With blood and violence already playing quite a large part in the night’s proceedings, I can only hope that the remainder of our endeavours play out rather more discretely. Hershel has made his scurrilous telephone call to the Hawkins College Porters’ Lodge – with impressive theatrics, at that – and the next act in this preposterous play involves two bold milkmen, bravely entering enemy territory…
There is a distinct air of concern circulating the Hawkins College Porters’ Lodge. Well, it’s either concern or whatever remains of the Porter’s dinner. The Porter, Foxton, gingerly replaces the handset of the Lodge telephone and sweeps away a bulging splotch of sweat with a chubby hand. He is used to getting unusual phone calls in the middle of the night – within College life it’s a given – but this phone call was rather different. He wasn’t quite sure how but there was a persistent niggle in what passes for his mind that this wasn’t a student prank.
Foxton calls out to his colleague, who emerges with a casual swagger from the key room. He is a short but well-built chap with greying ginger hair and a face like a stoat licking a wasp. He yawns and returns a withering look to his colleague’s perturbed expression.
“Randall, I’ve just ‘ad a phone call.”
Randall briefly raises an eyebrow and shrugs.
“It was from the British Choir Federation. They said they’d had reports of our kids using performance enhancing drugs – they’re threatening to conduct an official search first thing in the morning!”
Randall looks thoughtful for a moment. Then,
“I wonder how one would go about conducting an unofficial search?”
“Well we might ‘ave to find out, mate” Foxton licks his lips and scratches at the newly-forming stubble on one of his many chins. “If them lot turn up here tomorrow poking about, The Master will go spare.”
“If they find anything, our reputation will be in tatters,” nods Randall.
“I think it’s best we go shake a few of our Choir people, see if there’s any truth in it.”
“And leave the Lodge unattended?” Randall is incredulous. “No no, we can’t both go. I’ll go and search the rooms whilst you mind the Lodge. The sight of you at this hour might be too much for the lady students.”
Randall throws on his woollen greatcoat and saunters out into the night, almost toppling a timid female student in his enthusiasm. He continues without apology and she quietly makes her way towards the pigeon holes. Foxton glances up; she seems somewhat familiar but he can’t put a name to the face. But it is very late and he is tired. Everyone looks the same at this time of night.
Returning his attentions to the sport section of the local paper, Foxton struggles to focus. Perhaps it is time for a cup of coffee. Desperate times call for desperate measures. He is about to heave his considerable girth from the chair when the door to the Lodge jerks open awkwardly and two unusual gentleman stride through. Foxton rubs his eyes and squints. Yep. Milkmen.
They approach the front desk and the older one slams his hand on the counter. The ever so slightly manic look in his eyes dissuades Foxton from taking too drastic a recourse. The younger one stands behind him, huffing impatiently. Milkmen have always been an odd breed, Foxton had always thought that.
“Can I help you gentleman?”
“Yes! You certainly can!” The older milkman announces in a pitch not previously known to mankind.
But no further explantation is forthcoming. The look in the eyes progresses from manic to wild. The younger milkman steps forward, evidently the brains of the outfit. The other bugger must be the muscle.
“‘Ow do,” he says, gruffly. “Now listen here, we have been sent by the dairy on very important business. Hawkins College has an outstanding debt with our company and as much as we respect your esteemed establishment, even the great and good of the academic world cannot expect to drink milk for free.”
Foxton takes a moment to consider this statement. He only understood about half of the words. It was worse than talking to a Fellow. The older milkman appears to recognise his confusion and takes pity.
“The College hasn’t paid it’s milk bill. We need paying or you ain’t getting any more milk. Okay?”
Foxton is struggling to understand how or why this is his problem, but nonetheless two fairly serious looking milkmen are standing in front of him, demanding money. This is a new one, even for a Porter. In fact, he is so engrossed with attempted comprehension that he doesn’t even notice the quiet female student slip behind him into the key room.
“Well… how much is the milk bill?” asks Foxton. Running out of milk would not be a good thing. He should try to avert this disaster. “I could see if the till float will cover it.”
There is a brief but pertinent exchange between the two milkmen followed by a silence that can only be described as tense. Foxton is just becoming suspicious as the female student slips silently from the key room and makes her way towards the door.
“Do you… have the bill with you, er, mate?” the older milkman asks his colleague.
“Actually, now you come to mention it, I think I left it back in the office.”
“Oh, what have I told you about forgetting the bills, boy?” he shakes a fist at his assistant and rolls his eyes meaningfully at Foxton. “Honestly, they haven’t got the brains they were born with these days, have they? Tsk.”
With that, the milkmen beat a hasty retreat, admonishing each other for negligence and much more besides. Foxton decides that this is a very strange night shift indeed. But, to be fair, it wasn’t nearly as strange as when that goat turned up in the lecture theatre last Christmas. Every door and window locked and the smelly bugger still managed to find its way in and treat the place like a stable. The Bursar was furious, especially.
Scratching his head, Foxton makes his way towards the kettle. It really is time for a coffee.