Johnny! He wore his uniform today! Andi thought. But what is Johnny against three men?
Suddenly, a gunshot sounded to the right of the clearing. All three of the men jumped up.
“What was that?”
Another man's rough voice answered. “You two go and see who it is. Now! I'll stay with the girl.” Their footsteps faded as they left the clearing and moved into the woods .
“Yes, I’ll protect our fortune.” The man said.
She felt footsteps as he moved closer, and then his breath on her face as he bent over her. “We wouldn't want her getting away, would we?” He laughed a sickening laugh.
Oh God, please help me! was all Andi could think to pray.
Another gunshot sounded right above Andi. The man standing above her teetered, then fell on top of her. Blood flowing from a wound in his shoulder.
As Andi struggled to get out from under him, someone grabbed his arm and threw him to the side. Then the same hand grabbed Andi.
“Are you okay?”
She looked up into Johnny's pale face. “Yes, I'm okay.”
He helped her to her feet. “Then let's get out of here now before the men return!”
Andi stood up fast and a haunting thought came to her. What if Johnny is going to lead me into a different trap? It is only Felicity, he, and I out here. But after glancing down at the man who had been shot, she quickly hurried away with Johnny. He led her through the trees into another small clearing where his horse was tied.
He hurriedly helped Andi onto the horse and then jumped up behind her.
“Felicity went for help. We need to get out of here fast.”
He dug his heels into the horses side as they surged forward.
“Did you get a look at any of the men?”
“No, but I did hear their voices. If I ever hear them again I’ll recognize them!” she shuddered remembering.
They were almost out of the woods when the met Felicity, Chad, Mitch and two policemen riding toward them.
Chad and Mitch both quickly dismounted and rushed toward Andi. “Are you okay?” Mitch asked while Chad helped her off the horse.
“Yes, I think so.”
“You’re bleeding.” Chad’s voice had an edge to it she hadn’t heard before. Could he be afraid?
“It’s not her blood.” Johnny spoke up. “I shot the man who was keeping guard. The other two had gone off to investigate a shot they had heard . . . which was me, so they’re probably pretty angry by now.”
“There were three men?” One of the police interrupted.
“Mitch, you take Andi, Johnny and Felicity back to the ranch. I’ll go with the police to search for the men.” Chad said vaulting up onto his horse. Then, in a cloud of dust, the policemen and Chad were gone.
God, please keep him safe. Andi prayed as she mounted her horse and followed Mitch back to the house.
The table was decorated beautifully, the chandeliers sparkling, and the china clinking. Andi looked around at the table. I truly have much to be thankful for. She thought. Family that loves me, and, she caught Felicity’s eye across the table, Friends I know I can trust. Her thoughts were interrupted by Chad lightly tapping his spoon against his cup.
“I have an announcement to make.” he said when everyone had quieted. “The three men who were captured yesterday were the leaders of the notorious Oliver gang who, as you may remember, have robbed several stagecoaches but have been able to elude the police. . . until now. But, thanks to Andi and Johnny, they are now behind bars and awaiting their trial.”
Johnny grinned. “Well it wasn’t exactly by choice, but I’m just glad Andi is safe and those men are where they belong.”
“I agree.” Melinda chimed in. “I never thought a uncomplicated ride would turn out so--so complicated! But I guess with Andi, anything could happen!”
At that, everyone chuckled.
“I’m just thankful it all turned out alright and you’re safe.” Mother said with a smile. Aunt Rebecca nodded in agreement. “We truly have a lot to be thankful for today!”
Johnny softly closed the door behind him and joined Andi on the veranda.
“It’s a beautiful night tonight, isn’t it?”
Andi nodded. “It’s been a perfect day. I thought I’d hate thanksgiving this year because we were spending it with Aunt Rebecca. But Melinda helped me understand that there is always something to be thankful for, no matter what the circumstances around us may be. It reminds me of a verse I learned a long time ago. I think it Colossians . . . Colossians 3:15. It says ‘And let the peace of God rule in your hearts...and be ye thankful.’ “
“That’s for sure. Andi, I wanted to apologize to you for everything that happened when I lived at home. How I teased you, bullied you, and…well...that little incident behind the mercantile. It wasn’t right and I’d like to ask your forgiveness.”
Andi’s face flushed and she was glad it was dark out so that Johnny couldn’t see it. She’d never told anyone about what had happened that day, well, other than Justin, and she had almost forgotten about it.
“I forgive you, Johnny. To tell you the truth, as soon as I saw your blue uniform through the bushes yesterday , I could have forgiven you for anything! Well, at least until the thought came to me that you might be with them.”
Johnny feigned surprise. “Me? With those men? What in my past would ever have made you think such a thing?” Then he became serious. “I do hope you don’t think that anymore.”
Andi shook her head. “I think you proved yesterday that I can trust you. “
“Thank you, Andi. It means a lot to hear you say that. I’m headed back inside, you coming?”
“You go on ahead. I’ll be out in a minute.”
Johnny nodded. “You take your time.” was all he said and then he was gone.
Andi looked up at the starry sky. “Thank you, Jesus for protecting us yesterday. And thank you for all the wonderful blessings you have given me!” she prayed. Then she turned back to the house. Back to her family, back to Felicity, her enemy-turned friend,. . .and back to Johnny.