‘About time you undraped for me,’ Wettypants Wetherall said and after initial hesitation I grasped her veiled meaning and revealed my strange phenomenon. ‘That’s a small cock?’
‘It’s a pigeon,’ I responded although I knew she was aware of that. ‘I’ve had this photographic negative plate for years,’ I explained, ‘and the pigeon has never been there before, until recently, and it doesn’t appear on any of the numerous reproductions of this original picture.’
‘It would be worrying if it did,’ Pamela warned, ‘it would mean we would no longer had time.’
‘The Old Carthusians eighteen eighty-one,’ an authoritative voice bellowed from over my right shoulder. There, upon inspection, taking up the nearest of the four screens across the War Room’s back wall was a distinguished, middle-aged gentleman with dark side whiskers that made him appear at odds with the present day. The caption beneath read ‘Live From New York City’. I assumed that Professor Delphi himself was inspecting my phenomenon through the ether. ‘Upon cursory examination,’ he added, ‘the absence of the FA Cup that the Surrey based team won that year is also an odd aspect. It appears the gentlemen amateurs of that notable club were not ones for public displays of ostentation. But, I agree, the most disquieting feature of the picture is the appearance of that pigeon.’
‘It’s kinda on the shoulder of one of the players,’ ventured another voice off camera. To incorporate this the focus widened to reveal Professor Delphi ensconced at a sturdy oak desk with a long-haired man in a casual blue shirt standing alongside. I was informed it was The History Maintenance Commission CEO Mortimore Hackpot.
‘No,’ Delphi replied dismissively. ‘it just looks like it’s on Sir Joseph Vintcent Junior’s shoulder and what difference would it make if it was thus perched?’
‘One helluva difference, boss,’ Hackpot speculated. ‘It could mean some meddling time-traveller has persuaded the Sir guy to become a pirate.’
‘Pirates have a propensity to favour parrots, Hackpot.’
‘Not if he’s a Homing Pirate,’ the CEO responded with a smile that beamed across the ocean. ‘I mean, why would the Sir guy wanna leave Surrey? So, kinda stands to reason, boss.’
‘Your suggestion is frankly ludicrous,’ the Professor declared and as the smile swiftly evaporated from Hackpot’s face, the great man on the other side of the pond leant forward on his desk and symbolically placed a cap upon his fountain pen and adopted an earnest pose. ‘If I were to speculate on an innocent explanation for the pigeon’s very recent appearance in a photograph taken so long ago, it would be to suggest that a time-traveller is seeking to redress the balance weighted heavily in favour of frivolous birds such as Seagulls, Robins, Magpies and even Canaries representing English soccer clubs at the expense of the noble and brave pigeon who never makes an appearance upon a badge. His observation was met with a collective sigh of relief in the War Room as we hung on his every word with the reverence usually reserved for a cult leader. This made it all the more dramatic what the maestro of historical intellect had to say next.
‘But I fear that in this one seemingly innocent picture I can spot a possible nine reasons, all with sinister implications to our future wellbeing, why that pigeon has suddenly alighted in that scene in Surrey. This is a mega event. We are under bombardment and it will require every ounce of our intelligence, valour and dexterity to emerge from this unscathed.’
In Part 12: Professor Delphi Lists The Nine Threats.