Read The Case of the Three Rings Online

Authors: John R. Erickson

Tags: #cowdog, #Hank the Cowdog, #John R. Erickson, #John Erickson, #ranching, #Texas, #dog, #adventure, #mystery, #Hank, #Drover, #Pete, #Sally May

The Case of the Three Rings

BOOK: The Case of the Three Rings
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The Case of the Three Rings

John R. Erickson

Illustrations by Gerald L. Holmes

Maverick Books, Inc.

Publication Information

MAVERICK BOOKS

Published by Maverick Books, Inc.

P.O. Box 549, Perryton, TX 79070

Phone: 806.435.7611

www.hankthecowdog.com

Published in the United States of America by Maverick Books, Inc., 2014

Copyright © John R. Erickson, 2014

All rights reserved

Maverick Books, Inc. Paperback ISBN:
978-1-59188-164-3

Hank the Cowdog® is a registered trademark of John R. Erickson.

Printed in the United States of America

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Dedication

To the memory of our dear friend, Bobby Barnett, who left us much too soon.

Contents

Chapter One
Attacked by a Charlie Monster with Vampire Teeth

Chapter Two
Slim's Fateful Decision

Chapter Three
The First Ring

Chapter Four
Uncle Johnny's Bottle Calf

Chapter Five
We Lock Winkie In The Barn

Chapter Six
Maybe I Shouldn't Have Barked

Chapter Seven
Winkie Does Some Damage

Chapter Eight
I Charm Some Lady Dogs

Chapter Nine
Tub Time With Slim

Chapter Ten
An Incredible Mess

Chapter Eleven
The Second Ring

Chapter Twelve
The Third Ring

Chapter One: Attacked by a Charlie Monster with Vampire Teeth

I
t's me again, Hank the Cowdog. It was three o'clock in the morning, and dark. Suddenly, I heard an odd sound…several odd sounds…thuds and thumps. My head shot up and I raised Earatory Scanners. ES locked in on the sounds and confirmed the presence of a stranger in the house.

House? What house? Where was I? It didn't matter. I went into Stage Two of our Early Warning Protocol—opened my eyes.

Squinting into the gloomy half-light, I saw…good grief, there was a strange man, an intruder, creeping down the hall! He had…he had green skin and hair down in his eyes and HORNS GROWING OUT THE TOP OF HIS HEAD!

I did a quick assessment of the situation. I hate to do Red Alerts in the middle of the night, but there are times when a dog has no choice. I reached for the microphone of my mind and issued the alarm.

“Hank to Drover, over. We have a Charlie Monster creeping toward us down the hall, ETA in ten seconds. We're going straight into Ranch Red Alert, and this is not a drill. Repeat,
this is not a drill
. Battle stations!”

Moments later, Drover was standing beside me, wobbling on unsteady legs. I noticed right away that his eyes seemed crooked. I leaped to my feet and said, “Good, you're here. Are you awake?”

“Midget frigate spaghetti leaves.”

“What?”

“Skittle rickie tattoo…where are we?”

I looked into the emptiness of his eyes. “I don't know, but you'd better snap out of it, soldier. We're in Ranch Red Alert and if you want to live long enough to see the sun rise, you'd better lay down some serious barks.”

Just for a moment there was a gleam of recognition in his glazed eyeballs, then he did just what you'd expect Drover to do. He let out a squeak and wiggled himself underneath a coffee table.

Coffee table? That gave me my second clue in this case. We were in a house that had a coffee table, which meant we weren't on the porch or under the gas tanks.

Well, Drover had left me alone to face the intruder, which goes to prove that life isn't always fair. We don't always get what we want or deserve. If you're Drover, you can pick your battles. If you're Head of Ranch Security, you take everything they throw at you—the good, the bad, and the awful.

I filled my tanks with air, activated Hair Lift-up, took careful aim at the advancing Charlie, and began firing round after round of deafening barks. We're talking about the Big Ones, the kind that produce such a recoil, it throws a dog backward on each blast. Most dogs can't do more than three of those without losing their balance. I fired off six of them, one right after…

“Hank, dry up!”

Huh? Had the creature spoken my name? I was almost sure he had, but how could he have gotten my name? Had the Charlies hacked into our database and broken all our secret codes? Yes, our systems had been compromised and I found myself facing a terrible decision. Should I go down fighting for my ranch or save myself for another day?

I dived under the coffee table. “Move over, son, I'm coming in!”

I locked the hatch behind me, raised the periscope, and watched as the intruder went slouching into another room, perhaps the kitchen. That gave me the third clue in the case: wherever we were, it had a kitchen.

Behind me, I heard Drover's quivering voice. “Who is that?”

“Shh. We don't have a positive identification yet. Somehow he broke into the house and sneaked past our Warning Net.”

“Whose house? Where are we?”

“Shhh. I don't know.”

Drover blinked his eyes and glanced around. “Wait a second. I think we spent the night at Slim's place and maybe that's where we are.”

