They opened the doors to the museum at half past ten, and as Janet had predicted there was no-one outside itching to get in. They didn’t get their first customer of day until a little after one and he left quickly after finding out that they didn’t have rock or precious stone collections. Janet went back to playing Minecraft on her tablet, and Marie sat down in the catalogue room and looked over the entry that she’d made for the statue. It was terse and factual and no help at all when it came to describing what the statue was or what it might be for, so she turned, as she often did for Jimmy’s artefacts, to the internet.
Googling a description of the statue turned up little of use at first; the adjectives she used to describe it seemed to be popular with science-fiction and fantasy authors, and she browsed through a number of third-rate short stories and blogs in the hopes that they might mention where they’d taken inspiration from. When she turned to image search instead she began to have more luck, and was able to refine her search terms down until she managed to find three images of things that looked distinctly like her statue. The first hit was, amazingly enough, another museum website so she opened that in a new browser tab straight away. The second and third hits turned out to be different links to the same picture, which was posted with only a single line of comment on a blog that had been last updated three years ago.
Temple guardian, dated from 989AD was the text below the picture. There was no mouse-over text and clicking on it took the view nowhere. The rest of the blog appeared to have been updated only sporadically and was pictures of various old statues. Marie had the impression that the author of the blog might have been touring Thailand or somewhere close to there, but there was little hard evidence. When she found an email address on the blog at last, she clicked on it and sent a mail.
“I have a statue like the one on your post of the 17th April,” she wrote. “I would be interested in exchanging any details you might have about it.” She hit send without expecting that she’d get a reply.
The other webpage led to a picture of a very similar-looking statue in a glass case and the title of the page and links leading from it described it as an exhibit in the de Havilleau museum in London. As Marie moused over the picture, exploring the links, the icon changed to a magnifying glass, so she clicked to see what would happen. The picture zoomed in, and a thick-bordered box appeared around it indicating that she could pan around the object and see it in more detail. Leaning forward until her nose was nearly touching the screen she scanned the image closely, studying the detail available.
When she sat back up again her back ached and she could feel a dull throbbing in her left temple that felt like the onset of a headache. She rubbed her forehead, and looked at the other links. There was one linking to the museum’s homepage, but below that there was another labelled Related links. With increasing curiosity she clicked on that next.
While the page loaded, the images filling slowly in, she looked out of the door across the exhibit room to the glass case she’d put her – well, Jimmy’s, she supposed – statue in and thought about bringing it in to the catalogue room to compare it with the image on the website. Then she remembered how cold it was, and how awkward to carry, and decided that she’d print out the image instead and compare it next to the case. She sat forward, about to click on the browser’s back button, and then stopped. The second image on the new page, almost loaded now, was of a distinguished-looking man holding the statue that had been on the first page. She scrolled the page down a little and discovered a paragraph of text below the image.
Oscar de Havilleau holding an Ilmatu statue. The statue was found in an archaeological dig to the west of the small town of Rekka in Finland. Previous explorations there had uncovered the remains of houses and a possible tower or keep, but no artefacts. Oscar’s expedition is the only one to date to find any artefacts, and the expedition appears to have been a little controversial. Two members did not return, apparently dying from exposure, but a third member of the expedition claims that they found habitable rooms and an underground complex and that they left their comrades behind in order to escape. Oscar has refused to comment on this, saying only that he does not wish to encourage wild speculations.
Marie read it through twice, thinking about what the text avoided saying. Whoever had written this had clearly wanted the reader to think that there was more to this tale than met the eye. She felt that what was written was probably true though; people did do stupid things in unfamiliar climates and suffered because of it, and Oscar sounded, to her, as though he was trying not to encourage people to think ridiculous things. Two people had died, surely that was bad enough?
She clicked on the back button and then selected the print icon at the top of the browser. With a click and a hum the laser printer under the desk started up, and she moved the mouse to close the browser window. Then, not quite sure why, she tapped the keypress combination to bookmark the page first; closing the window down immediately after.
When the page finished printing out, she picked it up and went out to the display case.
