An Egyptologist falls for a beautiful, younger woman. First place Short Shots, Oct 2016
| Professor Matthew Jones glanced up from his book and examined the young lady sitting two tables away. She was a perfect example of her race: ebony skin that shone like silk and a fine-boned face like Nefertiti's. He sighed and returned his attention to the treatise on the funeral rites of Ancient Egypt. Why was he torturing himself? Now in his forties, beauties like her were beyond his reach. When he left the library, he'd return to his empty apartment alone, maybe picking up a microwave meal for one along the way.
A chair squeaked against the floorboards. Stiletto steps clicked closer. A floral scent invaded his nostrils as a shadow darkened the text. “Excuse me,” said the young lady. “Are you Professor Jones?”
He raised his head. She appeared to be in her twenties, so likely a graduate student who arrived before the Autumn Quarter to get a head start. Though not an Ivy League school, the University of Chicago attracted its share of debutantes. This specimen wore a designer jacket over her white blouse and short skirt. His hand rose to check his bow tie; first impressions were important. “Yes. And you are?”
She offered her hand. “Mary Kapina.”
He stood and smiled. Her handshake was firm. He remembered a scholar from Malawi called Kapina; perhaps her ancestors hailed from that area. “How may I assist you, Miss Kapina?”
“I read your article in American Anthropologist.”
Her teeth sparkled like a toothpaste ad, and Matthew wished he could spirit her away some place where he might learn if she tasted as good as she looked.
“The one in which I refuted Reeves' hypothesis?”
“It's brilliant. You made him look stupid.”
He shook his head. “Nicholas Reeves is a competent scholar, and my article wouldn't have been possible without his assistance.”
Mary removed her spectacles and swept a hand through her shoulder-length hair. “You corresponded?”
“He provided copies of his high-resolution scans and gave me access to his notes.”
Her eyes sparkled with interest. “Really?”
Strangely, Mary appeared to be flirting. Was it his work that intrigued her or something more primal? Perhaps he could invite her back to his office and impress her with his favorite discovery. He mulled over the notion for a moment. No. He mustn't be an imbecile. Of course she wasn't attracted to him. He'd misread the situation. And besides, physical interaction between himself and a student here could prove a poisoned chalice.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Miss Kapina, but I have work to do.”
A frustrated expression flashed across her face so rapidly he wasn't sure if he'd imagined it. “Of course, Professor. Sorry to have bothered you.”
She retreated to her table as quickly as her stilettos allowed, and he sat and returned his attention to the book. A minute later, the door banged shut. He stood and walked over to the rain-splattered window from where he watched her march away across the campus. He shook his head. Without a coat or umbrella, she'd get drenched.
In his youth, he wouldn't have hesitated to entertain a lady like Mary. Two or three girls every year had enjoyed the privilege of his undivided attention, and he'd once stolen the heart of a Nigerian princess. But these days the academic community was obsessed with political correctness, date rape awareness, safety protocols and all that nonsense, and getting involved with a student could result in serious legal and professional repercussions. Life wasn't as easy as it used to be for red blooded males.
Matthew closed the book and returned it to the shelf. In his peer review he would praise its clear explanation of ancient techniques to preserve vital organs in jars during the mummification process. He shrugged on his coat and snatched up his umbrella. And he mustn't forget his briefcase. It contained his most important research materials. He wouldn't want anyone snooping inside.
Outside, the rain proved worse than he'd expected, and he shivered while raising his umbrella. He took a path across the campus toward his office in the Department of Archaeology. There were administrative matters he must clear up tonight, then he'd head home. He wondered if Mary had made it to shelter before the weather turned so bad.
Many of the structures he passed reminded him of Oxford, where in the Nineties he'd spent two years working at the Ashmolean Museum. He hummed a song he'd picked up during his time there: A Good Heart. Somehow that conjured up thoughts of Mary. He pictured her reclining in a punt on the River Isis, holding a glass of champagne and eating fresh strawberries and cream. He licked his lips.
As his department came in sight, a cough from inside a nearby portico alerted him to a presence in the shadows. He automatically tensed, but then forced himself to relax. If it was a mugger, they'd soon learn they'd chosen the wrong target. Twenty years of aikido training had prepared him mentally and physically to deal with such threats. He addressed the shadows. “I know you're there, so you may as well show yourself.”
Mary stepped out, her sodden blouse clinging to her athletic frame and leaving little to the imagination. “S-sorry,” she said, teeth chattering. “I-I didn't mean to startle you. I'm just sheltering from the rain.”
He clenched his fists. Why did she have to look so vulnerable, so tempting, when it was impossible for him to sample her wares? She might as well wave a bottle of Cognac in front of a recovering alcoholic. But he must get a grip. She clearly needed help, and the last thing he wanted was for her to tweet about how he'd left her freezing in the rain. That would be almost as bad as being caught with one's pants down at an inconvenient time.
“I have an umbrella. Why don't I walk you to your dorm?”
“I'm n-not a student here. Just visiting. My friend said she'd pick me up but didn't show. I was searching for the bus shelter.”
