The Crime Fighters in:
And Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them
Magicians, pharoahs, and archeologists
"Okay, now where are we?" Robert grumbled as he stepped off of the bus. "I don't see any pointy buildings, so we must not be there yet."
"Al Minya," Richard told him. "Just a little stop on the way to Thebes. A little town that nobody really cares about any more."
The young man rubbed his hands together, gleefully. ". . .but this is the part I've been waiting to see since we got here!"
Robert looked around. Their bus had brought them to a dusty old motel, in a run down little town in the middle of nowhere. The street was fairly active, trucks and cars sputtered past them, and pedestrians in their Arabian robes and cloaks. But it was nothing compared to Cairo.
"What, this place?" Robert asked. "Looks smaller than Cut An' Shoot. Let me guess, one main street, with a gas station on one side, and a Dairy Queen on the other."
"I doubt you'll find a Dairy Queen here," Richard commented.
Robert just snorted. Richard followed the rest of the tour into the hotel. The air conditioning was a welcome change from the heat outside.
"We should be meeting our guide here," Richard said. Sure enough, there was a Egyptian standing near the registry counter, talking to the folks in the tour. With him was a tall, slender woman with a mane of curly black hair. From her backpack, faded jeans, and worn hiking boots, she was apparently part of the tour as well.
As they approached, the woman looked up at them. She gave Richard a smile, then Robert. Then she looked at Robert again. She studied him, closely, then her face lit up in a smile.
"Robert Davidson! Is that you?"
Robert looked shocked, but then he recognized her, as well. "Michelle! What are you doing here!"
"My dad's an archeologist, remember! I've been working with him since I got out of college!" She grabbed Robert and hugged him, and oddly, he didn't seem to mind.
"Everyone here's an archeologist," Richard said, with a hint of a smile. He extended his hand. "Richard Conner. I take it you two know each other?"
"We went to high school together!" Michelle said, taking Richard's hand in an enthusastic handshake. "My name's Bertrand. Michelle Bertrand."
Robert looked thoughtful. "Yeah, your dad was. . .down in Mexico or something, wasn't it? You had to go away to. . .France, I think. Right before we graduated."
"Yep. The dig ended, and we had to go home." She looked at Richard. "My dad's French," she explained.
Richard nodded, interested. "You don't have an accent."
"Oh, I've been all around. Italy, Greece, Mexico, Peru, you name it, I've been there. But those few years in America. . ." She grinned at Robert. ". . .that was my favorite time of all."
Robert smiled. "So, you're with this guided tour of dead Egyptian people's townhomes, then?"
Michelle laughed. "You haven't changed. Yeah, my dad left me here to mind the store while he finished off some research in Thebes. I've been working as a tour guide to help make ends meet. Amarna's one of my favorite sites, anyway."
"Oh, great," Robert rolled his eyes. "You too?"
Richard chuckled. "Me too," he said, to Michelle.
"Wait a minute, I thought you said this was 'Al Mini-ya'."
"Al Minya, and yes, that's what it's called now. The site is a couple of miles from here."
"Oh, great! More trekking in the hot sun! My feet already hurt!"
Michelle looked at him, amused. "You didn't used to be so opposed to a little exercise. Remember that time we went hiking in the woods?"
Robert looked a little uncomfortable. "There was plenty of shade there. . ."
"And I suppose we didn't do much hiking. . ." Michelle added, somewhat mischeivously.
Robert cleared his throat. "Um. . .hey, look, the register has opened up. We'd better go get our room squared away. . ." He headed off to the front desk, leaving Richard and Michelle snickering behind him.
"I look forward to the tour, tomorrow," Richard told her.
She smiled. "I'll see you both there."
Robert seemed in unusually good spirits the next morning. When Richard kidded him about it, he gladly admitted that he was more interested in seeing Michelle again than "some dumb old tour." But he wouldn't go into any more detail about their relationship, no matter how much Richard teased him.
They met Michelle and the Egyptian guide back at the bus. The trip out to Amarna took only an hour or so, and then they were driving past deep pits and excavated walls. Richard gazed out the window, fascinated by the ruins, and he would point out the occasional building to his friend. But Robert didn't seem to be paying much attention to him.
Finally, they bounced to a halt, in front of a small pyramid, sticking out of the sand. It's a dinky little thing, Robert thought to himself. In fact, some of the sand dunes nearby were even taller. He filed out of the bus along with the others, however, as Michelle led the way.
