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



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Kostas smiled quizzically. ‘How on earth did you know...

‘What else does it say?’

He licked his fin­ger­tips, turned the page. ‘Ha! How about that!’

‘How about what?’

‘Oh, yes. Oh, you’ll like this.’

‘Come on, Kostas. Just tell me, will you?’

‘You know how Chris­tian groups iden­ti­fied each oth­er with se­cret signs and mark­ings like the fish and the cross? Well, the Car­pocra­tians had one of their own.’

‘What?’

‘It does­n’t say,’ said Kostas. ‘All it says is where on their bod­ies it was tat­tooed.’

‘And?’

Kostas’s eyes twin­kled. ‘It was on the back of their right ear­lobes,’ he said.

I

The mo­bile con­tin­ued to ring. ‘Turn that off,’ said Khaled. Then loud­er, a touch of pan­ic in his voice: ‘Turn it off.’ Stafford reached slow­ly in­to his pock­et, pulled out his mo­bile, turned it off. But it was too late. The dam­age was done. Or, more ac­cu­rate­ly, the ring­ing had made Khaled aware of a se­ri­ous prob­lem. Mo­bile phones emit­ted as well as re­ceived sig­nals, even when they weren’t be­ing used. They just had to be switched on, as Stafford’s clear­ly was.



If he dis­ap­peared now, it would be a sim­ple mat­ter for the po­lice to trace their move­ments. They’d come straight here. He and his men would be their au­to­mat­ic chief sus­pects. Out would come the canes, the hosepipes, the wa­ter-​board­ing. And one of them would sure­ly crack. Faisal, prob­ably. There was some­thing al­most wom­an­ish about him.

Ab­dul­lah had been sum­moned from sen­try-​du­ty by the sound of gun­fire. ‘What go­ing on?’ he pant­ed.

‘What does it look like?’ scowled Khaled, glar­ing at the for­eign­ers. The tomb had seemed a gift from Al­lah. But now he saw it for what it tru­ly was. A sa­tan­ic trap. Five years in jail, if they were caught. Five years min­imum. More like­ly ten or even more. And Khaled had seen the in­side of Egyp­t’s pris­ons. They were cramped and dirty places, filled with dis­ease and bru­tal­ity. He was­n’t a weak­ling, but the prospect un­nerved him.

‘Why don’t we just kill them, sir?’ asked Nass­er, ev­er the prac­ti­cal one. ‘Dump them in the desert, like we did with the girl.’

‘Yes,’ scoffed Khaled. ‘And that worked well, did­n’t it?’

‘We have more time this time. We have all night.’

‘All night?’ snarled Khaled. ‘Don’t you know what’s go­ing to hap­pen when these peo­ple don­to h v’t ap­pear wher­ev­er they’re ex­pect­ed?’ He point­ed his gun at the wom­an Lily. ‘Where are you ex­pect­ed?’

‘As­si­ut,’ she said, her face drained of colour. ‘The Cleopa­tra Ho­tel.’

He turned back to Nass­er. ‘The mo­ment they don’t show up, their ho­tel will no­ti­fy the au­thor­ities. Noth­ing ter­ri­fies them more than bad things hap­pen­ing to for­eign­ers, es­pe­cial­ly to TV peo­ple. It jeop­ar­dizes their ho­tel in­vest­ments, their pre­cious tourist dol­lars. Be­lieve me, by morn­ing there’ll be a man­hunt like you’ve nev­er seen! And the first place they’ll come is here. And the first thing they’ll do is fol­low all the tyre tracks in the sand out to this won­der­ful hid­ing place of yours.’

‘Then let’s dump them in the Nile.’ Nass­er made waves with his fin­gers to in­di­cate a car van­ish­ing be­neath the sur­face.

Khaled shook his head. ‘With­out be­ing spot­ted? And even if by some mir­acle we get away with it now, the po­lice are sure to drag the riv­er, or some fish­er­man will snag his net on the car. Any­way, it does­n’t mat­ter, their damned mo­bile phones are go­ing to lead them straight to us.’

‘Oh,’ said Nass­er gloomi­ly. ‘Then what are we go­ing to do?’

‘I’m try­ing to think,’ scowled Khaled. ‘Give me some qui­et, will you?’ He squat­ted, not want­ing his men to see how baf­fled he was. Per­haps he could shift all the blame on­to them. Make it look like a shake­down gone wrong. A gun­fight erupt­ing, leav­ing the three for­eign­ers and all his men dead. But it was a des­per­ate so­lu­tion. Even a half-​com­pe­tent in­ves­ti­ga­tor would see straight through it. So maybe they should strike a deal. But while these for­eign­ers were scared enough to agree to any­thing right now, that would all change the mo­ment they were re­leased.

‘We should blame it on ter­ror­ists,’ mut­tered Ab­dul­lah. ‘They’re al­ways killing for­eign­ers.’

‘Ex­cel­lent idea,’ scoffed Khaled, seiz­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ty to vent some anger. ‘But, tell me, which ter­ror­ists, ex­act­ly?’ He waved an arm around the des­olate wa­di. ‘Show me these ter­ror­ists of yours and sure, we’ll blame it on them.’

‘It was on­ly a sug­ges­tion, sir.’

‘There aren’t any ter­ror­ists around Amar­na. Don’t you know that? They’re all down in As­si­ut and …’ He broke off, a thought com­ing to him. Ab­dul­lah was ab­so­lute­ly right. In Egypt, on­ly ter­ror­ists would dare take out for­eign­ers like this. And it was a sto­ry the au­thor­ities would in­stinc­tive­ly be­lieve. The mer­est hint of ter­ror­ism made in­tel­li­gent peo­ple be­have like id­iots. As far as any­one knew, these three were on their way to As­si­ut tonight. There’d been ma­jor un­rest down there re­cent­ly. He’d been watch­ing it on TV. Ri­ots. Demon­stra­tions. Fire­brand Mus­lims up in arms against the West be­cause five of their brethren had been ar­rest­ed for the rape and mur­der of two young Cop­tic girls. And, just like that, the idea came to him.

‘Yes, sir,’ asked Nass­er, read­ing in­spi­ra­tion on his face. ‘What is it?’

‘One mo­ment,’ begged Khaled. He thought it through, its im­pli­ca­tions, the re­sources they’d need, the steps they’d have to take. It was crazy, yes, but then the sit­ua­tion was crazy and de­mand­ed crazy so­lu­tions.

‘Please, sir,’ pressed Nass­er. ‘Tell us.’

Khaled nod­ded twice, breathed deeply. ‘Okay,’ he said. ‘This is what we’re go­ing to do.’

II

Knox sat back in his chair, leather creak­ing volup­tuous­ly, giv­ing him­self a chance to as­sim­ilate his new knowl­edge. Pe­ter­son and his team had cut those six ears from the mum­mies to check them for tat­toos un­der ul­tra­vi­olet light. That, along with the link to the TS­BA’s pre­vi­ous ex­ca­va­tions in Cephal­lo­nia, sure­ly meant that they were here on the trail of the Car­pocra­tians. The on­ly ques­tion left was why.



Kostas brood­ed for a mo­ment or two when Knox put this to him. ‘These Tex­an ar­chae­ol­ogists of yours: they’re high­ly re­li­gious, yes?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then there is one pos­si­bil­ity, I sup­pose. You see, the Car­pocra­tians were re­put­ed to—’ The door­bell sound­ed at that mo­ment. Kostas broke off, sighed, pushed him­self to his feet. ‘Ex­cuse me.’

‘Of course.’ Knox went over to the ta­ble. The en­cy­clopae­dia was ly­ing open. He scanned the en­try for the Car­pocra­tians, but noth­ing caught his eye. He wan­dered the shelves in­stead, pulled down a slim bi­og­ra­phy of Phi­lo, flipped through the creamy pages, the crum­bling leather bind­ing leav­ing smears like dried blood on his palms and fin­gers.

The li­brary door re­opened. Knox looked around to see Kostas stand­ing there, pale and shak­en. ‘What is it?’ frowned Knox. But then he saw two po­lice­men come in­to view be­hind Kostas and in­stant­ly went cold. He’d thought him­self safe here; had al­lowed him­self to re­lax. But some­how they’d found him. For a mad mo­ment, he con­tem­plat­ed try­ing to run for it, but there was nowhere to go. And then he caught the glim­mer of a smile twitch on the short­er of the two po­lice­men’s lips, as though that was ex­act­ly what he want­ed, an ex­cuse to lay in to him. So he forced him­self to re­lax in­stead, go qui­et­ly; see if he could­n’t find out what the hell was go­ing on, and how they’d tracked him here.

III


Au­gustin and Fa­rooq were learn­ing pre­cise­ly noth­ing from Pe­ter­son’s ar­chae­ol­ogy stu­dents, crew-​cut clones with mo­rons-​for-​Je­sus smiles who all just hap­pened to have ex­act­ly the same sto­ry to tell. ‘And your name is?’ Fa­rooq asked the lat­est ar­rival.

‘Green, sir. Michael Green.’ He glanced around at Pe­ter­son, stand­ing over his shoul­der, as though he need­ed to check he’d got his own name right.

‘And you saw this in­trud­er too?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Tell me about it.’

‘Well, sir. It was kind of dark, you know. I don’t know that I can—’

Fa­rooq’s mo­bile be­gan to ring. He sighed and raised an eye­brow at Au­gustin. ‘I need to an­swer this,’ he grunt­ed. ‘You want to take his state­ment?’

‘Sure,’ said Au­gustin, sti­fling a yawn. He nod­ded at the young man as Fa­rooq wan­dered off. ‘Go on.’

‘I was just say­ing, I don’t know that I can add much to what the oth­ers told you.’

‘Try. What was this in­trud­er do­ing?’

‘I’m sor­ry, sir?’

‘Was he stand­ing, kneel­ing, crawl­ing? Was he com­ing to­wards you? Go­ing away? What was he wear­ing? How tall was he? What colour hair? Did he re­al­ize you’d spot­ted him?’

