Buck Smith’s Option

 Part Twenty-Five

 By Tom Word
Kyle and Buck decided to let Doc Keen tell Hardy Dillard the story of Simon Green’s treachery, and how it had been thwarted at the National.
When Buck asked Hardy for the key to his horse trailer the night before Headstrong’s race, it was so he could search the tack room for Simon’s stash of canine tranquilizers.  After Doc detected the presence of tranquilizer in Strong’s blood following his finals race in the Continental and after Buck had talked to Ben Washington, Sr., and learned Simon had taken Strong out of the trailer to dunk him in the horse-watering trough in the hour before his finals brace at Dixie, Buck’s suspicion fell on Simon.  He told only Doc, who called other vets in Thomasville to ask if Simon had bought tranquilizers recently.  His third call got a yes.  Simon had said he was shipping a nervous dog by air and needed something to keep it calm in its crate.
Buck figured Simon might have the pills in his saddlebag.  The guess proved correct.  But how would Simon get the drug into Strong during his race at Ames Plantation?  By dissolving tranquilizers in the water in the detergent bottle he’d have on his saddle, Buck surmised.
Just before they were mounting for Strong’s brace in the National, Doc distracted Simon by asking him to make an adjustment on Hardy Dillard’s tack.  That gave Buck an opportunity to switch the detergent bottle on Simon’s saddle for an identical one Buck had filled with clean water.  He’d then put Simon’s bottle in Doc’s trailer tack room.  Its contents tested positive for tranquilizer. This was the sad tale Doc told Hardy Dillard the day after Hardy got back to Mossy Swamp from the National.
Hardy listened in silence, then shook his head slowly.  “Thank you, Doc,” was all he said.  As soon as Doc left, he went to Simon’s house and fired him.  He didn’t say why, just told him to be off Mossy Swamp before sunset.  He wrote Simon a check for two months’ pay.  “Don’t give me as a reference when you apply for a job,” were his last words to Simon Green.
To be continued in Part Twenty-Six.