History Lessons by Winj

Word Count 3,025

Third in the Uncertainty series, following Uncertainty and The Education

For a week, Scott tried to find a few moments of privacy so he could access those Pinkerton reports. There never seemed to be a time when someone wasn’t around. Also, the entire ranch was abuzz with activity for the impending cattle drive and he found himself exhausted every evening. Sunday morning, Murdoch took Teresa to church and he begged off, saying he wanted to spend the day relaxing. Teresa was displeased but she understood he wasn’t used to all this hubbub, so she let it go.

Johnny had ridden out early to avoid even trying to make an excuse not to attend church, so Scott found himself alone in the house, save for Maria who rarely came out of her kitchen on Sundays. He locked the French doors so he would have some warning should Johnny return, then walked quickly to his father’s desk.

Sitting in the big leather chair, he suddenly felt very guilty and paused to consider what he was about to do. Which, to put it plainly, was breaking into someone else’s personal belongings. Still, he thought he had the right to know about the reports, if they even existed, so he pushed aside the thoughts of larceny and began searching for the key.

After what seemed like forever, he located the key, tucked in the frame of the picture of Johnny’s mother Murdoch kept in his desk. Scott smiled wryly at the indications of that choice of hiding places. He turned the key and heard the lock click, then slowly opened the drawer.

There was a stack of papers and files that he dug through. He was beginning to think he was wrong but then, there it was. The Pinkerton insignia on a rather thick file. He pulled it out carefully and read the front cover. Johnny Lancer aka Johnny Madrid . Scott stared at the cover for several minutes, running his finger across the names. Once more, he wondered if he should really invade his brother’s privacy. He took a deep breath and opened the file.

Scott sat and read for a solid hour and he was only half way through when he heard the front door open. He quickly threw the folder back in the drawer and closed it then pretended to be working on the ledgers he had placed on the desk for a cover story.

“Hey, Boston,” Johnny smiled.

“Hi, where have you been?” Scott asked casually.

“Oh, hiding out til Teresa left for church,” he grinned devilishly.

“Well, at least you’re honest about it,” Scott laughed.

“What was your excuse?” Johnny asked, dropping in a chair by the desk and putting his feet on the top.

“Too tired,” Scott said.

“Heck, if that’s all it takes, I’ll be tired every Sunday!”

Scott laughed at the joke and went back to feigning his bookkeeping.

Johnny watched him for a minute then decided it was too boring. He started to stand up when he noticed the bottom drawer open.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“What?” Scott asked absently.

“This drawer. It’s never open,” Johnny said as he walked to it.

“Oh, I, uh, needed some paper,” Scott stammered.

“Bad enough to pick the lock?” Johnny asked suspiciously.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Johnny,” Scott replied indignantly.

“That drawer is always locked, Scott. You know it as well as I do. So, what did you do, hunt down the key or pick the lock?” Johnny asked.

Knowing he was caught and figuring it was just as well he had never considered a life of crime, Scott blushed. “I found the key,” he admitted.

Johnny watched him squirm for several seconds before he spoke. “Good reading?”


“Don’t play dumb, Boston. I know the Pinkerton report is in there,” Johnny replied, his voice growing cold.

“I was curious and you weren’t offering up any information, so…”

“So, you decided to break into Murdoch’s desk and get your own information. Well, let’s just see what you’ve found out,” Johnny sneered as he jerked the drawer open and pulled out the file.

Flipping through the pages, he came to stop on the report of his mother’s death. He pulled that page out and flung it at Scott. “I reckon this one gave the old man the thrill of his life,” he snorted.

He went back to the folder, glancing quickly at each page until he came to the first mention of Madrid. This one he pulled out and threw at Scott as well. “Papa’s proudest moment,” he said sarcastically.

“Johnny, stop it,” Scott said quietly.

“Stop what? I’m just giving you what you want, Scott. Here, read the whole damned thing!” he said as he flung the entire folder at his brother. “Read it all and write me one of those book reports I’ve heard about.”

Scott began gathering the pages up to replace in the folder when Johnny reached back in the drawer and pulled out a much smaller folder.

“Well, will ya look at this? Not as thick as mine. Scott Lancer,” he read. “What, no alias? Let’s see here,” Johnny said and began reading the dossier. “Private school. Harvard. Lieutenant Lancer, calvary. Purple Heart? There ya go. Captured, one year in Libby Prison, home to gramps.” Johnny slammed the covers together and glared at Scott.

“Well, I have to admit, Boston. If my life read like that, I’d be more curious about somebody else’s, too.”

“Alright! I’m sorry. Is that what you want to hear?” Scott yelled.

Johnny leaned down toward him with a grim look on his face. “What I want to hear, Scott, is that you’re gonna mind you’re own damned business. If I wanted you to know about my life, I would have told you,” he hissed.

“You are my brother, Johnny. A brother I didn’t even know I had. I think it’s only natural that I be curious. Especially since ….”

“Especially since what? Especially since I’m a gunfighter. Especially since I grew up poor. Especially since I’m a halfbreed!”

“That was uncalled for!” Scott said as he stood up.

