"What the hell are you doin'?" Ray Kowalski quite literally did a double take as he walked into Inspector Thatcher's office at the Canadian Consulate. His exclamation startled his best friend and partner, Constable Benton Fraser.
"Good heavens Ray!" Fraser spun round on his heels at the sound of his friend's voice.
Now if Ray hadn't been freaked out enough by the sight that had met him a few moments ago, now he was totally spooked. Fraser was rarely startled, unless a pretty girl flashed a smile at him or something. He wasn't startled by the kind of things that startled normal people, Ray thought to himself. "What's up?" Ray asked, wary of the answer, "lost yer super hearin' or somethin'?"
Fraser was taking deep breaths, trying to slow his heart rate back down to a normal level. "As you well know," he began, "I don't have any super human abilities." He sighed and leaned on the shovel he'd been using. "I assume that the noise of the digging drowned out the sound of your approach."
"Yeah," agreed Ray, scratching his head, he was clearly not going to get the answers he wanted unless he asked direct questions, "er, about that..." he trailed off, it was just too ridiculous to put into words and he was quite used to ridiculous situations where his buddy was concerned.
"The digging you mean?" Fraser prompted.
"Yeah, the diggin'," agreed Ray, "what exactly are ya doin'?"
"I'm digging a hole," replied Fraser, matter of factly.
Ray sighed, put his hands on his hips and hung his head. So it was going to be one of those conversations was it? The kind of conversation where, even though it was Fraser who was being totally freaky here, he still managed somehow to make Ray look like the crazy one? “You know what buddy,” mumbled Ray, without lifting his eyes from the floor, “I'm just, er, I'm just gonna go out and come back in again.”
Fraser frowned and shrugged. “Right you are,” he said and returned to digging.
“Fraser stop!” Ray yelled.
Fraser immediately complied with the request. “I thought you were going to leave the room and re-enter?”
“It was a figure of speech Fraser,” sighed Ray.
“OK, let me try again,” Ray said. He didn't want this to turn ugly. Fraser was quite possibly the single most annoying man he'd ever met, but Fraser was his best friend, his partner. Ray trusted him with his life, with his inner most thoughts, he loved him like a brother and yet sometimes, just sometimes, he felt he could quite easily kill him, or at least kick him in the head. He took a deep breath. “Fraser...buddy...why are ya diggin' a hole in, er, in the middle of the Ice Queen's office floor?”
“Ah,” Fraser set down his shovel and crossed to Inspector Thatcher's desk. “I can see why you may think this looks somewhat odd.” Fraser picked up a roll of paper and spread it out on the desk.
“A treasure map?” exclaimed Ray, suddenly interested.
Fraser looked at his friend in stunned silence. Ray's childlike enthusiasm sometimes made Fraser smile to himself. “I'm afraid not Ray,” he said, “these are the original plans for this building. I was studying them yesterday in an attempt to determine exactly where our new furry friends are entering.”
Ray laughed. “Furry friends?” he grinned, “I take it ya mean the, er, the rats?”
Fraser nodded. “Turnbull's allergies have become rather severe of late and the Inspector...well, the Inspector is so far only aware of one visitation, but...”
“Ya mean ya didn't tell her about all the other rats?” Ray interrupted his buddy, somewhat taken aback, “ya lied to her?”
Fraser stood bolt upright and looked suddenly rather uncomfortable. “Not at all,” he said, unconvincingly, “I have simply not had the opportunity to inform her of the other occasions as yet.”
Ray grinned. “Y'know she'd freak out, so ya haven't told her!”
Fraser frowned and dragged his thumbnail across his eyebrow. “Well, I saw no need to distress the Inspector at this juncture,” he explained, “her time has been somewhat taken up lately with preparations for the conference.”
“Oh she's away,” Ray suddenly remembered, “so I'm guessin' she doesn't know, um, that you're diggin' a great big hole in her office either?”
