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Heartland #17: A Season of Hope

Amy swallowed hard and lifted her head as Ty came toward them. He kneeled down and rested his hand briefly on the gelding's shoulder. Amy noticed a muscle twitch in his jaw before he looked at her.

He shook his head and sighed before touching Amy on the arm. “I know it's the last thing you feel like doing, but we have to move on. We need to concentrate on the others.”

“Ty's right.” Jack's voice was raw with anger and grief as he helped Amy to stand. She gave one last sympathetic look to the gelding before drawing a deep, shaky breath and turning her attention to the other horse – an old chestnut mare that was lying with her front legs tucked underneath her chest, her nose resting on the soiled straw. The horse's shoulder twitched when Amy touched her neck to find a pulse. She tried to encourage the mare to stand, but the horse just looked at her through listless eyes.

Ty frowned. “I don't think we'll get her out.”

“Scott will be here any minute. He'll be able to see to her then. I think we should look at the others,” Jack agreed. Amy nodded and gave the mare's neck one final stroke before rising to her feet, aware of an incredible anger building in her.

Out in the yard, it was obvious that the palomino could hardly stand. Joni was waving her hands around the mare's face, and Amy soon realized it was to deter the cluster of flies drawn by the open wounds.

Brad stepped forward, a baffled expression on his face. “Will it take you long to help them?” he asked gruffly, his question directed at Jack. “I'm going to be really pushing for time.”

Amy could hardly believe what she was hearing.

“We need to wait for the vet,” Jack replied simply.

“Hope he gets here soon.” Brad shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “This is a big contract for my new bosses…” He paused and swallowed. “I can't mess it up.”

“You can't mess it up,” Amy repeated slowly under her breath, her fingers clenching and digging into her palms.

Ty, standing next to Jack, shot Amy a warning look.

“Of course I don't want to leave until they're OK to travel,” Brad added. “If you tell me where your tap is, I'll help you carry out some buckets of water.”

Blood pounded in Amy's ears, and she felt the burning in her chest explode. “Those horses are never getting back to the trailer. You'll be signing their death warrant,” she yelled. “How can your bosses make a contract with an auction house that transports their horses in vehicles like that ?” She jabbed her hand toward the trailer.

Before Brad could respond, Ty walked across and put his hand on Amy's arm. “Maybe we should discuss this later on,” he suggested quietly. “Don't forget, Dad didn't load the horses, he was just hired to drive them. The main thing is that he brought the horses to us instead of continuing to drive. We just have to concentrate on trying to save them. OK?”

Amy looked at Ty and felt a little of her anger ebb away.

“Trying to save them?” Brad questioned. But nobody answered; their attention was caught by Scott's Jeep pulling up outside the house. Jack immediately headed across the yard, and Amy hurried after him.

By the time they reached the Jeep, Scott was already pulling his medical kit from the back. Lou jumped out and surveyed the yard, taking in the trailer and the grave expressions on all their faces. “What's going on?” she asked in a bewildered tone.

“Ty's dad was transporting a load of horses and he brought them here when he realized there was a problem.” Amy glanced at Scott. “It's awful.” Her voice broke as she began to describe what they had discovered. “We didn't want to do anything until you saw them. They all appear to be in shock, and one of them” – she fought to get the words out – “one of them is dead.”

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