Fire Within

Part 1

by Anita Louise

(c) copyright 1/02

Top 25: Jan. 26, 2004

A mysterious death at an Indian Dig brings together world famous Skylar Richmond, and small town Deputy Sheriff, Bobie Parker. Two women from different ways of life in an unfolding mystery that will test their courage and perseverance.

When two worlds collide  . . . friction begins . . . fires smolders. . . Unknown to the two, their world has already begun to breathe,fire within.

Love/Sex/Disclaimer.  This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women.
If you are less than 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it.  If depiction's of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

Skylar Richmond and the other characters that are penned are the sole property of the author.


Chapter One

Bernie Herbella sat behind the large oak desk, his eyes taking in the recent pictures his affiliate in Shanghai sent.

A smile crossed his lips as his fingers caressed the picture, at the same time the finger's of his right hand began to unconsciously tap. She was beautiful, gazing at the woman, he wondered just why he had never been able to get Skylar Richmond to ever go out on a date. The ringing of the phone brought him out of his thoughts as he scrambled trying to stop the cussed ringing.

"Bernie here, it's your nickel, shoot."

There was silence before his receptionist replied, "Mr. Herbella, Skylar Richmond is here, shall I send her in."

Suddenly he felt very warm, loosening his tie, running a hand through his blond locks he answered, "Yes, Mary, send her in."

Looking around the room, he stood and walked to the leather divan, removing several newspapers, he groaned, the room did not look its best. Shrugging he walked to the door.

The second she entered the room he felt as if he was a young boy gazing at the most beautiful girl in school. Skylar Richmond was tall, nearing his six-foot frame. She was dressed in dark leather pants, the blouse that adorned her bountiful breasts was pale blue, scoop necked and riding low. She was a vision, her trip to Shanghai didn't do anything but make her more lovely if that was even possible.

"Bern . . . Earth to Bern, cat got your tongue?"

He smiled, reached out grasped her right hand, bringing it to his lips. The kiss was light as his eyes met her emerald greens. "Been right here darlin, anyone ever tell you, you just get more beautiful every day?"

Rescuing the hand she pulled it back, walked past the man leaving the scent of White Diamonds lingering in the air. "You do, every chance you get, If I didn't know better I might think you were coming onto me. Now, what's this about a case in some God forsaken town in Arizona?"

He quickly followed, pulled out a chair and held it for her. "Sit, would you like a drink? I have . . ."

"Bern, I am not here to party, it was a long trip, and I'm tired. So get on with it, I barely arrived to the hotel and there was an urgent message for me to meet you. So give, what is this all about?"

He walked to the water cooler, filled a cup, downed the liquid as he walked back to the desk. Once seated, he leaned back, eyes taking the woman in. "Good job, the Shanghai trip went well."

"So well I was hoping for some time off, I need to refuel, bod is tired." She patted her stomach all the while knowing his eyes were following every move.

"Yes, I am sure you are tired. But this just came up and it is all over the news, tv, radio, they cannot get enough of it. I want the best and you are the best to go check this out."

"Come now Bern, we both know the world will not end if I take some time off, whatever this is can wait, or send Larry, he always wants to get his feet wet."

"Nope, this calls for you, only you."

She stretched, shook her head allowing flaming hair to travel back and forth. "Only you would think that. We both know there is someone else that can do this." Moving sensuously her legs crossed, uncrossed each time she seemed to be looking for a more comfortable position. Grasping the sides of the chair her eyes met his. "Damn it! I need this time. I have plans to take a boat trip, and you owe me. Don't do this Bern."

He reached in the drawer, pulled out a small bottle of champagne, tossed it to her and said, "Stiff upper lip and all that stuff. Consider this my promise once this is taken care of you can take a month off."

Giving him the evil eye, she raised her right eyebrow. "You mean it?"

He crossed his heart. "Scouts honor."

"When were you a Scout? And in this business, honorable? Oh all right, fill me in on what has been taking place and I will take the information back to the hotel, read over it, make my decision and let you know tomorrow."

He grinned.  "Knew you would see it my way. I promise, do a good job on this and your life will be changed forever."

Standing, Skylar replied, "This had better be good."

He handed a thick file to her. "Once you read this, you will become intrigued, I know you and you always like a good mystery. Oh and here." He handed her a plane ticket.

"Kinda  sure of yourself aren't you Bern?"

"Took a chance, if you don't go I can always trade them in."

