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Chapter 5


1:20 PM-Midnight

"Where is it?" demanded Mallory.

"Over there, on the bridle path. Can you see it now?"

Mallory wiped the rain from his eyes and squinted. "I can't even see the bridle path. Is someone with it, or is it running loose?"

"I can't tell," said Felina.

"Can you tell if it's Larkspur?" asked Mallory.

Felina shrugged. "All unicorns look alike." She paused thoughtfully. "All men look alike, too."

"How far away is it?" persisted the detective, still trying unsuccessfully to discern its shape.

"Not very," said Felina, turning her attention back to the rodent in her hand. "Hello, little appetizer," she purred.

"Let's go!" said Mallory.

Felina sat down cross-legged on the grass. "Cute little cold cut," she said. "I think I'll put you on a cracker."

"Felina, get up!" demanded Mallory.

"I'm busy," said the cat-girl, releasing the rodent, then grabbing it just before it could race beyond her reach.

"Damn it! We need your help!"

"Just follow the bridle path and you'll catch up with it sooner or later."

"Where is the bridle path?"

"That way," she said, holding up the rodent and pointing it to the east.

Mallory turned to Mürgenstürm. "Let's go."

"We might need her," protested the elf.

"If we stick around long enough to watch her torture her dinner, we may never catch up with the damned unicorn," said Mallory, setting off across the soggy grass in the direction Felina had indicated. Mürgenstürm opened his mouth to say something, thought better of it, and fell into step behind him.

They walked for almost 300 yards, and finally came to the cinder bridle path.

"Which way now, I wonder?" mused Mallory, looking up and down the path.

Mürgenstürm shrugged. "Shall I go back and ask?"

Mallory shook his head. "It'll take too long." He looked both ways again, then set off to the north.

"What made you decide on this direction, John Justin?" asked the elf after they had walked in silence for a couple of minutes.

"It's less crowded," answered Mallory. "If someone has got a unicorn that doesn't belong to him, it stands to reason that he won't want to take it where everyone can see him. Now, in my Manhattan you've got the Plaza and the Park Lane and all those stores at the south end of the park."

"It's the same in this Manhattan," said Mürgenstürm. He paused. "So you're saying that if it turned south, it probably wasn't Larkspur?"

"Right," said Mallory. "I hope."

A cold wind whipped across the park, and suddenly the rain changed to light snow. Within five minutes it was snowing heavily, and Mallory came to a stop.

"I have a feeling we're going the wrong way," he announced.

"Oh? Why?"

"Because the Grundy hasn't tried to warn me off yet."

"Maybe he knows you're expecting him to do so, in which case the proper strategy from his point of view is to do nothing." Mürgenstürm's brow furrowed in thought. "Unless, of course, he anticipates that you might be expecting just such a tactic, in which case—"

"Enough," interrupted Mallory.

"I was just trying to be helpful," said Mürgenstürm petulantly.

"Why don't you try being quiet instead?" suggested Mallory.

A harpy that had been perched in a nearby tree suddenly took wing and circled over them.

"Go back, John Justin Mallory!"

Mallory turned to Mürgenstürm. "Thanks a lot, you little green bastard!"

"What did I do?"

"Two minutes ago I would have known what the hell that meant!"

"Don't listen to her!" cried a large owl that sat shivering on a barren, leafless tree. "Press on, Mallory! Press on!''

"Wonderful," muttered Mallory.

"What are you going to do, John Justin?" asked Mürgenstürm.

"Keep walking."

"What factor led to this decision?" queried the elf.

"It's too damned cold to stand here wondering what to do next," replied Mallory, finally remembering to tighten his belt to the second notch and feeling somewhat more comfortable as his robe began generating heat.

They walked another fifty yards, and then the little elf tugged at Mallory's sleeve.

"What now?" asked the detective.

"Do you think you could manage to do without me for, oh, about fifteen minutes?" asked Mürgenstürm.


"Do you see that apartment building opposite us?" said the elf, pointing to a decaying structure with spires and a turret that Mallory was sure couldn't co-exist in his Manhattan.

"It looks like mad scientists build monsters in the basement," remarked the detective.

"I don't know what goes on in the basement, though I suppose anything's possible," answered Mürgenstürm.

