FanStory.com
"Texas Dream Catcher"


Prologue
Chapter Doce; part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni handed him some wood. "The matches are in that table drawer beside you."

Lightning struck! Thunder boomed! The shack shook from the noise! The door blew open. Soni jumped! The dogs growled and the hair on their back bristled. The horses jerked their tied reins in an attempt to back away. Jim grabbed his Glock.


TODAY'S POST:

Jim aimed the weapon at the dark opening, expecting the intruder.

Nothing.

Soni crept to the side of the opened door, positioning her body so she could use its bulk for protection if the occasion arose. Then she peeked around it and whispered, "I don't see anything."

Without taking his eyes from the unknown, Jim stepped toward the doorway his Glock still aimed. As he stared into the darkness, wind forced cold pellets of rain against his body. "It had to be the wind. Is there any way to lock the door?"

After forcing the door shut, Soni placed a large wooden plank midway across it. It was held up by two rusted metal braces. "That should do it." She studied Jim. "You're officially drenched." Again, she tried to hide her smile, but failed.

"Thank you for stating the obvious." Jim walked to the fireplace and reached his hands out. "It shouldn't take long before it starts producing heat. I'm hungry. Is there any possibility of these mangy mutts catching a few rabbits?"

Goliath lay down in front of the fire, made a sound of contentment, and stared at Jim.

"I'd say not on your life." Soni sat beside the large dog. "I think we're stuck with canned beef stew." She reached for and scooted her saddlebag closer. After she took out two cans, she tossed one to Jim. "You have a choice, hot or cold?"

Jim grabbed a pan. "Hot. How about you?"

*****
The dogs and horses were fed before Soni sat to eat.

After swallowing a bite, Jim asked, "What are your predictions for tomorrow?"

Soni tilted her head. "I doubt we've heard the last of the horse rustlers. I think those guys were only workers. We still have the head man or men to deal with. I hope the storm drove the mountain lion away. The wolf-dog may still be a problem. Of course, who knows what might be waiting ahead?" She took a bite of stew and moved closer to the fire. "This heat feels good."

"What do you see in your future? Do you plan on growing old on the ranch?"

'This land has been in my family since 1834. I won't leave it. I'm the only one left to carry on family traditions."

"Wasn't Texas still under Mexican rule in 1834?"

"It was. But many Americans had moved in, breaking Mexican immigration laws. My ancestors fought for Texas independence."

Jim nodded. "I had read there were many German immigrants." He hesitated, before he continued, "You interested in a husband and family?"

"You're still asking questions." Soni set the pan of stew down and placed her spoon in it.

"I'm sure you've thought of those things. Most women have." Jim rubbed his hands together closer to the fire. "I still have a chill."

"I have. Someday, I hope to find a man who loves me for me, not my ranch or the money. Most men want their women barefoot and pregnant. They want to take over."

"What about security? Many women want a man for security."

"That would be nice. If I could find a man who would want to be my partner, it would be great. I don't want to dominate or be dominated. How about you? What are your plans for your future?"

"Someday I'd like to settle down, get married, and have a few kids. I don't plan on doing this forever."

"What is 'doing this'?" Soni used two fingers to highlight doing this. "I don't know what you're talking about." She waited for Jim to answer.

After a long pause, Jim said, "Little lady, you know I can't answer that. It's got to be getting late. I'm sure tomorrow will come early."

Soni grabbed her blanket. "This is wet." She released a deep breath and tossed it to the side. "You ask questions all the time. Yet, you refuse to answer any. That's just wrong. Good night, Jim. If that's even your real name." Her voice was filled with sarcasm as she curled up closer to the fire.

Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a fireplace inside and old shack. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Prologue
Working notes

By barbara.wilkey

CHARACTERS & OTHER INFORMATION:

Sonsee-array 'Soni' Adler -- A tribal name meaning 'morning star'. She's 5'4" black hair and large brown eyes. Inherited huge ranch after her father died. Mother was Lipan Apache. Her name Jacali and she died during the birth of Soni. Her father never remarried. Soni's an only child. She's 27 years old; born February 1987. The house is a 4000 square feet ranch house, with some Mexican influence. The time is August 2014. She flies a Baby Bell helicopter and is an excellent horse rider. For a vehicle, she drives a Range Rover Sport, white. She can hold her own when it comes to ranching jobs. She carries a Laredo Bowie knife in her sheath.

Goliath and Mack are always by Soni's side. Golith's a Great Pyrenees about 5 years old. Mack's his son about 18 months old. Nobody gets around Soni without these boys' approval.

Name of the Ranch -- Rockin' A. The ranch, 625,000 acres is set in Texas, south of San Antonio, and north of Laredo. I35 runs through the ranch as does the Nueces River. On the North West side of the ranch, about 150 miles from Eagles Pass, is a small community, about 375, of Lipan Apache Native Americans. They've been allowed to live there, by the Adler family since 1884, when the rest of the Lipan Apaches were escorted to Oklahoma and New Mexico. On the ranch are buffaloes, longhorns and Brahman cattle, dairy cows, goats, sheep, quarter and appaloosa horses, and farming, wheat, cotton, corn, milo, along with regular gardening beside the house. There are many herding dogs on the ranch. Numerous wild animals roam the ranch.

Soni's father -- Raymund, called 'Ray' Adler. Adler's a German name meaning 'eagle'. Ray lost the battle to lung cancer about three months prior to the beginning of the novel. He was 52, born in March 1962, on the ranch. He inherited the Rockin' A from his father. The ranch has been in the family since 1834.

Shaman, his title, Kuruk, his first name, means 'bear' in Apache, is Soni's grandfather and her late mother's father. Kuruk still chooses to wear the tribal buckskin. His hair is graying but the former long black hair is evident. He's very proud of his Native American heritage. He was born April 1944 and is 70 years old. He stands a little over 6' tall, and is a very quiet but domineering man. He loves his granddaughter and always shows up in her time of need. He carries 3 throwing knives hidden at all times.

Alejandro 'Alex' Garza was Ray's ranch foreman and has worked on the ranch for 28 years. He's 49 years old. He remains there and is Soni's go to person. He struggles some with English. Mexican Spanish is his native language. He's firm and no nonsense, but gentle. He loves Soni like a daughter. He and his wife have lived in the ranch house with Ray and Soni since before she was born.

Tatiana Garza is Alex's wife. She's the housekeeper/cook. Since Soni's mother died during childbirth, she raised Soni. She and Alex never had children. Her English is better than Alex's. Mexican Spanish is her first language.

Jacob Blackwood (alias: Jim Burns) is a member of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, (ICE). It's part of Homeland Security. He left the Marine Corps as a captain to join ICE. He's originally from New York City and now lives in Laredo. He spends much of his time in the field. He has no problem reminding people there's no such thing as an ex-Marine: Once a Marine always a Marine. Semper Fidelis -- always faithful. Jacob is 6'3" and 225 pounds of pure muscle. He has sandy hair and sky blue eyes. He carries a Glock 40 cal. It has a 15 round clip. He also carries a marine force night stalker bowie knife. Drives a 2014 black Chevrolet Suburban. Inside it hidden, he keeps a M40A1 sniper rifle and a M249 squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) Soni gives him the name of Apache name, 'Bimisi' meaning slippery.

Spanish Daggers -- type of yucca, sharp daggers for leaves, hence the name -- They have beautiful flowers and edible fruit. is Spanish for table, and another name for mesa is table mountain.

Mesas form in arid climates in regions where nearly flat rocks, either sedimentary beds or large lava flows, serve as cap rocks. These resistant layers protect the rock beneath them from eroding.

Author Notes The Lipan Apaches roamed Texas during the much of Texas early history. I found this shield on one of their sites. Thank you for allowing me to copy it. This will, again, be very difficult to review. Yes, I know I used sentence fragments, have messed up punctuation, and sequence is out of order. This is how I think and these are the notes I use to keep myself on target or I will wonder into never-never land. I hope you enjoy.


Chapter 1
Chapter Uno, part Uno.

By barbara.wilkey

CHAPTER ONE
"Alex, Big Grizzly's on my right," Sonsee-array 'Soni' Adler spoke on the helicopter's radio. "I should be home in about thirty-five minutes." She glanced down. "Wait! I see something on the ground that looks like body. I'm landing."

"Grab the rifle. I'll meet you," said Alex Garza, her ranch foreman.

"No, when I lift off, I'll let you know." Cutting the radio, Soni Adler piloted the helicopter down. Toting the rifle, a bottle of water, and a first aid kit, she made her way through the thorny, waist-high brush. Lord, we need rain bad. Under Big Grizzly, a flat rock mesa, and over a twenty feet drop, Soni found a man lying still amid a knife-sharp yucca. Avoiding the needles herself, she checked for a pulse.

"You're alive, but you've lost a lot of blood. Who are you?" Soni patted him down for weapons, found and secured a hand gun and knife, and then checked his wounds. "From the looks of it, you need a doctor and about a gallon of blood."

"No doctor," the man whispered.

"So you're conscious. Bet you could use some water." Soni screwed off the lid, held the water bottle, and lifted the man's head.

He nodded. "Thank you."

"You can't stay here. Either the coyotes or the mountain lions'll get you." Soni opened the first aid kit. "I'll clean your wounds and bandage them the best I can." She removed a knife from her sheath and cut open his shirt. As she did, she noticed a bullet scar. "Looks like you've been dancing with a yucca before. This antiseptic's going to hurt, some."

The stranger remained silent and his eyes closed. As Soni cleaned his wounds, he grunted.

"That's all I can do." Soni stood and scanned the area. "I can't leave you here. I'll go back to the copter and get a blanket. I'll have to drag you. You're too heavy to carry."

"I can walk, just help me up."

"You sure? Can you at least tell me your name?" Soni put her arm under his armpit and lifted up.

"Damn, that hurts. Jim, call me Jim."

"Jim, it is. You might've broken something falling off that mesa."

"I've fallen off higher places than that." Jim searched the ground. "Did you see a small notepad? I need that."

"Can you stand on your own? It's on that pile of rocks." Soni pointed.

"I'll be fine." Jim watched Soni pick up the notebook. He cringed in pain as he reached out his hand, and then stuffed it in his jean's pocket. "Thank you."

"I doubt you're gonna make it all the way to the helicopter."

"The way I see it, I don't have a choice. Either go with you or let a turkey vulture pick my bones clean." Jim attempted a grin.

"I can call for help."

"No sense bothering anybody."

"If you say so." Soni put his left arm across her shoulders and her right arm around his back. Jim's entire six foot plus frame rested on Soni's shoulders. He must weigh over two hundred pounds.

They inched their way to the helicopter. Often, Jim paused, drank more water, and took deep breaths.

The walk seemed to take forever in the hot sun, but finally Soni propped Jim against the helicopter's opening. "I'll lift your left leg in." After a few tries, she stopped and wiped sweat from her forehead. "I know it hurts. But we gotta get you inside. Ready, let's try again." This time was successful. "Now, for the rest of you."

Soni crawled in and helped Jim put his left arm over the back of the seat. "Maybe if you pull here, and I push from outside, we can get you in the seat." Soni got out and jogged to the passenger side. "I hope this works the first time. It's going to hurt real bad."

Jim released a deep breath. "I'm ready." He grunted in pain, but made it in the seat on the first try.

Soni climbed into her seat and reached for the radio.

"No! I don't want you to call for help and no doctors. I'll be fine."

"I told my foreman I'd call when I was in the air."

"Somebody knows you stopped?"

"Yes. When I saw you, I was letting them know I was on my way home from Laredo."

"Where we going?"

"My ranch, the Rockin' A."

Jim closed his eyes.

"Alex, you there?" After a few moments, Soni continued, "I'm gonna need Grandfather's help. Ask him to bring his medicine bag. This man went dancing with a couple of Spanish Daggers. I'm in the air."

"We'll be waiting. I'll send a couple ranch hands to the reservation."

The rest of the flight was silent. Once in a while, Soni glanced at Jim and noticed his mouth flinch with pain.

After Soni landed, Alex met her and she petted her two dogs, Goliath and then Mack. Three ranch hands carried Jim into the house and lay him on a bed in a spare bedroom.

Soni handed Alex the Glock .40 cal and the Bowie knife. "I found these on him."

"Oh, Dios mio! He's up to no good. What's his name?" Alex raised and lowered the hand holding the knife.

"He said to call him Jim."

"This knife's a Marine force night stalker. It has perfect balance. He planned to do damage with this. He's trespassing on your land. How did he get there? Did you see a truck?"

"No. I didn't think about that. Is Grandfather here yet?" Soni scratched Goliath behind the ears. As Mack nuzzled closer, she rubbed his ears.

Alex shook his head. "I'll send two guys to search for it. Maybe you should've left him there. At least the coyotes would've had a good meal and left our cattle alone."

"Alejandro Garza, que no hay forma de hablar de otro ser humano." Tatiana Garza came from the kitchen and faced her husband with her hands on her hips.

"You're right. It's no way to talk about another person, but he was carrying both of these. He's up to no good."

"Tatiana, Alex is right. I think he's up to no good. He was worried about a notebook he dropped. I didn't get a look at it." When Soni heard the front door shut, she turned and smiled. "Grandfather."

"My child, I'd visit you without your bringing home a stray human." Kuruk hugged his granddaughter.

"Shaman, it's good to see you again." Alex offered his hand.

"At least he's not a stray animal." Kuruk still held Alex's hand. He let go and kissed Tatiana on the cheek. "Nice to see you again."

Alex held up the weapons. "Soni found these on him."

Kuruk glanced toward his granddaughter. "Take me to him."

Author Notes Thank you forging.texas.com for the photo of a Spanish Dagger yucca. This one is just getting ready to bloom. I hope you can see how sharp the leaves are. I have two in front of my house and my poor husband has been attacked on several occasions. I thought about taking a photo of them, but every time he gets stabbed, he cuts off some of the leaves. LOL


Chapter 2
Chapter Uno, part Dos.

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"At least he's not a stray animal." Kuruk still held Alex's hand. He let go and kissed Tatiana on the cheek. "Nice to see you again."

Alex held up the weapons. "Soni found these on him."

Kuruk glanced toward his granddaughter. "Take me to him."

TODAY'S POST:

Soni led her grandfather to the bedroom where the ranch hands had laid Jim. The Shaman remained to do his healing. Soni, Alex, and her two Great Pyrenees, Goliath and his son Mack, followed her to the den.

After Alex shut the door, he asked, "What happened in Laredo? Your dad used to hate those land developing meetings."

"Now I know why he always returned grumpy."

Alex chuckled. "You used to call him 'Senor Grumpy Pants.' You know it wasn't easy for him being a single parent."

"I think I turned out all right." Soni's smile showed her perfectly white teeth. "He had you to help with the ranch and Tatiana helped raise me." She brushed her hair from her cheek. "Grandfather was never far and kept an eye on things." Tears welled in her large eyes. She tried to hide them by studying some papers on her desk. "I've often wondered why Mom died giving birth to me. It doesn't seem fair. I only know her from the stories I've been told."

"Your mom was very strong willed, but always a perfect lady, very much like you. You're the spitting image of her. I'm sure your dad and grandfather would agree. The same long black hair, she was petite and so are you, your face, eyes and nose are the same shape. I think your skin is lighter tan than hers, but I'm not sure."

"Thank you. Sometimes I need to be reminded. I want Mom and Dad to be proud of who I've become." Soni dried her eyes and released a deep breath. "Back to the business at hand. The wind-turbine company wanted me to allow it to put turbines over by Corpus." Her deep brown eyes revealed her disgust. "I told them I'd think about it, but those things make so much noise the bulls won't breed." After Alex grinned, Soni petted Goliath, and then continued, "You know it's true. The ones up by Fort Stockton drive the bulls crazy. I swear they're acting like they have a headache. We've lost calf production by thirty-five percent ever since those turbines started working." She removed a brown ledger from a desk drawer and opened it. "Check the facts yourself."

"I know. Your father never wanted them on the property. The ranch hands who work the area complain about the noise, too."

Tatiana came in carrying a pitcher of iced tea and some glasses. She smiled as the two, large, hairy, white dogs stood to greet her. "They're always such gentlemen. Dinner'll be ready in about an hour. Will the Shaman dine with us?"

Soni grinned. "I hope so, but we haven't talked about it." She took a sip of tea. "While I helped Jim, the sun felt like fire beating down on us. Texas needs rain, bad. Think Grandfather could help in that department, too?" She gave Tatiana a hug. "This hits the spot. Thank you." Soni's cheeks had a slight pink cast to them. "Thank you for being my surrogate mother."

"I'm not sure what that's all about, but you're welcome."

Alex brushed his wife's cheek. "We were discussing Soni's parents."

After a kiss to Soni's forehead, Tatiana said, "I love you like my own child." She walked through the door, and then turned. "I'll let you get back to business." When she left, Goliath and Mack laid beside Soni.

"What was the discussion about heating water for electricity?" Alex set his glass on the table beside him.

"This go-green company wanted to put huge magnifying window panes on the ground so the sun can heat water and create energy." Soni shrugged her shoulders. "I reminded them that this is Texas, and we're in a drought, so I doubt there'll be enough water to heat. He said I didn't understand his project and would e-mail some research material. He'll call once I've had time to study it."

"What did the land developers want?"

"Land over by San Antonio. They wanted to expand the suburbs and build a huge shopping mall. Dad always said this land has been in our family since 1834. I promised him I wouldn't sell it off piece by piece. I plan to keep that promise." Soni took a long drink of tea.

"It's quite a distance from the ranch's property line to San Antonio. How big do they think it's going to get?"

"I have no idea. Then some government man said drugs and human trafficking were going through our property on I35."

"I35 corridor goes all the way from Laredo to Duluth, Minnesota. It could be possible. Cartels use it to get drugs across the US. Do you think that man you saved could be involved with that?" Alex glanced at a map of the US on the wall.

"Anything's possible. He was up to something. I told the government man it's not our job to patrol the interstate, even if it does go through our ranch. I also mentioned we've never interfered with law enforcement and don't plan to start.

Alex answered his ringing phone. He listened, and then put it away. "There's a mare in the barn struggling with birthing the second foal. I'm needed. You coming?"

"I'll be out in a few minutes. I want to check with Grandfather.

*****
Soni stood outside the closed door and listened to the chanting, rhythmic beats of a drum, and smelled the burning incense. Goliath and Mack sat beside her.

"I know you're out there, Granddaughter. Come in."

Soni cracked open the door. "I didn't want to disturb you. How you think he's doing?" She noticed the Tom-Tom crutched in the fold of her grandfather's left arm.

"He is strong and healthy. He will live, but he will be sore for many days. He will need a place to rest for about a week."

Soni checked her cell. "I'm needed in the barn. He can stay here." She started out the door. "Tatiana expects you for dinner."

*****
As soon as Soni stepped into the barn, a gray-headed ranch hand, Gus, said to her, "We've called the vet, but he hasn't arrived. The mare's in trouble. We could lose her. She can't wait."

"Hand me those gloves." Soni pointed and put on latex gloves that went up to her elbows. She glanced at the two large dogs and said, "You boys need to stay," she gave the hand signal for them to stay. The dogs sat. Soni studied the mare, and then looked at Alex. "I've watched Dad do this, but I've never delivered a foal myself."

"Want me to do it?" Alex reached for gloves.

"Naw, Dad felt it was part of his job, so I guess it's mine now." Soni chewed on her bottom lip. "Stay by my side. If I'm not strong enough or do something wrong, step in. Okay?" She rubbed the mare's nose, looked her in the eyes, and spoke softly, "It's okay, Dulchinae. Stay calm. We'll get through this together." She continued to touch the mare as she walked to the rear. With one hand on the mare's side, she waited until she felt another contraction starting. Okay, it's time." Soni reached inside and tried to guide the foal out. "It needs to turn."

"I doubt there's room or time to turn it. Can you get two legs out?" Alex stood beside Soni.

"I'd better." Soni glanced at the foal already born. You need your momma, don't you? I'll do my best, but I don't know what I'm doing. A calm came over Soni. Grandfather, guide me through this.




Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of a Great Pyrenees. Those of you who know me, know I lost mine about a year ago to bone cancer. They are great dogs. I had to have a dog in my story. LOL I hope you enjoy the ending to chapter 1. I made a lot of errors in my last post. I have edited and edited this one. I hope it's clean. I have also changed a few of my notes. Jacob 'Jim' is now from New Your City, not a small town in Ohio. I needed a greater contrast. I have made the ranch larger too.


Chapter 3
Chapter DOS, Part UNO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Naw, Dad felt it was part of his job, so I guess it's mine now." Soni chewed on her bottom lip. "Stay by my side. If I'm not strong enough or do something wrong, step in. Okay?" She rubbed the mare's nose, looked her in the eyes, and spoke softly, "It's okay, Dulchinae. Stay calm. We'll get through this together." She continued to touch the mare as she walked to the rear. With one hand on the mare's side, she waited until she felt another contraction starting. Okay, it's time." Soni reached inside and tried to guide the foal out. "It needs to turn."

"I doubt there's room or time to turn it. Can you get two legs out?" Alex stood beside Soni.

"I'd better." Soni glanced at the foal already born. You need your momma, don't you? I'll do my best, but I don't know what I'm doing. A calm came over Soni. Grandfather, guide me through this.

TODAY'S POST:

Soni stared at the foal she had just helped into the world. Grandfather, I don't know how you do it, but thank you. She carried the foal and placed him in front of his mother. "Dulchinae, meet your son. It was touch-and-go for a little bit, but he's a fighter, this one is."

When the dinner bell clanged, all eyes glanced at the dining hall. Alex motioned for the ranch hands to leave. "You know Roy gets upset if you're late. Get going." He grinned at Soni. "You best let his mom do her thing. Tatiana'll be calling us in a few minutes."

Soni glanced down her body, "I need a shower," and headed toward the house. She turned. "Alex, I think I'll keep this little guy for myself."

"I'm not surprised. Have you decided on a name yet?" Alex followed Soni to the house.

"Nope. I'll work on that." Soni opened the front door and headed toward her room. "I'll be out in a few minutes."

*****
When Soni changed, she went into the dining room. Kuruk was already seated at the oak dinner table. "Grandfather, thank you for helping with the foal." She gave him a hug.

"I don't know what you're talking about, my child. I was busy with the stray you brought home." Kuruk smiled.

"Someday, I'll understand your magic." Soni kissed his cheek, and then walked into the kitchen and stood beside Tatiana. "How can I help?"

Tatiana pointed to two serving bowls; one filled with potato salad and the other with green beans. "Carry those to the table. I've made clear chicken broth for your friend. Right now, he's asleep. I'll feed him after dinner." She carried roasted chicken and followed Soni.

As they ate, Kuruk's eyes met Soni's. He grinned. "Your stray man woke up while I administered to him. I guess he's never seen a Lipan Apache Shaman before. I scared him so bad; I thought he was going to pass out again."

Alex chuckled. "Of course, he did. Last thing he remembered, he had a beauty queen taking care of him, and then an old wrinkled Indian Chief, wearing buckskin, paint, feathers and all." He continued laughing.

Tatiana struck her husband with a napkin. "Behave. He's probably never seen a real Native American close up before."

"Maybe he's never seen real Mexicanos before either." Kuruk pointed at Alex.

"In today's world, everybody's seen everybody. You're both being ridiculous." Soni took a bite of chicken.

Alex continued laughing. "Soni, that's not necessarily true. Not even in these parts. When you were, what, five years old..." He paused to think. "Yes, you were five. You came down with the chicken pox at school. Your dad and I were at a cattle auction in Laredo. Tatiana was grocery shopping, so the school called Kuruk. He was all decked out in his healing garb, much like he is now, and went to the school to get you."

"Yes, I remember. I was ministering to a baby boy who was very ill." The Shaman grinned. "The principal wasn't sure he could allow me to pick you up. I was on your emergency card as your grandfather."

"I guess they'd never seen a full blooded Lipan Apache before." Alex took a drink of lemonade.

"Did they allow you to bring me home?"

"They did. You ran to me crying and calling, 'Grandfather, Grandfather,' and then jumped into my arms. I guess you sufficiently identified me."

The four heads turned at a noise coming from the spare bedroom.

"I'll see if our guest's awake. Los dos hombres can wash the dishes." Tatiana stood, went into the kitchen, and returned carrying a bowl of broth.

"I'll go with you." Soni followed. "I think Grandfather and Alex have dishes to do." She laughed.

Tatiana cracked the door open, passed the bowl to Soni. "Stay here a minute." After she adjusted Jim's blankets and moved a chair closer to the bed, she motioned for Soni to come into the room.

Soni stood by the closet.

After a few moments, Jim opened his eyes.

"I brought you some chicken broth. Would you like me to help you sit?" Tatiana adjusted the pillows and, again, the blankets.

When Tatiana was finished, Soni handed her the bowl and smiled at Jim. "Feeling any better?"

"I must've been worse off than I thought. I had a hallucination that an Indian chief was standing over me." Jim accepted a spoonful of broth from Tatiana. "Hmm, that's good."

"Thank you, sir. I made it myself." Tatiana offered him more. "There was a Lipan Apache Shaman administering medicine to you. He's Soni's grandfather." She motioned toward Soni.

"When you said no doctors, I thought Grandfather would be all right. You needed somebody." Soni stepped closer to the bed.

"What did he use?"

"Incense and herb packs. He also asked the spirits to heal you."

Tatiana offered more broth.

"That explains the odor." Jim glanced at his chest, stomach, and arms. "What kind of herbs are on me?"

Again, Tatiana adjusted the blankets, making sure the stranger was adequately covered.

"I'm not sure. The incense was probably Osha root, for purification. Then the herbs; Jimson Weed for pain, also powdered Dock root as an antibacterial. He probably used some ground plume mixed with Dragon's Blood, rock salt, soot, and wine to drive away evil effects of bewitchment."

"I'm sure I didn't need purification nor was I bewitched. I leaned over a cliff too far and fell." Jim tried to rise. "How could he use Dragon's Blood? There's no such thing as dragons."

"It's from a plant that has red berries. The medicine is made from the resin on the berries."

Tatiana put her hand on his arm. "Sir, you need to lie still for a few days. At least until your wounds begin to heal." She adjusted the blankets.

Jim stared at Soni. "Where's the notebook I asked you to get for me?"

"I handed it to you before we left for the helicopter. I haven't seen it since." Soni paused. "If it's really important, I'll send some men out to Big Grizzly to look for it."

With eyebrows furrowed and a clenched jaw, Jim answered, "It's not important."

Tatiana offered Jim more broth. "Take some more. You'll heal faster."

Soni opened the door. "I need to check on some things. I'll be back later." I know he's lying. I need to find that notepad and see what he's up to.


Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of a dinner bell shaped as a long horn. What else would Texas have? LOL I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help.


Chapter 4
Chapter DOS, Part DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I handed it to you before we left for the helicopter. I haven't seen it since." Soni paused. "If it's really important, I'll send some men out to Big Grizzly to look for it."

With eyebrows furrowed and a clenched jaw, Jim answered, "It's not important."

Tatiana offered Jim more broth. "Take some more. You'll heal faster."

Soni opened the door. "I need to check on some things. I'll be back later." I know he's lying. I need to find that notepad and see what he's up to.


TODAY'S POST:

Soni entered the dining room and saw Alex and her grandfather still at the table, talking over cups of coffee. "I'm glad to see the dishes are done. I wouldn't want to make Tatiana upset." She smiled and then asked, "Alex, have the men returned from finding Jim's vehicle, yet?"

Alex shook his head. "No. I was about to call them. Need something?"

"Would you ask them to search around the yuccas for a small, black, spiral notepad?" Soni used her hands to show the small size. "It's about three-by-five inches."

"Why? You lose something?"

"Jim asked about it." Soni watched Alex take his cell from his jean's pocket, and then glanced at her grandfather. "When you were with him, what did you feel?"

"He is a good person but surrounded by evil."

Before Kuruk could finish, a couple of ranch hands escorted the veterinarian through the front door.

"Hello, we're over here." Soni waved her hand.

The three men came closer as Gus said, "The vet checked out the mare and two foals."

"How they doing?" asked Soni.

"You did a great job for your first time. I couldn't have done better myself. You have two, fine, new Quarter horses on your hands. Have you named them?"

"Alex usually names them, but I'm keeping the male. I think I'll name him Amigo. He's my buddy." Soni glanced at Alex. "What about the female?

After a long sip of coffee, Alex said, "Mima."

Soni smiled. "Attractive girl. That suits her perfectly."

"I need to get back to town. I'll be out in about a month to check on those two. If you have problems, call."

Gus and the other ranch hand turned toward the door.

"I'll come too." Alex followed.

A few moments later, Alex returned. "I spoke with the men. They found a black Suburban. It wasn't locked. So guess what?" He chuckled. "Pedro said the Suburban's one of the easiest to hotwire, but those newer models are still a pain. I sent the right men for the job. They say it looks like a government or some other kind of official vehicle. They're looking for the notebook. It shouldn't take long."

Soni's right pointer finger followed the etching of the ranch's brand, a capital A on a rocker, on the back of the chair as she thought. Tatiana walked into the room, muttering in Spanish.

"What are you talking about?" asked Kuruk.

"That man will be gone by morning."

"He won't get very far by foot. The mountain lions will get him for sure." Alex chuckled. "There's not a lot of meat on him, either."

"Why would he leave? He's not being threatened." Soni poured herself some coffee. "Decaf, I hope."

"He's probably got some sort of a job to do and is worried about being late." Kuruk stood. "Speaking about being late, I need to get back. Before I leave, I could give him some medicine to help him sleep."

"No, that wouldn't be right. If he wants to go, we should let him." Alex stood beside the Shaman. "I'll walk you out. A couple of ranch hands will escort you back. Nighttime can be dangerous."

Kuruk turned toward his granddaughter, "Ka Dish Day" and kissed her cheek.

"Until we meet again, Grandfather." Soni put her arms around his neck and held for a few moments.

*****
When Alex returned, the men he'd sent after Jim's vehicle followed him inside the ranch house.

"Leave it to the government to invest in a vehicle that's easy to hot-wire. It's parked in the garage by the copter." Pedro held up an M40A1 sniper rifle. "Look what we found hidden under the floorboard in the back. And check out what else we found." He pointed to his buddy, who carried a M249 squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) and a bullet proof vest. "Oh yeah, I almost forgot." Pedro took the notepad from his pocket and handed it to Alex. "He must've dropped it getting out of the helicopter."

Soni grabbed and hugged the pillow that set beside her on the couch. "Why would anybody need that much fire power? Who are his enemies, or is he the bad guy? What do we do? Do we confront him now? Or wait until he's feeling better?"

Alex thumbed through the notepad. "There's only numbers and letters in here. Maybe it's a code. You checked him for weapons, right?" Alex glanced at Soni.

"I did. I gave you what I found. All I left him with is his cell and wallet. Maybe I should've taken them too."

Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of a Quarter horse foal. Maybe Amigo resembles this little guy. LOL I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help.


Chapter 5
CHAPTER TRES, PART UNO

By barbara.wilkey

CHAPTER THREE

Soni woke up to Goliath's low rumbling growl. "I hear it too, boy. What's going on?" She glanced at her alarm clock. Two-thirty! After slightly adjusting the curtain to the side, she watched Jim talking on his cell but couldn't make out the words. Who's he talking to and what's he talking about? He walked inside. "What's he doing now?" When she heard his bedroom door close, she got out of bed and went into the living room. Both dogs followed.

Alex stood near the front door. "You heard him too?" He raised a finger to his lips, reminding her to whisper.

"Yep. Any idea what's going on?"

"No, I'm going back to bed. Maybe we'll find out in the morning."

*****
The following morning, Alex and Tatiana were already at the table when Soni entered the room. "Has any one checked on our visitor this morning?"

"He was awake early. I took him coffee and breakfast. I figured if he could walk outside he didn't need clear broth." Tatiana set her napkin on the table. "Are you ready to eat or just coffee for now?"

"I'll get it myself. Enjoy your breakfast." Soni walked into the kitchen.

After clattering of dishes, Soni joined Alex and Tatiana at the table.

Alex didn't look at Soni, but said, "You made plenty of noise in there. How about telling me what's on your mind?" He sopped up runny egg yolk with a piece of biscuit.

"I'm in charge of this entire ranch, all 725,000 acres, and I don't have a clue what to do about Jim. Dad would know and would have already done it." Soni plopped into the chair.

"You're doing great. You delivered a foal yesterday, attended the land development meeting, and both went well. As for Jim, we don't know anything. I'm sure if there comes a time to act, you'll know exactly what to do. For now, enjoy your breakfast and don't worry about things you might never happen. " Alex took a drink of coffee, empting his cup. "I'm going out to see how Dulchinae's doing. Come out when you're ready."

Soni watched Alex saunter out the front door. "I guess I deserved that little lecture, didn't I?" She stared at her plate.

"Alex loves you like a daughter. He wants you to succeed. It's unusual for a female to run a ranch this large and to do it well." Tatiana reached over and touched Soni's arm.

"You would've been a great mom. You always know what to say to make me feel better." Soni placed her hand over Tatiana's and their eyes met. "Can I ask a random question?" After Tatiana nodded, Soni continued, "Why didn't you and Alex have your own children?"

"We wanted children. The Good Lord decided it wasn't meant to be."

"Now, eat your breakfast. I need to go to town and get groceries. I want the dishes done before I leave. I'll see if Jim's done." Tatiana left the kitchen.

*****
After Soni finished breakfast and did paperwork, she and her dogs went to the barn. Alex held a pitch fork. Soni smiled. "It looks like you got stuck with cleaning the stables."

Alex used a kerchief to wipe his brow. "Gus went to get a load of feed for the horses. Somebody has to do it. Where you off to?"

"I thought I'd saddle Midnight and go for a ride." Soni petted Dulchinae's muzzle. "You're soft, girl." Soni offered her a carrot before she petted Midnight. "Want to go out today, boy?"

"Want company?"

"Thank you, but not this time. I need to do soul searching." Soni picked up a saddle blanket and put it on the stallion's back.

Alex followed the saddle and tightened the girth.

"You know I can do that, don't you?" Soni slipped on her riding gloves.

"I know. You started saddling your own horse as soon as you were big enough to reach their backs. Just thought I'd help." He took a rifle from the gun case and handed it to her. "Keep it handy."

"I may not be back in time for lunch, so don't send out the troops." Soni grinned. "Besides, I'll have the boys with me."

"They never leave your side and once Goliath figures out how to ride in a helicopter, he'll be there too." Alex petted the large dog.

"I think he knows how, he's just afraid of heights. Adios." Soni climbed up onto the solid black stallion. "I have my cell." She patted her leather vest pocket and then strolled off with Goliath and Mack by her side.

*****
In the early afternoon, Soni found herself at the Rockin' A cemetery. She stepped down from Midnight, set her riding gloves on the saddle, and dropped the reins, allowing the horse to nibble on what grass he could find. The two large dogs guarded from under a shade tree.

Soni knelt between her mom and dad's graves. Tears welled in her eyes and trickled down her cheeks. "I miss you both so much. Dad, I'm trying my best to keep the ranch running like you would. I need your guidance."

A cloud blocked the sun casting a shadow over the gravestones. Soni glanced up as she wiped tears from her cheeks, and then continued, "On my way home from Laredo, I found an injured man. He'd fallen off Old Grizzly onto the yuccas. They stabbed him pretty bad. I brought him home to heal. He may be dangerous."

Goliath nuzzled Soni, before she added. "Should I call the sheriff? But I really don't know anything, except he had an arsenal with him. Or should I just wait for him to leave? Grandfather ministered to him and said he felt he was good, but surrounded by evil. What should I do? You always knew how to handle all situations. I'll wait for your answer." She hung her head, and her shoulders sagged.

Moments later, Soni sat straighter. "Grandfather, how did you know where to find me?"

"How did you know I was here?" Kuruk smiled at his granddaughter.

"You can't answer a question with a question." Soni turned and smiled. "You can always tell when I need help. How do you do that?"

"Your answers are found within the Naiyenesgani. Listen to his guidance."

the Great Creator. How can I hear him?"

"You are half Lipan Apache."

"But only half, Grandfather." Soni stood.

"That is enough, my child. Your mother's bijii is strong in you."

"I can feel Mother's heart, but I was raised by my dad. He was of German descent. His ancestors came here straight from Germany. A large part of who I am is from him, Alex, and Tatiana. They're both Mexicanos."

"Listen to the Great Creator." Kuruk sat on the ground and motioned for Soni to do the same. "Now take a deep breath to clear your mind. In the silence, you will hear the answers you are looking for."

*****
After a long silence, Soni opened her eyes and searched the area. "Grandfather? I know he was here. Wasn't he?"

Goliath lumbered to Soni and laid his large head in her lap. She smiled before she petted the furry white dog. After standing, she prayed silently over her ancestors' graves. Turning she said, "Midnight, ready?" Soni petted Mack and said, "Yes, you're a good boy too," before she mounted the horse. As the black stallion walked, Soni said, "I know what I must do."

Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of two grave stones.
Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help.


Chapter 6
CHAPTER TRES, PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

PREVIOUS POST:

After a long silence, Soni opened her eyes and searched the area. "Grandfather? I know he was here. Wasn't he?"

Goliath lumbered to Soni and laid his large head in her lap. She smiled before she petted the furry white dog. After standing, she prayed silently over her ancestors' graves. Turning she asked, "Midnight, ready?" Soni petted Mack and said, "Yes, you're a good boy too," before she mounted the horse. As the black stallion walked, Soni said, "I know what I must do."


TODAY'S POST:

During the hottest part of the day, Soni arrived home. After taking care of Midnight, she went inside the house and greeted Tatiana, "How'd shopping go? Has anything interesting happened while I was gone?"

"Walk with me. I need to get the sheets from the dryer." Tatiana went into the laundry room off the kitchen. Soni followed. "I found some nice thick pork chops for dinner." She used her fingers to show the inch and half thickness, and then opened the dryer. "Our guest skedaddled while I was at the store. He left a note. It's on the table. He thanked us for our hospitality." Tatiana's eyes met Soni's. "He took his Suburban."

"Did he take the weapons?" After Tatiana shook her head, Soni continued, "I'll help make the bed, and then I'll be in the den until dinner. I need to find the emergency plan Dad worked on a few years back."

"Anything I can help with?"

"Not really. If I find it, it'll be helpful. If not Alex and I can redo it."

*****
It didn't take Soni long to find the paperwork. Thank you, Dad, for keeping well organized files. As Soni studied them, she put location pins on the huge ranch map that hung on the wall.

Alex walked into the den. "Tatiana's calling us to dinner." He hesitated and walked closer to the map. "What's going on?"

"Those yellow pins show the areas where we have livestock and ranch hands working and living." Soni pointed to blue pins. "These pins show the area we've set aside for the reservation. The red pins show farming and the green, oil rigs."

"What brought all this on?" Alex rubbed his chin.

"Dinner's getting cold." Tatiana stood in the den's doorway.

"I'm starving." Soni headed for the dining room, but nodded at Alex. "We'll discuss this later."

*****
As Tatiana and Soni finished the dishes, Alex answered a knock on the door. "Miguel, Buenos dia. I'm guessing you're here to see Soni." He pointed to the couch. "Have a seat."

Soni smiled as she walked into the living room. "Hola, what brings you to the Rockin'A?"

"I thought maybe the prettiest gal this side of the Rio Grande would like to go for a walk. Tonight there's a full moon and a sky full of stars."

"I happen to know of two new foals you might want to peek at, before we take that walk. I delivered one."

When they left the house, Miguel tried to close the door so Goliath and Mack would be forced to stay inside, but Goliath nudged the door open.

"Come on, boys," called Soni. "What's the hold up?"

Goliath walked between Soni and Miguel. Mack followed behind.

At the stables, Miguel placed hands on each foal and checked them. "These are good sturdy little ones." His attention was diverted when a large black stallion was led into the stables. "Soni, he's a gorgeous Quarter Horse. Where'd you get him?"

Soni petted the horse's nuzzle. "Midnight, did you escape again?"

Gus led the horse into his stall. "He did, Ma'am. After he finished gallivanting all over, he stood at the gate and waited for me to let him in."

"So he's not only a good looking horse, he's a character?" Miguel raised his hand to pet the animal, but the horse backed away. "How much would you sell him for?"

"Midnight's not for sale. He was my twenty-fifth birthday present from Father."

"So he's what, a two year old? He's way too much horse for you."

"He and I covered a large part of the ranch today. He can be very gentle, but he's not too fond of strangers. He lets Gus and Alex work with him, but that's about all."

"I guess you do have plenty of wranglers who could break him."

"Sir, you're wrong. Ms. Soni broke him herself. Mr. Adler had her on a horse since she could sit up. She's a fine horseman...aaa...horsewoman."

"Thank you, Gus."

"I wouldn't get too close." Gus moved his arms so Miguel had to back away. "You should know that a horse with his ears back is a warning he's had enough. He'll let me take care of him, but I'd never try to ride him. He'd buck me off for sure."

"I thought you said you broke him." Miguel's eyes met Soni's.

"I did, but he's my horse and only mine." Soni walked toward the door. "Want to walk to the pond or sit on the porch?"

"I guess sit on the porch. Sure you won't sell that big guy?"

"Won't even consider it." Soni led the way to the porch swing and sat. Both dogs lay beside her. "Especially since my dad died only three months ago."

"Are you in charge of his huge ranch or did your dad give it to Alex?" Miguel sat beside Soni.

"He left it to me."

"It's a large ranch for a lady to run. You selling some of it off?"

"No way! It's been in our family for one hundred eighty years."

"I was in Laredo last week and heard a rumor that I35 is the main drug route from Mexico into the US. I35 goes straight through your property."

"I was at a meeting earlier this week and assured a government representative that I wouldn't interfere with their surveillance of the interstate."

"Have you noticed any problems?"

"No. I haven't, but I haven't been watching. I figure it's none of my business."

"I heard another rumor that a stranger has been sticking his nose around. You haven't seen him, have you? I heard he's tall, over six feet, muscular, and light colored hair."

Wonder if he's talking about Jim. Soni shook her head. "Can't say I have."

Miguel leaned back and studied Soni. "You're a pretty lady. Every time I've seen you, you've wore jeans and your hair's done in a long braid down your back. Is it because of your Apache heritage?"

Soni reached back and pulled her black braid over her right shoulder. "I wear jeans because they're practical. I work a ranch. My hair has never been cut, only trimmed and it gets in the way, so I braid it for the same reason."

"That makes sense." Miguel hesitated before he asked, "I've heard your grandfather's a Shaman. I'm wondering if he uses Peyote during his healing rituals."

"Never. The Lipan Apaches banned its use probably fifty or more years ago." Soni tilted her head. That's a strange question. It seems like he's fishing for something.

Miguel stood. "It's getting late and I need to go. Before I do, I'd like to invite you to spend the weekend with me in San Antonio. We could drive there Friday evening and come back Sunday afternoon. You could let your hair down and dress up."

"Before I'd even consider it, I'd have to be guaranteed separate hotel rooms."

Miguel stared at his boots before he answered, "I can make that happen. Is it a date?"

"Call me tomorrow and I'll let you know. I need to think about it." Soni stood.

Miguel kissed Soni's cheek. "Hasta manana."

"Hasta manana." Soni watched Miguel drive away before she and the dogs went inside.

When Soni closed the front door, she noticed Alex and Tatiana had retired for the night. I'll have to wait 'til morning to talk with Alex. We need to immediately implement this plan. Grandfather advised me to listen to the Naiyenesgani, the Great Creator, and I shall." Soni carried the papers to her room and spent the night studying them.

Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of a black stallion Quarter Horse. Maybe Midnight looks like this. I have used some Spanish and Apache words. They have some additional characters in them, but when I post them that way I get '?' in their place. I have deleted the characters, but I know they should be there. I'm sad. Teachers report in only 13 days. I am so enjoying being able to write and review all my friends. As much as I enjoy this the bills need to be paid. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help.


Chapter 7
CHAPTER CUATRO, PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

When Alex returned, he said, "Hughes checked the area around the stables and the helicopter. He asked what had been parked beside it. Just as I was about to answer, Gus parked his truck there. I'm guessing he somehow knows about Jim. Not only that, I think he just did a search without a warrant."

"We have nothing to hide. Maybe he's the person Jim was speaking with two nights ago." Soni hesitated and then said, "Alex, call the area managers and Grandfather. I want a meeting at," she glanced at her watch, "one o'clock. We're under siege." She, Alex, and the two dogs went into the den and closed the door.

TODAY'S POST:

A little before one o'clock, Tatiana and Soni set out a variety of sandwiches, chips, iced tea/lemonade, fresh fruit, and homemade cookies for the cowboys.

It wasn't long before the first area manager arrived. Soni showed him the assortment of food. "Please help yourself. We'll meet in the living room."

Alex rushed to Soni and whispered, "Juan and Ed were coming up I35 and found a man whose description sounds like Jim. His Suburban was loaded with bullet holes and had rolled off into that deep gully south of Big Grizzly. He has a bullet in his left shoulder. Looks like he's been there since he left. He's in pretty bad shape. They're bringing him in. They should be here in about twenty five minutes."

Soni used her thumb and pointer to massage her temples, and then petted Goliath. "He just left about twenty-four hours ago. That man can't stay out of trouble. I doubt Grandfather will bring his healing bag."

After hesitating, Soni asked, "Will they have trouble with the law for messing with a crime scene?"

"I doubt it. If it's Jim, he probably won't want the authorities involved. Remember, he didn't want a doctor last time. Besides, you own that gully. I have an idea what to do with the suburban. We'll discuss it later."

"I hope you're right. We don't need any more problems with the government." As Soni said that, the two cowboys carried Jim inside.

Juan asked, "Ma'am, where do you want him?"

Standing at the open door of the guest room, Soni pointed to the bed. "His usual room."

Goliath sniffed Jim as the men carried him through the doorway.

When Kuruk arrived, Soni kissed his check. "Grandfather, our visitor has returned. This time with a bullet in his shoulder. He might have been ambushed. His Suburban was in that gully south of Big Grizzly. He could have more injuries."

The Shaman went straight to the patient and examined him. "The bullet needs to come out. I'll need help."

"Will Alex and Tatiana be enough? I'll move the meeting to the den. We'll talk over dinner."

"That will work." Kuruk nodded toward Soni. "He's going to need Ray's sipping whiskey."

"It's in Dad's bedroom. Nobody's used it since he died."

Soni returned with a full bottle of Wild Turkey. "This is all I could find." She handed it to her grandfather.

After removing the lid, Kuruk slightly lifted Jim's head. "You're going to need this."

"You taking out the bullet?" Jim's eyes met Kuruk's.

"It's me or a doctor, your choice."

Jim took a long swig of the whiskey, closed his eyes, and puckered his lips. "I guess you." He took another.

Soni left the room, closed the door, and addressed the area managers, "Thank you for coming on such short notice. I hope you helped yourselves to refreshments." She glanced at her watch. "We'll begin in ten minutes in the den."

*****
As the men filtered into the den, Soni passed each one a copy of the paperwork she'd been studying. She waited until the last man entered, and then closed the door. "I know it's a tight fit but I feel Grandfather needs privacy while he helps the gentleman Juan and Ed found alongside the road."

Goliath and Mack squeezed in by Soni's feet.

"This morning Robert Hughes from Homeland Security paid the ranch a visit." Soni explained what Hughes had said and what the implications were for the ranch and the ranch hands. She added, "Everything said here needs to be passed along to the cowboys you work with. Please make sure you and the men have evidence of US citizenship on you at all times and the same for the family members living on Rockin' A. If you have visitors from another country, make sure they have the proper and up-to-date papers."

Soni moved from behind the desk to the large ranch's wall map. "Hughes wants to arrest Grandfather for drug usage so he can close down the reservation. I guess the government wants all the Native Americans on Federal Reservations."

A long silence ensued, before Soni said, "As for your part in this, if you see anything suspicious, report it. If you're found with drugs not only do you have legal problems, you've automatically lost your job. Please remember when you were hired you signed an agreement that this is a drug-free environment.
Are there any questions or comments?"

Ben raised his hand and after Soni acknowledged him, he asked, "I was lookin' at these papers you gave us. They look like they're security measures. Is this because of that Hughes guy?"

Soni's eyes met Ben's. "They are security measures, but they may be for a different reason."

Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of sandwiches. My summer vacation is over and I report to work tomorrow. My time for reviewing and writing will be limited but I will do my best. My posts will probably be shorter starting next week. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 8
CHAPTER CINCO, PART UNO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

A long silence ensued, before Soni said, "As for your part in this, if you see anything suspicious, report it. If you're found with drugs, not only do you have legal problems, you've automatically lost your job. Please remember when you were hired you signed an agreement that this is a drug-free environment.
Are there any questions or comments?"

Ben raised his hand and asked, "I was lookin' at these papers you gave us. They look like they're security measures. Is this because of that Hughes guy?"

Soni's eyes met Ben's. "They are security measures, but they may be for a different reason."


TODAYS POST:

CHAPTER FIVE

Soni brushed a few stray strands of hair from her face. "All of us need to implement this security plan." She pointed to the map. "Everyone in this room is in charge of one of the areas I've designated with a pin."

Jose laughed. "Look, she color coded them."

"I thought you needed a visual," Soni teased.

The men laughed, poked their neighbors, and commented to each other.

"Shhh." As Soni waited for the men to quiet, her eyes twinkled. They're enjoying the color coding. "Each area has a natural boundary on two or three sides which you can herd the livestock into. They'll be protected there. Some are large areas and the others are medium, but they're fine for the different types of livestock you're working with. Each area's described in the packets by the land marks. Dad planned this a few years back. Any questions so far?"

Tatiana knocked on the door and opened it. "Soni, Antonio needs to talk with you. Is it all right?"

Soni stepped outside the door and bent so she was eye-to-eye with the ten year old. "What's the problem?"

Both dogs stood beside her.

"Mi papa asked me to pull weeds out of the garden. He's going to pay me one whole dollar an hour." Antonio stared at his bare feet. "But Midnight is eating the tomatoes. I tried chasing him away, but I think he laughed at me. Can horses laugh?"

"That horse can." Soni slumped her shoulders and sighed. "Gus, Midnight's at it again." She touched Antonio's arm. "He'll take care of it. Go help yourself to some snacks. They're on the table." She smiled as she watched the boy grab two cookies and then a sandwich. "Tatiana, can you get a few dollars from the cookie jar? Weeding that garden is worth at least three dollars an hour."

"Sure." Tatiana smiled and walked away.

"Ms. Soni, how you going to keep that stallion in one place?" Pedro chuckled.

"Hell, I want ta know how we're gonna keep them Brahman bulls from roaming around." John adjusted his leather vest. "They're difficult on a good day."

"Senor, the longhorns don't like being cooped up either." Jose used his two pointer fingers as horns and pretended to battle. "They'll start fighting each other."

The men laughed.

"Dakota, I haven't heard from you. I'm sure the buffaloes won't like it either." After he agreed, Soni added, "I understand this will be a hardship on everybody and on the livestock, but I'm hoping it won't last long."

Soni made eye contact with each cowboy. "I also want all ranch hands to travel in groups or at least pairs. I don't want any accidents." She used her fingers to highlight the word accidents.

Bill stepped closer to the front. "Ma'am, I don't want to cause trouble, but we don't even know why. What aren't you telling us? We have a right to know."

"I can't answer that question. Not because I'm hiding anything, but because I don't know. If I knew, I'd share it." Soni turned and stared at the ranch map for a few moments, before she faced the men. "This may sound crazy to some, but you've all worked on this ranch for years. I think Pedro's the newest area manager and he's been here for what, six years?"

After Pedro nodded, Soni relayed her experience yesterday with Naiyenesgani. "You may not believe in the Great Creator and that's your right. Through the years I've found Grandfather's wisdom very valuable. I know my father listened to him and the Rockin' A has prospered. I was told to implement security measures to protect the ranch hands and the livestock. That's what I'm doing. I wasn't told why or who the enemy was. Questions or comments?"

The room fell silent.

"If there are no questions, I have nothing else. Thank you for coming." Soni hung her head and walked toward the door. Goliath and Mack followed.

"Ma'am, I'd like to say something. I hope I speak for more than just myself. I've got almost twenty-five years on this ranch. When your dad hired me, you were just knee-high-to-a-goose." Dakota used his hands to show height. "I've watched you grow up. I've grown up on this ranch too. I was just a wild young'un who needed a job. Your dad saw something in me and gave me a chance. Ray was always a fair man. I vote to give you that same chance. Anybody with me? Let's see some raised hands." Dakota faced the men.

Everyone raised their hand.

"Thank you, Dakota." Soni smiled. "Thank you all. I hope I don't disappoint any of you. Meeting adjourned. Please help yourselves to more refreshments. There's plenty."

As the men filed from the den, Alex led Miguel to Soni. "Are you going to San Antonio with me?"

Soni tilted her head. "I'm sorry, but I really don't feel we know each other well enough to go away for a weekend together. So I have to say no."

"I told you we'd have separate rooms. How can we get to know each other unless we spend time together?"

"We'll get to know each other slowly as we have been."

Dakota patted Soni on the back. "Keep up the good work."

"Thank you."

"Why are all the cowboys here? Has something happened?" Miguel scanned the living and dining rooms.

"No reason. I'm instituting quarterly meetings and this is the first one."

Miguel shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, I guess. I heard that stranger was snooping around again. Have you heard anything?"

"'Fraid not. Where do you hear this stuff from?"

"Just around." Miguel eyed Kuruk leaving the spare bedroom. "Your grandfather staying here, now?"

"You haven't met Grandfather, have you? Would you like to?"

"Sure." Miguel didn't wait for Soni. He attempted to push the large dogs out of the way, but they stood firm. He walked around them and then straight to Kuruk, and held out his hand. "I'm Miguel Sanchez. I'm glad to meet you."

Kuruk accepted the hand. "I'm Sonsee-array's Grandfather."

"Soni and I are dating." Miguel looked up and down Kuruk. "I've heard you're a champion knife thrower."

"I've won a few competitions." Kuruk turned and faced Alex.

"My buddies told me that Apaches always have their knives on them, just hidden. Is that true?" Miguel glanced at his cell. "Excuse me I need to take this."

Kuruk led Alex closer to the front door. "Friday we're having a bountiful harvest celebration at the reservation. I hope you and Tatiana can attend."

Soni walked up and took her grandfather's arm. "Have one of the buffaloes disappeared for the celebration's dinner?"

Kuruk chuckled. "Your next head count might be one short or maybe the braves found a wild one roaming the reservation. They didn't say it had the Rockin' A's brand."

"Soni's already invited us for Friday night's celebration. We're planning to attend."

Kuruk offered his hand to Alex. "I need to leave." He kissed his granddaughter's cheek. "Sanchez isn't your boyfriend, is he?" Soni shook her head, and then Kuruk continued, "Good. I don't like him." He walked out the door.

Soni followed. "I thought you'd have dinner with us tonight." Her shoulders slumped.

Kuruk placed his hand on her arm. "I'll be back, my child. I just need time away from people."

Her brown eyes twinkled. "Thank you, Grandfather." Soni hugged him.

*****
Soni walked back inside and glanced at the spare bedroom door. I want to check on Jim. She noticed Miguel wandering through the living room. First, I'd better get rid of him.

As Miguel's eyes met Soni's, he walked up to her. "Did your grandfather leave? I wasn't finished talking with him."

"He has things he needed to take care of at the reservation."

"How old is he?"

"Seventy-four. Why?" Soni started for the door. That's an odd question. "I think all the cowboys have left. It's getting pretty late and I have some chores I need to finish before dinner."

"I guess I need to be moseying along. I'll try to come by this weekend."

"That'll be nice. I have plans for Friday evening."

"That was fast." Miguel glared at her. "You didn't mention anything earlier."

"They've been made for quite a while. I got my weekends mixed up." Soni watched him walk to his pickup, and then went inside the house.

After Soni heard the truck leave, she opened the door to Jim's room.

He looks like he's asleep. Soni sat in a chair by the door with Goliath and Mack lying on the floor beside her.

A few moments passed, before Jim asked, "Are you going to say something or just stare at me?"

Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of I35 going through TX. The map also shows it going through the heartland of the US. Well, last week was difficult. I didn't have time to review, answer reviews, or write. I am hoping once a routine is set, things will be easier. I have written ahead and notes to the rest of my novel. Once I get into my notes, I am sure posts will be shorter. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 9
CHAPTER CINCO, PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

After Soni heard the truck leave, she opened the door to Jim's room.

He looks like he's asleep. Soni sat in a chair by the door with Goliath and Mack lying on the floor beside her.

A few moments passed, before Jim asked, "Are you going to say something or just stare at me?"

TODAY'S POST:

With widened eyes, Soni sat straighter. "Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

"You didn't. I was just resting." Jim glanced at the bed and then at his bandaged shoulder. "I can't do much else, can I? You've never told me your name."

"Soni. Would you like something to eat or drink? Maybe something to read?"

"I could use a drink."

"I'll be right back."

Moments later, Soni returned with a large glass of iced tea. As she helped Jim sit, she asked, "What happened?" After he finished, she set the glass on the nightstand.

"I was driving toward Laredo, my home. Out of nowhere came three older pickups. One passed me and slowed down, causing me to slow down. Then one rode along my left side. The third truck came up behind me, rode my bumper, and hit my fender every so often. All of a sudden a passenger from each truck opened fire."

"You were ambushed." Soni pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat.

"It was."

"Any idea who wants you dead?"

"I know a few who'd probably like me to get out of their lives." Jim hesitated a little before he said, "Is there any way you can hide my vehicle? I don't want the state patrol finding it. They'll want to investigate."

"This should be investigated." Soni rose from the chair and took a few steps closer to Jim. "We've already tampered with the crime scene by bringing you here. We should've immediately called the Texas Rangers or at least the police. Now, you want us to hide your suburban?"

Soni's hands were on her hips. "Ever since you came into my life, you've been nothing but trouble. It seems strange that you needed help and I willingly helped. The next afternoon, you sneak away when nobody's home. Early the following morning, a Homeland Security Agent comes to visit and the Rockin' A's under investigation. He was here before breakfast! Even searched without a warrant!"

"I'm sorry, but I didn't have anything to do with that."

"It's too much of a coincidence. I don't believe in "coincidences. The same thing with you being shot. Why don't you want the authorities involved?" Soni stepped closer. "People have asked if I know anything about a man nosing around. The description fits you. Who are you working for? Who's trying to shoot you and why? Are we in danger because we helped you? Are the people who are after you, now after us? Are we going to end up in jail for helping you?"

"I can't answer any of your questions."

"Can't or won't?" Soni's eyes glared as they met Jim's. After she received no response, she turned on her heels and left the room, slamming his door as well as hers.





Author Notes Thank you google images for a photo of a highway going through Southern Texas. It shows the baron land, gullies, and some mesas. I hope this helps. I am back to school with a full class of very active first graders. Please pray for this school year. I am hoping once a routine is set, things will be easier. I have written ahead and notes to the rest of my novel. Once I get into my notes, I am sure posts will be shorter. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 10
CHAPTER SEIS, PART UNO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"It's too much of a coincidence. I don't believe in coincidences. The same thing with you being shot. Why don't you want the authorities involved?" Soni stepped closer. "People have asked if I know anything about a man nosing around. The description fits you. Who are you working for? Who's trying to shoot you and why? Are we in danger because we helped you? Are the people after you, now after us? Are we going to end up in jail for helping you?"

"I can't answer any of your questions."

"Can't or won't?" Soni's eyes glared as they met Jim's. After she received no response, she turned on her heels and left the room, slamming his door as well as hers.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER SIX(9/7/14)

"Soni! Wait!" Jim tossed the blankets aside and scooted to the edge of the bed. As he attempted to stand, he grabbed his left shoulder and leaned into the bed post. "Damn that hurts!"

Jim hobbled into the living room, wearing only dirt and blood covered blue jeans. As he scanned the room, he ran his fingers through his short, sandy hair. Where'd she go?

Alex looked over the top edge of his newspaper. "If you're looking for Soni, she's in her room. I wouldn't advise going there. By the sounds of the door slamming, I'd say she's pretty riled. You know anything about that?"

"She's angry with me. I couldn't answer her questions." Jim sat in a tan, overstuffed chair beside Alex.

After taking time to fold each section of the newspaper, Alex asked, "Couldn't or wouldn't answer?"

"That's the same thing she asked and used the same wording." Jim watched Tatiana enter the room.

"You need a shirt. You can't be in here without a shirt." Tatiana knocked on Soni's door. "Soni, Mr. Jim's shirt is filled with blood. Can he borrow one of your dad's? Alex's are too small."

Only a faint, "I guess," could be heard.

"Thank you." Tatiana returned carrying a shirt and a pair of jeans. "The pants might be a little big around the waist, but they're clean. Your belt will hold them up." She watched Jim struggle to stand. "Let me help."

Tatiana put her arm under Jim's right armpit and steadied his walk. Inside the guest room, she said, "You'll need help. I'll send Alex in."

*****
After a little while, Alex and Jim returned to the living room. Alex nodded toward Soni's door. "She hasn't come out yet?"

Tatiana refreshed her husband's coffee and poured a cup for Jim. "She's in the den."

"Soni's the spittin' image of her mother, but inherited that temper from her father. Ray was the fairest man these parts have ever seen. He wasn't one to get riled, but once he was, nobody messed with him." Alex sipped his coffee."

"How long will it be before she'll speak to me again?" Jim paused to read the headlines of the newspaper.

