A few days later, Lewis was discharged from the hospital with strict instructions to rest and recuperate. Val, who had returned from Newcastle with their children as soon as she heard the news that he was in hospital, collected him and drove him home. He had spent a long time reassuring her that he was fine, and that the killer had been caught, and there was no danger. Relieved to be home, he dropped onto the settee, coughing heavily – the doctors had warned him that he would probably carry on with the cough for several weeks.
The delighted scream of Lynn, his daughter, woke him from his reverie.
"Hello, pet!" he exclaimed, and swept her up in a bear hug, then quickly holding her to one side, coughing painfully into a handkerchief until his eyes watered.
"Are you okay, dad?" Lynn asked, concern written all over her face.
"I'm fine, pet," Lewis reassured her, "where's your brother?"
Lynn was saved from a reply as her younger brother came flying into the living room and leapt excitedly onto his father, sparking another bout of coughing and hugs.
"Okay, that's enough," Val's cultured Oxford tones cut through the noise and excitement, "come on, kids, leave your father in peace for a while, he needs to rest."
The two of them scrambled off excitedly, and went out to play in the garden. Val handed her husband a cup of tea, and he smiled up at her gratefully. Val opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the doorbell.
"Oh, now what?" she groaned, as Lewis went to get up, "no, you stay there, you're resting, got it? Two weeks at least, the doctor said."
She went out into the corridor, and Lewis leaned back, sipped his tea, and wondered if he had enough paint left in the shed to do the ceiling tomorrow. He was already thinking about nipping down to the hardware shop for some new paintbrushes when Val came back into the room.
"He's in here… tea, Morse?"
"Ah… yes, please. Milk and two sugars."
Lewis quickly sat up straight and tried to comb his hair into shape with his hand. All pretence at being presentable was lost, however, as a fit of coughing overtook him. Morse raised an eyebrow at him, sat down in an armchair, and waited until he had caught his breath.
"Sorry, sir," Lewis said, at last, with an apologetic smile.
"Don't be," Morse grunted, "how are you feeling?"
"Better, thank you, sir," he nodded, "thinking of painting the ceiling tomorrow."
"Don't even think about it," Val told him, materialising from the doorway with a cup of tea for Morse, "the doctors told you to rest, remember?"
"Aye, well," Lewis replied, evasively, "we'll see, hey? Thanks, pet."
Val smiled, and left the room, leaving them to talk. Morse sipped at the hot tea, and savoured it. They sat in a companionable silence for a few minutes, until Morse finally spoke.
"His name is Jeremy Jackson," Morse said, at last, darkly, "he's twenty-five years old, and a college drop-out. Fifteen years ago, his father murdered his mother in front of him. The father died in prison, and young Jeremy spent what was left of his childhood bouncing around various care homes and foster parents. His juvenile record includes shoplifting, joyriding, petty theft, and animal cruelty."
Lewis's eyebrows raised slightly, and Morse nodded in understanding.
"I know," he said, grimly, "social services should have seen it coming. Anyway, when he turned 18, he dropped off the radar a bit – about two years before he killed his first victim."
Lewis shuddered, recalling the skull that had been deposited in a box on his doorstep.
"He refuses to tell us anything," Morse continued, with a sigh, "he won't identify the unknown first and fifth victims, if he even knows their names… he won't tell us what he took from the fifth victim. He just… sits there and smiles."
There was another long moment of silence. Lewis sipped at his tea, and glanced across at Morse. The older man looked tired, pale and haunted. Lewis stood up slowly, and crossed to the corner of the room, where there was a large, locked cabinet. He reached up, and took the key from the top of the cabinet, unlocking it carefully, and opened the door. He reached in, and removed a bottle and a pint glass.
"I believe this is one of your brands, sir?" he said, holding up the bottle of ale.
Morse managed to raise the ghost of a smile; "Very kind of you, Lewis – I'm glad to see you're finally learning some good taste."
