Let’s Go in the Garden - Ch. 6
Thomas comforts. Peter listens. David steals his boyfriend’s car.
Halfway through the night, I was woken by a scream.
It had me
sitting up straight in bed, disoriented, heart beating a little too fast, thinking at
first that I’d dreamt the noise, whatever it had been… then someone
screamed again, somewhere within the Folly.
I had my slippers on and was out the door within two seconds of the second scream.
I cast a werelight and let it float an inch above my palm, I proceeded,
slowly and carefully, down the empty hallway. I was grateful for the
warm, steady, non-horror-movie-esque glow that my werelight provided,
otherwise this would have been creepy. Of course, the part of my mind
that wasn’t just primed on observing wondered who had screamed and why.
Someone needed my help somewhere out here and I didn’t know anything
further about the situation, but so help me I was going to be there.
Then, beyond one of the many closed doors in this hallway, I heard something. A rustle, a… whimper? I paused.
The door was nothing to me. Just another disused bedroom, like many on this floor. I turned the handle. It wasn’t locked.
air in the room smelled like Molly had freshly cleaned here, readying
it for its new-old inhabitant. In my werelight’s glow, I saw a shape in
the bed against the far wall, writhing, flailing, making these little
whimpers. I took a step inside.
“No,” said a voice in my back.
I full-body flinched. I’m not proud of this buy I almost shrieked when a hand fell onto my shoulder. I spun around.
know how to handle this,” Nightingale said. He was still fully dressed,
his suit rumpled like he’d slept in it. His face was milk-pale in the
darkness, and he smelled of booze.
“If you’re sure, sir?” I
whispered. For a moment, as he passed me by in the doorway, we were very
close. I held my breath as he breathed a cloud of alcohol onto my face.
“I am. Go back to bed, Peter.”
I stayed standing where I was and watched as Nightingale knelt by the
bed, plunged a hand into the multiple thick blankets piled onto there
and muttered something I couldn’t quite catch. The flailing, writhing,
blanketed shape quieted for a moment, and Mellenby’s curly head shot up
from his nest. He was panting, gasping, shaking and clutching the
blankets to him.
“It’s…” he gasped. “I’m…”
“You’re home,” Nightingale murmured. “It’s over now.”
Mellenby grabbed onto his hand like a lifeline. “I was back at… that place.”
Nightingale nodded, this wasn’t surprising or new to him. “Ettersberg. Yes. I dream of it too.”
Mellenby shuddered. “You do? Even all these years later?”
“Yes,” Nightingale said grimly, “Even all these years later.”
“So this never… never goes away? It never stops?”
hasn’t for me, not substantially.” Absentmindedly, it seemed,
Nightingale wiped a bead of sweat off Mellenby’s brow with his thumb. “I
wish I could tell you something more encouraging.”
“It was so cold,” Mellenby whispered. “I’m just… so cold.”
We’ll get you warm.” Nightingale sat down on the bed and rearranged
them so that he could pull David into his arms. This accomplished, he
looked back up at me.
“Still here, are you?” he asked me quietly.
Sorry, I mouthed and got away, not wanting to intrude any further.
got a glass of water in the kitchen and went back up to my bedroom. On
the way past Mellenby’s room, I peered once more, just for a second,
through the cracked door. I could see the two of them nestled in bed
like kids at a sleepover, I could hear their whispered words, too low
for me to make out.
We didn’t talk about any of
that at breakfast. Nightingale sat with his coffee and his crossword as
usual, and if he hid a few yawns behind his hand, no one mentioned it.
Molly served food. David had availed himself of Nightingale’s phone and
was now tinkering with it with the fervor and enthusiasm of the true
neophile. Periodically he would ask a question like “What does this
button do?” and Nightingale would glance over and say something to the
effect of “I don’t know, I never use that one.”
After a few such
exchanges, Mellenby put the phone down with a put-upon expression.
“Really, Thomas,” he said, “I can’t believe you have this… this wondrous gadget of near-infinite uses at your convenience and never ever
figured out how to fully utilize it.”
rustled his newspaper. “I will utilize it when and if it becomes
necessary. Otherwise I don’t see a reason to waste time on it.”
