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



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Augustin steered the plane away along the line of the lane,...

The pick-​up struck him side-​on. He slith­ered along its bon­net, struck its slant­ed wind­screen, catch­ing a glimpse of Grif­fin the oth­er side of the glass, ev­ery bit as shocked by the col­li­sion as Au­gustin him­self. And then he was in the air, his world spin­ning crazi­ly, won­der­ing with more cu­rios­ity than fear if it would be the last thing he ev­er saw.

I

The dig­ging was­n’t easy. The sand and rub­ble had com­pact­ed like con­crete over the cen­turies. Gaille’s fin­ger­nails were soon ripped and bleed­ing from scrab­bling it up. But fear kept her at it. Worms of wa­ter had start­ed slith­er­ing down the walls, gath­er­ing in pud­dles at the foot.



‘Could you light a match, please?’ asked Lily, breath­ing heav­ily.

‘We’ve on­ly got a cou­ple left.’

‘But I think I’ve found some­thing.’

‘What?’ asked Stafford.

‘I don’t know. Why do you think I need a match?’

The flare hurt Gaille’s eyes, they’d been in the dark so long. And that sul­phurous smell! She lit the can­dle, took it across. Lily was right. There was in­deed some­thing at the bot­tom of the wall. A line of hi­ero­glyphs.

‘What do they say?’ asked Lily.

Gaille shook her head. The fad­ed glyphs were hard enough to see in the poor light, let alone de­ci­pher. But the im­pli­ca­tions of their be­ing here at all were enough to ex­cite her. She’d as­sumed, from the crude­ly-​cut walls of the en­trance and buri­al cham­bers, that this tomb was sim­ply an­oth­er of the half-​fin­ished ef­forts that pocked these cliffs, aban­doned be­cause of the poor-​qual­ity lime­stone or be­cause the Amar­na era had come to an end be­fore the prospec­tive oc­cu­pant had died. She’d fur­ther as­sumed that, be­cause the lay­out of this place was so sim­ilar to that of the near­by Roy­al Tomb, this shaft was a sump de­signed to pro­tect the buri­al cham­ber. But now that she thought fur­ther, she re­al­ized her as­sump­tions were flawed. The sump in the Roy­al Tomb made per­fect sense be­cause its mouth was on the wa­di floor, putting it in dan­ger from flash floods. But the mouth of this tomb was­n’t on the wa­di floor. It was far near­er the top than the bot­tom. Flood­ing would­n’t have been a sig­nif­icant is­sue, at least un­til the rift had formed above it, so a sump served lit­tle pur­pose. And, any­way, how deep did they need it? They were a good six me­tres down al­ready, and still not at the bot­tom. So maybe it was­n’t a sump af­ter all. Maybe it was some­thing else.

‘Well?’ asked Lily.

Gaille passed Lily the can­dle to hold while she scraped away more sand. ‘I don’t sup­pose ei­ther of you have ev­er vis­it­ed the tomb of Seti the First, have you?’ she asked.

II

Au­gustin lay dazed in the lane for a few mo­ments be­fore he looked up and around to find him­self sur­round­ed by Grif­fin and his se­cu­ri­ty guards. They looked down anx­ious­ly at him, ex­pect­ing him to be grievous­ly hurt or even dead, but he sur­prised them by try­ing to get to his feet. No chance. They picked him up and heaved him un­cer­emo­ni­ous­ly on­to the back of the pick-​up. His head, chest and thigh all throbbed vi­olent­ly. He felt such an urge to vom­it that he turned on­to his side and braced him­self. But the sen­sa­tion passed. He fell on­to his back again, looked up at the se­cu­ri­ty guard stand­ing above him. ‘If you’ve dam­aged my bike, you lit­tle fuck …’ he warned.



The man smiled and looked away.

