Lynn wanted to just shoot the prick who stood about five feet to her left. Jimmy Morgan was absolute scum in her book. She resisted the urge. She couldn’t afford to lose her job or earn an arrest record when his uncle found out what she’d done.
Lynn had to take a deep breath to calm her boiling temper as she crouched beside the remains of what used to be four dogs. She glared at Jimmy, refusing to look away.
“Let’s just cut the bullshit, asshole. You know your mayor uncle isn’t going to allow anyone to arrest your dumb ass, so you might as well just tell me the truth. What’s out here that did this to your dogs?”
“I’d tell you if I knew,” he ground out.
Lynn straightened to her feet and wanted to kick him square in the nuts. “You made these poor dogs mean and you turned them loose on your property to protect your pot plants that everyone pretends you aren’t growing. What else did you get to help guard your crops? It killed all four of your best guard dogs, Jimmy. It’s out of control, isn’t it? Is that why you called me in to clean up your mess? I’m animal control, but this…” She gestured at the four torn-up dogs’ remains. “This was from a large animal. Is it a bear? A lion? What did you bring here?”
“I didn’t!” he yelled. “I just had the dogs. I don’t have a clue what did this. Do you think I’d call you if it was mine? I don’t want anyone nosing around my place. They might want to steal my pot.”
The man’s stupidity amazes me. “Growing it is illegal. Of course, you could probably state that you murdered someone and nothing would be done to you. Now you want me to track down whatever did this and take care of that problem for you?” She raised her hand and gave him the middle finger. “Not a chance.” She spun around, storming away.
“Damn it, Lynn. You can’t do this. What if it kills me or one of my friends? How will you feel then?”
She paused by her SUV to face him, meeting his gaze with a cold smile. “Um…let’s see. You’re the guy who takes cute little puppies and turns them into vicious killers just for the sake of protecting your illegal drug operation. I wouldn’t shed a tear, Jimmy. Not a one. Yeah, that’s a way to get to me. Make me ponder the concept of a few less assholes in the world.” She loudly snorted. “I’m out of here.”
“I’ll call my uncle,” the jerk threatened. “I’ll have you fired before you even reach town if you leave. You need to track down what did this and kill it.”
Frustration roiled through her. She knew he’d do it, and that his uncle would pull every string to get her canned. She had a house payment and jobs were near impossible to find within a hundred miles of Green Bend. That’s what she got for growing up in a small town in the middle of a wooded area—dealing with assholes and a bad job market.
“Get out of my sight—and I’d tell your two loser friends to stay out of my way too.”
“Not a problem. We’ll go smoke some doobies and watch porn.”
“Sick pervert,” she muttered.
She opened the back of her vehicle and lifted out her tranquilizer gun and grabbed the tranquilizer dart bag. She wasn’t into killing animals, instead hoping to trap and relocate them where they’d be safe. It was always preferable to give them to the state zoo or just take them deeper into the woods, where they would thrive. Whatever had killed the dogs had probably been cornered and left without a choice but to die or kill.
Her father had raised her alone and had taught her to be an excellent tracker. He’d dragged her out into the woods every weekend to hunt something, depending on the season. At sixteen she’d finally put her foot down. She hated killing animals, instead wanted to protect and save them.
She tugged on her jacket last, studied the sky, and took note that only a few hours remained before sunset.
Lynn returned to the scene of the crime, carefully expanding the search for clues about what had killed the dogs. Their throats had been torn into, leaving deep, vicious wounds—so it came as a shock when she finally located a new set of prints. They weren’t from an animal, but instead she guessed about a size-sixteen boot.
From the size, she assumed it had to be from a man. The grooves were deep in the soft dirt, letting her know the person weighed over two hundred pounds. It put a whole new spin on the situation.
She considered returning to the truck but some blood near the print looked fresh. She guessed it had happened less than an hour before. One more sweep of the area with her gaze revealed a large, bloody handprint on a tree trunk about ten feet away.
Whatever had killed the dogs had to have been an animal with sharp teeth, but the clues weren’t adding up anymore. She’d gone from tracking something with four legs to something on two.
DEA agents might have wanted to see if the rumors about Jimmy were true. That concept left her feeling cold. Maybe one of them came on Jimmy’s land to take a look-see. It made sense. A local resident would know to avoid Jimmy’s property. It would have to be an outsider, someone who was unaware of how insane Jimmy could be, or of the danger of being torn to bits by his vicious guard dogs.
She picked up her pace, wanting to find the person quickly. He’d need medical attention and help escaping the area. Jimmy was stupid enough to kill an agent to evade arrest. His uncle couldn’t control the DEA.
She lost the blood trail when she came to heavy brush but spotted a drop of red in the direction of the river. She could hear the rushing water and figured it would only be logical for an injured person to be drawn there.
Jimmy’s fence blocked her way to the water. She studied it. Blood was smeared on the low tree branch next to the metal barrier, and more on the ones that extended over, indicating how the man had left the property.
She climbed the tree too, and dropped the five feet to the ground below when she cleared the fence. Boot prints were just inches from her own where she landed on the neighbor’s property. Johnson Avery was blind and older than dirt, and he didn’t shoot at trespassers. She didn’t have to worry about notifying him that she’d had to make an unexpected entry onto his land.
The person she tracked had gone into the river. A visual scan of the other side of the bank revealed where he’d gotten out. Some of the bushes had broken branches. It meant she would have to cross to follow.