I am pleased to note that The Dean’s rooms are today in a remarkably well-ordered fashion – quite the unusual state of affairs. It appears that he has had a bit of a clear out; the surfaces of much of the furniture is clearly visible and there is even room to sit on the settee, if you are not too hefty. Although, I also notice, that heftier guests now have use of a majestic-looking armchair that was previously buried by an enormous pile of books. The Dean has a quick look out into the hallway before locking us in to his rooms.
“Is it too early for a drink, do you think, Deputy Head Porter?” The Dean asks, hands thrust into the pockets of his rather jaunty tweed trousers.
“Considering the present circumstances, probably not” I reply. This appears to be the correct answer.
The Dean strolls over to his desk and retrieves a fine looking single malt from the bottom drawer. Then he frowns and starts searching all over his desk.
“Where in buggery is my tumbler?” he says to no one in particular. As I am the only other person in the room, I feel obliged to have a look for it. I have had to look for things in The Dean’s rooms before and those previous occasions can only be described as challenging.
As The Dean swears politely under his breath I have a rummage around and it is not long before I come across the item, albeit otherwise employed. Sat next to the telephone I see a beautifully cut crystal tumbler, crammed full of pens, pencils, paperclips and other related paraphernalia. The Dean spots it almost immediately and more swearing is forthcoming as he tips the contents onto a previously clear space on the desk. Undeterred, he hooks the cuff of his jumper over his palm and gives the tumbler a hasty dusting.
Satisfied the glass is suitably clean, The Dean pours himself a sensible amount of the whiskey. He doesn’t offer me any – which is fine because I wouldn’t have been able to accept it anyway – but a bit of a shame because I am always a little shaky after any dealings with the Flag Tower. Anyway.
“Now then, Deputy Head Porter, there is certainly something not quite right occurring here, I’d wager” The Dean says in a low voice, obviously concerned about us being overheard. “This business with Senior Bursar is very suspect indeed. And Professor K’s death never sat that comfortably with me, either.”
“I agree, Sir” I reply. “I think Professor K was trying to tell me something before he died. It all kicked off when I asked him about something The Master told me late one night in The Crypt…”
“What was that?”
I open my mouth to continue, but I stop myself just in time. What was it the Old Boy had said about keeping this information to myself? This was dangerous information, he said. People who stumbled upon this particular little gem didn’t usually get the opportunity to pass it on. There is a possibility that The Dean already knows all this, of course. But I doubt he would be so quick to involve me in his amateur sleuthing if this was the case. But… It could be a trap! To find out how much I know.
Oh, Lord, what I do say?! I am suddenly very aware of my precarious position and even more aware of the locked door behind me. The window? I’m on the second floor, it’s not a good option.
“Well, Deputy Head Porter,” The Dean fixes me with a dark stare and takes a couple of steps towards me, crystal tumbler still in his hand, the amber liquid being gently warmed by the heat of his palm. “What did The Master tell you in The Crypt?”
A sudden sweat like a sheet of ice on my back, I take a deep breath and compose myself as best I can. Conscious that whatever I say next could have quite alarming consequences, I reply in the best possible way I know how…