|Author's Note: the characters of Gargoyles are the property of Disney
and are used here without their creators' knowledge or consent. PG-13 for
violent content. Written October 2003, posted February 2004. 15,500 words.
Originally intended as a stand-alone story for Avalon Mists.
November 8, 1996
"Refresh my memory," Matt
Bluestone said. "When, exactly, did we become the official Moldy Oldies
Captain Chavez looked evenly
at him over the pen she held pinched between the thumbs and forefingers
of both hands. One eyebrow cocked.
"I wasn't aware you'd been
promoted to Police Commissioner, Bluestone," she said. "Until that day,
which will hopefully happen long after I've retired, you take what assignments
"Easy, Matt," Elisa Maza
murmured, giving her partner an elbow-nudge. "I volunteered us for this
"Gee, thanks," he said.
"Much as I enjoy your company, Elisa, standing around a museum all night
isn't why I became a cop. I could have just gone the security guard route."
"You still could," Chavez
He checked himself, gave
Elisa a look that told her he'd want to talk more about this later, and
settled sulkily into a chair opposite the captain as she laid out the details
of their new case.
Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings
May 12, 1960
"And, as you can see, the
ladders were used to ascend and descend from one level of the city to the
"Bo-ring," John muttered
under his breath, rolling his eyes.
He crossed his arms and
felt cellophane crackle around the pack of smokes in his shirt pocket.
He wanted to light up, he wanted a cold pop or better still, a cold beer
he wanted out of here.
The rest of the class looked
rapt as their teacher droned on. Or maybe they were just dazed and glazed
over. They'd spent all of yesterday on a bus just to get to a motel that
made the cliff dwellings look posh by comparison, and another long, hot,
bumpy bus ride over rutted gravel roads this morning to get to the site.
Three of the girls and one of the guys had thrown up, and though the mess
had been cleaned up, the smell would still be there, steaming in the bus.
They had brought sack lunches
like little kids, brown bags and canned apple juice that would be as warm
and appetizing as piss by the time they got around to eating. It was a
miracle Miss Whitefawn hadn't made them pin their permission slips to their
Permission slips. How stupid
was that? He'd forged his mother's signature with practiced ease, having
perfected it on the absence notes. What they didn't know his parents,
the school wouldn't hurt them.
Next to him, Pete let out
a dragging, grumbling sigh. "I'd give my left nut to be at the pool parlor,"
"Same here," John said.
"For that matter, I'd give your left nut to be at a Garden Club show."
Pete threw a mock punch
at him, which John blocked. They cuffed each other on the shoulders, kicking
up dirt, grinning, until they realized that the rest of the class and Miss
Whitefawn were all staring at them.
"Boys, do you mind?" Miss
Whitefawn asked. "Some of us are here to learn."
They subsided, grunting
apologetic noises. The teacher eyed them sternly, nodded to herself, and
resumed her lecture.
"This is dumb," Pete whispered.
"What's the point, anyway? It's like living in Denver and going on a ski
trip to Vermont. Big diff; we could have stayed home."
"But that wouldn't be educational,
Petey-boy," John said.
"And this is?"
Whitefawn's fellow teacher
and bus driver, Mr. Gorman, was giving them the eyeball now. John stuffed
his hands in his pockets and tried to look like he gave a damn.
All he knew was that he
sure as heck wouldn't have wanted to live here. Baked mud houses, ladders
that looked like they'd fall apart in splintery wrecks if you bumped them
wrong, sheer drops. And it still hadn't done them any good. In the end,
they'd been beaten back by the white man anyway.
truly an amazing, accomplished
people," Whitefawn said. "Why don't you take half an hour or so to look
around, and then we'll climb back up to have our lunch."
The students fanned out
among the structures. They stooped to pass through doors meant for people
much shorter, peered through square windows, ambled near the edge to look
at the dizzying plunge or up along the rickety ladders.
John and Pete slouched against
a cave wall. The stone was rough, wind-carved into ridges where the softer
parts had been eroded. Pete hooked his thumbs through the belt-loops of
his jeans and scoffed.
"Are we supposed to be proud,
or what? So they built houses. Big deal."
"Like we're much better
off now," John said, nodding. "Living in shacks and peddling rugs, fireworks,
and junk jewelry by the side of the road."
"I can't wait to get out
"You and me both, Petey-boy."
John watched Miss Whitefawn stride past, and raised an eyebrow. "Then again,
there are a few good things to be said about school."
She glanced disapprovingly
at him as if she'd heard what he said, though he knew she was too far away.
With a shake of her head, she walked on, the long braid of her inky black
hair swinging against the back of her Western-style shirt, her legs long
and shapely in faded brown denims.
"Don't get your hopes up,"
Pete said. "Or anything else."
"You saying she wouldn't
go for me?"
"You're sixteen. She's got
to be twenty-five at least. You're just a kid to her, Johnny-boy, and that's
all you'll ever be."
"What, like she's going
to go for you?"
"I didn't say that," Pete
"But you were wishing it."
He jabbed at Pete's belly,
one-two, knuckles just brushing his shirt. Pete retaliated with a backhand
cuff that disarranged John's carefully slicked-and-combed hair. Then they
were sparring, pushing each other back and forth, taunting and laughing
and jeering and saying things about each other's mother.
As John's mother might have
said, if she was sober, it's all good fun until somebody loses an eye.
Pete didn't lose an eye.
But when he lunged, and John sidestepped, and Pete's foot hooked over John's
ankle, he plowed face-first into the cave wall. His nose crunched and began
to bleed. He reeled back, cupping his hands over an eye that was already
bruising, and swore.
"Oh, man, Petey," John said.
He was sure it was an accident.
He reached to help Pete at the same moment Pete swung around, and Pete's
other arm smacked John hard across the face.
Staggering back, he collided
with the cave wall himself. It felt like being hit by a truck. The back
of his head struck smartly on stone. John heard something crack and was
sure it was his skull. He slid down the wall, scraping his back when his
shirt rucked up to his armpits.
Sand and gravel rained down
on him, catching in his oiled hair, making it gritty. John rubbed the back
of his skull, wincing, searching for the split bone. A chunk of something
bounced off the top of his head. He swore in pain and surprise.
"Boove id, Johd," Pete said.
His voice had taken on a clogged, sinusy quality, and the flow of blood
was wrecking his shirt. But he leaned in, caught John by the arm and the
collar, and yanked him forward.
"Ow, hey!" John protested.
He had a head wound, maybe a whiplash too, and
And the wall was collapsing
Black zigzags raced across
the dusty pink-orange rock. Pieces fell out, first small ones and then
larger ones and then a slab the size of a refrigerator, toppling outward
and shattering on the ground. A choking cloud engulfed Pete, John, and
the students who'd rushed over to see what was happening.
Everyone coughed, waved
futilely at the dust cloud. John could hear Miss Whitefawn demanding to
know what they had done. She shoved her way through to them and drew back
in disgust when she got a good look.
John glanced at Pete. His
best friend's face was a muddy mess of blood and dirt, the nose bent, one
cheekbone abraded, both eyes swelling. Looking at himself, John saw that
he was so coated in dust and grit that he might have been rolled in it,
like a pork chop in flour. Bright flickering spots spun across his vision,
and the back of his head ached like someone had taken a hammer to it.
"What is the meaning of
this?" Miss Whitefawn cried. "Look at you. Look at the wall! This is a
national monument, boys, and some fine respect you show to it by going
around like hoodlums!"
"Miss Whitefawn?" one of
the girls in their class ventured, raising her hand.
"Not now," the teacher snapped.
Her gaze, sharp as arrow-points, stabbed from John to Pete to John again.
"We didn't mean to," John
"Id wad ad accidedt," Pete
said, cradling his nose as if he feared it would fall off.
"Miss Whitefawn!" the girl
said, more insistently.
"What is it, Nina?" she
She turned, and stopped
with her mouth open. John looked, too.
The wall against which he'd
fallen had crumbled away to reveal a rectangular opening in the side of
the cave. The edges were too even, too regular, to be the work of nature.
And the mound of debris at their feet was painted plaster, brittle and
Beyond was a dark space,
dry and musty and cluttered.
what have you
November 8, 1996
"At least we get free eats,"
Matt said, helping himself to another few cubes of ham and cheese speared
on flounced toothpicks.
"Remember, we're supposed
to be working," Elisa said.
She always felt uncomfortable
when she had to swap her familiar jeans and red jacket for more formal
wear. The iron-grey velvet sheath dress hugged her form, leaving little
to the imagination and nowhere convenient to carry her gun. She had to
settle for a holdout pistol in a holster on her sleek nyloned thigh, and
hope for the best.
Too, these high heels were
murder. And having her hair swept up and pinned like this made her head
feel heavy and off-balance.
But she did have to admit,
she looked pretty good. She'd gotten a smoldering once-over from Goliath
as the rest of the clan hooted, cat-called, and wolf-whistled their appreciation.
And with Matt spiffy in his tuxedo, they fit in with the rest of the milling
crowd in the lavish museum foyer.
"Our back-up's in place?"
Matt asked, lifting a flute of champagne from a passing waiter's tray with
the deft hands of a pickpocket.
Pretending to fiddle with
her necklace, Elisa lifted the microphone jewel toward her mouth. "Guys?"
"Right here, Elisa," Lexington
replied. She heard him through the matching clip-on earrings that dangled
from her lobes. "Nothing yet."
"Keep an eye out," Matt
"What's he eating?" Broadway's
voice came from off-mike, as if he was leaning over Lex's shoulder.
