Consultation in Calydon


There came a noise like a slain mastodon impacting nascent sedimentary rock.

Instead it was merely a man who flew and landed flat on his back on the fitness mat.

Perceptions dulled to grey. There was nothing for it except to collapse, and so he did. When the hypocapnea finally eased, he was able to inhale a long shuddering breath and his vision cleared. He glared up at his opponent, standing coldly staring down at him.

Who instantly resumed lecturing, now that his victim appeared conscious.

"Doyle. How often must I correct you? You can't favour your right in that manner. It's like waving a ruddy crimson banner proclaiming, 'I'm vulnerable. Hit me here.' You are perpetually leading with your left side. Each time we meet, we must mend your stance all over again. Eventually this will catch up with you on the street, some villain will blind side you, with potentially lethal results."

Ray clenched his jaws on an angry retort. As he struggled to his feet, he merely settled for imaginarily ripping out Macklin's throat with his canine teeth.

"Now then, again with great vigour. Face me squarely and attempt to maintain some semblance of an even front."

"Doyle! Where is your analysis of the situation at Clerkenwell?"

"Queued at the typist's desk, sir."

"I'll have your copy of the draft then."

"Yes, sir. Right here." Doyle stirred the papers on his desk.

"Ye gods, man. Whatever is the matter?"

Raymond Doyle glanced up hastily.

He was not inordinately scruffy today. No more than usual. Having sweated during his recent work-out, then showered, his curls had gone a bit fuzzy as they dried. He'd managed to miss the existence of a small blotch of blood on the visible curve of his vest, likely attributable to a pre-dawn shaving mishap. But he had a relatively tidy oxford cloth shirt buttoned over it, plus an unwrinkled corduroy jacket that verged on civilized office wear.

Wondering what he'd done to earn his boss' current unfavourable scrutiny, Ray licked his lips, setting his congenital pout to quivering slightly. Then he gingerly fingered the purple bruise that decorated the bridge of his nose.

"Sparring with Macklin this morning, sir."

"And?" George Cowley prompted.

Doyle groped for a handkerchief in his jacket pocket. Unfortunately for him, he'd forgotten he had used it on the shaving injury, and it proved blood stained. He glared at it a moment.

Meanwhile, a salty rheum pooled in his right eye, welled there, poised upon the brink a dramatic moment and then trickled down the ruins of his cheek.

He dabbed at his tear stained flesh with the gory handkerchief.

As he turned his face into the harsh glare of the fluorescent light, he resembled the sole remaining survivor of a planet wide cataclysm.

"Has the MO declared you fit?"

"Didn't ask. Didn't deem there was any necessity," he confessed, shrugging slightly.

"See to it at once."

"But sir," Doyle protested.

"Tell Treacher I'll expect a written FFAD report."

Having years of service experience, Doyle recognized a command situation without it falling upon him. Mentally he fingered his fluffy forelock in salute. His sigh was nearly silent. "Right away, sir."

"He's irresistible."

"Say insufferable, more like."

"I'm telling you, the unplumbed possibilities are endless."


Bodie told himself it was a mistake, this. Newly returned from the airbase at Odiham, dead on his feet, wishing only to report to Central, drive home and collapse. However, the rest room conversation drew him irresistibly in to eavesdrop.

"T wasn't chance that the Old Man had him along to the budget meetings."

"Naw. Off streets for the duration. Was just tending Father's motor, for want of better, wasn't he?"

"Heard the powers-that-be were ever so generous with funding this year."

"Can picture that, just. The Cow, with Pathos Personified sobbing silently at his elbow. Would melt any ten ministers' hearts of stone in an instant."

"Speaking of hearts. Heard he's run the gamut of the steno pool in less than the week. Daily bangers, hold the mash, with two servings on Sundays."


"Birds just naturally sympathetic to a crying man. Weep on em oncet. Next thing you know, its open wide and please, sir, I want some more."

"Oh swine swallop."

