The trouble seemed to begin with the jackals, whose incessant noncturnal wailing left me both sleepless and furious. Desperate for peace, I thought the sound of my pistol would scatter them, and made ready to put my plan into action; but then there came a crash in the direction of the antiquities tent, and I (foolishly, in retrospect) hurried over to investigate.
Irene and McCormick must also have heard the disturbance, for they rushed to the scene as well. We discovered that Mohan, the guard posted outside the tent, was as stiff and unresponsive as a statue, and he remained in this peculiar state throughout the evening. (I will have to get his doctor's thoughts on this once I am well enough to leave my bed, as every movement is agonizing.)
In the chaos that ensued, McCormick shot and killed an intruder. To ascertain that the coast was clear, one of his soldiers went into the tent,
were whereupon he was attacked by a second thief who lay waiting in the shadows. Unaware of his presence, I ran over to pull the man to safety, only to be attacked in turn. The thug got past me and menaced Irene, who stood between him and his freedom; so, with little recourse available to me, I struck him on the back of the head with the blunt end of a rifle.
Though I had not intended to injure him severely, I suppose in the excitement of the moment I swung too hard; indeed, I think I might have actually caved in his skull - I swear the weapon got stuck! - yet even this was not enough to subdue him, as he whirled around and slashed me with his knife. Thankfully, Irene was not hurt, and was able to trip him; he fell face-first to the ground and was knocked out cold. (A brave lass, that one.)
Mukherjee, one of McCormick's men, was kind enough to tell me what happened after I lost consciousness in the medical tent. It seems my attacker (to whom I shall henceforth refer as Mumbles), in addition to suffering a severe brain injury, nearly severed his tongue and lost a number of teeth when he fell. I doubt he will be in any shape to tell us much of anything, should he awaken, which is unfortunate but admittedly gratifying.
Per Mukherjee, the thief that McCormick killed had an advanced case of syphilis, resulting in a rather grotesque deformity to his manhood. I am also told that his skin was tattooed with many strange yantras, which may or may not be of any significance. If they have not already disposed of the body, I would like to take a look for myself and perhaps copy them into my notes.
Many mysteries remain: Who were these burglars, and from where did they come? What was it they sought with such murderous intensity? To my knowledge, we had not yet discovered anything of any substantial value; so I wonder, what else might have motivated their thievery, if not monetary gain? Might the artifacts be of some particular spiritual import for some sect or clan? If this is the case, should we expect more intruders?
Alas, these questions will have to wait; for now, my dressing needs changing and I desire morphine, so good Kiran has gone to fetch the doctor.
DO NOT FORGET
1. Speak with Mohan for his recollection of last night.
2. Ask Mohan's physician as to what might have induced total but temporary paralysis (i.e., local toxins, hypnosis, etc.).
3. Check with the doctors as to the severity of Mumbles' wounds and his prognosis. (Also, how was he able to function with the butt of a rifle embedded in his cranium?)
4. Examine the tattooed thief's corpse.