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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,



Woodstock Local History Society, j



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


'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. Its 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? Weve 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 G"oiterd"ammerung; and soon the pure and limpid voice of the Swedish soprano, Birgit Nilsson, resounded again through the chief inspector's flat.

chapter eighteen | The Way Through The Woods | chapter twenty