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



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‘Then someone comes across her,’ suggested Knox....

‘That’s what I be­gan sus­pect­ing,’ agreed Naguib. ‘And so I got to won­der­ing, what if your friend Gaille and her com­pan­ions spot­ted some­thing while they were film­ing in Amar­na? What if that’s why they dis­ap­peared? I spoke to some lo­cal ghaf­firs ear­li­er. They no longer have ac­cess to the Roy­al Wa­di. They were banned by the se­nior tourist po­lice­man here, a cer­tain Cap­tain Khaled Os­man, the day af­ter the last great storm.’

‘Je­sus!’ mut­tered Knox. ‘Have you told any­one?’

‘I tried to ear­li­er. My boss would­n’t hear me out. You don’t build a ca­reer in the Egyp­tian po­lice by tak­ing on the sis­ter ser­vices. Any­way, I had no ev­idence to of­fer, on­ly sus­pi­cions. But then, just be­fore I saw you, I re­al­ized some­thing. You re­mem­ber that hostage video?’

‘You think I’m like­ly to for­get?’

‘Did you no­tice the light­ing?’

‘How do you mean?’

‘Think back. You could see the un­der­side of the hostages’ chins, yes? All the shad­ows were be­ing cast up­wards. That’s be­cause the light was com­ing from be­neath. Ev­ery­one’s been work­ing on the as­sump­tion that they’re be­ing held in some house or apart­ment in or around As­si­ut. But pri­vate hous­es and apart­ments don’t have floor-​light­ing like that. In Egypt, you on­ly find such floor-​light­ing in one kind of place.’

‘His­toric sites,’ said Knox.

‘Ex­act­ly,’ said Naguib. ‘That video was­n’t filmed in As­si­ut. It was filmed in Amar­na.’

I

‘Mis­ter Grif­fin?’



Grif­fin looked up, star­tled, to see two uni­formed air­port se­cu­ri­ty men in front of him, re­gard­ing him with po­lite but know­ing smiles. His in­sides lurched, he felt sick. ‘Yes?’ he asked.

‘Would you come with us, please?’

‘Where to?’

The taller of the two nod­ded to a glass-​front­ed of­fice the far side of the de­par­tures lounge. ‘Our in­ter­view room.’

‘But my flight’s about to board.’

The smiles tight­ened. ‘Please. Come with us.’

Griffin’s shoul­ders sagged. A part of him had known this would hap­pen. He was­n’t the kind of man life gave breaks to. He turned to Mick­ey. ‘You’re in charge,’ he said, hand­ing him his cred­it card. ‘Get ev­ery­one safe­ly o card.loo…ut. Okay?’

‘What about you?’

‘I’ll be fine. Just get ev­ery­one home. I can re­ly on you, can’t I?’

‘Yes.’

‘Good man,’ said Grif­fin, pat­ting him on the shoul­der. With a heavy heart, he fol­lowed the two se­cu­ri­ty men across the car­pet­ed de­par­ture lounge floor.

II

‘So what do we do now?’ asked Naguib.



‘Can’t you take it to your boss?’

‘He won’t lis­ten. Not to me. You know how peo­ple get. As if you’re a bur­den spe­cial­ly de­signed to test them. And what do we have, in all hon­esty? Light­ing. A mo­sa­ic.’

‘But we’re right,’ protest­ed Knox.

‘Yes,’ agreed Naguib. ‘But that’s not enough. You have to un­der­stand how Egypt works. There’s so much in­ter-​ser­vice jeal­ousy and ri­val­ry. If the tourist po­lice so much as hear that we’re ac­cus­ing them of be­ing be­hind this …’ He shook his head. ‘They’ll fight back hard. It’ll be a mat­ter of hon­our. They’ll de­mand ev­idence, scoff at it, coun­ter­at­tack, ac­cuse us of all kinds of evils. My boss is my boss pre­cise­ly be­cause he knows how to avoid this kind of con­fronta­tion. Be­lieve me, he won’t even hear me out, not un­less I can give him ir­refutable proof.’

‘Ir­refutable proof? How the hell are we sup­posed to get that?’

‘We could al­ways find the hostages our­selves,’ mut­tered Naguib, half jok­ing. But then he shook his head, dis­count­ing the thought. ‘Amar­na’s just too big. And the mo­ment Khaled re­al­izes we’re out look­ing, he’s sure to cov­er his tracks.’

