Morse arrived home to find in the mail, along with a bank statement and an advertising circular for Richardsons: Purity Is Our Priority: Look for our new 'From Our Family to Yours' seal on every bottled food product we sell!, a postcard. It had two photos on the front: the exterior of a sleek white jet bearing the Pan Am logo and an interior view of the plane. It was postmarked LaGuardia Airport, New York, several days before. He recognized Peter Jakes's tidy compact printing immediately.
Morse: Arrived NYC yesterday. Currently waiting for flight to Wyom. Hope is doing well, happy to be getting home. Cont. on next postcard— Jakes
Sure enough, a second look showed another postcard hiding behind the Burridge's bill for his new shoes. This one had three gorgeous Pan Am stewardesses in their neat blue uniforms posing on a rolling staircase up to a jet.
Morse: Thought you might enjoy this photo. I did (don't tell Hope— I'm engaged, not dead). Look after yourself— Jakes
Morse chuckled at the comment. He really, truly hoped everything would go well for Jakes. The man certainly deserved some happiness out of life.
Two weeks later another postcard arrived. This one was postmarked Pinedale Wyoming, and had a photo of a wide-open rugged landscape that looked pretty much how he imagined Wyoming would.
Morse: Hope's family’s great. Very welcoming. Wedding plans going at gallop, set for 24 June. Including address. Ranch outside wide spot in road called Cora— Jakes
Morse wrote the address in his little, mostly-empty address book.
He picked out a wedding card to send to them. He wasn't sure what to send for a gift, and was strapped for cash at the moment, between paying off his father's debts, helping out Gwen and Joyce, and paying his own bills. Then he thought of something and rummaged through a battered tin ashtray half-full of coins by the gas meter. He found the shiniest sixpence, polished it up so it looked newly minted, and tucked it inside after writing a note.
Peter and Hope,
Congratulations on your wedding, & wishing you every happiness. Didn't know what sort of gift to send, but enclosing a sixpence for Hope's shoe. Fingers crossed it arrives in time.
Best Wishes, Morse
P.S: Sitting my sergeant's end of June.
An airmail note arrived a few days before the wedding, addressed in an unfamiliar hand.
I'm writing to thank you for the card, and the sixpence is already in my shoe for the wedding. You didn't need to send anything; the savings bonds for the baby are already such a generous gift. I’m sorry we couldn’t afford to fly you out to stand up with Peter as his best man. I know he wishes you could be here, although he hasn't said much aloud.
He's wonderful with animals. The horses love him— they whinny to him when he walks into the barn now. He helped deliver a calf yesterday. And his riding's improving— at least he has a sense of humor about it.
Good luck with your exam!
Best Wishes, Hope Rogers
Morse found himself thinking often of them on the 24th, hoping everything went well. Then a few days later, all hell broke loose with the bank heist and Joan leaving. He wished he had Jakes to talk to. Peter was better at talking to women. He would have known what to say to make her stay.
A postcard arrived a week later, with a photo of a landscape worthy of a science fiction film labeled 'Yellowstone National Park.'
Morse: Honeymoon tour of the area. Yellowstone is bizarre! Will see Rocky Mountains next. Jakes
Peter and Hope arrived back at the ranch to a pile of congratulatory cards and notes. One airmail envelope with a Cowley postmark caught his eye, as did the return address.
The Matthews gang held up the Wessex bank whilst I was there on police business. Miss Thursday works there, and they found out I was police and she a DI's daughter. We're both okay, but a young co-worker of hers tried to play the hero and was killed.
She left town the next day without saying where she was going. The Thursdays are going spare with worry. I tried to get her to stay, but I didn't know what to say. I never know what to say.
In happier news, Thursday shifted that fragment and is going to be all right.
Hope had started reading over his shoulder once Peter had sworn. "I'm glad you got out of the police, although Matt MacKinnon told Dad he wants to pick your brain about his missing livestock."
