فصل 10

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CHAPTER TEN

The Chief

The light was coming from a room behind the secret door. In the room there was a stall. And in the stall there was a big brown horse.

I had heard a strange noise on my first visit to Stable 14. Now I understood. The noise had come from this room.

I walked towards the horse.

‘Stand still!’ a man’s voice said. Something hard and sharp was pushed into my back. I knew the voice. I started to turn towards the man.

‘Stand still!’ the man said again. ‘Throw your gun behind you. Then lie down on the floor.’

I did what the man told me to do. I lay on the floor and I waited for a few seconds. Then I turned over very quickly. Lou Weaver was standing beside me. He was holding a large fork. It was a fork that was used for moving straw. Very quickly, I pulled the fork from Lou’s hands and I kicked his legs. I kicked them very hard. Lou gave a loud cry and he fell down on the floor beside me.

I picked up my gun and I moved over to Lou. I sat on his chest. The old man couldn’t move. And I had the gun.

‘OK, Lou,’ I said. ‘Do you remember me?’

‘Yes, I remember you,’ Lou replied. ‘You came to the ranch yesterday.’ Then he looked at my security pass. ‘Are you an official here?’ he asked. He was frightened.

‘No,’ I said. ‘My name’s Lenny Samuel. I’m a private detective. I’m working for Sandy Bonner. I’m looking for The Chief.’

I showed Lou my detective’s licence. He was surprised.

‘OK,’ he said. ‘You’ve found The Chief. But Sandy knows where he is.’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘Let me get up and I’ll tell you everything,’ Lou said.

We stood up. Lou walked over to the stall and pointed to the big brown horse.

‘This is The Chief,’ he said. ‘I’m taking care of him here until tomorrow.’

‘Why is The Chief here at the racetrack?’ I asked. ‘And why is he in this secret room?’

Lou touched the horse’s nose. The Chief made a soft noise.

‘Golden Dragon didn’t run in the last race,’ Lou said. ‘The Chief ran in the race. The officials didn’t know about it. The Chief and Golden Dragon are the same height and the same colour. But The Chief runs much faster than Golden Dragon. He’s a winner!’

‘But the racetrack officials check the horses’ passports and tattoos on racing days,’ I said. ‘The Chief’s ID and Golden Dragon’s IDs are different.’

‘Yes. The officials check the horses’ IDs on racing days,’ Lou said.

‘They check the IDs when the horses arrive and they check them again when they leave. But nobody checks them on training days. The Chief came here in the trailer yesterday afternoon. He was put in this secret room. The trailer was empty when it left the racetrack. Nobody checked the trailer. The Chief stayed here last night.

‘This morning,’ Lou went on, ‘Golden Dragon came here in the trailer. The officials checked his passport and his tattoo. But Golden Dragon didn’t run in the race. This afternoon, Golden Dragon was put in this secret room. The Chief was taken to the track. The Chief ran in the race instead of Golden Dragon. The Chief won the race. Then he was brought to this room again. And Golden Dragon was taken away in the trailer. His ID was checked at the gate.

‘The Chief will stay in this room again tonight,’ Lou continued. ‘There is no racing tomorrow. Sundays are training days. When the trailer comes tomorrow, it will be empty. Nobody will check it. Then The Chief will go back to the ranch.’

‘So you are working with these criminals,’ I said. ‘And Sandy knew about it. You are criminals too! How much money did you and Sandy win, Lou?’

‘Miss Bonner and I haven’t won anything!’ Lou said angrily. ‘Gates and his friend, Ventanas, are the criminals. They own Golden Dragon. They came to our ranch on Thursday morning and Gates stole The Chief. We didn’t know their plan then. At midday today, they came to the ranch again. They told us about their plan. They put Sandy in a storeroom and they locked the door. They had guns. They made me come here with them. Ventanas said, “If you don’t help us look after The Chief, we’ll kill Sandy Bonner.” I had to help them.’

Suddenly, there was a noise from the front of the stable. Lou pulled the gun out of my hand.

‘Be quiet!’ he said. ‘Stay here with the horse and don’t make a noise. Gates and Ventanas have come back. If they find you here, they’ll kill you.’

I lay down in the straw next to The Chief. He was very big. ‘Please don’t stand on me,’ I whispered to him.

‘Weaver!’ a man’s voice shouted. ‘Where are you? Why is that door open?’

Lou walked towards the front of the stable. I could not see anything. But I could hear the conversation.

‘I’m sorry, Mr Gates,’ Lou said. ‘I was hot. And The Chief was hot after the race and -‘

‘Forget about the horse!’ Gates shouted. ‘The horse will be dead tomorrow.’

‘Dead? Why?’ Lou Weaver asked angrily. ‘We’ve done everything that you wanted. The Chief ran in the race instead of Golden Dragon. The Chief won the race for you. Now you must let Sandy go free. You must go away and never come back!’

The other man - Ventanas - laughed. It was a cruel laugh.

‘We won $5 million when Golden Dragon won the race,’ he said.

‘We made bets all over the country. We made our bets by phone. We don’t want anyone to find out about that. So The Chief will die. And we’ll kill the girl and we’ll kill you too, Weaver.’

‘Kill Sandy?’ Lou said angrily. ‘No!’

There was a loud bang and a cry of pain.

There were two more loud bangs and then there was another noise. Something fell to the ground.

‘I’ve shot him, Dick,’ Ventanas said. ‘Are you OK?’

‘No!’ Gates said. ‘The stupid old man has shot me in the arm.’

Very carefully, I looked out from The Chief’s stall. Lou Weaver was lying on the ground. My gun was on the ground beside him. Ventanas was holding a gun. Dick Gates was holding his right arm with his left hand. There was blood on his hand.

‘What shall I do with the horse?’ Ventanas asked. ‘Shall I kill it?’ He picked up my gun. Then he started to walk towards The Chief and me.

‘No,’ Gates said. ‘We’ll leave it here and lock the doors. The horse will die.’

‘OK, Dick,’ said Ventanas. ‘Where are we going now?’

‘We’re going to the Ride-A-Winner Ranch,’ Gates said. ‘We’re going to kill Sandy Bonner. Then no one will know about our plan.’

I heard the stable doors close. I heard the key turn in the lock. Gates and his friend were going to kill Sandy. I had to move fast.

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