I have expected that Zepp will drive Janice and me back to her hotel for the night, but instead he shows us to a small cabin with a double birth. It is near the bow and shares a washroom with an empty adjoining cabin. I decide that this yacht must sleep at least 6, not counting crew. Zepp and Tereise disappear through a door on the other side of the companionway, and Janice doesn't comment.
From a chest of drawers, Janice pulls out two large men's shirts and hands me one.
Ready for bed, I start to climb into the top berth. "Mind if I sleep there?" Janice asks. "I never liked lower bunks."
"Sure," I say and give her a boost. When we are settled, I comment, "I noticed the subject of the stele didn't come up. I thought you might ask Zepp for help as you did your friend Tekmet."
"Tekmet knows how to keep his mouth shut" is her reply. "Good night."
The next morning, Janice is up at dawn and ready to go, no signs of her alcohol consumption the night before. We raid the galley and see nothing of Zepp, Tereise, or Zepp's cook Anha. Our breakfast ends, as many meals with Janice do, with this her question, "Are you going to eat that?"
We climb to the deck to find a gorgeous Egyptian morning: dry, sunny, and not yet too hot. We look out over the Nile, and I think of all the history that has been played out here on this ancient river and its banks.
"Are we going to walk all the way to your hotel?" I ask.
Janice reaches into her jacket pocket and shows me a set of keys. "We're borrowing Antone's car."
"Does Antone know this?"
"I think he'll figure it out."
Janice drives the car through Cairo's streets in much the same headlong fashion as she drives a truck across the desert. This early and with wartime restrictions on fuel, there is little traffic, and we reach the center of the new city safely. Janice parks in front of the Grand Cheops Hotel. "This car will stand out too much in the Arab quarter," she explains. She slips the keys over the right rear tire.
I look at her questioningly.
"Tereise lives here," Janice explains. "They'll know where to find the car and the keys."
We walk quickly toward Janice's hotel. She turns into the bakery below. "You can't be hungry," I say, but she's already talking to the proprietor, her landlord, I remember. I can read Arabic, but their conversation is too rapid and colloquial for me to follow. He starts to give her a small package wrapped in newspaper. She shakes her head. They seem to argue; then he puts the package in the bottom of a string bag and places a loaf of hearth bread on top. I notice that no money changes hands this time.
Janice turns to me and switches to English. "We've got to hurry. He says some European men were here. He thinks they were British Security, and they threatened to bring in Egyptian police. His description matches the goons who knocked down your door."
"They're still after you?"
She shakes her head. "They said you might be with me, but it was clearly you they were after. My landlord wants me out. He can't have the British or the Egyptian police coming around. His son is involved in things the British and the current government would find too interesting."
"No, his son is an Egyptian Army officer, but he's a follower of Nasser and Sadat."
I shake my head, having no idea about Egyptian politics. "Janice, I'm sorry I've brought so much trouble on everyone, on you. If I could, I would put that fragment back."
We're climbing the stairs to Janice's room. "No, you wouldn't," she contradicts, and I know she is right. "Be quiet!" Janice whispers, although I'm not talking. She motions me to stay behind and moves silently up the stairs. The door to her room is open, and we left it shut. I listen. My hearing has always been acute. I hear nothing. I listen again.
"No one's there," I whisper.
Janice looks back, a question in her eyes.
"I'm sure," I say.
Janice enters a room unchanged since our departure. She lays the string bag on the chair and crosses rapidly to the bed. She raises the blanket to reveal the sewn edge of the mattress. She looks up with a grin. "Someone is very clever, but they put the wrong number of knots in the thread." With that observation, she takes out her knife and slices the seam open again. She takes out her pack and hands it to me. "Let's go."
"Aren't you going to check the knapsack?"
"Everything's there," she answers as she grabs the string bag and heads for the door. "If it weren't, they wouldn't have put it back." When we reach the alley, Janice takes off running in the opposite direction from which we came. At the next cross alley, she turns left. She continues running a zigzag course through alleys and narrow streets until we reach an Arab market, where merchants are setting up their stalls. She slows to a fast walk, cuts between a couple of stalls and enters an herbal medicine store, only to exit through the back.
By now, I'm puffing a little, winded by the unaccustomed exercise. Janice glances at me and, smiling, begins to whistle a popular tune.
