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



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‘How about I shine down the torch and you do it?’...

‘I wish we had one of the cap­tain’s grenades,’ mut­tered Ab­dul­lah. ‘So much eas­ier.’

‘For us, you mean?’

Down­idth=, ty">Down be­low, the sec­ond wom­an start­ed sob­bing piteous­ly. Faisal strug­gled to block her cries and wails from his head.

‘We’ll do it to­geth­er,’ said Ab­dul­lah fi­nal­ly. ‘Then we’ll check with the torch. Agreed?’

‘I don’t like this,’ said Faisal.

‘You think I do?’ scowled Ab­dul­lah. ‘But it’s this or ex­plain to Khaled.’

Faisal breathed deep. He’d slaugh­tered live­stock on his farm ev­er since he could re­mem­ber. That was all this was. Live­stock ready for slaugh­ter. ‘Okay,’ he said. He read­ied his gun; the shriek­ing start­ed down be­low.

‘On the count of three,’ said Ab­dul­lah.

‘On the count of three,’ agreed Faisal.

‘One …’ said Ab­dul­lah. ‘Two …’

I

Au­gustin ar­rived home weary and ap­pre­hen­sive. Fa­rooq had treat­ed him with such con­tempt since he’d decked him with his right hand that the spir­it had gone com­plete­ly out of him. He’d asked to vis­it Knox at the po­lice sta­tion. Fa­rooq had laughed in his face. He was nor­mal­ly an ebul­lient man, Au­gustin, but not tonight. He could­n’t re­mem­ber ev­er feel­ing this low.



A mad­wom­an leaned over the ban­is­ters to bark at him about his rapist house guests. He lacked the en­er­gy even to yell back.

He half filled a tum­bler with ice, opened a new bot­tle of sin­gle malt, took both glass and bot­tle through to his bed­room, set them down on his bed­side ta­ble. Then he opened his wardrobe and lift­ed his stack of T-​shirts. The fold­er had moved. No ques­tion. No sur­prise, ei­ther. Knox had­n’t said any­thing on the phone ear­li­er; of course he had­n’t, he was a man; men dis­cuss such things, thank Christ. But Au­gustin had heard that slight hes­ita­tion in his voice. At the time, he’d put it down to his predica­ment. On­ly lat­er had he re­al­ized that Knox would have need­ed a clean shirt, that of course he’d have seen the fold­er. It was the way fate worked. It gave you the pun­ish­ments you de­served.

He drew out the pho­tographs; spread them on his du­vet. His favourite was the first, not least be­cause Gaille had giv­en it to him her­self. It showed the three of them out in the desert late one af­ter­noon, arms around each oth­er’s shoul­ders, grin­ning hap­pi­ly, against a back­drop of red-​gold dunes, length­en­ing shad­ows, low sliv­ers of mauve and or­ange cloud in a blue-​wash sky. A griz­zled Bedouin had tak­en it; they’d hap­pened across him trudg­ing the sands be­tween nowhere and nowhere with the gloomi­est-​look­ing camel he’d ev­er seen. Au­gustin, Gaille, Knox. Some­thing had hap­pened to him that day. When Gaille had giv­en him the pho­to­graph, he’d found it im­pos­si­ble to put away. He’d added to it, pho­tos of her and Knox; oth­ers just of her.

His tum­bler had some­how emp­tied. He re­filled it.

Why have one wom­an when you could have twen­ty? In his heart, he’d al­ways scorned fi­deli­ty. Ev­ery man would be­have like he did if on­ly they could. Monogamy was for losers. Maybe he was just get­ting old, but evenings with Knox and Gaille had made him aware of the shab­bi­ness of this life. He’d found it in­creas­ing­ly hard to pick up wom­en. He’d lost his nerve, or per­haps his hunger. He’d de­vel­oped a dif­fer­ent han­ker­ing. He could­n’t say what for, just that it was there, that it kept grow­ing more se­vere, that it would­n’ moreys …t be sat­ed by his usu­al con­quests. One morn­ing, a cou­ple of months back, he’d wo­ken up ef­fer­ves­cent with pur­pose, had leapt out of bed and had torn down a great strip of wall­pa­per, sat­is­fy­ing as a gi­gan­tic scab. He’d called in the builders that same day, had had his apart­ment gut­ted and re­dec­orat­ed.

The nest­ing in­stinct! Good grief! How had it come to this?

And yet it did­n’t feel like love. That was what Knox would­n’t un­der­stand. He was fond of Gaille, sure, but he did­n’t cov­et her or plot ways to win her. It did­n’t stab him in the heart when she looked at Knox in that way she had. Be­cause it was­n’t Gaille who’d got be­neath his skin. It was the two of them to­geth­er, the thing that had hap­pened be­tween them with­out them even know­ing.

One of the un­ex­pect­ed haz­ards of ar­chae­ol­ogy was how you were con­stant­ly re­proached by the lives of oth­ers. An­cient Alexan­dri­ans had had a life ex­pectan­cy of some thir­ty-​five years, less time on earth than he’d al­ready spent. Yet so many of them had achieved so much. And he’d achieved so lit­tle.

His life was shit. He’d start­ed buy­ing whisky by the crate.

He lay back on his bed, his hands clasped be­neath his head. He stared up at his fresh­ly white­washed ceil­ing, aware it was go­ing to be a long night.

II

‘I can’t do this,’ mut­tered Faisal, tak­ing a step back from the edge of the sump. ‘I can’t. I won’t.’



‘Fine,’ scowled Ab­dul­lah. ‘Then I’ll do it. But I won’t have you point­ing the fin­ger at me lat­er if it all goes to shit.’

‘No,’ said Faisal. ‘Nei­ther of us are do­ing it. It’s wrong. It’s just wrong. You know it is.’

‘And you’re go­ing to tell Cap­tain Khaled that, are you?’ snort­ed Ab­dul­lah.

Faisal gri­maced. Ab­dul­lah had a point. He’d suf­fered on­ly one of that man’s prop­er beat­ings, but it had put him in hos­pi­tal for a week. He did­n’t fan­cy a re­peat. ‘What were his or­ders, ex­act­ly?’ he asked.

‘Like I told you. To si­lence them.’

‘To si­lence them!’ snort­ed Faisal. ‘And why did he use that par­tic­ular word, do you think? So that if all this is found out, he can blame us for mis­in­ter­pret­ing his or­ders. We’ll be hung while he’ll be let off with a slap on his wrist.’

‘You think he’d do that?’

‘Of course he would,’ said Faisal. ‘Do you hon­est­ly be­lieve ev­ery­thing we’ve found here has been worth­less, like he’s been telling us? Bull­shit. He’s just keep­ing it all for him­self. It’s on­ly ev­er him, him, him.’

Ab­dul­lah grunt­ed. It was a sus­pi­cion they all shared. ‘Then what do you sug­gest?’

‘We do pre­cise­ly as he told you. We si­lence them.’

‘I don’t un­der­stand.’

‘These two planks. We put one ei­ther side of the shaft. Then we stretch out the sheets and blan­kets be­tween them, pin them down with rocks. That’ll muf­fle any sound, es­pe­cial­ly once we’ve sealed the mouth up.’

‘I don’t know.’ Ab­dul­lah gave a shud­der. ‘If he finds out …’

‘How’s he go­ing to do that? I’m not go­ing to tell him. Are you?’

‘Even so.’

‘So you’d rather kill them, would you?’

Ab­dul­lah glanced down, con­sid­ered the op­tions then gri­maced. ‘Very well,’ he nod­ded. ‘Let’s do it.’

III


Knox ached from head to toe as he strug­gled to sleep. Bone-​weary, they called it, and they knew what they were talk­ing about. His cell was cold, his bench hard, his com­pan­ions noisy sleep­ers, tak­ing it in shifts to snore. The tele­vi­sion was still on in the recre­ation room, vol­ume cranked up high. It did­n’t seem to both­er Egyp­tians at all – they were born with mute but­tons in their heads – but it was an as­pect of life here that Knox had nev­er quite got used to.

