Jasper Trustworthy’s murderer is still at large! Are the Town Criers getting anywhere close to solving this mystery before Queen Elizabeth arrives in Bristol?
The Shanty Sing typically took place in the town hub known as the Sun Garden. Why it was called the Sun Garden was anybody’s guess, as the nearest thing it had to a garden was the greenery growing atop the trellis roofs above rows of benched tables, and it certainly didn’t produce any sun. (If anything, that boast could be made by the blazing New Market area, more often to referred to by the locals as the Serengeti.)
But regardless of its name’s suitability or lack thereof, the Sun Garden made a fine place to sing at people, as they weren’t likely to stray far from the food vended on either side of the street. So it was there that sailors and their local lady friends often gathered to share songs of the sea. Whether the particular lady friend of a particular sailor was to be found there at this particular hour was more than Bristol’s Town Criers could yet say. They would know better once they actually arrived there.
“Well, we’ve arrived here,” said Emeraude a’Right, stopping to have a look around her. “See you any sign of women of questionable morals, cousins?”
Dorcas Oddpick pointed. “Does yon woman count as morally questionable?”
Emeraude and Harold Angel followed the line of Dorcas’s finger toward the rear of the Lord Mayor’s Forum, better known as the Seven Deadly Sins Stage for the colorful characterizations painted thereon. Strategically located near the depiction of Gluttony stood a mobile cart labeled “Skumm Foodstuffs”, and beside it, its proprietor, Tamora Skumm herself.
“Morally questionable? Mayhap, mayhap not,” said Emeraude. “Gastronomically questionable? In faith.”
“We might ask her whether any of the floozies have been about, this morrow,” Harold suggested. He wrinkled his nose. “Merely attempt not to breathe too deeply while downwind of her wares.”
The Crier cousins approached the cart, and Tamora welcomed them with a smile, a bright contrast in her grimy face. “Good day, Criers!” she greeted in her lower-class-meets-country dialect. “Might I interest you in the stone soup? It needs but a little more seasoning, and someone to sing to it, and it will be ready to serve!”
“Nay,” Harold turned Tamora down flatly when her eager gaze fell upon him. “I do not sing, ne’er mind what a certain Christmas carol hath instructed you to hark.”
“I shall do it!” Dorcas volunteered. Leaning over the pot swimming with long-dead plant matter (and animal matter which may not have been dead until it flew into the brew), Dorcas broke into one of her favorite original ditties.
“I like cheese, yes I do;
I like cheese, how ‘bout you?
Muenster, cheddar, Monterey, and bleu!
I like cheese – moo, moo, moo!”
Leaving her cousin to her second number about one of the many turtles named Ralph, Emeraude asked Tamora, “Have you seen any of the local floozies, this day?”
“Not since yesterden, nay,” Tamora said. “They were here for the Shanty Sing, them and the crew of the Gabriel.”
“Captain Frobisher ‘n’ ‘em, aye,” Emeraude nodded. This much they knew. Almost as an afterthought, she asked, “Did you see Jasper Trustworthy then, as well?”
“Marry, did I. Even served him a bowl of soup. Of course, it had only been sitting for five days, at the time, so it was a bit underdone.” She shrugged. “Still, as he was willing to pay for it, I did not say him nay. A sale’s a sale.”
Emeraude fought to keep her face from twitching its way from her “pleasantly socializing” expression to one of utter revulsion. If Jasper Trustworthy had actually ingested any of Tamora’s “food”, that might be the mystery of his death solved, right there. Word on the street was that Skumm had lost a few husbands, that way. “Did you see him eat it?”
“Oh, ‘twas not for himself, he said,” said Tamora. “It was to go to the rat catcher. Something about experimenting with different kinds of bait.”
“Ah,” said Emeraude. “So Jasper had business with Amil Stands, withal.”
“’Tis yet another suspicious character to add to the list,” Harold groaned in exasperation. “How in England are we supposed to speak to them all before the Queen’s arrival in…” – he checked Emeraude’s timepiece (for he had yet to learn to carry his own, and Dorcas’s was still dangling over the soup) – “…Little more than an hour??” he finished.
“And we have a double-hawk in five minutes,” Emeraude recalled. “We shall have to divide and conquer, cousins. Two at one hawk, one at another, and then two to find the floozies, and one to find the rat catcher.”
Harold raised a hand. “I volunteer to—”
“You will interrogate the rat catcher,” Emeraude said sternly. “And you will hawk at the Fountainside Stage. Dorcas and I will cover the Three Sheets and the floozies. Meet you by the Globe in twenty minutes. Be not late!”
And with grumbles from Harold, one last cadenza from Dorcas, and a wave exchanged between Emeraude and Tamora, the Criers went they separate ways.
Who killed Jasper Trustworthy? Was it a Skumm-y food vendor, a rat of a rat catcher, or was it… someone else? Keep following the clues along with the Town Criers, and see if you can uncover whodunit!