Book: The Way Through The Woods



The Way Through The Woods
The Way Through The Woods

Colin Dexter


The Way Through The Woods

The tenth book in the Inspector Morse series, 1997

acknowledgements

The author and publishers wish to thank the following who have kindly given permission for use of copyright materials:

Extract from A Portrait of Jane Austen by David Cecil, published by Constable Publishers;

Extract from The Rehearsal by Jean Anouilh, published by Methuen London;

The Observer, for a quote by Aneurin Bevan © The Observer,

Faber & Faber Ltd for the extract from 'La Figlia Che Piange' in Collected Poems igog-icfiz by T. S. Eliot;

Oxford University Press for the extract from 'austin, Alfred (1835-1913)' from the Oxford Companion to English Literature edited by Margaret Drabble (5th edition 1985);

Don Manley for the extract from the Chambers Crossword Manual (Chambers 1992);

Extract from Marriage and Morals by Bertrand Russell, published by Unwin Hyman;

Kate Champkin for the extract from The Sleeping Life of Aspem Williams by Peter Champkin;

Extract from Further Fables of Our Time, published by Hamish Hamilton, 1956, in the UK and Commonwealth and Simon and Schuster in the US. Copyright © 1956 James Thurber. Copyright © 1984 Helen Thurber.

The Observer, for a quote by Edwina Currie © The Observer;

Extract from The Road to Xanadu by John Livingston Lowes. Copyright 1927 by John Livingston Lowes. Copyright © renewed 1955 by John Wilbur Lowes. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Co. All rights reserved;

Extract from A. E. Housman: Scholar and Poet by Norman Marlow, published by Routledge;

Faber & Faber Ltd for the extract from 'I Have Started to Say', Collected Poems by Philip Larkin;

Extract from Half Truths One and a Half Truths by Karl Kraus, published by Carcanet Press;

The University of Oxford for the extract from the Wytham Woods deed.

Even effort has been made to trace all the copyright holders but if any has been inadvertently overlooked, the author and publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangement at the first opportunity.

Maps of Wytham Woods and Blenheim Park drawn by Graeme James.

Weather and rain have undone it again,

And now you would never know

There was once a road through the woods

Before they planted the trees.

It is underneath the coppice and heath

And the thin anemones.

Only the keeper sees

That, where the ring-dove broods,

And the badgers roll at ease,

There was once a road through the woods.

From The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling

The Way Through The Woods

WYTHAM WOODS


The Way Through The Woods

prolegomenon

Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be whiter, yea whiter, than snow

(Isaiah, ch. i, v. 18)

Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent

(Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations)


'I must speak to you.'

'Speak on, my child.'

'I've not often come to your church.'

'It is not my church – it is God's church. We are all children of God.'

'I've come to confess a big sin.'

'It is proper that all sins should be confessed.'

'Can all sins be forgiven?'

'When we, sinful mortals as we are, can find it in our hearts to forgive each other, think only of our infinitely merciful Father, who understands our every weakness – who knows us all far better than we know ourselves.'

'I don't believe in God.'

'And you consider that as of any great importance?'

'I don't understand you.'

'Would it not be of far greater importance if God did not believe in you?'

'You're speaking like a Jesuit.'

‘Forgive me.'

'It's not you – it's me who wants forgiveness.'

'Do you recall Pilgrim, when at last he confessed his sins to God? How the weight of the great burden was straightway lifted from his shoulders – like the pain that eases with the lancing of in abscess?'

'You sound as if you've said that all before.'

'Those self-same words I have said to others, yes.'

'Others?'

'I cannot talk of them. Whatever it is that men and women may confess to me, they confess – through me – to God.'

'You're not really needed at all, then – is that what you are saying?'

'I am a servant of God. Sometimes it is granted me to help those who are truly sorry for their sins.'

'What about those who aren't?'

'I pray that God will touch their hearts.'

'Will God forgive them – whatever they've done? You believe that, Father?'

'I do.'

'The scenes of the concentration camps…'

'What scenes have you in mind, my child?'

The "sins", Father.'

'Forgive me, once again. My ears are failing now – yet not my heart! My own father was tortured to death in a Japanese camp, in 1943. I was then thirteen years old. I know full well the difficulties of forgiveness. I have told this to very few.'

'Have you forgiven your father's torturers?'

'God has forgiven them, if they ever sought His forgiveness.'

'Perhaps it's more forgivable to commit atrocities in times of war.'

'There is no scale of better or of worse, whether in times of peace or in times of war. The laws of God are those that He has created. They are steadfast and firm as the fixed stars in the heavens -unchangeable for all eternity. Should a man hurl himself down headlong from the heights of the Temple, he will break himself upon the law of God; but never will he break the universal law that God has once ordained.'

'You are a Jesuit.'

‘I am a man, too. And all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.'

'Father

'Speak on, my child.'

'Perhaps you will report what I confess…'

'Such a thing a priest could never do.'

'But what if I wanted you to report it?'

'My holy office is to absolve, in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the sins of all who show a true repentance. It is not my office to pursue the workings of the Temporal Power.'

'You haven't answered my question.'

'I am aware of that.'

'What if I wanted you to report me to the police?'

'I would be unsure of my duty. I would seek the advice of my bishop.'

'You've never been asked such a thing before?'

'Never.'

'What if I repeat my sin?'

'Unlock your thoughts. Unlock those sinful thoughts to me.'

'I can't do that.'

'Would you tell me everything if I could guess the reasons for your refusal?'

'You could never do that.'

'Perhaps I have already done so.'

'You know who I am, then?'

'Oh yes, my child. I think I knew you long ago.'

CHAPTER ONE

A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of Hell

(George Bernard Shaw)


morse never took his fair share of holidays, so he told himself. So he was telling Chief Superintendent Strange that morning in early June.

'Remember you've also got to take into consideration the time you regularly spend in pubs, Morse!'

'A few hours here and there, perhaps, I agree. It wouldn't be all that difficult to work out how much – '

' "Quantify", that's the word you're looking for.'

'I'd never look for ugly words like "quantify".'

'A useful word, Morse. It means – well, it means to say how much…'

'That's just what I said, isn't it?'

'I don't know why I argue with you!'

Nor did Morse.

For many years now, holidays for Chief Inspector Morse of Thames Valley CID had been periods of continuous and virtually intolerable stress. And what they must normally be like for men with the extra handicaps of wives and children, even Morse for all his extravagant imagination could scarcely conceive. But for this year, for the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, he was resolutely determined that things would be different: he would have a holiday away from Oxford. Not abroad, though. He had no wanderlust for Xanadu or Isfahan; indeed he very seldom travelled abroad at all – although it should be recorded that several of his colleagues attributed such insularity more than anything to Morse's faint-hearted fear of aeroplanes. Yet as it happened it had been one of those same colleagues who had first set things in motion.

'Lime, mate! Lime's marvellous!'

Lime?

Only several months later had the word finally registered in Morse's mind, when he had read the advertisement in The Observer:


THE BAY HOTEL


Lyme Regis


Surely one of the finest settings of any hotel in the West Country! We are the only hotel on the Marine Parade and we enjoy panoramic views from Portland Bill to the east, to the historic Cobb Harbour to the west. The hotel provides a high standard of comfort and cuisine, and a friendly relaxed atmosphere. There are level walks to the shops and harbour, and traffic-free access to the beach, which is immediately in front of the hotel.


For full details please write to The Bay Hotel, Lyme Regis, Dorset; or just telephone (0297) 442059.

'It gets tricky,' resumed Strange, 'when a senior man takes more than a fortnight's furlough – you realize that, of course.'

'I'm not taking more than what's due to me.'

'Where are you thinking of?'

'Lyme Regis.'

'Ah. Glorious Devon.'

'Dorset, sir.'

'Next door, surely?'

'Persuasion – it's where some of the scenes in Persuasion are set.'

'Ah.' Strange looked suitably blank.

'And The French Lieutenant's Woman.'

'Ah. I'm with you. Saw that at the pictures with the wife… Or was it on the box?'

'Well, there we are then,' said Morse lamely.

For a while there was a silence. Then Strange shook his head.

'You couldn't stick being away that long! Building sand-castles? For over a fortnight?'

'Coleridge country too, sir. I'll probably drive around a bit -have a look at Ottery St Mary… some of the old haunts.'

A low chuckle emanated from somewhere deep in Strange's belly. 'He's been dead for ages, man – more Max's cup o' tea than yours.'

Morse smiled wanly. 'But you wouldn't mind me seeing his -place?'

‘It's gone. The rectory's gone. Bulldozed years ago.'

‘Really?'

Strange puckered his lips, and nodded his head. 'You think I'm an ignorant sod, don't you, Morse? But let me tell you something. There was none of this child-centred nonsense when I was at school. In those days we all had to learn things off by heart -things like yer actual Ancient Bloody Mariner.'

'My days too, sir.' It irked Morse that Strange, only a year his senior, would always treat him like a representative of some much Younger generation.

But Strange was in full flow.

You don't forget it, Morse. It sticks.' He peered briefly but earnestly around the lumber room of some olden memories; then found what he was seeking, and with high seriousness intoned a stanza learned long since:

'All in a hot and copper sky

The bloody sun at noon

Right up above the mast did stand

No bigger than the bloody moon!'


'Very good, sir,' said Morse, uncertain whether the monstrous misquotation were deliberate or not, for he found the chief superintendent watching him shrewdly.

'No. You won't last the distance. You'll be back in Oxford within the week. You'll see!'

'So what? There's plenty for me to do here.'

'Oh?'

'For a start there's a drain-pipe outside the flat that's leaking-'

Strange's eyebrows shot up. 'And you're telling me you're going to fix that?'

'I'll get it fixed,' said Morse ambiguously. 'I've already got a bit of extra piping but the, er, diameter of the cross-section is… rather too narrow.'

'It's too bloody small, you mean? Is that what you're trying to say’

Morse nodded, a little sheepishly.

The score was one-all.

CHAPTER TWO

Mrs Austen was well enough in 1804 to go with her husband and Jane for a holiday to Lyme Regis. Here we hear Jane's voice speaking once again in cheerful tones. She gives the news about lodgings and servants, about new acquaintances and walks on the Cobb, about some enjoyable sea bathing, about a ball at the local Assembly Rooms

(David Cecil, A Portrait of Jane Austen)


'If I may say so, sir, you really are rather lucky.'

The proprietor of the only hotel on the Marine Parade pushed the register across and Morse quickly completed the Date – Name – Address – Car Registration – Nationality columns. As he did so, it was out of long habit rather than any interest or curiosity that his eye took in just a few, details about the half-dozen or so persons, single and married, who had signed in just before him.

There had been a lad amongst Morse's fellow pupils in the sixth form who had possessed a virtually photographic memory – a memory which Morse had much admired. Not that his own memory was at all bad; short term, in fact, it was still functioning splendidly. And that is why, in one of those pre-signed lines, there was just that single little detail which very soon would be drifting back towards the shores of Morse's consciousness…

'To be honest, sir, you're very lucky. The good lady who had to cancel – one of our regular clients – had booked the room as soon as she knew when we were opening for the season, and she especially wanted – she always wanted – a room overlooking the bay, with bath and WC en suite facilities, of course.'

Morse nodded his acknowledgement of the anonymous woman's admirable taste. 'How long had she booked for?'

'Three nights: Friday, Saturday, Sunday.'

Morse nodded again. ‘I’ll stay the same three nights – if that's all right,' he decided, wondering what was preventing the poor old biddy from once more enjoying her private view of the waves and -exclusive use of a water-closet. Bladder, like as not.

'Enjoy your stay with us!' The proprietor handed Morse three keys on a ring: one to Room 27; one (as he learned) for the hotel's garage, situated two minutes' walk away from the sea front; and one for the front entrance, should he arrive back after midnight. If you'd just like to get your luggage out, I'll see it's taken up to your room while you put the car away. The police allow our guests to park temporarily of course, but…'

Morse looked down at the street-map given to him, and turned to go. Thanks very much. And let's hope the old girl manages to get down here a bit later in the season,' he added, considering it proper to grant her a limited commiseration.

'Afraid she won't do that.'

'No?'

'She's dead.'

;Oh dear!'

'Very sad.'

'Still, perhaps she had a pretty good innings?'

‘I wouldn't call forty-one a very good innings. Would you?'

‘No.'

‘Hodgkin's disease. You know what that's like.'

'Yes,' lied the chief inspector, as he backed towards the exit in chastened mood. I’ll just get the luggage out. We don't want any trouble with the police. Funny lot, sometimes!'

"They may be in your part of the world, but they're very fair to is here.'

‘I didn't mean-'

‘Will you be taking dinner with us, sir?'

‘Yes. Yes, please. I think I'd enjoy that.'


A few minutes after Morse had driven the maroon Jaguar slowly along the Lower Road, a woman (who certainly looked no older a the one who had earlier that year written in to book Room 27) turned into the Bay Hotel, stood for a minute or so by the reception desk, then pressed the Please-Ring-For-Service bell.

She had just returned from a walk along the upper level of Marine Parade, on the west side, and out to the Cobb – that great granite barrier that circles a protective arm around the harbour and assuages the incessant pounding of the sea. It was not a happy walk. That late afternoon a breeze had sprung up from the south, the sky had clouded over, and several people now promenading along the front in the intermittent drizzle were struggling into lightweight plastic macs.

'No calls for me?' she asked, when the proprietor reappeared.

'No, Mrs Hardinge. There's been nothing else.'

'OK.' But she said it in such a way as if it weren't OK, and the proprietor found himself wondering if the call he'd taken in mid-afternoon had been of greater significance than he'd thought. Possibly not, though; for suddenly she seemed to relax, and she smiled at him – most attractively.

The grid that guarded the drinks behind reception was no longer in place and already two couples were seated in the bar enjoying their dry sherries; and with them one elderly spinster fussing over a dachshund, one of those small dogs accepted at the management's discretion: £2.50 per diem, excluding food'.

'I think I'll have a large malt.'

'Soda?'

'Just ordinary water, please.'

'Say when.'

' "When"!'

'On your room-bill, Mrs Hardinge?'

'Please! Room fourteen.'

She sat on the green leather wall-seat just beside the main entrance. The whisky tasted good and she told herself that however powerful the arguments for total abstinence might be, few could challenge the fact that after alcohol the world almost invariably appeared a kinder, friendlier place.

The Times lay on the coffee table beside her, and she picked it up and scanned the headlines briefly before turning to the back page, folding the paper horizontally, then vertically, and then studying one across.

It was a fairly easy puzzle; and some twenty minutes later her not inconsiderable cruciverbalist skills had coped with all but a couple of clues – one of them a tantalizingly half-familiar quotation from Samuel Taylor Coleridge – over which she was still frowning when the lady of the establishment interrupted her with the evening's menu, and asked if she were taking dinner.

For a few minutes after ordering Seafood Soup with Fresh garden Herbs, followed by Guinea Fowl in Leek and Mushroom Sauce, she sat with eyes downcast and smoked a king-sized Dunhill cigarette. Then, as if on sudden impulse, she went into the glass-pandled telephone booth that stood beside the entrance and rang a number, her lips soon working in a sort of silent charade, like the mouth of some frenetic goldfish, as she fed a succession of 20p’s into the coin-slot. But no one could hear what she was saying.

CHAPTER THREE

Have you noticed that life, real honest-to-goodness life, with murders and catastrophes and fabulous inheritances, happens almost exclusively in the newspapers?

(Jean Anouilh, The Rehearsal)


morse found his instructions fairly easy to follow. Driving from the small car park at the eastern end of Marine Parade, then turning right, then left just before the traffic lights, he had immediately spotted the large shed-like building on his left in the narrow one-way Coombe Street; 'Private Garage for Residents of The Bay Hotel'. Herein, as Morse saw after propping open the two high wooden gates, were eighteen parking spaces, marked out in diagonal white lines, nine on each side of a central keep clear corridor. By reason of incipient spondylosis, he was not nowadays particularly skilled at reversing into such things as slanting parking bays; and since the garage was already almost full, it took him rather longer than it should have done to back the Jaguar into a happily angled position, with the sides of his car equidistant from a J-reg Mercedes and a Y-reg Vauxhall. It was out of habit as before that he scanned the number plates of the cars there; but when about a quarter of an hour earlier he'd glanced through the hotel register, at least something had clicked in his mind.

Now though? Nothing. Nothing at all.

There was no real need for Morse immediately to explore the facilities of Room 27, and the drinks-bar faced him as he turned into the hotel. So he ordered a pint of Best Bitter, and sat down in the wall-seat, just by the entrance, and almost exactly on the same square footage of green leather that had been vacated ten minutes earlier by one of the two scheduled occupants of Room 14.

He should have been feeling reasonably satisfied with life, surely? But he wasn't. Not really. At that particular moment he longed for both the things he had that very morning solemnly avowed to eschew for the remaining days of his leave: cigarettes and newspapers. Cigarettes he had given up so often in the past that he found such a feat comparatively simple; never previously however had he decided that it would be of some genuine benefit to his peace of mind to be wholly free for a week or so from the regular diet of disasters served up by the quality dailies. Perhaps that was a silly idea too, though.

His right hand was feeling instinctively for the reassuring square packet in his jacket pocket, when the maitresse d'hotel appeared, wished him a warm welcome, and gave him the menu. It may nave been a matter of something slightly more than coincidence that Morse had no hesitation in choosing the Seafood Soup and the Guinea Fowl. Perhaps not, though – and the point is of little importance.

'Something to drink with your meal, sir?' She was a pleasantly convivial woman, in her late forties, and Morse glanced appreciatively at the décolletage of her black dress as she bent forward with the wine list.

'What do you recommend?'

'Half a bottle of Medoc? Splendid vintage! You won't do much better than that.'

'A bottle might be better,' suggested Morse.

'A bottle it shall be, sir!'- the agreement signed with mutual smiles.

'Could you open it now – and leave it on the table?'

'We always do it that way here.'

'I, er, I didn't know.'

‘It likes to breathe a little, doesn't it?'

'Like all of us,' muttered Morse; but to himself, for she was gone.

He realized that he was feeling hungry. He didn't often feel hungry usually he took most of his calories in liquid form; usually, when invited to a College gaudy, he could manage only a couple of the courses ordained; usually he would willingly exchange an entée or a dessert for an extra ration of alcohol. But this evening he was feeling hungry, quite definitely; and just after finishing his second pint of beer (still no cigarette!) he was glad to be informed his meal was ready. Already, several times, he

had looked through the glass doors to his left, through to the dining room, where many now sat eating at their tables, white tablecloths overlaid with coverings of deep maroon, beneath the subdued lighting of crystal chandeliers. It looked inviting. Romantic, almost.

As he stood by the dining-room door for a moment, the maitresse was quickly at his side, expressing the hope that he wouldn't mind, for this evening, sharing a table? They had quite a few nonresidents in for dinner…

Morse bade the good lady lose no sleep over such a trivial matter, and followed her to one of the farthest tables, where an empty place was laid opposite a woman, herself seated half-facing the wall, reading a copy of The Times, an emptied bowl of Seafood Soup in front of her. She lowered the newspaper, smiled in a genteel sort of way, as though it had taken her some effort to stretch her painted lips into a perfunctory salutation, before reverting her attention to something clearly more interesting than her table companion.

The room was almost completely full, and it was soon obvious to Morse that he was going to be the very last to get served. The sweet-trolley was being pushed round, and he heard the elderly couple to his right ordering some caramelized peaches with nuts and cream; but – strangely for him! – he felt no surge of impatience. In any case, the soup was very soon with him, and the wine had been there already; and all around him was goodwill and enjoyment, with a low, steady buzz of conversation, and occasionally some muted laughter. But the newspaper opposite him, for the present, remained firmly in place.

It was over the main course – his only slightly after hers – that Morse ventured his first, not exactly original, gambit:

'Been here long?'

She shook her head.

'Nor me. Only just arrived, in fact.'

'And me.' (She could speak!)

‘I'm only here for a few days…’

'Me, too. I'm leaving on Sunday.'

It was the longest passage of speech Morse was likely to get, he knew, for the eyes had drifted down again to the Guinea Fowl. Stayed on the Guinea Fowl.

Bugger you! thought Morse. Yet his interest, in spite of himself, was beginning to be engaged. Her lower teeth – a little too long maybe? – were set closely together and slightly stained with nicotine; yet her gums were fresh and pink, her full mouth undoubtedly attractive. But he noticed something else as well: her mottled, tortoise-shell eyes, though camouflaged around with artificial shadow, seemed somehow darkened by a sadder, more durable shadow; and he could see an intricate little criss-cross of red lines at the outer side of either eye. She might have a slight cold, of course.

Or she might earlier have been weeping a little…

When the sweet-trolley came, Morse was glad that he was only halfway down the Medoc, for some cheese would go nicely with it 'Cheddar… Gouda… Stilton…' the waitress recited; and he ordered Stilton, just as the woman opposite had done.

Gambit Number Two appeared in order.

'We seem to have similar tastes,' he ventured.

'Identical, it seems.'

'Except for the wine.'

'Mm?'

'Would you, er, like a glass of wine? Rather good! It'll go nicely with the Stilton.'

This time she merely shook her head, disdaining to add any verbal gloss.

Bugger you! thought Morse, as she picked up The Times once more, unfolded the whole broadsheet in front of her, and hid herself away completely – together with her troubles.

The fingers holding the paper, Morse noticed, were quite slim and sinuous, like those of an executant violinist, with the unpainted nails immaculately manicured, the half-moons arching whitely:-over the well-tended cuticles. On the third finger of her left hand was a narrow-banded gold wedding ring, and above it an engagement ring with four large diamonds, set in an unusual twist, which might have sparkled in any room more brightly lit than this.'

On the left of the opened double-page spread (as Morse viewed things) her right hand held the newspaper just above the crossword, and he noticed that only two clues remained to be solved. A few years earlier his eyes would have had little trouble; but now, inspite of a sequence of squints, he could still not quite read the elusive wording of the first clue, which looked like a quotation. Better luck with the other half of the paper though, held rather nearer to him – especially with the article, the quite extraordinary article, that suddenly caught and held and dominated his attention.


At the foot of the page was the headline: 'Police pass sinister verses to Times' man', and Morse had almost made out the whole of the first paragraph -


THE LITERARY correspondent of The Times, Mr Howard Phillip-son, has been called upon by the Oxfordshire police to help solve a complex riddle-me-ree, the answer to which is believed to pinpoint the spot where a young woman's body


– when the waitress returned to the table.

'Coffee, madame?'

'Please.'

'In the bar – or in the lounge?'

'In the bar, I think.'

'You, sir?'

'No. No, thank you.'

Before leaving, the waitress poured the last of the Medoc into Morse's glass; and on the other side of the table the newspaper was folded away. To all intents and purposes the meal was over. Curiously, however, neither seemed over-anxious to leave immediately, and for several moments they sat silently together, the last pair but one in the dining room: he, longing for a cigarette and eager to read what looked like a most interesting article; wondering, too, whether he should make one last foray into enemy territory – since, on reflection, she really did look rather attractive.

'Would you mind if I smoked?' he ventured, half-reaching for the tempting packet.

'It doesn't matter to me.' She rose abruptly, gathering up handbag and newspaper. 'But I don't think the management will be quite so accommodating.' She spoke without hostility – even worse, without interest, it seemed – as she pointed briefly to a notice beside the door:


IN THE INTERESTS OF PUBLIC HEALTH, WE RESPECTFULLY REQUEST YOU REFRAIN FROM SMOKING IN THE DINING AREA

THANK YOU FOR YOUR CO-OPERATION.


Bugger you! Thought Morse

He'd not been very sensible though, he realized that. All he'd had to do was ask to borrow the newspaper for a couple of minutes. He could still ask her, of course. But he wasn't going to – oh no! She could stick her bloody paper down the loo for all he cared. It didn't matter. Almost every newsagent in Lyme Regis would have a few unsold copies of yesterday's newspapers, all ready to be -packaged off mid-morning to the wholesale distributors. He'd seen such things a thousand times.

She'd go to the bar, she'd said. All right, he would go to the lounge… where very soon he was sitting back in a deep armchair enjoying another pint of bitter and a large malt. And just to finish the evening, he told himself, he'd have a cigarette, just one – well two at the very outside.

It was growing dark now – but the evening air was very mild; and as he sat by the semi-opened window he listened again to the grating roar of the pebbles dragged down by the receding tide, and his mind went to a line from 'Dover Beach':

But now I only hear its melancholy, long withdrawing roar.


Much-underrated poet, Matthew Arnold, he'd always thought.

In the bar, Mrs Hardinge was drinking her coffee, sipping a Cointreau – and, if truth be told, thinking for just a little while of keen blue eyes of the man who had been sitting opposite her dinner.

IN THE INTERESTS OF PUBLIC HEALTH, WE RESPECTFULLY

REQUEST YOU TO REFRAIN FROM SMOKING IN THE DINING AREA.


THANK YOU FOR YOUR CO-OPERATION.



chapter four

The morning is wiser than the evening

(Russian proverb)


morse rose at 6.45 the following morning, switched on his room-kettle, and made himself a cup of coffee from one of the several sachets and small milk-tubs provided. He opened the curtains and stood watching the calm sea, and a fishing boat just leaving the Cobb. Blast! He'd meant to bring his binoculars.

The gulls floated and wheeled across the esplanade, occasionally hanging motionless, as if suspended from the sky, before turning away like fighter-aircraft peeling from their formation and swooping from his vision.

The sun had already risen, a great ball of orange over the cliffs to the east, over Charmouth – where they said someone had discovered a dinosaur or a pterodactyl, or something, that had lived in some distant prehistoric age, some figure with about twelve noughts after it. Or was it twenty?

Deciding that he really ought to learn more about the world of natural history, Morse drained his coffee and without shaving walked down to the deserted ground floor, out of the hotel, and left along Marine Parade – where his search began.

The newsagent on the corner felt pretty sure that he hadn't got a previous day's Times: Sun, yes; Mirror, yes; Express, yes… but. no – no Times. Sorry, mate. Turning left, Morse struggled up the steep incline of Broad Street. Still out of breath, he enquired in the newsagent's shop halfway up on the left. Telegraph, Guardian, Independent – any good? No? Sorry, sir. Morse got another 'sir' in the newsagent's just opposite – but no Times. He carried on to the top of the hill, turned left at a rather seedy-looking cinema, then left again into Cobb Road, and down to the western end of Marine Parade – where a fourth newsagent was likewise unable to assist, with the chief inspector reduced in rank to 'mate' once more.

Never mind! Libraries kept back numbers of all the major dailies; and if he were desperate – which he most certainly wasn't he could always go down on his knees and beg Mrs Misery-guts to let him take a peek at her newspaper. If she'd still got it… Forget it, Morse! What's it matter, anyway?

What's she matter?

Strolling briskly now along the front, Morse breathed deeply on the early-morning air – cigarettes were going to be out that day. Completely out. He had, he realized, just walked a sort of rectangle; well, a 'trapezium' really – that was the word: a quadrilateral with two parallel sides. And doubtless he would have told himself it wouldn't be a bad idea to brush up on his geometry had he not caught sight of a figure in front of him, about two hundred yards distant. For there, beneath the white canopy of the buff-coloured Bay Hotel, with its yellow two-star AA sign, stood Mrs Hardinge, Mrs Crabcrumpet herself, dressed in a full-length black leather coat, and searching in a white shoulder-bag. For a purse, probably? But before she could find it she raised her right hand a greeting as a taxi drew up along the lower road, its driver manoeuvering 180 degrees in the turning area, then getting out and opening the near-side rear door for the elegant, luggageless woman who had just walked down the ramp. Morse, who had stopped ostensibly to survey the ranks of fruit machines in the Novelty Emporium, looked down at his wrist-watch: 7.50 a.m.

The ground floor was still deserted, and as yet no delicious smell fried bacon betrayed the opening of the hostelry's daily routine. Morse passed by the giant potted-palm, passed by the statue of a maiden perpetually pouring a slow trickle from her water-jug into the pool at her feet, and was starting up the stairs when his eye fell on the reception desk to his right: a jar of artificial flowers; a tray of mineral water; a yellow RNLI collecting box; and below a stack of brochures and leaflets – the hotel register.

He glanced: _ad him. No one. He looked swiftly along the linear information once again:

3.7.92 – Mr and Mrs ¢. A Hardinge – 16 Cathedral Mews, Salisbury – H 35 LWL – British – Rm 14

It had been the Oxfordshire letter-registration, LWL, which had [caught his eye that previous evening. Now it was something else: ¢. It was her all right though, for he'd seen the room number her key-ring at dinner. And frowning slightly as he mounted the stairs, he found himself wondering how many married women were unable to write out the accepted formula for their wedded state without getting the wrong initial. Perhaps she was only recently married? Perhaps she was one of those liberated ladies who had suddenly decided that if only one initial were required it was going to be hers? Perhaps… perhaps they weren't 'Mr and Mrs' at all, and she had been momentarily confused about what names they were going under this time?

The latter, he thought – a little sadly.

Breakfast (8.45 a.m.-9.30 a.m.) was for Morse a solitary affair, yet he was finding it, as ever, the biggest single joy of any holiday. After some Kellogg's Corn Flakes and a mixed grill, he strolled along the edge of the sea once more, feeling pleasantly replete and (he supposed) about as content as he was ever likely to be. The weather forecast was good, and he decided that he would drive out west to Ottery St Mary and then, if the mood took him, north up to Nether Stowey, and the Quantocks.

As he reached the second-floor landing after his return to the hotel, Room 14 was almost directly in front of him; and with the door slightly ajar, as one blue-uniformed room-maid came out with a hoover, he could see another maid inside the room replenishing the sachets of coffee and tea and the little tubs of milk. He took his chance. Knocking (not too hesitantly), he put his head round the door.

'Mrs Hardinge in?'

'No, sur.' She looked no more than eighteen, and Morse felt emboldened.

'It's just that she promised to keep yesterday's newspaper for me – we had dinner here together last night. The Times, it was.'

The maid gave Morse a dubious look as he cast a swift glance over the room. The bed nearer the window had been slept in -the pillow deeply indented, a flimsy black negligee thrown carelessly over the duvet. But had Mr Hardinge slept in the other? The bed could have been made up already, of course… but where was his case and his clothes and his other impedimenta?

'I'm afraid there's no newspaper as I can see 'ere, sur. In any case, I wouldn't-'

'Please, please! I fully understand. I mean, if it's not in the waste-paper basket…'

'No, it's not.'

'There'd be another basket, though? In the bathroom? It's just that she did say…'

The young girl peered cautiously round the bathroom door, but shook her head.

Morse smiled affably. 'It's all right. She must have left it somewhere else for me. Probably in my room. Huh! Sorry to have bothered you.'

Back in Room 27, he found his own bed made up, the floor hoovered, and his coffee cup washed and placed upside-down on it’s matching saucer. He stood for several minutes looking out at the sea again, telling himself he must re-read The Odyssey; and soon, almost unconsciously, finding himself smoking one of his forbidden cigarettes and wondering why the brown leather suitcase he had just seen lying closed on the set of drawers in Room 14 bore, in an attractive Gothic script, the gilt letters 'C S O'. The only thing he knew with such initials was Community Service Order – but that seemed wholly unlikely. Must be her initials, surely. But whatever the C stood for – Carole? Catherine? Claire? Celia? Constance? – it was going to be obvious even to an under-achiever in the new seven-year-old reading tests that the O didn't stand for 'Hardinge'. It may reasonably have been the lady's name before she got married. But the case was a new one – a very new one…

So what, Morse! So bloody whatl

He sat down and wrote a note.


Dear Mrs H, I shall be most grateful if you can save yesterday's Times for me. Not the Business/Sport section; just the main newspaper – in fact I only really want to look at the bit on p. 1 (and probably a continuation on an inside page) about the 'Sinister Verses' article. Your reward, which you must accept, will be a drink on me at the bar before dinner, when I promise to adhere religiously to every one of the management's ordinances.

Room 27

Leaving this innocent, if rather pompous, communication with the proprietor, Morse walked along to the private garage, pondering the reason why the female half of Room 14 had not made use of car H 35 LWL instead of ordering a taxi. Pondering only briefly though, since he thought he now knew why Mrs C. Something (Hardinge?) had been acting so strangely. Well, no – not 'strangely', not if you looked at it from her point of view. Forget it, Morse! Get your road atlas out and trace the easiest route to Ottery St Mary.

Soon the Jaguar was on its way, with the sun growing warmer by the minute, and hardly a cloud in the bluest of skies. By the time he reached Honiton, Morse had almost forgotten the rather odd fact that when he had looked just now around the other cars in the hotel's garage, there had been no sign whatsoever of any vehicle with the registration H 35 LWL.

chapter five

Extract from a diary dated 26 June 1992 (one week before Morse had found himself in Lyme Regis)

Words! Someone – a Yank I think – said you can stroke people with words. I say – sod words! Especially sod the sight of words. They're too powerful. 'Naked's powerful. 'Breasts' are powerful. Larkin said he thought the most splendid verb in the language was 'unbutton'. But when the words are a joke? Oh God, help me! Please God, help me! Yesterday Tom wrote me a letter from his new house in Maidstone. Here's part of what he wrote


I've got a pair of great tits in the garden here. Now don't you go and think that when I look down from my study window with the binocs you bought me there's this bronzed and topless and vasty bosomed signora sunning herself on a Lilo. No! Just a wonderfully entertaining little pair of great tits who've taken up residence – a bit late aren't they? – in the nesting-box we fixed under the beech tree. Remember that line we learned at school?

Titvre tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi


These are Tom's words. Wouldn't you think that any normally civilized soul would be delighted with the thought of those little blue black white yellow birds (my speciality!!) slipping their slim little selves into a nesting-box? Wouldn't you think that only a depraved and perverted mind would dwell instead upon that picture of a woman on a sunbed? Wouldn't you think that any sensitive soul would rejoice in that glorious Virgilian hexameter instead of seeing another 'tit' in the opening word? Christ, it was

a pun wasn't it! The Greek term is 'paronomasia'. I'd forgotten that but I just looked it up in my book of literary terms And still the words follow me. Looking through the p's I found 'pornography' again. Words! Bloody hell. God help me!

'Common subjects of such exotic pornography are sadism, masochism, fetishism, transvestism, voyeurism (or scoptolagnia), narcissism, pederasty, and necrophilia. Less common subjects are coprophilia, kleptolagnia, and zoophilia.'

Should it be a fraction of comfort that my tastes don't yet run to these last three 'less common' perversions – if that's the right word. What does the middle one mean anyway? It's not in Chambers.


(Later) Dinner in SCR very good – 'Barbue Housman'. I phoned C afterwards and I almost dare to believe she's really looking forward to next weekend. I just wish I could go to sleep and wake up on the 3rd. But I seem to spend half my time wishing my life away. I have drunk too much. Oh God, let me sleep well


chapter Six


… and hence through life

Chasing chance-started friendships

(Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

'To the Revd George Coleridge')


IN mid-afternoon Morse looked back on his Coleridge pilgrimidge with considerable disappointment.

Half a dozen miles west of Honiton he had turned left off the A30 for the little market town of Ottery St Mary. Parking had proved a virtually insuperable problem; and when he finally got to the Information Office he learned only that 'Coleridge was born in 1772 at the Rectory (gone), the tenth child of The Revd Coleridge, vicar 1760-81, and master of the Grammar School gone). The rapidly growing family soon occupied the old School (gone)…'. St Mary's was still there though, and he walked round the large church consulting some printed notes on 'Points Interest', fixed to a piece of wood shaped like a hand-mirror. He began to feel, as he read, that it was high time he re-familiarized himself with 'corbels' and 'mouldings' and 'ogees'; but it was something of a surprise that the author of the notes appeared never to have heard of Coleridge. Indeed it was only by accident that as was leaving the church he spotted a memorial plaque on the churchyard wall, with a low-relief bust of the poet beneath the spread wings of an albatross.

An hour and a half later, after a fast drive up the M5, Morse was equally disappointed with the village of Nether Stowey. 'The small thatched cottage, damp and uncomfortable" wherein Coleridge had lived in 1796 was now enlarged, tiled, and (doubt-centrally heated, too. More to the point, it was closed to the public – on Saturdays; and today was Saturday. Inside the church leaflet available for visitors ('Please take – quite free!') was a singularly uninformative document, and Morse felt no inclination heed the vicar's exhortation to join the church fellowship -'emphasis ever on joyous informality'. He put 5Op in a slot in the wall and joylessly began the drive back to Lyme Regis.

Perhaps Strange had been right all along. Perhaps he, Morse, was the sort of person who could never really enjoy a holiday. Even the pint of beer he'd drunk in a rather dreary pub in Nether Stowey had failed to satisfy, and he didn't really know what he wanted. Or rather he did: he wanted a cigarette for a start; and he wanted something to engage his brain, like a cryptic crossword or a crime – or the previous day's issue of The Times. But there was something else too, though he was hardly prepared to admit it even to himself: he would have wished Mrs Hardinge (or Mrs Whatever) to be beside him in the passenger seat.

A voice in his brain told him that he was being quite extraordinarily foolish. But he didn't listen.


At 3.45 p.m. he parked the Jaguar in the hotel garage: only-three other cars there now – none of the three with the Oxon registration.


At the Corner Shop on Marine Parade, he succumbed to two temptations, and resisted a third. He bought twenty Dunhill International, and a copy of The Times; but the magazine with the seductively posed, semi-clad siren on its glossy cover remained on the top shelf – if only because he would be too embarrassed and ashamed to face the hard-eyed man behind the counter.

Back in the hotel, he took a leisurely bath and then went down to the residents' lounge, where he unfolded the cover from the full-sized billiard table, and for half an hour or so pretended he was Steve Davis. After all, didn't The Oxford Companion to Music devote one entire page to 'Mozart-on the Billiard Table'? Morse, however, was unable to pot virtually anything, irrespective of angle or distance; and just as carefully as he had unfolded the cover he now replaced it, and returned to his room, deciding (if life should allow) to brush up on his cuemanship as well as on that glossary of architectural terms. This was exactly why holidays were so valuable, he told himself: they allowed you to stand back a bit, and see where you were going rusty.


*


It was whilst lying fully clothed on his single bed, staring soberly at the ceiling, that there was a knock on the door and he got up to open it. It was the proprietor himself, carrying a Sainsbury's supermarket carrier bag.

'Mrs Hardinge wanted you to have this, Mr Morse. I tried to find you earlier, but you were out – and she insisted I gave it to you personally.'

What was all this to Morse's ears? Music! Music! Heavenly mcusic!

Inside the carrier bag was the coveted copy of The Times, together with a 'Bay Hotel' envelope, inside which, on a 'Bay Hotel' sheet::" note-paper, was a brief letter:


For 27 from 14. I've seen a paperback called The Bitch by one of the Collins sisters. I've not read it but I think it must be all about me, don't you? If I'm not at dinner I'll probably be in soon after and if you're still around you can buy me a brandy. After all these newspapers do cost honest money you know!


For Morse this innocent missive was balm and manna to the soul. It was as if he'd been trying to engage the attention of a lovely girl at a dinner party who was apparently ignoring him, and who now suddenly leaned forward and held her lips against – cheek in a more than purely perfunctory kiss.

Strangely, however, before reading the article, Morse picked up bedside phone and dialled police HQ at Kidlington.

chapter seven

I read the newspaper avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction

(Aneurin* Bevan, quoted in The Observer, 3 April 1960)


Police pass sinister verses to Times' man


THE LITERARY correspondent of The Times, Mr Howard Phillip-son, has been called upon by the Oxfordshire police to help solve a complex riddle-me-ree, the answer to which is believed to pinpoint the spot where a young woman's body may be buried.

The riddle, in the form of a five-stanza poem, was sent anonymously by a person who (as the police believe) knows the secret of a crime which for twelve months has remained on the unsolved-case shelves in the Thames Valley Police HQ at Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

‘The poem is a fascinating one,' said Mr Phillipson, 'and I intend to spend the weekend trying to get to grips with it. After a brief preliminary look I almost think that the riddle has a strong enough internal logic to be solvable within its own context, but we must wait and see.'

According to Detective Chief Inspector Harold Johnson of Thames Valley CID the poem would fairly certainly appear to have reference to the disappearance of a Swedish student whose rucksack was found in a lay-by on the northbound carriageway of the A44, a


mile or so south of Woodstock, in July 1991.

Documents found in the side-panels of the rucksack had identified its owner as Karin Eriksson, a student from Uppsala, who had probably hitchhiked her way from London to Oxford, spent a day or so in the University City – and then? Who knows?

'The case was always a baffling one,' admitted DCI Johnson. 'No body was ever found, no suspicious circumstances uncovered. It is not unknown for students to be robbed of their possessions, or lose them. And of course some of them run away. But we've always thought of this as a case of potential murder.'

At the time of her disappearance, Miss Eriksson's mother informed the police that Karin had phoned her from London a week or so previously, sounding 'brisk and optimistic', albeit rather short of cash. And the Principal of the secretarial college where Karin was a student described her as 'an attractive, able, and athletic young lady'. Since the discovery of the rucksack, no trace whatever has

been found, although senior police officers were last night suggesting that this new development might throw fresh light on one or two possible clues discovered during the earlier investigation.

The poem in full reads as follows:

Find me, find the Swedish daughter –

Thaw my frosted tegument!

Dry the azured skylit water,

Sky my everlasting tent.

Who spied, who spied that awful spot?

find me! Find the woodman's daughter!

Ask the stream: 'Why tell'st me not

The truth thou know'st – the tragic slaughter?'

Ask the tiger, ask the sun

Whither riding, what my plight?

Till the given day be run,

Till the burning of the night.

Thyme, I saw Thyme flow'ring here

A creature white trapped in a gin,

Panting like a hunted deer

Licking still the bloodied skin.

With clues surveyed so wondrous laden,

Hunt the ground beneath thy feet!

Find me, find me now, thy maiden,

I will kiss thee when we meet.

A. Austin (1853-87)


The lines were typed on a fairly old-fashioned machine, and police are hopeful that forensic tests may throw up further clues. The only immediately observable idiosyncracies of the typewriter used are the worn top segment of the lower-case ‘e'. and the slight curtailment of the cross-bar in the lower-case 't'. To be truthful,' admitted Chief Inspector Johnson, 'not many of my colleagues here are all that hot on poetry, and that's why we thought The Times might help. It would be a sort of poetic justice if it could.' Final word with Mr Phillipson: 'It might all be a cruel hoax, and the link with the earlier case does appear rather tenuous, perhaps. But the police certainly seem to think they are on to something. So do I!'


Morse read the article at his own pace; then again, rather morel quickly. After which, for several minutes, he sat where he was, his eyes still, his expression quite emotionless – before turning to the back page and reading the clue he hadn't quite been able to see I the evening before:


'Work without hope draws nectar in a -' (Coleridge) (5).


Huh! If the poem was a 'riddle', so was the answer! A quotation from Coleridge, too! Half smiling, he sat back in his chair ancj marvelled once more at the frequency of that extraordinarily common phenomenon called 'coincidence'.

Had he but known it, however, a far greater coincidence had already occurred the previous evening when (purely by chance surely?) he had been ushered into the dining room to share a table with the delectable occupant of Room 14. But as yet he couldn't I know such a thing; and taking from his pocket his silver Parker pen, he wrote I and 'V in the empty squares which she had left in S-E-E – before reaching for the telephone again.

'No, sir – Superintendent Strange is still not answering. Can anyone else help?'

'Yes, perhaps so,' said Morse. 'Put me through to Traffic Control, will you?'

chapter eight

Extract from a diary dated 2 July 1992 (one day before Morse had found himself in Lyme Regis)


I must write a chapter on 'Gradualism' in my definitive opus on pornography, for it is the gradual nature of the erotic process that is all important, as even that old fascist Plato had the nous to see. Yet this is a factor increasingly forgotten by the writers and the film-directors and the video-makers. If they ever knew it 'Process' is what it should be all about. The process typified in the lifting of a full-length skirt to a point just above the ankle, or the first unfastening of a button on a blouse! Do I make things clear? Without the skirt, what man will glory in the ankle? Without the blouse, what man will find himself aroused by the mere button? Nudity itself is nothing: it is the intent of nudity which guarantees the glorious engagement. Never did nudity in itself mean very much to me, even when I was a young boy. Never did I have any interest in all those Italian paintings of naked women. Likewise it seems to me that few of our licentious and promiscuous youth take overmuch notice of the women who flaunt their bodies daily in the tabloid press. Such young men are more interested in back-page soccer stories. Is there a moral here?

I've just read through all that shit I've just written and it makes me sound almost sane. Almost as if I'd laugh outright at any quack who suggested that I ought to go along and see somebody. But in truth there's not much to laugh about considering the wreck I've now become – I've always been pererhaps. These others are bloody lucky. Christ, how lucky they are! They have their erotic fancies and imaginings and get their fixes from their filthy mags and porno flicks and casual sex. But me? Ha!,I study those articles in the quality press about the efects of pornography on the sex-crime statistics. That's what the civilized sex maniacs do. Does then pornography have the effect that is claimed? I doubt it. Yet I wish it did. Yes! Then almost everyone would be committing some dreadful sex-offence each day. I know – of course I do! – that such a state of affairs wouldn't be all that bloody marvellous for the goody-goody girls who've been guarding their virginity. But at least I would be normal! I would be normal.

Come on Time! Hurry along there! It is tomorrow that I see her and I can hardly wait to watch the hours go by. Why do I wait? Because although I have never really loved my wife (or my children all that much) I would sacrifice almost everything in my life if by so doing I could spare her the despairing humiliation of learning about my own shame.


(Later) I picked up The Guardian in the SCR and read about a Jap who murdered a young model and feasted off her flesh for a fortnight. They didn't keep him in jail very long because he was manifestly crackers. But when they transferred him to a loony asylum he kicked up such a fuss that they didn't keep him there long either. Why? Because the authorities became convinced that he was normal. After they'd let him go he said to a newspaper reporter: 'My time in the mental ward was like Hell. Everyone else in there was real crazy, but the doctors saw that I wasn't like the rest of them. They saw I was normal. So they let me go.' I wasn't too upset about what this weirdo said. What really upset me was what the reporter said. He said the most distressing aspect of this strange and solitary cannibal was the fact that he really believed himself to be normal! Don't you see what I'm saying?

chapter nine

And I wonder how they should have been together!

(T. S. Eliot, La Figlia Che Piange)


he made his way from the dining room to the bar. The meal had been a lonely affair; but Morse was never too worried about periods of loneliness, and felt himself unable to appreciate the distinction that some folk made between solitude and loneliness. In any case, he'd enjoyed the meal. Venison, no less! He now ordered a pint:: Best Bitter arid sat down, his back to the sea, with the current issue of The Times. He looked at his wrist-watch, wrote the time (8.21) in the small rectangle of space beside the crossword, and began.

At 8.35, as he struggled a little over the last two clues, he heard her voice:

'Not finished it yet?'

Morse felt a sudden rush of happiness.

'Mind if I join you?' She sat down beside him, to his right, on the wall-seat. 'I've ordered some coffee. Are you having any?'

'Er, no. Coffee's never figured all that prominently in my life.'

‘Water neither, by the look of things.'

Morse turned towards her and saw she was smiling at him. ‘Water's all right,' he admitted '- in moderation.'

'Not original!' -

'No. Mark Twain.'

A young bow-tied waiter had brought the coffee, and she poured almost full cup before adding a little very thick cream; and Morse looked down at those slim fingers as she circled the spoon in a slow-motion, almost sensual stir.

'You got the paper?'

Morse nodded his gratitude. 'Yes.'

"Let me tell you something – I'm not even going to ask why you wanted it so badly.'

'Why not?'

'Well, for one thing, you told me in your note.'

'And for another?'

She hesitated now, and turned to look at him. 'Why don't you offer me a cigarette?'

Morse's new-found happiness scaled yet another peak.

'What's your name?' she asked.

'Morse. They, er, call me Morse.'

'Odd name! What's your surname?'

'That is my surname.'

'As well? Your name's Morse Morse? Like that man in Catch 22 isn't it? Major Major Major.'

'Didn't he have four Majors?'

'You read a lot?'

'Enough.'

'Did you know the Coleridge quotation? I could see you lookin at the crossword last night.'

'Hadn't you got the paper twixt thee and me?'

'I've got X-ray eyes.'

Morse looked at her eyes, and for a few seconds looked deeply into her eyes – and saw a hazel-green concoloration there, with sign now of any bloodshot webbing. I just happened to know the quote, yes.'

'Which was?'

'The answer was "sieve".'

'And the line goes?'

'Two lines actually, to make any sense of things:


"Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,

And Hope without an object cannot live." '


'You do read a lot.'

'What's your name?'

'Louisa.'

'And what do you do, Louisa?'

'I work for a model agency. No, that's wrong. I am a model agency.'

'Where are you from?'

'From a little village just south of Salisbury, along the Chalke Valley.'

Morse nodded vaguely. 'I've driven through that part once or twice. Combe Bissett? Near there, is it?'

‘Quite near, yes. But what about you? What do you do?'

'I'm a sort of glorified clerk, really. I work in an office – nine-to-five man.'

"Whereabouts is that?'

‘Oxford.'

‘Lovely city!'

‘You know Oxford?'

‘Why don't you buy me a large brandy?' she asked softly in his ear.


Morse put the drinks on his room-bill and returned with one large brandy and one large malt Scotch. Several other couples were enjoying their liqueurs in that happily appointed bar, and Morse looked out from the window at the constantly whitening waves before placing the drinks side by side on the table.

‘Cheers!'

‘Cheers!'

‘You're a liar,' she said.

The three words hit Morse like an uppercut, and he had no time to regain his balance before she continued, mercilessly: "You're a copper. You're a chief inspector. And judging from amount of alcohol you get through you're probably never in your office much after opening time.'

‘Is it that obvious – I'm a copper, I mean?'

‘Oh no! Not obvious at all. I just saw your name and address in the register and my husband – well, he happens to have heard of you. He says you're supposed to be a bit of a whizz-kid in the In the crime world. That's all.'

‘Do I know your husband?'

‘I very much doubt it.'

‘He's not here-'

‘What are you doing in Lyme?'

‘Me? I dunno. Perhaps I'm looking for some lovely, lonely lady who wouldn't call me a liar even if she thought I was.'

'You deny it? You deny you're a copper?'



Morse shook his head. 'No. It's just that when you're on holiday, well. sometimes you want to get away from the work you do – and sometimes you tell a few lies, I suppose. Everyone tells a few lies occasionally.'

They do?

'Oh yes.'

'Everyone?'

Morse nodded. 'Including you.' He turned towards her again, but found himself unable to construe the confusing messages read there in her eyes.

'Go on,' she said quietly.

'I think you're a divorced woman having an affair with a married man who lives in Oxford. I think the pair of you occasionally get the opportunity of a weekend together. I think that when you do you need an accommodation address and that you use your own address, which is not in the Chalke Valley but in the Cathedra Close at Salisbury. I think you came here by coach on Friday afternoon and that your partner, who was probably at some conferance or other in the area, was scheduled to get here at the same time as you. But he didn't show up. And since you'd already booked your double room you registered and took your stuff up to your room, including a suitcase with the initials "C S O" on it. You suspected something had gone sadly wrong, but as yet you daren't use the phone to find out. You had no option but to wait. I think a call did come through eventually, explaining the situation and you were deeply disappointed and upset – upset enough to shed a tear or two. This morning you hired a taxi to take you to meet this fellow who had let you down, and I think you've spent the day together somewhere. You're back here now because you've booked the, weekend break anyway, and your partner probably gave you a cheque to cover the bill. You'll be leaving in the morning, hoping for better luck next time.'

Morse had finished – and there was a long silence between them during which he drained his whisky, she her brandy,

'Another?' asked Morse.

'Yes. But I'll get them. The cheque he gave me was more tha generous.' The voice was matter-of-fact, harder now, and Morse knew that the wonderful magic had faded. When she returned with the drinks, she changed her place and sat primly opposite him.

'Would you believe me if I said the suitcase I brought with me belongs to my mother, whose name is Cassandra Osborne?'

'No,' said Morse. For a few seconds he thought he saw a sign of a gentle amusement in her eyes, but it was soon gone.

'What about this – this "married man who lives in Oxford"?'

'Oh, I know all about him.'

You what?' Involuntarily her voice had risen to a falsetto squeak, and two or three heads had turned in her direction.

'I rang up the Thames Valley Police. If you put any car number through the computer there -‘

‘- you get the name and address of the owner in about ten seconds.'

'About two seconds,' amended Morse. 'And you did that?' 'I did that.'

'God! You're a regular shit, aren't you?' Her eyes blazed with anger now.

'S'funny, though,' said Morse, ignoring the hurt. 'I know his name – but I still don't know yours.' ‘Louisa, I told you.'

‘No. I think not. Once you'd got to play the part of Mrs Something Hardinge, you liked the idea of "Louisa". Why not? You may not know all that much about Coleridge. But about Hardy? That's different. You remembered that when Hardy was a youth he fell in love with a girl who was a bit above him in class and wealth and privilege, and so he tried to forget her. In fact he spent all the rest of his life trying to forget her.'

She was looking down at the table as Morse went gently on: ‘Hardy never really spoke to her. But when he was an old man he used to go and stand over her unmarked grave in Stinsford churchyard.'

It was Morse's turn now to look down at the table

‘Would you like some more coffee, madame?' The waiter smiled:ely and sounded a pleasant young chap. But 'madame' shook -~ nead, stood up, and prepared to leave

‘Claire – Claire Osborne – that's my name.'

‘Well, thanks again – for the paper, Claire.'

