Mummy Powder, Part 1
Through the ages, so many horrible things have sprung from those two small words. The darkest imaginings and depravities of mankind all began with that simple question. A multitude of sins and evil events. This is one of them.
When I began my quest, so many years ago, I had in mind certain experiments to test the validity of legends of and relating to
Bruce nodded twice, his shaggy hair bouncing between. “Except for the blood smear. Did you want to see?” He held out the journal, open to the last entry, the only entry. I waved him off.
Geez, who kept a paper journal anymore? Hadn’t old Doc Witkinstein heard of computers? “Blood smears are nothing exciting.” And they didn’t really tell us anything, anyway. Witkinstein had been dead for days. We’d already seen what was left of the body and a few dull red smears wouldn’t bother either of us.
“What legends do you suppose he meant?” Bruce squinted at the journal as if that might make the meaning sink into his brain.
I sighed. “Sorry, was that you in the next room or do you have a twin brother I should know about?”
“Oh, the mummies then.”
I had to stop myself from mimicking him. Bruce was not on my payroll to be smart. That was my job. His was to open doors, break legs, remove obstacles, and as frequently as possible tell me how brilliant I was. Some things you just had to let go. “Yes, the mummies. Archaeologists may have tried for a couple of centuries to strip Egypt bare, but the country is still lousy with mummies. Thousands of years of embalming your dead can cause a bit of build up. Still a pretty good black market, I guess. Doesn’t tell us how he could afford several dozen of them, though.”
Bruce put the journal back down in the splintered remains of the desk, as close as he could manage to the spot he’d picked it up from. “But what good are they?”
I shrugged, pushing at some spilled paper with one foot. Paper! Sure we were in Egypt, but paper? I’m not asking for the twenty-first century, but join the 1990s at least, Doc. “Depends on who you ask. Cultural and historical research, Egyptian heritage, and so on. Lots of things.” Something sparked in my memory and I snorted.
“Up to a couple of hundred years ago, doctors used to prescribe powdered mummy for everything from head colds to a severe case of limp dick.”
“How would you use a mummy to cure anything?”
I tried not to laugh. Sometimes it wasn’t easy to get him to accept serious explanations. If he thought I thought it was a joke, the words would just bounce off his forehead. “They’d pulverize them, sell it to doctors for medicine, and the doctors would prescribe it to make a tea that would supposedly cure pretty much anything they thought the patient had.”
“Tea?” Bruce wrinkled his fat, several-times-broken nose. “That’s gross.”
“Yeah, well, I won’t tell you how they stretched the supply when actual mummies were harder to come by. Ground mummy would be better for you, in spite of the embalming fluids. Couldn’t let a whole industry fail, though.” I sighed again, a different kind of frustration. Some things never changed. “What was the old man working on that could possibly have been worth killing him over?”
Bruce shrugged. “Guess we’ll have to look.” He leaned down toward the desk debris then straightened and glanced nervously from side to side. “You don’t suppose it was a curse, do you?”
I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. He made it so easy, I just couldn’t help myself. “Well, pretty much only royalty or really rich people could afford curses. We’ll have to go through things in the loading bay to see if anyone here qualifies.” Or to see if anything obviously important is missing. Or not missing. Or not obviously. Careful or you’ll think yourself into a corner. Experiments, whatever they were, notwithstanding, my information said the old guy was onto something really, really big. Big like King Tut big. Maybe even worth killing over. There had to be some clue lying around.
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