‘Yes,’ nod­ded Knox, as the glim­mer of an idea came to him. ‘He is.’

III


Grif­fin felt the tremors in his hands like soil feels an im­pend­ing earth­quake. He clasped them to­geth­er in an ef­fort to still them. ‘Can we make this quick, please?’ he asked. ‘On­ly my flight leaves in—’

‘For­get your flight.’

‘But I—’

‘I said for­get about it.’ One of them pulled up a chair, sat down, leaned for­wards. ‘I’m afraid we have some ir­reg­ular­ities to deal with be­fore we can let you leave.’

‘Ir­reg­ular­ities?’

‘Yes. Ir­reg­ular­ities.’

‘What kind of ir­reg­ular­ities?’

‘The kind we need to deal with.’

Grif­fin nod­ded. All his adult life, he’d felt de­fi­cient. Liv­ing a lie, they called it. The lie that you were ad­equate. He looked out through the of­fice win­dow on­to the de­par­tures lounge, his stu­dents milling around the gate, con­fer­ring heat­ed­ly, glanc­ing anx­ious­ly his way, de­lay­ing their board­ing to the last mo­ment. They looked so young, sud­den­ly. They looked like chil­dren. All of them had been aware of the clan­des­tine na­ture of their ex­ca­va­tion. But they had­n’t cared. They were God-​fear­ing, they were Amer­ican, they were im­mune from con­se­quence. But now that their im­mu­ni­ty was be­ing stripped from them, they re­al­ized just how vul­ner­able they were. Hor­ror sto­ries about for­eign gaols, ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures in which they would­n’t un­der­stand a word, their whole fu­tures at the mer­cy of peo­ple they de­spised as hcy of ulad as hcea­then­s… No won­der they were scared.

He looked back at the se­cu­ri­ty men. What­ev­er they knew, they ev­ident­ly knew it on­ly of him, or they’d have stopped ev­ery­one fly­ing. His stu­dents were his re­spon­si­bil­ity, his job was to buy them time, what­ev­er the per­son­al cost. And, re­al­iz­ing this, a serene calm­ness de­scend­ed up­on him. ‘I don’t know what you mean,’ he said.

‘Yes, you do.’

‘I as­sure you.’

They shared a glance. ‘May we see your pass­port, please?’

He fished it from his pock­et, along with his board­ing pass. They took their time in­spect­ing it, flip­ping slow­ly through the pages. Grif­fin looked around again. The lounge was emp­ty, the gate clos­ing. His stu­dents were aboard. A warm wave of re­lief, the chill of lone­li­ness. Ap­ple pie and ice cream.

‘You come of­ten to Egypt.’ A state­ment, not a ques­tion.

‘I’m an ar­chae­ol­ogist.’

The two se­cu­ri­ty men glanced at each oth­er. ‘You are aware of the penal­ties for smug­gling an­tiq­ui­ties out of the coun­try?’

Grif­fin frowned. He was guilty of a lot of things, but not that. ‘What are you talk­ing about?’

‘Come on,’ coaxed the man. ‘We know ev­ery­thing.’

‘Ev­ery­thing?’ And, just like that, he got the feel­ing that this was noth­ing, that they were fish­ing.

‘We can help you,’ said one of them. ‘It’s just a mat­ter of the right pa­per­work. We’ll even take care of it for you. Pay us the amount ow­ing, you won’t have to do an­oth­er thing.’

The re­lief was so in­tense that Grif­fin could­n’t help but sag in his chair. A shake­down, that was all. Af­ter all that anx­iety, just a fuck­ing shake­down. ‘And how much would that be, ex­act­ly?’

‘One hun­dred dol­lars,’ said one.

‘One hun­dred dol­lars each,’ said the oth­er.

‘And then I can catch my flight?’

‘Of course.’

He did­n’t even be­grudge them their mon­ey. It felt strange­ly as though they were mes­sen­gers from some greater pow­er, as if this was some kind of penance. And that meant he still had time to turn things around. Get his stu­dents home, make sure Claire was okay, then do some­thing with his life of which he could be proud. He count­ed out ten twen­ty-​dol­lar bills, added an ex­tra one. ‘For your friend in check-​in,’ he said. Then he walked out through the door and across to the de­par­ture gate, a great weight off his shoul­ders, a lit­tle strut back in his stride.

