Monday, May 22, 2006

Dr. Mayhew's Discovery

I’m just back from DeeDee’s house, where we made lunch for her father. (I’ve always found that it’s easier to get information from people when their stomachs are full.) Over tuna fish sandwiches, DeeDee casually brought up the subject of Dalton Noble. Unfortunately, Professor Morlock couldn’t tell us much about the graduate student, and he didn’t have any juicy theories about his disappearance. “Dalton always seemed like a nice kid,” was all he would say.

It was only after I gracefully shifted the topic of conversation to Professor Morlock’s colleague, Dr. Lyle Mayhew, that DeeDee and I began to get anywhere. I could tell from the start that Professor Morlock didn’t care much for Mayhew. He set down his sandwich the moment I mentioned his fellow chemistry professor, as if the sound of the man’s name made him nauseous. At first, I wondered if it was just a harmless rivalry between geniuses, but apparently the beef goes back almost forty years—to the days when they were both students at Columbia. It began in 1968 when Morlock and Mayhew had worked side by side, smuggling food to the student rebels who had taken over the campus.

One day, DeeDee’s dad told us, he and Mayhew were returning from a delivery to the rebels camped out in the Columbia president’s office. They were sneaking back to their dorm through the tunnels, when Morlock discovered the hidden passage that led off campus. Back then, it seems, the mysterious tunnel wasn’t entirely empty. The walls were lined with a dozen old file boxes. Dates on some of the papers suggested that the files inside were almost 100 years old. Morlock wanted to take the boxes and turn the papers over to his friends in the history department, but Mayhew convinced him to come back later. The next day, when Morlock returned to the tunnel, the files were gone. He confronted his colleague, but Mayhew denied knowing anything about the missing files. Morlock suspected that Mayhew had sold them, and after the fight, the two didn’t speak again until they both joined the Columbia faculty twenty years later.

“Mayhew was never very trustworthy, but he is a good chemist,” Professor Morlock told us. “In fact, I’ve heard he’s made some kind of breakthrough.”

What kind of breakthrough, we wanted to know.

“No one knows,” said Morlock. “But he’s been dropping hints about it for weeks. And Janice Watson from the English department saw men in dark suits visiting his apartment. That’s usually a sign there's a buyer. It must be something big.”

“Why doesn’t anyone in the chemistry department know about his discovery?” asked DeeDee. “Don’t you all have access to the same lab?”

“Yes, but Mayhew’s secretive. He thinks everyone’s out to steal his ideas, so does most of his work from home,” Professor Morlock told us.

“He has a lab in his apartment?” asked DeeDee, shooting me a look over her sandwich.

“That’s what I’ve heard,” said Professor Morlock. “But I don’t think anyone’s ever seen it.”


Blogger 906nan said...

Hi Ananka!
Just wanted to let you, Kiki, Kirsten and the rest of the Irregulars know how much I enjoyed your account of the group's first adventures. I plan to pass the book along to all of the wannabe girl detectives I know. Any chance of a sequel?


11:05 AM  

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