Lost Innocents (A Servant of the Crown Mystery Book 3)

Lost Innocents (A Servant of the Crown Mystery Book 3) by Denise Domning

Book: Lost Innocents (A Servant of the Crown Mystery Book 3) by Denise Domning Read Free Book Online
Authors: Denise Domning
chastised Gawne for his rude response.
    "Shame on Ivo," the old man said, shaking his head. "It's no good when a child has a father too busy to guide him. Nor can any good come of it when that child is left without mother, sister, or some other woman to note when and from whence he comes and goes. I don't wonder that Gawne sought out Jessimond, our only other motherless child near his age, as his playmate. He needed something to occupy his time and someone to ease his aching heart after his mother passed. That's what he found in Jes, who was much like her dam, swift to protect another while leaving herself open to hurt."
    "What did Odger do when Meg complained about the two meeting?" Faucon wanted to know.
    That made Hew laugh out loud. It was definitely a bray. "Meg would rather cut her fingers from her hand than give Odger so much as a crumb of information she might garner about what happens here. Those two despise each other, she because Odger has previously tried to steal her freedom from her the way he's done to the rest of us, and he because Meg is the only soul here who remains outside of his control.
    "As for those of us who had an inkling about Gawne and Jes—and we are many—to a one we've held our tongues. For good reason. Because Ivo is too busy to tend to his youngest, he's left us to do what he will not, when it's not ours to do. Ivo knows that Odger doesn't tolerate idle hands. So too does he know that our bailiff has been sending his lad to do a man's work in the fields, even though Gawne is yet too small to bear such a burden. This is especially so over our autumn months. Harvesting is exhausting for the strongest among us. But because there are presently more than enough younger lads in Wike to do the easier tasks, Gawne found himself holding the scythe and reaping alongside his elders, despite that he's ill-fitted to the tool."
    The old man looked at his Crowner and shrugged as he continued. "The lad does his best, but he's more hindrance than help. Frustrated by the constant chiding over his errors, corrections he's earned by no fault save that of his size, Gawne began to slip away for an hour or two when Jessimond was free and Odger was occupied elsewhere. All who saw and noted turned a blind eye, grateful for those periods without him. If Odger had known Gawne was escaping him, he'd have found a way to stop the boy, even if it meant tying the lad to one of us," Hew finished, speaking as if he'd been among the reapers when Faucon knew he wouldn't have been.
    Drawing a bracing breath, the old man gave a quick nod. "I am ready to walk on," he told his Crowner.
    But as he began to move forward along the path, leaving Faucon to trail behind again, Hew said no more. Just as they passed the fourth house, the weather-beaten wooden shutters on its front window creaked open. None of the homely sounds Faucon had heard from the other dwellings emanated from this one. Nor did he see an eye in the gap although the crack was wide enough to peep through.
    The old man held his peace until the path had again curved outward, taking them well beyond the last home. When Hew spoke again, he picked up right where he'd left off. "Gawne won't be doing the same next year. By then, the boy will have seen twelve of his saint's days and it will be time for him to carry a man's load. Or, if he cannot," he added, "then Gawne will learn to bear his frustration as every man must."
    As the oldster fell silent this time, Faucon sifted through his bits and pieces, trying to discern where next to go. Nothing was obvious or enticing. Too much remained missing to make any sense of what he had in store. That left him with nothing to do save continue to confirm what he already knew.
    "How is it you're certain it wasn't Gawne who killed Jessimond?" he asked, even though Hew had made no such assertion.
    This time the rustic followed where his Crowner led. "I have my reasons just as you do, sir," he retorted, shooting a quick look at his better

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