With a little arcane assistance, the Town Criers have discovered that the murder weapon points directly to… one of their own.
“A Crier bell?!”
Emeraude gasped, looking reflexively down at her own wood-and-metal tool of the trade. It was a hefty instrument, to be sure – quite useful for noisy clanging and, she supposed, for knocking the lights out of the likes of murder victim Jasper Trustworthy. “But it couldn’t have been me! I’d have known about it! And you’d been in my sight since the gates opened up until the body’s discovery,” she said, pointing to Harold Angel. Swinging her finger around to their mutual cousin, Dorcas Oddpick, she added, “And Dorcas knew not even that Jasper had been murdered, until we told her!”
“And we’ve all had our bells hanging from our belts all day,” said Harold, “so ‘tis not as if anyone else could have used one of them to kill Trustworthy.”
“And nobody who is not a Town Crier has any business bearing a bell,” Dorcas said virtuously. “Apart from the Bristol Buskin Frolickers, and they’ve only got a lot of little jingly bells, anyway. And flowers. A great lot of flowers.”
“Well, we know now that Jasper wasn’t killed with a flower,” said Emeraude. “Frankly, I don’t think any of us once supposed that he was. But if none of us three Criers murdered him, than who—” She stopped short, green eyes grown wide as a realization struck. “But of course,” she said. “We are not only three Criers: We are four.”
“God save the Queen, you’re right!” cried Harold. “We’ve forgotten all about cousin Hannah!”
“Who?” said Dorcas.
“Hannah Masey,” Emeraude said in a rush. “Understandable if you remember her not, cousin – she’s as hard to catch sight of as a tricky Fantastikal, and we’ve not made mention of her name since way back in Part One of this story. Do you think she could have done it, Harold?”
“There is but one way to find out,” Harold said. “And it will be difficult to pull off, as it would involve confronting Hannah herself to get the facts, and who knows where she ever is?”
“We may not know where she is this moment,” said Emeraude, “but we know where she’ll be in five minutes.”
“We do?” said Dorcas. “That’s clever of us. Where will she be?”
“’Tis five mins until half past the hour of noon,” said Emeraude, displaying the face of her timepiece, “at which time all assigned to join in Her Majesty’s procession through Bristol are to gather beyond the town’s side gate. The Town Criers will be there to lead the parade.” She looked significantly at her cousins. “All four of them.”
The sleuthing Criers made all haste to the parade rendezvous, there to await the suspicious fourth of their number. And they weren’t the only ones there by a long shot. The area was crowded with townsfolk: Merchants selling everything from hats to llama-petting, joining the march in order to advertise their wares; Robin Hood and his Merry Men, bringing an outsized cake to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s imminent arrival; Dog and Pony, the Swedish Governess, the witch sisters, Captain Frobisher and his ship’s boy, Anne Drew, Tamora Skumm and Amil Stands, the floozies and the Italians… in short, pretty much everyone who had been in any way implicated or involved in the Criers’ murder investigation.
And once all the suspects are assembled, Emeraude thought, the big reveal of the murderer isn’t far behind.
They found the elusive Hannah Masey sitting underneath a tree, playing with fallen acorns. She looked up as a triple shadow fell over her, four eyes looking grimly down. (Dorcas’s eyes didn’t know how to look grim, and actually appeared to be looking more at Hannah’s acorns than at the suspected killer.)
Emeraude wasted no time beating about the bush. “Where wert thou at the hour of ten and thirty this morrow, Hannah?”
“Ten and thirty?” Hannah screwed up her somewhat adorable face in thought. “I forget the precise location.”
“Do you indeed?” said Harold. “I suppose not that it was the bridge above Lake Elizabeth?”
“With your Crier bell?” added Emeraude.
“Well, aye,” Hannah said, “I believe my bell was with me at the time…”
“A confession!” said Harold. “So it was you all along!”
“What was me?” asked a confused Hannah.
“The one who murdered Jasper Trustworthy, that’s what!” said Emeraude.
Hannah gasped. “Jasper Trustworthy hath been murdered?”
“Oh, act not so surprised,” Harold sneered.
“But this is the first I’ve heard of it!” Hannah insisted. “I’ve been given nothing of this news, and I was never there to witness the murder firsthand.”
“Nor is anyone ever there to witness firsthand where exactly you are and what business you’re about,” said Emeraude. “I am most sorry to have to do this, Hannah, for you are family, but as the murder weapon was a Crier bell and no one can account for your whereabouts—”
From behind the trio of Crier backs, a cheery, not-quite-human voice piped up, “I can account for them!”
Emeraude, Harold, and Dorcas whirled around and tilted their heads up to behold the enormous, rather wooden smile of Jynks Jester. “Hannah was with me all morning,” Jynks declared. “She was acting as my spotter to ensure that small children ended up not within my blind spot. I have a rather limited range of neck movement, you know.”
“I was not aware he had a neck at all,” Harold muttered.
“I was not aware that he could talk!” Emeraude muttered back.
“Stretch the sailor was with us until a little after eleven, if my word’s not enough for you,” the gigantic jester went on. “And we never once went near the lake.”
“Hooray!” said Dorcas, clapping her hands. “That means Hannah’s in the clear!”
“Which means that we’re right back where this episode started,” Harold moaned.
Emeraude buried her face in her hands. “And the Queen will be here any minute!”
If it wasn’t Hannah whodunit, then who? And of equal importance, will the Criers be able to solve the crime before Her Majesty arrives? Don’t miss the stunning conclusion of the Bristol serial murder mystery, coming soon!