"Tuxedo Junction," I comment.
She stops whistling and nods. "Do you like Glenn Miller?"
"My favorite band," I say.
"Me, too." As we walk along, she whistles the rest of the song. I push away my grandmother's saying, "Whistling girls and crowing hens always come to some bad ends."
"Where can we go now?" I ask. "Your hotel isn't safe."
"And I suppose we can't return to my room."
"I wouldn't advise it."
"I don't think so."
"Let's see what Tek has to say." With that, she sits on the step of a building that juts out into the street a little farther than its neighbors. She reaches into the string bag she still carries. Seeing me standing, she pats the step beside her. "Sit." I hesitate, then brush the step with my hand before I sit. I set Janice's knapsack on the step above.
Janice offers me a piece of the bread and, when I shake my head, stuffs it into her own mouth. She pulls out the object her landlord hid under the bread and takes off the newspaper in which it is wrapped. Her eyes widen as the flat piece of stone is revealed.
"There's a note, too," she says and unfolds a yellow square of paper. Janice reads it silently and sticks it in a jacket pocket. I stare until she meets my gaze. "Tekmet says to meet him later."
From her trousers pocket, Janice pulls out my stolen stele fragment. To it she joins the fragment Tekmet has sent. The fit is perfect and complete what I believe to be the central portion of the stele.
Janice hands both fragments to me. "Can you read it?"
"I need some time," I say. "A reference or two would help."
"In my office at the museum."
"Let's go." I remain seated. "We'll find a pedicab or taxi," she promises.
The British-Egyptian Museum is an impressive stone edifice that takes up most of a block in the modern, westernized section of Cairo. Covered with reliefs and inscriptions and modeled after a New Kingdom temple, it dwarfs the more prestigious Chicago House, its nearest neighbor.
Accustomed by now to surreptitious entrances, I need no prompting from Janice to use my key on the back door. The staff section is always quiet and, since the war virtually stopped the flow of tourists and scholarly visitors, the whole building is. . .
"Quiet as a tomb." Janice seems to finish my thoughts. Then she adds, "Not that some tombs are all that quiet. Ares, are you here?"
"Hush," I whisper. Too late.
"Who's there?" A gray head pokes out of an opening door. Upon seeing me, a dapper figure follows, in a dark blue suit and shiny black shoes, short-cropped gray hair contrasting sharply with black eyebrows and pencil mustache. "Miss Pappas, is that you? Back from sabbatical, are we?"
"Yes, sir," I say. "There's some work I need to do."
"Very good, very good," he says, as if I haven't been absent without leave for two weeks. "Very conscientious of you to come in so early. And who's your friend? Another American lady?"
"Dr. Janice Covington, Dr. Penhap Krykos," I say and start to move toward my office.
"Please join me in my office, ladies," Dr. Krykos invites us with a formal bow.
Janice meets my gaze and shrugs, and we follow Dr. Krykos into his book-lined office. Book-lined is an understatement. A better description would be book-engulfed. We make our way through piles of books and manuscripts to a small round table, also piled high with books. We all sit in the comfortable, well-used leather chairs, and Janice restacks one pile of books into two so she can see over the middle of the table.
Dr. Krykos offers us the strong, sweet Turkish coffee that he loves, and we decline. I accepted once and didn't sleep for three days.
"Covington?" Dr. Krykos says. "Covington. I knew your father, I believe."
Janice tenses, expecting a rehashing of her father's "crimes" or, more likely, an embarrassed silence.
"Fine man." Prepared to mask other emotions, Janice lets surprise show through. "Oh, a bit obsessed, that scroll thing, you know. Whatever came of all that? Never mind. I was very sad to hear that he was killed, tragic accident that. As careful as your father was of the lives of his workers, the cave-in was surprising."
"No matter how careful we are, Dr. Krykos, unexpected things can happen," Janice observes.
"Yes, my thoughts exactly." He leans toward Janice and looks at her intently. "Sometimes we take actions that seem, at the time, to be for the best. We later learn that there are unintended consequences. My sympathies, Dr. Covington."
"Are you here to tour our collection? Some specific artifact you wish to view? Or, from your choice of companion, may I assume it's a translation you seek? Ancient Greek, hieratic, Linear B, or hieroglyphics, none better than our Miss Pappas."
