The Appropriator

28 Aug

One of the strangest and unusual criminal cases in ancient Egypt centered on a pair of identical twins. The customs of that land placed a special value on that type of blood relationship.

A young investigative magistrate named Mahu was assigned the murder of a wealthy merchant named Bru in the city of Memphis. The person under grave suspicion was the victim’s brother, Dae. The judge decided to begin with direct questioning of this individual.

Mahu found the twin to be a tall, dark-skinned man sitting on a high stool in an interrogation chamber of the court building. The investigator preferred to stand through his questioning of the suspect, the only living relative of the deceased.

“The death of your brother was a horrible crime,” began Mahu. “The conscienceless perpetrator cut up the body with some large, very sharp knife. Then, the corpse was disfigured by setting various portions on fire and burning them to ashes. A servant prevented its full destruction, but the remains were terribly damaged and will impede your brother in the Afterlife.”

“Yes, I know,” sadly muttered Dae. “Our servants summoned me at once. I was unable to stand or tolerate the ungodly sight and fell into a long faint.”

Mahu moved closer, looking directly into his almond eyes. Was this the face of a killer? he wondered. There was, as yet, no evident motive involved.

I cannot understand why anyone would wish to burn the body of a murdered victim, except to damage the person in the Afterlife. The desecration of your brother has all the signs of a mad form of revenge.”

Dae thought for a moment, then spoke in a low, hushed tone.

“My brother had many fierce enemies in the business of metals and precious jewels that he was engaged in. You see, the enterprise was an inheritance from our late father. Bru took to trade and commerce from an early age, while my own interest has been in study and scholarship. It seemed natural that he would become skilled in exchange and bargaining, while I myself took a more retired and quiet path.

“The attempt to burn his body has the character of angry, desperate vengeance by a deranged business competitor.”

Mahu, bending down, moved forward to face Dae more closely.

“You believe that some rival was capable of applying flame to his murder victim? I am told by the Memphis police that they think that it was a failed attempt to conceal the brutality of the cutting and slashing that ended the life of your brother.”

The twin became silent, so Mahu decided to take a new direction with him.

“How did Bru get along with people in general? How did he treat you, for instance?”

Dae seemed to lick his lower lip with his tongue before answering.

“I cannot lie or hide the truth. My twin was a selfish man. In all of Egypt, there are few as greedy or avaricious as Bru was. He hurt many through his drive and ambition. From early childhood, I witnessed his tendency and need to dominate others. His first personal subordinate was probably myself. To him, I was an idle dreamer only interested in reading ancient manuscripts. He saw me as a useless weakling. It is difficult to find any redeeming feature in the character of my brother.”

The murder victim was not an admirable person, Mahu told himself.

“Bru was an appropriator of the goods of others,” added the suspect. “He kept whatever he could steal or seize.”

The investigator realized he was dealing with an evil victim. Was his killer equally as bad?

Mahu decided to talk with the main business partner of the deceased, a jeweler named Tlel.

The short, elderly man was not too eager to reveal much about his relationship with Bru.

“Yes, indeed, our trading endeavors turned out to be quite profitable. Most of the decisions and transactions I left to my partner. His energy and determination were greater than mine, I have to confess. He became the directing force in all we accomplished. My part was to provide money and resources. Bru was the one who took charge of the daily buying and selling. He was the active operator in what we did.

“Bru knew how to control and dominate anyone he came in contact with. I cannot deny that his abilities in commerce were greater than mine. I gradually sank to being a silent partner, a subordinate investor. Only by becoming a loyal follower of a leader was I able to share and prosper. The way to great riches and success he had mastered.

“The two of us got along and never had any quarrel whatever. I am alarmed and shocked by what happened and have no explanation for it. This atrocity puzzles and mystifies me. It must have resulted from wild, insane emotion. I wish that I could be of greater aid to you, but I have no special knowledge of how or why he was murdered.” The partner thought a moment. “Bru mentioned to me a while ago that he frequently went to the temple of Osiris to talk to a physician-priest there. I never was told what the complaint was for which he sought advice or treatment.”

Mahu perked up. “Do you know the name of this priest?”

“I believe it was a certain Sais,” recalled the jeweler.

Mahu went to the main temple in Memphis and asked to see the doctor-priest. The two met in the latter’s private cell and faced each other on simple, low stools. The magistrate studied the lined face of the bent-over veteran of years of treating the ailing. The old man was surprisingly cooperative, Mahu discovered.

“I have learned what happened and am eager to help the person responsible for the outrage committed on the patient I was trying to help. Since Bru is now gone from the living, I am free to tell you all that I know about him and his problem.”

Mahu stared into the wrinkled face and the brightly curious dark eyes. “I had never met this victim before his ghastly death, but I have been told a lot about his character. It seems that Bru was a domineering, sometimes cruel and brutal person. Even his twin brother did not harbor any deep affection for him. He was extremely aggressive and acquisitive. There could have been many enemies of this unloved man.”

