Here is Part 65 of “A Couple of Tenors Short”. We are now at a point where two things happen.
Firstly, I need to point out that from here on in, reading the recap then jumping into the middle of the story will rather ruin it. The recap will now start to include some major spoilers on the plot which, up until now have just been hints and clues.
Secondly, I need to get some feedback on the next four parts. There are some explanations of sorts about what might be happening – or they could be major red herrings. I need to know if these parts sound plausible and that I haven’t opened up a major plot hole. You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t give much away in my responses to your feedback – there are a few twists and turns in the plot to come!
In my search for the oddest of news, I read that article and found myself frustrated. You would have thought that the journalist could have told us if the gambler behaved like this because he was winning!
After what was the easiest of quiz questions, today’s question must rank up amongst the hardest. You will probably need the answer.
OK, the quiz question out of the way, here is my mantra. This is a serial. Any new-joiners should start with the opener known as Part One.
The troublesome recap has now settled into its new home. You can find the recap here!
Now read on...
“He’s an odious man.” Professor Ibsen muttered as he speared a scallop with his fork. “I’d rather take a chair in an American backwater than live in a country with Terence Cauldron as Prime Minister.”
The scallop was lifted half-way to the professor’s mouth, where it paused.
“I didn’t mean for that to be said out loud. Sorry” The scallop found its way to the professor’s mouth where it was savoured. “That man is the reason we lost the unfortunate Sergei.”
“You think that Sir Terence was involved in his death?” Jones spluttered.
“Good Lord No! He has other methods to achieve his ends. I meant that we lost Sergei to academia.” The professor paused as he took another mouthful of his starter. “Now, the witch he has as head of research, I wouldn’t put anything past her, but Sir Terence is far more... subtle.”
“Who is his head of research?” Jones smiled and raised a friendly eyebrow.
Professor Ibsen didn’t answer. His brow furrowed and he carefully replaced his cutlery onto his plate before gently massaging his temples with both forefingers. “I’m normally so good with names, yet hers alludes me. I cannot even bring a picture of her to my mind.”
“That’s OK. I’m sure it will come to you.” Jones said quietly. “Just tell me what happened.”
It hadn’t taken long for Professor Ibsen and Sergei to develop an excellent working relationship. The research was going well and Sergei was tutoring a number of undergraduates. After about 6 months, Sergei had come to see the professor to talk to him about a theory he was developing.
“It was farfetched and fanciful.” Professor Ibsen took a pause to allow himself to fully appreciate his last scallop.
“Totally wrong you mean.” Jones took a piece of the crusty bread and buttered it.
“It was a theory. The problem was that he had based it on scant observations and other theoretical work. He hadn’t considered how he could scientifically test it. The best science often starts with a seemingly farfetched theory. When they are tested and validated by scientific method, everyone tends to say ‘that is so obvious, why didn’t I think of that? ”
The professor had discussed the theory with Sergei who was very keen to seek funding to pursue the idea further. The professor had been against the idea, feeling that it was better that Sergei complete his PhD first. They had discussed it long into the night and Professor Ibsen had felt he had dissuaded Sergei.
Jones then questioned the professor on whether the discussion was in fact an argument, but Ibsen was adamant that it had been friendly and constructive.
The discussion between Jones and Ibsen was interrupted by a waiter in a pale yellow kimono clearing the plates. Professor Ibsen ordered ‘his special’ bottle of wine without checking with Jones before continuing with the story.
Somehow, Cauldron and his head of research got involved. About three months later, Sergei announced that he was going to take a sabbatical from his PhD and go and work for Cauldron’s electronics company to develop his theory and see if it had practical applications. The professor had tried desperately to dissuade him, but Sergei was adamant and had left UCL.
“So you did argue.” Jones stated flatly.
“Not at all.” Professor Ibsen replied calmly. “In fact, we stayed in touch. He would often come to speak to me about his research and we would discuss it - often over a long dinner in this very restaurant.”
The wine waiter, resplendent in a shimmering pale green kimono arrived with the wine. Ibsen tasted it and declared it excellent.
“Ah!” Ibsen placed his forefinger to his lips. “I forgot, you are on duty. I suppose you will not be taking wine.”
Jones inspected the label on the bottle of Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Brut de Cuve Number 3. His hand quivered for a moment, but stayed on his lap.
“Well, professor.” Jones smiled broadly than ran the tip of his tongue across his lips. “On this occasion, I am prepared to make an exception to the rule.”