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  • Pamela Belle

CHAPTER THIRTY

"I've checked everywhere," Fran said. "Cupboards, sheds, wardrobes, under the beds, the loft, the garage, my car, the garden - everywhere. And she's not here."

He looked awful, white-faced and haggard, and his hair was wild. Jenna no longer cared what Rosie might think: she gave him a prolonged hug. "We'll find her. She can't have gone far. What time did she go to bed?"

"I'm not sure - she went up about half past eight, said she'd read for a bit. I had some coffee and then started work on a song. I put my head round the door at 9 and told her to turn the light out, then I went back downstairs and carried on. I didn't hear anything, but then with the door shut and concentrating on the music, I probably wouldn't." His expression was anguished. "She could have left nearly three hours ago - she could be anywhere."

"She's probably gone to one of her friends," Jenna said. "That's the most likely." She looked round at Rosie, who was standing just behind her. She'd insisted on coming, and Jenna had filled her in on the situation with Flora on the way over. "Do you remember when you ran away, after I said you couldn't have that game for your DS?"

"I went to Indy's," said Rosie. "I thought you'd never find me there."

"It was the first place I looked." Jenna turned back to Fran. "Who's her best friend? Izzy?"

"Half her class seems to be her best friend." He pushed a hand through his hair, making it even wilder. "I'd better start phoning round. She could easily have walked to Orford in three hours."

"We certainly didn't see her on the road, and I was keeping a very good look out," Rosie said. She looked doubtfully at Fran. "Won't they mind you phoning at ten to midnight?"

"It's an emergency," Jenna said. "Once they know what's happened, they won't mind. How about social media?"

"I can sort that," Rosie told them. "There's a local Facebook page, isn't there? I can put a message on it. What about the police?"

"Let's make sure she hasn't gone to one of her friends first," Fran said. "If I draw a blank there, then we'll ring them." He took out his mobile and started to scroll through his list of contacts. "I think I've got the most likely numbers, and I'll start with Izzy's parents. Let's hope they're not asleep."

"I'll make some coffee," Jenna said. She went over to the kitchen area and filled the kettle. Rosie was bent over her own phone, doubtless posting a message on Facebook. Fran sat down by the hearth, next to his guitar, and she heard his voice. "Hi, Mel - yes, really sorry to ring you so late, but we've got an emergency here - Flora's run away. Yes, I know, but it was on the off chance she might have managed to get to your house and sneaked upstairs to Izzy - could you check for me? Thanks." There was a considerable pause, while Jenna got mugs out of the cupboard and made a cafetiere, then he spoke again. "OK, not to worry. I'll try some of her other friends. About three hours, I think. Yes, yes, of course I will. Thanks. Bye."

So she wasn't at Izzy's. Over the next ten minutes, he ascertained that she wasn't at Ava's, or Becky's, or Maddie's, or Sophie's. Jenna handed out hot strong coffee, and said, "It could be an idea to drive around. She might not be heading for Orford - I know she goes to school there, but it takes kids from a wide area, she might have gone to a friend in Butley or Sudbourne."

"Erin lives in Sudbourne, but there was no answer when I phoned."

Jenna took a gulp of coffee, knowing she'd need the caffeine over the next few hours. A knot of anxiety had settled in her gut. It was a very cold night, she'd had to scrape the frost off the windscreen before they set out, and she thought of Flora, out there in the icy dark, heartbroken and lost, and had to swallow down the tears. Crying wouldn't find her, but common sense might. "How about if Rosie and I drive round, looking for her? She's likely to stick to the roads, unless she's got a torch."

"I think she has - the one I keep by the back door has gone."

"Even so, she probably wouldn't strike off across the fields, she'd know she'd get lost. You can stay here in case anyone phones, or if she turns up. Rosie, what did you put on Facebook?"

"That she's gone missing, and could people check sheds and outhouses. I don't know what she's wearing, so I didn't give a description, except to say that she's ten and has long dark hair. I can add that, if you like?"

"Jeans, black padded jacket, trainers and a red beanie hat," Fran said. "And a backpack with a sunburst on it."

Rosie bent over the phone again, her fingers flying. "Done," she said. "And I've had a couple of responses to the original post already, so people will be looking out for her."

"She won't want to be found," Jenna pointed out. "Not until after the plane leaves. She's probably planning to find a really good hiding place and stay there until she thinks she's safe to come out."

