Lake 33 Killing Relic
Chapter 8: Horse Thief

This is the First draft, including typos and poorly thought out ideas.

Wrote this on a whim.

Expect this to change, to be improved or even deleted.


stonebridge

Stonebridge Stables, St. Charles Missouri



Chapter 8

Traveling down Highway DD, past the family homestead Stonebridge Stables.

Home for the first eighteen years before I joined the USAF. 

Almost nothing had changed; the barns and riding area looked the same. 

With each drive past Stonebridge, my speed had involuntarily slowed, not quite to a safe turning into the driveway speed, but almost. It would only take a blinker and a tap on the brakes.

1:30 AM, and my speed involuntarily slowed again. 

In the darkness, I could make out the silhouette of the riding arena and the cones of the two light poles.

A light briefly flickered off and on, illuminating the inside of a vehicle.

My mother had always frowned upon boarders who rode horses after ten, and this person was still there after midnight.

But someone riding in the arena would've had the lights turned on.

Yet someone was by the arena and using only the light of a gibbous moon? It could be a clandestine hookup.

 I had a crazy memory of sneaking down the hill from the house with my semi-automatic .22 rifle. Sticking to the shadows of the wooden fence and pines, I had crawled under the horse trailer, straining, listening, certain someone was robbing our antique shop.

The night hunt was no different from turkey or deer hunting. It involved patience, listening to the night birds, and watching the shadows.

After perhaps an hour, I crawled from under the trailer and inspected the locks and windows. If anyone had been there, they had left, but something—a series of unusual sounds—had caused me to slither down the hill like a wraith. Maybe a night visitor had found the buildings locked and departed.

Would I have shot the gun? No doubt. For years, even in the summer, when fishing or frogging, the sixteen-shot .22 went everywhere with us.

I took my foot off the gas pedal. Someone was at the stables at 1:30 in the morning. In the dark, I reached for the old .22 or an M4.

"How stupid," I berated myself.

I turned the car around and drove slowly towards the cattle guard with the headlights off and my window down.

The moonlight reflected off the silhouette of a truck and trailer parked in front of the indoor riding arena. I heard a horse whinny in alarm.

"Horse thieves."

If I turned into the driveway and confronted the thieves, I could be going back to prison.

"Fuck!"

Instead, I punched 911 on my cell phone.

"911, what is your emergency?" asked the operator.

"I need you to dispatch the sheriff or deputy. I think horses are being stolen at Stonebridge Stables on Highway DD."

Not horse thieves like in the Westerns. Modern horses were stolen to be sold to the killer buyers for shipment to Canada and the food processing factories.

"I see at least one vehicle on the property, but their lights are off."

"Sir, are you sure it's a horse thief?" asked the operator.

"It's past one in the morning, I said, getting frustrated with the 911 operator.

"Mam, if you are not going to dispatch the sheriff, I will take care of this myself," I said.

"Sir, we do not want you to go there. I'm dispatching the deputy right now," the operator said. 

"Tell them to hurry, or there will not be a single horse remaining on the property. Tell them to kick on their blue lights, and they will likely be armed.

"Yes sir, what is your name?" asked the operator.

"I used to live there."

The next phone number rang for a long time before my mother answered the phone.

"It's Bruce," I said.

"Bruce! I was wondering when you were going to call. When are you coming home? And why are you calling at 1:30? Have you been arrested?

"I'm outside the front gate on DD. I can see someone with a truck and trailer at the arena. Like someone might be breaking in to steal horses.

"Ray!" said Kim, "Wake up! Bruce says someone is stealing horses down at the indoor arena!"

I heard my father cursing, a familiar curse.

"I have already called the sheriff; they are on the way."

 "Bruce has already called the sheriff. Police are on the way."

I could hear the click-click of my father's 30-30 lever action rifle as he chambered a bullet. Don't worry about the ambulance with Ray's rifle.

"I have to leave before the cops arrive," I said. "I wish I could stay to help, but I am on parole."

"When are you coming home?" asked my mother.

But I pressed the end phone call button, placed Calvin's car in drive, and drove over the hill before the sheriff pulled into Stonebridge. I couldn't help my father this time, but the horse thieves would be lucky to live if they made any move for self-defense.

"When are you coming home?" my mother's words chased after me, and I put miles between home and the possibility of turning into the driveway.

I drove past the giant radioactive rock dome, bigger than Cakokia mounds, and turned down the gravel road to the Welden Springs boat ramp.

The Missouri River flowed silver in the moonlight, silent under the stars.

I parked Calvin's car facing the river, climbed on the warm hood, and leaned against the windshield.

The occasional cottonwood tree floated down the river.

"Don't eat the catfish," I said to the starlight. "The gangbangers tossed in the river at Kansas City are making the fish grow large."

The river, so beautiful in the moonlight and stars. It was the beautiful things that prison kept from you. Everything in prison was ugly. They made you ugly if you let them. I kept my head down and mopped the floors.

I twirled the marijuana joint between my fingers, feeling the dry paper, trying to decide. One joint, a few puffs, what could it hurt?

"Hope the old man is okay, he likes that 30-30."

The night was briefly illuminated as I fired up the joint and inhaled deeply.

A distant slap sounded on the river, a beaver, most likely.

I marveled at a few falling stars and a barge traveling upriver before finally falling asleep on the hood.

Back in the sandbox, Iraqi voices, angry and far too close. In the dream, my gun kept jamming. The voices were getting closer, and there was AK-47 gunfire.

The radio to the A10 Warthog pilot kept up a static wash.

Got damn it, the gun is not working, and the ammo is gone. God dammit.

Suddenly, the Dragon roar of the A10 cannon.

There was not a sexier sound on the entire planet than the A10 cannon firing down range.

The A10 cannon sounded again, the BRRRR of thousands of rounds, and I opened my eyes; nautical daylight on the Missouri River, no sunrise yet, and Calvin was sitting on his riverboat working on the outboard motor.

He pulled the cord again, BRRRR.

Suddenly, the motor roared to life, and Calvin smiled at me.

"That is not the first time someone slept on old Betty's windshield."

Betty?

"It may be the last," I said. "Betty sounds like she is about to throw a rod. She has been smoking a lot in the last week."

Calvin shrugged and held up plastic jugs and a package of hotdogs. "I'm going jugging. Do you want to come along?"

"What did I say about eating the catfish from that river?" I said, sliding off of Calvin's car.

"I would love to go jugging or set some trotlines. However, I have to keep my job, or it's back to jail."

"They have you by the short hairs, don't they?" said Calvin. "There's no finer whiskey drinking than can be done on the Missouri River."

"True that," I said, "But I have to pick up trash on the radioactive dome."


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