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



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The door flew open. A policeman came in, flapped on the...

Knox tried to speak, but his mouth would­n’t work, he could man­age on­ly a plain­tive croak. A trick­le of spit­tle ran down his cheek. The nurse wiped it sym­pa­thet­ical­ly away. He checked Knox’s pulse, raised an eye­brow. ‘Pan­ic, yes?’ he said. ‘Is nor­mal. You have a bad crash, you know. But you’re safe now. This is hos­pi­tal. Noth­ing bad can hap­pen here. All you need is rest. That’s all any of us need.’ He picked the pil­low up from the floor, plumped it and re­placed it be­neath Knox’s head. Then he nod­ded in sat­is­fac­tion, went back to the door, turned off the lights and left Knox at the mer­cy of this stranger who want­ed to kill him.

I

The Nile car fer­ry was lit­tle more than a mo­tor­ized met­al raft. Gaille leaned against the rail and watched the fish­er­men pad­dle their sky-​blue boats with their flat slats of oars, the float­ing mats of veg­etable mat­ter pass­ing serene­ly by. A Cop­tic monk mut­tered as he ran his fin­ger across the small print of his Bible. Kids dan­gled their feet over the side, watch­ing for the sud­den pale flash of fish. Four young farm­ers kept look­ing at Stafford then howl­ing with laugh­ter. But even that could­n’t put him out of the cheer­ful mood he’d been in since he’d bagged his sun­rise footage.



They bumped against the east bank, drove up a short hill through a dusty vil­lage. Young­sters stared wide-​eyed at them, as though they’d nev­er seen tourists be­fore. A shop­keep­er pol­ished with spit and cloth his tired dis­play of lemons and man­goes. They passed a ceme­tery, drove along an emp­ty road to the Amar­na tick­et of­fice. The shut­ters were closed, though two tourist po­lice­men were sit­ting be­neath a sun­shade by a cab­in, shar­ing a cigarette. One stood, wan­dered across. ‘You’re here ear­ly,’ he grunt­ed.

‘We’re film­ing,’ Gaille told him. ‘Aren’t you ex­pect­ing us?’

‘No.’

Gaille shrugged. It was ev­er thus in Egypt. You got clear­ance from the Supreme Coun­cil, the army, the se­cu­ri­ty ser­vices, the po­lice, a hun­dred dif­fer­ent bod­ies; but no one ev­er both­ered to alert the peo­ple on the ground. She beck­oned Lily across with her fat file of doc­umen­ta­tion, of­fered it to him. He looked blankly at a page or two, shook his head. ‘I call my boss,’ he said, head­ing in­side the cab­in. ‘Wait here.’

Gailidth­hey…le re­turned to the Dis­cov­ery, opened her glove com­part­ment. It was sec­ond na­ture now to car­ry a se­lec­tion of good­ies for such oc­ca­sions. She took a bar of choco­late over to the sec­ond tourist po­lice­man, peeled back the sil­ver foil, of­fered him a chunk, took one her­self. They smiled com­pan­ion­ably at the sweet flavour, the way it melt­ed in their mouths. Gaille hand­ed him the rest of the bar, mo­tioned for him to share it with his com­rade. He nod­ded and grinned hap­pi­ly.

‘Choco­late-​bar diplo­ma­cy, huh?’ mur­mured Lily.

‘It can be a life-​saver, be­lieve me.’

The first po­lice­man fin­ished his phone call, made a ges­ture to in­di­cate that his boss was on his way. They stood around smil­ing and eat­ing the choco­late as they wait­ed.

‘What’s go­ing on?’ grum­bled Stafford. ‘Is there a prob­lem?’

‘Just Egypt,’ Gaille as­sured him. At last, a truck trun­dled in­to view, trail­ing a cloud of dust. A man jumped down, look­ing for all the world like an army of­fi­cer in his beau­ti­ful­ly pressed mil­itary-​green uni­form with pol­ished black leather belt and hol­ster. His com­plex­ion was un­usu­al­ly soft and pink for Egypt, his hair ra­zor-​cut, his mous­tache silky. Yet there was a hard­ness be­neath the sur­face van­ity. ‘I am Cap­tain Khaled Os­man,’ he de­clared. ‘What’s this I hear about film­ing?’ He held out his hand for Lily’s file, leafed through it, his frown grow­ing. ‘No one tells me about this,’ he com­plained. ‘Why does no one tell me?’

‘It’s all in or­der,’ said Gaille.

‘Wait here.’ He marched in­side the guard­house, made a phone call of his own that rapid­ly be­came heat­ed. He came back out, beck­oned to Gaille. ‘Where ex­act­ly you want to film?’ he asked.