"Not realising that her mother will just buy another plane ticket," Fran said. He gave her a tired smile. "Wee besom. It never crossed my mind that she'd do something like that. We had a long talk while we were packing her things, and she seemed to have accepted that she didn't have a choice." He sighed. "I'd no idea she could be that devious."

"I wouldn't call it devious so much as desperate." Jenna took a deep breath, acutely aware of Rosie listening only a few feet away. "Look, I know, only too well, how she feels. When I wasn't a lot older than Flora, I lived with my grandmother for a year, because my father had gone and my mother had a breakdown. When I had to go back to my mother, I was utterly devastated, I didn't want to go, I made a huge fuss. And I'll never forget how powerless I felt and how much I resented the fact that the adults were making decisions for me that I didn't want. I'll be willing to bet that Flora feels exactly the same way."

"Mum, can we go?" Rosie asked impatiently. "It's so cold out there, we need to find her."

"I've a few more calls to make," Fran said. "And if I draw a blank, and if you draw a blank, I'll phone the police. You're right, she can't spend a night out of doors in this."

Rosie and her mother finished their remaining coffees, and went out to the car. Jenna looked at the map, and then pulled out onto the Woodbridge Road. She'd drive a couple of times round Butley and Sudbourne first, then double back and head for Orford. She knew, with a sick feeling of dread, that they were unlikely to find Flora that way, but if there was the smallest chance they might spot her, she had to take it. It was much better than doing nothing, and she couldn't think of anything else that might be effective.

In the dark, the trees and hedges looked disorientatingly different, and a couple of times she took a turning she hadn't intended, but it didn't really matter, because Flora might be walking down any one of these lanes. She drove slowly and carefully, knowing that the roads would be icy after the rain earlier and this frost, and that out here in the sticks they wouldn't have been gritted. While she kept her eyes firmly ahead, Rosie looked out at the hedges and verges, and occasionally shone her torch down a side track. Once or twice another car went past. They saw a fox slipping across their path, and the torch picked up the shining eyes of a small herd of deer in a field near Sudbourne, but there was no sign of Flora. In desperation, Jenna drove into the centre of Orford, and round the back streets, without seeing anything larger than a tabby cat. Trying not to despair, she stopped the car in the silent, empty market place and turned to Rosie. "Do you want me to drop you off at home? I won't mind if you do."

"Of course not," her daughter said vehemently. "I wouldn't be able to sleep anyway, knowing the poor kid was out there somewhere."

The poor kid was most likely to be illicitly tucked up nice and warm in a friend's bedroom, but Jenna didn't want to tempt fate by saying so. "Thanks, sweetheart."

"I don't think I've been much help."

"Just by being here, you've been a huge help. I really appreciate it, and I know Fran does too."

She was about to drive on when Rosie said suddenly, "Mum ... I hope you don't mind me asking this, but ... are you and Fran an item?"

Surprised and a little apprehensive, Jenna turned and looked at her. The illumination from the street lighting was limited, but she could see that her daughter was smiling, and she relaxed. "Yes, I suppose you could say we are. Do you mind?"

"Of course not! I'm so happy for you, you deserve it. I really like him, and I like Flora too, and I hate what's been happening, it seems so unfair. When we find her, I wish we could persuade her mum to let her stay here."

"I don't think that's going to happen, love."

"Why's she so set against it?"

"I've never met her, just talked to her on the phone, but I suspect, from what Flora and Fran have said, that she likes to feel she's boss," Jenna told her. "And I know she thinks that Flora's growing up and needs a female role model."

"But she's already got one."

Jenna looked at her in surprise, and Rosie laughed. "Oh, come on, Mum. I meant you."

"I'm not sure I could be anyone's role model, least of all Flora's."

"Bollocks," said Rosie vehemently: a reminder that she'd just spent a week in Saskia's company. "You're a brilliant role model. A strong independent woman who doesn't need a man to run her life and can manage perfectly well without one."

"It's nicer with two," Jenna pointed out.

"Well, it is if he's the right man. But Dad wasn't right for you, was he? Too bossy by half. And unfaithful. That's the crunch, isn't it? I'm not sure I could keep loving someone if I knew they'd been shagging someone else behind my back. But I bet Fran's not like that. He's ... " Rosie paused, searching for the right word. "He's got integrity."

