I lay wide awake in bed, staring up into the gloom and wondering whether or not that spindly dark shape in the corner is a large spider or something else entirely. Hopefully something with fewer legs. I am unable to sleep for two reasons – the first being that Terry is demanding endless tummy rubs whilst emitting a strange odour. Not unpleasant, exactly, but certainly strong and most definitely odd. I imagine this might be what sharing a bed with The Dean is like, not that I spend much time imagining that.
The second reason is the most rare of happenings in The Dean’s rooms earlier. There was something amiss about the entire episode but at the time I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The Dean’s swift acquiescence to The Bursar’s suggestion was one thing, although even I could see that The Dean was acting tactically. The lack of bluster indicates that he has something in mind, I am sure of it. The Dean is perfectly dangerous when he is quiet.
What strikes me now is the reasonable and sensible manner of The Bursar’s idea. Straight-forward and without the usual cloak-and-dagger characteristics that have thus far typified College behaviour, The Bursar has put forward a plan that might actually work. This is very un-academic. Very un-College. No true academic would even consider something so… well… considered.
If The Bursar is not from an academic background then where is is from and what is he doing in Old College? I wonder what that chap is all about.
Sleep obviously descended at some point as the next thing I remember is my alarm sounding and Terry politely but firmly requesting breakfast. I am a few minutes late for work but Head Porter does not seem to notice. He is poking at his phone and looking most pleased with himself.
“Hey, Deputy Head Porter!”
“Hey, Head Porter” I reply.
“So is it certain that we won’t be breaking into Hawkins College tonight after all?”
“I believe so,” I say. “Do you have plans?”
“I certainly do!” Head Porter beams excitedly. “Take a look at this!”
I take Head Porter’s phone from him and examine the screen. There is an advert for what is evidently an open mic night at a rather bohemian establishment in the less fragrant quarter of The City.
“This looks… nice. I thought you might have had some news about your daughter?”
Head Porter furrows his brow.
“Oh! Well, I haven’t got much further with that, to tell you the truth,” he says dismissively. “But my ‘struggling musician’ alter ego has made lots of new friends on this website contraption. D’you know, there is a vibrant and eclectic fringe music scene just waiting to be discovered. I thought I might pop along to this shindig tonight and introduce myself, you know.”
I take a second to see if he is serious. Head Porter is completely serious.
“You do realise you are not actually a struggling musician, don’t you?” I ask, concerned.
“What? Well, I could be!” Head Porter is obviously giving this some thought. “It all looks rather fun and I would like to have a hobby.”
“Pretending to be a struggling musician is not a hobby, Head Porter. It is, quite frankly, rather worrying.”
“Why don’t you come with me?” he asks, genuinely excited. “Come on, it could be a good night out.”
I take a moment to consider this. Letting him wander alone into such circumstances might not be the best idea. Then again, I don’t want to encourage the chap to start living a double life. Maybe it’s just a phase.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gents!”
Head Porter and I turn as one to see a grinning Hershel bounding into The Lodge.
“Hershel! Just the chap,” I say, returning his grin. “We need to have a bit of a catch-up, you and I.”
“Yes,” huffs Head Porter. “What’s all this about you peeking around at the crime scenes? You little scamp.”
“Look,” says Hershel. “This thing with Maurinio really upset Penelope. It all seemed so senseless. I just thought that if a reason could be found for all this, it might be easier for people to digest. And now the Hawkins girl as well – well! Something didn’t seem quite right.”
“So you were looking for answers,” I say, nodding. Just like us.
“That’s right!” replies Hershel. “And, you see, I have noticed you Porters seem very interested in it all and you obviously have rather the knack for these sorts of things. I must say, watching you fellows is quite the education.”
Head Porter has drawn himself up to his full height and is looking very grand.
“Well, my lad, I can’t say it’s the first time we have had to tackle such difficulties. It is only natural that you should be inspired.”
“I dare say your parents are paying large sums of money for you to do a little more than watch the Porters,” I say to Hershel. “We would appreciate your help but your studies must come first.”
“It’s all anyone is talking about anyway,” says Hershel. “I just thought to listen a little harder than most. Asking the right questions, now that’s the thing.” Clever young chap. He has the makings of a detective, I would say.
“Have you found out anything of interest?” Head Porter asks him.
“Maybe, or maybe not” he replies. “But there are a surprising number of similarities between both incidents when you think about it. And something that everyone seems to have completely missed! Although, it’s so obvious that I am sure you chaps have thought of it already.”
“Well, we probably have” says Head Porter curtly, as I wrack my brains trying to think what it could be.
“But just in case we haven’t,” I say carefully. “Please do share your thoughts with us…”