They turned off the lane, jolt­ed over the earth­en bridge. Throbs be­came stabs. They pulled up out­side a low brick build­ing. Grif­fin got out, un­locked and opened the steel door. Au­gustin bel­lowed as he was dragged from the back of the pick-​up in­to the build­ing. Sev­er­al of Pet­to th [l oer­son’s young crew gath­ered near­by, glar­ing sourly, as though glad to see he’d got what had been com­ing to him; but an an­gu­lar fair-​head­ed wom­an was with them too, sure­ly the same one he’d glimpsed driv­ing away from the site with Grif­fin the pre­vi­ous af­ter­noon. And she looked anx­ious, ap­palled.

He was thrown down on­to the floor be­tween a rack of emp­ty shelves and a work­table. The door was slammed shut, the key turned, leav­ing him in al­most com­plete dark­ness. He lay there a mo­ment, al­most weep­ing be­cause it hurt so much. He slid a hand in­side his shirt on­to his ten­der ribcage. No frac­ture that he could de­tect, just bruis­ing. A fond child­hood mem­ory, leap­ing reck­less­ly off a wa­ter­fall on­ly to find the pool be­neath shal­low­er than it had looked. His moth­er, once she’d over­come her shock, boast­ing about his tung­sten bones. He sti­fled a cry as he pushed him­self up on­to his feet. It pleased him to feel this much pain, yet be able to mas­ter it. It made him feel more like a man than he had for weeks. He hob­bled to the door. Steel, to judge by its cold­ness. Nei­ther han­dle nor bolts on the in­side.

It was sev­er­al min­utes be­fore he heard foot­steps out­side, the key scrap­ing in the lock. The door pushed open, late af­ter­noon sun­shine flood­ing in so bright­ly he could on­ly see sil­hou­ettes for a mo­ment, three of them. An in­ter­nal light was turned on, a yel­low bulb dan­gling from the ceil­ing. Two peo­ple came in. The third stayed out­side, clos­ing the door be­hind them.

Au­gustin blinked as his vi­sion ad­just­ed. Grif­fin and the fair-​head­ed young wom­an, car­ry­ing a tray of med­ical sup­plies.

‘Here he is, then,’ mut­tered Grif­fin, fold­ing his arms.

‘I want my wal­let,’ said Au­gustin. ‘My phone.’ Even speak­ing soft­ly, the words made his ribs throb.

‘Sure,’ snort­ed Grif­fin. He turned to the wom­an. ‘Well? I thought you want­ed to check him over.’

She set her tray down on the ground. Un­gain­ly, all bones and joints, with slight­ly beaked fea­tures. Aware of it too, un­com­fort­able with be­ing looked at. Pale freck­led skin, fra­grant and moist with gen­er­ous slathers of sun­tan lo­tion. A plain sil­ver cross dan­gling from a chain around her slen­der long throat. She stood back up, tilt­ing her head slight­ly, so that wisps of her hair fell like a bead cur­tain over her face.

‘Who the fuck are you?’ de­mand­ed Au­gustin.

‘I’m here to ex­am­ine you,’ she said. ‘It’ll on­ly take a mo­ment.’

‘Ex­am­ine me?’

‘Make sure noth­ing’s bro­ken, noth­ing’s rup­tured.’ She frowned, per­haps made a lit­tle un­cer­tain by his French ac­cent. ‘You know what rup­tured means?’ she asked.

‘Yes,’ said Au­gustin sar­don­ical­ly. ‘I know what rup­tured means. And if some­thing is rup­tured?’

She threw a de­fi­ant glance at Grif­fin. ‘Then I’m tak­ing you to hos­pi­tal.’

Well, well, well, thought Au­gustin. He put a hand against his side, winced and sucked in breath. ‘I think some­thing’s rup­tured for sure,’ he said.

A laugh like a hic­cup es­caped the wom­an; she put her hand to her mouth as though she’d done some­thing rude. Rather to Au­gustin’s sur­prise, he found him­self warm­ing to her. ‘So you’re a doc­tor then, are you?’ he asked.

She shook her head. ‘Not ex­act­ly. No.’

‘I’ve been in a se­ri­ous ac­ci­dent,’ he protest­edri­ous [rot. ‘I could be grievous­ly in­jured. I need to see a—’

A knock on the door. A young man with short-​cropped blond hair poked in his head.

