onsdag 8. mars 2017

The Murder Mound

by Robert Wood
Every year, when the month twisted from June to July, the murderer left for a certain East coast village which had been an important center for North Sea fisheries in the seventies.

The rotting port had been transformed by big money to a well–polished sport paradise with Café latte shops. The undulating landscape flowed past the windscreen of the old BMW X3, and exactly, at the stroke of 12, the murderer passed the last of the low houses ringing the stone harbor. The murderer smiled and parked the car in front of Ye Old Inn. The familiar sandstone building had gotten new chairs in front of the entrance, but otherwise everything was unchanged.

 – Welcome back! It is the fourth year, isn’t it, the middle–aged landlady behind the reception disk twittered.
– Yes, that’s right… The murderer put on the pleasant smile which was appropriate for the occasion. Smiles were important tools if you wanted to have something done, and the murderer had practiced smiles for all kinds of situations.
– The room you ordered on the ground floor is ready. The landlady smiled automatically back and handed over the keycard. The murderer felt peace and a feeling of wellbeing fill the body at the sight of the open landscape.
  Two o’clock and Helene had not noticed the passing of time. She had enjoyed a long lunch and read the analog newspapers. A rare treat she seldom took the time to indulge in at The Museum of Viking History. However, now it was time to enjoy the fresh air of the seaside. She had a lot of hard work waiting.
– Do you know what? The landlady said secretively as she passed the reception desk. – We have a celebrity staying here. He checked in a few minutes after you. Mr. Parsons!
–The author? Helene asked.
The landlady nodded with shining eyes. – His books about single men raising kids alone are so touching. He is such a handsome man with a strong personality.  Don’t you think so?
– Actually, I have met him once, Helene answered. – He showed up without an appointment at my office. He wanted to know about Viking burial customs. I gave him a copy of my book, Burial Customs in an Age Undreamed. A few days later I received a signed copy of his latest suspense novel. I guess it was his way of saying thank you.

Parsons got up from the quilted bed. He was tired after the journey and the dammed writer’s block did not improve his moods. He hoped that getting away from the capital would lead to new inspirations and fresh insights so that he could finish his sixth thriller. It might have been a mistake introducing his protagonist, DC Max Foxe, to a murder scene involving Viking gold. However, he was convinced that pleasant walks and fishing from the hotel’s rubber dinghy would do the trick. A relaxed mind is a creative mind, he thought.

The murderer enjoyed the sight of the desolate landscape. Strange how lazy people are. Only the most dedicated tourists bothered to walk the two miles to the Viking mounds, the burial grounds more than thousand years old. However, the murderer enjoyed the thought of the once pillaging Vikings, their burial gold and other valuable treasures resting under the stones. The murderer lingered on memories of violence, blood and rotting corpses. Wasn’t death the most fascinating aspect of life? The pleasures of power. The unsuspecting victim. Applying a burst of intense pain. See the surprise in the dimming eyes. The murderer felt a welcoming elation when thinking about the intense pleasures of holding the warm, shivering body, a moment or two, before letting go.

Helene measured the inside of the test excavation with a sure hand. As any trained and experienced archeologist she knew what she was doing. Getting back to the inn she would turn the notes into a report for the Museum Board. She already knew her recommendations for the future of the Viking graves. However, she wanted exact measurements to underpin her well founded, professional arguments. The Museum’s board of directors had to be convinced to do what she wished to be done.

Parsons enjoyed a delicious dish of king–prawns lightly dressed in a coating of creamy garlic sauce. Ye Old Inn was renowned for its good food and well stocked wine cellar. All in all, life was good and might turn out even better he thought when Helene glided into the dining room. He had read her book and done extensive research on the Vikings way of life. Her name had showed up in quite a few papers and international magazines. Moreover, she was a good looking woman, and if he played his cards rightly she would be the key to the inspirational release he needed. Should he talk to her? No, better keep a low profile.

Moments before the murderer drifted to sleep the thoughts went to the previous victim. How the dagger had penetrated the jugular, the salty smells of fear and the spicy taste of the victim’s blood drops on the lips. The Murderer’s hand moved over the white bedsheet like a blind crab seeking the ocean to the sound of dark wings descending.

Helene got up early next morning, had breakfast and headed for the mounds. She still had a couple of days’ work of measuring and evaluating. Her museum was in need of government funds, and publications of any kind helped secure next year’s budget. When she got close to the burial site she saw Parsons perching like a black raven on top of one of the mounds. His book, about detective Max Foxe, had been easy reading. Nevertheless, she did not like the way the author tried to wring sympathy from the reader by rambling on about the single dad policeman and his hard pressed life. Detective Foxe was a boring softie designed to please women readers in their forties. Parsons should have focused on writing a better suspense story. Helene preferred tough old fashioned private detective Philip Marlowe, and cynical Humphrey Bogart in the black and white movie, The Big Sleep.

