Maria’s Papers

Preface

 

24th July 2002.  Whitewall Farm, Wordale Moor, Lancashire.

 

“Berserk?  What do you mean something’s just gone berserk?”

“I mean exactly what I say; something just went absolutely mental in the room next to the finds room.”

“For pity’s sake,” said Crowthorne, “you’re supposed to be a scientist, explain yourself properly.”

The forensic archaeologist looked across the farmyard and said, “Look, how the hell am I supposed to know?  All I can tell you is that some, some, bloody huge sounding animal, a dog I think, just had a major conniption fit in what we thought was an empty room and it’s scared the shit out of us…” he faltered as he saw the girl and said, “Sorry…”

“No problem,” said Naomi.  She shot a quick glance at the occupants of the police car and realised that she was the only one who might be able to explain what was happening.  She closed her eyes and desperately hoped that she was wrong.

The archaeologist cut across her thoughts and said, “I’m not usually so crass but whatever made that noise put the fear of God up me.”

Crowthorne looked across the deserted yard and said, “And have you checked to see if anything’s in there?”

“Absolutely bloody not!” said the archaeologist, “I wouldn’t go anywhere near that room.  You should have heard it, it sounded totally deranged.”

Crowthorne frowned, put his hand up to his mouth and stared at the door in question; for once in his life he didn’t know what to do.  He hated dogs and the thought of dealing with one, let alone a deranged one, filled him with concern.  He took in a deep breath and turned back to face the others.

“All right,” he said, “here’s what we’ll…”

“Sir!”  The police driver pointed through the windscreen.

On the opposite side of the yard the door had opened and Francesca Drake one of the female team members had staggered out.  She lunged forwards, stumbling and falling in an effort to get away from the room.

Without thinking Crowthorne jumped out of the car and ran towards her.

He got half way across the yard when a howl that would have stopped a charging bear erupted from the room in front of him.  He didn’t just hear it; he felt it.  It plunged sickeningly icy fingers into his chest and squeezed his heart.  Terror spread through him like a cold primeval wave and stopped him dead in his tracks.

He stood in petrified silence and listened as the sound of the horrendous howl receded across the top of the moors.

“Please help me…” begged Francesca.

Crowthorne heard her pleading but couldn’t move, his legs felt like jelly. He remained motionless and stared intently at the door behind her.

“Please, Inspector…”

The second call for help shook Crowthorne into action; he ran forwards, grabbed the distraught woman, and yanked her to her feet.

“Come on,” he said pulling her towards the police car, “let’s get you out of here.”  He looked up and saw the driver staring at him.

“Cooper get over here!” he shouted.

The driver didn’t move.

Intent on dragging the stricken woman, Crowthorne didn’t notice at first, but when he looked he was stunned to see that the driver hadn’t moved.

“Cooper, get your arse over here now!” he shouted.

With an enormous bang, a door slammed behind him.

Francesca turned, looked back across the farmyard, and said, “Oh God, no…”

Crowthorne could feel his heart hammering; he stared steadfastly at Cooper as he approached the police car but just knew that something bad was going to happen.

Suddenly, Cooper’s eyes widened with fear and he involuntarily shifted backwards in his seat.