Word Count 4,464
This is a March 2015 Round Robin
Everything was so great, right up until Johnny killed Scott. He could see his brother’s body below him in a clear green pool icy with snowmelt, a plume of red surrounding him. Frantically, Johnny clawed his gunbelt and boots off, then dove. Unfamiliar panic gripped him the instant he was in midair. Then the icy water snatched the breath from his body, and he, too, went under.
Johnny shot straight up in bed, shivering uncontrollably and panting heavily. His wild blue eyes, desperately scanning the room, his room, seeking out something or someone. The pounding in his head only added to his already foggy, confused mind. ‘It was a dream, wasn’t it?’
Then it all came back to him like a hard slap in the face. No, it was not a dream. ‘Scott, falling, hurt, blood, too much blood, icy cold water, jumping in, unable to breathe, found Scott. Where’s Scott?’ The clarity shot through him like a knife in the heart. “Got to find Scott,” he called out as he weakly threw off the covers.
“Johnny, Johnny, stop!” Murdoch called, alarmed as he tried to hold his boy down, “Sam’s with him now. Can you tell me what happened? You kept crying. I killed my brother when we found you.”
Slowly his father’s words sank in. ‘Sam’s with him now’, and he stilled. Teary eyes seeking Murdoch’s.
“Murdoch, I saw all of the blood, and I thought I shot him. Is there a bullet wound on him? I can’t take it anymore. I have to find out what happened.
“I was shooting at some turkeys by the water. If I shot him by accident. What’s he going to say about that? Murdoch, I have to see Scott. I have to find out what happened,” Johnny said.
“Johnny, you are not getting out of this bed. If you didn’t notice, you were shot too,” Murdoch replied.
Sapphire eyes widened in shock. “Shot? But I don’t feel… feel any pain…where?”
“In the side, just a graze, really. You were lucky…that and the fact you both fell into such cold water. Sam says it reduced the pain and kept you and Scott from bleeding out before we got there. I call it a miracle, myself.”
“But how…I don’t remember.”
“When Charlie came back riderless, we knew something had happened. Jelly, the hands and I went to find you. Apparently, you had managed to drag Scott onto the bank before passing out. You were both half frozen. And Barranca, it’s like he knew Johnny. He was standing over you, as closely as he could get, keeping you warm, keeping watch, I don’t know which, but thank God that beast is so devoted to you.”
A weak smile curved Johnny’s lips. “He’s one good horse.” A cough escaped him as he shivered. Despite all the blankets piled atop him, he was cold down in his bones. It reminded him.
“Scott, how’s he?”
Murdoch looked away.
“Dammit, Murdoch, you tell me.. how’s Scott?”
Murdoch leaned forward, his eyes meeting his son’s. It was the first time he’d ever seen fear in them. He knew it was in his, too
“It’s not good, Johnny. Sam says he may not make it.”
Johnny stared at his father, the words not registering in his still clouded mind. Or he just plain refused to hear them. “Scott might not make it?” he said.
Shaking his head in utter denial, paying no mind to the throbbing it had provoked, Johnny fought against his father’s strong hold.
“No, I don’t believe it! Let me go, I got to go to Scott.”
“No, Johnny, Sam said you have to stay in this bed and keep warm. You’ve been shot too, remember?” Murdoch said gentle, but firmly, while keeping an strong hand on his boy.
“Don’t give a damn about me, I have to see Scott!”
Sighing heavily, Murdoch pleaded, “Please, son, let’s wait until we hear from Sam. If anybody can pull your brother through, it’s Sam.” He tired to assure his son, though he didn’t feel assured himself.
Johnny nodded and sank back down under the warm blankets, another shiver racking his thin torso, the chill in his bones going deeper in his soul. As fear for losing his brother crept in.
“He’s has be alright, Murdoch. He just has to be.”
A single tear rolled down his flushed cheek.
Down in Scott’s room, Sam couldn’t take the bullet out of Scott’s chest. It sat right next to his heart. One inch closer and he could kill Scott. He knew he wasn’t experience enough to remove it. Scott’s fever was also another problem, it was too high to move him to a doctor who was an expert on this kind of operation.
“Teresa, keep trying to cool Scott down. After I bandage him up, I’ll go down and let Murdoch know how it went.”
