by Julius Falconer |
... ‘And there’s the anonymous letter!’ interjected Grace.
‘Oh, what anonymous letter is that?’ asked Wickfield. ‘Perhaps you’d better start at the beginning and tell us all about it.’
Benjamin cleared his throat. ‘Inspector, sergeant, it’s like this. Grace and I bought this house in May of 1970, ready for our retirement. It had been uninhabited for twenty-five years and was neglected before that, so everything had to be done to make it habitable. When we retired in April 1971, we bought a second-hand caravan to live in and put it in a small field behind the barn. We lived there while the major work was done on the house. Finally, last October, we were able to move into the house, and then work began almost immediately on the chapel. The floor of the chapel was beaten earth, centuries old, and it was too high to allow a modern floor simply to be placed on top of it. Grace and I began the tedious work of lowering the floor by ourselves, before the workmen moved in, and as we dug down, we discovered three skeletons buried side by side two feet down.
‘At the discovery of the first skeleton, we informed the Church authorities in Worcester, and it was their man who first spotted a ligature round the skeleton’s neck. He advised us to tell the police, which we did, of course. When we resumed work a few days later, lowering the remaining area of floor, we discovered two more bodies, both strangled like the first victim. Your people in Worcester eventually identified the bodies and sent us a full report.
‘That was that, or so we thought. The police used various bits of equipment to locate any other burials, declared the chapel free and allowed the workmen to continue with laying the new floor. Then, just over a week ago, we received an anonymous letter. You tell the gentlemen about that, Grace.’
‘I picked it up one morning with the rest of the mail. It was a plain white envelope, typed, and addressed to ‘Hothersall’ – just Hothersall – St Mary’s Court, Little Witley. There was one sheet of paper inside it, torn out of one of those jotter-pads with the metallic spiral binding. It said something about a curse. What were the exact words, Ben, can you remember?’
‘Yes, I think they were “Cursed be they that disturb the sleep of the just”.’…