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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 Lewiss) 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 its 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. Its 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 dont 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 fourteen | The Way Through The Woods | chapter sixteen