In the following days, money was brought to the orphanage to cover expenses, meanwhile, many things like food and clothes were purchased by the people of the greenwood and donated to the orphanage to mask the source of the income. It would not due if any word got back to the sheriff that the money raised for the benefit of the orphanage was helping the orphanage. Very few people knew the sheriff had planned on taking that money for himself, and even fewer knew that it had been retaken from the sheriff and was being siphoned back to the orphanage. One person who fit into the former category, but not the second was Marian. Tuck had overheard the conversation between Cedric and the sheriff, and not knowing who to turn to, had confided in Marian. She in turn had innocently guessed that Robin was the thief to blame for the sheriff’s wanting the orphanage’s money. This was how Robin came to pay a visit to Tuck and scheme to rob the sheriff a second time. Marian did not know that she was correct about Robin being a thief and in fact was repenting of having accused him of being a criminal. It was judged that the robbery was more likely to succeed if only people who were involved knew about it. Only a handful of people knew all the details.
When the sheriff’s men delivered the chests full of rocks to the monastery, they were opened in the daylight where it was obvious immediately that there was only a few coins on top covering rocks painted to look like coins. The monastery was used to receiving money that needed to be kept quiet, so they didn’t inform the sheriff of their district, but they didn’t trust their curriers either. Who accepts a chest of rocks as gold coins? It was preposterous. They invited Roland and his men to stay as their guests while they dispatched their own man, a friar Oswald, to report to the sheriff. Roland, who had not been present at the opening of the chests (a huge mistake on his part), needed the rest and had no idea that he was in fact a prisoner of the monastery. After all, it is well known that the rooms monks stay in are called “cells”.
The sheriff got the news a few days later and became apoplectic. It was obvious that it had to be Roland and his men who had perpetrated the crime. No one else knew about the shipment of money. Therefore, it stood to reason that Roland was also responsible for the first robbery as well. The only problem was that everyone knew that Roland was as dumb as a bag of rocks. Everyone knew this of course, except Roland because he was so very stupid. This is exactly what Robin had hoped for. In this way the sheriff would not go looking for a nest of outlaws living close to Nottingham that might have the where-with-all to hatch such schemes.
The sheriff decided he had a choice. He could send for Roland to return to him at Nottingham (perhaps in chains, perhaps not), or he could keep Roland at the monastery and go down there and pay him a visit. The longer he could keep Roland from realizing he was a prisoner, the easier it would be to keep him one. If Roland were the perpetrator, he must realize that the theft would have been discovered by now. Perhaps Roland felt he was above suspicion. No matter. The sheriff would get to the bottom of it soon enough. He hated to leave the shire practically unattended, but there was nothing for it. His few remaining men at arms were capable of carrying out orders, but not of making decisions on their own. So few people were capable of making decisions on their own, in the sheriff’s opinion. He decided to see if he could press Cedric into service. After all, this was all his fault in a way. Wasn’t it? Well it was certainly somebody’s fault and it wasn’t the fault of the sheriff’s. That much was patently obvious to anyone with half a brain in his head.
He had Robert, the more brutish of his remaining men fetch the vicar to him. When dealing with men of office, it was better to deal with them in ones own surroundings. The sheriff felt this show that the authority in the matter, in fact the region; belonged to the sheriff. There were vicars of large churches who somehow came to the conclusion that they had authority in such matters and the sheriff would brook no such attitudes in Nottinghamshire.
Cedric arrived looking more pale than usual, which was a neat trick as he was already quite pale. Robert had been the right choice. He smiled but did not stand. “Good morrow to you, Father.” said the sheriff.
“William.” said the vicar. Very few people addressed him as William and the sheriff took note of it.
“I’ll be blunt. There has been a, shall we say a “problem” with the latest shipment of coin to the monastery.”
“Good Lord! Not again!” Cedric said. He put his hand to his forehead, and took a deep breath.
“My sentiments precisely. I must pay a visit to the monastery to investigate, and as most of my men are there already, I need someone I can trust to keep the peace around here.” He let that sink in for a moment. Presently, he saw understanding come into Cedric’s face.
