Anna stepped down farther, following the blood’s path. She heard David call her back, but then heard his footsteps coming after her. Rounding the corner, Anna saw the oddest sight of her life.
The stairs continued 20 feet to a bottom chamber, what Anna figured to be the lower lair. Standing in the middle of the stairway, Anna gazed down to the lair’s dead center and saw one object: a golden sarcophagus, painted elaborately with a pharaoh’s figure. Its mummy was removed and unwrapped, lying stiffly across the bottom steps. It was a dead, shriveling prune in a human shape, nothing but wrinkled and dehydrated skin stretched out and covering a human skeleton. It had caves for eyes, its arms folded across its chest in typical mummy style. The blood trailed under and smeared past the mummy, its stain going all the way up to the sarcophagus’ lid. A neat pile of thin linen wrappings sat in a corner, except for one stray strip lying by the wall.
David walked past Anna and bent down, eyeing the corpse from head to toe. “It looks like the prince,” he announced.
Anna pointed down at the blood smear. “Why is there blood?” she said, for a 3,000 year-old corpse could never have leaked new blood.
David looked up with an anxiety Anna had never before seen. He went over to the sarcophagus, putting his hands on the lid. Anna rushed to his side. David lifted the lid only a few inches—and inside lay a gray-haired man, lying like a corpse in a narrow coffin that barely fit his body. His shoulders soaked with blood—the same deep red blood on the stairway. Wounds exploded on his shoulders and along his leg. At least three bloody holes had been ruptured in his thigh, small gaping holes with blood curdling on their sides. A 3-inch blood pool sat in the sarcophagus, staining its golden walls. Anna’s stomach reversed, seeing the man submerged in his own blood.
The man appeared alive. His wide eyes were glazed, and his mouth gaped open like a cadaver’s. Anna heard a groan hiss out like a whisper.
And lying on his unwounded chest was a small handgun.
David reached in and pulled out the gun. Anna’s nerves squeezed, as he pushed the cylinder open.
“No bullets,” he said, a note of relief in his voice.
Suddenly, Mark’s voice came from behind. “I had to do it,” he said. Anna and David turned to see Mark standing on the bottom step. Mark’s face was now a somber visage, his eyes regretful, Anna hearing a bit of mourning in his voice. Mark continued, “I just shot him a few hours ago, like right before you guys came. I tried to shoot his heart, but ©Brenna Pierson