It was the small hours be­fore he fi­nal­ly drift­ed off, if not to sleep ex­act­ly, then to a state of in­er­tia near enough to it. He was­n’t sure how long he’d been doz­ing that way when he heard a fa­mil­iar voice. Gaille’s voice. At first he thought he was dream­ing; it made him smile. But then he re­al­ized it was­n’t a dream. He re­al­ized it be­cause of her choice of words, the strain in her tone. A jolt ran through him. He sat up, hur­ried to the cell door. Through the view­ing win­dow, he could just make out on the tele­vi­sion screen the night­mare iconog­ra­phy of mod­ern ter­ror­ism, Gaille and two oth­ers on the floor, two masked paramil­itaries stand­ing be­hind them, weapons across their chests.

‘Gaille!’ he mut­tered, dis­be­liev­ing. He pound­ed his fist against the door. ‘Gaille!’

‘Qui­et, damn you,’ grunt­ed one of his cell-​mates.

‘Gaille!’ he yelled. ‘Gaille!’

‘I said be qui­et!’

‘Gaille!’

A door banged, foot­steps ap­proached, a bleary-​eyed po­lice­man peered in. He glow­ered at Knox, kicked the door. Knox bare­ly even no­ticed, squint­ing past him at the TV screen. It was Gaille for sure. He called out her name again, feel­ing ut­ter­ly help­less, be­wil­dered. The po­lice­man un­locked and opened the cell door, tapped his cane men­ac­ing­ly against his thigh. But Knox sim­ply barged past him, out in­to the recre­ation room, star­ing numbly up­wards, lis­ten­ing to her words.

The po­lice­man grabbed his shoul­der. ‘Back in your cell,’ he warned. ‘Or I’ll have to—’

‘She’s my friend,’ snarled Knox. ‘Let me watch.’

The po­lice­man took a step back; Knox fo­cused once more on the TV. The footage fin­ished. The scene changed. A sober­ly dressed man and a wom­an in a news stu­dio. No one had heard of the As­si­ut Is­lam­ic Broth­er­hood, but the au­thor­ities were con­fi­dent of re­solv­ing this cri­sis peace­ful­ly. An in­set screen ap­peared play­ing the hostage footage. Knox stared trans­fixed as Gaille ad­just­ed her po­si­tion, raised her right hand for em­pha­sis. His skin prick­led, though he was­n’t sure why.

A door clanged be­hind him. He glanced around. Two more po­lice­men were ap­proach­ing, faces scrunched and mean. ‘My friend,’ he ex­plained, ges­tur­ing at the screen. ‘She’s been tak­en hostage. Please. I need to—’

The first blow caught him on his thigh. He had­n’t seen it com­ing at all, had­n’t had time to brace him­self. Pain spiked up his hip; he slumped on­to one knee. The sec­ond blow glanced off his shoul­der blade on­to the back of his scalp, stars and amoe­bae danc­ing in front of his eyes as his face rushed at the floor. A sud­den shud­der of mem­ory, driv­ing the Jeep, Omar be­side him, laugh­ing eep, rou­ugh­ing to­geth­er at some joke. The sharp tang of diesel. Then his hair was grabbed and some­one mut­tered in his ear, though there was such a ring­ing in his ears he could­n’t make out the words. His head was dropped again, his cheek banged cold stone. They dragged him by his legs across the rough floor back to his cell.

IV

Naguib went yawn­ing in­to the kitchen, mouth dry, eyes gluey, ea­ger for his first glass of morn­ing chai. His wife did­n’t even look around, she was so riv­et­ed by her TV.



‘What is it?’ he asked.

‘Some West­ern­ers were kid­napped in As­si­ut last night. Tele­vi­sion peo­ple. They say they were film­ing in Amar­na yes­ter­day. Did you see them?’

‘No.’

‘Ap­par­ent­ly this wom­an is the one who helped find Alexan­der’s tomb. Re­mem­ber that press con­fer­ence with the sec­re­tary gen­er­al and that oth­er man?’

‘The one you thought so hand­some?’

Yas­mine blushed. ‘I on­ly said he looked nice.’

‘What have they been say­ing?’

‘Just that their car was found burned out in Assiut, that...

Naguib frowned. ‘Ter­ror­ists want rapists and mur­der­ers re­leased?’

