Thus continues our story:
"And just what's the problem, then?"
Marley looked around as he chewed the mouthful of sandwich. Apparently the day's custom was limited enough he had the barkeep's attention all to himself. He swallowed. "I'm trying to find a needle in a haystack."
The barkeep's eyes gleamed. "Oh, aye, I've tried that once or twice myself. What needle are you looking for in which haystack?" He sounded amused.
"I wish I knew which bloody haystack to look for Professor Clark in," Marley said.
"Clark, you say?" The barkeep looked thoughtful, then glanced about and his gaze settled upon one of the few others in the pub. "Hey, Johnny, wasn't there a Professor Clark in that story that Survey chappie, Rendell, was telling the other night?"
Marley coughed a bit, then forced the bite of sandwich down.
"It was, it truly was. If its Professor Clark you're looking for, Rendell'd be the man to ask. I think he has an office in the bank building up the street."
Marley took a gulp from his beer. "Mister Rendell was murdered yesterday in his office."
Both Johnny and the barkeep were surprised, he could tell for sure. And Marley was no closer to finding the right haystack than he was before. Or was he? A thought occurred to him. "Do you have any idea at all where Rendell was talking about in his story? If I don't find him Alice is going to kill me."
"The missus?" the barkeep ventured.
"My fiance," he corrected. "Professor Clark's her father. Please, if there's anything you can tell me?"
The barkeep and Johnny shared a look. Then the barkeep nodded. "I don't rightly recall all the details, lad, but Rendell mentioned your professor as having investigated some ruined temple in Anantnag then rushed north to some valley."
Marley wanted to shout. Instead he took a sip from his beer. A valley up north. Wonderful. The same set of haystacks as before really. He was about to force a polite thanks when the other customer, Johnny, chimed in.
"I reckon it couldn't have been too far from Anantnag, because the wild stories Rendell was hearing talk of started not long after." Johnny made a decisive nod. "If you went up to Anantnag maybe you could learn more.
There were supposed to be a bunch of other professor types there at the temple. Besides, from what Rendell was saying the stories were spreading like wildfire up there."
Yes! At least now I know where to start looking for the haystack. "Thank you, thank you both, very much." He took the last bite of sandwich and washed it down with satisfaction with the last of the beer. And then the next practical aspect of his ever-elongating journey snapped into clear focus. "Uh, do you have any idea how I'd get there?"
copyright (c) The Other Sean