Chapter 2 - Beating the System
A of Romance, by The Star*
Audry was really pissed off. I could tell by the way things were flying
around the room. As soon as she came through the door, her helmet hit the
far wall. Her boots followed, then her jacket and riding crop.
"Bad practice, honey?" I asked, hoping to cheer her up.
Normally, Audry is one of the sweetest, most even-tempered I know.
But once in a while... I guess this was one of those times.
"Didn't practice. They sold my horse!" She fumed and muttered. "How am
I supposed to practice for Nationals, when my just got sold to
That did sound serious. At the national and international level,
dressage and show jumping contests are won as much by the as by the
rider. And even the best of both need time to become a team. Audry had
been renting Blitzen for the past year, and had done very well with him.
But now, offered really serious money by a rider from Chicago, his owners
had sold him. We had a problem.
My first reaction was to gather Audry in my arms, for some serious
hugging and comfort. Good instinct. She melted against me and cried out
her frustration. Then I took her to bed. That's always a good idea, since
she's one fantastic lay--besides being my mate, my and my ideal woman.
Audry has her mother's hair, and her dad's gray eyes. Small and
elegantly slender, her narrow, heart-shaped face and slightly pointed ears
give her a decidedly elfin look. The slight slant to her eyes and the
faint smudges beneath them just enhance that.
Her shape is pleasantly womanly, with plenty to lick, caress, suck and
play with--and BIG for her small frame. But, if she follows her
mother's pattern, she'll always remain trim and shapely.
This superior package houses an intellect sharper than mine, and a
fun-loving spirit that is sweet and mellow most of the time.
Her mother, a 'flower child' of the 60s, taught Audry everything she
knows about sex, men, and how to have a good time in bed. Audry and I pass
up the recreational drugs, but sure do get off on the rest of it.
The next morning was Saturday and I needed to exercise my horse,
Shannon. I'd raised him from a colt and trained him myself, under my mom's
watchful eye. Shannon and I were going to try to win the three-day event
at the equestrian nationals in the fall. Like any athlete, a needs
to keep in shape, and it was my responsibility to see to it.
Audry went with me. The stable-hand, Deke spotted us. "Too bad about
Blitzen, Audry," he commiserated. "What ya gonna do now?"
"I haven't a clue, Deke," she answered. "I'll have to find another
horse, but I just don't know where I'll find one I can afford."
"Tough one," he agreed, moving off on his rounds of feeding horses and
mucking out their stalls.
Audry took one of the stable hacks and accompanied me out to the
cross-country course, cantering along easily on the path, while I galloped
between the jumps. Shannon was full of himself that morning and gave me
quite a handful--and an exhilarating ride--though he was pretty much used
up by the end of the course. Audry cantered up, just as I was rubbing him
down after our workout. Her hair was free in the early spring
sunshine--somewhat rare that early in the season, for Oregon. At least,
for the valley. At home, on the ranch, we had only a third as much
rainfall--and lots more sunshine. In Corvallis, where we were attending
Oregon State, the Willamette Valley winters are just plain wet.
I watched her pull up and jump from the horse. My heart pounding--she
was one magnificent woman--I grabbed her and kissed her soundly on the
"Mmm. That was nice. What's the occasion?"
"You're so damn beautiful, I just had to kiss you."
Audry waved that off. But she was pleased.
That afternoon, it occurred to me that I had the best source for
information about horses right at home. I called dad.
answered. "Hi, Robby. What's up with you guys? How's things in
"The usual, mom. School, Audry, beer and pizza, Audry, study, Audry...
She giggled at that. She knows how much I'm in love. And she fully
approves of Audry, knowing that we're very good for each other. "So why'd
you call when you could be talking to Audry?"
"Need some advice, mom."
"Elin is good for that. I'm straight missionary style, myself." That
set me roaring with laughter, echoed by mom's silvery giggle.
"No. advice, mom... Blitzen was sold to the Olsens in Chicago.
Audry needs another horse."
"Oh. That's too bad, Rob. Hold the line while I get your father." knows all there is to know about training and rider. And about
picking the right for the rider. But she's just not tuned right to
follow the business side of the show business.
Dad picked up the phone. "That's really bad news, son. We should have
bought that horse, ourselves."
