On the day that Benton and Margaret were scheduled to be released from the hospital, one of the doctors, a certain Dr. Pear, came to Margaret’s room for a final pre-release visit. Dr. Pear found Benton there as well, which he considered handy, since he had been intending to see first one and then the other. Both their charts were under his arm ready to be consulted.
When the doctor introduced himself, Benton immediately wanted to know whether he was related to Justice Pear, who had performed their marriage ceremony. Benton didn’t mention that Justice Pear had in fact married them twice – once in the consulate just prior to the explosion and once again in some hallucination that, inexplicably, both he and Margaret had shared just after the explosion.
“She’s my cousin,” Dr. Pear told them and then went on to his own questions, which weren’t entirely medically necessary. He was curious whether the gossip going around the hospital about these two patients was true.
“So, you are both Mounties?” he wanted to know.
“And I understand that you’re newlyweds.”
“Your cousin performed the ceremony at our consulate. And then we had an explosion.” Benton told him.
As several other people had asked already, Dr. Pear couldn’t help asking, “Is that a Canadian thing?”
Margaret and Benton said nothing. If the question were not meant to be rhetorical, they would treat it as such anyway.
Dr. Pear got down to business, consulting his chart and talking down to it rather than to the patient. “Ladies first. Margaret, you have three cracked ribs and some surface abrasions. I want you to wear that tape and bandage around your chest for another two weeks. They should be changed every three days. If you have some one who knows how to do that, I can have the supplies issued to you. Otherwise you can come to our outpatient clinic.”
“Constable Fraser will do it,” Margaret said, hoping that Dr. Pear would notice her phrasing and see that she preferred they be addressed more formally.
“That’s fine. You can take the dressings off after two weeks, but it will take you ribs somewhat longer to heal. No strenuous movements or pressure on your chest for six more weeks after the dressing comes off. Come to the out-patient department for x-rays in eight weeks. Use this requisition.” He already had the piece of paper prepared and handed it to Margaret. “You’ve been in here since just after your wedding so I’m sure you’re anxious to have sex. That should be all right, as long as you are careful not to put any pressure on Mrs. Fraser’s upper torso and you don’t try any acrobatics.” He switched obligingly switched to calling her ‘missus’ since she didn’t seem to like being called by her first name. It made most patients more comfortable but this woman didn’t seem to like it. Whatever.
Benton blushed and looked at the floor.
As for Margaret, it was the first time anyone had called her “Mrs. Fraser”. She’d have to decide whether she wanted to use her name or Benton’s from now on. Inspector Fraser. She tried out the sound of it in her mind, tuning out the doctor’s words momentarily. She didn’t have to use Benton’s name. Most married officers retained their own names. Still, it had a nice ring to it – Inspector Fraser. And there would be no chance of confusion. Given Benton’s unpopularity in the upper echelons of the RCMP as well as his tendency to flout procedure when it suited him, it was unlikely that he would ever live to achieve that rank himself. But, she liked her own name too. It irked her a little that the doctor didn’t address her by rank as well. Then she decided that the fact that she was an inspector may not even be in her chart. They’d been brought in unconscious following the explosion.
Her musings were interrupted by the doctor’s raising his voice. “Mrs. Fraser? Have you been listening?”
“I heard every word,” she lied, knowing that Benton would have committed everything he said to memory and would not fail to repeat it back to her verbatim.
“I hope so. Now you, Mr. Fraser,” He put Margaret’s chart aside on the edge of the bed as he said this and picked up Benton’s. Then he recalled the woman’s not-so-subtle hint. “Sorry, would you rather be called ‘Constable’?”
“I think that would be better. And my wife is an Inspector. Her name is Thatcher.”
“Inspector Thatcher,” the doctor corrected, obligingly. Poor buggers, these two had a hell of a start to their honeymoon, that’s for sure. No wonder they’re testy.
Dear Benton, Margaret thought. I’ve never met any man so thoughtful. How could I have hesitated to marry him?
“Now you, Constable,” the doctor went on. “It will be a few more days before we have the result of your neurological examination back.”
“I feel fine. The only reason I passed out was that I tried to do too much too soon.”
“You passed out?” Margaret interrupted.
“Just over-exerting myself. I was in too much of a hurry to spend time with you, ” Benton tried to make light of it all.
