First off, happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I hope that each and every one of you has a wonderful day filled with family, food, and happiness.
Today is also “Shameless Promotion Day.” As an incentive for you to purchase my newest Matt Davis mystery, Deadly Ransom, I am giving you the first two chapters for free. Beginning next Friday, Deadly Ransom will be part of a “Kindle Countdown Deal.” On Friday, May 19th, you can purchase a Kindle edition for only 99 cents; on Saturday, May 20th, for $1.99; and on Sunday, May 21st for $2.99. Monday, it will return to its regular price of $3.99 (still a bargain). I hope you will avail yourself of this great buying opportunity and spread the word to all your reading friends and family. In the meantime, here is Chapter 1 of Deadly Ransom for your enjoyment.
DEADLY RANSOM: A Matt Davis mystery by Joe Perrone Jr.
Beaverhead Valley, Southwestern Montana
The bull weighed more than thirteen hundred pounds and was named Tyrus, after the Hall of Fame baseball player, Ty Cobb. Like his namesake, Tyrus was a stud—and just as ornery as the legendary Georgia Peach, according to his owner, Clint Davidson. Tyrus was a classic example of a breed-grade Braunvieh bull, two years old and in his sexual prime. His only purpose in life was to provide regular quantities of high-priced semen sold to other ranches for purposes of artificial insemination, or “A.I.” as it was referred to in ranching circles. The Davidsons had a dozen or so of the Braunviehs, but Tyrus was their number one producer.
Clint owned the Crooked Creek Cattle Ranch, a 13,500-acre spread that was bordered on its western flank by the Beaverhead River, a blue ribbon trout stream. Numerous tributaries, chock full of game fish, ran through the property. Clint and his wife had purchased the ranch two years earlier from Denyse Salmon, a widow whose late husband’s family had owned the property for nearly a hundred and twenty five years. When Joe Salmon passed away after a massive stroke, and with no children as heirs, it was inevitable that Denyse give up the land. The Davidsons made a generous offer and a deal was struck.
The ranch’s pastures held more than fourteen hundred head of Black Angus, including mother cows, bred half-blood Braunvieh/Angus Heifers, and some bulls.
Sixty-seven-year-old Clint watched as Shorty McMann led the single-purposed bull toward the waiting surrogate by a short rope attached to a nose ring. Shorty was anything but short; he was six feet-two and weighed two hundred pounds. He’d been tagged with the moniker while still a late-blooming teenager, and it had stuck. As part of the sale arrangements, Shorty had agreed to stay on as foreman for at least two years in order to assist the new owners. The arrangement had served both Clint and the ranch hand well, and it was assumed that Shorty would remain with the Davidsons until he chose to retire—if he ever did.
Now, a four-year-old cow was positioned in a capture chute, its hind end available to the task. The targeted bovine had been prepped by having its pubic hair trimmed and its private parts washed with a sterile solution (to prevent the bull from possibly contracting venereal disease in the event of an accidental penetration). All of this was done to facilitate the false mounting required to stimulate the bull and increase the count and motility of its sperm—the ultimate prize. Rather than depositing its semen into the cow, the bull’s member would be guided by a lucky AI tech into an artificial vagina used to capture the five-or-so-milliliters of ejaculate.
The bull snorted, pawed the ground, and approached the cow. He was more than ready to perform. In less than a minute, the deed had been done, and Tyrus was led away from his uncaring partner for a well deserved, but brief respite.
A few minutes later, after the tech had finished emptying the capture vessel into a sterile container, Shorty said, “Okay, let’s give him another shot at it.” He steered Tyrus to a different cow by the nose ring, and in less than thirty seconds, the whole process was repeated. Finally, after a third “performance” with still another cow, Tyrus was led back to his corral—to rest and recuperate from the stressful event.
The cattle business had been good to the Salmon family. Two years prior, gross receipts had topped a half million dollars, a far cry from the hand-to-mouth existence Joe Salmon’s ancestors had hacked out of the land when they first migrated West in 1891. Now, as Clint made his way back to the house on his palomino, he thought of all those who had gone before him and smiled. Of course none of the Salmons could have made a dime without the help of the hundreds of ranch hands who had served them so well down through the years. Of all the ranch hands whom Clint employed, none could hold a candle to Shorty, his foreman and, of late, his best friend. He often wondered what he would do without him.
Soon, he would learn just that.
