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TINY WASNT SUPPOSED TO be on duty till midnight, but now everything was out of whack. Chuck Yancey phoned him at two twenty-five and said, We got an emergency here. Put on your uniform and come on down.

I need transport.

Sigh. Mortll be there in five minutes.

So five minutes later, when Mort Pessle arrived at Chesters old house, Tiny was in the brown uniform, in which he looked mostly like a bungalow. He got into the backseat, and along the way Mort told him the situation: They got Mr. Hall.

Who got Mr. Hall?

Dont know yet. They were in a horse trailer.

Tiny wasnt loving this conversation. Who was in a horse trailer?

Whoever took Mr. Hall, Mort said. Thats how they got him off the compound.

In a horse trailer.

Chucks really mad, Mort said, meaning Chuck Yancey, the boss of security.

And that was true enough. When Tiny walked into the office, Mort having gone back to duty on the gate, Heck Fiedler stood to one side, looking scared and trying to look invisible, while Chuck Yancey paced back and forth like a very irritated tiger. Glaring at Tiny, he said, This happened on my watch.

Tiny nodded. Mort says they used a horse trailer.

Goddamn horse trailer. Yancey punched the air and kept on pacing. Nobody looked inside it.

Sounding as scared as he looked, Heck said, There was a horse in it. You could see the horse.

You could see the horses ass, Chuck snarled at him. You could see that, could you? Recognize that, did you? Old home week, huh? Like looking in a mirror, was it?

To maybe take a little heat off Heck, who probably shouldnt have spoken up, Tiny said, Whats a horse trailer doing in here?

Chuck turned his glare on Tiny, who didnt mind. Hall asked for it, he announced. Called down yesterday, says a horse is coming, in a trailer, with a guy named Glare at Heck again. What was that name?

Jay Gilly, Heck said, and blinked a lot.

Thatll turn out to be a fake, Chuck snarled, and said to Tiny, Hall says its coming, let it through. It came, it was let through. It went back out again. Fifteen minutes later, Mrs. Hall calls down, Wheres my husband? Nobody knows. Guess who didnt look in the horse trailer, going in or out.

We never search anything going out, Heck said, not yet having learned the wisdom of silence.

He got the full Yancey glare this time. Some of us, Chuck said, spacing his words, dont bother to search things going in either.

Tiny said, What do you think theyd of found?

Men, Chuck said. There had to be people hidden in the trailer, to grab Hall when he came out to look at the horse, and hold him down while they drove past Heck here. Did you wave, Heck?

Heck might actually have answered that question, but Tiny said, Well, if they took him away, that means at least they didnt wanna kill him.

Or maybe, Chuck said, they wanted time to torture him first.

Thats a possibility.

On my watch, Chuck said. I thought I was better than that.

You are, Chief, the unquenchable Heck said. It was my screw-up, and I feel awful about it.

Chuck gave him a long smoldering look. Im thinking, he said, of some way to make you feel worse.

Tiny said, You wanted me down here. What am I supposed to do?

Were waiting, Chuck told him, for the cops to get here.

Oh, Tiny said. You called the cops?

Chuck gave him the kind of look hed been giving Heck. Who else you gonna call? he demanded. Miss Marple?

Not unless we find a body, Tiny said, and Chuck could be seen to gather himself for an intemperate response when Kelp walked in.

Which took Tiny a few seconds to realize. Somehow, this was a different Kelp. The suit and tie were part of it, but there was something in the stance as well, and the look in his eye. This was a Kelp whod received a battlefield commission, who was suddenly an officer and a gentleman, and who was feeling pretty good about the fact.

Well, Captain Yancey, Kelp said, this is a fine mess, isnt it?

Not captain any more, Mr. Blanchard, Chuck said, though it was clear he liked the title. Those were my army days.

You earned the rank, Captain, Kelp assured him. Its yours forever.

Well, thank you, Mr. Blanchard, Chuck said. All his fury seemed to have drained away. Even Heck was looking less scared. Whats the word from the main house?

Well, Kelp said, in his blandest and most deadpan manner, it seems they took Rumsey, too.

Chuck looked quizzical. Rumsey?

The butler, Kelp explained.

Tiny couldnt help it; he laughed. Everybody looked at him in surprise. Chuck, as though he might get angry again, said, Swope? You find something funny?

The butler, Tiny said, and did not wipe the smirk off his face. Hes gonna be mad, he said.

| The Road to Ruin | c