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The Fall of Augustus
Sarah Wissemen
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When Victor Fitzgerald is killed by a falling statue, Lisa Donahue becomes Interim Director of her Boston University museum..

Suddenly she’s juggling murder, artifact theft, and a complicated move into a new building. Then the treacherous Dean announces her replacement: a vicious woman from Lisa’s past…

Monday, January 13

The Emperor Augustus hovered over the elevator shaft. Light danced on his snow-white limbs and gaudy parade armor, and he hardly noticed the bonds that held him standing erect in an unusually shaped chariot.

“Ready?” I called to Dylan Luneau, who was poised at the top of the elevator shaft on the fourth floor.

“Almost!” said Dylan.

I heard a metallic clank as he adjusted the cables. Despite the frigid temperatures outside, I was sweating. And it wasn’t because I’d just raced down the stairs from the fourth to the first floor of our ancient classroom building at Boston University.

Ellen Perkins—our conservator and my best buddy—stood next to me at the bottom of the shaft. Ellen’s job was to make sure the elevator doors didn’t close at the wrong time. She pushed one hand through her short blonde hair and held the other hand over the “open door” button. We both looked up apprehensively.

The enormous bulk of our biggest, heaviest plaster cast lurked overhead, invisible to us since the bottom of the open-sided platform filled our sky. Dylan, our museum’s preparator and Ellen’s current boyfriend, was in charge of moving the statue. I had to admit, he was pretty good with purely mechanical stuff. He’d successfully moved the Apollo Belvedere, festooned with deposits of pigeon shit (a result of being housed in a fourth floor attic museum with broken windows); that one had been easy because the Apollo could be broken down into sections. Moving the Primaporta Augustus, with its fancy drapery and outstretched arm—was much more dangerous.

“Who thought of this harebrained scheme, anyway?” I asked Ellen, just to make conversation.

“Lisa Donahue, how could you forget? It was Victor. He wouldn’t agree to my suggestion of lifting the statues out with a crane through a hole in the roof. Too expensive.” Ellen made a face.

Oh, yes. Victor Fitzgerald, our penny-pinching director, had finally agreed to remove the walls of the elevator car—a model almost as old as some of our artifacts—after careful measurements had convinced him that our biggest statues couldn’t fit in the shaft any other way. Taking them down four flights of stairs in Wigglesworth Hall was out of the question; it would require a small army of expensive musclemen from Operations and Maintenance. Our puny university museum budget didn’t allow for that kind of expenditure.

George Skirvin’s whiny voice sounded from the top of the shaft. “Hey, Dylan, shouldn’t there be a little more padding around the base of the statue?” George, a pudgy, sullen undergraduate student, acted as Dylan’s assistant.

“Nah, it’s okay, I’ve got it under control.”

Of course Dylan would say that. He had an inflated sense of his abilities sometimes.

“You run down to the third floor so you can monitor the statue as we lower it,” Dylan yelled to George.

This was our safeguard—to lower each statue floor-by-floor, checking its position at every level (except the second floor, which had no access to the elevator). The statue itself was balanced on a platform—the floor of the original elevator car—between Ethafoam bumpers to shield the plaster during its journey.

“Ready at the top!” called Dylan.

I pictured him in the fourth floor hallway, with other statue casts—the Laocoon, the Venus di Milo, and the Pieta—lurking in line behind him. The Laocoon was my personal favorite—it showed a Trojan priest and his two sons being strangled by sinister sea serpents. The priest was the poor guy who tried to warn Trojans not to bring the Greeks’ gift of a giant wooden horse into their city; the serpents were sent by the god Poseidon, who was on the side of the Greeks.

Creaks from the cables mixed with murmurs from the other staff who were all on different floors. The acoustics of an open elevator shaft were peculiar, to say the least.

“Okay here!” replied George, from the third floor. He was a surprisingly fast runner despite his bulk.

Sarah Wisseman writes the Lisa Donahue archaeological mysteries. She hadn’t a clue that she wanted to be an archaeologist until she traveled to Israel right after her freshman year in college. There she ate falafel, fell in love with Jerusalem, camped illegally on Masada, and spent a month at the excavation of biblical Beersheba. Once hooked by archaeology, she returned for her junior year at Tel Aviv University, an experience that eventually inspired The Dead Sea Codex.

In her day job, Sarah is an archaeological scientist at the University of Illinois. Her research project on Egyptian mummies led to the Lisa Donahue mystery, Bound for Eternity. Her fourth book, The House of the Sphinx, is set in Egypt.

Fiction Books :: Mystery & Detective Books :: General Books

ISBN(13-digit): 9781597056151
Copyright: 2009
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
Binding: Perfect
No. of Pages: 273

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