They were all out of luck. The trial was set, and the prosecutor was missing. Blood Land.

More chapters from Blood Land

A VG Serial: Blood Land

Chapter 15 – 5

Hanson was waiting for him in the station when he got back to Wind River. “Don’t you answer that cell phone?” he said.

Pruett pulled the phone from his pocket. “Dead.”

“Beulah Jorgensen didn’t show up for the proceedings this morning,” Hanson told him.

“Shit.”

“Your deputies already checked her house and of course the Town Attorney’s office.”

“No luck,” Pruett said.

“None. Where’ve you been?”

“I had business in Jackson Hole. When’s the last time you saw Beulah?” Pruett said.

“In court yesterday afternoon.”

“What happens now with the trial?”

“The judge ordered Miles Stanton to take over the prosecution until Beulah can be located. Gave him a continuance until Monday morning.

“That gives us a couple days and the weekend to turn up your prosecutor.”

“I won’t be holding my breath,” said Hanson.

“You ever hear of cops having ‘gut reactions’?”

“Yep.”

“We need to make a visit to an old friend of mine.”

* * *

Pruett took Hanson to Jesse Claremont’s house. He knocked on the door but no one was home. Jesse had gotten her teaching job back at the middle school a few years ago. He realized it was just after four—yes, the kids were out for the day, but Jesse was likely still at the school working on papers or on Friday’s lesson plan.

They found her sitting behind the large desk at the front of her classroom, reading glasses perched atop her slightly upturned nose—the one the sheriff had kissed lightly before saying goodbye just two mornings prior. She looked over the top of those glasses, azure eyes lighting up almost imperceptibly upon recognizing him.

“Sheriff Pruett,” she said.

“Jesse. Meet Jay Hanson. He’s Ty’s attorney.”

Hanson stepped forward and Jesse rose to shake his hand. “I know who he is,” she said warmly. “I think it’s a good thing, what you’re doing here, sir.”

“Jay, please.”

“Okay, Jay.”

“I want you to tell Jay what you told me the other night,” Pruett said.

“Sorry?”

“It’s okay, Jess. Hanson and me, we’ve talked a bit. About the booze; about a lot of things.”

“Oh.”

“Beulah Jorgensen has gone missing,” he told her.

“When?”

“She didn’t show up for court today,” Hanson said. “She was there yesterday afternoon.”

“You thinking she’s with Rory?” Jesse said to Pruett.

Hanson looked from one to the other.

“Tell him,” Pruett said.

“Beulah and Rory McIntyre have been carrying on an affair for the better part of a year,” she said. “There’s a cabin up at Timber Lake. It’s where they meet.”

“How do you know all this,” Hanson said, dumbfounded.

“Beulah and I used to drink together,” she said. “I’ve been dry a year and a half longer than her.”

“You’re her sponsor,” Hanson said.

“She tells me everything, especially about her love life.”

“You’d have made a terrible lawyer,” Hanson said.

“I take my sponsor relationship seriously, Mr. Hanson. But murder trumps that in my book.”

“I actually meant it as a compliment,” Hanson said, smiling.

“The McIntyres have no cabin I know of,” said Pruett. “Can you tell us where this one is?”

Jesse shook her head. “Not where, but who. It’s owned by some people from Rock Springs. Name is Townsley.”

“I know that cabin,” Pruett said to Hanson. “It’s a bit further up on the lake, near a place called Gentry Bay.”

“You think that’s where she is?” Hanson said.

“Didn’t see Rory when I was out at the ranch.”

“You said it yourself, they’re always out on the land working.”

“What I didn’t remember until a little while ago is that I saw his truck at the hardware store on my way back into town.”

Pruett pointed to Jesse’s cell phone. “Mine’s dead, may I?”

He called the station and told Baptiste and Munney to meet him at the turnout above the lake.

* * *

Rory’s truck was at the cabin as was Beulah Jorgensen’s small Toyota Prius. But there was no activity at all. The driveway wound inward through a series of switchbacks that came into view several times; a clandestine approach wasn’t possible unless you planned on walking the mile in from the main road, using the thick lodgepole pine as cover. Pruett didn’t. Rory and Beulah weren’t dangerous suspects in his book. Assholes, yes, but not all that threatening.