‘They say they’re not guilty.’

‘Even so.’

‘That poor young wom­an!’ said Yas­mine. ‘How is she hold­ing her­self to­geth­er?’

Naguib put a hand on his wife’s shoul­der. The video was play­ing in a loop, screen-​in-​screen, so he could see the hostages’ ter­ri­ble anx­iety, the freely bleed­ing cut on the man’s cheek, the up­light­ing mak­ing strange shad­ows from their fea­tures, while the com­men­ta­tors took turns to de­plore the ig­nominy this brought up­on their na­tion, de­bat­ing the steps their gov­ern­ment would take. He too found it dif­fi­cult to look away, de­spite his need to get to the of­fice, clear his pa­per­work, buy him­self some time to go see the lo­cal ghaf­firs. But un­like his wife, it was­n’t fel­low feel­ing that kept him riv­et­ed. It was some­thing else. His po­lice­man’s in­stincts were quiv­er­ing deep in­side. He just could­n’t work out why.

I

Knox’s mouth was sore and sticky. He wiped it with the back of his hand. It came back smeared red. He sat up on the hard bench, suf­fered a dizzy­ing rush of blood to his head; had to give him­self a few sec­onds to ad­just. But that was noth­ing com­pared to the vi­su­al mem­ory that came next.



Gaille, kneel­ing, ter­ri­fied, hostage of ter­ror­ists.

He leaned for­ward, fear­ful he was go­ing to be sick, but some­how held it in. He stood, walked woozi­ly to the door, peered through the glass. The tele­vi­sion was still tuned to the news, though some­one had fi­nal­ly turned down the vol­ume. There she was, read­ing out her state­ment, the words al­ready im­print­ed on his mind. The As­si­ut Is­lam­ic Broth­er­hood. Treat­ing us well. Un­less ef­forts are made to­less when the men are re­leased. If not re­leased with­in four­teen days …

That look on her face. Her shak­ing hands. She was fight­ing dread, ter­ri­fied of some­thing im­mi­nent, not four­teen days away. He was­n’t a par­ent, Knox, but he felt then how a par­ent must feel, that des­per­ation to help, that pow­er­less­ness. A sav­age sen­sa­tion. Un­bear­able, ex­cept that he had no op­tion but to bear it.

‘Your friend is one of the hostages?’

Knox blinked and looked around. The man in the rum­pled white suit was talk­ing to him. ‘I beg your par­don?’

‘Your friend is one of the hostages?’

‘Yes.’

‘Which one?’

‘The girl.’

‘The red-​head­ed girl or the dark-​head­ed girl?’

‘The dark-​head­ed girl.’ A sud­den flick­er of mem­ory. Talk­ing to two men, one in a dog col­lar, the oth­er port­ly like this.

‘She looks nice.’

‘She is nice.’

‘Your girl­friend, is she?’

Knox shook his head. ‘I just work with her.’

‘Sure,’ smiled the man. ‘That’s how I re­act when my col­leagues get in­to trou­ble. I go crazy and pick fights with po­lice­men.’

‘She’s a friend too.’

He nod­ded. ‘Any­way. I want­ed to say how sor­ry I am that coun­try­men of mine could do this to her. If there’s any­thing I can do …’

‘Thank you.’ He looked back at the screen. Some­thing about the footage was whis­per­ing to him.

‘I’m not a good man. I would­n’t be here if I was. But I can’t un­der­stand how men who claim to be of Al­lah could think that Al­lah would ap­prove of that.’

‘Please,’ said Knox, beg­ging for si­lence.

He fo­cused back on the screen. The footage start­ed over. Gaille kneel­ing on the floor, then adopt­ing the lo­tus po­si­tion, rais­ing her right hand for ex­tra em­pha­sis. He’d seen that pos­ture some­where else re­cent­ly. But where? He dug fin­ger­nails in­to his palm in an ef­fort to force his mind to fo­cus. Then he had it. That mo­sa­ic. The fig­ure in the cen­tre of the sev­en-​point­ed star.

Yes. His skin prick­led.

Gaille was send­ing him a mes­sage.

