Word Count 14,870
It’s funny the things that you can think of when taking a long drive. We had an opportunity to meet last September and drove from
Philadelphia to Maine. During our ride we wondered what Lancer would be like in a contemporary setting. The miles and hours flew by as we plotted out this story.
The title of the original plot was The High Riders. We have renamed this story for what we hope will be an obvious reason. <g>
Obviously, this is an AU. Our story is set in today’s world. If you don’t like AU stories then don’t venture any further. As always,
your FB is always welcome!
Winj & Chris
Murdoch Lancer and Paul O’Brien were smiling as they exited the thirty-story sheer glass tower they had built. Together the two men had created one of the largest real estate development firms in all of California. With Murdoch’s capital and O’Brien’s business resources, the two men had parleyed a hundred thousand dollar land investment into the corporate giant that had become Lancer.
Today, they had just negotiated the purchase of a one hundred acre tract of land where they had plans to build an exclusive up scale residential community. With spirits high, they were heading toward their limousine when a hail of bullets rained down on them, leaving both men bleeding on the pavement.
Scott Lancer and his date were exiting a nightclub on Newberry Street when a limousine pulled up, effectively blocking their path to the parking garage where Scott had parked his Mercedes. A small man dressed in a three-piece suit jumped out the back of the vehicle “Scott Lancer?”
Giving the girl a quick kiss on the cheek, Scott sent his date back into the club while he went to deal with the stranger who knew his name.
“Are you Scott Lancer?” the man asked again.
“And if I was?” Scott asked raising an eyebrow.
“Your father wants to see you!”
Scott smiled and turned to head back toward the club. “Not interested!”
“Not even for ten thousand dollars?”
Scott stopped dead in his tracks. “Ten thousand dollars?”
“For one hour of your time.”
Scott turned back towards the small man, a crooked smile on his face. “And what do I have to do to collect?”
From his pocket, the man produced a fat envelope. “Here is a voucher for a first class ticket to California and five thousand dollars for travel expenses. All he is asking for is one hour of your time.”
Scott took the envelope and considered the implications of his acceptance. “I’ll be there in a week.”
The small man nodded and climbed back into the limo. The blonde woman who Scott had been with rushed out of the club and gave him a hug. “What did that horrid man want?”
“To change my life,” Scott gave her a peck on the cheek and extended his arm. He would forgo her pleasures tonight. He had plans to make.
Johnny Madrid sat in his own sweat, tied to his companions. They had been caught trying to cut in on the cocaine operations of one of the largest dealers in all of South America. Today was their day to pay. One by one, the Ramirez brothers untied the men giving each of them a moment’s head start to find safety in the dense jungle that surrounded them. Johnny flinched as shots were fired, followed by a scream and the sound of someone falling in the dense vegetation. So far, no one had made it.
Roberto came up to Johnny and swore at him in Spanish before kicking the vulnerable man in the stomach. While Johnny attempted to egain his breath and maneuver to his feet Roberto cut the rope, that bound Johnny’s hands, with his knife and then jabbed at the struggling man, yelling at him to go where his brother Diego was waiting.
“Wait!” A voice called out from the Jungle. The three men looked at each other, puzzled that anyone would dare trespass on Ramirez property and attempt to stop them from having their `fun’.
“I am looking for Madrid, Johnny Madrid!” A balding, overweight American male exited the jungle; the armpits of his tan aviator shirt were stained with sweat and his ray ban sun glasses were smeared.
“I’m Madrid,” Johnny responded trying to figure out exactly what was happening. No one knew where he was, not even his contact.
“Finally!” The man slapped Johnny on the shoulders and turned to face the two Ramirez brothers. “I come prepared to pay mucho dinero for la vida of Senor Madrid, OK?”
“How much?” Roberto asked through teeth that clenched a thick cigar.
From his pocket, the perspiring man withdrew a thick envelope which he gave the brothers before he moved to untie Johnny.
“Who sent you?” Johnny asked suspiciously, rubbing his raw wrists.
“I’m a Pinkerton Agent, your father–“
“The same. He wants to see you.” the man started to lead Johnny back into the jungle.
“He’s willing to pay ten thousand dollars for an hour of your time.”
Johnny considered the words; impressed by the amount of money a virtual stranger was willing to spend for an hour of his time. From the corner of his eye, he saw Roberto start to raise his automatic pistol in Johnny’s direction. Instinctively, Johnny snatched the Glock from the agent’s shoulder holster and just as quickly dispatched both the Ramirez brothers. He then turned to the men he had been tided to and undid their bonds. “You know what you have to do!”
“You got it!” One of the men gave a short salute before leading the former prisoners toward the clandestine lab where the Ramirez’s made their drugs.
With a smile, Johnny turned toward his new companion. “Let’s not keep Mr. Lancer waiting!”
Logan Airport, Boston
“You can’t park that thing there!” the security officer ordered, waving his arms at the driver of the longest stretch he had ever seen.
When the vehicle finally came to a stop, the rear door opened. A tall blonde haired man dressed in a charcoal Armani suit gracefully exited the vehicle, glass of champagne in hand. Finishing the last gulp, Scott Lancer leaned back into the vehicle and lightly kissed the beauty he was leaving behind and bid her adieu. Closing the door, he regarded the perturbed officer standing on the curb. “Just a drop-off” he smiled.
“Looks like there should be ten more of ya in there,” the man snorted.
Scott raised a brow but said nothing as his luggage was transferred from the limo to a baggage cart. After making sure all the bags were tagged and accounted for, he instructed he driver to see the young lady home before he followed the sky cap to the gold club to wait for his flight.
Johnny Madrid took one more long kiss from the nearest of the three beauties seeing him off. With a rueful smile he regarded them all and sighed. “Be good, girls.”
“We can’t be any other way until you get back,” one said in a sultry voice.
“You keep talking like that and I’ll miss my flight,” he grinned.
“Do you have to go? You just got back,” another pouted.
“I doubt this will take long. Don’t pout, Liz,” quickly he kissed her pouting lips before cocking his head to the side, hearing that his flight was being announced. “That’s me, girls. See, you’ve made me late!”
Johnny Madrid sprinted through the terminals of the Dallas International Airport to make his connecting flight. Duffel bag slung over his left shoulder, boot chains jangling, he weaved deftly through the crowds. Finally, he approached the gate and took his place in line. Taking a breath, he took note of the tall blond in an Armani suit standing in front of him. `A dandy,’ he snickered to himself, handing his flight documents to the gate personnel.
As they entered the airplane, a Boeing 757, Johnny stored his duffel bag across from his assigned seat, and then turned. The blond man sat down and Johnny glared.
“Excuse me, that’s my seat,” he said softly.
“I believe you’re mistaken. This is my seat,” the man replied firmly.
Johnny took a breath and pulled out his ticket stub. He handed it to the other passenger and waited as he, too, pulled out his stub.
“Looks like they’ve assigned us both the same seat. Well, it happens,” the dandy responded flippantly, handing the ticket back.
“Guess it does. So, mind moving? I like the window,” Johnny responded coolly, still maintaining a soft demeanor.
“As do I.”
Johnny chewed his lower lip then sighed. “Look, I really prefer the window.”
“And I said so do I. Since I got here first” the man shrugged dismissively and opened his newspaper.
Johnny’s jaw tightened as he stood over the man.
A flight attendant approached. “Is there a problem?”
“Yeah. We both have the same seat assignment,” Johnny said tersely.
The attendant reviewed the tickets and blushed slightly. “I am sorry, gentlemen. It does happen at times. I’m afraid we’re all booked up, sir. Would you mind taking the aisle seat?”
“I mind,” Johnny said before thinking. Shaking his head, he figured it didn’t matter. It was only an hour flight. “Forget it, this is fine,” he smiled at the young lady. Taking the aisle seat he slumped back and rested his head.
Turning his head toward the dandy, Johnny spoke softly. “Look, I’m just used to the window,” he attempted to explain.
Scott shrugged, his eyes never leaving the paper he was reading. “Forget it. Can’t be helped.”
Johnny smiled to himself. His seating companion had already dismissed their disagreement. He almost had the feeling that he was being `dismissed’ as well. That was all right with Johnny Madrid. He loved to be underestimated. Someday, he would be meeting the blond again and then he would have the upper hand.
As they disembarked the plane, most of the passengers headed for the baggage claim. Having everything he needed in his duffle, Johnny decided he could use a drink before meeting Murdoch Lancer. Throwing his bag at the bar rail he downed one draught and then ordered another. The icy cold beverage went a long way to soothe his ruffled nerves. Johnny had been waiting his whole life to meet Murdoch Lancer — the man who thrown him and his mother away over twenty years ago. Yep, it wasn’t often that you met the man who had changed your life and Johnny wanted to be fortified.
Scott Lancer stood at the carousel just behind the other passengers and close to the conveyer belt window. He could see the baggage before it came through and he moved quickly to claim his. Having traveled extensively, he had picked up several tricks to getting through an airport quickly and efficiently. With the aid of the skycap, his luggage was placed on a trolley, and together the two men made their way to the passenger pickup just as his traveling companion from Dallas appeared.
