Emily was missing for 2 weeks now. I was sitting on the porch in a rocking chair. The alkali dust was blowing up in puffs. The horses in the pasture danced around and pretended they were scared of the dust. My name is Lucia Jackson, my sister Emily disappeared 2 weeks ago on a Sunday afternoon ride. It was a big deal, since there is almost no crime this far west. We were out riding, and I turned around when I heard a horse neigh. As I looked back to Emily to ask if she heard it, she was gone. Only her horse, Romily, remained. I only looked away for a minute. Now the whole town was frantically searching for Emily. Officer Night suspects Emily is hidden somewhere on the ranch. I was one of the people searching the hardest. My dad came out onto the porch and stared at the flat landscape. We stared at the mountain range on the horizon. "You okay pup?" My dad asked.
"Yeah," I said.
"You going to ride today?" He asked.
"Already did. Although I think I'll ride to the creek in a bit," I said. My dad nodded. "I'm goin' out to check the fence Jake repaired," he said. He crossed the yard to the barn. His sun bleached hair was sweaty. His green eyes fitted perfectly with his tanned skin. He lead out his gentle stallion, Tank. The bay was handsome, without confirmation included. He was about 16hh, and had black mane, tail and points. His head was too big, his hind quarter too small and his shoulders dropped too low. "A horse's looks don't matter if he does his job," that's what my dad once said. Tank was an excellent cow pony, and earned his keep. I watched my dad ride over the bridge. He pushed Tank into a trot and took a left. I watched him until I couldn't see him anymore. I got up and walked to the big pasture. I gave a high pitched whistle, and my gelding trotted towards me. Romily was following close behind. Romily was a buckskin mare, but had a dapple grey look to her coat. She had black points and perfect confirmation. I turned my attention to my pieblad. His white coat reflected the sun and his black patches looked like deep pools of water. He looked at me with light blue eyes. Romily gave me a hopeful look. "Sorry girl. Still no Emily,'' I said and shook my head. Romily has been acting strange lately. One night she jumped the fence. I threw a lasso around her neck just before she crossed the bridge. I clicked a lead line onto my gelding, Hurricane's leather halter. I ground tied him outside the barn and fetched my saddle. I saddled up and mounted. I trotted under the arc with the board that said: "Mustang Ranch". The name fitted the ranch. Often a herd of mustangs walked up to the big pasture to greet the horses. It didn't happen on any ranch but Mustang. As I rode to the creek, a man trotted up to me. He was riding a palmino mare with long legs. She had a white blaze and four white socks. I knew the mare. Her name was Champion's Cup and she belonged to Mister Slick. He was a rich, wannabe cowboy. He thought he could buy the respect of the people. He gave me one of his movie-star grins. The fat man flashed a white set of even teeth on his spray-tanned face. His gray hair and mustache glimmered under the sun. "Noon Lucia! How are ye?" He asked. He loved using words he thought real cowboys said. "Noon Mister Slick. I'm fine and you sir?" I asked politely. "Fine. You still not interested in sellin' that fine horse of yours?" He asked. Slick's been interested in Hurricane the day the sweet horse was born, but I refused to sell him. I shook my head. "No sir. I'll NEVER sell hurricane," I said and patted my baby's neck. "You still missin' Emily?" He asked with mock sympathy. I nodded and squinted to the mountains. "Yes sir. But we're hot on her and her kidnappers' trail," I said. Slick tensed up at this. "Well then. Good day to yer. I'm hopin' you find her as fast as a, well uh, have a nice day," he said and galloped off. Good thing he couldn't think of anything to say right then. I lopped to the creek and stopped on a ridge. I was looking down into the valley. The grass was green in the whole valley, and the river was glinting in the summer sun's light. The water would be a great temperature right now, but I didn't bring my swimming suit. I sat there for a while, looking for movement. I noticed the grass on the left bank was trampled. I rode Hurricane down and jumped the river. There I dismounted and left Hurricane to graze on the sweet grass. I crouched and looked at the grass. There were three sets of hoof prints. A pair that was normal, a pair a little bigger and a huge pair. I stared at the tracks and noticed something else. There were