Mark went back to his own office, which was also on the second floor, while Joshua descended the staircase to the ground floor where the security office for the Mathematics building was. Despite the age of the buildings the university had a lot of money from carefully managed investments, and had a policy of keeping up to date with technology. The greatest expense from their point of view was the need to integrate the technology so that it didn’t clash with the four-hundred year-old exteriors and interiors. Buildings could be declared off-limits for periods of up to six months when the Facilities and Upgrades teams needed to install something new, and they would carefully remove the interior, install the new bits, and then lovingly restore the interior back over the top to conceal the evidence of the new system. The key-cards for the offices were a case in point: there were no indications anywhere where the key-card needed to be waved to unlock and open a door; instead Facilities produced tiny charts that you could carry with you or download on to a smart phone that showed the right point for the card for each door in the buildings you used. You eventually learned where they were anyway, but the little chart was a reassuring back-up.
So there were security cameras on all the corridors and the in the stair-wells, though Joshua had little idea where any of them were. There were allegedly no cameras in the offices or lecture-rooms themselves, but no-one had actually challenged security on this to find out how true it was. There was also supposed to be people watching and vetting all visitors to the building, but after his first three days Joshua had barely seen any of the security offices. Even now he had to look for the discrete little brass plaques at head-height by the doors that indicated the direction of the main offices. Security was apparently off to his left, towards the rear of the building.
To his slight surprise the signs directed him through a door he’d walked past many times and assumed that it was a supply closet of some kind. Beyond it was a short hallway and then descending staircase, and Joshua discovered that the building actually had a basement floor as well. At the foot of the stairs there was a bland concrete anteroom; cloud-grey walls, ceiling and floor with a red plastic bucket sitting in one corner, looking a little out of place. As he looked around, wondering what this had to do with security there was a soft buzzing sound that terminated in a click, and a door that he’d not noticed before swung inward in the furthest wall.
“Come through, please!” called a female voice. It sounded a little tired. Joshua walked through, and suddenly was back in what he thought of as the Mathematics building – the walls were wood panelled once more and the floor was carpeted with a dusky-rose carpeting. There was a glass-walled office over to his left, big enough to hold three desks with enough space for the people in there to squeeze past each other. On his right was a tiny counter with a kettle, a jar of instant coffee, a half-empty plastic container of milk and some spilled sugar. A steel teaspoon was crusted with a mix of brown and white and looked in need of a wash.
A woman came out of the office; a little shorter than Joshua. She had blonde hair cut in a bob and was wearing the University security uniform which was a smart jacket and trousers in shades of grey and brown. There was a crest on the breast pocket of the jacket, and a name-badge above that.
“Mr. Green,” she said. “How can I help you?”
“You know me?’ he asked, startled. She raised an eyebrow at him. “Yes, I suppose you would,” he said. “Since I work here and all. Um. Er, right, I wanted to know if you watch people coming and going from the building?”
“We watch all parts of the building that we are responsible for,” said the woman. Her voice was flat, but not unkind. “Is there a reason you want to know?”
“Er, this might seem a bit weird,” said Joshua, “but I think someone might have broken into my office. Today. Well, this afternoon. At some point.”
The woman tilted her head to one side like a bird and regarded him for a few moments. “I don’t think anyone could have broken in,” she said. “Was anything taken?”
“No, that’s the problem,” said Joshua. Her eyebrow raised again, and he listened to what he’d said. He blushed. “No, no that’s not what I mean! I meant that I found something in my office that shouldn’t have been there, and I want to find out who put it there. I thought you might be able to help me.” There was a long silence, into which he couldn’t help but input, “Please?” As the silence drew out further still he mentally kicked himself for sounding like he was begging.
“Mr. Green,” said the woman, not unkindly. “The key-card system we use is rather secure, and no-one has any access to your office unless they’re entitled to it. Which for you, as a postdoc, means pretty much us, and Professor Silverman as he’s the department head. If you request that your office is cleaned then one of us will accompany the cleaner to ensure that they can get into your office and that all they do is clean it. We don’t have break-ins as a rule, and when we do they’re usually very traceable.”
“Right,” said Joshua. “Only there was something, a journal, in my office when I came back this afternoon that wasn’t there when I left.”
“Oh, well, I don’t know exactly,” said Joshua.
“Of course not. Can you be a bit more precise than ‘this afternoon’ though, as that covers about a six hour period.”
“Right, well, I’m pretty certain I left my office a bit after two, and I was definitely back in before five. I think I was probably in by half-past four to be honest.”
“Fine, wait here please.”
The woman went back into her office and Joshua could hear her talking to someone, though the voices were a low murmur and too hard to make any words out. She returned a few minutes later carrying a laptop that was black and shiny and looked expensive.
“We’ll go this way,” she said, and gestured for Joshua to follow her. They walked past the glass-walled office and turned a corner to where there was a small open space with some green chairs and a glass table.
“Sit down, and I’ll review the security footage with you,” she said. “This won’t be very interesting I’m afraid, but you’ll be able to see why we’re able to give you answers with confidence.”