"Might have known that you would never lose any money over this. All right, I'll let you know what I think."

He watched her walk away, and with each step she took in those black boots he felt a pang of loss.

Max Fletcher was standing at the corral when Barbara Parker finally came in from her nightly ride. He was surprised to see the young woman when she appeared. After arguing with her for what seemed an hour he let her take Dynamite out on a run. It was later than usual, and with so many strange things happening, he warned her to be careful. She certainly had her father's, genes, stubborn as all get all.

Barbara waved when she saw him standing at the gate. Approaching, it didn't take her long to dismount. Max took the reins as he said, "You look about as worn out at Dynamite here, must have been some run. What is eating you? Never seen you ride like that?"

Kicking at the dirt she muttered, "Ever have one of those days?"

"Seem to have them a lot lately. What happened?  You can tell old Max.  Ben Burgess giving you a hard time what with the recent death out to the digs?"

"Things are changing and I don't like change."

"Too bad about Injun Pete. He was a good man. Don't know what he was doing at the digs so late. Has the sheriff come up with a reason for his death?"

"Not supposed to discuss this. Being Deputy Sheriff is a headache sometime. Don't know how dad was sheriff for so long."

"He was a good man, there isn't a day I don't think about Bob and wonder just what he would do in certain situations. I miss your dad a lot. Sure am glad his daughter stops by once in awhile."

"If I could, I'd pester you so much you would want to be rid of me. No place I'd rather be than on Dynamite, wind in my face, hair flying in the wind. No feeling as wonderful."

He grinned. "Just ain't found the right man, a good man will give you that feeling and a whole lot more."

"Don't go playing matchmaker. I have no desire to be saddled with family. No one tells me when to come and when to go. I do what I what, when I want."

He had removed the saddle and was setting in on the fence. Turning to gaze at her he replied, "One day, someone will walk into your life, and you will be totally unprepared, sweep your senses up before you know what has hold of you, Yup, one day Bobie Parker you will find that right someone and then things will change."

Barbara laughed and shook her head. "Nope, that is one nightmare if you ask me." Reaching for the horses reins she added, "I'll cool him off, rub him down, don't worry, take good care of this guy."

He watched the woman walk away, she and the horse were almost like one, seems each knew exactly what the other was thinking.

Sky had taken a long hot bath, and it felt wonderful. Her muscles ached, and after Shanghai all she wanted was to get away for some well deserved relaxation. Now this new case had been presented and she was not too happy.

Finally stepping out, drying off, she slipped into a pale blue, silk negligee. Walking into the bedroom she slipped a CD into the player as the music filled the room she poured a glass of champagne, walked to the bed, sit and began to flip through the file.

It was obvious her heart was not in it. Taking a sip, her long fingers, traveled the pages with ease. When she came to the headlines, Strange happenings at Devils Mesa, her eyes fixed on the blond woman pointing to a kiva. She looked to be about five four, nice figure, even the drab khaki uniform she wore did not hide this. Gun belt, holstered gun on her hip, she looked like the present day Annie Oakley. Setting the empty glass on the night table, she lay back and began to read the article. Barbara Parker, daughter of the town's most illustrious sheriff, Bob Parker is investigating the recent death of Pete White Feather, known around these parts as Injun Pete.

Setting the file on the bed she reached for the phone, within minutes she heard Bernie's sleepy voice on the other end. "Bern, Sky, what in hades are you thinking?"

The man was confused, and it was evident he had been asleep. "Sky do you know it is midnight? What in God's name are you calling me at this hour about?"

"Been looking at the file you gave me." She waited for an answer there was none so she continued, "A death at an Indian dig, is not unusual. The Annie Oakley of Springfield is certainly not a mystery. I just don't get what you want me to do."

Benie sat up in bed, removed his nightly eye cover, rubbed his eyes before he answered, "A new find, lots of relics, mysterious death of a town personality, the death is strange, leaves lots of questions. I want you to do what you do best, go investigate, get the details, hell solve the case for them if you have to."

Skylar laughed, "Want me to wash your car during my spare time."

He shook his head as if she could see this before answering, "No, just do your thing, we both know you are the best and it will be good to get away. You are always talking about wanting to get away, how much further away can you get. Its rustic, for someone like you, it will be an adventure."

She stared at the pages strewn about the bed then said, "All right, I 'll go, but if this turns out to be some sort of sham, you my darling man will be the first to feel my ire. Night babe, pleasant dreams."

He stared at the phone, the hum only brought back her words, she had actually called him darling and babe, that was a first for Sky. Pulling the eye cover back over his eyes he slid down on the bed, she was going, another coup for the agency.

Sky spent hours pouring through the information in the files, it was an interesting case, Bernie had not lied, strange things were happening as well as an amazing discovery of ancient artifacts. When she finally tossed the file to the floor and closed her eyes, the woman, Barbara Parker was the last image she saw before she drifted off.

Barbara walked into the Sheriff's office, her main goal was to make it to the coffee machine. She had spent a restless night, sleep came and went. This case had her on edge and was not a place she liked to go. Picking up the full coffee mug she  just poured, Meg Bartlett's voice caught her attention.

"Town's going to be quite the place for a while, what do you think about it?"

A look of confusion on her face, she shrugged. "Think about what? Coffee looks strong and I sure need something strong this morning. Tell me, something in that magazine interesting?"

"Been reading about Skylar Richmond and all her adventures, hard to believe she is coming here."

Reaching for the magazine, Barbara scoffed, "Talking about the beautiful all mighty, Amazon, that is just publicity hype?" Her eyes took in the picture of Skylar Richmond standing at the top of a pyramid. "Hair is probably not even that color, no one could really look like that, they do touch ups you know."

"Comin here, you soon will find out if she is fake or not."

"Wha . . ."

Sheriff Burgess had come into the room gazed at the two women before he said, "She's right, should be here by two this afternoon. I want you to meet her plane."

Handing the magazine back to the woman, Barbara took a long drink then turned to look at Ben Burgess. "You're kiddin aren't you?"

"Nope, her company is sending her to assist."

Barbara set the cup down, walked to the sheriff, all the time her blue green eyes searching his for some sort of clue as to what he was pulling. "You want me to go pick this very famous woman up at the airport, Is she bringing Elvis with her by any chance."

"Come into my office. We need to talk."

Taking a deep breath, she knew it was not a joke, something was amiss and she seemed to be right in the middle of it.

Once the sheriff closed the office door he said, "I will depend on you to show Miss. Richmond around, take her where she wants to go."

"Do I tuck her in too?" It was evident this did not set will with the young woman, her remark did not budge the sheriff as he replied, "I think she can do this herself. But I will depend on you to be courteous, and do all you can to make her stay comfortable."

"In other words, be her lackey."

"Bobie I hold you in high esteem, you are the only one I would ever trust to walk beside this woman, assist her, don't make it difficult, might learn a thing or two."

Feeling as if she would explode but containing it, Bobie muttered, "All right, I'll pick her up, get her settled into the hotel."

"Nope, your place, I want Miss. Richmond and you to become so close you think you are sisters."

Tossing her head back, allowing lustrous golden strands to reach for the air, then settle back on her shoulders, she laughed, "Have a sister, don't need another. Why my place?"

"Cause she is a celebrity of sorts and I need her to be protected. You know how people are. The two of you will be working on the dig, getting information, looking into Pete's death, I need you to agree to do this."

Knowing she was in a no win situation, Barbara nodded, "All right, while Miss. Richmond is here, I will be on her like white on rice, make you happy?"

He smiled, "Here is a list of things she will need, things she likes to have on hand, make sure your place is well stocked."

Barbara took the list, left the office, mumbling under her breath as she walked to the jeep, started it and headed for the only store in Springfield, Fields market.

True to his word, a limo had arrived to take her to the private air field. Bengal Corporations private jet fueled and ready to go.

They had been making good time and for this she was grateful. One of the last flights she had been on, hit bad turbulence over the ocean. Gazing at the file in her lap, Sky leaned back in the seat. This was a marvelous find, the strange death of the man was indeed a mystery but it was the young deputy that came into her vison. Deputy Barbara Parker saves family of five after seeing home on fire. Deputy Barbara Parker saves young boy, risks own life to throw him out of the way of a run away car, Deputy Parker arrests recent video bandit's single-handed.

Chewing at her lower lip she whispered, "They make you out to be some sort of Wonder Woman, and this certainly has me wondering about you. What are you really like Deputy Parker?"

