VII.

The Fury of the Scorned

Santiago never would have made it in time. The gypsy, against all odds, sprung towards the doorway, sword cane poised above him, screaming some long forgotten battle cry.
Annoch, teeth gritted in anger and focused solely on the approaching gypsy, preparing to slam the tomb doors shut upon us. I, sensing the gravity of the situation, did the first thing that came to mind. A bronze platter lay beside me upon the floor of the tomb, laden with many scrolls of Egyptian vellum. I quickly emptied the tray of its contents, lifted the platter over my head, and with both hands, hurled the thing with all my strength at the Egyptian.
Despite my valiant efforts, the awkward platter was well off the mark. It flew over Santiago's head, struck the door to the left of Annoch, and glanced downward. But fortune did not entirely abandon me. The tray's edge, on its downward path, struck the Egyptian in the leg, biting into his shin painfully.
Annoch doubled over in agony, relinquishing his grip on the doors in favor of his freshly wounded shin. Santiago, rage upon him, continued his flight for Annoch, ready to deliver the killing blow. But the crafty Egyptian recovered quickly, and with a swift uppercut, sent Santiago sprawling back into the tomb.
Santiago's sword, dislodged from his hand by the Egyptian's powerful blow, fell to the floor between himself and Annoch. They both raced for it, but Annoch was faster and got to it first. He rose over Santiago and took the blade in both hands, one on the blade itself, the other on the hilt. With a great swift movement, Annoch snapped the blade over his own knee as if it were a mere twig. He threw the sundered blade to his side, his left hand cut deeply. Blood dripping from his flexed fingertips, he approached the prone figure of the gypsy. Santiago sprang to his feet and the combat ensued.
They were locked in a furious battle for many minutes. Annoch was far stronger, but Santiago was much quicker. I could see myself being of little use in such a physical contest, so I stayed out of the way and skirted around the room, toward the doors.
Just as Santiago looked as if he could not muster another ounce of agility to dodge the crushing blows of the Egyptian, Annoch tripped over a small coffer. He teetered for a moment in the center of the room, and then fell backwards, landing against the sarcophagus, the weight of his body pushing it off the table and crashing onto the floor. The limestone casket, upon contact with the floor, shattered into a hundred shards, scattered about the ground.
Annoch saw what he had inadvertently done and then looked down into his hands. In an effort to defend it, he had destroyed the blessed resting place of his master, and now his soul would forever roam, lost and tortured. Tears began to fall from his eyes, rolling down his dusty cheeks like tiny rivers through a vast, dry desert. He raised his hands and cried out. The sound he made was not one that a human throat should have made. It was a grating sound, like tiny pebbles being passed through a sieve.
As Santiago regained his breath, we both made our way towards the doors, wishing only to be away from the mad Egyptian. Annoch, meanwhile, took two massive strides toward one of the support beams, leaned down, and with a great display of strength, threw his shoulder against the beam and began to dislodge it. The aged timber cracked and the roof began to give way, spraying us with a shower of dirt and small debris.
Annoch simply took a stance in the middle of the room, staring at the shattered +remains of the sarcophagus. Larger stones began to fall from the ceiling as the foundation of Voight manor began to give way. One of these rocks hit Annoch in the back and crumbled him like a paper doll.
Santiago quickly glanced into the hallway, where the first signs of a major cave in were becoming evident. Cursing himself, he ran back into the room, knelt beside the fallen Egyptian, and then called back to me, stating that Annoch was still alive. I was taken aback by the gypsy's actions, but followed his instruction nonetheless.
Each of us grabbed one of the fallen Egyptian's arms, dragging him through the ever-increasing wreckage of the tomb. The arm that I had hold of felt wrong, as if it were dislocated at the shoulder. Annoch grimaced, either in pain or defeat, as we drug him down the hallway towards the ladder that was obscured by the billowing dust in the collapsing tunnel.
As we arrived at the ladder, the ground had begun to shake and the support timbers splintered under the weight of the earth and stone above. Santiago and I managed to heave Annoch over the gypsy's shoulder, and with my supporting hand, mounted the ladder.
We made our way through the upper passages, the sandstone blocks shifting and falling at our very heels. The manor was collapsing, and we had little time to make our escape. The laboratory was in shambles, part of the manor having shifted, and a large rift in the floor blocked our way into the parlor. We quickly turned, and shuffled across the shifting foundation under the weight of the disabled Egyptian.
As the manor once again shifted, the great glass dome above us shattered into a thousand falling daggers, slicing and stabbing as they rained down upon us. The laboratory's great windows had also broken under the stress of the buckling walls. This being the clearest way of escape, we heaved the prone Annoch out of the shattered window, and then jumped through ourselves.
Outside, the rain had slowed to a drizzle, the moon breaking free of it's clouded cell, and shining its luminescent rays down upon the dying Voight manor. The thing actually looked as if it were drowning in a sea of loam and earth, rafters and walls like arms grasping wildly for a lifeline. And then the house died, letting lose a great sigh of dust and splinters. Silence.
I finally took a breath, having forgotten to within the last few seconds. Santiago lay sprawled over the body of the Egyptian, on the side of the hillock that Voight manor had once stood. Annoch's eyes stared blindly into the starry abyss, his arm bent at an odd angle. The two of us stood and began to brush ourselves off, dislodging small slivers of glass.
Santiago inquired as to my well-being and I nodded in affirmation. We looked down at the defeated form of Annoch, and as I did, I felt sorrow for him. But Santiago's manner was much different. He stood over the Egyptian like a conquering hero. He had sworn to bring the mystery to bear and he knew now that he had his man.
"Santiago," I queried to the gypsy, "do you think anyone else made it out of the manor?"
But before Santiago could answer me, a shrill scream broke the newly born silence of the night. We ran around the front of the manor, or at least, what had been the front. Neither Santiago nor I were prepared for what we saw there.
At the foot of a tree stump was the slain form of Madame Voight, her face pale and her throat bruised. She had been strangled. And sitting atop the tree stump, a lit cigarette balanced precariously between his lips, was Herr Voight. Not alive, but seated, elbow upon knee, the cherried fire from the cigarette glowing warmly in the night air. Santiago's mouth dropped wide open.
It felt like an eternity, but it must have only been a couple of seconds later, we heard footsteps approaching us from behind. I was not inclined to look, too petrified in fear at the scene before me. It was Gaston, with Anna and Horace. A few seconds after their arrival, Inspector Von Escher arrived with Annoch in tow, the Egyptians hands bound behind him. Von Escher was busy trying to interrogate the Egyptian, until he saw the spectacle we were gathered about. And I believe that I saw a smile light Annoch's haggard features for a fraction of a second, before he returned to his somber, silent stance.
Monsieur Gaston was holding something, a leather-bound book of sorts, which he seemed desperate to show Santiago. He drew the gypsy aside and opened the book, pointing out various entries in it.
When I approached, I realized that the book was a diary, apparently Madame Voight's. In a bit of investigating of his own, Gaston had obtained the book from Madame Voight's quarters before the house began to fall apart. He showed Santiago and I some of the entries he had read.
Elizabeth's early life was secluded, her father being a prominent businessman, was often away from home. When she came of age, her father married her off to the first prospect, a scientist from Germany, Wilhelm Voight. Herr Voight made it clear to her that the only reason he had chosen to court her was to obtain the plot of land her father had offered as a dowry. He wanted a quiet retreat to build his house upon and concentrate on his work. And even though this pained her greatly, Elizabeth was treated kindly, and grew used to the persona of Madame Voight.
All continued to go well for her, even eventually winning the affection of Herr Voight, until he and that wretched Julius Shaw formed the Unselli Council. Their morbid curiosity took them head over heels into the darkest recesses of modern pseudo-science, and left little time for anything else. As more members were recruited into the council, Madame Voight became increasingly distraught in her alienation. She began to partake of various drugs, mainly cocaine and laudanum, to subliminate her loneliness. All the while, the entries in her diary became more convoluted and desperate.
Eventually, after years of solitude, Madame Voight began to entertain plans that would separate her husband from his work. Before long, she came to the conclusion that the only way to have her husband back was to be rid of the other members of the Unselli Council. But when Herr Voight came back from Egypt dead and mummified, her goal was sundered before her eyes. She then decided that she would have her revenge on everyone who had helped her husband kill himself: all of his colleagues, all of his friends, and especially the Unselli Council.
The last few entries outlined her plan to murder the funeral guests one by one, using the secret passageways within Voight manor. She would make the killings appear to be the work of her husband's mummy, praying on the superstitious inclinations of her husband's colleagues. The journal ended in the ravings of a mind broken by neglect and loneliness.
As we finished the diary of the unfortunate Madame Voight, Anna leaned against Monsieur Gaston, tears silently falling down her weary face. She had assumed the worst regarding her husband, Dr. Goebles, and now Santiago, with much sorrow, told her of her husband's murder, and how we had found his body in the tunnels below. Inspector Von Escher still apprehensive about the validity of the diary, held onto Annoch, his prime suspect. The horses had returned, and Santiago requested my assistance in rounding them up.
Inspector Von Escher yelled after us as we walked towards the stables, commanding us not to wander off. He wanted to have statements from the lot of us. Santiago snickered as we collected the horses. Once this was accomplished, he saddled two of the strongest looking stallions, and implored me to help him. I questioned his actions.
"My dear Mr. Morton," he replied," I do not wish to spend any more time at this place, especially if I must answer Von Escher's inquiries. When we arrive in town, I will promptly notify the constabulatory that there are citizens in need of assistance at the Voight manor. I am sure they will be very glad to help. Meanwhile, you and I will be having breakfast on the first train back to London. Is this acceptable?"
I nodded my agreement, not wishing to stay any longer either. We rode the horses around the stables and into the woods, passing by the others within the cover of the nearby trees. As we continued I looked to the gypsy and saw a grim shade of mourning pass over his visage.
"Santiago," I interjected. "What do you really think happened this night.I mean, who do you think killed Madame Voight?"
The gypsy said nothing, but stopped his horse. He stared back through the trees toward Voight manor. He looked at me then looked back into the trees, pointing a long, piercing finger in the direction of the wreckage. I followed the path of his gesture, and peered between the limbs of a large oak. Through the branches and across the clearing, Santiago's finger indicated the still and seated figure of Herr Voight, upon the tree stump as we had last seen him, his cigarette long since extinguished. Santiago stared for a moment longer, as if to say a silent farewell, and then we left, never looking back.