"You're right there. He's too fair-minded for his own good, actually. He's bent over backwards rather than tell Krystal straight to stop messing with Flora's head." She turned the car round. "We've been out almost an hour, we'd better get back."

"Shall I ring Fran and tell him we haven't found her?"

"Yes please," Jenna said. She added, reluctantly although she knew it was the right and the only thing to do, "And tell him I think we ought to call the police."

By the time they got back to Fran's cottage, it was past one o'clock in the morning, and the temperature on the dashboard of Jenna's car read minus three. They were met at the entrance to the driveway by Fran. "I've phoned 999. As soon as I said it was a missing child, they said they'd send a car straight away." He looked past them. "And here they are, I think. I told them I'd stand in the road and wave so they'd find us."

Jenna turned and saw the headlights approaching. "I'd better get out of their way." She drove on and parked by the front door. The police car followed, and stopped behind her. Two uniformed officers, both women, got out and introduced themselves: PC Barrett and PC Ford.

The warmth of the cottage was very welcome after the chill outside. Rosie, unasked, went to put the kettle on. The two police officers sat together on one side of the fire, opposite Fran and Jenna, and the questions began. When had he seen Flora last? How had she managed to get downstairs without him noticing? Where might she have gone? What was she wearing? Had anything upset her? PC Ford did the talking, and her colleague wrote Fran's answers down in her notebook. Then he took them up to Flora's bedroom, and afterwards they checked over the whole cottage, just in case he might have missed anything.

Of course, they drew a blank, and came back to the sitting room looking concerned. Rosie distributed mugs of tea, and PC Barrett addressed her. "Sorry, you are?"

"Rosie Johnson. Jenna's daughter, I'm here for the holidays. I'm a first-year student at UAE in Norwich."

"Thank you. And you, Mrs Johnson - you're a friend of Mr McNeil's?"

"Yes, I've known him since we were at university together. I've been tutoring Flora for a couple of sessions a week."

"So you know her well? Has she done anything like this before?"

"Not as far as I know. But she was very upset at the prospect of having to go back to America - her mother only phoned to tell her this afternoon, and they're due to fly out tomorrow." She corrected herself. "Today, at three."

"So she may have thought that if she ran away, she wouldn't have to go back with her mother? Is she the subject of a child arrangement order?"

Jenna looked at Fran, who answered. "No, it was an informal agreement we made when we split up, when Flora was only a few months old. At the time it was obvious that she should stay with her mother, and live in the US. But as she grew older, and Krystal's career took off, she's been spending more and more time over here with me. At first it was just a few weeks twice a year at most, but this time she's been here for more than six months, she's at the local primary school, she's made lots of friends and she loves it. I'm not surprised she doesn't want to go back."

"Lots of friends? Do you know their names?"

Fran gave them his own list of more than half a dozen girls, and a couple of boys, with whom Flora had been particularly friendly, along with their family's addresses and phone numbers. PC Barratt, obviously impressed by his thoroughness, wrote everything down. "I've phoned round all of them this evening," he added, "and drawn a blank, but there were a couple of people who didn't pick up - they're probably fast asleep. And Jenna and Rosie have driven round the lanes in case she was walking to Orford or somewhere else, but no joy."

"So you've absolutely no idea where she might have gone, if she's not with one of her friends?"

Fran shook his head. He looked at the end of his tether. "What can you do now? Will you have to wait until it's light?"

The women exchanged glances. PC Ford said, "We've already alerted all our patrol cars in the area. If she's on a road, she'll be found."

Jenna thought that Flora was perfectly capable of diving into a hedge as soon as she saw headlights approaching, but kept quiet. The police woman went on. "And we'll chase up those families you haven't managed to contact. First thing in the morning, we'll check the houses of all her friends. It's very likely she's gone to one of them, and the parents haven't realised. We can also put a drone up to look for her, in case she's somewhere out in the open. Please, sir, try not to worry too much. Obviously, because she's only ten, she's classed as very vulnerable, but we know she's unlikely to have been abducted, and most children of her age who run away are found very quickly. If she has her phone with her, it can be traced, even if it's switched off, although I have to say that in a rural area like this, there may not be enough coverage to pinpoint her location. And if you're right and she thinks she'll be safe once it's too late to catch that plane, then she'll probably reappear in about twelve hours, very pleased with herself."

"But what if she's not at one of her friends' houses?" Rosie asked, in some agitation. "What if she's outside somewhere? It's so cold."

