Buried Things

I cannot for the life of me see what the benefits of training our Porters as bouncers will be, but I suspect that Junior Bursar and Senior Tutor will be expecting something a little more comprehensive in my report. In almost any other working environment I can imagine, I would say that staff training is a positive, if not essential, use of time and resources. Here at Old College, The Porters’ Lodge in particular, I would say that it would be a pointless exercise. I decide that the best thing to do is to present an even-handed report of pros and cons and let The Fellowship make up their own minds. This should give me plenty of breathing space; coming to a decision has been known to take The Fellowship months, if not years.

I decide to deliver my reports by hand, as it will give me an excuse to be out of The Lodge for a while. I am hoping to pop by and have a chat with Professor K about my discovery. Something tells me he will know all about this already. What I really want to know is – what did they do with the bodies?

As I am not really in the mood for talking about my experiences of ‘security professional’ training, I decide to slide the reports under the respective doors of Senior Tutor and Junior Bursar. This turns out to be a good decision, certainly in the case of Junior Bursar. When I reach his door I can hear what can only be described as an almighty row going on in his rooms. I cannot be sure, but it sounds very much like he might be arguing with Head Porter. This is certainly not a situation I want to get myself involved in, so I hurry away once the report is under the door. I am curious as to what the argument is about, but I am sure it can wait until later.

At this hour of the afternoon, I cannot be sure whether Professor K will be relaxing in The Senior Combination Room or having a snooze in his rooms. I hope he is in his rooms. It will be easier to talk there.

My luck is in. Professor K is shuffling around his rooms and seems pleased to see me.

“Deputy Head Porter!” He welcomes me through the door with open arms and a broad grin. “Would you like a drink?” The Professor is pouring himself a large whiskey.

“Not while I’m on duty, but thank you, Sir”

“Oh, go on. Just a little one,” the twinkly eyes seem even naughtier than usual today. “I promise I won’t tell Head Porter!”

“All the same, I’d better not” I reply. “I haven’t got long, I shall be needing to get back to The Lodge. I’ve come to say you were right!”

“I am invariably right, my dear girl” Professor K looks very pleased with himself. “What was I right about this time?”

“A thirst for knowledge and reading,” I lick my lips a little nervously. “I found a book in The Old Library”

“Well done you. A book in a library? Who’d have thought it!”

“You know what I mean. The one about The Order Of The Lesser Dragon. “

Professor K takes a valiant gulp of his whiskey and makes himself comfortable on the sofa.

“Ah! Yes. The Order Of The Lesser Dragon. The forefathers of Old College.”

“Yes… I say, don’t you think it’s rather strange they would name their brand spanking new establishment ‘Old College’?”

Professor K bursts out laughing and twitches excitedly in his seat. Maybe it was the mention of spanking?

“Dear, dear Deputy Head Porter!” He shakes his head in mock despair then fixes me with a sympathetic gaze. “Do think about it, girl. It isn’t difficult to fathom.”

I can see I won’t be getting a straight answer on this one. Another puzzle for me to go away and think about, no doubt. So I continue,

“I know what they found under The Porters’ Lodge, when it was rebuilt. It was the sacrificial peasants, wasn’t it?”

Professor K seems to light up with pleasure from the soles of his battered boots to the very tips of his ice white hair. He nods slowly and smiles broadly.

“Clever girl. Of course, we couldn’t be absolutely certain, but it was a common practice of the age and the amount of – remains – discovered certainly suggested that was indeed the practice we stumbled upon.”

I knew it! And I do feel like a very clever girl.

“So tell me, Sir, what happened to the remains? Are they interred somewhere? On display? I would love to visit and pay my respects, as a servant of Old College.”

“Ahh… well, that’s the thing, you see, Deputy Head Porter” Professor K has adopted a sombre tone but I can tell he is itching to tell me whatever it is he is about to impart. “There was some – disagreement – at the time regarding the discovery. Having the bones removed and studied would have cost College a lot of time and money. Not to mention inconvenience.”

“Yes, but, there are quite specific procedures for the removal of human remains…” I trail off as the realisation sinks in. Old College doesn’t much care for the rules and regulations of the world outside its walls. “What happened?”

“As far as I know, they were dug back into the ground and simply built over” his voice is a little shaky now, but Professor K goes on “It was a very unpopular decision with a couple of the Fellows at the time. They threatened to go to the police, you know.”

“That would have been disastrous for College!” I exclaim. “I mean, that’s a crime! How on earth did they wriggle out of that one?”

There is a long pause, punctuated only by a long sigh from Professor K.

… To be continued…

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