Word Count 6,890
NOTE: Some artistic license concerning timelines taken. Ten year difference in actuality. 🙂
Johnny and Scott stood on the boardwalk in front of the saloon in Morro Coyo. They were discussing the attributes of a certain young lady who had just passed them. Johnny wasn’t interested, she wasn’t his type which Scott just couldn’t understand as he thought she was a real beauty. They stood just in front of a supporting column to the roof of the building, arguing companionably about the girl, when a whirring swish and a metallic twang stopped them both cold.
Johnny stared at the knife embedded in the wooden column between them, Scott whirled around, gun drawn, to see who threw it. He didn’t see the smile that spread across his brother’s face.
“Johnny, I think we have a problem,” Scott said, not looking at his brother.
“Nah, no problem,” Johnny answered as he pulled the knife from the wood and turned slowly to face the Indian standing in the middle of the street.
All eyes were on the three of them now and as Johnny started to saunter toward the Indian, the citizens of Morro Coyo scattered like dandelions in the wind.
“Chavez!” Johnny called. It was only then that Scott saw the Indian smile.
“Johnny, hola , amigo!” the Indian replied.
They did not attempt to shake hands but instead embraced each other in greeting. Scott tipped his hat back on his head as he watched the reunion. It amazed him what Johnny’s friends considered a ‘hello’.
“What are you doin around here, half breed?” Johnny asked with a laugh.
“Looking for some of my own kind. I guess I got lucky,” Chavez grinned.
He was a handsome young man with long, straight black hair and dark eyes and a smile almost as charming as Johnny’s.
Scott was appalled at his brother’s use of the hated phrase, but the Indian didn’t seem to mind at all. Scott was definitely puzzled.
“Come on over here. I want you to meet someone,” Johnny was saying. They approached him and Scott smiled. “Chavez, I’d like you to meet my brother, Scott Lancer,” Johnny said.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Chavez,” Scott said extending his hand.
The Indian looked him up and down suspiciously but accepted the handshake. “Brother?” he asked Johnny.
“It’s a long story. Come on, I’ll buy you a beer,” he said as he put his arm around Chavez shoulder and urged him forward. Chavez resisted the urging though and looked at Johnny as if he’d lost his mind.
“I don’t think so, amigo. Not in there,” he said.
Johnny frowned at him. “It’s okay, really,” he assured his friend.
Chavez shrugged his shoulders. “If you say so.” Scott seemed to be missing something again but he didn’t push it.
They found a table in the back of the saloon. Scott went to get the beer as they settled in. “So? Where is he?” Johnny asked.
“I don’t know and I don’t care anymore. He’s crazy, you know that,” Chavez answered but there was no animosity in his voice.
Johnny laughed. “Hell, I could have told you that. In fact, I believe I did tell you that. You just wouldn’t listen.”
Chavez smiled then turned serious. “It got pretty bad at the end.”
“I heard about it, well you know, as much as you can hear. Half of it MIGHT be the truth,” Johnny said, then added. “Hey, you ok?”
Chavez nodded as Scott returned with the drinks. “Well, do I get to hear the story of how you two know each other?” he asked with a smile.
“I was gonna ask the same question,” Chavez retorted.
Johnny looked from one to the other and shrugged. “Who wants to know first?” he asked.
“I do,” they said in unison and all three laughed.
The bartender approached then and tapped Scott on the shoulder. “Uh, could I talk to you for a minute Mr. Lancer?”
“Mr. Lancer? That’s awfully formal isn’t it Ben?” Scott teased.
“It’s important,” Ben replied seriously.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” he said as he rose and followed the bartender to a quieter part of the saloon.
“Scott, I can’t have that Indian in here! We don’t serve Indians! Now, you’re gonna have to get him out of here,” Ben said in a hushed tone.
Scott’s anger didn’t take long to show itself. “You’ve already served him, Ben. What’s the problem?” he said in an authoritative voice.
“I told ya. He’s an Indian. If you don’t get him outta here, there’s gonna be trouble and I don’t want my place busted up over the likes of him! It’s bad enough he’s an Indian, but a half breed to boot!” Ben’s face fell as he realized his mistake.
Scott’s face turned beet red. “I see. Well, you won’t have to worry about it Mr. Parsons. My brother and I won’t be bothering you again!” he hissed as he stormed back to the table.
“Johnny, let’s go,” Scott said angrily.
“Why?” Johnny asked.
Scott looked embarrassed but he was more angry so he just said it. “It seems we aren’t welcome here. Any of us,” he fumed.
