Despite all our best intentions - well, maybe not best, but certainly our intentions - neither I nor Nightingale had managed to get Martin Chorley’s Ferrari out of the Folly garage since we’d requisitioned it for, of course, strictly investigative purposes. As much as we both wanted to take it for a spin, it couldn’t reasonably be called a high priority. And there was only so much London traffic I wanted to idle through in a car like that before I got to some open road.
Which was why I was surprised, nay, astonished, and - yeah, I’m going to say it - somewhat betrayed when I drove back into the Folly courtyard in the Asbo, having made as good time as I could without breaking out the spinner across town because I was late for dinner with Bev, to see Nightingale climbing out of the Ferrari. And my lovely and apparently treacherous girlfriend climbing out the other side.
“Oh, good timing,” said Nightingale when he saw me, like he hadn’t just stabbed me in the back. “Bev got here a little early and then you were delayed, so we took the car out for a quick trial.”
“Just in case there was anything magical about it I could detect that you couldn’t,” said Bev. She’d gone for some serious heels today and I was mildly impressed she’d managed to climb out of the Ferrari as smoothly as she had. “You never know.”
“Checking all the variables,” said Nightingale, nodding, which was really just adding insult to injury.
“And you couldn’t wait until I got back?” I said, in tones of casual inquiry. Or at least that’s what I was going for. Judging by the look the two of them exchanged, it came out a bit more outraged than that.
“I’m sure we’ll need to do a lot more investigation,” said Nightingale, who was doing a very poor job of not smirking at me. “You haven’t missed out on very much.”
“Besides, there’s only two seats,” said Bev, coming over to kiss me hello.
I thought about pointing out that I would have been more than happy to drive her, and then contemplated the possibility that she was going to fairly - and cruelly - rate my driving skills versus Nightingale’s, so I didn’t.
“I know,” I said. “Give me five minutes to change, and we’ll get going. The traffic wasn’t that bad, so we might not be too late.”
“You’re welcome to take the Jag out this evening,” said Nightingale, which at literally any other point in the entire rest of the time I’d known him would have been a generous concession, and now just felt like twisting the knife. Apparently this showed on my face. “Or not, if you don’t want to.”
“Oh, we’ll take the Jag,” said Bev. To think at one point I was pleased she and Nightingale were getting on. Talk about being careful what you wish for.
“Are you still sulking about yesterday?” asked Beverley the next morning, while I was waiting for my coffee to brew. We’d come back to her place after dinner; I did wish sometimes there was a way for her to stay over at the Folly. It’d save me some driving. At least I had the Jag this morning, instead of the surviving Asbo.
“No,” I said. “Who says I was sulking at all?”
“You’ve been making faces at the jug for five minutes,” she said, making a dubious face of her own at a jar of marmite. Bev goes through phases of not wanting to eat breakfast, but knows that it doesn’t do her temper any favours by lunchtime. I am not the person who pointed that out to her. I like to let her older sisters make that sort of observation. “What’s it ever done to you?”
“It’s just that I haven’t even had a chance to drive it anywhere,” I said. “Would it have killed you to wait?”
“Peter,” Bev said. “You can take me out in that car any time you like. It wasn’t like that was your only chance.”
“Would it have killed Nightingale to wait?” I said.
She raised her eyebrows at me. “Which of us are you actually mad at?”
“Nobody,” I said. “Because I’m an adult, and you two can do what you like, and I’m not mad.”
“Okay, babes,” said Beverley, and went to put some toast on.
“I’m just saying,” I said to Jaget that Friday. We were celebrating a successful BTP-Met case at the pub, as you do. Jaget was also avoiding his household, which was being laid waste by a really nasty strain of the cold virus, although probably not the flu.
“I can’t stay too late and leave Priya to deal with the kids,” he said, “but oh my god, the coughing. It’s relentless.”
I backed up a step. “Don’t breathe on me too much, if you don’t mind.”
“Don’t worry, I haven’t got it.”
“That you know of,” I said darkly.
“What’s been happening at yours?” He asked, so I told him about Nightingale and Bev taking out the Ferrari. Jaget knew about it, but he hadn’t been that impressed; he was the kind of person who thought that cars were all very well as a form of transport, but not that interesting. This made him a great choice for the BTP and completely incomprehensible to me, but at least he knew enough to make appropriately distressed noises on my behalf.
“Wow,” he said, when I was done. “You’re really not happy about that.”
“Both of them!” I said, bitterly. “I wouldn’t have blamed Nightingale, fine, I wouldn’t have blamed him much, but Bev talked him into it!”