"Nah. They wanted almost twice what he was worth. Let the Olsens waste
their money. I don't think we need to."
"Son, as it stands now, the Olsens have a horse. Audry doesn't."
"True," I admitted. "But we have integrity. And I have a dad who knows
all the horses in the country, and can work a miracle and find just the
right one for Audry."
Dad laughed. "Don't you wish? Give me a day or two to think on
it--make a couple of calls--talk to your mom. Tell Audry we'll find
something for her."
"Thanks dad. And thank mom, too. Even if she didn't have any advice
"Huh?" dad said.
"Ask her. It might be fun." I hung up.
"Well?" Audry demanded. "Do I have a horse?"
"Not just yet. But dad said he'll find you one. He'll get back to us
in a day or two. He'll want mom's opinion on any he considers, too,
"Sure. I just hate to waste the time."
"It'll be OK, honey."
Tuesday, called. "Can you come out to the ranch for a couple
of days? We have an idea."
"I guess, Mom. How about we leave right after class on Thursday? We
can be there Thursday night."
"That will work fine... Oh, yes. Rob, I want you to bring Shannon,
"OK, I guess. But, why?"
"Easier to show you. See you Thursday night."
Audry's only Thursday class was a 9 o'clock, so right afterwards she
drove to the stables and loaded Shannon in the trailer we pull behind my
pickup. (We're ranch kids. We drive pickups. How would we pull a trailer with a sedan?) On a hunch, she threw all our tack in, too.
By one, we were on the highway. We tooled right along, being careful on
the curves, so Shannon wouldn't get tossed around. It wasn't quite dusk
when we arrived at home. I turned Shannon into the corral. He seemed
happy, frolicking in the familiar place. This was his home, too.
Audry and I first stopped at the big house, to tell grandma we were home
for the weekend. We lived there, when we were home. Then we went to my
parents' house. (We'd see Audry's folks in the morning. Grandma said
she'd have everybody to breakfast.)
and dad had funny looks on their faces. They said they had the
solution to our problem--maybe. But it was a big maybe and they needed to
test a couple things first, to make sure. We'd all know more tomorrow.
That was all they'd say. So Audry and I said our goodnights and walked
back to the big house and our bed.
Something about the clean mountain air at the ranch-we always make
spectacular love our first couple of nights at home. Not that making love
with Audry isn't spectacular all the time... That night, after a
sixty-nine that left us both quivering, Audry pulled me on top of
her--somehow I was ready again--and into her. Then we just talked, and
kissed, and loved. When we were almost asleep, I would have moved my
weight off of her, but she whimpered, and whispered that she liked to feel
me on her. And in her. We'd gone to sleep plugged in before, spoon
fashion, and loved it. This was new. Audry's curves are an interesting
~~ * * * * * ~~
When the approaching sunrise lightened the window in our room, we woke,
still joined, and declared our love in the best way possible. Waking up to
Audry is marvelous. Waking up making love to Audry is indescribable.
At 7, the gathered around grandma's table for breakfast. Audry
greeted her with kisses--and a special hug for her mother, Elin.
(Elin had told her about sleeping under her man. It was fun to try.)
When we'd scarfed down grandma's hearty breakfast, we adjourned to the
corral. "Rob, put Audry's saddle on Shannon, would you?" asked.
Confused, I just said, "Sure," and did as she asked.
When Audry was mounted, said, "Audry, try a little dressage." She
did, and the responded perfectly. Of course he did. I'd trained
"OK, Audry. Now try the jumps."
Again, Shannon was flawless. He responded to Audry perfectly--with a
bit less of himself than with me.
Dad led out a huge horse. "Rob, this is 'Samarkand'. We call him
'Sam'. He has a bit of Mongol pony in his bloodline, way back, and more
than a bit of Arab. Throw a saddle on him. I'd like to see what you
The was so big I had to let out the cinch straps, adjusted for
Shannon, a lot. And dad had to help me get a leg up, to mount him, with my
stirrups at jumping length.
Once aboard, he gave me a bit of a tussle--just finding out if I was
competent. Nothing like the workout a cow pony will give a rider first
thing in the morning. With firm but gentle hand on the reins and pressure
of knee and leg, I got him in hand.
He was pure joy to ride. The felt just right, on the dressage
movements I tried. He took the jumps eagerly, clearing them all with ease.
