Authors: Charlie Cochrane
Tags: #erotic MM, #Romance MM
been put forward at the time of the body’s discovery, although
given the long interval since his demise, none of them were likely to be more than guesswork. Then there was motivation, which
centred on Shaa having left a small amount of money that had
been put in trust to him. His next surviving blood relative had
been little more than a baby at the time of Shaa’s death, and only the most ludicrous of theorists implied that
had done it.
The rival Yorkist and Lancastrian factions had inevitably
been drawn into the reckoning, their inferred motives being as
varied as the people writing the treatises. Virulent followers of Henry VII were sure that the ward had been killed by supporters
of Gloucester, in revenge for Elizabeth taking a Tudor husband.
Supporters of Richard III were convinced that Henry himself had
been jealous of his wife’s affection for the boy and had made a
Lessons in Discovery
midnight visit to the college, sword in hand to dispatch him,
bribing the college servants to hide the corpse. There were serious yet extravagantly wild theories abounding, at least one of which involved Shaa being a woman dressed as a man to gain access to
the exclusively male learning process at the college. The case was notorious, not just because it was unsolved, but because of the
lunatic fringe it seemed to attract.
Orlando sighed, decided to reread the document and make
notes, but he had no idea exactly how he was supposed to get
further forward. All he was sure of was that he didn’t dare fail Miss Peters.
A sharp knock startled him out of contemplation. He ambled
across the room, opened the door gingerly and beamed at Jonty.
He should have known it would be his friend—for a wonderful
moment he savoured in his mind the words
, before daring to speak. “Come in, please do. Sorry I couldn’t invite you in last evening but I was rather tired.”
Stewart grinned. “That’s all right. Last year it took me
weeks to be allowed onto this hallowed ground. It’s nice to be
welcomed with open arms.” He entered the room and went over to
the fireplace. “There’s a raw wind outside that’s appeared from
nowhere and my nether regions are frozen, as I was idiot enough
not to put on an overcoat for the walk across the court. Anyway, I just wanted to ask whether you’d be up for visiting the Bishop’s Cope tonight, it being Saturday and all.” He noticed Orlando’s
look of confusion. “Oh sorry, I forgot. It was so much like old
times and I…”
Orlando smiled fondly. “That’s of no consequence. I take it
that we always dine at the Bishop’s Cope on a Saturday? How did
we ever get into that particular habit?”
Jonty turned to the fire and attacked it with a poker. It didn’t need any such attention but the action proved useful in hiding his blush. “Oh, we went there during those murders, back in January I www.lindenbayromance.com 33
think it was. We needed to get out of the college for a bit. You were so very smitten with the steak and kidney pie, and the beer, you were extremely fond of that, it just became a fixture. The
other fellows would have apoplexy if they saw us at High Table
tonight.” He was glad to find that the explanation was accepted
and he didn’t need to elaborate.
“Do you think Nurse Hatfield will let me? Or when she finds
out do you think she’ll make me write
I must not go to public
one hundred and fifty times in my very best handwriting?”
“Two hundred and fifty at least.” Jonty smiled broadly and
slapped his friend on the shoulder. “But you must remember to
ask for ‘snake and pygmy pie’ tonight. That’s what we always call it and the landlord would be very disappointed to be deprived of his weekly joke.”
“We can’t risk letting him down then. What time should I be
“We normally wander up there at seven but I think that in
deference to Nurse H we should make it half past six. Then we
can get you back here and into your blameless bed without the
risk of a wigging.”
Orlando nodded, indicating the papers he’d been ploughing
through. “I’ve been hoping we could spend some time on these.
Would you be free this afternoon?”
“Of course. I could do with refreshing my memory on the
case. It’s been a long time since I talked to anyone about the
Woodville Ward, and the man concerned was a rampant supporter
of the old crookback, He insisted that Margaret Beaufort had been at the root of it, trying to get one over on her daughter-in-law.” He giggled. “Dreadful creatures some of these medieval women
were, talking of which, I have a surprise for you. If I say that it comes in the form of a be-hatted and bejewelled woman of very
loud voice and extremely hard hand you will be none the wiser,
Lessons in Discovery
although if I say that the same paw was frequently applied to my backside you could make an educated guess.”
“The Honourable Helena Stewart indeed. Now don’t look
quite so petrified, Orlando, you’re a great favourite of hers. In fact I’m not sure that she doesn’t prefer you to me. She’ll descend out of a cloud of steam at eleven o’clock tomorrow, by which I mean
that she’ll take the train, probably providing the engine with extra power by breathing fire into the boiler.”
Orlando couldn’t have felt more astonished. He had no idea
that people could refer to their family so, especially when the
insults were accompanied by a look of adoration. Jonty obviously thought the world of his mother, more than Orlando had loved his, and he would never have dared refer to her in such a manner.
Jonty had told him that they’d spent time with the Stewarts on
more than one occasion and guessed that the great lady had been
kind to him. He wondered whether she would resemble her son
and what brilliant marriage could have produced such a shining
child. “Will we meet her at the station?”
“Oh no, not required. She’ll fly up here on her broomstick as
usual then whisk us off to lunch. You’ll have plenty of warning.
Her voice will be audible by the time the train passes Royston.”
“And she wants to see us both?” Orlando was still baffled at
the thought that an earl’s daughter might choose to visit him of all people.
