The assassination of an Arizona rancher, embroils Charlie Draper in the U.S. southern border wars. His client beaten near death and when a hired killer guns down his friend, it becomes personal. Draper and his helicopter-flying Apache friend travel into Mexico to find local help and discover surprising support for the cartels from an unexpected source.
John Quinn worked at chores two thousand yards distant, unaware of the watcher. Standing tall and heavy set, Quinn was a long-time rancher pushing sixty, still hard as nails. Ornerier than a grizzly bear with a toothache, Quinn owned two thousand acres of dry Arizona desert supporting no more than one cow per several acres in a good year. He’d buried two wives in that Sonoran sand and raised three daughters, now grown and gone. Two were married with families and lived across the country. The third taught school in Phoenix, lived alone and rarely visited. Inheriting her father’s disparaging outlook on existence and the idiots who inhabited it, she rarely socialized.
John Quinn’s Silver Buckle Ranch butted against Sonora, Mexico on the south and the Tohono O’Odam Indian Reservation on the west. The ranch buildings were sun-baked, tinder dry and paint naked from years of neglected maintenance. Quinn rose early every day to tend his dwindling stock because he always had, if not for any other reason. The land was windswept, drier than bleached bones and needed constant irrigation. A single deep well supplying his irrigation needs had, in recent years, pumped dry at the height of the growing season. Quinn was forced to reduce his herd each succeeding year to match the available feed. In today’s market he knew he’d be lucky to find a buyer for either the cattle or the land at anything but giveaway prices. At ten minutes before eight in the morning, Quinn walked to his old Honda four-wheeler to start his daily hunt for strays. Quinn’s cattle, like all bovine critters, habitually searched for food, a continuing quest occasionally finding trouble. This morning, his count came up two short.
His dog, a mixed breed Border collie stray that found Quinn’s doorstep six years before and never left, followed behind at a safe distance. Quinn and the dog shared a love-hate relationship. Quinn liked the dog because it didn’t talk back and was pretty good at rounding up stray cattle. The dog on the other hand didn’t much like Quinn and growled if he got too close, but scarfed down the table scraps provided. After his master backed away the dog would eat. After a while the animal began to follow everywhere behind the old man at a discreet distance. Quinn started calling the Border collie Dog and the name stuck.
“Come on, Dog!” Quinn growled, mounting his four-wheeler. He started the engine and twisted the throttle, not looking to see if the dog followed. Quinn rode west toward the sloping hills that split his property into two distinct sections. The western side over the hills shared a common boundary with the Reservation. The eastern side served as the main ranch and went as far as the highway. His cattle usually hid from the afternoon heat in the steep valleys and deep gulches that divided the ranch. Quinn was a hundred yards short of the beginning of the elevation change when the .338 copper-jacketed bullet slammed into his chest slightly to the left of his breastbone.
The dog cowered in the shade of a mammoth Saguaro watching the inert body of his master for the rest of the day. For most of that time the Honda continued to idle. The next morning, hours after the Honda ran out of gas, the dog trotted over to the body, sniffed, and turned away. The dog looked back once from the top of a low hill a quarter-mile away, before continuing back toward the ranch home site.
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