Twenty Dollars Short


By: Gary Gray

Having driven all night and then all day, Hal and Wendy Wendt were fairly lost, somewhere in the wide open back country of central Wyoming. The road atlas they were using was out of date, Hal was too cheap to by a new one and Hal’s sense of direction wasn’t very good. Wendy had managed a couple of hours of head banging sleep after stopping for lunch in Ft. Collins and Al’s ass was numb. His eyes were straining to stay focused on the narrow roads. Bocado, Wendy’s pet Boston Terrier, was finally through yapping, and was sleeping on Hal’s leather jacket in the back seat of the Volvo.

“Why don’t you pull over and ask directions?” Hal ignored her. “Did you hear me?” Wendy repeated.

“Yes, I heard you. Where exactly would I pull over in this God forsaken place? Do you see some place to pull over?” The last town, if it could be called a town, was some thirty miles back, consisting of a dilapidated house trailer and a two pump gas station with a broken down rusted tractor in the parking lot. “You want me to drive back to, Ranchers Paradise, what ever the hell that town was we went through? Look on the map; I’m sure we can find the road. You can read a map can’t you.”

“Don’t be such a smart-ass. Of course I can read a map.” Wendy replied. “The directions said take the first dirt road on the right just past Sweetwater Station. There’s no dirt road on the map. I saw a road a few miles back, I think that’s where we should have turned.”

“That wasn’t a road, it was a trail. We should be coming up on it soon.” Driving another ten miles, Hal pulled the car to the side of the road and shut the engine off. He grabbed the road atlas from Wendy and ran his finger across the map. “I think it may have been back there. I’m gonna turn back.” A clicking sound came from the starter when he turned the key, he tried a second time; another click. “Shit, the battery is dead.”

“Why’d you shut it off you idiot?”

“I wanted to read the map.”

“This is fucking great, now were stuck in the middle of Bum-Fuck Wyoming.” Wendy whined, waving her arms towards the car window. “You couldn’t find your way to the Atlantic ocean.”

“Christ. Gimme a break. Somebody will drive by; we’ll get a jump and directions.”

“Who? I haven’t seen a house or a car in over an hour.”

“Look, we’re fine. We should just sit here and wait. Sooner or later a State Trooper or a rancher or somebody will come along.”

“You better hope so. I’m not spending the night sleeping in the car on the side of the road.” Wendy rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I can’t believe I agreed to take this trip. We could have gone to Hawaii or something, but nooooo, you had to visit a Dude Ranch in Wyoming.” Wendy complained.

“Don’t be so dramatic. Christ, everything is an ordeal with you.” Hal opened the rear door of the car and Bocado hopped to the ground. “I’m gonna walk the dog. C’mon Bocado, lets take a walk.” Wendy bitched about anything and everything, Hal thought to himself. The walk away from the car would give him a moment away from her annoying mouth.

“Put a leash on him. I don’t want him to run off and get eaten.” Wendy quipped.

“He’s fine. Where’s he gonna run too anyway?”

Hal walked along the deserted road towards the West. Bocado stopped briefly, to piss on the rocks, then giving them a quick sniff he continued following Hal along the roadside.

The road stretched westward into the orange oblivion of the setting sun. Gazing at the deserted road, Hal noticed, rising above the hill ahead of him the bright glow of oncoming headlights. Hal slapped the side of his leg. “Come here Bocado.” The dog responded and ran to his master, his tail wagging.

Hal waived his hand over his head as the rusty pickup truck approached. The lights dimmed as the truck swerved across the road and crept to a stop next to him. The driver of the truck had a grubby beard and was wearing a frayed cowboy hat.

“You in some kind of trouble?” The driver asked.

“Our car won’t start. Can you give us a jump?” Hal responded, pointing towards his Volvo. “My wife and I were looking for the Lazy Bone Dude Ranch. You wouldn’t happen to know where it is would you?”

