Good morning, everyone!
It's cool, gray and dreary here this morning. Fall is fast approaching. Which only helped remind me that the Golden Heart opens for entries in only a few short weeks. I plan to enter the short RS category. I will probably be able to afford only one entry, so I'm asking for your help. Please vote for the one you like best. I am showing you the first few paras of Wild Horses and Shot Through the Heart. Please vote on which one you think has a better chance. Remember, this is the short category, not the longer RS.
"Damn, it's hotter than the devil's backyard out here." Castaña Castillo took one hand off the steering wheel just long enough to swipe at the trickle of sweat running down the nape of her neck and adjust the volume on the radio. One of her favorites, "Amarillo by Morning", wafted from the speakers.
Not even George Strait's silky-smooth voice helped ward off her exhaustion. Castaña’s hands felt like twisted claws wrapped around the steering wheel, and the space between her shoulders ached until she prayed it would go numb. The AC had gasped out its last breath of cool air somewhere in the middle of Texas yesterday afternoon. Both windows in her old Dodge were down, blasting June air through the cab like a roar from an open furnace. An enormous red and orange sun sinking out of the Arizona sky made a blinding glare on the bug-splattered windshield.
Her eyes burned from keeping them open. She'd tried to rest last night, parked near the highway, huddled in her combination camper-horse trailer, but worrying about her missing brother had kept her awake until almost three in the morning. According to a woman who refused to identify herself, no one had seen Martin in a few days. The mystery caller implied that he might be lying out in the forest hurt . . . or worse.
If the horses hadn't needed to rest, she would've pressed on through the night. Bringing her expensive show horses along might have been foolish, but she didn't know how long she would be in Arizona. She hated leaving her animals in someone else's care for more than day or two, but more importantly, she needed them to search the forest.
Something large flashed in the corner of her eye. The pines made it impossible to see exactly what. An elk? Deer? If one of them jumped out in the road—
The animal shot toward her and she jerked the steering wheel. The pickup's front left tire dropped into the loose gravel beside the road, making the rig slide. She had no control. Fighting the truck back to the right, she said, "Stand up, boys."
The pickup refused to cooperate, skidding for at least another hundred feet. In spite of her best efforts to fight it back, the rig flew forward at an alarming rate. Desperately, she tapped the brake in an attempt to keep the trailer from flipping. The truck finally lurched to a stop, the trailer jackknifed across the road.
After a moment to catch her breath, Castaña grabbed her pistol out of the glove-box, opened the door and jumped out on noodle-weak legs. A cloud of swirling dust surrounded the stalled truck and trailer and she sneezed. Wiping away dust-filled tears, she ran for the horses. If one of the geldings had been gravely injured she'd have to put him down.
Jumping inside the trailer, she checked over both geldings. Both horses rolled their eyes and pawed, but otherwise seemed unharmed. She sagged with relief and tucked the gun in the back of her jeans. Back on the pavement, she noticed something next to the road. She rubbed her sand-dry eyes with her fists and stared.
A man staggering to his feet. Had she clipped him? No, she would've felt the bump.
She hurried toward him. "The sun— I couldn’t see."
He came toward her, weaving. Was he drunk? On drugs? Maybe dangerous? Did she need to go for the gun?
Shot Through The Heart
A car door slammed and Laramie Porter’s pulse jumped up to mach speed, but she forced a reassuring smile for her sister-in-law. “Try to stay calm.”
Julie made a noise in her throat like a frightened fawn. “Oh, no,” she moaned. “Lawrence found me already. How did he figure it out so fast?”
Laramie motioned toward the kitchen. “Go in there.”
Julie froze as Lawrence pounded on the front door. Behind her back, Laramie waved frantically. “Get out of here. Call 911 while I stall him.”
Pulling aside the door-length lace curtain, Laramie faced her brother. His coyote-lean face contorted with rage as he hammered on the glass panel until Laramie feared it would shatter. “Open up. I want to talk to my wife.”
Laramie shook her head. “I’m not letting you in until you calm down.”
With both fists, he pounded on the glass near her face. “I’m not playing, Laramie. Let me in.”
“He’ll break down the door if you don’t open it,” Julie whimpered. Although Lawrence had lost a lot of weight lately, he could still smash through the glass door. With another strangled moan, Julie fled. In a moment, Laramie heard the back door open then slam shut. She could handle Lawrence. Even though both were hot-tempered redheads, they’d never hurt one another. But he’d injured Julie. Terribly.
Lawrence rattled the doorknob and shouted, “Open up, dammit.”
“I mean it, Laramie.” He backed up and went into a linebacker stance. Seeing he was determined to force his way inside, she spun around to run.
Grabbing the landline, she dialed 911. When the dispatcher picked up, Laramie screamed into the phone, “I need help!”
“What’s your emergency, ma’am?”
Lawrence crashed his shoulder into the glass window, but surprisingly, it held.
“My brother is trying to break into my house!”
“Yes, he’s the sheriff of Cliffside. He’s out of control—”
“Ma’am, the sheriff is already there?”
“You don’t understand,” Laramie cried. “He’s trying to ram his way inside.” Just then,
The door flew open. Laramie screamed and dropped the phone as Lawrence charged through the ruined door.