In western Montana, high in the bitterroot mountains, a log cabin, constructed with enormous white pine logs sat on a grassy slope leading down to a small lake. A few horses grazed lazily in a meadow at the south end where the water was shallow. Red-winged blackbirds nested in the cattails that grew there in profusion. The sunlight glinted off the surface of the lake as a soft breeze rippled the water.
This “ranch” produced nothing marketable. No herds of cattle competed for grass with the elk and deer that roamed through there. The horses were only for pleasure. The place looked “rugged” only from a distance. The cabin contained twenty-five bedrooms and every modern convenience known to man.
“I´m going to kill you, you little son-of-a-bitch!” yelled a florid faced man as he kicked air through the door of an office on the third floor.
Joe Childers was a big man in almost any way you could describe one. He was breathin´ hard as he watched the little, rat faced, pekingese disappearing around the corner at the bottom of the stairs. He was a high-strung man whose blood-pressure would probably contribute to his demise one day.
The dog circled back and yapped angrily at him up the staircase from a safe distance, causing Joe´s face to redden even deeper. The dog momentarily stopped barking, and let out a low growl as he bared his sharp little teeth, acting braver now. One of the maids, a thin boned, country girl, whom he considered nothing more than a stupid child, stepped behind the dog and looked up questioningly. Joe glared back at her with obvious disgust.
“What!” he yelled, as he turned and spoke into the mobile phone he clutched to his ear.
“I am not yelling at you!” he yelled at, a still, louder volume. “It was the damned dog! He just pissed all over a ten thousand dollar Persian carpet, right in front of me while I was talkin´ to you!” There was a pause. The maid and the dog were still staring up the staircase.
“Why should I give a fuck where they go! Tell that, stupid fuck, general to raze the whole, god-damned, village! We bought it from the government. It´s their problem!”
Joe was the CEO of one of the biggest mining consortiums in the world. The village was in Paraguay, sitting on one of the richest deposits of high grade lithium ever discovered. Lithium was the new gold, valuable beyond belief as the demand for smaller rechargeable batteries, that would power tomorrow´s automobiles, grew. Mining it would make him ten times richer than he already was.
“Fuck the protestors! Fuck the President! Tell him that our mercenaries will make sure he doesn´t live another day if he tries to screw us!”
The maid picked up the little dog and was turning to walk away, when he yelled, “I want my breakfast ready in five minutes, or you´re fired!”
After splashing some cold water on his face and takin´ a couple of blood pressure pills, Joe arrived at the breakfast table. His wife, Julia, was just finishing. She had been chatting with a young man who was sitting next to her. Their mood shifted into “compound low” as he entered the room.
He glared at the young man. He was his wife´s tennis pro, and he looked the part. Julia had insisted that he come along with them on their summer retreat. Joe was sure something was going on between them, but he hadn´t caught them at it, and she denied it emphatically.
Julia´s face was drawn tight and shiny, the way many rich women´s faces get after too many face lifts and botox treatments. It gave her a stony, imperious look that was both false and impenetrable.
“Why hasn´t that damned Sheriff got here yet!” He asked impatiently. He had reported that, when they arrived here, a couple of weeks ago, the cabin had been broken into, and totally trashed. A lot of valuable antique art pieces had been destroyed, and the insurance company had insisted on a police report before they would consider paying off. The Sheriff was supposed to bring it this morning.
“Do you think it was wise to call them?” his wife asked.
He hated having his judgment questioned by her. He looked at the tennis pro as if to prove a point, but the young man just sat there with a look of bored indifference. “How else do you think we´d get our money back?” he asked as if she was an idiot for asking. “They don´t even know David exists. Anyway, that party was months ago and we weren´t even here.” David was their youngest son. He´d thrown the wild party during which the damage was done, last fall, while they were in Greece.
She threw her napkin on her plate and started to get up. The tennis pro responded instantly and started to pick up the rackets on the chair next to him. She wanted, about as much to do with this situation as she wanted a case of the clap. “Johnny and I are going to play a couple of sets. Have fun with the law!” she snapped.
Twenty minutes later, the undersheriff arrived in a four wheel drive patrol pickup. “Nice place you got here,” he said. He was a young cop, but knew the area well, because he had grown up here.
“We´ve put a lot of money into making it that way.” Joe responded.
“When we were out here before, we found a paint can in the barn with the name `David Childers´ written on the lid, sir. Could you tell me the last time he was here?”
Joe´s defenses ratcheted up a notch. “He´s our son. He goes to Harvard. I can´t remember when he was last here. We saw him during Christmas at our London home. Must have been last year sometime. He probably picked up that paint as a favor to the house painters.”
“Oh. Does he happen to drive a little yellow Jag? One of our deputies remembers seein´ one in Deer Lodge last fall. You don´t see many of those around here. He musta gone on about it for a week.”
“Sounds like my son´s car, but there must be more of them around here than you imagine.”
“I suppose so,” the policeman said. “There´s been a lot of rich people and celebrities buildin´ summer homes around here lately. They must think the land is still cheap. Could have been one of them.”
Joe felt a little relieved.
“The one my deputy saw, had a couple of high school girls in it, from Noxon. One of their mothers called us about it too. Seems the girls didn´t get home ´till the next mornin´, lookin´ kinda ragged. She found a bindle of cocaine in the pocket of the girl´s jeans. She´s had that girl in counseling, ever since. Pretty expensive for the woman. She works in that little café just east of town on the highway. You´ve probably seen it, or even had a piece of pie there. Real good pie.”
“No, I don´t think I have. Well, it couldn´t have been him.” Joe was feeling a little queasy now. “He´s down in Cancun right now, with the spring break crowd. I´m pretty sure, he only dates college aged women.”
“You wouldn´t remember anything about a big party here last fall, would you? The rancher down the road says there was a lot of cars goin´ back and forth all night long, and he could hear the music from his place, two miles away.”
“We were in Greece on business then…Look. I hate to put you through a lot of trouble for nothin´. Why don´t I just drop the whole thing. I´ve already replaced everything, anyway.”
“That might be best, sir. Very nice of you,” the undersheriff said as he put his hat back on. “You have a good day now.”
“Damned hick faggot!” Joe said to himself after the pick-up pulled out. “For a minute, I thought I was going to have to bribe the son-of-a-bitch.” To top it all off, he´d had to pee the whole time the lawman was here. Why did those things always happen at the most inopportune moments? “I´m going to kill that son of mine, next time I see him. This is all his, damned, fault.
An hour later, he was snoopin ´ in his wife´s bedroom, looking for evidence of adultery.
He really didn´t give a damn. He had his own side stuff often enough. That hot little belly dancer in Dubai was more enthusiastic about him than Julia ever was anyway. He just wanted something he could throw in her face when they argued about it.
“Well, ho ho ho! What do we have here?” he asked as he bent down to pick up an envelope on the floor.