The Soprano Scholar

As he strode after Hathaway and Charles, Lewis caught snatches of their conversation.

“What subject do you do?” Hathaway was asking.

“Theology,” said Charles, missing the wince of memory that passed through Hathaway’s face. He knew this life well; he had once been at Cambridge training to be a priest.

He was a much better policeman by all accounts.

Lewis caught up with the taller men’s paces at the door to the college. The porter behind his glass door, smiled at Charles as if he had not just been fighting another man. The porter’s glance to the policemen was, however, much less than friendly.

“Hello?” He questioned them with more than the word.

“We’re here for the, err, Vivaldi show. Yeah, we’re a bit earlier than your expected lot, but we were…in the area.” He jabbed his thumb behind him.

“Of course, sir, come on in. Charles, will you be attending the concert?”

“Verity’s part of the choir, so I might,” replied the boy.

They wandered into the lavish first quad (though Lewis was pretty certain that all the OxfordUniversity quads were so well made), a squat square of mown grass, surrounded by old stone that towered. Hardly living quarters. They didn’t have the softness about them.

“The chapel’s through there – where you’ll be seeing the performance. It’s quite big, in case you were about to make a comment.”

Lewis closed his mouth and refrained from adding any more.

“Look, I’m sorry about earlier. Can I just go and freshen up? My room’s in the Hive, that new area through the buildings there. It’s quite easy to find.”

“Go on,” Lewis said.

As the boy scampered away, the Detective Inspector studied him. His nobility was in his body, not quite in his head.

“I don’t trust him.”

“I know you don’t,” Hathaway remarked. “We should keep an eye on him in case, but best just to alert the porter to any further trouble.”

“What, that porter?”

“Good point. For now, can we just enjoy the Gloria?”

Lewis shrugged. “Whatever you want. I’d rather just settle in with some telly.”

“These people here are just clever students. Just because we happen to pass a few exams, doesn’t mean we’re all snobs, you know,” said Hathaway. He did have a point.

They slunk together into the labelled chapel door. The high roof slanted to a point on the inside as well as outside; wooden beams were broad and obvious in the otherwise stone architecture.

Amongst the typical solid pews was situated a portable organ – presumably belonging to the chapel itself; when Lewis craned his head (and saw that Hathaway was doing the same with an impressed look on his face), he spotted the grand organ behind him, melded efficiently with the shape of the building.

At the front of the chapel milled students dressed in their formal robes, black with a strip of red for the colours of St. John's. They were almost a swarm to the sight of Lewis. Again, most looked up at their presence, but then turned back to arrangement their seating in no time.

A woman swathed in white with no gown crossed over to them. Her pale hair reflected the shine from the electric lights above, and her hands were dainty. When the young woman spoke, her eyes sparkled to remind Lewis of a sunlit sky.

“Oh, you’re a little early,” she said in the light voice of something from Bambi.

“Guess who that is,” he heard Hathaway hiss in his ear.

“Sorry, we are. Happened to be passing and all that.”

“Oh.” Cassandra Porter’s fingers twitched at her opposite cuff. She was nervous.

Lewis sat and smiled at the girl, trying to make her feel welcome. “Is everything all right? All going well?”

Cassandra appeared startled that he would say something like that. Her fidgeting increased in almost robotic proportions, tapping here and twitching there. Lewis recalled to mind what Charles had said. Certainly, she wasn’t batty, but she was not a settled soul, either.

“I have a question,” said Hathaway, before Lewis could stop him. “How did you get the position of soprano so easily? Am I wrong in thinking that, even for a Choral Scholar, it is difficult to rise up without prior performances?”

Cassandra’s eyes widened and heat burned from her white cheeks. “Oh, that’s quite a question. Yes, a fair point: this is my first performance as a Choral Scholar. I guess it’s not fair, either, but I one the place fairly, via audition. So, yes, sir, that’s how.”

“Thank you,” Lewis said with another smile. “You’d better get back to it. I’m sure tonight’ll be top notch.”

Cassandra nodded her head and scampered off. When he had finished watching her, Lewis turned to Hathaway. “You didn’t have to accuse her of witchcraft. I thought you were here to enjoy, not to criticise.”

“I was just…testing a theory.”


Lewis ignored the sergeant for a moment and instead sat back in his pew, thinking, waiting for the concert to begin.

The End

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