“Sam, Murdoch is sitting with Johnny”
Sam finished bandaging Scott and putting his things in his bag, closing it and leaving the room with one last look at his patient, knowing it’s going to be as long battle. That’s if Scott makes it through. He had some serious doubts, but knew he was young and stubborn like his father and brother, so he had a lot of hope for him.
Sam knocked on Johnny’s door, then opened it when he heard Murdoch call out to come in.
Before he could shut the door, Johnny sat up
“Well, Doc, how’s Scott?”
“Not good. I couldn’t get the bullet out. He needs a surgeon. The bullet is sitting right next to his heart, and I’m not experienced enough to take it out.”
Murdoch asked, “Who is sam?”.
“There’s a qualified doctor in Boston, and Scott isn’t able to move across the country.”
“Murdoch, I will send a telegram to see if there is a way he can either come or have someone else who is capable of doing the surgery. That is the best I can do for now.
“I am so sorry, Murdoch and Johnny. I’ll leave right away and go to town to send the telegram,” Sam said.
“Ok, Sam. I’m just beside myself with worry. I don’t want to lose my son, and I know Johnny doesn’t want to lose his brother,” Murdoch replied.
“I’ll let myself out if you want to go set with Scott. Yes, Johnny, if you are careful, you can sit with him also,” Sam said as he left the room.
As Sam reaches the front door, he lets Val in just before he knocks.
“Hi! Doc. How are the boys doing?” Val asked.
“Johnny will be ok, but it’s Scott I’m worried about. The bullet is too close to his heart and I can’t take it out. I am going to telegraph another Doctor in Boston to see if he can come or has any idea to help me,” Sam replies.
“Well, I sure hope this Doctor can help you. Them boys have been through so much. I have to talk to Murdoch and let him know what I found at the scene. See ya later, Doc.” Vals said.
“Ok, Val, I sure hope you can find out who did the shooting. Them boys don’t deserve what has happened to them,” Sam said.
“I know, Doc. I promise to find out who did this to them and bring them to justice. Later, Doc,” Val said.
As Doc leaves, Val heads upstairs.
The private stagecoach thundered around the last bend before Lancer, both old men holding on grimly to avoid being tossed about like rag dolls. Harlan closed his eyes, a prayer rising from his desiccated old heart, not for himself but for his grandson, the thing he loved best in the world.
“Please God… don’t take Scott, let him live. If you must take someone, take me instead.”
The surgeon beside him glowered as the stage lurched, throwing him almost atop the old man still praying with his eyes closed. The private Pinkerton agent opposite them merely watched both impassively, arms folded across his chest, swaying as the coach careened onward.
The surgeon, Boston’s best, had not wanted to traipse all the way to “some godforsaken ranch in the middle of nowhere,” and pressure had needed to be applied. After the long and challenging trip, he loathed Harlan with a dislike no amount of money could assuage.
Murdoch and Johnny watched anxiously as Sam took Scott’s pulse. Gently, he put the young man’s emaciated wrist back under the blankets and stood up.
Scott smiled wanly, too weak for words. Purple circles like bruises lay under his sunken eyes and even his blond hair had lost its vitality, lying limp against his skull.
“I’ll be back to see you tomorrow, Scott, you rest now.”
But Scott had already drifted off.
Out in the hall, Sam looked at the two anxious faces regarding him and shook his head. “You two will be my next patients if you don’t get some rest.”
Johnny waved an impatient hand. “Never mind about us. What about Scott?”
“Yes.” Murdoch sounded as if the word choked him. He had aged twenty years before Sam’s eyes since the ordeal began.
The Doctor shook his head sadly. “He doesn’t have much longer. A few days at most. I’m sorry, Murdoch.”
Johnny went white under his tan, one hand going out to support Murdoch, staggered back as if the words were a blow, and one hand went to his chest.
Val surveyed the scene on the mountain, frowning as he rubbed his chin. A whisper of movement caught his eye, and he leaned over to pick up a tiny scrap of cloth.
“Now, how did red velvet get up here?”
Harlan leaned forward anxiously as the coach flew under the Lancer arch. Suddenly the three men were thrown violently against each other as the coach slewed in the mud and overturned.
