Do You Love Me? by Véronique

Word Count 4,220

Many thanks to my beta Raian, who helped me in an unbelievable way ! I thank her for having done a wonderful editing work as well as explaining me certain rules ! Everything I wrote has been respected and I think I must add that it’s a -D story.

Under the usual ruthless Californian sun, Scott distractedly whistled the tune of an old song he had learned at school years ago. Funny how things from his childhood could cling to him! He had forgotten most of the words but the music was still vivid, even nagging. He tried to remember exactly when he had learned that song, but he couldn’t clearly place it.

The music of it even seemed to please his horse who moved his ears with a regularity that Scott enjoyed very much. He smiled inwardly. The young man rode his mount at a leisurely pace, his body slowly waving as he loosened his grip on the reins and let the animal casually follow the narrow path between boulders.

The landscape was amazingly beautiful: a wilderness of ragged and fracked rocks in which shadows were playing a sometimes dangerous game. Between gold dust moving in columns and small stacks of wandering weeds, the steep trail could be misread. Scott would never be tired of this spectacle.

Today he had been on his own. A choice he’d made, deliberately changing his scheduled chores with his father’s approval. He’d spent a lot of time in checking the fences, and now he directed his horse’s pace on the craggy path leading to the farthest shack of the estate where he intended to spend the night.

Murdoch and Johnny had taken the morning stage yesterday. They would stay for two days in Sacramento, in order to purchase a couple of mares. They would produce the best and most beautiful foals, once bred with Lancer’s magnificent stallion.

Father and son were so pleased yesterday morning at breakfast: smiling at each other, making jokes and laughing so easily, eyes sparkling, teeth biting vigorously, crockery ringing… Scott was amused at this display of anticipated enjoyment. Johnny and Murdoch needed time together, time to share in the same goal, in the same action. And if possible for the ranch, which meant for the three of them, and better, for Johnny himself. Their mood was infectious and everyone had a really good moment.

When his father and brother left, Scott was smiling widely wishing them the best trip, the best choice of mares and to take advantage of their free time. But gradually as they disappeared, the corner of his mouth went down.

What about me Murdoch? When will it be my turn to share something with you? If only there will be anything else than sharing the ledgers. I know you trust me. I know you have confidence in me. What else?

A deep sigh passed his lips. His time would come…


His horse reared up so suddenly, Scott found himself lying in the dust, face down on the rocky path. A swift pain crossed his elbow and forearm, and he let out a cry of distress. The dull sound of hooves on the ground drew his eyes.

“No!” he yelled as his horse ran away at full speed. No! No! That can’t be!

Scott sat up gently, his right hand protecting his left elbow. With the horse gone…. with the horse gone he found himself devoid of everything: water, sandwiches, blanket, and all the stuff Teresa insisted he take in order to help him if… If!

Scott’s elbow and arm hurt in a way he found almost intolerable. It was like a fire was burning them alive. He couldn’t move them at all and even so, the pain was nagging and violent at the same time. The young man fought nausea which knotted his stomach and, suddenly, he bent to one side and threw up the sandwich and water he had eaten half an hour ago.

He remained seated and half bent, his head low and heavy, trying to breathe slowly. One, two, three… Scott counted slowly as he could, not taking profound inhalations for fear the pain would increase. He counted for the mounting panic to stop. He knew it wouldn’t last long. War had taught him all this. Panic and anti-panic lessons.

Gradually his breath became more regular and his heart slowed down. He raised his head very delicately as slight vertigo had now taken place. What had happened? I was whistling andOf course, I didn’t care much of anything, but there was no need to! That crazy horse lost his mind!

Scott tried to move his arm again and gritted his teeth at the pain. It radiated from his elbow along his forearm to the very end of his fingers. He palpated them very gently making his hand and fingers run along his forearm. When brushing his elbow as lightly as he could, he hissed at the pain. The joint had swelled up. He saw no blood and hoped that nothing was broken.

Hell! how it hurts! I hope it’s not serious. It could have been worse. I think I’m lucky!

Then he remembered the flight of his horse and hoped it would go to the ranch. But that wasn’t likely to happen tonight. They were too far and the horse would probably find a place to graze, unless he hurt himself on or off the path.

Now the only thing I can do is stand up and walk. But will I make it to the shack? Not sure. I’m really far away. Maybe too far away, and the path is becoming harder and more dangerous further, for miles. Scott sighed, profoundly aware of the difficulties that were awaiting him. I’ve got myself into hot water!

Another sigh. He got up to his feet. He had nothing more than his gun and his hat. Even his jacket was tied on the horse! His head spun a little. With shaky and clumsy movements, he succeeded in removing his belt from his pants, and made a sling in which he slipped his injured limb.

He began to move forward. The first few paces were uneven, the trajectory uncertain, once to the right boulders, once to the left rocks. Scott tried to focus on the path, ground, and sides at the same time. He found that task difficult with his eyes clouded by mist due to the effort, dizziness and pain. After several minutes, his vision became better, without the pain being raised. He prudently thought that his situation was beginning to improve.

Time passed slowly! The trail was difficult, strewn with edgy rocks that seemed to be here only to make him fall. The young man swore at the pain as if that could ease it and flatten the ground. Since when did he walk like this, in the dust , under the sun and suffering from an injury? The belt didn’t really calm the pain even if it helped keep the arm in place. He was hot, he was thirsty, he was hurting!

“I’ve had enough of this! ” cried Scott.

He sat down in a clear puddle of shadow dispensed by a rock, and gently leaned his back against it. He licked his lips with his tongue, his saliva rare, his mouth furred.

God I’ve been in worse situations before, but I find this one colorful!

Thoughts he didn’t ask for began to overwhelm him. War, Julie, Grandfather, Johnny, Murdoch.

His father. His father, Murdoch. Murdoch, his father. His… father, His… Father. Father…

Scott dozed off, pictures of his past mixing in his mind.


When he woke up, the sun had lowered on the horizon bringing a soft and pleasant slight coolness. It wouldn’t be long before sundown. Scott noticed immediately that his arm was numb.

With the night coming, he would be cold. And hungry too. Thirsty, he already was! He decided it was better to keep going, thus he wouldn’t be inclined to self-pity. He felt a dull pain in his elbow and thought it might be a good thing. His head didn’t hurt as much as before and he walked with a regained confidence.

Fifteen minutes later, a silhouette mounted on a horse followed by a mule emerged from behind a huge boulder at the top of the path.

Scott’s face lighted up. He waved his healthy arm shouting almost with tremors of joy, “Hey! Here!… Can you help me?… Hey!… Do you hear me? I’m wounded!” Scott opened his mouth to explain what had happened as the two mounts and the man approached.

“Shut up, you ! Drop your gun!”

“Wait –”

“Shut up I told you! I’m not gonna repeat myself!” The man dismounted and looked intensely at Scott. His eyes were small and a bad light danced in them. He took Scott’s gun and shoved it in his belt “Who are you? Why are you here? Where’s your horse?” The man looked more dangerous than suspicious as he had drawn his gun.

Scott had to think very quickly, of that he was sure. “My name’s Scott Garrett. My horse threw me, frightened by a snake. I was passing through across that land. Took the path at the crossing behind. Miles away…”

“Passing through?”

“Yeah, I’m a casual worker. Doing jobs here and there.”

“Where you come from?”

Scott felt a sudden flush and perspiration beading on his forehead. Only Teresa was at home. Only some of the hands were sleeping at the ranch. The man was alone, but he could have stooges elsewhere. “I haven’t worked for a time. Was near Sacramento. Helped building stables on a ranch.”

“What ranch?”

“The Gillyfords.” Scott’s perspiration increased a lot. How did he manage to lie like this? He was a lost man if the stranger went ahead with his questions! How did all this happen? A headache began pounding. He had to try something: “Who are you?”

The man put his gun in front of Scott’s face, his jaws tightened. Then he burst out laughing. Scott moved to the side but the man grabbed him by his left arm and Scott almost fell to the ground crying with an atrocious pain.

