It is time, dear Reader.
I am standing on the uppermost floor of the glass tower that is the Vice-Chancellor’s eyrie.
Opposite me are the frosted glass doors of the Vice-Chancellor’s palatial offices.
Sebastian the receptionist (2.1, Art History 2010) is seated by the edge of a glass balcony. He presses a button and a small voice squeaks back. ‘Serbasil will see you now’, says Sebastian.
I walk firmly towards the doors, pausing only to give Sebastian a little shove over the balcony.
The frosted doors swing open. I enter.
There, in the middle of the room, stands the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Basil Lovage, OBE, with a photographer lying flat on the ground at his feet, pointing his lens upwards in the direction of Sir Basil’s chins. The camera clicks, despairingly.
‘Not statesmanlike enough’, says Sir Basil, pressing a button, and the photographer falls through the glass trapdoor that has suddenly opened. I watch through the glass floor as a shark moves towards him through pink-tinged waters.
Sir Basil smiles at me.
‘Ah, Dr Lamb!’ he says. ‘You have come at last’.
‘Do you expect me to talk, Professor Sir Basil?’ I say.
‘No, Dr Lamb’, he says. ‘I expect you to die’.
Dear Reader. Do not despair.
I hold up the detonator button that I had cleverly concealed about my person.
‘Do I take it’, I say, ‘that you are refusing my very reasonable demands? Do not forget that the entire university is rigged to blow’.
Sir Basil laughs. ‘Sometimes, Dr Lamb, the truth is more complicated than it seems’.
He snaps a finger. Behind him the cocktail bar set in the wall spins 180° to reveal a giant CCTV screen.
‘Observe, dear Ada, the Happy Burger Institute of Cryptozoology and Fine Cuisine’, he says. ‘What you are about to see is happening in real time’.
As I watch an oddly familiar figure in a tight-fitting pinstripe suit scuttles across the screen, heading directly for the air-vent in which I had placed the largest depth charge. With a deft flick of his furled-up golfing umbrella, he separates the wires.
He then looks up at the camera and gives a little wave.
‘Jaspyr’, I say.
‘Indeed’, says Sir Basil. ‘And that was the last of the depth-charges’.
‘You forget my postgraduates’ loyalty’, I say, making the pre-arranged hand signal to PC Roberta (PhD Runeology, p-t), watching from the roof of the Humanities Beacon through the sights of her sniper’s rifle.
A small, red beam of light appears between Sir Basil’s eyes.
I pause, turning my head slightly to admire my aquiline profile in the Louis Quatorze mirror that hangs behind the Vice-Chancellor’s glass desk.
‘It is over, dear Basil’, I say. ‘I have no choice but to – ‘
Hold on, dear Reader. There is something odd about my reflection.
I look more closely.
I cannot believe my eyes.
A single, red, dot of light is centred on my own forehead.
The Vice-Chancellor looks firmly at me.
‘Asafetida’, he says. ‘Fire on my command’.
‘Roberta’, I say. ‘Fire on my command’.
We look at each other.
Can this really be the end — dear, dear, dear Reader?