"I can't join you, I'm afraid – doctor's orders," Lewis told him, as he carefully poured the drink into the glass, "but you look like you need this."
"I do," Morse said, darkly, as he accepted the drink, "thanks."
He drank deeply, and savoured the taste, as Lewis sat down again, holding his hand up to cover a cough as he did so. He rubbed his chest absently – it still felt sore, and it hurt to cough, but he'd been assured that this was normal and he would get over it soon.
"There's a preliminary hearing in front of a magistrate tomorrow morning, block listed for ten o'clock," Morse told him, "so it could come up at any time during the morning. I've asked that you be excused, Lewis – there should be more than enough evidence for the indictment from myself and Dr Russell."
"Is she okay, sir? Dr Russell, I mean," Lewis asked, "Only, I don't really remember much, see."
"She's fine, Lewis," Morse assured him, "we all are. Jackson's refused all offers of Counsel, and he's not spoken since we brought him in. He did it – we know he killed those girls – but he won't speak. If he pleads insanity, Lewis…"
Morse left the thought hanging, shaking his head, taking a drink. He had never known a man who made his skin crawl so much as the silent, smiling killer who had stared across the table at him for nearly four hours, without giving so much as a 'yes' or a 'no' to any of the questions asked. The man was clearly intelligent, despite his apparent lack of education, and he could adopt the charming persona to wile a woman away to his boat, and the steely, tight-jawed statue Morse had been interviewing on and off for several days.
He sipped his beer, scowling. He was worried – their forensic evidence to hold the man to the murders was negligible, and although they could pin him for assault against Lewis and their joint abductions, Morse knew that it would not be enough to put the man away for as long as he deserved – especially if he got himself sectioned and ended up in some medium security hospital, where he could con the doctors into believing him sane within a few short years.
Morse said as much to Lewis, and when no reply was forthcoming, Morse glanced up, and realised that the younger man had fallen asleep, half a cup of tea still balanced precariously in his hand. Morse suppressed an amused smile.
"Good grief, Lewis," he muttered.
He got up, finished his beer, retrieved the mug from Lewis's unresisting grip, and took the mug and the glass through to the kitchen, where he made his goodbyes to Val, before leaving quietly, and heading home.
Less than a week later, Morse found himself sitting in the Oxford Crown Court. To his left sat Dr. Russell, who looked elegant in a black skirt and jacket, with her hair tied back neatly. Lewis sat on his right, trying not to cough, still wheezing a little, and also wearing a smart black suit and tie. They had spent several days combing through the evidence in front of the Judge, had given their evidence, and had been heavily cross-examined by the Judge – Jackson still refused to speak in his own defence and had declined Counsel – he had not said a word through the trial save to confirm his name and address and to confirm his 'not guilty' plea. The three of them were exhausted – Lewis in particular, who had spent almost all of the previous day on the stand recounting elements of the investigation, the assault against him on the towpath, the delivery of the skull to his house, and the eventual abduction and escape.
They had returned for the final day of the hearing, as the Judge prepared to give sentence. The jury was filed in – Morse was concerned that their deliberations had not taken very long. The court usher entered in his long black robes, and called for the Court to rise. Morse stood with the others, bowed as the Honourable Justice Margaret Hayes entered the room, and sat once she had taken her seat. Lewis stifled a cough, rubbing his face, looking haggard. Morse felt a twinge of sympathy – Lewis had been meant to have two weeks' medical leave, Morse would have probably allowed him at least one, but a major fraud trial had fallen through at the last minute, and rather than dismiss the jury, they had brought forward Jackson's trial, so the Sergeant had not even been out of hospital for a full day before they had to put in a full days' work to prepare for trial and another four days in the trial itself – as Jackson was representing himself, there were no arguments from the defence to stall for more time.
Morse and Lewis had worked long hours over the past few days, and at one point on the previous day, Morse had been seriously considering sending Lewis back to the hospital, let alone home. Still, they had needed the younger man's testimony, so here he sat, wheezing like an asthmatic and pretending to ignore the irritated stares he got every time he coughed.
