Dean pulled Dusty from the pen, saddled him up and jumped on.
“Alright buddy, let’s go.” He guided the horse out of the barn and into the dark night. He inhaled the cool winter air as Dusty leisurely stepped into the field.
He loved riding horses—something about it made him feel free; free of worry, free of stress. He closed his eyes for a moment and listened to sounds of the woods around him—the wind whispering through the tall pine trees, the sound of Dusty’s hooves crunching on the icy grass beneath him and the night calls of the thousand different critters that call the Ozark Mountains home. The faint smell of a fire burning somewhere in the distance tickled his nose.
Despite the picturesque surroundings, he looked into the woods and tensed. Usually, being alone on his land cleared his head and gave him a calmness that only the outdoors could provide. But, not tonight. Tonight, the woods seemed ominous in the dark night, with long shadows stretching across the field like fingers reaching to grab a hold of him.
Like someone watching him from the darkness, waiting to grab hold.
He thought of his mother, and the look in her eyes when she asked about Clint Novak. Although it wasn’t said, there was no doubt that she had been thinking the same thing he had been since he looked down at Clint’s body. Could it be the same person? The same person who killed his father six, now seven, years ago?
The thought seemed inconceivable. What was the connection between his father and Clint, and why wait seven years?
It wasn’t just the location of the bullet hole, it was just something in his gut that made him on edge about it. A sixth sense. And, obviously, something in his mother’s gut felt the same way, too.
He pulled Dusty to a stop where just seven years ago—to the day—he and his father were burning brush, right before his father was shot and killed.
He sat still for a moment. His eyes scanned the tree line in the distance—as he had done a million times—trying to put a face to the murderer who killed his father. Was it someone who knew him? Or, was it just pesky trespassers who got a little too trigger happy?
He took a deep breath and slid off the horse.
Flashbacks of holding his dead father in his arms shot like lightning through his head. His fists clenched as he paced the area.
As if Dusty knew what was going on, he bowed his head in grief, and respect for the dead.
Dean tilted his head to the sky, letting the light of the moon wash over him.
He whispered, “I’ll get him, Dad. I’ll get him.”
As tears threatened to sting his eyes, he reached into his pocket, pulled out the bottle of whiskey and took a sip. And, poured a little out for his father, as he did every year on this day.
Anger washed over him, and a renewed determination to catch the bastard that killed his father had him seething. He inhaled deeply, took another swig and looked into the woods.
He’d get the son of a bitch.
As he turned to mount Dusty, something in his gut twisted. A foreboding of something to come.