A novel by Karen Lockhart
Copyright© 2016 Karen Lockhart
The next morning as I helped Cathy and Ellen feed and water the horses, I heard the clicking of shoes coming down the main aisle. Next thing I heard was “Freeze, and give me a hug!”
There was Pete Smith, wearing a Cheshire Cat grin.
“Did you take the day off to be with me?” Ellen asked.
“Can you believe it I'm being paid to be at a horse show, and oh yeah, to be with you too.”
Good thing he added the last part, or was he in deep trouble with Ellen!
“So Pete, before Tina gets here, tell us what happened with the shooting, obviously I'm a little nosy,” Kevin said.
Pete waited until Cathy came back with coffee before he started.
“So I finally meet Cathy. Hi Cathy, I'm Captain Pete Smith. Not only am I dating Ellen, but I'm in charge of the Massachusetts Drug Task Force, and the Homicide Division of the State Police.” He paused, “Are you aware of the shooting yesterday involving Vincent Morales?”
Cathy nodded her head before taking a sip of coffee.
Ellen piped up, “Come on already, tell us what happened. You said a local yokel cop was shot?”
Peter drew up a chair and got comfortable before starting. “On Monday night, a Salisbury cop was checking ID's for underage drinkers at a drag queen bar that had multiple violations in the past. The second show had just started, when the kid thought one of the bartenders looked familiar. Instead of returning to his cruiser, he consulted his clipboard. When he held it up to the light, the other bartender got a look at it
and shouted, “Vin, screw!” and drew a handgun. The cop shot first and better. The cop's vest saved him, but the other guy was hit in the neck and bled out in minutes.
“By the time I caught the call, the cop was rushed to Anna Jacques hospital, and the place was empty. The local cops were more interested in the dead guy and their very lucky colleague; Vinny was gone.”
“Who was the dead bartender?” Ellen asked.
Pete grimaced, “The guy that went missing with Morales.”
I piped up, “Well he sure isn't missing any longer, is he?”
All through this, Cathy's mouth was open, with a look of horror on her face. Kevin just kept shaking his head.
Ellen looked towards the parking lot. “Here comes Tina, do we want her to hear this?”
Pete said, “If you want I'll wait until the horse show's over? I'm just here to root for Ellen and learn about horse shows.”
Cathy gave Pete a grateful smile, and nodded.
As Tina turned the corner to our stalls, Ellen planted a big kiss on Pete, and said ”Look who's going to pay for lunch.”
Tina was a little uncomfortable at first, but as the day went on she relaxed more and more. I guess it was Pete asking a hundred questions of me and Ellen, until we started trying to avoid him by grooming horses.
The Thursday sessions were starting with 'In Hand' classes. These were similar to the AKC dog show, where the horses were trotted, then posed for the judge. It's as boring as watching paint dry, unless you are a real horseman or woman.
My next class was the class following the 'In Hand' classes. We re-polished the saddle's silver and leather until it shone.
Ellen checked; there were eight in the class and only six ribbons were awarded. After I won yesterday's class, all the trainers were watching me in the warm-up ring.
Cathy kept up a steady chatter helping me not to get nervous. Pete was in the box seats with a camcorder, ready to film my class.
Once the ring was clear, and the tractor smoothed the ring surface, my class was called to enter. I took a deep breath, and jogged into the ring counter-clock wise. I heard the organist playing several of Gene Autry's songs, perfect for a Western Pleasure class. It seemed like only a minute had passed when the Ringmaster directed us to line up in the middle of the ring.
I looked up to see Cathy running into the ring, 'Shoot' (or similar words), I won again!
This time, I knew what a victory pass was! I jogged, then loped my way out of the ring! Ellen had run back to get changed, and help Tina and Chris get their horses ready.
What a good guy Pete was. Even though he was a little timid around horses, he was at the stalls helping out where he could. Cathy held the reins while telling him what straps to loosen. No time to preen, I dashed into the dressing room to strip my chaps and carefully put my hat away. It was crowded with three of us 'neat' girls in various stages of undress. I ran back to grab a couple of English saddles, and helped Cathy and Kevin tack them up. My horse, now untacked, was turned loose to roll in fresh shavings. He deserved it after those two classes. Our next class was the Championship on Saturday night. Before this class, he would have a shampoo bath!
We quickly got three horses bridled and saddled, and left on cross-ties in the aisle. Cathy helped the three girls finish dressing, while I grabbed the mounting block. Kevin held horses while the others mounted.
Pete, God bless him, returned to the seats with the camcorder. How he would ever be able to video three riders, I couldn't imagine. After this class, we could take care of the horses, and go for supper. Cathy was in the penultimate class tonight, so no hurry.
Somehow, Cathy, Kevin and I got three riders and horses ready and warming up in the practice ring behind the main barn. It looked like rush hour! This was going to be a huge class. Good luck to the judge!
The ringmaster called the class to ride right in. All thirty horses entered the ring. Mass confusion! The announcer called for the riders to walk into the middle of the ring, while they figured out how to divide the class. It was decided to do even and odd. Odd numbers first.
Ellen and Tina's numbers were called to stay in the ring while Chris was excused to re-enter after the first section was pinned.
I stayed with Chris while we walked around to the in gate area. The show secretary should have done this yesterday!
Tina rode to a third place, while Ellen, who made a mistake at the canter, received nothing. Cathy came out with Chris, while Kevin and I met the girls at our stalls. They held their horses while I changed out of my show blouse, and tossed on a Tee shirt. Kevin was taking the saddles off and then removed the bridles, letting the horses free in their stalls.
While we were untacking, brushing, and changing clothes, we heard over the PA system that Tina won her class! Kevin waited so he could grab the saddle for Tina. Pete beat him back, and by his excitement, I could tell, we had a new fan!
After the horses were fed and watered, we could plan where to go for dinner. Pete suggested a family restaurant in Agawam that he ate at when he was stationed out there.
We walked into that restaurant in a state of euphoria. I don't even remember what I ordered for dinner!
Back at the stalls in plenty of time, I grabbed the Noxon, and started on the silver on Cathy's saddle. Once the tack was clean and her horses' hooves blackened like patent leather, we went to our seats and watched a few classes.
Ellen was telling Pete what to look for in a quiet voice, as Kevin started to tease me. I was glad when it was time to start getting Cathy ready. I really was getting cold, so my warm jacket came in handy.
With much fanfare (literally, the class was called by a horn!) Cathy entered the ring first, and was perfection personified. Before the results were announced, we knew she had won! Ellen entered the ring to help with the first place presentation. What a day! Cathy's saddle had made two victory passes, once with me, and later with her.
All of us sat around the stalls relaxing with a cold drink. Pete tilted back in his chair. “I always kind of poo-pooed the horse show hobby in the past, but no longer. This is a tense sport, where the smallest mistake takes you out of the ribbons. I could feel it in the seats! You folks have won four blue ribbons in two days, with two more days to go. I'm impressed!”
Pete gave Ellen a hug saying: “Tomorrow, no mistakes.”
Around 11:30, we headed for our motel rooms, Ellen and I promising to be back early to take care of the horses.
We didn't know that while we were enjoying ourselves, a state wide search for Vincent Morales was taking place.
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