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Blood Ties by Charlene

Word Count 9,084

Thank you to Sandy for the Beta Read.  Lancer is owned by whoever owns them which sadly is not me.

Murdoch Lancer sat at his desk in the great room.  Teresa and his boys had been in bed for hours.  He knew it was very late and that morning would be there all too soon, but he could not sleep.  For some unknown reason, sleep was elusive.  Something was gnawing at him.  To take his mind off the unknown worry, he worked on his books.  They seemed to be his never-ending chore, but one he did not mind.

Startled, he looked up when he heard a scratching knock at the French doors.  He looked at his pocket watch lying to the right of his books and read the time of half past three.  His brow knitted in perturbed puzzlement and wondering who would be at his door so late at night, Murdoch stood, walked over to the door, and froze.  His breath caught in his throat as he saw her standing there.

She was beautiful.  Her long black hair cascaded over her shoulders, her lips full and red, and her almond-shaped ebony eyes stared intently at him from under thick black lashes.  She looked almost exactly as he remembered her; although she seemed slightly older than she had been that last day.  As memories flooded his brain, his heart skipped a familiar beat before resuming a chest shuddering quickened beat.

His mind told him this could not be real.  This could not be.  She could not be standing there so … alive.  She looked no more than thirty … the age she had been when she died.

“Maria,” he breathlessly whispered.

She smiled at him without warmth or emotion on her face.  “Aren’t you going to let me in, Murdoch?  I want to come back into my home.  I want … my son.”

He shook his head, his eyes never leaving her face.  As much as he wanted to open the door, to take her in his arms and find out why she had ever left him, something rooted him to his spot on the floor.  Instinct warned him not to invite her into his home.

“Open the door, my husband,” she said.

Her voice seemed to roll through the distance between them and crash into his brain like waves hitting the shore.  It was hypnotic.  He started for the door, then stopped himself again.  Shaking his head, he responded, “No.”              

“I want my son.  He belongs to me.”

“Not anymore,” Murdoch growled.  “You won’t steal him away again.” His old wounds were opened again, and a new fear for his younger son formed in his heart.  Somehow, he knew that if Maria took Johnny this time, she would take him into the waiting arms of death.  Murdoch Lancer would not let that happen.  “Go away, Maria.  Go back to hell.”

She laughed wickedly.  “You know nothing of hell, my love.  I offer our child … immortality.”

“No.  You offer him nothing.  I offer him life.  The life you stole from him.  I won’t let you do it a second time.” Murdoch’s breathing came rapidly as his gaze searched the room for something to fight against this apparition.

She smiled her mirthless smile again.  “You cannot stop me.  You could not then, and you cannot now.  Accept it, open the door, let our son embrace his future.”

“Future!  Lancer is his future!  Not you, not … death.” Anger swelled in his chest; anger helped him resist the mesmerizing sound of her voice.

She threw her head back, exposing her long, graceful neck, as she took in a deep breath.  She could smell Johnny … his blood … as it coursed steadily through his sleeping form.  “If you won’t let me in … my son will.” She turned, her dark green dress swirling about her and the black traveling cape billowing in the night breeze.

“Can we help you, ma’am?” Frank said.  He was coming off his shift of night watch, having just stabled his horse, and was heading to the bunkhouse when he spied the woman standing on the veranda.

Murdoch’s mouth dropped open as her words registered in his muddled brain.  He stepped forward as he saw Frank walk out of the darkness into the light coming from the great room, approaching Maria.  Murdoch wanted to call out, to warn the man to run, but her speed was inhumanly fast.  She grabbed Frank and threw her head back before sinking her fangs savagely into the soft flesh of the ranch hand’s neck.  Finished with her kill, she casually dropped Frank’s body to the ground with a thud, and turned back to Murdoch, turned so he would have a good look at what she had become.  Then, without a care, she turned, walked out from under the covered veranda, and rose into the air.

Murdoch’s heart was hammering in his chest.  Frank.  “Good God,” he whispered.  Murdoch’s heart almost stopped when he realized that the monster was still after his son.  She floated up … toward Johnny’s second floor bedroom.  “No,” he whispered as he started to run, taking the stairs three at a time as he bellowed.  “JOHNNY!”

Murdoch almost crashed into Scott, who was stumbling from his slumber into the hall.  Murdoch was frantic.  He had to get to his boy; he had to protect him.  “JOHNNY!” he cried again as he barged into his younger son’s room to see Maria floating at the window.

“Johnny,” she cried in that spell-binding sing-song voice.  “Johnny, come to Mama.  I’ve missed my boy.”

Johnny sat wild-eyed in the center of his bed, staring in disbelief as his dead mother hovered outside his window.  His heart pounded in his chest, and his head could not comprehend the vision before his sleep blurred eyes.  “Mama?” he whispered.

He didn’t notice the trickle of blood that ran down her chin when she flashed him a mirthless smile.  Johnny sat spellbound by her red glowing eyes.  His heartbeat seemed to slow and to beat in time with hers, their joint heartbeats pounding in his ears.  “Mama.”

“Come, Johnny, let me in.  Come be with me … forever.”

His legs felt like lead, yet they started to move seemingly of their own accord.  He stared into her eyes; those deep, red orbs that used to seem so comforting.  Now, there was no comfort, no love, just something feral, something wild, something … deadly.  Despite the signals to flee his brain sent him, Johnny’s body followed her commands as he headed toward the window, his hand outstretched.

“JOHNNY!  NO!” Murdoch screamed.

Scott, who had been frozen at the door, was spurred into action by his father’s fear filled voice.  Half running, half jumping, he crossed the room, vaulted up and then off the bed, and tackled his brother, knocking them both to the floor.

Murdoch moved faster than he thought he could.  The old wound to his back, his slight limp, all forgotten in his primal need to protect his sons.  He stood between his boys struggling on the floor behind him and the window where his dead wife floated.  “Maria, leave!” he growled.

She simply laughed.  It was an utterly inhuman sound that came forth from her bloody lips.  Her voice, an almost hypnotic sing-song sound, continued to call out for her prey.  “Johnny.  Come mi hijo.  Come to me.”

