The Exhibit Opening honoring Sir Francis Burnham continues at London’s Museum of Natural History. The crowd mills around the room’s great Diplodocus skeleton, viewing and discussing the treasures and oddities of Burnham’s explorations of such exotic lands as Africa, New Guinea, and India. The Hawthorne group has split up to mingle, with varying degrees of success.
Joel Gumphrey stalks the outer perimeter of the room with a bottle, moodily avoiding contact with the upper crust patrons and supporters. Nevertheless, his attitude does seem to lighten as his bottle gets more empty.
Seamus Gore continues his flirtation with the Contessa de Mirenburg, who seems impressed that he is a detective, and invites him to a Social Club in St. James that seems to involve numerous women who would “love to meet him.” He makes sure to get the address.
As Pierre St. Victis studies the displays, he notices that one of the masked Tcho-Tcho savages, depicted in the African exhibit, is eerily realistic. As long as he looks at it, though, it remains motionless, and he’s unwilling to cause a scene by going beyond the ropes to make a closer inspection.
There is a stage up towards the front of the hall, at the bottom of the main staircase, upon which are the treasures of Burnham’s latest Egyptian excursion, mysteriously covered up with cloth. Dr. Utricularious Zoldyck is observing them when he is approached by a very masculine looking woman who speaks in a heavy German accent. “Oh, your mechanical eye, how fascinating! Did you do the modifications yourself?”
“Um…Yes,” Utric replies, caught a bit off-guard.
“Yes, fascinating. Look at this, Professor! Oh, what I could do with this! Do you have any… other modifications?” she asks suggestively, as a hawkish-looking man makes his way over.
“For goodness sake, Darling,” the Professor croaks, “Leave the poor man alone! I tell you, you can’t take a surgeon anywhere without her wanting to dissect someone! I’m Professor Burrows, I teach Archeology and Languages at London University, and this is the brilliant, if rude, surgeon, Dr. Rachel Darling.”
Utric shakes the hands of this odd couple, not sure what to say, but they talk so much, he doesn’t have to. Professor Burrows says they have a Lab in the St. Giles Rookery, where they perform certain procedures of a… delicate nature, just in case the Hawthorne group is ever in need of such talents.
Meanwhile, Conrad is about to introduce Sir Burnham to Captain John Feeney, when a weaselly, mustached man shoulders his way into the group. “Hello, there, Corman Scott,” he says snidely, with a thick French accent.
“Inspector LeStrade,” Corman replies distastefully. “I didn’t think you went in for these sort of… intellectual pursuits.”
“I respect Sir Burnham for his bravery. Not, however, for his ideas or the company he keeps. I’m here simply because I like to keep an eye on you and your circle of friends. You always seem to be up to something. And these are your new recruits, I imagine? I suppose they may as well know now, I consider your whole group to be nothing but a confederacy of charlatans, tricking these people out of their money with your stories of Ghosts and Devils.”
“Your opinion has been noted and will be given the consideration it deserves, Inspector.”
“Yes. Well.” He clears his throat, unsure whether he’s just been insulted or not. He assumes he has. “I’m sure I will be seeing you all again sooner than I’d like.” The Inspector blends back into the crowd.
“And now,” Corman says to Capt. Feeney and Dr. Zoldyck, who came over to escape the attentions of the unsettling Rachel Darling, “I present to you all, Sir Francis Burnham.”
“Hello, hello,” Sir Burnham nods and shakes hands, though the weakness of his grasp betrays exhaustion or perhaps sickness. “I’m always pleased to meet Scott’s new recruits, though I’m hesitatant to congratulate you. If I’m not mistaken, I was the sole survivor of the Hawthorne Club in my particular class.” He laughs as heartily as he can muster. Corman is less amused.
“Now, Francis, you know that’s not true. And rather indiscreet.”
“Oh, Corman, settle down. You can put the professional paranoia aside for one night, can’t you? For an old friend?”
“Not when the old friend insists on being so damned public.”
While their small talk continues, Capt. Feeney notices a layer of tough scar tissue around the base of Sir Francis’ neck on the back, and even more around his tired eyes, which had a certain animal quality to them. Scott is asking Burnham about “progress in Egypt.” Sir Francis sighs.
“Well, we’re getting quite close, I believe. Davis from America has been a big help. Still, there’s been a lot of eyes on us lately. Everyone all looking for the same thing. It can get dangerous.”
“Let us know if you need any assistance. The new team is willing, and could use the practice.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. But, I suppose I should sing for my supper before people start wandering off…”
As Sir Francis walks away, Capt. Feeney notices the bulges in his coat of heavy personal weaponry. Burnham climbs up on the platform and tears the sheets off of his Egyptian discoveries. There is a murmur of impressed responses as the crowd pushes forwards to see better the treasures: In the middle sits the small sarcophagus of what was probably a child, covered in gold and cryptic hieroglyphs etched into the stone lid. On both sides of the sarcophagus crouch “guardians,” tall figures- petrified corpses or statues, no one is sure- that are bent protectively over the coffin.
Sir Burnham starts his speech awkwardly, still seeming ill, and noticeably sweating in the hall’s electric lighting. He briefly describes his efforts in Egypt, trying to locate the hidden Tomb of Setmosis of the 7th Dynasty, a period of turmoil and vague historical record for the desert empire. “This sarcophagus here is as close as we’ve come so far. We believe it is the body of
Setmosis’ son, who died very young. We found this in a small buried tomb, well-hidden, and the sarcophagus is of course covered with the obligatory curses on those who disturb the body’s resting place. We’ve not yet realized the secret of how to open it, but I’m sure that will change.”
Burnham pauses here to wipe his brow and take a deep, steadying breath. He seems to be growing weaker. He goes on to thank the supporters of his expeditions present, and makes his case that it is important to know as much as possible about these strange cultures in order to better defend the expansion of the Great British Empire. Here, Burnham pauses again, sways slightly, and stares with growing horror up towards the back ceiling of the hall.
The perceptive members of the Hawthorne Club hear at that time the furtive whispering of one man from somewhere in the hall. Detective Seamus Gore, who was born with a sort of “danger-sense,” feels the sudden surety that something catastrophic is about to happen. He rushes to the back of the hall, where there are a couple guards, and quickly tries to explain to them that there is the strong possibility of impending violence. As they look at him in confusion, the sarcophagus on the stage starts to shake violently. A wave of dark energy passes through the room. The electric lights that hang from the ceiling explode in a shower of sparks. Sir Burnham is apparently frozen, staring ahead. He mouths the words, “Oh, god,” as the statuesque Guardians behind him rise slowly from their crouches, exposing the long curved scimitars they had hidden against their bodies. As the paralyzed room watches in terror, one of the Guardians raises his sword over his head, and brings it down swiftly, severing Burnham’s head clean off of his shoulders. The head flies forward, spewing streams of blood from the neck, to land at the feet of the horrified audience. At the same time, the sarcophagus shakes its lid partly off, and out swarms a mass of scorpions that flood across the stage towards the crowd.