gossip, while the sheriff had invited his old friend Gilbert Bassett to share a flagon of wine in his private chamber. Of those of high station, only Richard Camville and Ralph of Turville were in the hall, waiting for two menservants to set up a pair of tables painted with chequered squares so they could play a game of Quek. Near them was Turville’s young son, Stephen, standing close to the wall, his muffler in place, watching in an unobtrusive manner as the servants went about their task.

When the game commenced, Bascot walked over to the table and stood watching the play. It was a relatively simple game that involved tossing a pair of dice onto the chequered board and betting whether they would land on light or dark squares. As gambling for money on a holy day was frowned upon, the stakes were in hazelnuts instead of silver pennies, and a stack of these were piled at the elbows of each of the players. The competitors seemed evenly matched, with Richard winning one or two throws in succession and then Turville gaining the advantage. Both men were in good spirits and laughing all the while; it was not long before some of the household knights gathered to watch the game, and young Stephen was softly clapping his hands together with approval each time his father won a toss.

The better part of an hour had passed when Bascot, lost in enjoyment of the good-natured rivalry of the game, heard his name whispered. He turned to find Eudo, Nicolaa de la Haye’s steward, standing respectfully behind him.

“Sir Bascot, one of the stonemasons from the cathedral has come to report the finding of a dead body in the church quarry. He also said he thinks the man was murdered. I am reluctant to disturb Sir Gerard while he is entertaining his guest. Would you be prepared to take the responsibility of judging whether the matter is of sufficient importance to interrupt him?”

Bascot knew why Eudo had chosen to bring his concern to him instead of one of the other household knights. During the two years the Templar had been staying in Lincoln, he had been involved, on several separate occasions, in uncovering the perpetrators of secret murder. Suspicious deaths were an occurrence with which Bascot had, unfortunately, more than a passing familiarity.

Bascot nodded his assent to the steward, and he and Gianni followed Eudo across the hall to where the mason, a man with a weather-beaten face and appearing to be of an age somewhere in his middle forties, was waiting. The mason was nervously twisting a rough leather cap between his fingers. He held his head at an odd angle as the Templar approached, turning his face first towards Bascot and then Eudo as he peered at each of them in turn.

“This is Cerlo, Sir Bascot,” Eudo said. “He is employed by the cathedral and is, at present, in charge of the quarry.” The steward instructed the mason to tell the Templar about the body he had found.

The mason glanced nervously at Bascot, and then dropped his head. Cerlo had heard tell of the Templar knight and how he had been a captive of the Saracens in the Holy Land for eight long years before making a daring escape from a Muslim pirate ship. It was said he had undergone terrible torture, including having his right eye put out with a hot poker, and that he had survived only because of his true devotion to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Tales about the Templar and his courage abounded and most of the townsfolk held the knight in awe because of his uncanny ability to track down murderers. The majority of Lincoln’s citizens believed God had chosen the Templar as an avenging angel, but there were others who were unnerved by his quiet and aloof manner and claimed his success was due to heathen powers he had learned from his captors in the Holy Land. Whatever the truth was, the pale blue glitter of the Templar’s remaining eye unnerved Cerlo as he struggled to comply with the steward’s direction.

“’Tis a terrible matter, lord,” he finally said self-consciously, “and I thought as how the sheriff should know of it straight away, even though ’tis Christ’s Mass day.”

“If necessary, I will ensure he is informed,” Bascot responded quietly. “Tell me how you came to discover the body.”

Cerlo nodded and his voice dropped to a thready whisper. “I went along to the pit at daybreak with one of the quarrymen to see if water from the rain and melted snow was draining from the site,” he explained. “I was worried the struts on the heavy sledges might have become waterlogged. We noticed the body almost as soon as we arrived. It was wedged between a block of stone and the bottom of the cliff face.”

The mason twisted his cap so hard it seemed it would be rent in pieces as he added, “It looks as though he’s been there for some days, perhaps from before the snow fell, but I… but I think he’s been murdered, lord. There’s a fearful stab wound in his chest.”

“Did you recognise him?” Bascot asked.

Cerlo nodded uncomfortably. “Aye. His name is Peter Brand. He’s clerk to Helias de Stow, the moneyer in charge of the Lincoln mint.”


Bascot went over to Richard Camville and asked if he could speak to him for a moment. The sheriff’s son motioned for one of the household knights who had been watching the game of Quek to take his place and he and Bascot went a little apart from the group. Richard listened with undivided attention as the Templar told him the news the mason had brought.

In appearance and temperament, Richard Camville was a composite of his parents and their antecedents, favouring neither one side nor the other. His tall, well muscled body and flaming red hair had been inherited from his maternal grandfather, but he had about him a good portion of his father’s aggressiveness and restless manner, which had fortunately been tempered by a shrewdness passed down from his mother. His response was quick and decisive.

“I do not know the man the mason has found but I am, of course, acquainted with de Stow and will see that my father is apprised of what has passed,” he said. “Since Coroner Pinchbeck is away from Lincoln at the moment, someone in authority needs to view the body and note any pertinent details as to the cause of death.” Richard gave a grimace. “Even if Pinchbeck were here, I doubt he would be willing to turn out on a holy day to inspect a corpse, since he usually proves reluctant to do so any other time.” He gave Bascot a direct look. “In the past you have been involved, at my mother’s behest, in cases of secret murder. Are you willing to be so again, as my father’s representative?”

Bascot smiled inwardly. Richard was just as diplomatic as his mother who, on every previous occasion of a suspicious death, had asked for his help and not demanded it even though, as he was temporarily in her service, he was duty bound to comply with any orders she gave. Although he, too, had no wish to spend the day of Christ’s Mass viewing a corpse, what Richard said about the coroner was true. Alan of Pinchbeck was an indolent man, content to leave the duties of his office to others if at all possible. The royal post of coroner was an unpaid one and while Pinchbeck enjoyed the prestige that holding the office bestowed on him, he was more than willing to have Gerard Camville, in his capacity as sheriff, investigate the circumstances of any sudden death.

Bascot nodded his agreement to undertake the task. “Do you wish me to make arrangements for the safekeeping of the body?”

“I think it would be best to have it removed to the Priory of All Saints for the nonce,” Richard replied. “Until arrangements have been made for the relatives of the dead man to be notified, the infirmarian at the priory will care for the corpse in the proper manner and see it readied for burial.”

After assuring the sheriff’s son he would report what he found as soon as he returned from the quarry, Bascot called to Gianni and told the boy to go to the scriptorium and fetch his portable wax tablet and stylus. Gianni spent two or three hours a day studying the art of scribing under the direction of Lady Nicolaa’s secretarius, John Blund, and kept his writing implements in the chamber where the clerks carried out their duties. A few minutes later, the boy returned and together he and the Templar followed Cerlo out of the hall.

“The road to the quarry is a mucky mess, Sir Bascot,” the mason said as they descended the steps that led down from the keep. “You might want to ride there, instead of walk, even though ’tis not a far distance.”

While Bascot waited for a groom to saddle a horse, the mason set off to wait for the Templar at the quarry, which was located a little way from the cathedral outside the eastern boundary of the city wall. When the mount was ready, Bascot, with Gianni riding pillion behind, guided his mount through the crowds still thronging the precincts of the Minster to the gate in the city wall. Once they were through the portal, they found that the track

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