“NO, MARIA!” Murdoch yelled.  “You won’t have him!  I won’t let you!” he looked around the room, frantic, looking for anything to ward off the evil threatening his world.  He saw it at the same time he heard Teresa’s screams.  The noise had awoken the girl and pulled her to the door.  He didn’t have time to comfort her; he had to save them, protect them all.  He saw it by the wardrobe and crossed there, grabbed the object off the wall, and crossed back in three long strides.  He had grown up on supernatural stories in the Highlands of Scotland and remembered the legends.  Murdoch prayed to God that the stories were true.  He stuck the large wooden crucifix to the window, and he did not have to wait to have his prayers answered.

Maria screamed, an infernal sound, and shot upwards into the black darkness of the night.

Breathing hard, Murdoch shook his head, hoping to rid himself of the sights and sounds of this night.  Yet, he knew it wasn’t over.  There was no safety for his family until the sun rose chasing the dark and all the evil that lay within it into the shadows.  And that was about three hours from now.  He turned and saw them, his children.  His boys were on the floor looking up at him, his girl still standing, shocked, in the door.

“Pa?” Johnny whispered.

Murdoch looked into the pain-filled face of his youngest, his heart cracking at the tear rolling down the boy’s cheek.  He wanted to wrap his arms around him, assure him that he would be fine, but he didn’t have the time.  Once they were safe.

“Get up!  Let’s go,” he barked.  “Teresa, grab those blankets.” He reached down with the hand not clutching the crucifix, half pulled his sons up, and shoved them toward the door.  They needed to be someplace safe, someplace without windows.  He took Teresa by the arm as she scooped up the blankets from the floor and pulled her back through the door with his boys.  “This way,” he said as he turned left, then right at the corridor.  The house was large, but Maria knew every inch of it.  He needed a place they could barricade themselves, a place hopefully her voice couldn’t reach.  “The storage room.  Hurry.”

As they ran down the hallway, Maria’s demonic screams started again.  They resounded and echoed thunderously in and around the house.  Murdoch threw the storage room door open and herded his three precious charges inside.  Following them, he slammed and barred the door as Scott lit the wall sconces so an amber glow filled the room.

Johnny stood forlornly in the center of the room.  His head and his heart warring with each other.  That couldn’t have been his mother … but it looked like her, sounded like her … but she was … dead.  “Pa?”

Murdoch grabbed a blanket from Teresa’s trembling hands and moved to his youngest.  He wrapped the soft material around his boy’s shaking shoulders and led him to a worn red settee against the far wall, and together they sat, his arm around Johnny’s shoulders.  “I don’t know what’s going on here, Johnny.  I don’t know how … your mother … or that creature that looks like her … is here.  But I do know we’re going to get through this.  Together.”

Scott moved to Teresa and pulled the still shaking girl into his arms.  He needed the comfort as much as she needed him to offer it.  “What … was … what is going on?”

Murdoch stood and beckoned Scott and Teresa to him.  “Sit,” he directed, his hand pointing to the red settee.  He looked around and pulled an old rocker over to sit in front of them.  Before he lowered himself into the chair, he pulled the blankets from Teresa’s hands and wrapped them around his children, his heart flickering a little at the paternal feelings he had toward them even under these circumstances.  Maybe more because of these circumstances.  “Have you ever heard of a … vampire?”

Murdoch rocked slowly back and forth, his hand clutching the wall crucifix.  He watched his children sitting opposite him.  Scott had his head back, not quite asleep, but getting much needed rest in a way being a cavalry officer had taught him.  Teresa was in an exhausted sleep, her head on Scott’s chest and his left arm protectively around her.  Johnny was not asleep yet, neither he nor Murdoch had spoken in some time.  Occasionally, pain filled blue eyes would look across at Murdoch, but mostly he sat head down, his right hand picking at the loose red threads of the settee.

Murdoch could only imagine the torment his son was experiencing.  To Scott and Teresa, the vampire was only a monster.  To him and Johnny, however, existed in the body of someone they had both known and both loved.  Knowing Johnny, he would blame himself for things he was blameless for.  That is why he had withheld a piece of information.  He knew he had to tell Johnny eventually, but he had to protect him, even for a few pitiful hours as they sat entrenched, safe as Murdoch feared for those outside these walls.

Murdoch’s head jerked up as Jelly’s frantic voice lifted through the great hacienda.

“Boss!  Boss!”

Murdoch’s chair scraped across the floor as he pushed it back and stood, his hand going to his incredibly sore back.

“Sir?” Scott started nervously, immediately awake.  Murdoch had spent the night telling them stories from the Old World … of vampires and more.  Things Scott would have placed in the category of superstitious nonsense had he not seen the vampire that was once Maria Lancer floating in front of his brother’s window.

Murdoch looked him in the eye.  “I’m sure the sun is up.” He lifted the heavy cross beam that locked the storage room from the inside and opened the door.  “Jelly!”

It took only a minute to hear running feet and to see the whiskered countenance of the Lancer handyman followed closely by Cipriano and Isidro.  “Boss, are you all … “

“We’re still alive, Jelly.” Murdoch looked back at his children and the shaken looks they still held on their faces.  “We’re still alive.”

Scott stood and helped Teresa up, his arm wrapping protectively around her shoulders as she pulled the blanket around her.  “Johnny?”

The dark-haired Lancer sat stock still, eyes still on the floor. 

“Boss, I seen that she-devil when she killed Frank!”

Johnny’s head shot up, and he stood, crossing toward the door and starting up the stairs.  “Frank?  Frank’s dead?  She killed him?”

“Sure did!  Awfulest thing I ever did see in my life,” Jelly started.  “Dewdrop was squawking, and I got up to see and looked out my window.  Saw that … woman … grab poor ol’ Frank and sink her fangs in him and then she flew up toward your window.”

Johnny pushed past the men and headed toward the main part of the house.

Isidro nodded and crossed himself.  “I heard the shrieks, Senor.  I looked out the window, saw Frank’s body on the ground and this … demonia … flying around.  Impia.”

Murdoch followed his son up the storeroom stairs, placed a hand on Isidro’s shoulder and nodded.  “Yes, unholy.  Very unholy.  If you’ll all wait in the Great Room.  Teresa, can you make coffee, please.” He called down to the girl.  Murdoch did not wait for any of their answers.  He had to get to his son.  Murdoch turned toward the French doors, shuddering as he remembered Maria standing there.  He didn’t see Johnny outside, assumed he went to his room and headed toward the stairs.

“Johnny?” he queried as he stood at his son’s bedroom door.

Johnny stood, hands on each side of his washstand, looking into his mirror.  He poured water into the wash basin, dipped his hands in the cool liquid, and splashed his face before running his hands through his raven’s black hair.  “Mama killed Frank.”

Murdoch walked over, placing a comforting hand on his son’s shoulder.  “That’s not your mother.”

“Murdoch …”

“No.  Listen to me.  That is not your mother.  Maria was a beautiful, vibrant, loving woman who didn’t deserve to be murdered by a monster.  What’s using her body is not my Maria, not your mother.  That’s a demon, an unholy demon.”

“How do we fight … her?  Tell me how?”

“I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out.  We will.”

“That’s right, brother,” Scott’s soothing voice added as he joined his family.  “Lancer takes care of its own, you know.  Teresa’s making eggs to go with the coffee.”

“I can’t eat –”

“You have to, Johnny.  We all do.  We have to keep up our strength to be able to fight this.  Cipriano is sending out the crews to check on the men who were on night duty.  No one’s come in this morning.”

Murdoch felt Johnny tense under his hand.  “Son, let’s dress and go eat.  I think we have a busy day in front of us.” 

Murdoch looked up when Walt opened the French door.  “Riders coming, Mr. Lancer.” He stood from his desk and walked outside, Johnny and Scott on his heels.

“That’s Val,” Johnny said, recognizing his old friend, “Looks like Padre Luis and someone else with him.”

Isidro crossed himself. “The Padre can bury our dead.”

Johnny looked at the man and nodded, knowing they needed to do more than just bury them.  He turned back toward their visitors.  “Hey Val,” Johnny called out as the men pulled up to the hitch rail.

Green River’s sheriff stepped down, wrapped his reins around the post and looked into his friend’s eyes.  “We got trouble.”

“What’s happened, Val?” Scott asked, dreading the answer.

Val looked around at the men staring; no one seemed to be working on the normally busy ranch.  “Let’s go inside.”

Johnny nodded.  “Yeah, sure.  C’mon in.” Johnny led the way back into the hacienda and went straight for the drink cabinet.  “Anyone want one?”                          

Val shook his head.  “No.  Y’all know the Padre.  This here,” he said, motioning toward the third man, “is Lorenzo Romano.  He … well … he better tell ya.” He walked over to Johnny and took the decanter from his friend’s hand.  “I will have that drink.”

All eyes turned toward the stranger.  The man was of medium height, his black hair streaked with grey, he seemed about Murdoch’s age.  He wore a long brown duster and a tall leather hat with a deeply indented crown and a wide flat brim, and his right hand held a square wooden case.  Lorenzo watched them all before looking directly at Murdoch with an accented voice.  “Mr. Lancer, I am a lay member of the Society of Saint Michael the Protector.  I am here from Rome.  I believe you may need my services.  I hunt vampires.”    

Murdoch sat heavily in the brown leather chair by the fireplace.  “Sit down, everyone, sit down.  Yesterday, I would have questioned your sanity; today… I welcome your help.”

“So, she has been here?  Maria?” Lorenzo asked as he and the Padre sat on the long sofa, sitting the case on the floor.

“Maria, yeah.  Last night.  You know who you’re hunting?” Johnny asked, setting his drink on the mantel and leaning against it.

“Maria.  The unholy lover of her sire, Jean-Claude LaRue.  LaRue was a vampire sired in Paris in 1780 by an older vampire called Elyna.  They came with the first French settlers to the area called Louisiana.  The Society destroyed Elyna in Campeche on Galveston Island in 1821.  LaRue traveled alone until 1862, when he saw and became fascinated with a Mexican woman named Maria.  He sired her in a little border town called –”

“Pilares,” Johnny finished.  He sighed and ran his hand through his hair.  He looked up and turned to his friend.  “It’s Mama, Val.  Mama’s the vampire.”

Val palmed his face. “Damnation.”

Lorenzo jumped from the sofa.  “Maria is your mother?” Turning to Murdoch, “She was your wife?”

Murdoch nodded.  “Yes, she was.”

“You two are in the most danger,” Lorenzo started.  “Female vampires have the compulsion to turn those they care about.”

“Turn?” Scott asked.

“Make into a vampire.”

“That will not happen,” Scott replied, looking at his brother hugging himself and looking into the fireplace.  “Where’s LaRue?”

“My colleague, Father Garibaldi, tried to destroy the fiend outside San Diego.  I’m not sure he was successful or if he just wounded him.”

“And Father Garibaldi?” Scott pressed.

“Mortally wounded in the endeavor.  I made sure his soul was able to rest in peace,” Lorenzo replied, crossing himself. 

“Mama and LaRue ain’t hurting no one in this family.  See, this LaRue didn’t know it, but he created two monsters the night he killed my mother.” Johnny’s hands dropped to his side, his right hand brushing the handle of his gun.  He turned to face them.  “Teach me how to kill them and then get out of my way.”

“Johnny,” Murdoch started.

Lorenzo took a step backward as he stared into the icy hard eyes of Johnny Madrid.  “I … I do not understand.”

