Chapter Three

Since his marriage, Ralph Delchard slept soundly as a rule, but his first night at Exeter Castle was an unusually restless one.

He was wide awake long before the larks were heralding the dawn.

Knowing instinctively that something was troubling him, Golde roused herself from her own slumber and rolled over to face him.

‘What is the matter?’ she murmured.

‘Go back to sleep, my love.’

‘How can I when you are threshing about in the bed?’

‘I did not mean to disturb you. I have been trying to lie still.’

‘That is what convinced me that something was bothering you,’

she said with a tired smile. ‘After twisting and turning all night, you were unnaturally still. That is not like you. I sensed that you were awake. Why?’ she pressed. ‘What ails you?’

‘Nothing that need concern you.’

‘I want to know, Ralph.’

‘There is no point in the two of us losing our sleep.’

‘Tell me,’ she said with a playful punch. ‘I insist.’

‘Very well. I was thinking about that jester. Berold.’

‘And do not lie to me,’ added Golde, jabbing him harder. ‘This has nothing to do with the jester, amusing as he was. You are still perplexed by this murder. That is what gnaws away at your mind.’

Ralph grinned. ‘I have no secrets from you, Golde. You have learned to read your husband like a book.’

‘Then turn the page so that I may read more.’

‘You are right,’ he confessed. ‘I am sorely troubled by the murder of Nicholas Picard and by Baldwin’s reaction to it. Why is he so anxious to keep me out of the investigation? We are interested parties, Nicholas Picard was one of the main people we came all this way to see. I want to know what happened to him. Yet the lord sheriff will not even let me view the body.’

‘Why should you want to, Ralph?’

‘Because I may learn things from it that have eluded Baldwin’s eye. I have buried many friends in my life, Golde, brave soldiers who were cut down in battle. I can tell if a wound was inflicted by sword, dagger, lance or axe. I can unravel the story of a man’s death.’ He heaved a sigh. ‘But our host spurns my help.’

‘For what reason?’

‘That is what I have been trying to work out. Is he arrogant enough to believe that he alone can solve this crime? Does he fear that I might find something which has eluded him? Or is there a darker cause?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘I begin to wonder if the lord sheriff is hiding something from me.’

‘Hiding something?’

‘You saw his behaviour at the banquet last night.’

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘You did seem to arouse his choler, Ralph. On the other hand, you had more success in talking to him than I did in catching the attention of the lady Albreda. I was snubbed.

She obviously regards Saxon women as a lower form of life.’

‘So do I,’ teased Ralph, slipping an arm round her. ‘That’s what makes them so appealing. They are wild and untamed.’

‘How many of them have you known?’

‘Hundreds!’ he said airily. ‘But you are easily the best.’

She smiled at his empty boast and snuggled up to him. ‘I did not like it, Ralph,’ she admitted. ‘The lady Albreda hurt my pride.

I know that she is the King’s niece but I refuse to be put down like that. My father was a Saxon thegn who held several manors in Herefordshire. I am used to respect. I will not endure condescension.’

‘You will not have to, Golde,’ he promised.

‘If it continues, I prefer to leave here for more modest accommodation.’

‘That will not be necessary.’

‘I am not ashamed that I worked as a brewer,’ she said. ‘It was an honest trade and someone had to carry on the business when my husband died. But the lady Albreda all but sneered at me when she heard that I had actually worked for a living.’

‘It was my fault for raising the subject, Golde.’

‘You were not to know how she would react.’ When he kissed her on the head and pulled her closer, she went on: ‘What puzzles me is why she was so meek with her husband yet so tart with me. I did nothing to offend her.’

‘But you did, Golde. You shone with happiness.’

‘How could that upset her?’

‘Simple envy,’ he decided. ‘I do not know her well, but my guess would be that the lady Albreda is a lonely and disappointed woman.

Baldwin does not have the look of an ideal husband to me. His office takes him all over the shire and he is far too busy to pay much heed to the complaints of his wife. She is afraid of him, we both saw that. She is neglected whereas you are patently not, my love. I think she was consumed with envy.’

‘It went deeper than that, Ralph.’

‘You were the target for her anger.’

‘Anger? She seemed so mild and inoffensive at first.’

‘Only in her husband’s presence,’ said Ralph, recalling her conduct at the table. ‘Baldwin keeps her subdued but there must be a lot of anger smouldering away inside her. Some of it was directed at you. That is human nature, alas. Albreda took out her irritation on you.’

