‘Vetting. It’s not for the faint-hearted,’ Professor Hush-Hush warned. ‘It’s a lengthy procedure requiring a tiresome degree of data-crunching. Are you quite prepared for that?’ (Vaguely puzzled, he peered at the flame-haired Rosalind who stood before him. The fluorescent glow of the chestnut-coloured mane that once sparkled in the footlights had not yet faded.)
In all my years of study I had not exchanged a single word to any great purpose with our young, brilliant, yet aloof head of the Maths Faculty.
Now I bridled.
‘I see no reason to believe otherwise,’ I replied with pained hauteur.
‘All the same,’ his eyes narrowed with sudden recognition, ‘I should think long and hard about it before applying. You have until Founder’s Day to reach your decision.’
‘Oh, and I shouldn’t tell anyone about this – anyone – because, quite evidently, it’s highly confidential and a closed rather than open process.’ He ventured a frosty smile. ‘The grey men prefer to keep it that way.’
Not unnaturally, I was both flattered and intrigued.
A codebreaker for the grey men! I decided to apply. For the heck of it.
After writing a short letter enclosing my academic results I heard nothing from the grey men for several months until, eventually, the process started with the regulatory ‘Enhanced Positive Vetting’.
This turned out to be a very long and irksome form-filling exercise giving details of family, friends, all their foreign travel and contact with non-British persons or nations over practically their entire lifetimes. The wretched screed was about thirty pages long.
And. Yes. Rosalind was obliged to mention that five-minute-fling with her leading man, Orlando (the son of a peer), not forgetting that memorable overnighter with the Hon. Sec. of the Players Soc.
It was soon apparent that theirs was to be a classic good-cop, bad-cop routine, with Good Cop leading the conversation.
All mathematicians are familiar with Taylor’s Expansion, which reduces the problem to a simple, if tedious, infinite sum.
Then Bad-Cop-Greyish-Pullover spoke for the first time.
‘What about the singularity?’
The Incredibly Obvious Manoeuvre.It must be so obvious yet I’d missed it, I thought. Perhaps he is looking for singularities in complex space, where all numbers include a multiple of the imaginary number ‘i’ used to represent the concept of the square root of -1?
|The Incredibly Obvious Manoeuvre:|
$40,000 in stolen banknotes in plain sight, wrapped up in the
latest edition of the Los Angeles Tribune.
The Motel ‘Cabin Number One’ Scene from Psycho (1960).
My Darling Orlando, ‘Believe then, if you please, that I can do strange things.’ As you predicted, a government code-breaker can guarantee altogether greater loyalty to her spymasters when rewarded lavishly by the gratitude of generous paymasters, whether their governments be China or Cuba. Regardless of the colour of national loyalties, that ‘flattering tongue of yours won me.’ Am not I still your Rosalind? x x x
Catherine Eisner believes passionately in plot-driven suspense fiction, a devotion to literary craft that draws on studies in psychoanalytical criminology and psychoactive pharmacology to explore the dark side of motivation, and ignite plot twists with unexpected outcomes. Within these disciplines Eisner’s fictions seek to explore variant literary forms derived from psychotherapy and criminology to trace the traumas of characters in extremis. Compulsive recurring sub-themes in her narratives examine sibling rivalry, rivalrous cousinhood, pathological imposture, financial chicanery, and the effects of non-familial male pheromones on pubescence,
see Eisner’s Sister Morphine (2008)