"Never mind," Elisa said.
"Where's everyone else?"
"Me and Hudson have the
parking lot covered," Brooklyn said into her ear. "Xanatos's limo just
"Angela and I " the deep
rumble of Goliath's voice sent shivers through Elisa "are keeping watch
on the back entrance."
Matt finished chewing and
sipped champagne. Elisa scowled at him to remind him that they were on
duty, and he shrugged boyishly. "Got to stay in character," he said. "So,
from whom are we expecting trouble? Not Xanatos, I hope; I thought you
had a truce."
"In theory, but I still
trust him about as far as I could throw him," Elisa said. "And you know
how these things go. It could be anyone. Demona, Macbeth, the Pack, Tomas
pick a number."
"We can probably cross off
Macbeth and Brode," Matt said. "I just don't see them as being interested.
They're both strictly Euro-snobs and somehow I think they have about as
much interest in pre-Columbian artifacts as I do."
She gave him a narrow look
and a dangerous smile. "Bear in mind, partner, that not all of our ancestors
came over on the Mayflower."
He flinched. "Sorry. Did
I just put my politically incorrect foot in my mouth?"
"Though you are probably
right about those two," she said. "As for the Pack, we know Jackal and
Hyena will work for anyone "
"And Hyena stole that sun-stone
thing," Broadway said.
"Right," Elisa said.
"What about Tony Dracon?"
"Not really his deal. If
Tony's going to pull a heist, he'll go for diamonds or guns or cash, or
something easy to re-sell and dispose of. He wouldn't have any use for
one-of-a-kind archeological goodies."
"That leaves Demona." Brooklyn
uttered a low and eager growl. "I hope she does try something, I'd love
to get my hands " Angela made a prim little throat-clearing noise that
shut him up.
"Here comes Xanatos," Matt
The circulating people were
the rich, the beautiful, the famous. Xanatos added more than a dash of
notoriety to the mix. He strolled in as if he owned the place, as if he'd
never been brought up on assorted criminal charges. Fox was on his arm,
wearing a sparkling gown of midnight blue and enough diamonds to make Tony
Dracon reconsider crashing this party.
Elisa caught just a glimpse
of the straight-backed figure of Owen Burnett leaving with their cashmere
coats over his arm. Then Xanatos caught her eye, and offered her a wry
little grin as if the two of them shared an amusing and scandalous secret.
Fox's expression was cool and aloof. One could almost believe she'd never
done time in prison.
A few reporters, who were
supposed to be behaving themselves until the man of the hour put in his
appearance, were unable to resist flocking around Xanatos. As many of the
others in the room turned to observe, Elisa saw Captain Chavez moving smoothly
toward them. She, too, was dressed for the occasion.
"And here comes the captain,"
Matt said, for the benefit of the eavesdropping gargoyles.
Though Chavez probably knew
that Elisa had arranged for some additional winged surveillance of the
museum, neither of them would mention it. Handy as it was for the police
to occasionally find muggers and drive-by shooters trussed like turkeys
and deposited on the station steps, there was something a little too vigilante
about it for Chavez to truly feel one hundred percent at ease.
She purposefully avoided
noticing the champagne glass in Matt's hand. "Well?"
"Everything's peaceful so
far," Elisa said. "The exhibit hall is locked, and the only one in there
is the assistant curator, who will be waiting to give the tour when Mr.
Dyami finishes his introductory speech."
"No other ways in or out?"
"Taken care of," Elisa said
Chavez nodded. "Good. Are
your parents coming?"
Elisa laughed. "Dad says
that Mom forced him to attend so many African exhibits that it's about
time for some payback."
"They just came in," Matt
said, gesturing with his chin toward the entrance.
The Mazas gave Xanatos a
wide berth. Elisa knew that they still didn't, and probably would never,
forgive him for all the meddling he'd done in the lives of Elisa and her
brother Derek. She sometimes wondered, though she would not in a million
years say so aloud, whether Mom and Dad even blamed Xanatos for bringing
Goliath here in the first place.
As she moved to meet them,
she was passed by a tall and very striking man with burnished copper skin
and backswept silver hair. Mr. Dyami, the man of the hour himself. His
surname meant 'eagle,' and it suited him with his piercing eyes and proud
beak of a nose. He swept in on her parents like a striking bird of prey.
"Pete? Peter Maza?"
Her father grinned devilishly.
"I don't believe it!" Dyami
said, seizing Peter's hand in both of his and shaking it with such vigor
he might have broken both their wrists. "Petey-boy!"
"Johnny-boy," her father
gave it right back. "Welcome to New York. Took you a few years longer than
me, but you finally made it."
Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings
May 12, 1960
Sara Whitefawn had never
been so tired. All she wanted was sleep, a great dreamless chunk of it.
Ten hours, or twelve.
At the same time, she'd
never been wider awake.
The find. The find was incredible.
Adrenaline kept her going
long after exhaustion should have shut her down. This was a once in a lifetime
event, the kind of thing that every historian no matter how amateur
Everything was in perfect
Right down to the body.
It wasn't a mummy in the
sense that most people thought of. There were no spices, no wrappings,
no canopic jars full of preserved organs. The brain hadn't been pulled
in pieces out through the nasal passage.
But the body was mummified,
The weather had done that.
The arid desert heat. Hundreds and hundreds of years of it had sucked the
moisture from the corpse's tissues, shriveling them close to the bone and
giving the skin a tough leathery consistency similar to that of beef jerky.
The cliff dwellers didn't
usually bury their dead like this. Hidden, concealed, in a secret room
cleverly painted to blend with the rock wall
and the ruse had worked.
Until Pete and John had cracked the façade with their rough-housing
and let light and fresh air into a chamber that had been sealed for centuries.
Sara shook her head, briefly
distracted from thoughts of the mummy and the artifacts. Boys would be
boys. Troublemakers, the both of them. She could understand it in John.
His family was poor, mother an ill-tempered alcoholic. But Pete? His father
was a respected elder, a wise man with nothing but respect for the old
ways and traditions. She would have expected better from Peter Maza.
Still, they had discovered
this treasure trove of the past. Even if they had practically killed each
other doing it.
The field trip had come
to an abrupt end after that. The boys needed someone better qualified than
Sara Whitefawn with her basic first aid training to take a look at their
injuries. And there were people to call. This was big. This was important.
This could lift her career out of high-school teaching and into something
more. University teaching, maybe. The lecture circuit.
She had taken the protesting
students back to the motel. The kids hadn't wanted to go. They had, and
quite naturally enough, wanted to stay and explore the find. John and Pete
even argued at some length that they, having found it, should be able to
claim it. But the last thing Sara wanted was to have to answer to some
archeologist's review panel as to why she'd let this unique site be pawed
over and ransacked by a bunch of sixteen-year-olds.
Besides, she wanted it all
Once she'd gotten the kids
settled, with massive orders of take-out, she'd left Hank Gorman in charge
and returned to the park. It had been a simple matter to find a spot to
secrete herself until dusk.
She'd told Gorman that she
had already informed the park rangers, had done so while he'd been herding
the kids onto the sourly vomit-smelling bus. A little white lie in a good
She would inform them, of
course she would. The rangers would then cordon off the site with sawhorses
and warnings. They would make all the necessary calls. Tomorrow, this site
would belong to the experts.
Tonight, it belonged to
She didn't have a full array
of tools, but she had a flashlight and a camera and that would do for a
start. Putting on a hard-hat she'd borrowed from the ranger station, she
ducked through the rectangular opening that John and Pete had exposed.
It had been a gamble, leaving
it this way. There was every possibility that another school field trip
or small group of family vacationers would happen along and find it. But
she had banked on it being early enough in the year, and late enough in
the day. Odds were good that the site would remain undisturbed until she
The odds had been in her
favor. She saw no signs that anyone else had attempted to explore the opening.
No newer tracks in the dust. The mound of rubble in the same configuration
Sara climbed gingerly over.
The space was small, a room not much larger than the kitchen of her apartment.
The beam of light touched and illuminated item after item.
No gold; this wasn't the
tomb of a pharaoh. But the objects that were here were in excellent condition.
Beautiful clay pots painted with symbols. A feather-topped medicine staff.
A horn and sinew bow with bundles of pristine arrows. Baskets with patterns
of mountains and sky woven into their design.
And at the center of it
all, laid out in a long wooden box, the body. The mummy. Dehydration had
drawn it into a fetal position, the tendons shrinking as they dried. The
head was bent to one side, the withered lips peeled back from the yellowed
ivory of teeth.
Sara swept the flashlight
down the length of the body. A beaded loincloth hung slack on bony hips,
covering the shrunken genitals. Sacred signs were still visible on the
leathery skin. Once bright red and yellow, they had faded to ghosts of
rust and ochre.
She aimed the light at the
head again. Black hair tied in a topknot. Unusual. A headband that was
now too large for a head that had contracted so close to the skull, and
drooped over one hollow eye socket.
"Who were you?" she whispered.
He had been set to rest
on a deerskin, marked with the residue from whatever fluid had seeped from
his body. There were no obvious injuries, nothing that might have indicated
symptoms of disease.
By the teeth and the color
of the hair, he had been a young man when he died. He must have been of
special status to be accorded this sort of treatment. A warrior? A chief?
Thinking that she might
find more clues as to the mummy's identity amid the other things that shared
his tomb, she turned away to begin a purposeful but careful search. She
didn't want to damage anything and have to answer to the experts, but she
had to look.
