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Detectives Finch and Elias have seen a lot -- murders, assaults, rapes, missing persons -- but they've never investigated a missing mummy before. Follow the two partners in this novella as they sift through a half dozen different suspects and try to solve the mystery of a stolen mummy from the River City museum. Part whodunit mystery, part procedural, with more than a little wise-cracking along the way, THE BASTARD MUMMY has a little something for all kinds of mystery readers. (This novella is also included in the short story collection, DEAD EVEN, which contains several other Finch and Elias stories).

Text of The Bastard Mummy

Title

The Bastard Mummy

A River City Novella

by Frank Zafiro

2010 by Frank Scalise

Detective Finch watched his partner, Elias, walk into the Major Crimes bullpen at zero-six-forty-five hours. Elias rubbed his bleary eyes and reached for his coffee cup.

Dont even bother, Finch said, seated at his desk.

Elias paused in mid-reach. Huh?

Finch smiled humorlessly. Were catching. And youre going to love this one.

Elias grunted. He finished reaching for his cup, filling it halfway. Run it for me.

Finch didnt reply, but held his plastic smile.

Elias took a giant sip of his coffee. He stared at Finch. So?

You ever work a mummy case before? Finch asked.

On the way to the museum, Elias shook his head in disbelief. Youre serious? A real mummy? As in King Tut?

Finch nodded, his lips pressed together tightly.

Elias shook his head again. But were Major Crimes detectives.

I know.

We work homicides, Elias said. Robbery. Serious assault.

I know.

So tell me this, then. Why are we going out on this case? Was this mummy murdered way back when and were supposed to solve the case?

Thatd definitely be a cold case, Finch observed dryly. He turned onto Boone and headed toward the Birch.

Im serious, Finchie. From what you said, this is a theft case. Maybe a burglary at best. I thought those cases got worked in the G.D.

Finch shrugged. Elias was right. Most property crimes were worked by the General Detectives. It took a special reason for Major Crimes detectives to get assigned to a property crime. And Finch had a pretty good idea what that special reason might be.

Elias pushed his lower lip out and retracted it thoughtfully. How much you figure one of those mummies is worth, anyway?

Good question. Millions?

Gotta be that, Elias said. Or maybe its the international angle. Something political, though. Gotta be.

Probably.

Mummies are from Egypt, right?

Mostly, Finch said. But theyve been discovered in other places, too. Peru, for instance.

Elias shot him a glance. That was a rhetorical question, partner.

Finch shrugged. He took a left onto Birch and headed for the bridge.And when did you get to be such a professor, anyway?

I watch the History Channel once in a while.

Elias snorted. Whatever. You probably jumped on the Internet as soon as the lieutenant made the assignment.

Channel forty-seven, Finch said. What?

The History Channel. Its channel forty-seven.

Oh, leave it alone already. What did Lieutenant Crawford say?

Finch crossed the Birch Street Bridge. The Looking Glass River sparkled below, the morning sun winking off the wide swath of water that cut through the valley. He allowed himself a quick glance to take in the scene before answering.

He didnt say much. He handed me the slip of paper with the address and said that it involved a mummy.

Thats it?

Finch half-nodded, half-shrugged. He said wed get the rest at the museum from the director. And not to screw it up.

Elias frowned. Hes only saying that last part because of the two-fer.

I know. Finch rubbed his temple absently. Right after Christmas, theyd arrested a heavyset woman whod clocked both of them in the head, leaving visible bruises. And we didnt screw that up. That case cleared.Not how he likes it.

The two men remained silent the rest of the way to the museum. Located in Brownes Addition, River Citys once proud residential district that was now home to subdivided homes and newly erected apartment buildings, the Richard Ardis Museum was a sprawling complex of buildings splashed across three acres. Finch pulled up in front of the main building and parked.

Who are we supposed to meet? Elias asked.

Before Finch could answer, a tall man dressed in a blue suit exited the front door and strode purposefully toward the car. Him, I figure, Finch said.

Is this how its going to be all day? Elias asked. You pointing out the obvious?

I wouldnt want you to miss something.

Elias tapped the butt of his service pistol. Oh, I wont miss.

You sure do get surly when you dont get your full cup of coffee in the morning.

Both men exited the car. The man in the blue suit approached Finch. The museums crest was embroidered above the jacket pocket and he carried a small yellow Nextel phone in his right hand.

Tony Moore, he said, shifting the phone and sticking out his hand. Head of security.Finch shook his hand. Detective Finch. Thats Elias.

Elias nodded his hello.

Whats the situation here? Finch asked.

Tony shifted uncomfortably, a hint of red coloring his cheeks. I...uh, better let Director Leavitt fill you in on that.

Wed like it if you did, Finch said, seeing how youre head of security.

Moore eyed them both carefully, then shook his head. Director Leavitt was clear, he said. He wants to brief you on the bastard. So if youll follow me, please. He turned and headed toward the door.

Finchs eyes narrowed in surprise at the profanity, but he shrugged it off and headed after the security head. Elias fell into step beside him.

Moore led them through the front door and into the main entrance. While he pulled the door shut and locked it, Finch glanced around. A large sign on an easel declared:One month onlyAncient Egypt on display!

Pedubastis I revealed!Moore turned and walked past it without pause, but Finch spent a moment studying it.Elias stopped. See something about that guy on the History Channel? he whispered.Finch shook his head.

How about the Internet?

I didnt use the Finch started to say, then stopped. Elias was already three steps away, following Moore down the hall.

Finch suppressed a smile and followed. The tapping of the three sets of footsteps echoed throughout the seemingly empty museum.

Moore led them to an elevator, down two floors to the basement and then through another short hallway. He stopped at a thick wooden door marked with the nameplate Edward Leavitt, Director and rapped on it.

Come! came the immediate reply from within.

Moore opened the door and stood aside for the detectives, who entered. Leavitt sat behind a huge desk. Several ornaments adorned the desktop, along with an empty in-basket. A single gold pen lay in front of the man, pointing directly at the door. Leavitt himself was a compact man who looked, to Finchs eye, about fifteen pounds overweight. Probably forty-five. Thinning hair, combed meticulously. Glasses that had once been stylish rested on his narrow nose.

The man reminded Finch of Lieutenant Crawford, despite being a physical opposite for the lieutenant. Maybe it was the air of superiority he detected before Leavitt even spoke.

Are you the detectives they sent to find our artifact?

Yes, sir, Finch answered.

And there are only two of you?

You only lost one mummy, right? Elias asked.

Leavitt shot him a look that clearly stated humor had no place in his office. Then he brought his gaze back to Finch. Will they be sending more? And a forensics team?

Finch changed his mind. Leavitt reminded him more of Lieutenant Hart, the weasel in charge of Internal Affairs. We have the resources of the entire department at our disposal, he told Leavitt, struggling to be diplomatic. But we need to get a feel for what happened first.

Leavitt considered his answer, then gave a curt nod. He motioned for Moore to close the office door. And wait outside, he instructed.

Finch noticed the color rise in Moores cheeks, but the security head complied without a word.

Are you in charge of this investigation? Leavitt asked Finch.

Finch glanced around the office for a chair and found none. Uh, were partners, he told Leavitt. Major Crimes.

Well, this certainly qualifies as one, Leavitt replied.

A tickle of frustration appeared in Finchs gut, but he ignored it. Why dont you run down the events for us, Mr. Leavitt? Thatd be a big help.

Leavitt furrowed his brow. You werent briefed?

Not fully. We like to get witness statements again, anyway.

Im not really a witness.

Complainant, then.

Fine. Leavitt pursed his lips. What do you want to know?

This mummy, Elias interrupted. Whats his name, Pedobonik, Pedophilus

Pedubastis, Leavitt said with a glare. The First. And I dont appreciate your levity, detective.

Im not good with foreign names, Elias said. And I dont watch the History Channel like some people.

Do you read? Leavitt asked acidly.

Elias opened his mouth to reply, but Finch interrupted. Was Pedubastis stolen, Mr. Leavitt?

Leavitt glared at Elias a moment longer, then turned to Finch. No.

No? Finch asked. He and Elias exchanged a surprised glance. We thought

Pedubastis the First is still on display, perfectly safe. His bastard was stolen.

Finch and Elias exchanged another look. His...bastard? Finch asked.

Yes, Leavitt snapped. A child mummy. The bastard son of Pedubastis the First.

Were looking for a baby mummy? Elias asked, his voice incredulous.

Not a baby, Leavitt said. A child.

Elias blinked and said nothing.

Dr. Ingram can fill you in on the specifics, Leavitt added.

Dr. Ingram? Finch asked.

Shes the Ancient Cultures department head.

Elias removed a notepad from his jacket pocket and jotted down a note.

Can you tell us when this happened? asked Finch.

Sometime last night. Mr. Moore can supply you with more accurate times.

Finch and Elias exchanged a glance. Uh, I was under the impression that you wanted to brief us on this case, Finch said.

Leavitt steepled his fingers and contemplated the two detectives with a superior air. I will leave it to my employees to brief you on the relevant details of the case. Mr. Moore can fill you in on security matters and Dr. Ingram is more than capable of providing any facts about the exhibit you may need.

Finch stared at him, confused. Then why

Leavitt interrupted. I will, however, brief you about this situation. The situation is this: The Pedubastis exhibit is priceless. The stolen artifact alone is worth millions. The insurance company has been notified. The FBI has been notified. The Egyptian Consulate has been notified. Within hours, and certainly no more than a day, representatives from these respective agencies will descend upon this museum and they will all have a simple question: how is it that the police here in River City have allowed this to happen?

Eliass eyes narrowed. Hold on a minute

Im certain theyll be asking your Chief of Police that exact question, Leavitt continued. It will be an international incident. So my suggestion to you, detectives, is to find the artifact before that happens.

Elias muttered something unintelligible, but Finch caught an r sound and cleared his throat. Well do what we can, Mr. Leavitt.

Leavitt gave him an officious nod.

Finch and Elias turned to go.

Definitely a ringer for Lieutenant Hart, Finch decided.

***

Outside in the hallway, Moore looked sheepish as he led them to his own small office.

That was worthless, Elias muttered along the way.

Finch agreed with a grunt. Mr. Moore, can you give us the details of this case?

Its a situation, Elias reminded him. Whatever. Mr. Moore?

Sure. Moore slid a pair of plastic chairs from the wall to a position in front of his well-worn metal desk. It looked like an older, battered version of the desks in the Major Crimes unit. You guys want to sit down?

The detectives sat.

The details, Finch said.

Please, Elias added.

Moore settled into his own chair with a sigh. He ran his hand through his hair. This is terrible.

The detectives sat quietly and waited.

Moore sighed again and reached for a notebook. He flipped it open and cleared his throat. Uh, the museum closes at eight, but we really dont end up locking the doors until closer to eight-thirty. Eight oclock is when we flash the lights and ask people to move toward the exits. It usually takes about a half hour.

Any problems with that last night? Elias asked.

No. In fact, everyone was out by about twenty after. I did a final sweep of the premises and except for authorized employees, the place was empty.

Which employees?

Me. Director Leavitt. And Michael, the night janitor.

What about the department head?

Professor Ingram? No, she left around six that night, if I remember right.

Do employees have to check in and out?

Not while the museum is open for business. But after hours, theyre supposed to sign in. Moore glanced away quickly.

Elias caught the motion. Supposed to? But they dont?

Moore pressed his lips together. He gave a small shake of his head. Its never been an issue before, so weve never really enforced it.

Elias waved his hand. Okay. So at lock-up, its just you, Leavitt and the janitor?

Yes. And I let Director Leavitt out myself.

When?

About ten til nine.

Leaving just you and the janitor.

Moore nodded. Yeah. I waited at the main doors for Eric while Michael started cleaning.

Whos Eric?

The night guy.

Security?

Right. He patrols the inside of museum and mans the phones.

When did you leave?

Moore considered. Probably about five after nine. Maybe a little later. Eric is usually running behind, so I have to wait.

After you left, the only two people in the whole place would have been the night guy and the janitor?

Moore nodded.

How long does the janitor take?

Hes done by eleven, except on Fridays. He does his weekly stuff on Friday night, so it takes a couple hours longer.

But this was a Tuesday.

Right.

So he finished by eleven?

I guess so. Eric would know for sure.

Where is Eric?

Hes in the break room. I held him over. I figured you guys would want to talk to him.

Elias nodded. Good. And the janitor?

I called him in, too.

Excellent. Now, I assume the museum has alarms?

Yes.

With coded key pads or something?

Exactly.

Who has those codes?

Moore listed names on his fingers, ending on his thumb. Director Leavitt, Dr. Ingram, Me, Eric and Mike, the janitor.

No one else?

No one.

Everyone have their own code?

Moore shook his head. No. Theres just two codes. A museum code and the contract code.

Can you break down who knows which code for me?

Well, Mike uses the contract code since he technically works for the janitorial service. The rest of us use the museum code.

But who knows which code?

Oh, sorry. Uh, I think Im the only one who knows both codes. Maybe Director Leavitt, too.

All right. Now, Im assuming theres video security as well?

Of course.

All the entrances?

Moore nodded. And the main exhibits.

Do you keep the surveillance tapes?

Sure. Moore fidgeted. We keep them thirty days.

Elias flashed Finch a smile. Well, lets just take a look at the tape.

We cant.

Eliass smile faded. Why not?

Eric didnt change the tape last night.

He what?

He forgot to change the tape. Its on a two-hour loop. When I pulled it this morning, it had a start time of oh-four-oh-three hours. The last tape on the shelf ended at twenty-three-fifty-eight hours.

So youre missing two tapes.

He shook his head. No. The tapes themselves are numbered sequentially and the one in the VCR was the very next one.

Then what happened?

Eric mustve forgotten to change the tape. If you dont change it, the tape automatically rewinds and starts taping again.

Elias opened his mouth in surprise. A quizzical grunt escaped his lips. He looked over at Finch, a combination of anger and disbelief visible in his eyes.

So midnight to four in the morning has been Finch began.

Completely taped over, Moore finished. Thats right.

Elias surprised silence was short-lived. Why in the hell did he do that?

Moore looked away, squirming in his seat. I dont know exactly. Youll have to ask him.

We will. Elias leaned forward in his chair. But tell me something, Tony.

Moore eyed him warily. What?

Did you come back to the museum at all last night?

No. Not until Director Leavitt called me this morning.

When?

About six-twenty.

Whered you go after work?

Moore bit his lip slightly. I drove around for a while. Then I went home.

Drove where?

Just around. It helps me unwind.

What time youd get home?

His face flushed. He gave Elias a hard stare. I dont know. Maybe midnight. Whats this have to do with what happened at the museum?

Just covering all our bases, Finch told him.

Moore glanced over at Finch, then back at Elias. Then he shrugged. It was around midnight. Like I said.

Can anyone verify that? Elias asked.

My wife was asleep. She mightve woken up enough to tell what time it was. His voice remained sullen. I dont know for sure.

Elias watched Moore for a minute, then turned to Finch. Eric? Or the Janitor?

The janitor, Finch said.

Elias looked back at Moore and raised his eyebrows expectantly. The security head rose from his desk and led the detectives out of the room.

Hes hiding something, Elias whispered to Finch as he passed.

Now whos being obvious?

Elias scowled but without much energy behind it. The two detectives followed Moore to a utility room. A man sat at the utility desk reading a car magazine. His overweight frame reminded Finch of a man who might have once been a body builder but then let things slip.

Mike? Moore said.

The man looked up with bleary eyes. When he saw the three men, he set the magazine on the desk and stood, offering his hand to Finch, who was nearest.

Michael Booth, he said, squeezing Finchs hand. Finch struggled not to wince. The mans strength radiated from the handshake. Finch murmured his own name and introduced Elias. Booth gave Elias the same firm shake.

Finch leaned toward Moore and whispered, Wed like to interview him alone, if thats all right with you.

Moore gave him a dubious look. I dont know. Im supposed to stay with you guys.

Well come straight back to your office, Finch assured him.

Moore considered, then left reluctantly. Finch closed the door behind him. He noticed that Booth shifted uncomfortably once the door was shut. He caught sight of faded blue tattoo lines on Booths forearm.

How long have you worked here, Mr. Booth? he asked.

Booth shrugged. Almost two years.

The museum hired you?

No. I work for a janitorial service. This is one of our contract sites.

Are you the only one who cleans here?

He nodded. Cept for special events, yeah.

And you worked last night?

Yeah. Gotta work tonight, too.

What time did you finish your work in the museum?

Booth paused, thinking. His eyes drifted up and to the left. I was probably done by midnight. I usually am.

Did Eric see you leave? Or log you out?

Nope.

Is he supposed to?

Booth shrugged. Supposed to? I dont know. I just know he didnt.

So no one can say when you left for sure?

No person. But I set the alarm when I left, just like Im supposed to. You could probably get the time off of that. Whered you go when you left the museum?

Home.

Do you live alone?

Yeah.

Anyone see you?

No, Booth said. I aint got no alibi, so you can stop poking around for one.

Finch regarded him for a moment, then asked, Whered you do your time?

Booths eyes narrowed. What do you care?

Just asking.

Well, dont worry about it. I did my time and left that place behind. Ive got a new life now.

Im glad rehabilitation works, Elias said lightly.

Booth cursed and looked away. I can see where this is going. Pin it on the ex-con, especially if he dont have no alibi.

Were not looking to pin it on anyone, Finch said. We just want to find the mummy. Well, I didnt take it, Booth snapped. I finished up here and I went home. Thats where I was when Tony called me and told me to come down here if I wanted to keep my job. So Im here.

Any ideas who might have taken it?

Booth smiled coldly. Ill tell you one thing. I did three years. And in that three years, the one thing I learned was to keep my mouth shut.

***

They left Booth to his magazine. On the way back to Moores office, Elias asked, Think hes involved?Hes got the right history.

And hes not exactly helpful, either.

Of course, that is exactly what he wouldve learned in prison. Finch shrugged. And he looked up and to the left when he answered his questions.

And that is supposed to convince me hes telling the truth? Elias rolled his eyes. You put too much stock in that new-wave lingo stuff.

Its neuro-linguistics, Finch corrected him. And you should educate yourself on the subject.

Ill just wait for the TV documentary. Elias grinned. Speaking of which, do you think they get the History Channel in the slammer?

Moore had Eric waiting for them in his office upon their return. He stepped outside and left the two detectives alone with the night watchman.

Eric Giles was a tall and lanky twenty-three-year old. His uniform hung off of him loosely and needed ironing. He reminded Finch of a puppy that hadnt yet grown into its own paws.

Eric swallowed once, the sharp point of his Adams Apple raking up and down his narrow throat.Finch pulled a chair up close to Eric. Elias sat on the edge of Moores desk and crossed his arms.

Why would you be in trouble, Eric? Finch asked.

Eric licked his lips and let out a squeaky, nervous laugh. Duh. I was on duty when the kid mummy was stolen.

Did you see anything?

Eric looked away, shaking his head. No. Then he glanced back at Finch. Theyre going to fire me for this, arent they?

I dont know. Should they?

Probably, Eric whispered.

What are your duties here, Eric?

Eric ran his hands through his hair and sighed. Im supposed to monitor the cameras from the security station. And do a perimeter check every two hours.

How does that work with the alarm?

Theres two different settings, Eric answered. A system setting and a zone setting. While Im in the security station, the whole place is on the system setting. If anyone enters through any door, it trips the alarm. When I go out to make rounds, I switch it to zone setting.

Whats the difference?

Eric shrugged. I dont know exactly. All I know is that when I switch it to zone, I can walk into each area and it gives me about a minute to get to the keypad. I enter the code and it shuts off that zone for five minutes or until I enter the code in another zone. Then it resets. That way, I can make my rounds without completely shutting down the security system.

So theoretically, someone could time their entry to coincide with your rounds?

Huh?

Finch repeated the question.

Eric gave him a quizzical look. You mean come in through the door in a zone right after I walked past?

Yes.

No.

No?

Eric shook his head. The zone setting doesnt affect the doors like the system setting does. Theyre still alarmed. All it does is shut off the motion sensors inside the building.

So someone breaking in would still set off the alarm?

Yeah. Unless they had the code.

Finch nodded while Elias made notes. Is there video surveillance of the museum, Eric?

Erics face fell. His eyes dropped and his bony shoulders slumped. Yeah, he whispered. Theres cameras on the doors and the exhibits.

And theyre taped?

Yeah. It switches from camera to camera every two seconds.

So we can just pull the tape and see what happened?

Erics lip quivered. No.

Why not?

I...I screwed up. Tears sprang to his eyes. He brushed them away briskly, not making eye contact with either detective.

Finch leaned forward, closing body space. He sensed a confession coming. What happened? he asked. He kept his tone soft, not wanting to scare the kid into clamming up.Eric swallowed. I fell asleep.

Finch cocked his head, mildly surprised. Fell asleep?

Eric nodded glumly.

When?

I dont know exactly. Sometime after eleven, I guess.

Was Michael Booth still in the museum?

No. It was after he left. Eric buried his face in his hands and sobbed. Im overloaded on credits at school. I get a ton of reading and other homework, so I dont get much sleep.

Finch and Elias exchanged looks while Eric wept. Finch read the suspicion that still resided in his partners eyes. He reached out and patted Eric on the shoulder. When did you wake up? he asked softly.

Eric pulled his face away from his hands, wiping away tears and sniffling. At five-eleven.

Are you sure?

He nodded. Yeah. I looked right at the clock and realized Id screwed up. I knew the timing on the tapes would be off and if anyone checked the alarm logs, theyd see that I didnt do my rounds.

Do they check often?

Never, Eric replied. At least, not that I know of.

Have you fallen asleep before?

Erics hesitation gave Finch the answer.

How many times? the detective asked.

Eric sighed. A couple times. But never for this long. Just...cat-naps, really. He looked frantically from detective to detective. I didnt mean to. Honestly, I didnt. I was just so tired and comfortable and I knew that the alarm would go off if

Finch held up his hand, stopping him. I understand. What did you do once you woke up?

I figured I better go do my rounds, so I headed out.

Did you see anything?

No. All the doors were secure. All the alarms were set.

But the little mummy was missing? Elias asked.

Eric shifted his gaze to Elias and nodded. Yeah. When I saw he was gone, I called Dr. Leavitt right away.

Why didnt you call Tony Moore? Finch asked. Hes the head of security.

Eric eyed both of them, his face difficult to read. Thats not how it works here, was all he said. Then he asked Finch, Am I going to jail?

Did you steal the mummy? Elias asked, cutting in.

Alarm shot through Erics eyes. No!

Know who did?

No, sir!

Then I guess well see, Elias told him, clapping him on the shoulder. In the meantime, dont leave town.

After Eric closed the door behind him, Finch shook his head at Elias. That was mean.

And youre never mean?

Not if I can help it.

What do you call sending Tower and Browning on a wild goose chase investigating that contractor when we worked the two-fer on Palmer Court?

Thats between professionals, Finch argued. This is different. Youre making a college kid sweat. Thats mean.

Let him sweat. He fell asleep. Maybe hell learn a lesson from it.

Detective Elias, Teacher To The World, Finch said expansively.

And what if hes lying? Elias asked, ignoring Finchs sarcasm.

Finch considered for a moment, then shook his head. I dont think hes lying.

Neither do I, Elias admitted, but we dont know for sure. And objectively speaking, hes our most likely suspect so far. He had the means and the opportunity.

What about our ex-con? Or Moore?

I havent decided yet. Elias rubbed his eyes while he spoke. You call for Adam. Get him down here to do some computer work for us on that alarm system. Ill get Rene in Crime Analysis to run our principals through the computer for background. Then well meet the department head.

Twenty minutes later, the two detectives sat in the museum foyer and exchanged notes.

Adam should be here in half an hour, Finch said. What did Rene tell you?

Elias shrugged. Not much. No one has a criminal record except for Booth. He did three years for possessing stolen property with a misdemeanor marijuana possession kicker.

Which tells us what?

That hes a thief and a doper. Elias grinned. Or that he was. Hes rehabilitated now.

Rene had nothing else?

Elias shook his head. Except for the addresses on all five, nada.

Finch frowned.

Whatre you thinking, Finchie?

I dont know for sure yet, Finch said. Too many unknowns. Lets go talk to the department head.

Dr. Ruth Ingram surprised Finch twice. The first surprise came when he first saw her. Instead of a matronly woman in black-rimmed glasses and a scowl, she turned out to be in her early thirties with dark hair in a long braid. Her trim, curvy figure filled out a pair of khakis and a white business casual blouse. The only expectation that remotely panned out was the eyeglassesa stylish pair with a petite frame and thin gray rims.

Finch flashed his badge. Elias did the same.

Dr. Ingram was not impressed. Have you found the relic yet?

Not yet, Finch admitted.

I figured as much. The insurance company will send special investigators.

Elias raised an eyebrow. Special ones, huh?

Dr. Ingram eyed him coolly. Artifact theft can be complex, detective.

Burglary is burglary, theft is theft.

Hardly. She adjusted her glasses. Now what can I do for you? I assume youre here to question me.

Were hoping you can help us with the case, yes, Finch said. When was the last time you saw the mummy? When I left last night.

Which was?

Six oclock or so.

And where did you go?

I went straight home.

Did you return to the museum?

Not until this morning. I assume by that question that you consider me a suspect?

Everyone is a suspect, Elias said with a tight grin.

Preposterous, she snapped. There was no forced entry into the museum, which means that whoever took Babafemi had the alarm code and a key. And since you havent simply reviewed the video surveillance tapes, I gather that something went awry with that system, which doesnt surprise me at all.

Finch and Elias exchanged a glance.

Why doesnt that surprise you? Finch asked.

Because this museum is run by absolute morons from top to bottom.

Why do you say that?

Because it is true. Her tone became matter of fact, with a tinge of iciness to it. Director Leavitt couldnt manage a lemonade stand and yet hes in charge of the fourth largest museum in the state. Why? Because his uncle left an endowment when he died, contingent upon his imbecile nephew getting the position. All hes done since he took over is run the place into the ground. We have a third fewer visitors than last year. Our drawing power was never that good to begin with, not with Seattle and Portland being so nearby. Now, with our attendance down, were in danger of being relegated to a strictly regional museum because we cant get any major exhibits.

You got the mummy, Finch reminded her.

And his bastard, added Elias.

No thanks to Leavitt, Dr. Ingram said. I was the one who made the pitch for River City to be part of the Pedubastis the First tour. It was my work, and frankly, my reputation that brought the exhibit here.

You have a good reputation in the academic community? Finch asked.

Obviously.

You ever been on the Discovery Channel? Elias asked.

Ingram turned an eye toward Elias as if to determine if he were serious or not. Finch maintained a straight face, hoping his partner did the same. He wished Elias would stop with the comments, but he knew it wasnt likely.

I was interviewed for a documentary once, she told Elias. Though Im not sure on which channel it aired. I dont generally watch television.

Elias nodded and scratched something on his notepad.

Ive never heard of a child mummy before, Finch said. Can you tell me about this one?

Ingram remained tight-lipped while she spoke. It wasnt common. But Pedubastis the First had a consort that he cared for deeply. When she had a son by him, he named it Babafemi. It means loved by his father.

Isnt that sort of a given? Finch asked. That a father would love his son?

Not always, detective. Particularly not in ancient times. And especially when the child is illegitimate.

But the Pharaoh claimed him, right?

Ingram gave a slow nod. He acknowledged him, yes. And when he died, he left orders that the child be slain and mummified with him. He loved him that much.

Loved?

Yes, loved.

He loved his son so much that he had him murdered?

Ingram smiled humorlessly. To be mummified with the Pharaoh was a great honor, detective. It meant assurance of a place in the afterlife. And, frankly, the alternatives for the illegitimate son of a deceased Pharaoh were considerably less desirable.Finch absorbed that for a moment. Then he said, Im curious, doctor. What will a theft like this do to this museum?

Financially, you mean?

Finch shrugged. Sure. And reputation-wise.

Financially, it wont have a large impact. The exhibit is doubly insured. Well likely need to increase our security measures to maintain our insurance, but thats probably all. Our reputation, however? She shook her head grimly. It will take several years to recover from a security lapse like this. And it will be a struggle to secure another exhibit of any consequence.

Would the director be fired?

She smiled coldly. Youve just struck upon the silver lining in this dark little cloud.

Thats a yes?

It certainly is. Leavitts contract can be severed and he can be fired for gross negligence without endangering the endowment his uncle left.

How do you know that?

I read the terms of the endowment, she said.

Who would become director if Leavitt left? Finch asked.

Dr. Ingrams smile broadened but did not grow any warmer. Ah, and now we touch upon motive, dont we, detective? If Leavitt were removed, I imagine that I would be appointed as interim director while a search is conducted for a full-time replacement.

Which could end up being you, Finch guessed.

Her smile sagged into a frown. Possibly. If I wanted it. But I dont. I am quite content where I am. It allows me to do the work I was trained for and leaves me enough time to conduct additional research for publication.

You said the museum was full of incompetents from top to bottom, Finch said. Who else were you referring to?

I believe I said absolute morons, Dr. Ingram said. And I meant everyone who isnt a scholar. The head of security is a nitwit, who wasnt even good enough to become a police officer. His night help is a juvenile college student who, when he isnt sleeping the night away, takes great pleasure in re-arranging the displays into suggestive positions. And the janitor is a convicted felon. Does that about summarize things?

Finch took a moment to take in what she said. Moore applied to be a cop somewhere?

Dr. Ingram looked at him with contempt. He applied to your agency and was turned down, detective. Havent you done any research on your suspect pool yet?

Its in the works, Finch said, ignoring her tone as Elias bristled beside him. One last question, doctor. Can anyone corroborate your whereabouts last night?

Just Diana, Dr. Ingram said. My partner.

There was a momentary silence.

Finch cleared his throat. Uh, partner as in...?

Dr. Ingram smiled genuinely for the first time. As in life partner, detective. She turned her gaze to Elias. As in lover. Or girlfriend, if you prefer.

In the hallway, Elias needled Finch. Judging from the way your mouth was hanging open, Im guessing you didnt see that one coming.

Leave it alone, Finch said.

Its a shame, though, Elias muttered on their way back to the security office. Her batting for the other side. But I guess that explains why shes so snappy, at least.Finch glanced at his partner. What?

Elias returned the look. You heard me. She hates men, so thats why the attitude.

I dont think her attitude has anything to do with her romantic preferences.

Romantic preferences? Elias shook his head. Come on. When did you get so politically correct? Whats next? Youll turn in your wingtips and your gun for a pair of Birkenstocks and a bouquet of flowers?

Its not about being PC. I just dont think that had anything to do with her attitude.

Then what, Inspector Clouseau?

I think it was plain old intellectual arrogance.

Elias considered. Shes got her Ph.D., so the rest of us are dopes?

Or absolute morons.

Elias grinned. Thats pretty funny, Finchie. Why dont you share that humor with the world?

Its custom made for you, Finch said. The bigger question, though, is do we still consider her a suspect?

Elias nodded immediately. Hell, yes. She had the access code, she has an axe to grind with Leavitt and she stands to gain personally if hes fired. Plus she knew about Eric sleeping and screwing up the surveillance tapes.

That doesnt exactly strike me as a state secret. Something else bothers me, too.

What?

I just dont know if shed do something like this just to get back at Leavitt. It seems...I dunno, beneath her somehow.

A wide smile spread slowly across Elias face. Youre buying into her superior bit, arent you?

No.

You are.

No. Im just trying to figure her out. Im trying to figure all of these people out.

Elias rubbed his chin and glanced at his watch. Well, get busy. Who knows how soon the FBI will be here to take over.

Adam arrived five minutes later. Moore led all three men to the security center. He offered Adam the chair in front of the main computer terminal. Adam took it. Whats your administrator log-in?

Moore gave it to him.

And the password? Adam asked.

Moore hesitated.

You can change it when I leave, Adam said wearily. Its easier than making me spend fifteen minutes getting it with my code-breaker program.

Its C-Y-L-A-S, Moore said. He glanced at the detectives. Thats the first name of Director Leavitts uncle, he explained.

Adam typed the password and accessed a screen that looked like a gaggle of numbers to Finch.

Im pretty sure thats the column for zone, Moore said, pointing, and thats the time stamp

Im familiar with this program, Adam told him in a curt tone.

Moore fell silent. All three men waited while Adam read the screen, tapped the keys and called up a new screen.

Finch tapped Moore on the shoulder and waved him away from the computer terminal. When they were several steps away, Finch asked in a low voice, I understand you applied to our police department?

Moores cheeks flushed. Who told you that?

It came up when we ran your name, Finch lied. What happened?

You guys turned me down, thats what. Moores voice became low and intense. Twice, actually.

Where were you in the hiring process when this happened?

The oral board. Both times.

Finch considered. Usually that meant a poor performance in the oral board interview, not a background issue. He nodded to Moore. Okay. Thanks.

This is going to take a while, Adam said to everyone in the room.

Elias reached out and tapped Finch on the shoulder. Weve got a couple other things to check out anyway.

Mary Leavitt was a petite, quiet woman. She offered Finch and Elias coffee, then tea and finally ice water. When theyd politely refused the last, she sat primly on the small sofa in the sitting room and gestured to a pair of high-backed chairs.

Please, she said.

The detectives sat. Elias flipped open his notebook. Mrs. Leavitt, were investigating the theft at the museum this morning.

The mummy?

Yes, maam. You heard, then?

She nodded. Oh, yes. Edward called this morning. He was worked up into quite a fit.

When did he call?

Around six, I would say. It was shortly after I got up.

Did he wake you when he left this morning?

Mary Leavitt gave him a curious look, then understanding flooded her features. Oh, I see what you mean. She shook her head. No, his leaving didnt wake me. Edward and I have separate bedrooms, you see. He snores horribly and Im told that I move around quite a bit in my sleep. Neither of us were getting any rest, so we decided to take separate rooms.

Did you hear the phone ring?

No, but I am a rather sound sleeper.

Do you remember when Mr. Leavitt came home last night?

She thought for a moment. Well, we had a late dinner. It was around nine by the time we ate and that was very soon after he arrived.

Did he leave at all last night?

Not that I could say, she said.

When did you go to sleep, Mrs. Leavitt?

Around eleven, I believe. Her brow furrowed slightly. Why are you asking all of these questions, officer? It rather sounds as if Edward is a suspect.

Elias shrugged. As part of our investigation, we have to eliminate everyone. This is how we do it.

She pressed her lips together in a prim scowl. Well, it seems like a waste of time.

It can feel that way, but it has to be done. Elias leaned forward. Mrs. Leavitt, if someone were to suspect Edward of being involved in this, what possible reason do you think they might give?

Mary Leavitts eyes widened in shock, then narrowed in anger. If someone said Edward was involved in anything criminal, theyd be a liar, she snapped. Simple as that. And that, I think, is the last question I need to answer, detective.

In the car, Finch applauded. Shut up, Elias growled.

Nicely done, Finch said. You just handled that one like a pro.

She had nothing for us anyway.

She had plenty.

Like what? She didnt see a thing.

Exactly, Finch said. And that means that Leavitt has no alibi.

Neither does the janitor.

True, but the janitor doesnt live in a three hundred fifty thousand dollar house on the South Hill.

Elias considered that. Leavitt probably comes from old money.

The house didnt look like it.

Whattaya mean? It was a huge house.

Finch nodded. Sure, but hardly any furniture. And the lawn wasnt well kept, either.

You think hes hurting for cash?

Id like to get a look at his finances.

So get a warrant.

I might, Finch said, rubbing his chin. Maybe later, I just might.

Diana Applegate answered the door. She had a harried look on her face but invited them inside with an even tone. Finch got the sense that her stress was largely of the self-imposed variety.

The small house was sparsely decorated with austere but tasteful furnishings. Diana stopped just inside the entryway and turned to them, her thin arms crossed. I received a call from Ruth a few minutes ago. I know why youre here.

Thats good, Elias said. Why dont we

I have explicit directions from Ruth, Diana said. I am to verify this for you: Ruth returned home last night at six-thirty. She did not leave the house again until she received a call from Director Leavitt this morning.

Do you know what time?

After six, she told him curtly. And I am not answering any more questions.

Finch and Elias stood awkwardly for a moment. Elias withdrew a card and held it out to her. She didnt reach for it. If you think of anything else he began, but she cut him off.

Im also supposed to inform you that you may search the premises, she said. Just dont make a mess.

Back in the car, Elias glanced at his watch and sighed. What a waste of time. Thats an hour of my life Ill never get back.

Finch shrugged. They offer, we search. It wouldnt be the first time a guilty suspect offered to let us search and then we find what were looking for.

I know. But those people are stupid. You know when someone smart like Dr. Ingram offers, were not going to find anything.

We still have to look.

I know, Elias said. And its always a waste of time.

Angela Moore didnt offer them coffee, tea or watershe offered beer.

The detectives politely refused.

Angela shrugged and lowered herself onto the afghan-covered couch, sipping from a can of Keystone Light. Suit yourself.

How long have you and Tony been married? Finch asked her.

She laughed. Too long.

Finch raised a brow. You two having some marital difficulties?

Angela took another swig of beer. Marital difficulties? Thats a nice way to put it, yeah. Another way would be that our marriage is a disaster.

Why?

Angela scowled. None of your business. Look, Ill answer your questions, but dont go getting all personal, got it?

Finch kept his expression neutral. All right.

Besides, Angela said, you dont think Tony took this mummy, do ya?

We dont know who took it.

She waved her hand dismissively. Tony didnt do it. He might be worthless as a husband, but hes not a thief.

What time did he come home last night? Finch asked.

What time did he say he came home?

Finch shook his head. Thats not how it works, Mrs. Moore. What time did he come home?

She smiled slyly and took another pull from the beer can. If I say he was home by ten oclock, would that clear his precious name?

We want the truth, Finch replied. Thats all.

Angela shrugged. The truth is, I fell asleep on the couch at ten. He wasnt home yet.

Elias made a note on his pad.

But I woke up when he came home at two, she added.

Finch raised his brow. Two?

Two.

Any idea where he was?

Angela finished her beer. She crinkled the can and sighed. Why dont you go ask him? If you find out, call me. Id like to know, too.

On the way back to the museum, both men were quiet, thinking. Finally, Elias spoke up. No alibi for Leavitt. No alibi for the janitor. No alibi now for Moore. The kid Eric supposedly falls asleep at the switch. And only the lady professor checks out. He turned to Finch. Were getting nowhere, Finchie.

Finch opened his mouth to reply when the cars cell phone rang. He punched the button and spoke into the hands-free microphone clipped to the visor. Finch.

This is Crawford. Where are things on this mummy case?

Elias rolled his eyes.

Were making progress, Lieutenant, Finch replied.

What kind of progress?

The spinning-our-wheels kind, Elias muttered.

Whats that? Crawford asked.

Were working on a timeline, Finch said. And eliminating suspects.

But still no mummy?

No, sir.

And no bastard, either, Elias added.

What did you say? Crawford boomed.

The mummy is actually a bastard son, Finch explained quickly.

Silence. Then, with disbelief, Youre kidding me.

No, sir.

Crawford seemed to recover from his surprise. Well, find the little bastard, and do it soon. I just got a call from the FBI and they have an agent on the way. He should be there within the hour. Plus, I got a call from some insurance agency and theyre flying someone in tonight. So if you dont wrap this up pretty quick, youre going to be hip deep in help.

We dont need any more help, Elias said.

Its not a matter of need. Its politics.

Elias shook his head in disgust.

Well bring you up to speed when we know something else, Lieutenant, Finch said.

Do that, Crawford grunted and broke the connection.

Finch glanced over at Elias. FBI, huh?

Elias still bore a disgusted look on his face. How do you say Ruby Ridge in Egyptian?

This is interesting, Adam said.

Finch leaned forward. What?

Adam pointed at the screen. First off, this isnt the greatest of security systems. Its really no better than your average residential alarm system.

Moore appeared at Finchs side. Weve been on a budget for a while. Besides, weve never had a major exhibit like Pedubastis before.

Finch ignored him. What did you find?

The digital record shows when the alarm was set and disabled and by which code. Adam pointed at the screen. Here, it shows that it was set at oh-five-twelve. It looks like they have some sort of zonal mode

Thats for doing the rounds, Moore explained. Each zone is alarmed but disarming it only disarms that zone, instead of the whole museum.

Adams eyes flicked to Moore, irritation plain on his face. Its a common configuration for large buildings. He turned back to the screen. After oh-five-twelve, you can see this long list here of compartmentalized disables and resets

Eric was doing his rounds, Moore said.

as the security guard made his rounds. Then, at oh-five-forty-one, there is a system wide reset. I assume that means the guard was back as his regular post. Adam tapped a key and the window minimized, replaced by another. This is the telephone log for that time period. There is an outgoing call at oh-five-forty-two, and another at oh-five-forty-four.

Moore leaned forward. Those are Director Leavitts numbers. The first one is his home and the second one is his cell phone.

So the guard got no answer at home and he tried the cell, Finch said, more to himself than anyone else. He turned to Moore. What time were you called?

Moore thought for a moment. A little before six, I think. I know I was here by a quarter after six.

Oh-six-thirteen, Adam said, if the alarm systems clock is accurate.

Sounds about right.

And who was already here at that time?

Director Leavitt and Eric. Eric told me what happened. Director Leavitt was busy on the phone, calling you guys and getting Dr. Ingram and Mike down here.

Is the basement level alarmed? Finch asked.

Moore shook his head. No. The only way to the basement is through the main floor, so theres no need for an alarm.

Finch considered his answer for a moment, then returned his attention to Adam. Anything before oh-six-thirteen?

Yes. Another disable at oh-five-fifty-nine.

Leavitt? Finch asked, glancing at Elias.

Elias nodded. Has to be.

Adam nodded in agreement. That makes sense. Now look at this. He switched windows again, bringing up the alarm screen. Prior to oh-five-twelve, the last activity was at oh-one-hundred this morning. Someone disabled the alarm at the front door and then re-enabled six minutes later on a sixty second delay.

Which code was used?

Looks like the main code, Adam replied. Before that, a separate code was used to set the alarm at twenty-two-fifty-seven.

Thatd be the janitor leaving, Elias said. But who came in at one in the morning?

Finch glanced at Elias. His partner jerked his head toward the hallway and the two stepped outside.

What do you think? Finch asked.

Could be any of them.

Finch nodded. Leavitts wife was in a separate bedroom. And Moores wife said he didnt get home until two oclock.

The janitor has zero alibi.

And the professors alibi is her girlfriend, whos biased.

And the security guard screwed up the tapes, so we dont have squat, Elias said glumly.

Finch rubbed his chin. Well, we do know when the mummy was most likely takenaround one in the morning. Maybe we need to go at each of them again. See whos alibi breaks up when we try to pin them down a little more.

Elias nodded in agreement. The only trouble is, more than one of them is lying.

Who do you figure?

Elias held up a finger. Moore, for sure. He said he went straight home, but his wife puts him there at zero-two-hundred. Thats a straight-up lie.

All right. Who else?

Finger raised a second finger. The janitor is hiding something. Did you see how he got nervous when we closed the door?

Could just be a reaction to the closed space. No way, Finchie. The guy did time. He might not like it, but hed be comfortable in a broom closet. No, hes nervous because hes hiding something.

Finch shrugged. Okay, maybe. How about the professor?

Elias frowned. Well, she was sorta over the top about being helpful...

Maybe she wanted to clear her name.

Maybe. Or maybe shes not as smart as we thought. Maybe shes just as arrogant as we think and believes we wont figure it out.

Finch considered. I dont think so.

She stands to gain if Leavitt gets canned.

True. But I dont think shes the one. At least shes got an alibi.

You crossing her off the list?

In pencil, yeah.

Elias shrugged. Shes the number five horse, anyway. What about Leavitt?

You tell me.

I think hes still a possible, though I dont see what hed gain from it. But his alibi isnt backed up by anyone, so I guess hes the number four horse for me.

Behind Eric, the security guard?

You bet! The kid says he fell asleep, but what if he just let the tapes run and rewind on purpose?

Finch cocked an eyebrow. If he did, then he knows who the thief is.

Or he is the thief, Elias said.

Well start with him, then.

P-p-prison? Eric stammered. But I only fell asleep!

Elias shook his head, his eyes cold. Watching on, Finch felt a brief welling of sympathy for the college student, but he brushed it aside.

You fell asleep, Elias made air quotes with his fingers, at a very convenient time. While you were sleeping more air quotes the mummy was snatched. And just as conveniently, the tape ran and re-ran, erasing the best evidence of the crime.

Tears welled up in Erics eyes. I screwed up. I know it. But

You didnt screw up, Eric, Elias said. You committed First Degree Theft by Accomplice. That is a Class A Felony. You can get up to twenty-five years for that crime, did you know that?

Twenty-fi...? Erics mouth fell open. The tears brimmed over his eyelids and streamed down his cheeks.

What are you now, twenty? So if you did the maximum, youd be forty-five when you get released. Elias shrugged. I suppose you could go back to college. Lots of people do it these days. What do they call it? Oh, yeah. He held up the air quotes again. A non-traditional student.

Erics shook his head rapidly from side to side. His mouth moved but no sound came out. Finch felt another stab of pity. Elias leaned forward and patted Eric comfortingly on the shoulder. We dont think you planned this, Eric. We figure you were just brought aboard by someone else. That makes you less of a bad guy here. And if you come forward now and cooperate, we can testify to the judge that you were helpful. That could make a big difference in your case.

Eric let out a hitching sob and hung his head. Finch handed him a box of tissues while Elias patted him on the shoulder. The security guard wept in deep, uncontrolled sobs. Oh, I screwed up so b-b-bad, he cried. And then I l-l-lied to you.

Elias shot Finch a quick glance over the top of Erics head. He winked.

Tell me the truth, Eric. What did you lie about before?

Eric sniffled and wiped his nose. He struggled to regain his composure, looking Elias directly in the eye. Can they send me to jail for lying?

Elias nodded. Especially if you let the lie stand.

Eric shook his head. No, Ill tell the truth now. I never shouldve tried to lie about it to begin with.

Elias patted his shoulder again. Good, Eric. Good. Now, what do you want to tell me?

Eric took a deep wavering breath. I...I... He let out the breath in a whoosh and shook his head apologetically, his face red.

Its all right, Elias said. Take your time.

I...well, um...that wasnt the only time I fell asleep at work. He swallowed. In fact, uh, I pretty much slept most of the night. Every night.

Elias let out a barely discernible sigh. His eyes flicked to Finch. Finch winked. Elias clenched and unclenched his jaw. What else, Eric?

Erics brow furrowed. What else what?

What else do you need to tell me?

He gave Elias a confused look. Thats all. Look, I know Im going to get fired and everything, but its the truth. He glanced to Finch and back to Elias. Am I going to jail?

What if the thief knew Eric was sleeping the night away most nights? Elias asked Finch in the hallway. He could even have made a trial run or two to make sure.

Thats pretty risky. If the kid wakes up within two hours of the theft and changes the tape, the guy is nailed.

Maybe he had a contingency for that.

Like what?

I dont know exactly. Steal the tape or something.

Finch clicked his tongue, nodding. Okay, so are we agreed the kid wasnt in on it?

Ninety-nine percent, yeah.

And the professor?

Last horse still in the race.

Agreed. So that leaves Leavitt, Moore and the janitor.

Lets hit Moore first. Hes the one with the bad alibi.

Moore sat on the bench in the empty waiting area, hunched over and kneading his hands. Why couldnt we do this in my office? he asked.

Because we dont want you getting comfortable, Finch thought.

Police reasons, Elias said.

Moore scrunched his brow. I never heard of any kind of reason not to interview someone in their office.

Well, Elias said briskly, standing over him, youre not the police, are you?

Moores features darkened. He glared at Elias but said nothing.

Finch sat next to Moore on the bench. What are we going to find when we pull your application file, Tony?

Moore swiveled his gaze to Finch. Huh?

You applied to River City PD, Finch said evenly. You were turned down. What are we going to find when we have records pull your application and we review your background? Or when we read the oral board interview results?

Moore shrugged. Pull it and see.

Why dont you just tell us?

He smiled sourly. Im not the police.

Finch ignored his tone. No, but you are the head of security here. Thats a position of trust.

So?

So, trust requires honesty. And you havent been honest with us. So were trying to figure out if that was part of the reason you didnt get hired by the police.

He shook his head. Ive been honest with you. I want to find the mummy. Ill probably lose my job over this.

Maybe you should, Elias observed coldly.

Moore eyes snapped to Elias. Whats your problem, man?I dont like liars.

Well, I didnt

We talked to your wife, Tony, Finch interjected. She told us when you got home.

I got home at midnight, Moore insisted.

Finch shook his head. No. You woke up Angela when you got home at two. Both detectives watched Moore as his face changed from anger to denial to realization. Two? he finally rasped.

Finch raised his eyebrows and gave a short nod.

Moore remained silent for several seconds. Then he said, She was probably drunk. She thought it was two but it was really twelve. He considered that for a moment, then nodded his head. That must be it.

No, Finch said. She may have been drunk, but shes sure it was two. Tony, do you know what that means?

Moore didnt answer.

Near as we can tell, Finch continued, the mummy was taken about one in the morning. And since you know the codes and since you didnt get home until two

and since you lied, Elias added.

that makes you a prime suspect, Finch finished.

Moore stared at his hands. Finch and Elias remained quiet, giving him a few moments to stew. Finch noticed that Moores hands were trembling.

Can you guys keep a secret? Moore finally asked.

It depends on the secret, Finch told him.

Its got nothing to do with this museum or any of this that youre investigating.

Finch gave a half-shrug. Then probably we can.

Moore sighed. The reason I wasnt home until two is the same reason I lied to you guys about it. I was with someone.

Someone? Finch asked.

My girlfriend. Tina.

Elias groaned.

Finch leaned forward and caught Moores eye. You spent last night with your girlfriend?

Yeah. Well, til two.

And then you went home?

Right.

And this girl Tina will back that up?

She should, Moore said. At least, as long as she doesnt think itll get me in trouble.

Whyd you lie about this?

Moore turned his hands up in surrender. I didnt want you to tell my wife. Shes about to divorce me anyway. This would put things over the top.

Finch didnt even consider exploring the relationship dynamics any further. If it were a rape or a homicide, they might be key components, but he didnt sense the whys of the situation mattered much. Is that why you got bounced on your oral boards when you applied to the police department?

Moore nodded glumly. Like you guys dont fool around.

Finch ignored that and handed Moore his notepad and a pen. Write down her number.

Finch dropped the phone onto the cradle and frowned. She backs his story, one hundred percent.

Which puts him neck and neck with the professor for last in line.

Can we stop with the horse-racing metaphors?

Would you prefer chariots? Since were dealing with a mummy and all that.

Finch ignored the question by asking one of his own. The janitor?

Yep.

I knew you guysd be back, Michael Booth told them, putting down his magazine.

Whys that? Elias asked.

Booth smiled humorlessly. Cops always come back.

Profound, Elias muttered.

Finch pulled a plastic chair from the corner of the room. He sat near Booth and regarded him quietly for a moment. Booth stared back at him, unfazed. Finch continued to stare. After about a minute, Booth shrugged at him.

What?

You are the only person in this investigation with a criminal record, Finch said.

So what? That doesnt make me the only criminal.

Whats that mean? Elias asked.

Booth glanced up at him. What, I spoke Portuguese?

Eliass face flushed and his jaw clenched.

What are you driving at when you say that? Finch asked.

Simple, Booth replied. Someone else took the mummy, right? And that guys a criminal.