Johnny narrowed his eyes and looked at Ben. “Since when?” he asked.
“Since me,” Chavez answered. “I told you it wasn’t a good idea,” he added.
Johnny didn’t move, he sat there and glared at the bartender. Then he smiled and Ben thought he would lose control of his bladder at that moment. “I haven’t finished my beer,” Johnny said softly.
“Come on amigo, I don’t need no trouble,” Chavez said and took Johnny’s arm. Johnny glared at him and Chavez glared right back. “Look, it’s me that’s the problem and if I want to go, we should just go!” he said softly but firmly.
Johnny dropped his gaze and acquiesced. He stood up slowly and took his time about leaving. He walked past the bartender. “I won’t forget this Ben,” he whispered as he passed.
“I’m sorry,” Scott said as they walked into the street.
“Why?” Chavez asked.
“Because, that was uncalled for!” Scott said, still angry.
“He sounds like a dandy, Johnny. Where’s he from?”
” Boston , and yeah he does doesn’t he?” Johnny grinned. Scott just smiled. “Well, I know where we can get a drink and nobody will throw us out,” Johnny said.
“Oh? And where would that be brother?”
“The ranch,” Johnny said simply. “Chavez, come with us. I want to show you my home,” Johnny grinned.
“Your HOME?” Chavez almost gasped the words. Johnny laughed again and guided his friend along. Scott stood there for a minute stunned. If Johnny didn’t think there was a chance of getting thrown out at the ranch, he must already be drunk!
They topped the ridge above the hacienda and stopped. Johnny looked at his friend, then at the view before them. “This is it, Lancer,” he said proudly.
Chavez jaw dropped as he took in the breathtaking view before him. “All of it?” he asked, stunned.
“As far as you can see, all the way to the mountains,” Johnny replied.
Chavez shook his head slowly, impressed with the expanse before him. “I have got to hear this story!” he said.
“Come on,” Johnny said as he kneed Barranca on down the hill.
Murdoch was standing in the yard talking to Jelly when they rode up. He looked suspiciously at the newcomer.
Johnny dismounted, grabbed his friend around the shoulder and walked over to greet his father. “Hi,” he said simply.
“Hi,” Murdoch replied, confused.
“Um, this is a friend of mine. Chavez, this is my father, Murdoch Lancer,” Johnny smiled.
They shook hands hesitantly.
“Nice to meet you,” Murdoch said.
“Yeah, you too,” Chavez replied, just as confused as the man greeting him.
“Well, come on in. I owe you a drink,” Johnny said and pulled his friend along.
Scott started to follow but Murdoch grabbed his arm. “Who is that?” he asked.
“Johnny told you. A friend,” Scott answered.
“What kind of friend?” Murdoch asked with raised brows.
“We haven’t gotten that far yet,” he replied.
Chavez stood in the middle of the living room gawking. He shook his head several times trying to clear his mind. Johnny was rambling about something but he found it hard to listen. “Wait, just wait a minute!” he said, finally. Johnny looked at him questioningly. “Johnny, what happened?” he asked.
“Sit down and I’ll tell you,” Johnny replied.
So he told his friend how he came to be at Lancer, a little more in depth than he would normally tell one of his old riding buddies. He and Chavez had a special bond, both half Mexican, one Indian, one American. They had become friends quickly when they met in New Mexico. When he finished his story, Chavez stared at him in disbelief.
“And all this has happened in the past year?” he asked.
“Yeah. It’s been kinda rocky at times but things are getting a lot better,” Johnny said softly.
“And your old man, what about that? What kind of reason did he give for throwing you out?” Chavez asked roughly.
“He didn’t. Throw me out that is. I wasn’t told the truth before,” Johnny said as he lowered his eyes.
Chavez nodded his understanding. “Well, amigo you are one lucky hombre,” he smiled.
Murdoch and Scott walked into the room and saw the two of them, heads down talking softly. Murdoch was perplexed. He had met some of Johnny’s ‘friends’ from his past before, but Johnny had never seemed this close to any of them, not even Wes.
“Oh, Murdoch. I thought Chavez could stay with us for a couple of days,” Johnny said, challenging his father’s trust in him with his eyes.
Before Murdoch could speak, Chavez chimed in. “Johnny I can’t. I have to be moving on.”
“Well, I’m here for a reason. I’m trying to find my people,” he answered.
Johnny nodded his head. “I think I heard they were in the Sierras now,” he offered.
“Then it shouldn’t be too hard,” Chavez smiled.
