Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner
Meanwhile Benny wriggled free from Jessie's hand and watched the horse van roaring down the path. In just a few seconds, the van would pass them and it would be too late. Suddenly, he knew what he had to do. He scrambled out of the gully and reached into the leather pouch Bob Tyndall had given him at the barn raising. His fingers closed over the roofing nails and just as the van approached, he flung them into the center of the road. When the van passed over them, there was a satisfying pop, and Benny grinned. The nails had done their job. The van had a flat tire!
The van skidded to a stop and both men got out, looking furious. “Now look what you've done!” one of the men said to the other. “How are we going to fix it?”
“That won't be necessary,” a male voice said firmly. Jessie and Daisy watched in amazement as a figure stepped out of the woods. It was Jed Owens! Benny's mouth dropped open and he looked at Henry, puzzled. Had Jed Owens come to help them or had he come to steal Wind Dancer?
Both men turned in surprise as Jed Owens approached them. “Don't bother fixing the flat,” he said in a friendly voice, “because you aren't going anywhere. Except to jail.”
The thieves looked nervously at each other, and Hank started to back away. “Who are you?” he demanded hoarsely.
“Jed Owens. And you don't have to introduce yourselves. I know who both of you are. I've been watching you for a few weeks now.” He looked at Benny and gave him a big smile. “That was quick thinking.”
you?” Henry asked.
“We knew you weren't a farmer,” Benny blurted out.
“You're right. I'm a private security guard. Wind Dancer's owners hired me to protect him.” He grinned at Benny. “Of course, it's always nice to get a little help from my friends.” Suddenly they heard a siren, and a black-and-white car with flashing lights raced down the path toward them.
“It looks like the game is up, guys,” Jed Owens said to the thieves. “I hope you don't have any plans for the next few years.”
Everything happened very quickly once the police cruiser pulled up. Two policemen jumped out and handcuffed the thieves, and Mr. Morgan and Violet hurried down the path to Henry and the others.
“Is everyone okay?” Mr. Morgan said.
“We're fine,” Daisy piped up. “But what about Wind Dancer? Maybe he got scared by all the noise. Shouldn't we check on him?”
Mr. Morgan laughed. “We'll do that right now,” he said. Suddenly he spotted Jed Owens. “Jed?” he said hesitantly. “What are you doing here?”
“It's okay,” Benny piped up. “He's one of the good guys. He helped us save Wind Dancer!”
“Well, I'm glad to hear it,” Mr. Morgan said. He shook Jed Owens's hand as one of the police officers approached them.
“We'll need a statement from both of you. Can you come down to the station house first thing in the morning?”
“No problem,” Jed Owens said.
Mr. Morgan nodded. “We'll be there.” He watched as the police cruiser pulled away with the thieves in the backseat. “Why don't we all go back to the house and have some hot chocolate? We have a lot to talk about.”
Benny looked up at Jed Owens admiringly. “I have a zillion things I want to ask you.”
“Why did you tell us you were a farmhand?” Violet asked.
“Were you really in the woods that night?” Jessie demanded.
“How come you kept your identity a secret?” Henry chimed in.
“Wait a minute!” Daisy cried. She stood in the center of the group and crossed her arms over her chest. “You're all so busy talking, you've forgotten all about Wind Dancer. He's all by himself in the horse van, probably scared to death.”
“Don't worry, Daisy,” Mr. Morgan said. “We're going to fix that right now.” He took her by the hand and led her to the van. When he opened the rear doors, Wind Dancer gave a soft whinny and turned his head. He stomped his foot, impatient at being cooped up in the van.
“Easy now, boy.” Mr. Morgan's voice was soothing as he eased the champion horse down the ramp. He handed Daisy the lead rope. “He's all yours, Daisy. You hold the rope good and tight, and stay to his left shoulder, like I showed you.”
“You mean I can take him back to the stables all by myself?”
Mr. Morgan smiled. “I don't see why not.”
“Thanks,” Daisy said softly. She patted Wind Dancer's cheek and then stepped out smartly, with just the right amount of tension on the rope. The horse trotted obediently next to her. She had never felt so proud in her whole life!
hat's going on?” Mrs. Morgan looked anxious when the Aldens appeared at the main house. She was standing on the front porch with Danny, Sarah, and Ms. Jefferies. “I thought I heard a siren, and Danny said he saw flashing lights over by the pond.”
“It was a patrol car,” Ms. Jefferies insisted. “The police were here, right?”
“Yes, but there's nothing to worry about,” Mr. Morgan said reassuringly. Ms. Jefferies edged closer to Henry. “What really happened out there?” she asked. “It was something to do with that horse, wasn't it?”
Henry hesitated and looked at Mr. Morgan who said quickly, “If you want to hear the whole story, let's go inside.” Everyone trooped into the kitchen and gathered around the big oak table. Danny heated milk for hot chocolate in an iron kettle and then scooted over to the window bench. He didn't want to miss a single word!
Ms. Jefferies remained standing, her arms folded across her chest as she looked over the group. “Before you say anything, I have a confession to make,” she said.
Jessie and Violet exchanged a puzzled look. A confession? Was Ms. Jefferies involved in the plot to kidnap Wind Dancer after all?
“I came here under false pretenses,” she said. “I'm not really here on vacation. I'm doing research for an article.”
“An article?” Mrs. Morgan said. “Are you a writer?”
