A Hat’s a Hat, For All That by J.S. Cook

January 18, 2015

Title: A Hat’s A Hat, For All That

Author: J.S. Cook

Pairing: Inspector Raft and Constable Freddie Crook from Come to Dust

Prompt: hat

“Go away.” The only visible part of Scotland Yard Inspector Philemon Raft was the top of his head and one shoulder. The rest was buried under a voluminous pile of blankets and not a few fluffy feather pillows.

“The lady asked for you specifically.” Constable Freddie Crook, Raft’s lover and useful right hand, shook him none too gently. “She’s downstairs.”

Raft sat up like a marionette pulled by strings. “Downstairs?” He blinked at Freddie as if he’d only just seen him for the first time. “Now? At this hour of the morning?”

Freddie’s eyes narrowed. “It’s ten past eleven.” He poked Raft in the side, none too gently.

“Ten past eleven on a Saturday,” Raft hissed.

“Get up,” Freddie said. “I’ve been holding her off these past twenty minutes with excuses.”

Raft grunted. “Better if you held her off with a fire poker.” He cast about him for his dressing gown, saw it draped over the back of the bedroom chair. “Could you?”

Freddie retrieved the garment and tossed it at him carelessly, so it fell across the bottom of the bed. “What else would you like? Bathe you? Shave? Feed you breakfast from a silver cup?” He raised his eyebrow. “I’m not your personal valet, Phil. Now hurry up.” He turned and left the room.

When Raft appeared in the sitting room some moments later, a short, plump woman of late middle age was standing before the fireplace wringing her hands. In appearance she rather resembled a turnip, in that much of her substantial bulk was concentrated above the waist. She was a daughter of one very influential London family, long-time members of the landed classes whose holdings included several hundred acres in Sussex, a fleet of ocean-going ships and some small part of a rural Welsh railroad. At the sight of him, she uttered a short, sharp cry and fainted dead away on the carpet.

“Not the first time that’s happened,” Raft muttered, “I can tell you.”

Freddie stood over the woman, looking down at her. “What should we do?” he mused. “Cold water in her face?”

“She’d have you up on a private prosecution,” Raft said. He gestured at the sideboard in the dining room just adjacent. “Smelling salts in that drawer, there.” But scarcely had Freddie waved the bottle under her nose than the woman regained her senses and leapt to her feet. She glanced about her wildly, apparently in some distress.

“Where is he?” she cried. “Tell me at once!”

“Madam, you are perfectly safe,” Raft said. He helped her into a chair. “Constable Crook tells me you are in some distress.” He poured a glass of water from the carafe on the table and offered it to her. “I understand that your family might take issue if you were to go directly to Scotland Yard. You did right by coming here. I want you to tell me everything, starting from the beginning.”

She stared at Raft as if he’d spoken to her in a foreign language. “I beg your pardon!” She huffed. “I am Lady Barnstable.”

“My lady,” Raft amended. “How may I be of assistance?”

“It’s about my hat,” she said. She opened her rather large reticule and pulled out a flower-covered monstrosity with a veil. “I’m sure you can readily discern the problem,” she said, handing it to Raft. And, when he gazed at her blankly, “Put it to your ear. You’ll understand immediately.”

He did as she asked, but heard nothing, of course. Nevertheless, his duty as a Scotland Yard man was to serve the public, and he intended to do just that. “I see what you mean, Lady Barnstable.” He nodded to Freddie. “Constable Crook and I will look into it.” He made to give the hat back, but she stepped away, fixing him with a poisonous look.

“I beg your pardon,” she said, “I intended that you should uncover the reason for it. I shan’t rest easy until you do.”

“Perhaps you can give me some more information,” Raft said, turning the hat in his hands. There was nowhere to put it, really, that wouldn’t give offence to Her Ladyship. Mostly Raft wanted to put it out the window, where it would fall to the street below and hopefully be trampled by a draught horse.

Lady Barnstable looked at him incredulously, then turned her gaze on Freddie. “And I suppose you think more information necessary, as well?”

Freddie shifted uncomfortably. “Er….” And, at a warning glance from Raft, “Of course. Absolutely. The police must have every resource at our fingertips if we are to assist you, my lady.”

“It talks,” she said.

Raft felt something crawling up his back, dismissed it as his imagination. “The hat?”

