Joel drummed the desk with his fingers and his wife looked up from her workstation. “What’s troubling you Sheriff Joel?”
“This business going on at Peggy Sue’s ranch. I suspect the Mahoney boys are involved, they’re always over there to use her track and jump equipment. She threatened to ban them when they were a bit rough with her horses and they’ve been a model of innocence since then so she’s a bit more relaxed having them around now but Bart is always pestering her to let him buy in and become a partner in an expanded business. He certainly knows his horses, but Peggy Sue wants to keep the operation the size it is now and doesn’t want any partner specially Bart. I told her to ask them not to come around anymore, but she says they pay good money and its regular.”
“Things are beginning to disappear over nights. The dogs usually alert her when anyone is around, but they’re silent so it’s a puzzle how things disappear. Then she discovered someone had tampered with the horse jump equipment which could have been a hazard to riders who come to practice jumps for competition and a resulting insurance headache. Some of them keep their own horses in her stables and pay rental but if her operation is considered unsafe to keep horses there that will be a big loss of income. Today she found one of the dozen dogs she keeps there dead and another one acting strangely. Her vet training kicked into gear and she realized they’d been poisoned. She has the two girls to care for in the evening and can’t be out at night keeping watch. She asked if I knew a person she could hire to do night duty and I found one for her, but he ended up in hospital with concussion and can’t remember what happened. She needs help but we can’t use our deputies for personal family work like that it would be misunderstood around town. We will do regular checks to solve the mystery as we’d do for anybody, but she needs someone smart. Bart Mahoney offered his services, but Peggy Sue doesn’t trust him for something that sensitive even though she’s happy to accept his money.”
Joel stopped drumming his fingers and picked up the phone punching in a long-distance number. He mentioned his name as the caller and a surprised voice responded.
“How did you find me Joel? I told my parents and yours not to share this number with anyone.”
“Jack this is your old buddy and neither of our families has blown the whistle on your whereabouts so don’t get mad at them. It’s part of my training to dig out information on people of interest and I was curious about you disappearing off the face of the map so traced you. To be frank I’d always hoped you and Peggy Sue would end up as a couple for life, but we all know how Bart played one of his games and that unfortunately is not something I have the power to arrest him on. I’m just sorry things didn’t work out. But I happen to know you are now into private detective work and Peggy Sue needs your help as she’s under threat. Will you help her for old time sake? It wasn’t her fault things didn’t work out between the both of you. She genuinely thought you’d lost interest in her and got married without telling her. Can you help?”
There was a long silence on the other end of the line. “Hello, are you there?”
Jack grunted to cover the emotions that had taken over. Finally, he spoke in a whisper. “You’re asking a lot of me Joel. She’s another man’s wife now!”
Joel shook his head in frustration. “The other man is dead, she’s alone and in trouble and you can solve this problem. Will you help me as I can’t take community resources and use them to favour my relatives. Imagine the stories that would get around about abuse of power.”
There was a pause again. “OK, but it will take a day to reschedule appointments and assignments to my employees. I’ll be at my parent’s home tomorrow evening so no one knows I’m in town and you can come over and fill me in on the details. I’m bringing someone with me to help.”
“Thank you so much Jack, you’re a good friend.” He replaced the phone, nodded and went back to processing his desk work, he smiled at his wife Wanda who’d been watching and listening. “Who is Jack? She inquired.
Next evening Joel and Wanda went to his parent’s home and were delighted to see Jack had kept his word. Joel introduced his wife and Jack introduced Steve his helper. “I expected to see you in a trench coat and spy glasses.”
Jack laughed. He was pleased to see Joel again. “We use more modern equipment now and bought some army grade night scopes with us. Right up front I want you to promise me you’ll not tell Peggy Sue I’m here. But you will tell her that if the dogs bark she is not to get excited and go checking out what’s going on. That could be dangerous. Can we have that agreement? I’ll do my work and then it’s back to work at the city again. This one is on me and there will be no charge.”
“Actually, Jack the puzzle is the dogs do not bark of a night while losses or damages are occurring. There are a few of them and they usually make quite a racket. A couple of them have been poisoned. Jack whistled in surprise.
“Well we’ll look starting tonight and cover the ranch with our night scopes. If there’s anybody intruding we’ll find them and hand them over to you. Now I want you to phone Peggy Sue and tell her to stay inside and lock her doors as you’ve commissioned someone to check out her ranch. If the dogs bark she is not to come outside under any circumstances. We’ll be leaving just before dawn and will repeat this for a week if we must. Let’s try and solve this mystery of things happening and no dogs barking. Might be someone very familiar to them. If we solve the problem we’ll leave town immediately after handing over the culprit. I need your phone number now and you can find us here during the day while the chase is on. It’s good to see you again Joel. I love this town but unfortunately can never come back. Now draw me a rough diagram of the ranch and its facilities so we can memorize it.” Joel sat down and made a careful drawing indicating the site of all facilities handing it to him.
