WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Two Orange County Sheriff’s cars showed up at the staging area just as Dad drove away. The deputies talked to bystanders, trying to figure out what happened. When they heard who the victim was, they were very concerned. “That is an important family here. We’d better get the Watch Commander involved right away,” one of them said.
They called their Watch Commander. They told him about Becky Howard. They told him a famous horse owned by the Howards was missing. They didn’t have much information on the case yet but thought he’d want to get involved now.
The Watch Commander’s ears perked up when he heard the name of the victim. “Would that be the daughter of Walter and Caroline Howard?” he asked. He knew and liked Walter Howard and knew the Howards’ reputation. They were heavily involved in their community, state politics, and local charities. He also knew about their horse and instantly wondered if this could be a horse-napping for ransom.
He called the Detective Commander and his superiors immediately. The DC assigned four detectives. Two went to the crime scene to interview witnesses and gather any evidence they could find. The Lead Detective on the case went with his partner to the hospital to interview the Howards. The DC assigned other people to the case. Calls went out fast and furious to different agencies.
The U.S. Border Patrol received a call immediately. They could stop the horse at the border if the suspects tried to get him out of the country that way. To help identify the horse, the Border Patrol requested photographs. The Sheriff’s Department promised to get them copies when they got them. The DC called the State Fish and Wildlife Department because they handle cases that involve animals. He also promised them a photograph of the horse when one was available. The DC also called Orange County Sheriff Nolan’s office because of the high-profile nature of the family involved. The Sheriff’s Department Public Information Officer was alerted in case the media contacted him. The deputies at the parking lot asked all bystanders who might have information to wait until the Detectives got there. Detectives Sharp and Newsome arrived with lights flashing. They looked over the crime scene and collected anything they thought was evidence. They did find some long blonde hairs and some blood on the side of the building. They picked up the syringe Danny dropped. They bagged a cigarette butt found lying on the pavement in front of the Howard’s truck just in case.
They interviewed bystanders. After they talked to the young man who saw the two guys loading a gray horse into a trailer and take off, they made some calls. They set him up with a Sheriff’s Department sketch artist. They got a verbal description of the truck, trailer, and the two men and called it into their Commander. He had an All-Points Bulletin (APB) issued to every law enforcement agency in the State.
Darryl Finn owned and ran the local newspaper for San Juan, Dana Point, and several small surrounding cities. He was at the parade with his photographer to cover the story for his newspaper. His photographer had many pictures of the parade, the crowds, and the awards ceremony.
Finn heard a rumor something was going on in the trailer parking lot. He hurried over to check it out. When he spoke with people in the lot and heard what they knew, he rushed back to the El Mercado to inform the Mayor. The area was closed to cars but filled curb to curb with crowds of people going this way and that.
Finn and Mayor Sterling elbowed their way back to the parking area. They found the Detectives working on the case. Detective Newsome brought them up to date with all they knew at the time. They swapped cards so they could stay in touch.
Finn scribbled in his notebook. He asked his photographer to take pictures of the Howard’s empty truck and trailer for the story. Newsome asked him if he had any photos of the missing horse. They reviewed the digital images on the photographer’s camera. Newsome asked, “Why don’t you guys jump in my squad car. I can get through the barricades quicker. If we go back to your office and transfer the images to my department, it will save us a lot of time.” The photos were of Ali in his costume, but they were all they had right now. As soon as the pictures were transferred to the Sheriff’s Department, Newsome dropped Finn and the photographer back at the parking area.
On the way, Newsome called his D.C. and asked if Detectives Nelson and Bentley could get better photos from the Howards at the hospital. Darryl Finn overheard and made a note to himself to ask the Howards for pictures for his story too.
When Detectives Sharp and Newsome finished their investigation, Darryl Finn rushed off to the newspaper office on foot to make some phone calls. He’d parked his car there because of the street closures. He’d need it to get over to the hospital too.
Finn was well-connected in the media world. Before retiring to San Juan Capistrano, he’d spent 40 years as a prominent East Coast newspaper headline reporter. Finn made a phone call to a reporter friend, Marcia Phillips, who worked for local network T.V. He told her what he knew at that point and gave her the background on the Howards and their horse. He suggested she bring a truck and cameraperson to the hospital. He told her Mayor Sterling was on his way with several members of the City Council so she could look them up for updates.
Finn contacted newspaper reporter friends from the Orange County Register, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Dallas News, San Francisco Chronicle, Denver Post, Boston Globe, and the New York Times. He set up a large conference call, so he didn’t have to repeat himself so many times. He promised to funnel them information as he got it. Finn knew Prince Ali had a national, and possibly international, fan base. He promised to transfer the digital images he had. One was a nice picture of Ali with the Howards and Mayor Sterling. His photographer took that image an hour before the incident. It would definitely be an excellent human interest photo. It included a happy, smiling Becky Howard hugging her horse.
Finn was satisfied when he hung up the phone at last. He suspected this was going to be a media circus. He was excited to be the one who got the story out. He grabbed his car keys, locked up the office, and left for Mission Hospital to see what was happening there.
Walter caught up with Caroline in the Emergency Room at the hospital. She was in the waiting room. “How is she, honey? Do you know anything yet?” he asked, out of breath again.
“The doctors are working on her now. They asked me to wait here.” Caroline replied, now dry-eyed and pale. “She wasn’t responding in the ambulance, but she is breathing on her own, and her heart is stable.”
They sat side by side, Dad holding her to him with one arm as they waited for news. The minutes dragged on and on and on. They sat wrapped in their own thoughts and just waited.