‘Ah.’ A touch of colour flamed Michael’s cheeks. He glanced at Pe­ter­son once more. ‘It’s dif­fi­cult to re­mem­ber‘I { re, ex­act­ly,’ he said. ‘It all hap­pened so quick­ly.’

‘You must have some rec­ol­lec­tion.’

Pe­ter­son stepped for­ward. ‘Is it re­al­ly wise to bul­ly wit­ness­es in­to telling you things they did­n’t see?’

‘I want to make sure he is­n’t for­get­ting any­thing.’

‘Are you for­get­ting any­thing, Michael?’ asked Pe­ter­son.

‘No, sir.’

‘There you go, Doc­tor Pas­cal. He’s not for­get­ting any­thing.’

‘Good news,’ an­nounced Fa­rooq, fin­ish­ing his phone call, com­ing back to join them. ‘My men have found Knox.’

Au­gustin’s heart skipped a beat. ‘What?’

‘Do you know the thing I hate most in this world, Doc­tor Pas­cal?’ he asked. ‘Be­ing tak­en for a fool. All those peo­ple at the Supreme Coun­cil this morn­ing. Do you know what they told me? They told me, if I want­ed to find Knox, I should talk to you, Au­gustin Pas­cal. Pas­cal will know, they said. He and Knox are best friends. But when I ask you about Knox, you tell me noth­ing about this great friend­ship of yours. Not one word. You think I’m an id­iot? Is that what you think?’

‘Oh, Christ! You speak French.’

Fa­rooq’s right hook knocked Au­gustin clean on­to his back­side. ‘And that’s for call­ing my moth­er a fat sow,’ he said.

I

The cam­era was still ly­ing where Lily had dropped it. Its lens and dis­play were in­tact, but its bat­tery pack had come away from its hous­ing and would­n’t slot back in, how­ev­er Khaled twist­ed and pushed. He hand­ed it to Faisal, who was good with such things. ‘Fix it,’ he scowled.



But it took Faisal on­ly a mo­men­t’s ex­am­ina­tion to shake his head. ‘I’ll need prop­er tools,’ he grunt­ed. He checked through the pouch­es of the cam­era bag, found an elec­tri­cal lead in­stead. ‘This might work,’ he said. ‘We could try one of the pow­er-​points in the Roy­al Tomb.’

Khaled nod­ded. It was a good idea, though they’d need to cov­er up the wall paint­ings or they’d give them­selves away. ‘Nass­er,’ he said. ‘Go fetch the blan­kets and sheets from the oth­er tomb. Ab­dul­lah, you turn on the gen­er­ator.’ He walked back over to the for­eign­ers. ‘Your pos­ses­sions, please. Phones, wal­lets, watch­es, car keys, jew­ellery. Ev­ery­thing. On the rocks.’ He gave them a cuff or two to keep them com­pli­ant, scooped it all up, put it away in the cam­era bag. ‘On your feet,’ he or­dered.

‘What are you go­ing to do with us?’ whined Stafford.

‘Just move, will you?’

The gen­er­ator start­ed up just as they reached the Roy­al Tomb, so that the floor-​lights glowed and then grew bright. They herd­ed the for­eign­ers down in­to the buri­al cham­ber. Faisal plugged in and test­ed the cam­era. Its op­er­at­ing light came on. About time some­thing went their way. Ab­dul­lah ar­rived, then Nass­er with his arms full of dust­sheets. There was a crude­ly cut niche high up in the wall in the far right cor­ner of the cham­ber. They hung a sheet like a cur­tain from it, ob­scur­ing the mu­rals be­hind. They spread an­oth­er on the floor.

Sat­is­fied, Khaled pat­ted his pock­et fied ~for some­thing to write with, then sat on the floor to com­pose his mes­sage.

II

The po­lice­men put Knox in a small dank hold­ing cell with two oth­er de­tainees: a tall thin strag­gle-​beard­ed youth in a tan gal­abaya who fin­gered beads and mut­tered in­ces­sant­ly, and a sal­low forty-​some­thing man in a mussed white suit who lay rest­less­ly on the bench op­po­site, sit­ting up ev­ery so of­ten, rub­bing his hands and cheeks like a de­prived ad­dict.



The stone walls, soft­ened by damp, were ev­ery­where scratched with graf­fi­ti. Knox read them while he wait­ed. He brood­ed too. On­ly Au­gustin had known he was with Kostas. And the pho­tographs Au­gustin kept in that fold­er gave him a mo­tive. But he was al­so his clos­est friend, and Knox had nev­er met a man more loy­al to his friends than Au­gustin. No way would he de­lib­er­ate­ly be­tray him. There had to be an­oth­er ex­pla­na­tion.

It was a good hour be­fore the door scraped open again and a po­lice­man beck­oned. He was led through a recre­ation room full with off-​du­ty po­lice­men watch­ing the foot­ball on a flick­er­ing TV screen high up on the wall, then along a nar­row cor­ri­dor to an in­ter­view room, where he took a seat at a bare pine ta­ble. An over­weight po­lice­man ar­rived a minute lat­er, a notepad in one hand, a car­ton of juice in the oth­er.

‘What’s go­ing on?’ de­mand­ed Knox.

The man sat as if he had­n’t heard a word, jot­ted down Knox’s name, checked his watch for the time. He had sur­pris­ing­ly el­egant hand­writ­ing. ‘My name is Fa­rooq,’ he said. Knox gave the faintest of snorts, for the name Fa­rooq meant one who could tell truth from false­hood. Fa­rooq looked up sharply. ‘You speak Ara­bic, then?’ he said.

‘I get by.’ It was on­ly then that he re­al­ized how he’d been tracked down. ‘And you speak French, yes?’

Fa­rooq grinned wicked­ly. ‘I get by,’ he ac­knowl­edged. ‘You’ve lived in Egypt long?’

‘Ten years.’

‘May I see your pa­pers?’

‘Not on me.’

‘If you’ve lived here ten years, you should have learned to car­ry your pa­pers at all times.’

‘I’ll go get them if you like.’

Fa­rooq tapped his pen on his pad, think­ing how best to ap­proach this. ‘Tell me some­thing, Mis­ter Knox,’ he said. ‘You were in a se­ri­ous car crash last night. You were knocked un­con­scious. You were tak­en to hos­pi­tal, seem­ing­ly a sen­si­ble place for a man who’s been in a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent. Yet this morn­ing you ran away. Why?’

‘I don’t have in­sur­ance. Those places cost a for­tune.’

‘A man died last night, Mis­ter Knox. Do you think this is fun­ny?’

‘No.’

‘Then I ask again: why run away?’

Knox hes­itat­ed. The truth would sound im­plau­si­ble, but maybe it was worth try­ing. ‘A man came in­to my room,’ he said. ‘He tried to kill me.’

‘With one of my of­fi­cers sta­tioned out­side?’

‘He put a pil­low over my face.’

‘You ex­pect me to be­lieve that? You think I’m a fool?’

‘Why else would I have run away?’

Fa­rooq tapped his pen some more. ‘De­scribe this man to me.’

‘It was dark. I had con­cus­sion.’

‘Why not call for help?’

‘I tried to. I had no voice. But I did pull my IV stand over. It was all I could man­age. Your of­fi­cer came run­ning in. He fetched a nurse. The nurse right­ed the stand. I tried to tell him …’ He ges­tured help­less­ly at his throat. ‘Ask your of­fi­cer if you don’t be­lieve me.’

Fa­rooq glared at Knox, try­ing to in­tim­idate him in­to buck­ling and re­tract­ing, but Knox held his gaze. ‘Wait here,’ said Fa­rooq fi­nal­ly, push­ing to his feet. ‘I’ll be back in one minute.’

III

Fear was like ul­cers in Gaille’s gut as she watched Khaled and his men go about their work. She’d seen mur­der in Khaled’s eyes ear­li­er. She had no doubt that he’d have killed them all with­out a qualm had Stafford’s phone not rung. She knew for sure that her life de­pend­ed on his say-​so.



Nass­er and Ab­dul­lah tore a cot­ton sheet in­to strips, wrapped them around their faces, leav­ing thin slits for their eyes and nos­trils, anony­mous yet ter­ri­fy­ing. Faisal un­wrapped a new DVD, slid it in­to Lily’s cam­era. Khaled fin­ished writ­ing his note, came across. ‘Kneel,’ he said. They all knelt com­pli­ant­ly on the dust­sheet. He thrust his note at Gaille. ‘Read,’ he told her.

She glanced at his Ara­bic scrawl, looked up in alarm. ‘I don’t un­der­stand.’

Khaled aimed his Walther at the bridge of her nose. ‘Read.’

‘Don’t do it,’ said Stafford.

Khaled whipped Stafford across the cheek with his Walther so hard that he cried out and fell on­to his side. He put a hand to his face; it came back blood­ied. He looked at it in dis­be­lief, welling up with tears of shock. Khaled aimed down at him, but it was Gaille he looked at. ‘You’ll read,’ he told her.

‘Yes,’ she agreed, feel­ing faint with ter­ror. He re­treat­ed be­hind Faisal, arms fold­ed, for all the world like the pro­duc­er of some cheap flick, while Nass­er and Ab­dul­lah, faces con­cealed be­hind their makeshift masks, stood be­hind them, their weapons held aslant across their chests.

Stafford pushed him­self back up on­to his knees, blood still trick­ling from his cheek. Khaled tapped Faisal’s shoul­der. The cam­er­a’s op­er­at­ing light came on. He nod­ded at Gaille to read. It was her chance to com­mu­ni­cate with the out­side world. She might nev­er get an­oth­er. She ad­just­ed her pos­ture, tuck­ing her legs be­neath her, sit­ting up straight, throw­ing back her shoul­ders. Then she trans­ferred the note to her left hand and raised her right hand for em­pha­sis. ‘We are pris­on­ers of the As­si­ut Is­lam­ic Broth­er­hood,’ she be­gan. ‘Our cap­tors are treat­ing us well. They promise to con­tin­ue to treat us well un­less ef­forts are made to find us. They as­sure us we will be re­leased un­harmed when our broth­ers, false­ly im­pris­oned for the mur­der of the two girls, are re­leased with­out charge. If they are not re­leased with­out charge with­in four­teen days, the As­si­ut Is­lam­ic Broth­er­hood will not be re­spon­si­ble for what then hap­pens. God is great.’

