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chapter forty-six

A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees

(William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell]


wednesday, the 2gth July, was promising to be a busy day; and so it proved.

Inspector Johnson had returned from his holiday the day before, and was now au fait with most of the latest developments in the Swedish Maiden case. At 9.30 a.m. he girded his loins – and rang Strange.

'Sir? Johnson here.'

'Well?'

'I've been sorry to read things haven't worked out at Wytham-'

'Yes?'

'It's just that if you'd be prepared to give me the chance of some men in Blenheim again – '

'No chance. Don't you realize that while you've been lying bare-arsed on the beaches we've had all these bloody joy-riders-'

'I've read all about it, sir. All I was thinking-'

'Forget it! Morse is in charge now, not you. All right, he's probably making a bloody mess of it. But so did yow! And until I give the say-so, he's staying fully in charge. So if you'll excuse me, I've got a train to catch.'


Morse also had a train to catch and left on the ten o'clock for London, where Lewis had arranged for him to meet a representative of the Swedish Embassy (for lunch), and the supervisor of the King's Cross YWCA (for tea).

For Lewis himself, after seeing Morse off at Oxford railway station, there were a great many things still to be done. Preliminary enquiries the previous day had strongly suggested – confirmed really – that Morse's analysis of the case (to which Lewis, and Lewis alone, was hitherto privy) was substantially correct in most respects. Often in the past Morse had similarly been six or so furlongs ahead of the field only later to find himself running on the wrong racecourse. This time, though, it really did look as if the old boy was right; and from Lewis's point of view it was as if he'd dreamed of the winner the night before and was now just going along to the bookmaker's to stick a few quid on a horse that had already passed the winning post.

Fortunately the pressure was temporarily off the troubles at Broadmoor Lea, and it was no difficulty for Lewis to enlist some extra help. Two DCs were assigned to him for the rest of the day; and this pair were soon off to investigate both the City and the County records of car thefts, car break-ins, car vandalism, etc., in the few days immediately following the last sighting of the Swedish Maiden. Carter and Helpston had seemed to Lewis a pretty competent couple; and so, later that Wednesday, it would prove to be the case.

In mid-morning, Lewis rang The Oxford Mail and spoke to the editor. He'd like to fax some copy – copy which Morse had earlier drafted – for that evening's edition. All right? No problem, it appeared.


NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN SWEDISH MAIDEN MYSTERY

Detective Chief Inspector Morse of the Thames Valley CID is confident that recently unearthed evidence has thrown a completely new light on the baffling case of Karin Eriksson, who disappeared in Oxford more than a year ago, and whose rucksack was discovered soon afterwards in a hedgerow-bottom at Begbroke. A body found after a search of Wytham Woods has proved not to be that of the Swedish student, and the chief inspector told our reporter that further searches of the area there have now been called off. Murder enquiries continue, however, and it is understood that the focus of police activity is now once again centred on the Blenheim Estate in Woodstock – the scene of the first phase of intensive enquiries just over a year ago.

The police are also asking anyone to come forward who has any information concerning Dr Alasdair McBryde, until very recently living at Seckham Villa, Park Town, Oxford. Telephone 0865 846000, or your nearest police station.


Later in the day both Chief Superintendent Strange and Chief Inspector Johnson were to read this article: the former with considerable puzzlement, the latter with apparently justifiable exasperation.

And someone else had read the article.


The slim Selina had been more than a little worried ever since Morse had called at the agency. Not worried about any sin of commission; but about one of omission, since she'd been almost certain, when Morse had asked for anything on McBryde, that there had been a photograph somewhere. Each Christmas the agency had given a modest little canape-and-claret do; and later that afternoon in Abingdon Road, and temporarily minus the mighty Michelle, she had decided where, if anywhere, the photograph might be. She looked in the files under 'Parties, Promotions etc.', and there it was: a black and white six- by four-inch photograph of about a dozen of them, party hats perched on their heads, wine glasses held high in their hands – a festive, liberally lubricated crew. And there, in the middle, the bearded McBryde, his arms round two female co-revellers.


Morse had bought a copy of The Times in Menzies book-stall at Oxford railway station. In the context of the case as a whole, the two Letters to the Editor which he read just after Didcot (the crossword finished all but one clue) were not of any great importance. Yet the first was, for Morse, the most memorable letter of them all, recalling a couplet he'd long been carrying around in his mental baggage.


From Mr Gordon Potter

Sir, My interest in the Swedish Maiden verses is minimal; my conviction is that the whole business is a time-consuming hoax. Yet it is time that someone added a brief gloss to the admirable letter printed in your columns (July 24). If we are to seek a priest of Roman Catholic persuasions as the instigator of the verses, let me suggest that he will also almost certainly be an admirer of the greatest poet-scholar of our own century. I refer to A. E. Housman. How else do we explain line 3 of the printed verses ('Dry the azured skylit water')? Let me quote Norman Marlow in his critical commentary, A. E. Housman, page 145:

Two of the most beautiful lines in Housman's work are surely these:

And like a skylit water stood

The bluebells in the azured wood.


Here again is a reflection in water, and this time the magic effect is produced by repeating the syllable "like" inside the word "skylit" but inverted as a reflection in water is inverted.'


Yours faithfully,

J. GORDON POTTER,

'Arlington',

Leckhampton Road,

Cheltenham,

Glos.


And the second, the sweetest:


From Miss Sally Monroe

Sir, 'Hunt' (1. 18)? 'kiss' (1. 20)? And so far I only know one poem by heart. 'Jenny kissed me when we met', by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859).


Yours faithfully,

SALLY MONROE (aged 9 years)

22 Kingfisher Road,

Bicester,

Oxon.


предыдущая глава | The Way Through The Woods | chapter forty-seven







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