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Missing! A Horse [Jumping into Trouble Book 3] [MultiFormat]
eBook by Margaret Pearce

eBook Category: Young Adult
eBook Description: The most dreadful thing that can ever happen to a horse owner has happened to John and Berry. Their horses are lost, strayed or stolen! Perhaps destination knacker-yard! Or have unscrupulous thieves sold them? The two boys stumble from one misadventure after another in their efforts to at last find the stolen horses.

eBook Publisher: Writers Exchange E-Publishing, Published: 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2009

* * * *

Chapter one

John sloshed his bare feet through the flooded gutter, and admired the overgrown nature strips. The almost continuous rain and heat caused lush growth, and this meant he didn't have to hand feed his horse Roanie, just change the tether morning and afternoon.

He trudged up the paddock by the quarry. His dog, a small blue Heeler, bounded ahead of him, his tail an alert banner above the grass. John reached the clump of trees, and untied the tether rope.

"Roanie," he called, tugging at the rope, which wound behind the screen of trees.

The rope came without resistance. There was no horse on the end of it, only an unbuckled collar! John ran to the top of the hill and looked around. The paddock swooped down to the huddle of houses and the wet road with its build up of morning traffic.

He pelted back down the hill towards the open gates of the quarry, his dog following. The owner of the quarry, old Matthew Verness, was backing his truck into its parking spot by the ramshackle office building.

"Please Mr. Verness. I tethered Roanie in the paddock last night, but he's gone."

"So, someone borrowed him." Mr. Verness slammed the door of his truck, turned up his collar, and sprinted for the shelter of his office.

John whistled Blue to heel, and trudged home worrying. Had his horse been stolen, or just borrowed by someone who wanted to ride? He chained Blue up and went inside.

"Roanie's missing!" he told his mother.

"Probably slipped his tether," his mother said as she buttoned his younger brother Terry into his raincoat. "Don't forget your lunch."

"The collar has been unbuckled. He might have been stolen."

"Or someone might have borrowed him for the day," his mother said. She glanced at the clock. "Time to get moving."

John thought about someone borrowing Roanie. It would have to be someone not at school today. There were two boys missing from his class. Tom Wilson had been home for days with a heavy cold. John knew that because he had offered to do his paper round.

Berry Jackson was also missing, but if Berry wanted to take a day off to go riding, he would ride his own chestnut mare. John stared out the window and watched the rain come down like a steady gray curtain.

Berry knew everything that went on in the district, and might know what had happened to Roanie. He decided to visit him.

After school he ran through the rain all the way to Berry Jackson's place. The Jackson house stood in a wilderness of shrubbery and weeds; the garage with its broken doors propped open, displayed a cascading pile of car parts.

John knocked firmly on the open front door. No one appeared. He knocked harder.

"Someone tell Berry, John Phillips wants to see him," he called down the dark passageway and left.

The rain stopped and the sun came out, jostling the heavy clouds into a corner of the sky, and revealing a widening expanse of bright blue. John took off his raincoat, suddenly hot and sticky. By the time he reached his own street, everything was dry. Only the grass, shrubs and trees retained their garish shiny green.

Berry Jackson leaned against his front fence with a dejected slump to his shoulders. His freckles stood out in bright splotches against his pallid skin.

"I went down to your place to find you. Did you know that Roanie's gone missing?" John burst out.

"Where did you leave him?"

"In the quarry paddock."

"Sadie was behind the lake reserve," Berry said. "She's gone missing too."

"Have to be good to ride Sadie," John remarked.

Despite Sadie's pretty looks, she had a vicious and unpredictable nature. She bit, kicked, bucked and fought against the weight of a rider.

"Don't be stupid." Berry's voice had a quaver in it. "Know what I've been doing all day?"

"Looking for your horse," John guessed, puzzled by the funny note in Berry's voice.

"Doing the rounds of the knacker yards. They're paying good prices for horses, no questions asked."

John just stared, suddenly too sick to speak.

"Don't you understand," Berry snarled. "Someone's stolen our horses to sell for pet food and fertilizer!"

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