Chapter and Hearse

Free Chapter and Hearse by Catherine Aird

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Authors: Catherine Aird
Tags: Mystery
    â€˜And the gateman given something for his – er – forgetfulness?’
    â€˜He was indeed,’ said the ACC warmly, ‘and probably not what he expected either.’ He prodded the pile of papers in front of him. ‘He – the gateman, name of Stonyng, Richard Stonyng – said that the Mayor hadn’t told him to shut the gate.’
    â€˜What had it got to do with the Mayor, might I ask?’ Criminal investigation and local government usually met head on over fraud and planning law, not murder.
    â€˜Quite a lot. The cathedral had been in dispute with the civil authorities about their boundaries for years.’
    â€˜It’s not unknown, sir.’ It had always been a great relief to Sloan that property disputes were civil not criminal matters. He added a trifle sententiously, ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’
    â€˜Good neighbours the city and cathedral weren’t,’ said the ACC emphatically, ‘In the old days, men on the run from the Mayor and commonalty used to jump over St Peter’s churchyard wall and take sanctuary in the cathedral – much to the city’s annoyance.’
    â€˜Men have always tried to escape from justice,’ observed Sloan, who carried several scars on his person to prove it.
    â€˜I suppose,’ said the ACC, who had been at school at Eton, ‘that you could call it a sort of Wall Game. Anyway, it seems that the man on the gate…’
    Sloan glanced at his notebook. ‘Richard Stonyng…’
    â€˜â€¦ took his orders from the Mayor that night.’
    â€˜And the Mayor’s name, sir?’ prompted Sloan, his pen poised. Office holders always had recorded names.
    â€˜Alfred Duport.’
    â€˜And where, sir, does he come in, or don’t we know?’
    â€˜Good question, Sloan. First and foremost, he seems to have been in cahoots with the Dean against the Bishop.’
    â€˜That’s bad.’ It sounded an unholy alliance to Sloan.
    â€˜Very. But not unknown in English history,’ said the ACC grimly. ‘In this instance, the casus belli …’
    â€˜Beg pardon, sir?’
    â€˜What? Oh, sorry, Sloan. The cause of their dispute was the appointment of John Pycot as Dean of the cathedral…’
    â€˜Not popular?’
    â€˜Not with Bishop Peter Quivel anyway. He said the election had been rigged.’
    â€˜And as it was the Bishop who – er – blew the gaff, do I take it the Dean had something to do with the death of the pre … the other clerical gentleman, sir?’ Rigged elections were not usually the province of a detective inspector, but murder was.
    â€˜You’ve got it in one, Sloan,’ said the ACC, beaming.
    â€˜Not a lot of brotherly love lost?’ observed Sloan. That, at least, could be safely said about most murders.
    â€˜But why should it have been Walter Lechlade who got killed, then?’ asked Sloan, anxious to get at least one thing clear.
    â€˜Pro-Bishop, anti-Dean,’ said the ACC succinctly.
    â€˜So where does the Mayor – Alfred Duport – come in, then?’ asked Sloan for the second time.
    â€˜Friend of the Dean,’ said the ACC.
    â€˜But the Dean wasn’t the murderer, surely, sir, was he?’ ventured Sloan, although he was naturally prepared to concede that it wasn’t what you knew that mattered but who.
    â€˜John Pycot didn’t kill Walter Lechlade personally, if that’s what you mean,’ said the ACC, ‘any more than Henry II actually killed Thomas à Becket on an earlier and much more celebrated occasion.’
    â€˜That, sir,’ observed Sloan, greatly daring, ‘is a fine point.’
    â€˜Oh, the King was morally guilty,’ conceded the ACC, who didn’t have to deal with split hairs on a daily basis in court. ‘No doubt about that.’
    â€˜And did penance,’ said Sloan. There had been

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