âAnd the gateman given something for his â er â forgetfulness?â
âHe was indeed,â said the ACC warmly, âand probably not what he expected either.â He prodded the pile of papers in front of him. âHe â the gateman, name of Stonyng, Richard Stonyng â said that the Mayor hadnât told him to shut the gate.â
âWhat had it got to do with the Mayor, might I ask?â Criminal investigation and local government usually met head on over fraud and planning law, not murder.
âQuite a lot. The cathedral had been in dispute with the civil authorities about their boundaries for years.â
âItâs not unknown, sir.â It had always been a great relief to Sloan that property disputes were civil not criminal matters. He added a trifle sententiously, âGood fences make good neighbours.â
âGood neighbours the city and cathedral werenât,â said the ACC emphatically, âIn the old days, men on the run from the Mayor and commonalty used to jump over St Peterâs churchyard wall and take sanctuary in the cathedral â much to the cityâs annoyance.â
âMen have always tried to escape from justice,â observed Sloan, who carried several scars on his person to prove it.
âI suppose,â said the ACC, who had been at school at Eton, âthat you could call it a sort of Wall Game. Anyway, it seems that the man on the gateâ¦â
Sloan glanced at his notebook. âRichard Stonyngâ¦â
ââ¦ took his orders from the Mayor that night.â
âAnd the Mayorâs name, sir?â prompted Sloan, his pen poised. Office holders always had recorded names.
âAnd where, sir, does he come in, or donât we know?â
âGood question, Sloan. First and foremost, he seems to have been in cahoots with the Dean against the Bishop.â
âThatâs bad.â It sounded an unholy alliance to Sloan.
âVery. But not unknown in English history,â said the ACC grimly. âIn this instance, the casus belli â¦â
âBeg pardon, sir?â
âWhat? Oh, sorry, Sloan. The cause of their dispute was the appointment of John Pycot as Dean of the cathedralâ¦â
âNot with Bishop Peter Quivel anyway. He said the election had been rigged.â
âAnd as it was the Bishop who â er â blew the gaff, do I take it the Dean had something to do with the death of the preÂ â¦ the other clerical gentleman, sir?â Rigged elections were not usually the province of a detective inspector, but murder was.
âYouâve got it in one, Sloan,â said the ACC, beaming.
âNot a lot of brotherly love lost?â observed Sloan. That, at least, could be safely said about most murders.
âBut why should it have been Walter Lechlade who got killed, then?â asked Sloan, anxious to get at least one thing clear.
âPro-Bishop, anti-Dean,â said the ACC succinctly.
âSo where does the Mayor â Alfred Duport â come in, then?â asked Sloan for the second time.
âFriend of the Dean,â said the ACC.
âBut the Dean wasnât the murderer, surely, sir, was he?â ventured Sloan, although he was naturally prepared to concede that it wasnât what you knew that mattered but who.
âJohn Pycot didnât kill Walter Lechlade personally, if thatâs what you mean,â said the ACC, âany more than Henry II actually killed Thomas Ã Becket on an earlier and much more celebrated occasion.â
âThat, sir,â observed Sloan, greatly daring, âis a fine point.â
âOh, the King was morally guilty,â conceded the ACC, who didnât have to deal with split hairs on a daily basis in court. âNo doubt about that.â
âAnd did penance,â said Sloan. There had been