Fire Within

Part 4

by Anita Louise

(c) copyright 1/02

Chapter Ten

The ride to Fletcher’s stable was pleasant, the two women talked about many things. Bobie was happy to see Sky had settled in and was enjoying the area.  For so long she had been alone, not really wanting to get close to anyone. This was a nice change.

After the death of her father, she went into a shell.  It was Don Antone that brought her out of it. When they were children, her father and his always wanted the two to marry, have children. Whenever Bob Parker would go to the Reservation, Bobie was always ready to join him.  While the men visited, she and Don would take off either on foot or horseback, looking for adventure.

The canyons, the many caves that graced the area gave fodder to their active imaginations.  The one thing their parents neglected to think of when deciding their future was, people have minds of their own.  Though close, they were more like sister and brother than a romantic couple.

When Don left to study at the University in Ohi, she was sad to see him leave.  Feelings between them were strong and there was nothing one would not do for the other.  She still recalled driving him to the train station, watching them put his luggage on board. The silence as they stared at one another.

His father, and her father were in the background, both smiling ear to ear, feeling they had made the perfect match.

“All Aboard.”  The words that would take this now handsome man away from their world.

Don reached out and took her left hand, he held it gently. “I’ll write.”

She forced a smile, though it was tears that wanted to show themselves. “Me too.”

He winked, leaned down and brushed a soft kiss on her lips. “See you in the funny papers.”

Before she could say anything, he was gone. She watched until the train was out of sight.  It was her father that walked up, put his arm around her and said, “Come on Barbara, time to go home. Don will be back before you know it.  Then we can start to plan the nuptials.”

Completely taken aback at her father’s words she turned to stare at him in disbelief. “Dad. Nuptials?  We are good friends, we are not lovers.”

He chuckled as if he was holding some great secret within and replied, “You are you and Don is Don.  I will miss him too.”

That day was the end of a long relationship. True to his word, Don did write, at first every week, then once a month, then not at all.

The days flew by, holidays came and went.  Bobie needed something to occupy her mind and took her father up on his suggestion she take courses a the nearby academy in police work.

The day she graduated, her father sat in the front row smiling ear to ear.  Bob Parker was a handsome man even in his fifties.  When Bobie gazed at the man, she could feel the deep love and admiration he held for her.

It was her first day as Deputy Sheriff, a day that was met by the men in the department as well as the few women that worked there as “Welcome Deputy Bobie Parker Day.” They threw a surprise party for her. There was cake, music and laughing.

Her first day on the job was quiet, not a lot going on in Springfield. She spent the biggest part of the day going through folders, trying to get acquainted with the office, and the cases.  That evening she was busy setting the table humming as she went about making sure everything was just right.  Bobie was pleased with herself, she had fixed her father’s favorite meal.

There was a knock at the door and she hurried to open it.  The smile on her face vanished. It was not her father as she suspected, thinking he had forgotten the keys again. It was Deputy Ben Burgess, his face was solemn as he uttered, “It’s your father.”

The days went by slowly after that. Each seeming so much like the next.  Ben Burgess was elected to fill her father’s position.  And when the general election came around he was voted unanimously to stay in office.  Bobie always wondered if he kept her around because he felt badly for her.

The day came, the day when Don Antone was arriving, credentials in hand, a man his village looked toward to having back.  Though he didn’t write, she found out what train he was coming in on and went to greet the man.  Bobie was on pins and needles as she waited.

When the train pulled to a stop. People began disembarking. Her eyes were glued to each one.  Finally giving up she turned to walk away, it was then she heard the words, “Bobie. Bobie Parker is that you?”

She turned to gaze into the face of her friend. Smiling, she ran, and leaped into his open arms.  Their laugher was contagious as others watched smiling.  Don held her close as he said, “You look fantastic!”  It was at this time he released his hold on her and said, “I heard about your father, I’m so sorry Bobie.”

She felt a tightness in her throat and in that instant felt happiness.  This was short lived for a woman’s voice interrupted, “Don, Love, who is your little friend?”

Bobie stepped back, surprise on her face as the woman wrapped her arms around the man giving him an affectionate kiss.

It was apparent Don Antone was embarrassed as he stuttered, “Gia, this is my good friend, Bobie Parker. Bobie this is my wife, Gia.”

Her world collapsed, darkness surrounded every fiber of her body as Bobie Parker fainted.  Don ignored his wife, reaching out to catch the woman, he cradled her in his arms.  “Gia, I’ve got to get her to a doctor.”

