Every morning, save Sundays, Mr Foxe took coffee and read the London papers that had arrived fresh on the stagecoach. Next, he took a stroll through the streets around Norwich’s vast Market Place. Today he was still at the head of his own stairs, clad in a suit of sober dark fustian, when he heard a loud knocking at the front door.
Molly, his head housemaid, hastened to answer this frantic summons. That it had not put her in the best of moods was obvious from her first words to the lad she found was the source of all the commotion.
“Trying to break the door down, are you? Well? What’s so important you have to raise half the neighbourhood with your foolishness?”
“I got to speak to Mr Foxe —” the boy began.
“Oh, have you? Have you indeed? And why’s that? The Guildhall burned down? Cathedral in ruins? He ain’t in to the likes of you, so you can go back to whatever hovel you crawled out of.”
“I got to speak to him, so you tell him that. You’re only a maid, not the mistress of the house. You do as I — yow!”
Molly, driven to fury by his impudence, fetched him a hearty slap across the side of his head. Since she had grown of late into a sturdy young woman, the boy staggered and all but fell over. It was time to intervene.
“Thank you, Molly,” Foxe said, in as calm a voice as he could muster through his smothered laughter. “Let’s find out what he has to say before you knock him senseless. Well, boy? You wanted Mr Foxe. Here I am.”
Molly drew aside, but did not step back far, her anger still unsatisfied. The boy, aware of this, stayed well back.
“Don’t worry,” Foxe said. “You’re safe so long as I’m here. Now, what is it you want?”
“My master sent me, your worship. He says you’re to come as fast as you can.”
“Does he, by George? It seems he’s as eager to give orders as you are. Who is he then and what’s so urgent. Speak up, or I’ll turn Molly loose on you again.”
The boy gulped and edged as far away from Molly as he could. “Mr George Tate, the grocer,” he said. “He’s my master … and it’s about a murder.”
“Murder?” Foxe said, showing no surprise. “Not of Mr Tate, I trust. I’ve bought from him for many a year, as my father did before me. It would be most vexing to have to find a new grocer to deal with.”
“Nah, your worship. My master’s alive and well, only right put out over this affair. It’s old misery-face Logan who’s bin done in. Killed with a great knife, they say, and lying in a pool of blood.”
“Stop that at once,” Molly said. “He’s Mr Logan to you. Lord, Sir, listen to the mouth on him. Needs a good whipping, if you ask me.”
“Maybe,” Foxe agreed, “but not here or from you. Perhaps you should return to your duties and let me deal with this, Molly. Off you go now. Right boy. Where was Mr Logan stabbed?”
“In the ringing chamber, your worship.”
“In the — that wasn’t quite what I meant, but it’s a start. Where on his body?”
“In the throat, my master says. Right across his windpipe.”
“And he was in the ringing chamber of the tower at the time. Of which church?”
“St. Peter Mancroft. He be — I mean he were — the Tower Captain. My master’s one of the United Norwich Ringers. I reckon he’ll be the captain now.”
“The bell ringing team. Tell me, boy, do you know why your master sent you to find me?”
“He come back to our shop in a rare taking, your worship. The United Norwich Ringers was supposed to ring a long peal tomorrow to celebrate something or other — I forgets what. They bin practising for months. Now it’s all off. The constable came to our shop right early and told him that. Said Old Logan — Mr Logan — ’ad been murdered and the coroner would have to come, then bring his jury to see the body. Tower’s closed for two days at least. My master was powerful upset. That’s when Captain Brock, who happened to be in the shop at the time, said he ought to talk to you. You’d know what to do, he said.”
“So, I have Captain Brock to thank for this, have I? I’ll speak to him later.”
“My master says he would have come to you himself, only he’s got to stay in his shop, it being the day of the market and all. He said I was to ’pologise for the incon … incon … for troubling you, your worship.”
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