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chapter forty-five

His addiction to drinking caused me to censure Aspern Williams for a while, until I saw as true that wheels must have oil unless they run on nylon bearings. He could stay still and not want oil, or move – if he could overcome the resistance

(Peter Champkin,, The Waking Life of Aspern Williams)


in her laboratory, Dr Laura Hobson had now begun to write her report, after resuming her analysis of the Wytham bones. Not really 'resuming' though, for the bones had hardly left her over the weekend. Quite early on she'd spotted the slight groove on the lower-left rib: it might have been the sharp incision of a rodent's tooth, of course; but it looked so distinctive, that thinly V-shaped mark. It was almost as if someone had deliberately made a notch in the rib – with a knife or similar instrument. It might be important? But no, that was the wrong way of looking at things. It might be important – no question mark; and Laura was oddly anxious to score a few Brownie-points on her first real enquiry. In any case she'd very much like to ingratiate herself a little with the strange policeman who had monopolized her thoughts these last few days. It was odd how you couldn't shake someone out of your mind, however hard you tried. And for Laura that weekend Morse should, she felt, have been reported to the Monopolies' Commission…

Once more she studied the scene-of-crime photographs, and she could identify quite easily the bone that was engaging her interest now. It had obviously lain in situ – not disseminated as so many of the others; and she felt fairly certain that the incision which her patient investigation had revealed was unlikely to have been caused by the tooth of some wild creature, tearing away a morsel from the still-fleshed bones. Could the notch have been caused by a knife, she wondered: after all, she was working, was she not, upon a murder'? So if it wasn't the foxes or the badgers or the birds…Again she adjusted the focus of the powerful microscope upon the top of the rib-bone, but she knew there could never be any definite forensic findings here. The very most she would suggest in her report was that the marked incision made slantwise across the top of the bottom-left rib-bone might possibly have been caused by some incisor tooth, or more probably some sharp implement – a knife, say. And if it were a knife that had been driven through the lower chest, it could well be, probably was, the cause of death. The body would have bled a good deal, with the blood saturating the clothing (if any?) and then seeping into the soil beneath the body; and not even the intervening months of winter, not even the last of the leaves and the accumulating debris from the growth all round, would ever completely obliterate such traces. That angle, though, was being pursued in the University Agricultural Research Station (coincidentally situated out at Wytham) and doubtless she would be hearing something soon. So what, though? Even if there were clear signs of blood to be found there, at the very most she would have a blood group, and Morse would be able to assume that the body had been murdered in situ. Big deal.

Morse! She'd heard he was a bit of a stickler for spelling and punctuation, and she wanted to make as good an impression as she could. Halfway down the first page of her report she was doubtful about one word, and spying a Chambers Dictionary on Max's shelves she quickly looked up the spelling of 'noticeable'.


It was the Pocket Oxford Dictionary that was being consulted (over proceeding') by another report-writer that afternoon, in the Thames Valley Police HQ. Orthographic irregularities were not an uncommon phenomenon in Lewis's writing; but he was improving all the time, and (like his chief) was feeling very happy with life as he transcribed the full notes he had taken on his Swedish investigation.


At 4 p.m., Mrs Irma Eriksson knocked lightly on the door of her daughter's bedroom, and brought in a tray carrying a boiled egg and two rounds of buttered toast. The flu had been virulent, but.the patient was feeling a good deal better now, and very much more relaxed.

As was her mother.



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