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



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‘And you would have, yes? I mean, if a reputable crew had...

‘I’d like to think so,’ said Au­gustin. ‘But this is Egypt, re­mem­ber. Maybe I should give Omar a call.’

‘Good idea.’

There was no an­swer on Omar’s mo­bile. Au­gustin tried his of­fice in­stead. Knox watched in puz­zle­ment as he turned pale, his ex­pres­sion in­creas­ing­ly bleak. ‘What is it?’ he asked.

Au­gustin end­ed the call, turned dazed to Knox. ‘Omar’s dead,’ he said.

‘What?’

‘And they’re say­ing that you killed him.’

I

‘Why are you look­ing at me like that?’ asked Knox, hor­ri­fied. ‘You don’t think … you can’t think I killed Omar?’



Au­gustin put his hand on Knox’s shoul­der. ‘Of course not, my friend. But we must face facts. Omar’s dead. And you said your­self that you were in a car crash, you can’t re­mem­ber any­thing about it.’ He grabbed his jack­et, pock­et­ed his wal­let, mo­bile and keys. ‘I’ll go to the hos­pi­tal and the SCA, see what I can find out. You stay here. Get some rest. That’s of­ten the best way to get your mem­ory back. And don’t wor­ry. We’ll sort this out.’ And he pulled the door closed be­hind him, lock­ing it on the latch.

II

Lily looked a lit­tle dizzi­ly down at the ground be­neath her feet. ‘You don’t sup­pose … I mean, it’s not pos­si­ble that any of these trea­sures are still here?’



‘I doubt it,’ said Gaille. ‘This place has been pret­ty well searched over the years. Noth­ing much has been found. Some Ne­fer­ti­ti jew­ellery back in the eigh­teen hun­dreds. Some bronze tem­ple ves­sels. I guess they might have been part of it. And there was some­thing called the Crock of Gold too, a jar half-​filled with in­gots. They used to make them by dig­ging grooves in the sand with their fin­ger, then pour­ing molten gold in­to them to set. I’ve al­ways thought that was most like­ly some­one’s life-​sav­ings or a gold­smith’s stash of raw ma­te­ri­al, but I sup­pose it could be part of this.’

‘Noth­ing else?’

‘Not that I know of. But then you would­n’t ex­pect to find much. Re­mem­ber, this whole city was com­plete­ly dis­man­tled af­ter Akhen­at­en dly dhis…ied.’ Gaille gave a dry laugh. ‘In fact, maybe that’s why it was dis­man­tled, not sim­ply de­mol­ished or aban­doned. Think about it. If the new au­thor­ities re­alised what the Atenists had done, maybe be­cause they found a cache or two, or be­cause some­one talked …’

Lily nod­ded vig­or­ous­ly. ‘They’d have tak­en the place apart brick by brick un­til they’d found the lot.’ She touched Stafford’s book. ‘Does it say where these things were buried?’

Sun­light glared up­on the white pa­per. They turned their backs un­til it was in shad­ow. ‘In the fortress in the Vale of Achor,’ mur­mured Gaille. ‘Forty cu­bits un­der the east­ern steps. In the Sepul­chral Mon­ument. In the third course of stones. In the Great Cis­tern in the Court of the Peri­style, con­cealed in a hole in the floor.’

Lily wrin­kled her nose. ‘Pret­ty vague, is­n’t it?’

‘You’d ex­pect it to be,’ replied Gaille. ‘If we’re right, the Atenists would have be­lieved their evic­tion on­ly a tem­po­rary set­back. They did­n’t need pre­cise di­rec­tions, on­ly an aide-​mémoire.’

‘What about these place names? Se­cac­ah, Mount Gezir­im, the Vale of Achor?’

