Square of the Hippopotamus

Written for Shrew on her birthday or at least that was the intent.

Ray banged the table so hard that Fraser wasn’t quite sure what would break; the desk or Ray’s fist. While the desk breaking would get him into serious trouble with the Inspector and probably would be deducted from his wages, despite Ray claiming he’d seen better in thrift shops; in all, Ray’s hand would be the greater loss. With the encumbrances of plaster casts and braces, it would loose its characteristic grace; though, perhaps, then it would be hard enough to come out of a fight with a table and win.

For reasons not to be explored at this juncture (but involving the Duck Boys and a series of concert percussionists who believed that the timpani part of the latest performance work at the Chicago Opera House should go with a bang, and then endeavouring to ensure a successful bang using black powder and glycerine obtained from free soap samples, all it seems in revenge for the fact they had been deafened by constant exposure to what is commonly known as the kettle drum at somewhat short range) they were working the case, as Ray would say, in his office at the Consulate.

Fraser was beginning to regret this, not that he would regret having such a friend as Ray. Quite the contrary.

“Ray?” he ventured, fearing that he might gain nothing towards the elucidation of the fascinating mystery before him.

“This is all numbers stuff, Fraser, I can’t do it. Crunch numbers,” a charming gesture that Fraser supposed was meant to be eating proved that Ray’s member was quite undamaged, “I suck at math, always have done. Used to get the Stella to help me with my homework, ‘cause that square of the hippopotamus stuff? Totally. Did. Not. Get. It.”

Fraser’s venture had been awarded with another insight to the fascinating mystery before him.

Now, the case itself was frankly almost as boring as some of the more menial tasks allocated to him by the Inspector, and Fraser might have ventured to suggest that it was more to him that Leftenant Walsh had given the task, were it not that Ray might be offended and offer to kick him in the head.

Which would be the end of a quite fascinating partnership, although he would have the marks of Ray’s boots to remind him of it, they seemed quite heavy of themselves and if/when propelled at his face by Ray’s fulsome manly strength…

Benton struggled to derail that train of thought, it being more akin to the fantasies of a schoolgirl (albeit a highly masochistic one) than the thoughts of a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (however masochistic). Unfortunately, the piece of police work with which he and his highly frustrated partner (sadly, it seemed, not frustrated in the same way as himself) had been assigned was more akin to schoolwork, namely an exercise in elementary mathematics.

“Perhaps, Ray, I should examine that, and when I have determined, if indeed, that there are figures that are erroneous or perhaps even a fiction serving to “cover up” the criminal undertakings of some malfeasant…”

Ray interrupted, as was his wont and his prerogative, “So, what am I meant to do in the meantime, Benton-buddy?”

Ray had a look to him that Fraser sadly failed to recognise, “I do believe there is tea in the red drawing room. And today is Tuesday so Turnbull would have produced a most agreeable tarte tatin.”

Oh dear, that was not the right answer, as somehow Ray grows still with agitation, “Think again, Fraser.”

He has to think for a moment of what might be required of him to produce a satisfactory result, has to struggle a moment with his patchy knowledge of American customs before chancing upon, “Make yourself at home.”

Surely that’s not the right answer, who would want to spend time cooped up in his indeterminably small office when they have the amenities of the drawing room on offer, and frankly, Turnbull’s tarte tatin is quite delicious.

But the smile on Ray’s face is one of approval, a signal that he has somehow attained the right answer, and he sits upon the cot, finds that the bottom left leg is somewhat unstable, adjusts his posture accordingly and, “Red drawing room, huh, is there anything in this place that isn’t red?”

It seems as if somebody has entered the same number in the ledger twice, which might be a clerical mistake were it not for the fact they then subtracted the 1812 Overture, “The Green Drawing Room,” he says, fighting the temptation to lick his pencil and instead taking care to enunciate the capital letters.

“Have I seen that?” comes the reply from somewhere behind him.

“No, it’s attached to the Queen’s Bedroom.” The answer comes easily, automatically. The numbers are almost hypnotising, almost as hypnotising as the RCMP Regulation Handbook (abridged), almost as hypnotising as the voiceof the Inspector during his many and frequent dressing downs, her voice has a certain irate rhythm and he lets himself float away on it, the only dressing down he wants to be present for is one he’ll never have…

“Fraser, do you mind me looking in your drawers?”

“Not at all, Ray.” The numbers are like a balm to his soul, and soon even that much-longed for dressing-down from Ray will never matter…

The silence is filled with numbers and the subtraction of the number of animals of the genus choeropsis liberiensis present in the Chicago Zoo at this present juncture flies past Fraser’s head signing a lullaby in basso voce.

He does not even notice the sound of scrabbling and the gasp that precedes, “Fraser, are you gay?” nor even the tone of Ray’s voice.

“Yes, Ray.”

“Do you find me attractive in a gay way?”

And still the answers come as Fraser struggles valiantly with binomial theory, “Ray, you are singularly the most attractive man I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and your body and mind sing to my soul.”

“Pleasure, huh?”

Fraser does not even notice himself answering in a sweetly measured tone, “After I have polished my boots with neat’s foot oil and performed my ablutions, I lay away and think of you with me, on me, in me.”

“Fraser, would you, like go out with me, and come back to my apartment with me.”

And suddenly the world of numbers shatters into a myriad fractions, and those shards/surds slash their way into the desktop. Suddenly, Benton is breathing hard, as if he has been running after some malfeasant rather than sitting behind a desk.

“Ben, Christ! You okay?” Ray’s worried, it takes Benton a moment to realise it’s about him, he’s quivering like a leaf and half dazed and more certain of anything than he has been in his life.

“Ray, just promise you’ll wear your boots.”

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