“A reporter.” Ms. Jefferies perched on the arm of Jessie's chair.
“I don't understand,” Henry said slowly. “What are you writing? And how come you kept it a secret?”
Ms. Jefferies shrugged. “It started out as an article on farm vacations, but all that changed when I spotted Wind Dancer.”
know about him!” Benny blurted out. “That's why you were taking pictures that night. I was hiding behind a bale of hay outside the stable.”
“Was that you?” Ms. Jefferies said in surprise. “I had the feeling someone was watching me. That's why I left in a hurry.”
“But how did you get the pictures of Wind Dancer I saw on your dresser? I spotted them when I brought your towels,” Jessie said.
“Oh, I didn't take those pictures,” Ms. Jefferies said. “Those were file photos that my editor sent me from New York.” She turned to Mr. Morgan. “I thought I recognized Wind Dancer one night when you were taking him out of the stable, but I couldn't be sure. I wanted to get to the bottom of it, so I asked ASF to send me some close-up shots of him. Once I saw the white star on his forehead, I knew it was the same horse.”
“ASF?” Jessie exclaimed. “Those are the initials on your briefcase.”
“Associated Feature Service,” Ms. Jefferies said. “That's who I work for. I went to town to pick up the pictures because I didn't want anyone to get suspicious.”
“So that's why you acted so nervous in the post office,” Violet spoke up.
Ms. Jefferies nodded. “I didn't want you to see the return address. I couldn't let anyone know I was a reporter.”
“Well, that clears up one mystery,” Jessie said.
“But the big story is still Wind Dancer,” Ms. Jefferies persisted. “What's he doing here? And what happened tonight?”
“Some horse thieves were trying to steal him!” Benny exclaimed. “But we stopped them, didn't we?” He looked very pleased with himself.
“You sure did,” Mr. Morgan said. “Wind Dancer is safe, thanks to you, and the thieves are in custody.” He spread his hands on the checkered tablecloth and looked right at Jed Owens. “But there's still a lot of the story that I don't understand. How do you figure in all this?”
“I was hired to protect Wind Dancer,” Jed Owens admitted. “The owners asked me to stay undercover, so I pretended to be a farmhand looking for work.”
“At first, we thought you were one of the thieves!” Violet exclaimed.
“Why did you think that?” Jed asked.
“You lied to us,” Violet explained. “You said you were in your room the night of the cookout, but you had pine needles stuck all over your sweater. So that meant you must have been in the woods with us.”
“Pine needles?” Jed said slowly. “You'd make quite a detective, Violet. I never thought a little thing like that would give me away.”
“Were you really in the woods that night?” Benny asked.
“Did you set that fire in the trash can?” Henry said at the same time.
“Yes, to both questions.” Jed turned to Benny. “I saw you and your sister wandering through the forest, and I was afraid you might run into the horse thieves. I heard some suspicious noises earlier in the evening, and I had the feeling they might be prowling around the woods.”
“We saw some tire tracks,” Benny piped up. “That's what got us so interested.”
“I know, and I couldn't take any chances. I had to do something fast to get your attention away from the old pond.”
“So you started a fire back at the farm,” Mrs. Morgan said.
“A small one,” Jed told her. “I made sure it wouldn't do any real damage, but it would make everyone come running.”
“There's something I still don't understand,” Henry said. “What were you doing at the old pond this evening?”
“I knew there might me another attempt to steal Wind Dancer tonight.” His expression was grim. “I wanted to warn you in time,” he said to Mr. Morgan, “but by the time I got there, it was too late.” He paused. “The thieves would have made off with him, if these young people hadn't stopped them.”
“A plot to kidnap a racehorse. This will make quite a story,” Ms. Jefferies said thoughtfully.
“Wind Dancer's owners will be here in the morning,” Mr. Morgan said. “So if you kids want to say good-bye to him, you'd best be up bright and early.”
“We will be,” Benny said and immediately yawned.
A bubbling sound made Danny scramble off the window seat. “The milk for the hot chocolate!” Danny said, dashing to the stove.
Moments later, Mr. Morgan passed around steaming mugs to everyone. “To the Aldens,” he said, raising his mug in a toast.
“To Wind Dancer,” Henry spoke up.
“The best racehorse in the whole world,” Violet added.
It was barely dawn the next morning when a large silver horse trailer rumbled down the road to Sunny Oaks.
Benny and Daisy dashed to the stables, followed by Violet, Henry, and Jessie.
Mr. Morgan had just finished adjusting Wind Dancer's blanket when the trailer pulled up to the stable door. A man and woman in their late thirties got out and smiled hesitantly at the Aldens. Mr. Morgan led Wind Dancer outside just then, and the stallion whinnied softly when he recognized his owners.
“Oh, thank goodness you're safe,” the woman said, rubbing Wind Dancer's nose.
“Mr. and Mrs. Travis, these are the Aldens,” Mr. Morgan said. “And their friend Daisy.”
“You're the children who saved Wind Dancer,” Mr. Travis said. “Jed Owens called us last night and told us all about it.”
“How can we ever thank you?” Mrs. Travis asked.
“We're just happy that Wind Dancer is all right,” Jessie said.
Violet patted the prize horse gently on the neck and he nuzzled her hand. “We're going to miss you,” she said softly.
“Don't worry, Violet. We'll still get to see him.” Benny fed Wind Dancer an apple slice he had carefully wrapped in a napkin. “We'll watch every single race he's in.”