Windblown Saviour - Chapter 1 - Rider in the Storm

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Chapter 1 – Rider in the Storm

Marie watched from the window of the store as the tumbleweeds drifted past in the ever present Arizona wind. She sighed as if in mocking counterpoint to the gale outside. Nothing ever happened in Mimbres. Although beautiful, it was a stark beauty, sandy desert lying in sterile flatness between the knife-like peaks to the east and west. The hills that surrounded the town were garlanded in the deep, dark viridian of the evergreen forests, rising majestically to the chilly snow capped mountain tops that still claimed the lives of adventurous fools year on year.

At present though, there were no fools other than her and her husband in their dying business. The recently installed gas pumps were beginning to pull in some trade though, so perhaps the end wasn't inevitable.

She sighed again. Harry had gone down the street to talk to the bank manager and she was in charge for the afternoon. The wind, with its bitterly abrasive cargo of sand, kept most people inside, shielding their fragile eyes behind warm wooden walls and shuttered windows.

It wasn't just Mimbres though, it seemed as though the whole world was going through the storm with them. She glanced at the doom laden headline on the newspaper that lay next to her elbow.

"Hitler invades Poland".

How long would it be she wondered before America joined in? Britain and France seemed to be gearing up for war, and Europe was slowly spiralling into chaos. The Great War of the last generation might yet be merely a prelude to something far worse.

Looking back out through the window, she thought she saw something moving with some sort of purpose in the chaos of windblown dust and endlessly shifting sand, and hoped desperately that she was right. A customer, any customer, would be welcome today.

As she watched a shape began to gain form in the hazy brown world outside. A man on a horse appeared as a darker brown stain in the dust laden winds, and then as the form coalesced from the sands she recognised the shape of Old Joe, his wide brimmed hat tied firmly to his head, his heavy travel poncho wrapped tightly around his aged frame.

As the old man got slowly off his horse outside, Marie remembered herself and straightened her shop apron, patting her tightly bunned hair almost girlishly to make sure she looked her best for her first customer of the day.

Tying his horse in the lee of the shop so it was out of the wind, Joe made sure his mount was securely tied with its nose bag in place before he moved towards the shop door. The bell tinkled gently above the door and Joe walked into the store amidst a sudden swirl of storm, and then firmly evicted the storm to its proper place outside. Once the door was shut, he approached the counter. His movements were still sure and fluid despite his age, his blue eyes twinkled warmly, and a smile graced his wrinkled face as he greeted her, placing a pair of empty saddlebags on the counter.

"Afternoon, ma'am" he said, doffing his hat and holding it in his hands. "I take it I find you in good health?"

Marie smiled in genuine delight, she had always loved Joe. The man had been coming into the shop for decades, although he sometimes went for months without stopping in. The shop had always been a part of her life and once old enough, she had worked there with her parents. Eventually, once she and Harry had gotten married, her parents had passed the shop on to them, retiring almost gratefully it seemed: then she had got Joe all to herself. His olde worlde style and mannerisms always left her feeling slightly breathless, and despite being around eighty, his effortless charm always made her smile and wonder what he would've been like as a younger man.

"It's lovely to see you, Joe. You've made a dull and dusty afternoon seem suddenly bright."

The man dipped his head at the compliment and smiled widely. "May I presume on your hospitality, ma'am, I have a list of items I need?"

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