Lewis had little choice but to obey. He kept his eyes fixed on the road ahead, and his hands were white-knuckled on the steering wheel, the livid cuts stark and sore. His head was reeling – Jackson, their killer, the evasive genius, was sitting in the back of his car. He just wished the guy was in handcuffs. Jackson directed them out of the housing estate, evaded the city centre, and soon had them on a quiet B-Road. The road was icy, and a thought began to form in Lewis's mind… he'd already wrecked one car this week… he was torn with indecision. If it had been just him, maybe, but with Morse in the car as well… he risked a desperate glance across at the older man. Morse, as usual, was hanging on to the doorframe grimly, his expression tight.
"Keep your eyes on the road," Jackson snapped, keeping the knife pressed to the side of Lewis's throat.
He was now sitting on the back passenger seat, with no belt on. Lewis flicked another glance across at Morse, and decided that he had little other choice. Suddenly, he jerked his head away from the knife, and wrenched the steering wheel to the right as he did so.
"Hold on, sir!" he called, desperately.
Tyres squealed on tarmac, as the car slewed across the road, bounced into a ditch, and crashed into a sturdy tree. Lewis was thrown painfully forward into the steering wheel, as Morse gave a shout of alarm. Jackson, however, was hurtled forward by the impact, crashing into the dashboard.
There was a long moment of silence, broken only by the hiss of air escaping from the damaged radiator at the front of the car, and the gradual ticking of cooling metal from the engine. Morse blinked to clear his vision, shaking his head, marvelling that he was still alive. His neck ached dully, and his chest and shoulder was bruised from the impact of the seatbelt, but he was still alive…
Lewis coughed, and managed to pull himself upright, pressing a hand to his chest, no doubt similarly winded and bruised. Morse could see the sergeant's hands shaking, and the distant stare in his eyes, and recognised the symptoms of shock immediately.
"Are you alright, Sergeant?" he asked, coughing slightly to clear his throat, and then said; "Lewis? Are you alright?"
"Ah…aye sir," Lewis stammered, raising his hand to touch a cut on his forehead, "our Val's going to go spare… let alone the desk sergeant when he hears about this car…"
Morse suddenly remembered the presence of another in a car, and looked down at the recumbent Jackson, sprawled awkwardly between the two seats. He glanced away, quickly, at the sight of blood, and then climbed out of the car. Lewis looked down at the figure and slowly, hesitantly, reached out and checked for a pulse. He found one, and wondered if he should be relieved by that. He felt numb. He took a handkerchief from his pocket, and used it to pick up the knife. He carried it at arms' length as he got out of the car on shaking legs that didn't seem to want to support him. Morse caught his arm as he stumbled, and pulled him up the bank, before getting him to sit down at the roadside. The grass was cold and wet, but the discomfort was a distant sensation. Morse was already back at the car, using the radio – thankfully still functional – to call for urgent back-up. He re-joined Lewis, and, for lack of anything better to do, sat down next to the sergeant.
In the field opposite, a cow lowed gently, the sound carrying in the cold, still air. Morse shifted position uncomfortably, and looked at his watch. They had been driving for about twenty minutes, so a squad car could be here in ten… a distant siren eventually rewarded him, and he nudged Lewis. The two of them stood up, bruised, battered and dishevelled, as the patrol cars rolled up, accompanied by an ambulance.
"Come on, Lewis," Morse said, gently leading the sergeant away by the shoulder, "it's over… and… I think I owe you a drink."
Six weeks later, the visible bruises had healed, and the mental scars were fading. Morse sat on an uncomfortable bench in an over-heated court room, stiff in one of his best black suits. Lewis and his wife were also there, as were Dr Russell, DS Hogan, DC Michaels, and a number of other officers. The Judge had heard the ruling of the jury, and turned to glower at the figure in the dock. The car crash had done a number on Jackson's once charming face; one eye was virtually closed by a livid scar that ran from his hairline down to his cheek, and his two front teeth were badly chipped from the impact with the dashboard. He had one wrist still in plaster, and ever so often, cast murderous glances up at Morse and the others.
"Jeremy Andrew Jackson," the Judge intoned, leaning forward in his chair, "it is the finding of this court that you are guilty of three counts of murder, two counts of attempted murder, and two counts of abduction. The evidence against you was substantial; and, though your Counsel has done a sterling job in defending you, it is fair to say his task was insurmountable. Your crimes have been despicable in the extreme, carried out with malice aforethought and with no regard for the lives you took. You have shown no pity or remorse for your heinous crimes, and no doubt if left unchecked you would kill again. I therefore have no hesitation in imposing upon you three life sentences, to be served concurrently. Custody sergeant – take him back to the cells."
Morse watched with grim satisfaction as Jackson, handcuffed, was led away. He stood with the rest of the court and bowed as the Judge retired to his chambers, before they filtered out, making a bee-line for the cafeteria. Lewis fetched the drinks, as Morse, Val and Dr Russell settled around a table.
"We got him," Morse said, grimly, "we finally got him."
"Yes," Dr Russell picked at the edge of her paper cup, "Morse, listen – there's something I've got to tell you… I'm leaving Oxford."
"What?" Morse said, surprised, "leaving Oxford? Why?"
"This case," Russell shrugged, "it got a bit too… personal. I've… I've accepted a teaching position in London."
Morse gaped for a moment, and sighed.
"I'd rather you didn't," he said, gruffly, "it takes ages to find a decent pathologist."
Russell laughed, and patted his arm; "Any time you want a second opinion, just give me a call."
"I hope there's going to be a good leaving party first," said Val, with a smile.
"Oh, I expect so," Russell said, lightly, "some nice, quiet, country pub…"
"And every off duty cop and doctor for miles around," Morse finished, "utter carnage."
He downed the rest of his tea, and gave it a distasteful look.
"Come on," he said to them, "let's go and find something stronger… and have a quiet little celebration of our own…"
Lewis smiled and stood up, taking Val's hand as they walked out of the building. Russell slipped her hand through Morse's elbow, and they left the Court in a lighter mood than they had experienced for weeks.
In a cell, somewhere beneath the building, Jackson's wrist ached painfully and the scar over his eye stung, a constant reminder of his failure. He smouldered with a silent rage, lying on the narrow bunk, staring straight up at the ceiling. He promised himself that he would get out – after all, he had done it before. And, no matter how long he would have to wait… he would have his revenge.
And he was already planning how.