“We need to search the area. The fire may have been a ruse.”
In ever widening circles, the men searched. Cockleburs caught at their pants. Horseflies buzzed around their heads and bit their sweaty arms and necks.
“What’s this?” Heri called out. Standing not far from a great oak, he held forth a small frayed swatch of cloth.
Gadon hurried to his side. He took the ragged piece of linen and inspected it. “Where’d you find it?”
“Here, in the brush.”
“Looks like it was torn from someone’s clothing.” Gadon ordered Heri and Petron to continue to search for any additional tracks or other clues, then turned to Simon. “Let’s take another look through the remains of the fire.”
They sifted through the coals, finding only a few more charred bones.
“I’d guess that’s a leg bone,” Gadon commented.
“And I’d say these here are from an arm. Given their size, I think these are a woman’s remains,” Simon suggested.
“Right. But what woman? This could have been anyone.”
Gadon called for his men. When they assembled, he gave his orders.
“Simon, you take Wayne and head downriver. Don’t spend more than an hour or two. If you see nothing, return here. If we don’t see you by nightfall, we’ll expect you’ve found something and we’ll make our way back to you come morning.”
They nodded their understanding and moved out.
“Heri,” Gadon continued, “my instincts tell me that Rowena would expect us to expect her to go downriver. That would make traveling easier for her. That means she probably did the opposite and went up river. You go that way at a good clip. If you find anything significant, stay on the trail unless it’s safe to head back to report. We’ll follow behind and search more thoroughly. If Simon and Wayne find anything, I’ll send someone for you.”
Heri mounted up and rode off.
“All right then, let’s get started.”
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