Up ahead, they heard a dog barking and then the shape of a hound. Macken called out in recognition and not a word from Faller but his eyes were on the dark beast and he went towards it, the dog barking enthusiastically as if it were in its power to speak directly to the giant man.
Later, when the clouds had rolled over and the darkening pallor of evening began to fall, they dragged the body out of the morass. The horse strained in its harness and the sucking pool was reluctant to give up its secret, grasping at the corpse that emerged slowly in a dripping blackness with rope looped about a lone boot.
The dog barked and ran in circles about the men who stood by the ashen tree. The air thrumming with the electricity of unspoken glances, an awareness now that it must be a killing they were dealing with and not an accident and caps came off out of respect for Hamilton the fallen employer, every man but for Faller who kept his hat on his head and sat on his haunches away from the men with a pipe in his hand and a tin in the other. He pinched some tobacco and rolled it loose between finger and thumb then tamped it down and sucked the pipe patiently to life. And only when the cadaver lay stiffened on the ground did he go to it and put a hand to its face, wiping gently the sludge from its features, silt hanging about the eyelashes and teeth grimed and the mouth filled with black oozing mud and he rubbed a thumb over the dead man's lips.
A hush about the Hamilton house. There was the lighting of oil lamps and the sound of whispers that fell short on the breath with the approaching march of Faller as he strode through the hallway towards the east wing of the house. A gallery of deer heads watched impassively as the foreman entered the sitting room, shadows of antlers grasping dully at the ceiling.
Hamilton stood in front of the fire and he turned around and looked at Faller. He was white and naked but for his leather slippers and a gown that swung untied and in his arms he petted a stuffed fox. Faller reached to light an oil lamp and watched the man whispering into the animal's ear.
It was one of the Coyles, Faller said.
Hamilton stopped his whispering and looked up at the foreman.
What was that? he said. The old man's voice a stumbling whisper.
Your son sir.
Oh that. I see. Did you talk to Desmond about it?
It is Desmond that is dead.
The old man looked at him with rheumy fish eyes unblinking.
I see. Pity that.
He lifted the fox up to his face.
I don't think we'll miss him will we Foxy? We didn't like Desmond anymore did we?
Faller went to the sideboard and took a tumbler and poured himself a glass of scotch. A leather chair creaked as Hamilton sat down, gray belly flesh spilling loose over his groin, and Faller watched him patting the animal's head.
I have not involved the constabulary, Faller said. I don't intend to. And you have my word I'll bring that miscreant to you.
Hamilton put his ear down to the fox and Faller turned to leave but the old man raised his head again and Faller could see in the dull light the eyes of the man become animate.
Foxy says he wants his cup of hot milk.
She reached out to him, put the child in his lap?baby skin warm and the bundled child with big saucer eyes and her looking up at him and enfolding his finger with a handthe smallest most wondrous living thing he ever sawand he sang softly in the child's ear a melody strange from his lips that he'd not sung before but it came to him easy as if he'd known it all his life and he stood in front of the fire with the child in his arm and he saw too the horse and rubbed its muzzle with the flat of his hand and she came over and rubbed it as well and she said words he couldn't make out and then there was blood from its ears, the softly plink of rain on the floor, and he told her to mind the blood but it began to course now, falling to the clay, and her face was wild, her eyes shrieking silent and he shouted to her and he put his hands to one of the horse's ears but the flow he could not stop, and she began shouting to him, and he could hear her now, where is the wean Coll, where did you leave the wean, and he did not know where he left the child and he stood there unknowing, dread rooting him to the spot and he felt the power of his legs leave him and the horse looking at him sorrowfully and he was stiff from the cold.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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