Gary Day

June 2, 2006

The renowned vice-chancellor I. A. M. Wortheverypenny staggered through the vaulted archway of the university information centre and collapsed. He was definitely out of condition and the port didn't help. He lay quiet for a moment. "I am still alive," he thought. A voice spoke chillingly close. "Tell me where it is." "I don't know what you are talking about," the vice-chancellor gasped. The man raised his gun. "Wait, I will tell you what you want to know," cried the vice-grasper.

The story he told was one he had rehearsed many times. "There is no more money." "That is exactly what the others told me," said the man. Then he shot him.

The telephone rang. If it hadn't, Bob Crackcodes wouldn't have woken up. At least, not till morning. He put on his wig and picked up the receiver. It was the police. Had someone complained about his lecture on acronyms in education? "Yes. But we are not interested in that," said Inspector Fake, by coincidence echoing the sentiments of the audience earlier that evening.

"We want to know why your details were found in renowned vice-chancellor Wortheverypenny's Blackberry." As with most things, Crackcodes hadn't a clue. It's no wonder he was a professor.

He was taken to where the vice-chancellor lay. It was horrible. Before he died, the man had stripped himself naked, carved a Pounds sign on his chest and written a note to his wife asking her to put the cat out.

"What does it mean?" asked the inspector. Crackcodes shook his head and his wig fell off. As he bent to retrieve it he saw a pair of slacks. They belonged to a woman. Her name was Sophie Magdalene. She was called Sophie because she was wise. And she was called Magdalene because she was a direct descendant of Jesus and Mary. Why was she wise? Because she was a woman. She snatched Crackcodes's wig and ran from the building.

"I'm sorry," she said, when he caught up with her. "But I had to get you out of there fast." "Why?" asked Crackcodes. "Because we need to get to Switzerland and open a safe-deposit box." "No, I mean why have you thrown my wig into that dustcart?" "It's bugged," she cried, leaping into her Smart car.

Sophie drove backwards through Paris, not because she was a woman, but because she was French and to avoid the police who were on their trail. But they couldn't catch them because most criminals are never caught. Anyway, Bob and Sophie weren't criminals. They weren't even real.

They got to the station, they got to the airport, they got to Switzerland. Bob explained a lot of things. About a secret organisation called Ucea and another called AUT and its sister organisation called Natfhe. And still another called Acas. And no matter how you arranged the letters they didn't make sense.

Sophie was astonished. "You mean it's nothing to do with Leonardo da Vinci?" she said. "Who?" asked Bob. But there was no time to find out because they were at the Depository Bank of Zurich. Sophie fished out a gold lasered key. What was the account number? Bob had a flash of genius that would have burnt his wig had he had it. 12.6. It worked! The conveyor belt brought up a trunk. Inside was a cracker. They pulled it. Out fell a plastic whistle and joke. "I can't work out this joke," said Bob, "but I know a man who can. Sir Leigh Teabag." He was called that because he liked tea. Sometimes things really are that simple.

At that moment, the bank president - who, as a minor character, doesn't need a name - burst through the door. "The police! Quick, follow me!" They did. Into a security van. It rumbled through the night. Then stopped. The president ordered them out at gunpoint and demanded the joke for an after-dinner speech.

But bankers are no match for intelligent people, let alone for a direct descendant of Jesus. Sophie turned him into a nice person and then she and Bob sped off to Teabag's residence. Despite his millions, Sir Leigh was not a happy man. For a start, he suffered from Cathars. The joke didn't cheer him up because he didn't understand it either. "The House of Commons Select Committee will have to explain," he announced. "We must get to London immediately."

In fact, this took them a few pages. And when they landed there were still more complications to follow, including a journey to Scotland.

Would the letters ever be arranged to make a word? What was the significance of the joke? And who the hell was the man with the gun? He seems to be in every story. Will we ever know the reason for the Mona Lisa's famous smile?

Gary Day is principal lecturer in English at De Montfort University.

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