I interrupt his uncharacteristic flow of words. "Dr. Krykos, pardon me, but Dr. Covington's time is limited."
"No hurry, Miss Pappas," Janice corrects me. "Tell me, Dr. Krykos, I wonder if you and I share an acquaintance, an archaeologist."
"I know many."
"Name of Gruner."
He sighs. "This man is a friend of yours."
"I thought not." Krykos wrinkles his elegant features in disgust. "I called your father a fine man, and he was. Oh, there were some small irregularities to be sure, but nothing that would compromise his science or harm his workers. But Gruner. Pah! He would blast out the side of a mountain, turn everything else to tiny fragments to get to a golden mask that might bring him fame or fortune. And if a worker was too close to the explosion? Too bad."
Janice looks at me, and I nod. "Do you remember Miss Pappas asking you about this fragment?" I pull out the first piece.
Krykos doesn't ask why the piece is in my possession. "Yes. It's from the Gruner stele, or what some call the warrior stele."
"So you are familiar with it?"
He nods and appears embarrassed. "I felt it best not to encourage your interest, Miss Pappas. It was an accident that it was in that box with the ostraca. You see, it came to the museum through. . . .irregular channels."
"Dr. Krykos, the catalog indicates that the complete stele, although in four pieces, is here, as well as a photograph of the original site," I remind him.
"Miss Pappas, Dr. Covington, the rest of the stele was never here," Dr. Krykos says. "I don't believe a photograph of it exists."
"But it was entered in the catalog," I say, trying to understand.
"Yes, it was," he agrees. "I entered it."
Janice asks, "Did Gruner keep the other fragments and have you alter the records to show that they were here?"
Krykos answers carefully. "That may have been the case."
"Why would you do that?" Janice's tone is curious, not accusing.
Krykos drops his eyes. "Gruner is a persuasive man. I can say no more."
I ask, "Are you protecting Gruner? Or yourself?"
"At this point, I am protecting you." He rises, and clearly the interview is at an end.
End of Part 6
My office is about half the size of my superior's, but all the books are on the floor to ceiling shelves along one wall. All papers and monographs are filed in the one cabinet I'm allotted. My battered desk top is clear.
I take one straight-backed wooden chair, and Janice balances on the edge of the other. She hands me both pieces of the stele, and, laying them on my desk, I fit them together. From my upper right hand drawer, I take paper and from the central drawer a fountain pen.
"Would you hurry up?"
I smile, and, adjusting my glasses farther down my nose, I begin to write. After a few minutes, I ask Janice to pull a reference. "Watkins," I say. "My books are alphabetized by author's last name."
"Of course, they are," she says and quickly locates and hands me the correct book. She leans over me but, at my glare, again perches on her chair.
After consulting one more reference, I am satisfied with my translation. "This is rough, you understand," I caution.
"Yeah, yeah, just short of perfect. Go on, will you? Read it, or give it to me."
I surprise her by handing her the paper. She reads it quickly.
"Read it aloud," I say. She nods and begins reading:
woman and her companion bandit standing. Just then comes the chokes both man and beast That night a babe is born. Its mother hands it to the warrior woman. "Here, take my son to his father. Here is my seal. Take it as well." The warrior woman holds the newborn. The seal, a ring, she puts on her own finger, never guessing its royal message or of the bloodlines of the child. The mother parts from child and earth. The storm has scattered camels and horses, none remaining. The warrior and her friend walk on. They save the water for the baby, using little to quench their thirst. Finally, the smaller stumbles, says, "No more, I can't go on." The warrior will go on and save the child, carried snug within her desert robe, leaving her friend a few sips of water and a promise to return. The babe brought to Pharaoh's city, to the very temple grounds, the ring is shown, the story told. Prince Osorkon gives his own horse to the woman, fastest steed in Pharaoh's stable to return and <missing> Like the Khamsin, rides the woman,
Janice's voice trails off, and we sit in silence for some time. At last, she speaks, "How long did Gabrielle live? I pictured her as a grandmother telling tales to her children's children."
"We don't know this is about Xena and Gabrielle," I caution. "We don't know they were ever in Egypt."