Mellenby sighed. “But I have so many questions!”
why don’t you have Peter show you,” Nightingale suggested and went back
to the newspaper, skimming the headlines and muttering something about
“Why do you read the Torygraph, anyway?” I asked.
stellar, unfortunately,” Nightingale said and gave me a get-on-with-it
hand gesture. I went out in the hallway to phone Bev first and foremost,
and when I had made sure she didn’t need anything from me right this
second (she told me to stop fussing but, hey, she was pregnant) it seemed like my morning would be devoted to explaining cellphones to David Mellenby.
I ended up taking him into town and out of Nightingale’s hair. His opposition to us hanging out at all seemed to have subsided a bit, maybe he’d stopped suspecting that we’d conspire to do science behind his back. Or perhaps he just secretly wanted to have a lie-down with his hangover. One of these two.
want modern clothing,” Mellenby proclaimed to my surprise. “All of my
things look like… well, like they’ve been mouldering in a wardrobe for
eighty years, give or take. And I would love to avail myself of an…
“A smartphone?” I had to grin. “You’re going
to need money for that.” I wondered if he had money, and what had
happened to it after his “death”. Had Nightingale taken care of it? Had
anyone? Had David had family?
The question became void when
Mellenby said, “Thomas gave me, um, this,” and held up the Folly’s
credit card. God and Nightingale and possibly but not definitely the
commissioner only knew how much was on that. “He told me to just take
whatever I need.”
I couldn’t help myself, I let out a wolf-whistle. “The man does love you.”
Mellenby ducked his head, a shy smile spreading involuntarily on his face. “I should hope so.”
expected he wanted to head on over to Savile Row and get himself a
wardrobe of bespoke suits true to the Nightingale way. It turned out
what David Mellenby wanted was to dress precisely like everyone else on
the street. He seemed drawn to comfy jumpers, cardigans and slacks and
seemed to consider dumb novelty t-shirts that said things like “Don’t
trust atoms - they make everything up” the height of wit and comedy.
also got him a phone. He badgered an employee into explaining
everything to him, but his friendly and unbridled enthusiasm made it
near-impossible to be annoyed by him. I filmed the exchange on my own
phone and sent it to Nightingale captioned “Let your bf loose in the electronics store”.
“Bf?” Nightingale texted back. “Ah. ‘Boyfriend’. Indeed. God help us all.”
morning morphed into noon, I got us coffee just to see how Mellenby
people-watched. It amused me in a weird way how he kept making googly
eyes at the stores, streets, cars and people around us. He seemed to be
taking the whole eighty-years-later thing remarkably well - scratch
that, he seemed to be taking to it with a verve that surprised me.
Probably because I was used to Nightingale, who tended to keep the
modern world at arm’s length (that is, until he didn’t). At times,
Mellenby simply looked astonished, or like he was wanting to ask
questions but didn’t know how to best go about it. At other times I
watched him smile like a kid in a candy store. I wasn’t going to ask,
but then Mellenby ordered a giant unicorn-glitter-frappuccino-concoction
because he saw it advertised on a billboard and “it piqued his
curiosity”. Nightingale, when forced to enter a coffee shop at all,
usually ordered a no-nonsense black coffee accompanied by that testy
old-person-face of someone with opinions about and personally offended
by the Starbucks menu.
I guess I just couldn’t help constantly comparing the two of them.
“Are you… alright with all this?” I asked him, feeling a bit hesitant to lance that boil, but curiosity winning out.
“I’m… yes, alright, I think.” He smiled at me. “This drink is… interesting.”
“Sure,” I said and waited for him to volunteer more information.
be honest, sometimes it all feels like a dream,” Mellenby produced.
