Hi Blog Readers,
Comments have been severely lacking on the story Painted Pony if anyone is reading it would you please let me know by at least a yes in the comment box - I have another chapter to post but I'm reluctant to put it out there if no one is reading it anyway. So if you are - comment in the comment box Please. Thanks If you do I will put your name in for a drawing for one of my books - your choice - download only. Shout out if you're reading.
While Jamie is in the kitchen getting more coffee together for their guests, she listens to the retelling of some funny details of life before modern technology. Jamie enjoyed the congenial banter, but her mind tried to sort through Courtney’s off the wall behavior. It seemed she always went against the grain.
Sheriff Hale’s appearance drew her back to the present. “Thought you might need a hand,” he said loud enough for the others to assume that was his mission. He pulled Jamie to the far corner of the room, effectively, out of the earshot of the others.
“Be careful of Courtney. Watch your back where she is concerned. I know she’s connected to those we suspect are involved with the marijuana grow. They’ve all been on our radar for a while. Getting evidence –rock solid evidence is the hard part. You could be in a lot of danger, just because of Courtney’s involvement.”
A chill surrounded Jamie and then faded. “She’s my sister. Courtney wouldn’t…” That lie refused see the light of day. Jamie remembered other times when that wasn’t true, not even slightly. When it interfered with what Courtney wanted, no one and nothing was off limits. “I’ll be careful. Do you really think these men or people are dangerous? I mean it’s just marijuana. “
Sheriff Hale’s look turned incredulous, and his shoulders slumped ever so slightly. “It’s illegal.”
“I didn’t mean—I mean-- I know it’s illegal, and sometimes leads to the need for stronger drugs. I really only wondered how important this was to whoever is growing it.”
"Money always speaks loudest. Louder, even, than family or clan connections."
Deep inside Jamie knew what Sheriff Hale meant with everything else in a slump economically—always quick and easy money makers hedged the bets for those who could make it work. "Thank, I'll be careful."
"Well I better get back to doing my job before somebody thinks I'm asleep at the wheel."
Sheriff Hale said his goodbyes—the gaiety of a few minutes before seemed to follow him out the door.
"I better go tend to cattle business and see if there's anything else these guys need from me." BJ plucked his black cowboy hat off the hook by the door.
I thought the good guys wore white hats.
"Glad to see you're back home Jamie, really." BJ flashed her that infectious smile that threatened to make her like him.
She smiled back. Would liking him be a bad thing?
"I'll help you unload your trailer when you're ready."
BJ was turning into quite the gentleman. Maybe his arrogance was all in her perception. "Appreciate that. It can wait until tomorrow." Besides with all the commotion over the grow BJ had more pressing things to attend to.
Jamie picked up empty coffee cups and dessert plates to take to the kitchen. Ben followed with creamer and sugar containers. Soon, they had the kitchen and dining area back to normal order.
"I think I'll grab a few minutes of a catnap a 'fore I begin supper."
Ben looked so tired. Jamie wasn't at all surprised. The tranquil ranch atmosphere had been shattered of late. Not just the marijuana grow, the cut fences, missing cattle, life had taken on an edge Ben wasn't used to and Jamie didn't like.
"I think I'll do the same. It was a long drive and now this." Jamie brushed perplexion and angst away with fluttering fingers toward the outside.
"I'm sure sorry missy." Ben's face furrowed with age old concern.
"It's not a reflection on you Ben. It's just a sign of the troubled times we live in." She gave Ben a hug. "You go rest. Ther4e's nothing you could have done differently."
"Hell, missy, I wouldn't a knowed it was anything but a new kind of weed, if I had seen it."
Jamie kissed Ben's cheek. "I know, go rest."
