Skyheart Ranch

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Cash was checking the fencing around the oil rigs, making sure the cattle couldn’t get close to the machinery. When Cash was first approached to let oil drilling happen on his land, he immediately said no. This was a ranch, not some oil conglomerate. But the offers kept pouring in and after talking it over with Rocky and his lawyers, he finally signed a contract to let oil wells be built on the ranch.

Cash still wasn’t a huge fan of the rigs, but he couldn’t deny the money was amazing. Cash had never been interested in making tons of money; he just wanted to keep his family’s ranch going. The money from the oil basically gave Cash the ability to buy anything and secure the ranch for the future. Now, with Katie, Cash was grateful, knowing he could buy his angel anything she wanted and support his (hopefully growing) family for the rest of their lives.

“Boss?” Rocky’s voice came through the radio, crackling. The radios always seemed to have a problem when they were by the oil rigs. Cash didn’t know if the rigs somehow interfered with their connection, but everything was always cracking and hard to hear.

“Yeah, Rock?” Cash responded. “Can you hear me?” He waited a few seconds before the radio crackled back to life, Rocky’s voice breaking up.

“I think...wrong...big...gonna...out.” Cash couldn’t understand what Rocky was saying.

“Say again?” Cash asked.

“I...wrong...big house...check it out.”

‘There’s something wrong at the big house?’ Cash thought, frowning. ‘Is that what he’s saying? No one should even be there, since my angel went to town with Ruby.’ Cash checked his watch and was surprised at how late it was. ‘Maybe they’re back? But what could be wrong?’ Cash felt this cold weight drop in his stomach. What if something had happened? He needed to get back.

“Boys, I’m gonna head on back. It sounds like there might be something wrong at the big house.” The four men helping Cash check the fence glanced around at each other.

“We’ll come back with you, Boss,” Paul, Cash’s father’s friend, said. “The fences are looking fine.”

Cash just nodded and swung his leg over the saddle, mounting his horse. The rest of the men mounted their horses and kicked them into a gallop, following behind Cash. When he was almost two miles from home, his radio crackled to life again. This time the voice was clear.

“Boss?” Rocky said. “Can you hear me?” Cash pulled up on the reins, stopping Stella. The rest of the men pulled up around him to listen.

“I’m a few miles out, Rock. Finally got away from those damn oil rigs.” There was a brief pause, then Rocky continued, sounding upset.

“You need to get to the big house as soon as possible. Something’s happened.” The men glanced at each other looking concerned. Cash felt like his lungs weren’t filling with oxygen as he gasped, trying to pull air in.

“What’d you mean, something’s happened?” Cash snapped. “Rocky, what’s going on?”

“Just get here as quick as you can,” he responded. “And bring as many men as you can find with you. We’re gonna need ‘em. I’ve already got around 30 hands here at the house.” Cash took a deep breath, looking at his men. They were all ready to ride.

“On our way.” Cash kicked Stella to a gallop, the rest of the hands following. When he got to the house, he saw groups of hands milling around, some with their horses. The snowmobiles and four wheelers had been brought out of the barns, sending a chill down Cash’s spine. There was only one reason they’d need the ATVs and that was if someone was lost on the ranch.

Cash handed his reins to one of the hands outside and rushed in the door. Rocky was sitting on the coffee table in the living room and Josiah, one of Katie’s friends, was using a first aid kit on someone laying on the sofa. Cash rushed over and saw Ruby laying there, a bandage on his forehead and a bruise forming on his cheek.

“Ruby.” Cash knelt beside the sofa and Ruby’s eyes blinked open. He saw Cash and tears started filling his eyes.

“I’m so sorry, Cash. I tried...I tried to stop him.” Ruby started crying and Rocky laid a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“Take a breath, kid, and tell Cash what happened,” Rocky said gently. Ruby nodded, grimacing at the pain in his head. He took a few deep breaths, getting himself under control.

“It was that Damien Crawley, Cash. When Katie and I got back from town, he was waiting on the back porch. I came up to the door to grab the rest of the groceries and he slammed the door forward, punching me and pushing his way into the kitchen. I tried to fight him, but he grabbed the butcher knife, hitting me over the head with the handle.”

“He needs to see a doctor, Boss,” Josiah said. “It looks like he’s got a concussion and they should check for a skull fracture, just in case.”

“I’m fine!” Ruby yelled angrily, trying to push everyone out of the way, but he could barely sit up. His eyes started fluttering and Rocky pushed him back down on the sofa.

“Not gonna help anyone if you pass out,” Rocky said. “Let one of the hands take you into town.”

“No!” Ruby shouted. “I gotta stay, I gotta help.” Ruby tried to get up again, but this time Cash pushed him down, keeping a hand on Ruby’s chest.

“They’re right,” Cash told Ruby. “You need to stay here. If you wanna help, you and Josiah can help set up a search grid. We’re gonna find her.”

‘We have to find her,’ Cash thought, panicking. ‘Oh god, my angel trapped with that monster. God only knows what he’s doing to her.’

Before Cash could get up, Ruby grabbed Cash’s hand, pulling him closer.

“Cash... She was gonna tell you tonight... Katie’s pregnant. She’s pregnant and that psychopath has her. I gotta go out there and help find her!” Rocky and Josiah wrestled Ruby back down onto the sofa as Cash kneeled there, staring into space, in total shock.

‘My angel’s pregnant. She’s pregnant! Oh my god, that’s amazing! She’s gonna have our baby and...’. Cash’s thoughts trailed off as he realized the full implications of what Ruby just told him. ‘But he has her. That monster has her. He could be hurting her, he could be...’. Cash couldn’t even complete that thought. He stood up, a fierce, angry look on his face. His hand were curled into fists, his nails digging into his palms.

“Rocky?” Cash said, in a low, deadly voice.

“Yeah, Boss?” Rocky answered, standing up.

“Start looking for tracks in the snow. Figure out which way that bastard went. Then start dividing up the hands. Teams of three or more, got it? Make sure everyone has radios. Find her.” Rocky nodded and started to head out, then laid a hand on Cash’s shoulder, squeezing tight.

“We will find her, Cash,” Rocky stated firmly. “He can’t have taken her far. The hands that were working in the barns would have heard a car or truck on the driveway. He’s still here, somewhere on the ranch. We’ll find them.”

Cash just nodded and Rocky squeezed his shoulder again. He went outside and they could hear him yelling orders to the hands, explaining what happened and what they needed to do.

“Stay here with Ruby,” Cash directed Josiah, who has holding an ice pack on Ruby’s head. Ruby looked up at Cash, tears filling his eyes again.

“I’m sorry, Cash. I’m so, so sorry. I should’ve protected her better. I-”. Cash cut him off, kneeling next to the couch Ruby was laying on and taking his hand.

“This is not your fault. You hear me? He must’ve been watching us, figuring out when he could grab her. You did everything you could, Ruby. We’ll find her. I’m not losing her. Or our baby. It’s not fucking happening.” Cash stood up, giving Ruby a nod and walked out the door.

‘I don’t care what I have to do,’ Cash thought. ‘I’m getting her back. I’m getting my angel and our baby back. Even if I have to kill that bastard.’

When Cash walked outside, Rocky was on a snowmobile, Hank sitting behind him. There were two rifles strapped to the back. Cash walked over to the remaining snowmobile and picked up the revolver placed on the seat. He clipped the holster to his belt, checking the gun before sliding it in, then swung his leg over the seat. He gave Rocky a nod. He started his snowmobile and headed off, following a potential path in the snow, Cash following close behind.

‘Hold on, angel. I’m coming. Just hang on until I get there.’

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