"It depends on how much she thinks you're keeping from her and how much danger she feels you've put the Rockin' A in." Alex read the headline aloud. "I-35: A major artery to the nation's drug trade." He tapped the newspaper. "You wouldn't know anything about this, would you?"

Jim eyed the wall as he took a long drink of coffee. "I 35 corridor links with Highway 85 in Mexico, just south of Nuevo Laredo/Laredo Plaza. Many drug cartels got their start in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The Zetas broke off from the Gulf Cartel a while back. They're fighting for territory. They both need a route north."

"You seem to know a lot about the problem."

"I read a lot." Jim continued, "They're fighting over control of the I 35 corridor. The Zetas have been known to deploy henchmen along I 35's cities to keep control of their smuggling route. The further north the drugs travel, the higher the price."

"There can't be that much traffic coming across." Alex studied the map in the page.

"At Nuevo Laredo a vehicle goes through every eight minutes, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. It's impossible for the border patrol to catch everything."

"The news reported that the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, is in jail. Wasn't that the largest cartel? I'd think that would slow things down." Alex waited for Jim to answer.

"It only made the members of the Sinaloa Cartel angry. I understand they're causing a lot of problems in Chicago. The authorities, or at least the media, suspect he still controls things from prison."

"Chicagoans should know how to deal with them. It's the home of El Capone."

"Al Capone? Don't make me laugh. It hurts." Jim grabbed his shoulder.

Alex answered a knock on the front door. "Gus, what can I help you with?"

"I need to ask Soni what she wants me to do with that stallion of hers."

"I'll get her." Alex knocked on the door. "Soni, Gus needs some advice about Midnight."

Soni stepped into the living room. "What's he done now?" Her eyes met Gus's.

"He hasn't gotten into any more trouble since he ate the tomatoes. I think he has a belly ache." Gus chuckled. "I was wondering how you want me to restrain him so he can't get out of the stable. Can I shut and lock the doors?"

"No." Soni shook her head. "That was one of Dad's strictest rules. When he was a boy the stable caught fire and the horses couldn't get out. They all burned or died of smoke inhalation. I'll go with you, and we'll figure it out."

"Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes," Tatiana called after her.

Soni nodded in acknowledgement, stopped and glared at Jim, before she continued out the door with both large white dogs following her.

Jim propped his right hand on the chair's arm rest and pushed himself up. "If looks could kill, I'd be dead. I'd better get to my room before she returns. I don't want to cause a disturbance during dinner."

Alex raised his hand. "You stay put. Ray never held grudges. Let's see what his daughter does."

"I'm not sure I want to be the guinea pig." Jim sat.

Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of the drug cartel routes through Texas. I hope this helps. I have written ahead and notes to the rest of my novel. Once I get into my notes, I am sure posts will be shorter. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 11
CHAPTER SEIS, PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni nodded in acknowledgement, stopped and glared at Jim, before she continued out the door with both large white dogs following her.

Jim propped his right hand on the chair's arm rest and pushed himself up. "If looks could kill, I'd be dead. I'd better get to my room before she returns. I don't want to cause a disturbance during dinner."

Alex raised his hand. "You stay put. Ray never held grudges. Let's see what his daughter does."

"I'm not sure I want to be the guinea pig." Jim sat.

TODAY'S POST:

After Soni washed for dinner, she sat beside Tatiana at the table. Goliath and Mack lay by Soni's feet. Alex and Jim sat across from the ladies and Kuruk sat at the head of the table.

Kuruk reached for Soni's left hand. Tatiana held her right, and the others joined hands. The blessing took place before Kuruk asked, "Sonsee-array, have you decided to keep Midnight tethered?"

"I can't, Grandfather. He's a free spirit, and it would crush his soul. He's always been allowed to come and go. Diego's watching him. We'll see who's more stubborn, a German Shepherd or a free spirited stallion. Anybody want to take bets?" She nodded at each person.

Alex passed the chicken across the table to Soni. "We have the empty stall at the north end. Maybe if you put some fresh vegetables in there, he'll think he's getting away with something and be content."

Soni took a chicken thigh and passed the plate to Tatiana. "Maybe we should hide them so he has to work. It's a good idea."

Jim accepted the potatoes from Alex. "This is a horse you're discussing, am I correct?"

"Yes, Soni's dad gave her a gorgeous black stallion for her twenty-fifth birthday. He's named Midnight. The problem is, this horse has a mind of his own. Only Soni can ride him. He allows Gus and myself to care for him, when it suits him. He loves to escape and eat from the garden or just wander around the ranch. He returns when he's ready. We've tightened security measures, including the livestock, but no idea what to do with this wayward horse."

"If you turned him into a gelding, he'd be less of a problem." Kuruk dished himself a healthy pile of potatoes.

"No way." Soni glared at her grandfather.

"Just a suggestion. It would solve your problem." Kuruk took a bite of potatoes.

Soni's eyes met Alex's. "What did you two discuss today?"

"I'm guessing you're referring to Jim and me. We discussed the headlines in the paper. It seems Jim's an avid reader."

"That's nice." Soni set her fork down. "What are you reading?"

Jim cleared his throat. "I stay informed on current events."

"Like the war in Afghanistan? Politics? What are you most interested in?"

"I study Latin American drug cartels, mainly Mexican."

"Why does this not surprise me?" Soni rolled her eyes. "Ever since I found you at Big Grizzly, the Rockin' A's being investigated for drug and human trafficking, and you just happen to be a specialist in drug cartels. I told you earlier I don't believe in coincidences."

"I never said I was an expert. I said I enjoyed reading and learning about them. There's a huge difference."

"Not in my book." Soni set her napkin beside her plate and scooted her chair back. The two dogs stood.

Kuruk touched Soni's arm. "Stay seated, my child." He leaned back in his chair. "I think it's time I shared some folklore with you." He wiped his mouth with a napkin. "Once upon a time, a lion used to prowl in a field where four oxen lived. Many times he tried to attack. Whenever he got close, they turned their tails to one another. The lion was met by eight horns. Well, for some reason the oxen quarreled with each other, and each went to live by itself in a separate corner of the field."

"Grandfather, I know what happened, the lion ate them one by one. This isn't an Apache legend."

"No, it's not. It does have a message we should live by. Nothing good ever comes from quarrelling."

"But...." Soni sighed. "Okay, I've been rightfully chastised." Her eyes met Jim's. "I'm sorry. I've been rude to you."

"It's just as much my fault. My secrecy hasn't made it easy for you to trust. If I could, I'd answer your questions." Jim studied his plate. "Please don't ask any further questions. You're safe as long as I don't answer." He got up and headed toward the guest room.

Kuruk stood. "Jim, wait."







Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of lion and oxen. Next week I'll start writing from my notes, I'm sure posts will be shorter and probably have more errors, if that's possible.. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.

PS: A.J. one of my huge orange tabbies is helping me post. He's responsible for any errors this week. LOL He either sits in front of the screen, walks across the keyboard, or lays on my hand when I use the mouse. It doesn't do any good to move him, he returns.


Chapter 12
CHAPTER SIETE; PART UNO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"No, it's not. It does have a message we should live by. Nothing good ever comes from quarrelling."

"But...." Soni sighed. "Okay, I've been rightfully chastised." Her eyes met Jim's. "I'm sorry. I've been rude to you."

"It's just as much my fault. My secrecy hasn't made it easy for you to trust. If I could, I'd answer your questions." Jim studied his plate. "Please don't ask any further questions. You're safe as long as I don't answer." He got up and headed toward the guest room.

Kuruk stood. "Jim, wait."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER SEVEN

Kuruk followed Jim into the guest room.

Tatiana touched Soni's arm. "I guess your grandfather had something else to talk about."

After Kuruk returned, he took a drink of iced tea and nodded at Soni. "Jim would like to escort you to the Bountiful Harvest Celebration. He's never been to one."

Alex took a bite of chicken and chewed slowly, before he said, "I think that's a fine idea."

Soni released a deep breath. "I've been able to get my own dates for quite a while now. I don't need your help, Grandfather."

"My child, with the likes of Miguel Sanchez pining for your time I think you could use a little assistance." Kuruk took a bite of chicken. "This is very good, Tatiana. When I cook chicken, it's dry. This is very moist."

"Nice attempt at changing the subject, Grandfather. I think you and Alex are ganging up on me." Soni glared at Kuruk. "Don't you think Jim will think it's a little suspicious that you suggested we go to this thing together?"

"No. I worded it very carefully."

"You're very direct when you speak." When Soni's eyebrows crunched together, Alex chuckled. Her eyes met Alex's. "You're no better than he is."

"I made some brownies. Who would like some?" Tatiana started cutting.

Soni stepped from the table. "I think I need ice cream with mine. Anybody else?"

"No, but a glass of cold milk would be nice." Alex watched Goliath and Mack follow Soni into the kitchen.

"I could use some milk too," Kuruk's voice followed her. He then asked Alex, "Do you think I interfered too much?"

"I don't think so. I think it's a great idea, but Soni doesn't trust him."

"I'm in the kitchen. I can hear you, and no I don't trust him." Soni carried a tray and handed Kuruk a filled glass. "Too many suspicious things have happened since the day I met him."

Tatiana returned from the guest bedroom. "Jim will be out in a minute. He'd like some milk and ice cream with his brownies."

Soni handed Alex his milk and set her bowl of ice cream by her place setting. "I'll get it."

When she returned, Jim was seated, talking with Alex.

Leaning over his right arm, Soni set his glass and bowl on the table.

Jim smiled at Soni. "Thank you for inviting me to the Bountiful Harvest Celebration at the reservation. I've never been to one." He hesitated. "Matter-of-fact, this will be my first time on a reservation.

Soni's eyes widened as she studied Grandfather, but answered, "I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself. It'll be different than the big city life you're used to."

"How did you know I was raised in New York City?"

"I didn't. I guessed you were from the city. I figured from someplace on the East Coast because you have a slight accent, or at least not Texan."

"You're pretty good at guessing." Jim took a bite of ice cream.

Alex excused himself from the table and answered his cell. "What? How did that happen? Okay." He proceeded to sit, when another call came in. "You too?" Before he could put his phone away, a third call came. He faced Soni. "The buffaloes, longhorns, and brahmans are all stampeding. The buffaloes are headed toward the reservation."

"That's not possible. What could have set all the bovines in motion at once? They're miles apart."

Kuruk stood and closed his eyes. "If man's involved, anything is possible."

Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a plate of brownies. I may have to make a batch. This post is from my notes. I hope it makes sense. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.

PS: A.J. one of my huge orange tabbies is helping me post. He's responsible for any errors this week. LOL He either sits in front of the screen, walks across the keyboard, or lays on my hand when I use the mouse. It doesn't do any good to move him, he returns.


Chapter 13
CHAPTER SIETE; PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Alex excused himself from the table and answered his cell. "What? How did that happen? Okay." He proceeded to sit, when another call came in. "You too?" Before he could put his phone away, a third call came. He grabbed his hat and faced Soni. "The buffaloes, longhorns, and brahmans are all stampeding. The buffaloes are headed toward the reservation."

"That's not possible. What could have set all the bovines in motion at once? They're miles apart." Soni set her fork down.

Kuruk stood and closed his eyes. "If man's involved, anything is possible."


TODAY'S POST:

Soni jumped to her feet and glared at Jim. He raised his good hand with palm out to his shoulder. "I had nothing to do with this."

"Again, I don't believe in coincidences." Soni ran toward the door. "Goliath, Mack, stay. I'll get the helicopter. Alex, you coming?"

*****
Predawn lit the eastern sky before Soni and Alex returned home. Soni went straight to her room and over her shoulder said, "I need a shower."

"Get some sleep. I'll tell Tatiana to hold breakfast for a few hours." Alex headed for his room.

Jim stepped from the guestroom. "Alex, what happened?"

"Don't know. No wild animal tracks or loud noises were reported. I think Kuruk was right. It seems men came and spooked all three herds at the same time. Since it was dark, there were too many tracks to know anything. We'll get a few hours sleep and then go back and see if we can find anything." Alex glanced at his watch. "We'll leave about 11:00."

"Were many lost?"

"Doesn't look like it. We were able to turn the buffalo away from the reservation. The helicopter was a huge help. I'm glad Soni talked her dad into one. It could've been a disaster if those buffalo ran over the reservation." Alex took his hat off and ran his fingers through his short graying hair. "Thanks for asking."

"Get some rest. You look wiped out. We'll talk later."

"I am." Alex continued to his room.

*****
Soni and Alex returned late afternoon. The two large white dogs and Tatiana met them at the door. Tatiana kissed her husband's cheek and asked, "What did you find out?"

"It seems fire spooked all the herds but was put out before anyone showed up." Soni slapped her hat against her thigh and watched the dust rise, before stepping inside. "Somebody has it out for us or at least for me. I hope it's not an inside job." Her eyes widened as she looked at Alex for assurance.

"I doubt it. The hands have accepted you as the owner and their boss. They were impressed with the way you worked the cattle last night and today."

Tatiana hugged Soni. "Ray always said you were as good a ranch hand as any man."

"Daddy was a little prejudiced."

Jim opened the door to the guest room. "Did I hear fire spooked the cattle?"

"It appears so." Alex walked to him. "At each location, brush had been recently burned. Some was still smoldering. As dry as it is, it was a risky move. This ranch could be covered with wild fires. I wonder if it wasn't some kind of warning."

"Do you have men watching to make sure a spark doesn't ignite anything?" asked Jim.

"We do." Soni studied her watch. "I guess I'd better get a shower. We're due at the reservation in an hour and a half." She went toward her room. "I could use a snack. I'm starved."

"Give me a minute and I'll have something for you." Tatiana headed for the kitchen.

"How big of a buffalo herd do you have?" Jim asked Alex.

"They aren't true buffalo. What we call American buffalo are bison. Theory has it anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 years ago they crossed over the land bridge from Asia to North America, and then traveled southward. There were millions of buffalo back then. They say around the 1830's white man sometimes killed two hundred fifty buffalo a day to help eradicate the Native Americans."

"So there aren't any real buffalo?" Jim scratched his head.

"Yes, but only in zoos in the US. There are African buffalo and Asian water buffalo; American buffalo are really bison." Alex grinned.

"How many head are on this ranch?"

"Last count three hundred." Alex laughed. "Probably two hundred ninety-nine, now."

"True. We're eating one tonight. What are they used for?"

Alex took a drink of water Tatiana had offered. "The bison are sent to the stockyard for butchering. It's leaner meat than beef. A lot of it goes overseas."

Alex set the glass on the table. "Tatiana, I'll be ready in about forty-five minutes." He went to his room.

*****
Soni opened her bedroom door, wearing clean blue jeans and a white T-shirt. "I'm ready."

Tatiana and Jim were seated at the table. Tatiana said, "I set out some cheese and fruit. Jim's bringing both vehicles out front."

"Good and thank you." Soni sat beside Tatiana and helped herself to some cheese and a few grapes. "Anything of importance come in today's mail?"

"Not really, but there was a strange letter." Tatiana went to the hutch holding a basket of mail. "Everything else can wait. This letter was in the mailbox. It doesn't have a stamp or a postage mark. It's addressed to Soni Adler, but no address." She handed it to Soni.

Soni studied the envelope. "That's strange." She carefully opened it and silently read the typed letter. You've been warned. Sell the ranch and leave. We don't want no female ranch owners. Especially, half-breed squaws. LEAVE NOW!! She swallowed and looked at Tatiana. "Nothing important. I think we're ready to leave." She shoved the letter and the envelope in her jean's pocket. I won't allow this to upset Grandfather's Bountiful Harvest Celebration. I'll worry about it later.





Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of American Bison. This post is from my notes. I hope it makes sense. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm still making numerous errors and need all of your help. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 14
CHAPTER SIETE; PART TRES

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni studied the envelope. "That's strange." She carefully opened it and silently read the typed letter. You've been warned. Sell the ranch and leave. We don't want no female ranch owners. Especially, half-breed squaws. LEAVE NOW!! She swallowed and looked at Tatiana. "Nothing important. I think we're ready to leave." She shoved the letter and the envelope in her jean's pocket. I won't allow this to upset Grandfather's Bountiful Harvest Celebration. I'll worry about it later.

TODAY'S POST:

"The celebration begins in thirty minutes. I know Grandfather wonders where we're at." Soni grabbed her best Western hat.

Alex walked inside. "Tatiana, ready?" He glanced at the three. "Let's get going. By Kuruk standards, we're already late."

"I think we can all fit in my Range Rover. There's no need to take two vehicles." Soni opened the driver side door to her vehicle.

"Let's take two. When we old fogies get tired, we can come on home. You young'uns can stay as long as you like."

"Whatever! You're both still young in my book." Soni laughed. "Okay. We'll meet you there." She glanced at Jim. "Ready?"

"Yep. Let's get this show on the road." Jim waited for Goliath and Mack to crawl into the back seat before he sat in the passenger seat.

"Darn!" Soni ran toward the house. "Alex, go ahead. I forgot something. I'll be right behind you."

Goliath jumped around Jim and then followed Soni into the house. Mack started to, paused, and then yawned before he lay back down.

Jim petted the large white dog. "I agree, boy. It's not worth it."

After a while, Jim glanced at his watch. It's been a good fifteen minutes. Maybe we should've gone in. He stepped from the car. Mack followed.

They were within a foot of the front door when Soni opened it. "I couldn't find it. I guess Grandfather already took it."

"What?"

"Nothing really." Soni sat behind the wheel. "Let's get going."

*****

About three miles from where the road leading to the ranch house met up with I 35, Soni turned down a part gravel and part dirt road.

Jim asked, "How far is it to the reservation?"

"About four miles. It'll go slow because of the road conditions. Dad wanted to blacktop it, but Grandfather refused." Soni grinned. "Grandfather would say, 'You can't have a street leading to an Apache Reservation. It just isn't right.' I think he's right."

"How old were you when your mother died?"

Soni glanced at Jim, and paused, before she answered, "Let's make a deal. I'll answer your questions, if you answer mine."

"Sounds fair enough. But they have to be on like subjects."

"My mom, Jacali, died during childbirth. I never met her."

"That must've been horrible."

"Not really. Dad was usually around. When he wasn't, Alex and Tatiana were there." Soni's voice softened, "Tatiana treated me like I was her daughter. Of course, Grandfather was very protective. He still is." She turned her head. "It's your turn. What were your parents like?"

"Let's see, I was an only child. Mom was a school teacher. She taught high school English. She stayed home until I went into junior high. Your typical mom, who baked cookies, cleaned house, and made sure I lacked for nothing. Dad worked for the NYC police department. He was a homicide detective. Although he wasn't home much, he did make sure he made most of my sporting events and the important parts of my life."

"What? Did you see that light?" Soni tapped the brake and slowed down. "Nothing or nobody should be out here." She stretched back in the seat and reached into her jeans' pocket for her cell phone. I wonder if this is part of the warning the letter talked about.

"Could it be Alex?"

"That's who I'm calling." Soni listened for a moment before she told Alex about the light.

After she set the cell on the console, Jim asked, "Did Alex or Tatiana see anything?"

Soni shook her head. "He offered to come back, but I assured him it was nothing. It's some cowboys goofing off."

"You're probably right." Jim leaned forward in his seat. "I don't see the light."

"Me neither." Soni released a deep breath as the Range Rover crept along.

"This isn't good. I don't recognize any of these men." Soni brought the vehicle to a complete stop, stared at the four men standing in the center of the road, and reached for the sawed-off shotgun that set between her and the center console. "There's a Remington 1858 in the glove box. I'm sure you know how to use it."

After closing the glove box, Jim asked, "We moving closer or waiting for them to come to us?"


Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a dirt/gravel road in rural Texas. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 15
CHAPTER OCHO; PART UNO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"This isn't good. I don't recognize any of these men." Soni brought the vehicle to a complete stop, stared at the four men standing in the center of the road, and reached for the sawed-off shotgun that set between her and the center console. "There's a Remington 1858 in the glove box. I'm sure you know how to use it."

After closing the glove box, Jim asked, "We moving closer or waiting for them to come to us?"


TODAY'S POST:


CHAPTER EIGHT

Soni stared through the windshield at the four men. Now what? Grandfather always says follow your instincts. Goliath gave a low rumbled growl. "It's all right, boy." She eased up on the brake pedal and allowed the vehicle to creep forward.

"Do you have a plan?" asked Jim.

"I'm letting my gut lead me." Soni glanced at the man sitting beside her.

"That's a plan."

Within a few yards of the men, Soni stopped and put the Range Rover in neutral. After releasing a deep breath, she asked, "Ready?" Jim answered, and then she flipped two switches, one for the cab roof lights and the other turned on the off-road lights.

As the four men used their arms to cover their eyes, Soni stepped from the vehicle, using the door as a shield. The sawed-off shotgun was in her right hand. "You lost? Why you on foot?"

Goliath jumped into the driver's seat. Mack's front paws were on the center console. Both dogs stared out the windshield. Jim opened the passenger door and stood.

The man in the middle said, "No hablo Ingles."

"I'm sure one of you speaks English."

"We were on our way to Big Wells. We thought this was 85," said the man on the left. He pointed to the man standing beside him. "Me amigo's jacket blew out of the truck."

"There's no way that happened." Jim shook his head.

"We haven't noticed a jacket on the road. To get to 85, you'll need to follow this road back the way you came. When you come to a 'T', turn left. In about two miles, you'll hit I35, turn left toward San Antonio. 85's about five miles on your left. I expect you to hurry on your way."

"Si. Gracias, ma'am."

"Da nada." Soni waited for Goliath to move before she sat behind the steering wheel.

"Do you think they'll follow your directions?" Jim sat and continued to keep the revolver handy.

"Nope. I think they're out to cause trouble. Back in your spot, Goliath." Soni petted the large white dog before she placed the shotgun on the console. "I'm leaving the lights on." She turned around and petted Mack. "You're a good boy, too."

As they crept by the four men, Jim said, "I'm surprised Tatiana or Alex didn't teach you Spanish."

"They did." Soni watched the four men in her rearview mirror. "They're looking for something. I wonder what?"

"It's not a jacket."

"You're right about that."

"Why didn't you speak in Spanish?"

"They're on my property, so they need to speak my language." Soni giggled. "Tatiana made sure I'm fluent in Spanish. How about you?"

"It's a requirement for my occupation."

"Which is what exactly?"

Jim chuckled. "I haven't asked anything about your occupation and our agreement was like questions."

"That's not fair. You know what I do. I'm a rancher." Soni slowed the Ranch Rover down and pointed to her left. "Look. There's an old pickup. I bet the light I saw was the interior dome light. It looks like only two people can fit in the cab. Two had to sit in the bed. Is it possible he was telling the truth?"

"No way. Why don't you stop and get a closer look?"

"Think that's legal?"

"Just as legal as them being on Rockin' A property."

Soni pulled off to the side of the road and pointed to the passenger-side floor. "There's a flashlight under your seat." She took one from under hers and grabbed the shotgun. Both dogs walked alongside Soni, first Goliath and then Mack.

As they got closer to the pickup, they noticed a livestock trailer behind it.

"Hmm, I wonder what this is for." Jim shined the light on it.

"It's not a jacket they lost, it's part of the hitch." Soni kicked the loose trailer. She reached down and removed one of the hook-up brackets. "They'll need this, but it's mine now." She studied the trailer.

"What livestock's out here?"

"Buffalos."

"You mean bison?"

"I see Alex educated you." Soni smiled and turned toward the road. "Let's get moving." As they continued, she kept talking, "The trailer isn't large enough to make it worth their while to poach buffalo. It'll only fit two at the most. Maybe that's all they need to feed their families."

"My gut tells me they want more than bison." Jim petted Goliath. "I'm sure he agrees with me."


Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of an old beat up horse trailer. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 16
CHAPTER OCHO; PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I see Alex educated you." Soni smiled and turned toward the road. "Let's get moving." As they continued, she kept talking, "The trailer isn't large enough to make it worth their while to poach buffalo. It'll only fit two at the most. Maybe that's all they need to feed their families."

"My gut tells me they want more than bison." Jim petted Goliath. "I'm sure he agrees."


TODAY'S POST:

Their speculation ended when Soni and Jim arrived at the reservation. Jim sat straighter and stared out the window as he studied each small house and store.

Soni asked, "What did you expect it to look like? This is close to a normal reservation. On many other reservations, the Native Americans live below the poverty level. "

"I'm not sure what I expected. But I never expected a small town."

"Did you expect teepees or wigwams?"

"No." Jim paused and turned toward Soni. "How many Native Americans live here?"

"Grandfather says they come and go, but usually around 600. Many work on the ranch. Some work in Rocksprings and others drive to Brackettville. Most of the children attend school in Rocksprings. A few are home taught. Lipan Apache culture's still very strong." Soni paused as she parked the Range Rover in the driveway. "This is Grandfather's house." She smiled as Kuruk opened the door. "And here he is right on cue." Soni and the two large dogs stepped from the van. Jim stood beside her.

"What took you so long? Alex and Tatiana arrived over thirty minutes ago." Kuruk hugged his granddaughter.

"We met four men along the way. I think they were up to no good, but we don't know what." Soni kissed her grandfather's cheek and then continued with the story.

"I can send some men to look around."

"Not necessary. I doubt they'll cause trouble. I took one of the hook-up brackets. They won't be hauling anything." Soni pointed toward an open area where people had started to gather. "Let's get this celebration started." She took Grandfather's arm with her right arm and Jim's with her left. The dogs followed.

The three joined Alex and Tatiana standing in the serving line.

After everyone was served and seated, Kuruk stood and blessed the food in his native language.

Afterward, Soni leaned toward Jim and whispered, "Grandfather thanked the Great Creator for the bountiful harvest they've had this year and asked that he continue to watch over, guide, and protect them."

"I figured as much." Jim held his fork up and asked, "What's this?"

"Baked mescal. It's a desert agave plant. Apaches have eaten it for generations." Soni pointed to a green vegetable on Jim's plate. "That's prickly pear cactus. Try it. It's good." Soni took a bite of hers. "These were grilled with portabella mushrooms. The fried flatbread goes back generations, also."

"I know what this is." Jim pointed to his plate. "This is fish." He took a bite and chewed. "I'm guessing largemouth bass from the Nueces River." Then he forked a piece of meat. "This is probably buffalo and next to it are tators."

"Tators? Since when do East coasterners say tators?" Soni laughed.

"About the same time you started saying coasterners." Jim chuckled. "That's a mouthful." He pointed to another meat. "What's this?"

"Gator. The river is full of them."

"I guess they use whatever is available."

"They do. Native Americans prefer to live off the land. They believe if they take care of the land, the land will take care of them."

When they had finished eating and were visiting, Kuruk asked, "Sonsee-array, are you going to participate or sit this year out?"

Soni glanced at Jim. "I'm not sure. I haven't missed a celebration in fifteen years."

Jim held up both hands. "Don't stop tradition because of me."

"Jim's right." Alex nodded. "We'll take good care of him. Go ahead and get ready."

After a sigh, Soni stood. "Did you bring everything?"

Kuruk nodded. "Yes, I was afraid you'd forget. They're in my spare bedroom. Hurry-up!"

Soni and the two large white dogs ran off to her Grandfather's house.



Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of buffalo/bison meat. I really struggled with a photo for this post. It's the best I came up with. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 17
CHAPTER OCHO; PART TRES

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

When they had finished eating and were visiting, Kuruk asked, "Sonsee-array, are you going to participate or sit this year out?"

Soni glanced at Jim. "I'm not sure. I haven't missed a celebration in fifteen years."

Jim held up both hands. "Don't stop tradition because of me."

"Jim's right." Alex nodded. "We'll take good care of him. Go ahead and get ready."

After a sigh, Soni stood. "Did you bring everything?"

Kuruk nodded. "Yes, I was afraid you'd forget. They're in my spare bedroom. Hurry-up!"

Soni and the two large white dogs ran off to her Grandfather's house.


TODAY'S POST:

When Soni rejoined the family, Jim's eyes widened. "You look like an Indian Princess."

Kuruk's face glowed and his eyes twinkled. "Since I'm the Chief, her mother was a Princess. Sonsee-array is my granddaughter, which makes her a true Apache Princess. Many young braves would do well to marry her." He glanced around at the young Native American males gawking at Soni.

Jim nodded. "I'm sure the lucky man who captures her heart will be honored." He hesitated. "I thought you were the Shaman."

"I am. Our tribe is small." Kuruk walked to the head table, raised both hands, and chanted, before he said, "The Ceremonial Dance begins."

A group of men went to an open area that already had a campfire and began a steady drum beat, some had homemade rattles and a few had a bow with one string. A group of men formed an inner circle around the fire. They each wore a different decorated mask and began dancing.

The audience sat on rugs placed on the ground forming an outer circle around the campfire.

Jim watched for a few moments before he touched Soni's arm and said, "Please explain."

"Each man's leather mask stands for a different god. They're reenacting the Apache Creation Story. I'll try to give you the short version." Soni smiled.

"First, Apache's believe in the supernatural, especially for things they don't understand."

"I've already figured that out." Jim continued, watching the dance.

"In the beginning darkness was everywhere; no earth, no sky, no sun, and no moon." Soni's eyes widened and she raised her arms above her head. "Suddenly, a thin disc, one side yellow and the other white appeared suspended in midair. On that disc, sat a small bearded man, The Creator, the One Who Lives Above." She pointed to one of the men who wore a mask. "As if waking from a long nap, he rubbed his eyes and face."

"That man represents The Creator?"

"Yes, watch his actions." Soni stared at the man for a few moments and then continued, "When he looked into the darkness, light appeared above. He looked down and it became a sea of light. To the East, he created yellow streaks of dawn." She pointed as the dancer did. "To the West, tints of many colors appeared everywhere. Also clouds of different colors."

Soni touched her face. "The Creator wiped his sweat and rubbed his hands together, thrusting them downward. Now! A shinning cloud on which a little girl sat appeared. He asked the child, 'Where are you going?' She didn't reply. He offered his right hand to the Girl-Without-Parents."

Grandfather knelt beside Soni. "You'll need to finish the story later." He stood and offered his hand. She took it and stood.

"I'll be back to finish later." Soni paused before she followed Kuruk.

"It looks like the dancers just finished creating their fourth god."

Soni winked at Jim and said, "They did. I'll return in a few minutes."

Jim smiled as he watched Soni walk away, with both large dogs sauntering behind her.

About a dozen young women formed a circle around the fire. Soni hurried to Jim and ordered Goliath and Mack to stay with him, Alex, and Tatiana. She pointed at both dogs. "Stay. We don't want a reenactment of last year." She took her place in the circle of dancers.

Jim glanced at Alex and Tatiana. Tatiana petted Goliath. "When Soni dances, Goliath likes to join her." She covered her mouth trying to stifle a laugh, but couldn't. With her free hand, she held Goliath's collar.

As the dance began, Alex whispered to Jim, "The drum's the heart of the celebration. Drums signify the heartbeat of Native American people. Drum making's an art handed down from generation to generation. Hides are stretched over a wood frame. After this dance, men will return. Never do men and women dance together during ceremonies."

Jim nodded in acknowledgement. His eyes never left Soni. He tapped Alex's arm. "What's this dance called?"

"Fancy Shawl Dance. It's the story of a butterfly in flight. It's Soni's favorite."

She's perfect for this dance. She has perfect rhythm. Those swirls and twirls are complicated. Jim watched Soni's steps and body movements. A flash caught his attention and he surveyed the area. What was that? I don't see any cameras. When the danced ended, he hesitated, waiting to join in with the applause. None came, so he sat silently.

Soni sat on the rug between Alex and Jim. Kuruk motioned her to stand. "You made an old man proud, my child."

"Thank you, Grandfather." Soni hugged him.

Another flash caught Jim's attention. He stood. "I need to exercise my legs. I'll be right back."

"I'm coming with you." Soni started to follow.

"It's not necessary. I'll be right back." Jim walked in the direction he thought the flash came from. Soni sat on the rug, but motioned for Goliath and Mack to follow.

When Jim didn't find anything suspicious, he petted Goliath's head. "You saw it too, didn't you, big guy?"

Goliath and Mack cocked their heads and then both ran toward the sound they heard. Jim followed.

The following is the site I got The Creation Story from. I will post more of it in following posts.

http://www.indians.org/welker/creation.htm





Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of an Apache maiden. I search for Apache language for some of the words and I couldn't find any. If anybody knows of a site, please let me know. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 18
CHAPTER OCHO; PART CUATRO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:


"It's not necessary. I'll be right back." Jim walked in the direction he thought the flash came from. Soni sat on the rug, but motioned for Goliath and Mack to follow.

When Jim didn't find anything suspicious, he petted Goliath's head. "You saw it too, didn't you, big guy?"

Goliath and Mack cocked their heads and then both ran toward the sound they heard. Jim followed.


TODAY'S POST:

Soni watched the men dance but often glanced around to see if Jim and the dogs had returned. She saw nothing.

Alex put his hand on Soni's arm. "They're fine. Goliath and Mack can take care of themselves and I'm sure Jim can too."

"Are you forgetting his left shoulder has a bullet hole in it? Trouble finds him everywhere and now my two boys are with him." Soni bit her bottom lip as her shoulders sagged.

"You've forgotten that 'your two boys' are full grown Great Pyrenees dogs. Goliath is thirty-four inches to the shoulder and weighs at least 175 pounds."

"Mack's smaller."

"True, but he's probably 140 pounds and still has some growing to do."

Soni heard heavy panting and turned her head. She jumped up and hugged the dogs. "I missed you two. Did you have fun?"

Jim followed behind. "We had a very nice walk. I doubt those two are even breathing hard." He sat on the rug. "I see I missed the beginning of the dance."

Tatiana stood. "Now that your family's back I think Alex and I'll head home."

Soni hugged them both and said, "We won't be far behind." She watched the dance and then added, "I think it's almost over." Soni waited for Tatiana and Alex's pickup to leave before she sat beside Jim.

As the dance ended, Soni petted Goliath. "I need to find Grandfather and change."

"I think I saw Kuruk standing by the head table talking with some men."

They both headed that direction. Soni noticed Kuruk and turned to Jim. "Can you wait here a minute? I need to speak to Grandfather alone."

Jim nodded and teased, "I'll keep an eye on these two mischief causers." He petted the dogs behind their ears.

*****

Jim noticed Soni pull an envelope from her pocket. I wonder if that's the letter Tatiana told Soni about. If it is, it looks like she's hiding something. I wonder what.

Kuruk and Soni headed toward his house. Jim and the dogs followed from a distance.

"This can't be good. Look at their faces," Jim said under his breath. Goliath looked at him. "You agree, don't you?" He stopped and leaned against the Range Rover. There's many questions. What did you two hear out there? I guess I'll never know. Might as well wait here and watch the gorgeous sunset. That's one thing Texas does right. He petted Goliath and then Mack. "Any idea what's going on, big guys?"

Both large dogs lay at his feet. "I didn't think so." Jim chuckled. "Resting is always a good thing."

About a half an hour later, Soni walked down the front steps wearing her jeans, tank top, and boots. "Ready to head home?"

"Did you finish talking with Kuruk?"

"He's a good listener." At the vehicle, Soni pressed the key and unlocked the doors. "Let's go. Grandfather mentioned I should hurry home, but he didn't have any idea why. Just a feeling. His feelings are usually right on target."

Jim waited to enter until the two dogs jumped in. "Can you finish the story on the way? You ended it with the Girl-Without-Parents."

"I doubt I can it finish. It's very long. It took the dancers two dances to finish. Let's see." Soni turned onto the gravel/dirt road. "The Girl-Without-Parents took the Creator's hand and asked, "Where did you come from? He answered, 'From the east where it's now light.' He stepped onto her cloud."

Soni slowed the Range Rover down. "The girl asked, 'Where is the earth?' The Creator asked, 'Where is the sky?' Then he sang, 'I am thinking, thinking, thinking what shall I create next? He sang that four times, which is the magic number." She stopped the vehicle. "Isn't this where we saw the trailer?"

"You're right, but there's nothing there."

"We'd better take a look." Soni turned off the engine. "Come on. Grab a flashlight." She grabbed the sawed-off shot gun.

They walked until they came to the area where the trailer had sat. Soni brushed aside loose hair from a braid. "I took the hook-up bracket. People don't usually carry extras."

"Look over here." Jim shined his light to a dirt and grassy area. "These tracks weren't made by that old pickup. They're fresh."

Soni knelt and touched the tracks. "You're right. These were made by a dualie." She stood. "We were right. They were up to no good. But what?"

Author Notes The following is the site I got The Creation Story from. I will post more of it in following posts.

http://www.indians.org/welker/creation.htm

Thank you google images for an image of a Texas sunset. The sunsets are one thing Texas does right. Certainly not the heat. I often go outside and watch the sun. Our house faces West. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 19
CHAPTER OCHO; PART CINCO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

They walked until they came to the area where the trailer had sat. Soni brushed aside loose hair from a braid. "I took the hook-up bracket. People don't usually carry extras."

"Look over here." Jim shined his light to a dirt and grassy area. "These tracks weren't made by that old pickup. They're fresh."

Soni knelt and touched the tracks. "You're right. These were made by a dualie." She stood. "We were right. They were up to no good. But what?"


TODAY'S POST:

Soni stood and searched the area before she paused and listened. "I'm needed at home." She ran to the Range Rover. Both large white dogs followed alongside. "Are you coming?" she called over her shoulder.

"Yes. I didn't expect you to take off so fast." Jim caught up with her. "You could've warned me."

Soni yanked open the vehicle door. "Don't have time."

Both dogs jumped in before Soni got behind the steering wheel and started the engine. "Hurry!"

As Jim shut the door, the Range Rover moved. "What's this all about?"

"I don't know, but my gut says there's trouble." Dust trailed behind the speeding vehicle.

*****
The ranch house came into view. "That's strange. Why are the stable lights on? Alex never parks his pickup in the driveway."

Leaving the vehicle door open, Soni ran into the stables.

Alex glanced at Soni. "Diego's been stabbed. I doubt he'll make it. Midnight's missing. Gus was attacked from behind. He's got a nasty lump on the back of his head."

Soni knelt over the large German Shepherd, placed her hand on his neck, and said, "Diego's lost a lot of blood. Has Doc Hanson been called?"

"He's on his way. He said don't move the dog." Alex continued applying pressure to the knife wound.

Still petting Diego, Soni scanned the area. "Midnight put up a fight. Have you called Sheriff Boyd?"

Alex nodded. "He's also on his way."

With a bag of ice held to his head with one hand, Gus held up a syringe. "It looks like they tried to drug your horse."

"It's the only way he'd go." Soni pecked Diego on the top of his head between his ears.

Jim took the syringe from Gus and held it up to the light. "Half the dose is still here. The horse must've pulled the needle out. How could he do that?"

"That stallion's capable of doing all sorts of things." Gus sat on a bale of hay.

Soni glared at Jim. "You wouldn't know anything about this, would you?"

"What motive would I have for kidnapping your horse and stabbing one of your dogs?"

"Soni," warned Alex.

Jim turned his head. "I hope those headlights mean the vet's here. Diego won't last much longer. I'll see who it is." He left the stables.

"They're in here." Jim led Dr. Hanson to the wounded animal.

The veterinarian knelt and opened his bag. "This doesn't look good." He patted Soni's hand. "How's that foal you helped give birth to?"

"Amigo's doing great." Soni bit her bottom lip as she watched the Doc examine Diego.

Tatiana entered and touched Soni's shoulder. "Why don't we wait in the house?" She paused. "Gus, you should come too. I bet you need a new ice pack."

"Gus, go ahead. I'm staying." Soni petted Diego's neck.

*****
After a thorough examination, Dr. Hanson looked at Soni. "The wound's deep and the dog's lost a lot of blood. I doubt he'll make it through the night. I can give him something to make him comfortable."

Soni swallowed. "It seems the knife missed his main organs. You can stitch the wound and give him antibiotics for infection. Diego's strong and healthy. Alex, get something so we can safely move him into the house. We'll put him on the table. The doc'll need a clean space for the surgery."

"I'll do what I can. You understand it doesn't look good, don't you?" Dr. Hanson petted Diego. "I have some anesthesia but not a lot. I hope it's enough.

Tears welled in Soni's eyes as she nodded.



Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a German Shepherd that just might look like Diego. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 20
CHAPTER NUEVE; PART UNO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni swallowed. "It seems the knife missed his main organs. You can stitch the wound and give him antibiotics for infection. Diego's strong and healthy. Alex, get something so we can safely move him into the house. We'll put him on the table. The doc'll need a clean space for the surgery."

"I'll do what I can. You understand it doesn't look good, don't you?" Dr. Hanson petted Diego. "I have some anesthesia but not a lot. I hope it's enough.

Tears welled in Soni's eyes as she nodded.


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER NINE

Even though Tatiana, Alex, and Jim encouraged Soni to go to bed, she stayed and assisted Doc Hanson with Diego's surgery.

Around 1:30 Saturday morning, Soni answered a knock at the door. "Grandfather, what are you doing here?"

"Naiyenesgani informed me you had problems. I've brought my healing bag." Shaman held up his large buffalo-skin bag.

Soni fell into her Grandfather's arms. "The Great Creator's correct." Tears rolled down her cheeks, as she told Kuruk about last night's events.

Dr. Hanson walked up to Kuruk and offered his hand. "Shaman, I'm glad you're here. I've done all I can, but Diego's wound is deep. The knife missed his vital organs, but I've never seen a knife wound that deep. He needs your healing power."

"Take me to the animal."

Soni and the doc took Kuruk to the dining room table. He leaned over the dog and frowned. "Granddaughter, I'll do all I can, but sometimes Naiyenesgani's plans are different than ours."

"I know, Grandfather." As tears continued to fall, Goliath lifted up his large paw for Soni to take. She knelt and hugged the large white dog with her head buried in his fur.

The Shaman lit incense and used healing herbs as he began to chant.

Dr. Hanson motioned he'd let himself out and mouthed he would return in the afternoon.

Soni nodded and remained on the floor, hugging Golaith. Mack laid on her opposite side and put his head in her lap.

*****
Predawn light lit up the dining room as the Shaman closed his healing bag. "Sonsee-array, it's up to Naiyenesgani. I've done all I can. I need to leave now."

"I'll stay until he wakes." Soni hugged her grandfather. "Thank you for always knowing when I need you." She kissed his cheek. "Be safe on your drive home."

"I'll always be here for you, my child." Kuruk kissed the top of her head before he turned and left.

Soni petted Diego's neck and whispered, "I know you did all you could to protect Midnight. You're the great protector of the stables. You have to be all right."

Diego whimpered, and his tail thumped once.

"Alex, Tatiana!" yelled Soni. "Diego's going to make it!" She held her hands over her mouth and hopped up and down. "He's going to make it! I knew he would!"

Tatiana and Alex hurried from their bedroom and stared at the silent dog lying on the table. "How do you know?" asked Alex.

"He told me."

"I'm sure he did." Tatiana put her arm around Soni's shoulders. "I'm sure he did."

*****
The three decided Diego would remain on the table and breakfast would be eaten in the living room.

Alex and Soni took seats as Tatiana brought their filled plates and asked, "Has anybody seen Jim this morning?"

"Last night probably took a toll on him. He's still healing from this gunshot. Let him sleep." Alex took a sip of coffee. He set the cup down as a knock sounded at the door. "Now, who could that be this early?" He glanced at his watch. "It's barely 8:00."

"Robert Hughes? What brings you out so early?" Alex offered his hand. "I didn't think government men worked on Saturdays."

"You can't be finished with your investigation so soon. Did you decide we haven't broken any laws and came to tell us you'll leave us alone?" Soni put a wild blackberry in her mouth.

Robert glanced at the dog on the table. "What happened?"

"Last night he was stabbed while guarding our stables. My prized stallion was stolen. The vet needed a place to do surgery." Soni stared at him. "What brings you here? I'm guessing it has something to do with that manila envelope in your hand." She pointed.

"I know you were at the reservation, participating in a Native American powwow. Isn't that what they call them?"

"We were at the reservation celebrating a bountiful harvest. How did you know that?"

Hughes held up the legal sized envelope. "I received this by special delivery very early this morning. It's proof of your participation in a ceremony where peyote was abundant."

"That's ridiculous. I was there, but peyote wasn't present, let alone abundant."

Hughes opened the envelope and removed the photographs. "Do you deny this is you dancing?" The Homeland Security man also took out two peyote buttons.

"Of course, it's me. I danced The Fancy Shawl Dance. I do it every year, but there's never any peyote Who took this anyway?"

"You need to come with me."

"No, I don't. I'm needed here with Diego. I'll come in when we're sure he's out of danger."

"By then the drugs will be out of your system. You need to come, now," Hughes' voice was stern as he took hold of her arm.

Soni yanked it away. "I'll go on my own, but when this is over I expect an apology. If Diego dies, it's on you."




Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of an Apache medicine bag. Since Kuruk means bear in Apache, I thought he might have a bear on his medicine bag. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 21
CHAPTER NUEVE; PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Hughes opened the envelope and removed the photographs. "Do you deny this is you dancing?" The Homeland Security man also took out two peyote buttons.

"Of course, it's me. I danced The Fancy Shawl Dance. I do it every year, but there's never any peyote. Where did you get these?"

"You need to come with me."

"No, I don't. I'm needed here with Diego. I'll come in when we're sure he's out of danger."

"By then the drugs will be out of your system. You need to come, now," Hughes' voice was stern as he took hold of her arm.

Soni yanked it away. "I'll go on my own, but when this is over I expect an apology. If Diego dies, it's on you."


TODAY'S POST:

Late afternoon, Soni burst through the front door. "How's Diego?"

"He's still unconscious. What happened? Did Hughes bring you back?" Alex walked to Soni.

Soni glanced over her shoulder as she hurried toward the large German Shepard. "He's coming. I guess he doesn't understand the urgency." She petted Diego's neck and smiled. "He knows I'm here. His eyes fluttered." Soni touched a healing crystal. "I see Grandfather's returned." She glanced at the door. "I didn't see his pickup parked out front, but noticed the sheriff's."

"Kuruk rode Ol' Thunder. He's in the stable checking the crime scene and discussing the situation with Sheriff Boyd. I hope Hughes leaves before he comes inside." Alex blew out a breath. "It won't be a pretty sight."

"What won't be a pretty sight?" Robert Hughes walked through the door.

"Did my granddaughter's blood work show any signs of peyote use?" Kuruk lagged behind the Homeland Security agent.

"Well, that's hard to say." Robert stared into the Lipan Apache Chief's eyes. "The urine, blood, and saliva all came back negative. We're waiting to hear from the hair follicle test. It takes a little longer."

"The first time you violated Sonsee-array's rights, I'm sure she explained there's no peyote use on the reservation."

"Native Americans are well-known for its use, especially the Apaches. So I had probable cause."

"We're Lipan Apaches that remained in Texas. The Mescalero and some Lipan Apaches moved to New Mexico. They have used peyote as part of their ceremonies for years. You have the two tribes confused." Kuruk sustained the glare. "You're harassing my granddaughter and making slanderous statements about my people. When you realize we're innocent, I expect a full apology."

"I see no reason to continue this conversation." Hughes glanced at Soni. "Don't leave the ranch until you hear from me. If you do, I'll have you arrested until the hair follicle results have returned."

Kuruk watched Hughes leave and muttered under his breath in Apache.

"Grandfather, that wasn't very nice." Soni smiled. "But I've thought the same thing."

"Are you two going to keep this a secret or share it with me? My Apache isn't very good, but I did catch something about a ba'cho. Doesn't that mean wolf?" asked Alex.

Kuruk's lips formed a grin as he replied, "I wish the man no harm, but he needs to meet up with a wolf."

"Meet up with a wolf, but no harm comes to him?" Alex chuckled. "Sure."

With both hands on Diego's back, Kuruk said, "It'll take time, but he'll make a full recovery." He faced his granddaughter. "Don't you worry, but the spirits tell me things will get worse before they get better. I'll come by tomorrow to check on our patient." He pointed at the door. "Ol' Thunder takes his time getting anywhere. I'd better head home."

Soni walked her Grandfather to the stable. After he rode out of sight, she returned to Diego.

Jim walked from the kitchen. "Has Hughes left?"

Soni's eyes widened. "You've been there the whole time?" She released a deep breath. "Why didn't you tell that man nobody used peyote last night?"

"I don't want anybody to know I'm here." Jim paused.

"Won't your boss question why you haven't been at work?" Soni interrupted his pause with a tilted head.

"I've called him. We're squared away for as long as I need to heal. I'm in contact with him every couple of days."

"Or nights?" whispered Soni as she tended Diego.

"I go outside so I don't risk waking anyone." Jim petted the German Shepard. "How's he doing?"

"I think he's making hourly improvements." Soni kissed the top of the dog's head. "In no time at all he'll be back to work."

Soni turned and her eyes met Alex's. "Tomorrow I'd better take the helicopter and inspect the entire ranch. You want to go for a ride?"

Alex shook his head. "Gus and I plan to repair the stables."

"Do you need my help?" Soni asked.

"No. I think you need a Sunday afternoon stroll around the ranch. I agree with Kuruk. Something somewhere isn't right. I just don't know what."






Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a healing quartz. Maybe like the one Kuruk put beside Diego. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 22
CHAPTER DIEZ; PART UNO

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni turned and her eyes met Alex's. "Tomorrow I'd better take the helicopter and inspect the entire ranch. You want to go for a ride?"

Alex shook his head. "Gus and I plan to repair the stables."

"Do you need my help?" Soni asked.

"No. I think you need a Sunday afternoon stroll around the ranch. I agree with Kuruk. Something somewhere isn't right. I just don't know what."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TEN

After church Sunday, Soni, Alex, and Tatiana prepared for the noon meal. They had moved Diego to a thick blanket beside the table. As they set the table, Gus and Jim entered talking with each other. "I think you're right, Jim. We can reuse the lumber Midnight didn't bust."

"Gus, join us. Tatiana always cooks way too much. As soon as we're finished, I'll go to town and get what we need."

"I don't mind if I do. Tatiana's the best cook this side of the Pecos. Jim and I made a list." Gus held it up as he took a seat beside Jim.

Alex passed the fried chicken to Gus. "You want to go with me? I might need some help loading the lumber."

"If you really think I'm needed, I will. I was going to get started. I could rebuild some of the stalls while you're gone."

"I know I only have one good arm, but I can still help," said Jim.

Soni accepted the mashed potatoes from Tatiana. "Alex, I can postpone my trip around the ranch until tomorrow and help."

"I don't want you doing that. I think it needs to be done." Alex paused, faced the front door, and grinned. "It sounds like Butkus has returned. Tatiana, do you have some towels handy?"

"Who's Butkus and what's making that racket?" Jim eyed the front door.

Gus walked to the door and chuckled. "You'll find out shortly. You can't miss him. Get ready for a bath."

"Holy Cow! What's that?" Jim's eyes widened.

Soni braced herself in the chair as the mastiff ran up to her. He came close to knocking her from the chair as he nuzzled in. "I'm happy you're home too." Soni hugged the gigantic dog's neck.

"That can't be a dog!" Jim glanced at Goliath, Mack, and then Diego. "Those are large dogs. What's this?"

Butkus shook his head and slobber spread across the table, the walls, and the people. "Jim, meet Butkus. He belonged to my dad. They were best friends. Butkus has been spending most of the time breeding. He's in high demand."

"You've got to be kidding. Who would want a dog they could ride?"

Alex shook his head. "We get $500 for his stud service and the pick of the litter."

"You mean there's more of him around this place?"

"They're out on the ranges guarding the livestock. They aren't very good herders. We use border collies and great Pyrenees for that." Soni reached over and petted Goliath. "Oh yea, German Shepherds. They're good at guarding and herding.

"I sure wouldn't want to cross one. How much does he weigh?"

Alex scanned the huge dog. "He looks a little skinny right now; probably around 220 pounds."

"And he lives in the house?" Jim watched Butkus make himself at home.

"He does. Let's finish eating and get busy." Alex glanced at his watched. "We're already getting a late start."

*****
Soni headed the helicopter southward. I don't know why but I need to turn. After switching directions, Soni lifted the walkie-talkie. "Tatiana, have any reports come from John or anyone who works with the Brahmans?"

"No, Soni. Things have been very quiet."

"Okay. I'm headed that direction. I should be there in about thirty minutes."

A few hours later Soni called Tatiana. "I'm entering Pecos country."

"The Rockin'A doesn't reach that far."

"I know, but something's pushing me on."

"Be careful."

Soni entered the Glass Mountains. That must be Sierra Madera. She flew a little further North. That's strange. What's over by Panther Mesa? This is state owned property. Why would a corral be there? Maybe I can get a closer look. It's guarded. Why? If he's hurt, I'll kill them myself.









Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a mastiff. Maybe this is what Butkus looks like. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 23
CHAPTER DIEZ; PART DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

A few hours later Soni called Tatiana. "I'm entering Pecos country."

"The Rockin'A doesn't reach that far."

"I know, but something's pushing me on."

"Be careful."

Soni entered the Glass Mountains. That must be Sierra Madera. She flew a little further North. That's strange. What's over by Panther Mesa? This is state owned property. Why would a corral be there? Maybe I can get a closer look. It's guarded. Why? If he's hurt, I'll kill them myself.

TODAY'S POST:

Soni took the shortest route home. At home, she ran inside. "Tatiana, where's Alex?"

"He hasn't returned from town. Why?"

"I found Midnight. I'm going after him. Pack some food. I'm taking Dad's horse."

"Wait for Alex!" Tatiana's hands were on her hips. "He shouldn't be much longer.

"I don't have time. He's tethered. Get the food ready. I'll be gone maybe four days. I'd better charge my phone." Soni plugged in her phone and then went to the gun cabinet. She removed her dad's .45 Long Colt. Dad would use this. She closed her eyes and took a long deep breath before she returned it to its spot and then touched the Heckler and Koch P2000. I'm better with this one. She fastened a holster around her hips and placed the gun in it, before she grabbed ammunition. I hope I don't need these.

After a stop in her room, where Soni grabbed two knives One she put inside her right boot and the other in a sheath and attached to her belt. Then she headed outside. Goliath followed with Butkus right beside him. Mack followed.

In the stables, Gus called to Soni, "You look like you're on a mission. How can I help?"

"I'm saddling Smoky."

Gus gulped. "Are you sure? He's a huge horse. There are plenty of others."

"I need a sturdy smart horse. I'm packing for four days. If thing's heat up, I know Smoky won't get spooked." Soni grabbed the horse's saddle. "I've found Midnight. He's corralled and tethered."

"That's illegal."

"Not really. It is inhumane, especially to a horse like Midnight. I'm bring him home."

"You'd better wait for help. Rustlers are a mean bunch. This ranch is full of cowboys who'd help. Maybe you need to call the law."

"He's my horse and my responsibility. I have three large dogs by my side." Soni finished saddling the horse. She attached a bedroll and saddle bags. "I'll be right back. Tatiana's getting food ready. I'm grabbing a rifle too."

Within a matter of minutes, Soni was packed and riding away from the ranch. Butkus walked along the left and Goliath on the right. Mack trotted beside Goliath.

*****
While Alex backed the pickup in front of the stable entry, Gus ran to him. "Soni rode off on Smoky. She found Midnight and she's gone to rescue him."

Tatiana hurried from the house. "Alex!" She went into his arms.

"I've already heard. Do we know where she's headed?"

"Best I can tell to the Glass Mountains over by Panther Mesa." Tatiana dried a tear. "She wouldn't wait for you."

"Of course not. She's stubborn like Ray and ornery like Kuruk." Alex removed his hat, brushed his hair back, and then replaced it. "That's way off our land. I hope Hughes doesn't find out. Who'd she take with her?"

"The three dogs." Gus pointed the direction Soni had ridden off in and then glanced at his watch. "She left almost an hour ago."

"She'll get pretty far by nightfall." Alex took a two-by-six from the truck bed.

"You'd better go after her." Tatiana studied her husband.

"If I do, she'll think I don't have any confidence in her."

"Which is better a hurt, or worse, dead Soni, or her being upset with you a few days?" Tatiana shook her finger at Alex. "She'll be over being angry. How will you feel is something happens to her?"

"Would I go after her if she was a man?" Alex shook his head. "No, I wouldn't. I'm not going now. She's the owner of this ranch and my boss. I trust her instinct."

"Gus, you got an extra horse?" Jim glared at Alex. "She's already angry with me. I'll go."

"Ay, Dios m√????√???√??√?¬≠o! We don't need an accident prone Gringo on a horse." Alex kicked the dirt.

Jim's eyes met Alex's. "I know how to ride. I'm capable of taking care of myself." He paused and then continued, "and Soni."

The tips of Alex's ears turned pink.

"I need a good horse, a bedroll, food, and the weapons you took from my SUV. I'm a good tracker. I can find and catch up with Soni." Jim glanced at his watch. "I can be ready in fifteen minutes." He headed toward the house, stopped, and faced Alex. "If you hadn't stolen my weapons, I probably wouldn't have gotten shot. I could've defended myself."





Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a female riding a horse. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 24
CHAPTER DIEZ; PART TRES

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Would I go after her if she was a man?" Alex shook his head. "No, I wouldn't. I'm not going now. She's the owner of this ranch and my boss. I trust her instinct."

"Gus, you got an extra horse?" Jim glared at Alex. "She's already angry with me. I'll go."

"Ay, Dios mio! We don't need an accident prone Gringo on a horse." Alex kicked the dirt.

Jim's eyes met Alex's. "I know how to ride. I'm capable of taking care of myself." He paused and then continued, "and Soni."

The tips of Alex's ears turned pink.

"I need a good horse, a bedroll, food, and the weapons you took from my SUV. I'm a good tracker. I can find and catch up with Soni." Jim glanced at his watch. "I can be ready in fifteen minutes." He headed toward the house, stopped, and faced Alex. "If you hadn't stolen my weapons, I probably wouldn't have gotten shot. I could've defended myself."

TODAY'S POST:

Tatiana turned and strutted toward the house. "Jim, I'll go with you and get food ready. Soni said she expected to be gone about four days. I'll put in extra for you both and extra dog food. I'm sure Gus will take care of the horses."

"I appreciate the help."

"Soni's capable of taking care of herself, but I'm worried her love for Midnight might have clouded her judgment." Tatiana headed to the kitchen.

"I'm in complete agreement." Jim opened the door to the room where he slept to pack a few things.

When Jim finished he returned to the living room, where Alex stood with the weapons they'd confiscated from his Suburban.

"I thought you might need these. We hid them in the outside storm cellar. They were safe." Alex held them out.

Jim removed his belt and placed the Marine force night stalker bowie knife's sheath on it. "This will probably come in handy." Next he took the Glock .40 cal. and checked the fifteen round clip. "Do you have the rest of the clips?"

After Alex handed him additional clips, Jim placed them inside the pockets of his black tactical vest. "Thanks." He held the M249 squad Automatic Weapon (SAW), "I sure hope I won't need this," and handed it to Alex. Jim put the M40A1 sniper rifle up to his strongest eye. "I'm sure I'll need this." He attempted to place the rifle out-of-sight when Tatiana brought him a full saddle bag.

"I hope this is enough food." Tatiana eyed the weapon. "You don't need to hide that from me. I live on a Texas ranch."

"I guess that's true." Jim grinned. He took the proffered food and glanced at the door. "I'm ready to hit the road. Don't worry about Soni. I'll bring her back safe." Jim gave Tatiana a reassuring hug before he left the house.

*****
Alex and Gus watched Jim ride off. Gus hit his hat against his thigh. "He's been on a horse before."

"Sure looks like it. Do you still have that cot set up back there?" Alex pointed to the tack room.

"You figure Tatiana's going to send you back there?" Gus chuckled before he continued, "Why didn't you go after Soni yourself?"

"Thought if she wanted me along, she would've waited. Why didn't she?"

"That I don't know. I do know you'd better get inside and sweet talk your wife." Gus walked away.

Alex paced around the stable a few moments, bolstering the nerve to talk with his angry wife.

As Alex stood in the center of the living room, he asked, "What's for dinner? It sure smells good."

"I heated myself leftovers. I don't know what you're eating." Tatiana walked past her husband and into the bedroom.

When Tatiana returned, she set a pillow and a blanket on the couch.

"You're making me sleep here?" asked Alex.

"I will not sleep with you until that child I raised from an infant returns safely." Tatiana slammed the door to the bedroom.






Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a man that might look like Jim. I was looking for a cowboy on a horse. I didn't know they all rode with such few clothes on. LOL I did enjoy searching before I found this photo. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 25
Chapter Once; Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I heated myself leftovers. I don't know what you're eating." Tatiana walked past her husband and into the bedroom.

When Tatiana returned, she set a pillow and a blanket on the couch.

"You're making me sleep here?" asked Alex.

"I will not sleep with you until that child I raised from an infant returns safely." Tatiana slammed the door to the bedroom.

PS: Jim has already gone after Soni.


TODAY'S POST:


CHAPTER ELEVEN


Soni finished roasting two rabbits on a spit over an open fire. She handed the first one to Buktus and the second to Goliath. "Mack, you and I will eat in a little bit. Our rabbits are almost done."

The three dogs stood with ears cocked. Soni whispered, "I hear him too. He's been following us since late afternoon." She rotated the spit that held the rabbits.

After waiting silently for a few moments, Soni reached over and moved the rifle closer to her left thigh. She listened, picked up the weapon, and aimed it in the direction of the movement. "Jim, why you following me?"

Jim's arms were raised. "Why you pointing that thing at me? That's how people get shot. I'm here because I thought you might need help." He hesitated for a moment. "Can I put my arms down? And can you point that gun somewhere else?"

