Journey to New Europa
Chapter 27, Investigating Prof. Stoutworthy
We left our heroes resolved to check out Prof. Thurston Stoutworthy of Oxbridge, whom we have seen in a retrocognitive vision, deliberately dropping a vase on a minister's head, one night in London. He was, in fact, oddly careful and calm about it; and perhaps it was odd that he was left alone on the balcony to do it.
Holmes has already checked him out and given us the results, and we poke through the usual references, such as "Who's Who." We know he is a professor of medieval studies -- history, theology, and philosophy -- at Shrewsbury College. He has a list of publications to his credit, none of them very suspicious or dealing with magic or conspiracies. The nearest is some work on heresies and Nicholas of Cusa, a 16th-century cleric who had the structure of the solar system revealed to him in a dream.
On the other hand, Stoutworthy is somewhat near to a number of the mysterious "Mesopotamia" incidents, though his proximity is always rather loose, as far as the documentation shows.
We turn to researching his victim, Minister Henry Jordan. He had no obvious Oxbridge connections. He was a minor member of the Finance Ministry. Katrina unearths some unverified allegations of graft and corruption on his part, involving a colleague named Roger Emerson. Emerson is still alive, but resigned from the ministry shortly before we fell out of the sky at Somerton. He has no Oxbridge connections beyond an undistinguished career there as a student. He has residences in London and Norfolk.
Having beaten the books for what they're worth, we decide to go to Oxbridge itself and examine Prof. Stoutworthy personally. We take a train down, getting seats in the car with brass fittings, the one they provide for fay passengers.
Once at Shrewsbury, Oxbridge, a stop at the porter's office shows us that Stoutworthy is currently teaching both history and theology. He has open hours in his rooms in about an hour's time. Tom resolves to interview him.
Meanwhile, Robbie and Katrina go to the bank and case it, with an eye to examining Stoutworthy's financial records or any safe deposit boxes, with Dafnord to drive the rented getaway carriage. They then proceed to a university library, where they investigate Stoutworthy's publications and related books in his field.
Kate, Mithriel, and Salimar investigate Stoutworthy's house. While Kate, with Salimar, engages a garrulous neighbor lady, Mithriel becomes invisible and slips into the house.
Back at Shrewsbury, Tom has introduced himself as a student recently returned from abroad (his excuse for showing up late in the term), studying for the ministry, and desirous of auditing Stoutworthy's theology class. Stoutworthy is happy enough for Tom to do this. Under guise of planning ahead to the times when he must counsel his parishioners, Tom asks if Stoutworthy covers ethical theory, e.g. when is it ethically justified to commit crimes for a higher good? He meanwhile turns up his empathy to see if this topic causes Stoutworthy any twinges. It does not.
Back at Chez Stoutworthy, the neighbor lady finds the professor a rather unsatisfactory subject because there's so little to say about him (though this does not stop her from talking). He's very stay-at-home. He has no family except a sister who lives elsewhere and is presently ill. His visitors are just other academics. He does leave town fairly often, but just for academic-type convocations and seminars and things.
In the house, Mithriel looks over his library and finds it very heterogeneous. The only thing that looks remotely suspicious, though, is a physiology text. But academics have jackdaw minds, and there isn't much physiology to dropping a vase on someone.
She strikes it rich when she examines his desk and comes across the locked drawers. Unfortunately, she knows nothing about picking locks. Kate does, but she's out there listening to the gossipy neighbor.
This is where psi is so useful. While smiling and nodding to the neighbor, Kate examines the lock clairvoyantly and then uses telepathy to coach Mithriel through picking it. This reveals ledger books. Ta-da!
Rather a lot of them. Ten or so. Nice and suspicious. The most mysterious one is simply labeled the "D" account. The entries of expenses and deposits it contains might relate to the Mesopotamia incidents. In any case, Mithriel copies the book to glamour.
And humor placid
Needs no blunt instrument
Or prussic acid.
Copyright © 2003, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.