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Masquerade: continued

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Murder Ballads
Secret London

“If you look at that ring of animals, starting with the hare, and you go from right eye to right big claw, you end up with an ‘A’,” Rousseau explained. “And if you go to the next animal, which is a ram, and you go from the right eye through the right hoof, you get an ‘M’. If you go round like that, you get the word ‘amulet’ - A-M-U-L-E-T. That's the hare. That's the golden hare.” (7)
“I knew that was it,” Barker chimed in. “So I went through every picture, and for each animal whose eyes, feet and toes you could see, I went from left eye through left middle finger, left eye through left big toe, right eye through right middle finger, right eye through right big toe. [...] I was jumping up and down with excitement. And then we got this sentence: “Catherine's long finger over shadows earth buried yellow amulet, mid-day points the hour, in light of equinox look you.”
There were a host of smaller clues and confirmers which helped reinforce this solution, not least the hierarchy of animal puppets whose own coloured rings told them the order in which each painting's livestock should be tackled. Most exciting of all was the acrostic they discovered from the first letter of each painting's contribution to the master clue. Some of the 15 paintings gave them more than one word, producing the list:

Catherine's / Long finger / Over / Shadows / Earth / Buried / Yellow / Amulet / Mid-day / Points / The / Hour / In / Light of equinox / Look you.

Take the first letter of each painting's contribution, and you have ”Close by Ampthill”. Barker and Rousseau quickly discovered that Catherine of Aragon had a cross erected to her in Bedfordshire's Ampthill Park. Catherine was the first of Henry VIII's six wives, and that fitted with the first painting's framing words “One of Six to Eight”. Place yourself next to Catherine's Ampthill cross at noon on March 21's Spring Equinox, dig a hole where the tip of its shadow fell, and that's where you'd find the hare.

He began with the hare, worked his way round the circle and soon started getting results

Job done, you might think. But, like many Masqueraders, Barker and Rousseau felt that solving the puzzle was not enough. They expected to have to dig for their prize, and lever its casket up from the mud with their own hands. Rousseau, with memories of the Berry Head trip still fresh in his mind, thought they should solve every aspect of the book's remaining details before they even thought about any physical digging. Barker was less patient though, and on January 4, 1982, he decided the time had come to inspect the cross for himself. He and his family had just returned from a ski-ing trip abroad and, rather than driving directly home from the airport, they detoured to Ampthill Park and climbed to the cross's hilltop perch.
As 12:00 noon comes round at each longitudinal point on the Earth's Northern hemisphere, shadows there point due north. At noon on any given date - in this case the Spring Equinox - those shadows hit a precise and predictable length. Barker got his wife Celia to stand next to the cross so he could gauge its height, adjusted his sighting compass's reading by six degrees to compensate for the Earth's magnetic deviation, and worked out that the tip of the cross's shadow would fall about 20 feet from its base at Williams' chosen hour. The ground north of the cross was on a slope, though, and without more sophisticated instruments, he could only narrow the spot down so far. “We're talking about an area of ground that's about the area covered by the average double bed,” he told O'Farrell. “I decided to go home and make an inclinometer so I could pin-point it more accurately.”
Exploring the area around the cross before he left, Barker found a nearby stone which had a few lines from Psalm 104 carved into its surface:

“Oh Lord, how manifold are thy works,
In wisdom hast thou made them all,
The earth is full of thy riches.”

This stone - nicknamed the frogstone for its rounded, lumpy shape - had been unknown to Williams when he selected Catherine's Cross as the hare's burial site, but struck both him and Barker as further confirmation that they'd found the right spot. In fact, it had been placed there by an order of nuns called The Mary Sisters in 1972 - long before Masquerade was ever thought of - as one of the many inscribed stones they've dotted round Britain's countryside to celebrate its beauty.
Barker jotted down the verse for further consideration, then returned to the cross and prised out a square foot of turf to see what the ground underneath would be like for digging. Discovering stones and broken tiles, he carefully replaced his turf, disguised the wounded soil as a molehill, and followed Celia back to their car. If he'd known that a party of rival hare-seekers had also set their sights on Ampthill Park, he might not have left so soon.

The first Eric Compton, a Bedford metal detector expert, heard about Masquerade was when his friend John Guard asked to borrow some of Compton's equipment. Compton lent him a detector, but Guard returned it after about three days saying he needed Compton to help him use it properly.
I met Compton last April, during a day of location interviews for the Radio 4 programme, and recorded my conversation with him as we stood next to Catherine's Cross itself. “John came back and said 'Can you come out with me? I want to disclose something to you, but I don't want you to mention anything about this to anybody',” he told me. “We went to a pub called The Compty Arms, and he told me about Kit Williams' Masquerade, the jewelled hare and all that. I'd never heard of it. He said 'There's clues in The Sunday Times, and people from all over the world are trying to figure out where the hare is buried. But I know where it is.” (10)
I asked Compton what sort of man Guard was. “I liked him,” he replied. “He could hold a conversation with anyone. He was into smoking cannabis and that, but he'd got that charisma. He'd got that way with him.” Guard worked as an advertising salesman for Bedfordshire on Sunday, which was then edited and run by Frank Branston. Branston, who went on to become Mayor of Bedford, was another of my Ampthill interviews that day, and he described Guard in much the same way.
“He was an odd character,” Branston said. “He had a certain charm. He was a vegetarian, an animal rights campaigner and an eco-campaigner - but he also had a slightly dodgy background. He was exposed by the Daily Mail some years earlier because he was with one of those companies which made money by enticing inadequate people to take a course that was supposed to fit them for the rougher world. It involved shouting at them and humiliating them and extracting money from them. So he was a fairly dodgy character although, by and large, fairly harmless. Very dapper chap he was: slim, blonde, always wore a pinstripe suit.