Authors: Elly Griffiths
Also by Elly Griffiths
The Crossing Places
The Janus Stone
The House at Sea’s End
A Room Full of Bones
The Outcast Dead
THE MAGIC MEN
The Zig Zag Girl
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by
Quercus Publishing Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
An Hachette UK Company
Copyright © 2015 by Elly Griffiths
The moral right of Elly Griffiths to be identified as the
author of this work has been asserted in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage
and retrieval system, without permission in writing
from the publisher.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 84866 330 5 (HB)
ISBN 978 1 84866 331 2 (TPB)
ISBN 978 1 78429 364 2 (EBOOK)
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses,
organizations, places and events are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales
is entirely coincidental.
For Sheila and Ian Lewington
I hate the dreadful hollow behind the little wood,
Its lips in the field above are dabbled with blood-red heath,
The red-ribb’d ledges drip with a silent horror of blood,
And Echo there, whatever is ask’d her, answers ‘Death.’
It is the hottest summer for years. A proper heatwave, the papers say. But Barry West doesn’t pay much attention to weather forecasts. He wears the same clothes winter and summer, jeans and an England t-shirt. It’s sweaty in the cab of the digger, but he doesn’t really mind. Being a man is all about sweat; anyone who washes too much is either foreign or worse. It doesn’t occur to him that women don’t exactly find his odour enticing. He’s forty and he hasn’t had a girlfriend for years.
But he’s content, this July day. The Norfolk sky is a hot, hard blue and the earth, when exposed in the jaws of the digger, is pale, almost white. The yellow vehicle moves steadily to and fro, churning up the stones and coarse grass. Barry doesn’t know, and he certainly doesn’t care, that people have fought hard over this patch of land, now scheduled for development by Edward Spens and Co. In fact the Romans battled the Iceni on these same fields and, nearly two thousand years later, Royalist forces engaged in bitter hand-to-hand combat with Cromwell’s army. But today, Barry and his digger are alone under the blazing sun, their only companions the seagulls that follow their progress, swooping down on the freshly turned soil.
It’s hard work. The land is uneven – which is why it has lain waste for so long – pitted with craters and gullies. In the winter, these fissures fill with water and the field becomes almost a lake interspersed with islands of grass. But now, after a month of good weather, it’s a lunar landscape, dry and desolate. Barry manoeuvres the digger up and down, singing tunelessly.
It’s at the bottom of one of these craters that the digger scrapes against metal. Barry swears and goes into reverse. The seagulls swirl above him. Their cries sound caustic, as if they are laughing. Barry gets out of the cab.
The sun is hotter than ever. It beats down on his baseball cap and he wipes the sweat from his eyes. An object is protruding from the ground, something grey and somehow threatening, like a shark’s fin. Barry stares at the obstacle. It has a look of permanence, as if it has lain in the earth for a very long time. He bends down and scrapes some soil away with his hands. He sees that the fin is part of a larger object, far bigger than he imagined at first. The more earth he removes, the more metal is revealed. It gleams dully in the sun.
Barry stands back. Edward Spens wants this field cleared. Barry’s foreman stressed that the work needs to be done as soon as possible, ‘before the crazies get wind of it’. If he carries on, his digger will tear and crush the metal object. Or the unseen enemy will defeat him and the digger (property of Edward Spens and Co) will be damaged. Suddenly, unexpectedly, Barry remembers a book that was read to him at school about a vast man made of iron who is found in a junk yard. Just for a second he imagines that lying beneath the soil there is a sleeping metal giant who will rise up and crush him in its digger-like jaws. But wasn’t the Iron Man in the story a goodie? He can’t remember. Barry climbs into the cab and gets a spade. The ground is hard but the earth moves fairly easily. Barry labours away, his t-shirt sticking to his back, until he reaches something else, something even bigger. Breathing heavily, he puts the spade down and wipes away soil with his hands. Then he encounters something that isn’t metal. It’s glass, clogged with dirt and almost opaque. But Barry, driven by something which he doesn’t quite understand, clears a space so that he can peer through.
A scream makes the seagulls rise into the air. It is a few seconds before Barry realises that he was the one who had screamed. And he almost does so again as he stumbles away from the buried giant.
Because, when he looked through the window, someone was looking back at him.
Not far away, across the fields where the Romans marched in orderly lines and the Royalist troops fled in disarray, Ruth Galloway is also digging. But this is altogether a more organised process. Teams of students labour over neatly dug trenches, marked out with string and measuring tape. Ruth moves from trench to trench, offering advice, dusting soil away from an object that might be a fragment of pottery or even a bone. She is happy. When she started this summer dig for her students, she was aware of the area’s history, of course. She expected to find something, some Roman pottery maybe or even a coin or two. But, two days into the excavation, they made a really significant discovery. A body, which Ruth thinks might date from the Bronze Age, some two thousand years before the Romans.