“Like a journey down the rabbit hole. I keep expecting someone to pinch
me, and it’ll still be 1945. Of course things are… different, and
strange to me. London has changed considerably. But then again, last I
saw it, half of it was in ruins. Now there’s all these exciting new
buildings, and different cars, and there are so many… well…” He
looked at me and started visibly floundering, and I began to suspect
what came next. “There are people on the… street who are… that
is to say, there’s many…”
I decided to do the charitable thing and release him from his struggle. “Got a bit more colourful since the 40s, huh?”
too, coloured - as pink as his unicorn drink. “I don’t wish to offend.
I… Thomas was the one who always got around within the… colonies, I
“There’s no more empire,” I threw out, just to see how
he’d react. Hugh Oswald had described him as very concerned with the
fading British Empire, while Nightingale had claimed him uninterested,
and I was wondering which one it was and whether I could still like him
as a person after this.
“Oh boy!” Mellenby exclaimed. “That’s a big change.” And that seemed to be it.
“So you’re really just… adjusting alright.” It seemed almost too easy.
shrugged. “I suppose so. There was… not much left for me to miss in
1945, that probably helps. And a part of me sees this as a chance, you
know? Under normal circumstances I might never have experienced this
new, enlightened era as I am now doing. Ah well, it keeps me from
thinking about the war.”
I nodded knowingly. Distraction. Well, that sure was one explanation.
just glad I don’t get overstimulated, like I saw some of the lads do,
immediately after our return from… that place. Just the nightmares,
and that… unfortunate episode just yesterday. I, um… did apologize
for that, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Parts of that moment were a
bit of a blur, to be honest. He’d tried to attack, I’d snapped to
defense, Nightingale had rushed in, then I’d told Mellenby about gay
rights. All’s well that ends well. “No one got hurt, so… it’s fine.”
After some thought process had gone into that, I added, “You’re going to
want to get help for that, though.”
Mellenby made a face. “Help.”
good now. I do it. They don’t just tell you to get up and show some
backbone anymore, it really helps.” I looked at his wrists. He’d put on a
silver-grey cardigan to cover the inhibitor cuffs, even with the warm
weather out. “These cuffs can’t be a permanent solution.”
indeed.” He picked at them beneath his sleeves. “Most of my work relies
on me using my magic in the lab. I cannot continue on like this. I get
why Thomas sees the need, but I wish there were another way.”
“There is.” For a moment, I felt the impulse to pat his shoulder. I contained it. “Get better.”
sighed. “Get better… easier said than done. You know, what with so
much time having passed, for Thomas, in relation to me, I would have
assumed I’d find him… having gotten better. But apparently… not.”
Oh, no. He wanted to talk about Nightingale.
wasn’t about to snitch on my boss to his significant other, so I said,
“He gets on alright.” Personally, I’d been happy to believe that, but
then I’d started having… doubts. Lately.
Mellenby fiddled with
the lid of his plastic cup, glowering down upon it like it had done him
a personal injustice. “Does it truly just stay like this? Has he not
found anything in all these years that helps?”
I shrugged. I don’t
think Nightingale has ever gone anywhere near a therapist, and I’d much
rather stick my foot in a bear trap than suggest it to him. “As coping
goes, I guess he’s the expert. I mean, he did build that memorial wall.”
Mellenby cocked his head at me. “Thomas built a what now?”
“It’s a bit of a drive,” I said. “And I’ve only done it once. And the roads may be different than what you’ll remember.” We were exiting the coffee shop, proceeding down the road with the great, purposeful steps of people planning an endeavor. Really, that plan was still stuck in its earliest stage: We want to get somewhere, how do we pull it off?
“I’m sure between the two of us we’ll manage to find Casterbrook,” Mellenby said. “Have you got a car?”
“Yeah, but it’s at Bev’s house.” When Mellenby gave me a blank look, I explained, “Beverley Brook. My girlfriend.”
He nodded. Mentally, he seemed to cross me off a list. (Or was I
imagining that?) I gave him three seconds… two… one…
“Like the river?” he asked.
I smiled. I couldn’t help it. My face just does this thing nowadays when Bev is discussed. “Yeah, like the river.”
“The Beverley Brook didn’t have a deity in my day.”
“A lot is different. What I’m getting at is my car’s halfway across town.”
