Bring Out Your Dead - Part 17
Continued from Part 16
Josiah and Archibald stood either side of the coffin in what they hoped were attitudes of solemn reflection. Actually, although finally encountering their charge at last was a solemn moment, their minds were somewhat preoccupied with other thoughts at present.
Josiah's mind was busily replaying the frustration he had experienced trying to make the Spanish undertaker aware of their mission. Admittedly, his own lack of fluency in Spanish and the undertaker's absence of any understanding of English had not helped matters. Only the provision of the heap of documents relating to the transfer had finally resulted in their being led into this small and sparse 'Chapel of Rest'. In addition, Josiah was troubled by the knowledge that he had yet to make firm arrangements for the transport of Sir Lewisham's remains back to the U.K. and would have to do so as soon as he could decently tear himself away from paying his respects to the deceased.
Archibald's thoughts were running on a slightly different track.
"He, erm, he's not what I expected" He whispered.
Josiah glanced up from his reverent contemplation of Sir Lewisham's countenance and looked quizzically at his assistant.
"What do you mean, 'not what you expected'?" Josiah hissed.
"Well, there's the broken nose for a start" Archibald pointed out.
"He was a noted sportsman" Josiah explained, "Probably boxed for his college. There could be any manner of ways in which he might have experienced such an injury"
"I suppose so." Archibald admitted, reluctantly, "then there's the fingers"
"Fingers? What about his fingers?"
"He's only got nine and a half of them. Look, half of his little finger's missing."
Josiah leant a little closer to the coffin and studied the corpse in more detail.
"Ah, yes. I regret that I cannot advance an explanation for that, other than to reiterate that Sir Lewisham was a noted sportsman and such pursuits will inevitably lead to some minor injuries in the course of a long and well-lived life" Josiah resumed an attitude of contemplation.
"What now?" Josiah snapped.
"The tattoos. LOVE and HATE. Well, actually, LOVE and HAT as it turns out"
"Hmm" Josiah was a little discomfited about that. "I must own that I too was surprised about that but, when it comes to the gentry, their ways are not our ways. I'm sure there is a perfectly logical explanation"
"Was he like that before? I mean, back in England?"
"I could not comment, Archibald. I regret that I never had the pleasure of meeting Sir Lewisham in life."
"Exuse mí, he visto a la policía?"
Josiah and Archibald turned from their consideration of the corpse to view the owner of the voice and were surprised to find a vision of loveliness peeping around the door to the Chapel of Rest. Josiah was the first to speak.
"My apologies, dear lady. I regret that neither my colleague nor I are fluent in Spanish"
"Oh, that's fine. I thought you were the Spanish undertakers." Chantelle beamed a perfectly white smile, framed by exquisitely shaped pink lips, "I was asking if you had seen the policeman who should be stationed next door. I don't suppose you would know where he is?"
Josiah would have willingly supplied any number of policemen if he could. Archibald was standing open-mouthed, eyes firmly fixed on the image before him.
"I wish I could be of assistance, my dear" Josiah purred
"Please, don't concern yourself" Chantelle replied, imitating Josiah's speech patterns, "I should not have presumed. I do apologise, is this a relative of yours?" She indicated the open coffin behind them. Josiah and Archibald started, as if suddenly realising there was a body there.
"Ah, no, this is…"
"A stiff we've come to collect" It was unfortunate that Archibald should have chosen this moment to recover the power of speech. Josiah glared at him, Chantelle smiled and Archibald blushed deeply.
"Please forgive my colleague, we have had something of a trying few days. These are, in fact, the mortal remains of a client of our firm" Josiah produced a business card, "It is our happy duty to return him to England"
"Oh, anyone I should know?" Chantelle moved forward to try and glimpse the coffin's occupant.
"He's a cornet!" Archibald announced, still in a state of some mental confusion.
"He is a baronet" Josiah snapped, "Sir Lewisham Carnock, perhaps you have heard of him?"
"Really? He was one of my clients!" Chantelle edged further forwards.
"Clients?" Josiah enquired.
"I'm a trained masseuse. Sir Lewisham regrettably passed away during one of my treatments"
Josiah took a swift look at Archibald in the hope that he wouldn't contribute another fatuous remark but Archibald was clearly lost in a reverie which largely featured Chantelle in mid-massage.
"Could I just take a look? I would so like the opportunity to pay my last respects before he leaves Spain" Josiah and Archibald moved aside to let her approach the coffin.
"Oh!" Chantelle's involuntary gasp made both Josiah and Archibald jump.
"I do apologise, my dear. One's first view of the deceased can be a shock. I should have prepared you. Are you quite alright?"
"I'm fine" Chantelle composed herself again, rapidly, "It was just not quite what I expected"
Which was perfectly true. She had expected to see the fine, if somewhat ravaged, features of Sir Lewisham. Not the beaming features of Frankie Knight.