"Keep your arms up. Tell me where you got that vest. When Ed and Juan rescued you, you didn't have it. I doubt you bought it in town with Alex."

"My boss drops a few supplies off once in a while."

"In the middle of the night?"

Jim nodded. "Now can I lower my arms? My shoulder hurts."

Soni continued aiming the rifle at Jim's heart. "Who do you work for?"

"We've been over this If I tell you, you could be in danger. I'm protecting you and the Rockin' A by not telling you."

"Sounds fishy to me. For all I know you helped them steal Midnight."

"What motive would I have for kidnapping your horse? My shoulder's really hurting. Can we stop this interrogation?"

When Soni nodded and placed the rifle at her side, Jim lowered his arms, rubbed his shoulder, and then glanced at the dogs. "Why are you cooking their meat? Dogs eat raw meat."

"My dogs don't. They prefer their dinner cooked."

"Oh! I see." Jim chuckled before his eyes met hers. "Why didn't you wait for Alex?"

"I didn't know when he'd return. Midnight's in immediate danger." Soni's eyes were black as coal. "I can handle myself."

"I never doubted that, but you don't know what you're up against." Jim studied the campfire. "Won't the rustlers see the fire?"

"I doubt it. I keep it low and we're still a good half day's ride away." Soni pointed west. "Want some rabbit?"

"You have extra?"

"I will. Boys, get this man a rabbit." Soni watched the dogs leave. "It won't take long."

Within minutes Butkus returned with a rabbit. Soni quickly skinned and cleaned it. As they waited for it to cook, Jim asked, "What's your plan for getting Midnight back?"

"I don't have one. Once we get there, I'll come up with it."

"I guess that will work. I usually have some idea what I'm up against."

"All I know is Midnight's tethered in a corral and it's guarded. I don't know how many men's there. Hopefully, I can free Midnight and nobody will notice and we'll leave peacefully."

"That would be ideal, but rarely do things work out like that. Besides, once they realize the horse is gone, they'll come after it."

"True." Soni sat in thought and fingered the rifle. "We'll know more by noon tomorrow. The rabbit's done. You'd better eat and get some sleep. Morning comes early in these parts."








Author Notes MERRY CHRISTMAS AND I HOPE YOU HAVE A BLESSED NEW YEAR!!!!!!


This has been a nightmare in posting. I hope it comes out okay.

Thank you google images for an image of a rabbit being roasted on a spit over a campfire. No wildlife was hurt in writing this post. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 26
Chapter Once; Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Within minutes Butkus returned with a rabbit. Soni quickly skinned and cleaned it. As they waited for it to cook, Jim asked, "What's your plan for getting Midnight back?"

"I don't have one. Once we get there, I'll come up with it."

"I guess that will work. I usually have some idea what I'm up against."

"All I know is Midnight's tethered in a corral and it's guarded. I don't know how many men are there. Hopefully, I can free Midnight and nobody will notice and we'll leave peacefully."

"That would be ideal, but rarely do things work out like that. Besides, once they realize the horse is gone, they'll come after it."

"True." Soni sat in thought and fingered the rifle. "We'll know more by noon tomorrow. The rabbit's done. You'd better eat and get some sleep. Morning comes early in these parts."


TODAY'S POST:

Soni slowly woke and sniffed as the familiar aroma welcomed her. That smells like coffee and bacon. She opened her eyes and saw Jim pouring a cup of steaming coffee.

Jim walked toward her. "Good morning, sleepyhead." Soni took the offered cup. With a smile across his lips, Jim removed his cell phone from his jeans' pocket. "I just had to take this."

The photo showed Soni sleeping with Goliath cuddled in on her left, Butkus on her right, and Mack above her head. "Delete it!"

"You're well-guarded." Jim winked. "I've already sent it to Tatiana. She thought it was adorable. Drink some coffee. It might improve your temperament. Did you get up on the wrong side of the sleeping bag?"

"There's nothing wrong." Soni sipped the coffee, closed her eyes, and savored the flavor.

"I get up while it's still dark and slave over breakfast. What do I get in return? Snapped at." Jim went back to the campfire and stirred the eggs. "I hope you like scrambled. They're my specialty."

"I didn't snap, but I did ask you to delete a photo you took without my permission."

"Delete it!" Jim imitated a high pitched voice and then laughed.

"I didn't say it like that." Soni's cheeks tinged pink.

Jim held up his phone as if to take another photograph. "That's cute too."

Soni jumped up and rushed Jim, reaching for the phone. All three large dogs leaped for Jim, knocking him to the ground.

"I'm sorry. Are you hurt?" Soni leaned over him.

"Just my pride. I guess teasing you could get a guy hurt." Jim took Soni's offered hand. "Call your dogs' off. I'm a good guy."

"The verdict's still out." Soni's eyes met his. "But I should've known better. The boys thought you were a threat." She glanced at the iron skillet. "Did you say something about breakfast?"

"I sure did." Jim put his hand on the small of Soni's back and led her closer to the campfire. "I have eggs, ham, and biscuits."

"How did you get all that here?" Soni glanced around. "Did your boss sneak in another midnight delivery?"

Jim laughed. "No. I helped Tatiana pack so we'd have one good breakfast. This is it. I don't know of any way to keep things from spoiling for tomorrow's breakfast."

Soni took her plate, sat on the ground, and studied Jim.

"What's on your mind, little lady? I can see those wheels turning." Jim sat across from her and took a bite of biscuit.

"You're from New York City. I don't believe the Boy Scouts taught you this. Where did you learn how to cook over an open-fire?"

Jim set his jaw. "I'll tell you what I can." He hesitated. "I was a Marine. After 9/11, an agency presented me a package too good to refuse. I joined them. Is this enough to call the dogs off?"

Soni ignored the question. "How long were you in the military?"

"Ten years. My dad signed for me to go in at seventeen. He was afraid I'd get into trouble." Jim released a deep breath. "He was probably right. Anyway, during down time, I got my college degree. And here I sit with you getting ready to rescue a stallion."

"I guess that explains the arsenal you had packed in your vehicle."

"It does. I was a trained sniper."

"Now what are you?"

Jim put a bite of ham in his mouth and chewed. "You know I can't answer that. It could put you in danger. I'd never take that chance."

"I'm putting you in danger by you coming with me to get Midnight back." Soni scanned the early morning stars. "If the people you think you're protecting me from see us together, would that put me in danger?"

After pouring himself more coffee, Jim kicked dirt over the fire, and faced Soni. "It could. I think we need to move out before sunrise."



Author Notes I didn't post yesterday because my husband and I took a few days off. We went to San Antonio and catch a Spurs' game. They won. LOL



Thank you google images for an image of a Texas sunrise. Sunrises are one of my favorite scenes in Texas. They're gorgeous. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 27
Chapter Once; Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I'm putting you in danger by you coming with me to get Midnight back." Soni scanned the early morning stars. "If the people you think you're protecting me from see us together, would that put me in danger?"

After pouring himself more coffee, Jim kicked dirt over the fire, and faced Soni. "It could. I think we need to move out before sunrise."


TODAY'S POST:

It didn't take long for Soni and Jim to break camp.

Jim sat on Paco and asked, "What direction and how far?"

Soni pointed. "Northwest. We'll arrive close to noon. I figure we can eat lunch while we study the layout." She mounted Smoky. "Let's go."

*****
As Texas heat waves danced up from rock formations, Soni took a drink from her canteen. "Where they're holding Midnight is about thirty minutes due west." She wiped her mouth, hooked the leather canteen strap over the saddle horn, and glanced at Jim. "I doubt they'll have it guarded. I'm assuming they think my horse won't be found."

Jim removed his hat and slapped off the dust against his thigh. "You know what assuming does, right?"

"Yes. We need to stay alert." Soni climbed off her horse and knelt by the dogs. "You guys need to stay quiet. No barking at rabbits, roadrunners, coyotes, or anything else you might scare up. Understand?"

"Do you really think those dogs understand a word you say?"

Soni slipped her foot into the stirrup. "Of course they do, don't you?" She finished climbing into the saddle and grinned as Goliath started to bark his reply, but stopped. "See?" She nudged the side of the horse and started off.

*****
After they had traveled a few miles, Soni stopped, glanced, and pointed east. "Over there's Sierra Madera crater. A meteorite struck the earth and left the crater. It rises about 793 feet above the ground and is somewhere around eight miles in diameter. It's a little less than a hundred million years old."

Using her hand to shield her eyes, Soni said, "See that fence off in the distance?" Sunlight glistened off the upper strand of barbwire. After Jim nodded, she continued, "That's the La Escalera Ranch. It's huge and we often use their bulls to breed with our Angus cows and vice-versa."

"What county we in?"

"Pecos." Soni motioned her horse to continue. "Fort Stockton was established around 1858 near Comanche Springs, the same year Butterfield Overland mail began service to the fort."

"You have a wealth of knowledge in that pretty little head of yours. What else can you tell me?"

"The terrain's going to get rockier. Can you promise not to fall off a mesa?" Soni's dark brown eyes twinkled.

"Ha! Ha! Very funny."

"Now who got up on the wrong side of the sleeping bag?" Soni came to a sudden halt and raised her hand.

Jim stopped and whispered, "What's going on?"

Soni dismounted, grabbed her horse's reins, and walked. She motioned for Jim to follow.

Behind a rocky mesa, Soni tied Smoky and grabbed the rifle. Jim tied Paco, took the sniper rifle, and followed Soni.

After climbing the rock and brush filled mesa, Soni used a large rock for cover and knelt. Jim joined her and asked, "How close are we?"

Soni nodded to her left. "About 150 yards."

"I see the corral. I'm guessing the horse tied inside is Midnight." Jim studied the situation for a few moments. "I've seen at least three men. What's your plan?"

"First, I'm freeing Midnight."

"You plan on running up to him and untying the tether?" Jim eye's widened.

Soni's eyebrows drew together. "No. I'm going to use the bow and arrow and snap the tether in two."

"There's no way you can make an accurate shot from this distance."

"You're right. But," Soni pointed below, "see those rocks. I figure they're seventy, maybe eighty yards away. I know I can make that."

"Let's eat and think about this some more." Jim headed back to the horses.

Author Notes
Thank you google images for an image of a Texas desert with mesas. It get's really hot here. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.
I hope you have a Blessed New Year!!!!


Chapter 28
Chapter Once; Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni's eyebrows drew together. "No. I'm fixin' to use the bow and arrow and snap the tether in two."

"There's no way you can make an accurate shot from this distance."

"You're right. But," Soni pointed below, "see those rocks. I figure they're seventy, maybe eighty yards away. I know I can make that."

"Let's eat and think about this some more." Jim headed back to the horses.


TODAY'S POST:

"I'm getting Midnight. I'll eat later." Soni climbed down the mesa, replaced the rifle, and grabbed the bow and arrow from the saddle. She petted Smoky's side. "Stay here, boy."

Jim followed. "What are you doing? I thought we were going to eat while we discuss a plan."

Soni tilted her head. "You work for the government, don't you? Only g-men make remarks like that. I'm rescuing my horse. I guess you're eating. Food's in the saddlebags." She used rocks for cover as she crept closer to the corral.

Hunched behind a large rock, Jim joined Soni. "I guess the plan is to play it by ear."

"You got it." Soni stood, planted her feet, readied her bow, and aimed. The arrowhead split the leather tether on Midnight's left side.

"Wow! I honestly didn't think you'd be accurate from this distance. But then again, you're half Apache."

Soni held her finger to her lips. "Shh, you talk a lot." She readied for a second shot. Midnight bucked and fought the remaining tether. "Hold still, boy. I'm trying to free you. Calm down." She lowered the bow. "It's too risky with him fighting like that. I'll have to get closer." She removed a knife from the sheath and crept closer.

"What happened?" Jim stared ahead. "The second tether split apart."

"That was Grandfather's doings." Soni smiled. "Goliath, get Midnight. Butkus, guard them."

Jim watched the dogs leave and then scanned the area. "I don't see Kuruk."

"You won't. He stays hidden. He's the only person I know who can throw a knife that accurate. He makes his own. Each handle's hand-carved with his special signature." Soni smiled. "As soon as Midnight's here, we'll leave."

"And in a hurry. You know of any secret routes back to the ranch?"

"Not really!" Soni watched Goliath use his mouth to grab the hanging tether from Midnight and lead the black stallion. A man ran from the building and chased the animals. "Trouble." Soni raised the bow and readied for a shot.

Jim aimed his sniper rifle and fired.

"Whoa! You just earned your dinner."

"Shouldn't surprise you. I mentioned I was a sniper. Come on, Midnight just a little closer." Jim motioned for the animals to hurry.

"But you didn't say you were good." Soni grabbed Midnight's broken tether and tied him to a bush beside Smoky and Paco before she hugged his neck. "I've missed you."

"I'm good at everything I do." Jim pointed toward the rundown shack. "We're in trouble. I hope you can fight as well as you use a bow and arrow." He raised his rifle.

Soni dropped her bow, ran back to the horses, and grabbed her rifle. "Ready!" When she returned, Jim had gone forward and was in hand-to-hand combat with a man. Butkus had another man on the ground and stood with his paws on the man's shoulders, staring into his eyes. Low rumbled growls came from the large dog.

Soni raced forward and aimed the rifle. "Hands up."

The man raised his hands. Jim glanced at Soni as he rubbed his left shoulder. "What took you so long?"

"I stopped to eat lunch," snapped Soni. "You just can't stay out of trouble, can you? How's your shoulder? Is it bleeding?"

From a distance, Jim and Soni heard a chuckle and both turned.

Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a rundown shack. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 29
Chapter Once; Part Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

The man raised his hands. Jim glanced at Soni as he rubbed his left shoulder. "What took you so long?"

"I stopped to eat lunch," snapped Soni. "You just can't stay out of trouble, can you? How's your shoulder? Is it bleeding?"

From a distance, Jim and Soni heard a chuckle and both turned.


TODAY'S POST:

"You two still can't get along!" said Alex. He had roped one and another man he aimed his six-shooter at. "These two tried to get away."

"That's a total of five. Think that's it?" asked Soni.

"Five? I only see four." Alex scanned the area.

"There's one in the corral, shot between the eyes. Jim's a former Marine sniper."

Alex tipped his hat. "Glad to be on your good side." He grinned from ear to ear. "What should we do with these scumbags?"

"Let's get them inside the shack, tie them up, and then decide." Jim studied the man Butkus still had down. "What do we do with him?"

"Butkus." Soni tapped her side and Butkus sat beside her.

The man attempted to sneak away. Butkus snarled and showed his teeth.

"I wouldn't do that. I'm sure he can outrun you, and he won't be as friendly the next time." Soni aimed at rifle at him. "Neither will I."

*****
Inside the shack, Jim, Alex, and Soni tied up the first three men. Butkus, Goliath, and Mack stood guard. The fourth man still had the rope around him that Alex had used to snare him and was positioned against a wall.

When Soni stepped to her right side, he stretched his leg out in an attempt to trip her.

Soni caught herself, but glared in his eyes. I know you from somewhere. But where?

"Indian Squaw, usted estar muerto al final de la semana." The short black haired man spit in Soni's face and laughed.

All three dogs growled and stepped closer.

Using her body weight, Soni pressed him against the wooden wall, positioned her left forearm against his throat, and put the tip of her knife under his chin. "I may be dead by the end of the week, but you could die now."

Alex grabbed Soni's arm. "He's not worth it."

Soni released her hold but not without drawing blood from his chin. Why is he taunting me? Where have I seen him? Who wants me dead and why?

"Alex's right. I have a plan." Jim eyed the one remaining untied man. "Alex, you got this? I need to make a phone call. When I finish, I'll bring in the dead guy." He walked to the corner of the one-room shack.

Soni's glare studied the man as he grinned at her. I've never done anything to you. She released a deep breath. I'm overreacting. Fresh air will clear my head. She walked outside.

Mack walked beside her. Soni adjusted her hat to shield her eyes from the bright sunlight and stared at the solid blue sky. Not a cloud in sight. She looked over her shoulder at the shack. Alex and Jim can handle things. I won't be long.

A short distance from the shack, Soni sat on the ground and leaned her back against a mesquite tree. Mack lay beside her. She closed her eyes and whispered, "Grandfather, I know you were here earlier and helped free Midnight. Thank you for that. I need you now. A man told me I'd be dead by the end of the week. I know he was taunting me, but I can't get a grip on it. I need help putting it in perspective."

As Mack stood and growled, Soni opened her eyes.

A wolf-hybrid came out of nowhere and attacked Mack.

A dark haired man aimed a six-shooter at Soni, and with an accent said, "We finally meet. Soni Alder, I'm El Amarillo. I'm sure you've heard of me." When Soni didn't answer, he continued, "I wanted you to know my name before I kill you."

Growls, snares, and yelps filled the air.



Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a wolf-hybrid. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 30
Chapter Doce; part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

A wolf-hybrid came out of nowhere and attacked Mack.

A dark haired man aimed a six-shooter at Soni, and with an accent said, "We finally meet. Soni Alder, I'm El Amarillo. I'm sure you've heard of me." When Soni didn't answer, he continued, "I wanted you to know my name before I kill you."

Growls, snarls, and yelps filled the air.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWELVE

Soni stared down the barrel of the six-shooter. As she swallowed, the man staggered and then fell to the ground. Blood spurted from a bullet hole a few inches above his right ear. Soni glanced at Jim, who lowered his sniper rifle, and then ran for Mack. The wolf-dog had run away at the sound of the rifle shot.

"Butkus, Goliath, here now!" Soni called after the two dogs chasing the animal. She cuddled Mack and checked his wounds. "You're going to be sore for a while, but your thick, white fur probably saved your life. That wolf got a mouthful of hair. I'll get you cleaned up. At home, the vet will check you." Butkus and Goliath sniffed Mack.

Jim stood beside Soni. "You hurt?"

"No." Soni brushed dirt from her jeans as she stood. "My gut says we'll see that wolf-dog again."

"Seems like I missed the action." Alex placed his hand on her arm. "My truck and horse trailer are parked about three miles back. Why don't you take Midnight and Mack? You'll be home in a few hours. I'll ride back with Jim and let Smoky follow." Alex glanced at Banjo, his horse, tied by the shack.

"I'll go back the way I came. Midnight will follow. If he acts up, I'll have Butkus hold his reigns." Soni surveyed the area. "Mack'll ride back with you. He'll probably be all right, but have the doc check him. He may need some stitches. And let Tatiana know the hair she always complains about saved his life." She adjusted her hat. "I think we're done here. I'm ready to hit the road." Soni followed Jim and Alex into the shed before she addressed Jim, "Can you share your plan or is it still secretive?"

"Some friends of mine are sending a few Homeland security agents to arrest these guys." Jim glanced at his watch. "They should be here in about fifteen minutes."

"You can leave. I'll wait." Alex busied himself.

"What if more men return? You'll be by yourself." Soni tried to ignore the man who said she'd be dead in a few days, but her eyes gravitated toward him.

"Que pasa, Indian Squaw?" He laughed.

Jim walked to him and gut punched him.

The man gasped.

"Shut-up or I'll shut you up. I wonder if you'll be as talkative when you're being interrogated." Jim glared into his eyes.

"I'm checking the horses. They've been tied a long time." Soni walked outside. Mack limped beside her. She walked back into the shed and made a bed of hay for him. "Stay here, boy." She then turned and left.

"Damn female! Hasn't she had enough excitement for one day?" Jim set his jaw. "There are probably more men waiting to ambush her."

"I heard that," Soni called over her shoulder. Haven't you learned that I can take care of myself?"

"Yeah! I just witnessed it." Jim didn't try to hide the sarcasm.

"Whatever!" Soni called back. "I had a plan."

"Jim, give up. You won't win this." Alex motioned to the dogs. "Butkus, Goliath, stay by Soni. Don't leave her side."

"How much do those two understand?" Jim watched the animals jog to catch up with Soni.
"Not really sure, but I can tell you that I've been surprised on many occasions."

*****
A few minutes later, the sound of dogs barking was punctuated by single rifle shot. Jim was the first to arrive where the horses were tied. Alex wasn't far behind.


Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a diamondback rattle snake. Please notice that I list this novel under romance. I don't pretend to be a western author. I know this story's setting is in Texas, but it's just the setting. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 31
Chapter Doce; part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

A few minutes later, the sound of dogs barking was punctuated by a single rifle shot. Jim was the first to arrive where the horses were tied. Alex wasn't far behind.

TODAY'S POST:

Alex chuckled. "You planning on rattlesnake for dinner?"

"Don't you think that was overkill?" Jim studied the snake and spread his arms out to show the size of the snake. "I'd say about three feet."

"The boys were protecting me from it. I was worried one of them would get bit." Soni looked at the weapon in her hand. "This was handy."

"Anybody here?" called a man from outside the shack.

"The agents arrived. I'll handle it." Jim headed toward the shack. "And I'm not eating rattlesnake." Halfway to the shack, Jim yelled over his shoulder. "Alex, see if you can keep her out of trouble."

"That man has problems. Besides, rattlesnake's a delicacy." Soni tossed the snake into a bush.

"I think he's worried about your safety." Alex eyed the suited agents removing the prisoners. "I wonder who he really is."

"So do I." Soni leaned against a large rock. "He says he's from New York City. I'm not sure I believe that. He knows too much about the wilderness."

"Didn't he say he was a retired Marine?"

"Yeah, but is anybody ever an ex-Marine?"

Alex chuckled. "I guess not."

Soni watched the agents drive away and then checked her watch. "It's late for starting out, but I don't want to spend the night here."

"I'll ride Banjo to my pickup, settle him in the trailer, and then come back to get Mack." Alex headed for the shack with Soni following behind.

*****
About an hour later, Soni and Jim were ready to head home. Soni pointed. "Butkus, get Midnight's reins."

The horse shook his head. The dog glared into his eyes, showed his teeth, but was silent. He then took the hanging reins in his mouth and yanked. The horse's hind legs kicked slightly behind him before he complied and walked with Butkus.

"I thought they were friends." Jim studied the interaction of the two animals.

"Not really. They put up with each other. They both want things to go their way. So there's a difference of opinion." Soni placed her foot into the stirrup and climbed onto Smoky. "I should've brought Midnight's saddle and rode him back."

"This should be fun." Jim mounted Paco. "What did you do with that snake?"

"Threw it to the buzzards."

"Just checking." Jim pointed at a cloudbank. "Is a storm rolling in?"

"Looks like it. Let's hope it goes around." Soni stayed close to Midnight and Butkus. Goliath followed.

*****
As the sun lowered in the Western sky, Soni studied the large dog. "I think we'd better camp here tonight. Butkus needs a break."

"He's been pretty patient." Jim dismounted. "Why don't you saddle Midnight and walk Smoky?"

"He's very picky about his saddle." Soni walked over to Midnight and ran her hand along his right flank. "Looks like they tried to ride you."

"What's the problem? Isn't he broke?"

"Midnight only lets me ride him. See here?" Soni pointed to some cuts. "These were made with spurs. He's not used to rough treatment." She answered her ringing cell phone.

"Alex, is everything all right with Mack?" Soni listened and then replied, "Thirty-eight stitches total. I'm not surprised." Again, she listened. "We're not being followed, yet. A mountain lion's been tagging along for a good hour. I probably have some of Mack's blood on me, and he smells it."

Jim scanned the area. "A mountain lion? How do you know?"

Soni motioned for Jim to quiet as she listened to Alex and then asked, "Does your cell phone have a compass?" After Jim answered, she continued, "Would you check our coordinates?"

After relaying the latitude and longitude degrees to Alex, Soni waited.

"What's going on?" asked Jim. He stood beside her.

"It's out of our way, but maybe we can make it to that shack Dad and Grandpa Alder used over by Pine Mountain." Soni listened and then added, "It's a solid two hour ride, but I don't see another choice." She shoved the phone in her pocket.

"I'd like to know what's going on." Jim's eyes met Soni's.

Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a mountain lion or cougar. Isn't he cute, but I wouldn't want one for a pet? AJ, my large orange tabby is helping me post and is a big enough pain. I give in, this is a Western Romance. I just don't want to upset any Western authors. Thank you for reading and reviewing. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 35
Chapter Trece; Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

After a long pause, Jim said, "Little lady, you know I can't answer that. It's got to be getting late. I'm sure tomorrow will come early."

Soni grabbed her blanket. "This is wet." She released a deep breath and tossed it to the side. "You ask questions all the time. Yet, you refuse to answer any. That's just wrong. Good night, Jim. If that's even your real name." Her voice was filled with sarcasm as she curled up closer to the fire.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Predawn light filtered through the east side cracks of the wooden slats which formed the rickety shack. Soni blinked her eyes. Once she was awake enough to realize she was cuddled into Jim, she jumped, waking him.

"What's wrong?" Jim eyed her.

"You moved to my spot during the night." Soni's hands were on her hips.

Jim sat and surveyed the area. "No, I didn't. I'm exactly where I fell asleep." He pointed. "You were closer to the fireplace. I guess you moved." He chuckled.

"I did no such a thing!" Soni reached for the coffee pot. "I need coffee."

"You probably were cold and searched for a heat source."

"If that were true, I would've moved closer to Goliath or Butkus. Certainly not you." Soni opened two bottles of water and emptied them into the coffee pot.

"Both dogs were soaking wet." Jim placed his hand on each one. "They're still damp.

"You were just as drenched."

"I dried faster. I'm not covered with thick fur." Jim searched the saddle bags. "What's for breakfast? I'm starved." He opened the small door to get dry wood. "The fire died down a little. I'll work on it."

*****
Before the sun rose above a forty-five degree angle, Soni, Jim, the three horses, and two dogs had finished breakfast and left the shack.

"I'm hoping to get home before dark, but it'll be a hard ride." Soni adjusted herself in the saddle.

"How long before Butkus gets tired of Midnight or vice versa?" Jim glanced back at the pair as they glared at each other.

"I'm hoping they're anxious to get home and will behave themselves. I'll take Midnight in a few hours and give Butkus a break." Soni turned toward them when she heard Butkus growl. "Maybe sooner than later. Midnight doesn't like taking orders, especially from a dog."

"I didn't know animals have personalities, but yours sure do." Jim stopped his horse, got off, and picked up some crushed paper cups and empty food wrappers. "What's this doing in a desert?" He stuffed the litter into his saddlebag.

"Humane Border support groups provide barrels of water and food for immigrants. Many were dying from the desert heat and starvation. Ranchers and Border Patrols were finding bodies or what was left after the animals had finished with them."

"I knew that. I just hadn't thought much about it." Jim remounted Paco and rode in silence for a while before he continued, "I guess I'm conflicted about this. I don't want people to die of dehydration or starvation, but entering a country illegally is wrong too."

"For once we're on the same sheet of music. I don't have the answer." Soni hesitated and turned her head as Goliath gave a low rumbled growl. She whispered, "I heard it too, boy."

Jim halted his horse, listened, pointed two fingers toward his eyes, and then to his left.

Soni nodded. Butkus brought Midnight's reins to his master and waited for instructions. Soni took the reins and tied them to Jim's saddle horn.

After dismounting, Jim removed his Glock from the holster, but didn't aim it. Soni joined him.

Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of water barrels the Humane Border support groups use. Yes, I know this is a romance and yes it will happen, but all in good time. LOL I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 36
Chapter Trece; Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"For once we're on the same sheet of music. I don't have the answer." Soni hesitated and turned her head as Goliath gave a low rumbled growl. She whispered, "I heard it too, boy."

Jim halted his horse, listened, pointed two fingers toward his eyes, and then to his left.

Soni nodded. Butkus brought Midnight's reins to his master and waited for instructions. Soni took the reins and tied them to Jim's saddle horn.

After dismounting, Jim removed his Glock from the holster, but didn't aim it. Soni joined him.


TODAY'S POST:

Soni grabbed her rifle and crept beside Jim. Goliath and Butkus were next to her. Silence filled the air as they both glanced up at the vultures circling overhead.

"Jim pointed above him. "This can't be good."

"I know."

They moved closer to the whimpers and snarls. Jim pushed aside sagebrush and scraggly tree branches. With her rifle aimed, Soni motioned for her two dogs to remain silent. Jim stepped back and whispered, "You have a shot?"

Soni nodded before she fired and took down the wolf-dog as he lunged for a young woman huddled beside a huge rock, clutching an infant to her breast.

Jim ran to the woman. "Are you alright?"

Soni stared at the woman. Her clothes were ragged and dirty. She's been beaten. She can't be much older than eighteen, if that old. Soni motioned for the dogs to lay down but stay alert.

Tears ran down the woman's cheeks as she shied away from Jim.

"I bet she doesn't speak English," Soni moved closer and knelt. "Hablas Ingles?" After the woman shook her head, Soni continued, "Coma te llamas?"

"Isabella," whispered the woman.

Soni nodded. "Cuantos anos tiene tu bebe?"

"Cinco meses de edad."

"The baby's five months old." Soni glanced at Jim.

"I know. I'm fluent in Spanish." Jim knelt beside Soni. As he did the woman flinched. Jim continued, "We need to find out if she's alone and how long she and the baby have been here. They look dehydrated. I'm calling for help."

"Estas solo? Cuanto tiempo llevas en el sierto?" Soni pointed at Jim, who was on his phone. "Mi amigo esta pidiendo ayuda."

"No llamar a las autoridades!" yelled Isabella. She tried to stand, but was too weak.

"She doesn't want you to call anybody." Soni stood beside Jim.

"I know. Tell her that her baby and she'll die out here." Jim continued his phone call.

"Usted y su bebe a morir aqui sin ayuda." Soni pointed in the direction they came from. "Voy enseguida. Dejeme darle comida y agua."

"You might as well bring the horses when you return with food and water." Jim put his phone away. "A helicopter will be here in about twenty minutes."

The vultures were waiting for them to die. I'm surprised the mountain lion hasn't paid them a visit.

After Soni returned with the horses and supplies, she watched Isabella give her child water, before she drank and ate. It wasn't long before the helicopter arrived. Isabella tried to get away. Soni assured her that everything would work out and that she would visit with her in the hospital.


Jim and Soni continued their journey toward the Rockin' A. Soni held Midnight's reins to give Butkus a break.

"Did you find out how old Isabella is and her child's name?"

"Emanuel. Isabella's a sixteen year old single mother. Her birthday'is next week. Her husband's cousin was a member of the Sinaloa Cartel. She said they wanted to recruit her husband so they fled Mexico hoping to get away. Yesterday they murdered him. They figured Isabella and Emanuel would die in the desert."

"What a tortured way to die! So part of the Sinaloa Cartel is in West Texas."

"You've heard of them?"

"I thought everybody had. They have small sectors that answer to a large syndicate. They're very well organized and deadly. If a family member is part of the cartel, then the whole family belongs to them. The helicopter pilot told me they think Isabella's husband's head was found." Jim stared straight ahead.

"His head?" Soni gulped. "Since Isabella's husband refused, they didn't have a chance."

"They sure didn't."

"I'll help them get citizenship and hire them on the ranch. I'm sure Tatiana would like some help. There's a small house south of the garden."

Jim shook his head. "You best stay out of it."


Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a man's head on the shell of a turtle or tortoise. From what I've read it isn't unusual for the Sinaloa Cartel to behead people. I know my Spanish phrases are missing accents. Every time I add them FS makes a mess of my sentences. I didn't translate the Spanish because I feel you can tell the meaning from the words around them. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 37
Chapter Trece; Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim and Soni continued their journey toward the Rockin' A. Soni held Midnight's reins to give Butkus a break.

"Did you find out how old Isabella is and her child's name?"

"Emanuel. Isabella's a sixteen year old single mother. Her birthday's next week. Her husband's cousin was a member of the Sinaloa Cartel. She said they wanted to recruit her husband so they fled Mexico hoping to get away. Yesterday they murdered him. They figured Isabella and Emanuel would die in the desert."

"What a tortured way to die! So part of the Sinaloa Cartel is in West Texas."

"You've heard of them?"

"I thought everybody had. They have small sectors that answer to a large syndicate. They're very well organized and deadly. If a family member is part of the cartel, then the whole family belongs to them. The helicopter pilot told me they think Isabella's husband's head was found." Jim stared straight ahead.

"His head?" Soni gulped. "Since Isabella's husband refused, they didn't have a chance."

"They sure didn't."

"I'll help them get citizenship and hire them on the ranch. I'm sure Tatiana would like some help. There's a small house south of the garden."

Jim shook his head. "You best stay out of it."

TODAY'S POST:

"How can I? Somehow, I ended smack dab in the middle." Soni glanced at Midnight's reins in her right hand. "If this crazy horse hadn't been stolen, I wouldn't be involved." She studied Jim. "Since I rescued you from Big Grizzly, my life has been one disaster after another. Let's see, this Hughes guy's checking my employees for illegal workers and drugs, I was accused of using them, and then my horse was stolen and Diego was stabbed. What else will be next?"

"All of this is a coincidence, just coincidence," Jim said without emotion.

"Grandfather says there's no such thing as a coincidence. He's a very wise man."

"How much farther to your ranch?" Jim asked.

"We still have a solid day's ride. It doesn't seem like we're making much headway." Soni answered her phone. "All I did was get my horse back. Did you tell him I'd be home tonight?" She listened for a moment and then said good-bye.

"What's going on?" Jim studied Soni's expression, before he continued, "You're face says it isn't good."

"Robert Hughes heard I'd left the ranch. He's going to the reservation to see if Grandfather knows where to find me."

"Is the peyote test back?"

"Probably not. Nobody knows I left but my family and you. Who's feeding this man information?" Soni's eyes met Jim's.

"Don't get any ideas in your head. I've been with you. When have I had time to call anybody?"

"You called for people to pick up those thieves and you called for a helicopter to get Isabella and her child."

"Both of those were legitimate calls."

"But you could have made other calls before or after making them. I never knew I needed to monitor your calls. Dad always said I was too trusting."

Butkus and Goliath ran in front of both horses, sat, and glared. Both large dogs refused to move. Soni and Jim were forced to halt their horses.


"What's going on?" Jim asked. "Tell your dogs to move."

Soni released a deep breath. "I think they're tired of our conversation."

"What?"

"They don't want us arguing anymore."

"You have to be kidding?" Jim said under his breath, "I've never heard of such a thing."

"It's fine with me. I prefer silence anyway." When the dogs moved, Soni preceded forward.

"Suits me." Jim motioned for his horse to walk.

*****
After about a half mile, Jim asked, "What motive would I have to cause you trouble?"

Before Soni would respond, Goliath and Butkus stood in front of them again.

"If I reported anything, it would be those two." Jim pointed at the large breed dogs. "They're nuisances."

"The trick's to be smarter than the dogs." Soni smiled.

*****
As the sun started descending in the western sky, Soni dismounted Smokey and stretched. "Let's eat."

"Is there any way our two nannies could catch some rabbits? I'm starving."

Soni laughed. "I've heard these two called a lot of things, but nanny is new." She petted the heads of both dogs. "Go get dinner." She pointed, and both dogs left.

"I'll get some firewood." Jim turned, but when Soni placed her hand on his arm, he paused and asked, "What's wrong?"

"I don't know. We need to leave, now!" As Soni mounted her horse, she whistled for the dogs to return. They came running.

Jim followed. "Care to fill me in?"

"I can't. I don't know. It's a gut feeling." Soni hesitated. "Something isn't right, but I don't know who or where."

Author Notes Thank you google images for an example of the Texas terrain Soni and Jim are traveling over. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. One more week before spring break. YEAH!!!!


Chapter 38
Chapter Catorce; Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I'll get some firewood." Jim turned, but when Soni placed her hand on his arm, he paused and asked, "What's wrong?"

"I don't know. We need to leave, now!" As Soni mounted her horse, she whistled for the dogs to return. They came running.

Jim followed. "Care to fill me in?"

"I can't. I don't know. It's a gut feeling." Soni hesitated. "Something isn't right, but I don't know who or where."

TODAY'S POST:


CHAPTER FOURTEEN


As Soni and Jim stopped at the stables of the Rockin' A ranch, the house front door swung open. Alex and Tatiana hurried out to welcome their return. The older couple were followed by Mack and Diego. Diego wagged his tail and limped to Midnight. The large stallion and the German Shepard noses nuzzled together. Soni dismounted, hugged Midnight, and petted Diego's head. "I'm glad you're feeling better." She glanced at the knife wound. "You're healing fast. It won't be long before you're protecting the horses again."

Tatiana hugged Soni. "I'm glad you're home. Are you hungry?"

"I just want a long hot bath."

Jim dismounted. "I'm hungry. Once Soni got it in her head to come home, she didn't stop. Her version of resting the horses was to go at a slower pace."

Gus stood beside Alex, but turned to Soni. "Welcome back. I'll bed down the horses." He took all the reins. "Any plans to keep Midnight safe?"

"Soni, The 7 Lobos Ranch asked to use Midnight for stud service. I thought we might hide him there for a while." Alex rubbed the stallion's neck.

"That's over by the Louisiana border, isn't it?" Soni hit her hat against her thigh. "I'll let you know in the morning." She walked off by herself and stared at the stars. Grandfather, I'm home. What did you want to tell me? She paused and watched a falling star. Yes, Grandfather, I'll wait 'til morning.

Tatiana walked to Soni and put her arms around her shoulders. "Come inside, dear. Gus and Alex are taking care of the horses."

Soni nodded and walked toward the house with Tatiana. Butkus, Goliath, Mack, and Diego followed. Jim trailed behind the dogs.

*****
Inside the ranch house, Tatiana went straight to the kitchen. "Jim, give me ten minutes and you'll have something to eat. Soni, are you sure you don't want anything?"

"I'm sure. All I need is a bubble bath." Soni went to her room.

While sitting at the table, Jim told Alex about the young Mexican lady and her baby they'd rescued. "Soni wants to hire them to help out around the house."

"That sounds like Soni." Tatiana continued, "I could use some help."

"I'm pretty sure the Sinaloa Cartel murdered her husband and left them to die. If Soni helps them, she could bring the cartel after her."

"Soni will do what she thinks is right. She won't worry about the danger it might cause. How will the cartel know they survived the desert?" Alex picked up his lemonade glass and took a drink.

"Only if somebody tells them. It seems you have a leak of information leaving here." Jim took another bite of turkey sandwich.

"I wish I knew who it was. I'd sure put an end to it."

Jim set the sandwich on his plate. "On the trail, Soni accused me. I guarantee it's not me."

Tatiana stepped into the dining room. "I know it's not you. I can feel it in my bones. It's somebody evil."

"I agree with my wife. Whoever this is, he, or maybe it's a she, is pure evil."

Author Notes Thank you google images for an example of the Texas stars. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 39
Chapter Catorce; Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim set the sandwich on his plate. "On the trail, Soni accused me. I guarantee it's not me."

Tatiana stepped into the dining room. "I know it's not you. I can feel it in my bones. It's somebody evil."

"I agree with my wife. Whoever this is, he, or maybe it's a she, is pure evil."

TODAY'S POST:

After Jim and Alex finished their sandwiches, Tatiana removed the dishes and said, "It's late. I'm going to bed. I'll finish in the morning. Alex, are you coming?"

"Yep. Jim, how about you?"

"I'm headed that direction."

Tatiana stopped at Soni's door. "We're on our way to bed. Do you need anything?" She waited for a response and didn't get one. Slowly opening the door, she noticed the light on in the bathroom and knocked on the door. "Soni, are you all right?" Still not receiving an answer she peeked inside. Soni, still covered with bubbles, had fallen asleep.

"Soni, Soni," Tatiana called softly. When Soni stirred, Tatiana smiled. "We're going to bed. Maybe you should too."

"I agree."

"Good night, dear." Tatiana left the bathroom.

"Good night."

*****
Once the early sun's rays entered Soni's east windows, she opened her eyes. This feels good. I'll lie here just a few more minutes. Goliath laid his head beside his master. As Soni petted his head, she fell back to sleep.

The next sound Soni heard was Alex's booming voice, "Kuruk, Soni isn't up yet. That trip must've really worn her out."

Soni jumped out of bed. "Grandfather, I'm getting dressed. I'll be right there." She glanced at the clock. It's 7:15. What's he doing here so early? Something must be wrong.

Moments later, Soni opened her door and gave her grandfather a hug. "It's nice to see you."

"I thought you might sleep all day," teased Alex.

"I might have if you hadn't had a yelling contest outside my door." Soni grinned. "Tatiana, I'm starved. Is breakfast ready?"

Tatiana set a basket of warm biscuits on the table. "Give me about three more minutes."

Soni took Grandfather's arm in her right one and Alex's in her left arm. "Gentlemen, let's have a seat. Breakfast will be served shortly."

After the three were seated and Tatiana finished setting out the food, Kuruk offered a prayer.

Just as the last coffee cup was filled, Jim joined them. "I heard a rumor that breakfast was being served."

"Have a seat." Alex scanned the table before he reached for the eggs. " It looks like we have eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, biscuits, and fresh fruit."

"The hash browns have onion and peppers in them. Just like I like them. Tatiana, you outdid yourself, again." Kuruk scooped a healthy portion of potatoes onto his plate.

Soni watched Jim survey the table. "What are we missing?"

"I would've sworn I smelled some cinnamon coffee cake." Jim sniffed the air and then took a few slices of bacon and some sausage.

Tatiana jumped up and hurried into the kitchen. "I almost forgot." Moments later, she returned. "Not coffee cake, but Soni's favorite, cinnamon rolls."

"Thank you." Soni patted Tatiana's hand as she set the plate on the table.

Alex's eyes met Soni's. "Jim told us last night about the young mother you rescued."

"I'm sure he told you everything. I'm going to the hospital this afternoon." Soni hesitated before she continued, "What did Robert Hughes want?"

"He wanted you. Somehow he discovered you'd left the ranch." Alex buttered two biscuits. "Please pass the sorghum."

Soni handed it to him. "I didn't really leave. I took a detour. It's not like I escaped to France."

"Why France? You don't speak French," asked Alex.

"I've heard it's beautiful this time of year." Tatiana sipped her coffee.

"The French Government stumbles when it comes to extraditing people back to the US," offered Jim.

"Why would you know that?" Soni's eyes met Jim's and then she turned to Alex. "Did he mention my drug test results?"

"No." Alex took a bite of biscuit.

"After he left here, he came to visit me." Kuruk took a long drink of coffee. "He wanted to know where to find you. I told him I didn't know. He accused me of lying."

Kuruk set the coffee cup down and waited for Tatiana to refill it before he continued, "I accused him of manufacturing charges against you. When he said he had probable cause for all his investigations, I asked about the drug test. He told me it had disappeared. I mentioned how convenient that was. Now you wouldn't be found innocent."

"Samples just don't go missing." Jim set his fork down. "That doesn't happen. There's a chain of custody."

"That's exactly what he said. He figured Soni stole the samples and disappeared so he couldn't get new samples." Kuruk placed his hand over his granddaughter's. "Don't worry. We will get this settled."

"It's ridiculous. I can't believe it's happening." Soni watched Butkus, Goliath, Mack, and Diego stand and stalk to the front door. "What's wrong, boys?"

The hair on the dogs' back bristled as a thump was heard on the door, and then a voice, "This is Homeland Security. We're Federal Agents. We have the house surrounded. Slowly open the door and come out with your hands up."

"What the shit!" Jim threw his napkin on his plate. "This is harassment!"


Author Notes Thank you google images for an example of the government homeland security agency. I'm sorry but I had to have a little fun with it. The stinker in my came out. Now I know where my boys inherited it from. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 40
Chapter Catorce; Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"It's ridiculous. I can't believe it's happening." Soni watched Butkus, Goliath, Mack, and Diego stand and stalk to the front door. "What's wrong, boys?"

The hair on the dogs' back bristled as a thump was heard on the door, and then a voice, "This is Homeland Security. We're Federal Agents. We have the house surrounded. Slowly open the door and come out with your hands up."

"What the shit!" Jim threw his napkin on his plate. "This is harassment!"

TODAY'S POST:

Alex cautiously opened the door and stepped out with his hands raised to his shoulders. "What's the problem?"

Jim brushed Alex aside. His hands were by his side. "There aren't any fugitives inside. Where's the warrant?" As he glanced at the weapons aimed in his direction, Jim reluctantly raised hands. "This is ridiculous."

The four large dogs preceded Tatiana and Soni. Their lips were raised, showing their teeth and the hair on their backs were still bristled as they growled.

"Lady, call off your dogs or I'll shoot them!" yelled a tall older man apparently in charge.

Soni motioned with her arm and the dogs lay on the porch beside her. Even though they were lying down, they were still alert and prepared to attack.

With her hands shielding her eyes from the Eastern morning glare, Soni said, "I'm the owner of the Rockin' A. Why don't you come inside? We can discuss this as civilized humans." She glanced at the horse stables and noticed they were also surrounded by Federal agents. "What do you expect to find? We have nothing to hide."

"There's another person inside the house. Come out!" called the agent-in-charge.

As Kuruk stepped from the house, three armed agents, holding weapons at the ready position, ran to him. One of them grabbed Kuruk's wrists and started to handcuff him. "What's the meaning of this?" asked the elderly Lipan Apache. "I've done nothing wrong."

"You're under arrest for the murder of Robert Hughes," said the agent-in-charge. He held the arrest warrant in front of Kuruk.

"Mr. Hughes is dead? He can't be. We talked last night." Kuruk's eyes widened.

"Don't say anymore," advised Jim.

"Grandfather didn't kill anybody. He isn't capable of hurting anyone."

Two agents stepped closer to Soni.

"Why are you accusing Kuruk of this?" Jim glared eye-to-eye with the head agent.

"Hughes had one of Kuruk's throwing knives in his back."

"That's impossible." Kuruk stood firm.

"We already know how many competitions you've won with your skills and the knife used was one of your homemade specialties. It had the carved bear head on the handle." The agent handed Soni a piece of paper. "Here's a warrant for a property search." He motioned for the men to enter the house.

"There'll find nothing." Kuruk's eyes met the agent's. "Leave my granddaughter out of this."

"Can't, old man. You'd do anything to protect your granddaughter. It's your motive for murdering Hughes. I'm sure she'd do anything for you." The agent-in-charge started reading Kuruk his rights, using Kuruk's full name and title: Chief Kuruk Four-Bear.

"Ms. Adler, give me the key to the gun cabinet or we'll break the glass," said a shorter agent.

"My grandfather Adler built that cabinet. Some of those guns date back to 1845. You said Hughes died from a knife not a gun."

Soni removed her cell phone. "I'm calling our lawyer."

"You'd better ask if he can recommend a good criminal lawyer," said Jim.

"My Grandfather is NOT a criminal." Soni turned her back to Jim and continued her call.

Jim used his cell to make a call.

As Soni put her phone away, she stood face to face with the head agent. "You need to call off your men until Grandfather's lawyer arrives. He wants to see both warrants."


Author Notes Thank you google images for a gun cabinet; maybe like the one in Soni's ranch style home. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 41
Chapter Catorce; Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni removed her cell phone. "I'm calling our lawyer."

"You'd better ask if he can recommend a good criminal lawyer," said Jim.

"My Grandfather is NOT a criminal." Soni turned her back to Jim and continued her call.

Jim used his cell to make a call.

As Soni put her phone away, she stood face to face with the head agent. "You need to call off your men until Grandfather's lawyer arrives. He wants to see both warrants."

TODAY'S POST:

Soni stood and waited for the lead agent to respond. When he didn't, she said, "Your warrants aren't any good here. Call the men off. Grandfather's lawyer is on his way."

The moment Soni finished talking; the man's cell phone rang. She listened as he did. She heard mumbling but couldn't make out the words. Soni watched as he put the phone away and said, "Men, stand down. We need to wait for further instructions."

Jim looked out the front door. Soni walked over to him and asked, "You appear to have some inside information. Does it have something to do with your phone call and this call?

After shrugging his shoulders, Jim's eyes met Soni's. "I don't know what you're talking about. My mother called to check on me because she hadn't heard from me for a little over a week." He walked away.

He knows more than he's telling me.

Kuruk stood beside his granddaughter. "Let it go, my child."

"How can you remain so calm?"

"I'm innocent." Kuruk smiled.

"I know that, but sometimes..."

"Naiyenesgani will take care of me." Kuruk kissed her cheek. "Sonsee-array, have you doubts?"

"No. I know the Great Creator will take care of us, but ..."

Grandfather interrupted, "There aren't any buts, my child."

An uncomfortable silence filled the air, as everybody stood around and waited.

Tatiana nodded to Soni, who nodded back, and then said to Grandfather, "I need to help Tatiana in the kitchen. We'll supply sandwiches."

Kuruk smiled approval. "Shoodii tsiyiiltsego dayadee ntooe tsidiitse doodago ntooeii. Tsiiltse shii shoodii tsiiltsego ge miichi keshdiidlii kadndin mee. Keshdiidliigo ntooe nowochigo ayiile."

It's very bad to see or hear a coyote. If you should see or hear one, pray to him with an offering of pollen. Praying to him will make the evil go away. Yes, Grandfather, I understand.

*****
About an hour after the snacks were served, Gray Garrison arrived. He walked up to Kuruk and shook his hand. "It's a pleasure to represent a man of your stature. Let's begin. Where are those warrants?"

Soni handed them to Mr. Garrison. He was pointed to a comfortable chair, accepted a cup of coffee, and gave Jim a quick nod.

The agent-in-charge wiped his brow.

"I'm not as young as I once was." Gray chuckled as he removed his reading glasses from his shirt's front pocket. "The type on these warrants is mighty small. I wouldn't want to miss anything." He ritually placed the glasses in position and smoothed the warrants before beginning to read.

Again, silence filled the room as everyone waited for Mr. Garrison to finish reading. Jim walked out the front door and stood on the porch. Soni watched. I wonder what he's up to now.

Soon Jim came back inside, went into his room, and walked back outside holding something black in his hand.

This time Soni followed. "What are you doing?"

Jim glanced at the sky, waited, and then pointed. "See that helicopter?"

"I do." Soni shielded her eyes from the noon sun's glare. "Helicopters go over us all the time. They're looking for speeders on I35 and immigrants crossing."

"This one's spending time checking out something or someone north west of here." Jim put the binoculars to his eyes and stared.

"What do you see? Let me look."

Jim handed her the binoculars. "About a thousand yards that way looks like about eight men on horseback."

"It's awfully small, but I think you're right."

"Do you recognize them?"

"I don't think so. It's hard to tell for sure. That one horse looks like a pinto. I don't know anybody who rides one. What are they doing there?"

"I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it's not good."

"I think I'll take a ride and ask?"

"Not now. We'll track them later."



Author Notes Thank you google images for a coyote. I'm sorry I didn't get posted last week. My oldest son and his family are PCSing to Germany. I spent Easter with my youngest grandchild. She's two and extremely busy. I loved every second of it. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


Chapter 42
Chapter Quince; Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim handed her the binoculars. "About a thousand yards that way looks like about eight men on horseback."

"It's awfully small, but I think you're right."

"Do you recognize them?"

"I don't think so. It's hard to tell for sure. That one horse looks like a pinto. I don't know anybody who rides one. Why are they there?"

"I don't know, but I'm pretty sure it's not good."

"I think I'll take a ride and ask?"

"Not now. We'll track them later."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Alex stepped onto the front porch. "Soni, Mr. Garrison has a few questions."

"I'll be right in." Soni glanced at Jim. "Later I'll trail those men and see where they came from." She went into the house and sat beside Grandfather.

Jim followed but stopped and asked Alex, "How good a tracker is Soni?"

"She learned from the best." Alex pointed at Kuruk. "You forget she's half Lipan Apache."

"I didn't forget." Jim grinned. "She's a female. I don't think of them doing the things she does."

"She's not your usual female. She was raised by her dad. Tatiana tried to put her in lacy dresses." Alex chuckled. "She was downright cute in them too."

"I bet she was."

When Jim and Alex joined Kuruk, Gray, and Soni, she said, "Alex, please contact all the area managers and tell them to be on high alert. See if anybody's noticed strangers traveling through the property. A few minutes ago, Jim noticed eight men watching the house."

Alex nodded and went into the den.

"First, I have a few questions. When I spoke with Mr. Jamison, our family lawyer, he listed a few possibilities and I don't remember your name on that list. Who hired you?" Soni waited for an answer.

"A friend of the family heard about your case and knew it was my area of expertise. Call Mr. Jamison. I'm sure he will approve." Garrison handed Soni his business card.

Soni read and then said, "So you specialize in criminal law." She paused, "I'll call Jamison and ask." She removed her phone from her back jeans pocket and held it. "What's your first question?"

"It seems you're at the center of this problem." Gray's eyes met Soni's. "Any idea why?"

"No. It seems somebody's out to cause trouble. Mr. Hughes was contacted with false information. I don't know why."

"Could it be disgruntled employees?"

"Alex might be able to answer that better. I don't think so. I haven't changed anything since Father died. The ranch runs the same. Alex is still the foreman."

"Some men don't like taking orders from a female." Gray tapped his notebook with his pen.

"Alex gives most of the orders. It's always been that way."

"But now he takes orders from you. How well do you know him?"

"Alex was with Dad since before I was born. He and his wife helped raise me. He's like a father. We're more co-bosses than anything."

Gray nodded. "That makes sense." He paused. "How about neighbors? Anybody upset to have a female ranch owner? This place is huge."

"I doubt any of our friends object. They all knew I was the only heir and worked with me. I worked right alongside Dad." Soni took a moment to think. "There are a few new ranch owners around the area. I've met them at Cattlemen's Association meetings, but really don't know them."

"Isn't that where you met Miguel Sanchez?" asked Kuruk.

"It is. Why?"

"When I think of him, I sense evil." Kuruk shook his head. "He's not good."

Mr. Garrison wrote on his pad. "That might be a place to start. Does he know about your throwing knives?"

"Everybody does. Grandfather has won many competitions and has been written up in newspapers, magazines, and on TV."

The lead homeland security agent walked over. "I need some answers. This powwow has gone on too long. I have a warrant and plan on executing it."

Gray removed his cell phone and placed a call. After talking for a few minutes, he handed the phone to the agent. "It's Judge Henry Gilmore, a Federal Judge. It appears your warrant's no good. You may speak with him."

The agent listened, and then handed Garrison the phone. "You may have won this round, but I'll come out the victor." He stood in front of Kuruk. "Don't leave the ranch. We'll be back. Your arrest is imminent." He turned his back, waved for the men to follow, and left.

"I don't think he's happy." Garrison's eyes watched him exit. "I think you'd better stay here." He glanced at Soni. "Do you have a spare room?"

"Sure do. I have some tracking to do. I doubt it will lead very from the ranch. I'll be reachable by cell phone." Soni held up her phone as she left the house. Jim followed.

Author Notes Thank you google images for cowboys off in a distance. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. I have already written 249 pages. Their descriptions were about 225 pages ago.


Chapter 43
Chapter Quince; Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

The agent listened, and then handed Garrison the phone. "You may have won this round, but I'll come out the victor." He stood in front of Kuruk and pointed his finger. "Don't leave the ranch. We'll be back. Your arrest is imminent." He turned his back, waved for the men to follow, and left.

"I don't think he's happy." Garrison's eyes watched him exit. "I think you'd better stay here." He glanced at Soni. "I'm sure there's a spare room"

"You're right. I have some tracking to do. I doubt it will lead very far off the ranch. I'll be reachable by cell phone." Soni held up her phone as she left the house. Jim followed.

TODAY'S POST:

Gus leaned against the stable door and laughed. "What are you, the Piped Piper of men?"

Soni turned and saw, Jim, Butkus, Goliath, and Mack. Diego limped behind. "I understand the dogs. Why are you in this line?" Her eyes met Jim's.

Jim hesitated before he said, "I thought maybe you could use a sharp shooter."

"I'm tracking, not shooting them." Soni continued inside the stable.

"If they don't want to be followed, there could be trouble."

"I guess you can tag along." Soni knelt and petted Mack's head. "Boy, you need to sit this one out. You're still recovering." Diego nuzzled his muzzle between the two. Soni took his head in both hands and faced him nose-to-nose as she took a short breath. "Buddy, before long you'll be up to the job, but you need to stay back and take care of Tatiana."

Diego's glance went to the door of the house. Midnight nuzzled him. Diego moaned softly and meandered toward the house.

Tatiana met him partway. "Soni, do you want me to fix something to eat?"

Soni straightened up. "I doubt this will take longer than a few hours. We should be back in time for a late dinner." She eyed Jim. "Maybe. He gets hungry and might starve before we return."

"It'll just take a few minutes to throw something together." Tatiana petted Diego. "Come on, boy. You can help." Off they went to the house.

Gus placed his hand on Midnight's back. "Are you taking him or sending him away until this blows over?"

After pausing to take inventory of a saddle bag, Soni said, "I'll ride him. When I return, I'll make the arrangements for stud service. I don't want him picked up. We'll deliver. That way I'll know he arrived safely." She walked over to Paco and then Smokey. "Jim, take Smokey this time. If trouble finds us, he'll remain calm."

A cough slipped from Gus's mouth. He studied his boots. "Ms. Soni, I don't mean any disrespect, but Midnight isn't the most predictable horse you own."

Jim turned his back.

"No sense trying to hide that smile. I can see it through the back of your head. Matter-of-fact, Midnight's a very calm horse." Soni's hands set firmly on her hips.

Butkus tilted his head and then lay down.

Turning around, Jim stared at the large brindle colored mastiff. "Butkus disagrees with you."

"Those two never have gotten along. Besides, you don't have any right questioning my decision." Soni watched the stable manager sneak away. "Gus, you can take it from here. I'm going inside and finish getting ready."

*****
The two men's gaze followed Soni until she was out of hearing range. Jim was the first to speak. "How big of a mistake is she making taking this stallion?" Jim patted Midnight's side.

"Maybe none. Soni trained him. She knows what he can and can't do." Gus chuckled. "As with any young stud, he'd do anything for a pretty face. Soni's a looker all right, and he knows it. That's why you're going, right?"

"What?" Jim's eyebrows rose.

"Why are you riding along?"

"If she needs help, somebody will be there to help."

"Sort of like, always swim with a buddy?" Gus grinned.

"Yeah, that's right. When you're tracking somebody, you should take a buddy. I'll be that person."

"It has nothing to do with you being sweet on Soni, does it?"

"No, of course not." Jim's voice cracked, and he avoided eye contact.

"My instincts are never wrong." Gus laughed as he proceeded to get the horses ready.

Author Notes Thank you google images for the photo of a mother duck and the ducklings following. I was just having fun. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I HAVE EDITED THE ENDING OF THE PREVIOUS POST. PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF I HAVE IT CORRECT. THE WORDING WAS WRONG. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. I have already written 249 pages. Their descriptions were about 225 pages ago.


Chapter 44
Chapter Quince; Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Why are you riding along?" asked Gus

"If she needs help, somebody will be there to help." Jim stared at the saddle.

"Sort of like, always swim with a buddy?" Gus grinned.

"Yeah, that's right. When you're tracking somebody, you should take a buddy. I'll be that person."

"It has nothing to do with you being sweet on Soni, does it?"

"No, of course not." Jim's voice cracked, and he avoided eye contact.

"My instincts are never wrong." Gus laughed as he proceeded to get the horses ready.


TODAY'S POST:

Soni entered the stables and handed Jim three containers of food. "Put these in your saddlebags. Tatiana packed enough for an army. I guess she's worried you'd starve." She added arrows and ammunition to her bags. "Are you packed?"

"Almost. I just need a few things from the house." Jim jogged toward the house.

"Gus, please hand me that extra rope." Soni took it from the stable manager. "For some reason, I need it."

"Don't argue with gut feelings." Gus checked his watch. "You have about five hours of daylight left."

"I need to know where they came from. Maybe I can figure out what they want."

Minutes later, Jim returned. Alex, Tatiana, and Grandfather followed. After hugs were given and traveling mercies were expressed, Soni and Jim mounted their horses and rode toward the area where the eight men were spotted.

Goliath and Butkus followed.

At the correct area, they stopped. Soni dismounted and studied the tracks. She squatted and touched the horses' hoof prints. "See this?"

Jim nodded.

"This horseshoe doesn't fit the hoof. If it isn't repaired, the horse could go lame."

Soni climbed onto Midnight. "I hate it when people don't take care of their animals." She pointed west. "They went this direction."

*****
After an hour, they came to a partially dried creek. Soni adjusted her hat so it blocked the descending sun from her eyes. "It doesn't make sense. Why did they cross the creek? Something isn't right." She got off Midnight and dropped the reins. She walked about a quarter of a mile and then said, "They figured we would follow. They're traveling down the middle hoping we can't track them." She pointed. "Here the water isn't flowing. I can see their tracks in the mud."

"How far down creek can they take it?" Jim wiped his brow.

"Probably about another mile. As dry as it's been, the creek should be dried up."

"What are those blue flowers along this creek?"

Soni smiled. "Bluebonnets. They're our state flower. See those orange and yellow ones?" After Jim nodded, she continued, "They're Indian Blankets."

The sun continued to lower in the sky. "Did the Marines teach you to track?" Soni took a drink from her canteen.

"I can track some, but not nearly as well as you." Jim pointed at a dark brown mound. "I know a horse was here and crapped." He laughed.

"Very good," teased Soni. "I'm glad these men can't pull anything over on a former Marine.

Jim tapped his saddlebag. "Any chance we can grab a bite to eat?"

Soni pointed. "I'd like to make that peak, El Capitan, before we take a break. It's the eighth highest point in Texas. Behind it is Guadalupe Mountain, the highest."

