The Lark's Lament: A Fools' Guild Mystery (Fools' Guild Mysteries)

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9780312382025: The Lark's Lament: A Fools' Guild Mystery (Fools' Guild Mysteries)

In 1204 A.D., the Fools' Guild is under attack from the forces of Pope Innocent III. Theophilos and Claudia, jesters with the Guild, are sent to enlist the help of a former guild member - the troubador Folquet, now a Cistercian abbot. But while they are at the abbey pleading their case, a gruesome murder takes place - a monk is killed in the librarium and a cryptic message written on the wall in his blood.

With everything on the line, Theophilos, his wife, and their apprentice go off in search of the meaning of the message, uncovering a long-ago series of events that will prove to be as deadly now as they were then.

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About the Author:

Alan Gordon is an attorney with the Legal Aid Society and the author of seven books featuring the jester, including The Moneylender of Toulouse. He lives in Queens, New York.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One
You know how some people are born to Greatness? Well, Bobbie Faye Sumrall woke up one morning, kicked Greatness in the teeth, kneed it in the balls, took it hostage, and it’s been begging for mercy ever since.—a former Louisiana mayor after Bobbie Faye accidentally ran her car into his office, knocking pages of fraud evidence into the street, which helped land him in Federal prisonSomething wet and spongy plunked against Bobbie Faye’s face and she sprang awake, arms pinwheeling. “Damn it, Roy, you hit me with a catfish again and I’m gonna—” Whoa. Everything was dark in her cramped trailer. There was no catfish, no little brother Roy pretending innocence. Of course she’d been dreaming, because Roy was twenty-six now, not ten. Still a complete pain in the ass, though.She swiped at the cold rivulets of wetness running down her face. “What was that?” she muttered to no one in particular. “And why the hell am I wet?”“You gots a s’imming pool inside.”Bobbie Faye squinted in the half-dark and focused on Stacey, her five-year-old niece, whose blond pigtails were haloed in the blue bug light emanating from just outside the trailer window. Then she peered at the wet Nerf bat Stacey dropped to the floor.Check that. A Nerf bat floating a good two inches above the lime green shag carpet.“Shit!” Bobbie Faye stood, flinching as the icy water covered her ankles. “Fuck. Damn fuck fuckity shit.”“Mamma says you shouldn’t cuss so much.”“Yeah? Well your mamma should quit drinking, too, kid, but that ain’t likely to happen either.”Shit. That was evil. She checked Stacey’s reaction, but her niece was preoccupied with the soggy Nerf bat again and hadn’t seemed to hear. Thank God. She didn’t mean to harm the little rug rat. And how was she supposed to remember to be nice at four-freaking a.m.? Who the hell would expect her to be nice anyway? Lori-freaking-Ann, that’s who. Her pill-popping, wine-swigging lush of a little sister whose plastered-on Grace Kelly smile made her look efficient and serene, even when she wobbled into a wall and fell on her ass.Bobbie Faye never got to look serene.Sonofabitch. And today was the day the Social Services lady was scheduled to come by. At four-thirty that afternoon. To judge whether Bobbie Faye was providing Stacey with a safe and stable home. Bobbie Faye shuddered as the icy water lapped at her ankles. Somehow, she was supposed to fix . . . whatever the hell this mess was . . . in time to preside at the opening ceremony of the Contraband Days Festival and get back before four-thirty to prove she could be a good foster parent while Lori Ann was pulling her court-ordered four-month drying-out stint at the Troy House.Oh, flipping yippee.Water splashed against her knees, and she looked down at Lori-Ann’s little ankle biter stomping on the carpet as they squish-squished their way down the hall.“Your hippos are s’imming.” Stacey laughed, pointing at the glow-in-the-dark hippos dancing across Bobbie Faye’s thin white cotton PJs. Then the monster child jumped again, hard, splashing water up to Bobbie Faye’s elbows.“For Christ’s sake, Stacey, if you hop around one more time, I’m gonna turn you into a frog.”Stacey giggled, but at least she stopped jumping.Bobbie Faye stood in front of the cramped utility closet of her tiny, dark trailer and glared at the culprit: her washing machine, run amok. Water geysered from somewhere behind the vibrating piece-of-crap appliance. If she’d had a gun, she’d have shot it. Several times. Happily. She twisted knobs, pressing buttons broken so long ago, there was no telling what they had originally been meant to do.She wanted to stomp or snarl that this was so not happening to her, but she was awake enough now to be mature in front of Stacey. She could do mature. She was twenty-eight years old, the oldest sibling and the one the other two constantly turned to when they screwed up; of course she could do mature. And solve problems. She was a paragon of problem-solving, and she slammed her fist down on the machine, hoping to dislodge whatever it was that was causing the crisis. The machine shuddered, the water gushed higher, and in that moment, seriously mature went straight to