“Don’t have no jumper cables with me, but you’re in luck. I’m going there now. Jump in, I’ll drive you there.”

“Let’s go talk to the wife.” Hal replied, walking towards his car. “Wendy, this fellow say’s he’s going to the Lazy Bone Ranch and can give us a ride.” Wendy examined the dilapidated truck and its driver.

“What’s your name mister?”

“Grismore, D.M. Grismore.” The driver said. “I’m headed your way. Hop in; I’ll give ya a ride.”

“Can you give us a jump? Our battery is dead.” Wendy said.

“He doesn’t have any jumper cables.” Hal replied.

“You know where the Lazy Bone Ranch is?” Wendy asked.

“I own the place.”

“You’re the owner?” Hal extended his hand. “We’re the Wendt’s, I’m Hal, and this is my wife Wendy. You’re probably expecting us. We are booked there for the week.”

With his hands clasped to the top of his steering wheel, Grismore grinned and nodded, ignoring Hal’s extended hand. “I wouldn’t know about that, Beulah takes care of those things. That car have an automatic or manual?”

“Oh, it’s a stick.” Hal replied.

“I’ll give ya a push.”

Hal handed Bocado to Wendy through the open passenger window. “Okay, that’ll work. Take it easy though; don’t want to tear my bumper up.”

Grismore grinned, “After you get it running, follow me.” Climbing into his car, Hal depressed the clutch pedal and shifted into first gear as Grismore pulled his pickup truck snug to the rear of the Volvo and revved his engine. Hal waved his arm through the window. The car jerked and moved as the pickup truck nudged the car forward and into the roadway. Alternating his gaze between the rear view mirror and the road ahead, the glare from the setting sun was blinding; Hal squinted to see the road through the bright orange haze. At twenty miles per hour, Hal released the clutch, the car jerked and the engine sputtered until it started.

“He hit us pretty hard, probably tore our bumper off.” Wendy said.

“Hey, at least we’re running.”

Grismore turned his truck around and stopped in the middle of the deserted highway. After a few repeated swings back and forth across the road Hal managed to turn his Volvo around. With everyone pointed in the right direction, Grismore took off, his rear tires spinning and slinging gravel.

“That asshole. Does he have to do that? He’ll bust our windshield.” One of the tail lights on the truck was out; the other so dimly lit, it was barely recognizable and Hal strained to see the truck in the twilight. “Don’t loose him; he’s the only person we’ve seen in 2 hours.” Wendy carped.

Fifteen miles of uninhabited road later and the sun all but set, Grismore, not slowing down, whipped his truck right, onto a two track dirt trail. The dust from the road choked the roadway as the Wendt’s Volvo approached the cloud and slowed down.

“Where the hell is he going?” Hal whispered. “That’s not the direction you have written down. We should be turning off to our left.”

“The road should be to the other side. I don’t know about this Hal. Maybe I got the directions wrong.”

The road was little more than a trail full of stones and was divided by a row of clumpy grass between two narrow dirt paths. The two vehicles bounced their way across the darkening Wyoming countryside, up one hill and down another. Wendy held Bocado as Hal strained to maintain his vision of the dust cloaked pickup truck and its one dim tail light. Thirteen miles of bad dirt road were traveled until a dim yellow light from a distant hillside cabin was visible. The pickup truck crunched to a stop in front of a cabin and Hal pulled his Volvo in behind the truck, shutting off the engine.

Sticking from the ground outside the porch of the cabin, in large childlike paint splattered lettering, a wooden sign read Lazy Bone Ranch.

“No frills. This is fucking great.” Wendy said. “It’ll take me a week to get the dirt out of my hair.”

