A Puzzle?

Well, it appears that Head Of Maintenance was completely correct and our very own Dean of College is currently languishing at Her Majesty’s Pleasure in the no doubt competent hands of DCI Thompson and DS Kirby. Actually, I doubt very much that he is languishing. I imagine that he is striding loudly around his cell and being a bloody nuisance to all and sundry.

The only minor fortunate facet to this affair is that the crime for which he is currently in clink is not the theft of the Lord Layton. It is the unsurprising offence of obstructing an officer in the execution of her duty, which apparently amounted to refusing to allow DS Kirby to question Porter. If he had taken the time to discover exactly what she was questioning him about, there would probably have been no need to get quite so upset. But then, this is The Dean we are talking about.

Porter is rather reluctant to go into much detail, but it appears he and DS Kirby were talking about ‘nothing’ when The Dean came across them and behaved in his own particular manner that we have come to know and love. When DCI Thompson arrived on the scene, he ordered DS Kirby to arrest him, which she cheerfully did. Convinced that they will simply leave him in a cell to calm down somewhat and see the error of his ways (good luck with that), I decide that there is little further I can do for my favourite Fellow (he is a doctor of law, after all) and choose instead to ask Porter about the mysterious art collection records.

For reasons best known to the original Keeper Of The Paintings, the records are organised in such a way that each painting is attributed two symbols. The first symbol represents the painting itself while the second symbol denotes its location in College. The symbols all appear to be heraldic and have some significance to the work to which they pertain.

Porter is of very little help, to be honest, his mind quite clearly elsewhere. I find a quiet corner of the Porters’ Lodge and study the records carefully, making notes and thinking hard. I think back to my early days as Deputy Head Porter and remember particularly the guided tour of Old College, so expertly and fascinatingly conducted by our old friend Junior Bursar. Codes and puzzles are built into every inch of the architecture, design and even the brickwork itself. Old College loves an enigma and I cannot help wondering if there might be some esoteric secret hidden here, for those who are inclined to look.

Heraldry is a much more interesting subject than I previously thought. It is like a code in itself – the hidden meanings of symbols, colours and shapes of coats of arms and family crests. Almost forgetting the urgency of my task, I find myself drawn ever further into this enigmatic world of history, tradition and cyphers. There is even a little Latin thrown in, just to delight me further. Some considerable time passes, but I deem it well spent. I have some reasonably comprehensive notes to be going on with.

With notes like this, I have the makings of an Old College student!

With notes like this, I have the makings of an Old College student!

Despite feeling rather pleased with myself for being so unusually academic, I have to pull myself from my self-satisfied state and do something useful with my research. Locating the Lord Layton is of the utmost precedence as it seems clear to me that the detectives are not going to let this lie. Maybe DCI Thompson knows something we don’t, but I know a policeman with the bit between his teeth when I see one. And when a policeman has the bit between his teeth, you want to make damn sure you are not that bit. By arresting The Dean, DCI Thompson is obviously making a point. And I rather fear it might get pointier.

I make myself another cup of tea and search around for a biscuit. The Lodge is sadly bereft of biscuits, so I ask Porter nicely to pop along to Head Of Catering to enquire after the giant cookies he had in his office the other day. A girl cannot think on an empty stomach and this girl has a lot of thinking to do indeed. I sit down with the records and my notes, to see what sense I can make of any of it.

Actually, had The Dean not been in prison and the most prized of Old College’s artwork not been missing, this would all be rather good fun, wouldn’t you say?



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