Time Enough to DieTime Enough to Die

Time Enough to Die

Wildside Press
February 2006
Trade PaperBack: ISBN 1-59224-981-7
Hardcover: ISBN 1-587-15294-0

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Matilda Gray is an expert on antiquities, especially the Roman and Celtic artifacts found in Great Britain. Gareth March is a Scotland Yard detective who must work with Matilda to solve the murder of a woman who knew too much about stolen antiquities. Matilda and Gareth have to stop arguing about the case and begin a race against time to prevent another murder. They do, after all, agree on one thing: the risk of death makes life and love all the sweeter. There's always time enough to die.


"Once again, Lillian Stewart Carl takes history and archeology and crafts them into a satisfying tale sure to please fans of all mystery persuasions. Time Enough to Die provides readers with absorbing characters, richly detailed descriptions of the dig and its environs, and, finally, a rousing good puzzle that will keep readers guessing whodunit till almost the end of the book. I highly recommend this book to not only fans of paranormal mysteries, but to anyone who enjoys a well thought out and written novel."
-- Teri Smith, Crescent Blues Book Reviews

"Take a town in England, interesting history, the spirits of a Roman couple and a Celtic woman, a hint of romance, the threat of death, a suspenseful conclusion, mix them together and you have a very good read. I appreciated that neither the romance nor the parapsychology overwhelmed the basic investigation of a murder and thefts. The characters were human and fallible. I'd say this is one of Carl's best books."
-- L.J. Roberts, DorothyL

"TIME ENOUGH TO DIE is a delightfully written and well-constructed murder story, set in the present day against a backdrop of Roman Britain and Druid rites, with a pleasingly accurate use of colloquial English! Boudicca--or as I knew her, Boadicea--rides again."
-- Anne Perry, author of SOUTHAMPTON ROW

"A high spirited, atmospheric mystery with memorable characters. Lillian Stewart Carl always gives her readers something extra. In TIME ENOUGH TO DIE she deftly disperses paranormal elements throughout her intelligent, entertaining whodunit."
--Denise Dietz, author of FIFTY CENTS FOR YOUR SOUL

"TIME ENOUGH TO DIE is a wonderful piece of entertainment with a great truth at its core. Carl's skill in bringing her characters to life, those sympathetic and those just pathetic, is remarkable. She is a writer of great complexity and charm."
--Charlaine Harris, author of DEAD UNTIL DARK

"In TIME ENOUGH TO DIE, Carl has successfully blended the British police procedural with elements of the archaeological and paranormal mystery subgenres into something inimitably her own and thoroughly enjoyable. She can't write fast enough for me!"
--Dean James, author of POSTED TO DEATH

"TIME ENOUGH TO DIE is an entertaining, spine-tingling romp in the tradition of Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels at their best."
--Deborah Crombie, author of AND JUSTICE THERE IS NONE

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Chapter One

The hand was delicately molded, the nails smooth, the flesh stained brown. It lay palm upward, fingers gently curved as though in supplication. Severed at the wrist, the hand rested on the block of peat that was one of a hundred ranged along a black, oozing gash in the earth.

Gareth March raised his eyes and looked across the moss and bog myrtle of the marsh to the higher ground at Durslow Edge. A misty rain moistened his face. But it was too late to weep for this victim, whoever she had been.

"I reckon it’s one o’ them bog bodies, Sir," P.C. Watkins said. "Every now and then the cutters will turn up a bit o’ one. Like empty leather bags they are, after all those years in the peat. Maybe two thousand years, Dr. Sweeney says." The constable turned to the workmen who stood nearby, the peat-digging machine looming behind them. "Right, lads, bog body or no we’ll have to have the boffins. Can you cut the peats somewhere else?"

With grumbles, good-natured and otherwise, the men moved away to plot a new strategy.

"Thank you for having us in," Gareth called after them. Watkins was right. The hand had to be investigated scientifically.

