“Tell me everything that happened from the minute you got to the barn,” the Forsyth County Deputy said to Maria. They stood beside Maria’s Jeep as deputies swarmed the barn. An ambulance cruised up and stopped next to them. Two Emergency Medical Technicians hurried out of it to the barn. A woman in uniform had taken Donna Kelly outside the back barn door to question her.
“Something looked wrong from the minute I pulled up.” Her knees wanted to buckle. She told him the whole story.
“Why did you move the horse?”
“We didn’t want to get stomped and we had to check on the man in the stall.” This guy was getting annoying.
He shook his head. “Yeah, but...”
“I know. We had to find out if he was alive, though. Ms. Kelly felt for a heart beat but didn’t find one.”
“He’s been dead for a while. Plenty of time for the horse to keep kicking him around.”
Glad she hadn’t eaten breakfast as nausea swelled in her, she said, “A horse isn’t likely to do that, you know. After his frightful reaction to whatever happened in here, he’d ignore the guy. Horses aren’t spiteful.”
“Really?” The deputy wrote furiously in his notebook. Underlined something with his pen. “I didn’t know that.”
“Really. In fact, a horse won’t even step on a person if there is any way they can avoid it. Something must have happened to scare him so badly he’d do this.”
“So you don’t think he’s a rogue horse, like a dog that goes wild and turns killer?”
“I guess it could happen but I’ve never heard of it. Some horses are afraid of everything and constantly strike out because of it so they’re just mean. I think this horse was probably mistreated. So maybe.”
“Can you identify the body as Dixon Wraithmire? The man you came to see?”
“I don’t know. I’ve only spoken to him on the phone, driven by the farm. It’s listed with an
broker.” She handed him her business card with the
name and phone number of the listing broker written on the back. “He doesn’t really look like a human right
now either.” Atlanta
“The lab will have to identify him.”
* * *
On the drive out of the property little jonquils that had popped out of the dirt next to the asphalt waved their sunny heads in the breeze. New life. Did Dixon Wraithmire deserve to be dead in the spring of the year? If he’d bought into the theory that a hungry horse showed better because it stayed on edge, then Maria thought the world wouldn’t miss him. Cruelty was still cruelty no matter the reason.
She thought about what would happen to the horses now, if the dead man did turn out to be Wraithmire. They’d been trained to show, bred to show. Championship stock was a big money game.
family would inherit the barn. It didn’t
add up that the people with money lacked so much sense. When she got enough money ahead, she’d change all that and make the most of what she could create with it.
She tried to put the image of the dead man out of her mind. One phone conversation didn’t qualify as a relationship. But she didn’t even get a chance to see what he looked like. And now his face was pulverized in death. She pulled over to the side of the road, stepped out of the Jeep and took several deep breaths of cold air.
Reinventing herself turned out to be not as hard as she’d first thought. She’d left
fifteen years ago with nothing but her clothes, leaving behind her abusive husband, her Western
lifestyle. There hadn’t been much except
for the potential part that she’d given a lot of stock. A lot of wasted years. Phoenix
But she was still alive. More than she would have been if her ex had killed her.
She found a roll of Tums in the bottom of her purse and chewed one as she climbed back into the Cherokee. Maybe she should change her image again. Dead people made her sick.
The dead man in the barn had to be Dixon Wraithmire unless he had a helper for his operation. Every breeder had help. The job of a farm and animals was too much for one person. Especially one with an outside job. She would have loved to have a farm, but that would take a bunch of money she didn’t have yet. And now she had a life she didn’t want to jeopardize. Real estate excited her--finding the right land for the right person gave her the warm fuzzies, as here grandma used to say.
Probably Donna Kelly wouldn’t want to discuss purchasing this farm now, even if she did need its acreage for her Arabians. On the other hand, maybe the price would go down with the stigma. In this market the price was already low. Three hundred acres carried an excellent commission, regardless. She’d have to make it work.