Contents Chap­ter Thir­ty-​Eight The southern shore of Lake Mariut, ad 415



Download 1.81 Mb.
Page10/21
Date conversion15.05.2016
Size1.81 Mb.
1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   ...   21

That ‘too’ intrigued him. He’d clearly said it first....

The way her hair tum­bled when she turned her head. The brush of her fin­ger­tips on his fore­arm as she steered him across the street. There was noth­ing in lo­co par­en­tis about that.

The pho­to­graph fi­nal­ly came up. He was star­ing at it when he saw a shad­owy re­flec­tion in the screen, a man in a mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met creep­ing up be­hind him. He whirled around, but too late. The man grabbed him like a strait­jack­et, pin­ion­ing his arms down by his side. He lashed out with his heels and el­bows and the back of his head, but to no ef­fect. The man was too strong for him. He dragged Knox out through the open glass doors on­to the con­crete bal­cony, trs o Calchen lift­ed him bod­ily and hurled him over the rail and out scream­ing in­to space.

I

Knox threw out his hand as he was flung from Au­gustin’s bal­cony, in­stinc­tive­ly grabbed his as­sailan­t’s wrist, clung on for dear life, break­ing his out­ward tra­jec­to­ry, falling down­wards in­stead, swing­ing like a wreck­ing-​ball on the man’s arm, crash­ing numb­ing­ly hard in­to the con­crete base of the bal­cony. The im­pact knocked the wind out of him, strength from his mus­cles. He lost grip and tum­bled down a storey to land flush on the met­al rail­ing of the bal­cony be­neath, his left knee buck­ling be­neath him as he fell out­wards again, scrab­bling des­per­ate­ly for some­thing to cling to, grab­bing a cast-​iron stan­chion as he whirled past, skin flay­ing from his palm on the speck­led rust, un­til his wrist crashed in­to the con­crete base and ripped him free once more, yet now swing­ing in­wards far enough to hit the rail be­neath and fall on­to the bal­cony it­self, the breath once more punched out of his lungs, his whole body bruised and sore, but some­how still alive.



He hob­bled to his feet, leaned against the rail­ing, looked up to see his hel­met­ed at­tack­er with his vi­sor up, a glimpse of a com­pressed frac­tion of his face pro­vok­ing a shud­der of mem­ory; but he van­ished be­fore Knox could quite grasp it, or fix his fea­tures in his mind.

He looked around the bal­cony. A steel shut­ter stood be­tween him and the main body of the apart­ment. He tried to work his fin­gers be­neath it to prise it up, but with­out suc­cess. He rat­tled it, pound­ed on it, try­ing to at­tract at­ten­tion. No one came. He leaned over the rail­ing once more. The car park be­low was de­sert­ed. He was about to call for help when he thought again. Even if he could get some­one’s at­ten­tion, they’d sure­ly on­ly sum­mon the po­lice; and he did­n’t fan­cy ex­plain­ing him­self to them right now, not while they still held him re­spon­si­ble for Omar’s death. Which left him ma­rooned out here while a stranger in a mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met plot­ted ways to kill him.

II

No one at the hos­pi­tal was talk­ing, so Au­gustin head­ed over to the SCA in­stead, ar­rived to find it buzzing with ru­mour, dis­ori­ent­ed by grief. Omar was ev­ident­ly one of those peo­ple on­ly ful­ly ap­pre­ci­at­ed af­ter they’re gone. Man­soor, Omar’s deputy, was in his clut­tered of­fice. ‘Ter­ri­ble busi­ness,’ he said, shak­ing his head, look­ing grey and har­ried. ‘I can’t be­lieve Knox had any­thing to do with it.’



‘He did­n’t.’

‘There’s a man from the po­lice here who thinks he did.’

‘The po­lice!’ mocked Au­gustin. ‘What would they know?’

Man­soor nar­rowed his eyes shrewd­ly. ‘Have you heard some­thing?’

‘No.’

‘You can trust me, you know.’

