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Authors: Jacqueline Winspear

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BOOK: The Mapping of Love and Death
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“Mullen?” Maisie said the name aloud, then wrote it out on an index card. She pulled out another card and wrote, “Stiff breeches.” If Michael Clifton had risked being put on a charge for answering back in such a manner, he must have been referring to an officer of greater rank. Was it his commanding officer? And if so, why wasn’t he put on a charge? Soldiers had been court-martialed for less. On a piece of paper she made a list of inquiries to be made, and it was clear that a visit to Chatham, to the place where the artillery’s mapmakers were trained, would have to be a priority. It was the second time in one sitting that she cautioned herself not to jump in with the first thought that came to mind.

Maisie continued reading, though now the events of the day were catching up with her, and her eyes were gritty and dry with fatigue. She checked the time; just half past eight in the evening, and she was exhausted. But she did not want to rest yet, so she picked up another letter and slipped the paper from the envelope, carefully unfolding the foxed and fused pages. At that moment the bell in the hallway sounded, alerting her to a visitor at the front door.

Maisie disliked the fact that as soon as she opened the door to her ground-floor flat, anyone waiting outside could see her. She had asked about having frosted glass installed, but other owners didn’t appreciate the need for such expenditure. She wondered who might be calling
without being in touch with her first. On the other hand, she did not have a telephone, so an uninvited guest could be expected, though it was rare. Maisie pushed back her chair and began to walk towards the hallway, but then turned around and came back to the table, where she gathered the letters and journal and put them away in a kitchen cupboard. Now she was ready to greet her caller.

As she opened the door to the foyer, she could see Detective Inspector Caldwell, together with his new detective sergeant, waiting on the step outside the main entrance. Caldwell was just about to press the bell again, so she waved to attract his attention and stepped towards the door.

“Detective Inspector Caldwell, to what do I owe a visit to my home—and at such an hour?”

“I think you know very well why I am here, Miss Dobbs—two reasons, in fact.”

“Would you care to come in?”

Caldwell and his assistant removed their hats and followed Maisie into the flat. She saw Caldwell look at the painting over the mantelpiece—of a woman standing on the beach, looking out to sea—and the collection of photos, some framed, some simply pinned, that surrounded the painting. He cast his eyes around the room.

“Do take a seat, please,” offered Maisie. “Would you care for some tea?”

Caldwell shook his head, though Maisie saw the detective sergeant begin to smile as if he was about to accept the offer. He looked away when he heard Caldwell’s quick reply.

“No time to sit here drinking tea, Miss Dobbs, but thank you for offering all the same.” He didn’t miss a beat before launching into his reason for the visit. “First of all, I want to know—from you—the circumstances of the attack on your person in Hyde Park. Then I want to
know why you went to St. George’s Hospital and talked my policeman into letting you into Mr. Clifton’s private ward.”

“Well, one event led to the other, as is so often the case. I was the victim of a robbery in Hyde Park, and because I had hurt my hands and cheek, as you can see”—she held up her hands with her bandaged palms facing the detective—“I went to the hospital to receive treatment. The last thing I want is a case of lockjaw, so I thought I should have the wounds attended to straightaway. While I was there, I decided to go up to Mr. Clifton’s ward and ask after his progress. The patient was awake, so I thought I would pop in and see him—after all, it happened to be visiting hour, and I understand he has had no visitors since he regained consciousness. He’s an old man far from home, and I thought he might welcome a bit of company.”

“Did you talk about the attack?”

“Yes, of course. I inquired about his health.”

“Is there anything you’d like to share with us, Miss Dobbs?’

“There is nothing else that I believe is of any great significance to you. It was a rather pedestrian conversation. To tell you the truth, I was rather curious as to why his son-in-law had not visited since he regained consciousness, but Mr. Clifton informed me that he has received messages from him, but they have never really had much in common—those were his words.”

Caldwell nodded. “Why didn’t you inform us about the robbery attempt in Hyde Park as soon as it happened?”

“I summoned a constable to help me, and though he had tried to give chase—as had I—the robber escaped on foot, probably down into Marble Arch underground station. He took my document case, but there was nothing of value inside. The case is old, a bit tattered, but it holds great sentimental value for me—I would love to have it back.”

