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INCIDENT ABOARD SHIP
JULIE BROWNING – Salvage Diving Expert
This is the tightest scrape I’ve ever been in, and it looks like it’s about to get even tighter.
Did you ever wake up in the proverbial frying pan? Well, that’s where I am right now.
At this very moment, I’m saying my prayers while I lie on top of a sacrificial altar in the middle of an Egyptian temple…
Okay, it’s not really an altar, it’s a wooden table made up to look like an altar, and it’s not really a temple, just an amazing Hollywood replica of one, built as a showboat exhibit… But none of that is important right now.
What matters is that I’m tied hand-and-foot to this slab, and Dr. Hawas—this creep that I thought was sweet on me—is standing over me, golden dagger in hand, preparing to plunge the blade into my pounding heart.
And, no, I am not the heroine in a movie serial or a pin-up girl in one of those kinky bondage magazines that they keep under the counter at some sleazy neighborhood convenience store. I almost wish that I was!
Because the nasty predicament I’ve woken up in isn’t just fantasy fun and games; it’s deadly serious, and I’m the one likely to wind up dead!
Hawas reels back with the knife, chanting some arcane gibberish.
I struggle like hell, trying to break free. But it’s no use, Hawas and his Egyptian bimbo have done too good a job with these ropes.
The blade of the ancient dagger glints silver in the light of the crescent moon.
I know its next stop is straight into the middle of my chest. And then…
A huge board streaks out of the darkness and smacks Hawas right in the kisser.
No… not a board… a canoe paddle!
I crane my neck the way the oar came from, and my heart leaps with joy.
“Rich!” I cry, never happier to see anyone in my life. Lieutenant Richard Agar’s arrival on the scene couldn’t be better timed.
Hawas topples like a tenpin, and the knife flies out of his hand.
It soars into the air in a deadly arc, spinning… falling right at me.
I try to move out of the way, but I’m tied too tight.
“Crud!” I say (or some similar four-letter word).
The point of the blade lands on the table about an inch from my right forearm and sticks, standing straight up like a tin soldier.
“Hang tough, babe!” Rich calls to me. “I’m coming!”
“Kill him!” the scantily clad woman standing near me cries. She’s the ghost of some Egyptian princess that Hawas has summoned up out of the grave, or something. Yeah, I know that sounds crazy. Her name is Amunisis, and from what those two were saying before I let on that I was awake, their plan seems to have been to kill me and stuff Lady Lingerie’s spirit into my pert young body.
Yeah. Nice guys.
Around Amunisis’ neck hangs the bejeweled Egyptian necklace that creep Hawas gave me, which I guess was all part of the set-up.
For a moment, I think the spooky princess is just raving about death and destruction, ’cause her boy Hawas looks like he’s down for the count. Who does she expect to kill Rich—me?
Then I notice the huge shape looming out of the shadows behind my would-be boyfriend.
“Look out, Rich!” I shout.
But I doubt he ever hears me.
’Cause before the words have even left my lips, the mummy—Rahotep was his name when he was alive, three-thousand years ago, I guess—grabs Rich in a bear hug.
Lieutenant Richard Agar is, without doubt, the best Canoe Cop in Phantom Lake, and probably one of the finest in the whole world. He’s trained in fighting and in top condition. He’s got the body of an Adonis, but he’s just a pipsqueak compared to the mummy.
I mean, this bandaged gorilla busted right through the wall of my room in the Anker’s Boarding House and kidnapped me, and he did it as easily as a normal person would walk through a wall of tissue paper.
Basically, Rich doesn’t stand a chance—on his own.
I eye the knife sticking out of the table near my right wrist. It looks just close enough…
So, while Amunisis is egging her boy on—shouting, “Kill him, Rahotep! Prove your undying love for me, and kill him!”—I use the nearby dagger to saw through the rope holding my arm.
Don’t worry. That’s the rope breaking, not Rich’s back—though it looks like my fella’s spine may not be too far behind.
Rich is giving it everything he’s got, for sure—trying to either force the mummy’s grip open, or slip out of it somehow—but what’s a guy gonna do against a seven-foot-tall undead monster?
Suzy-Q Psychopath, meanwhile, is admiring her bandaged goon’s handiwork. Her dark eyes gleam murderously in the firelight cast from the brazier set in the middle of the mock tomb.
She’s so caught up in the wrestling match that she doesn’t notice as I cut the rest of my bonds and make a beeline to see how well this golden dagger works on her royal patootie.
At least, that’s my plan, until creepy Hawas—who’s lying face-down on the floor—rouses just enough to grab my foot and trip me.
I give him a good, swift kick in the face for his efforts, which sends him back to dreamland, but that momentary delay is all the princess needs to notice me coming.
Amunisis wheels as I stab at her. She grabs my wrist, and turns my attack harmlessly aside.
“Treacherous harlot!” she snarls.
