Read Imhotep Online

Authors: Jerry Dubs

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Time Travel, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Teen & Young Adult

Imhotep (4 page)

BOOK: Imhotep
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“In
another picture, they are walking away from the camera, from me, up through the
colonnade at the edge of the southern courtyard.  Long shadows from the
late afternoon sun cross the ground behind them.”

Hasa
looked at him suspiciously and Tim wondered if he had blathered too much.

He
finished the note and gave it to Hasa.  The folded twenty was beneath the
postcard.

“Thank
you, Hasa,” Tim said.

Hasa
looked at the twenty and nodded at Tim.  “I don’t think I believe you, Mr.
Hope,” he said, reading the note.  “But I will keep your money and I will
give them the message and let them decide,” he said.

Tim
was sweating almost as much as Hasa by the time he left the guesthouse. 
Dark circles had spread under the arms of the gray T-shirt he was
wearing.  Now I know why I don’t tell lies more often, he thought.

He
went into the resort’s lobby and hurried across it to the Sultan Bar.  The
western wall of the bar was open, strands of wooden beads hung from the
ceiling, twenty feet above him.  Tim could see the gardens that surrounded
the resort and, rising up beyond the shrubs and tree, the gray triangle of the
Great Pyramid of Khufu.

A few
Egyptians sat in the low green chairs that were clustered around the small
round tables in the bar.  The bartender, wearing a red vest, leaned
against the polished bar formed in the shape of an octagon.  Tim pulled
out one of the chairs by the low bar and ordered a Stella beer.

The
bartender was much friendlier than Hasa had been.  It didn’t take Tim long
to find out that the desk clerks came to work early in the morning.  A
second shift started in less than half an hour, at three o’clock.

Tim
asked the bartender if he knew the tall American and the woman with red
hair.  He was starting to feel like a detective.  He wondered what
Addy would think of him asking questions of strangers and telling lies to desk
clerks.

“I see
them every night,” the bartender told him.  “He is a great lover of our
beer.  She likes any drink with fruit.  Fruit and little
umbrellas.  She likes the umbrellas.”

“Last
night?  They were here last night?”

The
bartender nodded.  “Sure, sure, every night.”

Tim
felt disappointed.  If they had been here last night, while he was
fumbling around in Kanakht’s Tomb, then he was wasting his time because they
were safe.  He’d wasted twenty dollars on Hasa.  His little adventure
was over.

“No,”
the bartender continued, laughing, “That’s not right.  They weren’t here
last night.  Last night we had the singing contest.  The
karaoke.  I was wanting to see him singing.  He is so funny. 
All the time funny.  But he didn’t sing.  I would have remembered.”

 

 

T
im waited until he was sure Hasa would
have left his post before he went back into the guesthouse.

The
late shift clerk was an elderly man, his short, curly hair thinning and
gray.  He looked up and smiled as Tim approached the desk.

Tim
saw that the oversized postcard he had given Hasa was sticking out of one of
the slots.

“Oh,
great, I got mail,” he said, pointing to the postcard.

The
clerk turned to look where Tim was pointing.  He retrieved the card and
gave it to Tim.  In precise block letters Hasa had printed on the card
“Mr. Brian Aldwin or Ms. Diane Maclaine, Room 324.”

“Thanks,”
Tim said.  “Say, Diane has our keys.  Could you give me a key? 
It’s Room 324.”

The
clerk looked puzzled.  Tim showed the clerk the postcard and pointed to
the room number.  Then he patted his pockets and shrugged.

The
old man smiled and nodded.  He reached in the cubbyhole and picked up a
duplicate key for the room and gave it to Tim.

“I’ll
bring it right back,” Tim said as he took the key.

Tim
hurried up the stairwell heading for the third floor.

He
knocked on the door of the room. When there was no answer he steadied his right
hand with his left and shakily he slid the key in the lock.

He
pushed open the door and stepped inside.  Shaking with nervousness, he
stood listening for a minute before turning on the room lights.  He had no
idea what he would do if Brian and Diane were there taking a nap.  He
could try to explain why he was there, but he wasn’t sure what he would do if
they decided he was just trying to steal from their room.  Remembering Brian’s
size, Tim was sure he didn’t want to frighten them.

The
room was empty.

He
chained the door behind him and then walked over to a sliding door that opened
onto a small balcony.  It was too far to jump to the ground, but if
someone tried to open the room door, he might be able to swing over the side
and then drop onto the balcony below him.

He
hoped he wouldn’t need to.

There
were two single beds in the room.  Both were made, but Tim had no idea
when the maid would have straightened the room, so it was possible that they
could have been slept in last night and made this morning.  A wooden bench
with a back sat against the wall at the foot of the bed nearest the door. 
Tim lifted its hinged seat.  The compartment beneath it was empty.

A
small table and two chairs were tucked into an alcove by the balcony
door.  A guidebook to Saqqara was on the table, along with computer
printouts listing all the casinos in Cairo.

There
were no used towels in the bathroom.  In the closet, Tim found clothes in
a hotel dry cleaner bag.  The receipt on the bag showed it had been
returned two days ago.  The waste cans were empty.  There were no
signs that anyone had been in the room that day.

A dark
green, paisley print suitcase lay on a metal stand by the closet.  Inside
he found a paper envelope tucked in the lid’s cloth pocket.  It held two
tickets for an Air Egypt flight from Cairo to Aswan.

The
flight was for six p.m. today.  Tim looked at the digital clock by the
bed.  It was after four; the flight was scheduled to leave in less than
two hours.

He put
the tickets back and closed the suitcase. 

If
I was going to be on a flight in less than two hours I’d already be at the
airport,
he thought.