Johnny started pacing like a caged tiger, the fingers of his right hand drumming his holster.  “I walked in when this … vampire … was killing mama.  I didn’t know exactly what I was seeing, just that Mama was dead, and there was so much blood.  I ran into the night and I,” Johnny took a deep breath before he continued.  “I became a killer.” He stopped directly in front of the vampire hunter.  “That good book of the Padre’s,” he started tilting his head toward the priest, “says not to kill.  But me, I killed.  I don’t even know how many.  I stopped counting long ago.  Some say more than thirty.  Truthfully, it could be.  I became a gunfighter, Mr. Romano, because of what I saw.  To hunt and kill the man who killed my mother.  To use my gun to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.  I’m a gunfighter, not just any gunfighter, one of the best.  I’m Johnny Madrid and I am good at my trade and that trade’s killing those that need killing.  So, you tell me how to kill these vampires because that is what I aim to do.”

“What we aim to do, brother,” Scott added.  “Don’t go making any one man plans.”

Johnny turned to his brother and, despite his inner turmoil, shot Scott a small smile.  “I learned that lesson already, big brother.”

Val ran his hand through his dark curly hair.  “So, what did she do here?”

Murdoch looked up from where he sat.  “Killed Frank.  Maybe the entire night crew.  No one came in.  Cipriano has the men looking.”

Lorenzo looked around.  “We will need to burn the bodies as we did your mayor’s.”

Johnny looked from Lorenzo to Val.  “Higgs?”

“Yeah,” Val added.  “I didn’t like the jackass, but he didn’t deserve that.  Saw him and his wife talking to this woman.  Then all of a sudden, his wife’s screaming and the woman in green was ripping his throat out with her teeth.  Grabbed up Miz Higgs and flew up into the night.”

“She took her?  You find her?”

“Naw,” Val answered.  He poured himself another drink and downed it all at once.  “Lorenzo here came running up and pushed me back in my office.  I wanted to go after her, but … hell if I knew what to do.”

Johnny thought about all he had heard.  He turned to Lorenzo.  “LaRue’s alive.  Mama’s feeding him.  That’s why she took Mrs. Higgs.” All eyes fell on Johnny as the implication of his words coursed through each soul.  Padre Luis and Isidro crossed themselves.  “How do we kill them?” Johnny demanded.

Lorenzo crossed to Murdoch’s desk and sat the wooden case he carried upon it.  Opening it, a crucifix sat inside the lid.  The case also held a gun, a mallet, four wooden stakes, three bottles of holy water and oil, a rosary and a prayer book.  “A wooden stake through the heart, decapitation, and fire.”

Johnny turned to Murdoch, “You told us fire last night.”

“Scottish legends,” Murdoch replied to those looking at him.  “Vampires are susceptible to holy objects.”

Lorenzo nodded, “Si, si.”

“Garlic,” Jelly sputtered out, “Always heard tell garlic keeps away spooks.”

The vampire hunter nodded.  “Si, it repulses them like holy objects.”

“Bullets?” Johnny asked.

“No … unless it is made of wood or silver.”

Johnny picked up one of the stakes from the chest.  “These wooden stakes, do they have to be this size?”

“No.  Any wood that pierces a vampire’s heart will kill them.”

Scott walked over to look in the chest as well.  “How do we protect the house?”

Lorenzo looked at the elder Lancer son.  “Vampires cannot enter a home unless invited.”

“So, the house, the bunkhouse, places where people live are safe as long as we don’t let them in.” Scott turned to Isidro.  “You were right to keep everyone in the bunkhouse last night.  You need to tell the men when they return.  Once the sun goes down, everyone stays where they are.”

“What about horses?” Johnny asked.

Lorenzo shook his head.  “The vampire could go into the barn.  Only human habitats require an invitation.”

Padre Luis sat watching the exchange and saw the stricken look that flashed over Johnny’s face.  He stood, approaching the men.  “The vampire cannot go into holy ground, si?”

“That is right,” Lorenzo replied.

The priest turned to Johnny.  “I know your love of your horse.  She would use that to lure you outside.  I think I have an answer.  I can consecrate your barn into a church.” The man smiled at them.  “The Church of the Holy Stable … much like where Our Lord was born.”

Johnny gave the man a weak smile. “Gracias, Padre, gracias. Let’s start getting ready.”

“We cannot hunt them at night.  We can start to prepare, but we will not have time to begin our quest today.  We can plan and prepare, and then during the night, we can survive.  Tomorrow, we will hunt,” the experienced hunter stated.

“Fine,” Johnny ground out.  He was ready to go and find these monsters, but he understood the wisdom of planning and preparing.  It was like a range war.  There was planning and strategy.  He was good at both.  “Val, Jelly, y’all come with me.  I got an idea.”

Scott moved to stand by Murdoch, his hand resting on father’s shoulder.  A wooden stake, decapitation, and fire.  He started getting an idea of his own.

Utensils clattered onto the stone kitchen floor.  Teresa stood looking at the objects she dropped before looking up into the loving countenance of Maria.  “I’ve got butterfingers,” she nervously said.

Maria bent down to help her girl pick up the dropped cutlery.  “Si, chica, si. We are all nerviosa, si?”

“Yes, we’re all nervous.  It’s so hard to believe.” They stood and headed toward the sink with the dirty dishes.

“That is why the food was mainly untouched.  Still, they need to eat.  Keep up their strength,” Maria said as she placed her hands in the warm, soapy water.

Teresa nodded and rubbed her arms.  “It’s unusually cold for this time of year.” She walked to the window to watch the twilight.  “I’ve never been afraid of the dark before.  Now, I don’t think I will ever feel safe in it again.”

“Si, si,” Maria replied.

Teresa looked back lovingly at the woman who was like a mother to her and smiled slightly.  Turning back to the window, she gasped.  “Oh no,” she ran to the door and opened it.  “Juanita, Rodrigo, come inside!  It’s dusk already, and you need to be inside.  Come quickly.”

Maria turned from the sink as the couple who usually aided in the house chores came in the door behind Teresa.

The girl was chattering.  “Have you eaten yet?  We have lots left over.”

“No, senorita, we have not yet eaten, but we plan to,” Juanita answered.

Teresa turned and saw the couple snarl showing their fangs and her scream reverberated throughout the Hacienda.