‘She will not do so again.’

‘I will speak to Baldwin about it.’

‘No, no,’ she said, grasping his arm. ‘I will handle this my way, Ralph. I do not expect you to fight my battles for me. I have had my share of dealing with haughty Norman ladies before.’ She gave a laugh. ‘The irony is that I am sometimes mistaken for one myself now.’

‘That is one of the many virtues of marrying me.’

‘Virtues or defects?’

Ralph grinned and rolled on top of her. He suddenly became serious. ‘Do you know what I am going to do?’

‘Make your wife glow with happiness again, I hope.’

‘After that,’ he said, thinking it through. ‘I am going to ignore the wishes of our host and follow my own inclination. The body lies here in the castle. What is to stop me going to the mortuary to examine it?’

‘Another body which lies here in the castle — mine!’

Ralph needed no further invitation.

Saewin the Reeve had a long day ahead of him. He rose early and ate a frugal breakfast before addressing himself to his work. He was poring over a document when his servant brought news that a visitor had arrived at the house. Surprised that anyone should call so soon after dawn, the reeve was even more surprised when the visitor was shown into the room. She was a tall, stately woman in her thirties who moved with grace and dressed with elegance. Saewin leapt to his feet at once.

‘This is an unexpected pleasure, my lady,’ he said, noting her fragrance as she swept in. ‘Do be seated.’

‘Thank you,’ she said, settling down on a stool. ‘I am glad to find you at home, Saewin. I feared that you might already have left.’

‘I will do so before long. I am needed at the shire hall.’

‘That is what I have come to talk to you about.’

Loretta had a poise and confidence which made him feel slightly uneasy. A wealthy widow, she lived in one of the finest houses in the city and had other property further afield. Saewin knew her by sight but rarely spoke to her. Loretta was an intensely private woman who was not often seen abroad. The reeve recalled that the last time he had caught a glimpse of her was at a service at the cathedral.

‘How can I help you?’ he said.

‘By giving me information,’ she explained. ‘I understand that the royal commissioners have arrived in the city.’

‘Yes, my lady. They came yesterday.’

‘You have no doubt spoken with them.’

‘It was my duty to do so. I had to take my instructions.’

‘So you will know the order in which cases come before them.’

‘Of course, my lady. I have to ensure that all the relevant witnesses attend. When the first commissioners came, many problems were brought to light and several people failed to appear in order to attest their claims to certain holdings. This second team from Winchester have come to look into the irregularities uncovered by their predecessors.’

‘Is the name of Nicholas Picard still on their list?’

‘Indeed, it is.’

‘Even though the poor man was cruelly murdered?’

‘The lord Nicholas may have died,’ he said quietly, ‘but his land remains and some of it is the subject of bitter controversy.

Ordinarily, the holdings would be inherited by his wife but that is by no means certain. Two other claimants came forth at the first hearing and they are now joined by a third.’

‘Who is that?’

‘The abbot of Tavistock.’

‘His claim is of no account,’ she said with a dismissive flick of her hand. ‘Besides, the abbot has property enough to satisfy him.’

‘That does not appear to be the case.’

‘He is not a serious contender here. I am.’

Saewin blinked in astonishment. ‘You, my lady?’

‘I wish to give formal notice of my interest in the holdings under review. Convey it to the commissioners at the earliest opportunity.’

‘Why, yes,’ he said politely, ‘but I am bound to wonder why you did not come forward when the first commissioners were in the county.’

‘That is my business.’

‘Of course, my lady.’

‘Make their successors aware of my claim.’

‘I will,’ he agreed, ‘but they are certain to ask what weight should be attached to it. What may I tell them?’

‘Advise them to look into the history of those holdings. They were once in the possession of William de Marmoutier, my late son. He bequeathed them to his mother.’ She stood up and moved to the door. ‘Tell them that, Saewin. And be sure that they send for me.’

‘Yes, my lady.’

‘I intend to fight for what is mine by right.’

Without waiting for the servant to show her out, Loretta turned on her heel and made for the door, leaving the reeve to grapple in vain with a number of unanswered questions. Her intrusion into the dispute was far from welcome. It could only make the squabble over the dead body of Nicholas Picard even more acrimonious.

