The Skeletons In The WallMature

The plane journey to Heathrow did not take long, although Lawrence did not have a pleasant time on the flight, as Timothy was seated next to him and neglected to mention to anyone that he had air-sickness. This resulted in him retching into a paper bag for the best part of an hour and everybody around him being splattered with the remains of last night's shepherd's pie. Lawrence was too preoccupied thinking about the strange new case to pay attention to O'Connor's overreactive gag reflex. Did the entire Kent Police believe the disappearances were the result of a few medieval spirits? Even Donnelly, a devout Catholic, had more sense than that. Oh well, he supposed all would become clear when they reached St Sebastian's, or what was left of it.

A pathologist from the Kent Police met them at the airport. He was a jolly sort of character, quite unlike what one would have thought. He almost loaded the officers into the back of a minibus and talked his way to the monastery. When the five of them got there, Lawrence  could finally see why the ruins were going to be demolished. One of the walls of the once magnificent building was sloping at a dangerous angle, and most of the towers had fallen into the ground. As he stepped out of the minibus, Lawrence was met by a sharp looking rusty metal spike, about as long as his arm, right in front of his face. It stuck out from one of the crumbling walls at an odd angle, which could lead one to believe it had been placed there on purpose. He stooped under it and surveyed the monastery with a sense of awe. Lawrence himself had no religious conviction whatsoever, but he could not help but marvel at the intricate architecture and massive scale of the building itself. Now he was here, he felt rather sad the ruins were going to be demolished. After all, Dr Hudson has said they were part of the landscape and he was not wrong; the decrepid stones looked rather suited to the rolling hills and the grey sky. Maybe there was some way they could save the monastery after the case was over and done with. Probably not, thought Lawrence, but it's worth a try.

At that moment, the landscape changed dramatically. The green hills and grey stone were replaced by cordoned off pieces of ground and areas of sand-like rubble. By one particularly large square of rubble there was a white plastic tarpaulin with people in white coats scuttling around like ants. So this was where the subjects of the enquiry had been found. Had they known when they died that their demise would be subject to international investigation, centuries later? Probably not, Lawrence decided. After all, it wasn't as if they wanted to be remembered. If anything, they became monks for a life of solitude, not for their bones to be picked at by a bunch of morbid scientists, and every secret of their lives to be uncovered by forensic analysis. Mind you, contemplated Lawrence, when they became members of the Church, I very much doubt that being buried in the wall of the abbott's quarters entered the equasion at all.

The cheery pathologist led the four officers into the tent. As was to be expected, in the middle of the tent, laid on the ground were the four skeletons. Lawrence had no idea how old they were, and made a note to ask when the topic of conversation turned to the investigation. At the moment, O'Connor was having a lengthy conversation with a very bored Superintendent about his pet rats, Pinky and the Brain. Lawrence knew from experience that when Timothy started talking about his beloved rats, nothing short of a plank of wood to the head would stop him. Lawrence coughed, 'Could we perhaps turn to the subjects of our case?' he said in the politest possible way, 'They aren't getting any younger, you know.'

'Quite,' said Donnelly, and addressing the company in the tent, 'And I daresay none of us are either.' This resulted in a few quiet chuckles, but nothing more. Donnelly looked somewhat put out by his lack of success in the humour department, but Lawrence knew he would get over it. The jolly pathologist, who's name was Samuel Richards, led the conversation, 'You see, ' he said with great enthusiasm, 'there is absolutely no way these men could have died a natural death.' He examined the skull of one of the monks and observed, 'You see here, the top of the skull has cracked like an egg. Either this chap was extremely unlucky and managed to fall down the steps from the tower all the way down to the crypt, or he was hit over the head with a candle holder or an object of similar dimensions. The latter theory is confirmed when we look at his thigh bone. It is cracked and part of the bone has been chipped away, which suggests a dagger in the thigh,' he glanced up at his audience, 'I hope I'm not boring you, but unsolved murders never fail to fascinate me.' The company shook their heads and said of course not, they were very interested in such a subject. Richards continued, seemingly failing to notice the frequent yawns coming from above his head, 'Anyway, the curious thing is that all four monks have been killed in the same way. Our knowledge of the 14th century Church is vast, but I can find no record of such a case. This proves this was not a seremony, a sacrifice, if you like, but an intentional killing. And of course, the note that was found with the bodies...' Richards shuddered, 'I myself am not a religious man, but that curse chills me to my bones. I wouldn't like to temp fate, or medieval ghosts, for that matter.'

'Now now Samuel,' scolded Donnelly, 'All of us in this, erm, room, know that message is nonsense. It was obviously a Middle Age threat to anyone who found the bodies. An eternity in a firey hell would be enough to stop anybody at that time reporting the crime. The Church had real power back then, power to silence people they saw as a threat to their way of life, and power to sway the local magistrate's way of thinking. No, it was planted there after the murders so that if anybody did find our friends here,' he motioned towards the skeletons ont he plastic sheeting, 'they would be too damn scared to do anything about it. All these notions of 'heretics' are absolute codswallop. At that time, anybody who didn't become a monk was considered 'not honouring their faith'. No, our only concern here is to find out why these bodies were in the abbott's chamber wall in the first place. We do not need to worry about a stupid medieval 'curse'.'

Donnelly spoke the truth, but Lawrence couldn't help thinking something more sinister than some dead monks in a wall was about to happen. At least he knew which century to start researching-the 14th. This was a time of plague, of death, when the Church had enormous power over ordinary people. This case was about to get interesting.


The End

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