Section: 1.06 TBD Up Section: 1.06 TBD Subsection: Tuesday 22 October 2019 

Monday 21 October 2019

(21 October 2020)
There’s been a robbery at the KelTech Museum of Art (“the largest fine arts museum in Northeast Florida”), any specifically items from the Sunken Cities travelling exhibition (artefacts from Heracleion and Canopus). This feels oddly significant.
Juan pokes about in the news, but can’t find any particular pattern of museum robbery. Jesus sets up a web site that looks like a discussion channel for archaeology news, so that Jade can pose plausibly as a reporter. She calls the museum, and arranges to interview Dr Albertson, the curator. Juan goes along as her cameraman, which gives him an excuse to look into the cordoned-off area where the evidence team is finishing up. He spots some damage between the gallery and what’s presumably the loading dock – some bullet hits, some general clumsiness. The same is true inside; on a large stone statue, perhaps of a god, one of the limbs has partly cracked away from the body.
Dr Albertson is happy to talk about the background of the exhibition, and will let Jade take a look round once the police have finished. The cracked statue is of Hapi, god of the inundation of the Nile. Apparently the guards described it as “like a bank robbery”, with gunfire going off; three robbers, all masked. It seems that the robbers went after precious metals more than the stone ones perhaps of greater archaeological value. While taking a photograph of the good doctor at his desk, Juan notices that there’s paperwork about employee death benefits, which might not be expected to be the highest priority right now. There’s no footage, thanks to a problem with the security cameras (which Jade reckons they were simply hoping to postpone fixing until more money had come in).
He introduces Jade and Juan to the two guards who were on duty, in a way that Jade thinks involves not mentioning certain things. They improvise badly over whether it was two or three of them on duty. The robbery started with bursts of automatic fire and instructions to get down – but the guards weren’t held at gunpoint, just told to stay in sight. (They called the police, but they took a while to arrive.) The whole thing took about half an hour, and the thieves, who were in full-head black masks of some kind, seemed to be working from a check list; at least one of them said to another that “he doesn’t want” certain items.
The exhibit’s reopening now that the evidence team has finished. The statue has cracked in part because it had a hollow inside; and there are a couple of apparently recently-dead locusts, one in the track, one on the floor nearby. Juan takes one of them.
Natasha writes up a story to make the web site look good, then takes a look at the loading dock last night. Jesus takes a look for the missing guard’s name, and confirms that he existed – he’s a retired cop, now in his fifties.
Juan reckons that it is indeed a locust, and with some remaining moisture it’s quite recently dead.
Natasha finds the time the loading-dock door was forced open (12.17 am). The locust has been involved with magic: Path of Undead. And it hatched some time about 2000 BCE, became undead about the same time, and ceased to be so in the last 24 hours.
She tries to view the gallery at the time of the robbery – and gets a vision of the gallery (post-robbery), with people walking around it in a normal sort of way. A second attempt doesn’t reveal any more information. But she can get the location of one of the pieces of jewellery, out near Ponte Vedra, so the team loads up to track it down. It’s in a large house belonging to a Charlie Lundgren, a name Jesus recognises as a prominent local “businessman”. From what she hopes is a safe distance, Jade can’t detect any magic there.
Looking for another randomly-selected missing item from the catalogue shows no response within ten miles; looking a bit further, it’s in Mandarin. Pinning that down points to David Lynwood, another successful local businessman, not as blatantly illegal as Lundgren though there are suspicions – which doesn’t mark him out particularly.
Natasha cannot detect any undead locusts of that species within a hundred miles. Or dead ones. Or even live ones. She searches through the memories of the one she has. For the vast majority of its existence it has been an undead locust sitting in a statue, though before that it was sometimes part of a swarm that devoured armies; for some periods around that time it has not existed at all. It “died” as the result of damage when coming out of the statue.
(4 November 2020)
There’s a feeling that the security guards know more than they’re saying, and that it might be a good idea to catch them off-guard somewhere. The group gets back into town, and checks the group of bars nearest to the museum. In Rain Dogs, Jade spots one of the guards, Alex, drinking with other people who aren’t in uniform but have the same look of people with a job that involves a lot of standing around. He’s looking rather more twitchy than the rest of them. The group sits and watches for a while; Alex is clearly very shaken by something, and the others are trying to reassure him while not entirely believing him.
The group tries to look like people who’d lend a sympathetic ear; meanwhile Natasha riffles through his recent memories.
Leo, the missing guard, was closer to the robbery than Alex. When the statue is cracked, a cloud of black smoke (or locusts?) comes out and puddles on the ceiling; the robbers ignore this, and leave. Leo goes closer to look; the smoke descends on him, something traumatic happens, a body drops to the ground, and a man walks out, Egyptian-looking and in good health, but with something like a guard’s uniform on (at least, a collared shirt and dark trousers). Leo’s body is a withered husk… and a closer look suggests that he’s been strangled (the cracked hyoid is still visible). Natasha throws a strengthening enchantment onto Alex to minimise the damage from the drinking he’s busy doing. (Trying to scan for the desiccated corpse shows her that, really, everyone around her is a corpse in disguise… but a second attempt works a bit better, and confirms that it’s in the museum.)
Jesus checks the morgue records; nobody’s reported a similar corpse recently. Some research reveals no particular celestial enmity to Hapi; though Jesus’ knowledge of restless undead suggests that there’s probably an amulet which assists the mummy’s defences. Leo’s address isn’t hard to find in the museum computer, and is quite close by.
It’s an apartment, one of four in a building; there are no lights on, and while the blinds are closed there’s no immediate sign of anyone moving about. Getting in is easy, but there’s nothing inconsistent with the place simply having been uninhabited for a couple of days without preparation.
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