"No, but my shirt's snagged on one of the springs. You should come down and have a look. This is odd, Old Mel. The more my eyes get used to the dark, the odder it is."
"What can you see, boy?"
Old Mel chuckled. "You're on a bed and you've got windows round you? Sounds to me like you've found yourself an underground bedroom. What are the odds of that?"
He was wondering where the nearest psychiatric care unit might be. Whether analysis was included under the government thirty-baht universal health initiative.
"And there's..." the nephew began.
"A bedside lamp?"
"Oh, no. Old Mel. Old Mel."
There was a real panicky timbre to his voice.
"What? What is it?"
"There's skeletons down here."
Mel was hoping he wouldn't have to be responsible in some way for the young fellow's rehabilitation. Whether he'd be obliged to employ him in some menial position in which his affliction wouldn't be too much of a disadvantage. Scarecrow, perhaps? Maybe he could find a witness who'd swear the boy was already eight points brain-dead before he fell down the old well shaft. You had to be careful these days with so many unemployed lawyers around. Mean buggers, those lawyers.
"They animal bones, boy?" he asked, just to humor the lad.
"No, Old Mel. They're people all right."
"How can you tell?"
"One's wearing a hat."
* * *
That was as far as I managed to get with the fertile prose version. It takes it out of you, writing with heart. And it was just for me really. Sort of a confirmation to myself that my inner diva can still make love to the keyboard when she's in the mood. I have to keep her roped and gagged when I'm writing for the newspapers. They don't like her at all. They don't want love. They want a quick tryst in a motel room that's forgotten in a few hours. They want dates and times and figures and facts and stats. They want the names and ages of the victims and the perpetrators, the ranks of every police officer vaguely involved with the case, the verbatim quotes from experts, and the ungrammatical misinformation from eyewitnesses. They don't care what I think. I'm just that peculiar woman on the crime desk or, at least, I used to be. I'd try to sneak in the odd metaphor from time to time but the Mail would set their editorial medusa on me until my piece looked like a lexicon of criminal terminology and place names. This is what hit the newspaper shops on Sunday morning.
TWO DEAD BODIES IN BURIED VEHICLE
Chumphon province. Two unidentified bodies were found yesterday in a Volkswagen Kombi Type 2 camper van, registration number Or Por 243, from Surat Thani province, buried at the rear of a palm oil plantation in Bang Ka sub-district, Lang Suan district, Chumphon province. Police Major General Suvit Pamaluang of the Lang Suan municipality announced that the bodies were discovered at 0800 hours on the morning of Saturday 23 August by Mr. Mel Phumihan, the owner of the land. So far, the victims have not been identified and there have been no clues found as to how the vehicle became buried there.
At 1000 hours, constable Ma Yai and constable Ma Lek from the Pak Nam sub-regional municipality police station in Lang Suan sub-district were dispatched to Bang Ka following a call logged at 0923 hours. Upon their arrival at Mr. Mel's palm plantation they were met by Mr. Mel (68 years old) and his day laborer, Mr. Anuphong Wiset (22). The two men had been digging a well and had encountered an unexpected obstacle beneath the ground in the form of a complete 1972 model Volkswagen Camper van popularly known in the West as a Kombi with traces of red and cream trimming. The description of the vehicle was wired to the Surat police station and officers are still attempting to trace any missing vehicles answering this description. Desk Sergeant Monluk Pradibat at the central motor registry in Bangkok informed this newspaper that, "This vehicle will be particularly difficult to trace as computer records of missing vehicles date back only as far as 1994. Any records before that would be filed on paper forms at our central warehouse."
Excerpted from Killed at the Whim of a Hat by Colin Cotterill. Copyright © 2011 by Colin Cotterill. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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