Read The Mapping of Love and Death Online

Authors: Jacqueline Winspear

The Mapping of Love and Death (4 page)

BOOK: The Mapping of Love and Death
4.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“You know, Miss, I’ve been thinking about maps, what with Michael Clifton being a cartographer and him being fascinated with maps since he was a nipper. I’ve always wondered why you call this a case map, where you got the idea from.” He tapped the edge of the paper. “After all, it don’t look much like a map.”

She looked up from her work. “It was what we did when I worked for Maurice. The idea was to lay out all your suspicions, facts, clues, ideas, and you look for patterns. In this way you can see everything before you, rather than simply a notebook filled with scribble. It’s the difference between seeing the land laid out on paper like a picture, and someone describing it in words.”

“And then trying to make sense of it all.” Billy sighed. “I can’t get that Michael Clifton out of my mind. I mean, he seems to have been a good sort of bloke, someone you’d want as a mucker. So who would want to kill him? It was bad enough when the enemy had it in for you, let alone the men you shared the dugout with.”

Maisie nodded. “And that’s exactly what we have to find out.” She stood up and moved to her desk, where she picked up the telephone. “There’s a few people I need to talk to—and with a bit of luck, someone in the army who knows something about cartographers in the war would be a good start.”

“You going to have a word with Lord Julian?”

“He’s my source for all things military. He can usually help me out, though I am sure he’ll begin charging me soon.”

“I always thought they were brave, them blokes who went out there surveying. Sappers, they were, like me, though they did a lot of work with the artillery—because without them, who would have known where to fire a gun? And then there was all that work with trench maps and what have you.”

“Do you know anyone I could talk to?”

Billy shook his head and looked down at the list of names before him. “Nah, Miss. Them I’ve kept up with were like me, the ones out there laying wire, telephone lines and the like. I reckon I did most of my work underground—like a rat I was, tunneling away down there.”

Maisie placed a call to Lord Julian Compton. Ten minutes after she replaced the receiver, the telephone rang and Lord Julian suggested Colonel John Bartley as the man who might be able to assist her in her inquiries.

“Shame about Maurice, isn’t it?” Lord Julian added, having given her the information she sought.

“Yes, I hadn’t realized he’d been so ill.”

“He likes to keep himself to himself, as you know, but we’re making sure he’s kept an eye on. Will you be at Chelstone this Saturday or Sunday?”

“I hope so, Lord Julian. I’ll see Maurice again then.”

“Good. Yes, that’s very good. Now then, I must be off.”

“Of course.” Maisie replaced the receiver and sighed deeply. Though
she had become used to her position at Chelstone—years ago she had been an employee in a lowly position, her education sponsored by Lady Rowan Compton, and now she was a professional woman of some standing who was as welcome in the servants’ quarters as she was in the drawing room—she was never completely comfortable when speaking to Lord Julian. He had always accorded her respect, and had even recommended her services to both business and personal associates, yet she remained in some awe of him. Due to his position at the War Office during the years of the Great War, however, he was often the only person who could assist her when it came to making military contacts crucial to a case.

“Got someone for you, has he?” Billy looked up from his notes.

“A Colonel John Bartley.”

“Oh, I remember hearing about him,” said Billy. “A soldier’s soldier, that one. He was spoken of very highly, if I’m remembering right.”

“That’s the sort of man I need to see—and I hope he can help me understand the cartographer’s job. I’ll telephone him now.”

Maisie placed a call to Bartley, who came to the telephone with little delay.

“Bartley here. I understand Julian has sent you to me.”

Maisie introduced herself and explained the reason for her call, though she gave only sufficient details to describe her need to speak to someone who might have known Michael Clifton.

“Well, m’dear, let me see. I don’t think I can be of any help myself—I remember the faces, but not the names, even if the young man was an officer. Now, I’ll have to think.” There was silence on the line for a few seconds; then Bartley cleared his throat and began speaking once more. “I could name a few, but to get to the nub of the matter sooner rather than later, I suggest you speak to Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Davidson. Mind you, you’ll have to jump to it because he’s off to India any day now. In any case, he was in the artillery at the time—very young
for the job, made a bit of a hash of it, I’m afraid, though he learned from his errors—anyway, you know what my chaps used to call the cartographers, don’t you?” He did not wait for Maisie to guess. “They called them the artillery’s astrologers. Not sure it was particularly complimentary, but a good mapmaker had to be something of an expert in divination, as well as the more formal aspects of his profession. In any case, I’ll get in touch with Archie Davidson and make the introduction for you; collar him before he shoves off to endless gin and tonics on a hot veranda.”

