I-95 South Chapter 5
“Kate, what size shoe do you wear?”
“Good answer!” Kizzi was sitting on her bed after much protesting while Calleigh got the clothes they needed out of a drawer. Kate took the time to look around. Kizzi’s bedroom was just cool, there was really no other way to describe it. Her walls were a solid collage of posters, pictures, postcards, bumper stickers, cartoons, song lyrics, basically you name it. What really caught Kate’s eye was a pentagram drawn in silver glitter on a square of black velvet. It was hanging over a long low table, carefully arranged with candles, an incense burner, and a multitude of other things, which Kate took to be an altar. Kizzi saw her looking. “It is an altar. I’m pagan. Still figuring out my path; solitary eclectic for now. The symbol isn’t evil.” Kate blushed. “It’s cool girl! There’s so much misconception it’s not funny. Try getting an office job with tattoos!” Kizzi was laughing, and Kate joined her.
“Kiz, sweet pea, your room looks like a Galls catalog threw up!” Calleigh was laughing, looking around at all the navy blue clothes on the floor.
“Not just Galls!” Kizzi held up a sparkly cheetah print halter top.
“Okay, Galls and Torrid. Most of this room is department issue. Green okay?”
“Yeah. Just pants.”
“Kate can wear the black one, and blue is mine.”
“Yeah. I use the sleeveless bodysuits that triatheletes wear. I don’t like riding without my legs covered. And I wear rubber muck boots in case one of the girls steps on me.” She took the bodysuit bottoms and tossed the black one to Kate. “Cal, curtains?”
“Did you design the bed yourself, Kizzi?” Kate was fascinated. It was a double, with black vertical metal bars on the head and footboards. A canopy had been built around it, wood painted purple with multicolored ribbons wrapped around the post. The canopy itself was silver lame with sequined fringe, and the curtains were black velvet with silver sparkly stars. There were hooks on each post to hold the curtains capped with disco balls.
“Yeah. The bed’s Ikea, and then I built the canopy and painted it.” Calleigh finished pulling the curtains so Kizzi could change her pants. Kate went into the bathroom, and Calleigh changed right there, setting her work clothes on top of Kizzi’s dresser. “Cal? Crutches?” Kizzi emerged from the curtains, not really standing up. Calleigh brought them to her. “KJ doesn’t know it’s this bad. I made Speed promise not to tell her.”
“Darlin’, I have a feeling KJ knows a lot more than you think. She has lived with you her whole life.” They shared a grin as Kate came to join them. “Shall we?”
“We’re off like a herd of turtles.” Kizzi was trying hard not to lean on the crutches, but she had to. Calleigh stayed very close as they went out the front door to the stable yard, pausing to put on boots, purple for Kizzi, blue for Calleigh and green for Kate. Tala stayed right at Kizzi’s side. “Kate, I’m gonna have you ride Azima. She doesn’t need much controlling at all. Calleigh and Cali as usual,” she continued, laughing, “And I need to work with Kalama.” She led them down the wide main aisle of the barn to the tack room. “Leather and salt water don’t mix too well, so I use nylon for when I ride in the ocean. Or just go bareback. I’ve got five girls and we show in many many disciplines. Morningstar Beach has a few different incarnations. The colors are purple, black, and silver. For department related things it’s red, silver, and navy, and there’s still some red and black left over from college. It depends a lot on what I’m doing. My show tack is all black leather, and the Western tack has Texas star conchos, which is essentially a pentagram.” She picked up three halters, one black with purple flames, one purple with silver stars, and one purple with blue overlay, which she handed to Calleigh. The other two she slung over her shoulder, then grabbed three cotton lead ropes with metallic threads woven through. “My other two girls are twins. They’re Mustangs, names are Mahena and Magena. Young enough that they have a lot of issues to work out. “Cal, you’re almost to the point that you can help with them.”
“You’re kiddin'! They’re like advanced riders only.”
“I have faith in you. And on bad days they’re too much for me. Anyway. Kate, there they are.” She pointed down the side aisle to a smaller paddock on the other side of the barn where two identical coppery horses were grazing.
“They’re beautiful!” Kate was having so much fun. Straight ahead of them she could see where a path had been worn in the grass straight down to the beach, and across from the Mustangs was the entrance to the paddock the other three were in. In the distance she could see an outdoor ring and a round pen, and a large building that looked like an indoor arena.
