Fire Within

Part 5

by Anita Louise

bounty@cybertrails.com

(c) copyright 1/02





Hurt/Comfort Warning Disclaimer:

Part five contains violence and torment. If you do not like to read depictions of this sort, you may wish to read something other than part five.

Characters from Fire Within, are the properties of Anita Louise.



Chapter Thirteen
 
 

Ben Burgess was brought out of a sound sleep by the ringing of his doorbell.  Pulling a pillow over his head, he tried to shut out the incessant sound.  Groaning he moved to the further side of the bed, pulled up the covers and ducked underneath.  He was tired and no doorbell was going to get him up.
It was the loud knocking on the door followed by the words, "Sheriff Burgess!  Ben!   Are you up?!" That succeeded.

Grunting, he tossed the covers back. Within minutes he was on his feet, jumping into a pair of pants as he pulled on a T-shirt and headed for the door.  Running his hands through his hair, in a wasted effort to have it look combed. "Hold your horses!  What cat got you by your tail so early in the morning?!"  Opening the door, he was surprised to see Cal White standing there.

Cal gazed at the man before he apologized, "Sorry to wake you so early Sheriff but I thought you might like to know."

Ben held the door open and said, "Wake now. Come in, tell me what has you so all fired riled up this morning?"

The young man walked into the room. He nervously eyed Ben Burgess. "It's about Deputy Parker and Skylar Richmond."

Ben's face showed signs of discontent as his jaw tightened. "What the two gone and done now?  I may have to hog time them both. This keeps up."

For a second Cal seemed to be visualizing the man's words. "Got a call from them late yesterday, seems they ran into a group of poachers."

Sheriff Burgess was pacing the floor as he muttered, "What in blazes were they doing out to Bear Mountain anyway?"

"Don't recall mentioning 'Bear Mountain,' Sheriff."

"You did say poachers and I happen to know Bobie likes to ride up to Bear Mountain.  Fletcher's stables are near there. Just took a guess, seems I was right.  Go on fill me in."

The Forest Ranger told him all he knew and when finished  the Sheriff said, "Thanks for telling me. I have a lot of faith in Deputy Parker and Skylar Richmond. I'll grab something to eat, and meet you at the air field. I want to fly in with you."

Cal nodded and turned to leave. "Rangers are already on their way, should be there soon."

Ben watched the  man walk to his vehicle get in and drive away before he closed the door. Muttering under his breath, "Bobie what in hades have you gone and gotten yourself into this time?"
 
 

Sheriff Burgess had just strapped on his gun belt when the phone rang.  He was surprised to hear Meg's voice when he picked up the receiver. "Sheriff, thought you would like to know, Bobie and the woman went and got themselves in a passel of trouble yesterday."

He chuckled silently before answering, "I know about it, looks like the town grapevine is still functioning.  I'm on my way out to Bear Mountain now with Cal.  Talk to you when I return. And Meg . . . try to keep office business in the department."

Meg seemed offended at his words but she ended the call as usual with a joke.
 

Cal was pacing the floor, stopping from time to time to stare down the road. Bill Dalton approached him and asked, "What has you so ancy this morning, Cal?"

He turned to gaze at the man. "Waiting for Sheriff Burgess."

"Heard about the poachers, guess that is why the chopper is fueling up as we speak. Bob offered to fly it but said you were going to pilot.  You Forest Service people always amaze me. Is it true? Bobie and Skylar Richmond captured them single handed?"

Frowning at the man, Cal turned his attention to the road once again. "Don't know what you are talking about and even if I did, can't speak about it. Is the chopper ready?  I see the Sheriff's vehicle heading this way."
 

Once in the air, Ben Burgess sat back in the seat and remarked, "Never knew you flew one of these."

"Learn something new everyday Sheriff.  We should be in the area before too long."  It was at this time weird sounds were coming from the engine. He cursed and said, "We are going back, something is wrong and I don't want to be up here till I find out what it is."

Once they were landed and Cal had spoken to Bob Patterson, the Sheriff  turned to the man and said, "Meet you there when you get this thing running. I'm going to drive out, probably beat you anyway."

Cal looked like a child that just had his favorite toy taken away as he watched the Sheriff speeding off.

"Too bad about the chopper. Guess this means you will get there late."

He turned to stare at Bill and replied, "Others are on their way and have been, so even if I am late, they will be there soon. Now quit jawing with me and go help Bob fix the problem."

He smiled, tipped his head and said, "On my way. Take it easy Cal. It's not like the first time for you."
 
 

It was  a warm spring day, they had been on the trail of  "The Zippo Bandit,"  he was named this because at every fire he started he left a Zippo cigarette lighter. He always made a point to take something, mostly insignificant items. At first the fires were small, just for attention, then they progressively became larger. The office had received a tip regarding an area where the elusive person could be found.

They had been riding trail for several days, hoping to spot this person. As well they hoped to prevent another fire.
Cal and two other men had just dismounted and were standing on a hillside taking in the area below when he spotted the woman on horseback. She was mesmerizing, her flowing blond hair dancing with the breeze. When the men saw him fixed on something, they turned their binoculars in the same direction.  It wasn't long before they were guffawing and teasing him.

He took the teases in stride but left them to find the woman and tell her what was happening. At least that was his excuse.