With a disdainful smile, Scott couldn’t help but notice the man dressed in a blue denim shirt, tight jeans, black leather jacket and boots. One word came to mind – cowboy.
Both men started moving through the crowd, ending up side by side next to a limousine chauffer holding a sign that read Lancer.
“I’m Lancer,” they said simultaneously.
“I’m sorry. Which of you said?” the man asked.
“I did,” came the unified reply.
Just then, a young woman stepped out of the back. She had long brown hair and doe brown eyes. She wore a yellow sundress and cut a stunning figure. Having heard the conversation thus far, she’d come to the simple conclusion. “You’re Johnny.” She said pointing at the dark haired man.
“That’s right,” Johnny nodded.
“Then you must be Scott Lancer,” she smiled, pointing at Scott.
“No, Miss. He’s no Lancer. My mother only had one kid,” Johnny said with grit in his voice.
“Likewise,” Scott responded tersely.
“Well, actually you’re both right. It’s Mr. Lancer who had two.”
“Two what?” Scott asked with dread.
“Two wives. And two sons. You two,” she shrugged a little and smiled.
Scott turned and looked sternly at the young man who’d made such a fuss on the plane. Johnny took in Scott, head to toe, with an amused smile on his face.
“I’m Teresa O’Brien. If you’ll come with me, please,” she said, waving a hand toward the stretch limousine.
As they rode along the freeway, Scott turned to Teresa. “Do you work for my father? Our father,” he amended.
“No. I’m Mr. Lancer’s ward. My father worked for Mr. Lancer until last November. That’s when daddy was killed and Mr. Lancer was wounded.”
“Killed? How?” Scott asked.
“They were ambushed outside their office building but Mr. Lancer will explain all that,” she said, not wanting to talk about her father’s death.
The limo exited the freeway and drove several miles along an isolated mountain road. Suddenly, the car came to a halt and Teresa opened the sunroof. All three stood to look out at the vista.
“This is it. The most beautiful place in the whole wide world – Lancer,” she said with pride and awe.
Both young men took in the view — rolling mountains and valleys of green, fields of bluebells and daffodils. There were several horses in a meadow to the left. A stream cut through the land like a blue ribbon.
“It’s a ranch,” Scott said, disappointment deep in his voice.
“Maybe a hundred years ago. Now, it’s an estate. Mr. Lancer keeps horses and cattle as a hobby.”
They sat back down and continued the ride. Johnny noted the time — they had been riding for almost two hours. “Long way.”
“Yes, Mr. Lancer likes to be away from the city as much as possible when he isn’t working. Of course, that isn’t often,” she smiled.
They drove up a winding driveway and pulled to a stop in front of what looked like an old Spanish Mission. Both men took in the house and grounds with studious eyes. The dwelling was surrounded by elaborate landscape woven round flowing fountains and lush flower beds. Johnny cocked a brow at the lavish surroundings. Was it really only a week ago he was facing certain death in a South American jungle?
Scott was not so easily impressed, having grown up in luxury himself. He had to admit, however, that the house was very nice.
They were shown into the enormous dwelling and led to a closed door. The girl seemed to disappear, leaving them alone in the foyer facing a massive oak door. The two young men looked at the other as if to dare the other to knock. Scott finally took the lead and rapped his knuckles against the closed door. In response, they heard a gruff voice call, “It’s open.”
Cautiously, the newly found brothers entered the room, their eyes immediately seeking out the owner of the voice. A tall, gray haired man stood cane in hand, and walked around his impressive teak desk to meet them. Faded blue eyes fell on Scott first. He was impressed by his Boston gentleman son dressed in Armani. He then looked at Johnny – his Hell’s Angels son, his lost boy- dressed like a cowboy.
“Drink?” he asked gruffly, attempting to disguise his unease.
“No, thank you,” Scott replied.
“You drink,” Murdoch pointed his cane at Johnny, ill prepared for the retort he would receive.
“When I know the man I’m drinkin with.” Johnny responded testily.
“You’ve got your mother’s temper,” Murdoch said to Johnny before turning to Scott. “You’ve got your mother’s eyes.” He watched as the boys digested the information before speaking again. “I need a drink.”
Murdoch was halfway to the bar when Johnny spoke up. “I hope you didn’t call us here because you need a kidney or somethin, Old man,” Johnny drawled, his inflection turning icy with ‘old man’.
Murdoch stopped cold in his tracks, his tone almost as cold as his son’s. “No, I did not. I take it you two have introduced yourselves?”
“We have, in a way,” Scott clipped, more than a little annoyed with Murdoch’s tone and demeanor.
“Good. We can get down to business.”
“I wasn’t aware we had anything to discuss,” Scott said sharply.
“That’s why you’re here. To find out,” Murdoch explained, softening his tone. He walked back to his desk and opened a folder. Taking two plain white envelopes out, he turned back toward them.
“Ten thousand dollars, as promised.”
Johnny made a beeline to the desk, opening the envelope.
“You’d better count it,” Murdoch said.
“I plan to,” he spat back.
Looking toward Scott, his voice softened. “Come get your money.”
“I think I’d rather have that drink,” Scott replied as he took one step toward the bar.
“You’ll do as you’re told!”
Johnny stopped counting and looked first at Murdoch, then at Scott, most amused and curious as to how the dandy would respond.
“Will I?” Scott shot back.
“I want no favors from either of you,” Murdoch stated firmly as he retook his seat.
Scott hesitated for a second, then smiled. “Far be it from me to spoil the family reunion,” he said, walking to the desk and picking up the envelope. “Thanks . What do I call you? Under the circumstances, Father hardly seems ….”
“Call me anything you like. We’re strangers to each other. Maybe that’s my fault and maybe it isn’t.”
“No apologies necessary,” Scott said as he stashed the envelope in his jacket pocket.
“You’ll get no apology from me!” Murdoch looked at the two of them and sighed. “If the air needs clearing, let’s clear it.” Standing, he rounded the desk.
Turning to Scott, he said, “your mother’s family thought she was daft to marry me, not a year off the boat from Inverness. And maybe they were right. You were born, she died, I left you in their hands. Right or wrong.”
He turned to Johnny, his eyes meeting the hostile glare of his youngest. “A few years later, I met your mother. She… we got married. Two years after that, I came home from a business trip to find her gone and you with her.”
“That’s not how I heard it,” Johnny shot.
“It’s the truth and it’s in the past. Done. What’s important is what’s happening here, today.”
“What is happening?” Scott asked.
Murdoch went to his desk and pulled out a thick sheaf of paper. On top was the letter L in a rough circle, like an old time brand. “Lancer Enterprises, that’s what’s happening…”
“So, it’s your company you’re concerned about,” Johnny sneered, paying no attention to the documents that seemed to enthrall his brother’.
“I have a gray hair for every project that I’ve built. I love that company more than anything on God’s green earth.”
“Including us.” Johnny said flatly going to the bar to get the drink he had just refused.
“I didn’t mean that!” Murdoch flustered.
“Then what did you mean?” Scott asked.
“Someone is trying to ruin me. Whoever it is tried to kill me this past November. Since then there have been two attempts on my life and a hostile run against Lancer stock.
“The girl, Teresa, said you were shot and her father killed.” Scott accepted the snifter of brandy Johnny handed him and took a sip.
“You got a name to go with that bullet?” Johnny asked before downing the contents of his glass.
“The police have been unable to make an arrest, but I have it on good authority that it was Pardee. Day Pardee.”
Johnny lowered his glass and a small smile curled the corner of his mouth. “He’s a mercenary — a good one. You’re lucky to be alive.” Johnny poured himself another drink and his smile grew. “Yep, I’d say you’ve got a load of trouble on your hands.”
“That’s why I’ve brought you here –I need your help.”
“Now we’re talking gun money!” Johnny stood straighter, suddenly all business. “I came here for listening money.”
Scott glanced at the dark haired man, wondering exactly what the younger man was referring to. Studying the angry features, a none- too-distant memory surfaced. The more Johnny spoke, the more Scott was sure that he had actually met the man who was his brother before — only his name wasn’t Johnny Lancer then. “What sort of help are you looking for and what are you willing to pay?”
Murdoch glared at the two young men. They were his sons, his own flesh and blood and yet they were complete strangers to him. Like it or not, he needed their help. “I’m offering one third.”
“Of what?” Scott asked calmly.
“One third of my business to each of you; I’m willing to make you my partners.”
“Just like that?” Johnny asked suspiciously.
“No. I want you to find out who is trying to ruin me and I want the man who put the bullet in my back in jail.”
“You’re asking a lot, Old Man.” Johnny’s mind was working furiously. Never in his life had he ever anticipated meeting his father — and he never dreamed that the old man would need his help. Things were moving too fast and he struggled to focus on what he did know — Day Pardee.
“Take it or leave it.”
“I’ll take it,” Scott spoke up quietly. He had done his homework before leaving Boston. Lancer Enterprises was a Fortune 500 company and was worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It wasn’t `Old Money’ like his Grandfather’s company HG, LLC — an accounting firm that listed as clients much of the east coast `old money’ families. Scott, however, was not snob. He didn’t care if he had `old money’ or `new money’ — it all spent the same. Murdoch was offering him a piece of a very large pie and Scott wasn’t so foolish as to turn it down.
