These drabbles are orphans – we could find no names to go with them. They were rescued from the old, defunct Yahoo groups. So that we don’t lose them entirely, we’re storing them here. If anyone recognizes one as theirs, please let us know.
The original author still owns this drabble. Should they reconnect with the fandom at some point, we will naturally respect whatever they want to do with their drabble.
The Art of Conjugating by Unknown Author
Not a drabble just a bit of fun please do not take offence.
A young Scott tries to give an even younger Johnny a lesson in the correct use of the English language.
All Johnny heard was blah, blah, blah until …..
Scott –……………..” conjugating verbs.”
Johnny – “Scott!!!! You can’t say that, it ain’t right, ‘specially in proper company.”
Scott –“What are you talking about?”
Johnny – “Well that there, it’s what a husband and wife do on the wedding night ain’t it?”
Scott – “No, NO! I am speaking of the art of grammar.”
Johnny – “Whoa, Boston you can’t speak of your Abuela like that, it ain’t respectful.”
Scott – “Abuela?”
Johnny – “Your Grandma, ol’e Harlans wife.”
Scott – “Grammar not Grandma, and don’t say ain’t it’s isn’t it and my name is Scott not Boston”
Johnny – “Ain’t, isn’t, what you talking ‘bout Scott, you need to start speaking plain English so regular folks understand ‘ya.”
Asleep by Unknown Author
I watch him sleep.
The moon is peeking in and out; his face is there and then gone.
He lies on his side, arms wrapped around the pillow.
The air is cool; he shivers and I draw the blanket up around his shoulders
“I’m bone tired and heading up to that nice soft bed.” he said earlier.
His brother looked up, “You’re going to have a souvenir of that meeting with the barn door, brother.”
He grinned – “a hard earned souvenir, brother,”
I wonder if he would be content here.
I worry he will leave –
I watch him sleep
Chilli Work by Wendy (not sure which one)
Here’s my offering for the Winter Challenge. As we have sweltered here for over three weeks now with the temperature ranging between 29 and 46 degrees (roughly 90-118 degrees F) without letup I couldn’t possibly have written a winter scene about trying to get warm! I’m trying desperately to get cool! So this is a variation on the theme. It’s not very inventive I know but my brain is fried I fear, so here it is, a double drabble, for what it is worth. Wendy.
“Boston, if I ever complain about the cold again, shoot me will ya?”
Scott removed his hat and for the umpteenth time that afternoon wiped his sweaty brow with a now grimy and damp handkerchief. This spring had been unseasonably hot and had made work intolerable.
He looked over to where his younger brother stood, the sweat having turned the dirt on his bare chest to muddy rivulets, and he laughed.
“You change your mind like the wind, little brother. I seem to remember you saying that you’d do anything to get warm.”
Johnny glared at his brother, “Yeah, I said that, but that was back in winter an’ I was frozen stiff at the time.” He sighed, “I can’t believe Teresa is makin’ us dig over this vegetable patch.”
“Yes, well we all know who to blame for that don’t we?” Scott looked meaningfully at Johnny.
“You’re blamin’ me?” he asked in astonishment.
“Yes, brother I am. You remember what Teresa said she wanted to grow? And who eats dishes containing such vegetables?”
Johnny looked suitably abashed, “Yeah, well I still think it’s too hot to dig vegetable gardens Scott, even if it is for growin’ chillies.”
Disclosures by Unknown Author
“This way,” I told them with a glance at Scott’s pale, lined face.
Julio and Blake followed me inside the bedroom. I furiously tore the bedding apart with only a fleeting thought for the neatly made bed, coverlet tight and smooth, pillows aligned precisely along the headboard. Scott’s neat style, his neat presence, quiet and orderly and calm, all that I loved about him. Only now…
They deposited Scott on the mattress. There Julio held him upright while Blake yanked off his boots and grabbed for his belt buckle. Quickly I poured water into a basin, dropped a washcloth in.