When she heard him approaching, and yelling, she urged her horse to run faster. The trail was narrow, it took lots of leaps and dodges to escape pitfalls.  Still the horses galloped through the area, their riders glued to the saddles they sit, until the woman's horse suddenly came to a stop.

He slowed his horse at the same time wondering what caused her to stop so quickly.  It was then he saw the rifle she held in one hand, her other on the reins. Raising his hands in the air he urged his horse slowly forward.

"Far enough, unless you want to feel the heat of a bullet!  Why are you chasing me?"

Cal cleared his throat and replied, "Saw you on the trail and wanted to warn you."

"Of what?"  She looked around. "I see nothing but trees and God's creatures about."

He swallowed hard, then said, "My name is Cal White, I work for the Forest Service. You have heard of the Zippo Bandit haven't you?"

She nodded. "Yes, I've heard of  this person. I don't even own a lighter, much less a Zippo, so why don't you go on about your business and let me go on about mine."

He pursed his lips for a second then spoke, "This area is closed to the public. My men and I have been on the Bandit's trail for days.  He is up here somewhere and I aim to find him.  I don't want some woman getting hurt."

Her blue-green eyes seemed to shoot fire at him. "'Some woman,' Ranger?  I am not 'some woman,' name is Bobie Parker, my father is Sheriff Bob Parker and I can handle myself thank you."

He tried to smile but failed. "Sorry, Miss, didn't mean to rile you. Been riding trail for several days, I must be a sight.  I didn't know, besides how do I know you are who you say?"

Her horse shifted back and forth from one leg to the other rocking her in the saddle. "And just how am I supposed to know, you are who you say?"  Bobie asked, raising one eyebrow for effect.

"Truce then?"  The man smiled toward her.

Nodding she replied, "You show me yours and I'll show you mine.  Don't go getting any ideas Ranger, I am talking about identification."
 

Cal smiled as he thought of  the first time he laid eyes on Bobie Parker.  She was feisty, he would give her that.
 
 

The two women stood side by side, their wrists tied to a corral post. Sky stared toward the horses. "I'm sorry."

"Not your fault.  Neither of us thought there was anyone else. If you hadn't called me out, the man would have killed the horses as well as you and then me.  Either way, I would be his prisoner. Rather have you alive if that is all right with you."

"We are in a tight spot Bobie.  There is no reason to sugarcoat it. The man, Jim Trenton or so he says, will not hesitate to kill either of us. And . . ."

"It's all right Sky.  I'm a big girl. I know what men like that do to women before they kill them. I just wish I hadn't gotten you in this predicament."

Sky dug the toe of her right boot into the ground. "I had a glorious time. If I had it all to do over again, I would never change the time I have spent with you."

Bobie tried to pull her wrists from their leather confines as she said, "I am taken aback at your words, Skylar Richmond.  Did that man hit you on the head too?  I'm sure this is one scene you would gladly pass."

"Stop pulling, you will only make them tighter and hurt yourself in the process,"  Sky chided adding,  "No, he didn't hit me on the head.  I should have done something. Perhaps this scene would not have happened."

"Like what? Move and he would have shot you, don't think he wouldn't. You did the only thing you could."

Sky moved her hands closer, reaching out she touched Bobie's. "If they separate us, I want you to remember, these men will not let either of us live. Don't believe a word they say."

Bobie gripped Sky's hand for a second. "Never met anyone like you, even if I die this day I will die happy to have known you."

Sky felt as if her heart were tearing from the inside as she stood tall and looked away.  "Let's think about living this day. I for one have too many things left to do in this life."

Bobie gazed up into Sky's emerald green eyes. "Since my father died, I have done all I could to stay away from heartache.  You die this day Skylar Richmond and I will never forgive you."

"I like you too, Deputy Parker.  Now, what would Annie Oakley do in a situation like this?"

Bobie looked away and replied, "I think she would be wishing for the Cavalry right bout now."
 
 

Jim Trenton frowned at his men. They were milling around the fireplace, eating drinking and talking.  He sat back, poured whiskey into his cup of coffee and called out, "You get your fill, we need to talk about the two women!"

The men grew silent as they turned to stare at the man. Finally Carl Weatherford stepped forward. "Case we haven't said it, Thanks.  None of us were looking forward to being jailed."  He walked to the table, pulled out a chair and sat.

Jim downed his coffee, all the time his eyes taking in the room. "They really call the Rangers?"

"Fraid so. No reason to lie. They had a cell and from what we could make out, they are due here this morning sometime."

The man stood. "Then you had best get your bellies full so we can take care of business."

Tad Smith set his plate down, looked at the man and said, "We ain't needing to kill them. Take what's ours and go. People will come and let them go."

Jim took two long steps, reached out, grabbed the young man by his collar lifting him off the floor and growled. "You getting all soft on us boy?!  Ifn that's the case, I'm sure the fellas won't mind leaving you behind with the women."

His eyes grew large as he cried out, "No. No sir nothin soft bout me.  Just thought I'd mention it that's all."

The man lowered him to his feet then asked, "Anyone else got lovin feelings for the women?"

They all shook their heads and mumbled, "No."
 
 

Sky and Bobie heard the cabin door open, and both braced for what was to come.

Four  men left to gather as many deer as they could, leaving three at the cabin.  Jim Trenton approached them, rifle in hand.  Bringing up the rear was Carl Weatherford, and Odin Marshall.

"Hope you two have said your last goodbys, it's time."

