Blood Lines Chapter Five


He gazed over the breakfast table-a bowl of strawberries and melon, three eggs over easy, six slices of rare roast beef, corn muffins, a chilled glass of apricot nectar, and a pot of fresh brewed coffee-nodded a satisfied dismissal at the young woman who delivered it, and snapped open his copy of the national paper. While he'd had the morning editions of all three Toronto papers delivered, it had been easy to tell which he should read first. Only one had more text than pictures.

After devouring the child's ka, he had spent the rest of the day acquiring suitable garments and a place to stay. The shopkeepers in the small and very exclusive men's wear stores along Bloor Street West had been so concerned with status that they'd been almost embarrassingly easy to enchant and later the manager of the Park Plaza Hotel had responded so well to appearance and arrogance that he'd barely needed to use power at all.

He had registered as Anwar Tawfik, a name he'd pulled from the ka of Elias Rax. Not since the time of Merinar, the first Pharaoh, had he used his true name and by the time the priests of Thoth trapped and bound him, he'd been called so many things that they could place only what he was, not who, on their binding spell. If they'd had his true name, he'd not have gotten free so easily.

He'd chosen the Park Plaza because it overlooked both the museum and, a little farther south, the provincial seat of government. He could, in fact, see both from the windows of his corner suite. The museum held only a certain amount of sentimental significance. Queen's Park, he would take as his own.

In the old days, when those who had held secular power had also wielded religious might, when there had been no division between the two and the Pharaoh had been the living Horus, he had had to build his power structure from the bottom up, from the disenfranchised and the discontented. In this age, Church and State were kept forcibly separate and that left the State ripe for his plucking.

Often in those days, he found only enough unsworn ka to extend his own life and had hoarded what power he had lest he and his god ultimately perish. Now, with so few sworn, he had no need to conserve power. He could use what magic he wished, bend the mighty to his will, knowing that a multitude existed for him to feed from.

Akhekh, he knew, would not properly appreciate the situation. His lord had? simple tastes. A temple, a few acolytes, and a little generated despair kept Akhekh happy.

Folding the paper into quarters, he poured himself a cup of coffee and sat back, allowing the October sun to brush warmth across his face. He had awoken in a cold, gray land where leaves the color of blood lay damply underfoot. He missed the clean golden lines of the desert, the presence of the Nile, the smell of spice and sweat but, as the world he missed no longer existed, he would make this world his own.

And frankly, he didn't see how anyone could stop him.

'Homicide. Detective-Sergeant Celluci. You sure? Caused by what?’’

Dave Graham watched his partner scowl and took bets with himself as to who was on the other end of the phone. There were a number of reports still outstanding although they had already received the photographs and an analysis from the lab on the contents of the trap.

'You're sure there's nothing else?’’ Celluci drummed on the desktop with his fingertips. ’’Yeah. Yeah, thanks.’’ Although obviously annoyed, he hung up the phone with exaggerated care-the department had refused to replace any more receivers. ’’Dr. Rax died because his heart stopped.’’

Ah, the coroner. He owed himself a quarter. ’’And why did the good doctor's heart stop?’’

Celluci snorted. ’’They don't know.’’ He picked up his coffee, swirled it around to break the scum that had formed over the last two hours, and drank. ’’Apparently, it just stopped.’’

'Drugs? Disease?’’

'Nada. There were signs of a struggle, but no evidence of a blow to the chest. He'd had a sandwich, a glass of milk, and a piece of blueberry pie about four hours before he died. He was, according to fatigue buildup in the muscles, a bit tired.’’ Celluci shoved an overly long curl of hair back off his forehead. ’’Dr. Rax was a healthy fifty-two-year-old. He caught a naked intruder in the Egyptology workroom and his heart stopped.’’

'Well,’’ Dave shrugged. ’’I suppose it happens.’’

'What happens?’’

'Hearts stop.’’

'Bullshit.’’ Celluci crumbled his cup and tossed it at the garbage basket. It hit the rim, sprayed a few drops of coffee on the side of the desk, and dropped in. ’’Two deaths by unexplained heart failure in the same room in less than twenty-four hours is?’’

