Johnny talked Scott into going to the cantina with him, the Saturday night after they got back from Blood Rock. A few of the Lancer hands went into Morro Coyo each Saturday, mainly the Mexican hands; the rest headed into Green River and the saloon there so, said Johnny, they could lose their pay at faro and come home drunk and grousin'. The cantina, added Johnny, offered a mean game of dominoes instead.

"Dominoes." Scott didn't look too keen. "You want me to spend Saturday night playing dominoes?"

"You've never seen a Californio play dominoes. Hang onto your wallet, big brother, or you'll be going home as drunk and grousin' as the hands."

Scott laughed and gave in. He said it'd be another new experience, to add to his list, and he was cheerful and happy as they rode into town with Jaime, Toledano and three or four others. The cantina was hot and crowded and the mournful singer from Johnny's last visit wasn't there. There was a band instead, playing cheerful Sonoran folksongs. Helluva lot better than patriotic songs against the French. Johnny told Scott so.

"I believe you, although since I can't speak much Spanish yet, they could be singing the instructions for digging a backhouse for all I know. In four part harmony, at that." Scott followed him in, looking apprehensive. "Am I going to be able to eat anything in here?"

"They make damn good enchiladas. And mole."

"What Johnny means is that Eugenia makes damn good enchiladas and mole." Jaime slapped Johnny on the shoulder and pushed through the crowd to reach the bar. "But then, Johnny would eat anything Eugenia made. He's her latest."

Johnny prodded Jaime in the back. "Shouldn't you be over at the Ruis place talkin' sweet nothin's in your sweetheart's ear?"

"Magdalena's down in Sonora visiting her abuela before the wedding. I'm a free man tonight. Tequila, Scott?"

"Thank you, Jaime, yes. But Johnny, I didn't ask if this food was good, but if I could eat it. What are enchiladas like?"

Johnny grinned. "Hot." He nodded at the cantina owner. "Hola, César."

"Señor Madrid." César grinned. "Eugenia will be happy that you're back."

Johnny let the grin widen, and went over to the corner table. Señor Baldomero was there, but he rose with a polite bow and moved to the next table with his compadres, which was real obliging of him. Johnny paused to thank him and signalled César to give the Señor a bottle.

Toledano joined Señor Baldomero and sure enough, the dominoes were coming out and Tol had that gleam in his eye that made Johnny feel pretty sure that he was keeping his own money safely in his pocket.

Scott was still worrying about his supper. Dios, but he'd developed one helluva appetite since moving West. "And mole? What's that?"


"Very funny." Scott took a seat after greeting Señor Baldomero, and looked around. He sipped at his tequila like he thought it was a grizzly about to bite him. "Busy place."

"It's a good place. César serves good tequila and good food. A lot of people come for that."

Jaime leaned in, grinning. "And to look at Eugenia. Ai, what a girl!"


Johnny remembered a little beauty mark and sighed a very happy sigh. With luck he'd be seeing it again real soon. "Oh, very pretty."

"Maybe she has some pretty friends." Scott looked hopeful. Well, hell, unless he'd been holding out on Johnny, it'd been a while for Scott, too.

"Ain't Jaime and me pretty enough for you?"

Scott laughed. "Not even close. And forgive me for saying so, gentlemen, but you're both entirely the wrong shape." He got a funny look on his face, looking at something off to the right. "Now that's the sort of shape I had in mind."

Johnny turned his head to watch Eugenia sashay across the room. The crowd parted to let her through and to a man, they all turned as she passed to watch those hips sway. She was smiling when she got to the table, and so was every single man in the room who wasn't blind or older than that Meth-something-or-other feller in the Good Book.

"Juanito." She leaned down so he could take a good look at what he'd left behind to go running off down to Blood Rock to save Boston's worthless hide, and jiggled things about a bit to remind him. He heard both Scott and Jaime sigh and he was grinning when she kissed him. He had to shift in his chair to ease himself, but he was definitely grinning. Her mouth tasted of honey.


Her smile was a promissory note for later. She patted his cheek, then became all business and demanded to know what they wanted to eat. Tamales or pozole?

Scott sighed again. "What's pozole?"

Johnny grinned. "Hot."

Jaime sniggered. Scott just shook his head and reckoned that since everything was going to burn his tongue out, it didn't matter what he had. Johnny hadn't eaten a good pozole in months. Jaime would eat anything. Eugenia smiled, swooped in for another kiss and went off to get three bowls of pozole.

