THE IMPOSSIBLE MANUSCRIPT
“I’m afraid that would be impossible,” replied Johnston in a dry tone. That was not the answer Irena wanted to hear. She had made the trip to Oxford expecting to see Dr. Elmer J. Galway, professor of Classical History at Oriel College and a specialist in pre-Socratic philosophy, but instead of meeting the famous scholar she was talking to Bradley Johnston, a junior member of the faculty who had been trying his best to fulfill her expectations, so far with little success.
Professor Galway had cancelled their appointment at the last moment and asked his colleague and former student to look after his overseas visitor. “A Miss Monyan, or Morian,” he had told Johnston over the phone, adding that she worked for a museum in North America but giving no further explanations. It was early morning on a Thursday of November 1997 when Johnston received the call, and the appointment had been set for two o’clock that afternoon. He could not refuse Elmer such a favor, even if it meant missing cricket practice.
“Bradley Johnston,” he introduced himself, “you must be Miss Morian.” “Montryan,” she corrected him, “Irena Montryan. Pleased to meet you. I have an appointment with Professor Galway.” Johnston apologized on Elmer’s behalf for the last-minute cancellation and led the way to the office, situated in one of the upper floors. He had not expected to see such a young woman, having perhaps unconsciously associated “museum” with “old.” Her accent was definitely not British; that much he knew.