'A gruesome coincidence.’’ Dave shook his head at his partner's expression. ’’This is a high stress world we live in, Mike. Any little extra can tip you over. Ellis saw something that frightened him, his heart couldn't take it, he died. Dr. Rax interrupted an intruder, they fought, his heart couldn't take it, he died. As I said, it happens. Cardiovascular failure, occurring not as a direct result of violence, doesn't come under our jurisdiction.’’

'Big words,’’ Celluci grunted.

'Well, I'm ready to conclude this wasn't a homicide and toss it over to the B and E boys.’’

Celluci swung his legs off the desk and stood. ’’I'm not.’’

'Why not?’’

He thought about it for a moment and finally shrugged. He couldn't really come up with a reason, even for himself. ’’Call it a hunch.’’

Dave sighed. He hated police work based solely on intuition, but Celluci's arrest record was certainly good enough to allow him to ride a hunch or two. He surrendered. ’’So, where're you going?’’

'Lab.’’

Watching his partner stride away, Dave considered phoning the lab and warning them. His hand was on the receiver when he changed his mind. ’’Nah.’’ He settled back in his chair and grinned. ’’Why should I have all the fun?’’

* * *

'This is a piece of linen?’’ Celluci stared into the mylar envelope and decided to take Doreen's word for it. ’’What's it off of?’’

'An ancient Egyptian ceremonial robe, probably a size sixteen extra long. It had an empire waist, pleated sleeves, and how the blazes should I know?’’ Doreen Chui folded her arms and stared up at the detective. ’’You bring me twenty-two milliliters of sludge that's just had an acid bath and I pull out a square millimeter of linen. More miracles than that you shouldn't ask for.’’

Celluci took a step back. Small women always made him feel vaguely intimidated. ’’Sorry. What can you tell me about it?’’

'Two things. One, it's old.’’ She raised a cautionary hand. ’’I don't know how old. Two, there's a bit of pigment on one of the fibers that's about fifty,'fifty blood and a type of vegetable paint. Also old. Nothing to do with last night's body. At least not as far as precious bodily fluids are concerned.’’

He took a closer look at the fleck of grayish-brown substance. Raymond Thompson had said that the coffin was Eighteenth Dynasty. He wasn't sure when exactly that was, but if the bit of linen could be placed in the same time period? he'd be building a case against a mummy that everyone insisted didn't exist. That should go over like a visit from a civil rights lawyer. ’’You couldn't find out how old this is, could you?’’

'You want me to carbon date it?’’

'Well, yes.’’

'Drop dead, Celluci. You want that kind of an analysis done-provided I had a big enough sample which I don't- you get the city to stop cutting my budget so I can get the equipment and the staff.’’ She slapped her palm down on the desk. ’’Until them, you got a scrap of linen with a bloody paint stain on it. Capesh?’’

'So, you're finished with it?’’

Doreen sighed. ’’Don't make me explain it to you again, Detective. I've had a hard morning.’’

'Right.’’ He carefully slid the envelope into his inside jacket pocket, and tried an apologetic smile. ’’Thanks.’’

'You really want to thank me,’’ she muttered, turning back to her work, the smile apparently having no effect, ’’put a moratorium on murder until I take care of my backlog.’’

Dr. Shane held the mylar envelope up to the light, then, shaking her head, laid it back down on the desk. ’’If you say that's a piece of linen, Detective, I believe you, but I'm afraid I can't tell you what it's from or how old it is. When we get the inventory finished and find out what's missing, well, maybe we'll know what went down the sink?’’

'It had to be something that the intruder felt would give him away,’’ Celluci mused.

'Why?’’ The detective had a very penetrating gaze, Dr. Shane realized as he turned it on her. And very attractive brown eyes with the sort of long, thick lashes most women would kill for. With an effort she got her train of thought back on track. ’’I mean, why couldn't it have just been senseless vandalism?’’

'No, too specific and too neat. A vandal might have dumped acid on some of your artifacts, but they wouldn't have rinsed down the sink afterward. And,’’ he sighed and brushed the curl of hair back off his forehead, ’’they wouldn't have started with that. They'd have knocked a few things over first. What about the blood,'paint mixture?’’

'Well, that's unusual.’’ Dr. Shane frowned down at the linen. ’’Are you sure that the blood was actually mixed with the pigment and hadn't just been splashed on at some later date?’’

