Robbie cannot help but talk about his family. He loves all of them very much, and it just seems natural to him that they should invariably become a topic of conversation whenever he makes small talk.
And so, shortly after he’s transferred to Oxford as a Sergeant, since he and Val decided it would be a good place for the kiddies to grow up, he ends up mentioning his son to his new Super. “Me boy’s pretty good with a cricket ball.”
Superintendent Strange chuckles. “I see. Well, you’ll fit right in – I’d say you are two peas in a pod.”
“Sir?” he asks.
“I’m planning to having you be Morse’s bagman, if he finds you satisfactory, of course.”
By now, Robbie’s heard of Morse, naturally. The legend of Thames Valley Police, the man who solves the most complicated cases. Just being considered for his bagman’s an honour.
“You’ll see what I mean.”
That very night, he gets woken up by a phone call and is told to go to a pub where a body’s been found. The PC who calls grumbles something about “talk about the two least likely people to be there” but Robbie pays him no heed, just kisses Val and gets dressed.
The Black Prince looks like every other pub, and the PC who called Robbie in simply waves him through the crowd.
Inside, he has little trouble locating Chief Inspector Morse, who’s busy organizing the interviews of the patrons. Robbie immediately chimes in – that’s his job, now that he’s here.
Once they’ve sent all the innocent bystanders home, Morse looks at him. “Robert Lewis, right?”
“Hm. Chief Inspector Endeavour Morse. Something to drink?”
“Orange juice, please, sir.”
Morse nods approvingly. “Don’t let the boys outside know. They’re adamant this place has the best ale, which should be revered at all costs.”
“I wouldn’t know; I don’t often frequent pubs, sir.”
“Me neither. Happened to be a bit too fond of them in my youth, but thankfully found the right woman.”
“That’ll do it.”
Morse smiles, nodding towards Robbie’s ring finger. “How long?”
“Fifteen years this year, sir.”
“Ah, still some way to go. It’s twenty-three for me and Joan.”
Robbie nods. Form the look on Morse’s face, it seem to have been twenty-three rather happy and blissful years, too.
“Of course” he sighs “We have to tell the parents of the victim.”
“Do we know who she is, sir?”
“Sylvia Kane, according to the ID in her handbag.”
Robbie grimaces. “Not exactly my favourite part of the job.”
“Mine either. When I imagine it could be our Fred or Prue –“ Morse stops talking and shakes his head. “Better get it over with.”
Robbie has met his fair share of superiors who’d readily use any excuse to just send him alone, but Morse accompanies him to his car. “nice model.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“We’ve got a sensible car of course, but I still have an old Jaguar myself – Fred keeps asking if he can drive him, but I think we’ll wait until he’s twenty-one. At least that seemed a reasonable compromise when he was sixteen; not so sure now.”
“He’s turning twenty-one soon?” Robbie guesses.
“In three months. Do you have children?”
“Two. Boy and a girl. They’re both going to school.”
“Enjoy it. Time flies.”
Morse doesn’t look as sad about it as it sounds, however, and so Robbie ventures to ask, “What do they do?”
“Oh, they’re both at college here in Oxford. Prue just started, Fred’s been at it since he was eighteen.” There’s undeniable pride in his words, and Robbie smiles. He can see what Strange meant when he said they’d get along.
Mrs. Kane takes the news as badly as can be expected; just like Morse said back in the pub, Robbie can’t imagine what she must be going through.
After they have questioned her as much as they dare, they walk back to his car. “Shall I drop you off at home, sir?”
Morse nods. “Might as well come in; least I can do is give you some coffee after a night like this.”
Robbie’s rather grateful to have ended up with Morse as his DCI.
When they enter then well-kept and cheerful house, they hear someone moving in the kitchen. Morse shakes his head. “Every time.”
He eagerly hurries into the room with the impatience to see his wife Robbie knows himself pretty well; and he gives them a few moments before he himself enters the kitchen.
