What in the hell was he going to do?
Before Levi could enter full-blown panic mode, his cell phone rang. He grabbed for it on the corner of the desk, praying it was Caryn and she needed something so he had a good excuse to run away from home.
It was his brother Zane. “What in blazes do you think you’re doing there, trying to get the house seized under RICO?”
The angry surprise onslaught stunned Levi, and he had to scramble to respond. “Who’s Rico? What are you talking about? Try, ‘Hi, Levi, what’s going on?’”
“I know what’s going on. I’ve had my eye on the news on that corner of Montana for a while now. Bombs, monkeywrenching, red flags from the Feds? Mom didn’t give you that house just so you can lose it in a forfeiture action…”
As his brother continued, Levi sucked back his ready retort, finally recognizing Zane in lawyer mode. He was a power litigator worthy of the usual comparison to a shark. Zane lashed out at his opponents like a desperate man clutching his way up a drowning friend’s body to get some air. No holds barred, ever. The only way to win was not to play.
He took a long, deep breath as Zane ranted on, accusations dropping like grenades. When Zane paused for effect, Levi said, “Are you finished yet?”
“Don’t you have something to say for yourself?”
“Sure. I’m feeling much better now that I’m home from the hospital. No permanent damage. Thank you for asking.”
A shocked silence. “Haven’t you heard a damned thing I’ve said?”
Irritation threatened to rattle Levi’s intended calm. He tried levity. “Some of it.”
“That spread, the lands, the forests, are worth a lot of money, and I’m not going to let you just throw them away!”
“I’m not ‘throwing them away’. I’m done with the militia. I’m taking care of myself.”
Levi could almost hear the gears in his older brother’s head ticking as he regrouped. “I’m coming back there. Someone’s got to—”
“Someone is. Everything’s under control. Just keep on with the benign neglect, huh? I don’t need your ‘protection’ anymore.”
Levi clicked his phone, hanging up.
She ran a hand through the front of her hair, pulling the thick strands back away from her face. She had no need to keep it in the bun or the tieback she often wore on duty, so she let it fly loose in the wind. She had hardly a care in the world, as long as she looked through the window of her life with a narrow screen, only allowing a certain amount of light in.
Caryn broke into a run, calling them to follow her. “Come on Rose, Guildy…Pete?” She didn’t see Ophelia anywhere, but she could always come out the dog door if she wanted to join them. “Everyone, let’s roll!”
She let loose, feeling each point of contact her foot had with the ground, swinging her arms to increase her speed, taking in deep breaths that invigorated her. The downhill slope added momentum as well. By the time she reached the stretch of grass at the bottom of the hill, she was traveling so fast that when Rosie cut in front of her, she had no way to avoid her. She tripped over the dog, taking a jarring landing face down on the ground, her breath knocked out of her, and her arm and side burned.
The dogs came over to her, sniffing at her and licking her face, encouraging her to get up. Ribs aching, she caught the glimpse of blood pooling on her forearm. She must have scraped herself…no.
Studying the wound, she realized that it was not a scrape of any sort, and there was no object lying near her that might have caused a vicious cut. What the hell?
A flash of light near the top of the hill in the trees caught her eye. At second glance, she recognized it as the sun reflecting off the long barrel of a rifle. The shooter aimed, fired, and some turf four feet in front of her tore off as the shot echoed in the mountain air. Her stomach went askew. They’re shooting at me? Shot me?
Anger bubbled up inside her and it was all she could do not to launch herself from the ground and take off up the hill after him. Or her. But the shooter had the advantage here. She was in an open field at this point, and a clear target. What could she do?