“Just going to, 'The Arctic,'” Mason called out. “If I’m not back in half an hour, promise me you’ll tell my children that I was a good man” he added, with a false air of spooky danger, as he stepped through the door of the cold room and silently closed it behind him. It was another of his studied deflectors, designed to hopefully prevent any casual listener from detecting the touch of naked dread he felt, whenever he had to spend some time with “The Devil’s Coach Party.” This was his chosen name for the corpses from the archaeological dig in the area of unconsecrated ground, by the bridge known as ‘Quaker Crossing.’ The term, had caught on amongst those who were involved with this surreptitious investigation. The Coach Party, consisted of the seven cadavers recovered from the excavation now being held in the ‘Arctic’ at the morgue, before reburial.
At the dig, as the corpses were being disinterred by the archaeologists, one thing was blatantly obvious. All of these souls, had died whilst experiencing a moment of absolute and utter terror. Six of them, were found to have the same terrified scream written into the very bones of their faces as they shed this mortal coil. In the case of the “two sisters,” the pose that they had struck, was even more dramatic with their mutual embrace but wether the body was buried in the foetal position, or flat on its back, the screaming face, always remained the same. It was very disturbing, to observe their fear, even second hand.
Another strange aspect of these cadavers was that they were in an amazing state of almost desiccated preservation, their skin, hair, nails and clothing were all intact. Only one of the recovered cadaver’s was distinctly different, from those previously found. It was a body that as you would expect, had been reduced to bones, by the passage of time.
However, it was the only one that was in that condition. They had all been photographed and recorded by the archaeological team. Any grave goods had been removed, for further archaeological study and the bodies then carefully placed in tetrapak coffins, sealed with tape and shipped off to the morgue, where Mason, had eagerly awaited their arrival.
“I wonder why these bodies were buried in unconsecrated soil?” Mason quietly asked himself, “What was it, that the Elders of the parish, were attempting to conceal?” He was aware of the general plot of this movie, that in his conspiratorial mind went something like;
“Many years ago, The Elders of the Church, tried to cover something utterly awful up and they killed all those who knew the truth, a bit like The Pharaoh’s had done in Egypt.”
Fortunately so far, he’d been spared most of the terrible gory details, of how these people met their deaths, so he could carry on with his fantasy.
“The Devil’s Coach Party,” as usual just lay silently in their allotted alcoves, in the 'Deep Arctic’ behind a locked door, waiting for someone to crack the mystery of their deaths and move this enigma forward. He needed to speak with his boss about all of this but she was keeping her cards close to her chest. Here in the examination room, or ‘Arctic’ lay ‘The Embracing Ladies’. The first, and most unusual of the dig’s excavations.
He had agreed to take a more detailed look at the two entwined ladies, off the record. He knew he was taking a risk with his career but he would have done just about anything for her, and besides he couldn’t resist a spooky mystery.... It was in his genes.
Jinx and Alex Findlay, had reached an agreement about the treatment of the disinterred bodies, over a lunch time meeting in “The Kingfisher,” a rather fine restaurant, that was often the haunt of the Universities scientific community. The faux opulent surroundings, offered a certain sense of anonymous informality, much beloved by the Cities Intelligensia. They liked to frequent it’s elegantly upholstered Art Deco interior, at the merest suggestion of a free lunch. The Quaker and Shaker Elders had agreed, that the bodies should be looked at, to try and discover who they were. They had also requested, that the remains be treated with respect and no invasive tests, were to be done. Jinx and Alex had agreed, off the record, to discover how at least the two embracing ladies had met their end and also attempt to discover, if there were any links between these bodies and the 'Powderfinger’ case.
The last member of the impromptu cast of, ‘The screaming skulls,’ had only been delivered to the morgue two days previously. So far, Mason had spent most of his spare time, generally cleaning up, 'The Embracing Ladies’ and getting them ready for detailed inspection. Looking at them, laid out before him in this manner, was quite a sobering experience and even though he hadn’t got a religious bone in his body, Mason couldn’t help himself, as he quietly recited an old incantation he had heard, while on his travels in India some years before. He reverently placed the first two fingers of his right hand, on the centre of his forehead, took a calming breath and slowly began to quietly speak.
