A pale and baleful moon looked down upon the green landscape below as the five men moved silently across the wet and marshy surface of the field. Apart from the leader who walked ahead the other four were burdened by the weight of the load they shared between them. The load had felt heavy enough when they'd started; now it grew heavier with every step. Their arms felt leaden, their muscles ached, and a great sigh of relief issued from each of the four when the leader stopped, raised his hand and uttered one word:. “Here.”
They slowly placed the heavy, lead-lined boxes upon the grass and untied the shovels that were strapped to the top, adding to the weight. Under the orders of the tall man who'd brought them to this spot, they began to dig, first cutting rectangular sods of turf from the ground, pieces that would later be fitted back into place to disguise the burial place. Next, they dug deep, almost as deep as the height of a man, a task made easier by the softness of the earth, but also harder by the degree of fatigue they suffered.
Two hours later it was done; the last pieces of turf were carefully re-laid to cover the traces of the burial. They were well away from any regular byways and it was unlikely anyone would find the place before the turf had knitted itself back into place. To all intents and purposes, the hole was perfectly hidden, its contents safely interred in the earth.
With the moon as sole witness to the burial of the heavy lead-lined boxes and their contents, the five men looked back just once as they left the field, their leader taking time to pause and mark the burial site on a map he carried tucked into his belt. Soon, the men had gone, the field lay silent and only the moon would know that they had been in this place that night, and of course, the moon would never tell.
A faint grey wash of daylight breaking through the crack in the curtains signalled the coming of morning. Joe Cutler stirred beneath the warmth of the duvet, listening to the steady drip of raindrops falling from the gutter to the ground below. Rain, bloody awful rain, third day in a row. No work again, they couldn't do a thing as long as this damned rain persisted. He and his team needed dry weather, solid ground beneath their feet, not the soggy morass that presented itself as long as this perpetual downpour lasted. Even then, when it finally stopped they'd have to wait for the ground to dry out before they could recommence the job, and the more time they lost the more money they lost.
Capshaw was paying them to get results, not sit around checking their equipment day after day, and Cutler's frustration was mounting. It was possible, of course, under normal circumstances to work in the rain, but the low-lying ground in this part of England meant that three days of steady rain had turned the ground into a veritable quagmire, and any attempts to achieve results were doomed to failure. No, Cutler knew he was destined for another irritating and annoying day of relative inactivity, with nothing but the company of his two friends and employees and the sights of Glastonbury to fill what should have been his working day.
Tempted for a moment to pull the duvet back over his head and return to the land of dreams, Cutler thought better of it, and swung his feet over the side of the bed. He stretched, then ran his fingers through his well-tousled hair. Standing, he walked to the window and opened the thin curtains, allowing his eyes to take in the sight of the miserable downpour that had brought operations to a standstill. In the distance, the ruined tower of St. Michael was visible atop the legendary Glastonbury Tor and reminded Cutler just why he was here.
After a hasty shower in the tiny shower room, (Mrs. Cleveley's Guest House wasn't exactly the Hilton Hotel), Cutler made his way down to the dining room for one of the landlady's superb home-cooked breakfasts. At thirty pounds a day for bed, breakfast and evening meal, Cutler certainly wasn't complaining about the standards of cuisine or comfort at the guest house, though with the bill for all three of them running at just over six hundred pounds a week, Capshaw's two-thousand-pound advance certainly wouldn't last long if the rain refused to let up.
The others had beaten him to it. As he walked into the well-lit dining area on the ground floor, the smiling faces of Winston Fortune and Sally Corbett greeted him from a table positioned under the large bay window that looked out upon the street.
Cutler made his way over to them and sat down next to the large Jamaican, who had become not only a trusted employee, but one of his closest friends. Sally Corbett sat opposite the two men, a cup of coffee in her hand.
“I don't know what the hell you two have got to look so happy about,” said Cutler, in response to the smiles from his friends.
“Good morning to you, too, boss,” came Sally’s response .
“Yeah man, like, how are you today?” Winston Fortune added.