The white pops of her flashbulb
were dazzling in the pitch darkness. Anyone seeing the cliff dwelling burst
into brief light from the outside could have easily suspected spirits or
magic at work.
As she was examining an
arrangement of baskets, all of them watertight and with lids that had been
sealed with pine resin the contents rattled and she wanted desperately
to open one up she heard a tenebrous creak from behind her.
All at once, Sara's heart
sprang into her throat. All at once, she was frightened. It was as if the
fear were some lurking beast that had spied an opportunity, and sprang.
The flashlight beam jittered
up the wall as her hand trembled.
Slowly and very much against
her will, Sara turned.
She knew what she was going
to see and shouldn't have been surprised.
The mummy was sitting up
in the wooden box. The head had rotated toward her. The drooping headband
over one eye gave it the macabre impression of winking at her. The grin
of strong yellow teeth seemed to have widened.
The flashlight fell from
her nerveless hand. It struck the ground and rolled. In the sporadic flicker
before the bulb hit a rock and smashed, Sara saw quick shadowy movement
and felt a dry hand close around her wrist.
November 8, 1996
"My goodness, Pete," John
Dyami said, finally relinquishing Peter Maza's hand and focusing his exuberant
greetings on the others. "You've done very well for yourself. A beautiful
wife, a stunning daughter
and is this young man your son-in-law?"
Matt Bluestone nearly choked
on a canapé. "No, sir. I'm Elisa's partner."
"Partner? Business partner
"I'm a detective," Elisa
said, smiling pleasantly, enjoying the way Dyami's eyebrows shot up.
"A detective? Your daughter,
Pete? A police officer? How on earth did that happen?"
"You wouldn't believe me
if I told you," her father said.
Dyami peered closely at
"Ran away to New York and
became a cop?"
"Amazing, isn't it?"
Dyami said. He leaned conspiratorially toward Elisa and hissed in a loud
stage whisper, "Do you have any idea what a hellraiser your dad used to
"A little," Elisa said,
while her mother chuckled and slid one arm around her father in a hug.
"Well, we all do change,
don't we?" Dyami sighed expansively and spread his hands. "Look at me
once a poverty-stricken young tough, and now, dare I say, a wealthy and
"Wealthy, anyway," interrupted
the sardonic drawl of David Xanatos. "Respected? I think you and I both
have a long way to go in that regard, J.D."
"David!" Once again, the
ebullient handshake. "What a small world this is turning out to be!"
"You two know each other?"
Peter Maza asked, incredulous.
"I was going to say the
same of you," Xanatos replied. "J.D., this is my wife, Fox."
"She certainly is," Dyami
said, affecting a leer that was as charming as it was bogus.
Fox tossed her head and
laughed throatily. "Mr. Dyami, how nice to meet you."
"I saw you on the news,"
"Arrest, early parole, wedding,
or birth?" Fox asked.
"All of the above."
"There's no such thing as
As they bantered, Elisa
and Matt withdrew a few paces. The gargoyles were clamoring in her ear,
all set to distrust anyone who was an old chum of Xanatos' and never mind
that he was also an old friend of her father's.
Then again, Coyote the Trickster
was an old friend of her father's, so who knew?
"So far, so good," Matt
said. "Dyami's quite the guy, isn't he?"
Elisa frowned. "Something
about him bugs me."
"Me, too. He seems too slick.
Too comfortable in a tuxedo."
"You don't trust him, either."
"Thanks for reminding me."
Matt grimaced. "Okay, okay,
forget it. So you volunteered us for this because he knows your dad?"
"Yeah. Dad asked me if I
would. On the plus side, I was able to get him and Mom on the invitation
Technically, the gig was
supposed to be the responsibility of museum security. But given the recent
rash of problems in area museums over the past few years the Eye of Odin,
Titania's Mirror, the Scrolls of Merlin, the Guatemalan sun-disk
a few other incidents with which she and the gargoyles hadn't been directly
involved the museum had requested a little extra help from the NYPD.
She and Matt were here on a semi-formal basis, just to keep an eye on things
and help out if something did go wrong. As extra added insurance, she had
her back-up team posted on the nearby rooftops.
"You guys catch all that?"
she asked into her necklace.
Their replies were all in
the affirmative. Elisa and Matt circulated through the upscale crowd of
museum patrons, Matt continuing to load up on snacks and champagne. At
his insistence, Elisa allowed herself to sample the crab-stuffed mushrooms,
the wafer-thin crackers heaped with caviar, the petit-fours.
At eight o'clock sharp,
the canned music Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" switched off and all
attention was drawn to a dais near the closed double doors that led into
the exhibit hall. Above the doors was a banner that read "Sacred Southwest
A Native American Journey Through History."
The museum's chief curator,
a severe-looking grey-haired lady in a severe dress that made Elisa think
of dour governesses, mounted the steps to the dais. She accepted a cordless
microphone from a skinny museum intern in a white jacket that made him
look like a waiter, and smiled a thin, humorless smile.
"Here we go," Matt said,
finishing off a bit of marzipan. He dabbed his lips and the corners of
The curator began with the
typical gushing thanks to all the museum patrons whose so-very-generous
donations made events such as this possible, the responsibility of the
museum to educate and inspire future generations, yadda-yadda-yadda. A
speech designed to make the guests reach for the old checkbook, and a collection
box had been none-too-subtly situated next to the doors.
When the curator introduced
John Dyami, he took center stage like he'd been born to it. Elisa knew
about his public background respected Hollywood producer and director
and had a hard time reconciling it with her father's descriptions as
a punk from a broken home of alcoholics.
The Mazas had taken advantage
of the opportunity to get away from Xanatos and Fox, and now joined Elisa
as Dyami began speaking. She noticed that her father's expression was troubled.
"Dad? What's wrong?"
"Did you get much of a look
at the exhibit while they were putting it together?" he asked.
"Sure. We did several walk-throughs
with the museum security people. Why?"
"There isn't a
"Yeah," Matt said. "A mummy.
At least, I think it's a mummy. Not wrapped up, though."
Peter Maza's face darkened
"Dad, what is it?"
"I didn't know he'd gotten
that for his collection."
"Why, is it cursed or something?"
Matt started to smile, but it fell away as Peter's dark look deepened.
"Oh, come on, Dad," Elisa
pleaded. "Don't tell me we've got some curse on our hands."
"I don't know," he said.
"I just don't know."
"What do you know?"
"Shh," he said, and pointed
"school field trip," Dyami
was saying. "A friend and I were goofing around, roughhousing, the way
teenage boys do " He spared a brief but brilliant grin at Peter, and rubbed
at the back of his head. "And we broke through a fake wall that had been
painted to match the ordinary cave surface. In the hidden room on the other
side was where I made my first acquaintance with Chief Akando."
Elisa saw her father wince
and touch his nose, which had been broken a few times during his life.
"the time I had no idea
of the importance of what we were seeing," Dyami went on. "Only later would
I come to realize how rare and precious a find it had been. I was not,
if you can believe it, very into history when I was sixteen."
A mild laugh rippled the
"But that day did serve
to awaken something in me. A fire, an interest, that I'd never known before,"
Dyami said. "If not for the mysterious occurrences that took place shortly
after the find "
"Mysterious," Peter muttered.
"That's an understatement."
"stories about a curse,"
Dyami said. His eyes glinted as if he and the crowd knew how silly such
stories were. "But the teacher's disappearance, and the subsequent hushing-up
by the authorities, marked it in my mind. Years later, when I had outgrown
my youthful hoodlum stage, I found myself becoming more and more fascinated
with the history of those ancient peoples, my forefathers."
"Peter, are you all right?"
Diane asked. "Here, drink something before you have a stroke." She pressed
a champagne glass into his hand.
Dyami's smile became intimate
and crafty, and he leaned over to whisper into the microphone as if conveying
a secret. "Of course, I had no illusions about the income and job prospects
of your average archeologist or historian."
This made more than a few
people, museum staff by the look of them, bristle and mutter darkly. The
wealthier patrons of the arts laughed the complacent laughs of those who've
never had to work a day in their lives.
"So I went to California
and got rich in the movie industry," Dyami said, his tone so casual, so
matter-of-fact, that he made it seem like anyone could do the same.
Fox, standing nearby, scoffed
loudly and tossed back a martini in a single, aggressive gulp. Elisa saw
her bite the olive in two with a vicious nip. Xanatos patted her elbow-gloved
hand in a manner so condescending that it wouldn't have startled Elisa
to see her nip off the end of his nose next.
"But my love of history
never left me. Over the years, I built up my collection of Native American
artifacts and antiquities. Then it happened that I was invited to an auction,
and imagine my astonishment to find Chief Akando among the items destined
for the block. His body and the various accoutrements that had been interred
with him had somehow come into the possession of a private collector rather
than a university or museum."
"This Chief Anaconda," Matt
murmured. "He's our curse-of-the-mummy guy?"
"What's this all about,
Dad?" Elisa asked.
"The teacher who took us
on that field trip," Peter said. "Sara Whitefawn. She disappeared that
day and no one ever saw her again. We the kids in her class, I mean
always suspected that she'd dumped us off at the motel with the bus driver,
and gone back to the cliff dwelling to explore the site herself."
"And the government kept
it quiet?" Matt brightened. Conspiracies of any sort never failed to cheer
"much more than I'd planned
to at that auction," Dyami said, with an appealing little shrug that probably
melted the hearts of half the women in the crowd. "But we all know how
it is when you see something you just cannot live without."
Xanatos snickered, reminding
Elisa that his usual way of getting what he wanted went a little beyond
breaking the bank at the auction house.
"I acquired the entire collection
and added it to my own." Dyami gestured grandly at the doors, and a hum
of anticipation filled the room. "And now I am delighted to share it with
At this prearranged cue,
the skinny intern and another who could have been his twin graduate students
from NYU, Elisa surmised pulled the massive doors open. The banner belled
and undulated in the draft. The spacious room beyond was dramatically lit
by spotlights situated to showcase the exhibit cases. Objects too large
for the cases hung from the ceiling on invisible wires, a canoe and a buffalo
skeleton and a travois and others.
The crowd surged forward,
not in a mad rush but with an eager anticipation and a rising babble of
chatter. The museum curator rubbed her hands together as some veered off-course
to deposit checks in the donation box. John Dyami stood on the dais with
his hands folded behind his back, beaming proudly.
And then somebody screamed.
Red Rock, New Mexico
June 20, 1982
Henry "Hank" Gorman lifted
the tea kettle off the burner when it started to whistle, and poured a
stream of boiling water into the mug that already held the dehydrated powder
and noodles of instant soup. A billow of steam wafted up, bringing him
the scent of reconstituted chicken broth and sodium.
He stirred, watching the
orange flecks spin and whirl and gradually soak up enough liquid to become
something vaguely resembling bits of carrot. Holding the mug carefully
in an unsteady, palsied hand, he shuffled in bedroom slippers to the folding
table set up between the swaybacked couch and the television.
It was good to be back.
Good to be home. He didn't know why he let himself be talked into attending
these things year after year. He was retired, and he harbored no delusions
about the extent to which he'd affected and influenced the lives of the
students who'd passed through his classrooms over the years.
Reunions. What was the point?
He'd attended a few of his own and as far as he could see, it was nothing
but a pathetic parade of everyone trying to act young again. Trying to
pretend that they hadn't gone bald, or gotten fat, or married some shrew
and been screwed out of everything in the inevitable divorce.
It was better, now. Now
that he went to the reunions not as an alumnus, but as a former teacher.
Mr. Gorman. History, American Government, Social Studies, Debate Club.
Seeing students who'd been snotty teenagers, full of themselves and sure
that they would become rich and famous.
He liked seeing them come
slinking back to their old home town, failures dragging after them like
cans tied to a dog's tail.
The girls who'd boasted
they would be Miss America or movie stars or supermodels, and twenty years
later they were fat-bottomed housewives or butch feminists in Birkenstocks.
The boys who'd all been
so sure they'd become race car drivers, astronauts, or professional football
coming back as used car salesmen, plumbers, ex-cons.
Seeing their shattered dreams
made Hank Gorman feel good. What he didn't like were the ones who actually
had made something of themselves. Oh, it wasn't so bad when the class brain
went on to a professorship at MIT, or the girl who'd volunteered as a candy
striper ended up a surgeon. Those kids worked hard, those kids deserved
But the ones who'd been
rotten as teenagers and came back as successes? Those were the ones Hank
Gorman really hated.
Peter Maza, for example.
He remembered Peter Maza,
all right. Arrogant strutting thug, all black leather and chains wrapped
around the insoles of his boots. Swagger and brash talk and hiding cigarettes
in his locker. Sneering at his father, sneering at the whole tribe, sneering
at the world.
Peter Maza, coming to his
twenty-year reunion as a police detective. How in the name of the good
Lord almighty had that happened? He'd turned up, with a wife and three
kids in tow, and the only consolation Hank Gorman took from it was that
Maza did not seem at all happy to be there. And that people in these parts
weren't as understanding of mixed marriages as people in New York evidently
were. As pleasant as the wife had been, as adorable as the kids were, they'd
gotten the cold shoulder from a lot of Maza's classmates.
His soup was cool enough
to drink. Hank slurped it while thumbing through the TV Guide. His gaze
happened upon Thunder River, one of John Dyami's movies, and he made a
Dyami, there was another
one who didn't deserve to be where he was. John Dyami should have been
in prison somewhere, or maybe eking out a living as a blackjack dealer
in Nevada. Not in the lap of luxury at some Beverly Hills estate, eighteen-room
mansion and six car garage. He'd brought some blonde slut half his age
to the reunion, all dolled up in mink and jewels.
Maza and Dyami. It was enough
to curdle a man's stomach.
The way they'd looked at
him, too. Pity and contempt for poor old Mr. Gorman, who'd stayed a teacher
until he retired and lived in the same two-bedroom tract home. They thought
they were so much better than him, the little punks.
Well, maybe he still knew
a thing or two that they didn't. Maybe he still had something they never
Finishing his soup and finding
nothing on television that sounded even remotely appealing, Hank heaved
himself out of the couch and went through the kitchen to the back door.
It was sliding glass, opening onto a yard that had once been landscaped
with hardy native ground-covering plants that didn't need much water or
care. Now it was a weed patch, all brambles and coarse tufts.
His patio was concrete,
cracked from temperatures that fluctuated more than a hundred degrees over
the course of a year. It was deep winter now, the desert night so cold
it could cut like a knife. Patches of ice-packed snow hunched along the
bottom of the fence and on the north side of the single car garage he'd
long since converted to a storage area.
A smile, thin and avaricious,
crinkled his face into a mass of lines. His was a sour amusement at best,
the glee of a covetous criminal who knows he can never sell his ill-gotten
gains but takes a certain pleasure in gloating over them in private.
Ah, but if he could have
He hadn't dared to before
he retired, sure that it would lose him his job and probably get him sued
into the bargain. Now, though, it wasn't like he had much to lose. What
would they do to him, throw him in jail? He was seventy-three and at his
last check-up the doctor had found a blot on the x-ray. Cancer. What with
the snail's pace of the courts these days, he'd be dead long before a judge
had a chance to bang a gavel.
The urge to go out there
was strong enough to make Hank slide the door open a few inches, but the
rushing icy draft of winter air swiftly changed his mind. He closed it
again and peered through the glass, his breath fogging it, at the garage.
Something moved out there.
A quick, black shape against
the stucco of the garage wall.
Hank twitched. His heart
lurched against his ribs.
He squinted. Whatever it
was had vanished into the shadows of a struggling juniper tree, beyond
the reach of the patio light's one wan bulb.
Though sour, his reputation
had not quite reached grouchy curmudgeon stage. The neighborhood brats
despised him enough to egg his car or string toilet paper all over his
front yard, but did not fear him sufficiently to refrain from using his
property as a shortcut. Too many of them knew he'd been a teacher, and
therefore thought him too wimpy to take potshots at them the way mean old
hermits were supposed to.
Well, he'd show them. Show
them that he didn't need a shotgun. The threat of calling their parents,
or calling the police, should do.
He couldn't have them snooping
around his garage. They might even try to get in, though the door was padlocked.
Kids had no respect for anything these days.
And if they got into his
Cursing, Hank bundled himself
into a heavy woolen bathrobe. He had a joke paddle hanging on a hook in
the kitchen, long and flat with holes drilled through it and 'Board of
Education' stenciled across it as somebody's idea of wit. A gag gift from
so long ago he couldn't even remember.
He'd never used it to dole
out a hefty dose of corporal punishment, but what these brats didn't know
wouldn't hurt them.
The paddle swung at his
side as he opened the sliding glass door and stepped out into the frigid
night. The air was so instantly cold that his fillings hurt, and the mucus
in his nostrils crackled into a fine rime.
"I know you're out there,
you kids," Hank called in his most menacing tone, which wasn't very since
his voice had gone waspish as he'd aged. It was a high, petulant whine
that nobody would mistake as threatening. "Get out of my yard or you'll
get what's coming to you."
He heard stealthy movement
behind the garage. As he headed that way, slippers crunching through brittle,
frozen foliage, he saw that the padlock was missing from the garage door.
And the door itself was ajar, an inch-wide slice of blackness.
"All right, that does it!"
Anger warmed his blood,
and his pulse thumped furiously in his temples as much out of temper as
alarm. Had they gotten in? Had they found what he kept hidden in there?
The padlock was on the ground,
its steel U of an arm sheared off and twisted. Hank kicked it aside, stubbing
his toe on the hard metal and not caring. He pushed the garage door open
and reached for the light switch.
The one in here was as dim
as the one over the patio, a weak yellow from a bulb both flyspecked and
cobwebbed. It cast a feeble glow over the sheet-draped furniture, crates
of moldering old textbooks, and other junk.
No kids sprang out at him.
Just as well; even though he was expecting it, the shock would probably
give him a heart attack.
He moved toward a wall of
old newspapers, tied with twine into bales and stacked, their edges tattered
from the gnawing of rats or mice. Behind the newspaper wall was a lumpy
heap covered by a waterproof canvas tarp.
Hank Gorman leaned over
the newspapers, pinched the edge of the tarp, and drew it back.
Sara Whitefawn's face filled
his mind as he did so. She had been so beautiful. Even after what had happened
to her, even with the hideous things that had been done to her body, her
face had been unmarked. Only her wide and horrified eyes had ruined it.
She had been dead when he
found her. Dead there in that little chamber, fingertips worn away to bloody
sticks as if she had tried to claw herself along the stony ground to escape
Dead when he found her,
but Hank knew nobody would believe that. They'd say that he had done it.
No matter how much he protested innocence, they'd find some way to blame
it on him.
The truth would be too terrible,
too insane to accept. Far easier to claim that Hank Gorman had done it,
and put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
So he'd gotten rid of her
body. He knew he couldn't risk leaving her there to be found by the park
rangers; he'd told the students that he was going out to look for her when
she hadn't returned to the motel by ten that night. He'd have to say he
never saw her, and hope that she was never discovered.
