Pepper and Longstreet
The Roadside Rescue
Copyright 2012 by JT Lewis
His face was a mask as he looked down on his partner, watching her fingers fly over something she said had something to do with a key. The old cavalry hat he wore shaded the piercing blue eyes as he continued to watch the girl as she concentrated on her task. He had never been able to actually figure out what she did on the contraption…it looked nothing like a key.
“Howdy missy,” he finally uttered in greeting
Pepper Jones jumped at the sound of the voice behind her. Swinging around her eyes flashed momentarily in anger.
“Dammit Longstreet! Can’t you just knock on the door like a normal person?”
Turning back to her keyboard with annoyance, “And it’s Pepper! My name is Pepper! Ugh!”
A confused look crossed Longstreet’s face momentarily before returning to his normal mask of seriousness.
She continued quickly tapping on her keyboard as she hurried to finish the email she was sending to her friend Sara. They had become close during Pepper’s last investigation, where she had helped her new friend find her missing inheritance.
Although Sara was older by three years, Pepper and she were now thick as thieves, at the very least emailing one another once a day.
Finishing the letter, Pepper glanced over her shoulder as she hit the send button.
He was still there, he could be so annoying.
“What is it Longstreet? I have to get ready for work in a couple of minutes.”
“Just waiting for another assignment little lady,” Longstreet intoned as he glanced around the room as if looking for danger. The dark bushy mustache, day’s growth of beard, and the untrimmed hair sticking out here and there from under his hat gave her partner a wild look that would probably scare most people…if they could see him.
After surviving unscathed through the civil war, Jacob Longstreet had gone west to seek his fortune, where he had apparently met his death in some unknown way. His memory of the cause of his death was lost to him…and, he didn’t know he was a ghost.
“Nothin’s going on today,” Pepper sighed, wishing a new case would pop up. She longed for the excitement of a mystery, her life was just too boring otherwise.
“All quiet then,” Longstreet said without emotion. “Guess I’ll go for a ride then.”
Knowing what was coming next, Pepper shook her head as Longstreet turned on his heel. Walking through the wall as he exited the room, he loudly yelled, “Lady! Where are you girl?”
Pepper felt sorry for her hapless partner, he was always looking for his favorite horse from the old days. She did her best to console him on the subject when she could, but she had no time for such things today. Looking at the clock, she realized that she was already running late…and she hadn’t even gotten dressed yet.
Throwing on her uniform for the pretzel stand at the mall, she grabbed her keys and flew down the stairs, yelling bye as she reached for the door.
“Hold on little lady,” she heard her mom call from the kitchen.
Pepper stopped, dropping her head as she waited for the parental warning she knew was coming. Her parents were always getting on her about her driving…and especially about the danger they perceived in her cases.
“Running late is no excuse for driving fast…remember that!”
“Yes mother,” Pepper said with disdain, “But you are just making me later!”
“And…” her mother added, “No mysteries…you have finals coming up!”
“OK!” Pepper yelled as she pulled open the door with annoyance, “Bye!”
Running down the sidewalk to her car, she jumped in and turned over the engine, squealing the tires just a little as she took off.
“Woops!” she said at her apparent disregard to her mother’s wishes. She felt a twinge of guilt as she slowed the car and held to the speed limit. As she turned onto the main road to the mall, she again made a mental effort to keep to the speed limit. She had gotten a speeding ticket the week before, and her parents had threatened to ground her from driving if she got another one.
As she came up on a gas station, she noticed a woman running around her car frantically. Throwing her arms up in the air as if trying to get someone’s attention, she appeared to be yelling.
“What the hell?” Pepper intoned under her breath as she quickly slowed the car to enter the lot. She had not even been aware of making the decision to investigate the woman’s plight before she realized that she was parked in front of the wailing woman’s car.
Quickly shutting her car down, she ran over and asked what the problem was.
The woman who appeared to be in her late fifties seemed momentarily surprised that someone was talking to her. She snapped back to reality quickly however, resuming her frantic arm waves as she yelled, “Someone has stolen my grandson!”
Pepper was aghast, momentarily unsure what to do. She had never been confronted with anything as diabolical as someone taking a child. Overcoming her own fears, Pepper quickly decided that she had to do something.
“Did you see who did it, which way they went?”
“No, no,” the distraught woman sobbed, “I just went in to pay, he was gone when I got back. He’s only three, he can’t unbuckle himself.”
Pepper caught movement off to her right before hearing an angry “Hey!”
Looking over, she found the loud voice coming from a little old man who appeared to be in his nineties.
“Been trying to get your attention! Some guy walked into those woods a few minutes ago with a little boy, was carrying him like a sack of taters!”
“That’s got to be Jimmy!” the woman cried while wringing her hands.
Although Pepper still had no clue what she would do if she caught them, she started sprinting toward the woods. Looking back over her shoulder before she entered the woods, she yelled back, “Call 911!”
Crashing through the thorny low brush at the edge of the mature forest, she ignored the blood trickling down her arms as she settled into the fast but steady gate that she learned on the cross-country team at school. The man had a few minutes head start, and she knew she would have to pace herself if she was going to catch him.
Feeling rather than hearing that she had company, she glanced left to see Longstreet was effortlessly keeping pace with her.
“How the hell does he do that?”
“What’s going on Missy,” he said effortlessly as he kept his eyes steadily forward, easily passing through a tree as he awaited her answer.
“Guy took a little boy, “she panted, “out of a car at the gas station.”
“I’ll light out after im,” was all he said as he seemed to pick up speed momentarily before disappearing in a whoosh.
