In Which a Director is Met

The tablet was a huge, ugly thing.

The giant eight-pointed star of carved stone was unwieldy, heavy, and almost impossible to find the right spot for exhibition. It had been dug from the ruins of an impossibly ancient Buddhist temple in the middle of China, but was even more interesting in that the inscriptions were not in Mandarin, or any other recognizable language.

Adrian Carney, Director of the Department of Asia in the British Museum, was having a hell of a time figuring out where the damnable thing should go.

Obviously, there should be some connection with the Buddhist temple section because that’s where the blasted thing was found, but how to make a forty-foot, who-knows-how-heavy stone star fit in that tiny space was giving him a headache. Maybe he should just let Alex deal with it. Alexandra Edric had been his trusty assistant for three years now, and the girl seemed capable of handling anything. She’d already given several speeches in his stead when he just didn’t feel like presenting that day, rearranging a small museum exhibition should be nothing. He was sure she’d relish the opportunity to make herself even more known to the Museum Curator.

Adrian knew he couldn’t survive in his career without the girl, but he always carried a nagging suspicion that she only worked so hard to ensure her consideration as his replacement.

Adrian closed his black eyes, ran his hand through his short, well-style blonde hair with a frustrated sigh and turned to leave the exhibition hall. No point in staring blankly at a recreated temple, hoping that inspiration would wind its way to him. Passing the task to Alex may be the best option, after all.

Adrian walked back through the dark paneled halls of the distinguished historical institution, barely giving any of the glass-covered exhibitions or stuffed wildlife a second glance. Just shy of 30, he’d been working at the museum ever since he graduated Cambridge with his degree in Asian history.

Twenty-three years old, filled with bright-eyed enthusiasm, he’d applied to the Museum – his dream job – and had actually been granted an interview. He’d known then that he was truly too young to be considered as anything more than an errand boy for some higher-up, but he attacked the questions with all the enthusiasm he could muster and stressed a willingness to learn.

To this day, Adrian was convinced that the only reason he’d been hired into Alex’s current position was because the HR lady interviewing him had found him attractive and not because he was qualified, but she’d been since let go for improper behavior towards the Director of the Department of Africa’s young assistant…who also happened to be his son. In all the fluster about that issue, Adrian quietly slipped under everyone’s radars and right back to work.

And how he hated work. Sure, he loved the history and meaning held in the items contained in the Museum, but working there so long had drained him physically and mentally. Now, instead of focusing on the beautiful artwork of the period and stopping to ponder the great Buddhist philosophies, he was worried about when he’d next be able to take a “sick” day and just leave it all behind.

But his dreams didn’t end with just abandoning the place. Oh, no. If there was one thing he’d really like to do with that old stuffy building and its old stuffy Directors and Curators and whoever else, it would be to burn the whole damn place to the ground. Maybe take the whole accursed city with it!

He reached the end of the paneled sections in a plain white hallway that ended in a plain white door. He slouched forward, stopping only to punch his code on the handle number pad and swipe his card through the security lock. Through the door was another plain hallway, this one painted an eerie green that was meant to have a calming effect on those nearby. It did nothing more than make Adrian feel claustrophobic and a little seasick.

The path was wide enough to allow for two people to walk past each other comfortably while still flanked on both sides by giant file cabinets. There was nothing of real importance in those drawers, mostly just Lost and Found junk and other odds and ends. He walked a little more briskly than his usual through the corridor, keeping his face as blank and uninterested as possible to ward off any possible questions or conversation attempts from the hall’s other inhabitants.

At the end of the hall was another door, which thankfully opened into a much larger room with high ceilings and large windows to counter the depressing air the dark wood paneling lent it. Once an auditorium where great lectures and presentations were given, nowadays all the theater seats had been removed and replaced with about fifteen large desks, and at each one sat an eager intern poring over their administrative work. The large stage had been walled off and repurposed into an office for the acting Director of the Department, which is why the old-fashioned glass door read “Adrian A. Carney”. The extra A was for “Ambrose”, named for a grandfather he grew to detest, but no one needed to know that.

At the foot of the stage, where an orchestra pit might have existed in a more entertaining theater, a slight red-headed girl of twenty-one sat behind a giant desk in the shape of a squared-off U. She looked up at Adrian as he passed, and wordlessly handed him a stack of papers and message memos that he would need to deal with. He thanked Alex with a wordless nod and continued up the stage stairs to the blessed sanctuary of his office.

The End

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