Montag, 6. Mai 2013

Chapter ten - Getting a Tan

So while Seamus is struggling with additional family issues, Le and Nick are travelling to the Middle East. Let´s see how they are doing... 

"No, Sir" Le replies stoically to the upteenth question...
Jeeze. I completely forgot how much I hate those immigration procedures... if the guy asks as much as ONE more thing, I swear to God I will just turn around and get on board the next plane back to Sims States

"Thank you for your cooperation. Welcome to Simhara, and enjoy your stay"
What! Can it be true?! We are trough?!

I breath out with a hiss that gives a fairly good impression of the tension that build up in me over the last twentysomething minutes
"Finally! I´d never thought I´d say this, but in the end I was really itching to get out into the sun"
"Mh. I noticed... given the sounds you were constantly making in the back of your throat, I felt tempted to turn around and check if someone was choking you..."

Determined as ever, Le strides out of the building. She´ll never cease to amaze me... after all those hours on the plane, I feel like falling over any minute, and she is still so energetic it´s a real pain... 
"Ok, the sign said `Taxi´to the right, so the rank must be here somewhere..."

Al Simhara.

The place I swore I´d never, ever, under any circumstances return to. What the hell am I doing here

It takes Le a reasonable amount of time negotiating with the cab driver... her Simharish is so much better than mine, it really makes me feel like the odd one out... 
Slowly I wander off

Soon enough, Le catches up with me
"Hey, where are you going? I finally made a deal with that driver, he will take us into town for a fairly reasonable price"

"I... was just thinking... yanno, even with the maps, this will be no piece of cake"
I can literally sense her frown at this statement

She pats my shoulder lightly 
"... we knew from the start that would be a desert, not a dessert, right? Come on Nick. I think we could both do with some rest, let´s take the cab now"

The ride into town takes a lot longer than I remember, and the cab has no air condition. I am starting to sympathize with grilled cheese toasts... Le doesn´t even seem to sweat

After what seems like hours we are finally dropped off at some narrow street. A little confused, but kind of glad to escape the boiling heat inside the car I climb out and stumble after Le

"Eh, didn´t really get much of what the driver guy said- why, exactly are we on foot now, and without our luggage?"
"Because he will drive up to the back of the hotel and drop it off, which means he has to drive a full circle around the old town now... Whereas we will take the short way through the narrow alleys and thereby escape certain death by overheating... ah, see? There it is."

"This is our hotel?"
"Our Bed and Breakfast."

"Good afternoon to you, Madam- Sir... how can I help you?"
The receptionist speaks simlish! In a place like this? Suddenly, I am lost for words 

"Good afternoon to you, too. I am Le Anh Su- we have mailed, I believe? I booked an ensuite room for two"

The girls face lights up at this
"Ah of course! My bad, I should have known. To be frank, we do not get too many tourists from your country here in the old town... Would you like me to show you to your room? Your luggage has already been delivered. It´s upstairs."

"Yes please, lead the way"
Room? As in, one room?

"Here we are. The breakfast room is opposite the reception,  breakfast served from 7 to 10:30 am- if you need anything- a cab, a map of the town, whatever it is, don´t hesitate to ask. You will find me or my sister at the reception desk almost all of the time"

And off she goes...
"Fine, their website did not lie, the place is all they advertised, no more, no less, and... Nick? What is it, did you expect me to book us into the Ritz Carlton?"

"Eh, no... didn´t ... but..."
"Yes? Come on, fire away. What is bothering you? Because it is very obvious that something is indeed bothering you"

I swallow hard before I reply
"Le, it´s a double room. Are you sure you don´t mind to share a room- with me?"

"Oh dear, Nick."
What´s so funny about that question? She can´t possibly have booked it like that, or can she?
"Trust me, I do not mind at all. Really, all is good... as long as you don´t mind sharing a room with me, that is, of course"
"What? Eh, no..."
"Well that is settled, then. Listen, why don´t you freshen up a bit while I call Seamus?"  

"Eh, yes... sure..."
"Great. Go ahead, the bathroom is over there" she mumbles while already fiddling with her mobile

So she doesn´t mind? Go figure...
The bathroom proves to be very plain, but sufficient. Ritz Carlton... if only she knew that I have never even stayed in a b&b before when in Al Simhara, only in camps out in the desert... 

God how I hate long distance calls, the never ending beep- beep of the dialing drives me up the walls!
"Hello? Seamus, is it you?...- yes, we finally made it. - The hotel? Aw, no, we are staying at a b&b, it´s in the old town, very nice, though a bit shabby... but say, are you...- what? "

"Oh. Yes, of course, the time difference, I always forget about that, so sorry- alright then, have a good day at school, huh?...- no, I am not joking...-Take care Seam...- Yes, certainly, I will...- Listen, if there is anything, if you should have to...- yes, yes. Just send me a text in case, ok?...- Fine. Bye Seam!"

