The letter was slipped under my door, delivered by an unseen hand at an unholy hour. My secretary woke me at the crack of four in the afternoon with the sharp retort of knuckles on wood. I bolted upright from my desk, jostling a half empty PBR can onto the floor and filling the room with the stale smell of cheap beer.
“Have you been to class this week?” my secretary asked, shaking his head disapprovingly. He pulled the shade up and dropped the letter onto my desk before taking his leave.
I shielded my eyes, and popped a CVS brand painkiller into my dry mouth. I had bought these with the last of my Crimson Cash from the strike. Funds were tight, but at least I wasn’t $2,000,000,000 in the hole, like our endowment.
It felt like a deaf man had taken up residence behind my eyes and was trying to learn how to play the drums, but at least I’d be starting the day with good news. Finally, the Bee Club had realized that I would make a fine addition to their circle of sisters. Well, not all good news. I would have to kiss my dreams of being a Rhodes Scholar lacrosse captain goodbye, but what were the odds of that anyway?
I slipped my knife out of my jacket and slit the letter open. Always carry a knife. You never know when the dining hall is going to run out. The handle of this particular number was Vrancean wood, a gift from Faust after I helped her out of that messy Romanian Forest deal.
I flipped the paper over, looking for more, but that was it. Roger Bacon? Who the hell was Roger Bacon?
Maybe my secretary was right. I really should attend a lecture. But I smelled a case, and I’ve never know ol’ Benjamin G. “Diddy” Cort to turn down a case. I slipped my pal Magnum and his buddy Marlboro into my pocket and headed out the door. Where I was going, I’d need backup.
John was built like a bull, but he had the memory of an elephant. After I saw him manhandle a particularly persistent tourist last year, I liked to give him a wide berth. His face clouded over when he saw me coming towards him through the line. I think he likes to give me a wide berth, too.
Annenberg rang with the din of hungry masses. “Hey Sarah, how’s your mom’s leg?” John rattled off as he snatched an ID card from a reaching hand.
The dame—Sarah, I presumed—gaped. “What’s wrong with my mom’s leg?”
“Oh Sarah, you really should call home more,” John tutted. He swiped her card. I sidled up next to him. He turned to me. “What did I tell you last time I saw you?”
“Come on Johnny, you know that wasn’t my fault,” I replied. “How was I supposed to know that the Red Spice Killer was calling from inside the house?”
“I told you never to talk to me again,” he said, answering his own question. “Hey Carl, tough luck at that party Saturday. Let’s go for someone a little more in your league next time?” Carl went beet red as his friends tittered around him.
Freshmen. I scowled, pulling my lapels up over my ears as my head pounded.
“I know, Johnny, but you owe me, remember? After I roughed up those goons they sent to break up the strike?” I smiled my best smile. My ex tells me my best smile makes me look like a rabid squirrel. My mother says it makes me look like her little princess. It’s hard to know who to trust these days. “Look, all I want to know is who Roger Bacon is, and where I can find him.” I slipped a Marlboro from my jacket and handed it to him. “Come on Johnny, kid doesn’t even have a Facebook. You’re the only one who’d know.”
John relented, the fight going out of him like a Divest protester caught in a light shower. If you’re looking for somebody on this campus, John is your man. He knows everyone who passes through this hall, and most importantly, he loves to show off. He lit the cigarette and took a long drag. “Roger Bacon? Yeah I know him,” he said. “Junior year, Cabot House, Folk and Myth concentrator. Funny thing is, you’re not the first guy to come asking about him.” Oh? I leaned in close. “Last seen leaving Lamont, last Thursday, five in the morning.”
I thanked John and left him to his business. I don’t normally deal with Lamonsters, but maybe this one time I’d make an exception.
I hit the streets to do a little bit of leg work. I met my boy Steven Catalano behind the Mather HUPD station where he told me our friend Bacon wasn’t the first fellow to go ghost outside of Lamont this past week. He gave me four more names: Norton, Agrippa, Valentinus, and Becher. I called in a favor at the Registrar and bought myself five minutes to peek into their files while the secretary “went out for coffee.” This case was eating through my favors like a crooked cop through a box of donuts. But something had been hounding me ever since I got this letter: a discomfort lodged right at the tip of my spine. I had a feeling that I was onto something big, and I had only been wrong six and a half times before.
A quick peek confirmed what I had already suspected: The entire Folk and Myth Department had disappeared. All five of them. I checked the course catalog to see which course the professor was offering this semester. “From Lead to Gold: The Alchemists Through History.”
Before I could beat feet with what I’d learned, I felt a heavy hand fall onto my shoulder and squeeze me like a wet rag. “You’re in over your head this time, Cort,” a deep voice intoned, reverberating through my bones like the the T under Mass Ave. I gulped. Looks like he was right.
Will our hero make it out of the Registrar’s office alive? Which of Cort’s nefarious villains is behind this recent bout of kidnapping? What do they possibly intend to do with the entire Folk and Myth Department? And who wrote that letter!? Write in your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org and one lucky winner will be picked at the end of this scintillating story arc!