Read The Hand of Justice Online
Authors: Susanna Gregory
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Historical
‘No,’ said Stanmore. ‘Young Thorpe and Edward will be behind this. You mark my words.’
‘Or Cheney and Morice,’ said Bartholomew. ‘They are desperate for the King’s Mill to win its case,
they bought Water of Snails from Lavenham. We have that in black and white – or we would have done, had the fire not destroyed
Lavenham’s record books.’
‘So, we all believe in different suspects,’ said Tulyet. ‘Matt thinks Rougham, Cheney or Morice are to blame; Michael has
Lavenham in his sights; and Oswald and I think our culprits are Thorpe and Mortimer. Some of us must be wrong – either that
or we must concoct a solution that has all of them acting together. And I cannot see how that could be.’
‘There are simply too many victims,’ said Stanmore. ‘Deschalers, Bottisham, Warde, Bosel, Bess and now Bernarde. A grocer,
two scholars, a beggar, a madwoman and a miller. How are we supposed to identify the connections between these people?’
‘Perhaps there are none,’ said Tulyet. ‘At least, not between all of them.’
related to each other,’ said Michael firmly. ‘Deschalers and Bottisham died in Bernarde’s mill, and Bess, Bosel and Warde
were poisoned. Paxtone did some tests this morning, and he is certain Bess died from ingesting henbane, just like Warde.’
‘Paxtone,’ mused Stanmore. ‘He and Wynewyk have been acting very oddly lately. They are constantly scurrying in and out of
dingy alleys together. It is most unbecoming in senior scholars.’
‘There is nothing to suggest Paxtone had anything against these victims,’ Bartholomew pointed out, still reluctant to see
the pleasant King’s Hall physician implicated in such horrible murders, despite the evidence that was mounting against him.
‘You defend him because you like him,’ said Stanmore. ‘But you know as well as I do that murderers can be the most charming
‘I cannot vouch for Paxtone, but I do not believe Wynewyk is our killer,’ said Michael, holding out his cup to be refilled.
‘He has no motive.’
‘None that we know about,’ corrected Stanmore. ‘He told me not long ago that he has been to France. Perhaps he met Thorpe
and Mortimer there.’
As he spoke, fragments of information began to melt together in Bartholomew’s mind, and he frowned as he concentrated. Then
the answer was there, in a flash. ‘Albi! Wynewyk said he was in Albi, in southern France.’
‘That town has a reputation for violence,’ mused Tulyet. ‘I recall being told about a vicious inquisition that once took place
there, with hangings and burnings aplenty.’
Bartholomew turned to him. ‘Quite. And where better to learn the secrets of soldiery and killing? However, I also know that
Albi was where Edward Mortimer became a
man, because Julianna told me. Thorpe also mentioned Albi as somewhere
visited during his banishment – he did so just this afternoon, when we were inspecting Thomas Mortimer’s body in St Mary
‘You think Wynewyk met them in Albi?’ asked Michael. ‘It must have been well before we knew Wynewyk, since he took up his
Fellowship months after they had been exiled. You think they might be in this nasty business together?’
‘I do not know,’ said Bartholomew. ‘Wynewyk says he is terrified of them, and claims they stole his purse while they were
waiting to pray to the Hand. That might mean they are not allies, but enemies – and Wynewyk
them accused of these crimes.’
‘Are you saying Wynewyk killed six people with the express purpose of having Thorpe and Mortimer blamed for it?’ asked Stanmore
‘I do not know about this, Matt,’ said Michael, also doubtful. ‘Why kill innocent men to strike at your enemies? Why not just
kill your enemies? It would be simpler and probably a lot more satisfying.’
Tulyet cleared his throat and looked unhappy. ‘There is something I have not told you. I did not know whether it was important,
and I was afraid of leading your investigation astray with speculation, so, I kept it to myself. But …’
‘What?’ asked Michael warily, not liking the tone of the Sheriff’s voice. He suspected he was about to hear something he would
not like. He was not mistaken.
‘I rode hard from Trumpington when I saw smoke in the sky above Cambridge, but just as I reached the Gate I saw something
was rushing towards Lavenham’s house – to help or to watch. Except one person. He was running – very fast – in the opposite
‘Who?’ demanded Michael. ‘Who was fleeing the scene of his crime?’