“May your God go with you, along all the dark paths, that you must travel.” As he completed his little blessing, a cold silence fell upon the small bleak examination room. Then, as he left the enclosed space, Mason whispered, “Boom Shankar, ladies” to his two female guests and closed the air tight doors behind him.
Outside the small room where they kept the bodies, the lights were much brighter and initially the higher lumen level, made Mason blink. As he gave his eyes a rub and the mortuary came back into focus, he noticed through the window, that Jinx, was sitting at her office desk, grinning to herself.
“Learnt anything new then, Mace?” She called out, then just carried on with the paperwork she’d been doing previously.
Mason walked through and opened her office door, “Sadly, the answer is a resounding no,” he absentmindedly said. “I look at those two, in their death grip, or should that be, embrace but nothing leaps out at me. Very unusual granted but all I can see, are some withered bodies, that used to be two people, staring back at me. It’s like they’re expecting some answers from yours truly but sadly, so far I’ve got nothing for them.”
Jinx, simply sat and listened to his frustrated mutterings. “Maybe, it’s time to get Melissa involved, what do you think?” She said and waited for his response, but Mason just frowned.
“There is no need, to inform her of too many of the details, you know what Mel’s like. You just ask her to do a job and she simply and efficiently gets on with it. No questions asked. I’ve already had a quiet word.” Seeing Mason’s continuing reticence, she added “Tell you what, ask her to come down here and I’ll have another quiet word about keeping it all ‘in house’ with her and see what she says.”
Mason’s mood lifted noticeably and he nodded. Jinx, nodded in agreement and made a comment about Mason’s propensity to make everything sound so damned conspiratorial and his tendency to whisper slightly, whenever he was talking about this matter.
“Mason, you can speak up, nobody’s listening but me and I know all about it.” He saw the point of what his boss was inferring but he couldn’t help it, he always felt slightly guilty about keeping secrets. From experience, he knew secrets had an unfortunate knack of getting out.
“Leave it to me” said Mason, “I’ll give her a bell.” With that small problem sorted out, he spun around and returned to his duties.
Jinx, pondered her thoughts about the treatment of ’The Devil’s Coach Party.’ It seemed to her, to be more like a disposal, than an internment but some religions, did have some odd ancient practices that were not common knowledge. The Elders who had deemed this land to be suitable, for such burials, were unknown and long dead. She glanced over her desk at Mason’s retreating back and scraped a wayward smear, of todays mascara off her fingernail.
She called out, “I always thought of Melissa, as a kind of dark name. You know, like Melissa Borge, or something along those lines?”
Mason, stopped, turned and just gazed at her. “Wow, heavy,” he muttered to himself, as he picked up the offices internal phone and dialed Melissa’s number. Jinx, had a sense of humour that he understood really well. It relied on the listener being of above average intelligence and well clued up on current affairs. 'Delicious,' he thought, as he listened to Melissa’s phone whilst it continued to ring.
It rang several times more before she answered and Mason was starting to think, that maybe she was somewhere else in the building, when she picked it up.
“Hi Mel, we’ve got something down here that you may find very interesting. Want to come down now and take a look?” he said, trying hard to sound mysterious.
“OK, on my way....” came the reply.
Jinx, watching this exchange laughed out loud and commented, “I don’t know what you were trying to get, with that load of B.S but it didn’t exactly sound intriguing, to me. It sounded, more like some kind of sexual weirdo, looking for a quick grope behind the bike sheds.”
Mason looked crestfallen at her remarks, “That’s not fair. I was doing my very best Gigolo and you just spread egg on my proverbial chin.”
Jinx, was delighted at the effect her little mischief had on her assistants face and she capped it off by adding, “C’est la vie, Mason,” in her best ham French accent, before she could contain herself no longer and they both dissolved into laughter.
On the other end of the line, Melissa clearly hearing the exchange between her two colleagues, was attempting to remain professional and not start giggling.