Scott watched Eugenia leave, his mouth falling open slightly.

Johnny spared a thought for what those hips would be doing later. "Looks even better from the back, right? You ever see anything like how she moves?" He made little round movements with his hands. He sighed. "It's a good handful. Each hand."

Ol' Boston choked and shook his head again, struck dumb.

Jaime shouldn't even have been looking, him bein' almost a married man and all. "Ai, esa Eugenia. You're a lucky man, amigo. She is much admired."

"Admired?" Scott laughed. "Jaime, you have a talent for understatement that so far I've only seen equalled by my little brother here. That woman is glorious and so dangerous she should come with warnings and an armed guard."

"More dangerous than any man I've ever stacked up against." Johnny sipped his tequila and sat back. Yeah, he was lucky; until Eugenia got tired and moved on. He shrugged. "But I tell you, you go down and no complainin'."

Jaime sniggered so hard that he almost choked. Scott opened his mouth, but whatever he was going to say got lost as someone came up behind him and butted in.

"Johnny? Johnny Madrid, is that you?"

Johnny's hand was on his gun. He looked up at the man. Hell, it couldn't be. "Wes?"

Beside him Scott stiffened, but Johnny grinned and let go of the gun's grips. It was Wes. Johnny hadn't seen him for at least a couple of years.

Wes shook hands eagerly. "Well, hell, Johnny, I heard you was dead down in Sonora. Some revolution or other, folks said. Hell, I even had a drink in your honour."

"Wes, you'd have a drink in honour of a dead dog. Don't tell me you had a wake for me."

Wes laughed, nodded, and dropped into the chair that Johnny waved at. "Well, I did, Johnny, an' that's a fact. What you doin' this far north?"

"Well, I'm part owner of a ranch around here, Wes. I'm outa the game these days." Johnny looked at Scott, surprised that Scott looked like he was facin' up to a riled rattler. "Scott, Jaime—this here's Wes Rollins. Him and me met up in some fracas or other down in … where was it Wes? Sutton County?"

"Sure was, Johnny. Sutton County, Texas in '68 it were. Dang it, but that was quite some fandango. Leastways, we were on the same side."

"Wes Rollins." Scott blew out a breath and passed a hand over his face. "I thought for a minute… " He stopped and grinned. "When you said Wes, I thought…"

Wes just stared. He was a nice enough feller, but the good Dios hadn't blessed the man with too many brains. He was more than a mite slow on the uptake. Johnny though, almost choked on his tequila. He started laughing.

"Hell, no, Boston. Wes Hardin's one helluva lot faster than this Wes here, and he's only about seventeen. Maybe eighteen."

Boston stared. "Only seventeen and he's already famous?"

"Well, he ain't exactly right in the head and he started young." Johnny grinned at Wes. Hell, Scott's mistake was funny. Wes Rollins was no Hardin. The Lord knew that if Day Pardee was a second string gunhawk, then Wes Rollins was somewhere around fourth string, or fifth. He wasn't up to much as a gunfighter, but the Lord also knew he was a straight shooter, and a stout man to have at your back. Wes wasn't flashy, but he was one helluva scrappy fighter.

Wes shrugged. "You talking about Hardin? You was his age when you made your name, Johnny. Younger."

"Sure, but everything in here—" and Johnny tapped his head "—works just fine. Wes Hardin's plumb loco. Wes, this here is my brother and partner, Scott Lancer, and an amigo, Jaime Roldán. Boston, this ain't the famous Wes, but he's good man for all that."

"I'm right proud to know you." Wes shook hands all round. "Your brother?" He sounded real taken aback at that. Well, Johnny had been real taken aback by it once.

"I'm pleased to meet you too, Wes." Scott was polite, like always. A man could always be proud of Scott's company manners.

"He don't look nothing like you." Wes leaned in like he was going to tell Johnny a secret. "He ain't from around here, Johnny."

"I'm from Boston, Wes. Back east. And Johnny, how long will it be, do you think, before I've trained you to remember that I'm just from Boston, and it isn't my name?"

"I dunno, Boston. How long you got?"

Scott laughed, and he leaned forward to tousle Johnny's hair. Johnny grinned back at him. "As long as it takes, I guess, little brother. As long as it takes."

Well, hell. A good long time, then.

Johnny sat back and lifted his glass. This being a rancher thing with a brother and a… and Murdoch, well maybe a man could get used to it. It wasn't such a bad thing, after all.

Not bad at all.

~end~ December 2010