Ben's referring to the grow as weeds nearly made her laugh. How our language has changed. Words morph into whole new meanings before we can say…
Jamie made her way down the hall to her room. It was more than a room, more like a suite in a grand motel, she mused as she opened the door. It had signatures of her from an earlier time. The shelf with her American Girl collection gathered dust, she would remedy that in short order. It was only now she remembered the painted pony. He was part of her collection of American Girl props, and now—how odd. Is that why she saw the vision of—no, she had led Jamie to the Elder's council fire. She was real. She had followed Jamie back to the ranch.
The ribbon shirt that waited for her at the council fire with the elders hung in her closet now when she opened the door. The ribbon shirt form her youth, revived and looking brand new. Hers had long since been relegated to the storage room in the attic, she thought and then remembered. The shirt, faded, the ribbons ready to come free from the cloth. She had kept the shirt boxed, but with her in college. Then it disappeared in one of her many hasty moves.
The ribbon shirt, this ribbon shirt, was brand new, an exact replica of the old. Jamie brushed a hand lovingly over the shirt. Memories stirred in her. She took the shirt from the hanger and hugged it to her. She could hear the heartbeat of the drum and the singers as if they were in the room with her. She walked ot the window where the view of the LaPlata Mountains rose in an ever changing panorama as shadows from the clouds raced from west to east. The mountains held mystery and intrigue for Jamie. As you can never step in the same river twice, you never see the same mountains twice.
They represented both protection and isolation, comfort in their strength, but danger as well. Mountains, obstacles, or barrier to the onslaught of the uncivilized trouble filled world. As Jamie stood admiring and contemplating all the ways those mountains had influenced her, the painted pony trotted into her line of vision.
Jamie startled, mesmerized by the pony's grace and beauty. Protector or bearer of a summons from her ancestors? Did the elders call, wanting her to follow the painted pony again?
What would the elders say about the illegal grow? What would her father say? Jamie slipped into the ribbon shirt and quietly slipped out of the house so as not to disturb Ben. As she walked to the barn Daisy darted to the paddock where Jamie usually saddled her. Do horses have their own silent language? She never heard a whinny or a snort, no vocalization from either horse, but here was Daisy. Perhaps, Daisy saw her coming and with all the commotion wanted to run to dispel her agitation. Jamie looked up as she saddled Daisy and led her out through the corral gate. Daisy waited impatiently while Jamie closed the gate. No one else appeared. She reasoned the hands were with BJ and or the FBI agents securing the grow field.
Jamie searched the landscape for the Painted Pony. She reared, catching Jamie's attention and Daisy's too, as Daisy danced impatiently, waiting to be nudged into flight. Jamie gently, nudged her heels into Daisy's sides and tipped the reins touching Daisy's left side of her neck. Her response was immediate and spirited. Daisy took a couple steps to the right and then broke into a gallop. Jamie saw the Painted Pony strike out ahead of them.
Daisy seemed to know her target and Jamie was a passenger to a phenomenal experience. She never doubted for a minute where her journey would conclude. She could already smell the council fire and hear the drums. The hills blurred into a mist shrouded valley. Suddenly, as quickly as she started Daisy bounced to a straight-legged stop. Jamie saw the elders around the drum and the council fire.
(It's long because I've missed writing this story will I concentrate on my novel for NaNoWriMo. Now that that is finished I hope to get up dates here on time. Thanks for your patience. Any comments or questions are always welcome. Billie)
So much tension, Jamie watched Ben carefully. Was he strong enough for this? He, for sure, had always been stalwart and like the beacon on a stormy sea, you could always count on being there when you needed him. There was only so much a person could shoulder and Ben had seen his share lately. Since her father's death, Jamie could feel Ben slipping away, getting older and aging in more ways than just the number of his years.
"I'm here now. I'll stay, at least until we get this all under wraps. Now, where did that nephew of yours get to?" Jamie was more curious than ever. Would Ben's favorite nephew turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble?
"He's out there." Ben waved his hand toward the door. "He's keepin them company so they don't do somethin stupid to make us lose more cattle. I tell ya missy, lately, if it ain't the four legged coyotes it’s the two legged variety." It seemed Ben retreated into himself again.
