Dog Eat Dog
by Dog Rose
Are there, Arts and Sciences from from thence.
Counsell Tables are Horti conclusi, (as is said in
The Canticles) Gardens that are walled in, and they
Are Fontes signati, Wells that are sealed up;
Bottomless depths of unsearchable Counsels there."
Bodie and Doyle had been plunked down by their boss amid the dreaming spires and plush green lawns of Oxford for the afternoon. Bodie was enjoying himself. Doyle was less than impressed, and said so.
"Everything's stone! Even that gargoyle of a porter back there. I can't tell one building from the next!"
"Come on, Shrewsbury College's what we want next. Not far now..." Bodie took a breath in preparation to declaiming another stanza about the aforementioned spires, and received an elbow in the ribs. "Ooof! Hey, what was that in aid of?"
Doyle scowled and gave his mate a green gargoyle glare of his own. "If that's another line of poetry, you can pack it in right bloody now. I've had enough of the groves of academe! Et in Arcadia ego, my arse! And I know what it's a bloody meditation on, so don't you start! Nicolas sodding Poussin. French painter. Had a thing for Virgil."
"Oh, did he now," Bodie camped.
"I mean it, Bodie, I'd like a few less classical eulogies and a little more of the ol' when, where, why and bloody how!"
"You can take the lad out of the Met, but you can't take the copper out of the lad," Bodie mourned. "You're a Philistine, Ray, you know that?"
"Thank God for that," Doyle growled. "Otherwise all our victim will have will be a tastefully chiseled marble monument. And the Cow's not going to authorize expenses on that result!"
"Come on, enjoy the ambience...we're here in the seat of learning, the home of poetry, "the word and nought else in time endures. Not you long after, perished and mute will last, but the defter viol and lute-ow!" Bodie's elegy to academe ended in an undignified squeak of pain.
"Pack. It. In." A quick glance at Doyle revealed sweat dampened curls sticking to his partner's scowling face and a distinct lack of patience. With remarkable (and hard learned) probity, Bodie decided that he'd pushed it as far as it was going. For a while.
"O.K., O.K....Jesus, what got up your elegant hooter?"
"There's a very real corpse, smashed to bits on the paving stones at the foot of their pretty Magdalen tower, and I want to know what put it there."
Sherlock Doyle, Bodie thought fondly. Always on the case. Although Lord Peter Whimsy might be more appropriate in this milieu. Be damned if he was going to play Harriet Vane, though.
"Why did the Cow stick us with this one, anyway? Shouldn't the local plod be handling this?" Bodie asked. "Professor Newland had a high security clearance, but she wasn't working on any project for Her Majesty's Government at the moment. She was helping some BBC bugger out...whatsisname, James Burke, with his script for a little docco on the history of invention. Total snore. How do you go from that to topping yourself by diving off a famous bit of academic architecture?"
"I don't know...maybe the Cow just wants his money's worth out of that forensic accounting course he sent us on. Like the Americans say, 'follow the money.' Remember, you got him to put it on expenses?"
"Only took us playing D'Artagnan for the next six weeks." Doyle grinned reminiscently, the look lighting up his face and changing its aspect from gargoyle to seraph in an instant. Bodie basked in the warmth of it. "So, O native guide, where's this Shrewsbury College, then?"
"Round this corner, and through this gate, and..." Bodie stopped abruptly. Doyle whistled through his teeth, appreciatively.
"Well, well, well...the Cow never said anything about it being an all-female establishment..." Doyle looked round in delight.
"Yeah...this job's looking up. Well, the scenery is, anyway," Bodie agreed. The two hapless lads strode happily through the gate, anticipating a quiet afternoon far from the usual blood and grime of their profession, compete with agreeable female company. Two innocent lambs, trotting happily to their fate.
Their disillusionment proceeded at a more rapid pace than was customary for Oxford, but it was academically rigorous, and very thorough, as befitted that venerable seat of learning. By the time the pair reported to Cowley, they were thoroughly fed up with the whole black-gowned ménage.
