The City finds itself host to yet another mysterious crime scene, but this time it isn’t Old College wrapped in police tape. Another student has found themselves on the wrong side of the Styx and in not dissimilar circumstances to our own unfortunates. Except this time, she was found alone and her final resting place is the gardens of rivals and neighbours, Hawkins College, whose boundary walls brush against our own.
In Head Porter’s office, an emergency meeting of the Porters’ Lodge finest has been hastily thrown together and The Dean is already pacing with some enthusiasm. Porter is fidgeting in the corner; this unhappy news has reached our ears by way of his handcuff-wielding sweetheart and he seems to feel a little uncomfortable at having broken a confidence.
The Hawkins College scenario is startling similar to our own. The young girl was found at the bottom of the College gardens with no visible injuries or cause of death. She was found lying next to what appear to be the remnants of a small fire. Although located in two different Colleges, the scenes are actually fairly close together. They must be connected, surely?
The mood in Head Porter’s office is ambivalent. There is a certain degree of relief, I’ll grant you, that this latest drama is not being played out within our own walls. That said, wherever they might be lurking dead bodies are never a joyous discovery. There is a distinct whiff of danger in the academic air and we are all anxious for the safety of our students. Even the really annoying ones. I cannot deny a little twinge of jealousy. I mean, unlikely deaths and strange happenings are rather our thing.
“I can’t believe it. The very nerve of them!” The Dean is muttering loudly.
“What do you mean, Sir?” asks Head Porter.
“Hawkins College!” he booms. “The absolute buggers. They’ve gone and got themselves a practically identical murder to us! They’ve done this deliberately, I tell you.”
“We don’t know for sure that it is murder,” I say, quickly. “Either of them, I mean. But I have to admit, it’s a bit of a coincidence.”
“Vicky did say that the scenes were much the same,” says Porter. He sees our bemused faces and feels the need to elaborate. “DS Kirby, I mean.”
“Then we need to get your lady-friend in here right now,” The Deans says, punctuating the air with his fist. “I want to ask her some questions…”
“No, no, Sir” I interrupt. “We can’t go letting on that we know about this. If she thinks that Porter is going to go blabbing to us all the time she won’t tell him anything ever again! And we need that inside information if we’re to get to the bottom of this. No. We need to be… subtle.”
The Dean shakes his head and huffs.
“You’re right, of course” he concedes. “Not really my area of expertise, Deputy Head Porter. I don’t really hold with subtle.”
“Your own unique style certainly has its place, Sir” says Head Porter, encouragingly. He really has got the hang of handling The Dean. “But Deputy Head Porter is right. We have to be a bit crafty.”
Some moments of quiet contemplation follow and at the very pit of my stomach stirs the beginnings of righteous indignation. The Bursar’s assumption that random slayings must be the work of none other than my good self has surely been rebuffed by this recent development. This will either delight or annoy him, I shouldn’t wonder. With the reputation of Old College always taking precedence over the lives of actual people, the Hawkins body will go some way towards our own restoration of character. However, I have learned that the more sinister of the academic elite hate to be proved wrong. I believe it upsets the delicate equilibrium of the ego, or something.
There are some practical actions that can be taken, in the first instance. It is decided that Porter should use his masculine wiles to elicit as much information as he can from the delightful DS Kirby. I am careful to exercise tact in this request; Porter really does seem to be quite smitten with the Detective Sergeant and I don’t want him to feel we are using their relationship for our own ends. Admittedly, that is exactly what we are doing, but it is only good manners to put a concerned face on it.
Establishing any links between the Hawkins girl and our very own Maurinio and Ryan is a good place to start. There are already a couple of avenues open to us in this respect. The most pressing need, though, is to have a good poke around at both scenes. It seems that DCI Thompson and friends have finished their work at the bottom of our gardens, but we won’t get anywhere near the Hawkins scene for a little while yet.
“How keen do you think Hawkins will be about us nosing around, anyway?” asks Head Porter, reasonably. “I can’t seem them welcoming us in with open arms.”
“You’re right,” agrees The Dean. “The buggers won’t let us anywhere near their precious murder scene, I shall bet my socks. We shall have to use our all our cunning to get past their blasted Porters.”
I can see where this is going and it is making me a little nervous, quite frankly. Our previous escapades within the walls of Hawkins College have not ended particularly well.
“The disguises worked quite well last time,” suggests Head Porter.
“No, no they didn’t!” I reply hurriedly, anxious not to repeat the Batman fiasco.
“Well, we can’t very well charge in there, College colours flying!” says The Dean. “Subtle, subtle… we must be subtle.”
And so it is decided that a subtle approach to breaking and entering is the wisest course of action to take. Probably not the wisest, actually, but The Dean seems fairly set on the idea so turning my hand to the gentle art of trespass is just what I shall do.