Matthew's interest was piqued. If she wasn't registered here, and she really was one of those young ladies who enjoyed the company of older men, nothing prevented him becoming better acquainted with this queen of Sheba. “Unfortunately, I think you missed the last bus. You'll have to call a cab. You can wait in my office where it's warm.” He pointed out the building.
She looked from him, to the Department of Archaeology. “I d-don't want to put you out.”
He offered his arm. “No trouble at all. Let's get you somewhere dry, then we'll worry about that cab.”
Mary hesitated for a second, then threaded her arm into his. He shifted his umbrella so it mainly sheltered her and set off toward his office. He felt a familiar stirring in his pants.
Outside the building, she held the umbrella while he fumbled with his keys, then they crossed the threshold into his domain. Security was a joke. No cameras recorded their entry, and the guard wouldn't make his rounds until midnight. He had hours to enjoy some quality time with Mary.
Inside his office, she glanced around at the Egyptian artifacts casually stacked on the floor to ceiling shelves alongside dusty books on anatomy and antiquity.
“Do take a seat.”
She obliged, her attention still on the curiosities.
Matthew placed his briefcase on the desk. “My cell's in here,” he explained, while opening it in a manner that hid the contents. He took out the syringe and, with an often practiced and now perfected movement, plunged the needle into her neck.
She only had time to open her mouth in surprise before the potent sedative took effect. Her eyes rolled up, and she flopped onto the desk. Most sedatives took half an hour to render a person unconscious, but twenty years ago Matthew had stumbled across a papyrus scroll from an apothecary's tomb that detailed the recipe for a sleep potion which took immediate effect. He'd considered selling this knowledge to a drugs manufacturer, but then he feared it might impact on his hobby.
After collecting a gurney from the storeroom, he wheeled Mary into the laboratory where he examined mummies. Dissecting a three thousand year old desiccated corpse was never as satisfying as working on a living specimen. If she were a mummy, he would have used the X-Ray followed by an ultrasound to map her insides before cutting away the wrappings, but that was unnecessary with live projects.
Since he hadn't used a large dose of sedative, he strapped her to the gurney before commencing. She might remain unconscious as he stripped away her clothes, but none of his subjects slept through the buzzing sound of the circular saw as he prepared to rip into their rib cages.
Whistling Jar of Hearts, Matthew turned to the stainless steel instrument trolley to check his own jar. Christina Perri's lyrics described him so well, she must have read his mind. She was too pallid for his tastes, but cute all the same. He unscrewed the jar lid and checked the formaldehyde, wrinkling his nose at the pungent odor. No point collecting hearts if they decayed. After the intense pleasure he gleaned during the brief acquisition process, he enjoyed many more leisurely hours reminiscing as he sifted through his collection, each trophy carefully tagged and labeled like the artifacts he unearthed on archaeological excavations.
Matthew grinned and rolled on a pair of surgical gloves. He loved this first part with the exciting possibility his guest would wake while he stripped her. That look of terror when they believed they were about to be raped was fantastic, but their frantic expression as things developed beyond that initial already grim expectation was beyond exquisite.
After hitching up her skirt, he ran his tongue along the smooth skin of her thigh. She tasted as good as he'd expected, and the slightly salty flavor reminded him of more youthful days when hormones surged through his veins and he had made use of his subjects' receptacles to satisfy his base urges. But nowadays it was the sublime pleasure of organ extraction he sought, and he had little interest in mere carnal pleasures. He breathed in the lingering scent of perfume blended with the musty smell of damp hair and clothes, squirming with pleasure at the knowledge this would soon be tainted by the stench of urine when her terror overrode bladder control.
Using a shiny scalpel, he sliced one, two, three buttons from her blouse. This was the point where murder and mutilation proved more satisfying than archaeology. Removing layers of soil was boring, and nine times out of ten the grave goods had been robbed in antiquity, but with these African beauties, the stripping process was erotically charged, and their treasure always awaited his pleasure. Sometimes his subjects even lived long enough for him to feel their beating heart in his hand. He shivered in anticipation.
As her blouse parted, the lace of her bra became visible. She had great taste in lingerie. He slowly peeled the damp cloth away to expose her chocolate-colored breasts and the wire that ran down from her neck to her waist, where a box was fastened to the belt holding up her skirt.
He stepped back in surprise. A wire?
The lab doors burst open. Three men rushed inside. Each aimed a pistol at Matthew. “F.B.I.! Drop the knife. Hands in the air.”
Matthew's scalpel tinkled as it hit the ceramic floor tiles. How could this be happening? He'd always been so careful.
A man checked Mary's pulse. “She's alive.” He gently shook her. “Agent Kapina. Agent Kapina. Mary, wake up!”
Her eyelids fluttered open. “D-Donahue?” she said. “Did we get the goods on the scuzball?”
Matthew's heart pounded, and he gaped at the man as he answered, “More than enough to earn him his own tomb on Death Row.”
WORD COUNT: 1999
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