فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

Sandy Bonner

I looked at the woman in the green dress.

‘A horse?’ I said. ‘You want me to find a horse?’ Was the woman joking?

‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘I want you to find a horse.’

‘Miss,’ I said. ‘I don’t know anything about horses. Horses have four legs and they run around. I don’t know anything more about them.’

‘OK, now you’ll learn more about horses, Mr Samuel,’ the woman said.

There was a noise outside my door. The woman turned and looked at it. Suddenly, she was frightened.

Somebody knocked at the door. It was a glass door. The words L. SAMUEL - PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR were written on it in big black letters.

The person who was outside the door knocked again. He knocked very hard.

‘Come in!’ I shouted. ‘Don’t break the glass!’

The door opened and a huge man walked in. He was very tall - more than two metres - and he weighed one hundred and forty kilos. It was Herman.

‘Hi, Lenny,’ Herman said. ‘I’ve come for my money. Have you got it?’

Then Herman saw the dark-haired woman sitting by the desk. He smiled at her. Herman had lots of white teeth.

‘Oh, I’m sorry, miss,’ he said. ‘I didn’t see you when I came in. Are you talking about business with Lenny? I’ll come back later.’ Herman smiled at the woman again. Then he turned and left the room.

‘Who’s that?’ the woman asked. She wasn’t frightened now. ‘He’s big and strong. Perhaps he’ll help me to find my horse.’

‘No! No, he won’t,’ I replied quickly. ‘That was Herman. He’s a bodyguard. He’s not a detective. I can find the horse that you’ve lost.’

‘But I haven’t lost the horse,’ the woman said. ‘People don’t lose horses, Mr Samuel. Horses run away or -‘

‘Or someone steals them?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ she replied.

‘OK,’ I said. ‘Tell me the facts. Describe the horse, please.’

‘He’s twelve years old and two metres high. He has brown hair and brown eyes,’ she replied.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said. That description won’t help me. Have you got a photograph of him?’

The woman smiled. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Here’s a photo of The Chief. The picture was taken after his last race.’

‘The Chief is a racehorse?’ I asked.

‘He was a racehorse,’ she replied. ‘He was one of the best racehorses.’

The woman gave me a colour photo. It was a picture from a magazine. It was a picture of a big brown horse. It was standing by a crowd of people. Some of the people were touching the horse. Next to it, there was a jockey in brightly-coloured riding clothes.

‘That’s The Chief,’ the woman said. ‘The photo was taken at Hollywood Park Racetrack, two years ago. It was taken when The Chief won an important race.’

‘Wow!’ I said. I didn’t know anything about horse-racing. But Hollywood Park Racetrack is a very well-known racetrack.

‘So the horse is a racehorse called The Chief,’ I said.

‘No. I told you,’ the woman said. ‘The Chief was a racehorse. He doesn’t race now. The Chief lives with me at my ranch now. He has retired from racing.’

‘So you have a ranch?’ I asked.

I thought about the job. ‘This woman has a ranch,’ I thought. ‘So she has a lot of money. If I work for her for five days, I’ll earn $1000. I’ll be able to pay Herman.’

‘Yes, I have a ranch,’ the woman replied. ‘It’s called the Ride-A- Winner Ranch. It’s in the hills. It’s near the Santa Rosita Racetrack.’

I wrote these facts on my notepad. I knew about Santa Rosita. It was a small racetrack, but it was very popular.

‘I keep retired racehorses - horses that don’t race any more,’ the woman said. ‘People come and stay at the ranch. And -‘

‘And they ride the horses,’ I said. ‘And your name is?’

‘My name is Sandy Bonner,’ she said.

‘What’s your phone number?’ I asked.

‘You mustn’t phone me. I’ll phone you,’ she said quickly. ‘And you mustn’t come to the ranch.’

‘Why mustn’t I come to the ranch, Miss Bonner?’ I asked.

‘Mr Samuel,’ Sandy Bonner replied, ‘you are working for me. I’m going to pay you. You mustn’t ask me any more questions. How much money do you want?’

‘I want $200 a day,’ I said.

Sandy Bonner took some banknotes from her bag and she gave them to me.

‘OK, Mr Samuel. Here’s $200,’ she said. ‘I’ll phone you this evening.’

She stood up and walked to the door.

‘Wait a minute, Sandy,’ I said quickly. ‘I need to know more facts. When did The Chief disappear? And how did he disappear?’

Sandy turned and she looked at me.

‘He disappeared yesterday morning,’ she replied. ‘A man came to the ranch. He wanted to ride The Chief. He paid $100 to ride the horse for an hour.’

‘Wow!’ I thought. ‘I’m in the wrong business! I earn $200 a day. This horse earns $100 an hour!’

‘The man paid me and he rode away on The Chief,’ Sandy went on. ‘That was at ten o’clock. The man didn’t come back and neither did the horse.’

‘Did this man ride away alone?’ I asked.

Yes,’ Sandy said. ‘I usually ride with visitors but I was busy yesterday. The man was a good rider. I wasn’t worried.’

‘Did you know the man who took the horse?’ I asked.

‘I’d never seen him before,’ she replied. ‘But he told me his name. He was called Dick Gates.’

‘Did Mr Gates show you any ID? Any identification papers?’ I asked.

Sandy shook her head. ‘No, Mr Samuel,’ she said.

‘So a stranger rode away on a valuable horse,’ I said. ‘And he didn’t come back. Were you surprised?’

‘Yes, I was surprised,’ Sandy said quietly. ‘Mr Gates gave me a phone number. But when I phoned the number, there was no reply.’

‘Did you call the police?’ I asked.

‘No… no, I didn’t,’ Sandy replied slowly. Then she stopped speaking. She was very worried. She walked back to the chair and she sat down again.

‘Why didn’t you call the police, Sandy?’ I asked.

‘Because I got a phone call,’ Sandy answered. ‘Two hours after Dick Gates rode away on The Chief, a man phoned me,’ she said. ‘I don’t know who the man was. He wasn’t Gates. The man said, “I’ve got The Chief, Miss Bonner. I’ve borrowed the horse. I’ll return him after a few days. But if you call the police, The Chief will be killed. We’re watching you.” So I don’t want you to phone me, Mr Samuel. And I don’t want you to come to the ranch. If you do, these men will kill The Chief.’

‘OK,’ I said. ‘I understand. Describe Mr Gates, please.’

‘He was about forty years old. And he was tall and heavy,’ said Sandy. ‘He had long red hair. It was tied in a pony-tail. He was wearing blue jeans and a brown jacket.’

‘That’s a very good description,’ I said. ‘Did he come to the ranch in a car?’

‘I don’t know,’ Sandy said. She looked at her watch. ‘I have to go now. I’ll phone you this evening.’

She stood up and she walked to the window. She looked down at the street for half a minute. Then she walked to the door.

‘Goodbye, Mr Samuel. Please find The Chief for me,’ she said.

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