Gervase Bret was kneeling at the altar rail in the chapel when he heard the footsteps approaching. He broke off from his prayer. It was not the steady gait of the chaplain which caught his ear nor the respectful tread of another worshipper. The feet sounded slow and furtive. When the door opened, it did not swing back on its hinges. It inched open so that an eye could scrutinise the interior of the chapel. Gervase rose and stepped back into the shadows, wishing that he was wearing his dagger. It was the last place where he would have anticipated danger, but that is what he sensed now.

Only two small candles burned on the altar, leaving most of the chapel in relative darkness. Gervase flattened himself against a wall and waited. The door opened wide enough to admit a sturdy figure. The newcomer moved stealthily down the aisle. Gervase stepped out to accost him.

‘What do you want?’ he asked firmly.

Ralph Delchard jumped back in alarm with a hand on his heart.

‘Heavens!’ he exclaimed. ‘You frightened the life out of me.’

Gervase was astounded. ‘Is it you, Ralph?’

‘Yes. I thought the chapel would be empty at this time of day.’

‘I came in to pray.’

Ralph smiled. ‘Well, there is no point in pretending that that is why I am here. Nobody would call me devout. Besides,’ he said, ‘it is not the chapel that I came to see but the morgue.’

Gervase did not need to ask why. The moment he knew his friend’s destination, he was a willing accomplice. Both of them were eager to view the corpse of a man who figured so largely in the irregularities which had brought them to Devon. Without any more ado, they crossed to the door in the side wall and went through it. Finding themselves in a gloomy vestry, they were about to withdraw when they noticed a faint glow at floor level on the other side of the chamber. They groped their way to a small door.

As soon as they opened it, they knew it led to the mortuary.

The stench of death was sweetened by the presence of herbs but it still rose up to attack their nostrils. Gervase coughed and Ralph turned his face away for an instant. They then went down some steps towards the flickering candle which had cast the strip of light under the door. The corpse was laid out on a stone slab and covered with a shroud. A crucifix stood at its head and the candle burned in an alcove. Ralph exchanged a glance with Gervase, then held the candle over the corpse. They shivered in the dank atmosphere. After bracing himself, Gervase took hold of the shroud and peeled it back from the face. The shock was severe.

‘God preserve his soul!’ he murmured.

‘Poor wretch!’ said Ralph.

‘Was this Nicholas Picard?’

The sight of such a grotesque visage made them take a step back. Blood had been stemmed, wounds had been bathed and some bandaging had been used but enough was visible to show them what a terrible end the murder victim had met. Skin had been torn from the face, lumps bitten out of it and deep lacerations left in it everywhere. The throat had been cut so viciously that it was surprising the head did not part from the body. Gervase could not bear the sight but Ralph took a more considered inventory. When he had finished, he replaced the shroud over the face.

‘This is the work of a fiend,’ he decided.

‘Who could want to disfigure him like that?’

‘I do not know, Gervase, but we now have even more reason to find the villain. That is not a human face. It is a piece of raw meat. The lord Nicholas looks as if he was attacked by a wild animal.’

‘An animal would not carry the knife which slit his throat like that.’

‘True. That is the work of a man’s hand.’

‘Was there only one attacker?’

‘Saewin the Reeve felt that there had to be more than one. A trained soldier like Nicholas Picard would not easily be overpowered by a single adversary. Unless,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘he was disabled in some way. By drink, maybe, or by fatigue. Yet what could have tired such a healthy man? All he had done was to ride into Exeter on business.’

‘Something must have thrown him off guard.’

‘Why did he not travel with an escort? He had over twenty knights on whom he could call. If the road was perilous, an escort would have been essential. Why did he choose to ride alone?’

‘We may never know, Ralph.’

‘At least we are aware of what we are dealing with here,’ said the other. ‘This was no sudden attack by robbers. They would have killed him, taken his purse and fled. And they would cerainly have stolen his horse as well. My lord sheriff mentioned that it was the returning horse which alerted the lord Nicholas’s household.’

‘What are you saying, Ralph?’

‘This was a cold, deliberate, calculated act of murder. It was not enough to take the man’s life. His face had to be obliterated.’

He replaced the candle in the alcove. ‘That rules out a random attacker, in my view. This was a person or persons who knew Nicholas Picard and lived close enough to the city to observe his movements. I sense a spirit of revenge here, Gervase. Somebody was paying him back for injuries done to them.’

‘No injuries could compare with those we just witnessed.’

