Temporary Assistant Interim Associate Deputy Liaison Officer Renfield Turnbull sees a lot from his desk in the entrance lobby of the Canadian Consulate. When he first came to Chicago – on the trail of a society as yet untouched by manners and curling where, like a missionary of old, he would be able to make a difference – Renfield had wished for an office of his own. Chicago was a louder, brasher, harsher environment than he had ever envisaged and he longed for a place of quiet where he could escape. Over time and after a slight dampening of his highly tuned Canadian senses he began to relish his unique position. People, he learned long ago, rarely noticed him. Despite his size, despite the bright red tunic he wore proudly every day, almost everyone looked through him, or saw him then quickly forgot. So now he sits at his desk and watches the people who pass through the Consulate.
Ren can see that Detective Vecchio is unhappy. Well, perhaps unhappy is a wee bit strong, unsettled maybe. He is affectionate and gentle with Constable Fraser, there is real warmth and love when he looks at him. But Ren has not missed the way Detective Vecchio's eyes will sometimes shift away, towards the door, towards America. Ren knows that Constable Fraser confuses Detective Vecchio, this is to be expected; a Mountie's way is his own, unique to himself and his circumstances. Ren feels sad for he knows that look. It's been directed his way too many times for him not to recognise it.
It doesn't surprise him when Detective Vecchio leaves.
He is not introduced to the new Detective Vecchio immediately, which he understands is the way things should be. Three men in richly tailored suits – Armani, like Detective Vecchio favours – sweep into the foyer, scanned it without a word and sweep out. Ren tries to return to his book – a rather interesting cookery book by Ms Julia Child – when the three men returned, this time accompanied by another.
This man is unlike the first three, untidily dressed, slouching, an amused expression on his pale, stubbled face. He smiles when he catches Ren's eye.
The group disappears into Inspector Thatcher's office without knocking. Ren hears her indignant sound of protest and is rising to his feet to offer assistance when she appears in the doorway, tells him to cancel all her appointments and shuts the door firmly behind her. Ren is surprised when half an hour later he is invited into the office.
After Inspector Thatcher explains the situation she asks if he has any question, they all look at him intently, but as hard as he tries, he can think of nothing to ask. It all makes perfect sense. Ren saw first hand how the terrible events surrounding Detective Gardino's death affected Detective Vecchio. He understands why Detective Vecchio would take this opportunity; however he is worried that in his grief Constable Fraser will not understand.
Initially, Constable Fraser is unable to look at the new Detective Vecchio without hurt and mistrust in his gaze. They seem to spend a lot of time together, as much as he had with the former Detective Vecchio when Ren first met them. Much more than than he had towards the end. Like Detective Vecchio, the new one is confused by Constable Fraser. But while Detective Vecchio saw this confusion as a threat, the new one appears to find it intriguing. It propels him toward Constable Fraser rather than away.
Ren is often accused of being oblivious, but to some things he is very sensitive. He notices the way Constable Fraser's attitude changes to the new Detective Vecchio, the way he shifts from betrayal and angry and hurt to curious. Ren is surprised by the level of emotions between the two men, culminating in the terrible day Constable Fraser returns with a bruised lip and dead eyes.
Ren feels sad for Constable Fraser and the new Detective Vecchio. He knows them well and thinks of them as his friends, even though they rarely see him. He doesn't feel bad about that, he understands why they only have eyes for each other. The trouble, he has worked out, is that they, however, don't know why, which is what has led them to the horrible situation they're now in. Ren tries to think of ways to help them, but before he can decide on a course of action, Constable Fraser and the new Detective Vecchio disappear and Ren and Inspector Thatcher join forces with the 2-7 to bring them home.
