THE VISITOR CENTRE lay almost a mile along a track-like road which left the main highway just north of the Arizona Utah State Line. A bitterly cold morning had been succeeded by an afternoon of icy drizzle and swirlingly unpredictable mist, but inside the low-ceilinged cafeteria, the herb-scented air was very comfortably warm. Laura Clay was sitting at the table furthest from the door, near to a glass covered display of pies and cakes, and banks of machines for making hot drinks.
Laura put her pen down beside her paper cup. She hadn't been concentrating on the work she’d stayed behind to do; all her attempts had been spoiled, resisted, thwarted by memories of the angry accusations of the previous night. Martin Walker hadn't been unsure or short of words.
Was she as cold as she looked or colder? He’d been intent on finding out. Not that the distinction mattered much to Laura. The result was the same either way. She stared at the window. The glass behind her table reflected her slender figure, the gloss of her naturally streaky dark blonde hair and the troubled expression in her clear grey eyes. She pushed her notebooks into her bag, clipped the pen in the front pocket and stood up slowly. There had been one or two young people in the Tourist Centre when she'd arrived, but now a dark-haired assistant had walked round past the counter barrier and appeared to be closing the service area.
She caught Laura’s eye and registered real surprise. At the same moment, the main door opened in a flurry of snowflakes and a guide, who had been at the door when she’d arrived an hour or more earlier, stamped into the upper level of the open plan reception hall.
The young woman shifted her gaze to the man who’d entered and to Laura it was as though the pair of them were adding up two and two and making at least five. The guide said something to the girl, then spoke into a hand-held radio; Laura couldn't catch what he said. She pulled on her long gabardine coat. She had a thin scarf which she tied at her throat. Then she put her empty coffee container into the waste bin and stepped forward.
The guide didn't stop talking. Just raised his voice.
‘Have you got a car coming to collect you?’
Laura knew instinctively what might have happened, but she didn't want to believe it. The centre was way off the road and was no more than a car park and a huddle of low-lying buildings. Without Martin, she was without transport.