‘I agree. This is butchery. However,’ he said, ‘I am glad that my curiosity has been satisfied. The lord sheriff sought to keep this horror from my gaze, but not out of concern for my feelings. I will be interested to learn what his real reason is for shielding me from this murder investigation.’

‘Does he have any clues to follow?’

‘None that he will disclose to us, Gervase.’

‘Why is he so secretive?’

‘That is what I intend to find out.’

‘Will you tell him that we have now viewed the body?’

‘No,’ said Ralph. ‘Certainly not. There is no need for him to know about our early morning visit. Baldwin the Sheriff would disapprove strongly if he realised that we had gone behind his back. This must be kept from him.’

‘That will not be possible,’ said a voice behind them.

They turned to see a figure descending the steps from the vestry.

Joscelin the Steward had overheard their conversation. His duty to his master outweighed the courtesy he was bound to extend to guests.

‘Please leave,’ he said. ‘I wish to lock the door of the mortuary.’

Canon Hubert and Brother Simon were the first of the commissioners to arrive at the shire hall that morning. They found everything in readiness. Saewin the Reeve was there to welcome them and to invite them into the long, low room in which so much of the civic and legal business was conducted. The newcomers were pleased to see that the place had been swept clean, chairs and a table had been set out for them and benches had been procured for the witnesses. Refreshments were laid out on a small table in the corner and Hubert could not resist sampling a honey cake, washed down with a cup of water. Simon touched nothing. He put his satchel on the table and began to unload the sheaves of documents which it contained.

Hubert could feel that the reeve was still hovering in the background.

‘You may leave us now,’ he said over his shoulder.

‘I wish to deliver a message to the lord Ralph.’

‘Leave it with us and we will see it handed to him.’

‘This message came by word of mouth,’ said the reeve. ‘The lady who gave it to me bade me pass it on to the commissioners.

I naturally want to give it to the man who leads you.’

‘We all lead in some senses,’ said Hubert pedantically, facing him. ‘By the same token, we all follow. There is no need for you to linger when you have other business to address. Deliver the message to us and we will give it to the lord Ralph. Will this content you?’

‘I suppose so,’ said the other uncertainly.

‘Who is the lady in question?’

‘Loretta, widow of the late Roger de Marmoutier.’

‘That name is familiar to me. Do you recognise it, Brother Simon?’

‘Yes, Canon Hubert,’ said the scribe. ‘Certain holdings which came into the possession of Nicholas Picard were at one time part of the manor of Roger de Marmoutier.’

‘When he died,’ explained Saewin, ‘the property was left to his son, William, but he, a headstrong young man, was unfortunately killed in a hunting accident. At that point, the land came into the possession of the lord Nicholas. No claim was made by the lady Loretta when your predecessors compiled their returns for the county but she wishes to press her claim now.’

‘Then she may have left it too late,’ said Hubert pompously. ‘I am not sure that we can allow her to enter the contest at this stage.’

‘The abbot of Tavistock has done so,’ Saewin reminded him.

‘That is a different matter.’

‘I do not see how, Canon Hubert. His position is exactly that of the lady Loretta. He waived his right to advance his claim before the first team of commissioners but is ready to come forward now.’

‘And must be heard.’

‘Will you favour the Church over a private individual?’

Hubert blenched. ‘I resent the insinuation behind that question.’

‘No offence was meant,’ said the reeve, raising an appeasing palm. ‘In relaying the message to you, I have done what the lady Loretta instructed. Decisions about who will and who will not come before you are entirely a matter for you and your colleagues.

It is not my place to comment in any way. Please accept my apology.’

‘Very well.’

‘I will detain you from your work no further.’

‘Thank you,’ said Hubert crisply. He waited until the reeve went out of the hall before turning to Simon. ‘Favouring the Church, indeed! The suggestion is gross.’

‘Yes, Canon Hubert. No man is more impartial than you.’

‘The abbot of Tavistock will be judged fairly and objectively. He will receive no special courtesies from me or from anyone else.

Where the Church has erred — as it occasionally has in some of the disputes we have looked into in other counties — I have been the first to point it out.’

‘Your record has been unblemished.’

‘And so it will remain.’ Hubert chose what he felt would be the most comfortable chair, sitting down like a mother hen settling herself on her eggs. ‘But where are the others?’ he complained.

‘They should have been here by now.’

‘The lord Ralph is usually very punctual.’