Murdoch nodded and turned toward his youngest. “What about you?”
“You wouldn’t mind putting that in writing, would you?” And with sly grin, Johnny added “No offense.”
Murdoch returned to his desk and pulled out a partnership agreement from the top drawer and handed it to his son. “Will this do?”
Johnny studied the document briefly, taking note of the last page. With a small laugh, he noted, “you didn’t sign it.”
“Nothing for nothing. It won’t be signed until…”
“Until what?” Scott intervened, his curiosity piqued.
“Until you prove that you’re men enough to claim it.”
Johnny smiled at the challenge. “Yeah? And what do I have to do to prove that?”
“Catch the man who put the bullet in my back.”
“You’re asking a lot.”
“Take it or leave it!”
Johnny let his temper settle and smiled again. “We’ll see.”
Dinner that night was a strained affair. It was held in the formal dining room — an area larger than many of the houses Johnny and his mother had lived in during his youth. He had managed to take a brief tour of the house and was impressed. His mother had never entioned
that his father was rich! It burned him that while he and his mother lived in some of the worst conditions imaginable — his father had lived the life of a king. Now, the king was asking for his help; the question remained would Johnny give it?
Scott dressed for dinner, changing into a more casual suit. His grandfather had told him stories about Murdoch Lancer, but none of them had prepared him for the well-educated man he had met. Scott was left confused by the stories he had grown up comparing them to the facts of what he was now seeing for himself. Years in the Navy had taught him not to trust anything he didn’t see or know for himself. Had his grandfather been lying all these years? Why hadn’t Murdoch come for him – obviously he had the means to care for his own son. Glancing at his dark haired brother, Scott was left to wonder what other surprises lay in store for him.
Scott was shaving in the bathroom he shared with the adjoining bedroom when he realized he wasn’t alone. A grizzled looking Johnny wandered into the room, completely naked. Briefly the younger man raised a hand in greeting and walked directly into the large steam shower. A smile rose at the corners of Scott’s mouth — remembering his experiences at the Naval Academy. Sharing a bathroom with Johnny was like being back in school.
A tenor voice rose above the steam, filling the tiled room with Latin song. Shaking his head, Scott finished his shave and headed back into his own room. A few minutes later, he was once again joined by his brother. A towel was now wrapped around Johnny’s slim hips while he used another towel to dry his hair.
“Come on in,” Scott said rolling his eyes at the intrusion.
Ignoring his brother’s sarcasm, Johnny entered the room and began to look around. The many cases that Scott brought were now open nd
clothing was strewn carefully about the room. It appeared that Scott was serious in his intent to become a partner in their father’s business. Johnny had listened carefully to the conversation Murdoch and Scott had over dinner. It was like they were speaking a different language, but one they both understood. Johnny didn’t. School had never been a high priority. He knew enough to get by. It was his common sense and natural instincts that had always served him best. While the others had discussed business, Johnny focused on what he knew about Day Pardee.
“Can I help you, Brother?” Scott asked as Johnny slowly made his way about the room leaving small puddles from his dripping legs.
Inwardly Johnny snickered at the designer clothing. Scott was sure to fit in the boardroom, but when it came to figuring out who was behind the attack on Murdoch — he was going to stick out like a sore thumb and probably get in Johnny’s way. He watched as Scott icked
out a dark pinstripe suit with a contrasting shirt and tie. With a smile Johnny shook his head. “You planning on wearing that?”
“And what’s wrong with this?” Scott asked indignantly.
“Pinstripe is nice — but it’s just not the style around here.”
“And I suppose that those jeans you were wearing yesterday are?”
Johnny’s grin grew broader. “They get me were I need to go in style.” Johnny’s smile slipped as he picked up a photograph of Scott, dressed in a flight suit, surrounded by four other men. “Look at you all suited up, you a flyer?”
“Navy Pilot — Annapolis class of 2000.”
“Impressive. I guess you learned all about being a good officer and a gentleman?”
“I guess you could say that. What about you? Where did you go to college?”
Johnny laughed and headed back toward the bathroom. “I never was much good at school.” The towel slipped from Johnny’s shoulder
revealing a small tattoo.
Scott recognized a tattoo usually reserved for Seals. “You served in the military?”
Johnny’s eyes flashed and he quickly moved to recover the small mark. “Right — can you imagine me in the army?”
Sensing that mentioning what he had seen would be a wrong response, Scott shrugged and continued to put away his clothes. “I figured that if you didn’t go to college that you might have gone into the military — it’s an honorable profession.”
“Yeah? Well I got a profession but I’m not sure if you and the Old Man would think it’s honorable.”
Scott opened his mouth to ask what Johnny meant when the door to the bedroom burst open. Teresa entered the room. Gone was the revealing sundress from the day before. Today she was wearing jeans and a tube top. “Good morning!” She sang brightly.
“Doesn’t anyone knock around here?” Scott pitched a shoe into the closet and slammed an empty suitcase shut.
“Just think of me as a sister! Mr. Lancer has a few things to go over with you before he leaves for work.”
“Tell the Old Man I’ll be right down,” Johnny headed back toward the bathroom, never seeing the frown that crossed the young woman’s ace.
“Scott?” She asked, hoping for a more enthusiastic response from the older son.
“I’ll be down shortly.” Scott looked at the girl, noting the frown on her face. “What?”
“We’re going to get you some new clothes if you’re planning on staying around here.”
“And what’s wrong with my clothes?” Scott asked for the second time.
Teresa only sighed and closed the door behind her.
Frustrated, Scott turned back toward his brother. Johnny seemed to be dawdling near the bathroom door, as if he had something on his mind. “Get it said, brother.”
“It’s just this. I got something in mind to catch Day Pardee and it’s sort of a one man show.”
“You’re going to hurt my feelings.”
“Better your feelings than you being dead.” Johnny said evenly, heading back into the bathroom and towards his own room.
Scott stood alone in his room. Once again he was left with more questions than answers. Hopefully when he got to his father’s office he would have a chance to find the key to the mystery that was his new family.
Together the brothers descended the long staircase, passing through the immense foyer before they finally entered Murdoch’s study. Johnny had a quirky thought that he should be worn out from the trek through the house. He allowed a sardonic smile to grace his lips with the idea.
Murdoch was standing at his desk speaking with another man. “This is my mechanic – Cipriano. You’ll need transportation. Cipriano will show you out to the garage – pick whatever you like; except the Aston Martin. That is off limits.”
Johnny snorted. “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t be caught dead.”
Scott raised a brow. “Can we at least look at it?” he asked with amusement.
“Yes, just be careful,” the older man said quite seriously.
Johnny turned on his heel and walked toward the waiting Cipriano who led them to the garage. The building that housed Murdoch’s car collection was a huge structure with multiple automatic doors. Johnny made note of the advanced security system and memorized the code Cipriano entered on the keypad. He figured he wouldn’t find anything there worth a dime but he had to have a way of getting around.
Resigned to some Lincoln or Rolls, he followed the mechanic inside. The overhead lights flickered then came alive, revealing a dozen or so vehicles. The assortment was staggering.
“This is a very nice automobile,” Cipriano said, gesturing to a Volvo. Johnny smirked and shook his head. “Perhaps this one,” the older man tried again, pointing toward a Mercedes.
Johnny ignored him. He kept strolling until his heart leapt and his face broke into a grin. Stepping slowly toward the machine, he wasn’t sure his eyes were trustworthy. He couldn’t believe Murdoch would have a … Damn! It was. A Harley chopper! Black with red flames along the gas tank and chromed out. Gently, he placed a caressing hand on the low seat and patted the motorcycle as if it were alive. Hungry eyes roved over the HOG. It looked like it had never been ridden. He knew that couldn’t be true. Crouching down he inspected the beast more closely. It was definitely an original. ’69, he reckoned.
“I thought you might like that.” Murdoch beamed with pride.
Johnny turned, and stood to face the older man. “It’s a ’69, right? Real nice. Kind of surprised, though,” he raised a brow.
Murdoch chuckled. “You’ve got a good eye. And, I have ridden it, though, not for many years. Go ahead, take it out.”
Johnny grinned, nodded and then glanced over at Scott.
Scott had perused several of the vehicles, including the bike, but the cherry red Porsche captured his eye. Flashy, yes – but Scott liked flashy. And it was fast. Faster than the bike Johnny was drooling over. Yes, the Porsche would do fine.
“I believe I’d like to try out this one,” he smiled. “I would, however, like to at least see the Aston Martin.”
“It’s at the end,” Murdoch said and headed that way. He pulled the covering off to reveal his prize.
“Is that silk?” Johnny asked of the covering.
“Yes, it is. Doesn’t scratch,” Murdoch explained and Johnny rolled his eyes.
Scott got within one foot and stopped. He circled the silver birch DB5 with an appraising eye. “’63?”
“James Bond fan, are ya?” Johnny grinned.
“Aston Martin fan,” Murdoch confirmed with conviction.
Both young men smiled. So, Murdoch collected vehicles; a very nice variety, at that.
