The Second Time Around

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Dr. Mathis stepped inside his office and closed the door. His assistant wasn't in yet, but that was not unusual. Dr. Mathis enjoyed being the first to work, and liked the quiet order of his office in these few hours before the chaos of the university intruded on it. Tall, broad book shelves lined the walls and were filled with various volumes and journals of physics, some going back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It was a collection that had taken him a lifetime to carefully assemble and catalogue, and it was one of his prized possessions.

Dr. Mathis dropped his folded paper onto his mahogany desk and then dropped himself into his overstuff espresso leather executive chair. Most of the furnishings in the office were at least sixty years old and had belonged at one time to his grandfather, a forty year county judge from Tennessee. The desk and the chair were the one exception and had come from a stock trader's firm in depression era Chicago.

On most days, these familiar trappings calmed him and gave him a sense of order and purpose with which to begin the day. This morning, however, his routine had been interrupted and he'd been deeply shaken by his unexpected visitor. After a long moment, Dr. Mathis flipped open his newspaper and turned to the classifieds. On page 12C, he found a small add in the corner that was simply a phone number with no description at all.

Dr. Mathis sat for a long, silent moment staring at that phone number as the normal noise of the university coming to life with the passing morning grew louder.

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