(WHN “Legacy”) AU/AR
Thanks to Lacy for being my Beta Buddy!
Word count: 7,577
Teresa watched Dr. Sam Jenkins re-bandage Scott’s head. Two men paid by Harlan Garrett to lie about Murdoch had turned around and ambushed Scott and his grandfather looking for more money. The men were apprehended and Scott’s injury was minor. Harlan had returned briefly to Lancer. Sam left instructions concerning Scott’s care with Teresa, then left, driving Scott’s grandfather to meet the train to Boston.
Jelly and Johnny were eating grapes. Suddenly, Johnny threw a grape at Jelly, who responded in kind. A game ensued where each tried to get their grapes in the other’s mouth. Teresa, and Scott, despite his aching head, laughed as they perfected their aim.
By the time Murdoch entered the room, Johnny was ahead ten grapes. He watched for a few minutes, amused and puzzled; he never realized Jelly had so much fun in him. He felt a flash of guilt; maybe it was because he wasn’t much fun himself. Murdoch had to admit that the concept of ‘fun’ had been foreign to him until his sons came to stay. Now the halls echoed with laughter, or some other mischief, on a regular basis.
“Okay, everyone, break it up. Scott needs his rest.” The mantle clock said 5:00, and Scott opened his mouth to protest; but his father cut him off. “You were here when Sam told you to get to bed and rest for a few days.”
“I’m okay,” he insisted, in spite of the pounding in his temple. Murdoch frowned and clapped his hands.
“Now, Scott! March!” Scott slowly got up. He saw Johnny grinning and had to smile. His brother had such an open, honest face and was the first uninhibited person he had ever known.
“Good night, everyone.” He made his way up the stairs cautiously.
“Good night, son,” Murdoch smiled—-another thing he did more often since the arrival of his boys.
“’Night, Scott,” Jelly said, popping the remainder of the grapes in his mouth.
“I’ll bring up some water,” Teresa said.
“I’ll bring it up, Teresa, ” Johnny offered.
“Fine, Johnny, but don’t keep him awake,” she scolded.
Ten minutes later, when Johnny thought Scott would be undressed and in bed, he knocked on his brother’s door.
“Hi, Boston. Brought you water.”
“Thanks; dinner made me pretty thirsty.” Johnny could hear the exhaustion in his voice. He poured a glass from the porcelain pitcher and handed it to Scott. He noticed a slight trembling in Scott’s hand.
“Yeah. Just tired.” He drank the water greedily.
“More?” Scott shook his head. As hard as his head had been pounding before, it was thumping twice as fiercely now. Johnny helped him prop up his pillows so he could sit.
“I didn’t want to go with Grandfather.”
“I kinda figured that. You didn’t seem too happy about leaving.” Johnny certainly hadn’t wanted Scott to go. It always amazed him how his whole life was spent mistrusting others and pushing them away. Yet, after almost no time at all, he accepted Scott as his brother and became quite attached. It would have been unthinkable behavior for Johnny Madrid, but was very natural for Johnny Lancer. “Scott?”
Scott’s eyes blinked open. “Yes?”
“Your grandfather lied to you.” Scott hung his head.
“I-I know.” Scott felt a mixed bag of emotions—-ashamed that Harlan had lied and caused so much trouble, hurt and confused that he had lied to him, and he was embarrassed that his family knew he had been deceived.
“Well, doesn’t that bother you?” Johnny almost demanded. Johnny was angry. Harlan Garrett not only caused friction within the family, but his brother could have been seriously injured. Deceit and manipulation rankled Johnny. He had no use for people who lied or cheated to get their way. And, to make matters worse, Scott’s old girlfriend had been used as bait. For the life of him, Johnny couldn’t understand why Scott could still speak to him.
Scott sighed deeply. “Yes.”
“Yes? Is that all?” Johnny asked, exasperated.
Scott, who was raised in a totally opposite manner, didn’t have a clue how to explain his feelings to his brother; but he knew he had to try. He didn’t want to risk Johnny thinking ill of him. Scott’s reluctance to reveal what was on his mind made him appear cowardly and unconcerned—-neither of which was true. It was his sensitive, caring nature that made this whole situation hard for him.
Johnny sighed. “Look, I’m sorry; I know your head must be hurting. We can continue this another time.” But Scott could tell from his brother’s tone that “another time” wasn’t in the cards. Johnny turned to leave; Scott wanted to stop him, but all his constricted throat would allow was a hoarse whisper.
“Johnny, wait.” A silent tear rolled down his cheek as he realized Johnny hadn’t heard him.
Johnny descended the stairs madder than a hornet in July. Nobody was downstairs and he helped himself to a good, stiff drink. What he wanted to do was dunk his head in a pail of cold water; he had hot blood, he couldn’t help it. He sat down in a big overstuffed chair and kicked off his boots. The last thing he had wanted to do was get impatient with Scott. His temper got the better of him, and he knew he had to leave the room while he had some control. He heard footsteps behind him and turned to see Teresa.
“I didn’t realize anyone was still up,” she said.
“No problem. I just got here; I couldn’t sleep,” he drawled, smiling tightly.
