Friday, 29 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 29

It took another hour to sit down with Security – Lieutenant Georges recruited two other colleagues to speed the process up – and have each piece of paper and its relative order in the piles documented.  Only when they were sure that they had a clear record of exactly what Joshua had taken from the Tower was he allowed to leave.  They had, however, found a couple of folders to put the papers in so that they were less likely to be pulled out of his hands by the rising wind should he go outside.
“We’d be rather disappointed if you took them away from this building now, though,” said Lieutenant Georges as he was standing to leave.  “We understand that you might need to show them to a colleague, or you might want to take them home to study, but we’d like you to consider taking a scan or a photocopy instead.  If you have a smartphone you’ll find that it’s very easy to photograph the pages in question and then mail them to yourself or a Dropbox account.”
Joshua nodded, understanding the intentionally vague threat, and walked upstairs wondering yet again how on earth he’d managed to spend most of the day retrieving ancient papers from an old faculty member’s office, and why the whole thing seemed so strange.  He key-carded his office door open, and paused in the doorway.  He looked around, carefully checking for strangers, of the unnaturally tall and thin persuasion, and confirmed that the office was empty.  He hated himself for doing this, but he couldn’t help it.  He knew that he wouldn’t be able to sit down unless he was sure.
When the door closed behind him he opened all of the cupboards again to check that they had no-one hiding in them either.  He couldn’t have stopped himself if he’d tried, but he recognised what he was doing and managed to laugh at himself while still doing it.  Finally he looked underneath his desk, and only then did he sit down.  He looked at the folders, looked at the Macbook, and opened up the latter to check his email.
Half an hour later he looked at the folder again, and went to get a cup of coffee from the coffee lounge.  The corridors were quiet as he went there, but when he opened the door he saw several groups of students in there.  Not recognising any of them he quickly acquired a cup of coffee, then a Mars bar as an after-thought, and disappeared back to his office without being stopped and asked for help with homework problems.  Sitting back down at his desk again he closed the Macbook’s lid and opened the first folder.
The first couple of pages were rough working of some kind, and although he looked over it it wasn’t clear what problem it came from, and there was little text there either.  He surmised that when this guy’s office had been packed up, everything that was on the desk had been collected together in no particular order and just dumped in a box for transport.  He turned the pages over, until he found something with more writing on.
He was halfway down the pile when he came across a set of typewritten pages with handwriting annotating and correcting them.  The handwriting was in blue ink and was rounded and slightly childlike.  The first page looked familiar, but the second page proved to be the actual first page of the manuscript: A curious Bernoulli recurrence, by Markka Koivula.  The name had been struck through.
Joshua looked at it for several moments, and then placed the papers carefully on his desk and retrieved the journal from the bookshelf.  Turning to the bookmarked page, and noticing that the journal now showed a tendency to fall open to that page, he checked.  The author information was missing from the journal version.  He turned back to the Contents page, and discovered for the second time that the Contents listing ended at page 31 for some reason.  He turned to the end of the article, in case it was there in the small print; some modern journals provided small biographical information about authors there, but the last page of the article ended with a formula and nothing more.  He set the journal down, and looked back at the draft manuscript.  That an author would want to hide his name was a little curious, but especially so for a mathematical paper where precedence for new results was everything.  And these results were so new as to be at least a hundred years ahead of their time.  Why cross your name out?
He puzzled over it as he looked through the manuscript, noting that the corrections in handwriting were mostly changing the spelling of words; in some cases the misspelling was now the modern spelling.  Then he suddenly realised that he didn’t know who had made the annotations.  Was it possible that the annotator was someone other than Markka Koivula?  It wasn’t an English sounding name after all, and both the manuscript and the handwriting were in good English.  It was just a little bit old-fashioned to Joshua’s mind.
Someone knocked on his door, and he called out “Come in,” while he put the papers back in their folder.  The knock came again, and he remembered that he had to open the door to admit visitors.  A nuisance now, but quite a benefit when you didn’t want to be disturbed.  He got up and opened the door, and there was Mark.
“Very funny,” he said.  “Come in, indeed.  Next thing I know you’ll be accusing me of breaking into your office when you’re not here and leaving journals on your desk.”
“Wanker,” said Joshua.  “Are you coming in or not then?”
“I was hoping to get you to come out,” said Mark.  “The pubs have opened.”
“They opened at 11,” said Joshua.
“And you were nowhere to be found at 11.  I came by and you were missing.  You were still missing after lunch as well.  I was starting to think you were hiding from the mysterious journal-gifted.”
Joshua half-smiled, and explained about his trip to Robin Hood Tower and what he’d found there.  He gestured casually to the folders, and then to the journal as he described the oddity of the crossed-out name on the draught-manuscript.
“Wow, spooky,” said Mark.  “Footprints that only go in, your very own stalker, and now a journal author who doesn’t want the world to know who he is when he’s got the biggest mathematical breakthrough in a hundred years.  All that’s missing are some meddling kids and Scooby-Doo!”
“It kind of feels like it, doesn’t it?” said Joshua.  “Hey, you know what, the pub sounds like a good idea.  But just the one, I’m not staying till closing again.”

Mark laughed and punched him lightly on the shoulder.  “It’s not me saying ‘one for the road’ every half-hour,” he said.

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