Del Fox has a job to do in Short Straw, SD, and getting involved with Lila Flynn isn't part of the plan. Or is it?
NEVER TRUST A COWBOY starts out like this:
Delano Fox enjoyed watching a smooth heist in progress the way any skilled player might be entertained by another's performance. Sadly, under the starlit South Dakota sky on the flat plain below his vantage point the only real skill on display belonged to a blue heeler, and even he was a little slow. Del was going to have to forget everything he knew about rustling cattle if he was going to fit in with this bunch. Otherwise he'd find himself itching to take over, which wasn't the best way to get in thick with thieves. Even rank amateurs had their pride.
One by one, six head of black baldy steers stumbled into a stock trailer, each one springing away from the business end of a cattle prod or kicking out at the biting end of the dog. There was no ramp, but a jolt of fear helped the first two clear the trailer's threshold. When the third one tried to make a break for it, Ol' Shep lunged, crowding the animal against the trailer door. The guy manning the door cussed out both critters, while the one handling the prod added injury to insult by missing the steer and connecting with the dog. It would've been funny if he'd stung the other man with a volt or two, but Del instantly set his jaw at the sound of the yelping dog. Inexperience was curable, but carelessness could be a fatal flaw, and lack of consideration for man's best friend was just plain intolerable. The best cowhand of the lot—the one with paws—jumped into the bed of the jumbo pickup, where he shared space with the gooseneck hitch.
Two shadowy figures climbed into the growling workhorse of a pickup that was hitched to the stock trailer, while the third—the prod handler—hopped into a smaller vehicle—a showy short box with an emblem on the door—parked on the shoulder of the two-lane country road. He would be Del's mark. One of them anyway. He would be local, and he would be connected. Rustlers were high-tech these days, and they used every resource, did their research, found their inside man.
Del didn't go in much for high tech. He did his research on the down low, and he had already had a private, persuasive conversation with a man he knew to be one of the two hauling the stolen stock. The job he himself was looking for would soon be his.
He chuckled when he passed the sign welcoming him to the town of Short Straw, South Dakota, promising, You'll Be Glad You Drew It.
Maybe, but there was bound to be somebody in the area who wouldn't be. Del knew how to handle the short straw. He'd drawn it many times.
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