Pepper immediately ran through the whirlwind of leaves that was created by the wind that always accompanied his disappearances. Pulling a couple of damp leaves off of her face, she tried to give some thought to what she would do when she caught up with the man.
Why had he taken the boy?
Was he trying to sell him? Was he a sexual deviant?
These thoughts and others made Pepper shiver, even though her exertions had made her plenty hot. She decided to ignore these thoughts as she renewed her determination to catch the man. Everything else was a moot point until she found him.
A voice beside her again, “he’s about two hundred yards ahead missy, tried to trip him….”
Pepper stepped up her pace as she thought about one of Jacob’s weaknesses. He had yet to be able to touch a human.
He had already saved the day in a number of their cases by his slowly developing ability to manipulate solid object. Whacking someone with a frying pan or a pipe were a couple of the things that he had accomplished so far. But it had taken a lot of effort on his part to do even that, and apparently humans were even harder.
“Can you do anything to slow him up?” Pepper panted, “maybe push some limbs in his way or something?”
“See what I can do,” Longstreet said evenly before again disappearing in a hail of leaves.
The length and excitement of the pursuit were starting to drag Pepper down, her breaths more ragged with each step she took. The guy with the kid must be in great shape if she hadn’t caught him by now.
“Great!” she thought to herself, “when I do catch him…what then?”
She started hearing some distant “ooff’s” and other exclamations ahead of her that told her that Longstreet must be working his magic. Finding yet another reserve of energy, she picked up her pace once more.
Making her way over a little rise, she finally caught sight of the man, maybe fifty yards ahead of her. She could make out the little boy’s bobbing head along the man’s back as he held the youngster at the hip. He seemed to be unhurt, so far, and Pepper took comfort in that.
Coming up rapidly then behind the slowing man, Pepper finally gasped out “Stop!”
The man stopped dead in his tracks, turning quickly at the unexpected shout. Holding up his hand, “don’t come any closer kid!”
Pepper stopped running, taking slow steps toward the man as she caught her breath. “You…don’t want…to do…this mister,” she panted as she tried to fill her lungs with the sweet humid air of the woods.
“Just give him to me…you’ll have…plenty of a head start…before I get back to the…gas station.”
Pepper was getting light headed from breathing in so rapidly, and she consciously tried to slow her breaths as she watched the crazed looking man.
“No way!” the man exclaimed, barely out of breath. He looked like a lumber jack in build, six feet tall and broad shoulders. He easily lifted the boy off one shoulder and placed him on the other before continuing.
“This is my son! When my ex died, they gave him to her mom…didn’t even give me a chance to have him!”
Pepper had to think quickly, she had been unprepared for the man’s revelation, and wasn’t sure what way to best handle him.
“Look, that’s something you can take to court mister, you can’t just take him…you’ll be arrested!”
“No way! Once I get to my truck, nobody will ever hear from us again.”
He turned once more, ready to run. Pepper noticed Longstreet off to the side, apparently trying to pick up a limb. She had to buy him time.
“Wait! Doesn’t his grandma have a right to see him too?”
Turning his head to look over his shoulder, he seemed to be thinking this over before turning back and taking off in a run.
Just then, Pepper heard the familiar crackling sound as Jacob concentrated on picking up the limb. Glancing over, she could make out the little blue electrical sparks emanating from his hands as he finally made connections with the wood.
The limb lifted off of the ground about a foot before seeming to travel the ten feet instantly that put it into the path of the fleeing man. The man’s foot solidly caught on the unexpected limb, and he fell headfirst into the trunk of a large tree.
Pepper watched in horror as the young boy seemed to rise into the air in slow motion, traveling about ten feet before making his way back toward the ground.
“No!” Pepper screamed as she tried to un-plant her feet from where they seemed rooted. Unable to move, she stood in fear as she watched the little boy fall headfirst into the vine covered floor of the woods.
Suddenly the boy stopped…then gently floated feet first to the ground.
Confusion reigned in Pepper’s head for a few moments until she realized what had happened.
“Longstreet! You did it!” She exclaimed with the realization that he had finally figured out how to touch a human, just in the nick of time.
She saw Jacob standing over the boy, a confused look on his face as she ran over to where they stood.
“Awesome Jacob, you saved the day!”
He continued to remain silent as Pepper kneeled down to see if Jimmy was ok. He seemed none the worse for wear as his attention seemed to be focused on the acorns that littered the floor of the woods.
Looking up at her ghostly partner, she was suddenly concerned. He seemed paler than usual, which was saying something when you were talking about a ghost.
“Longstreet, what’s wrong?”
He was silent for a few moments before finally saying, “must of took a lot out of me I guess, catching the child and all.”
Pepper felt sorry for her partner. She guessed that touching humans must be a lot harder than she thought, she had never seen her partner so weak looking.
Hearing yelling and crashing behind her, she realized that the police must finally be on their way.
“Why don’t you go on and go Longstreet. This will take a few hours I’m sure. Why don’t you…go for a ride?”
She felt almost guilty, suggesting that he go look for his nonexistent horse. Be he seemed to need a distraction, and he had never complained when he hadn’t found her.
“Yep…guess I seen enough of the elephant for one day,” he stated as he quickly turned and marched off through the trees. Right before he disappeared, she heard his familiar, “Here Lady! Where are ya girl?”
She smiled as she turned her attention back to the boy. The police were now in sight, and she mentally firmed up the story she would have to tell them when they got there. This time, it shouldn’t be too bad though; after all, there were all sorts of things to trip over in these woods.
“Oh man!” she exclaimed as one other scary thought entered her mind.
“My parents are gonna be so pissed!”
Copyright 2012 by JT Lewis