Chapter 12


[New readers: to start at chapter 1 click Archives / November 2012 on right hand side]

The archaeologists and students stood reproachfully together in the church porch in the autumn sunshine. It was now two weeks since they had done any digging. At least three of them had found other jobs and would not be returning, so they had all agreed to attend together before retiring to the pub for a “beginning of the end drink”.

“The police have already got my DNA,” boasted a short girl with angry red hair. “Drax in 2009. I never got charged in the end, so they should have destroyed it.”

“I bet they haven’t,” said an older man. “Once you’re in the database your card is marked.”

“It’s catch 22 isn’t it. If you refuse to give a sample then you are a suspect. But if you give a sample you automatically get checked for everything. You’re standing in an electronic identification parade forever.”

Ludovic was pleased to see that everyone who had worked on the dig was there. He had been worried that his email might be too intimidating. He had used Detective Sergeant Belacar’s words: “to eliminate you from the enquiries”. Luke had told him afterwards that this was a police idiom for “you are all suspects”.

Belacar had also told him that the forensic excavation was complete.

“You can go back to the site next Monday,” he had said,” but you might find it’s a bit of a mess. And the site manager is apparently pushing to get you out altogether. I thought you might want a final chance to clear things up, so I told him that he had to wait another two weeks in case the forensics wanted another look.”

Ludovic was pleased that the policeman was on his side, but he doubted whether it would be worth doing any more work at the site.

The door of the adjacent church hall was thrown open by a woman wearing a white coat.

“We’re ready now,” she called. “Please can you come through one at a time.”

As he shuffled forward last in the queue clutching his passport, Ludovic’s phone rang. He recognised the police station number this time. It was Belacar asking him to come to the station as soon as he was free.

Within an hour he was again sitting in the unwelcoming office at Wood Street. The detective was holding a printed email and there was a skull in a clear plastic bag on the table, alongside a large envelope.

“I’ve got the report on the skeletons,” he announced. “They are still working on the DNA extraction, so it’s just the bones so far. Two adults. One male, late thirties, early forties, one seventy-five to one seventy-seven tall, size ten feet, no obvious medical problems, no evidence of trauma, cause of death unknown. One female, late teens, maybe twenty, one fifty to one fifty-three tall, pregnant, twenty-two to twenty-five weeks, some bad teeth, no dental work, cause of death ditto.”

He paused.

“Any dates?” Asked Ludovic.

Belacar looked at the document, turning the page.

“All the bones showed severe deterioration and moisture damage. Deep staining proportionate to the mineral content in the surrounding soil, consistent in both skeletons. No evidence of relocation post-mortem.” He looked up. “In other words the bodies have not been moved since first burial.” He continued to read, “dating conducted using pathology, accelerated mass spectrometry and radiometry. Female about 400 years old. The results from the male samples were not suitable to give an accurate estimate. Pathology indicates late twentieth century or more recent, but anomalies were detected using other techniques. Mineral staining would suggest that the bones have been in the ground for a number of years, but local conditions might have caused accelerated aging.”

Belacar stopped reading. Ludovic looked at the skull on the table.

“Is that him?” He asked.

The policeman nodded. “Yes. Unidentified male.”

“Has anyone reported him missing?”

Belacar gave a short laugh. “There is always someone reported missing,” he said. “I’ve got at least thirty matches already… and that is just from the last three years in London alone.”

He reached into the envelope. “Let’s just look at the facts we already have,” he said taking out a plastic bag with the scrap of black material in it, followed by another bag with the fragment of plastic card. Then he pulled out a photograph from the dig. It showed the two skeletons intertwined in the mud.

“We have a twenty-first century coat, on a twenty-first century skeleton wearing trainers. We have a seventeenth century skeleton holding a twenty-first century plastic card.” He tossed the photograph on to the desk. “And from the way they are lying it appears that they died together.”

Dust flecks swirled in a beam of sunlight from the high window. In the silence the two men heard a burst of laughter from the adjacent office and the falling wail of a siren in the distance.

“Well,” Belacar looked at Ludovic.”You’re the archaeologist. How do you explain it?”

Ludovic met his gaze. “You’re the policeman. What do you think?”

One Response to “Chapter 12”

  1. 1 Sarah

    One of them is a past assistant to Dr Who!

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