‘Is there a clue or not?’ The voice, a little louder now, was tinged with frustration. Her voice had an intriguing lilt to it, the shadow of an Irish accent lurking gingerly in the background. It spoke of wide-open spaces, of luscious greenery and bracing winds. There was a beauty to it but he could also sense the defensiveness, the anger and the fiery edges waiting to attack.
‘Sorry, I got lost in my thoughts for a second. No, there isn’t a clue. It’s not a crossword puzzle. It’s more of a . . . visual challenge.’ He couldn’t stop the smile on his face from seeping into his voice. Thank goodness the curtain was drawn, or he could see a bedpan being thrown in his direction very shortly.
‘Well, how can I help when I can’t see it?’ The fire licked her every word – he could feel the heat in the air.
Suddenly, through the curtain a hand appeared. Just one pale hand with nails bitten down to their red-raw beds and friendship groups of freckles scattered across the surface. If it hadn’t been only one inch from his face, he would have told himself he was dreaming.
Slowly, he reached over and handed her the book.
‘It’s on page 136.’
He waited. Listening.
A scratch of the pen maybe? Or was that Mr Peterson rearranging his paper underwear again?