“Well, at least stay the night. Get a fresh start in the morning,” Johnny suggested.
“Yes, stay here tonight. There’s no sense in starting a long trip this late in the day,” Murdoch said.
Johnny smiled appreciatively at his father and Chavez agreed.
“I’ll tell Teresa we have a guest,” Scott said and went toward the kitchen.
“Come on, I’ll show you where you’ll sleep,” Johnny smiled.
“I haven’t slept in a bed for a while. This should be different,” Chavez commented on entering the bedroom.
“I wish you’d change your mind and stay a couple of days. That tribe of yours ain’t goin nowhere , ya know,” Johnny tried.
“I wasn’t real sure your old man would like that too much,” he replied.
“Well, you heard him. He’s fine with it,” Johnny said.
“Yeah, with one night. Listen, mi amigo, I don’t want to cause you no trouble.”
“Chavez, you’re not! Look, just stay here for a few days. Give me a chance to show you around. Murdoch won’t mind,” Johnny said.
Chavez considered his friend and nodded his agreement.
Johnny gave him one of ‘those’ smiles. “I’ll go talk to him right now. Why don’t you rest a while and I’ll come back in about an hour.”
“Murdoch?” Johnny said as he entered the living room.
Murdoch was sitting at his desk going over the purchase price of a bull he was thinking of buying. “Yes,” he mumbled.
Johnny walked over to him and plunked down on the edge of the desk. “I want Chavez to stay a few days,” he said.
Murdoch looked up at him then, considering the idea. “I’d like to know how you know him, Johnny.”
Johnny shrugged. “I met him in New Mexico . We just kinda got along right off. I guess we have a lot in common,” he grinned.
Murdoch smiled back. “So you didn’t ride with him?”
“No. He was already … involved in something and I was too. We just hung around together for awhile.”
“I see,” Murdoch said nodding his head.
“Well, he seems like a nice young man. I don’t have a problem with it, but I’m not the only one who lives here,” he said eyeing his son.
“I’m sure no one else has a problem with it either,” Scott piped in from the doorway. He had been listening to the conversation not wanting to interrupt.
“Eavesdropping, Scott? That’s not your style,” Murdoch teased.
“Yes it is,” Johnny said with a grin.
Having squared things with his family, Johnny retrieved his friend and took him for a short ride before supper. He showed him some of the ranch and they talked more about Johnny’s new life.
Chavez could see the change in him. He was more open, he seemed to be happy and he had someone to care about now. Chavez knew this was the main reason. Johnny had always been soft- hearted, he just never had anyone in his life before that gave a damn. They stood at the bank of a small river that ran through Lancer.
“I need to ask you something, Chavez,” Johnny said.
Chavez looked at him and waited.
“Is there any chance of him showing up here?” Johnny asked.
“No, I can’t see that happening. He was pretty mad at me for leaving in the first place. Besides, he has other things to worry about right now. Like saving his own hide,” Chavez answered.
Johnny nodded then smiled at his friend. “I had to ask,” he said.
“I know. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want him around here either,” Chavez said with a smile.
“Come on, I’m starvin !” Johnny exclaimed.
Supper went smoothly, almost. Murdoch didn’t grill Chavez about his past or his present and Johnny was grateful. He knew if his father found out what Chavez had been involved in, he would be furious. Johnny was pretty sure he would not be able to make Murdoch understand the circumstances that had led to the whole mess.
“What tribe are you from?” Scott asked out of the blue.
“Navaho originally, but they’ve spread out a lot,” Chavez explained.
“Which of your parents was Navaho?” Scott asked.
“My mother, why?” Chavez responded.
“Just curious,” Scott said.
Johnny didn’t like Scott asking such personal questions of his friend and he gave him a look to indicate just that. Scott looked back at him without comprehension and Johnny sighed softly.
“Well, gentlemen shall we go into the living room?” Murdoch suggested.
“Actually, if you don’t mind I am pretty tired. I think I’ll just get some sleep,” Chavez said.
Johnny knew this wasn’t the case and he knew why his friend was begging off early. “I’ll see ya in the morning,” he said.
“That was uncalled for Scott,” Johnny snipped as they walked into the living room.
“What are you talking about?” Scott asked innocently.
“Do you always ask people about their heritage at the supper table?” Johnny quipped.
“No, I …. I was just trying to.”
“Trying to what? Make him uncomfortable? Embarrass him?” Johnny interrupted.
“No, I was just trying to make conversation, Johnny,” Scott said defending himself.