II

The phone was ring­ing. It would­n’t bloody stop. Au­gustin did his best to ig­nore it un­til fi­nal­ly it went away again. But the dam­age had been done. He was awake. His mouth was dry and glued; a de­mo­li­tion crew was at work in­side his skull. Morn­ing, then. He turned on­to his side, pro­tect­ed his eyes from the slant­ed sun­light, checked his bed­side clock with a groan. Hang­overs weren’t the fun they’d once been. He pushed him­self up, un­name­able things slosh­ing and lurch­ing in­side. Not for the first time, he re­solved to change his habits. But per­haps for the first, a lit­tle flut­ter of pan­ic ac­com­pa­nied the thought, the teenag­er on the lilo who sud­den­ly re­al­izes how far out he’s drift­ed.



He stag­gered to the loo, re­lieved him­self in an un­end­ing dark-​yel­low stream. Ants had con­gre­gat­ed around the porce­lain bowl, a trail of the porne l of them lead­ing across the floor up the wall and out through the half-​open win­dow. Christ! Maybe he had di­abetes. That was one of the signs, was­n’t it? Sweet­ness in your urine? Maybe that was why he felt so tired all the time. Or maybe the lit­tle bas­tards had just de­vel­oped a taste for the hard stuff. They cer­tain­ly seemed to be veer­ing all over the place. The phone rang again, al­low­ing him to put the un­wel­come thought from his mind. ‘Yes?’ he asked.

‘Have you seen?’ de­mand­ed Man­soor.

‘Seen what?’

‘Gaille. On the news.’ Au­gustin’s chest tight­ened as he turned on his TV. He knew it would be bad, but he still was­n’t pre­pared. He sat numbly in his arm­chair un­til he heard Man­soor shout­ing his name. ‘Au­gustin? Are you still there?’

‘Yes.’

‘I’ve been try­ing to get hold of Knox. He’s not at his ho­tel. He’s not an­swer­ing his mo­bile.’

‘I know where he is.’

‘Some­one needs to tell him. It should be a friend.’

‘Leave it to me.’

‘Thanks. And let me know when you’ve spo­ken to him. Let me know what I can do.’ The phone clicked dead. Au­gustin re­placed it in its cra­dle, stunned and nau­seous, yet now at least with a pur­pose. He splashed wa­ter on his face and body, threw on some fresh clothes, hur­ried down­stairs to his bike.

III

‘We’re go­ing to die down here,’ sobbed Lily. ‘We are, aren’t we?’



‘Peo­ple will find us,’ said Gaille.

‘No one will find us.’

‘Yes, they will.’

‘How can you say that?’

Gaille hes­itat­ed. She had­n’t men­tioned Knox yet, the mes­sage she’d tried to send him. It was such a long shot, it seemed un­fair to place the bur­den of ex­pec­ta­tion on his shoul­ders. Yet Lily was on the verge of break­down; she need­ed hope. ‘I have a friend,’ she said.

‘Oh, you have a friend!’ scoffed Lily. ‘We’re go­ing to be saved be­cause you have a friend!’

‘Yes,’ said Gaille.

Some­thing in her calm­ness seemed to soothe Lily, but she was­n’t about to let her­self be com­fort­ed so eas­ily, not while she sensed she could get more. ‘And just how is this friend of yours go­ing to help?’ she asked. ‘Is he psy­chic or some­thing?’

‘I told him where we were.’

‘You what?’ asked Stafford from the dark­ness.

‘When we were be­ing filmed, I let him know we were in Amar­na, not As­si­ut.’

‘How?’

‘It’s com­plex.’

Stafford gave a grunt, al­most of amuse­ment. ‘And you’ve some­where else you need to be, have you?’



‘There’s a portrait of Akhenaten we’re both familiar...

‘So that’s why you shift­ed po­si­tion when you were read­ing out the mes­sage?’

‘Yes.’

‘I dth="2/i>>‘I don’t re­mem­ber Akhen­at­en ev­er be­ing por­trayed that way.’

‘No?’ replied Gaille.

A brief si­lence fell. Gaille could imag­ine Stafford’s stony ex­pres­sion. ‘You re­al­ly think your friend will de­duce our where­abouts from that?’ he said. ‘From the way you were sit­ting?’