“Thank you, Colonel Bartley.”

“Not at all. Here’s the number you can reach him on; temporary, you know. He’s at a relative’s house while he winds things up here. Heaven knows where he’s packed his wife off to. Anyway—” Bartley gave a number in Chelsea, then repeated it for good measure, though Maisie had transcribed it the first time. “You know, I must owe Julian more than a favor or two—everyone else seems to owe him something.” The man seemed ready to go on, but Maisie nipped further conversation in the bud.

“You’ve been most kind, Colonel Bartley. As you said, time is of the essence. I’ll ring off so that you can speak to Lieutenant Colonel Davidson on my behalf.”

T
he address Archibald Davidson had given Maisie over the phone led her to a well-presented mews house five minutes from the Sloane Square underground station. A housekeeper showed Maisie into the first-floor drawing room, where Davidson joined her almost immediately. He was a wiry man, tall, with long limbs, an angular face, and high cheekbones dusted with freckles, which made him seem boyish for his years; Maisie thought he might be in his early forties. Davidson held out his right hand towards Maisie, while pressing down the collar of his tweed jacket with his left.

“Miss Dobbs, delighted to meet you. I’ll apologize now for the fact that I can only spare about ten minutes. As I said on the telephone, I’m due to leave for India tomorrow, and even though my wife dealt with most of the packing before she took our children back to school, I am rather snowed under. We’ve had months to prepare for this posting, and now all hell seems to have broken loose—this is my sister’s house, and we’ve made a thorough mess of the whole place.”

“I appreciate your time, Lieutenant Colonel. Thank you.”

“Please, do sit down.” He looked at his watch as he sat down at one end of a deep red sofa, while Maisie took a seat in the armchair opposite. In brief, she explained the purpose of her visit.

“So, as you can see, I’m not only trying to find someone who might remember this young man, but I would like to know more about cartographers in the war.”

“Well, first off,” said Davidson, “I can’t remember any Americans, either in the ranks or among the officers I knew personally. You’d remember someone like that, someone different.” He paused. “But it’s true to say that, though the cartography units were part of the Royal Engineers, they were chiefly in the service of the artillery, and of course the infantry. Without them we would not have known where to fire which guns, and without maps we would have been lost; our success depended upon the integrity of the maps and the precision of the mapmakers.”

“To say nothing of the lives of thousands of men.”

“Yes, of course.” Davidson checked his watch once again, and glanced at the clock on the wall for good measure.

“And you personally liaised with one or more cartographers?”

“Yes, but now that I know more about your line of inquiry, I can tell you that I was not in the geographical area you’re interested in.” He sighed. “Look, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the way the cartography boys worked, then I’m afraid I really have to dash.”

Maisie opened her mouth to thank him, but he had already launched into an explanation that was brisk, filled with military jargon, and included terms such as
flash spotters
and
sound rangers
. She did not want to interrupt to ask questions, but it occurred to her that if he had been writing instead of speaking, she would be looking at little more than scribble. When he appeared to have ended his soliloquy, Maisie spoke again.

“That’s very interesting, Lieutenant Colonel, but I wonder if there’s
anyone you can think of who might have crossed paths with the American. Is there anyone else you would suggest I speak to, someone who can throw a little more light on the subject for me, or who was in the region at the time?”

Davidson shrugged. “I can’t think of anyone, sorry, but…well, off the top of my head, there are a couple of people you could speak to. First off, there’s Duncan Higginbotham. He was at Sandhurst with me, and he might be able to assist you—but I think he’s just been posted to Aden. The other man is Peter Whitting. I believe he might have been in the region. I know that he had a training job and then requested a posting to the front, which surprised anyone who knew about it. I mean, we all did our duty, but there again, you didn’t want to shove yourself into the wasps’ nest if you could possibly help it. I remember being told about him going over voluntarily, and we all thought he should be looked at; it seemed he’d taken leave of his senses.” He shrugged. “In any case, I’ve seen him at a couple of dinners and so on. He left the army after the war, but still hangs on to the title—I think he’s still got a finger in the defense pie, but I couldn’t say what it might be.” Davidson consulted his watch. “I’ll just get you the addresses and telephone numbers; then I really have to get on.”

He left the room, returning a few moments later with a piece of paper, which he handed to Maisie.