Maria crossed herself, grabbed the meat cleverly, and brandished it toward the two vampires.  Murdoch and Lorenzo ran into the room.  Murdoch grabbed Teresa pulling her behind him as Lorenzo ran toward Maria, his crucifix in hand.

The vampires snarled and Rodrigo grabbed Maria yanking the clever from her hands.  The woman screamed and Lorenzo slammed the crucifix into the vampire’s hand.  Rodrigo shrieked, releasing his hold on Maria.  He stumbled back, fangs showing, and then his head flew in the opposite direction of his body as Scott’s cavalry saber sliced through the monster’s neck.

Juanita lunged toward Murdoch and screamed when an arrow pierced through her back and out her chest, its wooden shaft spearing her heart.  She turned before she fell, her last sight was of Johnny Lancer holding a bow.

Johnny looked at Val, who stood at his shoulder.  “Told ya I always wanted to be an Indian.”

Scott still gripped the long, curved blade as he headed toward Murdoch and Teresa.  “Are you alright?” Teresa was hysterical and Murdoch held her in his strong arms.  Murdoch saw Cipriano rush to his spouse and quietly thanked Lorenzo as Jelly and the Padre moved over toward the bodies.

Lorenzo looked at the two women, “Were either of you bitten?”

“No, Senor,” Maria answered.  “No.”

“Good, good.  Padre Luis and I will dispose of the bodies until we can burn them in the morning.”

Val walked over, “Me and Jelly’ll help ya.”

Johnny felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up.  His heart started pounding.  He turned to the back door and saw her.  She was just standing there outside the portico.  Blue eyes met red ones.  He grabbed an arrow and notched it, but she shot up into the night sky before he could let it fly.  He stalked over and slammed the door, bolting it.  “Damn.”      

Scott walked over, sword at the ready, “What?”

“Mama was standing there.  Just standing there watching.”

Scott put a hand on his brother’s shoulder.  “We’ll stop her, Johnny.  Together, we’ll stop her.”

Johnny stood in the doorway to the great room, the large dining table in front of him now filled with armaments for their upcoming battle with the undead.  Stakes, arrows, holy water, and more.  He walked by, fingering the items, as he watched his father sit, comforting the distraught Teresa.  A similar scene was occurring on the loveseat between Cipriano and Maria.  A slight smile crossed his face as he remembered seeing the meat clever being knocked from her hand by the vampire Rodrigo.  She may not have used it, but she was brave enough to try, the woman who was like a mother to them all.  A mother bear protecting one of her cubs.  Johnny sighed then; it had been too close.

At the end of the table sat his brother, Scott, cleaning his cavalry saber.  Johnny pulled out a chair and sat with a sigh.  “You’re as good with that as a rifle, brother.”

“Another lesson from my cavalry days,” Scott replied, looking up before turning his attention back to the sword.  He knew he needed to clean it thoroughly.  “Blood is highly corrosive to steel,” he said almost absentmindedly.  “It will cause it to rust in record time if you don’t wipe it all off completely.  I’ll need to reoil it.”

Johnny nodded.  He understood keeping your hardware in working condition.  “Good thing you had that.”

Scott looked up.  “And your bow and arrow, brother.” Scott’s heart broke at the weary look on Johnny’s face.  “We need to talk about something.”


“No.  Something you said earlier.  Johnny, you are not a monster.” A soft, mocking laugh came from his brother.  “No, you listen to me.  You are a good man, Johnny Lancer.”

“Boston, let me tell ya the truth about Johnny Madrid.  He did a lot of bad things and had a lot of bad things done to him.”

“A man who did what he had to do to survive in that world.  Someone who came out of all of that as a good, decent, caring man that I am proud to call brother.  So do not call my brother a monster again.  Do not think that way about yourself because you are so wrong.”

“Don’t you think we need a monster to kill a monster?”

“No.  We need knights to slay the dragons.”

“So, we’re knights now?”                                                                                                      

“To Murdoch’s King Arthur, yes, we are.”

Lorenzo walked over.  “Your brother Scott is correct.  Today, I have been told much of you Johnny Madrid.  You are the type of warrior we need in this fight.  Both of you are.  In your first encounter with vampires, you dispatched them both.  You are slayers of the beasts.”

“So, what do we do tomorrow?  How do we hunt them?  Where do we start?”

“They will need a place to nest?”

“Murdoch told us that they sleep in the daytime?” Scott said.

“A myth,” Lorenzo corrected.  “They cannot come into direct sunlight and are weaker during the day, but they are not confined to a deathlike sleep.”

“So, they could … nest … anywhere?” Johnny asked, his right hand swinging about.  “That’s a mighty big ranch out there.  If they’re on the ranch?”

“I believe they are.  Maria would want to be close, and LaRue is probably not at full strength and thus more inclined to do as Maria says.”

Johnny grinned and shook his head.  “Yeah, Mama was always telling her men what to do.  Don’t see that would change none.”

Val walked over, pulled out a chair and sat.  He picked up a stake and started turning it over in his hand.  “We need to look in places they can shelter from the sun.  Caves, line shacks, mines.”

“Si, Signore Sheriff, si.”

“We need to break into groups to search.” Val reached across and put his hand on Johnny’s arm.  “You know your men best.  You break ‘em into groups in the morning.”

“Sure, Val, but only those who want to hunt.  The others can just cowboy.”

“I think they’re all going to want in on this, Johnny,” Scott stated.  “We should get some rest.”

“Doubt that’ll happen,” Johnny said knowingly.  Sleep wouldn’t come when the wolf was at the door.  He looked around the room; the glass French doors and Murdoch’s big window had the thick red coverings pulled closed.  A poor attempt to keep out the evil that lurked in the night.  Jelly had hung cloves of Garlic at each window and door.  A poor attempt, but it was all they had.

Scratch!  Scratch!  Scratch!

Johnny opened his blue eyes.  What had he heard?  He sat on the floor in the great room, his back to the great sofa, the warmth of the fire before him providing a slim measure of comfort.  It was the primary light source in the room, the lamps having been turned down to a soft glow hours ago.  He heard his father’s soft snores behind him and smiled, knowing the man needed as much rest as he could get.  They all did.  He was surprised that they could sleep, his nerves were too raw.  He closed his eyes, he rested, but he did not sleep.

