My immediate reaction was to duck, even at that distance the crack of the gun was sharp and loud. It probably had something to do with my height in the stands. There was no ground clutter to block the travel of the sound. Before I could react, several sets of headlights snapped on outlining the people surrounding the trailer.
Rather than fight the crowd stampeding out of the bleachers below me, I went over the side and climbed down the steel framework. I launched myself toward the trailer, dodging between cars, pickups, trailers and horses. I thought I was making good time until someone dressed in chaps and flashy cowboy clothing streaked by me, leaving me gasping for breath.
I pulled up as I neared the trailer, and bumped into TT’s back. Someone I didn’t immediately recognize had a hand against TT’s chest telling him, “Stay right there. The police have things under control.”
I recognized the voice. It was Deputy Bucky, but he wasn’t wearing a uniform. I knew from past experience not to argue with Bucky. I patted TT on the back and got an acknowledging nod from him. He was asking, “What’s going on? What happened?”
I left TT with Bucky and edged my way around the side of the trailer staying behind the headlights. The lights were shining on several people standing in a group. There was one large thick body and two smaller slender people with their backs to me. I could now hear Rawlins gruff voice, “You ladies sure you are okay? I mean really okay. That was a close thing. It would be all right if you are a little shaky.”
Then I heard another voice that I recognized coming from clothing that I didn’t associate with her. Susie Wilks voice came back loud, but a little shaky. “We’re okay. We didn’t get hurt, did we?” This last was said to the other strangely dressed thinner person.
“Well like, you know, it was, you know, like we were prepared, you know. We were prepared for something, you know, wild to happen, you know.” Amy Pierson was baffling Rawlins like she did to everyone else.
Rawlins cut her off with, “You two just go over there by Deputy Bucky. But I don’t want you visiting together. I want your memories to be your own when we question you about this not a joint memory between yourselves.” With that he gave them a shooing motion.
I stepped into the headlights and said, “So this is what you two were up to.”
Amy was the first to respond. “Mitch, you missed all the excitement, you know.” I still hadn’t a clue what they were actually up to. “Did you, like, you know, hear the shooting? It was like, you know, unreal. Wow! I never expected something, you know, violent to happen.”
I tried to gather a little more information. “Susie, what exactly was going on?” I figured I might get more out of Susie than I would out of Amy.
“Wow is right.” Susie’s voice was still tight and high. “Sherriff said there was a slight chance of some gun play, but he really down played it. I never thought acting like a drug dealer would be this dangerous.”
Amy piped in with, “You know, I didn’t think that guy was doing anything, like, you know threatening and then they like, you know, blew him away.” With that Susie and Amy headed around the front of the trailer to Deputy Bucky.
So that is what was going on. Susie and Amy were under cover for Rawlins to try and make a purchase from the Kennedy group. Now I understood what was up with all the whispering and sneaky discussions these two had been having for the past couple of weeks. Rawlins’ outside help was Susie and Amy. A less likely pair to turn to I had never seen.
The sound of the gun was still on my mind, as I went back behind the headlights and circled to the darker side of the trailer. There were several more people outlined by the headlight’s glare. None of these were wearing uniforms either, but I had a hunch they were more deputies. Beside them was a large form lying on the ground. The fact that the body, it had to be a body, was not moving gave me a clue to what the shots were about.
I was more than a little curious about who that body was, or had been. I tried moving to the other side to see the face. But I had wandered to the edge of the field and was up against the fence. I had to move quickly because one deputy was stringing police tape to keep unwanted civilians out of the scene. I took my chance and walked along the fence hoping not to be noticed in the semi-dark.
I had a guess who was laying there in the grass, growing cold. I was in positon now to see the face but it was in the shadows cast by the headlights. I was stymied until one of the deputies flicked on his flashlight when Rawlins barked, “Did you find that brass yet?”
The light bounced off the face before moving on to an area near me. But it was enough light for me to confirm the man with the voice that sounded like broken glass was lying dead. No sooner had I made identification than a deputy spotted me and moved me along and outside of the police tape. As I neared the far end of the trailer, I heard two raised voices arguing.
Rawlins’ unmistakable gruff voice said, “What the hell were you thinking of? The man was ready to surrender and you just blew him away.”
Another voice that was familiar but that I couldn’t place said, “I tell you Rawlins, I thought he was pulling a gun. You know I wouldn’t blast someone unless I had to.”
Rawlins growled back, “I didn’t see him reach for anything with his hands in the air. There is going to be an inquiry on this. And what the hell are you doing in my jurisdiction anyway. The last I checked St. Onge was in my county.”
Now I had the voice, Sheriff Timmy. “I told you. This guy had suspicious activity over by Newell and I followed him here.”
