He knew the place well, as did she. They had spent many an evening here, in happier times, researching their respective projects. He, hidden among the history of science shelves, reading about old astronomical instruments; she, lurking among the astrology books.
In hindsight, it should have been obvious that theirs was not a match made in heaven, with their entirely contradictory views of the universe: at the time, it had seemed amusing, the source of many a party anecdote.
But their romance had inevitably crashed like a spent satellite, burning up in the cold atmosphere of non-communication, and now here he was with a slip of paper in his hand, leading him like an old-fashioned compass to the buried treasure.
The note he’d stolen from her desk specified a section, aisle and shelf number: not identified as such, of course, but easily deciphered once he’d deployed his considerable analytical skills. And then a series of letters that had to represent the title of the book he was looking for – “NHUYCD”.
It only took five minutes to locate “Northern Hemisphere Uranus Yearbook: Constellations Discovered”, by JR Partly.
He looked to either end of the aisle to see if anyone was watching, but he was alone. He removed the book from its place, and leafed through it: a single sheet of paper slipped out on to the floor, and he snatched it up.
When he’d read it, he flew into a rage the like of which the ancient library had never seen before: security guards were summoned to take him away, and he was dragged, screaming like a banshee, to the police van that awaited him outside.
On the floor, the paper lay, silently mocking him: “Not Here: Up Yours, Clever Dick”.