‘And that’s why I’m late for your seminar, Dr Ada’, she panted.
‘Yes, my dear’, I said, easing the rifle from her shaking, sweaty hands and placing it in my umbrella stand. ‘I quite understand that sniper training can sometimes overrun. Do make room for Roberta, acolytes’.
The students clumped together even more tightly.
Roberta sat down, the starch in her full dress uniform cracking slightly. She took out her notebook, licked a pencil stub, and waited.
I cleared my throat.
‘In ancient Runic times—‘, I began.
‘Come in no. 99. We have a 10-57.* Chief Woodcutter of TSU** reported missing.’
Roberta fumbled at her little walkie talkie.
‘Can’t talk now, 86’, hissed Roberta. ‘Am with Delta Romeo Alpha Delta Alpha.’
‘Is that a 10-96, 99?’, squeaked the little voice.
‘Too early to tell, 86. Am investigating Romeo Uniform November Echo Sierra’.
’10-4 that, 99′, said the voice with a little whistle.
Roberta looked apologetically at me. There was a pause.
‘In ancient Runic times—-‘, I began. But as I did so, I heard two firm knocks at the door.
Dear Reader. I slipped my mules back on, straightened my smoking jacket, and glid once more doorwards.
‘Yes?’, I said, to Obadiah, Chief Janitor, who stood before me, wringing his hands.
‘Cor stroike a loight, Dr A’, he said. ‘Your chimbley is smoking somefing terrible! It’s got black smoke pourin’ from it like nobody’s business. And that bloke wot was cutting down all them trees ‘as vanished in a puff of—.’
ain’t isn’t’, I said. ‘Nobody’s business, I mean. I shall give it a good poke. Thank you, my good man. Here’s half a crown – do buy something nice for Mrs O and all the little Obadiahs with it, won’t you’.
He retreated, tugging his forelock, casting a suspicious glance at the chainsaw in the coal scuttle.
Roberta helpfully poked around in the chimbley with her sniper rifle, and soon the blockage was cleared. I quickly swept up a few charred fragments of brushed cotton tartan shirt.
At that, we resumed our study of Runic times. Do keep your fingers crossed for us, dear Reader, that we shall be able to worship at the altar of scholarship without further interruption!
* For those who haven’t done last week’s homework, here are the answers: http://www.policecodes.net/ten-codes/
** Trees for Sustainable Universities