Fandom: Lancer
Rating: PG
Genre: family, gen, h/c, mystery

A 20-part Lancer family mystery. Harlan Garrett visits and dreadful things occur. None of the family members die, and although they may suffer injuries, they recover. The violence is muted and if there is death, it is not any of the aforesaid family members.

Written: May 2007 ( a long time ago and in a fandom far, far away!) I lightly revised it at some point. Please accept it as it is, and leave feedback, comments - which are always appreciated.

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When brothers agree, no fortress is so strong as their common life.
Antisthenes 5
th c. B.C.


Scott was not happy. Even though his grandfather had only been at Lancer for a few days, he had already set everyone on edge. Harlan Garrett had found fault with almost everyone and everything on the ranch.

"Just when you think it's safe. . . " Johnny had scoffed.

"Ya can never tell which side of his mouth he's gonna be talkin' outta," Jelly had commented. When Scott questioned him about what he was insinuating, the gruff ranch hand had sidled away, mumbling how the visitor had already outworn his welcome.

It was true. Scott had either personally witnessed, or been told, sometimes at great length, about how Harlan Garrett had raised the hackles of everyone he came in contact with. The complaints ranged from the mundane; "Mr. Garrett made me change his bed sheets again just this morning, said they weren't fresh enough," said Maria with a sniff. "I myself made up the bed only four days ago."; to the more serious, "Mister Garrett tossed his cigar butt in the hay and near set the whole barn on fire. I know he only did it cuz he knew I'd jump and pick it up 'fore any harm was caused. I didn't know if I shoulda said somethin' to you, Scott, on account o' him being your kin and all." That was from Pete, one of the drovers.

Friction between the ranch folk and the Boston relative had not been totally unexpected. Scott decided to have a discussion with his grandfather after supper. It wasn't his place to criticize his elders, but he could remind him that a high tone would win no friends out here.

That evening, Garrett was having a before-supper drink with Murdoch when Scott joined them in the great room. A stranger might have thought that the two gray-haired men were merely having a lively conversation, but Scott knew better. There were little daggers inserted into every other sentence and double-entendres peppered their conversation.

Murdoch could hold his own against Harlan, but Scott didn't enjoy the tension that arose every time his grandfather entered a room. He tried not to let it get to him, but it cut him to the core, especially where Johnny was concerned. His grandfather seemed to enjoy sending barbs in Johnny's direction, as if testing how much he could press before the young man erupted. But there would be no such sport over the supper table tonight because Johnny was not coming.

Scott was both annoyed that his brother was avoiding the meal and envious of his freedom. Johnny had been involved in a shouting match with Garrett only that morning, and then he had turned on his heel and headed for the door. Scott, without knowing what it was about, had grabbed his brother's arm, trying to hold him back, if only to calm him down. But Johnny, his face rigid with anger, had just shaken him off and left for town. The dust from Barranca's hooves had barely settled when Garrett had come out on the patio, smiling as he sneered, "Mexie's never can control their tempers and that crossbreed is no exception."

Scott held his temper and pointed out that the ranch couldn't run without those Mexicans and would his grandfather "please refrain from talking about my brother in such terms." Harlan had merely appeared mystified by the request. Scott sighed, afraid that Harlan's abrasive comments came naturally to him. The older man appeared oblivious that the words that slipped easily off his tongue were so insensitive.

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Supper was an uncomfortable affair, with Maria just dumping the platters on the table and leaving in a huff. Teresa came late to the meal and made no attempt at conversation. She just sat there, picking at her food. Scott guessed there was another set of ruffled feathers to smooth and wondered when he had become the ranch's official peacekeeper.

He joined in the conversation now and then throughout the dinner, usually to placate one or the other of the men flanking him. He felt like a referee caught in the middle of a battle that wasn't of his making.

Murdoch and Harlan were able to talk about neutral subjects for at least a portion for the meal, though by the time Maria unceremoniously dropped the rhubarb pie on the table in front of Murdoch, the two older men were at it again. "The trouble with you Westerners," Garrett began, as he pointed his fork at his host, "is that you have no concept of fine cuisine. Back in Boston -"

Without a word, Teresa slid from her chair and headed for the kitchen. Scott tossed his napkin on the table and stood abruptly. Even as he excused himself, the two older men continued their latest debate. Murdoch would soon be ushering Garrett into the great room for a brandy and they were unlikely to miss his presence.

