He went downstairs to the first floor, where the academic secretaries had their offices. They’d been moved down from the third floor about five years ago because it had been noted that the students were too lazy to go up to the third floor much of the time, so small academic matters that should have been easy to sort out kept ballooning into larger problems that took up much more time and effort. Ideally they’d have moved to the ground floor, but the secretaries were reluctant to be too close because they didn’t want to be interrupted all the time either. Two of the doors were closed, indicating that their secretaries were out, but Sheila’s was open and she was sitting at her desk in front of a computer, scowling at the screen.
“Oh, hi Josh,” she said. “You don’t know anything about Excel do you?”
“Not a lot,” he said. “I can do graphs in it.”
“No, I’m trying to reconcile columns across multiple workbooks,” she said. “It’s part of the Dean’s budget strategy, and he wants it done this afternoon.” Seeing that Joshua’s face had gone blank she turned away from it. “Never mind, how I can help you?”
Joshua held the journal out, open at the page with the contact information. “I’ve got this paper,” he said, “and the guy who wrote it worked here. It’s probably about a hundred years ago, but I was wondering if there’s be any collection of his stuff, things he left behind, or research papers or anything. What happens when someone leaves here?”
“Depends,” said Sheila. “If they retire or go to another job then they usually take their stuff with them, and we bin anything they leave behind. Or donate it to the library if it’s in good condition and they want it. If they die, then I think we bin their stuff or donate it unless the family say they want it.”
“So if there’s anything it’ll be over in the library?”
“Probably,” said Sheila. “Hang on, let me see if I’ve got anything in the filing cabinets on him.” She stood up and went to a couple of grey steel filing cabinets stood neatly in a corner. Sorting through files in the middle drawer of the first one she suddenly smiled.
“Hah, I thought I’d seen that name before!” She pulled the file out and look at it; there were just a couple of sheets of paper in there, yellowed and hand-written. “Well,” she said. “That’s a bit odd.”
“According to this, his office was moved to Robin Hood Tower,” she said. “Room 301.”
“Robin Hood Tower?”
“It’s the smaller of the towers,” she said. “I don’t know much about it, just that it’s used for storage. But it looks like he might have some stuff left behind after all. You’ll probably have to go and ask Security about getting to see it though, it’s not part of the Mathematics department.”
“Oh great,” said Joshua, his spirits sinking a little. “My favourite people.”
“They’re alright, really,” said Sheila. “Just wait till you need them.”
“They let a crank in to see me this morning!” said Joshua, and when she looked at him quizzically told her all about Venkat and his desire to help.
“Well, he sounds harmless enough,” she said at the end. “Just let Security know that he shouldn’t be allowed back in.”
“That’s a good idea,” he said slowly. “Oh well, it looks like I’m going to go and talk to them after all then!”
Joshua started walking back to his office, and then he looked down at the journal in his hand. “I suppose there’s no time like the present,” he said to himself, and looked up to check that no-one had heard him. The corridor was empty, though he noticed that one of the other secretaries had arrived now and her door was slightly ajar as well. He tightened his grip on the journal and told himself that Security were just people with jobs to do as well, and headed for the staircase.
He saw no-one else as he descended to their subterranean bunker, and no sooner had he stepped into the bare concrete anteroom than the concealed door in the wall opened and the woman he was growing used to seeing appeared in the doorway.
“Come in, Mr. Greene,” she said, he tone not entirely unfriendly. “We seem to be meeting a lot at the moment.”
“Uh, do you have a name?” asked Joshua as he followed her. The door closed silently behind them; he looked over his shoulder to check. “Right now I just think of you as Security.”
“You can call me Lieutenant Georges,” she said, turning right and holding open the door to a little office. “Though not too often.”