“I thought that’s the way it must have happened,” the mason agreed, “for only the intervention of God could save a man’s life after such a tumble.”

Bascot searched Brand’s clothing and found nothing except a short piece of leather thong, of the type used to secure a scrip to a belt, caught up in the folds of the dead man’s cloak.

“I think this man had a purse on his belt and it has been cut off,” Bascot said. “It may be that robbery was the reason for this crime. My servant and I will search above to see if there are any signs of a struggle.”

Cerlo nodded. “Will you be wanting me or the quarryman any further, lord?”

“Only to transport the corpse to the Priory of All Saints,” Bascot replied. “Ask for the infirmarian, Brother Jehan, and tell him I sent you with a request that he take care of the body of this unfortunate soul until arrangements can be made for burial.”

The mason assured Bascot they would do as he asked and told the quarryman to fetch a large wheel-barrow and some more lengths of sacking to wrap the body securely.

Leaving them to their task, Bascot and Gianni rode back to the cliff top. The thin layer of earth that covered the area was almost afloat with water and, when they dismounted to search the ground, it squelched beneath the soles of their boots. The pair walked slowly for about twenty yards along the lip of the steep drop and all around the shack, and then began to search farther back in case the body had been dragged for a distance before being pushed into the quarry. There was nothing to indicate a struggle, but the heavy fall of rain had pounded the earth so severely that the few blades of grass attempting to grow had been flattened into the ground. Any evidence of footsteps or scuff marks had been obliterated by the downpour. Just as Bascot was about to concede defeat, Gianni clapped his hands together loudly and the Templar looked up to see the boy wearing a smile on his face. Bascot went over to see what he had found and Gianni held out his hand, palm upwards. On it lay a silver penny. Although slightly tarnished, its brightness shone through the layer of mud on the surface.

Bascot took the coin and rubbed it on the front of his tunic so he could examine it more closely. “It’s an old coin,” he said to Gianni, “and appears to be from the reign of King Stephen. If I am right, it is at least fifty years old, maybe more, and is surprisingly unworn in view of its age.”

He held it out for the boy to see. There, inscribed on the surface, was a portrait of the king, depicted with a diadem on his head and, in his right hand, a sceptre. Around the edge was the inscription STEFNE REX. On the reverse side was a cross of the type with broadened and split ends called moline and a design of fleur-de-lis.

Gianni peered at it, and then, with a questioning look, took the coin from his master and hefted it in his palm. Moving his hand up and down slightly, he looked at the Templar in puzzlement.

“Yes, it may be short weighted,” Bascot answered to the boy’s unspoken question. “I believe many coins made during that period did not have a full complement of silver. That was a sad time in England’s history, Gianni, for the king battled for many years with his cousin, Matilda, for possession of the throne, and coinage was issued not only by the king, but by many barons and bishops as well. I remember my grandsire telling me that most of the minters in Stephen’s reign did not observe the criterion established in earlier times regarding the silver-weight of a penny. This fault was not corrected until King Henry came to the throne.”

He smiled as he recalled the time when his grandfather had, cursing, told Bascot and his brothers of those days, and how the silver the old man had so carefully hoarded was not worth as much as he thought so he had been unable to raise enough funds to buy a young stallion to replace his aging destrier. His grandsire had spat on the ground in disgust at the memory and told his grandsons to always be wary of accepting coin of the realm at face value.

Bascot took the coin back from Gianni and looked down at the scarred earth beneath his feet, pondering how long the penny could have lain there. “This must have been dropped recently; otherwise it would be more badly stained. But it is strange that a coin of such age has not been exchanged for one of new issue.”

Thoughtfully, he placed the coin in his scrip along with the piece of leather thong. “It may have been dropped by someone who had no connection with the murder-one of the stone workers, perhaps-but I shall show it to the sheriff nonetheless. It would appear the clerk was robbed and since Brand worked in a place that is closely involved with exchanging old coins for new, it is a coincidence that must not be overlooked.”

He and Gianni made another careful search of the ground, but found nothing more. Remounting the grey, they rode back to Lincoln castle.


When Bascot and Gianni returned to the hall, Richard Camville was leaning against the wall watching Ralph of Turville and one of the household knights play Quek. The sheriff’s son was in a disgruntled mood. After he had informed his father of the stonemason’s discovery, he had not been able to settle back into his enjoyment of the game. He had looked forward to this visit from Eustachia and was taking pleasure in her company; the possibility of a murder intruding upon the festivities-and their betrothal ceremony-had destroyed his good humour. As Bascot and his servant walked across the hall towards him, threading their way through servants bustling about preparing the evening meal, Richard felt his glumness lighten a little. The Templar had proved himself extremely competent in solving the mysteries that surrounded crimes of murder, and perhaps he would be so again in this latest instance. Then all of the company would be able to enjoy the celebrations without distraction.

As Bascot approached, Richard wondered what it was in the Templar’s nature that made him so insightful of the motives that drove a man, or woman, to commit heinous crimes. He thought back to the day of Bascot’s arrival in Lincoln two years before. De Marins had only recently returned from the Holy Land at that time and had seemed a broken man, both in body and in spirit. He had been sent to Lincoln castle by the Order with a request to Richard’s mother, Nicolaa de la Haye, that she give the Templar shelter while he recovered from injuries sustained during his incarceration by the Saracens, and also in the hope that a period spent in the familiar surroundings of a castle would help him recover his waning faith. De Marins’s recuperation had been slow but, as the months passed, Nicolaa had begun to recognise the intrinsic worth of the man consigned to her care. If the knight had not decided to rejoin his brothers in the Templar Order, she would gladly have given him a place in her retinue.

Richard’s impression of the Templar was of a reticent man who was sometimes difficult to understand, but these minor failings were more than compensated for by his rigid code of honour and tenacious sense of duty. He also possessed, in contrast to most men of knightly status, a deep empathy for anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in desperate circumstances, such as the mute boy he had taken as his servant. Was it these characteristics that gave him a heightened sensitivity to the baseness in others, or had his long imprisonment fostered an insight that comes only to those who have endured great suffering? Richard did not know the answer to these questions, but of one thing he was certain-de Marins could be tireless in his quest for truth. If there was any mystery surrounding this latest death, the sheriff’s son had every confidence the Templar would not rest until he unravelled it.

As Bascot came up to him, Richard asked if he had found confirmation that the clerk had, as the mason said, been murdered.

“Yes,” Bascot replied. “There can be no doubt the man’s life was purposely taken.”

Richard sighed resignedly. “My father said if that was the case, he would like to hear the details directly upon your return.”

Bascot nodded and, after giving Gianni instructions to go to the scriptorium and transcribe the notes he had taken, followed Richard to the sheriff’s chamber. It was a large room, littered with items of personal use such as spare leather jerkins, boots and tack for horses. On one side of the room were two large ironbound chests with heavy triple locks in which the sheriff kept the fees he collected on behalf of the crown. When Richard and Bascot entered the room, the sheriff was seated with his guest, Gilbert Bassett, in front of a roaring fire, drinking wine. Gerard Camville bade them help themselves to a cup of wine and then asked the Templar what he had found at the quarry.

“The clerk was killed by a stab wound to the heart, lord,” Bascot replied. “Death would have been immediate, and although the mason found his body lying on the quarry floor, I do not think Brand died there. It seems likely he was fatally stabbed atop the cliff face on the western side of the quarry and his body pushed over the edge into the pit. From the condition of his corpse, I would say Brand has been dead at least four days. It is likely he was killed on the day the snowstorm began, or the one before.”

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