“You really don’t think that was the wrong thing to ask,” Johnny said, surprised at his brother’s ignorance.
“I don’t see what the problem is. He didn’t seem to mind,” Scott said.
“Well, he did mind and so did I!”
“Hold on you two,” Murdoch intervened. “I’m sure Scott didn’t intend to insult your friend Johnny. He just wasn’t thinking.”
“Oh, so you think it was wrong too?” Scott asked his father.
“Well, Scott it is a sensitive subject.”
Johnny rolled his eyes at his brother and sighed. “Scott, you don’t ask someone you don’t even know about their personal life. It would be like asking how much money they’re worth. Would you ask that?”
Scott considered this and blushed a little. “No, no I wouldn’t. I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t realize,” he said softly.
“I’m not the one you need to apologize to,” Johnny said.
The next morning Johnny searched for his friend, finally finding him in the barn. “Where ya been?” he asked, smiling.
“Talking to your brother,” Chavez said with a grin.
“Did he apologize?” Johnny asked, eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, but he didn’t have to.”
“Yes he did.”
“Oh, you threaten him?” Chavez laughed.
“Somethin like that. Come on, I want to show you around a little more.”
They spent the day riding the range, talking over old times and Chavez plans for the future. Johnny was enjoying this time alone. In New Mexico , they never seemed to get that chance too often as he was always around, protective of his friends and not wanting to share their time with anyone, including Johnny.
They talked about him too and Chavez told Johnny some things that worried him. He was on the edge and, even though he was a hot head and just plain crazy, Johnny liked him. He was the sort that, if he allowed you to get near him, you couldn’t help but like him. That was something Johnny had in common with him. That and a fast draw.
Johnny had always been glad he never seemed to want to find out which of them was faster because, truthfully, he didn’t know himself. Still, he knew it was always a possibility. That one was unpredictable and that was what made him most dangerous.
They spent the evening on the veranda, looking at the stars. “Sure is quiet around here.” Chavez said.
“Yeah, it’s nice,” Johnny replied.
Chavez studied his profile and smiled. “You know amigo, I always knew you were better than that,” he commented.
“Better than what?” Johnny asked.
“That life,” he said simply.
Murdoch heard this as he came out to join them and smiled. He liked this young man, he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders. “Boys,” he said in greeting.
“Mr. Lancer, you have a beautiful place here,” Chavez complimented.
“Thank you, but call me Murdoch.”
Johnny raised an eyebrow at this and grinned slightly. It was a perfect night, the stars were twinkling overhead and his father was in a good mood and seemed to like his friend. How could it get any better? He thought. Peace was the word that came to mind. Something he had desired for so many years. Peace and quiet.
“Anybody want a refill?” he asked as he stood to get a drink. They both handed him their glasses.
“You’re not like Johnny’s other friends from before,” Murdoch said, hesitantly.
Chavez laughed a little. “No, I’m the only other half breed in the mix.”
“I didn’t mean that,” Murdoch frowned.
“Sorry, we joke about it. I guess it’s what kinda started the friendship in the first place. Johnny defending me,” Chavez laughed again and shook his head.
“Ok , I have to hear this,” Murdoch said, very interested now.
“Well, it was in Old Fort Sumner. My friends and me were, uh, visiting. This gringo gunslinger was in the saloon and I guess he was itchin for a fight. Anyway he started calling me half breed and other things. I’d had just about enough when Johnny stepped into it. He strolled over to the bar and leaned against it real close to the gringo. Then he said, ‘If you want to fight a half breed, I’m available.’
Chavez stopped here, laughing at the memory. “I was really mad about it. I mean, I can handle myself. I didn’t need this guy’s help. At first, I didn’t know who he was. Couldn’t get a good look at him. Then the gringo turned around to face him and I could see his face. My friend urged me to let him go to it, so I did. Johnny took care of him pretty fast and never said a word to me, never even looked at me. Just went back inside and sat back down at his table.
“Well, I couldn’t let him get away with that, so I just walked over there and asked him who he thought he was. He reached out his hand and said ‘Johnny Madrid, it’s a pleasure’. I just stared at him and told him he needed to stay out of my business. Then he explained how it was his business as much as it was mine. I couldn’t argue with that and we started talking and that’s how we met.” Chavez finished with a shrug.
Murdoch was mesmerized by the telling. He could almost see Johnny doing exactly those things. He probably wouldn’t have if the gringo had been talking to him. He probably would have ignored it or tried to defuse the situation, but someone else being attacked, he wouldn’t stand for.