The record­ing light went out. Khaled re­viewed the footage, nod­ded in sat­is­fac­tion. Faisal popped out the DVD, passed it to him. He took it by its edges, care­ful not to leave fin­ger­prints, then put it away in its case. Gaille’s heart be­gan to race wild­ly with fear. Be­cause she un­der­stood Khaled’s plan well enough to re­al­ize that if he still in­tend­ed lize wil­tend­ed on killing them all, now would be the time.

IV

‘Well?’ asked Yas­mine, greet­ing Naguib at the door. ‘How was your day?’



Naguib knew what his wife was re­al­ly ask­ing. She was ask­ing him whether he’d found his killer yet, whether their daugh­ter was safe. He said: ‘Not bad.’

Yas­mine dropped a kiss on Hus­niyah’s crown. ‘Run along, beloved,’ she said. ‘Your fa­ther and I have some­thing to dis­cuss.’

Hus­niyah took her doll next door, though some­thing in her eye made Naguib sus­pect she’d have her ear against the wall. ‘Well?’ asked Yas­mine.

‘There’s no con­nec­tion be­tween the girl I found and those two in As­si­ut,’ said Naguib. ‘I’m sure of it.’

‘How can you be?’

‘I don’t even think this girl was mur­dered. I think it was an ac­ci­dent. I think she was just a poor girl out hunt­ing for an­cient arte­facts in a storm. I think per­haps some­thing fell on her and knocked her un­con­scious and then she drowned. Or maybe she was climb­ing when she fell.’

‘And then she just picked her­self up and walked out in­to the desert and buried her­self in a tarpaulin be­neath the sand?’

‘No,’ ad­mit­ted Naguib.

‘Then what?’

He shook his head. ‘I don’t know yet. Some­thing’s clear­ly up. But that does­n’t mean it’s linked to As­si­ut. That does­n’t make it mur­der.’

‘But you’re go­ing to find out, yes? I have to be sure.’

‘Gamal’s right, my beloved. We have more press­ing cas­es.’

‘She was a young girl,’ in­sist­ed Yas­mine. ‘I’m glad there’s no mur­der­er. I’m glad Hus­niyah is safe. Tru­ly I am. But she was just a young girl, and she was from your dis­trict, and she was un­der your care. You owe it to her to find out.’

Naguib sighed. ‘I’ll speak to the ghaf­firs in the morn­ing,’ he promised. ‘Maybe they’ll know some­thing.’

V

‘Well?’ de­mand­ed Knox, when Fa­rooq re­turned. ‘What did your man say? He told you the IV stand fell over, did­n’t he?’



‘Let’s say it did fall over,’ ac­knowl­edged Fa­rooq grudg­ing­ly. ‘So what? It could have been an ac­ci­dent.’

‘Sure!’

‘Very well. You pulled it over be­cause of this mys­te­ri­ous in­trud­er, this man no one else saw, this man who wants to kill you, yet who you’ve nev­er seen be­fore and can’t iden­ti­fy.’

Knox hes­itat­ed. ‘I think it might have been some­one called Pe­ter­son.’

‘The Rev­erend Ernest Pe­ter­son?’ frowned Fa­rooq. ‘The man who saved your life?’

‘I beg your par­don.’

‘You heard me. He found you af­ter your crash and risked his own life to pull you from your Jeep be­fore the smoke got to you. Then he drove you to hos­pi­tal. This is the man who tried to kill you?’

Knox went a lit­tle numb. ‘I did­n’t know,’ he said. He shook his head in con­fu­sion, baf­fled by this lat­est turn.

‘You took a taxi from the hos­pi­tal. Where did you go?’

‘Around.’

‘Around?’

‘May I have some­thing to drink, please?’ asked Knox. ‘A glass of wa­ter. Any­thing.’

‘When you tell me where you went.’

‘The Latin Ceme­ter­ies.’

‘You went di­rect­ly there?’

‘You said I could have a glass of wa­ter.’



Farooq pushed himself to his feet, opened the door, shouted...

‘Yes.’

‘That’s strange. Be­cause my col­leagues had a call ear­li­er. From a wom­an who had an in­trud­er in her apart­ment.’

‘So?’

‘This in­trud­er as­sault­ed her, put her in fear for her life. And do you know the fun­ny thing? He an­swered your ex­act de­scrip­tion. And do you know who lives right above her? Your friend Au­gustin Pas­cal. Yes. The very same man you tele­phoned ear­li­er.’

‘Is this re­al­ly why you brought me in? To talk about Pas­cal?’

Fa­rooq tapped a cigarette from a soft-​pack, clamped the fil­ter be­tween his lips to pull it all the way out. ‘Want one?’ he of­fered.

‘No thanks.’