“Especially since you think you have the right to know whatever you want to know. You might have had people cowtowing to you in Boston, but don’t think I’m gonna get down on my knees and thank the Lord I was lucky enough to have Scott Lancer as a brother. So lucky I’m gonna spill my guts and tell him whatever he wants to know because he’s so much better than me!”

“What’s going on in here?” Murdoch bellowed from the doorway.

Both boys jumped a little at the sound of the booming voice and turned to see Murdoch and Teresa staring at them.

“Well?” Murdoch insisted.

“Ask the burglar,” Johnny clipped.


“Murdoch, we were just having a disagreement. That’s all,” Scott said.

“About what? It sounded like you were ready to kill each other!” Murdoch shouted.

“About your son’s nose. Seems it’s way too long for his own good,” Johnny said snidely.

“Enough with the riddles. Now, what is going on here?” Murdoch said, steaming at this point.

“I did something you aren’t going to like. I broke into your desk so I could read the Pinkerton report on Johnny,” Scott admitted, standing straight with his chin jutted out and ready to accept his punishment like a good soldier.

“You did WHAT!?”

“Unbelievable! Scott, I would never have thought you would do such a thing,” Murdoch said as he approached them, disappointment dripping from his voice.

“Why not?” Johnny asked.

Murdoch looked curiously at his youngest.

“Well, he’s used to gettin his own way. If he can’t talk ya out of it, he’ll buy it or steal it!”

“Johnny!” Teresa gasped.

“Don’t Johnny me! HE’s the one who’s been rummagin around in my life where he’s got no business!” Johnny shot.

“Don’t yell at her!” Murdoch shouted.

“Alright, that’s enough! I’m the one who did wrong and I’m the one that should be yelled at,” Scott intervened.

“You got that right,” Johnny hissed.

Murdoch rubbed his hand over his face and sighed. “Why, Scott?” he asked, calmer now.

“I wanted to know about Johnny’s past,” Scott answered simply.

“Did it ever occur to you to ask me?” Johnny said.

“I did ask you! You wouldn’t tell me anything!”

“What does that tell you?” Johnny asked.

“I was wrong, I know that. I’m sorry, Johnny,” Scott said softly.

“That don’t even begin to cut it, Scott. I was starting to trust you,” Johnny said in a quiet voice. He turned and walked away up the stairs and Scott felt about two inches tall.

Teresa left quietly for the kitchen as well, leaving Scott alone with Murdoch. The silence in the room was making Scott’s nerves itch as he waited for the onslaught.

“Not only did you commit a crime, but you violated your brother’s privacy as well as mine. What were you thinking, Scott?” Murdoch began.

‘Well at least he isn’t yelling,’ Scott thought. “I wanted to understand him better. I wanted to be able to reach out to him,” Scott said.

“Have you ever heard the phrase, patience is a virtue? Johnny might have opened up to you in time, Scott. You heard him just now say he had started trusting you. Now, he may never speak to you again, let alone confide in you!”

“I know, sir,” Scott said quietly.

“Well, how do you plan on fixing this mess?” Murdoch demanded.

“I don’t have a clue,” Scott said, defeated.

“Find one! Only, don’t steal it!” Murdoch fumed and stalked to the kitchen.

Johnny stared out his bedroom window and berated himself. How could he think for one minute that dandy could be trusted? He had to give him credit, Scott talked a good game. All that ‘brother’ stuff, yeah right! How stupid was I to fall for it? I know better than to let my guard down. Haven’t done it with the old man, I sure shouldn’t have done it with that …. dandy!

He pushed away from the window and began pacing the room, biting on his thumb. Now what? It’s gonna be tough having him around. No way in hell I’m ever gonna trust him, no way! Now I gotta look at him every day, talk to him. He sighed deeply and plopped down on the bed, throwing himself back across it as he stared at the ceiling.

He was amazed at what he was feeling. Anger sure, but he was …. hurt. I can’t believe I let Scott hurt my feelings! It’s just plain loco, that’s all. Who is he anyway? Some blue-blooded, Harvard, tin soldier! My brother.

Johnny’s breath caught in his throat with that thought. His brother had betrayed him. You really can’t trust anyone. He felt a tightness in his chest and his throat and tried to shake it off but it was no use. Damned if I’m gonna get all misty over some eastern greenhorn!

Scott stared after his father, dumbfounded. He hadn’t the first clue how to ‘fix this’. He walked out onto the veranda and stared into space. His mind was blank. He chastised himself. ‘Come on, Scott. You’ve always been good at solving problems. Just think of it as a ….. a business problem,’ he thought.

But he sighed defeatedly as he knew this was much more important than any business deal gone awry. He had betrayed Johnny’s trust and he knew, deep down, he knew if things had been reversed, he would be angry, too. Now he had to make it right again. The only way to do that was to talk to Johnny. He felt a huge amount of trepidation at that thought. It wasn’t his brother’s anger that worried him, it was the hurt he’d seen on Johnny’s face just before he’d walked away.