He
unchained the door and after listening for footsteps, opened it slowly and stepped
outside.  Quietly shutting the door, he walked toward the stairs. 
After he passed a few rooms, he stopped and turned back to make sure no one was
following him.  He bent over as if to tie his shoe, realized that he was
wearing sandals, and laughed to himself.

Some
detective,
he thought.

No one
was behind him in the hallway.  He went back down the stairs and returned
the key to the silent clerk, who gave Tim an absent smile.

In the
hotel courtyard he found a bench that gave him a view of the pyramids framed by
a nearby cluster of date palms.  He shrugged out of his backpack, removed
his sketchbook and sat on the bench.

As he
sketched, he watched the driveway, hoping for a car to arrive with Brian and
Diane.  When the shadows on the angled sides of the pyramid began to
shift, Tim decided to check the room again.  It was almost seven o’clock.

He
went into the main lobby and asked the desk clerk to ring Brian Aldwin in Room
324.  After letting the phone ring for a full minute, the clerk shrugged
and told Tim that no one was answering.  Perhaps he would like to leave a
message?

“I’m
supposed to take them to the airport,” Tim said.  “They haven’t checked
out and gone with someone else, have they?”

The
clerk checked the register.

“No,
they are still with us.  Perhaps you have the wrong time, or perhaps they
are running late.”

Tim
nodded.  “Well, I’ll sit outside for a couple minutes, but if they’re much
later, they’ll miss their plane.  Thanks for checking.”

He
walked to the guesthouse and got the room key from the silent clerk. 
There was no answer to his knock, so he entered the room again, calling their
names.  Still no answer.

If
they hadn’t checked out, then the hotel safe would still have their passports,
and they weren’t going anywhere without those, he thought. 

Suddenly
he was sure something had happened to them.

There
was no telephone directory in the room so Tim called the reservation desk and
asked for the number of the American embassy.

“Is
there a problem, sir?”

“No,”
Tim said.  “My sister was going to leave a message for me there, since I
wasn’t sure about my travel plans.”

“Embassy
of the United States,” a woman’s voice said a minute later.

Tim
didn’t know whom to ask for.

“Hello,”
she said.

“Hi. 
I’m an American citizen.”
That sounded pretty lame,
he thought. 
“I’m not sure who to ask for.”

“What
is the nature of your business?  Have you lost your passport?  Have
you violated an Egyptian law?  Are you experiencing a health
problem?  Do you have information or know of someone who may have information
about security matters?

She
walked through the list mechanically.

“No,
none of those.  I think two people are missing.”

“Just
a moment, sir.  I’ll transfer you to security.”

The
line went dead and Tim thought the connection had been broken.  Then there
were a series of clicks and a man’s tired voice said, “Jim Kamin, security.”

“Mr.
Kamin?”

“Yes.”

“I
think two Americans are missing.”

“Missing? 
And you are?”

“I’m
Tim Hope.”

“United
States citizen?”

“Well,
yes.”

“Is
that Tim for Timothy?”

“What? 
Yes, Timothy.  Look, I’m not sure . . .   ”

“Mr.
Hope, now you say some people are missing.  Did you see them taken? 
Have they been harmed?  Why do you think they’re missing?”

“They’re
not here.”

“Here?”

“In
their room.”

“And
where might that be?”

“Wait. 
Here’s what happened.  I saw them go into a tomb yesterday and then their
guide came out but they didn’t.  I mean, I don’t think they did, at least
I didn’t see them and I don’t think there’s another exit from the tomb. 
At least I didn’t see one, although there was this other doorway and I didn’t
check where it went.  But that doesn’t matter.  Anyhow, I checked at
their hotel room today and their stuff is here and they had tickets for a
flight to Aswan tonight, but the tickets are still here.  So, I think
something happened to them in the tomb.”

“There
was a bombing?  I didn’t hear about any bombing.”

“Bombing? 
No, there wasn’t any bombing I didn’t say anything about a bombing.”

“Then
why do you think something happened to them in the bomb?”

“No, I
said ‘tomb.’ Something happened to them in the tomb.  When I went in they
weren’t there.  Now they aren’t here and they didn’t take the tickets with
them.  They missed their flight.”

“Was
there a shooting?  Because I didn’t hear about any shootings.”

“No,
there was no shooting, no bombing.  They just didn’t come out of the tomb
and they aren’t in their room.”

“And
you are?”

“Are
what?”

“In
their room.”

“Yes. 
Their suitcases are here, their tickets, their clothes.”

“You
had a key to their room?”

“Look. 
I just want to report these people missing.  Perhaps the embassy could
send someone to check out the tomb where I saw them.”

“Look,
Mr. Hope.  People miss flights all the time.  Tourists get
sidetracked and change plans all the time.  If you have any evidence other
than unused tickets, tell me.  Otherwise, I think we should just wait a
few days and see if they turn up.  If they don’t, then we’ll contact the
Egyptian authorities.”

“What
if they’re hurt?”

“Well
you said there wasn’t any bombing or shooting.  And I have to tell you
that, relatively speaking, Egypt is a very, very safe place for tourists. 
Not like Miami or New York.”

“So,
we just wait.”

“Yes. 
Now if you would like to tell me exactly where you are.”

Tim
hated telephones. He couldn’t recall a single telephone call he had ever made
to someone in authority or to a business that turned out the way he wanted.

He
remembered learning that ninety percent of communication was non-verbal:
crossed arms, shrugs, hand gestures, smiles, frowns, winks, scowls, a raised
eyebrow.  The telephone line, a lifeless strand of metal carrying a
monochromatic wave of electrons, stripped away color and life. It was hard
enough to communicate in person with someone you knew. To make sense to a
stranger with such a handicap was impossible.

BOOK: Imhotep
8.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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