"Harpies, the lot of 'em. Sir." Bodie summarized economically.
"One slammed study door after another, Sir. No one's talking to us, but everyone's talking to each other. And something's very definitely not giving off the odor of sanctity. You know how it is, Sir." Doyle started pacing, gesticulating with his long-fingered, expressive hands. "You enter the building, everyone's whispering, no one's looking you straight in the eye...and then you find the suicide note."
"Pinned to her study door, Sir, in plain sight," Bodie volunteered.
"Then you want to know," and Doyle scowled a frustrated copper's scowl, "Did she jump?"
"Or was she pushed?" Bodie finished.
"It's Suzy Carter all over again, Sir."
"Aye, well, let's see you two start with some evidence, this time around, Doyle. No hunches."
As the Cow's door shut behind them, Bodie turned to Doyle, and said, "Ok, Sherlock, where do we start?"
Doyle tapped his nose knowingly and said, "Find out the how, and that'll tell us who. She didn't swan dive from that tower by accident."
"But no one's talking. No one'll even admit to having seen her last. Her entire last twenty-four hours are a blank."
"So, we start with the place she spent the most time: her study. It'll talk to us."
"Oh, Christ, not more sodding papers," moaned Bodie.
"Be a good lad, and I'll buy you an ice-cream when we're through," Doyle consoled him. "With a flake."
That's not all I want to lick, thought Bodie despairingly, as he followed Doyle's familiar and long-desired denim clad arse out into the CI5 car park. Poor old Watson, Bodie mourned. So close, and yet so damnably far from what he wanted. A few lines of poetry came to mind, but poor, beleaguered Bodie had had enough of verse for the day.
Hours later, a pool of lamplight illuminated a scribbled blotter on an ancient oaken desk, and bounced reflections of Doyle off windows gone black with night. Bodie sighed. Loudly.
"Never got my flake," he complained, and stuck out his lower lip for effect.
"Not finished yet, "Doyle returned heartlessly. "And that won't work."
"What won't work?" Bodie returned innocently.
"How could you tell? You haven't even looked up!"
"There's food involved, right? And anyway, can see your reflection in the window."
"Yeah, O.K. Sherlock. Any other feats of intellectual legerdemain you feel like wowing us with? Gonna tell us whodunit, are you?"
Doyle sighed and looked up at Bodie through lowered lashes, his eyes emerald slits of frustration. Bodie felt warmth curl in his stomach, pooling towards his groin, and hastily put a filing cabinet between himself and curly-haired temptation.
"Not from this lot I'm not. There's nothing here but curriculum and grades and endless memos about someone nicking the ashtrays from the S.C.R."
"Maybe someone's anti-smoking."
"Yeah, anybody who's ever spent ten minutes with Anson. Miner's lung, he's got." Both agents shared a rueful chuckle, then Doyle got back to business. "Any sign of a social life?"
"Not here. Dry as the Sahara. Unless you really, really, get off on the history of the vacuum pump, or pitch on ships' bottoms." Prefer other sorts of bottoms, meself, Bodie thought wistfully. Doyle froze in the act of standing up from the desk, and for a horrific moment Bodie feared he'd said the last bit out loud.
But no, it was just the ever vigilant D.C. Doyle noticing he'd missed a drawer.
"Hey, there's some correspondence and things wedged in here. God, it's jammed in here tight-let me just-" and as Doyle heaved, ancient wood and damp abruptly gave up the ghost, flinging the hapless investigator arse-over-teakettle onto the floor, and scattering papers everywhere.
"Oh, very nice investigative technique they're teaching down the Yard these days, Doyle," Bodie teased, even as he solicitously helped his partner up. If he sneaked an extra grope of a denim-clad bum in the process, well, these things happened.
Doyle yelped, and shot him a dark look, and then glanced at what he was holding. A wide, white smile began to burn through his gloom.
"Wey-hey-hey!" he cackled.