a set of shoe prints. The person took two steps and mounted again. "Hmmm, that's strange," I muttered. I stood up and mounted. I followed the tracks for a while, but then the people rode in the river where it forks into three smaller rivers. I turned around and lopped back to the ranch. At home I unsaddled and groomed Hurricane, and put him in his stall. I walked up to the house. "Dad!" I called. My mother came down the stairs. Her brown hair was tied into a messy bun. Her yellow T-shirt made her blue eyes pop and her tan skin glow. "What's wrong honey?" She asked. "I found three sets of tracks down in the creek. One rider dismounted and re mounted after two steps," I said. "Honey, there are lots of people that ride down by the creek," she said. "No but after a while they rode in the water. As if they didn't want to be seen," I argued. My mother nodded. "I'll look into it," my mom said. I knew she would ride there and check it out. "Go saddle Sweetheart for me. And hurry, sundown is only three hours away," she said. It only took thirty minutes to ride to the creek, but my mother will take two hours to finish the deed. I ran to one of the smaller paddocks. In it stood a strawberry roan mare with tall legs. Next to her stood a little mustang gelding. He was a bay with black mane and tail. He had a white star on his rump. "Sweetheart!" The roan mare walked towards the gate the gelding also started moving. His name was Astro. I clucked to Sweetheart and she picked up the pace. The pair was in this paddock because they were bullied by the rest of the horses. I clipped a lead line onto Sweetheart and saddled her. My mother came out in a pair of jean breaches. "Go help gram!" My mother ordered. I went inside. "Hi doll, will you get the salt for me please?" My gram said. I walked to the cupboard and took out the salt. My gram's grey hair was in a perfect bun and her blue eyes always smiled. Until Emily disappeared. "Here gram," I said. "Go outside. Go check on the calf. And while you're at it, give him a name," my gram said. I walked to the pasture that linked to the barn. In it was a perfect white calf. His mother abandoned him a few weeks ago. He was as calm and tame as a lamb. I sat on the rails thinking of a name. "Lucky" I said to my gram. "Excuse me?" She said. "Lucky. That's what I named the calf," I said. "That's a nice name," my gram said. "Pup, you doin' anythin'?" My dad asked in the doorway. "Naw," I said. "Gud. Come check this out," he gestured me to follow him. I walked outside. "What?" I asked. "Bridge," my dad said. I looked at the bridge. There was a dapple gray mustang tied to the rail. He had an orange halter on. "What's it doing here?" I asked. "I dunno. I was unsaddling Tank, and when I came out, there it stood," he said. "Nothin' as good as a free horse," I said. "Nothin' as bad as a horse that can't earn it's keep," my dad said. I walked down the steps. I walked to the horse. It looked at me, but his lead rein was so tight it had to roll it's eyes to see. I bent down and saw it was a stallion. He was about 15hh. I untied it's lead rope and as I turned him a note stuck out of his halter. It read: ' This stud is a lot worth. But I want something. You give me Hurricane, I give you Emily and this horse for the trouble I caused. Meet me at Indian flats tomorrow morning, just before dawn'. "Dad!" I called. He jogged to me. Tears were streaming down my face. I gave him the note. I could never give Hurricane away. But what about Emily. "You don't want to give Cane away?" My dad asked. "No, no I don't," I cried. "It's just someone bluffing. He probably doesn't even have Emily. Or he does, but he won't surrender her for a horse," my dad said. I felt a lot better. "Your right. What about this boy?" I gestured towards the stallion. "Boy? Stud or Gelding?" He asked. "Stud," I confirmed. Put him with Astro and Sweety," he said. I put him in the paddock with Astro. "Where's mom?" My dad asked. " She rode to the creek," I said. Just then my mom trotted over the bridge. She dismounted. "Hey honey. I looked and you were right. Those tracks looks like they didn't want to be seen," my mother said. "It's strange," I said. "Sure is. We just have to keep our eyes open," she said. While my mother unsaddled, I stared at the hills in the distance. "Mom, do you think she might be in the hills?" I asked. "Well honey, it's summer vacation. Ride out tomorrow and come back the afternoon. It is only about a two hours' ride," she said. "Ok," I said. Tomorrow it is. Not much happened after that.
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