“My master bids you a good day and asks if he might view the closed section of the exhibit?” said the elderly fellow in the fez. Behind him was a well-dressed, yet swarthy young gentleman.
Sir Gerald Carstairs felt unaccountably anxious. He wasn’t sure if it was the unusual nature of the request, the unsettling stare of the young gentleman, or the attempted break in the night before. He pulled himself together. After all this was not the way the Keeper of the Queens’ Collection in the British Museum should appear.
“What was the name of your ‘master’ again sir?” he enquired in a voice that was much calmer than he felt. He nodded politely at the young gentleman who smiled back.
“Prince Akhenaton of Tangiers, from a most ancient and noble line I assure you.” said the man in the fez.
Sir Gerald looked at him directly. The fat man had introduced himself as Professor Abdul Abul-bul-Abir of the Topkapi museum in Istanbul. He had actually been there a couple of summers ago but had no recollection of meeting this academic before.
“Well please tell his royal highness that once we have completed our repairs he shall be more than welcome to enjoy a personal showing of the Egyptian Room, but that at the moment it would neither be seemly nor safe to do so.” Sir Gerald had regained most of his composure now. Having had a running gun battle between some thugs and his Guards the evening before he was in no mood to acquiesce to some foreign potentate right at this moment.
The Professor turned back to his patron and began explaining to him in deeply obeisant tones what Sir Gerald had just said. Sir Gerald listened intently because though the language felt familiar it was most definitely not Arabic, Farsi or even Turkish, all of which Sir Gerald was fluent in. Then it hit him, the Professor was speaking medieval Hebrew, how very strange.
The Prince stepped around his servant and thrust out his right hand. Sir Gerald looked at it for a moment and then grasped it firmly, pleased that at last he seemed to be making these johnny foreigners understand. The Prince reached up and gripped Sir Gerald by the right shoulder and, looking deep into the startled Keeper’s eyes, said three words “Amon-Tet-Kep”.
The next morning when the Consulting Detective completed his examination of the still paralysed Sir Gerald he theorised that the poor man was frozen with an unaccountable terror, and that if this should continue much longer his heart would undoubtedly give out. His constant companion, an ex-army surgeon, began preparing a large syringe of morphia, which he explained would release Sir Gerald from his current awful condition.
“Anything of value taken?” asked a deep, yet womanly voice.
Inspector Coleraine of The Yard looked up into the violet eyes of Lady Helen Quartermain, self-appointed guardian of the Museum. God he hated that woman. She wore trousers, cut her hair boyishly short, smoked Turkish cigarillos and carried a C96 Mauser under her arm in some new-fangled holster. If she wasn’t Sir Gerald’s ward and a third cousin to the Queen he would have thrown her out by now.
“Just a few trinkets, a brass beetle brooch and matching bracelet” he said shortly.
“Ah the scarab regalia of Nefertiti” she breathed and, stubbing out her perfumed cigarillo, stood up and made for the main doors.
“And where do you think you’re going?” said Coleraine exasperated.
“I’m going to round up my boys and go hunting a Pharaoh” she said. She then turned on her heel and strode towards the lobby. As she passed the Consulting Detective she grinned and exchanged a wink.
Lady Helen will return soon…