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Autumn Night’s Visitor by Barbara V.

Word Count 1,947

The family settled in after Halloween party ended.  Each said goodnight and headed to their respective rooms for the night.

Shortly after the clock struck twelve, a heavy fog covered the ranch. Slipping under the main door the fog began to take shape. The mist swirled around spiraling upward until the figure of a man appeared.

The form moved silently into the great room, taking notice of all before him. He stopped the replica of a ship, fingering its mast. Smiling, nodding his head in approval, it next was drawn to the massive book shelves, eyeing the many books there.

The figure seemed to disappear as quickly as it formed, only to appear in the upper hall.  Stopping at Scott’s door, slipping underneath it entered the room. It moved to the side of the bed, and gaze at the young man sleeping there.

What a bonny lad, handsome just like his father.  He seems to have inherited his love of books. He is quite organized. Much can be told by the way a man keeps his room. Your father must be so proud of you my boy. ‘Moving to the dresser, a picture was picked up. ‘What a truly lovely lass. I wish I had known her.’ The figure moved silently to the bed. It reached to stroke Scott’s blond hair. It lingered a bit then left the room same as it entered.

Moving across the hall, it entered Johnny’s room. Noticing the disarray in the room it smiled down upon the sleeping figure, splayed over the bed, covers on the floor and seemingly in motion even while sleeping. ‘This one has the devil in him. I imagine this scamp keeps Murdoch on his toes. He is too is a bonny lad and so like my Ian.’ The figure reached with a feather light hand to the sleeping young man’s head. Johnny moved, but did not wake. Moving to Johnny’s dresser, it picked up another picture, caressing it as he saw the striking resemblance in the young man’s face. ‘So, you are the one who won Murdoch’s heart, then broke it. He told me of his love for both you and the wee bairn Aye, you hurt him so, lassie.’  It moved to the bedside once more then silently left the room.

Making its way down the hall, it stopped at Murdoch’s door. Once more it slipped in silently. He took note of room, seeing it much the same as Scott’s room; neat, orderly, with books situated on the small writing desk just under the window. Boots were lined perfectly, and clothes neatly hanging over the chair, it smiled thinking how Scott was so much like his father.

Murdoch started rousing from his sleep and felt as if someone was in the room with him. “Scott? Johnny? Is there something wrong?” Rising from his bed, reaching for his robe, he heard a familiar voice greeting him. He lit the lamp, and adjusted his eyes to the light; he thought he heard the voice again.

“Well my boy, it is grand seeing you again.”

Shocked Murdoch thought he was in a dream and just had not woken up yet. “Da?”

“Aye, lad it is your old Da, come to pay you a visit. How have you been, son?”

“Da, I don’t know how you entered my dream, but you passed years ago. This can’t be you.”

“I assure you, it is me. Your Ma and I have been resting together for many years now, but wondered you were getting along. After all, we cannot receive any new letters from you. I decided I would come to see you and this land you love more anything God created.”

Murdoch rose, and went to the small desk, now sitting opposite of the visitor.

“Your Ma and I thought you were daft, wanting to pull up stakes from your birthright to come so far away, to a strange and untamed land. Visiting now, I can see we were wrong. You started with just a dream and a bit of land, and have grown it into the masterful ranch you own. You wrote that Catherine was just as excited to live the dream with you.  What a pity she died before seeing the dream come true. Losing your wife and child was something a lot of men would not have come back from, but you did, my son. You continued to grow your dream and look forward to claiming your son to stand beside you here.

“Yes, Da that was my plan, only to be blocked at every turn by Harlan Garrett.  I felt so defeated.  Once I traveled to Matamoros on some business, and I met Maria. She was so beautiful, and so full of life.  She made me feel alive again.  We had a very short courtship. I married her and brought her to Lancer. She was happy at first, but I was spending a lot of time away from her while building my dream. I guess it was my fault that I did not notice she was starting to feel lonely, and neglected. Maria craved attention.  Then we found she was with child, and my heart burst with joy. She was not pleased but as her pregnancy progressed she started once again to be happy.

“Yes son, your letters began to get fewer and fewer. We did not have a lot of info as to what was going on with you.”