Pulling into a parking spot near the air field, Barbara glanced around, there were no new planes on the strip, she was happy that the plane had not arrived yet. Walking to the Quonset hut, she thought about the woman, Skylar Richmond, wealthy, famous and definitely not Springfield people. The woman was a qualified, geologist, archeologist, relic hunter and sometimes sleuth. According to all she had been able to glean Sklylar was also certified in Black Belt, it seems her credentials just kept on going. Smiling as she entered the building she muttered, "When you get off that plane, bet you are some old has been, probably wear a wig, among other things. It will be interesting to see just what makes you tick Skylar Richmond."

Chapter Two

Bob Patterson looked up as she entered. "What brings you out Barb?"

Approaching the man she answered, "You have a flight coming in at two. I am here to meet someone."

He glanced at Bill Dalton. "We have no plane coming in but there is a flight scheduled to arrive here at two, a private flight. This the one you are looking for?"

Nodding she walked toward the vending machine. "This thing work? I been so busy, did not eat."

He walked over unlocked the machine then said, "Take what you want, my treat."

"I take it you have not had this thing repaired. I'll get a small bag of peanuts and a coke." After taking the items out she placed a five-dollar bill in the man's shirt pocket. "This should take care of it."

He reached in, withdrew the money and tried to give it back. "I said it was on me, least I can do after all you have done for the community."

She relented and took the money back. "All right don't want to stand here arguing with you all day."

Walking toward an old sofa, she sat. The two men watched as she struggled to open the peanuts, finally giving up and using her teeth to do the job. Bob walked toward her as he asked, "What is going on with the investigation into Pete's death, anything new?"

She took a sip of coke before answering, "You know I can't talk about this. Anyway you know as much as I do at this point."

He sat beside her, leaned back and said, "Hear tell that Sheriff Burgess has called in some sort of detective, a so-called relic hunter, dealing in mystical happenings. That who you are waiting for?"

"Like I said, you know more about what is happening than me. The telephone grapevine in this town amazes me."

He grinned toward his partner. "I was right, woman is coming here. Sure going to put this town on the map."

Barbara finished the small bag of peanuts, frowned at the man then said, "Detective? Relic Hunter? Mystical happenings? Bob you been reading too many space stories."

"Well if it is not true then who you waiting for? Sure ain't a train."

Standing, she stretched walked toward the door. "There is nothing I can tell you that you don't know."

At this time the sound of an incoming plane could be heard and both men ran toward the open doorway.

Barbara stayed in the background until the plane had stopped. Then she stepped out into the sunlight. The door to the plane opened, a ladder descended and soon a statuesque woman could be seen standing in the doorway.

"Wowee, see that Bob, that is one beautiful woman."

Barbara smiled at the two men and said, "Keep your pants on boys, this one is too much woman for either of you."

They looked at one another before Bill called out, "Yeah, suppose you think you can handle her, this we got to see."

Sky stepped slowly, taking each step with ease and as her feet touched the pavement, she noticed the blond woman walking toward her.  "Well, Sky, looks like Deputy Parker is your ride," she whispered to herself. Glancing toward the woman she smiled and waved. The pilot brought out her luggage, two large suitcases and set them down. "Have a good stay, when you are ready to come back, call Bernie and I'll be here." Acknowledging the deputy, he walked toward the hangar and the two men still gazing at the tall redhead and Barbara Parker.

Bobie reached for a suitcase as Skylar grasped her hand. "I can carry these. Thanks for meeting me, Just call me Sky."

"I'm sure you can, just trying to help."

Sky glanced around the area. "Pretty open here, I could see coming in that Springfield is not that big. Want to fill me in on what has been happening?"

Barbara smiled, "Barbara Parker or I should say Deputy Parker. I may be smaller than you but I 'm not weak, so I'll carry one and you carry the other."  Her hand was still on the handle of the suitcase.  "In so far as fill you in, why don't you tell me what you know and we can go from there. By the way, you can call me Deputy Parker."

"Ouch that hurt." Sky acted like she had been burned before picking up a suitcase and walking toward the hanger.

"Wrong way, jeeps over there." She pointed to the lone vehicle as Sky changed directions.

The drive to her log cabin near Willow lake took longer than she thought and being in the same enclosed space as Skylar Richmond was quite an experience. The woman was wearing a pair of tan skin tight pants, a low neck blouse that matched. Her red hair was so luminous she found herself gazing at it from time to time. "That real?"

"What?" Skylar asked, leaning back in the seat.

"Hair? That red hair and I mean red, looks like it might catch fire any second."

Chuckling Sky answered, "It's real all right. How about you, lustrous blond hair, bottle or real?"