‘That's all right.' Her voice was trembling slightly and her eyes; suddenly moist with tears.

‘Shall I see you for breakfast?' asked Morse.

‘No. I'm leaving early.'

‘Like this morning.'

'Like this morning.'

‘I see,' said Morse.

'Perhaps you see too much.'

'Perhaps I don't see enough.'

'Goodnight – Morse.'

'Goodnight. Goodnight, Claire.'


When an hour and several drinks later Morse finally decided to retire, he found it difficult to concentrate on anything else except taking one slightly swaying stair at a time. On the second floor, Room 14 faced him at the landing; and if only a line of light had shown itself at the foot of that door, he told himself that he might have knocked gently and faced the prospect of the wrath to come. But there was no light.


Claire Osborne herself lay awake into the small hours, the duvet kicked aside, her hands behind her head, seeking to settle her restless eyes; seeking to fix them on some putative point about six inches in front of her nose. Half her thoughts were still with the conceited, civilized, ruthless, gentle, boozy, sensitive man with whom she had spent the earlier hours of that evening; the other half were with Alan Hardinge, Dr Alan Hardinge, fellow of Lonsdale College, Oxford, whose young daughter, Sarah, had been killed by an articulated lorry as she had cycled down Cumnor Hill on her way to school the previous morning.

chapter ten

Mrs Kidgerbury was the oldest inhabitant of Kentish Town, I believe, who went out charing, but was too feeble to execute her conceptions of that art

(Charles Dickens, David Copperfield)


With a sort of expectorant 'phoo', followed by a cushioned 'phlop', Chief Superintendent Strange sat his large self down opposite Chief Inspector Harold Johnson. It was certainly not that he enjoyed walking up the stairs, for he had no pronounced adaptability for such exertions; it was just that he had promised his very slim and very solicitous wife that he would try to get in a bit of exercise at office wherever possible. The trouble lay in the fact that he usually too feeble in both body and spirit to translate such resolve into execution. But not on the morning of Tuesday, 30 June 1992, four days before Morse had booked into the Bay Hotel…


THE Chief Constable had returned from a fortnight's furlough the previous day, and his first job had been to look through the correspondence which his very competent secretary had been unable, or unauthorized, to answer. The letter containing the ‘Swedish Maiden' verses had been in the in-tray (or so she thought) about a week. It had come (she thought she remembered) in a cheap brown envelope addressed (she did almost remember this) to 'Chief Constable Smith (?)'; but the cover had been thrown away – sorry! – and the stanzas themselves had lingered there, wasting as it were their sweetness on the desert air – until Monday the 29th.

The Chief Constable himself had felt unwilling to apportion blame: five stanzas by a minor poet named Austin were not exactly the pretext for declaring a state of national emergency, were they? yet the 'Swedish' of the first line combined with the 'maiden' of penultimate line had inevitably rung the bell, and so he had in turn rung Strange, who in turn had reminded the CC that it was DCI Johnson who had been – was – in charge of the earlier investigations.

A photocopy of the poem was waiting on his desk that day when] Johnson returned from lunch.

It had been the following morning, however, when things had really started to happen. This time, certainly, it was a cheap brown envelope, addressed to 'Chief Constable Smith (?), Kidlington Police, Kidlington' (nothing else on the cover), with a Woodstock! postmark, and a smudged date that could have been '27 June' that was received in the post room at HQ, and duly placed with the CC's other mail. The letter was extremely brief:

Why are you doing nothing about my letter?

Karin Eriksson


The note-paper clearly came from the same wad as that used for the first letter: 'Recycled Paper – OXFAM • Oxford • Britain’ printed along the bottom. There was every sign too that the note was written on the same typewriter, since the four middle characters of 'letter' betrayed the same imperfections as those observable in the Swedish Maiden verses.

This time the CC summoned Strange immediately to his office

'Prints?' suggested Strange, looking up from the envelope and note-paper which lay on the table before him.

'Waste o' bloody time! The envelope? The postman who collected it – the sorter – the postman who delivered it – the post room people here – the girl who brought it round – my secretary…’

'You, sir?'

'And me, yes.'

'What about the letter itself?'

'You can try if you like.'

'I'll get Johnson on to it -'

'I don't want Johnson. He's no bloody good with this sort of case. I want Morse on it.'

'He's on holiday.'

'First I've heard of it!'

'You've been on holiday, sir.'

'It'll have to be Johnson then. But for Christ's sake tell him to get off his arse and actually do something!'

For a while Strange sat thinking silently. Then he said, 'I've got a bit of an idea. Do you remember that correspondence they had in The Times a year or so back?'

'The Irish business – yes.'

'I was just thinking – thinking aloud, sir – that if you were to ring The Times-'

"Me? What's wrong with you ringing 'em?'

Strange said nothing.

'Look! I don't care what we do so long as we do something quick!'

Strange struggled out of his seat.

‘How does Morse get on with Johnson?' asked the CC.

‘He doesn't.'

‘Where is Morse going, by the way?'

‘Lyme Regis – you know, where some of the scenes in Persuasion set.'

‘Ah.' The CC looked suitably blank as the Chief Superintendent lumbered towards the door.


‘There we are then,' said Strange. 'That's what I reckon we ought to do. What do you say? Cause a bit of a stir, wouldn't it? Cause a bit of interest?'

Johnson nodded. 'I like it. Will you ring The Times, sir?'

‘What's wrong with you ringing 'em?'

‘Do you happen to know-?'

‘You – can – obtain – Directory – Enquiries,' intoned Strange stically, 'by dialling one-nine-two.' Johnson kept his lips tightly together as Strange continued: 'And while I'm here you might as well

remind me about the case. All right’

So Johnson reminded him of the case, drawing together the threads of the story with considerably more skill than Strange had thought him capable of.

chapter eleven

Nec scit qua sit iter

(He knows not which is the way to take)

(Ovid, Metamorphoses II)

karin eriksson had been a 'missing person' enquiry a year ago when her rucksack had been found; she was a 'missing person enquiry’ now. She was not the subject of a murder enquiry for simple reason that it was most unusual – and extremely tricy – to mount a murder enquiry without any suspicion of foul play, with no knowledge of any motive, and above all without body.

So, what was known about Miss Eriksson?

Her mother had run a small guest-house in Uppsala, but sc after the disappearance of her daughter had moved back to roots – to the outskirts of Stockholm. Karin, the middle of three daughters, had just completed a secretarial course, and had passed her final examination, if not with distinction at least with a reasonable hope of landing a decent job. She was, as all agreed, of the classic Nordic type, with long blonde hair and a bosom which liable to monopolize most men's attention when first they met her. In the summer of 1990 she had made her way to the Holy Land without much money, but also without much trouble it appeared until reaching her destination, where she may or may not have been the victim of attempted rape by an Israeli soldier. In 1991 she had determined to embark on another trip overseas; been determined too, by all accounts, to keep well clear of the military wherever she went, and had attended a three-month martial arts course in Uppsala, there showing an aptitude and perseverarnce which had not always been apparent in her secretarial studies. In any case, she was a tallish (5 foot 8½ inches), large-boned, athletic young lady, who could take fairly good care of herself, thank you very much.

The records showed that Karin had flown to Heathrow on Wednesday, 3 July 1991, with almost £200 in one of her pockets, a multi-framed assemblage of hiking-gear, and with the address of a superintendent in a YWCA hostel near King's Cross. A few days in London had apparently dissipated a large proportion of her English currency; and fairly early in the morning of Sunday, 7 July, she had taken the tube (perhaps) to Paddington, from where (perhaps) she had made her way up to the A40, M40 -towards Oxford. The statement made by the YWCA superintendent firmly suggested that from what Karin had told her she would probably be heading – in the long run – for a distant relative living

mid-Wales.

In all probability K. would have been seen on one of the feeder roads to the A40 at about 10 a.m. or so that day. She would have been a distinctive figure: longish straw-coloured hair, wearing a pair of faded-blue jeans, raggedly split at the knees à la mode. But particularly noticeable – this from several witnesses – would have been the yellow and blue Swedish flag, some 9 inches by 6 inches, stitched across the main back pocket of her rucksack; and around her neck (always) a silk, tasselled scarf in the same national colours – sunshine and sky.

Two witnesses had come forward with fairly positive sightings of a woman, answering Karin's description, trying to hitch a lift between the Headington and the Banbury Road roundabouts in Oxford. And one further witness, a youth waiting for a bus at the top of the Banbury Road in Oxford, thought he remembered seeing her walking fairly purposefully down towards Oxford that day. The time? About noon – certainly! – since he was just off for a drink at the Eagle and Child in St Giles'. But more credence at the time was given to a final witness,.a solicitor driving to see invalid mother in Yarnton, who thought he could well have her walking along Sunderland Avenue, the hornbeam-lined road linking the Banbury Road and the Woodstock Road round-abouts.

At this point Johnson looked down at his records, took out a amateurishly drawn diagram, and handed it across to Strange.

‘That's what would have faced her, sir – if we can believe she even got as far as the Woodstock Road roundabout.'

The Way Through The Woods

With little enthusiasm, Strange looked down at the diagram and Johnson continued his story.

Karin could have gone straight over, of course – straight along the A4O, a road where it would be very much easier for a hitchiker to get a lift than along the motorways and dual-carriages she'd already negotiated successfully. In addition, the A40 would lead pretty directly towards the address of her third cousin. Or whatever, near Llandovery. But it had not seemed to the detectives who considered the matter that she had taken the 'Witney' option – or the 'Wolvercote' – or the 'City Centre' one; but had take the road that led to Woodstock…

chapter twelve

Sigh out a lamentable tale of things,

Done long ago, and ill done

(John Ford, The Lover's Melancholy)


At ABout 7.15 (Johnson continued) on the sunny Tuesday morning of 9 July 1991, George Daley, of 2 Blenheim Villas, Begbroke, Oxon had taken his eight-year-old King Charles spaniel for an early-morning walk along the slip-road beside the Royal Sun, a road-side ale-house on the northern stretch of the A44, a mile or so on the Oxford side of Woodstock. At the bottom of a hawthorn hedge almost totally concealed by rank cow-parsley, Daley had spotted – as he claimed – a splash of bright colour; and as he ventured down, and near, he had all but trodden on a camera before seeing the scarlet rucksack.

Of course at this stage there had been no evidence of foul play – still wasn't – and it was the camera that had claimed most of Daley’s attention. He'd promised a camera to his son Philip, a lad just coming up for his sixteenth birthday; and the camera he'd found a heavy, aristocratic-looking thing, was a bit too much of a temptation. Both the rucksack and the camera he'd taken home, where cursorily that morning, in more detail later that evening, he and his wife Margaret had considered things.

‘Finders keepers', they'd been brought up to accept. And well, the rucksack clearly – and specifically – belonged to someone else, but the camera had no name on it, had it? For all they knew, it had no connection at all with the rucksack. So they'd taken out the film, which seemed to be fully used up anyway, and thrown it on the fire. Not a crime, was it? Sometimes even the police – Daley suggested – weren't all that sure what should be entered in the crime figures. If a bike got stolen, it was a crime all right. But if the owner could be persuaded that the bike hadn't really been stolen at all -just inadvertently 'lost', say – then it didn't count as a crime at all, now did it?

'Was he an ex-copper, this fellow Daley?' asked Strange, nodding his appreciation of the point.

Johnson grinned, but shook his head and continued.

The wife, Margaret Daley, felt a bit guilty about hanging on to the rucksack, and according to Daley persuaded him to drop it at Kidlington the next day, Wednesday – originally asserting that he'd found it that same morning. But he hadn't really got his story together, and it was soon pretty clear that the man wasn't a very good liar; and it wasn't long before he changed his story.

The rucksack itself? Apart from the pocket-buttons rusting a bit, it seemed reasonably new, containing, presumably, all the young woman's travelling possessions, including a passport which identified its owner as one Karin Eriksson, from an address in Uppsala Sweden. Nothing, it appeared, had been tampered with overmuch by the Daleys, but the contents had proved of only limited intersect the usual female toiletries, including toothpaste, Tampax, lipstic eye-shadow, blusher, comb, nail-file, tweezers, and white tissue an almost full packet of Marlboro cigarettes with a cheap 'throw-away' lighter; a letter, in Swedish, from a boyfriend, dated two months earlier, proclaiming (as was later translated) a love that was fully prepared to wait until eternity but which would also appreciate a further rendezvous a little earlier; a slim money wallet, containing no credit cards or travellers' cheques -just five ten-pound notes (newish but not consecutively numbered); a book of second-class English postage-stamps; a greyish plastic mac meticulously folded; a creased postcard depicting Velasquez's 'Rokeby Venus' on one side, and the address of the Welsh relative on the other; two clean (cleanish) pairs of pants; one faded-blue dress; three creased blouses, black, white, and darkish red…

'Get on with it,' mumbled Strange.

Well, Interpol were contacted, and of course the Swedish police A distraught mother, by phone from Uppsala, had told them that it was very unusual for Karin not to keep her family informed where she was and what she was up to – as she had done from London the previous week.

A poster ('Have you seen this young woman?') displaying blown-up copy of the passport photograph had been printed, and seen by some of the citizens of Oxford and its immediate environs in buses, youth clubs, information offices, employment agencises those sorts of places.

‘And that's when these people came forward, these witnesses?' interrupted Strange.

‘That's it, sir.'

‘And the fellow you took notice of was the one who thought he saw her in Sunderland Avenue.'

'He was a very good witness. Very good.'

'Mm! I don't know. A lovely leggy blonde – well-tanned, well-exposed, eh, Johnson? Standing there on the grass verge facing the traffic…Bit odd, isn't it? You'd've thought the fellow would've rembered her for certain – that's all I'm saying. Some of us still have the occasional erotic day-dream, y'know.'

‘That's what Morse said.'

‘Did he now!'

‘He said even if most of us were only going as far as Woodstock we'd have taken her on to Stratford, if that's what she wanted.'

'He'd have taken her to Aberdeen,' growled Strange.

The next thing (Johnson continued his story) had been the discovery, in the long grass about twenty yards from where the rucksack had been found – probably fallen out of one of the pockets a slim little volume titled A Birdwatchers' Guide. Inside was a sheet of white paper, folded vertically and seemingly acting as a mark, on which the names of ten birds had been written in it capitals, with a pencilled tick against seven of them:


The Way Through The Woods

The lettering matched the style and slope of the few scraps of writing found in the other documents, and the easy conclusion was that Karin Eriksson had been a keen ornithologist, probably buying the book after arriving in London and trying to add to her list of sightings some of the rarer species which could be seen during English summers. The names of the birds were written English and there was only the one misspelling: the 'breaded tit? – an interesting variety of the 'bearded plaice' spotted fairly frequently in English restaurants. (It had been the pedantic Morse; who had made this latter point.)

Even more interesting, though, had been the second enclosure within the pages: a thin yellow leaflet, folded this time across middle, announcing a pop concert in the grounds of Blenheim Palace on Monday, 8 July – the day before the rucksack was found: 8 p.m.-11.3o p.m., admission (ticket only) £4.50.

That was it. Nothing else really. Statements taken – enquires made – searches organized in the grounds of Blenheim Palace but…

'How much did Morse come into all this?' asked a frowning Strange.

Johnson might have known he'd ask it, and he knew he might as well come clean.

chapter thirteen

He that reads and grows no wiser seldom suspects his own deficiency, but complains of hard words and obscure sentences, and asks why books are written which cannot be understood

(Samuel Johnson, The Idler)


THE truth was that Morse had not figured on the scene at all during the first few days of the case – for it was not a case of homicide; and (as was to be hoped) still wasn't. Yet the follow-up investigations had been worrying, especially of course the steadily growing and cumulative evidence that Karin Eriksson had been a responsible young woman who had never previously drifted into the drink-drugs-sex-scene.

Only after the case had grown a little cold had Morse spent a couple of hours one afternoon with Johnson, in that late July, now a year ago – before being side-tracked into a squalid domestic murder out on the Cowley Road.

‘I reckon he thought it all a bit – a bit of a joke, sir, quite honestly.'

‘Joke? Joke? This is no bloody joke, Johnson! Like as not, we be opening a couple of extra lines on the switchboard once bloody newspapers get hold of it. It'll be like an air disaster! And if the public come up with some brighter ideas than the police…'

Johnson gently reminded him: 'But it's your idea, sir – this business of sending the Letters to The Times'

‘What did you mean – about Morse?' asked Strange, ignoring criticism.

‘What I meant, sir, is that he, well, he only skipped over the details with me, and he sort of said the first things that came into his head, really. I don't think he had time to think about things much’

'He'd have ideas though, wouldn't he, Morse? Always did have. Even if he'd been on a case a couple of minutes. Usually the wrong ideas of course, but…'

'All I'm saying is that he didn't seem to take the case at all seriously. He was sort of silly about things, really -'

Strange's voice sounded suddenly thunderous: 'Look here. Johnson! Morse may be an idiot, you're right. But he's never been a fool. Let's get that straight!'

For Johnson, the differentiation between what he had hitherto regarded as virtual synonyms – 'idiot' and 'fool' – was clearly beyond his etymological capacities; and he frowned a guarded puzzlement as his superior officer continued:

'Some people are occasionally right for the wrong reasons. But, Morse? He's more often than not wrong for the right reasons. The right reasons… you understand me? So even if he sometimes drinks too much…'

Johnson looked down at the file in front of him: he knew, alas exactly what Strange was saying. 'Would you rather Morse took over the case, sir?'

'Yes, I think I would,' said Strange. 'So would the CC, if you must know,' he added cruelly.

'So when does he get back from leave…?'

Strange sighed deeply. 'Not soon enough. Let's see what happens with this newspaper angle.'

'He's pretty sure to see it – if they print it.'

'What? Morse? Nonsense! I've never seen him reading anything he just spends half an hour on the crossword, that's all.'

'Ten minutes – last time I watched him,' said Johnson honestly if somewhat grudgingly.

'Wasted his life, Morse has,' confided Strange, after a pause.

'Should've got married, you mean?'

Strange began to extricate himself from his chair. I wouldn't go as far as that. Ridiculous institution – marriage! Don't you think so?'

Johnson, himself having married only six months previously forebore any direct response, as Strange finally brought his vertebrae to the vertical, from which vantage point he looked down on the papers that Johnson had been consulting.

'Isn't that Morse's writing?' he queried presbyopically.

Yes, it was Morse's handwriting; and doubtless Johnson would have preferred Strange not to have seen it. But at least it would rove his point. So he picked out the sheet, and handed it over.

'Mm.' Chief Superintendent Strange held the piece of paper at arm's length, surveying its import. Unlike Morse, he was an extremely rapid reader; and after only ten seconds or so he handed back to Johnson: 'See what you mean!'

Johnson, in turn, looked down again at the sheet Morse had left – the one he'd found on his desk that morning a year ago mow, when Morse had been transferred to what had appeared more urgent enquiries:


I never got to grips with the case as you know but I'd have liked answers to the following half-dozen qq:

a) Had Daley or his missus owned a camera themselves?

b) What was the weather like on Tuesday 9th July?

c) 'It's striped: what about ze panties?' (5)

d) What's the habitat of 'Dendrocopus Minor'?

e) What beer do they serve at the Royal Sun (or at the White Hart!)?

f) What's the dog's name?


Strange now lumbered to the door. 'Don't ignore all this bloody nonsense, Johnson. That's what I'm telling you. Don't take too much notice of it; but don't ignore it, understand?'

For the second time within a short while the etymological distinction between a couple of unequivocal synonyms had completely escaped Inspector Johnson's reasonably bright but comparatively limited brain.

‘As you say, sir.'

"And, er, and one other thing… the wife's just bought a new dog – little King Charles, lovely thing! Two hundred pounds it cost. Pisses everywhere, of course – and worse! But he's, you know, he’s always glad to see you. More than the wife sometimes, eh? It’s just that we've only had the bloody thing a fortnight, and we haven't christened it.'

‘The dog's name was "Mycroft’. Good name – be a good name for your dog, sir.'

'Imaginative, yes! I'll, er, mention it to the missus, Johnson. Just one little problem, though…'

Johnson raised his rather bushy eyebrows.

‘Yes. She's a she. Johnson!'

'Oh.'

'Anything else Morse said?' pursued Strange.

'Well, yes. He, er, thought – he said he had a gut-feeling-'

'Huh!'

' – that we'd been searching for a body in the wrong place.'

'In Blenheim, you mean?'

Johnson nodded. 'He thought we ought to have been looking in Wytham Woods.'

'Yes. I remember him saying that.'

'Only after we'd drawn a blank in Blenheim, though.'

'Better wise after the event than never.'

Augh, shut up! Johnson was becoming a little weary of all the innuendos: 'If you recall, sir, it wasn't just Morse who was in favour of a wider operation. But we hadn't got the personnel available for a search of Wytham Woods. You said so. I came to ask you myself.'

Strange was stung into retaliation. 'Look, Johnson! You find me a body and I'll find you all the bloody personnel you need, all right?'

It was the chicken-and-egg business all over again, and Johnson would have said so – but Strange was already guiding his bulk downstairs, via the hand-rail on the HQ wall.

chapter fourteen

Only the keeper sees

That, where the ring-dove broods.

And the badgers roll at ease,

There was once a road through the woods

(Rudyard Kipling, The Way Through the Woods),

IT Was to be Morse's last breakfast at the Bay Hotel, that morning Monday, 6 July 1992, six days after the long meeting just recorded between Strange and Johnson at Kidlington HQ in Oxfordshire. He would have wished to stay a further couple of days – but there were no vacancies; and, as the proprietor reminded him, he'd already had more than his share of luck.

As he waited for his mixed grill he re-read the article, again high profile page-one news – the article promised the previous Friday by Howard Phillipson, literary editor of The Times:


A preliminary analysis

INTEREST in the 'Swedish Maiden' verses printed in these columns last week (Friday, July 3) has been sweeping this newspaper's offices, but I am myself now somewhat more diffident than I originally was about solving the fascinating riddle-me-ree presented by the five stanzas. I had earlier assumed that there might well be sufficient 'internal logic' in the information received by the Thames Valley Police to come to firm conclusions. I am no longer so strongly of this opinion.

Only with considerable hesitation therefore do I offer my own amateurish analysis of the riddle, in the fairly certain knowledge that very soon the cryptologists and cabbalists, criminologists and cranks, will be making their own considerably more subtle interpretations of these tantalizing lines.

For what it is worth, however, I suggest that the parameters of the problem may be set, albeit rather vaguely. In modern mathematics (as I understand the situation) pupils are asked, before tackling any problem: 'What roughly do you think the answer might be? What sort of answer might you logically expect?' If, say, the problem involves the speed of a supersonic jet flying the Atlantic, the answer is perhaps unlikely to be 10 m.p.h., and any pupil coming up with such an improbable answer is advised to look back through his calculations and find out where he might have dropped a couple of noughts. If we are set to discover the time taken by those famous taps to fill the family tub, the answer is still rather more likely to be ten minutes than ten hours. Permit me then to make a few general comments on what would appear to be the sort of solution we might expect. (The verses are reprinted on page 2.)

Clearly the poem is cast in a 'sylvan' setting: we have 'woodman'; 'stream'; 'riding' (sic!); 'Thyme flow'ring'; 'trapped'; 'hunted deer'; etc. There will be no prizes, I realize, for such an analysis, but the neglect of the obvious is always the beginning of unwisdom.

The setting of some wood or forest therefore.must be our donné, and my suggestion to the Thames Valley CID would be to concentrate their doubtless limited resources of manpower within two of the local areas which seem to hold the greatest promise: the forested area around Blenheim Palace, and the Wytham Woods -the latter becoming increasingly famous for its fox and badger research.

Let us now turn to the more specific import of the stanzas. The speaker of the poem, the 'persona', is clearly no longer a living being. Yet her dramatic message is quite unequivocal: she has been murdered; she has been drowned (or perhaps just dumped) in one of the lakes or streams situated in the wood(s); if such waters are searched and dredged her corpse will be found; finally the police may

have been (somewhat?) remiss in not pursuing their enquiries with rather greater perseverance.

What can be gathered from the nature of the verses themselves? Their composer is certainly no Her-rick or Housman, yet in terms of technical prosody the writer is more than competent. Vocabulary ('tegument', 'azured', etc.) is more redolent of the Senior Common Room than the Saloon Bar; and the versification, punctuation, and diction, all point to a literate and well-read man – or woman!

Can anything more specific be said about the writer? For some while, as I read and re-read the verses, I toyed with the idea of their author being a relative of the dead girl. The reason for my thinking was the continued emphasis, throughout the poem, of the 'find me' motif; and I was reminded of the Homeric heroes of the Iliad where death in battle was a fully expected and wholly honourable end – but where the most terrible fate of all was to die unrecognized, unburied, unfound, in some unknown and far-off land. Is the poem then above all a desperate cry for the Christian burial of the body? This would be most understandable. We have seen in recent years so many tragic instances (in the Middle East, for example) where the simple return of a dead body has paved the way for some peace initiative.

But I no longer believe this to be the case. My firm conviction now is that the verses have been sent to the police by a person for whom the period – now a year -between the murder of Karin Eriksson and the present time has become an intolerable Hell. A person who is very near to breaking point. A person who wishes the crime at last to be uncovered, and who is now prepared to pay the penalty. In short, the murderer!

Dare I go any further? I learned two further (hitherto unpublished) facts from Detective Chief Inspector Johnson. First, that the letter-writer was able to spell, correctly, the not very easy or obvious 'Eriksson'; second, that the writer was aware of the previous Chief Constable's surname, but not that of the current incumbent. On the old adage then that one might just as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, I reckon the murderer to be male; to be between thirty and thirty-five years old; to have a degree in English literature; to have lived until about six or nine months ago in Oxfordshire; to have revisited the scene of his crime during the last month, say, whilst staying at one of the more upmarket hostelries in Woodstock, Oxon.

I rest my case, m'lud!

'Hi!' she said. 'Mind if I join you?'

‘Please do,' said Morse, carefully mounting the last segment of his fried egg on the last square of his fried bread.

'You ever read about cholesterol?' Her voice was very cultured, the two 't's of her simple question affectedly exaggerated.

Morse swallowed his latest mouthful and looked at the slim, expensively dressed woman who now sat opposite him, ordering black coffee and a croissant – nothing more.

‘They say we've all got to die of something.' He tried to make it sound reasonably cheerful.

'Ridiculous attitude!' The lips, expertly outlined in, some pale-crimson shade, looked severe, yet the grey eyes in the delicate, oval face might almost have been mocking him.

'I suppose it is,' he said.

'You're overweight anyway, aren't you?'

'I suppose so,' he repeated lamely.

'You'll have high blood pressure in your mid-fifties – unless vou're there now? Then you'll probably have a stroke in your early sixties; and like as not die of a heart attack before you're seventy.' She had already drained her coffee cup, and held up an elegant, imperious hand to the waitress. 'What's your job?'

Morse sighed, and considered the last piece of toast in the rack. ‘I'm a policeman, and I come from Oxford, and I'm on holiday here until about ten o'clock this morning. I'm single and maybe I'm not much of a catch, but if I'd known I was going-'

'-going to meet a beautiful girl like me! Surely you can original than that?' The eyes were mocking him again.

Morse took the toast and started buttering it. 'No, I can't, can't do much better than that.'

'Perhaps you underrate yourself.'

'What about you? What do you do?'

'Why don't you tell me. You're a policeman, you say?'

For half a minute or so Morse looked at her, cocking his head, slightly to the right. Then he gave his judgement: 'You're a beautician, possibly a dietitian too, which you probably spell with a "t" and not a "c"; you're in your late twenties, and you went to school at Cheltenham Ladies'; you're married but you sometimes leave off your wedding ring – like now; you're fond of pets but you tend to think children are something of an exaggerated pastime. And you come for a walk with me along the prom, I'll try to fill in al few more of the details as we go along.'

'That's much better.'

'Well? How did I do?'

She smiled and shook her head. 'Is your name Sherlock Holmes?’

'Morse.'

'Am I that transparent?'

'No. I, er, saw you come in with your husband last night – when you went straight to bed and he-' 'He stayed at the bar!'

'We had one or two drinks together, and I asked him who the beautiful woman was-'

'And he said, "That's not a beautiful woman: that's my wife!"?

'Something like that.'

'And he talked about me?'

'He talked nicely about you.'

'He was drunk.'

'He's sleeping it off?' Morse pointed to the ceiling. She nodded her dark curls. 'So he won't mind much if you take me on that walk, will he, Mr Morse? When you've finished your toast, of course. And wouldn't you spell dietitian with a "t"?'

chapter fifteen

At the very smallest wheel of our reasoning it is possible for a handful of questions to break the bank of our answers

(Antonio Machado, Juan de Mairena)


ON the same morning that Morse was packing his single suitcase (1On the day of their departure guests are respectfully requested ' vacate their rooms by 10.30 a.m.’) Sergeant Lewis knocked on Johnson's door, soon seating himself opposite the chief inspector, and beside Sergeant Wilkins.

‘Good of you to spare a few minutes.'

‘If I can help in any way…’ said Lewis warily.

‘You know Morse better than most.'

Nobody knows him all that well.'

‘You've got a reasonable idea how his mind works though.'

‘He's got a strange sort of mind-'

‘Not many'd disagree with you.’

‘He's good at some things.'

‘Such as?'

‘He's not bad at catching murderers for a start.'

And you do realize the odds are we're trying to catch another murderer now, don't you, Sergeant?'

‘If it is murder.'

‘Did Morse think it was murder?'

‘As I remember, sir, he was only on it with you for a day or so.'

‘Less than that.' (Wilkins had made his first contribution.)

'You're following this – this newspaper business, I presume, Lewis?'

‘Everybody reads The Times before the Sun now.'

'What do you make of this?' Johnson handed a photocopy of Morse's 'half-dozen qq.' across the desk.

Lewis looked down at the list and smiled. 'Bit of a joke – some of this, isn't it?'

‘Take my advice, Lewis, and don't try telling that to the Super’

'I don't know the answer to any of 'em,' admitted Lewis, 'except (e) – well, part of (e). It's a "Morrell's" pub, the Royal Sun. I brought quite a few pints there, I reckon.'

'What, for Morse, you mean?'

'Who else?'

'But has he ever bought you any, Lewis? That's the real question eh, Wilkins?'

The two men sniggered. And suddenly Lewis hated them both

'What about the White Hart?' continued Johnson.

'Lot of "White Harts" about.'

'Yes, we know that!' Johnson gestured to Wilkins, the latter now reading from his notes: 'Headington, Marston, Wolvercoat, Wytham, Minster Lovell, Eynsham…'

'I expect Morse could probably add to the list,' ventured Johnson.

Lewis, determining henceforth to be as minimally helpful possible, made only a brief comment: 'She'd've got past the first two.'

Johnson nodded. 'What about Eynsham and Minster Love Just off the A40, both of them – if she ever travelled along A40, that is.'

Lewis said nothing.

'What about the other two: Wolvercote and Wytham? Which would you put your money on?' 'Wytham, I suppose.'

'Why's that?'

'The woods there – easy enough to hide a body.'

'Did you know that Morse asked the Chief Super about a seach of Wytham Woods last year?'

Lewis did, yes. 'Only after the search in Blenheim didn't come up with anything.'

'Do you know how big Wytham Woods is, man?'

Lewis had a good idea, yes. But he merely shrugged shoulders.

'Why would Morse be interested in the dog?'

'Don't know. He told me once he'd never had any pets when he was a lad.'

'Perhaps he should get one now. Lots of bachelors have dogs

'You must suggest it to him, sir,' replied Lewis, with a note confidence in his voice, and a strange exhilaration flooding his limbs, for he suddenly realized that it was Johnson who was on defensive here, not himself. They were trying to pick his Lewis’s) brains because they were envious of his relationship with Morse!

‘What about the camera?' continued Johnson.

‘You can ask the Daleys, can't you? If they're still there.'

‘Odd question though, wouldn't you say?'

‘I just don't know, sir. I think Morse told me he had a “brownie” given him once, but he said he never really understood how to work it.'

Sitting back in an almost relaxed manner now, Lewis looked down at the questions again. 'Should be easy to check on (b) – about the weather…'

Again Johnson waved a hand, and Wilkins consulted his notes according to Radio Oxford… the ninth of July… "Dry, sunny, seventy two to seventy-four degrees Fahrenheit; outlook settled; possability of some overnight mist".'

‘Nice. warm day, then,' said Lewis blandly.'

‘What about (c)?'

‘Crossword clue, sir. He's pretty hot on crosswords.'

‘That's the answer?’

‘No good asking me. Sometimes I can't even do the Mirror coffee-one.'

' "Ze-bra" – that's the answer.'

‘Really? Well that's another one crossed off.'

‘What about this "Dendrocopus Minor"?' There was a note of exasperation in Johnson's voice now. ‘Pass' said Lewis with a gentle smile.

‘For Christ's sake, man, we're on a potential murder enquiry – not a Bloody pub-quiz Don't you realize that? As a matter of fact it’s the Lesser something bloody Woodpecker!'

‘We learn something new every day.'

‘Yes we do, Sergeant. And I'll tell you something else, if you like. It’s habitat is woodlands or parklands and there are a few nesting in Wytham!'

‘Lewis's new-found confidence was starting to ebb away as Johnson glared at him aggressively. 'You don't seem all that anxious to help us, Sergeant, do you? So let me just tell you why I asked along here. As you probably know, we're starting searching Blenheim all over again today, and we're going to search search until we're blue in the bloody face, OK? But if we still don’t find anything we're going to hand over to Morse – and to you, Sergeant. I just thought you might like to know what we're all against, see?'

Lewis was conscious of a sinking sense of humiliation. 'I I-didn't know that, sir.'

'Why should you? They don't tell even you everything, do they’

'Why might they be taking you off?' asked Lewis slowly.

'They – "they" – are taking me off because they don't think I'm any fucking good,' said Johnson bitterly as he rose to his feet 'That's why!'

chapter sixteen

Between 1871 and 1908 he published twenty volumes of verse, of little merit

('Alfred Austin', The Oxford Companion to English Literature, edited by Margaret Drabble)


morse was spending the last three days of his West Country holiday at the King's Arms in Dorchester (Dorchester, Dorset). Here he encountered neither models nor beauticians; but at last he began to feel a little reluctant about returning to Oxford. On the Wednesday he had explored Hardy's Dorchester on foot (!) a.m., and spent the whole p.m. in the Dorset County Museum. Nostalgic, all of it. And when finally he returned to 'the chief hotel in Casterbridge' he sat drinking his beer in the bar before dinner •sith the look of a man who was almost at ease with life.

On the Thursday morning he drove out through the countryside that provided much of the setting for Tess of the d'Urbervilles, along the A352 to the east of Dorchester, following the Vale of the Great Dairies, past Max Gate and Talbothays towards Wool. As he was driving through Moreton, he wondered whether there was any follow-up to the Phillipson analysis (there had been no mention in:he Tuesday or Wednesday editions), and he stopped and bought ihe last copy of The Times from the village newsagent's. The answer was yes – yes, there was; and he sat for a while in the sunshine beside the wall of the cemetery containing the grave of Lawrence of Arabia, reading the long letter which (as with succeeding letters) now found its place naturally in the newspaper's correspondence columns:


From Professor (Emeritus) Rene Gray

Sir, My mind, doubtless like the minds of many of your regular

readers, has been much exercised these past few days following the publication (July 3) of the letter received by the Thames Valley Police. I beg the courtesy of your columns to make one or two observations.

This is not a poem by Alfred Austin, though the words 'A. Austin' appear beneath it. The name 'Austin' does not seem to refer to a make of motor car: 'A'-registration Austins date from 1983-84, and there is no resemblance between this date and those given in brackets. The dates given are not Austin the poet's dates. He was born in 1835, and died in 1913. There is a remote possibility that the last two digits of his birth-date have been transposed for some reason, but the death-date is plainly wrong. Dying in 1913, he was 78 years old at the time of his death. By a strange coincidence the transposition of these digits gives us the '87' which is written here. I conclude that the dates are not all they seem, and most likely constitute the key to the cypher.

The figures do not appear to give geographical co-ordinates. They do not match the format of Ordnance Survey co-ordinates, and they are not co-ordinates of latitude and longitude, since Great Britain lies between the 50th and 6oth lines of latitude and between the longitudes 2°E and 10°W. We are left with six digits which somehow must give the clue to the interpretation of the words of the message.

I have not been able to work out the cypher. I have tried the first word, followed by the eighth, followed by the fifth after that (giving either 'Find… my… the… skylit', or 'Find… frosted… skylit… me'). I have re-transposed the sequences of digits, to no better effect. I have tried lines, first words of lines, last words of line. I have taken the digits in pairs, i.e. as 18, 53 (or 35) and 87 with the same result. I have alternated the beginnings of the lines with the ends of the lines, and vice versa.

I have simplified the expression '1853-87' by interpreting the hyphen as a minus sign. The answer, '1766', does not produce any happier result. The only sensible word- produced is yielded by taking letters in that sequence in the first line, thus giving 'F-i-s-h', but the message does not continue. (A red herring, possibly!)

There are a large number of other combinations and permutations, but no method other than trial and error for seeing whether any make any sense.

The overriding advantage of the mechanical method of deciphering is that the poem itself does not have to make sense; a random sequence of words would fulfil exactly the same purpose of concealing the message. Hence odd words such as 'tiger' need not fall into the category of important words at all: in its place, 'chairman' or 'post-box' would do equally well; these words meet the requirements of the metre, but would not be included in the deciphered message. Likewise, the upper case 'T' in the middle of line 13 is not significant. The fact that the poem does make some kind of sense in places thus merely adds to the bafflement.

If this line of thinking is correct, it does not matter what the poem says, or what it means. What is needed is the services of a skilled cryptographer.


Yours faithfully,

RENE GRAY,


136 Victoria Park Road,

Leicester.


Mosre read the letter once only, and decided to wait until his return to the King's Arms (where he had the two earlier cuttings) in order to have a more careful look at the good professor's analysis and suggested methodology. He sounded an engaging sort of fellow, Gray – especially with that bit about the 'chairman' and the post-box'.


Back in Dorchester that afternoon, Morse went into the public library and looked up 'Austin' in The Oxford Companion to English Literature. He'd heard of Austin the poet – of course he had; but he’d never known anything much about him, and he was certainly unaware that any poem, or even line, produced by the former poet laureate had merited immortality.

From the library Morse walked on to the post office, where he brought a black and white postcard of Dorchester High Street, and stood for an inordinate length of time in the queue there. He didn't know the price of the stamp for a postcard, and didn't wish to waste a first-class stamp if, as he suspected, the official tariff for postcards was a few pence lower. It was, he realized, quite ridiculous to wait so long for such a little saving.

But wait Morse did.


Lewis received the card the following morning, the message written Morse's small, neat, and scholarly hand:


Mostly I've not been quite so miserable since last year's holiday, but things are looking up here in D. Warmest regards to you (and to Mrs Lewis) – but not to any of our other colleagues. Have you been following the Swedish lass? I reckon I know what the poem means!

Definitely home Sat.

M


This card, with its curmudgeonly message, was delivered to police HQ in Kidlington – since Morse had not quite been able to remember Lewis's Headington address. And by the time it was in Lewis's hands, almost everyone in the building had read it. It might, naturally, have made Lewis a little cross – such contravention of the laws of-privacy.

But it didn't. It made him glad.

chapter seventeen

Extract from a diary dated Friday, 10 July 1992


Please God let me wake from this dream! Please God may she not be dead! Those words – the ones I so recently wrote – for them may I be forgiven! Those terrible words! – when I disavowed my love for my own flesh and blood, for my own children, for my daughter. But how could I be forgiven? The fates decree otherwise and ever have so decreed. The words may be blotted out but they will remain. The paper may be burned in the furnace but the words will persist for evermore. Oh blackness! Oh night of the soul! Throw open the wide door of hell, Infernal Spirits, for it is I who approach – all hope of virtue, all hope of life abandoned! I have reached the Inferno and there now read that grim pronouncement of despair above it’s portal.

I am sunk deep in misery and anguish of mind and spirit. At my desk I sit here weeping bitter tears. I shout Forgive me! Forgive me! And then I shout again Forgive me! Everyone forgive me! Had I still belief in God I would seek to pray. But I cannot. And even now – even in the abyss of my despair – I have not told the truth! Let it be known that tomorrow I shall once more be happy – some of tomorrow's hours will bring me happiness again. She is coming. She is coming here. She herself has arranged and organized. She it is who has wished to come! For my sake is this? Is this for my need – my grief's sake? Yet such considerations are of minor consequence. She is coming, tomorrow she is coming. More precious to me is that woman even than the mother who suffers all that pain…


(Later.) I am so low I wish I were dead. My selfishness my self-is so great that I can have no pity for the others – the others who grieve so greatly. I have just re-read one of Hardy's poems. I used to know it by heart. No longer though and now my left forefinger traces the lines as slowly I copy it out:


I seem but a dead man held on end

To sink down soon… O you could not know

That such swift fleeing

No soul foreseeing

Not even I – would undo me so.


I never really managed to speak to you my daughter. I never told you my darling daughter because I did not know – and you can never know why and can never understand.


I have reached a decision. This journal shall be discontinued. Always when I look back on what I have written I see nothing of any worth – only self-indulgence – theatricality – over-emotionalism. Just one plea I make. It was never forced or insincere or hypocritical. No, never!

But no more.

chapter eighteen

A 'strange coincidence' to use a phrase

By which such things are settled now-a-days

(Lord Byron, Don Juan)


Claire osborne turned right from the A4O down into Banbury Road, knowing that she would have to drive only three or four hundred yards along it, since she had received a detailed map through the post. She was a little surprised – a lot surprised – when she spotted, on her right, the Cotswold House, a considerably more striking and attractive building than the 'suburban, modern, detached,' blurb of The Good Hotel Guide had led her to expect. She experienced an unexpected feeling of delight as she parked her Metro MG (what a disaster not taking that to Lyme!) on the rusty-red asphalt in front of the double-fronted guest-house, built of honey-coloured Cotswold stone in the leafy environs of North Oxford.

Flower-baskets in green, red, purple, and white, hung all around her as she rang the bell at the front door, on which a white notice read 'No Vacancies'. But Claire had earlier found a vacancy, and booked it: a vacancy for two.

The door was opened by a tall, slim man, with a shock of prematrrarely grey hair, black eyebrows, a slightly diffident smile, and asoft Irish brogue.

‘Hello’

‘Hello. My name's Mrs Hardinge, and I think you'll find-'

‘Alraedy found, Mrs Hardinge. And I'm Jim O'Kane. Now do come in. won't you? And welcome to the Cotswold House.' With which splendid greeting he picked up her case and led her inside, Claire felt immediately and overwhelmingly impressed.

Brifly O'Kane consulted the bookings register, then selected a key from somewhere, and led the way up a semi-circular staircase, no trouble finding us, I trust?'

‘Your little map was very helpful.'

'Good journey?'

'No problems.'

O'Kane walked across the landing, inserted a key in Room opened the door, ushered his guest inside, followed her with the suitcase, and then, with a courteous, old-world gesture, hande her a single key – almost as if he were presenting a bouquet flowers to a beautiful girl.

'The key fits your room here and the front door, Mrs Hardinge’

'Fine.'

'And if I could just remind you' – his voice growing somewhat apologetic – 'this is a non-smoking guest-house… I did mention it when you rang.'

'Yes.' But she was frowning. 'That means – everywhere? Including the bedrooms?'

'Especially the bedrooms,' replied O'Kane, simply if reluctant!'.

Claire looked down at the single key. 'My husband's been held up in London-'

'No problem! Well, only one problem perhaps. We're always a bit pushed for parking – if there are two cars…?'

'He'll have his car, yes. But don't worry about that. There seem to be plenty of room in the side-streets.'

O'Kane appeared grateful for her understanding, and asked if she were familiar with Oxford, with the North Oxford area. And Claire said, yes, she was; her husband knew the area well, so there was no trouble there.

Wishing Mrs Hardinge well, Mr O'Kane departed – leaving Claire to look with admiration around the delightfully designed and decorated accommodation. En suite, too.


O'Kane was not a judgemental man, and in any case the moralality of his guests was of rather less importance to him than the comfort. But already the signs were there: quite apart from the circumstantial evidence of any couple arriving in separate cars, over the years O'Kane had observed that almost every wedded woman arriving first would show an interest in the in-house amenities and the like. Yet Mrs Hardinge(?) had enquired about none of these… he would have guessed too (if asked) that she might well pay the bill from her own cheque-book when the couple left – about 50 per cent of such ladies usually did so. In the early days of his business career, such things had worried O'Kane a little. But not so much now. Did it matter? Did it really matter? Any couple could get a mortgage these days – let alone a couple nights' accommodation in a B & B. She was a pleasantly spoken, attractive woman; and as O'Kane walked down the stairs he hoped she'd have a happy time with that Significant Other who would doubtless be arriving soon, ostensibly spending the weekend away from his wife at some Oxford conference. Oxford was full of conferences…


Claire looked around her. The co-ordinated colour scheme of décor and furnishing was a sheer delight – white, champagne, cerise, mahogany – and reproductions of late-Victorian pictures graced the walls. Beside the help-yourself tea and coffee facilities stood a small fridge, in which she saw an ample supply of milk; and two glasses – and two champagne glasses. For a while she sat on the floral-printed bedspread; then went over to the window and looked out, over the window-box of busy Lizzies, geraniums, and petunias, down on to the Banbury Road. For several minutes she stood there, not knowing whether she was happy or not – trying to stop the clock, to live in the present, to grasp the moment… and to hold it.

Then – her heart was suddenly pounding against her ribs. A man was walking along the pavement towards the roundabout. He wore a pink, short-sleeved shirt, and his forearms were bronzed – as if perhaps he might recently have spent a few days beside the sea. In his left hand he carried a bag bearing the name of the local wineshop, Oddbins; in his right hand he carried a bag with the same legend. He appeared deep in thought as he made his way, fairly slowly, across her vision and proceeded up towards the roundabout.

What an amazing coincidence! – the man might have thought had she pushed open the diamond-leaded window and shouted – Remember me? Lyme Regis? Last weekend?' But that would have been to misunderstand matters, for in truth there was no coincidence at all. Claire Osborne had seen to that.

There was a soft knock on her door, and O'Kane asked if she – if either of them – would like a newspaper in the morning: it was part of the service. Claire smiled. She liked the man. She ordered The Sunday Times. Then, for a little while after he was gone she wondered why she felt so sad.


It was not until just before 9 p.m. that Dr Alan Hardinge arrived – explaining, excusing, but as vulnerable, as loving as ever. And - bless him! – he had brought a bottle of Brut Imperial, and a bottle of Skye Talisker malt. And almost, almost (as she later herself) had Claire Osborne enjoyed the couple of hours they spent together that night between the immaculately laundered sheets of Room 1 in the Cotswold House in North Oxford.


Morse had arrived home at 2.30 p.m. that same day. No one, as far as he knew, was aware that he had returned (except Lewis?); yet Strange had telephoned at 4 p.m. Would Morse be happy to take on the case? Well, whether he would be happy or not, Morse was going to take on the case.


At 5 p.m. he had walked down to Summertown and bought eight pint-cans of newly devised 'draught' bitter, which promised him the taste of a hand-pulled, cask-conditioned drop of ale; and two bottles of his favourite Quercy claret. For Morse – considerately out of condition still – the weight felt a bit too hefty; and outside the Radio Oxford building he halted awhile and looked behind him in the hope of seeing the oblong outline of a red double-decker coming up from the city centre. But there was no bus in sight, so he walked on. As he passed the Cotswold House he saw amongst other things the familiar white sign 'No Vacancies' on the door. He was not surprised. He had heard very well of the place, wouldn't mind staying there himself. Especially for the breakfasts.

chapter nineteen

strange had been really quite pleased with all the publicity. Seldom had there been such national interest in a purely notional Tiurder; and the extraordinary if possibly unwarranted ingenuity. hich the public had already begun to exercise on the originally rrinted verses was most gratifying – if not as yet of much concrete value. There had been two further offerings in the Letters to the Editor page in the Saturday, 11 July's issue of The Times:


From Gillian Richard

Sir, Professor Gray (July 9) seems to me too lightly to dismiss one factor in the Swedish Maiden case. She is certainly, in my view, alive still, but seemingly torn between the wish to live – and the wish to die. She has probably never won any poetry competition in her life, and I greatly doubt whether she is to be found as a result of her description of the natural world. But she is out there, in the natural world – possibly living rough; certainly not indoors. I would myself hazard a guess, dismissed by Professor Gray, that she is in a car somewhere, and here the poem's attribution (A. Austin 1853^87) can give us the vital clue. What

about an A-registration Austin? It would be a 1983 model, yes; and might we not have the registration number, too? I suggest A 185 -then three letters. If we suppose 3=C, 8=H, and 7=G (the third, eighth, and seventh letters of the alphabet), we have A 185 CGH. Perhaps then our young lady is languishing in an ageing Metro? And if so, sir, we must ask one question: who is the owner of that car? Find her!

Yours etc.,

GILLIAN RICHARD, 26 Hay ward Road, Oxford.


From Miss Polly Rayner

Sir, I understand from your report on the disappearance a year ago of a Swedish student that her rucksack was found near the village of Begbroke in Oxfordshire. It may be that I am excessively addicted to your own crossword puzzles but surely we can be justified in spotting a couple of 'clues' here? The '-broke' of the village name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word 'brok', meaning 'running water' or 'stream'. And since 'beg' is a synonym of 'ask', what else are we to make of the first three words

in line 7: 'Ask the stream'? Indeec this clue is almost immediately cod-; firmed two lines later in the injunc-" tion 'ask the sun'. 'The Sun' is how \ the good citizens of Begbroke refer I to their local hostelry, and it is ia j and around that hostelry where ml my view the police should re-* concentrate their enquiries.

Yours faithfully,

POLLY RAYNER,

President,

Woodstock Local History Society, j

Woodstock,

Oxon.


That was more like it! Strange had earlier that day put suggested car registration through the HQ's traffic computer. No luck! Yet this was just the sort of zany, imaginative idea that might well unlock the mystery, and stimulate a few more such ideas the bargain. When he had rung Morse that same Saturday afternoon (he too had read the postcard!) he had not been at surprised by Morse's apparent – surely only 'apparent'? – lack of interest in taking over the case immediately. Yes, Morse still hi a few days' leave remaining – only to the Friday, mind! But, really this case was absolutely up the old boy's street! Tailor-made Morse, this case of the Swedish Maiden…

Strange decided to leave things alone for a while though -until the next day. He had more than enough on his plate for the minute. The previous evening had been a bad one, with the city and County police at full stretch with the (virtual) riots on Broadmoor Lea estate: car-thefts, joy-riding, ram-raids, stone throwing… With Saturday and Sunday evenings still to come! He felt saddened as he contemplated the incipient breakdown in law and order, contempt for authority – police, church, parents school… Augh! Yet in one awkward, unexplored little corner his mind, he knew he could almost understand something of it -just a fraction. For as a youth, and a fairly privileged youth at that, he remembered harbouring a secret desire to chuck a full sized brick through the window of one particularly well-appointed property…

But yes – quite definitely, yes! – he would feel so very much happier if Morse could take over the responsibility of the case; take it away from his own, Strange's, shoulders. Thus it was that Strange had rung Morse that Saturday afternoon.

'What case?' Morse had asked.

'You know bloody well-'

‘I'm still on furlough, sir. I'm trying to catch up with the housework.'

'Have you been drinking, Morse?'

‘Just starting, sir.'

'Mind if I come and join you?'

"Not this afternoon, sir. I've got a wonderful – odd, actually! – got a wonderful Swedish girl in the flat with me just at the moment’

‘Oh!'

'Look,' said Morse slowly, 'if there is a breakthrough in the case. If there does seem some reason-'

'You been reading the correspondence?'

‘Id sooner miss The Archers!'

‘Do you think it's all a hoax?'

Strrange heard Morse's deep intake of breath: 'No! No, I don't. It’s just that we're going to get an awful lot of false leads and false confessions – you know that. We always do. Trouble is, it makes us look such idiots, doesn't it – if we take everything too seriously.'

Yes, Strange accepted that what Morse had just said was exactly his own view. 'Morse. Let me give you a ring tomorrow, all right? We’ve got those bloody yoiks out on Broadmoor Lea to sort ii

‘Yes, I've been reading about it while I was away.'

'Enjoy your holiday, in Lyme?'

‘Not much.'

‘Well, I'd better leave you to your… your "wonderful Swedish girl” wasn't it?’

‘I wish you would.'

After Morse had put down his phone, he switched his CD player on again to the Immolation Scene from the finale of Wagner's Göiterdämmerung; and soon the pure and limpid voice of the Swedish soprano, Birgit Nilsson, resounded again through the chief inspector's flat.

chapter twenty

When I complained of having dined at a splendid table without hearing one sentence worthy to be remembered, he [Dr Johnson] said, 'There is seldom any such conversation'

(James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson)


in the small hours of Sunday, 12 July, Claire Osborne still lay still awake, wondering yet again about what exactly it was she wanted in life. It had been all right – it usually was 'all right'. Alan was reasonably competent, physically – and so loving. She liked him well enough, but she could never be in love with him. She had given him as much of herself as she could; but where, she asked herself, was the memorability of it all? Where the abiding joy in yet another of their brief, illicit, slightly disturbing encounters.

'To hell with this sex lark, Claire!' her best friend in Salisbury had said. 'Get a man who's interesting, that's what I say. Like Johnson! Now, he was interesting!'

