Stella had a call from her professor.
“Good morning my dear are you well?”
“I am professor Cuthlet I am very well are you?”
“Thank you yes, I have a little bit of a sensitive matter to discuss with you. I am not really sure how to approach it and so please bear with me for a moment because I need to ask a few questions which may sound a little strange.”
She pasted a concerned frown across her forehead and sat a little forward in the chair.
“I have been looking at your end of term submission. It is really excellent, some of the best work that you have presented to date.” He smiled at her as his long fingers moved endlessly knotting and plaiting on his skinny knees.
Stella managed to blush, clever actress that she was, she simply thought about him in the bath and it had the desired effect. She smiled coyly and kept her eyes downcast. Innocent maid, so modest and really rather shy. He cleared his throat.
“I want you tell me my dear when you began the work if you will.”
“Oh, erm I suppose it was about three weeks ago really. Of course I had been planning it and thinking about it for longer and then really got down to it at the end of last month. I thought I handed it in early, it was wasn’t it?”
“Yes my dear it was early, your habit of handing in work in a timely manner may have done you a huge favour in this case.”
Again she managed to maintain a demure demeanour, inside her soul was giggling. This was actually fun, she knew what this was all about of course and it seemed that it had worked beautifully. She cocked her head to one side and gazed expectantly at the educator who sat before her in some discomfort. He had never had to deal with a case like this before and he felt out of his depth. The senior tutor had insisted that in the first instance some fairly informal interviews must take place to see if they could better judge the situation. If indeed their worst fears were realised then it would become formal very quickly indeed.
“I could show you my computer if it is important, the dates when I started the first drafts will be there.” Taking care not to be too presumptuous she nevertheless wanted the thought planted that there would be physical evidence if it were needed.
“Ah of course, of course. Yes, yes that may indeed be very useful. I wonder if I could ask you my dear to make sure that you leave everything exactly as it is for the time being and if possible hand your computer in to the lodge or some other such place for safety.
She formed her features into a more concerned mask and even managed to introduce a little quiver of uncertainty into her voice. Indeed a couple of blue bottles on the wall wondered if she wasn’t wasted reading English Literature and that she may have done rather well at acting school.
“Well, yes of course but I’m a little confused. Have I done something wrong Professor is there something wrong with my work?”
“I don’t believe so my dear but a ahem situation had arisen. Let me enquire, did you discuss your work with anyone or have anyone read it before you submitted it.”
“Erm, well yes I suppose I did talk it over casually with my boyfriend, we do that you know. I didn’t ask him to read it though not after it was finished. I printed it out and then kept it for a day or so to read through to check it and then that was it I handed it in.”
“Just your boyfriend, is that all.” Now, it was now this was the moment.
“Well, yes just Steven – of course Phillipa would have been there I expect and maybe a couple of others.”
“And, when you had printed it out could anyone have had access.”
“No, no I don’t think so. No, there was a copy on my machine and then the printed one in the folder but that’s all.”
“Your machine, as you call it, I assume you mean your computer.”
“My laptop yes that’s right.”
“Was there a time when someone could have accessed that?”
“Well I suppose so, it’s not locked up or anything it just sits in my room most of the time or it’s with me at lectures and so on. I have it though it’s in my room.”
“Now then I want you to think carefully was there a time when Phillipa could have used it – your machine.”
Little thrills of delighted fluttered and twisted in her middle, this was really, really fun.
“Well of course, we often use each other’s machines. To look things up and to play games and so on.”
“Thank you my dear I think that’s all I need for the time being.”
She held the puzzled, slightly worried expression for as long as she could. She walked slowly from his room and down the stairs. She rounded the corner and once she was sure she was out of sight of his window she allowed herself a little skip and a jump of delight. It was in motion, now all she had to do was keep up the innocent front with the others.