I asked dad, who was nearest, to open the corral gate so I could ride him
In the open, I let him have his head. He started with a fast canter.
Then, rolling his head, he seemed to ask. I gave him a gentle heel and he
took off! We ran about a mile, then cantered a mile back. By the time we
got back to the corral, I was in love. Not like with Audry, but this big
horse and I had formed a bond.
I guess I was grinning ear to ear when I pulled him up.
grinned too. "I see we've solved your problems," she said.
"Well, Sam is a hell of a horse," I agreed. "But the problem was
"Oh, no. That one was easy. She'll ride Shannon."
That brought me up short. I'd raised him. I'd trained him myself. He
was bred to be my horse!
Then I looked at mom, and dad, and Audry. And Sam blew in my ear,
slobbering on my jacket.
I knew they were right. Sam was a better for me, and Shannon
would be perfect for Audry. And, though I had been reluctant to admit it,
Shannon's endurance was a source of worry. I just wasn't sure he'd be able
to retain his form and stamina for the 3-day event. That wasn't a
consideration with Sam. It was hard to accept that I'd put that much
effort into Shannon and he wasn't what I'd been trying to create with him.
knew what was going through my head. "You're still young, Robbie.
Now, while you will still love horses, you'll be able to see them as they
are. Don't feel badly. Shannon was the best of that crop of colts, and
you did an outstanding job with him. It isn't your fault that he isn't
really suited for the 3-day."
Ruefully, I agreed with her. Shannon and I would have done well in the
3-day. But we'd never have been outstanding. Sam and I could be.
But, with Audry on him, Shannon could be outstanding in the other
equestrian events. So I had nothing to be ashamed of except youth--and my
parents had made sure I wouldn't be ashamed of that.
Samarkand was bred on the ranch. I didn't remember him, especially, but
vaguely recalled him among the other foals a couple years back. and
dad had been working with him for about a year--either for me or to sell.
Besides having a superior horse, I didn't have to buy him! That was good,
because this would easily bring $150,000 to $250,000. That's a lot
for a ranch kid financing college.
That night, the bedroom pyrotechnics wiped memory of the evening before
from my mind. Audry wasn't just happy about getting Shannon--with mom's
assurance that this was the right for her--she was ecstatic! She was
every bit as happy that I had the right horse, too.
A week after we returned, with both horses, to Corvallis, we sent in our
entry forms for nationals.
~~ * * * * * ~~
That spring, I graduated, with a B.S. in Husbandry, from Oregon
State ("Silo Tech", according to the students at Oregon, just down the road
in Eugene.) We'd be working at the ranch all summer. In the fall, we'd go
to nationals, then return to Corvallis, so Audry could continue and
I could work toward an M.S.
We didn't pull our weight on the work of the ranch that summer. Both of
us worked our horses for hours daily and attended some competitions, too.
Sam thrived on the work and the attention. And I had to admit that Audry
got more out of Shannon than I ever had.
Pretty soon it was late August and time to load up for the trip to
Richmond, and the national equestrian championships.
When we arrived (Flying with horses is interesting. They didn't enjoy
the journey at all.) we discovered a major problem. The national
organization didn't have Audry's entry form, and mine was messed up. A
lady at the registration table, who looked like she lemons for fun,
told us that Audry couldn't compete and that I was entered, riding Shannon,
in the arena events only.
Of course, she couldn't show us any paper entering me that way--it was
all in the computer. And computers are machines, so they don't lie, do
Since we were in mom's home territory--the Virginia hunt country--we let
her go stomping off to find an official and get things straightened out.
She returned looking really down.
"He says that there's nothing he can do. The national board adopted new
rules, and all competitors have to be properly entered or they can't
"But mom, we were properly entered. We even got the letter to
competitors about boarding for the horses, and all."
"I know honey. But they say they don't have it and refuse to change."
Dad, no dummy, and very much up on what goes on in the world even though
we live on a remote ranch, said, "I think we have a problem. Someone
doesn't want the kids competing and is trying to keep them out. I'm on the
state board. I'll demand a meeting with the national people. We'll get to
the bottom of this."
The next morning, dad got his meeting, but not much satisfaction from
it. That we had enemies became clear. Dad was repeatedly interrupted and
summarily cut off when he would try to make an argument.