'Doctor Johnson? He was a great-fat slob, always dribbling his soup down his waistcoat, and he was smelly, and never changed his underpants!'

'Never?'-

'You know what I mean.'

'But everybody wanted to hear him talk, didn't they? That's what I'm saying.'

'Yeah. I know what you mean.'

‘Yeah!'

And the two women had laughed together – if with little conviction.

Alan Hardinge had earlier said little about the terrible accident: a few stonily spoken details about the funeral; about the little service they were going to hold at the school; about the unexpected helpfulness of the police and the authorities and support groups and neighbours and relatives. But Claire had not questioned him about any aspect of his own grief. She would, she knew, be trespassing upon a territory that was not, and never could be, hers… It was 3.30 a.m. before she fell into a fitful slumber.


At the breakfast table the following morning she explained briefly that her husband had been called away and that there would just her: coffee and toast, please – nothing more. A dozen so newspapers, room-numbered in the top-right corner, lay in staggered pile on a table just inside the breakfast room – The Sunday Times not amongst them.

Jim O'Kane seldom paid too much attention to the front page of the 'Sundays'; but ten minutes before Claire had put in appearance, he'd spotted the photograph. Surely he'd seen that young girl before! He took The Sunday Times through to the kitchen where, under the various grills, his wife was watching the progress of bacon, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and sausages. He pointed to the black and white photograph on the front page:

'Recognize her?'

Anne O'Kane stared at the photograph for a few seconds, quizically turning her head one way, then the other, seeking to assess any potential likeness to anyone she'd ever met. 'Should I?'

'I think I do! You remember that young blonde girl who called – about a year ago – when we had a vacancy – one Sunday – and then she called again – later – when we hadn't?'

'Yes, I do remember,' Anne said slowly. 'I think I do.' She had been quickly reading the article beneath the photograph, and she now looked up at her husband as she turned over half a dozen rashers of bacon. 'You don't mean.…?'

But Jim O'Kane did mean.


Claire was on her last piece of toast when she found her hostess standing beside her with the newspaper. 'We pinched this for a minute – hope you didn't mind.'

'Course not.'

'It's just that' – Anne pointed to the reproduction – 'well it looks a bit like a young girl who called here once. A young girl who disappeared about a year ago.'

'Long time, a year is.'

'Yes. But Jim – my husband – he doesn't often forget faces; and I think,' she added quietly, 'I think he's right.'

Claire glanced down at the photograph and the article, betraying (she trusted) not a hint of her excitement. 'You'd better tell them – the police, hadn't you?'

'I suppose we should. It's just that Jim met one of the men from CID recently at a charity-do, and this fellow said one of the biggest problems with murders is all the bogus confessions and hoax calls you always get.'

'But if you do recognize her-'

'Not one hundred per cent. Not really. What I do remember is that this girl I'm thinking of called and asked if we'd got a room and then when she knew what it would cost she just sort of… Well, I think she couldn't afford it. Then she called back later, this same girl…'

'And you were full?'

Anne O'Kane nodded sadly, and Claire finished a last mouthful of toast. 'Not always easy to know what to do for the best.'

'No.'

'But if your husband knows this CID man he could always just, vou know, mention it unofficially, couldn't he?'

'Ye-es. Wouldn't do any harm. You're right. And he only lives just up the road. In one of the bachelor flats.'

'What's his name? Lord Peter Wimsey?'

'Morse. Chief Inspector Morse.'

Claire looked down at her empty plate, and folded her white -.linen table napkin.

'More toast?' asked Anne O'Kane.

Claire shook her head, her flawlessly painted lips showing [neither interest nor surprise.

chapter twenty-one

It is only the first bottle that is expensive

(French proverb)


claire osborne had discovered what she wanted that same morning. However, it was not until the following morning, 13 July (Sunday spent with Alan Hardinge) that she acted upon her piece of research. It had been terribly easy -just a quick look through the two-inch-thick phone-book for Oxford and District which lay beside the pay-phone: several Morses, but only one 'Morse, E and the phone number, to boot! Leys Close, she learned from the Oxford street-map posted on the wall just inside the foyer, looked hardly more than two hundred yards away. She could have asked the O'Kanes, of course… but it was a little more exciting not to.

It was another fine sunny morning; and having packed suitcase and stowed it in the boot of the Metro, and with permission to leave the car ('Shouldn't be all that long,' she’d explained), she walked slowly up towards the roundabout, soon coming to the sign 'Residents Only: No Public Right of Way', then turning left through a courtyard, before arriving at a row of two storey, yellow-bricked, newish properties, their woodwork painted a uniform white. The number she sought was the first numbers saw.

After knocking gently, she noticed, through the window to the left, the white shelving of a kitchen unit and a large plastic bottle of Persil on the draining board. She noticed, too, that the window directly above her was widely open, and she knew that he must be there even before she saw the vague silhouette behind the frosted glass.

What the hell are you doing here? – is that what she'd expected him to say? But he said nothing as he opened the door, bent down to pick up a red-topped bottle of semi-skimmed Co-op milk, stood to one side, inclined his head slightly to the right, and ushered her inside with an old-world gesture of hospitality. She found herself in a large lounge with two settees facing each other, the one to her left in a light honey-coloured leather, to which Morse pointed, which she now sat – a wonderfully soft and comfortable Music was playing – something with a sort of heavyweight sadness about it which she thought she almost recognized. Late nineteenth century? Wagner? Mahler? Very haunting and beautiful. But Morse had pressed a panel in the sophisticated bank of equipment on the shelves just behind the other settee, a smaller black leather, in which he seated himself and looked across his blue eyes showing a hint of amusement but nothing of surprise.

‘No need to turn it off for me, you know.'

‘Of course not. I turned it off for me. I can never do two things same time.'

Look;ing at the almost empty glass of red wine which stood on the low coffee table beside him, Claire found herself doubting the strictly literal truth of the statement.

‘Wagner, was it?'

Morse's eyes lit up with some interest. 'It does show some Wagenerian harmonic and melodic traits, I agree.'

What a load of crap, the pompous oaf! Blast him. Why didn't he just tell her? She pointed to the bottle of Quercy: 'I thought you couldn't cope with two things at once?'

‘Ah! But drinking's like breathing, really. You don't have to think about it, do you? And it's good for you – did you know that? There’s this new report out saying a regular drop of booze is exceedingly good for the heart.'

'Not quite so good for the liver, though.'

‘No.' He smiled at her now, leaning back in the settee, his arms stretched out along the top, wearing the same short-sleeved pink shirt- she'd seen him in the previous Saturday. He probably needed a woman around the house.

‘I thought you were supposed to wait till the sun had passed the yard-arm, or something like that.'

‘That’s an odd coincidence!' Morse pointed to The Times on the table. 'It was in the crossword this morning: "yard-arm".'

‘What is a yard-arm, exactly?'

Morse shook his head. ‘I’m not interested in boats or that sort of thing. I prefer the Shakespeare quote – remember? That line 'the prick of noon"?'

' "The bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon'':

'How on earth did you know that?'

'I once played the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet.'

'Not the sort of thing for a schoolgirl-'

'University, actually.'

'Oh. I was never on the boards much myself. Just the once really. I had a line "I do arrest thee, Antonio". For some reason it made the audience laugh. Never understood why…'

Still clutching her copies of the previous day's Sunday Times and the current issue of The Times, Claire looked slowly around at the book-lined walls, at the stacks of records everywhere, at the pictures (one or two of them fractionally askew). She especially admired the watercolour just above Morse's head of the Oxford skyline in a bluey-purple wash. She was beginning to enjoy the conversational skirmishing, she admitted that; but there was still something irritating about the man. For the first time she looked hard, directly across at him.

'You're acting now, aren't you?'

'Pardon?'

'You're pretending you're not surprised to see me.'

'No, I'm not. I saw you sitting outside the Cotswold House yesterday; smoking a cigarette. I was walking down to Cutteslowe for a newspaper.'

'Mind if I smoke now?'

'Please do. I've, er, stopped myself.'

'Since when?'

'Since this morning.'

'Would you like one?'

'Yes, please.'

Claire inhaled deeply, crossed her legs as she sat down and pulled her Jaeger skirt an inch or so below her knees.

'Why didn't you say hello?' she asked.

'I was on the opposite side of the road.'

'Not very pally, was it?'

'Why didn't you say hello to me?'

'I didn't see you.'

'I think you did, though.' His voice was suddenly gentle she had the feeling that he knew far more about her than he should. 'I think you saw me late Saturday afternoon as well -just after you'd arrived.'

'You saw me? You saw me when you walked by with your booze?'

Morse nodded.

Blast him! Blast him! 'I suppose you think you know why I've come here now.'

Morse nodded again. 'It's not because I'm psychic, though. It's | just that Jim, Mr O'Kane, he rang me yesterday…'

'About this?' She held up the newspapers.

'About the girl possibly calling there, yes. Very interesting, and very valuable, perhaps – I don't know. They're going to make a statement. Not to me though, I'm on holiday. Remember?'

'So it's a bit of a wasted journey. I was going to tell you – '

'Not a wasted journey – don't say that!'

'I – I kept thinking about the girl – all day yesterday… well, quite a few times yesterday… You know, her calling there and perhaps not having the money and then -'

'How much does a single room cost there now?'

‘I’m not sure. And your acting again! You know perfectly well I booked a double don’t you? A double for two nights. You asked O’Kane – you nosey bloody parker!’

For several seconds Morse seemed to look across the room at her with a steady intensity. 'You've got beautifully elegant legs,' he said simply; but she sensed that her answer may have caused a minor hurt. And suddenly, irrationally, she wanted him to come across the room to her, and take her hand. But he didn't.

Coffee?' he asked briskly. 'I've only got instant, I'm afraid.'

‘Some people prefer instant.'

'Do you?'

‘No.'

‘I don't suppose I can, er, pour you a glass of wine?'

‘What on earth makes you suppose that?'

'Quite good,' she commented, a minute or so later.

‘Not bad, is it? You need a lot of it though. No good in small quantities.'

She smiled attractively. 'I see you've finished the crossword.'

‘Yes. It's always easy on a Monday, did you know that? They act on the assumption that everybody's a bit bleary-brained on i Monday morning.'

‘A lot of people take The Times just for the crossword.'

‘Yep’

'And the Letters, of course.'

Morse watched her carefully. 'And the Letters,' he repeated slowly.

Claire unfolded her own copy of The Times, 13 July, and read aloud from a front-page article:


Clues to missing student

Both The Times offices and the Thames Valley Police are each still receiving about a dozen letters a day (as well as many phone calls) in response to the request for information concerning the disappearance a year ago of Karin Eriksson, the Swedish student who is thought to be the subject of the anonymous verses received by the police and printed in these columns (July 3). Chief Superintendent Strange of Thames Valley CID himself believes that the ingenious suggestions received in one of the latest communications (see Letters, page 15) is the most interesting and potentially the most significant hitherto received.


'You must have read that?'

'Yes. The trouble is, just like Mr and Mrs O'Kane said, you can't follow up everything. Not even a tenth of the things come in. Fortunately a lot of 'em are such crack-pot…' He picked up his own copy and turned to page 15, and sat looking (again) at the 'ingenious suggestions'.

'Clever – clever analysis,' he remarked.

'Obviously a very clever fellow – the one who wrote that.'

'Pardon?' said Morse.

'The fellow who wrote that letter.'

Morse read the name aloud: 'Mr Lionel Regis? Don't know him myself.'

'Perhaps nobody does.'

'Pardon?'

'See the address?'

Morse looked down again, and shook his head. 'Don't know Salisbury very well myself.'

'It's my address!'

'Really? So – are you saying you wrote this?'

'Stop it!' she almost shrieked. 'You wrote it! You saw my address in the visitors' book at Lyme Regis, and you needed an address – for this letter, otherwise your – your "ingenious suggestions" wouldn’t be accepted. Am I right?'

Morse said nothing.

'You did write it, didn't you? Please tell me!'

‘Yes.'

‘Why? Why? Why go to all this silly palaver?'

‘I just – well, I just picked someone from the top of my mind, that’s all. And you – you were there, Claire. Right at the top.'

He'd spoken simply, and his eyes lifted from her legs to her face; and all the frustration, all the infuriation, suddenly drained away from her, and the tautness in her shoulders was wonderfully relaxed as she leaned back against the soft contours of the settee. For a long time neither of them spoke. Then Claire sat forward, emptied her glass, and got to her feet.

‘Have you got to go?' asked Morse quietly.

‘Fairly soon.'

‘I’ve got another bottle.'

‘Only if you promise to be nice to me.'

‘If I tell you what lovely legs you've got again?'

And if you put the record on again.'

‘CD actually. Bruckner Eight.'

Is that what it was? Not all that far off, was I?

'Very close, really,' said Morse. Then virtually to himself: for a minute or two, very close indeed.


It was halfway through the second movement and three-quarters of the way through the second bottle that the front doorbell rang.

‘I can’t see you for the minute, I'm afraid, sir.'

Strange sniffed, his small eyes suspicious.

‘Really? I'm a little bit surprised about that, Morse. In fact I'm suprisedyou can't see two of me!'

chapter twenty-two

In a Definition-and-Letter-Mixture puzzle, each clue consists of a sentence which contains a definition of the answer and a mixture of the letters

(Don Manley, Chambers Crossword Manual]


there were just the two of them in Strange's office the following morning, Tuesday, 14 July.

It had surprised Strange not a little to hear of Morse's quite unequivocal refusal to postpone a few days of his furlough and return immediately to HQ to take official charge of the case especially in view of the latest letter – surely the break they'd all been hoping for. On the other hand there were more things in life than a blonde damozel who might or might not have been murdrered a year ago. This bloody 'joy' (huh!)-riding, for a start – now hitting the national news and the newspaper headlines. It served, though, to put things into perspective a bit – like the letter he himself had received in the post ('Strictly Personal') that very morning:


To Chief Superintendent Strange, Kidlington Police HQ

Dear Sir,

It is naturally proper that our excellent whodunnit writers should pretend that the average criminal in the UK can boast the capacity for quite exceptional ingenuity in the commission of crime. But those of us who (like you) have given our lives to the detection of such crime should at this present juncture be reminding everyone that the vast majority of criminals are not (fortunately!) blessed with the sort of alpha-plus mentality that is commonly assumed.

Obviously if any criminal is brought to book as a result of the correspondence etc. being conducted in sections of the national press, we shall all be most grateful. But I am myself most doubtful about such an outcome, and indeed in a wider sense I am very much concerned about the precedent involved. We have all heard of trial by TV, and we now seem to be heading for investigation by correspondence column. This is patently absurd. As I read things, the present business is pretty certainly a hoax in any case, with its perpetrator enjoying himself (or I suppose herself?) most hugely as various correspondents vie with one another in scaling ever steeper and steeper peaks of interpretive ingenuity. If the thing is not a hoax, I must urge that all investigation into the matter be communicated in the first instance to the appropriate police personnel, and most certainly not to radio, TV, or newspapers, so that the case may be solved through the official channels of criminal investigation.


Yours sincerely,

Peter Armitage

(former Assistant Commissioner, New Scotland Yard)

PS I need hardly add, I feel sure, that this letter is not for publication in any way.


But this must almost certainly have been written before its author had seen the latest communiqué from the most intrepid mountaineer so far: the writer of the quite extraordinary letter – which had appeared in the correspondence columns of The Times the previous morning, Strange now turned to Lewis. 'You realize it's the break, don't you’

Lewis, like every other police officer at HQ, had read the letter; and yes, he too thought it was the break. How else? But he couldn’t understand why Strange had asked him – him – along this morning. He was very tired anyway, and should by rights have been a-bed. On both Saturday and Sunday nights, like most officers in the local forces, his time had been spent until almost dawn behind a riot-shield, facing volleys of bricks and insults from gangs of yobbos clapping the skidding-skills of youths in stolen cars – amongst whom (had Lewis known it) was a seventeen-year-old schoolboy who was later to provide the key to the Swedish Maiden mystery.

`'Lewis! You're listening, aren't you?'

'Sorry, sir?'

'You do remember Morse belly-aching about transferring the search from Blenheim to Wytham?'

'Yes, sir. But he wasn't on the case more than a day or so.'

'I know that,' snapped Strange. 'But he must have had some reason, surely?'

'I've never quite been able to follow some of his reasons.'

'Do you know how much some of these bloody searches cost?

'No, sir.'

Nor perhaps did Strange himself, for he immediately changed tack: 'Do you think Morse was right?'

'I dunno, sir. I mean, I think he's a great man, but he sometimes gets things awfully wrong, doesn't he?'

'And he more often gets things bloody right' said Strange with vehemence.

It was an odd reversal of roles, and Lewis hastened to put the record straight. 'I think myself, sir, that-'

'I don't give a sod what you think, Sergeant! If I want to search Wytham Woods I'll bloody well search 'em till a year next Friday if I – If I think it's worth the candle. All right?'

Lewis nodded wordlessly across the table, watching the rising florid exasperation in the Super's face.

'I'm not sure where I come into all this – ' he began.

'Well, I'll tell you! There's only one thing you can do and I can't, Sergeant, and that's to get the morose old bugger back to work here – smartish. I'm under all sorts of bloody pressure…'

'But he's on holiday, sir.'

'I know he's on bloody holiday. I saw him yesterday, drinkin shampers and listening to Schubert – with some tart or other.'

'Sure it was champagne, sir?'

But quietly now, rather movingly, Strange was making his plea 'Christ knows why, Lewis, but he'll always put himself out a for you. Did you realize that?'


He rang from Morse's own (empty) office.

'Me, sir. Lewis.'

'I'm on holiday.'

'Super's just had a word with me-'

'Friday – that's what I told him.'

'You've seen the letter about Wytham, sir?'

'Unlike you and your philistine cronies, Lewis, my daily reading includes the royal circulars in The Times, the editorials – '

What do I tell the Super, sir? He wants us – you and me – to take over straightaway.'

‘Tell him I'll be in touch – tomorrow.'

'Tell him you'll ring, you mean?'

'No. Tell him I'll be back on duty tomorrow morning. Tell him be in my office any time after seven a.m.'

'He won't be awake then, sir.'

'Don't be too hard on him, Lewis. He's getting old – and I think he's got high blood pressure.'

As he put down the phone, with supreme contentment, Lewis knew that Strange had been right – about Morse and himself; realized that in the case of the Swedish Maiden, the pair of them were in business again – w.e.f. the following morning.


In his office, Strange picked up the cutting from The Times and read the letter yet again. Quite extraordinary!


From Mr Lionel Regis

Sir, Like most of your other correspondents I must assume that the 'Swedish Maiden' verses were composed by the person responsible for the murder of that unfortunate young lady. It is of course possible they were sent as a hoax, but such is not my view. In my opinion it is far more probable that the writer is exasperated by the inability of the police to come anywhere near the discovery of a body, let alone the arrest of a murderer. The verses, as I read them, are a cry from the murderer – not the victim – a cry for some discovery, some absolution, some relief from sleepless, haunted nights. But I would not have written to you, sir, merely to air such vague and dubious generalities. I write because I am a setter of crossword puzzles, and when I first studied the verses I had just completed a puzzle in which the answer to every clue was indicated by a definition of the word to be entered, and also by a sequenced anagram of the same word. It was with considerable interest therefore – and a good measure of incredulity – that I gradually spotted the fact that the word wytham crops up, in anagrammatized form, in each of the five stanzas. Thus: thaw my (stanza 1); [stre]AM why T[ell’st] (stanza 2); what my (stanza 3); [s]aw thym[e] (stanza 4); and [no]w thy MA[iden] (stanza 5).

The occurrence of five such instances is surely way beyond the bounds of coincidence. (I have consulted my mathematical friends on this matter.) 'Wytham', I learn (I am not an Oxford man), is the name of some woods situated to the west of Oxford. If the verse tells us anything then, it is surely that the body sought is to be found in Wytham Woods, and it is my humble suggestion that any further searches undertaken should be conducted in that quarter.

Yours,

LIONEL REGIS,

16 Cathedral Mews,

Salisbury.


Like Lewis, Strange remembered exactly what Morse had on his postcard: 'I reckon I know what the poem means!', and pushed the newspaper aside, and looked out across the car park.

'Lionel Regis, my arse!' he said quietly to himself.

chapter twenty-three

On another occasion he was considering how best to welcome the postman, for he brought news from a world outside ourselves. I and he agreed to stand behind the front door at the time of his arrival and to ask him certain questions. On that day, however, the postman did not come

(Peter Champkin, The Sleeping Life of Aspern Williams]


Wednesday, 15 July, was never going to be a particularly memorable day. No fire-faced prophet was to bring news of the Message or the name of the One True God. Just a fairly ordinary transitional sort of day in which events appeared discrete and only semi-sequential; when some of the protagonists in the Swedish Maiden case were moved to their new positions on the chessboard, but before the game was yet begun.

At a slightly frosty meeting held in the Assistant Chief Constable’s office at 10.30 a.m., the Swedish Maiden case was reviewed in considerable detail by the ACC himself, Chief Superintendent Strange and Detective Chief Inspectors Johnson and Morse. General agreement was reached (only one dissident voice) that perhaps there was little now to be gained from any prolongation of the extensive and expensive search-programme on the Blenheim Palace Estate. The decision was reported too, emanating from ‘Higher authority', that Morse was now i/c and that Johnson would therefore be enabled to take his midsummer furlough as scheduled, official verbiage would fool no one, of course – but it was possibly better than nothing at all.

Amongst the items reviewed was yet another letter, printed that morning in The Times:


From Mr John C. Chavasse

Sir, The Wood (singular not plural please) at Wytham is a place most familiar to me and I suspect to almost all generations of young men who have taken their degrees at Oxford University. Well do I remember the summer weekends in the late 40’s when together with many of my fellow undergraduates I cycled up through Lower Wolvercote to Wytham.

In lines 14 and 15 of the (now notorious!) verses, we find 'A creature white' (sic) Trapped in a gin' (sic), 'Panting like a hunted deer' (sic). Now if this is not a cryptic reference to a gin-and-whatnot in that splendid old hostelry in Wytham, the White Hart – then I'm a Dutchman, sir! But I am convinced (as an Englishman) that such a reference can only serve to corroborate the brilliant analysis of the verses made by Mr Lionel Regis (Letters, July 13).


Yours faithfully,

JOHN C. CHAVASSE,

21 Hayward Road,

Bishop Auckland.


Around the table, 'Mr Lionel Regis' looked slightly sheepish but not for long, and now it was all an open secret anyway. He realized that there would be little he could do for a day or so – except to re-read all the material that had accumulated from the earlier enquiries; to sit tight; to get Lewis cracking on the admin and perhaps to try to think a bit more clearly about his own odd/-irrational conviction that the young student's body would be found – and found in Wytham Wood(s). There was that little bit of new evidence, too – the call from the O'Kanes. For if their memories! served them to any degree aright, then Karin Eriksson had some point gone down the Banbury Road from the roundabout; was the testimony of the man who had been waiting for a bus then that Sunday noon-time which should have been given credence not that of the man who had driven along Sunderland Avenue.

Such and similar thoughts Morse shared with Sergeant in the early afternoon. Already arrangements were well in hand for the availability of about twenty further members of various local forces to supplement the thirty due to be switched immediately from Blenheim. One annoying little hold-up, though, head forester at Wytham, Mr David Michaels, was unfortunately away that day at a National Trust conference in Durham. But he was expected home later that night, his wife said, and would almost certainly be available the following morning.

Things were moving, that afternoon. But slowly. And Morse was feeling restless and impatient. He returned home at 4 p.m., and r-egan typing a list of gramophone records.

Before leaving him the previous Monday, a quarter of an hour after Strange's inopportune interruption, Claire Osborne had asked him to send her his eight Desert Island Discs and the versions he possessed of the Mozart Requiem, It was high time she started to improve her mind a bit, she'd said; and if Morse would promise to try to help her…? So Morse had promised, and reiterated his promise as he'd kissed her briefly, sweetly, fully on the lips, at her departure.

'You do know my address, I think?' she'd shouted from the gate. Morse was still not quite sure of numbers seven and eight as he sat and slowly typed his list that afternoon.


A quarter of an hour or so before Morse had begun his labour of love, Philip Daley swaggered loutishly out of his class-room in the Cherwell School, just along the Marston Ferry Road in North Oxford. Only two more days to go! Roll on! School would be finishing on the 17th and he couldn't wait to get shot of it. Shot of it for good and all! His dad (his dad's own words) didn't give a fuckin' toss, though his mum (as he knew very well) would have been glad if he could have settled down to schoolwork and stayed on in the sixth form and maybe landed up with a decent job and all that bullshit. But other thoughts were uppermost in his bitterly discontented mind as he walked up the Banbury Road that afternoon. At lunch-time he'd asked one of the girls from his class, the one with the blouseful, whether she'd go with him to the end-of-term disco; and she'd said he must be bloody jokin' and anyway she’d already got a feller, 'adn't she? Soddin' cunt! As he walked up to the shops he crashed his fist against some ancient wooden fencing there: fuck it, fuck it, fuck it! Just wait till Friday, though. He’d show the fuckin' lot of 'em.


It was at 7.15 p.m., twelve hours after reaching HQ earlier that day, that Lewis sat down at his home in Headington to his beloved eggs and chips.


*


Blast him! thought Claire, as she turned first to one side and the: the other in her bed that night. She could not understand at aL why he was monopolizing her thoughts – but he was. And blast that other copper – that fat slob of a man who'd stood there talking to him on the doorstep for almost a quarter of an hour. She'd have had to leave very soon anyway, she realized that. But it had meant there had been no time to develop that little passage of intimacy between them… and now, and again, and again, he was passing through her mind. Bloody nuisance, it all was! Only temporary, she trusted – this inability to sleep, this inability to thrust him from her thoughts. She just hoped she'd get a letter from him in the next post, that's all. He said he'd write; he'd promised; and she'd been looking out eagerly for the postman.

On that day, however, the postman did not come.

chapter twenty-four

The Grantor leaves the guardianship of the Woodlands to the kindly sympathy of the University… The University will take all reasonable steps to preserve and maintain the woodlands and will use them for the instruction of suitable students and will provide facilities for research

(Extract from the deed under which Wytham Wood was acquired by the University of Oxford on 4 August 1942 as a gift from Col. ffennell)


many Oxonians know 'Wytham' as the village on the way to the wood. But Morse knew the spot as the village, situated on the edge of the wood, which housed the White Hart Inn; and he pointed lovingly to the hostelry the next morning as Lewis drove the pair of them to their meeting with the head forester.

'Did you know,' asked Morse (consulting his leaflet) 'that in the parish of Wytham, a large part of it covered with woods, the rround rises from the banks of the Thames – or "Isis" – to a height of 539 feet at Wytham Hill, the central point of the ancient parish?'

'No, sir,' replied Lewis, turning right just after the pub into a stretch of progressively narrowing roadway that was very soon marked by the sign 'Private Property: University of Oxford'.

'You don't sound very interested -'

'Look!' shouted Lewis. 'See that?'

'No!' In his youth Morse had almost invariably been the boy in:he group who missed out; whilst his schoolmates were perpetually-spotting birds' eggs, the blue flash of kingfishers, or gingery foxes momentarily motionless at the edge of cornfields, the young Morse had seldom seen anything; the old Morse had seen nothing now.

'What exactly was the cause of all the excitement, Lewis?'

'Deer, sir. Roe-deer, I think. Two of them, just behind – '

'Are they different from normal deer?'

'I don't reckon you're going to be too much help in this neck of the woods, sir.'

Morse made no comment on such a nicely turned phrase, Lewis drove half a mile or so further, with an area of fairly dense woodland on his left, until he reached a semi-circular parking lot also on his left. 'Cars must be left at one of the two car parks shown on the plan', the map said; and in any case a locked barrier across the road effectively blocked further progress to motor vehicles. Lewis pulled the police car in beside an ancient, rusting Ford.

'Good to see some people care, sir,' ventured Lewis, pointing to an RSPB sticker on one side window and a larger 'Save the Whale’ plea on the other.

'Probably here for a snog under the sycamores,' Morse replied cheerfully.

A low, stone-built cottage stood thirty yards or so back on the further side of the track. 'That must be where Mr Michaels lives, sir. Nice view – looking right across there to Eynsham.'

'C'mon,' said Morse.

It was just past the barrier, which they negotiated via a kissing gate, set in its V-shaped frame, that the two detectives came, on their left, to a large clearing, some 100 yards square, with fir saplings planted around the fenced perimeter, in which was set, whole complex of sheds and barns, built in horizontally slatted wood, with piles of spruce- and fir-logs stacked nearby, and with several tractors and pieces of tree-felling machinery standing beside or beneath the open-fronted barns.

From the furthest shed a figure walked down the slope to great them – a man of about fifty or so, blue-eyed, closely bearded, little short of six foot – introducing himself as David Michaels, the head forester. They shook hands with the man, Morse being careful to keep slightly behind Lewis as a black and white dog, bounding energetically after his master, sought to introduce himself too.

In the forester's hut, Michaels briefly described the lay-out the woods (plural!), referring repeatedly to the four Ordnance Survey maps on the inner wall, themselves pinned together in large oblong to give a synoptic view of the whole area under forester's charge. There was a University Committee, the policemen learnt, administering Wytham Woods, to whom he (Michael was personally responsible, with a University Land Agent acting as Executive Officer; and it was to the latter that the police would need to apply formally. Permits to walk in the woods (this in answer to Lewis) were issued, on request, to any resident teachers or administrators in the University, and of course to any other citizen, Town or Gown, who was able to provide adequate cause, and no criminal impediment, for wishing to visit the area.

Morse himself became more interested when Michaels moved closer to the maps and expanded on the woods' main attractions, his right forefinger tracing its way through what (to Morse) was ~- wonderfully attractive-sounding catalogue: Duck Pond; The Follies; Bowling Alley; Cowleaze Copse; Froghole Cottage; Hatch-, tit Lane; Marley Wood; Pasticks; Singing Way; Sparrow Lane… almost like the music of the woods and birds themselves.

But as he watched and listened, Morse's heart was sinking -lightly lower. The woodlands were vast; and Michaels himself, now in his fifteenth year there, admitted that there were several areas where he had never – probably would never – set foot; parts known only to the badgers and the foxes and the deer and the families of woodpeckers. Yet somehow the mention of the woodpeckers appeared to restore Morse's confidence, and he gratefully accepted the forester's offer of a guided tour.


Lewis sat on the floor in the back of the rugged, powerful, ineffably uncomfortable and bouncy Land-rover, with Bobbie, the only dog allowed in the woods. Morse sat in the front with Michaels, who spent the next ninety minutes driving across the tracks and rides and narrow paths which linked the names of his earlier litany.

For a while Morse toyed with the idea of bringing in the military perhaps – a couple of thousand men from local units, under the command of some finicky brigadier sitting in Caesar's tent and ticking off the square yards one by one. Then he put his thoughts into words:

‘You know I'm beginning to think it'd take an army a couple c months to cover all this.'

"Oh, I don't know,' replied Michaels. Surprisingly?

'No?'

Patiently the forester explained how during the summer months there were dozens of devotees who regularly checked the numbers of eggs and weights of fledglings in the hundreds of bird-boxes there; who laid nocturnal wait to observe the doings of the badgers who clipped tags and bugging devices to fox-cubs; and so many others who throughout the year monitored the ecological pattern that Nature had imposed on Wytham Woods. Then there were the members of the public who were forever wandering around with their birdwatchers' guides and their binoculars, or looking for woodland orchids, or just enjoying the peace and beauty of it all…

Morse was nodding automatically through much of the recital and he fully took the point that Michaels was making; he'd guessed as much anyway, but things were clearer in his mind now.

'You mean there's a good deal of ground we can probably forget…'

'That's it. And a good deal you can't.'

'So we need to establish some priorities,' Lewis chirped up from the rear.

'That was the, er, general conclusion that Mr Michaels myself had just reached, Lewis.'

'Eighteen months ago, all this was, you say?' asked Michaels.

'Twelve, actually.'

'So if… if she'd been… just left there, you know, without trying to hide her or anything…?'

'Oh yes, there probably wouldn't be all that much of her still around – you'll know that better than most. But it's more often “found in a shallow grave", isn't it? That's the jargon. Not surprising though that murderers should want to cover up their crimes: they often dig a bit and put twigs and leaves and things over.. over the top. But you need a spade for that. In the summer you'd need a sharp spade – and plenty of time, and a bit of daylight, and a bit of nerve… They tell me it takes a couple of sextons abouij eight hours to dig a decent grave.'

Perhaps it was the crudity and cruelty of the scene just conjured up which cast a gloom upon them now – and they spoke no more of the murder for the rest of the bumpy journey. Just about birds. Morse asked about woodpeckers, and Michaels knew a great deal about woodpeckers: the green, the great-spotted, the lesser-spotted, – all had their habitats within the woods and all were of especial interest to birdwatchers.

'You interested in woodpeckers, Inspector?'

'Splendid birds,' muttered Morse vaguely.


Back in the hut, Morse explained the limitation of his likely resources and the obvious need therefore for some selective approach. 'What I'd really like to know is this – please don't feel offended, Mr Michaels. But if you wanted to hide a body in these woods, which places would come to mind first?'

So Michaels told them; and Lewis made his notes, feeling a little uneasy about his spelling of some of the names which Morse had I earlier found so memorable.


When twenty minutes later the trio walked down towards the police car, they heard a sharp crack of a gun.

'One of the farmers,' explained Michaels. 'Taking a pot at some pigeons, like as not.'

'I didn't see any guns in your office,' commented Lewis.

'Oh, I couldn't keep 'em there! Against the law, that is, Sergeant.'

'But I suppose you must have one – in your job, sir?'

'Oh yeah! Couldn't do without. In a steel cabinet in there' – Michaels pointed to the low cottage – 'well and truly locked away, I believe me! In fact, I'm off to do a bit of shooting now.'

'Off to preserve and maintain some of the local species, Mr L Michaels?'

But the degree of sarcasm behind Morse's question was clearly ill-appreciated by the bearded woodsman, who replied with a decided coolness: 'Sometimes – quite often – it's essential to keep some sort of stability within any eco-system, and if you like I'll tell you a few things about the multiplication-factor of one or two of the randier species of deer. If I had my way, Inspector, I'd issue them all with free condoms from that white machine in the gents at the White Hart. But they wouldn't take much notice of me, would they?' For a few seconds Michaels' eyes glinted with the repressed anger of a professional man being told his job by some ignorant amateur.

Morse jumped in quickly. 'Sorry! I really am. It's just that as Li get older I can't really think of killing things. Few years ago have trodden on a spider without a thought, but these days -I don't know why – I almost feel guilty about swatting a daddy-long-legs.'

'You wouldn't find me killing a daddy-long-legs!' said Michaels’ his eyes still hard as they stared unblinkingly back at Morse's. Blue versus blue; and for a few seconds Morse wondered what exactly Michaels would kill… and would be killing now.

chapter twenty-five

For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together

(St Matthew, ch. 24, v. 28)


regis's (Morse's) cracking of the Swedish Maiden verses had sparked off a whole series of letters about the Great Wood at Wytham. But only one of these letters was to be published by The Times that week – the latest in a correspondence which was grip-Ding the interest of that daily's readers:


From Stephen Wallhead, RA

Sir, It was with interest that I read what must surely be the final analysts of the Swedish Maiden affair. I had not myself, of course, come within a mile of the extraordinarily subtle interpretation (Letters, July 13) in which Wytham Woods are suggested – surely more than suggested – as the likeliest resting-place of that unfortunate girl. My letter can make only one small addendum; but I trust an interesting one, since the injunction 'Find the Woodman's daughter' (1. 6 of the verses) may now possibly be of some vital significance.

An oil-on-canvas painting, The Woodman's Daughter, was worked on by John Everett Millais in 1850-1. It depicts the young son of a squire offering a handful of strawberries to the young daughter of a woodman. Millais (as always) was meticulous about his work, and the whole picture is minutely accurate in its research: for example, we know from the artist Arthur Hughes that the strawberries in the boy's hands were bought at Covent Garden in March 1851!

The background to this picture shows a woodland area with a clear perspective and a distinctive alignment of trees, and in my view it is at least a possibility that even allowing for decades of cutting-down and replantation the original site could be established. But here is the point, sir! From the diary of one of the artist's friends, Mrs Joanna Matthews, RA, we learn as follows: 'Millais is hard at work painting the background of his picture from nature in Wytt,am Wood' (my italics). Could not such a background point the place where the body is to be found? And may we not further infer that our murderer has not only an intimate knowledge of the woods themselves but also of the Pre-Raphaelite painters?


Yours faithfully,

STEPHEN WALLHEAD,

Wymondham Cottage,

Helpston,

Lines.


Early on the morning of Friday, 17 July, this letter had seen by Strange, Morse, Lewis, and most of the personnel on at Thames Valley HQ. But not by everyone.


'Just tell me exactly what the 'ell we're supposed to be looking for!' Constable Jimmy Watt complained to his colleague, Constable Sid Berridge, as the two of them halted for a while, side by side in the riding between Marley Wood on their right and Pasticks -their left.

Seventeen of them, there were, working reasonably scientifically through this particular stretch. Watt had been seconded only that day, taken (quite willingly) off traffic duties, while Berridge had already spent the earlier part of his week in Blenheim. And in truth, their present duties were unwelcome to neither of them, for the temperature was already warm that morning, the sky an almost cloudless Cambridge blue.

'We're looking for a condom, Jimmy – preferably one with ahandful of fingerprints on it-'

'Wha'? Bloody year ago?'

'-so's Morse'll be able to discover which 'and he pulled it with.'

'We used to call 'em "french letters" in my day,' said with a hint of nostalgia in his voice.

'Yeah. Things change, though.'

'Yeah! Some of us missed out a bit, don't you reckon? The way some of these young 'uns…'

'Yeah.'

'Who'd you wanna go in there with, though?' Watt pointed it his left, to the dense patch of forestation nearby.

Berridge rose to the challenge: 'Brigitte Bardot? Liz Taylor Joan Collins? Madonna? Me next-door neighbour's wife-'

'In there, though?'

Berridge decided to scale down his previous decision: 'Perhaps not… Perhaps only the woman next-door.'


It had been an hour earlier, at 8.30 a.m., that a member of the Wytham Trust had addressed their party, and explained why Pasticks could be a reasonably safe each-way bet for a site where a body may have lain undisturbed for a longish time. Why? Well, most people would think that the cutting-down of trees and the selling of the wood to wholesale dealers was invariably going to a profitable undertaking. Not so! The expense of hiring men to saw down trees, to trim the fallen timber, then to transport and treat it, and finally to sell it to furniture dealers, or fencing designers or the rest – such expense would always be considerable. And the Trust had long since agreed that it could do little better than see the whole business of thinning the woods, etc., as, well, as tit-for-tat: they would pay nothing for the cutting-back of the various copses and spinneys; and in turn the wood-cutters and carters would receive the proceeds from the tens of thousands of assorted trunks that were annually removed from Wytham Woods. But occasionally there was a bit of a hiccup in the system – when, for example, a few of the areas of re-forestation were not quite ready for such biennial decimation; when the thinning of a particular area ought, for whatever reason, to be delayed for a couple of years.

Such a situation had in fact arisen the year before in the very latest plantation (1958-62) – a mixed hardwood affair of Norwegian spruce, oak, beech, red cedar – in the area called Pasticks. And that wouldn't be a bad place to leave a body! The trees there allowed in very little light; and in the middle of it all were three four old spinneys that had existed even before the Enclosure

Dense places. Double-dense.

For Berridge and Watt the task certainly looked uninviting. From any point some two or three yards within the wood it seemed almost as if a curtain had been drawn in front of them, cutting them off from any further investigation, with the leafless horizontal and perpendicular branches of the trees there forming a sort of blurring criss-cross mesh of brown across their vision.


It was a good many hours later, at 3.55 p.m., that the deeply and progressively more pessimistic pair of constables heard a shout of triumph from somewhere to their left. A body had been found; and very soon each wing of the search-party had enfolded the scene like the wings of a mother-bird protecting her young.

The foxes had already been there – often enough by the look of -;-.d the badgers, and the birds of the air… for the bones of what appeared to be a single human being had been dragged apart there – in some cases seemingly removed – from their familiar configuration. Yet not so far removed as to render the pristine pattern unrecognizable. A femur still lay in its approximately normal relationship to its pelvis; a few ribs still in roughly parallel formation above it; a shoulder bone in a vaguely formal relationship with the vertebrae; and the vertebrae themselves about two or three feet separated from a comparatively small and bad savaged skull; not far from which was a faded, tasselled neck-scarf still boasting its original colours – the twin proud colours of the Swedish national flag.

chapter twenty-six

Science is spectrum analysis: art is photosynthesis

(Karl Kraus, Half Truths One and a Half Truths)

Word quickly spread and the verdict in all quarters was the same: here he was – only a couple of days into the investigation, only day into the search, and eureka! Clever bugger, Morse! A bit lucky, perhaps. Could have been another week before they'd found her if they'd started at the other, the western, side of the woods.


‘Touch nothing!', 'Keep your distance!' had been the orders of the day and it had been around an unmolested, untrodden area of four or five square yards of woodland, carpeted with a thick, darkish-brown pile, that a rather irregular cordon had been drawn.

Morse had arrived on the scene within twenty minutes, and now stood there silently, not venturing beyond the waist-high red and e tape, his eyes recording the evidence before him. He saw the dislocated pattern of the bones; the scattered, residual clothes; and especially he saw the tasselled scarf beside the horridly damaged head. It reminded him of something from a DIY manual, in which various arrows point from the outer-lying parts towards a putative centre giving instruction for the assemblage of the purchase: 'Bring this part into there; attach this part to that; connect here; it will fit, all of it, if only you take your time, read the instructions carefully, know that you are going wrong if more than gentle force is required for the final assembly.' Occasionally Morse moved his weight slightly on the packed twigs and spindles beneath his feet, but still he said nothing. And the others standing there were silent too, like awkward mourners at a funeral.

Lewis, busily negotiating that afternoon with the University authorities, would not be with him. But neither of them, neither Morse nor Lewis, would be of much use at this stage. It was Max who was going to be the important personage, and Max had already been informed, was already on his way; Max who ten minutes later made his lumbering progress across the crackling bracken, and stood wheezing heavily beside Morse.

Silently, just as Morse had done earlier, the hump-backed surgeon surveyed the sorry sight which lay at the foot of an evergreen of some sort, the lower branches leafless, brittle, dead. If an attempt had been made to conceal the body, it was not now apparent; and disturbingly (as others had already noticed) a few of the major bones, including the whole of the lower left arm, had been carried away somewhere – to some den or earth or sett. From the look of it the clothes were slightly better preserved than the body: several strips of stained white, and substantial remnants of what looked like blue jeans, perhaps; and some yellowish, straw coloured hair still gruesomely attached to the skull.

But Morse hadn't kept his eyes long on the skull…

'This what you've been looking for, Morse?'

'Yes. I think that's her.'

'Her?'

'I'm certain it's a "her",' said Morse with finality.

'Do you know the last words my old mother said? She'd been baking earlier in the day – the day she died. Then she was taken to her bed, but she still wanted to see how the fruit cake was doing. And it was flat. The bloody thing forgot to rise, Morse! And she said, "You know, life's full of uncertainties". Then she closed her eyes – and died.'

'It's the girl,' repeated Morse simply.

Max made no further comment, staring guardedly on as Morse nodded to the scenes-of-crime officer and the police photograph both of whom had been standing waiting for some while. If there was anything of any import there that Morse should have seen, he was not aware of it; but he still felt nervous about the patch of ground and instructed both to keep as far as possible from the grisly finds.

After a few minutes of photographic flashing, Max stepped rather gingerly into the area, hooked a pair of ancient spectacles around his large ears, looked down at the scattered skeleton, and picked up a bone.

'Femur, Morse. Femur, femoris, neuter. The thigh bone.'

'So?'

Max placed the bone down carefully and turned to Morse 'Look, old friend, I don't very often ask you for any forensic guidedance, but just for once give me a little advice, will you? What the hell am I supposed to do with this bloody lot?'

Morse shook his head. 'I'm not sure.' But suddenly his eyes glowed as if some inner current had been activated. 'I knew she'd be here, Max’ he said slowly. 'Somehow I knew it! And I'm going find out who murdered our Swedish Maiden. And I want you to help me, Max! Help me paint a picture of what went on in this place.’

The almost Messianic fierceness with which Morse had enunciated these words would have affected most people. But not Max.

‘You're the artist, dear boy: I'm just a humble scientist.'

‘How long will you be?'

‘Looking at the bones, you mean?'

‘And the clothes… and the underclothes.'

‘Ah, yes! I remember. You've always had an interest in underclothes' He consulted his watch. 'Opening time at six? I'll see you the upstairs bar at the White Hart-'

‘No. I've got a meeting back at HQ at half-past six.'

‘Really? I thought you were in charge of this case, Morse.'


There were the four of them again: the ACC, Strange, Johnson, Morse; and for the latter, naturally, congratulations were generous. For Johnson, however, there were very mixed feelings: Morse had come up with the girl's body in a couple of days, whilst had come up with nothing in a twelve-month. That was the simple truth of the matter. It was good for the case, of course; but much good for his own morale or his rating amongst his colleagues, or for his wife… or indeed for his newly acquired mother-in-law. But when, an hour later, the meeting broke up, he shook Morse's hand and wished him well, and almost meant it.

After the ACC and Johnson had left, Strange in turn wished Morse continued success, observing that now Morse had come up with a body, all that remained for him was to come up with a murderer, so that he, Strange, would be able to get a nice little report and send it to the DPP. No problems! Then they'd kick the smart-alec defence lawyers up the arse, and stick the bugger who did it in the nick for the rest of his natural. Put a rope round his bloody neck, too, if Strange had his way.

‘Just as well we didn't hang the Birmingham Six,' said Morse quietly.

chapter twenty-seven

It was a maxim with Foxey – our revered father, gentlemen – 'Always suspect everybody'

(Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop)


on the following morning, Saturday, 18 July, Morse appeared as Lewis saw things, somewhat distanced, somewhat reserved. It was customary for the chief to start, if not always to continue the case with a surfeit of confidence and exuberance, and doubtless that would soon be the way of things again; just not for moment.

'Not really all that much to go on there, sir.' Lewis nodded the two red box-files on the table.

'I've done my homework too, you know.'

'Where do we start?'

'Difficult. We ought really to wait till we hear from Max before we do too much.'

'All this DNA stuff, you mean?'

'DNA? He doesn't know what it stands for!'

'When's the report due?'

'Today some time, he said.'

'What's that mean?'

'Tonight?' Morse shrugged. But he suddenly sat forward in the black leather chair, appeared to sharpen up, took out his silver Parker pen, and began making a few minimal notes as he spoke:

'There are several people we've got to see pretty soon.'

'Who are you thinking of, sir?'

'Of whom am I thinking? Well, number one, there's the fellow who found the rucksack – Daley. We'll go through his statement with a nit-comb. I never did like the sound of him.'

'You never met him, did you?'

'Number two. There's the YWCA woman who spoke with Karin before she left for Oxford. She sounds nice.'

'But you never-'

'I spoke to her on the phone, Lewis, if you must know. She sounds nice – that's all I said. You don't mind, do you?'

Lewis smiled to himself. It was good to be back in harness.

'Number three,' resumed Morse. 'We must have a long session I with that Wytham fellow – the Lone Ranger, or whatever he's called.'

'Head forester, sir.'

'Exactly.'

'Did you like him?'

Morse turned over the palm of his right hand, and considered us inky fingers. 'He virtually told us where she was, didn't he? Told us where he would hide a body if he had to…'

‘Not likely to have told us if he'd put it there himself though, surely? Self-incrimination, that!'

Morse said nothing.

‘The witnesses who said they saw her, sir – any good going back over them?'

‘Doubt it, but… Anyway, let's put 'em down, number four. And number five, the parents-'

Just the mother, sir.'

‘- in Uppsala -'

‘Stockholm, now.'

‘Yes. We shall have to see her again.'

‘We shall have to tell her first, surely.'

‘If it is Karin, you mean?'

'You don't really have much doubt, do you, sir?'

‘No!'

‘I suppose you'll be going there yourself? To Stockholm, I mean.'

Morse looked up, apparently with some surprise. 'Or you, Lewis.’

‘Very kind of you, sir.'

‘Not kind at all. Just that I'm scared stiff of flying – you know that' But the voice was a little sad again.

‘You all right?' Lewis asked quietly

‘Will be soon – don't worry! Now, I just wonder whether Mr George Daley's still working on the Blenheim Estate.'

‘Saturday, though. More likely to be off today.'

‘Yes… And his son – Philip, was it? – the lad who had a short-birthday present of a camera, Karin Eriksson's camera. He was still at school last year.'

'Probably still is.'

'No – not precisely so, Lewis. The state schools in Oxfordshire broke up yesterday, the seventeenth.'

'How'd you know that?'

'I rang up and found out. That's how.'

'You've been having a fair old time on the phone!' said Lewis happily, as he got to his feet – and went for the car.


As he drove out along the A44 to Begbroke, Lewis's eyes drifted briefly if incuriously to his left as Morse opened an envelope, took out a single handwritten sheet of A4 and read it; not (in fact) for the first, or even the fourth, time:


Dear Chief Inspector,

V m t f y 1 and for your interesting choice of records.

It would make a good debate in the Oxford Union – 'This house believes that openness in matters of infidelity is preferrable to deception.' But let me tell you what you want to know. I was married in '76, divorced in '82, remarried in '84, separated in '88. One child, a daughter now aged 20. Work that out, clever-clogs! As you know I consort fairly regularly with a married man from Oxford, and at less frequent intervals with others. So there! And now – Christ! -you come along and I hate you for it because you're monopolizing my thoughts just when I'd told myself I was beyond all that nonsense.

I write for two reasons. First to say I reckon I've got some idea how that young girl who monopolizes your thoughts may have come by a bit of cash. (Same way I did!) Second to say you're an arrogant sod! You write to me as if you think I'm an ignorant little schoolgirl. Well let me tell you you're not the only sensitive little flower in the whole bloody universe. You quote these poets as if you think you're connected on some direct personal line with them all. Well you're wrong. There's hundreds of extensions, just like in the office I used to work. So there!

Please write again.

Dare I send you a little of my love? C.


Morse hadn't noticed the misspelling before; and as he put the letter away he promised himself not to mention it… when he wrote back.


'I'm still not quite sure why we're interviewing Mr Daley, sir.'

'He's hiding something, that's why."

'But you can't say that-'

'Look, Lewis, if he's not hiding something, there's not much reason for us interviewing him, is there?'

Lewis, not unaccustomedly, was bewildered by such zany logic; and he let it go.

Anyway, Morse was suddenly sounding surprisingly cheerful.

chapter twenty-eight

Be it ever so humble there's no place like home for sending one slowly crackers

(Diogenes Small, Obiter Dicta)


george daley, on overtime, was planting out flowers in the Blenheim Garden Centre when he looked up and saw the two men, the shorter of them flashing a warrant card briefly in front of his face. He knew what it was all about, of course. The Oxford Mail had been taking a keen interest in the resurrected case; and it would be only a matter of time, Daley had known, before the police would be round again.

'Mr Daley? Chief Inspector Morse. And this is Sergeant Lewis

Daley nodded, prodded his splayed fingers round a marigold and got to his feet. He was a man in his mid-forties, of slim build, wearing a shabby khaki-green pork-pie hat. This he pushed back slightly, revealing a red line on his sweaty forehead.

'It's that thing I found, I suppose?'

'Those things – yes,' said Morse carefully.

'I can only tell you the same as I told 'em at the time. I made a statement and I signed it. Nothin' else as I can do.'

Morse took a folded sheet of A4 from his inside pocket, opened it out, and handed it to Daley. ‘I’d just like you to read this through and make sure it's – well, you know, see if there's anything else you can add.'

'I've told you. There's nothin' else’" Daley rubbed a hand across an unshaven cheek with the sound of sandpaper on wood.

'I'd just like you to read it through again,' said Morse simply ‘That's all.'

'I shall need me specs. They're in the shed-'

'Don't worry now! Better if you give yourself a bit of time. No rush. As I say, all I want you to do is to make sure everything's there just as you said it, nothing's been missed out. It's often the little things, you know, that make all the difference.'

'If there was anythin' else I'd've told the other inspector, wouldn't I?'

Was it Lewis's imagination, or was there a momentary glint of anxiety in the gardener's pale eyes?

'Are you in this evening, Mr Daley?' asked Morse.

'Wha' – Saturday? I usually go over the pub for a jar or two at the weekends but-'

'If I called at your house about – what, seven?'


George Daley stood motionless, his eyes narrowed and unblinking as he watched the two detectives walk away through the archway and into the visitors' car park. Then his eyes fell on the photocopied statement once more. There was just that one thing that worried him, yes. It was that bloody boy of his who'd fucked it all up. More trouble than they were worth, kids. Especially him Becomin' a real troublemaker he was, gettin' in all hours – like last night. Three bloody thirty a.m. With his mates, he'd said – after the end-of-term knees-up. He'd got a key all right, of course, but his mother could never sleep till he was in. Silly bitch!


‘Where to, sir?' queried Lewis.

'I reckon we'll just call round to see Mrs Daley.'

‘What do you make of Mr?'

'Little bit nervous.'

'Most people get a bit nervous with the police.'

'Good cause, some of 'em,' said Morse.


Lewis had earlier telephoned Margaret Daley about her husband's whereabouts, and the woman who opened the door of number 2 Blenheim Villas showed no surprise. She appeared, on first -impressions, a decided cut or two above her horticultural spouse: – neatly dressed, pleasantly spoken, well groomed – her light-brown hair professionally streaked with strands of blonde and grey.