‘They’re all near Jerusalem,’ ad­mit­ted Gaille. ‘But maybe that’s not so sur­pris­ing, ei­ther. I mean, if our the­ory’s right, this is at least a dou­ble trans­la­tion. Egyp­tian in­to He­brew then He­brew in­to En­glish. And these places would on­ly orig­inal­ly have been des­ig­nat­ed by a se­ries of con­so­nants, be­cause nei­ther Egyp­tian nor He­brew had vow­els. So when the trans­la­tors came across place names that did­n’t quite fit their pre­con­cep­tions, would­n’t it have been nat­ural for them to tweak them un­til they did? I mean, take the Roy­al Wa­di here. It used to be known as “Vale of the Hori­zonâ€�, or “Vale of Akhetâ€� in Egyp­tian. Is it re­al­ly too great a stretch to imag­ine that be­ing trans­lat­ed as the Vale of Achor? Or that Se­cac­ah might orig­inal­ly have been Saqqara?’

‘I thought Saqqara was near Cairo?’

‘Yes, but it got its name from Sokar, a god of the dead wor­shipped through­out Egypt. Buri­al grounds were of­ten—’

Foot­steps crunched the crust­ed sand be­hind her. She snapped the book closed, whirled around to see Stafford ap­proach­ing, cam­era bags hoist­ed over his shoul­der. ‘Can’t put it down, eh?’ he asked com­pla­cent­ly.

‘No,’ agreed Gaille. ‘It’s quite ex­traor­di­nary.’

‘That’s why I wrote it.’ He checked his watch, nod­ded at the Dis­cov­ery. ‘When­ev­er you’re ready,’ he said, heav­ing the cam­era on­to the back seat. ‘We are on a sched­ule, you know.’

III

Pe­ter­son was still on watch out­side Au­gustin Pas­cal’s apart­ment block when a pair of sixth-​floor bal­cony doors opened abrupt­ly and Knox walked out, look­ing weary and dis­mayed, as though he’d just had bad news. The build­ing’s front doors banged open a few mo­ments lat­er and a man in jeans and a leather jack­et emerged. Pas­cal. It had to be. Pas­cal took a deep drag from his cigarette, flicked it away across the con­crete, then strad­dled a black-​and-​chrome mo­tor­bike, rais­ing an arm in ac­knowl­edge­ment to Knox as he pulled away.



Knox leaned far out over the bal­cony rail­ing to wave him off. Watch­ing him, Pe­ter­son ex­pe­ri­enced a most in­tense wak­ing dream: Knox over­bal­anc­ing, try­ing vain­ly to claw him­self back, plung­ing to his death. Such vi­sions weren’t new to Pe­ter­son. He took them with great se­ri­ous­ness. Faitem wt. ss. Faith­less peo­ple and the weak of spir­it con­sid­ered prayer as their way to be­seech the Lord to give them things they cov­et­ed. But true prayer was­n’t like that. True prayer was how the faith­ful found out what the Lord want­ed from them.

A man over­wrought by the death of a close friend, a death for which he blamed him­self. Yes. Peo­ple would un­der­stand if such a man threw him­self to his own de­struc­tion.

He wait­ed for Knox to go back in­side the apart­ment, then got out of his Toy­ota and walked calm­ly over to the front doors.

He al­ways felt calm when he had the Lord’s work to do.

IV

‘I thought you peo­ple weren’t in a rush,’ re­marked the pathol­ogist, lead­ing Naguib through gloomy hos­pi­tal cor­ri­dors to his small of­fice.



‘Is that what you heard?’

‘Yes. That’s what I heard.’

Naguib shrugged. ‘My boss thinks this is­n’t the best mo­ment for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion like this.’

‘You don’t agree with him?’

‘I have a daugh­ter.’

The pathol­ogist nod­ded se­ri­ous­ly. ‘So do I.’



‘Have you … begun yet?’

‘She’s sched­uled for this af­ter­noon. I could bring her for­ward if you wish.’

‘I’d be grate­ful.’

