Inspector Morse and the needlepoint murder


needlepoint

Inspector Morse brushed aside the corn husk and the corn silk that lightly covered the body. Beneath it, and innocent looking it was, lay a brave little embroidery hoop, with a needlepoint sampler half done. “We all wander in this vale of tears. Find happiness in …..” it read. The thread dangled off, an incomplete thought hanging there, expectant.

“No needle,” Morse said, to himself. He felt tired. “Another day, another corpse,” he said under his breath, imagining this cheery motto done nicely on a pillow cover in his Aunt Edna’s parlor. Loved his Aunt Edna, he had. Still missed her cookies. What was that she’d done with marshmallows and chocolate bars? Well, she’d been gone a long time. He shook himself back to the present, where this corpse was sitting quietly in her chair, hand still holding the hoop as if ready to take one more stitch. Eyes open and staring out, or past. Contemplating, those eyes might almost be.

Morse thought he’d have a nice vacation, that had been his intention. That’s what brought him to this quiet old town of aunties, church fundraisers, and bakeries. He’d pictured himself sitting in someone’s front room with a cup of tea in one hand and a plate of jam tarts in the other. But death follows the inspector, he told himself. He brushed the ashes off his suit jacket and damned himself for starting to smoke again. He damned the nice local constable who asked him, just as a matter of courtesy, to come in on this needlepoint death. He considered ways to excuse himself, pointing out the obvious: elderly women die in their sleep, it is 3 in the afternoon on a warm summer day, and she’d obviously nodded off, permanently. He opened his mouth to say so, when the young officer held out his hand and gave Morse the corn husk.

“Way I see it,” he says. “Is she’d about finished with the corn – she made corn dolls and sold them like Indian made for tourists in the states – that’s how she kept a little extra money coming in. Anyway, she’d done with the corn and set it aside to do her needlework.”

“Yes,” Morse said, almost leaving off the question mark. “And then?”

“Well, I guess she must’ve fallen asleep, don’t you?” The young man’s red eyebrows wagged a bit, and he looked at Morse for help. Morse looked again at the quiet body, the corn, the needlework. Why am I here? He asked himself, feeling foolish, feeling automatic. The automatic inspector. His eyes scanned the chair, the hoop, the thread, then up to the woman’s face. Her face was upturned, eyes china blue, her expression pleased, expectant. Her hair was slightly mussed. He thought she might want to reach up and tidy it, just a bit. He leaned over and looked at the back of her head, where the hairpins would ordinarily keep her hair well contained. There, at the base of the neck, he saw it. A small red dot, a shiny metallic point. A needle, neatly inserted into the base of her skull. A murder, here in the quiet village where he’d come to regain his sanity. He sighed, and fingered his pocket for his smokes. Time to step outside and think, for just a moment.

Writing practice, 25 minutes. See the Inspector Morse TV series, or the books, by Colin Dexter, for more on the source of this character.

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2 Responses to “Inspector Morse and the needlepoint murder”


  1. 1 Cathy Sweet April 18, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Hi saw your note on Sarahs RDSite enjoyed the needlepoint murder short story we have cousins in abq it’s a great place. Looking forward to reading more of your work Cathy

    • 2 Teresa April 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm

      Thanks Cathy — I’ll be checking in with your site as well — I like Sarah’s project, it’s looking like a good way to expand the creative circle. — Teresa


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