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INCIDENT AT THE CAUSEWAY
“Raise the Mummy!”
LIEUTENANT RICHARD AGAR – Canoe Cop
By the time I arrive at Gordon’s Causeway, I’m pretty steamed.
I mean, yeah, Julie did call and give me a heads-up about what she’s planning to do, but she only phoned half an hour ago, which definitely isn’t enough time for me to paddle my canoe down to the causeway. It’s lucky I’ve got my car working again, so I still get there before she starts. Otherwise…
Well, here I am, so I don’t need to think about what might happen otherwise.
“Rich!” she calls, waving. Her blue eyes sparkle when she sees me, and she flashes me a million-dollar smile. Squeezing into her white wetsuit, she looks like a movie pin-up. Then she notices the scowl on my face, and she frowns. “What’s wrong?”
“What do you think you’re doing, Miss Browning?” I ask.
Julie’s pretty eyes narrow, and she purses her lips. “I’m gonna raise that truck—and everything inside of it—off the bottom of Phantom Lake,” she says. “I told you that on the phone.” She continues adjusting her SCUBA gear as she talks.
“I know that’s what you said,” I reply. “But that’s a pretty dangerous assignment to take on with only a moment’s notice.”
“And I suppose you think I should sit around the shop selling bikinis all day?” she says with a huff. “Diving is my job, Acting-Captain Agar. And since Dad got hurt, I’m the only one this side of the Great Lakes Naval Academy qualified to raise a wreck like this. You know that.”
She cuts me off. “Plus, I only called you as a courtesy, just so you wouldn’t flip your lid—which apparently didn’t work.”
The look she shoots me is pretty darn icy, and—Dang it!—I suppose I can’t blame her. It’s just, well, I’m pretty fond of Julie, so I guess I might be a bit over-protective.
“Okay, you’re right,” I admit. “But why are you doing this dive at all? I thought Hawas didn’t want the rest of his junk back.”
Julie hooks her thumb to where Dr. Hawas is standing near the shoreline, a dozen yards away, next to that movie producer, “Wild Bill” Corman. The two of them are watching the proceedings pretty carefully.
“I guess he changed his mind,” Julie says with a shrug. “He and Corman came down to the Dip ’n’ Dive this morning and practically begged me to take on the job—and do it today. I guess they’re worried someone else might snap up the goodies.”
Her face lights up and she smiles again. “Offered me a pretty penny to do it, too. They’ve got some plan to put the stuff on display and charge the summer crowd to see it. Go talk to them. I’m sure they’ll tell you all about it while I’m diving.”
She starts to zip up her wetsuit and then stops. She reaches around her neck, unclips something, and hands it to me.
“Here. Hold this for me while I’m gone,” she says. “Please.”
It’s the Egyptian necklace that Hawas gave her yesterday. It glitters gold, red, and blue in the afternoon sunlight. It’s a beaut, but not half as lovely as Julie is, zipping up her gear.
“Sure thing,” I say. “But you really shouldn’t dive alone. As the Acting-Captain of the Phantom Lake Canoe Cops, I’m responsible for the safety of everyone on—or under—the water.”
She pauses, halfway into pulling her neoprene headpiece over her lovely brown hair. “Rich, are you volunteering to dive with me? That’s sweet, but you really don’t need to.”
“I—” I begin, suddenly finding myself tongue tied. “I’d like to, but, since I’m in charge of this shift…”
She finishes pulling the hood over her head. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got Rico Chapman backing me up.” She points to another diver I hadn’t noticed before, already in full gear and standing at the water’s edge with a bunch of diving salvage equipment. Seeing me, the SCUBA guy gives a thumbs-up.
“Rico’s about a million years old!” I point out.
She laughs—which is good to hear, ’cause she doesn’t seem the least bit angry anymore.
“He’s not much older than my dad,” she tells me. “And, aside from you and Kelton, he’s the most qualified diver around. How is Kelton, by the way?”
“Still a bit shaky,” I tell her. “I hope he’ll be ship shape again, soon.”
“Me, too,” she says. “Anyway, don’t worry about Rico; he dove with the Navy in World War II, remember? He can handle himself—and keep an eye out for me, too.”
I turn my palms up, helpless; clearly, I’ve lost this battle. “Yeah, okay. I guess.”
Julie leans in and kisses me on the cheek—which takes me completely by surprise.
“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ll be back soon.”
She splashes out into the water, signaling Rico to follow her. He does, dragging the equipment and a heavy cable with him. One end is attached to a powerful winch on the back of a huge tow truck sitting on the road; the other end, Julie and Rico will be attaching to the sunken wreck.
Julie gives me a final thumbs-up, and then she and Rico dive into the lake, leaving only a wash of bubbles on the surface.
I take a deep breath, trying not to feel too anxious. Julie’s a big girl; she can handle herself. She probably would have been okay yesterday, even if you hadn’t been there. That’s what I tell myself—but it doesn’t chase off all the butterflies.
By then, Sven and Gustav have arrived on the scene in their canoe; the causeway is part of their regular patrol. They’re probably planning to keep rubber-neckers away from the site—there’s a cop from town patrolling the shore for the same reason—but I motion to the pair to paddle in a bit, where I can talk to them.
“Circle over the where the truck sank, will you?” I ask. “Signal me if anything goes wrong.”
“Sure thing… Captain,” Sven says with a wink.
“We’ll do what we can,” Gustav assures me. Then they paddle out to keep an eye on things.
I know that just standing around and worrying isn’t going to do any good, so I amble over to Hawas and Corman.
“Gentlemen,” I say, nodding a greeting.
“Lieutenant Agar,” Hawas says with a little bow. “Officer,” Corman adds.
“So, you decided to recover the rest of your loot, eh, Dr. Hawas,” I say.
“Loot?” Hawas replies stiffly. “Ah, yes… My possessions. My new friend Bill, here, has convinced me that it might be worth my… our while.”
“We’re hoping that Ms. Browning might loan us that trinket you’re holding, too,” Corman says. “You’d be surprised how many people in this area will pay to see genuine artifacts from a mummy’s tomb.”
“Maybe,” I say, keeping an eye on the bubbles from Julie’s SCUBA gear. “You’ll be hard pressed to find a showplace, though. Everything in town’s already been rented out for the summer.”
“Already thought of that,” Corman says. “We’re renting that old showboat—the Lady Newbury—down at the dry dock. She needs a little spiffing up, but I’ve got people working on her right now. We’re doing a floating exhibit, dinner cruises and that kind of thing.”
“Mr. Corman… Bill and I already arranged things with the bank that owns her,” Hawas tells me. “We were fortunate that such a vessel was available.”
“Yeah, lucky,” I agree. Lady Newbury’s been sitting high and dry since the Ward brothers failed to get gambling legalized on Phantom Lake three years ago. Pretty crazy, those Wards.
“We’re planning to have a sneak preview tomorrow night,” Corman says.
“That’s awful quick, isn’t it?” I ask.
“No time like the present,” he replies. “You gotta strike while the iron’s hot, and all that. And speaking of hot… I don’t mean to get you steamed, Ardath, but isn’t that that ‘friend’ of yours I see driving up?”
All of us turn as a black Chrysler New Yorker pulls over to the side of the road near the causeway. A dapper-looking older gent gets out, and somehow manages to convince the cop on duty that it’s okay for him to park there. So much for keeping the rubber-neckers at bay.
The Egyptian’s dusky face goes pale at the sight of the guy, who is now walking our way. “Zucco!” Hawas says under his breath, making it sound like a curse.
“Who’s that?” I ask.
“Ardath’s boss,” Corman confides. “His name is Dr. Cecil Zucco, curator of the Minneapolis Museum of Antiquities. He and my buddy here had a bit of a set-to, earlier.”
“He is an opportunistic swine and a thief,” Hawas adds.
“Ardath!” Zucco calls, waving and smiling. Apparently, he’s unaware that he and the Egyptian have had a falling out. He tromps up the shoreline and stops right next to us. “I’m so glad you changed your mind about raising the artifacts. They’ll make a really wonderful display at the museum.”
“They’re not going to the museum,” Hawas says frostily.
“That’s right, Cecil, old chum,” Corman says. “Ardath and I are planning a little exhibit of our own.”
Anger flares in Zucco’s eyes and he scowls at the promoter. “Have we met, sir?” Zucco says indignantly.
Corman shoves out his hand and—through sheer enthusiasm—gets Zucco to shake. “I don’t believe we have,” Corman says. “‘Wild Bill’ Corman, producer and promoter extraordinaire. Sorry I beat you to the punch, but that’s showbiz!” He grins wide enough to swallow the Lady Newbury.
“But-but… Ardath…” Zucco stammers, “I thought we had agreed—”
“You thought I had agreed to your wretched offer,” Hawas says. “But I had not. I told you I would rather my possessions rot at the bottom of the lake. Fortunately, Bill here presented me with a better offer.”