‘You cannot assume he was doing that—’ began Bartholomew, ready to point out that the two events might be unrelated. Michael
waved him to be quiet, so Tulyet could speak.
‘I do not know who it was,’ said Tulyet. ‘But he was wearing a scholar’s tabard.’
Bartholomew and Michael were silent as they walked home from Tulyet’s house. They had discussed the case until their heads
span, but were no closer to any answers. Bartholomew fretted about Paxtone and Wynewyk’s odd behaviour, while Michael confessed
that he felt his lack of progress was an insult to the memories of Bottisham and Warde. Stanmore mourned the loss of Deschalers,
while Tulyet was distressed because Dickon was tearful over the destruction of his beloved toy. He offered an enormous sum
to encourage Quenhyth to make a new one, and Bartholomew contemplated abandoning medicine to enter the toy-making business
instead, since it was a good deal more than he had ever earned for treating a patient.
It was a dark evening, with any light from stars or moon shielded by a thick layer of cloud. Rain was in the air, which smelled
of damp earth, the marshes to the north and the scent of spring. There was also Michael’s rosewater. Shadows flitted back
and forth, lurking in doorways and slipping down black, sinister alleys when they recognised the portly frame of the University’s
Senior Proctor. No felon wanted a set-to with a man of Michael’s reputation.
‘Thomas Mortimer,’ said Michael out of the blue. ‘I am not sorry to see him dead, and I cannot think of a more appropriate
way for him to perish, given what he did to Lenne and Isnard. But I am not happy about it.’
Neither was Bartholomew. ‘The horses
terrified by the smoke. We both heard them screaming, and it
was obvious that when they had kicked their way out of the stable they were going to bolt. But I have seen men trampled to
death before, and Thomas did not have the right marks on his body. He looked crushed, but not by hoofs.’
Michael was thoughtful. ‘I certainly do not believe Mistress Lenne caused his death by an appeal to the Hand of Justice. There
may well be a hand of justice working here, but it is not a divine one.’
‘Lenne’s son?’ asked Bartholomew. ‘He seems the obvious suspect to batter Thomas to death and blame it on fleeing nags.’
‘Unfortunately not – unfortunately for us, that is, because it would have made for a neat ending to this unsavoury incident.
But Lenne’s son had already left Cambridge when the fire started. Sergeant Orwelle rode with him as far as Drayton, way up
in the Fens, so I know it is true.’
Bartholomew took a deep breath, and thought about Mistress Lenne’s lonely death and Isnard’s pain and anguish. ‘Perhaps you
should not look too closely into the details of Thomas’s death, Brother. You may not like what you find.’
Michael shot him an unreadable glance. ‘You did not kill him, did you?’
‘I did not!’ said Bartholomew, offended that the monk should ask. He regarded his friend askance. ‘Why? Did you?’
Michael did not deign to reply. ‘I wonder if my grandmother … Her sense of justice is strong …’
He let the thought trail away, and Bartholomew did not feel like passing comment on it. Dame Pelagia had a sense of justice
all right, but it was not always one that corresponded with his own. They were about to leave the High Street and turn down
St Michael’s Lane, more than ready for sleep after the trials of the day, when Michael stopped
dead in his tracks and peered down the shady road. The sturdy huddle of St Michael’s was to their left, while Gonville lay
to their right. Further along was the bigger, blacker mass of St Mary the Great, silhouetted faintly against the sky.
‘Why is there a light in the tower?’ asked Michael, straining his eyes in the gloom. ‘No one should be there now. The church
should be locked, and William will be tucked up in his bed.’
‘We should ignore that, too,’ advised Bartholomew. ‘It may be someone in the process of stealing the Hand, and I would not
be sorry to see that thing go!’
‘There are other valuable items in the University Chest besides the Hand,’ said Michael urgently. ‘There are property deeds,
charters and all manner of documents, not to mention all those payments William has collected from displaying that vile relic.
We cannot ignore it.’
‘Come on, then,’ said Bartholomew reluctantly, heading for the University Church. He drew a knife from his medicine bag, and
pushed his cloak back over his shoulder, so his arm would not become entangled in the cloth if there was a fight. He glanced
up at the tower as they made for the door, and saw a shadow cross the window in the chamber where the Hand was stored. Someone
was definitely there. Michael produced a key, and Bartholomew winced as sharp metallic clinks echoed around the silent churchyard.
