"Meeting's going to start in thirty. Might as well feed," Freddie moved into the line, followed by Bolger who slumped beside him.

"So you're really not going to help me," Bolger said, by all means despondent.

Freddie had apologized to Bolger just minutes ago when he had caught up with his friend on the way to the cafeteria. Bolger was not one to hold grudges for very long, in fact, any resentment he may have felt after yesterday's discussion would have dissipated within one or two hours, making him a very forgiving man. So Freddie was absolved from all the rudeness and stubbornness of his person with just a simply "sorry". Of course, this did not mean that Freddie was sympathetic with Bolger's or Peeks' demands of overseeing the practical classes for the Computer and Technology course, indeed he had set up a meeting today with the Head to discuss otherwise.

"I'm really not, Jarred," Freddie reaffirmed, surveying the chalky menu board over the heads of other professors and students, "What are you having?"

Bolger peered up, "Chicken sandwich. I'm watching my weight."

"Don't be such a woman," Freddie eyed him over his shoulder, then turned back to assess the other items on the menu, "Caramelized Danish looks good. But I think I'm going for the Bacon and Eggs ensemble."

"It's hardly breakfast," Bolger remarked, and then continued with the more pressing issue, "Besides, the Head will force you to do it. Peeks was really quite adamant when he assigned you Associate Lecturer, believe me, I was there. And Miss Sturridge was present as well, snivelling no less from 2D. She scares me, and I believe she has something to do with this whole scheme.

Ha, well I don't think you can persuade your way out of it this time."

Someone had finished ordering and everyone in the line sauntered forward, save for the student who stood in front of them, no doubt in a daze of examination dates and assignment word limits. Freddie nudged him gently, and he nodded in appreciation before stepping forward.

"I will think of something, eventually" Freddie sighed, "I may still surprise you yet."

"Everything you do is surprising, and that's why I am never surprised," Bolger mused.

"That hurts, really."

It was not long before it was their turn to order. Freddie asked for the Bacon and Eggs, a side of blueberry pancakes drizzled with maple syrup and a mug of hot chocolate, and added Bolger's chicken sandwich as an afterthought.

"We'll pay together," Freddie winked at the lady behind the counter, and gestured for Bolger to produce his wallet.

"No, no – on the house," the lady spluttered with a huge smile on her face, her eyes dazzling after Freddie as he duly stepped aside for the others behind to order.

Bolger returned his wallet to his back pocket, somewhat bewildered. He followed after Freddie where they would wait at the food export area.

"That was new," Bolger whispered, glancing back at the lady who served them, "I should buy lunch for you more often, considering that I won't actually have to pay any money."

"I should think so too," Freddie agreed, "As it is, I'm not too fond of coming down here, especially at this time of day. Perhaps you could bring the food up to my lab in the future?"

"I'll do no such thing," Bolger protested, and returned with a threat, "But I could get one of your very willing fans to do it, no doubt they would relish in the idea."

Freddie grunted, obviously dreading the possibility of such a scheme.

"The girl behind the counter would do the job remarkably, but she's a bit plain to be of any sort of incentive," Bolger continued, pleased at Freddie's discomfiture, "No, what we need is someone with more sass. A first year would be promising – indeed many are bubbly and enthusiastic, adventurous and full of hormones, yet to be worn down by the monotony of this place."

"Tell me when your hormones start to wane," Freddie huffed, trying to ignore Bolger's babbling.

When the bacon had finished sizzling in its own fat, the eggs stirred into a delicious gomp with parsley, and the pancakes stacked onto a plate and garnished with maple, Freddie took his tray of food and mug of hot chocolate and carried it across to the vacant table in the courtyard that was attached to the indoor-cafeteria.