"Get to the point."

"I have an ongoing  . . . ah  . . . friendship with the housekeeper, if you know what I mean."

"You're facing death in seven hours if you don't find the unicorn, and you want to take time off from the chase to get laid?" demanded Mallory unbelievingly.

Mürgenstürm sighed. "I see your point, John Justin," he said. "It was thoughtless and selfish of me to suggest deserting you." Suddenly his homely little face brightened. "I could see if she's got a friend."

"Forget it."

"You're absolutely right, John Justin," agreed Mürgenstürm contritely. "I have to learn to control my passions. Taking fifteen minutes out of our limited remaining time was insensitive and wrongheaded." He looked at Mallory out of the corner of his eye. "How about ten minutes?" he suggested very softly.

Mallory turned to him. "How about a kick in the groin to get your mind back on business?''

"Ohhh!" moaned Mürgenstürm as if in pain, pressing his knees together and clasping his hands over the area in question. "Don't even suggest it! What kind of monster are you?"

"A very cold one," replied Mallory, wishing his robe had been equipped with a hood. "Now, do you think we can get this show back on the road?"

"All right," said the elf, his expression still pained. "But no kicking."

"No deserting," responded the detective.

"It wasn't desertion," protested Mürgenstürm. "It was more in the nature of physical and psychic renewal." He paused. "Are you absolutely positively sure we can't spare even five minutes?"

Mallory grabbed the elf by his scrawny neck. "Now, you listen to me—" he began fiercely.

"Out of the way!" yelled a voice. "Clear the path!"

Mallory released his grip and jumped aside just in time to see a slender man, clad only in track shoes, shorts, and a T-shirt with the number 897 emblazoned on its chest, collide with Mürgenstürm. The little elf went flying into the snow that was accumulating beside the bridle path, but the man managed to maintain his balance and began running in place.

"Terribly sorry," said the man as Mürgenstürm slowly picked himself up. "But I did have right-of-way."

"I didn't know there were right-of-way rules on a bridle path," remarked Mallory.

"Bridle path?" repeated the man, confused. "You mean this isn't Highway A-98?"

Mallory shook his head.

"Then I suppose those aren't the lights of the Via Veneto glimmering in the distance?" said the man unhappily, pointing to Fifth Avenue without losing a step.

"They're the lights of Manhattan," answered Mallory.

"Manhattan?" repeated the man, surprised. "Are you quite sure?"

"Not as sure as I was yesterday," replied Mallory. "But pretty sure."

"Hmm," said the man thoughtfully. "I seem to be farther off course than I thought."

"Where are you heading?" asked Mallory.

"Rome, of course."

"Of course," repeated Mallory dryly.

"But where are my manners?" said the man. He extended his hand without losing a step. "My name is Ian Wilton-Smythe."

"British?" asked Mallory, shaking his hand.

Wilton-Smythe nodded. "To the core. Kill the Irish! Plunder the colonies! God save the Queen!" He paused. "It is still the Queen, isn't it? Or have we a King now?"

"It's still the Queen," said Mallory. "I take it you haven't been home in some time?"

"Not since the spring of 1960," acknowledged Wilton-Smythe. "Went over to Rome for the Olympics that summer."

"As a spectator?"

"As a marathon runner. In fact, I'm still running it. I seem to have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the course."

"I don't know how to lay this on you," said Mallory, "but we've had quite a few Olympics since then. The race is over."

"Not until I cross the finish line, it isn't," said Wilton-Smythe adamantly.

"Why not just stop?"

"Not cricket," replied Wilton-Smythe. "Rules of the game, you know."

"There's nothing in the rules that says you have to keep running for decades after everyone else has finished," said Mallory.

"Slow and steady wins the race," quoted Wilton-Smythe.

"Not this race," replied Mallory. "It's already been won."

"That's hardly my fault, is it?" shot back Wilton-Smythe. "My job is to plug away and do the best I can." He paused. "You don't see any photographers around here, do you?"



"Why?" asked Mallory. "Were you expecting some?"

"Well, I am the sporting world's greatest news story," said Wilton-Smythe. "With every step I take, I extend my record."

"What record? You lost."

