Today didn’t start out being one of those. It started out quite well. I was reading a report into the possible occult properties of certain early medieval illuminated manuscripts. Fascinating stuff. Like a kind of Dark Ages version of Pokemon. This is the sort of stuff I joined up for.
Then I got a text on my yPhone from the boss. Not the big boss or my immediate boss but Agent Alex, the boss of the Archives. I was summoned to her lair.
Ok. Actually my presence in her office was politely requested but I’m in a mood and I’ll exaggerate all I want.
When I got to the office Alex had a file on her desk. A police case file. I know what those look like because I’m used to looking through the old unsolved ones. But this one was brand new. And the crest on the front looked wrong. Whichever force had produced it I could tell it wasn’t The Met, the City, British Transport Police, or Thames Valley because I could recognise all of those even upside down.
My stomach lurched the way it does when I’ve already spotted the shit heading for the fan but haven’t yet worked out where it’s coming from.
Alex waved in the general direction of the visitors chair then said, “Ah, Cutty, I have some good news for you.”
“No.” I said as I rearranged the many cushions trying to fit my whole arse onto the seat. The speed and force of my answer took even me by surprise. “Sorry, involuntary reaction. What news?”
“A chance to get out of the office and get some fresh air.” She said.
“Fuck no.” I said.
“Involuntary reaction again?” She said.
“Nope that one was genuine. This is field work. I don’t do field work.” I said.
“You don’t even know what it is yet. You might like it.” She said.
“I don’t do field work. What could I possibly be qualified to do in the field. I’m a historian. I read things, I form an opinion, I write it down. That’s a police report. I can read it and opine on it if you like but I am not equipped to add to it.” I said.
“There’s a first time for everything.” She said.
“Don’t you think my family has sacrificed enough in the name of field work. My husband still keels over sometimes for no good reason. I’m still explaining his mysterious disappearance and sudden reappearance to everyone we know. My children need at least one parent who comes home every night with roughly the same personality they had in the morning.”
“You’ll be home earlier than usual.”
“I’m not doing field work.”
“It’s a locked room mystery.” She said.
That brought me up short. I’ve been reading detective fiction since I was 8. And I don’t mean Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys. I mean Sherlock Holmes. A locked room mystery is like Catnip to me. She must know that.
“And?” I said, because they wouldn’t give it to me just for that. There must be a reason why me. There’s a whole building in Whitehall full of people who work with the police.
“And the police can’t be bothered to investigate it. In fact the level of apathy toward the case is so strong that the senior detective wants us to investigate the apathy as well as the murder.” She said.
Ok, that made it even more tempting. Apathy about a murder is weird. Murders outside the capital are pretty rare in Britain. They get investigated no matter how objectionable or unimportant the victim.
“I still don’t understand why me.” I said.
“Well you do have unrivalled local knowledge. You’ll actually be working closer to home.” She said it like she was revealing a hidden ace.
“Oh no you don’t. I am not working the ‘Deen.” I said.
“But it’s where you come from. You still live there.” She said.
“I live in the countryside near it. I only pass through the ‘Deen on my way to work. Besides I’m not fit enough for field work.” I said.
“You know that we monitor all computer activity.” She said.
I imagine I looked pretty guilty for a second or two while I searched my memory for reasons why that might be a bad thing for me. I found nothing.
“So?” I said.
“Even Fitocracy.” She said. “I’ve been following your progress. Well done by the way. I think the improvement in the big lifts is remarkable for a woman of your age and with your knees. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble at all.”
Jesus suffering Fuck. Of course I didn’t say that out loud.