"Ah, you are done already- Seamus sends his regards, he... Oh."

"So he is good? Jeeze, that´s a relief. I dunno why, but I really- eh, what? "

"You took a shower."

"Eh... yes, right, as you said, much needed after the flight... and the cab, eh, I mean, Jeeze, that was blazing hot in there... "

"Eh... listen, I am sorry, I guess... I wasn´t thinking..."
"Oh please, Nick. Relax, it´s not a problem. In fact, I think I will have a shower myself now."

"Good night"
"Eh, good night to you, too..."
This whole thing is going to be even more complicated than I thought

Dear me. 
This whole thing is going to be even more fun than I thought

"Nick? I know  it has been a long day, but I think we should..."


Well, that was to be expected. He has most likely fallen asleep the very second his head touched the pillow

Sleep tight, Nick. We will have that talk another time...

"... so, what´s the plan? Not that I  have not thought about this before, but your experience is simply..."

Hard to believe someone like her should ever want to rely on someone like me
"Finding a ride is the first thing, preferably four wheel drive, I´d say. Without a ride, we won´t be getting anywhere"
I state slowly 

And she is munching away like she doesn't have a care in the world...
"Fine. So let´s go find a means of transport. Hm... I think I should ask the receptionist for her advice, I bet she can recommend a place""

"But our ride needs to be in perfect condition, with some wreck we might wind up dead somewhere in the desert, Le"
"I am well aware of that, and this is exactly why you will have to check if the car is reliable- I am useless when it comes to cars..."

What on earth... she puts our, her life in my hands?! What have I done to deserve all that trust?!

All right then.  
I´ll better make sure she won´t regret this.

And right enough, Saida - as the name of the of the girl from the front desk turns out to be - comes up with a list of car rentals as long as my arm. So we decide to take a walk around town and see what's on offer

"And you really know were you are going, yeah? `Cause one thing's for sure, those tiny lanes look all the same to me"
"It would be nice if you could muster a little more confidence in me, Nick. I assure you, I have a very good sense of direction..."
Oops. Someone is touchy today, it seems? I can't help but grin at her reaction 

As it turns out, most of the rentals on the list are in the new, more touristic part of Al Simhara, so we head for one of the two that actually are situated in the old town

The place looks ok on first impression. Bit shady, maybe, but hey- when has any car related business ever been different?

"Lady, I much happy help you- but you no tell me what you look for, this no be possible, I sorry!"

Le shoots me a slightly desperate look here, but I really don't get what the guy's problem is, either. What part of `a four wheel drive for trips into the Simhara Desert´ is it that he doesn't understand? 
Would be easier if he wouldn´t insist on having this conversation in simlish...

Fortunately he has a more practical approach to things, too
"Listen, I think more easy I show you what car I have. Yes? Follow, please."

After a bit of fiddling with the rusty lock, he leads us into the yard 
"See Lady? Beautiful little red car for beautiful little Lady!" he beams 

The guy has no idea how lucky he is that Le is such a patient soul- I for my part feel short from ripping his head off by now... I take another deep drag from my cig...
"NO Sir, we need a FOUR WHEEL DRIVE!"
Ok, sounds like even she is loosing her cool now

As I can not add much to this talk anyway, I start to take a look around, and hey! What do we have over here...

"Le? I think I found just what we need"

The sudden silence is fascinating
"You want Jeep?"

"But Lady, why you no say you want Jeep?! Is excellent Jeep! You be very happy!"
Yes. She is positively looking like she wants to scratch his eyes out now...
"Great, let me see the motor and we have a deal, Mister Foladi"
"Mahmoud. You call me Mahmoud- you get great price, Saida my baby cousin, guest of baby cousin always get great price with Mahmoud!"  

After an incredibly cliché half hour of haggling, we sign the contract and make a deal to pick up the Jeep the next morning
"Oh my, finally... I thought we would never get out of this office again... where are you heading, Nick?"
"I think I just recognized a street - if I am right, there´s a nice little restaurant right around the corner. Come on, I am starving!"

And right enough, even after all those years, the little café is still there, and the food is just as good as I remembered it to be

"This is the best shawarma I ever had! Good that you found the place again- how come you remembered it, did you come here often?"