Jim Trenton reached out and in a flash cut through the ties that bound Sky's wrists. Odin and Carl grasped her arms and turned her to face the man who held a deadly looking Bowie knife In his right hand.

Bobie pulled at her ties and screamed, "What are you going to do to us?!"

His eyes went from Sky to Bobie before he said, "Deputy Parker, I knew your father.  He was good to me and mine at one
time. I owe him a favor.  I'm going to let you go.  Carl will take you up the trail, from there you can find your way back down
the mountain.  Consider it pay back."  Bobie felt the man's breath on her face as he leaned over and cut her leather ties and
said, "That is unless you care so much for the woman, you wish to join her."

She turned to stare at him, her stomach in an upheaval. "I'm glad my father was kind to you.  I appreicate this."  Her eyes flew to Sky. "The woman, is someone I was to babysit. And I don't care what you do with her."

The look on Sky's face sent a sickening wave throughout Bobie's body.

"Bob . . ."  Sky didn't finish the word, but Bobie felt her pain and disillusionment.

The man grinned, "Tie the Redhead to one of the curing wheels. Carl, take Deputy Parker, see she gets off all right."
 


                          Curing Wheel

The two men started to lead Sky toward the wooden wheel that was almost her height. As she looked at the wheel, and the two animal skins on a nearby one, she was not going to be strung up like some animal and skinned.  If they thought it would be easy for them, they were mistaken. As they stepped forward, Sky stepped back throwing them off balance. In an instant she somersaulted backwards freeing herself from their grasp.

Bobie went to move but found Jim's rifle trained on her. If she made any sudden movement, it was plain to see, he would shoot. She admired Skylar Richmond, the woman had more spunk than anyone she ever knew.

Sky was in full form blocking every strike they made. She had the two men breathing heavily as they kicked, struck and cursed at her. Carl came close once, Sky had just dodged Odin's attack barely turning in time to feel the air pass her face as his fist passed.

Jim Trenton watched his men flounder around the area.  Scowling, he called out, "She's one woman, You gonna let her make fools of you?!"

Odin looked at Carl both of their faces were red, and it was evident neither of them were used to much exercise. "We got her cornered now boss!"  Odin called out, all the time his eyes were on the flaming redhead that was eyeing the two like they were dinner.

"Looks more like she's got you two!"  He laughed and motioned for Bobie to back up.

The two men knew Trenton could fire at them any minute if they didn't subdue the woman.  They sent eye signals back and forth. After circling one way then the other Odin rushed the woman only to be met with a karate chop to the neck, as he fell Carl Weatherford closed in. Sky was now moving in circles looking every bit like a cat circling its prey.
At this time, Carl grabbed a chain that was hanging on a nearby hook and began to swing it over his head, the sound whirring though the air with each pass.

Bobie called out her name but Sky ignored the woman.  It was when he made a run for her, the chain coming nearer, she called back, "Don't trust anything, Deputy!"  She never let Carl get out of her eyesight and was quickly back in form, dodging the man's many attempts to strike and all the time knowing just one blow from the deadly chain might be her last breath.

Odin had scrambled to his feet, hand on his neck as he stumbled backwards, trying to get out of the fight zone. Sky fell to the ground, rolled and rolled as Carl struck out hitting nothing but dirt.  He was so intent in striking her, he didn't realize she was rolling toward an old wagon; as she rolled under it, his chain stuck in the spokes of a wheel.

Cursing himself, he tugged at the chain. Sky reached out grasped the chain pulling so hard it brought him toward her and at the same time her right leg struck out making contact with his stomach. Carl groaned and fell over hitting the ground with a thud.

It was then a gunshot echoed the area and a bullet struck the ground near Sky. Jim Trenton's voice cold and deadly ordered, "Get out from under there, now! I've had enough, Next shot will be through you. Thought I'd let the boys have a little fun, seems I have to teach them better."

Sky rolled out, her eyes staring toward Bobie. "Don't shoot.  I give."

Odin walked toward her, followed by Bobie and Jim walking behind holding the rifle to Bobie's back. He gritted his teeth and commanded, "Stay on your knees!"  In those seconds, Skylar Richmond said a silent prayer, she could outmaneuver them but she could not beat a bullet. Odin was still holding his neck as Jim Trenton approached.

"Take Deputy Parker, now.  I'll take care of Skylar Richmond!"

Bobie looked back once and it was then she heard the woman call out, "Remember what I said!"
 

With all the foliage, it wasn't long before they were out of sight and the man turned his full attention on the woman. He stepped  behind Sky, grabbed a handful of hair, and pulled her head back, the barrel of his rifle on her neck. "I should pull the trigger and be done with you.  No woman going to mess with me and my boys. You will pay."

Sky glared at the man. "Rangers will be here soon, then it will be you and your boys that will pay.  I know you're not letting Deputy Parker go. Why do you have to kill her?"

He threw his head back and laughed gruffly, "Same reason I have to kill you. You seen us."

Carl Weatherford was coming around, the man was moving slowly, groaning with every movement. Sky never saw Jim Trenton's fist until she felt it make contact with her jaw snapping her head back as she hit the ground, darkness surrounded her.

Carl was on his feet stumbling up to the man. "How?"  He stared at the unconscious woman on the ground.

"Should never send a boy to do a man's work. Help me get her up to the wheel, stretch her out, like the animal she is."
 
