"By the great mother Isis, I can't concentrate!" the chief of the Memphite Medjay police force, Pentuhotep Pahy-nefer mumbled, brows creased into a frown. Ever since the discovery of the corpse laid in front of him, chaos had broken out in the marketplace. But they were not to be blamed. The mutilations made upon the body was enough to make one enraged.
A single glance at the body and Pahy-nefer had been certain that not only something wrong had happened, but something terrible had happened to the dead man. Something unforgivable.
It had been a usual day at the marketplace of Memphis. The business was going smoothly, which was a matter of good, nay, great luck with the severity of the drought which haunted the land. But the mood of the market had been disturbed hearing the screams of an old man resounding from the little lake beside the place.
People there, wondering what might have happened to the man. As they reached there, the sight they saw was enough to befuddle their minds, for a wooden casket laid embedded on the riverbed, the little water which was still left caressed its surface. Apparently, the man had gone there for a drink and had stumbled upon the casket.
It was thus commotion and the crowding of men near the lake that had caught the attention of the patrolling Medjay officers, who had gone to summon their senior, Pahy-nefer.
Even in its flooded state, the lake was not that deep. If an adult man of good height stood in its middle, the water would have only reached up to his chest. Thus, when Pahy-nefer and his small troop of younger officers had arrived, it had not been much of a problem to bring the casket up to the surface. Neither there had been much trouble opening it for the wood seemed to be quite old and half-decayed. But the problem arose when the people saw what was inside the casket.
It contained an unmummified body, brutally stabbed, a gaping hole situated at the right part of the belly. Its throat was torn out, its face bloated and its eyes bulging, spreading a pungent smell. The shade of the body had turned a sickly greenish-purple shade.
However, the face was recognisable. It was a face all the residents of Memphis knew too well. It belonged to the senior priest of Ptah, Khaemwaset, who was soon to be promoted to the position of the high priest. That led the old man who had found the casket to scream in horror, leading others to angrily show their discontent to the officers.
"Niankhkhnum, stop the men from coming near the casket," Pahy-nefer yelled his commands to his subordinate.
He sat upon the ground to examine the body. But his try was turning to be futile for the crowd violently protested, trying to break past the barricade of officers surrounding him and the priest's corpse.
"Yes, Pahy. We are trying to push them away," answered Niankhkhnum, nodding at his superior. Subsequently he shoved away a man creeping under his arm to reach the other side.
Even though he was his subordinate, Niankhkhnum and Pahy-nefer were mates from childhood, leading them to call each other by their names even with the differences in their position.
Pahy-nefer was hunched over the casket, his honey-brown skin glistening with sweat. He was bald, like most Egyptian men, had a broad and a slightly angular face. His eyes were the shade of grey mist, which looked almost bewitching when he frowned or was in deep thought, like at that moment.
He raked the body by all means, unaffected by the pungent odour that it released/ In his long career of fifteen years as a Medjay detective, decomposing bodies were a common occurrence. But the more he looked at the body of the priest, the more he frowned
The throat was torn. Ripped from side to side. But what caught Pahy-nefer's attention was the wound at the abdomen. It was a gaping hole, indicating that whatever weapon had made that wound, had torn through vital veins and arteries, and may have even perforated one of the vital organs. It was supported by the deep red marks on the white shendyt which still covered the torso.
‘Which of the wounds killed him? The one in the abdomen, or the one by the throat?’ thought Pahy-nefer. He looked up at the blue sky, wondering about this possibility when suddenly his eyes fell once again upon the abdomen. Something white was embedded inside.
Very carefully, Pahy-nefer inserted his hand unto the wound feeling for the thing he had seen. Indeed something was embedded there, something hard. He pulled it, putting only a little pressure, so as to not harm the body. A little more pulling and scraping later, the thing Pahy-nefer had noticed was out of the body.
"What is this?" A mumble passed out of his lips, as he held the piece of, gods knew what, from the body. It was white, triangular and glinted rather brightly in the sunlight. At the top, it was devilishly pointed, much too sharp to be a piece of bone, while its base was uneven as if it had been broken from something larger.
He turned it around, feeling its surface. Most of it was even, as smooth as the silt of the Nile, while its edges were sharp enough to cut easily into human flesh. ‘It is something to examine properly’, Pahy-nefer mused.
Clutching the piece safely into his palm, he got up, declaring to his officers, "Disperse the crowd. The body must be taken for embalming."
"That is a really curious thing to find inside a body!" An excited Niankhkhnum exclaimed as Pahy-nefer briefed him about his examination of the body and him finding that strange white piece in it.
"That is only a part of the mystery we are facing," remarked Pahy-nefer taking a sip of wine from his goblet, his eyes shining. "Have you seen the body properly?"
"Well, not much," Niankhkhnum commented. "I was quite busy with the crowd. But I did see that ghastly wound on the throat! Good Amun, they ripped it apart completely!"
"Hmmm." Pahy-nefer hummed, taking another sip from the goblet.
Night had spread its gloom all over Egypt. The priest Khaemwaset's half desiccated body had been sent back to his temple for the embalming process. The casket in which the body had been found was deposed, and a warning was given to the residents of Memphis to stay safe and inside their homes at the late hours, a warning which they were only too eager to follow.
When his duties were over, Pahy-nefer had returned to his home, a small mansion with a high roof to keep out the heat and a good few chambers to think in peace. For the rest of the day he pondered about the body he had seen, its wounds, its condition and the little white piece he found, but till then he had not been able to come to a conclusion.
"Do you think he was killed for his position?" Niankhkhnum asked suddenly, a frown etched on his face.
"For his position? But the priests would not have deposed him in such a place, would they? They had quite a lot of resources to safely hide his body without anyone knowing about it." Pahy-nefer said, looking up from his goblet. "Nay, Nian."
"What about that thing you found from the body? What could that be?"
"Something important. What it is I cannot tell, but it is important. Perhaps it comes from the one who killed him." Pahy-nefer said, absent-mindedly looking at the window. The plants in his little garden fluttered in the wind, all of them appearing as black silhouettes against the dark cerulean sky. An idea sparked up in his head.
"Send a message to the High Priest of Ptah, saying that we wish to converse with him about the senior priest Khaemwaset, will you?"
"Why? Why involve the high priest in this?" Niankhkhnum asked, slightly dazed.
"Why Nian?" Pahy-nefer smiled. "It is simple. Khaemwaset resided there. It smells of his essence."