"Touche," Barbara replied laughing.

By the time they arrived to the log cabin the two women learned a lot about one another. Once the jeep pulled into the drive, Barbara said, "This is it. Hope you can get used to roughing it."

"I'm not fragile if that is what you think Deputy Parker, I think I can handle it. Cabin looks nice, you cut the logs yourself."

"Thanks, I think.  And no, I am not a  lumber jack, do well to chop kindling for the fireplace. Let's get your luggage inside, gets dark here early and it also gets cold."

It was now dark and the moon was riding high, its glow lightening up the area. Sky stood on the porch, drinking a cup of hot coffee, her eyes taking in the expanse of the forest, the near by lake. It was beautiful, a scene she felt at any time would be interrupted by a director calling, "Cut."

"What do you think so far?" Barbara stepped onto the porch, she was dressed in blue jeans. A brown leather shirt seeming right at home with the jeans as did the brown cowboy boots she wore.

"It's quiet, hard to get used to this. Where I've been, where I live, city, lots of noises at all hours."

"Then this must be nice, get away from that for a while. What's it like, traveling to all those countries, putting yourself right in the middle of such amazing situations?"

"Been reading my bio or some tabloid? My life is not as exciting as they write. I am just a woman doing a job."

"Yeah and the Pope is merely the Pope. I may live in a small town but I'm not naive, I know about you, your life and mundane it is not. I am also sure you are tired of people asking you about it so forget I asked."

Sky leaned against the railing, took a drink then said, "I have been blessed with a good life for this I am grateful. Tell me we discussed the new find, the death of Pete White Feather, you have told me a lot and yet very little."

Walking toward the steps, Barbara sat, looked up and said, "All right, what do you want to know?"

"I want to know about the area, where you found Pete, what was the position of the body, any unusual signs, everything and anything you can tell me about this."

"Thought I did. I think you need to see this for yourself. Get a jacket."

Sky gazed at the moon. "Why? It's pleasant out here."

Standing, Barbara answered, "Cause we are going to the dig right now."

"Its late, dark, why do you want to go tonight?"

Smiling as she walked past Sky, Barbara replied, "Cause if I don't you will be asking me all sorts of things all night, so come on get a jacket, I'll get some flashlights, let's go."

The two women trudged up the path leading to the new digs. The light from the moon was a big help. Nearing the top, Sky gazed around, looked at Barbara and asked, "All right, here we are. What am I supposed to see at night?"

"You are the detective, the hunter, I am merely your guide. The new Kiva is over there." She was pointing to the right. "Just ten feet to the north is where Pete was found. His body was nailed to a makeshift cross."

"Cross? You never told me that, where is it now?"

"At the Sheriff's office and before you get any ideas, there were no fingerprints. It rained hard that night, so any footprints or anything else was washed away. Looks like you have a real mystery on your hands."

Stepping close to the woman, Sky reached down, removed one of the flashlights from Barbara's belt then said, "Never know, sometimes clues are like a rattlesnake, so close they can leap out and bite without warning."

Barbara wasn't sure what Sky was up to when she reached down and took her time before removing the flashlight, it left her feeling unsettled.

As she watched the woman walk away a feeling of giddiness had taken over. Quickly catching up to Sky, she said, "This is nothing I am sure to what you have seen."

Sky looked down into the Kiva. "I see the no trespassing signs, what happens if a person goes in?"

"Most would be arrested, some maybe scalped."

Sky tipped her head to the right then said, "Scalped. I doubt that. Save your scare tactics for some other city person. I am sure you get many here now that this site is opening up."

"We were, that is until the dead body, now many are staying away, the fear of some unforeseen monster has them scared."

"No such thing as monsters, except in the mind. Most things can be explained in some way or other." While she was talking, Sky was also looking, walking, looking. She would stop, squat down, survey the area. It was as she leaned over to pick at a piece of dirt that Barbara saw the light flash among the trees, quickly throwing her body onto Sky's the two women fell into the Kiva at the same time a gunshot ricocheted the area.

 When they landed with a thud, Sky lay on her back, Barbara's nose was almost touching hers.
"Are you hurt?"  Barbara muttered rolling off the woman.

Sky groaned, "You really are a Wonder Woman aren't you."

Trying to focus her eyes in the darkened room, she searched for the flashlight that was in her hand. "Wonder Woman?  Fall must have done something to your brain." She slowly sat and gazed at the woman.

