Ann was grateful for a night alone.  She’d insisted Gayle go to a movie so that she might have  time to clear her head. In just ten days since her wreck, life had dissolved into chaos.

She made a mental list. 

Pete was dead. 

La Commune de Paris. “Théâtre lyrique. Le foyer, vu du nord. Place du Châtelet, Paris (Ier arr.)”. Photographie de Pierre Emonts (1831-1912). Tirage sur papier albuminé. Juin 1871. Paris, musée Carnavalet.

Jude had been accused of doping Mercy Street and he’d been called into a hearing. If  guilty, he’d be be suspended or lose his trainer’s license completely.  

The crazy bitch Bleau took all her horses away including Invictus.

Vaya Con Dios was missing.  Did the owner’s give him away? Should she call them? What will she say?  Asking Jude about Vaya Con Dios would be mean.  He had a lot on his plate.

Charlie Clahain left the scene as so many riders do. Just when she was starting to believe she might be interested in a relationship with someone – he skipped town. She’d miss him more than she should.  His kindness since the accident, his sweetness in telling her about Pete’s death, his help around the barn, his smile and upbeat outlook on life had affected her more than she let herself realize. 

And what about Jude? Her heart hurt just thinking about the pain he’d be going through watching his business dissolve. She thought of Enrique working hard and keeping the crew employed and the remaining horses cared for. 

To top it all off, her oldest friend Dee may never talk to her again. Ann was groggy and in pain when Dee called. She started to tell her a sob story from some dusty rescue ranch and Ann just didn’t have the stomach to hear about all the poor racehorses that nobody cares about. She’d been dismissive and rude to Dee and found she couldn’t stop. She wanted to hurt someone and there was Dee on the other end of the phone. Ann winced as she replayed part of the conversation in her head.

“Hey Ann, I’m driving up with a horse from San Diego and boy do I have some stuff to tell you.”

“Oh Jesus Dee – if this is some rescue story about a horse nobody cared about and how only you and that sanctimonious old geezer Hamer can save him – I’m just not in the mood.  Ok?”

“Ann, what is your deal?”

“I’m fucking tired of how you think nobody cares but you and how you have to be a hero all the time.”

“Ann. Are you okay?  Your mom said that everything is crazy for you.”

“Yeah, you and my mom.  What would I do with out my special do-gooders in my life? Tell me something Dee – do you ever take that thorny crown off your head? How heavy is that goddamn cross you drag around all day?”

“I don’t need this shit.”

“You might need to find someone else to save Dee.”

“Fuck you Ann.” Dee rang off.

Ann placed her phone on the bedside table.  She knew she’d been cruel but the cruelty of her world had caused it.  She knew she should call back but the exhaustion had set in and all she wanted was some pain free rest.  

Luke trotted to the door whining, someone had driven up. A soft rapping followed.

Exasperated, Ann growled “Come in!” She was surprised to see Mark.

“Hey.” Mark’s eyes couldn’t meet hers. “Are you feeling better?”

“Mark.  What’s up?

“I’m really sorry to come over uninvited but I needed to talk to you face to face. Ann, I need to tell you that Johnny killed himself early yesterday morning.”

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