Scott found Teresa out back, sitting in the dark under a tree, her arms clasped around her legs. "Nice evening," Scott said neutrally. When he received no answer he tried again. "Teresa, you hardly ate anything at supper. How about returning with me to the kitchen and trying some of that pie? C'mon." Scott offered her a hand, waiting with a patience he didn't really feel.

Teresa looked at his extended hand for a moment before accepting it and allowing him to pull her to her feet. She stood still, making no move to go back in the house. The light spilling from the open kitchen doorway allowed Scott to catch the serious face expression on her face as she said in a low, intense voice, "That man is evil."

"What? You mean my grandfather?" Scott laughed, despite himself. "Now, honey, you're exaggerating."

She was resolute. "He is positively evil."

"No, he's not, and it's very impolite for you to say so. You don't know what you're talking about." Having said that, Scott immediately regretted his words. He hadn't meant to talk down to her. Besides, Teresa was only voicing aloud what many others had already said behind Harlan Garrett's back.

Before he could correct his mistake, Teresa spoke up defensively. "Are you telling me that I don't know what I'm saying because I'm only a girl?" She stood defiantly with her hands on her hips. "Or because, as he put it, I'm 'just a servant' around here?"

"Teresa! He didn't -"

"Yes he did! Mr. Garrett sets his beady eyes on me and then looks at me with this expression on his face, like I'm a bug or something . . . and he makes me feel . . . feel so . . . so small." She struggled to keep her lower lip from trembling.

"Oh Teresa, that was very unkind if he said that, but you're not a servant and you know it."

"He said I was only allowed to live in the house because Mr. Lancer was easy prey for women like my mother who coerced him and that Murdoch felt guilty over causing my father's death and I know that's not true but . . ." She let out a sob, but covered her mouth with a hand and managed to compose herself.

"Your father was Murdoch's best friend, and the cause of his death was a bullet in his back from Day Pardee's gun, as far as we know." Even as Scott held back his anger at his grandfather, he gave Teresa a reassuring hug. "Murdoch isn't influenced by anyone, not even your mother." He wasn't really sure that was the entire truth, because he'd often wondered how close his father had been to Teresa's attractive mother. Scott had a feeling that if Angel Day had stayed around any longer the last time she had visited, his own resistance would have failed.

"But about Johnny . . . " Her voice trailed off as she looked back at the house.

"What about Johnny?"

"Johnny left and he said he wouldn't come back home until your grandfather was gone."

"I see."

"He meant it, Scott," she wailed.

"Johnny isn't going to let anyone, especially my grandfather, drive him out of his own home. He's probably gone to town to have a few drinks and play some poker with his friends. It is Saturday, after all." But recalling the angry look on his brother's face as he had rushed past, Scott carefully asked Teresa, "Do you know what they were fighting about?"

She didn't say anything at first, but twisted the fabric of her skirt in one hand as she considered her reply. Just as Scott was about to ask the same question another way, Teresa said in a small voice, "Mr. Garrett told Johnny that even when you went back to Boston with him, Johnny shouldn't count on getting his hands on the rest of the ranch. That it was really yours. He also said he was making arrangements with his lawyers to make sure you were the sole heir to the Lancer estate. He called Johnny a half-breed. And worse." She looked up at Scott and asked fearfully, "Is that true, Scott? Can Mr. Garrett take the ranch away from Johnny? Can he do that?"

"No," he replied firmly. "None of that is true."

"You're not going back to Boston with him, are you?"

"I was considering returning with Grandfather, but only for a short visit. Now. . . now I'm not so sure." He frowned at Teresa. "How did you know that I was thinking of going to Boston?"

"Your grandfather told Johnny he was taking you with him." When Scott raised an eyebrow, she quickly added, "I wasn't eavesdropping. Not really. But I could hear them plainly from the next room. They were pretty loud." She relaxed when Scott didn't censure her. "Scott, What does he mean by calling you the sole heir? Johnny has as much right to the ranch as you do. Doesn't he?"

Teresa had sometimes wondered if Murdoch would arrange for one of his sons to be the primary beneficiary of the spread when he was gone. It didn't seem out of the question; many a man left his assets solely to his first-born. But then what would Johnny do? Would he leave if he didn't have an equal say in the running of Lancer? She wondered if he would even accept being second. Johnny liked to be first at everything.

