a vicious motivator
“And, James, what have I said about leaving body parts in the fridge?!”
“Not to,” James replied much like a trained child.
221B Vicarage Road was alive with the sound of a whistling kettle pot, snippets of violin music, and – every so often – a bang of a hex hitting the wall.
It was a familiar series of noises for anyone familiar with the flat or its occupants, but not necessarily a welcome set of sounds; as Cecily Blackwell returned from the store, her arms laden with groceries, she huffed in frustration before opening the door, rearranging the bags in her arms precariously before she entered.
“Really, James? Again?”
“I got bored,” the man answered calmly, seeming to either not pick up on his partner’s irritation or ignoring it blatantly.
“Well, can you find a more productive outlet for your boredom than hexing the poor wall?” The blonde woman wrinkled her nose and pushed aside some of the chemical samples on their kitchen table before she placed down the bags on the table. “By the way, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have chemicals so close to where we eat.”
“They’re perfectly harmless as long as you don’t ingest more than a few grams of them,” James replied matter of factly.
“I’ll be sure to measure them out before I eat any,” Cecily promised dryly as she began to pack the milk cartons into the fridge, before she paused suddenly. “And, James, what have I said about leaving body parts in the fridge?!”
“Not to,” James replied much like a trained child.
“Then why did you…” she gestured vaguely to the fridge without actually touching the bag of what appeared to be organs in the fridge.
“It was a life or death situation, Cecily. A man’s innocence depends on keeping those at precisely the temperature of the fridge – why did you open the fridge?” James, calm until this point, suddenly rose in agitation and hurriedly shut the door of the fridge.
“I have to put away the milk, James,” Cecily sighed.
“Milk is insignificant compared to my case,” he returned haughtily, returning to his armchair and his violin.
“Why are you so bored, then, if you’ve been working on your case?” she inquired as she returned to him, taking a seat in the other armchair near him. Languidly, she stretched out, and James turned toward her sharply, brow furrowing. When she noticed, she stopped. “What?”
“No, I’m not.” Cecily tried to control the spread of red on her cheeks.
“You ran into someone at the supermarket. Someone you no doubt found appealing, given the state of your cheeks.” James’s eyes flitted from the woman’s face to her sleeve. “Your sleeves aren’t wrinkled enough to indicate that you carried your groceries yourself the entire time, and the absence of grime on your arse suggests that you haven’t been on the tube or in a cab. Someone’s dropped you home and – oh, there’s a number,” Cecily had turned her hand over accidentally, “So they’ve asked you out. Or they’re planning on it, if they haven’t.”
“James,” she hissed back in irritation.
“It’s my brother, isn’t it?”
Cecily buried her face in her hands. “How did you figure that one out?” she returned, her voice muffled.
“Robert is my brother, Cecily, I happen to know his phone number.” James had stood abruptly, lifting his violin off of the coffee table. The papers on it, all pertaining in various ways to their recent case, ruffled slightly as he stood and adjusted end of the violin under his chin.
“Are you angry with me?” Cecily inquired after a moment of gaping after him. “You only play when you’re bored – which you’re obviously not anymore, since I’ve come home – or angry.”
“Angry that you’ve chosen to spend your free time with my brother instead of your own best friend?” Jem’s tone was dry in return, rather restrained but strangely tense. His posture was very straight as he stood by the window, playing scales idly while he avoided looking at her. “Of course not.”
“James, if you tell me that you’re jealous –“
He bristled. “We don’t have time for this, Cecily. We have a case and – oh! How long does it take for milk to spoil?”
The blonde woman paused abruptly, lips twisting into a confused frown. “What?”
“This is important, Cecily. If the suspect had actually stopped home to drop off his groceries before he’d been at the murder site, then the milk wouldn’t have spoiled. But it did, didn’t it? How long was he gone exactly?” James had placed his violin down on the windowsill hurriedly and returned to the coffee table, yanking out a folder of papers and flipping them open.
The woman tried again. “James, if this is about Robert,” she started, only to be cut off again.
“I need your focus, right now, Cecily.” Blue eyes flitted up quickly before back down to the paper. “Besides, jealous, isn’t the word. I was merely questioning why your head wasn’t in the game when we had a case to solve.”
“My head is in the game,” she protested irritably, grabbing another folder of papers to flip through as well. “So it doesn’t bother you at all?”
“Fine. As soon as we’re done here, he’s taking me out for coffee.”
“Have fun,” James replied dryly.
Cecily glared at him and continued reading the file.
And somewhere inside, for some bizarre reason, James was disappointed. He shoved that emotion away now; love wasn’t necessarily a weakness, but it was a vicious motivator, and exactly what one consulting detective could do without right now.