Fraser shook his head sheepishly. “The Inspector has a rather strong dislike of rodents,” he explained to his partner, “I was concerned that her preferred method of dealing with them might be a little, how can I put this...brutal.”
Ray nodded. His partner cared about life, all life, even rats and he respected that. He didn't get it, but he respected it. Ray himself wouldn't have thought twice about laying traps or poison, but he knew that there was no way Fraser would have allowed that to happen, even if Thatcher had given him a direct order to do so. “So, er, while the Ice Queen's away at the conference thing, ya figured you'd track 'em down, round 'em up and...what? Ask them politely if they'd mind leavin' Canada?”
“Something like that,” replied Fraser, leaning forward and studying the plans again, using one hand to keep the corner from rolling back on itself.
“So, er, what's with these?” asked Ray, squinting at the text on the document.
“Well it occurred to me that the creatures have become rather settled,” Fraser explained, “I've been observing their behaviour and have come to the conclusion that they have been preparing a home somewhere within the Consulate building, however I have been unable to locate said abode.”
“Urghh!” Ray suddenly found himself looking around his feet and into the corners of the room, glancing under furniture and somewhat inexplicably over his shoulder, expecting to see hoardes of rats running about. “Ya really think ya got a, er, an infestation? Jeez Fraser, call Rentokil or somethin' will ya?”
“I'm sorry Ray,” replied Fraser, “but I see no need for the mass execution of these innocent creatures. It is perfectly possible to relocate them somewhere where they will be free to live their lives without causing distress to the human population.”
Ray screwed up his nose. “Yeah, if ya say so,” he replied. He turned his attention back to the plans. “So where d'ya think they're hidin' exactly?”
“Well,” began Fraser, “that is the question isn't it. I was hoping that the plans would indicate, for example, cavity walls or something of that nature, however, I wasn't expecting this.” Fraser pointed to an area on the plans and turned to Ray, raising his eyebrows in anticipation of his partner's reaction.
Ray tilted his head first to one side and then to the other, which somehow seemed to help him make sense of the plans. “Er, that's this room, right?” he said. Fraser nodded. “Er...” Ray scratched his head, he wasn't sure what he was looking at.
“Here,” prompted Fraser, tapping his finger lightly on the paper. “What do you see?”
“Um,” Ray looked at it for a moment, he had never been very good with technical drawings. He preferred art, he could get his head around artwork, he could interpret that, it had meaning to him, it evoked feelings in him, but this just looked like a series of straight lines. “Er...it kinda looks like a, er, a subway train with wings, goin' into a bank.”
Fraser slowly stood upright. He wasn't sure if Ray was joking or not. “Ray,” he began slowly, “this isn't a Rorschach Test.” He frowned as he thought more about exactly what Ray had just said. “Going into a bank?”
“Yeah buddy,” replied Ray, “y'know, they have those automatic slidin' doors.” He demonstrated the double doors opening and closing with his hands in front of his face.
“Ah,” a small smile appeared at the corner of Fraser's mouth, as understanding settled in his mind, “of course. In fact what you're looking at are a series of tunnels running right underneath this room.”
“Oh, like a secret passage or somethin'?” Ray was interested again now.
“Well I assume as they are clearly indicated on these plans that they were not built for covert purposes,” replied Fraser, tugging at his left earlobe, “more likely their intended use was for extra storage. I believe this building was originally designed as a domestic residence.”
“Oh,” Ray was a little disappointed. He walked slowly back towards the hole that Fraser had dug. It was about a metre square and almost as deep already. The floor tiles had been carefully lifted and piled in the corner of the room and Fraser had rolled the large rug and stood it upright behind the Inspector's desk, which was pushed a little further back towards the wall than usual. “Er, look Fraser, I may not know much about plans, or buildin' or nothin',” said Ray, peering down the hole, “but unless you're diggin' in the wrong place, which sure as hell is not like you, there's no tunnel down there.”