The Egyptian local seemed to know the ruins the best. Michelle apparently was along to translate for him. He would speak for a few moments, and then Michelle would repeat what he said in English. The first few minutes was the usual speech about safety and what not. Robert figured that the Egyptian probably thought it was funny, all these silly Americans wanting to come over here and crawl around in his tombs all the time.
"So," Michelle was saying, "Amarna was built in the eighteenth dynasty, long after the Pyramids of Giza had been built, and the Pharoahs weren't building pyramids any more. The locals at Al Minya, though, connect this pyramid with Akenaton, the Pharoah who built Amarna."
She paused a moment. "Does anyone here know who Akenaton was?"
Richard immediately raised his hand. "Ah? Mr. Conner! So you are an archeologist, then?"
"Just a hobby," Richard said, although Robert snorted. "To be honest, though, I came on this tour to see Amarna. Akenaton has always been an interest of mine."
Michelle grinned at him. "Then why don't you tell us all about him, then?"
"Well. . .Akenaton was a bit of an oddity. Supposedly, he was physically deformed, with a long, thin head and a slender, weak body. Or at least, that's the way he was drawn in the paintings of him. Some people have even thought that he was mad. . .and I'm sure that's what the Egyptians of his time thought."
Richard smiled ironically. "See, Akenaton had this really bizarre idea. He said that there was only one God. He outlawed the worship of all the other gods in Egypt, and said that Aton, the Sun, was the only true God."
"Anyway, he built his capital, Amarna, in the middle of Egypt. He ruled for only a few years, but then. . .well. . .he disappeared. Under mysterious circumstances. The old religion was restored, the temples re-opened, and Akenaton's name was erased from history by his successors."
"In the end, he had the last laugh, though," Michelle said. "His enemies wanted to make sure no one ever remembered him, and in fact, very few people do, today. But his son was the most famous Pharoah in history."
Richard laughed. "Tutanhkamun. King Tut. The boy king who, like his father, was probably murdered for his throne. But because he was forgotten, and thus his tomb was never robbed, he became the most important find in modern Egyptology."
"And to a Pharoah," Michelle added, "being remembered is the most important thing of all."
They grinned at each other, and Robert found himself shaking his head. They were enjoying this way too much.
"So what are we doing at this pile of bricks, if Icky-Natton didn't build it?"
"Akenaton," Michelle corrected. "And according to legend, Akenaton DIDN'T build it. Supposedly, it was here already, and it was because Akenaton wanted to be near this pyramid that he build Amarna."
"See, Egyptologists have always wondered how Akenaton was able to last as long as he did, with the full power of the Egyptian priests against him. Egyptians were superstitions people, and they believed in magic. And supposedly, their priests had magic powers, or at least that's what their people thought."
"According to Egyptian belief, the Pharoah was a god. But even he didn't have enough power to defy the priests. Plus, how did he build this city? How did he protect it from both his enemies and the desert, and turn it into a virtual Utopia?"
Michelle glanced at her Egyptian guide, as if maybe this was something he wouldn't want her to talk about. "This isn't accepted by most Egyptologists, because its a local legend here. They don't even say that it was Akenaton, just 'a Pharoah who lived long ago'. But as I said, Akenaton's name had been erased from history. No one even knew that there was a city out here under the sands until Amarna was found."
"According to the legend, the Pharoah was exploring in this region when he stumbled into a secret chamber under the pyramid. There he saw Aton, the Sun God. Aton presented him with four objects, magical artifacts with great power. Aton then told him to choose four men, wise men that he trusted, to gain this power."
"Now, Akenaton could have claimed the powers for himself. But instead, he did as Aton said. In a secret ceremony under the pyramid, four of his most trusted advisors were given the powers of the four objects."
"The locals call them 'The Crime Fighters'. That's sort of a loose translation, I would call them 'The Evil Fighters', or maybe 'The Heresy Fighters'. They had magic much greater than the priests, in fact it is said that they could hold off even the armies of Egypt, when they once turned against the Pharoah. Along with Samson, and Hercules, the Crime Fighters were the first recorded superheroes."
Robert snorted, much louder this time.
"As I said, this isn't accepted by the Archeological community. The very idea that Egypt would ever dare to turn against their Pharoah was considered crazy. So this story is regarded as just a myth. And yet, now we know that there WAS a Pharoah that all of Egypt might have turned against, and his city is right here." Michelle gestured at the sand dunes.
"But there's more to the story. You see, the Crime Fighters didn't get to KEEP their powers. Aton appeared again to Akenaton, in a dream. He said that the people were not ready for the worship of one God. He told Akenaton to take his advisors back to the pyramid, and again hide the objects and their powers inside it."