That night Jack and Steve made the rounds of the ranch wearing their night scopes and the dogs produced quite a loud and prolonged session of barking. There was no movement to be found and just before dawn they retreated to Jack’s home. Joel phoned his sister next morning after she’d done the rounds inspecting everything. There’d been no loss or damage. And it was the same the next night. But on the third night Steve saw movements at the stables. There’d been loud barking the first and second nights when Jack and Steve arrived at the Ranch after dark, perhaps that was the reason no one had ventured in? But tonight, the dogs had inspected them and realized they belonged now so had not given out more than a whimper or two. There were two men clearly identified in Steve’s scope and he pressed a button in his pocket to alert his boss. It took Jack a while to cover the distance back by signal to where Steve crouched focused on the movements and they watched together. They crept closer to see what the intruders were up to. This time it looked like the intruders were focused on the stables. That could have serious implications!
“Move,” Jack nudged his partner into action.
They were on to the intruders before they knew it and as they didn’t know if the two were armed nets were fired over the two intruders to hamper movement.
“Down on your knees!” barked Jack but the two tried to run despite restrictive nets over them as they stumbled along.
“Down on your knees or you’ll enjoy our tasers and I don’t recommend that kind of enjoyment.” This time the two of them dropped to their knees.
“Let us go and I’ll pay you more money than you can imagine said a familiar voice.
“Bart Mahoney, so you are the evil genius behind this. I should have known. What are you up to damaging this property? You’re going to spend jail time over this.” Jack walked up to the voice and slapped him in the face. “This is for the misinformation you fed Peggy Sue about me.” He slapped him a second time. “That’s for your evil delight in sending me news about Peggy Sue’s marriage.” He was beginning to lose control.
Steve stepped between them. “That’s enough Jack, our work is done so let’s hand these rats over to the law and go back home.”
A powerful light lit up the scene and there was a loud gun blast in the air. Peggy Sue appeared out of the darkness. Caught you all, up with your hands or you get a blast each in the legs to make sure you don’t get away this time. Four of you, let’s see if I know any of you. She swung the light on the two netted Mahoney men kneeling, then swung the light toward Jack and Steve dressed in black with their night scopes on. The light dazzled their eyes and they quickly removed the scopes.
“Jack why would you want to hurt me by destroying my livelihood?” She wept and lowered the gun.
Jack spoke subdued now. “Peggy Sue Joel asked me to find these rats and hand them over to him, I swear I’d never do anything to hurt you.”
Peggy Sue cried louder.
Peggy Sue phone Joel now and ask him to collect these criminals and I’ll be on my way after they’ve been locked up.”
She went into the stables to check on the horses then returned with a rope. Steve tied the two Mahoney men who were offering no further resistance. They pushed the captives toward the house and phoned Joel who turned up with a deputy within five minutes taking the Mahoney brothers for interrogation and lock up.
Jack turned to leave with Steve. “Jack please don’t leave, I’ve so many things to apologize for and I’m begging you not to go until I’ve had a chance to make things right with you. I’m begging you Jack, don’t go.”
Steve looked at his boss for orders. “We’ll stay at my parents place and sleep this off Steve. We don’t have to be back at work for a few more days.
“Begging your pardon Jack, I want to go home, you can stay for a few days and I’ll cover for you at home.”
“Then take the car and I’ll return to the city by public transportation.”
“Thanks Boss I appreciate that as I want to get back to my wife and kids.
Peggy Sue sighed in resignation. “OK, I guess you need to get back home to your wife and kids too Jack. I understand and am sorry I tried to hold you up. I really appreciate you doing this for me despite the misunderstanding between us. You’re a good man Jack.”
“No wife to go home to Peggy Sue, there’s only one woman I’ve ever had an interest in.” He turned to go back to his parent’s home.
“That same woman you had an interest in has always had an interest in you Jack. Please come back to see me tomorrow as I need to apologize to you for the misunderstanding.”
A slow smile came over Jack’s tired face as Steve shrugged and started to head back to the Turner house.
Steve spoke, why don’t you go back to the house and listen to the woman’s apologies tonight boss. I think it would be good for the both of you to clear the air tonight itself.
Jack nodded in agreement. “You were always the wise one Steve. He took Peggy Sue’s arm and they walked back to the house slowly in deep conversation. A great weight had lifted from his mind and for the first time in years he felt happy.
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