‘There is one thing,’ said the pathol­ogist. ‘Not re­lat­ed to cause of death, but you may find it in­ter­est­ing.’

‘Yes?’

‘My as­sis­tant found it while he was bring­ing her in. A pouch on a string around her neck.’

‘A pouch?’ frowned Naguib. ‘Any­thing in­side?’

‘A small stat­uette,’ nod­ded the pathol­ogist. ‘You can take it with you if you like.’

I

Knox caught a whiff of him­self as he came in from the bal­cony. Not a pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence. He went in­to the bath­room, stripped off. His ban­dages were look­ing tired and grey, much how he felt. He washed around them with soap and a flan­nel, flinch­ing ev­ery few mo­ments, less from pain so much as from the dread­ful news about Omar.



He went back out. He’d slept here a hun­dred times, af­ter late nights putting the world to rights, and had nev­er thought twice about bor­row­ing a clean shirt in the morn­ing. But Au­gustin’s bed­room door was closed. And now that Knox thought about it, he re­called how Au­gustin had stopped on his way out of the apart­ment, turned back, van­ished in­to his room for a minute, and how he’d closed his door care­ful­ly again af­ter he’d emerged. So maybe he had some­one in there. He of­ten did. And while Au­gustin was­n’t coy about such things, maybe the per­son in there was.

Knox hes­itat­ed, un­will­ing to in­trude. But then he re­mem­bered how bad his shirt had smelled. No way was he putting that back on. He knocked gen­tly. No an­swer. He knocked loud­er, called out. Still noth­ing. He opened the door a short way, peeked in­side, pushed it wide open and stood there in sur­prise. Au­gustin’s flat ha surh="…d al­ways been a tip, par­tic­ular­ly his bed­room. Some­where to bring wom­en back to, as he put it, not some­where they’d want to stay. It was­n’t like that any more. Morn­ing sun­light poured through daz­zling clean win­dows on­to deep-​pile ma­roon car­pet and a gleam­ing new brass, king-​sized bed. The walls had been stripped of their ragged wall­pa­per, beau­ti­ful­ly re­fin­ished and paint­ed roy­al blue. Lithographs of Egyp­t’s great mon­uments on the walls. Cor­nices, skirt­ing and ceil­ing glow­ing white. A fit­ted wardrobe of gleam­ing ma­hogany. A match­ing dress­ing ta­ble and chair. And now that he’d no­ticed the bed­room, he be­lat­ed­ly re­al­ized the main room had been re­dec­orat­ed and re-​car­pet­ed too, though less ex­trav­agant­ly. He’d sim­ply been too dis­ori­en­tat­ed to no­tice be­fore.

He opened the wardrobe. Bloody hell! Jack­ets and crisply ironed shirts on wood­en hang­ers. Shelves of neat­ly fold­ed un­der­clothes. He flipped through a stack of T-​shirts, spied the cor­ner of a pur­ple fold­er. His heart­beat in­stant­ly be­gan to ac­cel­er­ate. He knew in­stinc­tive­ly that this was why Au­gustin had come in here, to hide this. He knew too that he should­n’t look, yet al­so that he was go­ing to. He took the fold­er to the win­dow, opened the flap. There were pho­tographs in­side. He pulled them out, leafed through them in gath­er­ing dis­be­lief, a knot tug­ging tight in the pit of his stom­ach as he won­dered what it meant. But it was ob­vi­ous what it meant, and there was noth­ing to be done about it, not now at least, ex­cept to re­turn the pho­tographs to the fold­er, re­place them as he’d found them.

He still need­ed a fresh shirt, so he peeled one from its hang­er, hur­ried out, closed the door be­hind him. Then he sat at the kitchen ta­ble, brood­ing on what he’d just dis­cov­ered, the un­com­fort­able re­al­iza­tion that per­haps he could­n’t en­tire­ly trust his clos­est friend any more.

