"When people think of archaeology," Gilfillan was saying, "they almost always see it in terms of digging down, but one of our most exciting finds here was in the attic. A new roof was built over the original one, and there are traces of what looks like a tower. We'd have to climb a ladder to get to it, but if anyone's interested . . . ?"
"Thank you," a voice said. Derek Linford: Rebus knew its nasal quality only too well by now.
"Creep," another voice close to Rebus whispered. It was Bobby Hogan, bringing up the rear. A head turned: Ellen Wylie. She'd heard, and now gave what looked like the hint of a smile. Rebus looked to Hogan, who shrugged, letting him know he thought Wylie was all right.
"How will Queensberry House be linked to the parliament building? Will there be covered walkways?" The questions came from Linford again. He was out in front with Gilfillan. The pair of them had rounded a corner of the stairs, so that Rebus had to strain to hear Gilfillan's hesitant reply.
"I don't know."
His tone said it all: he was an archaeologist, not an architect. He was here to investigate the site's past rather than its future. He wasn't sure himself why he was giving this tour, except that it had been asked of him. Hogan screwed up his face, letting everyone in the vicinity know his own feelings.
"When will the building be ready?" Grant Hood asked. An easy one: they'd all been briefed. Rebus saw what Hood was doing - trying to console Gilfillan by putting a question he could answer.
"Construction begins in the summer," Gilfillan obliged. "Everything should be up and running here by the autumn of 2001." They were coming out on to a landing. Around them stood open doorways, through which could be glimpsed the old hospital wards. Walls had been gouged at, flooring removed: checks on the fabric of the building. Rebus stared out of a window. Most of the workers looked to be packing up: dangerously dark now to be scrabbling over roofs. There was a summerhouse down there. It was due to be demolished, too. And a tree, drooping forlornly, surrounded by rubble. It had been planted by the Queen. No way it could be moved or felled until she'd given her permission. According to Gilfillan, permission had now been granted; the tree would go. Maybe formal gardens would be recreated down there, or maybe it would be a staff car park. Nobody knew. 2001 seemed a ways off. Until this site was ready, the parliament would sit in the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall near the top of The Mound. The committee had already been on two tours of the Assembly Hall and its immediate vicinity. Office buildings were being turned over to the parliament, so that the MSPs could have somewhere to work. Bobby Hogan had asked at one meeting why they couldn't just wait for the Holyrood site to be ready before, in his words, "setting up shop". Peter Brent, the civil servant, had stared at him aghast.
"Because Scotland needs a parliament now."
"Funny, we've done without for three hundred years . . ."
Brent had been about to object, but Rebus had butted in. "Bobby, at least they're not trying to rush the job."
Hogan had smiled, knowing he was talking about the newly opened Museum of Scotland. The Queen had come north for the official opening of the unfinished building. They'd had to hide the scaffolding and paint tins till she'd gone.
Gilfillan was standing beside a retractable ladder, pointing upwards towards a hatch in the ceiling.
"The original roof is just up there," he said. Derek Linford already had both feet on the ladder's bottom rung. "You don't need to go all the way," Gilfillan continued as Linford climbed. "If I shine the torch up . . ."
But Linford had disappeared into the roof space.
"Lock the hatch and let's make a run for it," Bobby Hogan said, smiling so they'd assume he was joking.
Set In Darkness by Ian Rankin. Copyright Ian Rankin 2000. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be reproduced without permission from the publisher, St Martin's Press.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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