She considered putting up the little steel stands with their linking purple rope around the case to warn people that there was museum activity going on here and they shouldn’t get too close, but then she looked around and saw that the museum was still empty. She smiled to herself wistfully, wishing that they had more visitors, more people to appreciate what they had on display, and then opened the display case and hinged down the from so that she could look more closely at the statue.
Jimmy had had excellent lighting put in in the museum, and there little LED lights could be angled and adjusted so that the display cases were bathed in soft white light, or illuminated more subtly by focusing the lights just off the side, or even away from the object altogether. Each of the lights could be individually turned on and off as well, and occasionally, when Jimmy was trying to attract attention to a find, he’d hire a lighting expert, put out free wine and food, and have an evening party where guests who were expected to promote the museum would be invited to see what was on show. Those parties were always well attended, and attendance numbers of the museum did usually go up for anywhere up to a week afterwards, but it never held. Marie couldn’t understand why, as the museum had quite a good collection of odd and obscure artefacts from the random places that Jimmy went, and some of them had various creepy or horrific tales attached to them.
She adjusted the lights so that they were shining on the statue, and then adjusted them again so that they were slightly offset. The statue was smooth enough to be shiny and reflected directing lighting with an aggressive glare. Then she held the printout up next to her statue.
Superficially she could see that the two were identical, but as she started identifying features in the picture she found that they were either different or absent from her statue. The one in the picture had some kind of intaglio along its arms, but the arms of her statue were smooth. The one in the picture had its arms held outwards and broad, as though trying to hug someone, while hers were long and spindly and seemed to stretch out as though trying to catch someone, or perhaps choke them. Her statue had tapering fingers and toes that were like the roots of plants, while the one in the picture didn’t. She squinted at the picture for a while, trying to decide if perhaps the statue there was damaged, and then remembered that she had a magnifying glass in the catalogue room.
The magnifying glass only really revealed the resolution of the image that she’d printed out, but she convinced herself that the statue in the picture looked slightly damaged, and concluded that she probably had a better specimen. She tried examining the eyes in the picture, but they were sunk deep into shadow and even the magnifying glass did nothing to help.
“Are you having fun?” Janet’s voice had a touch of humour in it, but when Marie turned round there was a quickly-concealed look of concern on her face.
“Oh,” she said. “Well, kind of fun, if you’re a curator.” She smiled, and Janet smiled back. “I’ve found a couple of places that might have a statue like mine,” she said. “Well, one actually, but there’s another picture of one that calls it a Temple Guardian from a thousand years ago, and I’ve emailed them to see if they know anything more.”
“Your statue?” Janet was still smiling though. “Don’t let Jimmy hear you say that, he did all the work of finding it!”
“Oh yes, our statue, of course.” Marie was about to apologise, but then wondered why.
“When will you hear back?”
“Probably never,” said Marie. “Email’s easy to ignore. It’s even easier than a phone-call to ignore, and if it’s just someone’s holiday photo or something, then they’ll probably just think I’m a crank.”
“How about the place that’s got one of their own then?”
“That’s what I’ve been doing down here, comparing theirs with ours.” She waved the printout to show what she meant. “It’s a museum in London, the de Havilleau I think.”
“de Havilleau?” Janet frowned. “That’s odd, I’m sure I’ve seen that name somewhere today.”
“Really?” Marie waited, but Janet shrugged her shoulders with a hint of regret. “Probably just a username in my game,” she said. “That’s what it usually is with anything strange.”
“Are you winning?” Their conversation turned to computer games briefly, and then Janet explained that she’d only come in to let Marie know that she was leaving. Marie checked her watch and saw that it was after six and jumped up.
“Damn, I’m supposed to lock up at six! Jimmy didn’t come back did he?”
“Not that I saw,” said Janet. “It’s ok, I locked the entrance doors at six anyway; you can just tell him that you were busy with the cataloguing if he gets back before you leave.”
“That’s true,” said Marie. “Yeah, it’ll be fine.”
“Well, see you tomorrow then,” said Janet, leaving.