Mad clear through, and dad called mom's lawyer, who headed a
large practice right there in Richmond. A day later, we had a preliminary
injunction allowing Audry and me to ride our proper horses in the events
we'd entered. At the hearing, we introduced the carbon copies of the entry
forms we'd sent and the letters to competitors with the information about
where to take horses, costs and so on. We also pointed out that they had
me registered, but in Audry's events and on Audry's horse. Obviously--to
us--someone had entered the data incorrectly in the sponsors' computer.
The judge agreed that we had done our part and the organizational
weaknesses of the sponsors of the event should not penalize us. He ordered
us entered in accordance with the registration forms we'd submitted.
Of course, his decree couldn't control the marks the show judges gave
Audry was marked so low it was laughable. There were boos and angry
whistles in the audience when her marks were shown. She and Shannon had
performed flawlessly in dressage. And they were clean over the jumps, in
elegant style, in very good time on both trials. Still, they finished
below everybody else who was clean over the jumps.
On the second day of the 3-day, I checked Sam over before I saddled him,
as I always do. His off hind hoof was cut. He couldn't compete! It
wasn't a split, or tear. The hoof had been cut deliberately. Not enough
for permanent injury, but enough that he either would not be able to run
and jump today or, if he did, he'd really injure himself.
Sick at heart and nauseated, I called dad into his stall.
Furious, dad demanded another meeting. He accused the national
organization of gross negligence and favoritism, and said that he was
filing a criminal complaint, as well as a civil lawsuit.
Some of those in the room knew him well--they all knew mom, of
course--and took him seriously. But three men, eastern 'big money',
laughed out loud.
In the hall, on the way out, one of them said to dad, "Try it, asshole,
and your punk kids will never ride again."
Dad did file a criminal complaint about the damage to Sam. The police
investigated and said they had no suspects. Too many people who didn't
know each other moving around the stalls. No way to tell even who it might
Our civil case didn't do much better. We received a small damage award
for the vet bill for Sam. But the court threw out the part about willfully
denying us our right to compete freely in the event we'd qualified for.
After all, we had competed. Our performance was our problem.
~~ * * * * * ~~
A couple of weeks later, Uncle Rick found one of the horses
dead--apparently shot by a deer hunter. Of course, the entire ranch was
posted, but we still had the occasional hunter who didn't believe in common
courtesy, much less the law.
The next week, we heard a shot over in the hills. Investigating, we
found one of our better bulls, shot through the lungs. On the hill above
him, we found a 30-06 brass, and a cigarette butt--and footprints of
somebody wearing city shoes. In the gully below, we found jeep tracks.
Whoever shot the bull must have known it wasn't a deer--it was pure
black--and didn't even walk down to it after taking the shot.
It looked like the guy from the meeting was making good on his threat.
flew back to Richmond, to confer with her family. We didn't even
know those three guys, except that they were newly-rich easterners who were
interested in horses. soon found that they were a clique in financial
And one of them had a son who fancied himself quite a rider.
The used their connections.
They are a close-knit family, the Parmentiers of Virginia, considering
the 'unholy three', as we named them, to be johnnies-come-lately. They
tended to think had beneath her, but had come to like us and,
after all, we were family...
It was one of the unholy three who had suggested to the Olsens, also in
the group, that they buy Blitzen. And one of the others had been the
person behind the new computer system the national organization used--and,
the discovered, leaving a nice little 'wormhole' into it so that
data could be manipulated after it was entered.
They had also gotten to a number of the judges and arranged for their
boy's scores to be better than he deserved--and ours as low as they could
Their only problem with us was that both Audry and I were likely to beat
While we couldn't prove very much of this, we could prove the damage to
Sam, and the killing of our stock. And we could demonstrate the ability to
manipulate the data in the computer.
Dad went to the board of the state equestrian committee. They were all
Oregonians, and didn't take much crap from the eastern establishment. He
laid it all out to them, and got a unanimous, though secret, resolution
that they would do whatever was needed to clean up their sport.
Then both dad and mom, with the state president, went to the boards of
the group in Washington, California, Idaho and Nevada, with the same
results. Soon, all the western states were solidly behind us, with the
south and midwest joining up, one by one, as they heard what had happened.