The woman looked like the Italian movie star Gia Lolobridgida, dark silky flowing hair, an hour glass figure, she was beautiful in her own way. She was also upset, her eyes shot fire, her body stance was warlike. “We have just arrived and you are going to leave me to take that . . . that . . .”

He turned to her, “My friend.  I’ll be back.”

The woman fumed. “And what am I supposed to do?”

He called back, “Wait.”

Bobie never really recovered from losing her father, then finding out that Don Antone was married shook her to her inner being.  Though they were just friends, they were close and now he had a wife, a woman that did not like her. Bobie knew they would probably never see one another again and if they did, it would just be in passing.

The woman tuned everyone out, dates, parties and gave her full attention to her work.  If she couldn’t be happy, then she wanted to be sure others could be.

All of this seemed to change the day the ravishing redhead Skylar Richmond arrived.  The two were such opposites.

Bobie was brought out of her thoughts by Sky. “Earth to Bobie, come in.”

“Wha . . .”   Bobie looked toward the woman surprise on her face.

“For awhile there you seemed to have left me.  I was getting worried, hoped I had not said anything to upset you.”

Bobie sit up, feigned a smile and said, “No.  I was thinking about my father, what happened to him, how my life has not been the same since.”

“I feel badly for you Deputy. The two of you were close from what you tell me.  Losing someone is hard, losing someone as you lost your father cuts deeply.  Even having the time to say, I love you, will never be enough.  The bond you two have, is still with you.  I believe your father smiles down upon you Deputy.”

“Thank you. I appreciate your words but . . .”

“No 'but' about it. Look we are here. Still want to go riding?  I can turn the truck around and go back.”

Bobie could see Max Fletcher standing near the drive and waved. “No. I want to ride, we have a lunch basket, nothing better than eating outside.  You still want to go don’t you?”

Sky nodded as she parked the truck.

Max was happy to see the two women.  He watched them climb down from the pickup. Smiling to himself. Skylar Richmond was wearing Levis, a light blue blouse, black boots and she wore a baseball cap.  The woman had shed her tight leathers for western wear and he felt somehow Bobie had a hand in this.

Sky Richmond was statuesque. Skin tanned by the sun, muscles that rippled as she moved. Luxurious flaming hair brushed back from her head by the gentle breeze. Her bounteous breasts, heaving against the restraints of the low necked light blue blouse that adorned her. The woman was leggy and had a figure that would put many models to shame. She was a sight to behold.

Bobie had changed too, she was as beautiful even more so but the lost lonely look she carried most times had been replaced with a sparkle he had not seen for a long time.

“Max, we have come to ride.”

He heard Bobie’s voice and realized he had been mulling things he shouldn’t have. “Good to see you two.  You say ride?  Might storm.”

Bobie looked at Sky then said, “Won’t be out too long.  Just need to get away for a bit.”

He smiled. “Dynamite is in the corral. I’ll go get Blaze for Miss Richmond.”  He tipped his head to Sky then walked toward the stable.

Bobie reached out and lightly jabbed Sky. “Looks like Max has a thing for you.”

Sky laughed. “Yeah and the sky is falling too.  What about this horse Blaze?”

Bobie thought for second then replied, “Good horse. Named Blaze because of the lightening mark down its forehead.  Definitely not a nag if that is what you are thinking.”

“Nope, just wondering.  You go get Dynamite and I’ll go help Mr. Fletcher.”

Blaze was a five year old quarter horse, she was one of Max Fletcher’s best trail horses. When Sky saw the horse she fell in love with it.  It’s color almost matched her own hair.  She was looking forward to this ride. It was a chance to clear her mind of work, to enjoy the outdoors as Bobie urged. And it was a perfect opportunity to get to know the very elusive Bobie Parker. A woman that did not like to talk much about her personal life.

Bobie smiled when Sky led the horse from the stable.  She was sitting on Dynamite, the horse was pawing the ground, ready to begin its journey.  “What do you think?  Bobie asked as Sky placed the reins over the horse’s neck.

“Person can’t go wrong with a horse like this one. I think she likes me too.”

Bobie watched Sky grasped the stirrup and asked, “Want me to come down and give you and hand up?”

“Nope. Horse likes to go in circles.  Give me a sec.”  With those words, Sky gave up placing her boot in the stirrup, instead she grasped the saddle horn and swung up.  This surprised Bobie as well as the horse.

