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?'
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.