By the following Easter, the state organizations demanded and got an
emergency session of the national board. At that meeting, the computer
system was officially made a backup only. The paper registration forms
would be the determining records. And competitors who qualified for
nationals were allowed to change their registration, in person, at any
time. Also, provisions were made for changing mounts, if the named in
the application was incapacitated. (The sport, of necessity, made a big
thing out of being sure the were not endangered.)
The judging irregularities were also addressed and a new system of
judging, with random selection of judges just prior to an event, was put in
It wasn't foolproof, but it was better.
The next week, Uncle Rick and one of the hands heard a shot out in the
brush again. They galloped towards the sound they'd heard. (We habitually
carried rifles when we were out away from the headquarters.)
Topping a rise, they saw a jeep, stuck in a dry wash. Apparently, the
driver had thought it was truly dry, but didn't know about the wet mud
below the layer of dry sand. They didn't see anybody and assumed the
driver had started walking toward the road, a couple of miles away.
The hand started at a quick trot down the hill toward the jeep, when he
was suddenly shot out of the saddle. Uncle Rick shucked his rifle from its
scabbard and hit the ground. Keeping to cover, he scanned the wash and
decided that the shooter could only be in one place--a bit of scrub at the
near bank. There just wasn't enough cover anywhere else. Especially for a
That's what the guy had to be, to get stuck like that.
"Gerry, you OK?" Rick called, softly.
"Hurt pretty bad, Rick. But I'll make it. Just don't waste around with
Grinning like an wolf, Rick said, "Count on it."
Working around behind the spot he'd picked, Rick saw the guy, crouching
behind the stream bank, frantically searching the hillside.
Loudly working the bolt in his rifle, Rick said, "Looking for me?"
The guy started to turn, rifle in hand.
Rick growled, "Use it or lose it. I really don't care."
The guy paused, then dropped his rifle--a brand new 30-06, but a cheap
one. "OK, buster. Flat on the ground. Everything spread like a
starfish!" When the guy was how he wanted him, Rick moved up and quickly
had him tied securely with the rawhide thongs we all carried. Searching
him, he found a wallet, with $2,000 in fresh bills, a Connecticut driver's
license, a few credit cards, and a couple of membership cards. One of
these was in a Connecticut equestrian club.
"You got an Oregon hunting license?" Rick asked.
"Good! You are under arrest for hunting without a license. We make
citizens' arrests for that all the time, out here. I suspect the State
Police will also want you for attempted murder; that's if Gerry makes
Rick quickly gathered up the horses and pulled the jeep free. Then he
loaded Gerry into the back of it and his prisoner into the front--tied
securely to the frame of his seat. Then he drove straight to the county
In moments the sheriff himself was taking charge, detailing a deputy to
get Gerry to the hospital and another to book Rick's prisoner. And two
more to take horses, and a camera, and get good pictures of the crime
scene--including details of all the tracks, where they started and ended
and so on. It would be evident to a western jury that the prisoner had
entered clearly posted land with intent to shoot something. And that he
had deliberately shot Gerry.
The prisoner was named Fred Marston. A city man, he had served three
years in the army, in the infantry. He'd been a PFC when he got out. He
also worked for one of the 'unholy three', Olsen, as a broker in a trading
Marston demanded and got the use of a phone. He called his employer and
said he was in jail and needed a lawyer. His boss told him he'd take care
of it and to keep his mouth shut.
The District Attorney sent his chief trial deputy over, but Marston
refused to talk until he had a lawyer. "OK with us," the prosecutor said.
Later that afternoon, Marston was brought before a judge for
arraignment. He refused to plead until he had a lawyer. The judge entered
a plea of 'not guilty' and ordered him held without bail on the attempted
murder charge. The next morning a lawyer appeared and interviewed him.
Then he said, "I will defend you, if you intend to plead 'guilty'. I'll
make sure your rights are protected, and so on. If you expect someone to
get you off, get a different lawyer. I'm not a magician."
Marston said he wanted a different lawyer and asked the to contact
his boss again.
The same lawyer was back the next day. "I'm the best you're going to
get, unless you know some other people. Let me give you the facts. The DA
has you cold on the attempted murder. They can even prove malice
aforethought. And they can prove that you have been systematically killing
stock on the ranch for several weeks."
"How can they possibly do that?"