'I'm sure.’’ He sat forward in his chair and leaned his forearms across his knees, then had to shift as his holster jabbed him in the small of the back. ’’Our lab is very good with blood. They get a lot of practice.’’

'^Yes, I suppose they do.’’ She sighed and pushed the sample toward him. ’’Well, then, the only historical explanation that comes to mind is that this is a piece of a spell.’’ She settled back and steepled her fingers, her voice taking on a lecturing tone. ’’Most Egyptian priests were also wizards and their spells were not only chanted but written on strips of linen or papyrus when the matter was deemed serious enough to need physical representation. Occasionally, when very powerful spells were needed, the wizard would mix his blood with the paint in order to tie his life force to the magic.’’

Celluci laid his hand down on the envelope. ’’So this is a part of a very powerful spell.’’

'It seems that way, yes.’’

Powerful enough to keep a mummy locked in its coffin? he wondered. He decided not to ask. The last thing he wanted was Dr. Shane thinking he was some kind of a nut case who'd gotten his training from old Boris Karloff movies. That would definitely slow down the investigation. He slid the envelope back into his jacket pocket. ’’They mentioned carbon dating at the lab??’’

Dr. Shane shook her head. ’’Too small a sample;they need at least two square inches. It's why the Church objected to dating the Shroud of Turin for so long.’’ Her gaze focused somewhere in memory, then she shook her head and smiled. ’’It's one of the reasons anyway.’’

'Dr. Shane?’’ The tapping on the door and the entry were pretty much simultaneous. ’’Sorry to disturb you, but you said you wanted that inventory the moment we finished.’’ At the assistant curator's nod, Doris crossed the room and laid a stack of papers on the desk. ’’Nothing's missing, nothing even looks disturbed, but we did find a whole pile of useless film in the darkroom. Every single frame's been overexposed on about thirty rolls and we've got a stack of video tapes that show nothing but basic black.’’

'Do you know what was on them?’’ Celluci asked getting to his feet.

Doris looked chagrined. ’’Actually, I haven't the faintest. I've accounted for everything I've shot over the last little while.’’

'If you could put them to one side, I'll have someone come and pick them up.’’

'I'll leave them where they are, then.’’ Doris paused on her way out the door and glanced back at the police officer. ’’If they're still usable though, I'd like them back. Video tape doesn't grow on trees.’’

'I'll do my best,’’ he assured her. When the door had closed behind her, he turned back to Dr. Shane. ’’Budget cuts?’’

She laughed humorlessly. ’’When isn't it? I just wish I had more for you. I went over Dr. Rax's office again after your people left and I couldn't find anything missing except that suit.’’

Which at least gave them the relative size of the intruder-if there had even been an intruder. The ROM had excellent security and there'd been no evidence of anyone entering or leaving. It could have been an inside job;a friend of the dead janitor maybe, up poking around, who'd panicked when Dr. Rax had his heart attack. The name Dr. Von Thorne had come up a couple of times during yesterday's questioning as one of Dr. Rax's least favorite people. Maybe he'd been poking around and panicked-except that they'd already questioned Dr. Von Thorne and he had an airtight alibi, not to mention an extremely protective wife. Still, there were a number of possibilities that had nothing to do with an apparently nonexistent mummy.

While various theories were chasing each other's tails in Celluci's head, pan of him watched appreciatively as Dr. Shane came around from behind her desk.

'You mentioned on the phone that you wanted to see the sarcophagus?’’ she said, heading for the door.

He followed her out. ’’I'd like to, yes.’’

'It wasn't in the workroom, you know. We'd already moved it across the hall.’’

'To the storage room.’’ He could feel the stare of the departmental secretary as they crossed the outer office. ’’What are you doing hanging around here?’’ it said. ’’Why aren't you out catching the one who did this?’’ It was a stare he could identify at fifty paces just by the way it impacted with his back. Over the years, he'd learned to ignore it. Mostly.

'You'll find it's just a little large to maneuver around.’’ Dr. Shane stopped across from the workroom and pulled out her keys. ’’That's why we moved it.’’

While the workroom doors were bright yellow, the storeroom doors bordered on day-glo orange.

'What's with the color scheme?’’ Celluci asked.

