“So, the guard shot himself and Amanda crawled into a sarcophagus to die?” Will asked wryly.


“That’s what it’s supposed to look like,” Kat said.

Will moved away from her, speaking into his cell. Cops and emergency medical personnel had arrived in numbers now. They stood outside and she heard him directing officers to guard the perimeter but to let the crime scene detectives in to do their work. She remained by the corpse, staring at Amanda. Had the woman been part of what was going on? Or had she and Will misjudged her entirely?

She stood in the clean room, wishing that Amanda or Amun Mopat would appear in the mist around her. Or that she could look down and imagine Amanda’s eyes opening, and that she’d hear what her soul was saying that her lips could not.

She was in a clean room, now compromised by dust motes and germs. The environment around here still seemed pristine, but she knew it wasn’t. The noise rose as conversations sifted through to her, as she heard footsteps and the sounds of the investigation beginning.

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She waited, feeling a little numb, until the crew from the morgue showed up. She was glad to see that Cranston Randall was there to represent the coroner’s office. He stood by her side for a moment, gazing down at Amanda and then turning to Kat.

“Ah, yes,” he said. “The curse. Those who disturb the dead and all.”

“Those who practice a ‘curse’ are living,” Kat responded.

“We know that, of course,” he said. “The papers will have a heyday, however. I can assure you of that. So, Dr. Channel is lying here dead, but the guard might survive?”

“They took him to emergency. I believe his vital organs were missed. I didn’t stop to look for the shell, although I’m almost certain the bullet went all the way through.”

“Let’s pray the young man makes it,” Dr. Randall said. He beckoned to someone, and she saw that police and forensic photographers were waiting to do their work.

Randall smiled grimly at her. “So, will you accompany me to the morgue?”

Kat nodded, glancing around. Will and Logan were talking to the Chicago homicide detective who’d come in with the crime scene crew. She stood back, still feeling that oddly numb sensation while work went on around her. At some point, Jon Hunt was called in; she could hear him crying hysterically—in both grief and terror. He kept wailing Amanda’s name and talking about his own fear that he’d be the next to go.

It was hours before she and Randall were ready to leave. And when they did, Chicago had woken up. Traffic clogged the streets, horns blared and people were on their way to work.

As they drove along Lake Michigan, Kat contemplated the beauty of the sunlight on the water. Early sailboats caught the breeze, and it looked as if they were dancing across a horizon studded with diamonds.

But she knew how treacherous the water could be….

Will had been the first person on the case, so he wasn’t surprised when Logan asked if he’d act as their spokesman and speak with the press. It was now almost two in the afternoon.

Standing before the mob that thronged in front of the Preservation Center, he gave a brief overview of what they’d discovered. Then the questions bombarded him.

“How did you find the guard?”

“Isn’t it bizarre that it happened the first night the mummy was at the center?”

“Is this the ‘curse’?”

“Who is dead?”

“What about the guard?”

“Why didn’t anyone hear the shot?”

He lifted a hand; he didn’t say a word but waited, and in time, his silence brought them all to silence, too.

“A curse did not shoot a man,” he said dismissively. “We’re praying first and foremost that the guard survives. Perhaps when he’s conscious, he’ll be able to help us. At this stage, we don’t know the cause of death in the case of Dr. Amanda Channel. As to the curse? Once again let me say that not one of us believes that a curse kills. People kill. Whoever has perpetrated this heinous crime is flesh and blood and after something—and that murderer will be found. We’re following up various leads in the city now, and we’ll report more as soon as we have it.”

“Will salvage on the Jerry McGuen continue?”

“It’s a shipwreck and it’s now been discovered. I can’t imagine it’ll lie there without further effort being made to retrieve the treasures and eventually provide divers with another tourist location,” he added drily.

“Everyone will want to dive it now!” one reporter mumbled. “People are such ghouls!”

He was probably right. Will went on to field more questions, being very careful and circumspect in his answers. They had information, and they had clues that suggested certain avenues of research, but at the moment, they weren’t prepared to point a finger in any one direction.

He was glad when it was over. He’d spent much of the past few days and nights diving and investigating, but the press conference was the most exhausting thing he’d done. The early-morning hours had passed quickly at the Preservation Center. Then they’d gathered what they could find before the forensics team began their work—and now the press conference.

Afterward, he was able to meet with the Texas Krewe at the police station. Logan was busy writing on another one of those white boards he was so fond of, listing what had been discovered by the forensics team.

The guard, Abel Leary, had survived surgery, but was still unconscious. Jane was maintaining a vigil at the hospital should he awaken. The shot wouldn’t have been heard by any of the police who happened to be driving by for two reasons: the small caliber of the bullet and the fact that it had been fired directly against the guard’s body. Thus far, fingerprints in the reception area had led them to no one but employees and board members. The alarm had been disconnected, possibly by Amanda herself when she’d returned to the center. She hadn’t been seen entering because she’d used a back entrance that had supposedly been sealed off long ago.

Logan was irritated; he’d asked about other entrances and Amanda had told him there were none, that the only other one had been closed off maybe fifty years before. Jon Hunt had reported, in his hysteria, that it wasn’t considered an “entrance” at all anymore. To the best of his knowledge, it had been sealed.

But Amanda had lied to them about its being sealed, probably because she knew it was still a viable entry. Jon couldn’t tell them why Amanda had sneaked inside in the middle of the night.

“Here’s what we know,” Logan said. “At some point during the night Amanda Channel went back into the Preservation Center through a delivery door in the back—a door that hadn’t been used in years. Evidently she’d found a way to open it. She turned off the alarm system to get in and someone must have followed her, although I think it’s supposed to look as if the guard shot himself and Amanda crawled into the sarcophagus to die, unlikely as all of that sounds. Whether the guard’s shooting is meant to resemble an accident, we can only speculate. I spoke very briefly with Kat before she and Dr. Randall accompanied the body to the morgue. They both figure it’s some kind of poisoning because there’s no outward sign of trauma. Whoever entered the museum did so through the same hidden entry as Amanda, since no one was seen anywhere near the front entrance and police were patrolling every fifteen minutes. Plus we had our agents watching the front.”

“Someone had to know about the rear delivery entrance,” Will said. He stood up to join Logan, who handed him the marker. “We’re looking for someone with the ability to dive, who’s familiar with the lake and has an interest in the treasure—or in the Jerry McGuen itself. This person knew Austin Miller, his house and his habits very well, just as he was familiar with the Preservation Center. It seems to me that as far as suspects go, we’ve always felt we needed to investigate Landry Salvage and Simonton’s Sea Search. We know that Amanda was communicating with someone at Landry, and we know that both of those companies have access to motorized diving devices. We’re certain that someone other than the center’s people, the film crew and our own team members have been out to the site. While the local police might have initially doubted conspiracy or murder when they had a drowning victim and an elderly man dead of a heart attack, the city’s law enforcement is now fully involved.”

“I can investigate the preservation company’s computers,” Sean said. “We shouldn’t have any difficulty getting access now.”

“All right, Sean, that’s perfect,” Logan said. “Jane will wait at the hospital. Kat’s at the morgue, but I expect she’ll be ready to leave soon.”

“I’ll pick her up,” Will said. “I think we should pay the Egyptian Sand Diggers a visit. I’d also like to stop by both salvage companies again with what we know. And, after that, we should try to find out more about the Jerry McGuen, perhaps at Austin Miller’s house.”

Kelsey said, “I’ll go over to the library and keep going with the research on Lake Michigan shipping, travel and icebreakers.”

“The library is going to close in a couple of hours,” Logan noted. “I’ll make arrangements for you to have extra time there this evening,” he said, “if you feel you need it.”

She nodded. “The research on Chicago and the lake at the turn of the twentieth century is monumental. Tyler, you want in with me?”

“Anytime, Kelsey.”

“Good,” Logan said. “I’ll handle communications here and work with the local authorities. Everyone—” he began, but his team finished his sentence en masse.

“Report anything, even if you think it’s minor!” they chorused.

“Yep, that’s it,” Logan said. “So…get going!”

Like Brady Laurie, Amanda Channel had been in excellent physical condition—until she died. Her autopsy was duly carried out, and when it was complete and they were stripping out of their gowns and washing up, Dr. Randall said, “We’ll have to wait for the toxicology reports. She reacted to something, and I know they’ll find it.”

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