The Secret Policeman’s Ball
by Vivienne Jay
“What’re you looking so pleased about?” she asked.“Your lucky day, Harriet. Fieldwork’s been posted for the summer vac. You’re going back toPrague Castle after all!”“What?” Harry sat down heavily, only just hitting the seat rather than the floor. Her mouthretained the shape of the word.“Would you like some coffee, my dear? You look a bit surprised.”Always the none-too-subtle master of understatement, the Doc. Harry disliked him intenselyand always avoided being alone in a room with him wherever possible. There was somethingobsequious, almost sleazy, about his manner that she had always distrusted, especially during her yearsas an undergraduate when he’d been her Director of Studies, and she never left anything to chance withhim. “No, I wouldn’t. I’m fine, thanks.” She put out a hand to stop him coming round from the other side of his desk to where she sat and set her face in a determined stare. “So, what’s the story, then?”“Oh, no story, Harriet. I just managed to pull a few strings for you after all. Got a remit for acrew of six students for you to take over and a whole seasons-worth of excavations they want you tosupervise. Good experience for you, my dear. Look extra good on your CV.”“I could have pulled my own strings, you know. It’s not as if their unit’s full of archaeologistswho are complete strangers to me, is it?”“Harriet, how many years have I been telling you, sarcasm does not become you! A simplethank you will suffice.”“When do I go?”“Soon as exam papers are marked, if you like. You’ll want to be doing some background preparations before the gang turns up I should think.”“Yes,” she answered distractedly. She stood up to leave. “Thanks, Doc,” she said grudgingly,the words forcing themselves out in little more than a mumble.“Oh, and Harriet,” the Doc called after her as she was disappearing out of the door. “Youmight be needing these?” She walked back to his desk and took the slides for her lecture from him,grimly. “And don’t forget the bit about what women were for in the
camps.” Her back disappeared out of the door faster than usual.*“And what purpose
women serve to a garrison full of Roman federated soldiers far from anythingthey knew as home, cruelly subjugated by conquest, and basically gagging for it?”Harry had waited for Mutley in her usual place at the usual time, the leather chesterfield in theInstitute lobby at six o’clock, going over the events of the afternoon in her head. He’d turned uptousle-haired and running late as usual, as he had nearly every night during term for the past nine years.They’d walked to one of their usual supper haunts within a mile of Gordon Square. Harry had beenrecounting the afternoon’s revelations as they walked. By the time they’d eaten their pasta, drunk their Frascati and been served their after-supper coffee she’d just got to the bit about the Doc’s mostannoying habits.“Don’t wind me up again Mutley! You know he does this every year. He has his favouritewindups in every one of my courses, but the Franks seem to have more than their fair share of them.