"I say, we should take advantage of the situation. Only natural the lad should do ought for his mates. Req the Cow for more comfy chairs."

"Twenty four hour tea and coffee service."

"Crumpets and savouries. Served fresh and fresh by maids in scant French frills."

"Too right."

"Yer not thinking grand enough, old son. We should do the honourable."


"Yar. Lend him to mediate at the SALT talks. Beg both sides to step down. Strike a major blow on behalf of world peace, in his current condition."

"Wait 'til Bodie catches a glimpse."

Eh? Bodie wasn't about to stand flat footed while his name was bandied about like a common curse.

"Something to be said to me, Anson?"

A palpable guilty startlement swept the room, the occupants looking instantly, uniformly guilty. However, the general sentiment soon resumed its mischievous flavour.

Anson snorted, then whistled 'Rule Britannia' tunefully on an exhalation of cigar smoke. "It's our hero, returned at last from East Anglia. Left any virgins in the wake of your contrails?"

Bodie merely raised his eyebrows, implying he'd lost count of conquests after the first day. They all expected him to enquire further after Anson's dangling statement of mysterious import. So he wickedly refrained, just to jerk their chains.

After all, Murphy was present. If anything were truly amiss, Murph could be relied upon for a brisk brief.

Bad news travelled fast, as he well reckoned.

"Bodie, Doyle, my office, double time." The floor boards seemed to tremble, despite the Old Man's voice scarcely being raised.

Hard luck. It wouldn't be a simple 'report in and dismissed to quarters' if it included Doyle.

Bodie got there first and was seated, with his summary of the Odiham romp delivered, when Ray finally showed.

It was a bit of a shock.

Doyle had a fading contusion of blue and green technicolour shades painted across his face.

His face, which was sopping wet with tears.

Never in their partnership had he seen Doyle cry. Bodie's insides crumpled at the dismal sight.

Then Ray grinned. "Hullo Bodie," he offered a cheerful welcome home.

The Earth spun on its axis, as Bodie sought some fulcrum of bizarre balance. "What happened to you?" he demanded abruptly.

"In a training exercise with Macklin, 4.5 took an awkward blow to the face," Cowley stated.

"Murder the bastard for you, shall I?"

"I'm very much afraid the queue forms to the left," their controller chuckled.

First Doyle grinning, and now, the Cow laughing.

"The secretarial staff has rendered headquarters uncomfortably hot, such that Macklin may have withdrawn into hiding. For security's sake, I'm not at liberty to divulge his current whereabouts."

While George enjoyed his joke, Raymond withdrew from his pocket a small tea towel. It had the nation's flag printed brightly upon it with an emblazoned caption "for God, Queen, and Country" proudly proclaimed.

"Gift from A-squad," Doyle shrugged as he mopped his face.

"All of which being very much to the point." Cowley handed Ray an engraved business card. "You have an appointment with Sir Graehme, tomorrow morning, promptly at 11.15 hours. Bodie can drive you. That's all."

And they were dismissed.

Well, Bodie reflected. If Raymond had been driving the Cow about town all week, why shouldn't he drive himself now? Not that Bodie objected to the chore, not at all. He simply wondered why the Old Man hadn't seized upon his return to foist all manner of unpleasant tasks upon him.

Instead, lie abed until unlikely hours, late breakfast, leisurely shower. Pick up his best mate and escort him round Olde London Towne.

Could George Cowley be at all susceptible to the Weeping Wiles of the Woesome Wonder? Perhaps Anson was right. In the event, the possibilities for leveraged favours were absolutely enormous. Except that Doyle wasn't the man to use pathos for self promotion, he reminded himself, as his partner opened the passenger side door.

Doyle wore dark trousers, tweed jacket, and a collared cotton jumper that made him look vaguely like one of the Muppets. Bodie was trying to recall which one.

Ray grinned and held up a brown paper parcel. "Betty's authentic Scottish shortbread. Baked from Cowley's own home recipe, if you can credit that."