Shouts rose as the hands came running. Blood streaming from his broken nose, the beefy Pinkerton man rose, extending a hand down to Harlan. The coach’s driver moaned and sat up, clutching his head.
Never mind me, you fool, what about Gates?”
Cipriano rolled the surgeon over and crossed himself.
“NOOOO!” Harlan screamed, “he can’t be dead. Scotty needs him. He’s got to save Scotty.” He cried as he stared at the prone body of the dead surgeon. Panic dripping off his aged face.
“Si, senor, I am sorry, but he is dead.” Cipriano sadly confirmed again, bowing his head in sorrow, knowing this man had come here to help the patron son. His heart breaking for the Lancers.
Silence briefly filled the air with recognition of what this meant, hitting them all hard like a sledge hammer, pounding the breath right out of their lungs. Each man gulped for air as words stuck in their dry throats.
The sound of fast approaching men on horseback broke the silence, and heads shot up, as Murdoch, Johnny, followed by Sam in his buggy, arrived at the grim scene. Their faces paled at the horrific sight before them.
“What….what happened?” Murdoch breathlessly demanded, glaring at Harlan’s stricken expression. “What the Hell are you doing here?”
“Murdoch…I brought….the surgeon for Scotty…..but he’s…” Harlan stammered, unable to look at the distraught father. “Oh, God, what are we going to do, Murdoch?” he cried, burying his face in his hands.
Johnny felt the hot, piercing knife of fear stab him straight down to the core of his soul. Sam’s words of utter helplessness echoed in his mind. ‘He doesn’t have much longer…..a few days at most.’
“Scott,” he moaned.
Murdoch’s turned a ghostly shade of white as reality struck home. “God, no,” he crooked.
Cipriano looked up towards the distance at the small cloud of dust coming their way.
“Senor, someone comes.” He said, pointing at the buggy heading towards them, with Jelly at the reins. Beside him was a distinguished-looking man holding a black bag on his lap.
Pulling to a hard stop, Jelly anxiously informed, “Boss, this here is Doctor Jacobson. Said he’s here in answer to Doc Sam’s call for help. “
Sam’s hopes lifted. “That’s right, I also sent an urgent call to San Francisco, to doctor Jacobson, just in case Doctor Gates could not make it in time. He had great success as a surgeon in such cases. I had to cover all bases, for Scott’s sake,” he hurriedly informed. “But didn’t know for sure if any of my messages got through.”
“Well. I’m here now, Doctor, so please take me to my patient.”
Sam didn’t waste any time.
“This way, follow me.”
Both doctors enter the house, going straight up to Scott’s room. Upon entering the room, Dr. Jacobson pushed aside Sam to get to his patient. Sam watched as Jacobson examined Scott, turning to look at the door when he heard it open.
“Well, Doc, can you save my brother or not?” came the soft voice.
“Johnny, let the Dr. examine him first” Johnny heard his father’s voice behind him
As they all stood there watching the examination, it felt like no one was breathing. Finally, Maria came up and started ushering them out of the room to give the Dr.s some room.
“Well, Phil, can you help him?” Sam looked at the frown on Jacobson’s face
“Is there a harder surface that I can operate on?”
“I can have Murdoch have a hand bring up a board to lay him on.” Sam turned to have the Doctor’s orders carried out.
“Yes, that will do. Also, please have one of the ladies prepare what I will need.”
When Sam left the room, he was greeted by Murdoch, Harlan, Johnny, Jelly, Teresa, and Maria.
“Maria and Teresa, please prepare the instruments and lots of bandages. Murdoch, we need a big board to put Scott on it. Johnny, see if you can carry the hot water up for Maria.” He knew if he didn’t give Johnny something to do, he’d only get in the way. “Harlan, you can wait down in the great room. Jelly, why don’t you help him.”
“Alright, Doc.” Jelly went to escort him down the stairs when Harlan lashed out at Sam and Jelly
“I’m not a child nor one to just be dismissed like you think I don’t mean anything to Scotty. Well, I mean more to him than you two, so get out of my way I intend to be in there when the Doctor is operating.”
“No, you will not, Harlan! Sam is the boss here, not you.” Murdoch came up the stairs with some hands delivering the board as ordered by the Doctor.
“Listen here, Murdoch.” Harlan was cut off by Jacobson, who came to the door to find out what the yelling was about.
