The body was floating face down in the river. The oar had dislodged it from where it had been caught in the reeds and it was completely obvious that it was indeed, a very dead body. It smelled foul.
Dave stared at it. There was a dead body, gently bobbing against the side of his canoe. What with the faint morning mist still ghosting over the surface of the river it really hadn’t been obvious, not until he had caught... something, with his oar. The foot, he thought, probably the foot.
He swallowed down a sudden nausea and used his oar to hold the body in place, tucking the pole under his arm while he fumbled the plastic screw top case out from beside his leg and retrieved his mobile. He dropped the case, momentarily juggled the oar and one handed, phoned 999.
“Emergency, which service?”
The question threw him a moment. “Uh, police, I think?”
“What is your emergency?”
“I found a dead body, floating in the river.” He said. “It’s really, definitely, dead.”
“Okay sir, I’m putting you through to the police.”
The call transferred quickly and another voice spoke to him.
“You’re through to Thames Valley Police, what is the nature of your emergency?”
He looked down at the body again.
“I’ve found a dead body, floating in the river.”
"Are you certain that the person is dead?"
Dave tried not to throw up. "Yeah, they're very dead." He gagged for a moment, "And smelly."
“Okay sir, can you tell me where you are?”
“I’m in a kayak on the Isis. I’ve stopped the body floating away with my oar. I've uh, kind of got hold of it with the oar.”
“Thank you. Can I take your name? I’m assuming that you’re phoning on your mobile phone?” She read out his mobile number to him.
“Uh, yeah, that's it. My mobile. My name’s Dave Kelso.”
“Okay Dave. can you tell me where you are?”
Dave looked around. “I’m a couple of hundred metres upstream of the Isis Canoe Club, uh near Longbridges... by the opposite bank just up from Longbridges Boat House.”
“Okay Dave, I’ve got police officers on their way to you. Just stay on the line so I can guide them in to you.”
Hathaway sauntered back over the grass towards Lewis.
“What’ve we got?” Lewis asked him.
Hathaway paused to pull his cigarettes out of his inside pocket.
“A very dead body sir.” He pulled a cigarette out of the pack and lit it. “No ID and too decomposed for any immediate identification, but Dr Hobson is pretty certain it’s an IC1 adult male, with short, light brown hair.” Hathaway grimaced. “Can’t tell eye colour as they are missing.”
Lewis nodded. “Yeah, animal activity will do that in a river pretty quick.” He stared across the meadow towards the river. “Who found the body?”
Hathaway tapped ash from his cigarette. “Early morning kayaker.” He said, pulling out his notebook to refer to. “The body was apparently caught up in the reeds by the bank, he says he caught some part of it with his oar and it floated free. Name is David Kelso, he’s a second year student at Winstanley College.”
“Okay, get on the phone and get a check of outstanding missing persons, I’ll have a chat with Laura, see if she can give us any more insights into his potential identity.”
Lewis left Hathaway with his cigarette and mobile phone and walked over the meadow to where Laura Hobson was knelt in her bunny suit, zipping the body into a black body bag. He could smell the body from 3 metres away and grimaced. He thought river bodies always smelled the worst.
“I know what you’re going to ask,” Laura cautioned him, “and I don’t have anything further than what I told James.”
Lewis chuckled. “How did you know what I was going to ask?”
Hobson gave him a long look. “You wouldn’t be doing your job if you weren’t thinking about any clues to this man’s identity.” She cut off his next words. “No. All I can tell you for definite at the moment is that he’s an IC1 male, very outside chance IC2, approximately two metres ten in height, light brown hair, wearing jeans, a West Ham shirt and one of a pair of Nike trainers. If you’re lucky, I’ll be able to get one or two fingerprints or partials from his hands, but they’ve taken quite a bit of damage. He’s been dead for quite a few days.” She frowned. “Don’t quote me on this yet, but I’d hazard a guess from the uneven pattern of decomposition he was possibly in shallower water for some time, you might want to look for places the body could have been trapped upstream.”
“Thanks.” Lewis smiled at her. “That’s not bad to go on with considering. Any idea of the cause of death.”
“Nothing apparent.” Laura said. “I’ll know more once I open him up, obviously.”
Her assistants were rolling a trolley across the footpath to her and Lewis gave her a nod and let her get on with her job.
Hathaway walked over looking at something he had noted in his notebook.
“Bit odd no-one spotted him before this.” Lewis said, thoughtfully.
Hathaway frowned. “The river is quite high. It’s possible the body was caught up further upstream and the increased flow washed it downstream last night after the storm.”
Lewis nodded. “Best we talk to an expert then,” he mused, “get a view on where our victim might have started out.”
“Dr Hobson’s partial prints came back with a match.” Hathaway greeted Lewis as he walked into the office.
Hathaway put one of the takeaway cups of coffee down in front of Lewis.
“There’s no ID on the prints, but it’s a match to a set of prints which were pulled from a theft of books from the Bodleian three weeks ago.”
Lewis pulled up the case on his computer and scanned through it.
“Postmartin.” He said. “Where do I know that name from?”
Hathaway shrugged. “He’s a librarian.”
“That’s it!” Lewis said. “That was one of my first cases with Morse. Murder of a student, and there were stolen books in that case. That was another weird case. We never did actually get a definitive cause of death. Sad case.” Lewis sipped gingerly at his coffee. “It was a beggar to fill in the blanks, but was apparently a stalking case that reached the point of murder.”
“Any chance it was connected?” Hathaway asked.
“I doubt it,” Lewis told him, “that case was over and done with years ago. And the murderer confessed and then killed himself.”
Hathaway pursed his lips.
“Yeah,” Lewis agreed, “a bad business. Did Laura give us a cause of death yet?”
“Definitely drowning.” Hathaway said. “But there were head injuries which might indicate an attack prior to the victim entering the water, or be due to the body hitting things in the river. She’s hoping to be able to confirm that later once she’s made a full examination of the skull.”
Reviewing the security video from the Bodleian had not given them much. Lewis wasn’t sure how it had been done, but the man’s face was fuzzy in all of the shots. Forensic technicians had examined the footage, but not got anywhere. Their best guess was that he had been wearing some kind of thin hood or veil woven in a reflective fibre which had scattered the limited light in the rooms he had passed through. Lewis scowled at the screen.
They had been able to confirm his exact height, shoe size and approximate weight. The man had worn gloves for the majority of the crime, but had taken his glove off on two or three occasions to touch specific objects. He’d wiped the hard surfaces he had touched, but careful examination of the video had shown four sheets of paper and two poorly wiped surfaces which he’d missed. SOCO and the forensic service had managed to pull half a dozen partial prints from those services.
Lewis watched the spliced together film again. He could see absolutely no sensible reason why the man had touched those objects with his bare hand, unless it was some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder. He watched the man put the glove back on, then select the books he wanted, and leave.
A constable wandered into the office while Lewis was still looking at the video. Lewis looked up at him.
“What is it?” He asked.
“DS Hathaway asked me to look through missing persons to try and identify the body from the river.” She said.
“Have you found anything?”
“Yes sir.” She said. “There’s a Thomas Morley who was reported missing by his wife five days ago. He fits in height, build and also in what he was wearing.”
“Can you get dental records?” He asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “The wife didn’t offer them, he’s only been gone for eight days and he’s...a bit of an odd character, that’s why she didn’t report him till three days after he’d gone missing.”
“Send me the details and I’ll contact her.” Lewis said.
Hathaway walked back into the office about twenty minutes later.
“Did you get any useful information on the missing books?”
Hathaway sat down at his desk. “I spoke to Mr Postmartin at the Bodleian, who said that the books taken were exactly as given in the original report, but they’ve now undertaken a full audit and there’s a possibility that there may have been some additional loose papers taken, part of a recent donation to the library.”
Lewis scowled. “Did he happen to enlighten you as to what the papers were?”
“They apparently hadn’t been fully catalogued yet, hence they hadn’t been logged as missing.” Hathaway said. “He did mention that the donation was part of a collection of papers written by a Mr A C Camberton-Brookes, who was a local amateur historian.”
“Amateur?” Lewis asked.
“Well, amateur in the sense he wasn’t part of the university.” Hathaway said. “Apparently he died in 1944, but his family kept the papers. His granddaughter decided that the university should have them. Apparently they’re pretty special if you’re interested in the history and folklore of the Oxford area.”
“Typical.” Lewis muttered. His email pinged and he pulled up the contact details for Thomas Morley’s wife. “We have a lead on our dead body.”
Hathaway looked up at him. “Yes sir?”
