Read Mummy Online

Authors: Caroline B. Cooney

Mummy

Mummy
Caroline B. Cooney

This book is for Harold Hawkins, radiologist and mummy consultant, for Lynne Hawkins, librarian extraordinaire, and for Ann Reit, editor par excellence.

Contents

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

A Biography of Caroline B. Cooney

One

E
MLYN HAD A BAD
streak.

She was well aware of it and kept it contained. Others might yearn to be the hero and save the world or save the baby. Emlyn yearned to be a brilliant thief. Not your bloodthirsty type. Emlyn would never hurt anybody; never use a knife or gun.

But she was continually making mental notes: seeing a place to stash loot, a situation crying out for photographs or blackmail, or trust where there should be locks. She set these notes on the shelf in her mind where she stored her wrong plans. As the years went by, it became an entire library in her head. Wrong things to do, and how to do them.

If other girls were daydreaming about how to obtain a secret from a pharmaceutical research lab, or how to smuggle things on planes or falsify papers, they certainly never said so.

Once Emlyn read a list of favorite fantasies. It was in a slick and glossy woman’s magazine, with pencil-thin models whose makeup and hair had a cruel geometry to make you shiver, or a wild lioness look to make you jealous. Between those covers, at least, fantasies revolved around beauty, sex, fame, power, and money.

Emlyn was more interested in ways to acquire money. Especially ways that might seem illegal to some. She loved the phrase “insider information.” O! to be an insider who knew more and could pull it off.

She had no idea what she’d spend the money on. Who cared? Emlyn did not enjoy shopping and could never think of anything she needed. She just wanted to get away with things.

As time went by, she understood herself better. First, she wanted a great plan: a terrific, twisted scheme. Second, she wanted to make it work. Third, she wanted never to be caught.

Emlyn believed she could have all three of these. The main difficulty, as Emlyn saw it, would be the temptation after the theft to tell other people what you had accomplished. It was clear to Emlyn that your triumphs must be personal. You would do your wrong thing, and do it brilliantly, but then it must be kept inside you forever. You could not share it. With anybody. For any reason.

But of course Emlyn did nothing wrong, at any time or for any reason, because she was a good person, with good parents, attending a good school among mainly good people.

Instead, she did things like study hard and sing in chorus and work on her watercolors and learn Spanish and star in volleyball and get bruised in field hockey and take up crew. Emlyn loved rowing. She loved the river below her and the rhythm around her.

By the time Emlyn turned sixteen, she had done nothing wrong in her life, except an occasional fib. She had stolen nothing except a pencil once or twice, and that was by mistake.

She began to feel that she could outgrow this desire to be deeply, successfully bad.

She was at an age now where boys and girls began to date with some intensity, and she had begun to consider boys with a certain hope and ache. She began to dress for them, posture for them, flirt with them.

But around the edges of her soul, and sometimes taking over her entire soul, so that nothing else mattered—not family, not boys, not clothes, not studies, not rowing—was a deep, thick yearning to do something—anything!—that you were never, never allowed to do. To do something so wrong that your essential self must go into hiding.

When she felt like this, Emlyn rowed.

She had a rowing machine for seasons when she could not go out on the river. She could pull on those pretend oars, pull herself into sweat and out of larceny. She took up running because there were very few days of the year when she could not run. The pounding, the demand, the gasping exhaustion of running took away the darkness inside her.

She took up reading, also, but not romance or suspense. She never bothered with adventure or fantasy. She read books that were supposed to tell you how to lead your life. How to Do such and such or How to Be a Better so-and-so. She read essays by famous Americans from Jefferson to Emerson. She read ancient philosophers. She was the only person she knew, religious or atheist, who had actually read the Bible.

The Bible was unexpected. Its stories made clear that from time immemorial, people not only wanted to do things wrong, they rushed right out and did them, over and over. If she ever zeroed in on her wrong thing, Emlyn would have company.

But fortunately, or unfortunately, Emlyn had lots of family, and she loved them. Her parents were happy with their own lives and work, as were her two brothers. Her uncles and their families lived in the same city, and they often gathered for picnics and dinners and day trips together. Emlyn was labeled as the calm, studious, athletic cousin.

It would destroy her family if they actually became acquainted with Emlyn’s true self.

Philosophers, from Plato to Thoreau to her English teachers, spouted the belief that you should be yourself. “No matter what, be true to yourself!” they cried.

Emlyn’s true self, however, was not a good one.

She had kept her true self a complete secret, but now, in the first half of her senior year of high school, Emlyn was finding it more and more difficult to refrain from Bad.

And so when Jack and Maris and Lovell and Donovan approached her with their scheme, she knew that she had never had an offer so wonderful. So perfect. So true to herself. So necessary and wrong and beautiful.

She would do it no matter what.

There was no question in Emlyn’s mind.

But whether she would do it with Jack and Maris and Lovell and Donovan was another thing entirely.

“It’s an interesting idea,” she said, keeping her voice bored and her face bland, to imply that it was actually a foolish and unworthy idea.

