Here’s this week’s excerpt of BIG HORN, leading up to its 6/1 release. Did you miss the first few excerpts? Get them here:


Chapter One:

Chapter Two:

Chapter Three:

For anyone that pre-orders the BIG HORN Kindle ebook, you’ll get BUCKLE BUNNY, a Wyoming suspense novella. Free. Included with your ebook. You can do that here:

Before I release you to the exciting BIG HORN excerpt, though, I want you to know that my Amazon Top 25 bestselling Patrick Flint novel, SWITCHBACK, will be both free in Prime Reading (and Kindle Unlimited) from now through May. If you haven’t tried it, now’s the time. Do it here: Hurry reading it and the other books in the series, because #7, SITTING DUCK, comes out 7/28!

With no further ado, here’s Chapter Four of BIG HORN:

Big Horn, Wyoming

When she tried to open her eyes the next morning, Jennifer’s lashes stuck together like they’d been superglued. She pried them apart with her fingers. 

Everything looked blurry. Besides the alcohol, nightmares had kept her restless all night. She heard a sound next to her and rolled over toward Aaron’s side of the bed, but he wasn’t there. The motion sent a wave of nausea roiling through her. She jumped up, dislodging an angry Katya, the apparent noisemaker.

“Why can’t you be the cute skunk?”

The cat yowled at her.

She looked around the room. The first thing she saw was the framed picture on the bedside table. Aaron in a Tennessee Vols football uniform, her in her cheerleading outfit. Aaron took it with them everywhere they went. The first time he’d done it, she’d asked him why. 

“Wherever we’re together, that’s home to me,” he’d told her. 

“But we’re children in that one,” she’d said. “Use something current.” 

He’d refused, claiming that this one meant something to him. 

It was endearing and totally Aaron. Her eyes traveled from the photo to the rest of the room. It seemed even shabbier than it had the day before. The sheets were thin with beads of sluffed off fabric. The comforter had coffee stains on it. The chintz curtains were faded and frayed. She sneezed. And she’d left out that it was dusty. 

The nausea came back. She ran for the bathroom.

She was almost there when she remembered the toilet couldn’t be flushed. Clapping her hand over her mouth, she sprinted for the back deck. She burst out the door and stopped short. The sight of the looming mountains draped in strands of low hanging clouds was breathtaking. They were so close that she reached her fingers out like she could touch them. An eagle screamed and winged in a wide circle over the property. Fresh air caressed her forehead like soft lips. Her nausea receded.

A woman’s voice intruded on the moment. Was it her hangover or was she not alone? Just the animals and the mountains? I don’t think so, George. She had a flash of memory from the night before. Propositioning her husband. Their laughing exit from the restaurant. Then . . . nothing until she’d woken up with the terrors. She patted herself down, relieved to find her jeans and silk blouse under her hands. Worse for sleeping in them, but better than being naked in front of God and who knows else. She’d even slept in her distressed Lucchese boots.

Relief gave way to a tinge of regret. So, she and Aaron hadn’t finished what they’d started. When was the last time they’d been intimate? She couldn’t remember. Or when Aaron had even initiated anything? Months. She touched the soft area above her cheekbone. Crow’s feet. Little exclamation lines between her eyebrows. Loose skin under her chin. She wasn’t a young girl anymore. Aaron was a gorgeous man. Maybe he didn’t find her attractive. Her life was usually so busy that she could avoid thinking about it. But, here, on this still, beautiful morning, it stung.

She squared her shoulders. Chin up. Even though her stomach had settled, she decided to make the most of her time on the deck. Since the owner of the voice wasn’t in sight, she squatted down on the camp potty. 

“Glamorous,” she muttered.

Right when she was at the point of no return, Black Bear Betty and Aaron walked into sight from the side of the house, the woman moving with a pronounced limp, like one of her legs was shorter than the other. They were headed for the deck, engrossed in conversation. 

“Stop,” Jennifer screamed.

They froze, but, of course, her scream drew their eyes to her. She clamped her knees together and lowered her hands to block their view of . . . things.

“Hey, honey,” Aaron said. “Black Bear Betty and I are having a great conversation.” His voice sounded buoyant. 

