“The time has come for the katana,” whispers the Professor, reaching within the folds of his nun’s habit.
“No!” I hiss back. “Let’s trying being nuns first. If that fails, we’ll move on to the swords.”
Not a phrase I use often.
“Rats and a Heifer! If you insist, I suppose. Still, I’m quite in the mood to be done nunning. I’d much prefer a sword fight, the sudden.”
The fast approaching footsteps echo sharply on the stone floor, sending little gasps of sound bouncing all the way up to the elegantly arched ceilings. Professor Duke and I adopt the very best nun poses we can muster and await our new friend, benign smiles masking a fair amount of uncertainty.
The door to the vestry creeps open and a bowler hatted head pokes itself cautiously through the gap. It can only be a Porter.
“Goodness, he’s uglier than he has a right to be,” remarks the Professor.
“Hmm! His face looks like a ferret licking a wasp.” Time to channel my inner nun. I turn to face the Porter and smile my sweetest smile. “Good morning to you, child. We are Sisters from the Sisters Of The Nighttime Order. You might not have heard of us as we are quite secret – but I can assure you that we are well known to people of certain standing within the University.”
The Porter seems to relax just slightly and comes through the door to join us. He looks us up and down and it is clear he is still wary. I can’t say I blame him.
“Yes… I am sure I have heard of you, in fact,” the Porter replies, nodding adamantly. “I have the ear of many of the higher ranking persons of the collegiate, you know. But the thing is, we have had a report of a nun waving about a Samurai sword in Great Court. You two ladies wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
The Professor shoots a crafty wink in my direction. It appears that he has this covered.
“Oh, it couldn’t be us, we’re too weak for that sort of thing. I’m sure it was an epic nun warrior. A beast, even.”
Not quite the eloquent explanation guaranteed to ensure our escape I was expecting, but still. The Porter doesn’t seem entirely convinced, either. He tilts his head and scratches his chin, narrowing his eyes as rusty gears in his brain creak into life.
“Now then… I don’t think you two are nuns,” he says slowly but with surprising authority. “In fact, you aren’t even women, are you?”
“I don’t know what your game is, fellas, but you can explain it all to the police…”
The Porter fumbles in his pocket for his phone and I turn to the Professor. I don’t mind admitting I am feeling somewhat concerned about current events.
“Professor, I think we should just knock him out and make a run for it.” Another phrase I don’t use often, but admittedly probably more frequently than the previous one.
“Oh goody,” he replies, nodding. “Let me fetch him out!”
I have no say in the matter as Professor Duke launches himself at the unsuspecting Porter, landing an impressive fist on his cheek. The Porter looks perplexed for the briefest of moments, before tumbling awkwardly to the floor. There is a mournful groan from the resulting pile upon the ground and he reaches a tentative hand to his face.
“Must go now!” exclaims the Professor. “Run and double-run!”
Leaping over the prone Porter, we hitch up our habits and make a dash for it, out of the vestry, through the chapel and out the huge wooden doors. I stop briefly to lock them behind us – I have no idea way, it seems unusually cruel, don’t you think? – before discarding the chapel keys into a conveniently placed bush.
We exit the grounds of Hawkins College through the little side gate that leads out onto Prince’s Street and sprint along the elderly cobbles towards our very own Old College. We have completed the marvellous plan with quite some aplomb but I rather regret the vicious assault on the Porter. Of course, returning to Old College presents problems of its own. No doubt The Dean, Headmistress and The Master’s Wife will be soon recovering from their unexpected slumbers and wanting explanations.
Except The Dean. He will probably be wanting some form of retribution. And likely blood.