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Non-Funeral Blues

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He didn’t think about Morse’s will until his solicitor contacted him. There had been too much to do – book the killer, do the paperwork, and then, there had been Morse’s… not-funeral to attend.

How ironic that Superintendent Strange’s retirement party doubled as such. Everyone attending had done their best to pretend that they were not thinking of Morse, of course; it was supposed to be a happy event; but even the Superintendent himself had thought of him in his speech, remembering the old days when they were young and starting out, first as Constables, then Sergeants, his voice breaking at the end.  

Maybe he could have thought of his will then, since that was where he’d declared he didn’t want a service of any kind; but it had simply slipped his mind amongst the renewed feeling of grief.

Sometime after the speech, Strange found him. “There you are. Not quite the same without Morse looking for the nearest drink, is it, Lewis?”

There was a fondness in his voice that Robbie could understand only too well, and he smiled weakly. “That’s true, sir.”

“There’s something…” Strange looked away. “There’s something I couldn’t bring myself…” He cleared his throat. “As you remember, I was there when it happened.”

Yes, he had been at Morse’s side, and Lewis was still thankful for it. He couldn’t have born the thought that Morse had died utterly alone.

“And his last words… well, the last he could utter were “Thank Lewis for me.””

Robbie didn’t know what to say. When he had thought of Morse’s last moments (and he had tried his best not to) he’d always imagined that his last words would be a verse of a poem or a lyric of some obscure opera; but never that eh would thank –“But what for, sir? I’d done nothing –“

Strange smiled wryly. “You underestimate yourself, Sergeant. Morse… there were few people who ever got through to him. You were one of them. I venture even to say that you were the best friend he ever had.”

He left him standing there soon afterwards when he realized Robbie was overcome with emotion; he was thankful for it.

Val, who, unbeknownst to him, had decided to pick him up after the party, had found him outside later, crying, and had taken him into her arms as she’d done the kiddies when they were little.

It was the second night of his life he ever took sleeping pills.

The first had been on the day of Morse’s death.

The next day was a Saturday, and Val let him sleep; when he got up, the kids were particularly well-behaved and he realized his whole family was trying to make him feel better.

It warmed his heart.

If only Morse had ever found someone who could have given him the same feeling.

Days slowly turned into weeks. Life at the station went on. Eventually, Strange called him into his office and told him he’d be made an Inspector shortly.

Not for the first time, Robbie wished that Morse had had a funeral – not necessarily because he’d needed one to say goodbye, since he had done that at the morgue; but it would have been nice to visit him to tell him the good news (he could almost hear the DCI lecturing about how he wouldn’t have been able to hear anything anyway).

It was a few weeks after that that the letter from the solicitor came.

“The name seems familiar” Robbie said, frowning. “But I can’t see why any solicitor would want to speak to me unless it’s some official matter, and they would write to the office, not to my house.”

“Just wait and see” Val answered. “Who knows, maybe someone left you a fortune.”

Robbie laughed. And of course, at the thought of anyone leaving him money, Morse never crossed his mind.

And yet.

“50.000 pounds?” Lewis repeated, completely astonished.

“Yes. Mr. Morse was very precise in his will; he wanted a third of his estate to go to you.”

“That’s… a lot of money” he managed to say. He’d always assumed Morse’s money would go to some scholarship fund, or that he would put it into a fund for young musicians – and indeed, according to the solicitor, he had done that, too; but he’d never have thought it possible that he would be one of those mentioned. Why on earth would Morse remember him with such…

“I have been handling the liquidation of Chief Inspector Morse’s estate, and I will of course make sure the money goes to you as soon as possible. In the meantime…” and for the first time since he had entered the office, the solicitor looked embarrassed. “It has come to my attention… that is, as I was going through his papers… Mr. Morse didn’t keep many pictures, you see, and so I decided to keep them for a while, just to see if someone would be interested…”

He pulled a folder out of the top drawer on his desk. “I didn’t know what you looked like, of course, but if you want it…”

He handed him a picture, one of Morse and Lewis standing next to each other besides the Jaguar.

Robbie had never seen it and he couldn’t for the life of him say who could possibly have taken it. “I –“ he began before he had to clear his throat. “Yes. I would like to keep it, very much.”

The solicitor smiled. “He was a strange man, Mr. Morse, but there was something about him, wasn’t there?”

Robbie could only nod.

Of course he and Val could use the money; and it was her who framed the picture, two days after Robbie had brought him home, and put it on the fireplace next to their family snapshots. “I didn’t really know him, but he was important to you, love.”

Sometimes, he really had no idea what he had done to deserve her.

Morse was still a legend, and even new recruits sometimes asked questions about him; Robbie grew used to being pointed out in the cafeteria as the one man who’d been able to stand Morse, although he had never understood, and even now failed to comprehend why no one had wanted to work with him. Yes, he had been a bastard when he had wanted to – they had had their fair share of fights – but Morse had also been an excellent detective, the best Robbie had ever met in his life, and working with him had been a privilege, not a burden.

Precious few people could understand that.

He now and then wondered what Morse would have thought of his efforts as an Inspector. He had admitted to him long ago that he believed him ready for it; and in fact, Robbie hadn’t doubted he was; but he had seen no reason to leave the best work partnership he had ever found, not when Morse had yet been fit.

If only he’d managed to get him to drink a little less, and to live a little bit more healthy. He might actually have got to enjoy his retirement, then. Who knows, maybe he’d have found someone, after all. As he would have deserved.

At the beginning, right after, when Morse had just died and he was still surprised not to see him in the station anymore, Lewis couldn’t bear the sound of classical music. Thank God Val had never liked it much, either; every time he heard a tune, there was a lump in his throat.

It took a while for it to actually become a sort of comfort. He would never be like Morse, able to identify special recordings or even sonatas just from a few notes; but now and then, he could listen to a piece and remember when it had drifted through the speakers of the Jaguar during another long-forgotten case.

He surprised Laura Hobson one day in the morgue when she had the radio on. “Debussy’s La Mer, is it?”

“Yes. Morse would have hated it, of course – Toscanini.”

“Ah. Never could bear his recordings. Said he’d done the worst Magic Flute he’d ever heard.”

“Doesn’t that sound just like him.”

They shared a melancholic smile.

After a while, Robbie noticed that no Sergeant would stick with him. He’d heard that Morse had had the same problem before he came along, but he had always assumed he’s have it easier – he still missed the old curmudgeon dearly, but he’d have been the first to admit that Morse wasn’t the best when it came to human interaction, and Robbie himself hot along with pretty much everybody.

And yet, it seemed he had spent too much time with Morse after all; he was too set in his ways. Oh well, there was no reason to go looking for a Sergeant permanently assigned to him; he could always ask for help when the need arose.

One day, he’d come so far in his musings when he glanced at the watch. Val would soon be back from her shopping trip to London; Maybe they could go out for dinner –

The phone rang and somehow, he would later think, he had known in this moment.