“Ooh, la, la. I’ll come right down to Messieurs rooms and see whatever it is, that you’ve got to show me,” she said in one of the worst French accents, that he’d ever heard.
“Tres bon,” he replied, as he put the phone down and wiped away a small laughter tear, that had escaped from his right eye. “O.K. pull yourself together Mace, there’s a little work to do here, before she arrives and starts indignantly poking at, 'The Ladies.’"
He barely had enough time to gather his thoughts and order them, when she walked in through the door and proclaimed,
“Right then, let’s have a gander at your thing and see what we can do with it.” Jinx’s composure, just evaporated, as she exploded in a fit of raucous laughter.
“He’s in the ‘Arctic’,” she said to Melissa, who looked nonplussed, “The coldstore” she corrected herself pointing in it’s general direction. Melissa just laughed in recognition and made her way towards the refrigerated unit. “Be gentle with him won’t you.” Jinx, added through all the giggles. “He’s only a young man and may be a little inexperienced, in the ways of women.”
Melissa grinned, as she opened the coldroom door and strode inside with a seductive, “Oooh, Mon cherie,” as the door closed automatically behind her.
When Mason had called and said he had something to show her, she imagined some curious wound he needed casting. She had rushed down to the morgue, purely because there were a few minutes to spare in her hectic day and to be honest, it was useless starting anything new, so close to her break time. Before her, was an almost pyramid shaped ...... something, covered with a white sheet. Mason, was standing proudly beside this mysterious white covering, looking like the proverbial cat, that had got all of the cream. However, contrary to his usual ebullience, Mason seemed to be a little hesitant, when it came to removing the makeshift covering which concealed the contents of this curiosity.
“Ready?” He asked, as he reached for the top of the sheet. “This will blow you away. I’ve never seen anything remotely similar before,” he said, as he drew the white sheet slowly from the entwined Ladies beneath. “Melissa, meet my Ladies. He said, sweeping his arm, roughly towards them and Ladies, I’d like you meet Melissa Gilbert.”
The vision, that met her eyes almost took her breath away and conscious, that her legs were weakening, she quickly gulped down another cool breath of oxygen, took one involuntary step backwards and steadied herself in the face of this horror.
“Jesus, I never expected anything like this!” Then feeling her explanation for backing away, was inadequate, added “Well you don’t, do you?” Melissa, was getting herself back together and this time, took another deliberate step back from the entwined ladies, so that she could get a better overview of the image he had presented her with.
Part of the reason for her shock, was the state of preservation of the two bodies, that she was confronted with.
“Bloody hell Mase, they look as if they are were discovered in some arid desert and you’re telling me they came from, where?”
Mason listened to his colleague and it was obvious that she was equally transfixed by the two bodies, which had been delivered yesterday, complete with a tag that read, 'Canal bank dig opposite Quaker Crossing.’ Melissa, moved closer to the table and looked at the tag, in order to confirm Mason’s assertions.
A glint of incredulity flashed across her face and then, assuming a professional stance exclaimed, “This is amazing preservation. Look at their skin, granted it appears to be in need of a ton of moisturizer but.......” She stopped her critique right there and turned, looking him straight in the eyes, almost as if she was judging him. “How long did you say these two had been in the ground?”
Mason, was also fascinated by the two ladies found in the single casket, but for slightly different reasons than his colleague. “I can’t be all that precise but according to the archaeologists note, let’s just say, mid to late 1800’s, to air on the safe side. They say the records get a bit scratchy before that time, but the clothing fits that era.”
Mel, just stood, nodded her head and then almost without a sound, she cradled her head in both of her hands and mouthed the words, that were going through her mind. “If what you say is true, then I’m asking myself, just what am I looking at here?” Melissa, at this point was to say the least, a little confused. “Their clothes may be naturally, a touch dirty and not surprisingly, a little worn but still apparently perfect. However, their faces almost look, as if they are both,”...... there she paused........ “Well, trapped in ‘the moment.’ Showing both abject fear and intense agony, at the instant of their demise.”