Gaille took back the file, flipped through for the shoot­ing sched­ule. It list­ed ev­ery ma­jor site in Amar­na, in­clud­ing the bound­ary stele, the work­men’s vil­lage, the North­ern Palace, the South­ern Tombs and the Roy­al Tomb. ‘You re­al­ly ex­pect to film all these in one day?’ she mur­mured to Lily.

Lily shook her head. ‘We start­ed get­ting per­mis­sions be­fore Charles had fin­ished his script. We ap­plied for ev­ery­thing, just in case. All we ac­tu­al­ly need is the bound­ary stele, the North­ern Palace and the Roy­al Tomb.’

‘Where in the Roy­al Tomb?’ de­mand­ed Cap­tain Khaled.

‘Just the mouth and the buri­al cham­ber.’

He squint­ed un­hap­pi­ly, but seemed to ac­cept it. ‘You will need an es­cort,’ he de­clared, thrust­ing the file back at her. ‘Nass­er and I will come with you.’

Gaille and Lily shared a glance. The last thing they want­ed was this man tread­ing on their heels all day. ‘That’s very kind,’ said Gaille, ‘but I’m sure we’ll be—’

‘We come with you,’ said Khaled.

Gaille forced a smile. ‘That’s very kind,’ she said.

II

Knox lay pet­ri­fied in his hos­pi­tal bed, wait­ing for the in­trud­er to reap­pear, grab his pil­low, fin­ish what he’d start­ed. But the sec­onds ticked by and noth­ing hap­pened. He must have left al­ready. It was a lim­it­ed com­fort, how­ev­er. Some­one want­ed him dead, and they knew where to find him too. He need­ed to get away.



The adrenaline burst had giv­en him a lit­tle strength. He moved his right leg to the edge of his bed, let it drop heav­ie of anop heav­ily over the side. He wait­ed till he was sta­ble, moved his left leg to join it. It dragged his thighs with it, his back­side, then his whole body went crash­ing to the floor, rip­ping his catheter free, the IV stand wob­bling but re­main­ing up­right. He lay there wind­ed, half-​ex­pect­ing the door to fly open. But no one came in. His clothes were on the chest of draw­ers. He crawled la­bo­ri­ous­ly over, grabbed them down, torn and stained with soot and oil, yet still less con­spic­uous than a hos­pi­tal gown. He pulled on his jeans, his shirt, his black jer­sey. Us­ing the iron bed-​frame, he hauled him­self to his feet. A dizzy­ing rush of blood, he had to fight past the urge to faint. He let go of the bed-​frame, stag­gered across the room to the door. A mo­ment to com­pose him­self. A deep breath. He opened the door. Morn­ing sun blurred on the fac­ing win­dow. He used the wall to hold him­self up as he went out.

‘Hey!’

Knox glanced left. The po­lice­man was smok­ing by an open win­dow. He flicked the cigarette away, fold­ed his arms, as­sumed a stern ex­pres­sion, ev­ident­ly ex­pect­ing that to be enough to bring Knox to heel. But Knox turned the oth­er way in­stead, stum­bled through swing doors in­to a stair­well, clutch­ing the ban­is­ter tight as he stag­gered down a flight.

‘Hey!’ cried the po­lice­man, from the swing doors. ‘Come back!’

Knox lurched out on­to an iden­ti­cal cor­ri­dor, a porter lean­ing against the wall, warm­ing his hands around a glass of chai. He heard the po­lice­man shout­ing, set down his glass, be­gan strid­ing to­wards Knox. A door to Knox’s left. Locked. Across the cor­ri­dor to the win­dows, opened them, looked out. A ce­ment mix­er be­low, a pyra­mid of sand. He hauled him­self on­to the win­dowsill, tipped him­self out, just as the po­lice­man grabbed his an­kle. Grav­ity ripped him free, he turned his shoul­der, hit­ting the side of the sand heap, bounc­ing out on­to the drive­way, a car swerv­ing around him, the driv­er shout­ing and shak­ing her fist.

He picked him­self up, hob­bled out past the de­sert­ed guard-​post on­to the road. A lor­ry forced him back against the wall. A taxi-​driv­er toot­ed. Knox waved him over, pulled open the rear door, col­lapsed in­side, just as the po­lice­man ran out on­to the road.

‘You have mon­ey?’ asked the driv­er.

Knox’s tongue felt as huge and clum­sy as a bal­loon in his mouth. He could­n’t form the words. He searched his pock­ets in­stead, found his wal­let, pro­duced two tat­tered ban­knotes from it. The driv­er nod­ded and pulled away, leav­ing the po­lice­man shout­ing vain­ly in their wake. ‘Where?’ he asked.