"The record for the longest time required to complete an Olympic marathon, of course," said Wilton-Smythe. He looked puzzled. "I keep expecting the Guinness people to interview me or measure my stride or something for their record book, but so far they haven't shown up. I wonder why?"

"Maybe they don't know you're still running," suggested Mallory.

"Impossible!" scoffed Wilton-Smythe. "Probably they're waiting for me five or ten miles farther up the road."

"Perhaps," said Mallory without much conviction.

Wilton-Smythe yawned. "I'm getting sleepy. I think I'd better take a little nap before I reach them. I wouldn't want to look other than my best for the interviews and picture-taking."

"I don't think you're going to have much luck finding a room," said Mallory. "It's New Year's Eve."

"Why would I want a room?"

"I thought you said you were sleepy."

"I sleep on straightaways and wake up for the turns," explained Wilton-Smythe. "I wouldn't ever want it said that I cheated."

"Do you eat on the run, too?"

"Of course."

"Forgive my asking," said Mallory, "but how the hell did you ever wind up on a bridle path in Central Park?"

"I wish I knew," admitted Wilton-Smythe. "I think I probably should have turned left at Melbourne."

"Melbourne, Australia?"

The runner nodded. "Puzzling, isn't it?"

"To say the least," agreed Mallory.

"Well," said Wilton-Smythe, "I've enjoyed our little chat, but I really must be toddling along."

"If I were you, I'd pick up a road map," Mallory shouted after him.

"What for?" he yelled back. "All roads lead to Rome."

Then they were out of earshot, and Mallory turned to Mürgenstürm.

"What did you make of that?" he asked.

"He's a fool," answered the elf promptly. He frowned and scratched his head. "On the other hand, he's been working steadily for more than a quarter of a century, whereas most of the truly intelligent people I know can't seem to hold a job. I find it intensely puzzling."

"Not really," said Mallory. "It's pretty much the same in my Manhattan."

"It is?"

Mallory nodded. "The bright ones can solve most of the problems of the world—but putting on matching socks or learning how to change a tire seems a little beyond them."

"How comforting," said Mürgenstürm. "I was afraid it was an isolated phenomenon."

"No such luck," said Mallory. He began walking to the north again. "Let's keep moving. Robe or no robe, it's goddamned cold out."

"Maybe the snow will prove to be an advantage," said Mürgenstürm hopefully. "We should be able to pick up the unicorn's tracks."

"If our marathon runner doesn't obliterate them," said Mallory.

They walked, shoulders hunched and heads lowered against the driving wind, for another half mile. Then Mürgenstürm suddenly sat down heavily on the ground.

"I can't go any farther," he said. "I'm cold and I'm wet and I'm exhausted."

"And you think you're going to get warm and dry and energetic by sitting on the ground in the middle of a snowstorm?" asked Mallory sardonically.

"I don't care anymore," moaned Mürgenstürm. "Let them come looking for me tomorrow at sunrise. All they'll find are the frozen remains of a noble little elf who never meant any harm to anyone."

"Can you think of anything that would make you feel better?"

"Absolutely nothing," said Mürgenstürm emphatically.

"Not even a ladyfriend?"

"Well  . . . maybe."

"Look," said Mallory. "If I let you go off and get laid, do you think you can keep your mind on business when you get back?"

"Oh, absolutely, John Justin!" cried the elf enthusiastically. "I see it all now! It's not the weather. It's just my metabolism."

"Stop drooling or you'll freeze your chin off," said

Mallory disgustedly.

"I'll be back in ten minutes," said Mürgenstürm, leaping to his feet. "Fifteen at the most." He paused. "Maybe twenty."

"Take thirty, and see if you can find out anything about Flypaper Gillespie."

"Right," said Mürgenstürm. "I'll meet you here in half an hour."

"I hope you don't think I'm going to stand here in the snow waiting for you to get your rocks off," said Mallory.

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm a detective," replied Mallory. "I'm going to try to find that damned unicorn."

"You were never this single-minded in your own Manhattan," noted Mürgenstürm.

"Things were never this black-and-white in my own Manhattan," said Mallory. "There were always legal ramifications and extenuating circumstances and moral ambiguities. This is a lot simpler: something was stolen by a villain and I'm being paid to get it back.''

