The trail was cold, colder than the ice in Dagger’s heart. He persisted in leading his horse up the ridges and through the valleys. The posse followed, their horses exhausted by the four-day search. They blew hot breath through flaring nostrils, a kind of quiet protest. The riders didn’t even have that. Shorty, normally the voice of Dagger’s conscience, had already had his head chewed off for suggesting a short rest. No one else dared protest.
What were they searching for exactly? An unnaturally broken branch or some clue like an article of the lady’s clothing or a whiff of her perfume? A chill or other unexplainable feeling as they passed through a certain place? Shorty figured they’d find her body before anything else.
Dagger had a reputation for wooing the ladies—and for scaring them off. What happened to Miss Rebecca was a strong case in both ways. She fell hard and ran away fast. But Dagger had never searched for one before. He had never neglected his horses or men in pursuit of a woman.
Dagger’s eyes were fixed forward. Rebecca’s sweet nothings had warmed his bed and his blood until she muttered her final sentence. “Callie’s at the willow tree.”
Callie had been the first woman to love and leave him. She promised that, one day, she’d get word to him on how to find her. Dagger didn’t know where the willow tree was, but no matter what else he did, he was getting his mama back.
My entry for Riders was the winning story for the Flash Fiction content, announced on April 15, 2017. Flash fiction rules: Use the photo above to write a fiction story of up to 250 Words. Photo by KS Brooks.