Cipriano handed over the appropriate keys to each of them, scowling at Johnny’s choice, before disappearing. Johnny pushed the bike out of the garage and settled down in the seat. From his jacket pocket he pulled out a pair of aviator sunglasses – ignoring the helmet Murdoch attempted to hand him.
“That’s a nice HOG,” Scott commented.
Johnny grinned. “Saw it first,” Johnny stood and gave a hard crank on the kick-start, the thunderous beast growled to life. The roar of energy shook the very ground. Giving it a little gas to fully awaken the engine, he squeezed the clutch in and stepped on the gear pedal. Johnny looked at both men watching him and grinned wickedly. “See ya,” he shouted above the din. Easing out on the clutch, he started rolling forward. Before he was out of their sight, he was hauling ass.
Murdoch cringed as he heard the acceleration. “He’s going to get himself killed.”
Scott cocked a brow. “Maybe, but I have the feeling he is quite resilient.”
“Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know. Something about him …” Scott didn’t finish. He couldn’t. Whatever it was that was familiar about Johnny refused to let itself come to the forefront of his mind. With a shrug, he put the thought behind him, confident that in time he would remember.
It didn’t take Johnny long to hit the open road; streaking down the highway – letting the engine wind out as far as it could. There were few things in life Johnny truly appreciated – and a good bike was one of them. After several miles, he eased back on the throttle. It was time to get the information he’d need if he was going to find out who had hired Pardee and why. Up ahead was an isolated rest stop. Johnny pulled in and parked the bike under a secluded tree.
Turning off the engine, he pulled a small cell phone from his jacket pocket. He hit the number three on the speed dial. There was no need for him to greet the person who answered – he was the only person who had the number. Quickly he made his request for information and within three minutes he had his answers. Hitting the send button he cut off the voice of concern that tried to talk him out of the trouble that was sure to brew once he made it to his final destination.
Grimly Johnny checked his watch. It was nine AM. His contact told him that Day would be in the small suburb of Moro Coyo around oon.
With time to kill, Johnny decided to hit the road again and get the lay of the land.
Scott Lancer and Teresa O’Brien headed to the corporate headquarters for Lancer Enterprises located on the outskirts of Moro Coyo. The
girl chatted about the business and about how much Murdoch appreciated both boys coming to help him. Scott had his reservations about the entire scenario. Despite what his father had said the day before, there was much he needed to know about Murdoch and the dark haired man who was now his brother. But, the need to find out who was taking shots at Murdoch and why was paramount on Scott’s mind
the past would have to wait.
At Teresa’s direction, he pulled into the executive parking lot and allowed her to show him into the building. Murdoch had left a pass for him and Johnny at the front desk. With a smirk he noted that Johnny was nowhere in sight. `So much for working together’ Scott thought disappointedly. He had hoped Johnny would have forgotten his `one man show’ idea; obviously he hadn’t.
“Where would you like to start?” Teresa asked as they entered the elevator.
“Accounting is always the best place to look,” he said, flashing the girl a quick smile.
Glad to be of help, Teresa pushed the button for the fifteenth floor. The brothers were as different as night and day. Scott was clearly more on task – ready to work on finding a solution to Mr. Lancer’s problems. Johnny, on the other hand.. Well, she supposed that the dark haired boy was just that – a boy. With a sigh, she regarded the smartly dressed man who stood beside her. It would be nice to have the young man around the house – if he was sincere in his desire to stay.
When the doors opened, she led Scott to the comptroller’s office. A neatly dressed white haired woman guarded the door to Mr. Phillips office. “Betty Ellen, this is Mr. Lancer’s son – Scott. He’s here to help figure out who is trying to ..” Teresa stopped, not wanting to voice the trouble they all knew was brewing.
Betty Ellen nodded understandingly. She had worked at Lancer for twenty years. “It’s good to have you home, Mr. Lancer. Mr. Phillips isn’t in right now. Is there something I can do to help?”
“Yes, I need access to the corporate database for the past three years. Can I do that here?”
“Certainly,” Betty Ellen opened the door to Mr. Phillips office and queued up the desktop computer. “This terminal has access to the mainframe.” From the top drawer she pulled out a list of pass codes. “This should get you started. Let me know if I can be of further assistance.”
Scott thanked her and closed the door after she left the room. Removing his jacket he loosened his tie and rolled up his sleeves. “This may take a while, Teresa. Are you sure you don’t have something that you’d rather be doing?”
“No. I might be able to answer questions. I used to help my daddy when he worked here. Two sets of eyes might be better than one. If you can tell me what we’re looking for?”
“That is the thousand-dollar question. I suppose I’ll know it when I see it. How about some coffee and a few tablets and pencils – this could take some time.”
Teresa stood and went to fetch the requested items. “Just remember we have to be in town by one o’clock. I made reservations for lunch.” The girl paused before opening the door. “Thank you for coming. I know your father is glad that you did.” With that said,
she slipped out the door.
Scott watched the closed door for a few moments before turning back to the computer terminal. `I wonder if he’ll still feel that way when I’m done.’ Scott wondered to himself. Flexing his fingers, he started to work. Accounting had been his minor at the Academy, but his grandfather had taught him plenty about business. If Scott was going to own one third of Lancer – he wanted to make sure that the company was healthy.
Johnny rode for several hours, mulling the information he had received over in his head. The situation Murdoch Lancer was in was more serious than the old man probably suspected. It amazed Johnny how a businessman could be so ignorant of the forces that surrounded him. Perhaps it was all Murdoch’s millions that made the Old Man think he was above it all. Never having had money, Johnny couldn’t relate to being in that position. From the day his mother had been murdered eight years earlier, he had to fight for everything he had and as a result he never took anything for granted.
Checking his watch, Johnny saw it was about time to find Pardee. The flashy bike roared to a stop in front of a small bar. It was out of place. The building, an old cantina, had been there for many years. An upscale mini mall surrounded the adobe structure now. Johnny liked the idea of the shabby structure fighting for its identity against the new wealth of the area. Most people walking by would think the establishment was potentially dangerous or beneath them. Johnny knew better. Inside a wealth of information was waiting for the person willing to take the risk and ask the right questions.
He removed the sunglasses before he stepped inside the dark air-conditioned bar. At first he sensed rather than saw two rather ominous figures that stepped forward to block his entrance. He locked eyes with one, then the other. Neither was particularly tall or brawny; but Johnny knew that made no difference. He knew exactly who and what they were.
“What’ya want?” The bigger one asked.
Johnny allowed a small smile and looked the speaker up and down. “A beer sounds good. You can bring it to my table,” he replied softly and started around the man.
“I don’t work here, mister! And they ain’t open,” he said, stepping in Johnny’s path.
“If you don’t work here and they ain’t open, why are you here?”
The man ground his jaw. “Find someplace else to drink.”
“You got bad manners,” Johnny said stonily.
“You gonna teach us some good ones?” the second man challenged.
Johnny’s eyes went to the second person a short and stocky man with a scraggly beard. For a second Johnny regarded the man. Finally, he nodded slightly towards his antagonists. Softly he answered, “Maybe.”
“Let’s see how good a dog you are,” the first man said with an ugly grin.
His eyes went beside Johnny. “That’s my sandwich. Bring it here!”
Johnny reached out with his left hand, never taking his eyes off the man, and picked up the sandwich plate sitting on the table. He held
it beside him.
The man laughed a little and stepped closer. “Dog won’t fetch, he’s got to be taught. Now, hand me that sandwich, mister. I aim to have
it for my supper.”
“I doubt it,” Johnny replied keeping his voice deceptively soft.
“Think they eat in hell?” he drawled and threw the plate. In a flash, Johnny landed a fist in the man’s gut, then made a half-turn and kicked him in the face. Turning toward the stocky partner he froze when he heard the sound of a switchblade open.
“Kill him!” the first man cried wiping the blood that was streaming from his broken nose.
“I wouldn’t,” came a voice behind them.
Johnny looked up and grinned. “Day.”
“Been a long time, Johnny Madrid.”
Johnny laughed a little. “Yeah.”
“Want a drink?”
“Yeah, sure,” he answered and stepped past the two glaring men.
Precisely at noon, Teresa announced it was time she and Scott headed to Moro Coyo – first to shop and then to have lunch. Scott had found what he had been looking for. The company was sound; the trouble was coming from an outside source. An external search of the local police records and newspapers provided information he felt sure would lead to the person behind the shooting. Turning off the computer, Scott surrendered to Teresa’s pleading and followed her from the building.
Teresa insisted on driving knowing Murdoch would never let her drive the fancy car. The older man felt a girl couldn’t drive a stick shift properly. After ten minutes, Scott was prepared to testify on her behalf.
Teresa parked in front of a men’s clothier located on a small street lined with pricey stores. Scott frowned as he stepped out of the Porsche. “Isn’t that the bike Johnny was riding?”
Teresa looked over and put a hand to her eyes to block the sun. “I think so.”
“Miss Teresa!” a young man exited the men’s store, waving at the dark haired girl.
Teresa turned and smiled at the young man. “Michael! This is Scott Lancer. He’s come to buy some things.”
