[William Falconer 06] - Falconer and the Ritual of Death

[William Falconer 06] - Falconer and the Ritual of Death Read Online Free PDF

Book: [William Falconer 06] - Falconer and the Ritual of Death Read Online Free PDF
Author: Ian Morson
Tags: Fiction, Historical, Mystery & Detective
    ‘You may have been enrolled into the mysteries of the masons, Master Thorpe, but you have no idea how to deal with the discovery and analysis of a dead body. Please do not disturb it until it has been properly examined.’
    A wry grin creased Thorpe’s sun-browned face, and he raised both hands in a gesture of acquiescence. He stood up and stepped back from the body in a manner that momentarily had Falconer worried for his safety. The top of the exposed wall was crumbly and narrow. But Thorpe’s sure-footedness suggested that he was used to working at precarious and dangerous heights. Falconer continued to clutch the top rung of the ladder, and he examined the skeletal remains from there.
    It was Bullock’s turn to squat down.
    ‘He only removed the bones of the hand, William. And at my request too.’ He opened his palm, and revealed the bony digits. One of them still had a gold ring encircling it. ‘I thought we might be able to identify the man from this ring.’ Falconer grunted, and found he had the courage to remove one hand from the ladder to take the be-ringed bone. It was truly a distinctive object with some sort of flat stone set in the face of it. He rubbed at the dirt with his thumb.
    ‘By he way...’ Bullock could no longer restrain himself.
    He wanted to show Thorpe that his friend was a remarkable man when it came to bodies. He would ask him the question that had been burning in his brain since he saw Falconer arrive.
    ‘How long do you think the body has been interred in the wall? From the state of the bones.’
    Falconer stared for a long time at the section of the skeleton that stuck out above the rubble infill.
    ‘It is impossible to tell from their condition.’ Bullock felt deflated, and half-turned to the mason with an apology for his presumption all ready. Then Falconer spoke again, his face a picture of solemnity.
    ‘But I would say you should go back twenty years - to the year of the so-called End Times to be precise - to seek a man who was lost and never found.’
    Bullock almost fell off the edge of the wall, but was held safe by the firm and calloused hand of the master mason.
    ‘Twelve hundred and fifty? But... but.., how can you be so precise?’
    Falconer’s face split into a wide grin. He almost felt like preserving a sense of alchemy about his deduction. But it had been a simple exercise in dating, and he put Bullock out of his misery.
    ‘Because I had just returned to Oxford in the year of our Lord 1250, and I remember these houses being built.’ Bullock groaned at the simplicity of the sort of deduction he might have made himself, and dumped the finger bones into a bucket, which Thorpe lowered to the ground and his foreman.
    Wilfrid took the bucket to the master mason’s lodge and put it on the floor under the table. He could see that there was no more work to be done this day. Standing in the shadow of the lodge, he watched as the mason crouched down once more. He saw him speak animatedly to the tall, heavy-set figure perching rather tentatively atop the ladder. The man, who the constable had called William, was large but had seemed light on his feet like a fighting man when he had been down on terra firma. He had only become unsure as he climbed the ladder, and that happened to many men unused to the dizzy heights that building work took you. Still, this William now exuded an air of authority as he pointed out what he wanted the master mason to do for him. Wilfrid had only seen his master take orders so readily on one other occasion, and that man had been a person of some gravity and authority. As the three men on the top of the half-demolished wall leaned closer together, Wilfrid turned away, and beckoned the other workers over to him.
    ‘It seems we will be doing no more work today, lads. Take yourselves off to your lodgings, and rest. We will have to make up the time tomorrow.’
    The little knot of workers, tanned by years in the sun and wind, grinned at their
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