‘He was until he married,’ said Hubert sharply. ‘This would not be the first time that his wife has made him tarry. I am not at all sure that her influence on him is entirely beneficial. It might be better if the lady Golde did not travel with him on his assignments.’

‘That is my feeling,’ said Simon, nodding energetically.

‘She is an intelligent lady and pleasant company but not an appointed member of this commission. Inevitably, she is a distraction.’

The door opened and they looked up in anticipation, but it was not their colleagues who stepped into the hall. A Benedictine monk shuffled slowly towards them, his hood up and his hands tucked in the sleeves of his cowl. He stood respectfully before the table.

‘Canon Hubert?’ he asked.

‘Yes?’

‘I bring word from the lord Ralph.’

‘Why is he not here?’

‘He has been delayed by the lord sheriff,’ said the monk. ‘He hopes to be here with the others before too long but sends his apologies in the meantime. The delay was unforeseen.’

‘And most unwelcome,’ observed Hubert. ‘We have an immense amount of business to conduct. An early start is imperative.’

‘It will not be possible today.’

‘Our deliberations take precedence over conversations with the lord sheriff. Bear that message to the lord Ralph.’

‘I would not be admitted to their presence.’

‘Why not, brother?’

‘Because they have arrant fools enough without me.’

Hubert gaped. ‘Fools, did you say!’

‘Fools, idiots and mindless soldiers.’

‘Such immoderate language for a monk!’ said Simon.

‘That is why I could never take the cowl for more than a few minutes,’ said the messenger, pulling back his hood to reveal the distinctive head and hair of Berold. ‘I came in jest but I spoke in truth.’

‘To disguise yourself as a Benedictine is an act of sacrilege,’

said Hubert in disgust. ‘I will make mention of this to the lord sheriff.’

‘Then you would be the biggest fool of all, Canon Hubert.’

‘Do you dare to mock me?’

‘I am only giving you fair warning,’ said the other, skipping to the door and divesting himself of his cowl at the same time. ‘My master is hot with rage. Only a simpleton would go near him when he is in such a state. Ask the lord Ralph. He is feeling the sharp edge of the lord sheriff’s fury.’

‘You were expressly told to keep yourself out of it!’ roared Baldwin.

‘Do you not recognise an order when you hear one?’

‘My orders come from the King himself,’ said Ralph.

‘Devon is under my aegis and you would do well to remember it.’

‘A sheriff is still answerable to a higher authority.’

Baldwin turned puce. ‘Do you defy me, my lord?’

‘I simply wished to view the last remains of Nicholas Picard.’

‘Against my wishes.’

‘It was too early to seek your permission, my lord sheriff,’ said Ralph with a sly wink at Gervase. ‘Or we would surely have done so.’

‘My permission would have been refused.’

‘Then it is as well we did not wait for it.’

‘You sneaked into that mortuary like thieves in the night,’

yelled their host. ‘This is my castle and I expect my guests to respect my authority within these walls. What you did was unforgivable.’

‘But within my rights.’

‘No, my lord!’

‘Yes,’ insisted Ralph. ‘The lord Nicholas figures so largely in our investigations that we have a keen interest in what happened to him.’

‘He was murdered. That is all you need to know.’

‘Why are you keeping the truth from us?’

‘Do you dare to accuse me of lies?’ howled Baldwin as his anger reached a new pitch. ‘Take care, my lord. Men have been thrown into my dungeons for less than that.’

‘I did not say that you told lies,’ countered Ralph. ‘Merely, that you have held back the full truth and tried to prevent us from finding it out. I would respect your authority more if I felt that you were worthy of it.’

Baldwin de Moeles was so incensed that he reached for his sword. Ralph did not flinch but Gervase Bret moved swiftly.

Stepping in between the two men, he acted as a peacemaker.

‘There is no call for argument here.’ He turned to the sheriff.

‘We were wrong to disobey your orders, my lord sheriff, and owe you a profound apology. Curiosity got the better of us. We were in the chapel at first light, praying for the success of our work here, when we remembered that the lord Nicholas lay in the mortuary. The temptation to inspect the body was too great to resist, but it was a mistake.’

‘No, it was not, Gervase,’ argued Ralph vehemently.

‘Let me handle this, my lord.’

‘We had to see the lord Nicholas.’

