Detective Sergeant Rod Barnes surveyed the remains of Manton Rempville monastery with incredulity. He’d heard that 100,000 pounds had been spent on preserving the ruins and he couldn’t understand why anyone would do such a thing. Ruins were ruins for a reason. The natural order of things, in Barnes’s mind at least, was gradual decay – preservation only delayed the inevitable, like applying skin cream to wrinkles or a new coat of paint to a rusting car. Besides, the ruins were open to anyone and there was no entry charge, so they were never going to get their money back.

        Barnes stiffened slightly as he saw Detective Inspector Colin Knowles’s Land Rover chug into the car park and lurch to a halt too close to Barnes’s Morgan sports car for his comfort. He glanced down at the body and thought that Knowles, his boss, would find this crime scene interesting indeed. Barnes had heard that Knowles was on a new diet and that his latest culinary delight was vegetable kebabs cooked on his nearly new barbecue even in the depths of autumn.

        Taking care not to get his highly polished shoes muddy, Barnes walked across the uneven grass as a low, cold wind whipped across the historical site slightly disturbing his short, brown hair. He hadn’t seen much of Knowles in the past month as they’d both been away on holiday at separate times since the murders in Goat Parva. As he came towards him, Barnes noticed that even though the Inspector had lost weight, he still wasn’t able to tuck his Marks and Spencer shirt into his trousers.

        “Good morning, sir, how are you today?”

        “Fair to middling, Barnesy old son, the diet’s working well, nearly 15 pounds lost.” Knowles gripped his much reduced stomach with some pride.

        “How’s the gym going?”

        “Gradually doing more on the treadmill, lifting a few weights, and getting some stretching done on those large blue balls they have. That’s not easy – those balls are bouncy as hell – I almost fell off the first few times I tried to lie on the thing. Anyway, not only can I see my toes now, but I can almost touch them too.”

        “That’s good to hear, sir. The trick to keeping the weight off is by committing to a lifestyle change rather than thinking you’re on a diet.”

        “Good point, Sergeant, lifestyle sounds very magazine like though, very posh Sunday newspaper, but I know what you mean. Anyway, who do we have over there?” Knowles pointed in the direction of the photographer and Forensics team, who were investigating the crime scene.

        The two men started to walk over to the eastern wall of the monastery’s refectory where the body had been found an hour earlier by Bingo the retriever, out on a long walk with his owner Adelaide Hills from Goat Parva. Both dog and owner were well known to the police from a few months before when Bingo had made a habit of finding bodies in the early morning.