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Authors: Susanna Gregory

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #General, #Historical

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BOOK: The Hand of Justice
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‘But how could Quenhyth know what was in these deeds?’ demanded Michael. ‘No one saw the later will, because Pulham stole
it the night Deschalers died.’

Bartholomew sighed. ‘Quenhyth
wrote
it – he wrote both
of them. He was Deschalers’s scribe, remember? He killed Deschalers, so the later document could never be legal – Deschalers
died before it was sealed and, as Pulham told us, it is worthless in a court of law. Quenhyth knew it would never be legal,
and that is why he wrote it in a scribble, not in his usual careful hand.’

‘Quenhyth murdered Deschalers because he wanted a box?’ Michael sounded dubious.

‘He is a lad who puts great store by possessions, and who is short of funds at the moment. Also, he has a resentful temper,
and would be furious to learn he had been disinherited, no matter how small the bequest. Think about the burglary the night
Deschalers died.’

‘The night Pulham made off with the unsealed will?’

Bartholomew nodded. ‘Pulham said there was a second burglar in the house, and Una’s story confirms that. She saw Pulham leave
through the front door, and it was Quenhyth who escaped with great agility out of the back window. We know exactly why he
was there: Quenhyth wanted the later will, too, because it deprived him of his chest.’

Michael rubbed his chin. ‘This cannot be right, Matt. Quenhyth may be temporarily impoverished, but he is scarcely a pauper.’

‘He likes the notion of locking his belongings away,’ pressed Bartholomew. ‘He is always accusing Redmeadow of stealing.’

‘He may have known that Deschalers planned to meet Bottisham in the King’s Mill, too,’ said Michael thoughtfully, slowly coming
around to Bartholomew’s point of view. ‘As scribe, he probably penned the note from Deschalers to Bottisham, suggesting a
time and place. So, what do you think happened? Quenhyth followed Deschalers to the mill, aware that if Bottisham made up
with Deschalers, he would lose his chest? Then what?’

‘I suspect he gave Deschalers the same poison he later used on Warde and Bess. We found an empty phial beneath the mill’s
sacks. Three phials were in that insecure cupboard in Lavenham’s shop and we have three cases of poison: Deschalers, Warde
and Bess.’

‘So, did Quenhyth hide the phial we found in the King’s Mill? He buried it under the sacks?’ Michael answered his own question.
‘No. If he had wanted to hide it, then he would have thrown it in the river. He either forgot about it, or it rolled away
during the confusion. So, we can conclude that he poisoned Deschalers. How?’

‘Deschalers was in agony with his illness, and Rougham would not prescribe proper pain-killing medicines. I imagine Deschalers
was only too grateful when a medical student arrived and proffered a substance he claimed would help. Quenhyth is a studious,
precise sort of lad, and Deschalers would have no reason to doubt his competence.’

‘So,’ said Michael, ‘Deschalers lay dead, and suddenly Bottisham arrived. Quenhyth stabbed him with a nail – his medical knowledge
would tell him such a wound would be fatal. Then he pierced Deschalers’s corpse with another nail to confuse us. You trained
him well, Matt: it worked perfectly.’

‘Then he engaged the waterwheel and threw the bodies into the machinery to muddy the waters even further. But how did he escape
without being seen by Bernarde? Or do you think Bernarde did see him, but declined to mention the fact? We will never know,
now he is dead.’

‘But we know
why
he is dead,’ said Michael. ‘Quenhyth burned him to ensure he never told. It had nothing to do with the meeting of the King’s
Commissioners, as everyone has assumed.’

‘The fire allowed him to kill Bernarde
and
prevent us from proving that three phials of Water of Snails and some henbane were stolen from Lavenham’s shop,’ said
Bartholomew. ‘I doubt Quenhyth
bought
them, because Lavenham would have mentioned it last night. Besides, Quenhyth has no money.’

‘And we must not forget what Dick Tulyet told us, either,’ said Michael. ‘After the fire started, only one person was running
in the opposite direction – someone in a scholar’s tabard.’

‘I thought he meant Wynewyk or Paxtone,’ said Bartholomew. ‘But it was Quenhyth. We know the fire was started using wood that
Lavenham had been collecting. Quenhyth was with me the day I heard Isobel complaining about it, so he knew there was convenient
kindling to hand. And, of course he killed Bess.’

‘Why? She was a lunatic.’

‘But she was a lunatic who had some connection to Quenhyth. I should have seen this days ago.’

‘How?’