"I thought you said you preferred your Manhattan," said the elf.

"I said I understood my Manhattan," replied Mallory.

"That's not the same thing."

"How can you prefer something you don't understand?"

"I don't understand the form. The substance makes a lot of sense."

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Mürgenstürm.

"Then you'll have something to think about while you're hunting up one of your many true loves."

"How will I find you when I'm done?"

"The same way I'm trying to find Larkspur. Follow my tracks."

"What if the snow melts, or you go indoors?" persisted Mürgenstürm.

"Hire a detective," said Mallory, heading off along the bridle path.

"That's not very funny, John Justin."

"If you're worried about it, you can put your romance on hold and come along with me."

"I'll follow your tracks," said Mürgenstürm hastily. He began trotting across the park toward the bright lights of Fifth Avenue.

Mallory watched the little elf for a moment, then turned back to the bridle path and continued walking.

He had gone no more than fifty yards when he came to a small wooden lean-to, occupied by a pudgy man in a bright gold-and-green-checkered sports jacket.

"Evening, neighbor," said the man with a friendly smile.

"Hello," said Mallory.

"Terrible night, isn't it?"

Mallory nodded.

"Can I interest you in a little suntan lotion, friend?" asked the man.

"You're kidding, right?" said Mallory.

"Friend, if there's three things I never kid about, it's religion, blondes named Suzette, and business. This is business. I can sell you a case at fifty percent off the retail price."

"What the hell would I do with suntan lotion?"

"Go to Jamaica. Take a safari to Africa. Keep it in your garage until summer. Mix it with vodka and tonic. Scrub your floors with it. Friend, there's no end of things you can do with a case of cut-rate suntan lotion."

"Forget it," said Mallory, starting to walk again.

"For you, sixty percent off," persisted the man, leaving the lean-to and running after him.

"It's New Year's Eve!"

"Happy New Year!" cried the man, pulling a kazoo out of his pocket and blowing a few notes on it. "Sixty-five percent off, and that's my last offer."

"I hope you don't seriously expect to sell suntan lotion in the middle of a snowstorm," said Mallory.

"It's the very best time to sell it," replied the man, struggling to keep pace with the detective.

"How do you figure that?"

"How many stores are open right now? Maybe five hundred," he answered himself. "And how many of them are selling suntan lotion? None! If you want suntan lotion, you've got to come to me."

"But I don't want suntan lotion," said Mallory irritably.

"Friend, you drive a hard bargain. Seventy percent off, but only if you promise never to tell my accountant."

"Not a chance."

"All right!" snarled the man. "Seventy-five percent, and I'll hate myself in the morning."

"Keep nagging me and you'll have a lot of company."

"I'll throw in a beach ball."

"Just what I need on New Year's Eve in Central Park," said Mallory.

"Good!" cried the man. "Have we got a deal?"


"What kind of person are you?" screamed the vendor. "I've got a wife and two kids and a mortgage. I just bought a new television set, I'm late on my car payment, and my daughter needs braces. Where's your compassion?"

"I must have left it in my other suit," said Mallory. He stopped and turned to the man. "You wouldn't happen to have any gloves or earmuffs for sale, would you?"

"Unloaded 'em all last July," said the man. "Ninety percent, and I'll pay the sales tax."

Mallory shook his head and began walking again. "Not interested."

"What does interest have to do with it?" demanded the man. "I'm a merchant, you're a consumer. Doesn't that mean something to you? Don't you feel your moral responsibility to me?"

"Do you feel any moral responsibility to me?" asked Mallory.


"Good. I'm a detective who's looking for a unicorn. Did one pass by here recently?"

"Yes," said the man.


"Maybe five minutes ago."

"Was there a leprechaun with it?"

"I really didn't pay that much attention," said the man. "Now, let me total up what you owe me for the suntan lotion."

"I'm not buying any suntan lotion."

"But I told you about the unicorn!"

"For which I thank you."

"Then do your duty and buy my suntan lotion."


"Ninety-five percent off list."

Mallory shook his head.

"All right," said the man with a sigh of defeat. "How much do you want?"

"For what?" asked Mallory, puzzled.

"To take the damned stuff off my hands."

"I keep telling you—I don't want it."