Jamie wondered out loud. "Why didn't you call me if there was so much trouble?"
Ben melted into his chair. "Since when does a grown man go cryin fer hep over a few miserable outlaws? That's what they is ya know—outlaws."
It was obvious Ben thought the battle was his. He always did look at her as a girl—a girl child, no less. Hadn't he noticed she had grown up more than capable of handling her share of trouble? Jamie sat on the arm of the chair and draped an arm around Ben's shoulders.
"They think the law was made for Joe Schmo, not them."
Jamie could tell Ben's hackles were bristling. He wasn't one to let law breakers get away with it. But, Jamie didn't want Ben to have a heart attack over it. "I think you and BJ did what had to be done. Sheriff Hale and his men will get to the bottom of this."
As if on cue the door opened and BJ and Sheriff Hale came in deep in conversation, which stopped when BJ saw his uncle so drawn and worried. "Hey Unc—it's all going to be fine. We'll get that field plowed and re-seeded for free." He winked at Jamie.
While she was glad to see his spirits allowed for joking and levity, she wasn't pleased with his something for nothing attitude, perhaps he just did it to lighten the load for his Uncle Ben. Jamie hoped that was the case instead of what she thought.
Sheriff Hale interrupted BJ's jovial spiel. "I need to bring some equipment out to do that Ben." He looked from him to Jamie and back again. "One of you needs to sign the paper work so I can."
Ben patted Jamie's knee. "I'm jist the hired hep here. Miss Jamie is the boss."
Jamie smiled. She's never felt like the boss here. Partner, maybe, boss, never. She couldn't understand why her father didn't leave the ranch to Ben. "Sure, I'll sign, but don't let him fool you, he really is the boss. I'm just a city slicker glad for a little country R & R time, occasionally."
Everyone laughed. Jamie especially liked BJ's laugh. He reminded Jamie of a much younger Ben. Anyone could tell they were kin. It was good to see Ben's spirits brighten. He had, had enough trouble.
When Courtney burst through the door Jamie knew she was just more of the same kind of trouble she was trying to protect Ben from. It never failed if there was any trouble around Courtney was part of it. She sauntered over to the group and hung an arm over Sheriff Hale's shoulder. Jamie thought she detected Sheriff Hale's cringe. "Lookie what we got us here. A meetin of the minds, or is it—oh never mind. What'd ya do this time Ben? You got enough law out there ta start a posse." She threw her head back and cackled at her joke.
Courtney slithered over to BJ. "Or, was it this bad boy who brought them in?" She traced a button on BJ's shirt, hanging on him like a bad odor; she acted as if they were lovers.
Had they been connected since Jamie left? She knew how quickly Courtney could zero in on what she wanted. And, she usually got what she wanted, one way or another.
BJ shook her loose. "I'm thinkin it was more your style of trouble that brought them here."
Ouch, Jamie thought, no one dared talk to Courtney like that without paying for it. Everyone tiptoed and cajoled the spoiled little brat. Jamie suppressed a laugh.
"Aw, the rooster's got his tail feathers singed. So, what's the big deal?" Courtney plopped down on the couch stringing her bubble gum out of her mouth with an index finger and then working a cat's cradle of sorts out of it while everyone watched.
The center of attention always, one way or another, Courtney made sure of that. Jamie waited as it seemed the others did for Sheriff Hale to tell her what he wanted her to know.
"I'm sorry. Can't give you any details just yet. Ongoing investigation and all you know."
Now Courtney took affront. Her anger blew her off the couch as she went toe to toe with Sheriff Hale. She pointed a manicured and detailed red polished finger into his chest. "Listen mister—I am part owner of this blamed acreage if you're on my land, I better know the reason why."
Jamie moved to intercede. Sheriff Hale grabbed Courtney's accusing finger from his chest and moved his face within inches of hers. "Insults will get you a cell with no view. As far as I'm concerned you are an absentee land lord. The people who maintain this place have been notified. I will caution them not to divulge the contents of our investigation to anyone—including—you." He released her hand and stood stock still glaring at her.
