The Crime Fighters

The Crime Fighters in:


And Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them


Chapter 3

Deep, Dark Secrets

"Thank you -- both -- for taking care of my daughter." Mr. Bertrand shook his head. "If anything had happened to her. . ."

"I understand you've lost a couple of friends, recently," Richard said.

"Dr. Ben-Ari. And my good friend, Maresh Assan. I'll miss them both."

Richard paused a moment. "I think that these murders may be related to the attempt on your daughter's life. She told me that both of them were working on this dig."

"That's right. Dr. Assan and I started this dig. Dr. Ben-Ari had been brought in as a consultant. Michelle has been helping me with the paperwork."

"Can you think of anyone who would want to see these archeologists dead. . . or to see this dig fail?"

He shook his head. "I don't think so. This isn't a very important dig, we haven't even found any treasures or anything like that. I don't know why anyone would want to kill Assan or Ben-Ari over it."

"I see." Richard was silent again. "Michelle wouldn't tell me much about this dig. She said that you didn't want any information to be given out yet. But. . . well, this dig is the only thing these three people seem to have in common."

"Well, there really isn't much to tell. We haven't been able to place the age of the tomb exactly, although we do know it was eighteenth dynasty. Tutankhamun's tomb is actually very near here, that was why Michelle wanted to get involved."

"Yes. . . she seems to like the story of Akenaton. As I do, actually." Richard grinned. "Do you think this might be his tomb?"

"If it is, it'll probably be one of the most important finds since Tut's. And one of the richest. But I don't want to say that it is, yet. We haven't been able to find the Pharoah's body, or anything to connect it to him."

"But it could be. . . do you think that might have something to do with the murders? Perhaps someone on this dig is interested in the treasure, or something."

Dr. Bertrand looked thoughtful. "Actually. . . Michelle warned me about someone, just before I left Al Minya to come down here. She said that one of our diggers, an Englishman named Stan Smith, gave her a bad feeling. She wanted me to watch myself around him."

"Is he around?"

"Actually, he was gone by the time I got back here. The foreman said he'd quit without any warning, just up and left."

Richard scratched his chin. "Could you describe him. . . ?"

". . . Athletic man, early twenties, pretty tall. Red hair. Very red. Kinda keeps to himself."

"Um hm. . . you say he's an Englishman. . . did you check out his credentials?"

"As much as usual. He seemed all right at the time. You think. . . he's our guy?"

"A red haired man was seen leaving the scene of Dr. Ben-Ari's murder. By myself, and Robert. We were there. I believe it was the same man, in disguise, who tried to kill Michelle."

"In disguise?"

Richard nodded. "I don't mean to worry you, sir, but I think this man's a professional. A hit man. Why. . . why he's chosen to hit targets associated with this dig, I don't know. But he missed with your daughter. . . and if he's been hired to kill her, then he'll try again."

"Do you have any enemies, any competitors who might hire a hit man?"

"A hit man?" Dr. Bertrand shook his head, dazed. "I can't think of anyone who'd hire a. . . hit man!"

"Okay. . . we'll hang around here and keep an eye on things, if you like. Robert can look after your daughter. Meanwhile, I'd like to check out the dig, find out what I can on this guy from the other diggers. You might want to call on the Egyptian authorities, tell them that you think your daughter's life might be in danger. You may be a target, too. . . I don't know that yet."

"I'll do that. . . thank you for all your help. I. . . I really appreciate this."

Richard smiled. "I guess this is our first case, Robert and I. . . We'll take good care of your daughter, sir. I promise."

"Man, I'm glad you found this place," Robert said. "You don't know how long I've missed the good old American burger. . ."

Michelle laughed. "I know what you mean. I'd love to be sitting in little open air cafe' in France right now." She looked around herself at the little restaurant. "But who would want to sit outside in this heat?"

"No kiddin'."

"Fortunately, Dad knew about this place from his previous trips to Thebes. The chef's French. We stop in here a lot."

"Well, he makes a mean burger. . ."

"He'll be happy to hear that." Michelle smiled. "Although I think he was a little insulted. A hamburger's not exactly haute cuisine. . ."

"His loss. . . so how long you been down here, anyway?"

"About a year, I guess. An Egyptian kid stumbled across the site. Dr. Assan heard about it, and he called in my dad. He told me all about it, so I said I wanted to go along, too."

"So you're into this Archeology crap, then?"