What if that guy was you? Finch asked him.

It wasnt.

But what if it was?

Booth shrugged. What if daisies were dollars?

That one surprised both detectives and they gave him a questioning look.

Booth smiled broadly. Well, if that were so, Id have a million dollar field growing right in my front yard.

You think this is funny? Elias asked.

No, Booth said. But I know I didnt do it. And my answer will be the same no matter how many times you ask.

Finch tried a different tactic. If you didnt do it, then you wouldnt mind taking a lie detector test, right?

No.

Why not?

I dont believe in them, Booth said.

Ah, said Elias, giving Finch a wink. A skeptic.

Theyre not admissible in court, anyhow, Booth went on.

A skeptic and a legal scholar, Elias observed. When did you get your law degree, Grisham?

I spent some time in the law library when I did my stretch. Keeps me from getting jerked around by cops.

Were not jerking you around, Finch told him. Were trying to find the mummy.

I didnt take it.

So take the polygraph.

Like I said, I dont believe in them.

Finch shrugged. It doesnt matter if you believe in them. We do.

Thats your problem.

Look, if you take the polygraph and pass, we believe you. If you take it and fail, its not admissible in court. How can you lose? Take the test and clear your name.

Booth shook his head. No.

You know, Elias said conversationally, if the museum thinks you had anything to do with this, theyll fire you.

So? Its a janitor job. And its contract work, anyway.

So maybe theyll dump the contract.

Let em.

Finch rubbed his chin and sighed. You know, if I owned a janitorial service and some employee caused me to lose a contract, Id fire him.

And blackball him so hed never get work in town again, Elias added.

Booths smile returned. Youre breakin my heart, guys. Ill never work in this town as a janitor again? Boo-hoo. Ill work construction. Better money, anyway.

All three men fell quiet for a moment. Booth watched both men, his face a mask of calm bravado. Finch broke the silence. Are you still on probation, Mike?

Booth shook his head in disgust. I wondered how long it would take you to get around to that. No way is my probation officer going to violate me because I wont take a lie detector test.

Probably not, Finch said. But no one is perfect. Everyone screws up, especially when theyre bound by all sorts of rules.

Like a guy on probation, Elias said.

Sooner or later, a guy is going to screw up. Might be something small, but still a screw-up. And if anyone is watching that guy when he screws up... Finch shrugged nonchalantly. He gets hammered, Elias finished.

So, should I give your P.O. a call? Finch asked.

Booths gaze went back forth between the two detectives. Then he sighed. Why are you guys hassling me? I didnt take the mummy. I dont know anything about it.

Youre hiding something, Finch said. Thats why.

Booth stared at him for a long while. Finally, he asked, Look, if I tell you the truth, can I get a pass on some misdemeanor crap?

Finch and Elias exchanged a glance. Elias gave Finch a short nod.

Probably, Finch told Booth. Depending on what it is.

Its got nothing to do with this mummy or anything like that, Booth said.

Then what?

Booth sighed. Follow me.

He led the detectives out of the utility room and down the hallway. Elias leaned close to Finchs ear. Be careful he doesnt turn and rush us, he whispered.

Finch nodded. At least if he does, well have a better story than last time.

Elias winced and grinned at the same time.

Booth pushed open a door marked Employees OnlyMen. Light reflected off the bright tile off of the locker room floor. A long row of blue lockers stood along the wall. A bench ran the length of the lockers. Booth stopped in front of number twelve. He turned to face the detectives, his face grave. Im trusting you guys here. Ive been screwed over by cops before.

We just want to find the mummy, Finch said. What is it?

The thing is, Booth said, Ive got a lot of joint pain. Lifting weights in the pen got me really big, but then I didnt stick with it after I got out. Theres a lot of pressure on my joints, but the doctor wont prescribe anything harder than Tylenol for it. He shook his head. He sees ex-con, same as you, and probably thinks Im scamming to get some oxycontin or something.

Whats this have to do with the mummy getting stolen?

Nothing, Booth said. But

A Nextel phone on Booths belt chirped. A tinny version of Moores voice echoed in the locker room. Mike? Where are you?Booth cursed and spoke into the phone. Locker room.

You with the detectives?

Yeah.

Be there in a couple.

Booth cursed again, replacing the phone on his belt. If he finds out about this, I will get canned.

Finds out about what? Finch asked.

Booth pointed to locker number four. A piece of masking tape on the front bore the name Mike in black marker. Thats my locker there. This one here he pointed to twelve, is supposed to be empty.

But its not.

No. Its not. Booth slipped a key into the lock and opened it. Then he stepped aside for the detectives.

Elias stepped forward first and examined the interior of the locker. Finch heard his long, loud sigh. Then he stepped aside for Finch.

Finch looked inside the locker. At first sight, it appeared empty. Then his eyes lighted onto the upper shelf. A rolled baggie of marijuana the size of two thick cigars perched halfway to the rear of the locker.

Finch groaned. This is about some marijuana?

Yeah, Booth admitted. I smoke it for the pain in my joints. I dont sell it, man. I just use it, you know, medicinally.

Why is it here?

My P.O., Booth explained. He visits my house and tosses the place. And he comes here sometimes, too, and searches my locker. So I use the spare locker to store my stuff. Before I go home at night, I take a little with me. Just enough to get through.

Great, muttered Elias.

Are you guys going to arrest me on this? Booth asked. Because if you do, my P.O. will probably violate me. Ive got seven months left to go on my sentence.

Close that, Finch told him.

Gratitude flooded Booths features. He shut the locker and snapped the lock into place. Dude, thank you. Really. I mean it.

Finch ignored him and went to the sink, where he splashed some water on his face. Behind him, he heard Booth thanking Elias. Elias grunted.

When Finch turned back around, Moore strode through the door. Adam trailed behind, carrying a notepad.

What are you guys doing here? Adam asked. Ive been looking for you.

The acoustics are better in here, Elias said.

Adam smirked at him. Whatever.

What do you have, Adam? Finch asked.

Adams smirk melted into a proud grin. Something interesting. I cross-checked all of the door contacts against the alarm disables.

If the alarm is off, how did you

The current still runs through the contact on the door, Adam explained, even if the alarm is disabled. Breaking the contact just doesnt set off the alarm, thats all. It still registers in the system as a contact break.

Meaning you can tell when a door was opened, even if the alarm was off, Finch concluded.

Right.

Why didnt you check this earlier? Elias asked.

Adam scowled. The software doesnt display it. I had to go into the programming language and identifyoh, never mind. You wouldnt understand.

Before Elias could reply, Finch asked, What did you find?

Adam glanced down at the notepad. The alarm was disabled at oh-one-hundred and forty seconds. Six minutes later, it was re-enabled with a sixty second delay.

We know that already, Elias said. Adam held up a finger, silencing him. The door was opened at oh-one-hundred and twenty-eight seconds.

Elias twirled his finger, signaling him to hurry up.

Adam paused, seeming to savor the moment. Then, through a smile, he said, The door wasnt opened again until oh-six-thirteen.

Finch and Elias stood still, absorbing the information. In the silence, the sound of water dripping from the sink reverberated throughout the locker room.

Finch cleared his throat. I thought there was a disable before that.

There was. The system was disabled at oh-five-fifty-nine.

Which we figured was Leavitt. At then Moore a short time later.

Oh-six-thirteen, Adam said. And there is a corresponding break in the door contacts for Moores arrival at oh-six-thirteen. But there isnt one at oh-five-fifty-nine.

Finch and Elias exchanged a knowing glance.

Whoever it was that came in at oh-one-hundred never left, Elias said.

Most likely Leavitt, Finch said. He rubbed his chin. Then he asked, So wheres the mummy?

Elias gave him a confused look.

If Leavitt never left, Finch began.

Realization flooded Eliass face. Then neither did the mummy. Of course.

So where is the little bastard?

The five men stood in the locker in silence once more. Finch closed his eyes. He envisioned everywhere hed been inside the museum. He considered and rejected Leavitts office as a possibility. Too obvious. Dr. Ingrams office, perhaps? Too dangerous. Maybe inside another exhibit, where it could sit until the fervor died down and then he could retrieve it?

Finch tried to focus, but the dripping water faucet and the rattle of paper from Adams notepad distracted him. Michael Booth coughed. Elias unwrapped a piece of gum.

Inspiration struck Finch like an unseen left hook. He opened his eyes and smiled. You, he said to Booth.

Booth shifted nervously. Me?

Finch nodded and pointed to the lockers. Open those.

Huh?

The lockers. I want you to open them.

All of them?

Maybe. But start with the spare ones.

Elias broke into a smile. Could be, Finchie.

Finch shrugged. Well see. And since were dealing with a mummy, you might as well start with lucky number thirteen.

