The crate was sitting in a back section of the farm shed when Lara noticed it. It must have been there when she’d bought the place for unpaid taxes, or so she assumed because she hadn’t put it there and no-one else had had access to the shed in the six months since she’d moved in. There was dust across the top of it, the thick, dirt-like dust you get when an indoor surface hasn’t been touched for years.
The crate itself was made of blond boards finished just enough to prevent splinters. There was nothing in front of it in the shed, and no sign that anything ever had been, so she didn’t have that excuse for not noticing it before. Still puzzled, she reach out to touch it then pulled her hand back quickly when she felt the warmth coming off the wooden box.
Point of fact, wooden crates do not, in and of themselves, exude warmth and if you want said crate not to burst into flames you do not seal switched-on or lit things that put out heat inside said crate.
Lara stood back and considered both the situation and the crate. If the crate had belonged to the farm’s previous owner, then there was no-one she could approach about it or return it to because Lara had bought the place when it had been auctioned for unpaid county taxes. The previous owner had been a little old lady who’d died of pneumonia in the county hospital six years before that and she’d had no relatives anyone had been able to find. A lot of her things were still in the house because sane people who’ve just spent every cent they own on a near derelict farm do not look askance at sound china and furniture. Lara thought, based on the evidence, that the late Elizabeth Schuster had been the sort of individual who was not uncommon in her own family. Grand-cousin Pedro who had been Ms Schuster’s neighbour, and now of course was Lara’s, was a case in point. It had occurred to her that Grand-cousin Pedro might have come to town because of Ms Schuster but she had nothing concrete to base that idea on.
Her solution for opening the crate involved a pair of wool-lined leather gloves, a dust pan and brush, and a crowbar. Once the top of the crate was dusted off the crowbar proved to be unnecessary because there were inset buttons to push for the lid to release. When the lid was released Lara was faced with a tray that lifted out by using two soft leather loops as handles.
That first tray held a leather case the length of her hand and arm together that had a brass label reading ‘Blomberg & Ploemer’ on it. The second held a Walther PPK, three full ammunition magazines, four knives of diverse types, and what looked like a radio. The third tray had a soft leather bound notebook, an array of strangely labelled packet and vials, something that looked awfully like a magic wand from a fantasy illustration, and a necklace-like string of teeth of frightening shape and size, some apparently still bearing mummified flesh and blood. The fourth and final tray contained an array of differently coloured crystalline objects.
A pyramid in the fourth tray glowed yellow with internal light and was putting out the warmth, an opaque stone set in the ‘wand’ had a pulsating blue-green iridescence, and a small display on the maybe-radio read ‘incoming message.’
Lara was sure that this was what being out of her depth looked like.