Kicking the dirt from his boots, Grismore ambled toward the cabin as he waved at the couple. Lying on the porch of the cabin was a large black dog, its eyes glowing and its long shiny white teeth glaring from its jowls. Between its paws sat a large, heavily gnawed bone. As Wendy opened her door, Bocado leapt to the ground and instantly began barking. The black dog stared at Bocado for a moment and resumed it’s devouring of the bone. Wendy knelt and lifted her tiny dog from the gravel, hugging it tightly in her arms. Hal removed the bags from the trunk of the Volvo and together, the couple walked past the preoccupied dog and to the door of the cabin. As they stepped onto the wooden porch, old man Grismore appeared in the doorway.

“Don’t pay no mind to Buddy. I wouldn’t let that little dog run loose though; the Cay-yotes will get’m.” Wendy squeezed Bocado closer to her chest. As the Wendt’s moved closer to the doorway, they both noticed the smattering of bones lying about the porch, all equally gnawed. Buddy watched with indifference as the couple entered the cabin.

Greeting the Wendt’s as they entered the cabin was Beulah Grismore, a short chubby woman with pig-tailed blonde hair and tobacco stained brown teeth.

“D.M., you wanna take these folks bags over to the bunkhouse while I see to things?” Nodding, D.M. retrieved the bags, fumbling with them through the doorway. Buddy entered through the open door as D.M. exited, dropping a large spit soaked bone to the floor as he walked in nervous circles.

“We’re Hal and Wendy Wendt. We had the devil of a time finding your place.” Hal said. “We got lost out on the highway and your husband happened by, so lucky us, we made it here.”

“Lucky you.” Beulah said. Buddy walked to Wendy’s side licking her hand repeatedly. “Looks like Buddy likes you. He thinks you taste good.”

“Lovely.” Wendy replied, jerking her hand away and wiping it across her shirt, trying desperately to remove the dog spit from her fingers.

“D.M. will get the bunk house ready. You’ll have to rough it a little tonight; we’ll get you taken care of better in the morning.” Beulah said. “Don’t go wondering off, the critters and such may take a liking to ya, if ya know what I mean?”

“I’m so filthy; I can’t wait for a nice hot shower.” Wendy replied.

“We don’t have no shower o’er there, but you can use the bath tub. The shower’s broke.”

“Great.”

Buddy darted through the doorway and disappeared into the darkness as D.M. returned. “Y’all follow me; I’ll see ya to the bunkhouse now.” Hal and Wendy followed the scruffy rancher across the darkened dirt lot towards the bunkhouse. The bunkhouse was only a sticks throw away from the main cabin. The outline of the structure nudged through the starlit night as the three approached it from across the gravel driveway.

“What’s that smell?” Wendy asked, nearly loosing her grip on Bocado as she twisted her foot on a bone and stumbled briefly.

“That’s cow shit. This is mostly government owned open range. Ain’t nothing but cows and cow shit for miles in every direction.” D.M. held open the screen door as the Wendt’s entered. The room was austere, with an antique iron stove against the wall and a row of small wooden beds, each with a rolled up mattress at the foot. In the middle of the floor, a single wooden table with rickety chairs were the only comforts.

“Where’s the bathroom?” Wendy asked. D.M. pointed at the only other door in the room, along the opposite wall. She sat her dog on the floor and hurried to the door.

“No other guests?” Hal asked.

“Nope. Had a couple here a few weeks ago, times aren’t what they used to be.” D.M. replied. “There’s fresh blankets and pillows on the bunks. Take your pick; don’t much matter where you sleep.”

The bathroom, if it could be called a bathroom, was a large room with an old porcelain bathtub and a trough that was intended to serve as a wash-up sink. There was no toilet in view and Wendy was close to peeing herself. “Where’s the toilet.” Wendy shouted her question through the wall.

“Open the back door and step out there, you’ll see it.” D.M. replied. “Well, I’m gonna go turn in.”

“Don’t we need to fill out some paperwork or something?” Hal asked.

“Oh, don’t worry about that right now, we’ll take care of all the loose ends in the morning.”

As D.M. left, Hal squatted and rubbed Bocado’s ears. “How ya doing boy? Is daddy’s little fellow hungry?” Bocado’s tail wagged in tune with Hal’s scratching as Wendy returned from the outhouse.

