Dark clouds moved rapidly in from the west like a movie on fast forward. As they rolled and tumbled over one another, flashes of lightning streaked from one cloud to the next, spilling over to the ground. Perhaps it was the ferocity of the storm that prompted Dr. Collins, Betsy Fowler and Hunter’s grandpa to decide that it was time to go check on the boy. Time to give him shelter from the storms all around him.
The wind caught the screen door as they left the lodge, causing it to bang violently against the wooden Indian as the aged statue stood and smiled, daring the storm to touch him even as the wind picked up his Santa hat and blew it across the yard. The three adults raised their arms across their faces in a futile attempt to shield themselves from the wind and pelting rain as they splashed through the quickly forming puddles. By the time they crossed the yard and stepped up onto the porch in front of the cabin named “M Lazy C,” all three were soaked to the core.
Dr. Collins rapped on the door of the cabin. “Hunter,” he shouted in order to be heard over the bellowing wind. “Hunter, may we come in?” Silence answered them. “Hunter, may we come in, please?” the doctor repeated.
“Hunter, it’s your grandpa. Can I come in and sit with you?”
The three adults looked back and forth at one another.
“He’s not there!” exclaimed Betsy Fowler. “I can feel it in my bones.” She reached for the doorknob and jerked open the door. The three of them pushed their way in, being propelled by the wind. Once inside, they stopped and looked around.
Hunter was not there.
“Where could he be?” asked Hunter’s grandpa.
“There’s nothing he loves more than that horse. Maybe he’s down by the barn,” suggested Betsy Fowler.
When they arrived at the barn, the only thing they saw in Sally’s pen was a very agitated mustang mare. The little dun mustang was running back and forth in her pen, her head and tail high, her eyes directed toward the east, her loud whinnies and squeals nearly drowned out by the thunder, her black legs getting coated with mud.
Dr. Collins shouted through the wind and rain. “Let’s go find Smokey. Maybe he’s seen him.”
The three worried adults ran to the barn and struggled against the wind to open the door. After much effort, they stepped inside. The wind blowing through the gaps in the barn boards kicked up the dust and pieces of hay. They had a hard time seeing anything at first. Betsy Fowler sneezed several times.
“Who’s there?” Smokey’s voice came from the tack room.
“Just us,” shouted Dr. Collins.
Smokey stepped to the doorway, a bridle in one hand, a bit in the other. “What are you folks doin’ out in this storm?” asked the cowboy, with a grin and a twinkle in his eyes revealing that he was really glad for the company.
Dr. Collins motioned toward the man standing beside him. “This is Hunter’s grandfather William Mitchell. Have you seen the boy?”
“No. Why?” Smokey could tell by the looks in their eyes that something was terribly wrong.
Dr. Collins and Betsy Fowler took turns rehearsing the events that had transpired while William Mitchell stood and wept.
Smokey’s grin changed instantly. His lips pursed, and he rubbed the stubble on his wrinkled chin. “He’s on the run.”
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