Sleuthing For Beginners

They would always tell me in the Police never to assume anything as it only makes an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me’, but in this case I cannot help but lean towards the presumption that whoever took the spare key was more than likely Senior Bursar’s killer. Or, at the very least, a cohort of the killer. Or, killers, indeed. Honestly, the further along we get with this investigation the more distant a resolution seems. It’s always the way, isn’t it?

The Dean had immediately demanded to return to the scene of the crime, which is why I find myself standing now in the almost abandoned rooms of the late Senior Bursar. The lack of spare key posed no problems as I carry master keys to almost every door and window in Old College. Which is an interesting point in itself; if the killer needed to use the spare key, he or she cannot have had access to a set of master keys. That puts myself and Head Porter in the clear, but who else? I make a mental note to bring this up with Head Porter later.

From the corner of my eye I can see the scorch marks on the wall and carpet where Senior Bursar met his unusual demise. I try not to look at them, but my gaze seems to be dragged back towards that direction with alarming insistence. I am far from squeamish but it is an unhappy sight, more than anything. I am a little surprised that the room has not been redecorated to some extent by now. The College is usually very exacting about its buildings and grounds (if not its Fellows) looking immaculate and any hint of a blemish is usually swiftly corrected. About the only thing that is done swiftly, certainly.

Maybe the rooms are being left untouched for a period of mourning, or perhaps they will become something of a shrine to the late, great Senior Bursar – a man who completely redefined the wearing of tweed, in my eyes.

It is late and I am getting tired. The Dean is poking around ineffectually, picking up bits of paper then discarding them in frustration when they fail to reveal some vital clue, or whatever. I don’t know what he expects to find.

“What are you looking for, Sir?” I ask politely.

“Clues, Deputy Head Porter, clues!” he replies, violently opening and closing drawers in the manner of a particularly angry detective. “Look for clues, will you!”

Look for clues. Right-o.

In my experience, clues tend not to manifest themselves as hidden messages or esoteric symbols and signs. No. Clues tend to be the most mundane and innocuous things, but seen in the context of the crime. But seeing as The Dean is adopting the approach most favoured by literary and other fictitious sleuths, I feel I should at least show a little enthusiasm. I rather think I should have a large magnifying glass to assist me in my task, accompanied perhaps by a pipe and a perfectly-waxed moustache. Maybe a dirty raincoat for good measure.

As The Dean chatters away throughout the course of his search, I become slightly distracted by a sad-looking plant on Senior Bursar’s desk. It appears to need a good watering and some TLC to revive it, but it’s hanging on, just about. I feel a bit sorry for the plant and decide to re-home it in The Porters’ Lodge. It has some miniature lemons growing on it, which are nice. They have a lovely fresh scent which would be very welcome in The Lodge. Pulling off a few of the dead leaves I suddenly think of something.

“Sir!” I say to The Dean, interrupting an especially ferocious examination of a bookcase “We already have a couple of clues to consider. Why not think on them first?”

“Splendid idea, Deputy Head Porter!” he replies. “Now, show me that you’ve been paying attention and reiterate to me what clues they are.”

“We have the missing key, of course, which we have nearly got to the bottom of,” I begin “Then there is the email that was sent to me by Senior Bursar – or at least, from his account – after his death and we also have the typed request to Head Of Housekeeping for a new kettle. The kettle that ultimately became the instrument of his death.”

“Very good, my dear girl, very good!” The Deans booms with delight. “I knew you weren’t as daft as you look. So, obviously, I have a clear and deliberated course of action conceived in my mind, but I would like to hear your thoughts.”

I look towards the desk where the forlorn lemon tree resides next to Senior Bursar’s computer. I walk over and switch it on.

“I believe, Sir, that we should start here.”


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