Their faces fell. Emlyn’s first triumph at Bad. She had acted, and they had believed her. Their idea no longer seemed so beautiful.

She now possessed the idea, and it was just as beautiful as they had thought. But she wanted it for herself. Casually, she said, “What made you think of me?”

This was important. Had they somehow seen within her soul? Seen that dark spot? Was she an X ray to them, and over the white bones on her negative was there a spray of badness, as clear as a tumor to a radiologist?

“Well,” said Jack, “you never talk, Emlyn. You just do things, and ace them. You don’t brag, or make excuses, or discuss.”

Jack had grown astoundingly, probably six inches in six months. His flesh had not kept pace, and he was lean and bony and mismatched. Girls loved measuring their height against the thin tower that was Jack.

If he wanted to be hidden or anonymous, his height would work against him. He was impossible to miss.

Jack said, “We figure nobody can keep a secret the way you can, Emlyn.”

Jack’s girlfriend, Maris, leaned forward. She was the lioness type, tawny and gold and powerful. Maris said, “You don’t gossip, Emlyn. I have never heard you say a good word or a bad word about anybody.”

Emlyn in fact loved gossip and stored all of it. But she did not contribute. She had to be careful. How could she be anything else, given her personality?

“Museums cannot be easy to steal from,” said Emlyn. “Surely the city museum has up-to-date security and plenty of guards and alarms.”

As a matter of fact, Emlyn knew that it did not. When others went on field trips to the museum for art class and wandered in boredom, filling in their sheet of questions about Impressionist painters, or when they went for history class and wandered around filling in their sheet about medieval armor, Emlyn filled in her sheet for storage in her mental library of Bad.

How to stay in the museum past closing.

How to fool the guards.

How to outwit the supposedly hidden cameras in the Sculpture Hall.

“So you don’t think we can do it, huh?” said Donovan.

If Emlyn were going to fall for a boy, it might be Donovan. He was the kind of guy who just started and walked till he got there. He had no plan, he was not particularly smart, he created no strategies. He just saw the goal and started moving. Whether it was math or baseball, a science paper or car repair, Donovan had a relentless, sturdy approach.

He was the sort of person you would want with you in war or disaster.

Or crime.

Emlyn beat this thought down. Donovan, she knew, was a good person. In his case, it was not faked. It was one of the things that attracted her. Perhaps if she became close to him she would learn how to be like that, or at least to imitate goodness more easily.

She said, “Donovan, I’m surprised you want to be a party to this.”

He nodded. “Me, too. Actually, I had plenty of other ideas, but Jack and Maris and Lovell didn’t think much of them.”

Emlyn respected the opinions of Jack and Maris. Therefore Donovan’s ideas had been second-rate. But she said courteously, “What were they?”

“Well, last year’s senior class managed to get two llamas up there,” said Donovan, tickled by this memory, “and so I was thinking we could do a cow.”

“Staying with animals,” said Emlyn encouragingly.

“And the year before that, they got the chassis of an old Camaro up there, and I was thinking we could do the vice principal’s Miata.”

“Cars are nice,” agreed Emlyn. She knew where the vice principal kept her purse and car keys, and it would be the work of a minute to obtain these.

“Or,” said Donovan, “I was thinking maybe the principal’s desk. Put it on a hoist, you know, let it swing. Papers flying. Maybe hang the chair, too, and a filing cabinet.”

“That has possibilities,” said Emlyn.

“No, it doesn’t,” said Jack. “Every senior class has done either an animal or a car or something that belongs to the administration. I mean, boring. Our class has to do something really really really special.” He gave a tight, little, excited-with-himself smile and opened a folder. Inside lay drawings and photographs. He removed a postcard and handed it to Emlyn. She could actually see his fingerprints on it. Emlyn held the postcard neatly between her two palms, leaving no prints.

She loved getting away even with that. She loved the image of the FBI finding this, trying to call it evidence, but never able to prove that Emlyn had held it.

Like most of her fantasies, it was ridiculous, and she knew it and laughed at herself—but only half laughed.

The postcard was from the museum gift shop. It was in color. Its background was a dark, gleaming room with stone and pillars. Resting on a granite base about three feet high was a heavy wooden slab about five feet long. A glass case like an aquarium was fastened to the wood.

Inside the case lay a mummy.

Emlyn knew the mummy well. Her parents were Friends of the Museum, and Emlyn had spent many rainy Sunday afternoons putting up with dull exhibits so that eventually she could stand next to the mummy and think about the three thousand years in which that mummy had stared at a ceiling.

The mummy was straight and slim, rounded where her arms were tucked, and running smoothly down to the triangle of her protruding feet. Her wrappings were intricately woven in basket-weave layers, and over the centuries had taken on a stained look, as if people had spilled tea over her. Partly covered by the wrappings was a face mask, painted on papier-mâché made of papyrus.

Beautiful sad dark eyes and the lovely soft mouth of a young girl looked up into eternity. The mummy wore an intricate necklace of blue paint and gold leaf, and the terrifying amulet on her forehead was a glittering, many-legged beetle.

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