Where The Trail
The Asquinn Twins Series
© 2012 BY Heather Radford
The Asquinn Twins
Where The Trail Forks
The Asquinn Twins and Where The Trail Forks is a work of fiction, which means all the characters are conjured up out of my imagination and there are no real life counterparts. Anyone who knows the James Bay Frontier or Temiskaming District areas in the northern portion of the province of Ontario, Canada, will recognize the setting for this story and the series. Although I have used the right names for most of the towns, cities and rivers, I used a fictitious name for the town in my story.
But the idea for the series did spring from an incident concerning the Ontario Provincial Police, Mom, and me that nipped my life of crime in the bud. For this I will forever be grateful and hold a deep respect for them. This has spanned the years even though I do not live in Ontario anymore. All I will say about that incident is that one of the occurrences in the series almost duplicates my brush with the law, but I will not say which one.
I wish I could use the name of the force in its entirety, but I can’t. It would have made a much stronger story.
Along with my gratitude, I say Ontario should be grateful they have the Ontario Provincial Police, and it’s to this police force I dedicate the entire series.
Martha and Charlotte
Forest Lake, 1958
She stood by the row of horses, her face furious. She touched her companion's shoulder to get her attention.
Sherry looked in the direction sixteen-year-old Martha Asquinn pointed with her index finger. Like Martha, her laughter abruptly stopped when she caught sight of the vehicle on the gravel road, a cloud of dust billowing behind.
Sherry said, “That can’t be more riders."
Martha started down the line of trail ride horses, saddled and ready to be ridden, tethered to hitching rails in a double row. One horse stood out in the midst of the line-up. A beautiful light taffy- colored mare with black tail, mane and four black stockings to her knees.
Martha breathed deeply. She loved the smell of horses, hay, oats and the hay fields, the woods, leather and, yes, manure. She walked down the row of tethered horses and filled a container by each horse’s head with oats and fed them a handful of hay.
She stopped by the mare. “Hello Taffy, you beautiful animal,” Martha said, tweaking the mare’s ears. Her brown eyes reflected the affection she held for the animal. Taffy whinnied her appreciation. Both girls laughed.
Martha looked up and all around her. “Darkness is almost upon us.”
Sherry paused brushing the mare, and rested a hand on the animal's back. She pushed honey colored bans away from her eyes. She had tied in a ponytail her thick, glistening hair she usually wore free tumbling down to her waist.
“Yes it is, and quitting time. The animals deserve a rest. What a busy day. Trail riders came at a steady pace.”
Weariness glazed her hazel -colored eyes. Both girls wore the style of clothes just becoming popular for teen-age girls. Blue jeans, shirt and western boots. Martha liked wearing this style for work.
Sherry held her hand under the mare’s nose. When she opened her hand, with a snort of appreciation the mare gulped down the sweet hay. Sherry continued with the brushing. She didn’t stop again until she had run the brush down all four legs, and then went over the animal again, looking for sore spots. Martha loved her friend for checking out these tender spots and extra raw fly bites, thinking of the welfare of the animal. This done, she applied ointment to the horse's belly and under parts where the horseflies and mosquitoes bothered her the most. “Maybe this will stop the flies from tormenting you. It is close to sunset and the breeze has died down.”
Martha stroked the mare behind her ears and along her neck and body. Sherry began brushing out the mare’s flowing mane and tail.
Sherry set aside the brush and held out one hand beneath Taffy’s muzzle. “Have some more hay.”
Once again Taffy gobbled down the offered treat. Peals of laughter erupted from the girls, again.
The car drew closer
"It isn't possible. It’s almost closing time," Sherry said. She gave the impression of being heartbroken. She looked towards the driveway. “I was looking forward to dark, closing time, and getting home.”
Martha shook her head. She could see now that it was a polished to shine, black Chevrolet Impala, a convertible with the hood down. She giggled. "Well, believe it or not, that’s my wild brother driving like he owns the road.”
Martha watched, heart in her mouth, as the car's driver sped much too fast along the dusty, gravel trail and entered the stable yard. He brought his car to a stop in a cloud of dust beside a storage building next to the horse-hitching rail. The horses whinnied low and danced about some, but Martha was thankful when they didn’t show signs of real agitation.
Three teens, two on the front and one in the back seat opened the doors and stepped out onto the gravel.
Martha cringed as the two older boys closed the doors with much slamming and shouting back and forth. One seemed the only responsible and steady one of the three.
Sherry spoke to the fair-haired blue-eyed driver, “Ken, my crazy love. "
Who is that with you with a drop dead physique and movie star looks in the passenger’s seat?” Martha asked.