“There you are. Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”

Maisie thanked Davidson for the addresses, adding, “Just one thing—I thought I might pay a visit to the School of Military Engineering in Chatham. Do you know anyone there I could speak to?”

Davidson scratched his head. “There is one person, but I don’t know him that well; however, if you telephoned out of the blue, he’s probably the person you’d be referred to. His name’s Ian Temple—Major Ian Temple. He’s the person who seems to be responsible for any liaison with civvy street, and there’s a fair bit of that sort of thing in Chatham,
as far as I know.” He rubbed his chin. “I think he might have crossed paths with Whitting during the war. Can’t for the life of me remember how I know that, but perhaps Whitting could tell you more. Oh, and that reminds me, before you go—a word of warning about Whitting. He really knows his stuff and is something of a map buff, so he’ll probably be able to give you quite a bit of background—but he could do with a lesson in manners. Not a terribly likable chap, a bit gruff. Lives alone in Hampstead, but with the usual help—a butler and cook. I understand he has three cats. They’ve probably lasted because a cat will just walk off when it gets a bit fed up with you.”

Maisie smiled. “Thank you, you’ve been most kind, and I’ve out-stayed my welcome. I wish you and your wife well in India.”

He nodded. “Give us a month, and we’ll be begging to come home.”

As Davidson closed the door behind her, Maisie heard him bellow: “Mrs. Bolton? Mrs. Bolton, have you seen my best brown shoes? They were here yesterday and now I can’t find the bloody things!”

Maisie was glad to see an empty telephone kiosk on the way to the station. With the first call she ascertained that Duncan Higginbotham had already sailed for the port of Aden; and with the second call she managed to secure an appointment to see Peter Whitting—
Major
Peter Whitting—at four o’clock. She would have time to return to her office and collect her motor car for the journey to Hampstead.

 

A
rchitecturally, Peter Whitting’s home was like so many in Hampstead: an imposing four-story Georgian terraced mansion, the white exterior grayed by the elements and London’s smoke-filled air. Parking the MG outside the property, Maisie looked up and thought the major probably rattled around like a pea in a pod, with his two servants and three cats. However, on the other hand, it was entirely likely that the retired officer was not quite as retired as he might seem, given
that Davidson had suggested that Whitting was still in the employ of the government.

Maisie walked up the damp stone steps and pulled the bell handle at the side of the door, which was answered after a short wait by a man-servant dressed in a black suit, white shirt, black tie, and black shoes and socks. His beaked nose gave him an austere appearance, and Maisie thought he resembled a crow, yet his smile was broad as he stood aside to welcome her into the entrance hall.

“You must be Miss Dobbs. Major Whitting is waiting for you in his workroom. I’ll show you right in and bring tea—one’s always gasping for a cup at this time in the afternoon, isn’t one? Your coat and hat, Miss Dobbs?”

“You know, I
am
gasping for a cup of tea. I’ve hardly had time to stop all day.” Maisie slipped off her coat and hat, patted down her hair, and smiled as they were taken from her. She was unused to such familiarity among the domestic staff of those she visited in connection with a case, and found the man’s light manner refreshing. “Mr.—?”

“Dawson. Follow me, Miss Dobbs.”

Dawson walked towards the broad staircase that led to the upper floors, and bade Maisie follow him along a corridor filled with paintings of past battles, from Hastings to Verdun. He stopped outside a door that seemed almost wedged between landscapes depicting Trafalgar and Marston Moor, knocked, and waited.

“I may have to knock again. He could be in the midst of battle.” He turned to Maisie. “Do not be misled by the major’s eccentricities, he is an extraordinarily acute man.”

Dawson rapped on the door, this time with more force. A loud “Come!” was bellowed in return. Maisie was shown into the room, and could not hide her surprise at the interior. A window at the far end of the room, not unlike the floor-to-ceiling windows in her office, was flanked by bookcases that extended to cover walls to both left and right. On
the wall behind her, a map had been pulled down from a roller. A special case had been built alongside to house rolls of maps, the extent of which indicated that Major Whitting was a serious collector. But the focal point was the large square table in the center of the room. Maisie thought
tableau
would be the only word to describe the scene in front of her. There, on the table, was a model battlefield complete with miniature armies, and at first glance, she could see that the major battles of the Western Front during the years 1914 to 1918 were represented there. It was an extensive relief map, with hills, towns, and farms, though many of those had been lost to battle.

“Miss Dobbs. Do come in.”

“It’s good of you to see me, Major Whitting.”