Baptiste and Munney stood on either side of the sheriff at the bottom of the porch steps. Pruett climbed stiffly to the front door and rapped on it loudly.

“Rory. Beulah. Give us a moment of your time,” he called out.

Nothing.

He rapped a little harder this time.

Still nothing.

Pruett tried the knob and found it unlocked.

“You hear that cry for help?” he said and un-holstered his gun.

“I did,” said Munney. She was already armed.

Red Horse Baptiste nodded and pulled his weapon, too.

They both climbed the stairs and entered with their sheriff.

The house was still, not well lit. They allowed their eyes to adjust before moving further into the residence. The three split in different directions and began clearing the structure room by room.

Pruett found the victims tied together in the bedroom. They’d each been shot, Beulah Jorgensen multiple times. Rory was clothed, but his shirt and jeans were tattered and ripped to pieces—barely hanging about his bruised, scarred, and bloodied body. There was one large caliber hole in the back of his head but it would take the coroner to determine whether it was the bullet or being dragged behind some kind of vehicle that caused the death.

Pruett knew the McIntyre’s too well; mercy wasn’t likely in the cards. Still he wished silently that the bullet killed the elder McIntyre before they dragged him all over sagebrush country because to imagine the suffering inflicted on Rory before he died was otherwise too awful.

Beulah was stripped naked, and though she’d not been dragged as had her lover, her pale, mottled body was anything but pristine—she’d clearly been beaten around the chest, shoulders, and face, and there were multiple gunshot wounds in her center mass. Looked like a different caliber than the weapon used on Rory; the entry wounds were significantly smaller. A .22, perhaps.

A woman’s gun.

However the scenarios played out, and by whom, both of them died hard and whoever killed each of them did so with malice, purpose, succumbing to the hunger of vengeance.

When they’d cleared the rest of the house, Pruett’s deputies joined him.

“Call it in,” Pruett said. “And get the others up here.”

“Yessir,” Munney said and went outside to the Suburban.

“Looks like our killers made this personal,” Baptiste said.

“A lot of people took exception to the both of ‘em,” Pruett said. “But this went beyond ‘personal’. This was family.”

The sheriff went outside to talk with Hanson.

“I can’t let you in there,” he told the lawyer.

“Understood.”

“Never much cared for either of ‘em, but no one deserves that.”

“You’ve not seen worse?”

“Not outside the borders of war, I haven’t.”

“You seem troubled. Beyond the obvious, I mean.”

“Well I gotta tell my little girl her grandfather’s been murdered.”

“Were they close?” Hanson said.

“Not particularly. But you know Wendy. She loves people unconditionally.”

“She loves you like that, too.”

“So it seems,” Pruett said. “I’m going to drop you off in town. Then I’m gonna pick up Honey McIntyre for questioning.”

On the way back into Wind River a thought suddenly occurred to the sheriff. “What’re they going to do about the trial?”

Hanson shook his head. “This is a strange one,” he said. “I already started writing a motion asking for a new prosecuting attorney. Miles Stanton is the only lawyer in that office left standing. We can inform the judge together in chambers and request a continuance. Under these circumstances I think Butler would consider a mistrial.”

“Let me think about it,” Pruett said. “I don’t want this getting talked about all over the streets of town. Not yet.”

“I can call a meeting in Judge’s chambers. We can request the facts be contained for a few days. Enough time for you to put some of these pieces together.”

“Good. You familiar with the BLM?”

“Only from half of my Wyoming History class.”

“Things are bigger here than I feared. The reach of this thing goes outside this county.”

“I’ll ask Butler for more time,” Hanson said. “I want you there in chambers if he has any questions I can’t answer,” Hanson said. He pulled his cell from his pocket and called Miles Stanton. He then called Judge Butler. Pruett listened to him set up the meeting and thought about how he was going to tell Wendy she’d lost a third relative and then how a drink sounded better than any other thing at that moment.

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.

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