In Ridley Pearson's third crime novel starring Walt Fleming, the amiable sheriff in Sun Valley, Idaho, the lawman faces a master thief planning to steal three very expensive bottles of wine at the annual wine auction. They were purported to be gifts from Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, but were they really?
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Walt Fleming didn't want to be in the river. Any free time away from the office should have been spent applying for a loan of a hundred thousand dollars. That, or risk losing his house, and his daughters, to the divorce. But credit was tight, time short, and so there he was, along with his nephew, Kevin, knee- deep in the Big Wood River. The evening outing was a favor to his sister- in- law, Myra, who could guilt- trip along with the best of them.
Kevin, who would turn nineteen in August, glanced over at his uncle, looking away from the fly he was tying on his own line.
"What?" Walt asked, water gurgling past his waders.
He slipped on a pair of sunglasses to protect against flying hooks, and the glare of an evening sun. At eight- thirty p.m., it still shone brightly in the summer sky. Behind Walt, a rock wall rose out of the gurgling and bubbling river water, reaching two thousand feet nearly straight up into the cobalt sky. Dusk would linger well past ten, during which time the best fishing of the day would be had. "No uniform."
"Once a sheriff, always a sheriff? You've seen me out of uniform plenty of times. Don't give me that."
"Then obviously we haven't been spending enough time together," Walt said. "Which is why we're here in the first place."
Kevin remained on the shore, poised as if reluctant to enter the water. A narrow concrete- and- steel bridge crossed fifty feet downstream, carrying the cracked asphalt of Croy Creek Road from downtown Hailey, Idaho, west into rugged terrain. Walt had parked the Jeep Cherokee in a dusty turnout before the bridge. The license plate read bcs- 1— Blaine County Sheriff, vehicle 1. Walt glanced east over Kevin's head, up the slight rise at the town he called home. With a population of three thousand, Hailey was smaller than its famous neighbors to the north, Ketchum and Sun Valley, but larger than Bellevue to the south. The valley was defined by mountain ranges east and west, shaped into an upside- down V, the mouth of which emptied into a great plain of high desert populated by nothing more than rodents, rattlers, and lava rock.
"You hate fishing," Kevin said. "You're all about softball and gliding and your dogs. Besides, that's a radio, right? A police radio?" He pointed to the handheld clipped to Walt's fishing vest. "So it's not exactly like you left the sheriff thing behind."
"Are you going to fish or not?" Walt said, pricking his finger on the hook as he attempted to knot the fly to the line. He sucked the tip of his finger, tasting blood.
"You're doing this because Mom told you to."
"It's true that I suck at fishing, not true about Myra. We're here together, and I want to take advantage of that. It's your call, but if you don't get in the water, we're done here."
"And my job at the lodge? Your idea or Mom's?"
"That one was all mine, buddy boy. Your mom had nothing to do with it."
Kevin waded in up to his knees.
Progress, thought Walt.
"How's that working out, anyway?" Walt asked.
"I'm good with it."
Walt had thought he might get a thank-you. He'd pulled strings to get Kevin on as a bellboy at the Sun Valley Lodge. Better than workingas a fry chef.
They moved downstream in tandem, keeping their distance from each other in order to avoid tangling lines. Walt's brother, Robert, had taught his son to fly- fish at the ripe old age of eight. Kevin had taken to it like a prodigy. Walt studied Kevin's technique, hoping some of it might rub off on him. He tried casting his line.
"We're trying to hook them, not whip them to death," Kevin said, sounding just like Robert.
"Ha- ha!" Walt replied, a lump in his throat.
Walt stiffened his arm. His second try was an improvement.
Walt's radio crackled. He and Kevin exchanged a look.
"I've got to monitor it. That's all."
Walt bit his tongue. Kevin was asking the impossible, and they both knew it.