Simms had only left the living room for a few short minutes. He had foolishly supposed that the large package from the British Museum sitting in the centre of it would be left unmolested until he returned but, midway through boiling the kettle, he was disabused of that notion by a loud and instantly recognisable yell from the other room.
“Miss Jones,” he said, screwing up his courage to re-enter and discover what she’d done now, only to find her standing near the box, it having been opened to reveal an Egyptian cat-mummy, the sides of the crate lying about it, surrounded by straw and newspaper.
Georgie was circling it, screwing up her face in distaste. “Mr Adamant isn’t going use this as an ornament, is he?”
“Of course not,” said Simms. “They went out centuries before William Morris came in. And that package was labelled danger, fragile, and do not touch! Can’t you read?”
She turned and pulled what she presumably hoped was a disarming smile. “It just fell apart in my hands. I mean, honestly – I went across to look and then as soon as I touched it –”
“That was probably why it said do not touch.”
Georgie sighed. “Oh, well. What is it? Is it part of a case?”
“Yes,” said Simms, eyeing the packaging. “It’s apparently cursed.”
She frowned. “Then why would anyone send it to Mr Adamant – unless they didn’t like him very much?”
“The British Museum suspect the stories of its being cursed are some kind of scam run by criminals who wish to steal it and some other articles, so Mr Adamant has volunteered to take care of it and stop the thieves. But nobody’s tried anything so far, so perhaps it is a real curse.”
Georgie fell back into the sofa and laughed.
Simms coughed, and managed a limerick of sorts:
“There was a young lady from London
Who’d never leave parcels undone
She unpacked a cat,
And that, for the young lady, was that!”
“Hey,” said Georgie in vague protest, before stopping sharply midway through straightening herself up on the sofa. “Simms. Um, since when did Adam get a cat?”
Georgie nodded to the seat beside her where a black cat was sitting, gazing solemnly back at her.
“He hasn’t,” said Simms. “It must have got in here when I wasn’t looking – probably related to you!”
Georgie stuck her tongue out. “Yes, but one minute it wasn’t there – the next it was.”
“As I said, the animal must be a close cousin of yours, Miss Jones.”
The cat straightened up and hissed.
“It’s not some stray,” said Georgie, leaning towards it. “It’s got the snazziest collar I’ve ever seen.”
Simms came closer. He raised his eyebrows. “Snazzy is not the word, Miss Jones. That looks like solid gold.”
“You’re having me on!”
“You know,” added Simms, “I believe the curse involved the spirit of the cat god returning to plague whoever disturbed its immortal rest. It promised to bring bad luck and probably boils.”
Georgie looked at the cat and scratched it under the chin, causing it to purr loudly. “Awww. Ghost-kitty! You wouldn’t give me boils, would you? You could give Simms boils, though – trying to scare me like that! Attack, tiger!”
The cat leapt for Simms, teeth showing and claws out. Simms yelped and ducked even as Mr Adamant came in the other door.
“What in the world is going on?” He surveyed the scene as he removed his cloak. “Oh, I see Miss Jones has come to call – again. No doubt that explains everything. Simms, what are you doing with that cat?”
Simms retreated back into the kitchen before it tore his trousers to shreds. “Ask Miss Jones!”