Morse apologized for disturbing her, looked around him at the newly decorated, neatly furnished, through-lounge; offered a few nice-little-place-you-have-here' type compliments; and explained why they'd called and would be calling again – one of them, certainly – at seven o'clock that evening.

'It was you, Mrs Daley, wasn't it, who got your husband to hand the rucksack in?'

'Yes – but he'd have done it himself anyway. Later on. I know he would.'

The shelves around the living area were lined with china ornaments of all shapes and sizes; and Morse walked over to the shelf above the electric fire, and carefully picked up the figure of a small dog, examining it briefly before replacing it on its former station.

'King Charles?'

Margaret Daley nodded. 'Cavalier King Charles. We had one – till last February. Mycroft. Lovely little dog – lovely face! We all had a good cry when the vet had to put him down. Not a very healthy breed, I'm afraid.'

'People living next to us have one of those,' ventured Lewis. 'Always at the vet. Got a medical history long as your arm.'

'Thank you, Lewis. I'm sure Mrs Daley isn't over-anxious to be reminded of a family bereavement-'

'Oh, it's all right! I quite like talking about him, really. We all – Philip and George – we all loved him. In fact he was about the only thing that'd get Philip out of bed sometimes.'

But Morse's attention appeared to have drifted far from dogs as he gazed through the french windows at the far end of the room, his eyes seemingly focused at some point towards the back of the garden – a garden just over the width of the house and stretching back about fifty feet to a wire fence at the bottom, separating the property from the open fields beyond. As with the patch of garden in the front, likewise here: George Daley, it had to be assumed, reckoned he did quite enough gardening in the course of earning his daily bread at Blenheim, and carried little if anything of his horticultural expertise into the rather neglected stretch of lawn which provided the immediate view from the rear of number 2.

'I don't believe it!' said Morse. 'Isn't that Asphodelina lutea?'

Mrs Daley walked over to the window.

There!' pointed Morse. 'Those yellow things, just across the fence.’

‘Butter cups!' said Lewis.

‘You’ve. er, not got a pair of binoculars handy, Mrs Daley?'

‘No – I – we haven't, I'm afraid.'

'Mind if we have a look?' asked Morse. 'Always contradicting me, my sergeant is!'

The three of them walked out through the kitchen door, past the (open) out-house door, and on to the back lawn where the daisies and dandelions and broad-leaf plantain had been allowed a generous freedom of movement. Morse himself stepped up to the fence, looking down at the ground around him; then, cursorily, at the yellow flowers he had spotted earlier, and which he now agreed to be nothing rarer than buttercups. Mrs Daley smiled vaguely at Lewis; but Lewis was now listening to Morse's apparently aimless chatter with far greater interest.

'No compost heap?'

‘No. George isn't much bothered with the garden here, as you can see. Says he's got enough, you know…' She pointed vaguely towards Blenheim, and led the way back in.

'How do you get rid of your rubbish then?'

'Sometimes we go down to the waste disposal with it. Or you can buy those special bags from the council. We used to burn it, but a couple of years ago we upset the neighbours – you know, bits all over the washing and-'

'Probably against the bye-laws, too,' added Lewis; and for once Morse appeared to appreciate the addendum.

It was Lewis too, as they were leaving, who spotted the rifle amid the umbrellas, the walking sticks, and the warped squash racket, in a stand just behind the front door.

'Does your husband do a bit of shooting?'

'Oh that! George occasionally… yes…’

Gently, for a second time, Lewis reminded her of the law's demands: 'Ought to be under lock and key, that. Perhaps you'd remind your husband, Mrs Daley.'


Margaret Daley watched them through the front window as they walked away to their car. Just a bit of a stiff-shirt, the sergeant had been, about their legal responsibilities. Whereas the inspector – well, he'd seemed much nicer with his interest in dogs and flowers and the decoration in the lounge – her decoration. Yet during the last few minutes she'd begun to suspect her judgement a little, and she had the feeling that it would probably be Morse who would be returning that evening. Not that there was anything to worry about, really. Well, just the one thing, perhaps.


I n spite of that day being Saturday – and the first of the holidays – Mrs Julie Ireson, careers mistress at the Cherwell School, Oxford, had been quite willing to meet Lewis just after lunch; and Lewis was anxious to get the meeting over as soon as possible, for he was desperately tired and had been only too glad to accept Morse's strict directive for a long rest – certainly for the remainder of the day, and perhaps for the next day, Sunday, too – unless there occurred any dramatic development.

She was waiting in the deserted car park when Lewis arrived, and immediately took him up to her first-floor study, its walls and shelves festooned with literature on nursing, secretarial courses, apprenticeship schemes, industrial training, FE's, poly's, universities… For Lewis (whose only career advice had been his father's dictum that he could do worse than to keep his mouth mostly shut and his bowels always open), a school-based advice centre for pupils leaving school was an interesting novelty.

A buff-coloured folder containing the achievements of Philip Daley was on the table ready for him. Non-achievements rather He was now just seventeen years old, and had officially abandoned any potential advancement into further education w.e.f. 17 July -the previous day. The school was prepared to be not over-pessimistic about some minor success in the five GCSE subject; in which, the previous term, he had tried (though apparently not overhard) to satisfy his examiners: English; Technical Drawing; Geography; General Science; and Communication Studies. Over the years, however, the reports from his teachers, even in non academic subjects, had exhibited a marked lack of enthusiasm about his attitude and progress. Yet until fairly recently -appeared not to have posed any great problem to the school community: limited, clearly, in intellectual prowess; limited too in most technical and vocational skills; in general about average.

Current educational philosophy (Lewis learned) encouraged a measure of self-evaluation, and amongst other documents in folder was a sheet on which eighteen months previously, in own handwriting, Philip had filled in a questionnaire about his six main 'Leisure Interests/Pastimes', in order of preference. The list read thus:

1 Football

2 Pop music

3 Photography

4 Pets

5 Motorbikes

6 TV


'He can spell OK,' commented Lewis.

'Difficult to misspell "pets", Sergeant.'

'Yes. But – well, "photography"…'

'Probably had to look it up in the dictionary.'

'You didn't like him?' said Lewis slowly.

'No, I'm afraid I didn't. I'm glad he's gone, if you must know.' She was younger than Lewis had expected: perhaps more vulnerable too?

‘Any particular reason?'

‘Just general, really.'

‘Well, thanks very much, Mrs Ireson. If I could take the folder?'

‘Any particular reason you want to know about him?'

‘No. Just general, really,' echoed Lewis.


He slept from 6.30 that evening through until almost ten the following morning. When he finally awoke, he learned there had been a telephone message the previous evening from Morse: on no account was he to come in to HQ that Sunday; it would be a good idea though, to make sure his passport was in order.

Well, well!

chapter twenty-nine

Every roof is agreeable to the eye, until it is lifted; then we find tragedy and moaning women, and hard-eyed husbands

(Ralph Waldo Emerson, Experience)


it was two minutes to seven by the Jaguar's fascia clock when Morse pulled up in the slip-road outside number 2 Blenheim Villas. He was fairly confident of his ground now, especially after reading through the folder that Lewis had left. Certain, of course, about the electric fire in the Daleys' main lounge; almost certain about the conversion of the old coal-house into a utility room, in which, as they'd walked out to the garden, he'd glimpsed the arrangement of washing-machine and tumble-drier on newly laid red tiles; not quite so certain about the treeless back garden though, for Morse was ridiculously proud about never having been a boy scout, and his knowledge of camp-fires and cocoa-barbecues, he had to admit, was almost nil.

For once he felt relieved to be on his own as he knocked at the front door. The police as a whole were going through a tough time in public esteem: allegations of corrupt officers, planted evidence, improper procedures – such allegations had inevitably created suspicion and some hostility. And – yes, Morse knew it – he himself was on occasion tempted to overstep the procedural boundaries a little – as shortly he would be doing again. It was a bit like a darts player standing a few inches in front of the oche as he threw for the treble-twenty. And Lewis would not have brooked this; and would have told him so.

In the lounge, in a less than convivial atmosphere, the Daleys sat side by side on the settee; and Morse, from the armchair opposite, got down to business..

'You've managed to go through the statement again, Mr Daley?’

'You don't mind the wife being here?'

‘Id prefer it, really,' said Morse innocently.

'Like I said, there's nothin' as I can add.'

‘Fine.' Morse reached across and took the now rather grimy photocopy and looked through it slowly himself before lifting his eyes to George Daley.

'Let me be honest with you, sir. It's this camera business that's worrying me.'

'Wha' abou' i'?' (If the dietitian sometimes had paid overnice attention to her dental consonants, Daley himself almost invariably ignored them.)

Morse moved obliquely into the attack: 'You interested in photography yourself?'

'Me? Not much, no.'

'You, Mrs Daley?' -

She shook her head.

'Your son Philip is though?'

'Yeah, well, he's got fairly interested in it recently, hasn't he, luv?’ Daley turned to his wife, who nodded vaguely, her eyes on Morse continuously.

'Bit more than "recently", perhaps?' Morse suggested. 'He put it down on his list of hobbies at school last year – early last year – a few months before you found the camera.'

'Yeah, well, like I said, we was going to get him one anyway, for his birthday. Wasn't we, luv?'

Again, apart from a scarce-discernible nod, Margaret Daley appeared reluctant verbally to confirm such an innocent statement.

'But you've never had a camera yourself, you say.'

‘Correck!'

'How did you know the film in the camera was finished then?'

'Well, you know, it's the numbers, innit? It tells you, like, when -.: u!ve got to the finish.'

"When it reads "ten", you mean?'

"Somethin' like that.'

‘What if there are twelve exposures on the reel?'

‘Dunno.' Daley appeared not to be at all flustered by the slightly more aggressive tone of the question. 'It was probably Philip as said so.' Again he turned to his wife. 'Was his ten or twelve, luv? Do you remember?'

Morse pounced on the answer: 'So he had a camera before?'

'Yeah, well, just an el cheapo thing we bought him-'

'From Spain.' (Mrs Daley had broken her duck.)

'Would you know how to get the film out of a camera, Mr Daley?'

'Well, not unless, you know-'

'But it says here' – Morse looked down at the statement again – 'it says here that you burnt the film.'

'Yeah, well, that's right, isn't it, luv? We shoulda kept it, I know. Still, as I said – well, we all do things a bit wrong sometimes, don't we? And we said we was sorry about everything, didn't we, luv?'

Morse was beginning to realize that the last three words, with their appropriate variants, were a rhetorical refrain only, and were not intended to elicit any specific response.

'Where did you burn it?' asked Morse quietly.

'Dunno. Don't remember. Just chucked it on the fire, I suppose.' Daley gestured vaguely with his right hand.

'That's electric,' said Morse, pointing to the fireplace.

'And we got a grate for a coal-fire next door. All right?' Daley's voice was at last beginning to show signs of some exasperation.

'Did you have a fire that day?'

'How the 'ell am I supposed to remember that?'

'Do you remember, Mrs Daley?'

She shook her head. 'More than a year ago, isn't it? Could you remember that far back?'

'I've not had a coal-fire in my flat for fifteen years, Mrs Daley. So I could remember, yes.'

'Well, I'm sorry,' she said quietly, I can't.'

'Did you know that the temperature in Oxfordshire that day was seventy-four degrees Fahrenheit?' (Morse thought he'd got it vaguely correct.)

'Wha'! At ten o'clock at night?' Clearly Daley was losing his composure, and Morse took full advantage.

'Where do you keep your coal? Your coal-house has been converted to a utility-room – your wife showed-'

'If it wasn't here – all right, it wasn't here. Musta been in the garden, mustn't it?'

'What do you burn in the garden?'

'What do I burn? What do I burn? I burn bloody twigs and leaves and-'

'You haven't got any trees. And even if you had, July's a bit early for leaves.'

'Oh, for Christ's sake! Look-'

'No!' Suddenly Morse's voice was harsh and authoritative. 'You look, Mr Daley. If you do burn your rubbish out there in the garden, come and show me where!' All pretence was now dropped as Morse continued: 'And if you make up any more lies about that, I'll bring a forensic team in and have 'em cart half your lawn away!'

They sat silently, the Daleys, neither looking at the other.

'Was it you who got the film developed, Mr Daley? Or was it your son?' Morse's voice was quiet once more.

'It was Philip,' said Margaret Daley, finally, now assuming control. 'He was friendly with this boy at school whose father was a photographer and had a dark-room an' all that, and they developed ‘em there, I think.' Her voice sounded to Morse as if it had suddenly lost its veneer of comparative refinement, and he began to wonder which of the couple was potentially the bigger liar.

'You must tell me what those photographs were.' Morse made an effort to conceal the urgency of his request, but his voice betrayed the fear that all might well be lost.

'He never kept 'em as far as I know-' began Daley.

But his wife interrupted him: 'There were only six or seven out of the twelve that came out. There was some photos of birds – one was a pinkish sort of bird with a black tail-'

'Jay!' said Daley.

'-and there was two of a man, youngish man – probably her boyfriend. But the others, as I say… you know, they just didn't… come out.'

'I must have them,' said Morse simply, inexorably almost.

'He's chucked 'em out, surely,' observed Daley. 'What the 'ell would he keep 'em for?'

'I must have them,' repeated Morse.

'Christ! Don't you understand? I never even saw 'em!'

'Where is your son?'

Husband and wife looked at each other, and husband spoke: "Gone into Oxford, I should think – Sa'day night…'

'Take me to his room, will you?'

'We bloody won't!' growled Daley. 'If you wanna look round 'ere, Inspector, you just bring a search-warrant, OK?'

'I don't need one. You've got a rifle behind the front door, Mr Daley, and it's odds-on you've got a box of cartridges somewhere lying around. All I need to do to take your floorboards up if necessary is to quote to you -just quote, mind – Statutory Instrument 1991 No. 1531. Do you understand? The pair of you? That's my only legal obligation.'

But Morse had no further need for inaccurate improvisations regarding the recently enacted legislation on explosives. Margaret Daley rose to her feet and made to leave the lounge.

'You won't search Philip's room with my permission, Inspector. But if he has kept them photos I reckon I just might know…'

Morse heard her on the stairs, his heart knocking against his ribs: Please! Please! Please!

No word passed between the two men seated opposite each other as they heard the creak of floorboards in the upstairs rooms. Nor was much said when Margaret Daley returned some minutes later holding seven coloured prints which she handed to Morse – wordlessly.

‘Thank you. No others?'

She shook her head.


After Morse was gone, Margaret Daley went into the kitchen where she turned on the kettle and spooned some instant Nescafe into a mug.

'I suppose you're out boozing,' she said tonelessly, as her husband came in.

'Why the 'ell didn't you tell me about them photos?'

'Shut up!' She spat out the two words viciously and turned towards him.

'Where the 'ell did you find 'em, you-'

'Shut up! And listen, will you? If you must know, I've been looking in his room, George Daley, because if we don't soon get to know what's goin' on and do something about it he'll be in bloody jail or something, that's why! See? There were twelve photos, five of the girl-'

'You stupid bitch!'

'Listen!' she shrieked. 'I never gave him them\ I've hidden 'em; and now I'm gonna get rid of 'em; and I'm not gonna show 'em to you! You don't give a sod about anything these days, anyway!'

Daley walked tight-lipped to the door. 'Stop moaning, you miserable cunt!'

His wife had taken a large pair of kitchen scissors from a drawer. 'Don't you ever talk to me like that again, George Daley!' Her voice was trembling with fury.


A few minutes after hearing the front door slam behind him, she went upstairs to their bedroom and took the five photographs out of her underwear drawer. All of them were of Karin Eriksson, nakedly or semi-nakedly lying in lewdly provocative postures. She could only guess how often her son had ogled these and similar photographs which he kept in a box at the back of his wardrobe, and which she had discovered when spring-cleaning his room the previous April. She took the five photographs to the loo, where standing over the pan she sliced strip after strip from the face, the shoulders, the breasts, the thighs, and the legs of the beautiful Karin Eriksson, intermittently flushing the celluloid slivers down into the Begbroke sewers.

chapter thirty

A man's bed is his resting-place, but a woman's is often her rack

(James Thurber, Further Fables for Our Time)


the ambulance, its blue light flashing, its siren wailing, finally pulled into the Casualty Bay of the John Radclifie 2 Hospital at 9.15 p.m. The grey face of the man hurriedly carried through the automatic doors on a stretcher – the forehead clammy with sweat, the breathing shallow and laboured – had told its immediate story to the red-belted senior nurse, who straightaway rang through to the medical houseman on duty, before joining one of her colleagues in taking off the man's clothes and fastening a hospital gown around his overweight frame. A series of hurried readings – of electrocardiograph, blood pressure, chest X-ray – soon confirmed the fairly obvious: a massive coronary thrombosis, so very nearly an immediately fatal one.

Two porters pushed the trolley swiftly along the corridors to the Coronary Care Unit, where they lifted the heavy man on to a bed; around which curtains were quickly drawn, and five leads connected to the man's chest and linked to monitors, which now gave continuous details of heart rhythm, blood pressure, and pulse rate, on the screen beside the bed. A very pretty, slightly plump young nurse looked on as the houseman administered a morphine injection.

'Much hope?' she queried quietly a minute or two later, as the two of them stood at the central desk, where the VDU monitors from each of the small ward's six beds were banked.

'You never know, but…'

'Quite a well-known man, isn't he?'

'Taught me as a student. Well, I went to his lectures. Blood -that was his speciality, really; and he was a world authority on VD! Police get him in all the time, too – PMs, that sort of thing.'

The nurse looked at the monitor: the readings seemed significantly steadier now, and she found herself earnestly willing the old boy to survive.

'Give him some Frusemide, Nurse – as much as you like. I'm worried about all that fluid on his lungs.'

The houseman watched the monitor for another few minutes, then went over to the bed again, where the nurse had just placed a jug of water and a glass on the bedside locker.

After the houseman had left, Nurse Shelick remained beside the sick man's bed and looked down at him with that passionate intensity she invariably felt for her patients. Although still in her twenties, she was really one of that old-fashioned school who believed that whatever the advantages of hyper-technology, the virtues of simple human nursing were almost as indispensable. She laid the palm of her right hand across the wet, cold brow, and for the next few minutes wiped his face gently with a warm, damp flannel – suddenly aware that his eyes had opened and were looking up at her.

'Nurse?'

'I can hear you – yes?'

'Will you… will you… get in touch… with someone for me?'

'Of course! Of course!' She bent her right ear towards the purple lips, but without quite making out what he was saying.

'Pardon?'

'Morse!'

'I'm sorry. Please say it again. I'm not quite sure-'

'Morse!'

'I still… I'm sorry… please.'

But the eyes of the man who lay upon the bed had closed again, and there was no answer to her gently repeated queries.

The time was 11.15 p.m.


The head forester's beautiful young wife was also in bed at this rime. She too lay supine; and still lay supine, wakeful and waiting, until finally at 11.35 pm she heard the front door being opened, then locked, then bolted.

In spite of four pints of Burton ale and two whiskies at the White Hart, David Michaels knew that he was very sober; far too sober – for there was something sadly amiss when a man couldn't get drunk, he knew that. After cleaning his teeth, he went into the bedroom, shed his clothes swiftly, and slid under the lightweight duvet. She always slept naked, and after their marriage he had followed her example – often finding himself erotically aroused not so much by the fact or the sight of her nakedness as by the very thought of it. And now as he moved in beside her in the darkened room, he knew that she was suddenly and wonderfully necessary once 'more. He turned his body towards her and his right hand reached gently across her and fondled her breast. But with her own right hand she grasped his wrist, and with surprising strength moved it from her.

'No. Not tonight.'

'Is there something wrong?'

I just don't want you tonight – can't you understand?'

I think I understand all right.' Michaels' voice was dull and he turned to lie on his back.

'Why did you have to tell them?' she asked fiercely.

'Because I know the bloody place better than anyone else, that's why!'

'But don't you realize-?'

'I had to tell them something. God! Don't you see that? I didn't know, did I?'

She sat up in bed and leaned towards him, her right hand on the pillow beside his head. 'But they'll think you did it, David.'

'Don't be so stupid! I wouldn't be giving them information if it was me. Can't you see that? I'm the very last person they're going to suspect. But if I hadn't agreed to help

She said nothing more; and he wondered for a while whether it would be sensible to go down and make a couple of cups of piping-hot coffee for them, and then perhaps turn on the bedside lamp and look upon his lovely bride. But there was no need. Seemingly Cathy Michaels had accepted the logic of his words, and her mind was more at ease; for she now lay down again and turned towards him, and soon he felt the silky caress of her inner thigh against him.

chapter thirty-one

The background reveals the true being of the man or thing. If I do not possess the background, I make the man transparent, the thing transparent

(Juan Jimenez, Selected Writings)


it was rather like trying to see the answer to a tricky crossword clue, Morse decided, as at 11 o'clock that same night he sat in his North Oxford lounge, topping up his earlier libations with a few fingers of Glenfiddich, and looking yet again at the photographs that Margaret Daley had given him. The closer he got to the clue – the closer he got to the photograph – the less in fact he saw. It was necessary to stand away, to see things in perspective, to look synoptically at the problem.

As he had just considered the photographs, it was the man himself, pictured in two of them, who had monopolized his interest: a small- to medium-sized man, in his late twenties perhaps, with longish fair hair; a man wearing a white T-shirt and faded-blue denims, with a sunburnt complexion and the suggestion of a day's growth of stubble around his jowls. But the detail was not of sufficient definition or fidelity for him to be wholly sure, as if the cameraman himself – or almost certainly the camerawoman – had scarcely the experience needed to cope with the problems of the bright sunlight that so obviously pervaded the garden in which the snaps had been taken. But although Morse knew little (well, anything) about photography, he was beginning to suspect that he might be slightly more competence in the arrangement of -ic subject' in relation to the 'background' than he'd originally I supposed.

The man had been photographed at an oblique angle across the I garden, with a house clearly shown to the left of the figure: a three-storey, rosy-bricked house, with a french window on the ground floor, slightly ajar, with another window immediately above it, and Be above that, all painted white, and with a black drain-pipe reaching down to ground level; and to the figure's right a smallish tree of some sort with large curly leaves, unidentifiable to Morse who knew little (well, nothing) of such things. But there was even more to learn. Clearly the photographer had been kneeling down, or sitting down, to take the shots, for the man's head showed some way above the line of the garden wall, which rose clearly behind the shrubs and foliage. Even more to learn though! – Morse decided, as he studied the background yet again. The roof-line of the house stretched away in a slightly convex curve (as it appeared) above the man's head, and then was cut off in the middle of the top of the photograph; but not before suggesting that the house could be one of a terrace, perhaps?

It was amazing, Morse told himself, how much he'd managed to miss when first he'd considered the photographs; and with the strange conviction that there would certainly be a final solution to the mystery if only he looked at it long enough, he stared and stared until he thought he could see two houses instead of one, although whether this was an advance in insight or in inebriation, he couldn't be sure. So what, though? So what if it were part of a terrace? The number of three-storeyed, red-bricked terraces in the UK was myriad; and just in Oxford alone it must be… Morse shook his head and shook his thoughts. No. It was going to be almost impossible to locate the house and the garden; so the only thing left was the young man's face, really.

Or was it…?

Suddenly an exciting thought occurred to him. A straight line could be seen as a curve, so he'd been supposing, either because the camera had looked at it in a particular way, or because in a larger view the line began to bend in a sort of rounded perspective. But such explanations were surely far less probable than the utterly obvious fact that was staring him, literally staring him, in the face; the fact that the roof-line of the terraced houses which formed the backdrop here might look as if it was curving in a convex fashion for one supremely simple and wholly adequate reason: it was curving!

Could it be…? Could it be…? Did Morse, even now, think he knew where it was? He felt the old familiar tingle across his shoulders, and the hairs at the nape of his neck were suddenly erect. He rose from his armchair and went over to his bookshelves, whence he extracted the thick Penguin Oxfordshire, in the 'Buildings of England' series; and his right hand shook slightly as he

traced Park Town' in the index – page 320. On which page he read:


Laid out in 1853-5. This was North Oxford's first development, built on land originally intended for a workhouse. The trust created for its developments promised elegant villas and [Morse's eyes snatched at the next word] terraces. What it became is this: two crescents [the blood tingled again] N and S of an elliptical central garden, with stone frontages in late-classical style, and bricked at the rear [!] with attractive french windows [!] leading on to small walled [!] gardens.


Phew!

Ye gods!

Bloody hell!

If he were so disposed (Morse knew) he could go and identify the house at that very moment! It must be in Crescent S – the sunshine would rule out Crescent N; and with that tree with its big, furry, splayed (beautiful!) leaves; and the drain-pipe, and the windows, and the wall, and the grass…

As he sat down again in the black leather settee, Morse's face was betraying a high degree of self-gratification – when the phone rang. It was now a quarter to midnight, and the voice was a woman's – husky, slightly timid, north-country.


She identified herself as Dr Laura Hobson, one of the new girls in the path labs; one of Max's protegees. She had been working late with Max – on Morse's bones – when just before 9 p.m. she'd found him lying there on the floor of the lab. Heart attack – severe heart attack. He'd been unconscious most of the time since they'd got him to hospital… but the sister had rung her (Dr Hobson) and the possibility was that he (Max) had been trying to ask for him (Morse) – if he (Morse) knew what she (Dr Hobson) was trying to say…

Oh dear!

‘Which ward's he in?'

'Coronary Care Unit-'

'Yes! But where?’

'The JRa. But it's no good trying to see him now. Sister says – '

'You want to bloody bet?' snapped Morse.

'Please! There's something else, Inspector. He'd been working on the bones all day and-'

'Bugger the bones!'

'But-'

'Look. I'm most grateful to you, Dr, er…'

'Hobson.'

'… but please forgive me if I hang up. You see,' suddenly Morse's voice was more controlled, more gentle, 'Max and I -well, we… let's say we don't either of us have too many friends and… I want to see the old sod again if he's going to die.'

But Morse had already put down the phone, and Dr Hobson heard nothing of the last five words. She too felt very sad. She had known Max for only six weeks. Yet there was something basically kindly about the man; and only a week before she'd had a mildly erotic dream about that ugly, brusque, and arrogant pathologist.


At least for the present, however, the pathologist appeared to have rallied quite remarkably, for he was talking to Nurse Shelick rationally, albeit slowly and quietly, when he learned of his visitor; and threatened to strike the houseman off the medical register unless Morse (for such it was) were admitted forthwith.


But one patient newly admitted to the JR2 had not rallied that night. Marion Bridewell, an eight-year-old little West Indian girl, had been knocked down by a stolen car on the Broadmoor Lea estate at seven o'clock that evening. She had been terribly badly injured.

She died just after midnight.

chapter thirty-two

And Apollo gave Sarpedon dead to be borne by swift companions, to Death and Sleep, twin brethren, who bore him through the air to Lycia, that broad and pleasant land

(Homer, Iliad, xvi)


‘How are you, old friend?' asked Morse with spurious cheerfulness.

‘Dying.'

'You once told me that we're all moving towards death – at the standard rate of twenty-four hours per diem.'

‘I was always accurate, Morse. Not very imaginative, agreed; at always accurate.'

‘You've still not told me how-'

'Somebody said… somebody said, "Nothing matters very much… and in the end nothing really matters at all’

‘Lord Balfour.'

'You always were a knowledgeable sod.' 'Dr Hobson rang-'

'Ah! The fair Laura. Don't know how men ever keep their hands off her.'

'Perhaps they don't.'

‘I was just thinnking of her just now… Still have any erotic day-dreams yourself, Morse?' "Most of the time.'

‘Be nice – be nice if she was thinking of me…’

‘You never know.'

Max smiled his awkward, melancholy smile, but his face looked and ashen-grey. 'You're right. Life's full of uncertainties, have I ever told you that before?'

'Many a time.'

‘I’ve always… I've always been interested in death, you know, of hobby of mine, really. Even when I was a lad…'

'I know. Look, Max, they said they'd only let me in to see you if-'

'No knickers – you know that?'

'Pardon? Pardon, Max?'

‘The bones, Morse!'

'What about the bones?'

'Do you believe in God?'

'Huh! Most of the bishops don't believe in God.'

'And you used to accuse me of never answering questions!'

Morse hesitated. Then he looked down at his old friend and answered him: 'No.'

Paradoxically perhaps, the police surgeon appeared comforted by the sincerity of the firm monosyllable; but his thoughts were now stuttering their way around a discontinuous circuit.

'You surprised, Morse?'

‘Pardon?'

'You were, weren't you? Admit it!'

'Surprised?'

'The bones! Not a woman's bones, were they?'

Morse felt his heart pounding insistently somewhere – everywhere – in his body; felt the blood sinking down from his shoulders, past his heart, past his loins. Not a woman's bones – is that what Max had just said?

It had taken the hump-backed surgeon some considerable time to say his say; and feeling a tap on his shoulder, Morse turned to find Nurse Shelick standing behind him. 'Please!' her lips mouthed, as she looked anxiously down at the tired and intermittently closing eyes.

But before he left Morse leaned forward and whispered in the dying man's ear: 'I'll bring us a bottle of malt in the morning, Max, and we'll have a wee drop together, my old friend. So keep a hold on things – please keep a hold on things!… Just for me!'

It would have been a joy for Morse had he seen the transient gleam in Max's eyes. But the surgeon's face had turned away from him, towards the recently painted, pale-green wall of the GCU. And he seemed to be asleep.


Maximilian Theodore Siegfried de Bryn (his middle names a surprise even to his few friends) surrendered to an almost totally welcome weariness two hours after Chief Inspector Morse had left; and finally loosed his grip on the hooks just after three o'clock that morning. He had bequeathed his mortal remains to the Medical Research Foundation at the JRa. He had earnestly wished it so. And it would be done.

Many had known Max, even if few had understood his strange ways. And many were to feel a fleeting sadness at his death. But he had (as we have seen) a few friends only. And there was only one man who had wept silently when the call had been received in his office in Thames Valley Police HQ at Kidlington at 9 a.m. on Sunday, 19 July 1992.

chapter thirty-three

What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary

(Richard Harkness, New York Herald Tribune, 15 June 1960)


sunday is not a good day on which to do business. Or to expect others to be at work – or even to be out of bed. But Dr Laura Hobson was out of bed fairly early that morning, and awaiting Morse at the (deserted) William Dunn School of Pathology building at 9.30. a.m.

'Hello.’

'Hello.'

'You're Inspector Morse?'

'Chief Inspector Morse.'

'Sorry!'

'And you're Dr Hobson?'

'I am she.'

Morse smiled wanly. 'I applaud your grammar, my dear.'

'I am not your "dear". You must forgive me for being so blunt: but I'm no one's "luv" or "dear" or "darling" or "sweetheart". I've got a name. If I'm at work I prefer to be called Dr Hobson; and if I let my hair down over a drink I have a Christian name: Laura. That's my little speech, Chief Inspector! You're not the only one who's heard it.' She was smiling sufficiently as she spoke though, showing small, very white teeth – a woman in her early thirties, fair-complexioned, with a pair of disproportionately large spectacles on her pretty nose; a smallish woman, about 5 foot 4 inches. But it was her voice which interested Morse: the broad north-country vowels in "luv" and "blunt"; the pleasing nairm she had – and perhaps the not unpleasant prospect of meeting her sometime orver a drink with her hair doon…


*


They sat on a pair of high stools in a room that reminded Morse of his hated physics lab at school, and she told him of the simple yet quite extraordinary findings. The report on which Max had been working, though incomplete, was incontestable: the bones discovered in Wytham Woods were those of an adult male, Caucasian, about 5 foot 6 inches in height, slimly built, brachycephalic, fair-haired…

But Morse's mind had already leaped many furlongs ahead of the field. He'd been sure that the bones had been those of Karin Eriksson. All right, he'd been wrong. But now he knew whose bones they were – for the face of the- man in the photograph was staring back at him, unmistakably. He asked only for a photocopy of Dr Hobson's brief, preliminary report, and rose to go.

The pair of them walked to the locked outer door in silence, for the death of Max was heavy on her mind too.

'You knew him well, didn't you?'

Morse nodded.

'I feel so sad,' she said simply.

Morse nodded again. ' "The cart is shaken all to pieces, and the rugged road is at its end." '


She watched him, the slightly balding grey-haired man, as he stood for a few seconds beside his Jaguar. He held the photocopied report in his left hand, and raised it a few inches in farewell. She relocked the door, and walked thoughtfully back to the lab.


Morse wondered about driving up to the JR2, but decided against it. There was little time anyway. An urgent meeting of senior police officers had been summoned for 11 a.m. at the HQ building, and in any case there was nothing he could do. He drove along Parks Read, past Keble College, and then turned right into the Banbury Road. He had a few minutes to spare, and he took the second next turn now, and drove on slowly into Park Town, driving clockwise along the North Crescent, and along the South Crescent… There would be little chance of doing much that day though, and in any case it would be better to postpone things for twenty-four hours or so.


*


Senior personnel from both the City and the County Forces were meeting at a time of considerable public disquiet – and criticism. Hitherto the impression had been abroad that known ringleaders were joy-riding and shop-ramming almost with impunity; and that the police were doing little to check the teenage tearaways who were terrifying many sections of the community on the Broadmoor Lea estate. There was little justification for such a view, since the police were continually finding themselves hamstrung by the refusal of the local inhabitants to come out and name names and co-operate in seeking to clean up their crime-ridden neighbourhood. But the death of Marion Bridewell had changed all that.

During this Sunday, 19 July, major decisions were taken, and their immediate implementation planned: a string of arrests would be made in a co-ordinated swoop the following morning, with special sittings of magistrates' courts scheduled for the following two evenings; council workmen would be sent in during the next few days to erect bollards and to construct sleeping-policeman humps across selected streets; police presence on the estate during the next week would be doubled; and a liaison committee of police officers, local head-teachers, social workers, and church ministers would be constituted forthwith.

It was a long and sometimes ill-humoured meeting; and Morse himself contributed little of any importance to the deliberations, for in truth his mind was distanced, and only once had his interest been fully engaged. It had been Strange's inveterate cynicism about committees which had occasioned the little contretemps:

'Give us a week or two at this rate,' he growled, 'and we'll have a standing committee, a steering committee, an ad hoc committee – every committee you can put a name to. What we should be doing is hitting 'em where it hurts. Fining 'em; fining their dads; docking it off their dads' wages. That's what I reckon!'

The Chief Constable had agreed quietly. 'Splendid idea – and the new legislation, I think, is going to be a big help to us. But there's just one snag, isn't there? You see, a good many of these young lads haven't got any fathers, Superintendent.'

Strange had looked disconcerted then.

And Morse had smiled his second smile of the day.

chapter thirty-four

The newly arrived resident in North Oxford is likely to find that although his next-door neighbour has a first-class degree from some prestigious university this man is not quite so clever as his wife

(Country Living, January 1992)


morse was on his own when finally, in mid-morning the following day, he drove down to Park Town, this time again slowly circling die two crescents on either side of the elliptical central garden, well stocked with trees and flowering shrubs. There were plenty of parking spaces, and after his second circuit he pulled in the Jaguar along the south side and walked past the fronts of the dozen Italianate properties which comprised the attractive stone-faced terrace. At the eastern end he turned down an alley-way, and then into the lane, about three yards wide, which ran behind the properties. To his right the continuous brick wall which protected the small back gardens was only about five feet in height, and he realized that it would not even be necessary to enter any of the gardens to find the one he was looking for. It was all childishly easy – no Holmesian intellect needed here; indeed a brief Watsonian reconnoitre would have established the spot almost immediately. Thus it was that after only a couple of minutes Morse found himself leaning over the curved coping-stones of the western-most property, and finding the details on his photographs so easily matchable here: the configuration of the black drain-pipes, the horizontal TV aerial, and then, crucially, the tree upon whose lower bough a child's red swing was now affixed. At the left of the garden, as Morse observed it, was a wooden garden seat, its slats disintegrating; and he felt thrillingly certain that it was from this scat, in this very garden, that someone – and most probably Karin Eriksson herself – had taken the two photographs of the fair-beaded, bracycephalic, slimly built… what else had Dr Hobson said? He couldn't remember. And it didn't matter. Not at all.

He walked to the imposing front door of the end property, designated 'Seckham Villa' by a small plaque on the right-hand wall of the porch; and below it, three bells: second floor Dr S. Levi; first floor Ms Jennifer Coombs; ground floor Dr Alasdair McBryde. An area clearly where D.Phils and Ph.Ds proliferated. He rang the bottom bell.

The door was opened by a tallish, heavily bearded man in his mid-thirties, who studied Morse's authorization cautiously before answering any questions. He was over from Ostrylia (he said) with his wife, to pursue some research project in micro-biology; they had been in the flat since the previous August, and would be returning home in two weeks' time; he'd learned of the property from a friend in Mansfield College who had been keeping an eye open for suitable accommodation the previous summer.

The previous August…

Was this to be Morse's lucky day?

'Did you know the people – did you meet the people who were here before you?'

'Fried not,' said the Australian.

'Can I – have a quick look inside?'

Rather unenthusiastically, as it seemed, McBryde led the way into the lounge, where Morse looked around the rather splendid, high-ceilinged room, and tried to attune his senses to the vaguest vibrations. Without success. It was only when he looked out through the french window at the sunlit patch of lawn that he felt a frisson of excitement: a dark-haired little girl in a pink dress was swinging idly to and fro beneath the tree, her white ankle-socked feet just reaching the ground.

'Your daughter, sir?'

'Yeah. You got any kids yourself, Inspector?'

Morse shook his head. 'Just one more thing, sir. Have you got your book, you know, your rent-book or whatever handy? It's important I get in touch with the, er, people who were here just before you last year…"

McBryde stepped over to an escritoire beside the french window and found his Property Payment book, the legend 'Finders Keepers' on the cover.

'I'm not in arrears,' said McBryde with the suggestion of his first smile.

'So I see. And I'm not a bailiff, sir,' said Morse, handing back the book.

The two men walked back towards the entrance, and McBryde knocked very gently on the door to his right, and put his ear to the panel.

'Darling? Darling?'

But there was no reply.

At the front door Morse asked his last question.

'Finders Keepers – that's the Banbury Road office, is it?'

'Yeah. You off there now?'

'I think I'll drop in straightaway, yes.'

'Is your car parked here?'

Morse pointed to the Jaguar.

'Well, I should leave it here, if I were you. Only five minutes' walk, if that – and you'll never park in North Parade.'

Morse nodded. Good idea. And the Rose and Crown was just along in North Parade.

Before leaving Park Town however, Morse strolled across into the central oval-shaped garden separating the Crescents, where he read the only notice he could find, fixed to the trunk of a cedar tree:


THIS GARDEN, LAID OUT CIRCA 1850, IS MAINTAINED BY THE RESIDENTS FOR PLEASURE AND PEACE.

PLEASE RESPECT ITS AMENITIES. NO DOGS, BICYCLES, BALL GAMES, OR TRANSISTORS.


For a few minutes Morse sat on one of the wooden seats, where someone had obviously not respected the amenities, for an oblong plate, doubtless commemorating the name of a former inhabitant, had been recently prised from the back. It was a restful spot though, and Morse now walked slowly round its periphery, his mind half on Max's death, half on the photographs taken in the:back garden of the ground-floor flat at Seckham Villa. As he turned at the western edge of the garden, he realized that this same Seckham Villa was immediately across the road from him, with – the maroon Jaguar parked just to the left of it. And as once again he admired the attractive frontages there, he suspected perhaps a heavily bearded face had suddenly pulled itself back behind rather dingy curtains in the front room of Seckham Villa, where Mrs Something McBryde lay suffering from goodness knows what. Was her husband slightly more inquisitive than he'd appeared to be? Or was it the Jaguar – which often attracted some interested glances?

Thoughtfully Morse walked out of Park Town, then left into the Banbury Road. Finders Keepers was very close. So was North Parade. So was the Rose and Crown.

chapter thirty-five

Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does

(Steuart Henderson Britt, New York Herald Tribune, 30 October 1956)


after two pints of cask-conditioned ale in the Rose and Crown, Morse walked the short distance to Finders Keepers, where he was soon ushered through the outer office, past two young ladies busy with their VDUs, and into the inner sanctum of Mr Martin Buckby, the dark, smartly suited manager of Property Letting Services. It was fairly close to lunch-time, but the manager would be only too glad to help – of course he would.

Yes, his department was responsible for letting a good many of the Park Town properties, most of which had been converted from single homes into two, sometimes three, flats and were more often than not let out to graduates, occasionally to students. Naturally the accommodation varied, but some of the flats, especially those the ground floor – or first floor, as some of them called it were roomy, stylish, and well maintained. The letting year usually divided itself into two main periods: October to June, covering the academic year at Oxford University; and then June/July to the end of September, when very frequently various overseas tenants: interested in short-term leases. Advertisements for the availability of such accommodation were regularly placed in The Oxford Times, and occasionally in Property Weekly. But only advertised once, for the flats were almost invariably snapped up straightaway. Such adverts gave a brief description of the property available, and the price asked: about £200-£250 a week for a short-term let (at current and slightly less, proportionately, for a long-term let. Business in the first instance, was usually conducted by phone, often through agents; and someone – either the client himself or a representative of an agency – would go along to view the property ('Very important, Inspector!') before the paperwork was completed, either there in the firm's offices or, increasingly now, directly by fax interchange with countries overseas. A deposit would be lodged, a tenancy agreement signed, a reference given -that was how it worked. There was no guarantee of bona fides, of course, and basically one had to rely on gut-reaction; but the firm experienced very few problems, really. When the client was due to move in, a representative would go along to open the property, hand over keys, explain the workings of gas, electricity, stop-cocks, central heating, fuses, thermostats, everything, and to give the client a full inventory of the property's effects – this inventory to be checked and returned within seven days so that there could be no subsequent arguments about the complement of fish-knives or feather pillows. The system worked well. The only example of odd behaviour over the previous year, for example, had been the overnight disappearance of a South American gentleman who had taken his key with him – and absolutely nothing else. And since, as with all short-term lets, the whole of the rental was paid in advance, as well as an extra deposit of £500, no harm had been done there – apart from the need to change the lock on the front door and to get a further clutch of keys cut.

'Did you report that to the police, sir?'

'No. Should I have done?'

Morse shrugged.

He had a good grasp now of the letting procedure; yet his mind was always happier (he explained) with specific illustrations than with generalities; and if it were proper for him to ask, for example, what Dr McBryde was paying for the ground-floor flat at Seckham Villa…?

Buckby found a green folder in the filing cabinet behind him and quickly looked through it. 'Thirteen hundred pounds per month.'

'Phew! Bit steep, isn't it?'

'It's the going rate – and it's a lovely flat, isn't it? One of the best in the whole crescent.' Buckby picked out a sheet from the folder and read the specification aloud.

But Morse was paying scant attention to him. After all, that was the manager's job, wasn't it? To make the most of what Morse had seen with his own eyes as a pretty limited bit of Lebensraum. especially for a married couple with one infant – at least one infant.

'Didn't you just say that the maximum for a short-term let was two hundred and fifty pounds a week?'

Buckby grinned. 'Not for that place – well, you've seen it. And what makes you think it's a short-term let, Inspector?' The blood was tingling at the back of Morse's neck, and subliminally some of the specifications that Buckby had recited were beginning to register in his brain. He reached over and picked up the sheet.


Hall, living room, separate dining room, well-fitted kitchen, two bedrooms, studio/ study, bathroom, full gas CH, small walled garden


Two bedrooms… and a sick wife sleeping in one of them… studio… and a little girl sitting on a swing… God! Morse shook head in disbelief at his own idiocy.

‘I really came to ask you, sir, if you had any record of who was living in that property last July. But I think – I think – you're going to tell me that it was Dr Alasdair McBryde; that he hasn't got a wife; that the people upstairs have got a little dark-haired daughter; that the fellow probably hails from Malta-'

Gibraltar, actually.'

‘You've got some spare keys, sir?' asked Morse, almost despairingly


In front of Seckham Villa the Jaguar sat undisturbed; but inside there were to be no further sightings of Dr McBryde. Yet the little girl still sat on the swing, gently stroking her dolly's hair, and Morse unlocked the french window and walked over the grass towards her.

'What's your name?'

‘My name's Lucy and my dolly's name's Amanda.'

Do you live here, Lucy?'

‘Yes. Mummy and Daddy live up there.' Her bright eyes lifted to the top rear window.

‘Pretty dolly,' said Morse.

‘Would you like to hold her?'

'I would, yes – but I've got a lot of things to do just for the moment.'

Inside his brain he could hear a voice shouting, 'Help, Lewis!' and he turned back into the house and wondered where on earth to start.

chapter thirty-six

Nine tenths of the appeal of pornography is due to the indecent feelings concerning sex which moralists inculcate in the young; the other tenth is physiological, and will occur in one way or another whatever the state of the law may be

(Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals]


lewis arrived at Seckham Villa at 2.15 that afternoon, bringing ith him the early edition of The Oxford Mail, in which many column-inches were devoted to the wave of car crime which was hitting Oxfordshire – hitting the national press, too, with increasing regularity. Everyone and everything in turn was blamed: the police, the parents, the teachers, the church, the recession, unemployment, lack of youth facilities, car manufacturers, the weather, TV, the brewers, left-wing social workers, and right-wing social workers; original sin received several votes, and even the Devil -.self got one. Paradoxically the police seemed to be more in the dock than the perpetrators of the increasingly vicious crimes being emitted. But at least the operation that morning had been successful, so Lewis reported: the only trouble was that further police activity in Wytham Woods was drastically curtailed – four men – only now, one of them standing guard over the area cordoned in Pasticks.

The temporarily dispirited Morse received the news with little surprise, and briefly brought Lewis up to date with his own ambivalent achievements of the morning: his discovery of the garden where in all probability Karin Eriksson had spent some period of time before she disappeared; and his gullibility in allowing. McBryde – fairly certainly now a key figure in the drama -more than sufficient time to effect a hurried escape.

At the far end of the ground-floor entrance passage, fairly steep stairs, turning 180 degrees, led down to the basement area in Seckham Villa, and it was here that the first discovery was made. The basement comprised a large, modernized kitchen at the front; and behind this, through an archway, a large living area furnished with armchairs, a settee, coffee tables, bookshelves, TV, HiFi equipment – and a double-bed of mahogany, stripped down to a mattress of pale blue; and beside the bed, a jointed series of square, wooden boards, four of them, along which, for the length of about ten feet, ran two steel rails – rails where, it was immediately assumed, a cine-camera had recently and probably frequently been moving to and fro.

Morse himself (with Lewis and one of the DCs) spent most of his time that afternoon in this area, once the fingerprint men, the senior scenes-of-crime officer and the photographer had completed their formal tasks. Clear fingerprints on the (unwashed) non-stick saucepan and cutlery found in the kitchen sink would doubtless match the scores of others found throughout the flat, would doubtless be McBryde's, and (as Morse saw things) would doubtless advance the investigation not one whit. No clothing, apart from two dirty pairs of beige socks found in one of the bedrooms; no toiletries left along the bathroom shelves; no videos; no correspondence; no shredded letters in either of the two waste-paper baskets or in the dustbin outside the back door. All in all it seemed fairly clear that the flat had been slimmed down – recently perhaps? -for the eventuality of a speedy get-away. Yet there were items that had not been bundled and stuffed into the back of the white van which (as was quickly ascertained) McBryde had used for travelling; and cupboards in both the ground-floor and the basement contained duvets, sheets, pillow-cases, blankets, towels, and table cloths – clearly items listed on the tenant's inventory; and the kitchen pantry was adequately stocked with tins of beans, fruit, salmon, spaghetti, tuna fish, and the like.

Naturally however it was the trackway beside the basement double bed which attracted the most interest, much lifting of eyebrows, and many lascivious asides amongst those investigators whose powers of detection, at least in this instance, were the equal of the chief inspector's. Indeed, it would have required a man of monumental mutton-headedness not to visualize before him the camera and the microphone moving slowly alongside the mattress to record the assorted feats of fornication enacted on that creaking charpoy. For himself Morse tried not to give his imagination too free a rein. Sometimes up at HQ there were a few pornographic videos around, confiscated from late-night raids or illegal trafficking. Often had he wished to view some of the crude, corrupting, seductive things; yet equally often had he made it known to his fellow officers that he at least was quite uninterested in such matters.

In a corner of the kitchen, bundled neatly as if for some subsequent collection by Friends of the Earth, was a heap of old newspapers, mostly the Daily Mail, and various weeklies and periodicals, including Oxford Today, Oxcom, TV Times, two RSPB journals, and the previous Christmas offers from the Spastic Society. Morse had glanced very hurriedly through, half hoping perhaps to find the statutory girlie magazine; but apart from spending a minute or so looking at pictures of the black-headed gulls on the Loch of Kinnordy, he found nothing there to hold his interest.

It was Lewis who found them, folded away inside one of the free local newspapers, The Star. There were fourteen A4 sheets, stapled together, obviously photocopied (and photocopied ill) from some glossier and fuller publication. On each sheet several photographs of the same girl were figured (if that be the correct verb) in various stages of undress; and at the bottom of each sheet there appeared a Christian name, followed by details of height, bust, waist, hips, dress- shoe- and glove-measurements, and colour of hair and eyes. In almost every case the bottom left-hand picture was of the model completely naked, and in three or four cases striking some sexually suggestive pose. The names were of the glitzy showgirl variety: Jayne, Kelly, Lindy-Lu, Mandy… and most of them appeared (for age was not given) to be in their twenties. But four of the sheets depicted older women, whose names were possibly designed to reflect their comparative maturity: Elaine, Dorothy, Mary, Louisa… The only other information given (no addresses here) was a (i), (ii), (iii), of priority "services', and Lewis, not without some little interest himself (and amusement), sampled a few of the services on offer: sporting-shots, escort duties, lingerie, stockings, leather, swim-wear, summer dresses, bras, nude-modelling, hair-styling, gloves. Not much to trouble the law there, surely. Three of the girls though were far more explicit about their specialisms, with Mandy listing (i) home •ideos, (ii) pornographic movies, (iii) overnight escort duties; and with Lindy-Lu, pictured up to her thighs in leather boots, proclaiming an accomplished proficiency in spanking.

And then, as Morse and Lewis were considering these things, the big discovery was made. One of the two DCs who had been given the job of searching the main lounge above had found, caught up against the top of one of the drawers in the escritoire, a list of names and addresses: a list of clients, surely! Clients who probably received their pornographic material in plain brown envelopes with the flap licked down so very firmly. And there, fourth from the top, was the name that both Morse and Lewis focused on immediately: George Daley, 2 Blenheim Villas, Begbroke, Oxon.

Morse had been delighted with the find – of course he had! And his praise for the DC had been profuse and (in Lewis's view) perhaps a trifle extravagant. Yet now as he sat on the settee, looking again at the unzippings and the unbuttonings of the models, reading through the list of names once more, he appeared to Lewis to be preoccupied and rather sad.

'Everything all right, sir?'

'What? Oh yes! Fine. We're making wonderful progress. Let's keep at it!'

But Morse himself was contributing little towards any further progress; and after desultorily walking around for ten minutes or so, he sat down yet again and picked up the sheet of addresses. He would have to tell Lewis, he decided – not just yet but… He looked again at the seventeenth name on the list: for he was never likely to forget the name that Kidlington HQ had given him when, from Lyme Regis, he'd phoned in the car registration H 35 LWL:

Dr Alan Hardinge.

He picked up the pictures of the models and looked again through their names and their vital statistics and their special proficiencies. Especially did he look again at one of the maturer models: the one who called herself 'Louisa'; the one who'd had all sorts of fun with her names at the Bay Hotel in Lyme Regis; the woman who was photographed here, quite naked and totally desirable.

Claire Osborne.


'Pity we've no address for – well, it must be a modelling agency of some sort, mustn't it?'

'No problem, Lewis. We can just ring up one of these johnnies on the list.'

'Perhaps they don't know.' '

‘I’ll give you the address in ten minutes if you really want it.'

'I don't want it for myself, you know.'

'Of course not!'

Picking up his sheets, Morse decided that his presence in Seckham Villa was no longer required; and bidding Lewis to give things another couple of hours or so he returned to HQ; where he tried her telephone number.

She was in.

'Claire?'

'Morse!' (She'd recognized him!)

'You could have told me you worked for an escort agency!'

'Why?'

Morse couldn't think of an answer.

'You thought I was wicked enough but not quite so wicked as that?'

'I suppose so.'

'Why don't you get yourself in your car and come over tonight? – I’d be happy if you did…’

Morse sighed deeply. 'You told me you had a daughter-'

'So?'

'Do you still keep in touch with the father?'

'The father? Christ, come off it! I couldn't tell you who the father was!'

Like the veil of the Temple, Morse's heart was suddenly rent in twain; and after asking her for the name and address of the modeling? agency (which she refused to tell him) he rang off.

Ten minutes later, the phone went on Morse's desk, and it was Claire – though how she'd got his number he didn't know. She spoke for only about thirty seconds, ignoring Morse's interruptions.

‘Shut up, you silly bugger! You can't see more than two inches in front of your nose, can you? Don't you realize I'd have swapped all the lecherous sods I've ever had for you – and instead of trying

understand all you ask me – Christ! – is who fathered-'

‘Look, Claire-'

‘No! You bloody look! If you can't take what a woman tells you – about herself without picking over the past and asking bloody futile questions about why and who he was and-' But her voice broke down completely now.

'Look, please!'

'No! You just fuck off, Morse, and don't you ring me again because I'll probably be screwing somebody and enjoying it such a lot I won't want to be interrupted-'

'Claire!'

