Threats Of An Idiot

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.

“Dadblameit. I’ll make it even better than that one, if that’s the way the Master wants to be about it. Though, it is going to be hard to top that beauty. I should be off, then.”

“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…”

Something Amiss

“Deputy Head Porter! Deputy Head Porter!”

The abrupt sound of The Dean’s voice causes me to jump in my seat and spill a little of my tea over my desk. I look up but it is a few seconds before the formidable figure of The Dean comes into view. Today’s outfit is a good one – blue trousers, a stripy shirt (sleeves rolled up in a rakish manner) and a charming pink jumper slung elegantly over his shoulders. This style of jumper-wearing is popular in Old College. Why is it that highly educated people cannot fathom how to wear a jumper correctly? But anyway. I get to my feet to greet my esteemed visitor.

“Good morning Sir!” I beam.

“Do you know what I can’t stand, Deputy Head Porter?” The Dean barks at me. I imagine there is an endless list in answer to his question, but by his tone I don’t think he would appreciate this.

“What can’t you stand, Sir?” I enquire with trepidation.

“Idiots!” he replies, emphatically. “Idiots, Deputy Head Porter. And I tell you what else. Fools!” Well, this seems reasonable enough, I suppose. “Do you realise how many idiots and fools I have had to deal with already today?”

“I cannot imagine, Sir”.

“Too bloody many! I tell you, Deputy Head Porter, this is supposed to be an educational establishment but I find myself faced with incompetence at every turn.”

It is difficult to judge The Dean’s intentions, here. On the one hand, he could have just had a bad morning and has come to vent some frustration in my general direction. On the other hand, I could be in an awful lot of trouble for one reason or another. The Dean rolls his eyes and shakes his head in a mock world-weary manner and perches himself on the edge of my desk. I think I’m in the clear on this one.

“So come on then, Sir. Where are all these idiots and fools? I’ll go and sort them out for you” I feel this is above and beyond what is required of me but this is The Dean, after all.

“They’re mainly part of the furniture, I’m afraid” replies The Dean, with humour. “If they could be sorted out, I’d sort the buggers out myself.”

“I’m quite sure you would, Sir.”

“Anyway, Deputy Head Porter, how are things with you?” I consider my response carefully.

“I am living the dream, Sir.” The Dean looks mildly surprised for a second, then bursts into laughter when he recognises my deadpan sarcasm. He places a hand on my shoulder and says

“Oh! I thought you were being serious there for a moment! Haha!”

Well, The Dean is in a jolly mood today. This is unusual in itself, but even more so when he has clearly had a run in or two with person or persons unnamed.

“Things are pretty much as they should be, Sir” I continue “Nothing of note to report either way. So what can I do for you? Have you just come for a bit of a moan?”

“No, no, I do actually have a real reason for coming to see you. I don’t suppose you have seen Senior Bursar, have you? I’ve been trying to track him down but there’s no reply from his rooms and I can’t seem to get hold of him.”

I think carefully. Senior Bursar certainly arrived in College first thing this morning, he made his usual trip to his pigeon hole to check for any messages.

“I saw him earlier, Sir. Hang on, let me just check something” I lean over to my computer and click open my email. Yes, I thought so. “And he sent me an email about an hour ago, look” The Dean looks over my shoulder, then scratches his head.

“That is particularly strange, I’ve been to his rooms several times around that time, and rung him too.”

“He’s ignoring you, Sir” I tease The Dean.

“He had better well not be!” The Dean replies, but without malice. “Odd though, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know, Sir. Senior Bursar ignores me all the time.”

“Yes, but I am The Dean Of College!”

“That is true, Sir.” The Dean thinks for a moment then turns to me again.

“I wouldn’t normally ask this, Deputy Head Porter, but can you get me into his rooms?” I hesitate. Of course I can, I can get into any room in Old College.

“I can, Sir, but it would be a little… irregular” I answer carefully.

“Well, I want you to open his rooms for me,” The Dean says firmly “On my head be it, I’ll make sure you don’t get in any trouble. You are following my orders after all.”

“I cannot very well refuse the orders of The Dean Of College now, can I?”

“Quite right. Bring your keys and follow me.”

I accompany The Dean, at some pace, to Senior Bursar’s rooms. They are at the top of a large staircase which has such widely spaced steps that my little legs always struggle to get up there at speed. The Dean is not so encumbered as he has longer legs than me, which means I have to scurry a little to keep up. By the time we get to the top, I am quite out of breath.

We reach Senior Bursar’s door and I knock and call to him, just to be sure. There is no response.

“He must be out somewhere,” I suggest.

“Just open the door” replies The Dean.

I find the correct key and it turns smoothly in the lock. I push the door open and The Dean enters before me. Unsure as to whether I should be following him in, I hover in the doorway awkwardly. Then,

“Oh my GOD!”

I hurry in to find The Dean in a state of shock and covering his face. A quick look around the room and I soon see why…