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Authors: Craig Johnson

Junkyard Dogs

BOOK: Junkyard Dogs
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Table of Contents
Also by Craig Johnson
The Cold Dish
Death Without Company
Kindness Goes Unpunished
Another Man’s Moccasins
The Dark Horse
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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(a division of Penguin Books Ltd)
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published in 2010 by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Copyright © Craig Johnson, 2010
All rights reserved
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Johnson, Craig, 1961-
Junkyard dogs : a Walt Longmire mystery / Craig Johnson.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-19016-6
1. Longmire, Walt (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Sheriffs—Fiction.
3. Wyoming—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3610.O325J86 2010
813’.6—dc22 2009047237
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrightable materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For Ned Tanen (1932-2009), friend, mentor,
and Cobra (CSX2125) co-pilot
Around twenty years ago when I arrived back in Wyoming the second time, the only going retail concerns in Ucross were the Ewe-Turn Inn, a dilapidated Sinclair service station turned bar, and Sonny George’s junkyard. His father’s salvage operation had been transplanted to the fork of Clear and Piney Creeks, when the founding fathers of the county seat figured that the first thing you should not be confronted with when you exited the new interstate highway just outside Buffalo was a junkyard.
Sonny was a legend and a great source of car parts and home-grown philosophy. Other than derelict automobiles, the tiny corner where Wyoming routes 14 and 16 part ways had goats and dogs aplenty, and it was Sonny who was responsible for the addendum hand stenciled at the bottom of the UCROSS POPULATION 25 sign, which read DOG POPULATION 43.
He was cantankerous, so periodically people would call me and ask if I’d go over and barter with him. I would, because I liked him. He might have been obstreperous to those he considered outsiders, but he was always soft-spoken and dealt with me in an even- handed manner. There was an ongoing battle between Sonny and the Ucross Foundation, who desperately wanted to get the junkyard out of their backyard, but he held on until a massive coronary whisked him away via Flight For Life to Billings and beyond.
I sometimes stop at the corner, pull my truck over to the side, and look at the beautiful job that Ucross Land & Cattle did in cleaning the place, with the cottonwood trees and high-plains wildflowers—but I miss Sonny’s junkyard. I never envisioned myself as one of those guys nursing a Rainier, sitting around the Ewe-Turn Inn, and starting all my statements with, “You know, back when . . .” Hey, things change, and the bar, like the junkyard, is gone, but I remember.
People ask where I get the stories for my novels and little do they know—I get them from the memories.
There are a few timeless models I’d like to thank for making not only this book possible, but all the others to boot. Gail Hochman, the ’61, flat-floor Jaguar XKE, Series 1 of agents; Kathryn Court, the ’59 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud of publishers; and Alexis Washam, the ’66 Ferrari GTB/4 of editors—all of whom continue to check my oil and keep me aligned. A free windshield wash with fill-up for my good friends Maureen Donnelly, the ’59 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz of publicity czars; Ben Petrone, the ’68 Hemi Dodge Charger R/T of senior publicists; and Meghan Fallon, the fuel-injected ’63 split-window Corvette of publicists.
But most of all, to my wife, Judy, the ’65 Shelby, MKIII 427 Cobra of my life—a true classic, and cherry.
See ya on the road,
Oh heart! Oh blood that freezes, blood that burns! Earth’s returns
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest! Love is best.
“Love Among the Ruins,” Robert Browning, 1885
I tried to get a straight answer from his grandson and granddaughter-in-law as to why their grandfather had been tied with a hundred feet of nylon rope to the rear bumper of the 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado.
I stared at the horn pad and rested my forehead on the rim of my steering wheel.
The old man was all right and being tended to in the EMT van behind us, but that hadn’t prevented me from lowering my face in a dramatic display of bewilderment and despair. I was tired, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the young couple or the season.
“So, when you hit the brakes at the stop sign he slammed into the back of the car?”