Fraser crossed the room and stood the other side of the hole. “Indeed,” he agreed. He folded his arms across his chest and stared into the hole. There was something wrong here, he thought to himself, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
Ray looked down into the hole too. He wasn't sure what he was looking at exactly, but it was strangely calming. There was nothing down there except earth, no distractions, it was peaceful. He shivered unexpectedly and looked up at Fraser. “Is this, er, y'know, symbolic or somethin'?” he asked, with half a grin, “Two cops starin' down a hole I mean.”
Fraser thought for a moment. “Well Ray, I'm not sure that I recall a specific mention of Police officers, but the Inuit believe that if you wish to understand something about yourself, you should dig a hole in the ground to find the answers you seek.”
Ray looked at him in disbelief. “Er, right.” He ran his hand through his hair, carefully making sure that his 'up' style remained intact. There were plenty of things he wished he understood about himself, but he was fairly certain that he wouldn't find any answers in a hole. “So, um, did ya find yourself?” Ray smirked, the question was only half ironic.
Fraser caught the smirk and returned a lopsided grin. “I would need to dig a much larger hole,” he replied. Then his face returned to it's usual stoic expression. “I must say, I was somewhat surprised at this.” He got down on one knee and picked up a handful of the soil he'd dug from the hole and let it trickle back through his fingers.
“It's just dirt Fraser?” Ray shrugged. “Perhaps they filled in the, er, the tunnels?”
“Ray, this isn't just any soil,” replied Fraser, “it is in no way similar to the soil types found in this part of Chicago.”
“I didn't know there was any, er, soil in this part of Chicago buddy,” said Ray with a smirk, “I thought it was all just concrete now.”
Fraser was about to speak when they were distracted by the sound of Diefenbaker barking. “He was sleeping in my office?” frowned Fraser as he and Ray went to find the wolf.
Dief was sitting outside the kitchen growling. Fraser got down on one knee next to the animal and followed his eyeline. “Hmmm...” he said.
“What Fraser?” Ray shifted his weight from one foot to the other, “don't do the 'hmmm' thing OK?”
“Sorry,” Fraser stood up, “Dief saw another rat.” He walked forward a few paces and then crouched again, reaching out and picking up something between his thumb and forefinger. He lifted it towards his face.
“Fraser!” exclaimed Ray, “tell me that's not what I think it is? And, er, tell me you're not gonna lick it?”
“Ray,” Fraser held out the small brown rat dropping in the palm of his hand, “I have no intention of licking rat excrement. That would be most unhygienic.”
“Greatness,” replied Ray, still disgusted. He'd seen his buddy lick the bottom of people's shoes in the past and if that wasn't unhygienic he didn't know what was.
“I can determine enough through olfactory analysis,” Fraser carried on, “and these are no ordinary rat droppings, at least not for this city.”
“So, what, ya got freaky rats livin' at the Consulate?” Ray said with a shrug, “doesn't surprise me at all Fraser.”
Fraser was about to reprimand his friend for his derogatory comments, when Constable Turnbull came running in, quite out of breath. “Sir,” he panted, “Sir, we may have a situation...oh hello Detective.”
“Turnbull,” Ray acknowledged the other Mountie.
Turnbull lowered his voice and tried to cover his mouth with his hand so as not to let Ray hear what he was saying. “Is Detective Vecchio privy to our current predicament?” he whispered, rather loudly.
“Yes Turnbull,” Fraser nodded seriously.
Turnbull breathed a sigh of relief. “Well in that case, I assume I am at liberty to discuss this. Besides, we may have cause to call upon your professional services Detective.” He stopped, stood to attention and took a deep breath before speaking again. “I have reason to believe that we may have unearthed a crime scene.”
Now Ray's interest was piqued. He wasn't sure what Turnbull had been getting at up until now. “What? How d'ya figure that Turnbull?”
“I have been visiting the library,” Turnbull explained, “I thought perhaps I might find an alternative version of the plans for this building, considering the ones we have appear to be incorrect in relation to the location of the tunnel.”
