She sat straighter and began peering over his shoulder. No telling what she was thinking about now. He thought she looked a little guilty. Finally Marcia got up and returned to her own office. No matter, he didn’t really need her for this. And she wasn’t nearly as distracting from far away.
Ellison dialed Mrs. Cassandra Lennon.
Just picking up the phone and calling Mrs. Lennon was too easy a solution, he figured; then the phone rang at her end and he prepared himself to talk. But it only rang once. The tone of the answering machine screeched in his ear. What sort of woman wouldn’t even put a message on her answering machine, he wondered, holding the phone awry,and then hanging up without saying anything.
Marcia came back in, more paperwork in her arms.
“What sort of woman is Mrs. Lennon,” he asked, pushing the phone away.
“Can’t say, really,” Marcia replied. “Never met her.”
Ellison tried a different question. “Why do they call her ‘the cowboy’?” he asked. “And the Sleeping Beauty.”
“Well, the Lennon estate is really a ranch now,” Marcia explained. “And Mrs. Lennon does what cowboys do. She takes care of the animals, moves them to better pastures, checks and repairs fences. She’s a cowboy.”
Ellison stroked his chin. All right, he thought. Enough of that.
“Why did they used to call her ‘Sleeping Beauty’?” he asked, trying to think another way around the problem.
Marcia laughed, and then seemed to think her answer through before speaking.
“Well, it’s partly because of the rose bushes at the fence lines and along that wall making it look like the thorn hedges in the fairy tale,” she said. “It’s really a mess. I don’t see how anyone gets through. Of course, that’s the intent.”
Suddenly looking grave, she continued. “And it’s partly because of the nervous breakdown she had after her husband disappeared with their baby when she was in her twenties. Not too many people ever saw her after that. She might as well have been a princess captive in a castle.”
Ellison had already heard about the kidnapping. He started to comment.
Marcia interruped. “And then,” she said, smiling slyly, “maybe they called her the Sleeping Beauty because she was so beautiful.”
“I though nobody’s ever seen her,” he pointed out.
“We just haven’t seen her lately,” Marcia explained. “And I said I hadn’t met her, not that I’d never seen her. Before the kidnapping we saw her plenty.”
“And you say she was beautiful?” he asked.
Marcia really had a most disapproving expression on her face, he noticed. And a cocked eyebrow. He waited, wondering what was coming out of her mouth next. He hoped it wasn’t going to be a ‘you, of all people ‘speech.
Instead, she grinned impishly. “That was then and this is now,” she reminded him. “The lady’s all of thirty-five to forty years old now. I don’t know how much of a beauty anyone would be at that age. And with those problems.
“But she was, once,” she added wistfully. “Slender as one of those silver birch trees you’re always reading about in fantasy novels. And a cloud of hair, so blond it was almost white, and so curly it must have driven that damned husband of hers mad. And the face of an …”
“Angel!” Ellison found himself blurting. “Oh, come on,” he said. “I think I’d find your Sleeping Beauty more of a beauty if she was zaftig and dark, and funny,” he added.
To Be Continued. Copyright 2010 by Gretchen Rix. Blog photos by Roxanne Rix
WHAT I’VE READ THIS WEEK–Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold, a new Miles Vorkosigan novel.
There’s an interview with me at The Kindle Author Blog, plus marketing advice http://kindle-author.blogspot.com/2010/11/top-10-tips-for-promoting-your-book.html