“Blake, fetch Maria,” I told him. “We’ll need more water and bandages…” Scott flinched, made a sound at the jostling. “And the laudanum. Here…”
I stepped in to Scott; our knees touched as I reached around him with both arms to unknot the black sling that bound his left arm, leaned to one side so that I could see and will my shaking fingers to work. There was blood on his shirt, and under that, bandages across his shoulder…
Scott’s breath slid over me, warmed the fabric of my sleeve. His head came to rest against my inner arm, his cheek warm and perspiring against my skin.
“Teresa…” His voice was soft, pain-filled.
“Just a minute – how were you hurt?” I rushed on, fumbling over the knot, finally loosening it. “Was it that man, Cassidy? Oh, Scott, how could they?” I slipped the sling from his arm, then practically ripped the buttons from his tattered shirt in my haste to get him undressed. The bandages were sagging, limp with sweat and spotted with blood at the shoulder. I shoved some of the shirt aside, got his right arm out of the sleeve, thrust the material at Julio to finish.
“Leave it.” Scott’s hand plucked at my wrist. He shifted, elbowed Julio aside, made to lie down. Quickly I grabbed for his feet, and with Julio hanging onto a fistful of shirt we eased him onto the mattress.
“Lo siento,” Julio murmured, drawing Scott’s shirt out from where it had bunched up under his back and slipping it off his left arm.
“ S’all right,” Scott returned, closing his eyes and grimacing. “Gracias…”
“I will find the señor,” Julio offered and slipped out.
“Teresa,” Scott said again, his right hand closing again about my arm.
I edged onto the mattress, my fast breaths matching his shallow ones. “Shh, no talk,” I urged, settling the covers over him. I grabbed the soaking washcloth, wrung it savagely, tried to fold it but it only balled up in my fingers. I passed the crumpled mess over his furrowed brow, wiped at the beads of sweat dotted there, caught a trickle slipping down his cheek. He watched me with that unwavering blue-gray gaze of his, his eyes squinting just a little at the pain. I wiped some more to rid his skin of the collected heat, worried by the gray hue of his face and his colorless set of his lips.
“Slow down,” he told me as his hand found mine and squeezed, his fingers sweaty. “I’m all right.”
My upset poured out. I couldn’t help it – I’d been panicked with worry and fear all day, a vision of his broken, lifeless body floating behind my eyes whenever I closed them. “You’re not all right!” I cried at him, the useless tears trickling out. “You’ve been gone for hours – hours! And look, you’ve been shot! It was Cassidy, wasn’t it? He tried killing you. His wife – she came here – she told us–”
His head, hair all dusty and sweat-soaked, came off the pillow. “What did she…?” he demanded, his grip tightening.
“It’s not important now,” I swiftly hushed back his alarm, brushing some sticky strands back from his temple. “Oh, Scott…” The lump in my throat hurt so badly. “They hurt you.”
He extracted his hand from mine, brushed at some of my tears with his thumb. The touch made more spill, blinding me, and then I had to hug him, had to stretch myself across his torso to hug that wounded, exhausted body, try to absorb some of his hurt and ease my raging fear.
“Sweet Teresa,” he murmured to me, his voice whispering in my hair, pronouncing my name in the way I so loved, Te-RAY-sa. “Don’t cry…” His hand, fingers burning, stroked my back.
I knew this closeness was wrong. I had to get up, because soon Maria and likely Murdoch would be bustling in to treat and bandage, things I should already be doing. But I held onto him for a stolen moment more, taking in the feel of his blanketed body under me, his hand on my back, his voice in my hair…
And his soft admission to me.
Have Mercy by Unknown Author
For the first time since he had come into this room, and in spite of the deep shadows filling the corners where the lamplight couldn’t reach, Johnny noticed that the ceiling had a long jagged crack right above the bed. He lay on his back in the deep hollow of the feather mattress and studied that jagged crack as a heavy lethargy stole over his limbs.
A fine sheen of sweat covered him from head to foot, but he was neither hot nor cold, only tired, bone tired. His eyes started to droop closed, and he felt a small, soft hand rub across his bare chest. When he didn’t move at all with the sweet attention being showered on him, his torturer got more inventive, rubbing a lock of down soft hair across his nipple. He could feel her full, plump breast nudging at his ribs, but still he lingered near sleep.