The ques­tion took Knox by sur­prise. His on­ly con­cern had been get­ting away. But he had ques­tions that need­ed ur­gent an­swers: about this mys­te­ri­ous crash that had put him in hos­pi­tal, the stranger who’d tried to kill him. His last clear mem­ory was meet­ing his French friend Au­gustin for a cof­fee. Maybe he’d know some­thing. He mum­bled his ad­dress to the driv­er, then col­lapsed ex­haust­ed across the rear seats.

III


‘Do you have to stand there?’ com­plained Stafford. ‘You’re in my eye-​line.’

Gaille looked help­less­ly around. Lily had al­ready tak­en her footage of the bound­ary stele it­self, and now Stafford was set­ting up the cam­era to film him­self against the desert back­drop, leav­ing her a choice of stand­ing in his eye-​line or ac­tu­al­ly in shot.

‘Come with me,’ said Lily, ges­tur­ing at a thin track that led up the slope. ‘I’ve done my bit.’

The steep path was n="j by­ath was treach­er­ous with loose shale, but they soon emerged on­to a hill­top plateau with a mag­nif­icent view over the bleak sand­stone plain to the thin rib­bon of veg­eta­tion that shield­ed the Nile.

‘Christ!’ mut­tered Lily. ‘Imag­ine liv­ing here.’

‘Wait till mid­day,’ agreed Gaille. ‘Or come back dur­ing sum­mer. You would­n’t build a prison here.’

‘So why did Akhen­at­en choose it? I mean there must have been more to it than this sun ris­ing be­tween the cliffs busi­ness.’

‘Amar­na was vir­gin soil,’ said Gaille. ‘Nev­er con­se­crat­ed to any oth­er god. Maybe that was im­por­tant. And you must re­mem­ber that Egypt was orig­inal­ly a fu­sion of two lands, Up­per and Low­er Egypt, al­ways vy­ing for the as­cen­dan­cy. This is ef­fec­tive­ly the bor­der be­tween the two, so maybe Akhen­at­en thought it a prag­mat­ic place to rule from. Though there are oth­er the­ories too.’

‘Such as?’

Gaille point­ed north, to where the cres­cent of cliffs re­joined the Nile. ‘That’s where Akhen­at­en built his own palace. It’s got plen­ty of nat­ural shade, yet it’s al­so close enough to the Nile to have beau­ti­ful gar­dens and pools. And when­ev­er he had busi­ness in the main part of Amar­na, he rode in on his char­iot with sol­diers run­ning along­side to shade him from the sun.’

‘All right for some.’

‘Quite. There were hun­dreds and hun­dreds of of­fer­ing ta­bles in the main At­en tem­ple. Each one would have been piled high with meat and fruit and veg­eta­bles dur­ing cer­emonies. Yet the hu­man re­mains in the ceme­ter­ies here show clear signs of anaemia and mal­nu­tri­tion. And then there’s a fa­mous let­ter from an As­syr­ian king called Ashu­rubal­lit. “Why do you keep my mes­sen­gers stand­ing in the open sun? They’ll die in the open sun. If the king en­joys stand­ing in the open sun, then let him do so by all means. But, re­al­ly, why should my peo­ple suf­fer? They will be killed.â€�’

Lily frowned. ‘You think he was a sadist?’

‘I think it’s pos­si­ble. I mean, imag­ine your boss is right, that Akhen­at­en suf­fered from some dread­ful dis­ease. It is­n’t hard to see him tak­ing plea­sure in the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers, is it?’

‘No.’

‘But the thing is, I don’t know, not for sure. No one does. Not me, not Fa­ti­ma, not your boss. We sim­ply don’t have enough ev­idence. You should try to find some way to make your view­ers un­der­stand that. Ev­ery­thing in your pro­gramme will be best guess­es, not fact. Ev­ery­thing.’

Lily squint­ed shrewd­ly. ‘Is this about what Fa­ti­ma told us last night?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Those ta­latat show­ing Akhen­at­en with­out gen­italia. You’re not com­fort­able about them, are you? That’s why you went to bed.’

Gaille could feel her­self blush­ing. ‘I just think it’s too ear­ly to be sure one way or the oth­er.’

‘Then why did she tell us?’

‘This is a won­der­ful part of Egypt. The peo­ple are en­chant­ing, the his­to­ry is mag­ical, but hard­ly any­one ev­er comes here. Fa­ti­ma wants to change that.’

‘And we’re the bait?’

‘I would­n’t put it quite that blunt­ly.’