"She had to survive, or she wouldn't have left any descendants. But maybe she already had a child. Do you remember anything from the scrolls that would give us a hint?"
I speak slowly. "There isn't anything here to prove this is about Xena and Gabrielle."
Janice continues to ignore me. "The scrolls all seemed to be about their travels through Greece. That doesn't mean they didn't go anywhere else. And we didn't get to read all of the scrolls. Damn that idiot and all HIS descendants."
I give up. "What now?"
"The stele was found at Dahkla Oasis. Could we look at a map of that area?"
I rise. "I haven't looked. We should have one." We go to the map room. Large cabinets of drawers line the walls of that room. A thick looseleaf book rests on a high viewing table that takes up the middle of the room. I open this index and quickly find Dahkla. In the drawer listed, I find the portfolio of maps for the area and lay the appropriate map on the viewing table. Janice studies the map for a few minutes.
"Do you have a wider view?"
I pull another map from the same portfolio and lay it over the first. Janice studies it and then places her finger on a site labeled Cashi Zun. "Do you have a map of this site as well?" I place a third map over the other two. Janice flips back and forth among the three maps. "There are only about 5 kilometers between Dahkla Oasis and Cashi Zun," she comments. "I had forgotten they're that close."
"What's the significance of Cashi Zun?" I ask.
"It's where my father died."
I feel a chill at this second mention today of her father's death. "Janice, if you'll pardon my asking, would you tell me more about how your father died?"
She turns back to studying the detailed map of Cashi Zun, and I'm sure she won't answer. Then she meets my eyes. Expecting to see tears, I am shocked by the anger that blazes there. "My father and two of his workmen were buried alive in a necropolis they were excavating. No one could reach them for a week. It took them three days to die."
"How horrible for you!" I say, imagining a younger Janet agonizing on the surface as rescue attempts failed to reach her father in time.
"I wasn't there, and, by the time I learned about it, it was long after the fact."
"I thought you always worked with your father, as I did with mine."
"I did until about a month before he was killed." Janice's tone is flat. "I left because we had an argument. The argument was about his obsession with the Xena Scrolls. Ironic, right? I told him the site at Cashi Zun was so promising it could restore his reputation and make mine, but only if it was handled right."
"All science, no business. No using it to finance yet another trip to Greece chasing those non-existent scrolls. I thought he had agreed, and I left when I discovered he was up to the same old tricks. I left when some artifacts disappeared, and I caught my father with a grave robber and thief."
"Who was that?"
"Who else?" Her laugh sounds bitter. "His old friend Tekmet. When I saw them together, I didn't even let Dad explain. I told him what I thought of him, took the Jeep, and drove to Cairo. I took the next airplane out, didn't even ask where it was going. I ended up in London, but it could have been Kathmandu, for all I cared."
"And he died without your talking to him again?" I ask.
She looks down, and I can't read her expression.
"Janice, I'm sure it was as clear to your father as it is to me how much you loved him."
She looks into my eyes, the pain evident. "I guess I'll never know, will I?" Then she hands me the maps. "It's time to go meet Tek."
We walk to the meeting place, Janice unwilling to engage a cab for this trip. She doesn't share with me our destination, but finally I say, "We're near the nightclub, the one where your friend works."
"How do you know that?" Janice asks. "You've only been there once, and it was dark."
"I don't know," I admit. "A good sense of direction, I guess. It's hard to lose me."
"I'll keep that in mind," Janice retorts, "the next time I want to lose you."
We turn up one more alley, and we're behind the nightclub. Janice looks around. "Where is he? We're a little late, and Tek never is."
I notice what looks like a bundle of rags where the two alleys intersect. "What's that?"
"Stay here," Janice says, and she walks toward the corner, with me close behind. The pile of rags resolves into a body.
"Tek?" I whisper.
Janice nods. She turns the body over, then pushes me back around the corner. I'm enough taller that I've seen over her head and know what has set her to retching. I turn politely away until Janice is able to speak again.
"Why would someone do that?" I ask.
"You saw? Yeah, you're kind of pale. Not going to faint, are you?" She studies me with concern.
I shake my head, then wish I hadn't. "Southern women haven't fainted since what you call the Civil War." I take a deep breath, let it out slowly so I won't belie my words. I ask again, "Why would someone do that?"
"Cut off his hand? Probably to mark him as a thief. At least they waited until after he was dead."
"How do you know that?" I ask, figuring she's lying to make me feel better.
"There's lots of blood on his chest, where he was shot, but almost none on his sleeves or pants." At my raised eyebrow, she continues, "Dead men don't bleed."
"You saw all that in those few seconds?"
She nods. "Time can slow down."
I'm not sure I understand, but I don't ask. Janice moves toward the corner, and I put out my hand. She shakes it off her shoulder, but explains, "Tekmet's note said to meet him. He had to have something to show me."
"Maybe he just wanted to tell you something," I reason.
"He would have put that in the note," she says. "No, Tek wasn't that happy to see me last night. He was already scared. He wouldn't have met with me today if he didn't have to."
"He sent the fragment and the note. Why not send whatever else he had?"
"Damn it, Mel, I don't know! Maybe it was too precious to trust with anyone else. I've got to look!"
She returns to the corner and kneels beside the body. That's what it is now, I tell myself, a body, not the man called Tek. I whisper a prayer and hope his Moslem soul doesn't mind.
"Whoever did this would have searched him," she observes. "No use checking pockets. He can't have been here long. He still has his shoes. Those would have been gone if. . . ." She stops speaking, and I wonder if she is going to be sick again. I gasp when she removes his right shoe.
"Janice, how can you?"
She studies the sole of the shoe, discards that one, and removes the other from his left foot. I notice that this sole is thicker. Janice says, "Tekmet had an illness when he was a child that left one of his legs shorter than the other. I just remembered how he turned that to his advantage." She presses her knife against the thick sole until it splits. There is a hollow space inside. Janice removes from it a square of paper, folded several times.
"It IS just information," I start to say when Janice jumps up and grabs my hand. "Let's go." We've taken two or three running steps past the body when shots echo against the walls of the surrounding buildings. Janice shifts directions and tugs me after her.
"The back door," she puffs, and I know she's talking about the nightclub. At the corner, she draws her pistol and fires twice toward the roof of one of the buildings. We run on. I'm thinking, what if the door is locked, and knowing the answer is that we're dead.
I try the door, and it opens. Janice pushes me through and follows me. There are several stout locks on the door, and she shoves them home. There is pounding on the door, but it was apparently built to withstand assaults, and it holds. The pounding ceases. Janice counts slowly to ten and begins to release the locks. I try to stop her, and she slaps my hands away. The door open, she steps quickly through, her pistol cocked. "They've gone to the front," she says. "Come on." Again, we are running through these alleys. We pass poor Tekmet with barely a glance and run for the center of the city.
End of Part 7
Antone Zepp's car is where we left it, but the keys are gone. "Damn and double damn," Janice swears. "That really slows things down." She opens the driver's side door and leans under the dashboard. "Get in," she orders, and I've barely had time to run around the car and get in when I hear a soft purr. With a great grinding of gears, the car pulls away from the curb.
"Where to now?" I ask."
"I don't know." Janice howls around a couple of corners, then slows to a more sedate pace. She finally pulls over on a quiet street of colonial mansions.
"Janice, where are we?"
"Consular row," she says. "Around the European hotels and here are about the only places this car won't attract attention."
"Why is that?"
"Zeppie?" I ask, unconsciously using his nickname.
She shrugs. "Little wonder the world's in the shape it is."
Carefully, she unfolds the square of paper she removed from Tekmet's shoe. As she reads, tears begin to course down her face. Without comment, I hand her my linen hankie, and she takes it.
When she speaks, her voice is completely under control. "Aren't you going to ask what's on the paper?"
"You'll tell me if you want me to know."
"Always the polite Southern lady, aren't you?" she asks. There is an edge to her words.
"I was raised to be mannerly, to use the correct fork, to sip my tea, to say the appropriate words." I look at a consulate that reminds me of my Aunt Helen's home. "I was raised for a world that doesn't exist any more, and I'm trying to find my way in the world that does."
When I return my gaze to my companion's face, she blinks first. "This is a page from my father's personal journal. It's dated two days before the cave-in."
"You said 'personal journal?' "
"Yes, he kept an official log of the dig, of course, but he always wrote a personal journal, too. He told me he started keeping a journal when he was a child. I've done the same."