“Oh, I see. Well, come in, please,” he gushed. Hearing the name Lancer was synonymous with cash.
Outside the bar, two men perked up. The stocky one walked inside quickly and approached Pardee. “That Lancer girl just drove up with some dandy. They went in the mall.”
Pardee frowned. “Go lean on `im. Find out who he is.”
“Yeah,” the man said, rubbing at his beard.
Johnny leaned back in his chair to overhear the order. He let the chair legs rest on the floor again and sipped his tequila as Pardee
walked back to join him.
Day picked up a lime and one of the full shot glasses Johnny had lined up. “Heard you got yourself killed down in South America.”
Johnny nodded. “Almost.”
“What was that all about?”
“Oh, you know, Day. Displeased customers. Thought they should get their goods for free. Bad part is I had to make a quick exit.”
“Didn’t get paid?” Pardee asked.
“Plenty of money to be had here, Johnny,” he said surreptitiously.
Johnny bit into a lime. “Yeah? Doin what?”
“Taking over Lancer,” Pardee said glibly.
“Why?” Johnny asked blandly, taking a sip of his drink.
“That Old Man doesn’t know how to keep his nose out of business that don’t concern him, that’s all. There’s good money to be had, John and I could use your help.”
Johnny’s eyebrows went up. “You never did anything halfway, Day,” he grinned. “You let me think about it.”
“Take your time, John,” Pardee said with what could almost be called a slight pout. He left Johnny to his thinking and walked out of the bar.
Teresa and Scott entered the men’s store and started browsing.
“While I’m looking at these shirts, perhaps Teresa can tell you what else she thinks I need to fit in out here,” Scott suggested.
Teresa’s face lit in a smile. She loved to shop no matter who it was for. She took the clerk’s arm and led him away. “Well, he needs everything. Jeans, slacks, a jacket,” she started.
“Of course. For the son of Mr. Lancer, we will find some very nice things,” the clerk exuded.
The two thugs had just entered the store and heard this statement. Shooting each other a look, they strolled over to where Scott was looking at shirts. The young man held one up to his chest as he looked in the mirror and frowned. Discarding it, he reached for another.
The bearded man quickly grabbed the shirt from Scott’s grasp. “I was looking at that.”
Scott gave him a doubtful look. “If you say so,” Scott walked around the man and picked another shirt. Stepping back toward the mirror,
the bearded man blocked his way. “Excuse me,” Scott politely commented trying to elbow his way around the other man.
A mountain of resistance and a laugh met his slight nudge. “Are you talking to me?”
Scott smiled; the second man moved to his other side, effectively trapping him. “Where I come from there are two ways to handle a situation like this. Yep ….” he hesitated. Then, with agility and speed, he elbowed one man, turned and punched the other.
A melee ensued. Teresa ran from the other room and screamed for them to stop but no one listened. Grabbing a small vase, she threw it at
one of the strangers and yelled again. Unsure what she should do to help, she ran outside and spied Johnny now sitting outside the bar with a beer. She ran to the dark haired young man, her face flushed with concern. “It’s Scott!”
“I figured,” Johnny replied lazily.
“Well, aren’t you going to help him?” she asked exasperatedly.
“Nope,” he replied, never moving from his chair.
She looked quizzically at him and frowned. Clearly Johnny wasn’t going to help his own brother. With her heart filled with disappointment, she ran back toward the store. Just as she opened the door Scott came barreling out onto the sidewalk. He rolled to a stop and quickly got to his knees. Teresa ran to help him up as the two thugs walked past and headed back to where Johnny sat watching. “Come on. Let’s get you to the car,” she said.
Scott rose to his feet and wiped his bloody lip on the back of his hand. He looked up and saw Johnny, now leaning against a post with a sardonic expression. Scott glared for a moment before turning back toward the store. “I came here to buy some clothes. Some clothes I’ll buy,” he breathed heavily as he staggered back to the store.
A small smile lifted the corner of Johnny’s mouth. Finishing his beer he headed back into the depths of the old cantina.
Pardee watched his two men approach. He smiled at the bruised face of the shorter, bearded man. “What happened to your face, Coley?”
“Well, we leaned on `im…”
“He lean back?”
“Yeah,” Coley admitted.
“He’s Lancer’s kid,” the second man reported.
The smile left Pardee’s face then and he rolled his eyes a bit. “Well, I think it’s time to push things up a little.”
Scott eased his lean frame into the Jacuzzi by the pool and sighed. The hot water felt good on his aching muscles. Teresa had changed into a bikini and sat on a chaise nearby, a sheer cover draped about her. “I like the things you bought.”
“Thanks,” he replied.
Barefooted, Johnny walked out onto the pool deck; his shirt open – the tails blowing in the slight breeze. Scott immediately spied the
younger man and stepped out of the Jacuzzi, ready to face the dark haired stranger who was his brother. Water dripping from his body, Scott prepared himself to confront his sibling.
“I told you not to get involved,” Johnny drawled.
“You certainly didn’t,” Scott scowled.
“Well, if you wanna get yourself killed, that’s your business. That’s a nice bruise ya got there,” Johnny grinned, his hand gesturing toward Scott’s jaw.
Scott dropped his head for a moment, his breath becoming more rapid. He looked up and landed a punch to Johnny’s left cheek.
Falling backwards, Johnny plunged into the pool. He surfaced and swam to the edge to climb out.
“I just couldn’t resist thanking you for your help …. Brother,” Scott spat.
As he climbed the ladder, Johnny spoke with rage. “Don’t you call me `brother’ just because we share that old man’s blood. You mean nothin to me!” As the words left his mouth, Johnny gut punched Scott who doubled over and backed away.
Both men took a fighting stance and started to circle each other.
“Stop it! Stop this right now! The idea – brother’s fighting!” Teresa proclaimed as she ran between them.
Scott relaxed his stance and Johnny followed.
“Look, I’m sorry.”
Johnny glared at him, then started to walk away.
“Wait a minute. We should be able to get along. After all, we came here for the same thing,” Scott reasoned.
Johnny reached into his pocket and pulled out a sopping wet wad of bills. “This is why I came.”
“What else?” he spat and turned away.
“My mistake,” Scott said flatly.
Johnny rounded. “Why do you think I came? Out of love and loyalty for Murdoch Lancer? Do you know what he did to my mother? He handed her the keys to the road one day and said `what’s you hurry. And just a minute, don’t forget Buster here’!” The words came spilling out in anger and pain as he started to walk away once more.
“That’s not true!” Teresa decried as she followed after him. “That’s not true about your mother and Mr. Lancer. He didn’t ask her to leave. She left of her own free will.”
“Look, you don’t know ….”
“She ran off with a man. A gambler, I think.”
Johnny’s eyes narrowed. “What? Did he tell you that?” he spat.
“No, my father did. And it’s the truth. And there’s something else you should know, Johnny.”
“Alright!” he yelled having heard enough.
“No, listen!” she shouted, grabbing his arm. “When your father was shot, I sat with him. He didn’t know if he was going to live or not. It was her name he called, Johnny. It was her he wanted. So, if you want to hate him for being wrong-headed or stubborn a lot of the time, go ahead. But, don’t hate him for your mother, Johnny. Because he loved her!”
Johnny stared at her for a long moment, suddenly unsure. The only sound was the soft breeze and the bumblebees. He heard footsteps resounding off the concrete and turned to see Murdoch walking toward them. As he started to speak, a shrill and familiar whistle buzzed
by his head. Johnny lunged at his father, propelling them both into the pool.
A bullet skipped off the concrete next to Scott’s foot and he grabbed Teresa, taking cover behind a table as he overturned it. For several
minutes, a hail of bullets streamed down on the pool area. Teresa covered her ears and screamed at the top of her lungs while Johnny protectively covered his father with his body as they desperately clung to the pool wall.
Just as fast as the bullets started, they stopped, leaving the house in an eerie silence. Scott held the trembling Teresa in his arms while Johnny easily muscled his way out of the pool and extended a hand to help his father out.
“This ends now!” Murdoch snarled, shaking off Johnny’s hand before he stomped his way to the house.
Scott and Johnny gave each other knowing looks before following their father into the house. Murdoch was right. Something was going to happen and it was going to happen now!
Murdoch stormed up the stairs, leaving puddles in his wake. Maria, the housekeeper, grumbled in Spanish as she went for a mop. Seeing
Johnny enter dripping as well, she rolled her eyes and reached her limit. “Salga de esas ropas mojadas. No deseo limpiar este piso más
de una vez. ¡Vaya!” (Get out of those wet clothes. I do not want to clean this floor more than once. Go!)
Johnny bit his lip and softly replied, “Si, Senora.” He climbed the stairs, making sure he avoided his brother’s eyes.
Scott didn’t say a word before following his brother up the stairs. Maria simply glared at him, figuring that she had made a proper example of the dark haired one. Scott congratulated himself on avoiding the woman’s ire. At least he’d had a chance to stop dripping before entering the house.
Once upstairs, Scott’s anger was fueling him into action. He showered and quickly dressed in a pair of jeans and a dark blue Oxford shirt. As he was tucking his shirttails, Johnny walked in. Gone were the wet jeans. The younger man was now wearing a pair of dark leather pants and cowboy boots, a western cut shirt with embroidery finished the outfit. “Don’t you think we should talk about this?” Johnny
asked as Scott sat to pull on a pair of boots.