Corman claps Zucco on the shoulder hard enough that the dapper man staggers a little. “That’s the way it goes, old buddy,” Corman says. “But, just to show you there’s no hard feelings, I’ll make sure you get an invite to tomorrow night’s preview for free. Just show up at the door and ask for me. It’s all on the house.”
Zucco’s mouth gapes open like a striper that just slipped off the hook. Clearly, Hawas and Corman have completely out-foxed him.
Just then, Julie breaks surface out on the lake. She arcs her arm in a big wave, and—for a moment—I’m worried that something might be wrong.
Then I realize she’s just signaling for the guy in the tow truck to start the winch.
He does, and with a long slow groan and the creak of fatiguing metal, the cable pulls tight and starts to move.
Julie dives back under, only to reappear a few minutes later, closer to shore, with Rico Chapman right behind her.
“Easy as pie,” she says, taking out her mouthpiece and pulling back the hood of her wetsuit. “No trouble at all. It’ll be up in a few minutes.” She throws me a sly wink and grins. “Toldja, Rich.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “You’re the best diver in southeastern Wisconsin, and I’m just an old worry-wart.”
Julie laughs and shakes out her shoulder-length brown hair.
A minute later, the back of the truck breaks the surface. The winch continues to protest, but the wreck keeps moving, slowly emerging from the water.
Corman claps his big hands once. “Great day!” he exclaims.
Ardath rubs his hands together, nervously fiddling with that ruby ring that Julie and I brought up from the wreck yesterday.
I hand the Egyptian necklace back to Julie, and she fastens it around her neck once more.
Zucco’s eyes go wide. “That necklace…”
“It is mine to dispose of as I see fit,” Hawas says, “and I’ve chosen to give it to Miss Browning.”
“But it’s worth a fortune!” Zucco protests.
Hawas shrugs, and a little smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. He looks pleased that Zucco is miffed.
Julie takes the necklace in her hand. “A fortune?” she says. “Really?”
“Don’t worry about it, Miss Browning,” Corman says. “Easy come, easy go. Right? I do hope you’ll let us exhibit it, though.”
Just then, the winch stops. All of the truck is out of the lake now, except for the front tires, which are resting just at the shoreline. The whole thing is dripping wet and covered with weeds. The back doors are closed—which is odd, ’cause I thought Julie and I left them open yesterday.
“Wrestling the boxes back inside was the hardest part,” she whispers to me. “Bringing them up separately would have been a real bear, though.”
“So you closed the doors?”
She nods. “Nailed down some loose lids, too. Funny, though, I would swear we left that mummy box open. But now it wasn’t.”
“Currents moved the lid, maybe,” I suggest. “We never really opened it the whole way. The currents are tricky down there.”
“Got that right.”
“Hot dog!” Corman enthuses as the truck finishes settling. He grabs a crowbar—which I guess he and Hawas must have brought—hurries to the back, and unhitches the latch.
Hawas keeps rubbing his hands. Zucco holds his breath in anticipation.
Corman throws open the doors, revealing the damp boxes of cargo inside. It’s not much to see, with the crates all jumbled around, but I quickly spot the two big boxes Julie and I investigated yesterday.
Hawas joins Corman and points out the crate that contained the mummy. The showman quickly pries it open.
Julie’s jaw drops. “The mummy…” she gasps. “It’s gone!”
“Ha!” Zucco jeers. “Not much of a mummy exhibition without a mummy! Best of luck to you and your friend, Ardath!” He turns on his heel and strides back to his car, infinitely pleased with himself.
I put my arm around Julie’s shoulder. “Tough break, kid,” I say. “But you did your best.”
“I am so sorry, Dr. Hawas, Mr. Corman,” she says. She looks heartbroken. “Rico and I can keep diving until dark, see if we can find it—no extra charge. The crate had washed closed, and we just assumed the mummy was inside. It’s got to be nearby somewhere. I just saw it yesterday. Maybe the current took it…”
“Whatever you think is best, Miss Browning,” Hawas says—though I’d swear, he almost looks pleased that the mummy isn’t with the rest of his stuff.
“Sure, go ahead and look,” Corman agrees. “What can it hurt? But if you can’t find the darned thing, don’t worry. We’ll figure something out. I’m going to put on this preview tomorrow night even if I have to raid the National Museum in Washington DC to do it! It’s like we say in the movie biz—The Show Must Go On!”
NEXT: The Hotel Disaster
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David Lars Chamberlain
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