Months have gone by and Ken and Halberd have still not finished their analysis of Lucius’s work. Ren spent August in bed with Wren and got nothing done, except for converting takeaways and alcohol into disseminate. Then Wren left to move to her new life in Manchester, and Ren thought he’d get something done then, but instead he stayed in bed, depressed, finding that he missed her. He was starting to think that maybe he’d made a big mistake in breaking up with her. But she was off to her exciting future, and wasn’t go to stay in Grayvington, and he didn’t blame her for that. Then the new term hit and the Lucius project got put onto the backburner, although Ken and Halberd sporadically worked on their attempted replications.
Ren has now decided it’s time to move it on and get things wrapped up. He’s worried that someone else will call out Lucius first, even though he’s knows there’s not really much chance of that. So he has gone around to Ken’s flat on a Friday night to talk to the two grad students. He’s bought them a bottle of fancy vodka, ostensibly to reward them for their hard work, although really he’s bought it to loosen their tongues. If necessary he’s going to kick them up their backsides. At the very least he’s going to drink a lot of this vodka. The bottle is already half-gone.
‘Another vodka and lemonade, fellas?’
‘Another one?’ says Halberd with a glazed look.
‘Still going with this one,’ says Ken.
‘If you leave your gorgeous girlfriend all alone at a party then you can expect other men to move in,’ says Ren as he pours some more of the vodka.
‘Isn’t that rather sexist?’ says Ken.
‘Is it feminist to ignore your girlfriend night after night, and then complain when you walk in on her getting licked out by an asshole bongo player with a goatee someone brought to the party?’
‘That is a fucked-up metaphor in so many ways,’ says Ken.
‘I know. I mean, a fucking bongo player? Wouldn’t you just kill yourself there and then? By the way, it wasn’t a metaphor, it was an analogy. I can’t believe they trust you psychologists with matters of import, Jesus, with the actual minds of human beings, when a simple distinction between a metaphor and an analogy is beyond you. By law you should be trusted with nothing more than frogs and gerbils. Now, another vodka for everyone?’
‘Could I have one that hasn’t got quite so much vodka in it?’ says Ken.
‘How about I just go to the kitchen, get out a knife, cut some lemons, and then come in and cut your fucking balls off as well? Or will they be too small to find?’
‘You’re too late,’ says Halberd. ‘His last girlfriend already cut them off.’
‘Thanks mate,’ says Ken.
‘Well, at least I can trust a Dane not to cry when I put a healthy dash of vodka in his glass,’ says Ren.
‘You bet,’ says Halberd. ‘Could I have extra lemonade, though?’
Ren sighs and shakes his head. ‘Do you have a note from Mummy that says you’re allowed to drink, sonny? Is it a school night?’
Ren decides he should get down to brass tacks while things have loosened up, but before the evening starts spiralling out of control.
‘Guys, an important question now. When are you thinking of plunging the knife?’
Ken recoils a little bit. ‘That’s not how I like to think about it.’
‘Pulling the lever?’
‘Your metaphors are all very violent,’ says Ken.
‘Yes, because this is a nasty fucking business.’
‘Well, maybe next summer. If we think we have a good enough case,’ says Ken.
‘I was thinking after we finish our doctorates, and have moved on with permanent jobs,’ says Halberd. ‘Next summer is too soon.’
‘Too soon? Hells fucking bells, you call yourself young people? Young thrusting bucks with urgent big cocks?’
Ken and Halberd look at each other. ‘I’m not sure that’s how I’d fill out a self-description task,’ says Ken.
‘Then get busy and rub yourself a boner. This has to happen soon. Otherwise I’m going to go in flinging so much shit at Lucius, and your department, and Psychology in general that you’ll be smelling it in your nostrils for decades to come. I don’t give a fuck whether it pisses Grayvington off because it will make my life and career so much more fun that I’m itching to do it. I’m being Mr Nice Guy letting you social psychologists make out that you’re policing yourself, even though it’s obvious that someone hooked up the refuse pipe to the output pipe long ago, and you’re all pretending not to notice the smell.’
‘Are you just talking like this because you’ve drunk most of the vodka?’ says Ken.
‘No, I really will blow it open myself. We can’t let this continue on for another year, another two years, that’s just wrong.’
‘Okay, okay, we’ll talk to the Dean in a few months.’
‘Don’t take too long. Let Lucifer enjoy his Christmas, and then when the cold bleakness of January really bites you pull the trigger. Don’t do it in summer when he might think that he can just go on holiday and do the Macarena and the whole thing will blow over. Do it when the frost bites at his soul.’
‘Or his asshole,’ says Halberd.
‘A for effort, foreign-language person,’ says Ren.
‘You try your best, I know,’ says Ren. ‘That’s the problem.’
‘You were saying?’ says Ken.
‘Yes, expose this tertiary Philby in winter, when the weather is miserable, and he lies awake at night listening to the cold wind howling and starts to worry about being caught. And hit him hard. If you don’t hit him good and proper first blow then he’ll turn around and start ripping your limbs off, and then you’ll wish to God you hadn’t pulled your punches.’
‘Aren’t you supposed to be convincing us to go after him?’ says Ken.
‘When you wrestle the alligator onto the shore,’ says Ren, not really listening to anything but his own drunken ramblings now, ‘you fucking finish the cunt off. You don’t let him slip back into the water again. Exenterate him and his figmental body of work. Fucking forget all this replication crap, it won’t convince anybody. Just go for him and let him have to deal with the task of convincing everyone that all these amazing studies that no-one ever saw happen really did happen. Okay?’
‘Er, okay,’ says Ken.
‘But let’s hold back the train station info to start with.’
‘I thought you said to hit him with everything straight up?’
‘Sure, but let’s keep that in reserve. If he manages to sew some confusion about whether he’s faking and looks like getting the benefit of the doubt, then we finish him off with that. And even if he confesses straight away he’ll try to make it seem not so bad. Just a few changed numbers here and there. Faking, but not the worst sort. He’ll play for sympathy. A few bad decisions late at night. He’s not a bad guy really, just a human being with weaknesses. Then the train station faking comes out and the scale of what he’s been doing becomes clear, and then whatever credibility he’s managed to hold onto collapses.’
There is silence for a few seconds.
‘I’m not sure I really want to be a part of something that’s going to be so horrible,’ says Ken. ‘This could destroy Lucius. Maybe he’ll commit suicide.’
‘He’s hardly the type,’ says Ren. ‘Look, he’s going down with or without you. If you pull out then it will still come out at some stage that you knew all about him, and you had the proof, but you chickened out of saying anything. So you can either take the credit you deserve, or you can go into the kitchen and get that knife, cut those lemons, and then cut your own balls off yourself. Or whatever’s left of them. And cut your whole fucking dick off while you’re at it.’
‘I don’t find this sort of drunken macho talk very helpful,’ says Ken. ‘These attitudes are behind a lot of the problems in modern academia. Even Lucius’s behaviour, it all stems from an over-competitive and aggressive ultra-masculine culture. We have to stop talking and thinking like this.’
‘A man who’s thinking of chickening out on exposing a fraud is in no position to give a sermon,’ says Ren. ‘You’re like a pacifist watching a battle criticising both sides for their participation in violence while your friends are being shot dead by Nazis. Take a stand for your fucking bullshit field. Get inspired by Joan of Arc instead. Or the suffragettes. Or whoever you approve of. But don’t pretend that you looking the other way when a faker does his faking is about principle.’
Ken looks downcast. ‘All right,’ he finally says, before looking up with a gimcrack gimlet eye. ‘Give me another vodka. A big one.’
‘Certainly not,’ says Ren. ‘This stuff is terribly bad for your liver.’