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The Museum Mystery: Three

... “Any idea how he got here?” he asked next.

“He certainly didn’t walk,” said the pathologist. “He was dead when he arrived. And by the size of him, I’d say it’d need more than one pair of hands to lug him in.”...

John Waddington-Feather continues his intriguing murder mystery.

Det. Sergeant Khan went to greet his boss. He couldn’t stomach dead bodies, especially when they were still oozing blood. Donaldson was equally squeamish and had bolted to the aviary when he’d heard his inspector had arrived. Anything to get away from the stare of that ghastly face on the floor.

“I’m glad you made it, sir,” said Khan, and by the glance he threw Donaldson, Hartley guessed why. Hartley wanted to know if they’d identifed the body.

“These were found on the body.” Khan held up some papers in a plastic bag. “He’s a lecturer in the Department of Ancient History at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, a Dr Ahmed Manasas.”

Donaldson raised his eyebrows and began to bleat. “An academic. I thought so. The moment I saw him I knew he was no ordinary chap. His hands, his dress, his general demeanour. You could tell he was a cut above the average - even if he was a foreigner. Initial locationary analysis can often tell you enough to solve any crime. Remember that, Khan.”
Hartley cut him short.

“All cadavers have the same demeanour. A grave one, sir,” he said dourly.

The Super pursed his lips. “Don’t be facetious, man,” he growled. “It’s neither the time nor place for that.”

The inspector and his sergeant exchanged glances again and followed Donaldson down the aisle to the mummy’s case. The body was lying directly beside it, and Dr Dunwell was kneeling over it, turning the dead man’s head slightly to get a better view of the weal round his neck. The face stared stonily at them as the trio approached. Donaldson and Khan held back, letting Inspector Hartley go first. They kept their distance as Hartley joined the museum curator, Maurice Bottomley, and his janitor standing some yards away.

The janitor was still burbling about how he’d found the body.

“An’ I’d just got ’ere, sir,” he explained to Hartley, “when me brush caught his feet. Nearly fell all over him. An’ when I’d got over me shock, I says, ‘Ernie,’ I says, ‘summat’s happened to that chap.’ Then I looked at t’mummy’s case an’ saw summat had happened to to t’mummy as well. T’cover had been pulled back from t’case. She were starin’ straight at me just like t’dead man on t’floor. It frightened me silly. I tell you, I’ve never seen owt like that before! An’ I don’t want to again.”

“You say the cover had been pulled back?” asked Hartley.

“Aye,” said Hodgson. “Full length. I reckon he’d been lookin’ at t’mummy when he’d been done in. Hit from behind.”

The inspector nodded, then turned and joined the pathologist.

“Any clue who might have done it, Gus?” he asked.

“That’s your business, not mine,” the pathologist replied. “I can say how he was killed.” He held up one of the dead man’s wrists, indicating a weal across the top of it. Then he raised the other wrist and pointed to a similar one there. “He was trussed up tight before he was killed.” He pulled down the corpse’s socks to show similar marks around the ankles. “He wasn’t killed here. Trussed like a lamb for the slaughter…”

“Like a lamb for the slaughter,” echoed the inspector thoughtfully.

“They untied him after he was brought here,” said Dunwell. “And he was dead before he was dumped in the museum.”

Blake Hartley stood up and looked at the mummy in the case. The silent figure stared back from its wrappings. Its arms were crossed and held a flail and crozier. On the forehead of the mask was the painting of a hooded cobra. The wide eyes were heavily lined, brooding and dark, hooded like a hawk’s. Later he was to learn whose remains were inside.

Dunwell finished his examination and covered the body, much to Superintendent Donaldson’s relief. He bustled over, barking, “Well, what’s the verdict, Dunwell?”

“Not suicide,” said the pathologist drily. He took off his thick-lensed glasses and breathed heavily on them before wiping them clean with his handkerchief. He was about the same height as Donaldson, but heavier and almost bald. When he’d replaced his specs he looked the superintendent squarely in the eye. “If you initialised your locationary analysis you might learn more,” was all he said.

Donaldson ignored him. “Any idea how he got here?” he asked next.

“He certainly didn’t walk,” said the pathologist. “He was dead when he arrived. And by the size of him, I’d say it’d need more than one pair of hands to lug him in.” Donaldson put it all down in a brand-new notebook and continued asking questions.

Hartley left them and re-joined Bottomley and his man. He asked if there’d been any signs of a break-in. No. How they’d got the body in was a complete mystery. The doors and windows were locked just as Hodgson had checked them the night before. But Maurice Bottomley did shed some glimmer of light. He knew Dr Manasas. Not very well, but he’d been in contact with him several times to give a lecture on the mummy to the local history group.

Inspector Hartley asked who held the keys to the museum.

“Only Hodgson and myself,” said the curator. “There’s no need for anyone else to have them.”

“Any spares?” asked Hartley.

“As a matter of fact there is. One. It’s hung up in my office,” said the other.

“I’d like to see it,” said the inspector.

The curator led the way to his office. When they got there, he switched on the light and turned to his keyboard. The hook which held the spare key was empty!


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