Don’t let anyone tell you that the grave is silent or that dead men tell no tales. It’s a lie. I should know. I hear them all the time.
I can’t cross London without hearing the echoes of the dead. It’s especially bad, obviously, when I walk the cemeteries. And there are more of them than you know. London is an old city and the dead have been buried within it for a thousand years. Sometimes it feels as if the entire City is one mass grave. Those Roman remains they found the other day? The supposed gladiators executed and buried where they fell? I’d known about them since I was a child. And they were executed, not by the Britons, but by their own.
The dead don’t visit me, they don’t cry out for justice, they don’t ask for help to get through the light to the other side. They’re just there. They’re not spirits hovering on the edge of my peripheral vision, don’t misunderstand me. I just know. I can walk over a patch of land where someone lies decaying with the earth and I’ll know. I’ll know their name, height, weight, eye-colour even. And I’ll know their history. They are the only ones in their history with solid form, everyone else is a bit of a blur really. I can tell you all about those sixteen men buried under the car park. Where they were born, how they lived – and believe me the archeologists are often wrong. I can tell you what they did and how they died. Which is very useful when you work for the police as I do.
I’m not a policeman. Jeremy is the copper in the family. Sometimes he likes to call me the friendly psychic but I’m not that either. I’m definitely not that. Friendly - hopefully, but psychic - no. I have a degree in anthropology and psychology which makes me a useful expert for the police, and both the prosecution and defense when the case comes to trial, but those are just side lines really. It’s my ability to read the dead he’s most interested in.
Jeremy Quiller is my cousin. A tough city detective with little sympathy for criminals. The trouble is he thinks everyone’s a criminal, they just haven’t been caught yet. It makes working with him rather strenuous and he’s had a couple of warnings by the higher-ups.
But we grew up together and I know the real Jeremy. Behind that gritty exterior is a man deeply afraid of the dead. And of me.
My name is Quinn. Just Quinn. It makes me sound like a character out of an old novel but what can I say? My parents thought Just was a good name. Thank all the planets that move they didn’t settle on Zip which was, apparently, running a close second. If you have to know it was because I zipped straight out when I was born. In one second, out the other. I could have shortened it to Z, but then I would have sounded like a drunk drag queen - Zee Quinn. Get it? Sequin? Believe me, if those are the only options I am quite happy being called Just. People think it’s funny at first and go around calling me by both names, Just Quinn. But it doesn’t last long and soon they say, well, just Quinn.