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11 September 2013 @ 06:23 pm
Death comes to Haslewood Hall - Prologue [Whitechapel AU Bigbang]  
Death comes to Haslewood Hall

Title: Death comes to Haslewood Hall
Author: wiccaqueen
Fandom: Whitechapel ITV
Genre: Historical AU (Elizabethan Era)
Pairing: Chandler/Kent
Rating: R for adult content
Beta: euraylie
Words: 22.114

Disclaimer: The characters in this story belong to their respected owners at ITV. No copyright infringement intended

Prologue
North Yorkshire, 21st December 1568

Blood ran down the trunk of the tree, rivulets trickling along the bark's ridges and pooling on the frozen ground at the base of the old sturdy oak. A small, red puddle had formed upon the crisp white snow.


The first thought that flashed across his mind was that the tree itself was bleeding, but that was absurd. And Joseph Chandler, Earl of Haslewood, never entertained absurd thoughts if it could be helped.

As he let his gaze wander a bit higher, he saw where the blood was coming from. A naked body was dangling a few feet above the ground. Strangled. Lifeless. Cut open and slowly bleeding out like an animal. The pale skin of the boy, much paler than the bark of the tree, was streaked red with blood.

»Murder!« cried Lady Riley. »There’s been a murder! Dear God.«

»Indeed,« replied Chandler. »It certainly looks that way.«

He had never seen a dead man’s body before. It was grotesque. Horrifying. Frightening. The sight turned his stomach and yet he couldn’t stop staring at the body hanging from the tree in his garden.

 »I’d say the poor lad has been strangled,« Sir Edward Buchan said. »You see the rope around his neck?«

Everyone, including Lady Riley and Lady Llewellyn looked up into the tree where the body was hanging from a branch.

»I think the killer hanged the boy, before …well before…« Buchan couldn’t continue. Looking at the victim it was clear unspeakable horrors must have taken place here.
Chandler had seen enough.

»It is very unsettling, but there’s nothing more we can do for the unfortunate boy now. I think it best we call the local magistrate and leave this matter in his capable hands.«

All of a sudden his steward, Ray Miles, a short, elderly man stepped forward.

»If the magistrate will even come in this weather, which I don’t think he will. We’ve already had more snow this evening than we had all winter long. And just look at the sky. Do you see those dark clouds? There’s a storm coming, a bad one I reckon,« said Miles.

Chandler gritted his teeth. He hated when Miles spoke out before without being addressed first. It was downright rude at times. But years of valued service at the estate let the man to often forget that he was not on an equal footing with the nobility and gentry.

»I hate to admit it, but he’s right,« Buchan said. Chandler closed his eyes, collecting his thoughts.

»You might have a point. Alright. So what else can we do?«

»Well, we can’t leave the poor sod hanging there, that’s for sure,« Miles spoke up once again, ignoring Chandler’s sharp look.

»Perhaps it is best that we get the ladies inside first and then we can decide how to proceed with this situation.«

Chandler welcomed Buchan’s suggestion. Lady Riley and Lady Llewellyn complied, but only after some protest. Although they were both highborn, they lacked certain feminine delicacies. At that moment, however, Chandler was grateful for their rougher edges. He dreaded imagining what would have happened had his fiancée, the Lady Morgan Lamb, been in the garden to see the dead boy dangling from the tree. Luckily for him, she had stayed indoors while the rest of the party had decided to partake of the fresh country air.

With the ladies returned to the manor, only the men remained to study the gruesome spectacle. They were five all together – The Earl himself, the Baron Edward Buchan of Dorset Estate, as well as the Baron Finlay Mansell of Mitre Place, the young Baronet Emerson Kent of Hanbury House and Miles, the long-serving steward of Haslewood Hall. All other guests of the evening were still inside the house and had hopefully not yet heard of the terrible murder on the estate grounds.

Buchan was the one who seemed most interested in the dead boy and the circumstances of his death. Mansell on the other hand seemed barely to care now that the shock had worn off. He was standing a few feet away, his eyes trained on the sky and the shifting clouds. Kent, the youngest of the group, looked even paler than usual. He also seemed scared. Chandler, troubled by the young man’s obvious distress, wanted nothing more than to comfort him, but he couldn’t think of anything appropriate to say. Instead, he simply let his gaze linger for a few heartbeats until the dark-haired Baronet met his gaze. As their eyes met, both men immediately looked away. Chandler could feel a flush spreading across his cold cheeks. He felt guilty, without truly understanding why.

»Gentlemen, we must act, quickly,« Chandler said in an effort to focus on what was really important at this time.

»Right. First, we should try to get the body down. We need to store… it … somewhere until the magistrate can be fetched.«
Chandler stumbled over his own words before recollecting himself. He couldn’t allow himself to be distracted by uncomfortable thoughts. Not now. »Until then we should also try and figure out who committed this horrendous crime and for what reason.«

»Do you mean we ourselves should investigate this crime, Sir?« asked Kent.

»That is exactly what I mean. It’s obvious that the murderer must be someone who had easy access to the estate. Someone who has been here this evening.«

Buchan made a surprised face. »Surely you don’t mean it could have been one of your guests?«

Chandler took a deep breath. »We have to consider every option. I hope not, but let’s avoid making any hasty accusations. It could have just as easily been someone from the village who gained access to the grounds. I say it is best to observe all we can and then start by gathering information concerning his death. Agreed?«

Silent nods followed this question. Mansell finally seemed to have found an interest in the matter as well. »Right, so when do we get started? I’ve always wanted to solve a murder mystery!«


Chapter One - Master Post