"You are referring to my brother, Bradan," Sherry said.
The third youth stepped up beside Martha. "And my twin, Martin."
Bradan wore baggy brown pants, a wide brown leather belt and maroon short-sleeved shirt with black stripes down the front. She watched, with a sad heart, as he walked, somewhat unsteadily, towards her.
“You guys stop making so much noise around the horses; you’ll spook them. Mr. Greene doesn’t like you making so much noise around the livestock. He has warned you guys several times about it,” Martha reminded her future husband.
Bradan walked up to Martha, took her in his arms and kissed her. She opened her arms to him. Her knees turned to butter as his brown eyes gazed into hers and he smiled at her. She wore her dark brown hair piled on the back of her head in a bun, with bangs. He wore his hair cut short and neat. Bradan pushed the bangs aside and out of her brown eyes.
“And how are you, my Precious One?”
Martha loved him when he called her names like ‘Precious one’. She fingered the beautiful engagement ring on her finger. Bradan had placed the ring there when she was ten years old; with a few adjustments as she grew older, she'd worn it for six years. Any thoughts of further rebuke were washed away like children’s sand castle in a tide. Martha’s mouth went dry and she had to swallow at the sight of him. She had to untangle her tongue before she could answer; the love that surged through at Bradan’s touch affected her so.
“I’m fine,” she answered.
Martin stood to one side, not even trying to hide his annoyance with Bradan and Martha's relationship.
Ken walked up to Sherry, opened his arms wide, took her in his arms and kissed her. He also wore brown baggy pants, a wide black leather belt, and a tan shirt; His hair was also cut short and neat. He looked into her hazel eyes with his blue eyes and Martha noticed at that instant her knees went weak
“How are you?”
She loved it when he called her “Sunshine” or Sweetie” or “My Little Queen Charlotte”.
“Fine.” Sherry answered when she was able to talk. Ken had always that affect on her. She loved him and she trembled with this emotion whenever he entered the room she was in, or they stood together. Even at thirteen, and she ten- years -old, and he asked her to wait for him until they were old enough to marry and Sherry said she would, she wore his engagement ring on one finger of her left hand. He had been a commanding figure.
An older man appeared in the doorway of the house across road separating the house from the stable, came down the steps. He strode down the short driveway to the road, crossed over and entered the stable year. He stopped by Martha's group. His hair was grey, but he still stood up straight and very active. Martha saw him and she knew Bradan did also.
Martin said, not meaning any disrespect," Forest Lake’s eccentric citizen,”
Bradan added. “Ah, phooey on you old man. Take a look: Your hair is totally gray.”
Martha's heart sank and she felt a feeling of foreboding wash over her.
Bradan waved a hand as if shooing away irritating deer flies.
“He may be an old man, but his frame is as straight and slim as a sapling his step springy,” Martha said with a snicker. “His step is steadier that yours at the moment.”
Bradan glanced at her. His brown eyes snapped anger. Martha fell silent knowing he meant her not to keep on at him about his condition. Martha turned her gaze towards her friend. The kissing had ended between Ken and Sherry, but he still had one arm around her. He added his opinion.
“How long have you lived in Forest Lake, Mr. Greene?' Ken slurred. "Since before the earliest white settlers?”
Martha could feel her face grow read with embarrassment. She was ashamed that Ken should talk about the man she worked for so unkindly; and he talked in a loud voice to top it all. Martha glanced nervously Mr. Greene. The old man stood the railing, looking her way. She felt his eyes boring into her even, watching all four.
Bradan quickly released his loved one. Both Ken and Bradan watched the lone man as he stood leaning against the hitching railing. She breathed a sigh of relief when he turned and strode into the barn..
Ken’s words brought her back to the little group.
”Sherry, do you want to take orders from him all your life?”
“Of course not, dearest Ken. This is only a summer job.”
“Isn’t it time for you to get off work?” Bradan asked.
“We don’t quit until it’s dark, Bradan dearest,” Martha said.
“And you just couldn’t get away a few minutes early?” Martin said, again meaning no malice.
“Almost done. I just have to finish Taffy.” Martha saw the thin man appear in the doorway of the stable, again. He cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted across the distance, interrupting them. His words carried remarkable strong and clear for one so old.
“Girls. We have two people coming for a ride shortly. Be prepared when they get here.”
“We will, Mr. Greene,” Martha said. She glanced somewhat apprehensively at Sherry. Mr. Greene went back inside the stable. Martha sighed, glad he wasn’t joining them at that moment. Martha glanced at Bradan who gazed back at her with agitation plainly on his handsome face. “There goes our plans for the night.”
