The peaceful little Wyoming town was beginning to feel like a war zone. Blood Land.
May 14, 2013
A VG Serial: Blood Land
Sheriff Pruett met with Hanson after the plea hearing.
“A stroke of genius,” Hanson said. “Professionally speaking, it’s almost a shame you’re going to take that woman down.”
“To hell with that woman,” Pruett said. “Even a crazy dog outsmarts the fox once in a while.”
“What have you heard from Ms. Delgado?”
“Nothing,” Pruett said. “I planned to drop by the office after the hearing. You care to join me?”
* * *
Beulah Jorgensen was not gloating. In fact, she was not present at the Town Attorney’s office when Pruett and J.W. Hanson arrived. But neither was Shelly Delgado.
“She didn’t show up today,” Miles Stanton told them.
“She didn’t call?” the sheriff asked.
“No, but that’s not surprising. Her two kids are always coming down with something. She takes her work home,” Stanton said.
“Cold feet?” Hanson said as they drove to the Blackstone subdivision east of town.
“Can’t say,” Pruett said. “She wasn’t thrilled about the news I gave her. Maybe Stanton’s right and her kids have the flu.”
Pruett knocked on the door of Shelly Delgado’s home, a large log house she inherited from her ex-husband in the divorce settlement. No answer. Pruett walked around and looked in the cathedral-height front glass, but could see no movement in the house.
“I’ll drop you at the courthouse,” Pruett said. “Figure I might just drop by Joe Delgado’s place out on the golf course.”
Shelly’s ex was home and invited Pruett in.
“Morning, Sheriff,” he said, offering some fresh coffee, which Pruett accepted.
“Wondering if you know where Shelly is today,” Pruett said.
“Don’t keep tabs on her, Sheriff. Something I should know about?”
“No. Just needed to talk to her. She didn’t show up at work so we figured she was home with the kids.”
“Kids are in school,” Delgado said, sipping at the black coffee. “They’re with me all week.”
“Hmm,” Pruett said. “Thanks for your time, Joe.”
Back at Shelly Delgado’s house, Sheriff Pruett walked around to the back yard and stepped through the two-rail fence. The rear door to the garage was unlocked, so he opened it and slipped in. Shelly’s Nissan was parked in there. Pruett walked past the car and checked the engine. Cold. He turned the knob to the house door; it too was unlocked. So he entered.
The house was like a palatial cabin. The kitchen was all granite, with tall pine cabinets offset by stainless steel appliances. Pruett walked through the kitchen and into the high ceiling living room. There was a cup of cold coffee on a table. Also on the table were what looked like Shelly’s hand-carry brief, a blank legal tablet, and two pens. A laptop power cable lay next to the tablet, unplugged.
“Shelly,” Pruett called out. The fact that he’d not thought until now to call for her caused a chill to creep up his spine. He removed the Smith and Wesson pistol from its holster. “Hello. Anyone?”
Pruett moved cautiously toward the back of the house. As he turned a corner, he saw one of Shelly Delgado’s bare legs protruding from the back bedroom, lying still on the hardwood floor. The Sheriff quickly made sure the rooms were clear and approached the office.
Blood spatter fanned up the log wall on one side. There was a large amount of thick, dark blood pooled around her head. He reached for Shelly’s neck. No pulse. The body was already cold, a hole in her head on one side. Pruett guessed she’d been killed the night before.
The sheriff rubbed his eyes and holstered his weapon. His peaceful Wyoming town was starting to feel like a war zone.
PRUETT HAD once wondered to himself, years ago: where does it come from, this duty good cops feel bound to—this sacred responsibility to speak for the dead?
He knew it was erroneous to say it was inherent in the job; that all law enforcement personnel felt this way. Some cops—patrol officers, detectives, deputies, agents, marshals—they worked the job just as any other professional: they clocked in, did their jobs, and they clocked out.
Survived the day. Made it home. Performed their duty as stated in the job description—no more, no less.
So the feeling did not simply come with the territory. Such noble ideals did not germinate in every man or woman who signed up for the job. For the really good cops, it seemed to Pruett, it was not a matter of applying for a position—the job, well, it found them. As if the duty was a part of their DNA waiting to be discovered.
No cop—good, bad, or otherwise—began their career thinking: I will stand up for the deceased.
The dead man.
Those murdered girls.
A bullet-riddled gang-banger.
A battered wife finally slain.
At some point in the job, however, the sense of duty changed. For many, that moment drove them to retire—to find a different career. For Pruett—and for so many other cops—it was the day they realized the dead had no one left to speak for them. They were victims who no longer had a voice and someone had to stand up on their behalf.
For Pruett, the case that changed him forever was a multiple homicide in the second year of his first term as Sublette County Sheriff.
A panel truck full of dead Mexicans, left in the middle of Wyoming to rot.
Men. Women. Teens.
Pruett had listened to the tales of his ancestors—stories that described cruel, sometimes unbelievable acts that occurred in the “winning of the West”.
The prairie, it bled.
But it seemed to Pruett that the bloodletting at the core of those old stories—struggles between the white man and the Indian, the outlaw against the honorable, the harsh elements against anything that crawled or thirsted—scurrilous as bloodletting always is, still represented a kind of progress toward the future. Not always fair; not always judicious. Unavoidable human suffering in the building of a country; sacrifice—both just and unjust—in the construct of a nation.
But the carnage Pruett and his deputy were to discover in the sealed rear cargo bay of the rusted white truck—the wanton disregard for life—did not serve to build anything. Such atrocity had the capacity to destroy the faith of good inside every man and woman.
Chapters of the serial are published Monday through Saturday.
You can learn more about R. S. Guthrie’s novels on his Amazon Author’s Page.