“Are you worried about Scott?” she asked, frowning.
“His head? No, no,” he replied absent-mindedly. But Teresa could tell there was something bothering him.
“What’s on your mind?” She sat on the couch across from him, leaning forward expectantly. Johnny looked at the young woman in front of him. Her presence had been a large blessing in a small package to the men of Lancer. Unlike Scott, Johnny had no trouble speaking his mind. He wasn’t sure how she’d react, but he’d burst if he didn’t talk to someone.
Scott was wide-awake, staring at the ceiling and wondering how he was going to fix this mess. He felt as though a knife was in his heart; the mental agony over what his grandfather had done to Murdoch, plus guilt over how he left things with Johnny, was punishing him.
Scott closed his eyes, squeezing more tears of regret down his face. It wasn’t helping that explosions of pain rocked his head. He lay there mulling over what exactly he could say. Maybe if he faced Johnny, the elusive words would come.
He sat up; his head swam dizzily. Carefully, Scott swung his legs over the side of the bed and waited for his stomach to stop flip-flopping. Finally, he stood—-shaky at first. He made it the three steps to the door before a thick cloud of blackness and nausea overtook him.
“I’m not sure if I can explain this…” Johnny rubbed his forehead. Teresa leaned back in the sofa, folding her hands in her lap. “I understand that Scott and me had different lives before we came here.” His brow was pinched with concentration. “And I get that he went to fancy schools and learned fancy manners.” Teresa was listening patiently, although, inwardly, she was anxious as to what Johnny was leading to. There was an awkward pause in which Teresa feared Johnny was going to throw his hands in the air and dismiss the whole conversation. But he took a deep breath and started again. “The thing is, I’m pretty angry at Harlan Garrett.”
“I was disappointed also.”
“No, I’m mad. He lied about Murdoch and deceived Scott. He drags this woman Scott was engaged to down here, making like she wants to marry him. Then he hires these two criminals to lie to Scott about his father. I’m steaming!” Teresa looked at her hands.
“I don’t know why a man would do such a thing to the person he claims to love. Personally, I think his behavior was horrid.”
“That’s more like it. I was beginning to think I was the only one who could see what that old coot tried to do. Here’s my problem—-Scott.”
“He acts like nothing happened. Like his grandfather did nothing wrong.”
“Do you mean he condoned his grandfather’s behavior?”
“No. I asked him if it bothered him what that man did and all he said was ‘yes’.” Teresa raised her eyebrows in surprise. She understood now—the excitable Johnny versus the calm Scott. “If the man who raised you, the man you trusted and lived with all your life—-if that man tried to trick you into living somewhere else by bringing an old beau to offer you a fake proposal….Then he lied about your father and used some crooks as leverage….Wouldn’t you be fuming?”
Teresa nodded. “Yes, I would.”
“And the old man tells Scott outright, that he’ll bring trouble for Murdoch if Scott doesn’t return to Boston. Teresa, I swear if anyone did that to me, I’d beat their face in.”
“Scott’s calmer, that’s all.”
“Naw, it ain’t that. He just lies there and looks at me like I’m over reacting. I mean, things aren’t always great ‘tween Murdoch and me; but don’t go lying about my father. And Garrett tried to cause trouble with me, too. Scott acts as if none of that bothers him.” Johnny sighed. “I like Scott and I thought we had some brother thing going on. But if he doesn’t care enough to stand up for me….” He didn’t finish the sentence.
“He stood up for you,” a familiar voice behind them said. They turned to see Murdoch walking towards them. “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.” Johnny shrugged.
“What’d you mean he stood up for me?” Murdoch sat down at the other end of the sofa.
“When Sam was examining Scott, Harlan told him that you were the problem. That Scott would have returned to Boston if it weren’t for you forcing him to stay.”
“What?” Johnny said in shock. “How could I force him to remain where he didn’t wanna be?” Murdoch raised his hand against the verbal onslaught of his youngest son.
“I know, I know. Scott told him it wasn’t true. Lancer was his home now. He also pointed out that nobody here would try to make him stay if he wanted to go.” Johnny frowned and crossed his arms.
“And I’ll bet he said it with deep respect and diplomacy.” Murdoch nodded with a smile. “That’s what’s gets me stirred up about him. How, after all that man’s done, can he sit there so meek and respectful like?”
Teresa looked towards Murdoch, questioningly. Murdoch leaned back thoughtfully. He eyed his youngest son. The differences in his sons were mirrored in their mothers.
“You think his lack of emotion indicates he has no backbone?” Johnny shrugged. He clearly didn’t want to think that. Even though he lacked experience, Murdoch tried to adopt the manner of a father instructing his child. “You and Scott were raised differently.”
“I know that, Murdoch—-.”
“Wait, Johnny. You wanted an explanation, let me give it to you…or what I perceive is the explanation. You only know how you were raised. You mother was very opinionated and spoke her mind. You’ve inherited the tendency from both of us. When something bothers you, you say so. Maria allowed you to have that freedom.
“When I met Scott’s mother, we were from different worlds. Catherine was refined, meek, and quiet. It’s how she was brought up. She hated her life with Harlan. He ruled the roost in a stern manner, expecting absolute obedience from those around him. That’s all Scott’s ever known. He was never allowed to speak his mind, or to have any opinions other than those of Harlan’s origination.
