"But anxious ..."
"And his wife."
"Alicia?" He stopped. Paused just a fraction too long. "Yes, of course."
Jo smiled. "I would like to talk to her. Is that possible?"
To her surprise Bolton blushed. "No."
The abruptness of the reply took her aback. "A very short interview," she said. "Perhaps a photograph?"
Bolton shook his head. "Alicia never gets involved in the public side."
"Just five minutes. Do you have her address?"
"No, I'm sorry ... if you want to ask me about Doug's journey, anything about that ..."
She let it go temporarily. "I might as well tell you, I know nothing about Doug Marshall and I don't understand this passion for Greenland."
"You don't know his background?" Bolton asked.
Bolton shook his head. He stood up and took a box file from one of the closest shelves. Opening it, he took out a sheaf of papers and began removing pages from among the pile. "I was going to make a press release, if I ever got around to it," he said. "Take a copy. It's Doug's curriculum vitae ... a couple of articles he's written...."
She took the papers from him. "Thank you."
"The Inuit communities are where he started," Bolton continued. "Because of Franklin. Franklin has been Doug's lifelong passion. Of course, he's done other things--a considerable number of other things--but the Inuit and Franklin were the subject of his original doctoral thesis. That set him off on the Greenland mummies. You've heard of them?"
Bolton ran a hand through his hair. "Six women and two children. Dead for over five hundred years. They were in a magnificent state of preservation."
"Oh ... like these ones they found in the Andes?"
"Similar. Similar preservation. Cold and dry, you see?"
"And these were ..."
"Inuit. What we once called Eskimo. Or Esquimaux." He spelled it for her.
"And this is why Doug Marshall is there again, because of mummies?"
"He's found more?"
"Not quite. Doug feels there is one other, a crucial religious site, deeper in the fjord."
"I see," Jo said. But in all honesty she couldn't see. A people living on ice. She couldn't imagine a place dominated by the dark.
"And of course," Bolton said, "there's the Franklin connection."
The phone rang. He picked it up.
Jo sat watching him. She had no idea at all who--or what--Franklin was. She felt her mind go momentarily blank and recognized it as her hitting-the-wall feeling, a sensation she habitually got when her interest in a story waned, or the smell of it left her. A good story had that speeding sensation, and the scent of revelation. There was nothing to reveal here, except a passion for the dead. And even that was an old story. She gently tapped Bolton's desk gently, to attract his attention.
"How long has he been looking for these other bodies?" she whispered.
He put his hand over the mouthpiece. "Six years."
Forget that, then, she thought. How crazy did you have to be, for God's sake, to look for six years for dead people in a place that was permanently frozen?
Bolton started to flick the pages of the diary open in front of him. His gaze drifted away, as he listened to the caller on the other end of the line. "He has an oral at two-thirty...."
Jo got to her feet. Taking a piece of paper from her bag, she scribbled on it, Are you free at lunchtime?
He glanced at it, nodded, wrote 1:30 on the page. Perhaps.
"Thanks," she said.
Copyright 2001, Elizabeth McGregor. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher - Dutton Books.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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