IV

Naguib found Cap­tain Khaled Os­man sit­ting out the storm in his quar­ters, lis­ten­ing to his men gos­sip­ing as they shared a shisha of hon­ey-​flavoured to­bac­co.



‘You again,’ scowled Khaled. ‘What is it this time?’

Naguib closed the door be­hind him to shut out the storm, brushed down his sleeves, flick­ing droplets of wa­ter on­to the floor. ‘A vi­cious night,’ he re­marked.

‘What do you want?’ said Khaled, push­ing him­self to his feet.

‘I tried to phone,’ said Naguib, gesturing vaguely out...

Khaled’s jaw stiff­ened. He put his arms on his hips. ‘What do you want?’

‘Noth­ing. Noth­ing par­tic­ular, at least. I just want­ed to give you guys a heads-​up, that’s all. We had a re­port ear­li­er.’

‘A re­port?’

Naguib raised an eye­brow, ap­par­ent­ly as amused by what he was about to tell them as no doubt they would be to hear it. ‘One of the lo­cals has been hear­ing voic­es.’

‘Voic­es?’

‘Men’s voic­es,’ nod­ded Naguib. ‘Wom­en’s voic­es. For­eign­er­s’ voic­es.’

‘Where?’

‘I could­n’t make sense of it ex­act­ly. I don’t know this place as well as you. And he was­n’t the most co­her­ent of wit­ness­es. But some­where in Amar­na.’

‘What do you ex­pect us to do about it?’

‘Noth­ing,’ said Naguib. ‘It’s just, with ev­ery­thing that’s been go­ing on, I’m go­ing to have to look in­to it.’

Khaled stared in­cred­ulous­ly at him. ‘You want to go out in this?’

Naguib laughed hearti­ly. ‘You think I’m crazy? No, no, no. But if it’s okay with you guys, I’ll bring him back here first thing to­mor­row; he can show me the place. You’re wel­come to come along with us, if you like. It’s a long-​shot, I know, but with these hostages and ev­ery­thing …’

‘Quite,’ nod­ded Khaled stiffly. ‘In the morn­ing. No prob­lem.’

‘Thanks,’ said Naguib. ‘Till to­mor­row, then.’

I

Cap­tain Khaled Os­man clenched his fists as he stood at the win­dow watch­ing Naguib drive away. When his tail-​lights had van­ished in­to the storm, he turned to Faisal and Ab­dul­lah. ‘Voic­es,’ he said ici­ly. ‘Some­one has been hear­ing voic­es. Men’s voic­es. Wom­en’s voic­es. For­eign­er­s’ voic­es. Ex­plain this to me, please.’



‘It must be some mis­take, sir,’ whined Ab­dul­lah, back­ing away. ‘A co­in­ci­dence. Tourists. Jour­nal­ists.’

‘You’re telling me you’ve al­lowed tourists and jour­nal­ists in­to the site?’

Ab­dul­lah dropped his gaze. ‘No, sir. But maybe they sneaked in while…’ He trailed off, aware his boss was­n’t buy­ing it.

Khaled fold­ed his arms, glar­ing back and forth be­tween him and Faisal. ‘You did­n’t do as I asked, did you?’

‘We did, sir,’ said Ab­dul­lah. ‘I swear we did.’

‘You killed them?’

Ab­dul­lah’s com­plex­ion paled a notch. ‘Kill them, sir?’ he swal­lowed. ‘You nev­er told us to kill them.’

‘What?’

‘You told us to si­lence them, sir,’ vol­un­teered Faisal. ‘That’s ex­act­ly what we did.’

Khaled’s face was stone. ‘Si­lence them? And how pre­cise­ly did you do that?’

‘We spaced those planks out over the shaft,’ nod­ded Faisal. ‘he shaust…We cov­ered them with sheets and blan­kets. No one could pos­si­bly have heard them.’

‘And yet some­one has,’ point­ed out Khaled. ‘And to­mor­row morn­ing the po­lice are go­ing out look­ing for them. They’re go­ing to hear their voic­es again.’ He thrust his face in­to Faisal’s. ‘We’re all go­ing to hang be­cause you dis­obeyed my di­rect or­der. How does that feel? Does that make you feel proud?’

