Friday, January 3, 2014

Death in the House of Life - Roland Yeomans

Do Not Call Sekhmet, She will call you. . .

I stared at the photograph of her taken in the museum in Paris. Did that statue move? I had been reading Death in the House of Life, a story set in 1880s Egypt. What spirits would this tale of Roland’s awaken?

Sekhmet at Louvre in Paris, by DG Hudson

I put the photo on the table, face down. I remembered the first time I saw her statue. It was a day that seemed strange from the time that morning when I sketched the lioness profile across the street, until I saw Sekhmet in the Louvre Museum, with the same leonine profile.

She, carved of cool dark porphyry, stared ahead, forever gazing in the distance. I’m sure I saw her move. . .I had no idea who ‘She’ was, but her profile looked neither threatening nor compassionate, simply regal. No other visitors or museum employees were nearby. I wondered how long She had rested beneath the sand before being brought to light again . . .


Death in the House of Life


D.G. Hudson pried open her heavy lids. What? She was in a hospital room.

The ghost of Mark Twain took her hand gently with chill fingers. “My dear, I am so sorry about what happened.”
D. G. asked, “What did happen?”
Mark turned and swatted the ghost of Oscar Wilde. “You great crane! See? She doesn’t remember what happened. I didn’t have to apologize after all!”
He turned to D. G. “You can’t remember a thing? Ah, it was all Oscar’s fault!”
Oscar fumed, “Clemens, you are comic without being amusing.”
D.G. stiffened. “Wait. I do remember now ….”
She had left Meilori’s after talking to Roland, and the ghost of Mark Twain had shown her to the side door. “Quicker,” he said.
Suddenly, she found herself in a grand hotel’s restaurant. And she was dressed all wrong. It was the Victorian Age, and she was wearing her black pant suit
Mark winked at her. “Look on the bright side, D.G. You’ve got sunglasses on. Ain’t anyone gonna recognize you.”
Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace, lovely in a scarlet Charles Worth dress, walked briskly up to D.G. and swatted Mark. “You, scoundrel! This poor woman is from the future! No one would recognize her if she were naked!”
D.G. cleared her throat. “I would rather stay clothed, thank you very much! Ah, what year is this, and where are we?”
Ada gently led D.G. to her table amid whispers and darting eyes. “We are in Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo in the year 1895.”
Mark Twain smiled, “You asked Roland about his femme fatales. Well, here in Cairo, you’ve got the paragon of Dragon Ladies, Empress Meilori Shinseen.”
D.G. stared all around. “This restaurant is filled with so many different sorts of people.”
Ada took a sip of her whiskey and soda.“Long before London’s Savoy or the Paris Ritz, Shepheard’s of Cairo was the epitome of glamour. It was a hotel from which explorers set off for Africa, where kings entertained mistresses, where socialites rubbed shoulders with officers on leave from the desert war, their uniforms still dusty with the sands of the Sudan—and spies hovered to spot minds softened by cognac and the congenial atmosphere.”
Ada’s eyes sparkled with delight. “Here gather daily some two to three hundred persons of all ranks, nationalities and pursuits – some legal, mostly illegal. Here are invalids in search of health; artists in search of subjects; sportsmen keen upon crocodiles; statesmen out for a holiday; special correspondents alert for gossip; collectors on the scent of papyri and mummies; men of science with only scientific ends in view; and the usual surplus of idlers who travel for the mere love of travel, or the satisfaction of a purposeless curiosity.”
Mark said, “I brought you here also to speak of my secret autobiography.”
Ada muttered, “Of course it would eventually come down to you, your favorite subject.”
D.G. said, “All right, Mark, answer this: that time at the start of DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE when you were 12 and you asked McCord a question about your father, is there more to this scene than meets the eye? Was McCord remembering himself as a child? Or is this one of those moments of ‘instant recognition’ that can occur when two strangers meet?”
Mark smiled crooked, “Both, little lady. When Captain Sam was but 3 years older than my 12, he had to shoot his own father from afar to keep the man from being tortured to death by Comanches. Such a thing marks a person deeply. So he just naturally took to me as I was about to lose my own Papa.”
He rubbed at his face. “Guess over the years I began to look on Captain Sam as the father I always wanted but never had – which is why I called him ‘Pa’ when I stepped in between him and that terrible creature at the end of our adventure.”
D.G. asked softly, “Can you describe what the Hunger felt like in ‘DreamTime’?”
Mark shivered. “Little Miss, I cannot rightly convey the horror, the yawning void of the Hunger’s evil. Yet the words to describe the feeling, to paint the abysmal totality of its dread, to lay before you its unnamable madness burn in me. And they keep multiplying; but now they can't ever be said. And besides, they would require a library--and a pen warmed up in hell.”
D.G. gently patted his hand to take his mind off his boyhood trauma and asked, “Was there a particular interest in Egyptian history that inspired you to delve into the mysteries of Egypt?”
Mark drew in a ragged breath and sighed, “Ah, the mystery of Egypt has always held a magic fascination for me which even this dullard of a hotel cannot diminish.”
Ada frowned, “Shepheard’s is a fine hotel.”
Mark scowled, “Madame, it used to be a good hotel, but that proves nothing. I used to be a good boy. Both of us have lost character of late years. Shepheard’s is not a good hotel. It lacks a very great deal of being a good hotel. Perdition is full of better hotels than Shepheard’s.”
D.G., to defuse the coming argument, turned to Mark. “What is this of the ultimate femme fatale? Are you talking of Lady Meilori Shinseen, and does your secret adventure show a more ‘human’ side to her?”
Mark nodded sadly, “If you had cast the darkness from within you, would you ever embrace it again to help those you loved?”
D.G. was silent for a long moment. “For those I loved? Yes.”
Mark sighed, “Empress Meilori feels the same. Why H Rider Haggard wrote of such a scene in his THE WORLD’S DESIRE, he has Queen Meriamun of Egypt do such a thing as well.
“Now face looked on face, and eyes glared on eyes. All about her form and in and out of her dark hair twined the flaming snake.
At length the Evil spoke- spoke with a human voice, with the voice of Meriamun, but in the dead speech of a dead people!
“Tell me my name,” it said.
“Sin is thy name,” answered Meriamun.
“Tell me whence I came.” it said again.
“From the evil within me.” answered Meriamun.
“Tell me where I go.”
“Where I go there thou goest, for I have war and thee in my breast and thou art twined about my heart.”
D.G. cleared her throat. “My word! And this Meilori is going to do something similar?”
Mark nodded. “Yes. And that is why I brought you here to stop her.”
“What?” sputtered D.G.
“Really?” murmured a voice of steel in velvet behind D. G. “This frail human is going to stop me from protecting my People?”
D.G. turned to Meilori, catching a glimpse of cold jade eyes born of secret sins, before Mark leapt from the table and tried to shield her from what he feared Meilori had planned for her.