“Gregson came in, she had a success on the missing persons search. Apparently a Mrs Morley reported her husband missing five days ago, but that was three days after she’d last seen him.”
“Which puts him right in the time period for our dead body.” Hathaway said.
“Exactly.” Lewis agreed.
Abigail Morley was a tiny, dark haired woman in her mid-forties. She answered the door with flour up to her elbows and a small yapping dog trying to force its way past her legs.
“Mrs Morley? Thames Valley Police, can we come in?”
Lewis could see the blood drain from her face as she reached down to grab the terrier by its collar.
“Come through.” She said, gesturing with her free hand.
They walked in and she pointed them into the kitchen. On the side, a large ball of dough sat on a floury board and the room smelled of yeast and flour.
“Bed!” She ordered the dog, then went to the sink to rinse her hands. “I can see it’s not good news.” She said over her shoulder.
“We can’t say for certain yet, ma’am” Lewis replied. “Is there anyone here to be with you?”
She turned, drying her hands on a teatowel. “Just tell me straight.” She told them.
“You might want to sit down.” Lewis said.
They all sat at the kitchen table.
“A body was found in the Thames yesterday.” Lewis said.
The woman’s hand came up to her mouth. “Was it my Tom?” She asked.
“I’m sorry that we can’t yet say.” Lewis told her. “The person found had been dead for some time, at least a few days, and will need to be identified by dental records, fingerprints or DNA.”
“Oh my god.” The woman said. Her fingers clenched in the tea towel she was still holding. “But you think it’s Tom?”
“We think it’s likely.” Lewis said. “The body matches the physical description of your husband and the clothes he was last seen wearing.”
“Oh my god.” The woman said again. Tears began to silently flow down her cheeks.
“Mrs Morley,” Lewis said gently, “do you know any reason why your husband would be in or around the river?”
“He’s obsessed with the damn rivers round here.” Mrs Morley told them. She dabbed at her eyes with the tea towel. “He’s always had an interest in local history, his family have lived round here for years, but these last couple of years it was always the rivers. I don’t know what he saw in them, but he could tell you the history associated with every damn brook round here.”
She started to cry in earnest. Hathaway stood and silently collected the roll of kitchen towel from the kitchen side. Mrs Morley took it from him, took a piece and blew her nose. Lewis and Hathaway waited, giving her a few minutes for her to pull herself together a little.
“I know this is difficult,” Lewis said, “but can I ask why you didn’t report your husband missing for three days?”
She blew her nose again, before looking up at him. “He was always a bit....unpredictable.” She said, sniffing. “He was a good man, never violent, we always had...well, enough, but he used to get these fancies and then he’d be off. Exploring, he said. I always assumed he was off fishing, he loved to fish.” She sighed. “But when he was off, he’d be gone for a day or two doing whatever he was doing.” She stared out of the kitchen window. “Obviously, when I was young I assumed he was off with another woman,” she snorted, “as you would, but he never had an eye for anyone but me, and...well, you get to trust them don’t you?”
“Do you know where your husband was exploring when he went missing?” Lewis asked her.
“No,” she said sadly, “no idea. Could have been anywhere in a five mile radius.”
“Ten miles?” Hathway asked.
“No car.” She said. “He always left me the car.”
Mrs Morley had given them the contact details for their dental surgery and provided them with Mr Morley’s hairbrush and toothbrush for DNA and fingerprints. Lewis had given her the details of the Family Liaison Officer assigned to the case and they had waited while she had phoned her sister to come over and support her, before they left, promising that the FLO would let her know as soon as they had been able to confirm whether the body was indeed her husband.
“It sounds like he’s our man.” Hathaway said as they pulled out onto the main road.
“It does indeed.” Lewis agreed. “Let’s get those in to be tested,” he nodded at the evidence bags Hathaway was still holding, “and maybe we’ll be able to confirm it for her one way or another.”
“We’ll have to ask her about the theft of the books.” Hathaway said.
“Once we know if it’s him. “ Lewis said. “Let’s not start with that till we know it was him.”
Lewis parked his car in the car park off Walton Well Road and climbed out. Six-thirty in the morning felt far too early to be at a crime scene. A uniformed constable lifted the police tape and waved him through and he followed the narrow path marked out until he reached the area where the body had been found. He stood back for a moment to get a broader view of the body and the site.
The body was lying in a slight hollow down by the river. It hadn't been hidden, the Port Meadow was wide open grassland, but the lay of the land at the marshy end meant it was practically impossible to see unless you were almost on top of it.
He walked closer. Laura was already on site and was bent over the corpse doing her preliminary examinations.Thankfully, it appeared the body was fully clothed and there were no obvious signs of violence or disarray of the clothes. Well, that meant that at least one set of questions from the family were going to be much less traumatic to answer.
SOCO had already checked and cleared a pathway to the corpse and Lewis stopped a couple of metres from the body and gave it a good looking over. Despite the lack of injuries, the distance from the river and the fact that it had been completely dry weather for the last two days, the man's clothes were still soaking wet, which was odd. The man was lying on his back, legs and arms in slightly weird positions and all his experience and training told him that this body had been dumped here. The unknown man had not made his own way here.
"He drowned, by the looks of it." Laura said. "There’s foamy fluid in his mouth, but I'll know more once I get him back on the slab. Lividity suggests he’s not been moved since he died or very close to the time of death."
Well that was a bloody nuisance wasn't it? Lewis thought.
Hathaway walked over from where he had been talking to the uniform who had been first at the scene.
“So what’s pulled us into this case as well?” Lewis asked him. “We’ve already got one dead body to investigate.”
“This.” Hathaway said, and lifted a clear evidence bag.
The bag contained a book, an old looking book, leather-bound and well-worn, with many pale scuffs showing through the red dye of the cover. Lewis craned his head to look at the book’s spine through the plastic, but there was nothing on the spine except a gold embossed IV.
“One of the missing books from the Bodleian connected with our first murder victim?”
Lewis frowned. “Do we know who this one is?”
“Yes,” Hathaway put the book back into the plastic crate of evidence bags and picked out another. This one had a simple folded man’s leather wallet in it . Without taking it out of the bag, Hathaway flapped it open, displaying a drivers license, tucked into the clear pocket for an identity card or pass. “The picture matches the victim, a Mr Simon Creak age twenty-seven, there’s also a selection of bank cards and a bus pass in the same name. Interestingly,” Hathaway put the bag down and picked up another with a single identity badge on a lanyard on it, “he also has a staff ID badge in a completely different name for Winstanley College. Mr Anthony Buchholz.”
“Whose photo?” Lewis asked.
“It’s not a good photo, the pass is pretty old and half the printing has rubbed off.” Hathaway turned it to face Lewis. “It could be him, it could be someone with vaguely similar features.”
“Best get on to the university then.” Lewis told him. “Who actually found the body?”
“Dog walker.” Hathaway gestured over at an older man with a springer spaniel, who was sat on the low fence that divided the footpath from the meadow. “Mr Robert Goodman. We’ve taken an interim statement and have his full contact details. He only lives a couple of minutes away.”
“Okay, I’ll have a quick word then I guess we can let him go.”
Lewis wandered over to the man. “Mr Goodman? I’m Inspector Lewis.”
The man stood. “This is a terrible thing to happen.” He said sadly.
“I’m sorry you had to see it.” Lewis said kindly.
“Oh, don’t mind me.” Mr Goodman told him. “I served in the Falklands, saw my fair share of horrors. You just don’t expect it at home.”
Lewis nodded sympathetically. “Can you tell me how you found the body?”
Mr Goodman shrugged. “I was taking Brock here for his early walk. I’m not usually out this early, but he didn’t get much of a late walk last night and the little horror woke me up early this morning. Not even half past five!” He looked down at the dog with a smile. “Anyway, I came over the railway bridge, walked down that side of the meadow, then down the path past the Walton Well road entrance and down to the river. I was going to walk the whole way round, wear Brock out and bit, I might not even had noticed him if Brock hadn’t spotted him and put up a ruckus.”
“And what time was this?” Lewis asked.
“Literally just before I called 999.” The old man said. He pulled out his phone. “I can tell you exactly. I called you at five forty-seven AM.”
“Thanks, that’s really helpful.” Lewis said, writing it down more to reassure the man than of any necessity. “And did you see anyone else while you were down here?”
The old man shook his head. “Not a soul.” He said. “No real surprise, that early in the morning. I saw a couple of joggers later, but they weren’t here till just before your people got here.”
Lewis thanked the man and arranged for a uniform to go round and take a formal statement later.
He took a while to have a wander around the area himself and get an idea for the area, it was public land, but Lewis hadn’t been down here in years, not since his kids were actually kids. This end of the port meadow was often almost completely underwater, a semi-marshland, as well as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Thanks to the recent rain, quite a bit of it was waterlogged, but the area where the body had been found was on a slightly higher bit of land and while the ground was wet, it was passable. Still, whoever had left the body here must have known the area well to get the body here in the dark and not get bogged down or twist an ankle. He looked across the fields; the nearest streetlights were a long way away and it was a new moon, so it would have been pitch black out here when they brought him here.
He walked back to Hathaway. “Did SOCO find anything yet?”
Hathaway shook his head. “Nothing that we can use. There’s a lot of footprints, but this is a public right of way. Some might be helpful…” He tailed off, looking at his notebook. “Nothing else yet.”
“Okay,” Lewis told him, “let's get back to the office and start making some calls.”
From a payslip tucked into his wallet, they had identified Simon Creak as a junior architect at a local firm, RFD Ltd. Lewis had spoken with one of the partners, a Mr Reynolds and the R from RFD, and had established the young man had joined them from a company in London about two months previously. As far as they knew, he was single, lived in a rented room out at Cowley and was a diligent and conscientious worker. The man agreed to get his secretary to send over the contact details of the man's next of kin from their HR records.
The contact details had dropped into his email not five minutes later. Mr Creak’s mother and father lived in Peckham and Lewis had contacted the Met to have someone undertake the necessary visit to give them the bad news. The HR record also included the dead man’s address and bank details and Lewis logged an action on the system to have a full check done of the man’s financials. That done, he rounded up Hathaway to go and have a look at the dead man’s residence.
Simon Creak had lived in a room in a shared house just off the Cowley Road. Hathaway had taken the home phone number from the man’s HR records and called ahead, so they knew two of his housemates, Lizzie Stanfield and Andy Vickers would be in.
Lewis and Hathaway pulled up outside the 1950’s semi and got out. The small front garden had been entirely paved over and there were two cars, a Ford Kia and a very well maintained vintage VW Beetle parked on the cracked concrete. Lewis walked between them and up to the front door.
The door was answered by a young woman wearing jeans and a pink t-shirt which advised readers to Keep Calm And Drink Cocktails in even pinker glittery print. Her hair was still slightly wet and piled up on her head in a messy bun with a pencil stuck through it. Lewis showed her his credentials and introduced himself and Hathaway.
“I’m Lizzie Stanfield.” She introduced herself. “Andy’s in the lounge, but it looks like Simon’s gone to work early.” She stepped back and gestured to them to walk through an open doorway into the lounge.
“Stanfield?” Lewis queried. “There was a case with a Stanfield, a few years back. Geoffrey Stanfield, that was it. One of my first cases with Morse.” Lewis tried not to frown, it was the second time something connected with that case had come up in connection with this case.
“My uncle.” The young woman smiled.
“You’ve a look of him about you too.” Lewis added.
“Thank you.” She said, seeming genuinely pleased.
“Oh, I’m sorry to bring it up.” Lewis apologised.
“No problem, before I was born.” She said.
She gestured to Lewis and Hathaway to take the sofa and sat herself in one of the two armchairs.
“Anyone want coffee?” A man’s voice called through from the kitchen. “It’s real coffee, not instant, pot’s almost done.” The voice had a distinct West Country accent.
Lewis wouldn’t normally have wanted to put off the conversation they were going to have, but he accepted. A young man in jeans and a red plaid shirt walked into the room about thirty seconds later with a tray with a pot of coffee, mugs and bowl of sugar and a carton of milk on it.
“Sorry,” the young man said apologetically, “no milk jug. Oh, I’m Andy.”
Lewis brushed away his apology and they waited while he poured them out coffee.
“So, are you studying English Literature as well?” Lewis asked Lizzie to fill the gap in the conversation.
“Not me,” she replied, putting the spoon down on the saucer with a delicate clink. “I’m all about the hard sciences. My cousin Ellie, she’s the literary one.”
Lewis nodded. “Sad case, your uncle. I always wondered what happened to his girlfriend. Nice girl, from the town. Annie... Annie something.”
“That’ll be my aunt Anne,” Lizzie replied. “She was in the family way as my Gran would put it.”
Lewis snorted. “Yeah, well, we knew that but I didn’t want to…”
“No worries,” Lizzie interjected, “Gran took her in, her and my cousin Geoffrey, Geoffrey junior I guess. She went into the family business. Married a family friend later.”
Lewis smiled broadly. “That’s good to know. I’m glad she did well for herself. Nice girl, she was.”
Andy passed out coffees and then took his own seat in the other armchair.
Lizzie stirred the coffee in front of her. “So, you didn’t say what you wanted to talk about. I’d have asked but I was half asleep, up late last night, I’ve got an essay due.”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” Lewis said, “but your housemate, Simon Creak, was found dead this morning.”
Lizzie dropped her spoon into the mug with a clatter. “Oh my god!” She said.
Her housemate Andy was staring at them in equal shock. “Are you sure?” He asked.
“We’re certain.” Hathaway said. “Mr Creak had his driver's licence and other identity documents on him, so we were able to identify him immediately. His parents are being notified this morning, and we’ll need to get a formal ID, but there’s no question it’s Mr Creak.”
Lizzie and Andy looked about as shocked as any normal person would on finding out someone close to them was dead.
“What happened?” Andy asked.
“We’re not sure at the moment,” Lewis told them, “at the moment we’re officially treating it as an unexplained death, but it’s very likely that Mr Creak did not die where he was found, which suggests some kind of foul play.”
“Oh my god!” Lizzie repeated. She took a deep breath in, held it for a moment and then exhaled before speaking again. “So, I guess you need to know stuff about Simon and what he was doing yesterday.”
Lewis nodded. Lizzie looked over at Andy. “Did you see Simon yesterday evening?” She looked back at Lewis and Hathaway. “I was in the library until late.” She explained.
Andy frowned in thought. “He was in at dinnertime. Came back after work, made himself dinner and…” he paused, scrubbing his hand through his short brown hair, “went out about eight-thirty, I think. Maybe not that late. After eight though, because Eastenders had finished.” He looked up at them. “I didn’t hear him come back in, but I was asleep by eleven.”
“I got back about half ten,” Lizzie added, “I was up until about two AM, but I didn’t hear him come back in. I just assumed he’d already gone to bed.”
Lewis nodded. Next to him Hathaway was making notes.
“So you’re a student then” Lewis said to Lizzie, he turned to Andy, “what about you?”
“Post-grad.” Andy said. “Economics. Lizzie’s undergrad. Gina, our other housemate, is post-grad as well, but she’s gone home to Strathclyde as her sister’s had a baby last week. Simon’s the only one who’s not a student. He works full time at some architects in town.”
Lewis nodded. “Has he been living here long?”
Lizzie shook her head. “No, he’s the most recent arrival. I’ve been here since the September, Andy and Gina for a couple of years. Simon moved in in February. We’d had another housemate Steven, but he dropped out of uni at Christmas and went home. Simon had relocated to Oxford for his job and he wasn’t looking for somewhere permanent, he said he was going to buy a house and he only signed a six-month contract here.”
Lewis frowned. “So who owns this place then?”
“My parents.” Andy said. “They decided it made sense to buy a place when I started my masters rather than pay loads out in rent for another two years or more. The first two years it was only three people here, me plus two, but I got mum and dad to put in a loft conversion over the summer two years ago so I’ve got my own ensuite. I’m going to buy them out completely once I’m earning.”
Lizzie nodded. “They put a downstairs loo in under the stairs as well.” She said. “That was a definite benefit.”
“So, you have the attic floor,” Lewis said to Andy, redirecting the conversation back on track, “and you, Gina and Simon have the rooms on the first floor.” He said to Lizzie.
Lizzie nodded. “I’ve got the big room, Gina’s got the next biggest and Simon has the box room.” She told them. “But he didn’t care, because he’s not planning to stay.” She stopped. “Wasn’t planning to stay, I guess.”
Lewis gave her a sympathetic nod. “Would it be possible to have a look at Mr Creak’s room?” He asked.
Andy stood up. “I don’t know if it’s locked.” He said. “All the rooms have locks, but we don’t use them much.”
“Do you have a spare key?” Lewis asked, standing and following Andy out of the room.
“I should have one.” Andy said. “I’ve got a lockbox in the kitchen drawer which has spare keys and insurance documents and stuff. I doubt he’ll have locked it if he thought he was coming back.”
Lewis and Hathaway followed the young man up the stairs. The dead man’s room was at the front of the house, next to what was obviously the original master bedroom and very much a box room. The door wasn’t locked and Andy stood in the doorway as Lewis and Hathaway stood in the very small amount of floor space.
The room contained a single bed along the inside wall; a small desk under the window, which doubled up as a bedside table; a single chair; a tall bookcase, half empty; and on the same wall as the door, a half height built in wardrobe from about waist height up to the ceiling, which obviously went out over the stairs.
One of the wardrobe doors was slightly open, but by and large the room was incredibly tidy. Andy looked at them both looking around the room.
“Oh it’s always like this,” he told them, “Simon’s a complete neat freak.”
Lewis opened the wardrobe door. Inside a row of crisply ironed shirts and a spare pair of suit trousers hung next to jeans and tracksuits on wooden clothes hangers. The row of shelves down one side of the wardrobe held piles of neatly folded t-shirts and jumpers, and pyramids of underwear rolled into neat cylinders.
The rest of the room was equally clean. Lewis reached under the desk and pulled out a narrow rectangular dirty laundry basket, made of wicker. He flipped the lid, but the only thing inside was a single day’s shirt and underwear.
“I’ll leave you to it then, shall I?” Andy said. “Shout if you need anything.” He retreated back down the landing and Lewis heard him go downstairs.
“This looks almost military.” Hathaway said. “Or OCD.”
Lewis nodded. “You take a look at the books and I’ll check the drawers.”
The desk drawers were almost as neat as the wardrobe. Even small objects like paper clips were in small tins and all of the dozen pens and pencils were in a pen holder on the surface. The major finds were a small hardback notebook which seemed to have background information on some people that Mr Creak appeared to have been investigating and a further series of notebooks with historical information about rivers.
Lewis turned back to Hathaway, who was methodically taking the books down and flipping through them. “What have you got?” He asked him.
“Like Mr Morley, Mr Creak has a serious interest in the history of Oxford and it’s rivers.” Hathaway stated. “There’s half a dozen books here just about the rivers and twice as many books about local history. Some of them are pretty out of date. There’s one here that’s a modern copy of a Victorian reprint of a text from 1750.” He said. “And there’s five separate Ordinance Survey maps of the area, two of which are from their historical reproduction range.”
“Not that odd for an architect to have.” Lewis suggested.
Hathaway opened one of the maps and looked at it. “It’s annotated.” He said.
Lewis leaned round the edge of the map to take a look. “Looks like some of that ties in with what he’s got in this notebook.”
Hathaway looked at the notebook. “There’s another two of those notebooks over here.”
Lewis took a step back towards the doorway and scanned over the whole room. “He dies in mysterious circumstances next to a river, and his room is full of personal research about the history of the rivers, a week after the death of another man who may have been an individual with an obsessive interest in the local rivers. I’m damned if I can see why anyone would kill him about that, but it’s a connection however odd it is.”
“And we don’t ignore connections, however tenuous.” Hathaway agreed.
“Call SOCO in and box it all up.” Lewis said. “Maybe something in here will make a connection to somewhere.”
Lewis walked downstairs. Andy and Lizzie were in the kitchen.
“Would you like another coffee?” Lizzie asked him.
“No thanks, I wanted to ask you about Mr Creak’s personal interests.”
“Oh,” Lizzie said. “I’m not sure he had many. He liked reading non-fiction.”
“Anything specific?” Lewis asked her.
Lizzie frowned and stared into space a moment. “Ah, I think he was mostly reading local history. He said something about wanting to join the library as well.” She looked back at Lewis. “Sorry, he was nice enough, but to be honest he was really boring and not very friendly.”
“Not to us at least.” Andy added. “I guess it must have been difficult though, being as we’re all students and he wasn’t.”
“Actually,” Andy said, “he did do one thing.”
“Go on.” Lewis encouraged him.
“He wanted to join the local rambling club or something like that.” Andy told him. “He didn’t want to put any more weight on.”
“He wasn’t particularly big.” Lewis said.
Andy shrugged. “Don’t know.” He said. “I can’t see him going to the gym or doing team sports though.” He turned to the pinboard in the kitchen. “I think there’s a leaflet here he picked up somewhere.”
Andy flipped up a few well thumbed takeaway menus, before finding an A5 leaflet inexpertly photocopied onto green paper.
“Here you go.”
“Thanks.” Lewis took the leaflet. “I’m sorry to be causing you more fuss, but we’re going to have someone come out here and box up the contents of his room in case there’s something that might explain what happened to him.”
“No, that’s fine.” Andy said. “I guess you’ll give it all back to his family when it’s all done.”
Lewis nodded. “Will you be needing to get the room cleared quickly?” He asked, trying to look sympathetic.
Andy shook his head. “No, he’d paid a month ahead anyway and considering the circumstances,” he sighed, “I think we can wait until….well, there’s a...he paid a lot less anyway as the room was so small.”
“That’s very kind of you.” Lewis said. “We’ll need to review the contents of his room, and then his parents will no doubt want to collect his belongings.”
Andy sighed again. “That’s going to be awful for them.”
“Yeah, lad.” Lewis agreed.
Andy pulled a small square piece of paper off a jotter pad cube by the phone. “Look, this is my mobile, the landline here and my email address. Can you give them to his family and let them know we’ll do whatever we can to help?”
“Yeah,” Lizzie chipped in, “definitely. God, his poor mum and dad.”
Lewis took the bright yellow piece of paper. “Thanks, I’ll let them know.”
The sound of a summer storm woke Lewis in the middle of the night. Outside his window, lightning flashed and the rain hammered against the glass. Lewis felt thankful that there had been a good couple of days of dry weather to search the riverbank already. With this rain, anything useful would have been washed away already and the river would likely be riding high once the rain made its way down off the hills.
He scrabbled around on the bedside table till he found his watch. Twenty-six minutes past four. He gave up on sleep and go out of bed, pausing to grab his dressing gown before he padded bare footed into the kitchen to put the kettle on. Once it was on he went back to find his slippers, then sat back at the kitchen table to have a think.
“We’ve got a possible sighting of our man, sir.” Hathaway greeted Lewis as he entered the office.
“”You’re in early lad.” Lewis replied.
Hathaway seemed to decide not to dignify that with a reply. Lewis chuckled and handed him the paper bag with the bacon sandwich in.
“Thought I was going to have to pop it in the microwave for you.”
Hathaway’s look became even more scornful at this display of food heathenism.
Lewis grinned at him and sat down with his own sandwich. “Which of our victims?”
“Morley.” Hathaway told him, tearing into the paper bag.
“So, where did Mr Morley pop up?” He took a mouthful of his sandwich.
“A taxi-driver reported giving a man matching his description a ride out to Eynsham the evening before he was found. Dropped him off in the layby opposite the Mercedes Benz dealership on the A40 about twenty past nine.”
Lewis swallowed his mouthful of bacon. “The Mercedes-Benz Dealership? That’s a bit late to go there, isn’t it?”
“Yes sir,” Hathway confirmed. “I’ve already called the dealership and they confirmed that it wasn’t open at that time and that no member of staff had arranged any kind of meeting. The manager did call me back, however, and confirmed he’d taken a look at the CCTV and the camera on the forecourt had just caught someone matching Mr Morley’s description walking past and down the Cassington Road towards the river. I sent a uniform out to see him. He’s copying the CCTV for the twenty-four hours before and after the man passed by to a stick drive.”
“Good work lad.” Lewis set to eating his sandwich. Finally they had something to go on.
“I don’t even know which river this is.” Lewis said.
“It’s the Evenlode, sir.” Hathaway replied. “I’m going to take a look at the bridge.”
Lewis just nodded. He walked down the meadow and scanned both banks. It seemed a weird place for someone to arrange to meet up. The river was running high, not quite overflowing its banks onto the water meadow, but it wouldn’t take much more rain to push it over.
Behind him Lewis heard a shout and a splash. He was running back to the bridge before he had even realised it. As he approached it, his eyes scanned it from one side to the other, but he couldn’t see Hathaway. He ran up onto the Bridge but still no Hathaway.
“Sergeant!” He shouted. “Hathaway!”
He leaned over the bridge railing to look into the fast flowing water beneath, then swapped sides to look downstream. The water was cloudy and turbulent.
By now several metres downstream, Hathaway was being washed away, struggling to keep his head above water in the roiling water.
The young man didn’t see Lewis, just seemed to float away. Lewis ran down from the bridge and along the riverbank. There must be one of those orange life-saving rings around here somewhere. He kept pace with Hathaway as best as he could, but the river was in spate from the thunderstorms the previous day and Hathaway was pulling away from him. There was no sign of a lifesaving ring either, it was just too rural here. He kept running, but his breath was beginning to wheeze in his chest. Hathaway was the fit one who did the running, not him.
For a moment he lost sight of Hathaway as the man sank under the water and he put on another turn of speed, but he was beginning to wheeze with every step and when Hathaway broke water again, he was three or four metres further downstream but no longer struggling. Doggedly Lewis kept running.
Motion caught Lewis’s eye, noticeable as it was in a different direction to the main flow of the water. A head was moving purposefully through the water towards Hathaway, at a diagonal to the main current. Whoever it was, caught up with Hathaway just before he went under again. They grabbed hold of him, tucked him under their chin in a textbook lifesaving hold and swam, still on that diagonal to the current, towards the bank Lewis was on.
Lewis slowed his run to an asthmatic trot as the pair hit the bank ahead of him. Lewis realised it was a woman as she caught hold of the roots of a tree on the bank and pulled herself and Hathaway out of the river. She looked at him as he caught up to her and folded at the waist, hands on knees, trying to breathe.
“Get your breath back and phone an ambulance.” She ordered, water streaming from her clothes. “I’ll get him started.”
Deftly, she gave Hathaway a strong shove on the chest and water streamed out of his mouth, so much water. Lewis tried to speak.
“Save your breath, call an ambulance.” She snapped.
She repeated the manoeuvre and a lesser stream of water came out. She listened to Hathaway’s chest then sat back as he suddenly coughed and spluttered.
“Sit back lad, ambulance will be on it’s way.” She told Hathaway who collapsed back on the ground, looking only vaguely conscious.
Lewis managed to calm his breathing enough to make the call. On the grass, Hathaway appeared to be unconscious.
“This is Detective Inspector Lewis,” he gasped out, “I need an ambulance to...we’re on the bank of the River Evenlode...about 60 yards downstream of where the Cassington Road goes over it, partial drowning...”
“He’s got a head injury.” The woman cut in.
“And a head injury, “ Lewis added. He tried not to wheeze. “Patient is now breathing but unresponsive.”
The emergency operator rang off and he turned his attention back to the woman on the floor.
“Thanks.” He said.
She rolled Hathaway into the recovery position. “Got a first aid kit in your car?”
Lewis nodded, still trying to calm his breathing.
“Can I get it?” She asked. Lewis dragged his keys out of his pocket and handed them to her before sinking down on the ground by Hathaway. “In the boot.” He said. “Black Ford Mondeo. Up on the road.” He reeled off the numberplate and the woman ran off.
Lewis took Hathaway’s hand, but the man didn’t move. He seemed to be breathing shallowly, and there was a bleeding gash on the back of his head.
The woman ran back up to them, as well as the first aid kit she’d retrieved the blanket and Lewis’ coat, which she handed to him.
“Who are you?” He asked her, as she put the blanket over Hathaway.
“Anna Oxley.” She said. “I live here.” She gave a vague gesture towards the other bank of the river. She knelt down by Hathaway and opened the first aid kit, going for the packet of wound wash and snipping the end before using it to flush out the wound on Hathaway’s head. She paused a moment, put on latex gloves and gently felt the wound.
“Not too bad.” She said, folding a pad of lint and holding it over the wound. “Head wounds always bleed like a stuck pig.”
The woman was calm and had an accent that Lewis parsed as vaguely upper class.
“First aider?” Lewis asked, his breathing finally coming under his control.
“When you have been through the wars a few times, you pick it up.” Anna told him. “But I have a lifeguarding qualification.”
Lewis could hear the ambulance in the distance.
“You swim well.” He said.
“As I said, I’m a qualified lifeguard, and unlike this young man,” she nodded at Hathaway, “I didn’t go into the water with a head wound.”
Lewis finally parsed what she was saying.
“You’re saying he hit his head?”
She looked up at him again. “No.” She said flatly. “I saw the man on the bicycle come up behind him, smack him in the back of the head and push him into the river.”
Lewis’ eyebrows shot up. “Whatever for?”
“I’m guessing so that he didn’t pick up whatever it was the man picked up from the river bank and cycle off with.” She told him, without looking up.
The sirens were close now. They suddenly stopped, and looking up Lewis could just see the ambulance pulling up through the trees. The paramedic came over the meadow at a fast trot, carrying a bag, his colleague on his heels.
“How is he?” The paramedic asked. “Partial drowning and head injury.”
Lewis let Anna reel off what she knew and what she had done and stepped back to give the paramedics room to work. Having handed Hathaway’s care over to them, she stepped back herself.
“Detective Inspector Lewis?” She asked.
“Yeah,” he said. “I’d better phone in, then phone his sister. I’m his boss, so it’s on me.”
She nodded. “I’m assuming you will need me to give a statement.”
Lewis nodded. “Yes please. Did you get a good look at the man who hit him? Could you describe him to a sketch artist.”
She pursed her lips, and flipped her wet hair over her shoulder. “Somewhat.” She said. “I can try. Do you have a piece of paper?”
Lewis’ eyebrows shot up again. “I was going to let you dry off and come down to the police station later ma’am.”
She smiled at him. “Best I get it down on paper now.”
He pulled out his notebook and pencil and held it out to her. She shook the water off her hands before taking it and beginning to sketch. Lewis took the opportunity to call into headquarters and get some uniforms out here. It didn’t seem to take her too long before she was handing it back to her. On one page was a man’s face in semi profile and on the facing page, a view of the bridge, with Hathaway standing at one end and a man on a mountain bike pulled up almost behind him. She had left their faces largely blank, but the man’s clothes and build were reasonably detailed.
“I’m fairly certain about his height in relation to your colleague.” She said.
“Detective Sergeant Hathaway.” Lewis said.
The paramedic interrupted them to say that Hathaway needed to go to the hospital and was Lewis going with him. Lewis was torn, he needed to protect the scene.
“I’ll go.” Anna said. She took back his notepad and scribbled her number on it. “Give my number to his sister.”
Lewis let them go, took a photo of her sketches and emailed it in on the off chance someone would pick up the cyclist. He wasn’t banking on it though.
The riverbank was sadly completely devoid of any useful evidence.
The dog unit had been out and searched the bank, finding a patch of flattened grass and plants where something had been stuffed under the edge of the bridge. Whatever had been there was long gone though and the dog had followed the trail out onto the main road, where the smell had petered out in the traffic.
Lewis had heard back from Hathaway’s sister. He was doing well, the head wound was comparatively minor and his lungs were luckily very clear of river water, probably thanks to Mrs Oxley’s swift action on fishing him out and getting him to cough it all up. Nell said he would be kept in overnight for definite and probably would stay for a day or two in case of further issues, but it was likely he would be released with a course of preventative antibiotics against pneumonia or any other infections he could have picked up in the river within a couple of days. She’d met Mrs Oxley in the hospital and was talking about getting her a large bunch of flowers. She also passed on Mrs Oxley’s full details and that Mrs Oxley had said she would drop into the station the next morning to give a full statement.
Lewis told her he would visit the lad in the morning once Hathaway had had some sleep, went home to get changed into something less sweaty and went into the office. If nothing else he needed to get in touch with Anna Oxley again.
He collared a constable as he walked through the office, handed them his notebook and told them to get Mrs Oxley’s sketches scanned and uploaded to the system. By the time he was logged on to write an incident report, with additional paperwork for an officer injured in the line of duty, the constable had returned it to him with a cup of tea no less.
“Is Sergeant Hathaway okay?” The constable put the cup down next to Lewis. “We heard he was drowned.”
“Thanks,” Lewis took a sip of the tea, “didn’t take long for that to get round the office, did it? He was clocked round the back of the head and tipped in the river. Lucky for him there was a woman there who’d got lifeguard training, went in after him and pulled him out. Nice bit of work too, I wouldn’t have wanted to go in the river when it was like that. He’s doing okay in hospital though, should be out in a couple of days at most.”
The constable gave him a pleased smile and disappeared off, no doubt to pass on the latest gossip to whoever was in the break room or kitchen.
Lewis got down to writing up his report.
Lewis had dropped in on Hathaway early on his way into the office, showing his badge to get in well before official visiting hours. Hathaway had been awake, had a dressing on the back of his head and a slight cough and seemed mostly upset that they’d had to cut a good chunk of the hair away on the back of his head. He was also annoyed that he hadn’t actually seen the man who had hit him, but Lewis showed him Mrs Oxley’s sketch, pointing out that at no point had Hathaway actually been facing the man. Hathaway subsided with only a few grumbles and Lewis left him to his breakfast
By the time he got into the office, there was a message on his desk saying that the Chief Superintendent wanted to see him when he arrived.
Jean Innocent had her ‘I’ve had enough of this crap already’ face on when Lewis knocked and entered her office. He gave her a very quick vaguely sympathetic look before the very young man in the Marks and Spencers suit (he recognised it as the one Laura had been trying to get him to buy) turned and gave him a broad smile. Lewis recognised that smile as well, the ‘hail fellow well met I’ve come to stick my nose in your case and I know you’re going to hate it’ smile. He’d been that officer more than once.
“Come in Robbie.” Innocent said, her tone polite and her face carefully neutral. “This is Detective Constable Peter Grant from the Met.
Lewis took the other chair, successfully managing not to raise an eyebrow at the fact that the other officer was just a detective constable.
“DC Grant has been sent here by his boss, Inspector Nightingale of the Met’s Special Assessment Unit. You may not know, but the SAU have the lead for all Falcon related cases for south and central England.”
Lewis frowned. “Falcon related, Ma’am?”
“We’re tracking a specific group of individuals who have a significant connection to Oxford.” The young man offered.
Lewis noted that DC Grant had failed to explain what a falcon-related case actually was.
“I’m guessing that you had a flag on one of the people involved in our case?” Lewis said.
“Right.” Grant said. “Anna Oxley.”
Lewis frowned. “The woman who saved Hathaway from drowning.” He stated.
“Yeah.” Grant agreed.
God, the man was almost painfully young. Even younger than Hathaway. Lewis nodded.
“And what is her connection with your case?” Lewis asked.
“Well, being honest sir, it’s peripheral, but she has a...habit of being connected to occurences that do relate to Operation Jennifer.”
“And operation Jennifer is your case.”
“One of them sir.” Grant confirmed. “Obviously I don’t want to take over your case,”
Lewis didn’t think it was that obvious at all really.
“But DS Guleed and I would like to shadow you and make sure that this case doesn’t have any crossover with what we’re investigating. Once we’ve established that, we can be out of your hair, sir.”
Lewis looked at Grant for a moment. Detective Sergeant Guleed outranked Detective Constable Grant, but evidently wasn’t involved in this meeting.
“DS Guleed is not a permanent member of the SAU, she’s on loan from Belgravia as part of Operation Jennifer.” Grant said. “If it’s helpful, we can offer access to our own technical resources, evidence analysis if that would speed things up for you…”
Innocent was quick to cut in. “That’s a very generous offer.” She said pleasantly. “With two major cases underway we are somewhat stretched on the technical side.”
Grant gave her a patently practised smile. “My DI authorised me to offer access to our resources as a…” He cast around for the appropriate word.
“Sweetener.” Lewis said.
Grant grinned. “Well, yeah. I was going to say recompense for us taking up your time, but that’ll do. Put me in touch with your SOCO and I can link them up with our resources.” He said.
“That would be much appreciated.” Innocent said. “Right Robbie, why don’t you take DC Grant and DS Guleed and give them a quick run through of the case.”
“Yes ma’am.” Lewis said. He turned to Grant, trying not to look too grumpy. “Follow me.”
Grant gave him a wry half smile, he obviously knew exactly what Lewis was thinking.
“How’s Sergeant Hathaway?” Grant asked as soon as they left Innocent’s office.
Lewis gave him a couple of brownie points for not being an arsehole. DS Guleed stood up and joined them.
“He’s doing fine.” He said. “He’s got a couple of butterfly stitches on the head wound and he’s still coughing, but the doctors reckon he’ll be out of the hospital tomorrow.”
“Good to hear.” Grant said.
“Let’s get you two started on the case.” Lewis said. “To be honest, with Hathaway out of commission for a few days, I could do with an extra pair of eyes or two.”
Grant gave him a broad smile. “We’re happy to pitch in, sir.” He said.
DS Guleed nodded. “Anything which will make our involvement easier.” She said.
Lewis sat the pair down in his and Hathaway’s office at Hathaway’s desk, pulling in a chair from the next room for Grant, who had politely given Guleed Hathaway’s chair. They sat there, working through the case records and talking quietly, while Lewis sat down to look at the paperwork which had been taken from Simon Creak’s room.
Lewis looked up, Grant and Guleed were both looking at him, but it was Grant who had spoken.
“We’d like to visit the scenes.” Grant said. “And the two men’s homes if possible.”
Lewis, picked up his mug of coffee, it was cold but he drank the last of it anyway. “Okay then.” He said. “I’m not sure about the homes, but we’ll see what we can do. I’ll give you the tour and buy you some lunch.”
“That’s very generous of you, sir.” Guleed said.
“Well,” Lewis said, “better than eating on my own.”
The two Met officers appeared to have arrived in a rather battered looking Ford Focus. Lewis gave it a long look and then walked over to his own car.
“Hop in.” He told them.
Guleed gave Grant a quick shove towards the passenger seat and got in the back. Lewis sat in the driver's seat and waited for them to buckle in and settle themselves.
“So,” he said, “what can you tell me about Operation Jennifer.”
Grant looked over his shoulder to catch Guleed’s eye.
“No lad,” Lewis said tiredly, “I’m not asking you to break operational security, I just want to know the heads up bits that fall between what you can put on paper and share, and what’s locked up tight on the system.”
There was a long pause before Grant spoke.
“Operation Jennifer is a manhunt for an individual involved in some complicated organised crime.” He said. “The individual is considered armed and extremely dangerous, but he’s got some...interesting resources and contacts available to him.”
“Thank you.” Lewis said honestly, and started the car.
He took them out to the river where Scott Morley had been found. There wasn’t much to see, but he showed them the reeds where the kayaker had found the body and explained that he was waiting on some expert evidence on where the body might have entered the water and held up for the first part of its decomposition.
The pair wandered around for a while, looking at things and touching things and talking in low voices. Lewis picked up a few of their words, but it didn’t seem to make much sense…
“Who is the river up here”
“Vestigia?” “Nothing, it’s all plants”
“What did Nightingale say?”
“I could ask Oxley…”
Apparently Anna Oxley was more involved in their Operation Jennifer than Lewis had realised. He waited for them to come back over.
“All done?” He asked.
“Thanks.” Grant agreed.
Lewis looked at his watch. “Okay, we’ve got time to do Port Meadow, then lunch and then I’ll take you out to where Hathaway was attacked.”
The two junior officers followed him to his car.
They did much the same in Port Meadow as they had at the river. Lewis waited, enjoying the sunshine as they walked around.
“I texted but….he’s not really good…”
After ten minutes or so, they walked back over.
“Thank you.” Guleed said.
“I’m not sure what you’ve got from here, but I suppose it’s an idea of the site.” Lewis said. “It’s an odd place to dump a body, no use for hiding a body and it didn’t look…” He pursed his lips. “It didn’t look like someone had dumped a body they wanted to be found.” He said finally. “If it had been an accident and they’d felt guilty, you’d have thought they’d have left the body more neatly.” Lewis stared at the site. “Not just sprawled out like the river had just spat him out.”
In his peripheral vision, he saw Grant and Guleed freeze. He turned round to look at them.
“What is it?” He asked. “You look like you’ve both seen a ghost.”
Grant pulled himself together first. “It’s nothing, really.” He said. “Just an old case, a messy one.”
“Ah,” said Lewis, not entirely convinced, “they’ll do that to you, lad. Come on, let’s get some lunch.”
He took them to the Jacob’s Inn at Wolvercote, it did a good line in lunches and was on their way out to where Hathaway had been knocked into the river out by Eynsham.
Lunch had been surprisingly pleasant. Lewis had made the executive decision to order them all soft drinks in deference to DS Guleed’s presence and the fact he was driving, and they sat out in the pub’s garden to eat. Guleed had spent a lot of lunch asking Peter about a show that his father had apparently played the weekend before, but it took Lewis most of lunch to actually put two and two together.
“Your dad is Lord Grant.” Lewis said with surprise. “I heard he’d started playing again.”
Grant nodded tiredly and rolled his eyes.
“I bet you get that a lot.” Lewis said.
Guleed was laughing silently over her vegetarian lasagne.
“Yes.” Grant said.
“Don’t worry lad.” Lewis said. “I won’t push you for his autograph.”
Grant huffed a little and poked his steak.
“I’d better phone in.” Lewis said. “I’m waiting on the results of the tests, see f our first body is actually Mr Morley.”
He left them to finish the last of their meal and wandered to the end of the garden to call back in. The news, once received was both good and bad. The body had been clearly identified by both fingerprints and dental records as Mr Thomas Morley. Lewis asked the constable to get the FLO to go out and break the news to Mrs Morley then went back to the table.
“The first body is definitely Mr Thomas Morley.” He told Grant and Guleed.
Grant and Guleed nodded. Lewis had a notion he had walked back into a private conversation, but decided to ignore it. He left them at the table again and went back in to the bar to pay up. By the time he got back outside they were waiting by the gate for him.
Lewis drove them out to the bridge and let them explore the whole area while he sat in the car. He couldn’t quite bring himself to walk back out to where Hathaway had almost died. He dropped Hathaway a text asking him how he was and was surprised to receive a call back virtually immediately.
“Hello sir.” Hathaway sounded….a lot better than Lewis had expected.
“Hello James,” Lewis said, “you sound good.”
“Thank you sir.” Hathaway replied. “I’m feeling pretty good. They kicked me out of the hospital this morning.”
“That’s good news.” Lewis said, feeling awkward. “So, no lasting effects?”
“None at all.” Hathaway said. “I should be back in in a couple of days.”
“That quick?” Lewis said, surprised, then backtracked. “Not that I don’t want you back in lad.”
“It was a bit of a bad experience, though.” Lewis offered. “Are you sure you don’t need a bit of time?”
There was a long pause before Hathaway spoke. “I…” He stopped.
“What is it lad?” Lewis pressed gently.
“I had the weirdest...dream?” Hathaway said. “While I was knocked out.”
“Not entirely surprising. That kind of experience will give you nightmares.”
“No,” Hathaway corrected him, “not afterwards, while I was in the river.”
“Understandable, I guess.” Lewis said. “Was it…”
Lewis heard Hathaway huff out a long breath. “It’s nothing really, just a weird moment.”
Lewis felt himself frowning. “Well, if you need to talk…”
“I know you’re there sir.” Hathaway finished for him.
Lewis could see Grant and Guleed walking back up the path towards him. They looked very serious, like they had found something bad, and Lewis said goodbye to Hathaway and got out of the car.
“Did you find anything?” He asked them.
“Nothing much.” Grant told him.
Lewis gave them a long look. “No-one who found ‘nothing much’ looks like you do, lad.” He advised them.
Grant’s face creased up in a frown. “I’ll...see what I can do.” He said. “I might be able to get you read in.”
“Thanks.” Lewis said.
Above them, a cloud suddenly covered the sun and Lewis shivered. He looked up.
“Summer storm.” He said. “Looks like it’s going to hack it down in a moment.”
Grant and Guleed looked at each other.
“What did you find?” Lewis asked. “Is there evidence that’s going to be rain damaged?”
“Not as such.” Grant said. “But…”
“You’d better tell me what’s going on.” Lewis advised him. “Get in.” He ordered them, as the first raindrops began to patter down. They got into the car. “Okay, talk.”
“What would you say, if I told you that the two men who died believed that they could become the magical personification of a river.” Grant said.
Lewis huffed out a laugh. “I’d tell you they were absolutely mad.”
“Well,” Grant said, “we’re pretty certain that the two men, and probably some more people, are convinced that the River Evenlode is missing a Genius Loci and are trying to undertake a mystical transformation to become that river’s guardian spirit.
Lewis turned in his seat so he could look squarely at Grant and Guleed.
“You’re not lying are you?”
“No.” Grant said. “There are people out there who firmly believe that there are guardian spirits of waterways who used to be normal human people.”
“And you think that Morley and Creak were trying to make themselves into these...Genius Loci?”
Both Grant and Guleed nodded.
“Looking at the local history that both men had gathered, there’s a significant amount of information about people and families who are heavily involved with the history of the River Thames and its tributaries,” Grant said, “and I think both men had got their information from the same place, or had been talking to each other.”
“What makes you think that?” Lewis asked, leaning back against the driving seat.
“There’s some information which is...really similar.” Grant said.
Lewis gave him a long look. “You’re not telling me everything, are you?”
“No sir.” Grant said. “There’s some...falcon-related information I’m not at liberty to tell you.”
Lewis scowled. “Okay, then what are you at liberty to tell me?”
Grant pulled out his phone and flicked through something on the screen. “If we’re right, then if there are anymore people involved with these two men, they’re going to try and do the same thing the next time the river goes into flood.”
Lewis looked out of the window. “It looks like we aren’t going to have long to wait for that.”
“That’s what we’re worried about, sir.” Guleed added. “The fact that someone tried to prevent DS Hathaway from finding the bag that was taken when he was attacked, suggests that there is at least one more person out there who is likely to try.”
“So what do we do about it?” Lewis asked.
Grant and Guleed had not been able to offer any clear suggestions as to how to prevent anymore pseudo-religious suicides, presuming that they were correct, although Lewis had not been able to offer any other reason for the two deaths. They had however suggested that trying to identify any specific areas of connection between the two men would potentially give a connection to the man who had attacked Hathaway. Lewis had readily agreed as this had been his own next step, but letting them think it was their idea meant that they had volunteered to do a large share of the very detailed background investigation into the two men.
He drove them all back to the station, got the pair set up with computer access and divvied up the various information. The family liaison officer had been out to both families and had come back with a significant amount of further information, the financial reports for both men had come back and technical had unlocked Mr Creak’s mobile phone, providing access to all the plethora of information that provided. Lewis took the financials and let Grant and Guleed divide the rest between them.
“I think I’ve got something.” Grant was looking up at the whiteboard where Lewis had noted places where Morley had used his debit card multiple times.
“What is it?” Lewis looked over at him.
“You’ve put up the BP garage at Eynsham as a spot that Morley used his debit card multiple times.” Grant said. “But the interview notes from Mrs Morley say that he always left her the car, so he wasn’t buying petrol. How much did he spend?”
“Always the same, twelve pounds and forty-nine pence.”
“Was he a smoker?”
“So that’ll be what he was buying.” Guleed said. ”What’s to bet he was waiting out by the river for it to flood, out by the bridge?”
Grant nodded. “That ties in with Mr Creak’s google maps history.” He stood up and brought the phone over to Lewis. “Mr Creak didn’t bother to limit the amount Google could track him, so his phone has an almost complete map of where he has been, which includes the BP garage at Eynsham and an awful lot of time near the same bridge.”
“So you think that we need to put a guard on the bridge?” Lewis asked.
“Only if the river is likely to go into flood.” Grant said. “I’m pretty certain from the notes that these guys think it’ll only work with a river in flood.”
Lewis looked out of the window. The summer storm earlier had passed as soon as it had arrived, and the evening was now warm and clear.
“I’d best notify Innocent in the morning.” He said.
The sound of his mobile ringing startled him to wakefulness. It rang off, before starting to ring again.
“Lewis?” He answered blearily.
It took him a moment to realise it was DC Grant.
“What is it?”
“Have you seen the weather sir?” Grant asked. “I think we may have a problem.”
Lewis brain slowly parsed the sound of rain hammering against his window, just as a massive roll of thunder echoed out.
“Damnit! I’ll meet you there. I’ll call in support on the way.” Lewis said.
He struggled into clothes and shoes as fast as possible, grabbing his waterproof jacket from the cupboard and forgoing his usual shoes for wellingtons. He grabbed his warrant card, phone and wallet and after a moment’s thought pulled the three dry bath towels from his clothes airer just in case, before jumping in the car.
The road conditions were treacherous, but he pushed his speed to the top end of what he thought was sensible, a low sensation of cold dread rumbling around his body. He called it in as he drove, hoping that they were there ahead of him. Whoever the other man was, despite his attack on Hathaway, Lewis wanted no more deaths to that river.
He pulled up at the same spot on the Cassington Road. A little ahead of him, he could see the Met officers Ford Focus, but it was dark and empty. He pulled his jacket on and got out,
From the bridge, he couldn't see anything, with the heavy cloud the driving rain and the lack of street lights, he could see very little although he could hear water churning away below him. He went back to the car and got out his flashlight, hoping that it was as waterproof as advertised and went back to the edge of the bridge.
Making his way down the path was a nightmarish journey of slipping and catching himself and slipping again. Water was streaming down from the road in a veritable river and his feet were constantly washed out from under him.
He still couldn’t see Grant or Guleed, but somewhere ahead of him, he caught the sight of a light bobbing up and down and he began to make his way towards it, slowly and very aware of the churning water to his right. The light ahead of him began to move slowly back towards him and he allowed himself to relax a little as it slowly resolved itself into the figures of Grant and Guleed, soaking wet and lit by their own torch.
“Is there anyone here?” He asked them.
“No-one here and…” Grant paused, then continued doggedly, “as far as I can tell nothing’s happened yet.”
Lightning flashed and thunder rolled again.
“I can’t see them not taking advantage of this, if you’re right about them though.” Lewis said. He shook his head to shake the drips of water from the edge of his hood. “Let's get back to the road. Uniforms should be here any minute.”
They turned back and made their way, skidding and slipping back towards the road. Lewis could see lights, and squinted into the rain, hoping that they were the officers he’d requested, though the lights looked white and red, not blue. He put on a turn of speed, in his pocket his phone was ringing, but he didn’t have a free hand to get it out.
Lightning flashed again, and this time it outlined the bridge and the shape of two people, struggling together against the parapet.
“Shit!” Lewis shouted, turning back to Grant and Guleed. “Look!”
For a moment he thought he felt something, something odd, and then Guleed was moving past him, running through the flowing water as if it was solid ground. Lewis realised to his horror that it wasn’t the water flowing down from the road, the rover had now burst its banks and the water running past his feet was picking up in strength.
“We’ve got to get off of the bank.” Lewis yelled at Grant.
He looked back at the bridge as another flash of lightning illuminated a figure leap up from the riverside, step once on the parapet and then disappear into the the darkness as the light faded.
“What the hell?” Lewis shouted.
“Come on!” Grant caught him up and they hauled each other along the last few steps to the bridge.
Suddenly there was light, white and flashing blue, and Lewis looked up to see three figures at the parapet, one clearly DS Guleed, baton in hand and the others wrestling, too tangled together for Guleed to intervene. They swung round and began to tip and as they teetered at the edge one of their faces turned into the light and Lewis realised it was Hathaway.
He felt himself shouting as the pair tilted and fell, watched Guleed reach out and almost catch hold as they fell over the ledge and into the churning black water.
He swung his torch round to the river, trying to find any evidence of Hathaway and the other man.
“Wait there!” Grant yelled, then did something with his hands and suddenly there was a large ball of light, floating over the river and the river itself was lit up like a searchlight.
Lewis did a double-take at the light, but his search for Hathaway was more important and he turned his attention back to the river.
A second later, Hathaway bobbed to the surface. The flood water streamed past him, but he was stock still, bobbing in the centre of the stream with a firm grip on what appeared to be the unconscious body of the other man.
“What the hell?” Lewis said.
“Well that explains it.” Grant said loudly next to him.
“We need a rope to pull him out.” Lewis said.
Grant shook his head. “No,” he said, “I really don’t think we do.”
Another two figures bobbed up in the water either side of Hathway, equally unbothered by the raging torrent, and one beckoned at Hathaway to move towards the bank where Lewis and Grant waited. Lewis could hear voices shouting from up on the bridge, but he wasn’t able to take his eyes from Hathaway’s slow progress cutting across the lethal current towards him.
When Hathaway and the two other figures got to what was, in theory the bank, but with the flood was more the shallows, the limp body was rolled up onto the bank and Lewis and Grant hauled the man out. Hathaway and the woman and the man following him slipped up onto the bank like seals and stood streaming water.
Behind him, uniformed officers were making their way down the bank and Lewis and Grant handed the unconscious man off to them, before they were able to clamber up the bank themselves, the other three following them.
Lewis turned to Hathaway.
“What the hell did you…” He tailed off, unable to even put into words what he was feeling.
“James wasn’t in any danger.” The woman said.
Lewis finally focussed on her. It was Anna Oxley.
“Isis.” She said. “You can call me Isis. And this is my Oxley.” She gestured at the man stood slightly behind her.
Paramedics had arrived and were taking charge of the unconscious man. One walked over and tried to look over Hathaway and the two Oxley’s but Mrs Oxley just looked at her.
“We’re fine.” She said and the paramedic just walked away.
Lewis looked at Hathaway, dripping wet in his pyjamas, Anna Oxley and her husband, and then at the ball of light bobbing in the air over the river. He turned to Grant.
“You weren’t lying about the genius whatsits, were you?”
Grant and Guleed had stayed around long enough to have the case flagged as falcon-related and to promise Lewis a full explanation, as soon as Grant’s guvnor, DCI Nightingale had signed off on it.
Hathaway was on extended sick leave, ostensibly having a case of pneumonia related to his partial drowning, with all record of his involvement in the rescue of Josh Widdecombe, the third river obsessive, conveniently unrecorded. The whole situation related to the case was a nightmare in Lewis view, but considering the magic....okay, the falcon-related nature of the case, it was what it was. There wasn’t much that could be done about it.
Isis, as he was now instructed to call her, and her husband Oxley had taken the credit for the rescue of the third man, having conveniently noticed him on the bridge from where they had parked their honest-to-god wooden “gypsy” caravan. Although Hathaway had reminded Lewis that it was not appropriate to use the G-word in his written report.
Lewis got out of his car and walked across the car park and out onto Port Meadow. He could see Isis sat on a picnic blanket down by the river, with a couple of picnic hampers next to her. She waved at him and he made his way across the grass to her.
“Take a seat Robbie.” Isis gestured at him to sit down on her blanket.
He did as he was told.
“It’s a lot less complicated than it looks.” She told him, casting her gaze out over the river.
“You’ll have to explain it in simple terms for someone who isn’t the personification of a river.” Robbie told her.
“I am the Isis and the Isis is me.” She said. “I became the Isis, oh, a long while ago.” She took a sip of her glass of wine. “Would you like one?” She asked Robbie, nodding at the picnic hamper.
An open bottle of wine stood in one of them, and there were wine glasses clipped in the open lid of the hamper. Robbie thought about it for a moment, then shrugged and poured himself a glass of wine. He sipped it, it was very good wine.
“In the normal scheme of things, our children would become the spirits of our tributaries, like my Oxley and his father and brothers.” She sipped at her wine again. “But sometimes it goes wrong. A river dies, or a new stream is created, and there is no child for the river. And then, sometimes someone is taken by the river and like me given the chance to become something more.”
Robbie looked at her. “James,” he said in shock, “when he drowned.”
Isis nodded. “He was triply blessed, a child of my family, taken by the river and brought to life by me, like my child.”
Robbie frowned for a moment, then it dawned on him. “You performed CPR.”
She smiled. “And so he is now the River Evenlode.” She said. “Though no doubt Father Thames and his sons will call him Blade, as they are ever so slow to move with the times.”
“What does it mean?” Robbie asked. “He’s a police officer.”
Isis shrugged. “For now. He’ll not age though and eventually he’ll have to step back and let time move on without him for a little.” She took two plates and served up sandwiches and tiny cakes for herself and Robbie. “My Oxley and his father will see him through.” She handed Robbie a plate. “And you’ll be around a lot longer than you’d think.” She told Robbie. “You’ve got the blood of the stone people in you, if you take on your legacy, you’ll keep pace with your boy for a while.”
“And how do I do that then?” Robbie asked. “Me mam never mentioned anything about that running in the family.”
Isis frowned. “Sad.” She said. “It’s a strong heritage to have. Talk to young Peter, he’s got acquaintances among the old people.”
The way she said old suggested a distinct meaning, but Robbie thought he was at the furthest extent of his ability to take any more weirdness. He gave up and leaned back to eat his picnic.
Oxley and Hathaway appeared a half hour later, walking up out of the river in swimming trunks.
“My love!” Oxley hailed Isis. “It’s been a good few months since I’ve swum between your banks.” His look was amused, and very much playing on the double entendre.
Isis gave her husband a tolerant but long suffering look. “How goes your teaching?” She asked him.
“Fine and well.” Oxley clapped Hathaway on the back. “Young Blade here is a quick study.”
Hathaway looked uncomfortable at the praise, ducking his face.
Isis turned to look at Lewis. “What did I tell you about the name?”
“He’ll come into more confidence.” Oxley said. “It’s a mighty long river has chosen him.”
“Forty-five miles from his source to the Isis.” Isis said indulgently. “I think you will do well, son.”
Lewis leaned back on his arm and sipped his wine as Hathaway and Oxley pulled on clothes and Isis talked to them about her river. It was a whole new world, but looking at Hathaway blushing at the praise Isis and Oxley heaped on him, he thought it was one he could live with.