‘I know,’ agreed Au­gustin. He re­moved a stack of re­ports from a chair, sat down. ‘But how could I tell you any­thing? I don’t even know what hap­pened. They would­n’t say a damned thing at the hos­pi­tal.’

‘You should talk to this po­lice­man,’ sug­gest­ed Man­soor. ‘He’ll still be around here some­where. I promised to go out to Borg el-​Arab with him.’

‘Borg el-​Arab?’ frowned Au­gustin. ‘Is that where they crashed?’

F align=“jus­ti­fy”>‘Yes.’

‘What the hell were they do­ing out there?’

‘Vis­it­ing some train­ing dig ap­par­ent­ly.’

‘A dig? In Borg?’

Man­soor nod­ded. ‘No one here knows any­thing about it ei­ther. Be­ing ad­min­is­tered out of Cairo, ap­par­ent­ly.’ He went over to his fil­ing cab­inet, shift­ed a boxed aeri­al-​pho­tog­ra­phy kit out of the way to get at a draw­er.

‘A re­mote-​con­trolled air­craft,’ grunt­ed Au­gustin, im­pressed. ‘How the hell did you get the bud­get for that?’

‘Ru­di lent it to me,’ said Man­soor. ‘Eas­ier than him ship­ping it back and forth to Ger­many ev­ery sea­son.’ He hand­ed Au­gustin a dog-​eared sheet of pa­per, the writ­ing so faint that Au­gustin had to take it to the win­dow to read. Mor­timer Grif­fin. The Rev­erend Ernest Pe­ter­son. The Texas So­ci­ety of Bib­li­cal Ar­chae­ol­ogists. An ad­dress in Borg el-​Arab. Noth­ing else. But sure­ly it had to be the source of Knox’s pho­tographs. ‘I’d like to go and see this place for my­self,’ he mur­mured.

‘Maybe you can,’ said Man­soor. ‘You’ve seen how the guys are. My place to­day is here with them. What if I were to ask this po­lice­man if you could go out there in­stead of me?’

‘Yes,’ nod­ded Au­gustin. ‘What a good idea.’

III

Pe­ter­son hur­ried in from the bal­cony, aghast that Knox had once again es­caped jus­tice. The Dev­il was work­ing over­time to­day. The lap­top was still open on the kitchen ta­ble, re­mind­ing Pe­ter­son of the ur­gent need to de­stroy all Knox’s pho­tographs of his site.



There were two browsers open, one show­ing a pho­to of a dark-​haired young wom­an with two Egyp­tian men in gal­abayas, the oth­er an email from a cer­tain Gaille Bon­nard, per­haps the wom­an in the pho­to. He scanned it quick­ly, as­sim­ilat­ed the im­pli­ca­tion that she had a set of Knox’s pho­tographs. He sat down, typed out a re­ply.

Dear Gaille, thanks for these. They’re terrific. One...

A makeshift so­lu­tion, but it would have to do. He sent it on its way then delet­ed her email from Knox’s hot­mail ac­count, con­sign­ing it and all its at­tach­ments in­to obliv­ion. He was no com­put­er ex­pert, but he’d heard sto­ries about sodomites and oth­er abom­ina­tors be­ing trapped by im­ages re­cov­ered from their hard disks even af­ter they’d thought them delet­ed. He could­n’t risk any­one re­cov­er­ing these, so he un­plugged the lap­top from its var­ious con­nec­tions, tucked it un­der his arm and hur­ried out.

I

Cap­tain Khaled Os­man stood on the east­ern bank of the Nile to watch the car fer­ry take the Dis­cov­ery and its TV crew away.



‘I don’t like this, sir,’ said Nass­er. ‘Peo­ple are get­ting too close. We need to shut the place up. We can al­ways go back again once things qui­eten down.’

Khaled had al­ready come to the same con­clu­sion. With the girl’s body hav­ing been found, things were too hot. He turned to Nass­er. ‘You and Faisal have ev­ery­thing you need, right?’