"If she's as bright and sensible as you've said, she won't be," said PC Barratt. "Now, Mr. McNeil, have you got a recent photograph of Flora?"

There was one he'd taken on his phone that afternoon, on the Meare. The child beamed out at them, her dark hair windblown and her eyes bright with joy, entirely unaware of what her mother had in store for her. Conveniently, she was wearing almost the same clothes, black padded jacket, red beanie hat and blue jeans, in which she'd run away. He printed off several copies, and at the officer's request, sent the image to the official police email address. It would be forwarded to every officer on the force, so that they could keep a look out for her. Then, with many reassurances, the two women took their leave, saying that they would be in touch as soon as they had any news, and that if Flora hadn't been found by first light, colleagues would be back to co-ordinate further searches.

"It doesn't seem right," Rosie said, almost before the door had shut behind them. "She must be frozen out there and they're not going to do anything about it until dawn!"

"You heard what they said," Jenna told her, with a meaningful glare. "She's almost certainly sneaked into one of her friends' houses for the night. And the parents wouldn't necessarily know. Fran, are you sure she's got her mobile phone with her?"

"I saw her put it in her backpack earlier. I've tried ringing it, but it just goes straight to voicemail, so either she's switched it off, or she's somewhere without coverage. There are quite large areas round here where you can't get a signal."

Rosie was frowning, obviously thinking hard. "Do you think she might have planned to stay out rather than risk going to one of her friends?"

"I don't think she would have. As you said yourself, it's very cold out there."

"What else was in her backpack?" Rosie persisted. "She's got a torch, has she got food?"

"Some of those cereal bars, a couple of apples, and a bottle of water, and her tablet, and phone. Oh, and a fleece."

"Could she have taken a sleeping bag as well?"

"I've got a couple, they're in the cupboard by the back door. I'll have a look." Fran got up and went out. He came back a moment later, his face serious. "There's only one there now. I think you're right, Rosie. Why take it if she was just planning to go to one of her friends?"

Jenna felt sick with sudden fear. "If Rosie is right, then the police need to be looking out in the open. But where?"

"In the woods behind the house?" Rosie queried. "That's where I'd go. I bet it's nice and dry under those holly trees, and with a padded jacket and a fleece and a sleeping bag, she could be quite snug."

"But we'd never find her," Jenna said despairingly. "It's a huge area, nearly two hundred acres. And if she thought that'd be too obvious, there's all of Rendlesham Forest just down the road, and that's even bigger."

"The police will have sniffer dogs," Fran said.

"And so do we. We've got Sammy."

Jenna stared at Rosie. "But he hasn't been trained properly - I've just played sniffer games with him. And he doesn't know these woods, he'd just run about aimlessly or go off and get lost himself."

"We won't know until we've tried. Why don't we go back to Orford and get him?"

"Now? At - " Jenna checked her watch. "At two o'clock in the morning?"

"It'll start getting light at about half five, won't it?"

"I don't know, I'm not usually awake at that time." Jenna realised that despite the frost outside, despite Fran's and her own terrible anxiety, a small part of her didn't want Flora to be found so soon. Such desperation, such ingenuity and resourcefulness, deserved a better fate than to be packed off back to LA in disgrace on the three o'clock plane. If Rosie was right, if the girl had gone off to hide in the forest, then perhaps she wouldn't be in danger of anything worse than getting a bit cold. There were no wolves or bears, nor would there be speeding cars or predatory paedophiles.

"Sunrise is about twenty past six here, at the moment," Fran said, looking at his phone. "So it should start getting light around half an hour earlier. It might be worth a try, but not in the dark. Flora knows Sammy, doesn't she?"

"Yes, she's met him a couple of times, and we went for a walk along the sea wall once, a few weeks ago when she came to me for tutoring."

"So it'd be better if he found her rather than some slobbering police dog," said Rosie, who seemed fixated on the idea.

"Right," Fran said, putting the phone down. "This is what I suggest we do. I'll stay here in case the police call, or Flora changes her mind and comes home. You two go back to Orford and try and get some sleep, if you can, then borrow Sammy and bring him here. If she is in the woods, I think she'll be OK. We all keep our mobiles on, and keep in touch. Does that sound feasible?"

It did. Jenna got up and hugged him, and Rosie joined them. They stood for a moment, arms round each other, drawing strength and comfort from their closeness. "It'll be OK," Jenna said softly, with more confidence than she actually felt. "I'm sure she'll be OK."

