"Arranged in the shape of a tent reflecting the nomadic conquering lifestyle he led, the crypt of the mausoleum (the only part that has survived) has a single marble grave with its cover left open, waiting for Timur. The walls of the crypt are very simply decorated with a design in the shape of a tear-drop, and an inscription in Arabic reading: 'A wise and powerful man shall seek the advantage in every situation and act on his own, whereas a fool waits upon the action of others'. "
You gingerly make your way down the time-worn stone stairs, the cold stone seeming to suck the body-heat from you. The lights are not functioning, and in the flickering torchlight you see reddish puddles on the steps. Watch where you put your feet…
The cover of crypt at the bottom of the stairs has been pushed onto the floor. There are drifts of reddish dust in the corners of the room, and the dust coats many of the stone surfaces as well. Several shallow red puddles cover the majority of the floor. Glancing around the crypt and trying to take it in in the torchlight, it appears that some of the designs and inscriptions on the walls have been damaged.
Dr. Lowell's fascination with the red puddles evaporates once he gets a glimpse of the damage to the walls. In fact, a distinct choking noise issues from beneath his gas mask as he pushes past the others towards the nearest inscription… or ex-inscription, as the case may be. Though he delicately sidesteps the pools blocking his path. "That stuff can't really be blood, can it?" he asks over his shoulder. "Wouldn't it be black and hardened by now?"
Sharaf follows behind the others with a practised lack of curiosity. He replies to Dr Lowell, in Uzbek
«It was mixed with water from cleaning hoses, before the guards knew that you were coming.»
At that piece of news, Dr. Lowell freezes momentarily, and a hoarse squeak of rage escapes his gas mask. "They hosed it down?" that would certainly explain the puddles…
The tiled walls appear to have been scorched or melted in places. A variety of Arabic verses in an ornate, decorative script once festooned the walls, but in various places words or phrases have been scorched out of existence. As well as the damage, there is graffiti; what looks like mathematical expressions have been scrawled here and there in yellow chalk. Glancing downward, Dr Lowell notices that there are signs of chalking on the floor as well, though they are largely hidden by the puddles and dust.
Dr. Lowell examines the verses, the specific erasures, and the graffiti — hyperventilating gently in his gas mask while noting to himself that they'll need to come back with proper lighting and cameras in order to document the damage for future prosecution.
SA Nordman takes slow, measured steps into the Crypt. He looks first to the cleared path then to the piles of dust, finally he looks at the pools of red. Shining his flashlight in slow sweeps over the floor he traces the patterns of footsteps, the sweep-strokes and then finally, takes in the rest of the area. Taking care to only step on the dry, cleared parts he moves into the Crypt proper and illuminates the walls, spotlighting the burns and chalk. He surveys the area and cautiously waves the others deeper in. "Don't stand in any of that." he says, as Sharaf pauses with one foot over a pile of dust.
After getting a clear sweep of the area he takes a step forwards and crouches beside one of the piles of red-dust and takes out the plastic trowel and gingerly scoops a sample. He slips it into a specimen jar and straightens up, looking around again. He watches the others carefully in case they step onto or too near the piles or the puddles. He takes a step to the nearest puddle, and again, with the delicate care of a still-living veteran of his particular field, takes a sample.
After Nordman has taken a sample of the mysterious dust, a glint of metal from a nearby small pile catches his eye. The faint air currents from your entry seem to have blown the dust away from it.
Grabbing a camera from the car, Mattias Fjäder starts taking pictures, snapping one off every few seconds. To SA Nordman it's obvious that he doesn't know what he is doing, but at least he's occupied and he doesn't seem to be disturbing anything. He pays special attention to the lock. It was pretty clearly burned through from the outside, by something very hot and not very focussed.
"Agent Norman? These metal remains of the lock… This was not cut by a welder, but probably by slapping some thermite on the lock and lighting it up. You should be able to get some samples of this, analyse it and see what general composition the thermite has. You know different manufacturers have different metal-metal oxide recipes? We should be able to at least find out if it's US or Russian thermite!"
Fjäder continues snapping pictures, trying to figure out where the mummies used to be. He mutters to himself: "Is there a sarcophagus or something underneath all this dust? Can't see it…
"Hmmm… red dust and red fluid…" He takes a few closeup pictures of the edge of a puddle. Has any fluid evaporated? (maybe) Is there sedimentary dust by the edge of it? (yes)
Fjäder approaches the marble grave, watching where he steps, and takes pictures. It is empty, save for a slight fur of the red dust.
"Doctor Lowell? What exactly should be in this crypt? Two mummies and nothing else? Any coffins, sarcophagi, decorations, torch-holders or anything like that?"
Dr. Lowell shakes himself. "The mummies would have been inside the large stone sarcophagi you see there in the middle of the room. I believe the chamber would have been completely bare otherwise — certainly any original grave goods had been removed to museums. Offhand I don't know what kinds of lighting, decorations or tourist materials had been installed, though… we'll need to check with the Ministry of Culture on that. If there were any, they must have been removed by the robbers… or pulverized into this dust? Ha!"
He pulls out his small pocket camera and tests the light — no, no good for any quality recording, not without bringing in specialty gear. He'll just have to do this old school. He whips out a small spiral-bound notebook and a pencil and begins rapidly sketching down the grafitti and markings, starting with those on the floor — as they seem the most fragile and easily destroyed.