“Johnny, you were brought up on the frontier; you’ve had a freedom Scott is only now learning about. Scott was not only brought up without his mother, but under the strictest, most stifling rules imaginable.”
Johnny hung his head. “I needed to hear this, Murdoch. I need to know why he backs down all the time. I can understand I’m a hot-head sometimes and Scott’s more diplomatic….” He rubbed his face with his hand. “How can two people be related and be so different?” His voice trailed off. Murdoch knew he found life at Lancer frustrating on occasion.
“There’s another thing to consider. Through necessity, you’ve had to make most of your decisions on your own, beginning early in life. Johnny nodded in agreement. “I know it annoys you when Scott, as you put it, ‘hems and haws’ over a decision he has to make.”
“Aw, Murdoch, he took two days to pick out a horse. And it’s only to ride around the ranch.”
“Do you know why he’s that way?” Johnny shook his head.
“I’ve a feeling it has to do with that crazy grandfather of his.” Teresa looked up disapprovingly. “I’m sorry, I don’t like the man,” Johnny said defensively.
“From the time he was born, all of Scott’s choices were decided for him—-what to wear, where to go to school, what type of education to pursue, who his friends should be, who to marry….” Johnny’s eyes grew wide as he tried to imagine what it would be like if he had to answer to someone for everything he did. “Most of the decisions Scott’s made have been relatively recent—-probably since the War. He’s far less experienced, so he’s more anxious about making the wrong decision.” Johnny sighed. He had always assumed that Scott’s life had consisted of servants, money and ease. He was beginning to get a different picture. “Remember when he first came here and everyone snickered because he called me ‘sir’? I’d bet the buttons on my shirt that’s pretty much all he was allowed to call his grandfather—-that and a very stiff ‘Grandfather’.”
“I think he keeps things inside too much,” Teresa declared.
“Another thing he learned from Harlan,” Murdoch said. “Of course, I’m not one for confiding either,” he added meekly. “But if someone wanted to talk to me, I’d listen. Harlan probably didn’t wish to know about Scott’s problems because then he’d have to do something about them.” Johnny was more than perturbed with Scott’s grandfather.
“I remember Scott saying something about having a good friend that the old coot didn’t approve of. He said he’d sneak out and play with him.” Johnny chuckled. “I couldn’t imagine proper Scott skulking around behind someone’s back.” Murdoch smiled.
“I guess Scott got some of my rebellious blood.”
“I want to understand. I know I react too quickly sometimes.”
“Just remember that this man you and I have such little respect for raised Scott—-.”
“If that’s what you want to call it,” Teresa interjected.
“This man was a formidable presence in Scott’s life,” Murdoch continued.
“But, Murdoch, Scott thinks Garrett loves him. That man doesn’t know how to love.” Teresa looked down at her hands, suddenly feeling sorry for Scott and Johnny. Her childhood had been very enjoyable with few problems. Her “brothers” weren’t so lucky.
“You and I know it, but you can’t say something like that to Scott; it’s unkind. Besides, Scott’s pretty intelligent. I think the reason he insists that Harlan loves him—-‘in his own way’—-as he puts it, is because, in his heart, he knows it isn’t true.”
“And no child wants to admit his guardian doesn’t love him.” Johnny said softly.
“That could be the reason,” Murdoch admitted.
“Guess I owe him an apology. As usual, my mouth got the better of me.” Murdoch smiled.
“Johnny, we’re four people under one roof that all have things to learn about each other in order to make this family work. And we will—-eventually.”
“I’m going up and see Scott,” Johnny said, heading up the stairs.
“I hope they become closer,” Teresa said. “They need each other.”
“Teresa, I have a good feeling—-.”
“Murdoch!” Johnny’s voice was urgent enough to sent both Teresa and Murdoch running up the stairs. They found Scott on the floor, fists clenched. It looked as though he had vomited before trying to crawl out to the hallway. Johnny stooped down by his side.
“What happened?” Murdoch asked in alarm.
“Don’t know. I found him this way.”
“Teresa, tell Cipriano to send for the doctor! Johnny, help me get him back to bed.” It was hard for them to lift Scott, as he was unconscious dead weight. Once they lay him in his bed, Murdoch laid a hand across his son’s forehead; he had a fever.
“He’d probably have a slight fever anyway, with a bullet crease,” Johnny noted.
“Yes, but this is more than a slight fever.” Johnny put his hand to Scott’s forehead and whistled.
“What’s happening?” Murdoch, his face pinched in a concerned frown, shook his head slowly.
“I don’t know. Sam assured me it was only a graze and he’d be fine.” He looked up as Maria came into the room with a pitcher of cold water and a glass. She, too, looked worried. She had become very fond of Murdoch’s two sons. Johnny was easier to know as he was open and they shared a culture. But, soon, in spite of his quiet, evasive personality, she felt just as close to Murdoch’s tall, blonde son. It was very hard not to like Scott.
“I’ll bring up a mop, Senor,” she said nodding at the mess on the floor.