“An excellent idea,” nodded Fraser.
Turnbull beamed with pride at the compliment. Then his face became childlike with excitement again and produced a book from behind his back, opening it at a page he'd marked. “Look,” he said, “this is our building.”
“Indeed it is,” agreed Fraser, acknowledging the old sketch of the Consulate building printed on the page. Next to the sketch was a sepia photograph of a young woman, dressed in very old fashioned clothing, a long floating dress with a high frilly collar and long sleeves. Her hair was pinned on top of her head in a bun and her neck was adorned with a large pendant. Fraser began reading the text underneath. “Turnbull,” he frowned and looked up at his colleague. “What exactly is the subject matter of this particular book?”
“Ah,” Turnbull blushed slightly and closed the cover, allowing Fraser and Ray to see the title of the publication...'The Ghosts of Old Chicago'.
“Turnbull!” exclaimed Ray, “y'know there's no such thing as ghosts.”
Fraser remained strangely quiet.
“Well actually Detective, excuse me for disagreeing with you, but I think on this occasion you are very much mistaken.” Turnbull was standing to attention again, with the book tucked under his arm. Ray had to suppress a laugh, the younger Mountie looked suddenly like a little boy dressed up. A child with his new favourite toy, one that he knew all about and was going to tell you all about, whether you were interested or not. Turnbull proceeded to tell them all about an unsolved murder allegedly committed by a previous resident of the building, a highly respected lawyer named Gordon Higgins. “The body was never discovered,” explained Turnbull, “the alleged murderer was therefore never convicted of the homicide as all the evidence was circumstantial.”
“However,” Fraser added, he'd managed to read most of the page himself, “Mr Higgins confessed to the murder on his deathbed, with the suggestion that the body was buried somewhere in the grounds of this property.”
“Oh OK, but where does the, er, ghost come into it?” asked Ray.
“It is said that the victim, a Miss Violet Charleston, haunts this very building!” Turnbull replied, “there have been several sightings. It's all in this book.” Turnbull held out the tome for Ray, but Ray dismissed the offering with a wave of his hand and a sneer. “I know I've seen her,” continued Turnbull, “of course I didn't realise it at the time, but now I'm utterly convinced that I've experienced her visitations on more than one occasion. Are you sure you've never seen any ghosts here Constable Fraser?”
Fraser was unsure how he would answer that without lying so he avoided the question. “Constable Turnbull, if you're suggesting that sightings of this apparition are somehow proof that a body is buried under Inspector Thatcher's office then you really have leapt to a huge conclusion,” he said, scratching at his eyebrow with the tips of the fingers of his left hand. The mention of ghosts had left him feeling rather perturbed and he really didn't want to get into a discussion on the supernatural.
“Look, I don't know about, er, ghosts or whatever, but a deathbed confession?” Ray raised his eyebrows and looked at Fraser. He wasn't usually one to stick up for Turnbull, but he'd been a little surprised at Fraser's quick dismissal of his colleague's ideas.
“Well, yes,” Fraser acknowledged, “but the only proof at this juncture is a ghost, that is what you're suggesting Turnbull, is it not?”
“It may, or may not be,” replied Turnbull.
“Turnbull, this is no time for a cryptic reply,” Fraser had the patience of a saint most of the time, but Turnbull was able to try that patience all too easily.
“I apologise Sir,” Turnbull nodded subordinately. “If you'd prefer I amended my theory, I will of course comply, however I can confirm that I have witnessed a spiritual apparition first hand.”
“Constable...” Fraser suddenly felt rather guilty for snapping at him. He knew, of course, that the younger man may well be telling the truth about seeing ghosts. “We will, of course, investigate further, won't we Ray?” He glanced across at his partner, raising his eyebrows expectantly.