The cafeteria was smothering, Freddie felt, even though it was fairly large and extended two basketball courts. He never really got used to the hubbub of conversation that radiated off the walls, drumming his ears with mindless drabble about who was a bastard, which professor was being unreasonable, and the general day-to-day stress that resonated with due dates and exam sessions. Indeed, Freddie very rarely ventured to the cafeteria at noon as most students and staff were on a break between lectures, no doubt their stomach hungering for food. Freddie had repelled the idea of coming down here, being that the cafeteria would be over-populated, but in the end resolved to the notion so that he may apologize and leech of his friend's charity. Plus he was hungry, and hadn't had a decent meal in two days.

Bolger trailed behind him, carefully swerving between the chairs that shot out in front of him and the people who had stopped to admire Freddie as he strolled past. He swore occasionally.

Freddie sat at the first vacant table he could find, setting down his tray of food. The courtyard was more appealing than the cafeteria itself, it held more ventilation and embraced nature more so than any other place in this Institute. Rich, green vines intertwined and swirled between a steel, pole frame that extended the courtyard's area – the combination provided a sort of porous canopy that shaded the feasting humans as well as allowed them to see their plates. Students rarely sat in here, for the courtyard's paradise was reserved for the professors, the Head if Mr. Peek was feeling at all famished, the government executives should they visit, and other VIP. This was yet another of the Institute's unspoken laws.

Freddie had started to eat before Bolger could get to the table, and when he did, his friend collapsed in the chair opposite him, clearly bothered by the walk.

"God, it's like hiking through the freaking safari," Bolger remarked, peering past the glass doors where students screamed and yelled at each other, "that's why I go here earlier or later, before or after the noontide rush. I guess I wasn't early enough today."

"Why's that?" Freddie managed to ask, swallowing the egg in his mouth and forking in half a pancake.

"I was hounded by this freak of a student. He's always coming up after my lectures and asks me these stupid, finicky questions about how many steps it should take to solve this integration and is there some reason why this mathematical symbol is used and not another," Bolger said tiredly, holding up a sandwich triangle to his mouth, "He made me late, it took almost three quarters of an hour to answer his bloody questions. What's his name? Arnold something or rather."

"Mm," Freddie sounded, feigning interest.

Like yesterday the sky was heavy with clouds, occasionally spurting rain. The light that filtered through into the courtyard was one tinged with grey, a dreary colour that Freddie did not mind at all. It wasn't raining at the moment, but Freddie could smell it in the air. The courtyard was not half as large as the cafeteria space but big enough to accommodate for ten or so tables and the Coffee trolley in which Mary was absent. A number of professors of different standings were scattered across the courtyard – some were hunched over stacks of assignments or student evaluations, deftly consuming their croissant or toast; whilst some, namely the fourth levels, distinguishable for their messy presentation and wrinkled brows, ate ferociously for their hours paralleled that of full-time students, and so they had only precious little time to eat; and the rest, the more rotund looking ones mind you, were discussing and organizing class schedules and marking criteria over tea and coffee accompanied by shortbreads and chocolate cake.

"See how the glass shakes, the noise is too loud. I can hardly hear myself eat," Bolger said, taking a chunk off his sandwich.

Freddie glanced at the glass doors, which were of course reverberating slightly from the clamour that came from within the building, or perhaps it was the wind or the fact that one of the professors had just left the courtyard that made the glass shake. Freddie told Bolger as much, but his friend didn't pay he any mind and continued to talk about whatever spontaneous subject that crossed him. Freddie ate quietly, half-listening to Bolger gibber on.

"And who was that girl in your lab the other day?" Bolger asked suddenly, after talking about Arnold some more and his recent statistical exploit, "You know, the auburn-haired, willowy one? Now she had a good head on her..."

"No one," Freddie was quick to answer, but regretted saying anything when Bolger peered at him, his interest peeked.

"Freddie, darling!" came a sing-song voice, familiar like the smoke stains on the ceiling of his lab.

"Mary," Freddie greeted her, relieved, forking the rest of his lunch into his mouth.

"I did not catch you this morning, how I have mourned until now!" Mary wailed softly, and gave Freddie a half-hug.

