Today's Reading

I looked past the two men at the hundred or so sheep grazing a good fifty yards away. "So, I don't suppose the old man is up here?"

"Not that we've seen."

"How 'bout the herder?"

"Haven't seen him either."

"Well, who called in the sheep?"

Coon thumbed his chest. "I did."

"Then first you need to find the herder and talk with him. Then we can go have a little chat with Abarrane and hope we don't get shot." I watched as Coon, in search of a needle, looked behind him at the expanse of haystack mountains. I turned and looked at Butler. "Any idea what Extepare's permits for grazing are?"

Disgruntled, Don started off toward his truck. "Got 'em on my computer."

I threw out the rest of my coffee and, slowly sliding off the tailgate, limped after him with Vic and Chuck in tow. Coon pulled up beside me.

"How are you doing, Walt?"

"Good—a little stiff, but I'm fine."

"That sounded like some pretty hairy stuff down there in Mexico."

I nodded.

"Sure you're okay?"


He continued talking as I opened the passenger side door. "You lost a lot of weight—I guess you can count that as a positive."

The brand inspector had a nice truck with carpet, a leather interior, and all the electronic gizmos, including a swinging table that held a laptop computer. "Jeez, Don, the Cattleman's Association is making way too much money."

He grumbled as he climbed onto the seat. "I practically live in the thing." After tapping a few keys, he stared at the screen. "Extepare all right. One section—looks like it's mostly west of here." He peered through his windshield. "Odd, those sheep scattered this far east and nobody checking on 'em."

Studying the large meadow, my eyes followed his. "Maybe the wolf spooked them?"

Don pulled the brim of his hat back down, low over his eyes, still seemingly puzzled. "Maybe, but hell, we've been here for an hour and you'd think somebody would have shown up . . ."

I turned, looking at the expanse. "How big would you say this park is?"

"At least a couple square miles."

Vic studied the large, open space. "Why do they call them parks?"

"Bastardization of the French term that the trappers used when they first came to this part of the country." I sighed, seeing the lunch I'd planned at the Busy Bee Café going up in grilled smoke. "All right. We can split it up—you take the right, Don. Chuck, you take the middle, and Vic, we'll work the tree line to the left. I don't think there's much of a chance that he'd set up camp out in the middle, but you never know." I glanced back at Butler. "Does the herder have a name?"

"Miguel Hernandez."



Walking back to the Bullet, I called over my shoulder. "Our standard frequency." Climbing in, I was met with a copious fog of Dog breath as he hung his bucket head over the seat and whined. "I know you want to get out, but you can't—like the butler, they might think you did it."

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