“We can talk about it while we wait for the police,” Scott clipped.
“Police? What are they gonna do? We didn’t see who it was,” Johnny reasoned.
“We know who it was, Johnny.” Scott said with conviction.
Johnny shook his head. He knew different. Opening his mouth to say so, he was interrupted by Murdoch who was now dressed in dry clothes. “Yes, we do, John.”
“Well, that’s great! I’m sure the cops will fall all over themselves arresting Pardee just because you say so. You don’t have a clue what you’re up against,” Johnny retorted.
Scott turned to Murdoch. “What do you say?”
“I say we call the law.”
Scott nodded and walked out of the room, heading for the phone downstairs.
Johnny turned his back for a moment obviously frustrated. “They can’t do anything. They’ll come out here, make a report and leave and you’ll be left wide open. You’ve got one chance; hold up here and wait.”
“For what?” Murdoch asked.
“Until I find Pardee.”
“Maybe you’ve already found him,” Murdoch half-asked.
Johnny locked eyes with him. “Well, go on.”
“What were you doing in Moro Coyo?”
Johnny dropped his gaze for a second and then looked back. “Is that
what you think of me?”
Murdoch shook his head slowly. “I don’t know what to think of you.”
“Think what you like!” Johnny spat and started past his father.
Murdoch reached out and grabbed Johnny’s right arm. “Where are you going?” he demanded.
Johnny shook off his father’s grasp and gave the Old Man a cold glare. “I never was much good at takin orders.” With that, he stormed
Murdoch looked after his son and shook his head. All the time and money he had spent trying to find the boy was wasted. The Pinkertons were right – it was too late to change Johnny Madrid into Johnny Lancer. In defeat he knew that there was nothing he could do to save Johnny now. The boy had made his choice.
Scott hung up the phone just as the engine of the chopper roared to life. He walked to the picture window and watched Johnny ride out. “Where’s he going?”
Murdoch was standing in the doorway, his expression flat. “What difference?”
Scott turned with a raised brow. “The police are on their way.” Looking back out the window the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Somewhere in the back of his mind he had the feeling that he had already played out a scene like this with Johnny before – but for the life of him he couldn’t place it.
By the time Johnny pulled into the rest area his temper had somewhat calmed. Slowing, he brought the chopper to a halt where he’d stopped earlier that morning. With relish he removed the black helmet he was now wearing – shaking his hair free. Usually, he wouldn’t wear one at all but this was business; dangerous business. Leaning back on the sissy bar he rested one leg between the handlebars as a short, balding older man exited a black Mercedes and walked toward him. The man had a frown on his face, more so than usual. Johnny smiled.
“Well, here’s what you asked for. I still say this is crazy.” Major Jellifer Hoskins, RET, stalked his way towards Johnny and thrust a package at the younger man.
Johnny took the package and opened it. “I know you do, Jelly.”
“Why, Johnny? That’s all I want to know,” he asked.
Johnny pulled a Glock out of the package and checked the magazine before stuffing it in the back of his waistband. Jelly then handed him a thick paper file and watched as his young friend perused the pages.
“You gonna answer me?” the older man demanded.
Johnny looked up at his friend and mentor. “They’re my family,” he replied simply.
Jelly snorted at this. “Family? Since when? Since Lancer decided he needed your services? You don’t owe him anything, Johnny!”
“Take it easy, Jelly. I don’t know how things are gonna work out. All I know is I have to do this. Someone is trying to kill my old man. I can’t just sit back and do nothing.”
“Pardee?” Jelly asked raising an eyebrow and looking at the paper file he had handed his friend.
Johnny shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. He’s a hired gun, that’s all. Someone is pretty pissed at Murdoch. I just have to figure out who and why.”
“Well, I don’t like it. Besides, I need you,” Jelly grumbled.
A smile flashed across Johnny’s face. “That’s sweet – but I told you I need to do this. Whatever you’ve got cooking can wait. Those drug
lords south of the border aren’t going anywhere.”
“I guess not,” Jelly reluctantly admitted. For a moment his studied the face of the man he loved like a son. “Have you told them the truth?”
Looking away, Johnny answered “No.”
“Well, why not?!”
Johnny took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It’s not the time. I’ll tell them after this is over. Scott’s about to go crazy trying to remember,” he laughed softly.
“He will sooner or later.”
“Well, be that as it may, I don’t have time to indulge in warm and fuzzies with those two right now.”
“You? Warm and fuzzy? That’ll be the day!” Jelly snorted with a laugh. “Well, you know where to find me. If I can do anything at all, Johnny, call.”
“I will, Jelly. Thanks for this,” he said, holding up the package.
Jelly nodded, gave Johnny one last worried look and left his friend to his reading.
After Jelly’s vehicle had disappeared from sight, Johnny sat and read the file from cover to cover. It all made sense now. It was obvious Murdoch had no idea why he was being singled out – but now Johnny did. This wasn’t business; it was personal – very personal. Not only was it personal to Murdoch Lancer – it was personal to Johnny and Scott. Smiling to himself, Johnny knew he now had an advantage. No
one knew he was Johnny Lancer – if they did – he’d be dead meat.
Sitting on the bike, he formulated a plan in his mind. It was getting late and Pardee would be making his plans for the morning. It was time for Johnny to make his move. Confident he had a plan he could live with – he dumped the file into a metal trashcan and lit it with a lighter he kept in his pocket. It took a few minutes for the paper to catch fire and burn – but Johnny had to be sure it was destroyed. It would be too dangerous for him to be caught with it in his possession. Jelly always kept a copy anyway.
Satisfied that the information was now destroyed, he pulled the bell helmet over his head and headed back to Moro Coyo.
It was dark by the time Johnny walked into the bar and ordered a beer. The place was too quiet. There were a few of Pardee’s men
hanging around, mixed with the regular customers, but he didn’t speak to them. He was waiting for Pardee.
Around midnight Day walked in with the rest of his crew. Immediately he took notice of Madrid sitting in a secluded corner of the room. “Johnny, you made up your mind?” he asked.
“Yeah, I’ve made up my mind,” Johnny responded quietly.
Pardee nodded approvingly and headed to where Coley was waiting at the far end of the bar.
“He wants in?” Coley asked Pardee.
Stroking his beard, Coley studied Johnny. “I don’t know that I trust him.”
Pardee frowned and looked over toward Johnny for a second. He dismissed the thought. He knew Madrid. Knew what he was capable of and knew he was very deadly. He also knew Johnny was a man of his word. No, there was no reason not to trust Madrid.
Back at the Lancer hacienda Scott was making sure the perimeter was secure. Johnny had been right, the police could do nothing more than take a report. They checked out the pool area and gathered evidence, but that was all.
Contrary to what Johnny may have thought, Scott was no fool; he had the Pinkertons watching Pardee’s hangout. They had staked out the
Cantina and made regular reports with information on every person who had entered the building – including Johnny. Scott also had the security team from the corporate headquarters come to the house to provide defense if needed.
Satisfied that he had done everything he could, Scott found his father in the study sitting in front of a lit fireplace. The older man appeared to be deep in thought. “We’re all set,” Scott announced.
Murdoch looked up at his son, shaken from his memories. It was hard for him to believe that after all this time he finally had his son’s home – but had already lost Johnny. The Pinkertons had been right; Johnny was a renegade – a wild child who was on the fast track to an
early grave. The fact that Johnny had joined with Pardee struck right at the older man’s heart.
Looking at Scott, he knew how lucky he was that this son had stayed with him – though there was no true reason for the older boy’s
loyalty. It was probably the training the young man had received at the Naval Academy that had instilled a strong sense of right versus wrong. If only Johnny had been so lucky. “Any idea what’s happening in that bar?”
Scott shook his head and poured himself a drink. “The Pinkertons think that Pardee is marshaling his forces.”
“I can’t believe that the police can’t do anything to stop this.”
“On what basis? Men gather at bars to drink all the time. There was no evidence to tie the shooting here with anyone at the bar. We will be ready the next time though.” Scott yawned and stretched his lean frame. “I’m going to lay down for a bit. I suggest that you do the same, Sir.”
“I will in a while,” Murdoch gave his son a grateful smile. “I can’t tell you what this means to me.”
“We’ll talk about that later,” Scott cut the older man off. There would be no discussions of the future until they had the present under control.
When the Cantina closed at four AM and all of the paying customers had left, the remaining men gathered round as Pardee went through his plan. It was simple yet effective. They were going to hit Lancer where he lived. Johnny thought the plan was over the top. Now that he knew who was behind this, he was even more worried.
He didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. Pardee announced that he wanted to hit the Lancer estate at dawn. That gave Johnny an hour. Reaching behind him, he pulled the 9mm from his waistband. With practiced hands, he checked the magazine; satisfied he was prepared the gun was returned to its place. He then patted both jacket pockets. Two extra mags should be enough, he thought.
“Well, Madrid, what do ya think of Day’s plan?” Coley asked. He had been watching Johnny and didn’t like the dark expression on Madrid’s face.
