Chapter 5


In the silent reading room of the British Library Ludovic carefully turned the pages of an ancient pamphlet. He didn’t like spending time in the library. He preferred the gritty labour of the dig, but he had to admit that the modern facilities and polite staff were much better than the library in Vilnius where he completed his PhD twenty years earlier.

He had whittled down his reading to a few carefully chosen documents. The layers of the dig section had been analysed and the level at which the skeletons were being uncovered was estimated to date between 1610 and 1640. He had only requested documents from those years which had confirmed origin in the City of London. It was not a period of abundant literary recordings, just a period of political turbulence, the first ripples of vicious civil war and religious intolerance sandwiched between Shakespeare and Cromwell, with little in the way of reliably recorded local news. The main records for these few years were small smudged political pamphlets with lurid headlines and a few random sheets of ‘gazettes’ and unfathomable business accounts.

After four hours of trying to decipher the blurred lettering and blotches of quill-scrawl he was about to give up. He didn’t even know what he was looking for. The trip to the library was speculative. They were uncovering two skeletons which looked as if they had been hidden in a cellar, possibly a burnt and collapsed cellar judging by the traces of charred beams which lay across the bones. The event might have been recorded in one of the few local documents.

He turned over the single, ripped page of a crookedly printed pamphlet.

There was a headline “A Cheapside witch burni…”, cut off at the shredded edge of the page. He glanced at the date on the catalogue record: “Feb. 1629 (?); Pamphlet – offset print. Illustr.”

Below the headline was a clumsily etched image, a figure of indeterminate gender, seated legs apart, in a hooded black cloak. The face clean-shaven and gaunt. The seat rose up behind the figure’s head in an exaggerated curving head-rest.

Much of the accompanying text was missing on the torn side of the page. A couple of incomplete lines remained at the bottom of the picture.

“mob in pursuit [break – new line] curse of the child [break – new line] burned [break] in storeroom [break – new line] harboring an enjin of the devil.”

Ludovic jotted the words in his notebook, alongside further cryptic extracts from the other documents and sighed.

The phone in his pocket vibrated suddenly. The quiet buzz sounding loud in the silence. He glanced at the text from Luke, his assistant at the dig.

Two surprises. Expert opinion needed. Suggest you return.

2 Responses to “Chapter 5”

  1. 1 Ann

    Chapter 6, please. Now.

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