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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 lb3.50

(Senior Citizens & Children lb2.50)


'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 lb39.50.

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.



chapter forty-three | The Way Through The Woods | c