Mary was balancing two brown, cylindrical bags in her arms and a plastic bag of coffee cup lids. Freddie offered help, but she politely refused. Mary was a capable woman, strong and sturdy as they come. Freddie believed she was born to be a queen, a leader who would reward those that followed and punish those who dared to undermine her. She, however, had no royal blood to speak of, but Mary did make the best Italian coffee in the whole of Europe. She was a loud person, passively aggressive, but overall a kind, endearing Italian mistress who lacked grandchildren to dote upon and found Freddie the next best thing. He enjoyed her affections, it were a motherly thing.

"I'm sorry not have visited you this morning," Freddie said apologetically, and shook his head, "I was too... distracted."

"Has Jarred been annoying you again?" Mary said playfully to Freddie.

"You could say that," he chuckled but quickly stifled his amusement when Bolger frowned at him.

"I'm sorry, Mary. Freddie and I were just having an important conversation, one too complex for you to understand. Please excuse us," Bolger huffed, eyeing Mary with all the seriousness he could muster.

Bolger and Mary were always quick to offend each other. Both claimed to dislike the other – Mary for her lack of brightness, and Bolger for his snobbery. Freddie suspected that their true feelings were quite different from what they proposed, for neither was stupid or uptight, and their bickering and insults were just an alternative, albeit adolescent, way of showing affection. Of course, no one yet has divulged their secret desires or inner passions, but Freddie could tell. Indeed, he had one conversation with Mary and Bolger that involved the mention of Bolger's favourite colour, and she had later recalled that insignificant detail a month later, where it was brought up again. Freddie cared not to even remember his friend's birthday, although he knew it was somewhere around June or July, let alone his favourite colour. Bolger, of course, expressed his feelings like all boys – offense, some insensible, some validated, but mostly out of want of a response.

"Oh shush you pompous know-it-all," Mary retaliated, her volume breaking a number conversations, "Is that the way to speak to a lady? I think not!"

"Your beloved Freddie does it all the time," Bolger spat back, "And you don't think to reprimand him?"

"You are not like Freddie at all. You don't have a horde of girls smelling the floors you walk on, or swoon over every syllable you utter, no, just mindless brats who think they can use you to get to him. And I am a lady, not some pathetic, temptuous tramp who follows men like a dog."

"Don't think so highly of yourself."

"Oh, I don't, Jarred. That is for you to do."

Freddie took up his hot chocolate drink and watched them silently try to stare each other down. Freddie could feel the heat and vexation in their eyes, relentlessly unblinking and focused, but he could also sense the desire between them, it hung in the air, potent and almost touchable. It wasn't like him to meddle in the affairs of the old or young, and so he kept his observations to himself. He suspected that Mary wouldn't like him at all if he dared imply something between her and Bolger, and Freddie so disliked the watery coffee of the cafeteria staff.

He glanced at his watch. The meeting started in ten minutes and it would take him at least five minutes to get to Peeks' office, bearing in mind that the elevators would all be in use. Freddie decided to take his leave, and stood up casually, wiping his mouth with a napkin.

"Well, I best be off then," he announced.

"See you," Bolger said, glancing at Freddie before realizing what he had just done, "Damn it!"

Mary snickered in triumph and turned to receivedFreddie's kiss on her cheek.

"Ciao, Freddie," she said endearingly, parting with a smile of satisfaction.

Mary spun around and started to make her way to her Coffee trolley at the other end of the courtyard. Bolger watched grimly as she retreated, and didn't take his eyes off her until Freddie intervened.

"Cheer up, she's only teasing," Freddie tried to comfort.

Bolger slumped glumly in his chair, staring at the sandwich quarter he had left to eat. Freddie let him alone, he knew Bogler would soon get over it for it wasn't the first time Mary had defeated him. He opened the glass door and walked into the cafeteria, moving in the direction of the elevators.


"I can't believe this," Freddie exhaled, pacing back and forth across the length of Mr. Peeks' office, not sure if this situation could get any worse.

"Believe it, Professor Thorne," Miss Sturridge said, her visual distorting a little, "I cannot abide insolence. You will obey the Head or consider yourself dismissed from this Institute."

Freddie spun around and glared and the flat-screen. Miss Sturridge was a severe woman. Her small, beady eyes were hooded by thick, black eyebrows, the combination allowing her the harshest of gazes. She wore a dark grey, masculine suit which made her seem a pro-feminist extremist, indeed the lipstick that rounded her lips and stained her teeth was all that distinguished her sex.

"Was that a threat, Miss Sturridge?" Freddie asked darkly, "I doubt Matone would use such a tactic to coerce his staff into obliging orders, his is an honest place I heard. Perhaps I should transfer?"

"No, no, there is no need," Mr. Peeks decided to chime in, worried as he was, "Surely another arrangement could be made?"

Miss Sturridge wasn't listening to him, instead she addressed Freddie directly.

"You will be more involved in the going-ons of this Institute. It is not a place for you to leisure about and do what you want, indeed it is a place where you are to work obstinately under the employment of the Head, to religiously follow the Institute's laws and discipline, and to ultimately obey our words," Miss Sturridge hissed.

"No doubt," Freddie conceded, and then shrugged dramatically, "but should that employment dissolve..."

"Miss Sturridge," Mr. Peeks addressed the woman on the screen, alarm sounding in his voice, "Professor Thorne is an integral member of our research staff. There are none like him who are so committed and dedicated to their work, and should he go off to Matone's, well, it wouldn't be the smartest move on our part. Please, let us be rational."

Freddie didn't say anything further. He went to the leather sofa on the far back wall and sat down, his thumb stroking his right temple. He was astonished that the situation had augmented to the preposterous notion that he should be Associate Lecturer and undertake Miss White in the X-course. He had come with the intention of trading his lecturer responsibilities for those that pertained to the X-course, indeed Freddie reasoned that one annoying student would be better than two dozen, even if she had to sit in the corner of his lab and say nothing to him. But it was not to be had, Miss Sturridge thought it a brilliant idea that he should take on both occupations as a way of increasing his involvement within the Institute, even more than what was originally intended.

"It surprises me, Professor Thorne, that you should even consider the X-course. You were so against such work in the past two years that I find it very refreshing. Pray tell, who is it that has sparked your interest?" Miss Sturridge asked pleasantly.

"No one that should concern you," Freddie answered her, not one to conceal his aggravation.

"A secret! Well, it wouldn't do well to guess who it is, so many have no doubt have tried to appeal to your education this year."

That much was true. Freddie had many applications a year, and all of them he didn't even glance. Ever since he was released from the tutelage of Professor Lambert a couple of years ago, after he had graduated, Freddie promised himself never to engage in such a course again – it was stifling on so many levels, one person overseeing your every application and every piece of information you learn, and represented what he felt as autocracy at its most potent. It was no wonder he rebelled. But after contemplating it further last night, Freddie supposed that he could abide Miss White's presence, if she kept to herself and asked him little if not at all. He would assuredly be helpful to her, if she needed help, but he wouldn't pester her and order her about. He could only hope that her threats of sabotage are rendered non-existent now that she knew of his authority.

"Miss Sturridge, if Professor Thorne is to be involved with the Computer and Tech class, along with his X responsibilities, I believe he should go mad," Mr. Peeks entreated on Freddie's behalf, "As it is, the _ are convening soon, and Freddie's projects are difficult and require time. Nonetheless, he always wins the Board over. If Thorne is determined to be an X-tutor, perhaps we shouldn't take away so much of his time and cancel his employment as Associate Lecturer. It would be burdensome, considering he is not use to having so many preoccupations."

Freddie regarded Mr. Peeks with substantial appreciation, and Mr. Peeks nodded in receipt. The guy wanted to please everyone, but he was not getting on too well. He was desperate to amend the situation. Miss Sturridge was silent, thinking probably. Now that Peeks was on his side, Freddie believed that there was a slim possibility that she might yield. Two minutes passed before she said anything further.