Sky pointed to the crumpled cardboard boxes they had fallen on, "First you push me out of gunfire, saved my life, then you pick the only spot that could have broken the fall without breaking my back."

"Sorry, I mean tackling you like that, in so far as the boxes, luck.  I saw a flash, thought it might be a rifle, didn't have much time to think. I asked before, are you all right?"

"I don't feel any pain, just a little embarrassed to be caught unaware like that. Give me a few minutes to get my bearing and I'll give it a go."

Seeing the faint light Barbara crawled toward it. "Stay put, don't want you moving, if you are injured. I see the flashlight, be right back."

Sky closed her eyes, cursed herself then turned to watch the woman crawl away.  "I'll be right here when you return. Whom do you think was shooting at us?"

Smiling as she grasped the flashlight Barbara replied, "Could have been anyone. My guess it was someone trying to scare us-or-kill us."

"Deputy Parker your comforting skills need a little work. Can't wait to get out there and track our hidden attacker."

Barbara had made her way back, her eyes took Sky into them as she said, "We get out of here, we go home. I will radio the sheriff, he can send a patrol car or a squad to check this out, not your job."

Sky's emerald green eyes were caressing for an instant that is before they began to shoot sparks. "No one hides in the bushes, and shoots at me.  They want a piece of me at least be man enough to face me, one on one."

"You really believe all that hype written about you, don't you?"

"Hype?  Honey, what you read, multiply that times twenty and you might come close to what really happened. I will get my man."

Barbara leaned over, her hands touching, checking Skylar. "What if it is a woman?"
With those words, Sky mumbled something she did not understand. Barbara added, "Checking to see if you have any broken bones."

Sky began to chuckle, "I am fine, like I said, embarrassed, wind knocked out of me but that's all, though I must admit under different circumstances, your touch would be more pleasurable."

Barbara sat back, drew her knees to her chest, arms resting on them as she said, "Can't go out for a while, the person might still be there, won't come in here, not sure what we might have for weapons, so we are stuck. I gaze at you and I see everything I have read and more, still, there was never any mention you liked women in the articles."

"Whoa!" Sky tried to sit but thought better of it. "I do not discuss my likes or dislikes with people I hardly know.  I just meant, after the fall, I ache in places I didn't know I had, a good massage would be nice."

Feeling a slight redness creeping up her neck, Barbara reached out and said, "Just trying to get your attention, I see I did.  You have no broken bones, maybe a bruise here and there but at least you are breathing."

Sky sat up slowly, and with each movement did her best not to show Deputy Parker it hurt.

The moon had changed its place in the heavens, both women knew it was nearing early morning.
Barbara stood, and said, "I think it is safe to leave. Either they think they hit one of us, or they think we have been injured, either way they are not out there anymore."


"Figure of speech, our assailant, whoever it is. Are you ready to go?"

Sky stood, gazed toward the opening and replied, "Can't wait to get out of here, run a hot bubble bath and just soak."

Barbara held back a grin, she did not have the heart to tell the woman all she had was a shower, this could wait till they got back home. The two women made their way to a ladder and began to make their way out of the kiva.  Once on top, both looked around to make sure the coast was clear.  The jeep was still in the same place she had left it, only problem was all four tires had been slashed.

"Can't believe this is happening." Barbara muttered as she kicked at the dirt.

"Sky looked at the tires then asked, "You make someone mad? There is still the radio, call for help."

Barbara opened the door, reached for the radio, only to see it had been dismantled. "Got the radio too.  While we were comfy, whoever shot at us, made sure we had no wheels.  I have not made anyone mad to answer your question.  Perhaps it is you, someone from your past followed."

Thinking what the woman said, Sky shook her head. "Comfy? Nope, has to be you or the ghost of Devil Mountain not taking a liking to our being here."

Both women gazed around the area, leaned against the jeep and said, "Damn."
Realizing they had said the same thing, they began to laugh. Sky looked up and remarked, "Won't be long and it will be daylight."

Barbara began to pace back and forth finally stopping she gazed toward Sky.  "I could start off walking, leave you behind, not a good idea.  After that fall you took, not a good idea to try walking that far either.  Can't build a fire, might attract the wrong people.  Tell me what would the great Skylar Richmond do?"

Sky hobbled down the road, then turned and hobbled back. "Turned an ankle but I do have an idea. What is the charge for horse stealing around here?"

