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In this excerpt from TIGER HUNTER, Col. E.J. “Jim” Corbett and Thomas Ibbotson are traveling by horseback to rendezvous with a military team investigating the whereabouts of eleven people who have completely vanished from a well-defended hunting camp in the remote mountains of northeast India – G.E.T


     What is it?
     Hamadryad… stretched atop a fallen limb all the way across our front. I don’t remember ever seeing one in the snow.
     Big one?
     Unusually.  
     I wish I could get around your fat horse’s arse to see it myself, Jim – in the snow.
     Lower your voice, Thomas. It may be eighteen-feet long.
     Slightly louder, using the most ornately polished tone within his classical repertoire, Ibby replies:
In this context, old boy, I propose that any snow cobras we may encounter are possibly only Homeric allegories of your imagination… foreboding elements.
     No, Thomas. It’s not.
     Corbett carefully tightens the reins, upping the pressure of the bit in the horse’s lips. The mare steps backwards, crowding its rump into the face of Ibby’s horse, as Corbett withdraws the American-made semiautomatic from the shoulder holster beneath his coat. He pulls the reins across the horse’s neck, slightly quartering the animal in the unyielding trail, craning over his shoulder to find Ibby smiling very merrily.  
     Fuck on with that Latin-style dialogue, old chap. This is a bloody serious goddamn snake.
     The horse pops the reins loose from Corbett’s grasp to better watch the snake, now coiling dangerously along the top of the wood – Corbett feels the animal catch hold of its breath and quiver. To the surprised horse this king cobra registers as having the dimensions of a telegraph pole.
And that quick the open-mouthed serpent is whipping into the men and their horses with its head three-feet above a goat trail that spontaneously appears to be fissuring.
     Corbett notes the heavy strike as likely killing one of them.
     From his back in the dirty snow, he is aware that the snake remains fastened to the spin-bucking horse. The unbuttoned animal, jackknifing in and out of the cane, is so powerful and wild that he never again sees snake. In fact, the raving horse seems quite capable of having eaten the monster; finally crashing onto its back from height… its subtly vibrating legs locked straight up for a long moment in the excited calm.
     The frothing horse then convulses electrically and rolls slowly upon its side – greatly inhaling and exhaling just once before galloping a dying circle in the sludge.
     Golly, says Ibby flatly from down the desolate trace.
     Corbett begins the search for his pistol in the area where he’d been thrown. They hunt carefully all around, back and forth on the greasy trail, well up into both walls of cane, before eventually arranging themselves, without having located the gun, at the dead mare.
     Maybe it’s under Jean’s horse?  
     Corbett steps in and hunkers at the animal, sympathetically patting it, resting his hand on its warm rump. He is about to speak to Ibby, or maybe the horse, when the splendid charger rolls up wondrously to stand blinking at each of the apoplectic riders.
     I thought she was stone dead, says Ibby. I’d been wondering how you were going to break the news to Jean.
     There’s the pistol.  
     Moving very softly, Corbett swipes away a level cupful of poisonous yellow goo from between the bottom edge of the saddle pad and the horse’s quivering shoulder. Then he moves forward to soothingly stroke his hand along the jaw line of the beautiful mare; finding and hesitating in her fantastic eyes, whispering:
     Welcome back.
     He takes the gun from Ibby and moves a few paces through the sucking mire to clean and disarm it safely behind and away from the revenant steed. He drops the magazine into a coat pocket, picks the gritty gum away from the striker, lightly lowers the hammer and spins the round from the chamber into the cupped fingers of the same hand that worked the slide. He admires the gleam of the dry bullet, letting it sift in with the magazine and says:
     My grandmother always told me that bad luck comes in threes.