“A piece of advice: you don’ try that again or you’re dead!”

Scott’s eyes were blurred with tears. He didn’t want to let go, as his pain was so severe. He gritted his teeth, his throat so tight he could barely swallow his saliva.

“You ask no question! You come with me!”


The man raised his hand… and let it drop slowly. “You climb on the mule and you go first.”

The mounts were bound together and the man apparently wouldn’t drop his gun that aimed at Scott once again.


It was just past sundown when they quit the narrow path and found themselves on a meadow. At no time did Scott find the opportunity to try something. He had slightly turned his head several times to see if the man was focused on him… To find he was! With gun immediately up. It would have been too risky even if the boulders could have offered a shelter. What could he have done with only one arm and no weapon? The stranger would have been on him immediately, or worse would have shot him. No! There had been no possibility… They crossed the pasture and night had fallen when they arrived at the shack.

“There! On the shelf! Matches! You light the lamp! OK, now you go to your bed and you don’t try anything!” While telling this, the man pushed hard on Scott’s back making him fall on a cot.

Scott twisted his body enough so that he didn’t fall on his arm. He crawled on his back to stay a little upward against the wall.

The man looked at him, seemingly reflecting. About what?

Suddenly Scott heard a moan. Turning his head he saw a man lying on a bunk. He was young, probably Scott’s age, sweating and wounded. His chest was stained with blood. There was blood on the bunk too.

The man tried to tie Scott’s hands to the frame of the cot, eliciting screams from him. There was no way, the pain was torture. So the man tied only Scott’s right hand, twisting the rope around Scott’s wrist, before doing a strong knot on the metal. Then he put his left arm in the sling again.

Scott found himself lying on his back, his pain unbearable. He thought he was going to faint. His breath jerked, his face was covered with sweat and he shivered, feeling cold and hot at the same time. He believed for a moment he would lose his grip and would cry. He closed his eyes very tightly and began to count…

The man bent over the other one for a long time, talking softly. “There, there. I’m here. Take it easy!” Then he lifted a tin tumbler to the other’s lips and helped him drink.

Scott unconsciously swallowed. Minutes later he felt better, his mind cooperative again. His thoughts flashed up at full speed.

Why does this man keep me with him? He needs me: Why? What does he want from me? He
couldn’t know he’d meet me on this road. Why didn’t he kill me? Who are they? How was the other man wounded? They seem quite attached, maybe they’re brothers, or friends. They did something and one was wounded. They’d seen the shack before, and decided to spend the night here

Time passed. Scott tried regularly and vigorously to untie himself, pulling on the rope, turning his wrist in all directions. The rope bit his flesh and he felt blood weeping from the wound and sticking on his hand. He took care not to move his left arm that still ached. Once, he felt the rope becoming loose, and tried with the energy of a convicted man to make his right hand slip through the knot.

That was the very moment the man chose to offer him water. He saw… and he tied the knot again, stronger. “Next time, I’ll shoot you!”

Hours went on and on. The man had decided that Scott wouldn’t have water at all, and that it would keep his mind busy. Scott’s body was stiff, he didn’t feel his arm anymore… His head had begun to spin again from tiredness, lack of water and food. Now he was troubled by a natural need he had to satisfy. ” I… I need… You know…” he said with a hoarse voice.

The man untied him from the cot, grabbed him by his good arm and pushed him outside. “You stay there, in the light! No tricks!”

Scott was slightly disturbed: he had seen the shadow of a smile, a stealthy smile. Or was he
dreaming? Back to his bunk he was tied again. He watched the man, trying to detect something, to understand… IF there was something to understand.

More hours went on, bringing no change. The man was seated near his companion who was sleeping from time to time. If not, the man moistened his face, reassuring him with soothing words, making him drink a little. The younger one listened to him. Sometimes a light moan could be heard.

The older man…. How old was he? It was difficult to say. The man had a lot of red brown hair and a dishevelled red beard that ate at his cheeks and ran along his neck. He was dressed as would be any of the hands on the ranch, as dirty as they all were after a day’s work. His eyes, small and dark, always seemed to angrily narrow when looking at Scott. Except a bit earlier when he was outside.