hell. Bobbie Faye hauled off and kicked the machine, then yelped and squirmed in pain because frozen toes do not take too well to sudden impact with metal.Bobbie Faye squeezed her eyes shut, hopping on the other foot and biting her lip to keep from spouting a new stream of expletives. Way to use a brain cell, genius. Stacey took one gander at the hopping and went straight back to jumping with the enthusiasm of a five-year-old on a post-Easter-morning sugar high, soaking everything in her path.And this is the kid who throws a tantrum if I even look like it’s time for her bath.There were two things Bobbie Faye knew for certain. One, a day without disaster would be a day in someone else’s life. And two, she was going to kill her brother Roy for not showing up to fix the washing machine like he’d promised.She sloshed through the kitchen to the back door and opened it, hoping the water would rush out; it barely trickled. The trailer floor had already sagged below the threshold, turning her ancient trailer into a bowl.Wonderful. The bathtub leaks, the trailer doesn’t.Bobbie Faye slumped a moment, barely resisting the urge to pound her head against the door frame. This was her one day off. She’d worked extra hours all week just to be able to relax this morning and take her time to get ready for the festival’s opening ceremonies. She hadn’t thought anything could top the thunderstorm that blew through on last year’s opening day and knocked a tree onto her first truly pretty car, a slightly banged-up purple Nissan 300ZX. Sure, it was used, high mileage, and pulled heavily to the left, but it was shiny, with only two rust spots. The tree could have fallen in any other direction and nothing would have been damaged. Of course, that would mean this was someone else’s life. It didn’t help when she learned she had, just that day, received a cancellation notice from her car insurance. (Not a single person, not even her friends, ever believed she really hadn’t seen that fire truck barreling through the intersection with all of its lights on and sirens blazing. She thought the fireman was clearly at fault, though she did feel pretty awful when, to avoid hitting her, he slid into a light pole, knocking it through the roof of the grocery store on the corner.) Her insurance company paid all of the claims. And canceled her.The bastards.But this year? It was going to be different; she was going to have a pleasant, peaceful day if she had to maim and kill to get it. There were no storms, the insurance was paid up on the rickety cracker-box-on-wheels Honda Civic she’d bought to replace her cool little sports car, she had planned to have plenty of time to get ready and avoid the traffic jams, she had washed her clothes last night and all she’d had to do was toss them into the dryer. . . . So, of course, she was standing in two inches of water inside her trailer.There was no way in hell she was bailing all of this by herself. Roy was going to get his sorry ass over here and help. She went to the phone to call him, flipped on the living room light and gasped. Waves rippled across the floor. Water slapped at the bottom of the more-shabby-than-chic sofa and chair and filled the video bay of her ancient VCR set on the low shelf below the TV. And on the carpet near the sofa where she’d left it was her mom’s Contraband Days scrapbook. Drowned.Bobbie Faye’s face hurt with the strain of holding back tears. Her mother had kept that scrapbook for more than twenty years. When Bobbie Faye was seven, her mom had let her glue a pirate eye patch on the cover, denoting the history of the festival. Well, her mom had been drinking and hadn’t really seemed to notice the eye patch and sequins until a few days later, but she let Bobbie Faye keep them on there and showed them proudly to her friends, so that was almost as good, especially when her mom made her an eye patch to wear to that year’s pirate costume contest.Pirates, Bobbie Faye had learned the way other kids learned catechism, had found the multitude of bayous and marshlands in south Louisiana perfect for transporting loot and contraband into the growing territory. The pirates had hidden in south Louisiana for the same reasons the Cajuns had fled there from Nova Scotia: sanctuary. It was a place to be whoever the hell you wanted to be. A close-knit, family sort of place, where watching your neighbor’s back was as standard as having a nodding awareness that they just might be crazy as loons, and that was okay, too.After years of digging up half of Calcasieu Parish in a vain attempt to find the buried treasure, the locals eventually, reluctantly, gave up. Well, not entirely. Bobbie Faye remembered when she was a kid and learned there was a place named Contraband Bayou which was said to have been the home of a few pirates who supposedly hid jewels and gold somewhere back where the bayou ended. She tagged along when Roy and Lori Ann’s dad took them fishing because he was going to go right by the famous bayou and Bobbie Faye was sure if he’d just let her out, she’d find that treasure. All she got for her trouble was a bad case of poison sumac and a good view of a bunch of deeply dug holes. So much for history.As it was, history settled lazily into myth, which eased alo...

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