The story so far: yesterday I brought you the opening half of a TV mystery featuring Hazlitt, my forensic archaeologist. Hazlitt has been called in by Inspector Whitstable to investigate the disappearance of Walter Skilton, who set out to run the first Pennine Marathon in 1971, did not finish the race, and has never been seen since. Was he murdered during the race? Did he take a wrong turn? Did the Beast of Bothwell Moor attack him? Let us find out...
The scene is a lonely moorland road in the Pennines. In the distance is a motorway along which huge lorries go one way taking TV dinners and crisps to Yorkshire supermarkets, and the other way taking TV dinners and crisps to superstores in Lancashire. Yes, what a privilege it is for us to live in a developed country. But here on the small road there is only Inspector Whitstable and Sergeant Bollard, mooching around in the cold, swirling mist.
Bollard: I thought you said that Mr Hazlitt would be here.
Whitstable: He'll be here. He always comes up with the goods. He's just a bit eccentric, that's all.
At that moment a small van pulls up and Hazlitt, the forensic archaeologist, gets out.
Whitstable: Hazlitt! Thank God you've come. Had any luck? You've been digging around for a fortnight. You must have found something by now.
Hazlitt: I certainly have. Five miles down the road from here I've located the site of the Battle of Bothwell Pike, a Civil War encounter. Nobody has ever known who won it, so with any luck we'll be able to find out.
Whitstable: How will you know?
Hazlitt: By finding out which way the dead are facing. The losers are generally those heading away from the battlefield.
Whitstable: Hmmmm... And what about our case? Any news of our missing runner?
Hazlitt: Ah, yes. I found something else. A small pit at the crest of the run. Only a trained eye would have noticed it. I dug it up and found inside it a bundle of running clothes. And running shoes. And this number plate. Number 94. Which was Walter Skilton's number in the race!
Whitstable: My God. So they murdered him and buried him.
Hazlitt: Well, there's no sign of a body. Just his stuff. But it's in an interesting place, in the grounds of a transport café. And the café is run by a bloke who I think can tell us some more...
Mix to the transport caff. Hazlitt and Whitstable are asking the boss some questions.
Boss: Yeah, I've been here for years and years. Since the 1970s. I did think of expanding once, set up a chain of caffs, but I'm glad I didn't. One place is enough. We're licensed to do weddings here, you know. We're very busy.
Whitstable: Were you here at the time of the very first Pennine Marathon?
Boss: Yes, just about. Why?
Whitstable: Because in your grounds we have discovered the remains of Walter Skilton, who vanished during that race, and Running we have reason to believe that you murdered him. Therefore I am arresting...
Hazlitt: Alex! You've got hold of the wrong end of the bloody stick, haven't you! This guy didn't murder Walter Skilton! He is Walter Skilton!
Whitstable: You what?
Hazlitt: When you find people's clothes buried, it's usually because they're adopting new identities. My hunch is that Skilton "vanished" during the marathon, got rid of his running gear into a hole in the ground and took over his role at this transport caff. A marathon is the easiest place in the world to vanish in. Hundreds of people, all wearing underwear and looking alike. You wouldn't miss one till it was too late.
Whitstable: Is this true?
Boss: Spot on. I used the marathon as a chance to get out of my old life and into a new one.
Whitstable: In that case, I arrest you on a charge of...
Hazlitt: Alex. You can't arrest him. It isn't a crime to stop running. Or to bury your clothes.
Whitstable: So, that's it, then. Case closed. No arrest.
Hazlitt: No, there's one other thing.
Boss: What's that?
Hazlitt: When I was wandering round your lorry park, I couldn't help noticing you've got the remains of a wonderful old Viking privy out the back, there. Do you mind if I...?
Boss: Not at all. Give us a shout if you want any paper.
Hazlitt: No, I don't want to... Well, never mind...
Another Hazlitt adventure coming soon!Reuse content