But the line was dead.

For the next hour Morse tried her number every five minutes, counting up to thirty double-purrs each time. But there was no answer.


Lewis had discovered nothing new in Seckham Villa, and he rang through to HQ at 6 p.m., as Morse had wished.

'All right. Well, you get off home early, Lewis. And get some sleep. And good luck tomorrow!'

Lewis was due to catch the 7.30 plane to Stockholm the following morning.

chapter thirty-seven

To be buried while alive is, beyond question, the most terrifying of those extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality

(Edgar Allan Poe, Tales of Mystery and Imagination)


the death of Max was still casting a cloak of gloom round Morse as he sat in his office the following morning. During the previous night his thoughts had been much preoccupied with death, and the mood persisted now. As a boy, he had been moved by those words of the dying Socrates, suggesting that if death were just one long, unbroken, dreamless sleep, then a greater boon could hardly be bestowed upon mankind. But what about the body? The soul might be able to look after itself all right, but what about the physical body? In Morse's favourite episode from The Iliad, the brethren and kinsfolk of Sarpedon had buried his body, with mound and pillar, in the rich, wide land of Lycia. Yes! It was fitting to have a gravestone and a name inscribed on it. But there were those stories that were ever frightening – stories about people prematurely interred who had awoken in infinite and palpitating terror with the immovable lid of the coffin only a few inches above them. No! Burning was better than burying, surely… Morse was wholly ignorant of the immediate procedures effected once the curtains closed over the light-wooded coffins at the crematoria… like the curtains closing at the end of Götterdämmerung, though minus the clapping, of course. All done and finished quickly, and if somebody wanted to sprinkle your mortal dust over the memorial gardens, well, it might be OK for the roses, too. He wouldn't mind a couple of hymns either: 'The day thou gavest', perhaps. Good tune, that. So long as they didn't have any prayers, or any departures from the Authorized Version of Holy Writ… Perhaps Max had got it right, neatly side-stepping the choice of interment or -incineration: the clever old sod had left his body to the hospital, and the odds were strongly on one or two of his organs giving them plenty to think about. Huh!

Morse smiled to himself, and suddenly looked up to see Strange standing in the doorway.

'Private joke, Morse?'

'Oh, nothing, sir.'

'C'mon! Life's grim enough.'

'I was just thinking of Max's liver-'

'Not a pretty sight!'

‘No.!

'You're taking it a bit hard, aren't you? Max, I mean.'

'A bit. perhaps.'

'You seen the latest?'

Strange pushed a copy of The Times across the desk, with a brief paragraph on the front page informing its readers that 'the bones discovered in Wytham Woods are quite certainly not those of the Swedish student whose disappearance occasioned the original verses and their subsequent analysis in this newspaper. (See Letters, page 13):

'Anything to help us there?' asked Morse dubiously, opening the paper.

'Scraping the barrel, if you ask me,' said Strange.

Morse looked down at page 13:


From Mr Anthony Beaulah

Sir, Like the text of some early Greek love-lyric, the lines on the Swedish student would appear to have been pondered over in such exhaustive fashion that there is perhaps little left to say. And it may be that the search is already over. Yet there is one significant (surely?) aspect of the verses which has hitherto received scant attention. The collocation of 'the tiger' with 'the burning of the night' (lines 9 and 12) has indeed been commented upon, but in no specific context. In my view, sir, one should perhaps interpret the tiger (the cat) as staring back at drivers

in the darkness. And the brilliantly simple invention which has long steered the benighted driver through the metaphorical forest of the night? Cat's eyes!

I myself live too far away from Oxford to be able to test such a thesis. But might the police not interpret this as a genuine clue, and look for some stretch of road (in or around Wytham?) where cat's eyes have recently been installed?


Yours,

ANTHONY BEAULAH,

Felsted School,

Essex.


'Worth getting Lewis on it?' queried Strange, when Morse had finished reading.

.'Not this morning, sir. If you remember he's, er, on his holidays.' Morse looked at his wrist-watch. 'At this minute he's probably looking out of the window down at Jutland.'

'Why didn't you go, Morse? With all these Swedish blondes and that…'

'I thought it'd be good experience for him.'

'Mm.'

For a while the two were silent. Then Strange picked up his paper and made to leave.

'You made a will yet, Morse?'

'Not much to leave, really.'

'All those records of yours, surely?'

'Bit out of date, I'm afraid. We're all buying CDs now.'

'Perhaps they'll be out of date soon.'

Morse nodded. Strange was not in the habit of saying anything quite so perceptive.

chapter thirty-eight

Men are made stronger on realization that the helping hand they need is at the end of their own right arm

(Sidney J. Phillips, speech, July 1953)


on the forty-kilometre bus ride from Arlanda airport southwards towards Stockholm, Lewis enjoyed what for him was the fairly uncommon view of a foreign country. After a while the tracts of large pine and fir woods changed to smaller coppices and open fields; then farmhouses, red, with barns that were red too, and a few yellow, wooden, Dutch-roofed manor houses, just before the outskirts of Stockholm, with its factories and tidy, newish buildings -and all so very clean and litter-free. In wooded surroundings within the city itself, three- and four-storeyed blocks of flats took over; and finally the end of the journey, at the Central Station terminal.

Lewis had never studied a foreign language at school, and his travel abroad had hitherto been restricted to three weeks in Australia, two weeks in Italy, and one afternoon in a Calais supermarket. The fact that he had no difficulty therefore in summoning a taxi was wholly due to the excellent English of the young driver, who soon brought Lewis into the suburb of Bromma -more specifically to an eight-storey block of white flats in Bergsvägen.

The Stockholm CID had offered to send one of its own men to meet him, but Lewis had not taken advantage of this when he'd arranged the details of his visit the previous morning. Seldom was it that he could assert any independent judgement in an investigation; and here was his chance.

The entrance hall was of polished pink granite, with the long list of tenants' named displayed there:


ANDREASSON 8A

ENGSTROM 8B

FASTEN 7A

OLSSON 7B

KRAFT 6A

ERIKSSON 6B


Sixth floor!

Lewis felt excited at the sight of the name; it was almost as if… as if he felt he was going to make some significant discovery.

The door, bearing the name-plate eriksson, was opened by a woman in her mid-forties, of medium height, plumply figured, hazel-eyed, and with short, brownish-blonde hair.

'Mrs Eriksson?'

'Irma Eriksson,' she insisted as he shook her hand, and entered the apartment.

The small hallway was lined with cupboards, with what looked like a home-woven mat on one wall and a large mirror on the other. Through the open door to the right Lewis glimpsed a beautifully fitted kitchen, fresh and gleaming, with a copper kettle and old plates on its walls.

'In here, Mr Lewis.' She pointed smilingly to the left and led the way.

Her English was very good, utterly fluent and idiomatic, with only a hint of a foreign accent, just noticeable perhaps in the slight lengthening of the short T vowels ('Meester Lewis').

The place was all so clean; and so particularly clean was the parquet flooring that Lewis wondered whether he should offer to take off his shoes, for she herself stood there in her stockinged feet as she gestured him to a seat on a low, brown-striped settee.

As he later tried to describe the furnishings to Morse, he felt more conscious than anything about the huge amount of stuff that had been packed into this living room: two coffee tables of heavy, dark wood; lots of indoor plants; groups of family portraits and photographs all around; dozens of candle holders; a large TV set; pretty cushions everywhere; vases of flowers; a set of Dala horses; two crucifixes; and (as Lewis learned later) a set of Carl Larsson prints above the bricked fireplace. Yet in spite of all the clutter, the whole room was light and airy, the thin curtains pulled completely back from the south-facing window.

Conversation was easy and, for Lewis, interesting. He learned something of the typical middle-class housing in Swedish cities; learned how and why the Erikssons had moved from Uppsala down to Bergsvagen almost a year ago after… after Karin had, well, whatever had happened. As Lewis went briefly through the statement she had made a year ago, Irma Eriksson was watching him closely (he could see that), nodding here and there, and at one or two points staring down sadly at a small oriental carpet at her feet. But yes, it was all there; and no, there was nothing she could add. From that day to this she had received no further news of her daughter – none. At first, she admitted, she'd hoped and hoped, and couldn't bring herself to believe that Karin was dead. But gradually she had been forced to such a conclusion; and it was better that way, really – to accept the virtual certainty that Karin had been murdered. She was grateful – how not? – for the recent efforts the English police had made – again! – and she had been following the newspaper correspondence of course, receiving cuttings regularly from an English friend.

'Can I get you coffee? And a leetle Swedish Schnapps, yes?' When she went out to the kitchen, Lewis could scarcely believe that it had been himself who had answered ‘Yes to the first’and 'yes' to the second. So often in his police career he'd prayed for Morse to be on hand to help him; but not now. He stood up and walked slowly round the room, staring long at some of the photographs; and especially at one of them: at three young ladies standing arm in arm, dressed in Swedish national costume.

'Ah! I see you've found my beautiful daughters.' She had moved in silently, and now stood beside him, still in her stockinged feet, some five or six inches shorter than the six-foot sergeant; and he could smell the sweet summer freshness of her, and he felt an unfamiliar tic in a vein at his right temple.

'Katarina, Karin, Kristina.' She pointed to each in turn. 'All of them better looking than their momma, no?'

Lewis made no direct reply as he still held the framed photograph. So much alike the three of them: each with long, straight gold-blonde hair; each with clear-complexioned, high-cheekboned faces.

'That's Karin – in the middle, you say?' Lewis looked at her again, the one who was looking perhaps just a little more serious than her sisters.

Momma nodded; then, unexpectedly, took the photograph from Lewis's hands and replaced it – with no explanation for her slightly brusque behaviour.

'How can I help you any more?' She sat cross-legged opposite Lewis in an armchair, tossed back her small, squat glass of Schnapps, before sipping the hot, strong coffee.

So Lewis asked her a lot of questions, and was soon to be forming a much clearer picture of the daughter about whom her mother spoke so lovingly now.

Karin had been a reasonably clever girl, if occasionally somewhat idle; she had left her secondary school in Uppsala at the age of eighteen, with good prospects before her; attractive, very good at swimming and tennis; and with a series of badges and diplomas from school societies and guides' groups for birdwatching, orienteering, rock-climbing, judo, embroidery, and amateur musicals. It was just after she had left school that Irma's husband, Staffan Eriksson, had moved in with a darkly seductive brunette he had met on a business trip to Norway and, well, that was about it really. She uncrossed her legs and looked over at Lewis with a gentle smile.

'Another Schnapps?'

'Why not?' said Mr Lewis.

Katarina (Irma Eriksson resumed), the eldest daughter (should it be 'elder' now, though?), was married and working with the European Commission in Strasbourg as an interpreter; the youngest (younger) daughter, Kristina – still only eighteen – was in her last year of schooling, studying social sciences. She was living at home, there in the flat, and if Mr Lewis would like to see her…? If Mr Lewis were staying in Stockholm?

The troublesome tic jerked in Lewis's temple once more, as he turned the conversation back to Karin.

What was Karin like - as a person? Well, her mother supposed she would call her 'independent' – yes, above all, independent. The summer before she'd gone to England, she'd spent two months on a kibbutz near Tel Aviv; and the year before that she'd joined a group of enthusiastic environmentalists in the Arctic Circle. But she was never (for the first time Irma Eriksson had seemed to struggle with her English vocabulary) she was never an 'easy' young girl. No! That wasn't the word at all! She was never the sort of girl who went to bed, you know…?

'Was she – do you think she was a virgin, Mrs Eriksson?'

' "Irma", please!'

'As far as you know… Irma?'

‘I’m not sure. Apart from the trouble in Israel, if she had sex with anyone it would be with someone she liked. You know how I mean, don't you?'

She was fond of birdwatching, you said?' Lewis was losing his •Aay. (Or was he?)

'Oh, yes! Never did she go out on any holiday or walk without taking the binoculars.' (The idiom was breaking down – just a bit.)

There was just the one thing left now which Morse had asked him to confirm: the passport and the work-permit procedures for fa young lady like Karin.

No problem. For the first time Lewis thought he saw the underlying grief behind the saddened eyes, as she explained that Sweden did not belong to the EC; that all Swedish nationals needed to apply for work-permits in the UK if they proposed to stay for any length of time; that even for au pair work it was wholly prudent to do. But Karin had not applied for such a permit; she gave herself only three weeks in the UK; and for this, her Swedish passport, valid for a ten-year period, would have been sufficient.

Lewis was suddenly aware that if there had been anything mildly flirtatious in the woman's manner, the situation had now changed.

'You kept Karin's passport, didn't you?' she continued quietly.

Lewis nodded, and his slight frown prompted her quick explanation:

'You see, I suppose we hoped she might – if she were still alive – she might apply for a new passport – if she'd lost it. Do you see…?'

Lewis nodded again.

'And she hasn't, has she, Mr Lewis? So!' She got up briskly, and put her feet into a pair of black, semi-heeled shoes. 'So!'

‘I’m afraid we can't bring you any hopeful news – not really,' said Lewis, himself now rising to his feet.

'It's all right. I knew from the start, really. It's just…'

'I know. And thank you. You've been very helpful. Just one more thing – if I could just borrow a photo of the three girls…?'


As they stood in the hallway, Lewis ventured a genuine compliment:

'You know, I always envy people like you, Mrs – Irma – you know, people who can speak other languages.'

'We start learning English early though. In the fourth grade -ten years of age. Well, I was twelve myself, but my daughters all learn from ten.'

They shook hands, and Lewis walked down to the ground floor, where he stood for several minutes beside a play area surrounded by a low palisade of dark-brown wooden slats – not a potato-crisp packet in sight. It was early afternoon now on a beautiful summer's day, with a cloudless blue sky and a yellow sun – like the colours of the flag on the rucksack found at Begbroke, Oxfordshire.

Standing on her high balcony, Irma Eriksson watched him go. As soon as he had disappeared into the main thoroughfare, she stepped back into her flat and let herself into the rear bedroom, where the ensuing conversation was held in Swedish:

'Was he intelligent?'

'Not particularly. Very nice though – very nice.'

'Did you ask him to bed with you?'

'I might have done if you hadn't been here.'

'Do you think he suspected anything?'

'No.'

'But you're glad he's gone?'

Irma Eriksson nodded. 'Shall I get you coffee?'

'Please!'

When her mother had left, the young lady looked at herself in the long wall-mirror in the shaded room, deciding that she was looking tired and dark around the eyes. Yet had Lewis seen her there that afternoon he would have been impressed by her pale and elegant beauty; would have been struck immediately too by a very close likeness to the photograph of the student found in the rucksack at Begbroke, Oxfordshire.

chapter thirty-nine

In a world in which duty and self-discipline have lost out to hedonism and self-satisfaction, there is nothing like closing your eyes and going with the flow. At least in a fantasy, it all ends happily ever after

(Edwina Currie, The Observer, 23 February 1992)


alan hardinge had gained a first in both parts of the Natural Sciences Tripos at Cambridge; had stayed on in that university for a Ph.D.; then done two years' research at Harvard before being elected in 1970 to a fellowship at the 'other place'. A year later he had courted a librarian from the Bodleian, had married her six months later, subsequently siring two offspring, both girls: the one now in her second year at Durham reading Psychology; the other dead – killed nineteen days earlier as she cycled down Cumnor Hill into Oxford.

He had not been wholly surprised to receive the phone call from Chief Inspector Morse that morning of Tuesday, 21 July, and a meeting was arranged for 2 p.m. the same day, in Hardinge's rooms, overlooking the front quad of Lonsdale College.

'What does your wife know about your interests in Seckham Villa?'

'Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So please can we keep Lynne – my wife – out of this? She's still terribly upset and nervy – God knows what…'

Dr Hardinge spoke in disjunct bursts, punctuated by the equivalent of verbal dashes. He was a smallish, neat man, with crinkly grey hair, darkly suited still in high summer, when many of his colleagues were walking along the High in T-shirts and trainers.

'I can't promise that, of course-'

'Don't you see? I'd do anything – anything at all – to see that Lynne's not hurt. I know it sounds weak – it if weak – it's what we all say – I know – but it's true.' From his hunched shoulders Hardinge's face craned forward like that of an earnest tortoise.

'Know this man?' Morse handed across one of the photographs taken in the garden of Seckham Villa.

Hardinge took a pair of half-lensed spectacles from their case; but appeared not to need them, glancing for only a second or two at the photograph before handing it back.

'James – or Jamie? – Myton. Yes, I know him – knew him -sort of jack-of-all-trades really.'

'How did you get to know him?'

'Look – it'll be better if I tell you – about myself – I think it will.'

Morse listened with interest, and with no moral reproof, as Hardinge stated his apologia for a lifetime of sexual adventurism. As a boy a series of older women had regularly intruded themselves into his dreams, and he had readily surrendered himself, almost without guilt, into the sexual fantasies he found he could so easily conjure up for himself – fantasies in which there were no consequences, no disappointments. In his twenties he would willingly have preferred – did prefer – to watch the pornographic films and videos that were then so readily available. Then he'd met Lynne – dear, honest, trusting Lynne – who would be utterly flabbergasted and so hurt and ashamed if she even began to suspect a fraction of the truth. After his marriage, though, his fantasies persisted; grew even. He was experiencing a yearning for ever greater variety in his sexual gratification, and this had gradually resulted in a string of rather sordid associations: with private film clubs; imported videos and magazines; live sex-shows; 'hostess' parties – for all of which he'd become a regular and eager client. The anticipation of such occasions! The extraordinarily arousing words that became the open sesame to such erotic entertainments: 'Is everybody known?'

'And that's what happened regularly at Seckham Villa?'

'Fairly regularly – seldom more than five or six of us – usually people we'd met once or twice before.'

Morse watched the middle-aged, dapper deceiver, leaning forward all the time, with his aquiline cast of feature, his pale complexion, his slightly pernickety enunciation. He felt he should have despised the man a little; but he couldn't do that. If Hardinge were a bit of a pervert, he was an extraordinarily honest one; and with his faded, watery eyes he looked rather tired and rather lost; weak, and not pretending to be strong.

'You're not a "medical" doctor, sir?' asked Morse when the carnal confessions were complete.

'No. I just wrote a Ph.D. thesis – you know how these things are.'

'On?'

'Promise not to laugh?'

‘Try me.'

' "The comparative body-weight of the great tit within the variable habitats of its North European distribution".'

Morse didn't laugh. Birds! So many people in the case seemed interested in birds…

'Original research, was that?'

'No other kind, as far as I know.'

'And you were examined in this?'

'You don't get a doctorate otherwise.'

'But the person who examined you – well, he couldn't know as much as you, could he? By definition, surely?'

'She, actually. It's the – well, they say it is – the way you go about it – your research; the way you observe, record things, categorize them, and then draw some kind of conclusion. Bit like your job, Inspector.'

‘All I was thinking, sir, is that it might not have been difficult for you to fabricate a few of the facts…'

Hardinge frowned, his head moving forward on his shoulders once more. 'I am not, Inspector, fabricating anything about Seckham Villa – if that's what you're getting at.'

'And you first met Claire Osborne there.'

'She told you that was her name?'

' "Louisa Hardinge", too.'

Hardinge smiled sadly. 'Her one and only tribute to me! But she loves changing her name – all the time – she doesn't really know who she is… or what she wants, Inspector. She's a sort of chameleon, I suppose. But you'll probably know that, won't you? I understand you've met her.'

'What is her name?'

'Her birth-certificate name? I don't really know.'

Morse shook his head. Was there anyone telling him the truth in this case?

'She never went to Seckham Villa herself – as far as I know,' resumed Hardinge. 'I met her through an agency. McBryde -you've spoken to him? – through McBryde. They give you photographs – interests – you know what I mean.'

'Measurements?'

'Measurements.'

'And you fell for her?'

Hardinge nodded. 'Not difficult to do that, is it?'

'You still in love with her?'

'Yes.'

'She with you?'

'No.'

'You'll have to give me the address of the agency.'

'I suppose so.'

'How do you manage to get all the stuff without your wife knowing?'

'Plain envelopes – parcels – here – to my rooms. I get lots of academic material delivered here – no problem.'

'No problem,' repeated Morse quietly, with some distaste in his voice at last, as the authority on the great tits wrote down a brief address.


Hardinge watched from his window as the chief inspector walked along to the Porters' Lodge beside the well-watered, weedless lawn of the front quad. He'd seemed an understanding man, and Hardinge supposed he should be grateful for that. If he'd been a little brighter, perhaps, he would have asked one or two more perceptive questions about Myton, though. Certainly Hardinge knew amongst other things the TV company the lecherous cameraman claimed to have worked for. Yet oddly enough the chief inspector had seemed considerably more interested in Claire Osborne than in the most odious man it had ever been his, Hardinge's, misfortune to encounter.

chapter forty

Then the little Hiawatha Learned of every bird its language, Learned their names and all their secrets

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha)


that afternoon PC Pollard was completely 'pissed off' with life as he later reported his state of mind to his Kidlington colleagues. He'd spoken to no one for more than two hours, since the two fellows from the path lab had been along to examine the cordoned off area, to dig several spits out of the brownly carpeted earth where the bones had lain, and to cart them off in transparent polythene bags. Not that they'd said much to him when they had been there just after lunch-time: the sort of men (Pollard had little doubt) with degrees in science and bio-chemistry and all that jazz. He appreciated the need for such people, of course, although he thought the force was getting a bit too full of these smart-alecs from the universities. He appreciated too that it was important to keep people away from the scene of the crime – if it was a crime. Exactly who these people were though, he wasn't sure. It was a helluva way from the car park for a couple to carry a groundsheet for a bit of clandestine sex; and they wouldn't go there, surely? He'd seen a few birdwatchers as he'd been driven along; but again, not there. Too dark and the birds couldn't fly in there anyway; it'd be like aeroplanes flying through barrage-balloon cables.

The afternoon was wearing tediously on, and for the umpteenth time Pollard consulted his wrist-watch: 4.25 p.m. A police car was promised up along the Singing Way at 5 p.m.; with further instructions, and hopefully with a relief- unless they'd decided to scrub the whole thing now the ground had been worked over, now the first excitement was over.

4-45 pm

4-55 pm.

Pollard folded away his copy of the Sun and picked up the flask they'd given him. He put on his black and white checkered cap, and walked slowly through the woodland riding, wholly unaware.hat a tiny white-fronted tree-creeper was spiralling up a beech ree to his left; that a little further on a lesser-spotted woodpecker -as suddenly sitting very still on a short oak branch as the crunching steps moved alongside.

Another pair of eyes too was watching the back of the shirt-sleeved constable as he walked further and further away; the eyes of a man who made no movement until the woodland around was completely still again, with only the occasional cries of the birds – the thin 'tseet-tseet' of the tree-creeper, and after a while the high 'qui-qui' of the woodpecker – to be heard in that late, still, summer afternoon. For unlike Constable Pollard this man knew much about the woods and about the birds.

The man made his way into the area behind the cordoned square, and, leaning forward, his eyes constantly fixed to the ground, began to tread slowly, as systematically as the terrain would allow, for about twenty yards or so before turning and retracing his steps along a line four or five feet further into the forest; repeating this process again and again until he had covered in area of roughly fifteen yards square. Once or twice he picked up some object from the densely matted floor, only to throw it aside immediately. Such a pattern of activity he repeated on the left-hand side of the cordoned area – into which he ventured at no point – working his way patiently along, ever watchful, ever alert, and occasionally freezing completely like a statue-waltzer once the music has abruptly stopped. In this fashion he worked for over an hour, like an ox that pulls the ploughshare to the edge of the field, then turns round on itself and plods a parallel furrow, right to left… left to right. Boustrophedon.

It was just after 6 p.m. when he found it. Almost he had missed it – just the top of the black handle showing. His eyes gleamed with the elation of the hunter pouncing on his quarry; but even as he pocketed his find his body froze once more. A rustle… nearby. Very near. Then, just as suddenly, he felt his shoulder muscles relax. Wonderfully so. The fox stood only three yards in front of him, ears pricked, staring him brazenly in the eye – before turning padding off into the undergrowth, as if deciding that this intruder, at least, was unlikely to molest its time-honoured solitary territory.


*


The police car was very late ('Traffic!' the driver said) and the four of them – the three at the vehicular access points to the woods, and Pollard himself- couldn't alas be relieved until 7 p.m. Priority was still with the joy-riding kids, and no one seemed to know who was in charge of things there anyway: Sergeant Lewis had buggered off for a skiing holiday in Sweden – Christ! – and Chief Inspector bloody Morse was temporarily 'unavailable', probably in a pub. Pity the walkie-talkie wouldn't function a bit better, probably all those bloody trees, eh?

The tree-creeper was gone, and the lesser-spotted woodpecker was gone, as Pollard plodded reluctantly back to his post.

And something else was gone too.

chapter forty-one

Little by little the agents have taken over the world. They don't do anything, they don't make anything – they just stand there and take their cut

(Jean Giraudoux, The Madwoman of Chaillot]


whether the agency was very busy, or whether the phone was out of order, or whether someone just didn't want to speak to him, Morse couldn't know. But it was 4.30 p.m. before he finally got through, and 5 p.m. before, crawling with the other traffic, he finally pulled into the small concreted parking area of the Elite Booking Services in Abingdon Road. The establishment (as it seemed to Morse) should ideally have been a glitzy, marble-and-glass affair, with a seductive and probably topless brunette contemplating her long scarlet fingernails at reception. But things were not so.

The front room of the slightly seedy semi-detached property was so cluttered with file-cases and cardboard boxes that room could be found for only two upright chairs – for the two women proprietors: one, very large, and certainly ill-advised to be wearing a pair of wide, crimson culottes; the other rather small and flat-chested, black-stockinged and minimally skirted. Both were smoking menthol cigarettes; and judging from the high-piled ashtrays around the room, both were continuously smoking menthol cigarettes. Instinctively Morse felt that the latter (if either) would be the boss. But it was the large woman (in her late twenties?) who spoke first:

'This is Selina – my assistant. I'm Michelle – Michelle Thompson. How can I help you?'

The smile, on the rounded dimpled cheeks, seemed warm enough – attractive even – and Morse, reluctantly taking Selina's seat, asked his questions and received his answers.

The agency was the receptor, the collator, and the distributor of 'information', from all quarters of the country, which might be of interest and use to assorted businesses, ranging from TV companies to film producers, clothes designers to fashion organizers, magazine editors to well, all right, purveyors of rather less salubrious products. In its Terms and Conditions contracts, the agency dissociated itself officially, legally, completely, from any liability arising from the misuse of its services. When a particular client hired a particular model, such a booking was made with the strict proviso that any abuse of contractual obligation was a matter to be settled between model and client – never model and agency. But such trouble was rare – very rare. McBryde had been a client for about two years: a very good client, if full and prompt payment were the criterion – 80 per cent of the negotiated fee to the model; 20 per cent to the agency.

Each spring a Model Year Book was produced; there were always new models, of course, and always new clients – with new, differing interests. But one of the Terms and Conditions ('Terribly important, Inspector!') was that any information originally divulged to the agency concerning individual models, and any information subsequently learned by the agency about the activities of either clients or models, would always remain a matter of the strictest confidentiality. Must still remain so now, unless, well… But at least the inspector could understand that once trust was gone…

'And that's why you never contacted the police?'

'Exactly,' asserted Ms Thompson.

The link with the YWCA in London was very simple. The woman the police had earlier interviewed, Mrs Audrey Morris, was her sister. On the Friday before Karin had hitch-hiked to Oxford, Audrey had phoned to say that they had a young Swedish student with them who was down to her last few pennies; that the YWCA had given her a ten-pound note from the charity fund; that Audrey had written out the name, address, and telephone number of the Elite agency, and assured Michelle that the young lady was shapely, very photogenic, and probably sufficiently worldly-wise to know that a suitable session with a photographer might well work wonders for an impoverished pocket.

'You work on Sundays?'

'Sunday's a good day for sin, Inspector. And we had a client willing and waiting – if she came.'

'And she came?'

'She rang us from a call-box in Wentworth Road in North Oxford and Selina here went up in the Mini to fetch her-'

Morse could contain himself no longer. 'Bloody hell! Do you realize how much time and trouble you could have saved us? No wonder we've got so much unsolved crime when-'

'What crime exactly are we talking about, Inspector?'

Morse let it go, and asked her to continue.

But that was about it – little more to say. Selina had brought her there, to Abingdon Road: attractive, bronzed, blonde, full-figured, skimpily dressed; with a rucksack – yes, a red rucksack, and with very little else. The client from Seckham Villa had been on the look-out for such and similar offerings. A phone call. A verbal agreement: £100 for a one-hour session – £80 to the girl, £20 to the agency.

'How did she get up to Park Town?'

'Dunno. She said she'd walk up to the centre – only five minutes – and get a bite to eat. Didn't seem to want much help. Independent sort of girl.'

So that was that. At least for the present.

Before he left Morse asked to look through the current Model Year Book, a thick black-covered brochure from which, fairly certainly – or from a previous edition of which – the selected photocopies found at Seckham Villa had been taken. The photographs were all in black and white, but in this edition Morse could find neither Claire nor Louisa amongst the elegant ladies in their semi-buttoned blouses and suspendered stockings. No Karin either among the Ks: just Katie, and Kelly, and Kimberly, and Kylie…

'If I can take this?'

'Of course.'

'And I may have to bother you again, I'm afraid – with my sergeant.'

As Morse was leaving the phone rang and Selina made forward as if to take the call. But the senior partner picked up the receiver first, placed her hand over the mouthpiece, and bade her visitor farewell. Thus it was Selina the Silent who accompanied the chief inspector to the door, and who, a little to Morse's surprise, walked out with him to the Jaguar.

'There's something I want you to know,' she said suddenly. 'It's not important, I know, but…'

Unlike the Cockney ancestry of her partner's speech, the vowels here were curiously curly: the vowels of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

'I picked her up, you see. She was a lovely girl.'

'Yes?'

'Don't you see? I wanted her, Inspector. I asked her if she would see me – afterwards. I've got plenty of money, and she'd got she'd got nothing.' A tear, soon to roll slowly down the thin cheek, had formed in the right eye of Selina, the sleeping, weeping partner of the Agency.

Morse said nothing, trusting that for once his instincts were right.

'She said "no",' continued the woman simply. 'That's what I want you to know really: she wouldn't have done… some things. She just wouldn't. She wasn't for sale – not in the way most of them are.'

Morse laid a hand on a bony shoulder, and smiled at her under-standingly, hoping that he'd assimilated whatever it was she'd wanted to tell him. He thought he had.

As he drove away, Morse could see the mightily dimensioned Michelle still busily engaged with the needs of another client. She was certainly the dominant partner in the business; but he wondered who might be the dominant partner in the bed.


He was not back in Kidlington HQ until a quarter to seven, where he learned that some directive was needed – pretty soon! – about the personnel in Wytham Woods. Was the police team there to be disbanded? On the whole Morse thought it was becoming a waste of time to maintain any further watch. But logic sometimes held less sway in Morse's mind than feeling and impulse, and so he decided that perhaps he would continue with it after all.

He drove out of the HQ car park and turned on the radio; but' he'd just missed it – blast! – and he heard the signing-off signature-tune of The Archers as he headed towards Oxford, wondering how much else he might have missed that day.

Turning right at the Banbury Road roundabout he continued down to Wolvercote and called in at the Trout, where for more than an hour he sat on the paved terrace between the sandstone walls of the inn and the low parapet overlooking the river: drinking, and thinking – thinking about the strangely tantalizing new facts he was learning about the death of the Swedish Maiden.


Lewis rang at 10.15 p.m. He was back. He'd had a reasonably successful time, he thought. Did Morse want to see him straightaway?

'Not unless you've got some extraordinary revelation to report.'

'I wouldn't go quite so far as that.'

'Leave it till the morning, then,' decided Morse.

Not that any decision Morse made that night was to be of very much relevance, since the routines of virtually every department at police HQ were to be suspended over the next three or four days. Trouble had broken out again at Broadmoor Lea, where half the inhabitants were complaining bitterly of under-policing and the other half protesting violently about police over-reaction; council workmen there were being intimidated; copy-cat criminality was being reported from neighbouring Bucks and Berks; another high-level two-day conference had been called for Thursday and Friday; the Home Secretary had stepped in to demand a full report; and the investigation of a possible crime committed perhaps a year earlier in either Blenheim Park or Wytham Woods or wherebloody-ever (as the ACC had put the case the following morning) was not going to be the number-one priority in a community where the enforcement of Law and Order was now in real jeopardy.

chapter forty-two

To some small extent these Greek philosophers made use of observation, but only spasmodically until the time of Aristotle. Their legacy lies elsewhere: in their astonishing powers of deductive and inductive reasoning

(W. K. C. Guthrie, The Greek Philosophers)


lewis's report from Sweden had been far more interesting, far more potentially suggestive, than Morse could have hoped. The flesh was being put on the bones, as it were – though no longer those particular bones which had been discovered in Pasticks. The thoughts of others too appeared to be shifting away from any guesswork concerning the likeliest spot in which to dig for the Swedish Maiden, and towards the possible identity of the murderer who had dug the hole in the first place – his (surely a 'he'?) interests, his traits, his psychological identikit, as it were. Especially the thoughts behind the latest letter to The Times, which Morse read with considerable interest on the morning of Friday, 2 4 July.


From the Reverend David M. Sturdy

Sir, Like so many of your regular readers I have been deeply impressed by the ingenuity expended by your correspondents on the now notorious Swedish Maiden verses. All of us had hoped that such ingenuity would eventually reap its reward – especially the wholly brilliant analysis (July 13) resulting in the 'Wytham hypothesis'. It was therefore with much disappointment that we read (Tuesday, July 21) the findings of the police pathologist in Oxford.

I cannot myself hope to match the deductive logic of former correspondents. But is it not profitable to take a leaf out of Aristotle's book, and to look now for some inductive hypothesis? Instead of asking what the original author intended as clues, we should perhaps be asking an entirely different question, viz., what do the verses tell us about the person who wrote them, especially if such a person were trying to conceal almost as much as he was willing to reveal.

Two things may strike the reader immediately. First, the archaisms so prevalent in the verses ('tell'st', 'know'st', 'Wither', 'thy', 'thee', etc.) which strongly suggest that the author is wholly steeped in the language of Holy Writ. Second, the regular resort to hymnological vocabulary: "The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended' (1. n); 'As pants the hart for cooling streams' (1. 15); 'When I survey the wondrous cross' (1. 17) – all of which seem to corroborate the view that the author is a man regularly conditioned by such linguistic influences.

May I be allowed therefore to put two and two together and make, not a murderer, but a minister of God's church? May I go even further? And suggest a minister in the Church of Rome, where the confessional is a commonplace, and where in rare circumstances a priest may be faced with a grievous dilemma – the circumstances, say, when a sinner confesses to an appalling crime, and when the priest may be tempted to compromise the sacred principle of confidentiality and to warn society about a self-confessed psychopath, especially so if the psychopath himself has expressed a wish for such a course of action to be pursued.

Might it not be worthwhile then for the Thames Valley CID to conduct some discreet enquiries among the RC clergy within, say, a ten-mile radius of Carfax?


Yours truly,

DAVID M. STURDY

St Andrew's Vicarage,

Norwich.


This letter was also read by Inspector Harold Johnson on holiday with his wife on the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales. The small village store was not in the habit of stocking The Times, but he had picked up a copy on a shopping trip to Pwllheli that morning, and felt puzzled by the reference to 'the findings of the police pathologist in Oxford'. Not just puzzled, either; a whole lot pleased, if he were honest with himself. It wasn't very specific, but it must surely mean that the girl still hadn't been found. They'd found some other poor sod. Huh! That must have shot bloody Morse in the foot. Shot him up the arse if Strange had his finger on the trigger. He was reading the letter again quickly as his wife was arranging the supermarket carrier bags in the boot of the Maestro.

'What are you smiling at, darling?' she asked.


On Broadmoor Lea, the erection of bollards and concrete blocks, the construction of humps across the streets, and the simpler expedient of digging several holes to the depth of several feet -these activities had put a virtual stop to any possibility of further joy-riding. All a bit makeshift, but all quite effective. There was revulsion too at the young girl's death. And more public cooperation. The police were winning. Or so it appeared. Marion Bridewell had been knocked down by a car (a shiny new BMW stolen from High Wycombe) with four youths inside. The car itself had been abandoned on the neighbouring Blackbird Leys estate, but a good many of the local inhabitants knew who one or two of them were; and some few bystanders, and some few indeed who had earlier applauded the teenagers' skills, were now semi-willing to testify to names and incidents. Earlier that week fourteen youths and two men in their early twenties had been arrested on the estate, and charged with a variety of motoring offences; six of them were still sitting in the cells. There would very soon be four more of them – the BMW four; and looking at things from the point of view of both the City and the County Constabularies, it was fairly certain that normal police duties could be resumed almost immediately.


The following day, Saturday 25 July, Philip Daley had caught the bus into Oxford at 11 a.m., and his mother had watched him disappear up to the main road before venturing quietly, fearfully, into his bedroom with the hoover. The red-covered pocket diary she'd given him for Christmas had remained unused in his drawer until earlier that month, when the entries had started. The first had been on Saturday the 4th, the writing cramped and ill-fitted into the narrow daily space:


Another tonight. Wow!!! What a squeeler

what a bute. I never been so exited before.


And then the last, a fortnight later:


Finish Finis End! We never meant it

none of us. The screems sounded just like the tires but we never meant it.


Margaret Daley looked down again at the date, Saturday, 18 July. Her heart was sinking again within her, and in her misery she wished that she were dead.

chapter forty-three

It is not the criminal things which are hardest to confess, but those things of which we are ashamed

(Rousseau, Confessions)


mrs margaret daley pulled her white Mini into the tarmacadamed area ('For Church Purposes Only') just above St Michael and All Angels at the northern end of the Woodstock Road in Oxford – a white, pebble-dashed edifice, with a steeply angled roof surmounted, at the apex of the gable, by a small stone cross. Although she was not a regular worshipper – once a month or so, with the occasional Easter or Whitsun or Christmas service -Margaret's face was not unfamiliar there, and on the morning of Sunday, 26 July, she exchanged a few semi-smiling greetings; a few only, however, for the congregation was thin for the first Holy Mass at 8 a.m.

The car was George's really, but so often he used the Blenheim Estate van for getting around that it was almost always possible for her to have the prior call; and especially so on Sunday mornings. There had been very few cars on the road as she had driven down the dual-carriageway to the Pear Tree roundabout – her mind deeply and agonizingly preoccupied.

It had begun two years earlier, when George had bought the video; a bit surprising in any case, because he was no great TV addict, preferring a pint in the Sun most evenings to a diet of soaps. But he had bought a video machine; and soon he'd bought a few videotapes to go with it – the highlights of great sporting occasions, mostly: England's 1966 victory in the World Cup; Botham's miracles against the Australians; that sort of thing. The machine had been a rather complex affair, and from the outset there had been a taboo on anyone else manipulating it without his lordship's permission and supervision. It was his toy. Such possessiveness had irked young Philip a little, but the situation had been satisfactorily resolved when the lad had been presented wit:h a small portable TV of his own on his fifteenth birthday. But – in spite of his growing collection of tapes, her husband seldom actually watched them. Or so she'd thought. Gradually, however, she'd begun to realize that he did watch them – when she was away from the house; and particularly so on the regular occasions she was out, twice a week: aerobics on Tuesdays; WI on Thursdays. It had been one Tuesday night when she had been feeling unwell and flushed that she had left the class early and returned home to find her husband jumping up from his seat on the floor beside the TV screen, hurriedly flicking the 'Stop' switch on the video, turning over to the ITV channel, and taking out the tape. The next day, when he was at work, she had managed, for the first time, to get the wretched thing working – and had witnessed a few minutes of wholly explicit and (to her) monstrously disgusting pornography. She had said nothing though; had still said nothing.

But other things were fitting into place. About once every three weeks a brown, plain A4 envelope would be found among George's limited mail, containing, as she'd guessed, some sort of magazine about thirty or forty pages. Often the post would arrive before George left for work; but she had taken the next opportunity of a later delivery partially to steam open the flap on such a communication, and to discover more than sufficient to confirm her suspicions. But again she'd said nothing; had still said nothing; and would still say nothing. For although it was half of her trouble, it is the half of her trouble that she could the better bear.…

Perhaps things were slightly easier as she followed the Order of Mass that early Sunday morning, glancing the whiles around her at the familiar stations of the cross as she sat in a pew at the rear of the church. She knew next to no Latin herself – only what she had learned as a young girl from the RC services in the Douay Martyrs' Secondary School in Solihull. But especially had she then loved the sound of some of the long words they'd all sung: words like 'immolatum' from the Ave Verum Corpus – a serious-minded word, she'd always thought, sort of grand and sad and musical with all those 'm's in it. Although she'd never really known what it meant, she felt disappointed that they'd got rid of most of the Latin and gone for a thin kind of Englishness in the services; felt this disappointment again now as the Celebrant dismissed them:

"The Mass is ended. Go in peace.'

'Thanks be to God,' she'd replied, and waited in her place – until only one other solitary soul lingered there, still kneeling, head bowed, in one of the side pews.

After a few mild exhortations in the porchway to his departing flock, Father Richards re-entered the church; and as he did so Margaret Daley rose and spoke to him, requesting a confessional hearing at one of the appropriate times: Saturdays, 11-12 a.m.; 5.30-6.15 p.m. Perhaps it was the earnestness of her manner, perhaps the moist film of her incipient tears, perhaps her voice -unhappy, hesitant, and trembling… But whichever, it mattered not. Father Richards took her gently by the arm and spoke quietly into her ear.

'If it will help, my child, come now! Let Christ, through His cross and through His resurrection, set you free from all your sins!'


It was not in the normal confessional box at all; but in a small study in the Manse behind the church that Father Richards heard as much as Margaret Daley felt willing to tell him. But even then she lied – lied when she said she had gone into her son's bedroom:o collect his dirty washing, lied about her deepest and most secret fears.

Twice, surreptitiously, Father Richards had looked down at his wrist-watch as he listened. But he refrained from interrupting her until she had told him enough, until he thought he understood enough. The burden of her sin was heavy; yet even heavier (he sensed it) was her guilt at prying into the affairs of others; her anguished conviction that it was precisely because of her prying, because of her snooping, that there had been such terrible secrets -,to discover. Had she not done so… the secrets themselves might not have existed. This was her punishment. Oh God! What could she do?

For a while Father Richards offered no words of consolation; it was important, he knew, for the waters to be drained from the poisoned cistern. But soon – soon he would speak to her. And so it was that he sat and waited and listened until she was dry-eyed again; until her guilt and humiliation and self-pity were for the moment spent. She may have told him a lot or a little, she wasn't sure; but she had told him enough, and now it was time for him to speak.

'You must talk to your son, my child, and you must feel able to forgive him; and you must pray to God for guidance and strength. And this I promise – that I too will pray to God for you.' Momentarily there was a twinkle in the old priest's eyes. 'You know, with the two of us praying for the same thing, He might just listen a little bit harder.'

'Thank you, Father,' she whispered.

The priest placed his hand gently on hers, and closed his eyes as he recited the absolution: 'May God Almighty have mercy on you, forgive your sins, and lead you in the paths of righteousness.'

An 'Amen' was called for, but Margaret Daley had been unable to enunciate a single word, and now walked out of the Manse, and fiddled in her handbag for the car keys. The Mini was the only car remaining on the parking area, but another person was standing there, probably waiting for a lift, it seemed; the person who had been kneeling in the church after everyone else had gone; a person who now turned round and looked into Margaret's face -then looked past her face, unrecognizing, and turned away. The look had lasted but a second, yet in that second Margaret Daley's scalp had thrilled with sudden fear.

chapter forty-four

Impressions there may be which are fitted with links and which may catch hold on each other and render some sort of coalescence possible

(John Livingstone Lowes, The Road to Xanadu)


on the morning of Monday, 27 July, Morse and Lewis were back in business at Kidlington HQ: Lewis (at Morse's insistence) once more going through his Swedish trip in meticulous detail -especially through the furnishings and the photographs on view in Irma Eriksson's living room; and Morse (as always) seeking to convince himself that there was probably some vital clue he'd already missed; or, if not missed exactly, some clue whose true significance had hitherto eluded him. Since early that morning he had, as it were, been shaking the atoms laterally in the frying pan, hoping that a few hooks and eyes might link together and forge some new chain of thought; a new train of thought… train spotting… bird-spotting… birds… Yes, birds (like dogs!) had figured all over the place so far, especially the lesser-spotted woodpecker – 'spotted' (that word again!) – yet still the link refused to make itself. He considered once again Karin's list of hopefully-soon-to-be-identified British birds, and realized that as yet he had made no contact with the woman who lived down near Llandovery… the home of the red kites… Llandovery, out into Wales along the A40… A40, the third of the possibilities… the third of the roads that led off from the Woodstock Road roundabout. Inspector Johnson had done his pedestrian best with the road out to Blenheim Park; and he himself, Morse, had done his (equally pedestrian?) best with the road posted down to Wolver-cote and Wytham. But what if both of them had been wrong? Morse had re-read the statement made by Mrs Dorothy Evans (not an aunt, it appeared, but some second or third cousin, twice or thrice removed) in which she'd affirmed quite simply that Karin Eriksson had never visited her, never even telephoned her at that time; in fact had not seen 'little Karin' since that now largish girl was ten years old. No! The solution to the murder lay there in Oxford, in the environs of Oxford, Morse was convinced of that.

At 10.30 a.m. he decided that he had to speak to David Michaels once more; the man who had pointed the way – almost literally so – to the body found in Pasticks; the man who knew the woodland ridings out at Wytham better than almost any man alive.


From the very roundabout where Karin Eriksson might well have made her fatal decision, Lewis drove down through the twisting road of Lower Wolvercote, past the Trout Inn, and then up the hill towards Wytham village.

'What exactly is a handbrake-turn?' Morse had asked suddenly.

'Don't you know – really?'

'Well, of course, I've got a vague idea…'

'Just a minute, sir. Wait till we're round this next bend and I'll show you.'

'No! I didn't-'

'Only a joke, sir.'

Lewis laughed at his chief's discomfiture, and even Morse managed to produce a weak smile.

The police car drove up to the T-junction at Wytham village, turned left, then immediately right, past the dovecote in the car park of the White Hart, then right again into the lane that led up into Wytham Woods. On a gate-post to the right was fixed a bold notice, black lettering on an orange background:


WYTHAM AMATEUR OPERATIC SOCIETY

Presents

THE MIKADO

BY


GILBERT & SULLIVAN Thursday July 30th, Friday

July 3ist, & Saturday August 1st TICKETS £3.50

(Senior Citizens & Children £2.50)


'The wife's very fond of Gilbert and Sullivan. Far better than all your Wagner stuff, that,' ventured Lewis.

'If you say so, Lewis.'

'Full o' tunes – you know what I mean?'

'We don't go in for "tunes" in Wagner – we go in for "continuous melody".'

'If you say so, sir.'

They drove up to the semi-circular clearing at the edge of the Great Wood.

'We did it at school. I wasn't in it myself, but I remember, you know, everybody dressing up in all that oriental clobber.'

'The Mikado, you mean? Oh, yes. Well done!'

Morse seemed for a while almost half asleep, as Lewis stopped the car and looked across at the stone cottage where Michaels lived.

'We're in luck, sir.' Lewis wound down his window and pointed to the forester, a rifle under his right arm, its barrel tilted earthwards at 45 degrees, the black and white Bobbie happily sniffling the route ahead of him.

'Start the car up again, Lewis,' said Morse very quietly.

'Pardon?'

'Back to the village!' hissed Morse.

As the car momentarily drew alongside, it was Morse's turn to -wind his window down.

'Morning, Mr Michaels. Lovely morning!'

But before the forester could reply, the car had drawn away; and in his rear-view mirror Lewis could see Michaels standing and staring after them, a look of considerable puzzlement on his face.


They were almost the first customers in the White Hart, and Morse ordered a pint of Best Bitter for himself.

'Which would you prefer, sir? We've got-'

'Whatever the locals drink.'

'Straight glass or handle?'

'Straight. Optical illusion, I know, but it always looks as if it holds more.'

'Both hold exactly-'

But Morse had turned to Lewis: 'You'd better not have too much. You're driving, remember.'

'Orange juice – that'll be fine, sir.'

'And, er…' Morse fiddled in his trouser pockets. 'I don't seem to have any coins on me. I'm sure the landlord doesn't want to change a twenty this early in the day.'

'Plenty of change-' began the landlord, but Morse had turned to the wall with his pint and was studying a medieval map of the old parishes around Wytham…


At the time Morse was lifting his first pint, Alasdair McBryde was standing beside reception at the Prince William Hotel in Spring Street, just opposite Paddington railway station. After leaving Oxford -with what a frenetic burst of mental and physical energy! – he had driven the swiftly, chaotically loaded van via the M40 up to London, where he'd parked it in a lock-up garage off the Seven Sisters Road before taking the tube, and a suitcase, to Paddington – to the Prince William. It gave him considerable confidence that he could, if necessary, be standing in front of the departure board of the mainline BR station within one minute of stepping outside this hotel – or if need be by jumping outside it, for the sole window of his en suite bedroom was no more than six feet above the pavement.

The hotel proprietor was a small, perpetually semi-shaven Italian who spent half his working hours at reception studying the racing columns of the Sporting Life. He looked up as McBryde took out his wallet.

'You stay another day, Mr Mac?'

'Mc' had been the only part he could read of the semi-legible scrawl with which his guest had signed the register. And there was no typed name on any cheque to help; no cheque at all – just the two crisp twenty-pound notes he received each day for the following night's B & B, with the repeated injunction (as now) from Mr Mac: 'Give the change to the breakfast girl!' Not a big tip though, for the daily rate was £39.50.

Soon Luigi Bertolese was again reading through the runners in the 2 p.m. at Sandown Park, and looking especially at a horse there named 'Full English', with some moderate form behind him. He looked down too at one of the twenties, and wondered if the Almighty had whispered a tip in his ear.


*


'So you see, old friend? You see?' Morse beamed hugely as he finished his second pint. 'It was all due you Again!'

Lewis could see: for once was able to see perfectly clearly. And this for him was the joy of working with the strange man called Morse; a man who was somehow able to extricate himself from the strait-jacketing circumstances of any crime and to look at that crime from some exterior vantage point. It wasn't fair really! Yet Lewis was very proud to know that he, with all his limitations, could sometimes (as now) be the catalytic factor in the curious chemistry of Morse's mind.

'You having any lunch, sir?'

Morse had been talking for half an hour or so, quietly, earnestly, excitedly. It was now 12.15 pm

'No. Today I'll take my calories in liquid form.'

'Well, I think I'll get myself-'

'Here!' Morse took the precious twenty-pound note from his wallet. 'Don't go mad with it! Get yourself a cheese sandwich or something – and another pint for me.' He pushed his glass across the slightly rickety table. 'And get a beer-mat or something and stick it under one of these legs.'

For a few seconds as he stood at the bar Lewis looked back at his chief. Several other customers were now seated around, and one youth looked almost embarrassingly blissful as he gazed into the bespectacled eyes of the rather plain young woman sitting beside him. He looked, Lewis decided, almost as happy as Chief Inspector Morse.

chapter forty-five

His addiction to drinking caused me to censure Aspern Williams for a while, until I saw as true that wheels must have oil unless they run on nylon bearings. He could stay still and not want oil, or move – if he could overcome the resistance

(Peter Champkin,, The Waking Life of Aspern Williams)


in her laboratory, Dr Laura Hobson had now begun to write her report, after resuming her analysis of the Wytham bones. Not really 'resuming' though, for the bones had hardly left her over the weekend. Quite early on she'd spotted the slight groove on the lower-left rib: it might have been the sharp incision of a rodent's tooth, of course; but it looked so distinctive, that thinly V-shaped mark. It was almost as if someone had deliberately made a notch in the rib – with a knife or similar instrument. It might be important? But no, that was the wrong way of looking at things. It might be important – no question mark; and Laura was oddly anxious to score a few Brownie-points on her first real enquiry. In any case she'd very much like to ingratiate herself a little with the strange policeman who had monopolized her thoughts these last few days. It was odd how you couldn't shake someone out of your mind, however hard you tried. And for Laura that weekend Morse should, she felt, have been reported to the Monopolies' Commission…

Once more she studied the scene-of-crime photographs, and she could identify quite easily the bone that was engaging her interest now. It had obviously lain in situ – not disseminated as so many of the others; and she felt fairly certain that the incision which her patient investigation had revealed was unlikely to have been caused by the tooth of some wild creature, tearing away a morsel from the still-fleshed bones. Could the notch have been caused by a knife, she wondered: after all, she was working, was she not, upon a murder'? So if it wasn't the foxes or the badgers or the birds…Again she adjusted the focus of the powerful microscope upon the top of the rib-bone, but she knew there could never be any definite forensic findings here. The very most she would suggest in her report was that the marked incision made slantwise across the top of the bottom-left rib-bone might possibly have been caused by some incisor tooth, or more probably some sharp implement – a knife, say. And if it were a knife that had been driven through the lower chest, it could well be, probably was, the cause of death. The body would have bled a good deal, with the blood saturating the clothing (if any?) and then seeping into the soil beneath the body; and not even the intervening months of winter, not even the last of the leaves and the accumulating debris from the growth all round, would ever completely obliterate such traces. That angle, though, was being pursued in the University Agricultural Research Station (coincidentally situated out at Wytham) and doubtless she would be hearing something soon. So what, though? Even if there were clear signs of blood to be found there, at the very most she would have a blood group, and Morse would be able to assume that the body had been murdered in situ. Big deal.