“Thank you, Maria. I appreciate it. Would you open one of these windows, too?” She looked over at the bed nervously while she worked. Soon Teresa returned with a basin of water and some cloths.
“What’s wrong with him?” she asked.
“I don’t know. He’s got a fever; he’s sweating. Obviously, he’s nauseous.” Scott’s head tossed back and forth on the pillows as he mumbled incoherently.
“Murdoch, this doesn’t make any sense. He was fine when I left him.”
“Teresa, give me one of those compresses.” Murdoch began bathing the distraught face of his son. “Easy, Scott. We’ll find out what’s wrong.”
“M-m-my h-head,” Scott moaned.
“Dr. Jenkins said he’d have a headache,” Teresa said, biting her lower lip.
“Hey, Boston,” Johnny called to Scott, gripping his shoulder. “What are ya doin’? Trying to get more sympathy?” Scott moaned again loudly. “Scott, can you hear me?” Scott gripped his stomach as his breathing increased rapidly.
“Teresa, get a bucket,” Murdoch ordered. She opened a closet door in the hallway and returned just as Scott raised himself up heaving. “Easy, Scott.” Murdoch supported him by holding one shoulder and wrapping his other arm around Scott’s body. It seemed like minutes passed before the vomiting stopped.
“J-john-ny,” Scott gasped. A fresh sheen of sweat appeared on his face.
“It’s okay, Boston. I’m here.” Scott began twisting as Murdoch held him up.
“Scott, keep still. I’ll lay you down.” But just as he began lowering him to the bed, Scott began retching again. “Good Hanna,” Murdoch muttered. “Where is this coming from?”
“I’ve heard of head wounds causing nausea,” Teresa interjected. “But, I didn’t think he was hurt that badly.”
“He wasn’t,” Johnny assured her. “A few days off his feet, is what Sam said.” He took Scott’s hand and began stroking his sweat-soaked hair. “Relax, Scott. You ain’t going anywhere. And neither are we.”
“Where’s that doctor?” Murdoch mumbled angrily. Johnny allowed a small smile to cross his face.
“It’s only been about fifteen minutes.”
Between the three of them, they removed Scott’s clothes. When Maria returned upstairs with another basin of water, they dipped their washcloths into the cold liquid, gently removing the sweat, while attempting to bring down his fever. Scott whimpered softly as the icy cold water came in contact with his hot skin.
“No-o-oo,” he protested weakly. Each time a part of his body was cooled off, the fever returned almost immediately, and reapplying the cold compresses would elicit another moan from the unconscious blonde.
When Sam Jenkins returned to Lancer, he and Sheriff Val Crawford hurried upstairs.
“What in the world happened?” he asked astonished. He hadn’t been concerned about Scott’s condition in the least when he left an hour ago. What he saw shocked him. “How did he get in this shape?” He hurried over to the bed and Murdoch, who was on the side of the bed closest to the door, got up. Scott was breathing heavily and still tossing. Without warning, he bolted up; Teresa deftly slipped the bucket under his chin, while Johnny held him. Scott heaved repeatedly, finally slumping against his brother weakly. Teresa gently wiped his mouth and chin.
“I’m here Scott. Sam’s here.” Sam sat on the bed and checked Scott’s heartbeat, pulse, and temperature. He then raised Scott’s eyelids; his pupils were dilated almost to the point of totally shutting out the azure irises.
“When did this start?” Sam asked.
“We don’t know exactly.” Murdoch looked at Johnny. “He was sleeping when you left?”
“Yes,” Johnny agreed, momentarily feeling guilty, remembering his harsh judgment of Scott earlier. “I came downstairs and we talked about thirty minutes; then I returned here to find him on the floor.” Sam inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. He checked Scott’s vital signs again, as though he were hoping for some result he wasn’t getting.
“What is it?” Murdoch asked impatiently. He motioned for Murdoch to follow him outside the room. Val Crawford was waiting in the hall. “Val.”
“I heard Sam was called back out here. How is Scott?”
“Well, Sam?” Murdock asked. Sam was looking at his feet.
“Murdoch, I don’t know how to tell you this. I’m not sure I believe it myself.”
“What is it?” Johnny demanded, stepping from Scott’s room.
“I think Scott’s been poisoned.” If the doctor had produced a pink elephant from his medical bag, they couldn’t have been more stunned.
“WHAT?” Three voices echoed Sam’s disbelief.
“I know,” Sam said raising his hands to ward off their protests. “I don’t understand it either. But he has all the symptoms. He’s suddenly fevered, delirious, vomiting, sweating and his pupils are dilated. None of this has anything to do with his head injury.” Teresa joined them outside Scott’s bedroom.
“He’s sleeping now, but not real soundly. What are you talking about?” She was aware of the fact that, due to her age, and her being a woman, she wasn’t brought into every discussion. Normally, it didn’t bother her. This time, she felt a mild irritation, as Scott’s health concerned her also.
“Teresa, Sam thinks Scott’s been poisoned.” She looked at Murdoch, shocked.
“Poisoned? Who’d want to poison Scott? And how did they get to him? We’ve been here the whole time.”