II

Fa­rooq ar­rived at his desk to find Salem stand­ing there, bleary-​eyed from his night’s sen­try-​du­ty out­side Knox’s hos­pi­tal room. ‘Yes?’ asked Fa­rooq.



‘He es­caped, boss,’ mum­bled Salem.

‘Es­caped?’ said Fa­rooq ici­ly. ‘What do you mean, es­caped?’

‘He left his room. He jumped out a win­dow. He got in­to a taxi.’

‘And you just let him?’

Salem pulled a face, as if he was about to cry. ‘How could I know he’d jump out a win­dow?’

Fa­rooq waved his hand an­gri­ly to dis­miss him. But in truth, he felt ex­cit­ed rather than dis­mayed. Vin­di­cat­ed. His in­stincts had proved right. Car-​crash vic­tims did­n’t flee hos­pi­tals for no rea­son, not even Egyp­tian ones. They cer­tain­ly did­n’t leap out of win­dows. On­ly a man with blood on his hands would go to such lengths.

He sat back in his chair, joints creak­ing be­neath the strain, con­sid­ered what he knew. An ar­chae­olog­ical dig. An unan­nounced vis­it by the SCA. A re­turn vis­it un­der cov­er of dark­ness. A Jeep crashed in a ditch. One man dead. An im­por­tant man too. He bit a knuck­le in thought. Was it pos­si­ble there was some­thing on Pe­ter­son’s site? Some­thing valu­able? It would cer­tain­ly help ex­plain things, in­clud­ing his strong sense that it was­n’t just Knox who was up to no good, but Pe­ter­son too.

He pushed him­self to his feet, grabbed his car keys. He need­ed to go check out this site for him­self. But then he hes­itat­ed. He had no idea what to look for, af­ter all. And if Pe­ter­son did have any­thing to hide, he’d no doubt try to bury it be­neath mounds of jar­gon. Fa­rooq loathed jar­gon. It al­ways made him feel un­ed­ucat­ed.

He checked his watch. He should go vis­it the SCA any­way, no­ti­fy them of the crash, try to find out more about Taw­fiq and Knox, why they’d gone to Borg el-​Arab in the first place. And maybe, if he asked nice­ly, they’d lend him an ar­chae­ol­ogist to go out there with him.

III


The high sand­stone walls of the Roy­al Wa­di made lit­tle im­pres­sion on Cap­tain Khaled Os­man as Nass­er drove them out along the new road to Akhen­aten’s Roy­al Tomb. He’d es­cort­ed dozens of tourists this way these past few months, but he’d nev­er felt any­thing like this ner­vous be­fore. Per­haps it was be­cause these were TV peo­ple, and he knew to his own cost what dam­age TV peo­ple could do.

They reached the gen­er­ator build­ing. Half a mil­lion Egyp­tian pounds they’d just spent on the new gen­er­ator! Half a mil­lion! He felt slight­ly queasy at the thought of all that mon­ey as Nass­er drove the short dis­tance down the side-​spur that housed the tomb and parked next to the Dis­cov­ery. He opened his door, jumped down. The sun was still low enough that the spur was in shade. He gave a lit­tle shiv­er. There were ghosts in this place. He put a hand on the hol­ster of his Walther and felt a lit­tle bet­ter.

His child­hood friends had bit­ter­ly re­sent­ed the prospect of con­scrip­tion in­to the army, be­ing ripped away from home and fam­ily. On­ly Khaled had looked for­ward to it. He’d nev­er en­vis­aged any oth­er life for him­self. He liked the dis­ci­pline, rel­ished the cold au­thor­ity of a weapon, savoured the way wom­en looked at a hand­some man in uni­form. He’d breezed through ba­sic train­ing, had vol­un­teered for Spe­cial Forces. Of­fi­cers had mur­mured of him as the com­ing man.