Roscoe, New York
Chief of Police Matt Davis had just finished going over the early morning wants and warrants on his computer, noting a bulletin regarding a barn burning over in Green County, when Nancy Cooper, his secretary, shouted to him from her office across the hall. “Hey, Matt. You’ll never guess who’s on the phone?”
“Nope. Try again.”
“J Edgar? . . . no, wait, he’s dead.”
“Come on, Matt,” laughed Nancy. “Seriously, think about it. I’ll give you a hint. It’s someone from your past who you haven’t talked to in quite some time. Think big!”
“Big? Too bad! I was hoping it was Rita Valdez.”
“I’m telling Val,” quipped Nancy.
(Rita had been a member of Matt’s squad when he was a homicide detective back in New York City.)
“Oh please don’t tell the Missus,” said Matt in a falsetto voice. “I promise I’ll be good.”
“Oh, you’re impossible,” said Nancy, who by now had walked the short distance from her office to Matt’s. “Actually, you were close. It’s Chris Freitag.”
(Chris had been Matt’s partner and was now actually married to the former Miss Valdez.)
“Freitag? You’re kidding, right? Freitag?”
“That’s what the man said.”
“I wonder what he wants.”
“I don’t know,” replied Nancy. “I guess you’ll just have to pick up line one and find out.”
Matt grabbed the handset and shouted into the mouthpiece, “Is this the world famous New York homicide detective, Chris Freitag?”
“No,” said the voice on the other end of the line, “It’s Mayor DeBlasio. Who the hell did you think it was, you asshole?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
“Yeah, like I give a shit.”
Some things never changed. Freitag was as feisty as ever. Just hearing his old friend and partner’s voice was enough to make Matt smile. How long had it been, anyway? Christ, I haven’t talked to him since the wedding.
“I know, I know,” apologized Matt, “I’m a dick. Guy gets married and his best friend acts like he died.”
“Well, don’t go beating yourself up. I haven’t exactly been Mister AT&T.”
“So what’s happening in Haus Freitag? How’s the little woman? Wait, wait. Don’t tell me. You’ve called to tell me she’s pregnant?”
“Yeah, and it’s yours.”
“Nice. But seriously, how’s Rita?”
“Rita’s just fine. And, no, she’s not pregnant.”
“Oh. I’m genuinely disappointed.”
“Well don’t be. You know how I feel about dogs, cats, and kids. They’re just great—as long as they belong to someone else.”
“So surprise me. What’s going on?”
There was a long pause.
“Yeah. I’m here. Listen, all kidding aside, Matt, I need a big favor . . . actually, someone we know needs a favor.” The tone of Freitag’s voice had changed from light-hearted to deadly serious.
“No, no. Not with us, anyway. It’s somebody else. Do you remember Ralph Gilly?”
“The guy at the fishing ranch out in Montana? God, what’s it been, ten years since we were there?”
“Yep. Anyway, he called me last night.”
“Is he in some kind of trouble?”
“No, not him. It’s a friend of his, a cattle rancher. He’s got big problems.”
“What kind of problems? And why’s Ralph calling you?”
“It’s a long story,” sighed Chris, “but his friend really needs our help.”
“Yeah. Both of us. I can’t go out there by myself.”
“Go where? Montana?“
“Yes, Montana. Listen, have you got a few minutes?”
“Of course. What about lunch? Come on up and we’ll go to Raimondo’s. My treat.”
“Hmmm, that’s very tempting . . . and I’d love to, I really would, but I can’t get away right now. Just listen to me for a minute, okay. This friend of Ralph, his name is Clint . . . “
Fifteen minutes later, Matt hung up the phone. “Nancy! If anybody calls, take a message and tell them I’ll call them back. I’m going over to see Harold.”
Ralph Gilly, the owner of a fishing resort in Montana where Chris and Matt vacationed together years ago has a neighbor in trouble, and he’s reached out to Matt and Chris for help. Clint Davidson’s prize bull has been slaughtered and his foreman, Shorty McMann, has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. The cattleman has been warned that any involvement by the FBI or other law enforcement agencies will result in the death of his ranch hand. Desperate, the ranch owner offers to pay all expenses if Matt and Chris can fly out together to help. Reluctantly, Roscoe mayor Harold Swenson agrees to let Matt go, with dire consequences promised if he isn’t back on time, and he and Chris head West.
Meanwhile, back home in Roscoe, Rick Dawley becomes acting chief, and he, Bobcat Walker, and Pete Richards have their hands full with an crazed arsonist who is setting local barns on fire.
Paperback, 310 pages, $12.95 from Amazon.com
Kindle Edition, $3.99 from Amazon.com