“You want me to act in your stead?” he asked.
“That is correct. Consider this a formal deputisation.” the sheriff said. “With the added responsibility comes additional power. You will be the law while I am gone. If anyone gives you any trouble, lock them up, beat them. You can even execute them for all I care; there are certainly some candidates for that roaming the shire. Just keep the peace. Make sure the county doesn’t burn itself down.”
“I am honored, Magistrate.” said Cedric.
“Indeed. You are. Do not fail me.”
The sheriff was not foolish enough to make the journey south alone. Yet he could spare nobody. Though he had deputies in each town and village throughout the shire, and they had men of their own, this matter, like most of the sheriff’s business required discretion and as his men were not only already south at the monastery, but most likely traitors who were not long for this world, so William; high sheriff of Nottinghamshire, and now according to Father Cedric at least; Magistrate as well, found it prudent to find new men to draw to himself. There were always men in need of employment in winter and the sheriff found a band of soldiers in Derby that fit the bill.
As they traveled, the sheriff took the lead and he grew weary of listening to the new men whisper among themselves. The gist seemed to be that he had basically hired them as protection for the journey and must therefore be carrying a lot of money and be unable to protect himself. They thought they were being quiet and clever in their scheming, but as with all the conclusions to which they had come since joining him on the road, they were mistaken. In between their scheming they also gossiped of rumors that this road was haunted, the women in the nearby towns, their gambling skills and whose horse was fastest. It was really quite tiresome.
Presently, the men asked if they might stop for a rest. The sheriff looked around and noted that just ahead was a clearing. They had not yet come to the clearing and in fact at this point, the path was quite narrow. Pine and Oak and elm crowded right up to the road and they had been obliged to travel single file for about a mile. The sheriff stopped as requested. He turned to face them.
“Actually, just ahead is a clearing where we can dismount and water our horses. Stretch our legs a bit, eh Governor?”
“Actually, it’s sheriff, not Governor. And this will do just fine. Don’t you think.” Though he raised his eyebrows and inflected his voice, it was not a question.
“Sheriff?” said the one in the back around his fellows.
“Had I neglected to tell you?” asked the sheriff. “I am William Brewer; High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire. We are on our way to Mottisfont Abby in Hampshire to find my most trusted men guilty of robbing me, upon which time we shall summarily execute them.”
The one in the front, the largest one (of course) was not so easily put off. Nor did he seem to realize that the plan of getting to the clearing so they could surround him wasn’t going to work. “That’s an awful long journey to have to take to earn a days wages.” He said menacingly.
“Yes, well a days wages are accrued by the day, not the mile. Hence the name. However; do go on.”
“Well you see, we just want to stretch our legs a bit.”
The sheriff drew his sword. He had learned throughout the years how to maximize the satisfying sound a properly drawn sword can make. “Your legs will be stretched from one end of England to the next if you try that flimsy ploy one more time!” seethed the sheriff. “If there is one thing I can’t stand, it one not knowing when to give up on their lame deception. Right! let’s get on with it. My purse.”
“You were about to demand my purse, man! Do hurry up. If you want a proper burial, the day is wasting.”
The man looked over his shoulder at his mates to find them a bit baffled at the turn of events.
“Draw your sword then!” the sheriff said. There was no jest in his voice. “Do it!!” he bellowed.
The man drew his sword, more following orders than preparing to attack.
“Right!” the sheriff said. he spurred his horse forward and cut the man’s head off. The corpse sat ahorse for a moment and then slid unceremoniously to the ground, the horse trying to sidestep but the man was caught in the stirrups and was dragged as the horse sidestepped and then having nowhere to go, stepped back and trampled the body underfoot.
“Well. if the forest wasn’t haunted before, it most certainly is now, eh?” said the sheriff to the remaining soldiers. “Now, if there are no more plans for robbery we can make quite a few miles before sunset.” With that, he turned and continued on the road.
“What about the burial you promised?” said one of the men.
“Have at it. Just try to catch up before nightfall. There are dangerous men in these woods.” said the sheriff without looking back.