“That’s nice, Aaron. A little privacy here?” Aaron might be her husband, but Jennifer had never been into that kind of sharing.

He grinned and turned to face the opposite direction. Black Bear Betty didn’t. Standing beside Aaron, she came to just past his waist. The woman couldn’t have been four foot ten. She makes me seem tall. And her hair was flat on her head like a little cap, not adding a millimeter of height. Her pants were hitched high on her waist with a thick, men’s style belt holding them up. 

“Hello, there.” Black Bear Betty’s front shirt pocket bulged with a cellophane package. Wiping her forehead with the sleeve of her shirt, she took a drag on a fat cigar. “I’m Black Bear Betty, the only female septic system installer in the entire state of Wyoming, and backup caretaker for this place. Where are you from?”

“Right now, a little place called ‘on the potty,’” Jennifer said.

With a grin and a gap-tooth smile, Black Bear Betty said, “Sorry to catch you in the act.” She said catch like ketch, and act like ect.  “I’ll have that septic tank installed in a jiffy.”

Jennifer nodded. “And I’m Jennifer. Thanks.”

In the distance, a woman’s voice clearly said, “Over my dead body.”

A man replied, “Don’t tempt me, woman.”

Jennifer said, “Oh, my gosh, who else is out in that yard?”

Black Bear Betty cackled. “That’s the neighbors. Wilma and Butch.” Thet’s.

“I didn’t see a house next door.”

“I guess they’re near a mile away. Sound carries out here. Especially when they’ve had a couple.”

This early in the morning? “I’ll say.”

“Some people hear Sioux out here, too.”

“Sue? Who is she?”

“Not a ‘she’. An Indian tribe. The Lakota Sioux. And a language.”

“There’s a reservation here?”

“Nope.” Black Bear Betty waggled her fingers in the air. “Spirits. Just about everybody living up here has heard them a time or two. I’ve even heard them myself.” Mah-self. “Wyoming is full of ghosts. Indians. Homesteaders. Trappers. Gold rushers. The land remembers.”

Jennifer didn’t believe it for a second. “Uh huh.”

“Well, I gotta go.” Goh. The word was short and clipped. Jennifer had never thought Wyomingites had much of a regional accent, but whatever George and her cousin Hank had was magnified times ten in Black Bear Betty’s speech. “Get back to it, you know.” Black Bear Betty walked into the yard to the parked tractor, which Jennifer hadn’t noticed before. She climbed onto it, looking for all the world like a gray-haired Frodo the Hobbit, and motored away. 

When she and the tractor had disappeared, Jennifer sighed. Finally. 

Then a black and white figure waddled toward her at top speed. This one she didn’t mind seeing in her current position. 

“Jeremiah,” she crooned. “Where did you come from?”

He cocked his head and watched her. 

“Okay, skunk, that’s a little pervy.” She finished and struggled to pull up her tight jeans. Then she closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath before buttoning them. When she opened them, Jeremiah had gone to check out Aaron. Show over.

So far, she’d had a Katya and a Jeremiah experience, but she hadn’t seen the shaggy old dog yet. He was probably somewhere in the sun and a puddle of his own making.

“Are you decent?” Aaron asked.

“I am now.”

He swiveled around. “Wanna hear what I’ve been thinking?”

What she wanted was coffee and a toothbrush, in that order. “Sure.” 

She studied Aaron’s light blue eyes and expressive face in profile. He didn’t take her hand or touch her, or even look at her. He was excited, but not about her. Something had gone wrong last night. Really wrong. So much for the romantic getaway I was hoping for. They’d be leaving for home in a few hours. Chin up, she reminded herself.

The tractor noise stopped, then Black Bear Betty hollered. “Liam! Liam! Help! Somebody, help!”

Aaron sprinted off with the speed that never failed to take Jennifer’s breath away. From man to lion in a blink. She finished buttoning her jeans and went after him, dodging Jeremiah as she left the deck. From ten yards away, she saw Aaron jump into a hole in the earth. Something big, blue, and plastic was tied to the tractor bucket poised over the hole.

Breathless, Jennifer stopped beside the tractor and Black Bear Betty. “What happened?”

Tears were running down Black Bear Betty’s cheeks. “I was about to put the tank into the hole. I got down to check my position, and that’s when I saw.”