Johnny, darlin’, don’t you be goin’ ta sleep on me now. We’ve only just begun this dance.”
“We been goin’ at it hard for the last two hours. Please, have mercy,” he begged, and a smile curled the corners of his mouth as he drifted off to sleep.
It’s all in the Genes by Unknown Author
Johnny walked out to the corral that was holding a bunch of mares and colts that had just been rounded up. They had been running loose all winter, and now it was time to separate the young horses from their mothers and brand them. This particular bunch of mares was well-known to the cowboy, as he had bought and broken all of them himself. Every single one of them was a Palomino.
As he stood there watching the herd, a filly came up close to the rail, its mother calmly following it. The baby gazed at Johnny with soft brown eyes and studied him curiously. Johnny smiled and ducked under the rail to approach the filly. The filly’s mother was the gentlest mare in the bunch. As he rubbed the filly’s forehead, another colt came up and nipped Johnny in the rump, then danced away. The young man spun around and caught sight of the mare accompanying that particular colt.
Turning back to the filly, he smiled. “You have your mother’s eyes,” he said. He spun around just in time to avoid a high -spirited kick by the colt. “And YOU have your mother’s temper.”
Love and Its Repercussions by Unknow Author
“I’m worried about him. He just can’t seem to settle, he’s going to be a real handful before he’s much older.”
She turned and cast beseeching brown eyes towards her companion. “Do you have any ideas what we could do with him?”
He looked lovingly at her and her heart melted once again. He was so striking, so handsome, so strong; he turned heads wherever he went. But although she knew him as a loving partner she knew also that he instilled fear in some; sometimes all it took was a whistle to set him off.
It had been a case of love at first sight. They had met in the spring and had consummated their relationship right there in the lush, tall grass of the meadow, without a thought to the future and the consequences.
Now the result of that union played before them in the dust. He was a mischievous lad, not a mean bone in his body but it was obvious to all that he was not going to conform easily.
In answer to the pretty chestnut mare’s question Barranca replied with a cheeky grin, “If he’s his father’s son he’ll do alright.”
Missing Scene from Last Train For Charlie Poe by Unknown Author
This quintuple drabble is a missing scene for ‘Last Train For Charlie Poe’. Murdoch appeared to be waiting at home for Scott and Johnny after they had robbed the train. He knew all about it but how did he find out?
“They what?” Murdoch’s roar could be heard from the courtyard, where Teresa and Maria were sweeping. Both looked at each in consternation.
Inside the house the sheriff from Spanish Wells looked decidedly uncomfortable, he had known the news he brought to Lancer would not be well received but thought Murdoch Lancer had best hear it from him. Murdoch’s reaction was not unexpected but the quietly spoken lawman was nonetheless taken aback at the outburst.
“They robbed the Sacramento train.” he explained again.
“What on earth for, whatever possessed them to do something so daft?” A sudden thought broke in on his anger. “They’re all right aren’t they? They weren’t hurt?”
“No, they’re both fine Murdoch. In fact all four got away without trouble, but one of Marks’ men, Jonas Slaughter, got winged and Marks is raising hell over that.”
“Well that’s a relief, I want them whole and in one piece when they get home. Because by god they won’t be when I get through with them.” he ground out.
“Four? Did you say four?” he queried after a moment.
“Yes, they were with Charlie Poe and a friend of Poe’s, Davy Horne, who is an expert with nitro-glycerine. They blew the safe in the mail car and took the land grant papers. And thirty thousand dollars is also missing.”
Murdoch reached for his leather chair and sat down in disbelief. He rested his elbows on the desk and briefly put his head in his hands.
Struggling to cope with the news he lifted his head and looked hard at the sheriff. “How did Johnny get out of jail Gabe? Did Charlie and he break out?”
Gabe looked embarrassed, “Well I kind of let them go myself. Then made it look as if they broke out. Scott was waiting with the horses.”