For a long cold minute Courtney froze her glare was full of fire and Jamie could nearly feel the ice coursing through her sister's veins. She held her breath—Courtney jerked her finger form Sheriff Hale and spun like a whirling dervish including them all in the venom that spewed from her mouth. "You'll all pay!"
Though her words were nothing more than a loud whisper, she spit them out with such force they all sat paralyzed as Courtney fired toward the door. She turned long enough to glare at Jamie, point at her as if her hand had become a pistol and Courtney was going to pull the trigger. "You—City girl--," she turned and bolted out the door.
It was as though she sucked the air from the room with her. A feeling Jamie had once when she had to escape from the barn being consumed by fire while Jamie tried to get all the horses out—the fire used up all the oxygen, just like Courtney did.
"Whoa, that was some fire ball." BJ was the first to speak in Courtney's wake. "Is she always that charming?"
"Sometimes even worse." Sheriff Hale said shaking his head. "She's a piece of work. Hard to believe she's part of…" He swallowed his words.
Jamie knew Sheriff Hale wouldn't insult one family member to another, no matter what he thought, it wasn't his style. Ben just sat. IT was as if Courtney's display had drained the life out of him.
"She'll get over it. She's always had a short fuse." Jamie couldn't stand the tension Courtney always left in her path.
Ben slapped the chair arm and bounded to his feet. "Let's have us some coffee. I got fresh baked apple pie ta go with it." His energy returned as he made his way to the kitchen. The relief was almost palpable. Courtney was an entity whose influence faded on the surface, but burrowed under the skin and festered like an open sore. Jamie was glad to have her attention diverted, while Courtney's final words singed her mind. What evil would she conjure next?
[Actually the last chapter was chapter Six this is the REAL chapter Seven]
Jamie was allowed into the property, not that anyone, but the rookie questioned her right to. She needed to get to Ben, hear from him, what he was thinking.
"I'll come in and talk to you and Ben soon as I corral these bees and move them out." Sherriff Hale waved a hand toward the army of the various law enforcement personnel.
Jamie knew they would leave a few to watch the grow until they could harvest it, and plow under any roots—at least she assumed they would. They wouldn't dare burn it. She almost chuckled at that thought. Depending on the wind direction, a bunch of happy folks wasn't necessarily a bad thing…she groaned at her private joke, must be the drive made me slap happy.
Ben sat slouched in his favorite thread-bare easy chair. He didn't look relaxed or comfortable. He jolted to his feet when she entered. His face went from happy recognition to overwhelm with the shadows of trouble. He held his hands out to her.
She didn't know what to say to comfort him, instead she wrapped her arms around him and just held on. "What a mess, hey?" She said finally as she released her grip. Ben backed away nodding his head.
Certainly is missy, and I—" He slumped back into his chair leaving the sentence hanging like laundry on a clothes line blowing in the wind.
"I don't know, I never seen, this mari—weed—whatever –growin. In all my years, I never—well, you know."
"I certainly do know Ben." She sat on the arm of the easy chair and draped an arm over his shoulders. "They'll figure it out. Don't you worry."
Jamie could see slight relief in his demeanor, but he was going to worry. That's what Ben did was worry over everything until he had it resolved to his satisfaction.
:Who found it?" Jamie asked the question she had been wondering since she arrived.
Ben stood up again. This time he began pacing, pinching his lips between forefinger and thumb. "How would he know what it was?" He questioned, the question burned in his eyes a she stared through Jamie—for some unknown answers.
"Who?" Jamie felt she already knew, but where was his nephew if he was part of the investigation?
"B.J. He's the one done found it. He was riding fences, checking the ditches—He--." Ben stopped and turned to gaze out the window. Lost in his own thoughts.
"Where is B.J. now?" Jamie wanted to know if he turned in the find, how could he leave his uncle to face the music alone—BJ wasn't stupid—arrogant maybe, but not stupid she decided.