“Men, please bring that in here.” Jacobson guided the men to the bed, and Murdoch and Johnny followed to help lift Scott as they placed the board under him. Once everything was in place, Sam and Maria emptied the room of everyone who was needed.
Downstairs, Harlan continued belittling the west, and if Scott died, he would have Murdoch and Johnny arrested for the murder of his Scotty. Johnny had enough of Harlan and went to check on Barranca, his beloved horse. Leaving Murdoch to listen to Harlan.
It was 5 hours before Maria entered the great room, where Johnny had returned and told them the Doctor would see them now.
“Harlan, I would appreciate it if you would just keep arguments out of my sons room while he heals.
“I don’t have time for this, and you know you are in my home. If you want to remain here, you had better listen to me on this. I will not risk my son’s recovery by having arguments,” Murdoch said.
“Now listen here, Murdoch. I raised Scotty, so I have as much right to be here and state my mind,” Harlan replied.
“I tell you, Harlan, you are welcome to stay as long as there are no problems with how you speak to Scott. Or at least until he gets better, and I will not tolerate any upsets in front of him.
“Do I make myself clear? I know you love him, but this is important for his healing,” Murdoch said.
“I guess you are right this time, Murdoch, but I will when Scotty gets better, ask him to come home.” Harlan is cut off.
“Harlan, this is Scott’s home, and I will do my best to make sure he stays here,” Johnny interrupted.
“Now see here, boy! It’s probably because of you he was shot. How can you even think of putting my Scotty’s life on the line? He will be better off with me.
“Anyway, you probably brought that dude from Texas here yourself.” Harlan looks stunned.
“What are you saying, Harlan? We don’t even know who shot at us, and you say he’s from Texas?” Murdoch replied with a really angry attitude.
Just then, Val pulls up, and Johnny goes out to meet him.
Murdoch and Harlan follow behind.
“Hey, Val find anything out?” Johnny asked.
“Yea, Johnny. I found this piece of red velvet. I bet you know who wears this shade of scarlet. I know you know why she’s here. Who would hire a lady gunfighter? She never leaves Texas, so the pay must be worth her while,” Val said.
From the cave’s dank recesses, Madalena Dos Santos gazed languidly at her lover’s shirtless back as he looked out at the rain. Tracing each sinewy muscle with smoky eyes, she patted the blanket beside her.
“Querido, I’m cold. Come and warm me.”
He turned, his gaze heating up as he took in her voluptuous curves, backlit so enticingly by the fire.
“I hate rain.”
He dropped to the blanket beside her, taking her in his arms.
“But I love you.”
Camped downslope in a copse of trees, Manuel gestured at the cave with a half-cooked pheasant leg.
“Bet they’re at it again.”
Gutierrez laughed. “So would you be if you had a woman half as fine as that.”
Solis grinned, and so did the other men clustered around a small fire guttering in the rain.
Manuel laughed. “Damn straight!”
Lopez looked up. “Even if she doesn’t love him?”
“What do you mean?”
“She uses Diego like a toy. And she will toss him aside just as quickly when she tires of him. Madalena loves only one man…Johnny Madrid.”
Manuel scoffed. “She loves him so much she tried to kill him!”
Lopez shook his head. “No, that was an accident…the ricochet. She was aiming for his brother.”
“Why?” Manuel demanded.
“Because she wanted to hurt Johnny like he hurt her.”
When they were finally done and Diego fell asleep, Madalena propped herself on one elbow, looking out at the rain. Diego might hate it, but it was perfect for her purpose. The downpour would cloak the sounds of their arrival. By the time the Lancers knew what had hit them, it would be too late.
Slipping out from beneath Diego’s arm, Madalena rose and dressed. She fingered the red velvet shirt tossed over a boulder, caressing the soft folds as she might a lover. Rubbing her cheek against its softness, she inhaled. But any last trace of Johnny’s scent was long gone, just like the man himself.
Soft mouth hardening, she slipped it over her head.
Johnny would recognize it. The shirt was the one she always wore when she killed a man.
She stirred Diego with the toe of her boot.
“Get up. It’s time to ride.”