‘They won’t come back till morn­ing,’ point­ed out Nass­er.

‘Yes,’ agreed Khaled. It was the first sen­si­ble thing any­one had said. He checked his watch. They still had time. ‘Get pick­ax­es and rope,’ he or­dered. ‘And any­thing else we need to open the place up and close it again.’ He touched his Walther in­stinc­tive­ly. Much though he cher­ished it, it was­n’t the best tool for the job in hand. He opened up his lock­er, clipped two of his army sou­venir grenades to his belt. ‘Come on then,’ he scowled, open­ing the door in­to the mael­strom. ‘We’ve work to do.’

They ran through the del­uge, clam­bered in­to the cab, then set off for the Roy­al Wa­di, un­aware of the pas­sen­ger hitch­ing a ride on their roof.

II

The wa­ter had now reached Lily’s chin. She had to tilt back her head to breathe. Her left arm was aching from hold­ing up Gaille, still breath­ing faint­ly but not yet con­scious. She trans­ferred her to her right. She’d climbed as high as she could go on the mound, but it was be­ing eat­en away bit by bit be­neath her feet. She gave a sob of fear and lone­li­ness.



The time was fast com­ing when she’d have to choose. She could per­haps ride the ris­ing tide, sup­port­ing her­self on the few mea­gre holds in the lime­stone wall, but no way could she do so while still hold­ing Gaille. She was al­ready too close to ex­haus­tion. And the longer she held on, the more of her own pre­cious re­serves of strength she’d burn up. Let­ting her go was the on­ly sen­si­ble strat­egy. No one would see. No one would ev­er know. And even if they did, they’d agree she’d had no choice.

Right, she told her­self. On the count of ten.

She took a deep breath, count­ed the num­bers out loud. But she trailed to a halt at sev­en, aware she could­n’t do it. She just could­n’t.

Not yet, at least.

Not yet.


III

Naguib watched Khaled and his men drive off to­wards the Roy­al Wa­di in their truck, ex­hil­arat­ed that the first part of Knox’s plan had gone so sweet­ly. He got out his mo­bile, called his boss.

‘You again!’ sighed Gamal. ‘What this time?’

‘Noth­ing,’ said Naguib. ‘At least, I’ve been lis­ten­ing in on all the chat­ter. You aren’t look­ing for some fugi­tive West­ern­er, are you?’

‘Of course we bloody are. You know we are.’

‘On­ly I think he might be here. A tall West­ern­er, maybe thir­ty, thir­ty-​five. His face pret­ty bad­ly banged up.’

‘That’s him! That’s him! Where is he?’

‘He was in a truck with some oth­er peo­ple.’

‘Who?’

‘I did­n’t see. I just saw them drive off to­wards the Roy­al Wa­di.’

‘Keep =“2em”jus˜Keep =on them, you hear me,’ yelled Gamal. ‘We’ll get there as soon as we can.’

‘Thanks.’ Naguib dis­con­nect­ed, nod­ded to Tarek, sit­ting in his pas­sen­ger seat, an AK-49 across his lap.

‘All set?’ asked Tarek.

‘All set,’ agreed Naguib.

Tarek grinned and low­ered his win­dow, gave the sign to his son Mah­moud at the wheel of the truck be­hind, a dozen ghaf­firs in the back, all armed to the teeth, champ­ing at this chance to get their own back on Khaled.

It was time to roll.

I

Claire’s cell-​door banged open and Au­gustin burst in, close­ly fol­lowed by a short, slim man in a beau­ti­ful­ly cut char­coal-​grey suit. ‘Have you told them any­thing?’ asked Au­gustin.



‘No.’ It had been close, though. She’d been on the verge of open­ing up to Hos­ni when Fa­rooq had re­turned, bring­ing con­fronta­tion back with him. Hos­ni had rolled his eyes in de­spair, had even al­lowed him­self a com­plic­it smile at Claire, both aware of just how close he’d got.

‘Good girl,’ ex­ult­ed Au­gustin, plant­ing a kiss on her fore­head. But then he took a step back, as though wor­ried about over­step­ping his bounds. ‘I on­ly mean, it’s im­por­tant you take prop­er le­gal ad­vice first.’

