Today's Reading

Ezezaganen lurraldea otso lurraldea da' A land of strangers is a land of wolves.
—BASQUE PROVERB

The flocks fear the wolf, the crops the storm, and the trees the wind.
—VIRGIL


1

It's hard to think of a place in Wyoming where the wind doesn't reign supreme; where the sovereignty of sound doesn't break through the parks of the Bighorns with a hoarse-throated howl. I sometimes wonder if the trees miss the wind in the infrequent moments when it dies down, when the air is still and the skies are a threadbare blue, thin and stretching above the mountains. Needled courtesans—the lodgepole pines, Douglas firs, and Engelmann spruce—stand at the edge of the great park like wallflowers awaiting the beseeching hand of the wind to invite them to the dance floor. And I can't help but wonder that when the sway passes and the trees are still, do they pine for that wind; do they grieve?

"It's a dead sheep."

"What?"

"It's a dead sheep, in case you were wondering."

"Yep, it is."

She stopped eating her breakfast PowerBar and looked straight at me. "Then why have you been staring at it for the last five minutes?"

I swallowed and formed a few words, but they wouldn't come out. It was like that lately, almost as if some inhibitor was kicking in every time I tried to say something.

She studied me for a moment more, and then her eyes returned to the carcass. "Is it me, or does it seem like we've done this before?"

Two men were examining the demised and doing their best to ignore us. "I guess we didn't do a good enough job on the other sheep-o-cides."

She continued chewing. "Why is that?"

"Because there's another dead sheep."

"There's always another dead sheep. It's what sheep do—they die." Victoria Moretti glanced around at the snow-spotted park and the breathtaking beauty of the Bighorn Mountain Range, bold faces of the granite high country rising like magnificent stockades. "Boy, we're in the middle of fucking nowhere."

I sighed and girded up some more words. "Nice, isn't it." I passed her the cup from my battered thermos that was covered in stickers, one of which read DRINKING FUEL. She handed me the remains of her bar, and I watched as she took a sip of the coffee.

"Remind me again why we're here?"

I took a bite. "Public relations."

"Since when does the Absaroka County Sheriff's Department have to worry about public relations?"

"When has the Absaroka County sheriff or any other sheriff not had to worry about public relationships? Or, more important, dealings within the law enforcement community." I took another bite and pointed at the two men. "Aka: the Absaroka County Brand Inspector and the National Forest Service."

"You just don't want to be babysat at the office."

I watched a random breeze push the treetops, dusting the frosted grass with a little fresh snow from the pine needles. "There's that." I undid the top of the thermos again and took my chrome cup back to refill it. "You mind telling me what that's all about?"

"What?"

"Why everyone is treating me like a Fabergé egg?"

"After Mexico, all parties have decided that you need a little more adult supervision."
...

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