The final episode of the Bristol whodunit is here! With wildcard Town Crier Hannah in the clear, can Emeraude and the others uncover the murderer before the Queen’s parade? Can you?
“A’right, a’right, a’right… think, think, think!”
Emeraude a’Right paced in small circles under the tree, avoiding slipping on its fallen acorns more by luck than any attention paid, for all her concentration was on the current conundrum.
“We’ve missed something. We’ve got to have missed something! The answer’s sure to be staring us right in the face, we’re just not seeing the big portrait, somehow. Let’s take it back to the beginning. When did we last see Jasper Trustworthy alive?”
“At the town meeting, early this morning,” recalled her cousin and fellow Crier, Harold Angel. “Nearly the whole of Bristol was there in the hour before the gates opened, to be sure that all went smoothly for the Queen’s arrival. (And we can see how well that precaution’s paid off…)”
“Right,” Emeraude nodded, ignoring Harold’s characteristically negative mutterings. “So his murder had to take place between the end of the meeting and just past the hour of ten-and-thirty, when Dorcas found him in the lake. Now, you and I were together that whole ninety minutes, Harold – greeted visitors at the gates together, hawked the show at the Three Sheets together, both our bells in our possession the whole time – so that rules either of us out as the killer. Now, Dorcas…”
Emeraude turned to the third cousin and Crier, Dorcas Oddpick. “You saw the body before we did, so you can help us fix the time of death more closely. At what time did you reach the bridge?”
“It was…” Dorcas paused to think, eyes rolled skyward as if the answer were written in the clouds. (Not that such a thing would be of much help to her, given that she was only barely literate.) “Yea, I remember, it was just ten-and-thirty. I know, because I had nearly reached the bridge before, but then I saw that I had forgotten my timepiece, so I had to go back to our room of green get it, and I made sure to check the timepiece when I reached the bridge the second time, to be certain that this time it was properly on my person, and it was.”
“All right, very good. And when you reached the center of the bridge, Jasper was in the lake?”
“Nay, he wasn’t in the lake yet,” said Dorcas. “He was on the bridge.”
“He was??” said Harold.
“Dead already?” asked Emeraude.
“Nay, he was alive. I waved at him, and said, ‘Good morrow, Jasper!’” Dorcas waved in demonstration. “Then I looked over the bridge’s rail, and waved at the turtles, and said, ‘Good morrow to you, Ralph! And to you, Ralph! And to Ralph!’”
“Yes, yes, but what about Jasper?” Harold demanded impatiently.
Dorcas frowned. “Quoth Jasper, ‘Aye, good morrow, Stinky and Flippy and Murky and Jim,’ and any number of names that were NOT those of the turtles. And I made every effort to educate him on the true names of the turtles, but he would relent not, and insisted on calling them by every odious appellation that did enter his dingy top-hatted pate. So I hit him with my bell.”
Emeraude and Harold stared at Dorcas, then at each other, then back at Dorcas to cry in unison, “YOU KILLED JASPER TRUSTWORTHY?!”
“Nay,” said Dorcas, looking affronted. “I merely hit him with my bell. Then he fell over the rail for a nap in the water.”
Harold dropped his face into his hand. “Which degree hath a murder when the killer kills without understanding that a death hath even occurred?”
“I know not,” Emeraude said wearily, shoulders slumped as if under the weight of the earth and its moon. “Nor do I know what is to be done now. How can we lead the Queen’s progress through town with a murderer in our midst?? In our very family?!”
From behind and above, an imperial voice rang out, “Thou canst if we do ask it of thee.”
In that moment, the second death of the day very nearly came to pass, for Emeraude’s heart stood still at the sight of none other than her beloved Queen Elizabeth, sitting in all regal glory upon her horse.
“Your Majesty!” Emeraude gasped, dropping down into a deep reverence.
With a benevolent almost-smile, the Queen’s hand motioned in the “rise up” gesture. “It hath reached our ears what hath transpired, this day,” she informed the Criers. “And while the death of our subject Jasper Trustworthy is most unfortunate, we can lay no great blame on the hand that slew him, any more than we could were the killer a suckling babe with a bludgeon waving in its fist.”
“A most just comparison, Your Majesty,” Harold murmured.
“Therefore,” the Queen continued, “let us put the unpleasant incident behind us, noting only that, in future, it might improve the safety of this town were certain Criers to be given smaller, lighter, and less potentially-lethal bells.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the Criers spoke as one.
The Queen nodded. “‘Tis well. Now, let the parade begin!”
Overcome with joy, relief, and adoration for her monarch, Emeraude exclaimed, “God Save the Queen!”
“GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!” the answering call rose from every present British soul.
Within moments, the processional line was in order. Bells ringing, brass blaring, drums booming, and all faces bright with smiles, the parade stepped out and around and through the streets of Bristol, its Town Criers leading the way and calling ahead to the masses:
Ring, ring, ring. “Make way!” Ring, ring, ring. “Stand aside!” Ring, ring, ring. “Make way for Her Majesty!”
And the crowds of visitors stood in awe, clapped and cheered, and took instant portraits on battery-powered devices that had naught to do with the sixteenth century, all of them blissfully unaware of the Regina ex Machina-resolved drama that had taken place behind the scenes.
But that’s a Renaissance Faire for you.