"Cattle rustling didn't really come up in Oxford," Peter admitted drily. "Poor Morse. Bloke’s got sod's luck. He missed his last exam because his dad died."
Hope's brow furrowed. "What's Mr. Thursday's daughter like?"
"Pretty. Feisty. Kind. Just turned twenty-one."
"He's in love with her."
"What? How did you get that?" Peter re-read the letter.
"I tried to get her to stay, but I didn't know what to say. I never know what to say. And you said he's painfully shy and awkward until you get to know him— it's why he didn't come into the pub for your going-away drinks. He's in love with her, and now she's gone." She shook her head.
Postcards were an easy, inexpensive way to keep in touch, and went back and forth bearing pictures of Oxford and the American West. At the end of September Morse sent a clipping from the Oxford Mail. "The old man got the George Medal and his DCI! Morse got one too, and they've made him a Detective Sergeant 'due to his obvious merit and value to the Oxford constabulary.' Good on him! Thursday got to meet the Queen, but it doesn't say anything about Morse. Probably begged off, or sent Bright in his place. Bright was so excited to meet Princess Margaret a couple of years ago, the Queen would have given him fits."
"None. Just the clipping, and it focuses more on Thursday. I wonder what they did? There's no mention of it in the article, only 'meritorious service and great personal risk in the line of duty.'" Jakes shook his head. "Knowing Morse, he just passed off whatever he did as no big deal. Oxford's own Dudley Do-Right."
In December Morse received a birth announcement:
Peter and Hope Jakes
are pleased to announce the birth
of their daughter,
Emily Anne Jakes,
on Saturday, December 2, 1967
Underneath Jakes had written:Six pounds, nine ounces and nineteen inches long, born at 2:30 pm. Hope and Emma are both doing well. This was the best decision I've ever made in my life.
Morse sent them a Christmas card with a brief update about everyone at the station, and received one with a snapshot of Peter, Hope, and Emma tucked inside. Peter and Hope looked tired but happy.
As the years went by, postcards and letters traveled back and forth from time to time. There was a second birth announcement in 1970, for Peter Jakes, Jr. Peter hoped to get a wedding announcement but it never came. In October of 1979 he received a snapshot of Morse, finally filled out and with his hair gone silver at the temples, standing next to a beautiful red Mark 2 Jaguar. 40th birthday gift to myself, he'd written. He'd just made DI the year before.
Peter watched his kids grow up as he ran the ranch with Hope's dad and brother. When Emma wanted to do her undergrad at Oxford, he had the money set aside for it, and sent off a letter to his old friend in August 1985.
Emma's been admitted to Oxford. We'll be flying over with her to get her settled the end of August. Already have a room booked at the Randolph. I'd love to meet you for a pint, if the Flag's still around.
I really don't like the idea of my little girl halfway around the world. I'd be grateful if you could keep an eye on her for me.
A sunny, late summer day found Morse at his desk at the St. Aldate station. It was after three, he'd been buried in paperwork all day under Strange's baleful glare, and he was dying to escape.
His phone rang. "DCI Morse."
"Morse? It's Peter Jakes."
"Jakes! You never gave me a chance to send you my number."
"I knew I could track you down. Used to be a detective, after all, and I did break the biggest cattle-rustling ring in Sublette County ten years ago, if you'll remember."
Morse chuckled. "Good to know you haven’t let those hard-earned skills go to waste."
"We're at the Randolph, and the phone book says the Flag's still around. Their beer still decent?"
"That depends. You still drink lager?"
"You wouldn't believe the swill passes for beer in the States. Hope’s brother Hank says I should stop complaining and brew my own."
"I can come by and pick you up."
Morse parked outside the Randolph, taking advantage of the TVP badge on his car, and crossed the street. There was a lanky man with salt-and-pepper hair and lined, suntanned skin leaning on the wall. "Jakes? Is that you?"
