Andi woke up with a throbbing pain in her head. She felt herself bouncing up and down, but she couldn't see anything. She reached up to find out why, and realized she couldn't move her hands, either. A minute later, the horses stopped and Andi felt herself being pulled off the horse. She was carried inside, and the blindfold fell off as she was tossed down onto the floor.
She looked around and saw that she was in a small shack, but she didn't know where it was. She also saw her captors, three big, muscular men. “Let me go!” She cried, attempting to free herself.
The men laughed. “We'll girl, you ain't so brave now. Without your big brother nearby to save you,” one man said.
“Wait a second,” Andi said. “I'd recognize you anywhere! Troy!”
He tipped his hat at her. “Yep, that's me. Good to see you again, little sister.”
One of the other men smiled. “Can you even guess how much we'll get for her?” he asked Troy. “Good thing I saw her yesterday and thought up this idea!”
“Let's just get started on that note right away,” Troy said.
“You had better let me go!” Andi said. “My brothers will never pay you anything!”
“I think they will, if they realize that if they don't, they'll never see you again,” Troy said, grinning wickedly.
“Why you little--my brothers will so get you for this!”
“Sure they will,” Troy said sarcastically. “Roger, can't you shut her up? I can't think straight with her talking.”
The man named Roger pulled Andi to her feet and dragged her across the main room into a small, room in the back of the cabin. Although it had just been getting light when they arrived, the room was dark with no windows in it. “Now stay quiet, girl,” he said. “Or I'll have to make you.”
Andi fumed, but she stayed quiet. The door shut behind her. She was left alone in the dark.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the brothers had discovered Andi was not in the house. They went outside to look for her. “Where could she have gone” Justin wondered aloud. “I’ll bet she ran off again,” Chad said in disgust. “She was mad at me yesterday.”
Justin shook his head. “She wouldn’t do that. I’m sure she remembers what happened last time.”
“Let’s check in the barn,” Mitch said. “And see if Taffy’s there. I sent Sid and few of the men out looking for her.”
As they neared the barn, they saw fresh footprints and hoof prints in the dirt.
“What’s this?” Justin asked. “It could’ve just been the men getting their horses,” Chad said.
“Look, here’s some smaller prints. These look like Andi’s boot prints,” Mitch said.
“And these hoof prints lead down the road, off the ranch,” Justin said.
“I suppose we should follow them,” Chad said.
“You and Mitch go,” Justin said. “I’ll stay here and see if she comes back.”
Chad shrugged. “Okay.” He and Mitch traipsed off to get their horses saddled. They then mounted up and rode off in the direction of the prints.
The tracks soon led off into the grass and ended. Chad and Mitch were stuck, so they went back home, hoping Andi had returned. Bad news awaited them. Andi had not come back. None of the men had seen Andi since the night before, and couldn’t find her.
“If we can’t find her soon, we’ll have to send a wire and tell Mother,” Mitch said. “Come on, Chad, we’d better keep searching.”
“Taffy’s still in her stall, though,” Justin said. “She wouldn’t have left on her own without her.”
“Yeah,” Mitch agreed. “Well, we’ll keep looking.” He and Chad left once again, determined to find their sister. But by the time night had fallen, they had still not found her.
The three brothers sat inside, talking about what they should do next, when they heard the sound of hoof beats outside. Suddenly, something was thrown at a window, shattering it. Chad ran to the door and flung it open, but the rider was already gone. He went back inside where Justin had picked up a rock with a piece of paper tied around it.
“What is it, Justin?” Mitch asked.
Justin unfolded the note and read it. His face turned white. “It says they have Andi, and they’re keeping her until we pay them.”
“What?” Chad demanded, “Who’s ‘they’?”
“I don’t know,” Justin replied. “It gives directions on how much money and where to leave it. It also says they’ll be watching us when we go give the money, and if we try to play any tricks on them, we’ll never see her again.”
“Great. Just great,” said Chad.
“So what do we do?” Mitch asked.
“I guess we’ll just have to do as they ask,” Justin replied. “But they asked for quite a bit.”
“Justin!” Chad stared at his brother. “You’re not serious! We are not giving those dirty, low-down men anything. We’ll get Andi back some other way.”
“I don’t know that we should risk it,” Mitch said.
“Like we’d pay that much!” Chad said. “This is ridiculous. And, Mitch, we can easily outsmart them. I say we get word to the sheriff, get a posse together, and we can follow whoever brings the bag of ‘money.’ Afterwards we can nab the guy who takes it and make him tell us where she is.”
“It won’t be as simple as that, Chad,” Justin said. “For one, I’m sure they will have someone watching whoever leaves the money, or the sheriff’s office to make sure nobody goes in to tell him. Second of all, there will probably more than one person watching the other collect the money, just in case something like that does happen.”
“A few men won’t stop us, Justin,” Chad said.
Mitch shrugged. “I suppose it’s worth a shot. We can send somebody with a note for Sheriff Tate.”
Justin sighed. “Well, I don’t know. I guess we could, but you know, if it doesn’t work, Andi could end up...” His voice trailed off.
“Alright,” Chad said. “I'll send one of the men into town to tell the sheriff. Which one of us should take the money?”
“I suppose I will,” Justin volunteered.
“Okay. Mitch and I can follow close behind you and the sheriff a little ways behind. We’ll hide after you set the bag down and watch closely.”
With a nod of his head, Chad was out the door.
“Well, wherever Andi is, I sure hope she's doing okay,” Mitch said.
Andi was still locked in the back room. To her relief, she had been untied. She wanted to get back to the ranch so badly. She wanted to throw her arms around Chad and tell him she was sorry. But she couldn't. Not until her family gave their good money to buy her back. She heard the men say they wanted the money quick, and if it wasn't delivered by tonight, she would never see her family again.
She choked back a sob. She wanted so much to see her brothers again. Why did trouble always seem to follow her around? She heard a door open.
“You and Roger go on to the spot. Stay there ‘til tonight, when they’re supposed to bring the money. Make sure those sneaky Carters don't play any tricks on us,” Andi heard Troy say.
There was a mumbled reply, and the door was shut.
For the rest of the day Andi worried about what would happen. Would her brothers bring the money? Would they try and trick the men? Would her brother in-law let her go? Finally, exhausted, Andi fell into a fitful sleep.
She was woken a bit later by Troy. “C'mon, girl. Let's get going.”
“What?” Andi asked.
“I'm taking you with us. We'll see if your brothers were smart enough to give us the money,” Troy said. He yanked Andi up and tied her hands and blindfolded her again. He then threw her over the horse and climbed on behind her.
They rode a ways and stopped behind a few large bushes. “You see that tree over there?” Troy said, yanking the blindfold off.
Andi didn’t answer.
“Well, that's where your brother is supposed to leave the money.” He then fell silent. They waited as night fell. Then, they heard hoof beats approaching. Andi gasped when she saw Justin ride up with a large bag.
Troy clapped a hand over her mouth.