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chapter fifty-eight

He who asks the questions cannot avoid the answers

(Cameroonian proverb)

there was little evidence of strain or undue apprehension on David Michaels' face the following morning when he was shown into Interview Room 2, where Sergeant Lewis was already seated at a trestle table, a tape recorder at his right elbow. He was being held for questioning (Lewis informed him) about two matters: first, about the statement made to the police by Dr Alan Hardinge, a copy of which was now handed to him; second, about the murder of George Daley.

Lewis pointed to the tape recorder. 'Just to make sure we don't misrepresent anything, Mr Michaels. We've been getting a bit of stick recently, haven't we, about the way some interviews have been conducted?'

Michaels shrugged indifferently.

'And you're aware of your legal rights? Should you want to be legally represented-'

But Michaels shook his head; and began reading Hardinge's statement

He had little legal knowledge, but had assumed in this instance that he could be guilty only of some small-scale conspiracy to pervert the strict course of truth certainly not of justice. It was the criminal 'intention', the mens rea, that really mattered (so he'd read), and no one could ever maintain that his own intention had been criminal that afternoon a year ago

'Well?' asked Lewis when Michaels put the last sheet down.

'That's about the size of it, yes.'

'You're quite happy to corroborate it?'

'Why not? One or two little things I wouldn't have remembered but yes, I'll sign it.'

'We're not asking for a signature. We'll have to ask you to make your own statement.'

'Can't I just copy this one out?'

Lewis grinned weakly, but shook his head. He thought he liked Michaels. 'Now, last time you pretended pretended you'd not got the faintest idea where any body might be found, right?'

'Yes,' lied Michaels.

'And then, this time round, you still pretended you didn't really know?'

'Yes,' lied Michaels.

'So why did you nudge Chief Inspector Morse in the right direction?'

'Double bluff, wasn't it? If I was vague enough, and they found it. well, no one was going to think I'd had anything to do with the murder.'

'Who told you it was murder?'

'The chap standing there on guard in Pasticks: big chap, in a dark blue uniform and checked cap policeman, I think he was.'

The constable standing wide-legged across the door of the interview room took advantage of the fact that Lewis had his back towards him, and smiled serenely.

'Why didn't you dump the rucksack in the lake as well?' continued Lewis.

For the first time Michaels hesitated: 'Should've done, I agree.'

'Was it because Daley had his eye on the camera and the binoculars?'

'Well, one thing's for sure: he won't be able to tell you, will he?'

'You don't sound as if you liked him much.'

'He was a filthy, mean-minded little swine!'

'But you didn't know him very well, surely?'

'No. I hardly knew him at all.'

'What about last Friday night?'

'What about last Friday night?'

Lewis let it go. 'You'd never met him previously at your little rendezvous in Park Town?'

'No! I'd only just joined,' lied Michaels. 'Look, Sergeant, I'm not proud of that. But haven't you ever wanted to watch a sex film?'

'I've seen plenty. We pick up quite a few of 'em here and there.

But I'd rather have a plate of egg and chips, myself. What about you, Constable Watson?' asked Lewis, turning in his chair.

'Me?' said the man by the door. 'I'd much rather watch a sex film.'

'You wouldn't want your wife to know, though?'

'No, Sarge.'

'Nor would you, would you, Mr Michaels?'

'No. I wouldn't want her to know about anything like that,' said Michaels quietly.

'I wonder if Mrs Daley knew about her husband, I mean?'

'I dunno. As I say, I knew nothing about the man, really.'

'Last night you knew he'd been murdered.'

'A lot of people knew.'

'And a lot of people didn't know.'

Michaels remained silent.

'He was killed from a seven-millimetre gun, like as not.'

'Rifle, you mean.'

'Sorry. I'm not an expert on guns and things not like you, Mr Michaels.'

'And that's why you took my rifle last night?'

'We'd've taken anyone's rifle. That's our job, isn't it?'

'Every forester's got a rifle that sort of calibre very effective they are too.'

'So where were you between, say, ten o'clock and eleven o'clock yesterday morning?'

'Not much of a problem there. About ten no -just after ten it must have been I was with a couple of fellows from the RSPB. We they were checking on the nesting boxes along the Singing Way. You know, keeping records on first or second broods, weighing 'em, taking samples of droppings that sort of thing. They do it all the time.'

'You were helping them?'

'Carrying the bloody ladder most of the time.'

'What about after that?'

'Well, we all nipped down to the White Hart about twelve, quarter-past? and had a couple of pints. Warm work, it was! Hot day, too!' i

'You've got the addresses of these fellows?'

'Not on me, no. I can get 'em for you easy enough.'

'And the barman there at the pub? He knows you?'

'Rather too well, Sergeant!'

Lewis looked at his wrist-watch, feeling puzzled and, yes, a little bit lost.

'Can I go now?' asked Michaels.

'Not yet, sir, no. As I say we need some sort of statement from you about what happened last July then we shall just have to get this little lot typed up' Lewis nodded to the tape recorder -'then we shall have to get you to read it and sign it and, er, I should think we're not going to get through all that till' Again Lewis looked at his watch, still wondering exactly where things stood. Then, turning round: 'We'd better see Mr Michaels has some lunch with us, Watson. What's on the menu today?'

'Always mince on Tuesdays, Sarge.'

'Most people'd prefer a sex film,' said Michaels, almost cheerfully.

Lewis rose to his feet, nodded to Watson, and made to leave. 'One other thing, sir. I can't let you go before the chief inspector gets back, I'm afraid. He said he particularly wanted to see you again.'

'And where's he supposed to be this morning?'

'To tell you the truth, I'm not at all sure.'

As he walked back to his office, Lewis reflected on what he had just learned. Morse had been correct on virtually everything so far j right up until this last point. For now surely Morse must be dramatically wrong in his belief that Michaels had murdered Daley? In due course they would have to check up on his alibi; but it was wholly inconceivable that a pair of dedicated ornithologists had conspired with a barman from the local pub in seeking to pervert the course of natural justice. Surely so!

At 12.30 p.m., Dr Hobson rang through from South Parks Road to say that, whilst she was an amateur in the byways of ballistics, she would be astounded if Michaels' gun had been fired at any time within the previous few weeks.

' "Rifle",' muttered Lewis, sotto voce.

'Is he, er, there?' the pathologist had asked tentatively.

'Back this afternoon some time.'


It was beginning to look as if everyone wanted to see Morse.

Especially Lewis.

chapter fifty-seven | The Way Through The Woods | chapter fifty-nine