 

Chapter Fourteen
 
 

The path was narrow, and it took a careful eye to be aware of each step.  They had been walking into thick foliage for a while.  Bobie stopped leaned over grasped her knees and said, "Need to rest, the trail is steep."

Odin stood back, the butt of his rifle on his knee as he observed the woman. "Won't be long and this will all be a dream Deputy, best keep moving."

She stood, turned to stare into his dark eyes and replied, "If you're going to shoot me, might as well be here."

He ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth.  "What makes you think I'm goin to kill you?  Jim said to let you go."

She smiled. "I thought maybe you were. If you say you are not, then I believe you. I also know I owe his kindness to my father. I really can make it the rest of  the way by myself. You should be thinking of heading back, helping the others."

His finger was on the trigger of the rifle, though relaxed as he replied, "Don't you go worrying your pretty little head about me, I
will follow orders then get back. By that time Ol Jim ought to have your friend begging for death."

If he thought his words would upset her, he was mistaken. There was no look of surprise in her eyes, no sign of emotion as she turned to gaze upward. "All right, come on, let's go."

The man smiled as he watched her stepping carefully, one foot in front of the other. The rise was looming closer as Bobie bent over and mumbled, "Hold up, there is a pebble in my boot. Just a sec." While she was bending over, she made certain to move her hips in a sensuous way.  Bobie Parker hoped it would take Odin's mind off killing for a few seconds anyway. While removing the boot and pretending to empty it, she also grasped a handful of dirt.

Carl was still in pain, his neck throbbed and it was all he could do not to shoot the woman right there. He had to admit watching Bobie Parker check out her boot certainly had him feeling something other than pain at that moment. "Come-on, ain't got all day, let's move."

She nodded and began walking once more. Her left hand on a rock, she tried to find footing and said, "This is getting very treacherous, hope you ate your fortified cereal."

He stepped closer. "I ate. Need a boost . . . ?"   At that moment, her left leg struck back, her foot making solid contact with the man's knee. The sickening crunch as he cried out in pain was all she needed to hear.  In an instant she whirled, flinging the dirt into his eyes. Her right leg shot out knocking the gun to the side, as her right fist sunk into his soft stomach.

He went down sounding like a balloon after the air is let out. Bobie quickly took his rifle, found several thick vines and tied the man securely. She left Odin tied near a large tree then turned and made her way back down the trail.  In her thoughts was the tall woman that somehow had penetrated the fence around her heart.  She didn't know what she felt for Skylar Richmond, she only knew she liked the woman and wanted to get to know her better.

Stopping she gazed down toward the cabin, she could see Carl standing in the open area. Her heart jumped into her throat when she saw the beautiful woman tied to a wooden wheel.  Sky was a fighter. She would not have let them tie her up like that without a fight.  It was up to her to get there in time to save the woman, to save their friendship. With every step she took, she prayed Sky was alive.
 
 

Jim Trenton stepped out of the cabin, in his hand was a coiled black whip. Carl looked toward the man and asked, "You really don't like this woman do you Jim?  A whip?  Even I think that is too much."  The man barely got the words out when he felt the talons wrap around his own throat pulling him to the ground. Struggling to remove the leather he cried out, "You mad?! We need to get out of here.  Heard the shot up in the hills the same as you, Odin should be back soon."

Finally releasing the leather from his neck, Trenton glared at the man. "You want what I'm goin to give the woman?  Keep interfering and I will. When Odin gets here we will go. Till then, I want to welcome this beauty to our world. She made fools of you boys, seems you would want to see her get the whipping she deserves."  As he walked away from Carl, he made sure the whip was coiled and ready.

Sky had been drifting in and out of lightness, the blow to her jaw pained, her head felt like a big wheel had run over it and she was having a hard time staying focused. The man, Jim Trenton had been toying with her for sometime.  It seemed to give him power to push his body against hers, run his hands over her knowing she couldn't do anything about it. He promised to make her last breaths a living hell and he was succeeding.  Her body ached where his hands had gripped and punched, her neck screamed where the man's teeth left marks.
 

She had been going in and out of consciousness and thought she heard Carl and the man in dispute. It was when Trenton grasped her hair, pulling her head back so she could see him. At that moment she felt her time had finally come. "Get it over,
kill me,"  she murmured.

He reached out, caressed her face, his left hand tracing her lips. "I told you, you will die but it will be a slow death. First, you will feel my wrath."

"You are bigger, stronger than me, why not let me go?  Let me at least die fighting you?"

He grinned sadistically. "I saw  how you move, how you fight and no, I will not put myself in that position. You're my captive, you will feel me in many ways before I am through."

Carl had approached the man and stuttered, "Jim, Rangers be here soon, we have to leave."

He turned to scowl at Carl. "Leave Odin here?  Is that what you are saying?"

"Odin knows how to find us, let's get while the getting is good."

"Soon as I teach Miss high and mighty a lesson."

Carl glanced toward Sky and replied, "Seems she has been taught a lesson already. I don't think she will ever interfere with anyone again. We need to go."

The man released a deep growl from within, narrowed his eyes and said, "You want to die next to the bitch?  If not, step back."

Carl looked at Sky, in his eyes was sorrow but the man stepped back.

Jim turned his attention to Sky once more. This time pulling her shirt from her jeans, then taking his knife and cutting the back of the shirt open. "Don't want anything between me and your beautiful skin."  He pressed a kiss then said, "Your skin crawls under my touch, wait till my whip kisses you with its hungry talons. Better prepare, I'm going to beat you till you pass out, leave you hanging here for the bear, and wolf to feed on."

