"Yes, yes--I can hear you just fine. Yes, I am going to place another advertisement.

Not that it's any business of yours, daddy dear. Do you think me a complete idiot?” She paused to listen for his reply. "Why didn't they stay? You, of all people, have a damn nerve asking me that. Why would they stay?” Sam hissed out the words. "You didn't!” Sam shifted the phone to her other ear, taking a deep breath before she continued, "I don't want to hear it. I am thirty years old--not thirteen! You have no right to play the concerned father. You forfeited that right when you walked out on mother and me to be with that, that filthy slut! Even that stupid bitch could only stand you for six months. You are a pathetic, useless excuse for a man!” Sam slammed the phone down. She braced herself against the edge of the kitchen sink, feeling the bile rise in her throat. "Damn it, why do I let him get to me like that? Shit!" Two large Rottweiler’s came charging into the room, responding to Sam's raised and angry voice. Their hackles were up and they searched the room with their eyes ablaze, seeking any perceived threat to their mistress. "Easy, my boys, easy.” Sam hunkered down, soothing the agitated animals. "Good boys. Momma's fine--sit.” The two dogs dropped to their haunches immediately, and Sam rewarded them for their loyalty with a loving hug.

She made herself a fresh coffee, and took out the writing pad to reword yet another advertisement for the city papers. WANTED: Male Ranch-Hand, Jack-of-all-trades. Must be good with horses. Property located in Far North Queensland. Must be able to tolerate isolation. Applicants must be fit and healthy. Doctor's certificate required. Generous wage, plus all meals. Large bonus after three months continuous employment. Written applications only. Single males only. No family ties. Successful applicants will need to travel to North Queensland for interview process. Employer will recompense reasonable expenses incurred. Apply, Sam Mannix c/o Post Office, Shady Creek: North Queensland. 7666. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sam gave it a week after the advert appeared before driving the three-hundred miles into Shady Creek. There were four responses to her add Three of them immediately disqualified themselves by asking if wives and/or families could accompany them. What part of ‘single males only” and ‘no family ties’, was difficult to understand? Shit, that was irritating! She shrugged off her annoyance, and began reading the fourth application. Now, this is more like it. Number four met all the criteria. She phoned him from the post office. He agreed the wage and bonus were extremely generous. He appeared to have no problem with isolation.

They arranged to meet face-to-face in ten days time, here in the small township of Shady Creek. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sam seated herself outside the diner in the shade. She sipped on a coffee, and watched the only road into town. She checked her watch again. Still fifteen minutes to go. He could still show. She lit herself another Marlboro, and waited. She heard the large bike well before she saw it. The big, black Harley dropped in speed and pulled in opposite the diner. The man was tall, wearing leathers that clung to his lean body like a second skin. He wore no helmet, and his long black hair was pulled into a ponytail. He moved with an easy, panther-like grace, as if life would just have to wait for him to arrive in his own sweet time. He wandered over to where she sat, removed his sunglasses, and said, "So, you'd be Sam Mannix?" "You got that right; and you're Ben Ewing, yes?” She extended her hand and it was taken in a firm cool grasp. "So, Ben Ewing sit, please.” Sam said, indicating the chair opposite. She put her head to the side looking at him clearly. "So Mister Ewing or do you prefer Ben?" she asked. "I'm comfortable with Ben, ma'am," he responded. "What do you prefer for yourself, is it Ms, or Missus Mannix?" "Call me Sam or Miss Mannix, okay?" "Done. Sam it is."

"Would you like a cup of coffee or a coke before we get started?" "Coke, ice cold sounds good to me, Sam." She turned and knocked on the glass front of the diner. Eli hurried out. "What'll it be, Sam?" "Two Cokes, Eli and two large glasses of ice." "Coming right up," the storekeeper said. He glanced at the man seated with Sam, and remained standing there, looking expectantly at her, clearly awaiting an introduction. He should have known better. Sam looked at him, and asked coldly, "Was there something you wanted Eli?" He responded with a red face, "No, Sam, no. Two Cokes it is.” He then scurried like a frightened rabbit to do her bidding. Sam was clearly unimpressed. "One thing you need to understand up front Ben, my business is exactly that! Understood?" Ben smiled and nodded. "No problem." Eli returned with their Cokes and two large glasses of ice, and then headed quickly back inside. Ben took a large swig of his Coke and said,”Fire away, Sam. What you want to know?" She looked into his eyes. They were blue, deep dark blue, a surprising contrast with his raven black hair. "Why do you want to work for me?" she asked.