‘Because of his reluctance to attend her requiem mass, for a start. And the way he did not want me to go near her, and kept
drawing attention to the fact that she spoke nonsense – so I would not believe anything she said. When I pulled her away from
the Great Bridge once, she addressed her questions to him, not to me. I thought she was simply deranged. But she was speaking
to a man she thought might give her answers. He must have murdered Bosel, too.’

‘Because Bosel haunted the same places as Bess?’ suggested Michael. ‘She confided her story to him, and he threatened to tell?
We know Bosel enjoyed blackmailing folk when he could.’

‘It was good luck for Quenhyth that Bosel was a witness to Lenne’s accident. We all assumed Thomas Mortimer had killed him.
But Thomas had nothing to do with it, just as Constantine said.’

‘We have been pondering and floundering for days, and
yet, within a few moments, we have many of our questions answered,’ said Michael wonderingly. ‘How has that come about?’

‘Because of an act of kindness to a child,’ said Bartholomew. ‘The rat Quenhyth made Dickon was covered in old fur, similar
to that used to fill the glove masquerading as the Hand. It suggested to me that Quenhyth stole the relic. And the rest just
… came together.’

‘Let us hope you are right this time,’ said Michael, standing up and preparing for a confrontation. ‘We do not want to accuse
everyone
of these crimes before we snare our culprit.’

Knowing that the Lavenhams did not intend to linger in Cambridge long, and sensing they might make a bid for escape sooner
than they had promised, Bartholomew and Michael left the churchyard and headed straight for St Mary the Great. Father William
was with Chancellor Tynkell in the room below, and waved to indicate they were to climb to the upper room without him. Lavenham
and Isobel were still there, but they wore riding cloaks and brimmed hats that would hide their faces, and their saddlebags
were packed. They were leaving.

‘It is not just the loss of your shop and the vengeful Mortimers driving you away, is it?’ asked Michael, leaning against
the door jamb and presenting a formidable obstacle to their departure. ‘You have been careless, and you are afraid you will
be held accountable for the consequences. Warde, Bosel and Bess are dead of poison, and that poison came from you.’

‘No!’ cried Lavenham. ‘We always careful in keys and locks.’

‘But you are not,’ said Bartholomew coldly. ‘I saw you pretend to unlock a cupboard that had been left open myself. You are
not as cautious with dangerous substances
as you should be.’ He recalled Dame Pelagia making off with something, too, to demonstrate how easily it might be done. It
had not taken the old lady long to identify Lavenham’s laxness.

‘It is my fault,’ said Isobel in a tight, strangled voice. ‘But he seemed a nice fellow, and I have a soft spot for pretty
young men.’

‘Quenhyth,’ said Bartholomew flatly. ‘What happened?’

‘He was interested in our work and, since he was going to be a physician, I showed him our workshop. It was only later that
we missed a quantity of henbane and some concentrated poppy juice. At first I thought I was mistaken, and put the matter from
my mind, but then I heard about Warde and I guessed what had happened.’

‘Then why did you not tell me?’ demanded Michael angrily.

‘We was feared,’ said Lavenham hoarsely, while Isobel started to cry. ‘We feared still. Quenhyth steal henbane. He use it
in Water of Snails which he also steal. He care nothing that Isobel blamed.’

‘Why did he poison Bess?’ asked Michael, sounding disgusted. ‘Did she see him doing something to Deschalers, and was murdered
for her silence?’

‘She was killed too long after Deschalers’s murder for that,’ said Bartholomew. ‘We have already said her death may hold the
key to the mystery. I still think it does.’

‘Quenhyth knew her,’ said Isobel tearfully. ‘From home.’

‘Quenhyth comes from Chepe,’ said Bartholomew, ‘and Bess came from London, of which Chepe is a part. Were they lovers once?
Matilde said she thought Quenhyth had been crossed in love.’

‘Then why did he kill her?’ asked Michael. ‘That is no way to deal with old flames.’

‘He always acted oddly around her,’ said Bartholomew, frowning. ‘And I would say, with the benefit of hindsight,
that there was a vague recognition in her behaviour towards him. But it does not tell us why he might have killed her.’

‘We shall have to ask him ourselves,’ said Michael grimly.

They walked to Michaelhouse, with Michael urging Bartholomew to hurry so they could question Quenhyth before anyone else died,
but the physician dragged his heels, loath to learn for a fact that he had harboured a killer. When they arrived at the College,
Redmeadow was strolling in the yard with the Franciscan students, Ulfrid and Zebedee. Michael asked whether they had seen
Quenhyth, but the three exchanged looks of disgust and said they would not willingly spend free time in
his
company, when all he did was accuse folk of stealing.

