It's time for another outing for my police hero, Hazlitt, the only forensic archaeologist in thrillerdom. I am again presenting it as a TV script, to make it easier for later transition to the screen.
Exterior, a lonely moorland road, along which a solitary car is driving. Interior of the car. Inspector Whitstable is at the wheel. Sergeant Bollard is sitting beside him.
Bollard: Pretty bleak scenery, sir. Where exactly are we?
Whitstable: Well, Bollard, we're just coming up to the Yorkshire/Lancashire border. And it was up here, about 30 years ago, that they staged the first Pennine marathon. Three hundred hopeful runners set off into the mist and rain...
Bollard: Sir, can I ask if this is background briefing for a crime, or just general waffle to establish how well read and informed you are?
Whitstable: Oh, no waffle. No Stephen Fry-type performance. It's all strictly relevant to the case.
Bollard: In that case, I'll concentrate and listen.
Whitstable: I believe it was the first time they had tried to establish a serious North of England marathon. Of course, they already had a pretty tough fell-running tradition up North, but it was always going to be easier to get sponsorship for marathons. And so, in 1971, 321 runners set off on the first Leeds Lamb'n'Leek Pie Pennine Marathon.
Bollard: Lamb'n'leek pies?
Whitstable: They were the first sponsors. They were all they could find.
The car stops. The two men get out into the thick mist.
Whitstable: And so 321 runners vanished into the driving mist. But only 320 re-emerged three hours later. One was missing!
Bollard: Maybe he just hadn't finished, sir. Some people are so stubborn about marathons. Maybe he's still staggering around there in the mist somewhere, in his little tin-foil spacesuit.
Whitstable: Maybe, Bollard. Except that this was 30 years ago. And except that we know who he was. His name was Walter Skilton. They know that he started the race. They know that he didn't finish. And he has never been seen again since!
Bollard: Bloody heck. So why are they reopening the case now?
Whitstable: Because athletics has had a lot of bad publicity recently with all the drugs stuff, and they thought that a soft, gentle murder case might take off some of the pressure.
Bollard: Murder? They think this bloke Skilton was murdered? But how on earth are we going to open an inquiry on something that happened 30 years ago?
Whitstable: That's easy. We simply send for our forensic archaeologist, Hazlitt.
Suddenly Bollard clasps at Whitstable's arm and points through the gloom. A ghastly figure is approaching, holding what looks like a scythe.
Bollard: My God, sir! What's that? Is it... Death?
Whitstable: That's crazy. Why would Death want to go to Leeds?
Bollard: To get some Leeds United shareholders, maybe?
The figure comes closer. It is only a man carrying a spade.
Whitstable: Ah, Hazlitt, it's you!
Hazlitt: Sorry if I'm a bit late. I came across some wonderful Viking remains just down the road. Had to have a poke around.
Whitstable: What was wonderful about them?
Hazlitt: Well, I didn't know the Vikings had corner shops.
Whitstable: What makes you think it was a Viking corner shop?
Hazlitt: This fossilised snack. [He shows them an ancient pasty-shaped stone.]
Whitstable: That's not a fossil. It's a Leeds lamb'n'leek pie. And it can't be more than a week old.
Hazlitt: But it's as hard as a rock!
Whitstable: All right. Ten days old, then.
Bollard: Sir, is it possible that this corner shop isn't Viking at all, but actually dates from the Pennine marathon on which our man Skilton was murdered? And was some kind of refreshment stall, or something?
Hazlitt: Yes, it's quite possible. Just give me a little time to dig around.
Whitstable: How long, Hazlitt, as if I didn't know?
Hazlitt: Three weeks should be quite enough.
Whitstable: All right, three weeks. But you'd better come up with something amazing.
Tomorrow: forensic archaeologist Hazlitt comes up with something amazing!Reuse content