The chances of that were
pretty good, at least. The fall from the edge of the cliff dwelling compound
was a long one, into dense forests lining a deep and fast-moving river.
The canyon was inaccessible by road or helicopter, and most hikers who
came to this area preferred the dramatic scenery atop the mesas.
While he'd been watching
her tumbling rag-doll of a body vanish into the darkness, Hank had suddenly
become sure that he would feel a hard push from behind, and plunge helplessly
into that same open space. Sara's killer wouldn't be content with just
one death, oh, no. To avoid discovery, to protect the unthinkable
secret, Hank Gorman would have to die too.
He had turned from the brink,
fully expecting to see the mummy standing there and grinning its awful
withered grin at him.
But it had still been in
its box, smeared with Sara Whitefawn's blood.
Hank had worked as quickly
as he could, tossing Sara's camera and flashlight and the shredded remains
of her clothes into the sack she'd brought, and flinging the sack after
her into the canyon. He'd kicked and scuffed dirt over the stains and scrabbling
scratch-marks on the chamber floor. All the while, he'd kept one eye on
the mummy, waiting for it to sit up, come at him.
It hadn't. It had remained
perfectly motionless as Hank rolled it onto a woven blanket and secured
the whole thing with his belt.
Only now, as he slowly lifted
the tarp away from the battered old steamer trunk, did he stop to wonder
why he hadn't destroyed the thing.
Maybe because he hadn't
really believed it would be that easy. If he'd smashed it, broken its dry
bones like kindling, even tried incinerating the beef-jerky flesh, somehow
it would still come back. Madder and hungrier than ever.
The trunk was latched, but
the lock was gone. And a corner of that same ancient blanket hung out of
the seam between the trunk and its lid. Hank knew that he hadnt left it
that way. He felt nauseous, clammy.
He touched the lid.
A freezing spike of numbness
shot down his left arm. His frantically pounding heart stuttered.
Hank hammered his right
fist against his chest. He fell against the wall of newspapers, knocking
them every which way. Twine snapped. Papers fanned out, displaying headlines
dating back five years or more.
His breath snagged like
a fishhook in his throat. He could see the fingers of his left hand jittering
wildly, could see them but not feel them.
The dim light of the single
bulb was blocked out by a shape, a shape that leaned down toward Hank Gorman,
reaching for him.
In the instant before his
vision went black, in the instant before the clawlike hands closed on his
neck, Hank saw the dark face, and the lips pulled back from the teeth in
a vicious, hungry grin.
November 8, 1996
The crowd that had been surging
eagerly, happily, toward the open exhibit hall doors like a group of well-dressed
and well-behaved children on their first trip to Disneyland stopped in
a confused jumble as more screams were added to the first.
Those at the back were pushing
ahead to see what was wrong, those at the front were trying to retreat,
and in the tumult several people were knocked sprawling to the floor. Two
waiters were among them, and the sparkling fizz of spilled champagne sent
Dyami, still on the dais,
looked bewildered and uncomprehending. The museum curator, positioned by
her donations box, had gone stock-still and was gaping into the room. The
two grad student interns stood there holding the doors open, too stunned
to even think about letting them swing shut.
Elisa and Matt exchanged
a grim, meaningful look, and went into action. Elisa skirted the chaos
in front of the doors and came up alongside one of the interns. She saw
a man in the uniform of a museum security guard rushing in the same direction.
She momentarily lost sight of Matt's red head bobbing past elegant coiffures,
just one more tuxedo in a black-and-white sea.
"Close those doors," Elisa
said, as she went past. "Close them and don't let anyone in but cops and
Secure the scene. First
order of business no matter what the crime.
She wasn't even sure what
the crime was yet, though she had the sinking feeling that it involved
a dead body. Those screams hadn't been due to any vandalism. She didn't
care how dedicated a museum patron was, they wouldn't shriek like that
if it had been anything as simple as a slashed panting or defaced statue.
Matt and the security guard
joined her, ducking through the doors just as the interns finally maneuvered
A low obscenity escaped
Matt's lips. Elisa echoed it.
No point even checking.
Dead as anything Elisa had seen in her entire career.
"Elisa," Goliath said, urgency
and concern for her warring in his voice.
"Looks like a murder," she
said, for the benefit of the listening gargoyles.
Their responses ranged from
Angela's soft cry of dismay to Brooklyn's immediate protest. "But we've
been watching the place! Every exit!"
"Good God," the security
guard said. He was pale as cottage cheese. Clearly no ex-cop, this one.
Matt took a series of mincing
steps that got him closer to the body without letting his glossy black
shoes come near the spatter. His attention, though, was not on the corpse
but on the rest of the room, gaze darting from exhibit to exhibit.
Elisa had her stupid little
clutch-gun in her hand with no recollection of hiking her skirt to grab
for it. Her nerves were pinging like sonar. A quick glance up reassured
her; Broadway's earnest blue-green face peering anxiously down through
one of the skylights, Lex's olive-green one at the other. They could be
down here in a flash if she needed them.
"It's Molly," the security
guard said. Not being a cop or even an ex-cop, he could only think about
the dead woman. "Molly Palin."
"The assistant curator,"
Elisa said. "The one who was supposed to give the tour."
"But she was alone in there,"
Broadway said. "The doors were locked. Nobody else went in or out."
"A locked room mystery,"
Matt said, with markedly less enthusiasm than he showed for any sort of
"So the killer must have
been hiding in the exhibits all along," Elisa said. "And must still be
"I hate this." Matt had
his gun out, too, and his cell phone.
Trusting to her friendly
eyes in the sky to warn her if anything moved in the exhibit hall, Elisa
spared a look at the body.
It was Molly Palin, all
right. Elisa remembered her as a plain girl whose cheerful manner and ready
smile made her seem almost pretty. There was nothing pretty about her now,
She was positioned in a
spot where overlapping lights made an oval of brightness, like someone's
idea of a grisly addition to the exhibit. Her clothes hung in blood-soaked
"You didn't hear anything?"
Her question was for the gargoyles but she looked at the security guard
"I was on front-door duty,"
he said, his chest and gullet hitching.
Meanwhile, six denials came
"If you're going to puke,"
Elisa said, with intentional harshness, "do it away from the scene so you
don't mess up any evidence."
Nodding, hiccuping wet meaty
sounds, the guard stumbled off and retched in a corner.
"There's nobody else here.
There can't be anybody else here." Matt had completed a circuit of the
room, and now his normally mild features were set in a snarl of frustration.
"How could he get in and out without being spotted? How come she didn't
"I don't think she had the
chance," Elisa said, crouching outside the spatter. "That looks like a
head wound. He must have hit her from behind, dazed her. Maybe knocked
her out. I hope he knocked her out."
"Yeah," Matt said. He held
his phone to his ear.
Behind them, the door opened
and Chavez came in, somehow managing to be ashen and livid at the same
time. The museum chief of security and the curator were with her. Outside,
sirens wailed in the city night.
Beverly Hills, California
March 31, 1993
Sometimes she woke up thinking
she was Hilda Munz again, near-sighted, flat-chested, buck-toothed Hilda
Munz, and it always sent her running for the bathroom in a cold sweat to
turn on the lights, look in the mirror, and prove to herself that she wasn't.
Laser corrective surgery,
breast implants, cosmetic dentistry, a dye job to turn dishwater-drab to
Malibu blond, a rich tan, and color contacts to give her the smoky green
eyes she'd always wanted.
No more Hilda Munz. Not
now, not ever. And if it broke her parents' hearts back in East Buttcrack,
Ohio, well, so what? If they had really cared about her, they would have
supported her and helped her attain her dreams. They wouldn't have trotted
out that endless line of bull about how beauty was only skin-deep, when
really they were just too cheap to pay for her improvements.
She leaned on the marble
bathroom countertop, with its gilt basins and faucets shaped like leaping
dolphins, and studied her reflection to make sure that nothing had been
undone while she slept.
No sign of Hilda Munz at
all. She was Crystal now, Crystal Leigh Monroe, a name she'd chosen for
herself when she was eleven years old and imagining a fabulous life in
golden, sunny California.
Crystal shuddered out a
sigh. She splashed water on her face, dried with a fluffy towel, and ran
a brush through the satin of her hair.
Wide awake, the wine they'd
had with dinner having only temporarily counteracted the pills she'd popped
as an appetizer. She tiptoed through the dark bedroom where John still
slept, taking a light silk robe from the hook on the back of the door as
His house was amazing. She
sometimes wished that she could bring her parents here and rub their noses
in it, telling them, "See? See? See what I have? See what I got all on
my own, no thanks to you?"
But that would mean contacting
them, and she wasn't about to do that. If they came crawling to her, fine.
Good. So much the better. They knew where she was. They had to. She'd been
pictured in all the best entertainment magazines, and the article in VIP
had included captions like "Movie mogul John Dyami and rising star Crystal
Leigh relax poolside at their Beverly Hills home."
All right, so it was John's
home, not hers, but she spent more time here than in her condo. She might
as well be living here. He would probably ask her to marry him before too
much longer, and they would have a magnificent Hollywood wedding. Everybody
who was anybody would clamor to be on the guest list.
Restless, she roamed the
big house, trailing her fingers over his collection of priceless antiques
and Southwestern artifacts. He sometimes talked about donating it all to
a museum and redecorating, and Crystal could hardly wait. She envisioned
ultra-modern, everything a clean white. And rid of all these nasty old
pots, arrowheads, and baskets.
She went from room to room,
thinking of the changes she would make. No plants; she didn't care for
plants. Or pets. Living things needed too much time and effort. Like children.
But lots of water features and subtle lighting
Something thumped in a nearby
room, making her catch her breath in surprise.
The sound seemed to have
come from John's private study. It was the one space in the house that
he asked her to stay out of, but he didn't forbid her to go in, he didn't
keep it locked, it wasn't like that gruesome little room in Bluebeard where
he kept the severed heads of all his previous girlfriends. Nothing like
Crystal listened at the
door. Yes, there was someone in there. Someone moving around, quietly,
but not so quietly that she couldn't hear the scuff of feet on carpet.
"John?" She tapped on the
The sounds immediately ceased.
The fine downy hairs on the back of Crystal's neck prickled, for no reason,
no good reason at all.
The office was where John
kept the most valuable pieces in his collection. She'd been in there
with him, of course, and with his permission a couple of times at least,
and knew that some of the items were priceless. Not that she would have
paid one thin dime for any of it.
Her parents had kept a few
antiques, heirlooms they called them, and as far as Crystal could see,
they were good only for collecting dust. You certainly couldn't use any
of them, sit on them, cook with them, anything. Just clutter up the house
with them, be constantly worried that fire or flood or tornado might wipe
them out, and then burden your kids with them.
Ha. Let them try. She was
Crystal Leigh now, and the last thing she wanted was a bunch of Munz history
dating back to the Stone Age.
Maybe that was why John's
collection gave her the creeps. Being alone down here, at night, with the
house so silent
it was more like a museum than a home.
She suddenly felt sure that
someone was standing directly on the other side of the door. Standing there,
not breathing, not making a sound, just waiting.
It couldn't be an intruder.
The security system was too good for that.
But if it was John, he would
have answered her.
"John?" She tapped again,
though by now it wasn't just the hairs on the nape of her neck that were
prickling. Her entire skin seemed to be drawing tight and hunching up,
the filaments of hair quivering and alert.
Still no reply. Still the
sense that someone was there.
Crystal steeled herself.
She wasn't helpless, wasn't weak. She'd spent eight months in daily sessions
with a personal trainer, getting ready for her role as a cyberpunk warrior-chick
in an upcoming movie. If there was someone in the study, she'd kick the
living crap out of him before he knew what happened.
She opened the door.
The mummy loomed out of
the darkness, dry lips split, hollow sockets glaring.
Crystal could smell it,
and all at once she was little Hilda Munz again, eight years old and exploring
the attic on a bakingly hot summer day.
The stale air had been hazy
with the dust rising from old upholstery. Then, she had set her foot with
a fragile crunch onto the fragile corpse of a bird. It must have gotten
trapped in the attic, bashing itself to death in a fluttering panic, and
now it was only thin bones and feathers that puffed up in a powdery cloud.
How she had sneezed! Until
she thought she'd die! Her eyes and nose had gushed, and with each gasping
inhalation she had been aware of sucking more of the dust and dead-bird
powder into her nose and mouth.
This smell was like that,
sour and old, and Crystal sneezed more from the strength of her memory
flash than anything else.
Even as she did so, she
was spinning from the door and the shriveled horror. Spinning and running,
blindly and not caring, chipping her shins on low tables. She screamed,
but it was a frail and pathetic cry.
She ran full-tilt into the
sliding glass door that led from the family room onto the deck. Jolted
to the very bone, she rebounded and fell over a chair and lay for a moment
on the carpet, dizzied and trying desperately to catch her breath. She
could see under the chair to the glass door, the deck, the hot tub, the
view all twinkling and faraway city lights in a hollow of blackness.
Something touched her bare
foot. Scratchy, hard as a twig.
Crystal lunged to her knees,
then her feet. She clawed at the door, raked it open, felt the balmy March
air wash over her.
She was seized from behind.
Fingers dug into her arms. She was yanked backward. A strong semicircle
of teeth sank into her shoulder. Crystal flailed and thrashed and tried
again to scream.
But something was wrong,
terribly wrong, with her throat.
November 8, 1996
The coroner's wagon had come
and gone, and come back again when a hapless janitor opened a closet and
made a gruesome discovery. One of the security guards had been stuffed
in among the mop buckets and cleaning supplies.
It was a zoo, a circus,
absolute pandemonium. Reporters who'd come to cover the event and they'd
probably done so grudgingly, arts and entertainment not exactly being the
choicest of assignments got far too many and far too graphic photographs
before things could be brought under control.
Captain Chavez had her hands
more than full with damage control alone. The rest of the museum security
people were already trying to place the blame on the NYPD, the curator
was demanding answers, and many highly-placed civilians seemed to think
it was their God-given right to know everything that was going on.
Uniformed officers now swarmed
the place, along with crime scene investigators. Elisa had warned the gargoyles
off, figuring that the last thing they needed right now was to be spotted
by a police or news helicopter.
Goliath hadn't liked that
one bit. But he had thankfully seen the wisdom of it, and agreed that Elisa
probably wasn't in any immediate danger. The crime had already happened.
The blood trail was hours old. It wasn't likely that the killer was still
hanging around the museum.
But what she was thinking
Okay, so she'd had more
bizarre experiences in the past two years than she had in her entire previous
life. That had understandably skewed her perceptions a little.
Still, it didn't mean that
she should look for the weirdest possible explanation for everything.
"He kills the security guard
to get in," Matt said. He had shed his tuxedo jacket and rolled up the
sleeves of his white dress shirt, and his tie was long gone. "But why the
assistant curator? She finds him trying to steal something? Nothing's missing
from the exhibits, so why would he kill two people and leave without what
he came here for? What did he come here for?"
"Maybe it wasn't for robbery,"
Elisa said. "Maybe it was a personal beef against the Palin woman."
"The way she was staged,
on display," Matt said. "But from what we saw of her before, she was about
as offensive as oatmeal. Some world we're living in when someone like that
"Would you like a random
serial killer better?" Elisa asked.
"I don't like any of this.
How'd he get out? That's what I want to know."
"You and me both, partner."
"And nobody saw anything?"
Matt gave a significant head-tilt toward the now-vacant skylights.
They were standing well
back out of the way of the various traffic. An onlooker might have thought
they weren't doing their job, little knowing that this was their job. The
crime techs were gathering the evidence that would help them along, their
blue lights lending an uncomfortable eldritch mood to the exhibit hall
as they scanned for bloody footprints leading from the scene of Molly Palin's
The light also cast eerie
shadows leaping and capering among the exhibits. Elisa couldn't help finding
her gaze drawn toward the case that held the prize of John Dyami's collection.
The Mesa Verde Mummy. Chief Akando.
What had Dyami said? Something
about a curse?
"Knock it off, Maza," she
told herself. "Conventional police work first."
Matt, with the telepathy
that all good partners eventually developed, followed her gaze. "Conventional
police work first, inexplicable voodoo investigations later?"
"It's hardly voodoo, Matt."
"You're not thinking "
He checked to see that they were relatively alone. "What, that the old
bundle of sticks and beef jerky over there had something to do with this?"
"Of course not."
"Want to spray him with
Luminol, look for traces of blood?"
"We've got to rule out every
"Which is why," Elisa said,
more sharply than she intended, "we're starting with the realistic possibilities."
"Okay, okay. So where do
"The security guard wouldn't
have let just anyone in here. Not with the exhibit about to be unveiled.
It had to have been someone he knew. Someone who works for the museum,
"Which could explain why
the Palin girl was targeted. I've heard that these academic types can be
pretty cutthroat when it comes to grant money and tenure."
"So we talk to the other
security guards and see if we can get a list of people they'd let into
a locked exhibit hall."
Matt snorted. "Their first
instinct is going to be to cover their butts. They'll say that no matter
who it is, they never admit anyone without radioing it in and getting confirmation.
That the dead guy clearly broke protocol and they're shocked, just shocked
at such a breach."
"You think they'll stonewall
us when one of their own is dead?"
"Stonewall us? You heard
Chavez. They're already trying to blame it on us. I don't get the feeling
they're going to bend over backwards to be helpful."
Officer Morgan approached,
pausing a discreet distance away until they noticed him and made it clear
it was all right for him to come closer. "Some night, huh?"
"Tell me you've got something,"
Elisa said. "Anything. A bloody guy with a knife would be good. Already
in custody would be better."
"Hate to disappoint you,"
Morgan said, removing his cap and scratching his wiry cap of hair. "Your
dad asked me if I could run a message in. Says he and your mom are going
back to the hotel with the Big Cheese, but that he wants to talk to you
She looked at the mummy
again, a tingling sensation unfolding around her sternum. It was the same
sense of dawning awareness cop instinct that she got when the pieces
started to fall together.
Elisa tried to reject it
this time. She was not about to be the one to suggest, not even jokingly
to Matt and absolutely not to Captain Chavez, what was running through
"You go on," Matt said.
His look was piercing, as if he was reading her mind. Sometimes that partner-telepathy
could be a bad thing. "I'll hold down the fort. Maybe you can get some
information from Dyami. See if he's got any enemies."
They had come in Matt's
car, hers being a little too quirky for a valet-parking gala such as this,
so she got Morgan to give her a ride in a black-and-white. First to the
station, where she changed into her familiar jeans, black tee shirt, and
jacket. She couldn't help a sense of relief when she snugged her real gun
into the shoulder holster. Then Morgan drove her to the hotel where Dyami
She kept the necklace and
earrings on, the former tucked into the collar of her tee shirt, the latter
concealed when she unpinned her hair and shook it out over her shoulders.
