Authors: Martha Grimes
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My very deep thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Martin, pathologist at Northern Virginia Doctor's Hospital, for her valuable medical assistance.
He could work out how the men went about it, but how about the women? Made Trevor smile, that did. Great square wells these garderobes were, and no delicate sign directing you to Gents/Ladies. Made Trevor laugh as he walked round the fortress, high up on the ramparts, smoking his first cigarette of the day. He tried to ration himself, no more than ten per. Hard. Helped to have a sense of humor, and he went back to thinking about the privies. It was all for one and one for all, never mind you had to drop your trousers or lift your skirts. It was a bit of a game with Trevor. At every stop, the postern gate and the Bishop's Palace, he'd try to place himself back in Roman times, pretend he was one of them. Imagined himself as a palace guard one time, maybe working in the bakehouse another timeâhe could really throw himself into these roles, he could. Trevor considered himself a student of history, and if things'd been different when he was young, he could've seen himself at university, reading history, maybe making a name for himself. Oh well. No use crying over spilt milk. Most he could do now was read it on his own. Plenty of time for that, now he'd retired. Selling the tickets here two days a week and having his little tour groups several more days a week, at least in summer, for that's when the tourists came to Salisbury. All that could keep a fellow busy. Out of the house and out from under the wife's feet. Out of the house, that was a blessing.
He was up above Bishop Roger's Palace now, high enough that you really caught that north wind, so he turned up his collar and shoved his mittened hands down in his pockets. February and cold as blazes at this hour. Not that he had to be here at this hour; of course, he didn't. February was a grim old month, wasn't it? Could be depressing if you let yourself sink into it.
There was going to be a storm. Trevor could smell the rain long before he heard the thunder. It was that uneven hour just before first light. He loved to see the first flat seam of gold along the horizon make the distant hills behind Salisbury shine like ice hills. Trev thought of the Ice Age. A hundred thousand years ago most of the earth's surface was ice. He tried to imagine a world locked in ice. He tried to think “a hundred thousand years ago.” But his spinning mental globe could not conceive of such distances of time and space. Bloody hell, he could barely get a mental image of the distance between here and Salisbury.
Freddie Lake, who shared the ticket kiosk with him, disliked the job, found it boring, too much sameness day in, day out. Nothing to look at but bloody broken walls and tourists. Well, you needed imagination, too, besides your sense of humor to get on in any job, certainly this one. Just what he'd said to Freddie: It needs imagination, boyo.
Lightning struck far off, ornamental. Rain was still pretty far away. But it would come. Hard to judge distances here. Another streak lit up the spire of Salisbury Cathedral. Beautiful, if you had an eye for the arty stuff, and he did. If not history, he should have gone into the arts, have followed some artistic pursuit. Yes, he could appreciate these sunrises, these sunsets. He watched now as the edge of gold, a false light, diminished, diffused into milkiness and almost disappeared. He was one to appreciate Nature, he was. Always had been.
He doused his cigarette, wishing he'd waited a bit before lighting up, and blew on his hands, making a bellows of them. Fingers would be frostbitten, handing out the tickets. There wouldn't be many tourists today, not in bloody February.
Trevor was coming up on what had struck his funnybone now, one of the garderobes, just fancy Middle Ages language for cesspits. There were several of them around the site; this was the one just inside the wall that was probably for the guards. Never failed to give him a chuckle, the privies. He walked down the hill a few feet, came to the iron balustrade put up around the big square hole to keep people from falling in. Or maybe pissing in it. What a laugh.
He leaned over the iron railing, looked down as far as he could. God, imagine getting out of bed some February morning and having to drag your freezing feet along stone highways and byways until you got to this lot. Trev wondered why it'd taken so long to invent plumbing. Not that plumbing was all that great, either, having to yank on
the bloody chain. When it came to the toilet in his house, that meant yanking more than once.
He squinted and leaned over the garderobe a bit farther. Eyes not what they used to be, so he could be wrong.
He wasn't wrong: down there in the thick shadows, at the bottom, something lay. He tried to tell himself it couldn't be a body, not down there, only he knew it was.
Trevor reared back so abruptly he nearly fell himself, but backward. He started to shout and knew it would be useless; there was nobody within a mile to hear him. He turned in a circle, turned again, as if a ritual were needed to tell him what to do.
Come on, boyo, a bit of brainpower, a bit of backbone, that's what's needed; don't fall apart like an old woman.
The ticket kiosk, of course. That had a telephone. Get the hospital; no, get the policeâwhoever's down there doesn't need an ambulance, not now.
He started running, pausing just a second to slip another cigarette into his mouth with shaking hands. Be the death of me, these things will.
limelight time for Trevor Hastings, and after the initial shocks and shakes, he was hoping he was making the most of it. It wasn't until this Detective Chief Inspector Rush of the Wiltshire CID arrived in his black car and his black raincoat that Trevor began to get nervous. The DCI was pulling his raincoat pockets so tight together you might have thought he was a flasher. Only nothing flashed from Chief Inspector Rush, not from his body, not from his face.