Scratch!  Scratch!  Scratch!

Johnny looked around for the source of the sound.  Scott slept across from him in the brown leather chair, his brother’s long legs stretched out on the ottoman, his sword lying across the arms of the chair.  Maria and Teresa slept on the loveseat, Cipriano and Jelly sleeping sentry in front of it.  Val was stretched out in front of the fireplace like a scruffy cat while the Padre and the vampire hunter slept in bedrolls to the left of the sofa.  None of them made any noises other than soft snores.

Scratch!  Scratch!  Scratch!

Johnny’s hand tightened around the stake he held in his right hand.  He pushed off the floor, his hand resting on Murdoch’s leg as he did.  He turned toward the French doors.                            

Scratch!  Scratch!  Scratch!                                                               

Walking over to the middle door, the sound was louder.  His heartbeat was fast, pulsing in his ears.  He was scared, but he’d been scared before.  He was mad, and he’d been mad before.  It was never good to get Madrid mad.  He pulled one side of the curtains and stared into his mother’s face.  It wasn’t lost to him in the moment that her eyes were the color of blood, “Go away, Mama.”

“Johnny!  Come to me!” Her voice was sing-songy and hypnotic.  “Come to me, hijo.”

“Nope,” he replied curtly.

“Open the doors,” she commanded.

“Nope.  Don’t work,” Johnny replied again.  He smiled, knowing the priest had put holy water in all their ears to ward off the vampire’s hypnosis.  It worked.  “I ain’t letting you kill everyone in here.”

Her long-nailed finger traced his face on the glass separating them and Maria smiled, her fangs clear in the flickering light cast by the fire.  “I won’t.  I offer you immortality, my son.  Then you can kill them all.  You can start with the pretty little girl.  She can be your first kill.”

“I made my first kill when I was twelve years old, Mama.  You and LaRue … you’re next.”

Maria’s eyes glowed red.  “Are you threatening me?”


She snarled, a guttural, animalistic sound.

A hand touched Johnny’s right shoulder.  He didn’t have to turn to know it was his father any more than he had to turn to know his brother was on his left.  The older man took the curtain from Johnny’s hand and looked at the demon.  “Go back to hell, Maria,” he ground out and pulled the curtain closed as her shriek reverberated throughout the hacienda.

Johnny looked into the faces of the Lancer hands.  These men weren’t just their employees, they were their friends … his friends.  “I want y’all to know that we don’t expect any of you to get involved in this.  It’s perfectly fine if you just do your work best you can and get into the bunkhouse before dark.”

Walt stepped up.  “I’m speaking for all of us.  We’re part of this.  Frank was the best friend I had in this world.  Those on the night crew that we found and those we didn’t are part of us, and then what happened to Rodrigo and Miz Juanita last night.  Well, ain’t nobody keeping us out of this.”

The other men’s voices joined a chorus of agreement with the heartfelt statement.  Lancer had been attacked and they were all Lancer.

“All right then,” Johnny said. “Get with Cipriano, Val and Isidro. They’ll arm ya and split ya into … work … crews of six and give ya directions to go.  You break those up as you please but stay in pairs.  My family and I are going to be taking the area toward Green River.   I just want ya to know that I thank you, we all thank you.  Stay safe.”

Jelly puffed up and turned to Murdoch.  “Now, Boss, you know I can be out there with ya.  I can –”

“Of course you can, Jelly,” Murdoch started.  “I just need you to do a more important job.  You’re the man I trust to take care of Teresa and watch out for Maria.  I trust you to care for Teresa like she’s your own … in case the boys and I don’t make it home.  I can trust you to care for her, can’t I?”

“Well, ya know ya can,” Jelly said.

Murdoch smiled at him, patting Jelly’s shoulder.  “Yes, I knew I could.”

“The Padre and me’ll keep things safe here at home, and you bring yourself and them boys home before dark.”

“I’ll do my best.” Murdoch walked out towards his sons, Val and Lorenzo.  “When Isidro is through, we’ll ride.  Lancer is, initially, made up of three of the Old Spanish land grants. The Rancho San Carlos, the San Francisquito and the Rancho Bolsa Nueva y Moro Cojo. The San Fransisquito is closest to Green River.  There are the remains of the original hacienda between here and town.  I’m not sure if you boys have ever found it.  You take the road toward Green River and turn off on a path, that’s mostly overgrown now, about two miles before the turn-off towards Cross Creek.”

“Would Mama know about this place?”

Murdoch looked down.  “Yes.  She used to … go there … before she left.”

Johnny understood.  “Then let’s go there first.  If they ain’t there we can back track checking line shacks on the way home.

The old San Francisquito hacienda sat forlornly under a little point of a hill overlooking the coast road at the mouth of the San Juan River in a valley nestled between the San Benito mountains.  Smaller and obviously older, than the Lancer hacienda, the adobe, paint peeling on the side, sat under the heavy shade of thick live oaks.  Several of the red clay tiles were missing from the roof.

The group of men stopped, ground-tied their horses in a sunny meadow, and gathered before they started toward the house.  Pulling the full quiver off the horse and draping it over his head so it rested on his back, Johnny took the bow and looked around at them.  “Isidro, you’re with Lorenzo.  Val, you’re with Murdoch and Scott’s with me.” Johnny moved over to Val before they set off and whispered, “Amigo, watch after Murdoch for me.”                                                      

“You got it, Johnny.”

“I … I dunno how focused he is.  I wanted him to stay home, this being Mama, but he wouldn’t, so,” Johnny shrugged.  “I know I can count on you.”

“Always,” Val answered as he pulled an arrow from his own quiver.  He hoisted his bow, “My Cherokee grandpa back in the Nations taught me how to use one of these.  Never thought it would be for vampire hunting.”

