Everyone went about completing their assigned tasks. When Cipriano arrived, Murdoch explained that Teresa, Johnny and he were going to San Francisco. Cipriano would be taking care of the ranch while they were gone.
The Segundo agreed and didn’t question his boss. Murdoch finally handed the telegram to Cipriano, who gasped and crossed himself after reading it. “I’m so sorry, Murdoch, my friend. We’ll take care of Lancer for you.”
“Thank you, Cipriano. You’ve always been a good and loyal friend.”
Cipriano felt a tear run down his face. He didn’t relish the job of informing all of Lancer that Señor Scott was dead. They would all be praying for the Lancer family tonight. He was also sorry that they might not be able to bring Scott’s body home to bury him at Lancer.
Within an hour, the Lancers were on their way to Cross Creek to catch the train to San Francisco. Before they got on the train, Murdoch sent Henry Garrett a telegram.
Henry Garrett – Garrett Enterprises – San Francisco, CA
Taking noon train.
Some tracks damaged from earthquake.
Will finish arriving by stage.
Arriving tomorrow afternoon late.
Murdoch Lancer – Morro Coyo, CA
Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait long for the train. Once in the train car, Johnny sat across from his father while Teresa sat next to Murdoch.
Johnny watched his father’s face and saw absolutely no emotion. He knew he’d have to control himself, like his father, when he saw Scott’s cousin Henry. If Henry hadn’t dragged Scott off to San Francisco, Scott would be alive.
Right now, all Johnny wanted to do was shoot Henry the minute he faced him.
End of Part 1
To Part 2 The Search