Once at the top of the Flag Tower, it is not quite as unsettling as I imagined it to be. Certainly, the first time I ascended this ancient structure I was absolutely terrified. I have always been far happier with both feet safely on terra firma but my occasional flag-hoisting duties seem to be taming the phobia. The only tricky thing now is to make sure the flag is at exactly half mast. And as today’s flag flies in the honour of such an exacting gentleman as Senior Bursar, this is very important indeed.
I wrestle with the ropes a little until I am satisfied that the College standard is perfectly placed. I take a moment to admire my handiwork and also to take in the breath-takingly beautiful cityscape that surrounds me. Although, The City is quite unlike any other city I have ever known (well, maybe one other comes to mind…) in that the truly historic and the sublimely cutting-edge nestle together so comfortably. Well, perhaps not so comfortably; as I look around me I get the distinct impression that some of the older structures of The City are decidedly displeased with their more youthful neighbours. I sometimes feel that Old College feels exactly the same way about me.
My mind is just starting to wander in the direction of what might be served for lunch, when I become aware of footsteps coming up the stone spiral staircase of the Flag Tower. I am suddenly a little nervous – I am certainly not expecting company up here. The incidents of recent unpleasantness flash through my mind as I become increasingly aware that the Flag Tower is quite a dangerous place to be.
There is really no cause for concern, though, as I am relieved (if a little surprised) to see that it is The Dean who emerges though the little wooden door to the staircase.
“Good morning, Sir!” I greet him cheerfully.
“Deputy Head Porter, good morning” replies The Dean. “How are you today? Not too traumatised by yesterday’s occurrence, I hope?”
“I’m fine, thank you Sir” I answer “Although I am rather suspicious about the whole situation.”
“Indeed! A less cynical man than myself might well be prepared to accept that what happened to Senior Bursar was nothing more than a tragic accident,” The Dean takes a breath “But, as I am sure you know, Deputy Head Porter, I am a very cynical man indeed and also particularly suspicious. Especially in events where dead men appear to be sending emails.”
“Well, quite, Sir”
“Which leads me to believe that someone wanted us to think Senior Bursar was still alive when in fact he was very much dead.”
“Yes, Sir, but who?”
“That is what I intend us to find out, Deputy Head Porter”
“Us, Sir?” I am a little taken aback. I hadn’t expected The Dean to be quite so keen to join forces with me. Of course, he does not yet know the full extent of my suspicions about the death of Professor K.
“Yes, Deputy Head Porter” The Dean continues, really getting a feel for the idea now. “We can be like Holmes and Watson.”
“Which one are you, Sir?” I ask jovially.
“Well, I suppose I should be Holmes,” he replies. Then thinks. Then, “But actually, as I am a Doctor, maybe I should be Doctor Watson…”
“I’ve got the right hat to be Watson,” I point out, indicating my bowler “And I’m not nearly tall enough to be Holmes.”
“Besides, Watson is a proper Doctor…” the look The Dean gives me at these words is priceless. And terrifying. “I mean, a medical Doctor. Not an academic Doctor… I mean… Couldn’t I be Hercule Poirot instead?”
The Dean sighs.
“Bugger it, no. I’ll be Holmes and you be Watson. Alright?”
“Alright Sir” I reply. “Sir?”
“Yes, Deputy Head Porter?”
“Shouldn’t we be getting on with solving the case, then?”
“Oh! Right! Yes. Yes indeed” The Dean is rather wrapped up in the role-playing element of our adventure, I suspect. “And, actually, I think I have found some clues already.”
“Brilliant, Sir” I say “I think I may have picked up one or two things as well.”
“Good. Now follow me to my rooms were we can begin our investigation proper”