Chapter 5: The Nag and the Mare

Lucky for me, there is a small stack of firewood just outside the door, where I – I mean, where Wes Turner had placed it before heading upstairs for a nap.

“’Bout time,” says Miranda, as I cram kindling into the wood stove. “I was startin’ to think you were going to sleep all afternoon. You feeling all right?”

“Not exactly.” I remove my hat, wipe the sweat from my brow, then put it back on my head. “Look, uh – Miranda, I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m not your husband.”

Miranda’s expression darkens. “Does this mean you’re still sore about what I said? Look, I’m sorry, but your friend Lester Ames is no good. Everybody knows what kind of filth lies behind the walls of his compound.”

 

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“This is not about— ” I try to get a word in, but it’s no good. Miranda spends the next five minutes jabbering my ear off about town gossip and corruption, until I finally have had enough. “I’ve got to get out of here,” I say. “I’ve got stuff to do.”

“Well, don’t forget to get to take Delilah to the smith to get shooed,” says Miranda.

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“Delilah?” As if on cue, there’s a whinny from just outside the window. A sleek, brown mare stares back me with round, liquid eyes.

“I already saddled her up while you were sleeping,” says Miranda. “Now, you’d best hurry, before the smith closes up shop.”

 

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Happy to get away from Wes Turner’s nagging wife, I head outside and approach Delilah, who nickers softly at the sight of me. “Well girl,” I say, patting her neck, “looks like you and I get to take a little ride. Ready?”

The trouble is, I’m not ready. Wes Turner may have ridden horses hundreds of times. But I have never ridden a horse a day in my life, unless you count carousel horses. And climbing onto Delilah’s back is nothing like mounting a carousel horse. I strain and struggle before finally hoisting my belly over Delilah’s saddle. Then I swing a leg over and grab onto the reins.

 

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“Go!” I say. Delilah does nothing. “Go!” I say louder, tugging the reins. Delilah just tosses her head. I sigh in frustration, wishing I could just turn a key in the ignition. How the heck do you get a horse to move? Then Wes Turner’s memories kick in. I nudge the horse with my heels, shift my weight forward, and say, “Gee!”

Delilah takes off.

She’s not moving that fast, just trotting down the road as I bump around in the saddle. But she may as well be a race car. Gripping the reins, I hang on for dear life and try not to slip from the saddle as we pass occasional houses, trees, and even a ring of covered wagons.

 

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When we’ve almost reached the town, a ringed snake slithers across our path. Delilah rears up on her hind legs and lets out a terrified whinny. I go flying, then hit the ground with a thud. For a second, I just lie there, seeing stars. No really – I keep picturing Christopher Reeve and praying that my injuries aren’t as bad as his. I give my legs a test wiggle and let out a sigh of relief. The fall only left me with a few scrapes and bruises, nothing serious. I climb to my feet and walk the remaining quarter mile to town, leading Delilah by the reins.

 

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The sun has already set, and only the saloons are aglow with soft lantern light. I’m leading Delilah toward a nearby hitching post when a familiar voice speaks from behind me. “Well, well, well. If it ain’t Wes Turner. Come to settle your debt?”

Slowly, I turn around, and find myself staring at the grinning face of Lester Ames, town sheriff.

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