Buried Deeds — Part 2 ( A Meghan Bode Mystery)

Meghan and Evelyn reach the excavation site, which lies south of the Victorian house in a now-fallow field. Large sheets of thick, black plastic cover the summer’s work, held in place by cinder blocks.

“Jackson’s kept an eye on everything,” Evelyn says. “Especially after last month’s storm. But the tarps didn’t blow away, and there wasn’t any damage. You shouldn’t have any problems when you start again on Monday.”

“The heavy equipment will be here Tuesday. We’ll clear more of this rise and open up the area to the south. The house must have been here. High ground was the best spot, and we found some good early eighteenth-century ceramics on the surface. If the weather cooperates, we’ll excavate any new features when we finish the ones from this summer.”

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Evelyn says. “I know you planned on only digging part of the cellar, but I’d like you to do the whole thing. I’d hate to think something special was left behind. Actually, can you do all the features that way?”

Meghan rubs her neck in thought. “We can, but it’ll cost more. Remember, it’s all done by hand, and the cellar’s about thirty square meters in area. That’s more than three hundred square feet.”

“I keep telling you, Meghan, money’s not an issue. Why do you always worry about it?”

Maybe because I’ll never have anywhere near as much as you, Meghan thinks.

“Because most business folks do. They don’t like the state or feds requiring archaeological work before construction can start. They want it done quick and cheap.”

“Really? Maybe that’ll be enough to keep Riverton from building on the next property. How they got the county to change the zoning is a crime. A shopping mall next to my farm? Never. They don’t know who they’re up against.”

Meghan understands Evelyn’s complaint, even though “shopping mall” is an exaggeration. Riverton Developers’ plans call for a small building for six specialty shops and a restaurant. She wonders if Evelyn and her husband carry enough weight to derail the project.

Before buying Wyndham Thicket, Evelyn was a real estate agent, handling exclusive properties in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. Douglas Browne is a senior partner with a powerful DC law firm. But Riverton has deep pockets and political ties. The legal battle should be fierce.

A flurry of long red fur and legs interrupts their conversation. Evelyn’s two Irish Setters bound across the field, each dropping a ball by the two women. In one smooth motion, Evelyn scoops up the slobber-laden offerings and throws them down the hill behind Meghan. Maisy and Chess stumble into each other in their eagerness to play.

“Such klutzes,” Evelyn says with a laugh. “They’re not the sharpest pencils in the box, either. But anyway, I don’t care what it costs. I really want you to find everything you can. Don’t you think a small reproduction building would be a nice way to show the artifacts?”

Before Meghan can reply, Evelyn’s smile disappears. “Oh, no. Maisy, Chess—stop!”

But the dogs knock Meghan to the ground in their rush to continue the game.

She rises to her knees, only to take Chess’s wagging tail in the face.

You can’t spend a few dollars on obedience training? Meghan wonders.

“I’m so sorry,” Evelyn says, pushing the dogs away to help Meghan stand. “I wasn’t thinking. I should have thrown the balls to the side.”

“That’s okay. I’ll take dogs over livestock any day. I slipped into a fresh cow pie once. Hopefully never again.”

She brushes the dirt from her pants. “A reproduction building would be a nice touch. But we might not find any complete artifacts or even broken ones that can be put back together.”

“Even the broken bits fascinate me,” Evelyn says. “I love holding something my fifth great grandparents could have used. Isaac Walker was a good man, no matter how much Mr. Sloma slanders him with those old legends.” Eying the western sky, she adds, “That rain will be here sooner than I thought. We’d better get back inside.”

A rumble of thunder punctuates her words, and the two women pick up their pace. Maisy and Chess, spooked by the noise, are soon far ahead of them.

I hope you’ll stay tuned for Part 3 next Tuesday.

New to the Meghan Bode Mysteries? You can catch up with her first complete story and the previous installments of Buried Deeds with this link.

34 thoughts on “Buried Deeds — Part 2 ( A Meghan Bode Mystery)

    • Thanks, Anne. 🙂 I think the ground will dry in time for Tuesday’s excavations. Given how good the preservation is at this site, I’m sure Meghan will find something intriguing as the work progresses. 😉

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    • We all start solving mysteries as soon as we start them, don’t we? If I do my job well, even if you’re right, you’ll go through some sections where you think maybe you’re not…. 😉

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      • Now, that is true. Yes, the only time I don’t care for it at all is when the only reason I couldn’t solve it is that some crucial information has been withheld and there’s no way it could be solved without that.
        Even if that crucial info is given only a few pages or so before the solving. Lol That’s even okay.
        Scott

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    • Open test units and trenches can be flooded. Best-case scenario, you just have to bail them out and let them dry a bit before digging again. But heavy rains can cause trench walls or deep test pits to collapse—and there goes your “provenience” information for the soils that caved. It’ll be difficult or impossible to establish which strata any artifacts in those collapsed soils were from. And Murphy’s Law would probably kick in—some potentially informative artifacts would be found in those now context-less soils!