‘It’s fine,’ grinned Lily. ‘Ac­tu­al­ly, I’m glad. Lilot ™m glad. I’d like the pro­gramme to do some­thing good.’

‘Thank you.’

Lily nod­ded. ‘Can I ask you a re­al­ly stupid ques­tion? It’s been bug­ging me ev­er since we got down here, but I haven’t dared ask.’

‘Of course.’

‘It’s about pro­nun­ci­ation. I mean, the An­cient Egyp­tian al­pha­bet did­n’t have vow­els, right? So how do you know how all these names like Akhen­at­en and Ne­fer­ti­ti were pro­nounced?’

‘That’s any­thing but stupid,’ smiled Gaille. ‘The truth is, we don’t, not for sure. But we do have some good clues from oth­er lan­guages, par­tic­ular­ly Cop­tic.’

‘Cop­tic?’ frowned Lily. ‘I thought Cop­tic was a church?’

‘It is,’ agreed Gaille. ‘It all goes back to Alexan­der the Great’s con­quest of Egypt. He in­tro­duced Greek as the lan­guage of ad­min­is­tra­tion, but all the peo­ple still spoke Egyp­tian, of course, so the scribes grad­ual­ly de­vel­oped the habit of writ­ing down Egyp­tian speech pho­net­ical­ly with the Greek al­pha­bet, which did have vow­els. That even­tu­al­ly be­came Cop­tic, which in turn be­came the lan­guage of ear­ly Chris­tian­ity here, and the name stuck. So when­ev­er we find an Egyp­tian word writ­ten in Cop­tic, we get a very good idea of its orig­inal pro­nun­ci­ation. Not per­fect, of course, par­tic­ular­ly for the Amar­na era, which fin­ished over a thou­sand years be­fore Alexan­der. Our best guess­es for that ac­tu­al­ly come from Akka­di­an cuneiform rather than Cop­tic; and Akka­di­an is a bas­tard, be­lieve me. That’s why Akhen­aten’s name has been tran­scribed in so many dif­fer­ent ways over the years. The Vic­to­ri­ans ac­tu­al­ly knew him as Khu-​en-​at­en or Ken-​hu-​at­en, but re­cent­ly we’ve …’ She broke off, put her palm flat up­on her bel­ly, her breath sud­den­ly com­ing hot and fast.

‘What is it?’ asked Lily anx­ious­ly.

‘Noth­ing. Just a lit­tle turn, that’s all.’

‘This wretched sun.’

‘Yes.’ She gath­ered her­self, found a smile. ‘Would you mind ter­ri­bly if I went back to the car, sat down for a bit?’

‘Of course not. You want me to come with you?’

‘Thanks, but I’ll be fine.’ Her legs were un­steady as she made her way down the path to where the Dis­cov­ery was parked. The tourist po­lice­men were doz­ing in the front of their truck. She took Stafford’s book from the dash­board, sat side­ways on the driver’s seat, the dark syn­thet­ic fab­ric feel­ing gluey from the sun. She flipped through the pages, found what she was look­ing for.

Yes. Just as she re­mem­bered.

But it could­n’t be. It could­n’t be. Could it?

IV

The mo­ment the IV stand had crashed to the floor, Pe­ter­son had known his op­por­tu­ni­ty was gone: the best he could hope for was to get out un­seen. He’d hid­den be­hind the door as the po­lice­man had looked in, had slipped out when he’d gone hunt­ing for a nurse, through the swing doors at the end of the cor­ri­dor, down two floors and out through a fire ex­it. Then he’d sat in his Toy­ota, tak­ing a few mo­ments to gath­er him­self, think things through.



He prid­ed him­self on his strength of char­ac­ter, Pe­ter­son. On his abil­ity to hold his nerve. But he un­de­ni­ably felt the pres­sure right now. Knox was sure to blab about the in­trud­er in his room. Even if he did­n’t re­mem­ber yes­ter­day’s events, heâ€>

A win­dow on the first floor opened at that mo­ment. He looked up in time to see Knox haul­ing him­self out, tum­bling on­to the sand pile be­neath, then scram­bling to his feet and stag­ger­ing out on­to the road.



A huge shiver ran through Peterson. He felt overwhelmed by...

He put the Toy­ota in­to gear, fol­lowed Knox out on­to the road, watched him col­lapse in­to a taxi. He fol­lowed the taxi east across Alexan­dria un­til it pulled up out­side a tall grey block of flats. Knox climbed un­steadi­ly out, van­ished in­side. Pe­ter­son found a place to park then went to check the names on the buzzers. An Au­gustin Pas­cal lived on the sixth floor. A man of that name was Alexan­dri­a’s most cel­ebrat­ed un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­ogist. Sure­ly it was him Knox had gone to see. The lift doors opened. Two wom­en emerged chat­ter­ing in­to the lob­by. Pe­ter­son could­n’t af­ford to be seen. He ducked his head and hur­ried back to his Toy­ota to await the op­por­tu­ni­ty he was cer­tain his Lord would pro­vide.

