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by Clair M. Poulson

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Product Description

With warm sand between his toes, private investigator Rocky Revada is finally taking a well-deserved vacation. But the emotional pleas of a pretty woman have somehow lodged inside the usually practical investigator’s head. As he mulls it over, probing the theft of an expensive roping horse seems much more interesting than the mundane pleasures of sun, surf, and dinners alone. However, when Rocky arrives at Glenn Gridley’s northern Utah ranch, he unearths far more trouble than he bargained for. Multiple horses have been stolen from the cantankerous rancher and have been mysteriously replaced with worthless look-alikes. Then Gridley’s attractive and persuasive daughter, Shanice, finds someone from her past on the family property—very much dead. What started as a simple investigation of theft has escalated into a murder investigation, and as Rocky edges closer to the truth, he is targeted as the next victim. Tensions peak, and Rocky realizes he must shield Shanice and her daughter from an unknown enemy. It seems someone wants to destroy the entire Gridley family. Now Rocky must summon every bit of his faith and courage to protect the woman he has come to love as he is tested in the fires of his most dangerous case to date.

Product Details

  • Size:  6 x 9
  • Pages:  304
  • Released:  05/2012
  • Book on CD:  Unabridged

About the Author

Clair M. Poulson retired after twenty years in law enforcement. During his career he served in the U.S. Military Police Corps, the Utah Highway Patrol, and the Duchesne County Sheriff’s Department, where he was first a deputy and the the county sheriff. He currently serves as a justice court judge for Duchesne County, a position he has held for nineteen years. His nearly forty-year career working in the criminal justice system has provided a wealth of material from which he draws in writing his books.

Clair has served on numerous boards and committees over the years. Among them are the Utah Judicial Council, and FBI advisory board, the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, the Utah Justice Court Board of Directors, and the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.

Other interests include activity in the LDS Church, assisting his oldest son in operating their grocery store, ranching with his oldest son and other family members, and raising registered Missouri Fox Trotter horses.

Clair and his wife, Ruth, live in Duchesne and are the parents of five married children. They have twenty-two grandchildren.

Chapter One

“Ah, this is the ticket,” I breathed aloud, plunging my bare feet
into the roiling water of my hotel’s outdoor Jacuzzi and taking a
strawberry smoothie in hand. This was precisely the way a vacation
should be—full of rest, relaxation, good food, and, most of all, peace.
I opened my eyes just long enough to take in the ocean horizon
stretching in front of me, then closed them and sunk up to my chest
into the massaging jets. Two weeks in sunny San Diego had been
a good idea, and I had come at just the right time. April meant no
students, few families—I practically had the hotel to myself during
the day—and of course, great weather.

A musical ring sounded from a nearby pool chair. I had an
incoming phone call. Leave it, Rocky. Leave it. I squeezed my eyes tighter,
convincing myself to ignore my phone and focus on my emotional wellbeing—
the stress of the past year had really taken its toll on me. But
habit is strong. By the time I had grabbed a towel and picked up my
pants from the chair, the ringtone had started its merry tune again.
I pulled the phone out of a front pocket and, without checking
who was calling, said, “Hello, this is Rocky.”

“Rocky, I need a favor.” I recognized that commanding voice
almost immediately. Glenn Gridley, wealthy cattle rancher, professional
rodeo calf roper, and ill-tempered old man.

“Hello, Glenn. I’m out of town right now,” I said shortly. Glenn
and I went way back. I had worked on his ranch for a year before his
mission and had done a series of investigations for him over the years.
But our last meeting hadn’t ended well at all, and I was not in the
mood to take up another of his projects.

“Don’t give me that, Rocky,” he growled. It was hard to forget

that deep voice when it was raging. It was on the brink of rage now.

“Someone stole my best roping horse!”

“What?” I paused as I processed this information. I was familiar
with the horse in question: a solid brown quarter horse that had
brought fame and fortune to his owner throughout the rodeo circuit.
A horseman myself, and a fan of rodeos, I had watched from the
stands numerous times as Glenn and Badger won competition after
competition over the past three years. Badger, a six-year-old stallion,
was said to be valued at somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter
of a million dollars. Besides winning a lot of money in the rodeo
arena, he brought his owner five thousand dollars every time he stood
at stud, and he was in high demand. If Badger was, indeed, missing,
this was a real tragedy.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said sincerely. “What are the police
doing about it?”