‘What now?’ asked Grif­fin ir­ri­ta­bly.

‘The air­line peo­ple,’ said the young man. ‘They want to speak to you.’

‘I’m busy.’

‘The cred­it card’s in your name. They want to speak to you.’

Grif­fin gave an ex­as­per­at­ed sigh, a boss trapped by his own im­por­tance. ‘Ex­am­ine him and then leave,’ he told the wom­an curt­ly. ‘And don’t let him get you talk­ing.’

‘No,’ she agreed.

‘Ramiz will be out­side. Any trou­ble at all, give him a shout. He’ll know what to do.’

‘Yes.’

The door closed be­hind him. The key turned in the lock. Au­gustin smiled at the wom­an. ‘Well,’ he said, rub­bing his hands. ‘Let’s get this ex­am­ina­tion start­ed, shall we?’

III


For the first fifteen minutes of the drive, Knox feared...

As best he could judge, they were on a busy, good road. The an­gle of sun­light sug­gest­ed they were head­ing south. To­wards Cairo, pre­sum­ably, though Knox had no idea why. Af­ter two hours or so, Pe­ter­son ap­plied the brakes sharply enough to push Knox for­ward in­to the back of the rear seats. The in­di­ca­tor stut­tered; they turned off, pulled to a stop. Pe­ter­son got out, un­screwed the petrol cap right by Knox’s head. Fu­el gushed in. Knox kept ab­so­lute­ly still lest move­ment give him away. The cap was screwed back on. Knox heard foot­steps over the con­course. He al­lowed him­self to breathe once more. He sat up in time to see Pe­ter­son go in­side the of­fice to pay. He climbed over the rear seats, in­tend­ing to let him­self out, but then he glimpsed some sheets of pa­per ly­ing loose on the pas­sen­ger seat, the top one a print­out from Gaille’s In­ter­net Dig­ging Di­ary, that pho­to­graph of her stand­ing out­side her room with two ar­chae­ol­ogists from Fa­ti­ma’s team. He froze a mo­ment, then slid it aside to look at the one be­neath it. An­oth­er print-​out, this one with di­rec­tions to Fa­ti­ma’s Her­mopo­lis com­pound. So that was it. Pe­ter­son was spooked by the thought of his pho­tos still on Gaille’s lap­top.

A door banged closed. He glanced up to see Pe­ter­son com­ing back out. He had no time to re­sume his pre­vi­ous po­si­tion. He ducked down be­hind the driver’s seat as Pe­ter­son climbed back in.

I

‘Air­line peo­ple, huh,’ said Au­gustin. ‘You off some­where?’



The young wom­an smiled war­ily. ‘I’m here to check you’re okay. Not to talk.’

‘But what if I’m not okay? I think I’m se­ri­ous­ly in­jured. I need a prop­er doc­tor.’

‘You’re show­ing re­mark­able re­silience for a man at death’s door. Be­sides, I know what I’m do­ing. I re­al­ly do. And it’s me or no one, I’m afraid. It was hard enougI’m ^h per­suad­ing Mis­ter Grif­fin to …’ She broke off, an­noyed with her­self for let­ting her­self be drawn even that far, not want­ing to com­pound it.

Au­gustin let it go. Push too hard now, he’d turn her against him. There was a foot­stool against the wall, so that peo­ple could reach the top shelves. She fetched it, stood on it to ex­am­ine his scalp, part­ing his hair care­ful­ly to clean the mess be­neath. Her blouse was close to his face; he glimpsed flash­es of her pale freck­led skin be­tween the but­tons, the stur­dy white cup of a sen­si­ble bra. She ap­plied a dis­in­fec­tant. He did his best not to wince. She got off her stool, stood face-​to-​face with him, lift­ed his eye­lids in turn, looked deep in­to his eyes. Her own iris­es were of speck­led blue, her pupils di­lat­ing in re­sponse to his. ‘Take off your shirt, please,’ she said.

‘What’s your name?’ he asked.

‘Please. You heard Mis­ter Grif­fin.’

‘Just your name. That’s all I ask.’

She gave him a re­luc­tant smile. ‘Claire.’

‘Claire! I love that name.’ He un­but­toned his shirt gin­ger­ly. ‘You know it means light in French?’

‘Yes.’

‘It suits you. My grand­moth­er was Claire. A won­der­ful wom­an. Tru­ly won­der­ful. She had the kind­est hands.’

‘Is that right?’

‘Of course.’ He gri­maced in pain as he tugged his shirt from his waist­band, dis­card­ed it. He looked self-​con­scious­ly down at his stom­ach, wish­ing he’d tak­en more ex­er­cise re­cent­ly. ‘So you’re an ar­chae­ol­ogist then, are you, Claire?’

‘I’m not talk­ing to you.’

‘I guess you must be if you’re work­ing here.’

She gave a sigh. ‘I’m project ad­min­is­tra­tor, ac­tu­al­ly. I speak and write some Ara­bic, you see.’

‘You speak Ara­bic? How come?’

‘My fa­ther was in oil. I grew up in the Gulf. You know how easy it is to pick up lan­guages when you’re a kid. That’s why the rev­erend asked me along, I think. That plus my med­ical ex­pe­ri­ence. It al­ways comes in use­ful in places like these.’

‘Places like these?’

Her cheeks flushed, she ducked her eyes. ‘Oh, you know.’

‘No,’ frowned Au­gustin. ‘I’m not sure I do. Un­less you mean places too prim­itive to have doc­tors of their own?’

‘I did­n’t mean that at all,’ she protest­ed. ‘Like I said, I grew up in the Mid­dle East. I love it here. It’s just, it can be awk­ward enough for peo­ple to go to a doc­tor back home, es­pe­cial­ly young­sters. But in a for­eign coun­try, you know, when they can’t even speak the lan­guage …’ She tried a smile. ‘We Amer­icans, you know. Not the best trav­ellers.’

‘So what med­ical ex­pe­ri­ence do you have, ex­act­ly? If I’m to let you check me over.’

She placed her palms on his chest, pal­pat­ing his ribcage gen­tly, lis­ten­ing in­tent­ly, check­ing his ex­pres­sion for signs of pain. ‘I was a med­ical stu­dent for five years.’

‘Five years? And then you just gave it up?’

‘My fa­ther fell ill.’ She tipped her head to the side, not quite sure why she was con­fid­ing so much to this stranger. ‘He wa­much c‘s out of work at the time. He did­n’t have … the right kind of in­sur­ance. My moth­er had al­ready passed. He need­ed look­ing af­ter.’

‘So you stepped in?’

She nod­ded, her thoughts else­where. ‘Have you ev­er looked af­ter some­one like that. Some­one who’s dy­ing?’ she asked.

He shook his head. ‘I’ve nev­er looked af­ter any­one ex­cept my­self.’

‘Pe­ter­son and his church were great, you know. They did so much for us. They run this won­der­ful vol­un­teer vis­itor pro­gramme. Hon­est­ly, we’d nev­er have man­aged with­out them. And a hos­pice, too; where my fa­ther … you know. Plus an or­phan­age, and shel­ters for home­less peo­ple, lots of things like that. They’re good peo­ple. They re­al­ly are. The rev­erend’s a good man.’

‘And that’s why you’re here? To thank them?’

‘I sup­pose.’

‘How come I saw you leav­ing the site yes­ter­day?’

She scratched her nose, pre­tend­ing not to have heard, or not to un­der­stand. But Au­gustin let the ques­tion hang there, and the si­lence fi­nal­ly got to her. She looked up at him rather sheep­ish­ly. ‘How do you mean?’

‘I came here with the po­lice to do in­ter­views. Grif­fin was driv­ing away from the site when we ar­rived. You were with him. Why did he hide you?’

She swal­lowed un­hap­pi­ly. ‘No one hid me.’

‘Yes, they did.’