Sherry wriggled trying to get free of Ken. His arm remained firm around her waist.
“We have to prepare for a couple of riders coming.”
“They will be here any minute,” Martha added
Ken released Sherry.
“The horse that’s the talk of the district. What’s his name, Sunshine?”
“Taffy. And it’s a she.”
The mare flicked her ears at the mention of her name.
Ken moved closer to the mare. Martin was right behind him. Martin's eyes swept over the animal. “She isn’t as large as most horses. But she is rather intelligent looking.”
Mr. Greene hurried from the barn to join the group of young people.
“She’s more than what most casual riders in this area can handle,” he commented.
"Why?" Ken wanted to know.
"She’s of Arabian descent. That’s why she’s so spirited,” Mr. Greene explained.
Ken scoffed at this.
Martin clasped Taffy’s muzzle in his hands, pulled her head close to him and looked deeply into her eyes. “What a wonderful disposition!”
“That she is,” Martha agreed. “Trouble is, most people can’t even get into the saddle to ride her.”
“She doesn’t look very fierce," Bradan said.
"She’s standing in the shade of the barn, lazily swaying back and forth as she sleeps,” Ken scoffed.
Bradan backed up his buddy. He’d stopped by Martha’s side after circling the mare. “Her head is drooping over the railing. No one will convince me that the horse leaves more riders lying on the ground than those that rode her.'"
“Just try getting on the saddle,” Martha said.
Ken snapped his fingers loudly. “I have an idea, Bradan. Let’s you and I go for a ride.”
Bradan held up his hands in an effort to halt such thoughts. “No way.”
“Aw, come on”.
“This ought to be fun. And what horse do you intend to use?” Martha asked.
“I’ll use Taffy. Bradan will want a horse like that Palomino there that’s so old he can barely move beyond a trot.”
“You can count me out.”
“All right, I will go on my own.” He turned to his brother. "I have a better idea, Martin will go with me."
“You won’t go on your own,” Martha said. “It’s against the rule: or you can wait until the other two riders arrive and we’ll all go out together.”
Ken waved these ideas away.
“One of us has to go with the riders each trip,” Martha insisted.
Ken had grown impatient.
“Martha, my horse, please. I’m not ten years old. I can look after myself.”
Martin stepped in before his twin could answer. “Not in your condition.”
“Never mind. There's nothing wrong with my condition. My horse!”
Martha worked the bit into Taffy’s mouth and tightened the bridle. Sherry tightened the belly cinch. Taffy laid her ears back at this attention.
“Oh no. Going out again?” Martha said sympathetically to the horse. Martha untied the rope fastening the mare to the hitching rail and brought her to stand by Ken. The horse appeared to be half asleep, her eyes closed and ears resting.
Martha held the reins and stood by the mare’s head in order to keep her calm while Ken tried to get into the saddle.
Ken placed his left foot in the stirrup. Taffy remained docile looking enough until Ken had one foot in a stirrup and was in the air swinging up into the saddle. Then she exploded. She started to buck. With his right foot, Ken struggled to find the stirrup. Before he could find a foothold, he found himself on his own two feet on the ground again. Taffy’s actions had riled the alcohol in his blood.
“Give me those reins.”
Martha handed him the leather straps. She stopped breathing as her brother swung them over the mare’s head and onto her neck. Holding the reins tight, Ken lifted the usual foot first into a stirrup then swung upwards and into the saddle. He chuckled as he swiftly found the second stirrup. Martha started breathing again.
“There you stupid horse, I got the better of you didn’t I?”
Taffy wouldn’t admit it. She started bucking again. This tome Martin held his breath as.
Ken held on for awhile then, like so many other riders, he lost his grip on the saddle. He landed in a heap on the hard packed ground. The wind whooshed out of him with a loud humph. All he could do was lie in one spot and wait until he could move again.
Free, Taffy galloped back to the line of horses to her tie up spot. She stood snorting and shaking her head.
Bradan rushed to his fair- headed friend. His brown eyes reflected his concern.
“Are you all right?” Bradan put a hand over his mouth to suppress a chuckle Some teee-teee-heees escaped his lips anyway.
This amused Martha, but irritated Ken. Ken glanced at him, his blue eyes snapping annoyance.
“Ooooppps, sorry my friend. Are you all right?”
Martha agonized for long moments as Ken lay still on the ground. She glanced nervously at Martin. Ken groaned and stirred and drew a reluctant breath. “I’m all right.”
Bradan helped him to his feet.
Ken had been riled before. Martha saw he was even more so now.