Hours after the first glows of daylight appeared, the man stood up and stretched. Then he opened a little box which contained dry sliced beef. While he was doing this, the wounded man got up and went outside. He looked much better.

Kneeling near Scott’s bunk, the elder man sighed loudly, visibly annoyed. “Now young man, what I’m gonna do I don’t like. But seems I have to… I’m gonna kill you…”

Scott swallowed his saliva and looked at the man. “Why? Why now? Why didn’t you do it before?”

The man sighed again. “I needed you.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re not Scott… Garrett. You’re Scott Lancer. This land is yours and your father’s and younger brother’s. And I followed you… From a distance.”

Scott’s eyes widened. He could swear he hadn’t seen anyone.

“I was in a barn when I saw you. Was stealing a mule cause couldn’t steal a horse… As there was no horse at all.”

Only Mr Robinson’s farm had been on his way. That meant Mr Robinson’s sons were away. What had happened to him?

“I knocked the old man down. The poor thing didn’t have time to see anything or catch his
breath.” That memory drew a wide grin on the stranger’s face. “Don’t think he’s dead anyway! But that’s a detail.”

“My father was a friend of your father. Murdoch Lancer stole from us! He was pitiless with my pa! One day there was an argument. The argument grew so much, there were shootings to end it… and your father killed my pa in cold blood, so he could have what he wanted! He left us, my brothers and I, orphans as our ma was already buried… The funny thing is, you resemble my kid brother. When I saw you…” The man nodded his head. “I knew it would be difficult to kill you… But we owe my pa to kill a Lancer! Our decision’s made now! I want Terence to look when I kill you! It’s an execution!”

Scott swallowed his saliva. “What happened to your brother?”

“We were killing time in the saloon, drinking beer, savoring in advance Murdoch Lancer’s son’s execution! Somebody didn’t show my brother the Respect he needs. There was a brawl and shootings… Terence was wounded by those fools! Hadn’t time to pick up his horse. We double rode from town till I saw this cabin. Told myself it’d be perfect for my brother to rest. Then I had to find a horse.”

“How did you know I was… Murdoch Lancer’s son?”

“I’d seen the three of you in town. Wanted to be sure! Gather information too! Be not frightened! I don’t want your money!…. A lone man is easier to control. When I saw your father and brother go away, I knew one was alone!”

“Very courageous!” Scott bit his lip.

“I don’t care! I don’t kill for triumph! I kill for vengeance! Killing you or your brother will make Murdoch Lancer suffer much more than killing him! Your brother is with him and away, you’re alone. So it’s for you! You see? I even don’t have to choose! Even my brother being wounded didn’t force us to postpone our decision… As I fell on you on the trail! See?”

In front of such logical reasoning, Scott remained speechless… “I still don’t understand why you kept me with you tonight.”

“I told you! Terence, my brother, needs to watch you die! It made him mad! Your father ruined
our family, made my brother sick with violence… Would have been happier in killing your brother! Would have been easier. You make me think of my kid brother. It’s like killing him in a way. It’s like he would die a second time and by my hand!”

Scott wasn’t wrong: there was a third brother. Probably the youngest of the three and apparently already dead. Maybe there was a possibility here… The man seemed to have something emotional in him. It seemed he was hesitating… “If you need money, that –”

“Stop it!”

“We could discuss –”

Terence came back to the shack. “Harry! What are you doin’! I’m tired! C’mon now! Kill that
moron and we go !”

“See? He is the one who decides! I’m the arm! Only the arm! Yet, he’s stupid!… Terence I’m fed up with you and your stupid ideas!”

Bang! Harry fell down on Scott’s body… And at that precise moment Scott knew his hour had come…

Bang! Terence fell down on the floor!



“Scott! Scott my son!” Murdoch tried to hold his son in his arms.

“Take care! My arm! Untie me please! Untie me!”

Showing all the signs of an insane panic, Murdoch cut the rope. Scott’s hand was blue!