“Present from a suitor, Miss Dobbs?”

Maisie shook her head, not rising to the bait. “No, from the staff I worked with when I was in service. They bought me the case when I left to go up to Girton College in 1914. It was such a big event, not just for me but for all of us—one of their own going away to college. So they had a whip-round and bought me the very best document case they could afford, and it has lasted all this time.”

Caldwell heard the catch in her throat as she spoke, and responded in a softer tone. “We’ll see if we can get it back for you, then. If we can do that, we’ll likely catch the thief—and you never know how valuable he might be to us.”

“Thank you. Now, if you don’t mind…”

“Yes, of course. Much obliged to you, Miss Dobbs. Please try to remember to request a visit to Mr. Clifton until further notice. And I’d appreciate being kept informed of any leads you might uncover in this case. It was a violent attack on two prominent visitors to our country. I’m expected to get to the bottom of it in short order.”

“I’ll keep you posted.”

Maisie saw the men to the door and bid them good night. She returned to her chair by the fire, which she had not ignited earlier, but because she felt chilled, she knelt down and turned on the gas jets, lowering the flame for the sake of economy. Instead of sitting on one of the two armchairs, Maisie pulled a cushion towards her and made herself comfortable seated on the floor in front of the fire. She found the combination of heat and flame almost hypnotic, and allowed her mind to wander.

It was not until she spoke of the loss of the document case that she had realized how much it meant to her. She was but seventeen years old when a special “below stairs” supper had been organized for her at Chelstone Manor, where most of the household staff were located over the summer months. War had been declared on August 4, and in September, the staff were happy to send one of their own on her way to
better things. The document case earned a few scratches at Girton, then was put away when she enlisted for nursing service after just two terms. It was brought out again when she returned to complete her studies in 1919—after she had already been wounded, had recovered, and then worked in a hospital for the shell-shocked. The fine leather became even more scuffed when she became assistant to Dr. Maurice Blanche, as she filled it daily with papers and files and the accoutrements of her trade. The bag had been repaired where stitching had loosened, and had required a new clasp some years earlier, but she had never been without it since the end of the war.

Now it was gone, and in her mind’s eye she saw the staff gathered around the table on the day it was presented to her. There was Enid cracking a joke, always a bit sarcastic, always sharp. Dear Enid, who had died in a munitions factory explosion. Mrs. Crawford was still there, not yet retired, and Carter, the butler, before the years began to tell. She had no idea, then, what she would make of her life. No thoughts of love had entered her mind, her drive to educate herself usurping all other measures of happiness, contentment. Priscilla, Simon, the girls who had served alongside her in France—they were all yet to come, on the day she opened the box and drew back the fine tissue to reveal the aroma of good leather, soft to the touch. The path from there to here had been far from straight, had looped back and forth, yet always with an imagined place ahead—that she would be a woman of independent means and would rise above her circumstances.

As she sat by the fire in her own flat, the retreat and refuge she’d imagined in those dreams, she thought about other places where she had laid her head. There was the room in Lambeth—why had she lived there at all? She came from Girton, straight to London to interview with Maurice. Then when he’d sent word that the job was hers, she found lodgings in the only area she could afford and knew at all, the place where she’d grown up: Lambeth. Her room was clean, tidy, and
there was a meal in the evening when she arrived home, but she walked through the slums each day, through streets of depression and want. She had realized, even then, that her choice to live in a place so compromised, among people so wretched, was due to the fact that she was still numb. Living in such troubled quarters was tantamount to touching her skin with a hot needle—it reminded her that she was still alive, that she was not dead, that the war might have taken so much, but it had not taken her life.

