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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.'


'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 twenty-eight | The Way Through The Woods | chapter thirty