He walked over to the tomb en­trance, un­locked the door, pushed it open, re­veal­ing the sloped shaft of steps lead­ing down to the buri­al cham­ber be­low, floor-​lamps glow­ing ei­ther side with their soft in­sect buzzing. He watched sourly as the TV peo­ple made their way in­side and then down.

His army ca­reer had died one af­ter­noon in Cairo. A street urchin had spat at his driv­er win­dow as he’d been es­cort­ing his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer to a meet­ing at the Min­istry. It was a lev­el of dis­re­spect that sim­ply could­n’t be tol­er­at­ed, not with his CO watch­ing. A pass­ing tourist had filmed what had hap­pened next, then passed on the footage to some do-​good­er jour­nal­ist who’d tracked the kid down, had filmed him ly­ing wrapped up like some mum­my in his bed. His CO had stepped in, saved him from the courts. But he’d had to agree to a trans­fer out of the army. He’d had to agree to join these wretched tourist po­lice, be sta­tioned here in the ar­se-​end of nowhere. Six months, he’d been promised. Just un­til the dust set­tled.

That had been eigh­teen months ago.

The TV peo­ple reached the foot of the steps, crossed the wood­en walk­way over the sump in­to the buri­al cham­ber. Khaled turned his back on them. What they got up to down there meant noth­ing to him. It was on­ly up here they need­ed watch­ing.

Six months ago, Amar­na had been struck by the fiercest of storms, as if the end of the world had come. He and his men had driv­en around the site the morn­ing af­ter. It had been Faisal who’d spot­ted her, ly­ing face-​down on the rocks a lit­tle way from here, one arm flung out above her head, the oth­er bent grotesque­ly back, her mat­ted hair glued with con­gealed blood to a blue tarpaulin.



Khaled had knelt beside her, touched her cheek. Her skin...

‘Cap­tain!’ Nass­er had said. ‘Look!’

He’d glanced up to see Nass­er point­ing at a nar­row black slash in the sand­stone wall high above their heads. His heart had clenched tight as a fist as he’d re­al­ized that the girl had­n’t died in pur­suit of mere pot­tery frag­ments af­ter all. She’d been af­ter big­ger quar­ry.

Men chose their des­tiny in such mo­ments. Or per­haps they sim­ply learned who they tru­ly were. Khaled had known his du­ty, that he should re­port this at once to his su­pe­ri­ors. It might even win him a re­prieve, a re­turn to sol­dier­ing. But not for a mo­ment had he con­sid­ered it. No. He’d walked straight over to the cliff-​face and be­gun to climb.

I

There was a thin gap be­tween Au­gustin Pas­cal’s front door and its jamb, enough for Pe­ter­son to see it was locked on­ly on the latch, a triv­ial chal­lenge to any­one with a past like his.



A door slammed be­low. He took a step back, stood with his hands clasped re­spect­ful­ly in front, as though he’d just knocked and was wait­ing for an an­swer. El­eva­tor ca­bles cranked. Doors opened and closed. The lift dis­gorged its oc­cu­pant. The block fell silent again.

He put his ear against the door. Noth­ing. He qui­et­ly re­leased the latch with a cred­it card, slipped in­side. The bath­room door was half-​closed; he could hear the splash of a man re­liev­ing him­self. A lap­top was set up on the kitchen ta­ble, a pho­to­graph of the mo­sa­ic from his site dis­played up­on it. He stared stunned at it. No won­der the Lord had brought him here.

The loo flushed. Pe­ter­son hur­ried across to the bed­room, leav­ing the door a frac­tion open so that he could see. Knox came out a mo­ment lat­er, wiped his hands on his trousers. He went in­to the kitchen, sat down with his back to Pe­ter­son, clicked the lap­top’s mouse, brought up an In­ter­net brows­er.