“How long has your girlfriend been around? If you don’t mind me asking. Do you think she might talk to me?”
don’t know. Let’s cross the rivers when we get to them. About the car
though.” Was this what dealing with me was like? All the questions and
digressions? How had Nightingale not imploded under the strain of there
being two of us?
“Yes, yes. Well, why don’t we just nip on back to the Folly and take Thomas’s Jaguar?” Mellenby suggested.
“The Jag?” I frowned. “I don’t know. He gets… territorial about it. And he is my boss.”
“Not mine,” Mellenby said.
thought back on how livid Nightingale had been with David, that
deep-seated rage I’d never seen in him before. And below that, other,
even deeper shit lurked. “You’re not even a bit scared of him?”
He actually genuinely laughed. “Before he was my Captain, he had
already been my boyfriend for a good long while. I’ve seen Thomas with
his a–” He cleared his throat. “I’ve seen Thomas in just an array of
posit- of situations. I’m not intimidated by him.”
He left a text.
Thomas, it ran, took the Jag. Will bring it back, presumably, by dinner. I love you. This, by the way, is David on the cellular phone.
with the frequency with which Nightingale looked at his phone, or
rather the lack thereof, he probably wouldn’t see the text until we were
already back. Which explained why he didn’t immediately call both of us
demanding to know where on earth we were taking his car. Still, he’d
probably flip when he noticed the Jag was gone.
Between the two of
us and Google Maps (Mellenby oohed and aahed accordingly) we did manage to find
Casterbrook. The building looked about as I remembered it, perhaps a bit
“Oh, it’s desolate!” Mellenby exclaimed, looking
at it with a facial expression bordering on horror. To me, it seemed
fine - well, not fine, it really was kind of dreary, but it
hadn’t been left to decay. Clearly, Nightingale still invested in the
school’s upkeep. Then again, to someone who had known the place
well-trimmed and teeming with activity, ‘desolate’ was probably
We walked across the grounds, the way Nightingale had
shown me back then that led to the secret side-entrance. Mellenby was
“Over there were the cricket and rugby fields,” he said, pointing. “That… is where I first laid eyes on Thomas.”
“Hallowed ground,” I said with a tired smile.
suppose.” He lowered his head, but wasn’t deterred for long. “He was…
well, in retrospect he was fifteen. But to me then, it seemed
impossible that anyone should be so graceful. I had no idea why I was
feeling so deeply about it. Oh my, the front door seems to be locked.
And me without my magic. Do you know a lock-breaking spell?”
“Won’t need one. Nightingale showed me how to get into the night gate.”
the night gate.” Mellenby beamed. “I remember when Thomas first asked
me to meet there and go to the pub with him and his friends. No one had
asked me before, and I was so nervous. I thought probably it was going
to be a one-time occasion, a token of gratitude, perhaps, for my
tutoring him, and that surely Thomas Nightingale wouldn’t want little
old me along with all his big popular friends. It turned out he
genuinely just- oh, I am boring you.”
“Eh, not boring me.” I
definitely filed ‘big popular friends’ away for further examination. Bit
of a jock, my guv’nor, apparently.
“But you don’t actually want
to hear these stories, do you?” Mellenby lowered his head, and it was
like kicking a puppy. He probably hadn’t ever talked to anyone about
this, what with the subject matter being very illegal at the time. Now that he could, though, the stories seemed to just be pouring out of him, like he couldn’t help himself, like he was desperate to share them all as soon as humanly possible. I wondered what it had been like for him, having this relationship that had been so very meaningful to him, and not ever being able to mention it. I wondered how on earth he hadn’t exploded with it.
“No, no, I do,” I said. “It’s just… he is my boss and all.”
let us inside through the notorious night gate. It had been a while
since I’d been shown the spell for the door, and Mellenby remembered it
but couldn’t cast, but we managed together. It was as dark in there as I
remembered it being, and I cast a werelight to light the way. Mellenby cooed when he saw it.
