An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town-meeting or a vestry
(Thomas Jefferson, Letters)
dr laura hobson, one of those who had not been invited across the threshold of Morse's dreams, entered his office the following morning just before nine o'clock, where after being introduced to Sergeant Lewis she took a seat and said her say.
It didn't, she admitted, boil down to very much really, and it was all in the report in any case. But her guess was that the man whose bones were found in Pasticks was about thirty years of age, of medium height, had been dead for at least nine or ten months, might well have been murdered – with a knife-wound to the heart, and that perhaps delivered by a right-handed assailant. The traces of blood found beside and beneath the body were of group O; and although the blood could have been the result of other injuries, or of other agencies, well, she thought it rather doubtful. So that was it. The body had most probably 'exited' (Morse winced) on the spot where the bones were found; not likely to have been carried or dragged there after death. There were other tests that could be carried out, but (in Dr Hobson's view at least) there remained little more to be discovered.
Morse had been watching her carefully as she spoke. At their first meeting he'd found her north-country accent (Newcastle, was it? Durham City?) just slightly off-putting; but he was beginning to wonder if after a little while it wasn't just a little on-putting. He noticed again, too, the high cheek-bones, and the rather breathless manner of her speaking. Was she nervous of him?
Morse was not the only one who looked at the new pathologist with some quiet admiration; and when she handed him the four typed sheets of her report, Lewis asked the question he'd wanted to put for the last ten minutes.
'You from Newcastle?'
'Good to hear it pronounced correctly! Just outside, actually.'
Morse listened none too patiently as the two of them swapped a few local reminiscences before standing up and moving to the door.
'Anyway,' said Lewis, 'good to meet you.' Then, waving the report: 'And thanks for this, luv!'
Suddenly her shoulders tightened, and she sighed audibly. 'Look! I'm not your "luv", Sergeant. You mustn't mind me being so blunt, but I'm no one's "luv" or-'
But suddenly she stopped, as she saw Morse grinning hugely beside the door, and Lewis standing somewhat discomfited beside the desk.
'I'm sorry, it's just that-'.
'Please forgive my sergeant, Dr Hobson. He means well – don't you, Lewis?'
Morse watched the slim curves of her legs as she left the office, the colour still risen in her cheeks.
'What was all that about?' began Lewis.
'Bit touchy about what people call her, that's all.'
'Bit like you, sir?'
'She's nice, don't you think?' asked Morse, ignoring the gentle gibe.
To be truthful, sir, I think she's a smasher.'
Somehow this plain statement of fact, made by an honest and honourable man, caught Morse somewhat off his guard. It was as if the simple enunciation of something extremely obvious had made him appreciate, for the first time, its truth. And for a few seconds he found himself hoping that Dr Laura Hobson would return to collect something she'd forgotten. But she was a neatly organized young woman, and had forgotten nothing.
Just before Morse and Lewis were leaving for a cup of coffee in the canteen, a call came through from PC Pollard. This rather less-than-dedicated vigilante of Pasticks had been one of four uniformed constables detailed to the compass-point entrances of Blenheim Park; and he was now ringing, with some excitement in his voice, to report that the Wytham Woods Land-rover, driven by David Michaels (whom he'd immediately recognized), had just gone down to the garden centre there. Should he try to see what was happening? Should he – investigate?
Morse took the portable phone from Lewis. 'Good man! Yes, try to see what's going on. But don't make it too obvious, all right?'
'How the hell's he going to do that?' asked Lewis when Morse had finished. 'He's in uniform.'
'Is he? Oh.' Morse appeared to have no real interest in the matter. 'Make him feel important though, don't you think?'
Chief Inspector Johnson was on his second cup of coffee when Morse and Lewis walked into the canteen. Raising a hand he beckoned Morse over: he'd welcome a brief word, if that was all right? Just the two of them though, just himself and Morse.
Ten minutes later, in Johnson's small office on the second floor, Morse learned of the red diary found the previous day on the person of Philip Daley. But before the two detectives discussed this matter, it was Johnson who'd proffered the olive-branch.
'Look. If there's been a bit of bad feeling – well, let's forget it, shall we? What do you say?'
'No bad feeling on my side,' claimed Morse.
'Well, there was on mine,' said Johnson quietly.
'Yeah! Mine, too,' admitted Morse.
The two men shook hands firmly, if unsmilingly, and Johnson now stated his case. There'd been a flood of information over the past few days, and one thing was now pretty certain: Daley Junior had been one of the four youths – though not the driver – in the stolen BMW that had killed Marion Bridewell. From all accounts, the back wheels had slewed round in an uncontrollable skid and knocked the poor little lass through a shop window.
'Bit of an odd coincidence, certainly – the boy being involved in both cases,' commented Morse.
'But coincidences never worried you much, did they?'
Morse shrugged. 'I don't reckon he had much to do with the Eriksson case, though.'
'Except he had the camera,' said Johnson slowly.
'Ye-es.' Morse nodded, and frowned. Something was troubling m a little; like a speck of grit in a smoothly oiled mechanism; ke a small piece of shell in a soft-boiled egg.
Since the tragedy, Mrs Lynne Hardinge, a slim, well-groomed, grey-haired woman of fifty, had thrown herself with almost frenetic energy into her voluntary activities: Meals on Wheels, Cruse, Help the Aged, Victim Support… Everyone was saying what a wonderful woman she was; everyone commented on how well she was coping.
At the time that Morse and Johnson were talking together, she got out of the passenger seat in the eight-windowed Volvo, and taking with her two tin-foiled cartons, main course and sweet, knocked firmly on a door in the Osney Mead estate.
Most of those who received their Meals on Wheels four times a week were grateful and gracious enough. But not quite all.
"Here we are then, Mrs Gruby.'
'Hope it's not that fish again!'
'Lamb casserole, and lemon pudding.'
‘Tuesday's was cold – did you know that?'
The wonderfully well-coping voluntary worker said no more, but her lips moved fiercely as she closed the door behind her. Why didn't you stick it in the fucking oven then, you miserable old bitch? Sometimes she felt she could go quite, quite mad. Just recently too she'd felt she could easily shoot somebody – certainly that pathetic two-timing husband of hers.