the Templar knights and men-at-arms of the commandery stood in small silent groups around the perimeter of the central training ground, watching with apprehensive eyes.

Bascot nodded to both men when they reached the chapel. The Templar knight, from his time in the temporary service of Camville’s wife, Nicolaa de la Haye, knew the sheriff well. The same was true of Roget. During his stay in Lincoln castle, Bascot had assisted the castellan in seeking out the perpetrator of four previous cases of secret murder and the captain had been involved in most of the investigations. They had formed a liking for each other and become fast friends.

“The preceptor is waiting for you inside the chapel, lord,” Bascot said to Camville. “The body of the murdered girl is in there.”

The sheriff grunted a response. “D’Arderon’s message said the victim’s identity was unknown,” Camville said as they went into the small church. “I have had no report of a missing female within the town, so have brought Roget along to see if he recognises her.”

As captain of the sheriff’s guard, Roget was familiar with most of the town’s inhabitants. If the dead girl was from Lincoln, it was likely he would know her identity.

Bascot led the two men into the vestry. Additional incense had been set burning and it had, in part, masked the rank smell of death. D’Arderon and Emilius were both inside the chamber, kneeling alongside the preceptory’s priest, Brother John, as he intoned Prayers for the Dead. Camville, Roget and Bascot knelt beside them until the priest was finished and Brother John’s gloved hands, kept continually covered so they were pristine for the celebration of Mass, moved in the sign of a cross over the body.

“I have done what I can for the soul of this unfortunate woman,” the priest said as he and the others rose to their feet. Brother John was an elderly man, fussy and precise, and his face was drawn downward in lines of sadness. “As soon as she can be moved, her body can be taken to the nunnery in the Priory of All Saints. There her earthly remains can be properly cared for by those of her own gender.”

The priest moved towards the vestry door. “Please inform me when that has been done, Preceptor,” he said to d’Arderon. “The chapel has been defiled by this violence and will need to be reconsecrated before it can be used again. Until then, I will conduct our services outside, under the clean air of God’s heaven.”

“Thank you for coming so quickly, Gerard,” d’Arderon said to the sheriff as Brother John departed, well aware that in most cases of a reported crime, Camville would send Roget or one of his household knights to take down the details. The import of this crime, however, was serious enough to bring the sheriff in person. Not only had murder been done, it had been committed in a house of God, a heinous act compounded by blasphemy.

Camville and Roget moved to the open coffer. The girl still lay as though in foetal sleep; only the angry purple circle around her neck marked the violence that had been done to her. Her blue kirtle was of cheap material, and the skirts were gathered above her ankles, exposing small feet encased in shabby boots. Her hands were almost hidden from sight in the folds of her gown, but two slim fingers protruded, the nails ragged and bitten to the quick.

Roget reached in and gently brushed the bright hair back from her face, so that her features could be seen more clearly. The flesh had a waxy appearance from the effect of encroaching decomposition, and her once pretty hazel eyes were bulging and bloodshot. From between her lips, the tip of her tongue protruded. The death rictus had come and gone.

“Le pauvre petite,” Roget said as he crossed himself. “She is known to me, lord,” he said to Camville. “She is one of the prostitutes from a stewe in Butwerk. I do not recall her name, but the stewe-holder will know it.”

The sheriff nodded and looked at d’Arderon. “She’s been dead for a couple of days at least. Do you have any idea how she, or her body, could have got into the preceptory?”

D’Arderon shook his head. The preceptor’s face was ashen. “None at all,” he said. “There have been many brothers through the commandery in the last few weeks, but for one of them to smuggle in a woman… and then murder her… It is too incredible to contemplate.”

“She must have been placed in the coffer during the last two days, lord,” Bascot said. “Brother Emilius received a supply of new girdles from London three days ago and added them to the few that were left. Her body has been put in here since then.”

Emilius nodded and pointed to the two chests containing surcoats, the lids of which were open to reveal the garments inside, all neatly folded. “I also received a few new surcoats, not many, and I added those to the inventory as well. As you can see, the other chests have not been disturbed.”

“After the preceptor sent his message to you,” Bascot said to the sheriff, “I spoke to the guards who have been on the gate for the last two days. The only way a female could have been brought in here is if she was disguised as a man. All of them are certain that no one of suspicious appearance has been admitted, except for one. He is one of the younger men-at-arms and told me that two men hired from the local populace to help the preceptory’s grooms were admitted an hour before Matins two nights ago. Both of them wore cloaks and hoods which shielded their faces, but one of them was small and slight; the guard assumed he was a young lad. It was his companion who requested entrance, saying they had been ordered by Serjeant Hamo to report early for instructions about their duties. The guard knew that Hamo had hired extra men because, with so many brothers passing through on their way to enclaves overseas, there are too many horses for the preceptory’s grooms to care for. He admitted them without question.”

Bascot paused. “I then spoke to Hamo. He hired only three local men; and none of them were told to report early.”

“So that is how the girl got into the enclave,” Camville said. “Even though it would seem she came willingly, it was probably her companion who murdered her.”

“It would appear so, lord,” Bascot replied.

“But why?” d’Arderon demanded angrily. “This is more than simple murder, much as that evil act is to be decried. To kill anyone, man or woman, in the precincts of a church is an abomination. Surely no Christian would damn his soul in such a terrible manner.”

His words chilled them all. The preceptor was right, only an infidel would have such blatant disregard for a house of the Christian God.

“But if that was the intent, why choose our chapel?” Bascot said musingly. “It would have been much easier to commit this sacrilege in any of the churches in town, or even the cathedral. Their doors are open to all at any hour of the day or night. Why was the girl brought here, where access can only be gained through a gate protected by an armed guard? It would seem the murderer’s intent was not only to defile a chapel, but that it must be a Templar one.”

The others reflected on Bascot’s comment as Emilius went outside and called to one of the men-at-arms to take a message to the prior of All Saints and ask his permission for the corpse to be taken to the death chamber in the nunnery. Two other soldiers were sent for a makeshift bier on which to place the body.

“Perhaps knowledge of the girl’s identity will make the matter clearer,” Camville said. He spoke to Roget. “Go to the stewe where she worked and find out her name and anything else that is known about her, especially if she has any connection with the Templar Order, such as a family member that belongs to it. Ask also about her customers. It may be one of them that used her as a tool for his own vengeful purposes.”

While he was speaking the stretcher arrived and the preceptor gave a terse order for the soldiers to lift the woman’s body out of the coffer and place it on the litter. With grim faces, they did as they were bid, taking care to be gentle. As the harlot was lifted up, a sound coincided with the movement, a dull thud that startled both of the men-at-arms.

Motioning for the men to move aside, Camville strode to the chest and looked in. “Were any monies kept in this chest?” he asked as he reached in and drew forth a leather pouch that chinked with a metallic clatter as he picked it up.

Emilius, to whom the sheriff had directed the question, gazed at the pouch, his expression astonished. “No,” he assured Camville. “Only clothing.”

The sheriff hefted the purse and then opened it, spilling half of the contents into the palm of his hand. “There is a goodly quantity of money here. At a guess, I would say there are thirty pence.”

Silence reigned as the men took in the implication of the number of coins. It was the amount of silver pieces that Judas had been paid to betray Jesus.

Camville was the first to speak, looking at Bascot as he did so. “Your question is answered, de Marins. It seems the murderer used a Templar chapel because he is accusing someone in your enclave of forswearing their

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