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Submitted by Dave Free on 11 May 2007 - 2:44pm.

Fuji hesitated as they reached the top edge of the bowl. He had never been out of the bowl since Jeremy had discovered him. He had started to explore a few times but Jeremy had scolded him soundly. Now he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to go over the edge or not.

Jeremy tapped him on the sides and encouraged him on, “It’s okay boy. It’s an emergency!”

Fuji still resisted and turned and ran back toward the bottom of the bowl despite Jeremy pulling his reins the opposite direction. When Fuji reached the grass he stopped and refused to go anywhere. Jeremy pulled, he kicked, he yelled, he did everything he could think of but Fuji just looked at him and wouldn’t budge.

Near tears, Jeremy slid off Fuji’s back and walked around to his head.

“Come on Fuji!” he plead, “my family is in trouble! They need our help! I can’t do it without you! Please!” Jeremy started walking with the reins but they were yanked out of his hands by Fuji who stood still.

“Fine!” Jeremy sobbed, “I’ll go by myself.” He turned and started walking up the slope, hoping that Fuji would follow. Jeremy reached the top of the rim and looked back. Fuji continued to stand his ground. He looked up at Jeremy but he didn’t budge.

Jeremy turned around with tears running down his cheeks. He ran over the top of the embankment, and nearly crashed into the tail rotor of a helicopter. He froze. His thoughts were spinning. How could I have been so careless? The thug had to get to the bowl somehow! Did he come alone or was there someone else?

Jeremy crouched down cautiously. There didn’t seem to be any movement. Slowly he crept forward to see if anyone was in the cockpit. It was empty. Just at that moment, the radio crackled. Jeremy jumped. The voice on the radio said, “Eagle1, this is the Jackal. No sign of him out here. We’re coming back. Over.”

Jeremy looked out to the desert on the other side of the helicopter. There was a small light! Maybe a flashlight, some distance out. The radio crackled again, “Eagle1 are you there?”

Jeremy jumped in the seat of the helicopter and grabbed the mic off its hook. He wrapped his shirttail over it, pushed the button and said in his deepest voice, “Uh, roger that.”

The radio went silent. Jeremy stared out of the cockpit toward the light hoping his trick had worked. The radio crackled again,

“Eagle we’re out about a mile. Why don’t you fire up the bird and come pick us up here?”

Jeremy hesitated. He needed to buy as much time as possible to go save his family. Slowly he brought the mic to his mouth again. “Uh, negative on the pickup Jackal. I found some of the boy’s foot prints, I’m going to check them out, over.”

Jeremy didn’t wait for a response. He jumped out of the cockpit and ran down the side of the helicopter until he found the engine panel. Opening the panel, he used his pocketknife to cut every hose and wire that he could reach. He looked out to the desert again. The light was coming closer but it didn’t appear that whoever held it was in a great rush.

Jeremy ran back to the lip of the bowl. Fuji was still standing in the bottom. He shook his head and snorted when Jeremy appeared. Jeremy hesitated. He didn’t have long, but he desperately needed Fuji’s help. He wondered if he could get him to leave the bowl in the opposite direction of the helicopter. He had to try.

He jumped over the lip and ran to the bottom. Fuji stood his ground but snorted and bobbed his head as Jeremy ran up to him.

“Okay boy, I know what was scaring you now,” he said. “It’s okay, I’ve taken care of it. C’mon, we’ll go the other way. Can I get on?” Jeremy was at the side of Fuji and had his left hand on the reins with his right hand he reached up and touched Fuji’s back. Fuji slowly crouched.

“Thatta’ boy,” Jeremy smiled and climbed on. “Okay c’mon boy, let’s go the other way.” He pulled Fuji around and started him up the bowl in the opposite direction of the helicopter. Fuji gingerly trotted to the top, hesitated a little at the lip to sniff the air, then stepped out of the bowl and started toward the desert.

Jeremy was just breathing a sigh of relief when Fuji stopped suddenly and shied backwards nearly toppling Jeremy off his back.

Jeremy regained his balance and looked out to the desert. The light was getting closer. Too close to be stuck here.

