Clutched tightly in the fist of The Dean is an ordinary piece of lined paper. The fist itself is displayed dramatically in the air, against what could almost pass as a dramatic backdrop. Whatever you say about The Dean, he definitely has a feel for the dramatic.
Maurinio’s rooms certainly do have a particular air about them. Not just the usual student smog of hormones and underwear, but something a little more… unusual. In my previous existence I was in and out of all kinds of homes, rooms and buildings and saw sights that would make your teeth itch. Maurinio’s rooms do have a certain prevailing darkness and a distinctive skull motif throughout, but it is nothing that I haven’t seen before. A slightly gothic leaning, to my eye, but not enough to raise an eyebrow.
At any rate, The Dean is looking even more certain than usual. I am assuming that there is something rather pertinent written on the paper. I am tired and it is too early; I offer up a silent prayer that whatever the point is, The Dean gets to it with haste. I am not disappointed.
“Written here is quite clearly something decisive, Deputy Head Porter” he announces. “It is an incantation!”
“Really? Are you sure?”
“There can be no doubt. Here, take a look.”
The Deans turns to the writing desk by the window and smoothes out the paper on the dark heavy wood. I switch on the desk lamp which hums gently to itself as it bursts into life. The writing is neat and precise and reads as follows…
I want it to be over
Yet it has only just begun
How come the sum
Of one and one
Now, incantations are not quite my specialist subject but I am not entirely convinced that this might be one. I mean, this could be anything – a poem or ode to someone… not a suicide note, surely?
“Sir, I think that if this was important the police would have picked it up.”
The Dean shakes his head violently.
“No, no, no, Deputy Head Porter! You see they aren’t thinking like us. They are not thinking like us at all!”
No, they are thinking like sensible, professional people. We are thinking like slightly unhinged people.
“The fact of the matter is that there is, without question, an occult undercurrent at play here,” The Dean says, lowering his voice. “I don’t understand it any more than you do but I am certain that it is important.”
“I think you’re right that it could be important,” I reply “But your reasoning is wrong. I can’t tell you exactly what this… verse, whatever… might be but it could be offering us an insight into Maurinio’s state of mind at the time.”
“Well, that’s troubling.”
“But you agree that I’m right about it being important?”
“Yes, Sir” I reply. “You are right about that, I am sure.”
“We really should make time for me to tell you all about the times I have been right…”
Sharp intake of breath. I really hope he is not going to suggest lunch. Try to look nonchalant. The Dean continues.
“I was going to suggest we go for a nice lunch somewhere but you look horrific and you smell like a little brewery, Deputy Head Porter” he says. “You haven’t even brushed your hair. I’m not taking you anywhere like that.”
“Right,” I reply, unsure whether I am feeling insulted or relieved. Before I can decide, there is a knock at the door. The Dean and I exchange a glance and then freeze. Who could that be?
“Bugger off!” yells The Dean. There is a brief pause. The door opens anyway. Through it, walks The Bursar.
“Forgive my intrusion. Deputy Head Porter, I wanted to speak with you.”
“How do you always know where to find me?” I ask, unsettled at The Bursar’s unerring ability to track me down, even on a Sunday morning.
“I am a very observant man, Deputy Head Porter” he replies. This makes it worse, somehow.
“Now listen here,” huffs The Dean. “I have had quite enough of you pestering my friend, here. I don’t know what you have against Deputy Head Porter, but…”
The Bursar drops his gaze and raises a hand.
“Please. I have nothing but respect for Deputy Head Porter.”
“Really?!” I laugh, unable to contain my effrontery. “It’s not something that comes across, to be quite frank.”
“Deputy Head Porter, you are a fascinating woman,” says The Bursar, peeking contritely around his sweep of ebony hair. “From what I ascertain you perform remarkably competently when in hot water. Where hot water is concerned, there are only two types of people, Deputy Head Porter.”
“Two types?” I ask.
“Two types. There are the egg people and there are the potato people” says The Bursar. Right… “The potato people, when they are in hot water, become soft and mushy and break down amongst the bubbling torrents. But the egg people! The egg people harden and toughen and dance merrily in the waters. You, Deputy Head Porter, are one of the egg people. For that, I applaud you. Good day.”
He spins silently on his heels and is gone, leaving The Dean and I staring slack-jawed at the empty doorway.
“What was all that about?” I say, finally.
“Not a clue,” says The Dean. “But who the bloody hell are these egg people? That’s what I want to know!”