“My goodness! “Murdoch began rubbing Scott’s hand and arm. Scott’s limbs ached so much tears sprang out of his eyes. The nightmare was over! Nothing else mattered! Murdoch was here, taking care of him! And suddenly he fainted.


“Scott! you must remain laid on the sofa!” stormed Teresa. Never had she realised how much she loved this heaven-sent brother.

With a wide smile on his lips, Scott sank into the softness of the pillows arranged around his body. Happy. He was happy. He’d had his moment with his father. They hadn’t talked, but Scott knew. He knew for sure his father loved him. How frightened he had looked in that shack, his voice quaking, his face devastated by fear. His hands had been caressing, caring, worried about what could have been done to his son.

When Scott awoke, he was in his bed, warm and snug. Murdoch was seated near him… He was there…


Explanations came at a slow rhythm so that Scott wouldn’t be too tired. He had been laid in bed with the utmost caution, after the doc had very carefully examined his body. The doc had found and reduced an elbow dislocation, and discovered a broken bone as well. Scott’s arm was in a sling with his elbow plastered. The doc had used chloroform so that Scott’s muscles would be relaxed and to avoid making him suffer again. His right wrist had been bandaged. Exercises would be necessary to recover full mobility of his left arm.

The rest of the story had been told by Murdoch in a low, soft voice. “Scott… Those two men are dead.”

Scott thought for a while… “I remember… Harry…”

“The next one, I shot him. Your brother was behind me. Let’s begin at the beginning. Fifteen years ago, I had a neighbor called Jack Sutherfield. He was married and had three sons: Harry, Terence and Bill. When he arrived with his wife Sarah and his children, he bought a farm on a property. He needed money very badly to buy the first cattle which would constitute his herd, and begin what he called a ranch. I was the only one in a position to help him: I bought him a very nice meadow adjoining Lancer.

“Jack was very bad tempered and people didn’t like him. I, for myself, didn’t trust him much. I wouldn’t have bought that piece of land if it hadn’t been for Sarah and their sons. We signed a paper attesting to that transaction. Unfortunately, Sarah who had a good influence on him, died of pneumonia shortly afterwards.

“When I began to put fences on that pasture, I found everything had been wrecked during the night… To make something rather long and ugly quick, I had to threaten Jack that I’d call a lawyer. That only made him mad. He swore he would kill me as I was already on my horse, and before I could answer anything, he drew his gun

“I hadn’t really anticipated that, but I knew the man could be dangerous when angry. He missed me, I killed him. I was dismayed at what had happened. If Jack hadn’t been beside himself, he would have killed me… The children were now orphans and I made sure that someone would take care of them.

“Jack’s brother took them with him, and I never heard of them anymore. The farm was sold by that uncle, but he kept the money for himself, spreading the rumour that I had ruined their father. It appears he gave them a very rough time. From an early age Harry and Terence spent half their time in prison, Terence being the worst. They were rather unbalanced. It seems that Billy was different, softer…”

“Mr Robinson…”

“He’s fine, don’t worry. He’s made out of a hard wood!” Murdoch snorted softly.

Scott didn’t know what to think of all this. He remained lost in thoughts for a long time. “How did you know… to come for me?”

“The main horse seller in Sacramento, the one from whom I certainly would have bought the mares, cancelled. He was pretty ill I think. Ill enough to postpone the selling for two weeks. Your brother and I spent the night at the hotel, then we took the first stage home. Last night your horse came to the ranch, limping badly. That’s why he took so long, but at least he did it… We heard him and knew for sure something had happened to you. Two hands escorted Johnny and me… We saw the horse and the mule in front of the shack… When Terence went out, Johnny and I just had time to hide on the side of the cabin. The hands kept the horses behind the rocks further away.”

“The young brother…”

“Died of pneumonia too, three years ago. ” Murdoch sighed very deeply, a worried wrinkle on his forehead. He looked tired.

Scott smiled softly. Thank you Murdoch. Thank you. He turned his head on the pillow, closed his eyes and dozed off.

~ end ~

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