“This place is awful. They don’t have a toilet, do you believe this? There’s no telling what kind of disease I’ll be contracting from this place.” Wendy complained.

“It’s a dude ranch honey, what did you expect?”

“I expected something more than cow shit. The whole place reeks of the smell of shit. Where’s our bags?”

“They’re over there by the bunks.” Hal replied.

“Is that what we’re sleeping on? Christ Hal, this whole thing sucks.” Wendy walked to the bunk where her bags were lying. She picked up a blanket and pillow from the bunk and shook it out. “This place is filthy. Everything smells like shit.” She said, shaking a dead cricket from the blanket she was waving. “Ohhh my god! Look at this, frigg’n bugs in the blankets.” Wendy wiggled and shivered, waiving her hands above her shoulders as Bocado scurried to the spot where the insect had fallen, giving it a curious sniff and then chomping it between his teeth. “That’s it. I’m sleeping in the car.”

“Now dear, it’s not that bad. Actually, it’s kind of rustic don’t you think?” Hal knew how pissed his wife had become, but he rationalized. “Sweetie, a weeks vacation paid in advance, gas money, food, and two day’s of travel. We aren’t about to abandon this vacation. By tomorrow afternoon, after a horse back ride on the open range and a good ole’ western style barbeque, you’ll feel better.”

Hal stretched out on the bunk and crossed his feet. Wendy ignored her husband and in a huff left the bunkhouse, out into the night toward their parked car, mumbling to herself as she walked through the darkness. “You think you’re some old cowboy hiding out from some posse or something. Why I let you talk me into this, I’ll never know.”

“Yippie-Yi-Oh-Kai-Eah Bitch!” Hal said to his wife as she stepped out to look for the car in the dark. Bocado leapt onto the bed and licked the remnants of cricket from his jowls as he nestled himself in the blanket at Hal’s feet.

Wendy stumbled across the driveway, twisting her feet again on the fragments of large bones beneath her. She spotted the outline of the pickup truck, but the car was missing. She continued her cautious stroll around the corner of the cabin thinking maybe she might be wrong. As she approached the back of the Grismore’s cabin, she noticed nestled against the wall a light beaming from the cracks from a set of battered wooden doors in the ground. A canning cellar perhaps, she thought. She knelt over and peered through the cracks of the doors, but could make out nothing more than shadowed movements. Buddy the dog, aware of Wendy’s sneaking about the cabin had crept up behind her and stood watching in the darkness from ten feet away. Wendy leapt in fright, screaming when Buddy growled at her.

“Come on boy. Let’s walk out to the car and get you some food.” In the trunk of their Volvo, Hal had packed a case of gourmet canned dog food. Wendy wouldn’t go anywhere without her dog, and she would spare no cost in feeding the little monster. The damn dog ate better than he did. Hal stepped onto the porch of the bunkhouse with Bocado standing at his feet when they heard Wendy’s muffled scream from the darkness behind the main cabin. Bocado barked and darted from the porch in the direction of the scream. Hal stood frozen to the porch as Bocado, yapping and running, disappeared into the darkness. Through the midnight opus of the crickets, Hal heard Bocado’s single distressed yelp as he unsympathetically turned and walked back into the bunkhouse.

“What you look’n for little Missy?” D.M. Grismore said to Wendy.

“Jesus Christ. You scared the living shit out of me. I’m looking for my car. Where is it?”

“It ain’t down in the cellar, that’s for sure.” Grismore said. “You shouldn’t be poking around out here at night.”

“What did you do with our car mister?”

“I pushed it back in the barn over yonder. Got a battery charger on it so it’ll start in the morning.”

“Oh. Well then, that’s very kind of you.” Wendy said. Her heart beat was returning to normal now. “I heard my dog over there, have you seen him?”

