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A Man Lay Dead in winter part 7

The rest of the parts can be found via this page.

“Yesterday morning, when I went to fetch Hugon, Kenwyn was not in the stables. He appeared soon after and said he had been out for a ride to visit his kin. He had some cloth for them and I had given him permission to take it, although I had assumed he had returned the night before.”

“That’s what he told us when we found the body. Do you believe he had been gone the night?”

“I do not know. I meant to ask him but then you appeared, all flustered because you had lost your bridle and we had to find it.” Horace smiled in fond remembrance of how flustered his friend had been and what a joy it was to prove that the idiot’s bridle was just where he had left it, despite his protestations of checking there. “It didn’t seem so important then to establish what he had been up to. Many a young man pays a call which involves his staying away the night and is loathe to admit it.”

“You think he had been courting his cousin; it would make sense. He always speaks of his kin with great affection. But this alone would not unsettle your mind. Tell me the rest.”

“Last night I thought long and hard on all that Kenwyn said and did that morning and when we set off to hunt. He had seemed agitated when we were saddling up. Would you agree?”

“Perhaps. I was in too much agitation myself over that lost bridle and then embarrassed at my own stupidity, although I have an excuse for it, to have noticed much.” Johannes considered, in his mind’s eye putting himself back a day and picturing the scene. Normally Horace was the one who noticed details, recalling a place and the contents thereof with pinpoint accuracy, and Johannes who fixed on the feelings of the people involved, the quivering in the air and a hundred small signs which indicated emotion. “I did notice that his mood changed during the day. When we were chasing the hind down by the stand of beeches he went off into the coppice to try to get around behind her and we lost track of him. When you wound your horn for him to return he seemed…” Johannes strove for the right word to portray the mixture of elation and passion that Kenwyn had displayed, “… what you might call fey. I thought it was merely the thrill of the chase—it always makes you flushed and excited—but now I wonder if there was more to it. His face reminded me…” He stopped, hesitant. What he wanted to say would take them into deep waters.

“Reminded you of what? Johannes, I rely on your observation without question. You are always the one who spots the hawk on the rise or the boar in the undergrowth. I need to know what you saw.”

“His face bore the expression I have seen many a time on the battlefield. Elation after the kill.” Johannes clasped his lover’s hand to his bosom, trying to impart some calm, some sense. “That’s what you dreaded me saying, yet still expected, isn’t it? You believe that Kenwyn killed Arthur and has been covering his tracks ever since.”

“It is very much what I feared, although I have little true evidence for it, just a feeling.”

“I cannot believe that. You are much too sensible a man to be swayed by feelings alone. There must have been more, to make you forge such a chain of reasoning in which to bind a felon.”

“The water is ready. Let us feed the horses then I will tell you what I have thought of.”

Johannes nodded his agreement and they didn’t speak of the dead man again until their own breakfast was almost prepared. “I have had a notion too, as we fed Hugon and Carwyn. But it can wait to see whether it compliments or contradicts yours.”

Horace took a deep breath and began. He had analysed the entire proceedings of the day before and couldn’t help but find that Kenwyn’s attitude had been out of the ordinary. He knew, from the man’s own admission, that he had excellent knowledge of the woods and the tracks over the beacon, more so than any stranger could have had. And they had seen no strangers, not one, while they had hunted and enjoyed riding in the crisp winter air. None of this was more than circumstantial, of course, “but for a copy of Arthur’s seal to be here seems more than coincidence. And I wondered whether it had been made so that the old man who lives here would know if he came across Arthur. So that he could recognise him if he met him.”

“For what purpose?” Johannes sought to tease the theory from his friend, piece by piece.

“Revenge. I wondered further—you must remember this is all speculation—whether Arthur had been up to his old tricks and had taken advantage in some way of Kenwyn’s cousin, his affianced girl. Maybe she gave her grandfather a drawing she or a friend had made of the man’s seal. And if Kenwyn had visited the old man he’d have been shown it, and would have recognised it too, I’ll warrant, with his family’s history of service on our lands.”

“And you think he met Arthur when we were out here yesterday? By chance?”

“I know that chance works out strangely enough. I have seen the most extraordinary coincidences, ones which would truly defy belief but had been none the less pure chance. But this I think was more a matter of design; Kenwyn went to see his young lady two days ago and I am speculating she told him that Arthur was hanging around again making a nuisance of himself. He knew that we were to be coming out hunting—it was his suggestion we rode up to these woods, was it not?—and arranged to meet his enemy somewhere along the ride. Or perhaps at this very cottage.”

“In which case they encountered each other early and came to blows. Perhaps it was even Kenwyn’s hunting knife which did the deed.”

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