‘Al­ready in­side, sir,’ con­firmed Nass­er. ‘Just give us two hours, no one will ev­er know it was there.’

The car fer­ry reached the far bank. The Dis­cov­ery was a dot that head­ed up the hill to­wards the main road, dis­ap­peared be­hind trees. ‘Very well, then,’ he said. ‘We’ll do it tonight.’

II

Knox was still try­ing to prise open the steel bal­cony shut­ters when he heard the apart­ment block’s front door slam closed. He looked down over the rail in time to see his as­sailant, still wear­ing Au­gustin’s mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met, car­ry­ing his lap­top over to a blue 4x4 in the park­ing area, too far away for him to make out its li­cence plate. The man climbed in­side be­fore tak­ing off the hel­met, giv­ing Knox no chance to see his face. And then he was gone.



Knox turned his at­ten­tion back to the steel shut­ter. But he could­n’t get through, no mat­ter what he tried. It seemed he was stuck out here un­til who­ev­er lived here came home. And who could pre­dict how they’d re­act? They’d al­most cer­tain­ly call the po­lice. He leaned out over the rail­ings. The shut­ter of the bal­cony be­neath was raised and its glass doors were wide open. He called out. There was no re­ply. He called loud­er. Still noth­ing. He paused for thought. Climb­ing down to it would­n’t be easy, but he was con­fi­dent he could man­age it safe­ly enough, and it was bet­ter than wait­ing here.

He strad­dled the rail­ing, turned to face the build­ing, plac­ing his feet be­tween the stan­chions. The breeze did­n’t feel quite so gen­tle any more, with noth­ing be­tween him and the tar­mac be­low. He crouched, grabbed a stan­chion in each hand, took a deep breath, then low­ered him­self, legs kick­ing air above the drop. His stom­ach and then his chest scraped on the rough con­crete. His chin bumped against it, bi­ceps feel­ing the strain. He tried to ad­just his po­si­tion, give him­self a respite, but his grip slipped and he dropped sharply, shud­der­ing to a halt, hang­ing there hold­ing des­per­ate­ly on­to the base of the two stan­chions.

It was at that mo­ment that an over­weight wom­an with sil­vered hair came out on­to the bal­cony. She saw Knox dan­gling there, dropped her bas­ket of laun­dry and be­gan to shriek.

III


Gaille could see the colour ris­ing in Stafford’s throat, his fists clench­ing tighter and tighter in his lap. She found her­self lean­ing away from him in the driver’s seat, as if he was a land­mine about to go off. But when the det­ona­tion fi­nal­ly came, it be­gan more qui­et­ly than she’d ex­pect­ed.

‘Con­grat­ula­tions,’ he said, turn­ing to Lily.

‘I’m sor­ry?’

‘For ru­in­ing my pro­gramme. Con­grat­ula­tions.’

‘I don’t thinks it’s—’

‘What the hell am I sup­posed to do now? Tell me that.’

Gaille said: ‘It can’t be as bad as—’

‘Did I ask your opin­ion?’

‘No.’

‘Then shut the fuck up.’ He turned back to Lily. ‘Well? Your sug­ges­tions, please.’

‘We’ll go on to As­si­ut,’ said Lily. ‘I’ll make some calls ily. Sme from the ho­tel. We’ll sort it out. We’ll come back to­mor­row and—’

‘We’re film­ing to­mor­row,’ yelled Stafford, red-​faced with anger. ‘And then we’re on a fuck­ing plane. I’ve got obli­ga­tions, you know. I’m ex­pect­ed in Amer­ica. You want me to can­cel my morn­ing shows be­cause you can’t do your job prop­er­ly?’

‘I got the per­mis­sions,’ said Lily de­fen­sive­ly. ‘Ev­ery­thing was in or­der.’

‘But you did­n’t ar­range it on the ground, did you? First rule of go­ing over­seas. Ar­range it on the ground.’

‘I asked to come out. You would­n’t pay my air­fare.’

‘So it’s my fault now, is it? Je­sus! I don’t be­lieve this!’

