Welcome to FROST HARROW, my new modern (1990s) gothic horror series! If you’d like to support this and my other work, go to www.CushingHorrors.com and become my patron! You may also enjoy the Scribe Award-Winning MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE – In print, for kindle, and for all e-book formats. And check out my retro-horror-comedy classic CANOE COPS VS. THE MUMMY as well as my other books. Now… On with the show!
THIRTY-THREE – THE HORSE’S MOUTH
Richard Ali Christopher turned the windshield wipers of the cop car to high, but it didn’t make much difference. The rain poured down in sheets now, making it nearly impossible to see anything.
It was stupid to try and find Grant in this rain, Rick realized, even if he did know where his friend was headed. He could return the cell phone to Grant tomorrow. He could drop it with the Winslow butler if he couldn’t find Grant personally. He could do it before starting his shift at the station.
He’d just about made up his mind to turn around and head for home when he spotted something by the side of the road up ahead. It was a white jeep in the ditch off the shoulder.
Grant drove a white jeep, Rick remembered.
He cursed himself for not checking his friend’s sobriety been before letting him drive off. Who knew how long the Winslow heir might have been drinking at the Nest before Richard came in? If Grant was dead, Rick didn’t think he could forgive himself.
He turned on the car’s cherry top and spotlight. What the light illuminated made his blood run cold.
A huge, coal-black horse stood next to the jeep, poking its head into the driver’s side window. As the cop car approached, the animal pulled its face out of the opening.
It looked at Richard, and its eyes blazed red in the prowl car’s headlights. Hot yellowish steam drifted from its mouth into the rain and darkness. Rick could see Grant’s face through the open window, too. He looked unconscious. His eyes were closed, and his mouth hung open.
Mist floated out of Grant’s mouth, as well. It wafted through the soggy air, mingling with the steam from the horse’s snout.
Rick screeched the car to a stop, hopped out, and drew his gun. He waved it at the animal as he ran toward the jeep.
“Hey, you! Get away from there! Go on! Shoo!”
The horse glared at him with its red eyes, then it turned and quickly disappeared into the darkness.
Rick opened the door of the jeep and looked at Grant. He was breathing, thank Allah, and didn’t seem badly hurt, though he sported a nasty bruise on his forehead.
“C’mon, buddy,” said Rick, grabbing his friend under the arms and starting to pull him from the car. “I got to get you to the hospital.”
Grant revived as Rick tugged on him.
“Where am I? What’s going on? Where’s Ivy?” the millionaire asked, a dazed look in his eyes.
“You ran off the road on the way to your friend’s house,” said Rick. “I was trying to return your cell phone and found you here. C’mon, buddy, out of the car. I’m taking you to the hospital.”
Grant got out of the jeep. “No. You don’t have to. I’m fine. Really. Where’s Ivy?”
“What are you talking about, man? You never made it to Cassie’s house. Ivy’s still there with her.”
Grant shook his head, and then rubbed his eyes, as though the action made them ache. “No. No. I saw her standing in the road just before I ran into the ditch. She can’t have gone far. Help me look for her.”
The policeman scrutinized his friend. Grant seemed sincere enough. Could he be delirious? “Okay,” the cop agreed, “we can look around—but only for a minute. Then I’m taking you to the emergency room.”
They combed the area for the better part of ten minutes. The rain had soaked clear through his police leathers when Rick decided it was time to call a halt.
“Okay, Grant, enough is enough,” he said. “There’s no sign of your friend here. Hop in the car. I want to have someone take a look at you.”
Grant walked from the edge of the woods back toward the cop car. He smiled weakly at his friend.
“Sorry,” he said. “I don’t know what got into me.”
“I’m not worried about that,” said Rick. “I just want to make sure you’re okay.” He opened the back door of the cop car. “Get in. You can take a little rest on the way to the hospital.”
Rick didn’t even see where Grant’s fist came from before it clouted him squarely on the jaw.
The policeman fell back like a two-hundred-pound sack of potatoes, splashing loudly into the mud on the side of the road. His head snapped back and lolled to one side.
“Sorry about that, pal,” Grant said as he dragged his friend’s unconscious body toward the police car. He opened the door and laid Rick’s wet form across the front seat. Then he took the keys out of the ignition and hid them under the passenger side floor mat. He didn’t want the cop coming after him right away.
Before leaving he retrieved his cell phone from the front seat and stuck it in the back pocket of his jeans.
Grant climbed into the jeep and slammed the gearbox into reverse. He noticed as he did so that one of his headlights had gone out when he ran off the road. The broken light made it harder to see, but he knew he didn’t have time to stop and try to fix it. The tires spun in the mud, and the jeep lurched up out of the ditch onto the road.
He threw the jeep into first and tore off down the road through the rain, this time checking to make sure his seatbelt had buckled properly before he drove away.
Grant’s head throbbed and his throat was dry. His lungs felt burned, as if he’d singed them walking through a blazing fire—like that time in Singapore. He tried to push the pain in his head aside and concentrate on the road.
Ivy was in trouble. He knew that as surely as he knew his own name.
The rain pounded on the roof of his car like a machine gun. The wipers swirled the cascading water across the windshield in hypnotic patterns. Something foolish occurred to him and Grant smiled.
At least the radio had stopped.
TO BE CONTINUED…