We were cleaning out the stalls when Savvy hissed at me to come over, talking about the ghost rider’s horse. I swallowed and came to look, holding my rake hard in both hands like it would shield me from whatever this was. The horse she was staring at wasn’t the blood bay or golden bay of most of the baroness’s horses, or any of the coat colors from the sell barn. The stallion was big, black, and foreboding. He pawed at his stall bed and stared at me with hateful eyes.
And it was like my whole body went cold. I shuddered and took a few steps back, eyes wide, barely managing to nod back at Savvy in answer to her question. Yes, definitely the ghost rider’s horse. I don’t know why he scared me so badly, or even if I was afraid. I just felt so strange, and that was terrifying. From down the hall, I heard a loud thump and angry neigh that took me only a second to place. Evening. He must be kicking his stall. I shook my head and came out of whatever emotional paralysis this strange horse had put me in. Savvy was already walking out to talk to somebody, so I scrambled to follow, refusing to be left alone. Especially with that horse!
Judy was in the middle of talking with Carney about something, so we went to the side of the stable where Tyra was dealing with something around the inn. She knew instantly what horse we were talking about, Khaan, who belonged to another new girl, Sabine. Linda had shown this new girl around and then Linda was gone the next day. I shuddered, not sure I liked the direction this talk was going. Tyra pointed Sabine out, a dark haired girl in full dressage gear with the look of something smelly under her nose.
But if she owned Khaan, and if he was the horse we had seen… I asked Tyra if she knew if Sabine had been out a few days ago riding around Moorland. It would make sense, if the owner was the ghost rider, after all, but I didn’t mention that to Tyra. She had no idea, understandably, so we would have to ask Sabine ourselves.
Savvy grabbed me and brought me back to the stable to finish the chores. She whispered to me, pointing out what I had noticed earlier and making me draw my shoulders up around my ears. But she added that I was good at acting haughty and superior. I gave her big eyes. I didn’t know that! I only did it a couple times, with Mr. Kemball yesterday and Josh this morning. I didn’t know if this was a good skill to be honing or not… But Savvy seemed to think it would work with Sabine where she would brush Savvy off.
Savvy offered to cover for me while I changed into Reed Kessler’s jacket and confront her, even to be the distraction if anything went wrong. I must have had a funny face, because she started hissing at me about how important it was. That Sabine could be working for Mr. Kemball or worse. And that it would be easy for me to do, just to pretend that Sabine was Mr. Kemball. Even though we knew nothing about her and technically had no proof that her and Khaan were really the ghost rider, just very strong suspicions.
I guess I was being a silly and too optimistic that Sabine was innocent. I agreed, but felt my ears grow warm in embarrassment as I had to admit to the hiccup I had caused in her planning. One of the things I’d sold back yesterday had been my version of the jacket, since the bright red clashed with my hair. Savvy rolled her eyes and offered to let me wear hers, and I darted off to go change. For good measure, I wrapped my braid into a bun at the nape of my neck and pinned it in place, despite hating the itchy prick of the pins.
Rather than risk Sabine figuring out that Savvy and I were spying on her, I went out a different door and like I was coming out of the manor before approaching Sabine. I tilted my chin up and walked forward with my nose as the guide rather than walking with my forehead leading the way, as the dance teacher at school put it once. It changed how I carried myself, just enough I hope. I took a deep breath and then started talking as soon as I caught a good look at her from the front.
“Weren’t you the rider I saw the other day on the trail?” I asked, setting my hand on my hip.
She gave me a dirty look. “Um… What? I certainly haven’t been out riding on any simple trails,” she said with a dismissive twist of her head. “Who are you, by the way, to come here with your stupid inquisitions?”
“Someone of consequence,” I said, and saw her bristle. I quickly started talking again before I lost my nerve in the face of confrontation. “And I could swear that it was you I saw on the Bobcat girl track at Moorland.”
“Excuse me?” she said, obviously incensed. “What are you implying here, exactly? That I was at Moorland? What would I be doing in that pathetic hellhole, when there’s a perfectly functional riding track here?”
Uh oh, uh oh! I scrambled for a good reason and decided to throw the question back at her. “Why don’t you tell me?” I suggested.
Well, that got her knickers in a twist. It took effort for me not to cringe at her next barrage of insults. I tried to change the subject to the race track temporarily, but she wasn’t having any of it and took off. I sighed when she left and rubbed my forehead, trying to relieve the stress I felt building up there. But I did know one thing. She had avoided answering my questions directly for the most part, instead just asking me more questions at first to give her time to think. I said something as much at Savvy when she came to lean on the wall next to me. Sabine was definitely hiding something, I just wasn’t sure what.
