Rain had been raining all day and now the streets were wet. Huge dark clouds perturbed the sky as lightening discharged strands of foreboding static into the September air. The vigorous wind beat against the tall windows like a 14th century rug being flung against a dark metallic fence.
‘THAT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!’ he shouted loudly as his reverberating echo resounded.
She placed an elegant finger delicately against his slim, handsome lips and shushed him quietly.
Everybody else in the African antiquities section of the British Museum rearranged their necks in their direction and tutted with their lips, as somebody in the distance replied and shouted: ‘SO DO YOU DR. JONES!’
‘Sorry,’ he said apologetically, ‘I always wanted to say that.’
‘Are you taking this seriously or not?’ said Aimee, the daughter of his old mentor, the brilliant Belgian academic, Jacques Renard, who had been horribly murdered to death recently in mysterious circumstances last week. She was beautiful and he couldn’t help looking at her precarious beauty that made her eyes look like crystal goblets filled with roses.
‘Yes I am,’ said the forty-five-year-old Richard Lancock, esteemed Professor of African antiquities at Middlesex University, parting his grey hair diligently with his distinguished fingers.
They peered down enquiringly at the wooden mask behind the glass box that separated them. Its keen, hollow eyes stared back savagely through the glass.
‘So you’re saying this isn’t the last Mask of Cherubs and Demons?’ enquired Aimee expectantly.
‘No. I thought it was but I was wrong,’ said Lancock. ‘Here take a look at this.’ He reached into his suede jacket and expertly gave her a piece of paper. She took it and opened it skilfully, her long red nails scraping wistfully against the paper like a beautiful hawk gently unwrapping a rabbit.
‘What does it say?’ her pleasing voice asked.
‘It says: “This is a Clue”.’
‘Not that bit. The part underneath. It looks either Spanish or Portuguese.’
‘Yes, it’s Portuguese,’ said the distinguished Lancock, if he knew anything at all, he knew the difference between Spanish and Portuguese, ‘definitely Portuguese.’
‘Well then,’ continued Aimee desirously, ‘What does it say?’ She had lost her Belgian accent when she moved to England as a small child of six with her loving, brilliant academic father Jacques Renard.
‘It says: “He who looks through these eyes will glimpse Heaven (or Hell, depending on your outlook and if it’s Hell you’d better change your outlook).”’
‘Are you sure?’ she asked enquiringly. Aimee missed her estranged, loving father and her ears showed it.
Lancock gripped his Space Grey iPhone 6S, that had recently been acquired on a two-year contract, with expert fingers. Its 4.7” Ion-X screen reflecting Aimee’s eyes as her gaze looked on with bated breath. ‘Yes. That’s what Google Translator says.’
‘So where do we find this lost Mask of Cherubs and Demons?’ queried Aimee peculiarly.
‘I have a long-lost, ancient book of clues in my office. But we’d better hurry,’ he glanced methodically at his Donald Duck watch, ‘the Northern Line can be a nightmare on a Friday.’ They left the museum through the exit.
Lancock admirably opened the door to his office. It was a square room with a window that overlooked the street. The streets were wet with rain that fell like disconsolate tears from a watering can.
‘Where did you find this book?’ asked Aimee, looking at the book.
‘It was given to me by a mysterious man who wouldn’t give me his name. But in here are clues that will lead us to the Lost Mask of Cherubs and Demons.’
‘So what does the first clue say,’ asked Aimee. She paced the room as her soft brown shoes squeaked like a troubled mouse.
Lancock flattened the ancient parchment with his suave fingers and held the strange writing to Aimee’s beautiful, anticipative face.
‘But what does it mean?’ asked Aimee as she bent her legs and arched her body into a sitting position and sat down on Lancock’s faux leather chair.
‘I don’t know, I don’t recognise the language, Google Translator’s drawing a blank and Siri’s even more cryptic than the clue.’
Lancock’s tired mind wanted to sleep but he had to find the Lost Mask before it fell into the wrong hands. If it fell into the hands of the ancient Prophesised Insidious League of Evil Shadows (or PILES for short) it could spell the apocalyptic end of the world for everybody. He tried to think but his mind was like a congested nose and he had nothing to blow it with. He looked again at the beautiful Aimee, admiring her beauty as she powdered her cultivated nose.
‘This is no use!’ she said, throwing the powder case down on the desk with frustrated annoyance.
‘Wait a minute!’ cried Lancock, he scrutinised the mirrored reflection in the case of Aimee’s L’Oreal Golden Ivory True Match Powder, ‘It says “Go to Lisbon” The clue is a mirror image!’
‘Yes it’s the capital and largest city of Portugal with a population of around 550,000.’
‘Yes. But how will Lisbon help us find the Lost Mask of Cherubs and Demons?’ she contemplated him, ardently awaiting his rejoinder.
The esteemed Professor Lancock looked out of the window, the branches of the tree swayed like ancient skeletal fingers precisely peeling an orange. This realisation was like a decongestant to his mind’s nose and he could feel his brain’s nostrils filling with air again.
‘Branston!’ he said.
‘Branston?’ said Aimee, who had now rearranged her legs into a standing position and stood up. ‘What’s this got to do with pickle?’
‘Not Branston Pickle! Branston Cofeybeen! He’s the curator at the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon. He’s a very dependable close associate and a trusted friend. I’m sure he won’t let us down or double-cross us. He’ll know how to find the lost Mask of Cherubs and Demons. Come on! Let’s go!’
Lancock grabbed his keys efficiently.