Barbara looked at the woman in amazement. "We have been shot at, left stranded and all you can think of is horse stealing.  That fall must have loosened a few screws."

Sky walked toward her and as she neared, Barbara wasn't too sure what the woman was going to do. "Just foolin with you, don't go get your dander up."

"Well you can stay here and wonder, woman I'm taking the rope from the jeep, and going down to that pasture we saw about two miles back.  Saw several horses grazing, better to ride than to walk."

Standing, Barbara watched the woman take the rope and begin to walk toward the creek. "Wait up, you can't go taking someone's horses without permission."

Sky stopped as Barbara ran into her she turned, managed a smile and said, "You are the Deputy sheriff, so you could borrow them without any charges. This is an emergency, isn' it?"

Realizing the woman was right, Barbara hated that she had not thought of this. "Right, now all you have to do is catch them, the horses I mean."

Walking away Sky called back, "No problem, I've got Annie Oakley on my side, come on, let's go catch our rides."

Chapter Three

Running to catch up to the woman, she called out,  "You were just kidding about that weren't you?  I'm no Annie Oakley."

Sky grinned as she carefully stepped from stone to stone while crossing the creek. "Nope, I think you would give the woman a run for her money."

Barbara shook her head at Sky's words.  "Fraid not, I am just a woman doing a job, and right now not very good at it."

Her feet landing solidly on the other side, Sky grimaced as a sharp pain ran up her right leg. "Seems to me from all I have been reading and from knowing you for this short time you are a very capable woman, saved my life back there.  Never knew women like you still existed."

Barbara quickly hopped, jumped and landed near by. "You never give up do you? I am trying to do a job and one I might add not trained for.  I mean, keeping company with the great Sklyar Richmond is not an easy task.  I saw you winch . . . don't try to hide it.  You did get hurt back there.  Why  don't you sit, let me go round up our rides?"

Sky laughed and turned to face Barbara. "Can't have you do that.  I felt a pang, but I am glad I felt it, at least it proves I am not dead.  Horses out to pasture, eating what they want, when they want, doubt if they will take a great liking to our intrusion.  So let's quit arguing over who is going to do it and just go do it."

"Sure you feel well enough?"

"Fine, as long as I have a hot bath to sink myself into once we are back to your place."

Barbara bit at her lower lip. No sense telling her there was not going to be a hot bath at least until they were back to the cabin.  "Right behind you."

The three horses were grazing, not a care in the world when the two women finally made it to the field. Sky turned to her and asked, "Which one you want?"

Feeling a giggle coming out and stifling it Barbara mumbled, "Whichever one you can catch, I'm not picky."

Gazing down into the woman's blue green eyes, Sky frowned.  "Don't think I can do you?  Just watch."

"Need any help?"

Shaking her head the woman climbed the log fence and deftly landed on the other side.

"Be careful."

Tipping her head to the side as she formed a large loop in the rope, Sky looked at her questioningly.  "Careful?  They are just horses."

"Uh huh . . . but they are three and each weighs a lot . . . ever been in a horse stampede? Besides, best hope that Ben Jenkins is not around, he might think you are a horse thief and shoot first."

"Ha . . .  very funny.  If you are trying to scare me, won't work.  Sit back and watch a pro in action."

Barbara smiled stepped back waved her right hand in a swooping motion as if  to say, be my guest.
She was enjoying the show.  Skylar was doing everything right but the horses were not cooperating.  They would let her get near, then take off in different directions. Still limping and running she would not give up her quest. With each limp Barbara felt the wrath that would be pelting down on her when the woman could not take her bubble bath.  Grinning and calling out she offered, "Ready for the help yet?  Perhaps two of us could do better."

Sky turned to gaze at the woman, it was evident by the glow on her face she was enjoying this way to much.  "All right. Come on over here and show me what you've got."

Barbara bounded over the fence easily and was soon beside Sky.  "Give me the rope, you stand here and shoo them into the thicket."

Sky raised an eyebrow. "Shoo them?  As in shoo fly.  Nope, I will not stand here while you send three horses stampeding toward me. What must you think I am?  I can just see myself, horses barreling toward me, nostrils flaring and I stand and say, "Shoo!"

"All right, you tell me.  I am open for suggestions. The way we are going, we will be here tomorrow same time."

"You stand here, I will chase them toward you, you send them into the thicket."

"Okey dokey. Go to it."

Sky shook her head and limped toward the three horses, muttering,  "Woman would rather be run over than to admit it was a wrong move."

