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Another amazing tale from the great storyteller Josh Lanyon. The Mummy has always been one of my favorite Universal & Hammer horror stories and this interesting mash-up/spin on it had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.

Heather for Padme's Reviews

A MONSTER MASH-UP

Who or what is responsible for the gruesome deaths of members of the secret society known as the Order of Osiris?
Dr. Armiston, an irascible, confirmed bachelor who believes in medicine not mysticism, is certain the deaths are only tragic accidents.
But the members of the Order of Osiris suspect something more sinister is at work. They profess to believe an ancient curse has been visited upon their society. Handsome and mysterious Captain Maxwell requests Armistonís help.
Tarot cards? Egyptology? Spiritualism? Armiston has little patience with the superficial and silly pastimes of the rich, but he does love a good puzzle. Or could it be that he is more drawn to young Captain Maxwell than he wishes to admit?
Either way, Armiston must solve the secret of the cursed sarcophagus very soon, for Captain Maxwell is the next slated to die…

Passing along one of the chilly upper corridors, which smelled faintly of camphor and beeswax, we found Mott, the big butler, evidently on guard at a bedroom door. A candelabrum stood on a Chinoiserie chest, and its candles flickered in the draft. This made the butler’s huge shadow go through strange changes; and indeed I think his fat body still shook with grief, though he made no sound, even when Thorne greeted him with a pleasant word.

Mott drew himself up to attention as we passed him, and stayed where he stood, making no move to enter the room with us.

Thorne told me that the man had served in the Guards, had saved the elder D’Aurelle’s life in the Egyptian war, and had been the son’s first teacher in boxing and fencing.

He may have told me other things, but by then my attention was on Hugh D’Aurelle.

Later I learned that in life the boy had been strikingly handsome, the very flower of English manhood. His portrait had been painted by no less a personage than William Powell Frith. But what I saw—what I could not fail to see—was a man who had died in agonizing terror.

D’Aurelle’s clean-shaven face was a death mask of clenched teeth and starting eyes—not unexpected given the pain and fear he might have experienced in his final moments. What was not expected and not natural was the position of the body, frozen as it was in rigor mortis. He looked as though he had been struck down in the very act of crawling away…

From what?

The boy’s muscular arms were outstretched, his hands spread like claws. His legs were drawn up, knees bent.

What made it worse—though I’m not sure there was a way to make it better—was that while fixed in this undignified and bizarre position, he had been placed in bed on his back and the covers drawn over him. He looked like a piece of statuary ready to be unveiled, and were the circumstances not so sad, they might have been macabrely comical.

I opened my mouth, but words failed me. I stared at my colleague. Thorne stared back at me without expression.

“I was shocked as well,” he said. “Nonetheless I can find no indication that the boy’s death did not result from heart-failure.”

“Rigor seems unusually pronounced given the supposed time of death.”

“Examine him for yourself.”

I did exactly that.

I examined the body at length before returning to the corridor to ask Mott a few questions.

He repeated Thorne’s story of finding young D’Aurelle in the fencing room the previous afternoon.

“Dead or dying?” I questioned.

Tears welled in the giant’s eyes. “Dead. Stone cold dead.”

In some indefinable way he reminded me of Bird, and I said more kindly than before, “All right. The lad was already dead. There was nothing more you could do. Was the door to the fencing room locked?”

“No, sir. Not locked.”

“Can you describe what you saw when you entered the room?”

“The young master was lying on the floor. It seemed to me that he had been trying to reach the door. His arm was outstretched so.” Mott stuck his arm out, fingers curled as though in desperate pain.

“You told the doctor the boy went there to work out his stiffness with the Indian clubs?”

“It was his habit, sir.”

“Were the clubs beside the body?”

“No. They were back on the shelf. There was only this bit of paper.” He proffered a stiff brown scrap to me. “I thought it might be a note, but there’s no writing.”

I took it curiously, smoothing out the crinkles. Was that parchment? No. Not paper of any kind. It was some kind of cloth. Muslin or linen perhaps. It felt dusty. No, it was coarser than dust. Sand? Salt? I sniffed it cautiously.

Camphor and a very faint odor of… What was that? Soda ash?

Natron.

Strange.

Still studying the scrap of cloth, I asked, “And what of these friends of Hugh’s?”

“What about them, sir?”

“Are you sure no one was with him when he was taken ill?”

“He was alone, poor lad. The other young gentlemen went to the village for lunch.”

“And where are they now?”

“They’ve since returned to London, sir.”

I pocketed the scrap of muslin, asked a few more general questions, but there was no hint of dissembling from Mott. He seemed greatly shocked and genuinely distressed.

So too did Thorne, who I also chatted with a little longer. The doctor was eager to give all possible information—being anxious, he acknowledged, to avoid a postmortem in the parents’ absence, if it could be honestly done.

I was not happy about the situation, but there seemed no just reason for doubting Thorne’s decision about the cause of death. It was only too likely the boy had overtaxed his already strained heart, and that the final attack had occurred immediately after he finished his exercise. There had been no time to summon help.

Finally, I agreed to sign a joint certificate, giving heart-failure, due to overexertion, as the cause of death.

It was then between five and six, chilly and rather depressing, as it always seems to one who has been up all night. A bedroom was ready for me, and I am sure that the servants, of the old-fashioned type, would have offered me every attention. But I was conscious that my presence must be a burden on the distressed household.

Besides, I had taken an unreasoning dislike to the place.

I also declined Thorne’s pressing offer of a bed at his place, and asked Mott, the butler, privately, whether he thought I could arrange with the chauffeur to take me back into town at once. It ended in my getting a quite decent breakfast while sundry preparations were being made; for Mott seemed to brighten up quite visibly at my suggestion. Indeed, until he conducted me himself to the car, I was rather puzzled at his haste to speed things.

Passing down the steps from the big hall door to the carriage drive in the ashen morning light, I talked to him, conscious all the while that like myself he seemed to feel some vague uncertainty about the cause of the boy’s death. He didn’t express it openly. Indeed, I knew if I pressed him, he wouldn’t acknowledge it. Perhaps he only felt special responsibility because his master and mistress were away.

The flight of steps was high, rather reminiscent of those early pyramids, and in going down I looked on the top of the car.

My bag was there, and also a long, sinister-shaped object, partly muffled in rugs. The foot of the box stuck out several inches from beneath the wrappings, and I could see that it was painted in an alien gold and blue design.

“What in God’s name is that?” I demanded.

Mott looked down too, began to stammer, but then the guardsman in him seemed to get the upper hand of the butler.

“’Twas an order I got from him,” he said. “The damned thing was to go to town this morning, anyway. Twice this week he said, ‘Remember, Mott, as I might forget, or be away, that the Thing’s to go back on the twenty-fifth.’” Mott sighed heavily. “Well, go it shall, and it’s me that’s glad to be quit of it. Though if you ask me, I say it’s too late.”

“What is it?” I asked, but really I already knew.

“A blasted Mummy,” said Mott.