It was pleasantly warm as Andi and her friends, Cory and Rosa, were spending the afternoon fishing. “That’s three for me, how many do you have Cory?” Andi shouted to her friend.
“I still have four,” he shouted back, "and what about you Rosa?”
Rosa proudly held up a large fish for them to see.
“Wow,” replied Andi in surprise, “That’s a whopper!”
“Gracias,” Rosa said excitedly, “it’s the first one I’ve ever caught!”
Andi noticed the darkening sky, “It’s getting late,” she said, “let’s head back.”
“Yeah, it’s almost time for supper!” Cory quickly agreed.
Grabbing Taffy’s reins, she pulled herself into the saddle. “Let’s race back!” Andi challenged. Rosa nodded as she mounting up on Patches.
“I’m game,” said Cory, “and this time I’m gonna beat you.”
"Well, good luck with that.” Andi smirked. She started counting down, on your mar-----”. She stopped as she saw a horse and rider approaching.
“Hey, there sis, what are you three up to?” shouted Mitch as he rode up to them.
“Oh, hi there Mitch, I didn’t see you there! We just finished up some fishing and we're going to race home - why are you here?” Andi asked as she cocked her head suspiciously.
“I’m just heading home from town. Chad had me go and talk to the sheriff about the recent cattle rustling and the little piece of evidence I found last time they made a visit,” he said flashing a yellow deerskin glove.
“They struck again?” Andi shouted, “Why those low down, dirty scoundrels-”
Mitch cut her off with the wave of his hand, “That’s enough, Andi. You wouldn’t want Mother to hear you talking like that?” He raised his eyebrows to emphasize his point.
“I guess not,” replied Andi sheepishly.
Wanting to change the subject, she quickly spoke, “Let’s get this race started and get home.”
“Oh, mind if I join you?" asked Mitch with a grin. “Chase,” he said patting his horse, “might not be the fastest, but we’ll give it all we’ve got.”
“Whatever you want, big brother, Andi said, shrugging her shoulders. And for the second time she started the countdown, “On your mark, get set……..GO!”
They all took off like a herd of spooked horses. Mitch, who started out in the back, was steadily gaining on the three friends. “I think it is between you and me sis!” Mitch shouted as he passed Rosa, then Cory.
“Taffy’s faster,” Andi shouted over her shoulder, “Come on Taffy, you can beat Chase any ‘ol day.”
Mitch smiled as he slowly passed Andi and rode through the open gated entrance.
“Guess I won.” said Mitch moving from a slight to a large grin on his face as he slowed Chase to a walk.
“Yeah, you’re just lucky.” Andi said, sorely, as she wasn’t used to losing horse races.
“You know that luck didn’t have anything to do with it,” Mitch replied
“Alright, but next time I’ll beat you Mitch!” she shouted after him. He just chuckled as he walked off.
Cory said his goodbyes and raced off towards his home with his catch of the afternoon, while Andi and Rosa handed off their horses to a waiting ranch hand, then made a beeline for the house.
“Hey Melinda, Melinda are you there?” Andi shouted as she shut the side door into the kitchen.
“Nope, she’s gone with Jeff,” Chad said importantly as he strolled in, “I think he is proposing to her.”
“WHAT!” Andi shouted, stamping her foot, “I don’t like him!”
“Well, he’s not proposing to you Andi,” Chad said as he tousled up his hair. “and why were you yelling through the house anyway?”
“I wanted Melinda to cook the fish Rosa and I caught this afternoon. She cooks it the best, but I guess Luisa will make it fine.”
“Alright," said Chad, eyeing the fish hungrily, “I’ll let her know."
She put the fish on the counter and headed up towards her room to change.
Luisa proved to make a delicious fried fish and after supper was over, Jeff and Melinda finally showed up. Together they showed the ring on Melinda’s finger. All the boys heartily congratulated the two, while Elizabeth hugged her daughter and wept softly into her shoulder.
Andi didn’t say a word as she sat in the parlor with everyone's mixed emotion. She felt a sinking pit in her stomach… like she had lost a sister and gained an enemy.
Andi was relieved when Jeff left for the night, promising Melinda to be back soon. As she got up to go to bed, she noticed a leather glove sitting on the sofa where Jeff had been sitting.
“I think Jeff left his glove here.” she murmured picking up the glove, it looks familiar…she thought as she stroked the soft deer glove. “That’s right… I think this is it!” she exclaimed.
Her lungs filled with the crisp night air as she headed for the horse barn - she knew Mitch would be there. As she searched the horse barn, she found him bent over fixing one of the harnesses.
Andi approached him quietly. “Mitch,” she said softly, “I need to talk to you, do you have a minute?”
“Sure Andi, what do you need?” Mitch said looking up.
“I don’t think Jeff should marry Melinda.”
“Andi, I know you don’t like him, but that doesn’t mean that Melinda can’t marry him...unless you’ve got a golden excuse.”
“Well this time I think I have a really good one,” she said smartly, pulling out the glove. “Does this look familiar?” Andi asked, hoping it would ring a bell.
