Authors: Bonnie Bryant
“Oops,” Marie said quietly. Again she adjusted her position in the saddle.
“Okay, that’s a little better,” Carole said crisply. “Now let’s work on the way you’re holding the reins. Don’t curl your wrists, and keep your thumbs pointing up and your elbows in. And stop twisting around to look at me! You’re going to confuse your horse. You’ve got to keep your eyes looking in the direction you want to go.”
Stevie broke that particular rule for a second by twisting around to catch a glimpse of Marie’s face. Marie looked harried, and no wonder. Carole barely seemed to pause for breath as she continued to bark out instuctions. The advice she was giving Marie sounded more like plain old criticism, and that wasn’t like Carole at all.…
RL 5, 009-012
A Bantam Skylark Book / September 1994
Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and elsewhere
“The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller. The Saddle Club design/logo, which consists of a riding crop and a riding hat, is a trademark of Bantam Books
“USPC” and “Pony Club” are registered trademarks of The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511-8462
All rights reserved
Copyright © 1994 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
Cover art copyright © 1994 by Garin Baker
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Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
I would like to express my
special thanks to Catherine Hapka
for her help in the writing
of this book.
what I call disgusting,” Carole Hanson declared.
“Oh, come on,” her father teased. “Didn’t you think it was at least a little bit interesting?”
“Yeah, Carole,” added Marie Dana. “I thought you were interested in all creatures, great and small.”
Carole shot her a dirty look as Colonel Hanson and Marie’s mother laughed. “That’s the problem,” Carole said. “Some of
creatures weren’t so small!”
The creatures to which Carole was referring were the creepy and crawly inhabitants of the insect zoo, an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. The insect zoo featured many varieties of live insects from all over the world. Carole wasn’t normally squeamish
about such things. But somehow, seeing thousands of insects—some the size of her hand—gathered together in one spot had given her the willies.
“I have to admit, some of those tropical cockroaches did bring back unpleasant memories of places I was stationed before Carole was born,” Colonel Hanson said. In his eighteen-year career in the Marine Corps, he had spent time in all kinds of places all over the world. When Carole was younger, her family had moved a lot, but since her mother’s death from cancer a couple of years earlier they had lived in Willow Creek, Virginia, a small town about thirty miles outside Washington, D.C.
“Well, if they want some more bees for their collection, they can have the ones that have set up house in my garage,” Mrs. Dana said as the foursome strolled through a hallway featuring glass cases filled with skeletons of animals and birds.
“Funny, Mom,” Marie said. “Can they have the spiders who’ve been spinning cobwebs in my bedroom since the last time you vacuumed, too?”
“Ha-ha,” said Mrs. Dana dryly in return. “There’s no law against daughters vacuuming their own rooms, as far as I know.”
“Can’t,” Marie replied promptly. “I’m still recovering from my injuries. No hard physical labor for me.”
Her mother rolled her eyes. Carole couldn’t help shaking her head. Sometimes she found Marie’s sense of humor
a little bizarre. Marie had been in a serious car accident a while ago. The accident had left her in critical condition and had claimed her father’s life. Carole had first met Marie when she was still in the hospital, confined to a gurney with a fractured pelvis and two broken legs. Having lost her own mother, Carole could empathize. In fact, she had tried her best to help Marie through the difficult time following Mr. Dana’s death.
Colonel Hanson had played a similar role in Mrs. Dana’s recovery. He had begun as an understanding friend, and things had slowly developed into something more than friendship. Carole had noticed that her father and Mrs. Dana had been seeing a lot of each other lately.
As if reading Carole’s thoughts, Colonel Hanson reached out and took Mrs. Dana’s hand in his own. “Don’t worry, Olivia,” he said with mock seriousness. “If there are any bugs terrorizing you, just let me know. I’ll send Carole right over to take care of them.”
Now it was Marie’s turn to roll her eyes. “Yeah, right,” she told Colonel Hanson. “I think the only insect Carole might be interested in seeing would be a fly.” She waited for the others’ puzzled looks, then grinned. “A
fly, that is.”
Colonel Hanson and Mrs. Dana laughed appreciatively at the joke.