"I like the sound of your place, and, I enjoy isolation." "You're good with horses?" "Sure am." "You seem very sure of that, Ben" "I've been on the rodeo circuit for a long time. I respect them, and they sure as hell respect me," he stated firmly. "Besides, I hate false modesty. I got no time for it." "No family ties, wife, siblings, aging parents; no kids?” Sam queried quietly. "Nope, no time for that either. Got me a brother somewhere, haven't seen, or heard from him in around twenty years. So, no ties whatsoever." "You need to be in real good health, Ben. I can't stress that enough. The wet season is on its way, and we'll be cut off for up to three months once it starts," she stated firmly, then went on. "There must be no misunderstanding whatsoever on this point." "Ah I see. So that's why you wanted the doctor's certificate.” As he was speaking, he removed his wallet and produced the document she required, passing it across to her. Sam read it carefully, and appearing satisfied, she handed it back. "Do you have any questions for me, Ben?" "Yeah, why no references? Aren't you takin' a chance on hirin' someone without checkin' their background?" "You're not hired yet," she said bluntly. "References aren't worth the paper they're printed on, in my opinion. These days you can

print just about any damn thing you want on the Internet. Frankly I don't see the point," she stated, looking at his face for a reaction. He looked thoughtful and then asked, "So you don't want any more information about me, my background, nothin'?" "I have one rule that is not open to negotiation Ben. I ask no questions about your life, and you ask no questions about mine. Can we agree on that?” She looked at him, and waited while he mulled that one over. "You got yourself a deal, Sam.” He extended his hand, but Sam surprised him by not shaking it. "Not so fast," she said. "I have one more little test you need to pass first." She stood up and beckoned him to follow; she left the sheltered veranda and walked over to where she had parked the SUV and trailer. Sam waved him closer, and then stood back as she opened the door. The two dogs exited the vehicle and immediately sat between their mistress and the stranger, hackles up and threatening growls emanating from deep inside the black throats. Sam watched Ben carefully. Ben stood still, and then began to talk, soft and low, "Well now boys aren't you a pair of beauties, and what are your names, hmm?” As he spoke he put his hand out and allowed the dogs to sniff at their leisure, then he hunkered down. "Come say hello, boys, come.” The dogs moved forward and he gave each of them a good firm pat. "Good boys, good dogs."

Sam laughed, delighted with the outcome, "Oh, well done. You have no idea just how many people failed that test. This is Butch," she said, indicating the larger of the two dogs. "And this rascal is Sundance." Sam then extended her hand. "When can you start?" "Right now is as good a time as any.” He gave her a smile. "Done," she said. "You'll need to put your Harley in the trailer. No way will you get her across the creeks we've got to cross." Ben appeared to have no problem with that. The bike was soon loaded in with a huge amount of supplies already in the trailer. They set off. Butch kept his head positioned between the two front seats. These boys took their jobs very seriously. They had been driving through the lush tropical countryside in almost complete silence for over an hour, each busy with their own thoughts. Ben asked, "So, how far out is your place?" Sam grinned. "You've been on it for at least thirty minutes. Euphoria Homestead is about another half-hour further on." Ben nodded, and murmured, "That is some property, Sam. Euphoria huh? Good name." About twenty-five minutes later, they topped a rise, and Sam smiled when she heard Ben's sudden intake of breath. "Whew!" he whistled loudly. "My God. Now that is really somethin'."

The homestead lay in a valley, surrounded on three sides by massive eucalyptus. The ever-present jungle vines formed a canopy of riotous color, as bright flame-colored variations of Bougainvillea spread throughout the soaring spectacle of green. The house was stunning, large and spread out, with wrap-around verandas supported by intricately carved white pillars. Lush gold, white, and brilliant red Hibiscus. Interspersed with fragrant Frangipani trees--wound down and around the paved driveway. The place was a photographer's dream. White-painted corrals held a good number of horses, mostly brumbies, and quarter-horse stock on first glance. In a separate corral was a stallion, black as night. Sam got out and stretched her long legs. She let the dogs out and stood watching them race madly down the hillside. "I never tire of seeing it from up here," she said softly. "It looks different as evening approaches, and sounds different, too; wait till you hear the noise when the birds come in to roost for the night." "I look forward to it," Ben responded, clearly still awed at the spread before him. They headed on down to the waiting dogs. Sam parked the SUV and pointed Ben in the direction of a barn where he could house the Harley out of the weather. This done, he wandered over to the corral and gazed longingly at the black stallion. Sam's voice startled him; he had not heard her approach, "Only I ride Satan, Ben. You are most welcome to try, of course. But never without me around; okay?"