"Morse!" Jakes took his hand in his own weathered one, calloused from reins and ranch work. "You're a sight for sore eyes. So that's your pride and joy," he nodded at the Jaguar. "Beautiful car. Brings back memories. Is the shifting any better than the Mark 1 used to be?"
"Might be. Or maybe I'm just used to it. Had a Lancia for awhile, but I missed the Jaguars too damned much. You're looking well, very Sam Elliot."
"I tried a mustache for awhile, but Hope complained and the kids wouldn't stop taking the mick, so I gave it up."
They walked inside, talking about the changes in Oxford over the years. Hope stood the moment she saw them, coming forward with a smile. "Morse! We meet at last."
"Yes, er— sorry about that. Socializing has never been my strong suit."
Hope wore her hair in shoulder-length curls, and was warm and friendly. "These are the kids. Emma and Pete Junior."
Emma Jakes looked like a younger version of her mother with her long, curly brown hair, but she had Peter's keen deep-blue eyes. Pete Junior looked much like the Jakes Morse remembered, tall and slender with straight dark hair and a slightly aquiline nose.
"What are you reading?" Morse asked Emma.
"Modern Greats. I’d like to go to law school, and that will be a good foundation. Besides, one of us has to finish an Oxford degree," she gave her mother a teasing grin. "I’m aiming to study contract law, so I can help out with the ranch without getting quite as dirty as my dad and Uncle Hank."
"Which college have you been admitted to?"
"I went there, but left before I finished my last term. A bit of advice: don't get your heart broken at college."
"I don't plan to. I don't have time to get mixed up with boys."
"Wise lass." Morse turned to Jakes. "So, the Flag? I can fit us all in the car, though it'll be a little snug."
Peter and Hope pointed out things they remembered to the kids, Morse adding places that would be useful for Emma to know.
"Is this Wagner?" she asked, gesturing to his cassette deck.
"Yes. You listen to opera?"
"I prefer Puccini, to be honest."
"Puccini speaks more to the young, I think," Morse admitted.
Jakes smiled. "I knew you two would hit it off.”
The kids were wide-eyed as they entered the Lamb and Flag. "This looks like something from a movie," Emma said.
"Are you sure they won't kick me out?" Pete fretted.
"Only if you act like an idiot or start a fight," his dad told him. "And if you do that, you'll have bigger problems than the landlord. Like your old man."
"There's a pub by Lady Matilda's that's a traditional favorite of women students. It's called the Crone's Corner," Morse told Emma. "Men are allowed, but it's generally understood that they're there on sufferance, and if one makes a nuisance of himself he's ejected. You can relax and get a drink without having to fend off a dozen of them, but conversely, if you see someone interesting, you have to make the first move. It's a godsend to shy lads."
"It's still there?" Hope asked. "Good. I hoped it was. We need more places like the Crone's Corner."
"I got tossed out of there on my ear one night when I first came to Oxford," Peter admitted sheepishly.
"And I'm sure you deserved it, love," Hope said with equal measures of tartness and fondness.
"Oh, I did. I've told Emma to steer well clear of anyone reminds her of me."
Over the next few years Emma worked hard at her studies, dated occasionally, and turned up on Morse's doorstep regularly for a sympathetic ear and a meal. They went to concerts together, and she introduced him to friends and classmates as her unofficial godfather.
"It's true," she told him after the first time. "Dad told me he wanted to ask you to be my godfather, but was worried you lived too far away. He told me about it when I first talked about coming to Oxford when I was fifteen. Said he'd trust me with you same as he does Uncle Hank."
During Emma's first spring at Oxford a large Federal Express box arrived on Morse's doorstep on his day off, shipped from the Double R Ranch in Wyoming, KEEP FROZEN written in large letters with red ink on all sides. It was heavy, and he wrestled it inside before opening it. Peter had rung a week before, checking his schedule but being mysterious as to the reason. Morse found it lined in styrofoam and stuffed with paper-wrapped packages carefully labeled: T-bones. Sirloins. Filets. Roast. Brisket.
