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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 73: Kondor 66
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There were several public libraries in town, but Kondor and his companions agreed to start at the university. The library there held more of the sort of arcane scholarly materials which would be needed, and Professor Merrick was well known and had his university I.D. On top of that, campus security could let them in without having to awaken anyone.
"Where do we begin?" Krannitz asked.
"We start by finding the books from which Professor Merrick got his information about the rituals," Kondor said. "We want to know who else used those books. Then we move to other books which have similar information in them, figuring that this guy probably didn't find what he wanted right away and had to work his way through several books to get here."
"Yes, that makes good sense," Merrick said. "This way." And he led them to the stairs and down to the lower level.
At first, Merrick did all the work. He was the one who knew which books mattered; he knew which names were respected scholars. Kondor and Krannitz stood around with little to do, until Krannitz had an idea. Finding a few sheets of paper, he started laying out a table, borrower names to the left, book titles across the top, and dates in the middle. "This will show us," he said, "how many of these books each person borrowed, and when. Someone interested in finding the ritual information would most likely show more books closer to the subject, and more recently. A scholar looking for general information would probably not show such a pattern, and would probably show older dates on some of the important stuff."
They were at this for a few hours, and then Merrick reviewed the list. Almost everyone on it was either a professor or writer or one of his former students; the few who weren't were easily identified. They were at a dead end.
"Do you have pictures of these people somewhere?" Kondor asked.
"Pictures?" said Merrick.
"Pictures. Remember, I saw someone leave the show early. Maybe it's nothing, but maybe it was our researcher. If I saw his picture I might match it to the guy I saw."
Krannitz shrugged. "It's worth a try. And what else have we got?"
Professor Merrick just stared for a moment, as if he wasn't certain how to respond. But then it seemed to connect in his mind. "Of course," he said. "There are yearbooks with student and faculty pictures, and I imagine I can find something on some of the others." And with that he moved swiftly through the library, up the steps to another section, and began scanning shelves. Kondor and Krannitz scrambled behind him.
"Here they are," he said. "You two work on the yearbooks, and I'll go see what else I can scrape together from journals back in my office."
This was not a quick process. After all, they had a list of a few dozen names drawn from the books, with some notion of who was more likely, but they also had years of yearbooks. Kondor said they should start with the most recent and work backwards not more than maybe eight years, as any longer than that he probably wouldn't recognize them anyway–especially if they had been students. And there wasn't a section of the books for "suspects", only faculty or students. So they had to take their list and look up each name in each book to see if there was a photo.
Gradually the list got shorter as they found some of the faces and were able to eliminate them. After another hour and then some they had a name for the face Kondor had seen, a former student, Ralph Mitchell.
"So do we go get him?" Krannitz asked.
"I don't think so," Kondor answered. "We don't know that this guy is at all involved. We know that he was a student here once, that he read some of these books, some of them recently, and that he was at the exhibit show and left early. That doesn't do more than make him suspect. So we give the police what we've got, and let them take it from there."
He stretched. "Find Merrick, call the police department, and get me a ride home. It's probably near daybreak, and I'm tired."
It was done. They gave the police the name and the picture, along with the entire yearbook. The university offices were not yet open, but the police said they would try to get a last known address from the alumni office in a couple hours and follow it up from there.
Joseph Wade Kondor was returned to his hotel, to his suite, to his bedroom, to the comfortable bed still unmade from the interruption of his sleep hours before, where he fell asleep still in his clothes.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #104: Novel Learning. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: