The male ego is a fragile thing, you know. Particularly an old stag of a male ego that feels itself threatened by that of a thrusting young buck. Head Porter is not only smarting from the news that The Dean has hired someone to take over his special mission, but he has got himself all humpty over none other than Hershel being his replacement!
“I have a good mind to tell The Dean,” he huffs, sullenly stirring a stewed mug of tea. “I’d like to know what he would think if he knew the truth.”
“Oh, come on, Head Porter,” I say, trying to rally him. “You would never have worked out it was Hershel who sent the notes. And you said yourself you hadn’t really the time for it. This way, everybody’s happy. And you never know. The Dean might throw him out anyway.”
“He will if he has any sense.” Head Porter furrows his brow. “I wouldn’t put it past him to be behind our disappearing Music Professor, in fact.”
“Hershel!” Head Porter folds his arms and flusters ferociously. “Honestly, Deputy Head Porter. There is something rather flakey about that boy, I tell you.”
“Hmm! You were singing his praises the other night when it came to his marvellous plan. No such concerns then.”
“Well… that was before he stole my special job,” Head Porter wails in a hurt little voice. “But you know, I do think it is quite a good plan…”
“Goodness me! What’s this? Plan talking?! In the open? Quiet the sudden!!” Professor Duke swaggers loudly into the Lodge, several bags stuffed under his arms and in his hands. “This professor is here on top secret business, don’t you know. Now, everybody out to the back—now!”
The Professor unburdens himself of his baggage and it appears that he comes bearing disguises. Disguises for the marvellous plan. I am heartened to hear that young Hershel was wisely chosen to keep a low profile for the time being and has sent Professor Duke to unveil the finer details of the marvellous plan.
“Great! Disguises again!” Head Porter is surprisingly enthusiastic. “Mind you, I think I might be better in my Batman outfit from before, what do you think?”
“Well, I don’t know…Hershel said these were the ones, see,” replies the Professor, firmly. “And, plus, you’re not the Batman type, really. He’s too broad for you, I think. No dis, mind. You and Organ Scholar have matching outfits, which is cool: you two shall be disguised as milkmen!”
“Milkmen?” I ask, somewhat nervously. “Where do milkmen come into it all?”
“I shall say, I shall say, give me a second or two, or three,” the Professor rummages through one of the bags and pulls out two large bundles of what appear to be black cloth. He hands me one, grinning from ear to ear. “These are for you and I…”
I take the black cloth and peer at it suspiciously. Then, immediately realising what it is, I throw it away from me and emit a small squeal.
“But I can’t wear that! It’s…”
“Yup, yup!” cries the Professor. “It’s a nun disguise. You and I shall be disguised as nuns when we break into their chapel. No one is going to mess with a nun in the middle of the night. That’s just plain scary.”
“I absolutely cannot wear that outfit*”
“I know, the whole outfit is a bit girly, but look here: Lots of room for weapons, sandwiches, that dadblame itching powder. We’ll want to make sure to keep the powder separate from the food, goodness me. Look at it this way: We’re spies. Spies are always wearing big cape-like things, so they can hide better.”
“I still don’t understand why Organ Scholar and I have to be milkman,” sulks Head Porter. “I want to be Batman.”
“Okay, here’s the plan, you doodle,” the Professor continues, with quite some excitement. “Hershel shall place the call about the performance-enhancing drugs to the Hawkins Porters’ Lodge a little after three AM. Now, he’d thought that there might be another Porter on duty, seeing as it is the night before the Choir Competition, rightio? So that’s where you and Organ Scholar come in, see. You are a distraction, don’t you know. You are to go into the Lodge and bother any remaining Porters with complaints about an unsettled milk bill. He has no doubt you can keep that up for quite some time. Milk is always easy to complain about, after all. And while everyone is worrying about the milk bill, Penelope will sneak up to their keys and thieve the ones for the chapel. She will then bring the key to my good self and Deputy Head Porter—I’ll hide the key in my spy cape, that’s what I’m calling it now—and we shall continue onwards to deploy our itching powder into their choral robes. The competition is totally ours, yo!”
Well. It isn’t the absolute worst plan I have ever heard, in fairness. No, that dubious accolade may be awarded to my old friend Malcolm who once thought that trimming his toenails with a scythe might be a good idea. But I digress. I am past the point of trying to force logic upon the world of Old College so have resigned myself to this particular escapade. Head Porter is sighing dramatically whilst the Professor ostentatiously ignores him.
“What’s the matter?” I ask him.
“Bloody Hershel,” he mutters. “I can’t believe the bugger. First, he steals my special job and now he turns me into a milkman. You know I have every mind to tell The Dean.”
“You can’t tell The Dean,” I reply gently, hoping to calm him down. “This is our only chance to beat Hawkins College at the Choir Competition! And, you know, he is a changed man. And so on.”
“If things seem glummy now, worry not,” says the Professor, cheerily. “It’ll get better. Many promises. But not if you tell The Dean. If you tell Mr. Dean, things will go awful, and I’ll be forced to lop of your ears. Then things will stay glummy forever, see. So, whatever you do, don’t tell The Dean!” The Professor nods firmly.
A gust of cold air and the abrupt smack of wood on wood is all it takes to tell me that someone has entered the room. Head Porter and Professor Duke are stood stock still, both sporting expressions that look like bad taxidermy. All my littlest hairs stand on end and I don’t need to turn around to know who it is that joins us. Oh. BUGGER.
“Tell The Dean… WHAT?!”
*I suffer terribly from Sphenisciphobia. No, really.