"It looks higher than the one I fell from."

"It's a lot higher than Ol' Grizzly. Just don't get close to the edges. They're unstable." Soni hesitated. "Did you bring those binoculars?"

"They're right beside the sandwiches."

"From the top we should be able to see for miles. Maybe we can get a glimpse of them. They aren't moving fast."

"Doesn't that seem strange?" asked Jim.

"It does."

*****
After they climbed single file to the second ledge of the peak, Soni stopped and whispered, "Something isn't right. We need to leave." She carefully turned Midnight around.

Jim followed. "I feel it too."

The hair on Goliath's and Butkus' backs bristled.

A stocky man leaped from the next higher ledge onto Jim and knocked him off Smoky. Jim knocked him out.

Butkus attacked the next man, a short, husky, Hispanic man.

Jim grabbed his Glock .40 cal as a skinny man aimed at him. Jim took the only shot he had, a head shot. He turned when he heard a man yell.

Midnight kicked backward and hit a tall slender man in the groin, causing him to fall to the ground in pain, holding his crouch.

Goliath attacked an older man, who had grabbed Soni from behind. Freed, Soni landed near the edge of the cliff.

A man about Jim's size attempted to engage him in hand-to-hand combat. The heel of Jim's boot flattened the attacker's nose, driving the splintered bone into the brain, instantly killing him. We're missing two. I'd better help Soni with that one. She's too close to the edge and he's big.

At the cliff's edge, Soni round-house kicked a man off the ledge.

Jim hurried but arrived as the man flew over the edge. The unstable limestone gave way under Soni's feet. She slipped and grabbed at the rock and brush growing out of the limestone. Then she landed on rock, about thirty-five feet below.

Jim closed his eyes. Kuruk, I know you have a special bond with Soni. She needs you now more than ever.





Author Notes Thank you Brian, my husband, for the photo of El Capitan Peak with Guadalupe Mountain in the background . Brian and our son, Andrew, and his wife, Katie, climbed Guadalupe Mountain, in West Texas last Sunday. I have found a lot of verb tense issues in this post. I don't usually make that mistake. Please let me know if I didn't catch them all. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. I have already written 259 pages. Their descriptions were about 235 pages ago.


Chapter 45
Chapter Dieciseis Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

At the cliff's edge, Soni round-house kicked a man off the ledge.

Jim hurried but arrived as the man flew over the edge. The unstable limestone gave way under Soni's feet. She slipped and grabbed at the rock and brush growing out of the limestone. Then she landed on rock, about thirty-five feet below.

Jim closed his eyes. Kuruk, you have a special bond with Soni. She needs you now more than ever.

TODAY'S POST:

Jim glanced at the four injured ambushers and noticed the two dogs, Butkus and Goliath. They held their heads high and their tails were raised and rigid. They positioned themselves over their forelegs ready to lunge. They glared at the men. The dogs' muzzles wrinkled and their lips were retracted vertically, displaying their front teeth. A low, threatening snarl came from both dogs. They're in control. He glanced at Midnight. That's one strange horse. He shook his head at Midnight, whose teeth also showed. "At least you're normal." Jim patted Smoky. "I'm sure Adler used you around the ranch." He removed a rope and tied one end to the saddle horn. "I'm going to Soni."

Smoky knew what Jim needed and kept the rope taunt as he descended over the cliff.

When Jim's feet were firmly on the ledge, he released the rope and noticed Smoky backed away. He knelt beside Soni, placed two fingers on the side of her neck, and closed his eyes until he felt a pulse. Thank you, God.

At least she landed on her side. That should help a little. Jim took out his cell phone. I need to get you to a hospital. "No!" He raised his arm to throw the phone. "Maybe I'll have a signal on top." He tugged on the rope and then grabbed it.

Smoky continued to keep the rope taunt as Jim returned. After Jim checked and saw the ambushers remained contained, he attempted a call. Still no cell service. Now what? He leaned back against the limestone formation.

"We quell the storm and ride the thunder! OOH RAH!" Jim grabbed the two extra ropes and a thick blanket from Midnight's saddle. "I hope Soni trained you to be a ranch horse." After securing one rope to two corners of the blanket and doing the same with the other, he tied one end to Midnight's saddle horn and the other to Smoky's. "This should hold Soni. Okay, boys let's do it." He glanced at the dogs. "Keep up the good work."

Jim led the horses to the ledge and dropped the blanket. Then he grabbed the original rope tied to Smoky and descended to Soni. Jim released a deep breath. It better work. He glanced up at the darkening sky. There isn't much light left. Of course, buzzards. They won't get dinner here tonight. After Jim laid down the blanket, he gently lifted Soni onto it. He noticed a puddle of blood under where her head had lain and examined the wound. "It needs stitches, but doesn't look too deep."

"Okay, boys, pull!" Jim motioned with his arm for the horses to back up. Then he steadied the blanket, making sure Soni was centered. As she rose, he grabbed the other rope and climbed alongside her.

About a quarter the way up, one side of the blanket tilted sideways. "God or Great Creator, we need help!"



Author Notes Thank you Brian, for the photo of El Capitan Peak with Guadalupe Mountain in the background . Brian, Andrew, and Katie climbed Guadalupe Mountain, in West Texas two weeks ago. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. I have already written 267 pages. Their descriptions were about 250 pages ago. I updated my profile and lost the photograph. Since I lost it, I thought I would use the cover of my published book. I got a message it would take a few days for it to show.


Chapter 46
Chapter Dieciseis Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim led the horses to the ledge and dropped the blanket. Then he grabbed the original rope tied to Smoky and descended to Soni. Jim released a deep breath. It better work. He glanced up at the darkening sky. There isn't much light left. Of course, buzzards. They won't get dinner here tonight. After Jim laid down the blanket, he gently lifted Soni onto it. He noticed a puddle of blood under where her head had lain and examined the wound. "It needs stitches, but doesn't look too deep."

"Okay, boys, pull!" Jim motioned with his arm for the horses to back up. Then he steadied the blanket, making sure Soni was centered. As she rose, he grabbed the other rope and climbed alongside her.

About a quarter the way up, one side of the blanket tilted sideways. "God or Great Creator, we need help!"


TODAY'S POST:


At the ranch house, Kuruk stood and held his medicine bag in his hand. "Soni needs help. I'm going to her." He headed toward the door.

Alex followed. "You're not supposed to leave the house. Remember what Garrison said?" He paused and grabbed his phone. "I'll call Soni. I'm sure she's fine."

"I won't leave my granddaughter to the cougars."

When Soni's phone went directly to voice mail, Alex dialed the lawyer's number. Kuruk waited. Once Gray answered, Alex explained the situation. He then handed the phone to Kuruk, who continued, "I'm the best tracker. My granddaughter's in danger."

Kuruk handed the phone back to Alex before he said, "Garrison's on his way. We can leave. If Homeland security shows up, he'll keep them in paperwork until we return."

As the two men left the house, Miguel Sanchez stepped from his parked truck. "Hola. I was wondering if Soni's home."

"She's on the west side of the ranch. Alex and Kuruk are riding out to meet her," said Tatiana from the porch.

Kuruk's jaw set.

"I'm sure you won't mind if I ride along. I bet Gus can find me a horse. That black stallion Soni's so proud of would be perfect."

"Midnight's no longer with us." Alex continued toward the stables.

"Where's he at?"

"Not really sure."

Kuruk remained silent.

The three men mounted the horses and headed west.

*****
Jim's right hand held the makeshift stretcher upright, making sure Soni wouldn't fall. His left hand held his rope. "Okay, boys, back up slowly." The blanket became harder to hold. "Whoa! Slower!"

Goliath peeked over the ledge.

"Who's watching the ambushers?"

Butkus growled.

Of course. He could do it by himself. I wouldn't argue with a mastiff.

The Great Pyrenees grabbed the rope on the side that kept tilting and helped steady it.

"Good boy, that's got to be hard on your teeth."

After what seemed like eternity to Jim, the foursome set Soni on safe rock. Midnight stood guard over his owner. Goliath nestled in beside her for a few moments, then returned to help Goliath guard the men.

Jim took his canteen, wetted a piece of his shirt he'd torn, and wiped blood from Soni's cuts. "I need to see how badly you're hurt." He released a deep breath. "I'd feel a lot better if you'd wake up and start arguing with me." He glanced around the area. "I need to find a safe place for the night."

Goliath came over and nudged Jim's arm.

"I forgot you speak English. Think you can find some shelter?"

The large dog moved his head down and then up before he headed off.

The husky ambusher laughed and said, "El Americano loco se habla perros."

Jim aimed his Glock .40 cal. "Since I'm crazy enough to talk to dogs, I'm crazy enough to kill you right now. Want to chance it?"

As Butkus took a step closer to the man, the man glanced away.

"Thanks, boy."

Holding Soni's hand, Jim waited for Goliath's return.

Soni blinked a few times before her eyes settled on Jim's face. She reached up and caressed his right cheek. "I knew you'd be there for me," she whispered.

"I'll always be there for you."

Her eyes closed.

"Soni, Soni, come back."

Jim turned as he heard a sound. His eyes widened, and he grabbed for his weapon. A black bear sat about fifty feet away and stared at them.

Goliath came from searching for a shelter and sauntered toward the large animal. After some silent interaction, the large dog returned to Jim and motioned to Jim to follow him.

I guess he's friendly. And why not? All these animals are strange. Kuruk is the Apache word for bear. Now, I'm imagining things. Jim faced Soni as she spoke. It sounds like she's speaking Apache to Kuruk. She used shoodii and Miguel in the same sentence. Shoodii means coyote. Kuruk told Soni an Apache folklore and the coyote was an evil trickster. I wonder what she's saying. Jim acknowledged Goliath. "Give me a minute."

Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of a black bear. Yes, West Texas does have black bears. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. I updated my profile and lost the photograph. Since I lost that photograph I have tried to upload a photograph of my four boys. I think it's struggling to come up too. Maybe I shouldn't have an image. LOL We only have 13 days left with students and 14 days left for teachers. YEAH!!!!!!!!! I am really looking forward to this break.


Chapter 47
Chapter Dieciseis Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Goliath came from searching for a shelter and sauntered toward the large animal. After some silent interaction, the large dog returned to Jim and motioned to Jim to follow him.

I guess he's friendly. And why not? All these animals are strange. Kuruk is the Apache word for bear. Now, I'm imagining things. Jim faced Soni as she spoke. It sounds like she's speaking Apache to Kuruk. She used shoodii and Miguel in the same sentence. Shoodii means coyote. Kuruk told Soni an Apache folklore and the coyote was an evil trickster. I wonder what she's saying. Jim acknowledged Goliath. "Give me a minute."

TODAY'S POST:

Goliath nudged Jim's arm with his large muzzle.

"I know you found shelter and want me to see it." Jim glanced toward the bear that remained seated, watching them. He then released a deep breath. "I can't leave Soni. He may attack her."

The black bear stood on its hind legs, showing his full, seven feet tall size, and then roared. He moved closer, only 15 feet away.

Jim's blue eyes widened as his brows rose. "Okay, I'll follow Goliath and you'll watch Soni." He stood and ran his fingers through his short sandy hair. This has to be a bad dream. When I wake up, everything will be back to normal.

Goliath led Jim to the backside of the El Capitan. The large white dog stopped and sat. Jim walked over and stood underneath a light gray limestone overhang. He continued turning until he had faced all three covered sides. "This will work. You did a good job, boy."

The Great Pyrenees' tail swished back and forth a few times.

"I bet we'll face East in the morning. Let's get back to Soni. We'll need to make a travois to bring her here."

The two hurried back to Soni, Butkus guarding the four ambushers, and the two horses. Once Jim stood beside Soni, the bear returned to his original fifty feet away and sat.

Jim knelt by Soni and placed his hand on the blanket they'd used to hoist her. "This won't work to move her across the rocks. I need two large poles."

Butkus barked.

"What's wrong, big guy?" Jim paused. He's telling me something, but what? After staring at the brindle mastiff for a few moments, Jim said, "I get it. You want me to tie up the men so you can help Goliath find the poles."

The dog barked his response.

"You're not as good at communicating as the others. I guess Soni's dad didn't talk much." Jim chuckled. "With Soni around, he probably didn't get a chance." After he held the rope he'd used to reach Soni and bring her to safety, he cut it into sections. Jim tied the four men's hands behind their backs and then tied their feet together. The other end of the rope, he tied around each victim's neck. "I doubt you'll cause any more trouble."

When that was completed, the Great Pyrenees and the mastiff left together.

"I sure could use a cup of coffee." Jim held Soni's hand. "I wonder if those two mutts would catch some rabbits for dinner. They would for Soni. Will they for me?"

Soni's eyelids fluttered. "All you think about is your stomach."

"You're awake!" Jim leaned over and kissed her forehead.

"I don't feel too well."

"I'm sure you don't. Do you remember what happened?"

"I remember these men coming after us." Soni tried to turn her head. "I ache all over. Do we have shelter?"

"Goliath found a place. Once the dogs come back with two poles, I'll move you to it. Right now, don't try to move."

Soni fell back to sleep.

*****
What's taking them so long? Jim checked his watch and scanned the area. By now, Alex and Kuruk are worried about us. We should've returned hours ago. I hope they sent a search party after us. There's no way I can get Soni off this mountain by myself.

Goliath and Butkus each dragged small tree trunks longer than they were and placed them in front of Jim.

"Those are perfect. Good job." Jim petted each dog's head.

It didn't take long to make a makeshift stretcher. Jim tied a loop and placed it around Butkus's neck. He lifted the other end. "I think this will work." Jim glanced at the men. "You'll have to fend for yourselves. Come on, boys." He motioned for the horses and Goliath to come.

The black bear remained at the same distance but followed parallel to them.

Jim placed Soni under the overhang. He began to gather small limbs and branches. "I'll start a fire. Roasted rabbit would taste good about now."

Goliath stared at Jim before he left. Butkus followed.

"You're not doing all the work. What do you think I'm doing?" Jim finished starting the fire. "Before long those two will start a dog workers' union." He chuckled as he fed the horses. A dog union.

About the time Midnight and Smoky finished eating, Goliath and Butkus returned with three large rabbits.

Jim skinned and then placed them on a stick before he set it over the campfire. "The fire's good and hot. It shouldn't take long."

Both dogs stood, their ears upright, and their eyes focused toward a sound.

Jim glanced toward the bear. It sat there, but was slightly harder to see. He rubbed his eyes. I must be tired. He appears to be fading. He looked again. Only half the bear's outline could be seen. Again, he rubbed his eyes, this time shaking his head. What's going on? The black bear had disappeared.




AUTHOR'S NOTES:

I've had a few people question the limestone and the black bears in west Texas. I hope this helps.

El Capitan is composed of Capitan Limestone, which is the Permian-aged limestone reef deposit. A reef is a submerged resistant mound or ridge formed by the accumulation of plant and animal skeletons. The Capitan Limestone is a massive, fine-grained fossiliferous limestone that formed by growth and accumulation of invertebrate skeleton of algae, sponges, and tiny colonial animals called bryozoans. These skeletons were stabilized by encrusting organisms that grew over and cemented the solid reef rock, unlike modern reefs built by mainly a rigid framework of corals.

Mule deer live throughout the park, and are often seen browsing near the campground or along park trails. Occasionally, especially in winter months, elk may be seen grazing near springs or along the highway corridor. Other mammals that may be seen include coyotes, the gray fox, desert cottontails, black-tailed jackrabbits, ringtails, and rock squirrels. Lucky visitors will occasionally encounter a mountain lion or a pack of javalinas. Though black bears also live in the high country, they are rarely observed.

Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of a black bear standing on it's hind legs. Yes, West Texas does have black bears. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. I updated my profile and lost the photograph. Since I lost that photograph I have tried to upload a photograph of my four boys. I think it's struggling to come up too. Maybe I shouldn't have an image. LOL We only have 8 days left with students and 9 days left for teachers. YEAH!!!!!!!!! I am really looking forward to this break.


Chapter 48
Chapter Diecisiete, Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Both dogs stood, their ears upright, and their eyes focused toward a sound.

Jim glanced toward the bear. It sat there, but was slightly harder to see. He rubbed his eyes. I must be tired. He appears to be fading. He looked again. Only half the bear's outline could be seen. Again, he rubbed his eyes, this time shaking his head. What's going on? The black bear had disappeared.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN


Goliath and Butkus walked toward the sound. As they got closer, they slowly swished their tails.

Jim followed behind the dogs but didn't stray far from Soni. He often glanced at the area where the bear had sat.

After what seemed like an eternity, Jim shook Kuruk's hand. "I'm glad to see you. I knew you'd come." He did the same with Alex. Once he saw Miguel, he said, "I don't think we've been introduced."

"Miguel Sanchez. I'm Soni's boyfriend." He offered his hand.

"Jim Burns. I was under the impression Soni didn't have a boyfriend." He accepted Miguel's hand and shook it firmly.

Kuruk eyed Miguel before he removed the medicine bag from around his neck. "Where's my granddaughter?"

"Over here. She's spoken twice but neither time lasted more than a few words." Jim pointed and moved aside so the Shaman could get closer to the patient. There's a bear on his bag. He walked over to where the bear had guarded Soni. Soni needs to answer some questions. He stood beside Alex. "I guess we wait."

Butkus and Goliath lay next to Soni; one on each side. Their huge heads settled on her thighs. Midnight looked over Kuruk's shoulder.

"That's right, son. Let's back up and give the Shaman room to work." Alex motioned for them to sit on nearby rocks. "Not very comfortable, but it'll work."

Jim, Miguel, and Alex watched the Shaman take dried plants and incense from his bag. The incense was lit. He spread the herbs over his granddaughter and began to chant.

"Kuruk's methods worked on me, but I don't understand them. Can you explain it?" Jim waited for Alex's answer.

"I can try. I have watched him work for years, but I don't understand most of it myself." Alex watched the Shaman for a few moments. "Soni's in a coma or to a Shaman the soul is out of body. This is very complicated because he must figure out which way the soul's trying to go."

"Are you saying the soul may not want to enter the body?" Jim studied Soni and Kuruk.

"Yes, but knowing Soni I'm sure it wants to reenter. Shamanism dates back over forty thousand years. Kuruk once told me there are over two thousand medicinal plants." Alex watched Jim's reaction before he continued, "Trees, ferns, flowers, nuts, vines, grasses, shrubs and forbs are all among them.

"What's a forb? I've never heard of it."

"When I first heard the term, I asked the same question. It's a broad-leaved herb other than grass. It's found growing in prairies, fields and meadows."

"Which ones is he using on Soni?"

"I'm pretty sure there isn't an herb that works on comas."

Jim said, "But's he's covered her with them." He paused. "Should we call the dogs back?"

"No, my guess is they're as soothing and calming as the herbs." Alex took out some gum and passed it around. "I have a feeling it's going to be a long night."

"Calming herbs for Soni or her grandfather?" After Alex smiled at Jim's question, Jim continued, "I've never seen the dogs or Midnight so calm. I guess it's working on them too. It seems like Soni told me once that Kuruk means bear. Am I right?

"Yes. Why?"

"No reason, just wondering." I bet that bear had something to do with Kuruk watching over his granddaughter.

Both men watched Kuruk until false dawn rose in the East.

Butkus and Goliath raised their heads and growled as the hair on their backs bristled.

"Drop your weapons, call off the dogs, and raise your hands."


Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of a Native American medicine bag. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. We only have 4 days left with students and 5 days left for teachers. YEAH!!!!!!!!! I am really looking forward to this break. This year has worn me out.


Chapter 49
Chapter Diecisiete, Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Calming herbs for Soni or her grandfather?" After Alex smiled at Jim's question, Jim continued, "I've never seen the dogs or Midnight so calm. I guess it's working on them too. It seems like Soni told me once that Kuruk means bear. Am I right?

"Yes. Why?"

"No reason, just wondering." I bet that bear had something to do with Kuruk watching over his granddaughter.

Both men watched Kuruk until false dawn rose in the East.

Butkus and Goliath raised their heads and growled as the hair on their backs bristled.

"Drop your weapons, call off the dogs, and raise your hands."


TODAY'S POST:

"Well, it's Ralph Littleton, our friendly Homeland Security officer and four of his buddies." Jim lowered his hands. "What are you doing here?"

"I told Chief Kuruk Four-Bear not to leave the ranch house and now I find him on El Capitan. He's not even on Rockin' A property."

Kuruk stood his full six feet height and his shoulders were back. "I have done nothing wrong. My granddaughter needed me."

"Old man, you're nothing but a witch doctor. Everywhere you go somebody ends up dead." Littleton held up a bloody knife.

"Now what?" Jim took a step closer.

"We passed four dead men before we found you. Are you going to deny it?"

"They ambushed us. We tied them up. They were alive when we left them." Jim eyed Miguel. While Alex and I were talking, he left to pee. It had to be him. But why?

"It's Chief Four-Bear's knife. Their throats were slashed."

Kuruk removed three knives from the sheaf. "I carry three. I have three. It's not mine."

"This one and the one taken from Hughes's back both have your signature bear carved on the handle."

"They're not mine."

"You're coming with us, old man." The agent-in-charge stepped closer to Kuruk.

"I'm not going anywhere until my granddaughter is well." Kuruk put his hand on Soni's leg.

Jim stepped between Littleton and Kuruk. "He'll come with you peacefully once we get Soni home. Besides, there are three other men here other than Kuruk."

"True, but he's the only one with a clear motive. His granddaughter has been under suspicion by Homeland Security. He'll do anything to protect her."

"Okay, but why kill the four ambushers? He has no reason. They weren't a threat." Jim eyed Miguel. They could identify Miguel.

Alex stood beside Jim. "I know how Homeland Security Agency hates bad press. Just imagine how this headline would look? 'Homeland Security arrests seventy-four year old Native American Grandfather while he rescues his granddaughter.'"

"It won't sound so innocent when we explain this grandpa has five murders under his belt. I think that ups his status to a serial killer." Littleton hesitated, before he asked, "How are you getting Ms. Alder home?"

"We haven't figured that out. She fell off a cliff. There could be spinal damage." Jim glanced toward Soni. The two dogs stood guard, one on each side of her.

Ralph Littleton moved closer to Soni, but Midnight blocked him. "I need to check and make sure she's not faking."

Alex took the horse's reins and led him away. "It's okay. He just wants to examine her."

Goliah and Butkus gave low rumbled growls.

The agent-in-charge scanned Soni's body. He bent to study the head wound and lifted her hand to inspect her scraped fingers. "She's pretty battered. Why haven't you called for help?"

"We don't have cell service here." Jim held up his phone.

Ralph Littleton took his phone and checked. "You're right, no signal."

Jim shook his head. "What reason would I have to lie?"

The agent ignored Jim's question. "I guess we carry her down. How'd you move her to this overhang?"

"A travois. One end around Butkus's neck, and I carried the other." Jim pointed to the large mastiff. "We're talking about four and a half miles. He glanced at Butkus. "About half way down, we'll switch dogs."

"I can help with Soni," said Alex.

"She won't be a problem. I'll be fine." Jim checked the travois. "I've carried heavier things than her a longer distance. At the bottom, we should have phone service, and then we can call for help."

"We're missing somebody. Anybody see where Miguel went?" asked Kuruk.

Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of a Native American medicine bag. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Summer break has finally arrived. I have trainings and doctor's appointments for four days out of seven next week. Hmmm, something wrong with this. LOL


Chapter 50
Chapter Diecisiete, Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"A travois. One end around Butkus's neck, and I carried the other." Jim pointed to the large mastiff. "We're talking about four and a half miles. He glanced at Butkus. "About half way down, we'll switch dogs."

"I can help with Soni," said Alex.

"She won't be a problem. I'll be fine." Jim checked the travois. "I've carried heavier things than her a longer distance. At the bottom, we should have phone service, and then we can call for help."

"We're missing somebody. Anybody see where Miguel went?" asked Kuruk.

TODAY'S POST:


The men searched the area, but Miguel wasn't found.

"Come here, Butkus. I'll hook you up. We need to get started down this mountain. I'm glad we ate those rabbits before everybody showed up. Don't you agree, boy?" Jim rubbed the dog's neck before he looked up at the sky. "Cloudy, no moon or stars! One couldn't ask for a better night to go traipsing down a rocky mountain cliff carrying an injured lady."

"Are you going to leave those four men here?" Littleton frowned.

"You have any ideas on how to get them down?" Alex's eyes met Ralph's. "We can't even bury them in limestone. We'll come back tomorrow and get them. Soni's our priority."

"I guess not. I'll leave a man to guard the bodies. Wouldn't want the evidence to disappear, would we?" The Homeland Security agent eyed Kuruk as he spoke silently with one of the agents.

Jim finished with Butkus, moved closer to Kuruk, and whispered, "He doesn't like you."

The Lipan Apache said, "He may not like me, but I'm betting he doesn't like any Apaches."

"You're probably right." Jim finished securing Soni to the travois. "We're ready."

Kuruk picked up his Shaman's bag. "Let's go."

"I need to check inside your bag, old man." Littleton took the bag from Kuruk.

"There's nothing in that but herbs and incense. Normal stuff a Shaman would use." Jim reached for the bag. "Do you have a search warrant?"

"Let him look. Maybe I hid a rattlesnake inside." The Shaman's eyes twinkled.

Ralph handed back the bag to Kuruk. "I wouldn't want to do an illegal search."

"Of course not," mumbled Jim under his breath.

"Watch it." Alex patted Jim on the right shoulder. "Or you'll be his next target."

"Instead of wasting his time with us, he should be searching for Miguel. What's his last name?"

"Sanchez," said Alex.

*****
After descending halfway down the mountain, Jim said, "We need to stop. I'd better switch the dogs and give Butkus a drink." He gently set the travois down. "Alex, how're the horses holding up?"

Littleton wiped his brow. "How much farther?"

"We aren't quite halfway." Kuruk turned and looked at the trail behind them. "We have about two-and-a-half miles ahead of us."

"Agent Littleton, you look a little out of shape. Do you want to ride down? You can meet us at the end." Alex held out the reins to Ralph's horse.

"No. If that old injun can walk down the mountain, so I can." Ralph started walking.

Jim, Alex, and Kuruk exchanged grins.

The three homeland security agents followed Littleton.

"Agent Littleton, one of our ambushers got away. He may return with help. I hope the agent you left is well armed." Jim lifted his end of the travois. "Let's go, Goliath."

"There are mountain lions, black bears, and wolves in this area too." Kuruk followed Jim.

"Old man, keep your opinion to yourself," snapped Littleton. "If anything happens to Williams, I'm holding you personally accountable."

"He's here with you. How can he do anything to an agent you left on top of El Capitan?" Jim faced the agent in charge as their eyes met. "You get more ridiculous by the minute. You're the one who left him alone. You should've at least left somebody with him. You don't need three agents with you while you're walking down El Capitan."

"You better watch it. You're in cahoots with this Apache. I don't know why his kind isn't on a reservation where we can keep tabs on him."

"The Indian Citizen Act of 1924 gave all Native Americans US citizenship. Then, in 1965, the Voting Rights act allowed them voting rights in the states that didn't understand that all citizens have the right to vote." Jim's voice became louder as he said, "Native Americans are Americans the same as you and me."

"Quit your preaching. The likes of him will never be equal." Littleton sped up his steps. "I studied my history books too. What about the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864? How can you forget the Little Bighorn Battle on June 25, 1876?"

"What about the Trail of Tears in1838? At least four thousand Cherokees died, and that including women and children!"

Alex put his hand on Jim's left shoulder. "You're not going to change his mind."

"You're right, but..."

"What's going on?" asked Soni. Her voice could hardly be heard.

"Kuruk, Soni's awake!" yelled Jim.


Author Notes Thank you Google images for the message from Thomas Jefferson. I felt it fit in this post because Ralph Littleton is abusing his power. I also feel our Federal Government is forcing itself on American citizens. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Summer break has finally arrived. I've one training and 2 doctor's appointments next week. When will summer break happen? LOL I've been working on the notes my editor left me on Savannah Love. I'm hoping to get it published this summer. I'm opening to any and all suggestions.


Chapter 51
Chapter Diecsiete, Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Quit your preaching. The likes of him will never be equal." Littleton sped up his steps. "I studied my history books too. What about the Sand Creek Massacre on November 29, 1864? How can you forget the Little Bighorn Battle on June 25, 1876?"

"What about the Trail of Tears in1838? At least four thousand Cherokees died, including women and children!"

Alex put his hand on Jim's shoulder. "You're not going to change his mind."

"You're right, but..."

"What's going on?" asked Soni. Her voice could hardly be heard.

"Kuruk, Soni's awake!" yelled Jim.


TODAY'S POST:

Kuruk bent over his granddaughter. "How are you feeling?"

"I have a headache and my body's sore." Soni attempted to raise herself. "What are you doing here, Grandfather?"

"Don't try to get up." Kuruk put his hand on Soni's arm.

"I'm hungry. Has anybody eaten?"

"Goliath and Butkus caught some rabbits. We roasted and ate them." Jim's eyes met hers.

"Why am I not surprised you couldn't wait?" Soni attempted to tease but, instead, cringed in pain instead.

"Granddaughter, you shouldn't try eating. Only clear broth. I'll find some roots. Jim can get a fire started."

Littleton placed himself in front of Kuruk and stared into his eyes. "We don't have time for this. We need to get moving."

"Sonsee-array is hungry. We will feed her, and then continue our journey. Are you forgetting she was a witness to the ambush?" Kuruk turned his back on the Homeland Security agent and left.

"Ryan, go with him. He might try to escape." Littleton motioned to one of the three remaining agents.

Soni took Jim's hand. "What are the Feds doing here? How did they find us?"

"They're here to arrest Kuruk. How they discovered he'd left the house and found us? I'm not sure. I'm guessing Miguel had something to do with it. He rode in with Alex and your grandfather. About an hour later, Littleton and four men rode up."

"I can't believe Grandfather and Alex invited Miguel to come along. How'd he know we were out here?" Soni waited a moment before she went on, "I only saw three agents with Littleton. Where's the other one?"

"Miguel invited himself. I don't know how he knew. My guess is the one ambusher who got away rode straight to him. The fourth agent stayed with the four dead ambushers we held prisoners."

"Dead? How'd they die? You shot one. I kicked one off the cliff before I fell."

"I kicked one in the nose and killed him. One got away. I tied up four. Somehow, when Kuruk was administering to you, and Alex and I were talking, their throats were slashed." Jim took Soni's hand in his and patted it. "Littleton discovered their bodies and beside them was a knife with Kuruk's signature bear carved on the handle."

"Miguel?"

"That's my guess. He told us he needed to use the bathroom. He was gone awhile. He could've done it then."

"So, nobody knows where Miguel is." Again, Soni tried to raise herself. "I don't have time to be lying around. I need to find him and clear Grandfather's name."

Jim carefully forced her raised shoulders back. "You're not going anywhere, young lady, until a doctor's cleared you. You need x-rays to make sure nothing's broken."

Soni noticed Kuruk come up behind Jim. "Tell this man that I'm fine."

"Granddaughter, you know I don't like white man's medicine, but this is the second time in my life I think it's needed. I agree with Jim."

Kuruk held up some prickly pear cactus. "This is all I could find. I hoped to find some chokecherry, evening primrose, or even skullcap."

"I'm sure it'll work." Soni briefly closed her eyes.

*****
Alex and Jim walked off to the side and allowed Kuruk to make his broth.

"When was the first time Kuruk liked white man's medicine?" asked Jim as he finished with the campfire.

Alex exhaled a very slow breath. "Jacali was Kuruk's daughter. She was just as headstrong as Soni. When she was pregnant, she wanted natural childbirth at home. Kuruk felt something was wrong but finally gave in to a midwife delivering his grandchild. During childbirth, things went wrong. I don't understand it all. Ray, Soni's dad, called for an emergency team. They came by helicopter and took Jacali to the hospital, but it was too late. She held on long enough for Soni to be born alive."

Littleton came up to Soni. "As soon as you've finished eating, we can get moving." He reached for the pan in Kuruk's hands. "She's had enough. This primadona has wasted enough of my valuable time."

Jim stepped toward Ralph with his fists raised. Alex grabbed his wrist. "You don't want to do that."




A FEW NOTES ABOUT PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

Found in the deserts of North America, the prickly pear cactus is a very tasty and nutritional plant that can help you survive the next time you're stranded in the desert. The fruit of the prickly pear cactus looks like a red or purplish pear. Before eating the plant, carefully remove the small spines on the outer skin or else it will feel like you're swallowing a porcupine. You can also eat the young stem of the prickly pear cactus. It's best to boil the stems before eating.
Apart from the unusual name, appearance, and origins of this fruit, it also has a very unique composition of nutrients, including high levels of vitamin C, B-family vitamins, magnesium, potassium, calcium, copper, and dietary fiber. In terms of organic compounds, prickly pears have high levels of flavonoids, polyphenols, and betalains, all of which have a positive impact on human health.




Author Notes Thank you Google images for the message of a prickly pear cactus. I won't be posting for a few weeks. My husband and I leave tomorrow for a two week vacation. We are going to visit my in-laws, my mom, two of our sons' and their family, Chicago, and St Louis. In St. Louis we'll see a Cardinal game. Go Birds! I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter, also.


Chapter 52
Chapter Diecsiete, (17) Part Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Littleton came up to Soni. "As soon as you've finished eating, we can get moving." He reached for the pan in Kuruk's hands. "She's had enough. This primadona has wasted enough of my valuable time."

Jim stepped toward Ralph with his fists raised. Alex grabbed his wrist. "You don't want to do that."

Today's Post:

Jim walked away. "When Soni's ready to travel, we'll leave."

Ralph opened his mouth to speak.

Alex stepped in front of him. "I may not protect you the next time. It would be wise to keep your mouth shut."

Within a few minutes, Soni said, "I'm finished. Let's leave."

After she was secured on the makeshift travois and Butkus was attached to one end, Jim picked up the other side.

"Now, wait just a minute!" called Soni. "Don't tell me I need to look at his ar...butt the rest of the way down the mountain."

"Sonsee-array, it's Jim's or Butkus's, your choice." Kuruk waited for an answer.

"One's just as bad as the other." Soni closed her eyes. "I could use a nap."

"Alex, you'd better take that horse to Littleton. He looks worn out." Jim motioned toward Ralph.

"If that old Apache can make it down El Capitan, so can I." Ralph hurried to lead the way.

Jim turned toward Kuruk and caught a glimpse of the black bear. I thought so. Later, I'll check with Soni.

"You look like you just figured something out." Alex held tight to Midnight's reins as the horse tried to move closer to Soni.

"Remember that black bear?" After Alex answered, Jim continued, "It was Kuruk protecting Soni, right?"

"I can't answer that. I've never completely understood the Apache's ways." He faced Midnight. "You're one ornery horse."

Goliath took Midnight's reins from Alex and the two walked together.

*****
At the bottom of El Capitan, Jim checked his phone. "I have service. I'll call for a helicopter."

Ralph grabbed Jim's phone. "I'm in charge. I'll call."

"You arrogant..."

"Jim, as long as Soni gets medical attention, it doesn't matter who calls." Kuruk retrieved Jim's phone from Littleton's hand and gave it back to the rightful owner.

Kuruk took a black stone from his pocket. "I want you to have this."

Jim studied the stone. "It's beautiful. Why me? I'm sure there's a story behind it."

"Sit, while we wait." Kuruk sat on the ground beside Soni's travois. After Jim joined him, Kuruk began his tale, "It is an Apache Tear. The winter of 1870, the Pinal Apaches were starving. It was a difficult winter and the buffalo were few. They were forced to raid settlements for food. They thought their location was well hidden, but the military found them and nearly fifty of the band of seventy-five Apaches died in the first volley of shots. The Apaches didn't expect the attack and weren't prepared. The rest of the tribe retreated to the cliff's edge and chose death by leaping over the edge rather than die at the hands of the white men."

"Where was this?" asked Jim.

"At Big Picacho, Arizona. The Apache women gathered a short distance from the base of the cliff, where the sands were white and, for a moon, wept for their dead. They had not only lost the brave warriors, but their fighting spirit. Their sorrow was so sincere and so great that the Great Father imbedded into black stones the tears of the Apache women who mourned their dead. These black obsidian stones, when held to the light, reveal the translucent tears of the Apache women."

Jim clutched the stone in his hand.

"Those who possess an Apache Tear will never cry again because the Apache women cried enough. It will help you see clearly when danger heads your direction." Kuruk looked up as a helicopter prepared to land. "I guess we're done."

Both men stood and watched the emergency workers prepare Soni to be medevac'd.

After Soni was placed inside the helicopter, Kuruk crawled in beside her.

"Old man, you're not going anywhere without me. You're under arrest." Littleton grabbed Kuruk's arm and started to pull.

"I won't leave my granddaughter."

The emergency worker in charge said, "You need to stay here. There's not enough room for you. We'll take the patient and her grandfather."

Jim stood by Littleton. "You know he's not going anywhere. He won't leave Soni. Leave him alone."

The Homeland Security Agent made a call. "Arrest Chief Kuruk Four-Bear at Laredo Medical Hospital. He's murdered five men."

The helicopter left.

Alex placed himself between Littleton and Jim. His eyes met Jim's. "Don't do it."


Please enjoy Johnny Cash singing Apache Tears




Author Notes Thank you Google an image of an Apache Tear. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter, also.


Chapter 53
Chapter Dieciocho, (18) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

The emergency worker in charge said, "You need to stay here. There's not enough room for you. We'll take the patient and her grandfather."

Jim stood by Littleton. "You know he's not going anywhere. He won't leave Soni. Leave him alone."

The Homeland Security Agent made a call. "Arrest Chief Kuruk Four-Bear at Laredo Medical Hospital. He's murdered five men."

The helicopter left.


TODAY'S POST:


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN


As Alex and Jim stepped onto the front porch, Tatiana, Gray Garrison, Mack, and Diego rushed out to meet them. After hugging her husband, Tatiana looked behind him. "Where's Soni and Kuruk? Why didn't they return with you?"

"We were ambushed partway up El Capitan, and Soni fell from a cliff. She's being medevac'd to the Laredo hospital. Kuruk went with her." Jim petted the two dogs. "We'll meet them there."

Tatiana's hand went to her mouth and tears welled in her eyes.

"Gray, you'd better ride along. Littleton and his men showed up. He's trying to arrest Kuruk." Alex removed his hat and motioned for Goliath and Butkus to follow.

"There isn't enough evidence to arrest him for Hughes' death." Garrison grabbed his briefcase.

"It gets better. Four of the ambushers were murdered. We think Miguel Sanchez did it, but Littleton's blaming Kuruk." Jim paused. "Who's driving?"

"I'm staying to make sure nothing happens at the ranch." Alex hugged his wife. "You better go. Soni will need you." He handed the SUV keys to Jim. "You're driving."

On the way to the vehicle, Gray asked, "Where's Littleton?"

"We parted soon after we left El Capitan. He had trailers and trucks parked there. One of the ambushers got away. I'm guessing he contacted Sanchez who, in turn, contacted Littleton."

"Sounds about right. I need to make some phone calls." Garrison took out his cell phone.

"How badly is Soni hurt?" Tatiana wiped a tear before she adjusted her seat belt.

"It's hard to say. She was unconscious for a while. She has a nasty gash on the side of her head, and bruises. We don't know about any internal injuries." Jim turned toward Tatiana. "She'll probably be kept overnight for observation."

*****
Inside the hospital, Jim stopped at the information desk and found that Soni had been placed in a fourth floor room.

As the three stepped from the elevator, they noticed a very large man in a heated discussion with Littleton outside Soni's room.

"I'm glad you made it in time. Thank you." Gray Garrison shook the man's hand. "I'd like to introduce you to my partner, Paul Running-Deer."

After introductions were made, Tatiana left the men to their arguing and went inside Soni's room.

Kuruk stood and greeted Tatiana and then said, "Soni isn't a very good patient. She wants to go home."

"I'm fine. I don't know why they think I need to stay overnight." Soni adjusted her pillow. "What's going on in the hall?"

"There seems to be a disagreement about arresting your grandfather." Tatiana frowned.

"Alex isn't here to keep Jim from slugging Littleton. I hope the Apache Tear helps keep his temper under control." Kuruk stretched his neck to look through the window.

"I thought you liked Jim." Soni's eyes met her grandfather's.

"I do. He's just young. He'll mature into a good man." Kuruk walked to the window and watched the men.

*****
"Chief Four-Bear didn't remain at the ranch house, like I ordered him too. Now, there are four more bodies." Littleton hit his fist in his hand.

"I know for a fact Kuruk didn't kill those men. He was attending to Soni. Two people had eyes on him at all times. Why aren't you looking for Miguel Sanchez? He's the one we can't account for." Jim stepped closer to Littleton.

The three agents accompanying Littleton stepped closer to Jim.

Jim released a deep breath. "I'm checking on Soni." He turned toward her door.

"You deserve a half-breed squaw."

In one swift move, Jim turned and slugged Littleton on the jaw. Ralph fell backwards into the arms of two of his agents. Jim glared at the third, who remained neutral.

Jim turned when he heard Soni and Tatiana scream. He saw Kuruk had fallen to the floor. "Get help!"

Author Notes Thank you Google an image of a hospital room. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter, also.


Chapter 54
Chapter Dieciocho, (18) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim released a deep breath. "I'm checking on Soni." He turned toward her door.

"You deserve a half-breed squaw."

In one swift move, Jim turned and slugged Littleton on the jaw. Ralph fell backwards into the arms of two of his agents. Jim glared at the third, who remained neutral.

Jim turned when he heard Soni and Tatiana scream. He saw Kuruk had fallen to the floor. "Get help!"


TODAY'S POST:

At the ranch, Alex heard a ruckus, grabbed his rifle, and headed for the door. He pushed his way through four large growling dogs, trying to get out. "Don't understand why somebody would be stupid enough to try anything around here with you guys," he muttered under his breath.

As Alex reached the door, he heard a gunshot. Butkus leaped up and, with his front paw pushed the door handle down and the four dogs led the way to the stables. Alex jogged behind.

When they got inside the stables, Gus was holding his rifle. "I hit one of them varmints in the arm. I think they came after Midnight." Gus eyed the black stallion. "I can't for the life of me figure out who'd want that ornery horse."

"Soni loves him." Alex turned and watched Diego and Midnight nuzzle noses. "I guess so does Diego."

"I can understand them, but nobody else. That horse was a present from her dad. When he was a colt, Diego watched over him. He won't let anybody, but Soni ride him." Gus put the rifle in the gun case. "What do you think we should do?"

"First sign of daybreak, we'll load Midnight and take him to The 7 Lobos Ranch. It's over on the Louisiana border. He'll be safe there until things calm down." Alex petted the horse's neck. "He'll sire some beautiful colts."

"I'll call a few ranch-hands back and have them take turns guarding the stables tonight and some to track those guys. I think there were three." Gus took out his phone. "Soni's not going to like you taking Midnight without her. You gonna call her?"

"I will in the morning. I don't want to bother her now. She has enough to worry about."

*****
Soni yanked the tubes from her arm and ran to her grandfather. She wiped a tear rolling down her cheek as she knelt beside him, taking his hand in hers.

Jim crouched beside her. "You should be in bed. The doctor's been called. He's on his way." He touched the old man's neck and bent over him. "He has a strong pulse. That's a good thing."

"Of course, he does." Soni's eyes met Jim's. Grandfather's going to be all right." She stifled a sob. "He has to be."

A young doctor and two nurses burst into the room. "Move back!" he ordered as he knelt beside Kuruk. A nurse ushered Soni back to bed and replaced her IVs.

The doctor turned toward Soni. "When's the last time he's seen a doctor, and who's his primary?"

"Grandfather's a Shaman. He's never been to a doctor."

"What?" The doctor looked at his patient, and then at the nurse. "We need to transport him to cardiology. I suspect heart issues."

"Jim?" Soni's eyes met his when he turned. "Please go with him. He's not going to take this well. He doesn't like White Man's medicine."

Jim nodded. "Do you want me to notify Alex?

Tatiana closed her eyes. "No, we'll wait until we know something. Maybe Kuruk's just worn out from today's problems. It's been an awful day." She glanced toward the hallway. "And that man continues to make it worse."

As an orderly brought in the gurney, Littleton followed. "He's not going to get out of being arrested by faking a heart attack."

The doctor looked up at the Homeland Security Agent. "He's not faking. The man's unconscious."

After Kuruk was placed on the gurney, Jim removed the Apache Tear from his pocket and placed it in Kuruk's. Right now, you need this more than me.

Jim started to follow the gurney but was stopped by Littleton. "Where do you think you're going?"

"With Kuruk." Jim stepped around the agent.

"Stop! You're under arrest for assaulting a government agent."

Author Notes Thank you photobucket for the image of the blackbear in a dream catcher. I've made quite a few changes as I posted. I hope I didn't make it worse. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter, also.


Chapter 55
Chapter Dieciocho, (18) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

After Kuruk was placed on the gurney, Jim removed the Apache Tear from his pocket and placed it in Kuruk's. Right now, you need this more than me.

Jim started to follow the gurney but was stopped by Littleton. "Where do you think you're going?"

"With Kuruk." Jim stepped around the agent.

"Stop! You're under arrest for assaulting a government agent."


TODAY'S POST:

As Littleton's cell phone rang, he pointed a finger at Jim. "You'd better not disappear. I need to take this." He answered the phone.

That SOB! Jim walked a few feet down the hall and poked the numbers on his cell. "I need help. A Homeland Security agent's making all kinds of trouble. I don't know what his problem is, but something needs to be done. He's interfering with my case." He listened. "His name's Ralph Littleton." Again, Jim was silent. "Everybody he's trying to arrest is innocent. He's not even looking at Sanchez. I think he's on the cartel's payroll." He hung up and continued to ER.

Jim walked into the room and watched Kuruk try to convince the doctor that he was fine and this bed would better serve somebody else. Jim hung his head. And Soni wants me to make sure Kuruk gets help. He doesn't want medical attention.

Kuruk's eyes met Jim's. "Please tell Dr. Roberts that his services aren't needed. I'm perfectly healthy, and any problems there might be I can take handle myself."

"You did faint." Jim tried to choose the correct words. "It wouldn't hurt to have the doctor examine you. You still retain the right to refuse any treatment."

"That's settled. I'll schedule seven tests after the exam and medical history are completed." The doctor stepped closer.

Kuruk set his jaw. "I'm sure after the exam you'll realize seven tests aren't necessary. I have no medical history. I've been healthy all my life."

"What tests are you talking about?" asked Jim. "I'm sure some can be eliminated."

"First, we'll do a complete blood work-up, to include blood volume. The tilt table test, hemodynamic test, an autonomic test, an echocardiogram, EEG, ECG, EP, External Loop Recorder, Holter monitor, Insertable Cardiac Monitor, and Mobile Cardiac Telemetry System. Those will be needed to get a complete picture of what's going on with Mr. Four-Bear's heart. I think I'll add an MRI." He wrote on his pad.

"It's Chief Four-Bear." Jim faced the doctor. "Right now, the complete blood work-up is all that's necessary. After we have those results, we'll decide what else is needed."

"I have a few questions for you, Chief."

Kuruk nodded for the doctor to continue.

"Your temperature's elevated. How long has it been high? Have you had any chills, fatigue, body aches or a headache?"

"I've had cold or flu symptoms for a little over a week. I just can't seem to shake it."

The doctor glanced up from his pad. "Please continue."

"Chills and body aches, especially knee aches. Some fatigue, but I'm seventy-four years old. I get tired."

"Headache? How about a rash?"

"On the back of this leg." Kuruk pulled up his left buckskin pant leg. "See the rash. It looks like a bull's-eye. I must have been bitten by a spider when I went searching for herbs a few weeks ago."

Dr. Roberts called in a nurse. "Take Chief Four-Bear to the lab for blood tests." Again, he wrote on his pad before handing it to the nurse. "While he's gone, I'll arrange for him to go into ICU for monitoring and observation."

"I can walk. I don't need a wheelchair or to be monitored or observed."

"Sir, the wheelchair's hospital policy. As for the room, you'll need to take that up with the doctor."

"But I'm twice your size. I should push you."

"Ma'am, may I push?" Jim winked at the young nurse and took the wheelchair handle. "You can walk right beside me."

After blowing out a slow breath, Kuruk asked, "On the way to the lab, can I stop and check on my granddaughter and Tatiana?"

As Jim and the nurse rolled Kuruk towards Soni's room, Littleton was talking on his cell. He removed the phone and glared at Jim. "I know you had something to do with this. I just don't know what, but I'll figure it out. Don't think I won't." He headed toward the elevator. "Come on, men. We need to contact Search and Rescue and the Coroner's Office about getting the four bodies down from El Capitan."

Once inside Soni's room, Grayson and Running-Deer motioned for Jim to talk privately with them. He stood beside them.

Gray looked around, making sure nobody could hear his question. "I know you had something to do with Littleton leaving. Who are you? Are you undercover? And why are you here?"

Jim avoided eye contact. "I don't know what you're talking about." He turned, took a step, and turned back. "I will say these are good people." He joined Kuruk and Soni.

"You cut through the government's red tape quickly and effortlessly. Exactly, who are you?" asked Soni.

"I can't answer that." Jim's eyes studied the floor.

"So after everything we've been through, you still don't trust me enough to answer my questions. Maybe you should leave." Soni adjusted her blanket.

"I can't do that either. Kuruk and you are in danger."

"Jim, I'm ready to get this blood test over and see what this Whiteman's medicine is all about."

Jim raised an eyebrow and took the handles. "Okay." He turned Kuruk around and said over his shoulder. "I'll be in to check with you ladies later."

Kuruk struggled to turn but nodded and winked at Tatiana.

Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of a bull's-eye rash. I've made quite a few changes as I posted. I hope I didn't make it worse. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. My husband and I are taking a few days off to go to west Texas. Tuesday evening we're going to McDonald Observatory and going to a star gazing party. I'm excited about that. Then we will go to Guadalupe National Park. I am NOT going to climb Guadalupe Mountain, but I am going to hike the trail at the bottom of El Capitan. I'm hoping to get more insight to the area that Soni and Jim are around.


Chapter 56
Chapter Diecinueve, (19) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"So after everything we've been through, you still don't trust me enough to answer my questions. Maybe you should leave." Soni adjusted her blanket.

"I can't do that either. Kuruk and you are in danger."

"Jim, I'm ready to get this blood test over and see what this Whiteman's medicine is all about."

Jim raised an eyebrow and took the handles. "Okay." He turned Kuruk around and said over his shoulder. "I'll be in to check with you ladies later."

Kuruk struggled to turn but nodded and winked at Tatiana.


TODAY'S POST:


CHAPTER NINETEEN


When Kuruk had settled into ICU, the waiting game began. After they were left alone, Kuruk asked Jim, "What did Littleton say to cause you to slug him?"

"He made a derogatory remark about Soni."

"I don't need to know what it was. I'm glad you stood up for her. I'd hoped it wouldn't come to violence." Kuruk closed his eyes.

"Littleton has had it coming since we first met."

Kuruk opened his eyes and smiled. "I know."

Jim chuckled. "I saw that grin."

"I have something of yours that you misplaced." Kuruk took it from the table by his bed. "This fell out of my pocket when I changed into this so-called gown." He held up the Apache Tear. "I'm wondering how it got back in my pocket.

"When you fainted, I put it there. I figured you needed it worse than me."

"Son, when I give you something, don't give it back. I know you thought you were doing right, but I gave it to you for a reason. You need it, so you'll clearly see events that might happen."

Jim silently studied Kuruk before he asked, "Do you know something, I don't?"

"I only know what Naiyenesgani thinks I need to know."

"Can you share that with me?" Jim's eyes met Kuruk's.

"I know you work for a high government agency. Which one I don't know, yet. It's probably not important, anyway. I know you were on Big Grizzly doing surveillance; exactly about what or on who I don't know."

Jim raised one eye brow. "You seem to know a lot about me. I'm sure you're aware that I can't concede or deny any of your suspicions."

"You don't need to. Naiyenesgani already has." Kuruk took a long drink of water. "Now, for my granddaughter."

"She's a feisty little thing."

"That she is." A grin crossed the elderly gentleman's lips before he set his jaw. "If Sonsee-array comes to any harm; physically or emotionally, that person will have me to deal with." He used his right fist to tap his chest twice.

"I understand. Just so we understand each other, I'm doing my best to make sure she's safe."

"Keep the Apache Tear in a safe spot. It will insure my granddaughter's safety."

"That I can do." Jim took it from Kuruk and placed it in his jeans pocket. "Soni's pretty upset with me right now. Any ideas how to calm that temper?"

"She inherited that from her father's side of the family. Apaches learn at an early age to control their emotions. Soni's half white and a full blooded woman. It'll take a full blooded man to make her walk his path." Kuruk laughed so hard he started coughing.

"I'm sure that's true." Jim turned toward the doctor standing in the doorway. "I'm hoping you have Chief Four-Bear's test results."

"I do." The doctor held up a piece of paper and stepped closer to the bed. "I'm not happy with these results."

Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of a dream catcher. I've made quite a few changes as I posted. I hope I didn't make it worse. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. I greatly enjoyed my trip to the Guadalupe National Park. The bad news is I start back to school a week from today. I love the kids, but I also like working on my writing.


Chapter 57
Chapter Diecinueve, (19) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"She inherited that from her father's side of the family. Apaches learn at an early age to control their emotions. Soni's half white and a full blooded woman. It'll take a full blooded man to make her walk his path." Kuruk laughed so hard he started coughing.

"I'm sure that's true." Jim turned toward the doctor standing in the doorway. "I'm hoping you have Chief Four-Bear's test results."

"I do." The doctor held up a piece of paper and stepped closer to the bed. "I'm not happy with these results."


TODAY'S POST:

Jim stood in the doorway of Soni's room and watched as she brushed her long black hair. I've never seen her hair down before. She's gorgeous. He smiled at her sitting cross-legged on the bed. What was it Mom used to say? Criss-cross-applesauce. That reminds me. I need to call her.

Soni glanced up. "What are you doing here?"

"The doctor just gave your grandfather the blood tests' results. I thought you might be interested. I guess not." Jim turned to leave.

Tatiana jumped up and touched Jim's arm. "I'm sorry. We're both on edge. Please tell us." She sat as she frowned at Soni.

Jim sat beside Tatiana. "Have either of you noticed the bull's-eye rash on Kuruk's leg?" After both ladies shook their heads, he continued, "Well, that's called 'erythema migrans'. It's the hallmark of Lyme disease."

"That's rare in Texas. What about the fainting? A tick bite shouldn't cause that." Soni's eyebrows rose.

"The doc said it's rarely seen here. Kuruk is the first case he's ever seen. I guess ninety-five percent of the cases are found in the US's Northeast and upper Midwest." Jim paused. "Now for your second question. Advanced Lyme disease can cause irregular heartbeat. Hence, the fainting."

Soni started to get out of bed. "I need to see him. What are they doing for him?"

Tatiana stood and put her hand on Soni's arm. "Young lady, you're staying put." She faced Jim. "I'm sure the doctors are doing everything possible."

"Well, that's another issue. The doctor is attempting to start a treatment of intravenous antibiotic for fourteen to twenty-eight days. How long depends how Kuruk responds."

"Grandfather will never go for that."

"You know him, don't you?" Jim ran his hand through his short hair. "A compromise has been reached. Kuruk agreed to allow the IV, with the agreement that he can also take alfalfa, ginseng, hawthorn, marshmallow root, goldenseal, and a few more herbs that I can't remember."

"I can't believe the doctor agreed to that." Soni's eyes met Jim's.

"After listening to the debate, I recommend our government hires Kuruk as our secret weapon for diplomacy. I'll immediately start drafting the letter."

The three laughed.

Soni blotted the tears streaming from her eyes as she laughed and changed her demeanor. "Jim, seriously I need to go to Grandfather, just for a few minutes."

"Do you ever ask for anything that's simple?" Jim faced the door. "I'll see what I can do." He turned around and walked to Soni's bed. "Make yourself presentable and I'll take you."

Tatiana took a robe from the end of the bed. "This should help." She helped Soni slip her arms through it. "Your doctor won't be happy."

"I've already rested all I can."

"Jim?" Tatiana's eyes had a helpless look to them.

"I'll do what I can." Jim slipped his arm around Soni's waist as she stood. "We shouldn't be very long."

When Jim and Soni were about fifteen feet from Kuruk's room, Miguel Sanchez stepped from the room.

"What are you doing here?" Soni eye's met Miguel's.

"I heard you and your grandfather were in the hospital so I thought I'd pay you a visit. I just finished with Kuruk and on my way to see you." Miguel slipped his hand into his jeans pocket.

Jim started to head into Kuruk's room, but hesitated, not wanting to leave Soni alone with Miguel.


Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of goldenseal . I've been working on two novels at one time; this one and Savannah Love. In doing this, I think I've messed them both up. LOL I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. SCHOOL STARTS FOR TEACHERS TOMORROW AND NEXT MONDAY FOR THE STUDENTS. I am going to miss all of you, but I should be around on weekends or any breaks I get during the week.


Chapter 58
Chapter Diecinueve, (19) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

When Jim and Soni were about fifteen feet from Kuruk's room, Miguel Sanchez stepped from the room.

"What are you doing here?" Soni eye's met Miguel's.

"I heard you and your grandfather were in the hospital so I thought I'd pay you a visit. I just finished with Kuruk and on my way to see you." Miguel slipped his hand into his jeans pocket.

Jim started to head into Kuruk's room, but hesitated, not wanting to leave Soni alone with Miguel.

TODAY'S POST:

"I'm wondering why you have your arm around my lady." Miguel faced Jim.

"I didn't know you and Soni were in a relationship." Jim stared back.

Miguel shoved Jim's arm off of Soni. "We've been dating for a long time."

"Miguel, we are not dating. We've never had a date." Soni touched Jim's arm. "He's making sure I don't fall. I had a concussion. I fell from a cliff."

"I don't like another man touching you." Miguel continued to face Jim, but addressed Soni. I'll come by tomorrow, and we can visit. He'd better not be hovering around like a lovesick puppy." Miguel glared at Jim. "Have a nice visit with tu abuelo." He thought for a moment. "Better yet, I can escort you. There's no reason for an outsider to be involved."

"My advice is for you to leave," responded Jim.

"We'll continue this at a later date. My only concern is for this lovely lady to heal." Miguel kissed Soni's hand. "Mi amor, te voy a ver manana." He turned and walked away.

"I'm not your love and I won't see you tomorrow, if I can help it," whispered Soni as she wiped the kissed hand on her robe. "Yuck. There should be disinfectant in Grandfather's room."

"I heard that." Jim watched the elevator door close. "Let's check on Kuruk."

Inside Kuruk's room, the doctor and nurse were still trying to insert his IV.

The doctor turned when he heard them enter. "Chief Four-Bear's veins are very touchy, and we're struggling getting an IV started."

"That tells me Naiyenesgani doesn't want you to stick that needle in me."

"I don't know what you're talking about. Who's naigeni?"

"Naiyenesgani is the Great Creator. My grandfather's telling you that he believes the Great Creator doesn't want you to start an IV."

"My patient needs it. This disease traveled to his heart."

"I'm sure white man's medicine has certain side effects." Kuruk watched the nurse touch the IV bag.

"You could have a lower white blood cell count and maybe diarrhea. That's why we want you to remain in the hospital." The doctor held the needle. "Let's try this again."

"My medicine rarely has any side effects."

"There's no guarantee your medicine will heal you."

The Shaman faced Jim. "Tell this man how my medicine healed you."

"Doc, he's correct. Twice he's healed me. I'm as good as new and hardly any scars." Jim started to unbutton his shirt. "Want to take a look?"

"Maybe you're overreacting because this is your first case of Lyme disease." Soni stepped closer to the bed. "Grandfather has been a Shaman ever since before you were born. I don't know of one time his medicine didn't work."

"Why can't you use Kuruk's medicine first, and then, if it doesn't work start the antibiotics," offered Jim.

"With each passing moment, Chief Four-Bear's heart's beating irregularly." The doctor pointed to the heart monitor. "Not only that but, the longer we wait, this disease can infect the membranes surrounding the brain."

"That's why." Jim stepped closer to the heart monitor and then touched Kuruk shoulder. "I wouldn't want to take any chances. How about you?"

The Chief nodded, closed his eyes, and took deep breaths as he calmed his body. The needle entered the top of his left hand and the IV liquid began flowing.

After making sure the IV was working properly, the doctor left, with the nurse following. She stopped and said, "I'll be back in a little while to check on everything." She picked up a box from a table. "While we were starting the IV, a young man stopped by and left this. He thought you might like some treats while you're here."


As she handed it to Kuruk, Jim intercepted it. "I'll take that." He went into the hall to check the contents.




Author Notes Thank you Google images for the photo of an IV in a hand. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. MONDAY SCHOOL FOR THE STUDENTS. I am going to miss all of you, but I should be around on weekends or any breaks I get during the week.


Chapter 59
Chapter Diecinueve, (19) Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

After making sure the IV was working properly, the doctor left, with the nurse following. She stopped and said, "I'll be back in a little while to check on everything." She picked up a box from a table. "While we were starting the IV, a young man stopped by and left this. He thought you might like some treats while you're here."


As she handed it to Kuruk, Jim intercepted it. "I'll take that." He went into the hall to check the contents.

TODAY'S POST:


Soni sat beside her grandfather's bed but watched Jim from the hospital window. What did Miguel put in the box? She turned slowly and stretched her neck.

