Word Count 1,940
Disclaimer: Lancer is not owned by me I am just playing with it.
“Hey Murdoch,” Johnny called as he came through the French doors. “You needed me? I had the crew working on clearing the underbrush over by the south pasture.”
Murdoch stood and turned toward his younger son. “That’s fine Johnny. It’s not work … you have … a visitor.”
Johnny stopped before the sofa table and noticed the small, elderly Mexican woman who stood up and moved near his father. “Inez?”
“Si, Johnny, si.”
A grin crossed his handsome face as he moved to the older woman wrapping her in his arms. “Tia Inez, what are you doing here?”
“I heard you were hear nino, from my sobrino, Jose.”
Johnny looked at her, then to Murdoch, and back. “Jose is your nephew? I didn’t know that.”
She nodded. “You would not remember, you were a child, but he remembered you. When I got his letter, I had to come. I have something for you.” She sat on the long, orange sofa, and looked in her traveling sack. She pulled out a letter and handed it to Johnny. “From your Madre.”
Johnny stared at the folded paper, once white but now yellowed with age. “Mama? I don’t understand.” He sat beside of the older woman.
“I found this, after the funeral, when I was cleaning. You had gone, nino. No one knew where –”
“I couldn’t stay,” he softly added.
She nodded. “We didn’t know where you were, and then, later, we heard you might be Madrid. Our village wasn’t sure, but we heard our Johnny was the hero Madrid.”
“I ain’t never been a hero,” he replied.
“To the peons, you are a hero. Jose wrote me that it was you and you were here with your Papa.” She looked up and smiled at Murdoch. “It is good that he is home.”
Murdoch nodded with a smile. “It is very good.”
Inez took his hand. “I cannot read. I do not know what Maria wrote you, but I was told it was a letter to you. I have saved it for you.”
Johnny looked at the paper he held in his hand. His heart was thundering in his chest. A letter from his mother. Tentatively, he looked up at Murdoch and gained strength by his father’s silent support. He noticed his normally rock steady hands had a slight tremble when he unfolded the paper. Taking a deep breath, he started reading the words from his past.
As I write this, I know that I am dying and soon, my son, you will be alone. I must make my confession – to the priest, but also to you. Your father, Murdoch Lancer, is a good man. A decent and loving man. He loved me and he loves you still. Many times, he would say to me “I love that boy more than anything on God’s green earth.” He did and I know he still does. That is why he has the detectives searching for us, for you, he would not want me anymore.
From the time you were born, he loved you. He loved you and his ranch more than he did me. I grew jealous of you, my sweet boy. While he spent his time working and with you, I grew lonely. Then, one day, I met Pete. I knew then the difference between loving someone – for I did love Murdoch – and being in love with someone as I was with Pete. I loved Pete until his dying day and, soon, until mine which is coming from this bloody cough.
That love Pete and I had was wrong in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of the Church. I hope God forgives us if it was wrong in His eyes. I pray He understands. I pray you do too. I have told you a wicked lie about your father. Murdoch never made us leave. He would have let me go, but he would have never let you go. So, like a thief in the night, I stole you away.
The law would have given you to Murdoch. He could have kept you from me, an adulteress, and lawfully so. But my sweet Johnny, you were my baby. I carried you in my body, I cradled you in my arms. I could not lose you simply because I loved another man who was not your father.
So, I did my truest sin, as I can never call loving Pete a sin. Stealing you from Murdoch, lying to you about your Papa, that is my sin. I only pray that you and God forgive me. Murdoch never will, and rightfully so. I deserve his wrath. I, in my fear, did to him what I feared he would do to me … deprived him of you.
I told you the wicked lie that he did not want you to keep you from knowing the truth about me. That I was to blame. I was selfish. I could not lose you as a baby nor could I lose your love as you grew. Pete told me it was wrong. Pete was right, he was always right. My fear kept me from doing right, until now, when it is too late to truly make amends.
Go to your father, Johnny. His ranch is in Morro Coyo, California. You know his name is Murdoch Lancer. I never deprived you that. Let him love you. He loves you as much as Pete did, perhaps even more. Don’t let my sin keep you from knowing and loving your real father.
Murdoch is a good man. Perhaps I should have trusted his goodness to share you with me; but I could not take the chance. You are too precious to me. I could not lose you. Forgive me, my sweet Johnny. Forgive my selfishness. Know that I wish you a life of only love and joy. I wish I could see you grow, see the man you will become. God willing, my spirit will be able to watch you grow. Never lose that inner core of strength and goodness, you get that from Murdoch along with your stubbornness.
