Chapter 13


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

Ludovic sat at his desk in the Archaeology Department at the University. Like many of the academic departments it had a prestigious central London address, but the interior was old and untidy. The daylight was fading beyond the flaking paint of the windows. Looking up from the basement well he could see the pavement getting crowded with students making their way home.

He was typing notes about the investigation. His archaeological observations were interleaved with the timing and events of the police activity. At the meeting with Belacar the detective had asked for help. The case was confusing and Belacar admitted that it was difficult to sort out the historic elements from the contemporary evidence. They had agreed to continue their collaboration.

Back at his cramped desk Ludovic decided that he would be able to write a paper about the unusual excavation. It might not fit the editorial line of his usual journals, but someone would certainly publish.

He looked at the screen: the proximity and position of the two skeletons implies that their co-location was intentional.  He continued typing: Post-war maps show that the site was vacant, owned and used as a car park by the Osborne Reynolds research institute located just across the road. Stow’s survey of 1720 shows the site as the garden of Powis House (destroyed 1941). Plans prepared in 1667 after the Great Fire are indistinct, but the line of the road is visible. Hoefnagel’s map (survey 1550?) and Agas’ map (survey 1561) show the site in a densely built up area, presumably residential and commercial. It is possible that the site has remained undeveloped since the original dwelling (see archaeological records: postholes, hearth, artefacts) was destroyed (estimate 1630).

His phone rang. He had time to see Belacar’s number before the signal cut out. Under his breath he cursed the poor reception in the basement. Some of the other faculties thought it was appropriate and a bit comic that the Archaeology Department should be below street level, but most of the staff just found it annoying.

Ludovic checked that he had some loose change for the coffee machine and walked up the stairs, selecting Belacar’s number to redial as he went.

“Dr. Vestas?” Belacar answered on the first ring.

“Sorry,” said Ludovic, “the signal is no good at my desk.”

“Don’t worry,” Belacar sounded excited. “The team have found a possible source for the identity card.”

Ludovic waited.

“Apparently there is only one UK supplier of embossed cards with a magnetic strip or proximity chip. Most companies just use plain plastic cards that are printed or laminated with a photo. We got them to send a list of their London-based customers, together with copies of the artwork that they used for the engraving or stamping.There were only two companies with artwork that looked anything like the partial image on the card,” Belacar took a breath, “and one of them is just across the road from the dig.”

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