Kizzi went up to the doorway and whistled. Immediately all three perked up and came over to the gate. Leaving her crutch against the wall, she slipped through the gate and went out, laughing as Azima butted her with her head. She took the halter with the stars and slipped it on, fastening a lead rope to it and slinging the rope over the horse’s neck. Glancing back at Calleigh, she called, “You know how to catch a horse, woman!”
Calleigh laughed, climbing through the gate and going over to Caliana, talking to her quietly as she slipped the halter on. Caliana lipped Calleigh’s hair and rubbed her head against her, earning a kiss on the forehead.
Kate leaned against the gate, Tala sitting next to her, and watched as Kalama shied away from the halter. Kizzi talked quietly, holding the halter behind her back as she slowly went towards the horse, running her hands down Kalama’s neck when she finally allowed her to come close. Almost imperceptibly, Kizzi shifted so Kalama’s head was over her shoulder, then slipped a hand up between her ears and brought the halter on quickly. Kalama looked shocked, then seemed to realize that it wasn’t going to hurt her. Kizzi fastened the lead rope and then led Kalama over and tied the rope to the fence. Noticing Kate watching, she smiled. “Kala’s young yet. She doesn’t always realize that things can’t hurt her. You wanna come out and mount up?” She reached for Azima’s lead rope as Kate joined her, then led them both over to the fence. “Climb up on the fence and then swing your leg over.” Azima stood still as Kate did, and then Kizzi handed her the lead rope, tying the other end to the other side of the halter to make a basic set of reins. “No bit, but Z doesn’t really need one. She’s primarily Western so she’ll neck rein. Reins in your right hand, and your left goes on the mane. Wrap it around your hand so you get a good hold. Bareback is different. I think it’s easier in a lot of ways, but I don’t want you falling off, though you may float once we get out there.” Confident that Kate was fine, Kizzi went back over to Kalama. “Cal? Y’all good?”
“Perfectly!” Calleigh was up already, sitting tall and completely at ease. Kizzi grinned and untied Kalama, who was dancing nervously. Kizzi climbed the fence, trying to steady Kalama, but just as she reached her leg over Kalama jumped sideways and Kizzi went down on her back, head meeting fence with a sickening crack. “Kate, stay!” Calleigh was down in an instant and Caliana stood, lead rope dangling, waiting for her return. Kalama was at the far side of the paddock already so Calleigh went straight to Kizzi’s side. Kizzi was already starting to sit up.
“Well, damn! Didn’t see that one coming! I’m okay.” She held up her hand to ward off Calleigh’s question. “That’s why I wanted us mounting up in here. Hold her for me this time?”
Calleigh nodded, still shook up but deferring to Kizzi. She held the side of the halter while Kizzi got settled, stroking Kalama's neck and talking to her quietly. Once they were secure, she led them down the beach into the waves. They spent the next hour playing, jumping waves and chasing each other. Soon Calleigh could see the fatigue in Kizzi's eyes, and they went back up to the paddock. Calleigh dismounted with practiced ease, tethering Caliana so she could go help Kate, and then finally she stood beside Kizzi. The fact that Kizzi had waited without moving said a lot about how she was feeling. Calleigh leaned the crutches against the fence and steadied Kizzi as she dismounted, handing her the crutches. Kizzi leaned against the fence and watched as Calleigh talked Kate through helping hose down the horses and put the halters away; then they walked slowly around to the house. They dried off and changed, and Kizzi settled herself on the couch.
"Cal, did you have a point to coming over here? Besides checking up on me?"
Calleigh laughed. "Actually, we have a case. A weird one. One that needs your particular expertise."
"My expertise? What did you get, a self-destructive fuckup?" Kizzi leaned against Calleigh again and rested her head on her shoulder.
"Sweet pea, don't even think that." Calleigh paused, considering. "We've got dead artists. Three of them. Got gemstone dust, striations on the bullets that suggest that it was used as a test for cutting tools." Calleigh handed her the folder.
Kizzi frowned, reading. "Okay, you caught the marks I see. That means beadwork. Actually all of this points to beadwork." She flipped the page and gasped. "Shit."
"What?" Kate was surprised, Kizzi had gone white as a ghost.
"These girls. I know them."