“You let them go?” Murdoch asked incredulously.
“Yes, I finally found my backbone again, Murdoch. What is going on around here isn’t legal.”
“No it’s not but if only you’d all waited, a judge from the federal court arrived yesterday to make a ruling. No laws need have been broken.” Murdoch said with feeling.
“I didn’t know about their plan to rob the train Murdoch, that I wouldn’t have condoned, but I still believe Johnny’s life was at risk if he’d stayed in that cell.” He gave Murdoch a long hard look, “You know I’m right, Marks had already threatened him.”
“Yes, yes, I know.” Murdoch agreed. “But to hold up a train.” He shook his head.
“Well I’d better get back to town and see if I can sort out this mess.” stated Gabe. As he reached the door he turned back to Murdoch. “Don’t be too hard on them Murdoch, they had the best intentions.”
“Hmmph.” Murdoch grunted. “Good-bye Gabe, oh and thanks for telling me about my two miscreant sons.”
As the sheriff rode away Murdoch swung his chair around to gaze into the lengthening shadows outside awaiting the return of his sons.
Miss Teresa’s Tears by Unknown Author
“Scott…” Teresa stepped forward. “We don’t want you to go.”
“I know…” Scott’s voice trailed away; he couldn’t look directly at her. “There’s no reason why you can’t come to Boston to visit me,” he added with thinly disguised sadness.
“No!” Teresa ground out and wiped furiously at her tears. She swung a wild look at them – Jelly, Johnny, and Murdoch – and brought her eyes back to Scott. “It’s wrong!”
Murdoch took gentle hold of her. “Teresa…”
“No!” She wrenched free, flung herself at Scott. “Scott, please…” she pleaded.
“Teresa,” Scott murmured, blinking hard, resisting the need to hug her back. He failed; his arms came about her, his broad hands stroking her shudders. “I’ll write,” he offered softly, his fingers reaching up to stroke her dark hair.
“It just won’t be enough,” Teresa sobbed, pressing her head to his shoulder.
“I know,” he answered over a clogged heart. “I have to go, Teresa. Please understand…”
She looked up at him, her eyes and nose running, her lips slick with those tears and trembling with the tremors of her voice. “Scott – I….”
Scott slowly brought her hands together, kissed them gently. “I know,” he said again, and then stepped away.
Missing Scenes from The Escape by Unknown Author
#1 Realization (200 words)
Slowly Johnny pushed himself to his knees, his head still ringing from the blow. He swiped a hand over his cheek, dusty where he it had met the ground, and then raked his dark hair over the tender spot above his ear. His exploring fingers held no traces of blood. The rest of him did not hurt. Nothing serious then, except the loss of time, precious time. Swiftly he rose to his feet, beat at his dirty shirt, at the dust clinging to his pants.
The alley was warm and quiet with heated afternoon sunshine. But it whispered, remembering…
One of them had said something about Scott, about the vet…
Those bastards had hurt him. Somehow he’d sought help, had made his way to town…
And now he was back on the run, still hurt, on the run for his life with Cassidy still dogging him.
“Not for long,” Johnny said softly aloud.
They’d pay – they’d pay for the hurt and the pain they had caused Scott.
Johnny moved, started walking. Barranca, ground-tied at the end of the alley, whinnied anxiously as he approached.
“We’re gonna find out,” he said to the relieved animal and hopped up into the stirrup.
#2 Truth (300 words)
Doc Hildenbrand bolted up off his chair as the door chattered open to admit the man rushing through.
“Johnny!” he declared.
“Doc…” Johnny rocked to a stop, dropped his hands on his thighs to gulp some air. “What happened to Scott?”
“They were here,” Hildenbrand began as Johnny straightened. “Two men with guns – looking for him…” He spoke faster, his face furrowed with worry. “I don’t know how–”
Johnny grabbed him by both arms, re-settled him into the chair. “Easy, Doc – you all right?” He swallowed the impatience threatening to burst inside him, the worry already gnawing a hole inside him. “Please tell me what happened. Where’s Scott?”