“I haven’t reported it,” he said, the anger in his voice so strong
now that it made me wonder how a guy could be so cantankerous
when asking for help.

“Why—”

“I have my reasons, Rocky. Don’t push me on this. I want Badger
back. After you find him, then we’ll talk about going to the cops.”

I sat on the pool chair next to my pile of clothes and looked out
over the blue Pacific while I thought about what to say next. I was
not about to give up my vacation to Glenn Gridley. Although I knew
him to be a decent man—and he clearly loved his family, as I’d seen
firsthand—he and I were not exactly friends. He had a volatile temper
that could erupt without warning, and that kind of personality gets
tedious after a while. I found myself regretting not changing my cell
phone number when I had the chance, but I hadn’t expected to hear
from him again after his tirade six months ago.

I heard a faint “You there, Rocky?” from my phone as I thought
back on that day years ago. It was late October, and I was representing
a client who I later discovered was married to Glenn’s
youngest sister. They were in a nasty divorce battle, and Glenn’s
brother-in-law had retained me to look into certain activities he
claimed his wife was involved in. The moment I learned that the
Gridleys were involved, I was ready to back out, but then I uncovered
evidence that my client was lying both to me and to his soon-to-be
ex-wife. I had not yet finished my report when I got a visit at my
office from Glenn and his three daughters. That was a memorable day
in more ways than one.

“Rocky!”

I guess I’d stalled long enough. I wasn’t at all sure that I would
like to have Glenn Gridley for a client again. I could envision us
butting heads. “Mr. Gridley,” I began. I could hear his breathing
quicken at my formal address. “I am unavailable at the moment. I am
out of state and don’t expect to return for a while yet.”

“How are you going to find my horse if you aren’t even in the
area?” the upset rancher demanded.

“I don’t recall telling you that I’d take your case,” I said mildly.
“And after our meeting in my office in October—”

He cut me off. “Forget that,” he said, as if his simply giving the
order meant that I could easily wipe our previous association from my
rather good memory. “I was angry because I thought that you were
trying to spread dirt about my little sister. My daughters convinced me
that you did, in fact, do her a favor. I was wrong, and I apologized.”
Indeed he had. And it was true that I had done him a favor. But I
look for truth, not for dirt. Once Glenn had become calm enough to
listen to me and his three daughters, he’d told me that he appreciated
what I’d done. But I will never forget his angry accusations against
me. From that point on, I had promised myself that I’d have nothing
to do with Glenn Gridley.

I hadn’t completed my thought, so I said, “I don’t know why you
want me to go after your horse. I got the impression that you didn’t
care much for me. If you can’t trust me, I don’t see how we can work
together.”

“Look,” Glenn said, taking a deep breath. I could tell he was
trying to keep his tone light but it was a struggle. “I know things
haven’t been that great between us for a long time, but I need your
help today. I want my horse back, pronto. You know what his disappearance
means to me.”

There was a long pause. Then he said, “This has nothing to do
with personal feelings. It was my brother-in-law who I didn’t like,
not you. I admit that you were fair. And I believe you can accomplish
what I don’t want to ask the cops to do—I don’t want or need
that kind of publicity. Also, they probably wouldn’t work as hard at
solving it as I think you would. You know our family better than any
cop.” That almost sounded like a compliment.

“Glenn,” I tried again as I strolled toward the salty water of the
Pacific. “I am far away on vacation. Let me suggest a couple of other
investigators you might try.”

That wasn’t the answer he was after. “You do investigations!” he
exploded. “My money is as good as the next guy’s. Name your fee,
and I’ll have a check ready as quick as you can get back.”

This wasn’t going well. I heard a female voice in the background,
a gentle, calming voice that I recognized. My heart did a small flip as
I listened to her say, “Dad, shouting at him isn’t going to help. You
know he can do the job. Why don’t you let me talk to him?”

I could picture the proprietor of that voice as though she were
standing in front of me. Shanice Gridley was a special person to
me. Even though she was four years my junior, being with her
had always felt comfortable, and we’d spent a lot of time together
when I worked for Glenn. I will always remember her long, brown
hair flying in the wind as we rode through the fields of her father’s
ranch, inspecting fences, checking cattle, and laughing about her
younger sister Cindy’s many admirers. The last time I had seen
Shanice, Cindy, and their youngest sister, Jena, had been at that
October meeting in my office.