“Nope, haven’t. If he’s running out loose, you better find him and get’m in the bunkhouse. The Cay-yote’s will get’m fur sure out here at night.

Hal opened his duffle bag and removed a flashlight, intending to go back outside and look for the dog when the screen door of the bunkhouse swung open with a crash.

“What the hell is going on out there?” Hal asked.

“I couldn’t find the car so I walked around the yard and that old man Grismore and his dog scared the shit out of me.”

“Where’s Bocado?” Hal asked.

“You let him loose, I heard him barking, then he stopped. You didn’t get him?” Wendy turned and walked to the porch of the bunkhouse, staring wide-eyed into the distant friendless black. “Bocado. Come here boy. Bocado.” Wendy shouted into the dark for her dog several more times but he didn’t return.

“He’s out chasing a prairie dog or something.” Hal said. “He’ll probably turn up in the morning. I’m going in and get ready for bed. You coming?”

“I’m going to stay up and wait for Bocado.” Wendy sat on the porch listening to the crickets and the distant sound of coyote’s howling in the night. The lights on the main cabin were out and the only thing visible in the dark was the yellow beam of light from the hanging lamp in the bunkhouse.

What was in the cellar at the rear of the main cabin she thought? She was tempted to stroll back but her last trip looking for the car was a little too rough on her nerves. She wasn’t about to poke around again in the dark, having not seen the compound in daylight. Her ankles were sore from twisting on bones strewn about the driveway. After twenty minutes of waiting, Bocado still hadn’t returned and she decided to go to bed, certain that her beloved dog had been eaten by Coyote’s.

Hal was lying on the bunk asleep with his clothes on. She hated when he did that, she wouldn’t dream of sleeping dressed, men like to do that for some reason, never mind the dirt and what ever else may fall off into the sheets. She lifted her bag from the floor and sat it on the bunk next to Hal staring at his bag sitting on the floor with the zipper undone and the top partially open. “Christ.” She whispered as she lent over and zipped it closed. “No telling what could crawl in there.”

The thought of using the bathroom disgusted her, but there was no choice, the outhouse was outside in the dark and she would have to resign herself to that fact. As she sat on the wooden bench, her mind still on her missing pet, she noticed a discrete lack of sound. The crickets had stopped their racket and it was dead silent beyond the wood walls of the toilet. It was 11:30 PM; the crickets should be in full swing right now she thought.

Hal awoke after hearing the door slap shut as Wendy entered from the outhouse. Noticing his shoes were still on, he sat up in bed and leaned over to untie his shoelaces. Quickly, he yanked his hands up. The rattlesnake was still attached to his throbbing wrist and swung about like a rope as he screamed and flailed with his arm. The snake detached from its grip and flew across the room landed in the floor.

“It fucking bit me.” Hal shouted. Wendy froze in place as she gazed at her husband who was dancing and shaking his blood soaked arm. She screamed and jumped when the concussion of the shotgun blast added to the confusion.

D.M. stood behind her in the open doorway and was lowering his shotgun when her knees began to wobble. Shirtless and smelling of beer, his tobacco stained, yellow toothed grin greeted her. It was too much too quickly. Her mind blurred as she crumpled to the floor and groaned. D.M. opened the breach of the shotgun and extracted the still smoking empty shell from its chamber as he stepped over Wendy and walked towards Hal. Hal sat on the bunk holding his throbbing arm as he watched D.M. approach.

“You need to take me to a hospital. I’m snake bit.” Hal said.

“Don’t worry; we’ll take care of ya.” Grismore replied as he approached Hal.

At ten minutes past midnight, Wendy’s head was still throbbing as she lye in bed regaining her composure. Beulah was sitting over her, staring.

“Where’s Hal?”

“D.M. took him to the hospital in Casper. He’ll be okay.” Beulah said. Wendy tried to sit up and Beulah placed a hand on her shoulder and stopped her movement. “You need to lay there for a spell. You bumped your head when you fell.”