Barbara stood, hands on hips, watching every move as the woman neared the animals. At first they ignored her, then began to move away, trotting, stopping, tossing their heads as they led the woman on a merry chase.
"Hey! Going to send them my way or what?"

Sky turned to gaze at Bobie, gave her a look that should have sent the woman into a ball of flames. "Hay is for horses! You just get ready!"

Didn't take the woman long to circle around the animals.  Coming up behind them she began to yell, swing the rope in the air and charge the unsuspecting horses. They quickly ran to get away from the crazy person that was coming after them like banshees on a hot night.  Barbara was surprised to see the animals charging straight for her.  Realizing she was about to become mush under their feet she began to scream, throw her hands in the air, do jumping jacks and run back and forth.   Two horses turned into the thicket the other headed straight for her.  Dropping to her knees, she held her breath knowing it would be the last one she would ever take.  To her surprise the animal jumped over her and was soon over the fence as well.
Sitting, trying to get her composure she heard Sky approach.  "You were right. That what you want to hear."

The woman's left hand came into view as Barbara looked up to see she was offering her a hand up. "That was some fast action, would have looked good on camera.  If it will make you feel any better I kinda thought, it might work."

Taking the woman's hand in hers, she got to her feet.  "Never saw animals in such frenzy before. What kind of yell was that?"

"Something I picked up in Arabia, it gets attention."

"Sure got mine as well as the horses.  Two are in the thicket, any suggestions how we get them without being trampled?"

Gazing toward the thicket she answered, "You stay here. I will go check it out."

"As long as you are not asking me to wave at them as they come running out."

"Nope. Relax, have you in the saddle in no time?"

Barbara began to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"Do you know how long we have been here?"

Shaking her head Sky replied, "Awhile.  Can't say it has been boring."

"That's for sure but now we have a loose horse running  around out there and two frightened ones in there."

Sky reached out, caressed Barbara's face for a second then said, "Speck of dirt. Trust me, I'll be out soon and with our rides."

Still feeling shaky, she managed a smile. "It's your quarter, shoot."

Sky walked toward the thicket, lasso in hand and was soon out of sight.

Barbara watched and was compelled to follow the woman at least to the edge of the thicket.  When she heard the melodic sounds, Barbara shook her head, surely, the woman was not trying to lull them to sleep?

She waited, smiling, knowing that she would have something to hold over Skylar's head, something to tease her about.  To her surprise, Skylar Richmond soon walked from the thicket, leading two very docile animals on home made leads.

Nearing, Sky grinned. "Might close your mouth before some flying insect finds its way in."

Barbara stuttered, "Sur- sur- you surprised me."

Handing the lead to her, Sky said, "Easily make a halter and can rein the animal with it.  I kinda like surprising you Bobie Parker, hope it is a good surprise."

Taking the lead from her, Barbara found her voice, "And you never cease to amaze me Skylar Richmond.  What say, shall we go home?"

"Good idea. I can't wait to get home and soak."

The woman calling her cabin home felt good but she also knew that all hades would break loose once Skylar knew there was not going to be a soak.

It was a long ride back.  Both women were quiet. The horses seemed to enjoy their outing much more than their two passengers.  The horse that jumped the fence had spotted them and was soon  trotting along.  Barbara smiled, "All that chasing and now its following us."

"Can't let the others get one up. At least this way we will have all of them in one place for their return home."

Bobie nodded as she urged her horse to go a little faster.

Sky smiled when she saw the cabin come into view.  "Never thought I would say how happy I am to see your cabin.  It is a sight for sore eyes."

Barbara grinned.  "And a sight for a very sore butt too."

Sky laughed, "Makes two, come on slow poke, hot baths a waiting."

Bobie watched as the horse disappeared around a bend in the road, leaving a trail of dust behind.  The woman was bound and determined to have a hot bath.  Now she had to prepare herself for this.

After dismounting, Bobie offered to take the horses to the corral, feed and water them.  She asked Sky to call the sheriff and let him know what had happened.
It didn't take long to take care of the animals and Bobie was soon on her way back to the cabin when a blood curdling scream pierced the area.
Feeling herself brace for what was to come, she knew that Skylar had discovered there was no tub, no hot bath, no lingering soak. Stepping up to the front door, her hand on the knob, she took a deep and entered the cabin.

Continued in Chapter Four

The Athenaeum's Scroll Archive