Sky closed her eyes and prayed for death to come quickly.
 

The snap of the whip in the seemingly tranquil forest echoed the area as the thirsty talons struck with malice.  Sky wanted to scream wanted to fight this man but all she could do was grasp the wood, grit her teeth and cry as she waited for the next blow.

As Jim Trenton was coiling the whip a rifle shot sounded and a bullet cut through the handle, sending it to the ground in withering stillness. Trenton stared at the piece of handle he still held, surprise shown on his face as Carl yelled, "I told you we should go!  The Rangers are here now, and we are in for it!"

Trenton cursed and ran for his rifle at the same time a bullet cut through his right leg sending the man to the ground.  Carl gazed around fear on his face and fell to his knees crying out, "Don't shoot me! Don't shoot me!"

Jim Trenton was still trying to crawl to his rifle when Bobie Parker set her right foot on the man's wound.  He groaned and stopped moving. "Parker!  Thought you were dead!"

Bobie looked at the man, distaste on her face and it was all she could do not to put a bullet through his heart. Instead she brought the butt of the rifle down on the side of his face.  Then walked toward Carl Weatherford, handed him a strand of leather and said, "Go tie him up, make sure it is good and tight. You try running, I'll give you the same thing I gave him."

The man nodded and from the look on his face, she knew Carl was not going anywhere. Grabbing a knife, she hurried to Skylar.
Quickly cutting through the ties that held her to the wheel, she then helped the woman to the ground. "I'm so sorry Sky. I'm so sorry."

Sky opened her eyes to gaze into Bobie's.  "Took you long enough," she smiled and passed out in Bobie's arms.
 
 

Sky was laying on her right side. A blanket placed strategically keeping her warm. Bobie was standing near the fireplace in  deep conversation with Carl Weatherford.

"You didn't like what Trenton was doing to Skylar Richmond, yet you tried to kill her yourself, what gives?"

"Made me mad. If I killed her would have been her fault for running, for striking out.  I don't just kill for the enjoyment of it."

Bobie sighed. "Tell that to the deer you all left dead and dying.  I am thankful you did have a turn of heart in regard to Miss Richmond."

He frowned, gazed toward Sky then asked, "Thought you didn't like the woman?  You said you were baby-sitting her."

"Didn't mean it. Sky is a wonderful woman.  Just didn't want Trenton thinking we were close or anything like that."

The man mulled over her words then said, "Probably right, had he thought the two of you were close, he would have set up some sort of game.  Still I saw the woman's face and your words hurt."

"I know. I will make it up to Sky. For now, go sit and don't move. I need to tend to her."
 

The whirring sound of a chopper cut through the silence in the cabin.  Bobie was sitting near Sky, her eyes taking in every movement the woman made.  Sky had been in and out of  wakefulness. All she could do was give her water to drink, and talk to the woman letting her know everything would be all right.  When she heard the chopper, she knew Cal White was probably piloting.  Standing she walked toward Carl, took out a leather tie and secured the man to the chair.  Quickly stepping outside to gaze toward the meadow.

Cal White had put down and was already heading her direction, when he saw Bobie, he smiled and waved.  Within minutes she went to meet him.  He stopped immediately seeing concern on her face and asked what was the matter?

She told the man as much as she could before asking for the medical kit.  He went back to get this all the time wondering just what happened.  He had seen the man tied near the front of the cabin, he looked like he might have been injured. As he grasped the medical kit, he turned and headed toward him.

Before he reached Jim Trenton, Bobie reached out and took the medical kit. "Need this inside."

"What about the man?"

She glanced toward Jim Trenton and replied, "I have done the best I could.  When I am finished with this, you can use your wonders to help him."

Cal followed her into the cabin, his eyes taking in the man tied to the chair and the woman laying on a bedroll.  "Where are the others?"
 

Bobie called back, "Sit. We'll be ready to go soon. Others got away. Except for Mr. Weatherford sitting in front of you, and the man outside, Jim Trenton. Oh yes another one up on the trail, Odin  Maxwell."

He sat, then remarked, "From the looks of things you haven't been idle. I thought you had the whole group ready and waiting?"

Bobie turned and said, "Why don't you take Mr. Weatherford outside, while I tend to Sky. Whatever you do, stay away from Trenton. The man is evil incarnate."

After the two left the cabin, Bobie whispered, "Sky, I have a medical kit, want to put something on the welt, on your back, There is something for pain in here too. I think you should take something."

Sky shivered inwardly. "There is a bite near my neck, in the back, might put something on it.  If we are not careful, I just may turn into a werewolf."

"Not funny woman.  I hate myself for what has happened to you."  As she was saying this, Bobie brushed fiery hair off the woman's neck, placing it over her shoulder. There was silence then a deep gasp.

Sky tried to move as Bobie muttered, "More likely rabies."

Sky whispered,  "Is it bad?"

"He left a mark for sure. I hate myself for not standing up for you."  She cleaned and put medicine on the bite and the welt. Then covered them with gauze, which she taped carefully. When finished she stood, and went to get a glass of water. Sky managed to sit, still feeling dizzy and cursing herself for letting this happen.

Bobie kneeled beside her. "Here, take the pill, drink the water, it will help ease the pain. I could see you are bruised up, I shudder when I think what that man did to you." A friend of mine, Cal White, a Ranger is here, he is in a chopper, we can go back with him.