“Joan, this is Sergeant Lewis.”
“Oh, please, call me Joan. It’s Robbie, isn’t it?” He nods. “Please, here. I’ve made enough coffee for an army.”
“And yet it will all be mysteriously gone in the evening” Morse announces.
“I need it.”
“Yes, yes, serves me right for marrying a bank manager.”
“You’re one to talk.” She, too, points at Robbie’s fourth finger and laughs. “At least we’re safe in that regard.”
When Robbie gives her a confused look, she shakes her head. “Don’t let yourself be fooled by his pretty blue eyes. This one set the terrible precedent of carrying off and marrying his DI’s daughter.”
“I don’t recall you complaining much at the time” Morse says drily. “Once I could convince you I actually wanted to marry you, that is.”
“Come on, it’s no fun if you don’t play a little hard to get” she teases him with the old familiarity peculiar to couples who have been together for years.
“I think your daughter’s a bit young for me anyway” Robbie says.
She laughs again, looking much younger than her years as she does so. She’s a very handsome woman now, and she must have been positively radiant in her youth. It’s a small wonder Morse fell for her. “Imagine that, me conversing with my husband’s sergeant, as Mum used to do with you! When I was small, I used to think I could never be like her, with a husband who constantly runs off to solve terribly crimes. How the times have changed.”
“And you’ve stood by my side through it all” Morse grins. “Seems I have done a few things right.”
After he’s drunk his coffee, Robbie leaves for his own home. He meets Morse again that afternoon at the morgue, the DCI looking decidedly uncomfortable standing in front of the corpse.
Robbie has already heard his fair share of rumours about the pathologist, so he’s not surprised when he turns to him with the words, “Oh, you must be Sergeant Lewis.”
“Yes. Doctor DeBryn?”
He nods. “You and that one better not gang up on me as the Happily Married Brigade. I get quite enough surrogate bliss from him, I don’t need more.”
“My dear Max, what you infer from our conversation is your problem.”
“Ah, Morse, you cannot take an old bachelor’s right to complain away from him. It’s one of the few privileges I still have.”
“Don’t take anything Max says too close to heart” Morse tells him when they exit the morgue, “He’s a good man underneath all this cynicism.”
“Have you known him long, sir?”
“Ever since I returned to Oxford in the Sixties.”
Soon after they’ve reached their newly shared office, Strange comes in. “Endeavour. The case?”
Morse throws Robbie a glance, and he makes the decision to get them coffee.
When he returns, Morse accepts the coffee and sighs. “Jim’s an excellent Superintendent, but sometimes he wants top much in too little time. Doesn’t help that the bloody press is all over the case.”
“I’m sure we’ll catch him soon, sir.”
And it’s then that Robbie learns that the rumours weren’t exaggerated, for Morse raises his eyes and asks, “What makes you think it was a man?”
Later they realize that Morse’s guess was right.
“It’s just such an awful waste, Robbie” he tells him that night after they’ve booked the young girl who saw the victim with her love and therefore bashed her head in. “Care for an orange juice before you go home?”
And so they end up drinking juice in the pub nearby, several of their colleagues throwing tem confused glances at seeing them there.
“How did you know it could be a woman, sir?”
Morse shrugs. “Part instinct, part that there’d been no sexual contact.”
“Come on” Morse suddenly says, “I know you’re dying to ask. Everyone is.”
Alright. “Endeavour? Really, sir?”
“My mother was a quaker. It’s a virtue name. Hated it in my youth, and despite that I still caved when it came to our girl. At least you can get a good nickname out of Prudence. Nothing to be done about Endeavour. Would probably still hate it if it weren’t for my Joan. She insisted she couldn’t call her husband by his last name.”
“It would seem a bit formal.”
Morse looks at him, his blue eyes sparkling. “It would, wouldn’t it. I’ll drink my orange juice to that.”
They toast each other.
Robbie has the feeling that it’s the beginning of a long and successful bagmanship.