|"Go ahead. We have all the time in the world" she said... all the time in the world... Jeeze how I wish I could turn back the hands of time... never do the things I´ve done...|
|My boss was some Ludvig Schreyter, a scrawny little beaurocrat with the heart of an adventurer, or so he loved to think|
|And Joe... Giovanni... was his ever so eager doctoral canditate from Europe|
"What is it, Nicholas?"
"I could do with some help with the categorizing up there..."
|"Again?! Well Nicholas this is untimely, I am still working on the essay about..."|
|"... then again, we need to assemble a nice line of artefacts for the next exhibition soon... oh, what to do..."|
|"Ah but Professore, I could help out - if you insist?"|
|"Well done" |
"Ah high time you came to get me out of this dusty rabbit hole, I say!"
Yeah, Joe and me were best buddies back then
|If I had given things more thought back then, would I have been more alert about Joe?|
|Would I have noticed that things had a way of `being misplaced ´ when he was around? Would I have cared?|
|Whatever, soon enough we went on the next expedition to Al Simhara, and this time Joe was with us|
|Thing was, while Schreyter and me dealt with the local authorities...|
|... Joe took more of an interest into Schreyter´s assistant Louise|
|Despite her looks, that girl was some wallflower, so I guess she felt more than flattered by his attention. It was so obvious where this was leading. Everybody noticed- except Schreyter, which was probably a good thing|
|I liked Louise, but hey, none of my busisness, eh? Joe didn´t have much time to make a move on her anyway, as the next weeks were terribly busy|
|The whole team spent days on end in the mercyless heat of the Al Simhara desert, digging up some shards and bones|
|Joe and I usually spent the evenings somewhere more inviting, like the bar on top of the Café Nefer|
|"Dio mio that old piece of jerky will kill us all if he keeps up this pace if work- I am done for today, see ya tomorrow"|
|This happend quiet often, that Joe would leave before I did- I thought nothing of it, though. It was none of my business where he went without me, and I didn´t mind to have a few drinks on my own, either|
|So when I saw him making out with Louise one night when I returned to the camp, slightly wasted...|
|... and watched them both sneaking into her tent...|
|... I thought I had found out and didn´t think about it any more|
|Then, one day, the unexpected thing happened- we discovered the entrance to a tomb. Schreyter was over the top with joy and exitement! Me, on the other hand, I combed my brain about what I knew of traps and ancient security systems...|
|"Dio mio, Professore, be careful- these ancient builders..."|
"Ah Giovanni, where is your discoverer´s spirit? Let me see..."
"Yeah right Joe, let him go ahead..."
|While we stood back a little to let the pros check the grave chamber, Joe pulled out some weird old piece of pergament, checked it, and started to curse under his breath "Cazzo! This is not her grave..."|
|What the hell was he talking about? But it slipped my mind during the hours and hours of digging that followed this little episode|
|After working my fingers to the bone for god knows how long, I spotted something in a far corner of the chamber that would make up for the back pains... I carefully checked if someone was watching...|
|Schreyter and Louise were having a highly emotional discussion about some shards that lasted for what seemed to be a lifetime, so I strolled about the place a bit|
|This seemed to be a good time to have a drink in a quiet corner, so I sneaked into a side strake and pulled out my canteen|
|Which was when I realized that I was not alone|
|"Joe? What the hell are you doing?" |
|"What do you think I am doing? I am helping myself to a little bonus, just like you did... now will you please have an eye on the jerky and Louise?"|
|From that day on, we were in it together. When Schreyter and Louise called it a day, we would stay behind to do some research work of our own|
|Did I have an uneasy feeling about it? If so, I pushed it aside. Joe and I were friends, right? So what could go wrong|
|But no matter how often I tried to get him to tell me more, no way. He would not even let me have a look|
|So when I found another bit, I decided to keep it my secret. Let´s wait and see if the boy comes around, eh?|
|I didn´t get anywhere with it, probably because everything about me screamed foreigner! |
Joe, on the other hand, had more luck
|Was it his dark features, or his superior knowledge of the language? His italian knack for bargaining, his charms? For whatever reason, he wrapped this one merchant around his little finger in no time|
|So we had a deal. And a good one, too|
|Then, one day, there was a crowd at the base camp when we returned|
|Three cops? I never even knew that Al Simhara had so many cops... this was when I realized that the guy was coming out of my tent|
|And that there were three of the major pieces we found lined up in front of it- this clay vase Louise had freaked out about, and the statuettes of Horus and Anubis from the tomb|
|"What the hell is going on there?"|
"Relax Nicky... I am sure this will be resolved soon enough..."
true Sir, our informant was telling the truth- these invaluable pieces
of heritage were indeed hidden in the blanket roll." |
"Well done deputy, now we better find out the whereabouts of this filthy grave robber! Go ahead! Find him!"
|What?! No. No, not this could not be happening... I never... how?!|
|"He is here! Right here! Officers, this is the man- Nicholas West! - To think that I trusted you, all these years! God knows how many precious artefacts you have been stealing over they years!!"|
"Shut up, you, you, rogue!!"
|"Nicholas West, I hereby arrest you. You are accused of the theft of those priceless artefacts"|
|"Will you follow us without resistance, or to I have to handcuff you?"|
Everything about the cop´s features litererally begged me to put up resistance... I shuddered and tried to look as humble as humanly possible
"I´ll do whatever you say, officer"
|I shot Joe a glance. He had stepped back a few yards and now tried to dissapear into the shadow of a large palm tree nearby, looking unsuspicious|
|Right then, I had other things to think about. With the mininum amount of push and shove reserved for the not yet proven guilty, I was taken to the local jail|
|My mind was racing. I had been framed! But by whom? Who was that informant? What, exactly, had he told the filth?|
|Oh yeah, I knew all about those laws. So I did the only thing I could do- stick to the truth...|
"Sir, this must be one great misunderstanding- or someone trying to frame me. I swear, I have not stolen those artefacts that were found in my tent."