He never finds out what passes between Constable Fraser and the new Detective Vecchio during their adventures on the highseas, but he watches them together as they stand on the deck of the replica Bounty and knows it must have been something good. Detective Vecchio is talking to Constable Fraser in a low voice, but not meeting his eye. He stares out at the choppy waters of the lake until Constable Fraser says something in return and then he turns away from the water, his mouth lighting in a smile. When the two men lean in toward each other and laugh it is the most melodious sound Ren has heard in a long while.
Ren loves his job. Some people might not understand that, he knows that Constable Fraser for one for one feels unfulfilled with his consular work. Ren, however, relishes his opportunity to help wandering travellers and represent his country. It is rather exciting however to get the chance at police work and he finds himself energised by their journey to the Northwest Territories in pursuit of Mr Muldoon.
Unlike Constable Fraser, Ren was not born in this part of Canada. His family is from a small town outside of Ottawa, but he can still appreciate the beauty of this country. To begin with, Detective Kowalski – as Ren must now train himself to say – appears lost, out of his depth. Ren has a feeling it is not the barrenness of the Northwest Territories alone that is troubling him, a suspicion confirmed later that night when Detective Kowalski sits beside him and asks him if he ever feels lost. Ren tells him that as long as he has a job to do he believes he has a place. Ren worries it may not be the answer Detective Kowalski wishes to hear. The other man just smiles and tells him he's lucky. Then he asks when Ren is going to start calling him Ray.
The night they bring Muldoon to justice, Ren watches Detective Kowalski and Constable Fraser closely. He knows Constable Fraser will not return with them to Chicago, but fears he is too hesitant to ask Detective Kowalski to stay with him. And Detective Kowalski, so confident in so many matters is – Ren knows – still too battered and tender from his divorce to make any leaps in this matter. He watches them dance around each other, speaking half truths in overlong sentences. Ren wishes he could intervene, but he knows they wouldn't thank him. This is something they have to work out for themselves. Unless... Ren does not consider himself a devious man, but he cannot hid his satisfied smile as an idea strikes him.
Diefenbaker is surprisingly easy to convince to play his roll. It only costs Ren the promise of three homemade rock cakes – a much greater bargain than he had anticipated.
Ren is lying in his sleeping bag, looking up at the stars when he hears the howling begin. Ren shivers, overwhelmed with the beauty of the sound and pride at being allowed to witness it.
It takes less than a minute and then Ren hears the sound of two tent flaps being unzipped.
"Dief, what the hell? Some of us are trying to sleep." Detective Kowalski's voice blends with Constable Fraser's, "Diefenbaker, I'm surprised at you. Honestly, Ray, I'm very sorry."
"It's okay," Detective Kowalski's voice is suddenly much softer, "It's good to hear him. I'll, er, I'll miss the great furball."
"Ray," Constable Fraser is saying, then his voice drops to a level Ren can't hear. They talk quietly for a long time, their voices blending together into something soothing and melodious, then they don't talk at all. Five minutes later, Ren only hears one tent flap closing.
Since Constable Fraser left, Francesca Vecchio has taken to haunting the steps of the Consulate like a ghost. Inspector Thatcher is exasperated with her, but Ren feels nothing but sympathy. He's had his own share of unrequited love; he understands how empty she must feel.
The first day he brings her out a cup of tea, but she takes one look at his uniform and bursts into tears.
The next day he tries again, this time accompanying it with one of the rock cakes he made to send to Diefenbaker. She gives him a watery smile and he feels as if he's won a prize.
By the end of the week he's plucked up the courage to ask her inside and by the end of the week, she no longer waits on the steps to be invited, just wafts in like a breeze of freshly perfumed air and they have lunch together.
Ren knows he will never take it further, this small gift is too perfect to taint with the memory of rejection. Thankfully, Ms Vecchio is much more brazen than Ren knows he'll ever be. She asks him to dinner one night and Ren is so happy and speechless and shocked that it takes him four attempts to say yes. That evening, as he descends the Consulate steps, Ren finally gets to see Francesca Vecchio's eyes light up, not for Constable Fraser, but for him.