Murdoch just shook his head. “Sounds like Johnny, alright.”
“What sounds like me?” Johnny asked suspiciously as he came back outside with his brother in tow.
“Chavez was just telling me how you two first met,” Murdoch explained.
Johnny narrowed his eyes and pierced his friend’s soul with his gaze.
“Don’t look at me like that. I only told the truth,” Chavez grinned.
“Great, I missed it!” Scott said indignantly.
“Don’t worry, son, I’ll tell you the whole story later. I’m not likely to forget it,” Murdoch said with a chuckle.
Johnny was stunned that his father wasn’t angry.
“Sounds interesting,” Scott grinned. “Something else I’m interested in … well if it’s not too personal,” Scott started.
Chavez laughed and asked him what he wanted to know.
“Well, how’d you get so good with that knife? You should see him, Murdoch,” Scott said.
Chavez pulled his knife out of its scabbard and looked at it, then twirled it in his hand a couple of times. “This? Just practice,” he said.
“Glad I’m not the one you practiced on,” Scott said with a smile.
The next morning, Johnny and Chavez took off early. Johnny wanted to show him South Mesa . It was the highest place on Lancer and from there, you could see the entire ranch. They sat on the hillside talking when Johnny spotted a rider in the valley below.
“Who’s that?” Chavez asked.
“I don’t know, can’t see him too well,” Johnny answered, standing and squinting to make out the form below. His eyes widened in surprise as he recognized the rider. “Chavez,” he whispered.
“I see ‘ em ,” Chavez answered with dread.
“We have to stop him,” Johnny said as he headed for his horse.
Chavez was right behind him and they took off at a gallop. The rider saw them coming at him fast and instinctively went for his gun. He drew the weapon and held it on them until he realized who it was.
“Johnny Madrid? I’ll be damned. Well, Chavez, how’d ya manage to find him?” he asked.
“I wasn’t looking, we just ran into each other,” Chavez answered.
“What are you doing here?” Johnny asked, none too friendly.
” Lookin for Chavez. I gotta talk to you amigo. We got trouble,” he said.
“What else is new?” Chavez said with a sigh. “What is it?” he asked.
He looked at Johnny suspiciously.
“Oh, for pete’s sake! You know you can trust Johnny. Just tell me,” Chavez said.
“They’re looking for all of us. Haulin the lot back to Lincoln for trial. They already got about everybody else. They’re comin after you too, Chavez. They know you’re in California ,” he reported.
Chavez exchanged looks with Johnny and sighed.
“Let’s go up to the line shack,” Johnny suggested.
Johnny put on a pot of coffee and sat down at the table with them. “What are you going to do, Chavez?” he asked.
“Guess I’ll head for the Sierras. Find my people and stay there. They won’t find me up there,” he answered.
“Don’t be so sure about that. They’ll wipe out your whole tribe to get ya,” the fellow said.
“They wouldn’t do that. What would be the point?” Johnny said.
“Point? The point is, Johnny boy, that they want us bad and they ain’t gonna stop til they got all of us.”
Johnny looked at him and could see the excitement in his eyes, he loved this kind of danger. “You can stay here amigo. We won’t let them find you,” Johnny said softly to his friend.
“We? You got a gang around here, Johnny? Well, hell we can both hide out here then!”
“No! Not you, Billy. You ain’t stayin here. Not one more minute ! You ain’t nothin but trouble!” Johnny spat.
“You want to see trouble, Johnny?” Billy said, standing up.
“Stop it, Billy! Just sit down. Johnny ain’t got no gang. He does have a family and I can’t put them in the middle of this, Johnny. Your old man would have a cow, anyway,” Chavez said.
“Old man?!” Billy exclaimed.
“I don’t have time to explain it to you, Billy. But yes I have a father and a brother. Just leave it at that. Now, look Chavez, I can talk to Murdoch. I can make him understand what happened,” Johnny said.
“No, Johnny. It’s better if I just head out,” Chavez said.
They sat there for long minutes, trying to figure out the best plan of action. Billy wasn’t thinking about that, he was thinking about Johnny having a family and how he could use it to his advantage. Johnny sighed and seemed to have made up his mind.
“Billy, you can stay here tonight but you have to ride out of here at first light. Head for Mexico , I think that’s the best thing for you,” he said.
“What about Chavez?” Billy asked.
“He’s going home with me tonight. We’ll talk to Murdoch. We’ll figure something out,” he said.
Billy shrugged and nodded.
“There’s food here, take some with you when you leave. Anything you need, just take it,” Johnny said.
“Thanks, amigo,” Billy smiled.
Johnny returned the smile then turned serious. “It’s nothing against you, Billy. It’s just that trouble seems to find you and I make enough of that around here.”
“Sure, Johnny. I know what ya mean. Well, Chavez, guess this is really the end of the line for us, pal,” Billy said.
“Be careful, chivato . And, please go to Mexico . You are one loco son of a gun, but I don’t want nothin to happen to you, amigo,” Chavez said as they shook hands.
Johnny waited until after supper to approach his father. Chavez thought they should talk to him alone but Johnny told him Scott would be on their side. They sat in the living room and Johnny was not looking forward to broaching the subject. He and Chavez kept exchanging looks and this did not escape his brother’s notice.
Scott was amused by the activity, he figured Johnny was going to talk Murdoch into letting his friend stay on here. What he didn’t know was why Johnny was so apprehensive.
Johnny cleared his throat, seemingly finding his nerve. “Murdoch, we need to talk to you,” he said.
Scott got up and started to leave.
“No, Scott, stay,” Johnny said, his eyes were practically begging.
Scott smiled and sat back down.
“What is it, son?” Murdoch asked.
“Well, I guess I should start by asking if you’ve heard of the Lincoln County war,” he said.
“Of course I have. Ugly business,” Murdoch said.
Scott nodded as he had read about it in the Sacramento newspaper.
“Yeah, well. There are things that a lot of people don’t know about it. Things that I guess got lost in the mix. Like how it all really started and how some people got caught up in it before they knew what was happening,” Johnny said.
“I don’t see what the big mystery is, Johnny. Two men bent on controlling the area started a war. One of them was killed and his men sought revenge. A lot of people died and Billy the Kid was the leader of the gang that was looking for that revenge. It ended in a blood bath in Lincoln and the Kid got away. Sounds pretty simple to me,” Murdoch said.
“That man that was killed, John Tunstall , he was my friend. He took me in when nobody else would give me so much as a handful of dirt. He tried to teach me that fighting wasn’t the way to solve your problems. That the law was the only way to get justice. He taught me to read and write. He taught me what it was to be a man. When they killed him, I lost sight of that. We all did. All I wanted was to kill those men responsible, all of them. And that is just what we did,” Chavez explained.
Murdoch looked at him through wary eyes. “Are you telling me you’re part of Billy the Kid’s gang?” he asked in shock.
“He was, but not anymore. He left to find his people just like he said. He wanted to get away from all of that. To change his life, Murdoch,” Johnny quickly explained.
Murdoch sat there looking between his youngest son and Chavez. “What happened to make you tell me about this now?” he asked, suddenly realizing Johnny would not have brought this up without a reason.
“Well, they’re looking for Chavez. For all of them. They’re taking everyone involved to Lincoln for trial. Chavez wouldn’t have a chance. All they want is someone to punish so the governor doesn’t look like the fool that he is,” Johnny said.
“How did you find out about this or did you know when you came here?” Murdoch asked Chavez.
“No, I didn’t know then,” he answered. Johnny tensed as he realized he was not going to get out of telling Murdoch about Billy. ‘Damn’, he thought.
“So?” Murdoch pressed.
“A, uh, friend came by today and told him,” Johnny said.
“What friend?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny stood up and walked to the fireplace. He always liked to be on his feet when he told Murdoch something he knew would make the old man angry and this was gonna make him blow his top!
“Billy,” he mumbled.
“Excuse me? Billy? Billy who?” Murdoch asked, his voice rising.
“You know who,” Johnny said and stared defiantly at his father.
Murdoch stood up and started pacing the floor. Johnny could see the veins popping out in his neck and he knew this was going to be really bad. “So, Billy the Kid stopped by for a chat. Just to tell you about the trial. And just where is he right now?”
Murdoch asked, steaming.
“Right here,” Billy said as he walked through the French doors. Johnny groaned audibly.
“What are you doing here, chivato ?” Chavez hissed at him.
“Hey, I just wanted to meet Johnny’s new family. Just stopped by to say hello,” he said with a smile. “William H. Bonney , sir. Pleased to meet you,” he said as he extended his hand to Murdoch who looked at him like he was the devil himself.
Johnny walked quickly over and infused himself between the two of them. “I told you not to come here,” he said, anger barely suppressed.
“Well, that ain’t very sociable, amigo,” Billy said, deadpan.