‘I did­n’t mean it like that.’

‘You’re sup­posed to find ways to sort these things out. That’s your job. That’s your en­tire fuck­ing job. That’s all I em­ploy you to do.’

‘Why not film the sun­set here on the west bank?’ asked Gaille. ‘You’ll still get your sun­set.’

‘But not Amar­na. Not the Roy­al Wa­di. Un­less you’re sug­gest­ing that I should per­pe­trate a fraud up­on my pub­lic. Is that what you’re sug­gest­ing?’

‘Don’t talk to me like that.’

‘Don’t talk to me like that?’ he mocked. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’

‘I’m the per­son driv­ing this car,’ replied Gaille. ‘And un­less you want to walk …’

‘This is a dis­as­ter,’ mut­tered Stafford. ‘A fuck­ing dis­as­ter.’ He turned on Lily again. ‘I can’t be­lieve I ev­er hired you. What was I think­ing?’

‘That’s enough,’ said Gaille.

‘I’m go­ing to warn ev­ery­one about you, you know. I’ll see to it you nev­er work in tele­vi­sion again.’

‘That’s it!’ Gaille pulled in­to the side, took the keys from the ig­ni­tion, got out and walked away. Doors opened be­hind her, she glanced around to see Lily hur­ry­ing af­ter her, wip­ing her wet eyes with the heel of her hand. ‘How do you put up with him?’ asked Gaille.

‘It’s my ca­reer.’

‘Is it worth it?’

‘Yes,’ said Lily. ‘Is­n’t yours?’

Gaille sighed. It was true enough. She’d put up with plen­ty in her time. ‘How can I help?’ she asked.

‘Can’t you call some­one? How about Fa­ti­ma?’

‘She’s in hos­pi­tal.’

‘There must be some­one. Please.’

Gaille’s gaze slid past Lily to Stafford, lean­ing against the Dis­cov­ery, glar­ing at them both. This was how bul­lies worked, she knew. They made life un­bear­able for ev­ery­one around them un­til they got their own way. It galled her to do any­thing to help him out of the mess he’d brought up­on him­self. ‘You’ve still got your per­mis­sions to film, yes? I mean, he on­ly ripped up the one for the Roy­al Tomb, right?’

‘Yes. Why?’

‘There is some­thing we could try, I sup­pose.’

‘What?’

‘It’s a hell of a risk,’ sa˜Itâ Ssk,id Gaille, al­ready be­gin­ning to re­gret vol­un­teer­ing any­thing.

‘Please, Gaille. I’m beg­ging you. He can ru­in my ca­reer. He re­al­ly can. And he will too, just out of vin­dic­tive­ness. You’ve seen how he is.’

Gaille sighed. ‘Okay. The thing is, there are car fer­ries ev­ery few kilo­me­tres along the Nile. Ev­ery town has its own. There’s an­oth­er a lit­tle south of here. I’ve used it be­fore when this one was down for re­pairs. The po­lice don’t watch that one.’

‘An­oth­er fer­ry?’ Lily turned be­fore Gaille could stop her. ‘Ap­par­ent­ly there’s an­oth­er fer­ry just south of here,’ she told Stafford.

‘And I could care less be­cause … ?’

‘You have per­mis­sion to film the South­ern Tombs,’ sighed Gaille. ‘That’s where many of Akhen­aten’s no­bles were buried.’

‘I know what the South­ern Tombs are, thank you. I al­so know I have no need to film them.’

‘The thing is, they’re out on their own at the south­ern end of Amar­na.’



‘So?’

‘So if we cross back over the Nile on this oth­er fer­ry, we should be able to make it there with­out be­ing spot­ted. And even if we are stopped, we’ll have your au­tho­riza­tion to film.’

‘Are you stupid or some­thing? I don’t want to film the South­ern fuck­ing Tombs. I want to film the Roy­al fuck­ing Tomb.’

‘Yes,’ said Gaille. ‘But once we’re there, it’s the­oret­ical­ly pos­si­ble to hike across the hills to the Roy­al Tomb. It’s not that far.’