"Sonsee-array, Jim will tell us when he's ready." Kuruk touched his granddaughter's hand.

"Maybe you're right, but he's on the phone now. Who do you think he's talking to, and about what?"

"How would I know?"

"You know everything." Soni smiled at Kuruk.

"My child, I know nothing. Only what Naiyenesgani tells me."

Soni's lips pouted. "Now, he's pacing and talking."

"You could go into the hall and ask." Kuruk winked at her.

"No!" Soni said a little too loudly. "He'd think I'm interested in what he does."

"Aren't you?"

"Not in the least. Unless it deals with you and what's in that box." Soni blew out a breath of air. "I wish Miguel was bringing you nothing more than a box of cookies, but we both know that can't be right."

"I never trusted Miguel."

"And the verdict's still out on Jim." Soni tightly pressed her lips together.

"I understand your skepticism, but I'm pretty sure he's one of the good guys." A twinkle showed in Kuruk's eyes.

"I hope you're right, Grandfather." Soni sat straight in the chair, faced Kuruk, and whispered, "He's coming."

"Who's coming," answered Jim.

"I don't know. Grandfather, do you expect a visitor?"

Jim raised his eyebrows. "I think your concussion's affecting your thinking. Maybe you need to go back to your room." He glanced at his watch. "It is very late."

"Not before you tell me what was in that box." Soni crossed her arms at her chest.

Jim edged toward the door. "I'll get Tatiana and we'll call Alex and Garrison. I only want to repeat this once."

*****
When Jim returned with Tatiana, she called Alex and put him on speaker. Jim called Garrison and did the same. Before Jim could begin, a gentleman dressed in a suit walked into the room. Without saying anything, Jim nodded and handed him the box.

"That's just wrong giving Grandfather's box away without letting him see what's in it." Soni's shoulders slumped.

Jim studied Soni before he spoke, "You're just dying to know what's in that box, aren't you?"

"Not really." Soni gave an exaggerated yawn and raised her hands over her head. "I guess I'm more tired than I thought. Maybe I need to return to my room." She stood.

"I was afraid you'd overdo it. I'll take you back." Tatiana stood beside Soni.

"Nobody's going anywhere until we hear what Jim has to say," teased Kuruk. "Granddaughter, you've sat here for thirty minutes worried about that box." He nodded toward Jim. "Please continue. You're done being interrupted"

"I called around to a few people." Jim paused as a tall, young man entered the room.

The man addressed Jim, "Where do you want me posted?"

"I was just explaining the situation. I'm glad you're here." Jim paused and gathered his thoughts. "This is Jackson White."

After the introductions, Jackson said, "I'm glad to meet you. If you want, you can call me Jack."

"Are you planning on being here for a while?" Soni's eyes met his.

"I was about to get to that," interrupted Jim. "I wasn't happy with how easily Sanchez had access to Kuruk. I feel there needs to be more security, so I called in a few favors."

Soni stood. "Thank you for your concern, but we can take care of ourselves. I have plenty of cowboys at my disposal."

Kuruk sat up in bed. "I think Jim has a point. Please continue."

"I can't be in two rooms at once. Soni should be released in the morning, but you'll probably stay another few days." Jim glanced at Kuruk. "Do you think I should stay with you or with Soni?"

"If you feel you need to stay with somebody, you'd better stay with Grandfather. I'll stay by myself. Jackson, I'm sorry you came all this way for nothing." Soni walked toward the door.

"Soni, get your butt back here," boomed Alex's voice through the phone.

"You're on the phone. How'd you know I was leaving?" asked Soni.

"I know you and when you get like that, you're very predictable. Jim has a good point. I, for one, am glad he's thinking ahead."

"So am I," added Grayson through the phone.

"I guess I'm outnumbered." Soni released a deep breath. "Come on, Jackson. You're with me."

"Sonsee-array, wait a minute," ordered Kuruk. After Soni paused, Kuruk continued, "Jackson will stay with me. Jim, stay with Soni. You're used to her stubbornness."

Soni started to object, but Kuruk's glare met hers. She remained quiet and sat.
Tatiana, Jim, and Jackson looked at the floor.

A long silence continued before Tatiana said good bye to Alex and hung up the phone. "Soni, it's late. We'd better return to your room." She headed toward the door. Soni followed.

Jim spoke with Garrison, hung up, and said good night to Kuruk and Jackson before he followed the ladies.

"Hey, what was in the box?" Kuruk called out.

Author Notes Thank you Google an image of a Native American young lady. In my mind, Soni looks very similar. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 60
Chapter Veinte, (20) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

A long silence continued before Tatiana said good bye to Alex and hung up the phone. "Soni, it's late. We'd better return to your room." She headed toward the door. Soni followed.

Jim spoke with Garrison, hung up, and said good night to Kuruk and Jackson before he followed the ladies.

"Hey, what was in the box?" Kuruk called out.


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY


When Jim, Tatiana, and Soni arrived back at Soni's hospital room, her nurse tapped her watch. "Ms. Adler, at this time of night I expected to find you in bed asleep."

Soni hurried and crawled in bed. "I had to check on Grandfather."

The nurse took her vital signs. "Everything looks good. Unless something shows up during the night, the doctor plans to release you in the morning." After lowering the room lights, she stood at the door. "I hope you rest well. Try not to make any more midnight trips around the hospital. Good night." She grinned as she pulled the door shut.

"Here." Soni tossed Tatiana one of her extra pillows. "Are you warm enough?" She held the call button. "I can get more blankets." Soni watched Jim walk into the hall. I wonder where he's going.

Jim returned with two extra pillows and blankets. "These will come in handy." He moved two chairs together and helped Tatiana lay down. "You should be able to get some rest this way."

"Thank you, but what about you?" asked Tatiana. "There aren't any chairs left."

"I'm sleeping on the floor. It won't be the first time and probably won't be the last." Jim folded and laid down half the blanket and stretched out on it, then covered himself with the other half. "Good night, ladies."

"Tatiana should be in the bed." Soni sat up.

"You're the patient," said Jim. "Get some sleep, so we can."

*****
As the early morning sun shone in the window, Soni hurried into the bathroom, dressed, and sat on her bed. "The doctor should be here any minute to release me."

Tatiana arranged the chairs to their previous position and folded the blanket. "I'm sure it won't be until after breakfast and probably closer to lunch."

Jim rose from the floor and stretched his arms above his head. "I'm sure Tatiana's right. You might as well find something to occupy your time."

As Soni began to channel surf, a staff member brought in breakfast. She lifted the lid and said, "It's not one of your breakfasts, but it doesn't look half bad."

"I'll get us something to eat. Any suggestions?" Jim ran his fingers through this short hair?

"Coffee and breakfast burritos are my favorite, but I'll eat anything." Tatiana stopped braiding her hair and opened her purse.

"I got it." Jim motioned with his hand to put her money away as he left.

"He's such a nice man. Don't you think?" Tatiana's eyes met Soni's.

"I guess I'm in a minority. Grandfather seems to think he's nice too." Soni turned away from the woman who raised her.

"Alex told me he thinks a lot of Jim. Maybe you need to decide why you don't like him."

"It's not that I don't like him, I don't trust him. Since he's entered our lives, we've had nothing but trouble. We didn't have any trouble until he came." Soni punched her pillow.

"Maybe it's a coincidence."

"Grandfather taught me there's no such thing as a coincidence. If it looks like a skunk, smells like a skunk, and walks like a skunk, by-golly it's a skunk."

"I think you protest too much." Tatiana continued to braid her hair and then wrapped it around her head and replaced the hairpins.

Soni raised her eyebrows. "What do you mean by that?"

"I think you like Jim a lot, and it scares you, so you're searching for reasons not to like him."

"That's ridiculous."

"You never wear your hair down. Your beauty is hard to miss today. Could it be hoping Jim notices?"

"I just didn't feel like braiding it." Soni pulled her hair together in the back and then began to make one long braid. "Is that better?"

"Is what better?" Jim walked in.

"Nothing." Soni finished her braid. "That didn't take long."

"There was a donut shop around the corner." Jim lifted the cover from Soni's breakfast. "I see you didn't eat much."

"We were talking, and I needed to fix my hair."

"What were you talking about?" Jim winked at Tatiana as he handed her coffee and a burrito.

Tatiana opened her mouth to speak, but Soni interrupted, "Why are you keeping the contents of that box such a secret? I have a right to know." Soni glared at Jim.

"Actually, you don't have a right to know, but your grandfather does. It was given to him." Jim turned to leave. "I'll tell him right now."

Soni jumped from her bed and ran after Jim.

"Oh my!" Tatiana set her coffee and burrito on the table and followed.

In the hallway, Soni grabbed Jim's arm and faced him. They stared into each other's eyes and were silent, but each struggled to swallow.

Tatiana stood in the distance and smiled.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a typical hospital breakfast. I'm beginning to think this box has taken over a life of it's own. I can promise you part of the contents will be reveals in next week's post. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 61
Chapter Treinta y uno (31) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

After Goliath lay down, Mack sighed and followed.

Fi wiggled away from Soni's hold and cuddled in between the two large dogs.

Both dogs looked at Soni as if to say, 'Really?'

Soni petted her two boys. "I guess this is your way of accepting her, for now. Right?" She turned her head toward the door when she heard a noise.

Both large dogs rose faster than Soni. Fi stood underneath Goliath while she barked.

TODAY'S POST:

Part 3

Moments later, Jim and Jackson opened the door and set the bags on a chair. Jim picked up and petted the small dog. "I heard them, too. You need to be quiet before you wake the baby."

Goliath and Mack remained alert.

Soni turned toward the bedroom door when she heard Butkus prowling. She looked back at Jim. "Somebody's outside."

He nodded. "You're right."

"The house has been watched since you left." Jackson checked the holstered gun inside his suit jacket. "Nobody's made a move, just observed."

"I wonder what they want." Soni adjusted the curtain and stared out the window.

"I guess we wait and see." Jim stood beside Soni. "Jack and I can take care of things. Why don't you go on to bed?" When she started to object, he added, "If we need you, we'll let you know."

Soni studied her bedroom door. I need to call Tatiana and let her know we made it safely. A hot bath and my bed would feel good. She turned toward the two men.

"Soni, go. We've got this. Jack said all they've done, so far, is to observe." Jim's eyes met Soni's.

As Soni went into her room, both Great Pyrenees followed.

*****
The early morning sun shone through Soni's window. She blinked a few times and jumped from the bed, smelling hot coffee. After she readied herself for the day, she walked into the living room. Jackson held Emanuel while Isabella set the table. Butkus lay beside Jack's feet.

"Where's Jim? Did anything happen last night?"

"I'm in here. No, there weren't any problems."

Soni entered the den and saw Jim standing in front of the large wall map of the Rockin' A ranch, holding and petting Fi. "What you looking for?"

Jim pointed to a land area on the northwest side. "This is the disputed 125,000 acres, right?" After Soni nodded, he moved his hand to the very top edge of the map. "Over here is the Cactus Jack Ranch."

Again she nodded and placed her hand above his on the wall. "This is about where El Paso's located."

"Okay, so this area is part of the Chihuahua Desert. Who owns the water rights?"

"Rockin' A, but that being said, neither Dad nor I have ever denied any rancher water."

"Miguel Sanchez is the foreman of that ranch. Who owns it?"

"Rusty Parker." Soni anticipated Jim's next question. "I don't know him very well, but he seems like a fair man." She answered her ringing cell. With a smile across her lips and a twinkle in her eyes, she said, "Alex and Kuruk are bringing Tatiana home." She paused and laughed. "The doc says she'll need to rest for about two weeks. I guess Dr. Hatcher doesn't know her very well."

"I'm glad, and you're right about her resting." Jim released a deep breath. "Is there any way we could have a sit down with Sanchez and Parker?"

"I could make an appointment, but it'd be better coming from Alex. It wouldn't look all official."

"Let's have Alex do it." Jim looked toward the door. "I think Isabella has breakfast ready."

As they walked into the dining room, Soni noticed Emanuel propped up in a highchair.

Isabella started to apologize, but Jackson interrupted, "Kuruk thought it would be okay if Emanuel used your old highchair and crib."

Soni smiled and sat. "Not a problem. I don't need them anymore. I'm glad they have a purpose."

As Jim sat, he set Fi down. The adults blessed the food. Goliath sat to the right of Soni and Mack on her left. Butkus lay on the floor below Emanuel.

Fi scampered over and nipped Butkus's front paw.

The large Mastiff used his paw to shove the Yorkie aside.

Fi yipped softly, ran up, and, again, attacked Butkus's paw.

The large dog grabbed Fi by the scruff of her neck, carried her from the table area, and deposited her on the rug by the fireplace. To make sure his message was understood, he gave the puppy a slobbery kiss and a low rumbled growl. Then he returned to his guard station beside the baby.

The Yorkie remained on the rug, but barked at Butkus.

Butkus slowly turned around and stared at the young dog.

Fi lay with her head between her paws.

"Okay, now that that's settled, can somebody pass the eggs?" Jim held out his hand.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a Mastiff with a Yorkie on it's back. I know the dogs I write usually steal the scene. I think Fi did it again in this post.
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.
Having gone back to work this week, I have missed many of your posts. I am so sorry. I hate that part of working, I do love the money, LOL.


Chapter 61
CHAPTER TREINTA Y DOS, Part DOS

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni heard the helicopter's engine and ran outside. Goliath, Mack, and Fi followed.

"He's stealing my helicopter!" She removed her cell phone.

Gus ran over to her. "Ms. Soni, Jim said he's tracking somebody. Does he know how to fly?"

Soni nodded, replaced her phone, and headed toward the house. "Why am I always the last person to know anything?"

Goliath nuzzled his large head under her hand.

Mack followed, but Fi remained and barked in the helicopter's direction. Mack used his muzzle to push the pup toward the house. Fi refused, stared at Mack, and growled.

With silence, but teeth showing, Mack stared back. A few moments later, Fi turned and pranced inside.

TODAY'S POST:

Part 2

Jim flew a good distance behind the suspect. I hope he doesn't suspect I'm following him. He scanned the ground below. I don't see anything that looks familiar, even though Soni and I came this way to retrieve Midnight.

The pickup parked beside a small dilapidated cabin.

Jim landed behind a large mesa. He then searched behind the seat and found bottles of water, a rifle, and a couple boxes of shells. "I figured Soni'd make sure she's well-armed." He took a drink, grabbed the rifle and ammunition, before he secured the helicopter and headed toward the cabin.

As he walked, he noticed an older truck leaving and heading in the direction of the ranch. "They must be switching lookouts, but why didn't they leave somebody there? Maybe they did, and I didn't see him."

Before Jim reached the cabin, the man he had followed drove away in a different direction.

Jim stood and watched. Now what? Then he noticed another pickup. Hmm, this one's fancy. I wonder who it belongs too.

As Jim crept around a corner of the cabin, Miguel stepped outside.

Just who I expected. I have him now! Patience! Jim waited around the corner for Miguel to step farther away from the door and turn toward the last parked pickup. When Miguel's back was to him, Jim edged closer and stuck the rifle barrel between Miguel's shoulder blades. "Howdy, partner. Put your hands in the air." Jim did a quick pat down and removed a handgun and a knife from him. "Slowly turn around." He shoved the confiscated gun into the back of his jeans' waist band and stepped back.

Miguel did as requested. "What do you want with me?"

Jim studied the knife. "Looks like a carved bear on the handle. We'll get back to that later. Right now, I have an entire laundry list of problems with you. First, why have you sent men to spy on Soni Adler?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. I'd never put Ms. Adler in danger. I'm her boyfriend. You know me." Miguel glared at Jim. "Can I put my hands down, now?"

Jim raised his fist and punched Miguel's face. "You're not Soni's boyfriend and I don't like being lied to." He paused. Patience, patience. I'll get further with patience. "I followed a man here and watched another man drive off toward the ranch. I waited until both men left."

"I have no control over what people do."

"True. If we went back to the ranch, I bet we'd find that man watching the ranch house." Jim grinned. "But I already know that and I know the exact spot he'll be hiding in."

He removed his cell phone and tapped a name. "Jack, there's a man sitting about four hundred yards to the west of the stables." Jim listened. "Yes, that's the spot. Go out and arrest him. I have Sanchez with me." Again, he listened. "No, don't tell Soni. I'm not finished with him, yet." He paused a moment. "Has Kuruk and everybody returned?" He put his phone away.

"You think you know everything." Miguel's eyes met his.

"Nope, I don't know everything. I really don't know very much. With your help, I'm about to learn a lot more."

"You won't get anything from me."

"I figured you'd think that." Jim continued grinning. "So far today, I've learned you're having the ranch staked out." He took the cigarette butt from his pocket. "After this is checked for DNA, the owner will be arrested. Now, I have you, and you're about ready to spill your guts. I see at least three men arrested, and I bet more will follow."

"You're awfully cocky for a government man. I'm not telling you anything. I know my rights."

"You'll be singing like a bird. Just not here."

"I'm not going anywhere with you."

"You're forgetting. I have the gun. You have nothing."

"Go ahead shoot me. I'd rather die than talk."

Jim took aim and fired.

Miguel fell to the ground, grabbed his thigh, and cried out, "You actually shot me."

"Of course, I did. You told me to. If I wanted you dead, well you'd be dead. It's only a flesh wound. Get up and quit whining before I do it again." Jim used the rifle to motion for Miguel to stand. "Get moving."

When Miguel rose, Jim grabbed him by the shirt and shoved him forward. "We're going this way." He adjusted his cowboy hat to shade his eyes. "Too bad you left your hat at the cabin." He glanced a the sky. "Hmm, vultures. I wonder if it will be their lucky day."

After walking a short distance, Miguel stopped in the shade of a large mesa and sat. "I'm bleeding to death. I need medical attention."

"You wouldn't be lucky enough to bleed to death." Jim answered his phone. "Good." He walked away from his prisoner, but kept the rifle aimed at him. "I have Sanchez. He's not giving anything up. I was wondering if you have..." He paused and listened. "Perfect. I'm glad we're thinking a like." Again he listened. "I don't know where that's at but I'll find it. I'll meet you there."

Reaching into his pocket, Jim retrieved the Apache tear. "You have served me well. Thank you." He replaced the black stone as he walked back to Miguel. "Let's go." He gave him a shove.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of an Apache tear. If you remember from earlier posts, Kuruk gave it to Jim in order to help him.
Once again, as I posted I changed some wording. I hope I didn't make it worse. LOL
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.




Chapter 61
Chapter Veinte, (20) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Tatiana opened her mouth to speak, but Soni interrupted, "Why are you keeping the contents of that box such a secret? I have a right to know." Soni glared at Jim.

"Actually, you don't have a right to know, but your grandfather does. It was given to him." Jim turned to leave. "I'll tell him right now."

Soni jumped from her bed and ran after Jim.

"Oh my!" Tatiana set her coffee and burrito on the table and followed.

In the hallway, Soni grabbed Jim's arm and faced him. They stared into each other's eyes and were silent, but each struggled to swallow.

Tatiana stood in the distance and smiled.


TODAY'S POST:

A nurse exited Kuruk's room and nearly bumped into Jim and Soni. "Excuse me. Is there a problem?"

"Uh, no," Soni and Jim said in unison.

"I need to share something with Chief Four-Bear." Jim walked around her.

"I need to hear what he says." Soni followed Jim.

Tatiana trailed behind.

"A person can't even eat breakfast in peace. First the nurse, and now you three." Kuruk took a bite of scrambled eggs. "It's not nearly as good as your cooking." He winked at Tatiana.

"I'll fix your favorite breakfast as soon as you're home."

"Thank you. Why are you here?" He took a bite of slightly buttered toast and scrunched up his mouth. "Needs more butter and some jam. Your homemade biscuits are perfect."

Tatiana smiled.

"Jim's going to share the mystery of what's in the box." Soni sat with her arms crossed.

Kuruk chuckled. "You'd better hurry before the suspense drives my granddaughter crazy."

"The box held," Jim used his hands and pretended a drum roll, "Brownies."

"What?" the three asked together.

"If that's all, why'd you send them away?" asked Soni.

"I don't trust Sanchez. They're being tested. I want to make sure they weren't poisoned."

"That's a good idea. We were accused of having peyote during our Bountiful Harvest Celebration. What better way to prove it than to plant it on us?" Kuruk set his jaw.

"I hadn't thought of that." Jim took his cell phone out and glanced at it. "I'm waiting for the results. I was expecting something like arsenic, but you've introduced a new possibility." He put the phone away. "Nothing, yet." He paused. "They may be just brownies. I'm sure he knows we suspect him. Maybe they're a peace offering, hoping to divert suspicion."

Soni's doctor stood in the doorway. "When you weren't in your room, I figured I'd find you here."

"Are you ready to release me?"

"I need to do an examination. If everything's good, I'll sign the papers, and you'll be home in time for lunch."

Soni followed the doctor, but said over her shoulder, "You two might as well visit with Grandfather. It shouldn't take long."

"I'm coming with you. Sanchez said he'd return today." Jim followed but stood outside the door.

The examination didn't take long. After Jim had private words with Jackson, Soni kissed Grandfather good bye and promised to return later that evening. Jim, Soni, and Tatiana headed home.

After driving about forty miles, Jim glanced at Soni and asked, "What's going on? You've been silent for almost thirty minutes?"

"I'm worried about Grandfather. He's never been in a hospital. He hates TV, and there's nothing for him to do."

"One time Alex mentioned Kuruk likes to play Chess. Jack brought his set. I'm sure he'll engage Kuruk in a friendly rivalry."

Soni pointed out the windshield. "What's up ahead?"

Tatiana leaned forward between the seats. "It looks like an overturned semi. It's probably an accident, but I don't see any other cars. I hope everybody's all right."

"Maybe the driver was going too fast, fell asleep, and lost control." Soni released a deep breath.

Jim stopped the SUV about half a mile away. "We'd better see if we can help." He took out his cell phone and tapped a button. "Hey, there's a semi on its side on I35 heading North, about mile marker seventy-four. My gut says something isn't kosher. Maybe somebody should check it out." He listened a moment. "Yeah, I'm stopping." His eyes met Soni's. "I'm sure you have ammunition if we need it." After Soni nodded, Jim returned to his call. "Yes. There are three of us. Two are good shots."

"Three," interrupted Tatiana.

"I should've known better," whispered Jim as he grinned. "Make that three. I'll keep you posted."

Tatiana reached behind the seat and passed a Nosler M48 to Soni.

"Holy Cow! That's some rifle." Jim's eyes widened.

"Only the best." Soni placed the rifle between her and the door. "I have an extra knife back there too."
ed Soni a sheathed bowie knife. She placed it inside her right boot. Next, Tatiana handed Jim A Sauer 202 Avantgarde Grande.

Jim eyed the barrel. "This is one good rifle."

"It was Daddy's favorite."

"I'll take good care of it." Jim patted the stock. He turned and glanced at Tatiana. "I would've pictured you with a Browning T-Bolt." He wiped his mouth. "I have a really bad feeling. Ready for whatever's ahead?" After the ladies nodded, Jim put the SUV in drive and inched forward.



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a turned over semi. I've have revealed part of the boxes contents, but you will have to wait for test results. They can take a while. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 62
CHAPTER TREINTA Y DOS, Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

After walking a short distance, Miguel stopped in the shade of a large mesa and sat. "I'm bleeding to death. I need medical attention."

"You wouldn't be lucky enough to bleed to death." Jim answered his phone. "Good." He walked away from his prisoner, but kept the rifle aimed at him. "I have Sanchez. He's not giving anything up. I was wondering if you have..." He paused and listened. "Perfect. I'm glad we're thinking alike." Again he listened. "I don't know where that's at but I'll find it. I'll meet you there."

Reaching into his pocket, Jim retrieved the Apache tear. "You have served me well. Thank you." He replaced the black stone as he walked back to Miguel. "Let's go." He gave him a shove.

TODAY'S POST:

Part 3 of Chapter 32

Kuruk walked into a well-stocked cabin and greeted Jim. "I see you found the place."

"Good, a Shaman." Miguel pointed to his thigh. "This fool shot me. I need medical attention. I'm bleeding to death."

"You're shot in the thigh. The bullet only grazed you." Kuruk smiled as he faced Jim. "I'm proud of your patience."

"You're rubbing off." Jim pointed to a chair for Kuruk. "Have a seat."

Miguel pointed to the Shaman pouch. "You brought your medicine. I need medical care." This time he raised his leg.

Kuruk opened his bag. "I'll treat you, but I'm pretty sure you'll live from your injury."

"As much as he's been whining, I wonder if you have any happy face bandages in there." Jim peeked in. "Nope, don't see any."

"Sonsee-array refused to wear those when she was little." Kurkuk grinned.

"I'm sure she did." Jim glanced over at Miguel. "I guess you'd better treat our patient before he bleeds to death."

"Can you raise your pant leg high enough for me to get to it or do you need to lower your pants?" Kuruk waited for the answer.

Miguel attempted to pull the material past the wound while keeping an eye on Jim. "Is that gringo going to shoot me again?"

"Good question." Kuruk eyed Jim. "I'd be careful who I called a gringo."

"I can't get them up high enough. I'll need to lower my pants." Miguel stood.

"While the clown's showing us his Scooby-Doo drawers, I want to show you what I took off him." Jim reached into his back pocket and showed Kuruk the throwing knife. "See the bear carved in the handle? I wonder where he got it."

Kuruk pulled his knife from the sheath and showed it to Jim. "Not mine. See the difference?" He pointed to a capital letter J hidden in the bottom corner and whispered, "All my knives have my daughter's initial carved here."

Jim nodded. "I see he's ready." He stepped back, allowing Kuruk to move closer.

After the wound was cleaned and antiseptic applied, Miguel said, "It hurts like hell, can't you give me something for pain? I know you have something in that bag."

"Go ahead and give the baby something." Jim winked at Kuruk.

Kuruk reached inside his pouch and studied each small plastic bag after plastic bag. "I'm looking for exactly the right one. Jim, can you heat some water? I'll make him some tea." He finally closed his hand around a bag. "I found it."

Jim stood beside the stove. "How hot do you want it?"

The Shaman walked to Jim and placed a couple of finger pinches of the crushed herb into the cup. "That should do it."

Jim motioned for Kuruk to turn on the tape recorder.

"Can't you hurry? I hurt real bad. I'll need a lot," yelled Miguel.

Kuruk added a pinch more and nodded for Jim to add the hot water. Kuruk stirred the contents of the cup until he was satisfied. Then he carried it to Miguel. "It's probably not the best tasting tea you ever drank, but it should ease the pain."

Miguel took a drink. "Ouch! It's hot." He took a few sips. "It's not working. I'm still in pain."

"Give it time." Kuruk sat and turned off the recorder.

Jim leaned his chair back on two legs and glanced at his watch. "Give it, what thirty minutes?"

Kuruk nodded.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a Shaman's bag. Since Kuruk means black bear in Apache, I picture his has a bear on it. LOL
Again, I changed things as I posted. I can't seem to get it the way I want it; no matter how many times I edit.
A few of you are wondering about my chapter count. I think I have two more chapters to go until the end. I'm not sure of the parts to the chapter I'm posting. My chapter range from 1,800 - 2,000 words. My last chapter should be Chapter 34.
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I am winding it down and the conclusion is coming. I promise. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.




Chapter 62
CHAPTER TREINTA Y DOS, Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Fi yipped softly, ran up, and, again, attacked Butkus's paw.

The large dog grabbed Fi by the scruff of her neck, carried her from the table area, and deposited her on the rug by the fireplace. To make sure his message was understood, he gave the puppy a slobbery kiss and a low rumbled growl. Then he returned to his guard station beside the baby.

The Yorkie remained on the rug, but barked at Butkus.

Butkus slowly turned around and stared at the young dog.

Fi lay with her head between her paws.

"Okay, now that that's settled, can somebody pass the eggs?" Jim held out his hand.


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO
Part 1

Later that morning, Soni went into the den and continued searching through the property deeds. She reread them and checked for answers to questions in family history ledgers. Still no mention of Juan Paco Martinez-Vega or the poker game. She leaned back in the large leather chair and stretched her arms until both hands touched the desk. She tapped her fingers. I have proof Dieter's land deed is legal. Gunter's 250,000 acres are legal. Wait! I have no proof that Gunter willed his land to Dieter. With that in mind, she reached for additional files.

Jim poked his head in the doorway. "I'm taking a walk. Do you want to join me?"

She shook her head. "I'm looking for proof that Gunter willed his land to Dieter. That may help with the 125,000 acres."

"Good idea. I'll be in later to help. I feel the need to stretch my legs."

"Are you leaving the runt inside?"

"Yes. Fi's curled up out here with Goliath, taking a nap. I guess they'll get along." Jim laughed.

"Goliath and Mack can keep an eye on everything and everybody in the house from outside this door, nothing will get by them."

*****
Jim glanced toward the garden and smiled. Those tomato plants are starting to make a comeback. Midnight should return in time to help himself. He chuckled.

He walked beyond the stables. "Jack said he's seen movement from this area. Maybe I'll get lucky." He kicked a rock and then knelt down. "A cigarette butt, maybe DNA." He removed his cell phone, snapped a photo, and then hurried back to the house.

It didn't take long for Jim to get some bags from Jack's crime scene kit. After carefully gathering the possible evidence, he smiled and secured it in his jeans' pocket. "Go ahead, make mistakes. I'm waiting." He walked farther away from the stables. "There are footprints. As long as it doesn't rain, they should remain here." He snapped additional photos and grinned. "Or it doesn't get too windy. Now, that might happen."

Jim stopped and searched the area to his right. Did something move? He stood still and scanned the area. It was probably a jackrabbit or a roadrunner. Maybe a mangy coyote. He could feel his heart-rate increase. Patience, man, patience. This could be the break you need.

He knelt on one knee and waited. It must be 106 degrees out here. I wonder how far and how fast I can run in this heat. I'm not used to it. As Jim stood, he caught a glimpse of a reflection partially covered by a straggly oak tree. "What's that?" He walked a few steps in that direction. "It's an old pickup. It must be how they traveled. It wouldn't be seen from the house or stables."

"Now what?" Jim removed his cap and scratched his head. "That man's headed for the truck." He ran back to the stables.

Gus stood at the door. "Jim, what's the rush?"

"Tell Soni I'm taking the helicopter and tracking a man." Jim unlocked the door and climbed inside.

"Do you know how to fly?" Gus yelled after him.

From the cockpit, Jim nodded and waved as he backed it up.

*****
Soni heard the helicopter's engine and ran outside. Goliath, Mack, and Fi followed.

"He's stealing my helicopter!" She removed her cell phone.

Gus ran over to her. "Ms. Soni, Jim said he's tracking somebody. Does he know how to fly?"

Soni nodded, replaced her phone, and headed toward the house. "Why am I always the last person to know anything?"

Goliath nuzzled his large head under her hand.

Mack followed, but Fi remained and barked in the helicopter's direction. Mack used his muzzle to push the pup toward the house. Fi refused, stared at Mack, and growled.

With silence, but teeth showing, Mack stared back. A few moments later, Fi turned and pranced inside.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of West Texas landscape. This may be what Jim in looking out into in this post.
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.
The children start back to school Monday. So far, I have twenty little people. I have many siblings of former students. That gives me a nice feeling, knowing the parents of former students have requested me. I must be doing something right. LOL



Chapter 62
Chapter Veinte, (20) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim wiped his mouth. "I have a really bad feeling. Ready for whatever's ahead?" After the ladies nodded, Jim put the SUV in drive and inched forward.

TODAY'S POST:

As they crept within twenty yards of the turned-over semi, Soni said, "There's writing on the side. I can't make it out."

"I'll get a little closer." Jim continued to drive forward. "I don't see any movement."

"Me either. Something's wrong. I can feel it." Soni swallowed.

"I'll get out and look around. You two stay here." Jim left the SUV.

"I have your back." Soni opened her door and readied the rifle if the occasion arose.
Tatiana did the same.

As Jim got closer, he paused and looked back at the ladies before he continued forward. After he circled the semi, he stood on the edge of the highway, covered his eyes from the sun's glare, and then motioned for the women to join him.

Soni stood beside him. "What do you see?"

Jim pointed. "About two hundred yards straight ahead, there's a body. My guess, it's the driver."

"What's the writing mean? It looks fresh." Tatiana turned toward the truck. "I know it's Spanish, but it doesn't make sense."

"El Loko is the leader of the Los Zetas in this area. I have a feeling they're marking their territory. And the driver made the mistake of crossing into it. I bet he's from a rival gang." Jim adjusted his hat. "I'd better check on him. He could still be alive, but I doubt it. Since the Los Zetas are involved, he's probably beheaded."

Soni watched Jim stare at the body before kneeling beside it. She took a few steps closer.

Jim raised his hand to stop her. "Don't come any closer. His body's mutilated." He rose and walked to her.

"Do you know who he is?"

"No. His tats say he's an MS-13 member." Jim answered Soni's questioning look, "Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, was started back in the 1980s in the barrios of Los Angles. In the 1980s, Central America was going through civil wars and Salvadoran immigrants came to LA and started the most notorious street gang in the Western hemisphere. They have turned to transnational crimes such as human smuggling, drug and arms trafficking. Their activities have helped make the Northern Triangle the most violent place in the world that is not at war."

"What's the Northern Triangle? How do you know so much about them?" asked Soni.

"Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras." Jim scratched the unshaven stubble on his chin. "I read a lo,t and gangs and cartels interest me. They're the first gang to be recognized as a transnational crime organization."

"I'm not sure that's something to be proud of." Soni glanced toward Tatiana when she said, "I just saw a light from those mesas over there." Tatiana pointed east. "It looked like a reflection. We're being watched."

Jim and Soni stood beside Tatiana as she asked, "What do you think?"

"I think we're in for trouble." Jim walked to the SUV. "Is there extra ammunition?"

"It's hidden under the seat. Are we expecting trouble from Los Zetas or somebody else?"

"My guess, Los Zetas."

"What do you know about them?"

"Their crimes are chronicled in media and memorialized in narco-ballads. They were formed by rogue Mexican military Special Forces and are blamed for a number of beheadings, torture," he hesitated, "and basically gruesome violence."

Soni's eyes widened. "Good, I wouldn't want them to throw the B-team at us."

"Your sense of humor is priceless." Jim chuckled. "I think we have time to see what's inside the semi. Then we might know how bad they want it." He fingered a large padlock on the trailer's back door.

"I got this." Soni quickly returned with a large thirty-six inch bolt cutter. "Will this work?" She handed it to Jim.

"What else do you keep in that SUV?" Jim used all his strength, but the lock didn't break. He adjusted his grip and tried again. "Look! This time it at least made a mark." He rubbed his arms, dangled them, and attempted to cut the lock loose again. This time cutters went in deeper. "We're making headway." He turned around. "Tatiana, any movement from the mesas?"

"Not yet."

"Good. One more time, and we should have a broken lock."

"Did you look in the driver's pockets to see if he had a key?" Soni made sure her eyes didn't meet Jim's.

"Ha ha, very funny. His pants were missing, along with his legs."

This time, the cutters made it through the lock enough that Jim could force the metal apart. Soni handed him a crow bar. He pried the two doors open.

"Oh my God!" Tears welled in Soni's eyes.

Jim made a phone call.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image Los Zetas' graffiti in LA. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 62
Chapter Treinta y Tres, Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Kuruk added a pinch more and nodded for Jim to add the hot water. Kuruk stirred the contents of the cup until he was satisfied. Then he carried it to Miguel. "It's probably not the best tasting tea you ever drank, but it should ease the pain."

Miguel took a drink. "Ouch! It's hot." He took a few sips. "It's not working. I'm still in pain."

"Give it time." Kuruk sat and turned off the recorder.

Jim leaned his chair back on two legs and glanced at his watch. "Give it, what thirty minutes?"

Kuruk nodded.

TODAY'S POST:


CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

Part 1

Jim poked Miguel's arm with the butt of the rifle. "How's the pain?"

"What pain?" Miguel grinned. "Can I have more tea? It was goooood."

"He's ready." Jim nodded for Kuruk to start the tape recorder again. "Who's Eduardo Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega Sanchez?"

"He's a cousin on my dad's side." Miguel raised his arm and stuck up and crossed two fingers. "We're like this."

"Is he a cartel member?"

"Shhh," Miguel tried to put his finger to his lips but missed, hitting his lower cheek. "I'm not allowed to talk about it."

"We already know he's part of the Sinoloa Federation," said Jim.

"Who told you?" Again, Miguel attempted to put his finger to his lips while he whispered loudly, "It's a secret. Nobody's supposed to know."

"What does he do?"

"He's sorta a group leader."

Kuruk glanced at Jim. "What does that mean?"

"The Sinoloa Federation's run by three men. Right now, one's in a US prison, and rumor has it that one died, but there's no proof. What makes it stronger than the other cartels is the way it's structured. It's divided into numerous cells. Each cell has a leader and an area they're responsible for. It sounds like our man's fairly high up."

"Why's your cousin concerned about Ms. Adler? She's not cutting into his drug business."

"She has 125,000 acres of our land. It belongs to my family."

"Your last name is Sanchez, not Martinez-Vega. I don't understand."

"When I became an American, I shortened it."

"I'm even more confused." Kuruk rubbed his chin. "Sanchez's your last name. Wouldn't Martinez-Vega be from your mother? Then how could Eduardo be from your father's side?"

"His mother and my mother both married Sanchez primos."

"Cousins? Then your direct ancestors have no claim to the land." Jim pointed the rifle directly at him.

Miguel grinned. "True. I thought I'd help my cousin get his land back. Besides, Soni's beautiful. I'd enjoy owning all her land while she warms my bed. You know, friends with benefits. I'd be the envy of all my amigos. I tried to get her to San Antonio one weekend. I knew I could get her in my bed. She went to some injun thing. You were there, right old man?"

Jim stood and headed toward Sanchez.

Kuruk held Jim's arm and whispered, "Patience. All will come to pass." He then faced Miguel. "Yes, it was the Bountiful Harvest Celebration. My granddaughter participated in a lovely dance. Did you see it, or did you go ahead to San Antonio?"

Miguel struggled removing his phone from his back pocket. "See? I took a picture of her dancing." He showed Kuruk the photo. "She's so beautiful in that skimpy dress."

Jim peeked at the photo and then nodded for Kuruk to continue.

"Robert Hughes showed me that photo. He came to the house a few times. Did you ever get to meet him?" Kuruk paused. "I guess you did, or how else would he have a copy of that photo?"

"I gave it to him."

Jim clenched his fists and his jaw set.

Kuruk mouthed, "Be patient." He removed his knife from its sheath. "Did you notice any peyote use during that celebration?"

"I didn't actually see any, but everybody knows all injuns smoke it. It was all over the place."

"Funny, I'm one hundred percent Lipan Apache and a Shaman to boot. I've never smoked it. That knife Jim took from you..."

"Am I going to get it back?"

"We'll discuss that later. I was wondering who carved your bear. It looks a lot like my bear." Kuruk held up his.

"My tio in Juarez does carvings. At a knife throwing contest, I had a friend take a photo of your knife. He was a judge. I took the picture to my uncle. Can I have my knife back now?"

Jim raised his fist and glanced at Kuruk. "Can I now?"

The Shaman frowned. "No." His eyes met Miguel's. "I see you're getting sleepy. Do you have any idea how Agent Hughes died?"

Jim used the butt of the rifle to nudge Miguel. "Wake up. We're not done."

Kuruk repeated the question.

"He was stabbed in the back by a knife that had a bear handle, just like yours." Miguel pointed to Kuruk. "Maybe you did it?"

Leaning the chair back on its two legs again, Jim asked, "How do you know he was stabbed?"

After Miguel shrugged his shoulders, he said, "A little birdie told me."

Jim set the chair on all four legs. "Did you steal Midnight or have somebody else do it?"

Miguel nodded and grinned. "Such a gorgeous horse to waste on a female." He eyes closed.

"Wake up!" Jim kicked his good leg.

Miguel's cell phone rang. It had dropped beside him.

Jim reached for it and then held it up for Kuruk to see. The name read 'Littleton' and had a phone number listed. He kicked Miguel again and handed him the phone. "Answer it."

"Hola." Miguel listened.

Jim placed his ear beside the phone so he could hear the conversation. After the call ended, he took the phone and hung up. "How are you and Littleton related?"

"We're not." Miguel yawned. "I'm tired, good night."

"How does Littleton fit in?"

"His mom's Eduardo's tia."

"Littleton's mom and Eduardo's mom are sisters. Now we have all the pieces. We just need to put it together." Jim motioned for Kuruk to turn off the tape recorder.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image a knife with a bear carved handle.
Again, I changed things as I posted. I can't seem to get it the way I want it; no matter how many times I edit.
This should be the second to last chapter. I think I have three, no maybe four parts to this chapter. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I'm winding it down and the conclusion is coming. I promise. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.




Chapter 62
Chapter Veinte, (20) Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

This time, the cutters made it through the lock enough that Jim was able to separate the metal. Soni handed him a crow bar. He pried the two doors open.

"Oh my God!" Tears welled in Soni's eyes.

Jim made a phone call.


TODAY'S POST:

"Get them out," Jim ordered as he continued his call, "We have about two dozen young women and teenage girls dehydrated from the heat and starving. It looks like some are dead." He listened for a moment. "I'm guessing they're Hispanic, but I'm not sure from where. Just get EMT here. I know I already asked for backup, but we're being watched. We need it ASAP!" Jim put the phone away and climbed into the trailer.

Soni and Tatiana helped the young women step down from the overturned trailer and sit in the grassy shade of it. Both ladies gently asked questions. Once the women were rescued, Soni offered them what water she had.

"What else do you have hiding in that SUV?" asked Jim.

"I live in the Chihuahua Desert. Water is a necessity. I never travel without plenty of it."

"I saw you talking with them. What did you find out?" Jim paused.

"Some were sold by their families for debts owed to MS-13. Others were kidnapped from Central American countries and taken to Mexico before being transported to the US." Soni bit her bottom lip. "They're going to be sold into prostitution rings and sweatshops." She pointed to one of the ladies whose back was showing. "See that? It's a bar code tattooed on her. Who would do such a horrible thing? She's not property! She's human!"

"They're slaves." Tatiana used a tissue and wiped tears from her eyes. "How many died in that death trap?" She nodded her head toward the semi.

"Three for sure, and four I'm not sure are going to make it." Jim shaded his eyes from the sun. "I wonder what our friends up there are thinking." He turned and went into the back of the trailer. "There are some boxes. Let's see what's in them."

Soni followed. Tatiana remained with the women.

Jim used the crow bar, pried open the first crate, and lifted an Uzi. "Semi-automatic firearms." He continued opening six more wooden boxes that held various types of weapons. The next crate held baggies, some filled with a white powder and some filled with a rose gray powder. "Damn! Pure Heroin!"

"How can you tell?" asked Soni.

"The whiter it is, the purer it is." Jim held up the rose gray one. "This one's already been cut." He let the crow bar drop. "I've seen enough. We're looking at hundreds of millions of dollars or more on the streets."

"You're saying the Los Zetas will do anything to get this stuff." Soni released a deep breath.

"Yep." Jim left the trailer and stared at the mesa. "I wonder what they're waiting for?"

"Do you know how long before EMT arrives?" asked Soni.

"Soon." Jim glanced at the women. "Soon isn't soon enough for some, is it?"

"I could go into the desert and search for herbs and food." Soni waited for Jim to answer.

"It's too dangerous. We could be surrounded."

"There's dust headed this way," yelled Tatiana.

Jim grimaced. "Show time." He walked over to the seated women. "No importa lo que suceda permanecer sentado detrtras de la semi. Podra estar seguro."

"Do you really think you needed to tell them to stay behind the trailer when there are gunshots?" asked Soni.

"No, but I didn't want to take any chances." Jim surveyed the area. "Tatiana, go down to the front of the semi. Soni, take where the cab meets the trailer. I'll cover back here. This is probably the area they want to get at."

"Won't the gas tank blow, if it's hit?" asked Soni.

"It's unlikely it'll take a direct hit. If it does, it would catch fire." Jim stared at dust clouds.

As the clouds got closer, the number of would-be attackers could be seen. There's only three of us. What would Grandfather do? Soni closed her eyes and took deep breaths.

"Soni?" called Jim. "Do you see that large black bear to the left? He's standing on his hind legs. Is that your grandfather?"

"Not sure, but I think it's time you called in the Marines."


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image the types of human trafficking. I'm sorry for EE messing up my Spanish. I forgot he doesn't like accent marks. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 63
Chapter Treinta y Tres, Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Maybe a little." Again, Kuruk hesitated. "She's an only child. So she might be a little spoiled." Kuruk waited for Jim to respond' When he didn't, he continued, "Tatiana was the closest person she had to a mother. My wife, God rest her soul, and Tatiana were the only female influences she had. Otherwise she was surrounded by men."

"You're trying to say she can work alongside the men better than she can females, and is more comfortable in jeans and boots than a dress and heels?" Kuruk nodded, and then Jim continued, "Kuruk, it's not like you to beat around the bush. What are you trying to say?"

Kuruk stood. "What are your intentions for my granddaughter?"


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE
PART 3

"Well." Jim's face turned pale. A better question would be how does she feel about me? He stood, walked around the cabin, and sipped his coffee. "I wonder how long Sanchez is going to sleep?"

"Now who's beating around the bush?"

Both men turned toward the door when they heard a helicopter coming in for a landing.

Kuruk stood. "I guess you're safe for now. We'll continue this discussion at a later date."

"Deal." Jim opened the door, welcomed, and introduced two fellow agents.

After Jim handed the older agent the cigarette butt he'd collected, Pete studied Sanchez. "Is he all right?"

"Sure, he's just tired." Jim poked Miguel's arm. "Wake up."

Miguel opened his eyes. "It's too early to be morning." He shut his eyes.

Pete eyed Jim. "What's he on?"

Kuruk stepped forward. "I gave him some pain medicine. I guess it put him to sleep."

"Why'd he need pain medicine?"

"Somehow he got himself shot in the leg." Jim shrugged his shoulders.

"Jim, do I even want to ask?" Pete muttered under his breath, "Ex-marines."

Kuruk stepped beside Jim and motioned to the tape recorder. Jim nodded, took it, and offered it to Pete. "We recorded our interrogation. I know we can't use it in court, but it helps make the case. It also proves no ill-treatment of the prisoner."

"In other words, no water-boarding. I can see you're proud of yourself." Pete's eyes met Jim's before he closely examined the prisoner.

"You can tell by looking at him, I never laid a hand on him."

"His right eye's bruised." Pete pointed to it.

"Kuruk, did you witness me laying a hand on Sanchez?"

"I never saw Jim do anything physical to this man. He did ask numerous questions. Is that violating his rights?" asked Kuruk. "Would you like me to take a polygraph about that?"

"It won't be necessary." Pete glanced at his younger partner. "Help me get him to the helicopter. It looks like he can't walk. You sure he's only tired?"

The two men grabbed Miguel under his arms.

"He's like a sack of potatoes. He's drugged."

"Only pain medication for his wound. He begged for it." Kuruk watched the men drag the prisoner toward the door.

"Did you see how Sanchez got shot?" Pete hesitated in front of Kuruk and waited for an answer.

"No, sir. I did not. I told you. I saw nothing happen to this man."

Pete bent and examined the wound. "Jim, it's a perfectly located shot so it hurts like hell, but causes no permanent damage. There are only a few people I know who can do that." He took a second look at the wound. "Especially with a rifle and you're one of them."

Jim and Kuruk watched the two agents load a drugged Miguel onto the helicopter and take off.

Kuruk glanced at Jim. "How much trouble are you going to be in over this?"

"Not much. You just witnessed the majority of it. Pete's a stickler for the rules." Jim glanced around the cabin and noticed the bullet he shot stuck in the wall. He removed his knife and pried it from the wall. "I guess I better take this with me."

"You might want to lose it on the way back to the ranch." Kuruk walked out the door, but stopped and turned. "In case you're wondering, the tea won't show up on a blood test. It's only a root."

Jim raised his thumb. "Good. I'll meet you at the house."

Jim waited for Kuruk to mount his horse before he headed toward the helicopter. "What are my intentions for that hard-headed, spoiled, beautiful woman?"



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image a heart shaped dream catcher.
Again, I changed things as I posted. I can't seem to get it the way I want it; no matter how many times I edit.
My final chapter is coming up next. I think there are four parts to it. I promise I am almost finished.
I had a review last week back to the age old question about whether this is a western, a mystery, suspense, or a romance. I give up. I have no clue what it is. LOL
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.




Chapter 63
Chapter Veinte, (20) Part Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

As the clouds got closer, the number of would-be attackers could be seen. There's only three of us. What would Grandfather do? Soni closed her eyes and took deep breaths.

"Soni?" called Jim. "Do you see that large black bear to the left? He's standing on his hind legs. Is that your grandfather?"

"Not sure, but I think it's time you called in the Marines."

TODAY'S POST:

"I already have." Jim stared straight ahead. "Don't shoot. Make them take the first shot."

"So we're supposed to wait until we see the whites of their eyes? If we wait that long, they'll be sitting in our laps."

"Would you two stop arguing?" Tatiana stood beside Soni. "I think Jim has more experience with these things than you." She released a deep breath. "They're really close. I'm going back to my post."

Jim counted, "One, two, get ready, three." As he aimed, four Blackhawk helicopters rose over the horizon.

"Seems like they arrived just in time. How did you do that?" Soni blew out a deep breath.

"Aren't they a pretty sight? To be honest, I was getting a little worried myself." Jim watched twenty men air assault, rappelling down ropes from two helicopters behind the line of Los Zetas.

He glanced toward the black bear. It's moved closer to the enemy. I wonder why? Jim watched one man aim it. "NO!" As the bullet whizzed by the bear's head, the bear disappeared. I bet that'll mess with their superstitions. Jim grinned as the black bear reappeared behind the man who had shot at him. Using a large paw, it struck the man and knocked him down. The bear disappeared again before anyone could fire.

Two of the helicopters hovered over the band of determined Los Zetas that still headed toward them.

*****
The wind of the propellers blew Soni's hair loose from her long braids. She watched the sagebrush blow across the dry land. One man came closer than the rest. He's too close She took aim and fired. He fell to the ground.

Soni stepped closer to Jim as he spoke into his phone. "Yeah, I expected them to run the other direction, too." He was silent. "Give them some encouragement to retreat. There are men in place to arrest them."

After Jim put his phone away, Soni asked, "Exactly who are you?"

"Just an ex-Marine trying to help out a pretty lady. Now, get back to your post."

"Whatever!" Soni turned and stomped off.

"I heard that." Jim's laughter followed her.

Soni parked herself between the cab and the trailer.

Two helicopters turned and faced the gang members, aiming above their heads. Rat-ta-tat of the Gatling guns echoed throughout the mesas. Soni closed her eyes and then opened them and watched the majority of the Los Zetas continue forward. The few who had retreated were shot by their fellow gang members. Some were missed and continued running. Others ran a different direction. They're going to be arrested by the men who air assaulted from the helicopters. There's no way out.

When Soni heard the crack of Tatiana's T-Bolt, she turned her head and witnessed a man who had come up on the left fall to the ground. She gave Tatiana a 'thumbs up'. "Maybe he's El Loko, himself."

"I doubt it. He's on some beach living a life of leisure," Jim yelled his comment before returning to his post.

The helicopters that had carried the men who had air assaulted landed a few hundred yards behind the semi and joined the fight, protecting the young women cowered together.

Los Zetas continued firing at Soni, Tatiana, and Jim, who returned fire. The Gatling gun continued killing the remaining gang members, but not before Jim took a bullet.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a Blackhawk helicopter. I have had a horrible weekend. My sewer went out, and one of my orange Tabby's went missing. He's been missing for 24 hours. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 63
Chapter Treinta y Tres, Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Littleton's mom and Eduardo's mom are sisters. Now we have all the pieces. We just need to put it together." Jim motioned for Kuruk to turn off the tape recorder.


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE
PART 2

"Would you explain all this to me? I'm a little confused." Kuruk leaned back in his chair. "Before you start, let me make some coffee." He walked over to the kitchen area.

"You carry that in your Shaman bag, too?" Jim grinned.

"No. There's some instant in a cupboard." Kuruk opened several doors before he found the right one. "All I need to do is heat some water. You want some?"

"I could use a cup."

After the water heated and Kuruk stirred in the granules, he brought a cup to Jim and sat. He took a sip. "Not as good as Tatiana's, but will work for now." He took another sip. "Okay, I'm ready."

Jim stirred his coffee. "It's a mess. Eduardo and Littleton are first cousins and direct descendants to Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega. They're after the 125,000 acres. Eduardo evidently used his cartel membership as muscle." He took a drink. "Not bad." He took another sip. "None of this is about the I35 drug wars." He answered Kuruk's questioning look, "There's still a battle over that drug route, but Soni has nothing to do with it. She's on the sideline."

"Where does Miguel fit in?"

"He has no legal rights for the land. He decided to help his cousin Eduardo for two reasons: greed and machismo."

Kuruk's eyebrows clenched together. "Machismo?"

"He's got the hots for your granddaughter. I think he was hoping to cause Soni enough trouble that she'd use his shoulder to cry on, and then he'd sweep her off her feet. He'd be the new owner of the Rockin' A."

"Then you came along and threw a wrench into that plan." Kuruk watched Miguel snore. "Do we have enough evidence to arrest him?"

"We have enough probable cause to hold him for additional questioning. We can't use anything on that tape, but it provides a place for the authorities to start." Jim pointed to the Shaman's pouch. "What did you give him anyway?"

"All you need to know is it's an herbal pain killer." Kuruk grinned.

"All right, old man, we'll leave it at that." Jim removed his phone and called his office. "I have a suspect in front of me who needs to be held for additional questioning." He listened for a minute. "I'll give you the details when you arrive. Has Jackson White called in with another suspect?" Again, he listened. "Good. I'll be waiting."

"Wait a minute." Kuruk paused. "What about the overturned semi with the drugs and women inside?"

"That would've happened anyway. It has nothing to do with the Rockin' A. We just got trapped in the middle. It's an everyday occurrence with the drug cartels as are the turf wars."

"Me," Kuruk tapped his chest with his fist. "being arrested for murder isn't an everyday occurrence."

"True. My men will get those charges dropped, and Miguel arrested for it. He came pretty close to confessing on the tape. In a few days, it'll just be a bad dream."

Kuruk's eyes met Jim's. "I'd do anything for Sonsee-array." He grinned. "I know she's stubborn as an old mule. That came from her father's side of the family, by the way. Not mine."

"I never met her dad, but I have a feeling some of that stubbornness came from her mom's side, too." Jim chuckled.

"Maybe a little." Again, Kuruk hesitated. "She's an only child. So she might be a little spoiled." Kuruk waited for Jim to respond' When he didn't, he continued, "Tatiana was the closest person she had to a mother. My wife, God rest her soul, and Tatiana were the only female influences she had. Otherwise she was surrounded by men."

"You're trying to say she can work alongside the men better than she can females, and is more comfortable in jeans and boots than a dress and heels?" Kuruk nodded, and then Jim continued, "Kuruk, it's not like you to beat around the bush. What are you trying to say?"

Kuruk stood. "What are your intentions for my granddaughter?

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image a heart shaped dream catcher.
Again, I changed things as I posted. I can't seem to get it the way I want it; no matter how many times I edit.
This should be the second to last chapter. I one more part to this chapter then I'll be on the final chapter. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I'm winding it down and the conclusion is coming. I promise. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.




Chapter 64
Chapter Veintiuno, (21) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

The helicopters that carried the men who air assaulted landed a few hundred yards behind the semi and joined the fight, protecting the young women cowered together.

Los Zetas continued firing at Soni, Tatiana, and Jim, who returned fire. The Gatling gun continued killing the remaining gang members, but not before Jim took a bullet.


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Two men from the helicopters ran to Jim. The movement caught Soni's peripheral sparked to life. Jim's on the ground! Soni knelt beside him and ran her hand across the shoulder that had been shot. Tears wet her eyes. "Couldn't you have turned so they could shoot you in the other shoulder? This one hasn't completely healed."

"Ma'am, we have some medical supplies. We'll take care of him," said the younger of the two.

The shorter man's eyes widened as he yelled, "Joe, there's a bear headed toward us!" He raised his rifle and took aim.

"No!" Soni knocked the weapon away. "He won't hurt us."

The men backed away as the black bear came closer. The bear leaned over Jim. Its muzzle almost touched his nose. Jim's eyes blinked a few times and his head moved. Once his eyes remained open, the bear left.

The two men watched the bear slowly disappear. The younger man said, "I didn't see anything, did you?"

"Nope, let's finish patching Jim up."

Jim attempted to sit, but the shorter man said, "Stay put. We'll have you ready to go in no time."

"Soni, was that Kuruk's doing?" asked Jim.

Soni smiled. "I don't know what you're talking about, do either of you?" She glanced at the two men.

Both avoided eye contact and shook their heads.

After Jim's wound was assessed as minor, everyone returned to their previous positions. Two other helicopter men had taken Soni's spot, so she remained beside Jim.

"Things are quieting down." Soni watched the Gatling guns take one more swipe over the remaining Los Zetas.

"They'll return and bring reinforcements. This is far from over." Jim faced Soni. "Thank you for the help."

"I didn't do anything."

"Yeah, sure. Someday I'll understand all of your grandfather's power."

"Whatever. At least the bear didn't kiss you." Soni grinned.

*****
The two helicopters carrying the Gatling guns landed close to the other two. It was quickly decided since Blackhawks can carry eleven to twelve passengers; the women would be taken to nearby hospitals by the two helicopters. Fifteen of the twenty men who had rappelled would hitch a ride back with the helicopters that carried the guns. It would be a tight fit, but they were willing to do it. The other five well-armed men volunteered to remain with the semi to make sure the crime scene was secured.

Soni, Jim, and Tatiana returned to the SUV and headed home.

"Will somebody tell us what all happened back there?" asked Tatiana.

"I doubt anybody will ever know. I'm afraid you haven't heard the end of the Los Zetas. You may want to alert your ranch hands and beef up security. I'm guessing the Rockin' A cuts through their territory. The MS13 truck driver probably refused to pay taxes to drive through their territory." Jim stared straight ahead.

"I35 is a US highway, Los Zetas don't own it, and our ranch was here before they put in the highway. My grandpa actually gave the US government the land. All of this is Rockin' A territory." Soni paused, before she continued, "What will happen to the women?"

"Homeland Security will get as much information from them as possible before they deport them back to their countries."

"If their families sold them, won't it be dangerous for them to return?"

"They'll probably be killed or returned to MS13."

"That's not right. Can't we do something?" asked Soni.

"What do you suggest?"

The rest of the trip was silent while each person reflected on their own thoughts.

*****
As Soni parked the SUV in front of the ranch house, she said, "Something's wrong. It doesn't feel right. Tatiana, hand me a rifle."

"Somebody's been here. Hand me one too." Jim held out his hand.

The three armed themselves and headed toward the front door.

Soni and Tatiana went to the left side and Jim to the right. Jim slowly opened the door.

When the door opened, Soni heard the low rumbled growl of Butkus.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a dream catcher with a black bear in it. I know some may feel the paragraph about the women getting a ride back on the helicopters was rushed, but after thinking about it long and hard, I decided anymore information would not move the story along and would be extra. My sewer has a temporary fix to it. It may work for 6 months or 6 years. I guess the main problem is ten feet into the street. It will cost us about $7500 to get completely repaired. We are saving money. My car now recognizes me as not a thief. AJ came home, to eat, and decided to leave again. If he wasn't neutered, I'd think he had a girl friend. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 64
Chapter Treinta y Cuatro, Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim waited for Kuruk to mount his horse before he headed toward the helicopter. "What are my intentions for that hard-headed, spoiled, beautiful woman?"

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

Part 1

After Jim parked the helicopter back in its rightful slot, he went inside and headed straight toward the kitchen. Fi barked and tugged on his jeans leg, trying to get his attention. He paused, lifted the little dog, and petted her. "I missed you, too." He set her on the floor. "I need something to drink. It's hot out there."

Soni left the den, followed him, and asked, "What happened?" Mack and Goliath sauntered along, one on each side of her.

"I'd like to know, too." Alex walked up and stood beside Soni. "Jackson took off like a bat out of hell. We didn't hear anything for a while and then heard a helicopter come and go. A few moments later, he returned without saying a word."

"I own this place. Somebody should tell me at least something - anything."

"After I get a glass of iced tea, we'll talk." Jim opened the cabinet and removed a tall glass.

Tatiana took a pitcher of tea from the refrigerator. "Here, let me help you with that."

Jim reached for it. "Didn't the doctor mention something about you resting for a few weeks?" He smiled as Kuruk walked in, and he set the pitcher on the cabinet. "Good, my partner. Would you like some tea?" As Jim got enough glasses for everybody, he said, "Let's sit in the living room and we'll discuss what happened."

Isabella entered. "Emanuel esta tomando una siesta."

"I'm glad he's napping. You can join us, too. I'm sure Butkus won't let anything happen to that child." Soni scooted Fi aside and patted a spot on the couch beside her. "Sit here."

While Jim served everyone, he let Jackson tell about the man spying on the house from field, how he captured him and called the authorities.

When Jim finally sat, Fi jumped onto his lap. Without going into all the details, Jim discussed how a man led him to the cabin and there he stumbled on Miguel. He let Kuruk describe what they had learned from their interrogation.

Soni sighed. "So the bottom line is all of this was about ownership of the 125,000 acres." She glanced toward the den. "I wish I could find proof that the land belonged to Gunter and that he willed it to Dieter."