“I think it’s crazy and unnecessary,” Johnny replied honestly.
“Oh you do, do ya? What would you do?” Coley asked, puffing out his chest.
Johnny considered the stocky man with some amusement before looking past him as Day walked up.
“Well, what would you do, Johnny?” Pardee had overheard Johnny’s comment and wanted to know the answer as much as Coley.
“Day, you’re being too public about this. It’s too out there. Lancer is a prominent man. Killin him won’t be easy or smart. Have you tried negotiating?”
“Don’t want to negotiate. I’m not paid to negotiate. I’m paid to make him dead,” Pardee stated flatly.
“Paid by who?” Johnny inquired.
Pardee’s eyes narrowed. “What are you getting at, Madrid?”
Johnny shrugged. “This ain’t your style, Day – hitting on a society type. Why are you after Lancer?”
Day bristled at the question. “You don’t need to know that. You just need to follow orders.”
Johnny smiled and stood up. He walked slowly toward the entrance then stopped and turned back. “I don’t take orders from anyone, Day. You know that. I don’t work with people who hold out on me, either.” Shaking a finger towards the man, he grinned. “And you are holdin out on me. You should have told me you were working for Jesus Martinez.”
Pardee straightened, stunned that Johnny knew the man who had hired him. “How’d you know about that?”
“I have my ways,” Johnny replied languidly. “Jesus is playing you for the patsy, Day. Walk away while you still have a chance.”
“Or you’d do what?” From the back of the bar a short, olive skinned man walked out from behind the office curtain. Jesus Martinez was a lot older than Johnny remembered, but he still had the hands of a man who could beat the hell out of a defenseless kid.
Johnny gave the man a crooked smile, but inside his stomach was turning flip-flops. Ever since he read Jelly’s report he had been trying to prepare himself for this moment. All the old memories came flooding back and it took all of Johnny’s willpower to keep a calm expression on his face. “What have you got against Lancer, Martinez?”
“That isn’t your business – Madrid. You were hired to do a job and nothing more!” Pardee snapped not wanting his friend to get into an argument with the man who was writing their paychecks.
“But it is,” Johnny said softly. “Why Lancer – why now?” he asked again.
A slow smile grew on the corners of Martinez mouth. “You ask a lot of questions for a hired gun, Madrid; but – I’ll tell you. Years ago he robbed me of what was mine and I plan on taking it back. That land his hacienda sits on was in my family for generations before he stole it away.”
“From what I hear he bought the place from you when you were off on a drunk over twenty-five years ago. You lost it all by your self,” Johnny smiled inwardly as Martinez face changed to a look of shock. That was when Johnny decided to play his next card. “Since when is taking another man’s wife called `being robbed’?”
Martinez shock turned to blind anger. “You think you know something – you know nothing! She left him for me – FOR ME! I took in the bitch and her brat. I should have had her half of the ranch – but he wouldn’t sign it over – said it was in trust for his kids! So, you know what I did? I killed her and hid the kid where he’d never be found! It was worth every year I spent in prison – twenty years! And all that time he kept looking for that kid who’s probably dead. Now, he’s going to join him and I’m going to get what is mine again!”
Johnny’s smile grew bigger and he walked toward Martinez. No longer was he the four-year-old child who could be bullied, beaten and then dumped on the doorstep of a predominantly Mexican orphanage in southern California. Johnny now towered over the shorter man. “He ain’t dead and neither is Lancer.”
Jesus eyes grew large in recognition. “No.”
“Si, and you are still a coward who only knows how to prey on small children!” Johnny threw a punch that struck Martinez in the jaw, sending the smaller man flying back against the bar.
Immediately Coley moved into action and reached inside his jacket and pulled out his gun. Johnny’s right hand went behind him and produced the 9mm. Before Coley could pull the trigger of his gun Johnny put him down; a hole drilled neatly between the fat man’s eyes. Without a second look, Johnny ran from the cantina and jumped on the bike. Grabbing the helmet, he quickly donned it; kick started the chopper and sped away, slapping the face shield down as he went. Pardee jumped in his jet-black Z28 convertible and took off in pursuit. The rest of the gang loaded into Jeeps, SUV’s and motorcycles and followed.
Scott didn’t sleep well. His dreams were haunted by a memory of an incident three years earlier:
Scott Lancer and his unit had received their orders. An urgent rescue mission. A SEAL team was pinned down by enemy fire and needed to be rescued. The unit had critical information pertaining to terrorist activity.
Lt. Commander Lancer didn’t need to know any more. As a seasoned veteran he was no stranger to the effects of terrorism. He quickly changed into his flight suit alongside his wingman, Lieutenant Walker. A good pilot, but cocky, Scott thought.
They walked out onto the carrier deck and climbed into their F16’s. Once airborne, it didn’t take long to reach the coordinates.
Scott checked and double-checked the coordinates before loading the information into the computer. Hands confident with experience, he released the payload toward the ground below. Watching his radar, he smiled with grim satisfaction as he hit the target.
He then saw a second blip on the radar screen and frowned as he watched it hit an area two hundred yards north of his. Breaking radio silence, he shouted at his wingman, “what the hell are you doing?”
“Following orders, Commander,” came the flat reply.
Scott fumed but he couldn’t risk further conversation. He turned his bird and headed home. It wasn’t until later that Scott found out that the entire unit had been wiped out – save the unit leader – a young dark haired marine who went by the name – Madrid.
“Johnny!” Scott woke up as he now had a complete recollection of where he had met his brother before. Johnny was the sole survivor of that error. At the inquest the badly wounded Marine had remained silent- listening intently to the lies and cover-ups. When the proceedings were over and Scott was cleared Scott tried to apologize, but the younger man would have none of it. Instead he left with his
CO. Scott later heard that Madrid had gone AWOL – disappearing into the jungles of South America during a recon mission.
The phone rang beside the couch where he lay; it was the Pinkerton agent in town. He reported that there was a shooting followed by a mass exodus of all of the occupants of the bar. Everyone was racing through the night to catch the rider of the lead motorcycle.
Scott immediately went back to the study where his father was still sitting staring at the fire. “They’re coming!”
Murdoch shook his head. “I can’t believe they would attack the house – but I never thought they’d shoot at you and Teresa. I have a bad feeling things are about to get much worse.”
Murdoch glared. “What about him? He made his choice!”
“Did he? I wonder,” Scott frowned.
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t think it’s that cut and dry. The detective says that he’s being chased by Pardee and his men.”
Murdoch shook his head. He had given up on there being any redeeming qualities in his youngest son. Why Scott held out hope was beyond him. “Are they chasing Johnny or following him?” Murdoch responded in a surly tone. “I don’t know what to think.”
Suddenly, the security alarm went off and the sound of tires squealing could be heard coming up the drive. Scott ran to the picture window and pulled the curtains back. “Here they come!”
Teresa joined the two men as they ran outside and up the stairs to the sun deck for a better view as the sun rose over the San
Daylight had broken as Johnny wound his way through the curving mountain roads staying just ahead of the speeding Camaro. He knew he couldn’t outrun the car but he could outmaneuver it. More than once, a bullet had come entirely too close for his liking. He leaned deeply into the turns, wishing he were on a different bike. This one sat way too heavy and low making it difficult to take the turns. More than once his knee skimmed the asphalt, making him thankful that he had chosen to wear leather pants and not jeans.
Johnny cranked the HOG as fast as it would go. The engine whined in protest but didn’t let him down. He managed to get off several shots when he came to the few straight-aways. Johnny wasn’t left handed, but he had to keep his right hand on the gas or he would have been dead for sure. To his satisfaction he nailed at least five of his pursuers; shooting out tires – sending vehicles helter-skelter into the rocky shoulder of the highway.
Turning up the long drive, Johnny veered the bike off the pavement to cross the lawn in a desperate attempt to reach the safety of the hacienda. Rising off the seat, he flew over a small hill, landing hard. The bike wobbled slightly on the soft surface but he righted it quickly and hit the throttle again.
Several vehicles followed him across the grass, including the Camaro. Pardee had to fight to keep from getting stuck – but he wasn’t deterred. Jesus was in the car with him screaming for Madrid’s head on a platter. Leaning out the side of the car, Jesus took aim and fired his gun.
The house loomed two hundred yards ahead and Johnny figured he’d made it to safety when he suddenly felt the left side of his back explode in pain and heard the rear tire blow out. With his left arm suddenly useless, he lost control of the Harley and laid it down. Bike and rider tumbled fifty feet across the lawn before coming to a stop near a tree. The engine died and the rider remained motionless.
Murdoch cringed when he saw his son go down, closing his eyes for a brief second. Scott started down the stairs when he felt a hand
clamp down on his arm. “Scott, it’s too late,” Murdoch said. “I don’t understand what that boy was trying to do.”
“He was coming back to us,” Teresa stated, near tears.
Scott shot his father a hard look before grabbing a shotgun from one of the guards. He ran out from behind the retaining wall and targeted the Camaro. Fitting the gun to his shoulder he took aim and pulled the trigger. To his satisfaction, the windshield shattered into a million pieces. The driver lost control and struck a thick oak tree hard – the front end wrapping around the solid object. The remaining cars and men took note of the wrecked Camaro and beat a hasty retreat.
