The office was an immense disappointment for him. On television shows, posh college Dons always had real wooden floors, real fires, surrounded themselves with great ancient books and lots of exotic things collected from darkest Africa and deep in the Amazon jungle, but there was none of that here. The office was a small square of linoleum with a school desk, a couple of grey metal filing cabinets and a print of Lake Windermere hanging crooked on the wall.
“Bum,” whispered the Postman to himself. He glanced back down the corridor. It was quiet as a morgue, so he slipped into the office and pressed the door closed behind him.
On the desk, opened, was a large folder of writing and drawings; he took a quick look at it. Mostly it was meaningless to him, foreign languages and strange beasts. He lifted one page and turned to another, more of the same, then another and another.
He was about to turn away when he spotted something in the corner of the page. Just crossing the margin was a clear sketch of a Tiger. It was leaping over something, but he found it difficult to define what it was. It could be just a stone but it looked more animated than that. There was a sentence scribbled beneath in a language he didn’t know. That’s one of the languages I don’t know, he thought to himself, and then added, one of all the languages apart from English that I don’t know. He spelt out the letters with his finger, Curabitur adipiscing ultio de signifero.
He turned away from the stack of files on the desk and was about to give up when he spotted a sheet of paper sitting on its own on the seat of the office chair. He picked it up. It was immaculately hand written. ‘Dear James, I hope you find everything in order in your office. I’ve left Professor Hancock’s most recent notes out for you, the rest are in his (now your) rooms, first door, second floor of the Chester wing, but of course you know that. If you have any questions my door is always open. D.’
He carefully put the letter down where he had found it and made his way to the door. “Fingerprints!” he shouted. “Oh dear.”
He rushed back to the letter. He quickly brushed it with his hand. “Oh that’s only gonna to make it worse.” He blew on it, but realised that was no good either. “I’ll have to burn it.”
He brought the letter over to the wastepaper basket and using his Zippo lighter set the corner of it on fire. When the fire had spread sufficiently through the page he dropped it into the wastepaper basket and turned his attention to the large bungle of files on the desk which he had also handled.
“Bugger,” he said to himself. “I’ll have to steal them and burn them somewhere else, in the woods.” He mind raced through various resulting permutations of his fingerprints being found in this obscure Professor’s office. A thought seeded in the back of his mind, it stayed there for five milliseconds not yet strong enough to override his thoughts of arson upon the files, but soon it sprouted and blossomed, ‘Wait a minute,’ it said, ‘why would a little-known almost-Oxford professor even bother checking his mail for fingerprints.’
“Ah,” said the Postman to himself, “I’m being silly again, aren’t I.”
He sighed. At least only the letter got destroyed and not this mammoth pile of important historic notes. He turned around to see the flames from the wastepaper basket lick their way up the partition wall and spread like ….. emmm …. fire!
“FIRE!” he screamed as the college alarms went off.