Within seconds they were on their way up the trail leading to “Bear Mountain.”

Pulling along side Bobie in a wide stretch of the trail, Sky called over, “This "Bear Mountain," get its name because of bear?”

Nodding, Bobie reined in her horse. She reached for the canteen and took a drink. “Yup, don’t tell me you’re afraid of a little ol bear.”

Sky took the opportunity to drink from her own canteen before she replied, “Depends on just how big this 'little ol bear' is Deputy Parker.  Davy Crocket, I’m not.”

The ride was amazing. They rode past  crystal clear mountain streams, high alpine meadows, over mountain passes. Stopped and watched the rainbow trout in a stream.  It was the mountain meadows that were rich with wild life that had Sky excited.  She had never seen wildlife like this so close in their natural habitat.

“I’ve seen deer and was amazed at the herd of elk. Tell me, what else might we see?”

Bobie glanced toward Sky and smiled.  “Maybe a bear or two. Don’t worry they are more afraid of us then we are of them.”

Sky mumbled, “Speak for yourself Deputy.”

“Well might even see a lone wolf.   We have been riding in bear country for awhile now. Elevation is around  9100 feet.”

“We have been riding for a long time, I could stand to stretch, stomach is growling, what say we stop, give the horses a break and have something to eat?”

Bobie grinned but had to admit Sky was right, they had been riding for a while, she too was tired and needed to stretch. “Good idea. This looks like a great spot.”

The horses were resting, and the two women had just sit down to partake of the food. Sky leaned back against a fallen log. “This country gives a whole new meaning to outdoors.”

“I hope you like what you have seen.”  Bobie said as she handed the woman a soda and asked, “Breast or leg?”

Sky had just flipped open the soda, she looked up at Bobie who was sitting on a table rock. “Uh... you . . . 'breast.' I like 'breast.'”

“Good, cause I like the leg.”  With those words she passed the basket to Sky.  They ate in silence and when finished, Bobie lay back and closed her eyes. “Ever have one of those days where you wished things could be a certain way but knew they never could?”

Sky nodded, all the while knowing the woman couldn’t see her. “Yes. More so lately.”

This peaked Bobie’s curiosity and she sit up gazed down at the woman and asked, “Want to talk about it?”

Standing Sky walked back and forth. “No.  Sure need to get the circulation back in my legs. I think I will take a walk.”

“Just watch out for the bear.”

She stopped removed her cap, tapped it against her left leg then placed it back on her head.  “You really getting a kick out of all this bear talk aren’t you Deputy?”

Jumping to the ground, Bobie replied, “Kinda.  I know the great Skylar Richmond would just spit in its eyes. Want some company?”

Sky smiled. “I think you cannot amaze me anymore Deputy and you do.  Sure, come walk with me.”

Bobie was moving back and forth, her feet not wanting to follow.  “I think the accident, the dance, now the ride has me a little stove up.”

Sky reached out cupped Bobie's chin in the palm of her hand and said, “We don’t need to walk. I am fine.  Would you prefer us just rest here awhile before going back?”

Bobie glanced toward the horses then replied, “I am all right, the sooner I get back in the saddle the better I’ll feel.”

Sky shook her head in amazement. “Never heard this before.  All right Deputy, let's clean up and be on our way.  It has been a lovely day, a day I will never forget.”

Bobie smiled and said, “Me either.  I never thought I would enjoy anything again.”  It was then, Bobie spied the three raccoons and whispered, "We have company."

Sky looked around and asked. "Where?"

Pointing to the three very curious visitors she replied, "There."

Sky smiled, they were adorable and made her want to hug them. "They may be hungry, what do raccoons eat."

Bobie shook her head.  "Can't feed them.  Not good. I know they are cute and look all cuddly but believe me, they have long claws and very sharp teeth. Come on  let's not dawdle."

Once they were back on the horses, Sky reached over and touched Bobie’s arm. “By the way Deputy, thanks for the dance last night.”

Bobie gazed into her emerald greens, then said, “Guess you know, talk will spread.”

Sky thought for a second then said, “From all I hear, talk is there, might as well give them something to talk about.”

“Bobie patted Sky’s hand. “Small town folks, talk. I live there you don’t.  You will leave and I will have the blunt of their whispers to carry.”

“In that case Deputy, come with me.”

Bobie smiled.  “Thought you had me on that one didn’t you Skylar Richmond.  I was going to walk right into your trap, then you would say, “Gotcha and leave me with a red face.  No thanks. Your world is out there, mine is here, what is left of it.   Come on let’s go.  By the way,  your welcome.”