"It's not crap, Robert." Michelle frowned. "It's what I do, and I'm good at it."

Robert looked up at her over his hamburger, then gave her a half-apologetic shrug. "Sorry. So is that where you went after High School? To be an Archeologist, like your dad?"

Michelle stared at him for a moment. Then she nodded. "Yeah. It's always fascinated me, what my father does. He travels all over the world, gets to meet fascinating people, and see incredible things. . ."

". . . And now you get to travel with him. Sounds fun."

"Oh, it is. Especially when something comes up about Akenaton. He was my doctoral thesis in college." She grinned. "My dad says he's turned into my personal obsession. . ."

"Ah, yes, Hacky-natton." Robert waved his hand dismissively. "You don't really believe in all those fairy tales about superheroes, do you?"

"I used to think I didn't," Michelle said. "I thought it was just a cool legend. I mean, you know, Egyptian mythology is full of stories about gods and people who had magical powers, but that's just stories."

"Since coming on this dig, though, I. . ." She paused. She put a hand to her mouth, staring at Robert for a moment, but then she continued.

"About two years ago, we uncovered a stela, at Amarna. It was apparently a copy of a prophesy, the prophesy about the people who would become the Crime Fighters. We're still looking for the original, and there are several passages missing from the stela, so we don't know what all four of them are like, but most of the description of one of the Crime Fighters survived."

"'He will come from across the sea, from a great kingdom, as powerful as mighty Egypt.'" She paused a moment, remembering. "'With hair black as night, short of stature, but strong of heart, descended from the soldiers of Law and Order. His father will be struck down by evil, and he will take up the sword of justice.'"

"'In the days when men worship the One True God, the young kingdom will breed proud and headstrong warriors. Such will be the man who claims the power of Water.'"

"I. . . I remember what happened to your father, Robert." She looked up at him. "When I heard the prophesy. . . well. . . I thought of you right away."

Robert looked stunned for a moment. But then he grew angry. "What the hell does my dad have to do with it?"

"I'm sorry, Robert," Michelle looked pained. "I. . . didn't mean to bring up bad memories. I know I probably shouldn't have mentioned it. . ."

Robert fell silent. "Do you want to talk about it?" Michelle asked.

"It's part of bein' a cop," Robert said, matter of factly. "My dad drummed that idea into my head, from the time I was old enough to understand it. 'Someday I might not come home,' he said. 'And I don' wan' you to blame me, or my job. I do what I gotta do, to protect people.'"

"He must have been quite a guy."

"He was." Robert took a deep breath. "And he died just like he wanted to, protectin' people. He took a bullet, stopping a bank robbery. And ever since that day, I've never wanted to do anything but be a cop."

"After I got out of High School, I applied to the Police Academy. That's where I met Richard, at the Academy. He an' I were gonna be partners, but then. . . well, he got into science and stuff, so he's probably gonna be a lab tech or a detective or somethin'."

"But I'm gonna work the streets, though. . . just like my dad."

"Sounds like you have it all planned out."

"Yep." Robert grinned. "So I ain't got no time for Hacky-natton and his long-underwear supergeeks. I'm gonna save people like my dad did -- with a gun an' a badge."

Michelle smiled, too. "Okay, you'll hear no more about Akenaton from me. Although. . ."

Robert raised an eyebrow at her mischievous expression. "What?" He asked, as if dreading the answer.

"Well, we have been needing some strong backs to help with the dig. And if you were to 'help out an old friend', and, say, we were to stumble into a secret chamber with some magical artifacts in it, well, you would be right there. . ."

With Michelle's help, both Robert and Richard were able to find jobs on the dig. Robert was reluctant at first, but Richard reminded him that he needed to stick close to Michelle, in case the assassin returned. And Michelle was always in the middle of the action, mapping the tunnels, looking for the best places to dig, and making sure the foreman was packing up the artifacts correctly.

Richard stuck close to the foreman, looking for a chance to talk to him. After a few hours he'd worked up a bit of rapport with the man. The Egyptian was obviously pleased that Richard spoke his language, and seemed interested in talking about anything about the dig.

"So, how long have you been an Archeologist?" Richard asked. "This is the first dig I've even been on, you know. . ."

"I am glad you are enjoying it," the Egyptian said. "But I am just a digger. I let the Bertrands handle the Archeology part of it." He indicated Michelle, who was working with Robert on another part of the dig.