Johnny gently fingered the piece of red velvet while memories flashed through his troubled mind. Memories, some good, some bad, of the woman he thought he had loved until he really got to know her. Madalena was a beautiful, sensuous woman with dark green eyes, raven hair and full lips he found himself lost in many nights. Too bad she has a black heart. Except when it came to him. Obsessed was the word he would use, and he had to get away before she got him killed.
Glancing over at the still form of his brother, Scott’s paler was still white as a ghost and his breathing was labored. It was touch and go during the surgery, while Jacobson and Sam cautiously worked together to remove the bullet. After a few painstaking hours, they had worked a miracle, and now it was up to Scott and God to pull his brother through.
“How is he?” Murdoch softly asked as he tiptoed into the room, carrying a tray of coffee and a few sandwiches. “I know you didn’t eat much, and Sam said you need to rest yourself. So after you eat, you are to go and lay down, and I’ll take over watching your brother.” His father stressed.
“He’s about the same.” Johnny sadly smiled and took a half sandwich with one hand while holding the red cloth in the other. Subconsciously rubbing it between his fingers. “He’ll make it, Murdoch. I know he will.”
“He’s a strong man, and thanks to doctor Jacobson, he has a fighting chance now. I’m just grateful he showed up when he did,” Murdoch said, letting out a heavy sigh of relief. Noticing his youngest still holding the red cloth. “Is Val right? You know who that belongs to?” he hesitantly pressed.
Looking down at the fabric, Johnny snorted. “Yeah, and she is just as dangerous as I was, even more so. And we didn’t quite part on friendly terms,” he added with a faraway look in his blue eyes. “And the thing is, how in the hell did she find me? Like Val said, Madalena never leaves Texas unless the price is right.”
Like a sudden burst of lightning flashing through their confused minds, an ugly, yet sensible thought surfaced. Their anger slowly grew.
As Murdoch and Johnny ate lunch and talked about how they could prove Harlan was behind Madalena being here in Morro Coyo, someone was hiding in the barn. Watching the comings and goings of the people who work at Lancer. Once the coast was clear, the person headed out to the northern line shack, making sure no one followed.
Johnny left his father watching over his brother, promising he would get some rest. Heading down the back stairs, through the kitchen door, and out to the back to Jelly’s, a joining room to the main house. He knocked on Jelly’s door, looking around, making sure no one saw him. Jelly answered, grabbing Johnny’s arm and pulling him into his room.
“Jelly, hold up.”
“Johnny, I think someone is out to get you.” Jelly showed Johnny a piece of paper with blood over the words “Die Tonight.”
“Jelly, this doesn’t say me or anyone. Where did you find this?”
“I found it on Barranca’s stall this morning. That is your horse.”
“Jelly, they would have to know Barranca was my horse.”
“In case you didn’t notice, everyone around these parts knows your horse, smart aleck.”
Johnny folded the paper and then put it into his pocket to show Val. Saying goodbye to Jelly, Johnny made his way to the barn to saddle Barranca and headed off to find Val.
Not noticing someone behind him, Val stopped when he saw a piece of red in the bush. Everything went dark when Val got down from his horse to pick it up.
Val woke up in a dark cave, finding himself hogtied with his hands and feet in the back. A piece of cloth in his mouth and over his eyes.
Antone rode to the line shake to meet someone.
“Well, you’re right, Marshal Roberts. She’s after Madrid. Did you know he’s the son of this Murdoch Lancer? You know the man who sent for us?” Antony said.
“Yes, I know, Antone. Murdoch is a close friend of mine. He says he trusts Val but would welcome my help also.
“He didn’t know, though, that I have been after Madalena for two years. Hopefully, we’ll catch her since she has only one thing on her mind, and that is Johnny Madrid. With a passion like she has for him will be her downfall,” Marshal Roberts said.
‘Well, Val, a fine mess you’re in now. I wonder if she thinks Johnny knows it’s her. Yea, she knows he knows, as she’s leaving signs.” Val was thinking.
“Well, nice to see you’re awake, sheriff. It’s been a long time. Now I bet you’re wondering why you are here in a cold cave instead of searching for the person after Madrid.
“You know Val, I found out something very interesting I am sure you know what it is. Johnny Lancer, not Madrid. How convenient. Just gives me something else to hold on to him with.
“How’s that brother of his doing. I hear he’s still alive. You see, the place is being watched and as soon as Mr. Madrid leaves, he’s all mine.
