Authors: Kate Ellis
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General
Kate Ellis was born and brought up in Liverpool and studied drama in Manchester. She has worked in teaching, marketing and
accountancy and first enjoyed literary success as a winner of the North West Playwrights competition. Keenly interested in
medieval history and ‘armchair’ archaeology, Kate lives in north Cheshire with her engineer husband, Roger, and their two
Kate Ellis was nominated for the CWA Short Story Dagger 2003 for her story ‘Les Inconnus’.
The Bone Garden
is the fifth Wesley Peterson novel.
The Merchant’s House, The Armada Boy
An Unhallowed Grave
The Funeral Boat, A Painted Doom, The Plague Maiden, The Skeleton Room, A Cursed Inheritance
The Marriage Hearse
are also published by Piatkus.
For more information regarding Kate Ellis log on to her website:
The Merchant’s House
The Armada Boy
An Unhallowed Grave
The Funeral Boat
A Painted Doom
The Plague Maiden
The Skeleton Room
A Cursed Inheritance
The Marriage Hearse
Published by Hachette Digital
All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2001 by Kate Ellis
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.
Little, Brown Book Group
100 Victoria Embankment
London, EC4Y 0DY
With many thanks to Ingrid Wood for all her help with the West Indies connection.
Also thanks to Olly for sharing his cricketing expertise, and to Tom for creating
Near Bordeaux, France
The man stared at the shape lying beneath the faded cover on the ancient iron bed and took another sip of wine. Château des
Arbres, last year’s vintage: full bodied with a hint of oak, just as a claret should be. It tasted good. The fact that he
had been party to its creation – that he had tended the vines and had picked the plump grapes with his own hands – gave him
a glow of satisfaction. He rolled the wine around his mouth and swallowed. This year’s vintage would be even better, he thought.
But this time he wouldn’t be there for the grape picking. He would be gone well before the hectic days of the harvest.
He drained the dusty glass and listened to the sounds of the night: the low hum of the château’s generator in the outhouse
across the courtyard, the insistent noise of the crickets and the occasional screech of a hunting owl. Then he stood, walked
to the bed and looked down at the prone figure for a full minute before summoning the courage to touch the face. He brushed
the back of his rough, calloused hand against the cheek and found it to be as cool and lifeless as marble, despite the warmth
of the evening.
He looked around the sparsely furnished room with its whitewashed stone walls and its ill-made second-hand furniture. The
outhouse roughly converted into workers’ accommodation by the owners of the château had been his home for the past two years
and he had some good times there: he recalled the lazy summer evenings of wine and lovemaking and the drunken bonhomie of
the grape harvest. But now he was leaving the château for good. He picked up the hold-all that contained all his worldly possessions
that he had everything he needed before stepping outside into the cobbled courtyard, shutting the flaking wooden door carefully
behind him. The inexhaustible crickets still chirruped in the warm, lavender-scented air, but otherwise all was silent – just
as he had hoped it would be.
A door creaked open near by: probably one of the other workers emerging from his room to head for the primitive lavatory in
the corner of the courtyard. The man pressed himself against the stone wall, hardly daring to breathe. But the velvet darkness
of the night shielded him and he watched, statue still, as the man he recognised as Jacques staggered across the cobbles,
too preoccupied with his bladder to look about him.
He relaxed as Jacques disappeared round the corner. Then he picked up his hold-all and scurried towards the great poplar-lined
drive that led away from the château, thinking of the lifeless figure on the bed and hoping desperately that it wouldn’t be
discovered until the morning.
Devon, England – A Year Later
The lost gardens of Earlsacre had been stripped of the weeds and briars that had choked them and hidden their form. The work
had begun two months before, and over the long midsummer weeks rude mechanical diggers and buzzing strimmers had intruded
into the gardens’ secret places and laid bare the walls and the gatehouse that had guarded them from the eyes of the world
for so many years.
Jacintha Hervey, poet in residence to the Earlsacre Project – as it was called in official circles – sat on the crumbling
terrace overlooking the gardens, pen poised, perched on the canvas stool that she had brought especially for the occasion,
and watched the workers below, hoping for inspiration.
A line about the awakening of Sleeping Beauty in her impenetrable castle flitted through Jacintha’s head but, other than that,
she could think of nothing to write. She chewed the end of her cheap ballpoint and stared down into what remained of the walled
garden, now a mess of holes and trenches as the archaeological team went about their work.
She watched as the crouching, soil-caked young diggers worked in their rectangular trenches, sometimes chatting, sometimes
lost in their task. Surely their earnest activity would inspire a poem of some kind, even a few lines about the young uncovering
the old. But still no words came. Jacintha reached for her Thermos flask. It was time for an inspirational coffee … laced
with something stronger to get the creative juices flowing.
As she sipped the reviving liquid she sensed that the calm, absorbed atmosphere in the garden had altered. The change was
subtle at first – urgent whispered words, a flurry of activity here and there. Then the archaeologists who had been working
in other parts of the gardens downed tools and converged on the walled garden, crowding around the centre. One of them produced
a tiny mobile phone from an inside pocket and began to talk into it urgently. Something was happening. Something had been
found. Jacintha stood up and strained to hear, but she was too far away to catch any telltale words.
