Nathaniel Cannon and the Secret of the Dutchman’s Cross No. 23

“Set,” Cannon said, as the others looked on. “He killed Osiris, his brother.” He turned his flashlight on the next statue in line, a crocodile-headed man who also knelt facing the far end of the gallery. “Sobek. God of the Nile and of power in warfare. That’s Khepri across from him—he’s god of the morning.” He led them on toward the end of the gallery, Iseabail keeping pace with him and watching the floor for anything untoward while he had a look at each statue in turn. Some he didn’t recognize, but all of those he did he knew to be gods and goddesses, minor and major alike.

The next few statues his light revealed stopped him cold. Masaracchia bumped into him. “This is wrong,” Cannon pronounced.

“What d’ye mean?” said Iseabail.

Cannon indicated the statues with his flashlight. Both were falcon-headed men; one wore a tall headdress, and the other an upright disc surmounting his head. “These two are Horus, the patron god of the pharaohs, and of a unified Egypt. If anyone, Set ought to be bowing to him. The other one is Ra, the sun god. He’s not a supreme god like Zeus, but look at the symbolism here. Horus, Ra, and Sobek—the most important parts of Egyptian life, the pharaoh, the sun, and the Nile, all beneath…”

His flashlight’s beam revealed a statue standing at the end of the room, an eight-foot man wearing a tall crown comprising a central piece flanked by two long feathers. He held a shepherd’s crook and a flail out before him, and his legs were pressed together and indistinct. Another figure, standing off to the side, caught Cannon’s eye, and he turned the light on it: a jackal-headed man, facing the first statue.

“Osiris and Anubis,” said Cannon. “This isn’t right either.”

Masaracchia raised his eyebrows.

Cannon obliged him. “First: Anubis and Osiris aren’t exactly contemporaries. Their roles overlap. Second: Osiris is god of the underworld and of death, but he’s not such a big shot that the whole pantheon would be bowing to him, and his personality was all wrong for that anyway. He was all about gently guiding the souls of the departed to the afterlife.” He canted his head. “I don’t know if the ancient Egyptians had heresy, but this is one if they did.”

Burr looked up at the statue of Osiris. “So what does it mean, skipper?”

“If it’s some cult or some branch of the Egyptian religion,” said Cannon, “Egyptology has nothing to say about it. We’re in uncharted skies.”

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