Bodie drooled a bit. He had a momentary hesitation that felt like stealing sweets from babies, before he caved to inclination and dug into the fragrant bundle. They really were quite delicious. "The ladies plying you with their cookery?"

"Yar." Doyle grimaced, sending a crystalline trickle cascading down the side of his face. He swiped at it with a crisp pocket handkerchief.

"Jay-sue-us, Raymond. Don't ask me for my first born."

"He in Kampala, is he?"

"Likely enough."

"I'll just forbear then."

"Ta. Sorry to mention it. But you truly are an irresistible force of nature at present."

"So they say."

"Useful in bedding birdage?"

"My lips are sealed."

"Makes it difficult to snog, that."

"Mrmph, mrmamph." Doyle offered appropriate sound effects, causing Bodie to strangle down biscuit crumbs when he laughed.

"Aren't you having any?" he nudged the shortbread packet.

"Naw. Scrubbed my teeth. Gargled with Oraldene and all. In case the doctor wants to look into me moosh. Grotty for him, otherwise."

"Examine yer mouth?"

"Apparently tis all joined together, the facial plumbing. Eyes, nose, ears, mouth, y' see?"

"Rather disgusting thought."


Imagining exactly what it might be that he was currently swallowing, Bodie shuddered, then reached for another delectable bit of bakery.

"Crikey. It's like reporting for your annual physical to the British Museum."

They stood outside a building on Harley Street. The elaborate Victorian facade of the place was antique and overshadowing.

No point in double checking the address. The physicians who had their practices within were listed on a small, sombre placard near the glistening brass door handle.

Bodie was beginning to have an inkling why the Cow had sent him along.

Doyle looked like pivoting right round on his boot heel and scarpering in disarray any moment now.

"What, drop trou, turn your head and cough, and find your nose in an Egyptian mummy's lap?" Bodie teased. "Meh, the building's not quite that old. Just think," he nudged his hesitant mate. "The famous Dr Harley himself used to walk this very pavement, contemplating his patients' symptoms."

"Be more impressed if the famous Harley himself used to roar down the pavement, contemplating the design of his next motorcycle," Doyle protested, taking a step away from the place. "Don't think I want a second opinion this bad."

Bodie grabbed Ray's elbow and hung on tenaciously. "Nothing but the best for Cowley's troops, eh? Come along now. Sir Graehme will feel snubbed if we don't at the least leave our calling cards on his silver salver." He firmly rang the bell.

There was a soldierly looking fellow answering the door. He ushered them in to a narrow passage with a spiral staircase towering to several stories overhead. The entry hall featured a mahogany desk with a leather bound appointment book, several overstuffed armchairs, Persian carpets, floor lamps softly glowing. The remote street sounds were quite muted into the folds of brocade curtains sheltering tall, bright windows.

Indoors somewhere, someone coughed. It seemed a polite, patrician sort of sound.

The door man waited until exactly 11.13, at which point he pulled a pocket watch from his waistcoat to confirm the time. He lifted the telephone receiver, spoke a brief phrase into it, then rose, gesturing to Bodie and Doyle to follow him.

The doctors' offices had been walled into smaller spaces from grander rooms, but the ceilings were still impressively high, giving the place an airy feel. There were framed Pre-Raphaelite prints that looked like they might be originals, and high shelves lined with antique books. Bodie was quite enjoying the posh surroundings. Sir Graehme had an artistic notion of interior design.

Sir Graehme looked like his family long ago had crossed over the North Sea for some brisk pillaging, and stayed on because the weather was warmer. He was vast, silvered sixtyish, hearty and generally cheerful looking.

After standing from his desk to shake hands, he did not suggest Bodie wait outside.

George Cowley came under increasingly great suspicion in Bodie's books.

Doyle didn't look like he was going to ask Bodie to wait outside either.

"Epiphora," Sir Graehme stated with patent satisfaction. "Post traumatic epiphora."

Apparently post traumatic epiphora was exactly Sir Graehme's cup of tea. He seated Doyle on a low bench and towered over him. "Time with a gift, grief with a glass," the physician murmured.

