‘The Seven Stars Massacre

by Phineas Redux



Summary:— Two police officers investigate a wholesale slaughter at a country house on the south coast of Cornwall, in 1903.

Note 01:—  This story is a continuation of ‘The Jewel of Seven Stars’, by Bram Stoker; there being some necessary spoilers contained herein. Stoker’s novel has two varying endings, one tragic, the other, more commonly printed, happy.

Note 02:— Sergeant MacLaren speaks in the true Lowland Scots dialect with a sprinkling of Gaelic.

Disclaimer:— Copyright ©2022 Phineas Redux. Except for Stoker’s Malcolm Ross, all other characters are original. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Caution:— There is some light swearing in this story.


Having retired to a well-earned night’s rest, at what seemed to him merely a few minutes since, Sergeant Harold MacLaren suddenly found himself in an unusually embarrassing position; the interior of a Public House, in what he supposed the Dock area of Plymouth, Devon seemed peculiarly busy this evening, but that was by far not its most eye-catching circumstance. Having in the course of his duties been in many such lowlife environments around the city MacLaren all the same felt a little distracted, not being able to identify this precise example of its kind as one he knew from long experience. Its décor also intrigued him, if indeed not making him a trifle uncomfortable.

The walls seemed decorated in a red wallpaper of the deepest crimson, emanating a glow that was almost mobile to his eyes. The tables in the long saloon were covered in similar red tablecloths while the chairs, hard-backed and uncomfortable, were painted red also. Looking down he saw, much to his consternation, that the hefty glass before him was filled not with beer but a liquid whose dark red bid fair to outrival the ghastly wallpaper.


Glancing across the table he gazed at his female companion, whom to his knowledge he had no previous knowledge of meeting.

Shedeh! It is a wine of my district. You will enjoy it.”

“Excuse me, ma’am, but I find mysel’ somewhat mazed. Who are ye, an’ whit, may I ask, am I doin’ here? I don’t like this place ane whit.”

The woman, dressed in a dark silk, her long hair done up with curious long ivory pins, smiled gently at her companion.

“Do not fear, this public drinking house is like your own but not of them. It is as I wish it to be; I have brought you here to deliver a message.”

“Och aye?” MacLaren feeling he was rather closer to home ground at this admission. “Is it onything tae dae with the Barker Street robbery? If ye hae something tae tellit me on that score ye hae a ready listener, ma’am.”

“That I do not understand, I having only recently come here from my home country.”

“An’ whaur may I ask was that, ma’am?” MacLaren allowing his Lowland Scots ancestry to come to the fore as he often did when annoyed, excited, or deeply interested.

“The Upper Kingdom—that is, excuse me, Egypt.”

Ah, Egypt! I thocht ye were a forei—er, that is, frae somewhere ower-seas. So, whit brings ye, us even, tae this fleapit. No a place I’d associate wi’ the likes o’ye, ma’am, if I may say so.”

“You are uncommonly—blunt, Sergeant.” The lady looking for the first time a trifle unhappy. “However I must allow you some leeway, as being wholly out of your element. What I want is something from you, Sergeant MacLaren.”

The police officer was immediately on the defensive; citizens of Plymouth openly asking for his assistance in circumstances such as the present usually boding no-good for someone involved. Sitting bolt upright, ignoring the dark red liquor in his glass which he realised he had no intention whatever of tasting, he gazed at his female companion with all the suspicion of the veteran police officer.

“An’ whit micht yon be, ma’am?”

The lady, for she was obviously not of the working class, gazed in some consternation at the man opposite; a slight frown creasing her forehead, skin of a pale old-ivory tone.

“I find your dialect somewhat difficult to follow—give me a moment. Ah yes, I see now; alright, it is merely the Jewel. I want the Jewel, a thing of no moment to you and your ilk but of great import to me and I want you to give it back to me.”

MacLaren frowned in his turn, his mind casting back over recent robberies, searching for the possible source of the woman’s question.

“Jewel? Could ye be a mite more speecific? Whit jewel in particular? Ruby, emerald, diamond? Set in jewellery, or single? An’ whit size? Has it, tae ye’re knowledge, been recent stolen, ma’am? I expect the local station’ll hae records o’the latest robberies an’ their loots present sity-ations.”

The lady now leaned over the table, looking into MacLaren’s eyes with an almost hypnotic gaze.

“A red ruby, done in the form of a sacred scarab, red as the darkest blood, perfectly cut, about the size of your thumb’s top, and showing seven stars flickering in its interior shining like the constellation you call the Plough. It is of the greatest significance to me; I must have it returned as soon as possible; my very existence depends on it. Find it, Mr MacLaren, keep it safe, and return it to me at the earliest opportunity. That is your business, and my command!”

When MacLaren opened his eyes, as if at the command of One Whom One Never Denies, he found the surroundings of his bedroom curiously comforting; the bedclothes were disarranged as if he had fought with someone, the alarm clock on the bedside table had been knocked to the floor as had a glass partially full of water; the other arrangements within the room however all looked to be in their normal positions, while the dim light of early dawn was just beginning to gleam through the rather tatty curtains his landlady insisted were still perfectly sound for their purpose. He rolled back to one side and took a deep breath.

“Last g-d’d-m time I take boiled cod fer supper!”


The Pub was not of the kind Inspector Thomas Craile was at all used to patronising; for one the dark red wallpaper, almost alive in its vivid glowing texture, gave him a headache, and similarly the red tablecloths and chairs did nothing to deflate this impression. Although the crowd present seemed much of their kind in such places there was something, all the same, not quite right about the whole business.

Craile, having gone to bed seemingly little under an hour ago, passed a hand over his brow trying to remember exactly how he had finished up here instead of under the warm blankets of his bed, failing miserably in the process. Glancing over the table he studied the lady sitting opposite, trying to remember where he had seen her before, if at all—and what the present meeting might possibly be about. The large glass of deep red wine before him doing nothing in itself to mitigate the curious circumstances, he not liking red wine in the least.


“Yes, Inspector Craile?”

“If I may ask—”

“I have a commission for you.” Her accent intriguing Craile with its beautiful soft quality and air of supreme ascendancy over all around. “There is something of great import to me—something I need no matter what the difficulties involved in finding it. Something I must have at all costs, and as soon as possible. You are the man!”

Craile felt his head swimming slightly, and wondered if he had already had a previous glass of the obnoxious red wine still on the table before him. Looking around the smoke-filled noisy saloon for inspiration he caught a brief glimpse of another couple at a similar table on the far side of the busy room—wondering if it were indeed his associate Sergeant MacLaren, talking to someone apparently dressed similarly and of much the same physical presence and appearance as his present companion, though unfortunately her back was towards him: then he was suddenly brought back to his own problems.

“Inspector Craile, attend to me, please!”

Spoken in such a refined majestical tone that he immediately turned to his companion with a word of excuse.

“Sorry, not feeling quite chipper tonight. Tell me, where did we meet? When did we arrange this meeting, if I may ask? Police business being somewhat official, you know. Did Superintendent Robinson initiate this meeting, by any chance? I only ask because I feel a trifle confused at the moment.”

“I arranged this meeting!” The lady giving the officer a withering glance. “And what I wish happens, or I know the reason why and those responsible suffer!”

“—er, quite!” He finding no more competent a reply to hand.

“A red ruby, Inspector!” The lady returning to her topic of most import. “Of the finest quality, cut like to an Egyptian scarab, of the deepest red, with seven flickering star-shaped imperfections within it, shaped like to the constellation you call the Plough. It is of the greatest importance to my well-being, and I must have it back at once; my very survival depending on my possession of it. Do you understand the gravity of what I am asking of you, Inspector?”

Craile in fact at this moment felt as if a steam powered road roller was proceeding over his forehead with its concrete-weighed iron wheels. A faint dizziness had taken control of his mind, making him feel as if he were at the bottom of a swimming-pond, the water tinted deep red, curious painful echoes threatening his aching ears.

“What? What? Ruby?—what ruby? Has there been a robbery? Where’s the report? If you care to wait till I discuss it with my team perhaps I could—”

He rolled over under his blanket, gasping for breath, feeling sweat seemingly seeping from every pore. The familiar environs of his bedroom in the boarding house where he resided showing up in the shadows of early morning, a pale light glimmering through the thin closed curtains of the single window.

By God! What a dam’med dream! Don’t want another like that; must have been that dam’ shepherd’s pie an’ beer I had for supper. Never again!”


 “Well, I’m not Superintendent Dolan; an’ neither’s Sergeant MacLaren here, Sergeant Daw—so there you have it.”

The grey-haired policeman stood four-square and irascible, his dark blue eyes sparkling with outrage as he referred to those officers who had preceded he and his partner on this still unfolding case. His victim, under the shadow of the front-door’s portico, tried to pour oil on disturbed waters.

“No, no, quite. I only meant that we have been, er, so much acquainted with the, ah, aforesaid officers it is something of a shock to the system to be confron—er, to meet other, umm, officers. But, by all means, come in and, er, make yourselves at hom—ah, that is, please feel free to conduct your enquiries with absolute freedom. This way.”

Kyllion House lay on the north shore of the small bay, on the other side of which lay the small fishing village from which the old Jacobean building took its name. The slope of the hill, immediately above the narrow sandy beach, was steep—indeed, it finally ended in the hard vertical cliffs of the high hill hiding the house from inshore wanderers on the road passing by there. To all intents and purposes Kyllion House was hidden from view as if set on the brink of the Bay intentionally to escape all notice, at least from inland. Even from boats in the wide bay it could hardly be espied; its stucco being of a particularly innocuous dark grey tone: it was indeed a secret house.

The two aforementioned police officers, formerly the primary investigators concerned with the curious activities of the inmates of Kyllion House, had been called away on more important matters, leaving Inspector Thomas Craile and his assistant Sergeant Harold MacLaren, to continue the investigations around the going’s-on at the lonely coastal building.

“And you’ll be—?”

Inspector Craile turned on the man who had led them into the wide high-ceilinged but rather dank and severely cold entrance-hall, meaning to set his duties off on the right track.

“John Penrose.” Penrose stood stolid and unwinking under the police-officer’s gaze. “Appointed by the land agents, this property being rented, to take care of the building until another tenant can be found. My wife is also here, acting as housekeeper.”

“Well, is there somewhere private we can go into the matter a little more comprehensively?”

“Certainly, sir, please follow me.”