"You might have to make a trip to the county land office. They'd have a record unless the records have been damaged in a fire or something." Alex rubbed his chin. "Soni, why don't you and I go into Laredo tomorrow and check?"

"My luck the records were probably lost." Soni glanced toward the den. "Dieter wrote about Gunter giving him an envelope. I've never seen one."

Isabelle stood. "Sobre?"

"Si, sobre." As Soni nodded, she watched Isabelle hurry to the den.

When she returned, she handed Soni an old discolored envelope. "Encontre esto en el suelo."

"You found this on the floor? It must have fallen from a file." Soni opened it with care and read silently before she jumped up, causing Fi to bark. "It's the deed to the 125,000 acres!" She rubbed her finger along the paper and then ran to Kuruk. "Feel the seal. It's official!" She showed it to everyone. "Now, I just need to prove he willed it to Dieter."

Jim attempted to quiet Fi.

Goliath and Mack glanced away from the small dog and placed their heads between their front paws.



All Spanish is loosely translated in the following statements.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image an discolored envelope.
Again, I changed things as I posted. I can't seem to get it the way I want it; no matter how many times I edit.
This is the final chapter. This is the first of four parts to it. Unless one of my characters decide not to follow the script. I'll post the ending on October 23rd. Of course this is as my father used to say, "If the creek don't rise and the Good Lord's willing."
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.




Chapter 65
Chapter Veintiuno, (21) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

As Soni parked the SUV in front of the ranch house, she said, "Something's wrong. It doesn't feel right. Tatiana, hand me a rifle."

"Somebody's been here. Hand me one too." Jim held out his hand.

The three armed themselves and headed toward the front door.

Soni and Tatiana went to the left side and Jim to the right. Jim slowly opened the door.

When the door opened, Soni heard the low rumbled growl of Butkus.

TODAY"S POST:

Soni pushed Jim out of the way so she could enter first. Jim followed and then Tatiana. Once inside, a man said, "Senora, suspenda su perro."

"You break into my house and then order me to call my dog off." Soni glared at the dark-haired Hispanic man who was huddled in a corner of the living room. "I should order Butkus to finish you off." She paused. "I won't if you tell me what you're doing here and who sent you?"

"Si digo nada, estoy muerta."

"If you don't talk, you're dead. So I guess either way you're dead. I'm sure Butkus would enjoy taking care of you." She petted the large dog. "Wouldn't you, big guy?"

The dog wagged his tail and raised his head for another pet, without taking his eyes from his prey.

Jim secured the rest of the house. Tatiana walked toward the dining room and screamed, "Oh mi dios!"

Soni turned toward her. "What's wrong?"

Jim rushed by her side and stared. "Soni, Butkus can guard our prisoner a little longer. You need to see this."

Soni walked over to the table and saw two Native American dolls, one male and the other female, with their heads chopped off. The heads lay beside the dolls. "I guess somebody's leaving Grandfather and me a message." She reached for a doll.

"Don't touch. It's a crime scene." Jim faced the Hispanic man. "You need to talk now." His eyes met Soni's. "Can I borrow your knife?" He accepted it, placed it under the man's chin, and applied enough pressure so that blood dribbled down the prisoner's neck. "Who do you work for?"

"Trabajo para nadie."

"I don't believe you're the master-mind behind this. Where you from?"

"Mexico."

"You understand what I'm saying so you can speak English. So speak it." Jim pressed the knife a little harder and more blood trickled down onto his chest. "Mexico has two major drug cartels, Sinaloa and the Jalisco New Generation Drug Cartel. Which one are you?"

The man attempted to avoid eye contact.

"If you don't answer our questions, you're dead." Soni stood beside Jim.

"He doesn't care. If he talks or is arrested, his own people will kill him. If he doesn't talk, we kill him. Either way, he's dead." Jim cut the man's shirt off and used the knife to scratch his tattoo. "Hmm, Santa Muerte."

"St. Death. Which cartel is it?" asked Soni.

"Probably the Sinaloa," answered Tatiana. "They're the largest and most powerful."

"Is she right?" Soni waited for Jim to answer.

"She's probably correct. The Sinaloa Cartel's very well organized."

Tatiana answered her ringing phone and walked away talking.

"Since he's not going to talk, can I shoot him?" Soni raised her rifle.

Jim grinned. "As tempting as it is, we'd better call the authorities." He took out his cell. "Homeland Security will want to talk with him."

Tatiana returned to the room. "That was Alex. Somebody tried to kidnap Midnight again so early this morning they took him to East Texas. They have the three dogs. We're lucky Butkus doesn't get along with Midnight. He was here to guard the ranch." She petted the dog's large head. "They'll return early evening."

"How long before Homeland Security arrives?" Soni released a deep breath.

"About an hour." Jim put his phone in his pocket.

Soni pulled a chair over, sat, and aimed her rifle at the prisoner. "I might as well get comfortable."

Butkus tilted his head and cocked his ears.

"He heard something. Butkus go find out what it is." Soni motioned for the dog to go outside.

Jim stood beside Soni and stared out the back door. "Butkus might need help. You have this guy under control." Jim left.

Soni turned her head and stood when she heard a gunshot and then a woof.

"Manos arriba, senorita," bellowed a man from the front door. The opposite direction of the sounds she had heard.

Soni set her rifle on the chair and raised her hands.




Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a mastiff that Butkus might look like. I think he needs top billing this week. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 65
Chapter Treinta y Cuatro, Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"You found this on the floor? It must have fallen from a file." Soni opened it with care and read silently before she jumped up, causing Fi to bark. "It's the deed to the 125,000 acres!" She rubbed her finger along the paper and then ran to Kuruk. "Feel the seal. It's official!" She showed it to everyone. "Now, I just need to prove he willed it to Dieter."

Jim attempted to quiet Fi.

Goliath and Mack glanced away from the small dog and placed their heads between their front paws.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR
Part 2

Soni glanced toward the den. "I know Gunter's will is someplace in that room. I just have to find it." She entered the room.

Goliath and Mack followed.

Jim set Fi on the floor. "I'll help. Just tell me where to look."

The Yorkie trotted at Jim's feet.

"Wait for me," called Alex and hurried behind.

Kuruk headed toward the front door. "I'm going home and take a nap. All this excitement is too much for this old man. I'll be back for dinner."

Tatiana and Isabella remained seated and continued their conversation.

*****
Standing in the center of the room, Soni scanned the area. "I'll go through the contents of the desk drawers, again. Jim, search those bookshelves." She pointed to the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that filled the wall to her left.

"I'll do the same on these over here." Alex took a book off the shelves against the right wall and thumbed through it, searching for a loose paper of any kind.

After an hour, Soni leaned back in the leather chair. "There's way too many books and files in here. We'll never get through them all."

"What if we narrow our search?" Jim held a book. "Gunter was killed around 1836, so his will's probably not in a book published after 1850."

"Good point. We should concentrate on older books. If we don't find it, somebody could've looked at it and put it in a newer book." Alex reached for another book.

"That's right." Soni opened another file. "This is an example of why we should keep well organized files."

"Your dad kept perfect files." Alex faced Soni.

"I know, but back in my family tree the files weren't kept properly."

Jim shook his head. "How many generations are we talking about? About five?"

"I think it's six, actually." Soni closed a file. "Another file and still no luck."

Goliath nuzzled Soni's arm. "I know. I haven't spent much time with you lately, but I'm looking for something important." She moved her arm.

The Great Pyrenees nuzzled her again.

"This isn't like you. What's wrong, boy?"

The large dog turned and faced Mack, who stood over and stared down at Fi.

Soni stood and glared at the Yorkie. "What's that half-pint doing now?" She walked over and took an antique book from her. "NO! Bad dog!" She held up the book. "This is our family Bible that's been passed down, probably ten generations." Tears welled in her eyes and spilled onto her cheeks. "That mutt was chewing on the book's binding." She drew her hand back to strike the puppy.

Alex held her arm and took the Bible from Soni. "Fi's only a puppy. Puppies chew. Do I need to remind you how many things your boys destroyed? Their mistakes were huge. Fi only chewed a small section."

Jim held Fi. "I'm sorry." He attempted to touch her, but she pulled away. "I know. I can't replace this family heirloom."

After Alex motioned to Jim to leave, he placed the Bible on the desk and left the room, shutting the door.

Soni folded her arms on the desk and laid her head on them. Why am I letting this bother me so much? I'd never strike an animal. I never even looked at that Bible. It's been on that same lower shelf, gathering dust for as long as I can remember. If I cared that much about it, I would've put it on a higher shelf.

"Granddaughter, maybe Fi was put in your path for a reason."

"No! That dog has no purpose other than being a pain."

"It's not like you to be so closed-minded."

"I refuse to believe..."

"So be it. I'll leave you to wallow in your own self-pity."

"Grandfather, Grandfather?" Soni wiped her tears. When he didn't respond, she asked out loud, "Why's Grandfather being so cruel? Why isn't he helping me? Doesn't he understand what that stupid mutt did?"

Soni reached for the Bible and fingered the gold-inlay title on the front cover, The Holy Bible. "I can see why this book became the Adler Family Bible. It's made of fine leather." She opened the front cover and held the book to her nose. "I expected it to smell musty. Many old books do, but it still smells of leather." A yellowed paper dropped to the tear-stained desk. She opened it and saw faded quill-ink handwriting.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image an antique Bible.
Again, I changed things as I posted. I can't seem to get it the way I want it; no matter how many times I edit.
This is the final chapter. This is the first of four parts to it. Unless one of my characters decide not to follow the script. I'll post the ending on October 23rd. Of course, this is as my father used to say, "If the creek don't rise, and the Good Lord's willing."
I have a question. One of my reviewers suggested I have written too much about the dogs. Please give me your opinions. I do listen
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.

My next novel was supposed to be about a young lady, of Jewish heritage, who while visiting a New York art museum discovered artwork stolen from her family during WWII. She attempts to retrieve it and gets into a lot of trouble.

BUT!!!

My muse thinks I want to write a western about a young lady socialite who's father was murdered out west. She thinks he was a respectable railroad manager, but troubled when she finds out he was a gambler. I am not sure I am capable of writing a western.

Any suggestions?




Chapter 66
Chapter Treinta y Cuatro, Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni reached for the Bible and fingered the gold-inlay title on the front cover, The Holy Bible. "I can see why this book became the Adler Family Bible. It's made of fine leather." She opened the front cover and held the book to her nose. "I expected it to be smelly and musty. Many old books do, but it still smells of leather." A yellowed paper dropped to the tear-stained desk. She opened it and saw faded quill-ink handwriting.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR
Part 3


"Yes!" Soni yelled as she jumped up and down. "Everybody!" She opened the den door. "Fi found Gunter's will. I have the will!" She continued jumping and shaking the paper over her head.

Jim was the first to get to her. "Is it safe to enter?" He held Fi.

"Yes!" Soni stopped jumping long enough to hug Fi. "This sweet little dog found the will. I have the will." She held it in both hands and showed Jim. "Now I can prove all this land belongs to my family." She smiled at Alex and Tatiana walking in as she held up the yellowed paper. "Nobody else has any rights to this land but us."

"We need to celebrate!" Alex hugged Soni and his wife at the same time. He then paused to answer his ringing phone. After talking a few moments, he hung up. "We have another reason to celebrate. Midnight'll be home in two days. Gus and I'll drive over to East Texas and get him." He chuckled. "I guess Midnight was up to his old tricks and wouldn't stay in the designated pasture. He impregnated more than one mare. Dale Marshal said if the foals are as ornery as that dang stallion they'll all be sent to us, ASAP."

Laughter filled the room.

Jim rubbed his stomach. "I could use a big juicy steak. Anybody else ready?"

"This is a bona fide west Texas ranch. We have plenty of beef steak."

Before Soni went to help Tatiana and Isabella prepare for the feast, she went into her room and called Kuruk. "Grandfather, I'm sorry."

"I know." He paused. "You found the will."

"You knew I would, didn't you?"

"I'll be by later for the celebration." Kuruk hung up.

"Why doesn't he ever answer my questions?" Soni muttered as she headed for the kitchen.

Isabella and Soni fussed with Tatiana about resting but she'd have none of it, no matter how many times she was reminded it was doctor's orders.

*****
While eating dinner, Alex asked, "Jim, everything around here has settled down and should be back to normal. What are you going to do?"

"Since there's no reason for me to stay, I guess I'll go back to my regular job."

"As an ICE agent?" asked Soni.

Kuruk's eyebrows rose. "So there's no reason for you to stay?" He tilted his head toward Soni.

Jim set down his fork and used the napkin to wipe his mouth. "As of right now, there's no reason."

"Will you take Fi with you?" Soni pointed to the small dog, standing on her hind legs begging from the table.

"Of course, I wouldn't want her to hurt one of your boys." Jim chuckled. "If Butkus ever wants to retire from babysitting, I'm sure Fi will be ready for the job."

"Not likely." Soni smiled.

*****
When the dinner dishes were done, Jim walked over to Soni and offered his hand. "Want to take a walk?" After she took his hand and nodded, he led her outside.

As they walked beside the garden, Jim said, "I noticed the other day the tomatoes were making a comeback. They should be just about ripe in time for Midnight's return."

"That horse does like his tomatoes. I can't wait to ride him. I've missed him."

Silence ensued.

They stopped beside the corral. Jim's eyes met Soni's. "Soni, I was thinking." He paused and then brushed a loose strand of hair from her cheek. "Since you rescued me from Big Grizzly, you've burrowed your way into my heart."

She opened her mouth to speak, but Jim put his finger to her lips. "Please let me finish. I'm not interested in your ranch." He shrugged his shoulders. "I know nothing about ranching. I don't need your money. I'm doing fine without it."

"But..."

"I do need you in my life. I can promise you'll always be a priority to me and I'll love and respect you. I can promise I'll never be responsible for your pain." Jim took her hand. "Soni, I love you and want to marry you. Will you marry me?"

Tears welled in Soni's eyes. She took her hand from Jim's, ran into the house straight into her bedroom, and slammed the door.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a heart with an arrow through it. I think Jim feels as if his heart's broken by the end of his post.
This is the final chapter. I'll post the ending on October 23rd. I've written the ending. I was hoping for walking on water, but so far no revelation. LOL
As for my question about the dogs last week, I am keeping them, but I did receive a three star and a four star because of them. Thank you for all the reviews and support you give me. I truly appreciate it.


Chapter 66
Chapter Veintiuno, (21) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni turned her head and stood when she heard a gunshot and then a woof.

"Manos arriba, senorita," bellowed a man from the front door - the opposite direction of the sounds she had heard.

Soni set her rifle on the chair and raised her hands.

TODAY'S POST:

Soni heard the crack of a rifle. Her predator fell as she glanced toward the direction of the sound. She sighed when she saw Tatiana holding a rifle.

Before she could relax, she heard, "Soni!" She reached for her rifle and slammed the butt of it into her prisoner's gut.

The man stumbled backward, held his stomach and groaned.

She watched Jim and Butkus walk in her direction. Jim shoved a tall slender man holding his right shoulder. "I see you got even with them for your shoulder wounds," she teased.

"Very true, and Butkus did his job." Jim motioned his head toward a second prisoner, who held his left forearm, dripping with blood. "Tatiana, I see you got your man."

"Sure did. They didn't know I was in the kitchen."

"I wish help would show up. I doubt these men are our only problems." Soni used her rifle to direct the new prisoners to join the first one. "Now we have three." She petted the large mastiff on the head before she sat. "Now we wait."

Jim removed his cell phone. "I think Homeland Security needs to hurry." He pressed some numbers and walked away to talk in private.

Soni watched Jim from her seat. If he weren't here, things would be a lot different, and it wouldn't be for the better.

"They moved up their ETA. They should be here in about fifteen minutes. Have any of our friends decided to talk?" Jim pointed at the three prisoners.

"Nope. I'm guessing ETA means..." Soni paused to think.

"Estimated time of arrive." Jim grinned.

"Of course. They just blankly stare. Nobody seems to want to talk." Soni turned her head toward Tatiana. "Should we patch up their wounds?"

"They've done nothing for us. Maybe the longer they bleed the more willing they'll be to talk." Tatiana turned and walked to the kitchen.

Soni rubbed her stomach. "I think we missed lunch."

"My stomach's complaining too." Jim pulled a chair beside her.

"I hear you. I'll bring something out in a couple of minutes," Tatiana called from the kitchen.

Jim's eyes met the original prisoner's eyes. "I bet you'd like some water. As soon as you talk, that could be arranged." He took time to stare individually the other two men. "Your wounds could be patched, if you talk."

The man Butkus captured mumbled something in Spanish.

"I know you understand English, so speak it."

He shook his head.

"The way I got it figured is you belong to the Sinaloa Cartel. If you talk, you're dead, and if you're arrested, you're dead, so you're dead either way. What I don't understand is why you're bothering these innocent people. They've done nothing to you. They must have something you want? But I can't figure out what. So tell me." Jim stood face to face with the man.

The man avoided eye contact but pointed at Soni. "Ask her. She knows."

Jim's eyebrows rose as he looked at Soni. "You know?"

"I don't know anything?" Soni's eyebrows rose and her mouth opened. "I never saw him before."

"You don't know me; senorita, but you know my boss very well."

"Who's your boss?"



I'm sorry if I've made stupid mistakes, I was doing a final edit and my 20 year old cat was lying on OUR driveway sunning herself and a large dog came and attacked her. My husband ran out and the dog's owner was upset because Whiskers scratched his nose. She's in shock and I am not sure she is going to make it through the night.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a sign that I am sure hangs at Soni's house. I want to mention that I know that the Spanish language uses many symbols that I can't use when I post because EE changes them into really strange letters. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 67
Chapter Veintiuno, (21) Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"The way I got it figured is you belong to the Sinaloa Cartel. If you talk, you're dead, and if you're arrested, you're dead, so you're dead either way. What I don't understand is why you're bothering these innocent people. They've done nothing to you. They must have something you want? But I can't figure out what. So tell me." Jim stood face to face with the man.

The man avoided eye contact but pointed at Soni. "Ask her. She knows."

Jim's eyebrows rose as he looked at Soni. "You know?"

"I don't know anything?" Soni's mouth opened wide. "I never saw him before."

"You don't know me; senorita, but you know my boss very well."

"Who's your boss?"

TODAY'S POST:

The prisoner watched Butkus move closer to his owner. "I've said enough. You figure it out."

Jim and Soni turned their heads at the sound of a vehicle parking in front of the house. "Maybe that's Homeland Security." Soni took a step toward the door..

"I'll check." Jim walked toward the door.

Soni heard him greet the visitors and say something about the Immigration Office. Why would they be here?

"Soni, you have company. Isabella and Emanuel are here." Jim led the young mother, her infant, and a gray haired man into the room.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Adler." He offered his hand. "I'm Martin Kennedy from the United States Department of Immigration. I see you're busy." He glanced at the prisoners. "This young lady's under the impression you'll sponsor her and the child."

Soni did a quick check of the prisoners before she answered, "I will." She smiled at Isabella. "Jim, please watch the prisoners. I need to speak with Mr. Kennedy." She shook hands with the immigration officer and motioned toward the dining room. "Please follow me."

Tatiana came in and quickly placed a centerpiece hiding the beheaded dolls. "I think that looks bueno, don't you? These are fresh flowers from our garden. I'll get some tea and cookies."

"Thank you. Please have a seat." Soni motioned for them to sit.

As they sat, Tatiana returned with the drinks and a plate of cookies. She winked at Soni and mouthed, "Alex." She poured the tea and left the cookies for Soni and her guest to help themselves.

"Please join us." Soni pointed to a chair for Tatiana. "I'd like you to meet Tatiana Garza. Isabella will be working with her. She'll be able to have Emanuel with her."

"This arrangement sounds as if you're creating a position so they won't be deported." Martin took a sip of tea.

"I'm sure you're aware of how we became acquainted." Soni broke her cookie in two and took a bite from one piece.

"I am. It's my job to make sure she has a legitimate job. Will she be able take care of herself and her child?"

"She will. There's a small two-bedroom house south of the flower garden. It's fully furnished. Utilities are included."

"Soni told me about Isabella a few days ago. I agreed to the arrangement." Tatiana patted the young mother's hand.

"My intentions were to come to the hospital and bring them to the Rockin' A, but unfortunately situations have kept me busy here. We've had some issues with vandals. Until I'm sure the situation is rectified, they'll remain in the house with us. We have plenty of room." Soni used her arm to show the space of the large ranch-house. "If you'd like a tour, I'd be happy to show you around."

"I'm sure you're aware the Sinaloa Cartel murdered her husband and left her to die in the desert. If they happen to discover she's alive, they'll kill her and probably you too." Martin placed both hands on the table.

"Then we'll have to make sure they don't find out, won't we?" Soni glanced at the three prisoners. Sinaloa Cartel members are standing in my living room as we speak. I hope they can't hear us. Soni released a deep breath.



Thank you for all the well wishes for Whiskers. I am not sure if cats can have strokes, but I'm afraid she's had one. One eye is damaged and she does eat, but it's off and on. She's still very unsteady when she walks.

I didn't get posted on Sunday because I was sitting in my husband's hospital room. He is home today and doing okay, but not great. His colon and kidneys decided to act up. Not exactly sure why but they did. Again, thank you for all of your support.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for photographs of three wanted men. Maybe they look like Soni's three prisoners. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 67
Chapter Treinta y Cuatro, Pt Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I do need you in my life. I can promise you'll always be a priority to me and I'll love and respect you. I can promise I'll never be responsible for your pain." Jim took her hand. "Soni, I love you and want to marry you. Will you marry me?"

Tears welled in Soni's eyes. She took her hand from Jim's, ran into the house straight into her bedroom, and slammed the door.

TODAY'S POST:
Chapter 34 Part 4

The Ending, finally! LOL

Soni lay on her bed, sobbing.

Mack and Goliath stood, one on each side of her bed, and their heads beside her. Goliath had put his paw on the bed, and Soni held it.

Tatiana knocked on the door. "Soni, can I come in?" When there was no response, she nudged the door open and sat beside Soni. With affection she rubbed Soni's back. "I know you already know you're like a daughter to me." She paused. "Want to talk about it?"

"No." Soni snapped without moving.

"I'll sit with you."

A long pause ensued. Soni turned, wiped the tears rolling down her cheeks, and said, "Jim asked me to marry him." She blew her nose. "I don't even know what to call him. Is it Jim or Jacob or something completely different?"

"Soni, you're majoring on the minors."

"How could he do this to me? Why couldn't he leave well enough alone? We had a good relationship. Now he wants to ruin everything."

"You need time alone, but I'm going to leave you with one thought. Jim loves you. It's obvious to everyone. He's stood by your side through all of this. He didn't have to stay and help fight your battle." Tatiana released a deep breath. "You won't find a better man." She closed the door on her way out.

*****

It was late the following morning when Soni appeared from her room. Alex and Tatiana silently watched her walk over to the table.

"Why are you staring at me?"

"Jackson left this morning. I guess we'll be seeing more of him. Isabella's dating him." Alex took a sip of coffee.

"That's a good thing." Soni glanced around the room. "Isabella deserves happiness."

"We have some immediate ranch business that needs taking care of this morning. Those men you met with in Laredo last month want answers."

Goliath walked over and dropped a wet, slobbery Fi at Soni's feet. "Why you giving her to me? I don't want her. Give her to Jim."

"Jim left with Jackson. Goliath and Mack circled around her and wouldn't let Jim close to her." Alex took another sip of coffee. "For some reason, they thought she needed to stay with you."

"What? Jim's gone?" Soni headed toward the door. "Why'd he leave?"

"You gave him no reason to stay." Alex stared at Soni before he ran after her. "You can't leave. I need answers. A month's up and ..."

"I need to go." Soni stopped and took a deep breath. "Yes, to the wind turbine company, but only a hundred acres. The Go-Green Company - can put magnifying window panes on the ground so the sun can heat water and create energy. Let them try it. I doubt it'll work. I told them we have droughts. Say fifty acres. The shopping center over by San Antonio is a resounding no. I promised Dad, I'd never split the ranch." She picked up Fi and walked away. "I'm leaving."

"The dogs were smarter than you. Now you have an excuse to go after him," called Alex.

*****
Soni flew the helicopter down I35 toward Laredo until she saw Jackson's dark SUV. She landed about one hundred yards in front of them, blocking both lanes.

Once the SUV stopped, Jim walked toward the helicopter, his eyes looking at the ground.

Soni met him halfway and held out Fi. "You forgot something."

At the sound of a sonic boom, Soni jumped into Jim's arms.

Holding her tightly, Jim said, "A jet broke the sound barrier. It's nothing."

"I guess I'm a little jumpy. I didn't sleep well last night." She stepped back.

"Not a problem. I'm used to coming to your aid." Jim took the small Yorkie. "I didn't forget her. Your boys refused to let me have her." His eyes met Soni's. "Is that all you wanted?"

She shook her head as tears welled in her eyes. "I need to fall asleep and know my heart will be safe."

Jim took her in his arms and kissed away her tears. "Your heart will always be safe as long as I'm around."

"I know." Soni swallowed. "My answer is yes. I'll be happy to marry you. Can Grandfather and Alex give me away?" Soni reached up and kissed him.

"I guess I'd better ask both their permissions to marry you. Think they'll give it to me?"

Soni kissed him and smiled.

Jim waved goodbye to Jackson as he and Soni held hands and walked toward the helicopter.


THE END!!!

I tried to embed George Strait singing "I Cross My Heart' but it wouldn't work. You will need to cut and paste the URL

https://youtu.be/A-Lo33Ep99I?t=3s







Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a heart in a dream catcher. I hope you enjoy the ending. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but it's what my characters wanted. Thank you for reviewing and staying with me through this novel. I will post a sort of prologue for my new novel next week. As of right now, it's untitled. My characters can't agree on the title. GREAT???


Chapter 68
Chapter Veintiuno, (21) Part Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"My intentions were to come to the hospital and bring them to the Rockin' A, but unfortunately situations have kept me busy here. We've had some issues with vandals. Until I'm sure the situation is rectified, they'll remain in the house with us. We have plenty of room." Soni used her arm to show the space of the large ranch-house. "If you'd like a tour, I'd be happy to show you around."

"I'm sure you're aware the Sinaloa Cartel murdered her husband and left her to die in the desert. If they happen to discover she's alive, they'll kill her and probably you too." Martin placed both hands on the table.

"Then we'll have to make sure they don't find out, won't we?" Soni glanced at the three prisoners. Sinaloa Cartel members are standing in my living room as we speak. I hope they can't hear us. Soni released a deep breath.

TODAY'S POST:

Martin checked his watch and stood. "I need to return to my office. I'll return in about a week and make sure everything's kosher."

As Soni stood, she motioned for Isabella to remain seated. "I'll walk him to the door."

At the door, Soni watched four black SUVs park in front of the house. "I guess we have additional company."

"They look like Homeland Security agents." Martin glanced at Soni. "What are you up to?" He walked to his car and drove away.

I guess it's not his problem. But it is mine. Soni covered her mouth to hide her grin as the eight men headed toward her. Dark suits, dark ties, white shirts, and sunglasses. Here comes the Men in Black! A giggle slipped from her mouth. This is too unreal for words.

"I'm Agent Carl McGee from Homeland Security. I understand there are three illegal aliens on the premises." He offered his hand.

"Pleased to meet you." She accepted his hand. "Sonsee-array Adler. I own the Rockin' A. I'm not sure these men are illegal, but they are Hispanic and broke into my house. Two Native American dolls were beheaded and left for us to find." Soni turned and led them inside.

Jim immediately introduced himself and shook their hands. "Our initial evaluation is that these three men are members of the Sinaloa Cartel and they're running drugs through the Rockin' A."

"I35 is a main drug route from Mexico through the US." McGee stepped closer to the prisoners. "I see they have a few battle scares. Nothing looks too serious. Didn't you call earlier today about an overturned semi with drugs, weapons, and hostages?"

"We did. We were on our way home from Laredo and found the semi." Soni's eye met the agents. "Can you tell me what will happen to the young women hostages?"

"The driver was from MS13." Jim moved the rifle to his other arm.

"The report stated you were attacked by Los Zetas." The agent took a notebook from his pocket and checked the details. "So there are turf wars going on along I35." He faced Soni.
"And you're caught in the middle."

"It seems so."

Carl studied Isabella and her baby. "Who are they and how do they fit in?"

"They're people we rescued. Her husband refused to join the Sinaloa Cartel and was murdered. They were left to die on the desert. We found them dehydrated with vultures circling overhead. A large western section of the Rockin' A is covered by the Chihuahua Desert. I have agreed to sponsor them."

"Now we know your connection to the Sinaloa Cartel."

"As of today, they didn't know Isabella and Emanuel were still alive. I'm hoping these three can't put two-and-two together."

"You're either brave or stupid. I guess time will tell." McGee motioned toward the prisoner. "Let's get these dirt bags loaded." He paused. "We need to collect evidence surrounding the beheaded doll." He nodded toward the youngest agent. "Ed, take pictures and the dolls. Did any of you touch them?"

Soni, Tatiana, and Jim said, "No."

The largest of the agents grabbed the prisoner that Butkus had attacked.

"Why you grabbing me? You should be putting that vicious dog down. See what he did to my arm." He held up his bloody arm.

"Whatever. I'm sure he had cause. The dog looks peaceful enough to me." He pushed the man forward before he handcuffed him.

As they got close to the door, the prisoner said, "Maybe you should arrest the senorita. She stole from my boss." He winked at Soni. "Now you also have two of our human properties." The man stopped and blew Isabella a kiss. "El beso de la muerte," he said loud enough Isabella so couldn't help but hear.

Butkus growled at the prisoner. "Get that dog away from me." He kicked at him, but missed.

The kiss of death. Soni hurried and hugged Isabella. "I won't let them hurt you or your son."

The young mother had tears rolling down her cheeks as she clung to her infant.


Each day we wonder if it'll be Whiskers last day. She's one tough old lady. Brian has good days and bad days depending if he follows the doctor's instructions. He views them as suggestions, orders.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of men in black. I had fun with that one. Jay, a kiss is coming and very soon. LOL I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 69
Chapter Veintidos, (22) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

Today's Post:

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO




Soni sat on a wooden fence and stared at the bright orange moon rising over the horizon. I hope Isabella and Emanuel are comfortable. What else is going to happen before all this comes to an end? She scanned the area. "I wonder how many cartel members are watching." Her voice grew louder. "I know you're out there." Placing her hand on her gun, she turned as she heard the crackle of dry leaves. "Hi."

"What are you doing so far from the house?" Jim leaned against the fence.

"I wanted to see the stars. By the house there's light pollution." Soni swung her legs over the fence so she faced him.

"Light pollution? Aren't you the little scientist?" After a light chuckle, Jim continued, "It's dangerous being out here alone."

Soni patted her gun. "I'm not by myself."

As she tapped it a little harder, a low rumbled growl sounded. Butkus came into view.

"I should've known he wasn't far. How long did it take to train the dogs to act on body commands?" Jim pet the animal's head. "I don't even need to bend down to pet you."

"We start the training from the beginning. Once we earn their trust, everything comes easy." Soni avoided eye contact. "Any idea how long it'll take before things get back to normal?"

He placed his hand on hers. "Sorry." After a pause, he continued, "Until we figure out what the Sinaloa Cartel's after, it'll be a while. As far as I'm concerned the other two cartels can kill each other off."

"While they're killing each other, there'll be innocent victims like those poor young women. I hate to think they'll be sent back to their countries. It's not right."

Jim ran his fingers through his hair. "After dinner, you spoke with Kuruk. Did he have anything interesting to say?"

"Jack's a formidable Chess player, so Grandfather's enjoying himself."

"I meant did he have any insight to the issues here at the ranch? I'm sure you filled him in on everything that has happened since you left the hospital."

"I know what you meant, but I didn't need to fill him in. He already knew everything."

"That's impossible."

"Are you questioning the Lipan Apache Chief Kuruk Four-Bear's abilities?" Soni's eyes twinkled.

"The one thing I've learned since you rescued me from Big Grizzly is not to question anything when it comes to Kuruk's power."

"Oh look!" She pointed to the western sky. "A shooting star."

"I'm betting Kuruk sent that because he heard what I said about his power."

"For a city slicker, you catch on pretty fast." Soni's grin lit up her face.

"Being from New York City and being stupid are not synonymous."

"Are you sure?" She paused for effect. "I guess being a Marine taught you a few things." Her arm went over his shoulder as she pointed. "Another shooting star."

Their eyes met. As their gaze continued, they moved slowly toward each other until their lips met.

The glancing high beam of headlights interrupted the couple's kiss as the vehicle preceded to the ranch house.



Whiskers took her last breath Monday evening. She's buried beside our Oleanders. She loved them, they were good cover for a cat.

I got three stars on my last post for adding these notes for my friends and reviewers. I will take three stars again, but many of you have helped me through this time. I'm sorry there are reviewers out there that are so petty.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of a couple kissing under a harvest moon. Jay, is this enough for now? LOL I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter.


Chapter 70
Chapter Veintidos, (22) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Are you sure?" She paused for effect. "I guess being a Marine taught you a few things." Her arm went over his shoulder as she pointed. "Another shooting star."

Their eyes met. As their gaze continued, they moved slowly toward each other until their lips met.

The glancing high beam of headlights interrupted the couple's kiss as the vehicle preceded to the ranch house.


TODAY'S POST:

Soni quickly stepped back. "I'd better see who just drove up."

"Yeah, I guess we'd better." Jim took her hand, and they walked toward the house.

Each person avoided the other's eyes.

That wasn't really a kiss, was it? Soni glanced at her hand in Jim's. I guess it was. Probably the stress we've been under and the magical harvest moon and shooting stars caused it. It didn't mean anything, did it?

"Who do you think drove up?" Jim continued to look forward.

"I don't know." Soni laughed. "Maybe Grandfather got fed up in the hospital and took a taxi home."

"Jack would've called." Jim looked at his cell phone, making sure he didn't miss a call. "Nope."

As they got closer, Goliath ran to greet Soni. "Of course. I knew Alex and Gus were returning tonight." She continued to pet the Great Pyrenees. "Hello Mack. How you feeling?" She knelt down and rubbed his massive head.

At the house, Jim opened the door for Soni. She whispered, "Thank you," and then said, "Alex, did Midnight get settled?"

"He sure did. I left Diego there. They seemed to want to be together."

"Has his wound healed enough?"

"I explained how to care for it and told Dale Marshal to call if he had any questions." Alex smiled at Soni. "They'll be all right."

"I'm sure they will. Is Dale Marshal the owner of The 7 Lobos Ranch or the foreman?"

"He's the owner. I also spoke to the foreman and gave him very detailed instructions for both." Alex set his hat on a table. "Tatiana, get us some coffee. I need to hear about everything that's been going on around here."

"Coffee will keep you up. We all need a good night's sleep. I'll make hot cocoa and there are fresh cookies." Tatiana went into the kitchen. "Sit at the table. It won't take long."

The three sat around the table and discussed the weather and other non-important subjects. Jim and Soni ignored each other.

Finally, Alex placed both hands on the table. "What all has happened? Tatiana gave me a brief run down on the phone."

Jim relayed the information, as Tatiana placed cups of hot cocoa and a plate of cookies on the table.

"So what I'm hearing is we don't have problems with just one drug cartel, but three. Is that right?" Alex took a sip from his cup.

"As hard as it is to believe, it looks like it's true." Soni fingered cookie crumbs on her plate, and then her eyes met Alex's. "One of the men who broke into the house said I know his boss very well and stole something from him. Do you know anything about that?"

"Who's his boss?"

"He wouldn't share that information." Jim stood. "Is there more cocoa in the kitchen?"

Tatiana stood. "I'll get it."

Jim motioned for her to sit. "I can. Anybody else want more?"

Both Alex and Soni held their cups up. Jim acknowledged them with a nod.

Alex placed his hand on Soni's. "Sorry, I can't help unless I know who his boss is." He took a deep breath. "Where are our new house guests?"

"They're in the left back guest bedrooms. I didn't want them in the cottage until I'm sure it's safe."

After Jim set the hot cocoa cups down, he asked, "I was wondering about Midnight. There have been two attempts at horse stealing. Could somebody think he's theirs?"

"No way." Alex pointed toward the office. "In the safe, there are legal papers. Ray paid a fortune for that scoundrel."

"Did anybody want to buy him besides Soni's dad?"

"Not that I'm aware of. Who else would want that horse? He's ornery and only Soni can ride him." Alex held up his cup. "Thanks for the refill."

"I'm just trying to figure out who would have a grudge." Jim adjusted himself in the chair. "Did anybody besides Soni expect to inherit the ranch? Could Ray have had somebody you don't know about?"

Soni stared at Alex. "Please don't tell me Daddy wasn't who I thought he was."

Alex and Tatiana placed their hands on Soni's arm.

"No. Your dad was completely faithful to Jacali. When she died, part of Ray died with her. There could be nobody else." Tatiana's arm went around Soni's shoulder.

"She's right. If your dad had somebody on the side, I'd have known it." Alex thought for a while. "It's probably nothing, but it seems there was a struggle over the ownership of the ranch back in the 1830s. But this is 2015, and nobody's alive to know anything about it. It would have been cleared up by now."

"I never heard anything about that." Soni's eyes opened wider.

"That's because it's nonsense." Alex took a long drink of cocoa and a bite of cookie. "What's going on with you two? You've been avoiding each other like one of you has the plague. It's more than your usual banter. So what's the elephant in the room?"

Soni plopped a handful of marshmallows into her cocoa, and it over flowed. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of A cup of cocoa. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. That's not my style. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Chapter 71
Chapter Veintidos, (22) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"That's because it's nonsense." Alex took a long drink of cocoa and a bite of cookie. "What's going on with you two? You've been avoiding each other like one of you has the plague. It's more than your usual banter. So what's the elephant in the room?"

Soni plopped a handful of marshmallows into her cocoa, and it over flowed. "I don't know what you're talking about."


TODAY'S POST:

Soni turned her head toward the guest bedroom as the sound of a crying baby permeated the room. "I'll see if I can offer Isabella some help. It sounds as if Emanuel isn't interested in sleeping."

Goliath and Mack followed. Butkus stood, but laid back down.

"You don't know a thing about babies and I'll ask the same question when you return," Alex called after her.

Tatiana rose. "There might be something I can help with."

"Soni's never been around human babies, only the four-legged, furry ones." Alex took his final drink of hot cocoa. Pass the pot." He poured another cup. "You can explain what's going on or do you have someplace to go too?"

"I agree with Soni. I don't know what you're talking about." Jim took a bite of cookie. "But if it makes you feel better, I don't have any place to go." He grinned. "I'm staying as far away as possible from that baby."

"I guess we wait until the females return." Alex sipped his cocoa. "It'll be a miracle if any of us get any sleep tonight."

*****
After about an hour, Soni and Tatiana opened the door. Soni waved and said, "Emanuel's asleep, and I'm tired. I think I'll head for bed." Both Goliath and Mack were by her side.

"Young lady, we weren't finished. I know you had a horrible day, but we have unfinished business."

Soni sat beside Alex. "You're right. We do have something to talk about:tomorrow. You and Dakota are going to Northern Texas and Oklahoma for the livestock auctions. I'm wondering if you can continue into Kansas and buy some hay. The drought cut our grass yield in half and we're going to run out before winter's over."

"You actually have a winter in Texas?" Jim's eyes widened.

"Ha ha, very funny. We have a winter, and the nights actually get below freezing." Soni sat straighter. "Some days we even use that." She pointed at the large stone fireplace.

"It's fall and spring we don't have," teased Alex. "On a serious note, I thought about getting some hay. It'll be really expensive shipping it all the way from Kansas."

"I know, but most of Texas and Oklahoma have had the same lack of rain we had." Soni paused. "What if we have a few guys go up and get it? We have the men, and they could take a livestock truck."

"I'll check all the areas for hay and see where I can get the best deal. I heard there are some great bulls for auction in Albuquerque next Monday. I'm thinking of hitting there too. I'm going to take Gus and not Dakota. His wife's due to have that baby in a few weeks."

"I'd forgotten she was getting that close. Have arrangements been made for him to stay home with her?"

Alex nodded. "His team's pulling extra duties, so it's covered."

"Then I guess everything's good-to-go. I'm beat." Soni covered her yawn with her hand. "See you in the morning."

"I'm going to town tomorrow and get clothes and supplies for Isabella and Emanuel. They only came with the clothes on their backs and enough infant supplies for the night." Tatiana started making a list.

Soni stood and said, "I don't want you to go alone. It's too dangerous." She put her hands on her hips. "Take Jim with you."

Jim nodded. "Baby and female shopping isn't part of my skill set, but guarding Tatiana will be my pleasure."

"Now, can I go to bed?" Soni closed her eyes. "What else could possible go wrong in the next few days? Let's go, boys." Two large breed dogs followed her.

Butkus eyed Soni.

"You can go too." Alex motioned to Butkus. "All three are big babies." He laughed as the mastiff followed the two Great Pyrenees.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of a dog looking over a baby. I know it's not the same breed as Mack and Goliath, even Butkus but I liked the photo. When my last baby was born, I had a yellow Labrador. Whenever anybody came to see the baby, Codi stood between them and the baby. I had to call her down before she would let them near Steven. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. That's not my style. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. Normal about a fourth of the larger chapter.


Chapter 72
Chapter Veintitres, (23) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I'm going to town tomorrow and get clothes and supplies for Isabella and Emanuel. They only came with the clothes on their backs and enough infant supplies for the night." Tatiana started making a list.

Soni stood and said, "I don't want you to go alone. It's too dangerous." She put her hands on her hips. "Take Jim with you."

Jim nodded. "Baby and female shopping isn't part of my skill set, but guarding Tatiana will be my pleasure."

"Now, can I go to bed?" Soni closed her eyes. "What else could possible go wrong in the next few days? Let's go, boys." Two large breed dogs followed her.

Butkus eyed Soni.

"You can go too." Alex motioned to Butkus. "All three are big babies." He laughed as the mastiff followed the two Great Pyrenees.


TODAY'S POSTS:

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE


As the sun rose in the East, Tatiana, Alex, Isabella, with Emanuel on her lap, and Jim sat for the breakfast Tatiana had prepared.

Alex glanced down the hallway towards Soni's bedroom door. "She was worn-out. I say let her sleep."

"I agree." Tatiana poured coffee into Jim's cup. "You're going with me, right?"

Jim nodded. "Yes. Gus is traveling with Alex, so I guess that leaves Soni and the boys with Isabella." He chuckled.

Isabella frowned.

Tatiana translated the conversation into Spanish.

"Cual ninos?" asked Isabella.

"Los tres perros grandes que seguian a Soni donde quiera." Jim used his hands to show the size of the dogs.

Isabella nodded. "Si."

After they ate, Alex commented, "I don't think I remember a time Soni's slept so late. She's usually the first one to breakfast." He took a bite of biscuit. "Of course, she did fall off a cliff."

Tatiana stood. "I'll check on her." She opened the door to the bedroom and peeked in. "She's sound asleep. The three dogs acknowledged me. I'd better get the kitchen cleaned up so I can get back from town in time to make lunch."

Isabella stood, handed Jim the baby, and followed Tatiana into the kitchen.

Jim held Emanuel straight-armed out, with the child's feet dangling toward the floor. "What do I do with this?"

"That, my son, is a baby." Alex held out his arms. "Give him here." He took the six-month-old and cuddled him close to his chest.

"You're good with babies. Why didn't you and Tatiana have children?"

"We both wanted them, but it wasn't meant to be. Soni's the closest we came to having our own child." Alex used his finger to caress Emanuel's cheek. "Little ones are supposed to have chubby cheeks just like these."

*****
It wasn't long before Tatiana put the list inside her purse. "Jim, ready?"

"As ready as I will ever be."

Alex held two bags. "I'm ready." He walked over and kissed his wife. "I'll call later this afternoon with an update. Don't buy out the store." He glanced toward Soni's room. "I wonder how much longer she's going to sleep."

"I told Isabella to check on her every hour, if it continues."

Gus hurried in the front door. "Alex, there's a problem. Bella's in labor, and it doesn't look good. We may not only lose the foal, but Bella too. I've called the doc. He's on his way."

"She's not due for another three weeks." Alex dropped his bags. "I'll take a look."

Jim and Tatiana followed. After Alex examined the horse, it was decided Jim and Gus would stay with Bella. Gus would catch up with Alex later, and Tatiana would take Butkus with her.

Before Tatiana left, she wrote Soni a note describing the change of plans.

Alex followed Tatiana out of the drive way. Tatiana turned right toward Laredo. Alex turned left and headed for San Antonio.

*****
Soni glanced at her clock. Nine-thirty! Why did they let me sleep so late? Half the morning's gone. She quickly went through her morning routine and walked into the dining room. She read the note. I wondered where Butkus got off to. After I pour a cup of coffee, I'll check on Bella. The vet should be here by now. She was one of dad's favorite mares.

With cup of coffee in hand, Soni opened the front door as Homeland Security's Ralph Littleton was about to knock. She spilt some of her coffee on her hand. "Ouch!"

"That burn is the least of your problems."

"Why are you here? You know Grandfather's in the hospital."

"I thought you'd like to know exactly who you've been placing your trust in." Littleton smirked.



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of a large country breakfast. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. That's not my style. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. Normal about a fourth of the larger chapter.


Chapter 73
Chapter Veintitres, (23) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

With cup of coffee in hand, Soni opened the front door as Homeland Security's Ralph Littleton was about to knock. She spilt some of her coffee on her hand. "Ouch!"

"That burn is the least of your problems."

"Why are you here? You know Grandfather's in the hospital."

"I thought you'd like to know exactly who you've been placing your trust in." Littleton smirked.


TODAY'S POST:

"You need to leave! I'm not interested in anything you have to say." Soni attempted to shut the door, but Littleton blocked it with his foot.

Goliath and Mack pushed their way between Littleton and Soni and bared teeth showing.

"Call your dogs off, lady. You're about to lose out on the most important information of your life."

"I doubt you have anything to say that I would find interesting, let alone important." Soni motioned for the boys to back off.

The dogs obeyed but remained alert.

"I guess you aren't interested in the true identity of Jim Burns." Ralph turned to leave.

Soni watched him walk away. I know Jim hasn't been honest with me. Grandfather says he can be trusted. What's he been hiding? Since he's shown up, things have been bad. Could he be the cause? She closed her eyes, paused, and then said, "Stop him," and pointed.

Goliath and Mack responded. They got in front of Littleton and sat, blocking his way.

He faced Soni. "Honey, I guess you've changed your mind."

"I'm not your honey. You have exactly five minutes." Soni sat on the porch swing and tapped her watch.

"Your boyfriend's real name is Jacob Blackwood. He works for ICE."

Soni scrunched her nose. "So? He's not my boyfriend. You have four minutes and fifteen seconds to impress me."

"United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities."

"You're down to three minutes. I still haven't heard anything that would make Jim or Jacob, whatever his name is, a threat to my family."

"Did you miss the part about immigration? Blackwood's an undercover agent investigating illegal aliens and their activities. You know, drugs, human trafficking, and weapons."

"I understand what you're saying. First of all, there are no aliens working or living on the Rockin' A. Secondly, there's nothing illegal going on. I have no control over what's happening on I35. Matter-of-fact, I35 is a federal interstate, so the US government is to blame, not me. Maybe you should talk with them." Soni checked her watch. "Times up. Goliath, Mack, escort Mr. Littleton to his car."

Ralph took a plain manila file folder from the front seat and held it up. "You might want to read this."

Soni nodded, and the dogs allowed him to approach her. She took the folder, opened it, and studied the top paper. It's got the Homeland Security heading. She handed it back. "This looks official. I'm not getting caught with this file. Take it."

"It's a copy. The original's where it belongs. I knew you wouldn't believe me, so I brought proof." He held out the stapled packet. "These are Blackwood's orders for this assignment. Happy reading." Littleton set the folder on the ground and left.

Soni stared at the car driving away. She went into the house and closed the door.

After a few moments, she returned outside and picked up the folder. "Grandfather, I need you," she whispered as she walked to the house.

"My child, I'm always with you. Follow your heart."

"Follow my heart?" Soni sat at the dining room table and stared at the folder. "All of our problems have centered around immigration and Robert Hughes. Hughes had the audacity to get himself killed on the Rockin' A. Of course, on the part of the ranch that housed the Lipan Apache reservation, while he investigated peyote use during the Harvest Celebration. Grandfather's under suspicion for three murders." She petted Goliath's head. "Why am I telling you this?"

The Great Pyrenees wagged his tail.

"Because you're a great listener, that's why." Soni's hands shook as she silently read the official orders. She reread a section aloud, "The Adler family should be infiltrated. There's circumstantial evidence that indicates they're part of a smuggling ring. Their employment of numerous Hispanics of all ages is suspicious."

Soni reread part of that section, before she could finish she threw the papers down with tears of pain flowing from her eyes.



MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY FANS!!!!!!!!!!

&

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO MY FANS WHO DON'T CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS


Chapter 74
Chapter Veintitres, (23) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Follow my heart?" Soni sat at the dining room table and stared at the folder. "All of our problems have centered around immigration and Robert Hughes. Hughes had the audacity to get himself killed on the Rockin' A. Of course, on the part of the ranch that housed the Lipan Apache reservation, while he investigated peyote use during the Harvest Celebration. Grandfather's under suspicion for three murders." She petted Goliath's head. "Why am I telling you this?"

The Great Pyrenees wagged his tail.

"Because you're a great listener, that's why." Soni's hands shook as she silently read the official orders. She reread a section aloud, "The Adler family should be infiltrated. There's circumstantial evidence that indicates they're part of a smuggling ring. Their employment of numerous Hispanics of all ages is suspicious."

Soni reread part of that section. Before she could finish, she threw the papers down with tears of pain flowing from her eyes.


TODAY'S POST:

"He thinks we're a bunch of smugglers! How dare him!" screamed Soni through her tears. "I've got to get out of here!" She ran from the house with both dogs close behind.

Outside, Soni noticed the veterinarian's pickup. "Good, Doc Hanson's here. Bella's getting help." As she crept into the stable, she noticed silence. Where's Bella? She turned her head toward distant voices. She didn't make it to the stables. It's probably best not to move her. It makes it easier for me to leave.

With Smoky saddled, Soni rode into the late morning sun. It wasn't long before she reached the family cemetery. After dismounting, she leaned over her father's headstone. "Daddy, I really need you." She explained Jim and everything that had happened, finishing with the copy of orders Littleton had given her. "Grandfather thinks Jim's a good man and I should follow my heart. Is Grandfather ever wrong?"

Goliath nuzzled Soni, and she hugged her furry dog's neck. "Grandfather taught Mom that white man's medicine was bad. White man's medicine would've saved her life when I was born." Mack set his huge paw on her leg.

Soni turned around. "Grandfather, I feel your presence."

"I am always with you, my child."

"You told me to follow my heart. The evidence tells a different story. Jim/Jacob!" She shook her head. "He's Bimisi!"

Kuruk chuckled. "He's not a slippery one. He's honest, and he cares about you and us."

"I have so many questions. I need to find out why somebody would think my family stole something, and what? We're not crooks. We're hard working people who are trying to make a living. What about the question of the ranch ownership dating back to the 1830s? Why have I never heard about it?"

"I think you're trying to get answers the quick way and easy way. Why don't you try doing some research? Your father kept excellent records. So did his father."

"You've never talked to me like this before." Soni asked, "Why now?"

"Sonsee-array, I love you with every beat of my heart, but you're a young woman, owner of one of the largest ranches in Texas. You're not a child. You do not trust your heart or your heritage. You must."

*****

Doc Hanson shook hands with Gus. "Bella should make a full recovery. I'm sorry about losing the foal."

"I check the pastures daily. I don't understand where the Fescue Toxicity came from. I'm glad Bella's out of danger." Gus kicked up some dust. "I'd better warn the others. We could lose entire herds, not only a foal.

"Don't blame yourself. I didn't see any in the field." The doc put his hand on Gus's shoulder.

Jim glanced toward the pasture. "Is there any way somebody could have fed it to Bella?"

"That's always a possibility. I wasn't around yesterday. There were others close by, but they were busy with their jobs, not keeping an eye on the mare. Why would somebody want to hurt Bella?" Gus slapped his hat against his thigh.

"I doubt Bella was the target. I wonder if Soni's up, yet." Jim took a step toward the house.

"I'll come by and check Bella before nightfall. I'd better get back to the office." Doc Hanson climbed into his truck.

Gus and Jim walked through the front door. Jim called, "Soni? Soni?" and then he bent over, picked up typed papers lying on the floor, and scanned them. "This isn't good." He opened Soni's bedroom door. "She's gone."

"The helicopter and her truck are here. She must've taken a horse." Gus ran out to the stable with Jim following. "We were too busy caring for Bella to pay any attention to the stables."

After realizing Smoky was missing, Gus tried to call Alex, but got no answer. "He's probably in a no-signal zone."

Jim shielded his eyes from the sun. "Isn't that Butkus? Something's wrong." He ran to him and took Tatiana's blood-covered purse from the panting dog's mouth.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of fescue I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. That's not my style. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. Normal about a fourth of the larger chapter.


Chapter 75
Chapter Veintitres, (23) Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Gus and Jim walked through the front door. Jim called, "Soni? Soni?" and then bent over, picked up typed papers lying on the floor, and scanned them. "This isn't good." He opened Soni's bedroom door. "She's gone."

"The helicopter and her truck are here. She must've taken a horse." Gus ran out to the stable with Jim following. "We were too busy caring for Bella to pay any attention to the stables."

After realizing Smoky was missing, Gus tried to call Alex, but got no answer. "He's probably in a no-signal zone."

Jim shielded his eyes from the sun. "Isn't that Butkus? Something's wrong." He ran to him and took Tatiana's blood-covered purse from the panting dog's mouth.


TODAY'S POST:

"I wonder whose blood this is." Jim petted Butkus. "You look like you've been run over by a semi. What happened, big guy?" He touched the dog's swollen left hind leg. The dog flinched. "We'll get you patched up."

"Tatiana's in trouble. That's for sure. Ever known a lady to be without her purse?" Gus hurried to his pickup. "You go for Soni, and I'll see what's going on with Tatiana. Got your phone?"

"I got it. What about Isabella and the child? We can't leave them alone." Jim watched dust rise from a car traveling down the lane. "Who's coming all the way out here in a Taxi?"

Jim and Gus waited for the cab to stop. When the car door opened, Kuruk and Jackson got out. Kuruk paid the man.

"Your job was to guard him in the hospital." Jim's tone was sharp.

"He decided to check himself out, so I thought I'd better follow him." Jack motioned to the elderly Apache. "Have you ever tried to change his mind?"

Jim grinned. "You have a point. Kuruk, you know Soni's going to be upset, don't you?"

"My granddaughter has problems of her own. Soni's looking for answers, Tatiana's missing, you can't get in touch with Alex, and somebody needs to take care of Isabella and the infant. It's only you and Gus." Kuruk's eyes met Jim's. "I think you need help.'

"How do you know all this?" Jim adjusted his hat. "Never mind. I already know. What do you suggest?"

"You go after Soni, Gus, find Tatiana, Jack and I will look after Isabella. Butkus better stay here. He needs a break."

Jim and Gus stared at the old man.

"You'd better get to moving. There's only a few hours of daylight left." Kuruk turned toward the house. "Come on, Jack. We'll find decent food in the kitchen." Butkus followed.

*****

Gus traveled about twenty-five miles down I35 before he came to an overturned vehicle surrounded by police cars. He stopped, got out, and walked to it.

A tall officer walked up to him. "Any idea whose vehicle this is?"

"That's got to be Tatiana Garza's siren-red Traverse." He searched the area, noticed tracks leading away from the vehicle, and took out his phone. "Jim, I found the wreck. The police had everything taped off before I got here. It looks like Tatiana was run off the road. My guess is after the car turned over, she was carried away. Looks like Butkus was thrown maybe ten feet from the car. Any luck with Soni?"

"She stopped by the cemetery, but she's not there any longer. Goliath and Mack are with her. I have a feeling Tatiana's been kidnapped. I'm following Soni's trail. Go back to the house. Maybe there'll be a ransom call."

After their call ended, Gus tried Alex again, with no luck. It's not like him to be out of telephone range this long. Something's wrong.

*****

Jim climbed off Paco and knelt. He touched a horseshoe print in the dry dirt. Soni left a trail clear enough my ninety-year-old Grandma could follow, and she's half-blind. I wonder who she's expecting. He mounted his horse. "Knowing Soni, she's planning something." He heard birds calling from overhead and glanced up. If she's expecting me, she's safe, but that can't be good for me. She's madder than hell. Maybe she understands I couldn't be totally honest with her. He chuckled. "Maybe I'm overthinking this entire situation."

"Dismount and raise your hands over your head."

Jim followed the command.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of a man dismounting a horse. It could be Jim. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. That's not my style. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. Normal about a fourth of the larger chapter.


Chapter 76
Chapter Veintitres, (23) Part Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Dismount and raise your hands over your head."

Jim followed the command.


TODAY'S POST:

"Okay, Soni. Good trick with the disguised voice. You made your point. Put the gun away." Jim turned around and his eyebrows rose.

"I'm not a girl. I'm insulted you think I sound like one. Maybe you're hard of hearing." The man hit the side of Jim's face with the butt of the rifle. "Now, do I sound like a girl?"

"No. I guess I'm hard of hearing." Jim adjusted his stance. "What do you want with me?"

"Call off the federales," said the Hispanic man.

"I don't have any control over the US Government."

"Jacob Blackwood does."

"That's not my name. I'm Jim Burns."

"You're undercover for the government." He raised his rifle and shot a bird from the sky. "Maybe that's the little bird that told me." The man chuckled as he watched the bird fall to the ground.

"You're mistaken. I can show you my driver's license."

The man scratched his overgrown whiskers. "You're undercover. I should kill you right now, but my boss wants you alive."

"Who's your boss?"

"You'll find out soon enough."

"Is he on his way or are we going to him?"

"You'll find out soon enough."

This guy's low on the totem pole. Jim crept backward closer to Paco. "I'm getting tired holding up my arms."

A rifle shot flew by Jim's right side. "Don't move! The next shot will be a little closer."

"Okay, I got it. I'm standing still." Jim's eyes met his. I've got to get closer to my rifle.

The man answered his cell. "Si. Yo lo tengo.
Quieres que te lo traiga o tu vienes a reunirse con nosotros aquí." He listened before he put his phone away.

"We waiting here or going to him?"

*****

Soni halted Smoky and turned in her saddle. "Jim's not following anymore. I wonder why?" She stepped down from the horse and walked a few feet down the trail. Paco probably bucked him off. She grinned. Paco wouldn't buck anybody off, not even that scoundrel. She climbed back on her horse. "We'd better turn around and see what kind of trouble he's got himself into this time."

When she was closer, Soni tied Smoky to a branch, took her rifle, and walked, using rocks and shrubs for cover. Once she came within eyesight of Jim, she sighed. I knew he couldn't stay out of trouble. Now what?

She sat and turned her back to Jim and the man holding him captive. I should leave him for the buzzards. If I kill the man, will I go to jail? This ICE man will probably have me arrested and I'll get a life sentence for saving his butt.

Soni stood and took aim. I'll only wound him and then plead if I wanted him dead he'd be dead.

The sound of her rifle echoed through the canyon. The man's rifle fell to the ground as he grabbed his arm.

Jim dashed for the rifle and aimed it where the shot came from.

Soni stepped from behind the rocks. "Figures you'd try to shoot the person who saved your sorry ass."

"What took you so long? My arms were getting tired."

"I was afraid you'd have me arrested."

Both turned as they heard horses headed their direction.

Author Notes My winter break is over. I've enjoyed being able to spend more time reviewing and with my FS family. Spring break is in the middle of March. I'm not counting the days until then, YET!!!!
Once again I made changes as I was posting. I never get it to my satisfactions. I'm sure I've made additional mistakes.
Thank you Google Images for artwork of desert scenery. I could be the area this post takes place. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. That's not my style. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. Normal about a fourth of the larger chapter.


Chapter 77
Chapter Veintitres, (23) Part Seis

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

The sound of her rifle echoed through the canyon. The man's rifle fell to the ground as he grabbed his arm.

Jim dashed for the rifle and aimed it where the shot came from.

Soni stepped from behind the rocks. "Figures you'd try to shoot the person who saved your sorry ass."

"What took you so long? My arms were getting tired."

"I was afraid you'd have me arrested."

Both turned as they heard horses headed their direction.


TODAY'S POST:

After they listened a few moments, Soni pointed to the rocks she'd hid behind and whispered, "We'd better hurry. Bring your horse. I'll take care of him." She grabbed the man's good arm and his horse's reins. "I'll come back and clean up."

Jim helped Soni move everything back, higher up the mesa. When the Hispanic man was secured and gagged, they covered their tracks and the blood trail.

"We finished none too soon." Jim pointed to the three men who had arrived. "I wish I could get a closer shot." He held up his phone to take a picture. "One of them might be the boss."

Soni crept down a few rock levels and took a picture of the three men. When she returned, she showed Jim. "Is this any better?"

"Yes. Thanks. Send it to me." Jim turned his head. "What's that smell?" He raised the front of his shirt to cover his nose.

"It's a skunk." Soni covered her nose with her neckerchief. "Where's it coming from?" She turned around and pointed. "Mack, you didn't." She sighed. "You did."

