A story looking back on that very first case. Based on the episode The Dead of Jericho
Note: A companion piece to the Lewis story What the Sergeant Saw: The Regan Peverill Case exploring what Hathaway saw in Lewis to make him want to become his sergeant.
Here I tried to stick with just what Sergeant Lewis might have heard, seen, and learned about Chief Inspector Morse in the episode The Dead of Jericho. However, this early Lewis (or my view of him) has been strongly influenced by the novels, and I'm afraid that I might have (probably did) end up drawing from them as well.
Disclaimer: This is solely for fan purposes. No copyright infringement intended.
What the Sergeant Saw: The Jericho Case
Sergeant Lewis hadn't known the man by sight, but as soon as he heard the name he knew of him. Chief Inspector Morse. A brilliant detective and a pompous get. That's what went round the nick about the man. Lewis could have done without a look at one more prat—he was there as Chief Inspector Bell's bagman after all—but…he'd like very much to get a good long look at the man who consistently topped the case-solved statistics for the whole Thames Valley CID and whose name he'd even heard bandied about back home before he'd swallowed hard and made the rather unnerving move to Oxford. Morse's reputation as the best detective in the Thames Valley had reached as far as Newcastle. Although the chief inspector had never made the trip north himself, he'd been a phone consultant on more than one particularly puzzling case. And the word that had filtered down to the streets where as a lowly constable Lewis had walked his beat said the man's ability matched his reputation.
Lewis would give a lot for a chance to see a man like that at work. To see how a truly clever man went about the job. One not concerned with solving that one high-profile case to get a leg up onto the next rung, but one who was really on the job. Detecting. Solving crimes. Nabbing bad guys and getting them off the streets. It wasn't that there weren't things to learn from Bell and his like. It was just that…well, politics hardly seemed like the job for a copper.
Lewis wasn't looking for a leg up the ladder, he was just looking to be the best copper he could be…and that, he was beginning to suspect, was only something you could learn from watching the best. And that best, by all accounts, was the man pushing his way into the flat at Number 9 Canal Reach and trodding on Lewis' toes to do so.
Sadly, best or not, it was Lewis' responsibility to keep unauthorized persons from the scene, and Lewis took his responsibilities seriously.
"Sir—" he tried to keep the man back more than once, but he soon saw Chief Inspector Morse was a force unto himself. Short of arresting the man, there wasn't much Lewis could do. He was stuck between the rock and the hard place. It was more than his job was worth to cross Chief Inspector Bell by letting a fellow officer horn in on a case, but it was beyond any authority Lewis yielded to refuse to answer the questions of a senior officer. Fortunately, it didn't take Bell long to cotton on to Morse's presence, and then Lewis was free to stand back out of the way and watch the clash.
It was not a long encounter. Even so, it was ample time to see that Chief Inspector Morse was not as impressed with Chief Inspector Bell as Bell was with himself. And that there was more to Morse's being there then just passing by and poking his nose in to see what the fuss was about. The man hadn't come out of idle curiosity. Lewis didn't need to see the fancy get up to know that. No, the man had a reason for being there, not that he was going to let Bell or Lewis, for that matter, in on what it was.
And there was time for the sergeant to see one more thing. Morse asked the right questions. The questions Bell, who'd decided the case was a suicide before he'd even arrived on Canal Reach, wasn't likely to ask. That stool…kicked across the kitchen. Bell hadn't been best pleased when Lewis had taken an interest in it; pooh-poohed the whole thing, dismissed it with a sniff and, "You'd have this a murder investigation if you had your way, Sergeant, but it isn't. It isn't an investigation at all…once you've been around a bit, you'll see. These sort of cases, waste of time for us to be called out. Open and shut."
Maybe so, probably even, but still didn't the questions need asked and answered before it could be said for sure? That stool. It had bothered him when he'd seen it, and it bothered him still listening to Bell assure Morse there was nothing at all unusual about the case.
"She'd managed to kick the stool halfway across the room." Lewis hadn't actually meant to say the words, but, then, he had-wanted to anyway. Wanted someone to tell him how a woman had hung herself when the stool she'd supposedly used for it was standing upright across the room. Bell wouldn't, and he'd thought, hoped, a man like Morse-
"Lewis is full of grand theories," Bell told Morse dismissively.
"No. I just don't understand—" Lewis began, but Bell once again cut him off, and that was that. Nothing left but to take the key off of Morse…he'd had sharp eyes to see it there when they'd all stepped over it a dozen times without. Of course, what could you expect leaving the lads to work in the dark? A bit of light wouldn't have hurt to illuminate the subject, but then, what did it matter? Chief Inspector Bell had already made up his mind none of it was of any importance. Only Lewis and the departing Chief Inspector Morse seemed to want to know what it all really meant, and neither of them could do a thing about it without Bell's say so.
