James Joyce Seat of Learning
You sit down at the James Joyce Seat of Learning, which was the answer to your clue. The funny curved metallic reading stand had a red brick inlaid at its centre. In fact, you had often found Saloni reading on it.
You wonder where else in the world the other 62 bricks carrying the joys of learning are located. The brick is one of the 63 bricks that were left when Joyce’s childhood home in Ireland was demolished, and they planned to erect 63 such stands around the world, each carrying one brick from Joyce’s old home.
You are not sure what to expect now. Surely you are going to meet the ring leader, who has the last stolen artefact. From the news reports, you know it is a portion of a temple relief from the 17th century. It weighs a tonne, and you are glad you didn’t have to lug it around the city on your back. But how are you going to make sure that they release Saloni after you hand over the other artefacts?
Suddenly, you see a familiar figure walking towards you – it’s Saloni! She is wearing her trademark red leather jacket and black jeans. Her hair curls wildly around her face. She looks frightened but unharmed.
You rush towards her. “Saloni! Are you ok?”
She looks at you, her eyes pools of anxiety. “Tell me you have the artefacts.”
“Of course I do,” you say, pointing at the backpack.
“Ok, hand it over. I must take it inside,” she says. “To give it to… to the leader.”
“But Saloni…” you say. “We should just leave. We can at least the return the four artefacts we have.”
She laughs with a tinge of hysteria.
“Do you really think they are that stupid? We are being watched. One false move and we’ll both die.”
“But we are in a public place. They can’t do anything here,” you say.
“Trust me. They can. I have been with them for the last 24 hours. I know,” she says with a tremor in her voice.
Reluctantly, you hand her the bag. She looks inside to make sure that the artefacts are all in there.
“If I’m not back soon, walk up to the information desk and raise an alarm,” she says.
“I’ll come with you,” you say.
“No!” she yells. “You can’t! They’ll kill us both.” She is shaking now.
“Ok,” you say, against your instinct.
You watch her disappear into the library.
You wait. Each second feels like an hour. You find yourself praying for this nightmare to be over, for Saloni to come back safe and sound.
You can’t bear it any more. You rush inside.
You look around the foyer, but she is not there. You run to the information desk, “Have you seen my friend?” you say to the receptionist. “She was wearing a red leather jacket. She’s South Asian. Really curly black hair… I think she’s been kidnapped.”
The receptionist looks at you with a friendly smile and says, “Don’t worry. Your friend is fine. She left a message for you.” She hands you a letter.
Befuddled, you open the letter. Inside you find Saloni’s familiar swirling, exuberant handwriting.
Thank you for your unwavering love and friendship. I counted on it for the most important undertaking of my life. You see, I have to get those artefacts back. They don’t belong here. They belong in India. And I will make sure they get there. I would have told you but I knew you wouldn’t understand. So long. Don’t look for me. But know that I will miss you.
Your friend forever,
You stand there stunned, for how long you are not sure. A sharp tap on your shoulder brings you out of your stupor.
You turn around. A tall man in plain white shirt and jeans is standing in front of you.
“I am from the Australian Federal Police,” he says, calmly, flashing his identity card at you. “Can you come with us, please? We would like to ask you a few questions about a robbery last week.”
Thank you for participating in this interactive story. We hoped you enjoyed it. All of the artefacts described in the story are on display in The Myer Family Gallery at the National Gallery of Victoria International at 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Victoria, 3006. We encourage you to view the artefacts for yourself. We would also like to thank historians Dr Nadia Rookh and Dr Cherie McKeich for sharing their research with us to use in the story.