Sais appeared on the verge of saying something important, but restrained himself by asking a question. “Have you talked with his brother, one called Dae? I myself have never met that individual.”

“I have the strong impression that the two twins did not like each other at all. Dae told me that his brother held strict power over him from earliest childhood. That made me wonder whether that is typical with identical twins. What do you know about that close relationship? Is there usually a system of domination and subjugation between such siblings?”

Sais seemed to look away, as if considering whether to reveal something of importance that he knew of.

“You must have come across all kinds of thefts in your career,” he told the prober. “Have you ever heard of the stealing or appropriation of a ka?”

Mahu appeared, for only a moment, to be at a loss over what to say.

“No,” he managed to reply. “The idea you present is completely unknown to me. Could you help orient me to what kind of theft you are referring to.”

“From earliest times, identical twins have been seen as having spiritual identities very close to each other. The question whether these siblings could share the same ka has often been studied and investigated. The souls of two brothers or sisters must have greater affinity to each other than any other pair of persons in the population.

“You are familiar with the importance of the ka within the complex human soul?”

“Only in a very general sense,” answered Mahu. “I know the ka as a person’s double. It leaves the body at death. When we are born, our ka arises with us as our force of life. The god Khnemu give us our ka along with our body. It is our living essence, I believe.”

“And can it be taken away by another?” persisted Sais. “Can one twin appropriate the ka of the other one?”

“I must confess that I have no knowledge in that matter,” admitted Mahu. “But it is a mighty intriguing concept that you have presented to me.”

“Perhaps it can serve as the key to finding who is responsible for the death of the twin named Bru,” concluded the doctor-priest, rising to his feet.

Mahu now had new material to think of and consider. He decided to become an informal student of the doctor-priest, finding out more details about the nature of the ka within the soul of a human person.

“My ka is the guide and conscience that leads me to good or to evil,” said Sais at their second meeting. “Its highest aim is to bring kindness and compassion into our lives. The ka is the source of any virtues we may display toward others. When one dies, one goes home to the ka. It becomes supreme over us in the Afterlife. If the ka should itself die, that will make it impossible to enjoy eternal life in any form.”

The magistrate, his mind consumed by the murder case, kept returning to the subject of appropriation of a ka by another person.

“Is robbing of a twin’s ka by a twin brother hard or easy to accomplish?” he inquired a number of times, hoping for practical enlightenment. “Is it possible that the ka of Bru was taken from him and the murder was just a part of the crime, meant to conceal the loss to the victim’s soul?”

“What we know of such things is little and enveloped in darkness,” said Sais. What I myself know about any of this is mostly second hand and obscure. In other words, I am uncertain and ignorant on many aspects of the question of appropriating someone’s ka.

“By their nature, twins are the most vulnerable of persons to the domination of one by the other. The two who were born together as doubles like each other may come to feel they have to merge and become a single being. Their two related kas will join and melt together into one unit, one entity. There will no longer be any separation into two spirits for them.”

“But why the resort to murder?” demanded Mahu. “How was it that Dae would be compelled and driven to kill Bru in such a horrible manner?”

All of a sudden, Sais astonished the investigator by leaping to his feet. He was energized by a new, startling idea that had just occurred to him.

“We have been seeing the death in the wrong way. Dae was not the acting murderer, but one who disguised what really happened. Bru may have taken a powerful, deadly poison by his own decision. Dae discovered the dead body and slashed and cut it to conceal the truth of suicide. The original deed was one of self-destruction.”

“But what for?” asked Mahu. “What could have been the motive of Bru to take such a desperate step? He was the twin who completely dominated his brother. It would have been his ka that was appropriating the ka of his subordinated brother, Dae.”

Sais made a bitter grimace. “You and I, along with everyone else, had it wrong. It has always been the other way around. It was Bru who lived and worked under the control of the passive and secretive Dae. The latter was the one engaged in oppressing his outwardly successful brother.

“I believe that Dae now holds the ka of Bru as part of his own inner soul. It has been merged into one unit with his own overpowering one. The outside world did not perceive the strength of Dae, but insisted in labeling him a weakling. I now see that as an enormous falsehood, an intentional lie that shielded the power of the less public and less active twin.”

Mahu now rose to his feet and peered directly at the face of the priest.

“I would judge Bru to have carried out the criminal act of suicide, dying by his own hand. Perhaps it was meant to gain ultimate vengeance against his own twin brother. In a way, Bru was confirming the appropriation of his ka by Dae. It was an act of final surrender.

“But nothing will be possible now. There is nothing anyone can do. There is no remedy at law. It is too late for any correction of any sort.”

The two men contemplated the matter privately for a short while.

“Thank you for enlightening me, sir,” said the investigator. He turned and left the other’s cell, then the temple.

Mahu smiled sadly, realizing that he and the law had been defeated by the invisible essence of the ka.

The victim of ka seizure and appropriation had destroyed himself because he had lost his reason for being one his ka had been taken from him.

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