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Stuck in the Middle with You

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"That’s it, I give up." Careful not to burn his fingers, Cho replaced the radiator cap and turned to look at Jane. "Any luck with the phone?"

Jane was reclining in the grass a little way off the road, his jacket pillowed underneath his head and his arm flung over his eyes to shield him from the blazing sun. He peered at Cho from under his arm and then reached for the phone resting on his stomach. He looked at the screen.

"Nope. No signal."

Cho gave up trying to find something to clean his hands with and just wiped his palms on his pant leg. He made a mental note to add the dry cleaning bill to his expense report.

"Great. That means we're going to have to walk. I think I saw a farm house about five miles back. If we’re lucky, we can call for a tow truck there."

He reached inside the car and dug a map from the glove compartment, spreading it on the hot roof. From the corner of his eye he saw Jane stand up and then stretch leisurely like a cat waking up from a nap as he sauntered to the car.

"This is why I don’t like modern cars. It’s all computers, you can’t do anything yourself if it breaks down."

Cho gave him a sideways look. Jane was now standing in front of the car, leaning above the engine.

"Don’t touch that, it might still be hot."

Jane rolled his eyes, raising his hands to show that he wasn’t touching the car as he peered under the hood. Cho turned his attention back to the map and traced their route with his finger, trying to figure out the shortest way to the farm.


A Jane ‘a-ha’ was something that Cho had learned not to ignore, so he looked up, just in time to see Jane roll up his sleeves and disappear behind the car. He waited for a few seconds for Jane to reappear and then folded the map, returning it to the glove compartment before walking to the other side of the car.

He found Jane lying on his back on the ground, his arm under the car, face scrunched up in concentration as he tried to reach for something underneath.

"What are you doing?"

Jane looked up, a cheerful grin spreading on his face. "I’m fixing the car."

"No, really. What are you doing?"

Jane gave Cho an amused look.

"Why do you think I couldn’t do it? I grew up on the road and carnies aren’t exactly the main demographic for Triple-A memberships. If something broke, you fixed it yourself. I used to help my dad with the truck all the time when I was a kid." He peered under the car again, inching closer until he was lying half underneath it himself. "Ha! There."

Having succeeded in whatever he’d been doing, Jane stood up, brushing dust off his clothes.

"Start the car when I tell you," he said, and then made a shooing motion until Cho relented and sat behind the wheel.

After a few minutes Jane’s head popped into view from behind the hood.

"Okay. Now try it."

Cho gave him a suspicious look, but reached for the key anyway. The engine coughed and spluttered for a few seconds before starting.

Jane spread his hands, grinning triumphantly. "Ta-dah!"

Cho glared at him.

"And you couldn’t do this an hour ago, why?"

"If I’d done it an hour ago, you would have thought it was an easy thing to fix. Much more impressive this way."

He slammed down the hood and then leaned to the driver side door, looking down at Cho.

"Oh, admit it. My unexpected display of masculine prowess has you intrigued and more than a little turned on."

"It has me annoyed. We were already supposed to be at the crime scene."

Jane waved his hand dismissively. "Meh. It’s an open and shut case. The butler did it."

"The butler?"

"You know I’ve been waiting for five years to be able to say that. For all their reputation, butlers are surprisingly law-abiding citizens."

"Get in the car, Jane."

"Aren’t you even going to thank me for saving us?"

"Get in the car or you’re walking."

Jane laughed and ran around the car to the passenger side. Once inside, he patted Cho’s leg, leaving black marks on the dark grey fabric.

"Oh, don’t worry. If my brilliant ruse to catch Evil Jeeves goes as planned, you’ll have plenty of chance to restore your manly pride by rescuing me from a room full of bloodthirsty butlers."