I

Lily watched cu­ri­ous­ly as Gaille walked down to the Dis­cov­ery. The way she grabbed Stafford’s book from the dash­board and flipped avid­ly through it re­mind­ed her that Gaille had al­so pestered Stafford with ques­tions about the Cop­per Scroll.



Some­thing was up, she was sure of it.

She made her own way down, ap­proach­ing qui­et­ly from be­hind, draw­ing to with­in a few paces be­fore Gaille heard her, snap­ping Stafford’s book closed, hold­ing it down low as she turned, clum­si­ly try­ing to hide it. ‘Christ!’ she said, putting a hand over her heart. ‘You gave me a fright.’

‘Sor­ry,’ said Lily. ‘I did­n’t mean to.’ She put her hand on Gaille’s shoul­der. ‘Are you quite sure you’re okay?’

‘I’m fine. Please don’t wor­ry.’

‘How can I not? Af­ter all you’ve done for us.’

‘It’s noth­ing. Re­al­ly.’

Lily al­lowed her­self a mis­chievous smile. ‘It’s the Cop­per Scroll, is­n’t it?’

Gaille’s eyes went wide. ‘How did you know?’

‘Re­al­ly, Gaille. We need to play some pok­er be­fore I leave. Come on. Spill.’

Gaille’s eyes flick­ered anx­ious­ly up to Stafford, but the need to con­fide was ev­ident­ly too strong. ‘You won’t tell any­one?’ she asked. ‘Not un­til I’ve had a chance to think through what it means, at least.’

‘You have my word,’ nod­ded Lily.

Gaille opened the book, showed her the clus­ters of Greek let­ters from the Cop­per Scroll. ‘See these?’ she said. ‘These first three would have been pro­nounced some­thing like Ken-​Hagh-​En.’

‘Ken­haghen?’ frowned Lily. ‘You don’t mean … as in Akhen­at­en?’

‘Yes. I think I do.’

‘But that makes no sense.’

‘Tell me about it.’ Gaille gave a mirth­less laugh. ‘But the Cop­per Scroll is a Jew­ish doc­ument, re­mem­ber, and you’re the ones here do­ing a pro­gramme on Akhen­at­en as Moses.’

‘Je­sus!’ mut­tered Lily. She looked up at Stafford. ‘I’m sor­ry, Gaille,’ she said. ‘You’ve got to let me tell him.’

She shook her head vig­or­ous­ly. ‘He won’t thank you.’

‘Are you kid­ding? This is dy­na­mite.’

Gaille held up Stafford’s book. ‘Haven’t you read this? He made his mon­ey and his rep­uta­tion on the back of it, claim­ing that the Cop­per Scroll trea­sures came from the Tem­ple of Solomon. You want to tell him he’s got it all wrong, that they re­al­ly came from here?’

‘From here?’

‘If this re­al­ly is Akhen­aten’s name,’ nod­ded Gaille, ‘that has to be the im­pli­ca­tion.’

‘But the Cop­per Scroll was in He­brew,’ protest­ed Lily.

‘Yes, but copied from an­oth­er, old­er doc­ument. Maybe the Es­senes trans­lat­ed it when they copied it. Af­ter all, if you’re right about Akhen­at­en be­ing Moses, the Es­senes would be by far his most like­ly true heirs.’

‘How do you mean?’

‘Have you read Akhen­aten’s po­em, the Hymn of the At­en? It out­lines his way of think­ing. Ba­si­cal­ly, he di­vid­ed ev­ery­thing in­to sun­light and dark­ness, good and evil. That was ex­act­ly how the Es­senes viewed the world. They called them­selves the Sons of Light and they saw them­selves as en­gaged in a life-​or-​death strug­gle against the Sons of Dark­ness. They prac­tised a form of sun-​wor­ship too. They thought of God as the “per­fect lightâ€� and they prayed to the east ev­ery morn­ing, be­seech­ing the sun to rise. They even car­ried trow­els with them to bury their fae­ces so they would­n’t of­fend the sun. They used a so­lar cal­en­dar, just like they did here. And Amar­na faces twen­ty de­grees south of due east, you know, and Qum­ran is on ex­act­ly the same ax­is.’

‘Je­sus!’ mut­tered Lily.

