"The thieves gained entrance through a window on the ground floor and went straight to the manuscript," I said in my best TV voice. "They were in and out within ten minutes."
"I understand the museum was monitored by closed-circuit television," continued Lydia. "Did you capture the thieves on video?"
"Our inquiries are proceeding," I replied. "You understand that some details must be kept secret for operational purposes."
Lydia lowered her microphone and cut the camera.
"Do you have anything to give me, Thursday?" she asked. "The parrot stuff I can get from anyone."
"I've only just got here, Lyds. Try me again in a week."
"Thursday, in a week this will be archive footage. Okay, roll VT."
The cameraman reshouldered his camera and Lydia resumed her report.
"Do you have any leads?"
"There are several avenues that we are pursuing. We are confident that we can return the manuscript to the museum and arrest the individuals concerned."
I wished I could share my own optimism. I had spent a lot of time at Gad's Hill overseeing security arrangements, and I knew it was like the Bank of England. The people who did this were good. Really good. It also made it kind of personal. The interview ended and I ducked under a SpecOps do not cross tape to where Boswell was waiting to meet me.
"This is one hell of a mess, Thursday. Turner, fill her in."
Boswell left us to it and went off to find something to eat.
"If you can see how they pulled this one off," murmured Paige who was a slightly older and female version of Boswell, "I'll eat my boots, buckles and all."
Both Turner and Boswell had been at the LiteraTec department when I turned up there, fresh from the military and a short career at the Swindon Police Department. Few people ever left the LiteraTec division; when you were in London you had pretty much reached the top of your profession. Promotion or death were the usual ways out; the saying was that a LiteraTec job wasn't for Christmas--it was for life.
"Boswell likes you, Thursday."
"In what sort of way?" I asked suspiciously.
"In the sort of way that he wants you in my shoes when I leave--I became engaged to a rather nice fellow from SO-3 at the weekend."
I should have been more enthusiastic, but Turner had been engaged so many times she could have filled every finger and toe-twice.
"SO-3?" I queried, somewhat inquisitively. Being in SpecOps was no guarantee you would know which departments did what--Joe Public were probably better informed. The only SpecOps divisions I knew about for sure below SO-12 were SO-9, who were Antiterrorist, and SO-1, who were Internal Affairs--the SpecOps police; the people who made sure we didn't step out of line.
"SO-3?" I repeated. "What do they do?"
"I thought SO-2 did Weird Stuff?"
"SO-2 do Weirder Stuff. I asked him but he never got around to answering--we were kind of busy. Look at this."
Turner had led me into the manuscript room. The glass case that had held the leather-bound manuscript was empty.
"Anything?" Paige asked one of the scene-of-crime officers.
"Gloves?" I asked.
The SOCO stood up and stretched her back; she hadn't discovered a single print of any sort.
"No; and that's what's so bizarre. It doesn't look like they touched the box at all; not with gloves, not a cloth--nothing. According to me this box hasn't been opened and the manuscript is still inside!"
I looked at the glass case. It was still locked tight and none of the other exhibits had been touched. The keys were kept separately and were at this moment on their way from London.
"Hello, that's odd-" I muttered, leaning closer.
From The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Copyright © February 2002, Viking Press, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
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