Johnny nodded, took a deep breath, and looked down as he let Madrid rise to the surface and take over.  He shifted his shoulder, getting comfortable with his new weapons.  Looking up at his friend, his eyes were like hard shards of ice.  “It’s just a different type of range war.  Let’s do this!”

Setting off on foot, the pairs started towards different sides of the house.  Johnny and Scott headed toward the front gate and through an arched opening that led to an enclosed courtyard.  A small grove of live oaks grew in the center.  Their gnarled tree trunks growing tall and cast shadows over the grounds.

“Which way, Brother,” asked Scott, his cavalry sword at the ready.

“I figure straight ahead and –”

“Johnny, I knew you wanted to see me,” Maria’s voice called out, thundering and reverberating throughout the adobe structure.  “The smell of your blood is sweet, hijo.  It woke me.” The Lancer brothers looked up to see her standing on a second-floor balcony overlooking the courtyard.  Her long black hair cascading over her shoulders.  She turned her dark eyes toward Scott.  “You smell of Murdoch … you must be her son.  Perhaps I will let LaRue feast on you.”

Scott raised his sword as Johnny pulled an arrow from his quiver and notched his arrow.  Before he could let it fly, Maria laughed.  Johnny shot the arrow, but the vampire moved inhumanly fast, sidestepping the projectile.  Her laughter echoed as she turned and headed into the darkness of the house.

“Senor Johnny.”

Johnny turned to see Jose approaching.  “Scott.” He took a step backward and felt his brother at his back.

“See him.  See Pedro and Lew too,” Scott answered as he watched the missing men from the night crew approaching, fangs showing as they snarled.  He stepped away from his brother, swinging the sword.

Johnny quickly notched another arrow and let it fly.  It embedded itself into Jose’s heart and the vampire shrieked as he died a final death.  Turning, he saw Scott dispatch Pedro as Lew moved in on his back.  “Scott!”

Quickly turning, Scott dropped left and avoided the clumsy Lew.  The vampire went right.  Scott sprang back up, turning, and expertly severed the vampire’s head as what was once Lew turned back to face him.

“You alright, Scott?”

Scott grinned at his brother.  “Yeah, let’s go.”

Johnny quickly notched another arrow to have it ready as they headed further into the darkened house.

Murdoch and Val had entered the ruined hacienda through what had once been the kitchen.  They’d found the wooden door lying off its hinges.  They had entered a narrow hall when Maria’s voice resounded throughout the house.

“My boys!” Murdoch gasped.  He started to run when Val restrained him.

“Wait, Murdoch!  We can’t just go barging in.”

“Maria’s with my boys!” Murdoch was frantic and started to run toward the noises.

“Dammit!” Val breathed as he headed behind the big Scot.  He was surprised at how fast the man could move.  Val watched Murdoch turn left at the end of the hall, disappearing for a minute before the big man came slamming back into the wall.  Val started forward when he saw the woman walking toward Murdoch.  Short and plump, in a brown calico dress, grey hair falling around her shoulders.  “Miz Higgs?”

She turned her attention from Murdoch to Val.  “Sheriff,” she sneered.  “Horace hated you!”

“Miz Higgs!”

Baring her fangs, she turned from Murdoch and charged Val.  Val pulled his bow, but she was on him before he could notch his arrow.  She knocked the bow from his hands as they grappled with each other.  She was unnaturally strong, and soon they were on the cold stone floor.  She was straddling Val.  Throwing her head back, she readied for the kill and then emitted an unholy howl as Murdoch Lancer, using muscles and strength forged from years of black smithing on the ranch, drove a wooden stake through her heart.

Val pushed the body off of himself and took Murdoch’s proffered hand.  “Thanks.” He laughed in relief.  “And ta think, Johnny wanted me to look after you.”           

“I’m not as old as he thinks I am,” Murdoch replied.  “Let’s go find those boys.”

Isidro crossed himself as he whispered to the Italian vampire hunter.  “What should we do, Senor Lorenzo?”

“Continue our search and pray that our compagni can handle what they face, si?”

“Si, senor, si, and pray that we can as well.” They ignored the noises from the other parts of the old house and continued their search.  They came upon a thick oak door; intricate carvings adorned the face of it.  Slowly, Lorenzo pushed it open, stopping when the unoiled hinges squeaked.  Looking back at Isidro, he clutched his crucifix in his left hand and pushed the door wider so they could enter the room.

It was a large room, at one time the main living space of the hacienda.  Two large high back chairs sat opposite the fireplace.  Surprisingly, a fire burned, lighting the room in an eerie glow.  “Ah … Lorenzo … come in,” a cultured male voice said with a slight French accent.

Lorenzo and Isidro turned toward each other and back toward the fireplace.  They saw the figure of a man rise from one of the chairs and turn toward them.  Backlit by the fireplace, they could make out his features.  He was tall with what seemed silver-streaked black hair.  “Where is your friend, Father Garabaldi?  Did I kill him after all?”

“His soul rests, and soon fiend, yours shall return to hell!” Lorenzo answered.

LaRue laughed and the sound seemed to go through the two men in the room.  They were so enthralled by LaRue that they did not notice Maria behind them at the door until she pushed them further into the room.  LaRue moved faster than they could see and grabbed Isidro.  “Thank you for coming.  I am hungry.” He sank his fangs in Isidro’s throat as Maria held onto Lorenzo.  She pulled him closer and, laughing, licked his ear with her tongue.

Lorenzo struck out.  He hit her in the face with his crucifix and Maria screamed, releasing him.  He turned toward LaRue, who was dropping Isidro as Johnny and Scott entered the great room.

“No,” Johnny whispered as he saw their friend’s body drop.  Quickly, he raised his primed bow and let his arrow fly.

LaRue raised his arm and flicked it away like it was a match.  He turned his blood red eyes toward the two newcomers and then back to Lorenzo.  “You have brought me more food.”

“We will be the end of you,” Lorenzo replied.

Maria, recovered from the slap from the holy object, looked at her lover.  “You may have the blonde, but my son is mine.”

LaRue looked at her.  “Your son?  Very well, mon amour.  Do with him as you will.”