It was later, after Maurice retired and she set up her business on her own, that at the behest of Lady Rowan she came back to live at the Comptons’ Ebury Place mansion. Her rooms were more than comfortable and clean, they were light and cozy, and her every need was catered for—yet she had still not found her place, had never quite felt at home. She was neither this nor that, not one class or the other. Now, as she reflected upon her journey and the years past, she realized she had come this far and had no idea what might come next, or what there might be for her to aspire to. She understood that she knew only how to climb mountains; having reached a certain place of elevation, she was unaccustomed to the view of the road already taken, and where her next steps might lead. Losing the document case had been akin to losing a suitcase of clothes on a very long journey. She knew neither the next destination, nor how she might prepare to travel.

T
he following day, after a brief meeting with Billy at their office in Fitzroy Square, Maisie embarked upon the drive down to Chatham, where the army’s cartographers were trained at the School of Military Engineering. As Davidson predicted, Maisie’s telephone call to the school was shunted along to Major Ian Temple, who had been described to her by the young man who answered the telephone as “the one who looks after outside people, and that sort of thing.” She suspected it was not a welcome task, but one delegated to an officer who seemed to have time on his hands.

A long journey in her motor car, a two-seater MG 14/40, always gave Maisie an opportunity to engage in uninterrupted thought. There was something about the rhythm of the road, the tires against tarmacadam that allowed her to delve deeply into whatever challenge was engaging her attention. She would change gears, slow down, speed up, as the journey required, and at no point was she anything but attentive to the task of driving, but at the same time, it was as if in the act of travel, her
immediate concerns were lulled, and in her contemplation she seemed to plumb a greater depth of understanding.

She had put a folder and some index cards into a plain carrier bag with string handles, instead of her document case, and she found that once again the loss of her case took on a deeper meaning during the course of her day. Each morning she donned clothing suited to her work, sensible garb that suggested she should be taken seriously as a professional woman with her own business. She dressed as if she were putting on a suit of armor for battle, and when she finally picked up the document case as she left the flat, it became as important to her as a scabbard might be to a warrior. Now, on the passenger seat, her belongings were held in a bag of paper and string. The significance of such a development occupied her for most of the journey.

The School of Military Engineering was another forces establishment in a town that was also home to the Chatham Dockyard, and as she made her way to Brompton Barracks, where Major Ian Temple had agreed to meet her at noon, she thought of the thousands of young men across the centuries who had come to the town in service of their country. What might Michael Clifton have thought of this place? He came from an historic part of America, a city that had no form in Maisie’s imagination because she could not comprehend a country of such expanse and difference; but growing up in such an environment, he must have developed a keen respect for the past and, as a cartographer, a sharper sense of the events and experiences that frame a place and define its people. How would he have felt as he made his way up to the barracks? Chatham had been the focus of military operations since the Middle Ages, and had earned its reputation as a naval base in the Napoleonic Wars. What might his first impressions have been, and how might he have made friends? Had he been teased about his accent by his fellow men? Or had they looked up to him, curious as to why he had enlisted in a war that was not of his country’s making?
More than anything, she hoped she could find someone who might remember him.

Maisie parked and, before leaving the motor car, placed several index cards in her shoulder bag. She set off towards the main entrance to a series of boxlike buildings built in the early 1800s, and was surprised to be greeted at the door by Major Temple, a man of distinct military bearing but with an approachability that had eluded Peter Whitting. Temple led Maisie along a corridor where white walls were half paneled with English oak, towards a wooden staircase, where they made their way up to the first floor. It seemed that nothing was out of place in Temple’s office. Equipment similar to that which she had seen at Whitting’s house was positioned on a series of shelves alongside the door, and behind the desk more shelves held books on military strategy.

Temple was businesslike in his approach, and had made an effort to accommodate Maisie’s inquiry. “I’m sorry I didn’t have much time when you telephoned, Miss Dobbs; however, I have managed to locate some information on Michael Clifton. Of course, you understand that your request is somewhat out of the ordinary. We are not used to the bereaved contacting us, especially via a third party.”

“Yes, I do understand; yet by the same token, the circumstances of Lieutenant Clifton’s enlistment and service are unusual—he was an American citizen, so I would have thought he might have been turned down for service.”

