Inspector Alexei Lawrence is called to the ruins of a medieval monastery, where the skeletons of four monks have been discovered. They carry a supposed 'curse' on anybody who moves them. Then strange murders start happening in the area. Seven people, of all different ages, have been killed. The only thing they have in common is that they do not believe in God. Lawrence refuses to believe the deaths are caused by the supernatural, and sets out to find the real culprit.
Alexei Lawrence was sitting at his kitchen table. It had been a good table; it had served its purpose and had survived many spilt mugs of coffee, or more often than not, whisky. But now he feared its life might be over. One leg was made up of a stump of wood and many of Superintendent Donnelly's lengthy reports. Lawrence pretended to be deeply interested in such reports, but really he just could not be at all bothered to purchase a new table. He supposed this was why he lived alone. No self respecting woman would want to live in a flat with a table that had a crack down the middle, a strange burn mark in the exact shape of Kerry, and one leg propped up with police reports on vandalism. Oh well, there's still time, though Lawrence, I'm only thirty-seven years old. Not quite a foot in the grave yet. Plenty of time to settle down...and buy a new table. At that moment he was possessed by a sudden burst of inspiration. He would go out and buy a new kitchen table right now. 'Oh God!' he said to himself, 'That shows you are getting old. Excited about getting a new table, whatever next? Watch yourself, or before you know it, Songs of Praise'll be the highlight of your week. You'll turn into Mammy! Mind you, you do need a new table...' He grabbed his coat and keys and was just about to leave the house when his old Bakelite phone rang. He picked up the receiver, only to find a loud voice screaming at him at the other end,
'You have to come down here! It's-'
'Hello Timothy.' Lawrence had had a feeling that the phone call would be from his extremely over enthusiastic colleague, Sergeant Timothy O'Connor. Poor Timothy had a tendency to blather on about nothing in particular, so Lawrence decided to get to the point. Besides, he feared he was liable to snap at O'Connor at any moment as a direct consequence of not having his morning coffee. Better to cut the call short than to have to deal with a very sensitive sergeant.
'Spare me the details O'Connor. What exactly is happening at the station that you seem to find so very amazing? And may I remind you that it is my day off? I will not take kindly to being dragged down to that insufferable place for nothing.'
Lawrence knew he was wasting his breath. O'Connor was obviously determined to make him go to work, probably to show him that an extra truckload of paperclips had been delivered. Timothy spoke again,
'Save me the explanation. I'm sure you'll take great delight in telling me face to face, won't you? Just remember, I may punch you if your story is not interesting enough for my liking.'
'Alright Inspector. All I'm saying for now is that it involves monks.'
The call went dead.
Now that's the scary thing, thought Lawrence. He isn't scared of me any more. It was much better when I had him quaking in his over sized boots. Hmm...what to do, what to do? And that annoying lad mentioned monks. Which means another case. Oh joy!
Lawrence locked up his flat. He lived on the seventh floor, so it was to be expected he was not to happy when the cleaner informed him the lift was broken. He made his way sleepily down the long flights of stairs, and found himself beginning to people-watch. On the sixth floor, there was silence, apart from he could hear a distinct squelching noise coming from one of the rooms. On the flight of stairs between floors three and four, a man positively flew down the steps, smiling broadly. Lawrence muttered to himself 'What are you so happy about?' The man heard him, and answered,
'My wife's having a baby today-a boy. It's our first!'
From that instant, Lawrence regretted starting the conversation. All the way down to the car park the man went on and on about his wife and baby. This only reminded Lawrence that he had nobody. He had never known his father, and his mother had died last autumn. When he had just about sank into a deep state of depression, he reached his car. By some intolerable coincidence, the new father's car was parked right next to his own. It was made worse by the fact Lawrence's car was a just about wrecked old Ford, and his cheerful neighbour's was a brand new Porsche. Lawrence hauled himself inside his car and switched on the radio. Not good news. The usual about failed banks and war. Lawrence decided to call O'Connor. That should cheer me up, he thought, or drive me to absolute distraction.
He dialed the number, and sure enough, Timothy picked up. Lawrence wondered whether that boy was ever separated from his mobile. Suddenly he had the horrible realisation that he was sounding like an old man. O'Connor was twenty-two, and Lawrence was referring to him as a 'boy'. That was a very bad sign.
'Hello, Inspector.' said the voice down the phone.
'Oh, come off it, Timothy. I'm not at work yet. In about ten minutes you can call me 'Inspector' but until then I'm Alexei. Stop trying to suck up to me. You and I both know that there is no way I am promoting you for as long as I live. Anyway, who's involved with this new case?'
Lawrence cursed as he went through a red light. If he had to go through another one of those speed awareness courses...
'What was that?' inquired O'Connor.
'Nothing, nothing...' replied Lawrence.
'Did you go through another red light?'
'None of your business. Anyway, my question was, if you remember correctly, which I don't suppose you do, who is on the team for this case?'
'Oh, right. Yes. Let me see...well, there's me and you-'
'And Donnelly's in on it...'
'Oh God! It's a big case then?'
'Yeah, and it's overseas.'
'Where abouts?' asked Lawrence excitedly. This could be a chance for him to get away from the drag of normal life.
'Don't get too excited. It's only in England. And I have some other information that might interest you...'
'Well, guess who I managed to get on the team? Beth Doherty.'
'You didn't! Timothy, I could hug you right now! But, much to your disappointment, I'm not going to, for fear of catching some disease unknown to man. And also for the fact that we are speaking on the telephone.'
'That's quite alright Inspec-Alexei. See you down at the station.'
Lawrence neared the police station. He wondered how in the world O'Connor had managed to get Beth on the case. Beth Doherty was Lawrence's ex-girlfriend from police training. The relationship had not ended well. In fact, it had ended with a toaster and Lawrence's fingers. But now Beth might see she had made a mistake. Not likely, but still possible. Lawrence suddenly felt good about this case. He smiled, for the first time in a while.