Bobby had always been amazed at the calm, easy-going way that Grandpa Butch handled a crisis. He had examined Horatio himself when he had first learned of the eating of a part of Whitewhiskers Billy’s poisoned corpse.
He had then called the vet in Belle City. They put a couple of soft but old blankets in the back of the red pickup and then driven Horatio to see his doggy-doctor while Bobby and Shane rode in the back to keep Horatio calm and safe.
The doctor had checked him over carefully, determining that the dog probably had not eaten enough of the poisoned rat to get any of the poison in his own system. So, they gave Horatio some precautionary anti-coagulant injections, induced some vomiting, forced a bit of activated charcoal into him, and then, knowing Horatio would be better tended back home at the Niland farm than he ever would be in the Belle City animal hospital, sent him home.
“So, they’re sure that Horatio’s not gonna die?” Shane asked on the ride back home.
“Pretty sure, yeah. It’ll be our job to make sure he doesn’t eat any more poisoned rats. And we have to tell Grandpa if he vomits again, or shows any more symptoms.”
“Yeah, that makin’ the dog vomit thing was sure icky.”
“But it got rid of any poison still in his stomach, Shane.”
Bobby put one hand on Shane’s shoulder as he continued to stroke the fur on Horatio’s neck with the other hand. Shane had both hands deeply buried in Horatio’s brown-and-white fur coat.
“So, did Professor Rattiarty win this round?” Shane asked.
“No, he didn’t,” said Horatio confidently. “He meant to kill me with this poison-eating ploy. And we made him fail.”
“Horatio said he didn’t because Horatio is still alive.”
“Oh, that’s good.”
Rattiarty glared at Darktail Ralph.
“Don’t look at me. It isn’t my fault the damned dog didn’t eat enough of Billy to do the job!”
“Well, we just have to try again.”
“Not that way. There has to be some other plan. Something that works better.”
“This plan will work if you eat more of the poison. Saturate your system with toxins to make the dosage more lethal!”
“But there are only two of us left! Why should I be the one to sacrifice myself? Why don’t you let Horatio eat you? You have a lot more poison in you than I have in me.”
“It may come to that if you fail too.”
Ralph snarled at the Professor. “I won’t even try. You can’t make me do it!”
“We shall see about that.”
Rattiarty made the first lunge, going for Ralph’s throat.
Ralph was a veteran rat-warrior, however, and still very quick to dodge. He had the advantage of youth over Rattiarty, as the Professor was quite old for a rat.
As Rattiarty’s attempt at grabbing Ralph with teeth in his throat, the old rat’s superior strategy came into play. The lunge having missed, the Professor snagged the right nostril of Ralph’s nose with one claw. He ripped the skin all the way up to the Darktail’s right eye.
Blood half-blinded Ralph.
Rattiarty built on that advantage to swing his thin body up onto Darktail Ralph’s back. Stabbing rat teeth descended on Ralph’s neck, gouging into his spinal cord and effectively paralysing him. In mere moments more, the head was off, and Rattiarty was alone, but ready to drag the poison-filled body to some place where Horatio T. Dogg would see it and eat it.