Chapter Eleven

Bobie gazed up toward the sky and the gathering clouds as she said, "Looks like it might do something. We should find a shelter."

Sky stood in the stirrups attempting to stretch. "Sounds like a good idea but all I see are trees and more trees."

The horses were standing near a ridge both pawing the dirt. Reaching out to pat Dynamite, Bobie smiled.  "Yup, lots of those. If I recall back in the woods about a mile there is a cabin.  Couldn't hurt to take a look.  At least it would be some shelter in case it pours."

Sky was now seated regally on Blaze, reins in hand. "You point the way, I'll follow."

It didn't take long to come up on a slope and what might be considered a trail.  "We can walk down or ride, it is up to you.  Kinda dangerous going on horseback." Bobie gazed at Sky a questioning look on her face.

"These horses have probably seen worse.  If we take it slow, I think we can manage the ride down."

Bobie nodded offering, "I'll take the lead, be careful."

"That is my middle name, 'careful.'  Lead on."

The trip down took longer than she had expected and by the time they touched level ground, it had begun to sprinkle.  Sky pulled up next to Bobie's horse and asked, "I think it's going to rain."

Bobie laughed then said, "Cabin is back there."  She pointed to a large crop of trees to the left of them. "I think it would be a good idea to tie the horses up nearby and walk in."


"Been a long time since I was up here and never know who is there, or what is there."

"Sounds ominous, might we meet up with Mr. Bear per say?"

"Could be."

Sky watched Bobie urge Dynamite toward the area and followed.  Bringing her horse to a stop as she approached the woman who had now dismounted and was gazing her direction.

Within seconds she was standing beside Bobie.  "What now?"

"First loosen the cinch, we will let them graze the area till we get back."

"How far did you say it was to this cabin?"

"Not far, your long legs won't even know they have been walking."

Sky was tugging at the cinch, following Bobie's instructions. When she finished, she turned to the woman and said, "It has been a glorious day Deputy Parker, thanks for thinking of it?"

"Yes, it is something I have missed.  I am glad you are having a nice time.  Sorry about the

Chuckling, Sky looked up, then back toward the woman. "Unless you also control the weather, no need to apologize.  Besides, I won't melt you know."

"Let's go, before this mist turns into something a lot worse."

The two women disappeared amongst the trees leaving two horse happily chewing on the wild grass.

Bobie stopped and said, "It is past the oak tree just ahead.  Sets near a meadow."

"Whose cabin is it?"

"Not sure anymore, just know it will be better than to be standing out here in the rain if it does decide to pour. This time of year at this elevation there will probably be a mix of rain and snow. Come on let's go check the place out, then get the horses."

"Aye, aye Captain."

Bobie frowned and muttered, "Deputy.  You seem to love calling me that."

Grinning, Sky followed the woman. Bobie looked stunning in her levis, levi shirt with pearl snaps, black boots and grey Stetson.  The woman had tied her beautiful golden hair back in a ponytail which was bobbing up and down as they walked.  During the time she had been in the area, Sky was learning there was a lot more to Deputy Parker than met the eye.

She felt the woman's hand first then heard the words, "Whoa. Where you going Skylar Richmond?"

Realizing she had been deep in thought and not paying attention to where she was going, Sky almost walked into a tree. "Thanks. Sorry  bout that. My mind was somewhere else."

Bobie gazed up, replying, "Good way to get hurt, looked like you and that tree were about to mate."

"Very funny Deputy, it won't happen again. Let's hurry. Sun is going down."

"Probably not, just we are deep in the forest, lots of high trees, they shut the sun out, that is after it passes a certain time and it is late afternoon. We still have some daylight left, come on."

The two stepped past the old oak tree to gaze at the lone cabin perched on the side of the hill, a beautiful  meadow and a nearby lake boarded the oak, pine and elm trees.

"It's beautiful, so serene."

Bobie listened to Sky's words as she nodded and said, "There is something about the forest, the naturalness, the animals, it can be a lovely place."

"Can be?  What do you mean Deputy?"

"Look closely. The cabin, not the lake, not the meadow but the cabin."

Turning her attention to the small cabin that looked most welcoming at that moment. Sky replied, "All right I have looked, now come on, let's see if anyone is there. Storm, seek shelter, you know."

As Sky began to walk past, Bobie reached out and pulled her back. "No."