Still, as case sergeant he'd attempted to do the job proper-like-as much as Bell would allow. And he'd thought on it…that stool and all. The all being, what exactly? Well, the four key copies. And the neighbor's statement about seeing Morse around Anne Staveley's flat, the day she died and other times, too. And the money that she'd withdrawn from the bank and wasn't anywhere in the flat. And about Morse just happening to be passing by…well, that was probably true enough. Lewis had checked and found out about the concert, and it would have just gotten out when the chief inspector had poked his nose in to see what all the fuss was about. Still, though, he hadn't said a word about being there before or knowing the woman, and here he was caught red-handed sneaking about her back garden.
Lewis was fairly flummoxed, and just the least bit disappointed. He'd hoped for more from the man. He had. Still, he couldn't just haul a chief inspector down to the nick in cuffs. Best find out what he was really doing, so, all right, a sit down and a bit of a natter over a pint if that's the way he wanted it.
Sitting over that very first pint with Chief Inspector Morse, not quite sure himself if he believed the man somehow culpable for what had happened in Canal Reach number 9, Lewis was somewhat relieved the man didn't take his suspicions seriously. Morse laughed at the idea of his being involved, but Lewis noticed he never actually gave him anything substantial to prove otherwise. The sergeant saw that Chief Inspector Morse could be a very wily individual.
And, of course, he also learned that the other rumors about Morse had some basis…the man was fond of his drink. By the time, Lewis had managed to get off home—late enough to ensure his wife was not at all happy with him and far too late for him to get to see his kiddies before they were already off to bed—he'd had that good long look he'd wanted of the chief inspector, and the chief inspector had drank down Lewis' last shilling.
What Sergeant Lewis didn't see that night, couldn't see that night, was that although he had doubts he'd made a fair trade at the time, he most certainly had.
He'd managed to put himself in Morse's notice, and the rest, as far as that goes, is, as they say, history. Chief Inspector Morse was a man who valued what he saw in Sergeant Lewis that night. The diligence and interest in the job that had brought him back to the flat and allowed him to catch Morse himself doing the same. The honesty in the young man's answer as to whether he intended to report the incident to DCI Bell. The practical approach he'd taken to investigating Anne's death. And, most of all, the thing that pleased Morse the most-the very thing Bell had found so objectionable in the sergeant-the wonderful fact that Lewis was full of grand theories. Morse was intrigued with the thought that there just might be, behind the child's face and the soft, Geordie accent, the wit and imagination to make a good detective. Not that Lewis was at all on the right track suspecting Morse, but, still, he was at least thinking!
It was at Anne Stavely's inquest that Lewis saw Morse again. He'd half-hoped the man would make a showing, and half-feared it. He'd had that talk with Chief Inspector Bell. He'd only told him what he knew, not what he suspected, but, still, he thought DCI Morse might not be too happy with him for his trouble. He soon saw he needn't have worried on that score. Morse obviously didn't fear Lewis' suspicions. Nor DCI Bell's.
"I was a friend of your daughter's", he introduced himself to Mrs. Stavely right there in front of the chief inspector and Lewis as if he hadn't just been accused of being a very close friend of Miss Stavely's. Chief Inspector Bell hadn't liked his brazenness, not one bit. Lewis hadn't needed to be a detective to know that.
And then there was the Jackson murder. And Morse just happening by for that one, too. And not the least bit apologetic either. Almost as though he had every right to be poking about in Bell's business. It made Lewis wonder if maybe he had. Perhaps Chief Superintendent Strange had some question of Bell's competency and had asked Morse to check up on his work? Nah, Lewis had to unhappily conclude that was rather unlikely. Especially when the news came through-Bell had gotten that superintendency he wanted.
And that was that. Superintendent Bell was gone without even a good luck to his old sergeant, and Lewis found himself helping the best detective in the whole Thames Valley solve a case! It was a grand day for Lewis when Chief Superintendent Strange assigned him to assist Morse in clearing up Bell's unfinished case. He'd wanted to get a look at Morse, and, now, here he was working with him!
Just like that, any lingering doubts he'd had about Morse's involvement in Canal Reach flew out the window. He couldn't afford to hold on to them when he'd been given such an opportunity. He intended to watch and learn and take full advantage of what he thought of as a once in a lifetime chance to work alongside the best detective in the Thames Valley.
Before reporting to the chief inspector, he nipped home to tell the wife of his good fortune, warn her he might be very late getting home in the evening, and cadge whatever she could spare from the grocery money. She shook her head and laughed over his excitement, dug out the bit of money she'd put back for his birthday supper, and sent him off with a kiss and a 'good luck, then, Robbie'.
