Going down the stairs, she stopped halfway, thinking.
The world was looking for a man who couldn't be found. And the press were looking for a woman who didn't want to be found.
"We'll see about that," she told herself.
She went over to the reception desk, and the same woman who had shown her in got up from a desk beyond the counter and came over to her.
Jo smiled. "Mr. Bolton's given me the address of Mrs. Marshall, but I don't know Cambridge," Jo lied smoothly. "If I take a right from ..."
Mrs. Cropp paused only for a second before she glanced down at the map that Jo was holding open in front of her. She shook her head. "Oh, you can't get to it that way," she said. "Go down the 603. You'll come out at the highway. Cross over the bridge and carry on down toward the Eversdens."
Jo took a gamble. She glanced at the map. "And the house is at Little Eversden?"
"No. Pass the Eversdens. But don't get into Haslingfield. That's too far."
Jo gave her her broadest smile, folding the map. "That's great," she said.
Well, Jo thought, going out of the door.
Someone's going to get to the wife eventually.
It might as well be me.
According to her road map, which was not greatly detailed, there were maybe ten villages in those twenty square miles. She drove out into a cool, gray-on-green landscape. Roads that had been laid down centuries ago crossed the flat fens. Jo, who had an abiding passion for mountains--or at least a place where there were defined hills and valleys--always felt a little lost in the wide sweeps of East Anglia. The light was high and curious.
She passed a string of houses, bordering each side of the narrow road. The village was there and gone in thirty seconds. A fine mist of rain obscured her windshield. She put the wipers on, negotiated a right-angle turn that appeared from nowhere. The road narrowed further, to the width of a lane, and began to bump through sunken patches. On either side of the road were black-and-white markers, to show flood heights of the river that ran alongside. Ahead she could see a church.
She pulled in close to it and looked again at the map. The Marshalls had to live somewhere close. She imagined it would be a largish house, one known to the locals. Looking up, she saw a man walking his dog. She wound down her window.
"Excuse me," she called, "Is Mrs. Marshall's house here?"
He shortened the dog's leash, so that the spaniel wouldn't jump up. "Marshall?"
"Don't know a Marshall," he said.
She drove on. Frustratingly, before long she found herself back at the A603 again. Gritting her teeth, she crossed the main road and headed south.
The rain began in earnest, and the light grew dim enough to need the lowbeams. Just as she switched them on, she saw a sign in the hedgerow, a little black-and-white sign at the edge of a path. But it was a full hundred yards before it registered with her, and she stepped on the brakes.
It was worth a try.
It was a beautiful mellow stone building, with a steep tiled roof.
She guessed at eighteenth, maybe early nineteenth century. A huge magnolia tree so dominated the front of the house that it well nigh obscured the door.
Jo rang the bell. It was a long time before she heard footsteps, and the door was opened.
The woman who had answered was in her early forties and very tall. She wore a dark suit and had dark hair pulled back from her face. She was well groomed and composed, and, if not beautiful, certainly striking.
"I'm looking for Mrs. Marshall," Jo said.
"And you are ... ?"
Copyright 2001, Elizabeth McGregor. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher - Dutton Books.
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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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