Temple shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “I wish it were as simple as that, Miss Dobbs. It’s so easy, after the event, to look at what procedure should have been employed, but in a time of war people do what they feel is right to get the job done.” He picked up a folder on his desk and untied a short length of twine securing the pages inside. “I have here Clifton’s enlistment details, and the notes of the officer on duty at the time. Clifton had evidence of an impressive background in a field in which we had to improve—that of cartography. He had an
engineer’s university education and had worked as both a surveyor and a cartographer, and he was familiar with developments in measuring the land. He was young, clever, and inquisitive, and we were trying to get new tools and practices out into the field, using sound and aerial photography. In short, he was exactly the sort of chap we were hoping to recruit. Clifton was just what we wanted.”

“Major Temple, you sound as if you knew him personally.”

Temple shook his head and looked down at his notes. “No, I didn’t. I was an artilleryman in the war. But I know what our priorities were, and I know that Michael Clifton would not have been turned away. The fact that his father was a British citizen was in his favor—if the infantry were turning a blind eye to age in a bid to recruit, then we could let a matter of citizenship go through without comment.”

“Yes, so I understand.”

“I don’t know if you are aware of the problems we faced in the early months of the war,” said Temple.

“It has been explained to me.”

Temple went on as if he had not heard. “The French were the world’s best mapmakers, yet the maps of their own country were pitiful, and we were working to different scales—it was a nightmare.”

Maisie nodded, but her interest was more immediate. “I’d like to know more about Lieutenant Clifton’s record vis-à-vis personal interaction with his peers and superiors. Was he liked? What did his commanding officer say about him?”

Temple shrugged. “I get the impression he was well liked, an affable chap.” He opened the folder again. “Typical of those Americans, eh? Says here that he was always one to keep the spirits up, would help out, and was exceptionally brave—he and his men had been targeted by a sniper in the weeks before he was listed among the missing, and he had carried a badly wounded soldier back to the dugout with him, then went
out again to bring back the body of another. He apparently did not want to leave the man to the rats of no-man’s-land.”

“Major, I wonder, do you have the names of the other men who died alongside Lieutenant Clifton? I’m particularly interested in a man named Mullen.”

Again Temple consulted the notes and flicked through the pages. “Hmmm, yes.”

Maisie leaned forward. “You have him listed?”

“As you probably know, we received notification that the bodies of Clifton and others in the unit were recently discovered, but Mullen isn’t listed here. However—” He turned the pages to one he had looked at earlier. “Yes, here it is, thought I’d seen that name before. The wounded man, the one who Clifton brought back, was named Mullen. Seems he owes his life to Clifton, but I obviously have no record of his whereabouts after his medical discharge.”

“Of course, yes.” She paused. “And who was Lieutenant Clifton’s commanding officer?”

“His immediate superior was a Captain Jeremy Lockwood, and according to the file, Lockwood was killed several weeks before Clifton was listed as missing. Single sniper bullet to the head.”

“That’s all in Clifton’s notes?”

“Not all held as part of his military record, but I thought I’d try to dig further, in anticipation of your questions.”

“That was good of you to go to the trouble. Thank you.”

Temple looked at his watch, at which point Maisie stood up and held out her hand. “Thank you for your time, Major. You have been most helpful.”

“Doesn’t seem much, really. Mind you, his father must be well-heeled—if you excuse the pun—being from Clifton’s Shoes.”

“Is that sort of information held as part of his military service record?”
Maisie thought for a moment. “It’s not an uncommon name, though I suppose Michael might have mentioned the connection to support his claim of British ancestry.”

Temple looked down at his notes once again and closed the file. “Well, it must have been written up somewhere.” He cleared his throat, then looked up. “Let me escort you to your motor car. The weather looks as if it will hold for a clear journey back to London. Are you a Londoner by birth, Miss Dobbs, or…” Temple continued the conversation as they made their way downstairs, along the paneled corridor, and out into the afternoon light. Maisie barely said a word, aware that the very correct army officer was allowing her little opportunity to interject, or put another question to him. He had given her sufficient information, then a little bit more to keep her happy, though she thought the comment regarding Clifton’s Shoes was a slip he regretted. It was, she thought, an interview with a man quite used to dealing with questions from outside the establishment, and his responses—just enough here, a snippet more than requested there—were designed to ensure there would be no more inquiries forthcoming.