“I’m sorry, Constable, I have to disagree. That would explain that first instance but not the other five times. Call my office for an appointment,” he took a business card from his lab-coat pocket and handed it to Benton. “Come in about a week. In the meantime you’re also to take it easy. No driving or operating machinery. Don’t do anything that could cause a problem if you were to lose consciousness while you were doing it.”
“You didn’t tell me you’ve been passing out,” Margaret said to Benton, in an accusing tone.
Again, Benton averted his eyes, this time to the ceiling.
“Well, that about covers it except for the paperwork. Your consulate has given us instructions to treat this as a work related injury for both of you and it seems they’ve left some forms to be filled out. Ask the nurse to send somebody to get those for you before you leave, or stop in at the fifth floor Administration office and pick them up yourself. Probably be faster. And I’ll write you up return-to-work certificates. Do you both report the same commanding officer?”
“I report to our Liaison Section in Ottawa. Constable Fraser reports to me.”
“Well, that’s handy for you,” Dr. Pear quipped, but the joke failed to impress either Mountie. “I’ll have both letters made up ‘To Whom It May Concern’. You, Inspector, are on light duties for the first two months. Sedentary work only. Same for you for the first week, Constable, until we have the results from Neurology. Then we’ll see. Any questions?”
Dr. Pear looked from Margaret to Benton then picked up both charts and stood up. Margaret had the impulse to tell him “Dismissed” but only said, “Thank you, Doctor.”
“Yes, thank you kindly,” Benton added.
With a satisfied nod, Dr. Pear bade them good-bye and left.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were having fainting spells?” Margaret said, as soon as he was safely gone.
“I didn’t want to worry you. I’m sure it’s nothing serious.”
“Is this how we’re going to start off our marriage, with you keeping things from me?”
“Are we going to have our first fight before we’ve even had a honeymoon?”
“Promise you won’t keep secrets from me,” she insisted.
“I promise to always do and say whatever is in your best interest,” he told her, raising his right hand as though taking an oath.
“That’s not the same thing,” Margaret pointed out, “And it’s very patronizing.”
“Oooh, I can’t talk any more, I’m so dizzy!” he rolled his eyes comically, swayed from side to side and then mimicked falling down senseless onto her bed.
“This isn’t finished, Benton. We’ll talk more about it tonight at home.”
“Tonight? Aren’t we going home now?” he asked.
“Absolutely not. We’re going to the Consulate first. I’ve got to get the situation under control.”
“Margaret, we’ve been in here for three days. Turnbull, Ovitz, Ray and Lieutenant Welsh have all been here and they’ve told us the situation is already under control.”
“Not until I say so,” Margaret announced.
She has to be in control. Or if someone else takes control she still has to be the one to give permission first. When I’ve made her happy enough, she won’t need that crutch anymore, he told himself, innocently.
A consular limousine was waiting to pick up the newlyweds upon their release from hospital. It was being driven, Margaret and Benton saw, not by one of their own people, Turnbull or Ovitz, but by one of the clerks on the diplomatic staff. It was a surprise for both Mounties. They saw the consul and his people so seldom that it often seemed the RCMP liaison department ran the consulate all by themselves.
The clerk brought her up to date as he drove.
“You two are the last to leave the hospital. Everyone else’s injuries were less serious
than yours. The bomb was small enough to take out the room you were in and some
of the adjoining area but not much more.
The American explosives team figures it was home-made.”
“We usually deal with the 27th District. Are any of their people assigned to the case?”
“The consul knows you like to deal with them,” the clerk’s grin could be seen in the limousine’s rearview mirror. “He’s asked for Detective Vecchio to be assigned to help the explosives team. The consul said that considering how messed up your wedding was, it should give you some satisfaction to have a friend helping with the investigation.
Benton did feel very gratified. “Ray’s my best friend. Now, he’s your friend, too.”
He was surprised when Margaret answered him, since he figured he was just stating the obvious. “Is that how it’s going to work? Everything in common?”
That was exactly how Benton thought it would work. The marriages of his parents and his grandparents had been like that and he had assumed that his own marriage would be based on their model.
“I think we’ll have to get a few things straight,” Margaret said. “Let’s start with where ‘home’ is. I hope you’re not expecting me to live in that hovel of yours.”
