WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
The minute the Awards Ceremony finished, Becky led Prince Ali off the stage. She wanted to get him back to the horse trailer and give him his bucket of goodies. Walter and Caroline followed them.
Becky and Ali were mobbed. Chuck and Gloria wedged their way through the crowd and threw their arms around Ali’s neck on both sides. With tears in her eyes, Gloria said, “Ali, you saved our lives today!” Chuck stroked his neck and scratched his withers. “That you did, young man,” he told Ali. They wouldn’t leave until Becky gave them a phone number so Gloria could call Mom.
The crowd around Becky and Ali grew larger as more and more people surrounded them. Caroline and Walter became separated from Becky and Ali. Those who knew the Howards owned Ali gathered around them to talk about Ali and Becky, especially those who saw the event mid-parade. That separated them from Becky and Ali even further.
Most horses would be nervous in such a large crowd. Everyone wanted to touch Ali, have their pictures taken with him, and talk to him. Ali was a gentleman. He reveled in the attention. With his lips, he tousled the hair of tiny children who could only reach his knees to pet him. He nodded his head in answer to people’s questions about him. He watched where he stepped so he didn’t smash toes. Becky answered a million questions about Prince Ali, his costume, how he came to be her mount for the day, etc. She and Ali managed to creep along a few feet at a time.
The street faire was in full swing across the street from the park. The street filled with people walking back from the Awards Ceremony and those attending the street faire besides those who wanted to see the celebrity horse up close and personal.
Becky became frustrated with their lack of progress toward the horse trailer. She finally announced that she and Prince Ali had somewhere to go. She asked people to give him some space so she could get him to his “goodie bucket.” That seemed to do the trick, and they were finally able to make some headway.
That was not the case for Caroline. Walter whispered in her ear that he was going back to the El Adobe to save a table for them for lunch. He would meet her there when they got back from taking Prince Ali home. Dad wasn’t thrilled with being stuck in that crowd. Crowds made him uncomfortable. Mom tried moving off toward the horse trailer and spotted Mrs. Grimes heading her way.
Caroline gulped and smiled at her, resigned to her fate. Every town has its own “Mrs. Grimes.” This Mrs. Grimes was a lovely woman. In fact, she was the principal at Becky’s school. She was always one of the most generous citizens in town, especially where the children were concerned. She gave of her time and opened her pocketbook for causes involving what she referred to as “her kids.” At the same time, she was a notorious talker. What Caroline could say in ten words took Mrs. Grimes a hundred or more. Everyone in town loved Mrs. Grimes unless they were in a hurry.
Mrs. Grimes threw her arms around Caroline when she reached her. “Oh, your horse is so lovely and courageous!” she gushed. “I was across the street when that balloon thing happened, and I was so scared those horses were going to stampede. That gorgeous horse of yours, not to mention your lovely daughter Becky, was spot on! I never knew horses could think like that. Can you imagine?”
All Caroline wanted at that moment was to get to the horse trailer and help Becky get the costumes off. She just breathed a little sigh, smiled, and let Mrs. Grimes continue. It wasn’t easy to get a word in the conversation. She couldn’t shove one in sideways with this lady.
When Mrs. Grimes finally ran out of gas and slowed down, Caroline thanked her profusely for her kind words. She promised Mrs. Grimes she could visit Prince Ali at home. She explained she needed to get to the horse trailer so she and Becky could take Ali home. They wanted to come back and enjoy some of the street faire. Unfortunately, that opened another topic for Mrs. Grimes. She prattled on for another few minutes about some of the new vendors at the El Mercado this year.
Caroline didn’t want to annoy Mrs. Grimes in any way, but time was flying by, and she didn’t want to leave Becky and Ali alone for too long. She finally explained that to Mrs. Grimes, who completely understood. “Yes, sometimes I do chatter on a bit. You’d better head on over and take care of your family,” the older woman insisted. She hugged Caroline again and hurried off to catch someone else she’d spied in the distance.
Becky got Ali back to the parade staging area and walked him around the trailer to the shady side nearest the building. She tied him to the side of the trailer and pulled his goodie bucket out of the dressing room. She also fixed him a fresh water bucket and sat it down on the pavement within his reach. Ali was no different from most males, guided by his stomach. He reached into the goodie bucket for a mouthful of grain before taking a drink of water. Chewing and with his muzzle still dripping, he turned his head toward Becky.
She jumped back, giggling, “No, you don’t, Mister. You keep your sloppy mouth to yourself. We don’t need your drool all over this nice costume.” She began removing the costume from Ali and hanging up what she could in the trailer. She wondered what kept Mom but continued working while telling Ali what a good boy he had been and how proud she was. As soon as Becky finished pulling the costume off Ali, she stepped into the trailer to remove her outfit, closing the side door behind her.
The Hix brothers got off the freeway on the Ortega Highway exit and drove to the trailer parking area. They cruised the area slowly, looking for horses with no one around. There were still quite a few people putting wheeled vehicles in their rigs. A few were busy stowing tack. Some were getting their horses ready to load up for the trip home. They saw no unattended horses.
“I told you we shoulda been here an hour ago,” whined Danny. “Looks like most everybody’s gone or getting ready for the haul. There are too many people around here. What‘re we goin’ to do now?”
“Just shut up and keep your eyes open!” Calvin snapped. “There were hundreds of horses here for the parade. They can’t all be gone. We just need one or two that nobody’s watchin’.”