"I hope you're right, hen. Dear God, I hope you're right." Fran kissed her on the cheek, and smiled with some difficulty. "I'll see you later. Meanwhile, I've got to think about what I'm going to say to Krystal. Which might take a wee while."

"A few home truths might be in order," Jenna said drily. "If Flora's prepared to resort to such desperate measures to avoid going back to the States with her, what should that be telling her? And something else has occurred to me. Flora actually holds the trump card, and it wouldn't surprise me if she's realised it. Even if she does go back with her mother, she only has to fail the entrance exam for that school, and then all Krystal's careful planning falls down flat."

"It's occurred to me too," Fran said. "And I'm going to point it out to her when I phone her. I know she was planning an early start this morning, so I'll aim to phone her around dawn, and if she doesn't like it, tough."

*

Jenna's alarm woke her from a nightmarish dream in which she was trying to find Flora in an impenetrable forest full of moving paths, tortured trees and snaking creepers. She had slept eventually, after what seemed like a lifetime tossing and turning, too tired and yet too worried to relax, but she suspected that she'd only managed an hour or so. It was half past five, but still full dark outside. She pulled on jeans, a t-shirt and a fleece, socks and trainers, and knocked on Rosie's door. When she heard a sleepy reply, she went downstairs and put the kettle on. Then she phoned Ruth.

To do her neighbour credit, she didn't hesitate. "How awful! And she's still missing?"

Jenna had already checked her phone, and Rosie's, and there was no news. "Yes. And we thought it was worth a try. If you don't mind - "

"Of course I don't! And I want to come with you, if that's OK. Three of us searching will be more help than two, and I know those woods well, I helped with a tree survey there a couple of years ago."

"Thank you so much! What about Gary?"

"He's not a morning person," said Ruth firmly. "He won't be compos mentis till about nine. I don't think an earthquake would wake him now, he's snoring away fit to bust. I'll be round with Sammy in five minutes."

She was true to her word, and they set off back to Fran's cottage. It had clouded over, and wasn't quite so cold as it had been a few hours earlier, which was reassuring. Over in the east, a faint lightening tinged the sky above the distant sea. The roads were still a little icy, and Jenna drove with care, Rosie beside her, while Ruth sat with her arm round an excited Sammy in the back. She had expected to see at least one police car parked in the drive, but there was no sign of them yet: however, it was only just after six.

Fran let them in. He was unshaven, and his clothes were rumpled: he obviously hadn't slept much, if at all. "Hi. No news, I'm afraid. The police phoned earlier to check with me - they're not going to be here for a while, there's been a fatal stabbing somewhere and most of their officers are tied up with that. But they're going to bring a drone and a dog with them, in case she's in the woods. And Rosie, your Facebook post has gone viral - look. Hundreds of 'likes', and more than thirty 'shares'."

"Even though I posted it at midnight? Wow. Let's hope it helps to find her."

"Once everyone wakes up, it might do just that. Hi, Ruth, I've got Flora's pyjamas here. She was wearing them when I looked in on her at nine, so her scent must be fresh on them. Shall we let Sammy have a sniff?"

"Yes, and then take him outside." Ruth looked worried. "I honestly don't think he'll be a lot of help, but if you think it might work, let's do it."

They went out into the garden. It was much lighter, and the birds had begun their dawn greeting. Jenna thought that if Flora was indeed out in the woods, she'd be waking up about now. Sammy sat obediently at Ruth's feet, panting and bright-eyed, the picture of canine eagerness to please. Fran handed her the pyjamas, and she held them over the dog's nose for about ten seconds, letting him inhale their smell. Then she let him off the lead. "Go on, Sammy, find her!"

As Jenna had suspected, Sammy set off like a rocket, racing round the garden with his tail wagging madly, and investigating every bush as though it concealed the most precious canine treasure. She glanced at Rosie, and saw her biting her lip: she had staked a lot of hope on the spaniel's olfactory abilities. Ruth followed her dog, calling encouragement, and the other three stood in the centre of the frosted lawn, watching anxiously for any sign that he might actually do what they hoped.

"It's no good," Rosie said at last, smothering a wide yawn with her hand. "It's not going to work."

At that moment, Sammy began rushing to and fro along the post and wire fence which separated Fran's garden from the overgrown woodland behind it. He stopped at one particular point, tail going so fast it was a blur, and tried to squeeze through. The gaps weren't big enough for him, so he ran a few feet to the left and scrabbled again, before barking with increasing frustration.

