It was so thoughtful of dear Jade to bring me a message from UWL HQ in person. It seems that Sir Basil wishes to hold a video conference with both Pro-Vice-Chancellors of the UWL’s global possessions (Taizhou and Astana), this afternoon at 1630 GMT, or 0030 Taizhou time.
After I had waved Jade off, promising to bake her one of my special cupcakes soon, I regarded the modem rigged up to a car battery on my desk and turned my mind to the terrible situation in which I suddenly found myself.
How I admire and respect Darren from IT, I thought. (It would be tactless of me to point out here that not a single one of you* has breathed a word about Darren since his tragic disappearance from the no. 39 bus several weeks ago.)
Action was called for, heartless Reader. I sprung into it. Donning my cape and lecturing hat, I made enquiries among the admin staff and learnt that their Xmas party was to be held in a venue called the Bar of Gold.
Furnished with this information, unmoving Reader, I ventured out into Taizhou city.
Soon I found myself in a vile alley which lines the north side of the river. Between a slop-shop and a gin-shop, approached by a steep flight of steps leading down to a black gap like the mouth of a cave, I found the den of which I was in search. Ordering my cab to wait, I passed down the steps, worn hollow in the centre by the ceaseless tread of drunken feet; and by the light of a flickering oil-lamp above the door I found the latch and made my way into a long, low room, thick and heavy with brown opium smoke. Through the gloom one could dimly catch a glimpse of bodies lying in strange fantastic poses, bowed shoulders, bent knees, heads thrown back, and chins pointing upwards, with here and there a dark, lack-lustre eye turned upon the newcomer.
Suddenly, someone spoke. ‘Oh God’, said the voice. ‘I thought I’d shaken her off’. The words fell quite distinctly upon my ear. I glanced down.
There, dear, indifferent Reader, sat Darren, still wearing his Iron Maiden t-shirt, an opium pipe dangling from his knees.
‘Holmes! Darren!’, I exclaimed. ‘What on earth are you doing in this den?’ I was shocked to see Darren’s lip curl.
‘I’m exploring the world’, grunted Darren. ‘Finding myself. Leave me alone’.
There was only one thing to do. I took out my phone and showed Darren the number.
‘It is on speed dial, dear Darren’, I said. ‘I have only to press it and your mother will answer’.
Dear, stony-hearted Reader, preparations for tonight’s video conference are now afoot. Darren has rigged up two old car batteries and an amplifier, and is busy testing the sound levels.
Meanwhile, dear Reader, I am reclining on my chaise longue in my silk pyjamas, puffing gently, and watching the university’s latest broadcast on student recruitment in which dear, dear Cordelia shows her best cleaning technique 0.34 seconds in.
* apart from you, dear Speccy. And you, Nunkyton.