“How bad is it?” Wendy asked.

“Oh, it’s just a little bump, but you could get dizzy.”

“Not my head you idiot.” Wendy carped. “Hal, how bad is Hal?”

“Oh. I don’t know. He was out of it when D.M. put him in the truck.”

Wendy brushed Beulah’s hand from her shoulder and sat upright on the bunk. Running her hand across the back of her skull, she wiggled her fingers across the tender knot still forming on her skull from the fall.

“Christ. I can’t believe all of this shit.” She said. “My goddamn dog gets eaten by a coyote; my husband gets bit by a snake. What’s fucking going on here?”

“You should calm down little lady. D.M. is with your husband and your dog will turn up. Why don’t you come over to the cabin with me, we’ll put some ice on that lump.”

“No fucking way, I’m getting out of here.” Wendy said. “Where’s my car key?” As Wendy stood she glanced around the room and then patted her pant pockets, finding nothing. “Where’s my fucking car keys?”

“Maybe your husband has’em?” Beulah said.

“Shit. He was driving. The key is in his pocket.” Wendy growled. “What hospital did your husband take him too?”

“The one in Casper, it’s a way’s off, they aren’t gonna be there yet. It’ll take a few hours before they can get there. Don’t worry though; most people don’t die from rattler bites.” Beulah walked to the door and turned. “I’ll put a pot of coffee on; we’ll wait for D.M. to call.”

Wendy paced the room. There wasn’t much she could do other than wait for the phone call from the hospital and that could take a while. She was agitated and her head was hurting, maybe a cup of coffee would help. Accepting the situation, she decided to follow. Beulah was already gone, and not wanting to walk alone in the dark, she scurried out the door, hoping to catch up. As door slammed behind her, she noticed the black dog, Buddy, trotting about in the darkness near the rear of the cabin. She couldn’t make out clearly, but he had clamped tightly in his jaws, something that was dragging along the ground between his front paws. The dog disappeared into the black and she kept moving.

Wendy knocked on the door and entered. Beulah extended her hand, containing a porcelain cup full of black coffee.

“Here. This will keep you going until we get that phone call.” Beulah said. Wendy took the cup and lifting it to her nose, gave it a good sniff. It smelled strong and stale. Never mind she thought, and with that took a sip, wincing as the course black liquid oozed down her throat.

“Thanks.” She said, coughing slightly and choking on the repugnant drink as she swallowed, its remnants spurting upwards into her sinus, stinging her nostrils. This had to be the worst tasting coffee she had ever had, but not wanting to offend, she took another sip, and it tasted worse. Sitting her cup on the table, she gazed curiously around the room. A Dude Ranch, with no cash register, no brochure rack. It looked more like a home than a lobby for a business. A weathered brown leather couch was facing a fireplace with a pair of scruffy end tables sitting close on each side; it looked more like a living room than a guest lobby. The cabin didn’t look very large though. Mounted along the walls were the heads of elk and deer. A rifle rack hung above the mantle of the fireplace. That must be where D.M.’s shotgun was kept, she thought. The kitchen where Beulah was piddling was separated from the main room by a bar and stools with fake leather seats, torn from years of use. She noticed the lamp on the coffee pot was unlit.

“How long have you folks been running this business?”

Beulah paused from wiping the counter top, averting her gaze from Wendy. “Oh, we’ve been out here for 30 years.” Beulah replied, her stare still focused on the floor as she brushed her hands along her hips. “Would you like more coffee?” She asked.

“No thanks.” It would be impossible to finish the cup she had, tasting as bad as it did. “Don’t you have other guests?” Wendy stood and walked to the screen door. As she stood at the doorway glancing into the dark driveway she noticed scattered about the porch, several more, large, partially chewed bones. The two women continued to chat as they sat alone together in the early morning silence. Wendy jumped at the ring of the telephone resonating in her spine. Beulah answered it on the third ring.