“Liam. And … and …”

Aaron’s head appeared, then his shoulders, a bloody Liam balanced against his chest. He lifted the dog. “Jennifer, help me.” He slid Liam to the ground.

Jennifer crouched beside the old St. Bernard. Liam groaned. Blood was seeping through black fur on his shoulder. She slipped her arm under his head and cradled it. “It’s okay, boy,” she said, even though she could see it clearly wasn’t. 

Aaron ducked back into the hole. 

Jennifer heard, “911, what’s your emergency.” It sounded like it came from Aaron’s phone, but on speaker. She was surprised he was calling 911 for an injured dog. 

Aaron’s voice was crisp and business-like. “I’m calling to report a dead body.”

Jennifer’s eyes flew to Black Bear Betty. “A dead body?” 

The older woman nodded and whispered, “Bout scared me to death. I thought it was George at first, it looked so much like him.”

“But it’s not him?”


“Have you seen George?”

“Not today. I got to talking to your husband then went straight on to work.”

Jennifer smoothed Liam’s fur and slipped her arm out from under the dog. “I have to find George. He needs to know what’s going on.” But first, she stood and leaned over the septic hole. 

Aaron had taken his phone off speaker but was still talking to someone. Below him, a man with muddy white blond hair and wide-open ice blue eyes seemed to be staring straight at her. Unlike some ADAs, she always considered it part of her job in Homicide to hustle out to crime scenes as soon as her contacts in law enforcement called with a heads-up about a murder. Some of the deaths she’d seen had been gruesome. Mutilated corpses. Mangled bodies. Even headless torsos. But never had violent death hit so close to home. 

She forced herself to take in the details, like she was trained to do, rather than looking away. The dead man wore a black t-shirt, jeans, and work boots. He appeared completely normal except for the knife handle sticking out of his temple, and a huge lump on his forehead, like he’d been hit with something there. The knife handle seemed ordinary, except for a first aid symbol on it. A dried river of blood tracked down the man’s cheek and neck. A piece of paper was stuck in the blood. It read GUILTY in all caps. The lettering looked like the sign she’d seen on George’s door earlier.

She put a hand to her throat. Black Bear Betty was right—the guy looked a lot like George. She knew exactly who he was, though. She’d seen him only the day before. 

Hadley. George’s dead wife’s ex-husband. The one who had been harassing George.

Immediately her brain whirred through questions, trying to crack the case. Had the two men had a confrontation in the middle of the night? Was that George’s knife in Hadley’s temple? Oddly, the weapon seemed familiar to her. But, then again, how different did black pocketknives really look from each other? 

And the most important question of all, had George killed Hadley? Suddenly, it was more critical than ever that she find George.

“I’ll be right back.” She took off at a run for George’s cottage. 

At his door, she knocked, then threw it open without waiting for him to answer. “George? Are you home?” She heard a grunt from the recesses of the house. “This is Jennifer. I’m coming in.” 

From behind her, Aaron said, “Jennifer. Wait. Don’t go in there alone.”

“Take care of Liam.”

“Uh uh. You don’t know what you’ll find in there.”

“Hurry, then. I’ll be inside.” She moved quickly through a dark, cluttered living room and turned down the only hallway. It was short and emptied into an even darker bedroom. She stopped at the door, slightly winded. “George, are you in there? We’ve got a problem.”

A lump in the bed sat up. “Huh? What problem?”

“It’s Hadley.”

“What did that son of a buck do now?”

“He’s, um, he’s dead George. He was in your septic tank hole. Aaron called 911.”


“He was stabbed. So was Liam.”

“Someone hurt Liam? Who would stab my dog? That’s . . . that’s . . .” The lump lurched to the side, and, at the bedside, a bulb without a shade flickered on.

It took a moment for Jennifer to comprehend what she was seeing. “Oh, my God,” she shouted.

Aaron reacted like the 4.6 forty-yard dasher he used to be at the height of his playing days and was standing beside her in a split second. “What is it?” 

Jennifer pointed.

George stood, fully dressed, and covered in dried blood.

To lock in your pre-order Kindle ebook and bonus novella, order BIG HORN + BUCKLE BUNNY, here:

And now here’s Chapter Five: