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Authors: Arabian Nights

Heather Graham

BOOK: Heather Graham
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Arabian Nights
Heather Graham

Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Interlude

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Interlude

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Epilogue

A Biography of Heather Graham

PROLOGUE

UPI—July 5

WORLD RENOWNED EGYPTOLOGIST PLANS EXPEDITION

The eminent Egyptologist Dr. James Crosby recently announced plans for an expedition into the Valley of the Kings. The dig will be financed by the affluent Sheikh Ali Sur Sheriff of the United Arab Emirates. The expedition will be filmed by broadcast journalist Daniel D’Alesio, who recently brought to television audiences around the world the news documentaries “The Middle East. Past and Present Crisis,” “Is the Cold War Growing Hot?” and “Central and South America: What Should the American Role Be?”

D’Alesio has had a continuing interest in filming a documentary on ancient Egypt, but until now, Dr. Crosby has refused to allow his expeditions to be filmed.

D’Alesio, owner and operator of his production company, writes, directs and narrates his films. Scholars and political scientists worldwide consider his total commitment to excellence the key factor in his outstanding in-depth news reporting.

Dr. Crosby will have an assistant for his search for the tomb of Anelokep.

When asked about the “death curse” associated with the tomb of the Eighteenth Dynasty king, Crosby said, “I wouldn’t be searching for a respectable burial chamber if there was not a death curse associated with it!” He insisted that the deaths associated with the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in the 1920s were merely coincidental.

Crosby stated that he is more concerned with the twentieth-century curse of greed. “There is a fierce black market in the field of Egyptian antiquities,” Crosby stated. “A single relic from a tomb is priceless—but there are private collectors willing to pay any price for select pieces. This type of avarice, in which obsession often overrules the value of human life, is far more frightening than the thought of ancient curses.”

The slim blond man reading the paper as he walked through the Abu Dhabi airport was both very handsome and very out of place among the dark Arab businessmen bustling through the terminal. But that was in appearance only. James Crosby loved his travel through the Arab nations, spoke the language and knew the culture well. Usually he loved the hubbub that so often surrounded him; but today he barely noticed it.

It wasn’t the newspaper article that bothered him but what had been happening that made him uneasy. He had been followed in Egypt; he was being followed here. And he was being followed by more than one person.

He stopped suddenly and stared across the small lobby at a public phone. He shrugged and thought that he would never get a call out in the time he had, and he would be seeing her tomorrow night … just a little more than twenty-four hours from now.

But he wanted to talk to Alex. He suddenly felt it urgent that he let her know she had the same information he did.

He walked determinedly to the phone. To his amazement, he was able to put his call through. But even as he waited to be connected across the miles, the feeling of uneasiness started sweeping through him.

He heard her voice across the miles, startled, but sweet, so very sweet to his ears. At least he would be able to say what was necessary. …

CHAPTER ONE

T
OMORROW, ALEX THOUGHT, A
sweep of excitement seeming to swell within her like an ocean tide, I will be in Paris. And then I will be in Cairo, and I will see Dad, and we’ll start searching … living out a dream.

And I can talk to Dad about another dream. Wayne. Maybe now is the time for all dreams to come true.

Stop it! she railed at herself. Wayne was nothing but a dream, and her divorce from him had been a nightmare.

That thought reminded her that she was sitting at her desk, staring at a half-finished page that had to be completed if she was ever going to leave the museum.

There was nothing, she told herself dryly, quite like thinking about Wayne to bring her back to reality. The cold, hard facts about Wayne brought her crashing back down to earth so that she could forget her fingers were quivering with excitement and get back to the tedious paperwork. She placed her fingers on the typewriter keys and picked up with her next paragraph.

“Only the pharaohs were entitled to life after death in the Old Kingdom, as exemplified by the three Great Pyramids at Giza, the Step Pyramid and other grand structures built during this era. By the dawning of the New Kingdom, after Egypt had broken into various sections and been restored to glory by the kings of Thebes, it was accepted that all men might seek an afterlife. Still, it was the rich and powerful who went to their final resting places with the greatest display of grandeur. The more a man had, the more he
would
have for his rebirth after the judgment of Osiris. It was from these dynasties, beginning with the eighteenth (1570–1300
B.C.
), that we are bequeathed the ‘Valley of the Kings,’ and hence the forever famed discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb by the determined archeologist Howard Carter in 1922.

“Many believe that the treasures of ‘Tut’ were the last that remained to be discovered by contemporary man. Still, there remains documentation of eighteenth-dynasty kings who remain mysteries. One of these is Anelokep, a man who reigned for approximately a decade. He was terrified of grave robbers and left this threat: ‘He who enters here shall be avenged by the gods, and by myself. My
ka
[soul] and my
ba
[physical vitality, believed to flee at the moment of death] shall remain to protect that which goes with me, which assures my comforts through eternity!’”

Alex finished typing and pulled the sheet from her typewriter to add to the papers in the folder on her desk. She glanced up to see that the offices were empty. She smiled as she remembered that several of her co-workers had stopped to tell her good-bye and wish her good luck.

After gathering her things, she left her office and listened to the eerie echo of her heels in the empty hallways. The guards were still on duty, of course, and they nodded to her as she passed out of the building and hurried to her car.

The summer heat was so intense that the asphalt on Michigan Avenue shimmered. To the east, Lake Michigan itself appeared to be an eternity of indigo crystal; the air was heavy and humid.

But as she left the museum parking lot and battled her way through the hectic late-afternoon traffic, Alex gave no thought to her present environment. Her mind was on a different heat—that of the desert. As she waited at red lights, vaguely hearing the impatient honks of numerous horns, she made a mental checklist. Yes, she was ready to leave. She was packed, she had copies of all the documents Jim had requested, and she had her passport and tickets in order.