‘Of course,’ she agreed.

‘Great. Then come with me.’

‘I can go?’

Au­gustin nod­ded at his com­pan­ion. ‘This is Mis­ter Nafeez Zi­dan, Alexan­dri­a’s finest lawyer. I’ve had to use him once or twice my­self. You know how it is. He’s made the ar­range­ments. You’re free to leave, as long as you agree to come back to­mor­row af­ter­noon. That’s okay, yes?’

‘You’ll come with me?’

‘Of course. And Nafeez too.’

‘Then it’s fine,’ she said. She turned to Nafeez. ‘Thank you so much.’

‘The plea­sure is mine,’ said Nafeez.

She clung to Au­gustin’s arm as he led her out to­wards the lob­by. Sud­den­ly, she could­n’t get away fast enough. ‘We had to agree to cer­tain con­di­tions to gain your re­lease, I’m afraid,’ he told her. ‘The im­por­tant thing was to get you out tonight.’

‘What con­di­tions?’

‘For one thing, your pass­port has been con­fis­cat­ed and won’t be re­turned un­til the in­ves­ti­ga­tors are sat­is­fied.’ He opened the front door for her, then led her down the front steps and opened the back door of Man­soor’s car which was wait­ing at the foot. ‘I’ve al­so had to as­sure them you won’t try to leave the coun­try be­fore then.’

‘I won’t,’ she promised, climb­ing in­side. ‘But how long will it all take?’

‘It won’t be quick,’ ad­mit­ted Au­gustin, slid­ing in be­side her. ‘Things in Egypt rarely are.’ He took her hand in both his, gave it a re­as­sur­ing press. ‘But you must­n’t wor­ry. It’s go­ing to work out fine. Man­soor and I have worked out a sto­ry that—’

‘Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay!’ protest­ed Nafeez from the front,roteste s… cov­er­ing his ears. ‘I can’t hear this. I’m a lawyer.’

‘For­give me, my friend,’ laughed Au­gustin. He turned back to Claire. ‘Just trust me. It’s go­ing to be fine. It’s who you know in Egypt that counts. Usu­al­ly I hate that about this place. Tonight I wel­come it. Be­cause I know a lot of peo­ple, Claire. A lot of con­nect­ed, pow­er­ful peo­ple. I’ll call them all if I have to.’

‘Thank you,’ she said.

‘I’ve made some oth­er com­mit­ments on your be­half. I’ve un­der­tak­en to be per­son­al­ly re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing sure you show up for all in­ter­views and court ap­pear­ances, should it come to that, which it won’t. But I’m afraid that means you’re go­ing to have to stay as my guest for the time be­ing.’

‘Won’t I get in your way?’

‘Of course not. It’ll be my plea­sure.’

She glanced down at her hand, still pressed be­tween both his. He re­al­ized what must be go­ing through her mind, blushed fu­ri­ous­ly, let go of her hand, shift­ed away along the back seat. ‘No!’ he protest­ed. ‘It won’t be like that at all, I promise you. You’ll have your own bed­room. At least, it’ll be my bed­room, but I won’t be in there with you, I’ll be on the couch in the liv­ing room, I’ll just grab a blan­ket and a pil­low, I’ve slept there be­fore, it’s fine, it’s com­fort­able, much more com­fort­able than the bed ac­tu­al­ly, I don’t know why I don’t sleep on it all the time, any­way you’ll be com­plete­ly safe, that’s the point, I give you my word.’

He broke off his school­boy blath­er­ing, drew a deep breath, looked di­rect­ly in­to her eyes to see if she’d bought it, ev­ident­ly came to the con­clu­sion that he still need­ed to give it one last push. ‘Hon­est­ly, Claire,’ he in­sist­ed, ‘I’d nev­er dream of tak­ing ad­van­tage of you like that, not af­ter ev­ery­thing you’ve just risked for me.’

There was a heart­beat of si­lence.

A sec­ond heart­beat.

‘Oh,’ she said.

II

Ly­ing ex­posed to the full sav­agery of the thun­der­storm on the roof of the truck, Knox looked back down the road and re­al­ized a ma­jor weak­ness in his im­promp­tu plan. Even with the truck’s head­lights on full beam, vis­ibil­ity was dire. But Naguib and Tarek would­n’t be able to use their lights with­out giv­ing them­selves away. And driv­ing with­out lights in these con­di­tions would be al­most im­pos­si­ble.



