The Dean removes a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and slaps it down on the desk in front of me. It seems to be crafted by the same spidery hand as the last message and once again looks as if it might be written in blood. I take a closer look.
‘Your going to the cemetary’
“Well, that’s not very nice” I say.
“The grammar or the note?” asks Professor Duke. “It’s rather messed up all around, see.”
“Oh yes. And look, they’ve spelled ‘cemetery’ wrong too.” Idiot. “Sir, you must find all this very unsettling.”
The Dean barks a derisive laugh and thrusts his hands in his pockets.
“Deputy Head Porter, whilst I cannot expect everyone – well, anyone, in fact – to be quite as clever as me, I do expect some form of basic mental functioning from my fellow man.” The Dean begins to pace, a sure sign he is thinking on something. “The poor construction of this missive tells me that I am indeed being threatened by a sub-human creature of basic and animal leanings and… ah! Just the man. Head Porter!”
Head Porter shuffles through carrying the tea, now further confused by The Dean’s intentions. Only minutes ago he was disregarding him as hysterical, seemingly dismissive of their male bonding only the night before. Now, it seems he is back in favour.
“I made you a tea, Sir” says Head Porter, warily.
“I’m not interested in that,” The Dean replies, waving a hand.
“But the sudden I definitely am.” The Professor sweeps forward and grandly claims the largest cup as his own. “I need something to travel down inside and settle the battle that the barbarian food from last night has caused.”
Head Porter puts down the tea and notices the note. He cranes his head around to get a better look.
“Oh dear,” he says. “What sort of person would send something like that?”
“I’ll tell you what sort of person,” retorts The Dean “A buggering idiot, Head Porter! No doubt you know the sort of chap. Now – the thing about this note is that it didn’t come through the post like the other one. This was slipped under my door at some ungodly hour. You didn’t notice any idiots maraudering about when you left my rooms last night, did you?”
Head Porter looks very awkward for a moment. I wouldn’t mind betting that he was not in much of a position to notice anything when he left last night. However, he makes a fairly good job at feigning deliberation before shaking his head in a way that suggests he has wracked his brains. The Dean sighs, irritated.
“Well, no doubt that if anyone knows the idiots of College it would be you my good man. I want you to have a poke among the illiterates, see if any of them hate me particularly.”
Now, there’s an activity that could produce some lengthy results.
Head Porter seems at a loss for any response aside from complicity and reluctantly accepts his interesting new assignment. In the meantime, the Professor has finished his tea and is looking fidgety.
“Something tells me I was supposed to be doing something about this hour, but I can’t remember what it is,” he says, waggling his eyebrows in consternation.
The Dean looks at his watch.
“You’re supposed to be giving a lecture in twenty minutes,” he huffs “And it had better be a bit more sensible than that one on nuts you did last week. The Master gets to hear of these things, you know.”
The Professor curses under his breath.
“I’ll walk with you,” I say quickly, keen to extract myself from The Dean before he finds me something inane to attend to. “I need to speak to Head Of Catering about the distinct lack of floppy cheese available in the Dining Hall.”
Professor Duke and I walk briskly through College grounds, a wintery chill biting at our noses. I can tell that he is thinking furiously inside that curious head of his and I feel I should ask him about it. However, inquiries into the mind of the Professor are not for the faint-hearted.
“So, I may know what you think on,” he says suddenly, as if reading my mind. “No doubt you feel the same way about the note as I do. Unless you’re thinking on the lecture. I’ve really no idea what I’m going to lecture on, so suggestions are welcome.”
“Actually, Professor, I was genuinely thinking about the cheese.”
“Oh… Well, about the note, then. Whoever is writing these notes wants us to believe he or she is something of a tramp. You know, unlearned and all that sort of thing. Or, whoever it is really is a tramp. I can’t make up my mind on it.”
I look into his face carefully to see if I can glean any further cognisance from his expression, but he gives nothing away but a wink and a grin. As I am considering the wisdom of pressing further, we are hailed from across the courtyard. It is Organ Scholar.
“My man!” cries Professor Duke, waving at our young friend. “I do hope you have good news and not bad news. Couriers with bad news sometimes lose their feet, you should be warned.”
Organ Scholar trots over until he is close enough to converse further in hushed tones.
“Penelope has agreed to help us with the Choir,” he utters gently. “But first, she wants a favour…”