“I suppose your apartment is nicer,” Benton allowed.
“And I have a lease. Is there any problem with you moving in?”
“I suppose not. I don’t have a lease and I don’t care where I live.”
He sat back against the car’s back seat and thought about his mother and his grandmother, each woman happily roughing it in the bush along with her husband. Well, this was Chicago, not the far north. There was really no reason they had to be uncomfortable. He thought of his father’s stories about the places he had made Mum live: a shed on the bank of the Rat River, an igloo. His and Margaret’s life was going to be very different. The price of having this extraordinary woman for his wife would probably be adapting to life in some large city. Toronto, maybe. Oh well, Toronto couldn’t be worse than Chicago.
Margaret noticed that the clerk was not driving in the direction of the consulate. “Where are you taking us?” she demanded.
“The consul figured you’d want to stop off at each of your homes first before coming in to the office,” the clerk offered, mildly.
“Head for the consulate,” Margaret ordered.
The clerk looked into the rear view mirror and rolled his eyes, clearing intending the gesture to be seen by Benton. Benton only frowned in response. Margaret was coming on too strong, certainly, but he wasn’t inclined to be critical of her. She’d been through so much.
They arrived to find the consul himself was standing just outside the yellow police tape that surrounded the damaged area. He turned to greet Margaret and Benton as they came in, addressing them loudly and grandly.
“Welcome back, Inspector, Constable. I’m delighted to see you two back on your feet. We were concerned. Oh, yes, very concerned. You’ll be happy to know your people have been busy reconstructing your records and recovering as much as they can. Fine staff you have here. Fine staff, indeed.”
He was a big man in every respect: tall, broad, with a booming voice and a dominating presence. Whenever he was in a room (or in this case, a corridor) he dominated the scene, causing the Mounties to be just as happy that he left them alone most of the time.
“As you can see, your American counterparts are hard at work. They’ve been over the area with a fine tooth comb.”
Benton winced slightly at the use of the cliché.
“Your friends from the 27th are here in full force, full force I tell you. And so are the bomb squad. Oh by the way. Best wishes, you two. Marvellous to have a wedding amongst our own people. If you want to take off on a little honeymoon, you can go right ahead. I’ve got everything under control here. Absolutely everything.”
While the consul held no rank that Margaret was obliged to defer to, he was, technically, in charge of the consulate. She swallowed her annoyance and simply said, “Thanks. We’ll have a look around anyway.”
She stepped over the yellow police tape that ran across the corridor leading to the liaison offices, with Benton following after. They found quite a crowd milling about the damaged area. Benton picked out Ray from among the group and nudged his way past other officers to get to him.
“Benny!” Ray declared upon seeing him. He straightened up from where he was crouched down examining the floor around Benton’s own desk, and gave his Mountie friend a hug. Being of a demonstrative nature, he was about to hug the bride as well, but thought better of it at the last moment and said “Nice to see you up and around, ma’am.”
Ray had chosen his words well. It was the first thing all day that Margaret had heard that did not annoy her.
“Let me show you what we have so far,” Ray took Benton by the arm but made sure to include Margaret with his eyes, “The explosion actually covered a very small area. Your office and the adjoining room and the corridor. You saw when you came in there wasn’t any damage to the rest of the consulate. Steve Clarkson is in charge of the bomb squad, he thinks it’s a home-made job. Quite amateurish. But he doesn’t have much else yet. I guess once you and Dief get sniffing around here it’ll help a lot. Oh, I almost forgot.”
Ray raised his voice. “Dief! Hey Fur-face! Daddy’s home!”
Diefenbaker came bounding down the stairs from one of the upstairs guest rooms, rushing past all the humans towards Benton. He nearly knocked over the consul who was coming down the same corridor to where Ray, Margaret and Benton were standing.
Benton and Diefenbaker exchanged hearty greetings and Margaret ventured to pet Dief’s hairy head. She wasn’t even going to bother confirming that Diefenbaker would be part of their household. Benton and the wolf were a package deal, she knew that much.
The consul was already close enough to have heard Ray talk about Benton and Diefenbaker joining the investigation.