He nodded, without speaking. Sam went on, "Come, I'll show you to your quarters. You must be longing to get those leathers off; it sure is a hot one." Ben grabbed his saddlebags from the rear of the SUV and followed Sam's willowy frame as she mounted the stairs to the veranda. She walked around it to the left of the double Frenchdoors, which led to Ben's bedroom, shower /toilet, and a large, private, well-furnished, sitting room. "I thought the staff-quarters would be separated from the homestead, Sam." "Is this a problem for you Ben?" she asked, concerned. "No, not at all. This is just fine," he hurriedly reassured her. "When do I meet the others?" "Others?" responded Sam, perplexed. "Well, yeah, you know the cook and other ranch hands?" "You're looking at the cook, and as far as the other ranch hands, Ben. There are no others!" "You run this entire spread on your own? I mean it's so big and all; no offense intended, Sam," said Ben hurriedly. "None taken," she replied briskly. "If you have a problem with this I can drive you back into town first thing in the morning." "Whoa, no, I didn't say I had a problem with it Sam. I guess it was just kinda unexpected. I'm fine with it." He hoped she was satisfied with that and said no more.

"I'll leave you to freshen up," said Sam. "Join me on the porch for a drink when you're ready. We need to unload the trailer before dark, and there are a few important things I want to go over with you before supper." ~~~~~~~~~~ Ben closed the door to his room and threw his saddlebags on the four-posted bed. He sat for a moment looking around him. He noticed the soft gleam of well cared for furnishings. It was clearly a man's room, not chintzy. The curtains were thick and heavy textured in deep shades of blue. Large built-in wardrobes with mirrored fronts took up most of one wall. There was a chest of drawers with a reading lamp. A large bookshelf stood opposite the floor-to-ceiling windows. He knew he would be comfortable here. Besides, he wouldn't be staying long. He checked the door again. Satisfied that it was locked, he went to his bags, and removed the .357 Magnum. He expertly checked the clip. Then he carefully placed his favorite weapon in a drawer, ensuring that his clothes were neatly packed on top. He took a hot shower. Pulled on his faded jeans and a white tshirt. He shaved, brushed his long hair, and pulled it back into a ponytail. Then went to join his new boss. Sam was standing leaning up against the porch railing, a cigarette in one hand, a drink in the other. Ben wondered if she was aware of the silhouette she made, with the sun shining clear through the white fabric of the long cotton dress she wore. "Help yourself to a drink, Ben," she said without turning around. "There is nothing wrong with your hearing Sam," he said.

"My sense of smell is even better," she replied, "You’re wearing 'L'Homme' after shave." He made no comment, she was right. He walked over and looked at the selection of drinks laid out on the table. There were mostly full bottles of Jack Daniels, Bacardi and Bundaberg Rum, Gin, Scotch you name your poison. It was all here. "Is this another one of your little tests, Sam?" he asked. "No, I presume you drink. If it doesn't interfere with your work, or your ability to remain civilized. I have no problem. I enjoy a couple of Mai-Tais every evening, out here on the porch. You can join me or not. If you prefer to drink in your own quarters you'll find a well stocked Bar-fridge, and glasses in your private sitting room." "How do you make a Mai-Tai?" was all he said. "I'll show you.” Sam said. She walked over to the table, and began picking up each of the bottles in turn. "You take a good splash of dark Rum, about the same amount of light Rum. Same measure of Orange Curacao, about double that in O. J. Throw in smaller splash of Limejuice, pour that over shaved ice, and mix it. I don't bother with the pineapple and cherry decoration. I prefer to drink it, not eat it." Sam made two, and handed him one. Ben took a sip. "Whew, couple of those will take your head clean off." "Not so far," she replied with a grin, "there's beer if you'd prefer it." "No. This'll do me just fine thanks."

