|"Murder in fourteen parts?" Jon said.|
The bleak atmosphere of the stainless steel zone wrapped itself around them like the cold stink of formalin.
“You recognize him?” the morgue technician said after sliding out the tray for the two visitors, a young man and woman, a policeman from a London antiquities unit, Jon, and a young British Museum curator and Egyptologist, Jennefer.
She tried not to breathe in the chilling air. It was like looking at cuts in a butcher’s shop, the severed portions of the body arranged to the best advantage on a tray. Yet the expression on the dead man’s face made him appear to be resigned to his fate, almost as detached from the situation as the head was from its body.
She felt a choking grief. Martin had been a mentor, a kindly light in her sea of inexperience when she had begun as a junior curator in the multi-universe of civilizations that made up the British Museum.
“Which part of him?” Jon said. “The arms, hands, legs, feet, head…?”
Jennefer looked at Jon with her wide-spaced eyes that some took for innocence but they were the wideness and watchfulness of a falcon’s stare. He was showing his characteristic levity, she thought frowning. This was no time or place for it.
“That’s him all right,” she said. “Professor Bailey. I worked with him at the British Museum. This is too horrible. Poor Martin.”
“Some kind of elaborate suicide, no doubt,” Jon said, undeterred. She had long ago nicknamed him Metro Man, a good-looking London metrosexual and sharp dresser, with slightly thinning hair, who liked to belie the sharpness of his mind. “I see what’s happened here. This man threw himself on a stack of carefully arranged blades. Or maybe he did it piece by piece. Tricky lopping off pieces of yourself one at a time until you get to your head, but then you’ve got a bit of a problem with no arms.”
“This is hardly the time for levity, Jon.”
Jennefer regarded him with almost as much horror as she did the remains on the tray.
She had to remind herself once again. This was Jon’s way of working. He liked to voice the impossible first ‘to get it out of the way so that he could move on to the possible and probable,’ he’d say, but sometimes his outrageous theorizing made her stretch her mind and question her grasp on reality.
Was it possible? Could she entertain the idea for a second that this was a case of suicide?
The gruesome body parts said no.
The gruesome body parts said no.
“This has to be murder. Worse, an execution.”
She shuddered. Catching a whiff of mortality, she moved a little closer to Jon. He had a relieving tang of an aftershave or a bracing liquid soap.
As a museum curator, she was used to setting out objects and ideas neatly and carefully and labeling them correctly. Clean swept and willowy, even her beauty was ordered, her long hair drawn back on one side of her head and allowed to tumble in curls on the other side of her face.
“There is of course a precedent for this,” she said. “The Egyptian devil-god Seth murdered his brother Osiris and cut the body into fourteen pieces. It's almost as if this is designed to echo an event in mythology.”
“A murder in fourteen parts,” Jon said. “Interesting, Jennefer. If the Professor didn’t do this to himself, then who did? A rival academic, jealous of his research?”
“Seriously,” she said.
“A scholarly terrorist who’s read up on mythology?”
“Not even terrorists butcher people this way.”
The technician cleared his throat and glanced at the young lady.
“One body part was missing,” the technician said. “Thirteen pieces were found.”
“Being a female, she’s probably spotted that essential missing part already,” Jon said.
“That confirms it,” she said. “When Seth cut Osiris into fourteen pieces, he threw one piece into the River Nile.”
“Which piece?” He was making her say the word.
“Hate that word. So, a mythological copycat killing,” he said.
She shook her head.
“More complicated and sinister than that. Such an elaborate execution is sending a message....”
Excerpt from The Obelisk Prophecy. Follow up to The Egyptian Mythology Murders. Amazon Kindle