Damn it, why is my entire police force telling me shes been seen around town but you wont say where or by who? How would you feel if it was your wife? Youd want to know the truth, right?
Yes, I would.
Then I suggest you explain to me exactly what is going on, Detective. Otherwise, Ill just have to deal directly with Chief Kendall, and you can be sure I wont have anything good to say about you or that lunkhead McLeod.
Which was how Cardinal came to be sitting in his car with the mayor of Algonquin Bay in the courtyard of the Birches Motel. Despite its name, the Birches was nowhere near a birch tree. It was not near a tree of any kind, being located in the heart of downtown on MacIntosh Street. In fact, it was no longer even the Birches Motel, having been taken over by Sunset Inns at least two years previously, but everybody still called it the Birches.
Cardinal was parked a dozen paces from Room 12. Szelagy was parked across the lot, but they didnt acknowledge each other. Cardinal rolled the window down a little to keep the glass from fogging up. Even here in the middle of downtown, you could smell fallen leaves and, from someones fireplace, the comforting smell of wood smoke.
Youre telling me shes in there? the mayor said. My wifes in that room?
Surely he must know, Cardinal thought. How could it get to this stagehis wife staying out for days at a time and renting motel roomswithout his knowing?
I dont believe it, Feckworth said. Its too tawdry. But there was less conviction in his voice, as if seeing the actual motel room door was beginning to shatter his faith. Cynthias a loyal person, he added. She prides herself on it.
Cynthia Feckworth had in fact been sleeping her way around Algonquin Bay for at least the past four years; the mayor was the only one who didnt know it. And who am I to tear off his blinders? Cardinal asked himself. Who am I to refuse anyone the sweet anesthetic of denial?
Oh, she couldnt be screwing someone else. That would beif shes letting another manthats it. Ill dump her. You watch me. Oh, God, if shes doing those things. . . . Feckworth groaned and hid his face in his hands.
As if summoned by his anguish, the door to Room 12 opened and a man stepped out. He had the perfectly groomed look of a catalog model: Take advantage of our mid-autumn sale on mens windbreakers.
Its Reg Wilcox, the mayor said. Sanitation. What would Reg be doing here?
Wilcox ambled to his Ford Explorer with the slouchy, smug air of the well laid. Then he backed out of his space and drove off.
Well, at least Cynthia wasnt in there. Thats something, Feckworth said. Maybe I should just head home now and hope for the best.
The door to Room 12 opened again, and an attractive woman peered out for a moment before closing the door behind her. She buttoned up her coat against the chill night air and headed toward the exit.
The mayor jumped out of the car and ran to block her path. Cardinal rolled up his window, not wanting to hear. His cell phone buzzed.
Cardinal, why the hell dont you answer your bloody radio?
Im in my own car, Sergeant Flower. Its too boring to explain.
All right, listen. We got a caller says theres a dead one behind Gateway condos. You know the new building?
The Gateway? Just off the bypass? I didnt even realize it was finished yet. Are we sure it isnt a drunk sleeping it off?
Excerpted from By the Time You Read This by Giles Blunt. Copyright © 2007 by Giles Blunt. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Co. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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