Dr. Shane's head swiveled between the two sets of doors. ’’I haven't,’’ she said at last, forehead slightly puckered, ’’the faintest idea.’’

To Celluci's eyes the sarcophagus looked like a rectangular box of black rock. He had to actually run his fingers along the edge before he could find the seam where the top had been fitted into the sides. ’’How can you tell that something like this is Sixteenth Dynasty?’’ he asked, crouching down and peering in the open end.

'Mostly because the only other one ever found in this particular style was very definitely dated Sixteenth.’’

'But the coffin was Eighteenth?’’ He could see faint marks where the coffin had rested.

'No doubt about it.’’

'Is that unusual? Mixing time periods?’’

Dr. Shane leaned on the sarcophagus and crossed her arms. ’’Well, we've never run into it before, but that may be because we've run into very few undisturbed grave sites. Usually, if we find a sarcophagus, the coffin is missing entirely.’’

'Hard to run away with one of these,’’ Celluci muttered, straightening and having a look at the end panel. ’’Any theories?’’

'On why this one was mixed?’’ Dr. Shane shrugged. ’’Maybe the family of the deceased was saving money.’’

Celluci looked up and smiled. ’’Got a good deal on it secondhand?’’

Dr. Shane found herself smiling back. ’’Perhaps.’’

Moving the sliding panel into its grooves, Celluci let it gently down, then just as gently eased it up again. There was a three-inch lip on the inside that blocked the bottom edge. He frowned.

'What's the matter?’’ Dr. Shane asked, leaning forward a little anxiously. Pretty much indestructible or not, this was still a three-thousand-year-old artifact.

'They might also have chosen this style because once inside, it'd be the next thing to impossible to get out. There's no way to get a grip on this door and because it slides, brute force would do bugger all.’’

'Yes. But that's usually not a factor?’’

'No, of course not.’’ He released the panel and stepped back. Maybe Dave was right. Maybe he was fixating on this nonexistent mummy. ’’Just a random observation. You, uh, get used to throwing strange details together in this job.’’

'In my job, too.’’

She really did have a terrific smile. And she smelled great. He recognized Chanel No. 5, the same cologne Vicki used. ’’Look, it's?’’ He checked his watch. ’’? eleven forty-five. How about lunch?’’

'Lunch?’’

'You do eat, don't you?’’

She thought about it for a moment, then she laughed. ’’Yes, I do.’’

'Then it's lunch?’’

'I guess it is, Detective.’’

'Mike.’’

'Rachel.’’

His grandmother had always said food was the fastest way to friendship. Of course, his grandmother was old country Italian and believed in no less than four courses for breakfast while what he had in mind was a little closer to a burger and fries. Still, he could ask Dr. Shane-Rachel-her opinion on the undead while they ate.

The second time Celluci left the museum that day, he headed for the corner and a phone. Lunch had been? interesting. Dr. Rachel Shane was a fascinating woman;brilliant, self-assured, with a velvet glove over an iron core. Which made a nice change, he observed dryly to himself, because with Vicki the gloves were usually off. He liked her wry sense of humor;he enjoyed watching her hands sketch possibilities in the air while she talked. He'd gotten her to tell him about Elias Rax, about his often single-minded pursuit of an idea, about his dedication to the museum. She'd touched on his rivalry with Dr. Von Thorne and Celluci made a mental note to look into it. He hadn't brought up the mummy.

The closest they'd actually gotten to an analysis of the undead had been an animated discussion of old horror films. Her opinion of those had decided him against mentioning, in even a theoretical way, the idea that seemed to have possessed him.

Possessed? He shoved his hands deep into his jacket pockets and hunched his shoulders against the chill wind. Let's come up with another word, shall we?

When it came right down to it, there was only one person he could tell who'd listen to everything he had to say before she told him that he'd lost his mind.

* * *

'Nelson. Private investigations.’’

'Christ, Vicki, it's one seventeen in the afternoon. Don't tell me you're still asleep.’’

'You know, Celluci?’’ She yawned audibly and stretched into a more comfortable position in the recliner. ’’? you're beginning to sound like my mother.’’

She heard him snort. ’’You spend the night with Fitzroy?’’