Fa­rooq lit his cigarette, smoke drift­ing from his nos­trils. ‘You’re quite right,’ he smiled. ‘I did­n’t bring you in to dis­cuss Mis­ter Pas­cal. I brought you in to charge you with the mur­der of Omar Taw­fiq.’

I

Night had fall­en while they’d been in the Roy­al Tomb. The rocks in the wa­di gleamed like bones as Gaille picked her way across them, then up the hill­side. Faisal led the way, cut­ting a ghost­ly fig­ure with the dust­sheets draped over his shoul­ders. He walked con­fi­dent­ly along the cliff-​face path, find­ing places for his feet that Gaille could bare­ly see in the gloom un­til he turned and picked them out for her with his torch. She took the first step, her an­kles weak with fear. Then the next. Faisal smiled at her when she fi­nal­ly reached the end, seek­ing a smile in re­turn, some kind of for­give­ness, or at least of un­der­stand­ing; but she re­mem­bered how she’d shared her choco­late with him ear­li­er, and gave him such a scathing look in­stead that he dropped his eyes in shame.



He pulled back the sack­cloth cur­tain, nod­ded her through the black gash in the rock, a tree-​trunk split by light­ning. With his torch point­ing down, the re­flect­ed light re­vealed a wide, low cham­ber, rows of volup­tuous fat pil­lars carved from the lime­stone ei­ther side, the gaps be­tween stacked high with rub­ble. Ev­ery­one gath­ered in­side. Khaled led them along the pas­sage to a shaft. A rope lad­der was moored to an iron peg ham­mered in­to the ground. ‘Down,’ he or­dered Gaille.

‘What are you go­ing to do with us?’

‘Just get down.’

She dan­gled her legs over the drop, turned on­to her front, grabbed the rope, el­bows scrap­ing on the rough stone as she probed with her foot like a tongue at a loose tooth un­til she gue a2em…found a rung. Faisal shone his torch down for her, so that she could see the plain lime­stone wall as she de­scend­ed, the rub­ble floor cov­ered with lit­ter. In the flut­ter­ing light, she glimpsed a can­dle glued by its own con­gealed wax to a stone and a half-​used book of match­es, so she grabbed them both. Stafford ar­rived down next, then Lily. The lad­der slith­ered up the wall like a fugi­tive snake, trap­ping them there. A mut­ter of con­ver­sa­tion above, then the fade of foot­steps and si­lence.

‘Hey!’ shout­ed Stafford. ‘Any­one there?’ Noth­ing but echo. ‘You think they’ve gone?’ he asked.

Gaille struck a match, lit the can­dle from it, took it to the walls, too sheer and high to climb, even if they’d had some tool with which to gouge holds in them.

‘What are they go­ing to do with us?’ asked Lily. ‘Did they say what they were go­ing to do?’

‘No.’

‘They must have said some­thing.’

‘I don’t think they know yet,’ said Gaille. ‘I think they’re mak­ing this up as they go along.’

‘How do you mean?’

She took a deep breath. The can­dle flut­tered, giv­ing the feel­ing of a vig­il, as though some­one had died. ‘This is a mess, that’s all. They stum­bled up­on this place by ac­ci­dent. They should have re­port­ed it, but they chose to loot it in­stead. That’s a very se­ri­ous crime. They’ll go to gaol for years if they’re caught.’

‘Then why take the chance?’

‘Be­cause they’re poor. A con­script earns maybe three hun­dred US dol­lars a year. Imag­ine try­ing to live on that. Imag­ine try­ing to mar­ry or bring up a fam­ily. Then imag­ine com­ing across an arte­fact worth a thou­sand dol­lars. A sin­gle arte­fact. What would you do?’

‘You sound al­most sor­ry for them,’ said Stafford.

‘They’ll let us go, won’t they?’ asked Lily. ‘I mean they have to.’

Gaille did­n’t an­swer at once, but her si­lence was elo­quent. ‘The po­lice will come for us,’ she said.

‘But they’ll be look­ing in As­si­ut!’

‘They’ll be look­ing ev­ery­where,’ Gaille as­sured her. ‘One thing the Egyp­tians have is man­pow­er. We just need to keep our nerve.’ The can­dle gut­tered, al­ready burn­ing low. They could­n’t af­ford to waste any more. She cupped her hand around the flame to blow it out, and dark­ness en­veloped them once more.

II

‘Mur­der?’ protest­ed Knox. ‘What do you mean, mur­der?’



‘I mean ex­act­ly what I say,’ said Fa­rooq. ‘I mean I be­lieve you de­lib­er­ate­ly killed Omar Taw­fiq and tried to make it look like an ac­ci­dent.’

‘You must be crazy.’

‘An­swer me this, Mr Knox. How long have you owned your Jeep?’

‘What?’

‘Just an­swer my ques­tion, please.’

‘I don’t know. Ten years.’

‘And tell me this. Did it have a pas­sen­ger-​side seat belt?’

‘Oh Christ!’ mut­tered Knox. He rocked for­ward on his chair, looked up at Fa­rooq. ‘Is that how he died?’