"In the future, Aton said, when the people are ready, the powers of the Crime Fighters will be found again. And they've been sitting in that pyramid waiting to be found ever since."
"Oh, come on!!!" Robert could no longer contain himself. "I've heard some crazy stories before, but this just takes the cake!"
Michelle smiled. "Actually. . .that's one of the reasons I was so glad to see you yesterday, Robert. See, I've heard some of the descriptions of the four men that will become the Crime Fighters."
"One of them. . .well, he sounds a lot like you, Robert. When I heard the prophesy, I thought of you right away."
Robert looked startled. He recovered quickly, however. "You mean I'm gonna find some amulet that'll turn me inta Superman? Yeah, right. . ."
Michelle shrugged. "It's just a legend. But if it's true. . ."
She stepped back, gesturing the tour towards the pyramid. "Step right up, folks. Any one of you might be the ones to find Akenaton's great Objects of Power!"
Robert frowned as the tour filed past Michelle and headed for the pyramid. "What a fairy tale," he grumbled.
"I dunno, it makes me want to go in." Richard smiled as he studied his friend. "And I think she believes it. . ."
"She's nuts. . ." But his voice trailed off.
"Come on, let's go. The tour's leaving us behind."
Robert sighed. Then his expression turned serious, and he glanced behind him. A grey haired man, standing there, looked startled, but then he walked past them and towards the pyramid. Robert shook his head, as if dismissing a thought.
Richard was already halfway to the pyramid as well. Just great. Robert set off after them, cursing magicians, Pharoahs, and archeologists.
Ducking into a small, darkened alcove, just to one side of the pyramid's entry hall, the red haired man breathed a sigh of relief. "That was almost too close", he muttered. He had disguised himself, of course, with a little makeup, and some powder to turn his hair gray. But even so, for a moment there it seemed like the American had spotted him.
"He's got good instincts. Maybe he's a cop or something. Or with the Mob." His dark eyes narrowed, as he considered it. The Soldiers of Law and Order. He risked a quick glance at Robert.
The red haired man fingered the hypodermic needle he carried in his pocket. "You've got a job to do," he said, quietly. "Concentrate on that." He slipped deeper into the shadows, waiting in the darkness, as the tour filed past him.
"Come on, folks," Michelle was saying. "There are lots of tunnels under this pyramid. Don't be afraid to explore them all." Her Egyptian friend was leading the way, with a large flashlight, and the tour followed close behind them. Michelle waved them past, giving Robert a friendly smile as she brought up the rear.
The pyramid was not very big, and there were only a handful of tunnels in it. When they reached the burial chamber, the Egyptian waited while the tourists took a good look around. The chamber was well lit with electric lighting, obviously strung so that the guests could easily see the room, although it was pretty much empty. There were some faded heiroglyphs on the wall and a few wooden coffins, but to Robert's eyes it was all just a waste of time.
Richard, however, chatted with the Egyptian in his language. Robert frowned. His friend had a gift for languages, but he had chosen to concentrate on Egyptian, instead of something reasonable like Spanish or French. He could even read Heiroglyphs, as if THAT would ever come in handy to them. . .
Bored, Robert decided to wander back down the passage on his own. It was fairly dark, but not too much so, and he didn't feel like waiting on the Egyptian and his flashlight. Besides, he suddenly wondered, where had Michelle gotten off to? Suddenly worried, he made his way back down the tunnel in the half darkness, holding on to the railing.
Back in the burial chamber, Richard had thought of the same thing. "Where is Michelle, I wonder?" He glanced back at the doorway, noticing that Robert was gone.
"She should have been here by now," the local answered. "She was supposed to speak some more about this tomb."
Richard glanced at the sarcophagus. "It isn't Akenaton's tomb, is it? I thought that had never been found."
"It isn't. Remember, this pyramid isn't officially connected to Akenaton. This was supposedly the burial site for a local architect, who lived some five hundred years later."
Richard looked thoughtful. "But. . .according to Michelle's story, it was here before Akenaton. It was already here. . ."
He was interrupted by a shout, which echoed up and down the passageways under the pyramid. It was Robert's voice. There were a few long seconds of silence, and then a gunshot.
Richard hurried down the passage, the Egyptian right behind him. As he emerged into antechamber near the entrance, he saw Robert, struggling with a grey haired man in dark clothing. Michelle sat on the floor nearby, clutching at her arm. A shattered hypodermic needle was on the ground next to her.
Before Richard could act, the man shoved Robert to the ground. He started to dive for his gun, but saw Richard. He turned and ran into an crack in the wall and vanished, in the darkness.
"He had Michelle around the neck, and was about to use that thing on her," Robert said, indicating the needle. "I tackled him, and that's when he went for his gun."
A dog barked. The sound came from the jagged opening that the killer had ducked into. Richard stuck his head into it, to find that it led to a narrow passage. He took off running down it, emerging from the side of the pyramid. He was just in time to see the man trying to get to a car, which was parked behind a tree a few feet away.
The passage had led to a hidden entrance, behind the pyramid, and so the car hadn't been visible when they entered with the tour. He would have been able to make his escape easily, but for a dog, which was blocking the man's path, barking at him frantically. The man stood his ground for a few moments, but then he saw Richard appear in the entranceway. The dog saw him, too, and as its attention was diverted, the man darted around the animal, and jumped into his car.
Robert appeared behind Richard, just as the man pulled onto the highway, and roared away. "Was that him?"
Richard nodded. "He had some kind of disguise on. His hair was gray, not red. But I'll bet it's the same guy."
"I saw him right before we went in. I thought he looked suspicious." Robert's eyes narrowed.
Richard, however, was studying the area around the entrance. It was well hidden behind a hollowed out area, next to the pyramid. A few small trees protected it even further. In the shelter of the trees was a pile of sticks and cloth, a makeshift nest.
The collie walked back over to the two of them and began barking. Richard knelt down and held out his hand to it. "It's okay, boy. We're not here to disturb your home."
"Home?" Robert repeated.
"The dog has been living here. That's why he barked at our friend. He's been using this secret passage as shelter."
The collie edged forward. When Richard made no move to leap at him, he stepped to within arm's reach. Richard petted him.
"Good boy," he said. "You didn't stop him, but you slowed him down."
"It's a mangy mutt," Robert said. "He's probably going to bite you. . ."
"This is no mutt. It's a purebred collie. And I don't think he's going to bite." The dog seemed to have decided to trust Richard, but he was eyeing Robert warily. He would come no closer to the two of them.
"I don't think he likes you," Richard said, standing up. The dog backed away, but stood there, watching.
"We'd better get back to Michelle." Robert said. "I don't think he was able to inject her with whatever it was, but I don't wanna take any chances."
Richard nodded. "Good idea." He then looked back to the collie.
"It's all right, boy," he said to the dog. "We'll be leaving now."
He turned and headed back into the pyramid. Robert stared at the dog for a moment, and it stared back, until he followed. By the time he reached the little room, Richard had helped Michelle to her feet.
"Are you all right?"
She nodded. "Just shook up, I guess. Who was that?"
"I'm not sure," Richard looked at the alcove. "He's gone now. Do you feel any chest pains?"
"No. My heart's beating pretty fast. Was that some kind of. . ."
"That's probably just fear. Normal. Don't worry." Richard was quick to reassure her, and Robert came up to take her arm. "Yes, he was going to try and use a poison that simulates a heart attack. We think he's killed before."
"Who. . .who would try to kill me?"
The rest of the tour had gathered outside of the room, but the Egyptian was holding them back. Richard stepped out into the hall and spoke to the man for a few minutes. Robert couldn't understand them, but they clearly were talking at length about Michelle, as the man kept looking at her. Then the guide left.
Then Richard spoke to the tour. "Hamid has gone to get the police," he said. "We'd better wait outside. They'll want to ask us all some questions, I'm sure." He looked back at Robert. "Did you spot that guy, before?"
Robert nodded. "I thought there was something suspicious about him." He shook his head. "But I didn't recognize him. He had on a pretty good disguise, if that's what it was."
"He's really starting to sound like a professional, to me," Richard said. "And these murders are obviously related."
He looked at Michelle. "While we were in Cairo, a man named Dr. Assan was killed. Do you know him?"
Michelle gasped. "Yes! He worked with father! What does he have to do with this?"
"What about another archeologist. . .Dr. Ben-Ari?"
"Him, too!" She wrapped her arms around herself. "Robert, I'm scared!"
"It's all right. I'm not gonna let anyone hurt you." He put his arm around her.
"So, they were both working with your father," Richard said. "Where is your father now?"
"Well. . .he's been working on a dig recently. It's connected with this site here in Amarna, but about two months ago he found some info that helped him unearth a new tomb in the Valley of the Kings. . ."
Richard grinned. "The Valley Of The Kings. . ."
"Don't tell me," Robert said, looking skyward, "let me guess. . ."
"Well, it was going to be the next stop on our tour. . ."
|[Previous]||Copyright 2001, Richard Ryley||[Next]|