"You can't do this to me! It's New Year's Eve! I have a right to be home in the bosom of my family! I'll pay you twenty percent of its list price to haul it away."

"It's been nice talking to you," said Mallory, increasing his speed.

"Thirty percent," said the man, finally coming to a stop. "And that's my final offer."

Mallory continued walking.

"Fifty, and that's my absolute final penultimate offer!"

The man was up to double the list price before Mallory walked out of earshot.

He had proceeded another 100 yards when he was joined by a tall, unkempt man in a raincoat, carrying a cardboard box in one hand.

"Good evening to you, sir," said the man, falling into step beside him.

Mallory merely nodded and kept walking.

"I'm pleased to see that you managed to get away without buying any suntan oil." He chuckled. "Imagine anyone being stupid enough to try to sell that stuff in a blizzard!"

"What are you selling?" asked Mallory.

"Selling? My dear sir, you cut me to the quick! Do I look like a salesman?"

"Don't ask."

"As a matter of fact, I'm giving something away."

"I'm in a hurry."

The man increased his pace. "Take a look inside, sir," he said, thrusting the cardboard box into Mallory's hands.

Mallory took the box and opened it without slowing his pace, then made a face. "It looks like a bunch of worms."

"Not merely worms, sir," said the man with a show of outraged dignity. "Nightcrawlers!"

"What's the difference?"

"What's the difference between a skateboard and a Rolls-Royce?" replied the man. "These are purebred nightcrawlers, sir, each with a five-generation pedigree, each registered with the A.E.S."

"The A.E.S.?" repeated Mallory, handing the box back to him.

"The American Earthworm Society," explained the man. "It's been our governing body since 1893."

"What the hell do I want with nightcrawlers?"

"They're for fishing."

"It's snowing out, in case you hadn't noticed."

"It won't bother their furry little bodies in the least."

"They look more slimy than furry."

"Right you are, sir," agreed the man, looking into the box. "It won't bother their slimy little bodies in the least."

"What I meant was, who's crazy enough to go fishing in a blizzard?"

"Almost no one, sir. Think of it: you'll have the field to


"I'm on a bridle path in Central Park. There aren't any fish around here."

"Ah, but if you do find one, think of how hungry he'll be!"

"Go trade them for the suntan lotion," said Mallory.

"I'm also having a sale on tombstones," said the man persuasively.

"A sale on tombstones?" repeated Mallory.

"If your name happens to be Jessica Ann Milford and you died of drowning in August of 1974," qualified the man.

"It's not, and I didn't."

"It's really quite a bargain," continued the man eagerly. "Marble, with beer cans rampant on a field of hypodermic needles. Very tasteful."

"I'll think about it," said Mallory, starting to walk again.

"I'll be right here, waiting for your decision," said the man.

Mallory shook his head and increased his pace. The snow continued to fall, and the wind began whipping across the park so fiercely that visibility became almost nil. A few minutes later he was sure he had wandered off the bridle path, but when he turned around to retrace his steps he found that the snow had totally obliterated his footprints. He looked around for the lights of Fifth Avenue, but the snow completely obscured them, and he realized with a sinking sensation in his stomach that he was lost.

He cursed Mürgenstürm under his breath, then began searching for some form of shelter. The blanket of snow stretched endlessly before him, but he thought he could discern a structure off to his left and, lowering his head against the wind, he slowly made his way toward it.

Just when he was sure that he had been mistaken, the wind died down and he found himself only a few steps away from a large stone building. It was dark, but its two chimneys were belching smoke into the frigid night air. He covered the remaining distance at a run and pounded on the door. When there was no response he pushed it open and stepped inside, panting heavily.

He brushed the snow off his cloak, felt around for a light switch, couldn't find one, and pulled out his cigarette lighter. It didn't provide much illumination, but it was enough for him to realize that he was inside a barn with two rows of box stalls. The place smelled strongly of horses, and he could hear the occasional thumping of hooves on straw.

Finally he found a bare light bulb descending from the rafters. He walked over and pulled on the frayed string that hung down from it, and suddenly he stood in a pool of harsh white light, surrounded by flickering shadows as the bulb swung to and fro.

"Is anyone here?" he asked, then jumped in surprise when he received an answer.