‘Yes. I do.’

Lily touched her arm. ‘What’s his name, this friend of yours?’

Gaille breathed in deep. It felt strange say­ing it out loud. Like com­mit­ting to some­thing. ‘Daniel Knox,’ she said.

‘And peo­ple will lis­ten to him, will they? I mean, it’s not much use him re­al­iz­ing where we are un­less he can con­vince the au­thor­ities? So they know who he is, do they?’

‘Oh, yes,’ as­sert­ed Gaille, glad to be able to say some­thing with ab­so­lute con­vic­tion. ‘They know who he is, all right.’

I

The met­al door of the in­ter­view room squealed on its hinges as Fa­rooq backed in, car­ry­ing a tray with two cups of cof­fee, a pad of pa­per and a tape recorder that he set down on the ta­ble. ‘I hear you’ve been mak­ing quite a nui­sance of your­self,’ he said.



‘My friend’s been tak­en hostage,’ said Knox. ‘She’s send­ing me a mes­sage.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Fa­rooq. ‘This fa­mous mes­sage of yours. My col­leagues have been dis­cussing it all morn­ing.’

‘You have to tell the in­ves­ti­gat­ing team. It could be im­por­tant.’

‘Tell them what, ex­act­ly? That you think she’s try­ing to send you a mes­sage, but you don’t know what it is? What use is that?’

‘Let me out of here. I’ll find out what it is.’

‘Sure. I’ll let all our killers out, shall I? They can help you look.’

‘Please. I’m beg­ging you. At least no­ti­fy the peo­ple run­ning the kid­nap in­ves­ti­ga­tion—’

‘Mis­ter Knox. Calm down. One of my col­leagues has al­ready con­tact­ed As­si­ut, I as­sure you. They’ll call back if they want to know more. They haven’t yet. I doubt they will. But if they do, I’ll let you know. You have my word. Now, can we please con­cen­trate on the mat­ter in hand?’

‘The mat­ter in hand?’

Fa­rooq rolled his eyes. ‘Last night I warned you I in­tend­ed to charge you with the mur­der of Omar Taw­fiq. Or have you for­got­ten?’

‘No.’

‘Well, then. Has your mem­ory re­turned yet? Are you pre­pared to tell us what tru­ly hap­pened? Why you drove in­to that ditch?’

‘I did­n’t drive in­to it.’

‘Yes, you did. And I want to know why.’ He leaned for­wards a frac­tion, a look in his eye al­most like greed. ‘There’s some­thing on Pe­ter­son’s site, is­n’t there?’

Knox hes­itat­ed. Un­der oth­er cir­cum­stances, he’d have re­sist­ed Fa­rooq’s clum­sy ef­forts to make him in­crim­inate him­self. But Gaille was in dan­ger, and she need­ed his help. And the key to her mes­sage lay in the mo­sa­ic on Pe­ter­son’s site. ‘os­aicy">…Yes,’ he said. ‘There is.’

‘I knew it!’ ex­ult­ed Fa­rooq, clench­ing a fist. ‘I knew it! What is it?’

‘An un­der­ground net­work. Cham­bers, cor­ri­dors, cat­acombs.’

‘And that’s why you drove Omar in­to the ditch, is­n’t it?’

‘I did­n’t drive Omar in­to the ditch.’

‘Sure!’ scoffed Fa­rooq. He grabbed his pen. ‘Right, then. Tell me how to find this thing. Be­lieve me, it’ll go eas­ier with you if you co­op­er­ate.’

‘I’ll do bet­ter than that,’ said Knox, with as much as­sur­ance as he could muster. ‘Take me out there and I’ll show you.’

II

Au­gustin got lit­tle joy at the po­lice sta­tion. No vis­its al­lowed for Knox; even af­ter an of­fer of bak­sheesh. In in­ter­view, ap­par­ent­ly. Come back in an hour. He went out on­to the sta­tion steps, fret­ful, feel­ing the need to do some­thing – any­thing – that might help. A clear blue sky, the sun still too low to of­fer much warmth. He rubbed his cheeks, mas­saged his tem­ples, his mind lead­en and fuzzy. Some­times, in the mid­dle of con­ver­sa­tions, he’d start slur­ring slight­ly for no rea­son what­so­ev­er. He’d stop speak­ing at once, lim­it him­self to grunts and nods. Peo­ple thought him rude.



