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Authors: Colin Dexter

Last Seen Wearing

BOOK: Last Seen Wearing
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CRITICAL ACCLAIM FOR
Colin Dexter
Death is Now My Neighbour
‘Dexter . . . has created a giant among fictional detectives and has never short-changed his readers.’
The Times
The Daughters of Cain
‘This is Colin Dexter at his most excitingly devious.’
Daily Telegraph
The Way Through the Woods
‘Morse and his faithful Watson, Sergeant Lewis, in supreme form . . . Hallelujah.’
Observer
The Jewel That Was Ours
‘Traditional crime writing at its best; the kind of book without which no armchair is complete.’
Sunday Times
The Wench is Dead
‘Dextrously ingenious.’
Guardian
The Secret of Annexe 3
‘A plot of classical cunning and intricacy.’
Times Literary Supplement
The Riddle of the Third Mile
‘Runs the gamut of brain-racking unputdownability.’
Observer
The Dead of Jericho
‘The writing is highly intelligent, the atmosphere melancholy, the effect haunting.’
Daily Telegraph
Service of All the Dead
‘A brilliantly plotted detective story.’
Evening Standard
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
‘Morse’s superman status is reinforced by an ending which no ordinary mortal could have possibly unravelled.’
Financial Times
Last Seen Wearing
‘Brilliant characterisation in original whodunnit.’
Sunday Telegraph
Last Bus to Woodstock
‘Let those who lament the decline of the English detective story reach for Colin Dexter.’
Guardian
LAST SEEN WEARING
Colin Dexter graduated from Cambridge University in 1953 and has lived in Oxford since 1966. His first novel, 
Last Bus to Woodstock,
 was published in 1975. There are now thirteen novels in the series, of which 
The Remorseful Day
 is, sadly, the last.
Colin Dexter has won many awards for his novels, including the CWA Silver Dagger twice, and the CWA Gold Dagger for 
The Wench is Dead
and 
The Way Through the Woods.
 In 1997 he was presented with the CWA Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime literature, and in 2000 was awarded the OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
The Inspector Morse novels have, of course, been adapted for the small screen with huge success by Carlton/Central Television, starring John Thaw and Kevin Whately
THE INSPECTOR MORSE NOVELS
Last Bus to Woodstock
Last Seen Wearing
The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn
Service of All the Dead
The Dead of Jericho
The Riddle of the Third Mile
The Secret of Annexe 3
The Wench is Dead
The Jewel That Was Ours
The Way Through The Woods
The Daughters of Cain
Death is Now My Neighbour
The Remorseful Day
Also available in Pan Books
Morse’s Greatest Mystery and other stories
The First Inspector Morse Omnibus
The Second Inspector Morse Omnibus
The Third Inspector Morse Omnibus
The Fourth Inspector Morse Omnibus

First published 1976 by Macmillan
First published in paperback 1977 by Pan Books
This edition published 2007 by Pan Books
This electronic edition published 2009 by Pan Books
an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd
Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR
Basingstoke and Oxford
Associated companies throughout the world
www.panmacmillan.com
ISBN 978-0-330-46853-4 in Adobe Reader format
ISBN 978-0-330-46852-7 in Adobe Digital Editions format
ISBN 978-0-330-46854-1 in Mobipocket format
Copyright © Colin Dexter 1976
The right of Colin Dexter to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Visit 
www.panmacmillan.com
 to read more about all our books and to buy them. You will also find features, author interviews and news of any author events, and you can sign up for e-newsletters so that you’re always first to hear about our new releases.
For J.C.F.P. and J.G.F.P.

