Mike's first question after the respirator was removed was, "Where's Brin?"
Dr. Brackett and the nurse looked at each other. He sat on Mike's bed.
"It's about 10 pm on Sunday night, Mike. Do you not remember being at the track yesterday afternoon?"
Mike shook his head. "How'd I get here?"
"Brin was riding in the Southland Derby yesterday. Do you remember that?"
Mike started shaking, and he didn't understand why. Hazy images started coming to his mind--but the one that stuck
most clearly was him floating over himself and. . .Brin face down on the inner turf course at the track.
"She went down in a race," he said, putting his fist to his mouth. What he hadn't seen at the track was
now glaring at him--the huge red area on the right side of her white colors jacket. "Why are her silks red?"
Dr. Brackett then realized that no one had actually told Mike that Brin had been shot off her
"She's bleeding to death and no one's doing anything about it," wept Mike.
"We couldn't do anything about it. She was shot. That's where the red is coming from."
Mike looked Dr. Brackett in the eye. "My baby's dead, isn't she?" he asked in a heaving sob. "My baby's
Dr. Brackett embraced Mike, who continued to heave with sobs, and tried not to relive the afternoon that Dixie died.
"I'm really sorry, Mike. You don't know how sorry I am."
Early the next morning, as the outline of Brin's body on the infield turf course looked on, track security; sheriff's
deputies and detectives; and crime lab personnel scoured the track surface for anything unusual. A metal detector
had been brought in to look for a bullet casing on the public side of the track's chain-link fence. Plaster casts had
already been made of the boot prints which had been left in the dirt.
The metal detector screamed.
"Found something," said the operator. Once the casing was uncovered, they measured the distance from the boot prints,
placed a marker, and shot photographs.
Detective Ed Mundelein inspected the AR-15 casing, and drew a sharp breath when he saw what was somehow inscribed on
Detective Peaches Shorts whistled. "Someone paid a lot of money to have her knocked off."
"Yeah, at least twenty grand, from what I've been able to tell from his past cases. This is only
Elm's twentieth hit. I want this guy so bad I can taste it."
He put the casing in a numbered baggie.
"Wait a minute," said Shorts, pointing at the casing. "What's that?"
Mundelein rolled the casing over in its bag.
"That's a first," he said. "And, quite frankly, very sickening."
"Intimidation?" asked Shorts.
"Mmm, could be," mumbled Mundelein. "Obviously not for her, but for her husband and family."
"Probably more like her husband. This is starting to sound like a jilted suitor."
"Hold that thought, Peachy," said Mundelein.
A few hours later, in the stewards' office, the two assistants, Walt and Wayne, reviewed the tapes, while their
chief, Willis, grilled the jockeys with the help of the head of track security.
Walt queued the tape for the backstretch. Both watched intently, waiting to see if there were any strange
"Nothing," said Wayne.
Walt queued the tape for the turn where Brin came off.
A horse jerked it's head back, then Brin went limply falling onto the turf course.
"There's something wrong with this tape," said Wayne.
"What?" asked Walt.
"There's some kind of red mark that pops up just before Brin goes down."
"That's not a red mark, you moron, that's a laser!"
Walt requeued the tape. The pack rounded the turn; the red streak appeared; the horse jerked its head back;
and Brin went down.
"Must've killed her instantly," said Walt. "See how limp she is when she comes off?"
Wayne nodded. "The only other time I've seen a rider come off that limply was when a jock died of a heart attack
in a race and fell off his mount."
When Willis took a break, the two showed him their finding.
"Make a copy of our program notes, and let the detectives have the tapes. Make sure you impress upon them that
we need those tapes back," Willis instructed.
"How's it going with the jocks?" asked Walt.
"We're about to clear them. Everything they're saying's consistent with the other evidence. I still have
a gut feeling that it's a jock behind all this, though."
Everybody could use a hug. . .