“He was in the back bedroom – he must’ve heard those men.” The doc nodded behind him. “He was gone when they checked – the window was open. But they saw the blood…”
Johnny asked the question over the fear now clamping off his heart. “How bad was he hurt?”
Hildenbrand swallowed. “Shot – through the left shoulder,” he reported. “Bad enough wound…”
Shot – for a moment the world pressed down, turned the edge of Johnny’s vision black. His ears buzzed, drowning out the doc’s voice, drowning out everything but his own raspy breathing, his banging heart.
His brother shot – hunted like prey by that bastard Cassidy. Wounded and maybe bleeding…And now on the run again, trying to find someplace safe…
The world came back with a rush of sight and sound. “…needs rest,” the doc was saying. “Came in pretty weak.”
“I’ll find him,” Johnny told him. Morro Coyo wasn’t that big. Then that thought dragged a chilly finger of dread across his ribs. Cassidy was out looking, too, and he’d already tried killing. “Gotta go, Doc,” he said, straightening. “Thanks.”
He thrust his hat back on his head and sprinted out.
#3 Presence (300 words)
“Which room is the Cassidys’?” Johnny gasped to the hotel clerk, grabbing the counter with both hands to check his momentum. “Which one?” he demanded with a wheeze, cursing the air that would not stay in his lungs.
“Eight – number eight,” the middle-aged clerk stuttered. “But–”
Johnny ran for the stairway.
Sweat gathered under his collar, rolled down his back, pinned his shirt to his skin. He could barely breathe. Number two, number three…where? Number five and Number six – around a corner—
The door was ajar. The Colt materialized in Johnny’s hand, cocked, ready to use.
There was a smear of blood drying on the doorframe, rusty but there, at about the height where a shoulder might hunch in pain. Johnny pushed the door inward and followed it, gun pointed.
The room and the adjoining one beyond were empty but disturbed; the bed rumpled, drawers gaping, a water glass half-filled, sheets of writing paper askew on a desk. And the air held something – the presence of people…
A Colt lay discarded on a blue upholstered chair.
“Dammit, Brother, where are you?” Johnny pleaded to the emptiness.
“He left with the Cassidys,” the clerk said from the doorway.
Johnny whirled. “What?”
“Your brother – he left with the Cassidys.”
Johnny leaped forward, grabbed him. “Where’d they go?” he asked, his eyes glittering blue fire.
“I don’t know.” The clerk shook his head. “The Cassidys were packed.” He paused. “He get hurt or something? He didn’t look too well…had a sling on one arm…”
“He was just with the Cassidys? No one else?”
“Just them. Mrs. Cassidy had asked earlier about the stage schedule – maybe he was seeing them off?”
No, no stage – it wouldn’t be that easy. Johnny’s eyes strayed back to the Colt.
No, not the stage.
Someplace else then.
#4 Closer (100 words)
The livery – had to be…
But where were Cassidy’s other two compadres?
“They rented a buckboard,” Tom confirmed to Johnny. The bigger man laid aside the harnesses he’d been ready to put away. “Threw everything in and rode out.”
“Did you see which way?” Johnny asked. Something, please, he prayed silently. So close, but just not enough…
“Out toward your place – Scott said they was friends of his. Say, how’d he get hurt? Looked like he could use his bed…”
Home – he was trying to get home.
But why was he bringing the Cassidys?
And where were the other two?
#5 Home (200 words)
“Murdoch!” Johnny jumped off Barranca even as the horse slid to a stop. He flung the reins to a waiting Julio. “¿Está mi hermano aquí?” he asked the stable hand. Was Scott here? He had to be…where else could be have gone…?
“Sí, señor,” Julio nodded. “A la casa.”
In the house – gracias, Madre mio, Johnny thanked the angel surely riding on his shoulder, and ran into the house.
The old man was pacing in the great room, his face worried with a frown.
