Minerva turned the crank that moved compact shelving along tracks in the floor. Now was military stuff on row five or row six? She could never remember. She walked part way down row six, moved the shelves over one more space and started to scan the carefully labeled banker boxes that lined the shelves of row five.
She started at the top looking for the word “patches”. Someone off the internet was looking for a picture of an 86th Air Division patch and the catalog said they had one… somewhere. That was the problem with having records that were only partially digitized and no complete inventory of collections since the early 80s. Card catalogs and ledger books provided often incomplete or outdated information about the location of objects. This was how Minerva had once managed to misplace a moose and then when she went looking for it, found four. Damn taxidermy was breeding when she wasn’t looking. She was sure of it.
Her eyes scanned over the boxes, Naval Hats, WAVE Uniforms, Books Military, Ordnance. Wait, what? She looked again at the box on the second to bottom shelf. “Ordnance, Rockets, Bombs, Projectiles – US” which was sitting next to “Bombs, Projectiles – Japanese” and a third box labeled simply “Ammunition”.
There was absolutely no way these boxes were labeled correctly, was there?
Minerva tried to lift the lid to peek inside without moving the box, but there wasn’t enough light. Verrrry carefully, she slid the box out, holding it level and slowly lowered it straight down to the floor. She didn’t breathe as she lifted the lid off the banker box. Her breath escaped in a long pursed breath as the light showed a jumble of canisters, metal cones, and rocket-shaped objects.
“Oh boy,” she breathed. “That’s not good.”
She pulled the inventory list out of the box and looked for indications in writing that everything had been disarmed. Some of the items hadn’t even been properly identified. Every single item had, however, been carefully labeled with a museum accession number.
“Who the hell would label a bomb, write ‘bomb’ in the catalog, stick it in a box and label the box ‘bombs’?!” Minerva rubbed her hands over her face and consciously forced herself to breathe.
Minerva really hated her predecessors. Really, really hated them.
One of the rocket-shaped items in the box seemed to be previously fired. At least it was charred around a hole in the bottom and looked empty inside. Maybe they’d all been drilled out?
She picked up one of the metal cone-shaped projectile and looked for indication it had been disarmed. It felt heavy in her hand and when she looked at the back-end, there was no indication that it had been modified in any way.
Her hands were sweating. The metal felt slick beneath her fingers. Crap, she really should have grabbed some nitrile gloves. She tried to readjust her grip. The grenade slipped from her fingers and dropped. She reflexively tried to grab it, flipping it end over end in the air. It struck back-end down on the metal tracks in the floor. Smoke and flame rippled through the row completely engulfing Minerva before she had time to react.
The grenade detonated in the far wall of the building, taking most of the olive-green baby grand with it.
//author’s note: Sorry for the later than normal posting, even if it’s still Monday in PST! I have new-puppy brain and haven’t slept longer than 4 hours at a time in 12 days now. I feel like I’m thinking through oatmeal.//