"Fireplaces," he said. "Two of them. This must have been the kitchen." He stood up, taking a couple of paces back. "The floor level's been raised at some point. We're only seeing the top half of them." He half-turned towards the group, reluctant to take his eyes off the discovery. "Wonder which one the servant was roasted in . . ."
One of the fireplaces was open, the other closed off by a couple of sections of brown corroding metal.
"What an extraordinary find," Gilfillan said, beaming at his young co-worker. She grinned back at him. It was nice to see people so happy in their work. Digging up the past, uncovering secrets . . . it struck Rebus that they weren't so unlike detectives.
"Any chance of rustling us up a meal then?" Bobby Hogan said, producing a snort of laughter from Ellen Wylie. But Gilfillan wasn't paying any heed. He was standing by the closed fireplace, prying with his fingertips at the space between stonework and metal. The sheet came away easily, Marlene helping him to lift it off and place it carefully on the floor.
"Wonder when they blocked it off?" Grant Hood asked.
Hogan tapped the metal sheet. "Doesn't look exactly prehistoric." Gilfillan and Marlene had lifted away the second sheet. Now everyone was staring at the revealed fireplace. Gilfillan thrust his torch towards it, though the arc lamp gave light enough.
There could be no mistaking the desiccated corpse for anything other than what it was.
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.
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