"You keep a journal?" I don't know why I'm surprised.
"Yeah. You've been carrying it all day." She indicates the knapsack on my lap. "Writing down what happens and our thoughts about it, I guess it's kind of a tradition in our family. Didn't you ever have a diary when you were a girl?"
I shake my head. What would I have written in it?
"Anyway, when my father's things were sent to me, the latest journal, the one for the last few months, was missing."
"So someone has it, and Tekmet got his hands on one page." I try to think why anyone would withhold something so personal from a man's only child.
"I want to read the page to you, and see what you think."
We've reached the third level of the necropolis and entered a room I'm calling the library. It is filled with papyri, most illuminated in the brightest colors. Among them is a beautiful Book of the Dead. Jannie would love it. (I hope she's still in London or has gone back to the States though. Europe and Africa are too dangerous right now for my reckless, pagan girl.)
The walls of the library are covered with friezes and murals. The room seems to have been meant as an eternal reading room. But for whom? A pharaoh? A high priest? Again, I wish I could talk to Jannie about it. She has such good instincts for these things. There's one item that really has me puzzled. I took some flash photographs and will send the film to the States. If anyone can figure out what it means, the old Gamecock can.
T was here today to talk about the figurine. G is coming tomorrow. I'll try to be neighborly, but it will be a strain. Big bore.
Goodnight, Buster. I love you.
"Is that where your father died? On the third level?" I ask when I find my voice.
She shakes her head. "No, he and the men were found just inside the tomb entrance, on the first level. There was evidently an air space there. The rest of the necropolis was completely destroyed, couldn't be dug out at all."
"What is that about T and G?"
"Dad usually didn't write out names in his journal unless it was someone new. I imagine T was Tekmet, especially since it refers to a figurine." She looks away.
"You think your father was going to sell it?" I ask and realize that I'm becoming less polite.
She ignores my question. "For G, Gruner comes to mind because his dig was nearby and because I've been carrying part of his stele around in my pocket. There are probably two or three other people who make sense for G, except for one thing. Dad always considered him a bore. And, of course, I'm Buster."
"Somehow, I figured that out."
"That leaves the old Gamecock. I don't have the slightest idea who that might be."
"I do," I say. At her look of surprise, I add, "The old Gamecock refers to my daddy."
"Your daddy, I mean, you father?'
"Daddy went to the University of South Carolina and returned there to teach after he got his doctorate. My father was a very serious man, not someone given to hobbies. Except one. He was the biggest booster the university's basketball team ever had."
"So the mascot of U.S.C. is the gamecock. It's a bird. That became Daddy's nickname among the students and faculty, the old Gamecock." I remembered also that no one called him that to his face.
Janice reads that part of the journal entry again. "So my father planned to send yours photographs, no, film, I guess, from the necropolis. Why?"
"I think he means the photographs were taken in that room he called the library. Maybe pictures of the papyri?" I try to think what else it could be.
"It might have been the papyri, but usually we had things like that copied by hand and then sent the copies to translators."
"That takes time," I say. "Maybe your father was in a hurry."
"Could a translation be done from photographs?" Janice asks.
I nod vigorously. "If they were sharp enough. We did it all the time, but not usually for scrolls or papyri. More likely, inscriptions from walls or monuments, things that couldn't be easily moved."
"You were helping your father then?"
"I mean, would you have known if your father got that film developed and if he did the translation?" She is clearly impatient, but I'm still considering what to say.
I finally decide on the truth, usually the least chosen, but best decision. "Daddy had a stroke almost a year before the time you're talking about. He never talked or worked again. I did all of his translations from then until he died."
"But he was publishing up until the time of his death. I remember reading a monograph. . . ." Her voice trails away, and she returns to the subject at hand. "So I guess you were in a position to know if the film ever arrived."
Janice turns the journal page over and hands it to me. "I think my father drew this map on the back to show someone something specific, maybe where he made an important find." She takes the paper back. "What I can't figure out is whether this has anything to do with my talk with Tekmet or if he's had this paper in his shoe all along."
"Do you think he was killed for stealing the second piece of the stele? I'll feel responsible if that's the case."
