Mountain High

These good fellows don't belong to me but I promise when I'm done to pick um up, dust um off and with a kiss on the cheek return them safely home.

"None but a mule denies his family." Unknown.

Roy stood on the outcropping of rocks and boulders overlooking the national park below him. "I don't think I could ever get tired of this view." There were miles and miles of beautiful mountains laid out before him. He was mesmerized by the exposed rocks that seemed to be painted by the setting sun with yellow blending into gold then orange. Roy looked behind him thinking that the mountains seem to touch the clouds. It was incredible that something so big and beautiful could make you feel a thousand miles away yet knowing you're in the backyard of Los Angeles.

"I know what you mean. This is one of my favorite spots. I love to come here when I don't have a big stretch off from work and can't really go far." Johnny looked up at the darkening clouds over the mountain range, "I just hope that storm doesn't move in too fast."

They both stood in quiet contemplation as they studied the rising cloud formations in the distance, grey and threatening.

"Well the weather said they would be moving north-east of us, so hopefully we will miss the brunt of it. Maybe it won't hit us until tomorrow." Roy hoped his words wouldn't come back to bite him. He shared his partners little prayer for the rain to hold off just a little bit longer. This had been a great weekend for everyone and they would have to head back tomorrow.

"How in the world did you find this spot Junior?"

"You know Sara from the pediatric floor? She brings her kids up here all the time, seems her aunt has a ranch up here. This mountain range gets a lot of tourism but not many know about this little speck of a town."

"I don't think I would have found it if not for following you," Roy confessed.

"Yea, there's really nothing up here. There is a little store and diner in town if you need um but beyond that it's just the trees and us. Most folks never find it since it's so much off the beaten path. Not many towns anymore that's one road in and one road out."

They both turned to see Mike working his way up the rocky side behind them.

"Hey Mike," they both said.

Mike moved over beside them, looking down the other side which was a cliff face. "Hey, Chet and Marco are on the way back with some fish I think."

Johnny and Roy nodded at the thought of fresh fish for dinner tonight.

"Hey you guys, we need more firewood," Hank called from the camp below them.

Mike chuckled, "Oh well, so much for sightseeing. Back to manual labor."

"It's not that bad Mike, at least we're out of LA for a while," Roy encouraged him.

"Oh, I know. I definitely needed the break."

They all gathered up an arm load of firewood as they worked their way back towards camp. As they arrived Chet and Marco were coming up from the lake with fresh fish. Chet was carrying his fishing pole and a bucket. Marco had his pole with some fish strung up that had already been cleaned.

"Wow, you guys did all right!" Johnny exclaimed. His mouth was already watering over fresh grilled fish for dinner tonight. Looking down he noticed that Chet's fish were still in the bucket. "Chet you do know that these aren't pets, right?" Johnny chided him.

"Har har, Johnny. I know that. I just, well….um."

Marco chimed in to finish his sentence, "What he's trying to say is that he will catch um but he won't kill um."

"Kelly you twit, just kill um. It's bad enough to have to look at them dead. I don't want to see them alive!" Hank just shuddered at the flopping creatures in the bucket.

Mike took the bucket and headed back towards the lake, attempting to save his Captain a little misery. "I'll do it, if we wait for him we'll starve tonight."

"Nobody's gonna starve, geeze. I would have done it. I just needed the right time is all."

"Chet, you amaze me. You're always the one going on and on about camping and fishing. You won't even kill a fish? No wonder you usually don't catch anything." Johnny continued to poke at him.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Chet sounded offended now.

Johnny leaned back on the bench around the campfire and continued, "Well, the fish look up and see you. Chet Kelly with that goofy mustache and know right then that you're not the one to surrender too. Kinda like they know what's waiting for them."

Marco and Hank look at each other grinning.

"Very funny Johnny. Like fish pick who's gonna catch um."

"Of course they do Chet. They can see us. They pick whose line they will take." Johnny sounded very serious.

Chet furrowed his brow and got quiet. His friends watched him closely. Was he actually contemplating this possibility? Could fish really know what they were doing? Everyone broke out laughing which promptly sent Chet back down to the lake to Mike.

Deputy Pete Markin drove down the long driveway to the ranch home. He knew this wasn't going to go well but he had a job to do anyway. It wasn't the first time he had been down this road before and he knew it wouldn't be the last. As he got out of his truck he instinctively moved his hand towards his holster to check the security of his gun. Glancing around the property he saw who he was looking for at the large barn. Striding over he also noticed old man Carter's truck and trailer.

"Now what does he want?" He grumbled under his breath. He looked up at the darkening skies and noticed that the breeze was picking up. When he turned towards the end of the barn he saw Mr. Carter shaking his fist at Kris. The scene was almost comical as she looked non plussed at his ranting and just stood there smiling. Pete walked up and casually joined into the conversation.