"This is nothing for you to worry about, Teresa," Scott assured her. "My grandfather is meddling in something in which he has no business and I'll see that it stops. Lancer is Murdoch's and Johnny's and mine in equal shares. Nothing can change that." Both brothers knew that when Murdoch died, hopefully many years from now, that Lancer would belong equally to them. No back-East lawyer could take Johnny's portion away from him. Harlan must have been speaking out of spite, to rile Johnny.

Teresa nodded. "I told you he's a mean old man, Scott. Your mother had a good reason to run off with Murdoch the first chance she got. Who would want Mr. Garrett for a father?"

Scott sighed. "He's still my grandfather, Teresa. That has to count for something." Scott was not ignorant of his grandfather's shortcomings. He had witnessed enough of the old man's morally and even legally questionable business dealings when he had been involved in the family business. At first, Scott had only vague suspicions, and later he realized he had not wanted to see what was going on under his own nose.

"He's not a bad man," he said judiciously, "but he is self-interested and . . . I suppose . . . unlikable." He felt a mixture of guilt and relief at the thoughts from the back of is mind that he had finally formed into words. "I worked in his firm for almost two years when I was recovering from . . . the war." In those days, he had still respected his grandfather. "I eventually acknowledged that my grandfather's way of doing business was not my own."

Teresa looked at him curiously. "You never say anything about the war or what you did when it was over, Scott. Why did you work for your grandfather?"

"I was being groomed to take over the family's accounting business, but it didn't take me long to become exceedingly bored. At first I just thought that I needed some more experience before making a judgment, but by the time the Pinkerton agent presented me with Murdoch's offer to come to Lancer, I'd already decided to leave."

"Were you considering going back into the military, then? You must have had an awful time in that Rebel prison," she said sympathetically.

There was too much to relate about the war and his experiences, and no sane place to begin. "It's better not to even start, Teresa. How about we talk about something else?" Scott remembered the night back in Boston when his whole life had taken a mighty turn. He'd quarreled with his grandfather about his future and then stormed out. He had spent the evening with a pretty blond socialite, and had been planning to enjoy her charms as a way of forgetting the mess that was his life, if only for one night. But they had been interrupted and it was while making his escape in the dark that the Pinkerton agent had caught up with him.

Murdoch Lancer's offer to pay his way out West had piqued Scott's interest. He had run through every emotion regarding his father during his formative years, but when faced with the offer to visit Lancer, he had been surprised to find that the strongest feeling he had was not hate, nor resentment, but curiosity. "Let's just say that I took Murdoch's summons as an opportunity to get out from under my grandfather's wing. I set out on my trip to California within the week." He added with a smile, "Never regretted it for one moment."

"Was Mr. Garrett very angry?" Teresa asked. "That you left Boston to come to Lancer?"

Scott laughed humorlessly. "Oh yes, he was more than angry. Grandfather was full of disapproval, and he even tried to bribe me when he couldn't cajole me into giving up such folly." He looked at Teresa with a slight smile playing about his lips. "It makes me wonder what would have happened if I hadn't accepted Murdoch's offer. I believe I might have come out West anyway, perhaps at some later date. I'd always wanted to see this country." He mused, "To think I might have missed out on meeting Johnny."

"Just Johnny?" She gave him a dig in his ribs with a finger.

"Hmmm, who else might I have missed?" he teased as he gave Teresa a quick hug. "My life would have been very different without you, Johnny, and my father to share it with. But right now we have to figure out what to do with our unwelcome guest, don't we?"

"Can you get him to leave, Scott?" She looked up at him pleadingly.

"You mean, ask him to leave right now? I don't think we can toss him out on his ear in the middle of the night, no matter how much people on the ranch dislike him." Oddly enough, Garrett, for all the trouble he was causing, seemed to enjoy spending time at Lancer. This was his second trip, and after the way he'd behaved the last time, he was lucky they'd even let him through the gates. Garrett had even ridden out on his own a couple of times, exploring the nearby hills, he'd said. He might not leave easily. "Perhaps he'll cut his visit short if given enough incentive. I might suggest he travel to San Francisco and I could accompany him. Perhaps a trip to celebrate my birthday, as it's in a couple of days."

"Oh, but then you wouldn't be here for your birthday." Teresa looked disappointed, but then her face suddenly lit up. "Scott, you could introduce Mr. Garrett to my mother if you took him to San Francisco. I haven't heard from her in a few months, but she's most likely still doing shows at the Palace. Mr. Garrett could escort her around, don't you think?" She looked at Scott with an impish grin on her face.

Scott grinned in return. "Angel would eat him alive."

Teresa replied, with a nod, "Exactly."

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