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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Saturday Story - 'The Museum of Iniquity'

This was my 100th published short story, released in the Costa TV Times, 2010.

A playful whodunit in 1,000 words:


Nik Morton
Egyptian sarcophagus - Wikipedia commons

There are enough red herrings here for a fish supper, Inspector Macdonald thought ruefully. They had uncovered ancient grudges, lurking secrets, pure hatred and - classic flipside of the hatred coin - overwhelming love. None of it explained why, or how, that hauntingly beautiful corpse had turned up inside the Egyptian Sarcophagus.

            A golden arrow pierced her heart. Nearby was a quiver full of arrows. "Oh!" exclaimed the Hungarian professor, Gregore Kane, "it's the president's daughter!"

            Inspector Macdonald glared at Detective Sergeant Christina Rosenthal.

She enlightened him. "He means Sir Ignatius Colvin, the Geographic Society's president, sir."

            "So? What's Kane doing here gawping?"

            She shrugged. "I thought he might be able to identify the victim."

            "Well, he’s done that, I suppose," said Macdonald grudgingly.

            Kane said, "What shall we tell the president?"

            "You could try the truth!" exploded another stranger who ignored the yellow Do Not Pass plastic tape and stormed in to the crime scene.

            "And who are you?" Macdonald demanded, beginning to lose his patience.

            "I am Ricardo Abel," the man announced proudly, "the Curator of this museum of antiquity."

            Macdonald sighed. "Is there anybody else in the woodwork, Rosenthal?"

            "Me!" came the response from behind a case containing a painted Chinese statue.

            "Oh, no, not the fifth estate as well!" Macdonald recognised Audrey Blevins the reporter.

            She was blonde, tall and dressed in a trench coat. "Come on, Henry, you owe me one after that successful murder hunt."

            By now Inspector George Henry Macdonald was having difficulty getting his breath. Suddenly, Henry's hiccups started, an embarrassing side effect of his stomach ulcer, the constant broken routine, the general stress of his job and his ill nature. Rosenthal made no secret of the fact that she often wished his nature would get better, but it never did.

            "How about it?" persisted Audrey Blevins. "An Exclusive?"

            "This is police business!" Macdonald snarled. "You don't barter with me, young lady. Victims are not for sale!"

            "Have it your way, Henry - but you know what they say, one man's meat..."

            "Get out!"


"You seemed a bit harsh on Audrey, sir," Rosenthal said.

            "A matter of principle."

            They were eating in The Luncheon, a restaurant whose a la carte meals would not strain their expense accounts; if they’d been politicians, it would be a different story – and restaurant.

            "What have we got so far?" asked Macdonald.

            "Kane and Abel hate each other. A family thing, going back about a hundred years when their ancestors were on the same dig in Egypt. Arguments over who first discovered the tomb - but the facts got blurred during the coup."

            "So they were grave-robbers?"

            She nodded. "Quite normal for the time, sir. Reckoned only the British were capable of preserving ancient culture for posterity. Called it the Steal of the Century."

            "By God, they’re thieves, the lot of them!"

            "Honourable members of parliament too..."

            Macdonald shook his head and growled, "There's no honour among thieves."

            "Anyway," she went on, "the result was the display in the Pharaoh's Chamber exhibit – now containing the prodigal daughter's corpse."

            He screwed up his face. "Why prodigal?"

            Rosenthal shrugged. "She upped and left her father Sir Ignatius when the old coot took in a Page Three model, photo-shoot name of Dolores Devine. She didn't mind his one night stands, but she drew the line at living with a bimbo."

            "Interesting, Rosenthal, interesting. Now tell me, why's he called 'clean sweep Ignatius'?"

            She smiled. "When his wife left him last year he cleared everything out of their home - and sold her possessions."

            "Did she resent that?"

            "Don't know, sir. She left the country with a Colonel Ranatoro."

            "One officer who wasn't the perfect gentleman, eh?"


"Checkmate, Dolores!" Sir Ignatius chuckled. Dolores Devine - what was her real name? - was hopeless but infinitely more preferable to look at than most chess buffs. "That's €1,800 you owe me!" He eyed her lecherously. "Cheap at half the price, eh?"

            She fished inside her amply filled blouse, producing four €50 notes. "I've only got €2,000, Iggy."

            He remembered when his old love, his first wife, had used that endearment; it sounded better on the delectable lips of Dolores. "I'll change it for you, my dear. Mind you, I insist it's not a penny more, not a penny less." He opened the drawer and blanched. What was a revolver doing there? He'd disposed of his weapon after committing the perfect murder - killing his cheating wife and Colonel Ranatoro, her stuffed-shirt paramour.


A chapter of accidents produced the first miracle in their investigation then everything fell into place. For Macdonald it was a matter of honour: he'd never failed to catch a murderer.

The weighted-down bodies of Mrs Colvin and her Colonel were discovered during the long hot summer when the reservoir dried up; the gun too; and the mud had preserved fingerprints.

            Some time later, experts revealed that the Sarcophagus was not the real thing. Certain documents disclosed that Abel sold the original to a private collector years ago. But the investigation also discovered that Ignatius knew, yet kept quiet.

Rosenthal found a few incriminating letters in the museum’s desk: Ignatius's daughter was blackmailing her father over her mother's disappearance.

"I think Ignatius killed her in the museum," said Rosenthal. "He was hoping to pin the murder on Abel beyond reasonable doubt."

"Seems like something out of a Greek tragedy," said Macdonald. "Get Abel arrested for fraud, Rosenthal."

"Yes, sir. Then what?"

"We need to get to the Ignatius mansion – and quickly!"

"Yes, sir."

The journey was only fifteen miles as the crow flies, but it took them too long through busy traffic.

            When they got there, ex Page Three girl Dolores stood over Ignatius Colvin's body, the smoking revolver in her hand. "An eye for an eye," said the dead colonel's daughter.


(With apologies to Jeffrey Archer for using in the text 36 titles from
his novels, short stories and plays)

 Copyright Nik Morton, 2014
More tales, laced with pain, humour and truth, can be found in
Spanish Eye, which can be purchased post-free world-wide from here

and the Spanish Eye e-book bought from Amazon com here
or bought from Amazon co uk here
 Also, there's my Spanish themed novel set in Tenerife: Blood of the Dragon Trees
Blood of the Dragon Trees e-book can be bought from Amazon com here
 or bought from Amazon co uk here


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