'Not exactly.’’ When she'd finally gone to bed, having slept most of the day, she'd had to leave the bedroom light on. Lying there in the dark, she couldn't shake the feeling that he was beside her again, lifeless and empty. What sleep she'd managed to eventually get, had been fitful and dream filled. Just before dawn, she'd called Henry. Although he'd convinced her-and at the same time, she suspected, himself-that this morning at least he had no intention of giving his life to the sun, guilt about not actually being there had kept her awake until long after sunrise. She'd been dozing off and on all day.

'Look, Vicki,’’ Celluci took a deep breath, audible over the phone lines, ’’what do you know about mummies?’’

'Well, mine's a pain in the butt.’’ The silence didn't sound all that amused, so she continued. ’’The ancient embalmed Egyptian kind or the monster movie matinee kind?’’

'Both.’’

Vicki frowned at the receiver. Missing from that single word had been the arrogant self-confidence that usually colored everything Mike Celluci said. ’’You're on the ROM case.’’ She knew he was;all three papers had mentioned him as the investigating officer.

'Yeah.’’

'You want to tell me about it?’’ Even at the height of their competitiveness, they'd bounced ideas off each other, arguing them down to bare essentials, then rebuilding the case from the ground up.

'I think?’’ He sighed and her frown deepened. ’’? I'm going to need to see your face.’’

'Now?’’

'No. I still work for a living. How about dinner? I'll buy.’’

Shit, this is serious. She pushed her glasses up on her nose. ’’Champion House at six?’’

'Five thirty. I'll meet you there.’’

Vicki sat for a moment, staring down at the phone. She'd never heard Celluci sound so out of his depth. ’’Mummies?’’ she said at last and headed for the pile of ’’to be recycled’’ newspapers in her office. Spreading them out on her weight bench, she scanned the articles on the recent deaths at the museum. Forty minutes later, she picked up a hand weight and absently began doing biceps curls. Her memory hadn't been faulty;according to Detective-Sergeant Michael Celluci, there was no mummy.

It was cold and it was raining as he walked from Queen's Park back to his hotel, but then, it was October and it was Toronto. According to the ka of Dr. Rax, when the latter conditions were met, the former naturally followed. He decided that, for now, he would treat it as a new experience to be examined and endured, but that later, when his god had acquired more power, perhaps something could be done about the weather.

It had been a most productive day and the day was not yet over.

He had spent the morning sitting and weighing the currents of power eddying about the large room full of shouting men and women. Question period they called it. The name seemed apt, for although there were plenty of questions there seemed to be very few answers. He had been pleased to see that government-and those who sought positions in it-had not changed significantly in millennia. The provinces of Egypt had been very like the provinces of this new land, essentially autonomous and only nominally under the control of the central government. It was a system he understood and could work with.

Amazed at how little both adult ka he had devoured knew of politics, he had convinced a scribe-now called a press secretary-to join him for food. After using barely enough power to ripple the surface of the man's mind, he had sat and listened to an outpouring of information, both professional and personal, about the Members of the Provincial Parliament that lasted almost two and a half hours. Taking the man's ka would have been faster, but until he consolidated his power he had no wish to leave a trail of bodies behind him. While he couldn't be stopped, neither did he wish to be delayed.

Later this afternoon, he would meet with the man now called the Solicitor General. The Solicitor General controlled the police. The police were essentially a standing army. He would prepare the necessary spells and begin his empire from a position of strength.

And then, having set the future in motion, there were loose ends that needed tying off;two ka still carried thoughts of him that must be erased.

Vicki pushed a congealing mushroom around her plate and squinted at Celluci. The light levels in the restaurant were just barely high enough for her to see his face but nowhere near high enough if she actually wanted to pick up nuances of expression. She should have thought of that when she suggested the place and it infuriated her that she hadn't. Next time it's MacDonald's, right under the biggest block of fluorescent lights I can find.

He'd told her about the case while they ate, laying out the facts without opinions to color them;the groundwork had been laid and now it was time to cut to the chase.

She watched him play with his teacup for a moment longer, the ceramic bowl looking absurdly small in his hand, then reached across the table and smacked him on the knuckle with one of her chopsticks. ’’Shit or get off the pot,’’ she suggested.

Celluci grabbed for the chopstick and missed. ’’And they say after dinner conversation is dead,’’ he muttered, wiping sesame-lemon sauce off his hand. He stared down at the crumpled napkin, then up at her.

It might have been the lack of light, but Vicki could've sworn he looked tentative, and as far as she knew, Michael Celluci had never looked tentative in his life. When he started to speak, he even sounded tentative and Vicki got a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach.

'I told you how PC Trembley said there'd been a mummy when I talked to her that morning?’’

'Yeah.’’ Vicki wasn't sure she liked where this was heading. ’’But everyone else said there wasn't, so she must've been wrong.’’

'I don't think she was.’’ He squared his shoulders and laid both palms flat on the table. ’’I think she did see a mummy, and I think that it's responsible for both of the deaths at the museum.’’

A mummy? Lurching around downtown Toronto, trailing rotting bandages and inducing heart attacks? In this day and age the entire concept was ludicrous. Of course, so was a nerd with a pentagram in his living room, a family of werewolves raising sheep outside London, and, when you got right down to it, so was the concept of Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry the VIII, vampire and romance writer. Vicki adjusted her glasses and leaned forward, elbows propped, chin on hands. Life used to be so much simpler. ’’Tell me,’’ she sighed.

Celluci began ticking points off on his fingers. ’’Everyone we talked to, and I mean everyone, was surprised that an empty sarcophagus had been resealed. The only item that the intruder destroyed has been identified as part of a powerful spell. The only items stolen were a suit of clothes and a pair of shoes.’’ He took a deep breath. ’’I don't think the sarcophagus was empty. I think Reid Ellis was poking around where he shouldn't have, woke something up, and died for it. I think the creature took a little time to regain its strength and then got up out of the coffin and destroyed its wrapping and the spell that had held it. I think Dr. Rax interrupted, was overpowered, and killed. I think that the naked mummy then dressed itself in the doctor's suit and shoes and left the building. I think I'm losing my mind and I want you to tell me I'm not.’’

Vicki sat back, caught their waiter's attention, and indicated they wanted the bill. Then she adjusted her glasses again although they didn't really need it. ’’I think,’’ she said slowly, fighting a strong sense of deja vu-it had to be coincidence that both of the men in her life currently thought they were going crazy, ’’that you're one of the sanest people I've ever met. But are you positive that your recent? experiences aren't causing you to jump to supernatural conclusions?’’

'I don't know.’’

'Why doesn't anyone at the museum remember a mummy?’’

'I don't know.’’

'And if there is a mummy, how and why is it killing people?’’

'Goddamnit, Vicki! How the hell am I supposed to know that?’’ He scowled down at the bill, threw two twenties on the table, and stood. The waiter beat a hasty retreat. ’’I'm working on a gut feeling, circumstantial evidence, and I don't know what the f*k to do.’’

At least he didn't sound tentative anymore. ’’Talk to Trembley.’’

He blinked. ’’What?’’

Vicki grinned and got to her feet. ’’Talk to Trembley,’’ she repeated. ’’Go down to 52 division and see if she actually saw a mummy. If she did, then you've got yourself a case. Although,’’ she added after a moment's thought, ’’God only knows where you're going to go with it.’’ She tucked her hand in the crook of his elbow, less for togetherness than because she needed a guide out of the dimly lit restaurant.

'Talk to Trembley.’’ Shaking his head, he steered her around a Peking duck and toward the door. ’’I can't believe I didn't think of that.’’

'And if she says she didn't see a mummy, check her occurrence reports. Even if this thing of yours is playing nine ball with memories, it probably knows bugger all about police and procedure.’’

'And if the report's negative?’’ he asked as they went out onto Dundas Street.

'Mike.’’ Vicki dragged him to a stop, the perpetual Chinatown crowds breaking and swirling around them. ’’You sound like yon want to believe there's a mummy loose in the city.’’ She slapped him gently on the face with her free hand. ’’Now we both know better than to deny the possibility but sometimes, Sigmund, a cigar is just a cigar.’’

'What the hell are you talking about?’’

'Maybe it's a mummy, maybe it's a slight Oedipal complex.’’

He caught her hand and dragged her back into motion. ’’I don't know why I even brought it up?’’

'I don't know why you didn't think of talking to PC Trembley.’’

'You're going to be smug about that for a while, aren't you?’’

She smiled up at him. ’’You bet your ass I am.’’

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