It didn't take Lewis long to know that Morse was indeed a very different kettle of fish than his old boss. There were the couple things Morse and Bell shared. They'd both had a problem with the sergeant's driving. Well, they would, wouldn't they? Both of them oldish men, like his dad they were when it came to traffic. And they'd both had the problem with the drink, Bell with his ever-present thermos of 'tea' and Morse with his endless pints. But the similarities stopped there.
Bell hadn't been too keen on the investigating or the detecting, but neither had he personally blamed Lewis when the entire force couldn't find Ned Murdoch. And it went without saying, that DCI Bell had never, not once, made himself comfortable on a dead woman's bed and read her bedside reading material and maybe even taken a little kip in the middle of an investigation. But Bell had also never encouraged his sergeant to think or to join him in his thoughts the way Morse did. Morse listened. He might laugh, he might rag him for his thoughts, might belittle him, even, but he listened. Listened and talked. He included Lewis in his musings…giving him that much-coveted chance to see how a man with a mind like that thought. Of course, DCI Bell had also never expected Lewis to read his mind and know when he wanted a pen and paper or when he wanted Lewis to check out a parking ticket he'd neglected to tell Lewis about on a car he'd also neglected to tell Lewis about.
But, no nevermind, it was the job, wasn't it? And he had the chance to see it done proper-like. He reckoned a man could put up with a good deal of that sort of blustering for a chance to work with the best. He could at any rate. Good thing it was too, for he soon saw there'd be plenty more before the case was solved. Complaints about his spelling, complaints about being 'sparky' in the morning-well, none of it meant anything, did it?
Except they weren't getting on with the case.
It was the Sophocles thing that bothered the sergeant most. And nothing he could do about it. Men like Morse, they'd taken that sort of thing in with their mother's milk, where as he…
He'd been out on the cricket field or playing football or running the track. He wasn't half bad in the field or on the track, but he'd never been the clever one at home. His sister and older brother now, they'd both gone on in their schooling and done very well. He'd been proud to have such clever family, but it hadn't rubbed off on him. He wasn't hopeless when it came to the books, but…Sophocles and the like-he'd never catch up.
Couldn't no matter how he tried. He'd been beaten before the race began, and he couldn't even see the track. It was like Morse expecting that report on the parking ticket and him not even knowing there was such a ticket. He couldn't learn what he didn't know when he didn't know it was needing to be learned until it was far too late for him to even try. Going on with his schooling might have helped, not likely though…well, he'd never know, and no use wondering now.
Well, Sophocles…had to expect working with somebody clever there'd be things like Sophocles. He could either take it graciously and be pleased to be working with someone like that or he could resign himself to going back to working under men like Bell. Men who knew Sophocles as well as Morse, but didn't put what they knew to any use. The only use they got out of being clever seemed to be the enjoyment they got out of ragging them that weren't…
It hadn't been like that with Morse and Sophocles though. The chief inspector hadn't meant to rag him, and once he knew Lewis didn't understand, he'd been quite patient and kind-like explaining it to him. Morse was as arrogant as they came, Lewis couldn't help but to have seen that, but…
His superiority didn't come from putting others down. It was more…well, he was very clever, and he couldn't really help but know it, could he? No. Of course not. So, his pride…it was natural-like, and it didn't come from putting other blokes down so he could feel better than them. That was the difference, Lewis decided. Morse felt quite good about himself as it were; he didn't need to be cutting his sergeant down to build himself up, unlike some.
Lewis didn't like being made to feel intellectually inferior to anybody. Still, he supposed he could live with it if that anybody was Morse. Lewis was, after all, intellectually inferior to Morse. Just the way things were. Did him no good railing about it, now, did it? Morse might feel compelled to point out the odd spelling error here and there, and he might assume Lewis knew something he'd never bothered to tell him, but at least he wasn't malicious in his superiority. Instead, he was rather matter-of-fact, and Lewis figured if anyone had the right to be that, it was Chief Inspector Morse.
Of course, in the end, with the whole, grand Sophocles theory collapsing down on their heads, Lewis saw that sometimes breaking a case had nothing to do with being clever. Sometimes, like the Jericho case, it came down to just chance and timing. If he hadn't chanced to introduce himself to Alan Richards just then, well, the case might never have been solved.
Chance and timing, diligence to detail, perseverance, and cleverness…they all added up to make a good detective. The best. Chief Inspector Morse who he watched slowly walking away from Canal Reach number 9. Lewis would have liked to take him up on that pint, to stretch out his time to be around a man of that caliber and to ease the man's sadness, but…he'd missed his birthday supper and he'd promised the wife and kiddies he'd be home tonight if at all possible.
"See you tomorrow, Sir," he called after the inspector. And that would be that, he thought. A day of taking statements from the Richards, getting the case file in proper order, and, quite probably, another round or two of drinks if he could dredge up the coin for it, and then the time he had had working with Morse would just be a warm memory.
One he'd cherish the rest of his days.