The Crime Fighters

The Crime Fighters in:


And Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them


Chapter 5

We're going back to Amarna

"I think we need to consider that the cobra in Michelle's bathroom was more than just a snake in the wrong place at the wrong time. . ."

"What are you talkin' about?" Robert protested. "This is Egypt. There are snakes all over the place."

"Which is my point. The police wouldn't make too big a deal out of death by snakebite. But it's just too much of a coincidence, Michelle being the target of a hit man, and then a cobra shows up in her bathroom."

"Okay, so the guy uses snakes to do his dirty work. We're already lookin' out for him, so what difference does it make?"

"Just that, I'm not sure that Michelle is his only target. If you hadn't been alert enough to notice that something was wrong, the cobra might have gotten you, as well as Michelle."

Robert snorted. "How's he know that I been stayin' with Michelle? What is he, a mind reader?"

"He doesn't need to be. You're her bodyguard. If he knows enough about Michelle to know which hotel room she's staying in, he's sure to know that she's got a bodyguard."

"Okay. . . so what's your point?"

Richard stared out of the window, thinking. "Stan Smith knows something about this dig. He was there when the stela was found, and he's been working in this tomb since it was discovered. He must have found the burial chamber, maybe through a back passage, one we haven't found yet. He found the original text, the description of the people who would get the powers of the Crime Fighters, and then destroyed it."

"We know that you are one of them. Two others he killed, Assan and Ben-Ari. Michelle must be the fourth. Our red-haired friend believes this nonsense, and is killing anyone who fits the prophesy."

Robert looked startled. "'Nonsense?' I'd have thought you'd be the first to believe in all this mumbo-jumbo!"

His tall friend laughed. "Hey, it's just a legend. I mean, the tabloids talk about alien vigilates, and mystic weapons, and guys bitten by radioactive bats. But that's all exaggeration. I mean, there's gotta be some grain of truth in it, but. . ."

He paused a second. "The ancient Egyptians probably did believe those guys had mystic powers -- heck, they may have believed it themselves. But you saw that puzzle, in the burial chamber. It was all weight, and balance, and maybe some kind of piezoelectric effect from that crystal. Nothing that can't be explained by modern science."

"But it doesn't matter whether I believe in the prophesy or not." Richard's expression turned serious. "Our friend does. He sees this as his chance to gain enourmous power. Enough power to kill for. And he'll kill anyone who stands in his way. . ."

"You're readin' a lot inta this, Richard. He hasn't threatened me, yet, and we still don' know that he's involved in th' dig. This is just a theory. . ."

Suprisingly, Richard nodded. "You're right. It could just be coincidence. . ."

He gave a long sigh. "It's the only thing that makes sense. . . but it's. . . circumstantial. He was careful not to leave any clues behind in the tomb, nothing that could identify him. And the same with the murders. There's nothing we can really go to the police with."

Robert snorted. "We're the police, remember?"

"You know what I mean. Without evidence, we've got nothing."

"We've got Michelle. We've kept her alive this far. . . that's something, right?"

"Yeah, but that doesn't get us any closer to finding him. He's got all the advantages here -- we don't know who he is, or when he's going to strike, all we can do is wait for him to make the first move. And by then, it may be too late to stop him. . ."

"Well, it can't be that hard to find a red-haired man in Egypt," Robert said. "If he was an Egyptian, it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack."

Richard slapped a hand to his forehead. "Of course!"


"A needle!"


"Robert, you're a genius!" Richard ran to the bedside table and started to leaf through the phone book.

"Uh. . . okay. . ."

"The hypodermic needle, the one he tried to use on Michelle. I tried to track down where he'd bought it, in Al Minya. And I checked with the cops in Cairo, who had the one he used there. We weren't able to find out where he bought them. But if he's been working here, then this is probably where he bought them."

He ripped a page from the book. "Michelle's father said he'd be through with the translation by this afternoon. Check and see what he found out. I'll catch up with you later."

Under the cover of a canopy tent, Ali Bhai sat at the mess table, sharing a drink with some of his diggers. The Egyptians were all in good spirits, their foreman most of all. As the men sat around chatting, a shadow fell across the table, a figure cutting off the morning light coming in under the canopy.

"Hey! Uh. . . Mr. Smith!" Ali studdered a bit as he recognized the red headed visitor.

"Hey, boss," Stan said. "How are things going?"

"All right. Where. . . where have you been?" The foreman glanced around, as a couple of his men quickly got up and left the tent. A few stayed behind, but they shifted away from him slightly.

"You know how it is. I got an offer from out of town. I had to take it."

"Hey, I understand." The red haired man looked around at the table. He seemed to smile at the sudden tension in the air. "You seem to have been expecting me. . ."

"Well. . . not exactly. There's been talk, see. . ."

"What kind of talk?"

"That you. . . might have. . . um. . . tried to hurt Miss Bertrand."

"Is that so? And what have you been told?"

"To um. . . watch out for you. There's um. . . been these two guys, asking about you."

Stan walked around to the head of the table, and casually took a seat. Ali edged away from him, but he just regarded the man with a smile. "And what have you told them?"

"Just what I know -- nothing!" The Egyptian put up his hands. "It's none of my business!"

"Is that so. . ."

The red haired man smiled again. He put his elbow on the table, resting his chin in his hand. "So. . . I hear you've made some discoveries, here at the old dig. . ."

"Uh. . . well. . . yeah, I guess."

"A secret chamber. With some kind of map to a new dig." It wasn't a question. The foreman swallowed, and nodded.

"When do you leave?"

Ali glanced back at his friend, behind him, but the man looked as frightened as he was. He looked at the table. "Mr. Bertrand hasn't finished the translation yet. But he says. . . this afternoon. . . he should know where to look."

"Excellent. I wish you luck. I'd like you join you, but. . . well, you know how it is."

He stood up, and Ali glanced at his friend again. But then Stan called back to him.

"Hey, give a message to the man who's looking for me, you know, Miss Bertrand's bodyguard? Tell him that if he and Miss Bertrand leave Egypt right now, I would have no reason to follow them. You just tell him that, okay?"

"Uh. . . sure, Mr. Smith, sure."

The red haired man ducked under the edge of the tent and was gone, lost in the brightness of the sunlight outside.

Richard caught up with Robert and Michelle at the dig. "You two look busy," he commented.

"We still have a lot of cataloging to do," Michelle said. "Even though Dad wanted to get onto the remains of that wall right away, we still need to go through the artifacts in the other rooms in order."

"So what did you find?" Robert asked.

"Well, I found five shops that carry this brand of hypodermic needle. One of them remembered a red haired man who purchased a package of needles three weeks ago. He used a pseudonymn, 'Steve Stanford'."

"So Stan Smith may not be this guy's real name. . ."

"Probably not. He claimed to be a tourist visiting from America, and appeared to have the proper identification. So I think we can assume any name he gives is an alias."

"It figures," Robert commented. "Have you talked to the local cops yet?"

"Not yet, but I'll give 'em the information I found. We've also got the evidence we collected from the dig site. I checked the explosives store, and the missing charges are consistent with the damage done to the wall. If my calculations are right, though, there is more missing than was needed for the wall of the tomb. So Stan probably has some of it left, assuming he hasn't used it somewhere else."

"Like where?" Robert asked.

"To get into the tomb before us, for instance," Richard said.

Richard paused a moment, then looked at Michelle. "So. . . where is your father, anyway? I thought he said he would be through translating the heiroglyphs by now."

"He must not be through yet. He hasn't come out of his tent all day. He left word that he didn't want to be disturbed, though. He even worked right through lunch."

Richard's expression suddenly turned serious. "You mean he hasn't been seen since before lunch?"

"Hey, my dad's like that. When he gets involved in something, he forgets about all else, food, sleep. . ."

"But he hasn't be seen since lunch?"

Michelle looked startled by the intensity in the young detective's voice. "Surely you don't think. . ."

Richard glanced at Robert, who was looking worried as well. "Which one's his tent?"

"Um. . . follow me. . ." Michelle stammered.

She led the two men to a large tent in the center of the compound, surrounded by discarded chunks of sandstone. "Dad!" She called out, as she opened the tent flap and stepped inside. "You doin' okay?"

The old man was laying with his head on his desk, some papers scattered around on the desktop next to him. "Oh, he's fallen asleep," Michelle said. "Dad!"

Richard grabbed her by the arm, however, pulling her back towards him. He wasn't looking at the desk, he was looking at the records and supplies, which had been scattered around, out on the floor. Richard handed Michelle back towards Robert, then cautiously edged towards the desk.

"He's just asleep!" Michelle protested. "Let me go!"

Richard leaned over Mr. Bertand, putting a finger against his neck. After a moment, he looked back at Robert.

"No! He's asleep! He has to be!" Michelle broke free, and ran to her father's side. She shook him, but to no avail. Richard put a hand on her shoulder. She pushed him aside. "No! Daddy! Wake up!!!"

She shook him again, until Robert came up and pulled her away. She wrapped her arms around Robert, sobbing. "No, no. It can't be. . ."

Richard scowled. He studied the papers for a few seconds, then looked around the tent again.

"You think he's still close?"

"I don't think so. It hasn't been long, but he's had plenty of time. He was looking for something. . ."

Robert looked around the tent, as Richard had done. "Info on the dig. . . ?"

"No, I think he was making sure we didn't find out any more." He riffled through the papers. "This is some of what he was working on. But it doesn't match up with the bits of the inscription he has over here. . ."

Robert picked up a lamp that had been knocked over hear the tent flap. Next to it he found a pair of glasses, smashed. "There was a struggle. He arranged the body so it looked like he was caught off guard, but he wasn't."

Richard grinned. "Good eye, buddy. Yeah, he had enough time to hide what he was really working on. Stan was looking for it."

Michelle watched the two of them, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. "Would your father have a place to hide something?" Richard asked her. "Some place Stan might not know about?"

She sniffled, then nodded. "There's a reason why he always lugs that big desk around with us all the time. There's a secret panel in the back. . ."

Michelle walked around behind the desk and twisted one of the legs, then pressed in a catch hidden by the trim on that side. A door in the back of the desk swung open. She reached inside and pulled out a stack of papers.

"It's the tomb. . ." Her eyes widened. "It's a map to the tomb! He found it!"

Richard came up behind her. Michelle wiped her eyes, then returned to reading the translations. "It's in Amarna. Wow. . . I would never have thought of looking there. . . This is it, we've found it!" She looked up at Richard, a new hope in her eyes.

Richard gave her a smile. "Your father did it. We're no longer a step behind Mr. Smith. Now hopefully we know something he doesn't."

She set her jaw, frowning. "I'm going to Amarna. I'm going to find that tomb. It's the least I can do for. . . my father. . ."

"It could be dangerous. . ."

"I know. But I'm not going to let this murderer scare me. I'm going to find Akenaton's tomb, like my dad always wanted. I'm not going to run away."

Robert came up behind her. "And I'm gonna catch this guy, and we're gonna put him away. I promise."

Michelle hugged him. Then she turned and walked out of the tent, her two companions following. One of the diggers was walking past outside. "Call the police," she said. "There's been. . . there's been another murder." Her voice choked, but she cleared her throat. "Then tell Mr. Bhai to load up the trucks. We're going back to Amarna."

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