“Well, that’s what we were just trying to determine,” Johnny said.
“All right,” Sam interrupted. “Who would want to poison Scott isn’t the important question right now. What we need to know is who was in this house? Someone had to be here in order to do it.”
Murdoch and Johnny looked at each other blankly.
“Nobody,” was Murdoch’s reply. “Just us.”
“Murdoch, Johnny, Teresa, think…. Someone had to be here in order to poison Scott. Who’s been inside?”
“You, me, all of us standing here. No one else.” Murdoch was confused. Suddenly Johnny’s eyes lit up.
“Nobody except Garrett.”
“Oh, now, Johnny, Harlan wouldn’t poison Scott,” Murdoch said, dismissing the idea. But Johnny wasn’t so sure.
“He was the only one here, Val.” Val looked back at Murdoch; he didn’t know Harlan Garrett.
“No, Val. Harlan Garrett is a rich, spoiled, deliberate old man. But he wouldn’t harm Scott.”
“Okay. Let’s approach this another way,” Sam suggested. “Scott had to ingest the poison somehow. What has he had to eat or drink?”
“Chicken soup,” Johnny noted.
“I made it,” Teresa said, her tone slightly defensive. “He’s had water and apple pie—two pieces.” She looked apologetically at Murdoch and Johnny. “I know I saved the pie for you, but Scott enjoyed it so much, I gave him the rest of it.”
Murdoch smiled. “That’s not a problem, Teresa.”
“Yeah, well, you’d best be making more. You know I love apple pie,” Johnny grinned.
“You don’t think I gave him too much to eat?”
“No, Teresa. There’s more going on here than an overstuffed patient.”
“It comes back to Garrett,” Johnny insisted. Val rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
“Why would he do such a thing to Scott?”
“He’s a vengeful, old goat, who didn’t get his way this time. You know, he lied to Scott about Murdoch so he could blackmail him into returning to Boston. I’m telling you, he’s evil.”
“Just suppose it was Scott’s grandfather.” Val noticed Murdoch’s disapproving frown. “I’m just saying ‘what if’.”
“Yeah? What if?” Johnny prodded, more than willing to prove Harlan Garrett guilty.
“He’d have to have access to whatever Scott ate or drank.”
“That makes sense,” Sam said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“At any time was he in a position to slip poison into Scott’s food or drink?”
Murdoch shook his head. Johnny tried thinking of a time the old man hadn’t been in sight. Suddenly Teresa slapped her hand over her mouth.
“What is it?” Murdoch asked, concerned.
“Oh, dear!” she replied, almost in tears. “I think I’m the one responsible for Scott’s poisoning! It was the pie!”
“Honey, Sam told you, Scott’s condition isn’t your fault,” Murdoch put his arm around her.
“Why do you think it’s the pie?” Val asked.
“Oh, she thinks she fed him too much and that’s why he’s sick.”
“N-no. You don’t understand. I was going to the kitchen to check on my soup when I saw Mr. Garrett sitting by himself in the Great Room and asked if he’d like some coffee or pie. He seemed interested in the pie, so I told him I had cherry. There were only two pieces of apple pie and they were for Johnny and Murdoch. He declined, and I left after checking the broth.”
“But we don’t have any poisons in the kitchen,” Murdoch said.
“So, you’re thinking the pie was poisoned? By Mr. Garrett? Does he dislike Johnny and Murdoch?” Val asked.
“Well, he sure hates me,” Johnny spat. “And he certainly doesn’t like Murdoch. We took Scott away, is how he sees it.”
“But poison? Isn’t that a little extreme?” Val asked.
“I’m not saying Mr. Garrett was trying to kill anyone,” Teresa said.
“Wait a minute,” Sam interrupted. “Teresa, are you saying he may have poisoned the two slices to get Johnny and Murdoch sick? That would make sense. Instead, Scott ate both portions and ingested all the poison.”
“What poison?” Murdoch asked. “Are we to believe Harlan Garrett carries poison around with him, just looking for an opportunity to give us stomach aches?”
Val scratched his head. “If he doesn’t carry it on him, and you don’t have any here….you don’t have much of a case.”
“There are poisons in the greenhouses and gardens, I’m sure,” Murdoch conceded. “But that would hardly be expedient.”
Teresa sighed. “Where else would he get it?”
“IF he’s even involved,” Val said. “Nobody saw him do anything.”
“He did it; I know he did,” Johnny mumbled. Everyone was quiet for a moment.
“Who ever did it, it’s done,” Murdoch said tiredly. “The question is, will Scott be okay?”
“I really don’t know. It would be helpful if I knew what type of poison he swallowed….”
“Can’t you tell from what he’s doing?” Johnny asked.
“Not conclusively; but I’ll have to treat it the best I can. We’re not getting any closer to helping him standing here. I need my bag….OH! I almost forgot! I left it here the first time around. I’m not sure where I put it. I remember picking it up when I finished bandaging Scott’s head.”
“Yes, then I got you some water in the kitchen,” Teresa added.
It hit everyone at once. The medical bag in the kitchen. Harlan Garrett alone with the pie.