Sky swallowed the pill, drank the water then said, "Don't hate yourself, you did the right thing. One of us in this fix is enough. What about Trenton and Weatherford?"

"Have to take them back too.  It will be all right, I will make sure nothing happens ever again."

Sky managed a smile. "Have your word on it Deputy?"

Bobie grinned, "Well I promise to give it my best shot.  Sky . . . I need to apologize to you."

Sky grabbed her head as she groaned, "No need to apologize. Your words hurt me at first, then I realized what you were doing. It's all right Bobie, I may have done the same thing.  Guess you know you have me now, there is no getting out of it."

 Reaching down to help the woman to her feet, Bobie looked perplexed. "Have you?  What are you talking about?"

"They say whenever someone saves your life, that person is indebted to you for life."

Reaching out to help the woman to a chair, Bobie muttered, "Just a saying nothing else. I don't  want you to feel you owe me, cause you don't.  It was my fault we fell into this predicament in case you have forgotten."

Sitting carefully, Sky pulled the blanket tighter and said, "I don't do anything I don't want. In so far as your fault, I disagree. You had a lovely day planned, a remarkable day. I enjoyed it very much. You had nothing to do with those men, it just happened.  In life, things happen, to me it is a closed book.  I just hope we are still friends, at least partners for a while."

Bobie smiled, her eyes melding with Sky's. "Friends and partners for as long as you wish. Will you be all right?  I'm going to go give Cal the medical kit."

Sky nodded, leaned forward and said, "I'll be fine. You do what you need too. I'll be right here when you get back. Pill should kick in soon."
 
 

Cal took Carl and went to get Odin Marshall. He was amazed when he found the man all tied up with heavy vines.  Bobie had made sure he wasn't going anywhere. She had neglected to mention the man would have a hard time walking.  Between the two men, they managed to bring him back down the trail.  Once near the cabin, they eased Odin to the ground. Carl went to get some water and the medical kit. When he returned, Cal took a knife and slit the leg of  the man's jeans exposing a very red, swollen knee.

Jim Trenton was staring at them, and called out, "Woman got you too Odin?  Don't go getting all sissified like Carl. Damn turncoat!"

At that moment Odin was thinking of the pain his knee was in and could care less what Jim Trenton was spouting. He looked at Cal and could see he was a Ranger. "Can you help me?"

Cal gazed at the knee, his fingers palpating the area as the man groaned in pain. "Do what I can. How did this happen?"

"Woman, Parker, kicked me."

He tried not to smile as he went about trying to ease the man's discomfort.  "She has a powerful kick all right."
 
 

Once everyone was loaded in the chopper, and Sky was wearing the top of a  hospital scrub set, Bobie left a note for the others asking if they would please get the horses back to Fletcher's stables. She briefly explained what occurred and was happy to climb onboard the chopper and be on their way out of the area.

Jim Trenton was secured as well as Odin. She knew Carl would not do anything so he was unrestrained. Though she kept an eagle eye on the men.  Sky was passive, only once did her emerald green eyes shoot sparks at Jim Trenton, other than that, she ignored the man. Bobie knew the woman was seething inside. All she wanted to do was to get back, away from these men as soon as they could.

Cal was full of questions. He talked a lot, though he didn't get many answers.  It didn't take long to see the outline of the town  and the chopper soon touched down at the airport.  Waiting was an ambulance, a police car and Cal's own vehicle.

Bobie was standing near Cal watching them take Odin, Jim and Carl away. Two went to the hospital and one to jail.

The ambulance driver said he would come back to pick up the women but Bobie said that wasn't necessary.  Instead she asked Cal if he would drive them to the stables. After filing his reports at the airport, he took them to Fletchers.  It was nice having Bobie Parker sit near by, even if all she seemed to think about was the woman, Skylar Richmond.
 
 

Chapter Fifteen
 
 

Max Fletcher watched Cal drive up before he stepped out to greet the man. He was surprised to see Bobie Parker and Skylar Richmond vacate the vehicle as well.

"Bobie, are you all right?"  It was then he saw Sky moving slowly, and knew the top she wore was not what she was wearing. "What happened?"

Bobie turned to gaze at Cal with a pleading look on her face and said, "They will bring the horses back. I need to get Sky to the hospital. Cal will fill you in if that's all right?"

He scratched his head and looked at Cal.  "Fine by me. From the looks of Miss Richmond, seeing a doctor the sooner the better is a good idea."  She could tell by the look on  his face the man wanted to ask a lot of questions. Bobie smiled toward Cal and thanked him, then turned to help Sky to the pickup.

Bobie sighed as she drove  the pickup from the area it was a good feeling to be away from Bear Mountain and the cabin. She did feel bad leaving the horses. At that moment, Sky was her top priority as she turned the vehicle toward town.

"No!"  Sky's voice cut through the silence.

Bobie hit the brakes and pulled the truck off the road, then turned to the woman. "Scare me out of what's left of  my life woman. What is the matter? Are you in pain?"

Sky gazed at her, nothing showing on her face, and answered, "'Pain' . . . yes. I don't want to go to the hospital, home, take me home."

Bobie leaned back against the seat, reached out and touched Sky's right hand. "You have been through a terrible ordeal, and you need to be examined, x-rayed, medicated."