“He’s here,” his father nodded, whirling at the hurried and anxious bootsteps. “The Cassidys brought him. They’re staying–”
The fear in Johnny broke through as fury. “No!” he shouted. “Cassidy tried killing him! He–”
“They’re after Cassidy now,” Murdoch told him grimly. “Scott didn’t sell out the escape, Cassidy did…” He sighed in relief at his own words, seemed to sag.
Johnny’s gut was still churning; he still wanted to argue, hit something, hit someone… “Cassidy has no right–”
“Scott asked that we protect him.”
“D’you know what that bastard–?”
“Go to your brother, John – he’s been asking for you. And we’ll talk after.”
Yes, they’d talk –
But first Scott…
#6 Reunion (300 words)
“Hey, hermano mio…”
The blue-gray eyes opened, their colored blended with pain and lethargy. They’d given him laudanum, Teresa said. He’d been shot the night before – almost twenty hour hours ago…
Scott blinked twice, swallowed. “Johnny…” he breathed, lips barely moving in his pale face. His right hand moved from its slack position on the blankets, crept over across his ribs, searching.
Johnny eased himself onto the edge of the mattress, mindful of the carefully placed left arm. He took the other trembling fingers and curled them into his warm palm. “Right here,” he confirmed with a tiny smile, trying not to stare at the bandages already stained at the shoulder. “You gave us all a scare, Brother.”
“Cassidy…” Scott started sluggishly, his eyes closing just briefly.
“I know,” Johnny told him so that he wouldn’t have to say any more about it.
“N-need to tell you…”
“Not right now,” Johnny hushed. He brushed away a bead of sweat trickling toward Scott’s left eye. Dios, he looked so exhausted – so haunted. There was something else – more than the wound. “We’ll take care of it,” he soothed further. “You just rest.”
“Promise me…” Scott whispered.
“Murdoch says he’s staying.”
“Yes, has to…”
No, he doesn’t, Johnny thought with a look this time at Scott’s bandaged shoulder. Leave him to his own wolves.
“Johnny, don’t,” Scott got out, his long fingers slipping out of Johnny’s hand to close over his wrist instead. His head came up off the pillow – it was soaked where he’d lain against it.
Quickly Johnny pressed a hand to his perspiring forehead, eased him back. “All right,” he promised, giving the heated skin a few strokes. His brother was home and safe – that’s all that mattered for the moment.
They’d deal with the rest soon enough.
Responsibilities by Unknown Author
The brothers sat leaning against the huge oak tree, taking a break from the blazing afternoon sun. They sat in silence for a few moments, both of them too hot to say a word.
“He’s going to miss us,” Scott said quietly. “Sooner or later.”
“Yup,” Johnny replied, sighing. “then he will come lookin for us.”
“Probably,” the blond agreed. “and more than likely he will lecture us on our responsibilities.”
“Or,” Mudoch growled as he quietly walked up in front of them. “He’ll just say that anybody in the ranching business doesn’t have time to sit under a tree.”
The Ride by Unknown Author
It was the laziest and boniest animal he’d ever had the misfortune to throw a saddle on.
No amount of persuasion could entice it to more than a slow and ungainly lope. When it had finally deigned to move out of a walk there had been no grace about its movement he thought with annoyance. As he dug his heels into the recalcitrant beast’s sides, again to no avail, he cursed his folly in ever agreeing to the bet.
It was all Scott’s fault. Next time he would know better than to trust his brother. Scott had been the one who had first suggested it.
Nor would he listen to Jelly. Jelly had naturally blustered about and disagreed, saying it wasn’t possible. No one could ride such an animal.
Scott’s reply had been, “Johnny could.”
The old man’s words echoed in his ears as he tried to get the animal to move faster.
“Would ya care to put a dollar on that?” Jelly had said to Scott.
Before answering Scott had looked at him, seen him nod then said to Jelly. “Haha, you’ve got a bet!”
Some bet! Whatever had possessed him to agree to ride a cow!
Thoughtless Words by Unknown Author
“There are some things in this world a man tries to forget, Johnny. Killing a man is one of them.”
Momentarily silent Johnny processed the ridiculous statement that his father had just uttered, thinking that he had misheard the inane words.