She looked up. Their eyes met for a mo­ment. Au­gustin felt his heart thump. Claire looked away, equal­ly con­fused. ‘You’re fine,’ she said, pack­ing her med­ical sup­plies on­to her tray. ‘Bruis­es and sore­ness. That’s all.’

‘You know what hap­pened that night, don’t you?’ said Au­gustin. ‘You know what hap­pened with Omar and Knox.’

‘I don’t know what you’re talk­ing about.’

‘Yes, you do,’ he in­sist­ed. ‘Tell me.’

But she fled for the door in­stead, pound­ing on it to be let out.

II

‘Seti the First?’ asked Lily.



‘An ear­ly Nine­teenth Dy­nasty pharaoh,’ an­swered Gaille, dig­ging up more sand with her fin­gers. ‘He came to pow­er about fifty years af­ter Akhen­at­en. He’s buried in the Val­ley of the Kings.’

‘What about him?’ asked Stafford.

‘His tomb ap­peared rel­ative­ly sim­ple at first. An en­trance shaft lead­ing to a buri­al cham­ber with a sump di­rect­ly in front of it.’

‘Just like this, you mean?’

‘And the Roy­al Tomb, yes. But the thing is, it turned out that the sump was­n’t ac­tu­al­ly a sump at all. It was a shaft that led down to the re­al tomb cham­ber. It was just made to look like a sump in an ef­fort to fool po­ten­tial tomb rob­bers. Not that it worked, of course.’

‘You think that’s what this is?’ asked Lily. ‘A buri­al shaft?’

‘It has to be a pos­si­bil­ity,’ nod­ded Gaille. ‘I can’t be­lieve I did­n’t think of it be­fore.’

‘How deep would it be?’

‘The shaft in Seti’ss­ti­fy cSet tomb was a hun­dred me­tres. But that’s ex­cep­tion­al. Shaft tombs are usu­al­ly just a few me­tres deep. And these hi­ero­glyphs must mean we’re near to some­thing.’

‘What use will that be?’ mut­tered Stafford. ‘It won’t lead us out.’

‘Prob­ably not,’ agreed Gaille. ‘But it’ll give the wa­ter some­where to drain off to. Un­less you’ve got a bet­ter idea?’

‘No,’ ad­mit­ted Stafford. ‘I don’t.’

III

There was no an­swer to Claire’s sum­mons. She pound­ed the door again. Still noth­ing. Au­gustin walked slow­ly over to her, as un­threat­en­ing­ly as he could. She backed against the wall even so, hold­ing the tray up al­most as a shield across her chest so that her med­ical sup­plies spilled to the floor all around her feet. ‘Let me go,’ she squirmed, re­fus­ing to meet his eyes.



‘Just hear me out.’

‘Please.’

‘One minute. That’s all I’m ask­ing.’

She turned away, dis­com­fit­ed by his close­ness, the gen­tle press of his body wher­ev­er it touched hers. ‘Okay,’ she said. ‘One minute.’

‘Thank you. I don’t care what hap­pened with Knox and Omar. At least, I do, I care tremen­dous­ly. But that’s to­mor­row’s is­sue. Right now I need your help be­cause a very good friend of mine is in im­me­di­ate grave dan­ger, and with­out your help she may well die.’

Claire frowned in sur­prise. This was­n’t what she’d been ex­pect­ing at all. ‘A friend? Who?’

‘A young wom­an called Gaille Bon­nard. She’s an ar­chae­ol­ogist down in—’

‘The hostage?’

‘You know about her?’

Claire pulled a face. ‘She was all over the TV this morn­ing.’

‘You’ve seen the cov­er­age then?’ said Au­gustin ea­ger­ly. ‘So you must have no­ticed her po­si­tion.’

‘What are you talk­ing about?’

‘The night be­fore she was ab­duct­ed, my friend Knox sent her his pho­tographs of what­ev­er it is you’ve found here.’

‘We’ve found noth­ing.’

‘She en­hanced them and sent them back. Look at her pos­ture in the footage! It’s ex­act­ly the same as—’

‘The mo­sa­ic!’ blurt­ed out Claire.