Jaget frowned at me. “Like, not to make this weird, but you honestly sound like you caught them - well, you know.” He made a gesture, which was unnecessary; I did, indeed, know.“
"I think that might have been less upsetting,” I said, primarily because I was having trouble envisioning Bev and Nightingale having it off at all.
Jaget’s frown deepened. “Okay, now I’m not the one making this weird.”
“Hey, I didn’t - at least they wouldn’t have - you’re definitely the one who made this weird.” I took a long drink of my pint, in the hopes that would restore a semblance of sanity to this conversation.
“It’s okay,” said Jaget. “I don’t blame you. I blame your workplace. It’s a weirdness magnet.”
“I like the Folly,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Jaget. “Exactly.”
“Did you have any particular plans for the weekend?” Nightingale asked me over dinner.
“I’ll probably be at Bev’s for most of it,” I said. “She was busy tonight. I don’t think there’s anything else. Why, has something come up?”
“No, nothing,” he said. “Although I would like it if you were here when Abigail comes over on Sunday.”
“I was planning on it,” I said. “Two o'clock.”
“That’s what it says on the calendar,” said Nightingale, consulting his phone. I didn’t point out that this was a clear violation of the no-devices-at-the-table rule, because I wanted him to get good and settled into the habit first. It was only a matter of time. “But I thought we might, ah, do some tests on the Ferrari.”
“Oh?” I said, conducting a thorough inspection of Molly’s attempt at lamb vindaloo, which was actually not that bad and didn’t really need inspecting. I’d already eaten most of it.
“Yes,” he said. “After all, we really should make some attempt to ensure it’s not magically contaminated. That is the reason we have custody of it.”
“Bev said she didn’t sense anything,” I pointed out, casually. Very casually. “And it doesn’t seem to have been a priority until now.”
“Nevertheless,” he said. “Unless, that is, you’re busy.”
“I suppose I could make time,” I said. “I’m sure Bev will understand.”
“Quite,” said Nightingale, and did not look at his phone, but even so I was pretty sure Bev knew about this plan already. Which, all of a sudden, made me feel like a complete idiot.
“Look,” I started to say. “I know I -”
But at the same time, Nightingale opened his mouth and said “We really didn’t mean -”
We both stopped, and looked at each other, and then looked away, in case we accidentally expressed feelings or something.
“I was thinking,” I said. “We should do some speed trials. I mean, if there is some sort of magic on the car, what if it’s a function of velocity?”
"That does sound like a hypothesis worthy of investigation,“ Nightingale said gravely, and we grinned at each other.
On Sunday, I dropped Abigail home and then went on to Bev’s. She was sitting at the kitchen table when I got there, two textbooks and a laptop open. From the titles of the textbook I thought she was probably working on the microbiology essay she’d been complaining about all week.
"Having fun?” I asked her.
“Yeah, actually,” she said. “For some values of fun. How’s Abigail?”
“Oh, you know, the usual,” I said.
“How was the Ferrari?”
I tried to play it cool but I knew my face was giving me away. “Obviously that’s an ongoing investigation, and I don’t have any conclusive results yet.”
Bev laughed, and I scooped her up and kissed her.
“You’ve got to take me out in it sometime,” she murmured when we separated, her mouth curving gently.
“Of course,” I said, taking a chair as she sank back into her seat. “You’ve only checked it once, after all. It’s especially important to confirm negative results.”
“Obviously,” she said. “Are we good, then?”
“Always,” I said. “I’m not, you know. I don’t actually mind that you guys had fun.”
“You just wanted to do it with us first,” she said. “And instead we both got the jump on you.”
“Pretty much,” I said. “Although I’m not sure that’s the way I would have phrased it.”
Bev snorted. “Yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much.”
“Well, you did tell me once he was old,” I agreed, and she shook her head, amused, as she started typing again.
“I’ve really got to finish this,” she said. “Any chance you want to do something about food, keep me company?”
“I think I can manage that,” I said, and got up to rummage through the fridge.
“Anyway,” Bev said as I did. “I reckon there’s not nearly enough room in there.”
To my credit, I did not drop the milk, which I was moving to see what was behind it. “Oh, you do?”
“You should add that to your experimental list,” she said. “Assuming you didn’t get around to it today.”
I turned around to give her a look for that, and she hid her smirk behind her laptop.
“I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer,” I said. “But I’ll add it to the list.”
Bev turned out to be right - there wasn’t really enough room in there. But it was fun trying.