“If he thinks he can get rid of me this time, he has something else to think about. His Pa and Brother.
“You see, there’s this old man paying me richly to get rid of Johnny. If Johnny wants me to leave his Pa and brother alone, he’ll have to leave with me.
“The same with the old man who hired me. He’ll have to pay to keep this Scott Lancer alive.
“The only thing that brought me out here was that name I want so well,” Madalena said.
Meanwhile, heading into Morro Coyo is Harlan to meet with Diego.
Johnny leaves the ranch to go find Val, not knowing Val is in the hands of his ex-lover.
Cold gunfighter’s instinct, honed by years of practice, crashed back into Johnny Madrid’s brain, driving out Johnny Lancer. If they were all to survive, Madrid needed to take over. No one could protect Scott like he could. That someone from Madalena’s camp had penetrated so far into their defenses made his blood go cold. Johnny crumpled the note with its ominous words into a ball, then contemptuously tossed it away from him.
Anger narrowed his eyes and set his jaw into a hard line. Val was so late, his gut told him something had gone wrong, and he knew what it was. Then sheriff was probably in Madalena’s hands, but Val was tough and wily. If anybody could escape the she-devil’s clutches, it was him. It was far more likely Madalena would drag her captive here to parade her conquest and weaken his resolve rather than kill him outright. Val was safe…for the time being.
Abruptly, Johnny turned and headed back to the house in long, angry strides. Murdoch met him at the door of Scott’s room, questions on his lips, but Johnny shook his head.
“Later, Murdoch, there’s no time.”
He strode to the bed, waking Scott as gently as possible. Fever bright eyes looked into his, recognizing the change in his brother. Madrid was in charge now, and all their lives depended on him.
Johnny knelt so that his eyes were on a level with Scott’s. His voice was soft and even.
“Something bad’s coming down, Scott, and I want you to be ready. Take this.”
He slipped his Colt under the covers, seeing the outline of Scott’s thin fingers closing over it.
“Murdoch, come help me.”
Moving rapidly, Johnny fired orders. Guns were taken down and loaded with extra ammunition. Teresa rushed to ring the large wrought iron bell, the ranch’s signal for hurry, something is wrong, hurry, hurry in, and the men began streaming into the hacienda, awaiting instructions.
Bandages, food, water and supplies were brought to Scott’s room while the vaqueros harnessed Charlie to the buckboard. Wringing their hands and weeping, Maria and Teresa were loaded in, three hands forming a protective phalanx around them. They fled for Green River at a gallop, Murdoch breathing a sigh of relief as the women headed for safety.
An hour later, the hacienda was as secure as it could be. One hand manned the bell tower as a lookout, some were deployed to watch the perimeter, and others guarded the house and grounds.
Throughout it all, Harlan stayed in his room, quiet as a mouse. Johnny flung the door open, blue eyes like chips of ice.
“Come on, old man. If it was up to me, you’d be left to hang, but Scott wants you.”
He shepherded the old man down the hall, giving him a slight push into Scott’s room.
“Sit there and por Dios, say nothing, or I’ll be only too happy to gag you.”
For once, the old man did as he was told, subsiding meekly into the chair beside Scott’s bed where he could watch his grandson. Face flushed, Scott slept uneasily, occasionally muttering unintelligible words before fever dreams claimed him once more.
“We’ll deal with you later,” Murdoch said. Contempt filled his voice. “How you can claim you love your grandson and then risk his life is beyond me. When this is over, I’m going to tell him the truth. You’re going to lose Scott forever, and it’s all your own fault.”
Johnny listened, straining his ears to hear above the rain which had begun to fall. Distant thunder rolled, still a long way off. Silently he cursed it, knowing Madalena would use the storm to her advantage.
Murdoch eyed him.
“What do we do now?”
Johnny settled himself near the window, a shotgun in his lap.
They waited, and waited, while the storm continued to rage outside, thick sheets of rain slamming against the windows, hampering their view of the surrounding grounds. But Johnny’s trained eyes never wavered, always scanning for the slightest movement that wasn’t supposed to be there. Every Lancer hand had their assigned post and was to stay put until all hell broke loose, and Johnny knew it would.
