It was as hot as all Hades.
The sun not a benevolent yellow orb in the sky giving life to the land but instead it was a white hot spot of malevolence searing everything.
The old man straightened and for the umpteenth time wiped his wet brow with an angry swipe of his arm. Now, not only was his arm and hand streaked with dirt but most of his face had a covering of sweat patterned dirt caked to his skin.
It looked rather surreal.
Especially in light of the fact that he was a beloved and respected Businessman of the district.
Rarely seen without collar and tie. A well tailored business suit. The latest cut from Saville Row in London. A figure of respectability instead of what he resembled at this moment.
A person of no fixed abode.
Admittedly he loved to potter in his veggie patch. His own creation. His pride and joy where he could immerse himself for hours away from the prying eye and strident voice of his wife. She wouldn't allow herself the ignominious gesture of going anywhere near the absurd Vegetable Patch. The old bloke spent hours of tireless work urging the products of his honest labour to sprout. To grow. There was nothing else like it, especially in his chosen field of endeavour from which he had only recently retired.
He knew though that he could not tarry to enjoy these plants that he loved so much.
He needed to finish this irksome chore immediately. If not sooner!
Firstly to get in out of this hot afternoon sun.
Then to have a shower and dress for the occasion. The great majority of the Executive was meeting this evening in the front Sitting Room of their majestic abode.
The original stone building of the district. Beautifully restored, sensitively extended throughout its history. Of significant historical rating. So too was its surrounds that were for-ever dwindling such was the need to find the money to constantly maintain the premises.
The meeting was to discuss that very problem.
The district boasted of a fine selection of historic homes, estates and gardens.
A great deal of money was made by the district, especially during the softer Spring, early Summer and Autumn months with 'Open Gardens' right across the area for all the 'rubberneckers' to explore, grovel and envy over. Wanting to know first hand how the other half, the upper other
The only people to turn a profit from this annual custom was the Ladies Auxiliary who provided tea and coffee, scones and cake. And the Motels and Hotels of the district. 'House Full' signs rarely extinguished during those week-ends.
He swung the mattock with anger at the thought.
On his property during the Spring months, and for the number of week-ends that the gardens were open to the general public, these purveyors of crumbs and spills were positioned strategically to one side of the serpentine loose gravel driveway that wound up from the impressive front gates some two hundred metres away. The driveway then circled around an immense Pepper Tree. A large loose gravel 'forecourt' became the Parking area for all those plebs whose cars endlessly dribbled motor oil onto the washed pale gravel surface.
A fresh truckload of the expensive stuff was required every year because of this.
Another point of discussion, he reminded himself.
The anger continued to boil.
The elderly women of the Ladies Auxiliary were ridiculously protected from the often harsh sun or sprinkling rain, cowering under hideously coloured gazebos that had been donated by some unknown colour-blind benefactor! Spilt coffee and tea and crumbs from the thousands of cakes and scones that they sold, the annoying signature of their position on the gravel driveway! Plus a myriad small holes where steel pegs were thoughtlessly stabbed into the bowling green like lawn to help stabilise and hold down these hideous little tents!
These thoughts made him more angry, causing him to stab the mattock harder into the unforgiving ground. He was down about a metre and close to the clay base. The tip of the mattock seemed to hit something solid. The old bloke bent down and scrapped some of the dirt away. It was bone and it looked to his untrained eye like a vertebrae section from the spine. He stepped back further along the trench, turned around and swung the mattock high. With a crunching sound it seemed to strike a resistance then break through. Again he bent down and was sure that he could make out a human skull.
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: