Chapter 29 – Case Closed (Part I)

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Today the dean looked less like an old British man in a trimmed suit and more like an administrator flush with presence and purpose. To Frog and Elaine, his attitude made him almost-gentlemanly—friendly but not too friendly and filled with a profound joy restrained by reserved social grace. Elaine stood in front of his desk with a black folder in her hand, splayed open with her fingers to display the contents. The dean also stood—he had risen from his chair when Elaine and Frog entered his office and had not retaken his seat.

“Left side contains all of my reports as to the students affected by the activities of the professors listed,” Elaine said. “Including their involvement and the extent that it impacted University resources. I have included carefully delineated citations to evidence as well as dates.” (Leaving out the unlikely-to-be-believed technological effects of the Rössler engine and Moriarti’s involvement, of course.) “Right side contains a series reports that carefully clear you of any involvement, show that every graduate student accepted by your department was accepted according to normal policy. It’s a lot of math and it’ll hold up.”

Elaine thumbed one of the pages on the right side and slid it out slightly.

“I included a letter from those two FBI agents who were here earlier for good measure.”

The dean nodded.

“Finally,” she said, pointing to a small USB Flash drive strapped to the right side of the folder near the spine. “All of these documents are stored here, including a contact database for everyone involved.”

Elaine concluded her presentation by closing the folder and proffering it across the table to the dean. He took it gratefully and placed it in an open drawer—which he promptly slid closed and locked with a jangle of keys.

Frog put a hand on the desk and leaned in slightly. “You have enough information here to clear your name as well as ruin the lives of all of the professors involved,” she said. “What do you intend to do with it?”

The dean took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Instead of answering right away, he pulled up his chair and sank into it. A thoughtful repose passed over his features and he shook his head as if disagreeing with himself. Finally, he steepled his fingers and gave Elaine and Frog a purpose-filled look.

“I have not decided yet, Ms. Kermit,” he said. “It will be good to get out from under the Trustee’s thumb on this matter and you’ve done an excellent job doing that for me. For that, I thank you. As for your payment, it’s very reasonable considering the work you’ve done. I understand you have peculiar instructions for the remittance, Ms. Mercer, and I will pay it as soon as I get home today.”

“Thank you,” Elaine said. “Now that I believe our business is concluded, I have duties elsewhere.”

Frog opened her mouth to say something as Elaine turned on her heel and marched out of the office.

“But…” Frog said, looking between the quickly retreating figure of her friend and the dean behind his desk. “It’s not over until she says it.”

“Says what?” The dean leaned slightly to the side to look down the corridor beyond his office doors.

“The case is still afoot, my dear Frog!” Elaine shouted from the hall. “We have other business to attend before the day is done.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I should go.” Frog sketched a curtsy and then turned to dash after her friend—her green ponytail fluttered as she raced out of the office.

From the throne of his chair, the dean allowed himself a slight smile. Running in the halls could not be accepted as professional behavior from either of his erstwhile detectives; but they were young and had done him a great service. Castigating either now would be an imposition he need not press—and, he thought to himself as he reached for the phone, he had some politics to attend before Chairwoman Naughton could muster any further forces against him.

Mr. Richard Harwood, Dean of Engineering, would clear his name before she returned to her office the next morning.

* * *

“Another package?” Adam Roach asked.

The box, wrapped in brown paper most likely contained a USB Flashdrive that would hook into the DarkNet tablet—Zane held it in his hands and tapped it against his knuckles, but he had not opened it yet. The reason: Brad Wright and his entire DarkNet team stood across the room in a row, he too held such a package in his hand. Elaine and Frog stood idly next to the blank projection screen waiting.

Russell Murphy and David Dalton from Zane’s team were late to the meeting and Elaine would not start without everyone present. Brad had grudging agreed to wait as well, even though every minute they had the package and weren’t using it would mean other teams would have a little bit of a head start.

“I admit, I’m more worried about your brother getting a head start,” Brad said at the time, “than any of the other teams. We’re both way ahead of everyone else right now.”

Larry shifted nervously on the counter he had situated himself on, trying to move himself into Elaine’s field of view—little did he know that with her goggles down she was deep within some data code structures and oblivious to the world. His sister, Susan, glared at him from across the room and Casey Vargas whispered something to him to get him to stop fidgeting.

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