Home>>read The Horse Whisperer free online

The Horse Whisperer

By´╝ÜNicholas Evans

Part One


Chapter One


There was death at its beginning as there would be death again at its end. Though whether it was some fleeting shadow of this that passed across the girl's dreams and woke her on that least likely of mornings she would never know. All she knew, when she opened her eyes, was that the world was somehow altered.

The red glow of her alarm showed it was yet a half-hour till the time she had set it to wake her and she lay quite still, not lifting her head, trying to configure the change. It was dark but not as dark as it should be. Across the bedroom, she could clearly make out the dull glint of her riding trophies on cluttered shelves and above them the looming faces of rock stars she had once thought she should care about. She listened. The silence that filled the house was different too, expectant, like the pause between the intake of breath and the uttering of words. Soon there would be the muted roar of the furnace coming alive in the basement and the old farmhouse floorboards would start their ritual creaking complaint. She slipped out from the bedclothes and went to the window.

There was snow. The first fall of winter. And from the laterals of the fence up by the pond she could tell there must be almost a foot of it. With no deflecting wind, it was perfect and driftless, heaped in comical proportion on the branches of the six small cherry trees her father had planted last year. A single star shone in a wedge of deep blue above the woods. The girl looked down and saw a lace of frost had formed on the lower part of the window and she placed a finger on it, melting a small hole. She shivered, not from the cold, but from the thrill that this transformed world was for the moment entirely hers. And she turned and hurried to get dressed.

Grace Maclean had come up from New York City the night before with her father, just the two of them. She always enjoyed the trip, two and a half hours on the Taconic State Parkway, cocooned together in the long Mercedes, listening to tapes and chatting easily about school or some new case he was working on. She liked to hear him talk as he drove, liked having him to herself, seeing him slowly unwind in his studiously weekend clothes. Her mother, as usual, had some dinner or function or something and would be catching the train to Hudson this morning, which she preferred to do anyway. The Friday-night crawl of traffic invariably made her crabby and impatient and she would compensate by taking charge, telling Robert, Grace's father, to slow down or speed up or take some devious route to avoid delays. He never bothered to argue, just did as he was told, though sometimes he would sigh or give Grace, relegated to the backseat, a wry glance in the mirror. Her parents' relationship had long been a mystery to her, a complicated world where dominance and compliance were never quite what they seemed. Rather than get involved, Grace would simply retreat into the sanctuary of her Walkman.

On the train her mother would work for the entire journey, undistracted and undistractable. Accompanying her once recently, Grace had watched her and marveled that she never even looked out of the window except perhaps in a glazed, unseeing scan when some big-shot writer or one of her more eager assistant editors called on the cellular phone.

The light on the landing outside Grace's room was still on. She tiptoed in her socks past the half-open door of her parents' bedroom and paused. She could hear the ticking of the wall clock in the hall below and now the reassuring, soft snoring of her father. She came down the stairs into the hall, its azure walls and ceiling already aglow from the reflection of snow through undraped windows. In the kitchen, she drank a glass of milk in one long tilt and ate a chocolate-chip cookie as she scribbled a note for her father on the pad by the phone. Gone riding. Back around 10. Luv, G.

She took another cookie and ate it on the move as she went through to the passageway by the back door where they left coats and muddy boots. She put on her fleece jacket and hopped elegantly, holding the cookie in her mouth, as she pulled on her riding boots. She zipped her jacket to the neck, put on her gloves and took her riding hat down off the shelf, wondering briefly if she should phone Judith to check if she still wanted to ride now that it had snowed. But there was no need. Judith would be just as excited as she was. As Grace opened the door to step out into the freezing air, she heard the furnace come to life down in the basement.

Wayne P. Tanner looked gloomily over the rim of his coffee cup at the rows of snowcrusted trucks parked outside the diner. He hated the snow but, more than that, he hated being caught out. And in the space of just a few hours it had happened twice.

Those New York state troopers had enjoyed every minute of it, smug Yankee bastards. He had seen them slide up behind him and hang there on his tail for a couple of miles, knowing damn well he'd seen them and enjoying it. Then the lights coming on, telling him to pull over and the smartass, no more than a kid, swaggering up alongside in his stetson like some goddamn movie cop. He'd asked for the daily logbook and Wayne found it, handed it down and watched as the kid read it.

Recommend