"I have a proposition for you, Professor Thorne" she began, in that authorial, nasally way she spoke, "You will take on the two employments we have assigned you, Associate Lecturer for the Computer and Technology classes, as well as taking on an X-pupil. Should you do a sound job of both, we may discuss at a later date your dismissal from the former. That is my final word, and I advise you to dispute it no more."

There was nothing else Freddie could do. He was fearful, to say the least, that should he try to come up with another scheme he might end up with ten times his workload. He nodded reluctantly, agreeing to her proposal.

"Until then, gentlemen..."

"Good day," Mr. Peeks stammered, surprised at her sudden departure.

The screen fuzzed out to black, and Mr. Peeks lolled back into his chair. He opened one of his draws underneath his desk and pulled out two tissues, which he dabbed his wet forehead with.

"I'm sorry, Frederick. One does what one must to please the Head," Peeks groaned.

Freddie didn't blame him. Peeks was a good enough fellow to have even sided with him, and to have argued against Miss Sturridge on his account was commendable. It was his own fault, and he had worsened the situation by trying to get out of it. He could imagine what Bogler would say, something along the lines of 'I told you so' would about sum it up. Freddie was annoyed at himself, and dragged his hands through his hair roughly.

"Yes, we are merely pawns at their command," Freddie got up, his voice quiet but not lacking in frustration, "I best depart before I break the television."

"Oh, there's to be a meeting tomorrow morning in the courtyard," Peeks said nervously, avoiding eye contact, "You're expected to be there since...well, since you're in. We will be discussing the course outline of the Computer and Tech classes, and hope to improve on it somewhat. Yes, well, you see we have heard complaints, and now that Lindemann is on leave, we can implement any changes quite easily. Eight o'clock on the dot."

Freddie was exasperated at this information and grunted inwardly. Freddie saluted Mr. Peeks as he left, but didn't quite catch the timid hand wave that the man returned. Freddie did not want to think about the stress he would have to face in the coming weeks, and so he headed for his lab in remarkable haste, determined to find a distraction.


It was peculiar that Eva should seek Valerie out as it was usually her friend who did the seeking, the pestering, and whatnot. Eva scanned the far back rows of the lecture theatre where Valerie would likely to sit with her other friends. Eva had more nerdish tastes, and always opted for the front section. Not too close to the very front row, of course, or else she would have to crane her neck for a good whole hour. But today was different, she needed to talk to Valerie. Eva did not usually talk during lectures for fear she may miss out on some vital piece of information, but this was an exceptional case.

She plastered herself on the wall just inside the door as students filtered into the theatre. The lecturer Mr. Phillips hadn't shown up yet, but that was to be expected. He had knack for tardiness, and many students valued that in him, never mind how well he taught. Her peers passed her easily enough, up the steps that ran on either side and through the middle of the desks. She watched out for Valerie among them. At the back of the theatre, where there was another entrance, Eva spotted Paul and Max, boy-toys for want of a best description, stroll in and lazily walk into the farthest row from the front, almost shadowed for the light did not reach that far. Valerie was once intimate with Paul, which marked the month of Eva's life where not a day went by when she would have to say 'It's alright, Valerie' at least twice. The two cousins, who both prided themselves on their sickeningly buff bodies and sexual insinuations to win As from female examiners, tended to avoid meaningful relationships with young women, and had more cougarish tastes. Although that did not mean intermittent and short relations with female students, from which Valerie had suffered. It was unfortunate that Valerie still remained friends with Paul, after she had cried a whole week and pigged out on ice-cream the next. Valerie even sat next to them. Eva begrudgingly made her way towards the back row, each step like lead.

"Oh, I'm sorry!" Arnold squealed, dropping his notebook that was crammed with loose paper.

He had nearly collided with her but Eva had luckily ducked out of the way in a moment of supreme reflexes.

"It's okay, Arnold," she said, bending down and picking up his book.