“Yeah, sure.” Ray nodded, “One less unsolved homicide in this city would be greatness, even if the case is colder than a snowman on a dogsled in the Yukon Territories. Er, good work Turnbull.” He glanced back at Fraser and caught his buddy's nod of appreciation.
“Detective, it's the North West Territories, or the Yukon,” corrected Turnbull. Fraser narrowed his lips, when would Ray ever learn that? “We must continue digging,” Turnbull said seriously, not bothered at all by Ray's lack of acknowledgement, “if there's a body down there we need to find it,” and he turned and marched off to Inspector Thatcher's office.
“Do ya really think Turnbull's seen a ghost?” Ray asked Fraser, who was looking a little pensive.
“With Turnbull, one can never be entirely sure of anything,” Fraser replied, deftly deflecting the discussion. “My first priority has to be the rodent infestation,” he continued, “I really need to resolve this before the Inspector returns from the conference. Now as I was saying, my initial analysis of their droppings indicates that they are eating a rather more varied diet than the average rat in this city which would suggest that they are not foraging for food in the dumpsters located in the immediate vicinity.”
“Er, so they may not actually be livin' here after all?” Ray queried.
“I'm beginning to believe so,” Fraser replied, “rats can actually cover a large area quite quickly, I assume that we have a perimeter breach somewhere and they are entering that way.”
Ray was about to rib his buddy about the expression 'perimeter breach' when he presumably meant a gap in the fence, but they were both shocked by the sound of Turnbull screaming. They quickly glanced at each other and ran into Inspector Thatcher's office, to find Turnbull standing rather awkwardly in the hole.
“Great scot, are you alright?” asked Fraser as he and Ray took each of the other Mountie's arms and pulled him out.
“I...I...I saw her!” Turnbull was actually trembling. “In the corner, I was so shocked I tripped and fell into the hole.”
At that moment, Fraser saw his father out of the corner of his eye and turned to meet the gaze of the dead man. “Nothing to do with me Son,” Bob Fraser spoke, shrugging his shoulders.
“Well I hope not,” replied Fraser, his patience being tried by the other person in his life who was able to do that so effectively.
Turnbull, of course, assumed he was being spoken to. “No I did Sir, I really did,” he flustered, “I saw the g...g..ghost!”
“Jeez Turnbull,” Ray took a step backward. “Ghosts do not exist, OK! Fact, no arguin', that's just d-u-m dumb.”
Fraser looked apologetically across at his father. “Oh don't worry Son,” Bob waved his hand dismissively, “I'm quite used to that. In fact, he's quite right as far as I can tell.”
“Did you see anything?” Fraser asked his father, puzzled by his last statement.
“Yes, I told you Sir,” Turnbull thought Fraser was talking to him again. “I saw the ghost, the woman, the one who was murdered!”
Fraser shook his head, this was getting rather confusing.
“Sorry Son,” replied Bob, “there really are no such things as ghosts as far as I'm aware.” Catching his son's look of puzzlement, he clarified, “The ones that float through walls and say 'woooo' I mean.”
“Ow!” Turnbull suddenly exclaimed as Fraser and Ray released his arms and he tried to put weight on his left foot.
“Did you injure yourself in the fall?” asked Fraser as he helped his colleague to a chair and began unlacing the man's boot.
“Ow!” Turnbull said again. Evidently he had.
A short while later, Turnbull sat in the chair, his left ankle expertly iced and elevated by Fraser and now Ray was digging. Fraser had been paying attention to Turnbull and hadn't noticed that Ray was spreading earth all over the floor. He couldn't really complain though, they were now all curious to find out if, indeed, there was a body buried there. His father had left, his visit proving fruitless in terms of information regarding the possible murder scene, or the existence of ghosts for that matter.
“I believe you've only suffered a sprain,” Fraser said to his younger colleague, “but we should get you to the hospital for an x-ray, just to make sure.”
“Not until we find the body Sir,” replied Turnbull.
“Turnbull,” Fraser was a little exasperated now, but managed to keep his voice calm. “I appreciate your keenness to solve a murder case and I'm sure Miss Charleston's descendants would be most grateful for your dedication and desire to bring her killer to justice, however I really don't think...” but Fraser didn't get a chance to finish his sentence as Turnbull screamed and almost fell off the chair.
Ray dropped the shovel, startled by the noise and it clattered to the ground. “Jeez Turnbull!” he exclaimed, “what the hell's wrong with you?”
“The ghost!” squealed Turnbull in a high pitched voice, “I saw it again, out the corner of my eye. Surely one of you saw it too this time?”
“Er, no,” replied Ray flatly, “I was kinda busy diggin' a hole.”
“I'm sorry Constable,” added Fraser, “I'm afraid I saw nothing.”
Turnbull was gesticulating wildly and pointing to the corner of the room. “Over there,” he said, his voice shaking with a mixture of nervousness and excitement.
Ray pulled himself out of the hole and followed the direction of the young Mountie's finger. “Here?” he said, pulling back the large curtains, “like this maybe?” Ray began gently tugging at the cloth and quickly the heavy material was billowing gently. Turnbull's face fell slightly. Ray lifted the curtain and tied it loosely in a huge knot to get it out of the way. Fraser had joined him now and the two men were crouched down surveying the corner where the floor and wall met with the long window. “Hey buddy,” Ray said, glancing up at his partner, “I think we've just, er, solved the mystery of the ghost and the rats too.”
“Agreed,” nodded Fraser. He reached out and touched the rotting window frame and a piece easily came away in his fingers. He turned it over in his hand and then passed it to Ray.
“Teeth marks,” stated Ray and Fraser nodded in agreement. A huge hole had already developed in the frame where the wood had crumbled away, plenty large enough for a rat to squeeze through. Ray pointed out of the window. “And I'm bettin' that their weird diet is comin' from that new restaurant across the street?”
“Ah,” Fraser nodded. Ray was probably right. There had been a whole variety of delicious smells wafting around each evening since the restaurant had opened last month. Of course it had attracted the rodents, Fraser realised now and and it appeared that the rats had been enjoying their easy access to warmth and comfort, post dinner.
Now the heavy curtain had been moved, a quite strong draught could easily be felt coming through the large gap. “It would appear that your ghost is simply the curtain blowing in the wind,” said Fraser, getting to his feet and turning back towards his colleague, expecting to find him looking rather disappointed, but Turnbull was no longer in the chair. Fraser spun round the other way to find him back in the hole, balancing rather impressively on one foot with the shovel in his hand. “Turnbull, you're already injured,” said Fraser with a frown, “please refrain from doing anything that may further endanger yourself.”
Ray walked back to the hole and sneered down at Turnbull who was digging furiously, placing the spoil carefully on the tarpaulin that Fraser had laid out. “There's no dead body in that hole,” Ray said, laughing at the man's neatness, even while standing on one leg and digging a hole. “Get out, before I drag ya out.”
Turnbull took a breath, about to protest, but then he froze on the spot and his eyes slowly widened. “Sir,” he whispered, “please would you be so kind as to pass me the book.”
“The ghost book?” clarified Fraser, frowning as he fetched the book from Inspector Thatcher's desk.
“Yes,” Turnbull's voice was barely audible now and he still had hardly moved a muscle.
Fraser passed the book to Turnbull and he and Ray crouched around the edge of the hole, peering down into the darkness. Turnbull fumbled over the pages, his hands were shaking as he tried to get to the page about the Consulate building and the mystery of Violet Charleston.
Fraser squinted and got the small torch from his pocket. “Good lord,” he exclaimed as he shone the light into the hole.
“What? What?” Ray still had no idea what was going on.
“Look,” Turnbull turned the book around and Ray saw the page he'd been looking at before, the one with the old sketch of the building and the sepia photograph of the missing woman. “Look at her pendant Detective,” prompted Turnbull, his voice getting bolder now.
Ray looked at the photograph again and then down into the dark hole. Fraser's torchlight was bouncing off the highly polished shine of Turnbull's boot and glistening off something else too. Ray athletically jumped into the hole to join Turnbull. He crouched down and reached out his hand.
“Stop!” shouted the two Mounties in unison and Ray abruptly complied.
Fraser pulled out a latex glove from the pouch on his Sam Browne and threw it down to Ray. “What,” Ray looked at his partner incredulously as he snapped his fingers into the latex, “ya really think this is a, er, a crime scene?” He brushed away some of the soil with his gloved fingers and immediately revealed the shiny object in it's entirety. It was a large cloisonné pendant, attached to a gold chain. It was caked in earth, but still quite recognisable for it's distinctive size and design. “Er, well, OK,” he said quietly, “it, er, that does look like the pendant she's wearin' in that old picture, but maybe she dropped it here one day or somethin'?” While he'd been talking he'd been clearing the area around the pendant with his hands. He carefully grasped the chain and tugged gently, but it didn't move very much.
Turnbull carefully cleared some more soil away with the corner of the shovel, no mean feat considering he was still balancing on one foot, half bracing himself against the sides of the hole with his bent knee. The soil was slightly more damp now they were down this deep and it was clumping on the shovel as he worked. “Oh!” he exclaimed suddenly. Fraser and Ray had seen it too and they both glanced at each other in disbelief and then at Turnbull who had gone very pale. Turnbull swallowed hard. “Detective,” he said quietly, desperately trying not to sound smug, “you may wish to make a telephone call.”
Three hours later the two Mounties and Ray stood in the Inspector's office and watched as the forensics team began to lift the bones. It was a slow laborious process and Ray really didn't see why they needed to make so much fuss. Before the team had even arrived Fraser had confirmed that the body in the hole was that of a young woman and, considering the presence of the pendant around her neck and other evidence which dated the find, it was fairly obvious that this was the body of poor Violet Charleston, murdered almost ninety years ago and buried, unceremoniously, in a shallow grave under the floor at the home of the man who had taken her life so brutally. In which case, thought Ray, evidence was irrelevant. They could safely assume that Gordon Higgins was the culprit, but he was long dead and even if it wasn't him, whoever had carried out the crime was also undoubtedly dead, so what was the point of all this fuss?
“Can't they just get her outta there?” Ray half whispered to Fraser, “it's kinda freakin' me out now. I've been in this room, er, like a hundred times or somethin',” he glanced over his shoulder, he wasn't quite sure why, but now they were disturbing a grave and as the light was beginning to fade, the shadows were making his mind think about the ghost stories Turnbull had told them earlier. He shook his head violently, hoping that would shake the stupid thoughts out of his brain.
“If nothing else, this woman deserves some dignity,” replied Fraser. “I believe I can persuade Inspector Thatcher to fund a simple funeral so that she can finally be laid to rest in peace.”
Ray nodded thoughtfully and Turnbull's lower lip trembled. Fraser turned to the other Mountie and placed a supportive hand on his shoulder. “Good work Constable,” he said seriously. Turnbull bit hard on his lip and nodded in appreciation.
Two weeks later, Fraser, Ray, Turnbull and Inspector Thatcher were gathered in the reception room at the Consulate sipping bark tea. Ray didn't really like it that much, although he'd recently discovered that if you threw enough candy into it, the taste was bearable. “To Violet Charleston,” Fraser raised his teacup in a toast and the others joined in.
Ray tugged at his black neck tie, loosening substantially so that it hung scruffily around his neck. “Well that was, er, short,” he said. Ray hated funerals at the best of times, but attending the funeral of a woman who had been dead for the best part of a century felt like the right thing to do. He had, however, been grateful for it's brevity.
“Indeed,” agreed Fraser, “although I understand why her great great great niece didn't want to give a eulogy. She didn't know of Miss Charleston's existence until a week ago.”