She lowered her head once more and fumbled around in her pockets, seeking to locate her flashlight in order to highlight views of these strange cadavers. “Just look at these clothes,” she said with a hint of incredulous wonderment. “If I didn’t know better, I would say that given a good wash and an ironing, these garments, although period, would look almost new.” Then, she silently transferred her attention, to the hems of their dresses, gently removing the small amounts of hardened mud, that had fallen on the blue and cream, floral material with a wooden spatula and placed it carefully into a sample bottle.
“Only the slightly frayed edges to some of the fabric indicates any age at all and just using ‘ballpark’ estimates of the age of this cloth, without any testing, I would have to gauge, that we would be talking about no more, than ten, to fifteen years at max. However, you are claiming more like two, or three hundred years?” Mel, was incredulous. “Then, you won’t mind, if I take a small cloth sample?”
She could be very forceful and he wasn’t about to stand in her way, “No, please go ahead” agreed Mace and whilst, she snipped away a small sample, she continued talking.
“Looking solely at the degree of desiccation, with regard to the skin of both victims, we could be talking about something else going on here.” She then, fell into some deep silent thought and began to move her head from side to side, as if she were considering a few possible radical options. “I don’t know but they somehow look, as if they were frozen in time, or something like that.” She murmured, then fell silent again, continuing to shake her head from side to side, as she considered something.
Changing her previous tack, she spoke again, “You know, quite a few of the bods at the Uni don’t you?” She asked, with a slightly conspiratorial tone in her voice.
“Well, that’s putting a bit of a gloss on things but yes, I rub along quite well with a couple but we’re not exactly drinking buddies.”
Melissa, looked at him quizzically. “Well, how would you describe it, then?” Mason, thought about this for a few seconds before he responded.
“Well, I suppose, it’s more like mutual back scratching really. We do professional exchanges from time to time, y’know, help each other out....” He turned away from the interlocked bodies and quizzically stared at Melissa, who was giving him that rather attractive girlish grin, which she used to disarm the innocent and naive men she sometimes ran across in the office.
This time, there was more than a soupçon of devilment in her eyes and that grin was a little more directed than usual. He could stand it no longer and just had to ask. “O.K. spit it out, Mel. What’ve you got on your mind?”
Her grin faded, as she started to speak. “Just a couple of important questions really. Number one, can you get a carbon dating done on these two,” she said and silently, waited for his reply. Mason, indicated, with a look and a slight shrugging of his shoulders, that carbon dating was not a problem but he was thinking he would have to run that one by Jinx.
Apparently satisfied, with his response, she just quietly murmured, “excellent,” and continued with her original enquiry........ “And secondly, are there any more bodies that you are keeping quiet about?”
Melissa’s apparent knowledge, took him by surprise and he just stood there, with his mouth open for a fraction too long and she was back at him. “Your boss, has informed me........”
Mason butted in at this point and spoke, as if he was a stuck file, that had just been freed from a lifetime of repeating itself. “Who.... Jinx?” He spluttered.
“Yes stupid,” she snapped. “Jaqui and I, have been good work friends for quite a while and anyway, how many bosses do you have?” She tutted, as if she had been trying to hold a conversation about quantum astro physics, with a moron.
“Right, got it,” Mason said and then added, “So, what do you know, or should that be, how much and how long have you known it?”
Melissa looked at him and her wicked grin completely vanished. “You remember that cast that I made for you earlier in the year?” Mason, nodded affirmatively, so she continued, “Well, that one, or should I say, those two murdered women from along the canal bank, really seemed to disturb her and she must have seen me, as someone that she could talk to.” Before Mason could form a question and utter it, she continued. “So, anyway and not in the slightest bit related, Jaqui mentioned those bodies and asked me, if I could find a few minutes, after ‘closing time,’ to have a quick look and see what I thought.” Mason was listening intently to Melissa’s words and almost imperceptibly, willing her to continue.