“Sweet Hanna! The poison could have come from my medical bag!” They all headed for the stairs. “Johnny, you stay with Scott.”
Sure enough, on the counter next to Teresa’s cooling pies, was Sam’s open bag. He quickly emptied it out, trying to ascertain what was missing.
“The nightshade,” he murmured.
“Belladonna?” Murdoch asked.
“Yes. There was a small vial containing the substance in this pocket; it’s gone.”
“Harlan would know about nightshade?” Johnny asked.
“Certainly. Its use isn’t as widespread out here; but back East, it’s a cure all for everything.”
“So, you’re saying small amounts won’t kill you?” Val asked.
“No. A drop or two on each slice of pie would have probably given Murdoch and Johnny some unpleasant stomach problems for two or three days. Its affect would be similar to what’s going on with Scott—-vomiting, sweating, and cramps.”
Murdoch banged his fist on the counter. “But Scott has had a double dose. How bad is that?”
They heard Johnny calling from upstairs and hurried to the Great Room.
“Scott’s vomiting again!” They ran upstairs to find Scott hanging over the side of the bed, Johnny trying to hold him steady. The retching became painful as his stomach muscles kept squeezing and contracting. Scott had nothing left to throw up, and he was left gasping for air. Murdoch helped Johnny lay him back against the pillows.
“How long can this go on?” Murdoch asked.
“J-j-johnny?” Scott’s voice was barely audible. “S-some water…”
“No,” Sam said. “The only way he’ll survive this is if he stops vomiting. And the only way to assure that happens is to keep his stomach empty. I’m going to give him a shot of morphine. That will calm him as well as relax his stomach muscles.”
“But he needs water,” Teresa protested. “He’s sweating.”
“I know, Teresa. But, for at least twelve hours, we can’t give him anything. The more he throws up, the more raw his stomach gets, and the harder it will be for anything to stay down. After the twelve hours is over, we’ll let him have small amounts of water.”
“Val, isn’t there something we can do about Garrett?” Johnny asked harshly.
“’Fraid not. As much as I believe things happened the way you all say, it’s still guesswork. Nobody saw anything. Besides, once he leaves Morro Coyo, he’s beyond my jurisdiction.”
“So he gets away with almost killing Scott?”
“That’s the other problem. Even if I arrested him, you know he’d get some fancy pants lawyer to prove all he intended to do was give two people a stomach ache.”
“And he’d get away with it,” Murdoch added bitterly. “After I saved his hide, how dare he sit in my house and plot to poison Johnny and I!.”
“Hey, can Scott hear us?” Johnny whispered.
“Doubt it,” Sam said, shaking his head. “He’s going to be floating in and out of it for a few days. This is going to be hard on him—-not letting him have water. But you have to be firm. Hopefully, we can stop the vomiting urge by tomorrow morning.”
“I feel so guilty,” Teresa said softly.
“You’re not alone,” Sam said meekly. “I’m the one who stupidly left my medical bag behind.”
“And I should have known better than to let him out of my sight for a moment,” Murdoch piped in.
Scott groaned and began tossing. Murdoch, who was closest to the bed, sat down and gathered his son in his arms.
“Son, I can’t give you water now or you’ll throw it up.” Scott’s face was pinched up in frustration.
“Scott, open your eyes.” It seemed to Murdoch that he shut them tighter. “Scott, please open your eyes. Look at me,” he said firmly. Slowly the cerulean eyes opened. He squinted against the light; Teresa noticed and lowered the lamps.
“My h-head. W-what happened?”
“Do you remember getting shot?” Sam asked.
“Yes. But—.” His face was flushed with fever. “My—my hurts.” Scott felt so ill, he couldn’t pinpoint where the pain was coming from.
“We can’t give you anything to eat or drink until tomorrow. Otherwise you’ll get very sick.”
Scott started coughing. Sam knew the acidic taste of bile was in his mouth, but it would have to stay. He was certain the blonde’s esophagus was burning also. Murdoch held his son against his chest while Teresa rubbed his back. Eventually the coughing stopped.
“I’m staying with him,” Johnny declared with finality.
“Two of you should stay at one time. One can sleep while the other keeps an eye on him. Maybe he’ll sleep and you both can doze off. I just want to be sure if his fever gets worse, or he begins hallucinating, there’ll be someone to concentrate on Scott and someone to get help, should it become necessary. The next twelve hours or so will be rough.” Sam propped up the pillows. “Keep him in a sitting position. Then I want you and Teresa to get some sleep. Scott will need two fresh and rested people with him. I have to go to town, but I’ll be back first thing in the morning.”
“Thanks, Sam. Thanks, Val.” Murdoch walked them to the door.
Johnny and Jelly decided to have a quiet game of checkers. Soon after, Scott began tossing feverishly and they traded checkers for cool washcloths. They bathed Scott, attempting to bring the fever and his fitfulness under control.
“Jelly, why don’t you nap; I’ll watch him,” Johnny suggested. Jelly agreed, yawning. Johnny sat on the bed next to his brother and stretched his legs out. As if sensing the nearness of Johnny, Scott’s hand escaped the blankets and reached out blindly. Johnny smiled and took the hand.