"Did she go through here?" Ruth asked him, running forward. "Find her, Sammy!"

He put his paws up on the top wire of the fence and looked at her imploringly. Ruth bent down to him, but Jenna called, "No, wait, not yet! At least one of us has to get through first, to see where he goes!"

"Something or someone has climbed up here," Fran said, pointing to a couple of areas where the wire was bent down, as if a foot had been placed on it. "I'll have to stay behind for the police - who wants a lift over?"

He helped first Ruth, then Jenna and Rosie, over the fence. In contrast to the garden, the woods beyond were a wild tangle of dead bracken, fallen branches, brambles and everywhere, birch trees and rowans, oaks and hollies, entwined or independent, standing tall and proud or leaning drunkenly against each other for support. Jenna looked for any sign that Flora might have come this way, but she suspected that a herd of elephants could have passed through without making much impression on the vegetation.

"It's like something out of Lord of the Rings," Rosie said, looking round. "Let's hope Sammy can find her, because we certainly won't without him."

"Are you ready?" Fran said. "I think I can hear a car, it may be the police."

"Ready," said Ruth, and with an effortless swing, he picked the little dog up and over the fence. As soon as his paws touched the ground, Sammy began charging from side to side through the bracken, seeking the scent.

"Good luck," Fran called, as they set off, and Jenna, looking round, saw him turn and walk back to the cottage. She realised that she hadn't asked him whether he'd phoned Krystal, and if so, what had transpired, but it was too late: through the trees that lined the road, she could see a white car with fluorescent stripes, slowing down before the turning into the drive. Another followed it, and then a van. The police had arrived in force.

"Come on, Mum," Rosie called, and she looked round and saw that Ruth was already several yards away, forcing her way through the undergrowth in pursuit of her dog. Wondering if this was a complete wild goose chase, hardly daring to hope that it might not be, Jenna hurried after them.

This early, there was plenty of wildlife still about: a stoat loped across a clearing in front of them, and further on, rabbits scattered at their approach. Despite Ruth's shouts, Sammy raced after them, and it took some time, and several doggy treats, to persuade him back. Fortunately, Rosie had kept the pyjamas, and after several deep sniffs, and some running back and forth, he set off again, his nose to the ground as he wriggled through the tangled bracken.

At last they came to a larger clearing. In its centre stood three fabulously gnarled and hollow oak trees, looking as if they needed only a pinch of magic to wake up and start striding through the forest. Several tall hollies crowded protectively around them, making a dark cave under their low branches. Rosie gave a sudden cry and ran forward. Beneath the trees, a splash of scarlet in the gloom, was a red beanie hat. Sammy was sniffing it urgently, and then cast about in search of his quarry, but there was no other trace of Flora.

"At least we know she was here," Jenna said, picking the hat up. It was cold, and damp with dew, or melted frost. Sammy sat down in front of Ruth, panting wildly and looking expectant, and she bent and gave him a treat and much praise. "Good dog! Come on, she must be here somewhere - find her!"

As the spaniel charged off again into the undergrowth, Jenna put the hat in the pocket of her fleece, and followed. She felt extraordinarily tired, but adrenalin, and the hope that they'd find Flora very soon, was keeping her going. Ruth, who'd had the best night's sleep of all of them, strode ahead, pushing her way through the tangle of foliage, calling out warnings of hidden branches that might trip them up. But Sammy was soon out of sight again, and although they occasionally heard something crashing about in the distant undergrowth, it could just as easily have been a deer. Rosie, quiet and evidently flagging, brought up the rear. Jenna checked her watch again. Six thirty. Somewhere over to their right, the sun was rising behind the clouds. Pigeons cooed above them, and further away, she heard the harsh call of a jay.

It was drowned by a sudden volley of barks, some distance ahead. "He's found something!" Ruth called, unnecessarily, and began to run. Jenna, thinking it was probably a treed squirrel, followed her. She caught her foot in a stray bramble, and nearly fell, but Rosie grabbed her arm and they hurried on together, into the heart of the wood.

Sammy stood in a small patch of grass, facing another tangle of holly trees, with a fallen oak in the middle. He looked back at them before running forward and burying his nose in a huddle of bright blue. And it moved, put out a defensive hand, and then, despairingly, began to cry.

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