WONDER HORSE BOOK ONE
By: Victoria Hardesty and Nancy Perez
Writers of Action and Adventure with Arabian Horses
Ginny and Sharon arrived at the hospital two and a half hours after the call to Caroline. They called upstairs and waited in the lobby for the Howards.
When Caroline and Walter stepped out of the elevator, Ginny and Sharon rushed to hug them. They were all in a celebratory mood.
“I have something else to tell you guys,” Caroline said. “Right after we got your call, we were standing at the foot of Becky’s bed. I was crying happy tears because of your phone call. Walter was holding me. All of a sudden, we heard Becky say, “Mom? Dad?” out loud and clear as a bell. We rushed to her bed, and her eyes were open, looking at us. She asked me if Ali was all right. I told her, “Yes, and he’s waiting for you!” I know she heard me. She smiled and went back to sleep. But this time, it really is just sleep. She’d been trying to wake up since last Friday. Wasn’t that the day Ali walked onto your ranch? Anyway, I think she’s tired from trying to wake up, but how great can this be? We find Ali, and Becky is waking up at the same time!”
Everyone was thrilled. Walter called Brian Nelson to give him the news about Ali and Becky in the middle of the night. Brian didn’t mind one bit. He was happy to get that kind of good news.
The following morning, Brian let his boss know about the developments of the previous evening, including the current location of the horse. Calls went out fast and furiously once again. The news media was alerted by the Sheriff’s Public Information Officer. Hartley Ranch was mobbed by print and TV reporters, as was the hospital. Brian Nelson called Deputy Ramirez in Little Rock to let him know.
Deputy Ramirez got in his four-wheel-drive patrol car and drove up the mountain to Carl Nixon’s cabin. Carl was just saddling Max for another day of searching.
“You can stop searching for Buddy now,” Deputy Ramirez told him. “He’s okay, and he’s on a ranch about seventy miles from here in Pinon Hills.”
“Oh, thank goodness,” Carl said. “Can I go see him?”
“I have a better idea. I’ll take you there myself. I know my car will make it. I’m not sure your truck can get that far,” Ramirez chuckled. Deputy Ramirez saw the changes in Carl Nixon right away. He wore a new pair of jeans, boots, a clean shirt, and a new cowboy hat. Ramirez looked around. He noticed the trash scattered about was missing. He saw trash bags stacked alongside the cabin and filling the bed of Carl’s old truck. Carl’s hair was clean and clipped, as was his beard. He didn’t have to stand 10 feet away because of Carl’s body odor. Did that horse make such a change in the old hermit?
The Deputy had two good reasons to make sure Carl Nixon saw the horse at the Hartley Ranch. It was necessary that Carl positively identify the horse as the one sold to him by the Hix brothers. The second reason was more personal. Ramirez knew Carl had spent every daylight hour over the past week or so looking for that horse and hoping he wouldn’t find his remains. He knew Carl would want to see him personally and know he was in good hands.
Carl put Max in his corral, fed him some extra grain, and topped off his water. The two men climbed into the patrol car and made the trip to the Hartley Ranch. They arrived to find a mob of news media people clambering for specific details.
Detective Ramirez talked to Mike privately, away from the reporters, to explain the reason for his visit. After their conversation, they took Carl Nixon to the barn. When they got to Ali’s stall, Deputy Ramirez asked Carl if Ali was the horse he bought from the two men.
“Can I go in the stall?” Carl asked.
“Sure, go ahead,” Mike told him.
Carl slid the stall door open and slowly walked inside. “Hey, Buddy! How are you?” he asked Ali. Ali lifted his head, dropped it over Carl’s shoulder, and nuzzled him. Carl reached out and scratched his withers. He turned his head and told Deputy Ramirez, “This is the horse I bought from those two guys for sure.”
Carl spent a few minutes scratching Ali and looked him over. “He’s lost some weight and needs a bath. Those wounds were probably from the she-lion that lives near my cabin. If the bear had gotten to him, I don’t think he would have survived. He’s lucky the cat didn’t finish him off.”
Carl patted Ali’s shoulder affectionately before leaving the stall. “I’m one hundred percent sure this is my Buddy.” He stood for several minutes just looking at Ali. His lip trembled a bit once or twice. “So this is what a two and a half million dollar stallion looks like?” he asked.
Mike nodded his head in the affirmative. “Yup, he’s the one. My wife is in San Juan Capistrano with the family. Becky is doing much better. Looks like she’s going to make it too.”
Carl wiped his eyes quickly and looked away. “He’s probably worth more than that!”
On the way back to Carl’s cabin, Deputy Ramirez handed his business card to Carl. “If you ever need anything, please call me. I will get the name and phone number of the owners for you. I’m sure they would love to hear from you when this all settles down. I heard they were very grateful for how you treated their horse.”