“C’mon boy!” he pleaded. “They’re coming! We’ve got to go!” He tapped Fuji on the side, but the dinosaur sidestepped and Jeremy heard the distinct sound of a rattler! Quickly, he backed Fuji up and then slid off his back.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked Fuji as he patted him on the neck and walked past him toward the sound of the rattle. Usually Jeremy left rattlers alone, but tonight he had a special need. Using his stick, he scooped up the rattler from a distance. Then he carefully ran around the lip of the bowl to the helicopter with the snake dangling from the end of his stick. He could hear the voices of the approaching men from the opposite side of the helicopter. Quietly and carefully, he eased open the door of the cockpit and gently placed the rattlesnake on the floor.

“Sorry,” he said to the snake, “but its for my family.” Then he quietly shut the door and ran back to Fuji. He mounted quickly and started Fuji out through the desert in the opposite direction of the approaching men. Initially Fuji was apprehensive of the desert plants and creatures, but after a few minutes he seemed to enjoy having the space to run and began to run faster.

Jeremy clung to his back with his bare legs and held onto the reins as if his life depended on it. When Jeremy was eight he dreamed of being a jockey. He read every book he could find about jockeys and how they become one with the horse. His dream ended when he realized at eight he was already bigger than most jockeys, but now as he flew across the desert on the back of Fuji he felt like he was one with his steed. Fuji could fly. Jeremy estimated that they were going at least forty miles an hour. And, unlike his four-wheeler that had to go around sagebrush, logs, washes, and rocks, Fuji when right over them with his great strides.

As soon as they were out of sight of the helicopter, Jeremy guided Fuji in a big half-circle that took them back in the direction of the ranch house. Within a few minutes they could see the lights of the ranch. Rather than going directly to the lights, Jeremy again directed Fuji in a big circle around the ranch. He wanted to see if there were any vehicles in the drive and he wanted to approach from the side opposite of Blue so that the dog wouldn’t announce their arrival.

There were no cars in the drive. That was a good thing. Jeremy had worried that Stutts and others might have returned to the ranch, but it didn’t look like they were here. He rode Fuji into a wash about three hundred yards from the house and pulled him to a stop.

“Wait right here,” he said to Fuji. “I just want to look things over. I’ll be back.”

He jumped out of the wash and, crouching, ran toward his house. Reaching the house on the opposite side from Blue’s kennel, he went from window to window hoping to learn something of where his family members were being held and how many of Stutts men were there. All the shades were closed. Jeremy worked his way around the corner to the back. On the darkened bathroom window he noticed there was writing! He stepped back so that the full moon could shine on it. It read, “In the family room. 1 guard.”

It looked like it was written in red lipstick and it was in Elena’s handwriting. Jeremy smiled. Last winter he and Elena had practiced writing backward on the fogged up windows of the truck whenever they went to Cedar. She was better at it than him. Now she’d done it on the bathroom window and pulled down the shades so the guard would never see it.

Jeremy knew what he needed to know. He turned and ran back to Fuji in the wash. Fuji was happy to see him and was pawing at the ground.

“It’s time boy! Let’s go save them!” He jumped off the side of the wash onto Fuji’s back and urged the dinosaur forward. When they reached the house, Jeremy guided Fuji across the front yard and then around the corner of the house so that Blue could see them. As expected, Blue began barking madly. Jeremy smiled and said “Good boy Blue!” under his breath. Then he backed Fuji up around the corner of the house so that they couldn’t be seen by anyone coming out the side door. Blue continued to bark madly. The kitchen lights went on and then the mudroom and porch lights. Somebody opened the door and yelled through the screen at Blue.

“Shut-up you dumb mutt!” It was Stutt’s man, Petey.

“C’mon out,” Jake whispered under his breath, “C’mon out.” He urged Fuji forward just enough so that Blue could see his head. Blue’s barking intensified.

“Shut-up or I’ll come out there and shoot you!” Petey roared. Jeremy heard the screen door open. Blue kept barking. The screen door slammed. Fuji’s muscles tightened under Jeremy. Petey yelled “shut-up!” again and then Jeremy kicked Fuji in the side and they crashed around the corner of the house, Fuji great feet spraying gravel everywhere.

Petey already had his gun out as he was walking toward the kennel, when he heard the commotion behind him he spun around and pulled the trigger but he was too late. Fuji crashed into him knocking him backwards. The bullet sailed off into the desert sky and the gun fell on the gravel of the driveway.

Petey was shaken but scrambled up quickly and went for his gun. Jeremy brought his lacrosse stick down with a slash that would have put him in the penalty box for the rest of the season. He had intended to hit Petey’s outstretched arms but Petey’s momentum carried him right into the stick. It caught him on the bridge of his nose. Blood splattered everywhere. Petey staggered backwards. Jeremy spun Fuji to the left and the dinosaur’s tail caught Petey in the mid section with a terrific blow that left him lying on the ground gasping for breath.

Jeremy slid off Fuji’s back and walked over to Petey with his stick raised in the air ready to deliver another blow. Petey wiped blood from his eyes and stared up at him terrified.

“Don’t hurt me!” Petey begged, “I give up.”

“Roll over,” Jeremy ordered then he turned to Fuji and said, “If he moves, eat him!”

“I’m not going anywhere!” Petey moaned, “Just keep that thing away from me.”

Jeremy picked up Petey’s gun and ran to the shed. He put the gun on the workbench and grabbed a handful of zip ties out of one of the drawers. He ran back to Petey who hadn’t moved an inch and tied his arms and legs with the zip ties then he ran for the door of the house.

“Fuji,” he called as he ran by the dinosaur, “if he makes a peep you can have him for breakfast.” Fuji snorted. Blue continued barking and Jeremy ran in the door shouting for his parents.

“Mom? Dad? Are you guys here?”

“Jee! Is that you? We’re in here!” his mom returned his call.

Jeremy ran into the family room and found his family lying on the carpet with their hands tied behind them. Their legs were also tied. Madison was the only one that was asleep. Jeremy pulled off his lacrosse helmet and gloves and went to work.

“Jeremy are you okay? What happened to Petey? Why do you have your lacrosse gear on?” The questions flew at him as he used his pocketknife to cut their bands. As soon as the bands were cut everyone started hugging everyone. Madison woke up and joined in the hugging. There were tears on everyone’s cheeks by the time they were done.

“Oh Jeremy, I was so worried about you!” mom said through her tears.

“I’m proud of you son,” dad added.

“Well I couldn’t have done it without Elena’s message on the window,” Jeremy replied anxious to share the spotlight.

Elena smiled, “I knew you’d see it!” she said.

Dad just shook his head. “You wrote a message to Jeremy?”

Elena nodded. “Yep, backwards on the bathroom window.”

Dad gave Elena another hug. “Good thinking!”

“Why are you so dirty and where is Fuji?” Madison asked Jeremy.

“Fuji is out—“ Jeremy started and then realized Blue was no longer barking and ran for the door. His family followed him. Fuji was still there. He had his beak up to Blue’s kennel and Blue was sniffing him and licking him from the other side.

“It’s about time!” Jeremy said. He ran over to the kennel and opened it so Blue could come out. Blue came out wagging his tail so hard his back legs moved from side to side. Rather than jumping up on Jeremy as he usually did he went straight to Fuji. The dinosaur lowered his head and Blue proceeded to give him a tongue bath. The entire family laughed.

Petey moaned from the gravel near the shed, lifted his bloody face and looked at the family. Mom gasped and ran to his side. “Jeremy David, what have you done? Run and get the first aid kit,” she scolded.

“Mom, he had a gun! He tried to shoot me!” Jeremy protested. “And we don’t have time! His friends could show up anytime!”

“I know that!” mom replied, “He also had the rest of us tied up like stuck pigs, but I will not treat him like he treated us. Now get the first aid kit.”

Jeremy looked at dad. He nodded and Jeremy ran for the first aid kit. Ten minutes later Petey was propped comfortably in dad’s reading chair in the corner of the family room. His nose had been cleaned and bandaged and he had been offered food and a drink but he refused both.

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