The Sudbury School Murders
returned. "It is difficult to wait
and do nothing."
    "Yes, but it must be done." I made her a bow.
"Good afternoon."
    Bridgett made to lead me back downstairs
again, but I told her I'd find the way. I left her to comfort
Belinda and made my way back to the lower floors.
    Boys were pouring up the east staircase when
I strolled down it. I spied Sutcliff the prefect giving a dressing
down to one of the younger boys, who listened in sullen
resentment.
    Sutcliff, turning away, saw me, and gave me a
curious look. Then he moved his lanky shoulders and swung away down
the hall, his black robe billowing behind him. I had not forgotten
Ramsay's conviction that Sutcliff had followed Middleton the night
of the murder. I wanted to speak to him and moved to follow him,
but I lost sight of him in the sea of boys.
    *** *** ***
    The third plague did not come upon me until
the next morning. I woke early, determined to continue my
investigations. I wanted to find Sutcliff and ask him why he'd
followed Middleton--if indeed, Ramsay had been correct. I wanted to
find Sebastian's elusive family, and I wanted to question the
stable hand Thomas Adams myself about the quarrel he'd
overheard.
    I downed some bread and coffee and set off
for the stables through a thick white fog. Thomas Adams was not in
the yard when I arrived. A younger stable hand was there to help me
saddle the brown gelding I usually rode.
    "Did you hear them?" I asked him. "Middleton
and Sebastian arguing?"
    The young man looked phlegmatic and shook his
head. "I was round t'other side. Drawing water. Didn't hear a
word."
    I questioned the other two stable hands, but
they, too, had not heard the quarrel, neither of them having been
in the yard at the time.
    I gave up, mounted my horse, and rode
off.
    The fog became denser as I approached the
canal, but the towpath was clear. I followed this path past the
Sudbury lock and the lockkeeper's house. The lockkeeper was just
opening the gates for a barge heading south, toward Bath. Several
men stood on the deck of the narrow barge, but they were not Roma,
not Sebastian's family.
    The countryside was quiet, the muddy path
muffling my horse's footsteps. The silent canal flowed on my right;
high hedges and trees lined the path to my left. Sometimes the
hedges broke, allowing me to glimpse green fields brushed by
tendrils of fog. Sheep wandered across the greens, trailed by
spring lambs.
    As I neared Great Bedwyn, the trees became
larger and more evenly spaced, the terrain flattening somewhat. I
began to pass boats drifting up from Great and Little Bedwyn, the
bargemen and their families continuing their journey toward Reading
and the Thames.
    When I reached Great Bedwyn, I saw, on a flat
path on the other side of the canal, the woman I'd seen in
Hungerford, the one I'd mistaken for Marianne. She wore a bonnet,
and her was head bent so that I could not see her face. The
gathered curls at the back of her neck were bright yellow, and her
dress was fine, too fine for muddy walks through the Wiltshire
countryside.
    At the next bridge, I turned the horse across
the canal and urged him into a trot. The woman glanced over her
shoulder and saw me. She hurried off the road and into a stand of
trees.
    Marianne or not, her mysterious behavior
intrigued me. I slowed my horse and ducked under the trees. There
were enough saplings and overgrown brush here to make going
precarious. I quickly spied the woman, and she spied me. She broke
into a run.
    "Stop," I called. "You will injure
yourself."
    She did stop. She stooped to the ground,
dropping her basket. She came up, her hands full of mud and
pebbles, and she flung them at me.
    I swore. The horse, struck in the face,
bucked and bolted. I strove to hold him, but my injured leg gave,
too weak to help me. I lost my balance and fell heavily to the
ground.
    I found myself on my back, the wind knocked
out of me. The horse trotted off, empty-saddled, my walking stick
hanging from its pommel. As I struggled for

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