“How are ya doing, Boston? Not feeling very pretty, I reckon. But you’re in good hands.” Scott groaned softly. Johnny closed his eyes, hoping his brother would rest. He no sooner dozed off, when he heard a gurgling sound coming from Scott. Instinctively, he dived for the pail just in time to catch Scott’s vomit. Jelly jumped up and ran over, a fresh towel in his hand.
“Easy, Scott,” Johnny whispered, holding his brother’s shoulders. After a few minutes, the retching stopped. Scott was shaking, as Jelly and Johnny helped him back to the pillows.
“What happened?” Murdoch asked, bursting into the room. “Did he get sick again?”
“Johnny,” Scott mumbled. “I….w-water?” The weak pleading voice hit Johnny in the gut.
“Can’t do it, Scott. Sorry. Doc says you have to wait till tomorrow.”
“Please,” Scott mumbled. “T-th-roat hurts.”
“Son,” Murdoch said, rubbing his back. “If you put anything in your stomach, you’ll throw it up. You don’t want that, do you?”
“No. No more,” Scott coughed.
“There, there,” Jelly tried to comfort him. “Let’s get you cooled off.” The three of them silently worked at removing the sweat from Scott’s body. Soon he stopped fidgeting and tossing.
“Murdoch, you go back to bed,” Jelly said. “We’re all set here.”
“Okay.” Murdoch placed his large hand on Scott’s head and gently patted it. “Blast that Harlan. Wish I had him here now.”
“Me, too,” Johnny agreed softly. “Scott’ll be okay.”
“Yes, he will. We’ll see to it.”
After Murdoch left, Jelly returned to the large chair and was snoring in seconds. Johnny resumed his position by his brother. About an hour later, Scott awoke trying to vomit; but there was little for his stomach to regurgitate. He ended up with the dry heaves, which left him gasping for air.
So the night went; every few hours Scott would awaken with a rocking stomach looking for some way to expel what wasn’t there.
When Sam made his early morning visit to Lancer, Maria was in the kitchen cooking.
“They are all upstairs,” she smiled. Sam entered Scott’s bedroom and found a peacefully sleeping Scott, a snoring Johnny on the bed next to him, Jelly and Teresa on chairs at the foot of the bed, and Murdoch sitting on the other side of Scott, holding his hand. Sam smiled and shook his head; he really hadn’t expected anyone to obey his orders.
“Is everyone comfortable?” he asked loudly. Four heads popped up. Murdoch and Jelly groaned as they lifted their bodies out of unyielding chairs and straightened their backs. Teresa yawned and smiled. Johnny, who had been holding Scott’s other hand, looked over at his brother, concerned. Scott, as if feeling everyone’s attention, opened his eyes. They were tired, bloodshot, and slightly confused.
“Johnny?” he rasped. His brother got off the bed and Sam moved in.
“Hello, Scott. How’s my patient today?” He felt his forehead. “Slight fever.” Johnny’s head came into Scott’s view; and his brother saw the anxiety in his bleary eyes.
“It’s okay, Boston. We’re all here.” Sam checked Scott’s heart.
“You’re pretty tough. What do you say to some water?” he asked.
“P-please.” Scott couldn’t remember ever being this thirsty—-or sick.
“I’m going to give you a small amount and see if you can keep it down, okay?” But, as thirsty as he was, the last thing Scott wanted to do was get sick again. He turned his head away.
“Scott, you need the water,” his father said quietly. But his son shut his eyes tight, trying to block everyone out.
“D-don’t want to be-be sick,” he said hoarsely.
“Chances are you’ll keep most of it down,” Sam said. “But, if you refuse liquids, you won’t last long. You’ve already lost a serious amount of fluids.”
“Scott, please take some water—-for me.” Johnny had a persuasive charm and it came through in his voice. Scott opened his eyes.
“It h-hurts. My-my stomach h-uurts.”
“I know, Boston.” Johnny took Scott’s hand. “But you have to try. You can’t quit on me. If I have to, I’ll pry your mouth open, and pour it down.” A small, tense smile tugged at the corner of Scott’s mouth.
“Okay,” he consented.
“Good, son.” Sam said, cheerily. He put the glass to Scott’s lips and, with great trepidation, the blonde took a few sips. “That’s fine, Scott. We’ll see how this stays down.” Sam got up and took a needle out of his bag. “I’m going to give you some more morphine. I’ll be back later on.” Murdoch followed him out of Scott’s room.
“Sam, how is he doing?”
“Well enough. It appears the majority of the nightshade has been expelled. His stomach and throat are raw from vomiting. The stomach muscles get spasms, then he gets the sensation he’s going to throw up.”
“He will be all right?”
“Yes, I’m certain he will. Scott needs to keep taking water. Try every two hours. If he loses some of it, he’ll retain some. The difficult thing will be convincing Scott to take the water. But I think he’ll see reason. Or Johnny will force him to.”
Murdoch smiled tiredly. “Knowing Johnny, you’re probably right.”
Every two to three hours someone woke Scott and put water to his dry, cracked lips. He was torn between his great thirst and the fear of upsetting his stomach, and would waver at first. But Teresa, Jelly, Murdoch, or his dang persistent brother always wore him down, and he’d take a few sips. By the evening, the heaves stopped visiting his poor stomach and he began taking longer drinks. Everyone sighed thankfully.