“So, ‘after hours,’ I came down here to have a better gander, at those two unfortunate females, Jaqui, invites me for a drink and what can I say it grew from there.” She then, shrugged her shoulders and struck a nonplussed pose. “It was you, asking for the moulds of the implement used in that self same killing, who inadvertently let me even further in. So, here we are now, looking at two more dead women, in the same morgue.” She paused briefly and the grin reappeared, “And no, there’s nothing sexual in our friendship. We are simply, two women who enjoy a little conversation that isn’t about babies and other crap like that.” Then, to give him something else to think about she casually added, “Oh and by the way, did you notice, that those two ladies are joined at the breastbone, as if they’ve almost been fused together.”
Mason, had found little time so far, to give them a thorough examination. “I’ve never seen anything like it. You really should take a look.”
He had no quick answer for that one. Maybe, there was no adequate answer to be found. Mason, felt slightly embarrassed, as he placed the white sheet over 'the screaming ladies’ again and turned to depart the refrigerated area.
“I don’t know, you blokes are all the same,” Melissa commented, as she followed him back into the main autopsy area of the lab. Jinx, was on the phone again and mouthed the name, “Alex Findlay” and pointed to the mobile in her hand. Mason, out of politeness, led Melissa towards the door and held it open for her.
“Oh, Mr. M, you are such a gallant gentleman,” she said wickedly, as she departed and started to head off towards the stairs. “Don’t forget about the dating of those bones, Mase” She cried, as she disappeared up the staircase towards her own department, on the floor above.
Mason, watched her depart, smiled and then nipped into the staff toilets, figuring that Jinx would have completed her conversation with DCI Findlay, by the time he returned to “the office.” He would inform her of what he and Melissa had discussed, and hopefully discover what Findlay wanted, this time. He had felt a certain relief, when Mel, had informed him that she and Jinx, were not conducting a lesbian relationship, but Alex Findlay was an entirely different kettle of fish. He was aware that his boss, found the policeman in question, quite attractive. He would have to have been blind, not to have noticed how she perked up whenever he visited the morgue on business. Oh well, at least she wasn’t a “Teddy leg,” so he held out a fennel stalk of hope that one day........!
Jinx, was putting down the phone as he entered the room and they both looked at each other, then tried to speak simultaneously but she beat him to the punch.
“He was just asking, if you’d got anything from the preliminary examination, of the ’Two Ladies’?”
Mason shook his head. “No not as yet but I’m going to get in touch with Rob Harman, at the University in a minute and I’ll attempt to get him onto any carbon dating, that needs doing, on the two ladies in the fridge.” He peered over the desk top towards Jinx and said, “You do realise, that this is most likely going to cost us a bottle of single malt........... each, don’t you?”
She smiled and laughed quietly. He then filled her in, on his meeting with Melissa and the samples she had taken. “Excellent work Mase” smiled Jinx and Mase grinned, as he walked with a lighter step, back towards the ‘Arctic,’ to take the samples required for the carbon dating tests. He also took samples of the bone like residues clinging to the desiccated skin around the chest wound. He was aware that some 'Powderfinger’ like activity may have played a part in their demise. It was now a matter of getting those tested and comparing the data, to the present day murders.
When he got back inside the room, he moved straight towards the phone but couldn’t resist having another look at his two ladies, before making the call to Rob.
'Maybe he will have the results for the present day murders that DCI Findlay, was so interested in?' He mused. Mason, on the other hand, wanted to know who were these two petrified ladies apparently buried still fused together, in a single wooden sarcophagus? Also, addressing the bodies out loud, he asked,
“How and when, did you meet your end and who’s boney hand, dealt the death blow?” A smile flickered across his face, when he realised how dramatic his previous statement sounded. When he replayed it in his mind, the smile just as quickly disappeared as he realised with a shudder, that he was seeing Mel’s original model of the big white skeletal hand in his mind.
“Powderfinger,” he said quietly with a slight shudder.
Without any further delay, he replaced the shroud and began to dial the telephone number for the University and Rob Harman’s department. It rang three times and then
Rob, picked up the handset. “Hello, this is Rob speaking. How can I be of assistance?”
