The Sunday Serial: Episode 2 – The Good Samaritan
Last week was blackmail and cancelled garden parties, this week is megalomania and mice.
“Mate, how did it go?”
Archie, president of The Lizards, had returned to the college bar.
“Great. Want to go somewhere we can talk?”
“Yep. Your room?”
“Sure. Hold these photos.”
A short walk to Tom’s room and half a bottle of Shiraz later, Archie was prepared to elucidate.
“Twas a sparkling spring evening in Cambridge, the sun’s rays licking Rons’ crumbling monastic stonework and Japanese tourists gently (though completely understandably) demanding fortified wine from the porters…”
“Cut the crap.”
“It was about an hour ago.”
“I took your photos to the Master.” Archie stretched his legs onto Tom’s mantelpiece, knocking off a small porcelain fisherman.
“Never liked that one anyway” murmured Tom. “Birthday present from my sister. The bitch.”
“Say sorry to her from me.”
“I’ll say you did it in spite.”
Archie readjusted his legs, narrowly missing a tiny stag.
“Yep, she gave me that one the year before. So, the master?”
“Well,” resumed Archie, “he wasn’t going to let me in so I mentioned squirrels…that changed the state of play.”
“Seriously mate, who fantasises about squirrels? It’s just wrong.” Tom stood, walked to the mantelpiece and knocked off the stag himself.
“If I had to stand for reelection for The Lizards, leaking to the Mail that woodland creatures tuned me on might just do the trick.” Archie helped himself to the rest of the wine. He handed the empty bottle to Tom, who dropped it on the stag.
“You know what that reminds me of?”
“Sir Reginald’s shattered control. We can make him do anything we like now, with those pictures.”
“The garden party’s back on, then?”
“More ‘on’ than a tractor.”
“A tractor that’s particularly ‘on’.”
“Ah. More wine?”
Tom picked up another bottle and handed it to Archie.
“Open it for me?”
“I’m not your servant.’
“You’re a second year. Open it.”
“Alright, no wine.”
Tom started pacing the floor, excitedly expressing his thoughts.
“Look, the point is that we can control this college by blackmailing the Master with these photos. Why stop at reinstating the garden party? We can get the Master to do anything we want now.”
“True. You think it can work?”
“What can he do to retaliate? I’ve got digital copies of the pictures so he can’t steal them from us. If he calls the police the story will be in the press and his career and reputation ruined. We’ve got him, Archie. We’ve got him by his little naval balls. So let’s run this college.”
“I guess you’ve got a point…”
Archie pulled himself from his chair and, walking to the widow, looked across towards the library where Sarah was presumably toiling.
“But what about Sarah?”
“Well, she’s president of CUSU. We’ve got photos of Sir Reginald and Sarah together. We know we can control Sir Reginald and thus the college. But… if we control Sarah we might end up running CUSU. Which could be a lot more interesting than just Rons…”
“Yes…”Tom stopped pacing and looked excited.
“Sit down, Archie,”he picked up a corkscrew. “I’ll open that wine.”
There is a mouse in Spain that can predict the future. His Spanish master offers him five wedges of cheese, each representing a possible event which humans, in their inferior wisdom, think are equally likely to occur. Carlos only ever eats cheese that is flavoured by the positive energies of unavoidable outcome, so learning which he nibbled on first is, in many people’s eyes, fully worth the €150 that Rodriguez Queso charges. Had Simon offered Carlos a handful of options next morning, his little mousy nose would have selected the one labelled ‘today you will find some strange photos’. For that, when Simon returned to the college bar to find the gown he’d mislaid the night before, is what happened.
Beneath his gown, lying on one of the sofas, was an envelope. Opening it (to ascertain its owner) was the work of a moment. Realising what he was looking at took much longer. Like a Blakian dream sequence, squirrels and teenage girls seemed to be mingled into a swirling vortex of old man. And, on closer inspection, the teenage girl was Sarah, president of CUSU. The old man was Sir Reginald, Master of Rons. And the squirrel was a North American grey.
Previously motivated by good-Samaritan style better-get-this-back-to-its-owner considerations, Simon’s journalistic instincts now cut in. Forget who owned these. Forget how they got them. The point is, they’re now mine (thought Simon). And that means they’re the Tab’s (thought Simon). And this is the scoop of the year.
He slipped the envelope under his gown and, inconspicuously, returned to his room. The gown was tossed onto his bed and the envelope delicately shaken out over his desk. There were six photos – different perspectives of the same scene – and, surprisingly, a small slip of paper. It was divided into seven – each day of the week – and every day had a name associated with it. Simon didn’t recognise most of them, but Tuesday’s was very familiar. Sir Reginald. Whoever’s week planner this was had a very organised sex-life. And, going by the photos, it was the president of CUSU who spent her time this way.
The photos were scanned, the story was typed, and very soon an email landed in Jeremy, the editor of The Tab’s, inbox.