In The Dark Of The Night
Autumn has definitely arrived thought David, as he trudged through the damp grass of the schoolie field, headcollars and leadropes in hand. It was almost pitch black, and if it wasn’t for the automatic lights of the yard in the distance, he didn’t know if he’d have been able to find his way back.
“Come on then guys, bedtime!” he called to the darkness. “It’s freezing out here, come on!” He shivered and rubbed his hands together to keep warm, smiling at the familiar sound of approaching hoofbeats.
“There you are!” He held out his hand and stroked the velvety muzzles of Tam and Kestral who, like him, were getting very cold. Fumbling with the buckles, he eventually got their headcollars on and led them back to the yard.
Leaving Kestral outside her stable, knowing that she was far too good natured to actually go anywhere, he opened Tam’s door, draped the leadrope over his back and let him walk in. He’d take the headcollar off in a minute, once he’d dealt with Kestral.
Bolting Tam’s shut securely, (as he was just daft enough to try to escape) he opened Kestral’s door and quietly led her in.
It was lovely and warm inside and David wished that his own home had heating to the same standard. He took off the headcollar, gave her a pat and shut the door behind him.
It had been a long day and he was looking forward to going home to his nice warm bed. He loved the yard - it felt much more like home than his own place did, but unfortunately he wasn't a horse and he couldn't stay there.
"Alright lad, there you go" he said softly as he took Tam's headcollar off, sneaking him a surreptitious mint as he said goodnight.
He had left their feeds in the stables before he brought them in, and he stifled a grin when Tam suddenly noticed the filled bucket and squealed. He wolfed it down and David edged around him, successfully managing to escape without getting covered in bran and sugarbeet. The stallion raised his head and sniffed at him, pricking his ears in the vain hope of getting more food.
David chuckled and ruffled his ears. "Not today I'm afraid but I'll see if Lisa can spare a couple of polos tomorrow. I swear, that horse of hers is going to end up with fillings, the amount she feeds him!"
He gave him one last pat and went to say goodnight to Kestral before heading for the car park.
Just as he was about to leave, he hesitated and looked down the yard.
"That's strange" he murmured. "I could have sworn I heard something out there" He took a step forward into the darkness before reconsidering. "I'm being daft - it's probably just a fox or something"
Smiling at his paranoia, he flicked the big switch next to the entrance and the lights blinked out. "Night everyone. Sleep well!"
Tucking his hands into his pockets, David jogged to the car park, cursing his luck at having an ancient car that took forever to start and heat up.
Time passed and the yard was quiet. Most, if not all the horses were asleep and you'd have been forgiven for thinking that everything else was too.
But, unbeknownst to horses and staff, trouble was brewing...
"Right, you know what you're doing Mike?"
"Yeah. I deal with the locks and you take the stuff."
"Yeah, ok, what about you? Stevie?"
"I'm fine, I'll keep an eye out for trouble and help you put stuff in the van."
"Ok then, let's go."
Silently, the three men made their way onto the yard, their heavy work boots making little noise on the cobbled surface of the ground. They had been doing this long enough to know how to stay quiet when they needed to. Talking only in whispers, they split up and surveyed the area, on the lookout for anything of value. One picked the lock of the tackroom and office and let the others in.
"What is it now Mike?"
"What about the horses? They'd be worth a few bob, right?"
"Aye, but we've no transport for them. Tack and equipment only, just like we agreed."
Mike shrugged and stood at Kestral's door, looking in.
"It's just that their headcollar things are right outside the stable. We could just walk them out, no bother."
"...and walk all the way back to Cairbre on foot, is that it? God, you really are dense sometimes..."
"No Davie, he's got a point. They'd be used to all this and there's a horsebox parked right outside - we could take that. We'd get much more cash from selling these than we would from all the tack." interrupted Stevie. "Plus, we know that dealer, remember, the one who helped us shift all those sheep last year? I bet he'd have some contacts who'd buy them off us"
Davie paused and considered their words.
"Well, it's risky. Profitable, but risky. We'd have to keep the noise down and I doubt we'd be able to start the motor without someone hearing it. The owner's house is just over there as well" He motioned to the cottage only a short distance away from the stables with his thumb.
"I'm no too sure about this lads, I think it's too dangerous"
"Put it to the vote!" said Steve, raising a hand. "All in favour..."
Mike lifted a hand too and Steve shrugged sadly. "Outvoted pal, sorry. I'll get this one out and you can get the box ready"
Wedging his torch under one arm, he took Kestral's headcollar and opened the door, wincing as the hinge let out a long, drawn out creak. He gave the mare a rough pat and put on the headcollar, tugging the leadrope sharply to get her up. "Come on lass, nice and easy, nice and easy"
Kestral stepped out onto the yard, her apprehension mounting. She didn't like this. It wasn't normal for David and Abigail to take her out at this time and these people certainly weren't known to her.
"How many can we take?" Davie asked, two headcollars in one hand. "We can't take the mare and foal in that stable over there - every time I go in, she bares her teeth at me and won't let me near, but those ones seem alright." He gestured to Kerry and Jaconelli's boxes.
"Only two" grumbled Stevie. "I checked. We could probably squeeze a third one in but they'd make too much noise"
"Hmmm, we'll just have to choose the quietest ones then. What's in that one there?" he asked, waving his torch at the stable next to Kestral's.
Mike shrugged. "No idea. Let's have a look then."
He peered in and shook his head. "Nah, it's asleep. Take that quiet one from over there, the spotty one. Actually, forget that one - far too conspicuous - people might recognise it. Take that wee brown thing instead"
As they waited for Davie to bring Kerry out, Tamarind stirred. He got to his feet and inhaled deeply, breathing in the men's unfamiliar scent.
He snorted, loudly and the men swivelled round, fear suddenly showing in their eyes.
"Damn, it's awake. We better hurry up before it starts making a noise, come on!" He yanked Kestral's leadrope and she nickered in pain as the clip caught the side of her head. The stallion whinnied sharply and kicked his door.
"Shut up!" Mike hissed, and raised his hand to strike, but Kestral was quicker. She reared, knocking the would-be attacker to the ground, Tam's roars echoing into the night.
"What the hell?!" Steve shouted, covering his mouth seconds later, remembering too late that they were supposed to be keeping a low profile. He swore and grabbed at the mare's leadrope, trying in vain to catch her. "Come on! Oh hell, the bloody lights are on, we've been rumbled!"
Sure enough, the lights in Abigail's house had flicked on and they could hear the sound of the front door opening.
"Let's get out of here!" cried Davie, dropping his torch and making a break for it. "I knew this was a bad idea, ya eejits!"
By the time Abigail arrived they had already disappeared off down the road at top speed in their van.
"Oh Kestral!" she cried, wrapping her arms around the chestnut's warm neck, tears flowing down her face. "Thank god you're alright!"
She looked towards the car park and shivered. They must have been lying in wait behind the wall of the stableblock- she could see most of the back of the stables from her house, but the car park side was hidden from her.
She gave Kestral another enormous hug and put her back in her stable before running to the office and phoning the police, taking notice of the unplugged computer and messed up filing. She couldn't help smiling when she realised that they hadn't even bothered to take her mobile which she had left charging on the table. It was obviously just too many years out of fashion to even consider stealing. She phoned David as well. It was far too stressful to deal with on her own.
Phone calls over, she raced back to the stables and went to see Tam. It was his screeches and door kicking that had woken her and she dreaded to think what would have happened if she hadn't heard.
"What would we do without you Tam, eh?" She stroked his nose gently and wiped away a tear. "Just what could we do?"