Mason, had heard this intro, what seemed like a thousand times before, so as usual, he gave a not to be unexpected, irreverent response.......
“Two bottles, you say and Loch McCrakkan to boot,” squeaked Rob on the other end of the line. Mason, smiled to himself. He had gone for it so now, it was simply a matter of getting the test samples, to the University Labs post haste. “I’ll just add your samples, to some bunch of other mundane relics, one of our Professors is hoping will eventually lead to a Nobel, or something like that. He will never know and you will get your results faster, how’s that sound. Worth two bottles of the sweet stuff, or what?”
Mason, gave the thumbs up sign of a deal well done to Jinx, who was watching through the window, as he made the call.
“Great stuff, Rob and thanks again. I’m taking the samples right now, so you should get it some time after lunch.” With that, he replaced the receiver on it’s cradle, turned out the lights and went to have a word with Jinx, concerning the other bodies from the graveyard, that were being carefully stored, in “The Deep Arctic,” as they called the small deep frozen storage area.
Jinx, was the only person who held a key to this area of the refrigerated zone. Mason was thinking about what Melissa had said regarding the other cadavers from the unconsecrated ground and whether, he could see any similarities? However, the other Tetrapak caskets, were still sealed with tape. Only the two curious Ladies, who’s coffin had been struck by the impatient diggers blades and inadvertently opened, were presently available for examination. He would have to seek permission, to open any further sealed units, from a higher authority.
“Jinx,” he said hesitantly, “Do you think, that we could take a peek inside one, or two of these other boxes and see what we may be dealing with before I send the samples to Rob Harman?” As if by Mason mentioning the other unopened caskets, it broke a spell of silence, she quickly interjected with,
“Actually Mace, I spent much of last night, thinking about that very same dilemma,” she said and leaned forward, placing both of her hands flat on the desk top.
The previous evening, Jinx had considered, the wording of the official brief they were nominally working to. It stated, that wherever it was possible, they were to gather information in order to help identify the bodies without using invasive techniques. She had agreed to overstep this slightly in the case of the entwined ladies but on consideration, she felt, the official brief did not rule out taking any “Powderfinger,” related residue samples, or any other surface forensic materials from the other bodies. The bone samples for carbon dating, were however, entirely, another matter. Still, she reckoned, that she could probably plead a ‘little misunderstanding,’ if the taking of these small samples, was discovered.
After all, it would be very useful, in helping to identify the bodies if they could get an accurate carbon date. “Having given it much thought, I don’t see anyone who’s going to complain and if we do it all, with the utmost care, who’s to know anything happened at all,” she said. Mason, for his part, simply grinned.
The boss, was being distinctly sneaky, so he felt comfortable in asking her, if they should ask Melissa, to join them at the opening of the other caskets?
“I don’t see why not, she knows a great deal about this case already and not much gets past her beady little eyes. Mel, can be very useful, if it’s detail that you’re looking for.”
Mason was already turning away and busily dialling upstairs on the internal telephone, hoping to catch Melissa before she went for her break. Luckily, she answered.
“Are you doing anything this afternoon that’s more interesting, than opening up a few more caskets and taking a look inside?”
Melissa stood motionless for a few long seconds before answering, “Wow, Jesus Mase, d’you mean it?” Now, he was the silent one but evidently, that wasn’t a problem and Mel came back again, with “You’ve got yourself a date. What time?” Mase suggested some time around 2.00pm, which was rapidly agreed to by Melissa and they both promptly hung up.
“What did she say?” enquired Jinx.
“She reckons, that if all goes to plan and nothing untoward happens, she’ll be here about 2 pm, if that’s O.K?”
At 1.50 pm Jinx and Mase were quietly finishing their lunch when they were interrupted by Melissa Gilbert, almost falling over herself, as she burst into the room and nearly tripped over her own feet.
“I’m not late am I?” she spluttered.
