Today's Reading

I nodded and handed her the last bite. "Sancho follows me to the bathroom."

At the mention of our Basque deputy, Santiago Saizarbitoria, Vic smiled. "He's taking his orders very seriously."

I started to lift the cup to my lips, then stopped. "Whose orders?"

"I am not at liberty to say at this time."

"My daughter."

"Pretty much."

I sipped my coffee, a slight huff building. "If she's so worried about me, why doesn't she come up here and see about me for herself?"

"Um, because she has a life and a career in Cheyenne." She studied the side of my face. "She's been through a lot, Walt."

I nodded. "Yep."

"What, you're lonely? I can get Sancho to go in the bathroom with you."

"Thanks, but no thanks." I took a deep breath, feeling the stitch in my side. "I know she's been through a lot, and I just think we need to talk about it."

"So call her."

"I hate phones."

"Go to Cheyenne."

"I'm not particularly fond of Cheyenne either . . . Besides, after the amount of time I've been gone from the county, I think I need to be around here." I turned to look at her just as the two men approached. "Well?"

Don Butler, who had been the county brand inspector for years, gave me an unsettled look. "Difficult to say on a three-day-old kill."

"Could be a wolf." We all turned to look at Chuck Coon. "Well, it could be."

Vic made a face. "I thought you Rabbit Rangers say there aren't any wolves in the Bighorns."

Butler pushed his stained hat back and scrubbed a hand over the lines on his face. "Of course there aren't, which is why we're collecting DNA."

Coon sighed. "Anyway, there aren't supposed to be."

"Are you saying the wolves aren't cooperating?"

"Like any other adolescent, they have a tendency to wander . . ."

Butler glanced back at the remains. "If it is a wolf, it's a young one, I'd imagine."

"I'm betting a two-year-old." Chuck leaned against the tailgate of my truck, the official mantra spilling from his lips like a teletype machine. "It will be dealt with swiftly."

"You're gonna kill it?" Vic shook her head. "Doesn't the Fed just pay for the sheep?"

"Yeah, but once they get a taste for mutton, they usually keep hitting the herd and it becomes a problem—besides, it's a predator zone, so they're not supposed to be here."

She glanced at me. "What's a predator zone?"

"Neither protected nor trophy, they are considered to be in an agricultural area and a nuisance or predator, and you're allowed to shoot them at any time, like coyotes."

She looked back at the ranger. "They were here before we were."

I changed the subject. "More important: whose herd?"

Don cocked his head with a grim look. "Extepare. Abarrane Extepare."

Vic looked confused.

"Son of Beltran Extepare, the man who blew Lucian's leg off." The sheep rancher's father had been the Basque bootlegger back in the late forties who had relieved my predecessor of an appendage.

Her tarnished gold eyes sparkled the way they always did at the mention of mayhem. "Ooh, shit. This is getting interesting."

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