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international librarian of mystery

Monday, October 04, 2004

Artemis returns

I was down in the Dungeon. I'd remembered to load some fresh batteries into my discman, and was celebrating with some very loud Grace Jones through my headphones. I was doing my best growly-voiced impersonation of the Jamaican diva, grooving away to 'Pull up to the Bumper'...

"Pull up to my bumper baby, in your long black limousine, pull up to my bumper baby, and drive it in between."

...when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

"Aaahhh!" I screamed, wildly spinning around to get a look at my assailant, sending my headphones and discman clattering to the floor as a result.

It was Bella, one of the younger and newer library assistants.

"Ahhh!" she screamed back.
"Ah! Sorry. You totally took me by surprise. Just about had a heart attack."
"God, sorry," said Bella. sheepishly. "Me too. You weren't answering the phone so they sent me down to check you were ok."
"Ah, right, probably listening to my discman too loudly."
"S'ok. There's a visitor for you at the information desk. A school kid who says you were helping him out with his school project? Says his name is [Artemis]."

Aha! Artemis was back. And did I have a surprise for him.

I followed Bella back up to the info desk, where, yes indeed, Artemis was waiting for me, tapping his foot impatiently.

"Hello Natalie."
"Hello Artemis. Shouldn't you be in school or something?"
"It's 3.30. Traditionally, school finishes at 3 o'clock."

I don't know what it is, but confident young boys are infinitely more unsettling than confident young men. I blanked out.

"Any progress on the tunnel diagrams?" Artemis prompted me.
"Oh. Oh yes! Come with me."

I got him to sign in for access to the non-public areas of the library, and then led him down to the dungeon where my find of the week was waiting to be unveiled.

"Phew. Bit smelly down here," Artemis complained as we entered the room.
"Yeah, some of the maps are a bit old and musty. They give off an odd odour."
"No, I mean B.O.," Artemis said, scrunching up his nose. "Do you use deodorant?"

It probably was a bit whiffy though. As mentioned in a previous post, ventilation in the Dungeon is non-existent, and I do tend to get a bit energetic while going about my map-sorting duties. A quick dance does wonders for getting the blood flowing and avoiding occupational overuse syndrome, but no favours at all for the air-freshness front. Time to invest in some industrial strength potpourri, perhaps.

Anyway, Artemis had seemingly put the atmosphere behind him, and was poring over the tables where I had been working on cataloguing the latest bunch of maps.

"A rainfall distribution map," he observed.
"Um, apparently so."
"Well," huffed Artemis, "this is all very interesting, but you said you'd made some progress?"
"Ah yes. Now, actually, I have to ask, I've talked with some people..." [you bunch, actually] "...and I have to be clear that you're not planning any sort of illegal enterprise or something that might be dangerous. I don't want to be responsible for you going down a stormwater pipe and getting swept out to sea and killed or anything."

Artemis actually pulled out a surprisingly effective 'what, me?' look - all wide-eyed and high eye-brows.

"It's just a project I'm working on. There's nothing dangerous about it. I certainly won't be getting swept out to sea in a stormwater drain."

Now, in retrospect, he didn't really answer my question the way I wanted him too, but, at the time I was actually hankering to show him what I had dug out of the library's very own collection towards the end of last week, so I took his answer as good enough, pulled open my increasingly well organised 'Wellington City and Region' maps drawer, slid the top map out and placed it on the table in front of him.

Artemis smiled for the first time since I'd laid eyes on him. In fact, smiled is too light a word. He was beaming. Under his happy gaze was a detailed map of every stormwater drain, utility pipe, effluent and sewage pipe and access points for all sundry for Wellington City. The Council had sent the map our way during the planning for the big new stormwater system, presumably for consultation purposes or as yet another de facto archive deposit, but, whatever the reason, we had it, and Artemis was looking at it.

"This is great!" he exclaimed. "Perfect. Can I take this out?"
"Aha. No. If that's what you're after, we'll need to organise a photocopy. And I will need to check with the boss about it as well, to make sure we're actually allowed to do wholesale copies of maps like this."
"Can I make a sketch of it now? Since I'm here and all?"
"Well, I don't see why not."

Artemis pulled up a stool, unfurled a piece of A3 from a map tube he had stowed in his backpack, and started copying the map. I left him to it and went back to my cataloguing chores. After about half an hour, I leant over his shoulder, and was amazed to see he'd done a near-perfect scaled down copy of the original map, with his own annotations written in a tidy serif script around some points of interest.

"That's amazing!" I said.
"Yes," Artemis agreed. "Have you got a street plan I could see as well? I'd like to overlay some of the major routes on top of the underground features."
"Er, yes, but not right now. I'm off home. Do you want to pop in tomorrow after school? I'm on shift down here then as well, and I can let you know whether or not we can get you a proper copy of this then."
"I don't think I'll need it now," said Artemis, truthfully enough. "But I will come in tomorrow. Thanks."

I packed up my stuff, Artemis rolled up his map and stowed in back in his bag, and I walked him upstairs and signed him out.

I'm itching to find out what his scheme is. I'm definitely going to put the hard word on him next time to find out what he's up to. He owes me now.

[ continued here... ]

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