Turning to look at the woman, Sky pursed her lips together then asked, "Why?  What is wrong now?"

"Do you see the animal skins stretched to cure, near by?"

Sky looked again then answered, "Yes. Someone lives there. It is what we wanted to know, come on."


Hands on her hips, Sky was now totally confused. "First you tell me we need shelter, then you tell me about the cabin, well we are here, cabin is there. What is your problem?"

"Those skins are not that old. They are also from an animal that is protected. This means we have poachers somewhere, either in the cabin or out here some place."

Sky drew a deep breath before she said, "I have heard of them, never met any. What now Deputy?"

"I'd call the Forest Service but cell phone is in the pack with the horse."

"What about your gun?  You did bring it didn't you?"

"Day off. But yes, I did bring it. Also with the horse."

Sky was pacing, her mind mulling Bobie's words. "Then Deputy, we have to get back to the horses."

"Good Plan.  I think I want to move down slowly, take a look see who may be inside if anyone."

Sky shook her head in amazement. "First you tell me there are poachers, this is illegal, they could be around, then you want to go take a look.  Hate to disagree with you Deputy, but I think we should go back get the horses, call for back up and get out
of  here."

Bobie looked at the woman, it was as if she was trying to figure her out for the first time. "The great Skylar Richmond wants to turn tail and run?"

"It's not running if no one is chasing you. Better to be safe than sorry."

Before she finished the last words, Bobie had already started to move downward. Sky watched the woman before she muttered, "What the heck, might as well give it a go."

When the two neared the cabin, it was obvious there was no one in sight. Softly they crept closer. Soon Bobie edged her way to the window and glanced in. The room was empty, though there were signs someone had been there.

Sky was on her knees as she tugged at the woman's sleeve, "What do you see?"

Bobie sit, pulling sky down with her. "No one in there, but someone has been. And they will be back for the skins.  Not a safe place to be. Let's get back."

Nearing the oak tree, Bobie turned to say something to Sky and was surprised the woman was no where in sight.  Quickly gazing at the cabin, she knew the woman must have gone in. "Sky, what do you think you are doing."  It was getting darker out as Bobie muttered to her self turned and started back down.

Sky carefully entered the cabin, her eyes taking in every corner.  Bobie was right, someone had been there. She was thankful they were now gone.  Standing, she began to search the area.  The cupboards were well stocked. This was not a good sign, it meant whoever was there would surely be back.

The only bed was unmade, there were a few plates in the sink an unopened bottle of Jack Daniels was setting near by as well as several empties in the wastebasket. She found several bedrolls, and smiled when she found a winchester rife and several bullets as well as a flashlight. After a quick search of the room, she left the cabin and headed back.

Bobie was just approaching the cabin when Sky stepped out.  The woman was surprised to see her and asked, "Deputy! What are you doing here?"

"Better question is, what are you doing here?  I thought you were right behind me and was quite surprised when you weren't."

"Sorry. Wanted to see just what was inside. Look, I found a rifle and a flashlight."

"Uh huh.  I see. Since you went in, what else did you find?"

Sky pointed toward the hillside and said, "Let's get out of here and I'll fill you in once we are away from this cabin."

Sky was leaning against a pine tree, watching Bobie pace back and forth. Finally she broke the silence. "Deputy, I'm sorry.  I shouldn't have gone in. I should have followed you. But that is hindsight. We have to do something now."  I say find our way back to the horses and then get out of here."

"Too dark, trail is not safe at night.  Best bet is the cabin. But it is not safe."

"Well we could gather brush, and snuggle."  Sky grinned.

"Sometimes I wonder just what it is I like about you Skylar Richmond.  From the looks of things it will be a good night for snuggling.  But I think I would more likely find a niche in a tree and settle in."

"Oh, fraid of some critter coming up and thinking you are going to be desert?"

"Good reason, don't you think?"

"What about the horses? Want me to go get them?"

"We can both go, thank goodness you found a flashlight."

Sky grinned as she walked up to the woman.

Bobie looked up at the woman. "Allright, I was wrong.  I am glad you went in, glad you got the gun and glad you found a flashlight.  Satisfied."

"Yep, shall we go?"

Bobie turned to look down then answered, "In a minute, the moon is out now, its rays are bathing the area in beauty.  Look, deer."

Sky glanced down toward the big meadow flanked by the deep woods. One by one, deer filed slowly out of the wooded shadows to browse on the tender grass shoots in the meadow.

"Cat got your tongue," Bobie asked.

