"Look Angelfish I love you". Said Bodie.
"Not having me on"? Asked Doyle.
"Bodie! Doyle!" Cowley was on the warpath again. "It's bad enough you billing and cooing like a pair of demented lovebirds instead of attending to work, but your blatant disregard of my repeated directives concerning punctuation is beyond a joke!"
"Sorry, sir." Doyle tried to look contrite. "I keep forgetting that the commas and full stops and question marks go inside the quotation marks."
"That's just the beginning, Doyle," Cowley assured him grimly. "How many times do I have to remind you that words like 'said' and 'asked' following the quotation marks are considered part of the same sentence?"
"Seem to remember you mentioning that, sir," Bodie agreed.
"Well, I'm pleased to hear it," Cowley responded. "And that means what?"
Bodie racked his brains. "So we use a comma before them, not a full stop?"
"Aye, and the rest of it?"
Bodie shot an anguished glance towards Doyle who shrugged unhelpfully.
Cowley slapped his desktop in exasperation. "So you don't use a capital letter!"
Doyle decided to make a stab at it. "So it goes: I love you comma quotation marks said with a small s."
Light dawned on Bodie. "And: Not having me on question mark quotation marks asked with a small a?"
"And kindly remember that when you're addressing each other by revoltingly sentimental names like Angelfish you put commas before and after."
"You mean: Look comma Angelfish comma I love you." Bodie nodded. "If you say so, sir."
"He says so comma you dumb crud comma. Unless it's the end of a sentence, of course," Doyle contributed. "Right comma sir?"
Cowley exhaled deeply. "Right. Now let's hear it again."
"Look, Angelfish, I love you," said Bodie.
"Not having me on?" asked Doyle.
"I think you've got it," Cowley sighed.
"By George, we've got it!" exulted Bodie.
"That's 'By Mr Cowley, we've got it!', and don't you forget it! All right, you two, get back to work. And kindly refrain from kissing until you're out of my sight."
Alone, Cowley poured himself a wee dram. They probably wouldn't remember for more than five minutes. You'd think they had never read a book in their lives.
If the pairing were not so devoid of erotic potential he'd be tempted to slash his own wrists.