"Swinburne," Bodie piped up before he could stifle the reflexive response.

"Exactly so," Sir Graehme clucked his delight.

Doyle's look of pride in his partner made Bodie blush.

The doctor settled his massive hands on Raymond's face. Tenderly the fingers palpated the ruinous maxilla. "A long standing injury. You were how old at the time?"

Doyle squinted. "Bout sixteen, I guess."

"Dr Treacher says he's had no luck in locating your patient records from then. Can you enlighten us at all?"

Doyle shrugged. "Woke up in hospital. Never heard what happened. No witnesses."

Bodie hoped Ray wasn't about to go all bristly and truculent. He never shone his brightest when reminiscing over the old rough stuff. Tended to come over a spot of bovver, cop an alley attitude.

Wouldn't do to antagonize the doc. You'd want a man that might wield a sharp blade or two in your face to have an overall cordial feeling, wouldn't you?

"Tsk. Well, we may take it as given from the physical evidence, it was a blunt trauma, and rather a harsh blow, then."


Oh, not good. Doyle down to monosyllables already.

"Until now, any previous trouble with excessive tearing?"

"Couple times, or so. Back when. Yeah."

"And what did your doctor say to that?"

Raymond stirred restlessly in the physician's grip. "Something 'bout it being cosmetic. Said fixing it would be elective. Ya know?"

"So the subject was placed on a rather obscure back burner."

Bodie felt Sir Graehme's disapproval was aimed at an absent third party of dubious distinction. He only hoped Doyle sensed the sympathetic stance.

Ray seemed to shrink defensively into himself. A lopsided tear ran down his face, clung to his chin, then dribbled forlornly onto his trouser leg. "S always gone away on its own. Before."

"Oh yes. And it may well again. Once the current soft tissue injury thoroughly subsides."

Raymond nodded.

Sullen silence. Definitely not good.

"George informs me, there's not much call for his men to go undercover as Niobe."

Oh, jolly good, Sir Graehme, Bodie cheered the sporting effort.

Doyle softly snorted. "Mock turtle to Soho thugs. Common curmudgeon guise. Fit right in. Yeah."

"But there are other considerations." The physician returned to his desk chair, eased comfortably back in it.

"For one, obstruction can lead to increased risk of infection. In that locale, potentially dangerous. Likewise, there is at least the question of cranial nerve palsy that must be posed. Always wise to treat the central nervous system with due respect, eh? And, hmm. Query prior naso-orbito-ethmoid fracture. Underlying anatomic instability. Given your line of employ, the probability of participating in fisticuffs. A quite glancing blow might drive a bone fragment right into the cerebral realms with unfortunate consequences. Paints rather a different complexion upon cosmetics, eh?"

Sir Graehme lingered with a soft but sure sneer over his conclusion.

Bodie shuddered, and reflected with renewed regret upon Macklin's absence.

Raymond remained silent.

"I shan't urge you. But options are desirable, yes? As you yourself have pointed out, conservative management, wait and see, that line, is still possible. Or perhaps a simple procedure, with a long title. Dacryocystorhinostomy. The lachrymal duct has a blockage. So we plough a glim of modern plumbing. The eyelid is reintroduced to the neighbourly nose, thereby restoring drainage, and all's well. Thursdays are my surgical days. We could pencil you in for, say, Thursday a week."

Doyle drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

"That would give us time for some labs, some further imaging. I perhaps ought to add. Most commonly, the procedure is performed on elderly ladies and babies. So you'll find yourself in a rather bluff minority. Our gentlemen patients are generally traumatic cases, as in your instance. And statistically, there is a slightly higher probability of treatment failure in the male. Complex reconstruction may prove necessary. Possibly. Especially considering prior management may have been, hm, less than optimal."

Sir Graehme subsided to silent contemplation of his case.

Bodie was sprawled on his sofa, with Raymond scrunched against his chest. Bodie alternately considered the telly announcer's analysis of Liverpool's chances against Man Uni, and Doyle's thoughts on surgical intervention.

