Chapter 9


“Once upon a time this would have been a good excuse to go to the pub, but now it’s just a chance for us to get to our evening jobs a bit early,” said one of the more experienced archaeologists, stroking his plaited beard and shaking his greying dreadlocks.

“Yes, I’m sorry about this,” apologised Ludovic. “The police say that everyone should leave the dig. Perhaps tomorrow they will let us start again, once they have completed the forensic investigation.”

He watched his team gather their tools and file away towards the lock-up and the exit from the site. Then he turned and walked towards the white plastic tent that had been erected over the trench.

At the other side of the development he could see Stevens talking to his workmen. They were gathered in the shelter of vehicle cleaning station. No lorries were moving on or off the site and the hoses had been turned off. Stevens was shouting as usual, he could make out a few words, “Already delayed…Now the hippies have gone…Groundworks…”

A short, slim asian man in a suit, an unbuttoned dark coat and black wellington boots emerged from the white tent.

“Dr Vestas? I’m Detective Sergeant Ahmed Belacar, City of London Police.”

Ludovic stepped forward and shook the offered hand.

“Thanks for staying on,” said Belacar, “I wonder if you could help us a bit in here?” He pointed to the plastic tent.

Inside there were two people in hooded white paper suits, already spattered with mud. One was taking photographs and the other was holding a ruler.

Belacar pointed at the trench wall and the sole of the training shoe. “Is there any way to tell how the bodies were buried? I mean was it mechanical? Did they use a digger?”

Ludovic hesitated. “We didn’t see any sign of that.” He gestured at the precise vertical wall of the trench. “This section was cut most recently. We try to maintain the integrity of the soil to preserve the layers. It helps establish dates. Look, you can see the layers here, they are continuous,” he gestured left and right above the skeletons. “It doesn’t look as if the ground has been disturbed below about seventy-five centimetres.”

“Could someone replace the layers?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of it. It would be very difficult to do to this depth,” Ludovic pointed down. “There are some features which we use in London to identify different periods, ash layers, brick dust, different types of pottery, clay pipes. They all tell a story. So far everything we have found has been in the right place.”

“Until you found the shoe?” Belacar interrupted.

“Part of a shoe. Yes.”

“It’s more of a shoe now,” Belacar nodded towards a row of small plastic bags lying on a plank at the edge of the trench. “There’s another piece still stuck around the left ankle bone.”

The two men stood in silence for a moment.

“What happens now?” Asked Ludovic.

“We’ve got a specialist excavation team on their way. They’ve got some tools which can analyse the ground. Meanwhile we are taking some bones to do a few tests. And the skulls. Identification is usually easier if you have a skull and some teeth.”

The Detective Sergeant paused. He frowned.

“There is something else that you could help us with,” he said. “Do you know someone who is an expert in textiles?” He stooped to pick up one of the evidence bags. “I’d like to know what this is.”

Ludovic recognised the small triangle of mud-stained black cloth.

7 Responses to “Chapter 9”

  1. 1 Sarah

    This is very good. Are you sure it’s ‘all your own work’?

    • *There is a short pause while Alex waits for his faithful readers to leap to his defence*
      Yes Sarah, it is all my own work 🙂 I’m glad you like it.
      This is the first draft of a novel and you are seeing it being written in real time. I haven’t written chapter 10 yet but I will later this evening. Tomorrow I will write chapter 11 on the train. Sometimes if I’ve got a lot of work on, I will write two chapters together so that I can publish on the busy days. If I miss a day it’s because a work deadline got too pressing.
      I’m aiming to finish the story at the end of the month. With an exciting and unexpected climax…
      (always leave them wanting more).

  2. Another regular reader thoroughly enjoying what clearly has the signature of your previous work.

    (cheques can be mailed to the usual address)

  3. 5 Ann

    It’s great! I’m wanting more at the end of every chapter.
    Though also wondering if the washing line will make an appearance as a possible weapon.

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