By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton
Joe Pickette is the game warden for the district that surrounds Saddlestring, Wyo. Each season brings new responsibilities: hunting season, fishing season, even an antler shed season. January is the slow season, mostly because of the weather, but also because it’s not the start of any particular “season.” For reasons that Joe fails to understand, the new governor, Colton Allen, asks him to investigate the case of a missing British citizen, Kate Shelford-Langdon. Shelford-Langdon is the high-profile CEO of a prosperous British advertising agency.
After Kate Shelford-Longdon had spent a week at Silver Creek Resort Ranch, she had failed to return to Denver to catch her flight home. Cowgirl Kate, as the tabloids called her, had left the ranch in plenty of time. Investigations by local and state authorities had failed to locate her. It was now an international incident, and the governor wanted it solved. As did Silver Creek; it wasn’t the kind of notoriety that anyone desired. That made it even more of a mystery that a game warden had been commissioned for the job. Even more mysterious was the disappearance of the local Saratoga warden. Was there a connection?
While Joe was in Saratoga, trying to grasp the whole situation, he received a visit from an old friend, known as an outlaw falconer, largely because he refused to get the appropriate permits. Nate Romanowski, the falconer, had a companion along who was there seeking help. He, too, was a falconer, one of the few licensed to hunt with an eagle. But the federal government had shut down eagle permits for seemingly no reason. Joe apparently had the ear of the new governor. Would he put in a good word that would maybe get to the feds?
Since Joe had his hands full, and Romanowski currently had little to do, he volunteered to stay and help. Joe was reluctant to accept the offer because Romanowski tended to take the law in his own hands. After the proper warning, however, Joe divided the list of people that must be questioned about the mysteries at hand. Romanowski drew the assignment to check out the Teubner Fish Hatchery, a contractor for Silver Creek Ranch.
On the way to the hatchery, Romanowski was forced into an elongated detour around the ever-expanding Buckbrush Wind Energy Project, the largest project of its kind in the world. As it turned out, this was of more interest to Nate Romanowski than the hatchery.
Since Buckbrush occasionally came to the Silver Creek to seek permission for tower expansion, perhaps they were involved in Cowboy Kate’s disappearance, and if not that, the disappearance of game warden Steve Pollock?
There is a related story line. An area lumberyard uses a sawdust burner to get rid of that waste product. The burner is used at night and gets up to 1,000 degrees. Lately a neighbor, Carol Schmidt, has noted strange traffic there at night and an odor that is not woodsmoke. Her report of that joins several complaints she has made to 911.
Joe has managed to find and talk to the missing warden, Steve Pollock. Steve had been in a down period of his personal life, and Buckbrush Wind Energy had offered him money to leave. Although he had second thoughts now, at the time he just couldn’t turn it down. So, he left.
How was Buckbrush involved in all this? And why was Joe Pickett? And for that matter, where was Kate Shelford-Longdon?