Catching the Wind(7)

By: Melanie Dobson

But her mind didn’t rest. Hundreds of puzzle pieces crammed into her dream, different colors and shapes, and she was desperately trying to fit them together on her table so she could see the entire picture instead of a jumbled mess.

The puzzle was almost finished when a loud noise rattled the pieces and they blew out the window, floating like bubbles toward the heath. She saw herself for a moment in her flat, her blonde hair tousled around her face, green eyes pale in the mist. Then she saw the girl with straw-colored hair, the one who often haunted her dreams. This time, the girl was alone on the heath, trying to gather the puzzle pieces in her arms. But no matter how tightly she grasped, the pieces kept slipping away.

Quenby tossed on the bed, knowing it was a dream and yet wanting to help. The girl ignored Quenby, as she always did, and Quenby felt paralyzed in her own body. She wanted to break free. She wanted to—

More pounding from beyond her dream, and Quenby jolted back into reality. Her arms moved again, as did her legs, but even as she sat up, the lonely girl lingered in her mind.

She’d planned to meet Mr. Hough downstairs at seven, sans suitcase, and demand that he answer her questions. It was ten after seven now, and she hadn’t even gotten herself dressed for the day.

Before she answered the knock, she stumbled into the bathroom and replaced her nightshirt with a pair of running shorts and a paint-splattered T-shirt. Then she brushed her fingers through the layers of her cropped hair and swished Listerine around in her mouth. With a glance at her ragged T-shirt in the mirror, she reevaluated her attire but decided there was no reason to attempt to impress this Mr. Hough.

Mr. Hough was clearly not impressed. “You were supposed to be ready by seven,” he snapped when she opened the door.

“I never agreed to go with you.” She looked him straight in the eyes, undeterred by their espresso color that was steaming hot—in the precise Oxford Dictionary definition of the word.

He glanced at the time on his phone and then at the floor beside her like a suitcase might suddenly appear. As if he didn’t have time to waste on someone like her. “We’re going to be late.”

“Late for what?” She stepped out into the alcove, closing the door behind her. Mr. Hough towered over her by at least six inches and smelled like sandalwood and soap. Blast Chandler for making her look at his picture online. Lucas Hough was even more handsome in person.

“Perhaps I should have given you more information.”

She crossed her arms. “Starting right about now.”

If he was willing to answer a few questions, she might go with him—for Chandler’s sake—to hear Mr. Knight’s story in person.

“I can’t say much, Miss Vaughn. It’s my job to protect my clients.”

A brick wall, that’s what he reminded her of. A fortress of pride and aristocracy that had blocked out the lower classes for centuries, as if the lowers might corrupt them.

“Is your client’s friend a man or a woman?” she asked.

“A woman.”

“His lover?”

When Mr. Hough shook his head, Quenby leaned back, propping her bare foot on the trim behind her. “You don’t think I can find her, do you?”

Doubt flickered in his eyes. “I think the best investigators in London have tried for decades to no avail.”

“Is she hiding from your client?”

He glanced at his phone again. “Her last known address was near Tonbridge, on the property of Lord and Lady Ricker.”

Goose bumps prickled her arms. No one knew what she was working on except the syndicate and her contact at the archives. Had Mr. Hough somehow discovered her secret, or was it mere coincidence that Mr. Knight’s friend lived at Breydon Court?

“Did your client know the Rickers?”

The man’s phone vibrated. Instead of answering her question, he checked his text, then glanced back up. “The plane is ready.”

She tilted her head, her cool demeanor waning. “What plane?”

Finally he smiled. “You didn’t think we were driving, did you?”

Chapter 4

Belgium, August 1940

Cowbells echoed through the valley, somewhere along the border between Germany and Belgium—at least that’s where Dietmar thought they were. The evening smelled of wild chamomile, and phlox painted the narrow path a pale-pink color that reminded him of the flowers along the Elzbach near his home.