“Why yes, Andi, it looks like the glove that fell off one of the rustlers we were chasing. Look Andi, it even has his initials in them…JS,” Mitch said looking closer.
“So what are we going to do, we’ve got to get Jeff out of here,” Andi said desperately.
“Don’t you care about catching the rustlers too, Andi? Or are you just happy about Jeff leaving the picture?” teased Mitch with a grin on his face.
Andi knew that he was just as happy as she was about Jeff. “Okay sis, I’ll think of something, but don’t tell a soul.”
“Okay Mitch, but I already thought of a plan,” she said moving closer to him whispering into his ear softly.
Mitch chuckled, “I have to hand it to you, Andi, that’s pretty good. I’ll send Sid out tonight. Oh, and Andi… be sure to give the gloves to Melinda right before he arrives.”
“It’s as good as done,” Andi replied smiling, “I can’t wait for tomorrow!”
“Good morning,” sang Melinda, cheerfully floating into the dining room.
“Somebody looks happy today,” Elizabeth said.
“Ahh, Mother how could I not?” she replied giggling, looking at her new ring.
Well you’re not going to be so happy when you find out what’s really happening. Andi thought.
“Jeff is coming over soon, so I must be getting ready soon.”
“You look great already, I don’t know what else you need to do…just because he’s coming” Chad said rolling his eyes.
Melinda just ignored him and started eating.
Andi looked around and caught Mitch’s eye, and he gave her a nod. She swallowed hard and slid her hand underneath where she was sitting and pulled out Jeff’s gloves. “Hey, Melinda, I think Jeff left his gloves here last night,” she said, holding the yellow deer gloves over the table.
“Oh, they are! Poor Jeff, working hard without his gloves. I’ll make sure he has these back.” She caressed the gloves lovingly, seeming to be lost in thought.
Andi, disgusted with Melinda’s attitude, yet relieved that there was no questions, immediately avoided any more conversation by grabbing her spoon and filling her mouth with steaming oatmeal.
That’s done. Let’s hope the rest goes smoothly.
“Are you ready, Taffy?” Andi whispered to her golden palomino as they rode up a small mountain range. “You know,” she continued talking her horse, “This is one of the craziest things we’ve ever done. You and I have done some wild things together, like running away, and do you remember that hold up in summer with Jenny, Mitch and Cory? That was summer to remember!”
Taffy snorted in agreement.
“Looks like we're here” Andi said softly.
Andi held Taffy’s reins and looked up just in time to see Jeff and Melinda slowly riding down the same path. She also looked around and spotted one of Sheriff Tate’s deputies and he waved her on.
She gently nudged Taffy and walked right in step behind the two. “Hey you lovebirds,” Andi said as cheerfully as she could muster.
“Hey, Andi, what are you doing here?” Melinda asked.
Jeff just ignored her.
“I was just taking my morning ride and saw you together, so I just thought I’d say hi! Have you given Jeff’s gloves back?” Andi said casually, trying to keep her cool - Jeff’s treatment angered her so, she’d make him pay.
“Oh, I forgot!” Melinda said, pulling the gloves out of her pocket. “Jeff dear, you left your gloves at our house”
Jeff took the gloves and looked them over carefully, “Thanks, hon,” he said casually “I’ve been looking for these,” he patted her hand.
Anger surged through Andi’s body, “How dare you call her 'hon',” she yelled at Jeff. She caught Melinda’s horrified look out of the corner of her eye, but she didn’t care - and she couldn't help contain herself any longer, jumping ahead of their plan.
“You are nothing but a dirty lying scheming cattle rustler and those gloves prove it!”
Jeff’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Andi. His jaw was clenched tight with anger as he saw how his secret was being revealed, but the was too slow.
Andi pulled a revolver out of her overalls pocket and clicked the hammer back, “Let’s head back to the ranch.” Andi said waving the revolver in the direction of the ranch.
He mumbled something under his breath and nudged his horse in a walk towards the house.
Melinda looked pleadingly into Andi’s eyes, “I know you’re not pleased with my engagement to Jeff, but-”
Andi cut her off with the wave of her hand. “Melinda we have evidence, so I am sorry. We have to take him in. Whoa, Taffy. Hold up, Jeff!”
As Jeff pulled his horse to a stop, he asked, “What are we waiting for?” He twisted his head toward Andi for a response.
“Well, Jeff, if you really want to know, we are waiting for Chad, Mitch and the Sheriff to come down from the hill… and if you hadn't noticed, they were watching me from the cliff. Oh, here they come! Over here Chad!” Andi Shouted waving, while still aiming the revolver at Jeff,
“Great Job, Sis!” Mitch said, still keeping a close eye on Jeff.
“Well, I will take him from here Andi, thanks you for your help.” Russ said riding off with Jeff.
“Well," Chad said, breaking the silence, "let’s head in for a late lunch, I am half starved!”
“Race you there Andi,” Mitch said with a smile.
“Ok Mitch, you're on, but this time I going to win!” She said taking off!