“It’s fascinating,” he said, “your budding signare. I never thought I’d see the day Thomas took an apprentice.”
didn’t quite know what to say to that. But before I could even think of
an answer, Mellenby was off again touching the walls and sighing at the
many and varied vestigia within the old building. “It’s all so present
and yet so far away,” he said. “They never ever reopened the school?”
“Who would’ve done it? Who’s they? There’s only Nightingale.”
started to say something - and snapped his mouth shut. After a few
moments in which we just walked silently, he asked, “Then why do we even
still own the building?”
‘We’, in this case, I assumed meant the Folly.
would have been my first answer. Nightingale simply hadn’t borne the
thought of selling his old school very well, and had felt overwhelmed to
be in charge of a decision of such magnitude. He’d told me as much. So
he had simply avoided thinking at all about it, keeping the whole thing
at arm’s length again - a common tactic, I was beginning to notice, with
“Need somewhere to keep the memorial, I guess,” was what I said.
then it was before us, the memorial. I let my werelight grow larger,
brighter, and sent it up towards the ceiling where it illuminated the
near-endless rows of names, just like I’d done the first time I’d been
Mellenby’s mouth fell open as he spun around himself and
stared up at those hundreds upon hundreds of names, stretching all the
way up to the vaulted ceiling, all painstakingly carved into the wood
paneling in that familiar, slightly blocky font.
“Who all contributed to this?” Mellenby asked.
was going to fit the realization that there had been only Nightingale
left active in his head somehow. Eventually. Or so I hoped. “Nightingale
all by himself,” I answered. “He told me there was no one else, and
someone had to do it, or something.”
“Oh, Thomas,” David whispered. “Oh, Thomas.”
I kept quiet.
Mellenby spread his palm, to make a werelight alongside mine, I realized, and then when nothing happened put his hand down.
are some good friends over here,” he said, pointing at a particular
spot within the rows of names. There was a strain to his voice, and I
feared he might cry again. “Horace Greenway, here, we were in the Latin
tutoring club together. Roy Fitzgerald, my first apprentice. Didn’t make
it out of Ettersberg. There’s Edward Cobb. He considered himself an
empiricist, too. We had the most outrageous debates. Ballantine the
third all the way over here, one of Thomas’s best friends, I never quite
got on with him. There’s Pascal from the chess team, we had that funny
nickname for him… and over here we have… oh… me.”
I did a
double-take. But of course, Nightingale would have included David on
here along with everybody else. Another casualty of Ettersberg, although
“He… he put me with my best friends,” Mellenby
said, his voice now wavering. “And my apprentices. He knew… knew I’d want
to be with them.”
“You had apprentices?” I tried, desperate to derail him from his oncoming crying fit.
had five apprentices,” Mellenby said, to my surprise. “I wanted at
least double that. But, well, the war. Only one of them made it all the
way through, but he dropped off the map practically as soon as the
glider hit the ground. Oh, maybe Thomas will know what happened to him.”
remembered Nightingale’s track record regarding other practitioners
running around post-war, and had to stop myself from making a face. “I
“Geoffrey was his name. Geoffrey Wheatcroft. Is that… anything to you?”
I felt a chill.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft had, of course, infamously gone on to found the Little Crocodiles.
I recalled correctly, Nightingale had reacted with mild confusion when
we had happened upon his name at last in our search for the Faceless
Man. I shook my head. How he hadn’t gone completely spare was beyond me.
“You better talk to Nightingale about that,” I said.
huffed and crossed his arms, like something about that statement upset
him, but he didn’t say anything. Maybe it was just my tone of voice. I’d
probably sounded a bit foreboding. Well, I couldn’t have helped myself.
then, with the dark and silent walls surrounding us, with the hundreds
of carved names bearing witness, I asked him the only thing I could
think to ask, “What was he like during the war?”
Mellenby gave me a
long and strange look. He wasn’t always, this I had already learned, an
expert in reading the room, but right now I knew he knew that I hadn’t
asked about Wheatcroft. Then his eyes drifted off of me, to all the
names on the wall, and from thence into a vague middle distance. Perhaps
he was wondering what the men commemorated here would want him to say.
