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Authors: G. M. Malliet

A Demon Summer

BOOK: A Demon Summer
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This book is dedicated in fond memory of crime writer Robert Barnard

(1936–2013).

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My thanks to the historians, guides, and staff of Fountains Abbey, Mount Grace Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, and Whitby Abbey for their vast knowledge, patience, and ability to make the distant past real to visitors from the twenty-first century. Particular thanks to the “sheep farmer's wife” of Mount Grace Priory and to the Rev. Peter Canon at Fountains Abbey for sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge. As always, all mistakes are my own.

Special thanks to all the warmhearted and welcoming people of North Yorkshire, England.

 

 

CAST OF CHARACTERS AT MONKBURY ABBEY

MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF THE HANDMAIDS OF ST. LUCY

ABBESS JUSTINA
—the superior of Monkbury Abbey

DAME HEPHZIBAH
—the elderly portress of the abbey

DAME TABITHA
—the guest-mistress, nicknamed Dame Tabby. A gruff woman with a bouncer's build, she makes sure guests of the abbey toe the line.

DAME INGRID
—the kitcheness, affectionately called Dame Fruitcake

DAME OLIVE
—sacrist and librarian, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of the abbey's long history

DAME PETRONILLA
—the infirmaress, nicknamed Dame Pet. Responsible for the care of the sick and dying at Monkbury Abbey, she is also an expert on plants and herbs.

DAME SIBIL
—cellaress of the abbey

DAME MEREDITH
—formerly the cellaress, now a patient in the abbey's infirmary

SISTER ROSE
—ex-military, now a novice preparing for admission to the order

MARY BENTON
—a postulant preparing for the novitiate

ABBESS GENEVIEVE
—a visitor from St. Martin's, the order's motherhouse in France

VISITORS TO MONKBURY ABBEY GUESTHOUSE

MAXEN “MAX” TUDOR
—a former MI5 agent turned Anglican priest, he is sent by his bishop to investigate certain unusual disturbances at the old abbey.

CLEMENT GOREY AND HIS WIFE OONA GOREY
—wealthy American benefactors of the nunnery. They want their souls prayed for and are willing to pay top dollar for the privilege. But where has all the money gone?

XANDA GOREY
—their willful and wily teenage daughter

PALOMA GREEN
—a flamboyant businesswoman who owns an art gallery in Monkslip-super-Mare, she organized a fund-raiser for the restoration and expansion of the guesthouse at Monkbury Abbey.

PIERS MONTAGUE
—Paloma's lover, a photographer and expert on medieval architecture. He helped Paloma raise funds for Monkbury Abbey, donating several of his famous photos. Then the funds began inexplicably to dry up.

DR. LEROY BARNARD
—a summer squall forces him to stay overnight at the abbey.

RALPH PERCEVAL, 15TH EARL OF LISLELIVET
—Lord Lislelivet's sudden interest in religion seems out of character to everyone, particularly Lady Lislelivet.

 

 

CONTENTS

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Cast of Characters

Epigraph

Prologue

Part I: Matins

Chapter 1:
Abbess Justina

Part II: Lauds

Chapter 2:
Max Tudor

Chapter 3:
Max and the Bishop

Part III: Terce

Chapter 4:
Monkbury Abbey

Chapter 5:
The Portress

Chapter 6:
The Rule

Part IV: Sext

Chapter 7:
The Visitors: I

Chapter 8:
The Visitors: II

Chapter 9:
There Was a Crooked Man

Chapter 10:
The Evil of Avarice

Part V: None

Chapter 11:
In the Chapter House

Chapter 12:
The Kitcheness

Chapter 13:
The Librarian

Chapter 14:
The Infirmaress

Chapter 15:
The Abbess

Chapter 16:
The Novice

Chapter 17:
The Infirmary

Chapter 18:
The Abbess Genevieve

Chapter 19:
At the Altar

Chapter 20:
Darkness Falls

Part VI: Vespers

Chapter 21:
Nighthawks

Chapter 22:
DCI Cotton

Chapter 23:
Suspicion …

Chapter 24: …
And Suspects

Chapter 25:
At the Cavalier

Chapter 26:
Dossiers

Chapter 27:
On Leaving the Abbey

Chapter 28:
At Nashbury Feathers

Chapter 29:
In Olden Days

Chapter 30:
The Cellaress

Chapter 31:
In Olden Days II

Chapter 32:
Spiral

Chapter 33:
The Orders of the Abbess

Chapter 34:
All the King's Horses

Part VII: Compline

Chapter 35:
Max and the Correction of Minor Faults

Chapter 36:
Max and the Correction of Serious Faults

Chapter 37:
None So Blind

Chapter 38:
Ties That Bind

Chapter 39:
The Devil You Say

Epilogue

Also by G. M. Malliet

About the Author

Copyright

 

 

They had their lodges in the wilderness,
Or built their cells beside the shadowy sea;
And there they dwelt with angels like a dream.