Morse! She'd heard he was a bit of a stickler for spelling and punctuation, and she wanted to make as good an impression as she could. Halfway down the first page of her report she was doubtful about one word, and spying a Chambers Dictionary on Max's shelves she quickly looked up the spelling of 'noticeable'.


It was the Pocket Oxford Dictionary that was being consulted (over proceeding') by another report-writer that afternoon, in the Thames Valley Police HQ. Orthographic irregularities were not an uncommon phenomenon in Lewis's writing; but he was improving all the time, and (like his chief) was feeling very happy with life as he transcribed the full notes he had taken on his Swedish investigation.


At 4 p.m., Mrs Irma Eriksson knocked lightly on the door of her daughter's bedroom, and brought in a tray carrying a boiled egg and two rounds of buttered toast. The flu had been virulent, but.the patient was feeling a good deal better now, and very much more relaxed.

As was her mother.


*


At 6.45 p.m. the first – well, the first serious – rehearsal was under way for The Mikado. It was quite extraordinary, really, how much local talent there always was; even more extraordinary was how willingly, eagerly almost, this local talent was prepared to devote so much of its time to amateur theatricals, and to submit (in this instance) to the quite ridiculous demands of a producer who thought he knew – and in fact did know – most of the secrets of pulling in audiences, of ensuring laudatory reviews in the local press, of guiding the more talented vocalists into the more demanding roles, and above all of soothing the petty squabbles and jealousies which almost inevitably arise in such a venture.

Three hours, his wife had said – about that; and David Michaels had been waiting outside the village hall since 9.30 p.m. It wasn't all that far from home – back down the lane, past the pub, then right again up the road into the woods – little more than a mile, in fact; but it was now beginning to get really dark, and he was never going to take any chances with his lovely wife. His talented wife, too. She'd only been a member of the chorus-line in the Village Review the previous Christmas; but it had been agreed by all that a bigger part would be wholly warranted in the next production. So she'd been auditioned; and here she was as one of the three little Japanese girls from school. Nice part. Easy to learn.

She finally emerged at 10.10 p.m. and a slightly impatient Michaels drove her immediately along to the White Hart.

'Same as usual?' he asked, as she hitched herself up on to a bar stool.

'Please.'

So Michaels ordered a pint of Best Bitter for himself; and for his wife that mixture of orange juice and lemonade known as 'St Clements' – a mixture designed to keep the world's bell-ringers in a state of perpetual sobriety.

An hour later, as he drove the Land-rover back up to the cottage, Michaels felt beside the gear-lever for his wife's hand, and squeezed it firmly. But she had been very silent thus far; and remained so now, as she tucked the libretto under her arm and got out, locking the passenger door behind her.

'It's going to be all right, is it?' he asked.

'Is what going to be all right?'

'What do you think I mean? The Mickadoo!'

'Hope so. You'll enjoy me, anyway.'

Michaels locked his own side of the Land-rover. 'I want to enjoy you now!'

She took his hand as they walked to the front porch.

'Not tonight, David. I'm so very tired – please understand.'


Morse too was going home at this time. He was somewhat over-beered, he realized that; yet at least he'd everything to celebrate that day. Or so he told himself as he walked along, his steps just occasionally slightly unbalanced, like those of a diffident funambulist.


Dr Alan Hardinge decided that Monday evening to stay in college, where earlier he'd given a well-rehearsed lecture on 'Man and his Natural Environment'. His largely American audience had been generously appreciative, and he (like others that evening) had drunk too much – drunk too much wine, had too many liqueurs. When at 11.30 p.m. he had rung his wife to suggest it would be wiser for him to stay in his rooms overnight, she had raised not the slightest objection.


Neither Michaels, nor Morse, nor Hardinge, was destined to experience the long unbroken sleep that Socrates had spoken of, for each of the three, though for different reasons, had much upon his mind.

chapter forty-six

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees

(William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell]


wednesday, the 2gth July, was promising to be a busy day; and so it proved.

Inspector Johnson had returned from his holiday the day before, and was now au fait with most of the latest developments in the Swedish Maiden case. At 9.30 a.m. he girded his loins – and rang Strange.

'Sir? Johnson here.'

'Well?'

'I've been sorry to read things haven't worked out at Wytham-'

'Yes?'

'It's just that if you'd be prepared to give me the chance of some men in Blenheim again – '

'No chance. Don't you realize that while you've been lying bare-arsed on the beaches we've had all these bloody joy-riders-'

'I've read all about it, sir. All I was thinking-'

'Forget it! Morse is in charge now, not you. All right, he's probably making a bloody mess of it. But so did yow! And until I give the say-so, he's staying fully in charge. So if you'll excuse me, I've got a train to catch.'


Morse also had a train to catch and left on the ten o'clock for London, where Lewis had arranged for him to meet a representative of the Swedish Embassy (for lunch), and the supervisor of the King's Cross YWCA (for tea).

For Lewis himself, after seeing Morse off at Oxford railway station, there were a great many things still to be done. Preliminary enquiries the previous day had strongly suggested – confirmed really – that Morse's analysis of the case (to which Lewis, and Lewis alone, was hitherto privy) was substantially correct in most respects. Often in the past Morse had similarly been six or so furlongs ahead of the field only later to find himself running on the wrong racecourse. This time, though, it really did look as if the old boy was right; and from Lewis's point of view it was as if he'd dreamed of the winner the night before and was now just going along to the bookmaker's to stick a few quid on a horse that had already passed the winning post.

Fortunately the pressure was temporarily off the troubles at Broadmoor Lea, and it was no difficulty for Lewis to enlist some extra help. Two DCs were assigned to him for the rest of the day; and this pair were soon off to investigate both the City and the County records of car thefts, car break-ins, car vandalism, etc., in the few days immediately following the last sighting of the Swedish Maiden. Carter and Helpston had seemed to Lewis a pretty competent couple; and so, later that Wednesday, it would prove to be the case.

In mid-morning, Lewis rang The Oxford Mail and spoke to the editor. He'd like to fax some copy – copy which Morse had earlier drafted – for that evening's edition. All right? No problem, it appeared.


NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN SWEDISH MAIDEN MYSTERY

Detective Chief Inspector Morse of the Thames Valley CID is confident that recently unearthed evidence has thrown a completely new light on the baffling case of Karin Eriksson, who disappeared in Oxford more than a year ago, and whose rucksack was discovered soon afterwards in a hedgerow-bottom at Begbroke. A body found after a search of Wytham Woods has proved not to be that of the Swedish student, and the chief inspector told our reporter that further searches of the area there have now been called off. Murder enquiries continue, however, and it is understood that the focus of police activity is now once again centred on the Blenheim Estate in Woodstock – the scene of the first phase of intensive enquiries just over a year ago.

The police are also asking anyone to come forward who has any information concerning Dr Alasdair McBryde, until very recently living at Seckham Villa, Park Town, Oxford. Telephone 0865 846000, or your nearest police station.


Later in the day both Chief Superintendent Strange and Chief Inspector Johnson were to read this article: the former with considerable puzzlement, the latter with apparently justifiable exasperation.

And someone else had read the article.


The slim Selina had been more than a little worried ever since Morse had called at the agency. Not worried about any sin of commission; but about one of omission, since she'd been almost certain, when Morse had asked for anything on McBryde, that there had been a photograph somewhere. Each Christmas the agency had given a modest little canape-and-claret do; and later that afternoon in Abingdon Road, and temporarily minus the mighty Michelle, she had decided where, if anywhere, the photograph might be. She looked in the files under 'Parties, Promotions etc.', and there it was: a black and white six- by four-inch photograph of about a dozen of them, party hats perched on their heads, wine glasses held high in their hands – a festive, liberally lubricated crew. And there, in the middle, the bearded McBryde, his arms round two female co-revellers.


Morse had bought a copy of The Times in Menzies book-stall at Oxford railway station. In the context of the case as a whole, the two Letters to the Editor which he read just after Didcot (the crossword finished all but one clue) were not of any great importance. Yet the first was, for Morse, the most memorable letter of them all, recalling a couplet he'd long been carrying around in his mental baggage.


From Mr Gordon Potter

Sir, My interest in the Swedish Maiden verses is minimal; my conviction is that the whole business is a time-consuming hoax. Yet it is time that someone added a brief gloss to the admirable letter printed in your columns (July 24). If we are to seek a priest of Roman Catholic persuasions as the instigator of the verses, let me suggest that he will also almost certainly be an admirer of the greatest poet-scholar of our own century. I refer to A. E. Housman. How else do we explain line 3 of the printed verses ('Dry the azured skylit water')? Let me quote Norman Marlow in his critical commentary, A. E. Housman, page 145:

Two of the most beautiful lines in Housman's work are surely these:

And like a skylit water stood

The bluebells in the azured wood.


Here again is a reflection in water, and this time the magic effect is produced by repeating the syllable "like" inside the word "skylit" but inverted as a reflection in water is inverted.'


Yours faithfully,

J. GORDON POTTER,

'Arlington',

Leckhampton Road,

Cheltenham,

Glos.


And the second, the sweetest:


From Miss Sally Monroe

Sir, 'Hunt' (1. 18)? 'kiss' (1. 20)? And so far I only know one poem by heart. 'Jenny kissed me when we met', by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859).


Yours faithfully,

SALLY MONROE (aged 9 years)

22 Kingfisher Road,

Bicester,

Oxon.

chapter forty-seven

Yonder, lightening other loads,

The seasons range the country roads,

But here in London streets I ken

No such helpmates, only men

(A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad)


morse's day was satisfactory – but little more.

He had arrived a quarter of an hour late, with the diesel limping the last two miles into Paddington at walking-pace, for reasons (Morse suspected) not wholly known even to the engine-driver. But he still arrived in good time at the Swedish Embassy in Montague Place for his meeting with Ingmar Engstrom, a slim, blond fellow in his forties, who seemed to Morse to exude a sort, of antiseptic cleanliness, yet who proved competent and helpful, and willing to instigate immediate enquiries into the matter which Morse (with the greatest care) explained to him.

Lunch was brought into Engstrom's office, and Morse looked down unenthusiastically at the thin, pale slice of white-pastried quiche, the half jacket potato, and the large separate bowl of undressed salad.

Very good for the waist-line,' commented the good-humoured Swede. 'And no sugar in this either. Guaranteed genuine!' he added, pouring two glasses of chilled orange juice.

Morse escaped from Montague Place as soon as good manners allowed, professing profuse gratitude but refusing further offers of cottage-cheese, low-fat yoghurt, or fresh fruit, and was quite soon to be heard complimenting the landlord of a Holborn pub on keeping his Ruddles County Bitter in such good nick.


Seldom had tea as a meal, never had tea as a beverage, assumed any great importance in Morse's life. Although relieved therefore not to be faced with the choice of China or Indian, he could well have done without the large plastic cup of weak-looking luke-warm tea which he poured for himself from the communal urn in the virtually deserted canteen of the YWCA premises. For a while they chatted amiably, if aimlessly: Morse discovering that Mrs Audrey Morris had married a Welshman, was still married to the same Welshman, had no children, just the one sister – the one in Oxford – and, well, that was that. She'd been trained as a social worker in the East End, and taken the job of superintendent of the YWCA four years since. She enjoyed the job well enough, but the situation in London was getting desperate. All right, the hostel might be two rungs up from the cardboard-box brigade, but all the old categories were gradually merging now into a sort of communal misery: women whose homes had been repossessed; wives who had been battered; youngish girls who were unemployed or improvident or penniless – or usually all three; birds of passage; and druggies, and potential suicides, and of course quite frequently foreign students who'd miscalculated their monies – students like Miss Karin Eriksson.

Morse went through the main points of the statement she had made the previous summer, but there was, it seemed, nothing further she could add. Like her younger sister she was considerably overweight, with a plump, attractive face in which her smile, as she spoke, appeared guileless and co-operative. So Morse decided he was wasting his time, and sought answers to some other questions: questions about what Karin was like, how she behaved, how she'd got on with the others there.

Was it that Morse had expected a litany of seductive charms -the charms of a young lady with full breasts ever bouncing beneath her low-cut blouse, with an almost indecently short skirt tight-fitting over her bottom, and her long, bronzed legs crossed provocatively as she sat sipping a Diet Coke… or a Cognac? Only half expected though, for his knowledge of Karin Eriksson was slowly growing all the time; was growing now as Mrs Morris rather gently recalled a girl who was always going to catch men's eyes, who was certainly aware of her attraction, and who clearly enjoyed the attention which it always brought. But whether she was the sort of young woman whose legs would swiftly – or even slowly -ease apart upon the application of a little pressure, well, Audrey Morris was much more doubtful. She'd given the impression of being able to keep herself, and others, pretty much under control. Oh yes!

'But she – she might lead men on a bit, perhaps?' asked Morse.

'Yes.'

'But maybe' – Morse was having some difficulty – 'not go much further?'

'Much further than what?'

'What I'm saying is, well, we used to have a word for girls like that – when I was at school, I mean.'

'Yes?'

'Yes.'

' "Prick-teaser"? Is that the word you're looking for?'

'Something like that,' said Morse, smiling in some embarrassment as he stood up and prepared to leave; just as Karin Eriksson must have stood up to take her leave from these very premises, with ten pounds in her purse and the firm resolve (if Mrs Morris could be believed) of hitch-hiking her way not only to Oxford, but very much further out along the A40 – to Llandovery, the home of the red kite.

Audrey Morris saw him out, watching his back as he walked briskly towards the underground station at King's Cross, before returning to her office and phoning her sister in Oxford.

‘I’ve just had your inspector here!'

'No problems, I hope?'

'No! Quite dishy though, isn't he?'

'Is he?'

'Come off it! You said he was.'

'Did you give him a glass of that malt?'

'What?'

'You didn't give him a drink?'

'It's only just gone four now.'

'A-u-d-r-e-y!'

'How was I to know?'

'Didn't you smell his breath?'

'Wasn't near enough, was I?'

'You didn't manage things at all well, did you, sis!'

'Don't laugh but – I gave him a cup of tea.'

In spite of the injunction, the senior partner of Elite Booking Services laughed long and loud at the other end of the line.


*


Morse arrived back in Oxford at 6.25 p.m., and as he crossed over the bridge from Platform 2 he found himself quietly humming one of the best-known songs from The Mikado:


My object all sublime

I shall achieve in time

To let the punishment fit the crime,

The punishment fit the crime…

chapter forty-eight

Players, Sir! I look on them as no better than creatures set upon tables and joint stools to make faces and produce laughter, like dancing dogs

(Samuel Johnson, The Life of Samuel Johnson)


for several persons either closely or loosely connected with the case being reported in these pages, the evening of Thursday, 30 July, was of considerable importance, although few of the persons involved were aware at the time that the tide of events was now approaching its flood.

7.25 p.m.

One of the three little maids peered out from one side of the tatty, ill-running stage-curtain and saw that the hall was already packed, 112 of them, the maximum number stipulated by the fire regulations; saw her husband David – bless him! – there on the back row. He had insisted on buying himself a ticket for each of the three performances, and that had made her very happy. Did he look just a little forlorn though, contributing nothing to the animated hum of conversation all around? He'd be fine though; and she – she felt shining and excited, as she stepped back from the curtain and rejoined her fellow performers. All right, there were only a few square yards 'backstage'; such a little stage too; such an inadequate, amateurish orchestra; such a pathetic apology for lighting and effects. And yet… and yet the magic was all around, somehow: some competent singers; excellent make-up, especially for the ladies; lovely costumes; super support from the village and the neighbourhood; and a brilliant young pianist, an undergraduate from Keble, who wore a large earring, who could sing the counter-tenor parts from the Handel operas like an angel, and who spent most of his free time on lonely nocturnal vigils

watching badgers in the nearby woods.

Yes, for Cathy Michaels the adrenaline was flowing freely, and any worries her husband might be harbouring for her – or she for him\ – were wholly forgotten as with a few sharp taps of the conductor's baton there fell a hush upon the hall; and with the first few bars of the overture, The Mikado had begun. Quickly she looked again in one of the mirrors there at the white-faced, black-haired, pillar-box-red-lipped Japanese lady who was herself; and knew why David found her so attractive. David… a good deal older than she was, of course, and with a past of which she knew so very little. But she loved him, and would do anything for him.


7.50 p.m.

The four youths, aged twelve, fourteen, seventeen, and seventeen, were still being held in police custody, in St Aldate's. Whereas collectively on the East Oxford estates they had, by all accounts, appeared a most intimidating bunch, individually they now looked unremarkable. Quite quickly after their arrest had the bravado of this particular quartet disintegrated, and as Sergeant Joseph Rawlinson now looked again at one of the seventeen-year-olds, he saw only a nervous, surly, not particularly articulate lad. Gone was the bluster and aggression displayed in the back of the police car when they had picked him up from home – and now they were taking him back.

'These things all you had on you, son?'

'S'pose so, yeah.'

Rawlinson picked them up carefully, one by one, and handed them across. 'Fiver, £1, £1, 50p, 10p, 5p, 5p, 5p, 2p, 2p, 1p OK? Comb; Marlboro cigarettes; disposable lighter; packet of condoms, Featherlite – only one left; half a packet of Polos; two bus tickets-one blue Biro. OK?'

The youth stared sullenly, but said nothing.

'And this!' Rawlinson picked up a red-covered diary and flicked quickly through the narrow-ruled pages before putting it in his own jacket pocket. 'We're going to keep this, son. Now I want you to sign there.' He handed over a typed sheet and pointed to the bottom of it.

Ten minutes later Philip Daley was once more in the back of a police car, this time heading out to his home in Begbroke, Oxon.


*


'Makes you wonder, Sarge!' ventured one of the constables as Rawlinson ordered a coffee in the canteen.

'Mm.' Joe Rawlinson was unhappy about committing himself too strongly on the point: his own lad, aged fifteen, had become so bolshie these last six months that his mum was getting very worried about him.

'Still, with this – what's it? – Aggravated Vehicle-taking Bill. Unlimited fines! Might make 'em think a bit harder.'

'Got sod-all to start with though, some of 'em.'

'You're not going soft, Sarge?'

'Oh no! I think I'm getting harder,' said Rawlinson quietly, as he picked up his coffee, and walked over to an empty table at the far corner of the canteen.

He hadn't recognized the lad. But he'd recognized the name immediately – from that time the previous summer when he'd been working under Chief Inspector Johnson out at Blenheim. It could, of course, have just been one of those minor coincidences that were always cropping up in life – had it not been for the diary: a bit disturbing, some of the things written in that. In fact he'd almost expected to meet his old chief Johnson out on the estates at the weekend, amid the half-bricks and the broken bottles. But someone had said he was off on holiday – lucky bugger! Still, Rawlinson decided to get in touch if he could; try to ring him up tomorrow.


8.15 p.m.

Anders Fasten, a very junior official at the Swedish Embassy, had at last found what he was looking for. It had been a long search, and he realized that if only the files had been kept in a more systematized fashion he would have saved himself many, many hours. He would mention this fact to his boss; and – who knows? – the next tricky passport query might be answered in minutes. But he was pleased to have found it: it was important, he'd been informed. In any case, his boss would be pleased. And he much wanted to please his boss, for she was very beautiful.


9 pm.

Sergeant Lewis had arrived home from HQ half an hour earlier, had a meal of eggs (two), sausages (six), and chips (legion), and now sat back in his favourite chair, turned on the BBC news, and reviewed his day with considerable satisfaction…

Especially, of course, had Morse been delighted with the photograph of Alasdair McBryde; and even more delighted with the fact that, on his own initiative, Lewis had given instructions for police leaflets to be printed, and for adverts to be placed in the following day's Oxford Mail, Friday's edition of The Oxford Times – and the Evening Standard.

'Masterstroke, that is!' Morse had exclaimed. 'What made you think of the Evening Standard?

'You said you were sure he'd gone to London, sir.'

'Ah!'

'Didn't meet him by any chance?' Lewis had asked happily…

After the weather forecast – another fine sunny day, with temperatures ranging from 22 degrees Celsius in the south – Lewis put out the regular two milk-tokens, locked and bolted the front door, and decided on an early night. He heard his wife humming some Welsh melody as she washed up the plates and he went through to the kitchen and put his arms round her.

'I'm off to bed – bit weary.'

‘`appy too, by the sound of you. 'ad a good day?'

'Pretty good.'

'That because bloody Morse beggared off and left you on your own?'

'No! Not really.'

She dried her hands and turned to him. 'You enjoy workin' for 'im, don't you?'

'Sometimes,' agreed her husband. 'It's just that he sort of- lifts me a bit, if you know what I mean.'

Mrs Lewis nodded, and draped the dish-cloth over the tap. 'Yes, I do,' she replied.


10.30 pm.

It was half an hour since Dr Alan Hardinge had decided it was time to walk along to St Giles' and take a taxi out to his home on Cumnor Hill. But still he sat sipping Scotch in the White Horse, the narrow pub separating the two wings of Blackwell's bookshop in the Broad. The second of his two lectures had not been an unqualified success, and he was aware that his subject-matter had been somewhat under-rehearsed, his delivery little more than perfunctory. And only one glass of wine to accompany a mediocre menu!

Still, £100 was £100…

He was finding that however hard he tried, it was becoming progressively more difficult for him to get drunk. He hadn't read any decent literature for months, yet Kipling had been a hero in his youth and vaguely he recalled some words in one of the short ones: something about knowing the truth of being in hell 'where no liquor no longer takes hold, and the soul of a man is rotten within him'. He knew though that he was becoming increasingly maudlin, and he opened his wallet to look again at the young girl… He remembered the agonies of anxiety they had both experienced, he and his wife, the first time she was really late back home; and then that terrible night when she had not come back at all; and now the almost unbearable emptiness ahead of him when she would never come home again, never again…

He took out too the photograph of Claire Osborne from amongst his membership and credit cards: a small passport photograph, she staring po-faced at the wall of a kiosk somewhere – not a good photograph, but not a bad likeness. He put it away and drained his glass; it was ridiculous going on with the affair really. But how could he help himself? He was in love with the woman, and he was lately re-acquainted with all the symptoms of love; could so easily spot it in others too – or rather the lack of it. He knew perfectly well, for example, that his wife was no longer in love with him, but that she would never let him go; knew too that Claire had never been in love with him, and would end their relationship tomorrow if it suited her.

One other thing was worrying him that night – had been worrying him increasingly since the visit of Chief Inspector Morse. He wouldn't do anything immediately, but he was fairly sure that before long he would be compelled to disclose the truth about what had occurred a year ago…


10.30 p.m.

After watching the weather forecast, Claire Osborne turned off the ITN News at Ten – another half-hour of death, destruction, disease, and disaster. She was almost getting anaesthetized to it, she felt, as she poured herself a gin and dry Martini, and studied one of the typed sheets that Morse had sent her:


MOZART: Requiem (K6a6)

Helmuth Rilling (Master Works)

H. von Karajan (Deutsche Grammophon)

Schmidt-Gaden (Pro Arte)

Victor de Sabata (Everest)

Karl Richter (Telefunken)


In two days' time she would have her fortieth birthday and she was going to buy a tape or a record of the Requiem. All Morse's versions, he'd said, were records: 'But they're not going to be pressing any more records soon, and some of these are museum-pieces anyway.' Yet for some reason she wanted to buy one of the ones he'd got, although she realized it would probably be far more sensible to invest in a CD player. Herbert von Karajan was the only one of the five conductors she'd heard of, and 'Deutsche Grammophon' looked and sounded so impressive… Yes, she'd try to get that one. Again she looked down at the sheet, trying to get the correct spelling of that awkward word 'Deutsche' into her head, with its tricky 't', V, 'c', 'h', 'e' sequence.

Ten minutes later she had finished her drink, and put down the empty glass. She felt very lonely. And thought of Morse. And poured herself another drink, this time putting a little more ice in it.

'God Almighty!' she whispered to herself.


4.30 a.m.

Morse woke in the soundless dark. From his youth he had been no stranger to a few semi-erotic day-dreams, yet seldom at night did he find himself actually dreaming of beautiful women. But just now – oddly! – he dreamed a very vivid dream. It had not been of any of the beautiful women he'd so far met in the case – not of Claire Osborne, nor of the curly-headed dietitian, nor of Laura Hobson – but of Margaret Daley, the woman with those blondish-grey streaks in her hair; hair which had prompted Lewis to ask his cardinal question: 'Why do you think people want to make themselves look older than they are, sir? Seems all the wrong way round to me.' But Margaret Daley had appeared quite young in Morse's dream. And there had been a letter somewhere in that dream: 'I thought of you so much after you were gone. I think of you still and ask you to think of me occasionally – perhaps even come to visit me again. In the hope that I don't upset you, I send you my love…' But there was no letter of course; just the words that someone had spoken in his mind. He got up and made himself a cup of instant coffee, noting on the kitchen calendar that the sun would be rising at 05.19. So he went back to bed and lay on his back, his hands behind his head, and waited patiently for the dawn.

chapter forty-nine

An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town-meeting or a vestry

(Thomas Jefferson, Letters)


dr laura hobson, one of those who had not been invited across the threshold of Morse's dreams, entered his office the following morning just before nine o'clock, where after being introduced to Sergeant Lewis she took a seat and said her say.

It didn't, she admitted, boil down to very much really, and it was all in the report in any case. But her guess was that the man whose bones were found in Pasticks was about thirty years of age, of medium height, had been dead for at least nine or ten months, might well have been murdered – with a knife-wound to the heart, and that perhaps delivered by a right-handed assailant. The traces of blood found beside and beneath the body were of group O; and although the blood could have been the result of other injuries, or of other agencies, well, she thought it rather doubtful. So that was it. The body had most probably 'exited' (Morse winced) on the spot where the bones were found; not likely to have been carried or dragged there after death. There were other tests that could be carried out, but (in Dr Hobson's view at least) there remained little more to be discovered.

Morse had been watching her carefully as she spoke. At their first meeting he'd found her north-country accent (Newcastle, was it? Durham City?) just slightly off-putting; but he was beginning to wonder if after a little while it wasn't just a little on-putting. He noticed again, too, the high cheek-bones, and the rather breathless manner of her speaking. Was she nervous of him?

Morse was not the only one who looked at the new pathologist with some quiet admiration; and when she handed him the four typed sheets of her report, Lewis asked the question he'd wanted to put for the last ten minutes.

'You from Newcastle?'

'Good to hear it pronounced correctly! Just outside, actually.'

Morse listened none too patiently as the two of them swapped a few local reminiscences before standing up and moving to the door.

'Anyway,' said Lewis, 'good to meet you.' Then, waving the report: 'And thanks for this, luv!'

Suddenly her shoulders tightened, and she sighed audibly. 'Look! I'm not your "luv", Sergeant. You mustn't mind me being so blunt, but I'm no one's "luv" or-'

But suddenly she stopped, as she saw Morse grinning hugely beside the door, and Lewis standing somewhat discomfited beside the desk.

'I'm sorry, it's just that-'.

'Please forgive my sergeant, Dr Hobson. He means well – don't you, Lewis?'

Morse watched the slim curves of her legs as she left the office, the colour still risen in her cheeks.

'What was all that about?' began Lewis.

'Bit touchy about what people call her, that's all.'

'Bit like you, sir?'

'She's nice, don't you think?' asked Morse, ignoring the gentle gibe.

To be truthful, sir, I think she's a smasher.'

Somehow this plain statement of fact, made by an honest and honourable man, caught Morse somewhat off his guard. It was as if the simple enunciation of something extremely obvious had made him appreciate, for the first time, its truth. And for a few seconds he found himself hoping that Dr Laura Hobson would return to collect something she'd forgotten. But she was a neatly organized young woman, and had forgotten nothing.


Just before Morse and Lewis were leaving for a cup of coffee in the canteen, a call came through from PC Pollard. This rather less-than-dedicated vigilante of Pasticks had been one of four uniformed constables detailed to the compass-point entrances of Blenheim Park; and he was now ringing, with some excitement in his voice, to report that the Wytham Woods Land-rover, driven by David Michaels (whom he'd immediately recognized), had just gone down to the garden centre there. Should he try to see what was happening? Should he – investigate?

Morse took the portable phone from Lewis. 'Good man! Yes, try to see what's going on. But don't make it too obvious, all right?'

'How the hell's he going to do that?' asked Lewis when Morse had finished. 'He's in uniform.'

'Is he? Oh.' Morse appeared to have no real interest in the matter. 'Make him feel important though, don't you think?'


Chief Inspector Johnson was on his second cup of coffee when Morse and Lewis walked into the canteen. Raising a hand he beckoned Morse over: he'd welcome a brief word, if that was all right? Just the two of them though, just himself and Morse.

Ten minutes later, in Johnson's small office on the second floor, Morse learned of the red diary found the previous day on the person of Philip Daley. But before the two detectives discussed this matter, it was Johnson who'd proffered the olive-branch.

'Look. If there's been a bit of bad feeling – well, let's forget it, shall we? What do you say?'

'No bad feeling on my side,' claimed Morse.

'Well, there was on mine,' said Johnson quietly.

'Yeah! Mine, too,' admitted Morse.

'OK then?'

'OK.'

The two men shook hands firmly, if unsmilingly, and Johnson now stated his case. There'd been a flood of information over the past few days, and one thing was now pretty certain: Daley Junior had been one of the four youths – though not the driver – in the stolen BMW that had killed Marion Bridewell. From all accounts, the back wheels had slewed round in an uncontrollable skid and knocked the poor little lass through a shop window.

'Bit of an odd coincidence, certainly – the boy being involved in both cases,' commented Morse.

'But coincidences never worried you much, did they?'

Morse shrugged. 'I don't reckon he had much to do with the Eriksson case, though.'

'Except he had the camera,' said Johnson slowly.

'Ye-es.' Morse nodded, and frowned. Something was troubling m a little; like a speck of grit in a smoothly oiled mechanism; ke a small piece of shell in a soft-boiled egg.


Since the tragedy, Mrs Lynne Hardinge, a slim, well-groomed, grey-haired woman of fifty, had thrown herself with almost frenetic energy into her voluntary activities: Meals on Wheels, Cruse, Help the Aged, Victim Support… Everyone was saying what a wonderful woman she was; everyone commented on how well she was coping.

At the time that Morse and Johnson were talking together, she got out of the passenger seat in the eight-windowed Volvo, and taking with her two tin-foiled cartons, main course and sweet, knocked firmly on a door in the Osney Mead estate.

Most of those who received their Meals on Wheels four times a week were grateful and gracious enough. But not quite all.

'It's open!'

"Here we are then, Mrs Gruby.'

'Hope it's not that fish again!'

'Lamb casserole, and lemon pudding.'

‘Tuesday's was cold – did you know that?'

‘Oh dear!'

The wonderfully well-coping voluntary worker said no more, but her lips moved fiercely as she closed the door behind her. Why didn't you stick it in the fucking oven then, you miserable old bitch? Sometimes she felt she could go quite, quite mad. Just recently too she'd felt she could easily shoot somebody – certainly that pathetic two-timing husband of hers.

chapter fifty

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy

(Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus]


it was immediately following Morse's almost unprecedentedly alcohol-free lunch (cheese sandwich and coffee) that the crucial break in the case occurred. And it was Lewis's good fortune to convey the tidings to the canteen, where Morse sat reading the Daily Mirror.

When earlier in the week Morse had argued that a car would have been required, that a car would have been essential, that a car would have to be disposed of- when earlier Morse had argued these points, the firing plugs in Lewis's practical mind had sputtered into life: cars lost, cars stolen, cars vandalized, cars burned, cars abandoned, cars found on the streets, cars towed away – Lewis had straightway gauged the possibilities; and drawing a vaguely twenty-mile radius round Oxford, after consultation with the Traffic Unit, he had been able to set in motion a programme of fairly simple checks, with attention focused on the few days following the very last sighting of Karin Eriksson.

The key evidence would have been difficult to miss, really, once the dates were specified, since Lt. Col. Basil Villiers, MC, had rung the police on no less than twelve occasions during the period concerned, complaining that the car found abandoned and vandalized, and thereafter further vandalized and finally fired, was a blot on the beautiful landscape – a disgrace, an eyesore, and an ugliness; that he (the aforesaid Colonel) had not fought against despotism, dictatorship, totalitarianism, and tyranny to be fobbed off with petty excuses concerning insurance, liability, obligation, and availability of personnel. But it had only been after considerable difficulty (number plates now gone, though registration markings still on the windows) that the owner of the vehicle had been traced, and the offending 'eyesore' towed away from the neighbourhood of the Colonel's bungalow to some vehicular Valhalla – with a coloured photograph the only memento now of what once had been a newborn, sleek, and shining offspring of some Japanese assembly line.

The keying-in of the registration number now (as presumably a year earlier?) had produced, within a few seconds, the name and address of the owner: James Myton, of 24 Hickson Drive, Baling; or rather formerly of 24 Hickson Drive, Baling, since immediate enquiries at this address had confirmed only that James Myton had not lived there for more than a year! Swansea DVLC had sent three letters to the said address, but without reply. LMJ 5946 was a lapsed registration, though still not deleted, it appeared, from the official records kept in South Wales.

As for Myton himself, his name had appeared on Scotland Yard's missing-persons list for the second half of 1991. But in that year over 30,000 persons were registered as 'missing' in London alone; and a recent report, wholly backed by Sir Peter Imbert himself, suggested that the index was becoming so inaccurate that it should be restarted from scratch, with a completely fresh re-check on each of the legion names listed. As Morse saw things though, it was going to take considerably more than a 're-check' to revive any hopes of the missing Mr James Myton ever being found alive again.

By mid-afternoon there was firm corroboration from Baling that the body found in Pasticks was that of James William Myton, who as a boy had first been taken 'into care' by the local authority; later looked after by an ageing couple (now deceased) in Brighton; and thereafter supervised for a time by HM Borstal Service on the Isle of Wight. But the young man had always shown a bit of practical talent; and in 1989, aged twenty-six, he had emerged into the outside world with a reputation for adequate competence in carpentry, interior design, and photography. For eighteen months he had worked in the TV studios at Bristol. A physical description from a woman living two doors away from him in Ealing suggested 'a weakish sort of mouth in which the lower teeth were set small and evenly spaced, like the crenellations of a young boy's toy-fort'.

'She should have been a novelist!' said Morse.

'She is a novelist,' said Lewis.

At all events Myton was not now to be found; and unlikely to be found. Frequently in the past he had been a man of no permanent address; but in the present Morse was sure that he was a permanent dweller in the abode of the dead – as the lady novelist might have phrased it in one of her purplier passages.

Yet things were going very well on the whole – going very much as Morse had predicted. And for the rest of the afternoon the case developed quietly: no surprises; no set-backs. At 5.45 p.m. Morse called it a day and drove down to his flat in North Oxford.


For about two hours that afternoon, as on every weekday afternoon, the grossly overweight wife of Luigi Bertolese sat at the receipt of custom in the Prince William Hotel, whilst her husband conducted his daily dealings with Mr Ladbroke, Turf Accountant. The early edition of the Evening Standard lay beside her, and she fixed her pair of half-lenses on to her small nose as she began reading through. At such times she might have reminded some of her paying guests of an owl seated quietly on a branch after a substantial meal – half dopey as the eyelids slowly descended, and then more than commonly wise as they rose… as they rose again now when number 8 came in, after his lunch. And after his drink – by the smell of him.

The photograph was on the front page, bottom left: just a smallish photograph and taken when he'd had a beard, the beard he'd shaved off the day after his arrival at the hotel. Although Maria Bertolese's English was fairly poor, she could easily follow the copy beneath: 'The police are anxious to interview this man, Alasdair McBryde…'

She gave him the room-key, handed over two twenty-pound notes, and nodded briefly to the newspaper.

'I doan wanna no trouble for Luigi. His heart is not good – is bad.'

The man nodded, put one of the twenties in his wallet, and gave her back the other: 'For the breakfast girl, please.'

When Luigi Bertolese returned from the betting shop at four o'clock, number 8, cum luggage, had disappeared.


*


At the ticket office in the mainline Paddington terminus, McBryde asked for a single to Oxford. The 16.20, calling at Reading, Didcot Parkway, and Oxford, was already standing at Platform 9; but there was ten minutes to spare, and from a British Telecom booth just outside the Menzies bookshop there he rang a number (direct line) in Lonsdale College, Oxford.


Dr Alan Hardinge put the phone down slowly. A fluke he'd been in his rooms really. But he supposed McBryde would have caught up with him somewhere, sometime; there would have been a morning or an afternoon or an evening when there had to come a rendering of accounts, a payment of the bill, eine Rechnung, as the Germans said. He'd agreed to meet the man of course. What option had he? And he would see him; and they would have a distanced drink together, and talk of many things: of what was to be done, and what was not to be done.

And then?

Oh God! What then?

He put his head in his hands and jerked despairingly at the roots of his thick hair. It was the cumulative nature of all these bloody things that was so terrible. Several times over the last few days he'd thought of ending it all. But, strangely perhaps, it had not been any fear concerning death itself that had deterred him; rather his own inability to cope with the practical aspects of any suicide. He was one of those people against whom all machinery, all gadgetry, would ever wage perpetual war, and never in his life had he managed to come to terms with wires and switches and fuses and screws. There was that way of ending things in the garage, for example – with closed doors and exhaust fumes; but Hardinge suspected he'd cock that up completely. Yet he'd have to do something, for life was becoming intolerable: the failure of his marriage; his rejection by the only woman he'd really grown to love; the futility of academic preferment; his pathetic addiction to pornography; the death of his daughter; and now, just a few minutes ago, the reminder of perhaps the most terrible thing of all…


*


The second performance of The Mikado, as Morse recalled, was scheduled, like the first, for 7.30 p.m. Still plenty of time to get ready and go, really. But that evening too he decided against it.


The first night had been all right, yes – but all a bit nervy, a bit 'collywobbly", as the other girls had said. They'd be in really good form that second night, though. David had said she'd been fine the first night -fine] But she'd be better now; she'd show him!

With five minutes to go, she peeped round the curtain again and scanned the packed audience. David's ticket for each of the three nights had been on the back row, and she could see one empty seat there now, next to the narrow gangway. But she could see no David. He must, she thought, be standing just outside the hall, talking to somebody before the show began. But seat K5 was destined to remain unoccupied that evening until, during the last forty minutes, one of the programme-sellers decided she might as well give her aching feet a welcome rest.

chapter fifty-one

He that is down needs fear no fall, He that is low, no pride

(John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress)


whether Morse had been expecting something of the kind, Lewis wasn't at all sure. But certain it was that the Chief Inspector appeared less than surprised when the telephone call came through from Dr Alan Hardinge the following morning. Could he see Morse, please? It wasn't desperately urgent – but well, yes it was desperately urgent really, at least for him.

Morse was apparently perfectly content for Lewis to interject one or two obvious questions, just to keep things flowing – the meanwhile himself listening carefully, though with a hint of cynicism around his lips. Perhaps, as Lewis saw things, it had been the preliminary niceties that had soured his chief a little:

morse: I was very sorry to learn of your daughter's accident, Dr Hardinge. Must have been a – a terrible -

hardinge: How would you know? You've no children of your own.

morse: How did you know that?

hardinge: I thought we had a mutual friend, Inspector.


No, it hadn't been a very happy start, though it had finished far more amicably. Hardinge had readily agreed to have his statement recorded on tape; and the admirably qualified WPC Wright was later to make a very crisp and clean transcription, pleasingly free from the multi-Tipp-Exed alterations that usually characterized Lewis's struggles with the typewriter:


On Sunday, 7 July 1991,1 joined four other men in Seckham Villa, Park Town, Oxford. I am more embarrassed than ashamed about the shared Interest that brought us together. Those present were: Alasdair McBryde, George Daley, David Michaels, James Myton, and myself. McBryde informed us that we might be in for an Interesting afternoon since a young Swedish student would be coming to sit for what was euphemistically termed a photographic session. We learned she was a beautiful girl, and desperately in need of money. If we wished to watch, that would be an extra £50: £100 in totol. I agreed. So did Daley. So did Michaels. I myself had arrived first. Daley and Michaels arrived together a little later, and I had the impression that the one had probably picked the other up. I knew next to nothing about these two men except that they were both in the same line of business – forestry, that sort of thing. I had met each of them two or three times before, I had never met them together before.

The fifth man was Myton, whom I'd known earlier, I'm ashamed to say, as the editor of a series of sex magazines whose particular slants ranged from bestiality to paedophilia. He was a smallish, slimly built man, with a weasel-like look about him – sharp nose and fierce little eyes. He often boasted about his time with the ITV Zodiac Production team; and however he may have exaggerated, one thing was perfectly clear: whatever he filmed for videotapes, whatever he photographed for 'stills', Myton had the magical touch of the born artist.

The first part of the afternoon I can remember only vaguely. The room in which we were seated, the basement room, had a largish, erectile screen, and we were there (all except Myton) watching some imported hard-porn Danish videos when we were aware that the eagerly awaited Swedish star had arrived. The doorbell had been rung; McBryde had left us; and soon we were to hear voices just above us, in the garden outside – the voices of Myton and the young woman I now know to have been Karin Eriksson. I remember at that point feeling very excited. But things didn't work out. It soon transpired that the girl had misunderstood the nature of her engagement; that she was happy enough to do a series of nude stills – but only behind a closed door, with a camera, and with one cameraman. No argument.

It was about half an hour later that we heard the awful commotion in the room immediately above us, and we followed McBryde up the stairs. The young woman (we never knew her name until days later) lay on the bed. She lay motionless there, with blood all over the white sheets – vividly red blood, fresh blood. Yet it was not her blood – but Myton's! He sat there crumpled up on the floor, clutching his left side and gasping desperately, his eyes widely dilated with pain – and fear. But for the moment it was the naked girl who compelled our attention. There were horridly bright-red marks around her throat, and her mouth seemed oddly swollen, with a trickle of blood slowly seeping down her cheek. Yes, her cheek. For it was the angle of her head that was so startling – craned back, as though she were trying so hard to peer over her forehead to the headboard of the bed behind her. Then, not immediately perhaps but so very soon, we knew that she was dead.

If ever my heart sank in fear and froze in panic – it was then! Often in the past I had been in some sex cinema somewhere, and wondered what would happen if there were a sudden fire and the exits were blocked with panic-stricken men. The same sort of thoughts engulfed me now: and then, behind me -terrifying noise! – I heard a sound like a kitchen sink clearing itself, and I turned to see the vomit of dark-red blood suddenly spurting from Myton's mouth and spilling in a great gush over the carpet. Six or seven times his body heaved in mighty spasms – before he too, like the girl on the bed, lay still.

Of the sequence of events which had led up to this double tragedy, it is impossible to be certain. I can't know what the others there thought; I don't really know what I thought. I suppose I envisaged Myton filming her as she took up her various poses; then lusting after her and trying to assault her there. But she'd fought him off, with some partial success. More than partial success.

What was clear to us all was that she'd stabbed him with a knife, the sort of multi-purpose knife scouts and guides carry around with them, for she still clutched the knife even then in her right hand as if she'd thought he might make for her again. How she came to have such a weapon beside her – as I say, she was completely naked – I can't explain.

My next clear recollection is of sitting with the other three in the downstairs room drinking neat whisky and wondering what on earth to do, trying to devise some plan. Something! Anything! All of us – certainly three of us – had the same dread fear in mind, I'm sure of it: of being exposed to society, to our friends, families, children, everyone – exposed for what we really were – cheap, dirty-minded perverts. Scandal, shame, ruin – never had I known such panic and despair.

I now come to the most difficult part of my statement, and I can't vouch for the precise motives of all of us, or indeed for some specific details. But the main points of that day are fairly clear to me still – albeit they seem in retrospect to have taken place in a sort of blur of unreality. Let me put it simply. We decided to cover up the whole ghastly tragedy. It must seem almost incredible that we took such enormous trouble to cover ourselves, yet that is what we did. McBryde told us that the only others who knew of the Swedish girl's visit were the model agency, and he said he would see to it that there was no trouble from that quarter. That left – how terrible it all now sounds -two bodies, two dead bodies. There could be no thought of their being disposed of before the hours of darkness, and so it was agreed that the four of us should reassemble at Seckham Villa at 9.45 p.m.

For the last few months Myton had been living out of suitcases – out of two large, battered-looking brown suitcases. And in fact had been staying with McBryde, on and off, for several of the previous weeks. But McBryde was still cursing himself for letting the two of them, Myton and the girl, go out into the back garden, since if any of the neighbours had seen Karin Eriksson they would quite certainly have remembered her clearly. His fears on this score however seem to have been groundless. As far as Myton's suitcases and personal effects were concerned, McBryde himself would be putting them into the back of his van and carting them off to the Redbridge Waste Reception Centre early the following morning. Myton's car was a much bigger headache but the enormous rise in the number of car-related crimes in Oxford that year suggested a reasonably simple solution. It was decided that I should drive the Honda out to the edge of Otmoor at 10.45 p.m. that same night, kick in all the panels, smash all the windows, and take a hammer to the engine. And this was done. McBryde had followed me in his van – and indeed assisted me in my vandalism before driving me back to Oxford.

That was my role. But there was the other huge problem -the disposal of two bodies, and also the ditching somewhere of the girl's rucksack. Why we didn't decide to dump the rucksack with Myton's suitcases, I just don't know. And what a tragic mistake that proved. The bodies were eventually loaded into the back of McBryde's van which drove off under the darkness of that night – this is what I understand – first to Wytham, where after Michaels had unlocked the gate leading to the woods the two foresters had transferred Myton's body to the Land-rover, and then driven out to dispose of the body in the heart of the woods somewhere – I never knew where.

Then the same men drove out to Blenheim where Daley, naturally, had easy access to any part of the Great Park, and where Karin Eriksson's body, wrapped in a blanket and weighed down with stones, was pushed into the lake there – again I never knew where.

Looking back, the whole thing seems so very crude and cruel. But some people act strangely when they are under stress – and we were all under tremendous stress that terrible day. Whether the others involved will be willing to corroborate this sequence of events, I don't know. What is to be believed is that this statement has been made of my own free will with no coercion or promptings, and that it is true.

The statement was dated i.viii.1992, and signed by Dr Alan Hardinge, Fellow of Lonsdale College, Oxford, in the presence of Detective Chief Inspector Morse, Detective Sergeant Lewis, and WPC Wright – no solicitor being present, at Dr Hardinge's request.


Whilst Hardinge was still only some halfway through his statement, George Daley, eager as ever to take advantage of overtime, was boxing some petunias in the walled garden at Blenheim Garden Centre. He had not heard the footsteps; but he felt the touch of a hand on his shoulder, and jerked nervously.

'Christ! You got 'ere quick.'

'You said it was urgent.'

'It is bloody urgent.'

'What is?'

'Now look-!'

'No, you look! The police'll have that statement some time this morning – probably got it already. And we've agreed – you've agreed – remember that!'

Daley took off the ever-present hat, and wiped the back of his right wrist across his sweaty forehead.

'Not any longer I haven't bloody agreed, mate. Look at this!' Daley took a letter from his pocket. 'Came in the post this morning, dinnit? That's why I rang. See what I could get done for? Me! Just for that fuckin' twerp o' mine. No, mate! What we agreed's no good no longer. We double it – or else no deal. Four, that's what I want. Not two. Four!'

"Four? Where the hell do you reckon that's coming from?'

'Your problem, innit?'

'If I could find it,' said the other slowly, 'how do I know you're not going-'

'You don't. Trust, innit? I shan't ask nothin' more never though – not if we make it four.'

'I can't get anything, you know that – not till the bank opens Monday.'

There was a silence between them.

'You won't regret it, mate,' said Daley finally.

'You will, though, if you ever come this sort of thing again.'

'Don't you threaten me!'

‘I’m not just threatening you, Daley – I'll bloody kill you if you try it on again.' There was a menace and a power now in his quiet voice, and he turned to go. 'Better if you come to me – fewer people about.'

'Don't mind.'

'About ten – no good any earlier. In my office, OK?'

'Make it outside your office.'

The other shrugged. 'Makes no difference to me.'

chapter fifty-two

Everything comes if a man will only wait

(Benjamin Disraeli, Tancred)


an hour after Hardinge had left – had been allowed to leave -Lewis came back into Morse's office with three photocopies of the document.

Morse picked up one set of the sheets and looked fairly cursorily, – appeared, at the transcript of Hardinge's statement. 'What did you make of things?'

'One or two things a bit odd, sir.'

'Only one or two?'

'Well, there's two things, really. I mean, there's this fellow Daley, isn't there? He's at Park Town that afternoon and that night he shoves the girl's body into the lake at Blenheim.'

‘Yes?'

'Well, then he leaves the girl's rucksack in a hedge-bottom at Begbroke. I mean-'

'I wish you'd stop saying "I mean", Lewis.'

‘Well, you'd think he'd have left it miles away, wouldn't you? He could easily have dumped it out at Burford or Bicester or somewhere. I me – '

'Why not put it in the blanket? With the body?'

'Well, yes. Anywhere – except where he left it.'

'I think you're right.'

'Why don't we ask him then?'

'All in good time, Lewis! You just said two things, didn't you?'

'Ah, well. It's the same sort of thing, really. They decided to put Myton's body in Wytham Woods, agreed? And they did put it there, because we've found it. What I can't understand is why Michaels told you where it was. I mean- Sorry, sir!'

'But he didn't, did he? He didn't exactly give us a six-figure grid-reference.'

'He told you about Pasticks, though.'

'Among other places, yes.' For a while Morse looked out across the tarmac yard, unseeing it seemed, though nodding gravely. 'Ye-es! Very good, Lewis! You've put your finger – two fingers -on the parts of that statement that would worry anyone; anyone even half as intelligent as you are.'

Lewis was unsure whether this was exactly the compliment that Morse had intended; but the master was beginning his own analysis:

'You see – ask yourself this. Why did Daley have to dump the rucksack, and then find it himself? As you rightly say, why so close to the place they'd just dumped her body? What's the reason? What could be the reason? Any reason? Then, again just as you say, why was Michaels prepared to be so helpful to us? Crackers, isn't it – if he didn't want anyone to find the body? So why? Why give us any chance of finding it? Why not give us a duff list of utterly improbable sites? God! Wytham's as big as…' (Morse had difficulty with the simile) 'as the pond out at Blenheim.'

' "Lake", sir – about two hundred acres of it. Take a bit of dragging, that.'

'Take a lot of dragging.'

'Forget it, then?'

'Yes, forget it! I think so. As I told you yesterday, Lewis…’

'You still think you were right about that?'

'Oh, yes! No doubt about it. All we've got to do is to sit back and wait. We're going to have people come to us, Lewis. We're losing nothing. You can take it from me there'll be no more casualties in this case unless… unless it's that silly young sod, Philip Daley.'

'We might as well take a bit of a breather then, sir.'

'Why not? Just one thing you can do on your way home, though.’

Look in at Lonsdale, will you? See who was on duty at the Porters' Lodge last night, and try to find out if our friend Hardinge had any visitors in his rooms. And if so, how many, and who they were.

For the moment, however, Lewis seemed reluctant to leave.

'You sure you don't want me to go and pick up Daley and Michaels?'

'I just told you. They'll be coming to us. One of 'em will, anyway, unless I'm very much mistaken.'

'Which you seldom are.'

‘Which I seldom am.'

'You don't want to tell me which one?'

‘Why shouldn't I want to tell you which one?'

‘Well?'

'All right. I'll bet you a fiver to a cracked piss-pot that the Head Warden, the Lone Ranger, or whatever his name is, will call here – in person or on the phone – before you sit watching the six o'clock news on the telly.'

‘Earlier than that, sir – on a Saturday – the TV news.'

‘Oh, and before you go, leave these on Johnson's desk, will you? He won't be in till Monday, I shouldn't think, but I promised to keep him fully informed.' He handed over the third set of photocopied pages, and Lewis rose to depart.

'Do you want me to ring you if I find anything?'

'If it's interesting, yes,' said Morse, with apparent indifference.


Earlier that day, Lewis thought he'd had a pretty clear idea of what the case was all about; or what Morse had told him the case was all about. But now on leaving Kidlington HQ his mind was far more confused, as if whatever else had been the purpose of Hardinge's statement it had certainly muddled the waters of his, Lewis's, mind, though apparently not that of his chief's.

As it happened (had he remembered it) Morse would have lost any bet that might have been made, for no one, either in person or on the telephone, was to call on him that afternoon. In fact he did nothing after Lewis left. At one point he almost decided to attend the last night of The Mikado at Wytham. But he hadn't got a ticket, and it would probably be a sell-out; and in any case he'd bought a CD of Mozart's Requiem.


Cathy saw him there that final evening, ten minutes before the curtain was scheduled to rise: the bearded, thick-set, independent soul she'd been so happy to marry in spite of the difference in their ages. He was talking quite animatedly to an attractive woman on the row in front of him, doubtless flirting with her just a little, with that dry, easy, confidential tone he could so easily assume. Yet Cathy felt not the slightest spasm of jealousy – for she knew that it was she who meant almost everything to him.

She let the drape fall back across her line of vision, and went back to the ladies' dressing room where, over her left shoulder, she surveyed herself in the full-length mirror. The simple, short black dresses, with their white collars and red belts, and the suspender-held black stockings, had proved one of the greatest attractions of the show; and each of the three perhaps not-so-little maids, if truth were known, was enjoying the slightly titillating exhibitionism of it all. Cathy had omitted to ask David if he really approved; or if he might be just a teeny bit jealous. She hoped he was, of course; but, no, he needn't be. Oh no, he needn't ever be.


