Oct. 7th: 0530 hours
"Easy, Sophie. Easy." Sarabeth MacAllister coaxed. She tightened the lead rope and tried again to lift the horse's foot. "Come on, girl." She pleaded. "I only have a little bit of time to get this done."
With a forceful kick, the mare pulled her leg out of the woman's grasp. The edge of her hoof scraped Sarabeth's hand and drew blood. The Texan sighed as she looked at her hand.
"Why should I expect cooperation from you? Nothing else is going right this morning." MacAllister grumbled.
"Perhaps you should speak to her in Korean." Major Winchester's unexpected voice made the woman jump. "She is, after all, a Korean horse." He informed her as he walked into the corral. "Sarabeth, you appear to be having some difficulty. Do you require any assistance?"
The young woman pushed a strand of hair away from her face and leaned across the withers of the horse. "And Hawkeye says you don't have a sense of humor!"
"Compared to the tasteless vulgarity he displays, I do not." The major replied. He caught her arm to examine her injury. Satisfied with the superficial nature of the scrape, he released her hand. "However, I am serious about the offer. Would you like some help?"
"Charles," she asked skeptically, "do you know anything at all about horses?"
"I have been around them a time or two." Came the sardonic reply.
Winchester patted the horse and murmured, "Steady, girl." Expertly, he pulled at the horse's ankle and secured her foot behind and between his knees. "Is this at the right angle for you?"
"Perfect." MacAllister answered.
The woman reached for the clippers. She was struggling with each cut. "Lordy! This hoof is so thick, I can barely trim it. Sorry I'm taking so long, Charles."
"Just don't take all day, my dear." The man advised. He was straining to hold the nervous animal. He maintained his steadfast grip, however.
"I don't have all day." Sarabeth retorted. She thumped the mare in the ribs and scolded her, "Behave yourself."
Sophie tried a different tactic. She leaned against the man. He had to shift his position as a counter balance. He held the leg in place until Sarabeth said, "OK. I'm ready to file this one."
Relieved, Winchester dropped the leg and slowly straightened, holding his back. MacAllister looked at him in concern. "Are you all right?"
"Yes. I'm not used to being a footstool, however." He grinned at her before capturing the horse's leg again for the woman to file the front and sides of the hoof.
Sarabeth laughed as she worked. "A pun! An actual pun. You must be sick!"
"Hearing that Texas accent of yours is definitely affecting me."
"It can only be an improvement." She informed him primly. "There. One down and three to go."
As he straightened a second time, Sarabeth smiled at him. "Charles, you are a man of many talents. And I apologize for ever doubting you."
He returned her smile. "O, ye of little faith."
"OK. ‘Fess up." She told him as they moved to the animal's hindquarters to work on the back hoof. "You spent your formative years traveling with a band of gypsies who taught you everything you know about horses."
"Actually, I spent my formative years playing polo---in Boston."
"How long have you been playing polo?" Sarabeth asked.
"Ever since I was a young lad---around eight years old, or so. I played all through my school years. I lettered in polo, and crew, at Harvard."
The woman laughed. "That's a good joke on me. I really didn't think you knew which end of the horse to stay away from."
"My father insisted that---if I was going to play polo---I would have to learn how to look after my mounts."
"My daddy said the same thing. Except, he was talking about me rounding up cattle." She handed him the clippers and the rasp. "My turn to hold her foot."
"This is rather difficult." Winchester admitted as he attempted to clip the excess growth.
Both of them were sweating by the time they had finished with all four feet of the skittish mare. The woman poured some oats in the feed bin. She patted the horse's neck before removing the halter. "There we go, girl."
MacAllister put away the equipment and hung the tack on its nail. Moving away from the animal, she wiped her forehead and turned to the man watching her. "Thank you, Charles, for your help. There's no way I could have done that by myself. Texas horses have much better manners."
"So do Massachusetts ones. However, I'm glad I could assist you."
After securely fastening the gate and leaving the corral, the two of them moved towards the main section of the compound.
The lieutenant checked her watch and shook her head. "If I'm going to get a shower, I'd better get a move on." She increased her pace. "I do not want to be late---today---of all days!"
The major lengthened his stride, as well. "I would definitely advise against tardiness."
Oct. 7th: 1730 hours
Limping, coming out of the hospital building, with her hands in her lab coat pockets, Lieutenant MacAllister looked tired. She stopped to examine the signpost. A grin spread across her face as she noticed the order of the two highest boards.
BOSTON was once again at the top of the post. TEXAS was immediately underneath it. She walked over to the post and studied the ground.
B J Hunnicutt approached. "Looking for something?" He asked in amusement.
"Found it." She smiled at him. "Jeep tire tracks. I wondered how he was going to manage it. I reckon the major won this round."
"Planning on evening up the score?"
"I sure am. This is going to be fun."
"Want some help? Hawk and I are known for our one-up-manship."
Sarabeth chuckled. "Not yet. I'll keep y'all in reserve." She looked at the signpost again. "I do enjoy a challenge."
The officer smiled and then asked, "How's the ankle?"
"I've stood on it too long." The lieutenant admitted. "But, after I get something to eat, I'm going to lie down and rest. It's fine."
"I'll be over later to check on you."
Oct. 7th: 1830 hours
"So, all you want us to do is keep Charles occupied over at Rosie's bar for a few hours tonight?"
"Right. Around 2200 hours, my accomplice and I will take care of the exchange. I just don't want him to hear what's going on. Can y'all do that, without him getting suspicious?"
"Charles is suspicious of everything we do." B J grinned at the red-haired woman.
"With good reason, no doubt." She retorted.
Hunnicutt winked. "We'll take care of him."
"Thanks, B J. And thanks for posing for me. When I get the pictures developed, I'll give you one to send to Peg. Does she even know about that mustache?"
"She knows about it. She's never seen it, however."
"I hope she likes furry caterpillars." MacAllister laughed.
"Why don't you come with us to Rosie's?" He urged. "Your nameless accomplice could make the switch. And you'd have the perfect alibi. It would drive Charles crazy trying to figure out how you changed the signs while you were sitting next to him."
"That's a tempting offer. But I'm going to take a nap in a few minutes. This schedule is going to play havoc with my sleep patterns for awhile."
"Very well, fellow conspirator. One diversion coming up."
"Great! Now, all I have to worry about is falling off the ladder and breaking my other ankle."