This is the seventh installment in a series. To read all the episodes, click here: The Ganskopf Incident or on The Ganskopf Incident category in the sidebar to the left. The earliest posts are at the bottom, scroll down to read them chronologically from the bottom up.
Under the pretext of flexing limbs cramped from sitting and drawing the loose bundles of owl-shaped straw, I had stood up, stretching, and casually meandered over to the table where the sleek Dr. Danneru had left his notes and his Ganskopf artifact momentarily unattended. I was just being nosy. Then I saw the piece he was studying.
On a padded black tray at the scholar’s workplace, next to a page or two of neatly written yet oddly illegible cursive notes, lay an artifact which bore little resemblance to any of the objects I had drawn, except that it too was an owl, or, at least, partly an owl. It looked extremely valuable: the craftsmanship was masterful, and the style, at least to my eye, absolutely unique. It could have been Ghanan, Ainu, Mohenjodaroan, or Q’arafhu, except that it didn’t look exactly like any of them. It was only about four inches from top to bottom, but it was elaborately carved from a solid piece of honey-hued, translucent amber. Or, possibly unfossilized tree resin: as I bent closer to see the details it seemed to emit a gentle coniferous smell, pleasant and distinctive in my nostrils. The ambient fluourescent light passing through the amber to the dark fabric below made detail difficult to see, and I leaned closer still, sliding my magnifier glasses up my nose, to be sure I knew what I was looking at. This near, the resinous scent of the piece was clearer, too, and I drew in a deeper breath in the hope of identifying it.
There was movement behind me, and warmth; hurriedly I straightened and turned, to find Dr. Danneru standing just off my shoulder with a fresh mug of hot tea in his hands. Chin tucked, he was looking down at me with one eyebrow raised in mildly disapproving inquiry, no doubt waiting for me to explain why I was sniffing his artifact. My magnifiers, still high on my nose, enlarged his features alarmingly, making him appear closer than he was. I was annoyed; I had only been looking, but his odd pyrite eyes and that magnified hoisted eyebrow made me feel guilty, furtive, and I snatched the glasses off of my face. “Just curious,” I muttered, and stepped away, farther from the object, and from him.
He didn’t reply; instead, the eyebrow hitched further up, his chin sank further down. At this moment Miss Laguna returned, putting her glasses on, and securing a stray lock of hair with a hair pin. As she did this, I noticed she still wore her purple technical gloves. “Oh,” she said, when she caught sight of me at the other table. “There you are over there. Are you finished with the straw owls?” I nodded, and answered they were ready to go back into secure storage. On an impulse I added, “Miss Laguna?” I indicated the remarkable amber piece. “I’d like to sketch this. Would it be possible to…” I trailed off, seeing her face.
“I’m afraid without Dr. Harrower’s authority that would be highly irregular,” the librarian’s brow crinkled. Was is my imagination, or had I heard what sounded like a genteel snort come from the man behind me when Miss Laguna had mentioned Dr. Harrower’s authority? “Unless,” she hesitated, looking at Dr. Danneru.
Applied to, the scholar finally spoke. “I’m quite finished with the piece for tonight,” he said. “And there is a journal I wish to consult – Miss Laguna,” he asked the librarian, “have Periodicals received the current OHQ? Yes? Then, in the matter of access to this piece, I believe my voice is quite as authoritative as Harmon Harrower’s…”
His voice, I thought suddenly: an eroded Oxbridge veneer over something smooth but more exotic. I’d heard it once before: on the phone… allegedly as my employer. But not Texan. I opened my mouth to say something but he was faster. “I feel certain,” he inquired smoothly, “that you were about to thank Miss Laguna for leaving this item unshelved for a little longer?”
Taking the hint I nodded, and went to get paper and something to draw with, picking up the first thing my hand touched, an aquarelle pencil in burnt umber. “Don’t rush,” Dr. Danneru advised placidly. “Articles in the OHQ are notoriously turgid.” As he turned, a little tea sloshed from his cup onto the floor, but he moved away without noticing. Miss Laguna had gone to retrieve the desired journal, and I was alone with the fragrant artifact.