‘The­oret­ical­ly pos­si­ble?’ sneered Stafford. ‘What use is that if none of us knows the way?’

Gaille hes­itat­ed again. She knew she should­n’t let an­imos­ity for this man pro­voke her in­to rash­ness. And yet it did. ‘I know the way,’ she said.

I

The wom­an stopped shriek­ing and ran back in­side her apart­ment. Knox’s re­lief did­n’t last long, how­ev­er. She reap­peared with a kitchen knife, pro­ceed­ed to hack vi­cious­ly at his an­kles. He tried to hoist him­self back up, but he did­n’t have the grip. He had no choice but to swing away from her and then back in, let­ting go and land­ing on her spilled clothes, stum­bling for­wards on­to his hands. She stabbed at his back, the sharp tip pierc­ing through his shirt. He twist­ed around, hold­ing up his palms sub­mis­sive­ly, but it did noth­ing to pla­cate her. He scram­bled to his feet, hob­bled through her apart­ment and out her front door.



His an­kle was too sore for the stairs. He sum­moned the el­eva­tor. Be­hind him, the wom­an was tele­phon­ing the po­lice, shout­ing hys­ter­ical­ly for them to come at once. Ca­bles clanked and creaked. The wom­an came to her front door to yell at him some more, call on her neigh­bours to save her. Doors opened above and be­low, peo­ple leaned over ban­is­ters. The lift ar­rived. Knox got in, jabbed the but­ton for the ground floor. He limped out of the build­ing, an­kle throb­bing, left knee click­ing omi­nous­ly. Out on the main road, he waved down a bus, not car­ing where it was head­ed, nor that it was al­ready packed. A wom­an wear­ing a flo­ral head­scarf and sun­glass­es looked quizzi­cal­ly at him as a po­lice car swept by, siren blaz­ing. Knox ducked his eyes, feel­ing ridicu­lous­ly con­spic­uous.

He got out at the Shal­lalat Gar­dens, strug­gled to the Latin Ceme­ter­ies, pushed open the heavy wood­en door. An el­der­ly cu­ra­tor was lean­ing on his broom. Oth­er­wise, the place was de­sert­ed. Many of the tombs here had su­per­struc­tures like shrunk­en mar­ble tem­ples. Knox found one out of the way, lay down in­side with his back to the wall. Then he closed his eyes and cleared his mind, giv­ing his much-​abused body some time to rest and heal.

II

Mallaw­i’s Mu­se­um of An­tiq­ui­ties con­sist­ed of three shab­by long halls with high ceil­ings and low light­ing. The cu­ra­tor raised her eye­brows when Naguib set the fig­urine from the dead girl’s pouch on the glass top of a dis­play case.



‘May I?’ she asked.

‘That’s why I brought it here,’ said Naguib. He watched her pick it up, turn it in her hands. ‘Well?’ he asked.

‘What do you want to know?’

‘What is it? How much is it worth?’

‘It’s an Amar­na-​style stat­uette of Akhen­at­en in pink lime­stone. As to what it’s worth …’ She shook her head re­gret­ful­ly. ‘Not very much, I’m afraid.’

‘Not very much?’

‘It’s a fake. One of thou­sands.’

‘But it looks old.’

‘It is old. Many fakes were made six­ty or sev­en­ty years ago. There was a big mar­ket for Amar­na an­tiq­ui­ties back then. But they’re still fakes.’

‘How can you be sure?’

‘Be­cause all the gen­uine ones were found decades ago.’

A par­ty of schoolchil­dren ar­rived yelling and play­ing, glee­ful to have es­caped their class­room prison. Naguib wait­ed un­til they’d been ush­ered past by their em­bar­rassed teach­ers be­fore ask­ing his next ques­tion. ‘So there are gen­uine ones?’

‘In mu­se­ums, yes.’

‘And you can al­ways tell the dif­fer­ence, can you? I mean, just by look­ing?’

‘No,’ she ad­mit­ted.

