You’re really not supposed to be down there
A short story by
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © Richard Blackah 2015
‘OK, everyone, please stop there and look over to your right.’
Having all been staring at either their guide books or their smartphones, the untidy group of tourists all walked into the back of each other, prompting a brief round of apologies, in a variety of different languages.
‘On the far wall you’ll see a large fresco depicting the scene of Roman Citizens enjoying the public bathing, right here at Bath’s famous Basin Museum.’
They all peered over at the rather tired looking work of art.
‘It’s thought to have been painted by Clumptious Reginious,’ the Tour Guide continued, ‘the son of Perinious Reginious, a Senator of Rome itself.’
‘How do you spell “Clumptious”?’ asked a young girl taking notes at the front, who had a strong German accent.
‘Excuse me?’ asked a tall man at the back, sounding more Eastern European. ‘Is that man supposed to be down there?’
‘I’m sorry, but can we keep our questions to the end please? We have a lot to get through and I really need to be at the bank by one.’
It wasn’t even the end of her first part-time job of the day, but Becky Phillips had already had enough. She was only doing it, and all the others she had, because her parents refused to pay her way through university, but the whole “work” thing was all rather tedious and being a Tour Guide for Bath’s virtually unknown Basin Museum was the worst of the lot.
‘So anyway,’ she continued, ‘as I was saying…’
‘But he really doesn’t look very well.’ said the tall man at the back again, looking down to his left, instead of to the right, and at a security guard lying face up at the bottom of one of the empty ancient basins.
‘Oh, I’m sure he’s fine.’ she said absently, ‘Now if we can all look over to the right again…’
‘But he’s got blood coming out of his head!’
‘Excuse me, sir, but would you mind not interrupting me all the time? I’m trying to give a tour here!’
‘And what looks like a sword sticking out of his chest.’
By this time everyone in the group was looking the wrong way, down at the man splayed out at the bottom of the basin, with blood seeping from his head, and a Roman sword embedded deep into his upper thorax.
Becky glanced at the body and back to the group again. At this rate she wasn’t even going to have time for a sandwich. ‘Honestly everyone, I’m sure he’s OK. The security guards are always up to something strange. He’s probably doing a training exercise.’
Most of the group mumbled in agreement and went back to looking at the fresco again.
‘I’m sorry Miss, but it looks to me like he’s been attacked, or even murdered. I really think you should call the Police, or at least an ambulance.’
Having given up all hope of having lunch, she looked back down at the security guard. On closer observation, she had to agree with the man at the back; he didn’t look too good. She knew nothing about medicine, she was studying Business, but if pushed on the subject she’d have to say that the man did look as if he was dead, especially given the fact that he did have a Roman sword sticking out of him and that there was indeed a large amount of blood.
‘I’ll call for someone.’ she said, and turned around to shout, ‘JEFFREY… JEFFREY!’ Not hearing a response she really hollered out, ‘JEFFREY!!!’
A moment later, Jeffrey Hetheringshaw came hobbling down from the level above. He was the Senior Curator for the museum.
‘Yes, yes, yes, I’m coming, I’m coming. Now… what is it?’
‘There’s a body down there.’ Becky said, pointing at it.
‘Oh, I see, yes. Hold on.’
Jeffrey carefully detached the red cord that cordoned off the empty Roman Basin, and which normally stopped people from falling into it, and tentatively approached the edge of what looked like a decrepit half-sized swimming pool. Then he leaned forward, cupped his hands around his mouth and called out, ‘Excuse me, but I really don’t think you’re supposed to be down there!’
‘For god’s sake Jeffrey, he’s dead!’ said Becky, folding her arms and looking at her watch.
‘Oh, do you think so?’ he asked, turning around.
‘Er, yes Jeffrey, he’s definitely dead. He’s got a sword sticking out of him, for Christ’s sake.’
‘Yes, I see that now.’ He really didn’t, but never liked to admit that he could hardly see his own coffee at break time, let alone anything beyond the length of his arms. ‘I suppose I’d better call for an ambulance then.’
The tall man at the back spoke up again, ‘Personally, I think you should call the Police. It looks to me like he’s been attacked, and as he’s a security guard, it may be that you were robbed last night.’
‘You’re right young man!’
The man wasn’t young at all, but he let it go.
‘I’ll call for the Police Men People.’ Jeffrey continued. ‘You’d all better wait here until they arrive. They may need to ask you some questions.’
Becky was losing her patience. There was absolutely no way she was going to stand there for another hour surrounded by a bunch of brainless tourists and an equally moronic group of policemen, as they all asked her a series of stupid and ultimately pointless questions.
‘Look, Jeffrey, couldn’t we just ignore it for now? He’s not going anywhere and I’m sure the Police have got better things to do than attend to what’s probably just been a nasty accident.’
‘Well, I don’t know. Amie isn’t it?’
