Ricky sat hunched over the laptop, so absorbed in his work he didn’t notice the bus was slowing until it stopped with a jolt that sloshed coffee out of his cup and onto the table. He looked up. “What’s the matter?”
“Cow,” Calvin called back.
Ricky walked to the front of the bus and peered out the window. The flat ribbon of highway stretched toward the horizon and infinity, and there in the middle of it stood a placid brown cow, eyeing the bus with bovine complacency.
Calvin cut the engine and got up. “She'd make a good dinner.”
Nevin joined them, curious about the delay. “That’s not very nice.” He looked at the cow and waved. “We should make her our mascot.”
Calvin growled. “Cows are food, fairy.”
“Perhaps you should become a vegetarian.”
“Guys.” Ricky waved for their attention. “Whether cows are food or pets is moot. This cow belongs to someone and we need to get her off the road and be on our way.” He looked around. “Does anyone here know how to do that?”
Ricky found Kalila’s travel bottle and tapped on it. “We need you out here.” When she didn’t answer, he added, “We need help getting a cow off the road.”
The voice that answered was wispy and faint. “I’m a djinn, not a cowgirl.”
“Fine.” He put the bottle away and walked to the back of the bus. “Come on guys, I need some help here.”
“Ask me again after dark,” Vic said from behind the blackout curtains on his bunk.
“Is the cow sexy?” Bo asked.
Lazaro waved a drum mallet with characteristic zeal. “I’ll get rid of her. Boom!”
“Uh…thanks. I’ll let you know if I decide to take you up on that.” Ricky walked back to the front of the bus. Stupid demons. They were magical, immortal, and had been around a hell of a lot longer than he had. You’d think one of them would know how to do something about a simple cow.
Before he could reach the front, Calvin slid back into his seat and cranked the engine. “Cow’s gone. Got bored and wandered off.”
“She was very pretty,” Nevin said. “I would’ve liked making friends with her.”
“Steaks,” Calvin corrected him. “Very rare.”
“No. She was a beautiful creation of nature, and—”
Ricky quit listening and returned to his laptop. The argument probably wouldn't continue much longer, and in the meantime he would check his email. Then later, if Calvin was still annoyed at not having gotten an easy meal, they could stop for dinner. Although he would never admit it to the others, Ricky had a sudden craving for barbecue.