Penrose indicated a short corridor on the left of the hall; some way along he opened a door, gesturing his guests to enter ahead of him. Inside the officers found themselves in a small square well furnished sitting-room; soft easy chairs scattered about, with a long sofa near an open fireplace, and two tall windows looking out on the side lawns. The two men took their chairs while Penrose chose to remain standing before them; Craile immediately settling to business.

“A very nasty affair, seemingly, at first sight.” Craile looked over at Penrose. “Anything you can add to the general details of the incident?”

“I’ve only been employed in the offices of the land agents, Inspector; till called on to become temporary butler and dogsbody here for an unspecified length of time.” Penrose shook his head. “All I know is derived from the newspaper reports of the last two days, and curious reading they make, I admit.”

Taking this as sufficient unto the day Craile nodded glumly, consulted a thick notebook he drew from a capacious coat pocket; hummed and hawed several times then glanced at Penrose again.

“Well, we won’t need you for the present, Mr Penrose.” Craile nodding, as if wholly satisfied with the course of events so far. “If you’ll leave us here, the sergeant and I will carry on, if you please.”

“Certainly.” Penrose paused at the door, turning back to the seated officers. “Would it be in order if I asked Mrs Penrose to work up a pot of tea, and perhaps biscuits and sandwiches?”

“Splendid, much obliged.”

With this the door shut on the salaried cicerone, leaving the officers to their own devices.

“Well, Harold, what d’you think of the situation?”

Weel, what do we have here exactly, then, sir? A’ but a multitude o’deid bodies, accompanied by a verra dubious tale indeed.” MacLaren being a native of the Scottish Lowlands, still retaining his soft accent after seventeen years in the Cornwall-Devon Division of the Police Force.

“Yes, this appears a pretty kettle of fish we’ve gotten ourselves mixed up in this time, eh?”

“Would seem so, as ye say, sir.” MacLaren shook his head gloomily himself. “What’s the total body count again?”

“From what my notes tell me, four dead people—three men and one woman; a dead cat, since burned to ashes in the kitchen open fire; and one Egyptian mummy, supposedly; though nothing remains of her, it being a woman apparently, except the wrappings and what is claimed to be a wedding dress she was wearing when her wrappings were taken off—of the lady herself no trace has been found, either corporeal or otherwise.”

“She’s vanished, sir?”

“If she ever existed, Harold.” Craile always liking to keep his options open.

“And this Malcolm Ross chiel, sir?” MacLaren being of a doubting nature from birth. “A pretty tale he’s told the officers at Dartmoor. Not just hardly believable, but absolutely un-believable. Why, sir, if ye were t’countenance any one pairt o’his sorry tale ye’d be bein’ put securely in a padded cell yersel’, sir.”

“Just so.” Craile nodded comfortably, no whit put out by the seeming convoluted story. “That’s why we’ll just need to put our official heads together and come to the truth of the matter, eh?”

“Aye, sir, as ye say.”


With Penrose acting as forward scout the officers made a tour of all the major locations within the building of importance to the ongoing case, starting with the entrance hall they had used on their own first entry into the premises.

“Just about here, by the telephone table against this wall.”

“What, sir?”

“Where Ross apparently left the body he brought up from the cellar room after everything had gone pear-shaped.” Craile bent down to examine the tile floor but without success. “These tiles must be over a hundred years old, and look the part; nothing to be gained here. All that was left after a short interval, so Ross says, was the dress or garments, or raiment the mummy was dressed in when unwrapped.”

“Why’d he haul a three thousand year old mummy up from the cellar, anyway, sir?”

“Five thousand year old mummy, Harold.”

Jesus, beggin’ yer pardon, sir.”

“His story is that he thought it was Mary Trelawney, it being initially dark in the cellar.” Craile pursed his lips, clearly dubious of this supposition. “But she, on further investigation, was still in the underground room, along with the other victims of some form of gas, so he says.”

“Why wasn’t he affected by this gas, sir?”

“Respirator.” Craile smiled thinly. “Apparently he being the only one with enough gumption to actually use it properly, though the others had been issued with their own, too.”

“What kind of gas was it? That should make some difference to investigating where it was bought from, an’ suchlike.”

Ah, if only.” Craile shook his head as he straightened, turning to Penrose again. “The scientists have been all over the whole house in the last two days, an’ their preliminary report is, nothing doing—gas remains unspecified to present date. Penrose, the kitchen, if you please.”

“This way, sir.”

The kitchen turned out to be in keeping with the overall tone of the building—high-ceilinged, whitewashed bare stone walls, granite flagstoned floor, and two massive tables running down the centre of the long room. To one side, under a line of windows, were three large white-enameled stone sinks, each almost large enough to serve as baths. Against the long wall opposite the windows was set a large open stone-lined fireplace, still showing the grey wash of old ashes in the wide grate.

“And here died the Egyptian cat.” Craile spoke in sepulchral tones as he glanced over the area.

“They burned a cat to death, sir?” MacLaren was appalled.

“No, no.” Craile was quick to put his Sergeant’s shock to rest. “It was another mummy; the Ancient Egyptians treating cats with all the respect of supernatural beings, y’see. No, they burned the cat’s mummy here.”

“Dam’ strange things going on here, an’ no mistake, sir.”

“Well, can’t put it off any longer, I suppose.” Craile turned from the empty fire-grate with a shrug. “Penrose, the underground cellar-room, if you please.”

In the entrance hall two doors were set in the wall under and supporting the wide staircase; but Penrose called the police officers attention to another door opposite which, when opened, revealed a dark chilly stone walled inner chamber. Penrose, as he entered raising an arm to indicate the dark void within, turned to the men his voice coming back to the following officers with a hard stony echo.

“Watch out, gentlemen; there’s a vertical deep pit just within, you’ll see the windlass over it. The steps down here are rather steep and winding so go carefully, it’s quite a long way, quite fifty feet. Sorry, have to use a storm lantern as we go, no electric light in the descent, but there’s electricity installed at the bottom.”

“I thought it was a simple cellar?” Craile advancing first in line behind Penrose as they negotiated the slippery stone stairs.

“No sir, rather a large mostly natural chamber well down inside the body of the cliff itself.” Penrose pausing to give this information over his shoulder as they descended. “A large natural cavern which has been finished by Human hand many centuries ago. It lies just behind the cliff face, about one hundred feet above the beach, and several natural thin rifts in the rock act as windows into the chamber, sir.”

“A michty dour place, by all the sounds o’t!” Sergeant MacLaren giving his opinion as they went on their way into the bowels of the high cliff on which the House stood.

A minute later, surrounded by the flickering shadows sent everywhere by the unsteady light of the oil-filled storm-lantern held by Penrose, Craile found himself observing for the first time the actual scene, and main objects, concerned with the supposed crime so shockingly exposed in the local newspapers over the last two days. With a loud click that echoed eerily in the stone chamber Penrose, throwing a wall-switch, brought modern electric light to bear on the situation, two bare bulbs hanging from ceiling wires causing the wavering dark shadows flickering in the far corners to disappear as if chased off by stronger forces. A remarkably long stone coffin or sarcophagus filled the centre of the floor space while the even more eye-catching so-called Magic Coffer, around three feet long by eighteen inches wide, septahedron shaped with a green base colour below rising to pale yellow around the waist-high stone rim sat on a bare wooden trestle-table, lid off, nothing inside.

“Said by Ross to be the origin of the black gas which killed the four victims.” Craile musing as he inspected the curious object.

“Is it Egyptian too, sir?”

“Who knows, another detail we’ll need to look into.” Craile turning to inspect the rest of the shadowy cavern. “Must be at least thirty feet high and, oh, twenty-five wide, more or less rectangular; strange thin shutters—ah, the natural fissures for windows, I see. Has this place been thoroughly cleaned, Mr Penrose? I mean—the gas?”

Oh yes, sir.” Penrose nodding confidently. “All sorts and conditions of Government officials and Doctors, with an amazing amount of machines and devices, sir. Then they came with a metal tank on a wagon and long hoses; heavy-duty hoses and liquid disinfectant; that’s why it still smells like a Public toilet down here, if I may say as much, sir.”

“Yes, was wondering something along the same lines.” Craile nodding glumly. “Made a dam’ mess of evidentiary clues, however. Did they clean the inside of the, ah, coffer too?”

“Yes, sir.”


“What’s the, uum, thing made of, sir?” MacLaren taking a close interest in the massive object. “Never seen any kind of stone with this varying colour from top to bottom. Almost seems to be glowing.”

“Let’s hope with no depreciatory results towards us!”


“What about the mummy wrappings, Penrose?” Craile following another line of investigation. “I thought, from the reports, they’d unwrapped the mummy and been left with bunches of the bandages?”

“I expect the Government agents disposed of those, sir. Possibly imagining they might be impregnated with dangerous substances contributing to the, ah, tragedy.” Penrose looking around with a rather worried expression. “There are a lot of other bits and pieces of, er, Egyptian relics belonging to the owner, Mr Trelawny, as you see still lying around everywhere; what their purpose being I cannot say, sir.”

Finding nothing further of interest in the dark underground room Craile nodded dismissively, turning to the stairs once again.

“They might have left the wrappings at least for us to cast an eye over, MacLaren! Let’s get back in the fresh air. We’ll need it to make anything of this whole shambles, that’s for sure.”


The two detectives sat in a small room they had taken over as a temporary office on the ground floor of the mansion, studying their notes.

“All four deceased met their fate via the gas, seemingly.” Craile reading from a thin file. “No sign of other wounds, bruises, broken bones, gunshot or knife wounds. Medical notes here tell us there was no sign of internal poison to any of the victims.”

“Except for the gas, sir.”

“Well, yes, goes without saying, of course. But otherwise they all seem to have met their deaths together at the same time and place.”

“A dam’ massacre!”

“In many ways, Harold, yes. Though, I’m wondering, y’know.”

“About whit, sir?”

Oh, this whole Ancient Egyptian mummy and missing woman angle; what if it’s all my eye and Betty Martin? A colossal fraud on the man Ross’s part?”

MacLaren snorted.

“I wouldn’a tak ony single bit o’t for the God’s honest truth, mysel’. I mean, sir, mummies, folks disappearing in a mist never t’be seen onywhaur again? Ancient spells an’ revenges from a’hint the grave? Gim’me the common sense t’see a fairytale when it hits me in the chops, sir!”

A pause ensued while they considered the set-up and possible clues scattered around the house in the wake of the tragedy.

“What about the dress the vanishin’ lady’s supposed t’hae left a’hin her?”

“Yes, we can certainly cast an eye over it.” Craile nodding in agreement. “One of the few remaining material items in the case still to hand.”

“Whit aboot the puir cat’s ashes, yonder in the kitchen fireplace?” MacLaren pursuing a detail of his own. “Onything to be gained by a scee-entific examination o’those, ye think, sir?”

“Who knows, but we’ll give it a go.” Craile nodding again. “See if Penrose can supply a brush and some form of container; a empty can or something—fill it with what’s left in the grate and we can trouble the bods back at HQ, give them something to catch their attention, at least.”

“An’ the rest o’the hoose, sir?”

Oh, we’ll need to give the whole place a good going over, from attic to that dam’ underground chamber. These mysterious Government agents who forestalled us so quickly—wonder who the dam’ they were?—have left dam’ little to investigate, it seems to me. Why the hell the old Professor had to build his dam’ laboratory underground is anybody’s guess! Come on, then, time’s getting on.”


The small cell in Dartmoor Prison, out in the middle of the moor away from any form of Society, was tight, cold, smelly, and wholly uninviting. None of the three now standing uneasily within its confines wished to be there, neither Inspector Craile, Sergeant MacLaren, nor the prisoner himself, Malcolm Ross. Presently Craile was in the midst of trying to extract whatever iota of sense was available from the young man’s story of the events taking place on the evening in question a few nights previously.

“But can’t you see, Ross, what you’ve told the authorities, and myself just now, and written down in these preliminary notes of yours you’ve just given me, is wholly unacceptable? Nothing can be done with a story like that; ancient Queens of Egypt coming back to Life  to seek revenge or love or something after five thousand years? Poppycock! You’ll have us all believing in Count Dracula as a real entity next! Come lad, what really took place that night? Getting the truth off your chest will only help in the long run.”

“I quite understand your doubts, Inspector. Hell, I would say the same myself in similar circumstances! But the difference is I was there, I experienced the events of that ghastly night! I saw my fiancée die under the effects of that horrible gas, and the appearance of the Queen herself—tall, stately, full of energy, and very much alive, even though five thousand years old; I give you my word.”

Sergeant MacLaren shook his head sadly, while Craile turned to another aspect of the story.

“You say the whole party had been issued with some form of respirator? That only you actually put it on properly and used it, so surviving the effects of the suddenly released gas? Can it be possible you did in fact suffer some secondary effects? That the gas penetrated your respirator and that what you have subsequently described is in fact a form of hysteria, dream-like incidents brought on by a mind under the influence of chemical reactions the kind of which we do not as yet fully understand?”

“Are you trying to say I was delusional, Inspector?” Ross standing tall and angry in front of the police officers. “I can assure you I was never more on my mettle before! What I say took place did so down to the minutest detail, I assure you both; and I lost my darling fiancée. Is not that alone enough for you to believe me?”

Sergeant MacLaren, attempting to bring some Lowland common sense to the situation, bore down on the more esoteric details of Ross’s tale.

Weel, sir, ye see, there’s the point o’the vanishin’ Queen frae the deid, fer one. Nae missin’ persons reported onywhaur in the whole Distric’ this last month, nor sightings of mysterious single women gadding aboot the area unescorted or wanderin’ at random, as it were, speakin’ Ancient Egyeeptian t’one an’ all! Then there’s the queer tale o’the burnt cat, itsel’ a refugee frae the ancient past, seemingly. Naught but some guy ordinary ashes left t’account for it ever hae-ing been a live thing, ye’ll agree? An’ then, it can’na be gotten oot-o’, fower deid bodies. Fower! There’s questions has t’be askit ower they, richt enough, surely!”

Here Craile joined in the discussion once more.

“Yes, the victims; they were supposedly gassed, though no trace remains of what kind of gas it was. But the thing is, you see, Ross, the way the gas was administered could have been in almost any other form than that you describe. That curiously shaped box, the coffer made of the peculiar stone; it’s only a stone box: I’ve gone over it myself with a magnifying glass, and that’s all it is. Mighty curiously worked, no doubt, but no sign of any equipment nor container nor valve mechanism necessary to govern the controlling of the gas when it shot out and filled the cellar room, according to your story. How do you explain that?”

For answer Ross shook his head, looking sick as a dog.

“This whole episode has been an ongoing nightmare for the last couple of weeks, Inspector. I’ve set out the whole course of events in those hastily written notes I’ve given you; what actually has taken place over the last few days will make you sit up and raise your eyebrows, I don’t doubt, when you read the full tale.”

Craile shrugged, looking to his Sergeant at his side.

“Haul out your notebook, MacLaren, time to make use of those shorthand lessons you’ve been taking!”


The private saloon of the Flying Topsail Inn in the village of Kyllion later in the evening was host to only Inspector Craile and Sergeant MacLaren, they both deep in post-prandial mugs of beer accompanied by cigars.

“So, Harold, what d’you make of Ross’s tale? You’ve read his notes as I have.”

“As fancy a pack o’lies as I’ve ever heerd, sir.” MacLaren confident of his position. “Nae single point o’t in any way believable, rubbish frae start t’finish. When he stands his trial the jury’ll nae bother leavin’ their seats tae fin’ him guilty as sin.”

“That’s as may be, Harold, but we meanwhile find ourselves in a curious position.”

Oh, yes, sir?”

“Yes, we have to investigate every detail of Ross’s story, from start to finish.” Craile pausing to refresh himself from his mug before continuing. “All this palaver of the old Dutch character who found the tomb centuries ago; then the person, Corbeck, who found it recently after Trelawny had done the same some time previously. The supposed injuries sustained by the Professor, and then the mysterious behavior over time by the girl. All grist to the mill, MacLaren.”

“That’s gon’na tak’ a wee while, sir, months even. An’ how can we possibly corroborate that tale o’the desert tomb in by-gone days? Imposs-eeble!”

“I expect so.” Craile agreeing. “Not much we can do there, certainly. We can, however, find out from Sir James Frere what the late Professor’s and his daughter’s injuries actually were, how they were sustained; see if they agree with Ross’s version of events. The local Doctor, Winchester, who closely attended them in reality, having sadly been one of the victims though he may also have left some form of notes behind somewhere. Then we can put the team onto delving into the girl’s past history, see how she fits into the whole scheme of things.”

MacLaren however had been, these last few hours since the interview with Ross, harbouring a query of his own.

“This wholesale massacre, sir, whit aboot motive, in the old-fashioned sense o’the term? I mean, does sendin’ aff the whole family and friends to the next existence hae ony good effects for the survivor? I mean, does Ross benefit in any way frae the debacle, sir?”

“Been thinking along those lines myself, Harold.” Craile nodding with a deep frown. “Hard to tell, at least at the moment. The Professor had his villa, Kyllion House, and surrounding estate and a house in London; haven’t gone into his Bank account details yet, but one would expect there to be a substantial amount, surely. Is there some sort of legal document lying around somewhere giving Ross sole charge over the remaining estate, I wonder, now that everyone else in immediate line has been, ahem, disposed of?”

“For him tae dae sic’ a terrible deed he must benefit somehow, ye’d think, sir.” MacLaren, through long experience, hardly able to believe otherwise.

“It’s a curious case, taken whichever way you fancy, Harold.” Craile waxing philosophical over the problem. “And the answer, when we pick its bones clean, will be mighty interesting to find out, I’m sure. Well, it’s me for bed, it’s been a long day, and there’re going to be plenty more of the same before we find answers that clear things up. G’night, Harold.”

“Aye, sir, aye!”


The next morning, in the private sitting-room Craile had engaged in the Inn more out of necessity than comfort, the two men were deep in the details of the tragedy.

“The local Forces have declined to put out a county-wide search for this missing lady, supposed risen from the sleep of Ages.”

“Nae wun’ner, sir!” MacLaren outraged by the very concept. “Who’d in their reet min’ gae lookin’ for a hussy frae thoosands o’years ago in present times? The things jes’ ree-dic-lus!”

“Those Government agents Penrose talked of, who so carefully managed to accidentally eradicate so much good evidence, seem to have originated from some dubious Government Department that hardly exists if you ask anyone in authority. Talked with Superintendent Robinson half an hour ago on the phone and he was still seething at the unwarranted intrusion from outside his sphere of influence, without even asking first, apparently. He’s going, so he told me, to make an official matter of it.”

“Fair wind to him, I says.” MacLaren shaking his head mournfully. “Nae that onythin’ll come o’t, sir, mark my words.”

Hmm, lets get into these notes Ross wrote up on the whole situation. What level of veracity do you give him, Harold?”

“Hardly ony, sir, t’tell the truth.” MacLaren sucking his lower lip in a marked manner. “Fae a start he seems t’hae bin harbourin’ a michty strong attachment to the lassie Margaret Trelawny. Above an’ beyon’ the usual fel’la in love, to my mind, sir. Seems to have warpit his min’ in almost every ither direction, I’d say, judgin’ by his manner of writin’ aboot a’things aroon him.”

“Yes, he certainly reflects a particularly curious set of mind, I agree.” Craile nodding over his own interpretation of the bundle of scrawled notes lying on the table before them. “Somewhat headstrong, I’d say, and determined to believe himself in love with the girl at all costs. Whether such a depth of intensity was reciprocated is altogether another matter.”

“We’ll never know, sir; she bein’ deceased entirely.”

“Yes, another dead-end. Oh, God! Shouldn’t have put it quite that way!”

“Ne’er mind, sir, it’s a dam’ slough of darkness in itsel’ ony way ye look at it.”

Craile, after his moment of embarrassment, buckled down to business.

“Let’s see, what we have is this tale of Ross’s, and very little else. The Government agents—how I’d dearly like to get my hands on them, wherever they are—having destroyed most of the scientific evidence leaves us only with the physical remnants, the Egyptian relics, the House itself, and Ross’s tale. We can’t verify the story of the Dutch explorer from 1650, Nicholas van Huyn; even if we could find a copy of the exact same edition of his book it’d still just be taken as fabulous tales invented by him to put it over credulous readers of the time.”

“The tomb in the cliff does seem to have been there, sir. The man Corbeck and Trelawny his’sel’ found it?”

“Yes, I give you that.” Craile nodded in agreement. “He, Huyn, certainly found the tomb, but the accompanying details leave everything to the imagination—his!”

“Aye, sir.”

“But Trelawny found it again,” Craile continued, musingly. “and found all that we saw in that underground chamber; the relics, boxes, amulets, scarabs of all sorts, figurines made of various types of stone, some jewels, not to mention a multitude of other sarcophagus’s and mummies he already had in his collection.”