Danny simmered in silence. He was slipping into one of his dark moods. He began obsessing over a minor issue that could consume him for hours. He wasn’t particularly crazy about this whole idea in the first place. He was angry with his brother for dawdling so long at the Drop Inn. They went over to borrow gas money for the trip. Calvin insisted on playing around too much and showing off his pool skills for some girl. It took forever to get his mind back on the job at hand.
They drove around the lot, looking at every rig left in the parking area. Just as it seemed they’d completely missed the boat, they spotted the Howard’s truck and trailer at the end of the lot. They almost passed it by before they saw Ali tied to the far side of the trailer with no one around. It was perfect! They could sneak up on the horse, and nobody could see them.
“Here we go!” Calvin said as he set the parking brake on the old truck. “This one’s it. There’s no one around, and the folks on the other side of the trailer can’t see. Get the tranquilizer ready, will ya? I’ll just make sure there’s nobody here.”
Danny pulled the vial out of his pocket and got a syringe out of the glove box. He twisted a new needle on the syringe. He plunged the needle into the vial and turned the vial upside down. He pulled the plunger on the vial to fill the syringe. “I’m ready.”
Calvin left the engine running, got out, and walked around the Howard’s trailer. He saw no one. He waved Danny over. Danny hopped out of the truck leaving the door open and stepped around the trailer to the far side out of view. “How’re ya doin’ boy?” he asked Ali as he scratched him on the withers and patted his neck. He had the needle in Ali’s neck in a split second, pushed the plunger to deliver the drugs, and pulled the needle out.
“Ouch!” Ali felt the sting of the needle. He’d had shots before from the vet, but not by some stranger who just came up to greet him. That alarmed him. He snorted loudly to alert Becky.
Calvin stood on the other side of Ali, scratching his withers to divert Ali’s attention.
“This will just take a few minutes,” Danny whispered. “We should just stay here until he gets sleepy.”
Becky heard Ali snort and quickly pulled on her tee-shirt. She opened the side door to the trailer and jumped out. She was startled by the two men standing on either side of Ali – then she noticed the syringe in Danny’s hand.
“What do you think you are doing?” she yelled.
Ali heard the anxiety in her voice and became nervous and agitated. He pawed the ground and neighed loudly.
“You’d better get away from my horse right now, or I’ll have the cops on you!” Becky shouted.
She saw a mean look cross Calvin’s face, and she began to fear for herself and Ali. She was determined not to show it, so she stretched up all five feet, four inches, and one hundred ten pounds of herself and stuck out her chin.
“You two better get out of here before I start screaming my head off!”
Numbness began to settle over Ali. “This isn’t right. What are these people up to? I have to protect my Becky! But I don’t feel so good….NO! NO!” Ali screamed a stallion challenge at them, but it didn’t quite come out right. His vision was blurring. The noise in the parking area covered the sound of his scream. No one could see anything because the trailer hid them from view. No one took any notice.
Danny and Calvin had no great love for the police. And they needed the money for this horse. Danny looked over at Calvin, and Calvin waved him backward and pointed at the girl.
“Okay, okay little lady,” Danny mumbled, “I’m leavin’.” He backed up and walked around Becky. As he passed her, she stared daggers at Calvin, who hadn’t moved away from Ali yet.
In a split second, Danny’s pent-up frustration turned to panic and rage. He didn’t like this situation one bit! He hated cops and jails! He was angry about his brother’s dawdling around and getting them here so late. They were only getting half the horses they’d wanted. That cut the money they’d get in half. And now there was a witness!
Danny grabbed her from behind and gave her a violent shove.
The shove caught Becky off guard. She went flying toward the building. She wheeled her arms as she struggled to keep her footing. She tripped on loose gravel on the pavement. She stumbled. She crashed headfirst into the wall of the building. Her momentum bounced her off the building onto the asphalt. Her body rolled partially over and went still. A trickle of blood appeared on her forehead. Blood from the gash on top of her head began staining her long blonde hair a deep red. Her blue eyes closed, and her body twitched once.
Ali tried to whirl around and strike at Danny with his front feet, but his legs would hardly support his weight. He almost fell when he reached the end of his lead. He moaned, “Oh my Becky! Becky, help me if you can. Becky, please get up. What’s happening?” The dark cloud became heavier on him, and he felt his whole body go numb. He began weaving on his feet to stay upright.
“Now you’ve done it!” spat Calvin. “All you needed to do is push ‘er out of the way or hold onto ‘er so we could tie ‘er up or somethin’. But you maybe just killed ‘er. We have to go NOW!”
“Hey, I only pushed ‘er. She’s the one who tripped,” whined Danny.
Ali struggled to stay on his feet. His eyes were at half-mast, and he was beyond caring. His mind shut down with the drugs and the shock. Calvin untied him from the Howard’s trailer and walked him to theirs. He opened the back door. Ali made several attempts to get his front feet up in the trailer. He finally succeeded. Calvin shoved Ali inside and closed the trailer door. Calvin had Danny grab the lead rope through the front window of the trailer and tie Ali inside. Then both men jumped in the truck, slamming the doors.
Calvin jammed the truck in gear and stepped on the gas. He sped to the on-ramp of the freeway a quarter of a mile away. He put his foot to the floorboard, hoping no one saw what