‘Es­sene rit­ual linen was Egyp­tian, as were their dyes. Their buri­als were Egyp­tian. Ar­chae­ol­ogists even found an ankh in­scribed on a head­stone at Qum­ran, and the ankh was Akhen­aten’s sym­bol of life, as you know. They marked up their scrolls with red ink too, a prac­tice on­ly oth­er­wise found in Egypt. Then there’s the Cop­per Scroll it­self. An­cient Egyp­tians some­times in­scribed im­por­tant doc­uments on cop­per. No one else did – not as far as I know, at least. And the oth­er Dead Sea Scrolls are ab­so­lute­ly packed with ref­er­ences to the Es­se­nes’ spir­itu­al lead­er, a Mes­si­ah-​like fig­ure known on­ly as the “Teach­er of Righ­teous­nessâ€�. That’s pre­cise­ly how Akhen­at­en was known here in Amar­na.’

‘It’s true then. It has to be.’

‘Not nec­es­sar­ily. Over a thou­sand years passed be­tween Amar­na and Qum­ran, re­mem­ber. And ev­ery­thing I just said is cir­cum­stan­tial. No one’s ev­er found a smok­ing gun.’

‘The Cop­per Scroll is­n’t cir­cum­stan­tial,’ point­ed out Lily.

A few mo­ments’ si­lence. ‘No,’ ad­mit­ted Gaille. ‘It is­n’t.’

II

The dec­ora­tors had been out of Au­gustin Pas­cal’s flat for near­ly a week now, but they’d left their dis­tinc­tive smell be­hind then al be­hind, that sour cock­tail of paint and sol­vent. It was most no­tice­able at this time of the morn­ing, with the un­wel­come in­tru­sion of an­oth­er dawn, the way it com­bined with his low-​wattage acid hang­over and the mock­ing emp­ty space on the mat­tress be­side him. Two weeks he’d had this damned bed, and still untest­ed. Some­thing had gone se­ri­ous­ly wrong in his life.



A pound­ing on his front door. His bas­tard neigh­bours were al­ways com­plain­ing. He turned on­to his side, muf­fled his ear with his pil­low, wait­ed for them to fuck off. God, but he felt tired. His ex­pen­sive new bed and mat­tress, his fine linen, his duck-​down pil­lows. He could­n’t re­mem­ber ev­er sleep­ing so bad­ly or feel­ing such re­lent­less fa­tigue.

The pound­ing con­tin­ued. With a cry of ex­as­per­ation, he pushed him­self to his feet, pulled on jeans and a sweat­shirt, went to open his door. ‘What the fuck … ?’ he scowled when he saw Knox. But then he no­ticed his friend’s cuts and bruis­es. ‘Je­sus! What the hell hap­pened?’

‘Car crash,’ slurred Knox. ‘Can’t re­mem­ber.’

Au­gustin looked at him in hor­ror, turned and strode in­to his bed­room for his jack­et. ‘I’m tak­ing you to hos­pi­tal.’

‘No,’ said Knox. ‘Not safe. A man. He put a pil­low over my face.’

‘What? Who?’

‘Don’t know. Too dark.’

‘I’m call­ing the po­lice.’

‘No! No po­lice. No doc­tors. Please. Find out what’s go­ing on.’

Au­gustin shrugged and helped Knox to his so­fa, then went to his kitchen, poured them each a glass of wa­ter, swal­lowed his own in one. ‘Okay,’ he said, wip­ing his mouth. ‘From the be­gin­ning. A car crash. Where?’

Knox shook his head. ‘Can’t re­mem­ber. Last thing I re­mem­ber was cof­fee with you.’

‘But that was the day be­fore yes­ter­day!’ protest­ed Au­gustin. ‘Do you have any re­ceipts? Any way to work out your move­ments?’

‘No.’

‘How about your mo­bile? See who you’ve called.’

Knox pat­ted his pock­ets ex­pres­sive­ly. ‘Lost.’

‘Email, then.’ He helped Knox to his break­fast ta­ble, set up his lap­top, di­alled up a con­nec­tion. Knox logged in­to his ac­count, found in­com­ing from Gaille.

Hi Daniel, I’ve at­tached your Ther­apeu­tae pho­tos, the ones I could make any­thing of, at least. The oth­ers were too bad­ly lit or blurred for the short time I had, but I’ll keep work­ing. Where did you take them? Are you up to no good again? I’m dy­ing to hear. I’m on taxi-​du­ty in Amar­na to­day but I’ll call tonight. I miss you too. All my love, Gaille.

Au­gustin’s heart thumped as he read the mes­sage; he felt the blood drain­ing from his face. ‘Ev­ery­thing okay?’ asked Knox, look­ing cu­ri­ous­ly at him.

