Today, I am feeling rather unloved I must say. The Bursar’s surprisingly unpleasant opinion of me is one thing; I find it ridiculous, more than anything. But after then falling out with Head Porter in The Albatross last night, I am in something of a hump. I spend most of the morning avoiding him as Head Porter is absolutely impossible when he has a grump on. I didn’t even dare offer him a cup of tea when he came in.
This, in itself, actually proves to be a rather satisfactory state of affairs. The time spent keeping my distance from The Lodge is gainfully employed by speaking to Penelope, who knows a good friend of the late Maurinio. When I visit her rooms I am cheered to see the familiar snow globe featuring a miniature Warwick Castle twinkling happily in its plastic dome on her writing desk. Penelope is shaken by recent events and although she didn’t know him that well, is clearly upset by Maurinio’s death. Her friend Deborah knew him from the chess club and had acted as a trusted confidante. He was recently troubled by his parents’ ire at his choice of partner and the constant sniping between them began to affect his studies. His parents, of course, declared the relationship to be an unnecessary distraction, but it was felt that privately they did not consider Ryan good enough for their adored son.
By all accounts, Ryan – the other unfortunate in this sorry tale – seemed to be a fairly decent chap. He grew up in a travelling fair before making his own way when he became a young man. He recently settled in The City and, despite not having any apparent profession or trade, always had regular work of some kind or another.
Maurinio seems to have been a sensitive and quite spiritual young man who was enthusiastic about his history degree and keen to make his parents proud. I try to enquire about hobbies and such but Penelope is unsure. I suppose I will have to speak to Deborah myself, if she is willing.
Feeling in need of a little mood elevation, I decide to pay a visit to The Dean. Whatever frame of mind he is in, he usually manages to be entertaining, at least. I find him in his rooms, surrounded by books and ignoring his phone.
“Aha! Deputy Head Porter. Just the chap,” he says, cheerfully ripping out the cord of his desk phone. “Now listen; I have been studying the occult all morning and am now an expert. I definitely think there is something mystical about our latest conundrum.”
Whilst I would think twice about describing the deaths of two young men a conundrum, I have to admire The Dean’s ability to become an expert of just about anything in only a few short hours.
“What makes you think that, Sir?” I ask, intrigued and wary at the same time.
“The paraphernalia in his rooms is certainly of an esoteric nature,” says The Dean. “I didn’t get to have a proper look – I was busy contradicting that blasted Detective – but I recognised several elements in my research this morning. We need to get back in there are have a proper poke round. I think those chaps were casting a spell.”
Maurinio’s rooms are still sealed off by the police, evidently they have further work to do. Of course, I could easily gain access but disturbing a crime scene is invariably a bad idea and I certainly do not think that scattering our DNA all over it is going to help matters.
“We will make it our top priority, as soon as the boys in blue are out of there,” I reply. “Porter says that his lady-friend is expecting some information from the labs soon, that might throw a little light on things.”
“Good, marvellous. Isn’t it funny how she has taken to Porter? An unlikely couple, and no mistake.”
“It is a little surprising, Sir” I say. “Maybe Maurinio isn’t the only one who has been casting spells!”
“Ho ho, perhaps that’s his secret!” The Dean laughs. “But you know, Deputy Head Porter, love is a little like magic, don’t you think? It certainly makes people do unusual things.”
“You think that maybe our young men acted on Cupid’s enchantment?” I ask. The Dean shrugs.
“Who can tell? When young people are in the grip of such things, who knows what they might get up to. Have you ever been so in love that you might kill yourself, Deputy Head Porter?” Now there’s a question I never expected to be answering, especially not to The Dean.
“I can’t say that I have, Sir” I reply. “Although I do have a cat I am rather fond of.” And then… “Have you, Sir?” I just can’t help myself. He seems to consider this quite deeply.
“I don’t think so,” he says slowly. “I quite often feel like killing other people, but I suppose that’s not quite the same thing.”
“I suppose not.”
“You know, Deputy Head Porter, we are quite similar, you and I…”
But whatever these mystery similarities are will have to wait. My phone bursts into life from my pocket. It is Porter.
I thought I had become immune to shocks and surprises at Old College, but yet again I have been proved wrong.
Another body has been found.