In Orange County, Brian Nelson and Ron Bentley met in the Sheriff’s office for the final update on the case of the Million Dollar horse. They briefed the Sheriff personally on the entire matter, from beginning to end, and gave him the location of the horse trailer and the horse. They listed all witnesses in the case for him in their case book. The Sheriff was pleased he could close the book on this one at last. All the missing pieces were in place, and the case now proceeded to the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution.
Newspapers and TV stations across the country carried the news of Ali’s discovery. Photos of him and Nan carrying the red, white, and blue banner for the Colorado Mavericks were on the front pages of the papers.
Becky woke up the next day. Mom and Dad filled her in on the travels of Prince Ali in bits and pieces, not too much at a time, over the next few days. Dr. Spencer moved her out of the ICU and into a regular hospital room on Thursday. Becky was scanned, x-rayed, poked and prodded, blood tested, and examined by several specialists at the hospital. They found her to be healthy in general, no mental deficits presented themselves, and she was ready to be sent home four days later – with restrictions. Dr. Spencer was very clear with her parents and Becky about what she was allowed to do and not allowed to do. Unfortunately, riding a horse was on the No list. Becky was most upset about that particular restriction and told Dr. Spencer. She and Ali spent hours and hours getting ready for the Youth National Championships in July. It was now late March. She couldn’t put off riding for long and still be able to compete.
Dr. Spencer said, “I’m sorry about the no riding restriction, but we do need to enforce that right now. I will see you in a month, and we can take new x-rays then. I will let you ride again when your body heals enough, but never, under any circumstances, are you to ride without a helmet!”
Becky reluctantly agreed to comply with the restrictions. She knew her Mom would enforce them anyway, so there was no arguing her way out of them. She promised Dr. Spencer she would follow his orders to the letter.
Becky had her cell phone back and called Brody at the Hartley ranch for daily updates on Ali. She knew Brody but hadn’t spent much time with him in the past. They got to know each other very well, sharing information about Ali. Brody also told Becky about Maryann and how Maryann helped with Ali.
Becky called Todd in Colorado after she talked with Brody to give him the daily updates. They had been close friends for a long time, and Todd loved Ali almost as much as Becky did.
Ali had his own form of medical poking and prodding. Before Ginny left her ranch the night they confirmed his identity, she had a list as long as her arm for their vet to do. Ali was not a stray horse. He was a Million Dollar horse. She wanted him checked out thoroughly. She told Mike to have the vet pull x-rays on the tender back foot and the sore stifle for sure. She suggested he do blood tests to make sure Ali hadn’t picked up something during his travels. She wanted to make sure he was getting the very best medical care. All the x-rays came back normal. So did the blood work, which the vet personally ran to the lab. He was fit as a fiddle but needed to heal some, gain weight, and get back in shape.
There was one other matter Walter Howard wanted to address. He spoke with his wife first and got her agreement. That was the matter of the one hundred thousand dollar reward for information to locate Ali. Their first thought was Carl Nixon, who had been so kind to Ali. Carl flat refused the money. He didn’t need it or want it. “I never did get down to the Sheriff’s station to report him anyway. I was going to, but Ali escaped. And I wouldn’t take it if I had gotten down the mountain and reported him.”
The Howards settled on someone else. Brody Hartley had taken care of Ali since he wandered onto the Hartley Ranch. They talked it over with Mike and Ginny. They set up a scholarship fund for his college education with the reward money. With what that fund would grow into in the next five years, Brody would be able to go to any college he wanted to.
Becky’s release date came. Mom and Dad checked her out of the hospital and brought her home. Espie met her at the front door. She cried when she saw her. “I have your very favorites for dinner tonight,” she told her. “You look like you lost some weight like your mother. We need to fatten you both up a little.”
Becky stood in the open doorway to her room. “It’s wonderful to be home again,” she told Mom. After putting her things away, Becky walked out to the barn and stood in front of Ali’s empty stall. She just stood there with tears running down her face. Caroline came up behind her and put her arms around her. “Mom, I miss him so much. When can I see him?”
“How about tomorrow? We will hook up the trailer and drive up to Ginny’s place and bring him home.”
The following morning Walter hooked up the horse trailer early. Caroline and Becky had breakfast with her dad and Espie and walked out to the driveway. “Is Aunt Ginny sure he’s ready to come home?” Becky asked Mom.
“Absolutely. Now let’s go get him!” They climbed into the truck for the drive. They pulled their rig onto the main driveway at the Hartley Ranch. Becky jumped out of the truck before her parents could open their doors. Becky saw Brody and Clyde walking toward the main barn and ran to catch up with them.
“Where is he?” she asked Brody. Brody showed her Ali’s stall. Becky slid the door open and walked in, interrupting Ali’s breakfast. Ali squealed. Becky squealed in return and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him for dear life. That’s how Mom and Dad found them a few minutes later. Becky had both arms around Ali’s neck, pressing her tear-stained cheeks into his silken coat. Ali’s eyes were closed, and he had his neck turned to hold her close to him. Ali had her ponytail in his mouth.