“Surprised the Egyptian authorities let him get awa’ wi’ so much, sir.”

“Don’t think he, Trelawny, let them have much say in the matter, Harold.” Craile curling a supercilious lip. “What you don’t tell the taxman the taxman never knows, eh?”

Haarph! D’you suppose ony o’those ree-mainin’ mummies is, er, competent t’oor purpose, sir?” The idea having come to the Sergeant in a flash.

Craile raised his eyebrows at this.

“One mummy coming back to life and running-off into the Cornwall lanes is quite enough for me, Harold—what about you?”

“—er, yes sir, quite!”

But another idea had suddenly presented itself to the Inspector.

“We haven’t yet taken a look at the supposed Egyptian Queen’s raiment. The so-called wedding dress, or the jeweled girdle along with it—or that other jewel, the ruby that everyone seems to have imbued with so much significance. They, at least, still remain in the house, I believe.”

“Aye, Penrose tellit me, as we were leaving, they’d been taken to an upstairs bedroom by his wifie, and the Government agents not told of their presence, so they escapit bein’ accidentally whippit under the carpit, sir.”

“Let’s get back to the house and verify they are indeed still in the Land of the Living.” Craile rising hurriedly, clapping his hat on with a purposeful gesture. “Who knows, they might hold the answer to the whole mystery!”


It was just past 10.00am when the one-horse fly deposited them at the entrance to Kyllion House once more. In attendance at the front door Penrose stood in solitary majesty just like a real butler and in a few minutes Craile and MacLaren stood in the bedroom alongside Mrs Penrose where she had hidden the only remaining items incident to the late tragedy. She had opened a large wardrobe and hunted amongst the piles of clothes within, a hearty draft of lavender essence filling the room and the nostrils of the men.

“Here they be, sir,” Mrs Penrose depositing the folded dress on the bed. “There’s the girdle, too, and what a beautiful thing it be, even if terrible old. And here, in this leather pouch, is the jewel. I’ll let  you attend to that.”

“Very good, Mrs Penrose, you’ve done very well, thank you.”

Another moment and, the housekeeper having closed the door behind her, Craile leapt on the remnants like a fisherman his first catch of the day.

Hmm, very fine linen, Harold; the finest I’ve ever seen. If it’s five thousand years old though I’ll eat my hat! And this girdle, lady who wore it must have had a dam’ thin waist!”

“Those real gems all over it, sir?”

“One can’t say, not being a jeweler. Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, lets take a gander at this dam’ red ruby that seems to have inveigled its way through Ross’s whole story.”

Saying which he opened the small leather pouch, up-ended it and watched with interest as the contents fell out on the bed cover.

The window of the bedroom was to the left of the two investigators so the rays of the sun shone directly onto the small ruby, about the size of a plum, causing it to glow with a mysterious bright light. The tone of its reflective light almost bright scarlet, twinkling like a live thing as the two astonished officers gazed at it.

Whew! That’s a beauty, for sure!”

“Certainly a thing of the first water.” Craile himself impressed, picking it up gingerly and studying it closely. “Can see why everyone was so taken with it. In the shape of one of those beetles the Egyptians set so much store by, can’t remember the name off-hand. It sparkles, right enough, from inside—can’t quite make out how, mind you. We better take special care of this, must be worth a Prince’s ransom never mind its association to our investigations.”

“What’ll ye dae with it, sir?”

“Put it in my pocket-book for the nonce, Harold.” Craile doing just that. “Like to see the man who’ll attempt taking it off me!”

A few minutes later they had moved out onto the small paved terrace on the north side of the house, the sheer cliff falling away to the narrow beach nearly two hundred feet below.

“A guy windy prospect, sir.”

“Very bracing, certainly.” Craile taking a deep mouthful of the salty air. “Get a wide view of the bay, if nothing else. Can’t see the village from here, though. Let’s see, the House here’s on top of the cliff, inside the winding stairs take us down around fifty feet or so to the natural cavern, which is so near the front of the cliff several narrow fissures act as windows; then the cliff goes on down another hundred feet or so to the beach.”

“Aye, sir.”

Craile mused a moment longer.

“According to Ross’s notes the experiment to return the mummy to life—”

“Terrible sacree-ligious whichever way ye look at it, sir!”

“Yes, no doubt; but anyway, it went off, apparently, pretty well at first—a green glow or some form of green gas emanated from the curious stone box when the lid was taken off curtesy of the lamps with their special oil light—”

“Thon’s anither thing I tak’ no belief in, sir.” MacLaren shaking his head firmly. “Whit’s so special aboot—whit wa’ it again? Cedar oil? Just oil, surely?”

“Our’s not to reason why, Harold, ours but to try and make sense of the whole dam’ confabulation.” Craile smiling grimly as he stared out over the choppy grey waters of the Bay. “So, the translucent green gas—then a window shutter, according to Ross, blew in and everything went belly-up from there on, the gas instantly turning to a noxious black fog filling the whole cavern in short order. He lost contact with the others, finally searched for Margaret, thought he’d found her and carried the seemingly unconscious body back up to the Hall where he unceremoniously dumped her on the parquet floor whiles he went to her bedroom for matches and candles—”

“Why, sir?” MacLaren critical of this action as well. “Why go up the stairs to someone’s bedroom when candles or matches were surely in the sitting-room downstairs close by his hand all the time, or in the kitchen for sure?”

“He was partially deranged, Harold; what with the gas and all, whatever he says!” Craile nodding at his own assiduity in interpreting the man’s movements. “He was also obsessed with the young woman, so it seemed simply natural to go to her room in search of something to succor her.”

Hmmph!” MacLaren not in any way accepting of this theory.

“So,” Craile continuing as they strolled along the short terrace, holding his hat in place in the breeze. “he comes back to the Hall only to find the lady has vanished. Nought but her erstwhile clothes left behind to show she had ever existed. Dress, girdle, and red jewel!”

“Balderdash, sir, if I may be allowed.”

“At first glance I agree, Harold,” Craile nodding acceptance of this argument. “though there’s points in its favor nonetheless.”

There was a pause while MacLaren attempted to conjure up what these might possibly be, then he gave up the unequal struggle with Logic versus the Supernatural.

“Whit micht they be, sir? Jes’ for my ain eddication, as it micht be?”

By this time Craile was following hard on the heels of his own theory, made on the hoof as he walked but still, he  thought, a viable explanation.

“Positing the fact the mummy, the Queen, the woman’s body strangely perfectly preserved even for an Egyptian mummy, had just been brought up to the light of day and exposed to the natural emanations of ordinary sunlight and the atmosphere, wouldn’t it also be entirely natural if the body reacted adversely to such? That an accelerated impact of deterioration had taken place resulting in the physical material of the body vanishing away in short order, almost instant decomposition, just leaving the tangible remnants behind?”

MacLaren was on top of this naive notion like a cat on its prey.

“Nae sir, nae sir,” He shaking his head vigorously. “Ye can’na hae that at all! It wil’na wash at a’.”

Craile smiled gently at the enthusiasm shown by his Sergeant to pour scorn on his interpretation of the past events.

Oh, really? Then what may your own explanation be, if I may ask?”

“I tak’ it frae an altogither different angle, sir.” MacLaren bucking-up wonderfully as his chance to shine arrived. “Let’s gae back tae the start o’the whole repreehensible sity-ation. Did the Man Ross no, by his own words, spend almost four days an’ nichts in the house in Kensington Palace Road in London where Mr Trelawny had first been struckit doon by mysterious forces, his han’ awfully cut aboot, leavin’ him in a deep trance or coma?”

“I believe so, yes; according to Ross.”

“Jes’ so, sir,” MacLaren nodding at this. “The whole thing reportit by the man Ross; nae one else, not the Doctor, nor the ither men present, nor the girl Margaret—jes’ Ross. Everything we learn comes through the lens of Ross’s attitude and natur’. He bein’ in the hoose all this time, ostensibly to be at the side of the woman he loves at all times, but couldn’t it be also, that he thereby has opportunity to roam freely all ower the hoose at his leesure, sir?”

Hmm, could be.”

“During which he could hae effec’it ony number of events relating to the ongoing drama, sir?” MacLaren becoming more determined in tone as he proceeded. “He had every opportunity tae dae whitever he wantit ower the course of fower whole days an’ nichts!”

“Others were present too, you recall, Harold.”

“Aye, but he could easy have made opportunities, even if only o’ a minute or twa, to gae aboot his evil intentions, sir.” MacLaren brushing this query aside with contempt. “Tae my way o’thinkin’ he could hae engineered most, indeed all, the terrible actions of those eventful days an’ nichts his’sel’, sir.”

“But he was at home when the first call for help from Margaret reached him—had to take a long Hansom ride to get to the scene, where Trelawny had already been attacked and was already severely injured and unconscious.”

MacLaren had the answer to this too.

“Only by his own report, sir. All we have is his notes, his recollections; who’s to say they’re in any way correct? I tak’ the man Ross as a var’ra unreliable witness or narrator indeed, sir.”

“What do you mean?”

“He could have already been in the hoose, at some inveetation or visit he’s seen fit tae brush unner the cairpit. Whiles there he attacks Mr Trelawny, lets a servant or Miss Trelawny find the victim bleedin’ awa like a stickit pig, an’ then raises Caine like an innocent bystander an’ gaes oan frae there. His whole later tale o’ whit went on a pack o’lies frae start tae feenish!”

Craile took a minute to digest this variation of reported facts before coming to a decision.

“We must remember Ross’s notes, what he says took place, are all we have to go on at the moment. All the major persons involved except for him are no longer alive. They none of them, so far as we can discover, left any reports themselves, so Ross is the only witness of merit that we have.”

“Which he may be takin’ full advantage of, sir.” MacLaren still following his own train of thoughts. “Knowin’ only he can provide ony kind of deescription of the tragedy, why sir, he can tell’t ony way he feels inclined tae!”

But Craile had taken as much cerebral exercise over the case as he felt needful.

“Come on, Harold, nearly lunchtime, and don’t I need some sustenance. I see this dam’ case stretching out in front of me like Odysseus’ voyage home, only much slower.”


The early hours of the afternoon found the investigators back in the underground cavern, a sickly pale light from the few natural vertical fissures in the outer rock wall allowing nowhere near enough illumination into the interior to be of much help, though the electric light helped a little.

“Dam’ cold, sir.”

“Nothing to be done about that.” Craile searching with his eyes every corner and nook of the large space. “This is the crux, the centre, of the whole affair. Where four persons met their untimely deaths.”

“All except Ross, sir. A fact that needs some hefty thinkin’ ower in my opinion.”

“That’s as may be.” Craile intent on other things. “What we must do is see if there is anything in the way of clues still remaining. Something, even of the slightest, we can pounce on and make something of. Anything catch your eye, Harold?”

“Naethin’ o’moment, sir.” He glancing around with a scowl. “Those dam’ Government agents, whoever they were, hae destroyed almost a’ in that line, ablins. It seems tae my eye, though, this stone box, or coffer, is the seat of the whole tragedy. I mean supposedly the gas cam’ oot’ta it, though there’s nae sign o’how sich may have been effec’it. Especially when ye’re led tae unner’staun’ it was made tae do so five thoosan’ years since! I jes’ don’t believe that, sir! Some gey dirty work’s been goin’ on here an’ nae mistake.”

Meanwhile Craile had been going round the cavern, taking note of the objects still in place everywhere.

“The Government blokes didn’t, at least, touch all these; probably thought they weren’t important. That may be; lets take a summary of what is here, Harold.”

“OK, sir.”

Over the next hour Craile noted down every object within the caverns walls, large or small. Sarcophagi, figurines, scarabs, jewels, small terracota vases and all the other various objects present associated with the ancient civilisation that had so interested Mr Trelawny. Not till late in the afternoon, when every moveable item had been carefully catalogued, did he stop for breath.

“That’s it, Harold. I think we’ve covered everything of note to the investigation that lies within these walls.”

“Whit aboot the red jewel, sir?”

Ah yes, thank you, quite right. Let me get it out.”

With which words Craile took his leather pocket-book from his jacket pocket and opened it.

Damnation! Gone.” Where the hell is it? Do you see it anywhere, Harold? Must have fallen out somehow!”

A frantic search finally showed that the missing jewel did not seem to be within the purlieu of the cavern.

“Where’d ye last see it, sir?”

“I suppose when I put it in my pocket-book, up in the bedroom where Mrs Penrose had hidden it.”

“Shall we go back an’ see if it micht have fallen oot yer wallet there, sir? Seems a fair startin’ point.”

“Lets go!”

Five minutes later the two men stood in the bedroom staring at the disheveled cover on the bed where, in solitary splendour shining radiantly in the afternoon light from the window, the Jewel of Seven Stars glowed in majesty.

“How the hell’d it get there?” Craile nonplussed by events. “I could have sworn I put it carefully away in my wallet.”

“Must have fallen oot, an’ neither of us noticed, sir.”

“I can’t believe it.” Craile shaking his head. “I just don’t. Well, anyway, it’s here now, and this time I mean to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere else. Lets go back to the cavern, Mr Trelawny had a safe placed there that will hold the jewel securely, I’m sure, and we have the keys and combination to hand thankfully, vide Ross’s notes.”

“One thing of worth that’s come o’ them, at least, sir.”



That night, both police officers having decided to stay in Kyllion House to make their investigations easier and quicker on the following day, things began to go from bad to worse for all concerned.

Each had separate bedrooms, fully furnished curtesy of Mrs Penrose and her husband who were now by way of semi-permanent residents in the servants quarters on the far side of the rambling house. Craile’s room sat at the end of the corridor on the first floor, two windows looking out on the choppy cold waters of the bay; MacLaren residing in a room two doors along to the left from his boss, with an equally fine view of miles of empty freezing water.

Neither was especially interested in the view, however, each closing their curtains with determination and scrambling into their nightclothes with enthusiasm before crawling beneath the sheets with every expectation of having a long night’s rest: an outlook soon to be disturbed in a marked manner for both.

Sometime in the darkness of the night MacLaren suddenly woke with a jerk, gasping for breath and feeling somewhat dizzy and light-headed. Sitting-up he glanced around his chamber but saw nothing particularly out of place, though something had certainly disturbed his sleep. Wiping his brow with his left hand he scrambled out of bed in his pajamas and stepped quietly to the bedroom door. Opening this and peering out into the corridor he again saw nothing to arouse interest or suspicion; then noticed the door to Inspector Craile’s room appeared to be wide open, the flickering light of a single candle shining forth.

Curious as to what his boss could possibly be up to at this time of night MacLaren padded along the corridor in his slippers and dressing-gown to tap gently on the open door. Receiving no answer he cautiously peered into the room, immediately noting the bed was empty though the sheets were disturbed as if Craile had slept for some time there. Coming fully into the room he next noted that his boss was nowhere to be seen, another oddity.

“Whaur in the De’il is he? Why, it must be aroon three o’clock!”

An idea coming to him he turned to pace along the corridor to the bathroom at the far end but investigation soon showed this to be as empty as the Inspector’s bedroom.

“Whaur the deuce is he?”

MacLaren paused to take stock of his position, scratching his chin in pursuit of some clarification, then another idea came to him.

“Surely he’s no gone doon tae the cavern at this time o’nicht? Holy Hell an’ damnation!”

Pausing to grab and light a storm lantern sitting on the table in his room he then made poste-haste for the winding staircase leading down into the bowels of the cliff on which the ancient house was built. Three minutes later he emerged into the wide chilly vastness of the natural cavern, holding the lantern above his head in an attempt to make its light fill the huge space.

All seemingly was as it had been left when the men had departed the evening before then MacLaren, eyes growing used to the shadow-filled gloom, saw his leader over on the other side of the room by the large safe placed there by the late Mr Trelawny, a curious red glow seeming for an instant to encompass the tall man also dressed in pajamas and dressing-gown.

“Sir, whit is it? Can I help?”

For an instant MacLaren almost imagined there was a flash of green light, like a bright emerald, then the room returned to its normal dark shadowy nature.

“What? What? Where am I? What’s the dam’s going on, MacLaren?”

Stepping across the cold stone floor MacLaren took stock of his superior with an anxious frown.

“Look sir, ye’re bleedin’ frae the wrist. There’s scratches along o’your wrist. An’ whit’s a’ this? Ye hae the safe key in yer lef’ haun an’ the bloody red jewel in yer richt! Whit in hell dae ye think ye’re up tae at this time o’nicht?”

For answer Craile looked stupidly at his hands, apparently unable to form any kind of logical answer to his Sergeant’s questions.

Realising his boss was not in a state of mind to take control of the situation MacLaren stepped up to the breach.

“Come along, sir; I’ll hae ye up in your sitting-room in nae time at a’. Gim’me five minutes an’ I’ll raid the kitchen for a fine cup’pa tea an’ a shot o’brandy. That’ll soon set ye back on yer feet, I’m sure. Come along o’me, sir. Haud on, though! Ablins we’d better put that dam’ red jewel back in the safe, sir. Jes’ so’s we know whaur the hell it is in the futur’ as it micht be. I’l dae it, sir. Now, for that cup’pa tea, this way, sir.”

Twenty minutes later Craile was more in control of himself, though still groggy from the effects of his late night adventure.

“What happened, Harold? What was I doing down in the cavern, taking the jewel out of the safe?”

“I din’na ken, sir. That’s up t’ye t’say. Ye must hae had some reason; perhaps you thocht there was someone tryin’ t’steal the dam’ thing, mayhap?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know. Thanks for getting Mrs Penrose to find disinfectant and bandages for my wrist at such an hour. I don’t know how I did this, either. Must have scraped against some projecting sharp rock going into the cavern, I suppose.”

“Strange if ye did, sir.” MacLaren pointing an accusing finger at the bandaged wound. “There’s quite seven separate scratches in line along your wrist, like a cat with seven claws, as it micht be.”

Ha! We can put that theory to rest, at least, no cat here—anyway not since the house cat, Silvio did Ross call it, has disappeared who knows where.”

“Anyways, sir, this whole case is getting more an’ more oot’a haun as we progress, tae my way o’thinkin’.”

“Unusual events happening, I give you that.” Craile taking another sip from his brandy glass. “I never would have thought I was susceptible to walking in my sleep, mind you. Must be letting the whole thing get too much under my guard. This brandy’ll give me a good night’s rest for the remainder of tonight anyway.”

“Sure, sir?”

“Yes, nothing else will take place, Harold, I assure you. I’ll double-lock my bedroom door. See you in the morning for breakfast.”

“Aye, sir!”


Breakfast next morning, in a room on the ground floor looking out over the small garden, was a dour affair; Craile still seeming to be somewhat under the weather while MacLaren fidgeted in anxiety to get to work.

“How d’ye feel the noo, sir?”

“Not great, Harold.” Craile acknowledging his present state. “A little groggy, like I’ve been drugged, though God knows how! I simply can’t get to the bottom of it, at all. I go to bed, fall asleep, then wake up down in that cavern with red and green lights flickering all round and you at my shoulder and the red jewel in my hand? I have no idea how or why.”

“An’ wounded too, sir.”

“Yes, my wrist, don’t know how that happened either, dam’mit!”

“There’s strange things at play hereaboots, sir.” MacLaren letting his Scottish blood come to the fore. “Ye recall the chiel Ross talkit often o’the exact same things happenin’ to Mr Trelawny whiles they lived in Kensington Palace Gardens? He bein’ scratchit on the wrist jes’ the same’s you, sir. I places it on the cat; that Silvio, whitever fowks say. It must be here somewheres, waitin’ its chance. Probably thinkin’ most people are enemies of its owners so goes after them in the only way it knows.”

“And the seven claws, Harold?”

Weel, sir, why not? Cats bein’ strange animals at the best o’times.”


Ten minutes later they were back in the chilly underground chamber, now bathed once again in bright electric light, examining the whole area though not to much further enlightenment.

“Whit aboot this queer idea, said by Ross, of the mummy Queen comin’ back t’Life, sir?” MacLaren shaking his head in disbelief. “Can’na let sich a sorry tale pass at a’, sir. She wrappit roon in acres o’bandages for five thoosan’ year—then unwrapped an’ found not to hae been dealt with in the normal manner o’sich mummies yet still in a fine state o’preeservation? I mean, beggin’ yer pardon sir, no haeing her internals includin’ brain hackit oot wi’oot askin’, as I’ve since read’s the usual case, an’ put in separate jars for God knows whit reason! She thereby enabled, when ree-surrec’it, tae waltz off like a New Woman gaeing God knows whaur! How can onyone o’ middlin’ intellec’ believe ony o’that, sir?”

“It’s all we have to go on at the moment, Harold.” Craile pinpointing the difficulty under which they were presently working. “Only Ross is available to give us any kind of eye-witness account, the others all being conveniently dead. Wish Miss Trelawny wasn’t; she could have had much to tell, being so deeply involved, apparently at the very heart of the affair.”