Helene tried not to frown when she shook hands with the smiling writer after he had scrambled down. Besides, shaking hands was formal enough to create a distance between them. Personal distance made it much easier for her to explain that she was making an evaluation of the Viking graves for the Museum Board. Whether they should excavate the mounds or not. Or whether the entire area should be transformed into a major tourist attraction or not. The archeologist could see the irritation in the author’s brownish eyes.
– Why do people like you take the mystery out of everything? Why must everything be systematized to the last bone fragment? Why not leave such fantastic places like this to the rain, the fog and the fantasy of future generations?  You of all people, the Viking expert, should show a little respect for the long dead! Even if Laura Croft is a grave robber, you don’t have to be one.
– That’s what I am here to evaluate, she answered frosty. He stared at her, but Helene turned away and flung her tools down on the moist ground close to the low semi–closed entrance. She turned the key in the old brass padlock, pushed open the wooden makeshift door and crawled into the waiting dark without looking back. Parsons stood another twenty seconds after she had disappeared into the gloom and left with a disgusted grunt. He could not help admiring the woman. Alone in a tomb with only a headlight and herself. Not his choice of work places.

The murderer did not like the thought of an excavation. The beautiful landscape would be scarred, and the besides, victims from previous years would for certain be found. That…. must under any circumstances be stopped.  But how? The murderer looked at the ocean. A few seconds later a solution grew out of the wind. It was just a matter of timing. The future was decided by precise planning in the present. And, the murderer was the kind of person that made things happen. A wave of forbidden pleasures pulsed through the body as the smell of stagnant brine assaulted the nostrils.

Parsons sat waiting for dinner. He was irritated at himself for letting the archeologist see how angry he had gotten this morning. He had felt desire when he saw the slim figure approaching the mounds. He had wanted her… there and then. He had fantasized about passionate sex by the old graves. Had he spoilt his chances? As if she had read his thoughts Helene came through the dining room door as she was the owner of the inn. To his surprise she went straight to his table with a playful smile.
 – Still angry, Mr. Parsons? Or interested in sharing a superb bottle of wine with me? I choose! You pay? Parsons smiled the best smile he could muster and signaled with his hand towards the chair beside him.
– How about dinner? After my unfortunate outburst, I borrowed the inn’s rubber dinghy and went fishing. I gave my impressive catch to the inn’s chef and he promised me a delicious bouillabaisse.  
– I would love to enjoy a decent dinner with you, Mr. Parsons. Perhaps you could tell me a little bit about your new novel and the terrible ordeals your detective Foxe will go through in his next case? What will you call it? The Viking Mound? But let’s small talk over dinner. How about sharing a tasteful bottle of Chablis? Shades of sea–blue glittered playfully in her eyes.

The next morning was seven shades of grey. Helene contemplated the fog drifting across the landscape and mulled over the evening with the author. An interesting and entertaining man. Full of knowledge, but kind of naive. She had been surprised when she met him in the dining room early in the morning. Well, not exactly surprised, but she was willing to bet that he also had a headache after last night tasteful Premier Cru wines. And besides… She must have made an impression and almost had sex with him. She had left him for her room with an unspoken promise of possible future intimacies.
 –I have slept on what we discussed last night, he had said. – I might have to change my mind regarding the graves. It must be very rewarding to excavate the gold treasures waiting under the stones. I can support your professional recommendations no matter what conclusions you arrive at. However, I need more knowledge about the mounds, their history, and their origins and of cause…. How Vikings sacrificed prisoners and buried gold with their dead chieftains. Perhaps you could be my guide at the test site? We would be undisturbed in the morning fog. There won’t be any tourists today.
   Once more she saw anger in his eyes as she turned down his suggestion. – I have to finish the survey, but how about meeting me a couple of hours before dinner? We can take a close look at some of the more interesting features of the mounds. Then we can walk back to the inn and enjoy another wonderful bouillabaisse. I am sure you can get a plentiful catch even if the waves are turbulent today? A strong man like you should have no trouble handling the dinghy. See you later?

The murderer knew it had to happen that day. The victim was as good as dead, and traces of the upcoming kill had to be hidden in the same area as the other victims. They had to stay hidden under the stones for another thousand years.