Be happy, be loved. Remember, always, I love you. Death may still my heart, but never my love for you. Vaya Con Dios my dearest boy.
Johnny took a deep breathe and closed his eyes. Mama. Steeling himself, he looked up at his father. The love and concern on that normally rock hard face nearly did him in. “Mama,” was all he could say and he simply handed the letter to his father. Turning, he gave Inez a weak smile as a tear ran freely down his cheek. “Gracias, Tia, gracias.”
“She loved you, nino,” the woman said as she patted his cheek.
“Si,” Johnny nodded. That he knew. He kissed the old woman’s weathered hand.
“I will go see Jose. You speak to your Papa,” Inez said as she rose from the sofa. She waved Johnny away as he rose behind her. “I know the way. Stay with your Papa.”
Gratefully, Johnny watched her as she headed toward the Lancer kitchen. He knew Teresa and Juanita would make sure she was alright. He turned his attention back to his father who was folding the precious pages.
Murdoch ran his hand over his face and then looked at his son. “Oh Johnny, I don’t know what to say. I wish you had gotten this letter back then.”
Sighing, Johnny ran his hand through his thick black hair and then headed toward the sideboard. He generously poured two glasses of Murdoch’s best Glenlivit and handed one to his father. “We need this.”
Murdoch nodded. “Can you tell me?”
Johnny took a long swallow of the whisky and let his slide down his throat. “Mama and Pete. I ain’t talked to you about them but they were good to me. Pete was good to me. He’d whomp me, tried to teach me some manners, but I don’t think it was more than you would’a done. It sure won’t like the beatings I got after he died.”
“No, never Mama. No, men who didn’t like me because I was half white or half Mexican. Mama always tried to make sure I was taken care of. But she got sick.”
Murdoch placed a comforting hand on Johnny’s shoulder. “This helps to know, son. I’ve always wondered how you grew up.”
“When Pete was alive, things were good. He took good care of us and Mama didn’t have to work. We moved around a lot, but he always made sure we had a decent place to stay and enough food to eat. Then Pete got killed in a saloon in Santa Fe. A man accused him of cheating. Pete didn’t cheat, he didn’t have to.”
“How old were you?”
“When Pete died, about ten, I think. After that, we moved to Silver City and that’s where we met Tia Inez. Mama and her worked at this boarding house for Mrs. Brown. Mama did the laundry mostly, until she got too sick to.”
“How old were you when Maria died?”
“About twelve. I felt older.”
“So you left?”
“Yeah. Other than Tia Inez, we didn’t have nothing. Folks didn’t like me too much. The men folks in Silver City anyway. I didn’t think I had anything to stay for. So, after Mama was buried, I lit out.”
“Would you have come home?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. I had a lot of hate and a lot of hurt in me then. Not sure I would have believed Mama’s words then. I’d a thought she was just trying to find a place for me.”
“Now?” Murdoch asked watching his son. Johnny gave him a slight smile and he found himself smiling back.
“Yeah, I know it’s the truth now. Knew it when Teresa told me Mama ran off with a gambler. I knew it was Pete. It just … it was hard learning everything I thought was a lie. Now, at least I understand why she did it.”
Murdoch sat his now empty glass down on the table behind the sofa and walked to the French doors and looked out. “She was wrong,” he whispered.
Johnny sighed. “Yeah, but she knew it –”
“No son, not what she did, but she was wrong. She could have come back home after her … after … Pete died. I would have taken her back, not just you.”
Murdoch turned toward his son. “You aren’t the only one who loved her Johnny. No matter what she did, I loved her, I love her still. I just wish I had made her know that then.” He walked back to stand in front of his son. Placing his hands on both of Johnny’ shoulders. “If I haven’t said this before, if I haven’t made you know this, understand … I am glad that you are home. Maria and I both made many mistakes in our lives, but you are the best of both of us.” He gently squeezed his boy’s shoulder. “I’m going to go check on Senora Inez. Perhaps I can get her to tell me stories about you.”
“Murdoch,” Johnny whined, tilting his head. He watched his father laugh and walk toward the kitchen. He watched the man go and then turned and went to pick up his letter. He looked at the familiar handwriting, so long missed. Closing his eyes, he saw her. She was laughing too. “Te amo, Mama. Gracias.”
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