“Since when does following someone into another county go without notifying the sheriff in the county you came into? You step into my jurisdiction again without informing me and you won’t like the results.” Rawlins was growling in Timmy’s face as he said the last.
Both of them broke off the conversation when they noticed me standing there. Rawlins asked me, “Did you get appointed a deputy sheriff and I don’t know about it? Or are you inside a crime scene for no reason other than your normal overdeveloped curiosity?”
I took that as an invite to leave and went back around the crime scene perimeter to the arena side of the trailer. There was a gathering crowd and they were all being entertained by Amy relaying her adventures of the night to one and all.
“And then after we made the purchase, the cops came out of nowhere, you know. Like it was a major bust, you know. We were all standing there, you know, with our hands in the air, you know, when …”
Amy was cut off by a loud voice saying, “Shut up! I mean right now, just shut up. You are supposed to keep your mouth shut and wait for an investigator to take your statement. Do you understand me?” I had never heard Deputy Bucky raise his voice like that. He must have been absorbing Rawlins’ habits. In a somewhat quieter voice he added, “Now come over here and sit in this patrol car and wait for the investigator.” Amy seemed taken aback and quietly headed in the direction he indicated.
I spotted Judy and Laurie at the edge of the crowd squeezing in for a closer look. It dawned on me that I may not have to keep my distance anymore with Broken Glass gone. No sooner had I decided that, then my legs got in motion to take me to Judy and my arms got the idea right away too. I wrapped Judy up and gave her a bear hug. It felt great to hold her again. Then I followed TT’s example with Brenda and gave her some lip affection right there in front of God and everyone.
As I released her she asked, “What happened to keeping our distance until things are settled?”
I said, “I think they are settled, more or less anyway.” And then I gave her another lip massage.
About then Art Kennedy butted his way to the front. “What is going on? Why is everyone congregated by my trailer?”
Bucky stepped forward and laid a firm grip on Art’s forearm. “Thanks for showing up, Art. It saved me the trouble of hunting you down. Now why don’t you step around back with me. I am sure Sherriff Rawlins wants to talk to you.”
Art started to resist and thought better of it as Bucky went from a passive grip to twisting Art’s arm behind his back. True to form, Pinky was right behind Art and made a move toward Bucky. A second deputy stepped in front of Pinky blocking his way. For once Pinky backed off. Apparently he had been around law officers enough to realize attacking one was not good for a person’s future. Pinky spotted me watching and I gave him a smile, gloating at his being backed off. Pinky flipped me the bird and walked off to the side.
Behind me I heard Brenda say, “Where are they taking Daddy? What was the shooting all about?”
I turned to see Brenda standing with TT’s arm around her. I was tempted to say “Your worthless father is getting his ass busted for selling drugs.” But I swallowed it and said, “One of your hired hands got shot. So they obviously want to talk to your dad.”
Brenda was all shocked as she asked, “Who got shot? I just saw Pinky, he looked okay.”
I said, “I don’t know the man’s name, but he was a big dude who sounded like broken glass when he talked. Does that help?”
Brenda exclaimed, “That would be Tom.” She turned to TT and added, “That doesn’t surprise me. Dad always said he was trouble. I don’t know why Mom kept him around. Well, I sure am glad it wasn’t Pinky.”
It took a second for this to soak in. “What do you mean your mother kept him around? Don’t you mean your Dad?”
Brenda gave me a strange look and said, “No, I mean Mom. Dad would never have hired Tom when he showed up at the ranch. But Mom threw a hissy fit and said Tom was just what the ranch needed. I don’t know what Mom saw in him. He wasn’t much of a hand. He was always running errands for Mom and about all he did was drive the pickup and trailer.” In a softer voice she said, “I kind of wondered if Mom and Tom were having a thing. They spent a lot of time together down in the tack room.” Apparently the thought of her mother doing it with anyone made her ill as she added, “Ick!”
I must have had a strange look on my face. Judy asked, “What’s wrong, Mitch? You look like you swallowed something bad.” I shook my head trying to clear the cobwebs. A strange thought was starting to push its way through my brain. I looked at Judy and tried to tell her what I was thinking, but I couldn’t push it out. “Mitch, are you okay?”
TT and Brenda were headed around the side of the trailer trying to spot her father. I caught up with them and tugged Brenda’s arm to turn her toward me. TT had a sharp tone in his voice when he said, “Dad. Don’t jerk Brenda around like that.”
I wasn’t worried about being polite when I asked, “Where’s your mother, Brenda?”
She gave me a puzzled look and responded, “I’m not sure. The last I saw of her, she was in the stands, watching the bull riding like everybody else. Why do you ask?”