"Found something?" Bodie inquired.
"More to the Little Professor than met the eye, my son!" His eyes gleamed with amusement. "Our respectable black-gowned Oxford don wrote saucy stories on the side! Gay romances, God help us!"
"Did she? Any good?" Bodie was bent over, picking up papers and what looked like pamphlets off the ancient floor, so his voice was muffled.
"Tell you in a minute," Doyle said, his voice already abstracted.
"O.K., Holmes," Bodie straightened up with two piles of pamphlets in his hands. "You take this pile, and I'll take that one-"
"And I'll get to Scotland afore ye!"
"You've been spending too much time around the boss, Doyle. Really starting to worry about what goes on under that mop you call a haircut," Bodie grumbled. "Be calling you Harriet, next."
"What?" Doyle was only half listening, clearly fascinated by what he was reading, a salacious, delighted grin lighting his face.
"Never mind, Professor." Bodie sighed, and dropped cross-legged to the floor with his pile of amateur literary effort. Steeling himself, he turned to the first page.
Two hours later, well into the still watches of the night, they were still reading. The study was absolutely silent, except for their murmurs of delight, and the odd "here, this one's good." Their fingers brushed as they exchanged stories, and their heads were bent together over their unexpected treasure-trove. Doyle's curls brushed against Bodie's short crop, and tickled his ears. Bodie leaned a companionable arm on Doyle as his attention was drawn to a particularly good passage. Their breath commingled, expelled from their lungs in the same companionable rhythm, marking out the cadences of the prose. They were cocooned together in silence, rapt in the glow of a heaven made out of words and lamplight.
"I quite like this one," Doyle said. "Very romantic." He turned his head towards Bodie's. Their noses bumped, slid, and then, quite by accident, they were kissing, there on the floor of the Oxford study of a deceased don, with the rain pattering quietly on ancient stone just outside. The kiss was a long, slow deep exploration of teeth and tongues, and when it had finished, Doyle opened his eyes to meet Bodie's candid, glowing blue orbs, which seemed to reflect all the love and mischief in the world.
"Like romance, do you?" Doyle asked, when he'd got his breath back.
"Only with you," Bodie replied.
"Well, that's all right then," Doyle said, satisfied.
And with that rigorous academic examination behind them, they made love right where they were, their literary inspirations scattered, like their clothing, conveniently beneath them.
It was, as Bodie commented later, very apropos for them to consummate their love in that sanctum of letters, which remark earned him a patented Doyle elbow to the ribs. It was perhaps fortuitous for Bodie that when the actual magical moment arrived on the study floor, neither he nor Doyle were in a state to make learned and classical allusions. They came with joyous academic decorum, Anglo-Saxon monosyllables sufficing for both of them in which to express their delight.
They bore the stories, correspondence and the dog-eared ledger that had proved to be inhabiting the back of the desk drawer away with them, and inspected their prizes over breakfast at a local lodging house. They had woken stiff and complaining on the floor of Professor Newland's study, but coffee and buns were more than making up for that minor inconvenience. The fact that the price of their coffees alone would give their revered Scottish leader apoplexy simply added to their enjoyment of their intimate morning-after meal.
"And I've slept in worse places," Bodie allowed.
"Oh, thanks," Doyle growled. "Lavish hand with the compliments, you have."
"Present company more than makes up for it."
Doyle blushed over his coffee.
"Right. Back to business then."
"Must we?" Bodie said in a definitely non-businesslike voice.
"Yeah." Doyle gifted him with a blinding smile. " 'Fraid so, mate. Want the Cow to put breakfast on expenses, don't we?"
Some hours later, their last coffees were cooling in the cups, and Bodie was discreetly wondering whether the Cow's as yet untested generosity in the matter of expenses would stretch to elevenses. They'd made use of the phone, their RTs, and spread their meager evidence of letters and ledger across the rumpled tablecloth. Napkins and a sugar spoon served as bookmarks.