“Nae sense in dreamin’ sir, won’t get us var’ra much for’rader. What we need’s some kind’a real physical clue, one we can see, smell, touch, and use competently to clear up the case.”

“And what might that consist of, Harold?” Craile smiling thinly as they walked around the cavern, glancing here and there at the remaining Egyptian artefacts scattered about. “These things, all of them, are no use. For starters we don’t have the expertise to understand their purpose in this situation; second, if we engaged a horde of experts I bet they’d each come up with wildly divergent answers that’d just mire us in further problems and mysteries; thirdly, all those involved are dead, except for Ross who is so mired himself in suspicion and likelihood of being at least somewhat off his head we can’t take any single word of his explanation as convincing.”

But MacLaren, in his subtly Scots way, had been giving the case a great deal of thought.

“Clues, sir!” He stopping by the table on which the peculiar stone coffer rested. “We hae sich, if only we hae the gumption tae recognise sich. This here coffer, for starters; it was the fount out’ta which the gas came; first a thin green kin’, accordin’ tae Ross, then a darker thicker more menacin’ black mixture that final killit a’body but Ross—a point I’ve never believit my’sel, sir. An’, o’course, we hae the red jewel, whit does Ross always refer to it as?—the Jewel of Seven Stars? Why’d he always call it that, sir? Has it ony meanin’ within the biggin’ o’the term, d’ye think?”

Craile stood by the table glancing keenly at the stone coffer, frowning over its purpose.

“Its made of a strange stone, right enough. You ever seen stone like that?”

“Nae sir, not haeing ever bin in Egypt mysel’. Whaur, nae doot, ye’ll fin’ cliffs an’ mountains o’t. I din’na put ony import in that.”

“All the same—” Craile musing over the unusual artefact, bending forward to gaze into its interior.

“Here, sir!” MacLaren immediately concerned. “Staun back, will ye! Who’s t’say remnants o’the gas is no still there waitin’ t’do for ye too!”

“If there was ever any gas, Harold.” Craile straightening again with a shake of his head. “What I think might be useful is if we started dismantling Ross’s confession, or explanation piece by piece. Lets try and break his tale down to its very basics; see what’s left afterwards, that we could use as bona fide fact.”

MacLaren rubbed his forehead in agitation.

“Tae thon end, sir, we could throw oot his entire story, leavin’ us wi’ nowt at a’ tae go on.”

“Not quite that much, I fancy.” Craile fairly taken with his idea. “There are certain points that can still be verified, Sir James Frere for instance. He attended Mr Trelawny when he was still unconscious and wounded; could give us a description of the wounds and what he thought caused them? And we haven’t gone through the dead victims’ rooms with a fine tooth-comb; perhaps one or more kept a diary! Dr. Winchester may have kept medical notes of his patient’s condition over time? That’d take us some way along the path of understanding.”

“Catchin’ at straws, I fancy, sir!”

“Better than doing nothing. Come on, lets get back upstairs out of this necropolis; Those dam’ Government agents didn’t ransack the private rooms anyway, or at least so I think. Any idea of exactly who they were anyway, Harold?”

“Put a few phone-calls through yesterday to mates I know in the Smoke, sir.” MacLaren nodding as they made their way across the cavern floor to the stairwell. “Seems the general opinion is they came from the Department of Logistics, part of the Foreign Office; have a wide scope to do much as they please, apparently, sir.”

God, that’s all we need. Who’s in charge? Lets see if we can frighten him with railway shares or soap or something.”

“Aye, sir.” MacLaren beginning to feel for the first time that a great deal of weight was being placed unnecessarily on his shoulders. “Haud on, though! Whit aboot the red jewel, sir? Did we no fancy we ought’a examine it, its stars and glimmers, sir?”

Oh yes, forgot about that.” Craile shaking his head as they turned to cross to the large safe against the far wall. “My mind’s all at sixes and sevens today, Harold.”

“Sixes mayhap, sir, but the less sevens we hae tae mix’it wi’ the better, I’m thinkin’. Hae ye got the key an’ combination, sir?”

“Yes, give me a moment and I’ll have the dam’ thing out.”

Within two minutes the jewel lay in the Inspector’s palm, glowing with what both men now uncritically looked on as an unnatural radiance.

“The mair I see it, the less I like the dam’ thing.” MacLaren making his opinion known without fear or favor.

“Can’t say I disagree, Harold.” Craile nodding in agreement. “Come on, lets get out of here; I’d rather examine the thing somewhere approximating to modern life and times—our sitting-room for one.”

“With ye there, sir, by a’ means.”


Back upstairs in the small sitting-room with its windows looking out on the garden Inspector Craile and Sergeant MacLaren sat at the table examining the jewel, one of the few significant objects to have survived the late tragedy.

“Whit is it exact, sir?”

“A ruby, I suppose. Need an expert jeweler’s opinion, of course, but I think we can take it for granted.”

“Michty peculiar cut, whit’s it meant t’ree-present?”

“This is what’s called a scarab, Harold.”

“An’ whit may that be, sir?”

“Well, far’s I can recall it’s meant to be a beetle of sorts.”

“A beetle!”

“Yes, the Egyptians, you may know, liked to give all sorts of things supernatural powers; beetles, scarab beetles, which are or were extensively available to crunch under your boots five thousand years ago, got that treatment comprehensively. They crop up everywhere you find old Egyptian ruins, remains, or other objects, made out of all sorts of materials, glass, stone, jewels, lapis lazuli, etc.”

“An’ this one in parteec’lar, sir?”

“Let’s take a close look.”

Saying which Craile scrambled in a jacket pocket emerging with a small magnifying glass.

“Right, size, about the same as the top joint of my thumb; design, scarab beetle as formerly noted; weight, mmm, maybe six ounces. Defining features—ah, I see, yes, of course. Here’s the glass, Harold, see for yourself.”

Nothing loth, in fact very much interested, MacLaren took the glass and jewel, leaning over to scrutinize the object in depth.

“It’s var’ra red, sir. Indeed, far redder lookin’ right in’ta it noo, than when ye jes’ cast an eye ower it. An’ whit are these? Oh, they maun be the Stars a’body talks of in Ross’s notes. Aye, I see them fairlie weel, remind me o’somethin’, mind.”

“The Plough.”

“Whit, sir?”

“The Constellation of the Plough, Harold.” Craile nodding affirmatively as he passed on this information. “If you look carefully you’ll see the seven imperfections or minute fractures are scattered throughout the interior body of the jewel in exactly the same positions as the stars that make up the Plough constellation.”

Och aye!” MacLaren frowning over this piece of esoteric knowledge. “An’ whit exact does thon add to the situation, sir?”

“Ross, at least, set a high regard for it, as we see from his notes. And made a great deal of Mr Trelawny having an even higher regard for the jewel. It, the Queen’s mummy, always supposing there was ever such a thing, and the stone coffer, they all stand together at the heart of the affair.”

But MacLaren, once again letting his dour Scots personality take charge, shook his head at this.

“Mayhap they had some sort’a power in their day, sir, but thon was in the guy lang past. Now, after the tragedy, they’re innocuous, negative, used up. The jewel’s jis’, faur as ony chiel can mak’ oot, a flashy stone an’ nae mair. The fauncy colored stone coffer is only that, too; whitever was inside it that caused, so we’re led tae believe, all that panic is long gone. Aun the Queen, be she a mummy or nae, has entirely vanished frae the face o’the earth, sir. Whaur’s that leave us, I ask ye?”

“In a quandary, Harold, a quandary!” Craile admitting the metaphorical swamp on which they now stood in regard to the unfolding investigation. “In regards to which I mean for us both to stay here for the next few days to carry out any further investigations that may be at all feasible. I’m sure the key to the whole thing lies within the boundaries of this house, or its estate.”

“Or the twistit mind of Ross, sir. In which case we maun kiss the whole thing good riddance an’ go back to HQ, sir!”

“Early days, yet, Harold; don’t give up quite yet. Who knows, tonight we may be privileged by a personal visit from the resurrected Queen ourselves if we’re lucky!”

Gawd, sir, that’d be a sicht t’see, an’ nae mistake. Wish I had a revolver.”

Craile gently replaced the glowing jewel in his pocket-book, sliding this itself into his jacket pocket with care.

“This thing does not leave my person until the case is satisfactorily closed, Harold. Dam’ strange thing, all the same! Something seems to remind me—! Anyway, as to guns, not the British way. One of the victims did have one, I’m sure; was it Corbeck? Though, even if it was still in the house somewhere, we couldn’t take advantage; imagine if either of us discharged a firearm in the course of our present duties, for whatever reason! We’d be sent to Devil’s Island without a trial. No, put that thought right out of your head, Harold. What use would such a thing be against a supernatural ghost from five thousand years ago, anyway?”


The evening meal was taken in the small dining-room on the ground floor, a window looking out on the graveled drive before the front entrance. Mrs Penrose had supplied a delightful repast of mashed potatoes, green peas and beef pie of mouth-watering consistency which both men had done full justice to. Now, sitting back on their chintz covered easy chairs in the adjoining living-room they were enjoying that most refreshing post-prandial habit, a tobacco pipe washed down by glasses of an excellent malt whisky. The moral of indulging so while in the house easily overcome by Inspector Craile.

“No-one else here, now, to enjoy it so why not us? And where did you buy that awful tobacco, Harold? Smells like the bottom of a ship’s stokehold!”

“Sent doon special frae the auld country by my relative, sir; a verra fine shag nae tae be foun’ onywhere abent the border sadly. An’ thank ye for the whusky, a fine example o’its kin’, I assure ye.”

“Spoken like an expert, which I’m sure you are, Harold! Now, what about this dam’ case of ours? Any new ideas?”

MacLaren paused to take a few deep puffs of his rancid smelling pipe, followed by a deep swallow of the amber-coloured liquid in his glass, smacked his lips appreciatively then, suitably refreshed, addressed his boss’s question.

“As tae that, sir, I’ve been thinkin’ ower the whole problem an’ cam tae the conclusion we ain’t goin’ tae get much forrarder by the usual means, sir.”

Hmm, do you mean we should find someone significant to our investigation, take them down a back alley, and beat sense out of them without benefit of clergy? Surely that’s against the Police Regulations?”

“Varra funny, sir, I’m sure.” MacLaren taking this riposte in good part, probably as a calming result of the whisky. “Nae-nae, something altogethir different—how are ye sir, these days, on dreams an’ sich hallucinations, if I may ask?”

