BIG HORN STORM
The sound of a man’s voice made Niki’s head whip around as she tried to bring Storm under control. The man was not speaking English and the insignia on his uniform did not belong to the United States military, nor did the uniform sport a maple leaf such as the one she had seen on the helicopter the previous day. Thoughts swirled through her head, making no sense at all, but the one thing she was certain of, was that she was in deep trouble.
Niki reined Storm around, now surrounded by five more men. Her body went rigid as the horse’s legs suddenly stiffened. Storm snorted at the closest man and then pawed angrily at the ground. The men began advancing, smiling and laughing. Niki couldn’t understand what they were saying, but as she spied two more dead bodies on the ground, she felt certain they had no intention of helping her.
Her eyes darted from man to man. She scanned the area and noted that she was still very close to the edge of the ravine. Niki could feel the big horse quiver beneath her and tense, ready to spring at the slightest provocation. She gripped Storm’s sides with her legs and grasped the saddle horn. One man pulled a pistol out of its holster. She doubted he intended to shoot her yet—instant death would be too quick, easy, and preferable. Niki feared he planned to take out her only mode of escape. She couldn’t allow her beloved horse to be shot at point blank range, but most importantly, she couldn’t be delayed too long or she doubted her grandfather would survive.
With a prayer and a swift kick, Niki informed Storm it was time to run for their lives. The horse sensed the danger and cleared the edge of the ravine before the men could react. Niki held on as tight as she could and leaned back to help the horse keep his balance as he lunged down the slope, rocks dislodging under the fury of his churning hooves as he barreled down the embankment.
They had nearly reached the creek when the first series of shots rang out. Storm shied and turned to follow the creek downstream rather than plunging into the water with its slick bottom at an uncontrolled speed. Another barrage of gunfire pelted the ground, narrowly missing Niki, but hitting nearby rocks, spraying the horse with sharp stone fragments.
A slight bend in the ravine took them out of sight of the shooters and soon the slope was much less intimidating, making it easier for Storm to cross the creek and climb out of the ravine. Niki released a sigh of relief and encouraged the horse to take it easy as he began his ascent. They had just reached the top when Niki heard the unmistakable sound of two dirt bikes’ engines firing up, signaling the hunt was still on.
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