‘Ther­apeu­tae pho­tos?’ said Au­gustin. ‘Where the hell did you take Ther­apeu­tae pho­tos?’

‘How should I know?’ re­tort­ed Knox. ‘Con­cus­sion, re­mem­ber?’

Au­gustin “2em­fy”ugustin nod­ded. ‘Then down­load these damned pho­tos, will you? This is get­ting in­ter­est­ing.’

III


The ap­pen­dices of Stafford’s book in­clud­ed full tran­scrip­tions and trans­la­tions of the Cop­per Scroll. Gaille and Lily read the trans­la­tion to­geth­er. ‘How much did a tal­ent weigh, ex­act­ly?’ asked Lily.

‘It var­ied from place to place,’ replied Gaille. ‘Any­where from twen­ty to forty ki­los.’

‘But here’s a cache of nine hun­dred tal­ents,’ protest­ed Lily. ‘That would be eigh­teen thou­sand ki­los of gold. That’s not pos­si­ble, sure­ly.’

Gaille frowned. Lily was right. The quan­ti­ties were sim­ply un­be­liev­able. She checked the tran­scrip­tion of the orig­inal He­brew. ‘Look,’ she said. ‘The weights are des­ig­nat­ed by the let­ter “kâ€�. That’s been trans­lat­ed as tal­ents, be­cause tal­ents were used by the Jews and in the Bible. But if this was Akhen­at­en, and the trea­sure came from Egypt, it would sure­ly have been des­ig­nat­ed in Eigh­teenth Dy­nasty units of weight, and they did­n’t use tal­ents, not then, not for gold. They used some­thing called a kite, which was de­nom­inat­ed by the let­ter “kâ€�. And a kite was just a frac­tion of a tal­ent, on­ly about ten or twelve grams.’

‘So these num­bers would make more sense?’

‘Much more. I mean, it would still make for a huge amount of gold, but plau­si­ble, you know. And look at this num­ber­ing sys­tem. These slash­es, this fig­ure ten. That’s clas­sic Eigh­teenth Dy­nasty.’

Lily took a step back, shook her head. ‘But why would Akhen­aten’s fol­low­ers bury their gold? Why not take it with them?’

‘Be­cause they could­n’t,’ said Gaille. ‘There was a mas­sive re­ac­tion af­ter Akhen­aten’s death, re­mem­ber. The tra­di­tion­al­ists took back over, and they stamped down hard. Most Atenists re­cant­ed and moved to Thebes, but not all of them. If you’re right about them be­ing the Jews, Ex­odus says they did a moon­light flit. And you can’t take this much bul­lion with you on a moon­light flit, it would slow you down too much.’

‘So they buried it,’ said Lily. ‘And wrote down the hid­ing places on a cop­per scroll.’

‘They would­n’t have been too wor­ried,’ nod­ded Gaille. ‘Af­ter all, this was the One True God’s home on earth, and they were fer­vent be­liev­ers. It fol­lowed that they’d soon be back, tri­umphant. But of course it did­n’t hap­pen that way. They fled Egypt al­to­geth­er, set­tled in Canaan, con­vinced them­selves that was their Promised Land. And when their orig­inal Cop­per Scroll was in dan­ger from ox­ida­tion, or per­haps when they could­n’t read Egyp­tian any more, they made a copy, on­ly in He­brew this time. And maybe an­oth­er copy af­ter that. And some­how it end­ed up in Qum­ran.’ She frowned at a thought. ‘You’ve heard about the End of Days, right? The great bat­tle at Meg­gi­do?’

‘Ar­maged­don,’ said Lily.

‘Ex­act­ly. Af­ter­wards, God is sup­posed to reign from a New Jerusalem, a city de­scribed in Ezekiel and the Book of Rev­ela­tions. They found a dif­fer­ent “New Jerusalemâ€� scroll at Qum­ran. Six copies of it, in fact, which sug­gests it meant a lot to the Es­senes. The city’s lay­out is giv­en in pre­cise de­tail. Size, ori­en­ta­tion, roads, hous­es, tem­ples, wa­ter, ev­ery­thing. And it maps on­to one par­tic­ular an­cient city with quite startling ac­cu­ra­cy.’

‘Which city?’ asked Lily, though she must have sus­pect­ed the an­swer.

â“ a�lles­ti­fy”>‘This one,’ replied Gaille, spread­ing her hands. ‘Amar­na.’

