Willow hands me my helmet and I cram it on over a fleece headband. It presses against my forehead, igniting a pain building there. I tack up Roh and lead her out. Her metal shoes clop against the floor, sending echoes through the barn. At the back door, she pins her ears and turns her head to look at me with her dark eyes.
“Yeah, you hate me now. Just wait till you see what I’ve got in store for you.”
Willow opens the door, and I flip the reins over Roh’s head. The mare skitters sideways as Willow catches me under the knee to hoist me up into the saddle. She tightens the girth and looks up at me.
“Sure about this?”
“Nope.” I pull on an extra pair of gloves. As long as I can hold onto the reins, it won’t matter much about steering her. Roh lifts her head and sniffs the air as I urge her toward the opening. “Oh, wait.” I pull off the gloves and loop the reins through my arm. “Call this guy, Detective Maggiano, and tell him where I went. What’s happening.”
Willow’s face, burnt pink with the cold wind, pales.
“You don’t even have to talk to him. Just leave a message.” I pull on the gloves. “Just in case.”
I nudge Roh, and she steps into the snow. It’s only a few inches around the barn, but it’s slick underneath. The freezing rain came first, then the snow. At least the wind died down. Roh dances underneath me, anxious to move.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Willow stands in the gap in the doorway.
I shrug. I can’t answer. I’m afraid my voice will crack. I’m afraid I’ll jump off and bring Roh back inside and forget my promise. I manage to croak out, “Just take care of Tucker,” before I turn and point Roh toward the edge of the woods.
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