“Hello… Yes… Yes… Okay.” Her back was to Wendy, as she continued to speak in a low voice. “She’s right here.” Beulah sat the phone down and waved at Wendy. “It’s for you.” Beulah’s stealthy move to the kitchen to retrieve a cast iron skillet went unnoticed as Wendy hurried to the phone and placed the receiver to her ear.

“Yes.”

“Your husband’s okay Mrs. Wendt.” D.M. spoke assuredly into the telephone. “The hospital is going to keep him for observation; he should be out in a day or two.”

The reverberating thud of the skillet was audible through the ear piece of the telephone. Grismore gently hung up the phone and turned to a grinning Hal.

“All done.”

“Great. Got rid of the bitch and the dog. Two birds with one stone.” Hal laughed. “Let’s settle accounts.” Hal said, shaking a small duffle bag. “Ten thousand was it? Will you take a check?”

“Cash asshole. The dogs for free.”

D.M. jerked the string on the bare lamp hanging from the ceiling of the cellar. The dancing shadows from the swinging light careened across the walls as Hal placed a duffle bag next to the meat grinder on the large gouged table and unzipped it.

“What are you going to do with the body?” Hal asked.

“I’ll grind it up and feed it to the dog. Where do you think he gets all those bones?” D.M. replied.

“Ten Thousand, just like we agreed.” Hal spread the bag open, exposing the loosely packed twenty dollar bills within.

“Dump it out.” D.M. ordered.

“You don’t trust me? You think I’d drive all the way up here to rip you off?” Hal flipped the bag and the loose bills fluttered across the table.

“I don’t trust you as much as your wife did, that’s fur sure.” D.M. said as he gathered the loose bills, arranging them into piles and counting it twice. “You’re twenty dollars short.” The incorrect money count infuriated him. Grismore despised dishonest people.

“Shit.” Hal reached for his wallet and removed a twenty dollar bill, handing it to D.M.

“There, we’re square.”

Grismore stuffed the twenty into his shirt pocket and pointed toward the stone stairway leading from the cellar. As they exited at the rear of the cabin where Wendy had been snooping earlier in the evening, D.M. pushed the rotted wood cellar doors closed and took a deep breath.

“I Love the smell of shit!”

“I bet Wendy shit when she got hers.” Hal replied.

“Yep.”

“I’m going to get my stuff and get out of here.” Hal said as he started toward the bunkhouse.

“No trace. Don’t leave anything behind.” Grismore ordered as he carried his duffle bag of twenty dollar bills towards the barn where Wendt’s car was parked.

As he entered the deserted bunkhouse, Hal looked across the room at the floor where Grismore had shot the fake snake. He intended to drive a hundred miles or so and bury Wendy’s bags in the middle of nowhere. Over a thousand miles from home, Wendy’s body would be devoured by the Grismore’s dog, Buddy. No one knew of his trip to Wyoming except Wendy and her social life had long since vanished amongst the endless sea of pills and alcohol she had been consuming. To rid himself of this retched bitch in such a way was more than ample compensation for the life of misery she had given him, her constant nagging, complaining, and criticisms, all finally at an end.

The police would investigate, but he knew they would fail. He’d claim she up and left without notice. Nobody would ever prove that a business man from Oklahoma would have his wife murdered and fed to a dog in Wyoming. There wouldn’t be a body to find. It’s hard to prove a murder if there’s no dead person. She simply vanished in the night without a trace after cleaning out the bank account, and her bags were gone. She even took the dog and the dog food. Neither would ever be found. He had talked Wendy into withdrawing the money from the bank, twelve thousand in total, money for the vacation. It never occurred to her what the money would be used for, nor to even ask why so much. She was so gullible. No credit card trail he thought, paying cash for all their gasoline, using out of the way places to eat and fill up the gas tank. She stayed in the car at every stop; no one would have had a good look at her on the way up here. Her secret lover would be the focal point of any investigation once the police uncovered her most recent tryst. Better to play stupid and act surprised when this little nugget of information became known. The perfect crime he thought.