"Kris. Mr. Carter. Is everything alright here?" He would let Kris take the lead here, it was her ranch and her business but he also wanted to make sure that Carter knew he was there. Past interactions between Kris and Carter had proven that there was no friendship here, not even a business relationship.

Kris looked up at Pete as he approached them. "Heya Pete. Yep, everything's fine. Mr. Carter here was just complimenting me on saving his prized horse, again." She flashed Pete a wide grin that showed she was in control of the situation and actually enjoying the torment that Mr. Carter was experiencing at the moment. "Mr. Carter it's not my fault that you keep letting Mystic get out of his pasture. Fix your fences and he wouldn't need to be rescued every week. If I'm called out to use my trailer and my time to save him then you're gonna get a bill. Next time you may also get a court summons for neglect."

"Why you….you…"

Pete knew what was about to come out of this hateful man's mouth. He'd heard it before. "Careful, Mister Carter, don't say anything we will all regret." Pete saw the shadow of hurt come across Kris's face.

"Court summons? You have to be kidding me? I take care of my animals!" He was fuming at this point.

Pete thought he might need to intervene before the old man had a heart attack. "Ok, Mr. Carter. You've said your peace and Kris here is right. If you don't' fix that fence you're gonna wind up with a fine. She may be the local vet but it's not her job to rescue your animals every time they get out of your broken fence."

"Harrumph!" Carter turned and stomped back towards his truck.

"Oh, Mr. Carter? Feel free to drop that check in the mail this week." She turned and laughed at Pete. "Well, did you just get the 'go save Kris' vibe or what?" Your timing was impeccable."

Pete chuckled as he watched her while she finished putting up her tool box into the storage room next to them. She was so beautiful to him, petite frame, dark brown hair and eyes, and tanned skin reflecting her heritage. It had only been about 2 years since she had come to this little town. She bought this large ranch and opened up her own Veterinary business with an emergency hospital. He frowned as the thought about the prejudice that existed in this little town. Her American Indian blood lines didn't mean anything negative to him. All he could see was what an incredible woman she was. But this town was very small and all it took was prejudice folks like Carter to make Kris's daily work even harder and stir the pot of hatred.

"No, no vibe. Out here on business Kris." He shook his head.

She closed the shed's door turning back towards him. "Well that doesn't sound good. What did I do now?" He saw the concern in her eyes despite the lightness of her voice. He knew that having someone upset with her was nothing new and he suspected it had been that way most of life. That's probably why she was so easy going for the most part. He had never seen her hold a grudge and never really even got upset at some of the mean stuff thrown her way.

"Mrs. Flowers has filed a complaint against you again." She shook her head but kept quiet. "Kris did you go onto her property?" He thought he knew what happened but had to grow through the steps anyways.

"Sure did Pete. Her son told me I could go into her yard to get Jack there." She pointed to the large black lab standing next to her with a cast on his back leg.

"I know Kris. I just have to go through the steps ok? I have to fill out a report since she filed a complaint. Please just try and stay away from her. She's only looking for ways to get you Kris, you know that." Sometimes he was amazed at how naïve she seemed. Either that or she was just a pro at ignoring the ignorance. She shrugged her shoulders and nodded an affirmation of consent.

"Hey, go get cleaned up and I'll treat you to dinner, ok?" Pete offered. He just loved the smile that got out of her. He watched as she jogged back to the house. He again looked towards the darkening sky. If it stormed as bad as it did a couple of weeks ago the roads would be a mess. They hadn't even gotten all the repairs done yet.

The campfire was crackling and popping with dancing flames. Its warmth was comforting in the mountain coolness even though it was still early in the evening. Sitting around it the men were sipping coffee and relaxing. They had been there for 3 days and it had been a great little vacation. It wasn't often that they got to go anywhere together but this time it had just worked out right. Everyone at the station thought they were crazy. Wasn't it enough they already spent three to four shifts a week together? But they usually answered their own questions, knowing how close the A-shift crew was. The sun was still trying to shine some when the sprinkling of raindrops started coming down on them.

Marco looked up, "Hope this is all we get. This weekend has been too nice."

"Kelly you have the dishes," Hank said.

"Aww Cap, come on. I caught the dinner." Chet whined. Hank gave the 'who's the boss' look they all knew so well and Chet complied. Mike just smiled at how Hank's voice kept Chet in tow even out here in the middle of nowhere. He looked over at his Captain knowing they all had immense respect for him no matter where they were.

"I'll help ya Chet," Mike said as he started helping him gather up the dishes.

"Thanks Mikey." Chet was glad for the company out here in the deep woods. This was their last night and nothing had gone wrong. Still Chet had a very uneasy feeling about tonight.