“Thomas was reckless,” he said.
That was not what I had expected.
He seemed to catch on to my astonishment, because he exhaled a long gust of a sigh and then deigned to elaborate.
was a good CO,” he said, “Thomas lived for his men. His loyalty was to
the lads under his command foremost. The brass, the objective, the
enemy, the value of his own life, stipulations, orders… morals…
Thomas lost sight of a lot when it came to ensuring the safety of as
many of the men as possible. He got reckless, and from a certain angle
it would look the same as getting ruthless. He would charge into
Mellenby was getting choked up again. He
wrapped his arms around himself and stared at the ground, his lids
fluttering, he was obviously struggling to contain himself. I could do
no more than stand by.
“He was strong, I have to give that
to him. He was a keen strategist. Most of the time, he judged his odds
accurately. And he did win us some ground, you know. That’s why he was
allowed to proceed with little more than a slap on the wrist. In combat,
he would periodically forego orders, abandon his position… cross
battlefields all by himself at full tilt with his shield up, firing at
the Krauts like a maniac, just to get the men out faster. It worked, was the thing. Doesn’t mean I didn’t die a thousand deaths in fear for him whenever he decided to do this.”
I said. There was little else to say. I was trying to imagine the
Nightingale I knew doing anything “like a maniac”, to imagine him
without his ever-present composure. A bit of that had worn off recently
with David’s return but it was still a long shot towards what he was
“And he was valuable, as a Captain, as a practitioner,
as a symbol. That’s why command let him alone. He never was disciplined
in any meaningful way… never court-martialed… and neither was I,
come to think of it. I suppose command found me valuable also, or Thomas
was shielding me in some way. Some things were certainly kept off the
record, some things I assume command never heard of.”
“Now hold on.” This was beginning to sound less than savory. “Court-martialed?”
yes.” Mellenby made a bitter little sound. Maybe it was supposed to be a
laugh, I honestly couldn’t tell. “In the later years of the war, Thomas
was flirting with a court-martial near-constantly. Going in, there was
an attempt to do things by the book as much as was possible. But being
in the field, it wears something down, you know, within you. Things
started to fall by the wayside that we would never have thought
ourselves capable of abandoning. Just… lord, the bloody fascists. That
He clenched his fists. The sudden anger was
jarring to me - I’d seen him annoyed by now, or unnerved, but never
truly furious. Now I first realized, really realized with all my brain
that he was a veteran.
‘Veteran’… I’d taken it to mean
‘person who needs care’. And of course it still meant that. But it also
very much meant ‘retired soldier’, with all that concept entailed. Here
was a man who had made his living in slaughter.
“They made us
worse people, and that I cannot forgive. I heard Thomas say once that
they had waived their humanity when they elected Hitler. And he was
right, he was right! Lord, did I hate the Germans. Do hate them. Then
Ettersberg…” He grit his teeth. His voice quieted, dulled again.
“Ettersberg vindicated us. Showed us what exactly it was we’d been
fighting. But, it also confronted us with our own shortcomings. Showed
us that we were complicit. That I… was complicit.”
beginning to tremble now, first his hands, then his whole body. “And my
research started it all in the first place… my theories… I…”
I had to get him out of here, or at least out of his head. I called
back my werelight and, very carefully, touched his arm and led him out
of the room, back into the light.
“Hey, listen,” I said as we
walked, “I’ve changed my mind. Why don’t you tell me the story of how
you met Nightingale after all…”
We walked back to
the car in a somber mood. Of course you could never really feel chipper
coming back from such a place. I tried to imagine Nightingale creating
the memorial, just him and his carving tools in that vast, dark, empty
room by himself. From what he’d told me, it had always seemed like he’d
done this first thing after leaving the hospital. It was the kind of
mental picture that could drive anyone to depression.
too, was not a happy camper. He looked pale, drawn, he wasn’t trembling
anymore, but I could see that not having a total breakdown just now had
taken a lot out of him. He dropped heavily into the Jag’s passenger
seat, all but collapsing into it.