"O.K." Doyle began. "Our Little Professor was putting out some kind of monthly newsletter or D.I.Y. periodical with her saucy stories in it. And this ledger here contains a list of subscribers...some kind of daft writers' group, they are...and dates and times and amounts...according to this, she was barely taking in enough to cover printing costs."
"Labour of love, then."
"Labour of Hercules, more like." Doyle snorted. "All muck and Aegean stables."
"And the list of subscribers...God! Half the S.C.R.'s on here!"
"So that's what they get up to under those long academic gowns." Doyle's smile had enough sexual heat in it to power the National Grid. Bodie started to reminisce over the best bits of the night before, then rallied under Doyle's sudden glare.
"Mind on the case, Watson."
"The case. Right. O.K."
"The dates on the stories and in the ledger stop cold three months ago. Cowley confirmed what the Dean told us; her mum was in hospital and Professor Newland took a sort of sabbatical to look after her. Then, bang! Mum dies, and Professor N. takes two weeks to mourn her and bury her, and returns to work."
"There was a boyfriend, the neighbors said-oh, and Murph says h'lo, and he wants that fiver you owe him."
"I never," Doyle denied virtuously.
"Not my fault you keep picking nags that stumble over their own hooves," Bode averred.
"Another no-hoper. Neighbors say he did a bunk shortly after our Professor returned to the college. Said before he left that he hadn't been quite prepared for the vicious cut-and-thrust of academia."
"Should meet the Cow some morning when he's feeling chirpy."
"At any rate, he said it loudly, and with crockery. Left the next morning."
"Mother dead, boyfriend dumps her...all she's got left is her job, and this daft writer's group," Doyle said morosely. "Looking more like a suicide, isn't it?"
"Haven't got all the pieces yet, have we, sunshine?" Bodie said gently.
"No." Doyle sighed. "There's no help for it. We'll have to take this list and re-interview all of 'em."
"Oh God." A sudden wash of fear-inspired nausea made Bodie wish he hadn't eaten that last bun after all.
A round half-dozen interviews later, Bodie's thoughts were very, very far from food, and Doyle's temper was frankly on the boil.
"If this is academia, you can keep it!" he spat, after one slammed study door had nearly taken his nose off. "I've met politer packs of wolves!"
"I know what you mean. I've sat down to dinner with arms-dealers, Doyle, and I tell you, after ten minutes with these people, I want a bath!"
To say the interviews hadn't gone well would have been an understatement. The responses had varied from polite, icy blankness to out and out viciousness. None of the academics had been particularly pleased to be revealed as readers or writers of saucy stories. Their own private amusement, they seemed to feel, was no one's business but their own, their colleague's death notwithstanding. Bodie's un-erasable smirk hadn't helped.
Bodie and Doyle had, however, turned up some interesting tidbits about their deceased Professor's reputation among her colleagues. There was a definite sense of dirt clinging to her trailing academic sleeves, and a simmering hostility to Professor Newland that not even her death, it seemed, could erase.
Their last interview had been a case in point. The Bursar had been quite short with them when she found that they hadn't come to investigate a case of fraud, starring Professor Newland as prime suspect.
"Fraud?" Doyle said, bemused.
"Oh, yes! She was quite late with the last newsletter...almost two months late! She took money for them, you know." This last was confided in a tone that suggested that suggested that this was the first step into a sink of sin and depravity.
"But, I thought it was just a subscription sort of thing-to cover printing costs. A sort of Amateur Night Out kind of enterprise..." The Bursar wasn't having any, even if it came in the attractive James Bond package Bodie was currently personifying.
"Yes, but money is money and business is business, and if we hadn't complained she might have simply pocketed the money and never sent the newsletter out."
Doyle said gently, "you said she might have taken the money and pocketed it. Do you have any evidence that this is what she intended to do?"
