Silent hooves churned through the roadʼs fresh mud. Steaming breath came slowly from his horseʼs nostrils with each stride. His own breath, too, formed and faded, formed and faded in the sharp, morning air. The bits of mud spraying up all about them hung as if weightless in that same malevolent, unmoving air. Time and fate conspired against man and beast, it felt, had grabbed hold of them with the crack of the first gunshot and held them tight, seemingly leaving his horse to vainly stride in place. Yet Clark willed he and his horse to break free, willed them both to ride faster, to fly like the wind of God. The life he had been sent out to protect, the only life he cherished above his own, depended on it. He would not get there too late. He would not allow them this evil deed. This time he would obey a higher law.
A second shot ripped the morningʼs unnatural silence.
In a rush and all at once, time and fate released them from their maddening bondage. Suddenly the curtain of red, orange and yellow oak leaves crowding the road again swept past in a solid blur. Sound returned to his ears. The thundering of his horseʼs hooves striking deep into the earth. The rhythmic inhale, exhale of man and beast. And the splattering of mud against them both. Leaning into the next bend as one, he and his horse cut the corner, shooting out the other side and finally bringing into sight a rough-hewn country inn that had yet to awaken from its slumber. Dark windows looked out upon his unexpected approach. No smoke drifted from the stone chimney. Though evil was afoot, he had no target at which to aim.
And then he saw the nearby stables with their double doors swinging slightly ajar in the ill breeze.