The Ranch (Part 4)
Updated: Sep 24
Sherman stood before the deputy, who leaned back in his chair. A pencil held to his lip, Deputy Justin Henley looked up at Sherman, the dirty rancher, over bag heavy eyes and mulled the story over in his head with a distaste similar to week old mutton. Finally, Deputy Henley set the pencil down on his desk as gently as he could without showing his irritation in the wasted half hour. Over the last few months, they had received any number of reports of UFOs, of little green men, of people being abducted, and he was already at his end with it. The rancher, Justin had to say, was not the usual suspect for such fame seeking lies. The protesters who had come in, and were pests to almost all nearby towns at this point, were always sucking up resources from their small department.
“Officer, I am not a dumb man. I know how this sounds.” Sherman stated what was written on Deputy Henley’s face. “At least acknowledge that I have a mutilated cow, and it’s going to cost my family dearly.”
“Ok.” Justin nodded. “I just want to rehash what you’ve told me. You have been experiencing odd things, to include a giant wolf, things missing, UFOs,” Justin was counting off his fingers.
“I never said UFOs, I said lights.” Sherman cut his count short.
“Ok, lights, lights that flew into the air, and became an unidentified object.” Justin reiterated. “Then, today, you found your cow cut up on your ranch.”
“Ok, I will take a look at your cow. Can I follow you out there?”
“Yes, I’m ready to go now.”
Deputy Henley followed Sherman out to his family’s property. They took their trucks as far as they could up to the trees and then dismounted to continue on foot. The heat and anxiety missed into a bitter concoction in Sherman’s throat as he led the deputy to the meadow. Coming out from underneath the dark shade of the trees, the bugs had intensified since Sherman’s earlier visit. His heart leapt. He almost expected to not find the cow, that somehow it would be gone, and he would be painted a liar, a fool, a charlatan. But the body was there, covered in large thick flies and odd long flying insects he had never seen before.
A sharp whistle emitted from Deputy Henley. “They did a number on the poor girl.” Deputy Henley pulled out a small digital camera from his pocket and snapped a picture of the cow. He moved to several sides and snapped more pictures. “You said you saw lights on your property the previous night, right?”
“Yeah.” Sherman answered with his arms crossed as the deputy snapped several more pictures.
“You have not been able to get close to these lights. Is that also correct?”
“That’s what I stated.”
“Ok Mr. Green.” Deputy Henley put his camera away. “I think, we likely have nasty criminals here. I don’t think this is any predator. I would wager those lights you saw were your perpetrators.”
“But the lights took off into the air.” Sherman could see Deputy Henley draw in. The words of skepticism missed in whatever nicety he was trying to form.
“I understand Mr. Green. I believe you think it looked like the lights floated.” Deputy Henley looked back at the carcass and drew up with the solution he felt would settle the spooked rancher. “I don’t see anything here I can use to help pin down who did this. I think it is best we try and get a pattern established.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, these folks obviously did the work here on your land. So we can’t go looking for the cattle because they took the meat. I think we set up cameras on the property, try to see if they return. The department has a set of hunting cameras we can receipt out and establish to try to catch them.” Deputy Henley leaned on his belt and studied Sherman’s posture. “Is that acceptable, Mr. Green?”
Sherman spat out instead of stating what the foul thoughts he really wanted to say. He knew resistance would not work. “Fine. It’s a start.”
“I’ll be back later in the day with four units. I will go around the property with you and we can decide the best locations to plant them. I or one of the other officers will come back and pick up the memory cards and scan them. We’ll let you know if we find anything on them.”
With Deputy Henley departing their property, Sherman headed back towards home. As he wheeled around to the front of their home, Terry and Amy were outside. Terry sat on the front step, his head hung between his knees. He was white as a ghost. Amy was standing with her arms crossed, looking green, sick like. Sherman climbed out of his truck, bracing for whatever issue it was he was about to walk into.
Terry relayed the story to his father. The entire situation with the drone, the fence, and how he felt like he was being chased and heard voices. Sherman cleared his throat at the end of Terry’s story as he looked up to the sky as the sun was making its way across the bleak afternoon sky.