"All right, I'll get a few things out of the way, straight up.” Sam said. "The most important rule, do not ever go down to the creek at night. In daylight hours, you will still need to be very very aware of what's around you. We have Croc's up here Ben. Big bastards and they are always hungry." "Crocodiles! Shit, I hadn't given a thought to that." "Well think about it now Ben, very carefully!" "Has anyone been taken from this creek, Sam?” Ben asked curiously. Sam's face lost all color, and her eyes turned stormy. "I thought we'd agreed on no questions.” She snapped. "I'll answer this one, and that's all! Yes! Someone was taken; my mother!” Sam threw her drink down her throat, and began mixing another. Ben laid his hand gently on her arm. The two dogs immediately began growling from under the table. He removed his hand, before they could do it for him. "I am so sorry Sam, no more questions, I swear." "Good. I'm going to start supper. Is there anything you don't eat, or are allergic to?" she asked. "No, I'm real easy to please." "Fine. You can start unloading the trailer. Both the cool room and the storeroom are at the end of the veranda on the far side. Oh, and Ben, don't hurt my carpet snakes. They take care of the vermin for me. Or most of it." Ben caught the sarcasm and decided to just let it go. She was upset. He fixed himself a J.D neat and tossed it back. He poured

another generous helping and walked to the end of the long veranda. He stood looking down at the willows that indicated the line of the creek. He chided himself. Damn that had been stupid, why hadn't he been told about her mother. This woman was no fool; he would have to be careful; very careful. He turned and walked down to start unloading the supplies. Sam prepared the meal in silence caught in her own thoughts. Ben's unexpected question had shaken her. It was something she tried so hard to forget. Momma had never recovered from the desolation of her husband's betrayal. Sam closed her eyes, vainly attempting to shut out the memory of that night. She was eighteen. Her father had left them six months prior to her coming of age. Momma had started drinking heavily. Sam had never been close to her father. He did things to her that daddies were not supposed to do to daughters. Sam didn't know how to stop him. He terrified her with the threats of what he would do to momma, if Sam ever spoke of what he did. Momma must never know. She and her mother had been very close. It broke her heart that he made her part of the betrayal. He was an evil bastard. That night, that dreadful nightmare of a night, she had heard her mom answer the phone. Out of curiosity, she had stood just outside the open window and listened in. Her mom was very upset, and Sam knew it must be her father on the telephone. What was the bastard saying to make momma cry like that? "You are a liar

Richard!” Her mom had screamed into the phone, "a filthy, disgusting liar. No, I don't believe you! My baby Sam would never do such a thing! No. I will not ask her. You're sick Richard, sick, perverted, and twisted!" Sam remembered feeling sick to her stomach, wondering just what he had said. Her mother had been almost hysterical after that call. Nothing Sam could say would calm her. Momma started drinking booze straight from the bottle. She insisted that Sam to go to bed. Sam was accustomed to finding her mom asleep wherever she had finished her last drink. She had gone to bed, worried. Yet relieved that momma hadn't believed whatever her Father had said. The scream of terror woke her. She had scrambled out of bed and raced into the sitting room. Momma wasn't there. Another agonized scream. This time Sam knew it was coming from outside. "Oh dear God no, please no!” She remembered pleading aloud as she ran outside. "Momma, momma where are you? I'm coming, where are you?” She had screamed it out. Over and over again. While the sick fear twisted in her gut. "Please no, God! Please, please no!” She had sobbed it out. Only silence answered her prayers. Sam shook her head and took a deep breath. That had been twelve years ago. The police had found the drag marks at the water's edge, one shoe; and no remains. There was nothing left to bury. The crocs had been very efficient. The property had belonged solely to her mom. It had been in her family for generations. Her mom had taken out a new will when her father had left.

Everything was left to Sam. Sam had had a breakdown. Convinced that her mother had deliberately gone down to the creek that night. Knowing full well what would happen. Sam blamed herself, and her hatred of her father became a living thing. She spent two years in a sanitarium. On her return, she had dismissed the man that had managed the property whilst she was away. Giving both he, and the staff a generous payout. Sam then set out to run her Momma's beloved Euphoria. Singlehanded. Sam finished preparing dinner and went outside. She made herself one more Mai-Tai, and lit a smoke. Ben stood quietly watching the expressions chase themselves across her lovely face. This was going to be far more difficult than he thought, why hadn't he been told about her mother? What else had been kept from him? He walked up to where Sam was standing. "Mind if I have another?" he asked, indicating her drink. "Fine by me," she answered, "by the time you've finished that, dinner will be ready to serve. You can join me if you wish, or take it to your room. I will expect a hand with the dishes after we're done." "Deal.” Ben said. Dinner was delicious, succulent lamb and perfectly roasted vegetables accompanied by a rich burgundy.

