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Someday by Amy

This story is an orphan – that is, the writer has not been active in the fandom for a long time, and the story has been rescued from the old, defunct Yahoo groups. So that we don’t lose the story entirely, we’re storing it here.

However the original author still owns this story. Should they reconnect with the fandom at some point, we will naturally respect whatever they want to do with their story.


Word Count 2,368

Johnny Lancer raced down the main street of the tiny border town of Potrero, his bare feet stirring up a cloud of red dust behind him.  He clinched his jaw tightly, determined to overcome the hot tears that welled up in his eyes.  His back and shoulders still burned from the sting of the leather strap, and he could almost feel the welts rising on his tender skin.  He slowed his pace as he approached the livery stable, and paused for a moment as he stepped inside the open door.  The air was cooler there, the tin roof providing relief from the relentless sun and the open doors at each end allowing for as much cross ventilation as it was possible to attain in the still heat of midsummer.  Panting heavily from his recent ordeal and his flight to safety, he breathed deeply of the familiar smells of the stables.  The comfortable odors of horseflesh, freshly cut hay, sweat soaked leather, and sweet feed helped to calm him.

“Hola chico!  Qué pasa?”  Johnny’s eyes hadn’t adjusted from harsh sunlight to the sudden darkness of the stable, but he had no need for sight to know the source of the voice. Manuel Garcia y Marquez was perhaps the only person in the world he trusted completely, and in spite of an age difference of some fifty years he was Johnny’s best friend.  He briefly considered telling Manuel about the beating, but finally decided against it.

“Nothing, Manuel.  I just think I left somethin’ in the loft.  I reckon I’ll go look for it, unless you need my help.”

“No, Juanito, it’s quiet today.  You go ahead and look.”  Manuel watched the boy climb the ladder to the hayloft, and knew immediately all that the child would never say.  The boy usually moved with a naturally fluid grace that belied his tender age, and his stilted climb and slight grimace today made Manuel certain that he had received yet another thrashing at the hands of his stepfather.

The old man narrowed his eyes and whispered a curse in his native tongue.  At eight years old, his young friend had endured more hardship than many grown men, much of it at the hands of Barton Preston.  

Johnny had begun coming to the livery stable shortly after Preston moved his family to Potrero two years ago.  At first he seemed content just to sit on a bale of hay and watch Manuel work, talking the old man’s ear off but basically staying out of trouble.  When it was clear that the child intended to come every day, the stable hand gave him small chores to do. 

He was surprised to see that the boy had a way with horses, and was willing to do anything that was asked of him, no matter how daunting the task.  In exchange for his labors, Manuel taught him all he knew about horses—progressing from basic riding and grooming skills to caring for wounds and breaking young colts. He chuckled as he recalled how amazed Johnny had been to see that Manuel had trained his own horse to come running at the sound of his whistle.   The boy had been determined to master that trick, and worked with relentless concentration for two weeks to learn to whistle, a task made even more difficult with the loss of his two front teeth.

Johnny stepped off the top rung of the ladder onto the wooden floor of the loft.  He froze, willing himself not to breathe while he listened for the sounds underneath him.  It was only after he heard the quiet scrape of the rake in a stall below that he allowed himself to relax, secure in the knowledge that Manuel had returned to his chores.  The boy stepped softly as he made his way to a pile of dirty rags tossed carelessly into the corner of the loft, partially hidden by a stack of hay bales.  He dug deep into the pile, searching until his fingertips found the hardness he was looking for.  He pulled out an oily red cloth wrapped carefully to conceal an object inside. 

Johnny slid to the floor, wincing slightly as he leaned his bruised back against the barn wall, and placed the package carefully in his lap.  He paused momentarily, listening again to assure himself that Manuel was still at work before unfolding the cloth to reveal the hidden object.

Johnny lifted the gleaming revolver from his lap and examined it thoughtfully.  His mind drifted to the day he had found it, almost a week earlier.   Manuel had allowed him to take the black gelding for a ride late that afternoon, and Johnny had ridden fast and hard, enjoying the cooling wind in his face.  He had been surprised to see the river before him.  He hadn’t realized he had come so far.  He had known he should turn back, but wanted to allow the black to drink before making the return trip to the stable. 

When they reached the water’s edge, he had dismounted and stood beside the horse as it quenched its thirst.   He had realized his mistake almost immediately.  The black was huge, and the stirrup loomed just in front of Johnny’s face.  He had forgotten that Manuel had given him a leg up at the stable, and now he wasn’t sure how he would get back on.  Looking around for something to stand on, his eyes had settled on a pile of boulders a few hundred yards away.  When the horse lifted its head to indicate it was finished drinking, Johnny had given a tug on the reins and led the gelding toward the rocks.

The horse had noticed the smell before he did.  It had whinnied fearfully and tossed its head into the air with such force that it nearly jerked Johnny off his feet. 

“Easy Diablo.  Todo está bien,” he had crooned soothingly to the horse.  The animal had stopped thrashing but trembled nervously, it’s eyes wide with fright.  It was probably just a dead animal, but it had been clear to the boy that the horse was unwilling to take another step closer.  Spying a nearby tree, he had tied the reins tightly and gone back to investigate.  

The stench had grown stronger as Johnny approached the boulders again, and he had noticed the angry buzz of flies swarming behind the largest rock.  Peering around the boulder, the boy had expected to find a bloated steer or the half-eaten prey of a mountain lion, but he had been totally unprepared for what lay before him.  It had been a young man, probably no more than nineteen or twenty years old, the flaky brown residue of dried blood forming a dark stain on his heavily embroidered shirt, his lifeless brown eyes staring blankly into the glaring sun.  Johnny had wanted to run away, and had felt a violent urge to vomit, but his morbid curiosity had won out and he had stood rooted in his place.