"Where are you?" he said, looking around apprehensively.

"Right here."

"Where is here?"

"Look down."

Mallory looked down and found a miniature horse, no more than nine inches at the shoulder, standing right next to him.

"Was that you talking?" he asked, squatting down to inspect the elegant little animal.

"Yes," said the horse. "There's a small towel hanging up there," it added, nodding its head at the edge of a nearby stall. "I wonder if you would be so kind as to retrieve it and place it over my back?"

Mallory walked over, picked up the towel, and laid it gently across the little horse's back and withers.

"Thank you," said the horse, not quite able to repress a body-wrenching shiver. "It was getting quite cold in here."

Mallory stared at the tiny animal. "I didn't know horses could talk," he said at last.

"Of course they can."

"I've never heard them."

"Perhaps they had nothing to say to you."

"Perhaps," agreed Mallory. "By the way, you are a horse, aren't you?"


"And this is a stable?"

"That's right."

"You wouldn't happen to have any unicorns stabled here, would you?" asked Mallory.

"I'm afraid not. Why?"

"I've been following one up the bridle path. I thought it might have stopped here to get out of the weather."

"I wish I could help you," said the horse, "but we haven't boarded any unicorns here in more than a month." The little animal paused. "They're quite rare, you know. I don't imagine there can be more than two dozen of them in all of Manhattan. In what direction was this unicorn heading?"

"North, I think. I never got close enough to it to be sure."

Mallory opened the door, stuck his head out, determined that visibility was still about nil, and decided to wait a couple of minutes before braving the snow again.

"I've never seen a horse as small as you before."

"I wasn't always this small," answered the horse.

"You weren't?"

The horse shook its head ruefully.

"What happened?" asked Mallory.

"You can't tell it to look at me, but I used to be a racehorse."

"Maybe I saw you run," said Mallory. "I get out to Belmont and Aqueduct three or four times a week."

"I wasn't good enough. They had high hopes for me when I was born, but I spent most of my career running at places like Thistledown and Latonia and Finger Lakes."

"What's your name?" asked Mallory.

"The name my owner gave me, or my real name?"

"Your real one, I guess."


"Never heard of you."

"That's not the name I ran under," replied Eohippus. "It's the one I chose for myself once I understood my destiny:" The little horse snorted, then continued, "As I said, I wasn't a very good racehorse."

"You're just the kind I always seem to bet on," remarked Mallory dryly.

"My owner and trainer did everything they could to make me better," said Eohippus. "Like what?"

"The first thing they did was geld me."

"That makes you faster?" asked Mallory dubiously.

"It makes me faster whenever I see a veterinarian approaching, I can tell you that," said Eohippus bitterly. He whinnied; it sounded like a sigh in the cavernous interior of the barn. "As soon as I recovered I was back on the track."

"Maybe they should have tried blinkers," suggested Mallory.

"They did."

"Did it help?"

"Blinkers are for horses who look around, who don't pay attention to business. That wasn't me. I tried my very best with every stride I ever took. All the blinkers did was close off two-thirds of the world to me." He paused. "Then there were the drugs."

"Illegal ones?"

Eohippus shook his head. "They were perfectly legal. My trainer thought that I might have sore muscles, and the drugs were designed to mask the pain." He whinnied again. "They crippled my sister, who didn't know her ankle was sore until it shattered, but I was perfectly healthy."

"Just slow," said Mallory.

The little horse nodded his head sadly. "Just slow," he agreed unhappily.

"Well, not everyone can be Seattle Slew."

"He was my uncle," noted Eohippus.

"Really?" said Mallory. "I almost went broke trying to find horses to beat him."

"He'd run down the backstretch and the trees would sway," recalled Eohippus in awestruck tones. "And I wanted so badly to be like him! It's what I was born to do—to run so fast that my feet barely touched the ground, to pierce a hole in the wind. And, oh, how I tried! I ran my heart out"—he paused tragically—"but I just didn't have the ability."

"So what happened?"

"One day I was running at a bush-league track in New Mexico, and I was losing touch with the leader, like I always did after half a mile or so, and my jockey began whipping me—and suddenly my saddle slipped and he fell off."

"Your trainer didn't tighten the girth properly."