“How am I today? You dare to ask me how I am today? Hell, Winston, we've been here for three days now, and apart from walking around the gift shops and sheepskin factory shops, and checking and rechecking and calibrating and recalibrating every damned piece of equipment in the van, we've done bugger all, and you ask me how I am today?”
“Wow, someone got out of the wrong side of the bed today, that for sure,” said the big Jamaican.
“This rain can't last for ever, boss, we'll get the job done, we always do,” said Sally, the youngest member of the team, and at five feet and half an inch tall (she always stressed the half-inch), by far the shortest. Sally Corbett was twenty-four, pretty in an academic sort of way, and purposely kept her hair cut on the short side, as much of her work involved being stuck in dirty holes in the ground, which would have made long hair wholly impractical. Cutler held his hand up to interrupt the flow of the conversation as Mrs. Cleveley came striding towards the table, smiling as always.
“Hmm, yes, the usual please,” said Cutler as Mrs. Cleveley greeted them heartily, inquiring if they wanted a full breakfast.
“Right, Mr. Cutler, two boiled eggs, toast and coffee it is then,” and she scurried off back towards the kitchen.
“As I was saying,” he continued, “Capshaw is paying us to find the bloody thing, not sit on our backsides all day. We started off with a two-week contract to do the job and this will be the third day we've lost already. May I remind you, my wonderful employees, that the advance I received is going to pay for this wonderful lap of luxury in which we're currently ensconced, but once I've paid the marvellous Mrs. Cleveley for our two week stay, there won't be much left to go around unless we do something to earn our fee?”
“But Capshaw will still pay us, won't he, boss?” asked Winston.
“Sure, he'll pay us. But do I need to remind you that we only get a flat fee if we see out the job and find nothing. The big bonus is only payable, if we actually find what he's looking for.”
“Yeah, like that's going to happen” joked Winston.
“You know, I have to agree with Winston on this one, I think you've really flipped this time,” jibed Sally.
“Listen you two doubters, I've seen the original document; he showed it to me spread out on his desk. I've no reason to doubt his sincerity or belief that the thing is genuine, and if it is and we can solve the puzzle of its location, we'll share in the rewards that such a find will bring. You've both seen the copy he gave me, I know it's not the same as having the real thing in your hand, but believe me, that document was old, very old.”
“These things can be faked, you know,” said Sally.
“Sure they can, and maybe someone made a mint by selling old Capshaw a dummy document and then doing a runner,” Winston continued.
“Listen, I don't think a reputable man like Malcolm Capshaw would be taken in by a fake document. He's very wealthy, very knowledgeable and from what I've heard, not a man to cross in either his business or personal life.”
“So you think it's the real deal then, eh, boss?” asked Winston.
“If I didn't, we wouldn't be sitting here now, waiting for the bloody rain to stop would we, you moron?”
“Rain, rain, go away, come again another day,” Sally sang the old childhood rhyme.
“Don't come back at all,” Cutler snapped as he looked out the window at the incessant precipitation that seemed to be drowning his prospects of achieving what his cohorts already thought of as being wildly impossible.
Mrs. Cleveley chose that moment to arrive at the table with two plates of scrambled eggs, ordered by Winston and Sally before Cutler had made his entrance.
“Here we are, my dears,” the landlady chimed in her sing-song Somerset accent. “Yours will be along in a minute, Mr. Cutler. They say the rain'll stop later this morning, I just heard it on the radio.”
“I hope you're right, Mrs. Cleveley, I really do,” he replied quietly as she scurried off to fetch his breakfast.
Twenty minutes later the three of them gave up their seats under the window and made their way to Cutler's room, where he unlocked his briefcase and removed the copy of the document Malcolm Capshaw had presented him just two short weeks ago.
“Right then, let's just go over this again, in the hope that the rain does stop and the ground dries out enough for us to start the search sometime tomorrow.”
“You're the boss,” said Winston as he stretched his large frame out along the edge of Cutler's bed.
