Quirky Acuity
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Wednesday, May 31, 2006
The Talk
Category: me
Time: 01:34 PM

So, I finally had to stop putting off the inevitable and spoke to my dad on Friday. We met up for lunch - I thought this would be good, lunches have a natural endpoint, after all, unlike dinners which could go on all night. I went round to his office at the Academy - Patrick had set up lunch for us at the meeting table and when I arrived my father was just finishing off some paperwork.

"Ah, Violet," he said, "good to see you. I have to finish something here, but I've cleared the whole afternoon for you."
"Oh good," I said, and sat down at the table, staring at the lobster salad.

Now, obviously I'd had time to think quite carefully about what I was going to say. My thinking went like this. The likelihood, it seems to me, is that Miranda's death is never going to be reported to the authorities. Whoever she was working with, I don't think they're about to call the police and expose themselves, or her, to investigation.

Kurt and I have decided between ourselves to rely on a very simple story that sticks as closely to the truth as possible if ever any questions should be asked. Miranda and Kurt broke up. She went off to the countryside. He was upset and followed her. We thought, from something she'd said, that she might go to the Silburn-Griggs mines, but when Kurt went, she had either never been there or had left before we arrived. We don't know where she is. The end.

I launched into a version of this as soon as my father had finished with his paperwork, and while he was pouring out the Mint Alchemies - a traditional Academy summer drink, supplied by Patrick to ease the awkwardness, presumably, since that man thinks of everything.

"So you see," I finished, holding my plate out for some salad, "there really wasn't any danger. Except that poor Kurt's heart has been broken."
My dad sat down and took some bread.
He said: "Hmmmm."
I hate it when he does that.
There was a silence long enough for me to have recited a few of the Varkin sonnets my father taught me when I was a child.

"So," he said, spearing a piece of lobster with his fork, "you needed the ferrogramatograph to navigate the mines?"
"Yes. Kurt mentioned she'd always been interested in them and we thought she might go there."
"You know they're not open to the public, don't you, Violet?"
"Yes."
"It seems an unlikely destination for a librarian hoping to find some privacy after an unfortunate love affair."

I left that one hanging in the air.

"And the urgency in getting the ferrogramatograph was because...?"
"Kurt didn't want to miss her."
"Ah. Yes. But you didn't find her there."
"No."
"And you know she's not there now because...?"
"Well, ummm," I took a mouthful to give me some thinking time. I swallowed and said, "We're not sure. But I think that Kurt's finally realised it's pointless to chase after her."
"Yes," my father said. "Pointless. I see. Some more Mint Alchemy?"
I held out my glass gratefully.

After another few mouthfuls, my father said:
"It's been a rather... difficult time for the library recently."
"Yes," I said.
"I suppose it's put you all under a great deal of pressure."
"Yes."
"It must have been difficult for Miranda as well."
"Yes."

There was a pause. My father seemed to be expecting something more from me. "I suppose," I said at last, "that might be another reason why Miranda ran away. All the pressure. She probably had some kind of breakdown."
He nodded and smiled.
"Yes, that's precisely what I thought. I shall put this in my briefing note to the Senior Fellows Council, emphasising how important it is to find a new Senior Librarian swiftly."

Another pause. At last I was relaxed enough to notice how truly excellent the lobster was.

"That type of breakdown can be very serious," my father said after a few moments.
I nodded.
"It would be surprising if Miranda were to return to the Academy after an incident of that sort," he continued.
I nodded again.
"I shall tell the SFC not to expect her return."
I nodded. I couldn't work out if what I thought was going on was really going on, or if I was just being weirdly paranoid.

We ate a few more mouthfuls.

After a little, my father reached down to his case and pulled out a few sheets of paper.
"Oh yes," he said, "I have something here that might interest you."
"Hmm?"
He handed me the papers. "You'll see that I received some unfortunate news yesterday. It seems that an unexpected explosion has cracked the mine wall, and the Silburn-Griggs mines have been entirely flooded. The preservation society are most upset by this turn of events, but it couldn't have been predicted. It was probably caused by some blasting devices left down there by the miners.
I do hope you and Kurt didn't leave anything down there. It could never be recovered now."

I leafed through the documents - correspondence between my father and the Silburn-Griggs preservation society. They were asking him to support their request for an enquiry into the "unexplained explosion." He was writing to Camryn Scott to explain that this was completely unnecessary, backing up his thoughts with a lengthy essay on the geological weaknesses of the mines written by one of the Junior Fellows.

"This is interesting," I said.
"It was very fortunate you weren't in the mine when it was flooded. I hope I can rely upon you not to visit such dangerous locations again?"
I nodded. "Oh yes. Strictly home-with-vids for me and Kurt now."
"Very good."

And my father turned the conversation to other things. He asked about poker, and about the city Historical Society. He even, miracle of miracles, asked about Caine, to which I was only able to respond in monosyllables: "He's fine." "It's good." "Yup, great."

I asked him about his work, about the paper he wrote last month on logic gates in self-repairing security systems, and his plans for the summer. It was just normal father-daughter chat over a lobster salad and some excellent cocktails.
It was only as I was about to leave, later in the afternoon, that he dropped his final surprise into the conversation. I was nicely toasted by that point, so perhaps didn't respond with quite the I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about finesse I should have done. I was leaving when he said: "Oh, Violet?"
"Mmm-hmm?"
"Perhaps you could tell Scarlett that I've arranged parking for her car in town. No need to stow it in the suburbs."
I blinked and nodded.
My father smiled.
I really can't work it out.

But, speaking of Scarlett, I called her this afternoon.
"Scarlett," I said. "Let's have lunch. Come round to my place and I'll order in a lobster salad."

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I'm Violet, so you don't have to be. I'm a history geek. I neither cook nor sing. I love my city to the point of obsession. I do not suffer fools gladly. I have a soft spot for Alejo, even though I know he's sold out. You don't want to play poker with me. I'm fond of words, the more unusual the better.
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