Sadly, in true Twain tradition, he only managed to knock poor D.G. from her seat. She gasped at the pain of a wrenched back.
“Oscar,” murmured the steel velvet voice. “Please take Ms. Hudson back to her time … and a hospital. I will visit her later.”
Mark squawked as the sound of his body being lifted came to D.G. and Meilori said low, “Sammy, we are going to have a talk.”
Oscar whispered in DG's ear: “I wish her luck. Talking to Clemens is like talking to a brick wall, But I, myself, like talking to a brick wall— it is the only thing in the world that never contradicts me!”
“But Mark meant well.”
“Posh, my dear, so do those horrid terrorists in your time. But never mind what I say. I am always saying what I shouldn’t say. In fact, I usually say what I really think. A great mistake nowadays. It makes one so liable to be misunderstood.”
And with that memory, D.G. was back in the present, awaiting Meilori’s visit. But that is a tale for another time.


Samuel McCord is a man cursed with death in his veins, with an outdated code of honor, and with a mysterious wife who is older than the Sphinx. In fact the Sphinx was modeled after her.

Follow Samuel McCord to the living nightmare world of a 12 year old Sammy Clemens in Missouri, to a nocturnal campfire visit from Pele beside a 31 year old Mark Twain in the Sandwich Islands, and to a cursed archaeological dig in 1895 Egypt with Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Nikola Tesla, and his alien wife, Empress Meilori Shinseen.

Ancient Egypt murmurs mystery. And well it should. Excavating ruins tempts so many. So many die from venturing where mystery kills.

Samuel McCord has seen untold horrors. The worst is yet to be unveiled: the monster within the woman he loves with all his heart.

The End is coming. The portents murmur in the stars. Death is on the breeze, and madness dances in the darkness. Awakened Evil slithers from its opened crypt.

Can one cursed Texas Ranger manage to save the world AND his marriage?
The answers are in the next SAMUEL McCORD adventure:

Do you have an interest in Egyptian artifacts, or statues? Have you read any of Roland's novels? Ever heard of Sekhmet, the Egyptian Goddess?

Please let me know in the comments that you were here. Thanks for stopping by!

If you like Egyptian intrigue with a literary flavor (Wilde-Twain) be sure to get your copy. Check at Roland's blog 
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References: Writing in the Crosshairs, Roland Yeomans.