WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
On their way from Acton to Orange County, Detective Brian Nelson called Walter Howard. He knew the Howards were anxious about Prince Ali.
“I’ve got some news for you.” Detective Nelson said to Walter. “You knew we busted the guys that stole your horse? We chased down the leads we got from them and did get to talk to the old man who bought the horse from them. We’re on our way back from there right now.”
“You mean you found Ali?” Walter said hopefully.
“Well, not exactly. Let me give you the whole story. The old man who bought the horse from them is Carl Nixon. He prospects in the Angeles National Forest up by where the Station Fire was a couple of years back. He was looking for a packhorse. He contacted a horse broker about it.”
“I see,” Walter said.
“From what we learned, the horse broker was going to buy the horse from the thieves. But when he learned somebody stole your horse, he put two and two together and told the creeps no deal. They were anxious to unload the horse, and he told them about Carl Nixon.”
“The old prospector?” asked Walter.
“Yes. The perps took the horse to Nixon. Nixon bought the horse for about four hundred bucks. But he had a suspicion there was something wrong. The horse was too nice. That nagged at him for a few days. So he planned to go to the Sheriff’s office in Little Rock to ask about it this morning. When he woke up and went out to feed his horses, Ali was missing. He said it looked like he forgot to latch the gate on their corral.”
“So what you’re telling me is Ali isn’t there?” Walter asked.
“That’s what I’m telling you. Ali walked away. He’s somewhere up in the Angeles National Forest. I’ve notified the Federal Fish and Wildlife people. They are on the lookout for him. Carl Nixon does have another horse, and he’s out looking for him too. I don’t know what to tell you, Mr. Howard. There are mountain lions, bears, and many hazards for a horse like that up there. We’re doing the best we can.” Detective Nelson offered.
“Would it help if we put up reward money for him?” asked Walter.
“It wouldn’t hurt. The area Ali walked away from is wilderness country. There aren’t many people up there. I think Carl Nixon and the Fish and Wildlife people are our best hope. But a reward might bring in a few more eyes to look for him if he’s still alive up there. I can certainly help you get the word out.”
“Well, let’s do it then. I’m willing to put up Fifty Thousand. Can you work that out for me and get the information to the media? My little girl is going to be devastated when she wakes up. I need to find him first, so I don’t have to tell her he’s gone. She loves that horse!”
“You bet, Mr. Howard. I’ll call my supervisor right now, and we’ll get our Public Information Officer working with the media. How is your daughter today? Has she shown any improvement yet?” Detective Nelson asked.
“Not so far. Becky’s vital signs are good, and she’s off the critical list, but Becky’s still in a coma. We’re hanging in there and hoping for something soon,” Walter Howard told the detective.
“Look, Detective Nelson, I don’t know how I’m going to tell my wife about Ali, much less my daughter when she wakes up. If you think I need to make the reward higher, please let me know. Ali is very special to my family. We’d do just about anything to get him back. Let me know what we can do, will you?”
“We’ve got good people out looking for him. I promise you we’ll do the best we can. Carl Nixon is very familiar with the area since he lives up there. He got pretty attached to the horse too. He’s going to be out there looking for him until he finds something that tells him there’s no reason to continue the search.”
“Okay. I just feel so helpless here. There’s not much I can do but wait and worry. That’s not a very good feeling.” Walter confessed.
“I know,” Detective Nelson said. “But you are where you need to be right now. We’ll do the best we can. We have the two creeps that did this in jail, and they will spend a long time there, I assure you. We’re still figuring out their charges, and the DA is working on the case now. I know that doesn’t bring back your horse or heal your daughter, but you will get justice for this.”
“Justice feels pretty hollow right now. As you said, it won’t bring back Ali or make Becky well again.” Walter answered.
“I appreciate that. I don’t know how I would feel. I have a 14-year-old daughter of my own. Just hang in there with us and let us do what we do. Think positive. Okay?”
“I’ll try. We’ll try. And thank you. We, Caroline and I, really do appreciate your work on this case.”
“No thanks are necessary.” Detective Nelson told him. “That’s why I became a cop in the first place. I like helping people.
