Welcome to March. I hope Mother Nature gets the message and changes her calendar soon, too. This week’s edition of Tuesday Tales centers around the word HIP. Each week, Amazon bestselling authors offer you a glimpse of their works in progress based on a word or picture clue. I continue with Hello Again, my paranormal/suspense/romance. Enjoy!
Lightning split the sky, thunder roared, and the ground shook. The spirit horse shied.
“Whoa, boy,” Bill said. “I don’t like this anymore than you do, but I’m afraid the girls may be in trouble, and we have to get to them before this storm hits. I’ve got a feeling we don’t have much time left.”
Using the binoculars he’d gotten from Emile, Bill stared at the horizon, and watched the plumes of gray-white smoke rise from three distinct places. The first one, on the far right, wasn’t near the farm. No doubt lightning had struck one of the big trees down by the creek. He’d noticed them when he’d headed that way to Sintaluta this morning. The other two were closer to the homestead, but it didn’t appear as if the house itself was on fire.
“Come on, boy, let’s go,” he said letting the binoculars drop down on their string and hang around his neck. “Shirley said I needed to be home by five and it’s almost that time now.”
Bill urged the horse forward and rode at top speed toward the small ranch, but almost flew over the top of the horse’s head when, five minutes later, the animal stopped abruptly and veered left, moving faster than he had before.
“Whoa,” Bill cried, trying to stop the stallion, but his actions had no effect. The horse raced northwest toward a structure Bill hadn’t noticed earlier. As they neared the edifice, he realized it was a stone and clapboard building with a carport attached to it. Its roof boasted an aerial and a satellite dish, both of which had been spared by yesterday’s tornadoes. The enclosed parking area was almost as large as the building itself. It wasn’t a new structure, and he had no idea what its purpose was, but, much to his dismay, the horse was moving steadily toward it and away from Shirley and Charley.
“I don’t know where the hell you think you’re going, but we can’t waste time here.”
He tried in vain to turn the horse away from his destination, but the animal was too strong, far stronger than any horse Bill had ever ridden, and there was no way it would be moved from its chosen course.
Galloping at top speed, it took the animal only a few minutes to reach the sanctuary of the overhang. As soon as the animal stopped, Bill jumped off its back prepared to run, walk, or crawl the distance to the farm, but the animal gripped his shirt in its teeth, refusing to let Bill go.
Before he could free himself, hail the size of golf balls pounded down on the roof. They were too far away to have reached Shirley’s house safely. He let out a shuddering breath. Had he and the animal been out in the open, they could’ve been seriously injured, possibly killed by either the hail or the almost constant lightning. He’d never seen a storm like this. It reminded him of an angry child tossing his toys around, not caring who or what got broken.
“Sorry, boy. I’m not used to riding an animal that gets his instructions farther up the food chain than I do. Thanks,” he said, moving deeper into the structure as soon as the horse released him.
He walked over to the small building. It must be some kind of observation post—maybe a meteorological station—set up by one of the nearby universities. The electrical wires on the far side leading to the building were hanging loose, attached to the poles, now on their sides, victims of yesterday’s storm. Without a power source, whatever data it was recording would be lost. If he could get inside, he might be able to find a shortwave radio or something, but judging by the size of the lock on the door, that wouldn’t be an easy task.
He moved to the back section of the carport where the horse stood calmly waiting for the storm to cease. The opening in the far wall faced Shirley’s farm. Right now, the hail was coming down too hard to allow him to see anything.
“I’m damn glad the spirits take such good care of you. Anybody out in that’s going to be damn sore. Shirley and Charley must be safely inside,” he said, continuing his one-sided conversation with the animal. “If the spirits told you this was coming, they must’ve told her.”
But he worried. He remembered the trouble Shirley had had with her breathing yesterday, and if the air was full of smoke, it might be hard on her again. If she’d managed to lock everything down, she’d probably be all right, but that was a lot of work for a woman her age, and with her damaged leg, Charley wouldn’t be much help.
After what seemed like an hour, but was probably no more than ten minutes, the hail stopped as abruptly as it had begun. Heavy rain fell, driven by a strong south wind. Bringing the binoculars up to his eyes once more, Bill looked out toward the farmhouse, surprised at how well he could see despite the rain. All the windows were shuttered and the heavy doors closed. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the shed standing as undamaged as it had been when he left. As long as the shed didn’t catch fire, the house would have power and running water. His gaze focused on the sty. Someone had set fire to its sod roof, and the flames had spread the old timber at the front of the building. It probably stunk to high heaven, but with the rain, that blaze would be out soon, and with the wind, there wouldn’t be any danger of smoke in the house.
Moving the binoculars to check out the rest of the property, his blood ran cold. Near the road, about twenty feet from the house, were four large motorcycles. Heedless of the rain, Bill ran out of the carport to where he could get a better view. Four men cowered under the overhang at the front of the house, and from what he could see they didn’t look happy.
Increasing the magnification, Bill zeroed in on the men, two of whom were armed with pistols. A third was stabbing at the heavy wooden door with a hunting knife he probably kept in the sheath that hung from his belt and was tied to his thigh, just below his hip. No doubt the other man had a weapon of some kind, too. One of the men turned around, revealing the Madre Diablo logo on his jacket. Were these bikers the stone cold killers who’d murdered the Caron family? And if they were and they wanted to get inside, would they?
As he watched, the armed men fired another round at the door hinges. Bill snickered. He’d had a close look at those doors, and it would take more than a small caliber gun and a Bowie knife to break them.
Once thing was certain though. For the moment, the women were on their own. He couldn’t brazenly go down there by himself with nothing but his service weapon. He didn’t even have his vest—not that it had helped him the last time. At the moment, the odds weren’t good, and he didn’t see them improving any time soon. He needed a plan, a diversion, which might give him the element of surprise he’d need.
He scanned the property. The second plume of smoke he’d seen had come from the right side of the house where what was left of the garden had stood. With the rain coming down as it was, it was all but out. Scanning the house, Bill realized he couldn’t see the veranda. He blinked twice before he realized it had been closed off in such a way as to look like a wall as solid as the rest of the house.
Whoever had designed that was one smart son of a bitch. The women were safe as long as they stayed inside, and for the moment so was he. Sooner or later, he’d have to find a way to get down to the house. For the moment, he could hope that, once the rain let up, the boys would go and find another place to play.
“Mike, you said she was mine now, but I need you to look after her and Shirley just a little bit longer,” he said aloud, hoping the spirits heard him. “I’m counting on you keeping my women safe. As soon as I come up with a plan, I’ll help you out.”
I know–left you hanging once more, but… please drop by and visit all of this week’s Tuesday Tales.