“Maria went into labor early, and she gave me a son just before Christmas.  I was the proudest and happiest man on earth that first night when I held my tiny son.  I could see my dreams coming true. Things were looking up at the ranch, as I acquired more land, and made it pay off. We started talking of bringing Scott home now. Maria was not overly enthused about that aspect.  I would take Johnny all around the ranch, showing him what someday would be his and his brother’s legacy.  Maria began to grow jealous of the time I spent with Johnny. She grew angry when I took him up on my horse to ride. He loved that so. He was such a handful, and so loving. I have never seen such a happy little boy.”

“Aye, I have seen your young one’s room.  He is so much like your brother Ian; wild and full of life.  You say he carries the Lancer blue eyes, no?”

“Yes he does. I have never seen such striking blue eyes. It seems they can look into your soul. “

“Tell me more of what happened to the boy and Maria.”

“Well, as I said she was growing more and more unhappy here. I should have noticed. One morning, just before Johnny’s second birthday, she left, taking him with her.  It was as if someone drove a knife in my heart.  I am not sure why she took him with her, whether out of love or just to hurt me more. I searched everywhere, along the border and even into Mexico, but I never caught up with them. I even hired Pinkerton detectives, but year after year there was no word. I finally convinced myself they must be dead. She took no money when she left, and a child of mixed blood is not welcome on either side of the border. I just threw myself into my work. “

Murdoch sat silently realizing he was speaking to a ghost in his dreams, but still went on. “I knew where Scott was. His grandfather had written me Scott was in the army and was held prisoner. He was then back home in Boston. Johnny was not so easy to locate. The Pinkerton detectives finally got lucky and had a lead on my son, only he was not Johnny Lancer, he became Johnny Madrid, a gun fighter, and one of the best.  He had picked up the gun to survive. His mother was killed when he was ten and he raised himself as best he could. The happy little blue eyed boy I remembered was now a killer. I offered each one thousand dollars for an hour of their time. Both accepted, came to Lancer and fought off the land pirates as they were called. “

“How splendid, you now have your sons home to stand beside you, as a family.”

“Yes, but it did not go so smoothly in the beginning. My oldest if very accomplished. A Harvard graduate and ex-soldier, he will stand his ground, and is not afraid to fight for what he believes is right.  Now, Johnny was another story.  His mother had filled his head with lies as to why they left. She let him believe I threw them out. When he got here he was surly, insolent and ready to fight. He once told me all he thought about was finding me and putting a bullet in my head.  There were some rough patches with that one, but we finally found common ground so to speak.  He has learned he now has a father, family and home. He’s come a long way. The boys get along as if they grew up together. Scott is a great big brother to Johnny, and Johnny looks up to him. “

“Well my son, after seeing your dream realized, as well as the family you always deserved, I can see you have made your mark in life and you should be very proud of that.  I suppose it is time to head back, your Ma will worry if I am late. You remember how she is. She’ll fuss. Good bye my son, and God bless you.”  With that he turned and disappeared beneath the door, as he had twice previously.

The sun was rising, shining in Murdoch’s face as he roused himself from sleep. It took him a minute to realize he was not in his bed. ‘Well, that was some dream. It was nice to dream that Da would come down to visit and see what I had done in life… I don’t think I should mention my dream to the boys. They’ll think I hit the scotch too hard last night.’

Breakfast was a subdued one; each man seemed preoccupied in their thoughts.  After morning assignments were given, Scott and Johnny headed to the barn to saddle their horses for a day of work.

“Scott, can I ask ya somethin’?”

“Sure. What?”

“Do you believe in spirits; ghosts?”

“Little brother, you had all your fun with ghost stories last night at the party. Why are you asking?”

“Last night when I was asleep, someone or something came in my room. I opened one eye & was going to get my gun. I stopped & just pretended to be asleep when I saw it wasn’t real. It was like a mist, and the room was so cold!”

“I think you just had too many Halloween goodies. It was a dream Johnny. Ghosts are not real.” Scott finished saddling his mount, thinking about the night before. He too felt someone or something in his room, and his room became cold. Neither man spoke of it again. 

Supper that night was pleasant. The boys filled in Murdoch on the days jobs. Murdoch seemed in a very good mood. As the family retired to the great room for after dinner drinks, Scott and Johnny decided on a game of chess. Murdoch sat sipping his drink, thinking. ‘Yes, Da. My dream is complete; my sons are home. I was wrong when I said I loved my land more than anything God created. I love my sons most.’



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