“Aw, man,” I said. “Maybe we shouldn’t have come here.”
“No,” David disagreed. “It was right for me to see this.”
Nightingale will have our heads for taking off with the Jag.” I was
trying for some levity, but on the other hand, the reaction Nightingale
might have to our impromptu Jag theft genuinely worried me.
shook his head, as if wanting to dislodge the cobwebs of his
almost-breakdown. “Let me deal with Thomas,” he said tiredly. “Why do
you always call him that, anyway?”
What was he talking about now? “Call him what?”
“It’s his name?”
“No, I know Thomas. He would’ve offered you first-name-basis three days into your apprenticeship.”
was spot-on in fact. It probably hadn’t been three actual days after
I’d started working for him that Nightingale had suggested I call him
Thomas, but it was somewhere around that mark. It hadn’t panned out, and
he hadn’t offered again since.
“He did offer,” I said, “but I didn’t take him up on it. It felt too weird. I mean, he’s… he’s Nightingale, and he is my boss. We’re not… friends.”
Mellenby laughed tiredly, sweeping a hand across his eyes. “I can’t believe I ever thought you were sleeping with him.”
We were back on the road on our way back to London when he picked up the thread of that conversation again.
probably just because I’ve known him for so long, but it’s strange to
think on Thomas commanding that kind of respect. It seems so… unlike
him to be so distant.”
I felt it appropriate to ask about the war again.
was different,” Mellenby said. “It’s poison for troop morale, having a
combat leader who is too distant. It’s been a tightrope walk, certainly,
for Thomas, because you can’t be overfamiliar with your men as the CO,
but… comport yourself too aloofly in the field and the men may never
connect with you. Company cohesion, the men’s emotional and
psychological needs, those all fell under Thomas’s purview. He was
mother and father to the youngest recruits out there. Besides, we
experienced so much alongside each other, it made us stick together like
I for one couldn’t imagine a Nightingale who was anything
but emotionally distant and removed from the world around him. Like he’d
spent all his caring in the war, I thought, just used it all up and now
there was almost none left. I was certain that he cared for Molly, and
reasonably convinced that he, in a way, also cared about me, as far as our
professional relationship was concerned, and he tried, he did. I
remembered a short while ago, when I’d gotten myself suspended after the
whole Chorley fiasco, and Nightingale had given me the nudge that had
led to me seeking out therapy. He cared in these short bursts, triggered
by external events, like a long-derelict bulb giving out random
flickers of light, interspersed by long darknesses.
What a glum mental image that was.
“I sort of assumed he was like this back then,” I told Mellenby. “What with the whole… you know… ‘the Nightingale’…”
Mellenby smacked his hand down onto the headboard in front of him. His
face darkened rapidly, and he fixed the road before us with a grim
scowl. “The Nightingale? People still call him that?”
the reaction I had been expecting. “Yeah?” I said. “Pretty much all the
demi-monde calls him that. I heard from Hugh Oswald that it started as a
war thing, though–”
“You spoke to Hugh about this?” Mellenby asked.
“I went and saw him a while ago.”
“Well, I don’t know what Hugh told you. But the Nightingale is a miserable conceit, and it has brought nothing but pain and trouble unto Thomas. I dearly wish–”
I never found out what Mellenby dearly wished, because in that moment, my phone rang. I gestured at him to pick it up.
“It says on this here display that someone named Guleed is calling.”
Oh. If Guleed was calling me, that either meant karaoke night was being rescheduled again, or something serious was up. “Oh, yeah, um, can you take that? It’s PC Guleed, she’s from murder.”
Mellenby made googly eyes. “Women work in the police now?”
“Look, can you just take the call?”
his credit, he immediately swiped to accept the call and held the phone
up to my face as I drove. We were starting to make quite the little
“Hey,” Guleed said when I announced my presence to her. “Where are you at?”
Well, this didn’t sound like it was going to be about karaoke night at all.
“We’re, that is, I’m a little ways out of town. Just driving back.”
“Well, drive back faster, because we’ve got a body and we’re thinking it’s probably one of yours.”