“Mr. Ross, I’m Ranger Clark,” he gave me his hand, which I shook, “and this is Ranger Gibson. I just happened to be at the rodeo Friday night. So, I was given your case.”
I moved to take my seat next to the bed, so I could hold Al’s hand. “So, do you have anything at all on who did this?”
Both men stood at the foot of the bed as Ranger Clark talked, “Well, we found a string of firecrackers where Miss Yates’ horse threw her. I sent them to the lab hoping to get some fingerprints,” He was watching me.
“Not much chance of that though, is there?” I replied. Randy came over from the couch and put a hand on my shoulder.
“We got a partial print off two that didn’t go off. But we need something to compare it to,” Ranger Clark explained.
“I went back Saturday and talked to some of the cowboys and cowgirls who were there Friday night,” Ranger Gibson said. “My talent is seeing where people fit together. Who might be working together, so to speak.”
I nodded as Randy talked, “So, what’d you find?”
“Well, not a lot. I did, however, put your sister, Mr. Ross and your ranch hand, Mr. Yates together pretty quick.”
“My sister…” I started to defend her.
“No, no, Mr. Ross,” Ranger Gibson raised his hands up, “Your sister didn’t have anything to do with this. She loves you with something more than just you being her big brother. It’s almost like she looks to you as her father.”
I smiled because he was watching me for my reaction, “Yeah, nothing weird there. I raised her and my other siblings after our parents died. She was the youngest at seven years old.”
“I know, Mr. Ross. I did my research before we came today.” He turned to Randy, “Your hand, Jake Mason, he had nothing to do with this, either.”
“Good to know or he’d be out of a job,” Randy said.
“That may be, but he’d be at the Rocking R looking for that job.” Ranger Gibson looked back at me, “He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s in love with your sister, Mr. Ross. He’ll protect her with his life if need be.”
Ranger Gibson stopped talking and looked to Ranger Clark. Ranger Clark nodded and Ranger Gibson started telling us what they knew.
“We did a little digging into this Cindi Williams,” Ranger Gibson said, and I moaned, “You aren’t the first rich man she’s played, Mr. Ross. She also has a few cowboys that she runs with. They seem to be happy to do her dirty work for her. One of the bull riders called me last night with a story to tell.”
“He said that another bull rider was bragging at Billy Bob’s Friday night, that he was the one who threw the firecrackers under Miss Yates’ horse. I showed him a few photos of men who we know to run with Miss Williams, and he picked this man out of the photos,” he handed me a photo from his pocket.
“Yeah, I had to come between him and Al at the Rusty Nail, about a week ago. He had two more cowboys with him.”
Ranger Clark opened a folder and gave me more photos, “Look through these and see if you recognize any of them.”
I held the photos so Randy could see them too, “I didn’t get as good a look at the other two, but I’m pretty sure these two,” I gave the two photos back to him, “were at the Rusty Nail that night. You might ask Joe at the Rusty Nail and my brother Angus at the Rocking R.”
“What about you, Mr. Yates? Do you think these two were at the Rusty Nail?” Ranger Clark asked.
He nodded, “Yeah, I think so too.”
“So, who are they?” I asked.
Ranger Clark held up the first photo, “This is Cash Johnson, he’s been with Miss Williams for years.” He stopped and looked at me, “Probably even while she was with you, Mr. Ross.”
I looked at Al’s hand in mine, “Yeah, then I brought the love of my life into that crazy woman’s line of sight.”
“Mr. Ross, you couldn’t have known that Miss Williams was this unstable.” Ranger Gibson looked at me, “We’re going to put a Ranger and a team of Marshals to work on your ranch. Their mission will be to help your men secure both the Rocking R and the Flying J, if you’ll both give your consent.”
“Sure, yeah, I’ll do anything to make sure Al’s safe,” I replied, “Just have them see Angus.”
“Me too,” Randy replied, “have them see Pete, my foreman.”
“Okay, one more thing,” Ranger Gibson looked at me, “We would like to put two Marshals on you and Miss Yates.”
I sighed, “Do you think that’s really necessary?”
“Yeah, I do,” Ranger Clark looked at Al for the first time, “Miss Williams won’t give up until she gets to you, or we get to her.”
I sighed, “I understand, but I don’t like it. I have people on the ranch who’ll need protection as well. My housekeeper and ranch foreman live in my house as well, and all my siblings will be home for Christmas.”
“We’ll cover every possible contingency, Mr. Ross,” Ranger Clark smiled for the first time, “Even your wedding and reception at the Rusty Nail on New Year’s Eve.”
“Damn! How’d you know all that?” I asked.
“Well, it seems after you made your little announcement Friday night, the media went a little crazy trying to be the first to dig up the details. Who had captured the heart of the most eligible cowboy bachelor in west Texas? Where did she come from? Why such a quick wedding?” Ranger Gibson smiled. “The rest was easy for us to figure out.”
“Well, okay then,” I rolled my eyes at Randy. “My other siblings will start arriving this weekend and the first of next week. Will you be able to keep them safe?”
I was really thinking about calling them and telling them to stay away.
The door opened, and a nurse walked in, “I’m going to have to ask you, gentlemen, to leave the room while I check on my patient. Please wait in the hall.”
I frowned, I hadn’t seen this nurse before. I pushed the nurse call button, “What is your name ma’am?”
“I’m Nurse Smith, and I need to check on my patient,” Both Rangers turned away from the door and watched me.
“Yes, Mr. Ross, may I help you?” The disembodied voice asked.
“Yes, do you have a Nurse Smith on Miss Yates’ case?” I no sooner got the words out when she tried to run to the door that was now blocked by the Rangers.
“Um, no Mr. Ross, we don’t have a Nurse Smith.”
“Thank you, we’re good,” I looked at the supposed nurse, “Who are you and who sent you here?”
“I have the wrong room. Let me go!” She tried to pull away from the Rangers.
“No ma’am, you’ll need to take a little ride with us,” Ranger Clark said as he put handcuffs on her. “There’ll be a Marshal outside the door at all times, Mr. Ross. Only you will give the word to admit anyone to the room.”
“Thanks,” I sat back down, feeling like the world was closing in on me, “Will you please keep us updated.”
They nodded as they walked out the door with someone pretending to be a nurse and God only knows what she would have done to Al.
I stood back up and kissed Al’s forehead, “Come on sweetheart, open those beautiful eyes for me.”