 

W
here do we look for Mullen?
Maisie knew that such a search could be lengthy and lead to a dead end, but she thought it was important to find the man who owed his life to Michael Clifton, and who—she hoped—would be able to identify the officer with whom Clifton had experienced some antagonism. The journal entries might offer a clue to Mullen’s origins, some mention of where he came from, any loose thread of information that could be unpicked.

As Temple predicted, the weather was kind for the rest of the day, and Maisie enjoyed the drive, which at one point commanded a view across the North Downs before she went on to London. The way in which the light moved across the hills caused Maisie to pull onto the
side of the road for a few moments. As clouds crossed the sun, each beam slanted down on the earth’s folds and inclines, giving an impression of movement, as if searchlights were in pursuit of a vanishing day. She wondered if this was how a cartographer might begin his work, simply by standing at a vantage point and regarding the land he must interpret for others to find their way. It occurred to Maisie that, just as Whitting had described, the cartographer must be both the artist and the technician. He must be the storyteller and the editor, seeing the curves and movement of the land with a practiced eye, and then bringing a mathematical precision to the page. If he was wrong, then people would become lost on their journey. And if the mapmaker had been charged with interpreting a field of battle, then his errors would cause men—many, many men—to die.

Maisie resumed her journey, and soon, with the country behind her, she drove first through the ever-growing suburbia, then into London and along the Old Kent Road towards the West End. She arrived at four o’clock, in time to see Billy walking across the square.

“Hello, Billy!” Maisie called out and waved as she entered the square from Fitzroy Street.

“Afternoon, Miss.” He smiled as she approached. “How did you get on this morning?”

“It was interesting, I’ll say that for my day so far. Let’s get up to the office, and I’ll fill you in on what I’ve found out. Any luck with those names?”

They continued talking as they went up the staircase to the first floor.

“I managed to find to three of them who were in London, but it didn’t take an awful lot for their stories to crumble, I can tell you. Two of them were alone, one living in a bed-sit and one at a ladies’ boardinghouse. One was looking for a way out of her circumstances, and the other one said her friend put her up to it, and she didn’t want to get into
any trouble. The third was a nanny to two nippers. She looked a bit pale, I must say—they were a right pair of tearaways. Little villains who could talk proper. I tell you, Miss, my boys might not sound upper-crust, but they know their manners and would put those two to shame. Anyway, she was another one looking for the golden path to another life.”

Maisie unlocked the door and pushed it open, walked to her desk and took off her hat.

“Blimey, Miss, what’ve you done to your face? You look like you’d stopped at one of them boxing clubs down the Old Kent Road for a few rounds with a heavyweight. Ow, I bet that hurts.”

Maisie touched her cheek. “You know, it’s funny you mention it, but it stopped stinging today, so I forgot about it for a while—yet the officer I saw at the School of Military Engineering didn’t blink an eye, didn’t say a word. He could have been trying not to embarrass me, though.”

“Nah, Miss. That’s a nasty old scrape, is that. You’d have to mention it to stop yourself looking at it. What happened? Did you fall?”

“Actually, Billy—I was pushed. And robbed.”

 

W
hile they sat alongside the case map, Maisie recounted the events of the past two days to Billy.

“I reckon we should be looking out for this Mullen. Want me to see what I can find out? I can ask around some of my old mates, you never know, someone might know something, ’specially with all of us being sappers. I can do a bit of snooping to see if I can locate his medical details. And then there’s that other bloke, Jeremy Whatsisname. I know them mapping blokes were sitting ducks, so it don’t surprise me that he was caught by a sniper. But you never know, he might’ve been the one that Michael Clifton had words with—unless he wrote it in his journal when it first happened, when he had a head of steam, and it wasn’t much more than a storm in a teacup.”

Maisie nodded. “Yes, do what you can to find Mullen, and more on Jeremy Lockwood.” She picked up a wax crayon and made some notations on the case map, linking two names with a red line. “Be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t seem right regarding Lockwood’s death. I don’t know what you might find, but I think you’ll know it when you see it—pay attention to your gut.”

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