She handed it to him, and he took it timidly. When he looked up to meet her regard, his mouth curved into a huge grin. Arnold was a strange boy, no one really associated with him for fear that his lathering mouth of mucous would somehow shower them in all salivary disgust. Eva pitied him, he wasn't the brightest banana in the bunch but at least he tried. The lecturers didn't appreciate his questions though.

"You're beautiful," Arnold gurgled out, wiping his chin with his sleeve.

"Ahhh... thank you," Eva went wide-eyed, turning away from him lest he latch onto her.

"Where are you going?" Arnold was right on her heels, and Eva quickened her pace.

Arnold was a blunt guy, he told you exactly what he felt, even if it was inappropriate. Eva had yet to get used to his attentions, ever since she had talked to him at orientation he had sought after her friendship, or her womanly sentiments as he put it. Not only did he creep her out when he started with the sloppy adjectives, but Eva had never felt that way about anyone, and certainly did not feel the inclination with Arnold.

"I'm going to talk to Valerie," Eva said, swerving in front of other students who also climbed towards the back.

"But, but! Mr. Phillips...is go...going to give a...class demonstration," Arnold stuttered, trying to follow her manuveres in and out of the crowd, "Don't you want to have a closer view?"

Arnold had grabbed her wrist and she had halted, her shoulders coming up to ears and her limbs tensing. His hand on her skin provoked a certain disgust, and she felt grossly ill.

"No," she answered him, tugging her arm away from his grasp.

At least Arnold was no match for her strength, and his fingers broke in an instant. She chided herself for her immaturity towards Professor Thorne, remembering her feeble attempt at hurting his data the other day, but she pushed that thought away as quickly as it came.

"Get away from her, you freak," Paul chimed not three metres away, lounging about in his seat, "Your place is down there."

Paul gestured towards the front row, his condescending intonation marking his self-sense of superiority. Eva made a face at him, and glanced over her shoulder and caught the expression on Arnold face – eyebrows contorted into an upside-down V, mouth slightly agape, and eyes wet with fear. Eva felt slightly guilty, but didn't try to comfort him. She just slipped into Paul and Max's row, two seats from them, averting her eyes from the retreating, lanky figure of Arnold and hoping that Valerie would come soon.

"Aren't you going to thank me?" Paul smirked, leaning in towards her.

Paul was tall and so stretching the length of two desks was nothing. Max tuned into the conversation, his interest piqued.

"Thank you," she whispered, and looked away, trying to deflect their attention.

"What sort of thank you is that? I was expecting something more... perverse," Paul leered, and Max snickered behind him.

Eva didn't respond to that and decided to say nothing to them lest they continue. She searched the front and back entrances, wondering when Valerie might turn up. Mr. Phillips had turned up and was already fussing about the slide-show settings and mantling some apparatus on the display bench. It was unfathomable that Eva should talk to Paul and Max about it, indeed she would feel embarrassed if she asked anyone but Valerie.

"So, what's up, Eva?" Paul sang, having moved into the seat next to her.

Eva was surprised that he had moved closer. Paul was never one to start a conversation with her, indeed Eva was under the opinion that he hated her. She had told him off about Valerie on numerous occasions, to stay away and not hurt her, and continued thus whenever he made an attempt to rekindle his ill-fated romancing with her friend.

"Have you seen Valerie today?" Eva asked casually.

"No," Paul clenched his jaw and held two fingers to his forehead, and said soldier-like, "No, ma'am. I am reformed."

"I highly doubt that," Eva pursed her lips, "I really meant have you seen her, as in just spotted at a distance."

"Oh, yeah, I've seen her alright, hooking up with the new French import in his car. There was some hand-action as well," Paul's eyes were bright with excitement, and he made a gesture that indicated breast-fondling, "It was just this morning."

"Right. So she won't be coming to this lecture then," she said, rather than asked, feeling a rush of disappointment.

"To be sure," Paul agreed.

