And the next day. when the cart carrying the two City Scavengers from Milan, arrived at the village of Marzipani and the Inn where the slaughter of the innocents had taken place, Guido and Giulio the Duchy's most respected and venerable Scavengers – licensed by the Duke to collect, transport and bury those dead whose family were unable or unwilling to do so themselves – or who had no family nor means to pay for the privilege – greeted the Duke's Men-at-Arms who had remained behind after Boo and Licinic returned to Milan and had stood guard all night; they all knew each other – the youngest of the foursome being near 50 years of age and it would be fair to say that although the two soldiers were no longer fit enough to take active part in war or conflict, the Duke had known them all his life and rewarded their long service with lighter and less arduous duties, so 'stood guard' simply means being in the vicinity and keeping at least one of their three eyes open throughout their shift - and shared a little wine with them, from the goatskin bladders both men carried to relieve the hardships of their lives and then the soldiers removed the planks which had been nailed across the door to prevent looting (as if any could have taken place with two stalwart Men-at-Arms posted outside) and Rodolfo, the senior Man-at-Arms, flung the door open and gestured for the Scavengers to enter; he was surprised when, just moments later, they returned, scratching their heads, and Guido casually said: "all right, the joke's on us, where are they?" and Roberto, the junior Man-at-Arms, strode forward, his jaw thrust forward pugnaciously: "it's no joke, Carrion, Seven Innocents and two Devils, or can you only count on one hand?" but before either of the Scavengers could take a swing at that forward-thrusting jaw, Rodolfo stepped forward to save the dignity of the Duke's Service: "easy does it lads, it's been a long cold night," and Giulio. a born gadfly, smirked: "unless you were tucked under a wench's petticoats and keeping warm by the heat of her notch!" at which Roberto's face turned red – though more from embarrassment than anger, for he had indeed been entertained for part of the night by a serving wench from the village's other tavern who had casually strolled past and flirtatiously asked where he kept his chopper when it wasn't in use, and he showed her, and they were soon in the empty stables behind the inn where he gave her a demonstration of his prowess at thrust and parry – and his only retort was to blow a raspberry towards the old wrinkled dwarf of a man who had cheeked him, and mimic Giulio's ungainly walk; But Roberto wasn't the only one who had been distracted through the night, for while his companion was otherwise occupied, Rodolfo’s eye was caught by a different wench, who looked like she was from one of the surrounding farms, and as she walked along, sashaying her hips, she looked back at him over her shoulder, still walking away, but not so fast that couldn't catch up with her in a dozen strides: "where are you going on this cold night?" and she answered: "just walking, sir, for I could not sleep, it is so cold in my bed, it is warmer to walk about, though there is a touch of frost in the air, I fain would have a hot poker to warm me up," and he said: "come round to the stables, it is sheltered and warm there, plenty of straw to rest upon, and I have just the thing to put some fire into your belly," and she laughed and asked: "and would you keep me safe in the dark?" and he replied: "indeed, Lass, t'would be only fulfilling my duty, for I am an officer of the Duke's personal guard, charged with protecting the citizens and peasantry of the Duchy and I feel honour-bound to shelter you in your need; my present duty is one I would rather exchange for battling foreign armies, or any and all enemies of the Duke of Milan but while I am here and you are in danger outdoors on such a dark night, then my duty is clear!" and she was impressed, so when he offered her his arm, she took it and they walked quickly round to the stables, empty of horses, but rather noisily occupied by his brother-in-arms in one snug corner, so Rodolfo drew her to that which was furthest away and pulled her down onto the straw with him and made merry with her; several hours later, the two wenches left the sleeping guards ere the cock crew, and that sound was what had woken the pair of them, just in time to be standing at the front door when the Scavengers cart drew up; "no it ain't no laughing matter," replied Guido, "but nor is removing nine bodies and spiriting them away right under your ugly noses!" and though he knew he was being played by these two – gravediggers and scavengers being known for their use of coarse levity to spare them from the worst effects of the horrors they worked with daily, he pushed open the door and looked in – the large candles he had set up as darkness came on last night still burned, though getting low now, and the furniture was overturned as it had been, even the air was fetid with the stink of blood, piss and shit, and a tang of fear which seemed to be sucked into the walls, but the bodies which had lain on the floor last night were gone, and he could swear, he did swear, "by all that's Holy this is indeed the work of the Devil himself, for we guarded this inn with the dedication of a mother to her young, every hour on the hour, one of us walked right around the building and checked the rear door and the stables, but neither saw nor heard the slightest thing untoward;" and when they went round to the back they saw that, there too, indeed, the door was stoutly barred with thick planks nailed across, and the door itself locked; "it's a mystery," said Rodolfo, "the strangest ever encountered," added Roberto, and Guido examined the straw on the floor of the stables and, bending over, despite the stiffness of his arthritis, picked up a pair of white stockings, and his brother, Giulio, likewise a pair of grey stockings at the other end, and Guido drew the two Constables close, so that none in the village should hear the coze which followed and said softly: "the only mystery is whatever the wenches of Marzipani saw in you two pensionable oafs – whatever happened you were either too busy shagging or too shagged out afterwards to see or hear anything, but don't you worry, we'll send a purse-priest to exorcise this place retrospectively and then you'll be able to return to the really arduous work of opening and closing doors for Duke Federico hisself, but mind you don't lock him in a room that may be a-haunted while you put your hatchet up some Palace doxy's skirts – we mayn't be around to verify your stories, but one last thing: any valuables in the place, pile on the cart, we may as well be recompensed for the damage to our bodies driving up to this Godforsaken hole and back again to Milan, and don't worry, we'll split the proceeds with you two blind beggars, and as a gesture of goodwill, another round of wine, Guido, before the clodhoppers get to work – any breakages will be deducted from your cut, boys," and none of them noticed that the candle-smoke in the room seemed to be drawn towards the huge fireplace, though there was no wind outside to suck it up, and twisted into a loose spiral before it disappeared into what might be mistaken for a wormhole in the brick-work at the back o the hearth!