Courage Under Fire (Silver Creek #2) - Lindsay McKenna

Chapter One

May 1

“No . . . no, don’t murder the bees!” Cari Taylor turned in her sleep, reliving a moment in her life when she was five years old. Moaning, she cried out, “Don’t hurt them! They won’t sting us!”

Mrs. Johnson, their day care teacher, was horrified. There, near the rear gate of their playground in back of the house, was a huge hive of honeybees, the size of a basketball, in the apple tree.

Frantic, Cari saw her teacher’s face go from shock to horror. Her own heart bounced in fear for the bees. Her father and uncle had beehives and she had grown up with the beekeepers and dearly loved her little friends. “No!” she cried. “They’re harmless, Mrs. Johnson!” she squeaked, putting herself between the twenty other children who surrounded the teacher, who were all staring at the ball of bees in the fruit tree, fear in their faces.

“All of you,” Mrs. Johnson said, her voice hoarse with near hysteria, “in the house! Get in the house! The bees will sting you!”

Tears jammed into Cari’s eyes as she stubbornly stood her ground between her teacher and the fruit tree. She could hear the soft, gentle buzzing of twenty thousand honeybees all in a ball, protecting the queen, in the center of it, who had flown from someone’s beehive to find a new home. The hive had become crowded with too many bees and the queen had taken half of her female worker bees and perhaps some of her drones who attended her, on a flight from the hive in order to find a less crowded place to start a new hive. Cari knew this, but it was obvious blond-haired Mrs. Johnson, who was only twenty-two years old, did not. She was frantically gathering all her five- and six-year-old charges to her, pushing them gently toward the rear door of the house.

“I’ll call the fire department,” she told the kids, continuing to herd them inside. “They’ll kill the bees and you’ll be safe. Then, you can go outside and play on the swings, slides, and monkey bars.”

Cari followed dejectedly, hearing the teacher’s words. Oh, no! She turned on her small heel, looking longingly at the ball of bees. They wouldn’t hurt anyone. How could she get the teacher to believe her?

“Cari! Get in here!” Mrs. Johnson ordered, gesturing frantically. “Hurry up! The bees could come and sting you to death! Run!”

Grudgingly, she came, a pout on her lips. She shook her head as she approached her teacher. “They won’t hurt anyone!” she cried out. “Don’t kill them! They’ll leave in a bit. They’re just resting. They’re trying to find a new home, is all!”

Frustration appeared on Lucy Johnson’s face. She grabbed Cari’s pink T-shirt by the shoulder, pulling her forward. “Get in the house! You must be kept safe!”

Cari entered the house. All the kids were in the large sleeping area where they took naps, looking at one another, some afraid, some upset, some curious, and others stressed. A few were crying. Mrs. Johnson had never been in such a dramatic and emotional state like this before and it scared all of them. She was afraid of bees. Dodging to the right, Cari ran out of the room, down the hall, and into another room that led to the rear door out to the backyard playground. As she quietly, like a shadow, edged toward that hallway, she saw Mrs. Johnson pick up the phone, dial 911, her voice cracking with fear as she told the dispatcher that the fire department had to get over here right now. They had to kill the bees in order to protect her children.

Cari slipped away when Mrs. Johnson turned her back on the nap room. On tiptoes, she ran to the rear exit. Heart pumping with terror for her bee friends, she leaped down the steps, ran across the yard to the fruit tree. Just above her, the group of bees were surrounding a fork in a large branch. Terror filled her as she looked back at the door, making sure Mrs. Johnson didn’t discover her out here. Would she find her missing?

Pursing her small mouth, Cari closed her eyes and sent a mental message to the queen bee she knew was at the center of this swarm of honeybees. She had been taught that she could “talk” to the bees with her mind. “Let me find you, queen. Guide me to you. I need to carry you out of here or they will