"Proof? We know what nearly happened! It's happened before, you know. A visiting professor from the Sorbonne took us for quite a lot of money. And anyway, it's the principle of the thing, you know! Why, if I hadn't got quite sharp with her and that boyfriend of hers, goodness knows what she might have done. Certainly, she wouldn't have come up with the goods...I had to be very firm with her."
"But you got them, your stories."
"Oh, yes. But you know how it is. As I said, it's happened before. She needn't think we'd let her get away with it."
"She's dead," Doyle said, very, very gently.
"Oh. Well, then. She still got what she deserved." And the Bursar shut the door behind them.
"Christ, our Little Professor wasn't liked very much," Bodie said as both agents paced down the cool, stone-flagged corridor, breasting a black-gowned tide bent on obscure and important errands.
"No. A 'nice derangement of epitaphs'," Doyle returned.
"Well said, Harriet." Bodie danced adroitly out of range as they entered the sun-dappled forecourt.
"Retribution will catch up with you!" Doyle warned.
"Yeah, but later, eh?" Bodie put a hand up, stopping Doyle in his tracks.
"Pssst! I say, over here!" It was the little Professor of Classics, poking her head through the wicket-gate of the Scholars' Garden. Bodie was absurdly reminded of the Soldier with the Green Whiskers from the Wizard of Oz.
Strong-minded and strong-jawed, she had been a difficult interview, sticking strictly to her story that she hadn't heard anything about anything, she was far too busy, and didn't CI5 have more important matters to spend public money on?
Doyle ambled over to the gate, Bodie following like a large, amused guard dog in his wake. The Professor of Classics spoke quickly, in an undertone, as if she was afraid of being overheard despite the surge and raucous cawing of the students hurrying to and fro.
"I didn't say anything at the time. I didn't feel it was my place to do so. Then, after I heard what happened...perhaps silence wasn't the best way to handle the whole affair." She seemed to come to a sudden decision, and pushed a slip of paper at them. "Here. She had a cottage. Used it for writing. It's not far from here. You'll find what you're looking for there." And she popped back behind the gate and vanished.
The drive to Professor Newland's cottage was sunny and pleasant, and the pair made inventive use of a hedgerow on the way.
"So it won't be a total loss if we don't turn up anything," Bodie rationalized.
"The way you eat, the Cow'll be lucky to break even." Doyle shot him a sententious look.
"Thanks ever so."
"Never said I minded, did I? Quite like some of the things you do with your mouth."
It took all of Bodie's dedication to duty to keep the Capri headed towards the cottage.
They'd been expecting something thatched and rose-covered, so the tumbledown farmer's butt and ben was an understandable disappointment. The old-fashioned pigeon holed writing desk it contained, however, was not.
"Jesus Christ, look at this!"
The desk held a neatly tabbed ledger dated for the last three months, stopping only three days before Newland's death.
"Here they are...the late orders the Bursar complained about...they cover the same two weeks she wasn't in Oxford; she was up North, burying her mother." Doyle rubbed the end of his nose and delved into another pigeon hole. "Thought so!" he crowed. Four neat little envelopes of subscription money were carefully clipped to the corresponding letters from the newsletter's recipients, each stating that they had indeed received their stories, and that she needn't think they'd allow her to be so slack in future.
"Not very charitable."
"Milk of human kindness compared to this little lot." Bodie waved a packet of letters unearthed from a drawer.
"What you got there, then, Watson?"
"They're copies of letters sent through the college post. God bless the copy machine, I suppose. This little bundle had a cover letter, dated the day before Newland died. 'From A Friend.' Huh. Didn't know she had any amongst this crowd."
"What's in 'em?"
"Arsenic and old lace. No, really," Bodie held up a hand. "These have been sent to all of Newland's colleagues through the college's private post...they're signed...from two of her so-called 'dear friends' on the subscription list. Ouch!"
"Nasty. This one's addressed to the Dean. Who, you may recall, denied any knowledge of upheavals in Professor Newland's private life."