Carole spent just about all her free time at Pine Hollow Stables, where she took riding lessons and boarded her
horse, Starlight. She had already decided that she would continue to work with horses when she grew up—though whether she would do so as a trainer, breeder, competitive rider, or veterinarian she hadn’t yet decided. She had even started a group called The Saddle Club with her best friends, Stevie Lake and Lisa Atwood, who also rode at Pine Hollow. The Saddle Club had only two rules—members had to be horse crazy, and they had to be willing to help each other out.
Carole managed a weak smile in response to Marie’s joke. She was a little distracted, and not just by the memories of the spiders and centipedes she’d just seen. She was wondering if there was something more to this outing than there appeared to be. It was a beautiful September Saturday, and Carole had been planning all week to spend the day at Pine Hollow with Lisa and Stevie and Starlight. Starlight was still young, and Carole liked to spend every spare moment on his training. Lately she had started working with him on the half halt, a dressage move in which she asked him for a momentary hesitation in stride. It was a slightly more advanced exercise than Starlight had learned before, and Carole wanted to make sure he was learning it properly.
But a few days earlier Colonel Hanson had announced that he had volunteered to show the Danas around the museums in Washington, and he wanted Carole to come. Carole had been a little disappointed to miss a day of training
with her gelding, but she accepted the new plan as cheerfully as she could. She loved visiting the Smithsonian, and she had been so busy with riding and the new school year that she hadn’t spent much time with her father lately. By the time she finished her morning riding classes at Pine Hollow, she was actually looking forward to the trip.
Carole was having fun seeing the museums—they had already covered the Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery before heading to the Natural History Museum—but she couldn’t help noticing that both her father and Mrs. Dana had been acting a little bit strangely the whole day. She couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was about their behavior that bothered her—she just had a feeling that there was something a little eager, almost phony, in their manner. It was making her feel a little edgy, and Marie’s sarcastic sense of humor wasn’t really helping her mood. Carole glanced at the other girl as they headed for the stairs to the museum’s ground floor, wondering if Marie had noticed anything strange about their parents’ behavior.
“Anyone for a quick snack?” Colonel Hanson suggested. He patted his belly. “All those bugs made me hungry.”
Marie laughed. “Lead the way,” she said. “I’m dying for a good wormburger—and maybe some french
on the side.”
“Marie, please!” Mrs. Dana exclaimed. She slipped her
arm into Colonel Hanson’s as they started down the wide, echoing stairwell. “I
hungry, until my charming daughter’s comment.”
“Maybe they should market you as a diet aid, Marie,” Colonel Hanson joked.
Marie smiled proudly. Carole found herself thinking, not for the first time that day, how much livelier and more upbeat Marie seemed these days. The girls hadn’t seen each other in several weeks. Marie lived only half a mile from Pine Hollow, and she liked to ride there occasionally. But since school had started, Carole hadn’t seen her at the stable.
“Have you been riding lately, Marie?” she asked.
She was a little startled when all three of her companions burst into laughter again.
“Talk about a one-track mind,” Marie said. “We were talking about food, remember? Not hay, not oats—people food.”
Carole blushed. Sometimes she forgot that everyone else’s mind didn’t revolve almost constantly around the topic of horses. Still, she found herself wishing—not for the first time that day—that Marie was a little less blunt in her comments.
“Come on, honey,” Colonel Hanson said, not seeming to notice Carole’s consternation. “I’ll buy you a slice of pie or something.”
“I’m not really that hungry,” Carole muttered, trailing
along behind the others as they walked toward the museum’s cafeteria. They passed the large gift shop, dodging a group of excited children waving their brand-new stuffed dinosaurs. The cafeteria featured a revolving selection of snacks and sandwiches. Carole and the others picked up trays and took their places in front of the slowly circling food.
“Hey, Carole, want to share an order of fries?” Marie said, grabbing a large bag of french fries.
Carole shrugged. “Sure. Sounds good.” She noticed her father glancing at Mrs. Dana and winking. More than ever she had the feeling that there was something going on. What was more, she was beginning to think she might know what it was, and she wasn’t sure she liked her theory. She decided not to think about it.