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chapter sixty-nine

Just as every person has his idiosyncrasies, so has every typewriter

(Handbook of Office Maintenance, 9th edition)


the following day, Friday, 8 August, Morse's attention was early drawn to the correspondence columns of The Times.


From Lt. Colonel Reginald Postill

Sir, Over these past years we have all become aware of the increasing influence of trial (and retrial) by TV. We have seen, for example, the collapse of cases brought against the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four; and doubtless in the years ahead we may confidently anticipate the acquittal of the Towcester Two and the Winchester One.

Are we now to become similarly conditioned to police enquiries conducted in the nation's quality daily newspapers (including, of course, your own, sir)? I learn that the Thames Valley Police has now been able to prefer charges against persons in the 'Swedish Maiden' case and this in considerable measure thanks to the original verses published in your correspondence columns. Clearly we should be grateful for such an outcome. But am I alone in being troubled by such a precedent? Am I alone in believing that such affairs, both judicial and investigative, are better left in the hands of those men and women suitably trained in their respective specialisms?


Yours faithfully,

REGINALD POSTILL,

6 Baker Lane,

Shanklin,

Isle of Wight.


Lewis had come into his office as Morse was reading this; and duly read it himself.

'Bit hard that, isn't it? I'd have thought it all helped us quite a bit. I can't myself really see what's wrong with getting a bit of public co-operation and interest.'

'Oh, I agree,' said Morse.

'Perhaps we shouldn't be too much worried about some retired old colonel from the Isle of Wight, sir.'

Morse smiled knowingly across at his old friend. 'What makes you think he's retired?' he asked very quietly.


That same evening, Morse's celebratory mood was undiminished; and he had walked down to Summertown immediately after The Archers and carried back up to his flat four bottles of champagne: not the dearest, it must be admitted yet not the cheapest either. Strange, Johnson, Lewis and himself. Four of them. Just for a congratulatory glass or two. Dr Laura Hobson had been invited too (how otherwise?); but she had phoned earlier in the evening to make her apologies an emergency; sorry, she'd loved to have been there; but these things couldn't be helped, could they?

Harold Johnson was the first to leave, at 9.15 pm. One glass of bubbly, and the plea that the wife would be awaiting him. Yet of all of them it was probably Johnson who was the most grateful soul there that evening: the procedures surrounding the prosecutions of two suspected murderers David Michaels and Mrs Michaels -would be entrusted now to him, to Johnson and his team, since Morse had announced his intention of resuming immediately his truncated furlough which had begun (so long ago it seemed) in the Bay Hotel at Lyme Regis.

Three glasses of bubbly and ten minutes later, Strange had struggled to his feet and announced his imminent departure.

Thanks! And enjoy your holiday!'

'If you'll let me.'

'Where are you going this time?'

'I was thinking of Salisbury, sir.',

'Why Salisbury?'

Morse hesitated. They've just tarted up the cathedral there,] and I thought '

'You sure you're not going religious on me, Morse?'


Two of the champagne bottles were finished, and Morse picked up a third, starting to twist open the wire round its neck. 'No more for me,' said Lewis.

Morse put the bottle back on the sideboard. 'Would you prefer a Newcastle Brown?'

'I think I would, to be honest, sir.'

'C'mon, then!'

Morse led the way through to the cluttered kitchen.

'You trying for my job, sir?' Lewis pointed to the ancient portable typewriter that stood at one end of the kitchen table,

'Ah! That! I was just writing a 'brief line to The Times.'1 He handed Lewis his effort: a messy, ill-typed, xxxx-infested missive.

'Would you like me to re-type it for you, sir? It's a bit'

'Yes, please. I'd be grateful for that.'

So Lewis sat there, at the kitchen table, and retyped the brief letter. That it took him rather longer than it should have done was occasioned by two factors: first, that Lewis himself could boast only semi-competence in the keyboard-skills; second, that he had found himself looking, with increasingly puzzled interest, at the very first line he'd typed. And then at the second. And then at the third Especially did he find himself examining the worn top segment of the lower-case V, and the slight curtailment of the cross-bar in the lower-case 't' For the moment, however, he said nothing. Then, when his reasonably clean copy was completed, he wound it from the ancient machine and handed it to Morse.

'Much better! Good man!'

'You remember, sir, that original article in The Times? When they said the typewriter could pretty easily be identified if it was ever found? From the "e"s and the "t"s?'

'Yes?'

'You wrote those verses.about the girl yourself, didn't you, sir?'

Morse nodded slowly.

'Bloody hell!' Lewis shook his head incredulously.

Morse poured himself a can of beer. 'Champagne's a lovely drink, but it makes you thirsty, doesn't it?'

Think anyone else suspected?' asked Lewis, grinning down at the typewriter.

'Just the one person. Someone from Salisbury.'

'Didn't you say you would be going there, though? To Salisbury?'

'Might be, Lewis. Depends.'



chapter sixty-eight | The Way Through The Woods | c