“Drover, it's still dark and we can't be sure. Wait! Do you hear that?” We cocked our ears and listened. A refrigerator door opened and closed. Dishes clattered.

Drover let out a gasp. “Oh my gosh, he's stealing food!” All at once, a light came on in his eyes and a grin spread across his mouth. “Wait a second. Maybe it's Slim.”

“What? Drover, this is no time for jokes. What I saw wasn't Slim.”

“Yeah, but sometimes in the middle of the night, when his hair's a mess, he looks like a monster.”

“Okay, pal, you think it's Slim? You go check it out.”

“Me!”

“It was your idea. Go, move it!”

I pushed him out of the bunker and he tip-toed across the room. At the door that led into the kitchen, he stopped and peeked around the corner. A moment later, he dived back into the bunker.

“You're right, it's not Slim!”

“See? You need to listen to your superior officers. Any idea who it might be?”

His teeth were chattering. “I don't know, but he's nine feet tall and I think he has vampire teeth.”

“Good grief. Do you think he might eat dogs?”

“Well, I don't know. He was eating something.”

“Yes? And what was it? I need facts, Drover, facts and details.”

He rolled his eyes around. “Well, let's see…oh yeah. I think it was a boiled turkey neck.”

I stared at the runt. “A boiled turkey neck!”

“That's what it looked like.”

I took a deep breath and climbed out of the bunker. “Drover, do you see what this means?”

“How can a turkey neck mean anything?”

“Please listen carefully.” I stuck my nose in his face and raised my voice. “There's only one man in the whole world who would eat a cold, left-over, boiled turkey neck at three o'clock in the morning.”

“Gosh, you mean…”

“Yes! What you saw in the kitchen was Slim Chance. He lives in this house. He sleeps in that bedroom down the hall. We see him every day. He isn't nine feet tall, he doesn't have vampire teeth, and I can't believe you thought he was a monster.”

“Well, you said it first, and you barked at him too.”

“I did not bark at him. You're the one who…” I blinked my eyes and glanced around. “Drover, when this thing started, we were asleep, right?” He nodded. “In other words, our minds might not have been operating at full capacity?” He nodded.

I crept across the room and peeked into the kitchen, then returned to the spot where Drover was waiting. “It's Slim. He's eating a turkey neck. I'm canceling Ranch Red Alert.”

“Oh good!”

“And Drover…” I moved closer and lowered my voice. “I think it would be best if we kept this to ourselves—you know, inside the Security Division.”

“You mean…”

“Yes. That business about Slim being a Charlie Monster…ha ha…it's so ridiculous, we don't need to spread it around.”

“Yeah, somebody might think we're just a couple of dumb dogs.”

“Exactly, and think of what a bad effect that could have on morale. We must protect ourselves from lies and gossip.”

“Yeah, even when they're true.”

“Especially when they're true. Lies that contain a germ of truth can be very contagious, so here's our story: We heard dogs barking but it wasn't us. We don't know anything about anything. Got it?”

He grinned and gave me a wink. “Got it.”

“Good! Now, let's go into the kitchen and see what's going on.”

Okay, we'd had a little mix-up, a simple case of mistaken identity. Ha ha. But when a guy's jerked out of a deep sleep, he sometimes…anyway, let's back off and start all over again.

It must have been around the end of May. Wait. May comes in the spring, right? We were still in wintertime. It was the last day of December, New Year's Eve day to be exact, the very day that Slim and I learned a lot more about gathering buffalo than we ever wanted to know, but that comes later. At this point in the story, you're not supposed to know about the scary part.

You heard nothing about buffalo, right? Thanks.

Okay, Drover and I had spent the past week camped out at Slim's bachelor shack, two miles east of ranch headquarters. We often camped there in the winter because Slim was kind enough to let us sleep inside the house, near his wood-burning stove.

See, our main office at ranch headquarters can be a little drafty in the dead of winter. I mean, sometimes I speak of it as “our Vast Office Complex,” but the truth is, it consists of two old gunny sacks beneath a pair of three hundred gallon fuel tanks. No heater and no walls to stop the whistling north wind that often comes in the winter months.

I'm not whining or complaining, and I'm not going to say a word about Management being too CHEAP to build us the kind of office complex we deserve. I'm sure Loper had his reasons for putting the entire Security Division in a cramped, drafty little FLEABAG OF AN OFFICE beneath the gas tanks, although I can't imagine what they were.

On the other hand, Slim Chance, the hired hand on our outfit, had an enlightened policy about Dogs In The House, and in the depths of winter, we often chose to move the entire staff two miles down the creek to his place. There, in the Security Division's Winter Headquarters, we conducted ranch business in the living room, beside a big, friendly, wood-burning stove.

That's where we were on that Saturday morning, New Year's Eve day of whatever year it was, and the time had come for us to greet the Master of the House and find out what in thunder he was doing, wandering around the house at three o'clock in the morning.

You'll see. It was pretty strange.

BOOK: The Case of the Three Rings
11.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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