Redmeadow was not wearing his tabard, and his tunic was exposed. Bartholomew saw yet again the ingrained white substance on
it, and recalled Matilde telling him that Redmeadow had appeared white and ghostly the morning after the murders in the mills.
The student had told her the mess was the result of a practical joke. Then Bartholomew remembered how much flour dust had
been caught in his own clothes when he had searched the mill for clues, and felt a sudden lurching sickness. Whoever killed
Deschalers and Bottisham would also have been covered in dust. He pointed to the stains.

‘How did that happen?’ he asked flatly, wondering if all his reasoning had been wrong, and Quenhyth was innocent after all.

Ulfrid answered before Redmeadow could speak. ‘Do not start him off, Doctor. We heard nothing but gripes about the ruin of
his favourite tunic all last week. He was furious that Quenhyth borrowed it without asking, and then returned it in such a
state.’

‘Two Sundays ago,’ added Redmeadow angrily. ‘Agatha has been able to do nothing with it, and Quenhyth will
not even admit that he was to blame! I cannot imagine what he did to it. Lady Matilde saw me in it the next day, so I fabricated
a story blaming a practical joke – she caught me by surprise with her blunt question, so I said the first thing that came
to my mind. I could see she did not believe me, and I felt a proper fool.’

Bartholomew supposed that Quenhyth had anticipated dust as he embarked on his killing spree, and had prepared himself by wearing
his friend’s clothes. ‘Why did you not tell me?’ he asked.

Redmeadow was surprised. ‘Because you are far too busy to bother with something stupid like this.’

‘How do you know it was Quenhyth who dirtied the tunic?’ asked Bartholomew unhappily.

‘Because only he and you have access to our room.’ Redmeadow regarded his teacher uneasily. ‘Do not tell me it was you! You
were
at the King’s Mill that night – where there is flour dust.’

‘It would be too small for me,’ said Bartholomew, pushing past him to reach his room.

He opened the door with Michael behind him, dreading the confrontation that was about to occur. But when he stepped inside,
Quenhyth was on the floor. The student’s face was sheened with sweat and his breathing was laboured. It did not take a physician
to see there was something badly wrong.

‘Help me!’ Quenhyth wheezed. ‘I have been poisoned!’

Bartholomew rushed to Quenhyth’s side and began to measure the speed of his pulse, while his mind raced in confusion. Had
he been wrong? Was the killer Redmeadow after all, with his incriminating tunic and fiery temper?

‘How did this happen?’ asked Michael, bemused.

‘I do not know,’ said Quenhyth weakly. ‘But my mouth and fingers burn, and I cannot move.’

Michael went to the window to pour a goblet of wine for the lad. He rolled his eyes, to indicate he thought Quenhyth was exaggerating
the seriousness of his condition, but Bartholomew pushed the cup away. ‘Do not give him wine.’

Michael regarded him askance. ‘You mean he really is poisoned?’

‘Very definitely. By Deschalers, I suspect.’

‘Deschalers is dead,’ said Michael, bewildered.

‘But the chest he gave his scribe is still here – the scribe he
admired
for his punctuality, but whom Julianna told us he did not
like
. And I think I know why. Deschalers was not being generous with his benefaction: he had a score to settle – something to
do with Bess.’

‘Bess,’ mused Michael, watching Bartholomew soak a rag in water and wipe the student’s face. ‘We know Deschalers gave her
money, despite the fact that he had no use for prostitutes. He was not paying her for her services, but for some other reason.
What was it, Quenhyth?’

‘Never mind her,’ groaned the student. ‘She was nothing but a faithless whore who deserved to die. Help me. I am still alive.
Close the window, the light hurts my eyes.’

‘Rougham made a henbane-based substance for Deschalers’s rats,’ said Bartholomew. ‘He added pig grease and cat urine, and
claimed it would slaughter any rodent that so much as sniffed it. There is plenty of oil on the chest you inherited from Deschalers,
and we have all noticed how it stinks. He wanted his henbane to kill more than rats.’

He leaned close to the lock and sniffed it cautiously. It reeked of urine and rancid fat, overlain with the now-familiar odour
of henbane. He remembered the odd clause Deschalers had put in his will – that Quenhyth was to keep the box for a year and
a day before selling it. Now it was obvious why he had stipulated such a thing:
he had wanted to ensure the poison had plenty of time to act.

BOOK: The Hand of Justice
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