“Did he knock?”
“What happened after she opened the door?”
“I was too far away to hear what was said, but she was all pokered up with her social worker face on. She said something I couldn’t hear, but she didn’t look pleased. She took the flowers from him. That was when I moved in. By the time I got there, he was trying to muscle into the bunkhouse on the pretext of wanting a glass of water.”
“Mistake, letting him get that close,” Dan said with a wince, shifting from impartial lawman to someone who’d responded to more than one call related to violence against women. “You say he tried to muscle his way in. Did he physically touch her or did he verbally threaten her?”
“Neither. But she was intimidated.”
“Because she felt threatened by him personally, or because by the nature of her work, she’s too well-informed with regard to its risks? Or was she intimidated by a teenaged boy because of her sister?”
“Too far, Dan,” Ryan said.
“She opened the door, buddy. Physically as well as metaphorically. Those are exactly the kinds of questions you need to be asking yourself before you take that kid’s head off or have Handy work him to death. Or, for that matter, while filling out the incident report. Don’t forget that needs to be done.” Dan clapped him on the shoulder. “Still doesn’t explain why your shirt’s inside out, though.”
“Go hand out parking tickets,” Ryan said sourly.
Dan, however, had given him plenty to ponder.
It was true that he hadn’t heard their whole conversation, and his perspective on what he’d seen might be somewhat colored by his past history with violence and need for control, especially since Elizabeth had far too much confidence in her abilities to take care of herself. No way could she break someone’s leg.
Therefore, that was his job.
A quick check of the clock said he had roughly one more hour before heading back to the bunkhouse to help her move her belongings. He had one thing to take care of first.
He called Handy and invited him up to the office where they could talk in private. He explained to him how Jonas had been caught leaving his bunk after hours and that he’d be pounding fence posts and stringing wire with Handy for the next month as punishment.
“How come I’m the one being punished?” Handy complained. “I didn’t sign on to babysit spoiled little rich kids.”
And Ryan had never intended to be in a position where he’d be protecting women from them. Everyone had their problems.
“I hear the Running River Ranch is hiring,” he said mildly.
“Work for Weldon Scott?” Handy made a face as if he’d smelled something rotten. “Forget that idea. The spoiled little rich kid is about to learn what it’s like to work for a living.”