He wondered whether they would be audible to the thieves inside.
‘This is interesting,’ whispered Michael, indicating that the gate had been locked. ‘This is the only door not barred from
the inside – it is always secured with a key.’
‘Who has keys?’ asked Bartholomew.
‘William, who will be asleep by now. Chancellor Tynkell, who I happen to know is dining with my grandmother and Mayor Morice
this evening. And me. Therefore, only one
conclusion can be drawn: whoever is in the tower must have hidden in the church before it was secured for the night.’
‘In that case, I have two questions,’ said Bartholomew. ‘The first is why are the premises not checked before they are locked,
to prevent this sort of thing? And the second is why do we not summon the beadles to help us confront whoever is here?’
checked,’ snapped Michael. ‘So, I imagine we are dealing with someone who is extremely good at hiding himself.’ He stepped
into the dark interior.
‘The beadles, Brother,’ said Bartholomew firmly, stretching out a hand to stop him. ‘I do not want to tackle these intruders
‘I will be with you,’ said Michael, as if that were enough. ‘And I do not want to wait for reinforcements if there are felons
after the University Chest. It is far too valuable.’
Bartholomew was unhappy, but the monk dismissed his concerns as he made his way to the tower. In the dead silence of the church
Bartholomew could hear the monk’s soft breathing, and the way his leather boots creaked as he walked. With infinite care,
Michael opened the tower door and began to ascend the spiral staircase. They passed the document-storage room, and continued
to the second floor, where the Chest was kept.
Bartholomew heard voices as they climbed, and his misgivings increased when he realised there was not one intruder in the
tower, but two or three. He wondered how he and Michael would be able to contain them, using only a surgical knife and a pewter
candlestick Michael had grabbed from the nave. When they reached the door, Michael threw it open with such force that the
crash made Bartholomew’s teeth rattle. The monk leapt into the chamber with a challenging shriek, candlestick held ready to
brain anyone who tried to pass him.
‘William!’ exclaimed Bartholomew, entering a little less dramatically.
‘Lavenham!’ said Michael, eyeing the terrified apothecary with cold, angry eyes. ‘And Isobel! What are you doing here?’
‘This is not as it looks,’ said William nervously, moving forward with what Bartholomew felt was a good deal of agitated menace.
‘No?’ asked Michael mildly, indicating with a nod that Bartholomew was to remain by the door and prevent a bid for escape
– by any of the room’s occupants.
‘It looks as though I am supervising the theft of the Hand of Justice,’ said William unhappily. The Lavenhams sat side by
side on the window bench, and said nothing. ‘But I am not. I cannot.’
‘And why is that, pray?’ asked Michael coolly.
‘Because it is not here,’ said William with a strangled cry. He picked up the handsome reliquary and lobbed it across the
Michael almost dropped the box, and the candlestick he had been holding clattered to the ground. ‘God’s blood, man, have a
care! You do not toss these things around as though they were juggling balls! I know I have been sceptical of the Hand of
Justice, but I do not want to risk the wrath of an irked saint by treating the thing with brazen disrespect.’
‘Open it,’ suggested William.
‘Do not,’ advised Bartholomew. ‘Men have been struck down for tampering with holy relics. Remember William’s sermon about
the man who touched the Ark of the Covenant?’
‘But you do not believe this particular relic
holy,’ William pointed out with impeccable logic. ‘Neither of you do. So open the box, Brother.’
Reluctantly, Michael complied, while Bartholomew held his breath, half anticipating that the room would fill with a blinding
light that would incinerate them all. Michael pulled out the satin parcel and unwrapped it, looking like a man who expected
to discover something terrible inside.
‘It is a glove’ said Michael in surprise, shaking the object out on to the table. ‘A glove stuffed with old wool, or some
Bartholomew inspected it carefully, noting the rough stitches and the way its creator had used odds and ends to assemble something
that might fool a busy friar at a pinch – it was the same shape and size as the original Hand, and would pass for the real
thing as long as it was inside the satin. The glove used was old and cheap, and might have been discarded by just about anyone,
now that winter was over.