"What did he do? Send me a whole steer?" he wondered aloud. There was a note from Peter, thanking him for looking out for Emma. He picked up the phone to call his new sergeant. "Lewis? How would you like some beef? Fresh from the range, shipped overnight from Wyoming. What a frivolous age we live in."
Emma graduated near the top of her class with an acceptance letter to a top US law school in hand, complete with scholarship for half of the expense. Peter, Hope, and Pete Junior flew over for the ceremony, and Morse was included on Emma's guest list as well. Pete Junior was nineteen and studying computer science at the University of Wyoming at Laramie.
Now postcards came from Emma as well as from Peter and Hope. Emma always sent him a birthday card, and Peter and Hope's Christmas cards had updates on everyone's lives. Emma settled in Denver after law school, while Pete Junior went to California to work for a software company. Morse was invited to Emma's wedding, spending time at the ranch afterward.
"There's so much sky. And the horizon goes on forever," he marveled.
"Doesn't it just?" Peter agreed. "I've never quite got used to it." They watched the sun sinking in the sky.
"Pete Junior looks exactly like you used to. Brings back memories."
"Yeah. Hard to believe it's been nearly thirty years."
Robbie Lewis found Morse's address book. He called Joyce first, to tell her that her brother had died. Then he went through the faded little book's sparse entries. Most of the people listed in it either already knew, or were themselves no longer alive.
Peter and Hope Jakes. The address was in Wyoming, and he remembered Morse had an old friend from his early days in the Oxford police who'd married an American and moved out there. He calculated the time difference and dialed the phone number.
"Hello?" A woman's voice.
"Hello. Is this the Jakes residence?"
"This is Robbie Lewis, from Oxford— "
"Morse's friend! I'm Hope Jakes. He worked with my husband Peter years ago, when it was still Oxford City Police." Her tone changed. "What's happened to him? I know he's been ill. That ulcer last year, and he didn't sound like himself when he talked to us last month."
Lewis sighed. "It's bad news, I'm afraid. He had a heart attack. They did all they could, but— "
"Oh. Oh, no.” Hope’s voice was full of sorrow. “Was someone with him? Tell me someone was. He was so lonely."
"Jim Strange was with him. Our Chief Super, and also a friend of his since back then."
"Good. When's the service?"
"He said— in no uncertain terms— no service. No memorial. Even put it in his will."
Hope sighed. "It figures. Let us know where he's buried, at least."
Hope called Denver first. Emma cried. "I wanted so badly for him to meet Olivia. Jeff and I were going to go to Oxford this summer, now that she's old enough to handle the flight." She sighed. "He never took proper care of himself, Mom. I could see it when I was at Lonsdale."
They talked awhile longer. Then Hope sent an email to her son. Pete Junior was easier to reach by that means these days.
Peter returned from Pinedale late that afternoon. "What's happened?" he asked the moment he saw her face.
"I got a call from Oxford earlier."
His face fell. "Morse?"
"A heart attack."
"Damn. He only had a few months until retirement. He always did have sod's luck. I was hoping we could coax him out here for awhile once he retired. The fresh air, the sunlight, good food— we might have been able to build him up a bit."
Lewis found a shoebox filled with postcards, greeting cards, and faded airmail stationery on a shelf in Morse's wardrobe, mostly postmarked Pinedale Wyoming, but others came from Denver, and several came from a town he'd never heard of somewhere in the States that apparently had a law school. His old boss had saved every message he'd received from Peter Jakes and his family. Lewis shook his head, feeling tears fill his eyes yet again. "Poor, lonely old sod," he murmured.
There was a headstone by a willow tree near the cemetery's edge:
E. Morse, GM
29 September 1939- 2 June 2000
A good friend and an honest man.
Jakes sighed heavily. Emma squeezed his hand and knelt, churning up the earth in front of the headstone with a small trowel, scattering a handful of seeds then covering them over. The skies threatened showers.
In the following weeks, and in years to come, forget-me-nots bloomed on the solitary grave.