‘And there was a driver’s-​side seat belt. You knew that, not least be­cause you were wear­ing it when you were found. So you’d agree, would­n’t you, that if the driv­er de­lib­er­ate­ly crashed in­to a ditch, there’d be ev­ery chance he him­self would es­cape with light in­juries while his pas­sen­ger would be very severe­ly in­jured, maybe even killed?’

Knox shook his head. ‘You’d have to be mad to do such a thing.’

‘Not mad. On­ly very high­ly mo­ti­vat­ed.’

‘What mo­tive could I pos­si­bly have had to do that?’

‘That’s for you to tell me, is­n’t it?’

‘This is crazy,’ protest­ed Knox. ‘Omar was my friend. I did­n’t mur­der him, I swear I did­n’t.’

‘I thought you’d lost your mem­ory,’ said Fa­rooq. ‘How can you be so sure?’

‘Be­cause I’d nev­er do some­thing like that. Ask any­one.’

‘We have been ask­ing.’

‘Well, then,’ said Knox. But he felt a twinge. Who knew for sure what they were ca­pa­ble of un­der stress? More to the point, who knew what oth­ers would say about them?

‘I hear you’re quite the celebri­ty in ar­chae­olog­ical cir­cles,’ said Fa­rooq. ‘I hear you can’t get enough of the me­dia spot­light.’

‘I found my­self in it once. That does­n’t mean I en­joyed it.’

‘It goes to your head, though, does­n’t it?’ grinned Fa­rooq. ‘It brings you alive. And then it goes away again and leaves you feel­ing emp­ty.’

‘Speak for your­self.’

‘You know what I think hap­pened?’ said Fa­rooq. ‘I think you found some­thing yes­ter­day. I think you found it on Pe­ter­son’s site. I think that’s why you went back af­ter dark. I fur­ther think that you and Mis­ter Taw­fiq ar­gued about what to do next. His col­leagues say he was the most scrupu­lous of men. He’d have in­sist­ed on go­ing through the prop­er chan­nels, re­port­ing it to his sec­re­tary gen­er­al in Cairo. But you could­n’t bear that, could you? Ev­ery­one tells me you have his­to­ry with the sec­re­tary gen­er­al, that you can’t stand each oth­er. The thought of him get­ting all that glo­ry, all that at­ten­tion, when it should right­ful­ly have been yours. … It was­n’t to be borne, was it? So you de­cid­ed to si­lence Omar.’

‘That’s rub­bish.’

Fa­rooq nod­ded to him­self. ‘You know what I had to do this morn­ing, Mis­ter Knox? Vis­it Mis­ter Taw­fiq’s fam­ily; in­form them of his death. The very worst part of my job, as I’m sure you’ll ap­pre­ci­ate. You know much about his fam­ily?’

Knox shook his head. ‘He nev­er talked about them.’

‘Can’t say I’m sur­prised. A re­spect­ed aca­dem­ic like him.’

‘What are you get­ting at?’

‘His fa­ther is a very pow­er­ful man, Mis­ter Knox,’ grunt­ed Fa­rooq. ‘His broth­ers are all very pow­er­ful men.’

Knox felt sick. ‘You don’t mean … ?’

‘I’m afraid I do. And they’re not hap­py, be­lieve me. They want ex­pla­na­tions. I had to tell them you were driv­ing. I had to tell them your Jeep had no pas­sen­ger-​side seat belt.’

‘Oh, Christ.’

‘Otifp height=“0pt” width=“2em” align=“jus­ti­fy”>‘They hold you re­spon­si­ble for his death, Mis­ter Knox. And they’re dan­ger­ous men, I as­sure you. Not the kind of men to let the death of a son and broth­er pass with­out tak­ing cer­tain steps.’

‘They’re com­ing af­ter me?’

‘You asked why I had you brought in,’ said Fa­rooq. ‘I want­ed to talk to you, yes. But I was al­so con­cerned for your safe­ty. This is my city, Mis­ter Knox. I won’t have peo­ple mur­dered here. Not even for­eign­ers. Not even killers. But I’ll tell you this: I would­n’t be in your shoes, not for any­thing.’

‘I did­n’t do it,’ said Knox weak­ly.

‘You’d do well to get your mem­ory back as soon as pos­si­ble,’ ad­vised Fa­rooq, push­ing him­self to his feet. ‘We’ll meet again to­mor­row morn­ing. I’d use tonight wise­ly, if I were you.’