Carl Nixon saddled Max after the Deputies left his place. He took water and his shotgun with him and headed out in the forest. Carl thought he knew the approximate area the mountain lion called her territory. He was going to start there. He’d heard her several times that week, snarling in the night. He hoped he would find nothing of Ali.
When Carl got to the center of the lion’s territory, he started circling. He looked for horse dung, hoof prints, piles of leaves that didn’t belong, scratched-up soil, anything that looked a little out of place. For the longest time, he found nothing. Then he saw the bone.
He dismounted and walked over to a pile of leaves with disturbed earth in front of them. He could see the lion’s claw prints. She’d scratched the leaves into this pile to cover something up. Carl poked into the pile and then began to uncover it with a stick he found nearby. There was a carcass here. All that was left were white bones, mostly scattered and disjointed.
He finally found the skull. The bones all looked fairly small, and the skull confirmed his suspicion. This was a small deer. He breathed a sigh of relief. Not Ali. This was an old carcass. What the cat didn’t consume, the other creatures of the forest had. When he backed up and looked around, he noticed bones had been dragged from under the leaf pile and scattered around for quite a ways.
He walked back to Max and mounted up, increasing his circle slightly. He spent the last hours of daylight searching the area. When he decided it was time to go back home, he left a pile of rocks at the point where he ended his search. He planned to return in the morning and continue.
Carl spent Monday and Tuesday in his search. He covered the territory he thought was the mountain lion’s and the black bear’s, which overlapped slightly. Carl found several old carcasses in the lion’s region, none of which were large enough or new enough to be Ali. He found gnawed shoots, overturned deadfall where the bear clawed open the trees looking for worms and grubs, and he found a fawn killed recently, but nothing significant enough to be a horse.
Every time he returned home unsuccessful, he thanked heaven. He didn’t want to find Ali’s body up here. He hoped the horse was as smart as he looked and headed back to civilization where someone might recognize him and get him back to his owners.
While searching the edges of the mountain lion’s territory, Carl ran into Randy of Fish and Wildlife. Randy was on horseback doing the same thing as Carl. They spoke briefly, and Carl showed him the territory he’d already covered.
“Heard the owners put up a fifty thousand dollar reward on the horse,” Randy told him. “They must want the horse back pretty bad.”
“He’s a very nice horse. If he were mine, I’d probably do the same thing.” Carl said. “Since we’re both in the same area, why don’t we split it up so we don’t cover the same ground. I’ll head north along that ridge,” pointing in the direction he meant to cover, “and why don’t you try south.”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll be in touch with the Deputies down in Little Rock if I find anything. Where’s your cabin? I can stop by and leave you a note if you’re not there.” Randy suggested.
Carl gave him directions, and they parted. Carl spotted horse dung along the rocky ridge that Ali climbed on his last day in the forest. He also found hoof prints of shod hooves. It looked like the horse was smart after all. He was heading over the ridge to the High Desert. Carl knew there were people there. He had higher hopes someone would find the horse. Carl turned Max around and went back to his cabin. He took care of Max, fed him some of the new grain he’d bought with a heavy flake of hay, checked his water, latched the corral gate, and left. He drove down the mountain to the Sheriff’s office and asked for Deputy Ramirez.
Carl told Deputy Ramirez what he’d found on the mountain and his suspicion that Ali was heading north and would be in the high desert by now. Deputy Ramirez thanked him for the information and told him he’d get the word out to the patrols so they could be on the watch. He said he would also call LA County Animal Control in Lancaster and San Bernardino County Animal Control, just in case they got calls about a stray horse in the area.
“Do me a favor, will you?” Carl asked the deputy. “If you find the horse, can you have someone let me know? I got pretty attached to him while he was at my place, and I’d just like to know he’s okay.”
Deputy Ramirez smiled at Carl and said, “Yes, I will handle that personally. If we hear anything about someone finding the horse, I’ll drive up and let you know. If you’re not at your cabin, I’ll leave you a note. Thank you for helping with the search. I’ll pass your concern on to the owners too.”
“Thank you so much,” Carl said as he left.