"That mess ain't Humpty Dumpty," I said, tossing a shovel at Old Red's boots.
"You can't put the man back together again."
"It ain't the feller's body I'm tryin' to piece together," he said. "I'm tryin' to figger out how he got like this."
I froze mid-dig. Without quite knowing it, I'd been waiting for this moment for months. It was like waking up at the sound of a train whistle---and remembering you'd fallen asleep on the tracks.
"Damn it, Brother," I said. "You're a cowboy, not a detective."
Old Red didn't answer with words. He just turned and showed me that little wisp of a grin he slips under his mustache when he thinks he's being clever.
Oh? his smile said. A feller can't be both?
---from Holmes on the Range
Steve Hockensmith writes a monthly column for Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, and stories featuring Big Red and Old Red appear regularly in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. He has been a finalist for the Shamus Award for his short-story writing. Holmes on the Range is his first novel.