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Woodrow Hand is off the rodeo circuit with a busted shoulder and stuck in the Great Basin Badlands of southeastern Oregon.  He has a girlfriend all set to lasso his hide and drag him to the altar.  He’s on the run from the preacher party when he runs into a twisted set of circumstances that make him wish he’d left town already.  Bodies keep turning up in unexpected places, and nobody, including the sheriff is real sure who’s a corpse and who isn’t...

Thrillers - Major Misunderstandings Mean Murder in the Basin Badlands





    Maisy, Daisy, Lacy, Stacy, Tracy and Patsy had never had so much company at one time.  The Herefords huddled together along the fence line and tongued the dewy grass as the men circled the pickup truck.  Daisy, senior matron in the herd, slapped her steaming tongue at the wad of grass on her gums and mooed to signal her impatience with the intruders.


    Her sister and daughter joined in, and soon a chorus of lows and bellows echoed across the field and caught the attention of Deputy Donny Hayes.  He lowered the brim of his hat and looked down at his clipboard. Cows were scenery to his way of thinking, not cogent, personalized beings with an outlook on life.  As far as Donny was concerned, they were just milkshakes and burgers with legs and shitty tails. Nothing more. So he never even considered that the only eyewitnesses to the crime were within walking distance even for an overweight lawman like Donny who huffed and puffed going up the courthouse steps.  Didn’t matter. The bovine bystanders soon lost interest in the lawmen and returned to their own agenda.


    As Donny glanced up the lane, he saw the sheriff’s cruiser screech into view with its red light flashing.  Donny’s heartbeat quickened in spite of his boredom. This hadn’t turned out to be much of a breakthrough in the case of the missing California victim, just an old truck with nothing in it but useless junk.  Western saddle, shit like that. Woodrow Hand’s truck. No sign of anything else going on. Ran out of gas, ditched his pickup and hiked back to his trailer. That’s what seemed likely. If he’d hauled the victim out here in this rig, the state crime boys would find hair or fiber evidence maybe.  Might even be bloodstains. Anyhow, this standing around trying to look official was damn boring. He was glad to see Berry’s car lit up like a pinball machine racing down the road.The sheriff turned his car around, nearly getting stuck in the drop-off on the shoulder. Two other county cars sped after him.  Donny spat across his shoe tops and watched as the tow truck operator locked up Woody’s truck and started the hoist motor. Even Daisy and the girls found this operation too dull to merit further attention.


    Berry braked, leaned out the window and called to the Oregon State cop who was assisting the tow truck driver as he hooked up the front cross-member of Woody’s truck.  “We got one down at the end of the lane by the cattle tank! In the ditch!”


    “What’d you find, Sheriff?”


    “We followed what looked like a fresh path through the brush down to the irrigation ditch.  There’s a body in the weeds. I’d say that’s our missing victim – fits the description. White female, red hair.  Looks like a sexual assault.”


    Deputy Dwight Foley nodded at the sheriff and pointed authoritatively toward the cleared path leading through the boot-high grass to the drainage ditch.  The rookie had already secured the crime scene by stringing bright-yellow tape from the barbed wire to the termite-infested fence post at the edge of the metal cattle guard.  He was about as excited as a puppy chasing a wild weenie. This was his opportunity to shine, to leapfrog over his rival Calvin Kofoed and silence all his doubting critics.


    Right from the start, Dwight had figured his star was in its ascendancy. He was born to this job, made for it.  Tailored to a tee. Now his name was destined to be on every lawman’s lips in Harney County and the Oregon State Police Academy.  No doubt about it, Dwight concluded happily. Deputy Dwight Foley was a man about to go down in the history books as one of the brightest stars in Oregon’s law enforcement galaxy.  He might even write a book: “The Case of The Culvert Killer” by the chief law enforcement officer for Harney County who solved the case and brought the killer to justice.

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