|The cell. No mispelling here, the building they lead me to really had only one large cell where all the inmates were stored|
|The place was... rundown would be putting it nicely|
|And the guys in there were not happy about yet another guy to share what little space it offered, either|
|He introduced himself as Charlie Watts|
"So, Mr. West, sorry about the delay... what can you tell me about your case?"
|I shifted on my chair "Sure. They say I stole some artefacts. I did not."|
|Watts frowned at that, then said slowly|
"Mr. West, the items in question were found hidden in your tent. With your fingerprints all over them"
|Somehow I didn´t like where this was heading|
"Of course my prints are on them. I categorized them, that´s my job. And literally everybody could have accessed my tent. It´s a tent for chrissake!"
need to get cheeky with me, Mr. West. Fact is, they were found there.
Fact is, your prints are on them. Fact is, you have been selling antics
to a local merchant over the last weeks..."|
|"... so unless you come up with a better story than "I was framed" or a at least a confession , there is nothing I can do for you"|
|And with that, he left. I couldn´t believe it|
|I just sat there, unmoving, until the cop who had watched over me during the meeting finally cleared his throat and adressed me|
"Alright then, seems you will stay with us for now, huh? Come on, time to go back"
|Yeah. Seemed like I would stay... longer then I had expected|
|I learned that it could take weeks, even months until my case would go to court at all, and there was no way to speed this up|
So I had to settle in, find my place in the pecking order
|This included a lot of fighting... and most of the time, I was the one eating dirt|
|I wrote letters. To the museum, to the embassy, to Joe, Schreyter - hell, even to Heather. But no one as much as wrote back|
|Then I learned that the court hearing had already taken place. Without me present. After all the things I did, the one thing I didn´t do had broken my neck|
|Four years. The sentence was four years.|
I thought I could handle that
|When a shadow fell on me, I flinched, not daring to look up until I realised this was a uniform trouser|
|Slowly, I raised myself, uncertain what to expect now. She had never hit me, at least |
"You did your time, West. Please proceed to the office to pick up your personal belongings- and then do both of us a favor and get lost"
|And so, just like that, I found myself on the streets of Al Simhara again|
|The silence is killing me |
I don´t dare look at her
"I am sorry Le"
|"For having been stupid? You served a sentence for that. It´s in the past... but how did you make it back to Mesa?"|
|"I know it sounds stupid, but I literally had nowhere else to go. My appartment had long been re- rented, and I just had to try to get my job back somehow"|
|"I knew Schreyter wouldn´t be happy to see me, but still, I had to try... or so I thought as I entered the main hall. Then I heard them talking in one of the exhibition rooms"|
|"It was Schreyter- and Joe. My old boss was congratulating him on his doctor´s degree and his promotion to the head of research"|
|"So I decided it might be a better idea to talk to Joe in private. He could get me a job, surely?"|
|"I sneaked out the building and waited in that little park opposite the museum until he finally came, then whistled to catch his attention"|
|"My, my- Nicky, is that really you? Almost didn´t recognize you... since when are you back in town?"|
|And with that, he turned away and left|
|"Dear me. How stone hearted can you get? This... man... I am impressed that you did not beat him up right there and then, Nick"|
|"So, did you ever try to approach Schreyter, or the director of the museum after that... conversation with Carella?"|
need to get rude, Nick. I only mentioned a possibility- so do not say
no right now. Give the idea some thought, will you please?"|
"Hell NO! There is absolutely NO way I will go back to Al Simhara!! Forget it!"
|Unnoticed by the two, Seamus has woken up in the meantime|
"If he is not coming, I will"
"Seamus, what are you talking about?"
|"Eversince I found out that Carella is my ... genitor, I have read into this. I read every article about him, all his books, then all books I could find on ancient Egypt... Le please take me with you on that expedition!"|
|"You are crazy. Both of you.. I am out"|
"But Nick, she is right, this could be so worth it!"
"I am out"
|"Let him go. Give him time to think this over"|
|Shaking, I turn the doorknob and rush out into the corridor|
|How? How could I have possibly told her?|
|That I spent what was left of my cash on cheap drinks?|
|That I begged for change in the streets?|
|That I dug through other peoples waste to find something worth selling... or worth eating?|
|That I slept in public toilets?|
|That, in the end, I was only one step away from doing the decent thing...|
|... and top myself?|
|That I turned myself in instead, because I could not even muster the courage for that?|
I just couldn´t
|"Yeah, right... shizz, I mean really, after all he´s been trough there, no wonder he´s not to hot on going back, right?"|
|"I am such an idiot"|
"Not really hon. Come on now, I better drive you home"
|Oh dear, it´s getting light. I sure hope Heather has gone to bed hours ago|
|"Thanks for the ride, Le"|
"Your welcome. Sleep tight!"
|"I´ll take the stairs, she´s always listening for the elevator coming up. Seeya Le!" |
|Alright. So far, we have successfully avoided to let Heather find out about the three of us sticking together. But I have a strong feeling that this is about to change soon|
|And I know for sure that I will talk to Nick again- about Egypt. I can sense all to clearly that there is some more to his story, something that he didn´t tell me yet|
|Dead tired, I drag myself up the stairs to my place when I realize that I have missed a call from an unknown number... a few minutes ago? Hm, call back now or later....|
|Curiosity gets the better of me and I press redial "Hello? Who is this, I had your number on my..."|
|"What? Who- Nick?! Is that you? - Please calm down, say that again, I can´t..."|
|"Oh my god"|