Thatch led the sheriff’s deputies out to the stables as if they might find Matt and Jason there, alive and well. The sphag had been swept away. A ratty mat covered the spot, looking as if it had always been there. Ginny sat on the bench with an arm around Karyn. The girl’s face was wet and red again. Thatch wondered if she were acting or if she were actually crying.
“Look who I found!” Ginny said. She came close to the men. One of the officers resembled her–like all Roanhorses–although taller. They exchanged a glance before Ginny leaned in toward Thatch and lowered her voice, “Apparently she came in early this morning to see the horses, and hid in the rafters when the boys came. She saw everything: As soon as you went inside, they stole Bucky and rode out.”
“Bucky? No!” Thatch said. “Neither of them could handle a horse that size!”
“If they hurt that horse–”
Thatch was interrupted by the pounding of hooves. Bucky pounded in, stamping and shaking his head. He squealed – a sound Thatch had never heard from the beast. Karyn shrieked, climbing onto the bench. Ginny covered her mouth. Darting forward, Thatch caught Bucky’s reins. He murmured soothingly, pulling his face down to stroke his nose. Bucky snorted and stamped his hind leg. Thatch peered around him. The rope was still tied sloppily to the saddle, and still wrapped around Matt’s arm. But Matt was nowhere in sight. The arm had been torn from the socket at the shoulder. Tatters of sleeve were plastered to the arm with blood.
Karyn leapt from the bench and collided with Thatch, knocking the breath from him as she wrapped her arms around his waist. She whimpered into his chest. Thatch rolled his eyes, but wrapped his arms around her.
“Go to Ginny,” he said, stroking her hair. “I need to get this saddle off. It’s hurting him.”
Over the next few days, Thatch met with five families, arranged for counselling, reached settlements, and engaged in two scuffles with furious fathers. These social displays were welcome distractions from sheriff’s deputies crawling over his property. Wherever Ginny had hidden Jason’s body, it remained hidden. Matt, less an arm, was found tangled in a fallen cedar. He was unresponsive. After several hours of surgery, he died of shock.
There were five Roanhorses with the sheriff’s office, which most likely contributed to the incident being declared a karmic mishap. Thatch was never so relieved to go back home.
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