"That's what I thought," said Eohippus. "But that night I noticed that I had to reach a little higher than usual to eat my oats. And when my exercise girl kicked me during a workout the next day, my saddle slipped again. That's when I realized I was shrinking. Every time I was hit, I got a little bit smaller." He paused. "Finally I got too small to run, and they retired me—but I kept right on shrinking. Then the entire truth finally dawned on me—that anytime any horse was whipped or abused in a losing cause, I got smaller. That was when I changed my name to Eohippus—the first horse. There's something of me in all racehorses, and something of them in me."

"How long has it been going on?" asked Mallory.

"For about ten years now," said Eohippus.

"You don't seem to have shrunk since we started talking," said Mallory, "yet they must be running races and whipping racehorses somewhere in the world right at this moment."

"They are," answered Eohippus. "But now that I'm so small, the change in me is proportionately small, so that you can hardly notice it from one week to the next."

"How did you wind up here in Central Park?"

"This is a stable for used-up old racehorses who escaped the glue factory," explained Eohippus. "Most of them pull wagons; a few carry fat little children around the bridle paths."

"Don't tell me you pull wagons," said Mallory.

"No," said Eohippus. "But I feel comfortable here."

Mallory heard a very distinct horse-laugh directly behind him. He turned, and saw a dark equine face looking at him.

"There's nothing comfortable about it," said the dark-faced horse. "We're a bunch of broken-down wrecks, just marking time on the way to the grave or the dog-food factory."

"You sound bitter," said Mallory.

"Why shouldn't I?" replied the horse. "We're not all like Eohippus here, any more than we're like Man o' War or Secretariat."

"Very few horses are like Man o' War or Secretariat," remarked the detective.

"That's because very few are as healthy!" snapped the horse. "I was a racehorse for six years, and I never took a sound step, never spent a day without pain. I used to feel my jockey's whip dig into me while I was running on swollen legs and inflamed ankles, and I'd wonder what I had done to make God hate me so."

"I'm sorry to hear it," said Mallory.

"You weren't so sorry the day you threw your tickets in my face and told my trainer to chop me up for fishbait."

"I did that?" asked Mallory, surprised.

"I never forget a face."

"Then I apologize."

"That gives me a lot of comfort," said the horse bitterly.

"I get emotional at the track," said Mallory uncomfortably.

"People get emotional at the track. Horses never do."

"That's not entirely true," said Eohippus gently. "There are exceptions."

"Name one," challenged the horse.

"I remember Ruffian," said Eohippus, his tiny face lighting up at the recollection. "She loved the racetrack." He turned to Mallory. "Did you ever see her?"

"No, but I've heard she was really something."

"The best filly that ever lived, bar none," said Eohippus decisively. "She was in front from her first stride to her last."

"And she was dead six hours later," said the dark-faced horse. "Her last stride shattered her leg."

"True," said Eohippus sadly. "I lost a whole inch that night." He shook his head. "You'd almost think the Grundy had bet against her."

"The Grundy?" said Mallory eagerly. "What do you know about him?"

"He's the most powerful demon in New York," replied Eohippus.

"Why would he want to steal a unicorn?" continued Mallory.

"Other than the usual reasons?"

"I don't know. What are the usual reasons?"

"Ransom, for one."

Mallory shook his head. "No. He hasn't made any demands."

"Well, there's always the horn. It's worth a fortune on the black market."

"Does he need a fortune?"


"What else is a unicorn good for?"

"Not much," said the dark-faced horse contemptuously.

"Under what circumstances was it stolen?" asked Eohippus.

"It was in the care of an elf named Mürgenstürm, and it was stolen about ten hours ago by the Grundy and a leprechaun called Flypaper Gillespie."

"I've heard of him," said Eohippus thoughtfully. "He's a formidable character in his own right."

"Do you have any idea where I can find him?" asked Mallory.

"No. But I don't like the thought of any animal being abused. If you'll wait until the snow lets up tomorrow morning, I'd like to join you."

"I can't wait," said Mallory. "In fact, I've already stayed here longer than I should. There's a deadline."

"What kind of deadline?" asked Eohippus curiously.

"Mürgenstürm's guild is going to kill him if I don't find Larkspur by sunrise."