“Would you like a drink before we start, or should we just get on with it?” Jinx enquired. They all stopped and wordlessly acquiesced, to the latter. “O.K. then, lets go and see what secrets the rest of the coach party are keeping to themselves” and with that, she led them towards “The Deep Arctic,” to do a little exploring.
Reaching into her pocket, as they passed by Mason’s shrouded Ladies, Jinx withdrew a keycard from her Lab Coat pocket, swiped it in the door lock, punched a code into the lock and with a satisfying clunk, the heavy featureless door opened slightly.
“Nobody knew what lay beyond the barrier,” said Mason in his falsely deep hammy American accent, as if he was desperately trying to interest the listener in the latest Twilight Zone episode.
When they entered “The Deep Arctic,“ the temperature noticeably dropped and their exhaled breath became visible, as it froze. Melissa openly shivered. “Christ, how do you people work in this place?” She enquired.
“It’s all part of the job and to be honest, we never even think about it,” offered Jinx, as they approached the five unopened caskets, that were lying neatly in a row, against the back wall of the fridge.
Mason, felt in his pocket and withdrew a penknife. He approached the nearest casket, “What evil, they were about unleash into the world, one could only guess,” said Mason as he sliced through the sealing tape, then looked for a good spot to start prizing the lid off the box.
“Don’t worry about him, he’s always like that in here. I suspect that his mother dropped him on his head, when he was a baby,” was all that Jinx casually said to Melissa, as they leaned over the sarcophagus, eagerly waiting for the lid to be removed.
It had been seven days since his chance meeting with Samuel, on the canal bank by Barton Basin. Seven days, of endless slog since he had been here fishing. As he watched his float, the tale he had been told of weird happenings down by The Ravens Gate, and the story about Jenkins’ Walkway played over in Nick’s mind again. It seemed “Powderfinger” had limits to his range. When Samuel had related this curious tale to him, he had not been too sure about it’s validity, but looking closely at the old man’s eyes whilst he was talking, Nick had observed, what could only be described as true fear. The unknown teller of this potential yarn, had moved on further down the waterway, weeks ago and so was unable to give any corroboration of his story.
Samuels’ telling, with the inevitable bolstering and natural glossing of the facts, was all he had to go off. He began to sift through the encounter, to better judge if the story had merit. The unknown teller had informed Samuel of his encounter, whilst making it clear to him, these events had only occurred a day, or so previously, which introduced a little urgency to the daily lives of the 'wandering community.’ They were relayed to Samuel and the other travelers, as much as a warning not to venture down by the Ravens Gate Bridge, as to recant a scary story. The tale, was told to Samuel by the original narrator, so it was a good bet that the account of the events he had heard from Samuel, was fairly close to gospel. Nick, was fully aware that a story was often slightly changed by each teller as they embellished it and that after a while, it often became absolutely impossible to discern the facts, from the fiction. Then, Nick considered how much damage had been done to Sam’s mind by his obviously long time on the road. He had noticed the old man’s tendency to drift off every now and again, but the dread in his watery eyes had seemed genuine enough.
So, generally he decided, that he would afford him the benefit of the doubt for now and resolved to investigate further, on his own account. Fortunately, this week Nick, was on the day shift at The Hostel, so once he had done his hours at St. Joseph’s, he was free to go home, have his evening meal and do some research, using his own notes. However, he was already trying to co-ordinate the information gathered by his work at Peel Park and this was taking up so much of his spare time in the evenings, that he was close to becoming exhausted. He even irrationally considered, contacting altorro, for some assistance.
When Nick, reached home that evening, he could not remove Samuel’s yarn about the ‘thing’ that was stalking the canal near to The Ravens Gate, from his mind. True or not, when he thought about it, the story chilled his blood. He couldn’t escape the feeling that there was something seriously spooky that appeared to revolve around that damned stretch of the canal, that dark bridge and the Ravens Gate tar works. This extra task, of corroborating the information about it’s limits garnered from Samuels’ story, now seemed so important to him, that it needed to take priority. Silently, he resolved to make it his task for this evening. O.K, so he was going to have to contact altorro but that could wait until later, when he’d done some research.