With the evidence mounting against Hawkins College, The Dean and I are of the conclusion that our only option at this point is a most daring escapade of monumental proportions. The problem is, we are having considerable trouble convincing Head Porter of this matter. In all probability, this is because neither The Dean nor my good self have had any sleep and on top of that we have had only the finest whiskey for breakfast. I doubt we are making much sense.
Head Porter himself seems very under par, I must say. The subject of his daughter has been decidedly off limits, which, to me, rather indicates some tension or other. Coupled with his rumoured financial difficulties I suppose he has every right to be rather glum. I just wish he would talk to me about it.
At this moment, Head Porter has even less to be happy about, faced as he is with what appear to be two lunatics, in the shape of The Dean and me, in his office raving about feathers, goats and wayward Porters. To be fair, this probably isn’t the strangest conversation he has ever had in his office, but it might well be the noisiest.
We begin by trying to explain to Head Porter about the heraldic symbols representing paintings and rooms in Old College and that the symbol representing the Lord Layton, the feathers, has been replaced. Replaced with, no less, the noble peacock which not only represents immortality, power and knowledge, but is also the blazon of the Hawkins College coat of arms. But for some reason he just isn’t grasping the concept. I think the reason is that The Dean and I are explaining this rather poorly, the emphasis being very much on enthusiasm rather than clarity. So we bring Porter into the office and explain it to him. Porter, being very well used to dealing with the incoherent ramblings of students and Fellows alike, understands us perfectly. He is good enough to explain it to Head Porter, who still does not look convinced.
“There was a Hawkins Porter caught on CCTV entering Old College just days before we discovered the painting missing,” I say.
“Yes, Deputy Head Porter, but the interesting thing about that is that he was never seen leaving College, with or without the painting” says Head Porter. “Porter went through hours of the bloody thing and there was nothing.”
Head Porter does have a good point. But he could have hidden the painting and arranged for it to be moved out under the cover of laundry, or something. He could have put on a disguise. All sorts of ingenious things could have occurred. Head Porter has little in the way of imagination.
“The buggers have got our painting, I tell you!” roars The Dean. “And I say we bloody well get over there and take it back. And if I can issue a few spankings whilst I’m over there, so much the better!”
“We can’t just turn up at their gates and start throwing around accusations of theft!” reasons Head Porter. “Not to mention spankings. Honestly, I despair at the two of you. You get left alone together for more than five minutes and suddenly we’ve got crazy schemes left, right and centre.”
“Actually, this scheme isn’t too crazy at all,” I explain. “We’ve got a brilliant plan. And we are going to sneak in under the cover of darkness, in disguise. Honestly, it’s fool-proof.”
Head Porter raises an eyebrow in that very particular way of his that makes you feel somewhere between vaguely threatened and somewhat scolded. And now I do feel rather bad. The plan is very much in the arena of crazy and is only fool-proof up to a point. That is, up until the point that fools get involved. But I keep this to myself for the time being. The Dean is doing a marvellous job of convincing him of the considerable benefits of the operation, anyhow.
“Anyway, whatever your misgivings, Head Porter, I am The Dean of College and if I say you will be assisting in the recovery of our finest art work then that is exactly what you will do! And you will bloody well like it! Do I make myself clear?”
Head Porter, resigned to his fate, shakes his head and acquiesces gloomily.
“The same goes for you pair!” The Deans jabs a finger at Porter and me before departing spectacularly in a maelstrom of bluster and bad language. The presence of The Dean seems to linger for some time after he has gone and it is while before the harassed silence of Head Porter’s office is broken. Head Porter turns to me.
“How brilliant is this plan, really, Deputy Head Porter?”
I take a deep breath.
“It’s not bad,” I reply uneasily “As far as plans go, I have definitely seen a lot worse.”
“And disguises?” asks Porter.
“A vital and incredible part of the plan.”
Porter is unmoved. Head Porter despairs. Come on, chaps, it might even be fun!