Beginning of a Story

Doctor of History Archibald Andrews let the biscuit melt on his tongue before washing it down with a pleasant mouthful of Darjeeling. He was a short, stubby fellow, always impeccably dressed in his favourite tweed suit, which actually made him look twenty years older than his 38. His appearance was hardly striking with thick glasses, untamed red hair and a bushy moustache, but he had an aura of self confidence and was always sporting a pleasant smile. That, and a peculiar sense of humour, always made him the centre of the teacher’s lounge at Oxford.

He delicately put the fine china teacup down on the small table next to his armchair and let out a delighted sigh. There was nothing like a late night cup of tea before going back to work.

Despite the fact that it was well past eight o’clock the room was half full. The faculty had all been listening to a lecture on “German philosophy and the use of inter state violence in an historic/geo-economic perspective”, held by an exiled, long haired German socialist from Cambridge. It had of course been rubbish and now the teachers where settling down for their usual intellectual, but somewhat sarcastic, chat before going home or, as in Andrews case, back to their pet projects.

“Andrews old chap” said one of his Colleges from the Archaeological department....“what do you think? Will the Huns really start a war?”

Andrews thoughtfully leant back in the armchair before formulating his answer.

“Well this Hitler-character is more then a little bit unpredictable, like a dreadful combination of Caligula, Napoleon Bonaparte and a hysterical monger at Portobello Market. As we used to say in the army; if you want to see a megalomaniac, give a corporal the command of a company. And this Bohemian corporal got a whole nation under his spell.”

The room broke out in laughter. Maybe a little too loud, as if the exaggerated laugh would make up for carefully concealed worries. Andrews, who always knew how to make a good exit, stood up and said:

“While you linger on about minor setbacks like a second world war, I will absorb myself in really important matters; The Sumerian version of cartoons manifested on five shards of clay. Good evening gentlemen.”

New laughs erupted as Andrews left and headed for his office.

Immediately after leaving the room his mind switched focus to the small pieces of clay his friend Professor Herbert Gordon had retrieved from an Egyptian tomb near Isis. Getting them home had proved something of an achievement. A German businessman had tried to buy them for an obscene amount of money and shortly after, an attempt to steal them was made, just before Herbert got on a plane for Malta and managed to get back to safely to old Oxford. Why someone would go through all the trouble to get their hands such insignificant shards of clay was something of a mystery.

Andrews was deep within his own thoughts when he finally reached Herbert’s room, without bothering to knock, he went straight in and started to speak. A habit he was quite famous for.

“Did not Thomas Miaglo believe that Sum...”

Andrews stopped dead. Herbert Gordon was lying flat on his extremely untidy working table. His shirt ripped open and most of his intestines outside his body, smearing and drenching notes, papers and books. The sight was hideous. Stupid as it may seem, Andrews rushed forward to check his friend’s pulse. As he reached for the wrist a piece of paper fell to the floor from the dead professor’s hand. Capital letters formed two very unpleasant names. One ancient Sumerian. One contemporary German.