It’s dark outside the staff club, and there’s no sign of any bearded old philosophers running around going berserk. Ren takes a guess at which way Tyson went, and runs. Ten minutes later, after he’s covered a lot of territory but seen no sign of the crazy old bastard, he hears some screams and commotion coming from the direction of the student bar. He hesitates. This won’t be good. Maybe he should just leave Tyson to his fate. He’s probably already been trussed up by security. Except that the Uni bar doesn’t have security guards, and the general campus security is good for nothing but discovering broken-into buildings six hours after they’ve been broken into. In the end, it’s curiosity more than anything else that drives him to investigate. What kind of story to tell will it be if just ends in ‘And then I went home to watch TV’?
Outside the bar he finds outraged students milling about. He can see some guys scouting around the area, searching.
‘What’s going on?’ he asks a random group of students. There’s something in the corner of his visual field that is disturbing him, but he doesn’t want to look just now.
‘A flasher,’ says one of the students. ‘That’s what we heard.’
‘An old flasher with a stiffy,’ says another. ‘Must be a Professor.’
‘I didn’t know Professors of that age could get stiffies,’ says a third student.
‘Jase told me he heard the guy had no trousers on,’ says the first student, over the others.
Ren knows what the thing in the corner of his eye is without having to look at it now, but he briefly glances anyway. A pair of trousers lie discarded near a bush. Did Tyson take them off there, or did someone, discovering them somewhere else, drop them there?
The students are bursting to fill him in further.
‘He was wanking while watching those ladies there, and they saw him, and then he ran away.’ The student points. Ren groans inwardly. The two women are Millicent Bartonella and Lenora Helminth, who are directing the search parties, looking grimly satisfied.
Everyone is too excited and flustered and giddy to look properly, so they don’t see what Ren now sees, which is Tyson sneaking back behind a nearby bush. The dark night means that visibility is poor, but Ren definitely gets a brief glimpse of nothing but white flesh and black hair below Tyson’s belt line as he moves into position.
Ren is now faced with a moral dilemma as daunting as anything to be found in a moral philosophy class. Forget abstract intellectual exercises where you are forced to choose between diverting a runaway trolley to kill one person rather than the five it’s heading for. Forget the issue of whether you should dynamite the pregnant woman. This is an urgent, real-life moral dilemma, with real consequences. Should he shout, ‘There he is, burn the witch,’ and watch as the pack goes for Tyson? Or should he shut up, and let Tyson enjoy his few last moments of freedom twanging the wire before he’s locked up for good? And maybe slink off home? Or go inside the bar for a quick beer while the crowd at the bar has thinned, as most of the customers have come outside for a look?
It’s not really much of an ethical dilemma, though. Clearly Tyson needs to be apprehended for his own, and everybody else’s, sake. Ren sidles away from the students and walks causally over to Tyson’s bush, trying not to draw too much attention to himself. As he gets closer he can see Tyson’s face peeking through the bush, looking at the students. Some slight rustling at groin level gives him an idea of what Tyson is up to, which puts him off going any closer.
‘Tyson,’ he says quietly.
Tyson either doesn’t hear him, or ignores him.
‘Professor Kipnis,’ he says, a little more loudly. Tyson still doesn’t respond to him.
‘Is that the Dalkeith medallist Professor Tyson Kipnis, who has run departments, chaired prestigious committees, edited the best journals in the world, testified to the White House, and advised three US Presidents?’
Ren thought that was sure to work, but Tyson’s gaze remains fixed on the females present, a group that includes Millicent and Lenora, which you’d think would give anyone an instant soft-on, but then Tyson has gone doolally.
‘Is that the Randolph keyhole wanker?’ Ren says a little bit louder still.
That gets Tyson’s attention. And everybody else’s – they all swivel around to look around at Ren. Lenora, faster than the rest at seeing what is going on, strides towards the bush. But quick as a flash, Tyson has grabbed something off the ground. A pre-prepared weapon. He comes around the side of the bush to screams and gasps from the crowd, not only because he is naked and erect below the waist, which isn’t a good look for a man his age, and not only because his face is twisted grotesquely, but because he is waving something white around his head. As something brown flies out of it Ren realises that the white thing is Tyson’s underpants.
Only his years of playing cricket save Ren – he instinctively sways his head backwards as the loose packet of sludge hurtles towards him like a thunderbolt from a vastly earlier, and more primal, cricketing era. He gets his face underneath the trajectory of the semi-solid tracer bullet just in time, courtesy of all the years he has spent evading bouncers in the nets. His cricket career never went anywhere, but he is now immensely grateful for those wasted hours spent after school when he and his friends would bounce balls of string-covered cork at each others’ heads at tremendous pace.
Like any good batsmen Ren keeps his eye on the ball, or streak, as it passes by a centimetre or two above his nose, which enables him to get a good, if upside-down, view of it hitting Lenora smack in the chest as she rushes towards Tyson. He also notices some other small smidgeons of poo spraying around the area at the same time, some perhaps coming off the main body in flight, some perhaps coming from the generous smear on the underpants, but none of them hit him. He will later swear that he saw a small fleck hit Lenora on the cheek microseconds before the main motherload struck her. The central poo, as is all too evident, was not the firmest stool, which has made the resulting splat on Lenora’s white blouse – and neck – all the more ruinous.
As a hit on an immediate enemy, from Tyson’s point of view, it’s an effective blow. The hunting party’s leader has been stopped in her tracks, and is standing there, huge breaths gasping in and out, her arms pulled up away from her body, wrestler-style, far away from the damage, her day of fighting over and done with. And the others are too stunned to move.
In terms of Tyson’s wider strategy, though, it wasn’t perhaps the wisest move. But Tyson is now in a primeval mood, wanking, shitting, mis-perceiving, over-reacting, running and fighting like a gorilla… would never dream of doing. He looks more like an escapee from the opening scenes of 2001, and his scraggly beard hits just the right note.
Ren decides that his swaying back motion can be continued for another fraction of a second, just enough to cause him to topple over onto the ground on his back. That allows others to rush past him to do the dirty work – possibly very dirty work – of tackling Tyson. He sees Tyson’s hairy white bum disappear into the distance as he runs off at a surprising pace, a once-canny fox gone senile, pursued by a baying crowd of drunken student hounds, hungry for his blood.
‘Tally ho,’ murmurs Ren. Tyson is going to be ripped to shreds.