Thursday, 21 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 21

Unlike room 302 the windows in here had clear glass and the light, though not as good as the electric lighting on the floor outside was adequate.  Again there was a desk in there, set facing the windows and pushed up against the wall there, behind which was a chair.  To the left of it, pushed up also against the wall were three straight-backed chairs with leather seat-cushions that looked quite old and rather fragile.  More packing crates were set against the right-hand wall, and these were all stencilled with numbers beginning 301-.  Hanging on the wall above the chairs was a map that looked as though it had been drawn on something other than paper; it was faded, and, from the corridor, impossible to do more than just make out the outline of whatever it was depicting.  Dust lay heavily on all the surfaces, and there were a pile of papers on the desk.
“So what do you want from here?” asked Lieutenant Georges.
Joshua pointed into the room, and when she followed his finger her eyes narrowed.
“Footprints?” he asked, and she nodded.  “That only go in?”  She nodded again, her lips tightening and whitening now as well.
Neither of them could see anyone in the room, but the footprints clearly led from the door to the desk, and then stopped.
“Whoever it was could have walked backwards in their own steps,” said Lieutenant Georges after a few seconds.  “It’s probably just a silly prank.”
Joshua started forward to look at what was in the room but she placed a hand on his chest, holding him back.  “That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to investigate this first, she said.  “You can’t go in there until I’m happy that I know what’s going on.”
“Oh,” said Joshua.  “Damn, but we’re here now.  Can’t I at least get the papers from the desk?”
Lieutenant Georges looked unhappy, and looked at the desk.  Then she looked at him.
“Can I trust you to stay here when I tell you to?” she asked.  Joshua nodded.  “Seriously, you’re not going into that room and disturbing anything.  You stand here, and you don’t move, or you don’t get your papers, and I go right back to my office and review your little breach of contract from earlier.  Got that?”
Joshua nodded, and then seeing that she wanted more, said, “Yes.  I stand here and do nothing until you come back.”
“Fine.”  She stepped very carefully into the room, walking on tiptoe and standing only in the footprints that were already in the dust.  Each step was slow, and she made sure that her tiptoe was down and steady before moving the next foot forwards.  A little dust plumed up with each step, but little enough that Joshua had to actually watch for it.  When she reached the desk she looked over everything on it quite carefully, and then took her gadget out of her pocket and took several pictures.  The first four were done without a flash, and then she repeated them with the flash on.  Only then did she pick up one pile of papers and carefully lay them crosswise on the second pile and pick them all up together.  Then she looked over she shoulder, and very carefully started walking backwards again.
The whole process took nearly fifteen minutes, and Joshua stood as still as he could the entire time, waiting and watching.  When Lieutenant Georges finally left the room she sank back down onto her feet and sighed.
“That hurts,” she said.  “My calves are going to ache all day now.”  She held out the pile of papers to Joshua.
“Don’t run off,” she said.  “I need to check what you’re taking, and you’ll need to return them.  We’re going back to Security in your building and they’ll all be catalogued there.  And then I need to look in to what’s being going on in this tower.”

“Right,” said Joshua, slightly astonished by how long it was taking just to get hold of some papers left behind by an ancient member of faculty.  “Thanks.”

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