“Actually she insisted, Orlando. All joking aside, she’s been
terribly worried about you. Now she wants to make sure face-to-
face that you’re still alive and not turned completely gaga.” Jonty began to rub Orlando’s head with his knuckles then pulled them
hastily away. “Tell you what, shall I go off and search out a bit of bread and cheese and possibly a jar or two of pickle, then we can take a look at that Woodville Ward stuff?”
Lunch was simple but delicious, the cheese being a stilton
which had been doused with port every time it had been dug into
until it was almost dissolving, and pickles that came straight from the Stewarts’ cook. Orlando ate with relish, beginning to find his appetite again, then explained what he’d done with the case so far.
He showed Jonty the neat and perceptive notes he’d started to
make, something which impressed his friend.
“Should have done this those first two times, Orlando. A bit
more method might have prevented that young lad from—” Jonty
stopped. The pleasant intimacy of their lunch had lulled him into forgetting that Orlando had never been given the details of that fateful afternoon when his lover’s life had been in the balance.
Orlando tapped his notes, as if his friend were a rather stupid
undergraduate who had to explain his workings-out. “Jonty, I
believe that in your account of the last year you have held back several things from me.”
Stewart blanched, although Orlando didn’t seem to notice.
The thought of the Bishop’s Cope had been preying on his
mind—their first kiss had followed a visit there and it was a very special place for them. Or had been. Had Coppersmith got wind of this somehow?
“I’m talking about these murder cases. You’ve not given me
a full account of either. If we’re to attempt to solve Miss Peters’
problem, I’ll need to understand what went on and how we helped
to solve things. I promise that it won’t harm my recovery if you tell me.”
“As you wish. I’ll try to summarise them both, and you can
ask me what you need to know further.” Jonty sighed in relief,
laying down the treatise he had begun to flick through. “The St.
Bride’s victims were all men who lay with their own sex and the
killer left nasty little notes on their bodies to make this plain. He was a young student who’d been badly abused by older boys
when at school—I hope that I don’t have to spell out to you what 36
Lessons in Discovery
that means, because it isn’t pleasant. Anyway, he was taking a
belated revenge, but we didn’t know any of this until he came to my rooms and threatened me with a razor. He’d strangled his
other victims—I still don’t know why he chose to change his
method in my case. You came into the room just in time to
dissuade him from using that razor on me, although neither of us could stop him using it on himself. And before you ask, I’m aware why that had such a disturbing effect on you. I know all about
your early life as you, time was, knew all about mine.”
He stopped, waiting for a reaction. All he got was a nod and
a series of questions.
How did we, and the police, miss this young
lad? In retrospect, what clues should we have spotted? Why was
your life threatened?
The first two were easy to answer, the third less so, although Orlando seemed to accept that their interest in the case had made them both potential targets. About his own
family Orlando spoke not at all. “And the murder while we were
on holiday? Were our lives in danger then?”
Jonty noticed that the
had subtly changed to
and was heartened. “That was a strange business, a murder which was obscured by a coincidental case of blackmail. The son
of the victim had been the recipient of threatening letters from the barman—I told you that, although I never said why. Ainslie junior shared the same inclinations as the victims here, a fondness for other men.” He paused, to gauge Orlando’s reaction to this
revelation, but again it seemed to be just an analytical one.
“Did we identify the blackmailer?”
“In concert with Matthew Ainslie, yes, and before Inspector
Wilson did. The identification of the murderer—” there was no
need for further elucidation here, he had been perfectly frank
about this with Orlando from the start, “—was all our own work.
Well yours, really. We applied much more logic and analysis,
although you’d been led astray when you started to formulate
theories without sufficient evidence. I think we both learned a
thing or two about detection on holiday.”
Orlando showed his satisfaction with these explanations by
politely thanking his friend then returning to the Woodville letters and his own notes. Jonty had a sheaf of papers on his lap but
stared at them unseeing. It was lovely sitting in Orlando’s room again, as it seemed years since they’d been there together
although in reality it was little more than a week. Lovely and yet agonizing; to be so close to his lover and not to be allowed to
touch was torture indeed.
A voice that seemed to have been designed to penetrate
concrete at two hundred yards rang through the college court. It was Sunday morning and the broomstick had obviously landed
successfully. Its arrival had been anticipated by the two fellows so they were lurking around to greet the pilot.
“Mother,” Jonty whispered to his companion, before saying
in a tone as hearty as hers, “Mama! You’re looking ridiculously
well. What has the doctor been giving you to make you look so
young?” He was scooped up into his mother’s arms and had the
breath squeezed out of him.
“Looking thin again, dear.” Helena Stewart always seemed
to think that her son was on the brink of starvation, even though he was more muscular and well set up now than he had been this
last year. “Dr. Coppersmith, you look positively emaciated.” She grabbed Orlando and squashed any answer out of him, too.
Orlando was stunned. His own mother had never shown any
such physical affection for him and the perfume-soaked, genial
embraces of this ample lady were a complete shock. He knew
he’d met her before although he had no recollection of the events and he’d no time now for reflection, with Mrs. Stewart thrusting 38
Lessons in Discovery
an arm through those of both her son and his
thin and starving
friend and insisting that they go immediately to the Blue Boar for a jolly good feed.
She was most sympathetic over lunch, a meal taken in a
quiet room away from the noisy masses so that the recovering
invalid shouldn’t be overwhelmed. She’d asked, with great
concern, about Orlando’s condition, gently talking him through
the times he’d been her guest, the pleasure it had given her to
receive him. “Because it has always been a delight to us whenever Jonathan has brought you home. I think of you rather like a son