Ben acknowledged the fine meal. Then began gathering the dishes. Sam sat and watched him move about the room. She then headed out to the porch to light the mosquito coils that were so necessary for comfort here. He called out through the door, "Sam, you want me to wash and wipe?" "No.” She replied. "Just wash, I'll wipe before bed, thanks." Ben came out and said "Goodnight Sam.” He walked off towards his room, and then stopped suddenly and asked, "What time do we start in the morning?" Sam responded, "Tomorrow's Sunday. No need for you to start work till Monday morning. I start at daybreak. Why don't we get you familiar with the way I like things done around here. I'll give you the guided tour tomorrow, Okay?" "If you're sure Sam?" "Ben; I'm always sure. Goodnight." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The next morning dawned fiery red. Promising another scorching hot, sticky November day. The wet season was about to begin. Then the days would be just a little cooler, but more humid. The wet here in the tropics was something to behold, the storms notoriously fierce. Cyclones off the coast of northern Australia were common, and deadly. Ben cast an appreciative glance at her as they ate breakfast. She sure was something this Sam Mannix. He didn't like the

direction his thoughts were traveling in. This wasn't working out quite as expected. "I thought we'd take the horses and a packed lunch. I'll take you out to the closest boundary line," Sam said, "Oh, I meant to ask you, are you a good shot. With a rifle I mean?" Ben's response was a little slow in coming. "I'm a fair shot with a .303, but I'm no expert. Why do you ask?" "Have you ever seen what a wild boar can do to a man, Ben? Trust me; it's not a pretty sight. You'd better get some practice in, you may just live to thank me one day." They rode in silence for much of the way, with Sam pointing out some heavy brush that needed clearing before the wet started. Sam reined in Satan. Looking out towards the east, she sniffed the air. "Storms coming," she said. "We'd better head on back, pronto." Ben was fascinated; he couldn't see a cloud in the sky. "How do you know a storm on its way, Sam?" "Can't you smell the rain, Ben?" she asked in amazement. Ben stopped and inhaled through his nose. He couldn't smell a damn thing except Eucalyptus, and the strong dank odor of the lush undergrowth. "Nope, can't say as I've ever noticed rain having its own smell. But hey, I'll surely take your word on it.” He gave her a quick grin and they both moved their horses into a trot. Sure enough about twenty-minutes out from the homestead, the clouds moved in and the lightning lit up the skyline. The rain when it hit came in sheets, blinding them temporarily.

Sam took the lead on Satan and nudged the stallion forward. "Come on, my beauty, steady now." They made it back to the homestead. Sam rubbed down the stallion and put him in his stall. Ben did the same with his mount. "Well, my guess is that the wet has arrived," Sam said with a laugh. Ben looked at her through his rain-drenched hair. "Gee, Sam, you think?" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sam took Satan out for a ride every morning around sun-up. She would ride off accompanied by her two four legged-protectors. Returning around an hour later, to prepare breakfast. Ben took the opportunity to carefully search for the document. He had a feeling; he already knew what it said. However, he must be certain. On day ten, he found it. He read it. Then placed it carefully back. Exactly where he'd found it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ The days began to merge. Welded tight. Breakfasts and dinners shared. Everything shared--everything but their pasts. Sam could see something was troubling Ben. She would often find him standing out on the large veranda in the early hours of the morning. Just staring off into space. She had been the one to make the rules. No questions. At the time, she hadn't anticipated this sense of--of what. Sam gave herself a mental shake, she was not about to kid herself that it was love. She didn't believe in it. Nevertheless, she did feel

more for Ben than she had ever allowed herself to feel about anyone. He made her feel safe. She enjoyed the sensation. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Ben had made up his mind. He would make the telephone call. He came in to the den in the late afternoon. Shared a drink with Sam. Then retired to his room to freshen up before dinner. He dialed the number and waited. "Yes.” Was the abrupt answer. "It's me.” Ben said. "Is it done?" "No, no it's not." "Why the hell not? You've had more than enough time." "I've decided not to go ahead," Ben said clearly. "What! Is she on to you--you stupid bastard?" "No! Nothing like that. I've decided against it. That's all" "You fuckin' son-of-a-bitch. You took my ten-thousand-dollars. Now you do the fuckin' job I paid you to do." "What are you gonna do Richard, call the cops?” Ben laughed. "That would be an interesting conversation. Like--excuse me officer; I paid a guy ten-grand deposit to murder my daughter.