She sighed softly as a red light turned green and she shifted her small Datsun from neutral to first, then back to neutral as the traffic again snagged. She started her checklist all over again. She had a very meticulous mind, so there was no reason to make a checklist, but reviewing her plans kept her from thinking about Wayne, and she didn’t want to think about Wayne again. A year ago the divorce had been final. She had learned to live without him, and now, suddenly, she had heard from him again. “Perhaps we can talk, Alex. Negotiate our problems. Learn to compromise. …”

How she would love that to be possible! She had handled the divorce with quiet dignity; few knew how deeply it had wounded her.

But she had loved Wayne, and even when she discovered he hadn’t loved her enough to be either faithful or encouraging of her career, she had missed him with an excruciating pain that seemed to eat at her physically. She had managed to be strong and realistic, fully aware that a relationship could not be full—or even decent—with one partner giving up everything.

But if he wanted to come back, would she still be strong enough to resist him? There had been times when it had been so incredibly beautiful between them, times when she knew that he did love her, and appreciate her, and find her irresistible.

Don’t be an ass! she warned herself. If he was reaching out to “negotiate” now, it was only because Jim was on to a find that might rock the world beyond the discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb decades ago.

“Back to the checklist, girl,” she whispered softly.

But thinking of the checklist meant thinking about Egypt again; and thoughts of Egypt made her remember how Wayne had hated her enthusiasm in his field of expertise—a field that had been her own since she had been a little girl.

Wayne wanted fame—and a wife who would sit in the background. He had never wanted her to use her degrees; they should merely have left her competent to join in his conversations when he entertained others in the academic world.

But maybe I’m wrong, she told herself. Maybe he understands now. Maybe he really wishes to remarry, to make our marriage a partnership, to believe that I will not tolerate his casual infidelities.

He had been shocked when she actually filed divorce papers. He knew that she loved him. He had signed the papers but had not contacted her at all in the past year. There had not even been the recriminations she had expected.

Nothing, Alex thought bitterly. Nothing at all. Because of Wayne, she had been unable to date, unable even to enjoy a cup of coffee with another man other than a colleague.

Logically she tried to tell herself that Wayne hadn’t changed, but as little strings seemed to pull at her heart, she also argued that she was being illogical and closed-minded not to give him the benefit of the doubt. And she still loved him. That was actually the deciding factor. If he wanted to talk, she would be willing to listen.

Finally she reached her apartment building. When she opened her mailbox there were two letters. The first, with its Egyptian stamps—a row of sleek portraits of a bust of Queen Nefertiti—caught her attention immediately. She hurried into her apartment and ripped open the envelope as she entered the living room, plopped down her shoulder bag and research folders and sank into the caramel-colored sofa.

Dear Alex,

I am riding on a cloud of exhilaration so incredibly high that sometimes I am afraid I shall explode with it. I read over a papyrus in the Cairo museum that I had read a dozen times—and there it was! The final proof! The burial chamber of Anelokep, eighteenth-dynasty Theban king,
is
in the Valley of Kings! I am no longer going on conjecture, Alex, but on documented proof. All the little clues tied together—I had just stared at them so long that I was blind to the piece in the puzzle that made it a whole! Between the hieroglyphics you deciphered in the Field museum and the papyrus here, the story is told.

I can hardly wait for you to get here. It is really more your victory than mine. After all, it was you who first insisted against all expert opinion that another unplundered tomb could exist—did, in fact, exist—and that the mystery of Anelokep could be solved in the Valley of the Kings.

Alex, the characters with whom I’ve become involved are right out of Arabian nights! Ali Sur Sheriff is as extraordinary as any movie sheikh racing across the desert upon his black stallion. He has a running feud with another nearby sheikh of the same emirate—Omar Khi Haman—and he too is out of a fantasy. Potbellied and jowled, he sits upon his satin pillows while his harem girls pare his fingernails all day! (Here, dear Alex, I realize you are gritting your teeth and huffing away in your mind about the ill use of the female gender! But we are talking about a different world, as well you know.)

Anyway, this Sheikh Haman has become interested in me because Sheikh Sheriff is financing my “mysterious” project! Mysterious? For the moment, I suppose so. I fear what could happen if those of—what shall I say?—crasser values?—should discover exactly where I am going until I am ready to be there. The wealth, both material and historical, that we will find will be beyond the imagination!

As for Dan D’Alesio, he is nothing less than pure energy, Alex. Intense, striking, brilliant—not even his fantastic programs can give you a true picture of the man himself. But then I’ve mentioned before how I admire him. I guess I’m still attempting to find a way to describe him on paper. He’s mercurial, magnetic, hypnotic! (Of course, I suppose he could also be described as quicksand—he suckered me into agreeing that he could join me with his film crew!)

Ah … the desert! And the Arab world and the history of the ancients unfolding. The sky at night is indigo velvet, littered with stars seemingly so close you could reach out and touch them. Enigma and mystery … and ever-elusive danger!

I hear via the grapevine that your ex-husband has been snooping around. You’re an adult, Alex, so I won’t give you a lecture. I’ll just remind you that you’re a beautiful and bright young woman, and your life stretches before you. You deserve nothing less than the best.

Since I shall see you soon, I will end here. Oh—if anything should go wrong, get hold of Sheikh Sheriff. I am on my way to the UAE now to see him. A few things are making me a little nervous. Our compelling Mr. Dan D’Alesio is the link to the sheikh. See you at the Cairo airport, July 6, ten
P.M.
Don’t be late!

Love, James

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