Sharaf stands back by a wall and seems content to watch the foreigners waste their time. His expression is inscrutable through the mask.
"Be right there, Mr Fjäder, i've got something there, having a closer look. " With that SA Nordman retraces his steps, taking care not to bump into any of the other investigators in the confines of the Crypt, pausing to let them pass back and forth over his path, before branching his route towards the glinting spot. Taking a pocket sized head-lamp, he flicks on the bright LED light and squats beside the spot, at arms length. "Yup, got something here…" Taking a long plastic probe and a forensic photography scale from his pouch, he places the scale by the object gingerly and motions Fjäder to take a picture of it beside the shining object. Following this, he gently probes the sand and dust in the area around the buried object in systematic and methodical movements.
When satisfied that he has encountered no tripwires, SA Nordman gently brushes off the dust around the object with the plastic probe. He recognises it instantly as a military dogtag.
Mattias Fjäder snaps pictures of it, from a few angles. While discoloured, the name is quite recognizable as: Smith C., USAF, and a serial number.
You experience a sudden realisation that you are all standing on, and in, and touching, and (if your gas masks aren't working) breathing in, the powdered remains of Airman Clark Smith.
Steeling himself to the realisation, having prepared himself for the likely eventuality of carnage, SA Nordman swivels around in his crouch, as he deposits the dog-tags into a specimen pouch from the plastic probe he is holding it on and speaks up through the muffling gas-mask “Well, at least we know what happened to Airman Smith ….”
Fjäder trails off for a bit, camera in front of his face but eyes far, far away. "But….. but… how can that be? pulverized? It takes an industrial strength freezedrier with crusher ultrasonics to do something like this to a person… And where are the fillings in the teeth?" He starts brushing the area around the dogtag, looking for fillings. He quicky turns up three small, discoloured bits of metal; two might possibly be corroded fillings, the other appears to be a small coin with a hole through it. A faded piece of twine through the hole decays to fibres and dust as he touches it.
Sharaf looks about sharply, taking in the dust around the tomb, his expression is still hidden by the mask but he appears to have been shaken back into the present.
Dr. Lowell, squatting behind the sarcophagus to transcribe some graffiti, is slow to respond. "What? You think this powder is the missing airman? Seems a little farfetched." He dips a finger into a drift of dust and makes as if to taste it — but catches himself in time, and instead stands up and points at the walls. "Freezedrying… or high heat? Could it also have been created by the thermite? Most of the damage to the original inscriptions seems to be from burning, and I'm also seeing some references to fire in the chalk graffiti. Look over there, for example: 'infinity of flowering flames'." He disappears back down behind the sarcophagus to finish his notes on that group of markings. "What a mess — firebugs, vandals, graffiti, blood and maybe pulverized Yankee everywhere, and firehoses. Whoever did this deserves a major asskicking… I'm thinking what we have here are some occultists. The chalkmarks around here, and the placement, it looks like some kind of ritual summoning or invocation… well, maybe."
Fjäder, still looking at the small pile of metal at his feet: “No, can’t be a freezedrier, the metal parts would all be pristine, and they are severely discoloured. And mercury amalgam used in fillings would melt at the temperatures required to burn the body, don’t quite remember what temperature, but it’s really rather low. Plus the wire through this coin here would have burned, and it didn’t, though it turned to dust when I touched it.”
Some excellent deductive work there earns Mattias a points refresh of the pool of his choice
He stands up, coin in his left hand and tries to blow some dust off it before realizing he’s wearing a gasmask. He takes a good look at it. “funny….” The coin is fairly thick and appears to be made of tarnished silver. Its irregular shape suggests it is an antique from before the creation of modern currency. There is some kind of image and inscription, possibly Arabic, but the tarnish, gas mask lenses and poor light level make it impossible to make out any details.
Lowell pops back up from behind the sarcophagus and looks inside. (Why didn't I think to look there sooner? he wonders.) It is empty, save for a slight fur of the red dust.
You have now found all the core clues I have prepared for this scene. If anyone wants to apply any more of their investigative abilities in novel ways, I may come up with more, or fresh ways of interpreting the existing clues, since I can't anticipate all your clever little minds :-) . Otherwise you may want to start considering and discussing your next course of action.
SA Nordman looks from masked-face to masked-face and then down to their gloved hands. Clearly checking for something. He then shrugs and looks at the ground he had covered. “We might as well make our egress now, gentlemen, I don’t think we’re gunna find anything else out in here right now” He pauses, looks around the area once more and adds “don’t stand in the puddles, avoid the dust. We’ll send in a Material Containment Team in to remove all the … uhhh … residue … Lets get back into the light, and assess our findings … “
Fjäder bags his fillings and the coin in ziplocks and, while taking a snapshot or two, heads up the stairs, squinting at the light. When he emerges, he takes of his gas mask, absent-mindedly wipes his sweaty forehead before noticing his dusty gloves, removes them, gets a wet wipe and dries his face and hands. "Time to go see the bodies, I guess."
Dr. Lowell agrees and trails out after the others — lingering to take the best photo he can (given lighting conditions and his amateur camera) of a longer graffito. Maybe down the line they can match the handwriting, he thinks to himself. Weirder things have happened…