A blast of sand-whipped air came from the west, causing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Egyptologist, aristocrat, and explorer to remove his blue-tinted pince-nez and dab his undereyes with a maroon silk handkerchief. It felt like an oven, and he was sweating through his linen suit. He put the kerchief back in his breast pocket and fanned himself with a wide straw hat. A train whistle sounded in the distance, and Nugent-Hopkins looked up the track to see the cloud of steam disintegrate in the hot air.
The train came to a halt. A man in a fez and a light-grey smock announced "All aboard," and Nugent-Hopkins motioned to his porter, a balding slav named Sekera, to cart his leather-bound trunk on. Nugent-Hopkins lightly jumped up the steps and moved through the car, a shambles of thinning velvet seats and sun-bleached emerald drapes. A figure sat staring darkly through his fingers, muttering under his breath. Nugent-Hopkins sat down next to him.
"Yakupov. I should have known."
The man glared at him. "Yes, the bumbling archaeologist Nugent-Hopkins should know I'd be here. Another setback for Yakupov. Those men, they know nothing." He gestured toward the brown hills beyond the Nile river valley.
"It is a conundrum, isn't it? You arrived with great fanfare, the hope from the East! Yet you have delivered nothing of value. And now, hobbled, you brood on the train back to Alexandria and onward to Mother Russia. A failure." Nugent-Hopkins gave a cheery smile, but his eyes were cruel.
"You've done no better, Nugent-Hopkins," Yakupov spat. "We both came to the valley of al-Ahl-Lers seeking the tomb of M'k D'vid, and we return with sunburns and dust in our pockets."
A strange looking halfwit sat down in the facing seats with a paper package in his lap. "Hullo, Hallsy. The gang's all here."
Taylor Hall stared at them blankly for a while. Then he smiled at them, which made Yakupov wince. "Oh, you guys! I didn't see you there!"
"Where are you headed, Hallsy?"
"Yes, what brings the imbecile Taylor on the train to Alexandria?"
Hall's smile faded slightly, and his eyebrows furrowed. Then he brightened up. "I can't remember!"
Sekera, the porter, panting loudly in the heat, finally succeeded in lifting the trunk to the overhead shelf. Nugent-Hopkins turned back to Yakupov. "I have found more than dust, Nail." Yakupov's eyes narrowed.
"Not quite. My nemesis Barclay Goodrow found a most peculiar stone in a souk in Luxor, traded a few trinkets for it. I stole it from him in one of his laudanum binges. Turns out, the hieroglyphs we had discovered in M'k D'vid were incomplete. This stone had the key. Don't look so surprised, Nail. Chin up!"
"Impossible! You make lies." Hall stood up and walked to the luggage shelf.
"Not hardly. The hieroglyphs said '30 paces from the Steps of Sekhmet toward Ra's Throne'. We assumed the Steps of Sekhmet were facing east. The stone told us Sekhmet always walks to the setting sun. The Steps of Sekhmet are facing west! It was there, under the Widow's Peak, M'k El-Alalin, I found the tomb of M'k D'vid."
Hall was trying unsuccessfully to fit the paper package on the shelf.
"Continue your story, fool!" Yakupov's curiosity seemed to have won out over his jealousy.
"The tomb had been disturbed. The sarcophagus opened, and the mummy gone. I suspect additional rooms, which I will investigate in the autumn. I return with some artifacts to show to my sponsors." Nugent-Hopkins gestured toward the trunk. "A most amazing statuette of M'k D'vid: gold with lapis lazuli."
Hall began making low noises in the back of his throat as he continued shoving the paper package up on the shelf. Turning it 180 degrees would have allowed it to fit easily.
"Fit, thing!" Hall yelled as he grabbed Nugent-Hopkins's trunk and flung it to the floor, then pushed the paper package on the shelf.
The trunk crashed, then opened. Nugent-Hopkins's pince-nez fell as he jumped upright, his mouth open in surprise and anger. Yakupov began yelling, "IDIOT! MORON! FEEBLE-MINDED COW!" Nugent-Hopkins leaped over, and picked up the statuette of M'k D'vid, broken at the collar.
The sky suddenly went orange as a sandstorm blew in from the desert. The train's brakes engaged with a horrific scraping sound, and the passengers lurched. The lead engine came off the track, beginning a chain reaction causing each coach to topple over. Yakupov, Nugent-Hopkins, Sekera, and Hall flailed, grasping at curtains and light fixtures. Their coach ended up upside down, the sound of steam hissing from the broken engine and injured passengers crying in pain.
Nugent-Hopkins squinted his eyes in the blowing sandstorm amid the wreckage. Hall's paper package was at his feet, the contents spilled open: ordinary stones. Out of the brown fog of the sandstorm, a figure appeared, moving toward him. It was covered with linen, and screaming. Holding its shoulder. "M'k D'vid," Nugent-Hopkins quailed and shut his eyes, the last thing he would do.
7:30 PM Pacific
Prediction: A cursed mummy is accidentally summoned by the nitwit Taylor Hall.