As Morgan pulled away, she
stood on the grand front steps of the hotel and asked in a murmur, "Guys?
"Here, Elisa," Goliath replied
"Where are you?" She knew
he had to be close; the range on these things wasn't much.
"I left the others near
the museum and followed you."
She played like a tourist,
looking up at the impressive tinted glass, wrought iron, and decorative
stonework of the Blackstone Hotel. A large shape, wings folded, crouched
on a ledge. She could see the pale gleam of his eyes.
The doorman watched her
with an amused smile that was on the verge of becoming flirtatious, but
froze and turned professional when she flashed him her badge. He let her
in and directed her to the elevators, and a few minutes later she was knocking
on the door to Dyami's suite.
Her mother let her in. John
Dyami and her father were in plush indigo armchairs on either side of a
low, glass-topped round table by the window. They were both leaning forward,
Dyami with his head cradled in his hands, Peter Maza with his elbows on
his knees and his expression full of concern. Two tumblers, one full of
untouched Scotch and melting ice, the other drained, sat on the table.
"How drunk is he?" Elisa
asked her mother in an undertone.
"He's just had the one,"
Diane said. "But he didn't waste any time on it."
Elisa moved toward the men.
"Dad? Mr. Dyami?"
John Dyami looked up. Elisa
had rarely seen such misery and desolation on a human face. Earlier in
the evening, he had been polished, suave, elegant. Now he was old and haggard.
His hands shook as he reached for his drink. He stared into the empty tumbler
as if not quite sure how it had gotten that way.
"Whatever it is, John, you
can tell us," Peter said. A faint smile touched his lips. "Trust me, we're
not going to think you're insane."
"But it is insane," he said.
"And how can you say that, Pete? I know you. I remember how hard-headed
you always were. So grounded. So focused on the real world. No patience,
not a drop, for anything that even brushed the mystic, the paranormal."
"You used to be that way,
too," Peter said.
"I've changed. I've had
Dyami shook his head, unconvinced.
"Not you, Pete. Your own father couldn't bend you. If you never believed
him, why would you believe me?"
Peter winced a little, but
didn't avert his gaze from Dyami's hollow, reddened eyes. "I've seen things.
With my own eyes. Things I would have thought were impossible. I'm not
the same as I was. I was a stupid, stubborn kid back then. I've had to
rethink the way I look at the world."
Elisa took the third chair
while her mother withdrew unobtrusively to the far side of the room. "We
know things aren't always the way they seem, Mr. Dyami. We know that there's
more to the world than meets the eye. If you have something to say, I promise,
"I hoped," Dyami said brokenly,
"that by donating him to the museum, I'd be rid of him."
That tingle came back on
her, stronger than ever.
"Who, John?" her father
Dyami tried to speak, and
"The mummy?" Elisa asked
gently. "Chief Akando?"
"You do know," breathed
Dyami, relief making his entire body sag as if someone had loosened dozens
of invisible wires.
"I don't know," Elisa said.
"He killed that woman tonight.
and she isn't the first."
Haltingly, clutching the
empty glass like a talisman, he told them how he'd wakened one morning
three years ago to find his live-in lover dead. Elisa remembered seeing
Crystal Leigh in a movie or two, but couldn't recall anything about her
she was there,
on the floor," Dyami said, his voice hoarse. His throat clicked as he swallowed.
Diane Maza made a soft involuntary
noise and might have said something, probably along the lines of how he
shouldn't torture himself like this, but Peter and Elisa both shook their
heads at her. They were cops, and they had to hear it.
was with her. Beside her. As if
as if once he was
had curled back up and gone to sleep. Him. Chief Akando."
"What did you do?" Elisa
I didn't know what
to do. Poor Crystal
who would have believed me? They
they might have said that I
that I killed her. So I
it's a large property,
I buried her. I said
when people asked where she was
she was at a spa in France. They knew
" He laughed, a ghastly cackle.
"They thought I meant she was either at a rehab clinic, or having plastic
"And you returned the mummy
to your collection?" Peter sounded like he was trying to keep the incredulity
from his words. "You kept it? After that?"
Dyami nodded wretchedly.
"I wasn't sure that
well, that I could destroy him. I thought he might
rise again. Come after me this time. I felt
I felt so trapped. My own
it got so I
I hated going there. Made excuses to spend time away.
as much as I could. New Zealand. I spent sixteen months
in New Zealand. When I got back, I thought
I thought that if only I could
find a place
not one in California, but all the way across
I'd be free."
"No one ever wondered what
had happened to Crystal?" Elisa asked. "They bought the spa story?"
"Why wouldn't they? She
she was never much of an
an actress anyway. Minor-league star power
at best. People forgot
forgot about her, you see."
"But now your mummy's killed
two more people."
"Two?" He gaped at her.
She described how the security
guard had been found dead in a puddle of blood and bleach and 409.
that was what
he wanted!" Dyami wailed. "I thought he wanted to be in a museum. That
it would be more
respectful, somehow. But maybe I've been wrong. Maybe
what he really wants is to be back where he belongs. Back in the cliff
dwellings. That's why he killed Sara Whitefawn, for disturbing him."
"What?" Peter Maza said.
"And Hank Gorman. Do you
remember Mr. Gorman, Pete?"
"Wait, John, slow down.
How do you know this thing killed Miss Whitefawn? And Mr. Gorman, are you
"I bought the mummy from
Gorman's estate." John Dyami flapped his hands in bafflement. "How he got
he had a collection of his own, but just stashed in this
or maybe he killed Sara Whitefawn. She stayed behind that day, and
he took us to the motel, and we had pizza, remember?"
"Yes," Peter said.
"But later that night, Gorman
was gone. He could have resented being nudged out of the discovery. They
could have had a fight, and he killed her, and hid her body, and stole
the mummy for himself. And kept it all those years, until Chief Akando
finally dealt with him."
"All right, so what do we
do?" Elisa asked. "How do we stop this thing?"
"I don't think we can,"
Dyami said. He sprang from his chair, as if telling his grim tale had removed
a weight both literal and figurative from him, and refilled his drink at
the mini-bar. "He'll kill, and kill, and kill. Until he gets what he wants."
"Which, you think, is to
be taken back to Mesa Verde. After almost forty years?"
"Don't expect me to understand
this." He threw back a shot of Scotch like it was Perrier. That release
of a weighty burden had left him almost humming with distracted manic energy.
"Maybe he can be destroyed."
"How? Stake through the
heart? Silver bullets? Dad, any lore at all that might be helpful? No?
Great. That's just great."
"I will destroy this monster,"
Goliath rumbled in her ear. She could picture his massive fists clenching,
the muscles standing out in sharp relief on his thick forearms, biceps,
shoulders, and chest.
"The museum isn't going
to be very happy with you, or me, or anyone else marching in and destroying
a priceless exhibit," she said.
Dyami shrugged and poured
another dollop of Scotch. He was rapidly becoming drunk, and Elisa knew
she wasn't going to be able to get much more out of him tonight.
Her parents agreed to stay
with him while she went back to the museum. She didn't have a car, but
ducking out onto a fire escape was easy enough. Moments later, the sturdy
iron structure groaned as Goliath landed beside her.
Once she was in his arms,
borne safely above the bustling city streets with the wind blowing cold
in her hair, she couldn't help feeling that, whatever else might happen,
all was right with the world.
November 9, 1996
Matt's prediction about the
security guards had been proven correct. They swore up and down that none
of them would let an unauthorized person into an exhibit, and not even
an authorized one without confirmation.
Preliminary reports from
the coroners showed that Molly Palin and the guard, Bill Brascoe, had died
from severe blood loss as a result from multiple bite wounds.
The newspapers were having
a field day with the latest museum crisis. They had gory pictures, eyewitness
accounts from many of the guests, and piles of speculation.
Elisa had been up all night
and passed the day in a sleep so deep it could have rivaled the stone hibernation
of the gargoyles. When she awoke, she found Goliath standing sentry outside
She had six messages, and
listened to them as she brewed coffee and found something to eat in the
take-out container wasteland of her fridge. Cagney came meowing around,
reminding her that she wasn't the only one who hadn't eaten since the night
Her father had called to
say that Dyami drank himself unconscious around six in the morning, and
that they would call her again in the evening. Captain Chavez wanted Elisa
to stop by her office at the start of her shift. An intrepid reporter had
somehow gotten hold of her number and wanted an interview. A political
supporter was reminding her that the elections were coming up and that
the candidate really wanted her support. One hang-up. And Matt.
"After you told me what
Dyami said," his tape-recorded voice said as she ate a melange of lemon
chicken, fried rice, and sesame beef, "I sweet-talked one of the CSIs into
staying after hours. Nothing like a crime scene to put people in the mood;
we've got a date for Saturday. Anyway, she let me spritz her Luminol "
"Go, Matt, you dog," Elisa
said through a mouthful of food.
"and sure enough, that
mummy lit up like a Broadway marquee. Not much visible blood; most looked
to have been wiped off and the mummy's skin is so dark and crinkled anyway
that you'd have to look real close to notice. But my date for the weekend
says that it looks like several layers. Fresh stuff and old. She agreed
to come back tonight and try to take a dental impression. If they match
well, damned if I know what we do next, but we'll have some
sort of proof."