Goliath rolled on the ground trying to cover his nose with his front paws.

"I guess the smell got to those guys too. They're leaving in a hurry and covering their noses." Soni glanced toward Mack. "You've really done it this time." She motioned for the dog to move away. He did.

"We need to talk." Jim's eyes met Soni's.

"I have nothing to say to you." Soni turned away.

"After everything I've done, at least you could hear me out."

"Ever since I rescued you from Big Grizzly, you've done nothing but lie to me."

"That's not true. I lied about my name, but that's it. I refused to answer the other questions." Jim rubbed his nose and shook his head. "Can we have this argument someplace else that doesn't smell so bad?"

"I'm done talking anyway." Soni went to the prisoner and motioned for him to get on his horse. After he was seated, she took the horse's reins. "You're coming with me." She glanced at Jim. "What are you going to do with him?"

"I'll have somebody come get him and then interrogate him."

After a few moments of silence, Soni avoided Jim's eyes, but asked, "Exactly what was your job and how did my ranch fit in?"

Jim stopped his horse in front of Soni's. "I want you to understand something. Your ranch and your family had nothing to do with my investigation. I was on top of Big Grizzly doing surveillance. That semi we found overturned? I was tracking ones like it, taking the license plate, the time, and date they were traveling down I35. That's it. After we compiled the information, then we would decide how to respond. Now all this other crap has happened."

"Nice story." Soni backed her horse up and went around him, pulling the other horse and it's rider with her.

"Soni, honestly I never heard of you or your ranch. I knew I was on privately owned property, but that's it."

Soni halted her horse, listened, and then whispered, "Hear that? We're being followed."





Author Notes Thank you Google Images for artwork of skunk. Somehow I felt a skunk was fitting. I could be the area this post takes place. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. That's not my style. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I do not describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter. Normal about a fourth of the larger chapter.


Chapter 78
Chapter Veinticuatro, (24) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim stopped his horse in front of Soni's. "I want you to understand something. Your ranch and your family had nothing to do with my investigation. I was on top of Big Grizzly doing surveillance. That semi we found overturned? I was tracking ones like it, taking the license plate, the time, and date they were traveling down I35. That's it. After we compiled the information, then we would decide how to respond. Now all this other crap has happened."

"Nice story." Soni backed her horse up and went around him, pulling the other horse and it's rider with her.

"Soni, honestly I never heard of you or your ranch. I knew I was on privately owned property, but that's it."

Soni halted her horse, listened, and then whispered, "Hear that? We're being followed."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
PART 1

Behind Goliath and Mack, Soni and Jim stood and listened. He whispered, "You're right. First we need to do something about Mack, and then come up with a plan. Any ideas?"

"Skunk odor can last almost a month." Soni motioned for Mack to move away.

The dog did.

"You've got to be kidding?" Jim's eyebrows rose.

"I figured they would've taught you that in the Marines. If you were actually a Marine."

Jim lifted his T-shirt over his head and turned his back to her. "Does this answer your question?"

Soni stared at the Semper Fidelis tattoo. "Do you even know what it means? Anybody can get a tatt."

"Always faithful." Jim shoved his hand in his jeans pocket and pulled out his key ring with dog tags attached. "Here." His tone was sharp.

Soni took them and inspected the writing . "I guess that's one thing you were truthful about. Probably the only thing." She handed the tags back. "So your name is Jacob Blackwood."

Jim returned them to his pocket. "It is. While we stand here arguing, those men are getting closer. Do you have a plan?"

Soni pointed. "See that cave up there?" After Jim nodded, she continued, "I figured we could hide in there and then sneak behind them. Maybe follow them and see where they're staying."

"How do we get the horses up there?" Jim adjusted his hat.

"We don't." Soni looked at her two large dogs. "They take the horses and lead the men on a wild goose chase. After they're further ahead, they'll slip off the trail and head back to us."

"Can they do that?"

"Yep. But not with him." Soni nodded toward the prisoner. "I can't figure out that part."

"We'll leave him here. Get careless and let him escape."

"Won't that look suspicious?" Soni tilted her head.

"Not really. We could get into one of our arguments and forget to watch him. That's normal for us." Jim grinned.

"Very funny." Soni paused. "It could work. What about his horse?"

"Chase it away. It'll take them a while to find it, or he'll buddy up with another rider."

Soni's eyes met Jim's. "What should we argue about?"

"Anything, we can argue about anything. How about the weather?" teased Jim, and then he paused and said loudly. "I'm hungry. I'll hunt for a rabbit. Get a fire started and keep that smelly dog here." He grabbed his rifle and headed off.

Soni yelled at him. "You crazy? We need to get going. Your stomach can wait until we get back to the ranch."

Jim faced her. "I'm tired of following your orders. I'm starved. We're stopping." He motioned with his eyes that the dogs were interfering with the plan.

Soni gave one nod and hand signaled for the dogs to stand by her. "You're a jar-head. I'm always taking care of you. If I hadn't rescued you, you'd be dead by now. Alex and Grandfather aren't here to come to our aid. Our phones are in dead zones. We don't have time to eat."

Jim kept his eyes on the prisoner and whispered, "He's off and running." Then he loudly said, "Leave on your own. I'm eating." His eyes remained on the prisoner until he was out of sight. "Give your orders to the dogs. We need to get out of here. It's almost too late."

Soni grabbed the two horses' reins and gave one to each dog. She slowly and with a few words and hand motions explained what she wanted them to do. Then Goliath and Mack, with the reins in their mouths continued down the trail.

"Those two are amazing." Jim watched them. "We'd better get to the cave."

Soni followed.

As Jim entered, Soni heard a horse's hoof click on a rock, and then she ducked behind a boulder. She heard a rider close. Man, he's close. It's amazing. He swears in English.



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of a Marine with Semper Fidelis tattooed on his back. It means 'always faithful.' I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I don't describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter, normally about a fourth of a chapter.


Chapter 79
Chapter Veinticuatro, (24) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni grabbed the two horses' reins and gave one to each dog. She slowly and with a few words and hand motions explained what she wanted them to do. Then Goliath and Mack, with the reins in their mouths continued down the trail.

"Those two are amazing." Jim watched them. "We'd better get to the cave."

Soni followed.

As Jim entered, Soni heard a horse's hoof click on a rock, and then she ducked behind a boulder. She heard a rider close. Man, he's close. It's amazing. He swears in English.


TODAY'S POST:
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
PART 2

The urge to peek around the boulder was strong, but Soni decided it would be taking too much of a risk. I've heard that voice, but where? If I could only get a glimpse of him. He talks like he's charge. She raised up, but changed her mind. Are there three or four men? I'm not sure. She glanced toward the cave. Maybe Jim will get a good look at them. Our prisoner hasn't caught up with them. Why? Maybe he's afraid they'll kill him for letting Jim escape.

Soni removed her neckerchief and dried the perspiration from her face. Boy, it's hot. I hope the dogs are okay. She strained to hear. Did he say Littleton's name? I wish he'd repeat that again. I didn't hear everything.

She leaned her back against the boulder. How's he acquainted with them? Could he be on the take? But why's he bothering us? We never met him before he came to the house. None of this makes sense.

Soni gently moved her head to the left when she heard a rattling sound. She gulped when she saw a coiled snake. Slowly moving her right arm to the inside of her boot, she removed her knife. In her next action, she threw the knife and split the rattler in two.

*****

Jim knelt down at the entrance of the cave, hoping to avoid being seen, and peered out. He held up his phone. Wish I could get a better picture. This one will have to do. I'll take a few more. Maybe one will be good enough to enlarge, so we can identify the men. Jim sent the photos back to the office with a text giving directions.

Within moments, a return text said, "You expect me to enlarge this enough to ID these men? Right!"

"You work miracles. I need them now," Jim returned.

"I only have their backs and their heads are in front of the ones facing this direction. How can I run a facial ID with this?"

"Miracles?"

"By the way, who's this gorgeous gal?" A photo of Soni leaning her back against the boulder was returned.

"My cohort, the one who keeps getting me into these messes. Just do your job!" Jim shoved his phone into his pocket. The one who doesn't believe a word I say, and thinks I'm a scoundrel. That one. How'd that photo get sent, anyway? Kuruk, are you at work, again?

Jim shielded his eyes from the sun and watched the four men. "The longer they hang around, the better chance they have of discovering Soni," he said under his breath.

His eyes were drawn to her. "She's one gorgeous lady." He grinned. "Also bossy, stubborn, way too much of a risk-taker, brave, stands up for what she believes, too intelligent for her own good." He picked up a pebble and tossed it away. "How can someone be too smart?" He paused. "When it gets us into messes like this, that's how."

With a smile on his face, Jim raised his hat toward Soni. "OohRah, Soni! I've loved every minute."

"Damn!" whispered Jim. "They saw me."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of an image of desert rocks, much like the ones Soni could be hiding behind. I appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I do want to mention that my romances have a plot. I don't do the boy meets girl and they jump into bed and have passionate sex. To me that's lust and I prefer to write romances where the couple work to find lasting, unconditional love. I do NOT redefine each character in every post. I don't describe the physical features of my characters in every post. Please remember this is part of a much longer chapter, normally about a fourth of a chapter.


Chapter 80
Chapter Veinticuatro, (24) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

With a smile on his face, Jim raised his hat toward Soni. "OohRah, Soni! I've loved every minute."

"Damn!" whispered Jim. "They saw me."


TODAY'S POST:
CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
PART 3

Soni heard one of the men yell, "Viste ese hombre aguantado su sombrero de lado a lado desde la cueva?" She covered her eyes, searched the cave entrance, and mumbled under her breath, "Why did Jim stand up and wave his hat at these guys? Is he trying to get us killed?"

Soni pressed her body closer to the boulder. The footsteps were closer now. She slid her trembling body further into the shadows. She mustn't let them find her. She held her breath. Jim can be such an idiot.

"Estas loco? Yo no veo nada."

As she began breathing again, she whispered, "Good. Luckily, only one man saw him, and the others think that guy's crazy."

"Mira! Hay un oso dejando la cueva. Eso es lo que vio." The man pointed.

"A bear came out of the cave. Thank you, Grandfather," prayed Soni. "Again, you rescued Jim. I'm sure that man won't mention to anybody about a disappearing bear. I wish they'd leave. What are they waiting for?"

The crunch of dried leaves drew their gaze. The man who had captured Jim stumbled into the open.

The crack of a pistol, and then a sound of a thud caused Soni to cringe.

Within moments, the four men mounted their horses and left the dead man where he had fallen. They followed the tracks Goliath, Mack, and the horses had made.

Soni bit her lower lip. "I guess that's what they were waiting for." With closed eyes, she remained hidden behind the boulder.

A tap on the shoulder caused Soni to respond with her knife readied.

"Lower your knife, it's makes me nervous." Jim took a step back. "I come in peace. Are you all right?"

"Of course, I'm all right." Soni rose. "I was almost bitten by a rattler. When you waved at the men, the men came close enough I could smell their sweat. Luckily only one man saw you. The other's thought he was crazy. Then a bullet flew over my head killing a man. He's lying right over there. Why wouldn't I be just fine?" She brushed dust from her jeans.

"Would you put the knife away?"

"Did you thank Grandfather for saving your stupid ass, again?" Soni turned away. "Or were you too afraid of the bear?"

Jim grabbed her arm. "Wait a minute!"

She yanked away her arm. "Don't ever grab me like that again." Her knife was still in her hand.

He put his hand by his side and continued, "I'm tired of your constant insults. I made one mistake. I should have told you my real name, but for your safety, I couldn't. I'm sorry for that, but I think my debt's paid in full."

"Why did you wave your stupid hat at the men? I heard them mention Littleton. I got the impression he's working with them. Are you too? Were you trying to get me killed or alert them to our plan?"

"If you must know, I was saluting you." Jim's glare met her eyes.

"Saluting me? What for?"

Jim stepped closer and kissed her. "There's your answer." He walked off, stopped, turned and asked, "When are those dogs bringing our horses? I can't wait to get out of here." He continued to walk away.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of an image of a bear in a dream catcher. I've used this photo before, but I thought it fit this post. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. The Spanish is loosely translated in Soni's dialogue.


Chapter 81
Chapter Veinticuatro, (24) Pt. Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"If you must know, I was saluting you." Jim's glare met her eyes.

"Saluting me? Why?"

Jim stepped closer and kissed her. "There's your answer." He walked off, stopped, turned and asked, "When are those dogs bringing our horses? I can't wait to get out of here." He continued to walk around the mesa.

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 24
Part 5

"Now what do I do?" Soni sat on a boulder, shoulders slumped, and stared at the horizon. Furrows in her brow signified her inner conflict. "I really messed things up this time." She tilted her head. "Grandfather?"

"Yes, my child."

"I'm sure you know what happened." After Kuruk responded that he did, Soni continued, "Any ideas how I can fix this?"

"Which mess? The one with the cartel or the one you got yourself in with Jim?"

"What do you mean with Jim or Jacob, whatever his name is? He lied to me. This man can't be trusted. You and Dad have always taught me the importance of being honest."

"Being dishonest is a character flaw. Jim did what he believed was right at the time; to protect you. His reasons were honorable."

"You believe I'm being too hard on him."

"I believe you're hard on him because you care deeply, and it scares you. You're looking for a fault so you won't care so much." There was a long silence, before Kuruk added, "Sonsee-array, quit ignoring your feelings. Follow your heart."

"Should I go after him? If I do, what should I say?" Soni listened for a few moments. "Great! Now I'm on my own."

Soni heard a chuckle and a, "You are never alone, my child." She stood and brushed dust from her jeans before she stepped down from the boulder.

The shrubbery rustled as Goliath and Mack walked through, each with a horse rein in his mouth. They dropped the reins and ran to Soni with tails wagging in circles.

"I'm glad you're back. I was worried about you guys." She rubbed both dogs' necks. "We need to get going before we're discovered." She paused. "I'd better get Jim."

Goliath headed in Jim's direction.

"No, boy. This is something I need to do. You stay here." Soni took a deep breath. "I need to eat crow."

Soni found Jim on the back side of the mesa. He sat with his back toward her, throwing pebbles at a prickly pear cactus. She watched for a few moments.

After a few attempts to find her voice, she muttered, "Jim."

He turned. "Are the dogs and horses back?" He stood and walked toward her. She nodded, and he continued, "Good. Let's get going. I don't want those guys to get too much of a lead."

She reached out her hand and touched his arm. "I owe you an apology."

"You do, but there's plenty of time for that after we catch some bad guys. Ready?" Jim grinned and faced her. With both hands on her shoulders, he said, "I understand. We'll talk about it later."

"Thank you."

*****

"What happened to Mack? I don't smell him." Jim wiped his brow.

"I think Grandfather helped us out. I've never known him to cure skunk odor before, but why not?" Soni smiled. "He does everything else."

As they followed the trail the four Hispanic men left, Jim said, "I haven't had a chance to catch you up on the happenings at the ranch."

"Let me guess, Grandfather checked himself out of the hospital." Soni laughed.

"He did. He and Jack arrived in a Taxi."

Soni dismounted, knelt, and touched some tracks. "I'm not surprised. Look at this." She pointed toward a fork in the road. "They met up with about five other men and went west."

Jim joined her. "You're right. Do we follow?"

After chewing on her lower lip, Soni climbed on Smoky. "Let's go."

He mounted Paco. "You know it could be an ambush."

Gently hitting her forehead on the saddle's horn, she said, "Nine to one, I like those odds."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of an image of a female reflecting. This might be Soni. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. The Spanish is loosely translated in Soni's dialogue.

I've changed the wording of the previous post's ending many times. Please let me know if it works now.

I changed many sentences in today's post as I was rereading. HELP!!!! I think I have too many pots in the fire, but I love writing. God Bless all my fans.


Chapter 82
Chapter Veinticinco, (25) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

He mounted Paco. "You know it could be an ambush."

Soni's shoulders slumped for a few moments, before she brushed loose hair from her face and readjusted her hat. "Nine to one, I like those odds."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
Part 1

As Soni climbed off her horse, Jim stepped off his. "If the dogs were armed, it would be nine to four. Of course, that includes me, but I'm sure a Texas female ranch owner can handle nine to one odds by herself. You know we just got on these horses, don't you? Why are we getting off?"

"Has anybody ever told you that you're a pain in the butt?" Soni petted Goliath and then Mack.

"Yes, but not as often as you have." Jim grinned.

"I wanted to see what weapons we have, just in case. I don't want any surprises." Soni took two bottles of water from her saddlebag and threw Jim one. "Did you think to pack water?"

"Sure did." Jim removed a sniper rifle, before a water bottle.

"You planned on some serious action, didn't you? All I have is this." Soni unwrapped a sawn-off shotgun.

"Is that a fourteen inch barrel?" Jim walked over and touched it. "Where'd you get it?"

"Dad got it in Germany. It came out in 1998." Soni pulled it closer to her body. "Are you going to arrest me?"

"Nope. I just hope you can handle it. I'm wondering about the kick."

"I can handle it just as well as my old standbys." Soni pointed to her bow 'n' arrow, the knife hidden in her boot, and her favorite rifle." She paused. "What else are you carrying?"

"I think we can hold them off for a while." Jim indicated his Glock 40 cal, bowie knife, and Squad Automatic Weapon. "Ready to do it?" After Soni nodded, he started to mount Paco, but stopped. "How are you arming the dogs?"

Soni sat on Smoky. "I may have to show you how well they're armed." She gave a hand signal, and both dogs bared their teeth at Jim. "Get on your horse."

Each dog's tail wagged.

"I doubt they'll be taken seriously with their hind-ends wiggling." He rubbed his stomach. "Is there any chance we can eat? I'd hate to die hungry."

"We're not going to die, so you have nothing to worry about." Soni rode on ahead.

As Jim rode passed her, he yelled, "We quell the storm and ride the thunder!"

Soni tossed him some beef jerky. "Chew on this. Your hunger's affecting your brain. You ex-Marine types never forget, do you? We need to be quiet so they don't hear us. Remember the bad guys?"

After a few minutes of silence, Soni asked, "Why'd you come after me?"

"I found the papers thrown on the floor and knew you'd be upset. I wanted a chance to explain."

Soni nodded but didn't comment.

*****

A few hours later, Soni, Jim, and the dogs stopped behind some large boulders and watched a small cabin.

Soni took a deep breath and slowly released it. "How many do you think are in there?"

"It's hard to tell from this distance. My best guess is the nine we followed, for sure." Jim adjusted his hat. "It looks like three guarding the place. I'm wondering what's so important about that cabin."

"Could they be holding drugs for distribution?"

"I wouldn't think so. They'd probably immediately deliver them." Jim pointed to a thin man walking the perimeter. "They're guarding something or somebody."

"Any ideas how we can get closer?"

"Too bad everybody in Texas knows those two belong to you." Jim pointed to Goliath and Mack.

Soni moved forward. "I'm getting a closer look."

"Wait! New guys came out of the cabin. That's a total of sixteen. Those aren't good odds. We need back-up." Jim watched Soni continue to move closer. "Or not." He looked up at the sky. "Kuruk, did you just see what your granddaughter did? If I can't save her, you'd better."



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of an image of a log cabin. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. The Spanish is loosely translated in Soni's dialogue.

A few reviewers thought I needed more descriptions of the weapons. I was afraid the story would get bogged down with it. Opinions?

Again, I changed the ending to my previous post's ending many times. Please let me know if it works better. I wasn't really happy with the wording.

Many of my fans are calling this a western. I don't put myself in the class of some very wonderful Western author's on this site. This is just a romance novel with the setting in Texas.


Chapter 83
Chapter Veinticinco, (25) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni moved forward. "I'm getting a closer look."

"Wait! New guys came out of the cabin. That's a total of sixteen. Those aren't good odds. We need back-up." Jim watched Soni continue to move closer. "Or not." He looked up at the sky. "Kuruk, did you just see what your granddaughter did? If I can't save her, you'd better."


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
Part 2

Soni rubbed her nose before she turned toward Jim and mouthed, "I smell something awful." When he indicated he didn't understand, she moved closer and said, "I smell a cross between cat urine and paint thinner. Do you smell it?"

Jim stood and sniffed. "No. You need to stay put until we know what we're up against."

She ignored Jim's request and returned to her original spot. Soni paused before she edged her way closer to the cabin. I wonder what's making that awful smell. The closer I get the stronger the odor. She moved even closer. We need a distraction to see how many we're dealing with. Soni removed an arrow. This should do the trick.

*****

"Cat urine and paint thinner?" muttered Jim. "A meth lab!" He motioned for Soni to return. As he took a few steps toward her, he saw something move to the left of the cabin. He stopped and stared. By God! It's Tatiana! He glanced at Soni looking ready to shoot a flaming arrow at the house. "NO!" he yelled. "Damn!" Jim aimed his rifle and killed a man ready to shoot Tatiana. The arrow hit the house. An explosion occurred. The blast knocked Tatiana to the ground. Jim ran forward and shot his Squad Automatic Weapon at men who ran from the house. Some on fire. Jim, shaken by the blast, was under siege. Men returned gunfire. Not as fast as Jim's weapon fired.

*****

Amid the smoke, flames, and flying debris, with bullets ricocheting around her, Soni dropped her bow and ran to the fallen woman whose blouse was in flames and rolled her on her back, snuffing out flames. "Tatiana!" She covered her body with her own.

Soni searched the area. "Jim needs help, but I've got to get you to safety." Soni grabbed the only mother she had known by the armpits, half-carried and half-dragied her behind some boulders.

A short burst from Jim's weapon killed two men, putting an end to the closest danger to the women.

She laid Tatiana on her stomach, removed her own blouse, leaving on a tank-top, and covered the injured woman with it. "I'll be back. Stay here." She motioned to the dogs.

Goliath and Mack lay beside and guarded Tatiana. Soni grabbed a handgun from the back of her jeans and used it and the boulders for cover as she moved away from Tatiana. I hope I can draw them away from her.

As the returning fire lessened in intensity, Jim worked his way closer to Soni.

When he was within hearing range, Soni yelled, "What happened?"

"Your flaming arrow blew up a meth lab."

"What's Tatiana doing here?"

"She was kidnapped."

"Thanks for telling me," snapped Soni.

"Too many things have happened." Jim now knelt beside Soni. "I never got a chance. How is she?" A gunshot missed him by inches. "They're circling us."

"She's alive." Soni heard a snarl. She turned and saw Goliath take down a man coming from the area by Tatiana.

Jim removed his cell phone and studied it. "Still no signal." He began to type a text.

"You're wasting time."

"Maybe, maybe not. Sometimes texts eventually get through. We need help, and Tatiana needs medical care. Any other ideas?"

"Maybe only half a dozen men left. The others are either dead or ran away. How you doing on ammunition?"

"Okay for now, but we can't hold out forever."

Soni scooted toward Tatiana and fired at a man coming up on her rear. "Neither can they." She paused. "How long will that smoke hang around?"

"I'm not sure, but it can be deadly. We need to stay upwind from it."

Slowly a soft rain began.

Jim looked up at the sky. "Where'd that come from? Just a minute ago, the sun was shining, and not a cloud could be seen."

"Mother Nature works in mysterious ways." Soni grinned. "Thank you, Grandfather." She looked behind her and pointed at two helicopters. "Is that good or bad?"

"I don't know. I can't see them well enough."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of an image of a meth lab explosion. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.

I hope all my reviewers have a wonder Valentines' Day and are with the people they love.

In my research of meth labs, I learned how common they are and how dangerous they are, not only for the drugs being cooked but the fumes and the chance of the lab blowing up. Please if you suspect a meth lab is in your neighborhood please call authorities.

I have discovered I have modern day romantic western on my hands. LOL




Chapter 84
Chapter Veinticinco, (25) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Slowly a soft rain began.

Jim looked up at the sky. "Where'd that come from? Just a minute ago, the sun was shining, and not a cloud could be seen."

"Mother Nature works in mysterious ways." Soni grinned. "Thank you, Grandfather." Behind her she heard engines and pointed at two helicopters. "Is that good or bad?"

"I don't know. I can't see them well enough."


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
Part 3

As the helicopter landed, the men shooting at Jim and Soni deserted the area. "That's one way to end a battle." Jim stood. "I'll see who they are and what they want. You'd better stay with Tatiana."

Soni knelt by the injured woman and watched Jim walk away. Grandfather, I really need your help.

Tatiana turned her head toward Soni and fluttered her eyes. "Soni? How'd you get here?" She cringed. "My back hurts."

"You have second and a few third degree burns on it. You're going to be sore for a while. What happened?"

"Help me sit."

Soni helped her, careful not to touch her back. "Goliath, get Smoky." She motioned for the dog to go. "I've got water in the saddlebags." She hesitated and then again asked, "What happened?"

"Butkus, he was thrown from the car. Is he all right?"

"I don't know. I'll ask Jim. Maybe he knows. Were you in a car accident?"

Goliath returned, pulling Smoky's reins. Paco followed. Soni reached into the saddlebag, opened a water bottle, and then handed it to Tatiana.

"Not really an accident. A dark blue pickup came along my side and forced me off the road. There's been a lot of erosion on the interstate's shoulder. The car rolled over twice." She took a drink of water. "That's when Butkus was thrown out. He was standing and growling at the men in the truck."

"How'd you get here?" Soni opened a water bottle for herself.

"Two Hispanic men dragged me from the car and tied me up."

"Why? What did they want?"

"From what I understood, they want you."

"Me?" Soni hesitated. "That doesn't make sense."

When Jim returned, three men were with him. "What doesn't make sense?" he asked.

Soni stood. "We'll talk later."

"Is Butkus all right?" interrupted Tatiana.

"He's got some bruises, but he's fine. He made it back to the house on his own." Jim's eyes met Soni's. "I'd like you to meet Ryan Otero. He's with the DEA." Otero put his hand out for Soni to take. She did as Jim continued, "They'd been searching the area for this meth lab, and the explosion you caused helped them to find it." He pointed at another man. "Halston's the medic with the crew. He wants to examine Tatiana."

After Tatiana and Soni agreed, and the medic knelt by Tatiana, Otero said, "I want to thank you. We'd been searching for this place for about four months. Is it on Rockin' A property?"

"No. The Rockin' A property line is about a mile and a half due East as a crow flies." Soni pointed. "I'd need to check a map for sure. But that's pretty accurate."

The other man stood to the side and let Otero take charge. "Do you know who owns this property?"

"I don't think anybody. It's state land. About three miles northwest is the Cactus Jack Ranch." Soni pointed in that direction. "Again, as the crow flies. Rusty Parker bought it about a year ago. I heard a rumor he's been trying to buy this area. Alex Garza, my foreman would know more." She released a deep breath. "I don't want to be impolite, and I want to answer all your questions, but Tatiana was kidnapped by these men. I'm sure your medic is competent, but she needs to be seen by a doctor. The explosion caused some pretty bad burns on her back."

The medic looked up. "She has a concussion, and her burns need to be cleaned better than I can here. All of you need to wash off as soon as possible. Residue from the lab's poisonous."

Jim glanced at Soni. "The agent's correct. Do you know of a place?"

"A few miles back, there's a spring-fed creek. It probably has water in it."

Otero motioned for the other man to help with Tatiana. "We'll take her to the hospital. Which one?"

Soni adjusted her hat. "I think she'd better go to San Antonio."

"No, it's too far away." Tatiana shook her head.

"They have a better burn unit. I don't want an infection getting started."

"Kuruk has cured many burns with an aloe and gotu kola mixture. I want to go home." Tatiana attempted to stand on her own, but struggled. The two men caught her.

"Take her to the hospital in Laredo," interjected Jim. He met Soni's glare. "We'll switch hospitals if we need too."

*****
Soon, Tatiana was on her way to the hospital, additional agents were called in for a crime scene investigation, and Jim and Soni headed toward the spring-fed creek.

Soni sat on the bank and slowly removed her boots. Goliath and Mack jumped in and began splashing.

Jim watched. "It looks like the dogs are having fun. You should join them."

"They enjoy playing. Too much has happened for taking it easy."

"You need to wash off." Jim sat beside her and placed his hand on her back. "Maybe I should give you a little shove." He pretended to push her.

Soni exaggerated the shove and jumped into the water.

"You need to wash too. Do I need to help you in?" She reached for him.

He didn't accept her offered hand. "You're going to pull me in." He removed his shirt. "When you're finished, you'd better wear this." He grinned and took off his boots.


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of an image of a West Texas creek. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.

There's not category for modern western romance. LOL








Chapter 85
Chapter Veinticinco, (25) Pt Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"You need to wash off." Jim sat beside her and placed his hand on her back. "Maybe I should give you a little shove." He pretended to push her.

Soni exaggerated the shove and jumped into the water.

"You need to wash too. Do I need to help you?" She reached for him.

He didn't accept her offered hand. "You're going to pull me in." He removed his shirt. "When you're finished, you'd better wear this." He grinned and took off his boots.


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE
Part 4

Jim jumped in. "Brrr. How can it be so cold when it's this hot?"

"It's spring fed." Soni pointed to the range of low mountains. She bent down so her shoulders were underwater.

Mack chased a bluegill.

"Good boy. If you catch them, we can eat some fish." Jim continued to watch the dog.

"I just want to go home. Do you think the toxins are off?" Soni started to walk toward the bank.

"Probably. Wrap yourself in my shirt until your top dries."

Soni glanced down at her white tank-top. "Sorry. I wasn't thinking. I gave my shirt to Tatiana." Once out of the water, she covered herself with the shirt before she faced Jim. "Tatiana told me she was kidnapped because they want me. I don't understand what they want from me."

"Earlier, something was mentioned about ownership of the ranch. Maybe we need to look into that. Any ideas where to start?" Jim joined her on the bank.

As he did, Goliath and Mack joined him and shook off the excess water.

Jim stepped away. "Thanks, guys."

"Dad kept a safe with the property deed in it. I've never read it. Never had a reason." She grabbed a boot. "My feet aren't dry. There's nothing worse than wet boots."

"Dinner's looking better and better. We could dry by the fire."

With hands on her hips, Soni tilted her head. "Sometimes you amaze me. You're a former Marine. Do you really want to be out after dark with drug cartels looking for us?"

"Hunger affects my brain," he teased. "You're right."

"We need to let Alex know about Tatiana, too." Soni unrolled a blanket, refolded it, and placed a poncho around it. "This should keep the saddle dry."

"About Alex..." Jim hesitated.

"What else did you not have a chance to tell me?"

"When I left, we hadn't been able to contact him."

"They have by now, right?"

"I don't know. My cell doesn't have service."

Soni plopped on the ground. "This has not been a great day." She stood and tried turning enough to look at her rear. "That wasn't a good idea. Now, I have a muddy butt."

"Go back in and clean it off, but leave the shirt here."

She mounted Smoky. "We don't have time. Let's go." The two dogs walked alongside the horse.

Jim brought up the rear.

*****
The sun began to set. "Can't beat Texas sunsets."

"I'll agree with that. They're beautiful." said Jim. "What are your plans when we get to the house?"

"First, check on Alex, and then call the hospital to make sure Tatiana was admitted. I'd better make sure Grandfather's okay. Maybe I'll take the helicopter to Laredo and see Tatiana." Soni came to a complete stop.

Jim halted, put his hand over Soni's, and whispered, "What's wrong?"

Soni shook her head. "I don't know. I just got a strange feeling. I can't put my finger on it. Let's go. I need to get home."



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for of an image of a Texas sunset. They are beautiful. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. I'm sorry, I didn't post yesterday, my usual day, but I got so busy I couldn't.



Chapter 86
Chapter Veinticinco, (25) Pt Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim halted, put his hand over Soni's, and whispered, "What's wrong?"

Soni shook her head. "I don't know. I just got a strange feeling. I can't put my finger on it. Let's go. I need to get home."

TODAY'S POST:

Jim studied the dogs, one on each side of Soni's horse. "They don't seem to notice anything wrong."

Soni motioned for him to stay quiet.

After Jim dismounted, he reached up to help Soni down and whispered, "We need to talk."

She allowed him to help her down and took his proffered hand. Jim surveyed the area and noticed a large flat rock. "We can sit there."

"We don't have time to talk. Dangerous people are after us. We need to get back to the ranch." Soni stopped and pulled her hand from Jim's.

"I know you don't trust me, but you do trust Goliath and Mack. They don't sense danger and are resting peacefully." He pointed to the dogs lying on the ground.

Soni plopped on the rock and crossed her arms. "What's so important that it can't wait until we get home?

"You're upset about something. I've been told I'm a good listener. What's going on?"

"I have an entire laundry list of reasons. Grandfather's under suspicion of murdering Hughes and one of Littleton's agents. I have been accused of using peyote during the Harvest Celebration. I have two drug cartels, Sinaloas and Los Zetas, who use my property as their own. They search through my house looking for heaven knows what and leave beheaded dolls representing Grandfather and me."

"I have a feeling you have more than two drug cartels fighting for rights to your property."

Soni's eyes met his. "Why not, bring them all on." She released a deep breath. "While Midnight was stolen, Diego was stabbed. Tatiana was kidnapped and is now in the hospital with second and third degree burns. Who knows what's going on with Alex? Isabella and her baby are living with me and are in danger. All of this is because of me." She bit her lower lip and looked away from Jim.

"I have a feeling there's more."

"Isn't that enough?"

"Yes, but..."

She stood, took a few steps, and had her back to him. "Last night I had a dream that I didn't own the Rockin' A. Somebody else did."

Jim jumped up. "Come here." He took Soni in his arms and led her face to his chest.

She welcomed his gesture and put her arms around him. "I'm not crying."

"I never said you were." He kissed the top of her head.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine. I couldn't find what I really wanted so I went with this. I hope it's okay. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. I know I posted really short, but I need to start a new chapter and this was the best place to leave the old one. Thank you for understanding.

PS I am heading toward the ending of this novel. I DO NOT describe my characters this far into my novel


Chapter 87
Chapter Veintiseis, (26) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim jumped up. "Come here." He took Soni in his arms and led her face to his chest.

She welcomed his gesture and put her arms around him. "I'm not crying."

"I never said you were." He kissed the top of her head.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
PART ONE

The remainder of the trip to the Rockin' A Ranch was silent. When Soni and Jim dismounted at the stables, Gus hurried and took both horses' reins. "I'll take care of them. You look tired. There's hot food ready. Kuruk's been cooking."

"Thank you. I could use a shower." Soni headed toward the house, both dogs following.

Jim opened the front door for her, and Grandfather met her with a hug. "My child, you're safe." He kissed her cheek before he shook Jim's hand. "Thank you for bringing her back safely."

Soni glanced at Jim, but asked Kuruk, "Have you heard from Alex? Is he all right?" Butkus walked up to her and she knelt as she examined his bruises.

"We haven't heard anything. We've continued to call his cell ever so often. We're about ready to bring in the authorities."

As Jack entered the room, Jim stared at him and asked, "Did something happen?"

"A couple men tried to break into the house. I guess they didn't know we were here. They were arrested."

"Still in one piece?"

"Sorta." Jack tilted his head to the side.

"The police haven't any news on Tatiana," reported Kuruk.

"We have news. She was kidnapped and is now at the Laredo hospital with second and third degree burns." Jim paused before he continued with the details.

Soni waited for him to finish before she added, "As soon as I shower and eat, I'm going to stay with her." As she walked toward her room, she said, "Call the police. Alex could be in serious trouble. It's probably the same cartel who kidnapped Tatiana. They want me, not him." She closed the door.

*****
Jack's eyebrows rose. "What did she mean by that?"

"Tatiana mentioned her kidnapping had something to do with Soni. Soni told me that she's had dreams about the ranch not really belonging to her."

"That's ridiculous." Kuruk sat in an overstuffed chair. "I've been part of this family since Ray was a teenager. I knew his father and grandfather. This ranch has been legally in this family for over a hundred years."

"There seems to be some mystery about it. Soni's going to search through the deeds. Maybe there's information in there nobody knew about."

Soni raced from her room. "I got a call from Alex. He's on his way home."

"Why haven't we heard from him?" Kuruk hesitated before he continued, "It's not like him."

"He didn't even make it to Abilene. His truck blew the water pump on the north side of Ballinger. Before he left, he charged his cell, but it didn't take. He walked to the next town, I think he said Winters, and got help. Somebody there helped him tow the truck to Abilene. He was so angry with the whole situation, he traded in his pickup." Soni laughed. "He got a new cell too. The battery wouldn't take a charge."

"How'd he take the news about Tatiana?" Jim sighed.

"He'll be home sometime during the night. I'll wait for him. We'll fly there as soon as he gets in." Soni's eyes met Kuruk's. "I called the hospital. She's resting comfortably, but still wants your medicine."

"Kuruk and I'll be there in the morning. Jack and Gus can watch the ranch and make sure Isabella's safe."

"That should work." Soni stood at the den door and took deep breaths. "I think it's about time I searched through the property deeds." All three dogs followed her in.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of a Texas Longhorn. I couldn't find what I really wanted so I went with this. I hope it's okay. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. I know I posted a day late, but I'm trying to catch up on things and the harder I try, the more behind I get.


Chapter 88
Chapter Veintiseis, (26) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Alex'll be home sometime during the night. I'll wait for him. We'll fly there as soon as he gets in." Soni's eyes met Kuruk's. "I called the hospital. She's resting comfortably, but still wants your medicine."

"Kuruk and I'll be there in the morning. Jack and Gus can watch the ranch and make sure Isabella's safe."

"That should work." Soni stood at the den door and took deep breaths. "I think it's about time I searched through the property deeds." The three dogs followed her in.

TODAY'S POST:

Soni studied the map that covered the wall. Do I own any part of this 625,000 acre ranch or does somebody else? She scanned the room before settling in the black leather chair behind the large walnut desk and continued to stare at the map.

"Could I be of any help?" Jim leaned against the door jamb and held a plate containing two pulled pork sandwiches and a mound of potato salad. He glanced at the plate. "Kuruk's a good cook."

"Did you put coleslaw on your sandwiches?"

"Kuruk told me to. Never heard of it before, but I'll try anything once."

"It's good." After opening the large drawer containing the safe, Soni set a stack of folders on the desk. "Any ideas where to start?"

Jim took a bite. "It's good." He took another bite and chewed before he spoke, "Since the ranch has been in the family since, what 1834? I'd say start at the beginning. Wasn't Texas still owned by Mexico then?"

"I see you need a little bit of Texas history." Soni smiled. "In 1821, Mexico got independence from Spain. Stephen F Austin convinced the Mexican government to allow about three hundred families into the Brazos River area, but the families had to be Catholics. Well, Austin brought mostly Protestants from Southern states. Soon, Americans outnumbered the resident Mexicans."

"I can see why Austin wasn't popular with the Mexicans." After chewing a large bite, Jim asked, "Where did Kuruk learn to cook?"

"I'm going to ignore that. We have important information to find." Soni's eyes twinkled, but her lips frowned. "It gets worse. One thousand eight hundred twenty six was the Freedonia Rebellion, and in 1830 the Mexican Government tried to stop Americans from coming to Texas."

Jim laughed. "Sounds a little like today only in reverse."

"You're impossible." Soni shook her head. "Stay on task." She paused. "Austin pushed for Texas statehood and was put in a Mexican prison in 1833. They released him in 1835. But things got worse. I'm sure you've heard of Santa Anna."

After Jim nodded, Soni continued, "He became Mexico's dictator in 1834. He sought to crush rebellions in Texas and other areas. In October 1835, residents of Gonzales responded to Santa Anna's demand that they return a cannon loaned to them for defense against Indian attack by using it against the Mexican troops trying to reclaim it. This was unofficially the first battle of the Texas Revolution. The American settlers set up a provisional state government, and a Texan army under Sam Houston won a series of minor battles in the fall of 1835."

"What does this have to do with a deed to the ranch?"

"Be patient. I'm getting to that." Soni searched through files, found one dated 1833, and opened it. "This should help us." She read, "Jose de Ossorio y Llamas surveyed the land and sold 250,000 acres of prime real estate to Dieter Adler and 250,000 neighboring acres to his brother Gunter Adler."

"How much did Texas land go for back then? That's a lot of land. How did they pay for it?

Soni pointed to the paper. "It says here, Texas land sold for less than one-and-a-half cents an acre with a period of six years to complete the payment."

"I wonder what the interest rate was." Jim did some math in his head. "So each brother paid $3,750 for their land. That's a pretty good deal, but even at that its $625 a year. That's a lot of money back then. They had to be wealthy."

"I don't know anything about them." She continued, "It seems the land was distributed on the basis of merit and seniority. Due to the shortage of water, each portion had an area that touched water. The legalities were finalized a few months later by an act of juridical possession. The transactions were recorded in documents known as 'Acts of the Visit of the Royal Commissioners' (Autos de la general visita)." Her eyes met Jim's. "It seems at least 250,000 acres belong to me."

"Which of the two brothers is your too-many-to-count great grandfather? And how did he get the rest of the land?" Jim took a bit of potato salad and swallowed. "I'm curious where they got that much money."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of a pulled pork plate. Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. I'm struggling with the 1 1/5 cents. I will correct it again. This time I'll try words.


Chapter 89
Chapter Veintiseis, (26) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I don't know anything about them." She continued, "It seems the land was distributed on the basis of merit and seniority. Due to the shortage of water, each portion had an area that touched water. The legalities were finalized a few months later by an act of juridical possession. The transactions were recorded in documents known as 'Acts of the Visit of the Royal Commissioners'." Her eyes met Jim's. "It seems at least 250,000 acres belong to me."

"Which of the two brothers is your too-many-to-count great grandfather? And how did he get the rest of the land?" Jim took a bit of potato salad and swallowed. "I'm curious where they got that much money."


TODAY'S POST:

"I don't know." Soni looked around the room. "There's a family Bible in here. It dates back several generations. Help me look. I haven't seen it since Dad died."

Jim stepped over the large dogs to get to the built-in bookshelf. "I'm guessing it would be with the books. Just a thought," he teased.

"It used to set right here." Soni patted a spot on the desk's left side. "I struggled, only a little, with Dad's death." Soni avoided eye contact. "Tatiana put away the special reminders. The Adler Bible was one of them."

"I have an idea where she might have put it." Jim opened the desk drawers. The third one held the Bible. He lifted it up and smiled as he handed it to her. "Some have the family information between the Old and New Testaments. Others have it at the front."

"It's in the front." Soni turned the first two pages and then sat. "Look, Dieter is my..." she paused to count the branches on the tree, "It looks like seven greats. Wow!" She read out loud, "Born in Wuerttemberg, Germany, on March 25, 1800 and died in Laredo, Texas, August 16, 1862."

"This Bible's in German. There's a side note. How's your German?" asked Jim.

"Very rusty. I can read more than I can speak. Are there more books in there?" Soni searched the drawer. "No."

"Wait." Jim went back to the bookshelf. "Here's some. This one says 'Familiengeschichte 1805 -- 1850."

"Family history. We're in luck." Soni took the offered book.

"Not all families keep their own history books. Mine didn't."

"Maybe you can research it and write it down." Soni's eyes met his for a few moments. Soni studied the writing and then took a deep breath. "I'm guessing Dieter was four when his parents brought him to the US. They were part of a protestant group called Rappists or Harmonists and settled in Harmony, Pennsylvania. After a few years, they started another settlement in New Harmony, Indiana, about 1814."

"That gives them about twenty years to get to Texas." Soni rubbed her right ear.

Soni laughed. "Listen to this. My family broke away from the Harmonists in March of 1815. They were expected to sign something called the 'articles of association' to establish the Harmony Society. By signing it, they'd agree all property would be held in a common fund. Members contributed all their possessions and agreed to accept no pay for their services."

"Let me see that. It sounds like a cult." Jim took the book and read silently, before he added, "They lived under strict religious doctrine, gave up tobacco, and advocated celibacy."

"Why didn't you tell me you spoke German? It would have saved me a headache," teased Soni. "They had another baby in 1814." Soni held up the family tree. "Gunter was born. Since they didn't practice celibacy, they probably weren't looked upon too kindly. Does it say where they went?"

"I studied German in high school; too many years ago. They spent time in Amana, Iowa." Jim pointed. "Finally, some important stuff. Dieter, his wife, Gisela, and a nine year old son, Karl, left for New Orleans in the spring of 1829. It seems Gunter went with them."

"I wonder why?"

"If my history memory is correct, part of the reason may have been that in February of 1829 the federal government told the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes they needed to move from Illinois across the Mississippi River to the Iowa region. Chief Black Hawk wasn't too happy."

Soni studied the family tree. "How about Mom and Dad Adler, who both died in March of 1829. Mom on the 1st and Dad on the 12th. It says they died of 'The Fever'. I wonder what the fever was."

"I'm guessing most likely malaria. I'm still wondering where they got the money to buy the land."

"That's sad." Soni hesitated. "Now we just need to get the family from New Orleans to Texas. Why'd they go there and not directly to Texas, and when did they start speaking English? We're basically guessing here? Neither of our German is worth a grain of salt."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of an antique family Bible. I'm sure a well used Bible would look like this. Mine is bad, but not this bad. Hey, my dictionary is, though. LOL Thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.


Chapter 90
Chapter Veintiseis, (26) Part Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"That's sad." Soni frowned. "Now we just need to get the family from New Orleans to Texas. Why'd they go there and not directly to Texas, and when did they start speaking English? We're basically guessing here. Neither of our German's worth a grain of salt."

TODAY'S POST:

Kuruk stood in the doorway. "I'm guessing you two could use some help."

"I bet you can help. You and Opa Wendel used to sit at the dinner table until the wee hours of the morning discussing family histories. Dad used to tease that they were mostly folklore." Soni smiled as her eyes twinkled. "Grandmother and Oma used to tease that you old geezers were creating tall tales."

"Jim, has Soni told you who taught her to fly?" Soni stood and offered Grandfather the leather chair.

"I figured it was her dad."

"No, it was Opa Wendel. He flew a small airplane around the ranch. Ray would ride along until his dad was killed in a plane crash. He refused to ever fly again."

"Opa died August 26, 2008. Every time I fly, I'm reminded of him. He was taught to fly the yellow cub. When he died, he was only sixty-seven years old. Oma died exactly one year later." Soni's eyes met her Grandfather's. "I was blessed with wonderful grandparents from both sides."

"I'm surprised Ray let you fly." Jim glanced toward Soni.

"Flying was already in Soni's blood. Soni had her flying license before Wendel died. Ray and Soni had major arguments until he agreed to let her have a helicopter." Kuruk leaned back in the chair. "Ray's grandpa, Otto, fought in The Big War."

Soni held up two fingers and mouthed, "World War II."

Jim nodded and whispered, "I know."

"Since he was from German descent, he wanted to make sure everybody knew he wasn't a German sympathizer," continued Kuruk. "So he enlisted, leaving home his wife and an infant, Ray's dad, Wendel. To make a long story short, Otto was a fighter pilot. So began the flying Adlers." He laughed.

"What did he fly?" asked Jim.

"Great Opa Otto taught his son to fly the piper J-3 cub. Everybody in these parts recognized his bright yellow cub." Soni smiled as her eyes twinkled. "Going down memory lane has been fun, but did you hear any stories about how the Adler brothers got to Texas? We've been able to track them to New Orleans."

"Wait, I'm not finished," interrupted Jim. "Why did Opa Wendel's plane crash?"

Soni held up a photograph of Wendel standing beside the yellow cub. "The engine malfunctioned. Never did find out exactly how. Some say mechanical malfunction, some say somebody rigged it to blow."

"Back to Soni's question. Family lore has it that the Adler brothers worked on Mississippi riverboats. Farmers needed to get their crops to New Orleans to be shipped. Once the steamboat became popular, New Orleans was the second busiest port in the U.S. and the fourth in the world. That opened the Midwest to settlers and business. The work was hard but paid pretty good."

"I know they would've made a good living, but I'm not sure they'd have enough to buy 250,000 acres of land apiece, even at one-and-a-half cents an acre." Jim rubbed his chin. "I just don't see it."

"Ah." Kuruk smiled. "Now, we get to the dirty laundry part of family lore."

"Grandfather, my family has no dirty laundry. They were upstanding, hard-working Christians."

"Sonsee-array, now let me tell you the truth," interjected Grandfather. "Have a seat, my child. All families have skeletons, including yours." Kuruk patted her hand.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of a piper J-3 cub. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.


Chapter 91
Chapter Veintiseis, (26) Part Cinco

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Ah." Kuruk smiled. "Now, we get to the dirty laundry part of family lore."

"Grandfather, my family has no dirty laundry. They were upstanding, hard-working Christians."

"Sonsee-array, now let me tell you the truth," interjected Grandfather. "Have a seat, my child. All families have skeletons, including yours." Kuruk patted her hand.

TODAY'S POST:

Kuruk's eyes met Jim's. "Pull up a chair for Soni and yourself. Make yourselves comfortable." He released a deep breath. "Granddaughter, you haven't eaten since you arrived home. Get something to eat, then I'll tell the story."

After Soni returned with an apple, Kuruk shook his head. "Jim, get this child some real food. Help yourself to seconds. There's plenty."

Jim returned with two plates piled high with pulled pork sandwiches, potatoe salad, and cole slaw.

"There's no way I can eat all of this." As she took the offered plate, she glanced at Kuruk. "I've got the food." She took a bite of the sandwich and chewed. "I'm ready for the story."

"Just a minute," said Jim. "Who'd you hear this from?"

"Mostly from Wendel, Ray's father."

"Ray was my dad." Soni looked at Jim.

"My daughter, Jacali..." Kuruk began.

Jim answered Soni's look. "I know. She was your mom."

Kuruk grinned. "I'll start over. When Ray and Jacali were married, Otto, Ray's granddad was still alive. Now that man could tell a story." He chuckled and leaned back in the chair.

"We already know Dieter, his wife, Gisela, and a nine year old son, Karl, left for New Orleans in the spring of 1829. Gunter was fifteen and traveled with them." Soni stood and reached for three more of the family history books. "We might need these. Why did they go to New Orleans?"

"They worked on Mississippi riverboats and made good money. The Mississippi River covers about 3,860 miles with other rivers feeding into it." Kuruk folded his hands on the oak desk. "This is where the good part begins. Dieter was busy making a living for his wife and son. Gunter was a teenager and full of it. His parents had died and his brother really didn't have time to parent."

"I can see where this is going." Jim filled his fork with potato salad. "Riverboat gambling was big. It was illegal in many cities and towns, but the rivers weren't regulated." He put the fork in his mouth.

"You're right. In Vicksburg and Natchez, there were gambling houses filled with billiards, card games, and other betting events; horse racing and cockfighting, just to name a few. Too many things for a curious young man to get into. And according to both Otto and Wendell, Gunter did and was very good at it."

"You mean my ranch was bought with gambling money?" Soni's shoulder slumped.

"My child, I'm not finished." Kuruk continued, "Now, Gisela, being a good Christian wife and mother, wouldn't let Dieter have any fun. The riverboats were dangerous. Explosions, sinking, and Indian attacks just to name few. Those early boilers were riveted of weak iron plate. If the boilers weren't watched and maintained, pressure would build up and cause a deadly explosion." He grunted. "Back to the story. Dieter would sneak Gunter what money he could and his brother gambled it. The two became quite wealthy. Gunter made a name for himself as a high roller."

"I don't believe it." Soni opened one of the family history books and scanned before she found the right area to read.

The two men waited.

Soni slapped the book shut.

"Did you find anything interesting?" asked Jim.

"Just be quiet." Soni looked at Kuruk. "Grandfather, please continue." She avoided Jim's eyes.

"Gunter was so good at gambling that many men accused him of cheating." Kuruk leaned forward. "Now, it gets really interesting. The story goes that a posse of men chased Gunter into the Texas territory. A band of Comanche called Penateka led by Chief Buffalo Hump didn't take too kindly to the posse and raided their camp. No one survived. Gunter was free."

"President Andrew Jackson pushed through the Indian Removal act of 1830 and many Native Americans weren't too happy about being made to move from their homes," added Jim.

"Grandfather, you're telling me Gunter's in Texas because a band of raiding Comanche Indians rescued him? And the Chief's name was Buffalo Hump?" Soni's eyebrows rose.

"That's not what I said. I said they killed the men in the posse. They probably didn't know Gunter existed or they would have killed him too." Kuruk winked at Jim as his eyes twinkled. "When Soni's not around, I'll tell you his actual name. It's not fit for mixed company."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of a Mississippi riverboat. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.


Chapter 92
Chapter Veintisiete, (27) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Grandfather, you're telling me Gunter's in Texas because a band of raiding Comanches rescued him? And the Chief's name was Buffalo Hump?" Soni's eyebrows rose.

"That's not what I said. I said they killed the men in the posse. They probably didn't know Gunter existed or they would have killed him too." Kuruk winked at Jim as his eyes twinkled. "When Soni's not around, I'll tell you his actual name. It's not fit for mixed company."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN
PART ONE

Soni held up two discolored land deeds. "These show that Gunter and Dieter were in Texas in 1833 and each bought 250,000 acres land. If I add that together, I'm still 125,000 acres short. How did my ancestors get all the land plus extra? What happened to Gunter?"

Jim released a deep breath. "You have a good point. We have three years between the time Gunter arrived in Texas and the two buying the land. Kuruk, any insight?"

The elderly Lipan Apache chief stood. "I need dessert before I continue the story." He left the den.

"Nobody said anything about dessert." Jim followed.

"Men!" Soni sat and reread the land deeds. Why haven't I found any deeds for the extra acres? She went to the safe and searched the files. There has to be something acknowledging those extra acres. She found a yellowed envelope and placed it on the desk. My ancestors saved some strange things.

The two men returned each with a three large slices of apple pie piled with vanilla ice cream. Jim carried two plates and handed one to Soni. "Your grandfather assures me this story gets better and better."

"I see you did more searching. Did you find anything?" asked Kuruk.

"Nothing, really." She took a bite. "This is really good."

"I hope so." Kuruk set his plate on the desk and adjusted himself in the chair. "Nobody really knows what Gunter did for those three years. He was sixteen years old when he arrived. I'm sure he had to find a job."

"Texas wanted to be free from Mexico. Could he have been party to any of that?" Soni scooped a large bite of pie. "Grandfather, I knew you could cook, but I didn't know apple pie was one of your specialties."

"Apple pie has always been my favorite. You're right about Gunter. In April of 1830 Mexico passed a law that decreed the end of colonization of Texas by foreigners and ended slavery." Kuruk took a bite of pie. "This is pretty good." He grinned. "A group of Texan volunteers and Mexicans skirmished at Velasco in June 1832. Those Texans didn't have a lot of support and were labeled as adventurers and radicals. Folklore says Gunter was part of that group."

"Makes sense. Teenage males are notorious for being thrill seekers." Jim nodded. "But we still don't have Dieter and family in Texas."

"We're getting close." Kuruk set his plate on the desk. "Texas had more Americans in it than Mexicans. The concerned Mexican government attempted to tighten control over Texas immigration. They sent troops, who policed the border, closed the seaports, occupied towns, and levied taxes on imported goods."

"That didn't last long, did it?" asked Soni.

"No. The troops were withdrawn later in 1832. Santa Anna had led a rebellion against Bustamante and started a small civil war. Many Anglo settlers sided with Santa Anna and followed General Jose Antonio Mexia. He was in charge of the Anglos against Bustamante."

"Let me guess, Gunter was involved in this too," interrupted Jim.

"He was. To make a long story short; he was one of the fifty-five delegates that went to the Convention of 1832 in San Felipe. These delegates drafted three petitions to the Mexican congress. They wanted annulment of the colonization law of 1830, which prohibited foreign settlement as well as customs reform, recognition of squatters as valid immigrants, and a separate state for Texas. So, with the belief their petitions would be approved by Santa Anna, especially since they helped him overthrow Bustamante, Gunter sent for his brother."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of a map showing Texas while under Mexico's rule . I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Yesterday, I couldn't post because I ran out of time, sorry.

For those of you who have asked about Buffalo Hump's name:

But Americans also took offense at one Comanche war chief√??√?¬¢??s name: Po-cha-na-quar-hip, who led raids against white settlers, was colloquially referred to as √??√?¬¢??Buffalo Hump,√??√?¬¢?? but his name actually meant something along the lines of √??√?¬¢??erection that won√??√?¬¢??t go down.√??√?¬¢??


Chapter 93
Chapter Veintisiete, (27) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"He was. To make a long story short; he was one of the fifty-five delegates that went to the Convention of 1832 in San Felipe. These delegates drafted three petitions to the Mexican congress. They wanted annulment of the colonization law of 1830, which prohibited foreign settlement as well as customs reform, recognition of squatters as valid immigrants, and a separate state for Texas. So, with the belief their petitions would be approved by Santa Anna, especially since they helped him overthrow Bustamante, Gunter sent for his brother."

TODAY'S POST:

"I bet Dieter and his family couldn't wait to join Gunter. Just think of the excitement." Soni's eyes widened as she spoke. "When did they arrive?"

"Just a minute." Jim skimmed the family journal. "Says here," he ran his finger under the words, "they arrived in February 5, 1833."

"Why'd they wait almost a year?"

"Not everybody's as impatient as you." Grandfather's eyes met hers.

Jim pointed to an area in the journal. "It says Gisela gave birth to another baby in November of 1832. That might have had something to do with it."

"The Convention met during the first part of October, so arriving in February's pushing it for a young mother. They didn't have all the modern conveniences we have today. My child, be patient."

"You're right. I just want this mystery solved." Soni glanced at Jim. "Don't you dare say anything. I'm usually very patient."

Both men covered their mouths to hide their respective grins.

Soni pointed to the wall-size Texas map. "Does that book say where Dieter entered?"

"I'm guessing someplace in East Texas." Jim turned a page.

Kuruk smiled. "The Texas history lesson continues. By the mid-1830s, two things were clear to the Mexican government. One, the Indian policy was a complete failure. Two, the decision to open the province to American immigrants had backfired. Instead of moving to the interior to shield the province's core around San Antonio from Comanche attacks, most Americans stayed east of the Colorado River."

"The Comanche range was mostly West Texas. The main commercial outlet was Louisiana." Jim adjusted himself in the chair. "I'm sure Dieter stayed close to the east border. He had a growing family to raise."

"You're right. The result was a division of Texas into two distinct halves. The American-dominated eastern half experienced steady growth and developed a flourishing export-oriented cotton industry. Dieter found work and it paid good. The cotton industry spawned close to twenty new urban centers by 1835. This half was part of Mexico in name only."

"Okay. What does that have to do with us? We're in West Texas. I know this area was dominated by Tejanos."

Jim caught Soni's glance. "Exactly what does Tejano mean?"

"Basically, of Mexian-American descent."

"This area was underdeveloped compared to the eastern half."

"Why?" asked Jim.

Soni tilted her head and looked at Grandfather. "I know there were Native Americans here."

"Not just Native Americans, Soni, but angry Comanche. Raids and violence engulfed portions of western and southern Texas. Villages and farms were stripped of livestock. Agriculture deteriorated because farmers refused to work on fields; they might get attacked. Laredo lost one-sixth of its population between 1828 and 1831 due to Comanche raids. Then, in 1834, a cholera outbreak wiped out most the remaining population."

"Didn't the Apaches side with the Texans?" asked Soni.

"I guess nobody liked the Comanche." Jim closed his book.

"Don't close it yet. We have Gunter meeting with Dieter and coaxing him west with land deeds."

Both Soni and Jim sat straighter in their chairs.

Kuruk continued, "Stephen F. Austin had sold the deeds to Gunter. It just needed to be finalized."

"But we still have 125,000 missing acres." When Soni heard the front door open, she stood.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of a map showing early Texas. This before Texas became a separate country. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Twenty-eight days of school left, but who's counting. I have jury duty tomorrow. I'm hoping to have some extra reviewing time.


Chapter 94
Chapter Veintisiete, (27) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I guess nobody liked the Comanche." Jim closed his book.

"Don't close it yet. We have Gunter meeting with Dieter and coaxing him west with land deeds."

Both Soni and Jim sat straighter in their chairs.

Kuruk continued, "Stephen F. Austin had sold the deeds to Gunter. It just needed to be finalized."

"But we still have 125,000 missing acres." When Soni heard the front door open, she hurried toward it.


TODAY'S POST:

Soni threw her arms around Alex's neck. "I'm glad you're back."

He nodded at the men who had followed Soni. "How's Tatiana?"

"She's resting comfortably for somebody who has second and third degree burns on her back. She's asking for Grandfather's medicine. We can leave as soon as you're ready." Soni waited for Alex's response.

"I'm ready now." He turned toward the door.

Kuruk put his hand on Alex's shoulder. "Not yet. You need a shower, change of clothes, and food." He paused. "You take care of the others, and I'll have food waiting for you. You can eat in the helicopter."

Soni, Kuruk, and Jim watched Alex pet the two large white dogs before he went into his and Tatiana's room.

*****

It wasn't long before Soni and Alex were in the helicopter. Kuruk and Jim would drive to Laredo at first light and meet them at the hospital.

Alex took a bite of pulled pork. "This is good. I guess I was hungrier than I thought. Did you or Kuruk make it?"

"Kuruk. Jim and I were busy."

"What were you arguing about this time?" teased Alex.

"We don't argue that much." Soni ignored Alex's raised eyebrows.

There was silence for a few moments.

"Littleton told me Jim isn't who he said he is," blurted Soni. "I guess his name's Jacob Blackwood, and he works for the government."

"I suspected he was a government man. Just didn't know what branch. Did Littleton say what branch, and why he's sharing this information with you?"