"Larkspur?" whinnied Eohippus, startled, and all up and down the row of stalls the name was repeated in awed tones.

"Is he something special?" asked Mallory.

"He is if the Grundy's got him!" said Eohippus.

"I don't think I understand."

"Once every millennium a unicorn is born that possesses a nearly perfect ruby embedded in its forehead, just below the horn," said Eohippus. "It's rather like a birthmark."

"I take it Larkspur has one."

"He does," said the tiny horse.

"And that makes him worth enough money to interest even the Grundy?"

"Money has nothing to do with it," said Eohippus. "The ruby provides a doorway between Worlds—and it is a source of enormous power in itself. The Grundy has two such stones already, which is why he is the Grundy. Who knows what he'll become once he adds a third one?"

"Everyone keeps telling me that magic doesn't work here," complained Mallory, "and yet it seems to be the single governing force of this place."

"The stones aren't magical," said Eohippus. "They have certain properties, totally consistent with the laws that govern the physical universe, that create a permeable membrane between universes and allow their possessor to channel his electromagnetic brain waves more efficiently than anyone else."

"What would they do if they were magical stones?" asked Mallory, confused.

"The same thing," said Eohippus.

"Then the difference is semantic."

"The, difference is scientific," the little horse corrected him.

"But the result is the same."

"In essence."

"What do you suppose the Grundy plans to do with this power?"

"He's already got everything he wants from this world," said Eohippus. "I would imagine he'll want to expand into your world next. Forgive me for jumping to conclusions, but you are from that other Manhattan, aren't you?"


"I thought you didn't go there just to bet on horses."

"Why?" asked Mallory.

"All this harping about magic, as if the means were more important than the result. All that really matters is what the Grundy will do with Larkspur's stone, rather than how he will do it."

"I'll go along with that," agreed Mallory, walking to the door. "I'd better be on my way."

"Where will you go?" asked Eohippus. "Whether the unicorn you were following was Larkspur or not, you'll never be able to pick up his trail in this blizzard."

"I know. I think the only option left to me is to find a phone book."


"I need to hunt up a Colonel Carruthers, if he lives in Manhattan."

"What does Carruthers have to do with Larkspur?" asked Eohippus.

"Nothing. But he seems to be the only unicorn expert around; at any rate, he's the only one I know about." He paused. "If Mürgenstürm shows up, tell him to check out Carruthers' address and catch up with me there."

"I'm coming with you," said Eohippus decisively. "You're a stranger here; you could waste hours just trying to find a phone book, let alone hunt down this Colonel Carruthers."

"I'll have to carry you," said Mallory, bending down to lift the tiny animal into his arms. "The snow is over your head."

"It's not over my head!" said a huge chestnut horse at the far end of the barn. "I can carry you both."

"No," said a roan gelding, "I'll carry them."

"Silence!" thundered the dark-faced horse, reaching down and opening the latch to his stall door with his teeth, "I'll carry them."

"I thought you hated me," said Mallory as the horse approached him.

"I do," replied the horse coldly.

"Then why—?"

"To reinforce my hatred. Rage is all I have left—and rage, like love, takes constant nurturing."

"Yeah. Well, when you start slipping and sliding, just keep telling yourself that you hate the Grundy more."

Mallory opened the door, carried Eohippus to a mounting block, and gingerly mounted the dark-faced horse.

"Well, for better or worse, here we go," said Mallory as they went out into the blinding snow.

"Hold onto my mane," said the horse as he walked out into the blinding snow.

"You're not thinking of running through this stuff, are you?" asked Mallory apprehensively.

"Time is of the essence, is it not?"

"Getting there in one piece is at least as essential, and I've never ridden bareback before."

"Then you'll have to learn, won't you?" said the horse with a note of satisfaction.

"The ground is covered with ice. You'll hurt your legs again."

"I will cherish my pain. It will remind me of you."

"Your name doesn't happen to be Flyaway, does it?" asked Mallory sardonically.

"My name," answered the horse, "is legion." The horse broke into a run, while Mallory, with Eohippus tucked under his arm, clutched at its snow-covered mane with desperate fingers, his black cloak flapping in the wind like some giant winged creature of the night.


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