The man before her was as much a surprise as Dawson and the “workroom” itself. Despite the fact that she had been told Whitting might still have some military connections, she had envisaged meeting a portly man in his sixties, retired with his cats and with little interest in the world outside his club, his old officer friends, and a hearty snifter of brandy at the end of the day. In reality, he was probably much younger, and was also what her friend Priscilla might have called “a bit of a dish, for his age,” but at the same time he did not smile, and in his manner did not welcome his guest with an air of warmth.

Whitting was not overly tall—perhaps only a couple of inches taller than Maisie herself—but was far from portly and moved with a quick ease that suggested he engaged in some exercise each day. His dress was casual: beige woolen trousers, a fawn check Viyella shirt, with the top button open at the neck, and a V-neck pullover. A gold watch with several dials adorned his wrist, as if it were crucial for him to know not only the hour, but the very second at which he consulted the timepiece. He wore nut-brown brogues, polished to a shine, and his graying hair was combed back in the fashion of the day, but it seemed he used only the smallest amount of oil to keep it in place.

“You seem rather surprised by my workroom.” Whitting’s tone was abrupt, almost curt, as if to challenge his guest.

“It’s quite awe-inspiring, I must say.” Maisie moved closer and looked down at the model landscape laid out on the table. “It’s more than a map, isn’t it? It’s as if you’ve laid out the whole of Belgium and France in miniature.” She looked up at Whitting, who came to her side.

“And you’re wondering what I do with this, aren’t you?”

“It crossed my mind.” She smiled, suspecting that her host might be one who looked for an argument where none might otherwise exist. A composed demeanor on her part would do much to calm Whitting’s agitation.

“It comes down to the fact that I’m still trying to learn—what we did right, what went wrong, and, of greater importance, what might happen in the future. This hasn’t been finished long, and I can change it to reflect the way in which the region has altered with the regrowth of forests, the reestablishment of agriculture, and the new buildings that have been going up.”

“I see.”

Whitting paused. Maisie was aware he was looking at her as she stared at the map. She reached out and laid her finger close to a small French village, not far from the Belgian border. “I was right there, in the war.”

“Nurse?”

Maisie nodded.

“Bit young, weren’t you?”

“I lied. I wasn’t the only one.”

“No, and you won’t be the last. War does that—until people realize that it isn’t a game to be played”—he held out his hand towards the map—“like draughts or chess. It’s a matter of life and death. Chiefly death.”

“I know.”

At that moment, Dawson arrived with a tray set for tea. He brought it to a low table between two armchairs situated on one side of the room, close to the fireplace.

“Miss Dobbs, do take a seat. We’ll have tea, and you can tell me in more detail why you’re here to see me.”

Whitting showed Maisie to one of the armchairs, which were covered in a woven tapestry-like fabric; comfortable enough for a lady, but with a masculine austerity about them. Coals were smoldering in the fireplace, and as Whitting was about to sit down, she noticed a large calico cat asleep on his chair. He swept up the cat, placed her on the arm of the chair, and waited while Dawson handed a cup of tea to Maisie before accepting a cup himself. After they were each handed a slice of cake on a fine china plate, Dawson left them alone to their conversation.

“Lieutenant Colonel Davidson thought you would be the best person to tell me more about the role of cartographers during the war.”

When Whitting smirked, the right side of his mouth tweaked upward. “‘Lieutenant Colonal Davidson’—that’s one for the books. Promoted to keep him out of trouble, if his record’s anything to go by, then sent out to the far reaches of the Empire.” He shook his head. “But with the way things are going over there in India, heaven only knows what trouble he’ll cause. And no wonder he sent you to me; he probably wouldn’t know where to begin to describe the work of the cartographers. In any case, why do you want to know?”

Maisie remained calm in the face of her host’s attack on a fellow officer, placing her cup on the table before she reached into her document case, which she had laid at her feet. “I beg your pardon, I should have given you this when we were introduced. I am an inquiry agent, among other things, and I am working on behalf of a client.” She went on to tell Whitting about the Cliftons’ search for the woman with whom their son had formed some sort of liaison.

BOOK: The Mapping of Love and Death
4.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Pauline Kael by Brian Kellow
Cry For the Baron by John Creasey
Darker Space by Lisa Henry
The Embassy of Cambodia by Smith, Zadie
Lemonade Mouth by Mark Peter Hughes
The Bridesmaid by Julia London
Lone Star Renegades by Mark Wayne McGinnis
Frankie's Letter by Dolores Gordon-Smith