"His death had something to do with a theft. Whoever killed him chose an obvious, if gruesome, way to make that point. Whether it was because of the fragment or not, I don't know." She studies the journal page as if it might reveal more secrets.
"What do you want to do?" I ask.
She looks up. "What do you mean?"
"Do you want to track down the other pieces of the stele or find out what your father was trying to tell you?"
She doesn't have to think about it, but her manner is guilty, as if she's letting me down. "I want to go to Cashi Zun."
"Then that's exactly what we'll do."
End of Part 8
Janice drives slowly though a neighborhood of European-style homes, set far back from the street. She repeatedly checks the rear view mirror and seems satisfied with what she sees--or doesn't see. She finally turns toward the river. "I don't think we were trailed to Zeppie's houseboat last night, but you never know until it's too late."
Too late? "Why are we going to the houseboat?" I ask.
"Cashi Zun is on the other side of the Nile and upstream about 35 kilometers. Last night I saw a motor launch tied to the other side of the houseboat." She grins.
"Why not?" I say. "I steal antiquities; you steal cars. We'll add boat theft to our crimes. I wonder what Egyptian prisons are like."
"Don't worry. If we're caught, the British will charge us with espionage. Their prisons are much nicer."
"But don't they shoot spies during wartime?"
"Slight disadvantage." She's whistling happily as we approach the docks.
"Pennsylvania 6-5000," I say. More Glenn Miller.
Tereise is sunning herself when we climb aboard the Hatshepsut. Her oiled and bronzed skin contrasts sharply with her fair hair. Her white suit is brief, but it still conceals more than her dancing costume. She looks up from her towel and doesn't seem surprised to see us.
"Oil my back, will you, love?" she says to Janice and holds out a small bottle. Janice kneels beside her and obliges.
"How can you stand this sun?" Janice asks. "If I wasn't completely covered, I would fry to a crisp."
"It's your fair skin, sweet." She raises herself enough to look over her shoulder at me. "Hello again. You look like you would tan nicely. Has our girl been running you ragged?"
"We've had a busy morning," I say.
Janice finishes oiling Tereise's back and wipes her hands on the towel before starting to rise. Tereise grabs her hand and pulls her back down. Janice smiles and settles in a cross-legged posture. She removes her jacket and bush hat and turns her face to the sun. "Put your hat back on," Tereise orders, "before your face is as red as your hair."
Janice obeys, but says, "My hair is blonde."
Tereise says, "Right." She looks at me and points to a deck chair.
"Thank you," I say and sit down. I remember my aunt's many admonitions to wear a hat in the sun. I was sixteen before I realized that she worried my "Mediterranean" heritage would be made more apparent by an ability to tan.
"Is Antone around?" Janice asks casually.
"No," answers Tereise. "What do you want?"
Janice is all innocence. "Want?"
Tereise looks at her through lowered eyelids.
"Mel and I need to make a trip upriver, and I couldn't help noticing that motor launch last night. . . ."
"No petrol," Tereise says. "Even with a diplomatic allotment, Antone barely gets enough to run the car."
"Car's gas tank is almost empty, too," Janice says gloomily, "so we can't even siphon from that. Damn."
"Why don't we sail the Hatshepsut upriver?" I ask. Both women look at me as if I've suggested we float upstream in the car. "It seems to me the British might be less suspicious of a houseboat."
"Sail the Hat?" Tereise asks. "Without a crew?"
"Sure. Why not? Zepp said the sail is onboard, probably in that sail locker." I rise and open the locker hatch. "It's here. And the rigging is up. It looks a little weathered, but intact."
Janice is standing beside me now and is looking at the mast. "You know what you're talking about? You can sail this boat?"
"Sure, with your help. The river's not mined or anything, is it?" We both look at Tereise, who smiles and shakes her head. "I used to sail along the Outer Banks every summer. A friend had a boat bigger than this, and we sometimes sailed it alone."
Janice claps me on the shoulder. "You're a woman of many skills, Mel Pappas!"
Tereise leaps up. "Count me in. I always wanted to see if this barge could do more than float!"
With my inexperienced crew, and my unfamiliarity with the rigging, it takes almost an hour to raise the sail. The breeze is poor, but by tacking, I'm able to get us onto the river and making steady headway against the sluggish Nile current. I stay close to the shore. "We draw very little water," I explain, "and maybe anyone watching will think we're just changing moorings."