‘You have seen it,’ cried Au­gustin.

‘No!’ But her de­nial was ab­surd and she must have re­al­ized it. She pushed Au­gustin away from her, scrab­bled on the floor for her med­ical sup­plies.



‘Claire,’ he pleaded. ‘Listen. Gaille’s sending us...

‘I can’t help you.’

‘Yes, you can. You’re a doc­tor; you trained to be a doc­tor. Sav­ing lives is your whole pur­pose. You’ve got to help her. She may die if you don’t.’

‘Stop it.’

‘You hate what’s go­ing on here. I can tell that. You would­n’t have in­sl tha chav­ist­ed on see­ing me oth­er­wise. I’m fine. For­get me. But Gaille is­n’t. Those oth­er two hostages aren’t. They need your help. How can you say no?’

‘These peo­ple are my friends,’ she said, pound­ing on the door.

‘No, they’re not, Claire. They’re us­ing you be­cause you speak Ara­bic and have some med­ical knowl­edge and be­cause they trust you to be loy­al af­ter what they did for your fa­ther. That’s all. They call them­selves Chris­tian, but can you imag­ine Christ be­hav­ing like this? Can you imag­ine Christ run­ning peo­ple down or lock­ing them up? Can you imag­ine Christ with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion that could save the lives of two young wom­en and—’

‘Let me go!’ she begged, as Ramiz fi­nal­ly opened the door. ‘Let me go.’

‘Please, Claire. Please.’

But she tore her­self away from him and out, the door bang­ing closed be­hind her. He sat down gin­ger­ly on the foot­stool, head in his hands, aware he’d just blown his best chance; and maybe Gaille’s too.

I

The wind­screen of Naguib’s La­da had mist­ed up from the storm. He could­n’t see a thing. He opened the win­dows a slit, put on the heaters, sat there brood­ing on his meet­ing with Tarek and the ghaf­firs, the im­pli­ca­tions of what he’d learned. This was get­ting way over his head. He need­ed to put it to his boss.



‘Can’t this wait till morn­ing?’ sighed Gamal. ‘I’m in the mid­dle of some­thing.’

‘It may be im­por­tant.’

‘Well? What?’

‘I think there’s some­thing go­ing on in Amar­na.’

‘Not this again!’ said Gamal. ‘The uni­verse does­n’t re­volve around you, you re­al­ize?’

‘That girl we found, she had an Amar­na arte­fact on her. I think she found some­thing here, per­haps an undis­cov­ered site. You know Cap­tain Khaled, the se­nior tourist po­lice­man here? He’s banned the lo­cal ghaf­firs from—’

‘Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Stop right there. Are you about to sug­gest what I think you’re about to sug­gest?’

‘I’m just say­ing, I think he knows some­thing. I think we ought to look in­to it.’

‘In­to the tourist po­lice?’ de­mand­ed Gamal. ‘Are you crazy? Haven’t you learned your les­son from Minya?’

‘That was dif­fer­ent. That was the army.’

‘Lis­ten to me. You’ve on­ly still got a job thanks to your friends. Go down this road again, they won’t step in a sec­ond time, be­lieve me. No one will.’

‘But I on­ly—’

‘Don’t you ev­er lis­ten? I don’t want to hear an­oth­er word! Un­der­stand? Not an­oth­er damned word!’

‘Yes, sir,’ sighed Naguib. ‘I un­der­stand.’

II

Claire found Grif­fin shift­ing pa­pers from the fil­ing cab­inets in­to card­board box­es for Michael and Nathan to car­ry out to the pick-​up. ‘Well?’ he asked sourly. ‘How’s our guest?’



‘He nh="2e feeds a prop­er doc­tor.’

Grif­fin nod­ded. ‘We’re booked on tonight’s flight to Frank­furt out of Cairo. I’ll have Ramiz let him out the mo­ment we’re in the air.’

‘Where is ev­ery­one?’

‘Back at the ho­tel, pack­ing. We need to get there too.’ He checked his watch. ‘I can give you five min­utes to get your stuff to­geth­er.’

