Dr. Joshua Wilson hung up the phone, baffled. "Well, that was odd," he said, half to himself and half to his graduate assistant Adam Pierson.
"What?" asked Adam.
"That was the winner of the crossword contest. She hung up on me."
"That's not even the oddest part. She sounded young, very young, and got incredibly quiet when I asked for the names of her collaborators. It was almost like she didn't think she was allowed to have any."
"Very young? Like five?"
Josh chuckled, "Okay, not that young. But she did sound like a teenager."
"She probably is one. The winner's daughter, I'd guess. I don't know why she'd lie, but who knows why teenagers do anything," Adam said. Josh grinned at him, and Adam barely stopped himself from rolling his eyes. He supposed that, from Josh's point of view, Adam's own teen years were not all that long ago.
"Normally I might agree with you," Josh said, shaking his head, "but she recognized my name from the journal. Even commented on the hypotaxis article. Hmm..." he trailed off.
"What?" encouraged Adam, used to the professor leaving thoughts half-spoken.
"She said the article had been helpful to her. Not interesting, but 'helpful.' If she's working in this field, I should know her." It wasn't that
small of a field, but as the editor of the Journal
, Josh knew pretty much everybody.
"Maybe she's a grad student? Dissertation work?" Adam suggested.
"That makes sense," Josh agreed slowly. "Still, there was something very strange about the whole conversation."
Josh picked up the puzzle, looked at the answers, the girlish handwriting in purple ink, the near-perfect results, and sighed. He turned back to his research assistant. "Adam, I hate to ask, I know how much you have on your plate right now, but do you think you could-"
"Track her down? Find out what school she's at, who her mentor is?"
"It shouldn't be a problem. I'll let you know what I find in a couple of days. Is that soon enough?"
"That will be great," Josh said, because it would. He wanted it sooner, but knew Adam was terribly busy. The curiosity would just have to wait.
In the end, he didn't have to wait all that long. The following day, Adam came by to share his results - or, as it turned out, his complete lack of results. "There is no Dawn Summers in the Classical Studies Graduate Student Association, and none of my friends recognize the name. She may be working in the field, but she's not attending conferences."
"That doesn't make any sense! Did you see her answers?" Josh asked, waving the puzzle in the air. As it flashed by, Adam swore he saw a purple flower doodled on the back.
"Well, it gets better. Dawn Summers does not have a subscription to the journal. Nobody with that last name is subscribed."
Josh started to speak, then closed his mouth. He did this twice more before Adam took pity on him. "Based on the phone number you have, Dawn Summers is in Cleveland. There are no subscriptions going to Cleveland, except to the two universities there. And nobody in their Classics departments has ever heard of her. Both Registrar's offices confirmed that they do not have a student by that name enrolled."
"Well, I don't know what do say. Obviously," he added dryly. Josh was a professor; he was rarely at a loss for words. It was new and different and almost weirder than the Dawn conundrum. Almost. "I appreciate your effort. You certainly went beyond what I expected. But really, I just don't know what to make of this."
"I didn't either," Adam said, "so I did a web search, just out of curiosity. Nothing." Adam didn't mention that he'd also hacked the national DMV registry, only to come up empty handed. Or that, according to the phone company's database, Dawn Summer's phone number did not exist. Adam did not mention it, because Adam Pierson was a mild, studious Ph.D. candidate. Adam was not a five thousand year old immortal who had passed the long, boring years of the 1980s by learning to hack. Methos, though... well, Methos was all of those things, and was starting to get suspicious of an apparently young girl with far more knowledge than she should have. Methos was starting to think that it was time to check a very different kind of database.