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Drunkenness is not a fit condition for reportage; Dad’s conclusion upon reading Jeanne Claude’s critical retort to that which (after-the-fact) he proofed in the light of harsh sobriety—a state made more unpleasant by Boston’s finest, one Sergeant-at-the-Desk (despite a call from her superior) taking him to task for deserting a crime scene. Grudgingly convinced that one less hoodlum was a blessing and that Dad had done the deed in bone fide self-defense (his clout with a certain Agency an extenuating factor), the Police have agreed to mark their file CASE CLOSED.

Breakfast long-since past and lunch 'imbibed' at a local pub, the fog afflicting wits begins to lift—not so trepidation; wary of the Scotch required to maintain semi-clarity, while demoralized by climbing back on the wagon (with Florence, bless her tolerance, yet to be apprised), the private eye, with bloodshot corneas, blinks.

"Mr. O’Rourke? Mr. O’Rourke?"

Recollecting where he is and wishing he were not: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (bed a better option), Dad acknowledges the 'roadblock' obstructing his plodding progress.

"The Chancellor will see you now."

He nods, is ushered in, and takes a seat designed to put subordinates in their place. Looking up and across a desk of ostentatious girth, Dad confronts Authority in all its academic grandeur.

"Good of you to see me, Sir. I’ll not misuse your time. 'Tis about a former graduate student I’ve come to inquire—one Stuyvesant Fink—who was enrolled some twenty-four years ago at this institution, and who doubled as a researcher at Brigham And..."

"Yes, yes; I’ve been told as much. Of the student, we’re aware—though his matriculation does predate my tenure. What has yet to be established is who hired you and why. Frankly, your credentials are unpersuasive."

Dad’s affiliation with Intercontinental Life (his ruse of record) has evidently leveraged him an audience but not cooperation; for that, some heavy artillery might be required.

"Shrewd of you to notice, Sir; insurance is a ploy. Perhaps another of my cards will earn your confidence; and discretion?"

From his billfold, Dad produces a convincing Federal ID (which he displays inside its plastic sheath without relinquishing), the sight of which revamps the Chancellor’s curt demeanor.

"What has Homeland Security to do with our vintage discipline problem? And, yes, I do appreciate prudence, when warranted."

"Stuyvesant Fink’s post-curricular activities have prompted our concern. Mine is a fact-finding mission to investigate predisposition—a background check, if you will, helpful when assessing possible threats."

Careful to imply but not to assert, to suspect sans accusation, Dad conducts a casual interrogation:

Q: Did you know the lad personally?

A: No.

Q: Have you reviewed his transcripts?

A: I have.

Q: Who at...?

A: His advisor of record was Dr. Herbert Stuart, Dean of Genetics at that time and Head of the Department of Bioengineering. Dr. Stuart retired well nigh twenty years ago. When I looked him up in our Alumni Directory the sidebar read DECEASED.

Q: Are there others who might remember Mr. Fink: teachers, staff, fellow...?

A: Mr. O’Rourke, Stuyvesant Fink was expelled from MIT. The few details we retain about this sad circumstance indicate that he stole some specimens from one of the labs—stem cell specimens, to be precise—which cast our Institution in a negative light. The research we were doing was rather controversial, way back when. Issues of security arose. There were some alleged improprieties. But criminal proceedings were never initiated, nor was there any subsequent litigation. Making off with highly sensitive material was Mr. Fink’s undoing; the case of a brilliant student, by all accounts, gone bad.

Q: Were his transcripts ever requested by...

A: Third parties?

Q: A potential employer, perhaps?

A: Negative. His documents were red-flagged, meaning not to be released except by special authorization. Yours is the second application; the first was made earlier this year—and was denied.

Q: Do you know who made the request and why it was turned down?

Swiveling toward a monitor, the Chancellor enters commands on his touch-tab desktop keyboard, generating data which he imparts.

A: Someone claiming to be next-of-kin. Our note UN-CONFIRMABLE suggests why we refused. There is an email address, if that is of any interest: SRYME@JEANNECLAUDE.ET.NET

 

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