Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Friday, November 11, 2016

More of A65 and the hell with politics.

Followup to yesterday's post.


I very nearly jumped back up on the ladder. But I caught my breath and said, "Oh -- Vincent, we should revisit that Shedel and find out what the seller's trying to -- "

He cut me off with, "Have you been down here all this time?"

"Just -- just a bit," I said. "Our meeting's not till half-three."

His expression grew exasperated. "It's now four."

"Don't be absurd," I said. "I set my phone's alarm to remind me." Then I looked at it and it was flashing -- YOU'RE LATE. I'd inadvertently flicked it to mute. "Oh, sorry, sir. I was just locating information on that Romanian Liber Chronicarum and -- "

Vincent cast me his perfect rendition of pure confusion. "Elizabeth's doing provenance on that. What about your own work?"

"The Erasmus Apophthegmata? It's all set for Jeremy to photograph and -- "

"Then you're free."

Free? Was he mad? "Sir, we've a hundred more -- "

He raised his hand to silence me. "Come on upstairs. And leave the catalogue, there's a good lad. Elizabeth can do her own provenance."

I climbed back up and set it into its correct box ... and couldn't help but put more in order, they were in such disarray.

"Vincent, if Jeremy is going to do the shelving down here, he should learn the alphabet and numeric sequence.

"Adam! Come!" And his tone of voice was more than exasperated, it was irritated and ready to unleash a slew of carefully refined words meant to slice you down to your knees with gentle contempt. I quickly switched two more catalogs around then jumped down and let him lead me back to the lift, like a well-trained dog.

This part of the path to the lift was really quite narrow, with ceiling pipes so low, one had to walk almost like a duck to avoid them.

Vincent did not look at me as he asked, "Is your passport in order?"

"I suppose," I said.

"When did you last use it?"

I had to think, for a moment. "Three years ago, when you made me visit New York's Public Library to review a collection they'd received as a gift. I had to get an emergency renewal because I'd let mine lapse and -- "

"Then you've been to the states. Care to go, again?"

"I'd rather not, I said. "New York is madness. I was almost struck by two cabs, a lorry and four bike messengers ... just as I was crossing Fifth Avenue."

"You'd be going to Los Angeles, this time."

I knew Los Angeles was big and wide and open, but I still had to ask, "Is it saner than Manhattan?"

"Doubtful. But we've acquired a book and -- "

I froze. I had heard the rumors about this around our university, but I dared not believe them. Before I could even think to silence myself, I blurted out, "Sir, is -- is it the Alice Sixty-five?"

Vincent spun on me, so angry he actually had color in his face. "Who told you about that!?"

Dear God, it was true. I had to take a step back. Regain my breath. "I -- I just heard ... around ... " From Jeremy whispering the possibility to Bill, a fortnight back. Just after he'd taken a photo of me working on a Blake's Albion that had been offered to a dealer, which turned out to be a later printing but still of some value. He'd taken one of Bill, as well. I seriously believe the lad is what's referred to as sexually fluid, these days. I wondered if Elizabeth knew ... or even cared.

Vincent calmed himself and muttered, "I wanted it kept quiet till the book was here. There's a bloody Australian after it, too, and he's been more than adamant. Even contacted one of the regents and offered to pay us not to accept it. Well, the paperwork's been signed, so it's ours, now. Done and dusted."

"Oh. Oh ... are we certain about this? I'm always leery when some person discovers a book worth a million pounds in their attic -- "

"Casey Blanchard is not some person," he shot back. My confusion about her must have shown on my face, because he added, "Haven't you seen Ilithium Four?"

I bolted upright and banged my head on a pipe. Actually saw stars, it was sharp. And yes, I knew of the film but had studiously avoided it. The four-volume book was a lovely reworking of Virgil's The Aeneid into a world of the future, keeping surprisingly close to the dactylic hexameter style of writing, so I bore no interest in witnessing the desecration of a classic work of Science-Fiction.

Vincent smiled in his very arch manner and said, "Purist, are we? Of course. I'll lend you my copy to watch on the plane." He turned to continue walking. "I have it in both DVD and BluRay. Which will your laptop accept?"

"DVD, sir," I muttered, following him. My head still smarted, but I'd been done far worse to in a footy game, so ...

"Very well. Miss Blanchard is one of the leads, and the book was bequeathed to her by her grandfather, not found in an attic. I've seen the photos of it, inside and out, so I am certain it's a true 1865 edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Is that acceptable?"

No, it wasn't. But it does no good to argue with Vincent when he is as prickly as this.

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