Venkat was waiting for Joshua outside the Mathematics building. Lieutenant Georges saw him first, and her eyes narrowed. Joshua, who was walking along-side her and carrying the papers that had been so much trouble to obtain, had turned his head to speak to her and saw her reaction. He looked back ahead of them, and saw a figure by the Mathematics building.
“Your little friend,” said Lieutenant Georges. Her tone left no doubt that she was annoyed.
“Who?” asked Joshua, squinting to try and make the person out. A few steps later and he recognised Venkat as well. “Oh hell,” he said. “He’s not my friend, I don’t know what he’s doing here. I didn’t arrange to meet him. Maybe he’s pestering someone else now.”
“Why would he be doing that?” Lieutenant Georges had quickened her pace, but she glanced at Joshua with curiosity.
“He’s a crank,” said Joshua. Seeing that he needed to explain more than that, he continued, “He’s got some ideas in his head, kind of mathematical, that he thinks are more important than they really are. He’s trying to find some real mathematician to pay attention to them and validate them, but they’re rubbish really. He doesn’t want to be a mathematician as such, he just wants attention, and people telling him how clever he is. If you ask him he’s probably got a bunch of stories of how clever he was a child, and how he did advanced courses or went to a special school. You can find them everywhere on the internet, and they’ve pretty much always got some idea so badly wrong that you could spend months trying to untangle it for them, only to have them accuse you of making them look bad, or hiding the good work and keeping it for yourself. The best thing to do is stay away from them.”
Lieutenant Georges sniffed. “Sounds like a stalker, then,” she said. “If you’re willing to say that, then I can keep him off our campus.”
“Oh good grief,” said Lieutenant Georges. “It’s always the same isn’t it? I offer you a definite way out of the problem, and you start worrying that you’re not being fair to him. He’s a pest, he’s a stalker, and he’s going to use up your time for no benefit. You just told me all that. Why is it so hard to tell me that you want him excluded from the campus for your own safety?”
Joshua swallowed. Everything she said was logical and correct, but it still seemed slightly wrong to just kick the guy off campus when he hadn’t actually done anything except hide a journal in his office and then try and talk about it. Then he remembered the strange, shadowy shape in his office, and how many times he’d had to search the room before he felt comfortable again.
“He’s a stalker,” he said. “I’d like you to exclude him from campus, please.”
“Was that so hard?” asked Lieutenant Georges. She quickened her pace again, and Joshua let her get ahead, knowing that he’d end up out of breath if he tried keeping up. He slowed as she reached Venkat, and then stopped, hanging back out of earshot. He saw Venkat point at him once, but Lieutenant Georges slapped his arm down, and then got up close to him, stepping inside his personal space. Joshua was slightly impressed that Venkat didn’t move and didn’t back off, but it seemed to do him no good anyway; something happened so fast that Joshua couldn’t follow it, and then Venkat was lying on the ground with Lieutenant Georges stood over him, holding his arm out straight and behind his back, and then two more Security staff were coming out of the mathematics building.
Five minutes later Venkat was being escorted away and Lieutenant Georges returned to where Joshua was standing. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get inside and get those papers catalogued so that you can take them away with you.”
“What did he want?” asked Joshua.
“Does it matter?”
He had to admit to himself that it didn’t.