A man came in on a horse. The convict stood rigid, a picture of fear and guilt.
“Friend or Foe?” he asked in a high, nasal voice.
The man on the horse laughed. “Neither. I’m not here to hurt you, but I wouldn’t say you’ve got a friend in the world by the looks of you.”
The convict snarled. “That’s none of your business,” he hissed.
The man held his hand out. “Cool down. I said I wasn’t here to hurt you. I just smelled something cooking, and came running to see if you could spare a morsel to me.”
The convict was still wary, but took the other man’s offered hand.
Andi gasped when the newly lighted fire lit up the face of her older brother, Chad, as the man on the horse. Cory and Jack also gasped, and looked at Andi. She shrugged, returning her astonished gaze to her older brother, who was now helping himself to some potatoes and roasted rabbit. The convict seemed to warm up to Chad, and after a while, they were talking amiably over weather and the price of beef. The talk drifted to family, and Chad was quite open about Andi and her siblings. She listened, open mouthed, as her brother went on about her.
“My youngest sister, Andi, she’s quite the character,” he said with a laugh. “She can be blunt and honest, timid and shy, indignant and angry. All mixed up in one person. She’s like me; she loves horses, especially her Taffy. She’s more loyal than anyone else I know.”
Andi glanced over at Cory and Jack; their eyes met Andi’s and they nodded, agreeing with Chad.
Her brother went on, his face clouding over slightly. “She’s part of the reason I’m out here. According to Blake—he’s our town livery man—she lost her horse during a race with his son, Cory, and Jack Goodwin another friend of hers. Then all three disappeared to find it again.” He gave a sigh of hopelessness and set the plate he had been eating off of back down on the ground and went over to his horse. “Truth be told, I was hoping your fire was theirs.”
He walked over to his horse, and Andi had to force herself from yelling out that she was here and wanted to go home. Suddenly, before she could give him any warning, the convict had Chad tied up with a gun muzzle to his head.
“You said you weren’t going to turn me in, but I just can’t believe you. I’m going to have to take you with me,” he said with a sneer.
Chad looked into the man’s face with unconcealed surprise. “Well, well. You are guilty of some crime apparently.” Chad’s eyes searched the convict’s face. “I guess I will have to turn you in, now that you’ve gone and captured me. I wasn’t going to; you didn’t give me any reason to think you were a criminal, just down on your luck. But now…” He shrugged. “You wouldn’t untighten the ropes, would you?” he asked.
The convict answered by shoving the gun closer to his face.
Chad sighed. “I didn’t think so, but I thought I might as well ask.” There was a silence, and the convict tightened Chad bonds and sat in front of him, a gun level to his face.
Andi watched her brother’s mind race, and she saw beads of perspiration form on his forehead. Suddenly, she felt his eyes lock with hers. She realized that he had known that she was there the whole time he was there. The realization sent a chill down Andi’s back. Her brother was asking her to do something, to free him. Andi nodded slightly, and turned to Cory and Jack. They all backed away to a safer distance.
“Ok, guys, we’ve got a job to do,” she stated matter-of-factly to them. Cory and Jack looked at her.
“What can we do?” Jack asked, the question mirrored in Cory’s face.
Andi bit her lip and frowned. “Jack, you still have the pistol, and it’s still loaded, right?” she asked.
Jack held it up carefully, checking it for bullets. He gave her a quick nod.
“Great. Here’s our plan: We’ll go up behind him and order him to drop his gun. He’ll probably put up some resistance, so I’ll need one of you to sneak up behind Chad and free him, got it?”
The boys nodded, their eyes shining with excitement.
Jack was the one chosen to get Chad’s bonds off, because Cory wanted to practice his “man voice.” Andi was to hold the gun and shoot if nessasary, but she hoped that it wouldn’t be.
The three crept back to the camp, and Andi met Chad’s eyes again, walking out into the camp. The man’s back was turned, and Andi put her finger to the trigger.
Cory, next to her, spoke. “Drop the gun!” he ordered in a deep voice, unlike his own.
The man’s back grew rigid. “Who are you?” he asked, again in his squeaky voice.
“I am a Foe,” he replied in the same voice.
Andi rolled her eyes. The convict wouldn’t take this for real if Cory kept joking like this. She nudged him, urging him to cut all his nonsense out.
Chad decided to play along with them. He gave them a look of relief. “Am I glad to see you, Sheriff,” he said with a sigh. “I was beginning to worry you’d never show up.”
The convict continued to keep facing away.
Cory grew more stern with his command, adding a little to convince the man. “I said to drop your gun!” he repeated. “I will shoot if I have to.”
The convict dropped his gun, but there must have been another, because he suddenly spun around with a new gun in hand.
“Shoot Andi, shoot!” she heard Chad cry, and Andi shot. There was a scream of rage from the convict. The last thing Andi saw was Cory running forward to the fallen convict, and Andi blacked out, sinking into unconsciousness.