Helene had finished the survey and worked for many hours measuring the inside and outside of the mound when she heard the approaching dinghy working hard to fight the increasingly heavy swells. She looked at the small rubber boat going up and down like a drunken yellow rubber duck. The author was a little early, but that was no surprise. Last evening she had seen lust send ripples through his body. He had barely managed to control his amorous approach as he got drunker. He was a man who did not take no for a no, and did his utmost to get what he wanted. The writer aimed the dinghy straight for the place she was standing ready to catch the mooring rope. Helene felt there was something ominous about his approach.

Parsons could not remember last time he had felt so passionate for a woman… And last night he had been so close to get into the archeologist to bed… So close… He jumped ashore while Helene expertly fastened the rope he had tossed her. How beautiful she was. How she fitted the landscape. A blond Valkyrie. He longed to caress her face and feel her perfect skin.
– Are you planning to start your own mound, he said with a smile as Helene pulled the dinghy on shore. Her perfect smile showed that she was warming up to his natural charm.
– Ha–ha! Very funny, she answered. – I need to know how many archology students I will need to move stones and eventually prepare for a full excavation in the years to come. Have a look at this narrow entrance into the smallest mound. I have to crawl to get to the interesting stuff. My students constructed the entrance and a tunnel last summer as part of their master degrees. I wanted to write a paper on an insertion approach instead of the top–down approach to mound excavations.  However, approaches working in South–American pyramids’ do not work well on grave mounds in Europe. Would you like to have a look inside?

The murderer saw of how perfect the bits of the puzzle seemed fall in place. The time had come. The inside of the mound would be the perfect hiding place. It would just be a matter of collapsing the tunnel over the body.

Helene pulled open the makeshift door and crawled into the tunnel. – Come on, Parsons! Don’t be afraid of long dead skeletons. Crawl in and have a look at what we have found so far. Now you have a chance to get hands on information on Viking burial customs for your new book. I’ll even show you a few half buried artifacts. Nothing like real life for inspirational writing, you know.

Parsons knew that the invitation to join her was the key to future pleasures and hands on her body were exactly what he needed. The nearness and pleasant smell of the archeologist would only add to the excitement of being in something as unusual as a Viking mound. The narrow tunnel opened into a small chamber and the light from Helene’s headlamp cast a steady white led–light on the makeshift wooden structure. Parsons could think of nicer places to be with a beautiful woman, but when she touched his neck to get his attention, it was like getting an electrical jolt.
– You know, she said with a shy smile. – I do like you and your books. I do want to get to know you better. But, I have needs…  Romantic needs in special surroundings, if you see what I mean?
   Parsons answered by letting his hand glide up her back towards her neck. This was much more exiting that he ever had thought possible. His excitement grew when she responded by pressing closer and slowly turning her face towards his. Her lips opened… Inviting a kiss as he felt a tickling of her fingers behind his left ear.
– First a kiss and then… he thought as the thin, age old Viking pin penetrated the skin behind the ear and into his brain. The perfect thrust. Helene pulled him close and stared into his dimming eyes. She gave him a tender kiss as she felt life leave him. She had never been so close to any of the other men she had killed. The arousal and reaction were fitting a mortal Valkyrie and the pleasures faded slowly in a warm glow.

The archaeologist let the headlight shine at the many bone fragments of the thralls and servants that had been forced to follow the dead Viking chief to Valhalla. Parsons was going to rest in peace in good company, she mused, crawling out of the mound. Outside she pulled hard on the rope that collapsed the timber structure. - A pity, she thought. This site would have been the perfect tourist site. Thousands of people would have learned more about the Viking Age. The gold artifacts would also rest in peace together with the dead. Her report and recommendation would strongly advice against any kind of excavations. The cost would be immense and she would also stress that the mounds should remain unopened for future generations of archeologists.
   Helene tossed the splintered remains of door into the water and checked that the entrance was blocked with big enough stones to stop amateur grave robbers. Then she loosened the mooring rope and watched the receding tidewater carry the rubber dinghy out of sight. The grey day had brought more than she ever could have wished for.

That evening, when she was sitting alone with her after dinner coffee the landlady told her with tears in her eyes that the dinghy was found drifting far from land without the writer onboard. He was presumed drowned in heavy seas and the Sea–rescue had stopped looking for the body.
 – When shall strong men learn to wear a life jacket? she exclaimed almost accusingly. Helene put on her best smile, as was proper for such occasions.
 – What a shame, she said. – He was such a knowledgeable man.

The next morning Helene enjoyed the Inn’s excellent breakfast. She replayed the moment of death time and time again. Thoughts about the decomposing writer, now resting on top of the brittle bones of the long dead, gave her a warm feeling. She was quite sure that she would come back next year. A few days in this open landscape made her breathe freer.

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