Eva held her frustration in check, it wasn't Valerie's fault, nor was it Paul's, even if she felt like blaming both. She wondered if she could ask Paul in a way that didn't permit him to publicize her curiosity in Professor Thorne, and that somehow she could assure him that her inquest did not mean what he would undoubtedly imagine.

Mr. Phillips' voice resonated around the room, the lecture was starting. The theatre was somewhat full, perhaps brinking on sixty percent, with students sitting in groups of a respectable distance from one another, save for Arnold who sat by himself. Max was preoccupied with a group of girls that had come to sit next him, and Eva could hear the muffled giggles and girly shrieks as he teased them.

Eva pulled out her notebook and dated up a new page. She felt Paul watching her, her movements, until finally she peered at him.

"What?" Eva said a little too loudly.

"Up here, we don't do that," Paul smiled, glancing at her notebook.

"Taking notes?"

"Yes, exactly. We like to do something else..." he drawled suggestively, then clicked his tongue twice.

"Please, Paul. Save your womanizing ways for other girls who might actually appreciate it."

"But they're too easy. You present a challenge, and I like challenges."

"Not everybody is in love with you, Paul," Eva rolled her eyes, leaning away from him.

"That's true, but they're all in bed with me, mind you," he chuckled softly, and continued casually, "Most of the girls here are in love with that Professor. Idiot of a man."

"Pardon?" Eva's head snapped in his direction.

Paul raised an eyebrow as Eva gazed at him earnestly, she couldn't help it, Paul had touched on the subject she had wanted to talk about.

"I...I mean, which Professor is this?" Eva tuned, trying to appear laid-back.

"Thorne, I think. Don't tell me you're in love with this guy too," Paul said with such disdain, and peered at her questioningly.

"No, no. Of course not," Eva brushed off, "I'm not like you."

"Like me?"

"You know, one who goes around and tries to entice the whole female population to do what you will. Age is not a problem for you, is it not?"

Paul laughed at this, and dragged a hand over his blonde mop.

"You really have me figured out, don't you? Haha. Well, apparently this Thorne character is pretty young, maybe about three to five years older than us, making him about twenty six. The girls go nutters over him, and not just the students, but the staff as well. I don't know what it is, I've seen the guy, and yeah, he's pretty decent, but I don't think it's his looks that make the deal."

Paul paused, looking baffled.

"What is it?"

"He won't touch any of them, that's the point."

"Perhaps he's gay?" Eva put forward, but didn't really believe it herself.

"No, he's not. He was a student here, and I have it on good authority that he had bunked half the female populous of his year before two terms were even over. Wonder what's changed him...now that he's intent on being such a saint."

"On whose authority?"

"You really want to know?" Paul asked, doubting that she did, "Anyway, he's apparently the most valuable Professor we have at this Institute, him being really smart at all. The Americans want him, and so does Matone, and they are forever trying to tempt him with great sums of money, salaries one can never dream of."

"How do you know all of this?" Eva exclaimed, startled by how much Paul knew and she not knowing a thing about this professor.

"There is rarely a day that goes by when that guy's name comes up in conversation, especially among my girls."

"Hey, lover," said a girl who slipped delicately into the seat between Max and Paul, after entering from the back door.

She planted a kiss on Paul's neck and he hung his arm on her shoulders. Eva recognized her immediately as the honey-blonde, snarling woman whom she met the other day outside Professor Thorne's office. Paul fondled her décolleté as she eyed Eva with obvious contempt.

"What's she doing up here?" she chimed, and Paul glanced at Eva whom he had momentarily forgotten about.

"Oh, this is Eva. She's a friend of Valerie's. Eva, this is the delectable, sweet Jocelyn who is one of the many girls in love with that Professor. She's venting out her...well, her frustrations on me," Paul was too distracted with her earlobe to say more.

"Right," Eva said, tearing her eyes away from Jocelyn's icy stare to Mr. Phillips, trying hard not to notice the canoodling pair next to her.