"No, have never seen such a serene beautiful scene before."

At this time the engine noise of two pickup trucks could be heard and before long their headlights could be seen.

"Oh oh!"  Bobie uttered.

A person might think the noise of the trucks would frighten the deer but they had become too used to the noise of the logging trucks coming and going. Both vehicles reached the center of the meadow, spacing themselves about 100 feet apart and stopped.  Dead silence.

Sky and Bobie watched this taking place as Sky asked, "They are going after the deer aren't they?"

"Yes. And the poor animals haven't a clue."

"Why don't they run, the noise the vehicles so close?"

"They are used to noise, lots of logging going on now, trucks coming and going, people, sounds at odd times."

Sky stepped forward. "Then we have to do something?"

Bobie grasped the woman's arm. "Like what?  Two trucks at least six or more, they have guns, we have one. They have trucks, we are on foot.  Unless you can fly, we are stuck."

"Can't fly but I will not let them kill those beautiful animals without doing something."

"Sky, those guns could just as easily be trained on us. Let's think."

With their adrenaline pumping, Sky and Bobie watched and waited for what seemed an eternity, not daring move for fear the poachers would see them in the moonlight.  Without warning their powerful spotlights snapped on; three on each truck, spotting and holding on the closest deer. The animals snorted, blowing steam from their nostrils but stood perfectly still, motionlessly
staring into the spotlights as though hypnotized.

Within seconds six shots rang out, echoing and re-echoing from the distant hills. Six deer hit the ground as if struck by lightening. It was a slaughter. The rest of the herd milled slightly about, but did not bolt. They stood nervously pawing the ground by their fallen comrades as if wondering what happened, the others continued to stare at the deadly  inviting spotlights. An entire herd ready for the slaughter.

With their eyes trained on the herd, the poachers failed to see Sky and Bobie approaching from different angles, Bobie held the Winchester at the ready.

Their shots continued to ring out resembling the firing range on Turkey day. Deer were falling. With the Winchester at her hip, pointing directly at the trucks occupants, the two women  slowly crept up to the far side of each truck. The first shot Bobie fired took out several spotlights. At the same time, Sky had gotten close enough to throw rocks putting out several others.

The men in the truck stopped firing, there was silence until Bobie's voice loudly announced, "This is Deputy Parker, You are under arrest, you are surrounded, drop your weapons and come out of the trucks, hands above your heads. The first shot was a warning. The next ones will not be."

They all appeared totally stunned and scared, and for a brief moment they looked about for an avenue of escape, casting glances left and right. It was at this time, Sky reached in, grabbed the driver by his shirt and pulled the man out the window.   There was a loud thud before she appeared again, this time holding a cocked riffle. "Step out boys or do I just shoot."

Guns flew out the window as the men stepped out, hands above their heads.

The three in the other truck did the same, all the time begging for mercy and asking the Deputy not to shoot. Once they were all down on their knees, Bobie stepped out into the open. The men were shocked to see that it was two women, not a posse of rangers or police that had captured  them.

Chapter Twelve

Bobie was sitting at the small wooden table, looking at the identifications that lay in front of her. Sky had walked in from outside, she walked to the fireplace and set down an arm load of wood. "There, this ought to last a while.  Do you know any of them?"  She walked to Bobie, pulled out a chair and sat.

Bobie shook her head. "No, there are a lot of new people in the area. It is hard to know everyone."

Sky glanced back then said, "They are all tied up, we can take shifts sleeping. That way one of us will always be awake."

Bobie nodded.  "Thanks for going after the horses."

"Someone needed to and you are the law around here.  After we got them all settled in, I felt it best I go. The horses are in the small corral out back. They are fine."

Bobie smiled then said, "You are some dynamo Skylar Richmond.  The man never even saw you coming. Surprised me when you pulled him out of the vehicle."

"What happens now? The slain animals, the cabin?"

"Bobie replied, "Called the Forest Service, they are going to send someone out in the morning. Till then, we need to keep an eye on them.  The  venison will be taken to the Children's hospital, as well as the senior center.   These men will get stiff fines and jail time.

Sky stood and walked to the cupboard, took down two glasses then returned. "Thought perhaps you might like a drink before retiring."

"This mean you are going to take the first watch?"

Sky nodded. "Can't sleep, too fired up." She poured two small glasses then said, "To you Deputy Parker, Annie Oakly had nothing on you."

Bobie smiled as they raised their glasses in toast.

