"I noticed that some of you are not having sherry," Alan asked. There were only twelve or thirteen people in the room, some five of whom were his age. The professors from Cambridge were wearing an academic gown of mostly black, with some cardinal red lining the front and on the hood. There were a few others with different gowns, most of which he did not recognize. One he did recognize was the one Father Barrett was wearing from Bologna.
"Observant," Mr. Fox said. "No matter what James Bond may say, no one's reactions and ability to process a situation is at its peak with alcohol in his or her system. So we always take turns at these gatherings. Some drink. Some don't."
"Are you expecting something to happen?"
"I wouldn't expect someone to attack here at Cambridge. And, as you know, we only announced this dinner yesterday. It is never scheduled predictably, other than generally being in summer, when we have a sufficient number of candidates. We should be okay," he said nonchalantly and wandered off.
After only three weeks there, Alan already felt sharper and more prepared to defend himself than ever. He still didn't quite know what the belt or phone did, but Mr. Fox assured him it required an assailant to attack face-to-face.
"So, have you been enjoying your time here in Cambridge?" came the familiar voice of Father Barrett, who had a small glass of sherry in his hand.
"Yes," Alan find himself saying. "Some of it has been grueling, but I've surprisingly found it very satisfying."
"Good," Barrett responded. "I've heard good things about your progress. You can run a kilometer in just over three minutes. You are well into physics 2 and calculus 3. You've read all the philosophy brainwash they feed you up here." The last comment came with a smile and another sip of sherry.
"You consider Wittgenstein, Kuhn, and Putnam brainwash?" Alan asked over the din of conversation in the wooden floored and walled room. "What do you have them read in Bologna?"
Barrett raised his eyebrows with a smirk and said, "Machiavelli and Nietzsche." Then he took another sip of sherry.