“Yeah,” agreed Ray, “and, um, that was cool Turnbull, tracing her last remaining relative I mean.”
Turnbull blushed a little. “Thank you Detective, I felt it was appropriate, considering the circumstances. It was good of her to fly in from Kentucky for the occasion.”
“Yes it was,” agreed Thatcher. She shuddered. “I still feel rather disturbed, knowing that the body was lying under my office all that time,” she admitted.
“It's kinda creepy,” agreed Ray. “That Higgins guy really went outta his way to hid the, er, the body didn't he.”
“Indeed,” nodded Fraser, “filling in the tunnel with earth shipped across the lake they call Michigan from Milwaukee so as not to arouse suspicions locally was certainly ingenious.”
“It's unfortunate that Milwaukee soil stains so much,” said Thatcher with a frown. “Thank goodness the cleaning company were able to remove it all from my rug,” she added, her voice a little lighter now, “and I must say Constable, you and Turnbull did a fine job of replacing all the floor tiles. It looks as good as new in there. As if there had never been a huge hole in the middle of the floor!” Thatcher pulled a face. She'd been shocked at first at the state of the Consulate when she'd returned from the conference, but as soon as she had the whole story rather exuberantly told to her by Turnbull she was much less annoyed.
“Pity he didn't think to, um, destroy those old plans I guess,” continued Ray, still thinking about Gordon Higgins, “or ya would never have thought to dig there lookin' for the rats in the first place and, um, Violet Charleston would still be there.”
At the mention of the word 'rats', Fraser suddenly developed a coughing fit, taking every ounce of his self control not to splutter the mouthful of tea he'd just taken all over his friend. Ray winced, he'd forgotten that the whole subject of rats was a touchy one around Inspector Thatcher.
She was too sharp, of course. “Rats?” she said, suspiciously looking at Fraser, “in the plural? You dug a hole in my office looking for rats? I thought we had one incident of a single rat...not an infestation?”
“Ah,” began Fraser, looking at his feet, “um, I was going to tell you about that Sir, um...” Just then, Fraser saw movement over Ray's shoulder and jumped slightly. It would seem that all this talk of ghosts had got to him too. Then he realised that the movement he'd seen was actually a ghost after all, but not Violet Charleston of course, it was his father. He leapt out of his chair and excused himself, mumbling something about finding Diefenbaker something to eat as he headed out into the hall. Thatcher frowned and watched him go. Fraser was the most exasperating subordinate she'd ever had...well, apart from Turnbull she suddenly realised. What had she ever done to deserve both of them?
“Hello again Son,” smiled Bob when they were out of earshot.
“Dad,” Fraser acknowledged. “We're sort of in the middle of something at the moment,” he began, “and as you can see there are several other people around. It makes it somewhat difficult to communicate with you without...well, you know what I mean.”
“Without people assuming you're completely unhinged?” Bob suggested, earning a shrug from his son.
“Which may be entirely accurate,” sighed Fraser.
“Well don't worry Son,” Bob continued, “I won't stay, I just wanted to pass on a message.”
Fraser frowned. “A message?” he queried. “From whom exactly?”
Bob's mouth twitched into a small smile and he nodded towards the open door of Inspector Thatcher's office. Fraser's mouth fell open slightly. “She wanted me to say 'thank you',” said Bob.
“You mean...” Fraser trailed off for a moment. “You've spoken to Violet Charleston?”
Bob just nodded silently. Fraser glanced towards the other room, he could see his friends still talking in subdued voices about what had happened. He would really like to tell them. After all, Ray and especially Turnbull had been instrumental in finding the poor woman's remains, perhaps they'd feel satisfied knowing she was at peace now? He hung his head, maybe he was unhinged? He could never tell anyone that he communicated with ghosts? Inspector Thatcher would have him committed for sure. He turned back to talk to his father again, but Bob had gone. Fraser smiled and went back to finish his tea.