A stunning silence momentarily filled the air, interrupted only by the constant whine of Pardee’s horn. An officer ran up to the vehicle and pulled the dead man off the steering wheel. The passenger had been thrown forward through the broken glass and lay still on the hood.
With the gun in his hand, Scott ran out to where his brother lay motionless on the lawn. In the next instant the area was flooded with police cars and ambulances. Scott paid them no mind; his focus was on trying to disentangle Johnny from the remains of the once beautiful bike. There were long tears in the leather pants and jacket – a tribute to the trauma Johnny had sustained in the tumble across the lawn. With Cipriano’s help, they lifted the bike off the injured man. Scott knelt beside the still form and sucked in his breath as he unzipped the jacket. The once white shirt was saturated with blood. “We need some help here!” Scott yelled. Pulling off his own shirt, he pressed it against the gaping hole in Johnny’s left shoulder. He knew better than to move his brother but feared what other injuries the younger man had sustained.
Briefly, Johnny opened his mouth and smiled weakly at his brother. Scott bent close to here his brother whisper, “That was good shootin’.” With the words said, Johnny’s eyes closed and he went completely limp.
Murdoch knelt beside Scott just as a small balding man arrived with two paramedics. “Commander, let these men help.”
Scott looked up, recognizing the older man. “Major Hoskins? What are you doing here?”
“Sir, if you’d let us.” A tall dark haired paramedic and his older slightly reddish blond partner put down their gear and started to work to stabilize Johnny.
With blood-covered hands, Scott went to stand beside Jelly who was clearly worried about Johnny. “Major?” Scott asked again.
Murdoch stood alone; torn between making sure his son was OK and finding out who Scott was talking to. He decided to stay with
“Rampart, this is Squad 51 – we have a code red – multiple traumas. BP is 80 palp, heart rate 160.” Johnny Gage quickly made his report
to Rampart Trauma Center. He had been a paramedic for over five years but had never seen anything like what he was seeing this morning. It was like a bad movie gone wrong. While he relayed information to the doctors, his partner worked to stabilize their patient.
The voice from the other end answered. “Ten four 51. Start an IV D5w wide open. Monitor vitals and transport STAT!”
Roy DeSoto started the IV, placed the hard cervical collar around Johnny’s neck and applied a pressure dressing to the steadily bleeding wounds. Gage attached the EKG and readied the ambu bag as Desoto quickly intubated the victim.
“He’s bottoming out! We’ve got to get him transported – now!” Roy Desoto called. With the help of the other members of his squad, they had secured Johnny to a backboard for transport to the hospital.
“Ten-four, Rampart. The chopper is en route.” In the distance he could hear the steady thump of the helicopter. “ETA is 30 minutes.”
Gage put down the radio and finished helping Roy.
“You want to check the other victims?” Roy again checked Johnny’s airway and was attaching the oxygen mask.
The Captain came over and leaned over Roy’s shoulder. “Everyone else is dead. I’ve notified the coroner. You two going to fly in?”
“I think that he’s going to need both of us,” Gage assessed as the heart monitor was showing V tack.
“What’s happening?” Murdoch asked. It was clear to him that his son was badly injured and that the paramedics were starting to lose the battle to save him.
“They’re going to try to save your son. A helicopter is about 3 minutes away. We’re going to take him to Rampart Trauma Center.”
“I want to go with him.” Murdoch said pushing past the Captain – only to be pushed back by two of the other fire fighters.
“Mr. Lancer?” the stranger who Scott seemed to know gently pulled Murdoch away from where Johnny lay dying. “Let’s head out toward the hospital. I’ve got a lot to tell you.”
Murdoch rounded on the smaller man and opened his mouth to make a smart comment, but the look of sadness on the man’s features gave him pause. The man looked like Murdoch’s heart felt – crushed. “You know Johnny – don’t you?”
“A finer man never walked the face of this earth,” Jelly said, a lone tear rolling unchecked down his cheek. “I told him not to do this, but he insisted that he had to do it for you.”
Both Murdoch and Scott were stunned by the comment. “What did Johnny do?” Scott asked.
“Come with me – I’ve got a story to tell you about Johnny Madrid.”
“I knew that I knew him from somewhere!” Scott leaned back in the car seat shaking his head. “I can’t believe this is happening again!”
Murdoch was numb. None of the reports he had on his son had indicated that Johnny was anything more than a mercenary. To find that he was a decorated veteran and an agent for the DEA floored him. His mind then raced to the last words that he had with his son and he was ashamed. “How long has he known he was my son?” Murdoch finally asked.
“When he signed up with the Marines – the fingerprints matched with the missing person’s report.”
“And why was I never notified?”
“It was his choice, Mr. Lancer. I tried to talk him into it years ago, but he was very bitter about the way he thought you had thrown him and his mama out. Then when she was murdered he lost all hope. He spent years floating from one abusive foster family to another – until he joined the Corps. He’s been with me since he was eighteen.” Jelly spoke as he drove; weaving through traffic, hoping that they could make it to the hospital before the worst happened.
The helicopter landed outside the ER at Rampart Trauma Center. Waiting just inside was Dr. Kelly Brackett, Chief of Emergency Services. They wheeled Johnny in, bagging him the whole way. Desoto began his report as they made their way to the trauma room.
Brackett took in the information with a grimace now and then. This was bad. The man’s vital signs were precarious at best. They moved him from the stretcher to the exam table swiftly.
“Two units of whole blood and type and cross four more,” Kelly ordered.
“BP’s still too low, Kel,” Dixie McCall reported.
“Dopamine drip and spin a crit. Put him on 100 percent O2 and get an ABG.”
Dixie moved quickly and efficiently through her tasks. The blood arrived and she hung the first unit. As she opened the clamp on the IV, the alarm sounded.
“Asystole!” she called and turned to grab the crash cart behind her.
Charging the defibrillator, she handed the paddles off to Kelly then slapped some cream liberally on the pads. It had not escaped her notice that the patient had thick chest hair. Without enough barrier, his chest could catch fire. She’d seen it happen.
“Charging..charging..300!” she announced.
Brackett placed the paddles and pushed the release buttons, sending an electrical charge through Johnny’s body. The unconscious man’s back arched in response and lay flat again.
All eyes fell on the monitor. “Still asystole,” Dixie stated.
“Charge to 360,” Kelly ordered and she did. He defibrillated once more and looked back to the monitor. A spike was seen, then another, then another.
With a sigh of relief, Dixie noted. “Normal sinus rhythm.”
“Not for long if we don’t get him to the OR and now!” Brackett stated.
Brackett opened his patient’s chest and began to explore. He knew the bullet had gone straight through. What damage it left in its wake was the question. It was a long and arduous surgery but he methodically repaired the damaged tissues. He then focused on the other injuries sustained by the motorcycle crash.
After eight hours of surgery, Kelly Bracket was dead on his feet. His patient had flat lined twice more during the procedures that eventually saved his life. The gunshot wound was bad enough, but when it was compounded by the fall off the bike. Four broken ribs, a punctured lung, lacerated spleen, fractured clavicle, broken femur – blood loss. The young man was going to be in serious condition for a long time.
Before entering the waiting lounge he remembered to pull off the blood soaked surgical gown and sweat soaked cap. Dixie was waiting for him with a cup of coffee. Her shift had ended six hours earlier, but she had waited to take care of Kelly. “Is he going to make it?” she asked, gently rubbing his shoulders.
“I’ll be damned if I know why he’s still alive right now. That is one stubborn young man.” Kelly gave her a quick smile. “Is the family out there?”
“It’s the strangest group you’ve ever seen. I think he has two fathers, a brother and a sister.”
Kelly pushed through the door to address the family. A tall graying man sprang to his feet, accompanied by a blond haired young man. “Doctor?”
“He’s alive. He made it through the surgery and is in recovery. We’ll be moving him to ICU soon.”
“How bad?” Murdoch asked his face gray with concern.
“He lost a lot of blood from the bullet wound, and there were other internal injuries from the fall off the bike, a couple of broken bones.”
“But, he’s going to be OK – right?” The girl, who had remained seated, finally asked.
“I think that in time he will,” Kelly smiled. “It’s going to be a long night. There’s a hotel across the street.”
“I’ve left that boy alone for far too long,” Murdoch said with a shake of his head. “I’m staying right here until I know he’s going
to make it.
Two months later.
There was a festive air in the executive boardroom at Lancer Enterprises. Murdoch entered wearing a Pierre Cardin suit. Accompanying him was his ward – Teresa O’Brien. Following close behind was his eldest son – Scott – who had chosen a casual jacket and slacks. As they took their seats, the last member of the Lancer family arrived.
Johnny, dressed in leather pants and a salmon colored shirt, slowly entered the room leaning heavily on a cane. The doctors had promised that in time he would be one hundred percent again. Slowly, he eased himself into a chair next to Scott and gave his brother a grin.
Murdoch cleared his throat and smiled broadly. “Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce the future of Lancer..”
And so the story starts again.
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