Pepper and Longstreet
Bandit Wolf Creek
She felt his presence behind her, never having an inkling of his approach until he arrived. Standing behind her right shoulder, he silently took in the scene before them.
“Not much of a house,” he stated clinically, “should be no problem getting in.”
Glancing back, she took in her inescapable partner. Nothing had changed, nothing ever changed with him…except his level of annoyance.
His piercing eyes gleamed in the darkness under his old Civil War cavalry hat. The off-white double-breasted cowboy shirt tucked into his well-worn jeans was always just a little dirty looking, like he had just rode in from the range. The dark bushy mustache was surrounded by a day’s growth of beard, and his untrimmed hair stuck out here and there from under his hat.
Smiling inwardly, “Seriously Longstreet, could you put on a different outfit now and again?”
A confused look crossed his face as he looked down on his well-worn clothes. Pepper enjoyed taunting him about his clothing choices, knowing he could do nothing about it. Right on cue, his attention returned to the decrepit house, as if her question had never been asked.
“You got a plan missy?”
“Pepper, my name’s Pepper!” she whispered, annoyed yet again at his incessant need to call her something besides her name.
Nodding distractedly like he understood, he nonetheless continued with, “ok girly, what next?”
Shaking her head, she turned back toward the dark house. Taking a county map out of her jacket, she opened it up, taking it to a pocket of moonlight that had fought its way through the thick trees overhead. Holding it in the dim light revealed a series of dots in a haphazard circle, surrounding an open area in the center.
“I’ve found a pattern to the series of burglaries of the last month, all of them surrounding, but never entering this clear area in the middle. I just happened across this old house, I never knew it was here, but it seems a likely place to store the stolen pieces.”
“Where are we anyway?” Longstreet asked, looking around, unsure of his surroundings.
Wolf Creek Road,” Pepper answered, wondering how he had gotten here if he didn’t know where here was.
Pepper had been intrigued when she happened to notice the increase in burglaries in the area, deciding to put her untested investigative skills to the test.
Of course, she had to do it on the sly, as her parents would never agree to let their sixteen year old daughter run around the county at night, looking for criminals. They thought they had their hands full already just dealing with a hormonal teenager.
“Seems right to me,” Longstreet uttered, the sound of his voice followed by a swishing sound, like a small breeze.
Looking behind her to ask him a question, she saw that he was gone.
“Dammit!” she whispered to herself. He was always disappearing at the most inopportune times.
“Longstreet! Get back here!”
Only the sound of crickets chirping answered her demand. Waiting a few more moments for his return, she then made her way quietly toward the old house. Carefully threading her way through the underbrush so as to remain stealthy, it took her a full five minutes to reach the side of the old wooden building.
There were no lights coming from the inside, and it seemed deathly quiet, so she was certain that she was alone. Moving slowly, she made her way to the front door, trying it and finding it locked. She was about to go around to the back when a noise from inside of the house made her heart jump into her throat.
Getting ready to run, she heard “wait a minute,” from the other side of the door, along with a kind of scratching sound on the door itself.
“Longstreet…is that you?” she whispered loudly through the door.
There was no answer, save for the continued scratching sound emanating from inside. Longstreet had a hard time manipulating anything mechanical, so she assumed it was him working on the lock from the inside. Finally, she heard a click as the latch of the door released, and it creeped slowly opened.
“You could have told me where you were going,” Pepper scolded. “I thought you had left me.”
“Just doing my job, missy,” Longstreet answered, unconcerned. “We made an agreement if I remember correctly.”
She thought back to the day when she had admitted her keen interest in solving mysteries to Longstreet, and his immediate and insistent offer to help. Although she had known him since he had appeared on the scene when she was fourteen, she nonetheless did not consider him a reliable sidekick. She had finally relented though, if for no other reason than to get him off of her back.
He could be quite annoying.
Looking around the moonlit old home, she immediately spotted piles of electronic equipment piled in one corner of the room.
