The Music in the Painting

Chapter Nineteen

"What did you want to discuss?" Drew asked as he indulged in a long languorous stretch.

"Something you said earlier about my smell," Bobby smiled down at Drew where he lay with a sheet barely covering his thighs.

"I love your smell, there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact you probably bathe more than I would like. Your smell is so sexy to me; it gets me so wound up, I don’t know how to say it better," Drew lovingly gazed over at Bobby.

"I think I understand; I hope you don’t mind but I talked to Davey about it and he said smell was part of sex and intimacy. Drew there’s so much I don’t know about loving you that I’m bound to make mistakes. Just please bear with me."

Bobby stared at the ceiling and listened for Drew’s reply.

"Look; I know cleanliness is important to you, I’m like that too. Maybe we could shower in the afternoon instead of bedtime or something. But it’s funny; I talked to Polly about the same thing. I was just trying to find a good time to talk to you about it."

Both boys chuckled a bit over that, neither had really known how to bring up the subject. Drew looked at Bobby and asked, "Do I smell good to you?"


Bobby beamed at Drew with an expression that exuded affection.

"Your smell drives me nuts; you’re all spicy and sweet with just a touch of sharp. I wake up every night and smell you, I bury my nose in your hair and inhale you, and I can’t get enough. This afternoon was the best though; I really got to smell all of you."

Bobby wrapped his arms around Drew and kissed away a tear. "I love you Drew." 

A look of utter contentment covered Drew’s face as he said, "I love you too Bobby."

The boys managed to get themselves dressed to receive a visitor. Drew wore his outfit from the museum since it had been through the laundry. Bobby wore dark blue slacks, a pale blue dress shirt and a sleeveless pullover sweater. He picked out a pair of black loafers and made his own little fashion statement with his red and white barber pole sox.

The family had gathered in the atrium and chatted happily until the gate bell rang and Mac hit the switch to open it after telling his guest where to pull up.

A tall thin man exited the back of the car and thanked his driver.

Mac grinned a wide grin and said, Jock you old sheep shagger how the bloody hell are you?"

The man drew himself to his full height and said haughtily, "that’s ’Sir’ sheep shagger to you, thank you very much."

Mac laughed "I heard you got a K for that little excursion into Angola."

The man blanched, "Do you know; besides granting me access to clubs I wouldn’t be caught dead in, I can’t think what the damn thing’s good for. Thank god it’s not hereditary; I’d hate to saddle my son with it."

The man paused and asked; "who are all these lovely people here; certainly not related to you, they’re all too good looking for that to be the case."

Mac made a sweeping gesture with his hand " This is my nephew David and his Fiancé Polly, she hails from Skegness, this pleasant looking young man is Drew, he’s a guest of my grandson Robert but he answers to Bobby." The man shook hands with each one in turn.

Mac announced, "Please welcome Sir Malcom MacFarlane."

Sir Malcom winced at the title. "That’s Jock to you lot or if you must Colonel MacFarlane."

Bobby stepped forward, you’re S.A.S. aren’t you sir?"

Sir Malcom looked a bit perplexed, "How in the devil did you deduce that?"

Bobby smiled up at the man; I saw part of your tattoo on your wrist sir. Most of our proctors at school are from that unit."

Sir Malcom beamed back at the boy and offered his hand again and Bobby took it in his own. "Very astute young man and what are your plans for military service?"

Bobby didn’t hesitate, "United States Marine Corps Sir Malcom, just like my Dad, he was a Major Sir."

The man’s eyes softened, "Yes I remember, he was a fine man and a fine officer. You have every reason to be proud."

"Now then, no more of this ‘Sir Malcom’ nonsense, I’m just Jock to you fine folks."

Bobby grinned up at him," Jock it is then."

They all strolled through the open doors as the hired car backed into the turn around. Mac collected Jock’s bags and set them inside the door. "We can run these up when I show you your rooms."

Everyone took seats in front of the large hearth which had a warm fire crackling away.

Bobby stood again and Drew did the same out of reflex. He and Bobby retrieved a drinks cart and a tray of cheese, crackers and very tasty smoked ham.

