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The Museum Mystery: Twentyone

...“The El Tuban Freedom Group has been active for many years in my country. Only recently have they moved over here where they have a support group”...

The Keighworth police receive information from a senior Egyptian police officer which throws a new light on their murder inquiries.

John Waddington-Feather continues his mystery story.

There was a knock on the door and the clerk let the colonel in. You’d never have guessed Mordecai Waheeb was a detective. The best. He was a small dapper man, finicky about his appearance; and in that he resembled Superintendent Donaldson. But the likeness ended there. Waheeb was highhly intelligent and had a sense of humour. There was also wiry strength and stamina in his slight frame. He hadn’t gone to seed like Donaldson.

He’d once been very handsome and still had good looks, sporting a thick, trimmed moustache; but he was greying and time was etching lines deeper across his face each year. His eyes were dark, alert always. When he looked at you it was as if he read your very thoughts. Donaldson found this alarming, yet Waheeb was charm itself.

He spoke fluent English, one of several languages he was at home in and he unnerved Donaldson when they first met by his flawless command of English. After all, Waheeb was a foreigner. He shouldn’t have spoken like that. The Super had an innate distrust of all foreigners, especially when they tried to pass as English. He wasn’t xenophobic, but he distrusted anyone from abroad. His schoolboy French had never got him past Calais on day-trips.

When Colonel Waheeb appeared he sat him between Hartley and Khan the other side of the table. He felt in control that way. If international terrorists were to be caught, he had to be the one in charge, not Waheeb. Donaldson had fallen for Hartley’s ploy hook, line and sinker.
He told the duty sergeant to bring in some tea; just to get the ball rolling, to make them all feel at home and part of a team of which he was captain. First, he asked Colonel Waheeb to brief them, about this El Tuban group, how he’d come to pin them down in Keighworth and what Mordecai Waheeb told him surprised them all.

“The El Tuban Freedom Group has been active for many years in my country. Only recently have they moved over here where they have a support group,” he began. “You know what el tuban means?” asked, looking at Ibrahim Khan.

“Snake,” he replied.

Colonel Waheeb smiled. “Correct. It’s the raised cobra of the ancient pharaohs. Their sign, logo if you like. They left it on poor Manasas’ body as a warning.”

“Warning?” echoed Donaldson, fidgeting with the inside of his collar again. “You mean…you mean they’ll strike again?”

Colonel Waheeb tried to reassure him. Only at those who got too close. Those who confronted them. Donaldson breathed more freely. He’d certainly no intention of confronting them. He’d leave that to the others.

“You see they’re here for one purpose. To recover the object of their worship.”

“Worship?” echoed Donaldson again. The whole business was becoming more and more bizarre.

“They believe they are the chosen of the ancient gods, and that one day the whole world will fall under their influence with them as the rulers. Amon was the father of the gods. Hathor was the sky-goddess. They are her followers, her servants sent here to re-gain the mummified body in your museum which is, they believe, her original incarnation four thousand years ago. It was taken from its burial chamber by Sir Joshua Whitcliff. Since then there have been a succession of incarnations of the sky-goddess - all of them sacrificed to her to serve her as handmaids in the next life.”

By this time Arthur Donaldson was staring wide-eyed. “Are you serious?” he said. “In this day and age? Sacrifice to the gods?”

Colonel Waheeb nodded gravely.

Donaldson could hardly get out his next statement. “And - er how does the present Mr Whitcliff fit into the picture? He’s not connected with these mad men, is he? He comes from a very respectable family, y’know. Eccentric, maybe. But not in any way connected with murderers!”

“It’s often the most respectable who are used as fronts by terrorists,” said Waheeb. “They play on their ideals then use them for their own ends.”

“And where’s the front located for their set-up here?” asked Blake Hartley.

“I don’t know, “ Colonel Waheeb replied. “Ahmad Manasas was on the point of telling us but they got to him first. I was hoping I might find some clue when you visited his office.”

“No go,” Khan informed him. “Someone got there before we did and cleaned the place out. They covered their tracks well. Not even a sign of a fingerprint.”

“All we found were Manasas’s credentials and his gun hidden in a compartment of his cabinet. And that was thanks to Sgt Khan. I missed it completely,” said Hartley.

By this time, Donaldson was staring blankly from one to the other. He could hardly take in what he was hearing.

“I said earlier that these people carry out female human sacrifice as part of their ritual. They’ve done it in my country for years,” said Colonel Waheeb. He paused and wiped his moustache gently with his forefinger. “I believe they will do it here before they take the mummy back to its original burial chamber in Egypt. That is their avowed intent, superintendent.” He turned to Inspector Hartley. “There is a girl missing, I believe.”

It was Hartley’s turn to look surprised.

“Why, yes, Colonel. Khan and I were looking into her disappearance. We drew a blank.” He said nothing of what Tom Driscoll had told him. That would come later when Donaldson wasn’t present. To start hares with Donaldson meant chasing them over the horizon.

Waheeb, too, had said all he wanted to say. and the four of them sat in silence while what they had heard sank in. But Arthur Donaldson didn’t like silence. He began drumming his fingers on the edge of his desk. Then he got up and stared desperately out of the window. There wasn’t much option for him but to keep the whole business under wraps.
They’d laugh in his face if he tried to explain it. He imagined the Chief Constable’s face staring back at him as he attempted to tell him. No. He had to keep the whole thing under wraps till the right time. But all sorts of dreadful things could go wrong before then if these people were as crazy as Waheeb had said and where would that leave him?
It was the Colonel who broke the silence. He had a solution to the superintendent’s problem.

“If I may suggest, sir,” he began, “I’d like to infiltrate these followers of Hathor with one of your own officers.”

“Risky business,” said Donaldson, pursing his lips and frowning. “Look what happened to your man.”

“We take risks all the time,” said Inspector Hartley. “Coppers in peacetime are in the front line. It goes with the job.”

Donaldson unpursed his lips. “Of course, Hartley,” he said. “We’re well aware of that! But the question is, how do we penetrate their set-up. I mean, you’re known to them already - all too damn well!”

Waheeb smiled softly. “But I’m not,” he said. “And if I can provide an alibi which could ease me into the group, I could penetrate it quite easily.”

Donaldson brightened . He thought it a splendid idea. As he remarked to the Chief Constable later, setting a dog to catch a dog is the first principle of policing - only Colonel Waheeb wasn’t present when he said it.

Sergeant Khan also added his ha’porth which pleased Donaldson. He’d get his promotion yet.

Khan suggested he and an Asian colleague tried worming their way into the group. “After all, sir, we look the part,” he said.

The Super couldn’t deny that.

And Colonel Waheeb said Khan would pass any day as a follower of Hathor, if the sergeant saw what he meant. Ibrahim Khan agreed. “I mean, both of us look the part,” he said.

“It’s the sun-tan,” said Hartley, with a wink at his sergeant.

Arthur Donaldson winced. He’d never have dared make such a remark. He was always politically correct.

“We could watch each other’s backs that way,” said Khan to Waheeb.

The Super rubbed his hands. “My thoughts exactly. We’d work as a team, Khan,” he said.

In fact, Donaldson became so enthusiaistic, they stayed some time working out a plan of campaign: how Colonel Waheeb and Sgt Khan would infiltrate the terrorists. Then the first thing Mordecai Waheeb did when he left the station was to visit the museum with Blake Hartley and examine the mummy.


To read earlier episodes please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_museum_mystery/


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