Hal gathered all the bags from the bunkhouse and returned to the porch of the main cabin where he found Beulah sitting on a chair, rubbing Buddy on the ears as he chewed a bone at her feet.

“Did she put up much of a struggle?”

“Nope, none at all.”

“Where’s her body?”

“Out in the barn.”

“Where’s the old man?”

“Out in the barn.”

Hal walked across the darkened gravel lot, kicking the bones beneath his feet. Buddy raced ahead of him, disappearing into the blackened opening of the barn. “This dog sure eats well.” He thought aloud as he approached the open barn doors and spied the dark outline of his Volvo sitting within. Removing the keys from his pocket, he jingled them as he walked to the rear of his car and opened the trunk. “Yippie-Yi-Oh-Kai-Eah Bitch!” He said as he placed the bags neatly into the trunk of the car.

“Yippie-Yi-Oh-Kai-Eah Bastard!” Wendy shouted as she clubbed him on the back of the head with a four by four piece of cut lumber fence post, his skull cracking open and his body slumping to the ground. She gave him another solid whack across the forehead as he lay on the ground and groaned. She whacked him three more times, each whack producing a slightly softer sound than the previous. He stopped groaning. “That’s for the dog, you son of a bitch.” She massaged the end of the fence post into his crushed skull as his brains oozed out onto the dirt floor of the barn, forming a puddle of blood mud.

“Thought you’d murder me you prick? We’ll I was on to you. Beulah and I worked it all out you stupid asshole.” Wendy tossed the lumber aside and walked outside to a waiting D.M. and Beulah.

“He’s all yours.” Wendy said. “You have your money.”

Grismore retrieved Hal’s body from behind the barn and drug it to the cellar as Wendy washed the blood from her face and hands in the cabin. When she returned to her car, there was no sign of blood on or in the trunk, which she thoroughly inspected. Grismore appeared in the barn doorway as she sat in the driver’s seat of her Volvo about to leave.

“Pleasure doing business with you.” Wendy said.

Grismore tipped his hat as she closed the car door. The darkness made it difficult for her to find the ignition as she fumbled with her keys and she made little notice as Grismore walked to the driver side door and lodged a fence post against it. Startled, she looked up only when she heard the thump of the lumber against the door. By this time, Grismore had made his way to the passenger side door and was lodging lumber against it too. Grismore at her through the window as he finished pinning her inside the car.

Hurriedly, she found the ignition slot and turned the key but the engine wouldn’t start. Grismore held up a battery cable and smiled, waving it back and forth. She pulled on the door handle and pushed with all her strength, but couldn’t force the door open. She pushed the button, trying to lower the power window, but the window wouldn’t budge.

“Never buy a car with power windows.” Grismore chided mockingly. “You never know when they won’t work.” Grismore’s gruesome laugh was easily heard from inside the car.

As she pounded on the glass of the cars window, Buddy the dog growled from the back seat, then bit into her neck, twisting his head wildly as his teeth sank deeper into the soft flesh beneath her skull.

By Five P.M. there was no trace of Hal and Wendy Wendt. D.M. Grismore had buried the car beneath the barn floor and poured concrete over it. In a few days the concrete would be solid and he could use it again. He didn’t like parking his truck in the open. Grismore closed the barn doors and slapped a padlock across the latch. It was late in the afternoon and it would be sundown pretty soon, the sky was turning orange, the wind was dying down, and he was tired. Running a Dude Ranch was tough work he thought. He walked to the cabin porch, sat in the old wooden chair and propped his feet up on an old bucket. A moment later, Beulah joined, handing him a glass of cold iced tea. Together, they sat sipping their tea and watched the orange horizon turn to black as the sun disappeared behind the distant Wyoming Mountains.

At their feet lay Buddy, wagging his tail and gnawing on his new bone.