Looking at his Grandfather he asked, "Tumblers sir?"  Mac nodded, there was the sound of glass clinking and soon Bobby placed a tray with two tumblers of water and two empty and a bottle of Balvenie single malt on the table between the two men.

Mac poured two full tumblers of very expensive whiskey and Bobby saw to Polly and Davey. Polly couldn’t drink because of the pain drug so she opted for iced tea. Davey, Drew and Bobby all had a glass of a very nice Reisling. They all settled in to listen to the conversation.

The two men drank a toast to absent friends; and then one to Kate, whose absence had been explained to Jock earlier, and a third to Jock’s wife and son.

Jock asked Mac if he remembered the last time they met. Mac said he did.

"You have never adequately explained your presence there or that time in the Fen country when you tripped over my sniper."

Mac laughed, "I didn’t trip, I kicked the lazy bugger for lying about and not properly blending in. A blind plowboy could have spotted him." Mac said.

 Jock snickered, "that’s not the way he told it. But what were you doing there?"

Mac laughed, "What were you doing in Kenya?" Jock sputtered, "You spotted me?! The Home Office sent me.

So what were you doing in the middle of my training exercise in Spalding?"

Mac nodded, same answer, your Home Office asked me to infiltrate your unit and look for holes."

Jock grumbled a bit, I thought that Wasp arrived rather quickly after my security detail sussed you out. What I can’t believe is that you tagged a third of my force with that red goo. What was that muck anyway?" Mac leaned back and smiled at his family, "Oh that, it was just Omo, water and a bit of red food dye. Was there a problem?"

Jock chuckled, "it just raised welts on most of the men you tagged." Both men laughed.

"In Kenya your son’s detail spotted us more than a quarter mile from the embassy and he set-up an ambush that would have wiped us out if we had been there for mischief.

He was out there himself with his men and picked me out. He asked if you had sent me to check up on him."

Bobby perked up at that point, "Do you mean my Dad caught you testing the embassy defense zone? I hope none of your men were hurt."

Jock laughed out loud, "quite the opposite I assure you. Once we were all friends again the men shared beer and war stories. Your father and I did a great deal of damage to a bottle of Glen Fiddich." 

Bobby was over the moon, he never heard much about his father’s military career. Most of it was classified and he only caught bits of detail from his Dad’s old friends. One of his motivations to join the corps was to get a high enough clearance to read his Dad’s 201 file. He knew Navy crosses didn’t grow on trees but he knew nothing of the circumstances that caused it to adorn his father’s chest.

 Mac disappeared to deal with dinner and Polly went with him.

Jock turned to Bobby, "I am told you are quite a musician, that appears to be a piano, I wonder if you would mind playing something. Any old thing will do."

Bobby smiled and then an idea struck him, "Maybe I can get Drew to sing something as well."

He stood and offered his hand to Drew who grasped it and rose to join Bobby at the piano. Bobby settled on the bench after opening the top of the massive instrument.

As he began to play the opening notes Drew joined him in "Ombra Mai Fu".  Drew had been singing while they dressed so he wasn’t completely unready and they had discussed the possibility that they might be asked to perform. Drew whispered something in Bobby’s ear and disappeared up the stairs.

Bobby played a medley of short Mozart pieces blending them expertly.

Drew returned and Bobby stood and removed a notebook from the bench. Together they reprised "Sul Aria" with Drew singing soprano and Bobby singing Alto their voices reverberated through the atrium. When they had finished there was not a single dry eye under that roof.

Jock stood and motioned for both boys to come to him and he embraced them in a warm hug. "You boys are really quite gifted, do you think you’ll pursue the piano and perform on stage?"

Bobby smiled, "No sir, I’m actually a cellist, I play piano for fun."

Jock looked dumbfounded "Then you’ll have to demonstrate your skills on the cello before I leave." He turned to Drew, "you my lad sing like an angel, you both do, but you’ve had voice training haven’t you?"

Drew blushed, "yes sir, I have. I go to a school that specializes in voice. Just like Bobby’s music academy."

At that moment a teary eyed Polly appeared and summoned everyone to dinner. She hugged both boys as they passed. Bobby and Drew as well as Polly and Davey listened with great intent as Mac and Jock talked about the old days. They left some very strategic details out which made Bobby strain against his good manners. He wanted the full story but knew he wouldn’t get it. He didn’t want to appear petulant in front of these two great men and Drew, so he bit his tongue and listened for an unintended detail. And while there were a few, they were nothing of substance. The name of a city here and a despot there, he memorized each of them for future research. One piece of information absolutely stunned him.

Jock had inquired about a man called "Gunner Rigsby." Jock had said;" the last I heard he was teaching at Oxford but I lost track after all this time." Mac smiled at Bobby, "Oh he’s still teaching, he’s the Dean at the academy Bobby attends. You’ll have to come up and see him and some of your old boys from the 22nd."

Bobby perked up and was about to speak when Mac said. "What I am about to tell you is privileged information, even though it is public record it is not for the consumption of your classmates, do you understand?

Bobby nodded and said meekly, "Yes Sir."

Mac reverted to an adoring gaze as he watched his grandson eagerly await a revelation.

"Your Headmaster is an unsung icon in the British Army, he wrote the book on the use of light machineguns and small unit tactics. He was very handy with a Lewis gun and collected several to arm his unit. Usually he salvaged them from downed aircraft. At the first battle of Ypres his unit was responsible for turning the enemy back and every encounter caused the Germans tremendous casualties. Reg was a young Lt. and led from the front. His own unit had a very low casualty rate due mostly to his clever tactics. Have you anything to add Jock?" 

Jarred from his reverie Jock nodded, "Command didn’t know whether to court-marshal him or award the Victoria Cross. You see everything he did was against standing orders, although we still use variations of his small unit formations today, the idea was quite new then."

Bobby was absolutely dumbfounded; he couldn’t equate the gentle old man that he had hugged only a few days earlier with what he had learned that evening.

Mac invited Jock to join him on the terrace and collected the glasses and bottle along the way. The boys helped Polly and Davey clean up and Polly told Bobby, "I think you need to take Drew to bed, he’s dead on his feet, poor dear. He took one of Jock’s small bags as Davey hoisted the other two and carefully guided Drew up the stairs depositing the bag on the landing. Davey placed Jock’s luggage in his room and Polly filled the carafe with water and turned down the bed. The two of them retreated to another guest room where Polly was ensconced.

Bobby roused himself to deal with a full bladder around one thirty. As he crossed from the bathroom to his bed his door opened. It was Jock, "I’m terribly sorry my boy I seem to have misplaced my rooms. Do you by chance have an en suite?" Bobby stood his ground though totally nude and gestured to the bathroom door. Jock thanked him and the sound of a man relieving himself echoed through the room. Bobby seized the opportunity to don his djellaba; when Jock emerged Bobby asked if they could speak privately. Jock assented and was led into the sitting room.

Bobby didn’t waste any time with small talk. "Is there anything you can tell me about my Dad? I have his medals but I don’t know why he got them. There’s so much that I haven’t been told."

Whether it was the whiskey or the boy’s frankness, Jock decided to tell him what little he knew.

"Your father got his bronze and silver star for rescuing a senior officer and his aide from their burning vehicle and getting them to a safe area by commandeering a water buffalo. Much of the time he was exchanging fire with the enemy."

"Then he went back and pulled three other men who were injured from the same area. The five men were med-evaced out and he went back to join his unit."

"He sustained a pretty serious wound to his leg but kept going until the enemy was routed. Your grandfather has the details concerning the Navy Cross. You need to ask him, and when the time is right he’ll tell you."

"There are often murky details associated with these things, of which the average man would neither understand nor approve. But then the average man doesn’t receive the Navy Cross now does he," Jock chuckled.

Bobby nodded and gave a small chuckle himself. He felt honored to have been taken into the confidence of such a great man.

"Shall I show you to your rooms’ sir?"

Jock rose and said, "I think that’s a very good idea, I could use a bit of a kip."