“Says the witch who wants to steal my body!” I say—or something that rhymes with “witch,” anyway.
I try to hit her with a left cross, but she grabs that wrist as well, and now the two of us are wrestling mano-a-mano, me trying to stab her, and her trying to bite, kick, and basically use every other dirty fighting trick any dame ever had in her arsenal.
“Daughter of a whore and a jackal!” she curses.
“Takes one to know one,” I reply.
Now, I’m no slouch when it comes to brawling. My dad was in the service, and taught me self-defense from the time I could walk. But I guess Princess Potty-Mouth must have had some combat training, too, because she counters every move I make, and forces me to dodge some beauties of her own.
While we tussle, Rich is rapidly losing his fight against tall, dark, and gruesome. I can see the desperation in my prospective beau’s eyes, and I almost imagine that I can hear his ribs cracking.
I have to try to end this, quick, and help him!
I feint toward Amunisis’ face with my knife, even though she’s still got my wrist.
She stops the cut easily enough, but that just sets her up for the knee I drive hard into her gut.
The air rushes out of her undead lungs in a great Whoosh! and she topples backwards.
As she does, though, she pulls my knife arm down to her mouth and bites—hard!
“Yowch!” I scream, and despite my best efforts, I drop the golden dagger.
It skids across the floor and lands over by Hawas’ prone body, while Amunisis and I crash down to the ground together.
I roll to my feet, thanking heaven for my judo training, but she’s up just as quick.
She lunges and tries to claw my eyes out, but I catch her wrist. She intercepts my counter-punch, and now the two of us are grappling again.
Amunisis looks like some insane asylum version of Miss Universe, decked out in her flimsy traditional Egyptian garb. The firelight dances across her golden jewelry—including my necklace—and her flawless tanned skin. Her black hair is long, silky, and straight. Her dark eyes gleam murderously.
“Foolish mortal!” she says. “You cannot defeat me! You’ve worn my necklace, so we are bound together body and spirit! Fighting me is like fighting yourself!”
“Ugh!” somebody moans, but it’s not me. It’s Rich, about to give up the ghost.
I have to do something!
I pull, twist, and drop to one knee, executing a solid judo throw.
Amunisis sails past me and lands hard on her pretty backside.
“Guess ‘yourself’ missed the day ‘we’ had judo lessons!” I say. And, quick as a wink, I yank the necklace from around her pretty throat. “Let’s see if we’re bound together now!”
My undead opponent whirls and springs to her feet.
Before she can do anything else, though, I toss the necklace into the brazier burning in the center of the room.
“Noooooo!” the witchy princess cries. She lunges for the fire, but only makes it a few steps before—Pop! Sizzle!—the necklace starts to come apart.
Amunisis freezes in place, stunned.
In just a few seconds, the whole piece of jewelry dissolves into a pile of golden slag and semi-precious stones. (Guess that fire was even hotter than I thought.)
And as the necklace goes, the princess does, too.
First, her flimsy garments go up in flames. Then her flawless skin melts away like candle wax. Her rotten, purplish flesh sloughs off in long, oozing strips. Her silky black hair turns white and frizzy, and her decrepit gray bones begin to crack and crumble.
And at that point, the little witch just fades away as if she were nothing more than a bad dream on a hot summer night.
The last things to go are her wicked, gleaming eyes.
And then… Poof! No more Amunisis.
But she totally deserves it.
“Nooooo!” screams Ardath Hawas, who I guess I didn’t kick as hard as I should have.
“Ugh!” grunts Rich as the mummy—apparently startled by the princess’s departure—suddenly lets go of my erstwhile beau.
Rich slumps to the floor, looking like he’s gone fifteen rounds with Rocky Marciano.
TKO to the mummy.
“Kill her, Rahotep!” Hawas screams. “Kill her!”
The mummy lumbers away from Rich, right toward me.
I back up—until that pesky burning brazier blocks my escape.
“KILL!” Hawas screams.
I ball up my fists and look that big-ol’ mummy straight in his bandaged puss. I may be brawling out of my weight class, but no way Papa Browning’s little girl is going down without a fight!
But just when the mummy is within arm’s reach of me, he pauses.
I don’t know if he senses my former connection to the poison princess, or if he likes my looks, or just admires my spunk, but for whatever reason, Rahotep stops dead.
This must be my lucky day.
He isn’t going to kill me!
“Traitorous dog of a mummy!” Hawas says with a growl. “It’s not too late to complete the sacrifice!”
And then he’s got that dratted dagger (which I lost) back in his sweaty hands, and he’s rushing toward me like a bull going for a red cape.
My stomach twists into a fist-sized knot as he barrels in.
Sure, I’m tough, but I’m facing a crazed madman with a knife who’s just lost the love of his life (and maybe a few past lifetimes as well). To say Dr. Hawas is ticked off would be an understatement.
Remember that frying pan I mentioned earlier?
Well, heaven help me, here comes the fire…!
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