The lawyer just looked at him with pity. "You really are a city boy,
aren't you? You always wore the same shoes. Your tracks are distinctive.
And the cartridge casings you left on the ground were all fired from your
cheap rifle. They got you dead to rights. I can make them prove it to a
jury, but you're dead meat. And if you go to trial, I'll need a lot bigger
fee than I'll need to do a plea bargain for you... So. How deep are your
Marston took some time to digest that. "How good a deal can you get
"If you just plead guilty, I can probably get you five to ten-two to
three years inside if you're a good boy."
"Can you get me off with community service or a fine?"
"Not unless you give them something worthwhile. I don't know that you
have anything for them."
"Am I paying your fee?"
"If you want."
"Are you working for me, or for Olsen?"
"The guy that pays the bills gets the service."
"OK. I'm the client. I pay the bills. What's the tab for negotiating
a deal where I walk--maybe probation--in exchange for the behind
"I'll take you that far for $5,000--including the time I've already put
in for you. If you need representation beyond that--before a grand jury,
for example--that's extra, at $2,000 per day."
"You're on. Get that DA in here. I wanna walk, but I'll give him the
In a half-hour, Marston and his lawyer were meeting with the deputy DA.
"My client will enter a plea of 'guilty' to aggravated assault, trespass
and killing livestock--in return for a couple of years of probation, that
he can serve in his home state."
"And why would I agree to that?"
"Because Mr. Marston will give you a deposition detailing just what is
going on here, and the names of the people behind it all. He will give you
names and dates."
"Are these people under Oregon jurisdiction?"
"No. They live in Chicago, New York, and Virginia."
"Then any bargain we make would have to include the U.S. Attorney's
office. Is your client willing to make an offer of proof to the U.S.
"He is, as soon as we have an agreement."
"OK. If the U.S. Attorney buys it, I will, too."
Marston's lawyer smiled and held out his hand, "Done." In a small
western county seat, both lawyers had to keep their word, or they couldn't
make any deals in the future. The system worked well. On the other hand,
the court system wasn't so clogged that plea bargains were the norm, like
in big cities...
The U.S. Attorney wasn't interested in prosecuting Marston--Oregon
could handle him, just fine. But he was very interested in an interstate
conspiracy that involved shooting people.
After interviewing Marston, a clearer emerged.
The 'unholy three' were self-made millionaires, who had an interest in
horses. Or their wives did. The three were of a kind--take no prisoners;
take what you want; and if the guy who has it isn't strong enough to
protect it, that's his problem.
One of them was the head of the Olsen clan, from Chicago. Another was
George Schwartz, from Long Island--originally Brooklyn. The third, from
Richmond, was a Claude Valkenberg. When they became wealthy, they'd become
interested in the equestrian sports, as a way to respectability and
acceptance among the money that looked down their patrician noses at
But Schwartz and Valkenberg's wives found that, though they could get
membership in the hunt club, they still weren't accepted. They were
invited to the parties at the club, but never to the exclusive
entertainments of the aristocracy.
The three discovered each other as kindred spirits, with similar
Schwartz's son was a good rider. If he were to become the national
champion, or represent the country in a major international competition,
like the Olympics, 'they' would have to accept the newcomers--wouldn't
The three didn't realize that neither they nor their wives had any
class, and the people they wanted to associate with were embarrassed to be
around them. Their vulgar jokes and lack of taste were only a part of the
They put in a lot of volunteer time and managed to gain seats on the
governing board of the national organization. Then they began a campaign
to insure that Schwartz won the nationals.
Who was the competition?
Why, in dressage and show jumping, that would be Audry.
In the three-day, Rob--and he's real good at the arena events, too!
The next step was to rig the rules and fudge the entries, so that Audry
and I weren't able to compete--or, if we did, we couldn't win.
Then, when dad started making waves, they saw their little house
tumbling down. Marston worked for Olsen's New York office and was a fringe
member of the cabal. His instructions had been to do anything necessary to
get dad to back off. Marston emphasized that they literally didn't care of
he killed somebody or not. They just wanted us out of the and not
creating more problems. These weren't gangsters in the normal sense.
They were just very rich, powerful, amoral who considered us merely an
obstacle in their path--to be brushed aside.
They hadn't read their history very well. When they picked on a western
family, they found themselves in a small room with a pack of cougars.