Gareth looked back at it. It was so well preserved he half-expected it to move.

"I reckon the rest o’ the body were chewed up by the machine." Watkins squatted down and extended his own hand over the one almost camouflaged by the peat. His hand was large and pale, like an anemone. It completely covered the smaller one. "A woman, right, Inspector March?"

"The forensics chaps can tell, I think."

"I reckon she were a pretty one. Dainty, like a princess."

"Princess Diana was six feet tall." Gareth saw no reason to let a muddy relic of dead time seduce him into sentimentality. "We’ll hand that block of peat in at the lab. No need to call out a scene-of-crime team. There’s no crime scene."

"Yes, Sir," Watkins said.

The mist thickened into rain. A breeze ruffled the dark surface of the nearby lake. The air smelled of damp vegetation and age, not of human death. What did the locals call this place? Shadow Moss. To Gareth it sounded like a name out of a fairy tale.

It’d been donkey’s years since he’d visited his grandmother’s cottage in Aberffraw, since he’d listened to her stories of heroes and demons, of gleaming swords and magic cauldrons. His grandmother had claimed to have "the power"—second sight. But Gareth was thirty now. He no longer needed to believe in rubbish like ESP.

His transfer to Scotland Yard had just gone through. London had bright lights and loud music. London was a long way from the Welsh borders, Shadow Moss, and such petty concerns as bog bodies.

Hunching his shoulders against the November chill, Gareth turned and strode away. When the mud sucked at his boots, he wrenched them free.

The taxi dived out of the parking lot onto the main road. Another car didn’t crash headlong into it but passed harmlessly by to the right. Ashley Walraven exhaled, hoping the driver hadn’t noticed her gasp of fear. They drove on the left here. She knew that.

She knew a lot. She’d studied hard, worked long evening hours in a supermarket, and stood her ground stubbornly to achieve this moment. "I’ve been accepted, Mom. Dr. Bates even wrote me a letter of recommendation to Dr. Sweeney. I’ll pay my own way. It’d be just too cool to study in England. It’d help my career chances."

"Career?" her mother had replied. "Did you know that half of all divorces happen when the wife makes more money than the husband?"

"Mom. . . ."

Mrs. Walraven had turned away with a dull shake of her head. Only now, as she blundered toward adulthood, was Ashley beginning to understand her mother’s despair—damned if you did, damned if you didn’t.

This trip was going to make a difference in her life, Ashley assured herself. She looked out the window, hoping to see half-timbered houses, castle battlements, Morris dancers, anything. What she saw was modern Manchester with its warehouses and concrete interchanges, cold, gray, and featureless beneath a cold, gray, and featureless February sky.

"Your first trip to the U.K.?" the driver asked.

Ashley considered his face in the rear view mirror. He was about her own age, with longish brown hair and a suggestion of a beard. His slight build was reassuring. The intensity of his gaze in the mirror was not. She shouldn’t expect British men to react to her any differently than American men did. Yeah, she thought, you work and work to look nice, and then you get attention you don’t want.

She sat up straighter and fixed her eyes on the window. "I’m spending a semester at the University of Manchester studying British history, art, and archaeology."

"Ooh, a scholar, now." His thin shoulders made a la-di-dah shrug.

Ashley set her jaw. So much for a polite answer.

"Mind your step. They found a blond lass like you out at Corcester yesterday, by Durslow Edge. Her throat was cut." The driver’s long, bony forefinger made an evocative swipe across his Adam’s apple.

Corcester. The old Roman fort where the dig was going to be. Great—the last thing she needed was for any of her mother’s dire predictions to come true. The taxi swooped down from the freeway onto a street lined with shops that didn’t look at all like those back home in St. Louis.

"She wasn’t a student, though," the driver went on. "Shop assistant. Went missing last week. The police think she was shagging her boyfriend in a layby. They’ve charged him with murder. Says he didn’t do it, though. Says he hadn’t seen her for several weeks, that she’d given him the push. She’d been having it off with someone though. The boffins must’ve had a giggle finding that out. You have a boyfriend?"