"Good morning," said the Judge, in a voice that could cut through a diamond, "thank you all for coming back. Mr Jackson, this is your final opportunity. You have declined to speak at all during this trial, in your own defence, or in cross examining the witnesses. Do you have anything to say to this Court before the jury gives its decision?"
Jackson simply shook his head slowly, and the Judge stared down at him.
"Very well," she said, "let the Court record show that Mr Jackson was given every opportunity to speak in his defence and declined to do so, save to enter his plea of not guilty. I have cross-examined the witnesses myself to test their evidence to my satisfaction, but in no attempt to speak in the defence of the defendant."
She turned to the jury, and the foreman, an elderly Asian gentleman, got to his feet expectantly. At the prompting of the usher, Jackson also stood.
"Foreman of the Jury," said Judge Hayes, "has the Jury reached a unanimous decision?"
"We have, Your Honour," the man replied, with a respectful bow.
"And do you find the defendant, Mr Jeremy Andrew Jackson, guilty or not guilty?"
"On the charge of five counts of murder," the foreman replied, reading from a sheet of paper, "we find the defendant… not guilty."
"What?" Morse hissed, incredulously, amidst murmurings of others in the court, Russell and Lewis amongst them.
Judge Hayes called the court to order, irritably, and urged the foreman to continue.
"On the charge of two counts of assault against a police officer, we find the defendant guilty," the man continued, "On the charge of three counts of kidnapping, we find the defendant guilty."
"Thank you," the Judge inclined her head, "I express for the court record my gratitude for the services of the Jury and my endorsement of their findings. I would have found for myself the forensic evidence against Mr Jackson to be inconclusive. It is possible that he killed five women… it is also possible that he is of unsound mind and merely believes that he killed those women, or for some reason known only to himself, thinks that he may have been accused of killing those women, a thought which drove him to the abduction of two police officers and a pathologist involved in the case. We have no psychiatric reports to refer to, and despite the urgings of the court, Mr Jackson has declined all offers of representation. In considering my sentence, I also take into account the premeditation and planning Mr Jackson undertook in the commissioning of his offences against Chief Inspector Morse, Sergeant Lewis and Dr Russell, and the effect that it has had upon them. Mr Jackson, I therefore sentence you to ten years imprisonment. The custody officer will see you to your cell where you will await transport to prison. My sentence is passed."
She picked up the gavel, and banged it down, signalling the end. She stood, and the rest of those in the Courtroom stood as well, bowing as the Judge left. The custody sergeants stepped forward to take Jackson into custody, but, from the secure dock, he suddenly swung around and slammed his hands on the glass, staring furiously up at Morse, Lewis and Russell.
"I'll kill you, you bastards, and you, you bitch!" he screamed, as the others present in court stared in open shock, "do you hear me? I'll pick you off, one by one, you're all dead, do you hear me? Dead!"
He was dragged away, and Morse sank back onto the bench. Russell and Lewis sat down as well, as others began to file out of the court.
"Ten years," Morse sighed, "he'll be out in six with good behaviour."
"Aye sir," Lewis agreed, despondently, "I…my evidence…did I… what did I do wrong? Did I miss something?"
"No, Lewis," Morse said, quietly, "no, none of us did. Come on, let's go to the pub, I think we all need a drink."
Morse took them all to one of his favourite pubs, where Dr Russell insisted on buying the drinks, bringing them back to the table, where they all sat in silence for a long time.
"I still don't believe it," Russell said, at last, glancing away, "only ten years…"
"Aye," Lewis said, tiredly, "our Val was terrified when she found out the guy knew where we lived…"
"At least he's off the streets," Russell tried to sound optimistic.
"Yes," Morse agreed, darkly, "but my concern is that he'll soon be back on them."
He picked up his pint, and the others copied his example as they finished their drinks in sombre silence. There was nothing else that they could do.
~*~ Finis ~*~