We filed a lawsuit in civil court, for trespass, menacing, wrongful
killing of livestock, and anything else we could think of, against Marston.
When our local DA told us the story, and the deal he'd negotiated, we
quickly worked a deal of our own. If Marston actively assisted us, we'd
cancel our claims. Otherwise, we'd nail his worthless hide to the door.
He couldn't go back to work for Olsen, anyway. He caved in quickly.
Our attack was multi-pronged.
Pointing out that this was an interstate conspiracy and that the judges
in our sport, at the national level, had clearly been suborned, we raised
the issue of possible gambling on the outcome of the last national
championships. After all, they were televised... and the sports books in
Las Vegas will take bets on anything.
The U.S. Attorney bought the argument. He wanted all he could get on
this bunch--there was a high probability of other criminal violations too.
So the FBI was asked to interview all the judges from the last national
competition. We gave the names of knowledgeable, impartial people who were
there, who could testify that the judging was blatantly stacked against
Audry and me. Then went for an extended visit home. She saw all her
relatives and friends in the Richmond area--and told them all she knew.
The 'unholy three' would never be accepted in the top levels of Virginia
society--or Washington, D.C., either. And through the connections
all over the eastern seaboard, the word would go out.
Through some friends among the top level of cattle breeders, Uncle Rick
passed the same information. Since Chicago was still a major center of the
cattle industry, the rumors about the Olsens quickly made the rounds. They
found themselves cut off from society--and from a lot of high level
business contacts, among who prided themselves on their integrity and
whose word was worth more than a contract.
A couple of the equestrian judges admitted to the FBI that they were,
indeed, pressured to make sure Audry and I were not among the top places...
It didn't take much to get them to confess the details.
As soon as we knew, and could verify it, we went to _Sports Illustrated_
with the entire story. We named those names we knew. We gave them leads
to follow up. We identified what we knew and couldn't prove, and what we
They did a very good job. Two weeks later, a we didn't know
existed, of Audry, frustrated and disgusted when her scores in dressage
were announced at nationals, adorned the cover.
(For the rest of our lives, I asked why she couldn't have been on the
cover of the swimsuit issue. It usually earned me a hard fist in the
The article that went along with it was fantastic. The magazine's staff
unearthed information about the three we had no idea about. There was no
doubt in our minds that they were 'busted'. _Time_ even ran article about
Within weeks, the three were under federal indictment for a number of
conspiracy crimes--of which we were very small potatoes, indeed.
They were forced to resign from the national board of the equestrian
body. Audry and I received formal letters of apology, including that we
were welcome to compete in the next national competition without having to
qualify--on any we'd care to ride.
The past year's results were declared void. Schwartz's medal was
rescinded. He was placed on probation and disqualified from national or
international competition for two years.
All three families were ruined socially and, eventually, financially.
~~ * * * * * ~~
That summer, Audry and I had just come over the last rise, on our way to
our favorite meadow in the high country, when my suddenly went down.
A split-second later, I heard the shot. Screaming to Audry to get off her
horse and down, I scrambled to free my rifle from under my horse.
When I looked up, Audry was out of sight, though her was walking
toward the meadow on his own. I heard her say, quietly, "I'm OK, Rob. I
think he's on that knob over to our right."
"Stay here. Shoot if you see him--to keep him pinned down. I'm going
around." I worked my way back across the skyline, keeping under cover all
the way. Soon after I'd gotten just below the crest, on the back side of
the ridge, I heard a shot, from the direction of the knob Audry had
targeted. I hoped she wasn't trying to draw his fire!
It was hard to move silently in boots. I did the best I could, being
careful not to step on a rock that might move under me, or on a twig that
could break, giving me away. Though I wanted, more than anything, to run,
I had to take it one slow step at a time. I'd get there when I got there.
Damn, that was hard to do!
Soon, I was underneath the knob, on the back side. Easing my way up,
through the scrub yellow pine and juniper of that altitude, I was able to
make out a man, in a military jacket and blue jeans, intently scanning the
slope where my had gone down. Looking down behind me, I saw a tied to a bush in the gully below.
I rocked the bolt in my rifle and told the guy, "Drop it. Right now!"
He thought he'd try his luck, and tried to roll over, rifle in hand. Luck
had deserted him. My shot took him in the right side, ranging up. At that
close range, the hunting bullet made a puree of his lungs and heart.