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  1. That Evelyn is quite the powerhouse. I love strong female characters…and playful dogs who are likely to stumble into…well, this is your story. Until next week!

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    • I don’t think I could write a female main character who isn’t strong. 😉 And it’s interesting how readers are picking up on the dogs. I didn’t know they would turn out to be such a scene stealer. Maybe that old line about actors not working with children and animals extends to writers!

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  2. I love the dogs part (of course)! They keep sneaking into my stories too and they’re always fun to add. At least if they help with the digging, then Meghan won’t have to dig as much. I like the Evelyn character too and can really picture it all.

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    • Somehow, I don’t think Maisy and Chess are careful enough with their digging to help Meghan. 😉 I bet they try, though! Those two came barreling into the story, almost knocking me down, too. So curious. So boisterous. What will they do next? 😉

      Evelyn may be petite, but she is one determined woman. Riverton better be ready for her!

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  3. Wonder how those dogs are going to help Meghan in her dig? 🙂 I have an English setter, and she’s wily enough to track a mole underground and then dig it up to the surface. I bet Irish setters aren’t too different. Great piece.

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    • Thanks, Kate. 🙂 I think Maisy and Chess might want their own story after these comments. 😉 The few setters I’ve known haven’t been all that bright, but the breed is supposedly an intelligent one. But they are full of energy and love people. You know these two are fascinated by Meghan’s excavations. 😉

      I thought people might laugh at their slobbering and whacking Meghan with a face-full of feathery tail hair. But instead everyone’s speculating on what they’ll find! I’m not saying. 🙂

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  4. Hmm, I have my theories about those dogs, and so do plenty of others reading from above. I shall keep them to myself. I might have to borrow “provenience” for a lexicon word of the day, if you don’t mind, I didn’t know that one. However I have seen the scenario of the washed out artifacts before which leave little clue as to the date origin thanks to the way they were uncovered, so I see what you mean by that.

    Looking forward to part 3.

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    • By all means, feel free to borrow “provenience.” Like “sherd,” it’s a distinctly American spelling. Most other English-speaking countries use “provenance.” Why we spell it so differently is a mystery to me.

      I suppose in a short story, every “character” is subject to more scrutiny than might be the case in a novel. So readers have picked up more on the dogs than I expected. But Chekov need not worry—these “guns” will be used. 😉

      The scene has been set, and it’s time for Meghan to get to work. Where is that backhoe…?

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    • I didn’t expect Maisy and Chess to be quite so popular! But they are sweet dogs, despite their boisterousness. They can’t wait for Meghan to start digging again. 😉 As I just mentioned to Elliot above, it’s time for Meghan to get back to work—there are mysteries to be encountered!

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  5. Maisy and Chess are fabulous. You’ve summed them up very well and I can ‘see’ them bounding across the field 🙂 I’m looking forward to knowing what part they will play in the story 😀

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    • Thanks, Dianne! They’re actually the first animal characters I’ve included in a story. They won’t be the last—I know some will show up in a sequel to Death Out of Time. One of the scenes is already written—it just needs a book to go around it! 😉

      These two just love to have fun and adventures. I’m sure one awaits. 😉

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  6. Whose nose what’s up? Love the story romping along. ( and can identify with a “visitor” getting knocked down – great comment by Meghan – clever way to add info about the owner…are Irish Setters the Marilyns of the world: beautiful, but more than just coat?)
    Always love the info about the dig process.
    (A little annoyed here because a judge has given approval to continue the work on that road without changing route – even though some tribes object and the bones are so old – and they scraped not hand dug…sigh)

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  7. It’s funny that Irish Setters are usually viewed as “beauty and no brains.” But as I did some reading on them, it sounds more like they’re very smart—just very selective in the commands they choose to hear. Having been nearly knocked over by one a few times, it was an “easy” bit to write for Meghan. 😉 Luckily, I’ve never slipped into a fresh cow pie—that’s all Meghan.

    I doubt it’ll surprise you that sometimes archaeology suffers when 1) a developer has a great deal of political clout and wants the project moving ahead, or 2) the state/federal representatives/senators feel pressure to make allowances and exceptions. Frustrating and not at all fair to the people who do play by the rules.

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    • Haha—we should mistrust everyone in a mystery, right?! The cast will expand—each character with his/her own agenda and motivations…. I just need all of them to share their stories with me! 😉

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