‘So it’s con­ceiv­able that one might have been lost? Buried in the sand, say, or in some undis­cov­ered tomb?’

‘You’d strug­gle to con­vince a buy­er of that.’

‘I don’t have a buy­er,’ said Naguib terse­ly. ‘What I have is a dead girl who may have been mur­dered over this. So tell me: how much would a piece like this be worth, if gen­uine?’

The cu­ra­tor looked down at the fig­urine with a touch more re­spect. ‘Hard to say. Gen­uine Amar­na arte­facts don’t of­ten come up for sale.’

‘Please. Just a rough idea. In US dol­lars. A hun­dred? A thou­sand? Ten thou­sand?’

‘Oh, more. Much more.’

‘More?’ swal­lowed Naguib.

‘This would­n’t just be a fig­urine,’ said the wom­an. ‘It would be his­to­ry. Amar­na his­to­ry. Peo­ple would pay what they must pay. But you’d have to prove it was gen­uine first.’

‘How would I go about that? Are there tests?’

‘Of course. Chro­matog­ra­phy, spec­tog­ra­phy. But noth­ing is con­clu­sive. For ev­ery ex­pert who’ll­sive [ wh tell you one thing, an­oth­er will say the op­po­site. Your on­ly re­al hope is to es­tab­lish prove­nance.’

‘Prove­nance?’

‘Find this undis­cov­ered tomb of yours. Then we’ll be­lieve you.’

Naguib grunt­ed. ‘And where should I look for that?’

‘In Amar­na, cer­tain­ly. If it was me, I’d check the wadis lead­ing out to the East­ern Desert. A lot of an­tiq­ui­ties have been found in them. The storms, you know. They ham­mer at the cliffs like a mil­lion pick­ax­es. It can still hap­pen that the hid­den mouth of an old tomb will sim­ply shear away and its con­tents wash down in­to the wadis and then in a great riv­er out in­to the desert.’

Naguib went a lit­tle numb. ‘A flash flood,’ he said.

‘Ex­act­ly,’ smiled the cu­ra­tor. ‘A flash flood.’

III


Au­gustin wait­ed in Man­soor’s of­fice while his friend went off to per­suade the po­lice­man to ac­cept a sub­sti­tute on his trip out to Borg el-​Arab. He killed time run­ning an In­ter­net search on the Texas So­ci­ety of Bib­li­cal Ar­chae­ol­ogists. It had its own web­site, group pho­tographs and brief overviews of ex­ca­va­tions in Alexan­dria and Cephal­lo­nia. Its ‘About Us’ page men­tioned its af­fil­ia­tion to the UMC, though there was nei­ther link nor ex­pla­na­tion. There was, how­ev­er, a pro­file of Grif­fin, sur­pris­ing­ly im­pres­sive­ly qual­ified for so small an or­ga­ni­za­tion.

A new search on the Rev­erend Ernest Pe­ter­son re­turned a huge num­ber of hits. The man was clear­ly a di­vi­sive fig­ure, de­plored and feared for his hard­line re­li­gious views, yet al­so ad­mired for the hos­pice, hos­pi­tal, home­less shel­ter and re­ha­bil­ita­tion cen­tre found­ed and fi­nanced by his min­istry. He al­so fi­nanced a pri­vate Chris­tian col­lege, the Uni­ver­si­ty of the Mis­sion of Christ, pre­sum­ably the same UMC men­tioned on the TS­BA web­site, with fac­ul­ties of The­ol­ogy, Cre­ation Sci­ence, Law, Po­lit­ical Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ar­chae­ol­ogy.

Pe­ter­son’s min­istry had its own site. The screen turned dark blue when Au­gustin clicked the link. A line of white text emerged. ‘Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with wom­ankind: it is abom­ina­tion.’ It fad­ed away. A new one took its place. ‘The show of their coun­te­nance doth wit­ness against them; and they de­clare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe un­to their soul! For they have re­ward­ed evil un­to them­selves.’ A pho­to of a church ap­peared, with columns of links ei­ther side. The left-​hand col­umn was en­ti­tled What Christ said about … with top­ics such as ho­mo­sex­ual­ity, fem­inism, adul­tery, abor­tion and idol­atry be­neath, and lists of vers­es from Deuteron­omy, Leviti­cus, Num­bers and oth­er Old Tes­ta­ment books.