Closing on him carefully, I kicked his rifle away, then confirmed that
he was dead. I called to Audry, so she wouldn't shoot me, and stood
carefully, to survey the country for any others that might be around. No
sign of any, so I called Audry to me.
"Recognize him?" I asked, when she joined me, looking at our would-be
"Yeah. He's Schwartz. The one who stole my title."
"Sure looks like him. OK. What do we do, now?"
"Huh? We take him back to the ranch and call the sheriff."
"Well, just let's think about it for a minute. What happens if we just
"What? Rob? You mean... just leave him lay?"
"Yeah. Exactly. We can dump his tack. I can ride his back to
the ranch. I'll have to get a better look, but I think it's our horse,
anyway. He probably stole it from the south pasture."
"But, won't people be looking for him?"
"Maybe. But, who knows he's here?"
"It's just not right..."
"Why not? What would he have done with us?"
"Well... Maybe," she said, coming to see my point. "Let's do as you
say, but tell the as soon as we get home. We'd better get on with
it. We'll be riding after dark, as it is."
"Damn! I was counting on screwing your socks off down in that meadow."
Giggling, Audry said I could do that next week. She wanted to try that
high meadow by the little lake again, too.
Arriving home, we tumbled into the big house after we'd put up the
horses. Grandma took one look at us, and started scrambling eggs and
heating some sausage--that being what she could whip up fastest.
"Gran, I think we need the folks over here."
She just nodded, and pointed to the phone. So Audry asked first hers
and then my to join us.
When we were all seated around the table--Audry and I were still
eating--we told them what had happened.
"So, where is the critter?" Uncle Rick asked.
"On the knob. I left him where he fell," I answered.
He grinned. It was not a nice grin.
Dad nodded, too. They saw the same implications I did. If Schwartz
just disappeared, that was fine with us. If someone came looking for him,
maybe they'd find him, maybe not. If we found a searcher--or even tracks
of a searcher, that would tell us something.
If the body was found, the scene would show that the fired some
shots and was shot himself. Or at least, that someone was shooting and he
was killed by gunshot. The dead was also there, killed by a gunshot.
And his tack was on it. But the coyotes would be at the bodies--probably
tonight; no later than tomorrow. And buzzards, too. If those sent to hunt
for him were as poor as Schwartz and Marston at tracking and hunting, they
wouldn't be able to read any of the sign, anyway.
We debated trying to find his car, and doing something about it. Uncle
Rick made a ride around the south pasture and the adjacent area, without
finding it. So we forgot about it. (Later, our local deputy sheriff told
me that they'd found a rented blazer up in the national forest. It had
obviously been there a couple weeks. The rental company said the guy who
rented it had used fake ID--the credit card he used was stolen and his
driver's license matched the credit card. So nobody got too excited about
The only thing we did beyond that was we went armed all the time. If we
were practicing arena events, a rifle was just inside the door by the
big practice ring. If I was out working Sam on the cross-country part of
3-day training, I'd pack a pistol and Audry or dad would be somewhere
nearby, with a rifle in the saddle scabbard. I got to ride western saddles
more, to carry the rifle when I went here and there. Sam liked the long
rides and could really cover a lot of country. He wasn't worth a damn
working cows, though.
Audry and I did get back up to the meadow in about a week. No one had
been around--and we made sure we didn't leave any sign off the normal trail
and our campsite.
Up in the alpine meadow, we slept in the tent. I know the stars are
spectacular at altitude. But so is the cold, at night. Audry and I were
too busy to spend much time looking at stars, anyway. Dunno what it is
about the mountains, but she's really remarkable when we get up there.
That fall, at nationals--in California this time--Audry and Shannon were
first in both the dressage and arena jumping events. I was second in
jumping and third in dressage. Then Sam and I took first in the 3-day. I
have to give credit. She sure does know when a and rider are
compatible. We were a pretty excited family, by the end of the week of
Next year, the Olympics!
* Beating the System is the second of the Audry stories. (c) 1997,
2001, Extar International, Ltd. All rights reserved. Single copies for
personal, non-commercial use may be downloaded or printed. Any other uses,
including reposting, or posting on an archive site, must have prior
permission from Extar International. Comments always welcome.