“Yes. It talks. Says the most horrible things. Filthy things, really. I’d rather not repeat them if you don’t mind.”

Raft didn’t dare look at Freddie. “Of course. I assumed as much. I’ve… er… come across these sorts of cases before.” He helped her rise from the chair and escorted her to the door. “Leave it in our hands, Lady Barnstable. I’m sure we can solve this matter.”

“I couldn’t just walk into Scotland Yard, you see.” She nodded vigorously. “Not a person of my standing, you understand.” She shook their hands formally, an unusual gesture for one from the upper classes. “Good day.”

Raft waited until the downstairs door had closed behind her before sinking into a chair and giving in to the fit of mirth hovering underneath his breastbone. Freddie joined him. “I must ask Mrs. Stringer,” Freddie said, between gasps of laughter, “what the devil she put in the porridge this morning!”

****

Freddie had theatre tickets for opening night of a new comedy in the West End, so it was quite late in the evening by the time he and Raft returned home. They unlocked the front door quietly, not wanting to wake their landlady, Mrs. Stringer. Mrs. Stringer valued sleep above all else and was a veritable gorgon if awakened unexpectedly. He and Freddie crept upstairs to their flat, closing and locking the door behind them. Raft, predictably, was the first to speak.

“If you take me to anything by Gilbert and Sullivan ever again I shall have you killed.” He drew off his gloves and tossed them onto the table with an expression of disgust. “Three little bloody maids from school are we.”

“It was light comedy,” Freddie said. “Did you not find it light?”

“About as light as iron underthings,” Raft muttered. “I’m going to bed.”

“I’ll come with you,” Freddie said, “just as soon as I have a cigarette.” He shrugged out of his coat and sank into the armchair with a sigh. Spying Lady Barnstable’s hat lying on a side table, he picked it up. “Quite a singular hat, isn’t it?” he said. Raft had gone into the bedroom to undress. “Really, women have absolutely no taste when it comes to haberdashery.”

“I believe if it’s women it’s millinery,” Raft said, peering round the door. “Anyway, the woman is barking mad.” He disappeared back into the bedroom.

“Do you think so?” Freddie asked. He drew gently on his cigarette, examining the hat.

“Daft as a bloody brush,” Raft said, once again appearing at the door. “Are you coming or not?” he asked peevishly. He was wearing his nightshirt and holding a toothbrush.

“Be right there,” Freddie replied absently. He couldn’t stop looking at the hat. It really was the most god-awful thing he’d ever seen—well, except for that time he and Raft had gone to a burlesque show in Paris. Skinny women had no business wearing flamboyant corsetry, he thought with a shudder. He turned the hat round, looking at it from all angles, and was suddenly beset by an idea. He tossed his cigarette into the fireplace, rose, and began to get undressed. He couldn’t stop smiling.

****

Raft was lying in bed reading The Illustrated London News when movement in the doorway made him look up. For several long moments he stared in disbelief. “What the devil are you doing?”

Freddie, completely nude except for the strategically placed hat, grinned. “Remember that burlesque show we saw in Paris?”

“I’ll never forget it,” Raft said, distractedly. “Horrible.”

“Lady Barnstable was right,” Freddie said. “This hat does indeed talk.” He drew the hat to one side—not quite enough to show anything of significance—and then to the other. The soft light from Raft’s reading lamp fell on Freddie’s naked skin, bathing him in a golden glow. He was incredibly beautiful, Raft thought, not for the first time. Suddenly his newspaper held absolutely no appeal.

“What is the hat saying to you now?” Raft asked. He sat up, grasped the hem of his nightshirt, and pulled it off. “I suspect it’s something rather important.” The cold air prickled on his bare arms and chest and drew his nipples into hard little peaks.

Freddie dropped the hat on the floor. “It’s very important,” he said. “In fact, I would say it’s of utmost importance.” He slid into bed beside Raft, his body making a pool of heat in the blankets. “It tells me you’re in need,” he said.

“Am I?” Raft kissed him languidly as all his blood rushed to his cock. “What is it I need?”

Freddie slid a warm hand between Raft’s legs. “A bloody good rogering,” he said. “The sooner, the better.”

 

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403 Responses to “A Hat’s a Hat, For All That by J.S. Cook”

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