I unfurl the crumpled note urgently, the crinkling paper sounding unnaturally vociferous in the silence of the Chapel. The chaps gather close about me, all craning to see what it says. As one, we stare at the missive before us.
“Well, that’s… creative,” Head Porter declares after a few moments.
“One word for it,” nods Organ Scholar.
Scrawled across the unremarkable plain paper are the words I AM WATCHING YOU.
Disconcertingly, the script is deftly illustrated by a pair of disembodied eyes, just in case the reader should be in any doubt as to the connotations.
Further disconcertion is afforded by the fact that the entire thing is written in what appears to be blood. Quite a lot of blood, at that.
“Who would send a note like that?!” ponders Head Porter.
“Someone who badly needed a pen,” I reply.
“It’s obviously a lie, too,” says Professor VJ Duke. “Whoever it is can’t be watching The Dean anymore, since we have the note now. But the real question is: Who is the note from?”
“You don’t think that The Dean was going to deliver this, do you?” Organ Scholar suggests. “To one of you guys, make sure you don’t start getting nosey?”
I shake my head.
“It’s not his style, The Dean doesn’t need to rely on esoteric communications to get his point across,” I reply. “Besides, look, it’s all screwed up.”
“Oh, I hadn’t even thought that the note might be from The Dean,” the Professor says, thoughtfully. “And you know, I can kinda see him issuing threats in blood. Other persons bloods, though.”
Organ Scholar sighs and rubs his forehead.
“Look, I don’t mean to be rude but it’s getting late,” he huffs. “I’ve still got a load of practicing to do if I’m going to be ready to conduct the choir for this bloody competition. Not that the music is going to make much difference to that bunch of tone deaf squealers.”
“Just play so loud that everyone who comes will leave deaf,” Professor Duke suggests. “Drown them out, you know. That’ll fetch them. Anyway, why have you got a choir that can’t sing? Seems odd to me—and silly.”
“We do have a choir that can sing,” Organ Scholar snaps back. “But apparently they don’t look enough like a winning choir.” He shakes his head, exasperated. “But anyway. I’ve got work to do.”
We abandon our young friend to his labours and are careful to leave the Chapel unseen. Skulking through the cloisters, we muse upon the strange matter of The Dean’s note.
“You don’t think there is anything in what the Organ Scholar said, do you?” says Head Porter, buttoning his jacket against the cold night air. “About it being meant for one of us?”
“The Master could be making him do it, I think,” nods the Professor. “He’s scared The Dean something awful, the bum.”
“I’m not so sure,” I reply. “I think it is more likely that someone has sent that to The Dean. But who? It must be something to do with all this Choir business, surely?”
“The doomed competition? The disappearance of the Music Professor?” Head Porter wails “Or The Master’s Wife? Honestly, there are just too many unlikely things going on here.”
“That’s a good sign,” I say, keen to introduce a little positivity. “It means everything is normal. For College. Now – hate mail written in blood is not something to be taken lightly. We should get to the bottom of that, I think.”
“Very right, Deputy Head Porter,” the Professor agrees. “Look, here’s the thing: I’ve known The Dean since we were both little goose-nubbins. Give me the note. I shall confront him first thing in the morning. Well, maybe after breakfast. The Dean can be toasty on an empty stomach.”
We reach the doors to the Porters’ Lodge, where Professor Duke will take his leave of us and return to his rooms for the evening to get up to goodness knows what. I hand him the note, admittedly rather glad to be rid of the thing. There’s something about carrying around other people’s blood that has never really appealed to me.
Bidding the Professor good night, I then turn to Head Porter.
“Come on chap, I’ll give you a lift home.”
“Oh! That’s very kind, Deputy Head Porter,” Head Porter replies in the overly polite tone that indicates something suspicious is on his mind. “But I think I shall just pop into my office and finish up one or two things from earlier. I shall see you bright and early tomorrow.”
There’s no reason why I should doubt what Head Porter says about working late. But I do.
And I wonder why I do?