“Oh no, Detective. We can’t have these newlyweds working a case so soon. I want them to take it easy. Maybe go off somewhere and enjoy themselves. We’ve got the situation under control here.”
If he says those words – under control – once more, I’m going to murder him, Margaret thought. “I’ll just go check on Ovitz and Turnbull,” she said aloud and launched off as quickly as her damaged ribs would allow.
The consul finally left them, heading away to concerns of his own, to Benton’s relief. He stayed to talk with Ray and learned what had been going on in the last few days. The consul had, as Benton could easily see, taken charge loudly and definitely. As for Ovitz and Turnbull, they were indeed busy reconstructing what paper files they could. They had also leased computers and were re-instating electronic files from back up and generally restoring the liaison offices to working order if you didn’t look at the burned out walls and blasted pieces of furniture.
The investigation into the cause of the blast had not yet yielded anything definite. Neither Ovitz nor Turnbull recalled anything or anyone unusual that day so there were no leads as to who had planted the bomb or why.
Ray said. “I told Clarkson you’d stroll right in here, lick some rubble and lead us straight to the bombers.”
“Well, I could do that . . .” Benton began, wanting to tell him that a better idea would be for him to just to draw a picture of the young couple who had come to the consulate seeking to get married. They had been in Benton’s office and were in fact the only outsiders to have been there that day so it was more than likely that they had planted the bomb. They hadn’t left their name but he could draw them.
“You could and you will. I built you two up to Clarkson as super-sniffers. Just for this once, don’t embarrass me in front of people like you always do, Fraser.”
“Yes, but I . . .”
“Hit the dirt and start sniffing. Do what I tell you, I’m a policeman.”
“Well, actually, Ray, we’re on Canadian soil so I’m a policeman and you’re not. I really do have a better way to go about . . .”
“On the floor!” Ray insisted.
Benton was beginning to feel light-headed. Had he been in full control of his faculties he may have been able to resist and explain the situation to Ray but at the moment the right thing to do seemed to be what he was told. Benton looked about him briefly to be sure that the consul was out of sight. Then he said to Diefenbaker. “I’ll start with that side of the room, you start right here by my desk.”
Diefenbaker, being already on all fours as his natural stance, was at the right level to beginning sniffing immediately.
Benton, however, had to drop to his hands and knees before setting to work. But he didn’t stop there. First he bent himself into a kneeling position and then before he could start his floor level investigations, his eyes rolled up and he keeled over onto the ground in a dead faint.
Instantly he was surrounded by concerned policemen and diplomatic staff. Ray checked his pulse and breathing and suggested they carry him to some comfortable piece of furniture. Two of Clarkson's investigators carried Benton to a couch in one of the near by rooms. Margaret was sent for, who assured all and sundry that her husband was subject to such bouts and wasn’t considered in immediate danger. Fortunately the consul has no longer in hearing distance so they were spared his interference in the proceedings.
After a few minutes, Benton’s eyes fluttered open, he stretched and took stock of his situation. “Oh dear,” he said softly to himself, “Not again.”
Satisfied that all was well, the watchers drifted away to leave only Margaret, Ray, Benton and Diefenbaker.
“This isn’t good, Benny,” Ray opined.
“I just changed position too quickly,” Benton said, sitting up very slowly.
“Aren’t they giving you some tests or something?”
“They have already. I’ll know the results in a week.”
Being in the presence of her own staff, whom she could order about, had improved Margaret’s mood and she had relaxed a great deal in the last few minutes. But now her good humour evaporated.
“Fraser, go home. I’ll have Turnbull drive you back to your own apartment. Stay there and rest. That’s an order,” she barked. Then, more gently, “You shouldn’t be alone. Maybe Ray should go with you?”
“Ray is needed here. I’ll take Diefenbaker. There’s no sense in his investigating the scene without me to translate into English for him.”
Neither Margaret nor Ray ventured to ask which language Benton and Diefenbaker used to communicate, from which Benton had to translate to English.
“I don’t know, Benny. Maybe you should have somebody with you who has opposable thumbs,” Ray pointed out.
“We’ll be fine.” Benton didn’t even bother to protest being sent away from the scene. He decided he would use the rest of the day to pack. It would please Margaret to if he were ready to move right into her place that same night, even though it meant disobeying her order to rest.
