In the summer of 1927 a woman of about nineteen was brought before him by the sheriff. She wore a pale calico dress. Her thin arms hung loosely from it, trailing like withies at her hips. Coffee-drop freckles were scattered over her nose, and she had very large eyes, like a rabbit's. She was called Tessa Stanicka, and was accused of attempted murder.
'Was my baby, sir.'
'Your baby? You tried to kill your baby?'
'Yes, sir. Yes, your honour.'
Adam was unused to such speedy confessions. 'Why did you try to kill your baby, Tessa Stanicka?'
'I never asked for the baby, sir. I never wanted 'ee.'
'And what did you do to him?'
'I put him on the tip, sir, at night. Under cabbage leaves. but the priest, Father Jerzy, he came to see my mother on 'count of 'er terrible illness in the morning, sir, and his 'orse was nibbling the cabbage leaves and there was the little baby still warm and 'live, sir, when His Reverence came in the morning...'
The clerk had difficulty keeping up with her admission, and raised a hand for her to pause.
'So you don't deny it?'
'Oh no, sir!'
'Even though it is a serious crime, and carries a stiff sentence.'
'Well, sir, the way I see it is that if you commits a crime, it's what happens.'
Adam nodded. 'And where is the child now?'
'An orphanage, your honour sir.'
'And you realize you cannot see the child?'
'Like I said, I never asked for 'ee.'
Adam looked across the courtroom at her. Her rabbit eyes blinked in his gaze. he could see nothing in them: neither fear nor remorse nor evil.
Literally lost 15
The author of the book was Nick Middleton ('The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia') and the action was taking place in the Republic of Mongolia. The winner was Mrs K Bennett of Crawley.
Literally lost 14: the author was Colin Thubron and the book was 'Behind the Wall' (set in China).