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Authors: Jeanne M. Dams

Body in the transept

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Table of Contents

Also by Jeanne M. Dams

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Ecclesiastical Notes

Footnote

By Jeanne M. Dams

The Dorothy Martin Mysteries

THE BODY IN THE TRANSEPT

TROUBLE IN THE TOWN HALL

HOLY TERROR IN THE HEBRIDES

MALICE IN MINIATURE

THE VICTIM IN THE VICTORIA STATION

KILLING CASSIDY

TO PERISH IN PENZANCE

SINS OUT OF SCHOOL

WINTER OF DISCONTENT

A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO

THE CORPSE OF ST JAMES’S

MURDER AT THE CASTLE

THE BODY IN THE TRANSEPTA Dorothy Martin MysteryJeanne M. Dams

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

First published in Great Britain and the USA 1995 by Walker Publishing Company, Inc.

eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited Copyright © 1995 by Jeanne M. Dams The right of Jeanne M. Dams to be identified as the Author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4483-0072-3 (ePub) CLUE® is a registered trademark of Waddington Games Ltd. for its detective game equipment for the games distributed and sold in the United States under exclusive license to Parker Brothers, Division of Tonka Corporation. ® 1995 by Waddington Games Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

“The Rain in Spain.” Words by Alan Jay Lerner; music by Frederick Loewe. Copyright ©1956 by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Copyright Renewed. Chappell & Co. owner of publication and allied rights throughout the world. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.

Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

This eBook produced by

Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

To two wonderful men: My father,Lawrence Martin, and my husband, Ed,who always believed in me.

1

IWAS STRUGGLINGagainst more than wind and rain that night as I battled through the Cathedral Close, but I blamed my mood on the weather. This wasnotmy idea of a proper English Christmas. The air ought to shiver in a frosty stillness broken only by church bells chiming with the peculiar clarity of sound carried on intensely cold air. The sweet piping of young carolers should catch at the throat. My mind’s eye costumed the carolers in crinolines and fur muffs, greatcoats and stovepipe hats, and set them beside a gas streetlamp, gently falling snow sparkling in the soft amber light. . . .

As I wandered happily in my nineteenth-century fantasy, I slipped on a wet, irregular paving stone and was rudely returned to reality. There were bells, to be sure, pealing away in cheerful discord. But the path was lit (more or less) by electricity, faint diesel fumes perfumed the air, and neat black-and-white plastic signs pointed my way. Not even the great medieval cathedral, looming out of the stinging rain, could transcend the twentieth century entirely; she wore an ugly modern veil of scaffolding over part of her ancient, crumbling face.

By exercising great care I reached the door to the south porch without turning an ankle or, more important, ruining my new hat. The thought of my Christmas hat cheered me considerably. It was a silly thing, really, a confection in bright green with red plastic holly berries dangling from a drift of white net, but I loved it. What did I care if it was entirely unsuitable for a woman my age? As I shook out my umbrella one of the berries detached itself and dropped wetly down my neck; it took a shake like a sheepdog’s to dislodge it.

In keeping with time-honored English tradition the porch was at least as cold as the night outside, but it was reasonably dry. I jammed the umbrella into a tightly packed stand and hung up my coat, now soaking wet and useless. My tweed suit might be warm enough to keep me from freezing in the church. Hat resettled and glasses straightened, I moved into the nave.

The sight that greeted me lowered my spirits again. Sherebury Cathedral boasts one of the longest naves in England, indeed in the world, several hundred feet of glory from great west door to choir screen, with seating for thousands. Yet the flickering light from the candles in the huge chandeliers showed me only a few empty chairs at the very back. I was flabbergasted. The English, as this century staggers toward its death, don’t share the convictions of the people of the Age of Faith who built the huge churches; the usual congregation at Sherebury fits nicely into the choir. Tonight, though, it seemed that half England had braved the weather to see Christmas in. Where in heaven’s name was I to find a seat?

At least all those people made it almost warm, but I was wet and tired and my feet hurt. When a person is sixty-something and weighs more than she ought, she doesn’t relish the prospect of standing through a long, late church service in festive shoes. I looked around vaguely for a verger, but they all seemed to be down near the choir screen in some sort of powwow, gesturing and arguing and paying not the slightest attention to their duties. Very well, I’d have to fend for myself.

I hoped I wouldn’t have to settle for one of those chairs at the back, where I wouldn’t see a thing. Sherebury’s choir screen is a masterpiece, the pinnacle of the stone-carver’s art, but I hadn’t planned to spend the whole evening staring at it and getting a draft on the back of my neck in the bargain. Furthermore, the scaffolding up against one side of the screen disfigured the whole nave. Restoration is necessary, but I didn’t want to look at it on Christmas Eve.

