Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The room is a stock F-Class residential dwelling. With three people and a forensics robot within, it’s one small child short of standing room only.
A young man in a lurid red suit, cut in the fashionable retro-zoot style, turns to his bearded boss with a look of mystification: “What’s a ‘buk’?”
Detective Dru looks up: “It’s an intermediary form of collated hardcopy, printed on sheets of pressed wood pulp.”
“It’s made of wood? No wonder they called it pay-per!”
“You’re not wrong. Now, back to the matter at hand: why does Miss Priscilla Townsend, a twenty-year-old student, living on the poverty line, have a shelf full of them?”
The third member of the team, a woman possessing eyes seemingly too large for her narrow face, waves a hand toward the shelf: “Initial assessment has their value at mid or high six figures, depending on content.”
Dru nods: “Tomas, get someone from Antiquities to catalogue and bag everything on that shelf, then get me the last five years of our victim’s life. Loanna, find me something on the family. We’ll meet at the office in two hours.” With that, he turns and carefully makes his way out of the cramped domicile.
Their office was a converted B-Class residence, salvaged from the last flood before the Thames Levee went up. On the flat roof, where Dru was, you could see the broken line of low islands that marked where the Thames Barrier had been.
“She was the great-granddaughter of Elliot Parson, boss.”
Dru knew that name, but the details eluded him. He sighed: “Go on, then. Remind me.”
Tomas grinned: “Headmem, boss. You really should get some before your mental archives of London criminality and how to catch them are lost to us.”
“I meant remind me about Mister Parsons.”
Loanna joined them: “He knows that, but couldn’t resist it.”
Dru pointed at Tomas: “Tell.”
“Elliot Parson, last curator of the British Library, disappeared fifty-three years ago, just after the library system was abandoned. During the transfer of assets to the British Museum, it was found that he had stolen a huge selection of collectables from the deposit archives in Bolton over the preceding decade. Most of those items are still missing, and all of the items on the young lady’s shelf are part of that haul. She died of malaria because she wouldn’t sell stolen goods to pay for treatment.”
Loanna nodded: “We’ve actioned a death mandate for her data presence, and her private blog details exactly that. It also seems that Elliot may not be as dead as everyone thinks. He, or someone purporting to be him, sent those books to her three years ago when she started university.”
Dru stared out across the Thames Delta: “Send the actionable data to Interpol, arrange for her ecofuneral, and hand the books over to the British Museum.”
As Tomas and Loanna reached the door to the stairs, Dru’s raised voice reached them: “Don’t forget to get an itemised physical receipt as well as an electronic one. There are far too many academics in that place for there not to be an indebted hacker or two.”