Glenn’s voice was slightly softer when he spoke again. “Shanice
wants to talk to you,” he said. “If you won’t listen to me, perhaps
you’ll listen to her.” Apparently she still had a calming effect on him.
Maybe she would understand that I was on vacation, that I really
wasn’t in any position to begin an investigation right now—not for
Glenn or anyone else.

“That’s fine,” I said, not bothering to tell him that I’d listened to
every word Shanice had just said. What I’d done was reject his request
for help. If he interpreted that as my not listening, then I supposed
that I’d be accused of not listening to his daughter as well.
“Hi, Rocky. How are you?” Shanice asked. Her voice seemed
slightly deeper than I remembered. Sadder, even?

“Hi, Shanice. I’m great. How are you doing?” The conversation

had just begun, and yet suddenly, I didn’t want it to end. I missed
talking to Shanice Gridley.

“I’m fine. I’m sorry to ask you to take this case, but it’s really
important to us. We love Badger, and the ranch just won’t be the same
without him. I don’t know what we’ll do if we don’t get him back.”
I could already feel my resolve wavering, but I tried to remind
myself of the importance of my time in California. I hadn’t taken a
vacation for years. Who knows when I’d do it again?

“It’s great to talk to you, Shanice, but I’m on vacation right now,”
I said. “The past six months have been crazy. It took a lot to get away,
and I just don’t think I can take the case. You understand, right?”

“Of course I understand, but I’m sure you also realize how much
we need you. No one knows our family, or our horses, better than
you. Our horses are our life—we love them like family. And you
really are the best private investigator Dad’s ever seen.” I could hear
Shanice’s emotion through her words. She was desperate.
But her approach wasn’t fair. Glenn was concerned about the
value of the horse both now and in the future. Shanice, on the other
hand, cared about the horse as an individual, much as I felt about my
two horses. She made Badger’s theft a personal rather than a financial
matter. As I walked along the beach in front of the hotel, I finally
squared my shoulders and focused on what was in front of me. The
cool Pacific Ocean rolled over my feet as a large wave pushed ashore,
and I made my decision.

“Shanice,” I began. “As I explained to your father, I am on vacation
and won’t be back in Utah for several days. You need someone
who can go to work right now. I can give you names of several great
investigators who might be willing to help you.”

There was no angry outburst, just a pleading request as she said,
“I remember how smart and persistent you are. I know you probably
thought you’d never hear from us again, but we need you. I convinced
Dad of this, and he agreed to call you. Please, we need your help,
Rocky. You understand our love for horses. Most of all, you know
us, so I think you would be more likely to work harder for us than
someone who doesn’t. I hate to think what some awful person might
be doing to that wonderful horse.”

I took a deep breath. This sort of case needed immediate action,
and I was enjoying my time alone on the beach. I was looking
forward to another week away from the pressures of my work. “I’m
sorry, Shanice,” I said. “I’m simply not available now. I’ll be back in a
week. When I get there, if you haven’t found Badger, then I’d be glad
to help. In the meantime, you might consider trying someone else.”

The phone was silent for a long moment. I could hear Shanice
breathing into it. When she spoke again, there was resignation in her
voice. “I’m sorry we bothered you. And I understand the fact that you
don’t have time to help us right now. I should have known better than
to try to persuade you to return home and go back to work. One of the
things I’ve learned about you over the years is that you don’t let emotions
persuade you. You work on facts, no matter which way they lead.”

“Thank you,” I said. “Let me refer a couple of other investigators.”
I gave her their names and told her where to find their numbers.

“If I were your father, I’d also make a call to the Box Elder County
Sheriff,” I added. “I don’t know him well, but I know him by reputation.
I hear he’s a very good lawman.” Then I said something I probably
shouldn’t have, considering that I was on vacation. “If neither of
the men I mentioned work out, call me back.”

I’d no sooner broken the connection than I regretted saying that.
I could only hope that one of my colleagues would take the job. If
not, I had almost made a commitment. But I consoled myself with
the hope that one of them would take the case. If so, it was probably
the last time that this family would call me.

