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“I stole it last year,” said Nussbaum, her young face strained.

“But I stole it three years before that,” said Brocken.

“I believe Professor Durchdrehn stole it almost a decade hence,” said Drosselmeier, “and Professor Buffalop still longer ago, a year before his tenure.”

Buffalop’s eyes had widened. “But if Durchdrehn just got my decoy, then who’s to say the one I took was–”

“Surely you can’t have believed you were the first to have this idea?” said Drosselmeier sadly. “A dusty and obscure article, of startling value to the right collector, guarded by a cheap lock: it practically stole itself.”