"What's it like, working for Mr. Bertrand?" Richard asked.

He smiled. "Things have got to be just right, you know. He is very serious about his job. But I don't mind that. And his daughter is not quite so tough. I'm glad to see her back." He grinned widely.

"That's right, she was in Amarna for a while. Is that connected to this dig?"

"Sort of. Some of the early artifacts Dr. Assan found looked similar to those we found in Amarna. That's why he suspected that Akenaton was involved. Michelle stayed behind to keep an eye on the Amarna site. But mainly, as you know, she was working as a tour guide down there. It isn't easy to finance these expeditions, even with funding from the government."

"I can believe it. So you were with the Amarna dig?"

"Oh, yes, we all were. Mr. Bertrand moved us all down here, after Dr. Assan had checked on the site. Most of us were glad for the work. We hadn't found anything major in Amarna in over two years."

Richard nodded. "Tell me about this 'Stan Smith' character. . ."

The Egyptian looked thoughtful. "Not much to tell. He joined our group about three years ago, right before the Amarna stela was found. As a matter of fact, that was when I first met Dr. Ben-Ari."


"Yes. We would never have found anything had it not been for him. He donated some money to our dig, a very large amount. And that was just when the government was about to pull our funding."

Richard was silent for a moment. "So. . . Stan arrived with Mr. Ben-Ari, then?"

"No, no, that was just a coincidence. He was just a digger we hired at that time. He did seem to know Ben-Ari, though. . ."

"Hey, guys," Michelle interrupted, coming up from behind. "Sorry to butt in, but we've found something."

"Oh?" The Egyptian looked interested.

"We've cleared away the sand from passage 4 and reached a dead end. There's a huge block plugging up the passage."

"A plug? Maybe we've found the burial chamber!"

"That's what I'm hoping."

"I'll go tell the boss. Do you think we have enough explosives?"

"Probably not. You know some came up missing a few weeks ago."

Richard glanced up at Michelle, but said nothing. The Egyptian left, headed for Mr. Betrand's tent. Michelle was silent for a few moments, then she looked at Richard and smiled.

"Are you enjoying yourself here?"

"Probably more than Robert is."

Michelle laughed. "Tell me about it. He complains more than any five people I know of. The other diggers almost can't stand to be around him."

"He's not bothering you, is he?"

She shook her head. "Naw, he's always been like that. I know he's just. . . compensating for. . ." her expression turned more serious. ". . . things. . ."

Richard nodded, and Michelle looked up at him. "Does he talk about. . . his father?"

"Sometimes. He's very proud of him. I think the loss still bothers him, but he's set on being a cop, like his dad. I think. . . he wants to make his father's death mean something."

Michelle looked back at the dark opening that led to the underground tunnels. "He keeps his feelings too much inside. It's not good for him. He complains about the heat, but won't talk about what's really bothering him."

"That's just his way. He's worried about you. That's what's bothering him."

She looked up at him. "You think so?"

"I'm sure of it. I guess you guys must have had a. . . pretty strong relationship."

"Once. But that was a long time ago."

"He's worried about this assassin, too. How about you? Are you doing okay?"

"I'm scared. . . but not as much when you guys are around." She smiled at Richard.

"So tell me. . ." she added. "What's your deep, dark secret?"

Richard laughed. "Oh, there's nothing to tell about me. My dad was a History teacher, which I guess is why I got into Archeology. But I've always wanted to help people. I thought about being a doctor for a while, but there's always something about being a detective that appealed to me. . ."

". . . Putting together the clues to solve a mystery, matching wits with some criminal mastermind. . . That's the sort of thing I've always wanted to do."

"Funny you and Robert ending up as partners. . ."

"Yeah, we're very different, Robert and I. He just forces his way through a problem, while I prefer to think my way around it. But that's what makes us a good team. Like right now, for instance. I know as long as Robert's with you, you're safe, so I can concentrate on tracking this guy down. And Robert knows that I'm watching his back."

Michelle smiled again. "Well, I better get back to him. He's probably worried about what happened to me. I'll see you later, Richard Conner. And good luck with your search."

As Michelle headed off for the dig, Richard's smile faded, the worry and concern he had been hiding beginning to show on his face. "Thanks. . ." he muttered. "I'll need it. . ."

[Previous] Copyright 2001, Richard Ryley [Next]