!” she whispered, as she made her way over to the stash, her heart beating wildly in her chest. Eureka
“I knew this was the place!”
“Don’t get the big head yet little lady, I need to hop on ole Lady and go get the Marshal.”
Pepper had to giggle to herself; there hadn’t been a marshal in these parts for a hundred years.
“Um, your horse…she’s gone…remember?”
“Forgot,” he finally said after a few moments silence, “I sure do miss that old gal.”
Taking out her cell phone, she noticed that she had no signal.
“We’ll have to get back to the car and head into town and get a sheriff’s deputy.”
“Who the hell are you?” a booming voice interrupted as it rang out from the doorway.
Looking back over her shoulder, Pepper made out the silhouette of a large man holding a box under his arm standing in the doorway. The man then reached down beside the doorway and came up with a baseball bat, setting the box down as he started walking quickly in her direction.
“You made a big mistake coming here kid!”
Longstreet jumped into action immediately, covering the distance between him and the dark figure in seconds. Throwing a hard left jab, followed by a exaggerated roundhouse with his right, his large calloused fists nonetheless missed both times.
“What the hell?” he said with dismay, looking at his useless fists like they didn’t belong to him.
“What the hell were you thinking, breaking into another man’s house?” the large man continued as he brought the bat back to swing at Pepper.
Pepper relived her whole life in those few moments, concluding that it hadn’t been near long enough. Spotting a table to her left, she immediately dove under it as the wooden bat missed her head by mere inches, the air of the swing felt on her face.
“You can run, but you cannot hi…”
The solid sound of a metal pan crashing into something was followed immediately by the crumbling to the floor of the large dark man.
“Get some rope!” Longstreet said excitedly.
Looking around quickly, Pepper replied, “I don’t see any rope.”
A moment’s silence was followed by, “something else then, we need to tie this rustler up before he comes to!”
Pepper found a bed in the corner and pulled the sheet off, ripping off small pieces to use as binding.
“When are you gonna learn to touch a human?” Pepper scolded her partner as she ripped off one piece of sheet after the next. “It would have been pretty handy tonight.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve been busy,” Longstreet answered somewhat defensively, “seems I may have got the job done though.”
Pepper had to admit that he had saved her butt.
“I guess when you work with a ghost, you just gotta take what you can get,” she finished with a grin.
Jacob Longstreet had shown up in her kitchen one day when she was fourteen, scaring the living daylights out of her when he had approached her from behind and nonchalantly said “Howdy missy.”
As she screamed and ran off into the next room, he had just stood there with a confused look on his face. Finally, curiosity had gotten the better of her, and she returned to the kitchen to find him calmly standing in the same spot awaiting her return.
Gathering up her courage, she demanded to know who he was, and why he was in her house.
A confused look again crossed Longstreet’s face, as he gave her question some thought.
“I don’t rightly know; where am I anyway?”
As Pepper finished tying up the bandit, she continued to reflect on their initial meeting and their developing relationship since. She eventually found out that he had served in the cavalry in the Civil War, and that he had survived the whole war unscathed. He didn’t know what happened to him after that, save that he had traveled west to seek his fortune. Oh, and by the way, he didn’t know he was a ghost.
She had been trying to convince him of that fact every since, helping him work though his confusion about where and when in time he was now.
It could be an annoying job most days.
Since then he had visited her daily, eventually offering his services in her new investigative endeavor. She was realizing now that although the partnership was far from perfect, he had certainly saved her bacon this night.
“You done good kid,” Longstreet bragged when she was done, “Got him trussed up real good!”
She had to admit, she was excited, her first bit of detective work had been a huge success! She could get used to this.
“He should be fine for awhile, lets get back to the car so we can get someone here to arrest him.”
Walking out of the old building, Longstreet looked around with confusion before hollering, “Lady!...where are you girl?”
Shaking her head once more with a smile, she knew she should say something, but suddenly didn’t have the heart to rebuke him again after what they had just been through.
“She’s around here somewhere,” she said beaming, “she’ll turn up, don’t worry.”