"Yeah. Really nasty, these are. Not a billet doux among 'em. They start with accusations of deliberate fraud with the newsletter, and go on from there." Bodie flipped through the letters. "These are questioning her academic work...whether it rested on fraud as well. And this one's to the boyfriend...they accuse him of fraud, and there's a threat to tell the academic community at large 'just what he and his girlfriend get up to.' Ugly. No wonder he did a bunk, if he was exposed to this kind of heat from his girlfriend's hobby."
"And no wonder her colleagues thought she was in league with the Prince of Darkness by the time they'd gotten several of these in their post box. Even if you don't know what the fuss is about, after this you'd have to wonder! Nothing going on in the college, my arse!"
"Well, there wasn't," Doyle said reasonably. "Not by the time this lot were through. Even if she'd had any friends, they weren't going to risk their reputations by association with this kind of dirt."
"So that's it, then. Mum dies, boyfriend bolts under the pressure, then she comes back to Oxford to find her work and her private passion rubbished. Nothing left. Looks like a suicide, old son."
"But it still doesn't make any sense, Bodie! She had the proof to exonerate herself right bloody here! She had evidence that proved she was not guilty of fraud and proof of who was harassing her at the college. Why not take it and confront her accusers? Why not go to the Dean about their behavior? Why not a solicitor for slander? Why, Bodie?"
"Let's go and ask the Dean, shall we?"
The Dean was visibly amused when Doyle stalked into her office and flung the letters on her desk.
"Of course Professor Newland couldn't go public with this sort of thing...not and remain within the college. And she knew it."
"So you have seen the letters."
"Of course I've seen them. But you must understand, gentlemen, that I can take no official notice of private correspondence amongst the staff."
"These letters are evidence of a campaign of harassment."
"They are nothing of the sort. They do not, officially, exist."
"They're right bloody there!"
"But not in any meaningful sort of way. This is a cloistered community, gentlemen, and there is no speaking out of school." The Dean tittered politely at her own joke. Doyle remained stone-faced.
"Professor Newland understood the rules, gentlemen. They were in her contract as a member of this college. She could not bring private correspondence to my attention or discuss it with her colleagues or, heaven forbid, bring this sordid sort of thing to a solicitor's because the rules of her contract expressly forbid it. She could not, gentlemen, have spoken out in any way and remained a member of this community. Academic integrity is very important to this college."
"And this would have applied to her friends in the college, assuming, of course, that she had any?" Bodie questioned in his smooth-as-silk voice, GBH eddying darkly in the undertones.
"Of course. Any breath of scandal must be kept from public view, and the honour of the college must remain virgo intacta, or rather vertute securus, as it were."
"Of course. So Newland had no right to confront her accusers, or to publish the contents of any of the letters, even the ones that might have stemmed the tide of abuse, and cleared her name. She had no right to even attempt to remove the stain on her honour." Doyle was also dangerously quiet.
"No right at all, gentlemen. Now if you'll excuse me..."
"Christ, I'm trying to think of one!" Doyle ground out.
"What?" The Dean was clearly nonplussed.
"An excuse! Under your own rules, she had no right to confront her accusers, no way to clear her name! She buries her mother and comes back to find your lot have made her life a living hell! And you lot watch her drown and don't lift a finger. Nice! I've met London hard boys that are cleaner than you lot!"
"If you're going to be rude, Mr. Doyle, I'm afraid you'll have to leave. And those letters prove nothing at all."
"Your lot put her out on that ledge!"
"You can't prove that, Mr. Doyle" the Dean said primly.
"Yeah, actually I can. I don't play by your rules. But you already know it's true and you don't give a damn, and there's nothing I can do about that." Doyle pulled himself away from the desk. "CI5's brief is security. And technically-just-this isn't murder." Long, angry strides carried the ex-copper out of the Dean's office, and her windows reverberated as Doyle took revenge on her portal for all the slammed doors of the last two days.
In the sudden silence of the office, Bodie turned toward the Dean, who was clearly gob-smacked, and said quite conversationally,
"If you're stuck for a literary reference as to what just happened, might I suggest Umberto Eco?"