Like most amateur and indeed professional productions, The Mikado had been put together in disparate bits, with almost all chronological sequencing impossible until the dress rehearsal. Thus it was that David Michaels, though attending a good many practices during the previous month, had little idea of what, perhaps rather grandly, was sometimes called the opera's 'plot'. Nor had his understanding been much forwarded as a result of the first night's performance, for his mind was dwelling then on more important matters. And now, on this final night, his mind was even further distanced, while he watched the on-stage action as if through some semi-opaque gauze; while he listened to the squeaky orchestra as if his ears were stuffed with cotton wool…

He recalled that phone call the previous evening, after which he'd driven down to Oxford, had luckily found a parking place just beside Blackwell's bookshop in the Broad, and then walked through Radcliffe Square and across the cobbles into Lonsdale College, where he'd followed his instructions, walked straight past the Porters' Lodge as if on some high behest, and then into Hardinge's rooms in the front quad, where McBryde had already arrived, and where Daley was to appear within minutes.

Over a year it had been since they'd last met – a year in which virtually nothing had occurred; a year during which the police files had been kept open (he assumed); but a year in which he and the others, the quartet of them, would have assumed with ever-growing relief and confidence that no one would, or ever could, now discover the truth about that hot and distant sunny day.

It was that bloody letter in the paper that had stirred it all up again – as well as that man Morse. What a shock it had been then they'd found the body – since he, Michaels, had no idea watsoever it had been there at all. Bad luck, certainly. What a slice of good luck though that he'd found the antler-handled knife, because no one was ever going to find that again, lying deep as it was in the lake at Blenheim Park. Yes, the last vestige of evidence was at last obliterated, and the situation was beginning to right itself again; or rather had been so beginning… until he'd taken the second phone call, early that very morning; the call from that cesspit of a specimen out at Begbroke. But Daley could wait for a while; Daley would play along with them for a little longer yet. The one thing Michaels was quite unable to understand was why Morse was waiting. And that made him very uneasy. Perhaps every-body was waiting…

Suddenly he was conscious of the applause all around him, as the curtain moved jerkily across to mark the end of Act I of The Mikado.

chapter fifty-three

As we passed through the entrance archway, Randolph said with pardonable pride, 'This is the finest view in England'

(Lady Randolph Churchill, on her first visit to Blenheim)


on monday, 3 August, Chief Inspector Harold Johnson had spent much of the morning with his City colleagues in St Aldate's, and it was not until just gone 11 a.m. that he was in his own office back at Kidlington HQ – where he immediately read the transcript of Hardinge's evidence. Then re-read it. It was all new to him, except the bits about the rucksack, of course. Naturally he had to admit that since Morse had been on the case the whole complexion of things had changed dramatically: clues, cars, corpses – why hadn't he found any of them? Odd really, though: Morse's obsession had been with Wytham; and his, Johnson's, with Blenheim. And according to the statement Hardinge had made, both of them had been right all along. He rang through on the internal extension to Morse's office, but learned that he had just left, with Lewis – destination undisclosed.

Blenheim! He found the glossy brochure on Blenheim Palace still on his shelves, and he turned to the map of the House and Grounds. There it was – the lake! The River Glyme flowed into the estate from the east, first into the Queen Pool, then under Vanbrugh's Grand Bridge into the lake beyond: some two hundred odd acres in extent, so they'd told him, when first he'd mooted the suggestion of dragging the waters. Too vast an undertaking, though; still was. The Queen Pool was fairly shallow, certainly, and there had been a very thorough search of the ground at its periphery. But nothing had been found, and Johnson had always suspected (rightly, it seemed!) that if Karin Eriksson's body had been disposed of in any stretch of Blenheim there, it had to be in the far deeper, far more extensive waters of the lake; had to be well weighted down too, so the locals had told him, since otherwise it would pretty certainly have surfaced soon after immersion, and floated down to the Grand Cascade, at the southern end of the lake, where the waters resume their narrow flow within the banks of the Glyme.

Johnson flicked through the brochure's lavish illustrations and promised himself he would soon take his new wife to visit the splendid house and grounds built by Queen Anne and her grateful parliament for the mighty Duke. What was that mnemonic they'd learned at school? BROM – yes, that was it: Blenheim, Ramilles, Oudenarde, Malplaquet – that musical quartet of victories. Then, quite suddenly, he had the urge to go and look again at that wonderful sight which bursts upon the visitor after passing through the Triumphal Gate.

He drove out to Woodstock, past the Bear and the church on his left, then across a quadrangle and up to the gate where a keeper sat in his box, and where Johnson (to his delight) was recognized.

'You going through, sir?'

Johnson nodded. 'I thought we had one of our lads at each of the gates?'

'Right. You did, sir. But you took 'em off.'

'When was that?'

'Saturday. The fellow who was on duty here just said he wouldn't be back – that's all I know. Reckon as he thought the case was finished, like.'

'Really?'

Johnson drove on through, and there it was again, bringing back so many memories: in the middle distance the towers and finials of the Palace itself; and there, immediately to his right, the lake with the Grand Bridge and Capability Brown's beechwood landscape beyond it. Breathtaking!

Johnson accepted the fact that he was a man of somewhat limited sensitivity; yet he thought he was a competent police officer, and he was far from happy about the statement he'd just read. If this Hardinge fellow could be believed, the evidence Daley had given a year earlier had been decidedly uneconomical with the truth; and that, to Johnson, was irksome – very irksome. At the time, he'd spent a good while with Daley, going over that wretched rucksack business; and he wanted to have another word with Daley. Now!

He drove down past the Palace to the garden centre; but no one there had seen Daley that morning. He might be out at the mill, perhaps? So Johnson drove out of the estate, through Eagle Lodge, and out on to the A4095, where he turned right through Bladon and Long Hanborough, then right again and in towards the western boundary of the estate, parking beside the piles of newly cut stakes in the yard of the Blenheim Estate Saw-Mill. Only once had he been there when earlier he'd been the big white chief, and he was suddenly aware that it would have been considerably quicker for him to have driven across the park instead of round the villages. Not that it much mattered, though.

No one recognized him here. But he soon learned that Daley's van wasn't there; hadn't been there since Friday afternoon in fact, when he'd been looking after some new plantation by the lake, and when he'd called at the saw-mill for some stakes for supporting saplings. One of the workers suggested that Daley would probably have taken the van home with him for the weekend – certainly so if he'd been working overtime that weekend; and the odds were that Daley was back planting trees that morning.

Johnson thanked the man and drove to the edge of the estate, only just along the road really; then right along a lane that proclaimed 'No Thoroughfare', till he reached Combe Lodge where, Johnson had been told, the gate would probably be locked. But, well, he was a policeman, he'd said.

Johnson read the notice on the tall, wooden, green-painted gate:


ACCESS FOR KEYHOLDERS ONLY.

ALL OTHER VEHICLES MUST USE THE GATE IN WOODSTOCK. DO NOT DISTURB THE RESIDENTS IN THE LODGE.

But there was no need for him to disturb the (single) resident, since a tractor-cum-trailer was just being admitted, and in its wake the police car was waved through without challenge. A little lax perhaps, as Johnson wondered. Immediately in front of him the road divided sharply; and as a lone, overweight lady, jogging at roughly walking pace, took the fork to the right, Johnson took the fork to the left, past tall oak trees towards the northern tip of the lake. Very soon, some two or three hundred yards ahead on his left, he saw the clump of trees, and immediately realized his luck – for a Blenheim Estate van stood there, pulled in beside an old, felt-roofed hut, its wooden slats green with mildew. He drew in alongside and got out of the car to look through a small side-window of glass.

Nothing.'Well, virtually nothing: only a wooden shelf on which rested two unopened bags of food for the pheasants. Walking round to the front of the hut, he tried the top and bottom of the stable-type door: both locked. Then, as he stepped further round, something caught the right-hand edge of his vision, and he looked down at the ground just beyond and behind the hut – his mouth suddenly opening in horror, his body held momentarily in the freezing grip of fear.

chapter fifty-four

Michael Stich (W. Germany) beat Boris Becker (W. Germany) 6-4, 7-6, 6-4.

(Result of the Men's Singles Championship at Wimbledon, 1991)


At the time that Chief Inspector Johnson had set out for Woodstock, Lewis was driving, at slightly above the national speed limit, along the A40 to Cheltenham. It appeared to have been a late, impulsive decision on Morse's part:

'You realize, Lewis, that the only person we've not bothered about in this case so far is auntie whatever-her-name-is from Llan-dovery.'

'Not an "auntie" exactly, sir. You know, it's like when little girls sometimes call women their aunties – '

'No. I don't know, Lewis.'

'Well, it seems Karin called her Auntie Dot or Doss – this Mrs Evans. "Dorothy", I seem to remember her Christian name was.'

'You've profited from your weekend's rest, Lewis!'

'Don't you think we ought to get Daley and Michaels in first though, sir? I mean, if they're prepared to back up what Dr Hardinge says-'

'No! If I'm right about this case – which I am! – we'll be in a far better position to deal with those two gentlemen once we've seen the Lady of Llandovery. Remember that sign at the Woodstock Road roundabout? Left to Wytham; right to Woodstock; straight over for the A40 to West Wales, right? So we can be there in…? How far is it?'

'Hundred and thirty? Hundred and forty miles? But don't you think we should give her a ring just in case-'

'Get the car out, Lewis. The way you drive we'll be there in three hours.'

'Try for two and a half, if you say so,' replied Lewis with a radiant smile.


*


it had been after Cheltenham, after Gloucester and Ross-on-Wye, after Monmouth and the stretch of beautiful countryside between Brecon and Llandovery, that Morse had come to life again. Never, in Lewis's experience, had he been any sort of conversationalist in a car; but that day's silence had broken all records. And when finally he did speak, Lewis was once again conscious of the unsuspected processes of Morse's mind. For the great man, almost always so ignorant of routes and directions and distances, suddenly jerked up in his passenger seat:

'The right turn in a couple of miles, Lewis – the A483 towards Builth Wells.'

'You don't want to stop for a quick pint, sir?'

'I most certainly do. But if you don't mind, we'll skip it, all right?'

'I still think it would've been sensible to ring her, sir. You know, she might be off for a fortnight in Tenerife or something.'

Morse sighed deeply. 'Aren't you enjoying the journey?' Then, after a pause: 'I rang her yesterday afternoon, anyway. She'll be there, Lewis. She'll be there.'

Lewis remained silent, and it was Morse who resumed the conversation:

'That statement – that statement Hardinge made. They obviously got together the four of them – Hardinge, Daley, Michaels, and McBryde – got together and cooked up a story between them. Your porter couldn't give us any names, you say; but he was pretty sure there were at least three, probably four, of 'em in Hardinge's rooms on Friday night. And if they all stick to saying the same -well, we shall have little option but to believe them.'

'Not that you will, sir.'

'Certainly not. Some of it might be true, though; some of it might be absolutely crucial. And the best way of finding that out is seeing Auntie Gladys here.'

'Dorothy.'

'You see, there was only one really important clue in this case: the fact that the Swedish girl's rucksack was found so quickly -had to be found – left beside the road-side – sure to be found.'

‘I think I'm beginning to see that,' said Lewis, unseeing, as he turned left now at Llanwrtyd Wells, and headed out across the Cambrian Hills.

But not for long. After only a couple of miles, on the left. they came to a granite-built guest-house, 'B & B: Birdwatchers Welcome'. Perhaps it was destined to do a fairly decent trade. Was certainly so destined, if there were any birdwatchers around, since there was not another house to be espied anywhere in the deeply wooded landscape.


Mrs Evans, a smallish, dark, sprightly woman in her late forties showed them into the 'parlour'; and was soon telling them something of herself. She and her husband had lived in East Anglia for the first fifteen years of their (childless) marriage; it was there that she'd met Karin for the first time eight or nine years ago. She, Mrs Evans, was no blood relation at all, but had become friendly with the Eriksson family when they had stayed in the guest-house in Aldeburgh. The family had stayed the next year too, though minus Daddy that time; and thereafter the two women had corresponded off and on fairly regularly: birthday cards, Christmas cards, holiday postcards, and so on. And to the three young Eriksson girls she had become 'Auntie Doss'. When Karin had decided to come to England in 1991, Mrs Evans had known about it; and not having seen the girl for six years or so, had suggested to her mother that if Karin was going to get over towards Wales at all there would always be a welcome for her – and a bed. And some wonderful birdwatching, since the beautiful red kites were becoming an increasingly common sight there. What sort of girl was Karin? Of course, she'd only been thirteen or fourteen when she'd seen her last but, well – lovely, really. Lovely girl. Attractive – very proper, though.

As the conversation between them developed, Lewis found himself looking idly round the room: armchairs, horse-hair settee, mahogany furniture, a coffee table piled high with country magazines, and on the wall above the fireplace a large map of Dyffed and the Cambrian Mountains. It seemed to him a rather bleak and sunless room, and he thought that had she reached this far, the young Karin Eriksson would not have felt too happy there…

Morse had now got the good lady talking more rapidly and easily, her voice rising and falling in her native Welsh lilt; talking about why they'd moved back to Wales, how the recession was hitting them, how they advertised for guests – in which magazines and newspapers. On and on. And in the middle of it:

'Oh! Would you both like a cup of tea?'

'Very kind – but no,' said Morse, even as Lewis's lips were framing a grateful 'yes'.

'Tell me more about Karin,' continued Morse. ' "Proper" you said. Do you mean "prim and proper" – that sort of thing? You know, a bit prudish; a bit… straightlaced?'

'Nor, I dorn't mean that. As I say it's five or six years back, isn't it. But she was… well, her mother said she'd always got plenty of boyfriends, like, but she knew, well… she knew where to draw the line – let's put it like that.'

'She didn't keep a packet of condoms under her pillow?'

"I dorn't think so.' Mrs Evans seemed far from shocked by the blunt enquiry.

'Was she a virgin, do you think?'

'Things change, dorn't they? Not many gels these days who ought to walk up the aisle in white, if you ask me.'

Morse nodded slowly as if assimilating the woman's wisdom, before switching direction again. What was Karin like at school -had Mrs Evans ever learned that? Had she been in the – what was it? – Flikscouten, the Swedish Girl Guides? Interested in sport was she? Skiing, skating, tennis, basketball?

Mrs Evans was visibly more relaxed again as she replied: 'She was always good at sport, yes. Irma – Mrs Eriksson – she used to write and tell me when her daughters had won things; you know, cups and medals, certificates and all that.'

'What was Karin best at, would you say?'

'Dorn't know really. As I say it's a few years since-'

'I do realize that, Mrs Evans. It's just that you've been so helpful so far – and if you could just cast your mind back and try – try to remember.'

'Well, morst games, as I say, but – '

'Skiing?'

'I dorn't think so.'

'Tennis?'

'Oh, she loved tennis. Yes, I think tennis was her favourite game, really.'

'Amazing, aren't they – these Swedes! They've only got about seven million people there, is that right? But they tell me about four or five in the world's top-twenty come from Sweden.'

Lewis blinked. Neither tennis nor any other sport, he knew, was of the slightest interest to Morse who didn't know the difference between side-lines and touch-lines. Yet he understood exactly the trap that Morse was digging; the trap that Mrs Evans tumbled into straightaway.

'Edberg!' she said. 'Stefan Edberg. He's her great hero.'

'She must have been very disappointed about Wimbledon last year, I should think, then?'

'She was, yes. She told me she-'

Suddenly Mrs Evans's left hand shot up to her mouth, and for many seconds she sat immobile in her chair as if she'd caught a glimpse of the Gorgon.

'Don't worry,' said Morse quietly. 'Sergeant Lewis will take it all down. Don't talk too fast for him, though: he failed his forty words per minute shorthand test, didn't you, Sergeant?'

Lewis was wholly prepared. 'Don't worry about what he says, Mrs Evans. You can talk just how you like. It's not as if – turning to Morse – 'she's done much wrong, is it, sir?'

'Not very much,' said Morse gently; 'not very much at all, have you, Mrs Evans?'


'How on earth did you guess that one?' asked Lewis an hour later as the car accelerated down the A483 to Llandovery.

'She'd've slipped up sooner or later. Just a matter of time.'

'But all that tennis stuff. You don't follow tennis.'

'In my youth, I'll have you know, I had quite a reliable backhand.'

'But how did you – '

'Prayer and fasting, Lewis. Prayer and fasting.'

Lewis gave it up. 'Talking of fasting, sir, aren't you getting a bit peckish?'

'Yes, I am. Hungry and thirsty. So perhaps if we can find one of those open-all-day places…'


But they got little further. The car-telephone rang and Morse himself picked it up. Lewis could make out none of the words at the other end of the line -just Morse's syncopated role:

'What?

'You sure?'

'Bloody 'ell!'

‘Who?'

'Bloody: 'ell!'

'Yes.'

'Yes!'

'Two and a half hours, I should think.'

'No! Leave things exactly as they are.'

Morse put down the phone and stared ahead of him like some despondent zombie.

'Something to do with the case?' ventured an apprehensively hesitant Lewis.

'They've found a body.'

'Who?'

'George Daley. Shot. Shot through the heart.'

'Where?'

'Blenheim. Blenheim Park.'

'Whew! That's where Johnson-'

'It was Johnson who found him.'

Suddenly Lewis felt the need for a pint of beer almost as much as Morse; but as the car sped nearer and nearer to Oxford, Morse himself said nothing more at all.

chapter fifty-five

Thanatophobia (n): a morbid dread of death, or (sometimes) of the sight of death: a poignant sense of human mortality, almost universal except amongst those living on Olympus

(Small's English Dictionary]


dr laura hobson knelt again beside the body, this time her bright hazel eyes looking up at a different chief inspector: not at Johnson – but at Morse.

'You reckon he was killed instantly?' asked the latter.

She nodded. 'I'm no expert on ballistics but it was possibly one of those seven-millimetre bullets – the sort that expand on contact.'

'The sort they kill deer with,' added Morse quietly.

'It's' – she fingered the corpse – 'er, sometimes difficult to find the entry-hole. Not in this case, though. Look!'

She pointed a slim finger to a small, blood-encrusted hole, of little more than the diameter of a pencil, just below the left shoulder blade of the man who lay prone on the ground between them. 'But you'll see there's never much of a problem with the exit hole.' Gently she eased the body over and away from her, pushing it on to its right side, and pointing to a larger hole that had been blasted just below the heart, a hole almost the size of a mandarin orange.

This time, however, Morse was not looking. He was used to death of course; but accident, and terrible injury, and the sight of much blood – such things he could never stomach. So he turned his eyes away, and for a few moments stood staring around him in that quiet woodland glade, where so very recently someone had shot George Daley in the back, and no doubt watched him fall and lie quite still beneath the giant oak tree there. And the owners of seven-millimetre rifles? Morse knew two of them: David Michaels and George Daley. And whatever else might be in doubt, George Daley would have found it utterly impossible to have shot himself with the rifle that was his.

'Any ideas how long?' asked Morse.

Dr Hobson smiled. 'That's the very first question you always asked Max.'

'He told you?'

'Yes.'

'Well, he never told me the answer – never told me how long, I mean.'

'Shall I tell you?'

'Please do!' Morse smiled back at her, and for a moment or two he found her very attractive.

'Ten, twelve hours. No longer than twelve, I don't think. I'll plump for ten.'

Morse, oblivious of the time for most of the day, now looked at his wrist-watch: 8.25 p.m. That would put the murder at about 10 a.m., say? 10.30 a.m.? Yes… that sort of time would figure reasonably well if Morse's thinking was correct. Perhaps he wasn't right, though! He'd been so bloody certain in his own mind that the case was drawing gently if sombrely towards a conclusion: no more murder, no more deaths. Huh! That's exactly what he'd told Lewis, wasn't it? Just wait! – that's what he'd said. Things'll work out if only we're prepared to wait. Why, only that day he'd waited, before driving off to Wales, without the slightest premonition of impending tragedy.

And he'd been wrong.

There would be greater tragedies in life, of course, than the murder of the mean and unattractive Daley. No one was going to miss the man dramatically much… except of course for Mrs Daley, Margaret Daley – of whom for some reason Morse had so recently dreamed. But perhaps even she might not miss him all that much, as time gradually cured her heart of any residual tenderness. After a decent burial. After a few months. After a few years.

Yet there was always the possibility that Morse was wrong again.

Lewis was suddenly at his side, bending down and picking up the khaki-green pork-pie hat Daley invariably wore on freezing winter mornings and sweltering summer days alike.

'There's not much shooting here, it seems, sir – not like Wytham – not at this time of year, anyway. Some of the tenants have got shot-gun rights – for a bit of pigeon-shooting, or rabbits, and pheasants a bit later on. Not much, though. That's why Mr Williams, the keeper there' – Lewis pointed back in the direction of Combe Lodge – 'says he thinks he may remember a bit of a pop some time this morning. ‘He can't pin it down much closer than that.'

'Bloody marvellous!' said Morse.

'He says there were quite a lot he let through the gate – there's always quite a lot on Mondays. He thinks he remembers Daley going through, some time in the morning, but there's always quite a few estate vans.'

'He thinks a lot, your keeper, doesn't he?'

'And one or two joggers, he says.'

'Literally one or two?'

'Dunno.'

'Promise me you'll never take up jogging, Lewis!'

'Can we move him?' asked Dr Hobson.

'As far as I'm concerned,' said Morse.

'Anything else, Inspector?'

'Yes. I'd like to ask you along to the Bear and have a few quiet drinks together – a few noisy drinks, if you'd prefer it. But we shall have to go and look round Daley's house, I'm afraid. Shan't we, Lewis?'

Behind the spectacles her eyes twinkled with humour and potential interest: 'Anuther tame, mebby?'

She left.

'Anuther tame, please, Dr Hobson!' said Chief Inspector Morse, but to himself.

chapter fifty-six

The west yet glimmers with some streaks of day: Now spurs the lated traveller apace To gain the timely inn

(Shakespeare, Macbeth)


the house in which the Daleys had lived for the past eighteen years was deserted. Margaret Daley, so the neighbours said, had been away since the previous Thursday, visiting her sister in Beaconsfield; whilst the boy, Philip, had scarcely been seen since being brought back home by the St Aldate's police. But no forcible entry was needed, for the immediate neighbour held a spare frontdoor key, and a preliminary search of the murdered man's house was begun at 9.15 p.m.

Two important pieces of evidence were found immediately, both on the red formica-topped kitchen table. The first was a letter from the Oxford Magistrates' Court dated 31 July – most probably received on Saturday, 1 August? – informing Mr G. Daley of the charges to be preferred against his son, Philip, and of the various legal liabilities which he, the father, would now incur under the new Aggravated Vehicle Theft Act. The letter went on to specify the provisions of legal aid, and to request Daley senior's attendance at the Oxford Crown Court on the following Thursday when the hearing of his son's case would be held. The second piece of evidence was half a page of writing from a temporarily departed son (as it appeared) to a now permanently departed father, conveying only the simple message that he was 'off to try and sort something out': a curiously flat, impersonal note, except for the one post-scriptum plea: 'Tell Mum she needn't wurry'.

A copy of The Oxford Mail for Friday, 31 July, lay on top of the microwave, and a preoccupied Morse scanned its front page briefly:


JOY-RIDERS GET NEW WARNING


The driver and co-passenger of a stolen car which had rammed a newsagent's shop on the Broad-moor Lea estate were both jailed for six months and each fined £1,500 at Oxford Crown Court yesterday. Sentencing father-of-three Paul Curtis, 25, and John Terence Bowden, 19, Judge Geoffrey Stephens warned: Those who drive recklessly and dangerously and criminally around estates in Oxford can now normally expect custodial sentences – and not short ones. Heavier fines too will be imposed as everything in our power is done to end this spate of criminal vandalism.'

(Continued: page 3)


But Morse read no further, now wandering rather aimlessly around the ground-floor rooms. In the lounge, Lewis pointed to the row of black video-cassettes.

'I should think we know what's on some of them, sir.'

Morse nodded. 'Yes. I'd pinch one or two for the night if I had a video.' But his voice lacked any enthusiasm.

'Upstairs, sir? The boy's room…?'

'No. I think we've done enough for one night. And I'd like a warrant really for the boy's room. I think Mrs Daley would appreciate that.'

'But we don't really need-'

'C'mon, Lewis! We'll leave a couple of PCs here overnight.' Morse had reached another of his impulsive decisions, and Lewis made no further comment. As they left the house, both detectives noticed again – for it was the first thing they'd noticed as they'd entered – that the seven-millimetre rifle which had earlier stood on its butt by the entrance had now disappeared.

'I reckon it's about time we had a quick word with Michaels,' said Morse as in the thickening light they got into the car.

Lewis refrained from any recrimination. So easily could he have said he'd regularly been advocating exactly such a procedure that day, but he didn't.


*


At 10.30 p.m., with only half an hour's drinking time remaining, the police car drove up to the White Hart, where Morse's face beamed happily: 'My lucky night. Look!' But Lewis had already spotted the forester's Land-rover parked outside the front of the pub.


David Michaels, seated on a stool in the downstairs bar, with Bobbie curled up happily at his feet, was just finishing a pint of beer as Lewis put a hand on his shoulder.

'Could we have a word with you, sir?'

Michaels turned on his stool and eyed them both without apparent surprise. 'Only if you join me in a drink, all right?'

'Very kind of you,' said Morse. 'The Best Bitter in decent shape?'

'Excellent.'

'Pint for me then, and, er – orange juice is it for you, Sergeant?'

'What do you want a word about?' asked Michaels.

The three of them moved over to the far corner of the flag-stoned bar, with Bobbie padding along behind.

'Just one thing, really,' replied Morse. 'You've heard about Daley's murder?'

'Yes.'

'Well… I want to take a look in your rifle-cabinet, that's all.'

'When we've finished the drinks?'

'No! Er, I'd like Sergeant Lewis to go up and-'

'Fine! I'd better just give Cathy a ring, though. She'll have the place bolted.'

Morse saw little objection, it seemed, and he and Lewis listened as Michaels used the phone by the side of the bar-counter and quickly told his wife that the police would be coming up – please let them in – they wanted to look in the rifle-cabinet – she knew where the key was – let them take what they wanted – he'd be home in half an hour – see her soon – nothing to worry about – ciao!

'Am I a suspect?' asked Michaels with a wan smile, after Lewis had left.

'Yes,' said Morse simply, draining his beer. 'Another?'

'Why not? I'd better make the most of things.'

'And I want you to come up to Kidlington HQ in the morning. About – about ten o'clock, if that's all right.'

‘I’m not dreaming, am I?' asked Michaels, as Morse picked up the two empty glasses.

‘I’m afraid not,' said Morse. 'And, er, I think it'll be better if we send a car for you, Mr Michaels…'

A very clean and shining Mrs Michaels, smelling of shampoo and bath-salts, a crimson bath-robe round her body, a white towel round her head, let Sergeant Lewis in immediately, handed him the cabinet key, and stood aside as very carefully he lifted the rifle from its stand – one finger on the end of the barrel and one finger under the butt – and placed it in a transparent plastic container. On the shelf above the stand were two gun-smiths' catalogues; but no sign whatever of any cartridges.

Holding the rifle now by the middle of the barrel, Lewis thanked Mrs Michaels, and left – hearing the rattle of the chain and the thud of the bolts behind him as the head forester's wife awaited the return of her husband. For a while he wondered what she must be thinking at that moment. Puzzlement, perhaps? Or panic? It had been difficult to gauge anything from the eyes behind those black-rimmed spectacles. Not much of a communicator at all, in fact, for Lewis suddenly realized that whilst he was there she had spoken not a single word.

It was completely dark now, and the sergeant found himself feeling slightly nervous as he flicked the headlights to full beam along the silent lane.

chapter fifty-seven

falstaff: We have heard the chimes at midnight,

Master Shallow. shallow: That we have, that we have, that we have; in faith, Sir John, we have

(Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2)


of the four men who had agreed to concoct (as Morse now believed) a joint statement about the murder of Karin Eriksson, only McBryde had ranged free in the city of Oxford that night. At 6.30 p.m. he had called in at the Eagle and Child, carrying his few overnight possessions in a canvas hold-all, eaten a cheese sandwich, drunk two pints of splendidly conditioned Burton Ale. and begun thinking about a bed for the night. At 7.45 p.m. he had caught a number 20 Kidlington bus outside St Giles' Church and gone up the Banbury Road as far as Squitchey Lane, where he tried the Cotswold House (recommended to him by Hardinge) but found the oblong, white notice fixed across the front door's leaded glass: no vacancies. Just across the way however was the Casa Villa, and here one double room was still available (the last): which McBryde took, considering as many men had done before him that the purchase of an extra two square yards of bed space was something of a waste – and something of a sadness.


At about the time that McBryde was unpacking his pyjamas and sticking his toothbrush into one of the two glasses in his en suite bathroom, Philip Daley stood up and counted the coins.

He had caught the coach from Gloucester Green at 2.30 p.m. Good value, the coach – only £4 return for adults. Disappointing though to learn that a single fare was virtually the same price a; a return, and sickening that the driver refused to accept his only marginally dishonest assertion that he was still at school. At 6.30 p.m. he had been seated against the wall of an office building next to the Bonnington Hotel in Southampton Row, with a grey and orange scarf arranged in front of him to receive the coins of a stream (as he trusted) of compassionate passers-by; and with a notice, black Biro on cardboard, beside him: unemployed homeless hungry. One of the Oxford boys had told him that cold and hungry was best, but the early summer evening was balmy and warm, and anyway it didn't matter much, not that first night. He had £45 in his pocket, and certainly had no intention of letting himself get too hungry. It was just that he wanted to see how things would work out – that was all.

Not very well, though, seemed the answer to that experiment: for he was stiff and even (yes!) a little cold; and the coins amounted to only 83p. He must look too well dressed still, too well fed, too little in need. At nine o'clock he walked down to a pub in Holborn and ordered a pint of beer and two packets of crisps: £2.70. Bloody robbery! Nor were things made easier when a shaven-headed youth with multi-tattooed arms and multi-ringed ears moved in beside him. and asked him if he was the prick who'd been staking out his pitch in the Row; because if so he'd be well advised to fuck off smartish – if he knew what was best for him.


Cathy Michaels repeatedly bent forwards, sideways, backwards, as the heat from the dryer penetrated her thick, raven-black hair, specially cut for The Mikado in a horizontal bob, the original blonde just beginning to show again, even if only a few millimetres or so at the roots. For a moment she felt sure she'd heard the Land-rover just outside, and she turned off the dryer. False alarm, though. Usually she experienced little or no nervousness when left alone in the cottage, even at night; and never when Bobbie was with her. But Bobbie was not with her: he was down at the pub with his master… and with the policemen. Suddenly she felt fear almost palpably creeping across her skin, like some soft-footed, menacing insect.


Midnight was chiming, and Morse was pouring himself a night-cap from the green, triangular-columned bottle of Glenfiddich -when the phone went: Dr Hobson. She had agreed to ring him if she discovered anything further before the end of that long, long day. Not that there was anything startlingly new, and she realized it could easily wait till morning. But no, it couldn't wait till morning, Morse had insisted.

The bullet that had killed Daley had fairly certainly been fired from a seven-millimetre or a.243 rifle, or something very similar; the bullet had entered the back about 2 inches below the left scapula, had exited (no wince this time from Morse) about 1 inch above the heart, and (this certain now) had been instantly fatal. Time? Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. – with just a little leeway either side? – 9.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m., say? Most probably Daley had been shot from a distance of about 50-80 yards: ballistics might just amend this last finding, but she doubted it.

He'd seemed pleased, and she knew she wanted to please him. There was some music playing in the background, but she failed to recognize it.

'You're not in bed yet?' she ventured.

'Soon shall be.'

'What are you doing?'

'Drinking Scotch.'

'And listening to music.'

'Yes, that too.'

'You're a very civilized copper, aren't you?'

'Only half the time.'

'Well, I'd better gor.'

'Yes.'

'Goodnate, then.'

'Goodnight, and thank you,' said Morse quietly.


After putting down the phone Laura Hobson sat perfectly still and wondered what was happening to her. Why, he was twenty-five years older than she was!

At least.

Blast him!

She acknowledged to herself the ludicrous truth of the matter, but she could barely bring herself to smile.

chapter fifty-eight

He who asks the questions cannot avoid the answers

(Cameroonian proverb)


there was little evidence of strain or undue apprehension on David Michaels' face the following morning when he was shown into Interview Room 2, where Sergeant Lewis was already seated at a trestle table, a tape recorder at his right elbow. He was being held for questioning (Lewis informed him) about two matters: first, about the statement made to the police by Dr Alan Hardinge, a copy of which was now handed to him; second, about the murder of George Daley.

Lewis pointed to the tape recorder. 'Just to make sure we don't misrepresent anything, Mr Michaels. We've been getting a bit of stick recently, haven't we, about the way some interviews have been conducted?'

Michaels shrugged indifferently.

'And you're aware of your legal rights? Should you want to be legally represented-'

But Michaels shook his head; and began reading Hardinge's statement…

He had little legal knowledge, but had assumed in this instance that he could be guilty only of some small-scale conspiracy to pervert the strict course of truth – certainly not of justice. It was the criminal 'intention', the mens rea, that really mattered (so he'd read), and no one could ever maintain that his own intention had been criminal that afternoon a year ago…

'Well?' asked Lewis when Michaels put the last sheet down.

'That's about the size of it, yes.'

'You're quite happy to corroborate it?'

'Why not? One or two little things I wouldn't have remembered but – yes, I'll sign it.'

'We're not asking for a signature. We'll have to ask you to make your own statement.'

'Can't I just copy this one out?'

Lewis grinned weakly, but shook his head. He thought he liked Michaels. 'Now, last time you pretended – pretended – you'd not got the faintest idea where any body might be found, right?'

'Yes,' lied Michaels.

'And then, this time round, you still pretended you didn't really know?'

'Yes,' lied Michaels.

'So why did you nudge Chief Inspector Morse in the right direction?'

'Double bluff, wasn't it? If I was vague enough, and they found it. well, no one was going to think I'd had anything to do with the murder.'

'Who told you it was murder?'

'The chap standing there on guard in Pasticks: big chap, in a dark blue uniform and checked cap – policeman, I think he was.'

The constable standing wide-legged across the door of the interview room took advantage of the fact that Lewis had his back towards him, and smiled serenely.

'Why didn't you dump the rucksack in the lake as well?' continued Lewis.

For the first time Michaels hesitated: 'Should've done, I agree.'

'Was it because Daley had his eye on the camera – and the binoculars?'

'Well, one thing's for sure: he won't be able to tell you, will he?'

'You don't sound as if you liked him much.'

'He was a filthy, mean-minded little swine!'

'But you didn't know him very well, surely?'

'No. I hardly knew him at all.'

'What about last Friday night?'

'What about last Friday night?'

Lewis let it go. 'You'd never met him previously – at your little rendezvous in Park Town?'

'No! I'd only just joined,' lied Michaels. 'Look, Sergeant, I'm not proud of that. But haven't you ever wanted to watch a sex film?'

'I've seen plenty. We pick up quite a few of 'em here and there.

But I'd rather have a plate of egg and chips, myself. What about you, Constable Watson?' asked Lewis, turning in his chair.

'Me?' said the man by the door. 'I'd much rather watch a sex film.'

'You wouldn't want your wife to know, though?'

'No, Sarge.'

'Nor would you, would you, Mr Michaels?'

'No. I wouldn't want her to know about anything like that,' said Michaels quietly.

'I wonder if Mrs Daley knew – about her husband, I mean?'

'I dunno. As I say, I knew nothing about the man, really.'

'Last night you knew he'd been murdered.'

'A lot of people knew.'

'And a lot of people didn't know.'

Michaels remained silent.

'He was killed from a seven-millimetre gun, like as not.'

'Rifle, you mean.'

'Sorry. I'm not an expert on guns and things – not like you, Mr Michaels.'

'And that's why you took my rifle last night?'

'We'd've taken anyone's rifle. That's our job, isn't it?'

'Every forester's got a rifle that sort of calibre – very effective they are too.'

'So where were you between, say, ten o'clock and eleven o'clock yesterday morning?'

'Not much of a problem there. About ten – no -just after ten it must have been – I was with a couple of fellows from the RSPB. We – they – were checking on the nesting boxes along the Singing Way. You know, keeping records on first or second broods, weighing 'em, taking samples of droppings – that sort of thing. They do it all the time.'

'You were helping them?'

'Carrying the bloody ladder most of the time.'

'What about after that?'

'Well, we all nipped down to the White Hart – about twelve, quarter-past? – and had a couple of pints. Warm work, it was! Hot day, too!' i

'You've got the addresses of these fellows?'

'Not on me, no. I can get 'em for you easy enough.'

'And the barman there at the pub? He knows you?'

'Rather too well, Sergeant!'

Lewis looked at his wrist-watch, feeling puzzled and, yes, a little bit lost.

'Can I go now?' asked Michaels.

'Not yet, sir, no. As I say we need some sort of statement from you about what happened last July… then we shall just have to get this little lot typed up' – Lewis nodded to the tape recorder -'then we shall have to get you to read it and sign it… and, er, I should think we're not going to get through all that till…' Again Lewis looked at his watch, still wondering exactly where things stood. Then, turning round: 'We'd better see Mr Michaels has some lunch with us, Watson. What's on the menu today?'

'Always mince on Tuesdays, Sarge.'

'Most people'd prefer a sex film,' said Michaels, almost cheerfully.

Lewis rose to his feet, nodded to Watson, and made to leave. 'One other thing, sir. I can't let you go before the chief inspector gets back, I'm afraid. He said he particularly wanted to see you again.'

'And where's he supposed to be this morning?'

'To tell you the truth, I'm not at all sure.'


As he walked back to his office, Lewis reflected on what he had just learned. Morse had been correct on virtually everything so far j – right up until this last point. For now surely Morse must be dramatically wrong in his belief that Michaels had murdered Daley? In due course they would have to check up on his alibi; but it was wholly inconceivable that a pair of dedicated ornithologists had conspired with a barman from the local pub in seeking to pervert the course of natural justice. Surely so!


At 12.30 p.m., Dr Hobson rang through from South Parks Road to say that, whilst she was an amateur in the byways of ballistics, she would be astounded if Michaels' gun had been fired at any time within the previous few weeks.

' "Rifle",' muttered Lewis, sotto voce.

'Is he, er, there?' the pathologist had asked tentatively.

'Back this afternoon some time.'

'Oh.'

It was beginning to look as if everyone wanted to see Morse.

Especially Lewis.

chapter fifty-nine

This is the reason why mothers are more devoted to their children than fathers: it is that they suffer more in giving them birth and are more certain that they are their own

(Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics]


the noon-day sun shone on the pale-cinnamon stone of the colleges, and the spires of Oxford looked down on a scene of apparent tranquillity as the marked police car drove down Headington Hill towards the Plain, then over Magdalen Bridge and into the High. In the back sat Morse, sombre, and now silent, for he had talked sufficiently to the rather faded woman in her mid-forties who sat beside him, her eyes red from recent weeping, her mouth still tremulous, but her small chin firm and somehow courageous in the face of the terrible events she had only learned about two hours before – when the front doorbell had rung in her sister's council house in Beaconsfield. Yet the news that her husband had been murdered and that her only son had run away from home had left her not so much devastated as dumbfounded, as though a separate layer of emotions and reactions had formed itself between what she knew to be herself, and the external reality of what had occurred. It had helped a bit too – talking with the chief inspector, who seemed to understand a good deal of what she was suffering. Not that she'd bared her soul too much to him about the increasing repugnance she'd felt for the man she'd married; the man who had slowly yet inevitably revealed over the years of their lives together the shallow, devious, occasionally cruel, nature of his character. There had been Philip, though; and for so long the little lad had compensated in manifold ways for the declining love and respect she was feeling for her husband. In nursery school, in primary school, even at the beginning of secondary school, certainly until he was about twelve, Philip had almost always turned to her, his mother; confided in her; had (so preciously!) hugged her when he was grateful or happy. She had been very proud that she was the loved and favoured parent.

Whether it was of deliberate, vindictive intent or not, she couldn't honestly say,,but soon after Philip had started at secondary school, George had begun to assert his influence over the boy and in some ways to steal his affection away from her; and this by the simple expedient of encouraging in him the idea of growing up, of becoming 'a man', and doing mannish things. At weekends he would take the boy fishing; often he would return from the Royal Sun in the evening bringing a few cans of light ale with him, regularly offering one to his young son. Then the air-gun! For Philip's thirteenth birthday George had bought him an air-gun; and very soon afterwards Philip had shot a sparrow at the bottom of the garden as it was pecking at some bird-seed she herself had thrown down. What a terrible evening that had been between them, husband and wife, when she had accused him of turning their son into a philistine! Progressively too there had been the coarsening of Philip's speech, and of his attitudes; the brittle laughter between father and son about jokes to which she was never privy; reports from school which grew worse and worse; and the friendship with some of the odious classmates he occasionally brought home to listen to pop music in the locked bedroom.

Then, over a year ago, that almighty row between father and son about the rucksack, which had resulted in an atmosphere of twisted bitterness. Exactly what had happened then, she was still uncertain; but she knew that her husband had lied about the time and place he had found the rucksack. How? Because neither George nor Philip had taken the dog for its walk along the dual-carriageway that morning: she had. Philip had gone off to Oxford very early to join a coach party the school had organized; and, on waking, her husband had been so crippled with lumbago that he couldn't even make it to the loo, let alone any lay-by on the dual-carriageway. But she knew George had found the rucksack, somewhere – or that someone had given it to him – on that very Sunday when the Swedish girl had gone missing; that Sunday when George had been out all afternoon; and then out again later in the evening, drinking heavily, as she recalled. It must have been that Sunday evening too when Philip had found the rucksack, probably at the back of the garage where, as she knew, he'd been looking for his climbing boots for the school trip to the Peak District – and where, as she suspected, he'd found the camera and the binoculars. Oh yes! She was on very firm ground there -because she too had found them, in Philip's room. Only later did she learn that Philip had removed the spool of film from the camera and almost certainly developed it himself at school, where there was a flourishing photographic society (of which Philip was a member) with dark-room facilities readily available.

A good deal of this information Morse had known already, she sensed that. But appearances were that she'd held his attention as tearfully and fitfully she'd covered most of the ground again. He'd not asked her how she knew about the photographs; yet he surely must have guessed. But he would never know about those other photographs, the pornographic ones, the ones of the Swedish girl whom she had recognized from the passport picture printed, albeit so badly, in The Oxford Times. No! She would tell Morse nothing about that. Nor about the joy-riding – and her mental turmoil when first she'd read those words in Philip's diary; words which conjured up for her the confused images of squealing tyres and the anguished shrieks of a small girl lying in a pool of her own blood… No, it would belittle her son even further if she spoke of things like that, and she would never do it. Wherever he was and whatever he'd done, Philip would always be her son.


As the car turned left at Carfax, down towards St Aldate's police station, she saw a dozen or more head-jerking pigeons pecking at the pavement; and then fluttering with sudden loud clapping of wings up to the tower above them. Taking flight. Free! And Margaret Daley, her head now throbbing wildly, wondered if she would ever herself feel free again…


'Milk and sugar?'

Margaret Daley had been miles away, but she'd heard his words, and now looked up into the chief inspector's face, his eyes piercingly blue, but kindly, and almost vulnerable themselves, she thought.

'No sugar. Just milk, please.'

Morse laid his hand lightly on her shoulder. 'You're a brave woman,' he said quietly.

Suddenly the flood-gates were totally swept away, and she turned from him and wept quite uncontrollably.

'You heard what the lady said,' snarled Morse, as the constable at the door watched the two of them, hesitantly. 'No bloody sugar!'

chapter sixty

Music and women I cannot but give way to, whatever my business is

(Samuel Pepys, Diary)


just after lunch-time Morse was back in his office at HQ listening to the tape of Michaels' interview.

'What do you think, sir?'

'I suppose some of it's true,' admitted Morse.

'About not killing Daley, you mean?'

'I don't see how he could have done it – no time was there?'

'Who did kill him, do you think?'

'Well, there are three things missing from his house, aren't there? Daley himself, the rifle – and the boy.'

'The son? Philip? You think he killed him? Killed his father? Like Oedipus?'

'The things I've taught you, Lewis, since you've been my sergeant!'

'Did he love his mum as well?'

'Very much so, I think. Anyway you'll be interested in hearing what she's got to say.'

'But – but you can't just walk into Blenheim Park with a rifle on your shoulder-'

'His mum says he used to go fishing there; says his dad bought him all the gear.'

'Ah. See what you mean. Those long canvas things, you know – for your rods and things.'

'Something like that. Ten minutes on a bike – '

'Has he got a bike?'

'Dunno.'

'But why? Why do you think-?'

'Must have been that letter, I suppose – from the Crown Court…'

'And his dad refused to help?'

'Probably. Told his son to clear off, like as not; told him to bugger off and leave his parents out of it. Anyway, I've got a feeling the lad's not going to last long in the big city. The Met'll bring him in soon, you see.'

'You said it was Michaels, though. You said you were pretty sure it must have been Michaels.'

'Did I?'

'Yes, you did! But you didn't seem too surprised when you just heard the tape?'

'Didn't I?'

Lewis let it go. 'Where do we go from here, then?'

'Nowhere, for a bit. I've got a meeting with Strange first. Three o'clock.'

'What about Michaels? Let him go?'

'Why should we do that?'

'Well, like you say – he just couldn't have done it in the time. Impossible! Even with a helicopter.'

'So?'

Suddenly Lewis was feeling more than a little irritated. 'So what do I tell him?'

'You tell him,' said Morse slowly, 'that we're keeping him here overnight – for further questioning.'

'On what charge? We just can't-'

'I don't think he'll argue too loudly,' said Morse.


Just before Morse was to knock on Chief Superintendent Strange's door that Tuesday afternoon, two men were preparing to leave the Trout Inn at Wolvercote. Most of the customers who had spent their lunch-time out of doors, seated on the paved terrace alongside the river there, were now gone; it was almost closing time.

'You promise to write it down?'

'I promise,' replied Alasdair McBryde.

'Where are you going now?'

'Back to London.'

'Can I give you a lift to the station?'

'I'd be glad of that.'

The two walked up the shallow steps and out across the narrow road to the car park: patrons only. no parking for fishermen.

'What about you, Alan?' asked McBryde, as Hardinge drove the Sierra left towards Wolvercote.

'I don't know. And I don't really care.'

'Don't say that!' McBryde laid his right hand lightly on the driver's arm. But Hardinge dismissed the gesture with his own right hand as if he were flicking a fly from his sleeve, and the journey down to Oxford station was made in embarrassed silence.


Back in Radcliffe Square, Hardinge parked on double yellow lines in Catte Street, and went straight up to his rooms in Lonsdale. He knew her number off by heart. Of course he did.

'Claire? It's me, Alan.'

'I know it's you. Nothing wrong with my ears.'

'I was just wondering… just hoping…'

'No! And we're not going to go over all that again.'

'You mean you're not even going to see me again?'

That's it!'

'Not ever?' His throat was suddenly very dry.

'You know, for a university don, you don't pick some things up very quickly, do you?'

For a while Hardinge said nothing. He could hear music playing in the background; he knew the piece well.

'If you'd told me you enjoyed Mozart-!

'Look – for the last time! – it's finished. Please accept that! Finished!'

'Have you got someone else?'

'What?' He heard her bitter laughter. 'My life's been full of "someone elses". You always knew that.'

'But what if I divorced-'

'For Christ's sake] Won't you ever understand? It's over!'

The line was dead, and Hardinge found himself looking down at the receiver as if someone had given him a frozen fillet of fish for which for the moment he could find no convenient receptacle.


Claire Osborne sat by the phone for several minutes after she had rung off, the wonderful trombone passage from the Tuba Mirum Spargens Sonum registering only vaguely in her mind. Had she been too cruel to Alan? But sometimes it was necessary to be cruel to be kind – wasn't that what they said? Or was that just a meaningless cliche like the rest of them? 'Someone else?' Alan had asked. Huh!

The poorly typed letter (no salutation, no subscription) she had received with the cassette that morning was lying on the coffee table, and already she'd read it twenty-odd times:


I enjoyed so much our foreshortened time together, you and the music. One day of the great lost days, one face of all the faces (Ernest Dowson – not me!). A memento herewith. The Recordare is my favourite bit – if I'm pushed to a choice. 'Recordare' by the way is the 2nd person singular of the present imperative of the verb 'recorder': it means 'Remember!'

chapter sixty-one

A reasonable probability is the only certainty

(Edgar Watson Howe, Country Town Sayings)


'You're sure about all this, Morse?' Strange's voice was sharp, with an edge of scepticism to it.

'Completely sure.'

'You said that about Michaels.'

'No! I only said I was ninety per cent sure on that.'

'OK.' Strange shrugged his shoulders, tilted his head, and opened his palms in a gesture of acquiescence. 'There are just one or two little things – '

But the phone went on Strange's desk: 'Ah! Ah! Yes! Want to speak to him?'

He handed the phone over to Morse: Dr Hobson. Quite certainly, she said, Michaels' rifle hadn't been fired for weeks. That was all.

Strange had heard the pathologist, just. 'Looks as if you're right about that, anyway. We'll give the Met a call. Certain to have scarpered to the capital, don't you reckon, the lad?'

'Ninety per cent sure, sir – and we've already given the Met his description.'

'Oh!'

Morse rose to go, but Strange was not quite finished: 'What first put you on to it?'

For a few moments Morse paused dubiously. 'Several things, I suppose. For example, I once heard someone claim that all three types of British woodpeckers could be found in Wytham Woods. I think I heard it in a pub. Or perhaps I just read it on a beer mat.'

'Useful things, pubs!'

'Then' – Morse ignored the sarcasm – 'I thought if Johnson had opted for Blenheim, it'd pretty certainly turn out to be Wytham.'

'That's grossly unfair.'

'I agree.' Morse got up and walked to the door. 'You know, it's a bit surprising no one ever noticed her accent, isn't it? She must have a bit of an accent. I bet you I'll notice it!'

'You're a lucky bugger to hear as well as you do. The wife says I'm getting deafer all the time.'

'Get a hearing aid, sir. They probably wouldn't let you stay in the force, and they'd have to give you a few years' enhancement on the pension.'

'You think so? Really?'

'Ninety per cent sure,' said Morse, closing the door behind him and walking thoughtfully back through the maze of corridors to his office.

He'd omitted to acquaint Strange with the biggest clue of all, but it would have taken a little while to explain and it was all a bit nebulous – especially for a man of such matter-of-fact hard-headedness as Strange. But it had formed, for him, Morse, the focal point of all the mystery. The normal murderer (if such a person may be posited) would seek to cover up all traces of his victim. And if his victim were someone like Karin Eriksson, he would burn the clothes, chuck her jewellery and trinkets into the canal, dispose of the body – sink it in some bottomless ocean or cut it up in little bits and take it to the nearest waste-disposal site; even pack it up in those black plastic bags for the dustmen to cart off, since in Morse's experience the only things they wouldn't take were bags containing garden waste. So! So if our murderer wanted to rid the earth of every trace of his victim, why, why, had he been so anxious for the rucksack and associated possessions to be found? All right, it hadn't worked out all that well, with accidental factors, as almost always, playing their part. But the rucksack was found, very soon; the police were informed, very soon; the hunt for Karin's murderer was under way, very soon. Now if a young Swedish student goes missing sans everything, then there is always less than certitude that she is dead: thousands of young persons from all parts of Europe, all parts of the world, disappear regularly: get listed as 'missing persons'. But if a young girl goes missing, and at the same time her possessions are discovered in a hedgerow somewhere nearby, then the implications are all too painfully obvious, the conclusions all too.readily drawn: the conclusions that Johnson and almost every other policeman in the Thames Valley had drawn a year ago.

Though not Morse.

Perhaps he could, on reflexion, have explained his thinking to Strange without too much difficulty? After all, the key question could be posed very simply, really: why was the murderer so anxious for the police to pursue a murder enquiry? To that strange question Morse now knew the answer; of that he was quite sure. Well, ninety-nine per cent sure: because the police would be looking for a body, not for someone who was still alive.


Ten minutes later, Lewis was ready for him, and together the two detectives drove out to Wytham Woods once more.

chapter sixty-two

The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties

(Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray)


there were four of them in the living room of the low-ceilinged cottage: Morse and Lewis seated side by side on the leather settee, Mrs Michaels opposite them in an armchair, and the small attractive figure of the uniformed WPG Wright standing by the door.

'Why haven't you brought David?' asked Mrs Michaels.

'Isn't he still making a statement, Sergeant?' Morse's eyebrows rose quizzically as if the matter were of minor import.

'What are you here for then?' She lifted her eyes and cocked her head slightly to Morse as if she were owed some immediate and convincing explanation.

'We're here about your marriage. There's something slightly, ah, irregular about it.'

'Really? You'll have to check that up with the Registry Office, not me.'

'Register Office, Mrs Michaels. It's important to be accurate about things. So let me be accurate. David Michaels discovered that the District Office for anyone living in Wytham was at Abingdon, and he went there and answered all the usual questions about when and where you wanted to marry, how old you both were, where you were both born, whether either of you had been married before, whether you were related. And that was that. Two days later you were married.'

'So?'

'Well, everything is really based on trust in things like that. If you want to, you can tell a pack of lies. There's one Registrar in Oxford who married the same fellow three times in the same year – one in Reading who managed to marry a couple of sailors!'

Morse looked across at her as if expecting a dutiful smile, but Mrs Michaels sat perfectly still, her mouth tight, her hair framing the clear-skinned features in a semi-circle of the darkest black, the blonde roots so very recently re-dyed.