The surf was much higher now, and I decided to hit the water
for a little while. I returned to the pool area to grab my clothes, then
walked back to the beach and left the items on top of my towel a
short distance from the water. Then I waded into the ocean, pulled
on a pair of goggles, and backstroked between a nearby buoy and the
shore for the next thirty minutes, frequently checking to make sure
no one messed with my stuff on shore.

At around four p.m., I dried myself off, flashed a weak smile at a
couple of young women who walked by, and then picked up a book
in my room before heading for the pool area. Reading proved futile,
however; I couldn’t get the call from Glenn and Shanice Gridley out
of my head.

Back in my hotel room, I showered and then sat down to plan the
evening and the next day. There were a number of places I’d considered
visiting when I first decided to take a vacation, but strangely,
none of them held as much appeal now as they had done then. I had
already visited a couple of temples in the area, attending a session in
each one. I’d also gone to church in a singles ward in Los Angeles on
Sunday. In the back of my head, I’d hoped that I’d find a pretty, single
woman who might agree to spend an evening or two with me and
guide me to the most interesting places in the city.

I’d dated some in my life, but at thirty-two, I’d never even come
close to marriage. I’d thought that maybe I’d find a prospect in a
singles ward in LA. That had been a stupid idea. I didn’t meet anyone
that sparked much interest in me, and if I had, I don’t know that
I’d have worked up the courage to ask her out. Part of my problem,
I now realized, was that I was looking for the perfect girl. In fact, if
I were honest with myself, there was no question that I compared
every girl I met with Shanice Gridley. We’d been very close before my
mission, and I had secret hopes of dating her when I returned. But it
wasn’t meant to be. She’d been married for six months by the time my
mission was complete.

I had to admit that I wasn’t exactly secure when it came to dating.
I knew my failings, and I had always been afraid that the women
I met could readily see them as well. I wanted a wife who I could
connect with on a deeper level, and yet I don’t think I’d ever given
another girl a chance. I had been fooling myself all these years, and
because of that, I was quite lonely. Maybe I’d always be lonely.
I lounged around for a few hours in my hotel room and then ate
dinner at a restaurant on the top floor, alone. That was my life: alone.
After dinner, I wondered what to do with myself. I realized with a
start that my vacation wasn’t all I had been telling myself it was; I was
bored stiff. I pulled out my cell phone and made a call.

“Hello, this is Glenn Gridley,” I heard a crusty voice answer. He
was clearly still upset over the loss of his horse. Well, I’d called him
this time, so I guessed I’d get to the point.

“Glenn, this is Rocky Revada.”

“Your friends are no more agreeable than you are,” Mr. Gridley
growled.

“They aren’t exactly my friends; they are my competition,” I

corrected the rancher.

“Then why did you refer me to them?” he asked accusingly.

“Because I’m on vacation,” I admitted.

“So what is this call about?” he asked. “Have you thought of
someone else you might refer me to?”

I took a couple of breaths before speaking. This guy could prove
to be a difficult client. But since his call earlier, and especially after
talking to his daughter, I had lost interest in my vacation. I let out the
second deep breath and said, “I think I can be back by morning, if
that’s not too late.”

Glenn Gridley might be a short-tempered guy, but he was also a
decisive one. “You’re hired,” he said with finality. “Call me as soon as
you’re back. We’ll meet you at your office first thing.” I assumed that
meant him and Shanice, and maybe a son-in-law and other daughters
as well.

I was lucky and got a flight that would have me back in Salt Lake
City by eleven that night. That meant that I could be in my house
on my small farm outside Logan before one in the morning. I’d call
Glenn at eight and be at the office shortly after that.

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Fantastic

by  Erin  -   reviewed on  June 08, 2012

Clair Poulson keeps getting better with every turn of the page. He has a fantastic ability to tell a story like no other. I loved every minute of this book. It was a great story with many different twist and turns. Buy this book. Do it now. It is totally worth the money!!!

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Amazing!

by  Shauna  -   reviewed on  September 25, 2012

Rocky, a private investigator, is on a much needed vacation...that is...until Glenn calls and asks for Rocky's help in finding a missing horse. But this case turns out to be more than anyone could have ever suspected... Along the way deception will be revealed, murders and kidnappings will take place, embezzlement will happen, and even Rocky's life will be put on the line. Can Rocky find the ones responsible before they close the case on him? An amazing read!

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