A vi­cious squall buf­fet­ed the truck. It lurched so sharply side­ways that wa­ter sloshed from the top and Knox had to cling des­per­ate­ly on. Their tyres re­gained grip, but they slowed down af­ter that to a more pru­dent pace. He looked be­hind again. Still no sign of any­one. They reached the end of the road and parked by the gen­er­ator build­ing. An ap­pro­pri­ate place for all this to end. Ge­om­etry might be a Greek word, but it had been an Egyp­tian sci­ence, de­vel­oped in re­sponse to the an­nu­al Nile in­un­da­tion which flood­ed the sur­round­ing land, mean­ing that own­ers of valu­able prop­er­ty need­ed re­li­able ways to de­ter­mine what land be­longed to whom when the wa­ters re­ced­ed, while the au­thor­ities had need­ed fair meth­ods to work out tax­es too.

That these skills had been used by Egyp­t’s ar­chi­tects was proved by the ori­en­ta­tion and pro­por­tions of the Great Pyra­mids. Yet talk of ‘sa­cred ge­om­etry’ made Egyp­tol­ogists un­com­fort­able; it smacked too much of New-​Age think­ing. And while the Egyp­tians had clear­ly had both the knowl­edge and the abil­ity to in­cor­po­rate it in­to their c to ine="heir c ity plan­ning and ar­chi­tec­ture, the ar­chae­olog­ical record showed that they had­n’t of­ten had the in­cli­na­tion.

At first glance, the city of Amar­na seemed de­signed to fit its land­scape. But a British ar­chi­tect had re­cent­ly mapped the key sites, with re­mark­able re­sults. Amar­na, it seemed, had­n’t been hap­haz­ard­ly laid out at all. The en­tire city was in fact a vast rec­ti­lin­ear open-​air tem­ple that strad­dled the Nile and faced the ris­ing sun. What was more, if you drew straight lines from each of the bound­ary stele through the main palaces and tem­ples, they all con­verged on a par­tic­ular point, like the rays con­verg­ing on the sun in so much of Amar­na’s art. And that fo­cal point was right here at Akhen­aten’s Roy­al Tomb. It was as though he’d seen him­self as the sun, shin­ing eter­nal­ly up­on his peo­ple and his city.

The truck’s doors opened. Khaled and his men hur­ried out, hunched be­neath wa­ter­proofs, their torch-​beams fee­ble things quick­ly lost in the mas­sive dark­ness. Knox’s mo­bile could­n’t find a sig­nal, over­whelmed by the storm and the high walls of the wa­di. He was on his own, for the time be­ing at least. Wa­ter slopped over the edge as he low­ered him­self down. His shoes squelched as he walked, so he kicked them off and tossed them in­to the night. Then he fol­lowed Khaled and his men along the wa­di floor, wad­ing bare­foot through the storm-​wa­ter as it cas­cad­ed like rapids across the scree.

III

Ab­dul­lah glow­ered at Khaled’s back as they laboured up the hill­side and then across the plateau, his feet soaked and sore and cold in­side his ill-​fit­ting boots. What mad­ness this was! No way would they be able to make it down that sor­ry ex­cuse for a path in such a tor­rent. But Khaled had an­tic­ipat­ed this. There was a pro­trud­ing spike of rock on the hill­top above the tomb mouth. He tied a slip­knot in one end of a coil of rope, slung it around this spike, then tossed the rest over the edge. ‘Down you go, then,’ he told Ab­dul­lah.



‘Me?’ protest­ed Ab­dul­lah. ‘Why me?’

‘We would­n’t be in this damned mess if you’d fol­lowed my or­ders.’

‘You should have been clear­er,’ mut­tered Ab­dul­lah.

‘On the phone? On the phone?’

Ab­dul­lah grudg­ing­ly took hold of the rope. He gave it a cou­ple of tugs to test it. It prompt­ly rode up the spike and came free. ‘Look!’ he said.

‘Stop whin­ing, will you?’ said Khaled, loop­ing it back around, pulling the knot tighter. ‘Just climb.’

‘Don’t wor­ry,’ mur­mured Faisal. ‘I’ll keep an eye on it.’

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