“The hell she will,” Murdoch bellowed as he and Val entered the room from the opposite side.

A wicked smile crossed her once beautiful face.  “LaRue, my husband, Murdoch Lancer.  He is mine to kill as well.  You may have all the others.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, Maria,” Scott started, bringing his sword to shoulder level.  “We’re not planning on cooperating.”

Johnny knew the danger they were in facing these two vampires.  His heart was beating in his ears.  He pulled every lesson he had learned from every gunfight he’d been in and turned toward the vampire inhabiting his mother’s body.  “I think I’ll start this dance myself.” With lightning quick reflexes, he drew his gun from his holster and fired, hitting her in the heart.  He knew it would not kill her, but it would still hurt like hell.

Maria screeched!

Everyone started moving at once.  Scott, sword at the ready, charged toward LaRue along with Lorenzo and Val.  Val shot an arrow that hit LaRue in the shoulder.  As he turned, Lorenzo threw a vial of holy water in his face.  Steam erupted where it hit and LaRue grabbed Lorenzo, yanking the man towards him.  Scott swung his sword and severed LaRue’s arm, but it still held fast to Lorenzo, who was grappling with it.

Val went to help Lorenzo as LaRue turned on Scott.  His face was feral.  He lunged; Scott parried.  Scott took a step back as LaRue charged him.  Sidestepping the one-armed vampire, Scott’s saber sliced the beast through the middle.  Scott continued to move, turning, he brought his sword down on the vampire’s neck, severing its head.  

Trying to catch his breath, Scott stopped to watch the events on the other side of the room.

Murdoch had run toward Johnny when the melee began.  An infuriated Maria intercepted him and held him between her and her son.  “Is that what you dreamed of Johnny?  Having your parents together?  I can give you both immortality and we can travel the world together in eternal darkness.  The deaths we can cause will make your life as a gunfighter pale by comparison.  Yes, I learned you were a gunfighter.”

“You think I want that?”

“I am so proud of you, of the men you have killed.  It took my death and rebirth to become as I am.  You are nearly my equal in your first life.  As a vampire, you will be unstoppable, unquenchable.  The blood lust that courses through you would be released from your mortal conscience.  Free to do precisely what you want.”

“I’m free to do that now, Mama.  What I want is to kill you.”

“But you hesitate.  Hesitate because I hold Murdoch’s life in my hands.  I could make him as I am or I could snap his neck like a twig surrendering him to a final death.  Either would be your fault for refusing me.”

“Don’t listen to her, Johnny.  Maria’s the only one responsible for her actions.  She always has been,” Murdoch ground out, struggling against her hold.

Maria laughed.  “Do you like being in this house, my husband?  I know you know this is where I met my lovers.  There was more than the one.  Did you know that?”

“Shut-up, Mama.  No one cares about that … or you … anymore.  You ain’t even really my Mama, you ain’t Maria.  I dunno what your name really is, using her body like ya are, her memories like ya are.  I don’t know who ya are, but I know what ya are … you’re a demon.”

“And you, what are you?”

Johnny smiled.  “I’m Madrid, Johnny Madrid.”

She laughed and it went through him like thunder.  “How wonderful.”

“You won’t think so soon.”

Murdoch finally got one hand into his pocket.  His fingers fumbled around the vial.  With eyes on his son, he managed to pull the small vial and flick the stopper to the floor.

Johnny saw his movements and readied his arrow.

“You won’t use that.  Your father makes such an excellent shield.”

“Not for long,” Murdoch whispered as he flung the holy water behind him.  Maria screamed and she released her hold on Murdoch.  He dropped to the floor as Johnny shot his arrow toward the angry vampire.  Writhing as she was from the burning sensation caused by the holy water, his arrow hit her shoulder, not her heart.

She turned on him, rising in the air.  “You want to see a true killer, Johnny, well let me show you.”

Johnny looked at Murdoch and then behind him toward the others.  He saw the fireplace and started running for that side of the room.

“You can’t run from me!”

He stuck his arrow into the fire, letting the shaft catch the flame and turned.  “Ain’t running from you.” He shot the flaming arrow toward the vampire as she flew toward him.  The shaft and flame entered her body.  Maria screamed as the flame seemed to encircle her from the inside out.  She spun in the air.  Her cries filled the hacienda and, seemingly, each man’s body.

Murdoch got to his feet and grabbed Johnny.  “Go!  Everyone!  Get out of here.  Now!”

The others did as Murdoch ordered.  Val stopped by the fireplace, pulled a stick of dynamite, lit it from the fireplace and threw it back into the room as they ran out the door.  They all hit the courtyard as the explosion sounded.  They kept going out the arched gate and turned to see flames and smoke billowing from the house.

Murdoch pulled both of his boys to him as Val stood close by.  They watched as the roof caved in on the old house.

Lorenzo nodded as he watched.  “It is over.”

The vampires were dead, but Johnny knew they would never be over the scars.  He leaned into Murdoch’s comforting arm and said a silent prayer that his mother’s soul was finally free of the demon and able to rest in peace.  “Let’s go home.”

The End …



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.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Charlene directly.


17 thoughts on “Blood Ties by Charlene

  1. OMG! This spooky story hit the ground running and never stopped! You sure do know how to tell a good ghost story! (But, of course, always happy the Lancers are the good guys!)


  2. Great job, Char! There were places that made me want to put the story and to make sure my windows and doors were locked! You captured Madrid perfectly when he said “Teach me how to kill them and get out of my way!” LOVE that line! This is going to be a Halloween ‘go-to’ story! Thank you for sharing!


  3. I’ve just read this again and once again have to say how good it is. Thank you for taking the time to write.


  4. I’ve only just come across this story. My word breathless.
    What really caught my attention was the details of the land grants as only today I have read the post on here with the Huntley family archive and the land grants were mentioned.


    1. Thank you so much. I am so glad that you liked this story. It was fun to write. I have done a lot of research into the land grants just for my own benefit in trying to figure out where I think Lancer was. I’m glad you liked that detail.


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