Colton was wearing an ear-to-ear grin as he maneuvered confidently across the yard, opened the gate to the paddock, and snapped a lead onto Blue’s halter. “That’s a good boy, Blue. You and I are going to have our picture taken.”
Blue pricked his ears forward, listening to his young master. He bobbed his head up and down and allowed Colton to lead him from the paddock. He waited patiently as the boy turned and closed the gate behind them.
Colton started to lead the pony toward us, the two of them easily avoiding some bales of hay and several other obstacles. The boy patted the pony’s neck, and Blue rubbed his face on Colton’s shoulder, nickering softly.
I stood with Colton’s mother, Anna, and my companions, Dray and Clara (the alter egos of two of my characters, Dragon and Cleric). We all swelled with pride as we watched Colton, sightless since birth, and his pony, Blue, work faultlessly as a team. The reporter, Didi, snapped photos to go with her human-interest story on the blind boy and his therapy horse.
Suddenly, Blue stopped dead, feet planted firmly. Colton came to an abrupt halt when he reached the end of the lead that attached him to the pony.
“Oh, not again!” Anna started sprinting across the yard as Blue pinned his ears back. The pony turned and trotted across the yard and into the barn, practically dragging Colton along with him.
“What happened?” Didi’s eyebrows shot up as she turned to us.
“I’m not sure, but I think we may have uninvited company again.” I motioned to Clara. “You go with Anna and Colton. See if you might help calm the pony.” I gestured to Dray and Didi and led them to the area where Arthur had been found lurking the previous day.
A quick examination of the bushes and surrounding area turned up nothing. I frowned. “I was fairly certain we’d find something here . . . or, rather, someone.”
“You mean Arthur?” Didi raised an eyebrow.
I nodded. The three of us continued to look around but found nothing. Suddenly, Dray stopped and looked up, scanning the trees. She pointed to a nearby red elm and turned her head toward me. “Do you see something strange in that tree?”
I nodded. “A rather large nut, if I’m not mistaken.”
Didi giggled, then quickly raised her camera and documented Arthur’s extremely graceless descent. He managed to rip his coat in several places and skin his knuckles. As he dropped to the ground, he glared at Didi. “Put that camera away!”
“Arthur, aren’t you a bit old to be climbing trees?” I folded my arms over my chest and narrowed my eyes. “Just what were you doing up there, anyway?”
Arthur scowled. He sucked on his raw knuckles, then examined his ripped coat before answering. “I have not abandoned the idea of writing this article. I am quite certain you and Didi will fail miserably at interviewing the boy and his mother and will embarrass yourselves no end. Then perhaps the boy’s mother will allow me to handle this story. I have not only the talent to write it, but also the contacts to place it in a prestigious publication, not merely a local rag.”
I raised an eyebrow. “I thought you said there was no story here.”
Arthur shrugged. “I may have been premature in my assessment. I’ve decided to continue researching.”
I frowned. “Care to explain why you were conducting your research from the branches of a tree?”
Arthur gave me a look of pure innocence. “I did not want to spook the boy’s pony again. I thought by placing myself above its eye level, I would remain unnoticed.” He snickered. “But I can see that was not the case. Once again, the pony has proven it is not the astounding super-star of the therapy horse world it is reputed to be.”
I shook my head. “If anything, Blue has proven he can recognize danger wherever it lurks and protect Colton from it. Now, I suggest you leave before Anna comes out here and finds you trespassing again. She may call the police this time.”
“I’ll take my chances.” Arthur gave us a smug smile.
Dray studied Arthur intently. “Why is it so important to you to write this article?”
Arthur looked down his nose and gave her the same look one would give something found stuck to the bottom of one’s shoe. “What business is that of yours?”
Dray narrowed her eyes and glared at Arthur.
I cleared my throat. “Answer her, Arthur.”
Arthur assumed another innocent look. “All right. Who said it is important to me?”
Dray snorted. “Well, you are putting far too much effort into it for it not to be important to you.” She gave him another intent look. “And I really think there is more to it than just wanting Didi and Missy to look bad.”
“Missy?” Arthur furrowed his brow and tilted his head.
“That’s what some of my friends call me.” I waved off further questions. “But let’s stay on topic. I agree with Dray. I think there is more to this.”
“Think what you want.” Arthur’s expression turned hard. “But know this – if I determine there is a good story here, I will be the one to write it, or no one will.”
“Again I ask – why is it so important to you to write this article?” Dray walked toward Arthur. “And I would suggest being forthcoming in your answer. I will know if you are lying.” Even in her guise of a beautiful and delicate elf maiden, there was something feral, something dragon-like, in Dray’s expression. It did not go unnoticed by Arthur, who gulped and tugged at his collar.
Before he was able to answer, Anna stormed out of the barn and over to where we were standing. She stood practically toe-to-toe with Arthur “Are you trying to cause my son serious injury?”
Anna looked as if she would strike the man, so I stepped between them and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Is Colton okay?”
She nodded. “No thanks to that man, though.” She pushed me aside and resumed yelling at Arthur. “What were you thinking? You saw yesterday what your presence here did. Why are you here again? Are you purposely trying to upset my son’s therapy horse?”
Arthur sneered. “Some therapy horse! I thought animals trained to work with the blind are supposed to be rock-steady and not spook from anything.”
I laughed. “You know, for someone who wants so badly to write a story on Blue and Colton, you sure aren’t showing the pony much respect.”
“Write a . . .?” Anna gaped at Arthur. “I thought I made it clear someone else is writing the story about my son and his pony.”
Arthur glared at us. “This article is rightfully mine. These two hacks stole my notes. They’re not only untalented, they’re also unethical. They have no business writing this story.”
Dray narrowed her eyes, and when she spoke her voice was almost a feral growl. “I do not appreciate you casting aspersions upon my friend. Now, one last time I ask you – why is it so important to you to write this article?”
Arthur ignored Dray and focused all his attention on Colton’s mother, grasping her arms. “Anna.” His addressed her in his smarmiest voice. “Anna, you know I’m right. You know I should be the one to write this story.”
Anna stared at Arthur. Several emotions flickered across her face – anger, fear, confusion, and finally a calm acceptance. “Of course, Arthur. You will write this story. Come, you need to interview Colton.”
Didi, Dray, and I gaped at the departing figures as Anna led a smug Arthur toward the barn.
“What just happened?” I scratched my head.
“I am not sure, but I think we need to follow them. Clara is still in the barn.” Dray took off after Anna and Arthur at a dead run. I grabbed Didi’s hand and followed. Halfway across the yard, we heard the angry scream of a pony.
What is happening? Why did Anna suddenly agree to Arthur writing the article? And what has Blue so upset? Be sure to come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.