"I don't have an answer to either question. He handed me a paper as proof, but I didn't pay attention."

"You just got angry."

Alex attempted eye contact, but she avoided it.

"I guess that's about right. In the process, we did rescue Tatiana and shut down a meth lab. Does that count?"

"Of course it counts. Have you two made up or at least agreed to be peaceful with each other?"

"I guess. We made it back to the ranch together and were researching my family history to find out if I really own all of the Rockin' A." Soni glanced toward Alex. "I know you knew my grandpa Adler, but did you know his dad? Did you hear any stories about Dieter and Gunter Adler after they arrived in Texas?"

"A few." Alex took another bite of the pulled pork sandwich. "This is great." He licked his lips. "Cotton, corn, and wheat were main crops in East Texas. Dieter got a job working a gristmill for a highfalutin family and got a good salary."

"I know Gunter got two land deeds from Stephen F. Austin, one for himself and one for Dieter. Do you know how they paid for them?"

"Dieter saved his money. Your granddad and dad inherited that. Family lore has it that Gunter was a gambler and pretty good at it. I wish Kuruk had packed three sandwiches instead of two." Alex chuckled.

"The land grants were 250,000 acres each. With both of those together, I'm still missing 125,000 acres. Any ideas?"

"Oh honey, that's a heated question. Are you sure you want to go there? It may have been what got Gunter killed. Nobody knows for sure."

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for imagine of a helicopter. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Twenty-three days of school left, but who's counting. I hurried to get posted this evening. I hope it's wasn't too fast.


Chapter 95
Chapter Veintisiete, (27) Pt Cuatro

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Dieter saved his money. Your granddad and dad inherited that. Family lore has it that Gunter was a gambler and pretty good at it. I wish Kuruk had packed three sandwiches instead of two." Alex chuckled.

"The land grants were 250,000 acres each. With both of those together, I'm still missing 125,000 acres. Any ideas?"

"Oh honey, that's a heated question. Are you sure you want to go there? It may have been what got Gunter killed. Nobody knows for sure."


TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER 27, PART 4:

Soni stared straight ahead in silence before she finally said, "Before we left, I forgot to notify the airport."

"That little landing-strip you use surely isn't busy this time of night." Alex checked his watch. "It's 2:00 A.M."

While she called to give their estimated time of arrival, she nodded in acknowledgement. "They'll have a taxi waiting to take us to the hospital."

After another lengthy silence, Soni said, "I need to know how we ended up with 625,000 acres. We only started with 250,000. If Gunter gave his land to his brother, we're still short. Please tell me what you know."

"I don't know anything." Alex emphasized the word know. "I'll share the stories I've heard. Is that fair enough?"

Soni nodded. "Thank you." She glanced at Alex, waiting for him to begin. When he didn't, she asked, "So Dieter paid for his land with money he'd saved, and Gunter paid for his with gambling monies?"

"Not so fast. Gunter did a good day's work. He was a hard worker but invested his money, so to speak." He smiled. "He also enjoyed the adrenaline rush of trouble."

"What do you mean?"

"Before Dieter brought his family to West Texas, Gunter helped him build a home for Gisela and the children. Gunter's land never had a house or any building on it." Alex opened his thermos, poured some coffee in the lid, and took a long drink. "I needed that. Once Dieter's family had settled in, he began ranching and was good at it."

"Did Gunter ever settle down?"

"Nope, but he tried." Alex paused. "He helped Dieter get his ranch going. Dieter offered to help Gunter build a house and other ranch buildings. But then the two massacres, the Alamo and Goliad, got in his way. April 21, 1836, the Mexicans were surprised by a Texan army at the Battle of San Jacinto. Gunter was part of that army."

"Was he killed fighting for Texas freedom?"

"No."

Soni released a deep breath. "Grandfather and you have been drawing this story out for hours, but it seems like days. How did Gunter die, and how did I get 125,000 extra acres?" She pouted. "Why wasn't I told about this? Because I'm a female?"

"I can't answer that. I don't know." After a brief hesitation, Alex continued, "The short version is that Gunter won the land in a poker game from a Mexican named Juan Paco Martinez-Vega. There were accusations of cheating, but nothing was ever proven. The war broke out with Mexico, and Gunter went to fight."

"Did Martinez-Vega kill Gunter?"

Alex waited until Soni landed the helicopter before he answered, "Gunter was found dead on the property line between his and the newly acquired land."

Soni's eyes met his. "Exactly where did the property lines go back then?"

"Your original 250,000 acres stretched from I35 to the reservation and that area by the Edwards Plateau."

"Did it follow I35 all the way to Laredo?"

"No. Gunter's land started about Big Grizzly and went south and east."

"So the 125,000 acres went by Laredo and pretty much followed the border," interrupted Soni. After Alex nodded, she asked, "How did Gunter die?"

"It happened under a Comanche Moon. Gunter was found staked spread-eagle and naked over a red-ant bed. Because a Comanche lance lay beside him and his clothes were scattered all around, most Texans believed it wasn't a Comanche attack but made to look like one. We'll never know."

"Native Americans valued their weapons. They would never have left one." Soni opened the helicopter door, paused, turned, and looked at Alex. "So Martinez-Vega murdered my Uncle Gunter?"



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for map of the Republic of Texas. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Eighteen days of school left, but who's counting.


Chapter 96
Chapter Veintiocho, (28) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"It happened under a Comanche Moon. Gunter was found staked spread-eagle and naked over a red-ant bed. Because a Comanche lance lay beside him and his clothes were scattered all around, most Texans believed it wasn't a Comanche attack but made to look like one. We'll never know."

"Native Americans valued their weapons. They would never have left one." Soni opened the helicopter door, paused, turned, and looked at Alex. "So Martinez-Vega murdered my Uncle Gunter?"

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT
Part 1

The taxi ride to the hospital remained silent as Soni and Alex pondered their individual thoughts. Once inside the hospital, they hurried to the top floor, where a nurse directed them to Tatiana's room.

Soni ran to her bed, leaned over, and kissed her cheek. "How are you doing?" She glanced at the IVs in her surrogate mother's arm.

"I'm lucky." Tatiana smiled. "Only a small percentage of third degree burns. The pain's being controlled." She looked around Soni. "I don't see Kuruk."

"What about me?" Alex gently elbowed his way to his wife's side. "Jim will bring him first thing in the morning." He leaned over and kissed his wife. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you."

"Stop it. There's no way you could've known I'd be kidnapped."

Soni wiped a tear. "It's my fault. Somebody's trying to get to me, but I don't know who."

Alex turned to face her. "If they're after you, then they're after all of us. I've worked that ranch since before your dad took over. Tatiana joined me soon after your dad and mom were married."

A young nurse came in and tapped her watch. "The patient needs sleep."

Alex kissed his wife. "I guess we'd better let you get to sleep." He backed away and leaned against the door jamb.

"I'll let you sleep, but I'm not leaving your side." Soni also kissed her before she sat in a nearby chair.

"If we promise to remain quiet, can we stay?" Alex asked the nurse.

She hesitated before she said, "I'll check."

A few moments later, the nurse returned with her arms filled with blankets and pillows. "You can stay. Here are a few things you may need."

"Thank you." Alex took the bedding. "We can set it up. It won't take us long. My wife will be asleep shortly." He placed the things in a chair and scooted it beside another chair. "Soni, you take the small companion bed and I'll make do with these chairs." He glanced at Tatiana and was pleased to see her eyes were shut and she was resting.

*****
As breakfast was delivered to Tatiana's room, Kuruk and Jim entered.

They both kissed her cheek. Tatiana held Kuruk's hand. "I see you brought your Shaman bag. I need your medicine."

An older, heavyset nurse entered quickly. "I'm sorry, but you're not allowed to give home remedies to patients. I need to take your bag." She reached for it.

"My bag stays with me." He drew it closer to his body. "The doctors at this hospital have worked with me before. I'm sure something can be arranged. Send the doctor in." Kuruk's eyes met hers.

"Ma'am, he won't back down, and it's obvious Mrs. Garza has been expecting him. Please send for the doctor. Compromises can be made." Jim waited for a response.

The nurse turned on her heels and left. Jim followed.

"Thank you." Tatiana reached for a drink but struggled.

Soni handed it to her. "I know you're in pain. Please, I'm here to help."

Before Tatiana could reply, the doctor entered with the nurse leading the way.

Kuruk offered his hand. "Hello, I'm glad to meet you. I'm Chief Kuruk Four-Bear, the Shaman for the Lipan Apaches that reside on the Rockin' A Ranch."

"I'm Dr. Elizabeth Hatcher. I've heard about you. You were a patient here about a week ago, correct? It was Lyme's Disease."

"Yes, and as you can see, I'm fine."

"And you contribute your fine health to your medicine?"

"My doctor agreed that as long as I continued with the antibiotics in the hospital, I could use my medicine with them."

"Didn't you check yourself out before your doctor gave permission?"

"I did, but only because my presence was needed at home. We had a few family emergencies, and you have one of them in front of you." Kuruk nodded toward Tatiana.

"Exactly what are you planning to do to my patient?"

"I haven't seen her injuries yet, so I can't say for sure. But I'm thinking of Lavender oil for pain and elimination of infection. After the pain has eased, I'll probably use Aloe Vera. I'm sure some Yarrow tea will aid her in a restful sleep, and I might pulverize the plant and mix it with water and apply it to the affected areas. Does that sound reasonable to you?" Kuruk waited for a response, but didn't get one, so continued, "I might also use Plantain juice. It's anti-bacterial and contains allantoin."

"What's that?" asked Jim.

"An anti-inflammatory phytochemical that speeds wound healing and stimulates new skin cells to grow," responded Soni as she faced the doctor. "Now that you know Grandfather knows what he's doing, will you allow him to help Tatiana?"




Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of lavender. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. As I was posting some areas needed work so I changed things. I hope I didn't make it worse. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Thirteen days of school left. I know you know who's counting. My first graders are counting too. There parents are not. I have actually had parents ask me if we can extend the school year. LOL


Chapter 97
Chapter Veintiocho, (28) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I haven't seen her injuries yet, so I can't say for sure. But I'm thinking of Lavender oil for pain and elimination of infection. After the pain has eased, I'll probably use Aloe Vera. I'm sure some Yarrow tea will aid her in a restful sleep, and I might pulverize the plant and mix it with water and apply it to the affected areas. Does that sound reasonable to you?" Kuruk waited for a response, but didn't get one, so continued, "I might also use Plantain juice. It's anti-bacterial and contains allantoin."

"What's that?" asked Jim.

"An anti-inflammatory phytochemical that speeds wound healing and stimulates new skin cells to grow," responded Soni as she faced the doctor. "Now that you know Grandfather knows what he's doing, will you allow him to help Tatiana?"

TODAY'S POST:

Dr. Hatcher took a deep breath. "I'll allow the Yarrow tea." She walked over to Tatiana. "After I re-examine the burns, I'll decide on the rest. Please excuse me." She motioned for them to leave the room.

While in the waiting room, Jim and Alex went for drinks.

Soni sat beside her grandfather and took his hand. "Tatiana's going to be all right, isn't she?"

"I haven't seen her wounds. Her spirits are high, so I'm guessing she'll be fine." He patted her hand.

"Alex told me how Gunter died. Do you believe it was Juan Paco Martinez-Vega who killed him? And do you think Gunter got the 125,000 acres by cheating at poker?"

"I wasn't there, so I have no answer to either question. I only know the family lore that has been passed down through the years."

"I didn't see the deed for that land with the others."

"It seems it was separate. I think I remember something about an envelope. See, Martinez-Vega tried to get the Mexican government to step in and force Gunter to return the land. By then, Texas was its own country. Mexico had no authority. The land legally belonged to Gunter."

"What about when Gunter died?"

"Dieter was the only living heir, so everything went to him. Martinez-Vega challenged it in court but lost. There are papers in the den about that."

"Is it possible that a member of his family is still trying to get the land back?"

"My child, anything's possible." Kuruk stood as Jim and Alex walked toward them.

*****
As they finished their drinks, Dr. Hatcher came to the waiting room. Soni stood and hurried to her. "Can Tatiana receive Grandfather's medicine?"

"Her burns aren't good, but she's in no danger right now. I'll continue to give her IV antibiotics and keep her body hydrated. You can treat the wounds, but the moment I see signs of an infection, you're out. Do you understand?" The doctor's eyes met Kuruk's.

Kuruk took her hand. "Thank you for your understanding. I promise there WILL be no infection." He headed for Tatiana's room.

Soni smiled. "Thank you."

Alex took the doctor's hand. "I really appreciate this, more than words can say."

"I knew a compromise could be worked out. Thank you." Jim followed the others into the room.

Kuruk opened his bag and took out the necessary supplies. When he finished, he said, "Tatiana, I need to examine your back."

She nodded but said, "Soni, you need to get Isabella and the infant supplies. He has no diapers, clothes, and poor Isabella needs things too. I hate to think what that child is using for diapers. Find some paper, and I'll dictate a list. While Kuruk administers to me, you can go shopping."

After the list was made, Soni and Jim left the room. On the way to the parking lot, Jim said, "I'll drive. You look worn out."

"I guess that's okay. I am tired. I didn't sleep too well on the couch. I'm guessing I didn't get to sleep until almost five. Morning comes early in a hospital."

"I'm hungry. Could you use a cheeseburger? I know a great place. It's not too far from here."

"I forgot you live here. Do you need to stop and get anything?"

"I'm not huge on shopping." Jim didn't answer her question.

"Neither am I, but Tatiana isn't in any shape to do it. She's right. Isabella and Emanuel do need some things. We have nothing at the ranch to care for a human baby," said Soni. "I'm glad Jackson's watching over them."

Jim chuckled. "He told me Butkus has decided protecting Emanuel is his job. I'd hate to be the person trying to harm that child. I've seen that dog in action."

"You're right. Butkus can be dangerous but normally he's as gentle as a kitten. Dad relied on him a lot."

"Just like you rely on Goliath and Mack?" Jim's eyes met hers.

"It's good to have an extra set or two of eyes around. One can't be too careful." She smiled. "I'd trust my life on those two or three, if you count Butkus."

Jim parked in front of a small diner. "It doesn't look too good from the outside, but it's clean and the food's great." He opened the door for Soni. After she entered, he watched outside for a few moments.

"Is something wrong?"

"I'm sure it's nothing, probably my over-reactive imagination." He motioned to a table. "Let's sit here.

"Like my feelings on the way home this last time?" Soni's cheeks blushed pink.

"Maybe something like that." Jim sent a text.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for a image of a Shaman's medicine bag. I think since Kuruk is Apache for bear, Kuruk's bag would look like this. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. As I was posting some areas needed work so I changed things. I hope I didn't make it worse. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Eight days of school left. I know you know who's counting. My first graders are counting too.


Chapter 98
Chapter Veintiocho, (28) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim parked in front of a small diner. "It doesn't look too good from the outside, but it's clean and the food's great." He opened the door for Soni. After she entered, he watched outside for a few moments.

"Is something wrong?"

"I'm sure it's nothing, probably my over-active imagination." He motioned to a table. "Let's sit here.

"Like my feelings on the way home this last time?" Soni's cheeks blushed pink.

"Maybe something like that." Jim typed on his phone.

"Who you texting?"


TODAY'S POST

Part 3

When Jim ignored her question, Soni studied him. "I've come to know you pretty well over these past few weeks. Usually you keep your emotions well hidden, but it's obvious something's bothering you. What is it?"

Jim pointed. "See that dark blue SUV? I swear it's the same one that followed Kuruk and me into town. We picked it up about Ol' Grizzy."

"There's not an on-ramp anywhere in that area."

"Correct. It was waiting alongside the road. That's what was so obvious. I'm betting if we turned right instead of left from your driveway there would've been one waiting there too."

They both were quiet while a waitress took their order. After she left, the silence lingered until Jim stood.

Soni reached for his hand. "I don't know what you're thinking, but I'm pretty sure you need to rethink it."

Jim glanced at their locked hands and then out the window. "I'm impressed with your concern, but I think I'll be okay in the bathroom."

"Smarty pants." Soni heard his laughter as he walked toward the facilities. Staring out the window, she studied the SUV. I wonder who's waiting for us, and what they want?

After Jim returned, Soni paused before she relayed the information she'd learned from Alex. When she finished, she asked, "Do you think a member of the Martinez-Vega family could be sitting in that SUV?"

The waitress placed their food on the table. After she left, Jim answered, "Normally, I'd say you're imagining things, but with everything that's happened, anything could be possible."

Soni licked her lips. "These cheeseburgers are really good." After she took another bite and chewed, she said, "You know a good cheeseburger when you taste it and you are a fairly decent shot. I guess I'll keep you around a little while longer." Soni wiped her mouth with the napkin. "I don't understand why my family kept me in the dark all these years."

Jim motioned for the waitress and ordered a cheeseburger to go before he addressed what Soni said. "It's my guess they thought it would all blow over and hoped to protect you."

While waiting for the waitress to bring the second cheeseburger, Soni shook her head. "I don't need protecting." She paused. "I can't believe you ordered a second burger. When do you plan on eating it? I'm so stuffed I can't eat another bite, and I couldn't finish my fries."

"I might get hungry shopping." He accepted the to-go-sack from the waitress and paid. Without waiting for change he said, "Ready? Let's go."

As Jim opened the passenger door for Soni, she hesitated. "Did you hear that?" She started to point, but stopped herself. "That SUV's engine started. They're following us. Why?"

"More importantly, are they dangerous?" Jim scanned the inside of Soni's SUV. "Did you restock ammunition after our gunfight at the over-turned semi?"

"When have I had time? It's been one disaster after another." She paused and took two deep breaths and blew them out. "I'm going shopping to get supplies for Isabella and Emanuel. Nothing's going to stop me from that task. Let's go to the mall."

"I hope you're right." Jim walked around their vehicle and got behind the steering wheel. "To the mall."

*****
Jim hunted for the closest parking spot. "I don't want us exposed any more than necessary. They can't make a move with other people around."

The dark blue SUV parked two rows away from them, but within sight.

"How do you know they want to do anything? Maybe they just want to observe us." Soni thought for a minute. "Maybe they're not after me, but you. After all, you were shot leaving my home. Remember?"

"You could be right."

Soni giggled. "Maybe it's an old girlfriend who's jealous you've been spending so much time with me."

"Now, you're being ridiculous. Let's get this over with and back to the hospital." Jim got out of their vehicle and opened Soni's door. "Stay on guard."

As the couple walked through the mall door, a man from the SUV hurried past Soni, bumping into her.

Soni glanced at Jim and whispered, "He's got a gun. I felt it."

"While you're getting baby supplies, I'll restock the ammunition."

Jim walked Soni to a department store. "No matter what happens, don't leave this store until I return." He stared at her.

Soni bent down, showed her boot knife, and tapped the small of her back.

Jim nodded. "I'll be right back."


Author Notes Okay fans!!!! We're getting ready for the show down at "The Ok Corral!' That is if I can pull it off. I'm not sure I can, I have it in my brain, but not sure I can get it on paper. It's still a few posts away, maybe quite a few. Thank you Google Images for a image of a cheeseburger. Its the end of the school year. I'm into comfort foods. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. As I was posting some areas needed work so I changed things. I hope I didn't make it worse. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Three days of school left and one extra day for teachers. I know you know who's counting. My first graders are counting too.


Chapter 99
Chapter Veintinueve, (29) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

As the couple walked through the mall door, a man from the SUV hurried past Soni, bumping into her.

Soni glanced at Jim and whispered, "He's got a gun. I felt it."

"While you're getting baby supplies, I'll restock the ammunition."

Jim walked Soni to a department store. "No matter what happens, don't leave this store until I return." He stared at her.

Soni bent down, showed her boot knife, and tapped the small of her back.

Jim nodded. "I'll be right back."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE
Part 1

Soni picked out clothes, diapers, food, and a few toys for Emanuel. It's fun shopping for babies. I wonder why it's not fun shopping for myself? She went over to the women's section. Before she began, she scanned the area. I don't see anything unusual. She studied a man going through blouses. He could be shopping for his wife or girlfriend. Or maybe he's watching me. Under her breath she muttered, "I wish Jim'd hurry."

After checking the list, she began looking for underwear and then clothing. I'm glad Tatiana had ideas on what to buy Isabella. I guess I'm the only female alive who wears only blue jeans. She held up a dress.

"That would look very nice on you." Jim's eyes twinkled.

"I doubt it would go with boots." Soni's cheeks flushed pink.

"There's no place to hide your knives either."

"True." Soni glanced at the bag in Jim's hand. "Did you get what we needed?" He nodded, and she continued, "There are only a few items left on the list." She rehung the dress and walked over to the slacks selection. Without looking, she said, "Don't look, but see the man searching through the blouses? He might be watching me. He's been there a while."

"I think I was followed too," whispered Jim. He searched the area. "I wonder if there's another way out."

"I remember seeing a drug store entrance by where we parked. We could use that door instead of the mall entrance. Think that would fool anybody?"

"How much longer before you check out?"

Soni grabbed two pairs of slacks. "A couple of blouses, and I'll be finished."

Jim's eyes widened. "I've never known a female to choose clothes so fast."

"I'm not one for shopping. Probably because I was raised by my dad." Soni glanced toward the man. "So you think, maybe three men are watching us?"

"I'm thinking two. I'm pretty sure the man who bumped into you entering the building's the same man who followed me."

With eyes closed, Soni took in deep breaths before she said, "I can take this guy. Can you handle the other man? He was pretty big."

"Shoot, I can take them both at the same time." Jim shrugged. "No problems here."

"I forgot. Once a Marine, always a cocky Marine."

"I've saved your butt more than once." Jim grinned.

"Oh yeah? I think it's the other way around," teased Soni.

"Hurry up. Let's get this show on the road. I'm itching to get it over with."

After selecting a few blouses, Soni's eyes met Jim's. "I take it you've got a plan, and it's not going straight back to the hospital."

"I doubt they're going to let us go back." Jim hesitated. "I think they're ready to play their hand."

"And I'm ready to receive it." Soni turned toward the cash registers. "Let's do it."

*****
Jim took one of the bags from Soni. "I got this one." He searched the mall's common area. "Good. The mall's getting busier. See the women's bathroom by the drug store?" After Soni indicated she did, he continued, "Go inside, stay a little while, and then dart into the drug store."

"Why? What are you doing while I'm hiding out?"

"You're not hiding. I want to confuse them and give us time to get situated. I don't like being rushed."

"When I don't come out of the restroom in a timely manner, won't they just wait outside for us? They know where we parked."

"True. Bad idea." Jim scanned the area. "Let's just leave loud and proud."

"Let's skip the loud part, okay?"

The walk to their vehicle was uneventful. Inside both Soni and Jim silently loaded the weapons and placed them where they had easy access.

Soni was the first to speak. "I feel like a modern day Bonnie and Clyde."

"Only we're the good guys." Jim's eyes met hers. "Ready." He glanced at the dark blue SUV. "It looks like they're ready too."

"I'm surprised you haven't called for backup."

"I have. Remember the text? Only help's not always immediate." Jim turned the ignition key and edged their SUV from the parking spot.

"They're keeping with us."

"Figured they would." As Jim steered into the street, an SUV came up on the right forcing him to take the ramp onto I35 south. Another SUV tailgated behind. "I wonder where they're taking us." Jim watched another one come up on his left. "We're surrounded. It's somewhere around six blocks to the Mexican border. Eighty-three meets I35 just before the border. I wonder if we will get off there."

"If we need to battle this out, I'd rather do it on our terms."

Jim's eyes met hers. "Sweetheart, that ain't gonna happen."




Author Notes Thank you Google Images for a image of a map of Laredo Texas. I hope you can see how close it is to the Mexican border. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. SCHOOLS OUT FOR THE SUMMER!!!!!!!! Brian and I are going to Houston Tuesday - Thursday to do a level 9 Tour of NASA.


Chapter 100
Chapter Veintinueve, (29) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"I'm surprised you haven't called for backup."

"I have. Remember the text? Only help's not always immediate." Jim turned the ignition key and edged their SUV from the parking spot.

"They're keeping with us."

"Figured they would." As Jim steered into the street, an SUV came up on the right forcing him to take the ramp onto I35 south. Another SUV tailgated behind. "I wonder where they're taking us." Jim watched another one come up on his left. "We're surrounded. It's somewhere around six blocks to the Mexican border. Eighty-three meets I35 just before the border. I wonder if we will get off there."

"If we need to battle this out, I'd rather do it on our terms."

Jim's eyes met hers. "Sweetheart, that ain't gonna happen."

TODAY'S POST:

Chapter 29 Part 2

Jim exhaled a deep breath. "Does your phone have GPS?" After Soni answered, he continued, "We just crossed Business 95. How far's the exit for eighty-three? There's no way I'm getting stopped at the the Mexican border. That's asking for trouble."

"I'm guessing two miles." Soni looked out the SUV's windows. "It doesn't look like they're giving you any options."

"I'll make my own." Jim stared straight ahead and held the steering wheel with both hands.

"Eighty-three won't take us anywhere but Rio Bravo." Jim nodded, so Soni continued, "You're making me nervous. We need a plan."

"If we can lose them, we can find someplace to hide until help arrives."

"Any idea when that will be?"

Jim clenched his jaw. "Not a clue."

"There's the exit sign for eight-three." Soni pointed. "A quarter mile." As Jim edged the SUV to the right, she added, "They're not letting you over."

Jim's knuckles turned white. He stomped on the gas pedal and sped forward, almost hitting the back bumper of the front SUV. "Hold on!" He swerved into the right lane, barely missing the front bumper of another vehicle. Inches away from a sign, he steered their SUV onto the ramp. "You all right?"

"As soon as I recover from whiplash, I'll be fine." Soni searched for the dark blue vehicles. "I think we lost them. Now what?"

"Good question." He took a deep breath, held it, and then released it. "I have a plan. Out of town a little ways is Laredo Ranchette. We can get lost there until help arrives."

Soni searched her GPS. "I don't see any place like that."

"Take twenty or maybe three-fifty-nine. It's in that area."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Its population's about twenty-two."

"Good, we won't stick out like a sore thumb. We'll fit right in."

"Exactly. Who would look for us there?"

"I found it. Now what?"

"Go to Google maps and search for a place where we could park and not be noticed."

"I don't see a Walmart." Soni studied her phone. "I found a spot. Take United Vision Logistics Parkway to Wawi Tijanna and turn left onto Enlace Road." She waited until Jim caught up. "Finally, a right onto Escandon Road. You can't miss all these parked automobiles on the right. We can hide there. It looks like it might be a salvage yard."

Jim silently followed the rest of the directions. He parked in an area where he was surrounded by other vehicles of all makes and models. Getting out of the SUV, he said, "See? We fit right in." He pointed to the back window. "We're just as dusty as they are." He took out his phone and began texting.

After Soni shut the passenger door, she walked up to him. "You got that right. Now what? We wait?"

"I'm telling our help where we're at and then I'm going to look around and see if I can find a safe..." he grinned, "and comfortable spot to wait. We may be here a while."

As Jim walked over to a long rectangular building with a tin roof, he heard a whimper. What? He stepped closer and knelt to better hear the noise and lifted a cardboard box. Hiding in a corner was a tiny, dirty puppy. Jim held out his hand for the pup to sniff. After the puppy sniffed his fingers, it began to wag its tail. Jim lifted it up. "You're a little lady. Hello." He called to Soni. "Bring me that cheeseburger."

"How can you be hungry already?"

"I'm not, but she is." Jim showed Soni the black and brown curly-haired puppy.

"She's cute. It looks like a Yorkie pup." When Soni,reached to pet her, the pup growled. She laughed. "She's a sassy little thing and already possessive of you. You can't keep her. We're in no position to protect ourselves, let alone a helpless dog."

"She'll die out here by herself." Jim fed her a small bite of hamburger meat. His phone sounded. "This can't be good." He returned a text.

"What now?"

Jim fed the puppy another bite. "Talk about a comedy of errors; our help's following four dark blue SUV's. They're headed in our direction." He fed the dog.

"How do they know we're here?"

Jim held the one pound puppy under his arm like a football and walked to their SUV. The hamburger was still in his hand. He bent and looked under two wheel-wells. After searching the third one, he held up a GPS tracker. "Damn! I'm getting careless." He threw the device on the ground and stomped on it until it scattered into multiple pieces.

As Jim reacted, the hungry dog reached over and helped herself to more bites of hamburger.

"So they know where we're at." Soni scanned the area. "At least we have time to make a plan." She covered her eyes from the glaring sun. "Not much time. I see dust on the horizon." She pointed.

Jim stuffed the dog inside his shirt. "Stay put and you'll be safe." As Soni shook her head, he said, "Always ready to come to the aid of a pretty female."

"I'm just wondering how that little lady's going to save your butt?"





Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a Yorkie puppy. My writing is mostly character driven. Soni and Jim are very vocal on their wants. Jim wanted a puppy. No matter how much I tried to ignore him, he got his puppy; go figure!!! I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I have to post short because of working full time. I hate that. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Brian and I leave this Thursday for Amarillo, onto Santa Fe, a short stint into Colorado and then across the great state of Kansas to my mom's in Missouri. There I will visit Mom and one of my son's and his family. I get to spoil three grandchildren. Then we head South to St Louis. Another son and his wife live there; only no grandchildren to spoil, but I do get to spoil grandpets. LOL After spending a few days there we will drive back to Texas and visit with in-laws in Northeast Texas before coming back to central Texas. I still have one son at home. I get to (?) talk with him everyday. LOL My oldest is stationed in Germany. We had planned to visit him this summer but some health issues with my husband has prevented that. I should return around the first of July. I am hoping to complete this novel while on the road. Wish me luck. My goal is to finish it before school starts and start my next one. I think you will enjoy it. My other goal is to get Savannah Love published this summer. Please pray for that and traveling mercies.


Chapter 101
Chapter Veintinueve, (29) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Jim held the one pound puppy under his arm like a football and walked to their SUV. The hamburger was still in his hand. He bent and looked under two wheel-wells. After searching the third one, he held up a GPS tracker. "Damn! I'm getting careless." He threw the device on the ground and stomped on it until it scattered into multiple pieces.

As Jim reacted, the hungry dog reached over and helped herself to more bites of hamburger.

"So they know where we're at." Soni scanned the area. "At least we have time to make a plan." She covered her eyes from the glaring sun. "Not much time. I see dust on the horizon." She pointed.

Jim stuffed the dog inside his shirt. "Stay put and you'll be safe." As Soni shook her head, he said, "Always ready to come to the aid of a pretty female."

"I'm just wondering how that little lady's going to save your butt?"

TODAY'S POST:

Part 3
Soni walked to the long shed and piled cement blocks on top of each other.

"What are you doing?" asked Jim.

"If I can get on the roof, I can look around and see where would be the best spot for us to greet our visitors." She glanced at Jim. "I figured there were four Chevy Suburbans following us, maybe two or three men in each. We'll need to hold off a minimum of eight men until help arrives." She placed her hands on the blocks, pulled herself up, and then onto the roof.

Jim began to speak, but Soni interrupted, "With all the trouble they've caused, I refuse to hide. If I go down, I'll go down fighting."

He stepped back and watched Soni slowly turn a complete circle on the metal roof. "What do you see?"

"The cloud of dust has disappeared. I wonder what that means." Shielding her eyes from the sun's glare as she continued her survey of the area, she paused and pointed. "Over there looks like a good area. We'd have a jump on them and still be well covered." She walked to the roof's edge, lay on her stomach, and hung her legs over the edge. "This roof's hot." She dangled her legs. "I can't feel the blocks."

Jim reached up and guided her legs. "Now, do you feel them?" After she nodded, he lifted his arms to catch her at the waist.

Soni slid to the ground, standing within inches of Jim. As the two stared into each other's eyes, Jim's hands remained on each side of her waist.

She swallowed and placed her hand on her stomach to calm the butterflies. The silence remained.

The Yorkie puppy wiggled her head though the button opening of Jim's shirt.

"Since you insist on keeping her, you need to name her." Soni walked away, but turned around when Jim's cell phone rang.

She waited while Jim listened. After he put away his phone, she asked, "Now what?"

"Everything's come to a stop." Jim hesitated. "I guess we wait."

"Why? Can't your men arrest them? They're just sitting there."

"We don't know they're guilty of anything."

"Hmmm, let's see. Somebody murdered Hughes and framed Grandfather. Tatiana was kidnapped and is in the hospital. I was accused of using Peyote. Midnight was stolen. In the process, Diego was stabbed. Bella lost her foal to Fescue Toxicity."

With hands on her hips, Soni glared at Jim. "Two or three men were murdered after we recovered Midnight and Grandfather was, again, accused. Can't even guess the number of times my home was entered and searched. Messages warning of Grandfather's and my demise have been left on my dining room table."

Jim put his hands on her shoulders. "There's no evidence the people who are following us are the perpetrators."

"So we need to catch them in the act?" Soni set her jaw.

"Not exactly, but close. We want to make sure we have the right people and the charges stick."

"I'm not going to allow them to destroy my life." Soni turned and walked away.

The puppy barked after her.

"Name her," snapped Soni.

"I have 'Semper Fidelis'."

"That's a dumb name for a dog."

Jim lifted the Yorkie to eye-level. "Always faithful. I'll call you Fi for short." He secured the puppy under his shirt and whispered, "You'll need to protect my heart from the other female in my life."

*****
"I see you found some chairs." Jim moved one chair closer to Soni and sat.

"I figured we could sit in the shade until we see the dust moving." She hesitated. "Maybe once you destroyed the GPS they lost us. Or maybe they'll attack on foot."

"Or maybe they're waiting for instructions from their boss."

"I never thought of that." Soni stood. "I could use a drink. I've got bottled water in the Range Rover. It's hot, but wet. Want one?" She started to walk away, but paused. "I'll get the mutt one too."

"See, she likes you." Jim set the puppy on the ground. "She's just used to larger breeds."

"Or breeds whose sole purpose for existing isn't to be pampered." Soni handed Jim a water bottle. Quickly, she cut off the top of an empty water bottle and made a bowl. She poured some water into it and placed it in front of Fi. "I'm sure even small dogs can use a drink." As the puppy drank, she petted her head. "You're a cute little thing. I'll give you that."

Just like somebody else I know; cute, little and feisty. And way too head-strong for her own good. Jim chuckled to himself.

Soni pointed. "I see dust. Do you think it's just somebody driving down the road or our guys?"

"I don't know. I'd hoped we'd get a phone call warning us."


Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a salvage yard. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. I've posted short because of working full time. Now summer is here, my posts are longer. Over vacation I've almost completed this novel. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. I had a wonderful time watching my grandson play little league, getting a pedicure with my granddaughter, and loving on all my grandpets. My mom and my father-in-law are doing wonderfully for both being in their 80's. I hope I'm doing as well when I'm that age.


Chapter 102
Chapter Treinta, (30) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Soni pointed. "I see dust. Do you think it's just somebody driving down the road or our guys?"

"I don't know. I'd hoped we'd get a phone call warning us."

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY

PART 1

Soni removed her boot knife, studied it, and replaced it in its sheath. I hope I won't need it. She grabbed a Bowie knife from behind the seat of the Range Rover. "Do you need it?" After Jim revealed his Night Stalker Marine knife, Soni placed the Bowie knife in the back of her jean's waist-band.

"Are you expecting hand-to-hand combat?"

"I want to be ready for anything. I'm not as large as you. I can't muscle them to death."

"True." Jim glanced at the dust clouds. "They're moving right along." He grabbed his ringing cell. "I guess it's our notification." After listening for a few moments, Jim put the phone away. "You haven't slept in days. Are you sure you're ready?"

Soni nodded. "I don't have a choice, do I?" She paused. "I'm glad the weapons we used in the overturned semi situation were still in the SUV." She indicated the front of the parking lot. "I'll move over there. From the roof, it looked like the best place. I doubt they'll expect us that close."

"Makes sense." Jim studied the other side and shook his head. "I was thinking of going over there, but it would cause crossfire." He walked the length of the driveway. "If you're over there," he pointed, "I think I'll hang around over here."

"How close is our help?"

"They're waiting for 'probable cause'. They'll be here soon, but we're on our own for a few minutes. Make sure you don't make the first move."

"If I wait for them to make the first move, I may not be capable of making the second."

"You don't want them to claim self-defense, do you?" asked Jim.

"No!" snapped Soni. She scanned the area and sighed. "I guess we're ready."

Jim faced her and took her hands in his. "We can do this. We've been in tighter messes than this." He kissed her cheek. "I have your back."

I have your back too. Soni squeezed his hands and nodded. "We've got this." She checked down the road. "The dust is close. It won't be long." She lifted the Nosler M48 and studied it. "My old friend." Her eyes met Jim's. "I'll see you in a few."

"You got that right." Jim raised the Sauer 202 Avantgarde Grande. "Your dad's favorite."

"Yep."

Soni and Jim went to their respective areas and waited in silence.

*****
Soni saw the headlights of the first navy Chevy Suburban, and then raised her weapon. Wait, wait, wait. Why am I here, if I need to wait? I could've waited from back there. The second vehicle passed her. She saw light reflect from Jim's rifle. I hope they didn't see it. Taking deep breaths, she watched the remaining two SUVs drive into the parking lot.

Two men from the first vehicle exited, carrying semi-automatic rifles. The men from the following Suburbans repeated the same.

Ten men total. We're close to being surrounded. I should've taken out the first vehicle. Soni took a deep breath. I wonder if they have bullet-proof windows? They look like they're practiced at this.

"Senorita Adler, we know you're here. Come out. We won't hurt you. We just want to talk," yelled a tall muscular Hispanic man with a heavy accent.

Right! If you're only visiting, why are you and your friends aiming weapons at me? Soni waited. I hope that mutt stays quiet.

Soni glanced toward the area where Jim was stationed. I'm sure he's sitting there with all the patience in the world.

"Senorita Adler, we will find you. You might as well come out," called the man.

She watched him motion to another Hispanic man. This man moved closer to the long shed and fired rapid shots into the side of the building.

A familar gunshot sounded, and Soni watched the man fall. She recognized the sound of her father's weapon and searched the area where Jim was supposed to be. She didn't see him. I know he's good, but nobody could've made that shot. Has he moved?

The leader motioned for the rest of the men to spread out and search the area. One headed in Soni's direction. She removed the knife from her waistband and slid off to the side farther behind a group of rusted-out trucks. He moved closer, and she rose from behind him, stabbing him in the neck. He gasped his last breathe as she went back to hiding and whispered, "Two down, only eight left."

Soni turned her head at an unidentifiable noise; rifle in one hand and knife in the other.



Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a salvage yard. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.


Chapter 103
Chapter Treinta, (30) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

The leader motioned for the rest of the men to spread out and search the area. One headed in Soni's direction. She removed the knife from her waistband and slid off to the side farther behind a group of rusted-out trucks. He moved closer, and she rose from behind him, stabbing him in the neck. He gasped his last breath as she went back to hiding and whispered, "Two down, only eight left."

Soni turned her head at an unidentifiable noise; rifle in one hand and knife in the other.


TODAY'S POST:

PART 2
"Whoa! Little lady, I've come in peace," whispered Jim, holding his hands in the air, one held his weapon. He glanced down at the man bleeding out. "I see you had a visitor. How you holding up?"

"Fine." Soni bit her lower lip as she avoided his eyes.

"You're not fine." Jim did a quick scan of the area. "It looks like we're safe for the moment. I texted for help. They'll be here shortly."

"Oso! Oso negro!" yelled one of the Hispanic men as he ran. Others quickly followed.

Jim grinned. "Grandfather got you to smile." He paused. "I take it he's helping. I'm pretty sure there's not a black bear wandering the area."

"I agree." Soni glanced at the sky. "I can't imagine being in trouble without his watchful eye."

"Me neither." Jim took the Apache Tear from his jeans pocket and rubbed it between two fingers. "Kuruk told me it'd help me keep you safe." He alerted to a noise and turned his head. With one smooth movement, he raised his rife, aimed, and shot.

"Three down, seven to go." Soni watched the lead man scan the area as he directed his men. "You'd better get back to your spot."

"I need to be close to you right now. You're worn out. It wasn't that long ago you were in the hospital with a concussion. I'm not leaving, so get used to me."

Soni gulped and then turned her head as the leader yelled, "Senorita Adler, you're making this difficult. No more lives need to be lost."

With her hand stopping the sun's glare, Soni looked at the sky and saw two helicopters. "Is this good?"

Before Jim had a chance to answer, a bellowing voice yelled, "You're surrounded! Put down your weapons and raise your hands!"

Jim winked. "It's good. Sit back and enjoy."

On their leader's order, three Hispanic men raised their semi-automatic weapons and fired at the helicopters.

A third helicopter appeared over the horizon. Jim grabbed Soni's arm and yanked her to him. "Hurry!"

"Why?" she asked as she stayed low and followed.

Within moments, Gatling guns sprayed the area. "That's why," shouted Jim as he guided her to safety.

Soni crouched to the ground between two vehicles. Jim bent over her to protect her from above. He grabbed Fi from inside his shirt and handed her to Soni. "Hold her. I'm squashing her."

Soni cuddled the whining Yorkie to her stomach. "Shhh, it'll be over soon." She paused. "I hope."

The couple remained in place.

When silence filled the air, Jim stood upright. "You okay?" Jim offered Soni a hand to help her stand.

"Yes." She held up Fi. "So's your little friend."

Jim petted the pup's head. "You stay put. I'm going to look around."

Soni watched Jim walk away, his rifle readied.

*****
Soni paced a few steps back and forth, holding her weapon in one hand and the puppy in the other.

Fi struggled to be put down.

"Okay, but don't go far. It's dangerous out there." Soni set the puppy on the ground.

The Yorkie immediately squatted before she darted, barking, away from Soni.

The sound of a snapped branch caught Soni's attention. She readied her rifle.

Three men, wearing ICE labeled bulletproof vests, walked toward her, each holding automatic weapons. The man with the puppy snarling and shaking his pant leg said, "You must be Ms. Adler. I'm Glen Watson." He offered his hand and she accepted it. "Is Jacob Blackwood close by?" He looked down at his leg. "I guess this belongs to you." He lifted his leg and the tiny dog rose with it, still hanging on.

Soni grabbed Fi. "Actually, she's Jim's... Jacob's... whatever his name is." She petted the pup's head.

"Do you know how many men there were?"

"At first ten. Jim..." she shook her head, "Jacob killed two, and I got one. Seven now." Soni pointed at the downed man and then turned her head toward a man's voice. "I hear what's his name now." She walked toward it.

Glen held up his hand to stop her. "We're here to protect you. Let us do our job. There may be a straggler or two."

He walked to the right of Soni, another on her left, and the third at her rear. All had weapons readied.

They led Soni to the center area where four men held two Hispanic men prisoners. Glen asked, "How many men are accounted for?"

"Nine," a government agent responded.

"One's still at large." Glen scanned the area and held up one finger to the rest of the men who were still searching.

Soni set Fi on the ground and walked up to a handcuffed Hispanic man. She handed her weapon to Glen and then pushed the prisoner's shoulders with both hands, almost knocking him down. "Why did you do this?"

"I have orders."

She pushed him again, more forceful. "Orders from who?" After no response, she hit him again and asked the same question. Again, no answer. This time she grabbed her rifle and aimed it. "This is the last time I'm asking, Who gave the orders?" Her finger readied the trigger.

"Eduardo Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega Sanchez!"

"Who's that?" Soni's eyes widened.

The man fell to the ground as a gunshot sounded.

Jim ran after the shooter.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a a Yorkie in pink camo. I couldn't resist. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.

I have only three weeks of freedom left, before school starts again.

A side note. I took a huge hit on this story by some family members last evening. They described it as pure fantasy and I needed to do a story major overhaul. They stated their was nothing realistic about it. To be honest my heart was broken and I almost deleted the entire story. I need to honestly know, is this story worth continuing or should I ditch it.


Chapter 104
Chapter Treinta, (30) Part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Eduardo Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega Sanchez!"

"Who's that?" Soni's eyes widened.

The man fell to the ground as a gunshot sounded.

Jim ran after the shooter.


TODAY'S POST:

PART 3

Soni watched. Please be careful. She turned to Glen. "Did this guy get shot because he ratted out the boss?"

"I would say so." Glen said something to his team that Soni couldn't hear.

But why? Who's Eduardo Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega Sanchez? I don't know anybody by that name. What does he want with me and my ranch? Soni remained lost in her thoughts before she pointed to the dead man's arm. "Mr. Watson, do you recognize any of these as cartel tats?"

"Please, call me Glen." He indicated the tattoo on the man's forearm. "This tat shows he's part of the Sinoloa Federation." He pushed up the sleeve as high as it would go. "This; Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG)."

"So he's a member of two cartels. How can that be?"

"Without going into decades of cartel history, the fast answer is it can't, really." Glen stood. "CJNG is an offshoot of the Sinoloa Federation, but is quickly becoming one of the most feared Mexican cartels."

"Interstate thirty-five runs through my ranch, and the cartels seem to want to control it."

"Probably. In 2004, the Sinoloas fought the Juarez Cartel over three drug routes into El Paso, resulting in somewhere around twelve thousand. casualties. Imagine what they would do to get control of I35? It's likely the Sinaloa Federation's repeating a move from its playbook and trying to control the lucrative Nuevo Laredo trafficking corridor. The Los Zetas are battling them over that."

Soni watched Jim lead the tall, muscular man toward them. Good, their leader. Now all I have to do is find out who Eduardo Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega Sanchez is.

The man stood before them and glared at Soni as he stated, "You will not win. This is not over." He spit on the ground. "More will come."

"The US government owns I35, not me. I'm not stopping you from using it. Your war is with the government. Leave me alone." Soni turned to walk away. "I'm done." Under her breath she muttered, "Until a few weeks ago, I never even heard of your cartels."

"The war with you is not about drug trafficking. It's about rightful ownership," he yelled after her.

Soni turned and walked to the man. "What did you say about ownership?" She hesitated before she spoke, "I legally own all my property."

The man aimed his spit at her. "Either you're a liar or you know nothing." He missed.

Jim grabbed his Marine knife with his right hand and held the man's neck with his left. He lifted him slightly from the ground. "You will show respect to Ms. Adler, do you understand?"

The man's eyes widened as he nodded.

"Repeat after me, I will not disrespect Ms. Adler." Jim continued his stance.

"I will not disrespect Ms. Adler," he uttered under duress.

"Good." Jim removed his hands from the man and stepped back while he returned his knife to the sheath. He nodded to Glen. "Take the scumbag away." He held out his hand to Soni. "Let's get back to the hospital. Come on, Fi. You need to come too."

As the Yorkie puppy followed, Jim said, "Did you notice how Fi protected you?"

Soni laughed.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a map showing Cartel drug routes into Texas I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.

I have only two weeks of freedom left, before school starts again.

Thank you for the encouragement you gave me!!!! I really do appreciate it.


Chapter 104
Chapter Treinta y uno (31) Part Uno

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"Good." Jim removed his hands from the man and stepped back while he returned his knife to the sheath. He nodded to Glen. "Take the scumbag away." He held out his hand to Soni. "Let's get back to the hospital. Come on, Fi. You need to come too."

As the Yorkie puppy followed, Jim said, "Did you notice how Fi protected you?"

Soni laughed.

TODAY'S POST:

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE
Part 1

Jim parked the SUV in the hospital parking lot. "Think Kuruk cured Tatiana while we were gone?"

"I believe he did. She'll be out of the hospital before you know it." Soni held up Fi. "You can't bring this inside and you can't leave her in the Range Rover. It's too hot."

"Watch this." Jim hid the puppy inside his shirt and cautioned, "Shh, don't make a sound."

*****
As Soni and Jim walked into Tatiana's room, Alex stood and hugged Soni. "What took you two so long? I was beginning to worry."

Jim shook his hand before he glanced over at Kuruk. "I'm surprised Kuruk didn't keep you informed."

"A few men followed Grandfather and Jim from the ranch. They tailed us as we left the hospital." Soni hugged Tatiana.

"No, stop," interrupted Jim. "I know Kuruk showed up as a black bear. I need him to tell the story."

Grandfather smiled. "I have no clue what you're talking about. Have you been hitting the bottle? I didn't take you for a drinking man." He kissed Soni's cheek. "Sonsee-array, do you know what he means?"

"One man yelled 'Oso negro' and they all scattered." Soni laughed. "I personally never saw a black bear. They were cartel members. Maybe they were high on something and imagined it."

"Jim, come here." Tatiana lifted her arms. "I need a hug." After Jim returned the hug, she continued, "Don't let them bother you. Kuruk's spirit shows up in many forms. The black bear's his favorite."

"I do have a question." Soni's glance alternated between Alex and her grandfather. "Do either of you know anything about a man named Eduardo Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega Sanchez?" After they both indicated no, her shoulders slumped. "According to one of the men, he ordered the attack on us."

Alex sat. "Many Latino names reveal their family's heritage. If we dissect the name, Juan Pablo Martinez-Vega is the man Gunter won the 125,000 acres from. He's suspected of murdering Gunter."

"Hmm, that's right." Soni shook her head. "Why didn't I think of that?"

"Because you're dead tired. You kept dozing off on the way here." Jim rubbed the inside of his shirt. "Shhh," he whispered.

"What's going on? You got fleas?" asked Alex.

Soni laughed and shut the hospital room door. "He might have gotten a flea or two. Show them."

Jim lifted the Yorkshire puppy from the inside of his shirt. "Somehow she got left at the abandoned salvage yard. I couldn't leave her to die. Meet Semper Fidelis or Fi for short." He paused, set his jaw, and quickly returned to the previous subject. "So all of this could be revenge over land ownership? How many years ago are we talking about?"

"About one hundred eighty years ago." Kuruk's eyes met Soni's. "Granddaughter, the man who keeps hanging around, isn't his last name Sanchez?"

She nodded. "Yes, Miguel Sanchez." She sat on the edge of Tatiana's bed. "Do you think he could be part this?"

"I never did like him." Alex leaned forward from his chair.

"He has a bad spirit," interrupted Kuruk.

"I always felt he came on too fast and wanted something." Soni buried her head in her hands.

Tatiana rubbed Soni's arm. "Honey, you had no way of knowing. You're a pretty, young woman. Many men come courting."

"Many men who want the ranch and the money that comes with it. They don't want anything to do with me. I know he's the one who kidnapped Midnight, but I can't prove it. I always felt he was up to no good."

Jim stared out the window and petted Fi. "I guess we need to get some evidence. I'm sure I've heard it before, but where and who does this Sanchez guy work for?"

"The Cactus Jack Ranch, over by El Paso. Rusty Parker bought it ... maybe two years ago."

"Miguel became the foreman about six months, no, closer to eight months ago. I met him at a rancher's convention. He came over and introduced himself. He seemed to know who I was. I thought that was strange." Soni studied her hands.

Kuruk walked over to Jim. "You've been studying that window for quite a while. What's on your mind?"

"I think we need to force Miguel to show his hand?"

Soni stood. "How are we going to do that? If I walk up and ask him, he's not going to admit anything."

Jim grinned. "No, but he might with some friendly persuasion."

Fi growled.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a black bear inside a dream catcher. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it. Once again I made changes as I posted. I so hope I didn't make it worse.

I have only one weeks of freedom left before school starts again.



Chapter 105
Chapter Treinta y uno (31) Part Dos

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

Kuruk walked over to Jim. "You've been studying that window for quite a while. What's on your mind?"

"I think we need to force Miguel to show his hand?"

Soni stood. "How are we going to do that? If I walk up and ask him, he's not going to admit anything."

Jim grinned. "No, but he might with some friendly persuasion."

Fi growled.

TODAY'S POST:

Part 2

Soni's eyebrows rose. "What do you have in mind?"

"Right now, just getting you home so you can rest." Jim stepped closer to Tatiana. "Has the doctor given any indication when you'll be released?"

"Dr. Hatcher's shocked at how fast I'm healing." Tatiana glanced at Kuruk, with a smile across her lips. "She said if I keep progressing and have no signs of infection that I might be able to go home tomorrow afternoon."

"Sounds good. I'll take Soni to the ranch. We'll call in the morning and then decide if we should return or not."

Soni glared at Jim. "Since when do you tell me what I'm going to do?" She sat and crossed her arms. "I'm staying with Tatiana until she's released. I've already been away from her too long."

"You're completely worn out and still recovering from a concussion. Since you're not taking care of yourself, I appointed myself to do the job." Jim replaced Fi inside his shirt. "Besides, Fi needs to meet Goliath and Butkus."

Soni laughed. "That's not going to go over well."

"Probably not, but it still needs to be done. She just might teach them a thing or two." Jim grinned. "Ready to leave?"

"I'm staying here. You can take the pint, no half-pint sized dog to the ranch by yourself."

Kuruk stood in front of Soni. "Granddaughter, Jim's looking out for your well-being. You'd be wise to listen."

With eyes squeezed shut, Soni said, "Oh, all right. We'll take the helicopter. It'll be faster."

Jim searched through his billfold. When he found the correct card, he presented it to Soni. "I'll drive, or should I say fly?"

Grabbing the card, Soni studied it. "You've got to be kidding." She held it up. "His pilot's license."

"My kind a man, one of many talents." Alex chuckled.

Kuruk shook his head and grinned.

Soni hugged Tatiana. "I'll call if we make it home." She turned and added, "We'll take a taxi to the airport. If you get dismissed before we return, the Range Rover will be waiting." She pouted as she looked at Jim. "Are you coming or not?"

"I'm right behind you." He had his phone to his ear. "The taxi should be here in about fifteen minutes."

"Good, that'll give us time to get Isabella's and Emanuel's things from the SUV. I'm sure the little guy could use the diapers."

*****
It wasn't long before Soni and Jim were inside the helicopter with Jim in the cockpit.

Soni reached over and placed her hand on a lever between his legs. "This is the cyclic-pitch lever. The collective's on your left." She pointed. "The throttle's the twistable grip on top. You'll need to open the throttle until you reach the..."

"I know what I'm doing," interrupted Jim. "I've flown many times. Just lean back and relax. I've got this."

"The proper RPM's," Soni completed her sentence and then silenced when Jim's eyes met hers. "Maybe I'll take a nap."

"Good idea."

*****
Soni woke up with a start and brushed the fur-ball away from her face. "Yuck! That mutt just licked my lips!" She used her forearm to wipe her mouth. "You need to teach her some manners."

Jim grabbed the little dog. "I think she's awake, Fi." He laughed. "We're at the ranch." Jim tapped the helicopter's controls. "Is it okay to leave her here?"

Soni glanced around the area. "How did you get her in the garage on the first try? It took me weeks to learn how to park in here."

Soni stepped down and searched around. "It looks like the door jambs are still hanging."

"I told you I've done this before." Jim placed his hand on the small of her back. "Let's get inside." He put Fi inside his shirt. "Let's take this getting acquainted slowly."

Jim opened the front door for Soni, and Goliath and Mack greeted her with tails wagging in complete circles. Soni knelt down, hugged, and petted each Great Pyrenees.

Jackson offered his hand to Jim. "Glad you made it back."

"Has everything stayed peaceful?" Jim eyed the closed bedroom door Isabella and her infant slept in.

"Butkus has decided Emanuel is his responsibility. I wouldn't try to touch him without that dog's permission."

Soni looked up at Jackson. "It doesn't surprise me. Is Isabella down for the night? We brought her supplies."

"I haven't heard anything from the room for a while. I'd say so."

Jim removed Fi from inside his shirt and handed her to Soni. "Introduce her to your guys. I'll get the supplies from the helicopter."

Jackson eyed the Yorkie. "I'll help while you explain why there's a dog in your shirt."

Soni moved her legs around and sat on the floor. She put the puppy on her lap. "Boys, you need to meet Fi."

Goliath sniffed the dog and then looked at Soni.

"I know she's small. She isn't going to grow a lot, either. I have no idea what she's good at, but Jim seems to like her. Think you can be friends?"

After Goliath lay down, Mack sighed and followed.

Fi wiggled away from Soni's hold and cuddled in between the two large dogs.

Both dogs looked at Soni as if to say, 'Really?'

Soni petted her two boys. "I guess this is your way of accepting her, for now. Right?" She turned her head toward the door when she heard a noise.

Both large dogs rose faster than Soni. Fi stood underneath Goliath while she barked.

Author Notes Thank you Google Images for an image of a Great Pyrenees with a kitten on it's back. I know Fi is a Yorkie, but we can pretend, right? A few reviewers had asked about Goliath and Mack. They've been busy helping Butkus hold down the ranch. LOL
Many of you know I had a Pyrenees. A few years ago, we had to put him down because of bone cancer. They're great dogs, as long as you don't mind shedding. I'd love to have another. My husband said I had to go smaller and he choose a dachshund. He's a great little guy, but much more of a stinker. LOL
I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for so long. I know this novel is taking forever!!! It's not as long as it seems. Also, thank you for taking time to review and all the support you give me. I truly appreciate it.
School starts for teachers tomorrow. This year we have two weeks before the students start. If I don't get you reviewed, I'm sorry. My reviewing time will be greatly reduced. I miss your posts already.
One of my goals for this summer was to finish this novel. As you can tell that didn't happen. I have written posts into October. I can say with some confidence it should be finished by the end of October.






Chapter 10000
Chapter Doce; part Tres

By barbara.wilkey

ENDING OF PREVIOUS POST:

"What's going on?" asked Jim. He stood beside her.

"It's out of our way, but maybe we can make it to that shack Dad and Opa Alder used over by Pine Mountain." Soni listened and then added, "It's a solid two hour ride, but I don't see another choice." She shoved the phone in her pocket.

"I'd like to know what's going on." Jim's eyes met Soni's.


TODAY'S POST:

"It seems a major storm's headed in our direction. If it stays on course, it should hit in about an hour." Soni lifted Smoky's saddle and placed it on the pad already setting on the horse's back. "You need to resaddle Paco. We're leaving. If this area gets the amount of rain predicted, there's a danger of flash flooding."

"How far out of the way is this shack?" Jim asked as he tightened the saddle's front cinch.

"If things go good, we might make it in an hour and a half. They probably won't. We'll be heading west and south. We need to go east and north." Soni studied Midnight. "Butkus, bring the reins." The mastiff did as he was told. "I'm relieving you of duty." She rubbed his head. "You did a good job."

Jim climbed on Paco. "Ready?"

"Yep. The faster we get moving, the drier we'll stay. Did you think to pack a rain poncho?"

"Of course. Marines are always ready for anything." Jim tapped the saddlebag.

"I thought that was the Boy Scouts." Soni led the way. "I'm pretty sure you're no Boy Scout."

Jim pulled Paco alongside of Smokey. "How do you know a cougar's following?"

"He's not following. He's staying parallel."

"That's not really the point. How do you know?"

"I can feel him eying us. He's stayed far enough away and downwind so the dogs and horses don't catch his scent." Soni pointed to her left. "He's probably old, wise, and hungry."

"You used the word 'opa'. I thought your grandfather was Apache."

"You sure ask a lot of questions for somebody who doesn't like answering them. Grandfather is Apache. But my paternal grandpa's parents were from Germany." Soni gently clicked her heels. "The wind's picking up. We'd better move faster."

*****
As the rain beat down, Soni called out and pointed. "The shack should be about a half mile straight ahead!"

Lightning crackled. Midnight reared up, almost knocking Soni from the saddle. She dropped Midnight's reins. Butkus ran and grabbed them.

"You all right?" Jim yelled.

"I'm glad Smoky doesn't get excited about anything." Soni bent over and reached for the dropped reins. Butkus glared at her. "Okay, boy, you take care of him." She faced Jim. "Did you see the look he gave me? I think I was overruled by a dog."

"He knows you almost fell and feels it's his job to take care of you."

Soni nodded and then pointed. "See the shack? It's not fancy, but it should be dry."

*****
It wasn't long before Soni opened the shack's door and led Smoky inside.

"You allowing the horses in?" Jim hesitated, standing outside.

"Remember the mountain lion? You want to walk back?"

Jim led Paco inside and then the two dogs entered with Midnight in tow. "This should be fun." He eyed the fireplace. "I'll start a fire."

"Good idea. I'll take care of the horses and maybe the saddles will dry a little by morning."

"I saw a small stable off to the right. Maybe it'll have some dry fire wood inside." Jim raised the poncho hood over his head and went outside.

After a few moments, Soni glanced up and grinned.

"You knew it was an outhouse, didn't you?" Jim studied her. "You could've told me before I fought the wind and rain."

"True, but the look on your face is priceless." Soni failed at concealing her laugh.

"The wood won't start. It's too wet."

Soni walked over and opened a small door at the left of the fireplace. "Dry firewood."

"Ha, Ha, Ha. Make fun of the new guy." Jim knelt to spread old ashes around the bottom bricks.

Soni handed him some wood. "The matches are in that table drawer beside you."

Lightning struck! Thunder boomed! The shack shook from the noise! The door blew open. Soni jumped! The dogs growled and the hair on their back bristled. The horses jerked their tied reins in an attempt to back away. Jim grabbed his Glock .40 cal.

Author Notes Thank you google images for an image of a thunder storm rolling into West Texas. I really appreciate the reviews and assistance you give me. If you have not read from the beginning, you WILL be confused. I don't redefine each character in every post.


One of thousands of stories, poems and books available online at FanStory.com

You've read it - now go back to FanStory.com to comment on each chapter and show your thanks to the author!



© Copyright 2010 barbara.wilkey All rights reserved.
barbara.wilkey has granted FanStory.com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.

© 2010 FanStory.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Terms under which this service is provided to you. Privacy Statement