“This is ridiculous. Sitting here waiting for something that probably will never happen,” Harlan grumbled, fidgeting in his chair. “What fool would try to attack us with that storm out there. You can’t see a damn thing.” Just then, the sky lit up as a hard clap of thunder rattled the windows. Lighting the room up with an eerie glow of white.
“Madalena, would,” Johnny hissed. “And it’s because of your interference, old man, why she is coming here.” He reminded Harlan, cold eyes glaring. “Now sit there and shut up!”
Murdoch only smiled.
No sooner than he said that, the alarm bell rang out, announcing the arrival of danger, in the form of Madalena and her gang of cutthroats. With their rifles blaring blindly in the night, Johnny could hear windows being shot out in the great room. Peering out, he could see shadows of men dashing here and there. All the while, their own men held their fire until they had a clear view of the outlaws.
Suddenly all hell broke loose, thunder and gunfire sounding as one as the rain viciously continued to pound the earth. Puddles of water mixed with the blood of the fallen as the battle forged on. One by one, the outlaws misjudged each step they took and the strength of Lancer’s guns. Which had seemed to somehow multiply.
Johnny and Murdoch exchanged gunfire from the safety of Scott’s room, protecting him with their very lives. Whereas Harlen cowered on the other side of the bed, away from the window. Crouching down, close to his stricken grandson. Scott was barely aware of what happening around him, though he still cradled Johnny’s gun in his hand.
“This was not how it was supposed to be,” Harlan muttered, taking his fancy handkerchief and wiping his sweaty brow.
“Grandfather?” Scott weakly asked, turning his head towards cowering man beside him.
“Never mind, son, just rest. We’ll talk about it later,” Murdoch said, shooting Harlan a hard glare. “Do you see anything, Johnny? It sounds like it’s almost over.” He hoped.
“No, it seems quiet, but I doubt it’s over.” Johnny dismally huff, purging his lips in thought, still peering out the window.
“You got that right, lover boy,” the sultry voice said from the door. Her guns, ready and aimed.
Johnny whirled around, gun leveling and pointing at the woman’s black heart. After all these years, knowing what she was, seeing her again did nothing to change his feelings about her. She disgusted him.
“Maladena, still the cold hard bitch,” Johnny coldly drawled. “I know why you are here, and it ain’t gonna work. So you might as well head back to Texas.”
“I’m not going anywhere without you, lover,” Maladena retorted, taking a step closer to the man who scorned her. “Unless you want your precious brother and father to die, you will come willingly. We have this ranch surrounded and taken the house.”
She smiled wickedly, her eyes traveling down Johnny’s trim, hard torso.
“I doubt it,” Johnny snorted, his eyes hardening. “You underestimate Lancer, you Punta.”
“DON’T PRESS ME, JOHNNY!” She screamed, turning her attention to the prone man in bed. Pointing her gun at Scott’s heart. “If you want me to finish your brother, I will. And you know you don’t have in ya to shoot me, so drop your guns, both of you,” she snarled at Murdoch.
“If he don’t have in him, then I do,” the deep, sharp voice said from behind her. They heard the familiar click of a colt. “I suggest you drop your gun. And now, before I blow your pretty head off.”
She knew she had no choice, as all guns were now aimed at her, so she angrily tossed her gun down and was pushed further in the room by Marshall Roberts, followed shortly by Val, slapping handcuffs on her slim wrists.
“Well, it’s about time you got your sorry hide here, Val.” Johnny smiled for the first time in days, his worry over his amigo unwarranted.
“Well, I was a little tied up until the Marshall found me,” Val snorted, rubbing the back of his head. “Figured you might need some help here with this she-devil.”
“Nah, I had it under control.”
“Well, if ya folks don’t mind, I’ll just take this sorry excuse for a woman off your hands and head back to town and lock her and the rest of her gang up in Val’s jail,” the Marshall informed, yanking on Madalina’s bound hands. “Later, Murdoch?”
The big rancher just nodded.
“Johnny?” she begged with her green eyes.
Shaking his dark head he sighed, “Get her out of here.”
With that, they were gone. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, that’s over with,” Harlan huffed as he finally stood up from his hiding place and sat on Scott’s bed with a grunt.
“No, Harlan, it’s not!”
March 2015/ Archived August 2022
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