Margaret ordered Ovitz to drop off Benton and Diefenbaker off at their own apartment, and announced that she would pick them up in her own car after the close of the consulate’s normal business hours. (That car had been in the parking lot, protected by consulate security, since the day of the explosion, thus faring better than its owner.) The fact that the consulate was by no means open for normal business did not deter her.
Benton’s intention to pack met with a couple of obstacles. First: he fell asleep and dozed for a few hours. Second: when he woke up he realized he didn’t have any boxes in the apartment. He could go out and get some but in itself had obstacles such as: there wasn’t a large supermarket nearby to get any, he didn’t have a vehicle to bring the boxes home in and, most important, Margaret had ordered him to stay home.
He stuffed the bags he had – a backpack and a duffel bag – full of as much of his clothes and other necessaries as they would hold. It was easily several days’ worth of necessities and he could bring the rest of his belongings to Margaret’s another day. That didn’t take very long and he still had an hour before he expected her to pick him up. Benton was musing about how to spend that hour, maybe lie back down for a while, when Diefenbaker barked a reminder.
“Oh, right, the drawing.” Benton slapped at his own temple. “It’s good you reminded me. Maybe Dr. Pear is right and I do have a hole in my bag of marbles.”
Benton’s sketchpad fortunately hadn’t been packed away yet. Perhaps he thought that it wasn’t necessary to bring it during the first transport to Margaret’s apartment, thinking that she would undoubtedly have one of her own – a staple item no police officer would be without. He sat carefully drawing every detail of the couple’s appearance and was just putting the finishing touches on the buttons of the man’s shirt (the buttons all had four holes except the second from the top which had only two) when he heard the sound of a car honking outside in front of his building.
He pulled the sheet loose from the pad, rolled it and slung it under his arm. Then he picked up his two bags, diverted to the window to call “I’m on my way” out to Margaret in her car, then he and Diefenbaker went out to begin their first night in what would be Benton and Margaret’s matrimonial home.
Benton was about to toss his bags into the back seat when he saw it was already taken up with plastic grocery bags, full to bulging.
“Just put those in the trunk,” Margaret told him and pulled the latch to pop the trunk open.
“Just shove those bags over. He can squeeze in,” she said.
Benton let Dief in, then got into the front passenger’s seat. “Please don’t tell me you’ve been grocery shopping. We’re both supposed to take it easy. We could have splurged and eaten out for a couple of days – or ordered food in. It is supposed to be our honeymoon after all.”
“This isn’t food. It’s work.”
Benton twisted around as best as his seatbelt would allow but couldn’t reach any of the bags to open them and see what was inside, so he asked Diefenbaker to take a peek. The wolf put his nose into a couple of bags closest to him and then woofed a sentence.
“Debris from the consulate? Why are you bringing it home?” Benton asked Margaret after hearing Diefenbaker’s report.
“For you to sniff. The American police still have no leads.”
Benton leaned back against the seat and let out an exasperated sound. “Why does everyone want me to sniff things? You’d think there was no other way of tracking miscreants on either side of the border except with MY nose.”
From the back seat, Diefenbaker whimpered a complaint.
“Our noses,” Benton corrected himself.
“You go with what works,” Margaret said.
“I’m sure that’s flattering but we could also try following up a more substantial lead. Like this.” Benton had put the drawing on the dashboard and now picked up to show her, forgetting that she was driving and shouldn’t be distracted. “No, don’t look now. But I’ve drawn a picture of the young couple I believe planted the bomb. We can take it over to the 27th tomorrow and we can also fax it to our own people.”
They pulled up to a red light and Margaret had a minute to take the drawing from Benton’s hand and study it.
“I didn’t know you could draw like this. What other talents are you hiding from me?”
Benton smirked. “We haven’t had our official wedding night yet. Now that I’m legally your husband I may just surprise you with some of my talents.”
She matched his smile. “That will be a challenge. I’ve got broken ribs and you’re in danger of passing out any minute. Unless . . .”
“Well, if I’m on top I won’t have any pressure on my ribs. And you’ll be perfectly safe in that position if you pass out.”
“Margaret, do you really think I could lose consciousness while making love to you?”
The light changed to green. Before she drove off again she winked at him. “If I do my job right, you just might.”