"Yep. The food at the camp was so bad that we sneaked off to the city whenever we could, and there is a bar on the other side of that building, too... guess you get the picture?"
Saying that I realize what state I was in last time she had to drag me out of a bar...  
I feel my cheeks getting hot

After a moment of awkward silence she bursts into her typical bell- like laughter
"Oh no. How come I am not surprised that you managed to find a bar even here? Oh Nick, really..."

"... are you... good?"
Oh dear. I should have dropped the subject, this stupid remark of mine must have hit a nerve, his face has lost all colour 

It is only then that I realize that we have company

"Well well, can this be real? West. Didn´t I make myself clear last time we met? What part of `never show your face around here again´ did you miss?"

"Le... this... is officer Al Hibri. And her collegue... officer Omairat... who arrested me... back then"
His voice is so flat it is hardly recognizable
"Oh. I see" 

"And you would be?"

"Su. Licenced archeologist, just like my good friend Mr. West here"

"Is that so? Most strange, since when do the authorities hand out licences to convicted criminals and their associates?"

I bite down a spiked retort and give her my best, most brilliant smile
"Oh, I am not that acquainted with the general modus operandi of your ministry for heritage, so I can not answer that question. But in case you were referring to me, I can assure you that I am a most respectable member of the Sims State chamber of archeology... and therefore I am fully entitled to receive an excavation permit. Mr. West, on the other hand, has done his time and is fully vindicated and thereby meets the requirements as well... so, your point was...?"

Fuck I think I love that girl

"You think you are a clever one, don´t you? Well don´t stretch your luck to far, I will keep an eye on you. You and your grave- robbing..."
"Mounia. Please - let´s just go..."

" Oh I apologize! I chat and chat... while you very obviously have more important things to do right now. Goodbye, officers! It´s been a pleasure meeting you... finally"

"This won´t be the last you´ll see of us, Su. Come on, let´s go!"
"Yeah... right... goodbye, Miss Su... West..." 

I can not help but notice that the second police officer seems to be very uncomfortable with the situation... hm... I flash him a genuine smile
"Officer Omairat."
Soon enough they are gone, but so is the fun 

We pay and leave the café in silence, heading for the local supply shops to buy what further equipment we will need for the excavating works

I leave the negotiating to Nick, he has more experience on the subject... 
But I can not shake off the feeling that we are being watched

The sun is already loosing it´s strengh when we are done, hours later. Nick´s mood has not improved since that lovely encounter with his demons from the past...
Frankly I am pleasantly surprised how well he seems to be coping 

"So, what now? It is way to early to retire to our room, how about we have a drink at that bar you mentioned?"
"Mh... ´kayes..."

Judging by how tense Nick looks while he is leading the way, I am starting to have second thoughts about that idea, but on the other hand... maybe this is the right moment to resurface some more memories he has so neatly stored away all those years

After getting slower and slower over the last few meters, he finally comes to a full stop, staring into the bar with a blank expression, and I instantly feel guilty for pushing him
"Hey. You know that we do not have to do this if you are not ready yet"
Nick shakes his head, blinking
"No... it´s ok. I´m good, let´s go in"

"Good grief, why did you not tell me straight away that this is the place where you spent so much time with Joe?! Nick seriously, you know that I think that you need to face things that bother you, but this..." 
I let my voice trail off

He lets the ice cubes circle a bit in his glass before responding
"It´s kind of hard, all that... talking, yanno? It´s not like I had a lot of practice before"

"I noticed that..."

He helplessly throws up his hands once again
"Hell Le, I try, ok? I really do. And I, I... really.. appreciate you trying to help. Yanno, I noticed, ´kayes? It´s just... not that easy"

I laugh nervously
"So we are on I-know-that-you-know-that-I-know terms now, eh? Oh dear... speaking of you know, let´s pay those drinks and return to the b&b, Nick. It is getting dark, it has been a rough day and we will need to get up very early tomorrow in order to avoid as much of the days heat as possible. What do you say?"
Silently, he nods his head in agreement 


The next morning, we pick up the Jeep at first light and head out into the desert

It is plain amazing how fast the temperatures are going up out here! Within the two hours we need to reach the first location the maps point out, the sun is already blazing

It does not take long to verify that the maps are only giving clues about where to find the tomb, as most of the sites mentioned in them have crumbled to ruins over the centuries... There is a lot of digging and brushing ahead, that is for sure...