It had been the kind of winter that tested the souls of even the hardiest; since October, we’d had nothing but blizzards, sifting snowstorms, freezing fogs, and cold snaps that had held the temperature a prisoner at ten below. We’d had relief in only one Chinook that had lasted just long enough to turn everything into a sloppy mess that then encased the county in about six inches of ice with the next freeze.
It was the kind of winter where if the cattle lay down, they weren’t likely to get back up: frozen in and starved out.
I lifted my head and stared at Duane and Gina.
“Yeah, when I hit the brakes I heard this loud thump.” She shrank into her stained parka with the matted, acrylic fur of the hood surrounding her face and tried not to light what I assumed was her last Kool Menthol.
We all sat in the cab of my truck with the light bar revolving to warn passing motorists of the icy roads. The roads, or more specifically the thick coating of ice on the roads, was what probably had saved Geo Stewart and, if it hadn’t been for the numerous 911 calls that my dispatcher, Ruby, had fielded from passing motorists and the stop sign on state route 16, the seventy-two-year-old man would have made the most impromptu arrival into the town of Durant, Wyoming, in its history.
“I guess he slid into the back.” Gina Stewart nodded the same way she had when she’d told me she’d been after cigarettes, Diet Coke, and a box of tampons from the Kum & Go, where she worked part-time.
I looked at the bubblegum-pink lipstick that stained her lone smoke. I’d warned her three times not to light up in my truck and tried to ignore the vague scent of marijuana that wafted off the pair. If she was down to her last cigarette, it smelled like they still had plenty of something else.
“He’s a tough ol’ fucker. That isn’t the first time he’s come off the roof.”
We all listened to the static and random calls of northern Wyoming law enforcement on my Motorola, and I stopped scribbling in my duty book. “The roof?”
I looked at Duane, but he’d yet to utter anything more than a grunting agreement to whatever Gina had said. “Yunh-huh.”
I studied the two of them and thought about resting my head on the steering wheel again. “The roof of the car?”
She shook her head inside the hood and pulled the unlit cigarette from her mouth. “Roof of the big house.”
“The big house.”
It was quiet. I thought about the Stewart family’s compound, comprising a Victorian house and a number of single-and double-wide trailers. “And what was he doing on the roof of the big house?”
She pulled the hood back from her face; the heater from my truck was just beginning to bring the temperature inside the vehicle to past the ice age. For the first time, I noticed she had enormous brown eyes and a lovely, heart-shaped face. It was spoiled by dirty-blond hair, but she was pretty in a shop-worn way.
She had learned that to captivate men you must treat them with the utmost attention. I’d only been in the cab with Gina for ten minutes, and I was already dizzy; of course, that could have been from the less-than-legal fumes floating off the two.
She looked at Duane, and so did I, figuring that the rest of the saga was his to tell.
Duane Stewart had dropped out of school at the age of fourteen with his parents’ consent, because he was, in an internal combustion sense, gifted; if you had any type of motor-driven vehicle produced before 1972, Duane could fix it. He and his uncle Morris had a ramshackle mechanic’s shop that was on the road to the junkyard, which was the family’s other going concern.
Thickly built, he had a few pimples scattered across his face that reminded me how young he still was—early twenties at best. His eyes hunted mine, but he ducked away and cleared his throat. “Yunh-huh, we was cleanin’ out the chimney.”
I watched the blue and red lights from my truck that joined with the yellow ones from the EMT van behind us as they raced across the hillsides. “In February?”
He looked at his new wife again and then back to me. “Yunh-huh.”
I took a breath and leaned back in my seat. “Maybe we need to start at the beginning.”
The young man tipped his grease-stained cap back on his head—it read HEMI. “The chimney of the big house gets stopped up in the winter after you burn it for a few months, so we dip a mop in kerosene and force it down the flue to clean it out.”
“Yunh-huh.” He warmed to the story and began gesturing with his hands, the work embedded in the swirls of his fingerprints and nails. “I’d a done it, but I’m afraid of heights and Grampus’s agile. He can climb out that top window on the gable end and get ahold of the gutter and swing a leg up onto the roof.” He made the statement as if it should have settled everything.
BOOK: Junkyard Dogs
12.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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