alcoholic—just like his parents, Hugh thought.
Billy pulled his cap brim over his eyes and obeyed without objection.
That, of itself, was suspicious, the rancher thought.
Billy didn’t ask “Why me?” he didn’t whine for help, and he didn’t complain. He just trudged off to do as he was told, with a strange, nervous grin playing around his lips.
To Hugh Senior all those facts indicted him.
Maybe jail would straighten him out.
The rancher sat in his truck long enough to watch Billy scratch his head over the already rotting carcass. It looked to Hugh Senior as if Billy wanted mightily to kick it in a fury of resentment and frustration but knew he didn’t dare while he was being watched. Hugh got out of his truck and called the boy Red Bosch over to help with the dragging and lifting. Cheerful as always, the teenager took his place behind the wheel of the truck and maneuvered it backward to winch up the dead cow. When he saw they might be able to manage it by themselves, Hugh Senior walked off to supervise the other work.
A little later he waved his eldest son over and told him, “We’ve got enough hands for this. You get going to Colorado.”
“Billy rode out here with me,” Hugh-Jay reminded him.
“You won’t need to give him a ride back today.”
“Because he already has a ride.” Hugh Senior pointed to the road where the sheriff’s sedan was coming up, followed by two deputies’ cars, all of them raising long trails of dust.
A FTER IT WAS DONE , and Billy was carted off and all the cattle were settled in their proper pastures, and everybody else had departed for home, Hugh Senior stood alone in the pasture and looked west and up toward the storm clouds. They were bringing dramatically cooler temperatures, which meant that when the cold front hit the very hot temperatures ahead of it, violent weather was likely.
There could be torrential rain, hail, high wind, tornadoes.
They’d finished up their work just in time to escape being out in that.
“Get a move on,” Hugh Senior ordered himself, with another glance at the storm that looked like a dark gray wall moving toward him. He saw telltale vertical streaks of rain in the distance, heard rumbles of thunder, saw flashes of lightning still a few miles away. The rain they’d had earlier was only a preamble. Now the real thing was coming, and it looked as if it meant business.
He worried for the sake of local farmers whose crop fields were so hardened by drought that rain of the sort that was coming would make things worse, not better. What they needed were days of light, steady rain that gave the rock-hard ground a chance to soften and absorb it.
That’s what Billy is: rock-hard ground.
What they were going to get instead was runoff, erosion, and flooding.
If he hurried, he could get Hugh-Jay’s lame horse to town before the veterinarian closed up for the day and before the rain hit Rose, though he might have to drive back through the storm to the ranch. Their vet made house calls, and night calls, and came on holidays and any other time they needed him, but the Linders didn’t like to ask him to make the long trip out to the ranch for just one animal, not if they could take the animal into the veterinary clinic on the outskirts of Rose.
The ranch seemed still and silent, as if it were waiting for the relief of rain.
Hugh Senior felt almost nothing but relief himself.
The culprit was in custody. Billy had gone in handcuffs, protesting, “I ain’t done nothin’!” But he had gone, nevertheless, without getting himself into more trouble by resisting arrest. The other men had watched wide-eyed, but without any real surprise. They accepted as reasonable Hugh’s explanation of keeping it a secret so Billy wouldn’t know it was coming. The sheriff had confided to Hugh Senior that they hadn’t found any evidence at Billy’s house, “But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Don’t you worry, Hugh. We’ll get the