"Pardon?" The Dean looked at him blankly.
"The Name of the Rose, old thing. Modern volume, all about the Early Church. In which evidence of murder is disallowed on the grounds that it derives from the index of prohibited books...such as Aristotle. Not that it doesn't exist, not that it didn't happen; you're just not allowed to talk about it. It had an odd point or two in it you might find of interest. Y'know the form. Integrity. Academic freedom of thought. The dangers of a hermetically sealed community. Preserving an institution at the expense of its members. That sort of thing."
"And your point, Mr. Bodie?"
"Oh, nothing very much. After all, you've got to be very familiar with the underside of your carpet by now, Dean. Just...what will you do when the next one comes along? And the outside world won't go away?"
"The doings of this college are our own business, Mr. Bodie!"
"Not this time, they weren't," Bodie said. "And they may not be again, assuming your lot don't stick at murder next time. I'll leave you with that. As a good Scotsman once said, 'put your own house in order.' Good day, Dean."
Bodie closed the door very, very quietly on his way out.
Bodie cleared Shrewsbury College's outer gate with a sense of relief, then stood blankly in the middle of the busy street, wondering where Doyle had got to. Choosing a direction a random, and wisely supposing Doyle's need to get as far away from the college as quickly as possible equaled his own, he found his own magnetic North ensconced in a cool and shadowed chapel far off the main thoroughfare.
Doyle was sat down at the foot of a marble alter, being lectured kindly on the chapel by a gentleman in ecclesiastical black and a dog collar. The old gent reminded Bodie of Alice's White Knight from Lewis Carroll's Through The Looking Glass, with his flowing white locks, spectacles, and gentle, slightly ineffectual mannerisms. Bodie approached the pair with a smile.
"Well," the representative of the dog collar brigade was saying, "the oldest bits are William the Conqueror...but I shouldn't think there is really very much left intact from that time period...except for the bones, of course."
Doyle turned as Bodie stepped up behind them.
"Hullo, sunshine, where've you been?"
"Oh, sticking a flea in someone's ear, and other useless acts of knight-errantry. Taking the tour, are you?"
"What? Oh. Right. Bodie, this is the Reverend Dodgson. Reverend, this is my partner Bodie." The Reverend Dodgson smiled and nodded, and shook Bodie's hand in what, to that worthy's private amusement, was a very White Knight sort of way.
"Am I correct in supposing," the Reverend enquired mildly, "that you gentlemen are investigating our Harriet's death?"
"News travels fast, padre," Bodie answered. Then, "Our Harriet?"
"At the speed of light, among the academic community. And even faster among the ecclesiastical. I had the honor to serve on the local ecumenical council with Harriet Newland, from time to time. I found her viewpoint on the history of the Church quite refreshing."
"That's a kinder epitaph than any we've heard so far, Reverend," Bodie returned.
"I take it then that you lads found the investigation of her unfortunate death to be...sticky going, shall we say?"
"Understatement. Nobody among that lot would even spare her a funeral wreath. Business as usual. Don't let the door hit you on the way out." Doyle sounded quite bitter, and Bodie spared him a worried glance.
"Ah. Left a bit of a bad taste in your mouth, have they?" Doyle nodded. "Well, it might help to understand where they are 'coming from' as they say these days. To speak not so much in expiation as explanation, you should understand that they are a small, closed society, and prey to all the ills inherent in that structure." Rev. Dodgson waved his arms vaguely, and looked rather sad. "You must understand that a society closed in defense of itself will attack whatever seems to threaten the stability of that society. Right and wrong, or even simple human feeling, don't enter into the equation at all. Following the rules is everything...until it becomes the only thing. The Early Church had many shameful episodes of that sort...and I feel that even in modern times we are not free of the rubric of the survival of the institution at the expense of its members." He shook his white shock of hair sadly, and adjusted his spectacles.