Sky had put several small logs in the fireplace and had just stood up when she heard the words, "What's a woman like you doing up here in the woods?"

She turned to gaze at the man whose identification showed being Tad Smith. He  was much younger than the others. When she looked at him, his face reminded her of a ripe peach,  his hair fair and thick, growing low on his forehead.

"Mr. Smith, I'm surprised, you do have a voice.. Is there something wrong with my being out in the woods?"

"You just don't fit the mold for the people around here that's all." He had small brown eyes, a wide disarming grin as two large dimples appeared in his cheeks.

"I have met many people while here and I can say none of them fit a so-called mold as you say. What in the world are you doing with men like these?"

He shrugged. "Friends."

"Friends don't get you into trouble with the law. Friends look out for you."

He looked away replying, "Your words not mine."

Sky walked toward Bobie. She was fast asleep laying on top of one of the bedrolls. Close by lay a rifle. Smiling she walked back to the table and sat.

The men were tied together, sitting in a circle, not the most comfortable position but it was one that would sound the alarm if one was to get loose or even try.

 "I know who you are."

Sky was between planes, half awake and half asleep when the man's words brought her fully back. She blinked several times.  It was Odin Marshall, a short man about five four. He had a lean face, pitted and scarred, thick black eyebrows, and carbon-black eyes with deep grainy circles of black under them. And a  heavy five o'clock shadow that cried, shave me.

"You have my attention. But  I know who I am."

His eyes grew cold as he snapped, "You're that hunter, been in all the magazines. Some sort of Amazonian."

Smiling, Sky looked at the man in disbelief. "I am no Amazonian. You better get some sleep."

"Hard to sleep tied up like this."  He tried to wiggle only making the others grumble at him.

There was a simmering growl as the man known now as Harve Winchell spoke, "You and the Deputy better be getting your beauty rest, cause won't be long and you'd wish you hadn't done this."

Sky gazed in the direction of the words.. He was a large and heavy man, and bearded. His brown hair was overgrown and unkempt. His eyes were blue and set in a field of pink  that suggested a history of torment. His weight and size seemed to amplify the act of breathing, which he did through his mouth. His nose looked swollen, a web of fine purple lines ran up his cheeks from his undergrowth, and this all told the tale of a drinker.  He looked as if any minute he would break his ties. "I don't intimidate easily Mr. Winchell, so settle down."

He growled again but didn't say anything.

Carl Weaherford the oldest man of the group, was in his fifties, a lean man with a gravel voice. His long face broken into longitudinal strips by creases and hazel eyes almost lost under an amber tangle of eyebrows.  He waited a few minutes before saying, "Harve is all smoke don't pay him any mind Miss."

Raising an eyebrow Sky stared at the man. He was so different from the others.  "If I were to pay anyone mind, it would be you Mr. Weatherford."  With those words she stood, walked to Bobie and tapped her on the shoulder. "Time to wake, my turn to sleep."

Bobie mumbled and finally stood, wiping at her eyes. "Anything I need to know?"

Sky looked back. "A talkative group. Don't let them get to you."

Bobie put more wood on the fire then went to make coffee.  Hot water and coffee grounds, made good cowboy coffee that is once the grounds were discarded.

Bobie had been flipping through an old "Outdoor Life magazine" and was surprised when she heard Bill Snyder's voice, "Deputy Parker, you know my family. Don't do this to me, let me go, I promise not to tell anyone."

The other men tied up with him glared at the man as Bobie answered, "Not tell anyone?  Let's see there are five right there that just heard you."  When Bobie first laid eyes on the young man, his build reminded her of a young Backhoe.  He was stocky, with at short neck, heavy shoulders and legs. And his longish blond crewcut appeared to have gone to seed it was looking pretty wild.

"Maybe next time you will think before you get involved with a group like this."

"Let's talk turkey Deputy!"

Forgetting the magazine, Bobie stared toward the group. This time it was Ray Finchl a very tall heavy man with silver hair and a red complexion. He was far from attractive. Underneath the suntan, his features were poor; his eyes were small and pouched, his nose was flat, and his chin ran into the bulge of his neck. Bobie thought he could be a bullfrog's cousin.

"Mr. Finchl, I've heard from nearly everyone, might as well hear from you. Shoot."

The man grinned. "We have a stash of money hidden, it's all yours if you just let us go."

"Lot of money huh?  As in how much?"

The others were not happy with the man this was apparent as they looked and grumbled at him. He ignored them and continued, "Not sure but a lot."

