I retrieved my rifle and called for Typhoid. In a rare display of charity, the horse barely ignored my command at all and instead trotted to my side with only a moment’s hesitation.
“You summoned, oh master?”
“You know, sarcasm doesn’t become you,” I admonished.
The horse actually had the audacity to appear abashed. His eyes grew wide, and his head drew back along that great expanse of neck. “Whatever on Earth do you mean? You know I’m the model of sincerity. Oh, by the way, I saw your heroic last stand. The dirt never stood a chance.”
By way of response, I slammed my rifle into its saddle holster, eliciting a grunt from my mount that brought a satisfying smile to my lips. I then walked over to where the rustlers had holed up and knelt to examine the ground. After a few seconds, Typhoid wandered over to join me.
“What are you looking for?”
I didn’t bother to look up. “What do you think? The soul rustlers.”
“They didn’t fall through cracks in the ground!”
“What would you know about it? Who’s the one with the Gift here anyway?”
“The Gift? You mean that supposedly mystic power you keep claiming to have?”
This time I did peer up at Typhoid and immediately wished I hadn’t. His tiny eyes were about twice their normal size, and one nostril flared wide while the other narrowed to a thin slit. It was an expression of surprise mingled with annoyance, an expression that, sadly, I was all too familiar with, as it meant that Typhoid was in an argumentative mood.
“The Gift is real,” I told him, “whether you choose to believe it or not, and it happens to give me a certain insight into the supernatural, an insight that might give me a hint to the fate of the rustlers.”
“Oh, I believe in the Gift all right; I just don’t believe that you have it.”
I stood up so that I was at eye level with Typhoid, then abruptly turned away. It was pointless arguing with Typhoid. The horse had trouble believing in wind when standing in the eye of a tornado. Granted, the Gift proved elusive. To the best of my knowledge, I’d never once invoked its power. But that meant little. For me, the Gift was a matter of faith, and I had it on the best authority that I owned it, that in fact I owed my life to it. It just wasn’t something a horse could understand. So I turned away, and resumed my search at the edge of the clearing.
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