goats

Riley is worried about the goats. Goats she's never seen. Goats she knows next to nothing about. Goats the sale of which was arranged over the phone, triangulated between herself, her boss, and a gentle-sounding rancher named Flavio.

Flavio called Riley late on Sunday, troubled about the circumstances under which he'd just delivered four goats (including a baby and its mother) to one of Baxter's properties. Namely: in the dark of night, to a peculiar man he'd never met before, who paid him by check. A man who'd insisted on the late-night delivery, despite Flavio's objections. (I'll pay you extra, whatever you want. Money's not an issue. Just bring the goats tonight. Can you do that? Can you drive them down tonight? If not I don't want them. I'll find someone else.)

"It's okay," Riley assured him. "The check isn't going to bounce." Riley told the rancher a bit more about her boss's businesses so he'd feel at ease. "He's weird. For sure. But there are caretakers on that property, and the animals will be looked after." This was only a slight exaggeration of the scarce information she had. She knew Thorne had a few acres of land in Palo Alto, and that there were animals on the property. She knew that at least one gardener visited regularly, and that there were tenants living next door whom Baxter paid to handle some of the upkeep. But she couldn't say--not with any genuine truth--that the goats were and would be fine. Not yet, anyway. But damned if she wasn't going to make sure of it, as soon as possible. Riley loved goats.

Which is what she changed the subject to, with Flavio. A baby! Three weeks old? Riley asked all the questions she could think to, about what the animals would need that Baxter and his staff might not know.

"Hopefully I can go see them this weekend," she said. "I've let Thorne know how much I'd love to visit the ranch, and when I do, I promise to report back. With pictures," she added.

After she'd ended the call Riley reflected, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, on the unpredictability of her job. Yes, her boss could be nightmarishly difficult. Yes, he took sadistic delight in making her jump through hoops of fire. But then: goats.

Goats.