Sleight Of Hand – Episode 07

THE sergeant, in his excitement, was virtually skipping along Turl Street.

“I’ve no idea what is being passed to whom, but I think we should ask for exact details from Doctor Nicholls, rather than getting this sketchy picture.”

“It will also,” Ruth pointed out, “calm the poor man. He will know that we are at least doing something.”

Sergeant Greene was not delighted to discover that Dr Nicholls had engaged a firm of watchmen. He stood under the vaulted ceiling of the library, a fortnight later, and shook his head.

“I think that you are spending the university’s funds unwisely,” he said. “Until there is definite reason to believe that somebody is deliberately damaging the books, the arrangement is unnecessary.”

He was interrupted by the arrival of Mr Fellowes, who apologised for interrupting and turned to Ruth.

“I remembered you said that you enjoyed Bach, Miss Rutherford,” he said, smiling. “We were in the music manuscript section yesterday. I happened to notice that there is an organ concert at the University Church. I don’t suppose you’d care to accompany me? It’s tomorrow evening.”

Ruth said she would. She was indeed fond of Bach. Then Fellowes looked round at the assembled company.

“Please, continue your discussions about Waites and Garrett. I,” he said, grinning at Ruth, “will mind the shop.”

Sergeant Greene bristled. Ruth could see that he was wondering what had brought her to the library the previous day. In fact, she had only come to talk about Greek theatre with Dr Nicholls, and Mr Fellowes had walked her off the premises.

“Waites and Garrett? This is the firm you’ve engaged?” Sergeant Greene asked, tearing his attention from Ruth.

“Yes,” Dr Nicholls said. “The offer came at a most opportune time. I bumped into a gentleman in Brasenose Lane, just near the Bodleian. I mean I literally bumped! The poor man dropped a pile of books. He was on his way to delivering a private lesson in chemistry, I believe. I was horrified to have made him drop the books because the street was wet. We walked the same way, I apologising, and I found that I liked the man very much. We spoke of our troubles here Mr Garrett is a passionate scholar and he suggested his brother’s firm, which specialises in security! His brother provided references, and this is the result. I must say that I feel better already.”

Ruth saw Dr Nicholls look into the distance. It was only then that she noticed a pair of large men in black coats. They were positioned at opposite ends of the library.

“They are certainly unobtrusive,” she said quietly, “for men so . . . bulky.”

“I suppose so,” Greene said, rather sulkily. “Naturally I noticed them as soon as I arrived.”

“I do feel inexpressibly relieved,” Dr Nicholls said. “There’s another man behind those shelves there.” He pointed. “And one by the stairs. It delights me that you missed him as you came in! The university librarian, who is my superior, quite understood the need for this. Funds were forthcoming quickly.”


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