“We need to get that fence reinstalled.” Sherman stated.
“Honey, I don’t think anyone should be out there.” Amy countered.
“Look I get it. I can’t have us being the crazy family with these events. The Deputy that just left here thinks it’s goddamn rustlers!” He said, pointing his finger down the road as emphasis. “He’s coming back with cameras to catch—whatever this is. If the fence is down when he returns, he is never going to believe the story. He’s going to think he’s right, and that’s where they came in.”
“Fine.” She threw her hands up. “I’m going inside. I’m not going out there.”
“Dad.” Terry stated once Amy had shut the door behind her. “I tried charging my phone. It’s not taking it. It’s like it’s broken or something.”
“I’ll get you a new one.”
“It’s not that. I lost my drone, too. It’s like whatever that light was killed the electronics.” Sherman nodded at what Terry was explaining to him, but he could not think of what to do with the information. He kicked at a rock and looked back at the fiery ball in the sky and back at his son.
“I don’t know what to do, Terry. We got to get that fence up, though, no matter what.”
Father and son spent the next couple of hours repairing the section of fence. Their rifles slowed them. They had brought their rifles and kept them slung on their backs as they worked. Terry was slowed further by the constant glances back. The hesitation to be too near any vegetation that may conceal an attack. Too cautious of any task that would take away their security posture away from the surroundings. Perhaps with their alertness, or despite it, the task was finished. As father and son returned home, they came up just as Deputy Henley had parked his truck at the ranch and Amy emerged from the house in her Sunday best.
“Mr. and Mrs. Green.” Deputy Henley greeted them as a family.
“Deputy.” Amy greeted him with a curt handshake. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I am just on my way out to town.”
“Where you off to, honey?”
“The town. Forgot some things at the market.” She brushed Sherman off as she traded spaces with Sherman in the truck.
“Alright, well, be safe.” Sherman stated, unable to address with wife with the Deputy next to him.
“You ready to get these cameras up?” Deputy Henley asked Sherman.
“Yeah.” He watched his wife speed off down the road. “Let’s get to it.”
Amy sped down the long road. Sherman may very well be doing it the slow and steady method, but she intended to go straight to the newspaper, the radio, to anyone who would hear her. Pulling into town, she made her first stop at the Texas Tribune, the closest and largest paper she could hope to get the word out to. She walked into the studio and a young and eager receptionist greeted her with a well-tanned Texas face. The small nameplate on the desk read Richard Hammer.
Amy relayed the story to the young Richard. As she finished the last of the details, a wide smile split Richard’s face. She let out an exasperated breath. The man stared with the smile, too long for comfort.
“You’re fucking kidding me, right?” Amy stood still as a statue. Her throat constricted like a boa. “Mrs. Green, right? Listen, we’ve had a stream of people coming to us over the last few weeks with all sorts of conspiracies and claims of abductions. We don’t have time to spend on any of your out of towners with these phony stories.”
“I’m a goddamn local!” Amy burst. The small office lit up with eyes that looked at her.
“Right. I don’t think this story meets our requirements, Mrs. Green.” Richard picked up his phone and began to dial a number. “Have a good day.” He said, dismissing her.
Amy stepped back out. She recalled seeing a radio station not far when they first came through the town to view their ranch. She would try there next. In the truck, she spun out to her next stop. There, the concrete building at the far end of town was a hard eye-sore of a building with the large antenna going up into the sky. She tried the door, which had been securely locked. She tried to view inside by cupping her hands around her eyes to view through the heavily tinted window. She could only see the dark reflection of her own eyes. She backed away, looking at the radio, and under the name of the station was a number to call in stories.
Amy returned to her truck and fished out her phone from her purse. She quickly dialed the number on the sign of the radio station. She was greeted with an automated voice that introduced the radio station and hosts. Then came a series of options for her to pick from, and the third option was “for stories you want heard” and she chose that third option. In the next menu, she was instructed to leave her name, number, and a brief description of the story she was pitching. After an audible beep, she did just as instructed.
Finally, Amy let out a sigh that loosened her chest. She sat behind the wheel of the truck, considering her next options. She did not want to go back to the ranch. She could not bear another occurrence happening, and she certainly did not want to be around Sherman and the Deputy. A pang of guilt struck her that Terry was likely home alone, but even the maternal instinct could not get her to return. She decided she would get herself a tea and wait until the evening settled in and she at least knew that the deputy was gone.
She chose a random location, discovered a diner, and with few patrons, was likely on the verge of going extinct. There, in the unnamed diner, Amy sat with only a hot tea. As she sipped the tea, she realized that if the groggy taste of the water that came through the tea was anything to go by; it was best the little diner died off for some new venture to replace it. With the hot tea slowly cooling, Amy was trying to just hold the relief that came with the hope someone would listen to her. Then her phone rang. She saw an unidentified, but local number calling her.
“Hello?” Amy answered the phone.
“Is this Amy Green?” A husky voice asked.
“It is. May I ask who is calling?”
“My name is Bill Rust. I am a reporter for the Twilight Times. A friend of mine heard your message, and it didn’t fit his need for a radio story, so he passed it off to me. I wanted to know if I could meet you to get some more information?”
“Yes, I’m still in town and available now if you’d like to talk.”
“Perfect. I am, where are you?”
After Amy shared her location with the reporter, she sat patiently and waited. To keep her spot at the diner, she ordered a soda, which was much more pleasant to sip over the foul tasting tea. Soon a tall man, with dark hair and dark stubble across a chiseled jaw, came into the diner. The man came right to Amy’s table. Wearing a black shirt and khaki colored cargo pants, he was not the type of man Amy would have imagined to be a reported.
“Amy?” The man asked.
“Yes!” Amy stood, greeting the man. The two sat as Bill produced a small notepad and pen.
“Sounds like you’ve had a hell of an ordeal.”
“You won’t believe it. We thought this was heaven we had moved in, and it’s a nightmare.” Bill nodded.
“My wife and I moved out here to get away from the big cities. It’s great for our prepping lifestyle, isolated, but it’s attracted a lot of other unusual activity. That’s why I’m a reporter!” The man crackled.
“Then you’re going to love this.”
“I’m all ears.”
Amy began relaying the story of her family’s life since the purchase of the ranch. Bill buried his pen to the pages of his small notepad and jotted away.
That night at the ranch, Amy returned as dark had just started to settle in. The family gathered at the dinner table, with all doors double locked, for supper. Terry glanced back and forth between his two parents. His father’s shoulders were hanging low and his forehead showed more creases than Terry recalled him having. Dried sweat left a dry, cracking look on his father’s skin, and the gray was starting to come in heavy in his hair. His mother, Amy, rattled with movement. Her right leg was like a piston, pumping up and down under the table. She picked at her plate more than she ate.
“What did the Deputy say today, dad?” Terry asked.
“We placed cameras at the center point of all the fence lines. He thinks it’s just vandals.” His father set aside his own utensils. Terry heard his mother cluck her tongue and scoff under her breath. “Where did you go today?” Sherman asked to Amy.
“I went to the newspaper. I was basically laughed at.” She too tossed her fork down, which clang against the plate. “But I found another reporter who at least took the story down.”
Then the cows began to moo outside. Sherman bolted up to the window. Terry and Amy joined him. The mooing increased, and the distress was undeniable. In the dark, Terry watched the cows gather in the field. Like the cows were being herded by an energetic dog, but no other animal was visible in the dark. Sherman started for the door and Terry followed quick behind on his heels. Outside, they could see the cows moving in a tight pack in a large circle. The cows hollered and mooed and continued the pattern of movement.
“Dad, I only see two sets of horns.” Terry withered.
Sherman tried to count as the cows shifted and changed. Soon Sherman grumbled. “You’re right.” They had three bulls, but only two were present. They watched the herd come around. In a tight group, their moos had faded. They came right up to the corral fence. There came a long pause in their movements, like the cows were suddenly entranced by their presence. Then, like a hypnotist’s snap, the cows went back to their normal behavior.