Excerpt of The Ice Child by Elizabeth McGregor
(Page 3 of 9)
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Gina's first thought had been that Jo hardly looked painfully young. She was, as Gina's mother would have said, five foot five of fresh air--thin, almost scrawny; antsy with impatience; quick to humor, quick to anger. Her smile hid a sharp, ironic mind. She stuck out her hand that first day and shook Gina's with a fierce grip. It had been quite a job to get her to sit down, such was her enthusiasm to get going.
Sitting now in the city center, looking at her, Gina smiled to herself behind the newspaper page. Jo was stretched out in her chair, eyes closed and turned to the sun. For a second she looked the perfect picture of relaxation. Until she opened one eye, yawned, and tapped the newspaper in Gina's grasp.
"What's the opposition say?" she asked, ruffling her hair and wriggling upright in her seat.
"Nothing radical," Gina said. "Except for that." She held open the paper at the third page. Jo shielded her eyes against the sun and looked at the article.
There was a map on the top right-hand corner--an indented coastline and contour lines of mountains that ran down to the sea.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Greenland," Gina said. "You know Douglas Marshall?"
Jo had to think for a second. "Give me a clue."
A long moment went by. "Gardening," Jo guessed at last.
"Not even close," Gina said. "Archaeology. Far Back."
"Ah," Jo acknowledged. "Lots of running about with bits of pottery. Which one was Marshall?" she asked.
"The tall hairy one."
"They were all hairy."
"The smiling one. The ship expert."
"Oh, him." Jo vaguely remembered a tall man, habitually dressed in a battered leather jacket. Not a good color. Dirty red. Faded flash.
"What's happened to him?"
"What, there?" Jo asked, glancing at the map.
"In the land of ice and snow, uh-huh."
Jo took the page from Gina and took a second to skim the article. Douglas Marshall had been reported missing while on an archaeological trip in one of the most inhospitable landscapes on earth. She sighed heavily. "This guy's gone on some harebrained personal mission in a snowstorm, and now we're supposed to all go out and find him," she said. She pointed to the final paragraph of the article. "Look, they've actually sent a bloody frigate. What a waste of money."
Gina frowned at her. "You don't mean that."
"I do," Jo countered. "The expense! What has he gone there for, really? Personal glory. Some obsession or other, I bet."
"You cynic!" "It's true," Jo retorted. "I mean, it's like these other idiots who cross Siberia in a balloon, or something. Hang-gliding down Everest, whatever. It's comic-book stuff."
Gina took the page back from her. "Actually," she said, "it's an academic exercise. An expedition."
"But he could be dying, Jo!"
"Did we ask him to do it?"
"We have to do something."
"Send out the fleet?"
"Yeah, send out the fleet, why not? He's a British subject."
Jo burst out laughing. "What ho," she said. "Wave the flag." She looked away, down toward the traffic.
"So ... what's the alternative?" Gina asked. "Let him freeze?"
"Yes," Jo said. And she almost meant it.
Jo had almost forgotten the conversation when she went into The Courier the following Tuesday. It was ten o'clock, and the building was already busy. She put her head around Gina's door, just to wave hello.
"Hey, come here," Gina called.
"I'm going up to the clippings library," Jo said.
"In a minute," Gina replied. "Sit."
Jo did so. "What is it?" she asked. "Something good? Send me to Cannes, Gina. Look at me. I'll die if I don't get sun."
Copyright 2001, Elizabeth McGregor. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher - Dutton Books.