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chapter twenty-three

On another occasion he was considering how best to welcome the postman, for he brought news from a world outside ourselves. I and he agreed to stand behind the front door at the time of his arrival and to ask him certain questions. On that day, however, the postman did not come

(Peter Champkin, The Sleeping Life of Aspern Williams]


Wednesday, 15 July, was never going to be a particularly memorable day. No fire-faced prophet was to bring news of the Message or the name of the One True God. Just a fairly ordinary transitional sort of day in which events appeared discrete and only semi-sequential; when some of the protagonists in the Swedish Maiden case were moved to their new positions on the chessboard, but before the game was yet begun.

At a slightly frosty meeting held in the Assistant Chief Constable’s office at 10.30 a.m., the Swedish Maiden case was reviewed in considerable detail by the ACC himself, Chief Superintendent Strange and Detective Chief Inspectors Johnson and Morse. General agreement was reached (only one dissident voice) that perhaps there was little now to be gained from any prolongation of the extensive and expensive search-programme on the Blenheim Palace Estate. The decision was reported too, emanating from ‘Higher authority', that Morse was now i/c and that Johnson would therefore be enabled to take his midsummer furlough as scheduled, official verbiage would fool no one, of course – but it was possibly better than nothing at all.

Amongst the items reviewed was yet another letter, printed that morning in The Times:


From Mr John C. Chavasse

Sir, The Wood (singular not plural please) at Wytham is a place most familiar to me and I suspect to almost all generations of young men who have taken their degrees at Oxford University. Well do I remember the summer weekends in the late 40’s when together with many of my fellow undergraduates I cycled up through Lower Wolvercote to Wytham.

In lines 14 and 15 of the (now notorious!) verses, we find 'A creature white' (sic) Trapped in a gin' (sic), 'Panting like a hunted deer' (sic). Now if this is not a cryptic reference to a gin-and-whatnot in that splendid old hostelry in Wytham, the White Hart – then I'm a Dutchman, sir! But I am convinced (as an Englishman) that such a reference can only serve to corroborate the brilliant analysis of the verses made by Mr Lionel Regis (Letters, July 13).


Yours faithfully,

JOHN C. CHAVASSE,

21 Hayward Road,

Bishop Auckland.


Around the table, 'Mr Lionel Regis' looked slightly sheepish but not for long, and now it was all an open secret anyway. He realized that there would be little he could do for a day or so – except to re-read all the material that had accumulated from the earlier enquiries; to sit tight; to get Lewis cracking on the admin and perhaps to try to think a bit more clearly about his own odd/-irrational conviction that the young student's body would be found – and found in Wytham Wood(s). There was that little bit of new evidence, too – the call from the O'Kanes. For if their memories! served them to any degree aright, then Karin Eriksson had some point gone down the Banbury Road from the roundabout; was the testimony of the man who had been waiting for a bus then that Sunday noon-time which should have been given credence not that of the man who had driven along Sunderland Avenue.

Such and similar thoughts Morse shared with Sergeant in the early afternoon. Already arrangements were well in hand for the availability of about twenty further members of various local forces to supplement the thirty due to be switched immediately from Blenheim. One annoying little hold-up, though, head forester at Wytham, Mr David Michaels, was unfortunately away that day at a National Trust conference in Durham. But he was expected home later that night, his wife said, and would almost certainly be available the following morning.

Things were moving, that afternoon. But slowly. And Morse was feeling restless and impatient. He returned home at 4 p.m., and r-egan typing a list of gramophone records.

Before leaving him the previous Monday, a quarter of an hour after Strange's inopportune interruption, Claire Osborne had asked him to send her his eight Desert Island Discs and the versions he possessed of the Mozart Requiem, It was high time she started to improve her mind a bit, she'd said; and if Morse would promise to try to help her…? So Morse had promised, and reiterated his promise as he'd kissed her briefly, sweetly, fully on the lips, at her departure.

'You do know my address, I think?' she'd shouted from the gate. Morse was still not quite sure of numbers seven and eight as he sat and slowly typed his list that afternoon.


A quarter of an hour or so before Morse had begun his labour of love, Philip Daley swaggered loutishly out of his class-room in the Cherwell School, just along the Marston Ferry Road in North Oxford. Only two more days to go! Roll on! School would be finishing on the 17th and he couldn't wait to get shot of it. Shot of it for good and all! His dad (his dad's own words) didn't give a fuckin' toss, though his mum (as he knew very well) would have been glad if he could have settled down to schoolwork and stayed on in the sixth form and maybe landed up with a decent job and all that bullshit. But other thoughts were uppermost in his bitterly discontented mind as he walked up the Banbury Road that afternoon. At lunch-time he'd asked one of the girls from his class, the one with the blouseful, whether she'd go with him to the end-of-term disco; and she'd said he must be bloody jokin' and anyway she’d already got a feller, 'adn't she? Soddin' cunt! As he walked up to the shops he crashed his fist against some ancient wooden fencing there: fuck it, fuck it, fuck it! Just wait till Friday, though. He’d show the fuckin' lot of 'em.


It was at 7.15 p.m., twelve hours after reaching HQ earlier that day, that Lewis sat down at his home in Headington to his beloved eggs and chips.



chapter twenty-two | The Way Through The Woods | cледующая глава







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