Before there was the novel, there were the stories...

by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New Stories: To Expose a Murder I (Cut)

Remember, Jehan is Harold in the novel, and Artur is Ansovald. Aelflynn was not murdered, as far as the novel is concerned.

September 767

“Hugh..? But Sir Artur, there are many men named Hugh in these environs,” Lord Jehan de Grantham told his guest. “A brewer? Nay, the brewer here is named Ethelbert. I have known the man for many, many years. There has been no other in my memory.”

The French knight accepted the goblet of wine the lord of Grantham Manor offered him. “The King believes he may have had a connection to the healer, the woman Aelflynn..” He looked up when Jehan turned from pouring a goblet for himself. “Eh bien, you know the man?”

Jehan stared. “Aye, the healer’s brother’s name was Hugh. He was quite a scoundrel. She had much tribulation from him. He was a drunk and we thought perhaps a thief. He could not keep in work, for his slack ways. In fact methinks he was briefly at Ethelbert’s brewery. The man told me more than one tale of his misdeeds while he was there.”

Jehan came over to sit in a chair near the knight, who was listening intently. “I knew the blackguard had left Grantham. I counted myself fortunate when he did not come back. One less miscreant for my bailiff to handle.”

Sir Artur leaned towards him, “My lord, when did the man leave? Can you recall?”

Jehan frowned, “Aye, strangely I do. Under other circumstances I should have to call my steward or the bailiff or even the sheriff to refresh my memory, but the scoundrel’s disappearance coincided so closely to his sister’s murder that I marked it.”

Artur looked up from his goblet sharply. “You suspected him, my lord?”

Jehan nodded slowly. “Aye, his name did come up. But he was not known for acts of violence, as far as I knew. And there was that .. other matter.. and we did not look much further.”

Sir Artur put his goblet on a table that stood nearby. He stood, clasped his hands behind his back, and paced slowly to the window. He looked out over a small garden that was between the manor house and the very woods where the young woman had been strangled to death. He said in a cautious voice, “What other matter, s’il vous plâit. If you please, that is.”

Lord Jehan did not reply at first. Then he evaded, “I should not like to say, sir knight.”

Artur Le Mieux turned and glared at the back of the man’s head. “You must, Lord Jehan. I did not ride all this way under orders from the Duke and the King himself to play games,” he said coldly.

Jehan squirmed in his chair, but did not reply.

Artur came to stand next to Jehan’s chair, gazing down at the man’s averted face. “My lord, the King is most grateful to you. He knows that he likely owes his life to your household and the healer you brought for him. But if there is something you are holding back, it will not go well for you.”

Jehan swirled the wine in his goblet, his concentration seemingly on the movement of the dark red liquid. “Sir Artur, the King.. he seemed … reluctant to pursue the matter. I thought.. “

Artur put his hand on the hilt of his sword, “Thought? Thought the King had a hand in the woman’s death?” he snapped angrily.

Jehan gave the knight a pleading look. “Sir, I do not know. I did not myself suspect that. He was hardly well enough to ride then, much less to overpower a woman even as delicate as the healer was. And he was most grateful to her.” He took a gulp of the wine. “But my steward suggested that.. he may have been more than just grateful. “

Artur glared, his hand still on the pummel of his sword. “And what if that were true, monsieur? Would that not have made him eager to find the dastard?”

Lord Jehan stared back now, steely eyed. “Not if the man wanted tales of the tryst to.. disappear. To not reach the ears of his pretty young wife.”

Artur flared, drew back a hand and seemed about to slap Jehan. He thought better of it, turned back and retrieved his wine, and sat again. “I beg your pardon, my lord. The King is a very dear friend of mine and I do not care to hear him so maligned.”

Jehan, whose face had flushed with anger, nodded frowning. “I said ‘tis not my thought, Sir Artur. I did not know how to proceed with the investigation and my steward felt it might be wisest just to let the matter drop. Other than this Hugh, her brother, the woman had no kin. There was no one to call for justice for her. If the King did not press it seemed best to let him go home to his wife and new child and let this whole matter stay behind.”

Artur nodded. “I shall have to inform the King of this..” he began.

Jehan slammed his goblet down. “My gods, man, I was trying to second guess what the king wanted. Am I to be dishonored because I thought I was protecting him?”

Artur just glowered. After a while, he looked up at the lord of Grantham and said, “Then at least help me look further into the matter.”

Jehan subsided, still looking anxious. “I shall.” He called to the guard outside his door, “Send for the bailiff. This knight wishes to speak with him.” He barely kept the acid out of his voice when he said the word “knight”.

Next: To Expose a Murder II

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .