Buck Smith’s Option

Part Eight

By Tom Word

Kyle did not sleep the night after the theft.  At dawn he and Buck drove to trial headquarters to check on their dogs and stock.  The second set of stakes would soon begin, but they had no entries to run today.  Kyle was beside himself with worry.  Buck figured they would likely get a call today or tomorrow from someone who had Headstrong—he guessed the thieves likely intended to hunt the day and would loose him, or that the call would be for ransom.  Kyle’s cell phone umber was on Headstrong’s collar.  
Meanwhile, Headstrong was touring the part of Montana known as the Bad Lands.  It was too dry for farming, but the railroad had encouraged its Homesteading.  The homesteaders had long since abandoned the land, which now belonged to ranchers.  Fortunately, there were a few potholes so Headstrong could get a drink when needed and avoid overheating.  Rattlers were his biggest hazard, but Kyle had snakeproofed him with the electric collar.  Still, there was the chance he’d run across a sleeping downwind snake, startle it, and get bit.
Kyle made a confession to Buck.
“I’ve got to tell you something I’m not proud of,” the younger handler said to his partner.
“When Headstrong was a derby, we had a chip implanted under his skin.  It was a GPS tracking device his owner got from a friend who supplied the CIA—with another device you could tell where the dog was within a hundred yards.  We tried to use it in trials, but it was not that effective, and I got scared we’d get caught.  I don’t know if the chip still sends a signal, but we will find out today.”  Kyle got the receiver device out of its hiding place in the trailer’s tackroom.  Its batteries wee dead, but they replaced them at the gas station in town.
“How close have you got to be to get a signal?” Buck asked.
“I don’t know,” Kyle said.
With the fresh AA batteries in place, Kyle turned on the device.  In seconds its face showed a dot on a map a hundred miles due west of Kyle’s location.
“By golly it still works!” Kyle shouted.  Buck looked at the strange device, four-inches square.  Sure enough, the digital dot showed the chip’s location.  At the hundred-mile distance, they could not tell if the chip was in motion, indicating Headstrong was still alive.  They jumped in the truck and, Buck driving, struck out west toward Montana.  Kyle’s eyes were glued on the device.

To be continued in Part Nine.