When Dolly Parton sang about working nine to five, she made some astute and wry observations about the everyday struggles of the underpaid, underappreciated office worker trying to find the inspiration to underpin the pillars of industry whilst remaining perky and hopeful. The one rather important factor she over-looked, however, is that her working day has a clearly defined beginning and end and (it is assumed) is limited to the classic working week of Monday to Friday. This has the underestimated benefit of providing one with the comforting knowledge of where they are going to be and when. This is something I am seethingly envious right now.
Stifling a yawn, I am sulkily pondering the need for me to be standing in Maurinio’s rooms at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning. There is a need, of course, quite an urgent need. The Dean was insistent that we have a look around the rooms before the Bedders come in to clean. As usual, he is completely correct and this delights him no end. Even so, he is giving me a critical look.
“Are you hung-over, Deputy Head Porter?”
“Only a little bit. It’ll pass.” This is a lie. At this very moment, my insides feel like they might never be the same again. My head has long since passed the point of aching and is now something resembling a mass of white noise balancing on my shoulders.
Whilst I would not normally attempt to illicit sympathy for an evening of over-indulgence, this morning’s malaise cannot be attributed entirely to my good self; the burden of responsibility that rests with Head Porter is substantial indeed. I suppose I have only myself to blame for inviting him over in the first place, but what started out as a brainstorming session about how to track down his daughter evolved into something else entirely.
In fact, we were quite productive initially. Whilst understandably concerned about the welfare of his errant offspring, Head Porter is considering the possibility that she may have gone off on her own accord. As hard as it is for him to accept, the girl does have reasonable grounds to hold a grudge. Whatever the mitigating circumstances at the time, there is no escaping that Head Porter could have done more. I have come to feel quite protective of the crotchety old goat who somewhere along the line became my good friend. But to her he is just a heartless stranger who abandoned her when she was small. I think he knows it, too.
Head Porter is not keen to report her missing until we ourselves have tried everything we can to find her. We made a good start by accessing her social media and have further plans with regards to phone records and bank account activity. It was while we were considering this that I received a phone call from Porter. With the fragrant DS Kirby on duty fighting crime, he was at a loose end and wanted to tell us about the results of the coroner’s reports on Maurinio and Ryan. There were strong hints that he had not yet eaten.
Having made enough cottage pie to resolve world hunger, I saw no reason why Porter shouldn’t join us for the evening. It was shortly after his arrival that things started to go awry. Tea was abandoned in favour of wine and beer. I had just taken the pie out of the oven when Porter received a phone call from his beloved. The cause of death for the Hawkins girl had come through. Leaving the pie to cool on the side, I rushed to the dining room, which by now was resembling a very compact Porters’ Lodge.
It turns out that all three youngsters had died of multiple organ failure, the cause of which is presently unconfirmed. Further tests are required. This new piece of information was the cause of much excited discussion and, I am afraid to say, enthusiastic imbibing. By the time I remembered the cottage pie, Terry had eaten nearly half of it and trodden among the remains. Without sustenance to soak up the alcohol, we unfortunately descended into nonsensical behaviour rather rapidly and before we knew it, we had been up half the night singing show tunes. That was most definitely Head Porter’s doing.
And now I find myself back in Old College, before even the kitchens have opened. I could positively murder a sausage sandwich.
“Deputy Head Porter, are you paying attention?” The Dean sharply disturbs my reverie.
“Sorry Sir,” I reply. “It’s early. And it’s Sunday, I should still be in bed.”
“Bed is for losers!” roars The Dean, causing me to wince slightly. “Now, searching for clues is what we are up to. That makes us winners, wouldn’t you say?”
Without waiting for me to reply, The Dean cheerfully begins his scatter-gun approach to a search. He has no obvious method or reasoning, but simply grabs and prods anything that takes his fancy. The Dean goes about his business noisily; banging and crashing into things and punctuating the process with his preferred expletives. This is entertaining to observe but I feel that seeing as I am here, I might as well make myself useful.
I have no idea what I am looking for but that is more often than not the case with searches. Trying not to obstruct The Dean as he charges about the room, I begin my endeavour from the main door and intend to work my way from there. My mind wanders a little and I consider the fortuitous romance between Porter and DS Kirby. Especially at a time when other College romances are anything but, it would seem. I wonder if all this really will come down to affairs of the heart…
“Aha! I knew it! I bloody knew it!” The Dean makes me jump with his thundering proclamation. “I was right, right, RIGHT! Once again I was right.”
“What is it, Sir?” I ask, timidly. The Dean stands aside and reveals, with a dramatic flourish of his arm, just what he has found. I must say, I am unsure as to exactly what he is getting at.
No doubt The Dean will delight in sharing his insight…