"Stop right there. I have been touched and prodded enough for a life time. All I want is to go home, rest, I'll be fine. I have your wonderful help, much better than any hospital."

"You need medication. All I have is aspirin, and you need something stronger."

"Then take me to a doctor, I'll get some medication."

Bobie smiled. "You sure are a hard head, all right, Doc Taylor's place isn't far from here, I'll take you.  If he insists on the hospital, no argument you are going young lady."

Sky grinned at Bobie's authoritative way.  She was older than the woman, of this she was sure. But when Bobie Parker gave orders, most people obeyed it seemed. Sky thought for a second then said, "All right, deal.  At the same time, if he says you need to go to the hospital, you go."

Bobie chuckled. "Deal."
 
 

Doctor Matthew Taylor was a kindly looking middle-aged  man.  His hair now looked like freshly fallen winter snow set off by  the small goatee beard on his chin. The spectacles that perched on his aquiline nose looked right at home. He had just walked  toward the front of his office when he noticed the pickup pulling into his drive.
Observing Bobie Parker and the tall redhead disimbard the vehicle, it was obvious the two had run into some problems.  Neither looked in good shape, though the redhead looked worse.  Before they could open the door, he already had it open.

"Bobie, good to see you again. Come in. What happened to you two?"

"Ran into trouble on Bear Mountain. Miss . . ."

Sky interrupted, reaching out a hand saying, "Skylar Richmond, Doctor.  I could use some pain medication."

His eyes darted from one woman to the other before he said, "Come on back, first waiting room to the right."

"I'll sit and flip through a magazine. Be right here when you get out,"  Bobbie offered, then walked toward a chair.

"Come with me, "  Sky turned to say.

Bobie nodded and approached the woman. "I'll keep you company till Doc comes in."
 

Once they were in the examining room, Sky turned to Bobie.  "I'm only doing this to pacify you, you know this don't you?"

"I know.  I think Bernie Herbella was right in wanting you to leave."

"Had nothing to do with our outing and the poachers.  His concern was more in the deaths, the mystery that surrounded them.  So stop feeling sorry for me.  I hate people to feel sorry for me.  I have a mind, I have a body, I do what I want.  So stop."

"All right, I give. Still it was my fault," Bobie mumbled as she helped Sky to a chair.
 

Wasn't long before Doc Taylor came in the room, his stethoscope clinging precariously on his shoulders as he closed the  door behind him and said,  "I need you Miss Richmond on the examining table, do you need help?"

Sky stood, her movements were slow. "I'm fine."

He glanced at Bobie and winked then said, "I can take it from here Deputy."

Bobie stood up, walked to Sky and said, "While Doc is examining you, I will go to the Sheriff's office. Need to find out what is  taking place, if they are back yet. If that is all right with you?"

"Like I told the doctor, I'm fine."

"Promise you won't go taking off on me?"  Bobie asked, her eyes searching Sky's.

"Promise. I'm in good hands, go."
 

Bobie walked into the office, her head ached, her body stressed and the last thing she needed was to come face to face with  Sheriff Ben Burgess. Straightening up, she walked toward the man, who had just hung up the phone.

When he saw the woman, Sheriff Burgess stood and walked toward her.  "Deputy, good to see you.  Come sit, fill me in on  what happened out there."

Bobie sighed and walked to the man's office, once seated she looked at him. "I think you know most of what happened.  I will  fill out a report about the rest."

He had stepped behind his desk, sat, picked up a pencil and began to twirl it in and out of his fingers like a baton. "Before you  leave here, you will fill out a complete report, but I want you to sit right there and tell me everything that happened to you this  day."

"Sheriff, was my day off.  If you must know this very minute what happened at the cabin, I will tell you."

The crack of the pencil in the  man's fingers gave way to the anger showing in his eyes. "May have been your day off. But you   were supposed to report to the hospital for a check up and blood work. You didn't, your friend assured me she would make   sure you made it there.  Instead, the two of you go off joy riding and get into trouble. If  I'm supposed to feel bad for you, I   don't.  If you had done what you were supposed to, none of this would have happened. I have already called Miss  Richmond's place of business and I am sure she will be called back immediately."

Bobie had never seen Ben Burgess so riled, the man's temple was actually pulsating as he spoke.  Sheriff, I don't expect you to  feel bad for me. Have I missed something?  Your anger is so unlike you?"

He stood, walked to a file cabinet turned and replied, "It has been a strenuous day. We ran into some of the poachers trying to  make a getaway on Eagle Road. They decided to fire instead of giving up. I lost Deputy Carmine.  Still, have to talk to his  family.  One of the Rangers was wounded during the conflict."

"Bobie swallowed and took a deep breath before she said, "Iím sorry to hear about Carmine and the Ranger, but this was not   my fault, you act as if it is. Sheriff, don't you know how much this has hurt me, how deeply Iím pained over it all?"

He took out a file folder and walked back to the desk, sitting he answered, "I know you, and yes, Iím sure it has and is hurting  you.  But I must ask, is it because of all the injuries, the people involved, the devastation?   Or is it because your friend Skylar Richmond was injured and a very big part of this?"

Bobie leaned back in the leather chair, her body seemed to sigh as she felt it wrap her in its softness. She gazed at the man for  several minutes, contemplating what he said. "All of what you mention. If I could take it all away, I would.  I cannot. Yes it  bothers me to see Skylar Richmond injured. I don't know what you are getting at Sheriff, I try to do what you ask and get
treated like some criminal myself."

