Tuesday, 9 November 2010


The dawn sky is shredded with brilliant-edged cloud. The bare, skinny branches of winter trees circle us, almost attentive to the sounds of digging as the spades claw the frozen soil. The work is hard. Grim. I frown.

The bone was human. Old but human. Yellowed, stone-like, wrapped in pale cloth. I sat across from the young policeman in a pub of all places. The village is too small for its own station, it has a pub. The few old farmers sat about were good enough to look disinterested. I drove out when I received the call. It was already dark when I arrived. Now we dig again.

Careful. I say. We want to find it, not destroy it.

THe diggers calm down. One of them makes a joke. I continue stabbing with a trowel at the spot where the bone was found, surfaced by a dog's scratching, but there is still nothing.


I turn to see who has spoken. The others stop to look. The hole is small, almost a foot deep. A fragment of pale yellow seeps through the ground. I crouch to inspect it. The same smooth polish of age, the same, pale tone made more brighter in the morning sun.

OK. We need to be careful.

Should you call for CSI, Bob? Cordon it off?

The young policeman looks frightened at the suggestion. It is hard to judge the age of a body when there is only bone but I know that it is too old for modern police to be bothered.

No. It's too deep. Look.

I explain the layers of the soil, the age of the body defined by the stratified pattern of dirt. The fragment has not been disturbed for hundreds of years.

The other bone was found by the dog, though.

Pushed up by a root or something.

They seem doubtful, unsure of my authority against the possibility of a more recent crime. I goad them into action, the careful continued excavation of the rest of the body.

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