But he welched on the deal! I'm sure they would feel so sorry for you!" "You bastard! You had better sleep with one eye open from now on. I'll find a way to get you. Take my word on it." "Richard. As a matter of curiosity. What would you gain by having Sam killed?" "Why?" "I may have another proposition for you. So indulge me. Why do you want her dead?" "Because, you fuckwit! With her dead the property--all of it-comes to me!" "No, that won't happen," Ben replied confidently. "What?” Richard spluttered, "I've read the will. That is exactly what will happen!" "I've read it as well, Richard. You see, the will also says that if anything should happen to Sam, the property will go to her spouse-- if she has one. If not, only then, does it go to you! Why the hell should I settle for a lousy ten-grand? When I can have it all?" "You son-of-a-bitch." "Now, now Richard. Is that any way to speak to your future sonin-law?” Ben was still laughing, as he hung up the phone. ~~~~~~~~~~~

Ben came into the kitchen. He stood watching Sam as she began to prepare their evening meal. "Ben, could you mix me a Mai-Tai, whilst I start dinner?” Sam asked, glancing at him over her shoulder. Ben gave her his best smile. Then went outside to do her biding. He came back in with the potent mix and handed it to her. "How's that, he asked?" as she took a sip. He moved closer to her. "Just perfect," Sam replied, taking a long pull at the drink. "I was thinking it might be really nice if we have dinner outside tonight. There's a light breeze, and the rain has stopped for the moment." "Great idea. Where would you like me to set up the table?" "Oh, you pick out a good spot. Be sure to light the lanterns, or the mosquitoes will eat us alive. Dinner won't be too long. How about you grab us a chilled bottle of something bubbly. It's that sort of night.” She gave him a soft smile. Ben couldn't have been more pleased. This was perfect. Just perfect. He would ask her tonight. Sam took out some scented candles. Freshened up and changed into a soft peach colored dress. She brushed her long gold hair until in fell into shining waves across her shoulders. Then went outside. She gave the candles to Ben. "You open the champagne. I'll bring dinner out shortly." Sam had another Mai-tai and then sipped at her bubbly. "What a glorious evening. The moon's putting on quite a show. It's almost as bright as daylight out here."

"Yes, it is beautiful. So are you, Sam." "Why, thank you Ben." Ben was sure she was actually blushing. She stood up and went inside, returning with a delicious smelling Beef-Bourginion. Beautifully served on pre-heated plates. "Eat up, or dinner will get cold.” Sam leaned forward, and Ben got a marvelous view of her generous cleavage. He was aching to reach out and touch her tanned skin. Her coloring was highlighted by the peach tones of the dress she was almost wearing. He tried to ignore the discomfort of his tight jeans as he felt his erection responding to her presence. Sam flicked back her mass of gold hair. She leaned towards Ben once more. Extending her hand with her long fingers curled around the stem of the crystal champagne glass. Her cat's eyes of green were sparkling in the candlelight. Ben topped her glass with the Bollinger. Then went inside the cool-room to grab another bottle. He was very happy with the way things were progressing. Ben ate his meal it was delicious. "My compliments to the chef," he said, as he poured another glass of champagne, and raised his glass to Sam. "To you," he said softly. He was about to say more, when he was hit by a violent cramp in his stomach. His face broke out in beads of sweat, and his breathing became labored. "Ben ... Ben. What is it; what's wrong? You look ill."

Ben couldn't speak. He attempted to stand, and fell face down on the damp soil; writhing in pain. Sam hurried over to where he lay, and bent down, pulling him onto his back. "Oh dear, Ben, you mustn't die on me just yet. You have more to look forward to. I afraid I've been a naughty, naughty girl," she whispered, leaning down and very gently brushing the hair back from his face. "I never did learn not to eavesdrop on phone conversations; my extension in the bedroom is such a blessing." “ Can you ever forgive me?” Sam began laughing delightedly as she kicked off her high heels. She grabbed Ben under both arms, and dragged him down to the creek. Two crocs lay close-by, silhouetted in the moonlight. She looked down into Ben's terrified eyes, and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead. "You won't be lonesome, Ben. You see, most of the others are here as well. It is a shame about the Harley; it will have to be destroyed of course." Sam walked back to the table, filled her champagne glass, and returned to watch, standing a safe distance from the water. "Here they come, Ben!" she called gaily. "Say hello to momma for me." Sam turned and walked away, smiling happily, as she heard his agonizing scream of good-bye. She sat down, poured another glass of Bollinger, lit up a smoke, picked up her pen, and began to write. WANTED: Male Ranch Hand...

~~~~~~~~~~~.