Ashley didn’t answer. Neither did she ask him to define his slang. She took a handful of change out of her purse and started sorting pounds from pence.

She’d worked a long time to earn this trip. It was going to make a difference. It was.

The sky had leaked rain every day this week. With a grimace at the unrelenting overcast, Matilda Gray ducked from the traffic of Gloucester Road into the tube station. An assortment of Londoners trudged through the turnstiles beside her, heads tucked, collars turned up. Footsteps echoed from the high ceiling.

Oh to be in England now that April’s here, Matilda thought sarcastically. Not that she’d expected sunny skies and balmy temperatures—she’d been here often enough over the years. But a lark or a daffodil or two could have had the decency to appear this time, to mark her first summons from Scotland Yard.

The stairs were crowded, as they usually were this time of the morning. Matilda played human pinball to the edge of the platform and stood there hemmed in by damp umbrellas and soggy carrier bags. In the people around her she sensed only an undercurrent of business and domestic worries, tamped by dull resignation.

Except for one hard, hot bolt of purpose. . . . She glanced to her right and intercepted the direct look of a young man.

Even as their eyes met he melted into the throng behind her. He’d hardly been flirting with her—Matilda was old enough to be his mother. Not that he reminded her of her own college-age son. Patrick had his moments of defensive tautness, when he yet to accept his own burgeoning persona. This youth seemed resentful and belligerent. It was an occupational hazard, Matilda told herself, to occasionally intersect some private trajectory of emotion.

A hot breath of exhaust stirred along the tracks, and the hem of Matilda’s raincoat twitched. A rumbling roar and a bright headlight heralded the approach of the train. The crowd shifted expectantly. A sudden shove in Matilda’s back thrust her forward.

For one long, breathless moment she hung in the air beyond the edge of the platform, suspended more by disbelief than by any law of physics. The wind of the onrushing train whipped her hair back from her face. Its roar filled her head to bursting.

A hand seized her arm and jerked her back onto the platform. She caromed off several bodies and came to rest gazing at a black-clad adolescent whose haircut made him look like a punk poodle. "Eh, luv," he said, "you mustn’t stand so close to the edge."

Her mind gasped, coughed, and squeezed out thought. She’d sensed purpose, but not malice. Any number of people had been standing behind her, on a crowded subway platform during morning rush hour. Her near-fall—her near-death—had been an accident.

The train stopped, thrumming, and its doors slid open. Poodle-haircut guided Matilda across the gap and placed her in the only empty seat. She craned past the bodies cramming themselves into the car, but couldn’t see the youth with the chip on his shoulder.

The doors closed, sealing her inside. The train jerked and sped away. Odd, how cold she was. She could hardly feel her own fingers clutching the strap of her shoulder bag. The stale air lay heavy in her lungs.

"Thank you," Matilda said to Poodle-haircut, who swayed above her grasping a ceiling knob.

"Yeh," he said diffidently, and turned away.

She looked at the Underground map above the windows. She had to leave the tube at St. James Park. She had an appointment at Scotland Yard.

That push in the back hadn’t been an accident. She must be getting a great reputation—no one had ever tried to kill her before. The pusher might have wanted revenge for some old, successfully-completed, job, like the Mound Builder scam in Arkansas or the affair of the Greek vase and the California museum. Or he might have intended to keep her from arriving at Scotland Yard and accepting a new job. Hardly fair, to attack her before she even knew what that job was.

Already she was a threat to someone, someone who knew her plans before she did. This promised to be an intriguing case. She’d have to raise her fee.

Matilda’s mouth and chin set themselves in a thin line that her enemies would have called mulishness, but which she preferred to call tenacity. She sank back into her seat, closing her senses around her like a nautilus retreating into its shell. Still she felt cold.

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