abstract1“…As economists say, ‘the 100 dollar bills have all been picked off the pavement’. So I’m making it my life’s work to put a few back down. Hey, can I use the bathroom?”

Can I use the bathroom? Dana considered again the strange man in front of her. He wasn’t handcuffed, because that wasn’t her style. She felt they added an uncomfortable vibe to interrogations. There were no officers flanking him. Same reason.

Maybe these things and his obvious insanity had led him to misunderstand the situation, and think he was in less trouble than he actually was.

“Permission not granted, Mr Jensen.” She snapped. “We’ve now been talking for twenty minutes, and I still don’t understand why you did it. For what it’s worth, I think you’re fucking with me.”

“But it’s really simple,” he babbled excitedly. “Remember being a child, and seeing all the presents under the tree? Remember the mystery?”

Dana was Jewish, but she would not even give this man the dignity of a monkey wrench in the gears.

“And then you unwrapped them. A plastic wristwatch. A cheap Fisher-Price keyboard. Disappointing. You almost wished you could hit rewind and go back to when they were wrapped under the tree, didn’t you? That’s what I do. Most people solve mysteries. I create them. I leave wrapped presents around the world, for experts to find.”

Creating mysteries was a strange phrase for vandalising ancient works of art.

Yakub Jensen had been taken into custody earlier that morning, after he’d been caught defacing a priceless piece of pottery at Brooklyn Museum.

To the media, it was a storm in a teacup. Dana could attest that any storm seems big when you’re in the middle of it.

The Zuabu Bowl was an ancient piece of clay inscribed with imagery in auspice of an ancient Assyrian king. For historians, it was a seminal example of Levantine pottery. For modern day kings and princes, it was a source of national pride. The Brooklyn Museum had spent several million dollars in its acquisition.

Yakub Jensen had been examining the bowl behind its glass case, and had requested that the museum assistant leave him in private for a moment.

“I’m sorry, but your presence distracts.” His exact words.

The assistant – who was doubtless now spit-polishing his resume and ignoring all voicemail – had obeyed, shutting the door behind him. Yakub had been left alone with the Zuabu Bowl for a full five minutes, until a passing visitor had put his ear to the door and heard the chink-chink-chink of a hammer and chisel.

The vandalism had outraged and appalled the archaeological world, and had nearly sparked an international crisis.

For the past six hours since Jensen had been arrested, Dana had been hit with phone call after phone call.

Three museum curators. The head of the Archaeological Institute of America. The vice president of Syria. She’d even had the crown prince of Saudi Arabia – the fucking crown prince of Saudi Arabia – on the phone, jabbering away in remedial English. She’d instinctively held the phone receiver away from her head while talking to him, as if spittle was travelling through thousands of miles of cable to spray in her face.

They’d all said essentially the same thing. Death is too good for this man.

Yakub Jensen was now the meat in a delicate diplomatic sandwich, with various bodies and agencies trying to determine what to do with him. Dana had been summoned to get answers.

And now things were getting really strange.


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