I canny pretend to myself nothing so I can't. I did it and so it is done.
The great weight of cloud rolled back to reveal a weakening of blue and then it darkened again and when he got up and turned for the horse there was no animal presence to be seen on that barren stretch of moor but for the unrelenting gaze of the hound.
How long the riderless horse stood in the yard unnoticed nobody could say. It ghosted into the stabled area, eyes wild and its bronze coat furred with thorns. The whites of its ankles were cloven with mud and its muzzle inked with blood. A call was made for Faller and the man strode from the house, his black boots shining and his cold eyes in their fixed position of smiling. Workmen huddled about the horse murmuring and some of them looked up anxiously at the man in the hope he could provide some assurance or explanation as to the nature of what lay before them, but he showed no emotion at the sight of the riderless horse. He took the beast's head in his long hands and looked at the crimson tapestry, examined the flesh of the animal for evidence of injury and when he found none he touched the damp substance with his finger and spoke under his breath in words that were as clear as day to the assembled that the blood did not belong to the horse.
Jim stood pitching hay in the shed when a worker stepped into the gloom.
Hamilton's horse came back and no rider on it and there's blood on er too, he said.
Jim put the fork in the hay and walked outside. He pushed through the men with tightening teeth. He put a hand to the flank of the beast and pulled the thorns from its side and spoke softly to the mare. And when he turned about the horse he saw the jacket rolled into the straps and he bent towards it and knew at once whose it was and he was struck with what seemed like a great and instant weight. There was talk of a search party and then Faller was at his shoulder. He issued orders without raising his voice then reached over Jim's head and took the jacket and unballed it. He held it to the air in front of him and then he walked to the house with the item in his hand. The men put down their tools and went towards the outhouses for their jackets and Jim took the horse into the stable. He guided it into the stall and rubbed its nose and took straw and lifted it to its mouth and he stood about and walked back and forth and when he stepped outside there was movement of men up by the house. He made for the other direction, went low by the back of the stables, found that his feet were running, and he became weighed with the feeling that the natural order of things had slipped beyond fixing.
The men had fanned out along the track favored by Hamilton. To the front Faller walked slowly head bent watching for signs. The turf was soft and giving underfoot. About a mile from the house the men came to a fence and there they watched Faller bend to the wet floor testing it with his fingers. He stood up and spoke quietly to a man called Macken who turned around with a face scuffed and shined like boot leather and an empty eye socket sealed with a fold of flesh and he beckoned in turn to another of the men. The three sat on their haunches and Faller pointed to the floor and a scurry of tracks. Then he stood and walked slowly in another direction and his eyes alighted on the blood by the wall and the spill of blood on the grass sluiced now by the rain. He bent to the rocks and touched them with a finger. Macken crouched down too. The other men had stopped and stood watching. Faller pointed to drag marks on the grass and then stood and looked at the ground and followed till he got to the gate and stopped by a clearing beside the trees and bent and touched the earth with his hand and it came up tinctured with blood and then he turned off in that direction and his two men went with him.
Evening was falling as the men put foot upon the bog. The rain had stopped and a pillar of sun stood upon the heather as if asserting entitlement upon the plain. The two men followed Faller, who bent to the moss at intervals testing the ground for tracks seeing things the other two men could not, but they nodded to each other in recognition of the man's abilities, supernatural they said, and kept silent behind him.
Excerpted from Red Sky in Morning by Paul Lynch. Copyright © 2013 by Paul Lynch. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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