A young man was running towards her. He was about to rush past, but she put out a hand to stop him and gave him her sweetest
‘Jake.’ Her eyes met his. ‘What’s going on? Have they found something exciting?’
Jake glanced towards the ruined house, torn between duty and potential pleasure. He eyed Jacintha’s ample curves appreciatively
and chose pleasure. ‘They’ve uncovered a human hand in the middle of the walled garden, buried underneath that stone plinth
we lifted this morning.’ Their eyes met again and Jake made no effort to move. ‘I’m going to tell Martin. We weren’t expecting
to find human remains on this dig so we’ll have to inform the authorities – he won’t be best pleased. We can’t afford a hold-up.’
Jake stood still, his eyes on Jacintha’s breasts, clearly visible beneath the thin cheesecloth of her white top.
‘Hadn’t you better go and tell him, then?’ Jacintha said with a sly smile. ‘And if you’re free at six o’clock tonight why
don’t you join me in the King’s Head. You look as if you could do with a drink.’
‘Why not?’ He gave her a knowing smile. She was at least twenty years his senior, but what did things like that matter nowadays?
Jake turned and ran towards the house, and Jacintha watched the back view of his tight faded jeans appreciatively. Then she
strolled down the steps towards the walled garden. The crowd had dispersed, leaving a solitary archaeology student squatting
on the brown earth, staring at the ground.
Jacintha approached slowly. ‘What’s everyone so excited about?’
The young man looked up at her. ‘Looks like we’ve found human remains – it’ll be another hold-up we can’t afford.’
Jacintha looked down at the ground. The bones stood out stark against the darkness of the soil. A skeletal hand protruded
from the earth, the bony fingers scratching, grasping, as though trying to escape.
‘It looks as if he’s trying to get out, doesn’t it? Clawing his way to the surface – just like he’s been buried alive.’
Jacintha turned away and shuddered. Then she took her notebook from her bag and began to scribble. Inspiration had come at
Good gardens at Earlsacre but not as the mode now is. Walled garden with shell grotto and fine parterres and a curious sundial
at its centre. I liked not this garden, the place being somewhat cold. The other gardens fine with shady walks and arbours,
fruitful trees and odiferous herbs. The house is also fine in its way but the furnishings are not of the latest. The hospitality
of Sir Richard Lantrist is somewhat rough, as one might expect of one who has never known good society
From Jacob Finsbury’s Account of His Travels around the Houses of England, 1703
Brain Willerby, partner in the firm of Blake, Willerby and Johns, Solicitors, sat staring at the file on his desk, his heart
pounding and his mouth dry.
He put his hand up to his balding head as though trying to run his fingers through some imaginary luxuriant mane. What was
the best course of action? What was the right thing to do? Should he involve the authorities? Or was he overreacting? Perhaps
there was some perfectly simple explanation. There must be. The alternative was unthinkable.
Willerby stared down at the file again. He needed proof, solid proof one way or the other. He stood up, walked over to the
window and looked down on Tradmouth’s bustling High Street. It was one of the advantages – or disadvantages – of having an
office on the first floor above the Morbay and District Building Society that distraction was always there on tap in idle
He spotted a young woman in the crowd. She was dark and slender and wore a tight Lycra top which displayed her assets to best
advantage. His eyes followed her down the street longingly until she disappeared into a shoe shop. He swallowed hard. Then
he noticed two policemen in shirtsleeves ambling through the crowd and an idea came to him. If he could speak to someone unofficially,
off the record … someone who would guide him as to the best course of action.
There was that detective sergeant he’d met at the police station when he had been called there to represent one of his less
salubrious clients. Brian had noticed him particularly; a young black man, a rare representative of the ethnic minorities
in the local force. And it wasn’t only the colour of his skin which had marked him out as different from his colleagues: he
had been well spoken, obviously well educated; an unassuming young man with a sympathetic manner. Brian wrinkled his brow
in an effort to remember the sergeant’s name. Patterson? No. Peterson. Wesley Peterson.
He picked up the phone and dialled the number of Tradmouth police station.
‘How can people be so gullible?’ Detective Constable Rachel Tracey said to nobody in particular.
Wesley Peterson looked up from his paperwork. ‘What do you mean?’
‘A report’s come in from Morbay. An old man told a tourist he’d lost his wallet and claimed he couldn’t get home to some faraway
place. The tourist lent him fifty quid which the man said he’d return by first-class post as soon as he got home. This was
ten days ago and the tourist hasn’t seen hide nor hair of the money since.’
Wesley shrugged. ‘The man might have lost the address.’
Rachel smiled as if she thought Wesley was being particularly naïve. ‘It sounds like a clever scam to me … playing on people’s
‘Any similar incidents been reported?’
‘Not yet. Give it time.’
At that point DC Steve Carstairs walked into the office and, ignoring Wesley, sat down and tried to look as though he was
Rachel walked over to Wesley’s desk and leaned over his shoulder. He could smell her perfume, feel the warmth of her breath
on the back of his neck. ‘Now there’s someone who keeps his better nature well hidden,’ she whispered.