Elisa wolfed the rest of
her meal, rushed through a shower, and was combing her hair when a roar
and the patter of stone fragments told her that Goliath was awake. She
found him trying to look dignified as Cagney twined, purring loudly, around
The museum was closed pending
the outcome of the investigation. Elisa drove, aware of her shadowy guardian
gliding above it made her think of those silly bumper stickers, wondering
if she should get one that read "never drive faster than your gargoyle
She saw Matt's car. Her
partner had been busy. In addition to the crime tech, who was a chipmunk-cute
blonde with huge blue eyes and a giggle like something out of a Disney
cartoon, he had rounded up the head of museum security and permission from
the curator to let them in.
Goliath, meanwhile, had
stationed himself by the skylights again. Elisa had tried to tell him that
it was overkill, that she and Matt probably could handle one brittle husk
of a mummy. She could just imagine the reactions of the security guard
and the crime tech if a gargoyle dropped in amid a hail of broken glass.
"Here's the problem," the
crime tech, whose name was Tessa, said. She spoke with a disconcerting
perky somberness. "We got back two sets of bite marks from the bodies."
"Whoa," Matt said. "Wait
a minute. Two sets? Two biters?"
Tessa nodded. "Each body
has one bite, only one, shallow impression from crooked teeth. The rest
of the bites, and there's a lot of them, more on Molly Palin than on Bill
Brascoe, are from someone with good teeth. Nice and straight."
The security guard, Ken
Danielson, was clearly unhappy to be here. He didn't say anything, only
opened doors as they came to them, and showed his nervousness by jingling
his keys and staring around into the dimness.
In the "Sacred Southwest"
exhibit hall, everything was still criss-crossed with yellow police tape
and the chalk outline on the floor showed where Molly Palin's body had
lain. Ken Danielson waited by the door, sometimes turning to look behind
him with such jerky speed that Elisa thought he'd give himself a whiplash.
Matt, with an aplomb born
of a lifetime of explaining nutty theories to people, told Tessa their
suspicious. Her big sweetheart-blue eyes got bigger, and she looked like
she was waiting for Dick Clark to pop out and tell her she was on "TV's
Bloopers and Practical Jokes," but something in Matt's earnestness must
have gotten through to her.
Elisa wasn't wild about
approaching Chief Akando. The mummy was locked in a fetal position inside
a wooden box, the whole thing enclosed in a glass case. The brass lock
was shiny, new, and undamaged.
Danielson forked over a
key, but would come no closer. Matt had to unlock the case. Elisa put her
hand on her gun. She didn't know what she believed, but if that wizened
thing made a move on her partner, she wanted to be ready.
Nothing happened. The door
opened, releasing a smell like yellowed paper and brown leaves. Matt looked
into the wooden box with morbid fascination, then stepped back and beckoned
She gingerly examined what
she could see of the teeth. "I'd have to pry the jaws apart to take a cast,"
she said, "but
well, darned if they don't look like they'd fit the impressions
"Go ahead and pry," Elisa
said. "Carefully, though."
Tessa looked insulted at
the implication. She prodded at the hinges of the jaw with the tips of
her gloved fingers.
When the mummy's mouth fell
wide open, Tessa squeaked and leaped back into Matt. The tendons had given
a rusty groan and the lower jaw just hung there, mouth agape, chin resting
on the sticklike ridge of the collarbone.
The teeth were caked with
"Ohboy," Tessa said, running
it together into one word. She pinched a swab as far toward the end as
she could and poked it against the stains, her posture saying that she
was just waiting for the mummy to chomp the swab in half.
It didn't. The swab went
into a bag, and Tessa took out a pliable block of material that she inserted
between the rows of snaggled ivory teeth. The mummy didn't bite down on
that, either. She had to push the chin up, forcing the teeth to sink into
When this procedure was
done and she was able to retreat, Tessa blew out a shaky breath. "Creepy,"
"Yeah," Matt said. "How
does it look?"
"I'd want to compare it
at the lab to be a hundred percent sure," she said, "but to me it looks
like a match."
"For one set," Elisa said.
"The single bite. What about the other ones?"
"Elisa," Matt said.
She closed her eyes. "Oh,
"You better call."
"Yeah." She spun and raced
toward the door, shocking Danielson into nearly wetting his pants. "Phone,
I need a phone and I need it now."
"There's one in the office
"Perfect. Let's move."
She called the Blackstone
Hotel and asked for John Dyami's room. The clerk, eager to protect the
privacy of a big-name client, wasn't cooperative, and she couldn't shove
a badge in his face over the telephone. By the time she finally convinced
him, a dark whirlpool was churning inside her. A terrible feeling of being
too late, too late
Her mother answered, sounding
"Mom, it's me."
"Elisa, have you heard from
isn't he there?"
A crash, a thump, and a
high-pitched scream came from the direction of the exhibit hall. Elisa
let the phone fall, swinging at the end of its cord. Ken Danielson was
frozen in the doorway, white as a ghost. She shoved past him and ran.
Another crash, louder, the
tinkling of glass raining down from a skylight seeming to go on and on.
A heavy thud, and another short scream, quickly muffled.
"Let the woman go!" Goliath
Elisa burst through the
doorway, gun in hand.
She could see Matt Bluestone,
laid out on the floor with thick shards of pottery forming a chunky clay
halo around his head. She could see Goliath, wings flared, tail lashing.
A figure stood beside the
mummy's wooden box, holding Tessa like a shield between himself and the
gargoyle. He wore a beaded loincloth, a headband, and little else aside
from red and yellow painted body-markings.
She almost couldn't recognize
him as the urbane John Dyami.
He only needed one arm to
hold Tessa, who was petite and paralyzed with fear. With the other, he
had reached into the box and brought Chief Akando into a semi-sitting position.
His thumb clacked the mummy's jaw with a ventriloquist's skill. Dyami's
own teeth straight, white, and perfect were bared.
"Let her go," Elisa said,
moving up until she was at Goliath's side. "Let her go, Dyami, it's over."
But she couldn't shoot,
and Goliath couldn't attack, without risking Tessa.
She understood everything
now. The mummy couldn't move on its own, couldn't kill. He had used it,
maybe even believed it in his madness, but it had all been Dyami.
His eyes glittered bright
with insanity. He leaned Tessa and the mummy toward each other, working
the mummy's jaws in preparation for that first bite.
Goliath tensed and Elisa
knew he meant to go for it, better to act than stand and do nothing as
those hideous teeth closed on Tessa's shoulder.
Before he could, before
Elisa could shift position to get a clearer field of fire, Dyami lunged
forward a step. He grunted. He let go of Tessa, who fell to her hands and
knees and scurried away.
Dyami slowly turned. A spear,
its haft decorated with a clutch of eagle feathers, protruded from his
back. The chipped stone head was buried deep between his ribs.
He reached around to grope
for it, but his hands slipped away. He tottered another few steps. His
hip slammed the wooden box, knocking it from its stand. The mummy fell
out, landing on its head, the gaping jaw snapping off and skidding toward
Peter Maza emerged from
the shadows. His face was torn with grief but the set of his mouth was
"I'm so sorry, John," he
John Dyami sank to his knees.
He raised his head to Peter. Blood ran from the corner of his mouth. He
coughed, tried to form Peter's name, and could not.
The expression in his eyes
as he finally collapsed was one more of gratitude than anything else.
In the distance, sirens
howled. Danielson must have had the presence of mind to call the police.
Elisa touched Goliath's arm and looked at him urgently, and he nodded in
understanding. He couldn't be found here. There would be too many questions
even without the presence of a gargoyle.
She checked Matt alive
but unconscious. Checked Tessa scared but unharmed. Checked Dyami dead.
Finally, she went to her father.
He stood over Dyami's body,
head down, gazing blankly at the spear he had thrown. Elisa put her arms
around him. He held her, drawing and releasing long quavering breaths.
"I had to," he said.
"I know, Dad."
"He killed those people.
all the way back on that bus ride he was so angry at her
for trying to claim what he thought was our find. Hank Gorman went out
that night, but so did John. We were sharing a room. I woke up and he was
"It's okay, Dad."
"Gorman died right after
our twenty-year high school reunion. It was the first time John and I had
both been back. He must have figured out, somehow, that Gorman had the
mummy. So he killed Gorman, too."
"Yeah. And Crystal Leigh,
and the two people here last night. Of course the security guard would
have let him in unchallenged."
"And who knows how many
others over the years."
"It's over now, Dad. It's
August 3, 2003
The other interns might have
thought it was a crap assignment, stupid make-work that wouldn't really
accomplish anything or get a person noticed. But Bobby Runningdeer couldn't
have asked for a better way to spend his summer.
Cataloging the museum's
collection of Native American artifacts, how cool was that?
All right, so it was a little
spooky. The museum had subterranean rooms and catacombs so vast and so
full of two hundred years' worth of stuff that nobody really knew for sure
what was down here.
He found the room easily
enough, though. It had been untouched for almost six years. The items had
been stacked hurriedly and haphazardly on shelves. Not organized at all.
One of the curators had
told him that these things had been part of an exhibit that never opened.
That there had been some deaths, including that of the man who'd donated
most of the collection. The museum board decided it was all too controversial,
and put everything away.
Bobby prowled the shelves
happily. He was a recent graduate with majors in both American History
and Native American Studies. He would have been lucky to find any sort
of work in his field, but this! This was his dream job!
It took him almost two hours
to discover the long wooden box. Something was in it, wrapped in a faded
but still colorful woven blanket.
He folded back the blanket's
A withered, eyeless face
stared up at him. The ring of crooked ivory teeth seemed to be grinning.