“You think I don’t know that, Murdoch?” Johnny queried incredulously. “I was a gunhawk, or had you forgotten?” he added tersely.
“Are you really that brainless or just plain insensitive, Murdoch? You sit there making self-righteous pronouncements like you was the only person ever to have killed someone. You think I don’t know what it feels like to kill a man?”
Years of pent up frustrations and self-recriminations now escaped like floodwaters rushing from a breached dam wall. “Pulling that trigger and watching a man fall, the sickness you feel inside. I still have nightmares Murdoch, it’s easy to kill but you never get used to it.”
Johnny stood up angrily and stalked off, “I’m goin’ after Scott. Old Garrett ain’t goin’ to get away with usin’ that as an axe over Scott’s head. You can either come with me Murdoch, or stay there wallowin’ in self-pity and possibly lose your eldest son for the second time.”
WHN for Chase a Wild Horse by Unknown Author
I have always wondered what happened between the ending of the stand off with the Strykers and Murdoch and Johnny riding off after the wild horses in Chase a Wild Horse. Or more to the point what happened to change Murdoch’s “all work and no play” attitude. It seemed to me that an old and trusted friend must have intervened and talked some sense into Murdoch. What follows is my version of WHN…
It had been a week and Murdoch Lancer felt that as each day passed he was running out of time; that time had in fact nearly run out. Johnny had grown more distant and sullen by the day. Murdoch could feel his younger son slipping away, like sands through his fingers and knew that something had to be done; and that as his father, he was the only one that could do it.
Johnny had thrown himself totally into work since the disaster with the Strykers; he was out at dawn and back, completely spent, well after sunset. Johnny no longer stayed up to visit with the family after dinner, if he even made it back in time for the meal. His habit had become to grab something from the kitchen on his way in and then straight to his room where he almost instantly passed out from sheer exhaustion.
Murdoch looked away from Cipriano’s penetrating gaze as he stalked from the house and made his way to the barn. The Segundo knew. He was well aware. They had been riding range together yesterday, checking the livestock, when Murdoch surprised himself, and apparently Cipriano too, when he asked the Segundo’s opinion on how his sons were doing, how well they were adjusting.
He had been incapable of sitting a saddle for any length of time when they had first come home, so the business of seeing that his sons learned the skills needed to work the large ranch fell to Cirpriano. While Murdoch spent his time showing them the books, Cipriano spent his teaching the boys all he knew about the lay of the land. He took them over every hill, down each valley and through each mountain pass.
“Senor Scott learns fast,” Cip ventured tentatively. “He is tough; a natural leader. The men respect him, respect the hard work he puts in to learn the ways of the land. He should be roping and herding with the best of them by autumn.”
“And Johnny?” Murdoch pushed, looking at his foreman out of the corner of his eye, for this was the information that he was truly seeking.
Johnny. Johnny. The name seemed to echo between them and Cipriano turned these eyes that were like deep wells of patience and understanding on him. They searched and studied him for a long moment before the trusted Segundo spoke.
“Take your time Patron, be patient,” Cipriano quietly advised, turning his gaze back out on the range before them. “I know that Juanito is a handful. He has a strong mind and will. But the boy is young , wild. Just as you once were.” He looked pointedly at his boss. “You can not break him; you will lose him if you try, perhaps for good.”
“But he came back,” Murdoch argued stubbornly.
“Murdoch.” Cipriano had worked for Murdoch Lancer for over twenty years and rarely used the man’s first name. But he did so then to impart the gravity of his next statement and secure his boss’ undivided attention. “If you do not find a way to hold on to Juanito, you will lose Scott too. Think on this.”
And this was just what he was thinking on as he crested the hill overlooking the South Gully and paused a moment to consider his younger son, working diligently through the scorching heat of the afternoon. Patience, Cipriano’s quiet council echoed through his mind as Johnny’s eyes flicked warily up at him before dropping to the string line he was laying out. He racked his brains for someway to talk to Johnny, to penetrate that wary reserve. And all he could come up with as he dismounted at the work sight was an awkward…
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