And even then, it wasn't until DCI Rush had put a number of tight-lipped questions to Trevor that Trevor finally twigged it: he himself was looking suspicious.
presence here suspicious? Bloody hell,
had done no more than his civic duty, calling the police. He could have just disappeared, never called anyone, just got in his mini and driven away.
have disappeared, wouldn't he, if he'd pushed whoever it was down there, right?
Nevertheless, Trevor was askedâno,
âto stay. As if he was a damned dog.
The medical examiner hadn't finished the examination yet; it had taken a bloody long time to winch the body up from that cavernous enclosure.
, Trevor had told them. This was a
Roman fortress, this was Old Sarum, had they never been here? Lord, the country's fate was in the hands of those who didn't know history. DCI Rush told him to “keep yourself available,” one of those ways the coppers had of talking just before they slammed you in the nick. Bloody hell.
Trev had gone off to the ticket kiosk to warm himself. Let those ones out there stomping all over the icy grass get the frostbite. Ordering honest citizens around. And that poor pile of broken bones ought to make them realize she'd been dead awhile, could have been for days, not pushed over the iron balustrade early this morning.
He stamped his feet to shake some warmth into his toes. Trevor was more incensed than scared. The nerve. Bloody great hulks of bluebottles can't see past their noses. That body could have lain there for days, well, for one or two, easily, as there'd been not but a handful of visitors. It was February, after all, and what tourists there were were over having a deco at Stonehenge, not bothering with Old Sarum, which Trev personally believed was a lot more interesting. Now his ire was rising at the tourists. If they'd been here at Old Sarum instead of gallivanting round Stone-bloody-henge, well, he'd have been spared the stupid insinuations of the Wiltshire constabulary.
Trev blew on his hands, thinking what a tale he'd have to tell, and him at the center of it. Make the wife perk up those cloth ears of hers, it would. “Oh,
forgot to tell you. I found a dead body at the site. Must've fallen down one of the latrines.
” And not even look up from his
when he said it. Casual, as if dead bodies turned up every day at Old Sarum. Maybe then she'd feel she owed him a good listen for a change.
Detective Chief Inspector Rush obviously felt he didn't owe Trevor a damned thing, least of all an apology after the pathologist had made it clear the woman had died twelve hours ago at the very least. Rush told Trevor this while he stood outside the booth, the black coat still pulled tight, drawing his shoulders down; the eyes still flat and dark. Hard as nails, this one, thought Trev, as the chief inspector told him all of this.
“Twelve to fourteen hours would have put her here late yesterday afternoon. Assuming she was a visitor. You remember her?”
“Well, I wouldn't know, would I? Seeing as how I haven't had a look at her.” Trev congratulated himself for this retort. Two could play at this game, they could.
Except Chief Inspector Rush didn't look as if he was playing, as he stood there in that coruscating flash of lightning that made ghostly shadows across his face. He seemed to be weighing up the risk of allowing a noncopper to view the body. “Come along, then.”
Trevor was sorry he'd opened his mouth.
Â â¢Â â¢Â â¢Â
, he thought, standing with the others in the sullen gray light, looking down at the body of the dead woman. Odd that she didn't look, well, more
A fall like that? She lay facedown, or, rather, with only the side of her face showing. Except for the bruising on her cheek and the forearm twisted that way, she lookedÂ .Â .Â .
Trevor always hated it when people described a corpse that way. Mavis always did. “
Might've been asleep, ever so natural he looked.
” But there it was, that's how the dead woman looked. Even though he knew she must be all broken bones inside those jeans, that jacket. Trevor nodded, cleared his throat, tried to keep his reaction calm as the policeman's. He said, “That's her. Came just before dark.”
“It didn't register on you that she never left?” asked Rush.
Defensively, Trev answered, “No reason it should do, is there? We sell them tickets; we don't wipe their bums for 'em.”
Rush's eyebrow moved up fractionally, but he said nothing.
Trevor pointed to a short trail of worn grass leading away from the garderobe and up the hill. “See over there? Those rubbed-out places from where people like to cut up to the top. Well, that's dangerous, that is. I'm surprised more haven't slid and lost their balance. Nearly did myself once or twice.”
Rush looked at the footprints worn into the grass. After a few moments of concentration, he said, “I don't think so. Either pitched into it or was pitched into it.” He didn't elaborate.
Oh, sod off, thought Trev, and how do you work that out? “Should save my breath to cool my porridge,” that's what Mavis was always saying. For once, Trev agreed with her. He crossed his arms hard against his chest, defying DCI Rush to ask another question.
Which he did. “Have you any recollection of who else was here and bought a ticket around the same time? Or had one of those National Trust passes?”
“Friends of the Trust, you mean.” Trevor looked down again at the prone figure. “Well, I guess there might have been a handful, but
off the top, no, I can't say I remember anyone particular. Maybe Freddie remembers.” God, but this lot seemed determined to make it out to be “foul play,” as they said.