‘It’s all at the ho­tel.’

‘Good.’ He packed the last box, slammed the draw­er closed. ‘Then let’s get mov­ing.’ They went out to the pick-​up, bumped their way out. Claire glanced anx­ious­ly back at the mag­azine.

‘What is it?’ asked Grif­fin, sens­ing her dis­qui­et.

‘He said some­thing to me. About those hostages down in As­si­ut.’

‘He’s play­ing tricks with your mind. I warned you not to talk to him.’

Claire looked around. Mick­ey and Nathan were jolt­ing around in the back, laugh­ing like chil­dren. She thought that about them of­ten, how like chil­dren they were. It was­n’t their fault that bad things were go­ing on here. They’d tak­en it for grant­ed they could trust Pe­ter­son, be­cause he was a man of God. She could­n’t blame them for that: she’d done the same her­self. And they were her com­rades, her friends, what­ev­er that French­man said. Her first loy­al­ty had to be to them. ‘Yes,’ she agreed, putting Au­gustin forcibly from her mind. ‘You did.’

III

The weath­er turned with as­ton­ish­ing ra­pid­ity. One mo­ment, sun­shine was falling hot through the win­dow on­to Knox’s cheek. The next, the sky was cov­ered by thick black clouds and the tem­per­ature was plum­met­ing. Rain played a few open­ing riffs on the Toy­ota’s roof, then start­ed drum­ming hard. Their head­lights sprang on; their wipers start­ed flick-​flack­ing. They slowed with the traf­fic around them, pick­ing their way through the fat pud­dles that formed quick­ly on the road.



Pe­ter­son in­di­cat­ed, then turned off the Nile road along a wind­ing, nar­row lane. They lurched from pot­hole to pot­hole, send­ing up huge splash­es of spray. The del­uge grew more vi­olent, the clouds so black it might have been mid­night. Af­ter twen­ty min­utes or so they slowed to a crawl, briefly sped up again, then pulled off the lane over a shale verge and on­to cloy­ing wet sand. Pe­ter­son ratch­eted the hand­brake, turned off his lights, wipers and ig­ni­tion, snapped free his seat belt. He opened his door, paused for a deep breath, then hur­ried out.

Knox sat up, cramps and pins and nee­dles in both legs. A flick­er of light­ning re­vealed Pe­ter­son splash­ing his way back along the road, fore­arm over his head as a makeshift um­brel­la. Knox gave him a few mo­ments, then opened the door and launched him­self out af­ter him in­to the full fury of the storm.

IV

Claire watched mes­mer­ized the news on the ho­tel lob­by TV, her packed bags by her feet.



‘Hur­ry up,’ said Grif­fin. ‘We’re on the clock.’

‘Look,’ she said.

He stared puz­zled up at the screen. ‘Look at what?’

She hes­itat­ed a mo­ment. There were too many peo­ple milling around. Then she said qui­et­ly: ‘Our … guest told me this wom­an was a friend of his. He said Knox had sent her pho­tographs of what we’d found.’

‘Are you crazy?’ hissed Grif­fin. ‘You can’t talk about that here.’

‘Just look, will you. Don’t you see it?’

Grif­fin turned back to the screen. ‘See what?’

‘Her pos­ture. The mo­sa­ic.’

Colour drained from his com­plex­ion. ‘Oh, hell,’ he mut­tered. He shook his head. ‘No. It’s co­in­ci­dence, that’s all. It has to be.’

‘That’s what I was telling my­self,’ agreed Claire. ‘But it’s not co­in­ci­dence. It’s just not. She’s try­ing to send a mes­sage.’

‘We need to get out, Claire,’ plead­ed Grif­fin. ‘We need to get to Cairo, catch our plane. I’ll ex­plain ev­ery­thing once we’re—’

‘I’m not com­ing,’ said Claire.

‘How do you mean?’

‘I’m go­ing back to the site. I’m go­ing to let Pas­cal out. I’m go­ing to show him the mo­sa­ic.’

‘I’m sor­ry, Claire. I can’t let you do that.’

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