“Hey Peter, how’s my two favorite boys?”
“Well little Ms. Bo-Peep. It’s nice of you to remember us.”
“Listen Peter, I’m just having a heck of a day. Any chance you can keep Luke overnight for me? Do you have plenty of food for him? How about for you? Did Maggie come today and bring you some groceries? Did you have her pick up your prescription?”
“Slow down cowgirl. One question at a time. Whaddya have a hot date tonight?”
“Nothing even remotely that exciting. Just dinner with owners and I gotta make nice with Jude, I left him high and dry earlier today.”
“Serves that slick bastard right. You outta let him know how much he needs you.” Peter began wheezing.
“You sound worse. Are you taking your medicine?”
“Ah hell little girl, you don’t think I can take care of myself – do you? Luke and I do just fine I’ll have you know.”
“Did you get Maggie to take him out today?” she asked.
“I took him out myself, thanks for asking.”
“You know you aren’t supposed to go up and down those steps without someone there.”
“I had Luke here and he took good care of me. Didn’t ya pal?” She could hear him patting Luke’s silky head.
“You go along to your party. Luke and I have plenty to eat and we get to see the Cubs beat these lazy-ass Dodgers tonight. We’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.”
“Night Pete. Thanks for looking after Luke.”
“Yup. Bye” he clicked off.
“Who is this?” Jude Keenan demanded.
“It’s me, Ann.”
“What the fuck did you say?”
“Mea Culpa. It’s latin and means ‘I messed up.'”
“No shit you messed up. Where did you run off to like that?”
“I had some personal business to do. It was kind of an emergency.”
“Kind of an emergency? What the fuck is that?”
“I really don’t want to go into it. It’s fine now and it won’t happen again.” she assured him.
“Yeah. Well, we have reservations at seven o’clock tonight at the Brown Derby with Abe and a couple other folks from the syndicate. You’d better go home and shower and meet us there. Dress nice.”
“Is there any way I can skip tonight? I really have to finish the billing on the computer at my house and then I really have to get some sleep.”
“Sleep? Sleep is for sissies. You’ve gotta have a better excuse than that.”
“Sleep is for people who have to get on 14 horses tomorrow morning unless you’ve hired someone this afternoon while I was gone.”
“Fine, go to bed and don’t even think about ditching the races tomorrow like your little stunt today.”
“Don’t forget I have to take Peter in for doctor’s appointments tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll be back for the fourth race.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about the fourth tomorrow, remember we scratched ‘Dios.” He reminded her.
She felt a pain in her stomach that wasn’t just bad Mexican food. “I can’t even talk about ‘Dios right now.”
“I guess you heard what that jerk Wells had to say.”
“I’m going to call Alice Wells tonight and see if I can talk some sense into her. Okay?” She asked hopefully.
“Why do you worry about that old horse?”
“I just think he deserves better, that’s all.”
“That’s what I get for hiring a woman as an assistant trainer.”
“Yeah, that’s what you get. I’m going home to bed.”
“Maybe you ought to bring somebody with you and then you wouldn’t be so grumpy and emotional.” he snickered.
“Great, just what I need.”
“Might be Chica. Might be. See you in the morning. Don’t you dare be late.”
“Give my best to Abe and the boys.” she said.
One last call:
“Hello, Alice? This is Ann from the barn. Um, I wanted to talk to you about Viya Con Dios.”
“Yes Ann, Russ and I were very disappointed that he won’t be running tomorrow. We had friends in from out of town and lunch in the Turf Club planned. Russ is very upset you know.”
“I’m sure he is. The vet said that he would be okay in a few days. And that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Russ has made a decision, he wants Dickie Cramer to train the horse from now on. I know that you have taken very good care of him for a long time, but Russ has his mind made up.”
“Listen Alice, I want you to know that I understand that he’s your horse and that you can do anything you want with him, but I think you should know that he’s not a young horse and he’s got a lot of problems. I think what you should do is donate him to a non-profit I know and take the tax write off and retire him before he breaks down.” She was trying not to sound pleading and pathetic. But the pace of the day was setting in and she was having trouble keeping the panic out of her voice.
“What do you mean ‘break down?'” Alice inquired.
“I mean permanently crippled, get vanned off the racetrack or worse.”
“This is the first we’ve heard of this. Why didn’t you say anything before?” Alice was peeved and it showed.
“Mrs. Wells, this isn’t your first race horse. I know that. But sometimes you get to know a horse really well and they just kind of tell you that they can’t or shouldn’t race anymore. Does that make sense?”
“It makes sense to me that you and your boss don’t want to see Dickie Cramer beat you with a horse you wouldn’t run. That’s what this sounds like.”
Oh Christ, she was making a mess of this. “Mrs. Wells, I can’t tell you what to do with your own horse. I just thought that I owed it to you to tell you my professional opinion. Actually, I don’t owe you a thing, I just thought I owed it to your poor old horse. Have a nice day.” She clicked off, her heart beating wildly. She’d created a mess for Jude and didn’t manage to help the horse at all. Worst of all was that she couldn’t shake the notion of strangling both Russ and Alice Wells. Even though she knew that they were typical owners who had been screwed by trainers before and felt that they were just protecting themselves and their interests.