The next day, they alternated the water with a very thin broth Teresa made. To Scott’s relief, he kept everything down. He slept longer and quieter.
There was a family discussion as to what should be told Scott about his poisoning. Murdoch regretfully submitted that he had to be told—-too many people knew. Besides, chances were, Scott would wonder why he became so sick over a minor head wound.
So, three days after his accidental poisoning, Murdoch revealed what they thought had transpired—-making sure, for Scott’s sake, that he allowed it was all circumstantial evidence and theory. But Scott knew his grandfather was behind it. After Murdoch left his room, thinking his son had fallen asleep, Scott opened his eyes. What had his grandfather been thinking? How would he face Johnny now?
There was a soft knock on his door and Johnny’s head poked inside.
“You awake, Boston?”
“Yes.” Scott was exhausted and his voice sounded strained; but Johnny had something he needed to say to his brother.
“I want to talk for a minute.” Scott nodded.
“No, you listen. I’m talking now.” Johnny pulled one of the wooden chairs over to the bed and faced Scott. “The other day, when you got shot, I walked out of this room with an attitude…a wrong one.” Scott opened his mouth to say something, but Johnny shook his head. “Listen to me. I expected that because Harlan caused so much trouble and I was feeling madder than a hot hornet, you should fell the same way. It was unfair of me.” Johnny’s face was serious, but his eyes were hopeful.
“No, I should have been—-.”
“Scott, let me finish. I had a talk with Murdoch after. I didn’t understand the way you looked at things, and Murdoch helped me to see how it was for you—-living with Harlan.” Scott swallowed hard. “Do you want some water?” After giving the glass to Scott, he continued. “See, my Madre—-and my father, I’d later discover—-spoke their minds. Murdoch—-probably with some control. But my mother? No control. No control, no fear—-and loud.” He smiled fondly, which caused Scott to smile. He felt sorry that Johnny had lost his mother so young. “Anyway, between the two of them, I have the hot blood and quick mouth you’ve been privileged to experience now and then.” His smile broadened.
“Now and then?” Scott queried.
“Very funny.” Johnny’s face grew serious. “I didn’t mean to judge you, and I’m sorry.” Scott was tired and sore, but happy.
“I-I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it right between us. I didn’t w-want you to be-be angry. But I unders-stood how you f-felt.” Scott inhaled deeply as his eyes closed.
I’m sure you did understand, brother, Johnny thought. He had come across many types of men. His few friends were boisterous, joking, and a tad reckless; and he had fun with them. He doubted Scott had much fun growing up. Yet, somehow, he had avoided becoming another Harlan Garrett. Scott was, by far, the fairest, kindest-hearted, most diplomatic person he had ever met. Unlike his grandfather, Scott was not mean or stingy or rude. His goodness must have come at a price. How many times had Scott clashed with his grandfather? Or did he just bite his tongue and ignore Harlan? Johnny reckoned he had. Scott Lancer was a complex man; but he was so good at hiding it, at first you might figure him to be rather simple, devoid of personality. Johnny snickered; that had been his first impression of his brother—-drab and dull. How wrong he had been! And sitting there, watching him sleep, his heart felt a gripping joy that he had never experienced, even with his mother. Johnny knew he loved his brother; it was a powerful feeling for a man whose life hadn’t included much love.
Later on, Johnny brought Scott’s dinner to him and, pulling up a chair, sat and talked easily with him.
“Did someone really pick out your clothes every day?” he asked, chuckling. Scott blushed.
“Yeah,” he admitted in a whisper. “Benjamin, my personal servant, laid my clothes out every day.” Johnny squinted his eyes in disbelief.
“What if you didn’t want to wear what he put out?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know…. What if he picked out blue pants and you felt like wearing gray pants?” Scott looked at Johnny as though he were a lunatic.
“What’s the difference what color they were?” Johnny slapped his forehead. “I didn’t have an opinion about what I wore. Whatever was laid out, I put on.”
“What if Benjamin put a clown suit out? Would you wear it?” Scott blinked rapidly a few times, puzzled.
“Why would he do that?”
“What if he did?”
“Johnny, he was a servant hired by my grandfather. You don’t think he’d hire anyone with a sense of humor, do you?” Johnny threw his head back and began laughing. Scott smiled; things were okay between them. “To answer your question, no, I wouldn’t have worn a clown suit. And, until you brought it up, it would never have occurred to me to worry about such a thing.”
“Go to sleep, Boston.”
“Okay, Johnny. Thanks for understanding.” But before Johnny could reply, Scott’s eyes were closed, the corners of his mouth resting in a tired smile.
An hour later, when Murdoch checked in on his oldest son, he found his youngest son sprawled out on a chair next to him. He smiled. They were two peas in a pod—-two very different peas, certainly—-but both learning how to live together in that pod. He loved his sons, and it did his heart good to see them so close. As Murdoch walked to his bedroom, he found himself whistling. Those sons of his were just what a stuffy, old, rich man needed, he laughed.
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