Per­haps Kostas would know some­thing. Knox had been ar­rest­ed at his apart­ment, af­ter all. He got on­to his bike, sped through the morn­ing traf­fic, parked down a nar­row al­ley, hur­ried up the front steps. The el­der­ly Greek gri­maced at the sight of him, the smell of whisky on his breath.

‘Last night’s,’ grunt­ed Au­gustin, as he went in­side.

‘If you say so.’

‘You’ve heard about Knox?’

Kostas nod­ded. ‘They ar­rest­ed him here, you know,’ he said, his hands trem­bling, his eyes wa­tery. ‘It was aw­ful. Is it true what they said about Omar?’

‘That he’s dead, yes. That Knox was re­spon­si­ble, no. Lis­ten, I don’t have much time. I need to know what you and Knox talked about.’

‘All kinds of things. The Ther­apeu­tae. The Car­pocra­tians.’

‘The Car­pocra­tians?’ A bell rang dis­tant­ly in Au­gustin’s mind. ‘What about them?’

‘Among oth­er things, that they used to iden­ti­fy each oth­er by tat­too­ing the lobes of their right ears.’

‘Ah!’

‘Quite. That was Knox’s re­ac­tion too. He asked me why bib­li­cal ar­chae­ol­ogists might be hunt­ing them down. That’s when those po­lice­men ar­rived. I think I’ve found the an­swer, though.’

‘And?’

‘They were quite the aes­thetes, the Car­pocra­tians. They did­n’t just ad­mire the phi­los­ophy of peo­ple like Pla­to, Aris­to­tle and Pythago­ras, they dec­orat­ed their tem­ples with their por­traits and busts.’

‘So?’ frowned Au­gustin. ‘Why would a bib­li­cal ar­chae­ol­ogist be in­ter­est­ed in a bust of Pla­to or Pythago­ras?’

‘Oh, no,’ chuck­led Kostas. ‘You mis­un­der­stand me. Not a bust. A paint­ing. And not of Pla­to or Pythago­ras.’

‘Then who?’

‘Ac­cord­ing to our an­cient sources, the Car­pocra­tians poss­sour­crigns pos­sessed the on­ly por­trait ev­er made of Our Lord and Saviour Je­sus Christ.’

III


‘Tell us about him,’ said Lily.

‘About who?’ asked Gaille.

‘This friend of yours. Daniel Knox, was­n’t it? The one who’s go­ing to save us.’

‘Oh, him,’ said Gaille.

‘Yes,’ agreed Lily dry­ly. ‘Him.’

Gaille swept her hair back from her brow, held it there in a bunch. ‘He’s just this guy I work with, that’s all. But he has a knack of mak­ing things hap­pen, you know.’

‘A knack,’ said Stafford. ‘Oh, good.’

‘I can’t ex­plain it bet­ter. But if any­one can find us, he will.’

‘Are you two … ?’ asked Lily.

‘No.’ She sensed how thin that sound­ed, so she added: ‘It’s com­plex. We have his­to­ry.’

‘Please, Gaille.’

She sighed. ‘My fa­ther meant a great deal to me when I was young. He meant ev­ery­thing. All I ev­er want­ed was to please him. I be­came an Egyp­tol­ogist be­cause that’s what he was, be­cause it meant I could go away on ex­ca­va­tion with him. That’s when I first came on ex­ca­va­tion at Amar­na, even though I was still at school at the time. Then he start­ed a new dig in Mallawi, just across the riv­er from here. I was to be his as­sis­tant. But he post­poned at the last minute, so that it did­n’t get un­der­way un­til af­ter my school term had start­ed, and I could­n’t go with him. Then I found out that he’d tak­en this man Daniel Knox in my place.’ She took a deep breath. ‘The thing is, my fa­ther was … that’s to say, he pre­ferred men to wom­en.’

‘Ah.’

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