"So where are we going anyways?"
"Patience, my dear. You'll see... soon enough." "Always such a mystery with you."
He smiled. "Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep... but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye... at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead... shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed."
"What are you on about? Better not start preaching at me."
He gave a chuckle. "Just a bit to start you on the way."
Maggie's mind was drifting into the haze of the laudanum; she didn't take any notice of how thin and raspy his laugh sounded. It held no warmth or humor and was instantly swallowed up by the night air. She stumbled on the uneven ground and then felt John's grip on her arm as he guided her into the darkness.
Deputy Marshal Archie Lean stood in the Portland Company's cavernous machine shop. He wasn't quite as trim as when he'd first joined the police a decade ago, but he still retained the sturdy build developed in his youthful days as a boxer and rugby football player. He doffed his hat and tugged on a handful of sandy hair, as if he could somehow forcibly extract an explanation from his spinning mind. Lean pulled out his notebook and glanced at his earlier jottings under the heading of 6-14-92. Halfway down the page, he caught sight of two lines of poetry that he didn't recall writing: "She seemed a thing that could not feel / The touch of earthly years." He crossed out the lines. Lean needed to focus his thoughts, so he lit a cigarette, his fourth in the hour since he'd first seen the body. Maybe he could make it the rest of the day without another. His wife hated the smell on him, but he knew that Emma wouldn't mind once she heard what he'd seen tonight.
Dr. Steig had stepped out a few minutes earlier, and Lean was now alone with the woman's body for the first time. The wooden floor planks had been pried up and removed, exposing a roughly circular patch of dark earth about eight feet in diameter upon which the body now lay. A pitchfork stood before him, plunged into the dirt. Two of the prongs ran straight through the young woman's neck, pinning her to the ground. She was on her back, arms out to the sides, her legs spread apart. A burned-out lump of candle tallow sat just below her right foot. She still wore her long black skirt, dark hose just visible at the ankles, and black leather shoes. Her white blouse, black coat, and several other garments had been removed and stacked neatly several yards away. Although she was naked from the waist up, that had not been immediately apparent at a distance. Two long cuts crisscrossed her chest. Blood, drying darkly, covered nearly all her torso, though her arms were a ghostly white. Her right arm was severed at the wrist, a pool of blood where the missing hand should be.
The deputy was no stranger to bodies that had met a violent end. They were mostly men, older ones who had lived out a decent portion of their allotted years. At least it seemed that way, since they typically led hard, unforgiving lives that aged them prematurely and sped them on to their ends. Doubtless, Maggie Keene was on a similar road that would have robbed her of any final traces of hope and innocence in a short time, but earlier that night she had been young and alive.
Lean noted a fifteen-ton Cleveland crane overhead. The machine was suspended above, resting on rails on either side of the room so it could move heavy steel pieces and equipment the length of the building. The crane's great hook held a chain from which a massive circular gear dangled at eye level. The large iron cog would soon help drive some powerful engine across great distances, but now it hung motionless and silent.
Facing him, scrawled along the side of the gear, was a series of chalk letters: kia k'tabaldamwogan paiomwiji. It was too long to be any sort of worker's note for some special component for the rail car they were building. He supposed it was either foreign or perhaps some sort of code. The letters were printed in his notebook already. He took a deep drag and let the cigarette smoke linger in his lungs a few seconds more as he prepared for another inspection of the body, hoping to notice something new and telling. Soon Mayor Ingraham would arrive, and Lean would be called upon to explain what steps had been taken, what he made of the scene, and the plan for apprehending the murderer. He could answer the first question.
Excerpted from The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields. Copyright © 2012 by Kieran Shields. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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