Ellie pulled off the thin latex gloves with a casual elegance born from long practice She rolled them into a neat ball and tossed them into the wire waste basket next to the desk where she
Her steel grey eyes stared at the crushed but recognisable gold and bejewelled automaton, now innocently immobile on the desktop,
while the pencil thin line of her mouth betrayed a gamut of negative emotions.
Over the years she had seen many like it from all over the Americas. Mice, birds, frogs, spiders. All incredibly intricate and undeniably beautiful. This new one from London was a scarab.
But, where all the others had been hundreds of years old, this scarab had been put together only about seventy years ago. And that was the problem.
The longer Ellie stared at the scarab the tighter the knot in her stomach became. Gillie stood watching Ellie's face from the other side of the desk.
People of his short, rotund stature tended to sweat a lot and he could feel the dampness already.
His boss only very rarely got angry but when she did, she could lash out like a petulant teenager. Jobs had been lost in the past; careers ruined.
The prospect of some freezing mud hole on the ongoing Slandic dig loomed up like a spectre. He watched Ellie drag her eyes away from the scarab to look directly up at him. Gillie swallowed.
In one of the ancient religions of Earth, scarabs were placed over the heart of a dead person and were often inscribed with a spell from their Book of the Dead which entreated the heart to,
"do not stand as a witness against me." This idle speculation was dismissed with a blink when Ellie spoke.
"You're absolutely sure Gillie? You're positive? How can you be sure? Maybe we should do the tests again. Perhaps we should go outside the estate, an independent analysis..."
Gillie was shaking his head.
"No, no, no. WE are the experts on this stuff. Our people know what to look for.
They know every little signature and tell-tale which identify the maker as Bee-Bee and they are all over this piece. There's no doubt at all.
" He watched Ellie's face fall, relieved that the light of anger was fading from her eyes. "As for the dating? We've looked at the tech inside.
We've identified components that prove the artefact just cannot have been constructed any earlier than seventy-three years ago.
Ellie knew that Gillie was trying to read her. She breathed deeply in an attempt to relax the muscles that were threatening to betray the first tinges of growing fear.
But the evidence on the desk seemed pretty conclusive and the hard little ball in the pit of her stomach, like a cancer from the distant past, would not go away. She stood up.
"Talk to Marcus, Gillie. Have him organise a fast trip to the London dig. I want a shortlist of useful people, six max. I don't want the media snouts twitching." She headed for the door.
"We'll leave the day after the ceremony. I'm going to talk to... "Ellie clicked her fingers in the air, once, twice. "... What's her name? The student."
"Cybil. Cybil Jonsdottir." Gillie picked up a file and quickstepped after Ellie. She took it without looking and left the room.
Professor Hill's previous search had resulted in her sitting on the dusty floor of the archive in the middle of a circle of neat piles of paper.
The search on Joe Spivey hadn't resulted in a 'neat' anything and some of what she was reading was downright creepy.
What she had found out about him here in the archive was much more than had been gathered by the multitude of outside researchers, even her own university.
Whole careers had been dedicated to trying to unravel Joe Spivey's role in the Grand Mother's life.
Over the centuries some things had been hinted at about his life, there were hypotheses and conspiracy theories aplenty.
But he had remained pretty much an enigma, living somewhere between historical fact and overdramatic legend or even myth.
Hardly anything of what she had read in the last few hours was included in The History.
The diaries (except for the Kjaer diaries which were notable by their annoying absence), the police reports, the ledgers and other references, even casual mentions in other people's histories,
all built up a pretty solid picture of the scruffy little misanthrope.
Mr Spivey was a complicated man. Much more complicated it now seemed, as she sat amongst the evidence than any previous research that had been done on his life suggested.
Like before, there were piles of papers. There were Joe's legitimate business activities. Joe's other business activities. Joe's downright criminal business activities.
Then there were Joe's surprising family activities (the surprise being that he had one).
Joe's seamy social activities (no surprise there) and, although an admittedly small pile, it was evidence none the less... Joe's charitable activities.
The complicating factor here was that everything intertwined. Things that were in one pile could just as easily have been put in almost any other. Business into criminal.
Criminal into charitable. Family into business and round and round it goes.
But in every aspect of Joe Spivey's life, three seemingly unrelated characters recurred time after time.
The unfortunate Baka Neko whose tormented life knew only brief happiness before her cruel murder.
Beatrice Brown, she of uncertain origin and unsavoury character, one time employer of both Miss Neko and Joe Spivey.
Finally, and unbelievably, on a rather disturbing level never hinted at in The History - the Grand Mother herself.
What Bodil had discovered here was explosive.
Evidence that the Grand Mother, when she had been very young, even younger than the young teen she appeared to be at the time, had couriered arms and narcotics for a known criminal.
The fact that Spivey had never been convicted of anything was more due to the corrupt judicial system and Joe's deep pockets than any pretense of innocence on his part.
Joe was a crook and everyone knew it, even in his time.
Fortunately, Hyle Troy, who was a growing influence in the Grand Mother's life, had found out what was going on and quickly put an end to the young girl's budding criminal career.
But without being able to actually remove the evidence from the Troy archive Bodil new that she had nothing.
Just another conspiracy theory, and one which would ruin her reputation if she ever breathed a word about it.
Not that Bodil even wanted to attack the legend of the Grand Mother with something that happened when she was little more than an infant. Her story was just too important to their society.
It was the driving force behind the return of peace and civilisation after decades of endless bloodshed. No wonder the Troys kept all this locked away.
Bodil mulled all this over while she sat in the museum cafeteria having a late lunch. Sadly, Victor had gone, his shift as her 'escort' obviously over.
He had been replaced by a large woman with a severe face and even more severe hair. Her name was Ute and she didn't do small talk... or even smiling apparently.
Bodil imagined Ute would have made a pretty good prison guard. Or perhaps a primary school teacher.
The professor wiped her mouth and sat back, stirring her coffee.
There was something different about Ute too. Bodil was a trained observer. One of the things she had observed was that all the Grey Suits had little golden lapel badges.
Gregor and Victor had a crescent shape. Clive, from the Schloss and Derek from Alicia Troy's luxury home on wheels both had the crescent but with a smaller disc behind it.
Ute's little badge was a stylised bird in flight. The differences made Bodil curious. So, she asked Ute about it.
The lack of expression on Ute's face never flickered. The answer came in a disinterested monotone.
"The bird is a sigil. It identifies which branch of the family I am retained by to other security personnel." Ute saw that the expectant expression on the professor's face demanded more.
She heaved a little sigh. If Victor had told her that his charge expected conversation, she would not have stood in for him. "The bird indicates I work for the Martin-Phonak, Lloyd-Troy family."
Bodil thought for a moment.
"Ohhh, I see! Like the house martin."
"What about the Troys? Like Alicia. The directly descended ones."
"That would be the Sun and Moon sigil for Miss Alicia. A crescent and disc."
"Oh. So that's what that means." Bodil paused. "Then what about the one that's just a crescent? Is that the Moon? Whose is that?"
Ute fidgeted in her seat.
"Professor. You must understand that these little badges have nothing to do with family members.
They are purely an invention of the security personnel so that we can quickly identify each other in an... should the need arise."
"Okay, I understand that. So, whose family does the crescent moon signify?"
Ute folded her arms.
"Perhaps you should ask Victor, Professor."
Bodil's lips pursed. There it was again. She had noticed it first when talking to the conservators in the museum. Even from Ellie at dinner and at other times. Now Ute.
Sliding away from questions that started to touch on... what? What was she missing?