There was no point in just standing there; I sighed and began to look around for a small miracle. There might be someone I knew in all that crowd, with maybe an empty seat?

The trouble was, it wasn’t like an American church with pews. You can almost always squeeze one more into a pew if you’re willing to risk a few glares. Chairs are a different matter.

As I moved up the center of the nave I searched for familiar faces. I’d been in Sherebury long enough to know a number of people, at least casually. That’s one of the beauties of the town. It’s small, as cathedral towns go, and as in any small English town even today most of the residents know each other. An incoming American is enough of a curiosity to be noticed.

On the whole I had been treated well enough. People I knew from earlier visits had been kind and introduced me to their friends, and I’d been invited to tea and drinks. They didn’t know quite what to do with me, though. I didn’t fit into any of their patterns, circles revolving around the cathedral, or the university, or the families who had lived there time out of mind. That was perhaps why no one had invited me to come with them to midnight Mass. Then, too, Christmas tends to be a family affair, while I . . . ah! There was Jane.

My next-door neighbor, Jane Langland, is my only real friend in Sherebury. It’s easy to dismiss Jane as just a typical English spinster. She looks and sounds a good deal like Winston Churchill, and dispenses gallons of tea and oceans of gruff sympathy. It took me a while to discover that Jane is typical of no one but herself. Behind the brusque facade is a mind of diamond—and a heart of custard.

An extremely competent teacher recently retired from a local school, she knows every child in town. I wasn’t surprised to find her sitting composedly in the midst of a crowd of giggling teenagers. Former students, except perhaps for one dark boy who drew attention to himself by his stillness. His blue jeans were frayed and much too tight, his shirt thin and worn. He looked older than the others, whom he ignored as he slouched in his chair, chin hunched into his chest, arms hugged in tightly. It occurred to me that the defiant posture might be due as much to cold as to bad manners. Evidently the same thought came to Jane, for she passed over her own tweed jacket. I was mildly surprised to see the young man take it and drape it over his thin shoulders, his blue eyes flashing a glance of thanks.

Jane looked up and saw me then. I couldn’t hear her over the noisy kids, but the waves and shrugs said clearly enough that she’d be delighted to have me join them but she didn’t see where one extra person could be put. I gestured my thanks and understanding, and moved on.

Therewas a seat! Alice Chambers seemed to be alone with an empty chair beside her, on the aisle, too, where I could see the procession, and close enough to the choir screen to afford me at least a glimpse of the activity at the altar. Alice was looking very attractive, dressed impeccably in soft blue wool, hair and nails lacquered to perfection, so she might be expecting someone. But then Alice always manages to look like that. I’ve long cherished a secret notion that she wears her pearls in the bath. More the dumpling type myself, I’m consumed with envy of Alice’s effortless elegance.

I wouldn’t have chosen her as a companion for the evening; she’s always intimidated me. But my shoes were pinching and my options were limited.

“Merry Christmas, Alice!” My cheery greeting sounded put on, even to me. “Are you saving this seat for someone?”

“Oh, Dorothy! Merry Christmas! Sorry, it’s for my husband, if he ever turns up.” Alice allowed a tinge of exasperation to color her well-modulated voice. “George is late, as usual. He promised me quite faithfully he’d be here by ten-thirty on the dot so we could sit in the choir, and here it is after eleven and he’s vanished. You’ve not seen him, have you?”

“No, I just got here myself.” I sagged back to normal and tried to swallow my disappointment. “Stupid of me to be so late, but I didn’t realize—I mean it’s been years since I was here for Christmas Eve, and usually the place is half empty . . .”

“Oh, dear, and here I am with an extra chair. I’msosorry, I would offer it to you, but hesaidhe would be here . . .”

“And here he is, isn’t he?” The genial voice came from behind us. “So sorry, my dear, got held up at my office. You knew I’d turn up sooner or later.Goodevening, Dorothy, you’re looking blooming.”

So was George, and from the aroma wafting my way, his bloom was artificially induced; he wasn’t usually so cordial to me. I wondered which pub George had holed up in while Alice fretted. Since when did the university have office hours on Christmas Eve? Well, best tend to my own business and leave them to have it out. “Thank you, George. Nice to see you both. Excuse me, I think I’m going to see if there’s any room in the choir.”

I hurried through the arch and scanned the stalls on either side of the aisle, beginning to get really anxious. This was the prime spot, of course, and would have filled up long ago, but there might be a chance, someone else who was late, or had changed his mind . . .

A verger materialized next to me, talking while squinting up in outrage at the gorgeous brass chandelier, one of whose candles was dripping. “I’m sorry, madam, the h’empty stalls are reserved for the choir and clergy.”

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