PRELUDE

The Train Now Standing at Platform One
H
E FELT QUITE
pleased with himself. Difficult to tell for certain, of course; but yes, quite pleased with himself really. As accurately as it could his mind retraced the stages of the day's events: the questions of the interviewing committee—wise and foolish; and his own answers—carefully considered and, he knew, well phrased. Two or three exchanges had been particularly satisfactory and, as he stood there waiting, a half-smile played across his firm, good-humoured lips. One he could recall almost verbatim.
   'You don't think you may perhaps be a bit young for the job?'
   'Well, yes. It will be a big job and I'm sure that there will be times—that is if you should appoint me—when I should need the experience and advice of older and wiser heads.' (Several of the older and wiser heads were nodding sagely.) 'But if my age is against me, there isn't much I can do about it, I'm afraid. I can only say that it's a fault I shall gradually grow out of.'
   It wasn't even original. One of his former colleagues had recounted it to him and claimed it for his own. But it was a good story: and judging from the quietly controlled mirth and the muted murmurs of appreciation, apparently none of the thirteen members of the selection committee had heard it before.
   Mm.
   Again the quiet smile played about his mouth. He looked at his watch. 7.30 p.m. Almost certainly he would be able to catch the 8.35 from Oxford, reaching London at 9.42; then over to Waterloo; and home by midnight perhaps. He'd be a bit lucky if he managed it, but who cared? It was probably those two double whiskies that were giving him such a glowing sense of elation, of expectancy, of being temporarily so much in tune with the music of the spheres. He would be offered the job, he felt—that was the long and the short of it.
   February now. Six months' notice, and he counted off the months on his fingers: March, April, May, June, July, August. That would be all right: plenty of time.
   His eyes swept leisurely along the rather superior detached houses that lined the opposite side of the road. Four bedrooms; biggish gardens. He would buy one of those prefabricated greenhouses, and grow tomatoes or cucumbers, like Diocletian . . . or was it Hercule Poirot?
   He stepped back into the wooden shelter and out of the raw wind. It had begun to drizzle again. Cars swished intermittently by, and the surface of the road gleamed under the orange streetlights . . . Not quite so good, though, when they had asked him about his short time in the army.
   'You didn't get a commission, did you?'
   'No.'
   'Why not, do you think?'
   'I don't think that I was good enough. Not at the time. You need special qualities for that sort of thing.' (He was getting lost: waffle on, keep talking.) 'And I was er . . . well I just hadn't got them. There were some extremely able men joining the army at that time—far more confident and competent than me.' Leave it there. Modest.
   An ex-colonel and an ex-major nodded appreciatively. Two more votes, likely as not.
   It was always the same at these interviews. One had to be as honest as possible, but in a dishonest kind of way. Most of his army friends had been ex-public schoolboys, buoyed up with self-confidence, and with matching accents. Second lieutenants, lieutenants, captains. They had claimed their natural birthright and they had been duly honoured in their season. Envy had nagged at him vaguely over the years. He, too, had been a public schoolboy . . .
   Buses didn't seem very frequent, and he wondered if he would make the 8.35 after all. He looked out along the well-lit street, before retreating once more into the bus shelter, its wooden walls predictably covered with scrawls and scorings of varying degrees of indecency. Kilroy, inevitably, had visited this shrine in the course of his infinite peregrinations, and several local tarts proclaimed to prospective clients their nymphomaniac inclinations. Enid loved Gary and Dave loved Monica. Variant readings concerning Oxford United betrayed the impassioned frustrations of the local football fans: eulogy and urination. All Fascists should go home immediately and freedom should be granted forthwith to Angola, Chile and Northern Ireland. A window had been smashed and slivers of glass sparkled sporadically amid the orange peel, crisp packets and Cola tins. Litter! How it appalled him. He was far more angered by obscene litter than by obscene literature. He would pass some swingeing litter laws if they ever made him the supremo. Even in this job he could do something about it. Well, if he got it . . .
   Come on, bus. 7.45. Perhaps he should stay in Oxford for the night? It wouldn't matter. If freedom should be granted to Angola and the rest, why not to him? It had been a long time since he had spent so long away from home. But he was losing nothing—gaining in fact; for the expenses were extremely generous. The whole thing must have cost the Local Authority a real packet. Six of them short-listed—one from Inverness! Not that
he
would get the job, surely. Quite a strange experience, though, meeting people like that. One couldn't get too friendly. Like the contestants in a beauty competition. Smile and scratch their eyes out.
   Another memory glided slowly back across his mind. 'If you were appointed, what do you think would be your biggest headache?'
   'The caretaker, I shouldn't wonder.'
   He had been amazed at the uproariously delighted reception given to this innocent remark, and only afterwards had he discovered that the current holder of the sinecure was an ogre of quite stupendous obstinacy—an extraordinarily ill-dispositioned man, secretly and profoundly feared by all.