'Take any reasonably fluent liar – even a fairly clumsy liar,' continued Morse, 'and he'll get away with murder – if you see what I mean, Mrs Michaels. For example, some proof of age is required for anyone under twenty-three, did you know that? But if your fiance says you're twenty-four? Well, he'll almost certainly get away with it. And if you've been married before? Well, if you say you haven't, it's going to be virtually impossible to prove, then and there, that you have. Oh yes! It's easy to get married by licence if you're willing to abuse the system.'

'You are saying that I – that we, David and I – we abused the system?'

'You know most English people would have settled for "me and David", Mrs Michaels.' (WPC Wright was aware of that nuance of stress on the word 'English'.)

'I asked you – '

But Morse interrupted her brusquely: 'There was only one thing that couldn't be fiddled in your case: date of birth. You see, some documentation is statutory in that respect – if the person concerned is a foreign national?

A silence now hung over the small room; a palpably tense silence, during which a strange, indefinable look flitted across Mrs Michaels' features as she crossed one leg over the other and clasped her hands round her left knee.

'What's that got to do with me?' she asked.

'You're a foreign national,' said Morse simply, looking across unblinkingly at the lovely girl seated opposite him.

'Do you realize how absurd all this is, Inspector?'

'Did you have to show your passport to the Registrar at Abingdon?'

'There was no need for that: I'm not a foreign national!'

'No?'

'No! My name is – was Catharine Adams. I was born in, Uppingham, in Rutland – what used to be Rutland; I'm twenty- four years old-'

'Can I see your passport?' asked Morse quietly.

'As a matter of fact you can't. It's in the post to Swansea – it needs renewing. We are going – me and David! – to Italy in September.' (Lewis could pick up the hint of the accent now, in that word 'Eetaly'.)

'Don't worry! We've already got a copy, you see. The Swedish Embassy sent us one.'

For several moments she looked down at the carpet, the one expensive item in the rather mundane living room in which she'd spent so many hours of her days: a small, rectangular oriental carpet, woven perhaps in some obscure tent in Turkestan. Then, rising, she took a few steps over to a desk, took out her passport, and handed it to Morse.

But Morse knew it all anyway; had already studied the details carefully: the headings, printed in both Swedish and English; the details required, handwritten in Swedish. Underneath the photograph, he read again:


Surname…

Christian name(s)…

Height in cms (without shoes).

Sex…

Date of birth…

Place of birth…

Civic Reg. No…

Date issued…

How long valid…

Signature…

Remarks…


Katarina Adams (it appeared), height 168 cms in her stockinged feet, of the female sex, had been born on the 29 September 1968, in Uppsala, Sweden.

'Clever touch that, Uppingham for Uppsala,' commented Morse.

'Uppsala – if we must be accurate, Inspector.'

‘ “Adams" was your married name – your first married name. And when your husband was killed in a car crash, you kept it. Why not? So…'

'So, what else do you want from me?' she asked quietly.

'Just tell me the truth, please! We shall get there in the end, you know.'

She took a deep breath, and spoke quickly and briefly. 'When my sister Karin was murdered, I was in Spain – in Barcelona, as it happened. I got here as soon as I could – my mother had rung me from Sweden. But I could do nothing, I soon realized that. I met David. We fell in love. We were married. I was frightened about work permits and visas and that sort of thing, and David said it would be better if I lied – if he lied – about my earlier marriage. Easier and quicker. So? For a start I only went out of the house here a very few times. I wore glasses and I had my hair cut fairly short and dyed black. That's why they asked me to sing in the opera, yes? I looked like the part before they started the auditions.'

Lewis glanced briefly sideways, and thought he saw a look of slight puzzlement on Morse's face.

'Didn't the Registrar tell you – tell your husband – that it was all above board anyway?'

'No, I'm sure he didn't. You see we said nothing about this… you know. Can't you understand? It was all very strange – all very unsettling and sort of, sort of nervy, somehow. David understood, though-'

'Did you enjoy your holiday in Spain?'

'Very much. Why-?'

'Which airport did you fly from to England?'

'Barcelona.'

'Lots of muggings, they tell me, at Barcelona airport.'

'What's that got to do-?'

'Ever lost your handbag? You know, with your keys and passport and credit cards?'

'No. I'm glad to say I haven't.'

'What would you do if you lost your passport, say?'

She shrugged. 'I don't know. I'd apply to the Swedish Embassy, I suppose. They'd probably give me a temporary document… or something…'

'But do you think it would be possible to fiddle things, Mrs Michaels? Like it's possible to fiddle a marriage licence?'

'I wish you'd tell me exactly what you're getting at.'

'All right. Let me ask you a simple question. Would it be possible for anyone to apply for someone else's passport?'

'Almost impossible, surely? There are all sorts of checks in Sweden: Civic Registration Number – that's what we use in Sweden instead of a birth certificate – details of all the information on the passport that would have to be checked – photograph? No! I don't think it would.'

'I agree with you, I think. Almost impossible – though not quite; not for a very clever woman.'

'But I'm not a very clever woman, Inspector.'

'No! Again I agree with you.' (Lewis wondered if he'd spotted the slightest trace of disappointment in her eyes.) 'But let's agree it is impossible, right. There is another way, though, a very much easier way of acquiring a passport. A childishly easy way. Someone gives you one, Mrs Michaels. Someone sends you one through the post.'

'You are leaving me many miles behind, Inspector.'

'No, I'm not,' replied Morse, with a quiet factuality that brooked no argument. 'No one – no one – lost any passport at Barcelona, or anywhere else. But you and your elder sister are very much alike, aren't you? My sergeant here brought me a photograph of the three of you from Stockholm. You're all blonde and blue-eyed and high-cheekboned and long-legged and everything else people here expect from the Nordic type. Even your younger sister – the shortest of the three of you – she looks very much like Karin too, at least from her photograph.'

Forcibly she interrupted him: 'Listen! Just one moment, please! Have you ever felt completely confused – like I feel now?'

'Oh, yes! Quite frequently, believe me. But not now. Not now, Mrs Michaels. And you're not confused either. Because that passport there isn't yours. It belongs to your sister Katarina – Katarina Adams. Your sister who still lives in Uppsala. Your sister who told the Swedish authorities that she'd had her passport stolen, and then applied for another. Simple! You see, your name isn't Katarina Adams at all, is it, Mrs Michaels? It's Karin Eriksson.'

Her shoulders suddenly sagged, as if she felt that, in spite of any innocent protestations she might make, she was not going to be believed by anyone; as if on that score at least she would perhaps be well advised to leave her case to the testimony of others.

But Morse was pressing home his advantage; and WPC Wright (though not Lewis) found his further questioning embarrassing and tasteless.

'You've got beautiful legs – would you agree?'

'What?' Instinctively she sought to pull the her of her knee length skirt an inch or two lower over her elegant legs; but with little effect.

'You know,' continued Morse, 'when I was talking just now about the Nordic type, I was thinking of the films we used to see of all those sexy Swedish starlets. I used to go to the pictures a lot in those days-'

'Do you want me to do a streep-tease for you?'

'You see, my sergeant here and me – and I – we've got quite a big advantage really, because we've had a chance to study your passport – if it is yours – '

She was almost at the end of her tether. 'What is it?' she shrieked. 'Please! Please tell me! What are you accusing me of? All of you?'

Resignedly Morse gestured with his right hand to Lewis; and Lewis, in a flat and melancholy voice, intoned the charge:

'Mrs Karin Michaels – Miss Karin Eriksson – I have to inform you that you are under police arrest on suspicion of murdering one James Myton, on the afternoon of Sunday, July seventh, 1991. It is my duty to warn you that anything you may now say in the presence of the three police officers here may be used in evidence in any future proceedings.'

Morse got up, and now stood above her.

'There's no need for you to say anything, not for the time being.'

'You mean you are accusing me – me – of being Karin, my sister? The sister who was murdered?'

'You're still denying it?' queried Morse quietly.

'Of course! Of course, I am!'

'You can prove it, you know. The Swedish authorities tell us they don't use that "Remarks" section very much at all on the passport – only really if there's some obvious distinguishing mark that can help in establishing identity. On the passport though -the one you say is yours – that section's filled in, in Swedish. And it says, so they tell me, "Pronounced diagonal scar, inner thigh above left knee-cap, eight and a half centimetres in length, result of motoring accident".'

'Yes?' She looked up at the chief inspector as if she almost willed him, dared him, wanted him, to prove his accusation.

'So if you do have a scar there, it won't necessarily prove who you are, will it? But if you haven't… if you haven't, then you're not now, and never were, the woman described on that passport.'

Karin Eriksson, the murderer of James Myton, now sat completely still for many agonizing seconds. Then slowly, tantalizingly, as if she were some upper-class artiste in a strip-tease parlour, centimetre by centimetre her left hand lifted the hem of the beige velvet skirt above her left knee to reveal the naked flesh upon her inner thigh.

Did she rejoice in the gaze of the two detectives there? Had she secretly always thrilled to the admiration of the young boys in her high school class at Uppsala – of the tutors on her course? Even perhaps, for a short while, to the lust of the crude and ratty-faced Myton, who had sought to rape her out in Wytham Woods, and whom she had then so deliberately murdered?

And as Morse looked down at the smooth and unscarred flesh above her knee, he found himself wondering for a little while whether he too, like Myton, might not at some point on a hot and sultry summer afternoon have found this girl so very beautiful and necessary.


Lewis drove carefully down the road that led along the edge of the woods towards Wytham village. Beside him was WPG Wright; and in the back sat Karin Eriksson and Chief Inspector Morse.

Almost always, at such a stage in any case, Morse felt himself saddened – with the thrill of the chase now over, with the guilty left to face the appropriate retribution. Often had he pondered on the eternal problem of justice; and he knew as did most men of civilized values that the function of law was to provide that framework of order within which men and women could be protected as they went about their legitimate business. Yes, the criminal must be punished for his misdeeds, for that was the law. And Morse was an upholder of the law. Yet he debated now again, as he felt the body of Karin Eriksson close beside him, that fine distinction between the law and justice. Justice was one of those big words that was so often spelled with a capital 'J'; but really it was so much harder to define than Law. Karin would have to face the law; and he turned to look at her – to look at those beautiful blue eyes of hers, moistened now with the quiet film of tears. For a few seconds, at that moment, there seemed almost a bond between them – between Morse and the young woman who had murdered James Myton.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, she whispered something in his right ear.

'Did you ever have sex with a girl in the back of a car?'

'Not in the back,' whispered Morse. 'In the front, of course. Often!'

'Are you telling me the truth?'

'No,' said Morse.

He was conscious of a brimming reservoir of tears somewhere behind his own eyes as the police car came up to the main road and turned left, down past Wytham towards the police HQ. And for a second or two he thought he felt Karin's left leg pressing gently against him, and so very much he hoped that this was so.

chapter sixty-three

All that's left to happen

Is some deaths (my own included).

Their order, and their manner,

Remain to be learnt

(Philip Larkin, Collected Poems)


the statement made by Karin Eriksson added little to Lewis's knowledge of the case. Unprecedentedly, Morse had kept him informed, in key respects, from fairly early on of his suspicions surrounding the Swedish Maiden and, eventually, of his virtual certainties. There were one or two significant discrepancies – particularly concerning the amount of money Karin had with her on her arrival in Oxford, and concerning the number of voyeurs who witnessed her photographic session in Seckham Villa. But from the combined statements of Karin herself and of her (wholly legitimate) husband David, it was a straightforward matter to stitch together the sequence of events that occurred on Sunday, 7 July


Out on the M40 Karin had almost immediately been picked up by a van en route for the Rover Car Plant at Cowley, in Oxford. Dropped off at the Headington roundabout, she had been picked up, again almost immediately, by a BMW and dropped at the Banbury Road roundabout on the Northern Ring Road. Walking a few hundred yards down the Banbury Road (buses on Sunday seemed infrequent) she had noticed the Cotswold House, and on impulse felt how wonderful it would be to spend at least one night in such attractive-looking B & B accommodation. She had knocked and enquired the rates; had been told that there was one single room vacancy; but on learning the tariff had decided to find something a little cheaper, a little later. From a phone-box in Wentworth Road, just opposite the Cotswold House, she had phoned the model agency, and fairly soon been collected and driven down to Abingdon Road, where a telephone arrangement was made with McBryde for Karin to present herself at Seckham Villa, at about 2 p.m., for an hour or so's photographic session – the fee suggested, £8o-£120, causing her eyebrows to lift in pleasurable surprise. She had declined further help from the agency, and walked up to St Giles', where she had a ham sandwich and half a glass of lager in the Eagle and Child.

At Seckham Villa she had been admitted by McBryde, and soon introduced to Mytpn. No hard pornography! – she'd immediately made her position clear on that; but, yes, she was willing to pose for a series of nude and semi-nude studies. And for an extra £20 she'd agreed that two other men there could sit in the 'studio' and watch her. Myton, she learned, was a freelance cinematographer in the sex-video world, and almost straightaway she had felt his eyes stripping off her skimpy summer clothing. But he'd seemed all right. Whilst he was preparing his paraphernalia of tripods, umbrellas, backcloths, reflectors, light-meters, and the rest, she had wandered out briefly into the back garden; and when he had come out a little while later she had found him amusing and good fun. He was a smallish, slim man, with a day's growth of darkish beard, but with much lighter-coloured hair, worn quite long with an absurd short pony-tail held in an elastic band. She had teased him a little about this, and indeed asked him to stand by the wall there while she could take a couple of snaps. Soon though McBryde had hurriedly ushered them inside, where she was introduced, perfunctorily, to a man in a lightweight summer-suit, and another man in grey slacks and sports jacket, incongruously (as she remembered on that hot day) holding a green pork-pie hat.

Then the 'session'. She had, she confessed, experienced some flush of excitement as the two silent men (McBryde had only come in later) ogled her as she stripped and posed and donned the see-through lingerie provided, and lay there on the bed in gaping gowns and skimpy negligees. Myton had punctuated her posturings with crude encouragements as gradually she'd felt herself relaxing: 'Christ, that's marvellous! Yeah! Ye-eah! Just hold it there, baby! Keep that hand under your tits and sort of, yes, sort of push 'em at me!' Such manner of talk had excited her and, if she were honest with herself, she'd felt a sort of orgasm of sexual vanity.

Afterwards, when she and Myton were alone, she had asked him to take one or two snaps of her with her own camera – just as a reminder really – and he'd readily done so. He'd still not so much as touched her physically, not yet; but he'd asked her where she was going and said he had his car outside if she wanted a lift anywhere. Before leaving McBryde had given her £100, all in ten-pound notes, which she had placed in her money-wallet; and then Myton had driven her back up to the top of the Banbury Road. She told him that she was thinking of going to the charity pop concert at Blenheim the next evening, 8 July, and then – suddenly – as they were passing the Cotswold House she asked him to stop: she would stay there now. But a white notice – no vacancies – was across the door, and the lady of the house confirmed sadly that the remaining room had just been taken. As she was getting back into the car, she thought she saw a sparrow-hawk flying over towards the huge trees behind her, and she stopped and sought to focus her binoculars upon it. Fatal moment! Myton asked her if she was interested in birdwatching; and she had shown him her list of hoped-for spottings. Well, he knew exactly where she could see the woodpecker – probably see all the woodpeckers. In Wytham! He was interested himself in birds: was a member of the RSPB (this later proving untrue) and had a permit for walking in Wytham Woods (also proving to be untrue).

That was the beginning of all her woe.

Setting off from the semi-circular parking area just before the Great Wood, they had walked diagonally across a field and then along some leafy woodland pathway into a thickly forested area, where she remembered the brittle crackling of dead twigs and branches beneath her feet; and then Myton's hands upon her body. At first perhaps she might have been prepared for some limited petting; but very soon he had grown rough and insistent, and told her that he needed her – urgently. Would have her! He'd stripped off her thin blouse and pulled her to the floor; but she was herself strong and determined in fighting him off. The pocket of the rucksack in which she kept her binoculars – and her knife – was still open; and she managed to struggle away from him and open the blade of the knife – and plunge it into him… It had entered his flesh so easily, like pushing a knife through soft cheese, she said; but a fountain of blood had spurted across the top of her semi-naked body. Unlike the blood though he lay still, utterly still – his eyes wide open and glaring up at her.

She hurled the knife into the trees, picked up her scarlet rucksack, and dressed only in a blood-bespattered skirt she fled the spot in panic – emerging finally into a clearing where, panting and jabbering and whimpering, she ran and ran – she could have no idea how long, how far – before collapsing, and remembering nothing more until she looked up to see a dog, a black and white Welsh Border Collie, and a thick-set, bearded man behind the dog, his face anxious and kindly, looking down at her. A Land-rover was parked a few yards away.

In his cottage David Michaels at first had found it scarcely possible to believe the young woman's extraordinary account of what had occurred. It all seemed like some terrible nightmare, she'd pleaded: of a frenetic struggle and of a sudden death, if death it were; or of a man lying in the agony of death somewhere out there, somewhere in the woods. Indeed were it not for the blood all over her body, it must have been a nightmare surely! The mention of the word 'police' had driven her to hysterical tears; and clearly distressing too was the thought of the car, the car that from his cottage window Michaels could see even then across the lane. But he would deal with things, he'd promised her that – not knowing what he promised. He learned from her of Seckham Villa, and he made his decision. He got her to bath herself, to swallow half a dozen Disprin; and very soon, so suddenly, so miraculously almost, she had fallen deeply asleep, quite naked between the white sheets of his own double bed. And he realized at that moment that he was just as bad as the rest of them, for he lusted after her, just as other men had lusted after her that afternoon.

At Seckham Villa, Michaels had met the three of them – still there: McBryde, Daley, and Hardinge; and he had begun then to appreciate the complexity of the situation in which they all -including Michaels himself – now found themselves. A plan was conceived. And later executed. Just one detail that was new. Karin's intended visit to the pop concert at Blenheim could be used to their ready advantage, since the discovery of the rucksack and other personal possessions somewhere near Blenheim, the day after the concert, would throw everyone on to the wrong scent, and would promote dark suspicions of a young lady missing, presumed dead somewhere, doubtless murdered by some drug-crazed, sex-hyped youth whom she'd met at the jamboree. Fear of exposure and financial ruin was more than sufficient motivation for McBryde; fear of exposure and scandal more than sufficient for Hardinge; and a cheque (neither Karin nor David Michaels knew for how much) sufficient to ensure the co-operation of the mercenary Daley.

That night, back in the cottage on the edge of the woods, Karin had become terrifyingly distraught; he had slept with her, for she wished it so; she had sought throughout that night the reassurance of his embrace, and of his love; and gladly, gloriously, he had met her needs.

It had been her plan, her plea, to go to Wales – away, away somewhere, away anywhere; and the next morning, setting out from Wytham just after 6 o'clock, he had driven there, leaving her in the hands of a kindly woman who must fairly soon (surely, he'd felt) have been in possession of most of the facts herself. The only thing from her rucksack she had taken was £60 – leaving the rest inside her money-wallet: it seemed to them all a convincing detail. From Wales, she had phoned David frequently – sometimes several times each evening. She it was, Karin, who had phoned her mother, together with whom, and with her sisters, the next phase of the plan was conceived: the simple substitution of Katarina's passport, sent to Karin in a plain brown envelope from Barcelona.

Finally, there had been the return to Oxford – and to David Michaels, the man she was learning increasingly to love, and whose solicitude for her, in turn, seemed now to know no bounds. With her hair cut and dyed black, with a pair of black-framed spectacles, she had lived in the cottage in an idyllic state of happiness with David and Bobbie – until a gradual integration into life again: a drink at the village pub, badminton at the village hall, membership of the local operatic society. And marriage! Strange, really, that she could live so happily so near the murder. Yet she could. The nightmare had passed. It was as if a partition existed, a sort of mesh between her and the whole of her life before she'd met David – a mesh like the network of twigs and branches in the spot where the blood had spurted over her.

For the first six months or so David had daily expected to discover the body, especially so as the trees grew bare in that late autumn; or expected others to discover it, as they roamed the ridings and observed the birds, badgers, foxes, squirrels, deer…But no. And when Morse had asked him where he himself might think of hiding a body, it had never occurred to him that Karin could have run so far, so very far from Pasticks out along by the Singing Way.

Just one more thing. Uncommonly for Swedish people, the Eriksson family were all Roman Catholic (something Lewis had suspected when he had seen the two crucifixes but, sadly, something he hadn't mentioned to Morse) and Karin had discovered the little church in the Woodstock Road. She had passed her driving test earlier that year, and was in the habit of going to Mass on Sunday mornings when David didn't require the Land-rover; and sometimes, when he did, waiting for him to pick her up after the service. Twice a month or so. Then to confession, about which she hadn't told her husband quite everything – certainly holding back from him her slowly formulating fear that her lack of contrition at having killed Myton was almost a greater sin than the killing itself had been; her fear that she might kill again, kill wildly and regardlessly if anyone came to threaten her own and David's happiness. Yet at the same time, an oddly contradictory wish was gradually growing too: the wish that someone would discover the truth of what she'd done; even that someone would divulge that truth…

But Father Richards could never do that, he'd said, as he'd comforted her, and prayed with her, and forgiven her in the name of the Almighty Father.

chapter sixty-four

The lips frequently parted with a murmur of words. She seemed to belong rightly to a madrigal

(Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native)


on the evening of the day following these events, Wednesday 5 August, Morse, Lewis, and Dr Laura Hobson had enjoyed a little celebration in Morse's office; and at 8.30 p.m. a sober Lewis had driven the other two down to Morse's flat in North Oxford.

'You won't want another drink?' Morse had asked of Lewis, as if the question were introduced by num., the Latin interrogative particle expecting the answer 'no'.

'What elegant equipment!' enthused Laura Hobson as she admired Morse's new CD player.

Ten minutes later the pair of them were sitting together, drinking in a diet of Glenfiddich and the finale of Gotterddmmerung.

'Nothing quite like it in the whole history of music,' announced Morse magisterially, after Briinnhilde had ridden into the flames and the waves of the Rhine had finally rippled into silence.

'You think so?'

'Don't you?'

'I prefer Elizabethan madrigals, really.'

For a few moments Morse said nothing, saddened by her lack of sensitivity, it seemed.

'Oh.'

'I loved it. Don't be silly!' she said. 'But I've got to be on my way.'

'Can I walk you home?'

'I live too far away. I'm in a temporary flat – in Jericho.'

'I'll drive you home, then.'

'You've had far too much to drink.'

'You can stay here, if you like? I've got a spare pair of pyjamas.'

'I don't usually wear pyjamas.'

'No?'

'How many bedrooms do you have?'

‘Two.'

'And bedroom number two is free?"

'Just like bedroom number one.'

'No secret passage between them?'

'I could get the builders in.'

She smiled happily, and rose to her feet. 'If there ever is going to be anything between us, Chief Inspector, it'll have to be when we're borth a bit more sorber. Better that way. I think you'd prefer it that way too, if you're honest.' She laid a hand on his shoulder. 'C'mon. Ring for a taxi.'

Ten minutes later she kissed him lightly on the lips, her own lips dry and soft and slightly opened.

Then she was gone.


An hour later Morse lay awake on his back. It was still hot in the bedroom and he had only a light cotton sheet over him. Many varied thoughts were crowding in upon his mind, his eyes ever darting around in the darkness. First it had been the lovely woman who had been there with him that evening; then the case of the Swedish Maiden, with only those last few lines of the complex equation to be completed now; then his failure thus far to locate the bullet that had killed George Daley – this last problem gradually assuming a dominance in his brain…

The bullet had been fired from about sixty or so yards – that seemed a firm assumption. So… So why hadn't it been found? And why could no one in Blenheim be far more definite about hearing it being fired: shooting in Blenheim was not the common occurrence it was in other areas… in Wytham, for example. The rifle itself concerned him to a lesser extent: after all, it was far easier to get rid of a rifle than to get rid of a bullet that could have landed up anywhere… Morse got out of bed and went to find the Blenheim Park brochure -just as Johnson had done so recently before him. The place where Daley's body had been found could be only – what? – four hundred yards or so from that narrow north-westerly tip of the lake, shaped like the head of one of those cormorants he'd seen in Lyme Regis not all that long ago… Yes! He would double the men on the search – on both searches, rather. There could be little doubt that Philip Daley must have dumped his father's rifle there somewhere – in the lake itself, like as not. And once they'd found either of them, either the rifle or the bullet-

The phone rang, and Morse grabbed at it.

'That was quick, sir.'

'What do you want?'

'The Met, sir. They rang HQ, and Sergeant Dixon thought he ought to let me know-'

'Let you know, Lewis? Who the hell's in charge of this bloody case? Just wait till I see Dixon!'

'They thought you'd be asleep, sir.'

'Well, I wasn't, was I?'

'And, well-'

'Well, what?'

'Doesn't matter, sir.'

'It bloody does matter! They thought I was in bed with a woman! That's what they thought."

'I don't know,' admitted the honest and honourable Lewis.

'Or pretty much the worse for booze!'

'Perhaps they thought both,' said Lewis simply.

'Well?'

'Young Philip Daley, sir. Just over an hour ago. Threw himself under a westbound train on the Central Line, it seems – train coming into Marble Arch from Bond Street – driver had no chance, just as he came out of the tunnel.'

Morse said nothing.

'Police knew a bit about the boy. He'd been picked up for shoplifting from a wine store in the Edgware Road and taken in; but the manager decided not to prosecute – he got away with a right dressing-down-'

That's not all you've got to tell me, is it?' said Morse quietly.

'No, sir. You've guessed, I suppose. That was Monday morning, half an hour after the store opened.'

'You're telling me he couldn't have shot his dad, is that it?'

'Not even if he'd been the one to hire that helicopter, sir.'

'Does Mrs Daley know?'

'Not yet.'

'Leave her, Lewis. Leave her. Let her sleep.'


*


An hour later Morse still lay awake, though now his mind was far more relaxed. It had been like puzzling over a crossword clue and finding a possible answer, but being dissatisfied with that answer, lacking as it did any satisfying inevitability; and then being given an erratum slip, telling him that the clue had been wrong in the first place; then being given the correct clue; and then…

Oh yes!

All along he'd been aware of his dissatisfaction with the motivation of Philip Daley for the death of his father. It could have happened that way, of course – far odder things in life occurred than that. But the sequence of sudden hatred and carefully plotted murder rang far from true; and Morse considered once more the original facts: the scene of George Daley's murder, beside the little coppice in Blenheim Park, still cordoned off, with nothing but the corpse removed, and even now some weary PC standing guard, or sitting guard… Odd really, that! Morse had asked for an almost unprecedentedly large number of men in this case; what's more he'd given them all a quite specific task. Yet no one had come up with anything.

And suddenly he knew why!

He jerked up in the bed, as though crudely galvanized, and considered the erratum slip, smiling now serenely to himself. It could be. It had to be! And the new answer to the clue was shining and wholly fitting; an answer that 'filled the eye', as the judges said of the champion dogs at Crufts.

It was 2.40 a.m., and Morse knew that he would have to do something if he were ever to get to sleep. So he made himself a rare cup of Ovaltine, and sat for a while at the kitchen table: impatient, as ever, yet content. What exactly made him remember Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, he was by no means sure. Physics had long been a closed science to him, ever since at school he had once tried, without success, to take some readings from an incomprehensible piece of equipment called the Wheatstone Bridge. But Heisenberg was a splendid name and Morse looked him up in his encyclopaedia: 'There is always an uncertainty in the values obtained if simultaneous observation is made of position …" Morse nodded to himself. Time too, as doubtless old Heisenberg had known.

Morse was soon asleep.

When he awoke, at 7 a.m., he thought he might perhaps have dreamed of a choir of beautiful women singing Elizabethan madrigals. But it was all a bit vague in his mind; about as vague as exactly what, as a principle, 'Werner Karl Heisenberg (1901-76)' had had in mind.

chapter sixty-five

How strange are the tricks of memory, which, often hazy as a dream about the most important events, religiously preserve the merest trifles

(Sir Richard Burton, Sind Revisited]


'You appreciate therefore, Lewis' – the two of them stood on the scene of Daley's murder the following morning – 'the paramount importance of leaving everything exactly as it was here.'

'But we've had everybody trampling all over the place.'

Morse beamed. 'Ah, but we've got this, haven't we?' He patted the roof of the Blenheim Estate van affectionately.

'Unless one of the lads's been sitting in there having a smoke.'

'If he has, I'll sever his scrotum!'

'By the way, did you have a word with Dixon this morning?'

'Dixon? What the 'ell's Dixon got to do with anything?'

'Nothing,' murmured Lewis, as he turned away to have a final word with the two men standing by the recovery truck.

'Without getting inside at all, you say?' asked the elder of the two.

'That's what the chief inspector wants, yes.'

'We can't do it without touching the bloody thing though, can we, Charlie?'

Morse himself was standing beside the van, deep in thought, it seemed. Then he walked slowly round it, peering with apparently earnest attention at the ground. But the soil was rock-hard there, after weeks of cloudless weather, and after a little while he lost interest and walked back to the police car.

'That's enough here, Lewis. Let's get over to the lodge: it's time we had another word with Mr Williams.'

As before, Williams' evidence, in specific terms, was perhaps unsatisfactory; but, in general outline, it did serve to establish a working framework for the murder – the only one really the police had. Certainly the crucial point – that Daley had driven through

Combe Lodge Gate on the morning of his murder – could be pretty confidently re-affirmed. There had been a good deal of to-ing and fro-ing of two blue tractors, with their trailers, that morning, each of them making three trips from the saw-mill down to the area near the Grand Bridge to load up with recently felled timber. Williams had checked up (he said) with the drivers, and the ferrying had not begun until about 9.45 a.m., or a little later perhaps; and if there was one thing he could feel reasonably confident about it was the fact that Daley had come through the gate at the same time as one of the tractors – because although the gate was opened quite frequently that morning, it had not been specifically opened (Williams was almost sure) for the estate van. He did remember the van though – quite definite he was about that. He hadn't known Daley well; spoken to him a few times of course, and Daley had often come through the lodge, to and from the sawmill. Usually, between those working at Blenheim, there would be a hand raised in acknowledgement or greeting. And there was another thing: Daley almost always wore his hat, even in the summer; and, yes, Daley had been wearing his hat that Monday-morning.

Morse had pressed him on the point. 'You're sure about that?'

Williams breathed out noisily. He felt he was sure, yes. But it was a frightening business, this being questioned and giving evidence, and he was now far less sure than he had been about one or two of the things he'd said earlier. That shot he thought he'd heard, for example: he was less and less sure now that he'd heard it at all. So it was better, fairer too, to play it a bit more on the cautious side… that's what he thought. -

'Well, I think so. Trouble is really about the time. You see, it might have been a bit later, I think.'

But Morse appeared no longer interested in the time – or in the shot, for that matter.

'Mr Williams! I'm sorry to keep on about this but it's very important. I know that Mr Daley always wore his hat around the park, and I believe you when you say you saw his hat. But let's put it another way: are you sure it was Mr Daley who was wearing the hat on Monday morning?'

'You mean,' said Williams slowly, 'you mean it mightn't have been him – driving the van?'

'Exactly.'

Oh dear! Williams didn't know… hadn't even considered…

Two women joggers appeared at the lodge, twisted through the kissing-gate and continued their way into the park itself, their breasts bouncing, their legs (as viewed from the rear) betraying the slightly splay-footed run of the fairer sex. Morse followed them briefly with his eyes, and asked his last question:

'Did you notice any jogger coming this way, out of the park, on Monday morning? About, let's say, half-past ten? Eleven?'

Williams pondered the question. While everything else seemed to be getting more and more muddled in his mind, the chief inspector had just sparked off a fairly vivid recollection. He thought he had noticed someone, yes – a woman. There were always lots of joggers at weekends, but not many in the week; not many at all; and certainly not in the middle of the morning. He thought he could remember the woman though; could almost see her now, with the nipples of her breasts erect and pushing through the thin material of her T-shirt. Was that Monday morning, though? The simple truth was that he just couldn't be certain and again he was unwilling to commit himself too positively.

'I may have done, yes.'

'Thank you very much, sir.'

What exactly he was being thanked for, Mr Williams was not quite clear, and he was aware that he must have appeared a less-than-satisfactory witness. Yet the chief inspector had looked mightily pleased with himself as he'd left; and he'd said 'very much', hadn't he? It was all a bit beyond the gate-keeper of Combe Lodge in Blenheim Park.

chapter sixty-six

As when that divelish yron engin, wrought

In deepest hell, and framd by furies skill,

With windy nitre and quick sulphur fraught,

And ramd with bollett rownd, ordaind to kill,

Conceivcth fyre

(Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene)


the semi-circular area where birdwatchers and the occasional loving couple were wont to park was packed with police cars and vans when, half an hour after leaving Blenheim, Lewis drove through the perimeter gate ('The woods are closed to Permit Holders until 10.00 a.m. every day except Sunday') and into the compound, on his left, marked off with its horizontal four-barred, black-creosoted fencing. Here, under the direction of Chief Inspector Johnson, some fifty or so policemen – some uniformed, some not – were systematically conducting their search.

'No luck yet?’ asked Morse.

'Give us a chance!' said Johnson. 'Lot of ground to cover, isn't there?'

The large wooden sheds, the stacks of logs and fencing-posts, the occasional clump of trees, the rank growth of untended bushes – all precluded any wholly scientific search-pattern. But there was plenty of time; there were plenty of men; they would find it, Johnson was confident of that.

Morse led the way up the curving track towards the furthest point from the compound entrance, towards the hut where David Michaels had his office, right up against the recently erected deer-fence. To the left of this track was a line of forty or so fir trees, about thirty feet high; and to the right, the hut itself, the main door standing padlocked now. On the wooden sides of this extensive hut. at the top, were six large bird-boxes, numbered 9-14; and at the bottom there grew rank clumps of nettles. Morse looked back down the sloping track; retraced his steps, counting as he went; then stopped at a smaller open-sided shed in which stood a large red tractor with a timber-lifting device fixed to it. For a minute or two he stood beside the tractor, behind the shed wall, and then, as if he were a young boy with an imaginary rifle, lifted both his arms, curled his right index-finger round an imaginary trigger, closed his left eye, and slowly turned the rifle in an arc from right to left, as if some imaginary vehicle were being driven past – the rifle finally remaining stationary as the vehicle's imaginary driver dismounted, in front of the head forester's hut.

'You reckon?' asked Lewis quietly.

Morse nodded.

That means we probably ought to be concentrating the search up there, sir.' Lewis pointed back towards Michaels' office.

'Give him a chance! He's not so bright as you,' whispered Morse.

'About fifty, fifty-five yards. I paced it too, sir.'

Again Morse nodded, and the two of them rejoined Johnson.

'Know much about rifles?' asked Morse.

'Enough.'

'Could you use a silencer on a seven-millimetre?''

' "Sound-moderator" -that's the word these days. No, not much good. It'd suppress the noise of the explosion, but it couldn't stop the noise of the bullet going through the sound-barrier. And incidentally, Morse, it might be a.243 – don't forget that!'

'Oh!'

'You were thinking it might be around here, weren't you?' Johnson kicked aside a few nettles along the bottom of the shed, and looked at Morse shrewdly, if a little sadly.

Morse shrugged. 'I'd be guessing, of course.'

Johnson looked down at the flattened nettles. 'You never did have much faith in me, did you?'

Morse didn't know what to say, and as Johnson walked away, he too looked down at the flattened nettles.

'You're quite wrong, you know, sir. He's a whole lot brighter than me, is Johnson.'

But again Morse made no reply, and the pair of them walked down to the low, stone-built cottage where until very lately Michaels and his Swedish wife had lived so happily together.

Just as they were entering, they heard a shot from fairly far off. But they paid little attention to it. As Michaels had informed them, no one was ever going to be too disturbed about hearing a gun-shot in Wytham: game-keepers shooting squirrels or rabbits, perhaps; farmworkers taking a pot at the pestilential pigeons.

Inside the cottage, just beside the main entrance, stood the steel security cabinet from which Michaels' rifle had been taken for forensic examination. But there was no longer any legal requirement for the cabinet to be locked, and it now stood open – and empty. Lewis bent down and looked carefully at the groove in which the rifle had stood, noting the scratches where the butt had rested; and beside it a second groove – with equally tell-tale signs.

'I'm sure you're right,' said Lewis.

'If you remember,' said Morse, 'he told us himself, Michaels did. When you told him you'd seen no rifles in the hut he said… he said "Oh, I couldn't keep 'em there" – those were his exact words, I think.'

'You're still certain he did it, sir?'

'Yes.'

'What about that "Uncertainty Principle" you were on about this morning?'

'What about it?' asked Morse. Infuriatingly.

'Forget it.'

'What's the time?'

'Nearly twelve.'

'Ah, the prick of noon!'

'Pardon?'

'Forget it.'

'We can walk down if you like, sir. A nice little ten-minute walk – do us good. We can work up a thirst.'

'Nonsense!'

'Don't you enjoy walking – occasionally?'

'Occasionally, yes.'

'So?'

'So drive me down to the White Hart, Lewis! What's the problem?'

chapter sixty-seven

Scire volunt secreta domus, atque inde timeri

(They watch for household secrets hour by hour

And feed therefrom their appetite for power)

(Juvenal, Satire III)


'what put you on it this time?' asked Lewis as they sat opposite each other in the small upstairs bar, Morse with a pint of real ale, Lewis himself with a much-iced orangeade.

'I think it wasn't so much finding Daley like he was – out at Blenheim. It was the photographs they took of him there. I don't think it hit me at the time; but when I looked at the photographs I got the idea somehow that he'd just been dumped there – that he hadn't been shot there at all.'

'You mean you just – well, sort of had a feeling about it?'

'No. I don't mean that. You may think I work that way, Lewis, but I don't. I don't believe in some unaccountable intuition that just happens occasionally to turn out right. There's got to be something there, however vague. And here we had the hat, didn't we? The hat Daley wore wherever he was, whatever the weather. Same bloody hat! He never took it off, Lewis!'

'Probably took it off in bed?'

'We don't even know that, do we?' Morse drained his beer. 'Plenty of time for another.'

Lewis nodded. 'Plenty of time! Your round though, sir. I'll have another orange. Lovely. Lots of ice, please!'

'You see,' resumed Morse, a couple of minutes later, 'he was almost certainly wearing his hat when he was shot, and I very much doubt myself that it would have fallen off. I'd seen the tight sweat-mark round his forehead when we met him earlier. And even if it had fallen off – when he dropped dead – I just had the feeling…'

Lewis lifted his eyebrows.

'… it wouldn't have fallen far!

'So?'

'So, I reckon it was put down there deliberately, just beside his head – after he was shot. Remember where it was? Three or four feet away from his head. So the conclusion's firm and satisfactory, as I see it. He was wearing his hat when he was shot, and like as not it stayed on his head. Then when he was moved, and finally dumped, it had come off; and it was placed there beside him.'

'What a palaver!'

Morse nodded. 'But they had to do it. They had to establish an alibi -'

'For David Michaels, you mean?'

'Yes. It was Michaels who shot Daley – I've no doubts on that score. There was the agreement Hardinge told us about, wasn't there, the agreement the four of them made – a statement by the way that contains quite as much truth as falsehood, Lewis. Then something comes along and buggers it all up. Daley got a letter spelling out his financial responsibilities for his boy, and Daley knew that he was the one who had a hold over – well, over all the others, really. But particularly over David Michaels! I reckon Daley probably rang him and said he couldn't afford to stick by the agreement; said he was sorry – but he needed more money. And if he didn't get more money pretty soon…'

'Blackmail!'

'Exactly. And there may well have been a bit more of that than we think.'

'Quite a hold over Michaels, though, when you think of it: knowing he was married to… a murderess.'

'Quite a hold. So Michaels agrees – pretends he agrees – to go along with it. They'll meet at Wytham earlyish on Monday -quarter to ten, say. No one around much at that time. No birdwatchers allowed in the woods till ten – remember the notice?'

'The RSPB people were there.'

'They turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though.'

'Take it a bit slower, please!'

'Right. Let's just go back a minute. The rendezvous's settled. Daley drives up to Wytham. Michaels has said he'll have some money ready – in notes, no doubt – just after the bank's opened. He's ready. He waits for Daley to drive up to his office. He waits for a clear view of him as he gets out of his estate van. I don't know exactly where he was waiting, of course; what I do know is that someone as experienced as Michaels, with a telescopic sight, could hit this' – Morse picked up his empty glass – 'no problem! – from a hundred, let alone from fifty yards.'

But any further reconstruction of Daley's murder was temporarily curtailed, since Johnson had walked in, and now sat down beside them.

'What'll you have?' asked Morse. 'Lewis here is in the chair.'

'Nothing for me, thank you, er, Lewis. Look! There's this call for you from forensics about the van. I told 'em I wasn't quite sure where you were-'

'What'd they say?'

'They found prints all over the shop – mostly Daley's, of course. But like you said, they found other prints – on the tail-board, on the steering wheel.'

'And I was right about them?'

Johnson nodded. 'Yes. They're Karin Eriksson's.'


At lunch-time that same day, Alasdair McBryde came out of the tube station at Manor House and walked briskly down the Seven Sisters Road – finally turning into one of the parking-and-garage areas of a high-rise block of flats that flanks the Bethune Road. He had spotted the unmarked car immediately: the two men seated in the front, one of them reading the Sun. It was quite customary for him to spot danger a mile or so off; and he did so now. Number 14 was the garage he was interested in; but softly whistling the Prelude to Act Three of Lohengrin, he walked boldly into the nearest open garage (number 9), picked up a half-filled can of Mobiloil, before nonchalantly retracing his steps to the main road; where, still clutching the dirty can, he walked quietly and confidently away in the direction of Stamford Hill.

'False alarm!' said the policeman with the Sun, as he resumed his reading of various illicit liaisons among the glitterati.


At 3.25 p.m., no more than four or five yards from the spot where Chief Inspector Johnson had earlier stood, there amongst the nettles and the cow-parsley and other less readily recognizable plants and weeds, Constable Roy Wilks made his discovery: a.243 bullet – the bullet (surely!) for which the party had been searching. Never, in his life hitherto, had Wilks been the focus of such attention; and never again (as he duly recognized) would he be likely to experience such felicitous congratulations.

Most particularly from Morse.

chapter sixty-eight

The Light of Lights

Looks always on the motive, not the deed,

The Shadow of Shadows on the deed alone

(W. B. Yeats, The Countess Cathlem)


just simply, Morse! Just simply! I don't want to know what a clever sod you are. Just a straightforward – brief! – account. If vou can manage it.'

Following the final discoveries, new statements had been taken from both David Michaels and Karin Eriksson; and now, the following morning, as he sat in Strange's office, Morse was able to confirm in nearly every respect the pattern of events he'd outlined to Lewis in the White Hart.

Daley had been to the office in Wytham Woods on more than one occasion before, and a meeting had been arranged for o 45 a.m. on Monday, 3 August. At that time there would, with any luck, be virtually no one around; but only if no one was around, would the deed take place. And the deed did take place. When Daley got out of the van, Michaels shot him dead with his.243 rifle – the latter buried later out on the Singing Way. To Michaels himself the report had sounded terrifyingly loud; but following it a strangely eerie silence had reasserted itself, and no one had come rushing into the compound there demanding explanation, seeking causes. Nothing. A newly still, clear morning in early August. And a body – which Michaels had swiftly wrapped in black plastic sheeting and lifted into the back of Daley's own van. Only two or three minutes after the murder, this same van was being driven out through Wolvercote, over to the A44 towards Woodstock, left at Bladon, and then into Long Hanborough – and finally up to Combe Lodge, on the western side of the Blenheim Estate. The keys to the lodge gate would doubtless have been somewhere on the body, but the van-driver waited a while and was very quickly rewarded when the gate was opened for a tractor and trailer; and when the van driver, pulling Daley's khaki-green hat down over her short, black hair, moved into the trailer's wake, raising a hand in acknowledgement to any anonymous observer as she drove gratefully through. A few hundred yards along she had spotted an ideal location in which to leave a van, and a body, and a hat. Daley had not been a heavy man, and she herself was a strong young woman; yet she had been unable to lift the corpse -just to pull it over the tail-board, whence it fell with a thud to the hard soil. The plastic sheet was messily sticky with blood, and she had taken it with her as she ran off, across the road, to the tip of the lake, where she washed the blood from her hands and wedged the sheet beneath some reeds. Then, following the arranged plan, she'd jogged her way back – though not, she claimed, through Combe Lodge, as Morse had suggested (and Williams could have sworn) – but down by the western side of the lake, across the small bridge that spans the River Glyme below the Grand Cascade, and out of the park via Eagle Lodge.

'Helluva long way, whichever route she took,' mumbled Strange.

'Some people are fitter than others, sir.'

'Not thinking of yourself, are you?'

'No!'

'Bit lucky, though – the fellow at the lodge remembering the van going through.'

'With all respect, sir, I don't think that's true. In fact, it led us all to believe that Daley was alive until after ten o'clock – when David Michaels was miles away with his RSPB pals round the bird-boxes. But Michaels could never have done it himself- not by himself- that morning. There was no way at all that he could have got out to Blenheim and somehow – somehow – got back to Wytham.'

'But his wife could. That's what you're saying.'

'His wife did.'

'She was a brave girl.'

'She is a brave girl, sir.'

'You know, if they'd only have played it straight up and down the wicket from the start – either of them – they'd probably have got away with justifiable homicide, self-defence, take your pick.'

'Perhaps.'

'You don't sound very convinced.'

'I think she's a rather more complex woman than that.

Perhaps… perhaps she couldn't quite persuade herself that killing Myton had been purely in self-defence.'

'You mean – you mean she might have enjoyed it?'

'I didn't say that, sir.'

Strange shook his head. 'I see what you're getting at, though. Prepared – wasn't she? – to drive Daley's body out to Blenheim and…'

'She's a complex woman, as I say, sir. I'm not sure I understand her at all really.'

'Perhaps she's a bit of a mystery even to herself.'

Morse got up to leave. 'Same thing in most cases, isn't it? We never really understand people's motives. In all these things it's as if there's a manifestation – but there's always a bit of a mystery too.'

'Now don't you start going all religious on me, Morse!'

'No chance of that.'

'I don't suppose anyone'll miss Daley all that much.'

'No. He was a small man-'

'Was he? How tall was he?'

'No. I didn't mean small in that sense. But he was physically small, yes. Only weighed eight stone, four pounds.'

'How do you know that?'

'They weighed him, sir -post mortem.'

chapter sixty-nine

Just as every person has his idiosyncrasies, so has every typewriter

(Handbook of Office Maintenance, 9th edition)


the following day, Friday, 8 August, Morse's attention was early drawn to the correspondence columns of The Times.


From Lt. Colonel Reginald Postill

Sir, Over these past years we have all become aware of the increasing influence of trial (and retrial) by TV. We have seen, for example, the collapse of cases brought against the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four; and doubtless in the years ahead we may confidently anticipate the acquittal of the Towcester Two and the Winchester One.

Are we now to become similarly conditioned to police enquiries conducted in the nation's quality daily newspapers (including, of course, your own, sir)? I learn that the Thames Valley Police has now been able to prefer charges against persons in the 'Swedish Maiden' case – and this in considerable measure thanks to the original verses published in your correspondence columns. Clearly we should be grateful for such an outcome. But am I alone in being troubled by such a precedent? Am I alone in believing that such affairs, both judicial and investigative, are better left in the hands of those men and women suitably trained in their respective specialisms?


Yours faithfully,

REGINALD POSTILL,

6 Baker Lane,

Shanklin,

Isle of Wight.


Lewis had come into his office as Morse was reading this; and duly read it himself.

'Bit hard that, isn't it? I'd have thought it all helped us quite a bit. I can't myself really see what's wrong with getting a bit of public co-operation and interest.'

'Oh, I agree,' said Morse.

'Perhaps we shouldn't be too much worried about some retired old colonel from the Isle of Wight, sir.'

Morse smiled knowingly across at his old friend. 'What makes you think he's retired?' he asked very quietly.


That same evening, Morse's celebratory mood was undiminished; and he had walked down to Summertown immediately after The Archers and carried back up to his flat four bottles of champagne: not the dearest, it must be admitted – yet not the cheapest either. Strange, Johnson, Lewis – and himself. Four of them. Just for a congratulatory glass or two. Dr Laura Hobson had been invited too (how otherwise?); but she had phoned earlier in the evening to make her apologies – an emergency; sorry, she'd loved to have been there; but these things couldn't be helped, could they?

Harold Johnson was the first to leave, at 9.15 pm. One glass of bubbly, and the plea that the wife would be awaiting him. Yet of all of them it was probably Johnson who was the most grateful soul there that evening: the procedures surrounding the prosecutions of two suspected murderers – David Michaels and Mrs Michaels -would be entrusted now to him, to Johnson and his team, since Morse had announced his intention of resuming immediately his truncated furlough which had begun (so long ago it seemed) in the Bay Hotel at Lyme Regis.

Three glasses of bubbly and ten minutes later, Strange had struggled to his feet and announced his imminent departure.

‘Thanks! And enjoy your holiday!'

'If you'll let me.'

'Where are you going this time?'

'I was thinking of Salisbury, sir.',

'Why Salisbury?'

Morse hesitated. They've just tarted up the cathedral there,] and I thought – '

'You sure you're not going religious on me, Morse?'


Two of the champagne bottles were finished, and Morse picked up a third, starting to twist open the wire round its neck. 'No more for me,' said Lewis.

Morse put the bottle back on the sideboard. 'Would you prefer a Newcastle Brown?'

'I think I would, to be honest, sir.'

'C'mon, then!'

Morse led the way through to the cluttered kitchen.

'You trying for my job, sir?' Lewis pointed to the ancient portable typewriter that stood at one end of the kitchen table,

'Ah! That! I was just writing a 'brief line to The Times.'1 He handed Lewis his effort: a messy, ill-typed, xxxx-infested missive.

'Would you like me to re-type it for you, sir? It's a bit…'

'Yes, please. I'd be grateful for that.'

So Lewis sat there, at the kitchen table, and retyped the brief letter. That it took him rather longer than it should have done was occasioned by two factors: first, that Lewis himself could boast only semi-competence in the keyboard-skills; second, that he had found himself looking, with increasingly puzzled interest, at the very first line he'd typed. And then at the second. And then at the third… Especially did he find himself examining the worn top segment of the lower-case V, and the slight curtailment of the cross-bar in the lower-case 't'… For the moment, however, he said nothing. Then, when his reasonably clean copy was completed, he wound it from the ancient machine and handed it to Morse.

'Much better! Good man!'

'You remember, sir, that original article in The Times? When they said the typewriter could pretty easily be identified if it was ever found? From the "e"s and the "t"s…?'

'Yes?'

'You wrote those verses.about the girl yourself, didn't you, sir?'

Morse nodded slowly.

'Bloody hell!' Lewis shook his head incredulously.

Morse poured himself a can of beer. 'Champagne's a lovely drink, but it makes you thirsty, doesn't it?'

Think anyone else suspected?' asked Lewis, grinning down at the typewriter.

'Just the one person. Someone from Salisbury.'

'Didn't you say you would be going there, though? To Salisbury?'

'Might be, Lewis. Depends.'


*


Half an hour after Lewis had left, Morse was listening to Lipatti playing the slow movement of the Mozart piano concerto No. 21, when the doorbell rang.

'It's a bit late I know but…'

What had been a semi-scowl on Morse's face now suddenly burgeoned into a wholly ecstatic smile.

'Nonsense! It just so happens I've got a couple of bottles of bubbly…'

'Will that be enough, do you think?'

'Come in! I'll just turn this off-'

'Please not! I love it. K 467? Right?'

'Where've you parked?'

'I didn't come by car. I thought you'd probably try to get me drunk.'

Morse closed the door behind them. 'I will turn it off, if you don't mind. I've never been able to cope with two beautiful things at the same time.'

She followed Morse into the lounge where once more he picked up bottle number three.

'What time will you have to go, my love?'

'Who said anything about going, Chief Inspector?'

Morse put down the bottle and swiftly retraced his steps to the front door, where he turned the key, and shot the bolts, both top and bottom.

epilogue

Life never presents us with anything which may not be looked upon as a fresh starting point, no less than as a termination

(Andre Gide, The Counterfeiters)


the correspondence columns of The Times carried the following letter on Monday, 10 August 1992:

From Detective Chief Inspector

E. Morse

Sir, On behalf of the Thames Valley Police, I wish to record the gratitude of myself and of my fellow officers for the co-operation and assistance of The Times newspaper. As a direct result of lines of investigation suggested by some of its correspondents about the 'Swedish Maiden' verses, persons now being held in custody will be duly brought to face trial in accordance with the law's demands. I am, sir,

Yours,

E. MORSE,

Thames Valley Police HQ,

Kidlington,

Oxon.

[This correspondence is now closed. Ed.]


Like the rest of his staff, the editor had been fascinated by the crop of ideas that sprang from the Swedish Maiden verses; and although the case was now finished he felt he should reply briefly to Morse's letter. In mid-afternoon therefore he dictated a few lines of reciprocal gratitude.

'Do we have a private address for him?' asked his personal secretary.

'No. Just address it to Kidlington HQ – that'll be fine.'

'What about the initial – do we know what that stands for?'

'The "E"?' The editor considered the question for a second or two. 'Er, no. No, I don't think we do.'

Colin Dexter

The Way Through The Woods

Colin Dexter lives in Oxford. He has won many awards for his novels and in 1997 was presented with the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature.


***


The Way Through The Woods

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