I mentioned the race track too, and Savvy looked interested. She also added that Sabine had looked like a bitch. The tension in my head must have gotten to me, because a bit of slang came out of my mouth that would have had Mrs. Kettle washing my mouth out with soap. I called her a pikey. Ugh, and I had been raised that racial slurs were not appropriate (even if this one was technically not one…sort of). This is why I dislike my headaches.
Well, Tyra knew about the track, and at that point I needed some sort of activity to help me relax and get the stress out of my head. We fetched the horses and went to find a new girl, Pauline. She was quite excited about us finding out about the track and talked to us about it a good deal before she let us run it. By the time we were done, Sabine was back and seemed like a completely different person. I was stunned speechless by the change in behavior. Her biggest new concern was if we knew Justin or not.
All this fuss about Justin! I felt badly for all the other boys around his age, if they were ignored in favor of him all the time. I stubbornly refused to think about who I was really feeling bad about. (Other than that obviously he isn’t suffering too badly if he has the most popular girl in Moorland for a girlfriend, even if she does have her eyes on another boy… No, not thinking of this right now.)
Well, she had a letter for Justin from someone and asked me to deliver it, claiming that she didn’t know where Moorland was and getting lost. I narrowed my eyes at the dig about classier areas, but I couldn’t exactly refute it either. The Moorland stables were definitely geared towards being a camp, and were even in the process of renovations. But the manor was only a step or two above them, really. I silently took the letter, and once she was gone, I held it up to the light to try and see who it was from.
Savvy pointed out the only way we were going to know for sure was to give it to Justin. I couldn’t help but get bad tingles on the back of my neck, and said, “Something doesn’t feel right about this.” I mean, all she had to do was drop the letter in the mail, why hand deliver it?
Savvy pointed out, “Nothing has been right since Justin pointed us out to Mr. Moorland to help with the whole G.E.D. nonsense!” and I couldn’t really argue with that. I started picking the pins out of my hair, biting my lip as she continued to argue to make her case. I just didn’t want to have a fight with my new friend, and it made practical sense.
I should have listened to my instincts, as we discovered later.
So to Moorland we went and found Justin. I handed him the letter, and managed to make small talk along with Savvy as he opened it. He read it, and it certainly seemed to upset him. The letter was apparently from his grandfather, and he insisted he had to leave. But we had to tell his father.
Thankfully, I had seen Thomas heading towards the smithy as we were riding into Moorland, no doubt to talk to Conrad about something. Savvy was off like a shot, and Evening and I had to scramble to keep up with Heart. The tingles on the back of my neck were getting stronger, especially with Savvy so upset. Thomas didn’t help when Savvy told him what was going on, paling like he hadn’t even when we had mentioned the ghost. We all rode off at a dead-run to try and stop Justin.
But it was too late, and I could have cried, especially at Thomas’s reaction. He blamed himself, Savvy tried to blame herself, and I thought it all rested on my shoulders too. I could have stood up to Savvy, but no. I had taken the coward’s way out, and been selfish. Savvy mentioned Sabine, and that got a reaction out of Thomas. He knew her, and implied that she was an awful person that wouldn’t leave his family alone. Savvy managed to sneak a little more information out of him, mostly that Sabine wasn’t working for G.E.D. after all (or at least he implied it).
Someone worse than G.E.D. in Jorvik? Well isn’t that thought positively terrifying! Thomas decided that we needed to find out more about what all Sabine had been up to before she had tricked us into giving Justin that letter. He tried to reassure us that we couldn’t have known about Sabine before we left, but it didn’t really make me feel better. Savvy suggested we could have opened the letter, which shocked me into staring at her like a fish. I should say not! I wouldn’t open Sabine’s letter anymore than I would open mail to or from Savvy!
But I could tell from the look on her face that Savvy didn’t agree. Something had her on edge, but she didn’t talk about it the entire way back to the winery.
There was no sign of Sabine, making it clear to me that we had been something of a distraction on top of it. The baroness knew nothing about her, either. Savvy mentioned that Justin had left to see his grandfather, and she was not happy about this, telling us not to joke about such things. I think our expressions said enough about this not being anything we were laughing about. But rather than continue to talk to us, she ran off to talk to Godfrey.
Savvy was not in a good mood. I slouched in my saddle and thought invisible thoughts. Thankfully, Judy waved us over with a job. The horses had gotten loose…I wouldn’t be surprised if Sabine let them out to be even more thorough about us not having time to follow her. It gave Savvy something to vent her temper on, at least, and I decided to sooth the startled horses so they would be calm in their stalls. By the time that was finished, the baroness had returned and had apparently been talking with another girl, asking the same questions as us. She thought we should trust base with this stranger, and that we would be instant friends.
I’m not sure what was going to stand in the way more of that. My shyness or the look of pure rebellion on Savvy’s face.