He was a nat­ural­ly pow­er­ful man, Pe­ter­son, and he kept him­self fit. He de­spised peo­ple who let any of God’s gifts go to waste. He’d been an ac­com­plished wrestler as a young man too. He’d en­joyed pit­ting his strength and tech­nique against oth­ers, the mu­tu­al re­spect of close com­bat, the way you had to wear down your op­po­nent like a con­stric­tor its prey, the taut­ness and ache of stretched mus­cle, the slick sheen of pressed flesh, faces just inch­es apart, how that oth­er man be­came your en­tire world for those few in­tense min­utes of the bout. Best of all, he’d loved that de­li­cious mo­ment of suc­cumb­ing, that al­most in­audi­ble ex­ha­la­tion when his op­po­nent had known and then ac­cept­ed his de­feat. So he knew he had the raw at­tributes for the task that faced him now. Yet still he felt ner­vous. The Dev­il was a pow­er­ful ad­ver­sary, not one to be tak­en light­ly, and rarely had he sensed his pres­ence so strong­ly in any­one as in Knox. Be­sides, even if ev­ery­thing went per­fect­ly, he’d risk at least one mo­ment of ex­po­sure. He need­ed to make sure that should he be seen, he could­n’t be rec­og­nized.

On the top shelf of the wardrobe, he found a mo­tor­cy­cle hel­met. Per­fect. He put it on, tight­ened its chin­strap. The way it re­flect­ed his breath sound­ed strange­ly like fear. Knox was still ab­sorbed in his lap­top. Pe­ter­son pushed the door slow­ly open and crept uhe deli…p qui­et­ly be­hind him.

II

‘Was this buri­al cham­ber tru­ly built for the man we know as Moses?’ Stafford asked rhetor­ical­ly, as Lily filmed. ‘I be­lieve it was.’



Gaille stood qui­et­ly out­side the buri­al cham­ber as he talked, well out of shot and Stafford’s eye-​line. He had a low tol­er­ance for dis­trac­tion, a low tol­er­ance for ev­ery­thing.

‘No trace of Akhen­aten’s body was ev­er found here,’ he con­tin­ued. ‘No trace of any body. Think about that. This won­der­ful buri­al cham­ber, yet no one buried here.’

Gaille pursed her lips. Traces of hu­man re­mains had been found here, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, though none had been pre­served for anal­ysis. And frag­ments of a sar­coph­agus built for Akhen­at­en had cer­tain­ly been found, along with nu­mer­ous shabtis, minia­ture Akhen­at­en fig­urines de­signed to do the me­nial work in the af­ter­life so that Akhen­aten’s own spir­it would­n’t have to. Even should Stafford be right about the Jews com­ing from Amar­na, it was hard to ac­cept Akhen­at­en as Moses. Egyp­tian so­ci­ety had been fierce­ly hi­er­ar­chi­cal. Pharaohs had been obeyed, even heretic pharaohs. While Akhen­at­en lived, he’d have re­mained in charge and he’d have had no rea­son to leave Amar­na. On the oth­er hand, she could eas­ily be­lieve he had­n’t been buried in this cham­ber. It would have been too easy a tar­get for vin­dic­tive en­emies. So maybe they’d tak­en his body with them, or moved it to the Val­ley of the Kings, or maybe even some­where close by.

‘So what did hap­pen to Akhen­at­en?’ asked Stafford. ‘Where did he go? And what about all his fol­low­ers, his fel­low Atenists? Come with me on a mar­vel­lous jour­ney, as I re­veal for the first time ev­er the true sto­ry of Moses and the birth of the Jew­ish na­tion. Join me on my ex­traor­di­nary Ex­odus quest.’

A few sec­ond­s’ si­lence as Lily panned around the buri­al cham­ber, film­ing the fad­ed gyp­sum mu­rals. Then she low­ered the cam­era, passed Stafford the head­phones, en­abling him to re­view the footage. ‘I pre­ferred the first take,’ he grunt­ed.

‘I told you it was fine.’

‘Then let’s go back up. Scout our sun­set shot.’

‘Sun­set shot?’ asked Gaille.