Johnny had recognized the corpse as the same young man who had ridden into Potrero a few days earlier.  He had left his horse at the livery stable, a spirited chestnut with a bit of a mean streak, while he had gone into the town’s only saloon. 

Johnny had heard his stepfather talk about the man later that night.  He had claimed to be a pistolero looking for work.  For some reason that had amused Barton Preston.  Johnny remembered that his stepfather had laughed at the man’s youth and inexperience, as evidenced by his ridiculous idea that anyone in Potrero would have the money or the need to hire a pistolero.  Preston had scoffed that the kid had probably never even used the fancy pistol at his side.

Johnny had studied the body carefully, and wondered whether his stepfather had been right.  Perhaps the man had finally encountered his only gunfight, and had been mortally wounded before he even had the chance to draw his gun.  Or perhaps he had actually killed someone, and his victim’s family had ambushed him to take revenge.  In either case, the young man was most certainly dead and his weapon still rested securely in its holster.  

The boy had wondered whether he should tell someone about his discovery.  The man had clearly been a drifter, and it was quite possible that no one would ever even know he was gone.  Surely he had a family somewhere—a mother and father, brothers or sisters, maybe even a young wife—someone who would want to give him a decent burial.  No, the boy had realized, even if he had a family there was no way to know who they were or how to find them.  The young man had chosen a lonely life, and dying alone was an inevitable consequence of that choice.

Johnny’s eyes had rested on the holstered pistol.  The man didn’t need it anymore, the boy had reasoned, and no one would ever know if he took it.  He had felt the thrill of danger course through his body, and he had known at that moment that he must have that gun.  He had taken a deep breath and held it, in part to calm his nerves and in part to keep from breathing the fetid air near the corpse, and in less than an instant he had raced to the body and snatched the pistol from the holster.  

Johnny now sat cross-legged in the loft, feeling the weight of that pistol in his hand.  His finger found the trigger, and he aimed it quickly at successive targets in a mock battle.  His first victim was a rusty tin bucket a few yards away, the next a broken yoke leaning against the far wall, and finally a sleepy gray barn cat watching him with half-closed eyes.  “Pow! Pow! Pow!” he whispered, quietly enough not to arouse Manuel’s attention.  

The boy felt powerful, invincible even, with the gun in his hand.  He felt ready to take on the world.  He shifted his weight and grimaced at the pain in his back and shoulders.  He realized that the only person he really wanted to take on was Barton Preston.  He considered taking the gun home with him, hiding it until he had an opportunity to shoot the man right between the eyes.  No, he realized, someone would find the gun and then he would get yet another beating.  Besides, his real father was going to come for him someday, and he would kill his stepfather for the way he treated the boy and his mother.  

Johnny wondered about his real father, where he was and whether he ever thought about his lost boy.  He had been only a baby when he and his mother had left, so he had no memories of his own, but once at a soft moment he had convinced his mother to tell him something about the man. His name was Murdoch, a strange name that his mother explained was from a place called Scotland.  He lived on a big, fancy ranch and was rich and powerful.  When Johnny had asked his mother why, with all that money and power, his father hadn’t been able to come for them, her face had darkened and she had scolded him about asking too many questions.  

Another time, when Johnny returned from the stables to find his mother weeping in the corner of the kitchen, her face bruised and swollen from one of Preston’s outbursts, Johnny had tried to reassure her that someday Murdoch Lancer would come to rescue them.  He would beat Preston senseless, the way his stepfather had so often beat his family, and then see to it that the man would not live to harm them ever again.  His mother had lashed out at him for that suggestion, angrier than he had ever seen her.  

“Don’t you ever say that again, mi hijo!  Don’t you even think it!  Murdoch Lancer will never come for us.  He never wanted us in the first place.  I was nothing more to him than someone to clean his house and share his bed, and you were nothing more than an embarrassment and an inconvenience.  When someone more suitable came along, he turned us out with only the clothes on our backs, not caring whether we lived or died.  He never thinks of us, Juanito, and we should never think of him!”

The words had stung more than any beating he had ever received at the hands of his stepfather.  He had hated his mother for saying them, hated her even more because he believed they might be true.  He had run from the house, run straight to the livery stable where he had sobbed in Manuel’s arms for what seemed like hours, until he was completely spent.  Later that night his mother had come into his room to tuck him in, and tried to soothe the sorrow in her child’s eyes.

“Juanito, I am sorry about the hurtful things I said to you today.  But you must not continue to dream about things that will not happen.  It will only bring you pain.  Your father will not come for us, Juanito.  Barton is difficult sometimes, I know, but he gives us a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.  We must learn to be grateful for that.”

Johnny aimed the pistol once again, this time concentrating on a knot in the far wall of the barn.  He squinted, then closed one eye to improve his accuracy.  The gun felt right in his hand.  With a little practice he was certain that he could master its use.  He would use it someday to exact his revenge on Barton Preston.  Then he would spend as long as it took to hunt down Murdoch Lancer.  He would make the man pay for turning out his wife and son, for leaving them to a life of poverty and suffering while he lived in a big fancy house with everything he could ever want.  He was just a kid right now, he knew, but he would grow.  And he could be patient.  The time would come.




Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. You can do so using the ‘reply’ box below.

Sadly, we can’t pass the comment on to the author, as we don’t have a current email address. Don’t let that stop you commenting! If the author reconnects with the fandom in the future, she will see how much her work is appreciated.


One response to “Someday by Amy”

  1. Thank you for writing and sharing this story. I hope there are more!


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