Prologue

Index

‘Where did you even find a deckchair out here?’ Andrea looked amused and slightly nervous, as if he might have stolen it from an unsuspecting, undeserving old lady.

Peter glanced up from the magazine he had appropriated and took a good swig from the can of beer in his other hand before considering his response. Then he swung his legs, one on either side of the seat and sat up as best as he could. ‘It’s amazing what you can get out here if you’re willing to barter. They love a bit of bartering these archaeologists.’ He smiled, indicating that the word bartering was being used in a wildly loose sense. Andrea picked up a stone from the small spoil heap she had built up. With a flourish she sent it at him as fast as she could, it hit the tin can with a noise that sounded a little bit like “tonk”, and then got back to her work.

For his part Peter tried to ignore the conversations of the people surrounding him. A lot of the men talking had beards, which seemed to be a prerequisite for being a successful archaeologist, it made his face itch just looking at them. He couldn’t help hearing some of the things that the men were saying. A lot of the talk seemed to be around just how famous they would all become when the findings from this site were published. He knew Andrea was indifferent to fame and fortune, especially since they had taken possession of quite a large sum of money from the Colonel. However a number of the hairy guys, and a few of the marginally less hairy women, seemed to think they might become the talk of the excavating community. One of the men was saying, ‘It’s got to be worth something, it’s the earliest proto-settlement anyone’s found. Sure, there’s not a lot of it, but the remains we’ve got so far are something else. These burials are unlike any I’ve ever heard about…’

Thankfully Pete managed to drift away from the conversation at this point, trying to concentrate on the magazine in front of him, which was suggesting that wool was this year’s new black. He dropped it on to his chest, staring forlornly at the dark shadow cast by a tree nearby. The African sun seemed to laugh in the faces of the fashion people who had written the article. He looked towards the pit his wife was kneeling in. She was quietly involved in something. She looked up nervously and saw him staring, then blinked and realised he was scrutinising her, smiled and returned to her work. Peter lifted the magazine and tried to find a less depressing article…

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