Craile, in the midst of taking a small refreshment from his own glass spluttered a little as he regained his breath before answering this question coming from an altogether different direction than he had expected.

“Dreams, Harold, a curious topic, surely, in the circumstances? What made you think along those lines?”

MacLaren, on his part, contrived to look both lugubrious and somehow perfectly complacent at the same time.

“It were some’at ye said yersel’, sir, a trifle ago in the day. Did ye no say, when takin’ note o’ that dammed jewel afore puttin’ it safe away in your pocket-book, that it remin-it ye o’somethng, somewhere, sir?”

It was the Inspector’s turn to look inscrutable, having no idea where his Sergeant was going with this avenue of interrogation.

“Dreams? What brings such things to mind concerning our present activities?”

“Only that I had a strange dream mysel’, sir.” MacLaren opening up under the influence of the excellent whisky. “You mentioning the fac’ the jewel remin-it ye o’ something remin-it me in my turn—quite sudden-like—o’ the varra dream I’d had some days since, jes’ afore we were both assigned tae this dam case.”

As Craile frowned over this revelation he sat back in his chair, reminded himself—as quite out of the blue—of a dream he himself had suffered one night not long before Superintendent Robinson had thrown this case of the multiple deaths in his lap.

“Go on.”

Weel, sir,” MacLaren leaning forward in his chair and coming to the crux of his story. “It were a varra strange dream indeed. The basis o’t being that I was in a Pub somewheres in Plymouth—though I never could figure oot jes’ exact which ane—an’ therein I was speakin’ tae a most ladylike woman of foreign parts. She hersel’ admittin’ tae me she was Egyptian! The circumstances of oor convarse was peculiar in the extreme, sir, if ye catch my meanin’. A’things aroon us, meanwhile,  bein’ red as a violent sunset on the evenin’ of a storm; red wallpaper, red tables, red chairs, even the varra atmosphere in the saloon red-tinted, sir!”

“Go on.” Craile deeply interested now,

“Whit she told me, for she engaged me in converse right off the bat as if I were but a simple servant an’ she anxious tae gie her orders o’the day, was that there was, somewheres, a red ruby she coveted particular an’ that it was my commission frae her tae get my haun’s on sich an’ bring it tae her post-haste. Whit d’ye think o’that as a dream, sir?”

Craile apparently thought a good deal of this tale of his Sergeant’s night-time metaphysical wanderings in the Land of Nod, for he took time to consider the whole story, frowning deeply the while. Another puff on his pipe followed by draining his glass finally put him in the position to answer his comrades question.

“I was there, too!”

MacLaren sat back, somewhat stupified.

“Whit, sir? How could sich be? Ye canna hae bin in my ane dream, surely?”

“It was a dream curiously—indeed frighteningly—like it, then.” Craile coming forth with his own newly triggered memories. “I had a dream, probably around the same night as yours, similar in almost every way. A foreign lady sitting with me at a table in a back street Pub in Plymouth, though not one I was at all familiar with, she telling me an extraordinary story about a scarab ruby with seven stars within it, the Pub’s whole interior around us meanwhile glowing an awful deep red the while we spoke, and her finally ordering me to find the ruby and bring it to her without fail or delay. By the way, I saw you sitting at another table on the far side of the crowded saloon apparently also deep in conversation with a lady who looked almost exactly similar to the lady I was attending.”

MacLaren sat frowning over this revelation for a while before standing up and taking his superior’s now empty glass, crossing the living-room to the sideboard where the decanter sat. After refilling both glasses, he brought Inspector Craile’s back to place on the side-table by his chair. Both men sitting silently for the next five minutes, puffing on their pipes and imbibing the Water of Life in large mouthfuls.

Weel, sir,” MacLaren breaking the silence at last. “a varra curious state o’affairs indeed. Whit can we mak o’t, I wonder?”

But meanwhile Craile had been putting in some hefty mental exercise.

“I think I know, or at least can surmise pretty effectively, why I saw you talking to the phantom lady at precisely the same time and place I was doing similarly.”

“Och aye, sir?”

“Remember that balderdash, or so I thought at the time I read it, Malcolm Ross spoke of in his report of the going’s-on at Kyllion House and before in London? You’ve read how he slowly over the course of events came to believe and finally rely on the super-natural as the explanation of all that occurred? His talk of the woman in question, the ancient Queen, having multiple ghost-like qualities? A Ka, and Ba and several other aspects of her supernatural existence. The fact she could be to some extent in several places at once? I’m beginning to believe there isn’t so much wrong with that outlook as we previously thought. And it would, to a certain extent, explain our own involvement. How else could we both, separately, have had almost the exact same dream? The lady, Ancient Egypt, the dam’ red ruby, and her ordering us to find it for her without fail! It all comes together, don’t you see?”

“Aye, That’s one way we could look at this affair, sir; if so we suspen-it all belief in the ordinary, the natural, and lookit instead towards the extraordinary, the super-natural! But, sir, dinnae say sich! Ye’re nae thinkin’ o’ghosties, banshees, bogles, or spirits an’ the like? That’ll nae get us ony forrader at a’.”

Craile however had been giving the situation a great deal of thought in the few minutes since the subject had arisen so unexpectedly.

“You’ve read Ross’s notes covering the days previous to and during the climax of the affair? By my theory, taking everything from this new angle, it all hangs together—more so than any other explanation I can think of.”

MacLaren took time to consider his boss’s words, but still recoiled at their meaning.

“So, by your way of thinkin’, sir, we’re bein’ operated, ordered in a kin’ o’supernatural manner, to dae this Ancient Queen’s wishes an’ business in the way o’findin’ the ruby an’ presentin’ it her like a birthday gift? Seems ootrageous t’me sir. Both physical, moral, an’ supernatural! I mean, whaur’d we be if we gave her back her precious gem? Because, sir, if ye haven’t noticed you are already in fair possession o’the dam’ thing as we speak! By your way o’thinkin’ a’ we need do now is await her Majesty’s presence, oot o’the blue, tae retake the thing with what reprisals tae us nae one can tell!”

Uum, there’s that, certainly.” Craile taken with this interpretation of the situation. “Perhaps I should put the jewel back in the safe?”

“Not in the ane doon in the cellar, sir. Far too far awa if needit in double-quick order.” MacLaren specific with this argument. “There’s anither safe in the maun’s study, isn’t there? Put it there, an’ keep the key an’ combination close t’your heart, sir!”

Craile considered this alternative and found it sound on all bases.

“Right you are, Harold. Come along and watch, so you can see it put away securely and have the combination yourself; two heads being better than one, especially in present circumstances!”


The evening was progressing towards deep night, the men had returned to the living-room after depositing the ruby in the study safe, not without significant concern over this policy, and were now again engaged in an in-depth discussion of their next appropriate actions.

“I dinnae see it, sir.” MacLaren in reply to a proposal from his boss. “Gieing the dam’ thing in charge o’HQ an’ laying it in ane o’oor own safes jes’ seems tae me tae be slidin’ the whole problem widdershins. She, this dam Queen if sich she really be, will jes’ come ower, frae the supernatural waorald whaur she evident presently resides, an’ tak’ the dam thing hersel’.”

“I don’t know, Harold.” Craile sitting back stroking his chin, giving a fine impersonation of Sherlock Holmes. “I’ve a feeling certain things hold her back from outright involvement like that. There are, I believe, certain rules in her world she must follow, Queen though she may be,. She is restrained by forces beyond even her control and must act in devious ways to achieve her aims. Possibly her own supernatural strength is not itself infinite? Perhaps she is becoming more and more anxious to regain the jewel as her strength gradually fades?”

This idea found a good listener in the Sergeant.

“Fade awa, sir? Aye, sich is michty within the gen’ral course o’such bogles, accordin’ tae a’ the ancient tales. Aye, she could be fadin’ off as we speak, sir; mayhap in a few days there’ll be nowt left o’her but a wee peerie o’her eldritch self!”

“What?” Even Craile having trouble with the excited Scotsman’s dialect.

“A wee bitty naething, sir; a faint misty what-ye-will, that ye could walk through like a mornin’ mist, sir!”

Ha! I fancy you’re getting ahead of the story, Harold. We must plan on the likely future, not what we most wish for. You can plan as you like for a beautiful sunny morning, but it’ll still rain buckets on the day of the picnic whatever you do!”

“Aye, sir, aye.” MacLaren admitting defeat. “Hae I no bin thar mysel’ on mony a dreich day in Summer wi’ my relatives attemptin’ a fine spread in a field, when the drizzle was smirrin’ doon like tae Loch Doon ower-flowin’!”

Craile sighed quietly though manfully refraining from shaking his head at these revelations of the home life of the pseudo-Cornish police officer at bay.

“To return to the serious topic of the day; whaur—I mean where, are we at present? Could we say we’ve progressed any way towards a solution of the problem? After all, we have four dead people, absolutely dead and certainly placed in that state of non-being in a highly illegal manner, no-one denies that. All we need is strong evidence, such that a jury can get its teeth into and chew on with gusto, that the man Ross was, is, the culprit.”

But MacLaren had relapsed into his natural doleful state of looking at the world around him.

“Aye, sir, an’ the whole chance o’us doin’ so, findin’ concrete evidence implicatin’ the chiel is sae low I’ve a better chance mysel’ o’marryin’ this ungodly Queen’s ghostie an’ haeing bairns by her!”


In the end they both decided, at Craile’s suggestion, to stay up all night remaining keenly on the lookout for whatever, if anything, might occur during the dark nocturnal hours. With the aide of blankets stripped from their individual rooms upstairs they made the best they could of the easy chairs in the living-room. The whisky was put way as being more of a hindrance than help in the circumstances; while Craile made sure the safe key was securely in his jacket pocket where he sincerely hoped it would remain during the course of the coming night.

“What’s the time? My wristwatch seems to have stopped.”

MacLaren reached into his waistcoat pocket, retrieving from its cosy den there a large round silver watch of great weight.

“A full-hunter, sir, late of my Gran’faither, may he rest in peace, the cold brutal moron that he was! Ach, wid ye no believe sich? It’s stoppit, tae!”

Scowling horribly he twisted the machine in his hand, wringing his wrist up and down vigorously, but to no avail.

“Nae sir, it wul’na work; its fair beaten for sure.”

“A great start to the evening’s entertainment.” Craile sighing unhappily. “Give me a minute while I consult the grandfather in the hall, back in a mo’.”

Two minutes later he returned, looking suspiciously over his shoulder as he re-entered the room.