"I haven't seen any British or Egyptian patrol boats," Janice comments.
"All the action's to the north and east," Tereise states. "Rommel's massing his tanks, and the British think he's going to make a drive for the Suez in a couple of weeks."
We stare at her. Janice finally says dryly, "Anyone hearing you might think you're a spy." She turns to me. "If the captain doesn't need me right now, I'll see what there is to eat in the galley." She's down the steps before I can nod.
"Is she always hungry?" I ask.
Tereise laughs. "Jannie uses up a lot of energy. But, yeah, she's always hungry. . . for something. She's been that way ever since I've known her, and that would be since we were twelve."
I move the wheel to bring us around a log. I'm thinking, log or crocodile? "How did you and Janice meet?"
"My father and hers were colleagues. At the time, my father was working on a way to date parchment. Dr. Covington invited him to help with a project. Jews could still travel outside Germany at that time, so the whole family, Mama, Papa, and I, moved to Turkey for the summer. Dr. Covington and Papa got along so well, they worked together for several years after that."
"You say you're German? You sound like an American."
"We lived outside Germany much of the time when I was growing up. And Janice and I taught each other our native tongues. You should hear her German! It's better than my English." Her expression turns serious as she goes on. "We were living in Germany, however, when things started to go bad for the Jews. Papa kept saying things would get better, and then suddenly it was almost too late. Dr. Covington helped us get out and sponsored my father and mother to get into the States. I loved Dr. Covington like a second father, and now we're heading for the place where he died."
"Janice said she was in London at that time. I wondered why it took so long for her to get the news about the cave-in."
Tereise hesitates. "I guess you should know what kind of person Janice is, and it's certain she won't tell you."
"Janice didn't hear about her father's accident or return to Egypt because she was in the hospital herself."
"Was she ill?" I ask. "Were you with her?"
"I was with her, but she wasn't ill. You see, I was working for the JRO. Do you know what that is?" I shake my head. "I was trying to get Jews out of northern Europe before it was too late. But events moved faster than expected, and I was trapped. Janice found out when she arrived in London, and she came to get me. She located me in hiding and, together, we got out."
"The hospital?" I prompted.
"Janice was badly wounded during a border crossing. There was no medical help. We eventually made it to the coast, and the Underground smuggled us to England. I thought Janice would die during the crossing and that, if she did, I would jump overboard to be with her. She lived, of course, but she was in a London hospital for weeks."
"And it was during this time that her father died?" I ask, trying to picture Janice as less than the healthy young woman she is now.
Tereise nods as Janice bounds up the steps. "Chow's on," she announces. "I'll take the wheel while you two eat."
"Aren't you hungry?" I start to ask. Then from Janice's grin, I know she's already eaten.
We continue up the river without incident. As the sun settles lower in the west, I say to Janice and Tereise, "We need to either cross the river now or wait until morning. I don't want to dodge snags in the dark."
Janice points out an irrigation wheel on our side of the river. "If I'm right about which village that belongs to, we need to cover at least 10 more kilometers before we leave the river. You're sure we can't cross during the night?"
"I'm sure I don't want to," I answer.
Janice looks across the broad Nile and then back to me. "You're the sailor. What do you want to do?"
"We have a fairly good breeze right now. I would just as well cross now and find a place to moor on the other side for the night."
Janice nods and turns to Tereise. "Hey, babe, we're going to cross the river tonight. What do you want to do? Cross with us or stay on this side?"
"If you run the Hat aground on the other side, it will show anyone where you've gone," she says.
"Yeah," Janice agrees, "I've thought of that."
Tereise asks me, "Do you think I could sail the Hat back down the river?"
"Or at least bring her back across before mooring or running her aground?"
"I don't see why not. She's easy to handle, there's not much wind, and the current's slow. But what will you do then?" I look around at the surrounding flood plain.
"Wherever there's an irrigation wheel, there's a village nearby," she says. "I'll get a message to Cairo somehow. And, even if I don't, I have a feeling Antone will come looking for me when he sees his boat is gone." She and Janice laugh, although I don't see the joke.
I adjust the sail to catch more wind and turn the Hatshepsut toward the blood-red setting sun.
End of Part 9