‘Subject to my lord sheriff’s approval.’ Gervase shot Ralph such a look of reproof that the latter was silenced at once. When his young friend was in such an assertive mood, it was as well to heed his advice. It was time to let him take over the negotiations.

All that Ralph had done was to trade bold words and insults with their host. They had almost come to blows and a brawl would advantage nobody, least of all a commissioner who relied on the sheriff both for accommodation and for help with his office.

Gervase’s diplomacy would achieve far more than Ralph’s plain speaking. Voices which had reverberated around the hall at the castle needed to be deprived of their passion and volume. Gervase shrugged his shoulder and gave a conciliatory smile. ‘We were too curious and too arrogant, my lord sheriff,’ he said.

‘I know it well,’ grumbled the other but he sheathed his sword as he did so. ‘Too curious, too arrogant and too rash.’

‘We had the audacity to believe that we could discover something which your own more experienced eyes had missed. We are royal commissioners who sit in musty halls with our noses in wrinkled documents and ancient charters. What do we know about the pursuit of a killer?’ He saw Ralph bite back an interruption and hurried on. ‘It was a monstrous folly on our part to imagine that we could do your job in your stead.’

‘I am glad that you appreciate it.’

‘Appreciate it and acknowledge our fault.’

‘I heard no such acknowledgement from the lord Ralph.’

‘Nor will you!’ Ralph said under his breath, then he felt a sobering kick on the ankle from Gervase. ‘He is right, my lord sheriff,’ he added aloud. ‘I do see the error of our ways now.

Gervase speaks for both of us.’

‘Would that he had done so earlier!’ snapped the other.

‘My remarks were intemperate. I take them back.’

‘I am glad to hear it.’

‘So am I,’ said Gervase with feeling. ‘Nothing can be achieved by our bickering. We are all on the same side here. Fall out among ourselves and disharmony follows. Pool our resources and work together — under your direction, lord sheriff — and we form an irresistible team.’

‘That is so,’ said Baldwin, slightly mollified. ‘We can join forces but I must be in command.’

‘Without question.’ Gervase looked meaningfully at Ralph.

‘Well?’

‘Yes, yes,’ came the lacklustre endorsement. ‘Without question.’

‘Then let us put this aberration behind us,’ decided Baldwin, strutting around the room. ‘I will forget what has happened if you give me your word not to interfere any more in this murder investigation.’

‘We give it unconditionally, my lord sheriff,’ said Gervase.

‘Do we?’ murmured Ralph in dismay.

‘It is the only way to proceed.’

‘Then let us leave the matter there,’ said Baldwin.

‘Not until we have given you our opinion,’ said Gervase persuasively. ‘It was wrong of us to visit the mortuary, but we did reach certain conclusions about the murder victim. They may well confirm your own observations, my lord sheriff, and should be heard for that reason alone.’

Their host pondered. ‘As you wish,’ he said at length.

‘Our feeling was this …’

Ralph watched with admiration as Gervase adopted new tactics.

Instead of increasing their host’s anger with naked defiance, Gervase was subtly flattering him in order to draw information from him. He deliberately altered the deductions they had made about the dead man so that the sheriff would be provoked into correcting him. Ralph and Gervase were learning valuable new details about the case.

‘What, then, was your final conclusion?’ asked Baldwin at length.

‘That the lord Nicholas was killed by someone in order to prevent him from appearing before us to affirm his right to the disputed holdings. One man probably carried out the murder,’ said Gervase.

‘Someone well known to the lord Nicholas who unwittingly let him get close enough to make a surprise attack.’

‘Then you are mistaken on every point, my young friend.’

‘How can that be?’

‘Nicholas Picard was ambushed by robbers in the wood. His purse was empty when he was found and valuable rings had been taken from his fingers.’

‘Could not that have been a ruse on the part of the murderer?’

said Ralph, unable to keep silent any longer. ‘A cunning villain would do his best to make it look like the work of robbers in order to deflect suspicion away from himself.’

‘We know that robbers were involved, my lord. Two of them.’

‘How can you be so sure?’

‘Because my men trailed them to an inn near Credition,’ said Baldwin. ‘A messenger rode through the night to bring me word.

The robbers had moved on but the innkeeper remembered them well. They spent far too much money for men as poorly attired as they were. He told my officers which way his guests went.’ He gave a harsh smile. ‘It is only a matter of time before those men are apprehended and brought back here to stand trial for the murder of Nicholas Picard.’

Contents