—Robert Stephen Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow

 

 

PROLOGUE

“I have a surprise for you,” said Lord Lislelivet to his Lady, as the maid cleared the last course from the vast expanse of their mahogany dinner table. Lady Lislelivet may have imagined it, but wasn't there just the hint of a smile playing about the woman's lips as she hoofed her way back to the kitchen? Such impertinence.

Lady Lislelivet narrowed her eyes, watching Maybel's retreating back. The dog, Scooter, geriatric but game, shambled along in her wake, no doubt hoping for table scraps. Tonight Maybel wore a T-shirt with “Born This Way” scrawled across the back. Well, that explained it. Lady Lislelivet's many attempts to talk the woman out of jeans and T-shirts and into a more suitable maid's ensemble had failed. Still, it was hard enough to get any help these days, let alone good help. One took what one could get.

Lady Lislelivet dabbed at her lips with her napkin, to hide her annoyance both at the maid's constant mutinies and her husband's hints at pleasures to come. Hardened by the grindingly slow passage of the years of her marriage, and skeptical as to her husband's definition of “surprise,” she did not look as thrilled by the prospect of a spousal treat as might have been expected. Often, Lord Lislelivet's surprises sprang up, to coin a phrase, when he was between mistresses. Altogether, Lady Lislelivet preferred it when her husband was kept otherwise occupied in London. That way, she could pursue her own surprises, unimpeded.

Her eye caught on the photo decorating the wall nearest her. Her husband was suffering buyer's remorse over it now, as it didn't really suit the grand style of the house. Caught up in the excitement of the auction, and goaded by her and by a few drinks, he had paid too much, never intending to get stuck with a dark, moody photo of Monkbury Abbey. What was really needed for this room was an oil painting of some august ancestor or another astride a horse.

Setting down her wineglass, Lady Lislelivet uttered a cautious, “
O-o-oh?
” just as Maybel returned with two plates containing lumpen mounds of something that looked like currant-studded coal.

“Yes. You remember the fruitcake? The little gift from the nunnery? I thought it was time to pry open the tin, as it were.”

Was that all? Still, he knew how she hated fruitcake. Or he had known at one time. His fleeting concern for what she liked and disliked had gone with the wind, like so much else.

On further reflection, it was jolly difficult to imagine anyone apart from her husband actively liking fruitcake. A holdover from his days of being coddled by a nanny, no doubt. Only the upper classes would think to poison their children with the type of vile nursery puddings they went in for. She wouldn't use rice pudding to plaster the walls of her house in Tuscany. Just for one example.

“It's not Christmas,” she said flatly, as Maybel practically threw the plate down before her. Typically, she had forgotten to provide a pudding fork and, on being reminded, plunked down a soup spoon instead. Lady Lislelivet had begun to suspect Maybel saw through m'lady's thin aristocratic veneer and was choosing these not-so-subtle ways to show her contempt. So much for working-class solidarity.

“It is Christmas wherever you are, m'dear,” said Lord Lislelivet.

Gawd
. It was hard to say which was worse: the fruitcake or the forced gallantry.

Lady Lislelivet felt a little scruffle of fur against her ankles. Scooter, begging as usual. She handed off a few bites to him when her husband wasn't looking and scooped the rest of the fruity sludge into the napkin on her lap.

Fortunately, as it turned out, the dog ate only a bite or two. Scooter didn't seem to care for the fruitcake, either. So his symptoms were much milder than those of his master.

Lord Lislelivet, wolfing down his fruitcake with carefree, childish pleasure, would be taken very ill, indeed.

 

PART I

Matins

 

Chapter 1

ABBESS JUSTINA

The community as a whole shall choose its abbess based on her goodness and not on her rank. May God forbid the community should elect a woman only because she conspires to perpetuate its evil ways.

—The Rule of the Order of the Handmaids of St. Lucy

The bell rang for Matins in the middle of a dream, as it often did. Just as she would enter deep sleep—the scientists had a name for it, she could never recall what—Abbess Justina of Monkbury Abbey would be awakened by the bell. This was seldom a welcome interruption, for Abbess Justina was given to pleasant dreams, more often now dreams of her childhood and young girlhood, dreams in which she would be reunited with her family.

It was just before the hour of four a.m. in June,
millennium Domini
three.

She rose from her narrow bed and dressed by candlelight, first sluicing cold water over her face. Long habit made short work of putting on her habit. It was a costume whose basic design had not changed much over the centuries: atop her sleep shift of unbleached muslin came a black tunic that fell to the tops of her feet, tied at the waist by a cord, and over that was worn a scapular of deep purple—an apron of sorts that draped from the shoulders, front and back, falling to below the knees. The fabric at her wrists was smocked in a pretty diamond design halfway to the elbow, to keep the voluminous sleeves in check. For all its antique quirkiness, it was a practical garment, suitable for work and contemplation, the fabric handwoven on-site of wool from abbey sheep. On ceremonial occasions and in chapter meetings, she would carry her staff of office with its little bell as a symbol of her authority and her right to lead. Otherwise her garb was identical to that of the women in her care.

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