"You and your friends been poaching for sometime and getting away with it.  I think its time you paid for this. As well give the animals a break."

He glared at her. "I take it you are turning down a sweet deal. Your friend doesn't even need to know, just let us go."

"Nope. Couldn't and wouldn't do that.  So close your eyes and try to get some sleep. Your rides should be here in the morning."

This was the type of night people would be home, snuggled away in their warm beds. Bobie felt a chill travel her body and walked toward the fireplace.

It had begun to rain outside, thunder and lightning cut through the sky. Bobie threw another log on the fire as sparks flew up the chimney.  It was well past midnight and still the rain pattered on the old tin roof.   She didn't know just when it happened but sometime during the night, Bobby found her way to where Sky lay. And in the morning, the two were cuddled together.

Sky was the first to open her eyes, at first she thought she was dreaming until she realized Bobie Parker was snuggled peacefully fast asleep. Trying not to wake her, Sky rolled slowly away. When she got to her feet she saw a set of six eyes trained on them.

Making her way to the fireplace, Sky found some kindling and started the fire up again. She walked toward Bobie and gently woke her. "Bobie, wake up, it's morning."

Bobie opened her eyes, as a sweet smile settled upon her face. "Morning." It was then she realized she was laying on the bedroll. Jumping up she stuttered, "How . . . What  . . . ?"

Six men voiced in unison rang out, "Looks like you two slept together!"

Sky gave them a dirty look then gazed at Bobie and said, "I woke and you were there, with me. I think you got cold in the night and were looking for some warmth. That's all. "

Bobie shook her head as she muttered, "That's a lot considering I was supposed to be watching."

Sky pointed to the men then said, "There they are, still all tied up. I'm going to go check on the horses, why don't you make us some coffee."

Bobie nodded as the woman left the cabin. For some reason., Sky seemed to be glowing.

There was a slight chill in the air and Sky wished she had brought a jacket or a coat.  She felt sick to her stomach when she saw the slain deer. The beautiful scene had been destroyed by these men.  Men that thought little of life in any form it seemed.

The two horses were happy to see the woman as she approached the corral. Blaze was the first to walk to the fence and nicker, followed by Dynamite.  Sky reached out to pat each one and was deep into talking to them when she felt the cold barrel of a gun against the back of head.

"That's right girly, keep those hands where I can see them. I have a hair trigger and one move from you, your brains will be all over the place."

"Who are you?"  Sky asked. Neither woman had given any thought there might be anyone else.

"Turn around, hands clasped behind your head."

Slowly she turned, not wanting to do anything that would cause him to shoot. The man that stood before her, was massive. He had high cheekbones and a narrow brow, weathered skin with a nose that looked too thin to belong to the man. He had brown eyes, set in sockets rimmed by glasses. The hair on his head was dense and wiry, looking more wiry as it fell about his small ears. Like his comrades, he was bearded. When he spoke, his tone was harsh, like the grating fingernails on a chalkboard. "Where are my men?"

She knew this was not a person to try and fake out. "Inside. They are fine. Why don't you get them and get out of here, Forest Service will be here soon as well as the police."

He growled and the sound was as if a volcano was getting ready to erupt. "I can't believe a woman could round them up. So how many men are with you?"

Sky shook her head and replied, "No men. One woman. Deputy Parker."

The man's eyes were like a reptile, narrow, cold and watchful. A slow cold smile traveled his face as he said, "I have heard of the woman, she has a history. But she is just a woman. The two of you must have caught my men unaware. Otherwise, they would not have fallen into a vixens trap."

"No trap. We happened to come upon them spotlighting deer and shooting them illegally."

"Never!  Now call Deputy Parker out here. It is time we had a meeting."


He seemed surprised for a moment then said, "Call her out or I'll carve you up into little pieces."


The man glanced past her toward the two horses. "I'll kill the animals, slit their throats while you watch them bleed to death. You know I will. Call the woman out."

Bobie just poured two cups of steaming coffee and was setting them on the table when she heard Sky calling her name. She smiled, picked up a cup of coffee and left the cabin. Spying Sky standing near the corral, she headed toward the woman.  "Sky, brought you something."

"Hello Deputy, nice of you to join us."

The hair on the back of her neck was standing and the chills that were running rampant were a bit late to warn her of the impending disaster. Turning she stared into the cold eyes of a very big man and the rifle he had trained on her.

Continued in chapter thirteen


original fiction index | xena homepage | what's new |