Sally sat demurely at the foot of the bed; her legs tucked under herself as Cutler unfolded the document and placed it on the bed where the three of them could see it clearly.
The paper he placed on the bed was a photo of something that definitely looked old. Most of the wording was indecipherable to the three of them, being written in what today is referred to as Old English, though the words seemed to have a hint of French or perhaps even ancient Latin to their untrained eyes. Whatever the words were, they were faded enough to make most of the script unreadable, perhaps even to an expert in languages. What made the document so interesting and potentially valuable was the one word which was still quite visibly etched in centuries old ink towards the end of the first line at the top of the document.
As the other members of the Strata Survey Company looked on, Joe Cutler, owner and chief survey engineer of the company he'd started three years ago traced the index finger of his right hand slowly across the page. His finger stopped directly below the word that had convinced him to take the job when Capshaw had called him and invited him to a meeting in his office. Hell, if they were successful, it would put him and his company on the map big time, he knew that such a find would bring him instant recognition, and the contracts would come pouring in.
“You know of course, that most people don't even think Arthur existed and if he didn't then this is just a wild goose chase,” Sally pointed out.
“Will you just listen?” Cutler replied. “If Capshaw was convinced, then for what he's prepared to pay us for succeeding, we at least ought to try.”
“Okay, boss man, we're all ears,” said Winston as he waited for Cutler to speak. “Go ahead and tell us again just how we're going to find King Arthur's Excalibur!”
Two weeks earlier Joe Cutler had sat waiting outside the office of Malcolm Capshaw. He'd responded to a phone call three days previously, inviting him to a discussion with the millionaire, one which might lead to his company making a large sum of money and enhance its professional reputation at the same time. Cutler had been unable to resist the invitation, even though Capshaw's secretary had been less than forthcoming about the nature of the job her boss had in mind for Cutler's team.
Now here he was, sitting on a leather sofa in a palatial office in Stratford-on-Avon, with Capshaw's secretary looking over her glasses at him as he fidgeted uncomfortably on the squeaky polished leather. She looked around thirty years old, dressed in a smart, dark blue business suit, her long dark hair tied back professionally. Her shoes were of the highly glossy patent variety and her make-up could have been applied by a professional at a beauty parlour. Cutler found himself wondering if she performed more than secretarial duties for her boss; she looked the type.
The telephone on her desk buzzed and she listened to her boss via an earpiece hidden discreetly behind her left ear.
“Yes, sir, he's here. Of course, Mr. Capshaw, I'll show him in now.”
She rose from behind the desk. She was taller than Cutler had imagined as he'd watched her sitting behind the desk. She stood almost as tall as he was, which he found a little intimidating.
“Mr. Capshaw is ready for you now, Mr. Cutler,” she announced, somehow managing to make Joe's name sound like an insult. She led him through a heavy oak panelled door that led to what appeared to be a sort of air lock, with another identical oak door about five feet further on. Cutler realised this aided in sound-proofing Capshaw's inner sanctum, and also prevented anyone eavesdropping through the door.
The secretary didn't knock at the second door, she simply opened it and ushered Cutler through into the thickly carpeted office of Malcolm Capshaw.
“Thank you, Charlotte,” said the man sitting behind the large desk at the far side of the office. “That will be all for now. Do come in please, Mr. Cutler.”
Charlotte seemed to disappear on silent heels and the door closed equally silently behind her, leaving Cutler alone with Capshaw. The office was huge and Cutler couldn't make out the face of the man behind the desk until he drew nearer. The sunlight brightly glittered through the large plate glass window directly behind his host. As he moved closer he saw that Capshaw was a broad thick set individual, dressed immaculately in a suit that must have cost at least five hundred pounds. Capshaw was clean shaven with a good head of hair, expertly groomed, and Cutler guessed he was probably around fifty years of age. He had the steely, determined look of a man used to getting what he wanted, his eyes were grey and deeply penetrating in their gaze, and Cutler thought it might not be a good idea to cross a man like Malcolm Capshaw.