The right-​hand col­umn bore ti­tles like The Can­cer of Lib­er­al­ism and The Sin of Sodom. Au­gustin clicked on The Abom­ina­tors Agen­da. An in­set screen ap­peared, Pe­ter­son mouthing silent­ly at the cam­era. He turned on the vol­ume, had to sit back at the tor­rent of anger and hate that poured forth. He clicked a dif­fer­ent link, all by it­self, and en­ti­tled ‘The Face Of Christ’. Pe­ter­son again, but his tone com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. Emol­lient. Tran­scen­dent. ‘You ask how I came to God,’ he said. ‘Let me tell you how I came to God. I was a wretched sin­ner. A thief, a drinker, a man of dis­hon­esty and vi­olence, well known to our po­lice, though still but a youth. And I came to God be­cause one day, my low­est day, in His in­fi­nite mer­cy He sent His Son to bring me to Him. A vi­sion of His Son. And I tell yvisi [ I ou this: no man can look up­on the face of Christ and not be­lieve. And that is the mis­sion God gave me for my time up­on this earth: to bring the face of Christ to the whole world. Make it your mis­sion too and to­geth­er we will sure­ly—’

The door opened be­hind him. He looked around to see a po­lice­man stand­ing there. ‘Doc­tor Au­gustin, yes?’

‘Yes.’

‘I’m De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Fa­rooq. Your col­league Doc­tor Man­soor sug­gest­ed you would be good enough to come to Borg el-​Arab with me.’

‘Yes.’

‘Ex­cel­lent. Are you ready?’

Au­gustin nod­ded. He closed down the brows­er with a lit­tle shud­der, got to his feet. ‘Let’s do it,’ he said.

IV

Pe­ter­son drove back to the ex­ca­va­tion site as quick­ly as pru­dence would al­low, stop­ping on­ly to hurl Knox’s lap­top and mo­bile phone in­to the reed-​fringed wa­ters of Lake Mar­iut, watch­ing with sat­is­fac­tion as they splashed and sank.



Claire came out of the of­fice to greet him. An awk­ward young wom­an, all el­bows and knees, yet with a cer­tain stee­li­ness too. He’d have done with­out her if he could, but her med­ical know-​how and flu­ent Ara­bic were too use­ful. ‘Are those men okay?’ she asked, her arms fold­ed.

‘What men?’

‘Nathan told me about them last night. He was in a ter­ri­ble state.’

‘They’re fine,’ Pe­ter­son as­sured her. ‘They’re in the Lord’s hands.’

‘What’s that sup­posed to mean?’

‘We’re all in the Lord’s hands, Sis­ter Claire. Or per­haps you think dif­fer­ent­ly?’

‘Of course not, Rev­erend. But I’d still like to—’

‘Lat­er, Sis­ter Claire. Lat­er. Right now, I have ur­gent busi­ness with Broth­er Grif­fin. Do you know where he is?’

‘In the ceme­tery. But I—’

‘Then if you’ll ex­cuse me,’ he said, strid­ing off.

Grif­fin must have heard his car, be­cause he met him halfway to the ceme­tery. ‘What the hell hap­pened last night?’ he de­mand­ed.

‘In good time,’ said Pe­ter­son. ‘First, have you done ev­ery­thing I told you to do?’

Grif­fin nod­ded. ‘You want to see?’

‘In­deed, Broth­er Grif­fin.’