“Twenty-five to midnight. Did you see anyone while I was out there, Harold?”

“Why, nae sir. Forbye should I have?”

“Just that I had the strangest feeling I wasn’t alone in the hall. Never saw anyone, but the feeling was so strong I nearly convinced myself someone was definitely within a few feet of me—but no, apparently.”

“It’s the biggin o’this place, sir.” MacLaren retreating further into his natural dialect as he became more nervous. “Built tae gie onyone o’a nervous deesposition the heeby-jeebies wi’oot tryin’!”

“You know, I’m beginning to regret not taking advantage of Corbeck’s pistol, after all. I mean, what could HQ really do? Send us both a sharp note, on yellow paper, to cease and desist from executing the citizens or else?”

“Hairdly, sir.” MacLaren being of a far more conservative nature. “Hae us both by the ears in short order, an’ flung oot tae direct traffic on the corner o’Charles Street an’ Cobourg Street in Plymouth for the reemainder o’our days, mair like; oor pensions a fleetin’ dream o’ oor innocent past, sir!”

Craile thought about this possible outcome for a few seconds then came to a decision.

“Rather that than being dead at the hands of some supernatural freak of nature, Harold! Sit tight, I’m going up to Corbeck’s room, should be easy to find the dam’ thing if it’s there. Back in a couple of minutes.”

At this time of night, bordering midnight itself, the hall was ill-lit; both Mr and Mrs Penrose having long gone to their own bed in the servant’s quarters behind the kitchen in the west wing of the old house. Switching the recently installed electric light on Craile paused for a moment shielding his eyes from the unexpected artificial glare as he ascended the straight flight of stairs against the far wall leading to the floor above.

“Dammed modern lighting! Designed specially to blind one! Give me gas any day.”

In Corbeck’s former room Craile took a few minutes to scrutinize the interior and its furnishings. Going over to an old chest of drawers standing to one side of the single window it was in the third down, wrapped in a cloth, that he found the item in question.

“Service five-shot Webley revolver! Just the thing, and a box of cartridges, excellent! Corbeck did himself proud, thankfully. Wonder what effect Webley’s have on ghosts?”

Another couple of minutes found him back in the downstairs living-room, but not to the welcome he anticipated.

“Come along, Harold, sleeping on duty! That’s mutiny. Harold!”

Shaking the apparently sleeping man’s shoulder Craile tried to invest the Sergeant with some idea of his duty, but MacLaren remained completely out, breathing slowly but comfortably meanwhile.

“Harold! Harold!”

More shaking of the shoulder, a gentle touch of the man’s cheek, and Craile suddenly realised his companion was not just simply asleep but deeply unconscious.

What the hell!”

There seemed no immediate chance of MacLaren coming back to consciousness in the short term, no matter what Craile did; finally he gave up the effort just making sure his Sergeant was comfortable and in no apparent danger.

Wrapping the supine and unresponsive form more closely in his blanket he stepped over to the door, glancing cautiously out into the corridor there but without effect. Moving back to his own chair he checked first that the safe key still lay securely in his jacket pocket; having done which, with a great deal of relief, he next took out from his other pocket the newly annexed revolver. As he slipped it back after checking its readiness he glanced up sharply, aware of some vague change in the atmosphere of the small square room.

Standing in front of the fireplace he allowed his eyes to roam infinitely slowly around the room, searching for the source of his anxiety. Suddenly his glance fell on something strange; the wallpaper decorating the room, of which he had previously taken no especial notice, was or had been a pale green reflecting long grasses and small blue flowerheads—now it had changed to a raw sharp pink gradually taking on the tone of a definite dark red. Something also seemed to have mingled with the very air in the room giving the whole atmosphere a pink glow. Craile felt a chill passing down his spine, reaching into his pocket again to grasp the revolver tightly, though what he thought he might achieve by using the weapon was still up in the air and highly doubtful.

Then a faint movement, hardly visible to the naked eye, drew his attention over to a spot just in front of the French window that led out to the garden—standing there, as seen through a warped looking-glass and shimmering as if the heat from a fire intervened, stood a tall elegant lady dressed in a long flowing white linen dress, a diadem across her high smooth brow her dark eyes sparkling brightly as she stared straight at Craile.


“So, we meet at last?”

Her voice came to the Inspector as from miles distant, and he suddenly realised he himself was somewhat groggy, almost in a state of semi-consciousness not unlike his Sergeant.

“Who are you, ma’am? I fear we have not been introduced.”

The improbability of his words in the circumstances struck the Inspector immediately he spoke, but too late to take them back.

For answer the lady, her form glimmering and seeming to vibrate as if barely fashioned, stood even more regally before the astonished man, her voice when it broke the silence sounding like a waterfall descending on ice.

“I am Queen Tera, Ruler of the Upper and Lower Kingdoms and of all the lesser lands around! The Gods of Egypt and mighty Thebes stand at my shoulders and pour their strength in me! Stand back and fear my mighty powers!”

Her voice, though perfectly clear, wavered up and down the scale as if she were having trouble making her voice audible at all; her shape, also, still wavered in and out of focus in Craile’s eyes until he realised this was from no deficiency of his own faulty vision but that she herself was by no means able to create a fixed existence; indeed so problematical was her very presence it seemed to bid fare to vanish out of existence at a moment’s notice. Craile suddenly found himself imbued with more confidence than he expected, considering the strange situation.

“Why are you here, ma’am? This is a crime scene, and I have a suspicion you are partly responsible for it!”

For a brief instant the lady came into clear focus, standing a few feet from the Inspector as if a real person; at which point he suddenly noticed she had seven long elegant fingers on her left hand.

“I am the Queen of Egypt, sir! I do what I wish, when I wish, and no-one says me nay!”

Craile had a ready answer to this.

“Here in this country you are no Queen, ma’am. Here you are barely anything at all. Avaunt, madam, and go back to those realms of Darkness from which you have so curiously and viciously engineered your escape. Whatever your status in the Past today you are nobody, a nothing, a will-o’-the-wisp of no moment to anyone, that can be dispersed by the merest slight breeze. Go, before a mild zephyr eradicates your very existence, vague and transitory as that presently obviously is!”

The woman, now reverted to a faint near flickering silhouette, seemed to snarl in rage, pointing a transparent hand towards Craile as if calling down all the curses of her ancient Empire on his shoulders.

“I am still the Queen of all Egypt, and shall reign supreme in splendour once again as I did in my prime. The world shall sway and tremble at my commands, and all things and peoples shall groan under my authority. I want the Jewel of Seven Stars! It is Life and Existence to me, I must have it! Give it to me now, or I shall call on all the Demons of the Afterworld to smite you into non-existence in an instant, and all your feeble descendants for evermore!”

The now barely visible form seemed to think she had drawn down the mightiest curse and threat within her arsenal, standing back as if awaiting the unfolding of the very extortions she had just made. But Craile, realising that her presence was growing ever thinner and weaker by the minute, stood firm.

“You will never touch the Jewel, ma’am; it is not for you. You come from an ancient civilisation, an Empire that ruled over-all in its time, but its time has passed aeons since and been largely forgotten. What power you had has blown away in the winds, vanished for ever under the shifting sands of your native country. Your Gods, once mighty, have been abandoned and long forgotten, their powers also vanquished. You are nothing now, lady; all you can do is return to the Afterworld from whence you sought to escape and live your allotted existence out there. You are no Queen, ma’am—you are as the least draught of a Summer breeze, a thing of no moment whatever. Your time is long past—go, and do not attempt to return for there is nothing in this modern world for you. Go!”

The figure of the woman, glimmering ever fainter with every word of the Inspector’s, now vibrated from head to foot before a wild cry, as of anger beyond all reason, echoed in the room—though in actuality merely sounding to Craile as he stood before her like a storm’s faint thunder coming from the far horizon’s edge—then the chamber was again bare, only Craile standing on the rug in the centre of the floor, with Sergeant MacLaren still soundly asleep in his chair; while of the former Queen of Ancient Egypt no remaining mote or sign was evident except for a small sprinkling of pale gray dust on the carpet which itself dissipated so quickly into nothing Craile fancied he had imagined or mistaken its presence.


Half an hour later MacLaren had returned to life, with no lasting ill-effects.

Weel, sir, if a’ went aff as ye say then we need worrit nae mair ower the dam’ Queen, or whitever she may hae bin.”

“That’s one way of looking at it.” Craile smiling as he presented his Sergeant with a glass of the amber liquid that revives. “I fancy we’ve seen the last of her visits; she seemed to have used up all the dregs of her energy down to the last drop. What she wanted was to be presented with the Jewel, so she could use it as some form of energy device, like electric current—but she had to be given it as a gift first, she couldn’t just take it herself. And not being given it as she wished, there was no remaining source for her to take power from. She glimmered, flickered, and faded from existence like-like— well, she did, and that’s that!”

The second taste of his homeland’s gift to the world visibly set MacLaren back on his feet again after his curious experience.

“Sae whit aboot the sassenach Ross, sitting in solitary comfort in a nice cell in Dartmoor? Does this mean we’ll need’tae let him go?”

Craile shook his head firmly at this.

“No, by no means. Last time I was down in that ghastly cavern I noticed, in one dark corner pretty much out of ordinary sight, a copper pipe protruding from the wall low down near the floor with a small valve attached. You’d hardly notice it, or take it for some old gas source or such. I have a fancy Ross re-purposed it, so introducing his own personal form of gas into the room, he having previously tampered with the others’ respirators to make sure they experienced the full flavor of the ghastly vapor, whatever it was, while he remained safe. His tale of it emanating from the multi-coloured stone coffer simply a pack of lies from start to finish. We’ll find, in due course, that he has some kind of personal motive behind his actions, even towards Margaret Trelawny whom he obviously pretended to love far too deeply for any credibility. No-no, Harold, Ross is going to answer in court for his crimes yet, and surely as my name’s Thomas Craile, have a meeting one cold morning with Jack Ketch before this year’s out!”

“An’ the Government boys, sir? Ridin’ roughshod ower oor evidence frae the stairt-go? Wharby are they involvit still?”

“That’s easy, Harold; Ross, whatever else he was up to, probably has a side-career advising or even acting for that Government Department—most likely in some highly unusual and even illegal matters best left in the dusty pigeon-holes to which they have almost certainly already been permanently filed!”

“Aye, sir, aye; there’s thon, ablins! An’ whit o’ the ultimate end o’ the dorcha dhearg ruby, sir?”

“God knows, Harold, God alone knows!”


The End.