He pursed his lips, made several clucking noises with his tongue before replying. "I did ask you to watch the woman, so in this  case, you are right. If I have overstepped lines, I apologize.  Then you should be relieved and it will not bother you to see her board the company  plane this afternoon?"

"Wha . . ."  The look on her face said it all.

He stood and said, "It could happen, Bernie Herbella will be calling me soon with the details. Now, I think perhaps you had  best go fill out the report.  That is, if you feel up to it.  Ever since the media got wind Skylar Richmond was here, the office has had to field their calls. With this recent fiasco, it will just get worse."

Standing, Bobie seemed perplexed and asked, "'If I feel up to it?'  Just minutes ago you gave me an order to do just this."

He tried to smile as he hitched up his pants and walked to the door. "Can't a person be given some leeway?  I have a lot on my  mind and shoulders at this time. The recent deaths, Mrs. Littleton's lawyers threatening to sue, your recent wreck, this fiasco involving  poachers on Bear Mountain. On top of this I am now a Deputy short, and still have to talk to his widow.  Then there are all the little things happening. Maybe you could cut me some slack."

She nodded and walked into the outer office.  Sheriff Burgess made his excuses and left.  Bobie walked to a desk and began to look for the forms.  As she was rifling through the drawers, Meg Bartlett called out, "Sorry to hear about your friend.  Sounds like the two of you had quite an adventure."

Finding what she was looking for, Bobie placed them on the desk as she gazed toward  Meg who was chewing and popping her gum in what sounded like a small fourth of July Fireworks show.  "It has been a trying two days, if you will forgive me, I need to fill out these forms."

Meg acted like she didn't hear her and said, "Heard that Jim Trenton really got physical, if you know what I mean."

Gritting her teeth and counting to ten Bobie replied, "I'm not talking about it. Now, if you will excuse me, I really need to do this."

Meg popped her gum and mumbled, "Just put some coffee on, can I get you a cup?"

Realizing the woman wouldn't take, no for an answer she nodded and said, "Sounds good. Thanks."

While Meg walked into the small room to retrieve the coffee, Bobie called Doc Taylor. When the man answered the phone, she told him she would be longer and asked how Sky was doing.  He said that he had given her a sedative and she was sleeping at the moment. This made her feel some better, at least Sky would not be wondering where she was. After Meg brought the coffee, she started to jabber again and this time Bobie stood, took the coffee and went into the Sheriff's office closing the door.
Leaving a very haughty disgruntled woman staring after her, chewing and popping her gum even louder if that was possible.
 
 

When she finished the report and had sealed it in an envelope, Bobie left it on the Sheriff's desk.  She was very happy to get away from the office and more relieved when she was in the pickup driving to Doc Taylor's' office. Entering the office, she was greeted by several patients in the waiting room.  Smiling she shook hands with each one.  Doc poked his head out of a room when he heard them and called out, "Deputy, glad you made it. If you can pull yourself away, we need to talk."

As she walked to the examining room, many thoughts were running through her head. Foremost was, had the doctor found something threatening and was Sky all right?  Entering the room, she noticed Doc Taylor looked serious and this added to her fears.  He held out a chair and asked her to sit, then he did the same.  Once they were seated his fingers began tapping a patient folder on his lap.

"Doc, you are scaring me. What is it?"  She leaned forward, looking to him for some word of relief.

He now held the folder and opened it, carefully thumbing through the pages of information. "Took several tests today,  should have the answer to one soon.  You did a good job of doctoring. Ever think of taking up nursing?"

She shook her head replying, "I have my hands full with the job I have. I do the best I can. Tell me, is Skylar Richmond all right?"

He looked at a page in the folder then up at her, his blue eyes gazing over the top of his glasses. "I can't talk about specifics, this is up to Miss Richmond but you must see she is able to rest and recuperate from this.  No sudden trauma, no out chasing the bad guys for a while. Can you manage this?"

She bit at her lower lip, all the time her eyes looking for some confirmation to her question. "Yes, I can handle this, But Sky, Miss Richmond needs to be aware of this and will go along."

With a twinkle in his eye he smiled and stood. "Oh I don't think Miss Richmond will have a problem with it, as long as you are nearby. Follow me. I'll take you to her.  Might be a good thing to let me examine you too."

"I am tired and ache but I will be fine.  I am more concerned about Skylar Richmond."  Stepping into the hallway, Bobie asked the man, ""Did she say anything about me?"

He grinned, "Said Annie Oakley had nothing on you. Guess this is something between the two of you.  If she is awake, make sure before you two leave, to get the prescriptions at the front desk and remember what I said.  I'd like to see her back here in two weeks."

Bobie was relieved to enter the room and see Sky sleeping, she walked to a chair and sat.  It had been a harrowing experience and for the first time she felt like closing her eyes.
 

It was Doc Taylor that woke her with several gentle pats on her shoulder as he whispered, "Bobie, wake up, we need to talk."

It took a few minutes to shake the cobwebs out of her head before she looked up at the man and asked, "What?"

He pointed to Sky who was still sleeping. "Out in the hallway." He turned and left the room.

Bobie gazed toward Sky then followed the man. She stretched and yawned as she approached him. "What is wrong?"

His face had grown very serious.  "Just got word that Jim Trenton escaped from the hospital an hour ago."
 
 



 
Continued in chapter sixteen


 
 

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