IV

Knox clicked through Gaille’s pho­tographs in stunned si­lence. A half-​ex­ca­vat­ed grave, a stat­uette of Har­pocrates, cat­acombs, mum­mi­fied hu­man re­mains, a box of sev­ered hu­man ears. ‘Good Christ!’ he mut­tered, when he brought up the mo­sa­ic.



Au­gustin tapped the screen. ‘You know what this re­minds me of?’

‘What?’

‘Ev­er heard of Eliphas Lévi? A French oc­cultist, like Aleis­ter Crow­ley, on­ly ear­li­er. He cre­at­ed a fa­mous im­age of an ob­scure Tem­plar de­ity called Baphomet that be­came the mod­el for mod­ern iconog­ra­phy of the Dev­il. It showed him in this same pos­ture, legs crossed, right hand point­ing up. And he had the same look too. That long chin, those stretched eyes, those ac­cen­tu­at­ed cheek­bones. See what I’m say­ing?’

‘Slow down a bit,’ said Knox, ges­tur­ing at his banged-​up fore­head.

‘No one’s quite sure where Baphomet came from,’ nod­ded Au­gustin. ‘Some claim his name was a cor­rup­tion of Ma­homet. Oth­ers that it came from the Greek Baphe Meti, bap­tism of wis­dom. But there’s an­oth­er the­ory, based on the At­bash ci­pher, a Jew­ish translit­er­ation code that swaps A for Z, B for Y and so on.’

‘I know it,’ said Knox. ‘The Es­senes used it.’

‘Ex­act­ly. Which makes sense if this place be­longed to the Ther­apeu­tae. Any­way, if you put Baphomet through the At­bash, you get Sophia, Greek god­dess of wis­dom, first­born of God. Sophia was fe­male, of course, but Lévi made Baphomet a hermaphrodite with breasts, rather like the fig­ure in the mo­sa­ic.’

Knox peered clos­er. He had­n’t picked it up be­fore, but Au­gustin was right. The fig­ure in the mo­sa­ic looked mas­cu­line, yet was clear­ly de­pict­ed with breasts.

‘Hermaphrodites were sa­cred back then,’ said Au­gustin. ‘The Greeks con­sid­ered them theoei­des, di­vine of form. The Or­phics be­lieved that the uni­verse be­gan when Eros hatched as an hermaphrodite from an egg. Af­ter all, it’s eas­ier to imag­ine that one thing came out of the void, rather than mul­ti­ple things. And when ev­ery­thing starts from one thing, that one thing must be both male and fe­male.’

‘Like Atum,’ said Knox. In Egyp­tian mythol­ogy, Atum had arisen from the pri­mor­dial soup, cre­at­ed on­ly by him­self. Feel­ing lone­ly, he’d mas­tur­bat­ed in­to his hand, a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the fe­male re­pro­duc­tive or­gans, giv­ing birth to Shu and Tefnut, be­gin­ning the cas­cade of life.

‘Pre­cise­ly. In fact, that’s al­most cer­tain­ly where the Or­phics got the idea from, though di­vine hermaphrodites crop up ev­ery­where. He­bra­ic an­gels were hermaphroditic, did you know? And Qab­bala souls are just like that fa­mous wheel in Pla­to, hermaphrodites di­vid­ed in­to their male and fe­male as­pects be­fore en­ter­ing the world, fat­ed to search the earth for their oth­er half. Even Adam was an hermaphrodite, ac­cord­ing to some tra­di­tions. “Male and fe­male He cre­at­ed them, and He called their name Adam.â€� That was what Je­sus was talk­ing about when he said: “There­fore now are they not two, but one flesh.â€� And Gnos­ti­cism is full of it. It’s even in the Sophia it­self, now that I think of it.’

‘How do you know all this stuff?’

‘I wrote a piece for one of the pa­pers a cou­ple of years back. They lap up this kind of shit. I got most of it from Kostas.’

Knox nod­ded. Kostas was an el­der­ly Greek friend of theirs, a font of knowl­edge on the Gnos­tics and Alexan­dri­a’s church fa­thers. ‘Maybe we should give him a call.’

‘Let’s see what else we have first.’ He took con­trol of the mouse, clicked through the re­main­ing pho­tographs. Heav­en­ly bod­ies on the ceil­ing, young men and wom­en kneel­ing on dust sheets clean­ing walls. A mu­ral of a fig­ure in blue kneel­ing be­fore two men at the mouth of a cave, the Greek sub­script just about leg­ible. Au­gustin zoomed in then squint­ed at the screen. ‘“Son of David, have mer­cy on meâ€�,’ he trans­lat­ed. ‘Mean any­thing to you?’

‘No.’ Knox sat back. ‘Have you seen any of this be­fore?’

‘No.’

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