III


Khaled drove the Dis­cov­ery cau­tious­ly along the wa­di, on­ly open­ing up at all once he was out in the open desert. The moon was low on the hori­zon, mak­ing the sand gleam like tar­nished pewter. Chill night air blew in through the bro­ken driver’s-​side win­dow, turn­ing his fin­gers to ice. He kept his head­lights on; the risk of meet­ing any­one way out here was far less than of hit­ting one of the rocks that lay hid­den like un­ex­plod­ed mines in the sand. He felt strange­ly calm, the sit­ua­tion out of his con­trol. But luck was with him; he reached the desert track with­out in­ci­dent, head­ed south to­wards As­si­ut, be­gan to en­counter oth­er peo­ple. A farmer on his don­key. A pick-​up truck. Then the traf­fic grew thick, cloak­ing him in anonymi­ty. He crossed the bridge in­to As­si­ut. Nass­er was wait­ing on the west bank, astride his mo­tor­bike; his route down had been far quick­er, even with a Nile cross­ing to take in­to ac­count. He waved at Khaled, fell in be­hind. They drove west, look­ing for suit­able sites, found a derelict fac­to­ry with an en­closed court­yard. Per­fect. He scat­tered the be­long­ings he’d tak­en ear­li­er among the front and back seats, then doused the whole lot with fu­el from the Dis­cov­ery’s own spare can. It went up with such a fierce blaze that it seared his skin. He climbed on the back of Nasser’s bike and they drove back in­to town.

The Dis­cov­ery would be found soon enough, but he could­n’t de­liv­er the DVD just yet. Enough time need­ed to pass for ter­ror­ists to snatch hostages, take them to a safe house, make the record­ing. Three hours, say. Then back to Amar­na. They found a bench over­look­ing the Nile where he brood­ed on their sit­ua­tion.

A young cou­ple walked by in the dark­ness. He could hear their dot­ing voic­es but not make out what they were say­ing, and it re­mind­ed him how he’d heard Stafford’s voice from in­side the tomb. He went cold sud­den­ly. What if it worked both ways? The po­lice were sure to vis­it Amar­na dur­ing their in­ves­ti­ga­tion. What if the hostages were to yell for help while they were near­by? He’d in­tend­ed to keep them alive to mit­igate their pun­ish­ment should they be caught, but now he re­al­ized this was a risk they could­n’t af­ford. He pulled out his mo­bile, called Ab­dul­lah. ‘Ev­ery­thing okay?’ he asked.

‘Yes, sir,’ said Ab­dul­lah. ‘You want us to close the place up now?’

‘I need you to do some­thing first. I need you to si­lence them.’

‘What?’

‘You heard me.’

A mo­men­t’s hes­ita­tion, then: ‘But I thought we were go­ing to—’

‘We need them si­lenced,’ snapped Khaled. ‘That’s an or­dpped

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Good. Then take care of it be­fore I get back.’

IV

A sec­ond foot­ball match had tak­en the place of the first on the recre­ation room TV, and now was reach­ing its cli­max. Knox’s two cell-​mates were fans, tak­ing it in turns to stand by the door and squint through the view­ing win­dow, winc­ing and cheer­ing, chat­ting an­imat­ed­ly with the po­lice­men out­side.



Omar was dead. Fi­nal­ly, it was sink­ing in. He and Knox had­n’t been old friends, but they’d grown close quick­ly, in that way you do. Kin­dred spir­its. Such a gen­tle, thought­ful and dif­fi­dent young man; it was hard to cred­it that he came from a fam­ily of Egyp­tian gang­sters, though maybe that was why he’d turned out the way he had, why he’d turned to ar­chae­ol­ogy. An ef­fort to dis­tance him­self from his own roots. Al­though, think­ing about it, maybe it had had some­thing to do with his re­cent pro­mo­tion too.

The worst of it was, Fa­rooq was right: Omar’s death was his fault. He’d been driv­ing his Jeep for years with a bro­ken seat belt, aware that such an ac­ci­dent was pos­si­ble, yet he’d done noth­ing about it. Such things some­how seemed to mat­ter less in Egypt. Un­til they had con­se­quences, at least.

A great cheer went up. Some­one had scored.

He buried his head in his hands as he grieved for his friend, striv­ing to re­gain his lost mem­ory. He owed it to Omar to re­mem­ber pre­cise­ly what had hap­pened, how bad­ly to blame he’d been. But the min­utes passed, slow as pour­ing trea­cle, and still noth­ing came.

V

Faisal fol­lowed Ab­dul­lah along the tomb cor­ri­dor with a heavy tread, his AK-47 held out in front of him, as though to fend off demons. He was a qui­et man by na­ture; he want­ed on­ly to com­plete his three years’ con­scrip­tion and go home. He be­lieved in hard work, in Al­lah, in do­ing right by oth­ers, in mar­ry­ing a good wom­an and hav­ing many, many chil­dren. His un­cle had as­sured him that the army would be the mak­ing of him. Who on earth could have dreamed it would make him in­to this? But Khaled had giv­en his or­ders, and you did­n’t dis­obey Khaled. Not more than once.



They reached the lip of the shaft, stopped. ‘Who’s up there?’ called out the girl Gaille. ‘What’s go­ing on?’ Her voice was plain­tive, it tugged at his heart, re­mind­ed him of how she’d giv­en him choco­late just that same morn­ing, how they’d laughed and joked to­geth­er. How in hell had it all gone so wrong so quick­ly?

‘I’ll shine down the torch,’ mur­mured Ab­dul­lah. ‘You do it.’

‘Why should I do it?’

‘Are you go­ing to let us go?’ asked the girl. ‘Please. We’re beg­ging you.’

‘What do you think I mean?’ scowled Ab­dul­lah. ‘I’ll shine down the torch. You do … you know.’

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