12 February 2016
Well, here we are again. Truly our end is our beginning. That corpse you buried in your garden, has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? You must have wondered whether I, too, was buried deep in the earth. Oh ye of little faith. You must have known that I would rise again.
You have grown older, Harry. There is grey in your hair and you have known sadness. Joy too but that also can bring anguish. The dark nights of the soul. You could not save Scarlet but you could save the innocent who lies within the stone circle. Believe me, Harry, I want to help.
The year is turning. The shoots rise from the grass. Imbolc is here and we dance under the stars.
Go to the stone circle.
DCI Harry Nelson pushes the letter away from him and lets out something that sounds like a groan. The other people in the briefing room—Superintendent Jo Archer, DS Dave Clough, DS Judy Johnson and DS Tanya Fuller—look at him with expressions ranging from concern to ill-concealed excitement.
'He's back,' says Clough.
'Bollocks,' says Nelson. 'He's dead.'
'Excuse me,' says Jo Archer, Super Jo to her admirers. 'Would someone mind putting me in the picture?' Jo Archer has only been at King's Lynn for a year, taking over from smooth, perma-tanned Gerald Whitcliffe. At first she seemed the embodiment of all Nelson's worst nightmares—holding meetings where everyone is supposed to talk about their feelings, instigating something unspeakable called a 'group huddle'—but recently he has come to view her with a grudging respect. But he doesn't relish the prospect of explaining the significance of the letter to his boss. She'll be far too interested, for one thing.
But no one else seems prepared to speak so Nelson says, in his flattest and most unemotional voice, 'It must have been twenty years ago now. A child went missing. Lucy Downey. And I started to get letters like this. Full of stuff about Gods and the seasons and mystical crap. Then, ten years on, we found a child's bones on the Saltmarsh. I wasn't sure how old they were so I asked Ruth—Dr Ruth Galloway—to examine them. Those bones were nothing to do with the case, they were Iron Age or something, but I got Ruth to look at the letters. She thought they might be from someone with archaeological knowledge. Anyway, as you know, we found Lucy but another child died. The killer was drowned on the marshes. The letter writer was a
Norwegian professor called Erik Anderssen. He died that night too. And this,' he points at the letter on the table, 'reads like one of his.'
'It sounds like someone who knows you,' says Judy. 'Because it goes on about me being grey and sad?' says Nelson. 'Thanks a lot.'
No one says anything. The joys and sorrows of the last few years are imprinted on all of them, even Jo.
After a few seconds, Jo says, 'What's this about a stone circle?'
'God knows,' says Nelson. 'I've never heard of anything like that. There was that henge thing they found years ago but that was made of wood.'
'Wasn't the henge thing where you found the murdered child last time?' says Jo, revealing slightly more knowledge than she has hitherto admitted to.
'Yes,' says Nelson. 'It was on the beach near the Saltmarsh. Nothing's left of it now. All the timbers and suchlike are in the museum.'
'Cathbad says they should have been left where they were,' says Judy.
Judy's partner, Cathbad, is a druid who first came to the attention of the police when he protested about the removal of the henge timbers. Everyone in the room knows Cathbad so no one thinks this is worth commenting on, although Clough mutters 'of course he does'.
'This is probably nothing,' says Jo, gesturing at the letter which still lies, becalmed, in the centre of the table. 'But we should check up the stone circle thing. Nelson, can you ask Ruth if she knows anything about it?'
Once again everyone avoids Nelson's eye as he takes the letter and puts it in his pocket.
'I'll give her a ring later,' he says.