‘From the hill op­po­site,’ nod­ded Stafford. ‘We’ll pan around from the tomb mouth to the Roy­al Wa­di. It’ll fin­ish this seg­ment off nice­ly. We start with the sun ris­ing over Amar­na, you see.’

‘And end with the sun set­ting on it?’

‘Ex­act­ly,’ nod­ded Stafford, lead­ing the way up the steps. ‘The sym­bol­ism, you see.’

‘Quite.’

He smiled sourly at her. ‘You aca­demics,’ he said. ‘You’re all the same. You’d sell your soul for what I have.’ They emerged back out in­to day­light. He strode across the road to the far side of the wa­di with­out a back­ward glance, sur­veyed it for a place to climb.

‘Hey! You! Stop!’

Gaille looked around. Cap­tain Khaled Os­man was strid­ing bel­liger­ent­ly to­wards Stafford, anger and some­thing like fear in his ex­pres­sion. Stafford de­cid­ed to ig­nore him, be­gan to climb, but Khaled grabbed his leg and vi­olent­ly tugged him back. Stafford fell tum­bling on­to rock, scrap­ing his palms. He stood up, turned in­cred­ulous­ly to Gaille. ‘Did you see that?’ he de­mand­ed. ‘He put his hands on me.’

‘You fin­ish here,’ said Khaled. ‘Leave.’

‘Leave? I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.’

‘Leave now.’

‘You can’t do this. We have per­mis­sion.’ He turned to Lily, emerg­ing from the tomb. ‘Show him our pa­per­work.’

Lily glanced at Gaille for some clue of what was go­ing on, but Gaille on­ly shrugged in be­wil­der­ment. Lily opened her fold­er, pulled out sev­er­al pa­per-​clipped sheets of pa­per. ‘There!’ said Stafford, snatch­ing them from her, thrust­ing them in Khaled’s face. ‘See?’

Khaled slapped Stafford’s hand away. The pages flut­tered to the ground like a wound­ed bird. ‘Leave,’ he said.

‘I don’t be­lieve this,’ mut­tered Stafford. ‘I don’t fuck­ing be­lieve this.’

Lily picked up the pages, flipped through for the au­tho­riza­tion to film at the Roy­al Tomb, and found a wide and def­er­en­tial smile as she pulled the sin­gle sheet out. ‘We re­al­ly do have per­mis­sion, you know,’ she said, of­fer­ing it back to him.

Khaled’s com­plex­ion dark­ened. He took the page from her, tore it in­to con­fet­ti that he flung dis­dain­ful­ly in­to the air. ‘Leave,’ he said, putting his hand mean­ing­ful­ly up­on his hol­ster. ‘All of you. Now.’

Gaille’s heart was thump­ing wild­ly. ‘Let’s do as he says,’ she mur­mured, tak­ing Stafford’s arm. He scowled but let him­self be led back to the Dis­cov­ery, his brava­do punc­tured. Gaille belt­ed her­self in, drove back down the Roy­al Wa­di road and then across Amar­na to the car fer­ry, Khaled and his truck loom­ing like perdi­tion in her rear-​view mir­ror.

III


Knox felt a mild but dis­tinct­ly il­lic­it thrill as he typed in the web ad­dress of Gaille’s Dig­ging Di­ary. He made the oc­ca­sion­al vis­it, cu­ri­ous to know what she was up to. He found it strange­ly com­fort­ing. And this morn­ing, with ev­ery­thing he’d been through, he han­kered for that com­fort more than usu­al.

A new thumb­nail pho­to­graph had been up­load­ed. Gaille stand­ing out­side her room with two of Fa­ti­ma’s Egyp­tian staff, smil­ing hap­pi­ly in the sun­shine, their friend­ship and good spir­its ob­vi­ous. He clicked on it; it be­gan to down­load. He pulled up a sec­ond brows­er while he was wait­ing, re­opened her email.

I miss you too.

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