Part 2—The Gentleman Caller
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Ibuprofen, my elbow.
She thought a nap when the cab brought her home would help, but she woke up disoriented and congested. She didn’t want to think too hard about what might be plugging her nose and throat, she just wanted the hammer to quit banging against her forehead.
Mary sat in the soft chair by her bedroom window, looking down at the wet street. The night drizzled cold rain, making people dash from their cars to the restaurant under her flat.
“Dash,” she thought and smiled. I think I’m becoming a Brit.
She could smell Raj’s tandoori chicken—a fact that left her hopeful for her poor nose. But it made her stomach lurch. Her head hurt too much, and every time she moved she found a new sore spot where her body must have hit the corridor wall.
The street lamp on the corner slowly came to life and turned the rain silver. A gust of wind dropped soggy leaves onto the parked cars.
My first October in London, she grumbled to herself. Great.
Groaning, she pushed herself out of the chair and shuffled to the kitchen. Gobbling more Anadin, she pulled the hospital ice pack from the freezer. Back in the bedroom, her phone warbled, but Mary couldn’t make herself run for it. The Ibuprofen sat like a lump in her stomach, and she burped a little.
Limping back to her room (now her hip hurt, too), she fluffed up the pile of pillows on her bed and tried to find a comfortable position. Her phone said Dr. Bashir had called.
“You took a nap?” Bashir exclaimed when she called back. “What if you’d had a concussion! Didn’t Watson warn you of that?”
“He said I should rest.”
“Hmph! Well! Lucky you’re not in a coma. That is all I can say!”
Mary closed her eyes and covered them with the ice pack. That’s all she needed—a scolding by Mumbai’s crankiest neuroscientist. As if her head didn’t hurt enough already.
“I don’t think I’ll come in tomorrow, Sahil,” she told him.
“No, of course you won’t. I’ll send over something stronger for pain.”
“No. Don’t. You know how I feel about drugs.”
“As you wish,” he said primly. “Have you eaten?”
“Good night, Sahil.”
“Have Raj bring up some matter paneer—”
“Good night, Sahil.”
“All right, all right.” Mary could hear his brain working, trying to slip in one more order. “Yes,” he finally said. “Good night.”
Letting out a loud sigh, Mary dropped her phone. On her little iPod dock, Songbird started. Mary let the voice and the lyrics work their magic.
For you, there’ll be no more crying,
For you, the sun will be shining,
‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you,
It’s alright, I know it’s right—
The song seemed to summon John Watson’s face. It was a good face, the kind that showed everything—how sorry he felt about slamming her with that door, how sure he was about tending to her. His face nearly twinkled when she gave him her number. Mary smiled, remembering.
To you, I would give the world
To you, I’d never be cold
‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you,
It’s alright, I know it’s right.
Now that John’s face was in her mind, Mary remembered other things about him— the calm cadence of his voice; how gently he held back her hair in the bathroom; the feel of his solid arm under her fingers. Yes, John Watson had a good face. She hoped she would see it again.
Her phone wailed again—too loud—and scattered all her pretty thoughts. Mary groped for it blindly.
“Yes. Hello,” she grumbled into it.
“Oh. It’s that bad, is it?”
The ice pack slid off her face as she sat up. “John?”
“Are you in much pain?”
“I feel like I got hit in the face with a steel door.”
“Yes. Well. That’s about right then, isn’t it?”
“But, I’ve got the ice pack, and I’m listening to good music, so I’m okay.”
“What are you listening to?”
“Are you someplace where you can close your eyes?”
“Yes.” She could hear the smile in his voice.
“Then, close your eyes and listen.” She held the phone next to the little player on her nightstand.
And the songbirds keep singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you, I love you, I love you,
Like never before, like never before.
“Could you hear?” she asked him.
“Yes. I know that song. It’s… um… Eva Cassidy.”
Mary gasped. “How do you know that?”
“She was hugely popular here about ten years ago. That song was everywhere.”
“Oh, my god. That’s my favorite song in all the world. I can’t believe you know it.”
“So, we do have something in common. Other than door-related accidents.”
Mary heard a church bell tolling faintly in the background. She checked her clock. 9:00.
“Where are you?” she asked.
“The Lake District? That’s some house call.”
“No, my flatmate—he’s a sort of consulting detective. I help him on occasion.”
“Consulting detective. Like a freelance investigator?”
“Yeah. Sort of.”
“And he needs your medical expertise?”
“Sometimes. Mostly he just needs an audience.”
“Ohhh. He’s the one that made you so mad.”
“Yes. Sherlock’s brilliant, but can be a complete dick at times.”
Mary smiled. “So, you’re a non-doctoring doctor, working with something-like-a detective.”
“Precisely. Well done.”
She heard him fumble some papers. “A place called Hedgehog Hill—nice little B&B. We’re about to go meet our clients for drinks.”
Mary heard another voice in the background and the scraping rustle of movement.
“Sorry, I’ve got to go,” John said. “I don’t know when I’ll be able to call again. Sometimes these cases gallop off.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“It can be.”
“Then, you need to stay focused, not distracted by strange women with bloody noses.”
“Not strange at all. Lovely, I’d say.”
Mary pinched her lips together. “Good-night, John.”
“Pitch the ice pack tomorrow and go with heat.”
“You’re not my doctor, remember?”
He chuckled. “Yes. Right. Good-night, Mary.”
She set the phone and the ice pack on her nightstand. Suddenly, her face didn’t hurt quite so much. Maybe it was the stupid grin on her face. Mary watched the silver rain jewel and run down her window, then touched “repeat” on her player. Songbird started over, and she snuggled into her pillows to listen.
Eva Cassidy’s ‘Songbird’
To Read Part 3: A Propitious Return, click here.