‘I hurt him. God, how am I going to make this right?’ He thought back over the things Johnny had said in anger. Did he really believe Scott was that superficial? That arrogant? If he did, then Scott had failed miserably at trying to bond with him. If that’s all Johnny thought of him then ….. He couldn’t even consider the consequences. He would not allow it to happen. ‘Now I do sound arrogant,’ he thought dismally. Scott took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, turned and walked into the house, and headed straight for Johnny’s room.

He didn’t bother to knock, he knew he would get no answer, so he barged in and stood defiantly in the middle of the room.

Johnny stared at him through cold eyes of steel and Scott actually felt the ice in the air.

“Get out,” Johnny hissed.

“No. I need to talk to you, Johnny. I need to try and explain myself,” Scott said firmly.

“You did all your explainin, Scott,” Johnny clipped.

“Well, I didn’t do a very good job. I know you’re angry and you have every right. I know I have no right, but I hope you’ll hear me out,” Scott said quietly.

Johnny watched his face, reading the emotions. Scott’s eyes told him his brother was being genuine. He sat up in the middle of the bed and crossed his legs.

“Go on,” he said softly.

Scott’s face showed his relief and Johnny almost laughed, but he held a tight mask of doubt in place.

Scott began pacing the room, trying to find the words to explain his behavior.

“When Murdoch told me about your past, I was flabbergasted. I tried to imagine what your life had been like. I wanted to be able to understand what you’d been through. I thought if I could understand Johnny Madrid, then I could understand my brother. When you were …. less than willing to talk about it, I decided to find my own answers. How I went about that was wrong, I know that. I suppose I knew it even while I was doing it but I couldn’t help myself.” Scott stopped for a moment to watch his brother but the mask had not moved.

“The way you and Murdoch go at each other sometimes worries me, Johnny. I’m afraid it will drive you away from here. I wanted to know what kind of life you would have if that were to happen. I couldn’t stand it if I thought you’d be alone. I grew up very priviledged but I’ve seen poverty and despair. I saw it too many times during the war. I thought I knew what your life had been like. I thought I could imagine it for myself, but I was wrong. Dead wrong.”

“If I’ve learned anything about you, it’s that you don’t want anyone’s pity or sympathy. I’ve always admired that about you. Having read just a portion of that report, I can understand why you don’t want to talk about your past. You’re afraid I’ll feel sorry for you. Well, I am sorry for the way you were forced to live your life. I can’t feel sorry for you personally, because you’re such a caring person. You feel other people’s pain and suffering. That’s an amazing thing to witness, brother.”

“I’m ashamed of myself. I don’t know what I was thinking, slinking around like some thief. Murdoch was right, I should have been patient, let you come to me if and when you wanted. I can usually be very patient, it’s just that, when it comes to you, I …. I feel a need to know you so much. I …. I want that connection I’ve never had. The brother I’ve always wanted.” Scott stopped, he could think of nothing more to say.

“You done?” Johnny asked.

“Yes, I guess so,” he replied.

“Okay, my turn. What you read wasn’t pretty was it? You don’t have to answer, I know. I lived it. It’s not easy for me to trust, Scott. I’ve never had much luck with it. So if I don’t start blabbing all over the place about my life, it’s got nothin to do with you, personally. There are things I will never tell you, I know that for sure. But if you’d given me a chance, just a chance, I might have been able to tell you some of it.”

“Is it too late, Johnny? Have I destroyed us before we ever got that chance?” Scott asked miserably.

“I don’t know, Scott. I really don’t. What you did, I can’t just forget about that,” Johnny said as he shook his head slowly.

“But, can you forgive me?” Scott asked.

“Maybe, in time. Just don’t push me,” Johnny said, a hint of warning in his voice.

“That’s more than I dared to hope for, brother. If you’re ever ready …. well, I’ll wait as long as it takes,” Scott said with a small smile.

One week later, the Lancers were saddled up with a mile of cattle ahead of them and a tearful girl staring up at them all.

“Now, Teresa,” Murdoch said paternally.

“Oh, you know I always cry at cattle drives,” she smiled.

“How about weddings?” Johnny teased.

“Oh, I’m terrible then!” she proclaimed a bit proudly.

“Don’t worry, Teresa. I’ll take care of them for you,” Scott grinned.

Johnny shot his brother a sarcastic look and rolled his eyes. “That’ll be the day, Boston.”

“Alright, boys. Johnny, think you could use that eardrum piercing whistle of yours to get this drive started?” Murdoch smiled.

Johnny grinned devilishly at his father and nodded his head. Taking a full breath, he whistled shrilly and dropped his arm in a slashing move to indicate they start the drive.

Scott made a painful face as he was sitting next to Johnny at the time, then laughed. It had been a long week. Full of regret and hurt feelings, walking on eggshells and watching every word said, but it seemed Johnny was talking to him more now. That he smiled and joked more. That maybe, just maybe, he was beginning to forgive his brother. And just maybe, Scott would get those history lessons, in time.


Comments:  We don’t have this author’s current email address. If you leave a comment below, if she reconnects with the fandom, then she will see how much her work is appreciated.

One thought on “History Lessons by Winj

  1. I loved this story about the Lancers getting to know each other. Thank you for making your stories available.


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