The relief was plain on Booths face as he fumbled with his master key. He unlocked locker thirteen. It was empty.

Open number fourteen.

Booth did so.

Empty.

Next one.

Fifteen was likewise empty. So were the rest of the teens, twenty and twenty-one. When Booth swung open number twenty-two, he let out a gasp and took a step backward.

Finch put a hand on Booths shoulder. He pushed slightly and the janitor stumbled to the side. Finch stepped forward and gazed into the locker. Inside, leaned casually against the locker wall, stood a two-foot mummy in a narrow, wooden coffin.

Youve got to be kidding me, Elias said, peering over Finchs shoulder.

Finch felt the presence of the other men in the locker room as they crowded near him to see what stood inside the locker.

Thank God, whispered Moore.

Thank Finch, Elias said.

Behind them the door swung open. All five men turned at once.

A sandy haired man in his early thirties stood in the doorway. His blue suit identified him before he even flashed his credentials to the assembled men.

Special Agent Maurice Payne, FBI, he said in an anemic voice, swallowing his words. Im here to assist in the recovery of the antiquity that was stolen last

He broke off, his eyes drifting to the open locker. Confusion filled his eyes.

Finch glanced at Elias, who didnt even try to conceal his grin.

I dont understand, Payne said. My supervisor said that there was some sort of mummy stolen...

There was, Finch said. A baby mummy.

A bastard, Elias added.

Finch made a sweeping gesture toward the locker. Special Agent Payne, meet Babafemi.

It means loved by his father, Elias said.

Payne smiled hesitantly and gave the locker a small, uncertain wave. Uh, so youve found it?

Just in time, too, it looks like, Elias said.

Paynes face pinched in confusion. Wha

Agent Payne, Finch asked. Can you secure this scene for us? We have one more thing to take care of.

Uh, sure.

Thanks, Finch said.

Nothing like local and federal authorities cooperating, Elias said, clapping Payne on the shoulder as he walked past.

No one touches that mummy, Finch directed, and left the locker room.

Leavitts door was closed. Finch entered without knocking, Elias on his heels.

Leavitt looked up from his paperwork, his pen frozen in place. He bore the same haughty expression hed had earlier in the day. Yes, detectives? Have you found the missing piece yet? Because if you havent, I

Actually, we have, Finch said.

A flicker of surprise flared in Leavitts eyes. You did?

Finch nodded.

Leavitt recovered, not missing a beat. Thats good news. I must confess, I am a bit surprised.

Oh, Ill bet, Elias said.

Leavitt rose and offered his hand to Finch. Well, then. Excellent work, detective. Youll have to tell me the details.

Finch ignored the out-stretched hand and didnt reply.

We kinda thought youd like to tell us the details, Elias said.

Leavitts lowered his hand, his gaze remaining on Finch while he answered Elias. Im not sure what you mean.

Oh, I think you are, Elias said, leaning on the front of Leavitts desk. I think you can pretty much tell us how the whole thing went down. Not that we need to know. Not from you, anyway.

I...I dont understand.

I wouldnt recommend the I dont understand defense. Unless you can get some psychiatrist-for-sale to testify that youre crazy, juries dont tend to buy it.

Leavitt broke away from Finch and stared at Elias. Jury? Detective, I dont know what you think you know, but

One chance, Finch said.

Leavitt looked back to him. What?

Finch held up a finger. You get one chance to tell your side of the story. One chance for the judge and jury to know why you did it. If you blow that chance, thats your problem.

Leavitt started to speak, but Finch looked away and raised his hand to stop him.

Dont answer yet, Finch said. You only get one chance, so hear me out. All right?

Leavitt swallowed. Finch saw the panic at the corner of his eyes, struggling to burst free. Leavitt kept it under control and nodded.

Good choice, Elias said.

You may think you came up with the worlds best plan, Finch said. But you didnt. We have the alarm codes. We have the contact breaks that tell us when the doors were opened and when they werent. We know you came down here at one in the morning, disabled the alarm, stole the mummy and hid it in a spare locker. Then you reset the alarm on a sixty second delay and headed to your office.

Leavitt said nothing. A bead of sweat appeared at his temple. It rolled down to his jaw.

I figure you did that because you didnt know how long Eric would be asleep, right? Thats why he had to reach you on your cell phone when he realized that the mummy was missing. Finch furrowed his brow. I wonder what your contingency plan was if Eric had been awake? Kill him? Abort the plan for tonight and do it some other night? Did you check on him when you got down here? I think you did. Just a quick glance into the security room to see if he were snoozing. Which, of course, he was.

Leavitt swallowed and gave no reply.

After that, it was all cake. Let the security videotape get taped over, take the call from Eric and pretend to show up to get the investigation rolling. Then what? Wait until things blow over and sneak the mummy out in a gym bag or something?

Leavitt opened his mouth to speak, but Finch held up his hand. Im not done.

Leavitt closed his mouth.

Finch smiled coldly. You probably figured no one would search the place. And if they did, they probably wouldnt find the mummy. And if they did, they couldnt pin it on you, could they?

Leavitt finally spoke, his voice wavering. No. And neither can you.

Oh, we can, chuckled Elias. We can.

Hes right, Finch said. Weve got all the alarm evidence, plus youve got no alibi. And youve got motive.

That doesnt prove

Not to mention the other physical evidence, Finch said.

Leavitt blanched. What other evidence?

We can always process the mummy and that little wooden coffin hes in for fingerprints. It would be really interesting if your prints showed up anywhere on there.

Leavitt smirked. The Egyptian government would never allow it. You would destroy the artifact.

Finch cocked his head at Leavitt. Oh, we have some very advanced methods of fingerprinting that are non-invasive. The Egyptians wont have any problem with it.

Leavitt snorted.

But you probably wore gloves, right? Finch said. And so maybe that would be a strike out. But we dont need your prints on the mummy. Not when weve got the videotape showing you stealing it.

A look of shock spread through Leavitts features. I thought the tape

Was recorded over?

Leavitt nodded, swallowing hard.

Finch shrugged. Well, yes and no. Did you meet Adam, our techno-specialist? He can pull data off of a videotape even if its been recorded over six times. See, Mr. Leavitt, videotape works a lot like your computer hard drive. The entire tape isnt used for the data signals. When you tape over something, just like when you delete something off of your hard drive, all you really delete for sure is the marker that tells the device where the information is stored. The information is still there until the actual storage space it is in gets recorded over. That can take months on a hard drive. On a videotape, it takes six times, sometimes as many as eight.

Leavitt shook his head in mild protestation.

All Adam has to do, Finch continued, is go in and pull out the data. Sure, we wont have every single frame. But even half the frames will be enough to show you snatching the mummy. And that picture will convince a jury he snapped his fingers, like that.

Leavitts breath had quickened. He swallowed again.

All thats left, Finch said, all that will make a jury understand, is knowing why you did this. And Im giving you one chance to tell us that. He held up his finger again. One.

Edward Leavitt began to cry.

Finch guided Leavitts head past the doorjamb and into the back seat of the patrol car. He closed the door and gave the roof a tap. The officer pulled away, heading to jail. Finch turned and walked back to his car.

Lieutenant Crawford stood talking with Elias. An unlit cigar hung from his mouth. He was gonna lose his job, youre saying?

Elias nodded. The museum was losing money. And on the personal front, he was already having trouble paying the taxes on the house he lived in, so he was getting desperate.

Crawford frowned. So sell the house.

He couldnt, Finch broke in. His uncle left it to him with the proviso that if he didnt live in it or if he died, it went to the museum.

Crawford grunted. And the mummy was in a spare locker the whole time?

Finch nodded.

Crawford motioned toward Special Agent Payne, who was a dozen yards away, talking to a news reporter on camera. And that FBI guy whos taking credit over there didnt find it?

No. He showed up just as we found it.

Howd you figure out it was in there?

Lucky guess, Elias said.

Probably not far off. Elias said you got the guy to confess with some techno mumbo-jumbo about videotapes and computer hard drives.

Finch nodded.

Any of that true?

Its true about hard drives. Not videotapes.

Crawford grunted and glanced at his watch. I gotta go tell the Chief what happened so that he can tell the mayor so the mayor can tell everyone else who cares.

Finch and Elias said nothing.

Crawford removed the unlit cigar. He spit a small piece of tobacco onto the asphalt while he regarded the stogie. Anyway, nice work, you two.

Thanks, Finch said.

Yeah, El-Tee. Thanks.

Crawford contemplated the cigar. At least you didnt get beat up by any women on this one, he said. He thrust the cigar back into his mouth and ambled off toward his car.

Ouch, Elias deadpanned. Thats really no way to talk to world famous mummy hunters.

Finch shrugged. Thats Crawford.

Well, Elias said, if he thinks Im mentioning his name during the Discovery Channel interviews, hes crazy.