Ray was reading a medical brochure, and offering up occasional comments. "Says here, old women often have 'silent epiphora'. Maybe its all that screaming and groaning they do during child birth. Get the noise right out of their systems, permanent like."

Bodie harrumphed, watching the football reprise.

"Wonder if mine's 'loud epiphora' then? 'Highly vocal, Speaker's Corner epiphora', perhaps?"

"Ep-piffle," Bodie retorted, just to get him to laugh.

Which Ray obligingly did. "Hold the press. 'S going on about nasal endoscopy. Cram a teeny tiny camera right up yer hooter. Lovely view."

"Lends new meaning to the phrase, 'getting up your nose', dunnit?"

"Would, wooden tit? Downright irritating, I imagine. Youch. But they have you under anaesthetic. In't that a pleasure? Narky numb nose."

Bodie petted down the tense curve of Doyle's shoulder.

"Feel rather brutish, forcing my way to the front of the surgical queue, all on the Cow's say so. Elbowing grandmothers and squalling infants aside as I go."

Bodie nuzzled deep down into Doyle's curls, then growled. He felt the goose flesh rise on Ray's neck, and rubbed his lips against it. "Could view it like that. Alternatively, you might consider you've been waiting patiently to be tended to, since you were sixteen."

Ray didn't respond directly. When he did speak up, it was an abrupt change of subject. "About that poem."

"Atalanta in Calydon. By Algernon Charles Swinburne."

"Bet he had his mates call him Charley. Just to avoid a routine thumping."

It was a bit close to a sore subject. Bodie licked at Doyle's earlobe, to distract him. "Before the beginning of years, there came to the making of man..."

"Very nice. Should print and frame it. With suitable illustration."

"What would you paint for it?"

"Still life. With crocodile."

"Oh, very mod. I'd like to see that, actually."

"Do it whilst I'm recuperating."

They pondered the prospect.

"Into our boots and down to the local with us."

"Thought we were settling in quite nicely," Doyle protested, shimmying his hips against Bodie.

"I've heard so much about the aphrodisiac effect of tears upon the fairer sex. Must see the proof for meself. Ladies flinging themselves upon Raymond Doyle. Before Sir Graehme nips yer prowess in the bud."

"Uh'll nip you in the bud, yer not careful."

"Didn't say you need actually bring anyone home with you."

"Very well."

They were into their coats and clattering down the stairs.

"Go on."

"Time with a gift of tears, grief with a glass that ran."

"Could paint a clock and a brandy snifter. With the crying croc curled around them."

Bodie was studying why the Old Man had sent him along to the doctor's. He didn't like to think Doyle was swayed in his decision by their partnership. But Sir Graehme certainly had started with that end of the stick. All that about infections and fractures and such had come quite after the bit about undercover work.

He grabbed Doyle's arm and pulled him around to face him. The street lamp traced the silvery track down Ray's face.

"You okay with all that surgery stuff?"

"Sure. Okay."

"No undue pressure applied, right? I mean to say. It's not just in aid of being back on the street. Yar?"

"Course not."

"Good then."

"All right."

They resumed walking toward the pub.

Bodie muttered to himself. "Strength without hands to smite."

As they were drawn into the cheerful noise of the bar, he whispered, "Love that endures for a breath." The cadence of the verse continued in his imagination.

Finally, as if to ward off the last phrase, "Life, the shadow of death," he left it unspoken, even in his mind, and flung his protective arm over Doyle's shoulders, hugging him warmly closer.

QUOTATION NOTATION: Atalanta in Calydon by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Before the beginning of years,
There came to the making of man
Time, with a gift of tears;
Grief, with a glass that ran;
Pleasure, with pain for leaven;
Summer, with flowers that fell;
Remembrance fallen from heaven,
And madness risen from hell;
Strength without hands to smite;
Love that endures for a breath;
Night, the shadow of light,
And life, the shadow of death.

-- THE END --

January 2007

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