They vis­it­ed the emp­tied mag­azine, then the shaft. To Pe­ter­son’s sur­prise, he had a hard time spot­ting where it had been, even stand­ing right be­side it. ‘I sup­pose it will do,’ he said. His great­est wor­ry now was that some­one might shoot their mouth off. Specif­ical­ly, Grif­fin or Claire. He glanced back to­wards the of­fice. ‘I don’t want Claire here should the po­lice or the SCA turn up. Take her back to the ho­tel. Keep her out of sight.’

‘But what will I tell her?’

‘Tell her you need to talk to the ho­tel peo­ple about some­thing, and you need a trans­la­tor.’

‘But they speak En­glish at the ho­tel.’

‘Then think of some­thing else,’ snapped Pe­ter­son. He watched Grif­fin traiters [ffipse away, then head­ed to the ceme­tery. The au­thor­ities were cer­tain to vis­it soon­er or lat­er. His stu­dents need­ed to know what to tell them.

V

Cap­tain Khaled Os­man felt un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly anx­ious as Nass­er drove him and his men out along the Roy­al Wa­di road. He did­n’t like vis­it­ing the tomb be­fore dark, but Faisal had in­sist­ed he need­ed some nat­ural light to work by. It should be safe enough, he told him­self. No tourists ev­er ar­rived this late; Amar­na was sim­ply too big to see in less than half a day. And he’d made it quite clear to the lo­cals that they were not to come down here any more.



They parked be­hind the gen­er­ator build­ing. Ab­dul­lah walked back a lit­tle way along the road to stand sen­try just in case, while he, Faisal and Nass­er trad­ed their uni­forms for old shirts and trousers. It was dirty work, what lay ahead. He’d have let Faisal and Nass­er han­dle it them­selves, but he did­n’t trust them to do good work if they weren’t su­per­vised. Be­sides, he felt the need for one last look.

He belt­ed his hol­ster back on. He felt naked with­out his Walther, his pride and joy, an un­of­fi­cial me­men­to of his army days that he’d tak­en along with an AK-47 and a box of grenades for fish­ing with. De­cent kit too, not like the Egyp­tian-​made pieces-​of-​shit his men had to put up with. They crossed the drainage chan­nel, picked their way across boul­ders and scree.

‘These damned boots!’ mut­tered Faisal, who al­ways got ag­itat­ed near where they’d found the girl.

The eas­iest way to reach the tomb mouth was to walk be­yond it, climb the side of the wa­di, then cut back across the top to a thin ledge. Faisal led the way. The man was a moun­tain goat. He reached the mouth, pulled back the sack­cloth cur­tain, in­vis­ible from more than a few paces. Dust and grit sprin­kled Khaled’s hair as he fol­lowed him in­side. ‘How long do you need?’ he asked.

‘That de­pends, sir,’ said Faisal.

‘On what?’

‘On how much help I get.’

Khaled stood there un­cer­tain­ly. There was some­thing about this place that seemed to in­cite in­sub­or­di­na­tion. ‘One last look,’ he said, pick­ing up a torch. ‘You nev­er know.’

‘Sure,’ said Faisal. ‘You nev­er know.’

Khaled head­ed along the pas­sage to the buri­al cham­ber, still fum­ing. Who did Faisal think he was? But he put it from his mind in the greater frus­tra­tion of his fail­ure in this place. Their first vis­it here, they’d found three stat­ue frag­ments in the de­bris, a scarab and a sil­ver amulet. He’d tru­ly be­lieved it was the start of great things. But the finds had dried up, and they’d on­ly fetched a frac­tion of what he’d hoped be­cause no one be­lieved they were gen­uine. He had­n’t even got enough for them to share any­thing with his men. It was a pal­try re­turn for so much work. Whole sec­tions of ceil­ing had caved in over the cen­turies, so that the whole place had been choked with sand and rub­ble. They could­n’t dump it out the mouth, or some­one would soon no­tice, so they’d shift­ed it from area to area in­stead, like clean­ing house. And all by night, too, their on­ly free time. They’d grown in­creas­ing­ly weary and ir­ri­ta­ble, yet had nev­er quite been able to give up. That was the cru­el­ty of hope.


1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   ...   21


The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2016
send message

    Main page