   Yes, he would get the job. And his first tactical triumph would be the ceremonial firing of the wicked caretaker, with the unanimous approbation of governors, staff and pupils alike. And then the litter. And then . . .
   'Waitin' for a bus?'
   He hadn't seen her come in from the far side of the shelter. Below her plastic hat tiny droplets of drizzle winked from the carefully plucked eyebrows. He nodded. 'Don't seem very frequent, do they?' She walked towards him. Nice-looking girl. Nice lips. Difficult to say how old she was. Eighteen? Even younger, perhaps.
   'There's one due about now.'
   'That's good news.'
   'Not a very nice night.'
   'No.' It seemed a dismissive reply, and feeling a desire to keep the conversation going, he wondered what to say. He might just as well stand and talk as stand and be silent. His companion was clearly thinking along similar lines and showed herself the slicker practitioner.
   'Goin' to Oxford?'
   'Yes. I'm hoping to catch the 8.35 train to London.'
   'You'll be all right.'
   She unfastened her gleaming plastic mac and shook the raindrops to the floor. Her legs were thin, angular almost, but well proportioned; and the gentlest, mildest of erotic notions fluttered into his mind. It was the whisky.
   'You live in London?'
   'No, thank goodness. I live down in Surrey.'
   'You goin' all that way tonight?'
   Was he? 'It's not far really, once you've got across London.' She lapsed into silence. 'What about you? You going to Oxford?'
   'Yeah. Nothing to do 'ere.'
   She must be young, surely. Their eyes met and held momentarily. She had a lovely mouth. Just a brief encounter, though, in a bus shelter, and pleasant—just a fraction more pleasant than it should have been. Yet that was all. He smiled at her, openly and guilelessly. 'I suppose there's plenty to do in the big wicked city of Oxford?'
   She looked at him slyly. 'Depends what you want, don't it?' Before he could ascertain exactly what she wanted or what extramural delights the old university city could still provide, a red double-decker curved into the lay-by, its near front wheel splattering specks of dirty-brown water across his carefully polished black shoes. The automatic doors rattled noisily open, and he stepped aside for the girl to climb in first. She turned at the handrail that led to the upper deck.
   'Comin' upstairs?'
   The bus was empty, and when she sat down on the back seat and blinked at him invitingly, he had little option or inclination to do otherwise than to sit beside her. 'Got any cigarettes?'
   'No, I'm sorry. I don't smoke.'
   Was she just a common slut? She almost acted like one. He must look a real city gent to her: immaculate dark suit, new white shirt, a Cambridge tie, well-cut heavy overcoat, and a leather briefcase. She would probably expect a few expensive drinks in a plush four-star lounge. Well, if she did, she was in for a big disappointment. Just a few miles on the top of a Number 2 bus. And yet he felt a subdued, magnetic attraction towards her. She took off her transparent plastic hat and shook out her long dark-brown hair. Soft, and newly washed.
   A weary-footed conductor slowly mounted the circular staircase and stood before them.
   'Two to Oxford, please.'
   'Whereabouts?' The man sounded surly.
   'Er, I'm going to the station . . .'
   She said it for him. 'Two to the station, please.' The conductor wound the tickets mechanically, and disappeared dejectedly below.
   It was completely unexpected, and he was taken by surprise. She put her arm through his, and squeezed his elbow gently against her soft body. 'I 'spect he thinks we're just off to the pictures.' She giggled happily. 'Anyway, thanks for buying the ticket.' She turned towards him and gently kissed his cheek with her soft, dry lips.
   'You didn't tell me you were going to the station.'
   'I'm not really.'
   'Where are you going then?'
   She moved a little closer. 'Dunno.'
   For a frightening moment the thought flashed across his mind that she might be simple-minded. But no. He felt quite sure that for the present time at least she had an infinitely saner appreciation of what was going on than he. Yet he was almost glad when they reached the railway station. 8.17. Just over a quarter of an hour before the train was due.
   They alighted and momentarily stood together in silence beneath the
Tickets: Buffet
sign. The drizzle persisted.
   'Like a drink?' He said it lightly.
   'Wouldn't mind a Coke.'
   He felt surprised. If she was on the look-out for a man, it seemed an odd request. Most women of her type would surely go for gin or vodka or something with a bigger kick than Coke. Who was she? What did she want?
   'You sure?'
   'Yes thanks. I don't go drinkin' much.'
   They walked into the buffet, where he ordered a double whisky for himself, and for her a Coke and a packet of twenty Benson & Hedges. 'Here we are.'
   She seemed genuinely grateful. She quickly lit herself a cigarette and quietly sipped her drink. The time ticked on, the minute hand of the railway clock dropping inexorably to the half hour. 'Well, I'd better get on to the platform.' He hesitated a moment, and then reached beneath the seat for his brief-case. He turned towards her and once again their eyes met. I enjoyed meeting you. Perhaps we'll meet again one day.' He stood up, and looked down at her. She seemed more attractive to him each time he looked at her.
BOOK: Last Seen Wearing
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