I am prepared for this. Even though it has been years since I last participated in an archeological project during my studies, I slip back into the routine in no time... the heat does not bother me to much, either, never has

Nick, on the other hand, is not doing well at all. I guess it's all adding up- the stress of being here again, the extreme heat... and the years of treating himself so badly

After watching him suffer silently out of the corner of my eye for most of the day I feel I have to put an end to this. To hell with trying not to hurt his feelings- if he keeps up this stupid attitude of playing the tough guy much longer, he will collapse or end up with a sunstroke

"Come on now, this is ridiculous- you can barely manage to remain standing, right? Nick, please. Why do we not call it a day, return to the b&b, and you simply lay down?"

Oh dear. His hands are shaking so badly as he tries to light his cigarette
"You're right, I am useless like that... guess you better take the driver seat for the ride back..."

All the way Nick was literally drifting in an out of conciousness - I have to admit I am seriously worried

I  had to half- carry him up the stairs to our room and undress him after making him drink another bottle of water
Thankfully he did not have to throw up and seems to be fast asleep now, so maybe he got lucky and was just dehydrated and slightly overheated

Abandon all hope, Mister- I will not let you down. We are in this together, come what may


As was inevitable given his carelesness, Nick has caught one hell of a sunburn and, in addition to that, is suffering from crippling headaches and fits of dizziness

He blames it on the heat and I do not contradict him, but inwardly I wonder if these might at least partially be withdrawal symptoms as well

Fortunately he is getting better every day now, and I must say, his experience in the field work is truly priceless

As time days go by, we work together even more smoothly. It is such a joy to see him like that- Nick how he should be, how he really is, after all

" 'Kayes, I'll take a break, get some water... want me to bring you a bottle? "
He raises his eyebrows in slight confusion
"- Eh, Le? What's so funny?"

"Funny? Nothing... I just like what I see. And yes please, I would love to have a bottle of water, too"

One bit of information we decipher leads to another in an apparently endless string
The physical effort is not decreasing, rather the opposite, and the constant working under a merciless sun is beginning to take it's toll 

I do not dare let it show, but I am nearing my physical limits, I can feel it

And I can tell that Nick is not faring much better than I

No way I will give up now! NO WAY!

Then, one of these seemingly endless days of constant digging, a sudden land slide occurs

"Do you think this could..."
"Dunno... but... "

"Yeah. Seems like we found the entrance"

"Oh my God, Nick!! This is IT, we discovered the lost tomb of Ankh Sim Amun! Or at least some other yet unknown grave! WE DID IT!!"

"Yes yes yes yes YEEEES!"
"Boooooyaaaaaaaaa! Haahahaha!"

I throw myself at the madly laughing guy in front of me who has somehow replaced that sulky man I left Sims State with some time ago
"I can not believe we finally found it, oh dear, I am lost for words, I do not know what to say, how to express how happy I am, I..."

This makes him laugh out loud again
"Lady Le, if this is you lost for words, I don´t wanna hear ya when ya feel like talking"

"Sorry, emotion overload... aw Nick, this is easily the best thing that I experienced in years, and all because I met you. Thank you so much"

"You got to be joking, right? Then again, probably not... listen Lady Le, you´re not the one to give out the thank yous here, that´s my part. If you had not kicked my ass - and I´m telling you, you kicked it hard for real - I would not be here today. Hell I might even not be around anymore at all... 
So even if this tomb should prove to be empty, it doesn´t matter that much to me. You made me feel that I´m still alive, and it´s a damn good feel... thank you for that, Le. I´ll owe you forever"

"Aw Nick. You owe me nil- that´s what friends are for, right? And that´s what we are. Friends. So just stick around and we are good, huh?"
"Whatever you say, Lady Le" he replies with a wide grin, mocking a bow
"Oh shut up, you- alright, to something completely different. I need to tell you about something that I learned the other day..." 



"Now look at that, Ahmed... what a lovely scene, don´t you think... "
"Yes Doctor, lovely"
" Seems they discovered the entrance to the tomb in the end... "
"Yes Doctor" 

"Excellent! Most delighting... Ahmed, set up the watch post we talked about and see to it that they will never be unobserved from this minute on. Understood?"
"Yes Doctor"

"Oh I love this! Wouldn´t want to miss it for all the fame in the world... ah wait- oops, this will make me world famous!! Ha. Hahahaa. Bwaaahahahahaaaaaaaahaha!!!"
"Yes Doctor"
"Aw shut up Ahmed. Get busy!"
"Yes Doctor..." 

2 Kommentare:

  1. Oooh some evil characters at the end. Most exciting! It was so cool to see Nick happy from doing the archaeological stuff. Also forgot to say in the last chapter's comments, I love his new haircut. Haha.

  2. Hehe, me too- I was looking for something that would look like a haircut an guy might give himself with some scissors at four in the morning, and that hairstyle came pretty close, don´t you think ^^