"Umberto Eco," Bodie said. "But my colleague here feels that veritatis simplex oratio est." Doyle shot his partner a quick and assessing glance.
"Quite so, my boy. A soldier of letters, are you?"
"When I have time, Reverend, when I have time." Bodie hoped the dim light of the chapel was enough to conceal the blush Doyle's warm look of approbation gave him.
The Reverend Dodgson smiled, and nodded, and then pressed on to what for him was the heart of the matter.
"I don't suppose there have been any funeral arrangements made for Harriet?" he asked diffidently.
"No one's even claimed the body. Sorry, Reverend," Doyle said contritely.
"Quite all right, young man. I thought as much. I was getting up my courage to approach the college on the subject, as Harriet had no immediate family, but if it's your CI5 that has charge of her earthly remains...well, there are those of us here who would consider it our duty to see to it that Harriet is interred with all the decencies the Church can provide in the circumstances." The Rev. Dodgson paused, and directed an enquiring look at the two agents.
"That's very good of you, Reverend. Especially considering the circs," Doyle said. "We'll ring our boss and get back to you."
"Thank you so very much. We at the chapel were all fond of her, and besides, I quite enjoyed her little stories."
Bodie choked suddenly, and was pounded on the back enthusiastically by his partner.
"Excuse his manners, Reverend, he hasn't any," Doyle apologized.
"Not at all, my boy. At any rate, I feel that I should make this small gesture in Harriet's memory. There's altogether too much cruelty in this world, and not enough love, it seems. And those who preach love do have a tendency to be crucified on the nearest tree. But that doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing." And the Reverend Dodgson gave them both a look that to Bodie was eerily reminiscent of the Cow, and seemed to miss nothing. Then he smiled, and nodded, and said, "If you'll excuse me, gentlemen? It seems a flock of American tourists are descending," and left them to greet the new group of visitors to his "beloved and historic chapel."
"Did that just happen?" Bodie was incredulous.
"Probably," Doyle deadpanned. "Come on, sunshine, and I'll buy you an ice cream. Still owe you a flake, don't I?"
"That's not all you owe me!"
Doyle really should have expected Bodie to goose him just as they passed the American grockles. But his shout of outrage was music to Bodie's ears, all the same.
Some days later, on what was meant to be their afternoon off, Bodie and Doyle returned to Oxford for Professor Harriet Newland's funeral. It was, as expected, wet, depressing, and sparsely attended. No one from Shrewsbury College attended, and Doyle remarked on it as they squelched their way to the graveside to leave a bouquet of flowers.
"No sympathy, that black-gowned lot."
"Of course not," Bodie returned. "They don't think it can ever happen to them." He continued in his plummiest accent, "Misfortune only happens to other people, don't you know. Besides, it may be catching."
"We're all other people to other people," Doyle said dolorously.
"Yeah, I know. The world according to Doyle: "Everybody's somebody."
"Well, they are."
"You'll have a job proving it by this lot, mate. Hey, d'you think the Cow would authorize a pint or two on expenses?"
"You must be dreaming. We're lucky he sprung for the flowers. Why?"
"I need something to take the taste of this place out of my mouth."
"Yeah, O.K. But I'm buying."
Bodie's escalated eyebrow said it all.
"Well," Doyle said defensively, "I found one thing here worth celebratin'."
"Yeah." And with an incandescent grin and an affectionate arm around Bodie's shoulder, Doyle led his one true love in search of the nearest pub. Which, this being Oxford, was not hard to find.
-- THE END --
BODIE: Ah, you know the form. Dog eat dog.
DOYLE: Ah, that's okay. As long as you're not a dog.
(from "Old Dog With New Tricks")
"eppur se muove"- Nevertheless, it does move.
-Apocryphal, attributed to Galileo
Translations from the Latin used above, per request:
Virgo intacta = virginity intact, so to speak
Virtute securus = secure through virtue
Veritatis simplex oratio est = the language of truth is simple
Apologies to Latin scholars for atrocities of spelling or conjugation.