‘No, it’s Becky!’
‘Sorry, Becky, but if the man has been attacked and stabbed then we really should call for the Police Men.’
The crowd mumbled their approval again; after all, this was proving to be much more exciting than what they’d first expected from a tour of Bath’s Roman Basin Museum.
Becky had to think fast. At this rate she’d not only lose her lunch break but also be late starting her next job at the bank.
‘But Jeffrey, if we get the Police involved in a murder inquiry it’s going to attract a huge amount of bad publicity for us. They’d also have to close us down for weeks on end as they do all their forensic investigation stuff, and right in the middle of our peak tourist season, which would put a real dent in our expected income for the year.’
Jeffrey turned around to look at this girl, as best he could anyway, with real interest. She was much more intelligent than he’d first thought, and he could certainly do with someone like her helping out around the place a little more.
‘You’re absolutely right my dear! Now…’ he swivelled around to look at the group as a whole, ‘does anyone have any ideas as to how we can hide the body of this poor man who must simply have had a nasty fall?’
The tour group all looked around at each other.
‘I suppose you could fill it up with water.’ suggested the tall man at the back.
Everyone turned around to stare at him. It was just such a good idea!
‘Yes, but wouldn’t the body then float to the surface?’ asked the German girl, not so easily impressed.
‘She’s right I’m afraid.’ said Jeffrey, nodding his head.
‘But what if we could weigh him down first?’ the tall man proposed.
Becky spoke up, ‘Yes, that’s it! There are loads of old statues around here. We could simply push one on top of him and then just fill it up with water. Nobody would be any the wiser!’
‘Well, yes,’ Jeffrey spoke again, ‘but which statue could we use?’
‘Does it matter?’ Becky asked. ‘They’re all the bloody same aren’t they?’
‘I suppose some of them are a little similar.’
Jeffrey didn’t think any of them were the same at all, and found the very idea to be deeply offensive however, he was a practical man and understood the importance of being able to hide the body as quickly as possible, certainly before the next group of tourists came through and most definitely before the Police got wind of it.
After scratching his head for a few moments he said, ‘I suppose we could use the Slaughtered Virgin of Zenopolis, out in the lobby.’
Having made up his mind, he pushed his way through the group, towards the entrance hall. ‘Follow me everyone, I’ll need your help if we’re going to carry it.’
The whole group, including Becky, looked at each other, shrugged, and followed on after him.
About five minutes later, they all came staggering back, now carrying the statue of the Slaughtered Virgin of Zenopolis. Jeffrey was leading, the tall man was carrying the statue’s feet, Becky had its head and everyone else just gathered around the sides, giving moral support more than anything else.
When the statue was parallel with the edge of the basin, Jeffrey raised his arm. ‘Right, hold it there.’
‘But how are we going to get it onto the body?’ asked the German student.
‘Can’t we just throw it on?’ the tall man urged, breathing hard.
‘Yes, I’m sure we can just chuck it on top of him.’ Becky said, beginning to think she may have time for lunch after all. ‘On three.’ she said, re-taking command of her group. ‘And one, and two, and THREE!’
With that, they flung the naked virgin down on top of the security guard where it landed with a loud, soft squelch.
‘Good shot everyone!’ said Jeffrey, clearly impressed with the athleticism of today’s youth.
They all gazed back down. The Slaughtered Virgin of Zenopolis now looked more like the Roman Temptress of Saducia, who’d just enjoyed excessive copulation with a Celtic Marauder, before running him through with his own sword.
‘I think that looks quite good!’ said Becky, enjoying herself. ‘Maybe we can leave it like that.’
‘But his blood has spattered out everywhere!’ said the tall man, who’d taken up his regular place at the back of the group. ‘I really think we’d best fill it up with water, just to be safe.’
‘Yes, quite right.’ piped up Jeffrey again, ‘I’ll fetch a hose. There’s one around the corner.’ And off he shuffled.
Becky glanced at her watch again, ‘I can still make it.’ she thought to herself and raced after him to lend a hand.
Moments later they returned, pulling a dark grey fire hose behind them. Reaching the edge, they dropped it in and Becky scurried back to turn it on. She then returned to join the group as they all watched the water spread out over the ancient floor.
‘That will take a while to fill up.’ Jeffrey said. ‘I think I’d best cordon off this basin again until it does. Thank you everyone. I suppose you can all be on your way now.’
‘Is it OK if I head off as well?’ asked Becky, trying not to appear too desperate.
‘Oh, er, is that the time already? Yes, of course my dear, and thank you again for your help.’
No sooner had the words left his mouth she was off, pushing and shoving her way through the tour group, heading out towards the entrance. It was going to be tight, but she might just make it.
Copyright © Richard Blackah 2015
The second in a series of short stories in which a part-time tour guide must hide a body, before her next job starts.