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A Little Indulgence

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Kevin sighs for the fourth time in twenty-six minutes and Raymond knows this means that Raymond ought to ask about it. The papers spread all over Kevin’s desk, in his study next to the sitting room, mean that he is researching something. Raymond considers for a moment, then concludes that it must be the review the Journal of Classical Philology requested on the new translation of the Odyssey presented earlier that year. At present, that is the only research topic that has seen Kevin quite so out of sorts.

He asks, “Is there a problem, Kevin?”

“I would not be so overcome if there was not a problem, Raymond,” Kevin replies. He pulls off his reading glasses and presses his thumb and index finger into the bridge of his nose.

Raymond shuts the newspaper he has been reading - today’s Guardian - and sets it on the low table in front of him. He shifts so that he’s more comfortably facing Kevin. “That is true,” Raymond agrees. “What is the problem?”

“I cannot properly review this translation without Alexander Pope’s notated original. It would be incomplete,” Kevin says, crossing his hands on the desk in front of him.

Raymond considers a review with references missing. Kevin is correct: it would be improper. “You are correct,” Raymond says. “I assume the problem is more complicated than simply finding a digital version of the book or visiting the library.”

“It is,” Kevin agrees. “Columbia has the only copy of the annotated edition still existing in the world within its rare books collection. My access to that book should be unfettered. And yet, the book has been checked out and overdue for more than a year.”

“Oh, my,” Raymond says, shocked. He raises an eyebrow. “Has the librarian not done her due diligence?”

Kevin inclines his head. “I believe that she has. She has made several efforts to locate the book, but has been unsuccessful.”

“I see,” Raymond says. “We should look into it further in the morning, when the library reopens.”

“I agree, and I appreciate your attention to this travesty.” Kevin deliberately rolls back his desk chair and stands. “Should we get ready for bed? I can be more appreciative there.”

Raymond looks at his newspaper, and then back to Kevin. “I find that agreeable.”


In the morning, after indulging in a second piece of toast, Raymond drives Kevin and himself to the library that houses Columbia’s Classics collection. The librarian greets them politely as they enter and Kevin swipes his faculty badge.

“We should check the shelf first, in case the book has been returned,” Raymond says. “I would not want to disturb the librarian unnecessarily.”

“Agreed,” Kevin says, walking toward the rare books wing. Kevin swipes them through the door and leads Raymond to the shelf where the book should be resting. Kevin quickly scans the library designations on the books before sliding two books apart, both translations of the Odyssey. “It should be here.”

“I see,” Raymond says. He glances over the shelf more slowly. It is possible that the book was simply not put in its correct place, though it would be disappointing. A copy of James Joyce’s “Odyssey” sits between two translations of Homer and Raymond slides it out. “This book has been misshelved.” He flips it open and sees that the most recent return date on the book is May of 2012. Raymond is surprised that it has been out of place for so long.

Kevin glances at it. “You are quite right, Raymond. The librarian should know about this, as well. One of the student staff members must be unstudied in their classical literature.”

Raymond makes sure that his grip on the book is secure -- it’s a cloth-back edition, its pages brittle and flesh-colored -- before he gestures back toward the door. “I believe we should speak to the librarian now.”

“That does seem to be called for,” Kevin agrees. He leads them back out of the rare books wing and to the head librarian’s desk in the northeast corner of the building. “Mrs. Headly,” Kevin greets.

“Professor Cozner,” Mrs. Headly responds. She glances at Raymond. “You are Captain Holt,” she says.

“I am,” Raymond agrees, though her voice had not contained an interrogatory.

Mrs. Headly turns back to Kevin. “How may I assist you, Professor Cozner?”

“I am here to inquire again about Alexander Pope’s annotated ‘Odyssey’ translation,” Kevin says. “Also, Raymond has found a book out of place.”

Raymond hands Mrs. Headly Joyce’s “Odyssey” when she holds out her hand, but otherwise remains silent. This is primarily Kevin’s venture, and he is not always appreciative when Raymond interrupts, whether or not Raymond has been invited.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Headly says. She sets the book down next to her without looking away from Kevin. “I’m afraid that I have no news for you, Professor Cozner. The book has not re-entered circulation, and my student workers are having no luck locating the man who checked it out.”

Kevin sighs very lightly and Raymond immediately puts his hand on Kevin’s back in a reassuring manner. “May I ask the name of the man who has checked out the book?”

Mrs. Headly looks at him over her glasses before she turns to the computer in front of her and enters a few commands. “The system says that it was given to the responsibility of a Mr. Peter Sly.”

Raymond raises an eyebrow. “Are you that name is Peter Sly?” he asks.

“Yes,” Mrs. Headly says. Her face remains impassive.

“Peter Sly is the anglicized name for Hitar Peter, an historical character from the 16th and 17th centuries. He is best known for playing tricks and his clever wit,” Raymond says. “Peter Sly is also the name of the last person to check out the book I found misplaced upstairs.” He points to Joyce’s “Odyssey” on Mrs. Headly’s desk.

“That could be purely coincidence,” Kevin says.

Raymond nods slightly. “It could be. Mrs. Headly, would you kindly make a list of the books that Mr. Peter Sly checked out?”

“Of course,” Mrs. Headly says. She enters a few more commands and a small laser printer on her desk springs to life. Mrs. Headly hands Raymond the list of seven books, all of which are either titled “The Odyssey,” or have an author with “James” or “Carpenter” in their name.

“I believe that we can find your book now, Kevin,” Raymond says. “If I am correct, these books will all be placed where one of their fellows should be.”

“I agree that this is likely,” Kevin says. “How wonderful.”

Raymond frowns. “No need to overreact,” he says.

Kevin straightens his blazer. “Forgive me for being relieved, Raymond.” His voice is not its usual cheerful baritone.

When they find the book, huddled where next to the rest of a fine William James collection, Raymond does not comment on how quickly Kevin picks the book off the shelf. A little indulgence is fine, now and again.