“Billy, I swear to God, you…” Johnny started.
“He’s leaving. Right now, with me. Come on Billy,” Chavez said.
“No! He’s leaving, but youâ€™re not. Chavez, you don’t have to do this,” Johnny said.
“Yes, I do. I told you I don’t want to put your family in the middle of this, Johnny,” Chavez said. Â
“They’re both leaving!” Murdoch growled.
Johnny turned to face his father. “Haven’t you listened to anything we’ve said?” he asked.
“Yes, I listened and I’m sympathetic but I will not have Billy the Kid in my house!” he said, his voice raising to a shout by the end.
“Oooh weeee , Johnny! Your old man is one mean hombre! Now, you better do like he says before he turns you over his knee,” Billy laughed.
Johnny closed his eyes for a second and clenched his fists. He turned to Billy and punched him right in the mouth. Billy went flying backwards, landing with a thud on the floor. He touched his hand to his lip and looked at the blood there then he looked up at Johnny, pure malice in his eyes.
“I guess we’re finally gonna find out, ain’t we?” he said quietly.
“It’s your ticket, Billy. If you want me to punch it, I’ll oblige,” Johnny said, deadly calm, his eyes expressionless. Â
Scott decided it was finally time for him to intervene. “Do you always answer a hit in the face with a gunfight, Mr. Bonney ?” he asked the man still lying on the floor.
“Who the hell are you?” Billy asked.
“Someone who believes in fairness. Now if you want to have a fistfight, I’d be more than happy to referee,” he said. Billy stood up and looked with disbelief at Johnny who was not happy with his brother’s interference.
“Stay out of this, Scott!” he hissed, never taking his eyes off Billy.
“This your brother, Johnny boy?” Billy asked. “He’s got moxey . Sounds like an easterner though,” he added.
“Boston ,” Scott obliged.
“I been there. I hated it,” Billy grinned. He turned to Chavez then. “Well, you gonna side with him or me? Pals, remember Chavez?” Billy asked.
Chavez looked at him then at Johnny. “There ain’t no side to take, Billy. We’re leavin right now,” Chavez answered.
“Not yet, amigo. Not til me and Johnny settle this question that’s been between us for so long,” Billy answered with a smirk.
“What question?” Scott asked.
Billy rolled his eyes at the dandy. “Who’s the fastest,” he answered simply.
Murdoch stepped forward then and positioned himself between Johnny and Billy. “No sir! Not here, not now. You’re not going to involve my son in this any further. Now you get off our land!” he said.
Billy stared at him for a minute, then he grinned. “Well, well. Now ain’t that sweet. Takin up for your kid like that. Where were you when he was trampin around those border towns, old man? Where were you when he was takin a bullet for some peon village or facin off against some fool thinkin he had a chance in hell?” Billy said sarcastically.
“Shut up!” Johnny shouted and stepped around his father. “You don’t know anything about my father or me, Billy,” he hissed.
“I know everything about you, Johnny. You’re me,” Billy said.
Johnny laughed at this. “No, Billy. I’ve never been loco. You and me are nothing alike. Now, you can leave or you can call it. It’s your choice.”
“Johnny, no,” Murdoch said, putting a hand on his son’s shoulder.
Billy felt a strange lump in his throat at the gesture he saw and he didn’t know why but he swallowed and ignored it. “Ain’t got much confidence in him, do ya old man?” he asked.
“I have every confidence in my son. I just see no reason for this. It’s pointless,” Murdoch answered, pride in his voice. Johnny smiled to himself at his father’s answer.
Billy laughed. “He sounds like you, Johnny. Yeah, just like you,” he said, his voice sounding a little distant. Â He was thinking, a frown on his face.
Chavez knew this meant something significant, Billy rarely frowned.
Finally, Billy sighed and smiled at Johnny. “Well, amigo I guess we’ll never know. Chavez, you comin or not? It’s up to you, I’ll understand if you don’t.”
Chavez looked beyond his two friends at Murdoch. He couldn’t read this man so he decided the best course was to leave. Johnny walked over to him.
“If you go with him, you’ll be running for the rest of your life,” he said.
“I guess that’s how things were meant to be for me, Johnny. I’m glad I got to see you again though, amigo,” Chavez said and smiled.
“You don’t have to leave right now, Chavez,” Murdoch said.
Johnny let a smile play on his lips. “Stay at least until we can figure out how to get you out of here safely,” Johnny said.
Billy joined them and looked at the two friends. “Hell, Chavez. Might as well hang around and get at least one more good meal out of it. I got my own plans anyhow and I’m pretty sure you’d be mad about what I have in mind,” he said with a grin.
“I know what you have in mind, Billy,” Chavez said. “Good luck, chivato . Watch your back,” he said.
They shook hands and Billy looked at Johnny. “I sure would’ve liked to known. That just might be the only regret I ever have,” he grinned.
Johnny looked at him but didn’t return the smile, his eyes were sad and Billy looked away.
“I’m sorry Johnny. I should’ve let you be. You sure got lucky,” he said quietly.
“I know how lucky I am, Billy,” Johnny said.
Billy nodded and left.
Johnny watched him ride away from the French doors. His heart ached for the boy. That’s what he was, so young! Johnny was the same age as Billy but Billy always seemed to be such a … well a kid. He felt sad for how he knew it would end for Billy. He never had a chance in life, just like Johnny. He began to wonder if they were so different after all.
He felt his father’s hands on his shoulders and smiled. “He’ll be dead very soon,” Johnny said softly.
“Yes, probably so,” Murdoch agreed. Johnny sighed and turned to his friend.
“Well, amigo. What are we gonna do?” he asked. Chavez grinned at him and shrugged.
“I have a suggestion,” Scott said. They sat down and turned their attention to the blond. “Well, I assume you still want to find your people, so that’s what you should do. The problem, as we all know, is how to get you there without being recognized. The obvious answer would be to change your appearance but I doubt you would agree to that. So, whats left?
“Mapping a route that will get you where you’re going and that no one will be able to figure out,” Scott said and went to retrieve a map of California . “Now, if we start you out heading east, then cut south here for about fifty miles, you could cut back west again, then north here to reach the Sierras,” he explained.
The three of them looked at him with admiration. “It’s a zig zag . They’d never know which direction you’re headed next,” Johnny said, impressed with his brother.
“Scott, that’s a brilliant plan,” Murdoch said, equally impressed.
“Well, it’s a simple strategic ploy. We used them quite effectively during the war.” Scott said.
“I think it just might work. I can stay off the roads, take the rougher trails. Thank you, Scott,” Chavez said.
“I hope it makes up for my faux paz the other night,” Scott said.
Chavez and Johnny both looked at him, confused.
“You’re what?” Johnny asked.
Scott smiled at his brother. “My mistake, my question about your heritage?” he explained.
Chavez nodded and ohhed .
“I sure am gonna miss you, amigo,” Johnny said as Chavez was saddling his horse.
“Me too. It’s really nice here, Johnny. I’m glad you’re happy,” Chavez said.
“People like us, we have to fight for every breath in this life. I hope you can breathe easier once you find your family,” Johnny said.
Chavez smiled and embraced his friend. ” Estén bien, mi amigo. Y siempre atesorar lo que tenemos aquí,” he said.
“Yo voluntad , mi amigo. Me espero espero verte de otro vez . Buena suerte,” Johnny replied.
They released each other, hesitant to part again. Chavez mounted his steed in one vault and looked down at his friend. There was nothing left to say and they smiled at each other as he spurred the horse east.
Johnny watched him until he was out of sight. He could feel his father standing behind him and he smiled. “He’ll make it, he’s pretty resourceful,” he said.
Murdoch came closer and put his arm around his son. “Sure he will. He’s a good man.”
Two months later:
“Johnny, you need to read this,” Scott said as he handed Johnny the Sacramento newspaper. He sat down next to his brother, ready to offer the comfort he knew Johnny would need.
Johnny read the article and sat there quietly. Then, he stood up and walked out of the house. Scott sighed.
“What was that?” Murdoch asked.
“Billy the Kid was killed in Ft. Sumner . The article says he was the last of the Lincoln County Regulators. It talks about the rest of them, mentioning a “half-breed Indian” who was killed last month,” Scott reported.
Murdoch sighed as well.
Johnny stood on the veranda looking out across the expanse of his home and remembering his friend. He could swear he heard Chavez voice as the breeze picked up around him.
” Adios , Chavez. Nunca me olvidaré de usted , mi amigo,” he whispered to the wind.
Estén bien, mi amigo. Y siempre atesorar lo que tenemos aquí = Be well, my friend. And always treasure what you have here.
Yo voluntad , mi amigo. Me espero espero verte de otro vez . Buena suerte = I will, my friend. I hope I will see you again. Good luck.
Adios , Chavez. Nunca me olvidaré de usted , mi amigo = Goodbye Chavez. I’ll never forget you, my friend.
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